Overseas Resources Development Bill

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

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As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

5.0 p.m.

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

Before I move the new Clause standing in my name and that of my hon. Friends, I want to ask whether it is your intention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to call the Amendment to Clause 3—in page 2, line 33, after "Kingdom", insert: other than in colonial territories. Though that Amendment has a somewhat different object it covers the same ground, and I should prefer to cover the ground more fully on the Amendment rather than on the new Clause.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

It is my intention to call the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman—page 2, line 33—and also the two Amendments which follow, namely, page 2, line 36, at beginning, insert: Notwithstanding anything in paragraph (a). and—page 2, line 41, leave out from beginning to end of line 45.

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

I am very much obliged to you.

NEW CLAUSE.—(Transfer of projects to the Colonial Development Corporation.) His Majesty in Council may by order direct that any project formulated or which is being carried out by the Overseas Food Corporation shall be carried out by the Colonial Development Corporation instead of by the Overseas Food Corporation and such Order may provide for the transfer and vesting of any property and for any matters incidental to or consequential upon the transfer of any project as aforesaid.—[Mr. Stanley.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This new Clause deals with the only point at issue between us on this Bill, and that is the part to be played in Colonial territory by the Corporations sponsored by the Ministry of Food. We shall have an opportunity on the next Amendment of discussing the whole matter at far greater length, and I trust that the House will see fit to reverse the decision come to in Standing Committee. In case that should not be the result—and one has always to remember that against the power of argument addressed from this side of the House there is the greater though unseen power of the Whips applied from that side—this new Clause will be found of service. I myself cannot see any possible grounds upon which the Government can object to, or reject, this new Clause.

It is not mandatory in any way. It does not compel this Government, or any Government, to do anything. It says that if, at any subsequent time, the Government, in their discretion and on their responsibility, come to the decision that work which hitherto had been done by the Food Corporation in Colonial territories could be done better by the Overseas Corporation responsible to the Colonial Office, the transfer of that work from one Corporation to the other could be carried out by the simple process of an Order in Council instead of by a new Act of Parliament, which the Bill, as drafted, would now require.

I am sure that the Minister of Food will agree that this proposal does not impose upon the Government obligations about which they might differ from me. It gives to the Government a useful piece of machinery which, in future years, they may be only too anxious to use. I submit the proposed new Clause with the utmost confidence that the Government, who have not been very generous in meeting Amendments to the Bill, will in this case be unable to find any grounds for refusing to support it, since it is designed solely to assist them.

Photo of Sir Walter Fletcher Sir Walter Fletcher , Bury

I support the proposed new Clause with the same confidence as that with which my right hon. Friend has just moved this Motion. It must be clear to everybody who was present during the Committee stage of the Bill that the project we have in mind, and which has the good will of everyone, is still only in its very early stages. It is a large-scale experiment, with great ramifications. Nobody can, therefore, in the very nature of the position, be dogmatic about the final outcome of the project. A Clause giving a greater degree of flexibility to the administration, enabling them to prepare at the present moment for an eventuality that may come very suddenly, as things do occur suddenly in Colonial development, is obviously wanted.

The proposed new Clause lays down no hard-and-fast rule, clamping down the Government to something which they must follow. It gives the Government an opportunity now to take action should difficulties arise. Everybody who has seen the variations which take place and the difficulties which spring up almost overnight in Colonial development, must foresee that this is a possibility, if not a probability. The proposed new Clause would add to the flexibility of a Measure which must be purely experimental, and that must be a sound thing to do. I hope we shall hear that the new Clause is to be accepted.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

I regret to say that we cannot accept the proposed new Clause. After the House has considered the matter fully in view of what I have to say, I think hon. Members will agree with me that it would be most improper for us to do so, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said. In this case, both the Whips and the argument are on this side, and, for once, right and the big battalions are together.

The first objection to the transfer of any project is that the Overseas Food Corporation can operate in any territory. It may operate in Colonial territories, at the invitation of the Secretary of State, and it can operate also in foreign or in Dominion territories. It would be improper to enable a transfer to be made by Order in Council of a project in a foreign or a Dominion territory when, in fact, the Colonial Development Corporation is not empowered by Statute to undertake it. That is the first, and it is a very serious, objection. The proposed new Clause does not say, "any project in a Colonial territory." It says "any project," formulated now or which may be formulated or carried out in the future.

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

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that as the Bill already prevents the Colonial Corporation from acting outside Colonial territories, the transfer of any project to the Colonial Corporation would not affect the existence of the prohibition?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

If the proposed new Clause were inserted in the Bill it would give power to His Majesty to make an Order in Council for the transfer of a project, although, in another part of the Bill, there is no power for the Colonial Development Corporation to carry out such a project. There would be a conflict between two parts of the Measure. That is the first objection, but there are other objections as well.

In the second place, if it was intended to transfer the East African groundnuts project from one Corporation to the other, it would be proper to do so by a Bill amending the present legislation. In our view, in view of the provisions of Clause 3 (1, b) which definitely allocate the groundnuts project to the Overseas Food Corporation, it would be essential to have an amending Bill to effect such a transfer and not to try to get around the position by means of an Order in Council. For every other case there is provision in the Bill for the transfer of any undertaking from one Corporation to another, namely, under Clauses 9 and 10. The proposed new Clause can apply, in fact, only to one project, the groundnuts project in. East Africa. Any other project which may be commenced in the future can be transferred from one Ministry to the other under the existing provisions of the Bill.

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

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned Clauses 9 and To. Looking at them, I find it difficult to see how the powers which he mentions occur under them.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

Clause 9 (1) says: The responsible Minister may, after consultation with the Corporation, give to them directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance of their functions in relation to matters appearing to him to concern the public interest, and the Corporation shall give effect to Any such directions. Clause 10 says: The power of the responsible Minister to give directions to the Corporation shall extend to the giving to them of directions—

  1. (a) as to the disposal of capital assets; or
  2. (b) as to the application of proceeds of such disposals,
notwithstanding that the directions may be of a specific character. I am advised that under those two Clauses there will be adequate power to transfer any particular project from one Corporation to the other.

If that is so—and I am advised that it is so—the only object of the proposed new Clause would seem to be to move the groundnuts scheme from the Ministry of Food to the Colonial Office or from the respective corporations operating under them. If it is proposed to do that—we do not desire to do it—it should be done by legislation and not by Order in Council. We have, as at present advised, no intention whatsoever of moving the groundnuts scheme from the aegis of the Ministry of Food. We believe that the Minister of Food and the Overseas Food Corporation have done a fine job during the period in which the scheme has been in operation and we have every confidence that they will carry out their obligations to Parliament, to the people of the territory and to His Majesty's Government in the best possible manner. I therefore ask that this Clause be withdrawn or, if it is pressed to a Division, that it be rejected.

Photo of Dr Hyacinth Morgan Dr Hyacinth Morgan , Rochdale

I hope the House will accept this Clause. I was one of the Members in Committee who objected very much to the Overseas Food Corporation having full power to act by itself. I believe that all these things concerned with Colonial development should be in the hands of one Minister. It is true that the Minister of Food argued in Committee that he wanted to have power to deal in Dominions in which the Colonial Secretary was equally concerned. A special Bill could be brought in for that purpose, but dividing power between two Ministries to deal with any matters concerning Colonies, as in this Bill, seems to be quite wrong unless it is done in such a way that one Department is subservient to the other and the Bill gives the Colonial Secretary full control over anything happening in a Colony.

We have heard the reasons given by the Under-Secretary, and if I may say so with respect, they seemed very weak. I say "with respect" because in the course of my hon. Friend's remarks the Minister of Food looked round at me rather sternly as if a look from him would affect my view, and when I protested, he said it was amusing. I am not accustomed to boxing the compass politically. I have been in the Labour Party all my life and have never ventured out of it. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is unnecessary."] Whether it is unnecessary or not—I am making my own speech—it is vital that in a matter of this kind one Minister should have the power. The hon. Gentleman said that Clauses 9 and 10 put the matter right, but they do not. If hon. Members will look at Clauses 9 and 10 they will find that the Minister responsible for any particular undertaking has the power to make certain arrangements or to ask for a change, but suppose there is a dispute on any matter between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Minister of Food as to who shall have the final say. Any matter concerned with food developments in the Colonies should not be in the hands of the Minister of Food, but in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I have had representations from most Colonies—certainly Africa and the West Indies—and the unofficial opinion there is that the Secretary of State for the Colonies should have the power to act and not the Ministry of Food, which is regarded—I do not think they are right—as a permanent Ministry under temporary conditions in Great Britain.

5.15 p.m.

The Under-Secretary has stated the objections and said that changes should take place by means of a new Act rather than by Order in Council. I disagree with the Ministry of Food interfering in Colonial matters. If it has to interfere, it should be subservient to the Colonial Office and the Colonial Secretary. This is a justifiable position for us to take up both in Committee and here. This Clause can be commended to any reasonable person having regard to the difficulties that may arise between one Department and another.

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

We on this side of the House welcome very much the intervention of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) who, I am glad to see, was undeterred by that fairly stern smile given to him by the Minister of Food after some interjection of his. We are glad to see that the look of doubt on the face of the Colonial Secretary deepened to quite a considerable extent. We feel very strongly that there can be no harm in this Clause and that there can be a considerable amount of good. As the Under-Secretary said, it applies entirely to the groundnuts scheme at the moment. All of us have the highest admiration for the individuals who are trying to make the scheme work. All realise that it is a pilot scheme, though a very big one, and that there is considerable doubt as to the final form it will take. It would, therefore, be of considerable advantage to the Government if they accepted the Clause.

The Colonial Secretary was obviously looking unhappy when the Under-Secretary was making his speech, and we hope that he has a choke-barrel waiting to fire off if there is support for this Clause. The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said that this is an administrative matter and not a party political matter. It is permissive, not mandatory, and would give considerable assistance to the Under-Secretary and the Ministry of Food in a few months' time, when they have worked out the high command and the chain of responsibility for the groundnuts scheme, to effect the change without bringing it again before Parliament. I urge the Colonial Secretary to go on. In a few moments his doubt may have resolved itself and he may be able to give us the answer we desire.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

I am sorry that I did not hear the arguments advanced by the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). I hope that I shall not repeat any point he made. I want to support the Clause from one simple point of view. It seems to me that if the Minister of Food is to be solely charged with these functions, he will find himself up against a conflict of interests. It is his function as the Minister of Food to obtain for the consumers in this country as large a quantity of food at as cheap a price as he can possibly get. One of the purposes of this Measure is to provide that food. That will be one of the immediate and pressing purposes. At the same time, it is one of the functions or purposes of the Bill to see that the level of life of the African is raised and that his social standards are improved.

It is very difficult to see how the Minister will resolve the problems that will beset him in maintaining—I will leave aside the word "maintaining"—in giving the African still higher standards of living and at the same time extracting food at the cheapest possible price for the consumers in this country. That conflict has already arisen in other spheres between the Minister of Food and the Colonial Secretary, who has sometimes had to defend the interests of the Colonies against the interests of the Ministry of Food. It is bad enough when this conflict occurs between two Ministers but, when it occurs within one Minister, it is difficult to resolve, and it is in order to prevent that arising that I would suggest that my right hon. Friend gives careful consideration to this Clause and, if possible, gives it his support.

Photo of Sir Arthur Salter Sir Arthur Salter , Oxford University

I shall support the inclusion of this Clause in a few sentences because the major considerations behind the proposal have been stated before, both on Second Reading in this House and in Committee upstairs. We are now dealing, not with the major change in the Bill advocated on those earlier occasions, but with a modest permissive Clause for which I should have thought the case was overwhelming. Perhaps I may recall shortly to the House the main considerations in the minds of those of us who wanted a greater change in the Bill but who would at least like to see the Government going as far as this permissive Clause.

First, there is the obvious advantage of one Minister, with one chain of responsibility, responsible for the different schemes taking place in a Colony. In the second place, it is perfectly clear that any particular operation, such as will he carried out in this food development, will involve in any Colony a series of rather difficult priorities. The people engaged in that task must be anxious, naturally and professionally, to get ahead of the people engaged in other tasks in regard to the acquisition of skilled labour, transport, and many other things of which there is a shortage. Surely it is desirable that, when the Government appear in relation to a problem of that kind in a Colony, it should be in the form of the Governor and officials responsible to the appropriate Minister in the Government who have a responsibility for the balance of all those different competing interests.

In the third place, I venture to remind the House of the consideration put so strongly by the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) on Second Reading, namely, the extreme desirability that when the Government go into a Colony, they should be quite obviously and unmistakably the Minister of the Government with the appropriate chain of official responsibility to the Minister of the Government, whose primary interest is the interest of the inhabitants and not a Minister whose secondary interest is the interest of the inhabitants after a primary interest which is that of the inhabitants of this country.

I suggest that those three considerations were very powerful in support of the major change proposed earlier in the consideration of this Bill, but if the case for that was strong, I suggest the case for the present proposal is overwhelming. This is not a compulsive but a permissive proposal, and if the Minister of Food now desires to reject it, what is the purpose? It is not to avoid what might prove to be a future inconvenience, if he is right in the view that he has taken hitherto; it is to secure the protection of his own case against his colleagues in the same Government, if the Government should later be clearly convinced that the original arrangement was wrong. Are the Government really to consent to the rejection of a proposal offering them the permissive power of making a change if, and only if, that change should prove to be desirable, because they desire to protect one Minister and one Department in the Government against another Minister in the Government should the Government as a whole afterwards think that the second Minister should be entrusted with the responsibility?

Mr. Scott-Elliot:

Like the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) I feel that this Clause cannot possibly do any harm and it might do a great deal of good. I will give as objectively as possible the reasons why I feel it will do good, but I want to make it perfectly plain that I am in no way speaking against the Minister of Food, whose Overseas Food Corporation will do admirable work, I am sure, in particular territories, in so far as they are not Colonial territories. I consider it is unsuitable for them to operate in Colonial territories. My first reason has already been given admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin). It is that there will be a dual responsibility in the mind of the Minister of Food. In that he will be, on the one side, charged with getting food for the people of this country at the lowest possible price and, at the same time, charged with having regard to the well-being of the native inhabitants, it seems to me that there is bound to be some clash.

Secondly, I am convinced that at some later date the Overseas Food Corporation will find itself competing with the small, indigenous producers. That is not likely to happen at present, or necessarily for four or five years but, at some later date when there is a greater supply of food in the world, the Overseas Food Corporation will find itself in fairly acute conflict with the small native producers. The right person to be in charge of the Corporation operating in Colonial territories must inevitably, therefore, be the Colonial Secretary who is the father and friend of these Colonial people.

My third reason is one which I gave in Standing Committee. I remember so well what the Minister of Food said. He tried to ride away with the ingenious argument that no simple Swahili-speaking native could possibly understand the difference between these two Corporations; that, indeed, it would be quite impossible for him to understand the difference between public and private ownership. But, with great respect, that is not the point. The point is that there are agitators in these Colonial territories who are only too pleased to take advantage of anything to the detriment of His Majesty's Government. They would seize on this and would represent the Minister of Food as a kind of master who was out to exploit the Colonial people, and many of the Colonial people would believe it. It could be answered completely were my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary to be in charge, as he could say, "My primary interest is the interests of the inhabitants of this territory."

I do not think that argument can be challenged, and I should like to hear the Front Bench trying to answer it, because it is far more substantial than anything they have endeavoured to put forward. If necessary, I could give examples of agitators in various Colonial territories who would undoubtedly take advantage of a division of this kind. We want some quick way of shifting the responsibility from the shoulders of the Minister of Food to those of the Colonial Secretary. It is nothing very big for which to ask, and I do not believe it is necessary to bring in amending legislation. I cannot understand why my right hon. Friend does not accept this proposal.

5.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Bennett Mr Peter Bennett , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I wish to emphasise what has been said as to the responsible nature of this proposal, and the advisability of the Government accepting it. I would not have ventured into the Debate, as I was not a member of the Committee upstairs, but for the testimonial which the Under-Secretary paid to the Overseas Food Corporation in connection with this matter. I know the difficulties of the groundnuts scheme. I have information from people who have just returned from Africa who emphasise that we should not imagine there is going to be any quick increase of food for our country as a result of those operations. How true that is I do not know, but I have been warned not to expect too much.

When the scheme was launched, people in this country gained the idea that it would provide them with additional rations in a short time. I am sure all who have had anything to do with it know that it is going to be a long job and I wonder whether when we have the additions to our food, the Ministry of Food will still be in existence. There will be questions which the Colonial Office will have to handle on a broader basis, such as those of railways, roads and docks, which will have to be developed by the Colonial Office. I think the day will come when it will be necessary to make some re-arrangement. In my business career I have always preferred to make arrangements for altering a plan if necessary and to make such arrangements that alterations can easily be made. The Government may be very glad of a Clause of this description by which they could make an alteration which they do not envisage at the moment, but which may be necessary when the scheme is developed further. In their own interests they should accept a Clause which would enable them to handle difficulties which they cannot see at the moment.

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

Were it not for the modesty of the proposed Clause, which has been alluded to by so many hon. Members, I do not think I should be so puzzled over it. I can understand opposition to the Ministry of Food being in charge of any development in any colony, but I cannot understand a permissive Clause, half the force of which is already lost if one studies Clause 3 of the Bill: Provided that the Corporation shall not take in hand for the purpose of the discharge of their duty under paragraph (a) of this subsection the investigation, formulation or carrying out of a project to be carried out in a colonial territory unless the Secretary of State has invited them so to do. If that Clause means what it appears to mean, this new Clause has only validity on the one scheme, the groundnut scheme at present in operation in Tanganyika, because, from the passage of this Bill, in effect the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in the case of any territory under his jurisdiction, will have to make up his mind which is the more effective instrument to carry out his purpose for that Colony and the people of that Colony, the Overseas Food Corporation or the Colonial Development Corporation. A great deal of unnecessary fuss has been made about possible divergence of interest between two Ministers sitting in the same Cabinet. After all, the two Ministers are part of a larger body which has the final determination of policy, and it is open to any Cabinet of any date to make adjustments between the jurisdiction of any two Ministries as it is deemed wise for the benefit of those people for whose well-being the Ministries exist.

The fact which has been stressed, that this permission does not mean anything unless the need arises, seems to me to vitiate the argument for it. If it is such a modest proposal, and if Clause 3 cuts away some of the proposed purposes of the new provision, it would seem just pious and meaningless. I do not think it can be seriously suggested from any side of the House—we are not talking of this as a party matter as party does not come into it, but are thinking about the benefit of the peoples of the Commonwealth, including ourselves, and this is a matter on which we all try to do our best—that at present the groundnut scheme should at this stage be handed to the control of the Colonial Office.

Upstairs we have learned of the very friendly co-operation existing between the two Ministries on this matter, and of the way in which the wishes of the Governor and the Government of Tanganyika have been respected over certain observations which were made on some things which were not in accord with the best interests of the natives working there. We are also assured that where public utilities are created by the Corporation they will, when developed, be the property of the Colony and, therefore, of the people of the Colony concerned. What we should do is to encourage closer co-operation of the two corporations, especially as the Overseas Food Corporation can undertake difficult and delicate mixed operations in both Colony and Dominion, where they are adjacent. It would be impossible in such cases to employ the Colonial Development Corporation. Because this Clause does not add to the value of the Bill, and chiefly because it is so modest and permissive, I cannot see any reason for it, and I must vote against it.

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

I wish to refer to the administrative side of the question, which I think is of importance. The hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) has spoken of two Ministers who work in close accord and suggested that there are no difficulties. I would remind him that only recently we did not have that same accord between Ministers of the Government and that has cost the country a good deal of money. The question is not whether Ministries work together, but what is happening in a Colony. There will be officials of the Ministry of Food, and officials of the Colony, under the Secretary of State, working there. Who is to decide between them as to where their duty lies? The question of shipping has been mentioned, and there are the priorities on the quayside and on the railway, priorities of labour and so on. I have had a little experience of administration in Africa, and it seems to me that there will be trouble unless someone on the spot, say, the Governor, answerable to the Secretary of State, can have a decisive place in the relations between the Corporations. He must be the deciding factor; he must be able to say what are to be the priorities.

There is nothing in this Bill to say that the Minister of Food cannot come along and say, "I shall have these materials moved up the line at once." If that sort of thing happens there will be constant trouble between the officials of the two Ministries. From an administrative point of view, I should have thought that the Government would have welcomed this opportunity of getting out of a difficulty which was pointed out to them during the Second Reading Debate. We shall have two kings of Brentford here, and, therefore, there will be trouble. However well two kings may work in London, I am certain that they will not work well in the Colonies. I beg the Secretary of State to stand up for himself in this matter and say, "I am responsible to the House of Commons for the Colonies. I cannot have another Minister walking in and taking responsibility away from me. All the officials in this Colony should be under my jurisdiction." It would be a great mistake to bring in another Minister to share those responsibilities. Even on administrative grounds alone—and strong grounds have been put forward on all sides of the House—I hope that the House will support this new Clause.

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

I wish to make a final appeal to the Minister to look upon this new Clause in a conciliatory spirit. I assure him that it was not moved in any spirit of hostility, but to give an administrative convenience which at some future date some Government or other might find helpful. I was disappointed by the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary. His main argument appeared to be one of drafting—that if the Food Corporation had set up a project, say, in North Queensland, I should, by this new Clause override the whole purpose of the Bill, and it would be possible to transfer the project to the Colonial Secretary. Everyone knows that that is not my intention. I do not myself believe that the new Clause would have that effect, but if it did, it would be the simplest thing, by inserting four words "in a Colonial territory" after "Overseas Food Corporation," to give the new Clause the meaning which everyone knows it is intended to bear. That was, I think, the main argument advanced by the hon. Gentleman. I do not think it was one of great validity.

The hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) put forward, with great seriousness, an argument which I think was invalid. He said that owing to the fact that once this Bill was law the Colonial Secretary would have to give permission for a project to be started by the Food Corporation in Colonial territories, this new Clause would never be operative, except in the case of the groundnuts scheme. That is not quite the case, because it is possible that at one time a Colonial Secretary may think it wise, for various reasons, to allow the Food Corporation to start a project. It may be that in three, four or five years' time the project will have reached the full stage of development, that it will have become a more or less routine arrangement, and that, therefore, the original reasons having disappeared, the advantage might lie in transferring it to the Colonial Corporation. It is that kind of case that would be covered by the new Clause, but not by the Bill as it stands.

5.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that that raises an even greater difficulty—the tenure of office and terms of service of the different kinds of people in the Colonial Civil Service and in the Overseas Corporation?

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

The hon. Member is not doing himself justice. He knows that there is no question involved of transferring from the Corporation to the Colonial Service; it is a question of transferring from one Government Corporation to another Government Corporation, and presumably the terms of service in both will be on a parity.

The other arguments used by the hon. Gentleman were, first, that this point was already covered by Clauses 9 and 10. If, in fact, that is so, that is all the more reason for accepting this new Clause, because clearly there can be no objection to it. I confess that it is hard for the layman to think that when Clauses 9 and 10 were drafted, either the draftsmen or the Ministers had any idea in their heads that these Clauses could be used for such a transfer as I have now suggested. It has never been mentioned by Ministers at any previous stage of the Bill, and I should be interested to hear whether any of them had in fact envisaged such a possibility until it was found as an ingenious answer to a new Clause which might well be accepted.

I do not intend to enter at the moment into the merits of the groundnuts scheme. There may be a further stage on which it may be possible to say something on that matter—if we were not so terribly handicapped by the fact that the Minister of Food has not yet lived up to the promise made last spring that we should have a report of the operations of this Corporation last September, and the further promise he made, on the Second Reading of this Bill, which took place in the early days of November, that the Report was nearly ready and would soon be published. That is a point which I can develop better at a later stage.

With regard to the groundnuts Corporation, I wish to make two points. The first is that we on this side of the House made it plain on the Committee Stage that we were convinced, by the arguments of the Minister of Food, that whether it was right or not in the first place for the Minister of Food to have responsibility for that scheme, it was, during the period of development, quite impossible to make the transfer. There is no intention, by this new Clause, of getting, as was rather suggested, some backdoor method of transferring the responsibility for the scheme. We have accepted the Minister's contention. But when I am told that if at some future date the Government of the day, the Minister of Food of the day and the Colonial Secretary of the day all agree that the original functions of the Minister of Food in this scheme have been exhausted, and that the moment has come when it would be better run under the auspices of the Colonial Secretary, and when I am told that it is absolutely essential, if that change is to be made to make it by amending this Statute, I cannot see the force, of that argument at all.

Why would it not be perfectly possible, and why would it not be for the convenience of any Government, to make the change by Order in Council? I do not think that when the time comes anyone will think such a change to be of such transcendent importance that they will demand all the elaborate processes of passing a Bill through Parliament. On the other hand, anyone who has had experience of Government knows perfectly well that the Leader of the House and Chief Whip look with a certain anxiety on any proposal for new legislation, and whereas at any time it would be quite easy to make a change of this kind which was agreed upon, by means of an Order in Council, those charged with arranging the programme of the Government might easily burke an amending Act of Parliament.

I am not to be regarded as one who does not stand up for the privileges of Parliament, but I do say that what would be a purely administrative action of transfer from one Corporation to another could be quite sufficiently ventilated in Parliament by the opportunities given for the discussion of an Order in Council. I cannot see that as the Parliamentary Secretary has told us, this is a change which could and should in the highest constitutional manner only be effected by an amending Clause. In all those circumstances I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that the new Clause is moved only to meet the possible convenience of some Government or other. It has neither hostile intention nor hostile effect. It does not ask the House to decide what we shall ask them to decide, on the next Amendment—whether it is wise in fact that the Food Corporation should go into Colonial territories too. All it does is to provide the administrative convenience which at some future date may be found useful.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee

I think we ought to be quite clear about what we are discussing. The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) has made that clear in his opening remarks and again in his closing remarks, but I think one or two hon. Members who have not been through the long discussion upstairs are, very naturally, a little confused about the issue we are discussing now and what we shall discuss in the further Amendments of the right hon. Gentleman.

The position is this. For reasons that I will give in a moment, this new Clause can only apply to the possible future transfer of the groundnuts scheme from one Corporation to another. That is the eventuality, and the possibility that we are asked to envisage here, because as the right hon. Gentleman recognised—at least he is doubtful of it, but I do not think he actually challenged it—some future scheme, on the invitation of the Colonial Secretary, and only on his invitation remember, may have been started under the Overseas Food Corporation in a Colonial territory. That is itself an eventuality which may never happen.

Secondly, after that, is a further possibility that the Cabinet of the day may decide that that Overseas Food Corporation scheme in a Colonial territory should be then transferred to the Colonial Development Corporation. We are assured by the legal experts that is fully possible under Clauses 9 and 10 of the Bill. That caused great mirth to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan). I even glanced round because I was startled by his mirth. I hope I did not glance round sternly, I had not the intention nor, I think, the capacity to be stern. But I was a little startled by his ridiculing that contention of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State (Mr. Rees-Williams) because that is the legal opinion of the draftsmen.

I do not believe myself that it is at all likely to arise in practice. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that Clauses 9 and 10 were drafted in order specifically to cover the possibility that schemes should be transferred from one Corporation to another. I should have thought that in the working of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, it would be most unlikely that it would be practicable or wise to transfer schemes, after they have been in operation for some years, from one Corporation to another. I should have thought it a most impracticable thing to do. This Corporation will become a large organisation with an expert staff and a fund of expert knowledge in that particular part of the world. For this Parliament, or the Government without Parliament, by Order in Council, to transfer schemes from one Corporation to another would be a most unwise thing to do.

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

Under Clauses 9 and 10 it is possible to transfer schemes. Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us, is it not equally possible to transfer personnel?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee

No doubt. But to take a group of personnel serving one Corporation which has developed a loyalty to that Corporation and transfer it to another—

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

Loyalty to the scheme, maybe.

Mr. Scott-Elliot:

If Clauses 9 and 10 really cover all future schemes why in the name of goodness should we have all this talk? Why cannot the Government accept this?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee

We think they cover future schemes but they do not cover the groundnuts schemes to which this is particularly addressed. We do not think that to put into the Bill now a Clause, or wording which would suggest, if it were carried, that it was the intention of the Government, without coming back to Parliament, to transfer this groundnuts scheme from one Corporation to another, would be wise. I am doubtful if it would ever be wise to move a scheme about from one Corporation to another, but I am quite sure it would be disastrous to do it in the case of the groundnuts scheme. It is a very large enterprise, probably larger than any of the future individual schemes which will be started in other Colonial territories. To tear it up by the roots and pass it from one Corporation to another, I really think, is a quite impossible proposition. As the right hon. Gentleman himself recognised, when we argued it out in Committee we all came to that conclusion.

If the House will turn to the Amendments he is going to move, they will see he suggests putting a prohibition on the Colonial Secretary that he is not to have the licence we give him under the Bill to invite, if he wishes, the Overseas Food Corporation to operate in Colonial territory. In the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment designed to take out that permission he excepts specifically the groundnuts scheme in East Africa which he recognises should go on under the auspices under which it has been started. To undo that by putting in this new Clause, which can have no effect but to suggest that, after all, at any moment at some future time this attempt to transfer a scheme from Corporation to Corporation may be executed, would, I believe, be a thoroughly unwise thing to do.

The right hon. Gentleman says, if I may digress for a moment, that he cannot say much about the progress of the groundnuts scheme, because the report has not been laid. I quite agree it is very urgent. It is being printed at the moment and will be in the hands of Parliament by next Monday, if the printers can manage it.

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

After the Bill has left this House.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee

After the Bill has left this House. But I do not think the report on the groundnuts scheme will affect the provisions of this Bill. It will simply give a report to the House of the progress which has been made, not under the Overseas Food Corporation but under the managing agency of the United Africa Company. I think the House will note with interest that the scheme is in its initial phase. It has deeply and heavily engaged with the enemy—to use a military analogy which comes to one's mind—and it is in the stage of having sunk quite important efforts and capital resources and manpower.

6.0 p.m.

To suggest, as the embodiment of this Clause must suggest, that at any moment the Government would take it up and transfer its auspices to another Corporation, would be a great disservice to the scheme, to put it no higher than that. It would be far better to transfer Corporations rather than to transfer schemes. It would be much more practicable, if we were going to do this, to say not that the scheme should be taken over from the Overseas Food Corporation and handed to the Colonial Development Corporation, but that the Overseas Food Corporation should be transferred to the auspices of the Colonial Office. That would be far less disastrous administratively. That, at any rate, would leave the Corporations, the active instruments, intact.

The objection—and it is an overwhelming one felt just as strongly by the Colonial Secretary as by me—is that the Overseas Food Corporation is going to work outside Colonial territory as well as within it—probably principally outside. Its chairman designate left for Australia this morning on the invitation of the Australian Government. Therefore, it is impracticable that that Corporation should be responsible to the Colonial Office. That is the objection to doing that, but it is a far less disastrous thing administratively and by way of disturbance to the scheme to transfer the auspices of the Corporations themselves rather than to try to transfer schemes as between Corporations. Although the Clause does not do that, or force the Government to do it, if it was added to the Bill it would suggest strongly to everyone that that is what the House and the Government had very much in mind and might do at any time. Therefore, the Government must resist making this addition to the Bill. It is totally unnecessary for any possible transfer of future schemes, under Clauses 9 and 10, should they be needed or should they take place. I suggest it would be a great disservice to the groundnuts scheme, the one scheme to which it would really apply.

I have not dealt with the arguments made on the whole question of the Overseas Food Corporation operating in Colonial territory. Many hon. Members raised that question. All that will come up again when the series of three Amendments in the name of the right hon. Member for West Bristol is reached. I would like to take up one point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) who suggested that there had been conflicts between myself and the Colonial Secretary on the buying of agricultural products. He did not give any instances. I think that in the most friendly possible way we must deny that that has been so. It really is not the case. It would do harm, I think, in Colonial territories if that suggestion were allowed to go uncontradicted.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

May I make one point quite clear? My right hon. Friend will recollect that I did lay myself open to

correction when I made the point. It was within my knowledge, not with a particular reference to the Colonial aspect, that sometimes there has been perhaps a little difficulty. However, I am glad to know that that was an entirely wrong impression.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee

I am very glad that we have had the opportunity to make that clear. I ask the House not to add this new Clause to the Bill. In so far as it has any effect at all—which is a very limited one as I have tried to explain—I feel that it would be a disservice to the one scheme which, after all, is in action today. Everything else we are doing in the Bill is in the future and on paper so far, but the groundnuts scheme is in action. The addition of these words to the Bill would be a disservice to that scheme.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 133; Noes, 252.

Division No. 54.]AYES.[6.5 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)P[...]t[...]. Brig. C. H. M
Amory, D. HeathcoatHaughton, S. G.Pickthorn, K.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.Head, Brig. A. H.Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Baldwin, A. E.Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir CPrescott, Stanley
Beamish, Maj. T. V. HHenderson, John (Cathcart)Raikes, H. V
Bennett, Sir P.Herbert, Sir A. P.Rayner, Brig. R.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)Hogg, Hon. QReed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Bower, N.Hope, Lord J.Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.Hurd, A.Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Brown, W. J. (Rugby)Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)Robinson, Roland
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Butcher, H. W.Jeffreys, General Sir G.Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Keeling, E. H.Sanderson, Sir F.
Byers, FrankKerr, Sir J. GrahamScott, Lord W.
Carson, E.Lambert, Hon. G.Shephard, S. (Newark)
Challen, C.Langford-Holt, J.Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Channon, H.Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W
Clarke, Col. R. S.Lenn[...]x-Boyd, A. TSmithers, Sir W.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Lindsay, M. (Solihull)Spence, H. R.
Cole, T. L.Linstead, H. N.Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Lloyd, Major Guy (Renfrew, E.)Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Studholme, H. G.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)Low, A. R. W.Sutcliffe, H.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. CLucas, Major Sir J.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.Teeling, William
Crowder, Capt. John E.McCallum, Maj. D.Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Darling, Sir W. Y.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon M SThorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Maclay, Hon. J. S.Touche, G. C.
Drayson, G. B.Manningham-Buller, R. E.Turton, R. H.
Drewe, C.Marlowe, A. A. H.Vane, W. M. F.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Wadsworth, G.
Duthie, W. S.Mellor, Sir J.Ward, Hon. G. R.
Eccles, D. M.Molson, A. H. E.Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Eden, Rt, Hon. A.Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. WalterMorrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)Wheatley, Col. M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Erroll, F. J.Mullan, Lt. C. H.White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Fletcher, W. (Bury)Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Fox, Sir G.Neven-Spence, Sir B,Williams, C. (Torquay)
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)Nield, B. (Chester)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Gage, C.Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.Nutting, Anthony
George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'[...]e)Odey, G. W.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gomme-Duncan, Col. AO'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir HMajor Ramsay and
Grimston, R. V.Orr-Ewing, I. L.Brigadier Mackeson
Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Acland, Sir R.Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Orbach, M.
Adams, Richard (Balham)Gibbins, J.Paget, R. T.
Adams, W T. (Hammersmith, South)Gibson, C. W.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Gilzean, A.Palmer, A. M. F.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Glanville, J. E. Consett)Pargiter, G. A.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell)Gordon-Walker, P. C.Parkin, B. T.
Attewell, H. C.Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Austin, H. LewisGrey, C. F.Paton, J. (Norwich)
Awbery, S S.Grierson, E.Pearson, A.
Ayles, W. H.Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Perrins, W.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)Popplewell, E.
Bacon, Miss A.Guy, W. HPorter, E. (Warrington)
Baird, J.Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvilPorter, G. (Leeds)
Balfour, A.Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Proctor, W. T.
Barstow, P. GHardy, E. A.Pursey, Cmdr, H.
Barton, C.Harrison, J.Randall, H. E.
Battley, J. R.Hastings, Dr. SomervilleRanger, J.
Bechervaise, A. E.Haworth, J.Rees-Williams, D. R
Benson, G.Herbison, Miss M.Reeves, J.
Berry, H.Hicks, G.Reid, T. (Swindon)
Beswick, F.Holman, P.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Bevan, Rt. Han. A. (Ebbw Vale)House, G.Robens, A.
Bing, G. H. C.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Binns, J.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Blenkinsop, A.Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)Rogers, G. H. R.
Blyton, W. R.Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Boardman, HHynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Royle, C.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Segal, Dr. S.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Irvine, A. J (Liverpool, Edge Hill)Sharp, Granville
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Bramall, E. A.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Brook, D. (Halifax)Jeger, G. (Winchester)Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Simmons, C. J.
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Skinnard, F. W.
Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G.Jones, J. H. (Bolton)Smith, C. (Colchester)
Burden, T. W.Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Burke, W. A.Keenan, W.Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Kendall, W. D.Snow, J. W.
Chamberlain, R. A.Key, C. W.Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Champion, A. J.Kinley, J.Sparks, J. A.
Chater, D.Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.Stamford, W.
Chetwynd, G. R.Lee, F. (Hulme)Steele, T.
Cluse, W. S.Levy, B. W.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Cobb, F. A.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Collick, P.Lyne, A. W.Stross, Dr. B.
Colman, Miss G. M.McAdam, W.Stubbs, A. E.
Comyns, Dr. L.McEntee, V. La T.Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Cook, T. F.McGhee, H. G.Sylvester, G. O.
Corlett, Dr. J.McGovern, J.Symonds, A. L.
Cove, W. G.Mack, J. D.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Crawley, A.McKay, J. (Wallsend)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Grossman, R. H. S.Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Daggar, G.McKinlay, A. S,Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Daines, P.Macpherson, T. (Romford)Thomas, John R. (D[...]ver)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Mainwaring, W. H.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Mallalieu, J. P. W.Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Davies, Hadyn (St. Pan[...]ras, S.W.)Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Thurtle, Ernest
Deer, G.Mathers, Rt. Hon. GeorgeTiffany, S,
Delargy, H. J.Mayhew, C. P.Timmons, J.
Diamond, J.Medland, H. M.Titterington, M. F.
Dobbie, WMellish, R. J.Tolley, L
Dodds, N. N.Messer, F.Tomlinson, Rt. Hon, G.
Driberg, T. E. N.Middleton, Mrs. L.Turner-Samuels, M.
Dumpleton, C. W.Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Dye, S.Mitchison, G. R.Usborne, Henry
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Monslow, W.Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Edelman, M.Moody, A. S.Viant, S. P.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)Morley, R.Walkden, E.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)Walker, G. H.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Mort, D. L.Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Moyle, A.Warbey, W. N.
Ewart, R.Murray, J. DWebb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Fairh[...]st, F.Nally, W.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Farthing, W. J.Naylor, T. E.Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
Field, Capt. W. J.Neal, H. (Claycross)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Foot, M. M.Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Wigg, George
Forman, J. C.O'Brien, T.Willey, D. G. (Cleveland)
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Oldfield, W. H.Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Gallacher, W.Oliver, G. H.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Willis, E.Woods, G. S.Zilliacus, K.
Wills, Mrs. E. A.Wyatt, W.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.Yates, V. F.Mr. Collindridge and
Wise, Major F. JYounger, Hon. KennethMr. Wilkins.