§ MR. SCOTT
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the necessity of taking measures to obtain guano from the Arabian Islands on terms more moderate than those lately concluded by the Government, provided protection be afforded to those engaged in its exportation, and to secure its importation from those islands to this country. He thought the agriculturists of this country felt the importance of this question quite as much as the affairs in Canton. The whole subject with regard to the importation of guano to this country had been left in a most unsatisfactory state. There never was a period when the imports of that article had fallen off so much as during the last year, and that decline was not owing to the decrease of guano in Peru, but from the monopoly of the merchants, who had the whole of the Peruvian guano trade in their own hands, and kept the stock low in order to obtain high prices. Large quantities were shipped to the West Indies, the Mauritius, and other distant places, instead of being brought to the markets of this country. It therefore behoved the Government to adopt measures calculated to check a monopoly which limited our supply of so necessary and important an article of commerce. The sources from which guano were obtained were few in number—namely, first, the plains of Thibet; next, the coast of South America; and, third, the coast of Arabia. In 1853, Mr. Ord had discovered the existence of deposits of guano to the extent of between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 tons, on certain islands off the coast of Arabia. These islands had been ceded to the British Crown by the Imaum of Muscat, and the Government, with singular improvidence and neglect of the interests of British agriculture, immediately created another guano monopoly in favour of Mr. Ord and several other individuals. Those parties were empowered to remove all the guano they could obtain to this country, not for sale here, but for transhipment to any other part of the world. It was found 1952 that there was guano in those islands to the amount of £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 sterling, and Her Majesty was to receive 2s. a ton royalty for the first two years, and 4s. for the next. But it appeared that in consequence of the interference of the Arabs, the persons to whom the cession had been made had not been able to remove any of the guano, and that the Arabs had removed it to the mainland, whence it could not be obtained. As trustees and guardians of the public interests, he thought that the Government ought to step in between the country and Mr. Ord, and secure the importation to, and sale by auction of, the guano in this country. It was said that Mr. Ord received £1 a ton as a percentage on this guano. Upon 1,500,000 tons he would realise £1,500,000 of money. He (Mr. Scott) contended, however, that although for the first year £1 a ton might be a fair rate, the percentage ought to be diminished as the importation increased. The agriculturists of this country ought to derive the benefit from this guano. He did not wish to refer to the acts of the Emigration Commissioners in dealing with these commodities. Such remarks ought not to be made in a desultory discussion; but he could not help saying that there had been a neglect of duty, and something which he considered very like a breach of trust in the conduct of the Commissioners.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that upon a subject so interesting to agriculturists, and with regard to which the hon. Member for Berwickshire had so fully stated the facts of the case, he had very little to add to what had just been stated. It was quite true that a licence for an exclusive trade had been granted to certain parties, who, although they had not been the first to discover the presence of guano in these islands, had been the first who had brought the fact of a large supply of guano in them under the notice of the Government. The hon. Member thought that a monopoly of five years constituted a neglect of the agriculturists of this country. But the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government was precisely that which the Government of Lord Derby had taken under similar circumstances. He spoke in the presence of the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington), who, when Colonial Secretary, was of opinion that with regard to guano found, not on the coast of Arabia, but of Australia, a licence should be given to the parties for six, and not for five years, the conditions being that 5,000 1953 tons should be imported every year. With regard to supplying guano to the agriculturists of this country on reasonable terms, he (Mr. Labouchere) had represented to the persons interested in this exclusive privilege the reasonableness of making arrangements to secure a supply of guano for the agriculturists of this country on fair terms, and they had willingly consented to allow free trade and a free access to those islands on the condition of receiving a certain royalty. He had also spoken to two Gentlemen, one the President of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, the hon. Member for Malton (Mr. B. Denison), and another, a Gentleman of great knowledge and judgment in such matters (Mr. Caird), both of whom stated that they were perfectly satisfied with the terms on which the arrangement was made. Arrangements had also been made by the Government to prevent a second guano monopoly being established, and that agriculturists should be supplied at a just and reasonable price. The Government had also had their attention directed to the great importance of facilitating the supply of the article to this country. His noble Friend Lord Clarendon had from time to time called the attention of the Admiralty to the subject, and the captains of vessels had been directed to inform the Government whenever any guano islands were discovered.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he apprehended that an Act of Parliament would be necessary for that, and he must confess that he should not be prepared to propose any measure to prevent the exportation abroad of guano if the merchants of this country thought fit.
§ Subject dropped.