ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the attention of the Secretary of State has been called to Colonial Report, No. 92, Mauritius, page 10, art. 32, wherein it is stated that 80,000 rupees were paid in 1892 as a subsidy to the Messageries Maritime Company for ocean mail packets, and £7,500 was paid to the British India Steam Company jointly by the Colonial and Imperial Governments for similar services; whether Her Majesty's Government have sanctioned this subsidising of Foreign Shipping Companies when English firms could be found willing to undertake the work; whether the British India Steam Company have been invited to carry the additional mails on the payment of the aforesaid 80,000 rupees, and have refused; and whether some arrangement could be made for the service to be performed by one or more of the 117 British steamers which are reported at page 8 to have entered Port Louis as against 36 French steamers?
§ MR. S. BUXTON
The answer to the first question is in the affirmative. The Secretary of State has for many years past sanctioned the payment by the Mauritius Government of a mail subsidy to the Messageries Company, He 1018 has, of course, no power to compel the Legislature of Mauritius to subsidise an English firm. Two English lines of steamers convey mails to Mauritius: the Donald Currie Company viâ the Cape and Natal and the British Indian Steam Company from Colombo. The latter service was for a time subsidised by both the Imperial and Colonial Governments; it is now continued without a subsidy, but the Colonial Government undertake to send by that route Indian emigrants returning to India at Government expense. The answer to the third question is in the negative. Her Majesty's Government would be glad if the mail service could be performed by English vessels, but no other line of steamers makes such direct and expeditious voyages from Europe to Mauritius as the Messageries, and this being so the Colony not unnaturally prefers to subsidise them.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us of any English Companies which are subsidised by a Foreign Government?
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
Is the subsidy to the Messageries Maritimes for one year or a term of years?
§ MR. S. BUXTON
I think it is for three years, but the hon. Member had better put the question down. I should like to emphasise the fact that we here at home have no control over the subsidies granted by Colonial Governments except in negativing their proposals. We cannot insist on one line being subsidised instead of another.