The American Ambassador remarked the other day that a survey of American public opinion showed that there was a greater divergence of view on. British Colonial policy than on any other subject dividing the two nations. If that misunderstanding exists in the United States there is also in our own country and in this House a great deal of misunderstanding in regard to our Colonial policy. I therefore make no apology for asking the House to give again to-day some little attention to our Colonial responsibilities. The broad outline of Government policy was given to the House by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies in the Debate a few weeks ago on the Colonial Estimates. My purpose to-day is to draw attention to a number of special problems which have occurred during the Session and which have given rise to some misgiving and doubt.
I wish I had found at the Colonial Office the open door to which the Under-Secretary referred in the last Debate. As far as I, personally, am concerned, I usually get a very sympathetic hearing at the front door, but there seem to be many inner doors. Everybody behaves with great charm and everyone treats me very nicely. I am not likely, however, to find myself on the floor through falling into space as suggested by the Under-Secretary but because of the existence of unforeseen inner doors which most effectively block any resolute action.
Let me say something, first, about the war effort. My criticism has been directed on a number of occasions in the past to the fact that the Colonial peoples are not always able to contribute to the war effort according to their capacity or their wishes. The Under-Secretary recently told us of the contributions being mobilised by the Colonies for the war effort. He said that the Colonial Office were stimulating exports of the minerals and raw materials we needed and that we were creating export machinery for that purpose. The Colonial peoples were growing more food and developing their own resources more and more, which, he said, was good in war or in peace because these factors contributed to health, nutrition, soil conservation, and so on. Further, local industries were being stimulated; and imports were being limited by Government bulk purchase of goods. All of us would agree that most of these things are of permanent value in Colonial life, but I would add one or two reservations about this policy.
Industrialisation and the exploitation of minerals and other natural wealth in our Colonial Empire should be very carefully controlled and developed with an eye on future policy and the consequences when the war is over, because such exploitation of mineral and natural wealth has a profoundly disturbing effect on native life in all its aspects. It is also important that in planning Colonial economy to keep an eye on maintaining some sort of balance in Colonial economies. In any case, it seems to me that when the Government opens out new resources and grants new concessions steps should be taken to see that definite conditions are laid down with respect to wages, conditions of employment, welfare conditions, profits, royalties, the application of I.L.O. Convention and, sometimes, the ultimate ownership of the resources concerned. It is also important, in the second place, that in creating machinery for the control of exports and imports monopolists should not be strengthened. In some of our Colonies their insinuating influence is pretty strong. Already certain steps which have been taken by the Colonial Office have created some apprehension among merchants and others both here and in West Africa and other Colonies. No steps should strengthen existing monopolies. Further, if we are promoting local industries, I ask that the Government should do it through local native enterprise on co-operative lines if possible, and that there should be the maximum of cooperation within the framework of an ordered plan. I hope that certain proposals which are being considered at the moment inside the Colonial Office in regard to West Africa will receive the endorsement of the Government.
In regard to raw materials and products, I hope the Colonial Office will give every encouragement to co-operative production, will encourage co-operative marketing and credit, and take steps to ensure much more rationalism in the handling of products before they reach consumers. Above all, there is very real need that producers should be given a guaranteed price. That applies to the small native producers as much as to the larger concerns. There should be some stability in regard to price, and the small peasant producer should be shown some way out of his chronic poverty which often means serfdom to him. The Government should take all the necessary steps to ensure a price which will give a reasonable standard of living to prime producers engaged in meeting the world's needs. Before I leave this side of my argument I need scarcely add, as being fundamental, that I hope that nowhere will the Colonial Office, or those responsible, permit native land to be further alienated or allow individual land ownership to be introduced.
I recognise that it will be one of the problems after the war, in applying the trade and economic freedoms of the Atlantic Charter, to reconcile the reasonable claims of the Colonies with the kind of economically regulated world which we hope to create. We shall want new Colonial industrial enterprises to get on their own feet, we shall want no unreasonable restrictions in respect of their goods and products and the markets there for. The Colonies economically need a fair chance, yet they have to be integrated into a larger world economic order.
In passing, may I also say that from time to time I receive complaints and read complaints that local Colonial Governments do not go fast enough or show enough drive in regard to the war effort. Sometimes the people are not actively associated with the effort. I suggest that this state of things ought to be remedied. It is not only true on the economic side, it is a criticism made by the Colonial peoples in respect of their defence—civil defence, military organisation and the rest of it, and repeatedly voiced in West Indian and West African newspapers. I do not refer to Palestine because I understand that later this week we shall be discussing the special problem of the Jews. There is one observation, however, which it is necessary to make in respect to this war effort. The Colonial territories, because they are apt to be regarded as Imperial possessions, as material possessions, are being exploited to the full. We are using or proceeding to use their limited mineral resources; we are using their manhood, and profoundly upsetting their native life. The Under-Secretary remarked in a recent broadcast on the generosity of the Colonial peoples, which I am sure we all gratefully acknowledge. But, after all, the Colonies, if I may use his words in the last Debate, are not his "goodly heritage." They are the territories of the Colonial peoples, and these people have views and wishes. There is room in regard to all economic and social development for much more consultation with them and their permission obtained for what the Imperial power itself does. I want to stress that the corollary of this considerable contribution from the Colonial peoples to our present struggle for freedom and civilisation is our responsibility for bringing them more rapidly to political maturity and social and economic prosperity. They were ex-, eluded by the Prime Minister, from the proposals of the Atlantic Charter, though the recent speech by Mr. Sumner Welles for America does not seem to make that discrimination.
The other night my right hon. Friend reminded us that many soldiers from the Colonies were playing an active part in this war and he told us that they would in due course return to their homes. They will have travelled. They will have gathered a pretty wide experience, and some will have had the advantages of education. We have to remember that these soldiers will be a most stimulating element in Colonial life after the war. Because of those facts, I suggest that in the West Indies, as in West Africa, we should be a little more concerned about preventing the frustration experienced by these people to-day. We should seek to secure their fullest co-operation. As the recommendation of the West Indies Royal Commission put it,
the Governments should adopt a much more positive policy in bringing their point of view before the mass of the people and in explaining in much more simple terms the reasons which lie behind their decisions on major problems.
That point has been raised also in regard to the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. Schemes are in active discussion in the respective Colonies, but too often the people vitally concerned are not brought into consultation at all. It is
one of the complaints of West Africans over here that there is far too little consultation and far too much patronising, too much of doing good to the people, instead of inviting them to use their brains and to co-operate in the changes which we think desirable.
I would further suggest that steps should be taken now to make some progress in political institutions. I have been a little apprehensive at recent developments in the Continent of Africa, particularly in Kenya and Northern Rhodesia. For the purposes of the war we have been obliged to set up new authorities, executive authorities, with powers in regard to economic mobilisation. At the same time, so far as the Legislative Council and the Executive Councils of both territories are concerned, there has been no recognition that the black people live in an overwhelming majority in these territories. I have said before that it is not that there are no educated black people. There are, and some of them are experienced. If you create new authorities—which may be of some importance in the future constitutional developments of those territories—it seems reasonable to ask that, in regard to existing constitutional machinery, there shall be more representation from the great masses of the black people in those areas.
Likewise, there is a strong tendency for the colour bar to increase its strength in Northern Rhodesia at the present time. I hope the Government are watching that situation with very great care and that some action can be taken in Northern Rhodesia at the earliest possible moment to check this very unhappy and very unfair development. It is also desirable that we should look again at the constitutional arrangements in West Africa, to see whether we cannot make indirect rule a little more flexible than it is, and whether we cannot immediately take some steps in regard to what the West Africans themselves have been demanding for a long period, some fundamental reform in municipal government. I see no reason for prolonged delay.
While I am dealing with certain difficulties in our Colonial policy I might mention the clamour for constitutional reform in Mauritius and in the West Indies. I received a vague promise from the Colonial Office a year or so before the war that constitutional reform in Mauritius would receive the serious con- sideration of the Department. The great mass of the workers in that Colony still clamour for political expression in the local legislative council, but nothing is done, although all other interests can be expressed and a place found for them. That situation has become intolerable. In regard to the West Indies, why this very slow progress? The Colonial Office sometimes shelter themselves behind the terms of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but let me point out that since the issue of the report—which we have not been privileged to see, although I do not understand why it should not now be published—vast changes have occurred in the world. There has been the impact of war on those Colonies. These people have shown considerable desire to play a larger part, hot only in the war, but in their own local affairs. The war has gone right into the Caribbean sea. America has, with our permission, established bases in a number of these Colonies. Therefore, the people feel that if defence is in the hands of America and if much of their economic future will be tied up with American organisation, it is important that they should, at least, have some effective control in regard to their local affairs.
Why, therefore, do we dilly-dally so long in respect of representative government and of moves towards more responsible government? The people themselves are clamouring for change. It is not good enough to say, "There is a Franchise Commission working in Trinidad and another in British Guiana." The Royal Commission said that more and not less participation by the people in the work of Government was a real necessity for lasting social advancement. I would urge that it is important to press on with constitution-making in the West Indies, even to permit the beginnings of responsible government, and, in the case of most of the Colonies, of real representative -government. May I also draw attention to our continued failure to do very much in regard to the constitution of Bermuda, Barbados and the Bahamas? Labour difficulties are arising—the failure to adopt I.L.O. Convention is a case in point. There are intolerable labour conditions. Yet, we have no authority over the governments of those three Colonies, though it has long been obvious to everyone that the archaic constitutions should be drastically remodelled.
While dealing with political change may I make some reference to the position of civil liberty in certain parts of out Colonial areas? What is the answer, I ask the Under-Secretary of State, to the continued detention of Domingo in Jamaica? What has Domingo done? Is there any reason that he should be under look and key merely at the pleasure of the Governor, while no evidence exists, certainly to the outside world, why his detention has been allowed to last so long? Let me refer also to Wallace Johnson. This man was taken possession of by the authorities before the war was actually declared. Some excuse was found; he went through a process of criminal prosecution. Almost before he left prison he was put under detention again, and then, because of the clamour, he was released, but not unconditionally. He is conditionally released, and the most wretched arrangements are made as to the conditions under which he shall live. Unreasonable conditions are imposed upon him in regard to his living, I do not understand why, because a man has allied himself with working-class societies, because he is a trade union leader, these onerous conditions should continue to operate in his case. Again, is there now any reason why the leaders of the Kikiyu Central Association and other kindred organisations should continue in detention? Why should so many of the natural leaders of the people of Kenya continue to be withdrawn from them?
Finally, on the question of civil liberty, I want to refer to the operation of the Defence Regulations in the West Indies. Have those Defence Regulations been brought into line with the Defence Regulations in this country? Certainly they were in Jamaica as a result of pressure. But for several years many people have been detained in the Colonies for no adequate reason, and all our efforts to obtain from the Colonial Office an explanation of why these people are detained have been completely unavailing. I have just received from Jamaica a telegram telling me that three or four persons whom I have been trying to get released for considerably over a year have been released at last. But what was the purpose of their detention? They were simply swept into detention and it was nobody's concern to see that justice was done.
I want now to refer to a number of economic difficulties. Most hon. Members on these Benches are conscious, from correspondence and messages reaching them from the Colonies, that the cost of living is rising, that wages do not keep pace with the increase in the cost of living, and that conditions in many areas are now becoming almost intolerable—so intolerable that in a number of Colonies, in spite of their patriotic zeal to support the war effort, the working people are threatening strikes. It is no good saying that the Essential Work Order is a satisfactory expedient for meeting a situation of this kind. You cannot fob off the working people with the idea that in the course of time a report will be made on the cost of living and something may be done about their wages. I put it to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State that if the Essential Work Order is made operative, there should be, at any rate, definite guarantees in respect of conditions of employment, that if the strike weapon is withdrawn from these men, other means should be open to them for the purpose of securing proper adjustments in their standards. This situation in regard to the lowering of the standard of living as a result of the war situation is a condition that is prevalent in West Africa and the West Indies. I have just received a telegram from Ceylon pleading that I make representations with the Colonial Office on this very matter. In view of this feeling, I ask that the local Governments should make some effort to adjust what has become an almost intolerable situation. It is not enough to say that these people must make some sacrifice for the war effort.
The second point of an economic nature that I want to raise is forced labour. I shall not now discuss the problem of forced labour, but I want to make one or two observations to my right hon. Friend concerning the application of this policy. Why is it that permission' to apply this policy is so readily given from London without substantial facts being produced as to the necessity for it? The latest Colony in which this policy has been operated is Northern Nigeria. Why? There is a great surplus of labour there. Would it not be possible for the Colonial Office, in such a case, to say to the Colony, "Why are you not able to recruit that labour? Have you made absolutely certain that there are reasonable conditions in the industries concerned and that they are sufficiently attractive to the labour that is available?" Why is it that permission is given without the most stringent safeguards being made in respect of the new labour to be caught up in the industries concerned? Why, in Northern Nigeria, are there no labour inspectors? All that is done is to send up an administrative officer who, probably as part of his other duties, looks after the new situation created in the tin mines. Are the Minimum Wage Regulations being operated or is it simply said, as the Under-Secretary said in reply to a Question the other day, "Yes, we will see that local wage rates are operated"? I suggest that that is not good enough. To what degree is the Minimum Wage Convention, to which we are a party, being operated? How far-reaching is this minimum wage legislation? Those are some of the questions to which I would like to receive an answer.
I said the other day, in a Supplementary Question, that there was reason to doubt whether, under the Forced Labour Convention, the policy of the Government could be justified. I am supported in my view by so distinguished an authority as Lord Lugard, who said that he was at the Permanent Mandates Commission when the Forced Labour Convention was being made and his recollection was that when they thought of exclusions, they were thinking of exclusions in respect of war, but they had not in mind that the exclusion would cover working for private profit. That is precisely the position now—that we are engaged in industrial conscription in private employment out of which a profit can be made. Moreover, as far as Northern Nigeria is concerned, I want to ask the Under-Secretary whether any steps are being taken about the royalties that are being paid to the Nigerian company which has an interest in this matter. It gets at least half the royalties in respect of the exploitation of minerals. Is it going to surrender, in respect of the new wealth got out of Nigeria, its full share of royalties under some taxation legislation? Finally, what steps are being taken to safeguard the local native economy while the men are withdrawn? There are other questions which occur to me in regard to the Northern Nigerian situation. What are the terms and periods of employment? How long are these people to be away from their homes? We have not seen the Regulations and we know nothing about the conditions; all we know is that somebody in Northern Nigeria put it to the Colonial Office that what had happened in Kenya should apply in the Northern Nigerian tin mines, and without saying what safeguards or conditions there should be permission was given. That sort of thing ought to stop. It has happened not only in Northern Nigeria, but it is now happening in Southern Rhodesia, and the Southern Rhodesian Government use the excuse that as the policy of forced labour is spreading in Africa they see no special reason why it should not be applicable in their own territory.
The third economic problem that I want to mention is the situation in the West Indies. I should like to know more about how the Government are facing the alarming situation that is developing economically in the West Indies. Before long the workers who have been employed on the American bases will be returning to their homes. In some places, as an hon. Friend reminds me, work is finishing now, and there will be a most grave unemployment situation. In certain Colonies there is already a very great problem of surplus population. Consequently, the economic situation will become very bad indeed. At the same time, the cost of living is rising. There are shipping difficulties. We have not mobilised the production of food to anything like a sufficient degree to meet the needs of this population of nearly 3,000,000, and so far as rice is concerned, although the Under-Secretary said that certain things had been done, I doubt if they are adequate to feed the populations of our own territories. I put it that we are face to face with a very grave situation which calls for the gravest attention from the Government at the present moment. It is quite true there has been an Anglo-American Commission, and presumably it has reported. The American Ambassador made a speech the other day about it. As far as I know, we have not had a report here. Presumably, there are steps to be taken in regard to the control of prices, to the rationing of goods, to increasing local production, organising shipping and the rest, but I am very apprehensive, and I would like to know more of the Government's economic policy in this respect.
Then there is the problem of social distress. We have had for the last two years the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. We were told the other day that no fewer than 83 schemes in a dozen categories had been endorsed, though the expenditure indicated by my right hon. Friend is not quite in harmony with other information given to this House a little while back. The figure of £800,000 under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act was mentioned as against £250,000 in the return to 30th June. I am open to correction on the point.
I am accused, as I understand it, of having made a false return. The mistake I think the hon. Member is making is that one figure is the cost of schemes approved, and the other figure, which I gave the other day, is that of money actually spent. As the hon. Member will appreciate, there is a time lag between the two.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon if I have made a mistake. I was under the impression that the return to 30th June was of moneys paid, which was a sum of £250,000, whereas in another place I have seen that, under the Act, public schemes amounted to £800,000. I found it difficult to reconcile the two figures. The point I desire to make to my right hon. Friend is that in this House we are very much at a loss in arriving at any real comprehension of the meaning of the figures so far given. When for instance the 83 schemes in the West Indies are broken up into a dozen categories we do not know the relation of these individual schemes to any broad policy of social and economic development. It is on that sort of thing we would like to be informed by a report, so that we could get a more intelligent and comprehensive view of how the Colonial Development and Welfare Act is working.
I appreciate that, fundamentally, all this talk about social development is economic but I put it to the House that the resources of the Colonies are their own. We have acknowledged the paramountcy of their interests, yet on us falls the responsibility of rapidly creating the conditions under which the people can stand on their own feet, of associating them with other areas for economic and political needs, and of moving on to their de-colonisation both in status and in stature.
I should have liked time to have spoken about Colonial administration—the machine at the Colonial Office, and the general administrative machine in the Colonies. As regards the former, may I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the Colonial Office might open its doors a little more widely to its own people when they visit London from their posts overseas? There is room for a little more consultation. Sometimes Departments might call for reports, might get the "low down" from some of the junior officials who have been engaged in Colonial administration. Sometimes the Colonial Office might give them a warmer welcome for their views and ideas, than they have been accustomed to give up to now. The second point I make in regard to Colonial administration is this. I want to see more Africans and others brought into the administration of their own territories, but I would ask that the more imaginative, more go-ahead members of the European administrative staffs should have greater opportunities than are now permitted to them. We do not want a Colonial service made up of men who are continuously playing for safety. It would help sometimes if we could bring in on the secretariats some men who have had experience in the districts, out in the field, and who are facing problems in an imaginative and fresh way. I hope that that side of administrative work will not be disregarded.
I hope finally that my former request to the Colonial Secretary will be given some attention. If it is the aim of the Govern-men to work out its policy on the lines of past declarations, I hope we may be informed what these declarations are, and that we may get a White Paper on them. I hope also that a greater interest in Colonial problems will be engendered in this House by the creation of some suitable machinery for considering Colonial policy. The time is long overdue for some joint Parliamentary Committee for this purpose. I hope that in this House, with our great responsibilities, going forward as we are into a new world where increasing demands will be made on us, may have the facilities, the machinery and the opportunity of dealing with Colonial problems with understanding. Nothing can contribute more to that end than the creation of proper Parliamentary machinery.
I am certain that the House is grateful to the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) for having raised, a variety of subjects dealing with the Colonial Empire. Although I cannot agree with him in all his contentions, I agree with him on one point. He mentioned that the American Ambassador, in a recent speech, had referred to the fact that nothing had so divided the two English-speaking peoples as the conception—and I think the wrong conception—which other people have had of our Colonial Empire. I could not help thinking of an interesting article in "The Times" on Colonial problems recently, in which the writer said that had any one of us here visited the Malay States before the war, we should have found excellent drainage, excellent roads, and excellent hospitals, but had we asked any inhabitant for what purpose the British Commonwealth of Nations existed, we should have met raised eyebrows and awkward silences. I cannot help feeling that all of us in this House bear a portion of blame for this state of affairs. In past years, we have only devoted one day a Session to the discussion of problems of the Colonial Empire. Even to-day, when the subject is under review, the House is sparsely attended.
For what purpose does this British Commonwealth exist? I profoundly believe that it is one of the two great political discoveries of all time, the other being the Federal system of the United States of America. It falls into two parts: one consisting of the great independent self-governing Dominions, free, sovereign units, tied by loyalty to the Crown, and the second the Colonial Empire, the junior Ministers, so to speak, of the combination, which will one day enjoy the full, responsibilities of Cabinet rank. This Commonwealth, like all living organisms, must either develop or perish; it cannot stand still in its development. Unless we realise this, the Commonwealth will recede in the public estimation. Each member of the Commonwealth cannot stand alone by itself. Look at this Island of 42,000,000, about the same size as the State of New York: its basis the coal, iron and steel industries, but unless we have markets, its shipping and its manufactures cannot survive. Look at the Dominion of Canada, with 11,500,000 people, mainly grouped along the 49th parallel, a fringe of industry round the Great Lakes; wheat at Winnipeg; fruit at Vancouver; the rest of the country forest, lake and river—economically, only an appendage of the United States. Take Australia, a great Continent, with the population of the City of London, depending upon exports of wool to Japan and this country; New Zealand, existing on agricultural exports to Britain; South Africa, a pastoral country mainly dependent on one great export, gold. Separately, we cannot hope to play a part, either economically or politically, in the postwar world, but, united, I believe that we can play a great part in one of the great political experiments of history. That is why I should like to see the Dominions playing a greater part in the development of our Commonwealth and the Colonial Empire. After the war I should like to see, perhaps, a Canadian Viceroy of India; a South African High Commissioner of Palestine; an Australian Governor of Nigeria, a New Zealand Governor of Kenya, and, throughout the Colonial Empire, civil servants from all the great self-governing Dominions, setting a standard of integrity and good administration.
To obtain this state of affairs, we must revise our propaganda about the Colonial Empire. In the past, there have been two pictures, engendered largely by the cinema and the novel, in the minds of most people about the Colonial Empire. The first I would call, for lack of a better definition, the "Somerset Maugham" picture. If you go to one of those Colonies, you expect to find the European Club, with rows of fat men sprawling in deck chairs drinking countless whiskies and sodas. The other picture is the "white man's burden" picture, of the lonely white man in a thatched hut in darkest Africa, racked with fever, and taking, with a shaky hand, endless bottles of quinine. Those are not true pictures. I would like after the war for anyone going into a school in this country or in the Dominions to see there a good text book setting forth the facts of the geography and history of the Colonial Empire. At present, the only source of information I know of is the admirable Whitaker's Directory. Once we grasp the possibilities of the Colonial Empire, we can develop them. After the War, under the principles of the Atlantic Charter, we shall see free access to raw materials for all nations, and presumably low tariff groups. These measures should help trade. We should find ample markets for the sugar of the West Indies, for the cocoa, the hides and ground nuts of the African Colonies, and for the mineral resources of Rhodesia in a better organised post-war world.
Here is a new field for financial investment. This war has brought about the liquidation of our foreign investments. Here is a new and more profitable field for them. To bring about the development of these countries we should first concentrate on communications. I was struck by a remark made by T. V. Soong, the Chinese Finance Minister, when he came over here, at the time of the Economic Conference. He was pleading for money to develop communications in China. He said, "Do you realise that had it not been for the railroad, the United States of America would have fallen apart?" Indeed, it is a strange reflection that perhaps the train did as much for the unity of America as Lincoln did. We must develop communications, not only rail and road, but, above all, air communications. Perhaps some hon. Members have read passages from that remarkable book by Major Seversky, the great American air expert, called "Victory through Air Power." He says that the imports of food into this country average about 25,000 tons a day, and that it would be possible to construct 500 planes on the B.19 model, each carrying 50 tons of cargo, and able to supply Britain with food if her sea communications were ever cut. It would be possible to cook food in the morning in New York and deliver it steaming hot to hungry millions in this country on the same day. It would be a fine thing if any hon. Members here were able, after the war, to travel to our Colonies, and there to see great transport-planes leaving the run-
ways, carrying cocoa, hides, skins and nuts to every part of the Commonwealth and the world. I will end with those much quoted words of Cecil Rhodes:
So little done, so much to do.
There is so much to do in our Colonial Empire if we only have the imagination and the energy to grasp the fact.
The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Kerr) has again recommended to this House that, among many other things, as part of our post-war reconstruction policy, the electorate of Great Britain should indulge in investments in our Colonies. I hope later that when I again describe, as I have done before, an example of a Colonial development used for the exploitation of one island of the West Indies, he will see the difficulty facing this House when such a recommendation is put before it. I have often been asked by ray friends why, in Colonial Debates, I concentrate upon the West Indies. I concentrate upon the West Indies because, in my view and from my experience, the West Indies offer a microcosm of the variety of conditions existing in all our Colonies spread throughout the world. There you can have conditions which are analogous to those existing in African Colonies, Eastern Pacific Colonies, Mediterranean Colonies and elsewhere. I hope that my concentration upon the West Indies will not be regarded as being only concerned with one particular set of Colonies. It is because I regard them as a test case of what is possible in the development of the Colonial Empire. In the West Indies, as in many other of the Colonies, there are found vicious spirals of neglected food supply, extensive disease and poor medical services, destitution, poor wages, divorce from the land, fecundity and increasing population, high illegitimacy rate, juvenile delinquency, minimum welfare, poor educational standards and facilities, and poverty, all reforms ameliorating these conditions having been practically neglected except within the last few years.
At the present moment the policy of the Colonial Office is really to shelter under an umbrella of welfare. Welfare is not enough. You must have a new aspect in looking at Colonial affairs, starting from the ideal of parenthood, on to trusteeship, on to protection, on to the gradual civic development of the coloured population until they are able to stand on their own feet. That is the policy that should be adopted by the Colonial Office, and, frankly, up to the present I see no glimmer of it.
In the West Indies we have a series of islands with different situations, with the same economic and social conditions existing in the main, but there are differences in each island. In one the crop is different, the accent is different, and the outlook is different, with the same conditions existing. You have very different circumstances existing. In Barbados, allegedly the most English of Colonies, there is a constitution which is 300 years old and has not been changed yet, and Trinidad, the richest Colony, has a constitution inferior to that of the Bahamas. You have a series of political constitutions in the various islands. Even in local government you are practically making no attempt to train the coloured local people—as the English and European steeped in the British tradition—in the development of real citizenship. What has the Colonial Office done for the problem of juvenile delinquency in the West Indies? I remember bringing home a sick member of the Royal Commission, and he told me that in St. Lucia, when he asked about the problem of juvenile delinquency, he was assured by the commissioner of police there that there were no vagrant boys. But he himself found vagrant boys of tender age sleeping outside the doors of houses. When I was in St. Lucia and St. Vincent I found that Admiralty and War Office houses and buildings, instead of being used as hostels for these boys and for such people, had been converted into fiats in which comparatively well-to-do officials had their own dwellings in very congenial surroundings rather than that these poor boys should be allowed to have this accommodation.
The problems of the West Indies on which the Colonial Office should concentrate are mainly four. There should be federation of the Civil Service throughout the islands instead of the disjointed service which now exists. The medical services and the ordinary administrative services, instead of being regarded as closed pigeon-holes in which local aspirants cannot move from one island to another, and, as far as Barbados is concerned, not even from one parish to another, should be open for the transfer not only of the European officials, who move like birds of passage in the promotion career from one island to another, but for local aspirants who want to improve themselves and get on.
You should train the local people for the responsibility of local Government and then gradually allow them to fill posts in the Civil Service, moving them on to various islands. Even now there is in the West Indies grave racial discrimination. The Germans are well known as imitators or mimics. We know now that the Hitler policy was a policy of no internal class war in Germany, but in substitution for that there is the racial war outside with the object of showing Germany as the supreme race enslaving others. I sometimes wonder, looking back over the last 300 or 400 years of our Colonial Empire, whether that charge cannot to some extent be substantiated against our Colonial administration. What have we done for the women of the West Indies? It is known that the Nazi policy with regard to women is church, children and cooking. What have we done to elevate the status of the female population in the West Indies? I hope that when the right hon. Member replies he will tell us what has been done. Are they educated? Have they any economic status? Is there one woman on any of the executive councils in the West Indies? Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that throughout the West Indies, in the native circles or among the coloured population, there is not a woman who could be nominated as a councillor on the executive bodies? Does he realise that some years ago in the Leeward Islands there was not a nominated coloured person on the executive or legislative councils?
Education is a great need in the West Indies, both primary and secondary. There is no scheme for adult education. As to the development of religion, you have the picture of all denominations doing excellent and indeed marvellous work but hampered and pincered by the grave economic and social conditions against which they can make practically no headway. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise what the illegitimacy birthrate means in the island of Barbados, the island which is advertised in the tourist brochures as a tropical paradise? For the last two decades the illegitimacy birth-rate in that island has shown maternity to be practically regarded as an industry be- cause of the benefit from alimony. Does he know that the illegitimacy birth-rate, which used to range from 80 per cent., is down to 59 per cent.? The right hon. Gentleman may tell me that that is something which the Colonial Office cannot help. I submit that, if the Colonial Office raised the economic status of these women, gave them a good education, an improved social status and did something to help them by means of decent welfare schemes, and especially if they gave them political power instead of leaving them voteless, they would soon see a change in the economic conditions of these women.
As regards co-operation, no consideration is being given to the development of co-operative societies in the West Indies as you have them in China and India and other Colonies for the development of cultural aspects in agricultural societies and things of that kind. So far as I have read, nothing of that kind has been planned yet. Then there is the problem of federation, which should be tackled as soon as possible. It is perfectly ridiculous that there should be these isolated units, each fighting one another, with different policies, customs and bars, instead of being regarded as a complete unit. As a Noble Lord said in another place, the tendency should be to have big amalgamated Colonies with Governor-Generals casting a really panoramic and widespread eye over the Colonies as a whole. There should be a policy against racial discrimination, I do not know if Members realise that there was a vacancy for a judgeship in Jamaica, where there was a coloured man of considerable experience, exceptional calibre and unimpeachable character who had had magisterial experience in that Colony for over 14 years. He held the acting Judicial Appointment. I do not know whether he applied for the job or not, but at any rate he did not get it. A European from Mauritius secured the position. When examples of that kind can be quoted and the whisper of how the Government are treating their best men goes through the West Indies, you can imagine the sort of feeling of animosity that exists there.
I will give another example. Recently the Director of Medical Services was promoted from Trinidad to Mauritius. I know that chief medical officer, because he happened to be a fellow student with my brother at Glasgow University, five years after my time. In the Colony of Trinidad there is, as medical officer of health to the chief town, one of the products of the island, a scholarship winner, who is as fully qualified as any medical man in Great Britain from the point of view of qualifications. That man is doing fine work as medical officer at Port of Spain, but I am prepared to wager that his chances of being appointed Director of Medical Services are practically nil, because that post will be reserved, as it always has been in the past, for a European. This policy of racial discrimination should be stopped. I know it has been ameliorated and modified somewhat, but I want these men to know that appointments will be made on merit, and merit alone, irrespective of colour and race. That is the only way in which you can encourage men to produce and do good work.
Now I come to the question of financial exploitation. Let me repeat to this House, because it bears repetition, the case of the St. Kitts sugar factory. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members can groan if they like, but the people of St. Kitts and the labourers there are groaning, too. The hon. Member for Oldham said that we should put our money into investments of that kind. Well, these are the people who, as I said last time, are getting from 800 to 1,100 per cent. out of an island in which the wages of labourers are 1s. per day. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister was very kind to me the last time I spoke. He was very generous, indeed, about my effort, and I appreciated it very much. Perhaps he would allow me to congratulate him on the way he has so far done his work in his office. He is showing an interest in, and giving a stimulus to. Colonial affairs, as was shown especially by his last broadcast. It was a real pleasure to hear him on the wireless. But this company—and there are many similar companies—is a useless parasite. It has a real cuckoo policy of exploiting the native races for the benefit of the city financiers in London. In this company, there was an original loan of £130,000, less 10 per cent., and the right hon. Gentleman took me to task because he said I did not understand the difference between loan capital and real capital. But I am not quite so simple as that—a Simplicissimus Minor—because his friends who sit beside him will agree with me that loan capital is perfectly fictitious. He will note I said "Simplicissimus Minor"—the Major probably being in the Colonial Office. Debentures are not really capital; they are borrowed money to aid the business, and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, in saying what he did, did not treat me as he usually does. For borrowed capital of £130,000 up to date of redemption this company has had returned to it 5 per cent. interest per annum. They have had the debentures, borrowed for the railway in the island, returned, plus 6 per cent., free of British Income Tax. They have been entitled to half the assets of the sugar factory company and over a series of more than 25 years they have obtained, as I have said, from 100 to 1,100 per cent. per annum. Is that the sort of thing in which to ask the British public to invest? The people of St. Kitts, having practically no vote, are helpless. That sort of financial exploitation should be stopped by the Colonial Office.
That may be so, but the hon. Gentleman went out of his way to say that he thought part of our post-war Colonial policy should be that the British public should be encouraged to invest. The word "investment" has a distinct meaning; it means investment, of private capital into Colonial business without any restrictions whatever from the Colonial Office. It is done every day. You are doing it in Nigeria, Rhodesia, and now in the West Indies. Other sugar companies have been formed. Ask the directors of this company what they are doing. They are having companies run in the West Indies. In a sugar factory in Antigua the Government put in £15,000, and so can keep an eye on it, but that is not the case in St. Kitts. These thirsty individuals who pose on the West Indies Committee as great welfare helpers of the West Indies are parasites, sucking the blood of the Colony and taking it to the city while the poor people are left there. When I left after my visit to this sugar factory—and a very efficient and well-run factory it is, I must give them credit for that—by permission of one of the officials I visited the lazaretto in St. Kitts. From a prosperous business I went to a poor leper institution, where I saw patients without arms, without legs, or with disfigured faces. I took off my hat in response to a bow from a poor woman leper. And I heard her pathetic cry as I moved off. "Oh God," she said, "he, the visitor, took off his hat to me—to me, the poor miserable, ugly, forgotten creature." And I saw these people looking at me plaintively, knowing, as they intuitively recognised, that leprosy, though a microbic disease, was due to the social conditions which existed. My medical friends may object to that, and say that like tuberculosis leprosy is a microbic disease. But we know that tuberculosis is a poverty disease in this country, and so leprosy throughout the world though caused by a microbe, is due to the social conditions existing. So I want the right hon. Gentleman to recast his financial policy with regard to the West Indies, and I want him to do it under the Colonial Development Board, so that there will be definite restrictions on companies of that kind.
I have taken up the time of the House, and I do not propose to say very much more. The way in which problems are handled in the West Indies seems to result from mal-administration. Let me take very briefly the problem of praedial larceny, that is, the thieving of crops by poor labourers from various estates. At one time the estate proprietors made a terrible hullabaloo about this problem. After the Trinidad rioting an English Commission was sent out from here. After considering praedial larceny, this Commission recommended the "cat"—the lash—for the second offence. I was keenly interested in this problem, and I did not see why these poor people should be lashed for stealing a banana or a plantain, or an orange or a grapefruit from a tree. When I was in Trinidad I went into this problem thoroughly. I found that it was a minor problem which had been greatly exaggerated. I want to pay the right hon. Gentleman this tribute: I wrote to him and asked him a question recently about praedial larceny, and I have his letter in my pocket; it is a good letter, and excellent evidence of his interest. What do the Colonial Office now find out? They admit, after investigation through a series of excellent local committees which they have formed there, that this praedial larceny, this great criminal offence, is only prevalent in a small part of the island and that only a very small minority of the population is involved. It is now being got under control in those localities through the local committees. That is an example of a problem being deliberately exaggerated by interested planters, in order to pretend that the people are not worth talking about and should therefore be kept on destitution wages all the time.
So it is with almost every other problem. I do not want to speak about the medical services, because I know so well that they are perfectly disgraceful. Wonderful work is being done by medical men, general practitioners of exceptional calibre, in the port medical work, by which they are keeping internationally infective diseases away from these Colonies. There is no plague, no typhus, no yellow fever, no smallpox. This work is being done by men who have had a chance to do some decent, honest work, and in spite of all the trans-oceanic traffic they have kept infection from their shores. But when it comes to internal conditions, over which the poor medical men have no control, preventive work is being kept at a minimum, and they are concerned merely with ameliorative treatment, for the relief of symptoms. The medical man cannot himself go draining swamps to prevent malaria, he cannot go digging latrines to prevent hookworm disease occurring, he cannot produce reservoirs for a good water supply to prevent typhoid. He is helpless, and these conditions, which result from the Colonial medical policy of the Government, are the problems which exist and which produce such a tragedy in the West Indies. The medical services themselves are perfectly disgraceful; there are no Whitley councils, great favouritism is shown, and the whole system needs reorganisation. Chief medical officerships are reserved for Europeans only, and there are many similar problems. I wish the Colonial Office would hurry up and do something. In the Colony of Trinidad, with a population of nearly 500,000, tuberculosis is rampant, as it is in Jamaica, yet there is no tuberculosis sanatorium. Cannot something be done to speed that matter up? The money has been subscribed partly by private subscriptions, and the Government have now to make a grant. Surely they can do that. I have the figures here of tuberculosis in Jamaica compared with the figures for this country, and the Jamaica figures are very much higher than those for this country. So they are in some of the other Colonies. In cases like Trinidad, where the money has been partly subscribed privately, could not the Government hurry up?
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but my information is that the money has been subscribed privately, to a considerable amount, for a tuberculosis sanatorium, and I understand that they are simply waiting for a Government subvention in order to carry out the work of building the sanatorium. Cannot that be done, cannot we relieve them even to the extent of giving them decent medical treatment and by concentrating mostly on preventive work so as to prevent disease?
I am very sorry to have detained the House so long. I always do, and I always apologise, but there is such a wide field to cover, and there is so much to say, that it is impossible to deal with it in a short time. It is because I feel that in the West Indies are concentrated all the problems which are scattered through-out the whole of the Colonial Empire that I think we should give an example to the world there of what could be done. In doing so, we should be adding to the lustre of British Colonial administration. One word more. The American Ambassador has given a hint that the people of Puerto Rico will be asked to nominate their own Governor. Has any machinery been devised, apart from the voting system, even by means of a plebiscite, to ask the people of the West Indies once during the last half-century to nominate even a black Governor for one of their Colonies, or anybody else who knows anything at all about it? Let the right hon. Gentleman revise his Colonial Advisory Committees, as the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) has asked him to do, and see whether he cannot introduce a few democrats into those councils, which in the past have helped him a little to try to change conditions in that part of the Colonial Empire.
I feel like the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan), that the ground is so wide that it is difficult to cover. I will not, however, follow him, or the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), who made such an eloquent speech. I should like to say a few words to the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), who unfortunately has just left the Chamber. He seems to deal with the Colonial problem from two points of view. Firstly, he deals with the problem as an individual who is bearing the burden of disgruntled people all over the Empire—I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be able to correct the view that it is necessary to send a telegram to the hon. Member for Shipley in order to get the dictums of the local governments reversed. Secondly, the hon. Member deals with matters in a general way, representing, I understand, the views of the Labour party. He would seem to seek to build up a state of society perhaps with trade unions, perhaps with co-operative societies, and perhaps with every appendage which he thinks best, quite regardless of the state of development and civilisation of the countries concerned. He wishes, as he says, these countries to move rapidly to political maturity. I hope he will realise that many of these people cannot run before they are able to walk, and that it is necessary to go slowly.
Perhaps 90 or even 98 per cent. of those for whom he professes to speak do not really understand the meaning of such words as a "feeling of frustration" and "political consciousness." These words occur again in the Labour Party Manifesto, an interesting document from which the hon. Member quoted in his last speech. It struck me that the Labour party were trying to impose on people in a different state of civilisation ideas and ideals for which many of them were completely unfitted. They hold out to them self-government as a guiding star, quite oblivious of the fact that, as the stars are at different distances from the earth, so are the peoples of our Empire at different distances from the possibility of self-government. Their civilisation ranges perhaps from 250 years to 1,000 years behind our own.
Ideals are the life-blood of the thinking individual, but the ladder leading to the ideals is composed of rungs of reality. I wish for a few moments to deal with realities, namely, those of organisation. I am very pleased that we have as Under-Secretary a man who has been engaged for many years in business and, before coming to the Colonial Office, was at the Ministry of Supply. I feel that he attacks these problems in a new way. He has the great task of stimulating production and changing the lethargic habits of the past to meet the vital and immediate necessities of the war. I hope that he looks on all these questions from the point of view not only of developing the Empire in the best way for the immediate necessity, but for the best future of the countries themselves. In order to do this it is very important that the methods of organisation should be good and the administration smooth, I often wonder whether the Colonial Office might not take a few leaves out of the book of big businesses which have world-wide ramifications. If so, they would start by sectionalising the world, splitting it up, say, into the West Indies, the East Indies, East Africa, West Africa and possibly the Arab worlds. I was pleased to see the other day the Noble Lord hinted in another place that apparently this idea of the grouping of Colonies is now being favourably considered in the Colonial Office. So far as the lay-out of the personnel is concerned, here again it is possible to see what happens in big business. There you have the selection of personnel, their conditions of service, their place of employment and the powers you give them when they are overseas.
There is very little to say as regards selection, because I am sure that hon. Members who have had anything to do with the Colonies in the last few years will realise how vastly improved is the personnel of our Colonial officials overseas. The idea has been put forward, I think by Lord Trenchard, that, later on, it might be very valuable for our higher officials, who are to be governors and rulers, to pass through some sort of staff college, and to be given opportunities to travel and prepare themselves in every way for the great task they may be called upon to undertake. There is one matter I should like to mention as regards training, and that is in connection with the announcement made recently of the appointment to administrative jobs of native Africans in the Gold Coast. I think it would be most valuable if men who are to be appointed for such jobs started their official life in some other part of the world. The hon. Member who has just spoken gave an instance of moving a judge from Jamaica to West Africa, or vice versa. I think that is all to the good. I certainly think that, for the first five years, it would be most valuable if a man's appointment were outside the country of his birth. As regards the conditions of service, as hon. Members who have studied the Colonial bluebooks are aware, a most complicated system of pensions exists. If a man has served in six different countries, he will be charged as regards his pension in the accounts of each of those countries until his death. It is a very complicated arrangement, and I hope the unification of the service to which Lord Moyne has referred is being seriously considered.
Then there is the question of the place of employment. Big businesses, such as banks, select their men and send them to definite parts of the world. They re-main there for a large portion of their time and learn the language, customs and characteristics of people. In the Colonial Service frequently towards the end of the careers of men who have been well trained, they are moved from pillar to post, and their valuable training is to a great extent wasted. I am sure we might alter this plan and look with favour upon the arrangements made by business. In the same way junior officials in Africa have frequently been moved from place to place, regardless of the fact that a District Commissioner is far more valuable if he knows the language and the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of the people, and incidentally the native himself pays far more attention to a man he knows or has heard about—and news of a good man travels very quickly—than to a total stranger who has to spend a year before he knows anything at all. These considerations, however, do not apply to technical and scientific officers, whose research work is perhaps more valuable if they are able to move from place to place.
As regards the powers of local officials, and especially, of course, senior officials, it is possible to lay down broad principles of policy, and it should be possible with those principles laid down to allow local officials, namely. Governors, Chief Secretaries or whoever it may be, to settle matters of detail without reference home. "Yes" men are no good. You want men of initiative. Long ago, in the days of Lord Salisbury, the grandfather of the present Secretary of State, a young official who happened to be left in charge telegraphed to England saying that a revolt had broken out but that he could deal with it if he was given a free hand. Lord Salisbury telegraphed back, "Do what you want, but do not undertake more than you can carry through." That is the spirit that we want now. We now have the cable, the air mail letter and the aeroplane, but we do want the Colonial Office, with a certain amount of self-denial, to give power to local officers to settle affairs. We hope also that in the future Whitehall will make use of local experience in order to reinforce their work here. I believe it is being done to some extent, and I hope it will be done more in the future. I would not elaborate what I have said in the past but call upon the Colonial Office to adjust themselves every day and every hour to the needs of this changing and hurrying world.
Then we come to the relations of the Colonial Office and Parliament. The first desideratum is continuity of policy. How is it possible to have continuity of policy with frequent changes of Ministers, and in some cases changes of parties? This sentence appeared in "The Times" a short time ago:
Lack of imagination has too often permitted British statesmen to appeal to Colonial peoples in phrases which win applause at Westminster but seem hopelessly unreal to those used to utterly different conditions of life and ways of thought.
If hon. Members would put themselves in the position of, we will say, chiefs in Tanganyika who have been given orders to carry out one policy and then, owing to a change of parties in this country, are suddenly given orders to do something quite different, they can quite realise what confusion ensues, and they will realise how the black man very often considers that the white man is mad. What they want is decision, and they cannot understand the consequences of political changes thousands of miles away. In order to obtain continuity it may be that something could be done on the lines of the Colonial Development Board, which was suggested in the last Debate. I would ask the Under-Secretary to consider this matter very seriously and to remember that continuity of policy is absolutely essential if the business of administration is to run smoothly.
With regard to our attitude towards our people overseas, questions are often asked in Parliament which are inspired by perfectly good motives but of which the implication overseas is not realised at all. It is vital that questions should not be asked which are going to create trouble, doubt, and very often derision. I do not know whether it is possible to suggest that the Under-Secretary might consider some form of informal committee of the House which might meet him periodically and discuss a number of these matters quietly and frankly. It is very often done in business and even in some Departments of the Government, and nothing but good results. Lastly, I would plead for an improvement in our knowledge of the Colonies. It is through lack of knowledge that misunderstanding and wrong ideas have been put about here and in the United States, which have done us a great deal of harm. Very few people realise the great work that has been done. There are great opportunities to teach the public here. I was very glad to see that the Secretary of State has been discussing the question with the Board of Education and that there is a possibility of additional books on the Colonies being prepared for the children of the country. A deliberate policy of propaganda about the Colonies would be greatly appreciated by the people of this country who are only too anxious to learn. We have a wonderful story to tell and I hope that we shall tell it and be proud of it.
I would like to refer to a remark made by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr). I was interested in his suggestion that the Dominions should play a greater part in Colonial Government. I think that a suggestion bearing on that was made by the Dominions Secretary at one time in another place. It was that it might be advisable to form a Government, with a full Parliament of House of Commons and House of Lords, in such a place as Cape Town. I would like to throw out the suggestion that it might be possible to establish the Colonial Office in Canberra at some future date. The Australian and New Zealand people will have something to say about this in the future when they remember what happened at Singapore, in Borneo and in other places near to them where Governments in which they had no say proved not to have had as firm a foundation as they might have hoped.
I want to refer more particularly to-day however to the question of the mobilisation of Colonial man-power in the Forces. I have tried for some time to secure some figures about this. I asked the Under-Secretary at one time, but I gathered that it was not considered to be in the interests of public security that any detailed figures should be given. I can understand that it may not be advisable to give too many figures, but there are certain well-known figures about which I would like to say a word. I will say nothing about the mobilisation of man-power in Palestine as I understand that that is to be dealt with at a later date. I will refer first to its mobilisation in Africa. On the Gold Coast and in Nigeria there is a population of 25,000,000 to 30,000,000. As far as I can ascertain, there is one Colonial regiment with possibly 8,000 or 10,000 men at the most, and I should think the figure is considerably less. Is that a figure of which we can be proud? In East Africa there is, I understand, one regiment. It is doing admirable work, but there is only one regiment. In the West Indies, where there is a population of 2,500,000 there is, again, only one regiment. I will not press the Under-Secretary for the actual figure in each regiment, but I do not think it can be more than a few thousands. In the last war the West Indies, or it may be Jamaica, alone contributed 150,000 men to the Forces. Why can they not do so to-day? I can see nothing to prevent them. In our own country there are, I suppose, including the Home Guard and every branch of the Armed Forces, some 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people serving. That is, roughly, 10 per cent. of our population. What a different picture from that which I have given of the development of man-power in our Colonies.
What is the reason for this? In April this year a meeting took place in New York at which Paul Robeson and other prominent people were present. To this meeting the Lord Privy Seal sent a message saying that the difficulty in recruiting people to the Armed Forces in the Colonies was the difficulty of finding equipment and materials to arm even the men who were available and that it would be impossible to have a larger force. In other words, there was a shortage of equipment. Let us compare this with a statement made, I think, by the Minister of Labour not long ago, that the creation of the Home Guard shortly after Dunkirk was a gigantic piece of bluff. The Home Guard was created at a time when there was very little equipment in this country. It was built up and men were trained without equipment. When the equipment became available, we had an admirable force capable of doing valuable work in the defence of this country, I would ask that the same thing be done in the Colonies. If there is a shortage of equipment let the men be trained before the equipment comes to them. When the equipment arrives they will be able to use it.
What are the reasons that prevent action being taken? As far as I can see, there are only two. The first is that the Colonial people themselves might be unwilling to join the Forces. I gather from meetings such as that at New York to which I have referred that this unwillingness does not exist. If the Under-Secretary says it does exist, I can only say that it is most unfortunate that there should be unwillingness among people of our Colonial Empire to help in its defence. I do not think that is the reason. I think the reason is that either the Colonial Office or the War Office do not wish to recruit these men. They do not want to face the difficulties in administration that may be involved. I can well imagine one Department—not the right hon Gentleman's Department, but the War Office—saying they could not be bothered. I can imagine on the question of discipline the A branch of the War Office making great objections, I can imagine, on the question of weapon training, the G department being concerned whether this could be arranged and whether there were, for instance, enough British officers to do the training. I can imagine the question of feeding causing grave concern to the catering department of the War Office. I can imagine the Colonial Office raising objections and saying, for instance, that there were not properly built places for men in training, not enough barracks or enough equipment. I fear that there might be people in some of the Colonies who would raise objections on social grounds and who would say that it might possibly create a certain amount of difficulty if too many in the Colonies were through their association with the Armed Forces to get a wider view of their powers and position than they have previously had.
That brings me to the question of promotion within the Forces that do exist. I would like the Under-Secretary to state how many coloured soldiers have received commissioned or even non-commissioned rank. I understand that the number in the West African Regiment is very small and that it is also small, if there are any at all, in the West Indian Regiment. I hope that he will disillusion me and will be able to say that there are a large number of commissioned and non-commissioned ranks in both of these regiments and in the East African Regiment as well. I have, however, grave doubts on this matter. We have in our Colonial Empire some magnificent fighting material. This material, as far as I can understand, is crying out to be used. Its anxiety to serve should be an inspiration to us, but it does not seem to inspire the Colonial Office. Are these men, in their millions, to be condemned to idleness? Are they to wait, as the people of Malaya and Singapore waited, until the enemy are at their gates before being mobilised? I hope that will not be so. I hope they will be trained and mobilised fully before the time comes for them to be used, if it ever does come. I would in conclusion ask the Parliamentary Secretary to remember what did happen in Malaya and at Singapore, and to see that that cannot happen in the West Indies or in East or West Africa; to see in fact that we have a force capable of defending those countries made up of the people of those countries and that that force is ready.
It may be some considerable time before we have the opportunity of discussing Colonial affairs again, and so I hope the House, or what remains of it, will bear with me if I do not confine my remarks either to the interesting matter which has just been raised by the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) or the original question with which the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) opened the Debate. We have had a slashing attack on British Colonial policy and on our British Colonial record generally by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan). I am afraid that I cannot follow him very far in the picture which he has drawn of our Colonial Empire. To him it is a story chiefly of exploitation, even of oppression, or at best neglect. To me, in spite of the many mistakes we have made, and I hope to refer to one or two in a moment, it is rather a story of solid achievement of which we have every reason to be proud. To-day our Colonial Empire is being attacked in many directions, both at home and abroad, and I feel it is a time for us to make a spirited defence of what we have done and what we hope to do in the future.
In the Debate a few weeks ago hon. Members opposite spoke about "restoring liberty" to our Colonial peoples. So far as I am aware, we have not taken away anybody's liberty in any part of the world. What is to-day our Colonial Empire was, before we went there, either uninhabited territory or else a civilisation, if it can be called a civilisation where little flourished except anarchy, oppression, slavery and in some cases even cannabalism. I spent many years in Kuala Lumpur, in the Federated Malay States, one of the most beautiful cities in Asia, with a standard of living which was the envy of all surrounding countries, where you had a male population which was 100 per cent. literate. Fifty years ago Kuala Lumpur was a small Chinese mining village where rival gangs of Chinese were paying a dollar each for each other's heads, where there was debt slavery in its most hideous form, with the Malay smallholders literally shut up in cages. When people talk about restoring liberty, is that the sort of liberty they want to restore? The fact is that if we were to walk out of our Colonial Empire to-day, as some people apparently suggest we should, the conditions which I have described would return, or else those countries would pass under the domination of another Colonial Power like Japan, whose Colonial record of dope and pillage and of oppression and brothels I have seen for myself in Korea and Manchukuo. Surely one of the most pathetic things which has been said in the world to-day, in an age when the talking of arrant nonsense has reached a high pitch, is the remark of Gandhi that if we were to walk out of India there would be no inducement for the Japanese to attack it.
I do not quarrel in any way with the desire of some of my hon. Friends opposite that our Colonial peoples should enjoy the highest possible standard of prosperity or that they should attain responsibility for their own affairs. I am even prepared to go a long way with them in some of their criticisms of our failures in the past, referring more perhaps to what we have not done than to what we have done. But I sometimes feel that they are over-simplifying this vast problem of many races, many religions and great divergencies in economic background and in history. We must get out of our heads the idea that we can solve most of the problems of the world, and of our Colonial Empire in particular, by doling out copies of the British Constitution. There are very few parts of the Empire to-day where democracy is likely to work. I say that with regret, because I believe in democracy. I think it is the best form of constitution which has yet been devised for human beings, but you cannot confer it on people. Certain conditions must exist before it can possibly work. We have seen in India how, with the attainment of self-government, communal tension and communal hatred have increased year by year, and the same thing will occur in Malaya, Ceylon or in any other part of the Empire where there is divergence of races. I sometimes think that perhaps one of the most important things that we of this generation have to do is to apply our undoubted political genius to devising a form of Constitution which is suited to the Colonial Empire, which will give Colonies true self-government and at the same time is likely to work.
This war has, I think, taught the world many lessons, and in particular that independence without security is a meaningless term. It is not sufficient to have a brave people and a large army in order to feel secure. There must be industrial potential behind. In other words, in the post-war world to which we are all looking forward only three great Powers, the United States, Russia and ourselves, are likely to be capable of waging modern war at all. Surely that fact cannot fail to affect our ideas of trusteeship and our whole Colonial policy, because it means that countries like Nigeria, Ceylon and others can only have any political or economic future at all in so far as they are allied with some great Power.
A few weeks ago this House listened to a masterly review of the Colonial Empire by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, and if he will allow me to do so I should like to add my congratulations to the many which he has already received. There are, however, three points to which I would like to refer. The first has already been mentioned by an hon. Friend who was sitting in front of me. I should be glad to know, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us at the end of the Debate, what he proposes to do to explain our Colonial policy not only to our own people, but also to the world at large, especially to the United States. I have spoken in the United States on several occasions on British Colonial matters, and everywhere I found a keen interest in the subject but almost complete ignorance. As several hon. Members have told us, the American Ambassador in London made a remark only last week which filled me with alarm. He said there was no subject on which there was greater divergence of viewpoint than British Colonial policy. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the House some assurance that a really active policy is being pursued to tell the world what we have done and what we propose to do. That is not propaganda; it is a plain statement of fact. We hope that the United States will co-operate with us in Colonial development after the war, but that co-operation will not be of very much value unless it is based on knowledge.
The second point upon which I would like to put a question to my right hon. Friend—and to which I was hoping he would refer more in his speech the other day—is in regard to the British community in Malaya. There never was a more disgraceful campaign than that which followed the Japanese invasion of Malaya and the final surrender of Singapore. Singapore is the greatest military disaster in our history, but it was a military and not a civil disaster. Singapore was lost not in the Malayan Peninsula but, if anywhere, it was lost here in London. In the past few weeks I have had the distressing experience of meeting many of the wives of civilians who have been left behind in Singapore. It is terrible to see members of your own race in the role of refugees. These women have lost everything—their homes, their possessions and their husbands. I have spoken to many of them. There is not the slightest shred of evidence that the European community in Malaya behaved otherwise than as we should expect them to behave.
The male population was mobilised to a man, up to the age of 60. The greater part of the younger men were already in the volunteers. The women were all doing hospital work, A.R.P. or Civil Defence of some sort. All this talk about whiskey-swilling planters and "blimp" civil servants is among the most disgraceful calumnies that I have ever heard. I was glad to see that in the case of Burma, the Governor told the world that out of a population of 14,000,000 people only about 4,000, and those mostly the criminal element, were disloyal. From all I can gather from Malaya, everybody did his best—all races, both sexes and all ages. I have not heard of a single case of deliberate sabotage or fifth columnism.
A good deal has been made of the remark that the civilian population stood aside from the struggle. What did we expect them to do? They were unarmed because we had deliberately not instructed them to arms. Surely one of the outstanding lessons of this war is that no civilian population, however brave, can stand out against mechanised warfare. How long did Holland hold out against the Panzer divisions? About three days. But has anyone ever accused the Dutchman of lack of courage? Has anybody alleged that the Dutch Government had no roots in the population? Surely that is the outstanding lesson of Holland, Yugoslavia, Crete and other places. In the small space of 50 years that small British community which we so glibly condemn to-day transformed Malaya from a worthless jungle into the richest Colony under the British flag. They have contributed more than £50,000,000 during the past 20 years to Imperial defence, also a battleship of the line and two bomber squadrons which are operating in this country and, when this country was being blitzed, they donated £500,000 to the Lord Mayor's Fund for London. During the first two years of the war it was the sale of Malayan rubber and tin to the United States that provided us with the resources which we so sadly needed in those days. Surely the least we can do when that community is passing through its time of trial and agony is to keep quiet, if we cannot say anything pleasant. If there has been any letting down it is not they who have let us down but rather we who have let them down.
I should like to raise one other matter. I rather hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would say something about it in the comprehensive review which he gave us. It is war damage. I do not know whether he realises that when the war is over and the Japanese are finally cleared out of Malaya, a lot of people will be lining up on the doorstep of the Colonial Office asking for claims to be met, because they have blown up their tin dredges or destroyed their rubber factories at the direct orders of the Government. They will expect somebody to pay for that. In case somebody may say that that is money going to the City of London, it would be as well to remember that more than 50 per cent. of the rubber produced in Malaya came from Asiatic holdings and over 40 per cent. of the tin. I do not know where the money is to come from, but I cannot imagine it can come from the pockets of the British taxpayer. I wonder whether the Colonial Office have considered the advisability of some Empire-wide scheme of war insurance. Just as in this country you may, if you have a house in Wales which is not likely to be bombed, be asked to help to bear the risk on a house in the East End of London which has been bombed, so it may be possible—I put it no higher than that—by some comparatively small tax on raw materials over the whole Empire, to build up a fund, out of which people can re-erect their smoke houses and their broken dredges after the war.
I would like to refer to one last point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I hoped he would say a little more about future policy. The surrender of Singapore marked the end of an epoch. Whether there will be a Colonial Empire when the war is over will depend, in the end, on what we do or fail to do in the next two years. I want to be frank in my criticisms of our Colonial policy. I have seen the Colonial Empire from the inside and from the outside. We have made mistakes and most of the mistakes which we have made in the past 20 years come from one very simple cause; it seemed as though the spirit of Empire had gone out of us. We ceased to believe that we had an Imperial mission at all, and, in the long run, you cannot expect others to believe in something if you do not believe in it yourselves. To get down to some practical points: At home here the average person knew little and cared less about our Colonial possessions. He did not know what it had done and did not care, nor did he realise to what extent our overseas and Imperial trade enabled the people of these islands to maintain the highest standard of living in Europe. I would like to see Colonial history and economics taught much more thoroughly and comprehensively in our schools and I hope when this war is over we shall have the vision to create large numbers of free travelling scholarships for the boys and girls in our schools. I am in favour of the proposal which has been stressed several times since I have been a Member of this House, that a Colonial Parliamentary Committee should be created even while the war is on, so that more Members of the House can take an interest in Colonial affairs and know more of what is going on.
I am always hoping that someone will put up for us here in London—perhaps this may take tangible form after the war—a great Colonial House which is worthy of our Colonial Empire. A foreign visitor coming to London would never believe that we had a Colonial Empire at all. The Colonial representatives are poked away in back streets. I want to see a great building housing the Press and the local representatives, with a library, a hostel, a permanent exhibition, and so on.
I am a member of both, but I think the Royal Empire Society is not confined to the Colonial Empire—it also includes the Dominions. It has not, however, a permanent cinema, an exhibition. Press representatives, or many other of the things that I want to see in a great Colonial house. It is the equivalent of South Africa House, Canada House and India House that I want to see. Perhaps one might suggest that such a building would be an appropriate gift from the British Government after the war as a token of appreciation of what the Colonial Empire has done.
In the purely economic sphere I would like to see set up an Empire Development Council, for which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) pleaded so earnestly a month ago. If we are honest, can we say that there has been, or is at this moment, a comprehensive plan of development of our Colonial Empire? In my experience there is not. There is no plan either within the Colony itself, or in the relation of one Colony to another, or in the relation of our Colonies to the world at large. I remember that some years ago a celebrated American came to stay with me when I was in Malaya, and he asked, "What is your policy of development?" I could only say simply that there was not one, and that if there was, I was quite unable to see it, and no one had ever told me what it was. If there were such a plan we should not have made some of the mistakes we have made. We should not have allowed unrestricted Chinese immigration into Malaya, where we have created a problem that is just as insoluble in its way as the problem of Palestine. We should not have allowed the whole economic system of a Colony to revolve round one crop, as we have in the case of cocoa in West Africa and sugar in the West Indies; we should have kept a better balance between subsistence production on which people live and the money crop, which is always at the mercy of world conditions over which they have no control.
I am wondering, too, whether we could not do something, even while the war is on, to set up an Empire Defence Council. There is nothing which gives a greater sense of common citizenship than the acceptance of common responsibilities for defence. Instead of, as it were, pushing our Colonial subjects aside and saying, "We will defend you"—which, in the case of Singapore and Hong Kong, at any rate, we signally failed to do—cannot we do more to make them feel it is their job as well as our own? Could we not have more encouragement of local recruiting, as was suggested by the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) and also more direct entry into the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Army from our Colonial Empire? Two years ago I would have guaranteed to raise in British Malaya two complete squadrons of the Royal Air Force, completely manned from local personnel, from pilots down to riggers; there was that mass of excellent raw material which, for some reason or other, we could not use.
There is much I would like to say about the administration generally and about education, but time will not permit. One delicate subject, however, to which I feel I must refer is colour prejudice. Nowadays there is not as much colour prejudice in the Colonial Empire as some hon. Members opposite think, but now and again there is some and my feeling is that where it exists it is the duty of the Colonial Office to stamp it out. If British citizenship means anything at all, there must be no colour bar at home or abroad. Let it not be thought that colour prejudice is confined only to the Colonial Empire. One finds it in London, where there are still hotels and restaurants that will not admit people from the Colonial Empire. A man is conscious of his political rights only at intervals, but he is conscious of his social rights every waking moment of his life. You can knock a man down and in time he will forgive you, but if you wound his pride he will hate you to the day of his death. It is for that reason that the whole colour question is so important politically. Perhaps there is one way in which all of us can help, and that would be to stop using the word "native." It is all very well to argue that "native" means a person who was born in a country; that may be so, but the sense in which the word "native" is used definitely means, in the minds of the people themselves, a certain social stigma.
In conclusion, I want to say that you can never found a great Commonwealth, such as we are trying to found, on economic and material things only Without bread a man does not live, but he cannot live on bread alone, and an Empire, if it is to have any permanence, must in the finality rest in the hearts and spirit of human beings. In other words, the British Commonwealth is an idea, and in the end it is ideas which count. It is the idea of common citizenship, under a common symbol, of men who differ in many, many things, who differ in race, colour, religion and history, but who are prepared to unite together for certain things. And the things which unite them are greater than the things which divide them. As "The Times" said in a recent article:
We have to add a sense of spiritual mission which alone provides an enduring stimulus to the human effort.
I think we have lost, in the past 20 years, that sense of mission, and if our Empire is to have any permanence, we have got to regain it. What we need perhaps more
than anything else is a sense of dynamic leadership, of a creed which will enthuse the people of these islands as much as it enthuses the people of the Colonial Empire. I fully believe that to-day, in our Colonial possessions, we are at the parting of the ways. One of two things must happen. The first is that the British Empire may gradually disintegrate and disappear, the most tragic example in the history of the human race of a people who were unworthy of their destiny, who were unmindful of the great responsibility which had been committed to their charge, because they lacked the inspiration, the leadership and the faith. That is one thing which may easily happen. The other alternative is that we may learn a lesson from our disappointments and our defeats, and realise that we have the power, if we have the will, to create something which will be a lasting benefit to those who live beneath our flag and to humanity at large.
We are all very grateful to the Government for having arranged this Colonial Debate, particularly as it is so short a time since we were similarly favoured. I hope that this may be taken as a precedent, and that Colonial matters will receive greater attention in future than they have ever done in the past. It is true that at no period in the history of the country has there been a greater interest in Colonial matters. Whether that statement is true with regard to this House or not, the House itself must determine, but I must testify that if the repeated appeals which have been made to the Government for the setting-up of a Colonial Committee under the aegis, control and direction of members of all parties in the House were achieved, we would indeed be brought more directly into the position of being interested and concerned as a House upon whom the liability of much that is happening in the Colonial Empire really depends, and it would be possible materially to advance our sense of responsibilities. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) has given us an admirable account of the present situation and of -the hopeful prospects for the future.
It is true that we are all grateful for, and I am particularly glad of this second opportunity for the Under-Secretary of State to repeat to us, no doubt in different language, some of those ambitions which I believe he sincerely holds about the development in the future of our great Colonial Empire, with a population 50 per cent. greater than our own. It is true that up to quite recently our interest in Colonial matters was largely utilitarian; our own material interests were our first consideration, and I think it can be said with truth that the conditions of the populations of the Empire were a secondary concern. It may be true to say that the first dawning of our sense of responsibility came when the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald) was Colonial Secretary, when certain conditions were revealed to us that stimulated public interest, particularly in the West Indian Colonies. But I believe that the public indifference that then prevailed is passing rapidly away and that the material advancement of the native populations is now undoubtedly taking a large place in this House. We see it in the statements that have been submitted to show that in the fields of education, of health, of housing, and in the relief of extreme distress, there are evident and very specific departures.
There is, in my judgment, however, one field, that which is controlled and embraced by private enterprise, which has, relatively speaking, remained outside the ambit of reform. It is true that we have appointed labour advisers, and have set up labour advisory boards. Yet decisions in certain parts of the Colonial Empire of such boards as these have been overridden by the Colonial Governors, in my judgment highly improperly, and the Governor has awarded to the workers concerned lower rates of remuneration than the board itself has recommended, and perhaps amended conditions. The matter has been mentioned in Questions in the House that to-day Government employees are being defrauded, which I believe is the correct word to use, of their legitimate advances in wages in harmony with the officially stated rise in the cost of living since the war began. We have a specific illustration in one of our oldest Colonies, that of Jamaica, in which a rise of no less than 31 per cent. in the cost of living has received no response from the powers-that-be. In this country there is very little doubt that if such a situation as that were to prevail, it would be resisted by the withdrawal of their labour by the workers. But our Colonial coloured subjects have no such oppor- tunity, and they would have rapidly been brought to book for daring to consider striking to-day. Even if trade union leaders were to make strong representations, these would be resisted by the Governors, and it might be that deportation would result. Certain it is that the trade union movement in parts of the Empire has, in my judgment, been seriously impeded by the imprisonment and long terms of deportation of trade union leaders. We hope that that may be remedied at no too distant date.
In my judgment also the Essential Work Defence Order is being used as an engine of oppression of the workers. When we reflect, taking the case of Sierra Leone, that if any workman is absent for two days in succession, or two days in the month, or is even late for employment, he is liable to prosecution and to punishment by imprisonment or by fine, it is a grievous story that there is an abundance of evidence that the new courts which have been set up under this Order are extremely busy in committing these natives to various degrees of punishment. This is highly improper, -in my judgment, under the Colonial Office. One must consider the conditions under which these natives are called upon to give their labour. We are told that in Sierra Leone many hundreds, probably thousands, have to rise before sunrise to catch the trains or other vehicles that they use for reaching their, employment, and that, after very arduous toil, they do not return home until hours after sunset. That means that most of the time in which they are capable of labouring is consumed in work. It is highly unjust that people should, under the Essential Work Order, be expected to work, under a broiling sun, in conditions to which many of them are unaccustomed, for periods—
Has my hon. Friend been to Sierra Leone, to examine on the spot the peculiar circumstances in which these people are employed? Does he realise that, generally speaking, they have easy access to their work? Does he also realise that many speeches made in this House have accentuated the difficulties of Sierra Leone?
Has he seen the conditions prevailing in Russia to-day? Are we to disbelieve what is said in the public Press because we have not seen with our own eyes what is described? Then there are the Minimum Wage Ordinances, which have been sent by the Colonial Office to the different parts of the Colonial Empire, and which have not been put into force. Many of the Governors say that they prefer to rely on the power of trade unionism. You could not rely on trade unionism in this country to establish trade boards; so how can you expect trade unionism, in its very raw and limited condition, in the Colonial Empire to establish Minimum Wage Ordinances? But I think the position is being gradually accepted by the Colonial Office that there must be a new outlook if we are to make the most of the associations, produce, and so forth of the Colonial Empire. If our administration is based, as the Under-Secretary has advised us that it should be, on a spirit of friendship and, as I would add, on a spirit of equality, there is in the Colonial Empire, I believe, a vast untapped source of wealth, of loyalty, of human power and of culture almost for the asking, to which this nation and the Empire have hitherto turned a deaf ear, but which I believe the education of the general body of the community, and particularly of the Membership of this House, will bring at no distant date more actively into review.
I would like to offer a few observations on the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. D. Adams). In the interpretation throughout our Colonial Empire of the various Orders issued from the Colonial Office, our Governors abroad, those responsible for the administration of our Colonial Empire, have given an immediate and sympathetic response. Those of us who have been throughout the Colonial Empire—and it has been my good fortune to visit most parts of the Colonial Empire—think that many speeches made in this House have a disturbing influence on the administration. We ought to be extremely careful in these difficult and embarrassing times not to make speeches in this House which excite agitation in our Colonial Empire in relation to local administration. Take Sierra Leone, which was referred to by my hon. Friend. I was there at the beginning of 1939. There was considerable trouble with local labour. The Governor and those responsible for both branches of the Colonial administration—there are two parts of Sierra Leone: the Colony and the local administration at Freetown—were doing everything possible to meet, conciliate, and help the natives in the demands they made for better conditions. The Governor was doing everything possible to make things better and happier for the people, both in the Colony and in Freetown. Many speeches in this House have been responsible for trouble in the West Indies. How can you establish a minimum wage for Jamaica, where the conditions are so different from conditions in this country in regard to relations between the employers and the trade unions? I would ask my hon. Friend, knowing how anxious he is to see better conditions in the Colonial Empire, not to express opinions which may give rise to trouble in the Colonial Empire.
I would not say that they are entirely satisfactory, but I would say that those responsible for the direction of our Colonial policy abroad, that people charged with the administration of those varied communities, are discharging their obligations faithfully and well, both towards the native subjects and towards the Colonial Office. I have visited all the West Indian islands, the West African Colonies, and the East African Colonies; and I say, in the fullest conviction, that there is not a single Colonial officer whom we have sent abroad who has not dis- charged his duties with a full sense of realisation of what should be done for the natives. The members of the Colonial administration are making great sacrifices and giving a tremendous amount of personal service, in order to make the position of the natives different.
When somebody says anything in the House about the conditions of these people it embarrasses the administration; and those responsible for native administration are frequently faced with the difficulty of having to deal with arguments which are applicable to conditions in this country, but which are entirely inapplicable to the conditions in which these native peoples live. I would suggest to many hon. Members opposite that they ought to take a more generous and kindly view of the responsibilities which attach to Colonial administration, and realise that those whom we send abroad are serious, hard-working and devoted servants of the Crown, and that we ought to limit our criticism of them, as far as possible, in the work they have to discharge.
I would like to comment upon the short speech made by the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon). I am sure he will agree with me that if grievances exist in any of our Colonies, as elsewhere, he would not be in favour of glossing over those grievances. But grievances and injustices must be attended to, for if they are not, trouble naturally follows as a consequence. I want from that point of view to ask for the attention of the Under-Secretary of State on the attitude of the Colonial Office towards the development of self-government, particularly in connection with some of our West Indian Colonies. The House will recall that over the last two years or so reference has been made from time to time in these Debates to the fact that the Colonial Office has been making proposals to some of our West Indian Colonies with regard to new constitutions. Jamaica, Trinidad and British Guiana are cases in point. If we as the Imperial Parliament are to assess properly what is behind these proposals which for the last two years have been put up by the Government through the Colonial Office with regard to the constitution of self-government in the West Indies, we have to have in mind the background from which these proposals have come. I am confining myself entirely to the policy of the Government in respect of the development of self-government, not in all but in some of the important West Indian Colonies.
The facts are very well known. During the three or four years preceding the out-break of war we had in our West Indian Colonies a regular series, year after year, of disturbances, discontent, strikes, riots and killings—some were killed and many hundreds were arrested arising out of unsatisfactory labour, social and political conditions. As a consequence of these riots and disturbances the Government, in 1938, appointed a Royal Commission to go out to the West Indies to make a full inquiry. The Commission spent six months in the West Indies, from October or November, 1938, to about April, 1939, and they issued a kind of summary. Their report has not been published, but we had a summary of their recommendations and points of view. What has emerged? We have had brought home to us the fact that these important Colonies in the West Indies, such as Jamaica, Barbados and, to a lesser degree, Trinidad—and there are more than a score of them—have been under our administration for from 250 to 300 years. Barbados goes back to 300 years of continuous British administration, and Jamaica has been in our possession since 1655, and yet none of these Colonies today, after 300 years of British administration and assimilation through our Colonial administration, has attained to the right of self-government. There is no Colony in the West Indies to-day which has the right to appoint its own Governor or the right of responsible government. In every case they are conditioned by the Governor and his nominated executive councils.
I am not saying that the absence of that self-government explains the disturbances and the discontent out of which the sending of the Royal Commission arose in 1939. Just as it occurred in our own country a hundred years ago, so in the West Indies, after such a long period of British connection and association, there has been developing a certain political and industrial consciousness among the people. In recent years there have been contacts with America. There has been over a long period of years a regular flow of British West Indians to America, backwards and forwards, imbibing the atmosphere of the United States and so on. They brought that back to the West Indian Islands, and they expressed it in labour organisations and trade unions.
Does the hon. Member recall the fact that in Barbados, for example, we have the oldest Legislature in the British Empire and that they are proud of it? They have their own representative at the Empire Parliamentary Association in this House, and in Jamaica we have a similar state of affairs. Can he suggest an instance in which either of the Legislatures of these self-governing communities have asked for the appointment of their own Governor?
I must correct my hon. Friend. There is no responsible self-government in Barbados. The Legislative Council is entirely elected and it is representative in a way, but is he aware of the restriction of the franchise? I am making a statement now without having the actual figures in my head, but the percentage of electors in Barbados who exercise the franchise is about six or seven, whereas in this country the percentage of voters who exercise the franchise is over 50. So the Government of Barbados does not represent the people; it has no executive authority.
I think I can give the hon. Member the facts. In the return which was issued in 1938 the qualifications are not given in connection with the respective Colonies, but in the case of Barbados, for instance, there are 24 members of the Legislative Council. There is a population of 190,000 people, and only 3.4 per cent. are qualified to exercise the franchise. So it is perfectly clear that Barbados cannot be described as a Colony in which you have self-government.
This House sanctions the constitution under which the franchise has hitherto been exercised. Be that as it may, I want to refer to the proposals which have so far emanated from the Colonial Office to meet the demand arising in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and British Guiana for greater participation in responsible government in those Colonies. In March, 1940, Lord Moyne, then Colonial Secretary, issued a scheme to the Jamaican Legislature in which he made two proposals. The first—an excellent proposal, which is now going on—was that there should be a revision of the franchise in Jamaica and that it should be placed on the basis of universal suffrage. Along with that proposal he included a plan by which the, Legislative Council in Jamaica, which had 30 members, only 14 of whom were elected—the rest consisting either of the Governor and his officials and nominated members—would be increased to 40 members, 28 of whom should be elected. The rest were to be nominated by the Governor. But in that proposal, which was submitted first in March, 1940, there was no suggestion that the Legislative Council in Jamaica should have any control whatever over the Executive Council of that Colony. That proposal was submitted and was turned down by the elected members of the Jamaica Legislative Council. Then in January of this year a second proposal was sent out which is still hanging fire there. The second proposal was that the Legislative Council of 40, with 28 elected on a popular franchise, should have the right to elect a certain number to the Executive Council in an advisory capacity, but that the Government should retain the right of veto and of certification of any legislation on which they thought it necessary to exercise that right.
The issue which is facing the Jamaicans, as it is facing other Colonies in the West Indies, and in regard to which it is important that this Imperial Parliament should make its position quite clear, is whether the real essence of responsible Government is to be conceded, Whether the constitution is to be so amended that not only will there be a majority of elected members on the Council, but also that it will have the right to exercise responsibility in connection with administration. I am not suggesting that in all cases there could be completely responsible Government. I am not suggesting now that, even in Jamaica, the Governor, in certain circumstances, should not have the right of veto if he thought it advisable. What I am suggesting is that you will never satisfy the developing public opinion in Jamaica, which demands some share of responsible government instead of dependence upon the official elements composing the Governor's Council, until they are given the right of carrying through proposals from an elected council to an executive council, with responsibility to see that they are made effective. It might be that, in the last resort, if some measure of responsible government were conceded, the Government veto might be retained, with the right of appeal by the elected Legislative Council to the Secretary of State in case of dispute.
Has he studied the conditions, economic and social? Has he studied the relationships of the Jamaicans with the coloured population working in the banana plantations; has he studied the difficulties with which the executive authorities have to contend in Jamaica; and does he really suggest that we ought to extend to Jamaica the same sort of franchise as we have in this country?
I have been to Jamaica. I have done all those things which the hon. Member mentions. For the last six or seven years I have been closely associated with what is taking place in Jamaica, and have studied the situation on the spot. Therefore, I know what I am talking about. Lord Moyne, in his despatch of 5th January of this year, said that he was not prepared to concede responsible government. He was quite prepared to concede representative government, bat not responsible government. The question I put to the Under-Secretary of State is this: Is he seized of the new point of view which is developing during the course of the war, and of the change which is taking place, and may it not be in the best interests of this Imperial Parliament to give every opportunity to those Colonies which are ready for it, to exercise the responsibility of self-government, in their own interests as well as in the interests of the welfare of the Empire as a whole?
Those who represent the opposite point of view, those who want to damp down the reasonable demands and the aspirations of our advanced Colonial peoples to the right of self-government, should remember that we in this country have fought for this right for generations. I am not now including the backward Colonial territories in Africa and so on, I am thinking of Colonies such as Jamaica where there is a wide measure of education. In Jamaica, where no less than 30 per cent. of the population are highly educated, natives occupy most important posts in the professions and sit as magistrates in the courts. Not only is this the case in Jamaica. All around there are other Colonies, not British, but American, French and Dutch, where full self-government has been in operation for many years.
May I remind the Under-Secretary of a very striking example to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) has already referred? The right hon. Gentleman and the Government might well ponder over it in relation to our Colonial policy, particularly in the West Indies. How many of us noticed the significant statement which was reported in a leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" on Saturday. It refers to the case of the American colony of Porto Rico, which lies 300 miles west of Jamaica and is in the orbit of a large number of our West Indian Colonies—it is true that it has a larger population than Jamaica—and which has been in the possession of America for the last 50 years. It has not only had a properly elected Chamber and a Senate, with a Governor, appointed hitherto by the United States—
Yes, but the announcement to which I now refer is to the effect that President Roosevelt, on the request of the American Governor, has recommended that as from 1944 the Porto Ricans shall elect their own Governor on a popular vote. They will not only appoint their own Governor, but will have charge of justice and education which hitherto have been the prescription of the United States. Are we to lag behind in this respect? Someone has already asked when, in connection with our Colonial administration, our old-established Colonies are to have the opportunity to appoint their own governors.
Why should not the people of Jamaica, with their long experience, have that right which we deny them? There are large numbers of Colonials, who are as well educated as any in this country and who have no right to expect ever to become Chief Secretary, Governor or even chief officials. It is on those lines that I want the Under-Secretary to visualise the problems with which he is face to face in connection with our advanced Colonies, particularly in the West Indies, and I ask him to recognise that, sooner or later—it cannot be staved off for ever—the right of responsible self-government must be the privilege of the Colonial people as well as ours.
This Debate has been extremely interesting, and I congratulate Members of the Opposition who have taken the opportunity of raising Colonial matters again after the prolonged Debate that we had quite recently. The point that I want to raise is the question on which the last Debate rested, the setting up of a Colonial Development Board. A great many of my colleagues put their names to the Motion that we discussed last time, and I got a good deal of support for the proposition, both inside and outside the House. The right hon. Gentleman agreed that he would give full consideration to it. The same question has been raised to-day, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some encouragement for thinking that this Board is going to be set up in the near future. Most of the problems that have been brought forward to-day arise because we have no definite long-term Colonial policy. As far as I know we never have had one and we are not likely to have one unless we have some body, sitting permanently, which is able to work out a policy and carry it out in spite of changes of Government and parties and policy in the House. We can only have continuity of policy if we have a permanent Board. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to give us a decision on the question as soon as possible because there is a very strong feeling, not only in the House but generally throughout the country, and also throughout the Colonial Empire, that some such body should be set up. I urge him to come to a decision on the question, otherwise I am afraid my hon. Friends and I will be raising it again in a very short time and demanding another Debate.
One thing which has been clear throughout this most interesting Debate is that there is general agreement in the House that there is too much ignorance about the Colonial Empire in this country and in the House itself. Although we may differ as to where the misunderstanding is, we all agree that there is too much misunderstanding among our fellow Members as to some of the problems of Empire. There has also been a remarkable consensus of opinion in the House, not for the first time, as to the desirability of something in the nature of a standing committee on Colonial questions. It may be that it should be a joint committee, or it may be that there should be a committee in each House, but if Parliament is to keep informed, if Members are to have the opportunity of putting questions of importance in the right way, we surely need a machinery of this character. That is obvious from to-day's discussion. We have had almost the whole surface of the globe covered. It is impossible for the ablest Under-Secretary to deal in the time with all the great questions which have been raised. It has been cheering and helpful to see that in spite of differences of view there is a large measure of agreement among us as to the great objects that we have to pursue. All that could be brought out in such a committee. It would be possible to discuss leisurely, to have constructive criticism, and to go in private sometimes into difficulties which cannot be suitably discussed in public. I therefore earnestly hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to carry us a stage further on this subject. Six weeks ago he promised to give the matter consideration, and every month that goes by at a critical time like this means a loss to Parliament and to the Colonies if we do not have the best machinery in existence for considering Colonial problems and needs.
I have great sympathy with much that has been said by my hon. Friends above the Gangway as to the need for political development in certain parts of our Colonial Empire and for the application of the spirit of the Atlantic Charter. I think we can be at one about that. We can agree also that we must show by resolute determination that there shall be no colour bar in the way of ability and talent in the public service, wherever it may be. We want to make that the characteristic of our Commonwealth and Empire. We all agree, too, that we must have a resolute attempt to raise the economic standard of those great territories of the Empire where the standard of living is too low. I think we should also agree on the urgent need for better education, including technical education. We must recognise that in the past we have failed in that respect. It is not pleasant to think that the Russians in Central Asia have taken a backward population and made them literate in the course of 20 years, but that we have still to cope with illiteracy in vast areas of our Empire. I am far from believing that true education consists merely in literary education, but that is a symbol of the kind of neglect which has gone on in the past and I am thankful to think that, for instance, in Achimota and Makerere in West and East Africa we have splendid examples of the best kind of educational development. I hope the Colonial Office will take far further this very fine effort which has been made in recent years to raise the level of education for the people for whom we are responsible.
I hope, too, that we may have it made clear that we support that very fine ideal of Colonial Empire to which expression was given recently by Lord Hailey, who pointed out that the term "trusteeship" has a certain element of patronage in it which is resented by many of our Colonial fellow subjects; that we ought to think of the Colonies as partners in a common concern, and that it is the duty of the senior partner to recognise that the responsibility of the junior partners must increase progressively. That is, perhaps, too commercial a picture of the relationship, and I think the relation ought to be deeper than any analogy taken from commerce, but it is in many ways a very good and notable expression of the aim we should have in view, and I hope the Under-Secretary may make it clear that he does concur in that very fine expression of Lord Hailey's.
I had hoped, had I been able to speak earlier, to refer in detail to one or two other matters, but I want to emphasise two points which have been referred to by earlier speakers. The first concerns the extension of forced labour in Africa. We all know that it was done only under the spur of war conditions, that the Government do not like it and that it is regarded as a temporary and regretted necessity. Still, it is sad to think that it should have been extended so rapidly and that the conditions which have been applied in Kenya appear not to have been applied in Nigeria. I would ask that we should have a word on the point of wage conditions and wage rates for forced labour in Nigeria. It would make the position far better if we had the conditions which have been applied in Kenya applied also in Nigeria. In particular, I hope the Under-Secretary will consider favourably something in the nature of a welfare levy from the additional profits of the tin mines in Nigeria, to go to the benefit not of individuals but to the labourers and their communities. It is done in our own country. Our own miners have the benefit of a levy, which is used to improve social conditions, and we ought to make it similarly possible in the mines of Nigeria. I hope that that suggestion may be considered.
I will not pursue that point further, because of the time, but I want to turn across the ocean to the West Indies. We had a very earnest appeal from the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) on the need for political reform. I do not want in any way to traverse what he said—I am sure political reform must come—but I think that along with that and preceding it we need economic improvements. My hon. Friend would probably agree. I very much hope that the fund which has already been voted by Parliament will be spent more fully. We have not yet spent the full amount which is available.
I know that the Under-Secretary of State feels that there are special conditions owing to the war—and of course, there are—which prevent the full use of that money, but there is a great need for an increase in the production of rice in he West Indies now, in consequence of the disappearance of the Burmese rice, which was the chief source of the rice consumed there in previous years. It is of great importance that rice should be produced in greater quantities. On the Island of Trinidad is a great swampy area which might be made use of for the growing of rice. There was a plan after the last war for draining and preparing that land for rice cultivation, and the scheme was not only prepared but was begun; but, in the slump of 1923, it was abandoned. The labour will now be available. The labour which is working on the American bases will shortly be freed; could it not be used for such work as I have suggested, to the great advantage, not only of Trinidad but of the rest of the West Indies, by the increased rice production? If further labour were needed, there are, unfortunately, large numbers of unemployed in Barbados who could easily be engaged for such valuable work.
One hundred-odd years ago this House gave £20,000,000 to the planters of the West Indies in compensation for the freeing of the slaves. We have never given a similar amount to the slaves or to their descendants. I think the expenditure of this fund is an earnest of our being determined to repay in some sense the debt that we owe to these men, for the years of slavery through which their ancestors passed and for which our ancestors were to some extent responsible. I hope that when he replies, the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give us encouragement on that point.
The Debate to-day has ranged over a very wide field, and as it follows so soon upon the very comprehensive Debate which we had upon the Estimates, I found myself in some difficulty in collecting, or acquiring, sufficient information to answer the many points which have been raised. I am very much indebted to the bon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), who, with his usual courtesy, gave me some warning of the major points which he meant to raise in starting the Debate. He was good enough to ring me up from his country residence yesterday morning, and he found me at the Colonial Office, to tell me what he was going to say. Before I start to answer the points which have been raised, may I make a preliminary observation which I want to impress upon hon. Members, who have conducted this Debate in such a helpful and constructive spirit?
I have been only a few months at the Colonial Office, but the major problem which haunts me is the duality of my work. There are two lines of work, two lines of thought, all the time. First, there is the war—the oppressive, tremendous, overwhelming demands of war. They have hardly been mentioned to-day. We might have been having a Debate almost remote from the war; but I feel all the time the urgent needs of this tremendous cataclysm in which we have found ourselves. I have been two years at the Ministry of Supply, I have striven in that atmosphere of urgency; and I have tried to bring into the Colonial Office something of the same urgency. We have to supply the most tremendous needs, we have to press on all the time. Nobody who has not dealt in some degree with the details of the transference from a prewar price economy to a war-planned economy—because that is what we have had to do—can know the amount of detail involved. The organisation is based, not, as in pre-war days, on what it pays somebody to import or export to or out of a Colony, but on what it suits the war effort to import or export out of a Colony. It means an enormous detail of organisation both in the Colonies and at home; of arrangements between Colonial Governments, the home Government, foreign Governments, friendly Governments, Allied Governments; of great detail of inter-departmental organisation—and only those who have had experience of inter-departmental organisation know the degree of permanent and sustained effort required to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion. Therefore, one has only a little bit of one's mind left at the end of long days, and sometimes far into the night, to think about these bigger problems of post-war organisation and development, political problems, and the like. If I am not able to make a complete review—I shall not keep the House very long; we have had a Debate before—I hope hon. Members will not say that I have suddenly turned from a progressive-minded liberal Member who used to sit and harry Governments from the Opposition Benches into a hard-faced man; it is because I conceive I have one major job to do in the war, to assist in any way I can in its successful prosecution—which is not certain, the results of which are not fixed, which we cannot take for granted, which will not be achieved without the most powerful efforts, but on the results of which depend all these discussions, all these Debates, all these hopes and aspirations for the future.
The subject of the standard of living has been raised by many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Shipley and the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey). What is to be the standard of living in the Colonies? How can we improve it? In war the standard of living of all peoples tends to fall, if one means the standard of living in terms of realities, goods and services, and not in terms of money. In the Colonial Empire I think we may say that in the more primitive countries there has been this compensation, that in terms of services, in terms of medical services, and so on, standards may have risen. In West Africa I think the standards in food and so on have not fallen. In East Africa they have slightly risen because of new arrangements we have been able to make for the great mobilised forces both in the Army and in the labour forces. In the West Indies there will be great difficulties—we may as well face the facts; it is no good telling untruths to the House—unless the submarine campaign in the Caribbean is rapidly overcome. We shall have great difficulties in maintaining standards. We have done our best to overcome the difficulties. We have to make arrangements which are necessary, but it will need great ingenuity to maintain even existing standards.
I have been asked about the economic development of the West Indies and what we have done. Since the war we have purchased all the West Indies sugar at a reasonable price based on the cost of production. Total production has not been increased owing, firstly, to the shortage of labour and of manufacturing capacity, which is really the governing factor of sugar production; secondly, to shortage of shipping, now intensified. Therefore to increase sugar production will not solve our problem. The answer is to increase local production of foodstuffs. It is the best thing to do now. It was the right thing to do before. It had started to some extent before the war, and we are now pursuing it most actively, firstly by guaranteed prices for the vegetables, peas, beans, etc., produced; secondly, by regulations requiring and enforcing the devotion of a certain proportion of plantation estates from sugar to food production—for instance, in Barbados we have enforced a 25 per cent. devotion—thirdly, by increased aid and instruction. There again the limiting factor may be the shortage of agricultural officers. In Jamaica where, as Members know, there was a large sum of money made available shortly after the war for the assistance of banana production, we have made an arrangement with the Treasury whereby the whole of that sum can be devoted to the production of alternative foodstuffs, and to the compensation and payment necessary to turn over from banana production. I will not go into details, but they are available if any Member would like to know them.
Our next problem is the actual maintenance of the shipping situation in the West Indies. Members would not be here now if they were not interested in the Colonies, but I am bound to say that some people do seem to talk rather as though it was a question of sending something from Kent to Cornwall. There are a thousand miles between one island and another, and these agreeable adjustments one is supposed to make in a day or two to send this or that from one place to another are as great an undertaking in defence of your convoys as some of the great trans-oceanic convoying of shipping. There is an increasing shortage of petrol which will cause difficulty in agriculture, both in production and in distribution. Lastly, and this is the thing which has most pained me—
Yes, Sir. Even schooner shipping, which is to be brought under control. There is complete control whereby the exact quantities and freights will be carried that are agreed between the Colonial liaison body at Washington and the American authorities. We must agree with them not to import one single thing more, or put one more little piece of pressure upon this very serious situation, than is necessary to maintain a reasonable existence. There is the point I was coming to that after making all these plans, and after voting all this money for Colonial welfare—with all the good will in the world it is not a question of money. We are out of the period of money; it is a question of things. You can vote all the millions of money you like to Colonial welfare, but you will not build another house in the West Indies unless you can get a nail, a hammer, the steel and the timber there. None of these things is easy to get; they are all in short supply. Even if we can get allocation, and that is not always difficult, because the quantities are not very great, the materials cannot be shipped there except by the arrangements come to in accordance with the present maritime situation and the present defence situation.
Many things were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) in his admirable speech, but it is not a question of voting money for a sanatorium; it is question of finding a ship to take the materials over. I am not speaking of the past but of the present and the future. As the position improves we shall press forward with the greatest energy, with the greater energy because of the disappointment of having all the schemes and the plans which are prepared held up by the harsh necessities of war. Hon. Members spoke of political development in the West Indies. I have always believed that, as my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) said so well, economic and political disorders cannot be disentangled. Often it is hard to say which is the parent and which is the child. I will not go into the rather complicated details of the curious constitutions of these various islands, dating hundreds of years back. Some of them, when they were framed, were very advanced constitutions. Perhaps they do riot now conform to modern standards. In one island the franchise may be a very small percentage of the population. Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Barbados are often classed together, but the proportion in the Bahamas is as high as some 30 per cent. of the adult population. This House can force democracy on the West Indies if it likes. It can do anything it likes, in theory. But in practice it seems to me what we have to do is to lead development—and I agree with almost everything my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury said—take the line of leadership, and gradually bring these things about, with the general good will, and setting ourselves a high standard. But we must not take too naive a view of the situation. Sometimes the outward sign of disagreement between the Colonial Office and some Legislative Council may not represent the reality that lies underneath. I can assure my hon. Friends, without committing myself to particular policies on particular questions, that my noble Friend has this policy in mind, and that he shares very much the aspirations which have been put forward to-day.
There is another matter which the hon. Member for Shipley raised, and which the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities touched upon in a very friendly and helpful way. I refer to this question of compulsory service. The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale), on the other hand, rather rebuked us because we have not raised sufficient Armies from the Colonies.
I will come to that in a moment. I assure my hon. Friend that the figures for African battalions are much bigger than he indicated, although I cannot give the figures. It is not a question of the number of regiments, but a number of battalions are raised belonging to a certain regiment, and the multiplication of battalions is on a much higher scale than might have been indicated by the figures he had in mind. Nevertheless, the life of these countries has to be taken into account. Where a peasant population lives it is not so easy to remove great masses of men as in a highly developed country, where a machine will take the place of men. It would be monstrous to attempt to raise from Nigeria anything like the proportion of the population for the Army that you can raise from a highly developed European country, because if you did so it would be impossible to keep the people alive. There are many other services that those people can render, in food production and so on, which it is important to maintain. But I recognise the spirit in which his speech was made. We welcome it. He represents, quite rightly, the anxious desire of the peoples of Africa to be associated in every way with the war.
Yes, but I was speaking of Africa. In Africa, as in other Colonies, there is always the distinction between those people who are traditionally of a fighting race and others to whom fighting does not come so naturally. In the West Indies there again is a particular problem. If by raising Armies for foreign service is meant moving a very big force, again our shipping problem is a limiting one. Whether it is the raising of Armies for service outside the territory or Continent in which they are or the raising of Armies for service for their own defence we are concentrating upon both. As is well-known a battalion of the King's African Rifles are in Ceylon. But the main concentration obviously is on the raising of Armies for the defence of their own territories.
Yes, I was not responsible for that, but when it was reviewed the shipping situation had become a limiting factor.
I move from the raising, whether by conscription or by voluntary recruitment, of military Forces to the question raised by my hon. Friend and others of conscription, or forced labour, or whatever one might call it, for production services. He was good enough to say that we had a very long Debate on this, with which he was reasonably satisfied, and I will not go into the details any further. On the Kenya question he was good enough to say that the arrangements we had made there assuming this was to be done at all, were reasonably satisfactory. I can tell the House that every point that was brought to my notice in that Debate has been taken further, and we have arranged that the schoolboys of 16 will not be called up in the way that he feared. We have reduced the penalties from £5 to £2, and we have provided a considerable additional inspectorate. A central wages board has also laid down general scales of rations and meals and fixed minimum wages for the compulsory labour. In Tanganyika there has been compulsory labour, but on a very limited scale, only for a short-term emergency for planting of crops, and that is all. In Northern Rhodesia the whole thing amounted to less than 700 men, and now it is a small voluntarily recruited force to do general work for the Government, such as road making, and so on.
Yes, I am not responsible for Southern Rhodesia. In Nigeria it is a new problem which has come upon us, and I cannot quite accept the definition of the Colonial Office attitude of the hon. Member for Shipley. We did not rush in Kenya and in Nigeria to accept proposals for compulsory labour. On the contrary, we examine with the greatest care. Great numbers of telegrams are interchanged, and an immense coming and going takes place between the Colonial Office and the territories concerned. It is necessary for purposes of the record, although the hour is late, to go over the reasons why we found it necessary to have compulsory labour in Nigeria. We require 30,000 additional people if we can get them. We require an immense additional production of tin. We have lost 60 per cent. of the world's production of tin. Labour has been largely taken up by Army needs and raising of voluntary forces for the Army and military works, pioneer corps, and things of that kind. So that the more successful we are in meeting the wishes of the hon. Member for West Brom-wich the more we increase our problem of meeting the difficulty of getting labour for the Nigerian tin mines. Labour is no longer coming from the Vichy territories, from where we used to get a certain amount. As Members know, the incentive to money wages, is not, in the more primitive territories, the easy method of obtaining labour that it is is in the more sophisticated territories. The Nigerian tin mines must not be conceived of as mines in the sense of collieries; they merely consist of removing 10 or 15 feet of earth from the surface and then working the deposits at that point.
Recruitment was originally from neighbouring tribes. It is important that we should recruit in a fairly evenly-spread and controlled way, because it is important to maintain food production all over the country. Therefore, recruitment should be evened out. Unfortunately if we were to depend merely upon raising wages to a high level, or something of that kind, it would probably attract just that type of labour which is least suited to the work. We should attract labour from the coast. The tin mines lie on a high plateau where there is cold, rough weather, and the people suited to that weather are the more primitive tribes which live in the Northern areas. I have not seen them myself, but I have been shown many pictures of these people, who, although the weather is comparatively cold, do not find it necessary to wear any clothes. It would not suit us at all to bring the coast men in—indeed, it would be wrong.
As to safeguards, when it is said that they are not as good as they ought to be, if that is so, I will try and make them better, but may I point out that there are proper medical inspection, subsistence and free transport to and from the mines, a reception camp, with free meals, in charge of administrative officers, and a special inspectorate department; and may I also say that I have just received a telegram giving the appointment of two new, experienced officials. They are hard to get now, as we have to take them from somewhere else. Conscripted labourers have the same wage rate as voluntary labourers and companies provide housing and medical treatment. The age limit was originally fixed from 18 to 55; now it has been reduced and is from 18 to 44. Workmen's compensation covers conscripted labour, and hours of work are the same as for voluntary labour. One rest day each week is being given. I think I have given the broad general reasons why we must raise this tin.
The difficulty about food governs the difficulty about recuitment. Up to now we have recruited only 3,000, and the reason is that we cannot afford to recruit any more until the harvest is in. If it is a good harvest, we shall be able to recruit more without injuring our economy; but if it is a bad harvest, I am afraid that the figure of 30,000 will not be reached and tin production will fall below the voracious demands of the Ministry of Supply and our American Allies,
The maximum period which has now been agreed to is for four months. Originally it was two months, but in order to do that, we had to get 20,000 in and out to get 2,000 or 3,000 working for a few months. Because of pressure on our transport and the state of our wagons, etc., we had to raise it to four months.
Now comes the question of whether this work is for private profit or for Government profit. I do not, alas, know these territories; I can only read about them and see photographs of them, and I try to imagine two of these people talking about what is going on. One says to the other that he has to go to a Government colliery; it has been socialised and he likes the idea. The other says that he does not like that. He has to go to Amalgamated Tin, whereupon the first says he does not like that because it is a concern which is working for private profit. The other says "But there is 100 per cent. E.P.T.," and the first replies that of that there is 20 per cent. rebate, and so forth. But I cannot believe that that represents any reality. What really happens is that they are not interested in such things. If it did represent any reality at all, it would not represent any reality to them. Therefore I do not think it matters; what matters to us is: Have we done something wrong?
Who wants to get tin out of the mines? I do, and the Ministry of Supply do. If the companies were not patriotic people, the last thing in the world they would want to do would be to take tin out of the mines, but what are they doing? They are working the mines at the rate of 120 per cent., ruining the mines. We tell them to work, the best seams and to get the stuff out. They are injuring their own property, paying 100 per cent. E.P.T., and getting no additional profit whatever. It is our difficulty, or it would be if they were not patriotic people, to overcome their sense of duty to their shareholders, because we are in fact injuring them and not benefiting them at all. Under the agreement we have made it does not make the slightest difference to their profit how much tin is taken out, because the agreement is that the Ministry of Supply pays them the cost of working, plus the profit of 1939 or the average profit of the three years before 1939. That is a fixed profit payment, and they are in fact the agents of the Government. Therefore, whether it is a matter of satisfaction to ourselves to feel that we are working on a nationally-controlled agreement, because the companies are agents of the Government, or whether it is a matter of satisfaction to the Africans, you may say that in fact they are working on Government account for the war effort.
I want to make it absolutely clear, beyond any shadow of doubt, that my Noble Friend and I dislike forced labour. The whole of this House dislikes it, and the whole history of Africa has been one of gradually getting away from it. It is an old tradition and has been in existence for a long time, and there are certain services for which compulsory labour might be regarded, in more primitive times, as reasonable. When the chief called upon his men they came out and built a road, or did some act of public service in much the same way as we pay our taxes. But we do not like it; we regret it, and we shall not keep it on a moment longer than is necessary. We are using it as sparingly as we can. In Kenya the settlers would not ask for it; the Government forced it upon them. We could not afford to ask the settlers to grow crops and then let the crops lie rotting upon the ground. There are some crops which are exotic crops, wheat in particular, which the natives do not know how to grow, and which must therefore be grown by the settlers. But it is a mistake to imagine that in Kenya the settlers asked for it. The sisal growers have not asked for it, and in Northern Rhodesia the mine owners have not asked for it. We are introducing every possible safeguard we can, and if anybody can think of any more safeguards, I should be most happy to see whether we could introduce them, as we did to meet the wishes of the Members of the House after the Kenya Debate.
There are many other subjects with which I must deal before I wind up, and I must apologise to hon. Members if I Cannot deal with all their points. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley made, not exactly an accusation, but an innuendo that there was a statement going around that in some way or other the Colonial Office had got mixed up with monopolies in West Africa and was increasing the powers of monopoly traders.
On imports, our position is very simple. Anyone who can get an import licence can import into West Africa. Import licences are given by the local government, and the local government is supposed to decide whether an import licence is to be given and whether the commodity is to be imported. As the war has gone on, that method has become too loose, because more import licences are given, or because there is a long delay between the giving of a licence and the sailing of a ship with no guarantee that when the ship is ready the machinery will be ready too. Therefore, we are proposing to substitute for the system of import licences a complete freight control. That is the answer—because we cannot afford to waste any tonnage which is available. How we shall run that import or freight control, I am not quite certain, but we are now working on the mechanism. The first thing is to get the mechanism; then we have to decide the agency. We shall run it either through the Colonial Office or through an agency. I can assure the hon. Member that we shall run it fairly and squarely, but, no doubt, as in all these things, there may be some ill effects on private interests. I am not, however, so interested in private interests; they have to suffer. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend defends that system.
As regards exports, there is only one monopoly. I am the monopoly. The West African Produce Control Board controls all the exports from West Africa. I have set up a complete socialistic control. The only people from whom I might have expected criticisms would have been Members who. do not wish to see the Government go in for complete control.
As far as exports are concerned, they will be bought by the Board and resold to the Ministries of Food and Supply, or to our American Allies. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale brought up again the question of the St. Kitts sugar factory, and he was so nice to me that I hardly like to criticise him at all. After the last Debate I asked him to come to my room at any time and have tea or supper with me when I would tell him all about the finances of the St. Kitts sugar factory. I have the papers waiting on my table. I have studied the whole of this financial transaction, and I thought I had mastered it, but now I have forgotten it. I say to my hon. Friend, "Come and see me."
I told my hon. Friend again to come. We will try to find out exactly what has happened. Whether it is a promise or a threat that you can make 1,400 per cent. on your money by investing it in the St. Kitts factory, I leave to the House. In his remarks on the position generally in the West Indies, I think he was unfair to the Colonial Office, because the ordinary reader of our Debates would not realise that nine out of 10 officials in the Service are West Indians. In many places there axe only one or two English officials. The last judgeship appointment in Trinidad went to a West Indian. The English Colonial Service does not represent 10 per cent. of the Colonial officials.
Here is the case of a West Indian being appointed to a judgeship in Trinidad, which is a very high post. We do try to follow the criterion of merit; with a bias, if at all, for the indigenous persons, because we want to develop that, and I can assure him it is in that spirit that it is done.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Gammans) made a very fine speech which contained very fine sentiments. I thought them very inspiring. I cannot answer definitely the point that he made about future policy. He asked me about propaganda in the United States. Propaganda is, of course, a difficult thing. I am never quite happy about it. I do not really understand it. I have spent a great part of my life in trying to sell books, and I have found very often that the best salesmanship was by getting high quality and not bothering too much about what may be called "sales pressure." If the stuff is good, you will sell it. If our policy is put forward honestly, and the policy is honest and sound, we shall gradually get it understood. I am distrustful of propaganda, and I think it has to be carefully handled or you may do more harm than good. Nevertheless, my Noble Friend has been impressed by the need of contacts with leading organs of opinion, universities and students in America, and we have made arrangements for putting upon the staff of the British Ambassador in America a representative of the Colonial Office of high standing, which I think will be very useful in seeing that our point of view is represented at the Embassy and in making the necessary contacts with our American friends. My hon. and gallant Friend made a very fine defence of the British in Malaya, and I am very glad he did. It was quite right that he should make it, and I know no one better fitted to make it.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) asked whether we have yet come to a decision as to setting up a Colonial Development Board. Alas, I can only tell him that no decision has been reached. My Noble Friend is still considering the best method of operating and planning the future working of Colonial development and welfare, and, as soon as a decision is reached, I shall be happy to announce it, but I am sorry that I am not in a position to make an announcement to-day.
The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. D. Adams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) discussed the question of the Essential Work Order, wage boards and other problems in the West Indian and other Colonies, and I agree with what both of them said that, if we are to develop on sound lines a proper relationship between workers and employers in the Colonies, we must learn some of the experience of our own island. We have learned, after some harsh and difficult experiences, to develop a sound, well-led, well-managed, responsible trade union movement. All our modem employers realise that upon their friendly relationship with the trade union movement depends the stability of British industry. If we are to get something like that in the Colonies, we have to lay the foundations of it. I tried to explain in the Estimates Debate the steps that we have taken to make use of labour officers, men with trade-union experience, who could help in building it up. But it can never be built up on the basis of mere political agitation by people who are in the movement more for what they are getting out of it than for what they are putting into it. The best service that we can give is to send men of fine type and character from this country who can lay the proper foundations on which a more effective and better relationship between employers and employed can be built up.
We have had a very good Debate, and great numbers of points have been raised. We have had a very friendly Debate. The Colonial Office, of course, is sometimes criticised. The British Empire is sometimes criticised. I think that we must be careful ourselves not to indulge in what was a luxury in happier days of over-criticising ourselves. It is a very old English tradition that we should deprecate our own efforts, but it can become rather dangerous if other people take us too seriously. If self-criticism is the basis of more strenuous action as it is among ourselves in our Debates, to build up and inspire more to be done, it is a good thing, but we must be careful lest some jealous and sometimes not friendly ears listen to it and use it in the wrong way. We have, I think, in the very long story of our Colonial development some episodes of which we are not so proud as of others, but, broadly speaking, we have certainly not to regard it as a subject for denigration or a subject for shame. Certainly we can say this to ourselves, make this bargain with ourselves—that if we do as well in our generation as our fathers and forefathers did in theirs, we shall have little of which to be ashamed and much of which to be proud.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has given consideration to the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain Macdonald) with regard to some organisation for the closer and more intimate association of this House and the Colonial Empire?
Perhaps I had so many things to deal with that I did not deal with that point properly. My hon. Friend will appreciate that the questions of setting up committees of the House of Commons and of setting up Colonial development boards are very big questions. They are what are called, in the jargon of Whitehall, questions that are settled on a higher level than myself. All I can do is to represent them to that level.