Arthur Creech Jones

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For other people named Arthur Jones, see Arthur Jones (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
Arthur Creech Jones
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
4 October 1946 – 28 February 1950
Preceded by George Hall
Succeeded by Jim Griffiths
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
1945–1946
Preceded by The Duke of Devonshire
Succeeded by Ivor Thomas
Member of Parliament
for Shipley
In office
14 November 1935 – 23 February 1950
Preceded by James Lockwood
Succeeded by Geoffrey Hirst
Member of Parliament
for Wakefield
In office
21 October 1954 – 15 October 1964
Preceded by Arthur Greenwood
Succeeded by Walter Harrison
Personal details
Born (1891-05-15)15 May 1891
Died 23 October 1964(1964-10-23) (aged 73)
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Profession Civil servant
Religion None

Arthur Creech Jones (15 May 1891 – 23 October 1964) was a British trade union official and politician. Originally a civil servant, his imprisonment as a conscientious objector during the First World War forced him to change careers. A protégé of Ernest Bevin, he was elected to Parliament in 1935 and served in the Colonial Office in the Labour government of 1945–1950. Losing his seat in the 1950 general election, he was involved in writing and lecturing about British colonies before returning to Parliament in 1954. Initially he was known as Arthur Jones, but throughout his time in politics he invariably used his middle name.

Early life[edit]

Jones was the son of a lithographic printer from Bristol. He went to Whitehall Boys' School and won a scholarship to study French, Mathematics and commerce for an extra year when he was 13. On leaving school in 1905 he worked in a solicitor's office and prepared for the Civil Service Junior Clerks' Examination. Having passed the exam, Jones joined the War Office and later worked for the Crown Agents, who acted as the London representatives of British dominions and colonies. Jones also attended evening classes to improve his education.

In his spare time, Jones was also involved with political groups; he was an active member of the Liberal Christian League, which brought him into contact with senior members of the Liberal Party. His education about politics led him to question, and eventually drop, his membership of the Methodist church. In 1913, Jones helped to found the Camberwell Trades and Labour Council, and later became honorary Secretary of the Dulwich branch of the Independent Labour Party. Jones was involved with the ILP londonwide after the outbreak of war; he had become a pacifist and organised anti-conscription meetings when conscription was introduced in 1916.

Imprisonment[edit]

Jones was called up that autumn but refused to participate in any way. As a result he was not granted an exemption from military service and was sent to prison from September 1916, and was not released until April 1919. He used his imprisonment as an opportunity to read further on history, politics and economics; he also made useful contacts in prison with figures who would later become senior in the Labour Party.

Trade unionist[edit]

On leaving prison Creech Jones was unable to resume a civil service career, and instead did research on prisons for the Labour Research Department, a trade union-funded body (it did not have any formal connections with the Labour Party). Later that year he was appointed as Secretary of the National Union of Docks, Wharves, and Shipping Staffs and edited the union journal. When his union joined the Transport and General Workers' Union in 1922, Creech Jones was promoted to be national secretary of the administrative, clerical and supervisory section. At the 1922 London County Council election, Creech Jones was one of the Labour candidates for Dulwich; he sat on the London Labour Party executive from 1921 to 1928.

Among his work for the TGWU, Creech Jones visited the Ruhr Area to observe the effects of French occupation in 1923 (writing a pamphlet about the issue on his return), and helped to train Clements Kadalie of the South African Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union in how to organise a union. He wrote a pamphlet on "Trade Unionism To-day" which was published by the Workers' Educational Association in 1928. Creech Jones was heavily involved in the Workers' Educational Association and also served as a Governor of Ruskin College, Oxford which was funded by the trade unions.

Travelling[edit]

At the 1929 general election, Creech Jones fought the constituency of Heywood and Radcliffe as Labour Party candidate. He left his position at the TGWU after the election to be organising secretary of the Workers' Travel Association, which funded foreign trips for people employed in industry.[1] He spent a large part of the next decade travelling, writing up his trips in the "Travel Log", the journal of the Workers' Travel Association. Having visited most countries of Europe including Nazi Germany, Creech Jones directed a rescue of hundreds of Jews from Czechoslovakia through the WTA after the Munich Agreement was signed.

After the formation of the National Government, Creech Jones at first went along with his TGWU colleague Ernest Bevin in joining the Socialist League. He was a leading figure in the National I.L.P. Affiliation Committee which sought to persuade the Independent Labour Party to continue its affiliation to the Labour Party,[2] but when the fight was lost, he resigned from the ILP and joined the Labour Party directly. Initially unwilling to try for a seat in Parliament, it was reported to be his observation of events in Germany which persuaded him to change his mind and at the 1935 general election he won the constituency of Shipley as a Labour Party candidate; his election was helped by the Conservative vote being split between the official candidate and the sitting Member of Parliament (MP), who had been deselected.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Creech Jones specialised in Colonial affairs in Parliament, especially those in Africa. In June 1936 he pressed the Government, who were encouraging Colonies to set up memorials to King George V, to follow the example of Uganda and set up a technical educational institution.[3] The Labour Party nominated him to the Colonial Office's Educational Advisory Committee in 1936, on which he served for nine years. In 1937, he was a founding member of the Trades Union Congress Colonial Affairs Committee, and in 1940 he founded the Fabian Colonial Bureau.

In 1939 Creech Jones promoted his Private Member's Bill, the Access to Mountains Bill, to Parliament. He had long enjoyed walking in the open countryside but found private landowners had barred the way, and the Bill required mountains and moorland to be opened. Creech Jones organised a conference with those affected the Bill at which agreement was reached on amendments to the Bill which would enable their objections to be withdrawn;[4] this compromise enabled the Bill to pass into law.

When Ernest Bevin was appointed Minister of Labour in 1940, he picked Creech Jones as his Parliamentary Private Secretary. He used his influence in the Government to improve conditions for conscientious objectors. As Chairman of the Labour Party's advisory committee on imperial issues, Creech Jones did much to formulate party policy on the colonies prior to the 1945 general election. He was Vice-Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education for West Africa which was set up in 1943,[5] visiting the West African colonies to compile a well-received report.[6]

Attlee government[edit]

After the Labour Party won the 1945 election, Creech Jones was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Colonial Office, with The Times wondering why he was not given a more senior post.[7] He was a delegate to the first sitting of the United Nations General Assembly in London in 1946. Creech Jones' support for eventual self-government of the colonies by all their inhabitants was unpopular with those colonies which were run by British settlers, and he had to moderate his speeches when he visited colonies such as Kenya.[8] He also dealt with the British mandate in Palestine, trying to find a way of peacefully establishming the Jewish state.[citation needed]

Colonial Secretary[edit]

In October 1946, the Secretary of State for the Colonies George Henry Hall was moved in a Government reshuffle and Creech Jones was promoted to head the Department, with a seat in the Cabinet and membership of the Privy Council. Creech Jones took over at a time when the tensions in Palestine were increasing, and he frequently appealed to moderate Jewish leaders to restrain the more violent.[9] He was again a delegate to the United Nations during its debate on the subject, and informed the UN of the British government's determination to give up the mandate and withdraw British forces.[10]

In September 1947, Creech Jones chaired the British West Indies conference at Montego Bay discussing closer association and possible federation of the British colonies in the area.[11] The conference produced a preliminary agreement on federation and dominion status. He was later forced to recall Oliver Baldwin as Governor of the Leeward Islands, who had made outspoken comments which local opinion had taken badly.[12]

In Africa, Creech Jones presided over a conference at Lancaster House for the African colonies in 1948. He was able to issue a memorandum on local government in the Colonies, which confirmed the intention to bring in responsible government. He was able to make progress in the colony of Ceylon where he introduced a Government Bill to give the colony Dominion status and eventual independence.[13] He thus presided over the Colonial Office's first granting of independence to a 'non-white' colony. (Independence for India and Pakistan a year earlier had been the responsibility of the India Office.) Internally he reorganised the Colonial Office and its associated civil service to make it more appropriate for the changed role he foresaw for it.

Defeat[edit]

At the 1950 general election, Creech Jones' constituency of Shipley was subjected to boundary changes, and he was vigorously challenged by the Conservatives. He ended up losing his seat by a narrow 81 votes to Geoffrey Hirst, being one of the most prominent Ministerial casualties of the election. Out of Parliament he spent more time with the Fabian Colonial Bureau for whom he chaired conferences and lectured. He edited volumes of the Fabian Colonial Essays.

He also tried to get back into Parliament. When Sir Stafford Cripps resigned his seat at Bristol South East in the autumn of 1950, Creech Jones was the favourite to succeed him given his status and his family connections to the city.[14] However, he lost the selection to Anthony Wedgwood Benn. At the 1951 general election Creech Jones stood in Romford, but was unable to regain the constituency.

In the early 1950s Creech Jones succeeded in reconciling Seretse Khama (who had been exiled from Bechuanaland after marrying an Englishwoman) with his uncle Tshekedi, and petitioned the government to rescind the exile order. He also led delegations to the Government from the Anti-Slavery Society (of which he was Vice-President) and the Africa Bureau. He was Chairman of the British council of Pacific Relations from 1952.

Wakefield MP[edit]

Creech Jones' opportunity to return to Parliament came in 1954 when Arthur Greenwood, Labour MP for Wakefield, died. He was selected to follow him and kept the seat in the by-election. He returned to the Labour front bench, but also retained his involvement in outside work. He was appointed to the Governing body of Queen Elizabeth House, a Colonial Office-sponsored institution at Oxford University, in March 1955.[15]

Despite his age of nearly 70, Creech Jones was reappointed to the opposition front bench after the 1959 general election.[16] In 1961 he signed a letter expressing disquiet at a British application to join the European Community and urging a Commonwealth conference to discuss the implications before formally applying.[17] He left the front bench in 1963; although hoping to continue in Parliament, he was forced by ill health to announce his retirement in August 1964.[18]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Workers' Travel Association", The Times, 29 December 1930.
  2. ^ "The Split in the I.L.P.", The Times, 29 August 1932.
  3. ^ "Parliament", The Times, 18 June 1936.
  4. ^ "Public Access To Mountains", The Times, 27 February 1939.
  5. ^ "Future of the Colonies", The Times, 14 July 1943.
  6. ^ See, e.g., "Planning Colonial Progress" (Leader), The Times, 10 June 1944.
  7. ^ "Completing the Team" (leader), The Times, 6 August 1945.
  8. ^ "Assurance To Kenya Settlers", The Times, 26 July 1946.
  9. ^ "Statement in House of Commons", The Times, 29 January 1947.
  10. ^ "British Statement To U.N. On Palestine", The Times, 27 September 1947.
  11. ^ "B.W.I. Conference", The Times, 12 September 1947.
  12. ^ "Earl Baldwin of Bewdley", The Times, 12 August 1958.
  13. ^ "Independence Bill For Ceylon", The Times, 15 November 1947.
  14. ^ Michael Cocks, "Labour and the Benn Factor" (Macdonald, 1989), p. 12.
  15. ^ "Queen Elizabeth House", The Times, 23 March 1955.
  16. ^ "Mr. Gaitskell Chooses Labour's Men of the Future", The Times, 13 November 1959.
  17. ^ "Majority Lean Towards Participation", The Times, 13 June 1961.
  18. ^ "Mr. Creech Jones Not to seek Re-election", The Times, 18 August 1964.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Lockwood
Member of Parliament for Shipley
19351950
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Hirst
Preceded by
Arthur Greenwood
Member of Parliament for Wakefield
19541964
Succeeded by
Walter Harrison
Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
1945–1946
Succeeded by
Ivor Thomas
Preceded by
George Hall
Secretary of State for the Colonies
1946–1950
Succeeded by
Jim Griffiths