HC Deb 05 March 1885 vol 295 cc125-6

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, having regard to the diplomatic engagement formerly made with France not to occupy the New Hebrides, to Mr. Meade's suggestion at Berlin that France should be allowed to take the New Hebrides, and to the diplomatic engagements recently made with Germany not to assume sovereignty over the North Coast of New Guinea, and not to occupy Samoa or Tonga, he will give a pledge that Her Majesty's Government will not surrender any more British rights in the Pacific Ocean until the Colonial governments interested and the British Parliament have had the opportunity of fully considering the interests of the British Empire in the Pacific?


The Question of the hon. and learned Gentleman rests upon certain assumptions which are set forth in the Preamble, and to which we are not able to accede. For example, with respect to the New Hebrides, our statement is this—that the engagement with France to maintain the neutrality of the New Hebrides continues in force, and that there has been no proposal that France should assume the Sovereignty of the New Hebrides, unless on terms satisfactory to the Australian Colonies. So far for the New Hebrides. As regards New Guinea, again, we think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has been inaccurately informed. There has been no such diplomatic engagements with Germany as to New Guinea as he supposes, and a telegram shows that the German annexation of New Guinea has not been made in any way by concert with the Government of this country, and not, therefore, by any surrender of any right on the part of this country. Then, again, with regard to Samoa and Tonga, I believe the fact is this—that Germany has fully maintained its engagement not to occupy Samoa or Tonga, and the German Government itself has expressly disowned the course taken by the German Consul in Samoa in hoisting the German flag there. There are statements to which references to Papers could be supplied to the hon. and learned Gentleman if he desires it; but that being so, we cannot allow that any British rights have been surrendered, and the Question of the hon. and learned Gentleman falls to the ground.