HC Deb 17 May 1870 vol 201 cc810-2

said, he wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether Her Majesty's Government have considered fully the representations made to them by the Commissioners from the Colony of Now Zealand, and have come to a final decision in regard to the reply to be given?


Sir, my hon. Friend is doubtless aware that Her Majesty's Government, under a strong sense of duty, declined to accede to the request convoyed to them by the Commissioners named, by the Government and Legislature of New Zealand to cancel the orders which had been given for the withdrawal of the troops from the Colony, or to consent to any arrangement for keeping a regiment there. Accordingly, the regiment that was there has been withdrawn, and the question of military assistance in time of peace has been finally settled. My hon. Friend, who was anxious to assist the Colony in its efforts to meet the difficulties which it has to overcome now for the first time, without any external aid, made a proposal for introducing a large number of settlers. I think his calculations were made for 50,000. The expenditure necessary would have involved annual ad- vances from the Imperial Government varying from £60,000 to £96,000 a year. The sum of £426,600 was to be the largest amount that at any time the Imperial Government was to be responsible for, and the repayments would have extended over 13½ years. Last Saturday week my noble Friend, Lord Granville, after submitting the scheme to the Cabinet, who thought it unusual in its character and liable to cause future misunderstandings, informed my hon. Friend that Her Majesty's Government were agreed, from a strong wish to prove their goodwill towards New Zealand, to adopt the principle of affording the aid of the Imperial credit to the Colonial Government in raising, during a period of five years, a sum of £100,000 a year if an application to that effect were made to them by the delegates for the promotion of emigration and for the making of roads. The details of the arrangement, it was added, would have to be carefully considered. At the beginning of last week the Commissioners made another proposal, in these words— That the Imperial Government should give the New Zealand Government their credit in order to take up money from time to time, in such sums as it might be able to apply prudently to the above purposes; that the New Zealand Government should issue Treasury bills for the amounts so taken up, bearing interest not exceeding 3½ per cent; and that when the £1,000,000 should have been so taken up—that is to say, at some period not later than 10 years, the Government of New Zealand should place a loan to that amount on the market upon its own account, to withdraw the Treasury bills, and relieve the Imperial Treasury from further engagement on behalf of the Colony. To this proposal Lord Granville answered that— There are, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, objections in principle to giving this assistance in the shape of direct State aid to emigration; and they do but repeat the settled judgment of Parliament in stating their opinion that, except on the most special reasons, the practice of guaranteeing the loans of self-governing Colonies is generally injurious to them and to the parent State. That Her Majesty's Government treated your request as an exceptional one, coming at the close of long financial relations between the Imperial Government and the Colony, and at a period when for the first time New Zealand has on its own resources alone made a gallant and successful effort to meet the difficulties to which it is exposed. And while giving effect, as they are bound to do, to their general policy, they are anxious to adopt any collateral measure which will mitigate its consequences in the peculiar case of New Zealand, and be an evidence to the colonists of the interest which is felt by the Crown and Parliament of this country in the re-establishment and advancement of their prosperity. With this view they are prepared, on your assurance that the sum will be expended as it is raised for the purposes indicated in your letter, to submit to Parliament a proposal that, under proper conditions as to repayment, which will, of course, be a subject of further arrangement, the Imperial Treasury should be authorized to guarantee a loan of £500,000, to be raised at such rates and in such proportions as may be agreed upon. After some discussion with the Commissioners, who urged the importance of a larger sum, my noble Friend brought the matter again before the Cabinet last Saturday. Her Majesty's Government thought that the difference of amount was of less importance than the terms of the guarantee and the conditions of repayment. The Commissioners have declared that they were ready to agree to any fair conditions which might be required if a guarantee was given for £1,000,000. I trust and believe that the House will agree to this proposal, intended as a proof of goodwill from this country to New Zealand, at a time when, not without difficulty, an important principle as to the military defence of self-governing Colonies in time of peace has been finally established.