Schedule. — (Provisions relating to the constitution, etc., of each of the Cor- porations.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th January 1948.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee 12:00 am, 20th January 1948

I beg to move, in page 12, line 7, after "death," to insert "injury."

This is a very obviously self-explanatory Amendment, since the word "injury" in line 7 should be included so that the Corporation might be empowered to pay pensions, gratuities and the like benefits, not only in case of death or retirement, but also in cases of injuries, which, under the conditions in which this Corporation will operate, might well occur to its employees.

Amendment agreed to.

8.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Jones Mr Arthur Jones , Shipley

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

It is not my wish to detain the House for more than a few minutes, but I feel that I should make a few general remarks in regard to the Bill as it has now emerged from the Report stage. I recognise that the Bill has the general support of all sections of the House, and also that it has been acclaimed outside the House with a great deal of enthusiasm, but, at the same time, I appreciate that there are a number of doubts in regard to certain parts of the Bill. One of these doubts has been put in the Debate this afternoon. It is the doubt whether Colonial opinion is quite satisfied that the Bill will not be used for the purposes of exploitation; the doubt whether the needs of Great Britain and Western Europe will not dominate over the essential development requirements of the Colonial peoples themselves.

I would like to assert, with all the emphasis I can, that this Bill is as much designed for the purpose of meeting the needs of the world as it is for meeting the special needs of the Colonial peoples. By that, I mean that it is imperative today, if the Colonial peoples are to go forward in attaining that standard of living, in reaching a higher stage of social development, and in enjoying the social services they demand, that their economic resources should be fully developed. This Bill will give some assistance in making Colonial economies more stable, in encouraging enterprise and in increasing the number of economic activities possible in the territories. At the same time, the Bill will minister to the needs of Europe, and of our own country in particular. I think that, arising out of it, there will be a closer integration of economic interests because of the mutual benefit which the operation of this Bill will bring.

I have no apprehension that, because the Bill provides for an Overseas Food Corporation, we shall be diverted, as a nation, from our main purpose of building up Colonial standards. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, answerable to Parliament, will still carry a general responsibility in regard to the whole of the economic development of the territories under his immediate control. It will be his duty and his responsibility to see that, whether it is the Colonial Development Corporation or the Overseas Food Corporation which is functioning in these territories, reasonable and proper standards are maintained, and that their activities fit in with the general economic plan of development of the territory concerned. It will be his special responsibility to see that the Corporation only functions with the understanding and consent of the local government and of the people involved.

This Bill, I think, marks a further big step forward in our conception of Colonial development. The Colonial Development and Welfare Acts of 1940 and 1945 were of great importance because of the planning which was involved under them in respect to social and economic development. As a result, under the programmes for the next 10 years which have been prepared, a tremendous amount of economic development becomes possible which will provide their economic activities with a framework which those economic activities can successfully proceed. That is to say, we are able, by grants from the Imperial Funds, to push on with road construction, railways, water conservation, soil conservation, irrigation works, power stations, and all those other essential utilities on which the rest of the economic activities of the territories depend. We now have the opportunity of carrying economic development a stage beyond that, in so far as we are able to encourage enterprise, of both a private and public character, in order to increase the economic wealth and to exploit the economic resources for the general development of these territories.

It is sometimes little recognised that so far, in Colonial development only a comparatively small sum of money has been invested for the purposes of exploiting the territorial resources. The capital has gone to some extent on mineral development, and chiefly on railway development, but in regard to the normal production activities the amount of capital expenditure has been comparatively small. Indeed, a great deal of investment was switched away from Africa and our other Colonies for use in South America and the American Continent. To that extent, we have not given to the development of these territories the attention which we should have given in days gone by. There are enormous difficulties in the way of development. We ought not to delude ourselves that results can flow quickly when these tremendous difficulties have to be overcome before widespread development becomes possible. Vast arid areas, great bush areas with tsetse fly, problems of irrigation and water supply, opening out the country, large areas where there is a dearth of labour—these are considerable problems which have to be overcome if development is to go forward.

I believe that by the creation of these two Corporations enormous assistance can be given to enterprise. By collaboration with existing enterprise, by the creation of new enterprises of a public character, by association with peasant production and with co-operative groups, and in a thousand ways, enterprise which previously was impossible can now be launched and, I hope, can go forward for the betterment of those territories. I said a moment ago that results are not likely to be quick. At the moment we are up against enormous difficulties because of the shortage of the essential materials on which a great deal of development depends. The absence of steel, machinery and technicians are some of the difficulties which we have to overcome. But I believe that the launching of this big work by means of these two Corporations will make a very substantial addition to the wealth of our Colonies and to the happiness of the peoples involved, and we can prove ourselves more worthy of the Empire under our control.

I think it would probably be of interest to the House if I stated the composition of the Colonial Development Corporation, and indicated how it will proceed with its work. The appointments so far made are, of course, designate in anticipation of the passing of this Measure. As the House is aware, we have invited Lord Trefgarne to be Chairman of the Corporation, and perhaps I should inform the House that his salary will be £5,000 a year. As the House also knows, the Deputy-Chairman will be Sir Frank Stockdale, whose reputation is very well known and widely recognised not only here, but in the Colonial Empire generally. As a full time Deputy-Chairman, his salary will be £3,000 a year. The Board will be a part-time Board and the remuneration of each of the members will be £500 per year. The persons who have been invited to serve are—

Photo of Mr Arthur Jones Mr Arthur Jones , Shipley

Yes, and accepted. They are Mr. Tansley, formerly marketing director of the West African Produce Control Board; Sir Miles Thomas, chairman of the Development and Co-ordinating committee of Southern Rhodesia, until recently vice-chairman of Morris Motors Limited; Mr. H. N. Hume, chairman and managing director of Charterhouse Investment Trusts Limited; Mr. H. M. Gibson, who is a director of the C.W.S.; Sir Charles Darwin, director of the National Physical Laboratory; Mr. R. E. Brook, director of the Bank of England; Mr. J. Rosa, a banker who saw war service in the Treasury and the Colonial Office and was on the Commission of the East African groundnut scheme.

There are one or two vacancies which have not yet been filled, but we have tried to secure a widely experienced Board and I think it will satisfy the test which is laid down in the Bill which the House has been considering this afternoon. I hope the House will give the Bill its Third Reading with some enthusiasm, because from it we expect great things in the Colonies. Anyway, we shall drive ahead with our development plans and I am quite certain not only will our own country profit from the working of the Bill, but also enormous social and economic benefits will come to the Colonial peoples themselves.

9.2 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Bristol West

First of all, may I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the courtesy with which he has announced to the House the composition of the Board of the Colonial Development Corporation, and also its functional division. I congratulate him very much on deciding on this form of managerial board. I think it is far better to have a whole-time chairman and deputy chairman, to have part-time people for the board on whom one can call for specialist knowledge when it is wanted and from whom one can get general information on some big step, and then to have the functional direction, in the hands of an executive under the chairman of the board. I am sure that, for this type of organisation in particular, that gives an ideal set-up.

With regard to the personnel, I think we can say at once that we find in this list of names a number of highly respected people of exactly the type of experience which would seem desirable for a Corporation of this kind. Tribute has been paid by more than one speaker to the services of Sir Frank Stockdale, and truly they have been pre-eminent—and not only in the field of agriculture, because as the right hon. Gentleman knows, he has also rendered extremely good service in a wider sphere in the West Indies Development administration. Without being at all invidious to other names, with which I personally have no intimate acquaintance, I would like to refer to the name of Mr. Tansley because I had experience at the Colonial Office during the war of the great service he did with the West African Board, and I can think of no one who is likely to be able to give sounder advice and riper knowledge on these subjects than Mr. Tansley. I noted that the right hon. Gentleman said that there were still some vacancies. A cursory glance at the list, without knowing all the names intimately, would suggest that it might be wise to use some of these vacancies in strengthening the side of actual Colonial experience. There is a wide range of interest covered here which deserves to be and should be covered, and I should have thought that some more vacancies might be used to strengthen the Colonial side.

Having thanked the right hon. Gentleman for that part of his announcement, let me say that I have little to add to and nothing to subtract from what he said about the Bill itself. It happened as a mechanical result of our being on the Report stage that, so far, today we have been discussing only points on which we differ, but, of course, those points on which we differ are only a very small part of the Bill itself on which all of us agree. We put forward with sincerity the views we hold about the duplicated working of these two Corporations. They have been rejected by the House, but that does not in the least diminish our desire and hope that the experiment embodied in this Bill will prove a success which will redound not only to the credit but also to the rosperity of this country and of the Colonial Empire.

I accept entirely the assertion made by the Secretary of State for the Colonies that he approached this Bill, and the operations under the Bill, in no selfish desire merely to benefit the people of this country, but to bring benefits to the Colonial Empire, to this country—and why not to this country—and to the world at large. I am not in any way flattering the right hon. Gentleman when I say that, whatever differences we may have had in the past, and, no doubt, will have in the future, he has gained a reputation for sympathy with the Colonies and with Colonial objectives that make an assertion of that kind, coming from him, of particular value.

As I see it, the position is this: These new Corporations are a valuable method to which we assent and to which we wish well. They are different in their working from other methods which already exist, but with the Colonial Welfare Development Act and with private enterprise, these Corporations make a third method of arriving at real economic development of the Colonial territories. I have been relieved not only by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman tonight but by some very wise words from the Minister of Food during the Committee stage. It seems to me that the Government are determined that all three of these partners shall be allowed to play their proper and particular part, and that there is room inside the Colonial territories for all three, because I think that there will be found particular things at which each one of the three will prove to be the better. There are certain kinds of development which are clearly best done by the Colonial Governments themselves with the help of the Colonial Welfare and Development side—the development of communications, water supplies and things of that kind.

There are certain larger scale operations which probably are best done by the Corporations; and I say at once that I do not think that under present conditions it would have been possible for private enterprise to have tackled the ground-nut scheme. On the other hand, there are a number of cases where private enterprise working, as it always must work now, under the laws of the Colonial territories, will be found the best method of developing the economies of those territories. Therefore, we look forward to a prosperous co-operation between these three partners, the Colonial Governments, the Corporations and private enterprise, in the hope that between them they will lead to a real and substantial development of Colonial economics.

In conclusion, I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman how wise I thought he was to warn people about extravagant hopes of quick results from these Corporations. He was wise to point out the difficulties that still exist. This is a period entirely unlike the world deflation before the war. We must realise that any capital equipment that we use under a new Bill of this kind is merely capital equipment which we are taking away from other projects which other Ministries are conceiving, or which other legislation gives power to carry through. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman was wise to point out that we must make it plain that this is not some sudden new addition to the resources on which we can call, but an attempt in some cases to use to better advantage the capital equipment upon which we can call.

I am not depressed myself by the idea that development under these schemes will not be too rapid or too dramatic. I am perfectly certain the right hon. Gentleman will not fall into the error of thinking that nothing is any good unless it can make a big splash; that nothing will really help Colonial economics unless it is big enough, novel enough, and progressive enough—so-called—to hit the headlines in the newspapers. I believe that view to be a profound mistake. The right hon. Gentleman will find that the most immediate and, indeed, lasting benefits from these schemes and these Corporations will lie in the quite small ways in which he can develop and assist already existing or nascent industries and productions. I am sure that is his intention, and from the composition of the board we can rest assured that they will not be people looking only for dramatic but possibly extremely expensive schemes, but people looking for every opportunity to develop, even in the smallest way, the Colony upon which some territory depends. So we on this side of the House, in saying goodbye to the Bill at this stage, wish to both Corporations the greatest success in their work, believing that from their success will come great advantage, both to this country and, above all, to the Colonial Empire.

9.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee

I have only one or two words to add to our Debate before we part with this Bill. I wish to thank the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) for the remarks he has just made, which have been most helpful in the launching of what is a national series of enterprises. I should like to add one thing to the statement of my right hon. Friend in regard to personnel, and that is, I am very glad to be able to tell the House that Sir Frank Stock-dale, whose great reputation has been referred to on both sides of the House, will be a member not only of the Colonial Development Corporation but of the Overseas Food Corporation. He is the interlocking point of the interlocking directorates, just as Mr. Rosa from the Overseas Food Corporation interlocks with the Colonial Development Corporation as has just been announced.

I know that everybody in the House recognises fully that in passing this Bill, as we shall do in a very few moments, we are doing very little unless we make possible that mobilisation of resources of which the right hon. Member for West Bristol has just spoken. They are, in the economist's phrase, very scarce resources indeed. That is an additional reason why we must mobilise them with the utmost care. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we have now, and shall have when this Bill is on the Statute Book, a triple instrument for Colonial and overseas development—the method of the Colonial government acting directly, the method of private enterprise, and now the method of Government Corporations, which has become for many years an established part of our national life in this country, and which we believe, although it is a daring new departure, can now play a great part in overseas development.

We certainly do not want to score any party points about which is the best of these forms of development. On both sides of the House we have tried to avoid that in our discussions, keen as they have been on particular provisions of this Measure. Our national position is really too grave to warrant any indulgence in our particular opinions on the methods of overseas development. I should like to end this discussion by striking this note, that by one means or another, by hook or by crook, the development of primary production of all sorts, in the Colonial areas, Colonial territories and dependent areas in the Commonwealth, as well as generally throughout the world, in far more abundant quantities than exist today is, it is hardly too much to say, a life and death matter for the economy of this country.

We know that this Bill cannot, with the resources which we can spare for this particular purpose, do more than make a contribution to that vitally important end, which for this country and for other highly developed industrial countries in the world is of such tremendous importance. It is a contribution which we can make, and we believe that it may set an example to other countries with resources which might join in one form or another with us in the development to the greatest possible extent of primary production throughout the world. That is really the great world need today, and in establishing that new instrument for that purpose, we feel that we are serving well the cause not only of this country, but of all the consumers and producers throughout the world.

9.19 p.m.

Photo of Sir Archer Baldwin Sir Archer Baldwin , Leominster

On the seven o'clock news of the B.B.C., the Business of this House was given as the Princess Elizabeth's and Duke of Edinburgh's Annuities Bill. No mention was made of the Overseas Resources Development Bill. I suggest to the B.B.C. that this Bill should at least have taken an equal place in that announcement with the Annuities Bill, because I look upon it as the most important piece of legislation which will be placed on the Statute Book this Session. I hope that this Bill means that it is a forerunner of other development schemes. I shall be getting out of Order if I suggest developments in industry, as well as developments in food. I hope that when Sir Miles Thomas and the experts now investigating the possibilities of industrial development in Africa arrive back and make their report, we shall have placed before us an industrial development scheme. We must recognise that if the African native has to depend on what he can reap from food production, his standard of life must necessarily be low.

Therefore, I want to see linked up with this Bill a Bill for the development of industry as well. In these Debates party politics have largely been absent, and I hope for the sake of the Empire, as well as this country, that they always will. But I did not like the statement which the Under-Secretary made on the Second Reading, when he gibed at the Conservative Party in saying that the Government were up against difficulties because of the years which the locusts had eaten. I did not think that that was fair, because it must be recognised that no matter what Government were in power in the past this country decided that it would purchase supplies from whatever source they could be obtained, and as cheaply as possible. Many of the schemes now contemplated were not carried out. For instance, it would have been suicidal for any Government or private company to have started a groundnut scheme before the war, when there was overproduction of groundnuts.

This Bill has been accepted by all parties in this House, and although I do not wish to add much to what has been said about the interests of the Ministry of Food in connection with this Bill I feel that the day will come when the interests of that Department, as a supplier of food, must clash with their interests as a primary producer. I believe that too much has been expected from the groundnut scheme. I have the feeling that we are rather putting the cart before the horse. I should have liked to see development on two entirely different lines before the groundnut scheme was started—development of transport, such as railways and roads, and of labour. We must remember that even today there are groundnuts in West Africa that cannot be moved owing to lack of transport, yet we are launching out on a great scheme of further production before we have thoroughly gone into this question of transport. In the development schemes that come along I believe that money would be better employed on railway and road transport of the African Colonial Empire rather than on primary production. This can be better done by private enterprise, which can deal with this matter much better than a public corporation.

I also believe that labour is one of the problems that has never been properly faced by the originators of this scheme. It is thought that the African native is a source of cheap labour. I have found that the African native is some of the dearest labour I have ever seen at work. If he gets a task which will employ him for two and a half or three hours he considers that is sufficient, and will do no more work. We must give the native primary education, better food, and more incentives. If production is started before labour supply is in the right position the difficulties will be accentuated. The sisal industry lost one million tons of sisal last year, because the necessary labour was not available. They are drawing labour from as far away as a thousand miles. That does not sound a practical proposition. Some steps should be taken to get the native labourers out of their reserves on to the job. They should have good villages with their own schools and hospitals, and they should be fed better and given a higher standard of living, so that they are able to do the work. Before any steps to increase production are taken, these provisions must be made.

In the development schemes being put forward there should be provision for cooperation between the Minister of Defence and the Colonial Secretary. The development of transport systems in Africa can be of immense importance not only to food production, but also to industrial developments and from the military point of view. Development should he undertaken from the long term and not the short term point of view.

The Secretary of State mentioned that in prewar days primary production and food production had not been developed in the Empire to the extent it should have been. With that I agree. This country has always decided to buy food in the cheapest markets of the world. I am glad the Minister of Food is now interested in this scheme, because it seems to me that if and when the food of the world enters the competitive market again, first place will be given here to the home producer, second to the Empire producer, the rest of the world coming in at the tail end. For instance, the Minister of Food on Second Reading mentioned the development of the cattle industry and the sisal industry of Australia. With what he said I entirely agree. I do not agree that he should produce that beef, but he should give a pledge to the Australian pastoralist that when he has produced food he should find a market for it in this country.

That co-operation is bound up with something of tremendous importance both to this country and to Australia. Not many months ago the Minister of Immigration in Australia, the Hon. A. Calwell, spoke to an all-party meeting at this House, and I should like to quote what he said: In the past my party has been anti-immigration. The shock of war has made us realise that we have got to populate Australia or perish. The population of Australia is about 7,500,000. Mr. Calwell said that they wanted to build up the population of Australia to 20 million. The way to build up the Australian population to 20 million is to encourage production in that Continent, and then the population will gradually grow.

I am one who feels that if we are to survive as an Empire—if we in these islands are to survive as a nation—we must spread our population and spread our defences. I am not one of those who want to see emigration from this country restricted. I think we are too thick on the ground, and I am all for emigration of the population into the vast open spaces of the Empire. Thus we can build up those countries; and that can be of immense value to the world, and a safeguard of future peace.

9.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) but I feel I must dissociate myself from a good deal of what he said. He has offered some criticism of African wages. I want to remind him that it has been pointed out with truth that for every £12 of wealth created in Africa in the past we took out £11 and left £1. A great deal of the psychological difficulty about which we have heard has its origin in the savage maltreatment which was meted out to the Africans in days gone by. That is the reason why I welcome the Bill before us tonight. I hope it terminates a black page in our dealings with the African peoples. It is consoling to note that the Bill has been received with general agreement by Members in all parts of the House, but that should not detract from our recognition of the fact that it has been very ably piloted through to this stage by my right hon. Friends the Minister of Food and the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

I should like to centre my remarks round a point made by the Colonial Secretary to-night. He said that this Bill aimed to meet world needs and the needs of the Colonial people. That will create a feeling of great confidence amongst the Colonial peoples in regard to the purposes of the Bill. However, if that is to materialise we have got to get the co-operation of the African in the operation of the schemes under this Bill. That is absolutely essential to the success of the Measure, because we have to realise that in this Bill the African is giving up something which he has dreamed about for a very long while and which a great many of the primary producing countries have dreamed about for years, namely, industrialisation. The African is sacrificing that in order that we may get food, timber and raw materials.

If that ideal is to be realised we must have his co-operation and if we are to have that co-operation the African must be trained to take his place in due course in the administration of the Colonial Development Corporation. We have to remember that Africa is his. Its resources are his, and if this Bill is to fulfil the desires of the Colonial Secretary, it can only do so if the African is allowed in the final outcome to administer this Colonial Development Corporation. In the end we must pass the control and organisation of this scheme into African hands, if it is to operate with success. It would be a splendid contribution if either of my right hon. Friends were able to say, before the Bill finally leaves the House, that, in the end, this is the aim and object we have before us.

9.36 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles , Down

I also welcome the Bill. It is extremely necessary today. Finance is different in 48 from what it was in 1938. It would now be impossible for private enterprise unaided to develop all these vast territories that still remain. Out of every £1 made by companies that operate in Africa and in our territories overseas 12s. has to be paid by them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That does not make for economy, and it certainly does not give those companies opportunities such as they had in the past of putting money away to develop the countries in which they operate. It is a matter for congratulation that it is not too years since Livingstone died, and not 100 years since he saw African slaves shackled together and driven by Arabs down to the coast, while whole areas of land were depopulated and whole villages laid waste. I can only hope that, as a result of the Bill, Africa will develop as quickly in the next 100 years as it has done in the last.

There are two things that I do not like about the Bill. I have already mentioned one in an Amendment which was refused and I do not propose to do more than to touch upon it. Among the names of the gentlemen whom the Colonial Secretary mentioned this evening I did not hear one of an expert in tropical agriculture. I suggest that when the right hon. Gentleman appoints more members in the future he should select an ex-agriculture officer from Kenya to serve perhaps for five years. After that, he might select one from the West Indies, then from Malaya and then from West Africa. That would improve the Corporation and would give some hope to men serving out there that when they retire their experience will not be entirely cast upon the dustheap.

The Minister of Food talked about food production. I would mention in passing that previous to the recent war Java produced 27 per cent. of the palm oil of the world and 25 per cent. of the coconut oil, and that last year she produced none at all. When Java ceases from civil war it is possible that she will make a substantial contribution to the food of the world again. The Amendment which was evidently in the wrong place was a most important one. It was—

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Not being in the Bill upon the Third Reading, that Amendment cannot be discussed now.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles , Down

Very good, Sir. I would only say that there are weak points in the Bill. It would seem that the Colonial Secretary did not examine very carefully the territories for which he is legislating. We see the mistakes that have been made in the past. We see gullies 12 feet deep and 12 feet wide and land ruined through bad cultivation. That is not only the case in our own Colonial Empire; it is the case all over the world. When I am at home and see a ploughman ploughing straight up and down hill I wonder if that will not make a gully in the next two years. Cultivation which has been carried on here for hundreds of years with our gentle rain could not be carried on in the territory the Colonial Secretary administers today. I remember being in the Residency in Basutoland where the agricultural officer was saying to me what wonderful steps he was taking for the preservation of the soil, and I said, "Look out"—

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I really thought I had indicated to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that discussion of this Amendment, which is not in the Bill now, was not in Order on the Third Reading.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles , Down

It is very difficult to keep within the bounds, Mr. Speaker. I will conclude by saying that it is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman did not mention some of the ways by which he could improve cultivation as he will spend millions of pounds upon dams and irrigation, which is a most expensive way of coping with the problem. I have seen it said that the South African rivers now are too thick to drink and too thin to plough, that the reservoirs which the Colonial Secretary is providing money to build will be choked by silt from the bad cultivation above and that it would be a much more economical proposition to build these dams by means of hundreds of millions of blades of grass, which are nature's own forgiveness for the way the earth has been ill-treated in the past. It is not only there. We see it in the dust bowl of America, we see it in the Sahara desert and we see it in Mesopotamia—land ruined through greed and bad cultivation. While I welcome this Bill, it is a great pity that the Colonial Secretary did not include some mention of soil erosion. Perhaps he will be able to do so in another place.

9.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Heywood and Radcliffe

The hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) has pointed so effectively to the advantages of national enterprise over private enterprise that it would be superfluous for me to follow him in those remarks. I will therefore revert to the speech of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin).

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Banbury

Has the hon. Member made any inquiries about soil erosion in the groundnut scheme in the Congo?

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Heywood and Radcliffe

Not so far as erosion is concerned, but I cannot believe it is strictly relevant to what was said by the hon. Member for Leominster or the argument I propose to advance if the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) will allow me. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) I disagreed with a great deal of what was said by the hon. Member for Leominster. In one part of his speech, however, the hon. Gentleman got down to the crux of the problem when he said that the important thing was to ensure that the native races were well fed and lived in proper villages under healthy conditions.

I was sorry that neither of my right hon. Friends who preceded me developed very fully the welfare aspects of this scheme and did not give any real earnest of the Government's intention to see that the two Corporations make full use of the opportunities they are afforded under Clause 8. That Clause offers the most hope of improving the social conditions of the people in the Colonial Empire who will be affected by this Measure, but if, and only if, His Majesty's Government here and the Colonial Governments and the Corporations take their powers under that Clause really seriously. So far, the reports one has received of the medical staff that they have appointed, and the great freedom and scope which they have given them, suggest that the Corporations are taking their powers seriously, and to that extent they are justifying the confidence which we in this House are reposing in them.

However, I would suggest tonight that we should make it perfectly clear to the Corporations that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government and this House that they should use fully the powers which we are conferring upon them. In the first place I would suggest that they should pay due attention to preventive medicine as well as curative medicine, because it is of the greatest importance that the Corporations should see that they do not import diseases like tuberculosis and venereal disease into areas of native territory which so far have been immune from either of those diseases. I would like to see each scheme have attached to it a specialist tuberculosis officer because then, at least, we should know that the importance of nutrition and healthy villages would be under constant consideration by the Corporation—the point made by the hon. Member for Leominster.

I see one danger in the medical provisions of this scheme. That is that there may not be real co-operation and coordination between the Colonial medical services and the Corporation medical services. After all, it will be of little use if, shall we say, the Corporation cures one of its employees of tuberculosis and, as soon as he goes on leave, he goes back to a filthy, insanitary community where immediately he comes into contact again with the source of his original infection. I want to plead, therefore, for the most serious and complete cooperation between the Colonial Governments and the Corporation medical services.

In conclusion, may I say that, like all hon. Members, I appreciate the imaginative approach made by the Government to this problem. However, I hope they will accept this touchstone, that the test of whether this scheme is a success should not be the amount of raw materials or the amount of food which it brings to this country, but rather the benefits it confers upon the native subjects of His Majesty.

9.48 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Mervyn Wheatley Lieut-Colonel Mervyn Wheatley , Dorset Eastern

The Minister of Food, in winding up on his side of the question, uttered the grave words that it is a matter of life and death that we should increase the production of food, throughout the Empire and in other parts of the world. I entirely agree and, for that reason, I want to give a warning on that subject. The schemes which the two Corporations will undertake will not, as indeed my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) warned us, produce a great deal of extra food in a very short time, for they are long-term experiments.

I will refer to Africa as it is a country about which I know something. There are always diseases, both of plants and animals, coming out of Africa, and from experience it has been found that it is unwise to rush into big schemes without adequate experiment. For example, in the case of the big Sudan cotton project, for at least 10 years before the Gezira scheme or the Gash scheme for growing cotton was begun, experimental farms were used to discover the various diseases of plants, and troubles with labour, and even then, when they had launched the big scheme in the Gezira, many difficulties were met which threw them back. So we have to beware of thinking that these schemes will save us in the next year or two.

In the groundnut scheme in Tanganyika things may go pretty well at first, but there will be set-backs. If we are to get what we want in the way of co-operation from the natives, we have to go in for mass adult education. Lord Bledisloe, writing to "The Times" a few months ago, warned us that we will never have a great increase in agricultural production in Africa until we improve the health and nutrition of the natives. I entirely agree, and think that is a wise warning. It will be a long time before we can get the natives to take to adult education, and it is very difficult even in simple ways. Take for instance the many worm diseases, which are such a great handicap to their health. If only we could persuade the natives to wear some sort of foot covering and to use sanitary pits, 85 per cent, of those diseases would be avoided. They are diseases which affect their health to an enormous degree, but, directly one tries to persuade them to do either of those things, one is up against a wall of prejudice, which can only be broken down by education.

I do not wish to appear to be throwing a spanner into the wheels, because I am as keen as anyone on this Bill, and I think it is a splendid idea so long as we keep on the right lines. I am as pleased about Clause 8 as was the hon. Member for Heywood and Radcliff (Mr. Anthony Greenwood). If we can select good people to carry on the educational labour, and the medical sides of the work of the corporations, we shall be on the right lines and in time—a long time ahead—we shall get the co-operaton of the natives. But, until we can do that, we ought to be warned not to think that now the Bill has gone through and the two Corporations are coming into being, we shall not need to worry any more about food. Particularly in regard to the groundnut scheme we shall have drawbacks, and there is not going to be such a wonderfully quick production of oils and other things which we require. Having spent many years in Africa and knowing what the Corporations can do for the people in that country, I welcome this scheme. I wish to emphasise that we are going in for these schemes because we feel we are helping the people of that great continent to improve their health and general welfare, and, for that reason, I think the schemes deserve great success.

9.54 p.m.

Photo of Squadron Leader Samuel Segal Squadron Leader Samuel Segal , Preston

Now that this Bill has reached its final stages I cannot help feeling, looking back on its passage, that it is a pity so much time has been spent in discussing the merits of the lesser of the two projects it embodies, and especially that so much time has been almost wasted in the, to my mind, quite unreal controversy about the respective powers to be allocated to the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Minister of Food. I would rather like, at this late stage, to place much more emphasis on the true significance of the Colonial Development Corporation. Viewed in its proper perspective, it can open up a vast new horizon of development to the greater part of our Colonial territories. One hopes that it will ultimately achieve a great step forward in attempting a levelling up of the standard of living and the standard of prosperity among our different Colonies.

I am convinced that one of the greatest obstacles to co-operation among our four West African Colonies, for example, is the vast discrepancy which exists between the rate of income per head of the population of a Colony like Nigeria contrasted with the income per head of the population of a Colony like the Gold Coast. There they are, two almost adjacent territories, but the vast population of Nigeria, numbering something like 23 million, can only claim an income per head of the population of something like 10s. per year, whereas in the Gold Coast, with far richer natural resources, and with a far greater degree of development, the income per head of the population is at least £2. Until we can achieve the same great forward move in the development of Nigeria and bring the income of that territory somewhere nearer to the income of the Gold Coast, I believe that this great Empire Development Corporation will have failed in its object.

I cannot too strongly endorse the appeal that was made from both sides of the House by the Minister of Food and the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), and later repeated by various other speakers on both sides of the House, that this Bill is so vast in its conception that all considerations of party strife and party slogans ought to be eliminated. We should all combine to work together, as far as we possibly can, for the welfare and development of our Colonial territories. I believe it is quite premature for anyone on this side of the House to assert that the foundations for a brave new world of bush Socialism have now been well and truly laid in the heart of Central Africa. I think we shall have to wait a long time yet before "Let Us Face the Future" has been translated into the language of the drums and the beat of the tom-tom resounds to all its rhythmic cadences.

We can, however, say that we are agreed on all sides of the House that this Measure has at least been able to bring together the ranks of the peanut vendors in a large measure of agreement. There can be no stigma attaching to the term "peanut vendor" because on the future prosperity of our Overseas Food Corporation will depend to a considerable extent part of our bread and butter, or at least what goes today for butter, for the next few years to come.

I feel that this House cannot emphasise too strongly that whatever may happen when this Bill is translated into active machinery for the benefit of our African territories and equally of ourselves, one word will be completely eliminated from the minds of all those who work to bring this Measure to fruition. That word is "exploitation." I hope, above all, that no one in any of our Colonial territories will have in his mind the least vestige of suspicion that anyone connected with the machinery which this Bill initiates will ever be able to lend himself in the slightest degree to the exploitation of any single native in any of our Colonial possessions.

I think it is a significant fact that all sections of the House have combined to give this Bill their blessing, and I hope very sincerely that it may, in the not too distant future, open up a great new era for a happier and fuller life to many of our Colonial populations who today are groping in the darkness of economic, cultural and political uncertainty. I think we can today lay the foundations of a development that would justify our faith in this country as one of the great Colonial Powers in the world, if not the greatest.

10.1 p.m.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Banbury

I hope the hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal) will forgive me if I do not follow him in some of his dreams of seeing the Colonial Secretary dressed in a grass skirt and the future Minister of Food dressed in a string of groundnuts. I think the point he has made is that throughout the discussion of this Bill we have concentrated too much on one or two of the only controversial matters between us and, by and large, except for the indications given by the Colonial Secretary in his final speech, there has been very little heard of the Colonial Development Corporation. I think it is a pity we have not had more opportunity of wider discussion on some of the bigger aspects of this Bill and it is in this respect that I would put to the Colonial Secretary that having set up this Corporation with the good will of everybody on both sides of the House, and having set up this machinery for spending £150 million of the taxpayers' money—which is still a lot of money—he should pay some heed to remarks made on both sides of the House as to some developments which may be undertaken.

I am associated with a group of hon. Members on both sides of the House in thinking out terms of practical development in East and Central Africa. I think we have to come to some sort of conclusion about the aspects of some kinds of development that the Government should be put first, including communications, harbours, railways, roads, and water—whether hydroelectric for irrigation or for domestic purposes—and the provision of cement and fertilizers, which would be the basics upon which those in Africa could develop and produce a tremendous amount for consumption, and for raising the standard of living in Africa. I think those are the basics which we want to produce through these Government Corporations if there is any slow down or hitch in their production by normal means. The Colonial Secretary referred to 120,000 tons of groundnuts held up in Northern Nigeria, most of which was the 1946–47 harvest, because there was not transport to get it to the coast, through locomotives spare parts being sent to East Africa in order to assist the new scheme. It may be in order to send locomotive spares to East Africa rather than West Africa, but I think it should be very carefully considered and the Government should not give priority to one scheme against another.

Enterprise can be and has been tremendous in Africa already. Encouragement should be given to enterprise of all sorts, whether private or public, Government, individual or co-operative. Sir Frank Stockdale in his report was right that probably the single family farm is going in Africa. We must work on the co-operative system, and there are a tremendous number of people, whether African peasants, co-operative workers or settlers who can produce a tremendous amount to assist us in the next few years.

I put it to the Government that they should very seriously pay attention to the question of land tenure and the availability of labour. It is seriously frightening a lot of people in certain parts of Central Africa, and we have had some reports, such as that on Nyasaland, showing that there may be some doubt whether people already settled there have the right to go on developing their land. The hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) talked about Africa for the Africans, but there are hundreds of thousands of European stock settled out there for many years who have as much right to be regarded as inhabitants as the indigenous population. Otherwise, we might find ourselves in the position of arguing with Scotsmen whether or not they have the right to be South of the Border, There is a certain doubt among a lot of the inhabitants who have settled out there as to their security of tenure.

There are other points, such as soil fertility and the question of the tsetse fly, which have to be overcome, and which I think, with the help of these Development Corporations, must be overcome before any big scale development can take place. Another point is that the Government should study marketing. One hon. Member mentioned Java and the production of some 25 per cent. more palm oil. An improvement in practically every primary product can be effected, on the basis of the Java example, and would go a long way to solve the problems pressing on us today. I know that there are a lot of people who can produce more in the Empire, as I happen to be chairman of the British Empire Producers' Association, which is in close touch with these problems, and I think they should increase their production to the utmost, but we must give them some help in the direction of guaranteed markets for the future, and it is here that Imperial Preference played such an important part in the past and must play an important part in the future.

There is one other point which I would ask the Secretary of State to consider. Under Clause 11 of the Bill, and the borrowing powers provided by it, I m quite certain myself, having gone into this matter in considerable detail, that we are not going to be able to develop Southern Africa in the time at our disposal—five or ten years—and obtain the capital equipment entirely from this country—the bulldozers, rails, rolling stock and hydroelectric equipment—and that we must bring more from outside. We shall have to get assistance from outside in developing Southern Africa, and I believe it is quite possible to obtain a lot from North America. South Africa itself may provide some assistance, but I would ask if it is the intention of the Government that, under Clause 11 of this Bill, these Corporations shall have the right to raise funds in, say, Canada, to pay for equipment which they are going to use in Southern Africa? It would be the sort of point which private corporations would have the right to carry out, and which would be of great help in developing these territories, and would bring considerable support, particularly in Canada, if the Corporations were able to float debenture stock in Canada to provide the capital equipment.

Finally, I would join with all other hon. Members on both sides of the House who have wished this Bill well. Some years ago, a very distinguished scientist, at a meeting of the Parliamentary Scientific Committee, said that on the way in which we carried out the development of West Africa depended our ability to keep 45 million people in this country. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer this week has said that on our ability to develop Africa depends the survival of Britain. The are sombre words, but the expan- sion which we have encouraged is one in which many of us see great possibilities of overcoming to a large extent, though not completely, many of our economic problems, and, above all, that of the shortage of primary products in Britain, I therefore express the best of good will to this Bill and to all those in various parts of the world who will be effective in making it work.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.