HC Deb 01 July 1890 vol 346 cc456-7
MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, before agreeing to the cession of Heligoland, Her Majesty's Government had any resolution from the Executive Council of Heligoland, assenting to the cession on behalf of the inhabitants, laid before them; what steps have-been taken to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants as to the transfer of the island to Germany; whether Her Majesty's Government have considered the very full evidence obtained by the correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette, and the statements in the Press of Mr. W. G. Black, Mr. Eraser Rae, and other gentlemen who have special means of knowing the sentiments of the inhabitants, to the effect that the transfer is viewed with the strongest aversion -, whether any evidence has been produced to a contrary effect; and, if so, what evidence; and whether, having regard to these facts, Her Majesty's Government will re-consider their decision, and consent to send a Commissioner to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants?


It has already been stated that no reference was made to the inhabitants of Heligoland on the question of the cession of the island. As I have said before, it would not be a matter for surprise that there should be regret at parting with a sovereignty under which the people have so long lived. While the utmost care has been taken in the agreement with Germany to secure for the inhabitants the continuance of the privileges they have hitherto enjoyed, it cannot, I think, be regarded as a hard thing to hand over the inhabitants of the island to a nation to which they are allied, both by blood and language, I believe there is an Executive Council in the island, but no Resolution of the kind referred to has been adopted.


Was any Despatch received by Her Majesty's Government from the Governor of the Island before the cession was agreed to, stating the grounds upon which he based his belief that the inhabitants would favour the transfer; and, if so, will Her Majesty's Government lay such Despatch on the Table of the House?


No such Despatch? exists. The Governor of Heligoland was in this country at the time the negotiations were in progress, and personal communications proceeded with him on the subject.

MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

Is it the fact that the Agreement for the cession was signed in Berlin to-day; and, if so, will it be laid on the Table?


I am not aware.


May I ask whether the conditions of the cession will apply to all persons on the Island or to adults only, and whether the children as they grow up will be subject to conscription under Germany?


Full details of the negotiations will be communicated to the House.


Are we to under-stand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government have information in their possession to the effect that the inhabitants are likely to approve of this transfer, and that the decision of Her Majesty's Government is to refuse to lay such information in any form before the House?


I have repeatedly stated that Her Majesty's Government are satisfied with the conditions under which the cession has been made, and that they have been made under circumstances which will secure to the inhabitants a continuance of the privileges they have hitherto enjoyed.