|Post Office Packet Service||20,000|
|Post Office Telegraphs||350,000|
|Total for Revenue Departments||£670,000|
§ *(6.2.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
On this Vote I take the opportunity of asking some questions of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and of calling attention to certain matters relating to the condition of affairs in Armenia. It is within the knowledge of the Committee that a few weeks ago a White Book appeared, giving an account of what has taken place in Armenia during the past year, and I asked the right hon. Gentleman why no Despatches were contained in this White Book dictating or recommending a policy, or making any actual suggestion as to what ought to be done by Sir William White and those under him in Armenia? The reply given me was to the effect that as far back as the 20th January, 1890, a Despatch had been sent from the Foreign Office including certain recommendations, and these were in the nature of standing recommendations, and there was no necessity to send a special Despatch. But I venture to think that if hon. Members will look at this White Book relating to Armenia, they will find in it a record of a state of thing's so serious, a condition of affairs so grave, that it must be matter of surprise that active steps were not taken here in London to bring about a remedy for the grievances of the Armenian population. It cannot be too often brought to our memory that our interest in the affairs of Armenia is not one of a purely sentimental character. We are bound by two distinct Treaty obligations, in the first place, in common with the other signatory European Powers, by the 61st Article of the Berlin Treaty, in which the Porte undertook to carry out certain reforms in Armenia, and to protect the Christian people against the depredations of the Kurds and Circassians, and in the next place we are bound more expressly and more emphatically by the Cyprus Convention of 1878, under which a special obligation 1100 was imposed on this country, of seeing the reforms carried out in Armenia and in other parts of the Turkish Empire. We are under this double obligation, the one we share in common with other European nations, and in a special sense by the stipulations of the Cyprus Convention. That being so, what is the state of things revealed in this White Book, published a few weeks ago? The first observation that occurs to me is that many of the matters which have formed the subject of Question in this House find full corroboration in the statements made, in spite of the very imperfect information that exists at headquarters. I take the opportunity to say that so far as the conduct of Mr. Clifford Lloyd can be judged by the Papers, he did his best under very trying circumstances. This I say not merely out of deference to the sentiment expressed in the proverb de mortuis nil nisi bonum; the perusal of his Despatches will convince any reader that the reforms he recommended were defeated by the apathy of the Government at Constantinople, and by the fact that he was not backed as he should have been by the Foreign Office. When we look at what Mr. Clifford Lloyd has written and know what he did, we are driven to the irresistible conclusion—that although there were certain objections to his being sent on his mission to Armenia, yet for his action while there high praise should be bestowed upon him. What do we find to be the purport of these Despatches of Mr. Clifford Lloyd? A state of things is revealed and explained at great length, with clearness and fulness of detail on page 80 of these Papers. There will be found a series of recommendations put forward by Mr. Clifford Lloyd based on the information he possessed of the condition of affairs in that country. The sufferings of the people, he said, proceeded from three direct causes: first, the insecurity of their lives and properties owing to the habitual ravages of the Kurds; secondly, the insecurity of their persons, and the absence of all liberty of thought and action; and, thirdly, the unequal status held by the Christian as compared with the Mussulman in the eyes of the Government. So far as the lives and liberties of the people are concerned, the statement finds full confirmation 1101 in earlier Despatches. Thus, on February 12, 1890, Mr. Clifford Lloyd, writing from Erzeroum, refers to a very signal instance—the imprisonment of certain Armenians—and the case is remarkable. He says—In my Despatch dated the 31st January 1890, I alluded to the fact of there being in the gaol at Erzeroum five Armenians awaiting the confirmation of a sentence of exile for life to some portion of the Turkish Empire on a charge of sedition. I have caused inquiry to be made into the case of these persons, and, though it is extremely difficult to obtain reliable information, I learn from various sources, independent one of the other, that the offence of four of the prisoners consisted in having been found in possession of 'national songs,' and that of a fifth, a priest, in having had in his house a history of Armenia published in Venice. These men have been for about two years already in prison. There is good reason to believe that the case of these unfortunate prisoners is no uncommon one. In fact, a high Turkish official informed me that some 30 Armenians, similarly charged and sentenced, had lately been deported from Erzeroum to their respective destinations.This in itself affords sufficient confirmation of the Minute submitted on October 2nd. The great bulk of the Despatches are made up of three incidents. One is the trial of Armenian political prisoners, and upon this I will only say in reference to the so-called amnesty given by the Sultan that the latest information of a few days ago is to the effect that the great bulk of the prisoners are still in prison; another section of the Despatches is devoted mainly to the incident at Koum Kapou, which I do not propose to dwell upon; and a third section of the Despatches has reference to disturbances at Erzeroum, there being numerous Despatches relating to that subject. But the sum and substance of the Despatches is contained in the long Minute from Mr. Clifford Lloyd, dated October 2nd, 1890. Mr. Clifford Lloyd points out that as late as June 20th, 1890—A Mussulman mob attacked unoffending Armenians in the streets of Erzeroum, killing and wounding many, and at the same time pillaging their houses and shops; but up to date no steps of any kind have, to my knowledge, been taken to prosecute the guilty persons.This is convincing proof, I think, that many of the statements which have been made in the Press as to the condition of affairs in Erzeroum were founded on fact so far as the main features were concerned; but, of course, in the state of 1102 things existing, no one can bind himself to the accuracy of details, and there, of course, the Oriental imagination plays a part. But we have to judge of the sum total of the evidence before us, and the general tendency of these Despatches, and I say these Despatches confirm Reports made by distinguished travellers and missionaries who have watched the condition of affairs with the eyes of utter impartiality. There is the testimony of Mrs. Bishop, formerly Miss Bird, who, in a letter, says she had passed through Kurdistan and through the country of the Nestorians and Armenians, and could bear testimony to the increasing ravages of the Kurds and the total want of protection given by the Government to the Christians in the villayets of Van, Tiflis, and Erzeroum. This is similar to the evidence of other travellers conversant with the condition of affairs. A good deal has been said upon another point—the arming of the Kurds—and this, during the last few weeks, has taken a special form. It appears that the Governor is enrolling a regiment of these Kurds, and the answer given by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and which we may take to be the Turkish official defence of this step, is that by this means it is hoped these Kurds will be made more amenable to discipline, and their habits of ravage and pillage will be controlled. But I think, on the contrary, there is every reason to regard the proceeding with the utmost distrust. There is too much reason to believe that the enlistment of these Kurds very much resembles the enlistment of Bashi-Bazouks. The right hon. Gentleman said the experiment is one that will be watched with the greatest attention, but I think some very energetic steps should be taken at Constantinople for the purpose of inducing the Turkish Government to interfere in this matter, which involves a violation of the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, which states that the Armenians are to be protected against the depredations of these Kurds. But here we find the Turkish Government, instead of giving this protection to the people, entrusting the Armenian people to the tender mercies of these armed Kurds. Why, this is like entrusting the sheep to the custody of the wolf. I cannot see how 1103 this proceeding can commend itself to this country, which has definite, moral, and Treaty obligations to see that justice is done to these Christian populations. We find if we turn to this Despatch of of Mr. Clifford Lloyd, of which I have spoken, we find that he confirms what has been reported from other quarters, that these Kurds have for a long time been receiving arms from Turkish officers. Mr. Clifford Lloyd says—The result is that this summer the valley (Alashgird) has again been overrun by the Kurds, who, here as in other parts of Kurdistan, openly declare that their action meets with the approval of the Turkish Government.Instances are to be found scattered through the whole of these official Papers; and taking them altogether, although there may be inaccuracies pointed out which is to be expected from the remoteness of some of the districts and the difficulty of obtaining information, they represent the state of things which has been confirmed by other evidence, and the whole condition of things in Armenia represents a state of oppression and terrorism which is a disgrace to the controlling Government, and would be a disgrace to any nation under the sun. I do not wish to dwell on details, but I must say it is remarkable that throughout these Papers there is not a single Despatch from the Foreign Office except of a purely formal character, no Despatch anywhere laying down a statement of the policy which ought to be observed; and although the Under Secretary has referred to a previous Despatch contained in a previous Blue Book giving instructions for Her Majesty's Representative to carry out, yet I think that the Despatch is not of such a permanent binding character as to be applicable at such a distance of time to the very serious matters that have occurred in Armenia since. I think the Foreign Office should take a more active interest in this subject, seeing the obligations we are under by the stipulations in the Cyprus Convention, which have never been repudiated, as we find from statements made by the Foreign Secretary and Under Secretary. What is our position in Constantinople? Undoubtedly Mr. Clifford Lloyd appears to have been supported by Sir W. White. Of this there can be no serious doubt, but the question is whether Sir W. White has 1104 been supported by our Foreign Office. Time was when we had great influence in Constantinople in the days of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and others, but then behind our Ambassador was the strong support of our Foreign Office. I think if there was energetic support now there would be some progress in carrying out reforms in the Government of the Christian population of the Turkish Empire. Perhaps the Under Secretary can give us some definition of the view the Foreign Office take of the Cyprus Convention of 1788? In the second place, I would ask him to give some sort of pledge that they will take more active steps than in the past they have taken to support the action of Sir W. White in Constantinople to encourage him in the course he is disposed to take. Thirdly, I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether, and to what extent, the Foreign Office are acting upon the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin; whether they are making any attempts to enter into negotiations with the other Powers—signatories to the Berlin Treaty—to carry out the reforms contemplated by that Article in Asia Minor. Apart from the injustice to Armenians in the present administration of the Province, it is a source of weakness to the Turkish Empire, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman for an expression of opinion. Does he not think that a large measure of autonomy would strengthen the Turkish Government in Asia Minor? There can be no doubt of the capacity of the Armenians for self-government when we remember that many of the officials at Constantinople are of Armenian birth; that Loris Melikoff, in the service of Russia, is an Armenian, as is also Nubar Pasha. The only valid argument against putting the Administration of Armenia into the hands of the Armenians is that the Armenian population is not sufficient to justify it. But the figures and statistics on this subject are of a misleading character and contradictory. This may be said of the computations made in the Despatch of May 14 on these Papers. Very little actual importance can be attached to them. The nomadic tribes of Kurds who commit these ravages may be left out of the calculation of the settled population. The quiet law-abiding people 1105 belong to the Armenian race, and they give to the country whatever stability it possesses; they are the working classes, and they are the wealthy class, and they should be entrusted with local administration. From the carrying out of these reforms the Turkish Empire will acquire strength and stability, but the ultimate result of a refusal of these reforms can only be to throw Armenia into the hands of Russia, a consummation we ought to do our best to avert.
§ *(6.26.) MR. G. LEVESON-GOWER (Stoke-upon-Trent)
I am sure I shall express the feeling of the House when I say that I share the regret the Government must feel at the decease of Mr. Clifford Lloyd, and that the country has experienced a great loss in being deprived of the ability, zeal, and activity of the late Consul in Armenia. I daresay it will occur to the right hon. Baronet that not so very long ago in one of his speeches, delivered with that verve and sarcastic humour for which the Prime Minister is well known, and upon which not so many years ago he was complimented by Lord Beaconsfield, Lord Salisbury, speaking to the Associated Chambers of Commerce, remarked upon the inutility and undesirability of remonstrating with a Foreign Power except in such cases where we were prepared to back our remonstrance with physical force. I daresay it may appear to the right hon. Baronet that the course we are taking is somewhat inconsistent with that position. For my own part, I think true diplomacy consists in using the eyes and the ears much, the tongue little, and the hands less. But I think my hon. Friend has shown that in the case of Armenia there are special reasons why this country—I do not say should intervene—but should use every effort within our power to induce the Porte to grant a better Government and remove some of the elements of misrule. In the Cyprus Convention there are stipulations that certain reforms shall be introduced, and they are conditions of our assistance for the defence of the Asiatic frontier. Such reforms do not imply a brand new Constitution according to the ideas of Western Europe, but a practical working system of administration suited to the country and the condition of the population under which the people may be secured tolerable good government and protection 1106 to life and property. The evidence is conclusive that they have nothing of the kind at the present time. One principal object should be to restrain the raids of the Kurdish tribes, who have ever been nomadic robbers. There should be an impartial administration of justice as between Christian and Mussulman populations, and the religious and educational privileges of the Armenians should not be interfered with as they are now under pretence of stopping seditious and revolutionary movements. We have to try and see that these lamentable outrages which constantly occur shall be put down, that the extortions on the part of the minor officials of the Turkish Government, under the guise of levying taxes, may be put an end to, and that the Christian population of that part of Turkey shall not be looked upon as sheep appointed to the slaughter. Lastly, there is one great grievance of which they complain—and to my mind justly complain—and that is, that the most frivolous and unsatisfactory reasons are enough to cause them to be sent into imprisonment or exile. Now, what are the means by which these grievances can be put an end to? The best means by which this could be attained would be to have a Christian Governor who should be assisted by a mixed gendarmerie force—I mean a force in which some proportion of the officers and men should be Christians. The Mussulman population, being in the majority, might urge certain objections to this plan; but I believe the improvement in the condition of the country that would result from the appointment of an able and energetic Christian Governor, with the corresponding improvement of their own property, would soon reconcile the Mussulmans to such a state of things. There is another reason for adopting such a plan. It would be easier for a Christian Governor to be impartial in his decisions of suits, for it is well known that although by the Constitution, as my hon. Friend pointed out, there is a nominal and apparent equality between Mussulmans and Christians, in practice that is very far from being the case, because the Koran does not admit the evidence of a Christian as against that of a Mussulman; and if the Governor is a religious man, he is bound 1107 to follow the precept of his religion in this matter. If there were any evidence of partiality being shown by a Christian Governor towards his co-religionists it would be sure to find its way to Constantinople, where it would be thoroughly sifted. Of course, if it is impossible, owing to the prejudices of the Mussulman people, to have a Christian Governor, we must, I suppose, acquiesce in the appointment of a Mussulman Governor; but we should take care that he is an energetic Governor. Still, the point of a mixed gendarmerie, properly officered and armed, a force from which Christians should not be excluded, would be, in my opinion, a necessary element in the settlement of those difficulties. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs will refer with pride to the Papers that have been recently presented as evidence of the efforts the Government have been making by representations to the Forte to improve the state of things in Armenia. I have no desire to grudge or deny him this legitimate satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman will probably go on to say that the action taken by hon. Members in this matter—the frequent interpellations and interventions which take place in the British Parliament—really do more harm than good on the ground that they annoy and exasperate the Sultan. I should be very sorry to contribute to such a result; but I cannot forget the 35 years' sad experience we have had in this matter. We have seen, again and again, how the Porte delights to make a promise to the ear and to break it to the sense, and we have had only two cases—in the Lebanon and in Crete—in which self-government and good government have been secured to Christian populations. And this was from outside pressure, and not through spontaneous action. The Government may say that having done so well already, the best course to adopt will be to leave them to take a fitting opportunity of representing the necessity of reforms to the Sultan and his advisers. I would not accuse my right hon. Friend of indifference, but I believe there is a certain disposition on the part of the Foreign Office to "masterly inactivity" and to "leave well alone," and perhaps a little pressure in Parliament will assist them. Mr. Lloyd has complained that 1108 the frequent publication of exaggerated and unfounded charges of outrage and misgovernment on the part of the Porte does great harm to the cause we all have at heart. I am quite alive to the truth of this remark; at the same time, although false accounts may now and again have crept in, we have sufficient evidence in the Report now on the Table, and from independent sources, to show that where there is this smoke there is also some fire. There are two or three questions to which, very briefly, I should like to draw the attention of the hon. Baronet, and the first of these is with regard to Moussa Bey. I will not go through the whole history of the Moussa Bey incidents, as we had that last year. It is more or less a past and finished matter, but what I want to ask is whether it is certain that Moussa Bey, having been sent to Medina, will be kept there, or whether, after a time, when European feeling has subsided, and in accordance with the practice of the Porte in such cases, he will, be allowed to return, and again become a pest to his country? When anyone has been intriguing against the Porte, the Turkish Government has no scruple in sending him into exile, from which he very rarely returns; but if it is only a question of conciliating European sentiment by an apparent condemnation, the man may probably be sent off for a few months and then, when the matter is tided over and has dropped out of notice, he pops up again and returns to renew his malpractices. Another point is in regard to the treatment of Christians in the recent disturbance at Erzeroum. Although I admit that the Christians were to blame in not taking the advice of the officer who called on them to disperse when they were holding their meeting, and still more in attacking the soldiers, yet I hold the Turkish Governor primarily and chiefly to blame in the matter, for the disturbance was wholly brought about through an irritating search for arms which was made in the Christian school and church, without any justification and without any result. This is clear from the Despatches received from Her Majesty's Representatives in that part of the world. It is also clear that blame is to be attached to the subsequent conduct of the Turkish Government, for in spite of the remonstrances of 1109 Consul Lloyd, backed up by those of his Excellency, Sir W. White, at Constantinople, Armenians were imprisoned for their share in the disturbances, whilst from beginning to end no Mahommedans were punished. With the permission of the Committee, I will quote one of Mr. Clifford Lloyd's dispatches to show how strongly he regarded the gravity of the question. On June 26th, Mr. Fane, in a Despatch to Lord Salisbury, says he has received the following information from Mr. Lloyd:—I am personally of opinion that danger is over for the moment; but a number of Armenians are being arrested by order of the Government, while no steps are being taken towards the prosecution of any of the Mussulman mob who were engaged in the affray of Friday. An extremely bad effect may be caused by this action, and fanaticism may be thereby encouraged.Later on Mr. Consul Lloyd writes to Mr. Fane—In connection with the events of the 20th June here, a few more Christians have been arrested, making a total of 24 now in custody. No Mussulmans have yet been arrested for the murder and pillage of the Christians on that day.Though there was a tardy dismissal of one Turkish official on September 22nd, 28 Armenians were kept in prison for three months without trial, and no Mussulmans were imprisoned at all. I contend that action of that kind on the part of the Turkish Government is an incitement to murder and pillage, and that the effect on the Mussulman population is most demoralising in these large towns if action is taken on one side and not on the other, and no sort of semblance of impartiality is maintained. And, now, I would draw attention to what I look on as a most serious element in the state of the country, and that is the considerable movement of population that is taking place within Armenia at the present time. It may be taken for granted that no population desert their homes, their farms, and commerce unless they are suffering from considerable extortion and oppression, yet a large movement of population is taking place in Armenia. That movement is of two kinds, namely, the emigration of Armenian Christians from their own country into Persia, and the immigration of Circassians from Russian territory in the Caucasus into Armenia. 1110 There are two Despatches amongst the Papers in the hands of the House which illustrate this point. On page 25 it will be found that Consul Lloyd, writing to Sir W. White, says—In this country an Armenian family may be reckoned as consisting of at least seven persons, which would indicate that arrangements have been concluded for the emigration of from 4,000 to 4,500 persons. The Turkish Government, however, sustains its prohibition.The Armenians are not allowed to live in their own country in peace and quiet, and when they propose to go elsewhere they are detained by the Turkish Government to continue longer the prey and the spoil of the Kurds. Consul Lloyd says—The poverty among these people and the Christian inhabitants of the adjoining districts is stated to be very great. Their lamentable condition seems to result from, on the one hand, the heavy, and in some respects unjust, taxation imposed by the Government, and levied without consideration by subordinate officials, and on the other, from the exactions and ravages of the neighbouring Kurds.As to the immigration into Armenia from the Caucasus, Sir W. White, in a previous Despatch to Lord Salisbury, says—I have ascertained the following respecting the immigration of the Circassians from the Caucasus. It would seem that the number reaches 50,000; that the Russian Government has made no objection to the departure of these people who are looked upon as rather a disorderly population.In the same Despatch he says—I understand that the immigration is dictated in a great measure by fanatical reasons, these people desiring to inhabit a Mussulman country.From what took place in 1876 and 1877 it is well known what is the Circassian idea of the proper line of behaviour in a Mussulman country; and I fear that unless some steps are taken to have a proper watch kept on these people they will inaugurate their arrival in their new home, if not by indiscriminate massacre, at any rate by violent attacks upon the population. I appeal to the Government to do what they can to rescue these unfortunate people, the agricultural population in the small Christian villages, who, as every account agrees, are being Systematically plundered and harried. The honour of their women is not safe; their own lives are not safe; they have no chance of living 1111 in peace in their own country. It is true that some years ago it was only the orthodox Armenians who were persecuted by the Turks, but the persecution is no longer confined to them. The Armenian Roman Catholics are subjected to the same treatment as their fellow-countrymen of different religions, and I had plenty of proof of this last October, when I visited the Armenian convent at Venice. Lord Beaconsfield once spoke of the Turks as an historic people; but they are known in history only as having destroyed everything they met with, and having created nothing. The Armenians, on the other hand, may truly be referred to as an historic people. They have a very different record. They have made a name in the world of art, of literature, and of commerce; and there is, at the present time, a flourishing Armenian community in Manchester, embracing amongst its members some of the most respected citizens. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary will be aware that a meeting of these Armenians was held in Manchester not long ago to express sympathy with their fellow-countrymen in Armenia. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember that these people are gradually being harried out of existence. If Her Majesty's Government are able to secure for them safety and protection, the Armenian nation, through many a generation, will remember the name of England with gratitude and thankfulness; and though England will only be doing her duty in listening to the voice of humanity and justice, it will be no small thing to earn the gratitude and thankfulness of the Christian population of Armenia.
§ (6.56.) MR. LABOUCHERE
Wherever there is misgovernment my sympathies are with the misgoverned. My sympathies are with the oppressed in China, Africa, Turkey, but I have never yet been able to understand why hon. Gentlemen have such a peculiar, special, and sentimental affection for the Armenians. The Armenians are not one atom worse off than the Christians in the European provinces of Turkey. Wherever the Turk is, there must be the grossest misgovernment. The fact of Turkish misgovernment is as old as the Turkish Empire itself, yet, whenever it has been thought advisable by other Powers to clear 1112 the Turks out of Europe, England has always interfered, either on the ground that it is necessary to maintain the balance of power in Europe, or on the ground of her interests in the East. Wherever there are Armenians under Turkish rule, there, in the very nature of things, will be bad government. The hon. Member who has just sat down seemed to think that the Armenians are limited to the Province of Armenia. Geographically they are, but the Armenians are spread over the greater part of the Turkish Empire, and the majority of them live outside Armenia, if you include those under the sway of Russia. What is the condition of things in the Province of Armenia? It is populated by Kurds and Armenians. The Kurds live to a great extent in the mountains, and their habit is to come down and blackmail the Armenian villages. So long as the villagers pay what is demanded, as the Scotch Lowlanders used to pay to Rob Roy and his Highlanders, they are left in quiet; but when they cannot pay, the Kurds descend and exercise cruelty upon them. The reason why the Turkish Government does not interfere is that the supremacy of the Turks in Armenia depends entirely upon their playing into the hands of the Kurds. Turkey makes of the Kurds a species of irregular cavalry, and they are no doubt a defence in that part of Asia Minor against an attack on the part of Russia or an attempt on the part of the Christian population to throw off the Turkish sway. The sole reason why, it is said, England should interfere is on account of the Treaty of Cyprus. Under that treaty the Turks engaged to establish reforms in Armenia and Asia Minor, and the quid pro quo was that England should guarantee the dominion of the Turks in Asia Minor. Well, I do not suppose the Government consider themselves bound by any such guarantee now, but if we are to claim that those reforms shall be carried out, we shall have to recognise that guarantee. I do hope the country has arrived at that state of wisdom that it will not be dragged into war in order to maintain the Turk in Europe or in Asia. As far as Turkey in Europe is concerned we may leave it to the rivalries and jealousies of Austria and Russia, but so far as Asia Minor is concerned, 1113 if the Russians are determined to take Armenia, let them take it. But as a matter of fact we do not intend to go to war either for Armenia or for Asia Minor. The Turk knows this fact well, and understands that his Government must be an oppressive Government to the Christians, because if the Christians had the power they would certainly overthrow the Turkish Government. Therefore, if you maintain the Turkish rule you must also accept the fact that Turkish government will be bad and oppressive. But the main reason why I have risen is that I am anxious to obtain from the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what are the views of the Government on this question. The guarantee which we gave that Asia Minor should be defended against all comers, was the main condition on which we received the Island of Cyprus; the other condition being that the Turkish Government should carry out the desired reform. We said that if those reforms were carried out we would recognise our guarantee. The matter is very important. If we call on the Turkish Government to accept these reforms on the plea of the Convention of Cyprus, then we recognise our guarantee. We could not defend Armenia against Russian attacks. The Russians are close by, and might overwhelm Armenia at anytime, and we can only prevent their doing this by going to war with Russia, blockading or trying to blockade St. Petersburg, and doing injury to Russia in other parts of the world. Therefore, I urge that in making demands for reforms in Armenia we should not put them on the ground of the Cyprus Convention, unless we are prepared to do what would certainly be most unwise and impolitic, namely, by recognising the Cyprus Convention to declare that we did take Asia Minor under our care.
§ *(7.5.) MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
I agree with the hon. Member for Northampton in what he has said about sympathy with misgoverned peoples wherever they are found, but, at the same time, I do not quite understand the tone he has taken in this Debate. The reason why many of us take so strong an interest in this Armenian question is that there exists scarcely any country claiming to be civilised in which such open violence, so much cruelty, and 1114 such repeated robberies and murders are perpetrated as is the case in Armenia. The Treaty of Cyprus, which will no doubt be fully explained by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is the basis and standpoint from which we argue. The hon. Member for Northampton has said the people of Armenia would prefer to be in the hands of Russia rather than under the rule of the Turk, in order that they might escape from the suffering to which they are now subjected. We know that this will practically be out of the frying pan into the fire. Doubtless the Government of Russia is somewhat better than that of the Porte, but it still leaves so much to be desired that if I were an Armenian, I should have great difficulty in choosing under which Government I should prefer to live. But there is no reason why we should not bring what pressure is possible to bear upon the Porte. I should like to hear the Under Secretary explain what is the opinion of Her Majesty's Representatives in Armenia in reference to the recent proposal to arm the Kurds, and form them into separate regiments. In answer to a question put to him the other day, the hon. Baronet told us that, although the Government look on the arming of the Kurds with some amount of apprehension, it might turn out to be for the benefit of the Armenians, by organising and placing under military control the lawless wandering hordes of Kurds and Circassians. This maybe so; but I wish to know whether it is true, as has been stated in the newspapers, that the British Consul, as soon as he had heard of this arming of the Kurds, entered a strong protest against it, pointing out how inimical to the interests of Armenia such a step would be. If the hon. Baronet has obtained any further information on this subject I should be glad if he would give us the benefit of it. I should also like to know what amount of truth there is in the statement that messages have been sent to the Armenian colleges that Armenian history is not to be taught in them. I I should like to know whether this is the fact? and, having said this, I will only add the expression of my hope that the hon. Baronet will use his exertions in furtherance of our Treaty obligations to the Armenians so as to mitigate, as 1115 much as possible, the sufferings of that unhappy people.
§ *(7.10.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) Manchester, N.E.
The House will bear in mind that many things have been said on the present occasion that have not been stated for the first time, and I may admit that it is not surprising that in a history so painful in many respects as that of the Turkish Provinces of Asia there should be many gentlemen who pay attention to public affairs, and who take a special interest in these matters, who find it impossible to refrain from calling attention to the subject. At the same time, it is to be regretted that those who have such keen sympathy for the sufferings of the Armenians, and such hatred of misgovernment generally, should have shut their eyes to the efforts that have been, and are being, made to carry out their own wishes, and to the results that have already accrued. I think that while we should all regret and condemn indifference on the part of our officials to misgovernment and outrage, and while, also, we must all sympathise with the oppressed, we should, at the same time, be doing wrong to be indifferent to the efforts Her Majesty's Government are making to obtain a remedy for the evils complained of. With regard to what has been said by hon. Members with reference to the interference of this House, I would ask hon. Members to consider whether the interference of the House of Commons can in this case be exercised for good, first, upon Her Majesty's Government, and then upon the Turkish Government, in stimulating them to efforts to bring about a better state of things in the Armenian Provinces. If such interference is accompanied by denunciation of the Ottoman Government in the Asiatic Provinces, what good result can possibly accrue from advice offered by Her Majesty's Government when, at the same time, the Ottoman Government are able to point to expressions of hon. Members of this House declaring hatred of Turkish rule and denouncing entirely the government of the Turks? I venture to think that the remonstrances that may be fitting and acceptable for us to make ought to be the remonstrances of a friendly Government, and not such as have been suggested. 1116 At all events, that is not the sense in which the Government have hereto counselled the Porte. We have used our efforts to obtain the repression of disorder in the Turkish Provinces, and I am glad to say that the Ottoman Government have recognised that the advice we have given them has-been given in a friendly spirit, and with every desire to promote the welfare of the country. The hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk, who opened this discussion, said while rendering a just tribute to the exertion of the late Mr. C. Lloyd to obtain justice and protection for the Christians in what is called Armenia, that gentleman had not received sufficient backing from London. I say that that is a most unfounded charge. The hon. Gentleman said that, although it is more than a year ago that instructions were sent out to Sir William White to use his best efforts to procure a better state of things in the Asiatic Provinces, they have not been followed up by repetitions of those instructions. I think the Committee will recognise that an Ambassador in the position of Sir William White does not require to have his instructions constantly repeated by Her Majesty's Government. An officer whose merits have been acknowledged by the Government which preceded that of Her Majesty's present advisers should be left to use his discretion in carrying out the instructions he has received. That he has carried out these Resolutions is justified by the Papers which are before the House. I think these are the words of the Despatch:—6th December, 1890 "—this is later than the Papers presented to the House—For my part, I do not relax my efforts to induce the Sublime Porte whenever I can to induce the Sultan to select trustworthy civil and judicial officers, and thus ensure a better administration of those districts, with security of life and property to all alike in them.That shows that Sir W. White does not require any fresh instructions, and that no efforts are spared to produce those results which we are all desirous of obtaining. Reference has been made to a letter from a lady who has travelled through these districts, in which she has spoken of the increasing outrages of the Kurds. That account does not agree with the testimony of Her Majesty's 1117 Officers in those districts. It is true we are obliged to record very lamentable occurrences, which show the necessity of continued efforts to repress them. For instance, in November there was a bad murder; in January an Armenian was beaten to death by zaptiehs, or constables; and from Erzeroum our acting Consul reported misconduct of the Kaimakan. In the first case the prompt action of the Governor General procured the arrest of five men who were guilty of the outrage; in the second case the Vali at Erzeroum, on the requisition of the Consul, immediately ordered inquiries to be made; and in the third case the officer whose conduct has been complained of was dismissed. That is a proof that the representations of Her Majesty's Government are not in vain. I cannot help saying that many erroneous and exaggerated statements are made which do more harm than good and only serve to prejudice the Armenian cause. I sometimes feel great reluctance in throwing cold water on well-meant representations from hon. Members on the other side of the House; but after repeated instances of reports apparently believed in and brought forward on that side of the House, I cannot help thinking that Her Majesty's Representatives are thoroughly justified in not reporting rumours that come to their knowledge until they have investigated those rumours. For instance, in the Daily News of September 16, 1890, there was a telegram from Igdys headed "Disorder in Armenia," which, on inquiry by the British Representative, proved to be erroneous and false; on December 3, 1890, the Daily News contained an account of the desecration of a church at Mush, which, on inquiry, was proved never to have taken place. The same paper stated that "A priest escaped from Van says, 'But for the presence of the Russian and British Consuls no life would be safe.'" As the result of inquiry into this, Mr. Devey states that the report "scarcely called for serious notice." Many similar outrages are reported, all wholly without foundation. With regard to the levying of blackmail and the withdrawal of protection from the Armenians, Mr. Devey states that the representations made are wholly incorrect, and that the levying of blackmail had been steadily repressed by the 1118 Turkish authorities. Then comes a very curious statement made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen in a question with regard to an attack on the Van Consulate. On inquiry being made the Vice Consul denied the report categorically. I think that these instances ought to make hon. Members pause before giving credence to information telegraphed home by newspaper correspondents, many of whom have never been near the place. It is too true that murders do take place, and in Crete they seem to come as much from one race or set of religionists as another. There there is a strong religious animosity existing between the different creeds, and nothing but strong impartial government will prevent these occurrences. We have reason to believe, however, that measures are now really being taken to remedy this state of things. Mr. Devey speaks of the active conduct of some of the present Governors in Asia Minor. An extraordinary statement was lately made that on one occasion 18,000 stacks of hay were burnt. The case has been investigated, and it is found that 5 or 10 stacks had been burnt, and the culprits were seized and delivered to the Courts of Justice. In another case, where the seizing of corn was reported, it is found to be a very petty affair, and the culprits punished. All the reports show that; there is much more energy on the part of the authorities, and no want of zeal on the part of our Representatives. With regard to the riots at Erzeroum, the local Consul and the Ambassador have recommended the execution of certain measures which seem peculiarly desirable to them; and I have a long list of results from applications made by our Representatives which have led not only the Vice Consul at Van, but also the Consul at Erzeroum and Sir W. White, to say that there appears to be a better state of things existing in those Provinces, that the authorities are showing greater activity and a greater anxiety to repress outrages, and that the condition of the people generally is better than it has been in former years. Hon. Members have made certain suggestions. The hon. Member for Eye recommended increased autonomy in Armenia. The hon. Member for Stoke advocated the appointment of a Christian Governor 1119 for these Provinces, while he admitted that the Mussulman population is in a considerable majority. Of all proposals that is the least practicable—absolutely hopeless for Her Majesty's Government to recommend to the Porte, and absolutely hopeless to expect the Ottoman Government to adopt. The hon. Member also asked if we believed Moussa Bey would be allowed to return to the scene of his former atrocities, or whether his exile would be permanent. I think it is extremely improbable he will be allowed to return. On account of the failure of justice in the case of Moussa Bey, the Minister of Justice was dismissed from his position, and the House ought to recognise that as a proof of the desire of the Ottoman Government to do justice. Indeed, whenever a flagrant disregard of justice has been brought to the notice of the Sultan, he has promptly punished it. The hon. Member for Stoke also referred to the desire of the Armenians to migrate to Persian territory, but I must say I do not think the language he used was likely to be very persuasive to the Ottoman Government. I would not have ventured, as has the Member for Northampton, to compare Moussa Bey to Rob Roy; but, while talking of the proposal to embody some regiments of Kurds for the protection of the land, I think it right to point to the success which attended the formation of highland regiments after the last rising. The whole population of the borderland had previously lived in terror of the highland clans; but this state of affairs was entirely changed by embodying those brave though turbulent people into regiments, in which afterwards they performed most distinguished service. Even wild tribes often make excellent soldiers. I know how well the hill tribes of India, who gave so much trouble to the British Government in the early part of this century, became most excellent soldiers, and I once had the pleasure of placing the order of merit on the breast of a man who had been captured at the taking of a hill fort. Therefore, this method of pacifying highlanders is not new. I told the House the other day that the experiment of forming regiments of Kurds was one which must be watched with anxiety; but if carried out with judgment and prudence it may not be at all a fresh danger to the 1120 Armenians, but may have the effect of pacifying the Kurds, and of giving greater protection to the people. The Member for North Manchester asked whether it was true that the Vice Consul protested against this step. He certainly did no such thing. The Ottoman Government is well aware of the view Her Majesty's Government take of the matter, and we hope that, while these levies may constitute an additional source of strength to the Empire, they may also be the means of lessening disorder and of giving increased security to the peaceable inhabitants. For Her Majesty's Government I can say that, wherever a well-authenticated case of injustice or oppression has been brought to the notice of our Representatives, communications have been addressed to the Turkish authorities either at Constantinople or on the spot in a friendly manner—in the way best calculated, in the opinion of our experienced agents, to procure redress—and in many cases those representations have been successful. The condition of these Provinces has shown a decided improvement, and Her Majesty's Government have every reason to believe that the choice of prudent and wise governors will in time tend to greater improvement.
§ (7.40.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in his observations, suggested that this was a matter which had frequently been before the House, and so it is, for it seems always to be the same story on the one hand and the same reply on the other. The right hon. Gentleman never tells us more than that he has reason to believe an improvement is taking place. But I fear that the Under Secretary does not appreciate the gravity of the new features which have arisen in this question. He endeavoured to make the House believe that things are improving, but the Blue Book of January last shows that the state of things has, in some respects, become graver. Of course, we do not know if he has other information with more recent Despatches. In the first place, there is a disposition on the part of the Christian Armenians to emigrate into Russian and Persian territory. That is conclusive proof of the miseries under 1121 which they suffer. In the second place, a considerable number of Armenians appear to have indicated a wish to join the Greek Church, which shows how strong is their desire to obtain Russian protection, and which will open to Russia a pretext for interference she has not now. In the third place, the riots and disorders which have arisen in Constantinople present quite a new feature in the situation. I believe nothing so serious has occurred since the 15th century. Sir William White recognises the gravity of these proceedings, which he says show the growing animosity rankling among the Armenians even at Constantinople. A fourth fact of some gravity is to be found in the relations of the Russian and Turkish Armenians. The Committee may not know that there have been very strong movements of sympathy amongst the Persians, and still more amongst the Russian Armenians. They have come to sympathise very warmly with the sufferings of their fellow-countrymen, who live under the tyranny of the Turk, and it has been with difficulty that they have been restrained from organising armed demonstrations against Turkey. These are only some of the new and alarming features which the events of the last two or three years present, and which make us feel that it is more than ever necessary for Her Majesty's Government to endeavour to supply a remedy before it is too late. I listened in vain to the speech of the Under Secretary for any word of sympathy for the people, for any word of acknowledgment of the sufferings which they undergo. He seemed to devote himself entirely, as he has done in all the Debates we have had on these matters, to extenuating and palliating the cruelties and atrocities of the Turks.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
I do not think the hon. Gentleman is doing me justice, I have always said that I sympathise as much as anyone can with the sufferings of the people.
§ MR. BRYCE
I accept those words for what they are worth; but I must observe that the right hon. Gentleman directed his whole speech, as he usually does, to an endeavour partly to deny and partly to extenuate, palliate, and excuse the atrocities which are perpetrated by the Kurds. The burden of his song has always been, "You are exaggerating; 1122 this and that are proved not to have happened; the Turkish Government is hardly pressed; and you ought not to say anything which can touch its susceptibilities." It would be wiser and better if the right hon. Gentleman would tell the Turk in plain terms what the country thinks, if he would avail himself of the opportunity we give him to speak in firm language, and to tell the Turk the opinion of enlightened Europe, and particularly that this country condemns in the strongest manner the indifference of the Turkish Government to the atrocities perpetrated under their sway. The right hon. Gentleman has adverted to the Reports which we have under the incontrovertible authority of Mr. Clifford Lloyd and Mr. Devey. Mr. Clifford Lloyd seems to have shown himself to be a man of great energy and humanity; and in his position at Erzeroum he did his best, with tact, firmness, and moderation, to induce the Turkish Government to adopt a different course. Here are some of his words in a Minute which he transmitted on the 2nd of October last—It is admitted by every one that a change is necessary in the system of government now being applied to the Christian population of Kurdistan, i.e., the Armenian people. Their sufferings at present proceed from three direct causes:—(1) The insecurity of their lives and properties owing to the habitual ravages of the Kurds. (2) The insecurity of their persons, and the absence of all liberty of thought and action (excepting the exercise of public worship). (3) The unequal status held by the Christian as compared with the Mussulman in the eyes of the Government. As regards No. 1, putting aside isolated instances of depredation, there has been pillage on the most extensive scale, with much slaughter, by Kurds in various parts of Armenia during the past few months, as will be observed from my Despatches dated the 21st August and the 1st October 1890. This year the record is an exceptionally large one, but the position of the defenceless Armenian peasantry with reference to the Kurds, who are all armed, varies only in degree, and looked at from any point of view, is one calling for immediate relief. There are two courses open to the Turkish Government in its desire to protect its Armenian subjects; one to actually and completely subjugate the Kurds by force of arms; and the other to adequately protect the Armenian peasants from Kurdish aggression. The former would entail a large expenditure of money, and in all probability bring about a general massacre of those for whose benefit it was undertaken. Many reasons exist for not suggesting this course, not the least of which is that, under any circumstances, the Turkish Government could not be induced to adopt it. It is, however, the first duty of every Government to 1123 protect its subjects, and in this instance duty and self-interest both demand it. The Armenian peasantry are unable at present to pay their taxes owing to the ravages of the Kurds, and from the same cause are reduced to such a state of discontent that they are willing even to forsake their homes, and it is said also their religion, if relief could thus be obtained.He goes on to say—The result is that this summer the valley has been again overrun by the Kurds, who here, as in other parts of Kurdistan, openly declare that their action meets with the approval of the Turkish Government.That is the gravamen of our charge. It is not that the Turkish Government is unable to protect its subjects: it is that sub rosâ it encourages the Kurds: it does not take the steps that are within its power to keep the Kurds in order. Some years ago I travelled in Russian Armenia—it adjoins this territory. In the Russian territory the Kurds give no trouble at all, because they know that there is military force to suppress any misconduct on their part. If the Turkish Government desires to do its duty it can do it; it is will and not power that is wanting. Mr. Clifford Lloyd proceeds to say—The third cause is the inequality of justice and consideration shown to the Christian inhabitants of this country, both by the Executive Government and by the Law Officers. This is well known to everyone conversant with the condition of Kurdistan, but, as an instance, I may mention the fact that in all crimes of violence of which the Christians have been the victims during the past year in the Province of Erzeroum no one has been punished, nor, with very few exceptions, has any effort been even made to bring the offenders to justice.That clearly shows that in Mr. Clifford Lloyd's opinion it is not want of power, but want of will on the part of the Turkish Government that prevents them making reforms. He proceeds—Whatever other reforms may be desirable, they are not of the same pressing necessity as immediate measures for the protection of the lives and properties of the people. The agricultural portion of the Armenian people plead not as rebels, but as subjects of His Majesty the Sultan, for this protection; but in the words of the Note presented 10 years ago to the Sublime Porte on this same subject, the Local Government at Erzeroum seems 'to refuse to recognise the degree of anarchy which exists' in this Province, or the gravity of a state of things which, if permitted to continue, would, in all probability, lead to the destruction of the Christian population of vast districts.'I am sorry to say I cannot share the hopeful views of the right hon. Gentleman 1124 with regard to the attitude of the Turkish Government on this question. Too many things go to show that the Turkish Government think that the way to get rid of the Armenian question is to get rid of the Armenians themselves. I have only one or two more quotations to make, but I must make them on account of the entire neglect of the right hon. Gentleman to dwell on this part of the case. I will quote a passage which you will find on page 28 of the Blue Book—At present, as your Excellency is aware, the Kurds are armed and the Christian peasants unarmed and helpless, the latter sow and the former appropriate the harvest to their own wants, while to gratify their instincts they often burn and destroy what they do not appropriate. On the other hand, owing to these circumstances, the peasants get into arrears in the payment of taxes, the collection of which proceeds by arbitrary and sometimes by cruel methods on the part of subordinate officials, and redress in the one case and the other being for various reasons refused or withheld, the Christian peasants are reduced to a state of abject poverty, fear, and discontent. Any combination for the purpose of petitioning the Government for assistance and consideration is met by the application of those measures only excusable in the case of a people plotting revolution. This the Armenian people in this country are far from contemplating. There are undoubtedly young and indiscreet persons to be found here, as elsewhere, who at times act imprudently, but my observation and information lead me to the belief, held also by all those whose local experience constitutes them authorities on the point, that if the Christian peasants were adequately secured against the attacks and ravages of the Kurds they would be as contented and loyal as they are naturally industrious.Elsewhere in the Blue Book there is ample proof that the only thing that is likely to provoke revolutionary outbreaks is the total absence of justice and the impossibility of obtaining it. That also is the opinion which Mr. Devey, who, writing from Van, says, on page 74 of the Blue Book—As rumours have been spread again of late of the growth of seditious sentiments among Armenians, I take this occasion of once more submitting most respectfully my private opinion that no real revolutionary feeling exists in either Bitlis or Van. The general loyalty of the Armenian community is perfectly sound, and if efficient protection were afforded to the Christian agricultural population throughout the districts, combined with something more than a mere perfunctory display, or rather semblance, of executing justice, I venture to think that the cause of many well-founded complaints would be removed.I am not selecting these extracts and 1125 distorting them from their context; I am giving what I believe to be the substantial result of the Blue Book, and I think any hon. Member who reads the Blue Book can only come to the conclusion that there is a total want of wish on the part of the Turkish Government to introduce reform. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to deny that the Kurds are armed.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
No, I did not deny that. I denied on the authority of the Consuls that they had been armed by the Government with the Martini-Henry rifle.
§ MR. BRYCE
But they are. I hold in my hand a letter from Mrs. Bishop, whose authority is unquestionable. She says—My own caravan was attacked by Kurds armed with the Martini-Henry rifle, as most of them are.She also states that she passed through a valley which had been bared by them; they had committed robberies, women and girls had been outraged under circumstances of peculiar brutality, and girls had been carried off to the mountains. Against all this evidence the right hon. Gentleman can only quote the assurances of Turkish officials, which he will scarcely venture to say he believes. We are fortunate in having at Constantinople a man of so much ability, experience, and energy, as Sir W. White; but there is no evidence that Her Majesty's Government have sent him such Despatches as are likely to have any influence upon the Turkish Government. It has been said that any attempt on the part of the Government of this country to endeavour to compel Turkey to treat her Christian subjects justly, would be an act of gratuitous philanthropy on our part. It would be nothing of the kind. It is owing to the action of this country more than of the other great Powers that the Turkish Government exists. If it had not been for the action of this country, probably the Sultan would not now be reigning at Constantinople. Therefore, we are bound by every consideration of honour and humanity to see that she acts fairly to her unhappy subjects. It may be asked, with some plausibility, what is the use of us interfering in the matter, and I own that there is something academical and idle 1126 in our constantly making the same complaints in the face of our being met by the same non possumus argument. In my opinion, however, it is time that the Government of this country made a step forward in this matter. During the last five years Her Majesty's Government have never attempted to induce the other great Powers to co-operate with us in endeavouring to induce Turkey to do her duty by her subjects. If we made some effort in that direction we should, at all events, be discharging our consciences as a Christian community. Much might be accomplished if we could only induce the Turkish Government to appoint a better class of Governors, instead of men who are only able to maintain their positions by exacting from the people such sums as will enable them to bribe the officials at Constantinople. Mr. Bartley, in a little book which he has written on Turkey, points out that a good Governor of a province is unable to effect any reforms, because directly he attempts to do so he is re-called. If the Sultan could be induced to send out better Governors and give them proper support, and not listen to the voices of intrigue and detraction which are raised against them in the capital, I believe a very great improvement might be effected without the appointment of Christian Governors. Unfortunately we have no evidence that Her Majesty's Government press in that direction, still less have we evidence that they endeavour to induce other Powers to cooperate with them. I fear nothing will be obtained until there are joint representations from the Powers made to the Sultan. It only lies upon us to endeavour to obtain the concurrence of the other Powers, and if we cannot obtain that, to go frankly to Russia and ask her to aid us in bringing about an amelioration of the condition of the people. I feel that this matter is one of greater gravity than the House realises. The time will come when the Christian populations will become the leading element in those districts: Is it proper we should endeavour to help them to improve their condition? I still believe that great firmness on the part of the Government might even now awaken the Turks to a sense of the evil which they are doing to the danger to 1127 their own power which arises from the perpetuation of anarchy in Armenia.
§ (8.10.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I am rather inclined to agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen that these repeated Debates upon Armenian matters are but idle beating of the air and waste of Parliamentary time. But whatever may be the feeling of the Government, we have the consolation of having done our duty by constantly calling the attention of the Government and the country to these matters. I have not the slightest expectation of seeing Her Majesty's Government goaded into any action than their present action; and even if they were induced to use anything more than polite diplomatic language to the Turk, I have not the slightest expectation of seeing it attended with any success. Therefore, while I entirely sympathise with the suggestions which have been made across the Table, I cannot help thinking it will need something far stronger than we are likely to get from Her Majesty's Government before we see any alteration in the attitude of the Turks towards their Armenian subjects. I do not quite agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen that the difficulty would be met by sending out good Turkish Governors. I do not recollect any case where a Turkish Governor has been sent to quell disturbance and has succeeded. I am not aware of any case where it might not be said of Turkish Governors that evil communications corrupt good manners. In fine, I do not believe you could get a respectable Turkish Governor who would be able to resist the temptation of the gain which wholesale pillage of his unfortunate Armenian subjects would bring to him; and therefore I am inclined to discard, as a practical solution of the difficulty, the proposition that you could find a respectable Turk to go out and bring about good government and general contentment and prosperity in these unfortunate provinces. But to suppose that Her Majesty's Government are in the least serious about this business is absurd. I never knew a time when a Tory Government was serious in bringing any form of coercion to bear upon any people except the Irish. They have always entertained a feeling of affection and respect for the unspeakable 1128 Turk, and it would be inconsistent with the general principles of Toryism if they were to undertake the mission suggested by the hon. Member for Aberdeen. Whatever our feeling or pity for the Armenians may be, and however anxious we may be to produce something like law and order in Armenia—and however we may fail in our efforts in that direction—I think we may require them to do something to look after the interests of our own fellow-subjects. Long ago I was convinced that a Tory aristocratic Government, consisting of noble Lords in in another place, and Baronets and other great men on that Bench, is not the best representative Government for a commercial nation like our own. We have great cause to complain of the neglect of the commercial interests of the country which the Government display. I have to refer in particular to a statement which appeared in this morning's papers with respect to the treatment of a particular person who had commercial business in Asia Minor. The facts, so far as I gather them from the papers, are these: A gentleman named Pilling, a citizen of Manchester, had a concession for the construction of a railway from St. Jean d'Acre to Damascus. I do not propose to discuss the wisdom of the construction of such a railway. I think it would be better, from the point of view of the picturesque, that there should be no such railway; but considering it desirable to construct, and having obtained a concession from the Sultan, how was this gentleman treated? The concession, like every concession, was limited to a certain time. Owing to the difficulties of the last few months Mr. Pilling was unable to carry out the conditions under which the concession had been granted to him. Instead of the Turkish Authorities showing him consideration as any civilised Christian Government would, they came down upon him, and, so to speak, estreated the money he had deposited. There was an exceedingly amusing account in the papers of the way in which the Turks danced with joy at the very idea of fingering the Christian's cash. I do not mention these facts for the purpose of showing that this gentleman was entitled to any consideration, but for the purpose of drawing attention to the different 1129 manner in which the different Governments attend to the commercial interests of their subjects. The German Government is particularly solicitous for the commercial interests of German subjects, and the consequence is that wherever you go—to Africa or the East, or any other part of the world—you find that the commercial agents of German firms are outstripping our own commercial agents. Their Consuls are so many touting agents for German interests.
§ MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)
I rise to Order. I beg to ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Member is speaking to the question before the Committee?
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I am sorry my argument was not quite clear to the hon. Member. Although I must apologise for having gone somewhat more into detail in connection with the case than I intended, I was, at the moment of the interruption, explaining my view—it may be a wrong view—that whereas other Governments look after the commercial interests of their subjects in all parts of the world, our Foreign Office shows a total disregard of the commercial interests of our own fellow countrymen, a fact which tells very seriously against the extension of our commercial interests. That is surely a grievance which we have a right to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Foreign Office in this House. In connection with the question of a concession such as that I have mentioned, it is quite obvious that the Government might have brought some gentle persuasive pressure to bear on the Sultan to extend the time allowed for the carrying out of the conditions of the concession. I ask the Government to bestow a little attention to these insignificant details, and if no other argument can be employed to attract the conscience of the Government to this and other kindred subjects, I would humbly submit the possibility of the minds of the constituents of the Under Secretary, who are largely interested from a commercial point of view in undertakings in the East and elsewhere, and especially in Armenia, being awakened to the gravity of the situation in Armenia. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I do not 1130 for the moment recollect what Division of Manchester the right hon. Gentleman has the honour to represent, but I do-know the Armenian colony in Manchester is a very considerable and important factor. I hope there are many Armenians in his constituency, and I strongly recommend all Armenians who have commercial interests in this country to try whether they cannot raise such an agitation in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency as will force him to take far more energetic action in this matter than he seems inclined to do. There is only one other word I want to say, and it is that whether the whole of Asia Minor eventually comes under the rule of the Russians or not, I feel quite certain that the sooner it passes from the rule of the Turk the better. No one will contend that there are not unlimited resources of all kinds in that great peninsula which we know as Asia Minor. What is being done? With the exception of a few places like Smyrna, on the coast, practically the whole of that great territory is closed to the outer world. It might just as well be in the interior of China as where it is. I do not say that the whole of the territory should pass into the hands of the Armenians, who are a minority of the population, but whoever the Government of it may pass-to, I hope it will pass into the hands of some nation who will be able to develop its resources and do something for the benefit of the population. Past history shows that the Turks have done nothing towards developing the resources of Asia Minor, but ruin and misery have followed their rule. The time is coming, I hope, when Armenia will be free from Turkish Administration, and the wealth of the country will be developed under the influence of civilisation.
§ *(8.30.) SIR J. FERGUSSON
I only rise to express my regret that the hon. Member should have allowed himself the use of such terms as he has employed towards a Power and a Sovereign with whom this country is in friendly relations.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
It is a word most unsuitable to the occasion. It is very much to be regretted that the hon. Member should have used the expression "unspeakable Turk" as a description 1131 of the Sovereign of a country in friendly relations with Her Majesty. Against this I venture to enter my protest, though I hope there are not many Members who would fall into such a mistake. As to the question the hon. Member has raised respecting a British subject, who, the hon. Gentleman alleges, has suffered some injustice at the hands of the Turkish Government, I have to say that it is my daily duty to inquire into cases in which British subjects make complaints, and to make representations concerning them, but I do not recognise such a case under the description the hon. Member has given. If it can be shown to me that a British subject has really suffered injustice at the hands of the Turkish Government, we will, of course, make representations; but if the case in question is merely that in which a concession was revoked after its limit had been passed, I am not sure that I see in it grounds for interference. (8.32.)
§ (9.5.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary has not yet returned to his place. He has, however, left three despatch boxes on the Treasury Bench. One I suppose he has exhausted, because it is no doubt the Ottoman box. The two others are, I suppose, the Tokar box and the Manica box. I shall finish by moving the reduction of the Vote by £100, in regard to the salary of the Secretary for Foreign. Affairs. I have spoken of this matter frequently in the House, and I shall probably speak of it frequently again, because I think it is a question of paramount importance, and I am surprised that the House of Commons and the country are not fully awake to the dangers we are incurring. I should like to know where the Nonconformist conscience is. It appears that that very sensitive membrane can only take in one Commandment at a time; and it does not seem particularly ready to take in the Commandment, "Thou shalt not commit murder." In 1884, when the Dervishes were attacked in the Soudan, the Nonconformist conscience was aroused. Since then worse things have been committed, and yet no strong feeling has been aroused in the country about them, though the awakening will no doubt come. At that time it was asserted, rightly or wrongly, that Suakin 1132 was in danger. An understanding was come to with the Egyptian Government, who declared that the Soudan had been abandoned for good and all; and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (Lord Hartington) told the House at that time that the Government would abandon it under certain conditions, and that this country was to remain for a certain time in Egypt. Those conditions have been fulfilled, and yet we find that the Egyptians are not only making a raid and massacring the Dervishes, but the Government have claimed that the Egyptians have laid hold of a portion of the Eastern Soudan. I have really not yet discovered what the policy and the intentions of the Government are, and how the Government can possibly justify the advice they have given to the Egyptian Government inducing them to annex the Province of Tokar. An Egyptian civil and military government has been established there, and it is now said that the Province of Tokar is under the dominion of the Khedive. This policy is merely a means to an end, and this end is to recover the entire Soudan for Egypt. I have just been reading, in the Second Edition of the Times, some correspondence from the well-informed correspondent of that newspaper in Egypt. This gentleman lets the cat out of the bag. The Times correspondent says that the Egyptian Government are rejoicing because they see the possibility of going to Berber and laying hold of the Soudan again. The military party in Egypt has always desired this. That party consists mostly of Pashas. The Soudan was the feeding ground of these Pashas, and they hope that by again extending the Egyptian domination in the Soudan they will be extending the field of their depredations. Besides, there is in Egypt the greatest fear that Her Majesty's Government will retire. This feeling is not entertained by the fellaheen, but by the financiers. There is a large amount of money invested in different Egyptian enterprises, and the financiers try so to arrange matters that we shall be forced to remain in Egypt, now on one plea and now on another. They think that if they can induce us to assent to the Egyptians laying hold of the Soudan, they can inaugurate a frontier war, that they can push on to Berber and Khartoum, and 1133 so prevent us leaving the country. The matter is important to the British taxpayer. We have 3,000 troops in Egypt. The reason given for keeping them there is that they are to maintain order in Egypt. We are in Egypt to aid the Egyptian garrison in maintaining order, but if Her Majesty's Government allow the Egyptians to go on making wars of aggression, greater responsibilities are thrown on our troops, and the argument that we must remain in Egypt for the purpose of maintaining order there is stronger than ever. The feeling of the electors of this country has never been in favour of the occupation of Egypt. The Secretary for War asserted that the recent fight was a mere military operation necessary for the defence of Tokar; but the Committee must remember that Tokar is 55 miles away from Suakin, and that the argument that it is necessary to go so far afield in the defence of a fort, is equivalent to saying that it is necessary to annex Granada and Seville for the defence of Gibraltar. It is sheer hypocrisy for Her Majesty's Government to try and persuade this House and the country that this taking of Tokar was necessary to the safety of Suakin. The great argument in favour of keeping Suakin has always been that it can be secured and maintained alone. It has always been urged that it can be defended by a small garrison and by the guns of our Elect. I wish to know whether Her Majesty's Government have, at any rate, now told the Egyptian Government distinctly that they must not go one step further, and that if they find themselves involved in difficulties they need not expect to be backed up by British troops? The policy which is being pursued now will one of these days land us in enormous expenditure. I believe that it will tend to keep us in Egypt, contrary to all the pledges we have given to foreign Governments. In 18S4 the Conservatives in this House voted with me when I moved a Resolution protesting against the massacre of the Dervishes, but no sooner do the Conservatives come into power than—notwithstanding all the pledges they have given—they allow the Egyptians to go out and massacre a thousand Dervishes. Who does this country belong to? To the Soudanese, Egypt having abandoned it; and yet we are told that an Amnesty 1134 Proclamation has been issued by the Khedive. The Khedive might as well put out an Amnesty Proclamation in regard to London. He has no business in the Soudan. If he has taken the province there is no necessity for an Amnesty Proclamation, and as to the prisoners, the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told us that they were exceedingly comfortable and happy, as they had been "deported to another place."
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
I did not say they had been deported to another place, but that they had the choice of going home or staying where they were, and that they preferred to stay where they were.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
They were wise in that respect; but a certain number of people were taken prisoners, and they were detained. Did these people prefer remaining in prison to going home?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
What does that mean? Does it mean that they were to leave this Province of Tokar and go back to Khartoum?
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
I said we might hope that these people would be treated kindly if taken prisoners at Tokar, as others had been so well treated on the Nile. They preferred to remain where they were rather than return up the Nile.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Very likely. When their houses had been burnt down, and their wives and families had been slaughtered, they said, "You take care of us now." I want to know why the Egyptians went amongst these people? There is such a thing as International Law, and I ask whether, under that law, the Egyptians were justified in what they did? Did the country belong to them? If not, why did they go there and take prisoners and issue a Proclamation of Amnesty? All this was done with the consent of Her Majesty's Government. The real responsibility for these acts rests, not on the dummies in. Egypt, but upon Her Majesty's Government. Unless a definite stand is made against these expeditions into the Soudan, the Egyptian Government will proceed further and further—urging, next, that it is necessary to the security of Tokar that Kassala should be taken, though it 1135 is 250 miles off, then that Berber should be occupied, and never resting satisfied until they get to Khartoum: having taken one Province they will be equally keen on taking another. In order to elicit from the Government a clear explanation of their policy, I beg to move a reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Item of £6,000, for the Foreign Office, be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ (9.24) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I should like to ask in what position do we stand towards the Central Government of the Soudan at Khartoum? Bight or nine years ago the Soudanese people of various tribes determined to get rid of Turkish misgovernment. They rose in rebellion, cleared out the Turkish Pashas, and have over since been a self-governing country. The seat of Government has been in Khartoum, and in the Provinces they have had Emirs or Lieutenant Governors. Formerly we had a large trade with the Soudan, and that trade might be revived if Her Majesty's Government came to terms with the de facto Government at Khartoum. Why do Her Majesty's Government refuse to recognise that de facto Government? The fanaticism which characterised it in the first instance has been dying out, and I have no doubt it is perfectly prepared to come to terms with us and with other civilised Governments in order to obtain our commodities. I pointed out on a previous occasion that we are aiding and abetting the Egyptians in their race against the Italians to Berber and Kassala, and I see in a telegram in the Times a statement from a correspondent exactly confirming my view. The rule of the Turks and Egyptians in the Soudan was about the most horrible on earth; why do you not, therefore, recognise the de facto Government? It rules over hundreds of thousands of miles of fertile territory, populated by industrious people, and I think we ought to do what we can to come to terms with them.
§ (9.27.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
On the last occasion this subject was under discussion, after an ostentatious and aggressive silence, the right hon. Gentleman opposite wound up by saying we need not trouble ourselves 1136 about this matter, as the territory was occupied solely and entirely for the defence of Suakin. The noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office advised people to study large maps. I want to know if the Under Secretary has studied large maps? I do not think he has, otherwise he would have avoided the error into which he has fallen. Tokar is 55 miles from Suakin, and since the capture of that place another fort 12 miles further on has been occupied, so that to secure the safety of Suakin the Egyptians have seized upon territory 67 miles away. In order to protect a small insignificant port, a territory as large as Kent, Surrey, Sussex, and part of Hampshire has been taken. You might as well say it is necessary to take that amount of territory from Spain in order to secure the defence of Gibraltar. The Soudan has been decimated by internecine feuds, and latterly by famine, the Egyptians having followed the doubtful policy of starving out the people by instituting a blockade. Since then the Egyptians have killed a large number of them, and have occupied their territory. When the famine blows over and they revive a little you will find these people as troublesome as they were 10 or 12 years ago. The rebellion in the Soudan gave rise to all these troubles in Egypt. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary has deceived himself. He does not believe what is really the case. This is merely a part of our Jingo policy; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will believe in the Times, which to-day publishes a telegram from Cairo, which regards the capture of Tokar as a first step towards the occupation of the Soudan, The telegram of the Times Correspondent says—It is the general opinion in well-informed circles that the capture of Tokar is only part of a larger scheme, as, taken alone, it involves a considerable increase in the Soudan military establishment, and furnishes additional points for attack.The Correspondent further states—The capture of Tokar may be the first step towards the re-conquest of the Soudan, a measure which is becoming inevitable in consequence of the Italian progress towards the Nile, and is called for to relieve the peaceable inhabitants from the terrible cruelties inflicted under Dervish rule.These are the ideas prevalent in Egypt, and will, if allowed by Her Majesty's 1137 Government, continue to prevail. It is idle to say that this occupation of Tokar has been rendered necessary in the protection of Suakin, a place which could be defended by a gunboat and a single battalion. The occupation of Tokar is an extension of territory, which may lead to infinitely larger extensions, with the dangers consequent upon indefinite continuance there.
§ *(9.35.) SIR J. FERGUSSON
I had hoped that the Debate which took place a fortnight ago on this subject would have sufficed, as on that occasion I replied with considerable fulness to all the arguments which were adduced. On the occasion of a second edition of that Debate, I did not think it necessary to repeat what I had said, but to avoid the criticism to which I was subjected, I will now briefly answer the points which have been again advanced. I am not concerned with the Nonconformist conscience, which was not particularly active when similar but far larger measures were taken by a former Government. The Member for Northampton has referred to declarations made six or seven years ago that the Soudan was abandoned. At that time, when the Egyptian troops were withdrawn from the Soudan excepting the ports on the Red Sea, Her Majesty's Government promised support to Egypt in retaining those possessions. That position has been maintained until the present time; but the Turkish Ambassador pointed out to Her Majesty's Government that the Sultan by no means relinquished his sovereign rights to the territories in that part of Africa, and that neither the Sultan nor the Khedive, his great feudatory, had ever abandoned his right to the Soudan. Consequently he is entirely within his rights in re-occupying that portion of the Soudan which, for special reasons, appears necessary. Her Majesty's Government only consented to the advance of the troops on Tokar, first, on the distinct assurance that there was no intention to proceed further; and, secondly on account of military necessity, caused by the constant annoyance of the Dervishes in the neighbourhood of Suakin. The Dervishes have never ceased their attacks, not merely upon that portion of the Soudan, but even 1138 upon Egypt itself. Consequently it cannot be said that the Egyptians are invading the Soudan and disturbing the status quo when a large Dervish force comes down the Nile for the purpose of invading Egypt.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
It was in 1890. The Member for Northampton wishes to know what attempts have been made to establish diplomatic relations with what he calls the Central Government in the Soudan. For my own part, I do not know that there is a Central Government established there. It is impossible to establish diplomatic relations with a person who about twice a year sends messengers down the Nile to warn all concerned, including the British General and Her Majesty herself, that unless they conform to the rule of the Mahdi he will sweep them off the face of the earth. With regard to the telegram in the Times, I may remark that no attempt to occupy such points as Berber and Khartoum will be possible without at least doubling the number of the Egyptian Army. The Committee may feel quite sure that the speculations of the Times Correspondent are unfounded, and that what he anticipated was a manifest impossibility. The Member for Northampton represents the Egyptians as having trespassed upon the liberties of the poor inhabitants by re-occupying that portion of the Soudan. The truth is that the inhabitants welcome the return of the Egyptian troops most cordially as a relief to the constant oppression to which they had been subjected for years past. The constant attacks made by the Dervishes on Suakin and the neighbourhood render the advance necessary, but it is intended that the movement shall stop. Even since the occupation of Tokar Her Majesty's Government have received information from Egypt than there is no idea of going any further. So far we have been able to do a great deal of good, and the people are in an infinitely better position than when we first went there. Far from the Egyptians seeking to victimise the Soudan in order to replenish their resources, all movements involving expenditure are avoided.
§ (9.45.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I will leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to settle the matter with the Times Correspondent, although I may say that, in my opinion, the Times Correspondent is generally correct in the information he furnishes, and seems to me to be a very well informed man. Living there, and occupying an important position, it seems to me that the Times Correspondent knows more of what is going on in Egypt and what the Egyptian Government are about than, with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman and his chief, they do themselves. But the right hon. Gentleman seems to have put forward a very different view as to the abandonment of the Soudan to that which was put forward in 1884, when it was stated in the House by Her Majesty's Ministers that they had decided to abandon the Soudan. I remember very well reading the telegram from Sir Evelyn Baring, in which he said that we had abandoned the Soudan; and we have all heard of the pressure which was then used upon the Egyptian Government to induce them to abandon that region, the conditions upon which they were to do so being that for a certain time we should guarantee them Egypt and Suakin. I might remind the Committee that at that time rather than accept the policy of Her Majesty's Government two Members of the Administration resigned. Well, what happened? We continued to remain where we were, but we voted money in this House on the idea that the Soudan was to be abandoned. Now, however, the right hon. Baronet tells us that the Khedive never abandoned the Soudan; that the Sultan never abandoned it; that the Egyptians are there still. I ask, what for? They have not asked for or obtained the Sultan's permission, but we are told that they are acting on the assumption that they never did abandon the Soudan, and that that territory is part and parcel of Egypt. If this be so, it is evident that being allowed to keep possession of the Eastern Soudan they may before long go on to Berber, and then, if they like, extend their operations to Khartoum. The question to us is, whether it is expedient that they should be allowed to go there? From what the right hon. Baronet has said it is rendered still more 1140 probable than even is stated in the telegram of the Times Correspondent, that the Egyptians will ere long be dragged into some further enterprise in Kassala, and after that upon Khartoum. The right hon. Baronet treats what has happened as a mere military necessity, because he says we were obliged to take Tokar because we hold Suakin, and the Dervishes having established themselves in the Tokar district, it was necessary to take Tokar. Well, not only are we at Tokar, but we are building forts beyond that place. The Dervishes may attack those forts, and then it may be necessary for us to go still further. The result will probably be that we shall go on and on, until at last we have laid hold of the whole of the Soudan, just as it was formerly laid hold of by the Egyptians when Ismail was the ruler. The right hon. Baronet justifies the massacre of 1,000 Dervishes in the, neighbourhood of Suakin, because a year ago the Dervishes attacked the Egyptians at Wady Haifa. Why were not those operations undertaken at that time? Simply because the Egyptian Government did not suppose that Her Majesty's Government would be so weak as to listen to the nonsense we hear about military necessities. Of course, the Government feel pretty sure of their position; they have the wealthy classes of this country at their back, and we know that they are in favour of the continued occupation of the Soudan. We see this in the organs of the Conservative Party, where we who oppose this occupation are blamed for merely hinting, however remotely, that under any possible contingency the British forces ought to leave Egypt. This being so, if the Government are anxious to make things comfortable for their followers, I have no doubt that within a year or so a further advance will take place beyond Tokar. I am told that we have discussed this matter before. That is quite true but we have been unable to get at the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, and I do not know that even after the speech of the right hon. Baronet we have been enabled clearly to ascertain what are the intentions and policy of Her Majesty's Government at the present moment. We shall probably still have 1141 to initiate many discussions on this question. There are other Votes on which Egyptian questions are involved, and until we get an assurance that the Government will maintain what should be our own place in Egypt and fall back on Suakin, it will be my painful duty to insist on dividing the House on every one of these Votes. There is one other point on which I wish to say a few words. I have already mentioned Manica——
As the hon. Member is now opening a different topic, I would suggest that he should reserve that for another occasion.
§ *(9.55.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
I wish, Sir, to call attention to a matter in connection with this Vote.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Pardon me. In answer to what the Chairman has said, I may say that I thought of taking both questions on the one Vote; but if he thinks I ought, as a matter of duty, to take another course, I have no objection to taking half a dozen Divisions.
If the hon. Member for Glasgow is about to bring forward a matter connected with this Vote he would have precedence.
§ *DR. CAMERON
I desire to put a question to the right hon. Baronet in reference to a matter I brought forward the other day. I refer to the recent seizure of a vessel called the Arbib Brothers at Algiers. There was a claim against that vessel for salvage, and the French Court ordered the owners to lodge a sum of 150,000 francs in satisfaction of that claim, should it be established, and that, I believe, was done. The British Consul at Algiers had the matter brought under his cognizance, and pledged his word that the Arbib Brothers should not leave pending his decision; but the other party to the suit, the Compagnie Transatlantique, sent one of their ships with an armed crew alongside the Arbib Brothers, with the avowed object of preventing her from leaving by force, if necessary, an act which is strongly complained of. I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman will not make some remonstrances to the French Government against conduct which was certainly likely to have led to a breach of the peace and to international disagreement. The right hon. Gentleman told me the other day that no breach of the law had been committed; but, at any 1142 rate, there was a breach of the comity of the nations which might have led to international consequences. I was exceedingly dissatisfied with that answer. I think that had it been the case of a German vessel, or had a vessel belonging to any other nation been treated in that fashion, we should certainly have heard of a very strong protest. The matter was one in which Her Majesty's Government should have had no difficulty in sending a representation to a friendly nation. It is nonsense to say that there was the smallest chance of a disabled British vessel surreptitiously leaving a port like Algiers, with forts all round and garrisoned by a strong military force gave notice that I should call attention to this matter on going into Committee of Supply. As I may not have the opportunity of doing this, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will now say whether he has taken any steps in the matter.
§ *(9.58.) SIR J. FERGUSSON
I regret that I am unable to give the hon. Member any further information than I gave him on a previous occasion in answer to his question. I do not think the hon. Member has made any misstatement of the facts, which are simply these: that a British ship broke down off Algiers, and called for assistance; a French steamer went out to render that assistance; then came a demand for salvage, which the captain did not feel justified in admitting without reference to the owners. Upon this, proceedings were taken without delay in Court, and on the representation that the ship was about to leave the harbour a seizure was made upon her, and steps taken to prevent her going to sea. A week afterwards a tug steamer arrived from England to take her home, where she could be more cheaply repaired than at Algiers; but the vessels of the company which had made the claim took the steps referred to to prevent her going to sea. No doubt the proceeding was very uncourteous and unnecessary, but it was not illegal; and owing to our not having a Consular Convention we could not regard what happened as a breach of Treaty. In fact, we have no grounds whatever for making formal representations on the subject to the French Government, there having been no actual breach of the law.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
They were certainly not taken by the French Government; but I believe they could not have been taken with the cognisance of the local authorities. There was, however, no actual assault committed, and the mere fact that two merchant steamers anchored in the immediate vicinity of a disabled British steamer affords no real claim for redress.
§ (10.1.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I may now perhaps be allowed to refer to the question of Manica, and to the action of those who have received the charter to Mashonaland. I wish to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman some information in explanation of what has taken place. The operations of this Chartered Company are limited by the charter to Mashonaland and Matabeleland. By the proposed Treaty with Portugal, Manicaland was recognised as part and parcel of the Portuguese territory. By the Convention which was signed last August, after the Treaty fell through, it was agreed that the status quo should remain, and under that status quo a line was drawn which showed that Manicaland did not form part of the portion of Africa under British protection, but that it was regarded as Portuguese. Just at the very moment this Convention was being signed, this company having a number of deperadoes who had been enlisted in Mashonaland; and probably finding that there was no gold in that country, while they had heard that there was gold in Manicaland, crossed the frontier, where they found Portuguese officials, whom they laid hold of and sent away as prisoners to Cape Town, a distance of 1,600 miles. Then they established themselves in Manicaland, and made a Treaty with the Chief Umtassa. The right hon. Gentleman seems to despise the Times correspondence, but I do not despise it; and from that correspondence I find that Umtassa's stock-in-trade consisted of a second-hand pair of trousers and a cocked hat. And this was the Chief with whom these desperadoes made a Treaty. They induced him to hand over to them certain powers and rights to all mines and lands, and also the right to found banks. I think the word "banks" will show how this poor unfortunate 1144 Chief was humbugged, and I should like to know how they translated it to him. The Portuguese pleaded that they had effective occupation; that Mutassa was only a tributary to another Chief, whose concession to them was paramount. It is said that that concession has been repudiated. I do not believe a single word about that, because I think such statements are attributable to the special financial interests of private British investors. There is no doubt that these persons migrated from Mashonaland to Manicaland; that they established themselves there; that they are exercising powers of sovereignty there. It is very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that this is not the case, but we have the correspondence before us. We know very well that by the Charter which was granted to the company it was stipulated that they were only to be allowed to exercise powers of sovereignty over that portion of the territory in which their mining rights were ceded to them by Lobengula on the condition that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs gave them permission. I asked the right hon. Gentleman the other day whether they had obtained that permission, and he said they had not. This means that these men are merely filibusterers. The Under Secretary for India, some time ago, in discussing the question of the Borneo Charter, said that a Chartered Company merely meant filibustering by proxy. That is my opinion of Chartered Companies. I believe these people have no sort of right to exercise power and influence in Manicaland under the terms of their Charter, because they have not got the permission of the Secretary of State. I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question to-night as to the arrest of a steamer which was going up the River Limpopo with arms on board, and he stated that it carried smuggled goods; but there is no doubt that the ship was going up to the aid of the filibusterers. This is a most serious matter, almost as serious as the capture of Tokar, because we may be dragged into a war at any time by these filibusterers. I see that the newspapers, including the Times, are to-day pointing out that the Portuguese have really no rights, and that we might oppress and crush them with impunity; but I would venture to point out that there is an 1145 International Law which regulates these matters. Lord Salisbury is very fond of attacking weak Powers, and of cringing before strong ones.
Order, order! I have not discovered yet what connection the remarks of the hon. Member have with this particular item.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am finding fault with the conduct of Lord Salisbury, and moving a reduction of his salary as a sort of penal action in condemnation of his conduct. I believe that this is the usual way of proceeding.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am coming to that. Instead of protesting against this conduct, and telling the filibusterers that he will not give them any sort of protection, he appears, from the answers given to questions in this House, always to say that he has no knowledge of the matters complained of. He evidently does not want to hear anything against them. When we ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs "Has it come to your knowledge that certain facts which are known to everybody have occurred?" he replies, "We have received no sort of information." Now, Lord Salisbury is responsible for the acts of his subordinates. We ought not to be put off in this way. It shows me that Lord Salisbury is acting with this Chartered Company: he knows Portugal is a weak Power, and he is encouraging and abetting this company in attacking Portugal, enabling them to deport and put in prison Portuguese officials and those who send arms and ammunition through Portuguese territory contrary to Portuguese law. Under these circumstances, I do think that, before we agree to the salary which is proposed to be voted to Lord Salisbury, we should hear some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in regard to the position Her Majesty's Government have taken up in respect to these filibusterers.
§ (10.10.) SIR J. POPE HENNESSY (Kilkenny, N.)
I think that before my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton condemns the conduct of Lord 1146 Salisbury in Africa he should contrast it with that of his predecessor. I am bound to say, for my own part, as far as I know anything of Africa, that I approve the policy of Lord Salisbury far more than that of any other statesman who has preceded him. I wish, however, to ask the Government a question on this Vote in respect to a matter that I previously mentioned, but could then obtain no information about it. On February 24 one of the correspondents of the Times wrote a very interesting description of the conduct of the Russians in Warsaw, and in that correspondence we were told that no fewer than 46 political prisoners were treated with great cruety—were tortured, flogged, and otherwise maltreated for merely political offences. I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary at the time whether the Government had any information on the matter, and the answer was in the negative. Since then I have myself received evidence confirming the statements of the Times correspondent, and I therefore wish to again ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government have also received any confirmation of them, and, if so, whether Lord Salisbury has addressed any remonstrance on the subject to the Russian Government. I would remind the Committee that Lord Salisbury himself once, speaking in this House, and from the very seat now occupied by the hon. Member for Northampton, dwelt on the fact that, owing to our Treaty engagements respecting Poland—under the Treaty of Vienna, signed by Russia as well as England—we were bound, whenever the population of that part of the world suffered injustice at the hands of Russia, to protest against it. We know that from time to time that engagement has been acted on, and remonstrances made; and I hope that if the Government have received information on the matter referred to it will be resorted to in this case.
§ (10.15.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
We are all admirers of Lord Salisbury in matters in which his views coincide with our own. I am an ardent admirer of Lord Salisbury, except in two or three important particulars. The hon. Member for Kilkenny approves Lord Salisbury's policy in Africa, but seems to 1147 disapprove of it in Europe. I cannot help feeling that Lord Salisbury answered the hon. Member by anticipation the other day at a banquet, when he said that wrong might have been done to the Poles, but that, after all, if we remonstrated we might be told to mind our own business, and that if we interfered the last state of the poor people might be worse than the first. As regards Lord Salisbury's conduct in Africa, I am altogether an admirer of the noble Lord, though I think there must be something behind to induce Lord Salisbury to allow the Egyptians to act as they have done. With regard to Manicaland, I am no admirer of the Portuguese. All they are doing there is to try and run their company-mongers against our company-mongers. It is a case of diamond cut diamond, or "pull devil, pull baker." Still, I think there are some grounds for diplomatic decency. The Portuguese allege that they have a Treaty with Umtassa. The South Africa Company said the same. The parties met, and Umtassa had to decide which he preferred; and while Umtassa was sitting there on his Throne, the agents of the South Africa Company seized their opponents and carried them off. I certainly do think that Her Majesty's Government are bound to keep this company within bounds. If they do not do so, they will some day involve this country in grave responsibility. I hope the Government will insist that the South Africa Company shall not do things in such an extremely high-handed manner in the future.
§ (10.20.) MR. CONYBEARE
I am not going to argue in defence of the Chartered Company or of any other company, but I do not think, so far as my observations of the facts have gone, the representations given of them to this House by the hon. Members for Northampton and Kirkcaldy have been accurate. The hon. Member for Northampton admitted that while the Convention was being signed the Portuguese representatives were seized by the agents of the Chartered Company. But if I understand the position correctly, there was a conflict of evidence as to whether Manicaland belonged to the Portuguese or to the company, and that question was being determined by 1148 the Home Authorities when the difficulty arose in Manica itself, and these proceedings occurred. I do not think the Chartered Company acted in defiance of any authority. They did nothing in contravention of their Charter, because, at the time they seized the agents of the Portuguese Company, they did not know what decision had been come to in this country, and therefore I would rather deprecate the some what vigorous denunciation which been levelled against our fellow-countrymen in South Africa. This question of the action of the agents of the Chartered Company was raised in this House last Session, and I ventured on that occasion to express my own opinion that if you are going to have concessionaires and company-mongers, or filibustered, or gold prospectors to explore these countries, it is better that they should act under some recognised authority, and that they should be kept in check by means of the regulations of a company like the Chartered Company. I have taken the trouble to make myself familiar with some of those regulations, and it certainly seems to me that they have a direct tendency to promote good order and government in those territories over which they are authorised to exercise sway; and until far graver complaints are made out against the general conduct of the company, I shall, at any rate, hesitate to cast a stone against it, and shall not join with my hon. Friends in their denunciations. It appears to me that, as a whole, the policy which——
Order, order! The hon. Member is wandering from the point before the Committee. The Committee is only concerned in the attitude of the Foreign Office in relation to these affairs.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I will not go into details of the dispute between the Portuguese and the agents of the Chartered Company. I only wish to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs what is the position of the Government in the matter between the Portuguese and the Chartered Company? I cannot agree with my hon. Friends who have expressed so much admiration of Lord Salisbury's conduct on this or that point. I do not think there is one point on which I can join in admiring 1149 him. Now we are discussing the conduct of Lord Salisbury as Foreign Minister, and I should like to reiterate my strong opposition to his policy in connection with the African question generally; I am not going to traverse the grounds on which last year the Government gave way to Germany on every point in connection with the partition of East and Central Africa. When we consider the position of our territory north and south of the Zambesi and north of Albert Nyanza, and when we bear in mind the importance of having some connecting' link between those two parts, I am sure we shall all deplore the blindness of Lord Salisbury in permitting the Germans by means of their newfangled Hinterland doctrine to push in a wedge of German territory between our northern and southern territories. I said at the time that, in my opinion, it was a most fatal mistake, and I fear that in the future we shall have great cause to deplore this unfortunate step. Undoubtedly the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs cannot be expected to undo the mischief, but some steps might be taken to strengthen our position. There have been a good many rumours lately as to the operations of British subjects in Damaraland and Dutch territories, and there has been apparent a desire of the Germans to get rid of that portion of their possessions. Walfisch Bay remains isolated—a kind of oasis in the desert of German territory. The German territory in that part of Africa is known to contain in some parts very valuable copper mines, and also I believe a considerable amount of gold. I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether any information has reached him as to proposed operations by British subjects in that territory, and whether the German Government have expressed any willingness to enter into negotiations with this country for the purpose of giving over the whole of that territory in exchange for any other? At any rate, I think the Government ought to take some measures for the purpose of securing whatever rights we may possess in connection with Walfisch Bay. It may be desired to construct a line of railway to the copper-bearing districts to the North of 1150 Damaraland. If so, I hope Her Majesty's Government will do their utmost to secure for such British enterprise whatever protection and fair play may be needed. I hope the Government will not rashly or in too great haste concede to Portugal rights which English subjects have secured and are acting upon with great advantage to the people.
§ (10.34.) MR. ATKINSON (Boston)
It would be very amusing if it were not so sad to hear political pigmies—to hear Members on the other side, one after another, speaking deprecatingly of the policy of a statesman like Lord Salisbury and proposing that his salary should be reduced. The idea of anyone trying to depreciate the foreign policy of the Government by even insinuating that the reduction of the salary of a statesman like Lord Salisbury would have any effect whatever, is too amusing to accept seriously. The Member for Northampton knows perfectly well that if he goes down to the City and inquires there, he will find that the prosperity of this country is founded on the foreign policy of the present Government; and if there is a point that is totally unassailable it is the foreign policy of Lord Salisbury. It is a policy that we are all proud of as Englishmen, and that makes us all the more enjoy every trip we take into every other country, because we know it is such a change from that policy which our friends on the other side would like to have restored. When their leader was in office nobody knew what the foreign policy would be for six months together. Gentlemen on the other side are indulging in constant wearying references to Turkish atrocities. Our friends opposite do not seem to think at all that Turkey was fighting side by side with us not very long ago, and they speak of the "unspeakable Turk" as if the word "unspeakable" did not apply to any offence committed in this country. There are unspeakable wretches in England as well as in Turkey. We hear nothing about the conduct of Russia towards the Jews from those who seem to think that Russia is our best friend. There are offences committed in all countries; and while we ought to use our influence to diminish those offences, we ought not to kick at those who are on friendly terms with us.
§ *(10.40.) SIR J. FERGUSSON
The hon. Member for Northampton has called attention to another branch of foreign policy in which, unfortunately, he finds his countrymen again in the wrong. It seems to be his constant view of the conduct of Englishmen all over the world that they are always in the wrong. I confess I begin always with a contrary predisposition. I am inclined to think they are in the right primâ facie, and I cannot reconcile myself to condemning them primâ facie. I do not think many hon. Gentlemen will agree with the hon. Gentleman who says he does not believe one word the South Africa Company may say. The hon. Member wishes to have a declaration from the Government as to the affairs of Manicaland. Recent events there are pretty well known. We were anxious to make arrangements with the Portuguese, and to avoid disputes with them in Manicaland. In August last a Convention equitable to both countries was concluded, but the Portuguese Government was not able to have the Convention ratified. Then a modus vivendi was agreed upon for six months. At the time when the collision between the agents of the South Africa Company and the Portuguese occurred this agreement was not known to them. The hon. Member says that the South Africa Company has violated its charter in exercising powers in Umtassa's country which have not been approved by Her Majesty's Government. The company's agents are not exercising any powers of sovereignty or administration in Umtassa's country. But as a large number of Europeans are, with the Chiefs' consent, following their vocations in the country, the police of the South Africa Company arc, at Umtassa's request, keeping order in the country. I think that the Committee will see that until a definite settlement is arrived at, probably no better arrangement could be made. I am sorry to hear an hon. Member talking of our people there as filibusters; they are enterprising colonists in the same sense as our people have colonised great portions of the world. The Committee may be quite sure that Her Majesty's Government will keep faith both with foreign Powers, and with native Chiefs, and that no precipitate action will be taken. I think that in this House we should give 1152 credit to our own countrymen who are carrying on enterprises under considerable difficulty in a straightforward manner, and not call them by opprobrious names. My hon. Friend the Member for North Kilkenny (Sir J. Pope Hennessy) has referred to the question of the treatment of certain prisoners at Warsaw. Her Majesty's Government have no official information of the occurrences to which the hon. Member referred, and I think it is well that we should not interfere in the affairs of foreign countries unless our interference can be accompanied with some advantage, and I do not think that the experience of 1863 will lead the House to wish for interference in the affairs of Poland. Many statesmen in the House in 1863 entertained the idea of intervening in the affairs of Poland, and an attempt was made at combined action by several Powers with regard to the matter, but those efforts were abortive, and Russia has since 1831 disclaimed the right of foreign Governments to interfere in the affairs of Poland. The hon. Member for Camborne asked a question with regard to the state of things between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Portugal. It is not customary to give information as to the progress of negotiations until they are concluded, and I must ask leave to follow that wholesome rule in this case, because, undoubtedly, when you have a game of some difficulty to play, it does not tend to your success to lay your cards on the table. Her Majesty's Government trust that the negotiations which are being conducted in a most conciliatory spirit will lead to a conclusion satisfactory to both countries.
§ (10.52.) DR. CLARK
After hearing the defence of the Government I am prepared to support the hon. Member for Northampton in his Motion to reduce the salary of the right hon. Gentleman by £200. We shall vote for that Motion in order to express our disapproval of the action of the Government in refusing to come to terms with Portugal, and to delimit our spheres of influence, and also for aiding and abetting the filibusters of the South Africa Company, in taking possession of a portion of Portuguese territory. The right hon. Gentleman does not like the term "filibuster." If he had read the papers of seven or eight years ago 1153 Stellaland and other Republics were all formed by filibusters, whom we all denounced. But then they were Boers and were not organised, and had no charter from our Government. Since then we have organised filibusters and granted them a charter, and now when they actually take Portuguese territory we aid and abet them. That this territory does belong to the Portuguese is perfectly clear. In the Treaty of August last the River Limpopo was used as a boundary between the Portuguese sphere of influence and the British sphere of influence; the British sphere of influence was put west of the river, and the Portuguese east of the river. The Portuguese objected to that because it carried their boundary too far east; and under the present modus vivendi Manicaland is a portion of the Portuguese sphere of influence. Your legalised filibusters, by taking possession of this territory, have declared war against Portugal, and we have a lot of little unofficial wars carried on. Is this territory Portuguese, and have the Portuguese any right to it? They have been there for over 200 years. Five years ago, before this Chartered Company was promoted, the Mozambique Company had prospectors there. Three years ago three companies were formed in London to work some concessions granted by the Mozambique Company. The companies sent out their prospectors and took possession of this territory. We are told Umtassa has given a concession to the British Africa Company. Of course, he will give a concession to whoever will give him something to drink and a few presents. All the native Chiefs will do that. If the Germans came east they would soon get concessions from the Chiefs in our Protectorate, and they would have just as much right to take possession of Bechuanaland as we have to take Manicaland. Let us try the filibustering game with Germany. I cannot see why, because Portugal is a weak Power, we should aid and abet Mr. Rhodes in filibustering. What excuse can Her Majesty's Government offer for playing into the hands of this private company? A few Tory and Unionist Dukes control it, and they are now demanding that the Portuguese Government should build a railway for their convenience. Her Majesty's Government are laying 1154 down a condition that in order to save the company a route of 1,700 miles to Cape Town, the Portuguese shall place a railway at the disposal of the company by which they will get to the coast in 350 miles. At least this is so stated in the Portuguese papers, and I ask what right have our Government to make this demand on behalf of filibusters who have taken possession of Portuguese territory?
§ *(11.0.) SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
I protest against the language used by the hon. Member for Caithness. Mr. Rhodes and other gentlemen who have taken part in colonisation work are no more filibusters than the hon. Member himself. The hon. Member has most unjustifiably endeavoured to prejudge the case which is now in dispute between Portugal and England—a case in which Portugal, I believe, is entirely in the wrong and England in the right—but the hon. Member is not justified by his position as a Member of this House in using language against his own country, and I hope we shall hear no more of such expressions in the House of Commons.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *(11.2.) MR. SCHWANN
I take this opportunity to call the attention of the Foreign Office to the imposition of the Paddy Tax in Ceylon. This has no reference to the Irish question. "Paddy," as some hon. Members will be aware, is rice, and paddy-growers are cultivators of rice-fields. The Paddy Tax presses severely on the poorest class of Cingalese cultivators—a loyal class of peasantry—who have a strong claim upon the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. The Paddy Tax is levied for the support of the general expenses of the Ceylon Government, and it is the only class of agriculture which pays such taxation. A planter may cultivate the cocoa-nut-palm, quinine, coffee, or tea, and no tax is payable thereon. I believe this question concerning the paddy-growers has been before the House on more than one occasion, and I should not have ventured to dwell upon the subject now, but for the fresh evidence which has recently been laid before the Legislative Council of Ceylon 1155 with reference to the sufferings of the poorer class of cultivators in the Island. The information on this subject from Mr. F. C. Fisher, Government Agent of Province of Uva, Ceylon, has been published in the Ceylon newspapers, and doubtless has been now laid before Her Majesty's Government. By the personal exertions of this gentleman, and at the special request of the Governor, this evidence was collected a short time ago and was put before the Governor, and by him submitted to the Legislative Council of Ceylon. I venture to quote the following extracts from Mr. Fisher's Report, dated October 31, 1890. He says:—Returning to Uva in 1887, after an absence of 17 years, I was quite shocked to see the change in the condition of the people, with which I had been well acquainted. The signs of general poverty were unmistakable, and some of the chiefs, even, with difficulty kept up appearances, while the poorer classes were ill-clothed and in many cases underfed.Let me point out that it is air aggravation of the needy position of the cultivators that the Government, allowed arrears of the tax before 1882 to accumulate, then ordered the arrears and annual taxes of 5 years to be collected in 3½ years, at the very time when Ceylon was suffering from the ruin which had fallen upon coffee plantations through a parasitic disease (insects and fungus) which infected the plants. Nearly every coffee plantation was ruined, and the paddy-growers had hitherto relied almost entirely on the cultivation of small patches of coffee to supply the tax on their paddy-fields. Just at the time when Ceylon was suffering intensely from this coffee failure, I repeat the Government insisted on gathering in the arrears of taxation, and in cases of default land was ruthlessly confiscated and sold by public auction. Mr. F. C. Fisher made personal inquiries as to the result of this oppressive action, and in one district alone he mentions that the effect has been to deprive 2,930 heads of families of their possessions, and, taking the family average as five persons, 14,650 persons or 49 per cent. of the inhabitants of this one district, were reduced to the greatest distress. As the paddy-fields occur frequently in other districts throughout the Island it is not an over-estimate to suppose that in 1156 29,000 instances lands have by this action of the Government agents passed into the hands of Moormen, Tamils, and others. This is much to be regretted for many reasons. It is possible that the Colonial Office may intend to pass some measure for the amelioration of the sad condition of the rice growers in Ceylon; and the Governor (Sir A. Havelock), I am sure, weighing all the details put before him, will give judicious advice to Her Majesty's Government. The tax amounts to about a tenth of the produce of the fields, and some years ago this tenth was paid in kind; but in the belief that it would improve the position of the paddy-growers, the tax was commuted into money payments. This has been found to work strongly against the interest of the growers, because they have found difficulties in finding near markets for their produce, and through the unscrupulous action of middlemen, have had to suffer severe losses in their slender incomes. Proposals to abolish the Paddy Tax have been met by the objection that this can only be done by the substitution of a general Light Land Tax all over the Island. This may have to be carried out, but as the amount the tax yields is £75,000 annually, it is quite possible that some other source might be found for the income required. It is not necessary for me to enter into any detailed statement of the proper course to be taken. I am quite sure the Legislative Council could devise a fitting substitution should the tax be abolished. It has been proved that 5 per cent. duty which exists on imported rice for revenue purposes cannot be considered a protective tariff. I only bring the matter forward now in the hope that the Under Secretary for the Colonies will be able to give an assurance that the complaints of these impoverished peasantry of Ceylon will not be allowed to pass unheard. One other question arises in connection with the Defence Fund required from Ceylon. I believe that Her Majesty's Government have telegraphed that the sum required will, within a year or two, amount to £100,000, a heavy sum from so small a colony, and I hope the Government will re-consider their decision. The fact is, a few years ago, the Ceylon Government offered a reasonable sum 1157 towards the defence of the colony, and in doing so their conduct stood out in strong contrast to the attitude of other colonies, such as Jamaica, which steadily refused taxation for its own defence. Ceylon, however, offered to pay what was reasonable, and the inhabitants now feel that advantage is being taken of their loyalty by the Home Government. I hope it may be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to give some assurances of a favourable nature on this point. I daresay he has seen reports of language reported to have been used by gentlemen of responsible position in the Island, namely, that they fear more the rapacity of the Home Government than that of any enemy at all likely to attack Ceylon. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider these claims, which are urged on behalf of the people of one of the most loyal of our colonies.
§ (11.15.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
The hon. Member has not moved a reduction, and I am anxious to move the reduction, of which I have given notice, and to narrow the discussion upon the Colonial Vote. There are one or two other questions I should like to ask, though I have no wish to raise serious discussion upon matters which may be more adequately dealt with under the regular Votes in Supply—if we do reach Supply—before the closing days of the Session. With regard to the Paddy Tax, there are complications upon which I shall be glad if the Under Secretary can throw some light, but I must express my entire dissent from the idea that it is not the duty of Ceylon to pay for its own defence. I am very sorry that my hon. Friend should have seemed to express any sympathy with the impudent language—for so I must call it—of colonists who choose to consider the claim for their own defence a rapacious demand from the Home Government. India pays for her own defence, and there is no reason why Ceylon should not assist; and when reference is made to the action of other colonies, all I can say is, two blacks do not make a white. As a fact, Mauritius does pay handsomely for its defence, and so does Singapore and the Straits Settlements. Jamaica does not, but I hope influences will be brought to 1158 bear to induce a more reasonable attitude. But now I turn to another part of the world, and have to ask a question in reference to Newfoundland. We are promised Papers in reference to the fisheries dispute there, and, therefore, I will not raise that question now, only I will say that Her Majesty's Government are now following a course which is exactly that I would desire them to follow. But there is another matter I wish to refer to which may or may not be connected with the Newfoundland Fisheries dispute. We were taken by surprise the other day when an hon. Member asked what to me seemed a strange question, and received what I consider a somewhat startling answer. The question was whether Her Majesty's Government had in contemplation the guaranteeing a loan of £2,000,000 to Newfoundland. It was to be expected that the answer would have been that this was a rumour, only based upon imagination; but to my astonishment the answer was that under certain conditions the Government proposed to recommend Parliament to guarantee such a loan to the colony. Now, this is a serious matter, and it is surprising that this answer has not excited more public attention. I do not know another instance in which we have guaranteed a large loan for a self-governing colony. Under special circumstances, I believe we did guarantee a loan for Canada, but that was under very peculiar circumstances and in days long gone by. Of all colonies Newfoundland least deserves such a favour, because it has been influenced by a lot of speculators, who attempted, by blustering disloyalty, to force the Government into a collision with France. Although this is a Government of sops and bribes, I should be reluctant to believe that it would give a sop to Newfoundland to induce that colony to assent to the arbitration of the matters in dispute with France. I should like to know under what circumstances Her Majesty's Government are prepared to guarantee this loan, and whether the undertaking to give that guarantee has any connection with the proposal to refer the fisheries dispute to arbitration. There is another matter in connection with the Colonial Office as to which time presses. We 1159 have been told that Her Majesty's Government have already consented to give responsible government to the colony of Natal, and we have also been told that it is not an occasion in which Parliament can interfere. We are in fear, therefore, that the matter will be concluded before Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing it. I am glad to see that some hitch has arisen between the colony and Her Majesty's Government, and the matter may have to be referred home again, and it is perhaps not so pressing as it would otherwise be. But, however, the Under Secretary for the Colonies has declared that it is not a matter within the cognisance of Parliament, and, therefore, I may take this opportunity of expressing my view in relation to this matter. Her Majesty's Government are prepared to give a representative Government to Natal, and that means giving 37,000 whites—men, women, and children all told—absolute power over 500,000 natives. No provision for the protection of the coloured people is worth the paper it is written upon after we have given a colony self-government. We have never given such control before in our colonial history. When self-government was given to colonists in America, New Zealand, and Australia, the Aborigines were a mere handful compared to the white settlers. But a very different state of things prevail in South. Africa, and I think that any man who has followed the history of colonial affairs there will recognise the dangers that may arise from the colonial treatment of powerful native races and the necessity for our armed interposition in the troubles that may follow. At the same time, I should like to have some more information in regard to the Natal tariff, and I cannot but express my opinion that Her Majesty's Government seem to have handed themselves over body and soul, so far as South Africa is concerned, to Mr. Rhodes, in his several capacities of Premier of Cape Colony, head of the South Africa Company, and head speculator and company promoter in South Africa. On this subject I saw a letter recently in the Scotsman, from a gentleman with whom I do not always agree, Mr. Arnold Forster, and he puts this case very strongly. Then, again, I should like to 1160 have the view of the Government in reference to the continuation of the offices of Governor of the Cape and High Commissioner, in one person; and I fear that the High Commissioner loses that independence he should preserve. What has happened in regard to this question? You sent to Swaziland a Cape partizan, and he forced upon the Transvaal this highly protective Customs Union, so that Natal is obliged either to raise its high tariff or remain out in the cold. The Colonial Secretary admitted that that would be the effect of the operation. He admitted that if the Transvaal is forced into this union against its will-Natal must either admit its goods free or submit to a double tariff, to the ruin of its trade and revenue. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £1,000, part of the item at the top of page 3, for the Colonial Office.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Item of £7,000, for the Colonial Office, be reduced by £1,000."—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ (11.33) SIR R. LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
I wish to suggest in one or two words to the right hon. Gentleman that there really is a true case of hardship in the matter raised by the hon. Member for Manchester, with reference to the imposition of any further tax or burden for military defence on the colonial funds of Ceylon. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy said there was a certain amount of rapacity exhibited by colonials in objecting to this payment for their own defence. The hon. Member is evidently not aware of the particular circumstances under which this military expenditure is imposed on the revenues of Ceylon. The chief reason for the imposition of the burden is that Ceylon has to provide for the defence of the great port of Trincomalee, which is not especially a Ceylon port in any degree. It is one of the head-quarters of the Imperial Navy in Indian waters. It is one of the most important ports for our commerce in the world; and it is regarded as a considerable hardship by-all classes of Her Majesty's subjects in Ceylon that they should be called upon to furnish so large a proportion of the funds for the military defence of what is simply a great headquarter station in 1161 Indian waters. I should like to say one word on another matter that was referred to by the hon. Member for Manchester, and that is the proposal that Her Majesty's Government should instruct the Government of Ceylon to abolish the Paddy Tax. People used to suppose that this was a tax on Irishmen in Ceylon, but, in reality, it is a tax on one of the great necessities of life—a tax on the rice consumed by the native population; everybody would be extremely glad if some means could be found of abolishing the tax—a means which would not impose greater burdens on the industry of the country in other directions. It seems to me that the hon. Member who objects to the tax has not suggested any means by which the vacuum occasioned by the abolition of that tax could be filled without seriously injuring the colony. It has been suggested that heavier burdens should be directly placed upon the land, but I can conceive nothing which would more seriously throw back the prosperity of the colony than such an attempt as that, and I trust Her Majesty's Government will not listen to any such suggestion. I should be most happy to join with the hon. Member in advocating any means of doing away with the Paddy Tax, if it can be shown that the colony revenues can do without that tax, without imposing something infinitely worse on the people.
§ (11.38.) MR. LABOUCHERE
As it is now nearly a quarter to 12 o'clock, I will postpone to a more favourable opportunity some criticisms I had intended to make with regard to the connection of the Government with the South Africa Company, than which a more scandalous financial company never existed since the days of the South Sea Bubble. The Government have encouraged unfortunate widows of clergymen and orphans to provide resources for this bogus company, and that adds another to the many reasons why it will be necessary to deprive this country of the glory of being governed by the present Administration at the next General Election.
§ *(11.40.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Baron H. de WORMS,) Liverpool, East Toxteth
The Government fully recognise the great importance of the subject introduced 1162 by the hon. Member for Manchester. The late Governor of Ceylon appointed a local committee to consider the whole question of the Paddy Tax, and it is now under the consideration of the Secretary of State. The tax itself appears a heavy one; but, as the hon. Member for Kensington has pointed out, there is this great difficulty that, if it is taken away, another tax will have to be found to take its place. I may remind the hon Member that the tax was estimated to produce in 1890 nearly 1,000,000 rupees. The question of repealing the tax is not yet settled, and the Present Governor is considering the matter most carefully. As to the defence of Ceylon the hon. Member for Manchester says the colony suffers a hardship by having to contribute a considerable sum. I am not often in accord with the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, but in this, case I am. I think the colony ought to contribute to the cost of its own defences. The Secretary of State received a very important deputation from the colony not long ago, and pointed out that he did not see his way to releasing them from paying towards Imperial and colonial defence. It is said that Trincomalee is an important harbour, and that it is really the head-quarters of Her Majesty's Navy in the Indian Ocean. That is not the case. The principal harbour is Bombay; and even supposing that it were as important as it is said to be, that would not be a fair ground for relieving the colony from all necessity of contributing towards the cost of its own defence. As to another question raised by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, he seems to think that the action of the Government in granting a Constitution to Natal is on all fours with their action in regard to Western Australia.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
Then I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I would point out that it was necessary to submit the Western Australia Act to the House. In order to repeal an existing Act dealing with the disposition of the land in the colony——
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I do not dispute the question of law or the necessity of coming to this House. I spoke on the matter of expediency.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
There is a material difference between the two cases. In the matter of the Cape, when responsible Government was granted her in 1872, the procedure was precisely similar to that now proposed. The Imperial Parliament was not asked to intervene, and the matter never came before Parliament at all. We know from telegraphic information we have received that the Natal Constitution Bill is on its way here. We do not know the particulars of it, but we have every reason to believe that there are certain points in it with which Her Majesty's Government will be unable to agree. In all probability, when the Bill arrives here it will be referred back to Natal for alteration and revision. Her Majesty's Government, however, do not intend to go back from their consent to grant responsible Government to Natal provided due security is given for the protection of the interests of the coloured people. When those instructions are carried out to the satisfaction of Her Majesty's Government, then, and then only, will the consent of Her Majesty's Government be given to the Bill in question. The hon. Gentleman asks whether, prior to that consent being given, we will lay the Bill before the House. My answer is, No, we will follow the precedent set in the case of the Cape, and if hon. Members are not satisfied with the action of the Government in the matter, they can take us to task in the manner provided for by the forms of the House.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
I cannot pledge myself to present any. The Government will not withdraw their consent to the Bill if the conditions they have laid down in regard to the protection of the coloured population are complied with. I do not think the Committee would wish me to go into the question of the Customs Union at this late hour. I can only say that there is a Convention with regard to Swaziland, under which the Transvaal Government binds itself to certain terms for three years to come. The Union exists between Cape Colony, the Orange Free State and Bechuanaland, and the Government having agreed to 1164 it the hon. Member surely would not wish us to go beyond it. If within three years the Transvaal does not join the Union its terms can be abrogated.
§ (11.59.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
My mind is a great deal relieved by the statement that if the Bill is not considered satisfactory it will have to go back to Natal. If the Government does not give Parliament an opportunity of discussing the question, I hope that opportunity which we can take for ourselves will arise. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the circumstances under which responsible Government was given to the Cape. There are many people who think that is an example to be avoided, and that self government was given in that case without sufficient provision having been made for the interests of this country or for the interests of the natives. In the Cape you have a white population of something like 500,000. In Natal the coloured population out-numbers that of the white people by a great deal more than 10 to 1. I would point out that it is not the Transvaal that insists upon the part of the Convention relating to the Customs Union. The Transvaal would be delighted to get rid of that part of the Convention, the hardship which that State labours under in this respect having been brought to my notice by General Kruger. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give us some explanation regarding the loan to be guaranteed to Newfoundland. Is the guarantee connected with the arbitration regarding the fisheries; and, if not, what are the circumstances which have led the Government to adopt the very unusual course of offering a guarantee to a particular colony?
§ *(11.53.) BARON H. DE WORMS
What I said was that such proposals had been made, but no definite decision had been arrived at.
§ DR. CLARK
The question regarding the Transvaal is a very important one. If the Convention is put in force and the Transvaal joins the Customs Union, the railway will not pay working expenses, and Natal will probably be made bankrupt. We have not yet heard any reason why British people who have lent money to Natal should have their security taken away from them. It is not that the Transvaal desire it, because they 1165 have been forced into the agreement against their will. The reason why the Orange Free State joined the Customs Union was that the Cape Government gave it several millions of money and built all its railways. I should like to know why this agreement has been forced on the Transvaal to the injury of Natal. I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell) in reference to guaranteeing responsible Government for Natal. I think that a responsible Government in Natal will be the best thing possible for Natal and for South Africa. I believe that if the people of Natal were compelled to pay for their own wars, the conflicts with native races would cease in the same way as such conflicts ceased in New Zealand, when the Imperial troops were withdrawn and the people were given to understand that in future they must pay for their own wars. One is always astonished at the ignorance of Her Majesty's Ministers. Everybody who reads the papers have seen the telegrams which have been published about the Bill, but the Government say they know nothing definitely about it. I regret very much to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that it is probable the Bill which has been adopted will not be sanctioned. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us the special points of interest which the Government desire to see conserved and which are not conserved by the Bill. Do they desire that the 30,000 Hindoos who are in the colony, and who are in about equal proportions with the white population, shall have a vote? Then in what position do the Government wish to place the 400,000 or 500,000 natives? Are they to have the vote in the same fashion as the natives have in the Cape Colony? If so, 99 per cent. of the people in Natal will repudiate your gift of responsible Government.
§ *(11.55.) BARON H. DE WORMS
I must refer the hon. Member to the answer I have already given. The Bill is not yet in our hands. We may have seen reports about it, but it is obviously impossible for me to discuss the provisions of the measure with the imperfect knowledge at our disposal.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
I said that Her Majesty's Government have reason to believe that there are certain provisions in the Bill which they will not agree with. I decline to say what those provisions are, or to have them drawn from me by a process of cross-examination.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. KELLY
I am aware that since reading the Report of the Royal Commission the right hon. Gentleman must have altered his opinions. Perhaps he will tell us the origin of the paragraph which specially deals with the question. Who are the writers? They are a body of men who are supposed to be employed on temporary service in the public offices and had to submit themselves to a certain examination—not a severe one, I admit—but still hard enough to permit of only 310 out of 1,280 passing-in 1881. What is the character of their work? They do work of the same description as that of the Second Division clerks, and they even teach the Lower Division clerks to do the work on which they are employed. Their pay is practically 10d. an hour, fixed on the supposition that the work of these writers shall be purely mechanical in its character. I am quite aware that I shall be corrected now, as last year, when I said that the great majority of these writers do not earn £100 a year. The right hon. Gentleman said they earned £150, but he was misinformed. I have no hesitation in repeating that the average income is less than £100. Many of those writers have been employed for 15 years in the same office. It has been admitted that a considerable proportion of them do work which it was never intended to be done by them. Previous to 1870 the heads of Departments had the power, and exercised it in every instance, of recommending 1167 writers for increase of pay. But the system of writers has always led to dissatisfaction, and it would be best to reduce the number of such clerks to a minimum. The Playfair Commission of 1874 reported against the system, and advised that the lowest class of permanent work should be entrusted to an organised class of properly paid clerks. As the result of this recommendation 535 men out of 2,000 received permanent appointments; and a similar course of action now would go far to satisfy the just claim of the Civil Service writers. Unfortunately, the system of Civil Service writers, condemned over and over again, still continued. Indeed, things went on much the same for 11 years, at the end of which period there was a Petition to the Treasury, backed up by 120 Members of this House, The result was the Treasury Minute of December 1st, 1886. If that had been carried out, the writers would have had no cause of complaint; but, as a matter of fact, the most limited interpretation was put upon that Minute, and no benefit whatever has been derived from it. And now I come to the Report of the Commission on the Civil Service Establishments, which declared that the writers had established no grievance which it was the duty of the State to remedy. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton is one of those who are responsible for that paragraph. I would invite the House to consider the meaning of this paragraph. It does not say that the Civil Service writers have no just claims or moral right to an improvement in their position; it merely says that the writers have established no grievance which it is the duty of the State to remedy. That is not the question. The question is whether they have been treated unjustly, and whether they have not by continuous service established a claim, not for justice only, but for some sort of liberal treatment. I should like to know the history of this paragraph in the Report, and how it came there. I am informed on good authority that it did not appear in the original draft, and that probably, if the Commissioners had thought the effect of it would be to injure the position of the writers, it would never have appeared. Taking it for what it is worth, the Playfair Commission 1168 reported against the present system and strongly in favour of a change under which the writers should be treated as a properly paid and organised set of clerks. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" from the Ministerial Benches.] It is rather hard for an hon. Member to be met by these continued interruptions from his own side, but it seems that no one ever receives support from the Government side of the House in pleading the cause of the poorer men. If I were speaking on behalf of the higher officials of the Service I should, no doubt, be well supported on the Government Benches. Let me, however, ask what is to be done under the Treasury Minute which was looked forward to with hope by the writers. As it is there are 11,000 writers, and of these only 82 have received permanent appointments in spite of the fact that several hundreds were recommended for such appointments by the heads of Departments, men who well know the work which the writers are capable of doing. Another grievance is that one of the great arguments against doing anything for the writers is the temporary character of their employment. Does the Committee think that if that were so elaborate provision would be made for 42 years of continuous service, including the rise of a man at a 1d. per hour more per year, which is to be continued up to £50 a year? Those writers suffer cruelly as compared with the Second Division Clerks, especially in the matter of sickness. The utmost sick leave to which a writer is entitled per year is 28 days, and he has 16 days given in three-quarters pay, after the 28 days he can get no leave at all, except by losing his pay altogether. In a recent case a man had a few days leave, but there being an infectious disease in his house he was bound to remain away from his employment for a period of six weeks, during the greater part of which he had to sacrifice his pay, and thereby was deprived of the means of providing bread for himself and family. Had this been the case of a Second Division clerk he might have stayed away six months add still received his pay. A more unjust distinction as between two classes of men it is almost impossible to conceive. 1169 I shall conclude by moving the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £100, and in doing so I would make this appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury: if the right hon. Gentleman will agree to the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee to inquire into the writers' claims, or if he will even undertake to make that inquiry himself, the writers will cheerfully, and with implicit confidence, abide the result of his or the Committee's determination.
§ *(12.12.) THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON,) Leeds, N.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend has used as an argument a statement that there is a disposition on the part of the House to treat one class of the Civil Service differently from another. I believe, from my Parliamentary experience, that there is no shadow of foundation for such a statement.
§ *MR. JACKSON
But my hon. Friend will admit that there are times when the House is impatient even when he is addressing it. There are certain rules governing the Civil Service which must be obeyed, and consistently with these rules I am anxious to do what I can for the writers. They enter the Service as temporary servants, and most of them enter at an age when it is perfectly competent for them to enter for the regular examinations of the Civil Service. An additional period of years has even been given them in which to pass the examinations. Parliament has been very strict in insisting that the Civil Service should be entered only by competitive examination; and if the writers cannot pass these examinations the Government would not be right in passing incompetent men into the Service. The question having been so recently inquired into by the Royal Commission to which the hon. Member has referred, it is hardly necessary for the House again to constitute a Committee of Inquiry. I most certainly, so far as I am concerned, cannot undertake to make further inquiries than those I have 1170 made, and which I deem to have been sufficient. I know that in consequence of a Minute which I had written a considerable sum in excess of former amounts was distributed. My hon. Friend knows there is no class of labour so cheap, so badly paid, and in such large supply as that of men who do simply copying. My hon. Friend would lead the House to believe that these men only get 10d. an hour. He knows that is not the case.
§ *MR. JACKSON
The hon. Gentleman, then, would have the House believe that very few of these officers get more than 1s. an hour. Taking the day's work at seven hours, at 1s. an hour, the week's wage would be 42s. Let us see what are the real facts. I have obtained from the Civil Service Commissioners a statement showing the earnings of 733 of these clerks, and I think that will modify the judgment and opinions of the hon. Member as to what proportion of the men get 10d. or 1s. an hour. I take it 10d. an hour amounts to £78 a year. Now, according to this Return there were 38 whose earnings were not more than £78 a year; 122 earned between £78 and £90; 156 between £90 and £100; 122 between £100 and £110; 120 between £110 and £120; 64 between £120 and £130; 35 between £130 and £140; 19 between £140 and £150; and 57 over £150 a year.
§ *MR. JACKSON
I think my hon. Friend is aware that in a good many offices I have introduced the system of piece work, by which men are paid not for their time, but according to the amount of work they do. I again say I feel that this question has been thoroughly investigated, and I cannot promise to do more than I have done. It is true that the Heads of Departments did send in a large number of names of men who were recommended for increase of pay, and a Committee was appointed to examine the work of each man so recommended. 1171 When it was found he was doing work of a higher character than fairly belonged to his class, the pay was increased. I think full justice has been done. Not only have I frequently expressed sympathy with these men, but I have evidenced it in a practical form by adding largely to their incomes.
§ (12.38.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
The right hon. Gentleman has given the Committee some valuable information as to the earnings of the "writers, but cannot he follow it up by ascertaining the number of hours worked by each man? If he does, it may turn out that the information he has given is somewhat misleading. From what I have heard, men often have to work far into the night in order to earn £100 or £150 a year, and then the money is hardly earned indeed. If the right hon. Gentleman will promise to get this information I hope the hon. Member for Camberwell will withdraw his Motion.
§ *(12.49.) SIR J. PULESTON (Devonport)
I feel sure the right hon. Gentleman will have no difficulty in giving way to the appeal just made. There can be no question as to the desirability of getting this information. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may do, the fact remains that the belief has been encouraged that the writers are permanent Civil Servants, and if we recognise this most of the difficulty may be overcome.
§ *(12.40.) MR. JACKSON
I cannot undertake to do anything of the kind. It is quite impossible to ascertain how many hours these men worked.
§ MR. THEOBALD (Essex, Romford)
I think the grievance of these writers is that they are called upon to do the work of second class clerks, but are not placed in the same category as those officials.
§ (12.41.) MR. CREMER
I do not think it is impossible to get the information. Surely each man knows perfectly well how many hours he works at home, and the right hon. Gentleman can easily obtain the number of hours worked in the office. These men consider, rightly or wrongly, that they have a grievance, and are anxious to get it redressed. I, too, am desirous of getting rid of the feeling of dissatisfaction 1172 which prevails among them. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is not disposed to treat them harshly, and, therefore, I hope he will get the information asked for.
§ (12.42.) MR. CONYBEARE
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give what we ask. These men, although entered as temporary servants, are not continued as such.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
But they are liable to be dismissed at an hour's notice. Although they are temporary clerks they are required to do the work of permanent second class clerks. Some of these temporary clerks have been in the Service 42 years; I believe that, as a matter of fact, 90 per cent. have been in the Service upwards of 20 years. Will the right hon. Gentleman grant a Return showing the number of years these men have been employed? As to the dealing with the recommendations of Heads of Departments, what occurred was that the views of those gentlemen were simply overridden by a few minor officials. I think the hon. Member for Camberwell was perfectly justified in bringing this matter forward.
§ (12.50.) MR. KELLY
Reference has been made to the bonus system. May I point out that until a man has served eight years he gets no bonus, and after that he gets a bonus rising £1 10s. a year until it reaches the maximum of £50. Therefore, before he is entitled to the £50 bonus he must have served 42 years.
§ *(12.52.) MR. JACKSON
The bonus plan was adopted on my suggestion, and I recommended the limit of £50.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *(12.53.) MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
I shall not now enter at length into the subject of which I gave notice early in the evening; but in view of a future opportunity, when it can be adequately discussed, I wish to ask the President of the Local Government Board three questions. In the first place, why Quarter Session Boroughs are to be denied the reasons for the decision of the Local Government Board on their cases, whilst the Royal Commissioners, who were adjusting similar differences 1173 between the Counties and County Boroughs, were giving to the public clear and full reasons for their decisions? Secondly, is it really to be understood that the Department refused to the Quarter Session Boroughs affected not only the reasons of the decisions, but even the facts as they relate to other boroughs similarly situated? In that case I can only say the facts will be ascertained, but at an amount of trouble and inconvenience which I submit we should not be put to by a Public Department. And, thirdly, will the right hon. Gentleman lay on the Table coloured maps showing the result of the decisions of the Board?
§ *(12.54) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
The hon. Gentleman asks me three questions. The first is, what is the basis upon which we have settled the financial relations between counties and Quarter Sessions boroughs with regard to main roads. The hon. Gentleman knows that any Quarter Sessions borough which is aggrieved with a decision on the part of the County Council with, regard to main roads within the borough may appeal to the Local Government Board. It is the duty of the Local Government Board, when such an appeal is made to it, to send down an Inspector to examine into the details of the case. The Inspector makes his Report to the Local Government Board, who, on that Report and after taking into consideration all the facts of the case, come to a decision. Then the hon. Gentleman asks on what principles we act. Well, we have to decide as to whether or not particular streets within the borough may be fairly considered to be main roads or not, and whether we shall so vary the order of the County Council as to include a larger mileage of main roads within the borough than the County Council think right. In deciding that question we have to consider whether the street which the borough desires to declare a main road is a street which is mainly used for local traffic, or whether there is a sufficient amount of through traffic to enable us to come to the conclusion that it is a main road. In the Scarborough case, the 1174 Local Government Board decided very much more favourably to the borough of Scarborough than to the County Council, as we included a greater length of street within the borough, as a main road, than the County Council wished us to do. I am very sorry we could not go the whole length the borough desired. What was desired by the borough was that a great length of street in the borough—amounting, if I remember rightly, to a mile and a half—should be declared to be a main road. It was represented to us that the traffic along that street was mainly of a local character, and that being so we considered that we should not be justified in throwing on the county the maintenance of that street. I think that was the only street in dispute.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
Well I think there was also a short length of street coming from the harbour. The House wilt understand what is the kind of traffic in that case when I say that one statement made in support of the contention that the street should be mained was that something like 55 tons of coal was carried from the harbour outside the borough during the year. We did not consider that was a sufficient reason for making it a main road. Then the hon. Member asked whether coloured plans of these roads could be distributed among Members of this House. I do not think it desirable that that course should be followed. There are very few roads in dispute, and I think, on the whole, we have given satisfaction to the boroughs in the decisions we have-arrived at. I hardly think the House will desire that we should put the counties to the expense of providing coloured plans with regard to matters which are not of more than local interest.
§ *(1.0.) MR. MONTAGU (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)
Under other circumstances I might have asked par-mission to occupy a quarter of an hour of the time of the Committee, but at this late hour I will not ask for more than about five minutes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer intends to bring in a Bill to withdraw from circulation £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 of light gold, and replace 1175 it, probably, in part by small notes. I have advocated that course ever since I Lave been in the House, and I have also pointed ont to the Chancellor of the Exchequer certain defects in the gold coinage. I hope the Government will take this opportunity of remedying those defects, which are that the metal we use is too soft, and that we make no charge for gold coinage. No effect was given to my recommendations. I, therefore, paid a visit to the Master of the Mint in Paris, who fully confirmed my view with regard to the softness of our metal. I saw at the French Mint a most ingenious machine for testing the wear of coins. I had a working model of it prepared, and should be very willing to submit it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or to any hon. Members who take an interest in the question. The result of the testing by the machine is that we lose by wear and tear nearly one sovereign in every 2,000 more than we should do if we used gold 9–10ths fine instead of 11–12ths. In the machine a coin passes over substances such as it meets with in actual circulation. Such experiments ought to be tried here. One extraordinary result arrived at in the experiment is that coins wear away according to their weight, and not according to their surface. Therefore, our idea with regard to half-sovereigns has been entirely upset. Our idea was that two half-sovereigns exposed to the same influences as a sovereign would wear away quicker, but it is absolutely proved by these experiments that half-sovereigns do not wear away any quicker because of their size. If they do wear rapidly, it shows that half-sovereigns are more used by the public, which would be an argument in favour of retaining them. I make these observations because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that 10s. notes may be issued in order that half-sovereigns may be withdrawn. I would protest against so useful a coin being withdrawn from circulation. I think that to coin a large mass of silver without an international arrangement would be a very hazardous speculation. I strongly recommend Her Majesty's Government to investigate the question of the wear of gold, and to consider the question of free coinage, which enables 1176 people to melt down half-sovereigns all over the world and pomrote a drain upon gold in this country.
§ Question put, and agreed to.