HC Deb 19 March 1889 vol 334 cc199-203

I desire to have an answer to a question which I put yesterday, with regard to the item of £60 for an expedition to Walfisch Bay. Is it not a fact that Walfisch Bay belongs to the Cape; and, if it belongs to the Cape, having been retained under the British flag in defence of Cape interests, I desire to know why the British taxpayer should be called upon to pay for this expedition and not the Cape Parliament? £60 is a very small matter, no doubt, but the principle involved is a large one, and whether the amount is £60 or £600,000, it appears to me that the principle is the same, and that the taxpayers of this country should not be called upon to pay the amount unless there is some reason for it. As to the whole question of South Africa involved in this Vote—that is to say, the extension of our Protectorate and the payment for 200 extra police—I may say that I was breakfasting this morning with the envoys of Lo Bengula. We have been told that Lo Bengula has asked Her Majesty's Government to step in, in order to deal with concession hunters, but the gentleman in charge of the envoys, who was once on the staff of Sir Charles Warren, declares that the envoys have not come to this country in connection with this question of concessions, but for apolitical object—namely, to seek the alliance of this country against the Boers and Portuguese. I do not wish to press the Under Secretary for the Colonies too hardly on this point. We must be content to leave discretion with the Colonial Office, as they are in possession of all the facts of the case, which we are not. I should be sorry to tie the hands of the Government, but at the same time I think they ought to give us such information on these subjects as they can offer without detriment to the public service.


As regards the 200 extra police required in Bechuanaland, perhaps the Under Secretary will be good enough to give us some explanation as to why information was not obtained from the Cape in reference to the case of Captain Se- grave, who was connected with this force, and dismissed for embezzlement. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how it is that it should take from the 19th December to the 20th March to get a reply from the Cape?


The point the hon. Gentleman raises has no reference whatever to the Vote before the House.


I beg pardon. I understand that the gallant Lieutenant was a member of the Bechuanaland force.


In answer to the question put to me by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, I have to say I thought I had answered him last night as to the Walfisch Bay Expedition. The item of £60 is inserted for the purpose of paying the expenses of Colonel Phillips, who was sent to Walfisch Bay to negotiate with the German representative with regard to a tract on the south-east of the Walfisch Bay Territory. There is an international question between this country and Germany, and as the negotiations are pending the House will understand that it is not possible for me to enter into details on the matter. Then, with regard to the statements the hon. Member referred to as being made to him at the breakfast with Lo Bengula's envoys, I have to point out that the gentleman who is conducting these natives has no authority to make any statement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, and Her Majesty's Government are in no way responsible for any statement of his.

*SIR J. SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

May I ask, where is the "Orange River Territory"? I thought I had some idea of the geography of South Africa, but I am at a loss to know where this territory is, and should like to have more information on the point.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

With reference to this Walfisch Bay mission, I should like to know when these negotiations will be completed, and when we shall be entitled to discuss the result? I do not think it is a proper thing to ask us to pay this £60 and yet refuse to give us any information on the subject. The more immediate question of interest, however, is in regard to some information which appears in this morning's newspapers in reference to the disturbances in the interior. I find from Reuter's telegram that one of our own people is creating disturbance, or at any rate, is mixed up with people who are rising and driving German settlers down to the coast.


There is nothing with regard to Damaraland in this Vote.


If the right hon. Gentleman knew as much about this territory as I do, he would be aware that Walfisch Bay is a little strip of territory cut out of Damaraland, and that, therefore, I am perfectly in order. Can the Under Secretary for the Colonies give us any information as to whether the disturbances I refer to are affecting our interests in Walfisch Bay? We have just had news of the slaughter of a number of our people in another part of the world, namely, in China, and I think the Government should consider whether it is not necessary to protect our people in Damaraland. As to the envoys of the Chief Lo Bengula, I think we are entitled to have some information as to what line of policy Her Majesty's Government proposes to pursue in regard to that country. The Colonial Office seems habitually devoid of information in respect of this territory in South Africa. There is a letter in an evening paper from Mr. Haggard, who has just returned from Matabeleland, and he states that though he is the last Englishman who has been in Lo Bengula's country, and offered to give Lord Knutsford information regarding the state of the country, his Lordship refused to see him on the ground that he had more pressing business to attend to. Not very long ago it was stated that we were going to assume some sort of indefinite Protectorate over the whole of this country, and I sincerely trust that Her Majesty's Government will not sanction the exploiting of this magnificent country for the benefit of two or three individuals connected with the Rhodes and Rudd concession. Mr. Haggard was refused permission to enter this territory, although he at last succeeded in doing so, and notices have been issued that nobody is to go into Matabeleland or Basutoland, and without going into the question whether we ought to assume responsibility for the whole of Matabeleland, I think we ought to avail ourselves of the opportunity of the presence of Lo Bengula's representatives in this conntry to see that no injustice is done to our people there. I am as opposed to wholesale annexation as anybody, but I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that, in Matabeleland with its great mining wealth you will soon have very considerable British interests. It is only reasonable when the opportunity presents itself that we should take measures to protect our interests hereafter, and that will be best done by carefully considering, and not by peremptorily rejecting, the request which has been referred to Her Majesty's Government by the envoys of Lo Bengula. I will not go the length of saying that we should appoint English Residents, but it must be obvious that it is impossible for the Chief Commissioner living in Cape Town to protect British interests so far from the seat of Government as Matabeleland. I trust that the Government will without undue delay afford us some reasonable opportunity of carefully discussing the whole of this important question, because if we do not go into it the time will come when we shall be involved in some stupid difficulties arising from our disinclination to face the questions of the day, which will involve us in the expenditure of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of pounds.


I hope an answer will be given to the question with regard to the Orange River Territory. We all know where the Orange Free State is; but as there is a new name we ought to know—


Order, order! I must remind the hon. and gallant Member that this Vote has nothing to do with the Orange River Territory.


As the Under Secretary for the Colonies has exhausted his right to speak, perhaps I may be allowed to answer the questions addressed to him. The matter principally touched upon by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Conybeare) were fully dealt with in the House last night, and if he had been here and heard my right hon. Friend's speech, or read it in the ordinary channels of information, his curiosity would have been amply gratified. He spoke of Damaraland, and although the hon. Gentleman's geographical knowledge of South Africa seems to be unexceptionable, I am afraid I cannot congratulate him upon his political knowledge of native territories. The district he referred to is not British territory but German territory, and we have nothing to do with it. As has already been stated, Her Majesty's Government will discountenance any attempt to create disturbance on the part of British subjects, but beyond that they have nothing whatever to do with Damaraland, and Damaraland has nothing whatever to do with the Vote before the House. With regard to Lo Bengula, as my right hon. Friend stated last night, communications have been addressed to the Chief, and until his views with reference to those communications are known, it is impossible for the Government to give any further information or any further pledge as to what their policy will be. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had attended in their places last night and discussed matters in Committee, there would have been no occasion to raise them on Report. As regards the other questions which have been put, if hon. Gentlemen who were not here last night desire to have them answered by the Under Secretary for the Colonies, and if they will give notice in the usual way and have their questions printed on the paper, no doubt answers will be returned.


I brought before the House subjects with regard to which information appeared in this morning's papers, therefore I do not see how I can justly be accused of dealing with matters which I might have discussed last night.

Resolution agreed to.