§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE,
in rising to call attention to the impropriety of the proposal to vote money out of the Civil Service Estimates for the support of a Police Force in Cyprus, and to move—That it is inexpedient to grant a sum of £26,000 for the Cyprus Police until a report from the authorities of the Island, showing the necessity for such expenditure, and a full statement of the finances of the Island be laid before the House;said, the Vote had been originally intended for a military pioneer force, to consist of eight English officers and doctors, 10 interpreters, 20 native officers, and about 1,100 men, and would have been included in the Army Estimates but for the fact that it was illegal to employ aliens in the service of the country without a special Act of Parliament, for, of course, the Natives of Cyprus were still subjects of the Sultan. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had admitted the 1564 illegality of the proposed military pioneer force; and the corps had, therefore, been described as a police force, and a Vote for it had been placed among the Civil Service Estimates. What he wanted to know was, what this police force was to be; whether it was to be a military force under a new name? It would seem that the force was to be reduced in number, though it would cost the same sum of money. Upon the face of the Vote the name of the force only was changed; its character and object remained unaltered. To enlist a military force in the Island would be illegal without a special Act of Parliament; and, in the case of a military force, the Vote ought to appear in the Army Estimates, and the men placed under the Mutiny Act. But it must be assumed, he supposed, that this was to be a police force in aid of the civil administration of Cyprus. In any case, however, the Vote was abnormal and unconstitutional; the force, if military, was illegal; and, if civil, ought not to be paid for by this country. They had constantly been told that no such Vote would be necessary. The Prime Minister, speaking at the Mansion House, had said that the Island, even in the first year of our occupation, would be no burden to this country, and that it would furnish not only the sum annually accruing to the Sultan, but also the whole expense of the civil government; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken at Birmingham last winter to the same effect. It appeared, therefore, clear that there was no intention last year to call upon the House to vote money for the civil expenditure of Cyprus. He wished now to know, assuming that this was to be a bonâ fide civil force, and not merely disguised as a police force, whether it was to be an addition to the Zaptiehs, or Native police, a force which had not been reported favourably upon by the officers in charge of it. The Reports of Colonel Warren showed that a very large force of Zaptiehs already existed in Cyprus, and that they had very little work to do. There were at present something like 1,100 Zaptiehs in the Island, and he wished to know whether the 800 which the House was asked to vote was to be in addition to that force? If it was, he could only say that Cyprus would have the largest force of the kind in propor- 1565 tion to its population of any country of which lie had heard or read. As far as he could ascertain, the population of Cyprus was 150,000. There would be nearly 2,000 police, or 13 to 1,000 of the population; and there could not, he would venture to say, be employment for anything like that number. There had recently been complaints of the large police force in Ireland, and yet there the police were only two per 1,000 of the people. Taking the Colony which most resembled Cyprus, the Mauritius, which was about the same size, he found that, with a population of 350,000, it had only 600 Native police, or about two to 1,000. Again, the new Colony of Fiji, with 240,000 inhabitants, had only 400 police, and no military force whatever. He should like to know how many police would be required for Asia Minor if the calculation were based on the number supplied to Cyprus? A force of at least 140,000 police would be necessary; while India, if the police force there were placed on a similar footing, would require altogether 2,000,000 police. In the circumstances, he wished to know whether the Government were prepared to lay on the Table any Report showing the necessity of the enormous addition which it was proposed to make to the police force in the Island of Cyprus. From all that he could learn, such an increase of the force was absolutely unnecessary, and he could not help thinking that the proposal was the result of the strange and abnormal position of Cyprus with regard to the Government. If Cyprus were placed under the Colonial instead of the Foreign Office, he felt sure the House would never have heard of any such foolish, irregular, and unconstitutional proposal as that to which he had adverted. If, too, a man like Sir Philip Grant, who had so successfully administered, the government of Jamaica, had been appointed to govern Cyprus, he was confident he would have found it possible greatly to reduce the police force of the Island. The Island, in his opinion, had been rather hardly treated, for from no country in the world, he believed, was so large a proportion of its revenue drawn as it was proposed to draw from Cyprus, with the view of handing it over to the Porte. The Revenue was £170,000 a-year, and out of that sum he understood that £115,000 was to go direct to 1566 the Sultan, leaving a balance behind of only £45,000. That was a difficult position in which to place the Island, and it would scarcely be remedied by undertaking so large an expenditure as that which was now proposed. The present proposal was one of a most extraordinary, abnormal, and irregular character; and he contended that the Vote required explanation from the Under Secretary of State before they went into Committee, and he hoped that the Government would postpone the Vote till another year, if they did not wholly abandon it; as, without some Reports from those in authority in the Island, he did not think that the House of Commons ought to be called upon to vote such a large sum for a force which could not be required in the Island. He, therefore, begged to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE,
in seconding the Motion, said, he felt his hon. Friend the Member for Reading had demolished the proposed force. The original proposal to establish a military pioneer force in Cyprus was perfectly illegal, unconstitutional, and indefensible. He must, however, strongly object to the action of the Foreign Office, who, finding the illegality of their proposal, sought to carry out their object by a sort of side-wind by establishing a force there under the name of police, which, seeing that it was a peaceful country and free from insurrection, was wholly unnecessary. There was, at that moment, a British military police force in Cyprus. Therefore, we had two forces of police in Cyprus amounting, probably, to about 1,200 men, and we were proposing to add a new force of between 800 and 900 men to the police. That would be a police force of 2,000 men to a population of 150,000—that was to say, one in every 25 grown men would be a policeman in a uniform of some kind. Was not this Vote an attempt to get into Cyprus by a side-wind a military force, and without the direct consent of the House to the enlistment? As we were getting near the end of the Session, he would impress upon the Government the great necessity of their laying the financial account of Cyprus before the House. If this was to be a civil police, then he thought we should have an account of all the civil expenditure of the Island that we might know 1567 what were likely to be the future demands on our purse. No doubt it might be said that the sum now asked for was small; but it was only a commencement, and it might lead to untold expenditure in the future. There was no blinking the question. The real difficulty with respect to Cyprus was that of being able to make both ends meet. That desirable result could hardly be attained as long as £150,000 of tribute had to be sent to Constantinople. All the more necessary, therefore, was it for the House to be put in possession of the financial Papers connected with the Island. He also hoped that before this Vote was agreed to we might also have other Papers respecting Cyprus which had been frequently asked for in the House, especially those in reference to the rejection of the election of a Greek gentleman to office on the ground of his nationality, and to the existence of negro slavery in the Island, upon both of which points the information furnished him came from high authority, and was in complete conflict with the denials which had been officially given; and, also, the new instructions with regard to the usages and customs of the people of the Island. Generally speaking, all our troubles as to Cyprus seemed to be only beginning. He ventured to express a fear that if this Vote of £26,000 were passed it would only be a fleabite in comparison with what we should be asked to vote in future years. They had never yet received any statement of the views of foreign Governments as to our acquisition of Cyprus. The reason given for placing Cyprus under the Foreign rather than under the Colonial Office was that there were so many international questions arising with respect to it. Were these complications at an end? Were foreign Governments satisfied with the jurisdiction we had established there? If so, why was not the Island placed under the Colonial Office? The Under Secretary had been asked for any new Papers showing the necessity for this police force and the inability of the Island to maintain it; but the Government stated in reply that no such Papers were in their possession; so that, in fact, the Government admitted they were about to establish a larger police force per head in Cyprus than had been established in almost any other country without any Papers to justify such a measure.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to grant a sum of £26,000 for the Cyprus Police until a report from the authorities of the Island, showing the necessity for such expenditure, and a full statement of the finances of the Island, be laid before the House,"—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, that his hon. Friend who spoke last (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had so far taken the affairs of Cyprus under his special protection that he was not surprised he had gone again over a good many topics on which he had before addressed the House. He would not follow his hon. Friend's example in that respect; but two points had been mentioned as to which he thought an answer might be usefully given. The first was, that the government of Cyprus had been placed under the Foreign Office because complicated negotiations had been going on with foreign Powers as to their subjects resident in Cyprus, which negotiations could more advantageously be carried on by the Foreign Office than by the Colonial Office; but, argued his hon. Friend, those complications had been got over, and the government of the Island ought to be at once transferred to the Colonial Office. In that conclusion his hon. Friend was mistaken, as many and strong reasons existed to justify the government of Cyprus remaining under the Foreign Office. Then, again, his hon. Friend referred to a debate which took place in the House of Lords yesterday on the subject of slavery; and he stated that Lord Salisbury had made a mistake in saying that the existence of slavery had been denied, not only by the present government of the Island, but by Sir Garnet Wolseley. In that, too, his hon. Friend was in error, the fact being that, a considerable time ago, the existence of slavery in the Island had been distinctly denied by Sir Garnet Wolseley. With respect to the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), he was sorry that so much industry on his part, in ascertaining the proportion of police to population in all the countries of Europe, and also in India and our Colonies, should have been thrown away. 1569 He regretted, too, that his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea should have wasted so much time in stating that the flood-gates of expenditure in Cyprus had now been opened, and that this claim of civil expenditure would be followed by many others. All these calculations and prophecies were thrown away, and for this reason—that the £26,000 now asked for by the Government was not, strictly speaking, for civil expenditure. The first hypothesis adopted by the hon. Member for Reading—that it was for military expenditure—came much nearer to the truth than that adopted sky him later on in his speech. There was, of course, no doubt that this expenditure of £26,000 was for a quasi-military purpose, and could not properly be said to belong to the civil expenditure of the country. Lord Beaconsfield was, therefore, right, when he said at the Mansion House that Cyprus would make no demand upon England in connection with civil expenditure. For what kind of uses would this force be required? It would be wanted to guard stores, perform escort duty, and, if necessary, to defend the Island. Who could deny that a body of men were required to fulfil these duties in Cyprus, or maintain that the force, which it was proposed to have, would be unnecessarily large for these purposes? There now remained two questions to be considered. Was the scheme of the Government economical and efficient for the purposes intended, and was it legal and constitutional? To answer the first of these questions, he would point out that the substitute for the scheme of the Government would be the presence of two battalions of regular soldiers, which would involve the expenditure of £70,000, which would fall on the Home Exchequer. Therefore, so far as economy was concerned, it was plain that the Government had pursued a judicious policy. As to the efficiency of the force, no doubt could be entertained by those who knew the class of men employed by the Government. He had now to consider how far the conduct of the Government was justifiable on legal and constitutional grounds. He admitted that Cyprus was in a somewhat anomalous position. It could not be denied that there might be difficulties and frictions connected with its administration; but these were outweighed by considerations 1570 of high policy. The question, however, was, had the Government, in its management of the affairs of Cyprus, violated either the letter or the spirit of the law? That they had not violated the letter of the law was admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite; and no one, he believed, could justly contend that they had violated its spirit. He therefore maintained that, in the action which they had taken, the Government had not done anything which was in the least illegal or unconstitutional. It should be remembered that the force which they proposed to establish was not a military force, and would be under the control of Parliament. No one, therefore, could say that the liberties of this country were endangered by its existence. For the reasons which he had given, he held that ample justification existed for the Vote which his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would propose at a later hour in the evening.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
said, they were asked to vote a sum of money for the maintenance of this police force in Cyprus because we had burdened our administration of the Island with a financial obligation of a most onerous character. The amount of the tribute to be paid to the Porte was £115,000, out of a total Revenue of £175,000—a Revenue which represented the extreme sum which the most despotic Government could extort from an oppressed people. He very much regretted that we had taken upon ourselves the unworthy office of tax-gatherers for a foreign Power. Of the sum of £60,000 which remained at the disposal of the local Government in Cyprus, the surplus available for works of public improvement amounted at the utmost to £15,000 a-year. Englishmen, he was glad to say, felt a desire to carry out those improvements in the system of government which were shadowed forth by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Birmingham, and it was impossible to carry out those humane designs without an expenditure of money. It was clear that the necessary sum was not forthcoming from local resources, so that it was very natural that the Government of Cyprus should make an effort to insinuate into the Estimates laid before the British Parliament a Vote which, under whatever designation it might 1571 present itself, would be, practically, a contribution from the National Exchequer towards the local Revenues of Cyprus. They might call this a police force, or whatever they pleased; but he was quite satisfied, from what he had seen of the docile habits of the people of Cyprus, that the proposed force was not required to guarantee public order, and, therefore, he felt sure that the intention was to employ men composing it in a variety of civil duties. The long-neglected Island presented an infinite field for the work of improvement. He ventured to urge upon the Government that they should take steps to amend the Convention into which they had entered, and relieve the local Government of Cyprus from the burden of an annual tribute to the Porte. While urging this upon them, he was very sensible of the fact that there was really no military value attaching to Cyprus. He could not, however, entertain the thought of abandoning the people of the Island, after the encouragement given them to rely upon British protection. Although the bargain which we had made was not a favourable one from a British point of view, he held that it was our duty to take immediate steps to improve the position of the local Government of Cyprus.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he could not object to the general tone of the observations which had been made by the hon. Member for Hastings, who had preceded him; but he must object to a line of criticism which would not admit that Her Majesty's Government, having taken possession of Cyprus on high grounds of policy, were not justified in the line which they had adopted and followed. England having made up her mind to occupy and administer Cyprus, they could not recede from their bargain; and the question was whether the financial arrangements made was not the best, and, in fact, the only arrangement that could be made. That arrangement was that England was to give to Turkey only that which Turkey had got before; and unless we had broken the Treaty of Paris and violently taken possession of Cyprus it was not possible to come to any other arrangement. It was possible, perhaps probable, that in the future better arrangements than existed at present might be made for the government of Cyprus; but as long as the present 1572 arrangements existed he could not see how it was possible to alter the state of things which had been agreed upon between this country and Turkey. What he complained of was that, before the Island had been occupied 12 months, every conceivable Vote in connection with the place had been exaggerated, and if the prosperity of the Island was a success it would not be owing to the good wishes or good-will of the Liberal Party in that House, who had done their best to disparage everything connected with the Island. In the face of all this, he had heard with pleasure the good wishes which had been expressed by the hon. Member for Hastings for the future welfare of Cyprus, and could not refrain from expressing his regret at the tone which had characterized the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, who was always ready to listen to and to believe the complaints which came from the people of any country between China and Peru who, being subject to British rule, were disaffected concerning it. The view which the hon. Baronet had expressed on the present occasion was based upon a misapprehension, and upon the existence of exceptional circumstances, as he believed the hon. Baronet would see when he came to read the Papers which would be laid before Parliament on the subject. He should not, on the present occasion, enter upon the broad question of whether it was or was not wise for England to have taken possession of the Island; but, having so taken possession, he thought the House would agree with the hon. Member for Hastings in thinking that it was the duty of England to do the best it could in the circumstances. As far as the question of slavery in Cyprus was concerned, he had nothing to withdraw from what he had already said on the subject. He was told that slavery did not now exist, and that the Courts of the Island had not given effect to any demand for the holding in involuntary servitude any person in the Island. There was no intention on the part of the Government at the present moment to propose a large expenditure for Cyprus. With regard to the Papers which the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea had asked for that Session, the accounts had not come home from Cyprus nearly so fast as Her Majesty's Government thought they would have come; but he should be 1573 happy to produce such as he could for the inspection of the hon. Member for Chelsea. He was sorry to think that the promise he made of a financial statement in regard to the affairs of Cyprus before the end of the Session might not be fulfilled; but that would arise from a complication in the manner of keeping the accounts which had been found to be necessary, but could not possibly have been foreseen. The views of a correspondent of The Cologne Gazette had been quoted as against the policy which Her Majesty's Government had pursued; but he could not for a moment think of treating seriously opinions of the kind, as they knew more about the Island than a newspaper correspondent. At the same time, the greatest attention had been given to every statement made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea; and he (Mr. Bourke) thought it would be admitted by everyone who had perused the Papers that these statements had been substantially refuted. The greater portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Reading appeared to be based upon the supposition that the Vote which Her Majesty's Government asked for was in the same shape in which it had appeared some time ago. That supposition, however, was not correct, as the hon. Gentleman himself had been compelled to admit. In common fairness to Her Majesty's Government everyone should bear in mind that when this Vote was first put down in the month of November the Island of Cyprus had only been in the occupation of the Government for some five months, and that, consequently, it was impossible for them to know at that time exactly what were the requirements of the Island, and what description of permanent force it would be necessary to maintain there. The question between the hon. Member and Her Majesty's Government was a very small one, because the force employed, in the Island would have to discharge both military and civil duties. As had been pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford and others some time ago, there were technical and legal objections to the form of the Vote as it originally stood. Its form had, however, been changed, and he trusted that it would now be presented to the House in a perfectly legal shape. It now took the form of an estimate of the amount required for the year ending March, 1880, 1574 to defray the additional expenditure thrown upon the Government of Cyprus in consequence of the augmentation of the police force, rendered necessary by the reduction of the military garrison in the Island. As it had been intended to employ the military force it was originally proposed to keep in the Island in civil duties, so now it was intended to employ this augmented police force in discharging Imperial duties, such as those entailed in defending the Island, and other military duties; and, therefore, it was only fair that the funds for paying this additional force of police should be provided out of the Imperial Exchequer. A large number of the force would be employed in escorting treasure from one part of the Island to the other. [A laugh.] It was all very well for the hon. Member for Reading to sneer at that statement; but it was a duty that had to be performed, and officers and official persons were often employed on it, and it was certainly an Imperial duty. There was already a police ordinance; and though it might require amendment in regard to the regulation of this additional force, yet it would be placed substantially in the same category as the present police force. There was no legal objection to the proposal which any hon. Member could bring forward, and he could quite well understand the disappointment of hon. Gentlemen opposite when they found that the Vote was denuded of such objections. No one who had the good government of Cyprus at heart could doubt that the proposal of the Government was a fair one, and that it would contribute very much to the prosperity of the Island, and to the good administration of every branch of the Service.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, they had had two accounts of the proposed Vote—one from the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and another from the Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and, having heard the explanations, he was disposed to ask, in the celebrated phrase, "Under which thimble lies the pea?" He had never known of an attempt to palm off on the House of Commons a Vote which was so utterly unsatisfactory as this. What did it come to? It was a piece of financial jugglery, deliberately done by the Government. They admitted 1575 that they had kept the Vote upon the Estimates from February till the 21st of July, and that it was an utterly illegal and unconstitutional Vote. They had endeavoured to smuggle through the Civil Service Estimates a military Vote, in defiance of the first principles of the Constitution. Having been challenged months ago on this subject, they went on with it and stuck to it; and it was only through the pertinacity of the hon. Member for Reading that they had been driven out of that position. They had asked for money, in defiance of a well-known financial principle by which the House was governed, and in the teeth of the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill, which forbade them to enlist aliens; and yet, all the time, they had had on the Table a demand upon the House to vote this money. Finding that they could not justify it as a military pioneer force, they had put the pea under another thimble and called it a Vote for the Cyprus police, and then, with great ingenuity—and he might say ingenuousness—the Private Secretary of Lord Salisbury said it was all the same thing, and the Under Secretary said it was almost the same thing. These men were "to take the place of a military force"—these were the words of the Under Secretary—and when it came to be challenged that they were the same thing as the pioneer force the hon. Gentleman said that was nothing. The fact was that the Government were proposing to juggle the House by a mere play of words into voting under one name money for an object which was illegal under another name. He never heard of such a thing in the House of Commons; and it had not been attempted for generations or for centuries. The Government might have a majority at their backs to support them in passing this Vote; but there was an ulterior judgment, far beyond their majority, which would have to be passed upon the question of Cyprus, and he was not afraid of that ulterior judgment. What was the state of public opinion and the position of the House with regard to Cyprus 12 months ago? They were not then attempting to get up a miserable pioneer force; on the contrary, they were sending Sir Garnet Wolseley at the head of 10,000 men to occupy and defend the Island. It was a high policy then, for they were going to regenerate 1576 Asia Minor, and Cyprus was to be the fulcrum by which they were to move the world. The noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade said that the whole of the East were exclaiming, "When are you coming?" The noble Lord seemed to be playing on the bagpipes, "The Campbells are coming." Under the direction of Her Majesty's Government the whole of the East was going to be regenerated. Steam ploughs were to be introduced into Cyprus and reforms into all Asia Minor. What had now become of these steam ploughs and reforms? What had become of the emporium of steam ploughs to be established in Cyprus, and of all the farthing rushlight illumination of 12 months ago? It was flickering in the socket, and was giving out a savour which was not agreeable. And now they were in the dregs on the lees of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and they were at present engaged with a miserable juggle of a Vote for £26,000 to eke out the glorious occupation of Cyprus. There they were, with the Government on its last legs, shifting about under one name and another in order to squeeze that sum out of the taxation of the country for the purpose of keeping this miserable abortion of Cyprus upon its legs. And that was the result of 12 months of the great policy undertaken for the regeneration of Asia Minor. The Government assured them that they would ask for no more money on behalf of Cyprus; but what had become of the great Famagousta harbour scheme, where the Fleets of England were to ride and dominate the East? Nothing had been said of that by the Under Secretary. It was reasonable, when the House was asked for £26,000, to inquire what was the financial situation of Cyprus? The Under Secretary gave no answer. It appeared that those admirable administrators, who were to set an example of model farming to Asia Minor, had not sent homo any accounts, the reason being that the juice of the orange had been given to someone else, while these unfortunate officials had been left to do what they could with the rind. Her Majesty's Government had been in such a hurry to acquire Cyprus that they were willing to give any price for it—to pay away its whole available income. And why? Because they signed a sort of Salisbury-Schouvaloff Memorandum. 1577 They bought a pig in a poke, and when they opened the poke they found a very bad pig indeed. What was the end of it all? They had this wretched Vote, which seemed to him nothing less than the catastrophe of a diplomatic farce. Last October, the Chancellor of the Exchequer assured the people of Birmingham that he had a pocketful of statistics about Cyprus, and that he was going to give us a Cyprus Budget; but the Under Secretary now said that he had got no materials. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke to the people of Birmingham of the "Returns which were made out of the estimated Revenue of Cyprus." Where were these statistics and Returns? [Mr. BOURKE: I stated them.] Stated them! That was not the way to make a Return. The statements of the Under Secretary had been most cautious, reserved, and, as regarded that night at least, ambiguous; but the House wanted the statistics and Returns which the Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted last October. If there were such Returns they ought to be brought forward to show the solvency of the Island. The Prime Minister, speaking at the Mansion House, said—Perhaps it will not be uninteresting to the citizens of London to learn that Cyprus will be no burden to the people of this country.But the poor citizens of London would learn a different fact when this Vote was brought before them. There was a great deal of that sort of "bunkum" going on about July last year; and the Prime Minister added that the Revenues of the Island would not only pay the Sultan, but would also defray the cost of its civil government. Well, either Cyprus did not pay for its civil government, as the Prime Minister said it would, or this Vote ought to be in the Military Estimates. That was the dilemma. This was a military Vote. [Mr. BALFOUR: A quasi-military Vote.] The Under Secretary had said that something was "almost a quibble." Well, he would not call what his hon. Friend had said "almost a quibble," but a quasi-quibble. What was the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was the guardian of the finances of the country, of this "quasi-military Vote?" Ought it to be in the Military Estimates, or the quasi-Military Estimates; and when would the right hon. Gentleman produce his quasi-Supplemen 1578 tary Estimates? He should be extremely curious to know what was the view taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of this quasi-military Vote. There had been no information on the subject which had not been dragged out of the Government with the greatest possible difficulty; and he thought it impossible for the House of Commons to vote money for this new settlement under the circumstances, after the assurance of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that nothing would be required for its maintenance. He was glad the matter had been brought forward in that form, because he did not believe there was anything which was more likely to enlighten the people of this country as to what the character of the transaction had been from first to last. The Government had split the amount they now required, first into one thing and then into another, and when they were asked to say what was the financial position of the Island they said they had no Reports and could give no information. Either this was a military body or it was not. If it was a military body it should have been raised in a proper manner; and if not, the Government should show that it was a civil force. It seemed to him that it had been a quasi-military affair from the beginning, and had never any substance in it. It was meant to throw dust in the eyes of the country, and would come to grief, just like the Anglo-Turkish Convention on to which it was tacked.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he could not help remarking that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford was chargeable with one very monstrous vice—he meant the vice of ingratitude. The hon. and learned Gentleman was really more ungrateful to the Island of Cyprus than he could have conceived possible, for that Island had furnished the hon. and learned Gentleman during the last 12 months with all sorts of excuses for making grand speeches and for saying good sayings. The hon. and learned Gentleman ought really to be very grateful to the Island of Cyprus, for, in his speeches, he had prophesied all sorts of misfortunes and failures; but the failures had ended in the failure of his predictions. Probably, the hon. and learned Gentleman might keep it up a little while longer by great force of ingenuity 1579 and a grand selection of words; but he thought that those who laughed the last would probably laugh the longest. The last failure which he seemed to cling to was the supposed failure of something that had been said about the Island of Cyprus; but he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), on the part of the Government, was quite prepared to appeal to the not very distant future as to the working of the experiment which was being tried in the Island of Cyprus. Hon. Members had wandered so far from the original Motion of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) that it was desirable to recall their attention to it. Upon that Motion there had been founded a series of discussions upon almost every possible subject in connection with Cyprus. Reference had been made to a speech delivered by him at Birmingham last October. What he then said was to the effect that, according to the accounts received from those who were inquiring into the Revenues of Cyprus, the Government gathered that the civil administration of the Island would be without cost to this country, though he did put in a word of caution, and remarked that, possibly, in the first year, some expense might be thrown upon us. Hon. Members were well aware that the original idea of the Government, in entering into the arrangements for the occupation of Cyprus, was that we should have a position which would be important as a military and naval position, and as a place of arms, and which would be of great importance in that part of the Levant, because it would enable us to fulfil obligations that we had entered into on behalf of the country with regard to Asia Minor. We did not propose, in the step we were taking, to injure or detract in any way from the advantages which the Sultan derived from the Island. We held that it would be possible for us to undertake to make a bargain by which we could leave the Sultan in as good a position as he previously occupied in regard to the revenues from Cyprus; while we undertook to maintain the government of the Island, without any expense to this country, out of the revenues to be fairly extracted from the people of Cyprus. Of course, if we were to make use of Cyprus for purposes of our own as a place of arms, that would involve mili- 1580 tary expenditure altogether outside of the administration of Cyprus itself. One of the first steps the Government took was to send out to Cyprus a gentleman of considerable financial ability to report upon the financial condition of the Island. That gentleman sent home a preliminary Report, from which he took the figures that were given in the speech that had been referred to. Speaking from memory, they had from that gentleman a statement that they might expect from one source so much revenue, and from another source so much; that the expenditure for purely civil purposes would be a certain other amount; that the surplus would be the sum to be paid to the Porte; and it appeared that by better administration, by taking care that the revenue levied from the taxpayer should find its way into the Treasury, and remain in the hands of middlemen, they would be able to defray the cost of the civil administration, and still to pay the tribute due to the Porte. He had himself been a little sceptical, and for that he had been thought to take a rather gloomy view; he had been a little sceptical as to the first year, supposing that there might then be a difficulty in making ends meet in regard to the civil administration. But as to the military expenditure, that, of course, was put in quite a different category. They were occupying Cyprus for their own purpose, which was a military purpose, and they thought it was right that they should defray out of the Expenditure of this country the charge for maintaining a proper military force in Cyprus. Therefore, in his statement, and in those of the Prime Minister and others, there was always an exception made as to the military expenditure in the prospect they held out of Cyprus paying its own way. Then they came to the question of what the military expenditure was to be. His right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for War informed them what would be the establishment which he contemplated maintaining there; but when the matter came to be more carefully considered it appeared that it would not be necessary or advisable that that amount of English force should be kept in Cyprus in present circumstances. But, inasmuch as that force would have discharged various duties of a military character, of course, some provision had to be made for 1581 the performance of those duties. Accordingly, it had been in contemplation to have a force which would have been called the Cyprus pioneers. That stood upon the Estimates for some time. He need not now go into the circumstances in which it was found that that would not have been the proper or a legal step to take; but another arrangement was made which brought the matter into the form in which it now appeared on the Estimate. Whether they called it civil or military expenditure, it was expenditure incurred in consequence of the withdrawal of the troops which it was originally intended to keep in the Island, and which would have relieved them from the necessity of employing this force there, whatever name they pleased to give it. They were asked to say what was the precise financial position of Cyprus at this moment, and why they did not produce the accounts which had been rendered. He was not sure how the matter stood as to the sending home of those accounts. He knew that they had been asked for, and that they were very anxious to see them at the Treasury; but he knew, also, that there had been a good deal of difficulty as to the negotiation. The nature of the bargain was necessarily one involving some delay. They were to pay the Porte the average surplus of the Revenue of Cyprus over its Expenditure in past years. That seemed, at first sight, a very simple thing to ascertain; but when they came to deal with a country like Cyprus, and with a system such as had prevailed there of late years, it was not so easy to get at the exact sum. It could not be furnished by return of post. They had to go into a number of questions, some of which were very complicated. They had to ascertain in what mode the remittances were made; to verify the nature of those remittances; learn the currency in which they were made, and the rate at which the payments to the Porte were fixed. It was easy to say that such and such a service cost 10,000 piastres; but how were they to ascertain what a piastre was—whether it was in coin or in paper; whether it was to be reckoned at one rate of exchange or at another? All those things took time to adjust; and when they had to deal with Orientals in those matters they could not proceed with the same rapidity as when the Treasury dealt with the Admiralty or 1582 the War Office. Even in transactions between the Treasury and the Indian Government considerable time elapsed before they got at the exact state of the accounts. And when they had to go into a settlement between the British Government administering a Turkish dependency on British principles and the Turkish Government, the number of questions they had to solve took more time than one might be apt at first to suppose. They had, therefore, a right to appeal to the consideration of Parliament and of the country in the whole of those matters in relation to the improvement and the reform of the administration of Oriental countries. Why, what was the theory on which they were proceeding? That theory was, that there existed great abuses of long standing, thoroughly ingrained and very difficult to unravel, and that they desired to get rid of those abuses and to introduce a better system. If they wanted to introduce radical reforms they must go patiently into those questions; and the very fact that there were so many of those abuses to be corrected proved the difficulty of the work they had undertaken, and also indicated the great advantage that would be derived from its accomplishment. He ventured to say that when they looked at Cyprus some few years hence they would find that a great and good work had been done in the early years of their administration. He said that those who had been administering the Island during the last 12 months had done a work which would bear comparison with the achievements of many founders of States and legislators in bringing about great reforms. It was not because they might pick a hole here, or another there, or because they might receive a letter from some discontented person who might have had an interest in the retention of the old system, and who cried out at what was being done—it was not because of such things that they were to condemn their own Government, which, amid many difficulties and all sorts of misapprehensions, was endeavouring to correct those evils. It had been said, in the course of the debate, that it was a condemnation of their system of Native police that they had to punish and imprison five or six zaptiehs and bring them into order. Why, the case always made against the Turkish Government was that the zap- 1583 tiehs committed abuses and excesses here and there, and ought to be brought into order. Well, they were now trying to bring them into order, and in what way? By punishing them for their excesses; and when five or six offending zaptiehs were so dealt with they were told that they were administering a wretched system. Those things were just proofs of the difficulties they had to contend with, and also of the resolution of the administrators who had to grapple with them. And when hon. Gentlemen might criticize their proceedings—and he did not dispute their right to do so—they ought to assist them in putting an end to those abuses, rather than to pick up the complaints of every discontented person in Cyprus, and take the truth of those complaints for granted. He thought that the experiments they had been trying and the progress they had made would be viewed very differently, when it came to be read by impartial critics, than it now appeared to be regarded by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that the Motion and the speech of the hon. Member for Reading might be resolved into two parts—first, the propriety or the impropriety of this Vote; and, secondly, a complaint that the Government had not fulfilled their promise as to placing before the House proper accounts of the Revenue and Expenditure of Cyprus. On the first question—the propriety of the Vote—the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted most fully what those who had preceded him in the debate had admitted in a less degree from the other side. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour) had invented the phrase "quasi-military Vote." The Under Secretary of State was a little more courageous, and said that the persons who were to be paid out of that Vote were doing military duty in maintaining the authority of the Government, in escorting treasure, and in occupying the position. The force was to perform precisely the duties that a military Force would have had to discharge; and, therefore, this Vote was simpliciter a military one, and Her Majesty's Government had consequently invaded the Rules of the Constitution by placing it among the Civil Estimates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer talked about a quid pro quo for the Sultan in regard to the occupation of Cyprus; but, last year, it had been 1584 asserted that the Island of Cyprus had been handed over to us by the Sultan as an equivalent for our defending his Asiatic possessions. The Government never condescended last year to such an argument as they had used to-day, an argument which, in effect, was that this was, after all, only a financial question, and that we were a species of political tenants paying as a rent this protection of the Island. Although the Government had had in their hands for the last nine months the estimates of the Revenue and of the Expenditure of Cyprus, they had not laid a single Paper in reference to the matter upon the Table of the House, the only excuse they offered for not doing so being that they had not quite settled the exact sum that was to be paid to the Sultan. Parliament had not been put in a fair position, in being asked to vote in a Civil Service Estimate, without any information as to the purposes for which it was needed, what was really a military charge. In his opinion, the hon. Member had completely made out his case against the Government, and he hoped that the House would take the same view of the matter.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 72: Majority 27.—(Div. List, No. 198.)
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.