Colonial Affairs.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 4th August 1942.

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Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Stockton-on-Tees

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.