§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been called to the heavy export duties imposed by the Royal Niger Company on produce shipped from the Brass River and other effluents of the Niger; whether it is true that since August 3, 1888, palm kernels have been charged 2s. per cwt., and whether the impost was only 2d. in 1886; whether it has been alleged by traders that the now duty amounts to 25 or 30 per cent on the net value of the goods as landed in Liverpool, after deducting cost of freight, insurance, and other charges, and whether there is any reason to regard this estimate as excessive; whether the Company also demands a payment of £100 a-year from Native traders for licence to trade where they and their fathers had been accustomed to trade freely; what was the total amount of duties levied on the Brass River between August, 1887, and August, 1888, and on what was the money expended; and whether the Secretary of State will use the powers conferred on him by Articles 13 and 14 of the Company's Charter, to prevent restraint of trade and interference with Native rights?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
The Niger Company do not levy duties on goods imported by sea into the Brass River or any other outlet of the Niger, nor upon goods exported from them. The duty on palm kernels from the main Niger has been raised from 2d. to 2s. It has been alleged that this duty amounts to 25 per cent on the net value; but the Company say that it does not exceed 19 or 20 per cent—that is, £2 a-ton on a selling value of from £10 to £10 10s.; and they say that, considering the lowness of the cost price as compared with that in other districts, this duty is not excessive. The question, however, is being carefully examined. The Company do not demand a licence duty from Native traders of £100. The price has, at the suggestion of Her Majesty's Government, been fixed at £50 for one station, and £10 for each additional station. The licence is not paid by local Native traders, but by foreigners only. The Secretary of State will certainly exercise powers, should the necessity arise, to prevent restraint of trade and interference with Native rights.