Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Overseas Resources Development Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th November 1947.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East 12:00 am, 6th November 1947

I have listened with very great attention indeed to the examples of medical and botanical research adduced by the scholarly Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir. J. Graham Kerr). I did hope that he was going to suggest to the research department of the Colonial Office that they might go a stage further in the production of tapioca and make it appetising for the consumer. I suffered very much from tapioca when I was a boy. At that time it seemed to me to be as poisonous as the other variety of manioc.

It must be very gratifying to His Majesty's Government that this very important Bill has been received with such unanimous agreement in all parts of the House. They feel, and all of us feel on this side, that one of the major contri- butions that we in Britain can make in the British Commonwealth is to redress the unbalance of production to which the Prime Minister alluded so forcibly in this House and in his broadcast address. We must do all we can to redress this unbalance of production and to raise the productivity of the world, which has suffered so sadly through the incidence of two wars and past neglect, as well as from the unkindnesses of nature in late years and the folly of men in not tending the greatest of all their inheritances, the land itself.

I was very glad indeed to hear the stress laid by one hon. Member upon the subject of soil erosion. The conservation of the land is the first matter to which anyone who has a feeling of concern for the Colonial territories must address himself. The beneficial character of the advantages to be gained by the Bill cannot be overstressed. The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), who opened for the Opposition in his usual witty, and on these occasions kindly, manner, pointed out the danger in overemphasising what we in this little island will get out of it. I believe that primarily this is a step in the restoration of productivity for the world as a whole. In that restoration of productivity the first advantage will accrue to the peoples of the colonial and trusteeship territories and other lands, where the Overseas Food Corporation will go into operation. I wish to add that the productivity encouraged by the other corporation will also be of world benefit. We welcome it, and we do not deny that we shall profit by it, but the advantage will be shared by all the inhabitants of this planet.

The opening of great new markets for our own industries will result from greater purchasing power among Colonial peoples. That is very important, but I do not think of it chiefly as a way of providing markets for our own goods. It is a way of providing a higher standard of life for the peoples of the Colonies. In some ways it is a pity that provision for both corporations has appeared in the same Bill. There is a feeling in the Colonies that, to reverse Dickens, "Short is the friend and not Codlin." The Minister of Food is looked upon by the primary producers and their elected representatives with a great deal of suspicion whereas they regard the Secretary of State for the Colonies as a sort of benevolent uncle. There is some justice in the complaints which have been put forward by the primary producers in our Colonies, especially during the recent war. For that reason I could have preferred that the whole of the development work within the dependent Empire should have been in the hands of the Colonial Office.

Judging by the rather plaintive remarks of the Secretary of State himself recently, when he was in the West Indies, he and, I think, his predecessor have had a pretty hard tussle. They have been rather like Mr. Pickwick between the rival editors, because they have to fight both the Treasury and the Ministry of Food. Perhaps I should have put them the other way round and said the Ministry of Food first. When the Ministry of Food has seemed likely to be worsted, the Treasury has come to its assistance. This modifies the humorous picture of the right hon. Member for West Bristol in a sort of episode of the cuckoo and the flustered hen. Evidently the hen was not so flustered and did win eventually.