HC Deb 24 October 1884 vol 293 cc154-5

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he can inform the House of the precise extent and situation of the coast line, and of the territory, comprised in the British Protectorate of New Guinea; whether the British authorities will have jurisdiction over the subjects of Foreign Powers, as well as over the Natives, within the Protectorate; and, whether all settlement within the Protectorate is, for the present, prohibited; and, if so, whether there is any precedent for such prohibition within the British Territory, and for how long it is to continue?


asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he will inform the House what arrangements the Government have made in connection with the proposed establishment of a British Protectorate in New Guinea; what amount of territory in the interior will be brought within British jurisdiction; and, whether the Government have come to an understanding with Germany as to the occupation by the latter Power of the northern part of the Island?


The instructions to the Commodore on the Australian Station are to proclaim the Queen's Protectorate over the whole of the Southern Coast of New Guinea, from the 141st meridian east longitude to East Cape, in Goschen's Straits, and over the adjacent Islands. Papers were laid on the Table of the House yesterday which contained an Admiralty chart showing the area in question. It is not possible, at present, to define the inland limits of the British Protectorate, as the country is unexplored and unknown; but its extent will be determined on the spot according to what local circumstances may demand. In reply to the second Question of the right hon. Gentleman, I have to say that British authority will have jurisdiction over the subjects of Foreign Powers as well as over Natives. As to the third Question, settlement within the Protectorate is at present forbidden; but it is intended that as soon as Her Majesty's Commissioner assumes charge, he shall, after consulting the Colonial Government, make such provision for the occupation of land as may sufficiently protect the interests of the Natives, and prevent collisions with them. I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that at the Colonial Convention, held at Sydney last year, there was a Resolution unanimously passed by the Delegates, that after the establishment of British jurisdiction in New Guinea, no acquisition of land should be permitted except through the Crown, and then only for missionary or trading purposes. As to the question of precedents, I am not sure that experience would not assist us more than precedent; but there are, no doubt, cases in which the occupation of land in countries under British Sovereignty and jurisdiction has been restricted; but I have not had time, owing to shortness of Notice, to hunt them up. It is, however, quite obvious that there would be collisions and outrages if land were taken over from the Natives of New Guinea without the control of a British officer. As to the Question whether the Government have come to an understanding with Germany with respect to the occupation of the Northern part of the Island by that Power, I have to answer it in the negative.