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

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.