Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £60,366, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
On a point of Order I now ask whether the Motion of which I have given notice should have precedence of that of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings). My Motion refers to the first item—the salary of the Chief Secretary of State, but the Motion of the hon. Member has, I think, reference to the Vote generally.
I understand the hon. Member for Stockport wishes to raise the question of the propriety of certain items in the Vote. His notice 1034 was given long before that of the hon. Member for Glasgow, but if he chooses to waive his right, the hon. Member for Glasgow can proceed.
§ *MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)
My Motion refers to items under sub-head A, but I intend to discuss various salaries. I do not know whether I should he in order.
§ *MR. JENNINGS
This Vote shows a general tendency in the direction of a rise in the scale of salaries. The total sum now asked for is £70,366. In the first year of Lord Beaconsfield's administration, 1874–5, it was £61,713, so that there is an increase of £8,600 in the intervening period, and this large increase is one of the grounds on which I ask the Committee to reduce the Vote. There has been a general rise in the scale of almost all the salaries, and a totally new post worth £1,500 a-year has been created for an Under Secretary. The Committee will observe that the sum mentioned in the Vote does not by any means include the total expenditure of the Foreign Office. To arrive at that we must add £15,580 for stationery and printing.
The hon. Member is not now entering into Item A. He must now confine himself to that item.
§ *MR. JENNINGS
I shall keep to the sub-head with great accuracy and strictness. It will be observed that out of £48,211 paid for salaries no less than £42,649 goes to 78 persons. I think a glance at the figures will satisfy the Committee that nearly all these receive extravagant sums. The Secretary of State with his £5,000 a-year cannot be said to be overpaid, considering the great responsibility and the heavy work which attach to his office. Then I come to an Under Secretary with £2,000 a-year. That is probably the permanent Under Secretary, though it is not so stated in the Vote. After that there is entered another Under Secretary with a salary of £1,500 a-year. This is an inadequate sum for the ingenuity shown by the hon. Baronet (Sir James Fergusson) in answering questions on Foreign Affairs without imparting the slightest scrap of useful information. Then there are two Assistant Under Secretaries with £1,500 a-year each. So that there are four 1035 Under Secretaries costing £6,500 a-year. We have always understood that the most industrious Foreign Minister this country ever had was Lord Palmerston, and he contrived to do with only one Under Secretary. In the first year of Lord Beaconsfield's administration there was one Under Secretary less than there is now. In point of fact, the work which is now divided amongst four persons used to be done by three. But these Under Secretaries all have assistants, no doubt on the principle referred to in Swift's lines about the big fleas which have little fleas to bite them. So far as we can discover, the work of the Foreign Office is shifted from one pair of shoulders to another until it is really difficult to ascertain who does it, and still more difficult to ascertain what use it is when it is done. Very few of the assistant Under Secretaries are paid less than from £400 to £700 a-year as their regular salaries, yet if they are asked to write out the answers of the oracle transmitted to this House through the Under Secretary, they actually receive additional remuneration, so that they have the great advantage of being paid twice over for their time and trouble. This is the peculiarity of the office. First a clerk is paid a considerable sum for giving his whole time to the State, he is then taken aside to do something else, and he forthwith receives an additional salary for that. No doubt the answer will be the country is rich and can afford it. We are often told that people prefer to have a lavish expenditure of money in the public departments. Well, if that be so, they ought to be satisfied with the constitution of this office. It will also be observed that the persons in the office are accumulating very heavy pensions. There have been cases where clerks of from 30 to 35 years old have received pensions of from £200 to £300 a-year, and where persons after 10 or 12 years' service have gone off with still more substantial pensions. It may be said that this is deferred pay, but the salaries are so large as to leave no room for this, and, in fact, nothing is deferred except sometimes the work. The chief clerk gets a salary of £1,250 a-year, and also a compensation allowance of £794 a-year. This gentleman has never been anything but a clerk in the Foreign Office so far as I can find out, and 1036 why he should have this compensation allowance we can only darkly conjecture. He probably has come to the conclusion that as times go this is not a bad country to live in. Then we have five senior clerks receiving £1,000 a-year each, and seven assistant clerks receiving £800 a-year each, and this in an office where the work is mostly put out. The most substantial commercial house would not dream of paying such salaries. Immense time, of course, is spent in dealing with correspondence which is of no earthly significance to any human being. The work could be done equally efficiently by clerks at £150 or £200 a-year, and would be so done in an ordinary commercial office. I maintain that the apparatus worked by these expensive clerks is of no benefit to the nation; it has seldom done any good, and it h s often done irreparable harm. We should have had fewer wars and difficulties with Foreign Powers if half the system had been swept away long ago. There are 20 junior clerks with £200 a-year to start with. In April 1879 there were only 10. These junior clerks are now getting £i00 a-year each. I affirm that there is no commercial house in the whole of the kingdom who would pay clerks of the description, required to attend only from 11 to 5, and whose duties are of the lightest description, more than from £100 to £200 a-year. Their work is light; as soon as the streets of London begin to feel a little warm they have a month or six weeks' holiday, they are accumulating large pensions, and their duties are arranged chiefly by themselves. Then there is the Librarian and keeper of the papers at £1,000, besides another of the mysterious compensation allowances of £389 a-year. The librarian of the British Museum only receives £1,200 a-year, and I think it highly probable that he has more important papers and books to take care of than the librarian of the Foreign Office. No doubt there are treaties to look after, but their importance is a matter open to very considerable question. There is, however, a special major-domo to look after these treaties, and he is down on this lucky list for £898 a-year. He has an assistant with a salary of £559, while the other librarian has an assistant at £575, two first class clerks receiving £950, four 1037 second class clerks with £1,439, four third class clerks with £762, and ten temporary clerks with £1,000. I say that such a librarian's department has never been heard of before outside Bedlam. The superintendent of Treaties, most of which are so stone-dead that they require no superintendence of any kind, gets £900 a-year. The keeper of the MSS. at the British Museum only gets £750 a-year, and the keeper of printed books the same amount. What are the duties of this gentleman at the Foreign Office? Part of his duty is to attend to British and Foreign Orders, medals, honorary rewards, questions of ceremony and precedence, and other mouldy trappings of the great sham which the Foreign Office represents. If the whole litter were taken outside this House, and thrown into the river, the country would be all the better off. As no one has the slightest interest in looking after the public money in this Department, it contrives to muddle away over £15,000 a-year in stationery and printing. You might paper the Foreign Office an inch thick with the stationery that is wasted there every year. It spends £8,500 in telegrams, although diplomatic telegrams are specially charged for under another heading. We ought to apologize for mentioning in such company the persons of low birth stationed at the Foreign Office, but unfortunately such persons there must be. I hope the Committee will notice with respectful admiration that the office keeper has £250 a-year and quarters rent free, and, therefore, he is far better off than many clergymen and barristers. I hope there are not many barristers and country parsons who would presume to put themselves on a level with the office keeper at the Foreign Office. He has of course plenty of assistants, in accordance with the sound principle of the office, that no man should do anything if he can get somebody else to do it for him. Accordingly we find him surrounded with seven other office keepers, and three doorkeepers, mostly receiving from £100 to £150 a-year each. People talk about bringing up their sons to the professions, but it would be much better to bring them up as office keepers under Government. They would then be certain of receiving a very good salary, quarters rent free, and a good pension. 1038 No one can entertain a reasonable doubt that if this office fell into the hands of a person who managed it on strictly business principles, there would be a large decrease of cost with no sacrifice of efficiency. We shall be told, I have no doubt, that it is absolutely indispensable to pay good salaries, because persons of a superior class must be employed. I do not see the necessity for it. All the country needs is to have efficient clerks who will do their duty. From what I have observed, the heads of most Departments are underpaid and overworked, but otherwise the scale of salaries is absurdly out of proportion to the work done. I daresay it will be intimated by the Under Secretary, that if this Amendment be adopted, the British Empire will be placed in a position of considerable jeopardy. One peculiarity of the British Empire is that it seems to be always in a position of jeopardy, and, if we cut down the bloated salaries of the Foreign Office, it will be no worse off than it is already. Another objection to these criticisms was put to me the other day in something like this form "If we get rid of all these snug berths under Government, what are we to do with our younger sons?" That is a problem which we shall have to face before very long, but England has been making provision for younger sons for a very long time, and there are many signs that the people are getting weary of doing so, and intend in the future to exact honest service for the salaries paid. It will probably be said that the office generally is in a state of automatic increase. Automatic is a very delightful word to the official ear, but it will not satisfy, I hope, the feeling of the country, which demands a thorough reform of these Departments. I would earnestly express a hope that the Committee will not be deterred from adopting the Amendment I propose to move, by the suggestion that no good will come of it. I maintain that very considerable good has come from these discussions in Supply. Only last year a reduction of a Vote was moved and not accepted at the time, but a much greater reduction has been carried out this year. My proposal may not be accepted to-night, but if the general rule is followed, the effect will be shown in succeeding years. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
1039 Motion made and Question proposed, "That item A, of £48,211, for salaries, be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Jennings.)
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) Manchester, N.E.
I venture to think there has seldom been an attack made on a Department, and a reduction moved in the Estimates 'on weaker grounds. The hon. Member might have been expected to adduce something to support his sweeping assertions that the office was overmanned with men who were overpaid, and that no work was done, but the unfounded assertion appears to be evolved out of his own imagination. He has given no proof of it, and I can tell him that it is as unfounded as it is absurd. The hon. Member has not had the courtesy or consideration, which I have experienced from Members sitting in all parts of the House, who having regard to the many affairs for which I have to answer, have given some notice of the subjects to which they propose to draw attention. I have received several letters from hon. Members, mentioning points to which they desire to call attention; the hon. Member, however, has not been so courteous or considerate; but that is his way. It is the course he chose to adopt, and the tone that ran through his speech was consistent with it. There has been no addition made to our establishment that has not been asked for, and the reasons for which have not been required by the Treasurer with great particularity; and Committees have been appointed to inquire into the strength of establishments and the reasons for every appointment. No addition has been made to this office for which there has not been absolute necessity in the opinion of responsible Members of successive Administrations. He has referred particularly to the addition of an Assistant Under Secretary. Well, Sir, that addition was made 15 years ago in order to afford assistance to the growing amount of legal business brought before the Foreign Office. The amount of ordinary work in the office has more than doubled during the last 30 years. An actual saving was effected on the appointment of a legal assistant, because the salary is only half of what it was necessary to pay previously to a 1040 member of the Bar. The work of the office is necessarily distributed among Departments with a responsible head for each, and without such responsibility and division the office would be inefficient and ill-arranged. We have relations and correspondence with many countries, and our business with these countries, singly or in groups, must be divided among the responsible chiefs of divisions. There is, for instance, an American, an Eastern, a Western, an African, and a Consular Department, each embracing a great variety of interests and a large amount of responsible business. The Under Secretaries divide between them the Superintendence of the Departments. Our constantly increasing commercial relations also entail a large amount of labour on those employed in the Foreign Office, and I do not think that office is overmanned, the fact being that the gentleman engaged there never spare themselves and never think of limiting their duties to the statutory number of hours. If you were to go to the Foreign Office at seven or eight o'clock at night you would find many gentlemen engaged there in the transaction of important business.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
They do not, indeed. Nor is the work shifted about from one person to another, as each person has his own work and must manage to do it. With respect to Private Secretaryships, the Foreign Office is not peculiar, and the Under Secretaries would find it impossible without such help to get through the work of the Department. Reference has been made to the Chief Clerk and to the Librarian, and I may say that the Chief Clerk is a most responsible officer and a valuable public servant. He has worked his way in the service and performs important duties. As to the Librarian, complaint has been made of his having a salary of £1,000 a year. In answer to that I would point out that his duties are of the most important character; and hon. Members will probably be able to appreciate how necessary it is to the Secretary of State and other Members of the Government to be able to have at their immediate command precise information with I regard to previous transactions relating 1041 to every country in the world, and that all papers in connection with commercial treaties and historical matters of the highest importance shall be thoroughly accessible. It is therefore very desirable that we should have all our records in the most perfect order, so that there should be no mistake in regard to any of them. In my opinion there is no salary better earned than that of the Librarian, Sir Edward Hertslet, who enjoys a world-wide reputation. In regard to the matter of stationery, I may say that I am unaware of any waste going on in the Department. There is necessarily a large amount of stationery used, but I believe that, generally speaking, there has been a steady and continuous effort to promote economy. In regard to the item of telegrams, the estimate has this year been reduced by the sum of £1,500. No doubt the salaries of the office keepers are high, but it is worth while to pay well not only where we get good work done, but when we must rely with absolute confidence on those whom we employ. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jennings) thinks we might have as good clerks as we require for £350 a year; and there I join issue with him. The competition for appointments in the Foreign Office, it is true, is limited, and it is necessary in such a service not only to have efficiency, but to have men whom we can implicitly trust. Since I have been at the Foreign Office the gentlemen who have been admitted to that service have all been men whose abilities would have done credit to any employment. There are necessarily secrets in the department for the divulgence of which large sums would gladly be paid — of which there cannot be a doubt. Just imagine for a moment what some of the secrets of the Foreign Office would be worth for Stock Exchange purposes; and yet there is the most absolute confidence in all the officials there employed, and no gentleman in that office can be charged with breach of confidence, or even with indiscretion. These are reasons why we should pay good salaries, and at the same time I may state that we have no idle men. I think it will require something more than the general allegations of the hon. Member opposite to deprive those gentlemen of the confidence of the country, or to establish a charge of 1042 extravagance against the office which I have the honour to represent.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I do not think the right hon. Baronet has shown his usual kindliness or fairness in the reply he has just given to the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings), to whom I think the right hon. Gentleman might have given credit for aiding in the economies of which he has spoken. I do not intend to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the general remarks he has addressed to the Committee, but I will call attention to the fact that it is admitted that the expense of the Foreign Office is very high. I think that when we have obtained from the Under Secretary for the Foreign Office the admission that the cost of that Department is very high, hon. Members 'who are not connected with that office may agree that it is too high. I will only add that if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport goes to a division, I shall vote with him so as to record my protest against the manner in which that service is conducted.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
Sir, we on this side of the House think the hon. Member for Stockport has thrown a great deal of light on this subject. For myself, I have some reluctance in attacking these salaries without the necessary information. I do not know whether this particular office is now under the consideration of the Royal Commission, which, I believe, is concerning itself with the civil establishments as a whole, but there are some things on the surface of the Vote to which I would like to call the attention of the Committee. An immense deal of this work must be merely clerical. It is all very well to tell us that there are most distinguished men in the Department, and I am quite willing to believe that these people work very hard; but there is an immense number of people employed in merely clerical work. I think the right hon. Baronet has not attempted to answer the hon. Member for Stockport. He has limited his answer entirely to superior persons, and he has told us how able and distinguished they are. And in one portion of his answer it came out that the Foreign Office does not limit itself to materially benefiting those distinguished servants, but that they receive titular dignities, 1043 in addition to their salaries. As to the Librarian's Department, I think we see the full force of everything said by the hon. Member for Stockport. It is undoubtedly true that the Foreign Minister should have an ample library relating to foreign places and treaties, but you have, I suppose, the Treaty Department which supplies the information wanted as to treaty relations. There is something radically wrong in this Librarian's Department. I see there are 12 permanent officials engaged in the library, and 10 temporary clerks. That appears to be an enormous staff, even to do the most important work of the character described by the right hon. Gentleman. Again, their salaries amount to about £6,175. I am not sure whether I have made the calculation correctly, but it is above £6,000, which is an enormous expenditure. Instead of receiving with indignation, as I am afraid he did, the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport, the right hon. Baronet ought in the interests of economy to have welcomed the criticism. For my own part, the only objection I have to the excellent and enlightening speech of the hon. Member for Stockport, is that he did not move a larger reduction than that which he proposed.
§ MR. HANBURY (Blackburn)
I do not wish to say anything about the Foreign Office, which will come before the Royal Commission on Civil Establishments, but I would like to say, from the experience of that Commission, that unless the Foreign Office is a great deal different from the other Civil Service Establishments it will require a good deal of altering. I certainly do not think the right hon. Baronet Las answered any portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport. We who are interested in the discussion of the Civil Service Estimates and in bringing about economy do lay great stress on the manner in which the right hon. Baronet has answered my hon. Friend. He must not suppose that hurling charges of discourtesy against hon. Members will in any way answer his purpose. As far as I am concerned, I am not going to be deterred by answers of that kind, and I am quite sure that, now these discussions are originated from both sides of the House, we will expect a little fuller and 1044 more courteous answers when we bring forward Motions of this kind.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport has spoken of the character of the work at the Foreign Office, and I think there can be no doubt that while some money might be saved, and the hours in some cases made longer, yet so far as the duties are concerned, there is no public office where the work is better done than in the Foreign Office. Comparison has been made between the salaries in commercial houses and the Foreign Office; but I am perfectly certain there are no clerks in commercial houses who are entrusted with secrets of the importance which must come under the notice of clerks in the Foreign Office. I believe that if the clerks in the Foreign Office served for honours and without salary, they would not betray their trust; still I think on the ground of expedience, it is well to remove all cause of temptation, and on that ground there is some recompense for paying a higher rate of salary. I do not in the least mean to say that the Foreign Office may not be capable of reform, but certainly from my short experience of it I am clearly of opinion that the character of the work done deserves praise.
§ MR. MOLLOY
My hon. Friend would appear to have very little experience indeed, especially judging from his last observations, in which he compared commercial establishments with the Foreign Office, and remarked that they were not subject to the same conditions as those which obtain at the Foreign Office. His support of the Foreign Office amounted to this—that there you have such important work that you must have men upon whom you can depend; that is to imply, that if you employed clerks at a lower salary you would have men upon whom you could not depend. My hon. Friend, in his anxiety to support this Vote, has really done much more harm than good. Now, I wish to draw attention to this fact, that upon every occasion of a debate about any public department, we are given the stereotyped answer which we have received to night. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs commenced by saying he had never heard of an attack made upon weaker grounds; he had never heard such sweeping as- 1045 sertions; and he complained that the hon. Member who moved the reduction knew perfectly well that the whole of the accusations were unfounded. Unfounded! I thought the hon. Member went through every one of these details. He pointed out the large salary of the Librarian. Was that unfounded? He pointed out the details with regard to these Under Secretaries. Was that unfounded? In Lord Palmerston's time, when there was more to do at the Foreign Office than now, there were not so many Under Secretaries. Within the last 15 years we have added another Under Secretary at a salary of £1,500 a year, and we have largely increased the staff. When the Under Secretary said that these accusations were unfounded, I certainly thought he was going to give us some explanation. What explanation did he give us? He said that no increase was made without the consent of the Treasury. Those of us who have examined for some years past into these matters know exactly what that means. It is not of the slightest importance, and is no check upon extravagances. On the first day of this Session, when we had the Estimates before us, I made an attack on the Department on the ground of extravagance and the large number of clerks employed. Identically the same answer was given on that occasion as has been given on this. But the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs on that occasion did condescend to something like details. He said the Head Clerk had also to do legal work.
§ MR. MOLLOY
The whole excuse amounts to this. The Assistant Under Secretary must have some legal knowledge. I am not saying he has not such knowledge, or that he is not a good man. Then the right hon. Gentleman pleaded another excuse, and that was that each of these gentlemen had his own department and his own share of the work to look after. One man attended to the correspondence with Consuls. Of course he does. Nobody supposed you would give a man £1,500 a year for doing nothing. Then he said that another man attended to commercial matters. Of course he does. And so he went on, from one class to another, and pleaded this excuse as a justifi- 1046 cation for the large salaries which are being paid. But I ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, is such an excuse any explanation of the accusation that extravagance prevails in this office? Next, dealing with the necessity for having reliable men in the Foreign Office, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that there were very valuable secrets, and that unless the officials were highly paid they would accept the bribes which were offered to them to disclose these secrets. I ventured to dissent from that view, and the right hon. Gentleman at once said, "Oh, yes; look at the Stock Exchange, and what they would pay for those secrets." I hope he did not mean to make any accusation against the Stock Exchange, and I trust he will take this opportunity of saying he did not, for his remarks will be reported in the papers, and if he does not take this opportunity they will have a very ugly bearing. I hope he will say that he did mean to cast any imputation upon the gentlemen of the Stock Exchange, or to suggest that they would bribe anyone in order to get hold of the secrets of the Foreign Office. If it is necessary to have reliable officers in this department, is it not equally necessary to have them in other departments? You can, for £150 a year, get men of position and education and family as it is called, for employment as clerks, and if you can do that in other departments, why cannot you do it in the Foreign Office? The whole history of the Foreign Office is this. It has been used in times past to provide positions for the younger sons of certain families. Men of position who have desired to find appointments for their sons have pestered Ministers, and I can quite understand the vast amount of pestering which Ministers have undergone. In times not long ago these positions were made and these large salaries were given in order to satisfy the demands of political friends, who asked for provision for the younger members of their families. Of course you cannot blame the present Government for that, but you can ask them to examine into this matter and see whether the salaries cannot be reduced and the work done with fewer people. The taxation arising from these public offices is enormous, and I am glad to find that it is not only on one 1047 side of the House that a desire is growing up to reduce these heavy burdens. I am glad to know that there is a growing determination to have no more queen bees in the public service, and to employ no man unless he does honest work for honest wages.
§ *SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I am most anxious to give all the information in my power when proper questions are asked. The hon. Member for Dundee has asked, for instance, why it is necessary there should have been additional clerks employed in the library. I will give him an answer. The amount of correspondence has so enormously increased that, whereas four years ago under twenty-four thousand papers had to be registered and indexed every year, now the number is eighty thousand, and the consequence has been that for some time the staff has not been sufficiently strong to cope with this work. Hence there has been an accumulation of papers, amounting to nearly a million, and in order to work off these arrears ten temporary clerks have been engaged, and it is calculated that they will complete their task in five years; while, by a permanent addition of four lower division clerks, it is hoped that the work of registration and indexing will not again fall into arrear. I exceedingly regret that hon. Members do not think I have replied adequately to the remarks of the hon. Member for Stockport. I think he rather spoilt the justice of his case by assuming that these posts were light and genteel, and enormously overpaid, and that the salaries were bloated. In my early days in this House. it was not thought that public servants who were doing their duty were proper objects for ridicule and comment of this sort. Let me remind the Committee that the Royal Commission on Public Offices has not yet dealt with the Foreign Office. It will shortly do so, and hon. Members may feel assured that the office will receive a searching examination, and if the care which, I believe, has been given by Ministers and by the Treasury, as guardians of the public purse, is found not to have effected such economies as are necessary—if it is found that the office is overmanned and under- worked, it will all come out; you may depend upon that. The hon. Member for King's County declares that the office was as much em- 1048 ployed in Lord Palmerston's time as it is now. I can assure him that there is no comparison whatever between the two periods in respect of the necessary correspondence entailed by inquiries of all kinds which have been conducted.
§ *SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Well, Sir, if there were more foreign complications then than now I think the country is doing very well by paying a little more money in order to keep out of these complications. Probably the best of the Foreign Office work is never heard of, and that work is the avoidance of these complications. In conclusion, I venture to submit to the Committee that no case has been made out for the reduction of any part of this Vole.
§ *MR. JENNINGS
It appears to me that the case I presented to the House remains entirely untouched. I followed the Estimates closely, and if my statements with regard to them are unfounded, it is because the Estimates themselves are erroneous. As to the curious charge that I gave no notice of my intention to take this course, let me remind the hon. Baronet that notice of my intention to reduce the Vote has been on the paper nearly two months, and surely it is not expected that in addition to giving that notice I am to supply further details. I presumed it would be taken for granted that any Member moving to reduce a Vote would necessarily refer to the Estimates. However, the next time I give notice of such an Amendment, I will send in a copy of the Estimates. One is always very glad to take a lesson in courtesy from the hon. Baronet. I am sure we could not go to a better person for it, but I never knew before that a Minister expected to be supplied with a full précis of a Member's criticism beforehand. Let me now point out that he has left every fact which I brought forward unchallenged. I am glad to have this opportunity of ascertaining how many Conservatives there are on these Benches who are ready to fulfil the pledges which I constantly hear them make to their constituents that they will endeavour to secure economy, retrenchment and reform. They have now an opportunity of acting on their pledges, and I therefore ask the Committee to take a division on this Vote.
1049 Question put.
The House divided:—Ayes, 63; Noes, 84.—(Div. List No. 91.)
Original Question again proposed.
§ *SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c)
I desire, Sir, to move the reduction of the salary of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (the Marquess of Salisbury) by the small sum of £100. I do so not by way of finding fault with the individual policy of the Secretary of State, but rather because it seems to me that he does not sufficiently adhere to that policy and I hope to elicit some declaration respecting it, and that the Committee may strengthen his hands. For my own part, I believe that, comparatively speaking, the foreign affairs of this country have been better managed than they usually are, and, individually, I am inclined very much to adhere to the views of the present Foreign Secretary as enunciated by himself. What I complain of is that he does not seem sufficiently to adhere to those views, and I think he is apt to be driven out of them by company mongers, adventurers, and soon. I wish especially to call attention to the present scramble for the great Continent of Africa, and to obtain some indications of the policy of the Government on the subject. It is a matter of continual regret to me that that dreadful Irish Question, like Aaron's Rod, so much swallows up other questions. So much attention is devoted to Irish subjects, from the clothes of one hon. Member to the incarceration of another, that foreign affairs are not now discussed by the body of Radical Members who used to pay so much attention to them. I was reading the other day an article written a few years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) in which he alluded to the risk that we might be carried on from the Nile right through the interior of Africa to our colonial possessions in South Africa. Though I am not in favour of annexation or the subjugation of native races, I am free to confess that the circumstances of Africa are such, the anarchy prevailing there is such, the system of slavery is such, that I believe it would be a benefit that much of the Continent should be dominated and taken charge of by 1050 European Powers. The question is, what part are we to take in the scramble which is going on? I am very much against trying to turn out the civilized Mahommedan Powers, who exercise great civilizing influence over a large part of Africa. I would suggest to the Government that we ought to have a decided policy. We ought not to drift or to have our policy decided by the aims and ambitions of company-mongers and adventurers. I believe that if the Foreign Secretary would let us know what his policy is in this matter the House of Commons would probably support him, and he would be much stronger and more able to withstand the pressure to which I have alluded. The present policy of the Foreign Office so far as it regards the generous and handsome manner in which they meet Germany and other powers in these matters is a good policy. It is not right that we should seek to monopolize the whole world; we ought to share it with other Powers, and therefore in that respect I have no fault to find with the foreign policy of the Government. I do, however, somewhat regret the Zanzibar country, full as it has been for many years of British Indian subjects and of enterprising traders, that it should be handed over to German dominion; but still, what is done is done, and it is of no use now complaining. I fear, however generous and reasonable may be the spirit evinced by the Government, there is great danger likely to arise in the scramble now going on in the great Continent of Africa, and therefore it behoves the Government to be wary, and to ensure that they have the support of the House of Commons at their back in order that they may be able to maintain their own nights in the interests of this country. When I look around Africa it seems to me that although the principles enunciated by the Government are good, they have no fixed practice. Let me say a few words on the Soudan question. Looking at the last Blue Book published respecting affairs in the Soudan and at Suakin, I become more and more puzzled as to what is the real policy of the Government in regard to this country. I have already congratulated them on the successful way in which the expedition to Suakin was carried out, and its operations limited under the 1051 pressure of Radical Members, but what I wish to point out is that since our expedition has returned the Egyptian troops have again become the aggressors, have advanced miles into the interior of the Soudan and have plundered peaceful traders. This is very much to be regretted. Now I have not been able to find out what is the policy of the Government in regard to this matter, and I must say that the last Blue Book published has a most extraordinary termination. In the month of January last Sir E. Baring sent a long dispatch in which he gives the views of different people in connection with this matter, and he asks the Government what course is to he followed. I find that the new Governor General at Suakin is under the direction of the General commanding at Cairo, who in turn is controlled by Reaz Pasha, the Egyptian Prime Minister. In his dispatch Sir E. Baring encloses a paper showing that the Egyptian Prime Minister's policy has not changed in the least degree, and that he still desires the re-occupation of portions of the Soudan. Now these views having been communicated to Her Majesty's Government, I naturally looked to the end of the despatch to see what the views of Her Majesty's Government are. And here is the only result:—Foreign Office, February 12, 1889.I have received and laid before the Queen and the Cabinet your despatch and enclosures relative to the policy to be pursued in the Suakim, and the situation at Suakin. I have read with great interest the papers furnished by Sir Francis Grenfell, Col. Kitchener, and your own observations upon it, and I have to offer you my best thanks for the lucid exposition which you have offered on the past and present condition of the question.That is all we have of the views of the Foreign Secretary, and of the Government. Now Sir, this is an important question. The Egyptian Prime Minister is practically pledged to try to re-occupy the Soudan, and I think we have a right to ask the Government to give us some indication of their view, in regard to the occupation of the Soudan, and they ought to let us know whether they are now as firm as they were two or three months ago in their intention to abandon it, or whether they intend to allow Reaz Pasha, General Grenfell, and Colonel Kitchener to carry on a little aggressive war on their own account. Do the Government still adhere to the views 1052 which they held two or three months ago? If so they must prohibit these aggressive proceedings. But after this question of the Soudan comes that of the Equatorial provinces, which are held by that gallant man Emin Pasha. There has been great anxiety in many quarters to go to Emin's relief, but probaby there is behind this an anxiety to relieve him of the provinces of which he is possessed, and to hand them over to one or other of the nations interested. The Imperial East African Company is one of the organizations which, while professing great and lofty ambitions, are apparently aiming at the Equatorial Provinces and that not, by a system of concilliation alone, but by the help of rougher methods, and I fear that in pursuing their object they will bring us into antagonism with the Germans. I know that this African Company claims to be very virtuous, and is inclined to cry out "Thank God we are not as these Germans," but from a letter from the manager of the Company which I have seen I am inclined to think that their method is not altogether that of conciliation. I want to know, do the Government intend to encourage this company and other British subjects, in their attempt to acquire a large share of Central Africa. And now I come to the Nyassa Region, where there is apparently a war being carried on by subscription. Again I want to know what is the attitude of the Government in this matter. To all appearance a private company is carrying on war in the region of Lake Nyassa, and we use diplomatic influence to get arms passed to them through Portuguese territory, while an officer on the active list of Her Majesty's Army, is in command of the aggressive forces. It is said to be a war directed against slave-trading Arabs; to be a war of Christianity against slave dealers; but I believe there is another view to be taken of this matter. The other day I went to Exeter Hall—A place I do not very often go to. There there were Archbishops and Bishops, and even these are sometimes reasonable men. I heard a great deal of declamation about putting down slavery and promoting Christianity, and after that we had on the platform another gentleman, a converted captain. I naturally ex- 1053 pected to hear something still more fiery, but to my astonishment he turned out to be an extraordinarily fair, reasonable, moderate man. He told us that the Arabs are not so bad as they are painted, and the responsibility for the fighting does not altogether rest upon them. A confirmation of this news is given in a letter which has been published in Scotland from a responsible resident in Zanzibar, who states that the Sultan sent au agent to negotiate terms, that this agent requested that operations might be suspended for a certain time, but that the company refused to wait more than ten days, and on the eleventh day proceeded to extremities. In the first day's fighting, however, the agent of the company was wounded. If the advice which was offered had been followed, a settlement would have been more easily obtained. The situation illustrates the extreme inconvenience of the Government allowing a private war to be carried on by those over whom they have no control. I hope we shall now have some explanation of the policy of the Government. It ought to be stated whether the Government will now take the responsibility of controlling this aggressive trading company or whether the Government will announce that they will absolutely withdraw from all responsibility in the matter. And now I come to the question of South Africa—a matter which I believe rather belongs to the Colonial Office. Still, after what we heard the other day from the Prime Minister, I think we ought to have a clear and distinct statement of the policy of the Government. In regard to Bechuanaland—
§ *SIR GEO. CAMPBELL
I only intend to refer to it in general terms, but it must be remembered that the late speech of Sir Hercules Robinson was to the effect that the Imperial Government had no longer any place in South Africa. I will not argue the policy.
§ *SIR GEO. CAMPBELL
I only wish to impress upon the Government that they should declare in general terms what their policy is. I can only say in conclusion that we had better concentrate our energies in South Africa 1054 and leave the rest of the Continent to other European Powers.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
The Amendment which I have placed on the Paper refers to some of the subjects which have already been discussed, and I desire to call especial attention to the attitude of the Government in connection with the Nyassa war, but before doing so I wish to say a word or two about Samoa. Some time ago I asked a question about a British subject at Samoa being taken prisoner by a German man-of-war, and released only after strong remonstrance from the commander of a British man-of-war, and in the answer given papers were promised; but, although papers have been produced, they do not contain anything about the case. Papers of a later date than those produced in this country have been issued by the Governments of Germany and the United States. I know that the Samoan business is to be dealt with by a Congress; but still, an outrage has been committed upon a British subject, and the House and the country ought to be made aware of the precise circumstances, not for the sake of censuring Germany for a wrong which has been disowned, but in order that pressure may be brought to bear for the individual who has been wronged. With regard to the events in the Nyassa region, the attitude of the Government is one involving very great danger; at the best it is a bad precedent, and it is altogether unfair to individuals. The district has been opened up by British exploration, which has been followed by missionary settlements and the advent of a trading company, with the protection and almost with the patronage of Her Majesty's Government. When hostilities broke out there were two of our Consuls on the spot, and one of them, I believe, beat up auxiliaries for the company among the friendly tribes. The company offered, if it received a charter, to maintain a gunboat on the lake and to preserve peace and order. But the Government would not consent to operations involving the landing of troops, as a march into the interior was impracticable. It is said that the Government has intervened to get munitions of war passed through the Portuguese Customs, and yet Lord Salisbury told a deputation 1055 that persons out there, missionaries and traders, must rely upon themselves, and must arm for their own protection. I venture to say that this trading company has been encouraged to carry on warlike operations in Africa by the Government, and that they have consequently embarked on this filibustering warfare on their own account. Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister himself told the deputation that waited on him that the persons out there, these traders and missionaries must rely upon themselves and protect themselves by force of arms? As I look upon the matter, in the light of the law laid down in a case brought before the House by Sir Charles Dilke, any British subject who commits in any country not under a recognized Government any act of war, who shoots or kills, or does anything of that sort, is liable according to our law to the same penalty as if he committed the act on British territory. Now, I hold that the reply of the Prime Minister to the deputation was an incitement to break the law quite as much as incitements we have heard so much of in this House. Munitions of war have been sent out to carry on war, and I believe that small cannons were sent and passed through the Portuguese Customs by the intervention of our Government. But the most humiliating feature of the case, if it is true, is this. Some war rockets were required, and I believe application was made to the Foreign Office for a permit from the Portuguese Government, but the applicants were told that the Portuguese Government made so much fuss about other munitions of war sent out that they had better be sent out on the quiet. They were so sent, and they were detected by the Portuguese authorities, and the British Consul at Quilimané has absolutely been put in prison for assisting in the attempt to smuggle these rockets into the country without declaring them to the Portuguese Government. Is it true that the British Consul was imprisoned for assisting in this attempt, and that at the instance of the Home Government? If so, it is a most disgraceful thing, especially after the answer we have heard to-day that the Government have not abandoned and will not abandon their contention that the Zambesi is a navigable river. Why, if that be so, we have a right to 1056 send these war rockets into the interior, and we should at once have called upon the Portuguese Government to release our Consul. In any case, to allow a British Consul to go to prison for complicity in smuggling, acting as he believed according to the desire of his own Foreign Office, is a state of humiliation and degradation that I did not think the present Administration would sink to. But recently the Portuguese have gone further. They have marched into the interior and hoisted their flag in the Nyassa district, and practically have annexed it. That statement appeared in the press the other day, and I asked a question upon it, and certainly it was not denied. Now I believe there is some dispute as to the true boundary of the Portuguese sphere of influence in Central Africa, but there is no contention, I believe, that they have any right to extend their sphere of influence so high as our settlements in the Nyassa district. If there is any place in Central Africa where we have interests to guard, and where it is desirable our influence should be exercised, it is the district to which what I am saying relates. If the Portuguese had been there in sufficient force to compel the observance of law and order, to put down disturbances and outrages that have taken place there, well and good. I will not say who is to blame. I do not agree with my hon. Friends that the missionaries and trading companies are to blame; but if any civilized Government had sufficient force there to put down this irregular filibustering warfare I should welcome the annexation with pleasure. But the Portuguese annexation is purely nominal. Some years ago they took Quilimané, and they were only able to hold it against the natves by the assistance of these very trading companies whom they are now attempting to kill by closing the Zambesi river. If the Zambesi is according to International Law a navigable river it is not liable to be closed at all by any Government. Why not enforce the right of navigation? There was a hint of a gunboat being sent for. Why was it not sent for when our Consul was put in prison? I have been always a consistent advocate of a peaceful policy, but while I advocate a peaceful policy I also advocate the protection of British 1057 subjects abroad. The Portuguese Government cannot require much pressure. At all events my complaint is that the Government do not pursue one policy or the other. I should not object if they said to these missionaries and traders "You have no right to be there; you must clear out; you can only be allowed to defend your lives by force of arms, but you must not go beyond that, and we will not allow our Consuls and officers to take part in these warlike operations." That is an intelligent policy that might be defended. On the other hand, the Government might say we have interests to defend, and then intimate to Portugal that we must have access for means of defence to this district of Nyassa. They might insist on acting on the contention that the Zambesi is a navigable river which it is not lawful for any single nation to close against the commerce of the world. But the Government have done neither; they have refused to take any responsibility for the state of matters in the Nyassa district, and, on the other hand, they have sent their Consul and military officers there to mix themselves up in warlike operations; they have interceded with the Portuguese Government to allow offensive weapons of war to be carried inland to carry on an aggressive war—I do not mean an aggressive war for purposes of annexation, but an aggressive war carried on for strategic reasons. They have done this; they have encouraged a breach of British law and given encouragement to filibustering, and with what result? The British subjects who, with the sanction and approval of the British Government and at the incitement of the Prime Minister, are conducting these filibustering expeditions, are, in the eyes of international law, nothing but filibusters and pirates, and any civilized country exercising influence over the district would be justified in treating them as such and hanging them, and we should have no right to interfere. This is the position in which the Government have put themselves by their vacillation, by their neglect to declare the rights and wrongs of the matter by international law. Men are taking part in these filibustering expeditions without the slightest idea that they are offending 1058 against International Law; for when they find their actions sanctioned, as they suppose, by the Government and encouraged by the words of the Prime Minister, they naturally consider they are in the right, though from the point of view of International Law their action is wholly unjustifiable. Another course quite in accord with International Law was open to the Government. They might have given the charter asked for by the Trading Company, following the precedent set with the Niger Company, the North Borneo Company, and other companies. If they had done that we should then at least have had a recognized company recognizing their responsibility, and the Government conducting their warlike operations. But the Government refused to adopt either of these plans and their conduct has been fraught with the most serious danger. They have set a dangerous precedent, giving Government sanction to what is nothing more nor less than filibustering that may lead us into very great trouble indeed. The missions there are Presbyterian, and the people of Scotland are watching what takes place with the greatest interest. They cannot understand that there is anything wrong in conduct sanctioned by the Government, or why the Government are not taking steps to open up that navigable river so that supplies may be obtained. If anything happens to those men the Government will be held responsible. The Government have set a precedent which may land us in trouble in any part of the globe. We may be brought into conflict with interests vastly more formidable than those of Portugal. The extension of German interests has been referred to; if we get into a mess like this where German interests are concerned we shall have to eat as much humble pie as Prince Bismarck has had to at Samoa. On account of the dangerous, imbecile, almost criminal course the Foreign Office has pursued in this Lake Nyassa business, I move the reduction of £100 under the sub-head in regard to the salary of the Secretary of State.
Motion made, and Question put, "That Item A, of £48,211 for Salaries, be reduced by £100, part of the Salary of the Secretary of State." — (Dr, Cameron.)
§ *MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
This is a subject upon which my constituents take considerable interest. First I may say as regards the more general question this much. The Prime Minister in conducting affairs in Africa has not so much looked at British and Imperial interests in Africa as he has looked at what he considers will be the effect of a certain policy in Africa on our relations to certain Powers in Europe, particularly Germany. We can show this without much difficulty by a reference to the events that have taken place at Zanzibar, or the Zambesi and at Lake Nyassa. The value of discussions such as this is that they inform the Government of the opinions held in the country on this and similar subjects and it strengthens the hands of the Government in their negotiations with Foreign Powers. It is matter of regret that during the Session we have not had the opportunity of a direct and specific debate on the events that have been proceeding on the south-east coast of Africa, and are forced to take such opportunities as this to elicit such information as we can as to the present condition of affairs and the precise policy of the Government in that part of the world. The last opportunity we had was in the Debate on the Address, and then we were promised papers that should give us full information, but up to this time we are not in possession of the promised information, though much valuable information has been published by the Governments of Germany and the United States. Undoubtedly events have occurred upon which we should very much like to have information. From Zanzibar Colonel Euan Smith has been summoned home, and Mr. Portal has been sent to take his place. Colonel Euan Smith's return was ostensibly to consult with the Foreign Office as to the condition of affairs of Zanzibar and the line to be taken by the British Government there. Colonel Euan Smith, of course, has not been long back, but still we have absolutely no information as to whether there 1060 is necessity in the view of the Government for altering our policy at Zanzibar Further, we desire to have some information as to the course the Government intend to pursue in regard to the interests of British Indian subjects, who have settled on the South East Coast of Africa, and who suffered severely, firstly from the Portuguese at the attack on Tungi, and subsequently from the bombardment with which the German squadron visited several settlements there. I believe they claimed redress, but obtained none. It is no matter of surprise that the British Indian merchants presented a memorial to Colonel Euan Smith, which was published more than six months ago, expressing deep regret and surprise that the interests of Indian subjects who had hitherto been encouraged to settle on the coast and sink their capital in mercantile adventures there, were so little regarded at Zanzibar. We should like to hear that some steps are being taken to urge consideration of these claims. Then I should like to have some information as to the blockade of the coast which, so far as I can gather from the newspapers, seems to be almost at an end, nor should I regret if that should be the case. It has had little effect upon the Slave Trade, and it has always exposed us to the risk of serious misunderstanding with other Powers. The question of the Zambesi and Nyassa land has come more into prominence since last we discussed it. First of all there is the Portugese expedition which has been alluded to under under Lieutenant Carodoso, who has marched into the interior from Mozambique nominally on an exploring expedition, though in Lisbon and elsewhere it was quite understood it was really a filibustering and annexing expedition. We have heard, and it has not been authoritatively denied, that Lieutenant Carodoso has hoisted the Portuguese flag in the territory at the southern end of Lake Nyassa. This territory, which Lieutenant Carodoso pretends to have annexed to Portugal, is close to the access by river to the Nyassa settlements, and I would strongly urge on Her Majesty's Government to maintain the principle and the line of action enunciated by Lord Salisbury as to the 1061 freedom of the Zambesi. We cannot deny the Sovereignty of Portugal over the south east coast and the littoral at the mouth of the Zambesi, but it has always been matter of dispute as to how far inland the rights of Sovereignty on the part of Portugal extend. I have always understood, however, that we would never recognize any Portuguese or other Sovereignty over the important access to Nyassa district afforded by the Zambesi further inland than the Ruo River. Lord Salisbury took up this attitude six months ago, and I would most strongly urge upon Her Majesty's Government not to depart from that position. The navigation of the Zambesi is now the more important in that there has just come to hand the information that Mr. Rankin has discovered an excellent navigable channel in the Chindé which will give direct access, with much greater depth, to communicate not only with Nyassa but the North-West territories. More and more does it become incumbent on Her Majesty's Government to maintain the Zambesi and its tributaries as a free and open means of access into the interior of Africa for the flags of all nations. It is of unspeakable importance for the development of civilization and commerce. Portugal has the power of imposing certain duties on the Zambesi which I will not now argue, but the power should be strictly defined and limited and the Zambesi should be under some kind of international control such as is exercised on the Danube and elsewhere. I would urge these points on Her Majesty's Government—to keep open the Zambesi as access to the interior of Africa and to let the Portuguese know that we recognize no Sovereignty of theirs further inland than the Ruo River. In this way we shall go far to encourage, and to protect in a practical way, the British settlements in that part of the world.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
On a previous occasion I pointed out that, unless some more definite policy be adopted by Her Majesty's Government in South-East Africa, there is little use in our maintaining consular relations with that part of the world. 1062 The question has been raised very clearly by the two speeches to which we have listened, and in fact it is a question that carries with it intense interest in Scotland. I stated on a previous occasion that the recent visit of Count Herbert Bismarck to this country, together with the circumstance of Colonel Euan Smith's recall, pointed to the fact that the position on that part of the African coast has become well nigh intolerable. As to the Anglo-German blockade, there has been an entire absence of information of late. We wish to know what has been done; how long the blockade is likely to continue; and what measure of success has up the present attended it. We are absolutely without official information on the point, and the ordinary news that comes to us does not point to any satisfactory state of matters. The action of the Germans has certainly not led to our position being any more comfortable in that part of the world. We also desire to know what is to be done when the blackade is raised—whether any useful result will come from it, and especially whether slavery will be abolished. As to the interior, some assurance is necessary that the extravagant pretensions of the Portuguese will receive at least some supervision on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Whatever civilization has penetrated into the interior of Nyassaland is due to the Scotch and English missionary societies and trading operations, and I do not recognize that the Portuguese have any claims whatever. It will require much stronger arguments than any that have yet been used to shake the faith of the people of Scotland in the fact that British interests in this quarter of the world predominate over those of any other country. The subject of the communications with South-East Africa also deserves attention, the German and French lines of steamers having been subsidized in a way which may damage our trade. What we ask for now is information, and I trust we shall have some from Her Majesty's 1063 Government before the discussion concludes.
§ *SIR J. SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I should like to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to open up the Zambesi to British trade and commerce. The Portuguese, who have occupied territories on the Zambesi for the last 250 years, have never developed the country but have introduced every kind of vice and disease amongst the natives under their influence in the neighbourhood. I should like to know what steps are being taken for the purpose of making the Zambesi a useful thoroughfare for our commerce.
§ *MR. W. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
I desire to ask whether any communication has been received from the German Government with regard to the German Expedition to East Africa under Dr. Peters. It seems to me that we have already suffered not a little from the Germans on this coast, and that our interests are likely to suffer more if this expedition gets behind our settlements. Is there any arrangement between the Germans and ourselves as to this Expedition?
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
I am not surprised at the interest which is taken in this matter, and I would join my voice in the appeal to the Government that they would assist the Scottish Association to which is due almost all the good which has been done in the region of Lake Nyassa. With regard to the waterway of the Zambesi, so far as I know the statement of Lord Salisbury has not been shaken in any way. I believe the waterway is to be maintained as a common waterway, and that under no circumstances will this country permit Portugal or any other country to place its hand upon the Zambesi. I apprehend that the same argument applies to the country north of the Zambesi, for it is absolutely essential to our interests 1064 that that part of the country should be placed either under our power or under some mutual arrangement by which we at any rate cannot be shut out from all those parts of Africa in which our interest is daily increasing. I think we have ground for complaint, too, as to the action of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the Indian traders on the coast. I have never been a strong advocate of the blockade of the coast, which I think has done no good either in respect of the slave trade or of those other matters which have been its more ostensible object. I profoundly regret that the Government has thought proper to permit the bombardment of places on the coast which has necessarily done much injury to our subjects, and for which I understand no reparation is to be made.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
I have to reply to a range of observations somewhat wide. At the very commencement, I have to deal with a survey by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, extending if not from China to Peru, at least from the Suez Canal right round the Continent of Africa. The hon. Gentleman the member for Kirkcaldy, has taken a deep and intelligent interest in affairs connected with the Continent, and yet, although we have not for the first time to-night entered into the discussion of the subject, I am afraid that he and I are no nearer agreement. The hon. Member does not approve of the action of Her Majesty's Government, and the policy which they have pursued in relation to the affairs of the Continent of Africa, but I am able to disabuse his mind of some suspicion with regard to our policy in the Soudan. I can assure him that the declarations which Her Majesty's Government have many times made with regard to the Soudan are unchanged, and that there was no intention of encouraging, nor, so far as our influence goes, of permitting, any alteration in the policy we have supported of standing on the defensive and patiently developing the resources of Egypt. That policy has been abundantly suc- 1065 cessful. This country, which three years ago gave anxiety to the world because it could not fail to excite international jealousy, is now out of danger, and its financial condition, as well as that of the people, has been immensely improved. This has been the result of a policy of defence as distinguished from a policy of aggression. We have defended the frontier from attack successfully, and each time we have done so the longer interval has there been between the attacks. It is not intended on the part of Egypt to extend, or on the part of England to encourage the extention of Egyptian influence in the Soudan. The hon. Member has referred again to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in encouraging trading companies. It appears that the operations of these companies are not without success, and they seem to be the best means of spreading civilization inwards from the coast and combating and undermining the devastating effects of the slave trade. I think the policy of the Government in this matter will meet with the approval of the House, but it is only by slow and tentative measures that this influence can be extended. But when the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy speaks slightingly of the East African Company and refers to its members as Pharisees I think he does injustice to a body of men well organized and presided over by those who in other spheres of life have risen to the rank of statesmen. They have inaugurated their proceedings most prudently, and they have signalized themselves by acts of the greatest liberality. I doubt whether in the history of the world there have been acts more judicious and liberal than those the East African company have recently performed, especially that of the liberation of slaves. Reference has been made to the warlike operations at Lake Nyassa, and the hon. Member says he wonders why the policy of the Government can be to tolerate the carrying on of the operations without the sanction of the Government. Undoubtedly the state of affairs in the region of Lake Nyassa presents unprecedented difficulties, and British subjects, either influenced by enterprize in commerce or devotion to Christian missions, have penetrated into the interior if the Continent and have been carrying 1066 on peaceful relations of trade with the natives and exercising a civilizing influence. These men went there without the sanction or any promise on the part of the Government. Their proceedings though they began in a small way, now have become considerable, and British interests have assumed an importance which we cannot disregard and to which we are by no means insensible. The hon. Member opposite was mistaken in saying that the establishment of these interests have been due solely to Scotch-men. He has forgotten the English Universities Mission which has penetrated to the eastern shore of Lake Nyassa. When questions have been asked with regard to the position of these commercial and missionary undertakings, and what Her Majesty's Government propose to do in view of the dangers to which these English subjects are exposed from the slave trading Arabs on the one hand and the Portuguese on the other, I have been obliged to point out that Her Majesty's Government are unable to accept what are commonly called military responsibilities in respect of a position from which they would not communicate from any settled base. Again, it was pointed out that we had sent an English Consul to represent English law and to act as a Magistrate at the Lakes, and that we should at least furnish him with an armed steam launch, I was compelled to say that even the smallest amount the British Force once placed in any district would involve great difficulty, because wherever the British flag flies it cannot be allowed to suffer defeat. It is a serious thing to undertake responsibilities which may involve an expedition of great magnitude, and perhaps the loss of more lives than were originally threatened. If we have learnt one lesson from past events in Abyssinia and the Soudan, it is that we should not undertake any responsibility without being prepared to follow it up to the fullest extent to which events may lead us, and above all to look at the possible results before we undertake anything. It is in that view that I, whilst feeling the deepest interest in this question as a Scotchman and from other points of view, am obliged to declare that Her Majesty's Government cannot assume responsibility for any 1067 military operations. It has been said that the Prime Minister encouraged a deputation which waited on him to undertake unauthorized warlike operations, but I am sure the Prime Minister did no such thing. He pointed out that these people must defend themselves, and that they must all have read with pride how a handful of English, supported by some natives, have held their own in the midst of warlike Arabs. The Prime Minister did not tell them to turn tail and abandon all they had undertaken, and I do not think those who waited on the noble Lord would have expected him to give any such advice.
§ DR. CAMERON
What I have advanced is that if you give them a Royal charter they will undertake to do the whole thing.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
It would be a serious thing to give a Royal charter—to give the sanction of the British flag to this undertaking. In those places in Africa where a charter has been given the country is accessible to the sea where Her Majesty's cruizers are seen and whence support, if necessary, can be given to Her Majesty's subjects; but to give a charter to what has been called a filibustering expedition into the heart of Africa would be a rash and hazardous undertaking which could hardly be defended in this House. As to the Portuguese who have marched to Lake Nyassa, we have said to them, "We cannot view with indifference any act which would endanger our settlements in the interior," and we have denied to them shadowy rights in a territory in which they have previously exercised no authority. We have said that we cannot view with indifference injury to the prosperity of our people in regions where the Portuguese have not exercised sovereignty, do not possess a protectorate and do not now undertake it. But I do not take it that any hon. Member objects to the Portuguese going into the interior of Africa so far as they can legitimately extend their colonization. Several hon. Members have referred to the Zambesi, as a 1068 navigable river over which we have the right of transit. That declaration has been made over and over again. I am glad to know that the existence of a navigable mouth of the Zambesi has been affirmed, as it will considerably alter our position in regard to that river by largely extending our facilities for utilizing it. Reference has been made to the difficulty which has hitherto been experienced in ascending the Zambesi, and to the unreasonable obstacles created by the Portuguese. Up to the present time sea-borne cargoes could not be carried up that river in the vessels arriving there; there has always been a land portage over a considerable number of miles in the Portuguese territory. If, therefore, a navigable mouth of the river has been discovered, that circumstance will prove to be of the utmost importance, because, having asserted for ourselves the right to navigate that river—
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
That is a question which I cannot answer off-hand. Merchants have made no complaint of the transit duty of 3 per cent, and reasonable Customs duties may be necessary. The hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow has made some reference to circumstance with which I am not acquainted, with respect to smuggling by the African Lake Company.
§ DR. CAMERON
I must correct the right hon. Baronet. The African Lake Company sent a deputation to the Foreign Office to ask them to obtain permission from the Portuguese Government to send war rockets to our countrymen up the country; but the Foreign Office said they had had trouble with that Government, and recommended that the rockets should be smuggled in.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
And I shall be very glad to answer it; but I deny that the Government have been a party 1069 to any filibustering expedition. The Government have always strongly discouraged any aggressive warfare; but in 1887, when honest Englishmen, with their wives and families, were doing nothing but good, were attacked and in danger of massacre, no one could say that our Consul, Mr. O'Neill, did any more than his duty in giving them all the help he could. What would any man have said of him if he bad not done so? It was a position of great difficulty for which, perhaps, there is no precedent, but there was no other course which, in the circumstances, he could have pursued. While we warned these people that we could not give them material assistance, we did not deny them the means of defending themselves. As for their making attacks, it should be borne in mind that sometimes the best defence was for people to attack their enemies before they were themselves beleagured. These men have done nothing unworthy of British subjects. On the contrary, they have displayed great heroism, and Her Majesty's Government would have been insensible to their duty if they had not assisted them as far as they legitimately could. With regard to the operations on the East Coast of Africa, the Member for West Edinburgh declared that the Government had neglected the interests of British subjects on that coast. That is far from being the case. Undoubtedly it is a matter of the deepest regret that there should have been any disturbances and collisions on that coast to endanger the peaceful operations of commerce. It is, unhappily, true that great numbers of British subjects who were carrying on a prosperous trade have been seriously injured or even ruined by the disturbances. For those disturbances Her Majesty's Government are in no way responsible. We did all we could by warning them of the intended danger, and by removing them in order to prevent their suffering more loss. The Member for West Edinburgh has asked what the results of the blockade are, and what there is to show for all this expenditure and suffering. The blockade was undertaken on the invitation of the German Government, and I ask now, as I have asked before, "How 1070 could we decline to take part in a blockade which was intended to further objects in which we have long been interested?" The joint action of the two Governments has put down the seaboard slave trade to a much greater extent than hitherto. Had we abstained from joining the Germans, I do not think it would have been better for the people of that coast, while undoubtedly there would have been a want of that harmony of action which is more than ever desirable. It is most desirable that this semi-warlike state of things should cease. It is most desirable that we should have a police on the coast, whereby the sources of the trade may be dried up, and that we may no longer have to apply the poor remedy of catching a few stray traders on the sea, and so that we may no longer see these poor people dragged from their homes and sold into slavery. What I desire to say to the House, without going through all the speculations, is that it must not be supposed that such operations, conducted by two such powers as the Empires of Germany and England, can cease without some permanent measures being taken of a stronger character, both to check this trade and to put us in a better position to prevent it in future. It is manifest that it would have been futile to have kept so many ships of war occupying this part of the coast, catching a few slave-traders, if we were to abandon the blockade without having taken some permanent measures to render much more unlikely the recurrence both of slave trading and the barbarous circumstances attending it. We have to act not alone, but in harmony with our allies, and I can only ask the Committee to extend to us the same confidence which has hitherto been enjoyed by the Government of all hands, knowing that there must be occasion to exercise the patience, indulgence, and sympathies of the country.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (W. Edinburgh)
I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet to the papers that were promised.
§ *SIR LEWIS PELLY (N. Hackney)
I was not in the House when the hon. Member opposite characterized the British East African Company as Pharisees.
§ *SIR L. PELLY
I understood the Under Secretary for Foretgn Affairs to say so. Well, Sir, I think the nature of the enterprize itself, and the names of the gentlemen engaged in that enterprize, are sufficient answer. I pass by the imputation in silence. I desire to endorse every word that has fallen from the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in respect of the East African Company, and I am glad to say that, owing to the tact and ability of Her Majesty's Consul General (Colonel Euan Smith), and the great administrative ability shown by Mr. Geo. Mackenzie, matters on the coast have gone on far better than we could have expected. No doubt we may possibly have a difficulty or two, for even under the best Governments difficulties must arise. But as matters are we are content, and we have to thank Her Majesty's Government and to acknowledge that they have given us all impartial support, having regard to the claims and international duties which devolve upon them. If I might add one word at this late hour, I would say that the company would very urgently ask the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the necessity of keeping up a good steam communication between the East Coast and England. We believe such communication to be most essential in the interests of the trade and of the general political condition along that coast.
§ DR. CLARK
I regretted very much to hear the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I thought that the Government were really prepared to do something to solve this Nyassa-Zambesi problem. But we have a policy of blowing hot and cold, and the great policy of drift and do nothing, which has done very much harm, and, possibly, when blood has been shed, the Government will move. On the South-East African problem a great deal depends. I am now speaking of that lake which was discovered by a Scotchman, and was opened up and settled by Scotchmen, who formed a Scotch Trading Company. These men went there doing good on every hand and no 1072 harm to anyone. They have been developing trade and widening the civilization of the native African tribes. But certain of the tribes come from the East, and they take the natives from under the care of the missionaries; they burn down villages, and they take away men and women and carry them down to the coast. The missionaries and the Company defend the people round about them, and there is an unauthorized war going on between British subjects, who may be captured when they come south by the Portuguese. Because it is simply piracy, this work that is being carried on. This Company have their trade upon the Shury river and the Zambesi river, and the Portuguese Government have prevented them carrying on their trade on these two rivers. Now, what the Company has done has been to open up a new way into the interior of Africa. They have opened up the Stevenson route by Lake Nyassa to Tanganyika; and the Government may give them protection, not by landing an army, but by having a gunboat on the lake. That is all that is required. If you want to stop the Slave trade, if you have steamers on the coast and on the Red Sea, well then you ought to have a gunboat on Lake Nyassa, because that would stop the traffic across the lake, and more slaves pass that way than over the Red Sea or any other route. You can legalize the position of the Company by giving them a Charter. You are giving Charters to some other companies who are doing nothing at all. Here is a company developing the resources of the country, and who want a legalized position, and you refuse them a Charter. If they are doing good on every hand, and no harm to anyone, give them a Charter, and then they will not run the risk of being hanged when they come to Portuguese territory. But you are not prepared to take any one of these courses. You are simply letting things drift. As regards the free navigation of the Zambesi, I suppose it is now a British river, and you ought to open up the country. The Zambesi ought not to be Portuguese. I think the Government should do something in this matter and should adopt some definite policy. They might either protect this Scottish Association, 1073 by having a gunboat on Lake Nyassa, or they might compel them to retire, or they might legalize their position by granting them a Charter.
§ DR. CAMERON
My complaint against the Government is that they have allowed this unauthorized warfare by private subscription to be carried on and to drag its weary length along without any prospect of bringing it to a termination. I do not complain that they have adopted this or that policy, but I do complain that they have encouraged a breach of British law and that they have allowed to go on an irregular warfare, and I want to know what steps they now intend to take in regard to it. There are three courses which may be taken in regard to the Zambesi operations. Either the Government should order British subjects to confine themselves to defensive operations, or warn them that if they do not do so they must expect no support from the British Government, or they should give the company the Charter which they have applied for and in reference to the grant of which they said they would be willing in the event of obtaining it to maintain a gunboat on Lake Nyassa, and would thus be able to restore law and order and put down the slave trade in the district. I do not find fault with the conduct of the missionaries and traders, for I contend that they have acted with the encouragement of the Prime Minister, on whom the responsibility will rest.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
I want to have a clear understanding on the question of the navigation of the Zambesi. Are we to understand that the Portuguese Government will be allowed to fix what transit rates they please on this river?
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
I have referred to the position of trade up the Zambesi river when it has to be carried by land, and I have stated that when it has to pass through Portuguese territory there will be no ground of complaint if the Portuguese Government confine their customs dues to moderate Transit Duties. If the Zambesi is found to be navigable from the sea up to the rapids 1074 and shallows, that will be a novel state of things which will have to be governed by circumstances. I may say that Her Majesty's Government have claimed the right to free navigation of the Zambesi by vessels flying their national flag. I therefore hope that that is a sufficient answer to the question. With regard to Dr. Peters's Expedition, it is not recognized by the Government of Germany, and the East African Company has declined to allow it to pass through its territory. The Expedition seems to have been a rather ill-considered project; and certainly it is undesirable that Expeditions which are not duly authorized, and which have an undetermined object, should pass through their territory. The desire of the Government is, as far as they can consistently with the rights of other nations, to defend and protect the rights of this country.
§ *SIR J. SWINBURNE
I wish to ask what steps are to be taken to open the Zambesi to British trade and commerce?
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
Inquiries are being made with regard to the discovery of a navigable mouth. If a practicable mouth is found, a vessel will be sent up the river, and will, I hope, be the precursor of many others.
§ *SIR J. SWINBURNE
I should also like to ask whether, if only a small mouth is discovered, the Government will undertake to open the river to British commerce?
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
I can make no such promise if only a small mouth is found. If, on the contrary, a navigable mouth exists, the Government will certainly claim that the river shall be open to British commerce.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 84; Noes 198.—(Div. List, No. 92.)
Original Question put, and agreed to.
Resolution to he reported to-morrow, at Two of the clock; Committee to sit again to-morrow at Two of the clock.