HC Deb 03 June 1892 vol 5 cc569-74

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House, at the conclusion of the Morning Sitting this day, do adjourn till Thursday, the 9th of June."—(Mr. A J. Balfour.)

(4.37.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)

I should like to ask the Government whether they will take any steps to give us more information about Uganda? The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the other day declared that he expected despatches, but he did not say what ground he had for expecting them, and it appears to be very difficult to get information. I should like the Government to give us some idea of the position. How do they know that any news is on the way home? Will the Government, when this House meets on Thursday next, be able to give us any information? At present the state of things is most painful and distressing. We have got one side of the story from Continental sources, and according to the Continental journals this appears to be a most disgraceful affair. It appears as if the natives have been urged on by one side to massacre the Christians on the other. That, of course, is only the Continental statement. But, on the other hand, we have no information either to confirm or to contradict that statement. I think we ought to know what instructions Captain Lugard and his officers had. One would have thought that Captain Lugard would have been most anxious to send off despatches after events of this kind; and it is most painful that we should be compelled to listen to these allegations of the Continental Press without being able to make any reply whatever. I hope the Government will take whatever steps are necessary to secure information. If special messengers are necessary, the country would not grudge the expense, and I hope the Government will soon be able to place information before us.

(4.42.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I quite sympathise with the feelings of the hon. Member as to the absence of information, and I agree with him that it is very embarrassing, while statements are received of what has occurred in Uganda, or rather of what is alleged to have occurred, we have no means of checking the truth of these statements. I have no reason to complain of the way in which the hon. Member has treated this matter—I think he has dealt with the subject in a very proper way. He has attached no credence to the reports received through the German territory, and has treated them merely as rumours the value of which we are unable to test until we have received official information from Captain Lugard and those with him. But I must point out that we have no absolute security that we shall receive any information at an early date. We cannot invent the means of securing that information, and we have no reason to believe that we can do anything to accelerate the arrival of the despatches. It is a very difficult matter to make an estimate as to the arrival of the information which we all desire, and the only thing we can do is to wait for it. I must say I think the curiosity of the House upon this matter is perfectly natural; but, unfortunately, we are not in a position to satisfy it. We see no means by which the information sought for can be obtained; we see no means by which the advent of that information can be hastened; and, under these circumstances, I can only ask the hon. Gentleman to do what we shall be compelled to do—wait till the information arrives.


Nobody will, of course, assume that a case has been made out against the administration of the East Africa Company until we have heard both sides of the question. But what must have occurred to everybody, quite apart from the main issue on which we want information, is that you have a Chartered Company which assumes the responsibility—and a very great responsibility it is—of administering an immense territory. What we have a right to expect of a company exercising authority of that description is that it should be itself informed, and that the Government should be informed of what is being done under its authority. This is one of the first duties of a company which assumes the position taken up by this company. They have put a certain number of armed men in a savage country, and they, of course, are responsible for what takes place under the authority of their agent. I called the attention of the House some months ago to the condition of things in Uganda as described in Captain Lugard's first Report. It showed that religious feuds were in full blast at that time. It was a most alarming report, and distinctly suggested the idea that Uganda was not the place where the company ought to maintain a permanent chief settlement in East Africa. That was information which the company possessed more than twelve months ago, and that knowledge imposed upon them the responsibility of keeping themselves well informed as to what was going on in those territories. What has happened there, or what is said to have happened, is exactly that which was foreshadowed in the early despatches from Captain Lugard—a sort of religious civil war. Of course we have no accurate knowledge, but it is stated that, in addition to Captain. Lugard and his men, there are a large number of men who are the remnants of the force commanded by Emin Pasha in Equatoria; and I need not say that this is a very formidable force at Uganda. What has been the conduct of this company? I do not attribute to them any evil motive, but it does appear to me that they are far too weak for the business they have undertaken. No doubt there is a certain expense attaching to these caravans and convoys which, from time to time, bring intelligence from the interior, and which bring intelligence, as we understand, through the German sphere of influence. I asked the other day how it is that intelligence comes apparently so easily through the German sphere, and not at all through the British sphere. I do not think the answer I got from the Under Secretary was at all satisfactory. He said, in effect, "You will get more news when the railway is made." Are we to have no information till then? Is there a railway in the German sphere? Why is it this company gets no intelligence for nine months through its principal agent? It is curious to note that in the papers he presented Captain Lugard gave an estimate of the time and cost of these caravans, and he estimated that a caravan could be sent down from Uganda to Mombasa and return within six months. We have been nine months without a despatch from Captain Lugard. Why is this? Is it because the company are not disposed to undertake the cost of communication? It might have been supposed that, as no caravan arrived from Captain Lugard, the company would themselves have sent a caravan with the object of securing information. Now that the survey is being made for the railway this would surely be an easy matter. The tribes are friendly, and you can march through their territory as easily as you can go through Scotland. We are told that at this moment the surveying officers are within a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles of the lake. Where is the enormous difficulty in getting across that one hundred or one hundred and fifty miles? Information can be sent from the lake through the German sphere of influence; how is it they cannot manage to get information across that one hundred and fifty miles of country and send it through the British sphere in connection with the Railway Survey? The responsibility seems to me to rest on the Company. I do not blame the Government in the matter. They had a right to assume—and I suppose they did assume—they gave this company unlimited authority over this vast territory that they had the means of fulfilling the obligations and the responsibilities they had taken. So long as they leave not only this country, but the countries in Europe, in ignorance of what they are doing in that territory, they are not fulfilling the obligation they entered into when they undertook the responsibility of the administration of this territory. They are in Uganda with the British name at their mercy. If they have done wrong it is we who shall be held responsible for it, and the Government which gave them the authority will be responsible for it. I think there is an entire failure to keep the obligation on their part, due really, I believe, to that weakness the Company have shown throughout. When the company began to operate in that territory, they went as traders, to open up trade in East Africa, and it was represented that the trade was to be of enormous advantage to the people of this country. What trade have they done? I understand, on good authority, they have done no trade at all; that they have not attempted to do trade of any description in the whole of this great district for which they accepted the responsibility. The conclusion I arrive at is that this company is not in a position to do what it has undertaken. If it is to open up trade, why has it not done it? If it is to administer the country, why does it not keep the Government informed of the nature of the administration and the manner in which it is conducting the government of that district under the authority of the British Crown? If the condition of things is such at Uganda that within nine months we cannot get a despatch, it is totally different to what we were led to understand in the last Debate. We were told that this was a country where the British emigrant was to go and work and thrive, and British trade was to be abundantly developed. The present state of things is inconsistent with that description. Without casting any blame on the Government, I think it is quite right that we should hold them responsible for the position in which we now find ourselves, in which we are unable to answer these imputations—which I hope to be unfounded—which are cast on the honour of the British name.

Question put, and agreed to.

GENERAL POLICE AND IMPROVEMENT (SCOTLAND) PROVISIONAL ORDER [INVERNESS] BILL. On Motion of The Lord Advocate, Bill to confirm a Provisional Order under "The General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act, 1862," relating to the Burgh of Inverness, ordered to be brought in by The Lord Advocate and Mr. Solicitor General for Scotland. Ordered, That Standing Order 193A be suspended and that the Bill be read the first time.—(The Lord Advocate.) Bill presented, and read first time. [Bill 403.]

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