|Post Office Packet Service||- -|
|Post Office Telegraphs||250,000|
|Total for Revenue Departments||£1,680,000|
§ SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, he wished to call particular attention to the question of rates of Government property, and in order to raise the point he would move to reduce the Vote by £100. Recently the House had been discussing the question of the comparative taxation of real and personal property, and an adjustment had been made which had commended itself to the general feeling of the House by the equalisation of duties in respect of it. But there were still some anomalies, and among those was the complaint of real property that it was subject to undue pressure in respect of local taxation. He thought there was a primâ facie case for inquiry into this matter, and he hoped after the pledge of the Secretary for India a conclusion fair to both real and personal property would be arrived at. But there were other anomalies which hardly needed inquiry so palpable were they, and among these was the necessity of resorting to a different system in connection with the rating of real property. It had often been said in the course of discussions in the House on labour and other questions that the Government should set an example, and he would ask the Secretary to the Treasury if he did not think that in relation to the rating of Government property a better example might be set by the State, with a view to the better adjustment of the burdens of local taxation on real property. It was said with truth that the Government were in possession of a peculiar and very profitable privilege in assessing the value of their own property so far as local rates were concerned. Of course, if the values were not properly assessed other owners of real property had to bear an undue proportion of the local burdens. The valuations were made by the Treasury valuer, and, from a recent Return presented to the House, the under-valuations of property belonging to Government were such as grievously to affect other owners of real property. There were some typical instances which indicated a very vast difference of opinion between the Treasury Valuer and the valuers for the Local Authorities. The complaint came not only from individual owners of real estate, but also from the London County Council, and certainly if the figures which had been published were correct there could be no doubt whatever 1277 that the under-valuation of Government properties cast a heavy burden on other owners of property. Every parish in London contained more or less Government property, and was consequently more or less affected by its under-valuation. He would take four or five instances and leave it to the Committee to say whether or not these Government properties were properly valued. His first case was Somerset House. The Government valuation of the site and buildings was £7,000 a year, whereas the County Council valuation of the site only was no less than £27,450—or, practically, four times the amount fixed by the Treasury Valuer. The Government valuation of the British Museum was £3,500 a year for site and buildings, as against the County Council valuation for the site alone of £14,700 a year; the Government valuation of the National Gallery for site and buildings was £2,000 a year, while the County Council valuation for the site alone was £6,880; in the case of the Treasury buildings the respective valuations were £5,800, against £15,386, and in the case of the Foreign Office and adjoining Government buildings £11,600, against £32,530. These figures spoke for themselves. No one who was at all familiar with the value of property in London could conceive that the valuation by the Government for rating purposes could be contended for as fair in any instance. Speaking generally, it seemed to him that the conclusion at which he had arrived—namely, that most Government property was undervalued by three-fourths of its true value—was right, and that it was a matter which called loudly for redress and readjustment. He had felt bound to draw attention to this matter in the interests of ratepayers generally, and he therefore proposed to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Item (Class I., Vote 13), of £10,000, for rates on Government Property, be reduced by £100."—(Sir A. Rollit.)
§ SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, he wished heartily to support the Amendment. There were some parishes in London where there were large blocks of Government property, the proportion being nearly as high as one-fourth Government property and three-fourths private property, and as the valuation of 1278 the Government property was sometimes as low as a quarter or a fifth, the remainder fell as an extra burden upon the ratepayers. That seemed to be extremely unfair. At one time it was the law that no rates should be charged upon Government property at all, but it was then pointed out that the Government buildings might be aggregated in three or four parishes, thereby doubling and even quadrupling the burden on a small number of ratepayers. In consequence, the Government of the day agreed to give a voluntary contribution to the local rates. He thought it would be much more fair if all Government property were rated exactly in the same way as private property, and he trusted the Government would adopt this solution of the difficulty.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, one view of the question which justified an inquiry was that parishes and unions inter se contributed to the general burden in proportion to their total rateable value, and when total valuations were taken too low a value was put on one property and too high a value on another. For purposes of taxation and rateability the same standard ought to be adopted for all properties. He had been much struck by the figures quoted by the hon. Member for South Islington. Those who had had anything to do with valuations knew well that extravagant values were sometimes put on property, even by the London County Council, for the purpose of supporting particular propositions as against a private owner whose property was supposed to have increased in value, but he did not think it would be suggested that the valuations put on the Government property were excessive. Somerset House covered probably eight or ten acres of laud, if not more, and it was perfectly ridiculous to suggest that its rental value was only £7,000. He was not there to support the County Council valuations, but he did think it right to say—and he had often found himself unable to approve the proceedings of that body—that he had found their valuations made with extreme care and moderation. He hoped that this matter would be pressed home, and that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who thoroughly understood the matter, would be able to give the Committee some assurance that there should not be merely an acknowledgment of the grievance, 1279 but also some practical suggestion for remedying it.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he was glad that the question had been raised. It was one of principle as well as of detail, and he could not understand why the Government should invariably claim to be treated in a different manner to the private individual. They learned in the Debates on the Finance Bill how differently the Government treated its debtors as compared with the treatment they would get from private creditors. He objected to the principle altogether, because, after all, the Government were only acting on behalf of the public, and the question of rating was a question between the general and the local public. He hoped that these Government exemptions would soon be put an end to altogether, and he thought that if a private individual acted on these questions in the same manner as the Government, he would be accused of lacking common honesty. He hoped the Amendment would be pressed to a Division. In his opinion, the House ought to lay down a rule that Government property ought to be rated on exactly the same basis as private property.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, he wished to endorse all that had been said by previous speakers on this question, and he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would give a favourable answer to the appeal that had been made to him. The parish of St. Luke afforded a typical instance of the undue burdening of private property owners. It was a small parish of about 220 acres, but in it they had a Militia barracks, a local police court, a post office, and other public buildings, which paid by no means a fair proportion of the local rates. In addition to that, they had three large drill halls, including that belonging to the City of London. These were exempted from rates, and he ventured to say that the exemptions were now becoming intolerable. If all property were assessed in the ordinary way, then, and then alone, justice would be done.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir J. T. HIBBERT,) Oldham
said, the hon. Member for Preston seemed to speak as if the Government were not paying a fair amount towards the rates by reason of the under-valuation of public buildings. That was not correct, and 1280 there was considerable misapprehension abroad as to the way in which Government properties were valued. He believed, however, that the assessment committee in nearly every parish considered the amount contributed by the Government to be reasonable, and he could cite numerous letters to that effect.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that when he came to deal with that instance he thought he would be able to show that that statement applied to it. No doubt the time might come when all Government property would be valued for the purposes of local rates exactly in the same way as private property. This had been a matter of steps. At one time Government property was not assessed at all, and it was only within the last 35 years that the Government had contributed to the rates at all. There were two cases in which public buildings were only liable to a limited extent, such, for instance, as the Royal Courts of Justice, which were exempted by Act of Parliament from assessment beyond a certain amount, and possibly it might be well for the Government to give up their rights in that respect and place these Courts of Law on the same footing as the other Government property. In regard to Somerset House, his hon. Friend was certainly under a misapprehension. He stated it was rated at £7,000. As a matter of fact, it was valued at £12,000 gross, and that figure was arrived at in 1891 in the following way:—King's College, which occupied the eastern wing of Somerset House, and for which the Government were in no way responsible, was assessed at that time at £3,000 by the Surveyor and Assessment Authorities of the parish, and was regarded as being about one-fifth of the block, and they therefore agreed to fix the value of the remaining four-fifths of the buildings at exactly the same rate. The Government proportion was, therefore, fixed at £12,000 gross and £10,000 net. The hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight had asked if the assessment committee were satisfied. Well, the clerk of that body wrote on the 30th May, 1891—I have now to inform you that the assessment committee, having considered the propositions then agreed to, have resolved to accept the 1281 same as being, on the whole, fair and reasonable.Next, he came to the National Gallery and the British Museum. The former was rated not at £2,000, but at £3,600 gross and £3,000 net, and the latter at a similar amount. Now, he would remind the House that by an Act passed in 1843 Museums and Galleries and other properties used for science and art purposes were exempted from rates. Had the Treasury, therefore, claimed their full rights, they need not have paid on these buildings. But the local Rating Authorities in each instance had concurred in the view taken by the Government. In the case of the British Museum assessment committee of the united parishes of St. Giles-in-the-Fields and George, Bloomsbury, wrote—I am directed to inform you that the valuation of the Museum and Government property in these parishes, as agreed upon at our meeting here on the 30th ultimo, is regarded as a satisfactory basis for the Treasury contribution to the local rates in respect of such property.And, again, in regard to the National Gallery, the assessment committee of the Strand Union wrote—The assessment committee having considered the valuation of that and other property agreed to at a preliminary meeting have resolved to accept the same as being, on the whole, fair and reasonable.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, these were meetings between the Treasury and the local valuers. His hon. Friend had told the House that the Treasury buildings were valued at £5,800. As a fact the valuation of those buildings was settled in 1884 at £6,960 gross and £5,800 rateable, and the assessment was confirmed by the Vestry, the Overseers, and the Finance Committee of the united parishes of St. Margaret and St. John, Westminster, whose clerk wrote under date August 1st, 1884—I am now directed to acquaint you that the proposals made by you in respect of the Government contribution in lieu of the rates on the Crown properties have been fully approved by the Overseers and by the Finance Committee of the united parishes, to whom the matter has been reported.The case of the Foreign Office looked very bad on the face of it; but there was ample explanation. The figures were settled in the year 1878 at £11,520 gross and. £9,600 rateable, 1282 and they had thus remained ever since. The reason that the Foreign Office appeared to pay so small a contribution was because the rate of £11,520 did not include the rateable value of the India Office, which was paid for out of Indian funds.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
That he could not say. But he might tell the hon. Member that the Vestry had approved the 1878 valuation in these terms:—I have been directed to inform you that the proposed basis is quite satisfactory to the Vestry.He could only say, in conclusion, that the Treasury had no desire to stand strictly on their legal rights, or to deal unfairly in the matter in any way. Whenever a complaint had been made to them they had invariably at once directed that the question should be looked into, and he could only again assure hon. Members that they were prepared to do their best to act fairly and liberally in the matter. As to the question raised in regard to St. Luke's, he thought the hon. Member for Finsbury was under a misapprehension, and he would find that the Government properties there were assessed if he would look into the matter. He could only say, in reply to the hon. Gentleman who had brought the question forward, that the subject was one the Treasury would give every consideration to. If only out of consideration for the poor ratepayer they would be glad to do what they could to place the valuation of Government property on a better footing.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, that during the last 10 years he had perhaps seen more of this question of the valuation of Government property than any other Member of the House, and he might, therefore, be allowed to say a word or two. The right hon. Gentleman's answer was, as usual, of course, most courteous and considerate, and in many respects satisfactory. Still, there were one or two questions which appeared to hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House to arise on the statistical particulars he had placed before the Committee. If the income of Somerset House was approximately estimated at £10,000 for assessment purposes, then the sum of £9,000 for the 1283 block of buildings in which the Foreign Office was situated—excluding the India Office—would appear to be not unfair.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, that if Somerset House was put at £10,000, £9,000 could not be unfair for the Foreign Office block, nor £5,000 for the Treasury block. He was not sure that he had caught the figure for the India Office.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I did not mention any figure for that, as I have not got it. I can ascertain the amount.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, he would venture to commend the India Office to the kind and merciful consideration of the Treasury, because he could not but apprehend that while the buildings belonging to the British Government in London were very carefully protected from the rate collector, similar protection was not afforded to the India Office where the interest was not so directly that of the British Government. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be as careful about the rateable value of the India Office—which he thought was chargeable to India—as he had evidently been with regard to all the other blocks of buildings belonging to the Government. It seemed to hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House that the sums set down for the National Gallery and the British Museum were too low. Surely £3,500 for the British Museum, and £2,500 for the National Gallery—exclusive of the new National Portrait Gallery—was not enough.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that in the case of the National Gallery and the British Museum, under Statute exemption from the payment of rates could be claimed.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, he supposed it was for that reason that the Local Authorities so complacently acquiesced in the amounts paid by the Treasury. They saw, no doubt, that they should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but should accept whatever the Treasury were pleased to vouchsafe. Surely the time 1284 had come when the Government must take steps—legislative or otherwise—for terminating these exemptions. There could be no reason why buildings for science and art should be exempted any more than the Law Courts, or the Law Courts any more than the science and art buildings. He submitted that the time had come when these exemptions should be altogether terminated. Surely, with regard to assessment generally, the fact that the Local Authorities had acquiesced in what seemed a most inadequate rating, pointed to the fact that the time was fast arriving when Government buildings ought to be rated just in the same manner as private property. He had spoken very strongly on this subject a year and a-half ago. The Assessing Authorities in London, who were most competent persons, dealing with private property of which the annual value was estimated at from £33,000,000 to £34,000,000—he supposed the heaviest assessment of its kind in the world—ought to be able to assess Government buildings accurately. There would always be a fear, whilst the Government Valuers were the Assessing Authority, that some sort of favour was shown to Government buildings. The Government buildings in London were large and numerous, and they ought to bear fully their share of local taxation. Indepenpently of the buildings, the sites were amongst the most valuable in London. If they were not occupied by Government buildings they would be immediately taken for private buildings of the utmost splendour, every one of which would be assessed at full value. Therefore, it was an injustice to the ratepayers of London that there should be any exception in favour of Government property, and there would always be some apprehension of favour being shown to such property so long as the Government set itself up as judge in its own case.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, he thought this question affected London more than anywhere else. It was an important matter, not only as regarded the Estimates, but in connection with the Bill now before the House for the equalisation of rates. It must be remembered that where these Government buildings existed the population was largely reduced. Take the district of Westminster. The fact that Govern- 1285 ment buildings occupied so large an area, and that the population was, consequently, so small, would be responsible for the district paying so much under the equalisation scheme. The parishes, it seemed to him, would suffer in two ways. In the first place, they would not get what was due to them in consequence of the low rating of Government property; and, in the next place, their population was considerably reduced, and so their receipts from the Equalisation Fund would be reduced in proportion. The Local Authorities had to be satisfied with the existing assessment, whether they liked it or not; but it was absurd to say that the British Museum, assessed at £3,520 a year, was assessed at its value.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, that if the complaint was great in regard to the rateable value of Government buildings in the Metropolis he was sure it was no less great in reference to similar property in country towns. Take, for instance, the palatial Post Office building in Manchester, that now being erected in Liverpool, and the Government buildings in Leeds, and his own borough of Wigan. If hon. Members desired to be just they must apply their remarks to Government property in country towns as well as that in the Metropolis. It was quite time that a thorough system of equalisation of rates was adopted. He remembered the Debates which had taken place some years ago on this subject, and was confident that the desire of the Government in those days had been to bring about an equalisation of rates.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, there was really a very serious principle underlying this matter, or rather want of principle, in the claim of the Government to be exempt from all the ordinary rules and laws that bound Her Majesty's subjects, even when they were playing the part for which those rules and laws were enacted. When the Government became possessors of houses they should pay rates for them like private individuals. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury must be aware that it was no answer to read to the Committee a letter from a Vestry saying that they acquiesced in the valuation. Of course they acquiesced. They must thank the Treasury for what- 1286 ever they could get. If they got nothing they would still have to thank the Government. If it was admitted that the Government should pay rates for the buildings they occupied, it must also be admitted that the value or rating of the buildings should be ascertained in the ordinary manner through the ordinary authorities. There was no escape from that, and he could have hoped that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. T. Hibbert) would have signalised his career at the Treasury by inaugurating this simple act of justice as between the Government and the ratepayer. However, he had risen to say that the extent to which the Government claimed exemptions and immunities was becoming perfectly monstrous. They became newspaper proprietors and refused to register their newspaper; they became the owners of inhabited houses and would not pay the rates; they undertook the delivery of letters, and if they lost one, or if one of their employés lost one purposely, they refused to compensate the owner; and it was within his knowledge that Her Majesty's Government refused to perform duties placed upon them by Parliament, and resisted attempts to compel them on the ground that an action could not be brought against the Queen—which did not really mean the Queen, but some subordinate clerk who failed in his duty. These immunities were becoming scandalous. It was monstrous in the question under discussion that a person who was asked to pay a tax should fix the amount of that tax himself. It was high time all these claims to immunity and special treatment were given up. If they wanted to be considered honest the Government should pay their rates like honest men.
§ SIR A. ROLLIT
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had not only promised to consider the subject, but had expressed his personal opinion that some of the exemptions should be modified. The right hon. Gentleman in that had disarmed opposition, and he (Sir A. Rollit) would, therefore, rest content with having made a protest. He would merely point out that in Islington the Government buildings were Pentonville Prison, Holloway Prison, the County Court, the Post Office Sorting Office, Telegraph Factory, Office of Surveyor of Taxes, and Tele- 1287 graph Office, all of which were valued at £4,246. He begged to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had said that all science and art buildings were exempt from rating.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he understood that the Treasury did not exercise its full authority in these matters, but did allow science and art buildings to be rated under certain circumstances. Did that apply to science and art buildings in the provinces as well as in London?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, he could not say. He knew it applied to the National Gallery and the British Museum. He would, however, ascertain the full particulars by to-morrow.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. SWEETMAN (Wicklow, E.)
said, he wished to bring before Her Majesty's Government the case of Wicklow Harbour. The Secretary to the Treasury had had it brought under his notice, and, no doubt, he would be able to see his way to doing something. He (Mr. Sweetman) wished to take this opportunity, in the interest of his constituents, of stating a few facts for the consideration of the Government. Sir Alexander Rendel examined the harbour for the Commissioners, and reported on March 29. In this Report he stated—At various points in the outer 250 feet, on both its land and sea faces, considerable caverns have been formed by the decay and absolute disappearance of portions of the concrete. In particular, a large cavern about 30 feet long and 8 feet high by 16 feet deep in the middle, has been formed on the land face, nearly opposite another of about the same length and depth, though not so high, on the sea face; and as the diver discovered an in-draught of water at the inner cavern, it is probable that there is a connection between them; that is to say, that the pier is at this point completely undermined.… The defects in the faces and base of the pier must be now causing a daily easier flow of water in and out of the works, and therefore an ever-increasing rapidity of chemical decay, and this decay, if not promptly arrested, can only, I fear, end in the fall at no distant date of at least that part of the pier not founded on rock.In a second part of this Report, in respect to the deposits between the pier and the shore, he said— 1288As this further accumulation of shingle threatens to continue until, possibly, it has filled up the whole of the harbour between the pier and the opposite shore, it is clear that, unless the port is to be allowed to fall into decay, measures must be taken to stop it; and the proper measures evidently are the construction of groynes in positions where the accumulation may take place without accompanying injury to the harbour.Now, the inhabitants of Wicklow had spent large sums of money on the harbour. In 1857 £12,000 was spent on it, which was obtained from private sources on the security of the Township of Wicklow, the interest upon which loan the Wicklow Township Commissioners were paying to the present time. By 1871 further works had been carried out at an outlay of £8,000, obtained from the Public Works Loan Commissioners; and in 1881 a loan of £40,000 was obtained from the Board of Public Works under the provisions of the Relief of Distress (Ireland) Acts, 1880, upon the security of five baronies. Up to the end of 1891 £16,257 was paid in discharge of this loan, of which the Harbour Commissioners from tolls paid a little under £1,000, and the baronies paid over £15,000. The expenses of this loan had therefore been practically borne by the cesspayers, and there was no chance of getting the baronies to guarantee any further loan. It was necessary that this harbour should be put in a proper state, as it was of great importance from a national as well as a local point of view. It was a harbour of refuge for coasting vessels—the only one between Kingstown and Wicklow, for ships could not get into Arklow. As a matter of public policy, therefore, the State should see that this harbour at Wicklow was not allowed to fall into total decay. Larger demands in the form of taxation were made from Ireland this year, which formed an especial ground for asking for consideration for this harbour.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that some time ago he was in correspondence with the Irish Board of Works in regard to this harbour. It was a large question and an important one; therefore, it was necessary to take time to consider it. He was sorry to hear the hon. Member say that there was no money in the baronies for the harbour, for that also was the position of the Government. They had no money in hand for work of this kind. They would, however, 1289 give full consideration to the matter, and he should be glad to advise with the hon. Member with regard to it.
§ DR. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)
said, he concurred in the appeal made by the hon. Member for Wicklow. He thought the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman was on the whole satisfactory, but he should like it to be a little more precise. It was to be hoped that when the matter was taken into consideration the right hon. Gentleman would bear in mind that unless the harbour were run out into deep water it would silt up. There was a large bank of sand outside which was shifted by varying winds, and unless they got the pier heads into deep water the harbour was bound to silt up. As the hon. Member had pointed out, this harbour was important from a national point of view—as a harbour of refuge, there being nothing of the kind between Wicklow and Kingstown.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said that, with regard to the salaries to officials in the House of Lords, he should like to know what had been the result of the negotiations which he knew had been taking place between the Treasury and the House of Lords? He had to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury for the way he had fought the battle of the House of Commons in the matter, and for the support he had given to the Vote which, on an Amendment of his (Mr. Hanbury's), was carried last year for reducing these salaries by, he thought, £500. He knew that since then negotiations had been going on between the Treasury and the House of Lords; but he was not quite sure what the result was. In the Estimates this year they practically had no details whatever with regard to the House of Lords. He did not know what the real explanation of that might be, and under the circumstances it was desirable that they should have a full and distinct statement from the Secretary to the Treasury as to what was the position taken up in the matter. Last year it was shown that, while the duties of the officials of the other House were lighter than the duties of the officials of the House of Commons, the former were paid on a much more liberal scale. That was the reason for the passing of the Amendment to reduce the Vote for the salaries of the officials of 1290 the House of Lords. He understood that an understanding had been arrived at between the House of Lords and the Treasury to the effect that as new appointments were made the salaries of the House of Lords' officials should be put on a corresponding scale to those of the officials of the House of Commons. If that was so he thought it would be a very satisfactory termination of the controversy. He regretted, however, that there were no details of the House of Lords Vote in the Estimates, as it compelled them to vote very much in the dark. With regard to the retirement of officials, so far as he understood the matter, the House of Lords had gone even further than the House of Commons, as they had recognised the principle that their clerks should retire at 65 except in unusual circumstances, when they might hold office five years longer. In no case would they continue in office after 70 years of age. That, again, he considered a satisfactory result of what the House of Commons had done last year. But, as he had pointed out, they had got no information whatever to go on, and he should be glad if the Secretary to the Treasury would tell him what was the precise position of affairs.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that the hon. Member had made a correct statement of the position of affairs between the Treasury and the House of Lords. It was quite true there was no detailed statement of the Vote for the House of Lords, because the Estimates were presented in a form which the Treasury could not assent to. The Estimate exceeded by £693 the Vote agreed to last year, and the House of Lords were requested to alter their Estimate accordingly. The reply was not received in time to present the details to the House, therefore the Treasury were obliged to put in the total sum; but it was his intention to place a Paper on the Table showing how the money was to be expended, before the Vote was taken in the ordinary Estimates. The hon. Member could raise the question when the Vote came on in Supply. The House of Lords had agreed to place their clerks on the same basis of salary as the clerks of the House of Commons, and they intended to carry out considerable reductions as opportunities arose on new appointments. He believed the 1291 reductions they proposed would be of a very satisfactory kind. They had already, under the recommendations of the Lords Committee of 1889, effected a saving of £2,104 in one direction, and of £300 under another Vote. A sum of £2,400 had already been saved, and a further saving of a like amount would accrue as appointments fell in. As to retirement, it was correct that the House of Lords had agreed that retirement at the age of 65 should be compulsory for every clerk appointed by the Clerk of Parliaments. No doubt that would be satisfactory to the hon. Member. He had no communications to make on this subject from the House of Commons, the Treasury having received none from that House.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, he wished to move a reduction of £100 in the Treasury Vote with respect to the salary of the First Lord, in order to call attention to the administration of the Civil List pensions in the granting of a pension of £200 to Professor Rhys-Davids as a student of Oriental literature. He (Mr. Bartley) had asked a question on this subject some little time ago, and he thought the Committee and the House at large should certainly understand a little more about the matter than they did at present. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that by special Act of Parliament a sum of £1,200 was given for distribution in pensions for special services. The question was whether these pensions were to be given to persons who were well off or only to the necessitous. The words in the Act were "such persons only as have just claims on the Royal beneficence," and he contended that the word "beneficence" distinctly showed that only poor persons were in contemplation. In 1834 there was a Debate in the House of Commons on the Pension List, and in that Debate a great number of the leading men of the day took a prominent part. A Resolution was proposed for the appointment of a Committee of the Commons to settle what would be a fair way of granting these pensions. Lord Althorp and others thought that this would be taking away the prerogative of the Government, who were responsible, and they objected to a Committee; but it was quite clear that the whole spirit of the Debate, and of the Resolution, and also of the Act framed upon it, was to 1292 show distinctly that these pensions were to be given to persons in necessitous circumstances. There was a discussion whether pensions should cease after they had once been granted, and Lord Althorp said that the strongest objection to the then list of pensions was that the names of several persons appeared upon it who, since their names were placed there, had obtained large incomes which rendered them unfit objects for Royal benevolence. He added that the change in their fortunes was a very strong and proper objection to their names being retained on the pension list, and said that if a case were made out of great abuse in regard to such a pension the Minister ought to be held strictly responsible. He thought he might appeal to both sides of the House to recognise that Civil List pensions were clearly meant to be given to persons of small means. Mrs. Cameron, the widow of Captain Lovett Cameron, whose services as an explorer were well-known, had been allowed a pension of only £50, while Lady Alice Portal, in recognition of the distinguished services of her late husband, Sir Gerald Portal, had been granted a pension of £150; but when it came to the case of Professor Rhys-Davids, a sixth part of the whole fund—namely, £200 a year—was granted to him. He (Mr. Bartley) was not going to say a word against this gentleman's ability as an Oriental scholar, but he wished to know why he had been picked out for this very large pension. He was a man of between 40 and 50 years of age. He had held an appointment in Ceylon, and why it was given up he (Mr. Bartley) did not profess to know. Professor Rhys-Davids came away from Ceylon and applied to Lord Kimberley for a pension, but Lord Kimberley did not consider the case. The Professor was the candidate for the office of Librarian at the India Office, but was not selected, as he (Mr. Bartley) understood, because of his recent history in connection with the appointment at Ceylon. Professor Rhys-Davids was Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, and he had been physically able to undertake a tour in America. He was just going to get married, and it was a most extraordinary thing that he should have been picked out for the pension. There was another Oriental scholar (Major H. G. Raverty), who was in the 1293 Public Service before Professor Rhys-Davids was born, and who had been promised one of these pensions for many years. The late Prime Minister had promised to consider his case. The Prime Minister was strictly responsible for the present appointment, and he (Mr. Bartley) emphatically said that the appointment was a political job; it was known everywhere to be a political job. Professor Rhys-Davids might be a great Oriental scholar, but he was a strong supporter of the present Government and had been prominent in that respect. This pension of £200 a year would not have been given to him if he had not been a strong political partisan. The system on which these pensions were awarded was not satisfactory, and if they were to be given for political reasons the sooner they were done away with the better. He did not think that in the past there had been any jobs in connection with these pensions, but that during the last 20 years both Liberal and Conservative Governments had made their awards very fairly. He was anxious to hear what his right hon. Friend (Sir J. T. Hibbert) would say in support of the appointment. He hoped his right hon. Friend would be able to make out a good case, but if not he thought the country should know that this pension was one of the grossest political jobs that had been perpetrated for many years.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item (Class 2, Vote 3) of £10,000 for the Treasury and Subordinate Departments be reduced by £200, in respect of the salary of the First Lord of the Treasury."—(Mr. Bartley.)
§ MR. BYLES (York, W.R., Shipley)
I understand that the hon. Member has just made a statement to the effect that Professor Rhys-Davids is a stout supporter of the present Government. I believe the hon. Gentleman is mistaken, and I have every reason to think his political faith is in agreement with that of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I challenge the hon. Member to say emphatically whether that is the case. I say emphatically that it is not the case, and that he is a member of the National Liberal Club, and an active Member.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I do not think—in fact, I know that that is not so—and I am certain the hon. Gentleman will not get up and say he knows it is a fact. There may be certain things about the National Liberal Club which Professor Rhys-Davids does not altogether approve of. No doubt he is one of those people who are somewhat troublesome all round, and that, I have no doubt, is why the pension has been granted to him.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
said, he knew Professor Rhys-Davids, and thought him a very able man, and well-deserving of the Royal Bounty as far as his merits were concerned. As regarded his political proclivities he (Mr. Howell) did not know what they were, but he did not think he had taken any part in political meetings—certainly he had taken no part in meetings in favour of the Liberal Party—since 1885. He (Mr. Howell) was rather sorry that this aspect of the case had been introduced, and thought the hon. Member had weakened his case very considerably in contending that the appointment smacked of a political job. The hon. Member would have had a much stronger case if he had confined himself to saying that, in view of Professor Rhys-Davids' present capacity for work, his present position and a great number of other things combined, he was not one of those persons who ought to have been considered in preference to other candidates for pensions. He (Mr. Howell) had had on two occasions within the past two years to apply to the Prime Minister on behalf of two men whose names were known in connection with public life for assistance out of the Royal Bounty. One was John Bedford Leno, a poet, who was in such feeble health that he was incapable of earning 1s. a day. When a small grant was made to him he was in receipt of about 5s. a week. The amount he received was a sum—not a pension—of about £50. The other case was that of Mr. Lloyd Jones, who was well known to many Members of the House as a very earnest and able worker, as an able and eloquent speaker, and as a man who for 35 or 40 years had devoted himself entirely to the welfare of the working classes. 1295 When Mr. Lloyd Jones died he left two daughters in very ill-health and very straitened circumstances, and a sum of £75 was granted to those daughters. The hon. Gentleman opposite would have a very strong case if he compared these two grants with the pension of £200 a year given to an able-bodied man. He thought the House ought to insist above everything that in cases of this kind the circumstances of the recipient should be taken into account as well as the services rendered. He did not grudge the grant made to Professor Rhys-Davids, as he knew him to be a very able, fair-minded, and honourable man. At the same time, he thought that the discrepancy between his case and the cases he had mentioned was so great that the attention of the Government should be called to it.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
My hon. Friend opposite advocated two principles with which I entirely agree. The first was that in the distribution of the Royal Bounty any abuse ought to be prevented. I think that the whole Committee will concur in supporting that principle. The other was that no pension ought to be given for political purposes or with a political object. I think that principle will also receive general concurrence. I do not agree with my hon. Friend in the other remarks he made, and I think a good case can be made out for the grant of this pension to Professor Rhys-Davids. I know nothing about his politics or whether he is a Tory or a Liberal Unionist, or a Liberal, but I think my hon. Friend has carried that view of the matter rather too far. A man must have some politics, or, at all events, it is desirable that he should have some. Supposing he has politics he must be either a Tory or a Liberal Unionist or a Liberal. Whatever his politics are they ought not to disqualify him for a pension. I am told that Professor Rhys-Davids has devoted himself to research upon the questions of which he has made himself so great a master, and that in doing so he has spent the whole of his fortune, so that he is now practically a poor man. When he retired from Ceylon, he applied to the Colonial Office for a pension, but no pension was granted to him because he was technically not entitled to one. He was never refused the India Office Librarianship, but when he wished to become a candidate the India Office appear to 1296 have required to have an Indian civilian as Librarian, and as he was not an Indian civilian he was out of the running. At the present moment Professor Rhys-Davids is entitled to a salary of £200 a year as Secretary to the Royal Asiatic Society, and that, I believe, is nearly the whole of the income he possesses. His name was brought forward as a candidate for this pension by a number of very eminent men of every political opinion, amongst them being Professor Huxley. This fact shows that the recommendation had no political origin. Out of all the recommendations made to him, the Prime Minister selected Professor Rhys-Davids for this pension of £200. I do not wish to go into the question as to whether that is too much for him or too little, but I think there is a strong case in favour of Professor Rhys-Davids, who is an eminent man and who has spent the whole of his fortune in research. I do not object to my hon. Friend calling attention to this matter, but I think there is much more to be said for than against it.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of this pension being given to enable Professor Rhys-Davids to devote himself to research, but he would point out that these pensions were not given to enable people to devote themselves to research. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had given himself away, for there was a Vote which was given for research, and if this money had come out of that Vote he (Mr. Bartley) should have said nothing about it, but this pension list was for persons who were supposed to be worn out, or who had practically given up their work, and whose circumstances were such that they were unable to maintain themselves. He must say he thought the defence of the right hon. Gentleman made the matter worse, as it was that this able-bodied man, who was now in receipt of £200 a year salary for another appointment, who was able to go on a lecturing tour in America—thus showing that his duties as Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society were not onerous—and who had other means of living, had been given this £200 a year, not as a pension, but in order that he might carry on his researches. He had no objection to a politician getting a pension, but his objection was that an able-bodied young politician should have it, as though 1297 it was a pension for his services in politics. If pensions from this Civil List were to be made vehicles for research, the whole object of the grant was done away with, and, therefore, the case was worse than he had thought it was. He thought it was a misappropriation of funds that they ought to divide against.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, the question was not whether this gentleman's income was sufficient for him, but whether he was a person who was entitled to receive this award from the Civil List, which was not a fund that existed for the purpose of making the incomes of certain people sufficient. The fund was intended for persons who were not able to work, and, therefore, this £200 had been given at the expense of other and, in his opinion, more deserving people. Whilst this gentleman received this £200, other people, at least equally deserving, must go with less, and many of them with no pension at all. He did not think his right hon. Friend had made a very complete defence, because he had simply based it, as far as he could follow, upon the fact that this Professor had only a salary of £200 a year; but was his right hon. Friend going to say he was going to supplement every one's salary which was not sufficient? That was no defence at all. He did not think it was fair to raise the question of politics, as no one could tell what they were, and therefore he did not deal with it from that standpoint, but he said that with a limited fund of this character, which was paid away in small grants, to give one-sixth of the fund to a gentleman only 50 years of age, and who was going upon a lecturing tour to America was monstrous.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, that if he understood his right hon. Friend, this money was given to Professor Rhys-Davids in order to enable him to carry on his researches. What he wished to find out was this. The hon. Member for Islington had said it would be possible, if it was desirable to give this money to encourage research, to give it out of another fund; therefore, if research was the object, that would have been the better course to have adopted. In that case the matter would have come under the cognisance of Parliament, whereas now it was only in an indirect way they had been able to find out what was being done; it was only by attacking 1298 the Treasury that they could get at this Professor's grant at all. He must confess that he knew very little about Professor Rhys-Davids, and he did not think politics entered into the question so much as an hon. Member supposed, but it did seem to him to be a very large sum indeed when they recollected the object for which the money was given. It was given in small sums of £50, £40, £30, and even down to £20 a year, so that it was clear it was a very limited fund, and if they were to give it away in these large sums of £200 many deserving people would suffer. It was more on that ground that he opposed it. It might have been right to give this Professor £50 a year if he had been an old man; but here was a man who was able to go to America, and add to his income by delivering scientific lectures which would turn to his own advantage; therefore it seemed to him a most remarkable thing that the Prime Minister, in one of the earliest exercises of his patronage of this fund, should have deliberately chosen a comparatively young man who was drawing a regular salary as Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society. But it was not so much for rewarding Professor Rhys-Davids as for improperly diminishing the fund that he should vote for the reduction.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 73; Noes 156.—(Division List, No. 202.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, he wished to ask a question respecting the scheme of retirement of attendants and messengers at South Kensington. There had been a good deal of dissatisfaction on the part of certain messengers—
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, it was difficult to answer that question; it did not come under anyone's salary, but it was a scheme adopted by the Treasury.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he desired to obtain some information as to a Treasury Minute that had been issued. The Treasury, as he understood, had issued a Treasury Minute with regard to the right or claim of the Civil servants to be elected on the new District Councils and 1299 Parish Councils. As he understood the Treasury Minute, they had ordered that the Civil servants should not be members of District Councils because they might meet during official hours, but they allowed Civil servants to become members of Parish Councils, because they said—The case is different as regards Parish Councils; Section 2, Sub-section 3, of the Local Government Act, 1894, provides they shall not begin earlier than 6 o'clock in the evening.That was the ground on which they were to be allowed to be members of the Parish Councils. In issuing that document the Treasury must have been under an entire misapprehension, because the section referred to parish meetings and not Parish Councils, and it said—Parish meetings shall be held at least once in every year, and the proceedings of every parish meeting shall begin not earlier than 6 o'clock in the evening.Therefore, the Treasury Minute did not turn out to be an infallible document, and the right hon. Gentleman did not know his own Act. As the Treasury were wrong in the reasons they had given for allowing Civil servants to be members of Parish Councils, and Parish Councils were in the same position as District Councils, what were they going to do? He presumed the Minute would be withdrawn, and a new one issued, and, in that case, would the Treasury forbid the Civil servants to be members of the Parish Councils, or would they give a new reason drawing a distinction between the two?
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
said, that, according to the Dockyard Regulations, the employés of the dockyards were allowed to have 12 days a year off, losing their wages during those days, and were practically allowed to take them whenever they liked, and he wished to know what reason there was for forbidding employés of the dockyards being members of a Public Body, provided they were willing to take the time they were away from their work out of the days they were allowed and lose their wages thereby?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that what the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) called a Treasury Minute was not laid on the Table as a Treasury Minute, but was simply a Memorandum sent round by the Treasury to the 1300 various Government Departments in order that the latter might express their opinions upon it. The document had now been revised and altered in several particulars. Any official would be allowed to attend the meetings of a Parish Council of which he happened to be a member so long as the meetings did not interfere with the work of the office in which he was employed. If his Parish Council meetings were held, for instance, in the middle of the day, he would not be allowed to be a member nor to attend the meetings. In answer to the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. E. J. C. Morton), he might say that the power was given to the heads of Departments enabling them to allow employés to attend such meetings, provided that this did not interfere with the business of the State.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that whether the document was a Treasury Minute or a Memorandum, it was issued from the Treasury, and the Treasury drew a distinction between District and Parish Councils, being under the impression that District Councils could meet at any time and that Parish Councils could only meet after 6 o'clock in the evening. What he wished to know was why, the mistake having been explained, the Treasury still maintained the distinction?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, he thought there was a broad distinction between District and Parish Councils. There was no doubt it would be the case that Parish Councils would meet in the evening, but there would be very few cases, scarcely any, in which District Councils would meet in the evening. The District Councils represented large areas and large districts, and, therefore, must meet in the daytime, as the members would have to travel long distances to attend them. It was not possible to allow Government officials to attend them during the time that ought to be devoted to the work of the country. With respect to Parish Councils, it was quite different, as many of them would meet in the evening. If they met in the daytime no Government official would be allowed to attend them; but if they met in the evening, there was no reason why an official should not be allowed to attend the meetings.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
said, he rose to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would be 1301 able to lay on the Table of the House a Return relating to the law charges or payments, which were sanctioned by the House a little time ago, and which it Was perfectly necessary should be in their possession before they came to the Vote of the Law Officers' charges.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON
remarked that his point was this. He did not want any alteration whatever made in the regulations as to the grant of leave or the time at which leave might be granted or the conditions as to the hours of leave and so on, nor did he want that the leave should be cut into small portions. What he said was, that at the present time a man was allowed a certain amount of leave—he might take it in 12 days, and might spend those days in the manner he pleased—and he knew of employés in the dockyards belonging to both political Parties who took their leave and devoted it to working purely for their own Party. They did not want that there should be any interference with the method in which they spent their leave, or that they should be specifically forbidden to attend meetings of Public Local Bodies. That was what he objected to.
§ MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)
asked how was it possible to know when the Parish Councils would meet? They would not fix their hours of meeting until they were elected.
§ MR. WARNER (Somerset, N.)
said, that at the present moment what under the Act would be a District Council was now a Local Board. The Local Boards met in the evening, and it seemed, therefore, rather hard that in that case a Government employé should not be able to have anything to do with the affairs of his own parish because it happened to be managed by a District Council.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, such a case would be met by the head of a Department under whose control the matter would be. Where the meetings took place in the evening, whether they were Parish or District Councils, any Government official would be able to attend them so long as he was not taken away from the work to which, during certain hours, he was bound to devote his attention.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
said, that what some of them objected to was the right of the head of a department to say that a man should or should not serve his fellow-citizens. They would never for a moment admit such a right to the head of any department. Why should such a limitation be made? He could understand it if the Government servants were scattered about the country where District Councils met at very long distances from the homes of the elected persons, but he believed that would settle itself, and in the case of dockyard servants they would not find this condition of things, because then the District Council would meet in the place where the dockyard was situate. Why, in the name of goodness, should these men have to go to the head of the department cap in hand and say, "I want to serve my fellow-citizens; they want to elect me. You must say yes or no." He should certainly vote against such a limitation.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, it would be easy to distinguish in such cases. What the Government contended was that a dockyard official should not be at liberty to do other work during the hours he was paid for doing the work of the State. If the Local Authority met at a time which did not clash with the officials' hours of work there would be no difficulty in such an official attending the meetings of the Local Body.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, there were two matters involved which appeared to be quite distinct. The first part was as to the dockyard employés. They, of course, came under the same rule as all other public servants, and the only question was whether that rule was a right and proper one. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it was a right and proper rule that a public servant should be precluded from employing his time in other matters than the service to which he was paid for devoting his whole time. The point now raised was this: they were having the pretension put forward that the Parish Councils were to be dictated, in the first instance, by the heads of departments; that there was to be a preliminary selection of candidates by heads of departments, who were to say to this man "Go," and he goeth, and to that man "Go," and he goeth as no Councillor. They could not have any part of the 1303 machinery of local self-government made into machinery by which Government officials should dictate as to who ought to take part in local government and who ought not. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. T. Hibbert) said quite right. If they were told that the contention was that the head of a department should be able to allow or forbid an official in his department to be a candidate it was a contention that would be most strenuously resisted.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that the Treasury had no desire to treat this matter in a narrow spirit, and as far as he was personally concerned he certainly had not. What he thought they ought to take care of was that the State had its value from the persons it employed. He did not think they ought to lay down any stringent rules, the only object being that those persons employed by the State should not devote any of the time they ought to give to the State to any other purpose. He should take care that the question should be considered in the light of the desire expressed by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, his objection was to drawing a distinction between Parish Councils and District Councils.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that surely the proper basis on which to put the question was the old basis on which Directorships were put. There was a rule that Civil servants should not be employed as directors on Boards which met during their official hours, and the reasonable thing to do would be to extend the rule to the holding of offices on Boards of this kind. If both District and Parish Councils were put on the same footing, then he thought the Treasury were on very safe ground, but the intention originally was to put them on a different footing.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
admitted that this was originally the intention, but it was not the intention at the present moment. The rule which his hon. Friend suggested was strictly carried out, and might with propriety be made applicable in these cases.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
said, what they wanted clearly to understand was whether any dockyard official who was properly entitled to 12 days' 1304 leave should be able to devote that time to public work without having in any way to ask leave of his superior officer?
§ SIR D. MACFARLANE (Argyll)
inquired, would the head of a Department have to be asked for leave before an employé in the dockyards became a candidate for any of these Parish Councils, or would he be allowed to be elected, and then, if elected, would he have to go to the head of the Department in order to obtain leave to attend to his duties as member of such Council?
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said, that the Government had no business to interfere with Boards of Directors or Local Bodies, but they had power to interfere with their servants, and if these Boards liked to elect Civil servants, all that was said to the servants was, "Very well, within your office hours you shall not go." That was a rule of universal application which ought to be followed.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury and the Government would stand firm as rocks after the mischievous views which had been enunciated by the hon. Member for Sunderland, who seemed to imply that any servant in the dockyard was apparently to leave the yard when he pleased.
Well, he says that he objects that they have to go cap in hand to the head of the department.
§ MR. STOREY
What I said was that he ought to be allowed to become a candidate the same as any other citizen; that he ought to be elected the same as any other person, and that there should be no preliminary going to the official superior and saying, "Please can I become a candidate?" We may trust to the common sense of the people that they will not elect a man who cannot attend, and the question will, therefore, never arise.
thought the hon. Member objected to having to ask permission to leave the dockyards. He (Admiral Field) took a strong view as to the efficiency of the Public Service; and the efficiency of these District Boards and Parish Councils, in his mind, was not worth the snap of the fingers compared with the efficiency of the Public Service. He hoped the Government would not 1305 yield to Radical pressure and give any privilege to dockyard servants, or to any other officials of the Crown. The efficiency of the dockyards and the proper building and repairing of ships should be the only consideration which should guide the officers in regulating the leave of absence in the dockyards. If there was any feeling amongst hon. Members that dockyard men were to have special favours extended to them to attend Parish Councils or District Councils, he, for one, was utterly opposed to it. For his part, he thought the dockyard men were better off these Boards altogether so as to have their evenings to themselves, and so that they might be able to properly do the work for which they were paid by the Crown.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL
, as representing an industrial district, desired to make a few observations upon the Home Office Vote. He felt he should only be doing his duty if he were to direct attention to a change in the staff of the Home Office. The Permanent Secretary of that Office, after many years' service, had retired into private life to enjoy a well-earned pension, and it was only right that some Member of the House should express his sense of the public service this gentleman had rendered during many years. As regarded the Reports of the Factory Inspectors, upon which his few remarks would be made, it was gratifying to be able to recognise improvements from the first page to the last. Many evils which caused anxiety in previous years had been removed, and others were being removed, or were in the course of being gradually diminished, and, they hoped, in a few years would disappear from those calamitous conditions which formed the just complaints of sanitarians, and were equally regretted by all friends of the labouring classes. Many years ago discussions were raised in the House as to the injurious effects on the workpeople of the manufacture of lucifer matches. The trade appeared to be a simple one, but it was also a dangerous one, and great loss of life arose in former days from the conditions under which this manufacture was carried on. He was glad to see in the recent Report of the Chief Factory Inspector that the disease then complained of appeared to be now almost entirely non-existent. In the same Report some remarks were made as to the 1306 conditions of safety in the quarries. He desired to know if it was the intention of the Government to carry through the House the Quarries Bill which had come down from the House of Lords. That was legislation of considerable importance, and was exciting great interest amongst those engaged in coal mines, because they desired to know how far their industry would be affected by the proposed legislation with regard to quarries. He was glad to find emphatic mention made in the Report as to the flax and linen manufacture. He had had the privilege of visiting the factories in Belfast as well as in Lancashire, and there was no doubt the sanitary condition in Ireland was much less satisfactory than that of the Lancashire workshops. The subject, he was pleased to see, was engaging the attention of the Home Office, and he hoped the condition of those who laboured in the flax and linen factories of Ireland might be greatly improved. He should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman in such detail as he should be able to supply to the Committee what had been done as to the Report of the Departmental Committee on dangerous trades? How far were the recommendations of the Departmental Committee being carried into effect? He certainly felt himself, on an examination of the Report, that there was a certain degree of ambiguity as to which recommendations had been carried out, and which not. He hoped the Home Secretary would be able to give them some information on this subject. In the Factory Inspectors' Reports there was an omission which he regretted. He had had the honour of serving on two Committees as regarded the hours of labour in shops, and he expected to find under the heading in the Report of "Shop Hours" a full and explicit statement on the subject. There were, however, only one or two passages on the subject. He desired to know how far the condition of workers in shops had been improved by legislation. If no improvement had been made in the condition of things then he thought the time had come, not for hon. Members to bring forward their own Bills, but for the Government to take the matter in hand and vigorously pass through a measure for effecting those changes in the law which, in 1307 that case, were certainly essential. Though he had occasion to regret the omission to which he had referred, he could not help thinking that these Reports were somewhat discursive, for they contained observations of a general character which threw no light on the condition of factories. Again, he also found that the Inspectors in their Reports, after describing certain evils which they wished to remedy, mentioned the names of firms which made certain machines which would remedy these evils. He was not at all sure that it was a wise thing that a Government Inspector in an official document should name a particular firm. He was sure it had been done with the best of motives, but he thought that such a system, if continued, might lead the Inspectors into temptation, and in that way the authority and impartiality of the Report might be greatly impaired. He was much interested in reading the Reports of the women Inspectors, which contained valuable matter and showed sympathy on the part of the gentler sex towards their sisters employed in the works, which commanded their admiration. There was one remark made by one of the women Inspectors which somewhat surprised him, and that was a complaint which was made as to the infringement of the Truck Acts. He would be glad to know whether the Home Secretary considered that the Truck Acts were now being infringed or not. Another evil to which the women Inspectors called attention was the practice of attaching the bed-rooms of the workpeople to the work-room, by means of which arrangement the limitation of hours prescribed by the Act was obeyed in the work-room but evaded by the people being engaged in the bed-rooms. That was a scandalous infraction of the Act. The statement as to the attachment of bed-rooms for collusion and evasion of the Act applied not only to work-rooms but to shops. Such a system amounted to an entire and complete violation of the Act. He saw one statement in a Report that women were worked on Saturday even so late as 11 o'clock at night. The excessive hours took place not in the work-room, which was under inspection, but in the bed-room, which was not so far regulated and under control. He Should like to know how far the Sanitary Authorities were carrying out their 1308 duties. Under an Act passed by the late Government certain functions were delegated to the Sanitary Authorities. The Reports on this topic were anything but of an encouraging nature, for it was stated, again and again, that the Local Authorities were not doing their duty. That was a serious matter. When the Act was passed in 1891 he felt doubts as to whether the Inspectors under the Local Authorities would discharge their duties with satisfaction. He was afraid his doubts had been realised. He would say nothing about the administration of Acts relating to mines beyond this, that he had made inquiries of masters and men in his own district, which was a mining district, and was glad to say that no complaints had been made. There were signs of the beginning of long-standing peace between employers and employed, which he gladly welcomed. As the result of his observations, extending now over many years, he was able to congratulate the country upon the progress that had been made in improving the condition of the people in their homes as well as in their workshops and factories. This satisfactory state of things was greatly due to the spread of intelligence amongst the people, and to their becoming keenly alive to the importance of these reforms. He hoped the progress that had been made would be continuous, and that nothing would be left undone in that direction by the Home Office.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
I should be the last to complain of the remarks made by the hon. Baronet. I am very glad, indeed, that the hon. Baronet—having thought this a proper occasion for discussing these matters—should have adopted an attitude so complimentary to the administration of the Factory Acts, and on behalf of those for whom I am responsible I tender to the hon. Baronet my acknowledgments for the appreciation he has shown of the ability and energy with which the Inspectors are going their work. I will deal briefly with the points on which the hon. Baronet asked for information. I earnestly hope the House will treat as a non - controversial measure the Bill for transferring the inspection of quarries to the Inspectors of Mines—a change in the law the necessity for which has been pressed upon me 1309 by the Departmental Committee. I am satisfied that by that change, coupled with the appointment of additional Inspectors, a number of serious accidents will be prevented. All the Reports of the Departmental Committee with reference to dangerous trades has been acted upon; and under the special powers conferred by the Act of 1891 I have made special Rules to carry out many of the recommendations of the Committee. In the case of the lead trade and the chemical trade the Rules have been practically agreed to, and in the case of the pottery trade they are on the verge of an agreement without arbitration. The case of quarries stands over for the transfer of jurisdiction proposed by the Bill. I am quite with the hon. Baronet as to the excessive length of shop hours in large towns. A Resolution in favour of change in the law was carried unanimously by this House, and I shall be only too glad when time can be found to make the necessary alteration. I may point out that the administration of the existing law with regard to workshops is by no means carried so far as it ought to be by the Local Authorities; and complaints are made of the supineness with which the Local Authorities perform the duties cast upon them by the Act of 1891. I regret to say that I think that complaint is well founded; and, although in some places there are enlightened men of experience who carry out the law with efficiency and determination, in too many places there is the most melancholy remissness in giving effect to the salutary provisions of the existing law. I am not quite sure that it was not a retrograde step to entrust these duties to Local Authorities, and not to keep them in the hands of the Central Executive; and it may be that we shall have to retrace our steps and take away from Local Authorities powers which they do not seem anxious to use efficiently. The Truck Acts, I regret to say, are exposed to evasions in the strictest sense of the word. A learned Judge once said it was the aim of every British subject to evade the law if he could do it with success, and that this was a reproach, not so much against the persons who broke the law, as against the Legislature who passed laws which could be so easily evaded without being broken. The 1310 Truck Acts fell within the category of ineffective laws which offer loopholes and ways of escape that are taken advantage of by an unscrupulous class of employers who evade the law without actually breaking it, and act absolutely contrary to the intentions of the Legislature. I am afraid that in this respect we cannot attain to a more satisfactory state of things without considerably tightening and strengthening our legislative machinery. As to the alleged discursiveness of the Inspectors' Reports, I admit that the volume is more bulky than usual, but I claim that its contents are more valuable than previous Reports, and that every page affords proofs of the efficiency with which the Inspectors discharge their duties. I should be sorry by any instructions to curtail the Reports of the Inspectors and to deprive the public of the advantage of observations made by trained and skilled experts upon the various aspects of work. I consider the Reports of the Inspectors models of what such Reports ought to be, and hold that an occasional excess of zeal or exuberance of language ought to be looked upon with considerable indulgence. I am glad the hon. Baronet recognises the value of the appointment of women Inspectors. It is quite true that in many establishments the law has been violated by the simple expedient of transferring workwomen to their bedrooms at the time of the visit of the Inspector. It was impossible for the male Inspector to follow them in order to ascertain whether the law had been broken; but lady Inspectors are able to pursue their inquiries more closely, and the result has been the detection of a number of cases of infraction of the law. I have added two lady Inspectors this year, and I hope that practices which have not been detected in the past will prevail no longer. With regard to the mentioning of names of firms by the Inspectors in their Reports, I admit that it is a matter that should be treated with great delicacy and discretion, and I will look into it.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, he proposed to move a reduction in the Vote for the salary of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in order that a few questions of considerable importance might be raised. So far as he was concerned he proposed to confine himself entirely to the question of the Anglo-Belgian Treaty and the 1311 condition of affairs in British Uganda. It would be absurd to pretend that there was not great cause for anxiety in the events that were now occurring in Central Africa. Everyone familiar with our past history knew full well that great Continental wars had arisen over the division of foreign countries amongst the European Powers. He need only mention Canada as a great example. And those who had followed the course of the partition of Africa in the last few years must be aware that there was grave danger of complicated questions arising when European Powers were dividing that great Continent between them, and wedging themselves, side by side, into its territories; and that, even at best and under the most favourable circumstances, the greatest care must be taken in order to avoid any crisis occurring which would lead to a repetition of the great wars of the past. It was perfectly true that our Foreign Ministers had recognised those dangers, and had tried to avert them; and indeed had, so far, succeeded in averting them, by entering into Treaties and arrangements under which the European Powers agreed not to enter on each other's spheres of action in Africa. Since then, however, another Treaty was made with Belgium, which was called the Anglo-Belgian Treaty, and which also affected Germany and France. He did not think that anyone would pretend that in the case of Germany the Treaty was of very great importance. But it was none the less true that the Foreign Office, made, in regard to Germany, a sad mess of it in the Treaty, and had to submit to a snub from Germany. Germany maintained that the Congo Free State being a creation of other Powers had no right to an extension of its territory, or to give up any of its territory; but obviously it was not competent for Germany to use that argument when at the creation of the Congo Free State, all the Powers—with the exception of France—had a clause in their Treaties with the Congo Free State which seemed to recognise the right of that State to give up or acquire territory. With regard to the French part of the Treaty, he would not say much, as negotiations on the subject were now going on between this country and France; but he desired to glance rapidly at what had taken place, and to submit some views which he believed 1312 were held by a great many people throughout the country. By certain Treaties, which he need not mention specially, the boundaries of the Congo Free State were fixed by 4° N. and 30° E. By the Anglo - Belgian Treaty, this country claimed a sphere of influence east of 30° E.; and it was against that that France objected. He thought the last Government, as well as the present Government, had been singularly wanting in their appreciation of events that had taken place in Central Africa on the part of Belgium. Before the present Government came into Office it was well-known that a certain Belgian officer was moving his troops outside the limits of the Congo Free State, and especially in parts east of 30° E., claimed by this country and admitted by Germany. Questions were asked in the House about those proceedings; the Government said they knew nothing about them; and yet it was those proceedings which had led to the recent difficulties by compelling this country to enter into the Anglo-Belgian Treaty in respect to those districts east of 30° E. France, as he had said, had been careful to avoid that clause, which every other Power inserted in its Treaty with the Congo Free State—namely, the clause which seemed to recognise the right of the Free State to give up or acquire territory; and he presumed it was because of the absence of that clause that France now claimed a right to object to the Congo Free State acting outside the boundaries that had been solemnly laid down. Thirty° E was, roughly speaking, the boundary of the Valley of the Nile, and to the Valley of the Nile we had a right from consideration of, if not of discovery, at least, of investigation and exploration, and, above all, from political considerations. Those considerations could not be overlooked, and ought not to be overlooked; and he could not believe that the Foreign Office would be so unwise as to admit that there could be any question of any other country having any claim, as compared with the claim of this country, to the Valley of the Nile. He did not believe that the Foreign Office would, under any circumstances, yield up our claim to the watershed of the Nile, though he confessed he felt some little anxiety on the point owing to the events which had 1313 recently taken place. He was certain that any such action on the part of the Foreign Office would be received with great indignation in this country, and would result in grave injury to this country. He, therefore, hoped that the Government would think once and think twice before they yielded one inch upon this profoundly important question. He was not one of those who had any jealousy, speaking generally, of the occupation of Africa by France, or Germany, or any other country, for he recognised the great work of civilisation in which they were all engaged. But it was the fact that France at the present moment had a larger territory than any other country in Africa; and it was the fact, too, that during the last few years France had been allowed to shut in our colonies of Gambia, and partially also Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast, by the occupation of several Hinterlands in the West. Those were great concessions to the views and wishes of France; and he thought we might reasonably expect some concession in return for what had been done. It was only this very year that Germany — apparently without any opposition from us—had made over to France rights obtained from us over territories east of Lake Tchad and Olibanghi River. He considered that the line ought to be drawn in the Valley of the Nile. He would conclude with a few words in regard to the British East Africa Company. He was not an admirer, and had never been a supporter of Chartered Companies. Whenever he had spoken of them in the House, he had always said that he thought that in principle they were a mistake, as the business they transacted ought to be undertaken by the Imperial Government. But whether he liked Chartered Companies or not, he must recognise their existence, and he might in individual cases say whether he thought they had been justly treated or not. He was bound to say that in his opinion the British East Africa Company had been treated most shabbily by the late Government, and most scurvily by the present Government. He thought that, if possible, in this respect the Government now in power had been the worst offender. He would only present the salient features of the case to the Committee, leaving the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Lawrence), 1314 who was extremely familiar with the subject, to elaborate the details. The Company was urged by Lord Salisbury in 1888 to advance to Uganda, in order to save that country from the grasp of the Germans. That was notorious. In the East Africa Company, in order to meet the expenses of government, a concession of about 400 miles of territory along the coast was made by the Sultan of Zanzibar. A certain rental was to be paid to the Sultan, and in return the East Africa Company were allowed to collect the dues along the coast. That took place in 1888. In 1890 the Government declared a protectorate over this territory, and recommended the Sultan to withdraw his territories from the operation of the free zone declared by the Berlin Conference, the result being that the Company, acting as leaseholders under the Sultan, were there to obtain money on goods coming into their territory, and thus were able to pay their rents. In 1892, however, years later, we substantially declared a protectorate over Uganda, and at the same time, in order to pay the expenses of administration, advised the Sultan to place his territory inside the free zone. The result was that goods for Uganda, being in transit, paid no dues, and the Company were left in the position of losing their revenue while they had still to pay rent. There never was a more questionable proceeding than this.
§ SIR E. GREY
said the company were in possession of the Hinterland when this change took place, and therefore no question of free transit could arise.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, all the world knew that long before we took over the protectorate certain responsibilities in connection with Uganda were assumed by this country. Surely this was a transaction for which this country should blush.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, he believed that whatever was done took place under the blushes of his hon. Friend below him, but the hon. Baronet opposite had had a couple of years to put it straight. There was in the Charter a clause declaring that disputes arising between the Sultan and the Company should be referred to the Foreign Secre- 1315 tary for decision, and the Company had, since last October, been begging Lord Rosebery to act as arbitrator in accordance with that clause, but they could get no answer whatever. Meanwhile the Company had to go on paying the rent to the Sultan and get nothing in return. Surely that was unjust. He thought he had said enough to show hon. Gentlemen, whose attention had not hitherto been drawn to this matter, that there never was a more questionable proceeding than this, and he urged that for the sake of the credit of this country justice ought to be dealt out to the Company. He moved to reduce the Vote for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by the sum of £100.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item (Class 2, Vote 5), of £7,000, for the Foreign Office, be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Secretary of State."—(Commander Bethell.)
§ MR. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said, that after the very able and lucid speech of his hon. and gallant Friend he thought he need say very little on behalf of the Company who was grievously suffering in the hands of the British Government. He had not been fully acquainted with all the facts until recently, but since he had become acquainted with them he had been surprised that any Department of Her Majesty's Government should have dealt such very hard justice to those subjects of the Crown who had done so much at such great cost to extend the interests of England in the heart of Africa. A distinct breach of a written contract by the Government, through the medium of the Sultan of Zanzibar, had been the cause of the gravest loss, and the Government had up to the present time refused to submit the matter to arbitration. Such interminable delays had taken place in the Company's negotiations with the Foreign Office that the interests of the Company had been grievously prejudiced. They were neither able to go forward nor to go back, and it seemed almost as if the Foreign Office by these delays desired so to reduce the resources of the Company that they might come in and buy it, as they thought, "lock, stock, and barrel," for a very small figure. They claimed to have a real grievance, inasmuch as 1316 there had been an entire omission on the part of the Government to carry out an unwritten agreement, but one fully recognised by all parties at the time—namely, that by which foreigners and British subjects should bear some share of the government which they enjoyed in the territories of the British East Africa Company. It was never contemplated that the Company should come into existence and should not be able to raise taxes to set up that administration which it was bound to set up. The Company in their original Charter only undertook to administer justice over subjects of the Sultan of Zanzibar, and it was contemplated that when they had been given power of taxation over British and foreign subjects within their territory that they would be permitted to raise money by such means to create a judicial system to suit them. But that had not been the case, yet they were charged with having neglected, out of their own capital and resources, to set on foot a High Court and all the paraphernalia of justice. They were asked, most unjustly, to surrender their Concession territory without regard being had to their Chartered territory, which was just like compelling a private person who owned a frontage to part with that frontage without regard to the property in the background. He thought that in view of these facts the Company had ample ground for complaint; and since Committee of Supply had been made an opportunity for ventilating grievances, he did not think a single case more deserving the attention of Parliament had been brought forward than that of this Chartered Company. He understood the Government affirmed that the Company had done nothing whatever in the chartered territory, and that therefore it had no rights. The reply to that was that they had spent largely of their means in opening up Uganda, and in sending out exploring parties into the country beyond. But for the action of the Company in making its way under great difficulties to Uganda four years ago, the whole of that district would now belong to the Germans. Was it nothing that they had rescued for the English Crown that enormous tract of country, having a frontage of 200 miles to the sea? As an indication of what the Company had done in opening up the country and making good roads, he might mention that whereas, in 1888, 1317 the country was so unsettled that the Company had to send a party of 500 armed porters to conduct five white men through the country, within the last 24 hours it was reported that someone had come from Mengo in the heart of the country in the shortest time on record, and with only 50 porters, partially armed. This fact showed that the work of the Company had not been altogether in vain, and he thought that ordinary fairness would have required the Government to have given more kindly consideration to the claims of the Company. Recent incidents had caused great heartburning among those who had given so nobly and those who had worked so hard in the interests of the country as well as of the Company, and so perfectly convinced were they of the justice of their case that they were willing to submit it to any body of business men who were concerned in protecting the interests of the Empire. He believed they would have got more justice from arbitrators than they had received from the Government up to the present. Money had been subscribed in many cases from philanthropic motives, and in others from the desire of national expansion, and it was really too bad at this end of the century that gentlemen who had acted either from motives of philanthropy or of national expansion should be treated as adventurers. He was not defending the principle of Chartered Companies; indeed, if he followed closely the wishes of his constituents, he would condemn it; but these Companies had been called into existence under political exigencies, and they were entitled to justice; and he submitted that if the Foreign Office was unable to take a fair and unbiased view of the question, they ought to submit it to the arbitration either of a Select Committee of that House or to some other competent tribunal. At any rate, let them treat others as they would themselves like to be treated.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, they were not there to discuss the merits of the Chartered Companies, but to worry the Government into doing its best in the interest of this country. He was heartily sick of reading the Reports and printed matter supplied to him bearing upon this sub- 1318 ject, because he was ashamed add disgusted with the manner in which the Government had treated this Company. What would have been the position of England in East Africa but for their energy and enterprise? The country owed a debt of gratitude to the Company for their services to British interests. Some hon. Friends beside him had spoken in terms of disapproval of the work of the Chartered Companies, and had seemed to be unmindful of the fact that the great East India Company had secured to this country the brightest jewel in the British Crown. But, as he had said before, they were not there to discuss whether Chartered Companies were good or bad in themselves, but they were placed face to face with a condition of things at which the country, if it were aware of the circumstances, would, he was sure, be indignant. Here was a Company which had been employed by the British Government at various times to do their own Imperial work, because they had not the courage to ask Parliament to provide them with the means necessary for doing it themselves. The Company who had pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for the Government were now left without adequate compensation for the work they had done. He called it downright legalised confiscation. ["No, no!"] The hon. Member who said "No" could not have studied the question in all its bearings. He could not have read Sir Gerald Portal's Report. The action of the Government had been legalised robbery. The Company was in the hands of the Government, and it was useless for them to put up the Sultan of Zanzibar, and the Berlin Conference, and such like nonsense. The Company paid a large sum to the Sultan of Zanzibar for the right to levy Customs and dues; they had been deprived of that right without compensation; and what could that be called but robbery? Under their Charter they had power to appeal to the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary to arbitrate—
§ An hon. MEMBER: Under what Act?
said, he was speaking of a clause in their Charter. If the hon. Member would try to understand the point perhaps he would not interrupt. 1319 Lord Salisbury, in a Despatch to the British Consul General, had Raid that no measures should be decided upon affecting that portion of the Sultan's territory administered by the Company without previous consultation with the Company, and that failure on the Sultan's part to observe that condition should lay him open to a charge for compensation. Well, the confiscation of which he complained was effected without consulting the Company or giving them an opportunity of pleading their case, although, when compensation was claimed, the British Government said the claim was not entitled to consideration. The Company asked for arbitration, and was denied a hearing. His contention was that the Government were trustees for the nation, and must do the right thing in this matter. They had been told on high legal authority that if the Sultan was not a Sovereign—if he was amenable in respect to claims made upon him in this country—undoubtedly he would be liable to meet a claim for compensation, and if the Company's claim was founded on legal grounds he said the British Government was very much to blame if it looked at it with averted eye. He knew it was the fashion to abuse these Companies, but what did Sir Gerald Portal say? In his admirable Report he said—I venture to express my strong opinion that it is now desirable, in the interests of British commerce and of the whole of East Africa, from the Indian Ocean to the Nile Basin, that some arrangement should be arrived at, without further delay, by which the Imperial British East Africa Company shall cease to exist as a political or administrative body, either in the interior or within the limits of the Sultan's territory.Then he went on to say—As pioneers, the Company's officers have done good work, and have greatly increased our knowledge of East Africa, and there can be no doubt that a great deal of money has been spent in the hope of opening up the country to civilisation, and, at the same time, of introducing a profitable trade. In fact, to the founders of the Company belongs the sole credit of the acquisition, for the benefit of British commerce, of this great potential market for British goods.Further on again, Sir Gerald Portal said—As regards the withdrawal. … of the Royal Charter. … there would, I imagine, be but little difficulty, especially since the Com- 1320 pany have now, of their own accord, practically resigned their rights. … by relinquishing any connection with the interior elsewhere than at the two small posts above mentioned; but in surrendering their concessions obtained at various times from the Sultan of Zanzibar, the Company would be fairly entitled to receive from the Sultan adequate compensation for such actual improvements as they may have made within the territories of the Sultanate.That was the opinion of Sir Gerald Portal. He (Admiral Field) entered his protest against the policy of injustice and robbery which might be popular elsewhere, but was not popular at all events upon his side of the House. His sympathy was with justice, and be only rose to say that a wrong had been done where the nation demanded that right should be done.
§ SIR E. GREY
said, that although in the course of the discussion very large questions had been raised, he thought it was only necessary for the satisfaction of the Committee that he should deal with the important points raised. The first was the present Agreement with the Sovereign of the Congo State; and though the hon. Member who called attention to the subject certainly gave expression to some very strong criticisms as to what had been done, he gladly recognised from his tone and manner that they were dictated entirely by his interest in the subject and not by any animus or desire to injure anybody concerned. The criticisms of the hon. Gentleman, into which he could not follow him far, were divided into two parts—first of all, the criticism of that part of the Treaty which especially concerned the German Government; and he admitted that, if they had been at all aware of the importance which the German Government attached to that particular part of the Treaty, it would not have been inserted. The moment it was found the German Government attached importance to it Her Majesty's Government felt it would be only in accordance with a proper sense of what was due to the different Powers concerned that part of the Treaty—of no great importance to us, but considered to be of great importance to the German Government—should be withdrawn. As regarded the other and larger questions raised by the hon. and gallant Member (Commander Bethell), he had only to say that they were at present forming 1321 part of the discussion which was taking place with the French Government, and which had not reached a stage at which it was possible to make a statement to the House. As regarded the final part of the hon. Member's remarks as to the importance to Great Britain of this sphere of influence ever since the present Government came into Office, they had never shown any hesitation in claiming a position in that sphere of influence. So there was no reason to doubt that they had a proper sense of importance of the step taken by Lord Salisbury. Now, he came to the more controversial question of the East Africa Company. Though he differed from the remarks of hon. Member's opposite, he had no desire to spend time in whittling down any of the work the Company had done. He did not want to disparage their work or reflect on their conduct, or attempt in any way the disagreeable task of making whatever they had done appear to be less than they would represent it to be. At the same time, he could not agree with all that had been said on behalf of the Company. It had been said that the Company, in occupying this part of East Africa, including Uganda, went there at the instigation of Lord Salisbury. Lord Salisbury recognised the enterprise displayed by the founders of the Company to be of great Imperial benefit, but the present Government had no record that the Company went to East Africa at the suggestion of anyone but themselves. Sir William Mackinnon, the leading spirit of the East Africa Company, was a man of great enterprise and large ideas, and it did not seem probable that he required instigation from outside to induce him to entertain the operations which the Company undertook.
§ SIR E. GREY
said, he would now pass to the question of free transits and to the action of the Sultan of Zanzibar in accepting the free zone provisions. He did not say the Company was a party to this, but that the Sultan of Zanzibar, in putting his dominions under that system, did it with the knowledge of the Company, who did not then contemplate the results that had ensued since. Although 1322 he had not the dates by him, he thought hon. Members would find there was an interval between the time that the dominions of the Sultan of Zanzibar were put under the free zone system, and the Company were aware of it, and the first protest on the subject. The fact was the action which made the free transit provisions apply to the dominions of the Company was the action of the Company themselves when they withdrew within the 10-mile limit.
§ MR. LAWRENCE
said, it was a matter of history, he believed, the Company over and over again had reiterated to the Foreign Office that they were going to retire from Uganda long before the question of extending the free zone system was even hinted at by the Foreign Office, and the fact that the free zone system was not immediately resisted in the determined way it ought to have been was because it was supposed that underlying that tentative proposal, contained in a letter of April 29,1892, there was to be a quid pro quo—namely, that power of taxation was to be conferred, by which the Company might be recouped in case of the free zone system being extended.
§ SIR E. GREY
replied that he was glad to have an admission that at any rate the protest against placing the dominions of the Company under the free zone did not follow the Company's knowledge of the act taking place.
§ MR. LAWRENCE
said, the whole Note showed that the Foreign Office was conducting negotiations for extending the free zone quite behind the back of the Company. And when at least there was some suggestion that the Government would extend the free zone system there was some idea that the Company was to be met by a compensating advantage which would neutralize the material disadvantage that had occurred.
§ SIR E. GREY
said, undoubtedly there might have been a hope that certain advantages would accrue which had not accrued when the territories were placed under the free zone. But it was not only the Government that hoped for those benefits; but the Company also at the time thought it had some interest in those territories being placed under the free zo ne. As to compensation to the Company, there seemed no doubt that the 1323 Company would be glad to retire from the whole field of its operations—both from the 10-mile limit, and the chartered territory behind it—provided adequate compensation were offered. As regarded the 10-mile limit and the special concessions under which it was held from the Sultan of Zanzibar, the reason the Government did not interfere in the differences between the Sultan and the Company was simply because it was understood that both the Sultan and the Company would be willing to treat for the termination of the whole of the concession; and the difference between them would be one of terms. What had delayed an arrangement being come to? It was, of course, the fact that the Company's interests were not limited only to the concession of the 10-mile limit, but there was the amount of work the Company had done in the country behind. Sir G. Portal's Report had been quoted as to the amount of work the Company had done. In that Report Sir G. Portal gave his opinion that, in the Imperial interest, the Company ought to cease to exist as a political and administrative body, and that, looking at the present position of the Company, there should be little difficulty as regarded the termination of the Charter which it at present held. That led up to the point of view the Government held now. If there was to be a satisfactory settlement of this portion of East Africa it would be necessary a settlement should be made with the Company. Two different authorities could not exist in different parts of the country, one part being administered directly from the Foreign Office, another by the Company, and another by the Sultan of Zanzibar. The Company must be settled with, and the whole cause of the delay had been the terms on which the settlement should be made. The difficulty was not one of principle, but of terms. The Government had never denied that the Company was entitled to compensation for the value of work done. When the Government came into Office they found themselves confronted with the question of what the future of this country was to be. Supposing they had decided that it would be in the Imperial interest to withdraw from Uganda altogether, surely the hon. Member opposite could not then 1324 have maintained that compensation would have been due to the Company for the work they had done. Until it was decided whether and under what conditions the territory was to be held, it was of course impossible to consider the question whether any compensation was due to the Company at all. That question had been decided in favour of retaining the country, and the only point now to be settled was that of the amount of the compensation to be paid. The hon. Gentleman said that the Company had made a very modest claim. Modesty was a matter of opinion, and it was on the question of the modesty of the Company's claim that the delay had arisen. In estimating the amount of the compensation, the Government had two things to consider. The first was how much the Company had spent, and the second was how much what the Company had spent was worth as far as Imperial interests were concerned. It had also to be borne in mind that supposing the Company had remained in that part of East Africa, and had found that the commercial development of the country was so rapid as to repay them for the money they had spent, undoubtedly the whole of the profits would have gone into their own pockets. When they agreed to occupy that part of Africa they had before them the prospect of getting the whole of the profits of the commercial development of the country for their own shareholders, and they must take some responsibility for the loss that had occurred through the commercial development of the country not having been so inexpensive or rapid as they might have expected at first. Having had the whole prospect of the profits, it was only natural that they should bear some share of the loss which they said had occurred. All this had to be taken into account in estimating the amount of compensation to be awarded. If the Company had withdrawn from Africa under pressure of the Government, it would have stood on a very different footing, but they had withdrawn entirely on their own account, and since they withdrew the Imperial Government had had to find a great deal of money in respect of the country withdrawn from, and it was quite uncertain how soon that public money would be recovered. He had 1325 always admitted in the House of Commons that after all that had happened, and after Sir Gerald Portal's Report had been received as to the position of affairs as the Company left them, no Government, except at the expense of its own self-respect, would have withdrawn from the country. He did not wish to deny that compensation should be given to the Company for the value of the work they had done, but such compensation would not have to be estimated by the total amount of the money they had spent, and the delay had been due to the difference between the Government and the Company as to what the amount of compensation should be.
MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
said, he desired to make a few observations with regard to the principal points that had come under discussion on the Foreign Office Vote. He did not wish for a moment to say anything which would commit him or those with whom he acted to any definite opinion with regard to their position in relation to the Government of France and the protest they had made with respect to that Treaty. They had no materials at present before them upon which they could found any opinion that would be worth giving. With regard to the interests of Germany and the manner in which they were affected under the Treaty, he could not help reiterating the view already expressed, and to which he did not think his hon. Friend (Sir E. Grey) opposite had given a sufficient answer—namely, that it was a great pity, considering our friendly relations with Germany, not only in Africa but all over the globe, that what was being done was not notified to Germany before a definite Treaty was made. He was fully of opinion that if Germany had been consulted in this matter the difficulties which had cropped up would never have occurred; that Great Britain would have been able to make her position perfectly clear to the German Government, and that in this respect she would have been in a very much stronger position for meeting any objections or claims which the French Government might make than was the case now when the whole of the Article by which Germany was affected under the Treaty had had to be thrown overboard. As long ago as the 1st of July, 1890, Germany recognised in 1326 the Treaty with Great Britain the British claim to include the Nile Basin within her sphere of influence. Therefore, for the last four years our claim, whatever it might be worth, to that particular district had been before the world. The French claim, as far as it existed at all, had never been made public. It might have rested within the bosoms of successive Foreign Secretaries who had presided at the Quai d'Orsay, but it had never been laid before the other European Powers, or certainly had never been recognised by any of them. As to the position of the British East Africa Company, he wished to associate himself entirely with what had fallen from his hon. Friend opposite (Sir E. Grey) with regard to the encouragement which was alleged to have been given by the late Government of Her Majesty to Sir William Mackinnon and the British East Africa Company. He did not deny for a moment that Lord Salisbury and the late Government looked with a very favourable eye indeed upon the forward movement of that Company, but he thought that if the Company had ever had anything definite to go upon to show chat they had ever been encouraged or urged to go to Uganda the document would have been made public long before now. As to the action taken by the Sultan of Zanzibar in reference to the Berlin Act, that action was taken in August, 1892, just before the last General Election. He had no doubt that the reason for that action was that Her Majesty's Government did not see their way to pay Transit Duties upon stores which it was probable that they would have to send up to Uganda in order to occupy it. No doubt this was why Her Majesty's Government invited the Sultan of Zanzibar to bring his territories within the free transit zone. There could be no doubt that that action on the part of the Sultan of Zanzibar, or, to speak frankly, on the part of Her Majesty's Government at home—because, of course, it was they who pulled the wires—did very materially modify the agreement which existed between the Sultan of Zanzibar and the Imperial British East Africa Company. Of course, it was difficult to say what Lord Salisbury's Government would have done under a certain set of circumstances 1327 which did not occur during the time they held Office, but he could hardly conceive that they would have rejected any claim made by the Company to have the case reconsidered when they could show that they had been injuriously affected by the alteration made. There was no doubt that they had been injuriously affected by it. They had lost the whole of the Transit Dues, both import and export, which up to August, 1892, they were enabled to levy, and upon which the amount of the rent paid by them was based. The arrangement made between the Sultan of Zanzibar and the Company in 1888 was that the gross receipts by the Company for Import and Export Dues during that particular year should be taken as an average, and that the rent which the Company were to pay for their concession was to be based on the amounts received during that particular year. If Her Majesty's Government took away the greater part of the fabric on which the contract was based, surely, even if the Government had not a moral claim they had a legal claim to have their position reconsidered, more especially when they remembered that at the present moment the Foreign Office was practically the Sultan of Zanzibar. He did not think his hon. Friend (Sir E. Grey) had given a sufficient answer to the case of the Company, who were year by year compelled to go on paying a heavy rent to the Sultan out of funds which they did not receive—that was to say, out of their own capital. Whilst he (Mr. J. W. Lowther) did not put the case as strongly as his hon. and gallant Friend (Commander Bethell), or as his hon. and gallant Friend below the Gangway, who had used some very strong and nautical phrases with regard to it, he thought that the Government might very fairly arrive at some arrangement with the Company with regard to that part of their claim, especially when it was remembered that the Government had in their hands at the present moment the sum of £200,000 belonging nominally to the Sultan of Zanzibar, and forming a fund by means of which arrangements might possibly be arrived at between the Company and the Sultan. He should like, in conclusion, to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the extraordinary anomalous position in which 1328 they found themselves in East Africa. They had a Protectorate of an island with a 10-mile strip of territory along the mainland; then they had another Protectorate further north held under a different tenure; then they had the Hinterland administered by the Chartered Company, and finally hung up in the air, three months' distance from the base, they had the newly-formed Protectorate of Uganda. He fully agreed with the views which were held by Sir Gerald Portal that the whole of this portion of East Africa should be administered together, and directly by Great Britain, and he was afraid that as long as Her Majesty's Government could not make up their minds to grasp the question as a whole, and to treat it as a whole, they were simply piling up for themselves day by day great difficulties and ceaseless intricacies, and preparing for the future a crisis which might become very acute, and which might lead to some of the disasters which his hon. and gallant Friend (Commander Bethell) had pointed out.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, he should interpose but for a few minutes between this foreign topic and another foreign topic of equal interest, which he believed was to be subsequently brought forward. Having been obliged, owing to his connection with a great Missionary Society, to which everybody owed so much in East Africa, to study this part of the African Continent, and being entirely unconnected with the British Imperial East Africa Company, he desired to say a few words on the question. He felt he could do so with entire impartiality, and from a national and patriotic point of view. He did not agree with what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Holderness Division regarding the merits of Chartered Companies. Of course, if the work done by these Companies could be done immediately by the nation it would be well, but they knew that in the political and social circumstances of the country it was natural that the Government should be somewhat reluctant to enter directly upon these enterprises, which might in the future so largely affect our national interests. It should be borne in mind that if there had been no East India Com- 1329 pany there would have been no British Indian Empire, and that if there had been no South Africa Company there would have been no British dominions in Matabeleland and Mashonaland; and, certainly, if there had been no East Africa Company Germany would by this time have been masters of the whole of the territory to the west of the great African Lakes. Under the circumstances, they ought to be thankful that this great Company had existed, and ought to look on its condition now with a most friendly eye. He did not want to make much of what had been said as to the late Government having instigated the Company to proceed to Uganda. If it did so it would redound to its credit; at any rate, he should be the last to apply any opprobrious epithets to a Government for which he had the most profound admiration, especially regarding their African policy. It must be admitted that the late Government was not behindhand in its national duty of giving encouragement to this Company. It was the duty of the Government to give that encouragement, and that encouragement was rendered, as was amply shown by the Papers. As early as 1890 Sir C. Euan Smith had written to Sir W. McKinnon recommending the Despatch of a thoroughly equipped expedition to Uganda, and in their Despatches the Government had used such phrases as—No more favourable opportunity could arise for the Company to enter into amicable relations with the King,and—It is understood that the principal object that the East Africa Company has in view is to secure a permanent interest in Uganda, and steps have been taken for that object by the despatch of a caravan.There could be no doubt that reasonable and proper encouragement was given by the late Government to the Company to proceed to Uganda. Lord Salisbury, in fact, had written—It would be unreasonable that Her Majesty's Government should, by thrusting the whole responsibility on the shoulders of private individuals, claim to be relieved from all responsibility.He did not mean to imply that the late Government had committed itself in any unreasonable manner. It did no more than its duty, and no less. The Com- 1330 pany was to pay a certain rent to the Sultan of Zanzibar in consideration of being allowed to collect duties within a certain zone, and when that zone was declared free and no dues could be collected, no remission was made in the rent. He desired to press upon the Government to settle the matter quickly, because the Company was placed at a disadvantage and did not know what to do, and it was seriously apprehensive regarding delay. For the sake of Imperial interests and of justice to the Company, let them be quick in settling the matter. Now that the question of Uganda had been so beneficially settled by Her Majesty's Government, could they not go a step further and bring matters with the Company to a just conclusion? The Company should no longer be required to go on paying revenue to the Sultan of Zanzibar for benefits no longer receivable. Though no one held the services of Sir Gerald Portal in admiration more than he did, he hardly thought that Sir Gerald sufficiently considered the part which the Company had to play in that part of the world, and it never seemed to have occurred to Sir Gerald's mind that if there had been no Company there would have been no Uganda question for this country to argue about. The Government were, it seemed, halting at this moment between two opinions. There was no middle course for them to pursue. Either they must be prepared to assume a virtual Protectorate over the whole Hinterland from Mombasa to the Great Lakes, or the Company must have financial means at its disposal to enable it to do its duty. How could that be done? In the first place, he understood that the Company had no real taxing powers. They could not tax British subjects or other European subjects without some positive sanction from the British Government, and he believed that could not be done unless the Government were prepared to give that power by Order in Council, or by such other Order as they might choose. They must otherwise make it a Crown Colony, and if they make it a Crown Colony, of course, it was virtually a Protectorate. One of the financial means he was advocating was that the Company should have the 1331 power of taxation, which they had not now. The people who enjoyed protectection would, no doubt, be willing to accept taxation. There was another point which was well worth consideration. The revenue at present raised, or which could be raised, at the principal ports did not benefit the Company, but went, as he understood, to Zanzibar, which was now being virtually administered by the Foreign Office. The Sultan was, at all events, but the shadow of a King. The islands of Zanzibar and Pemba ought, he contended, to live on their own taxes, and ought not to look to other ports up the coast. The taxes collected from the ports on the coast ought, in his view, to be devoted to that coast, and if those taxes were receivable by the Company the latter would have means to go on. If, however, this course was not considered by Her Majesty's Government to be desirable, then they must adopt the other course—follow Sir Gerald Portal's advice, assume a Protectorate over the coast and Hinterland, and incorporate the territory in the Zanzibar Protectorate. In this event the Government must make proper terms with the Company, which would, he supposed, remain as a commercial body, and might in that condition still do an immense amount of good. He submitted that, as statesmen, they must adopt one line or the other, and not be the means of retarding the development of our Empire in that part of the world, of placing the Company at a great disadvantage, and of lowering us in the eyes of neighbouring Powers. He was surprised to hear the Under Secretary of State talk about the spending of a great deal of money. He himself should have thought that the spending of a few thousand pounds by the richest Government in the world would have been a small matter.
§ SIR E. GREY
said, he had stated that in estimating the amount of compensation to be obtained they had to remember that the one thing certain at present in regard to the territory was that they had to spend a certain amount of public money upon it.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, he thought the hon. Baronet used the words "much money." It was only a passing phrase, but he believed he was correct in saying that it would be a small sum.
§ SIR E. GREY
said, what he meant was that what had been spent was a good deal if it was considered that they were being asked to pay the Company in addition.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, he sincerely hoped that the Government realised the extreme importance of retaining the entire Valley of the Nile, from its source onwards, through the whole sphere of British influence. With regard to the district abandoned in deference to what they had deemed to be the just remonstrance of Germany, was he correct in understanding that we still had the right to construct telegraph lines?
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, that if there was to be the right to construct telegraph lines there must be a right of maintenance, and that would necessitate the construction of some kind of road and buildings for artificers, supervisors, and others. So long as they maintained these things he thought British influence would not have suffered any great check.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, he thought there was a great deal of reason in what the hon. Baronet who had just sat down had said with regard to the prospect of our being able to maintain this line of communication along the Congo border. He was bound to say he had always himself thought we had been rather unduly tender to the susceptibilities of Germany in the difficulty which had been raised. He could not conceive how German interests could have been jeopardised in any way by our right of passage in the district in question; but as difficulties had been raised he was rather inclined to agree with the hon. Baronet that it would not have been worth while jeopardising our friendly relations with Germany in order to maintain that which he thought, after all, they would be able to secure. The real fact was that, as far as the present position was concerned, they need not be in a very great hurry about this particular territory. The only portion they had to trouble themselves about was the 160 to 180 miles of thickly-inhabited country on the border of the Congo Free State. He hoped the time was not far distant when a good deal more would be known about that portion 1333 of the country. At present it was inhabited by a tribe who would not allow either Germans or any other white men to penetrate into the district. When hon. Members were discussing this question of distance, and the construction of a railway, he thought it was advisable to remind the Committee that there was a far better and easier and more rapid means of access to the district under consideration through the medium of steamers on the Great Lakes. He was anxious in dealing with these questions that they should take, not only a patriotic, but a broad and International view. He did not see why they should be jealous of the Germans or French. So long as their destinies were bound up with the maintenance of order and prosperity in Egypt itself, it would be exceedingly undesirable to allow the control of any portion of the Nile Valley to slip from their grasp. He believed that in the position in which they found themselves, they were the people of all others who could best promote, and ultimately carry out any experiment in the Nile Valley. This was a most important point in the great scheme which Mr. Rhodes was the first to elaborate—not merely a telegraph line, but a through railway route from the Cape to Cairo. He believed that that was bound up with their work in Egypt, and therefore he was not in favour of withdrawing one jot of their claims to the control of the Nile Valley. At the same time, that was no reason why they should come to loggerheads with France, Germany, or Italy. He believed that by a policy of conciliation it would be possible to develop the prospects of all the nations interested in those parts, and to carry forward civilisation to the furthest extent possible. While he admired and appreciated the value of what Sir Gerald Portal had done, he thought it would be a mistake for them to accept every word of his Report as absolutely correct, or to follow it in every particular. When Sir Gerald spoke, on page 37 of the Report, about the route viâ the Great Lakes being impossible, he considered they might fairly criticise that statement. He held that that route would not be so impossible as Sir Gerald thought. He asked the Government to consider whether it was not worth while to negotiate 1334 with Germany for an easy route through that country's territory from a point near the north corner of Lake Tanganyika to the south-western corner of the Victoria Nyanza. That would be probably 160 or 180 miles. It would, he contended, be far better to try and effect some arrangement of this kind. He was anxious to see International relations developed to the fullest extent between these countries. If they took the route up from Zambesi they had the Belgians on one side, the Germans on the other, and the Portuguese lower down, and themselves following the Portuguese. The best plan would be for them to associate themselves with these different nations, and to come to some arrangement most conducive to opening up the land and for the development of their trade and commerce along with their own. These Great Lakes were open to the trade and commerce of all nations. There was no monopoly possible to any one Company, or party, or country. What they had to look to was the development, as speedily as possible, of steam and railway communication upon these magnificent waterways which, in his opinion, would be a more practical and, from the commercial aspect of the question, far more paying than the proposed railway, through an almost impracticable country, from Mombasa to Uganda. As to the rights or wrongs, or the desirability of exploiting a new country through the agency of a Chartered Company, he had on former occasions expressed his opinion in this House that it was possible, under present circumstances, to avoid doing so. But in addition to the particular case which the hon. Baronet cited, he thought they might take the instance of the East India Company and other cases which had been quite as successful. At present, on the West Coast of Africa they had the Niger Company, which conducted the administration of its territories with great success. Why should the Niger Company on the West Coast be so great a success and the Imperial British East Africa Company be such a failure? He was not at all sure that they should say the British East Africa Chartered Company had failed because it had not received the same free hand which the Chartered Company in the South and the Niger Company had received? These 1335 were not the only Companies. He was rather surprised that no reference had been made to the Hudson's Bay Company. The Hudson's Bay Company was a commercial Trading Company, just as much as any of those now developing the Central or Southern districts of Africa. Again, the Mozambique Company was steadily forging ahead, and if Companies like the Mozambique and Niger Company in Africa had been enabled to do good work, to become paying concerns, and to bring into cultivation large tracts of country from which this country had reaped the benefit—if all this had been done elsewhere, why could it not be done with equal success in East Africa? It appeared to him they had got to find the reason, not in the fact that the East Africa Company had been badly administered—he did not believe it had—not in the fact that it was a Chartered Company, but in what the conditions were in connection with the relations between the East Africa Company and the Government, or the limitations and restrictions imposed upon them, and they should ask whether those conditions might not be an explanation of the failure which everybody regretted. If he were asked for a reason why the Chartered Company of East Africa haft not succeeded he might possibly say, in the words of one of the principal representatives of the Chartered Company in South Africa, that it was because they attempted too much to combine philanthrophy with trading success and were too tender, perhaps, of the susceptibilities of their own people in connection with the Slave Trade. That view might be entirely wrong, but he had heard such a criticism passed upon them. Whether that were so or not, the gentlemen who had spoken of the British East Africa Company, and the members of the Company themselves might perhaps contrast with a feeling of bitterness the remarkable partiality which the present and past Governments of this country had always bestowed upon the Chartered Company of South Africa with the rather stand-off attitude they seemed to have adopted towards the East Africa Company. He was glad to think that the Government of this country, whether Tory or Liberal, had shown, at any rate, a friendly desire to support to the best of their power the 1336 great enterprise of the Chartered Company in South Africa. He entirely shared the opinion of those who criticised—when criticism was necessary—the policy of the Foreign Office, whoever was the head of it, when the Foreign Office had not made up its mind. He had been in correspondence with the Foreign Office in relation to South African matters, and he was bound to say that a little more sagacity in dealing with that correspondence on the part of the permanent Government officials was highly to be desired. If they could make up their minds in a reasonably short time as to the policy to be pursued, and boldly carry it out, he was sure it would, in future, save them a great deal of difficulty.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said, he had much the same feelings on this subject as the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne—though he should not express them in the same forcible language—and he would appeal to the Under Secretary to remember, when this question was settled, as he hoped it would be quickly, that some of the loss that had been incurred to the British East Africa Company was due to the action of Her Majesty's Government. He wished to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether the Government would consent to produce the correspondence between the Company and the Government from January 1, 1890, down to the present time, so that they might see how matters really stood? He hoped when the claims of the Company were taken into consideration it would be borne in mind that what the Company had done would greatly benefit this country, and that they would, therefore, be treated on a liberal basis.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
remarked, that he did not propose to vote for the reduction of the Vote, because if any Minister had earned his pay it was the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. But he desired to press one or two considerations upon the Government. He wished to allude, in the first instance, to the necessity of their being the first in the field if a railway were to be made; and, if that were contemplated, they ought to begin it at an earlier date, and carry out the recom- 1337 mendations of Sir Gerald Portal by constructing it as far as Kikuyu. If that were done it would benefit their own sphere of influence and rather prejudice other nations; whilst if they allowed other nations to construct a railway to the southern extremity of these Lakes, they, no doubt, would take away the trade from the British sphere of influence. He wished to refer for a moment to the administration in Zanzibar. He believed the system of administration was a ridiculous one, uneconomical and ineffectual. The Sultan of Zanzibar had an Englishman as Prime Minister, Sir Lloyd Matthew; the head of his Army, General Hatch, was another Englishman, and they had as their representative and responsible to their own Government a Consular General. Each of these three Englishmen had his own staff, and each spent money in watching and controlling the Sultan, who was a mere puppet in their hands. There was no law of succession to the Sultanate, and the British Government selected for the office the weakest man they could find, who would be a tool in the hands of his Ministers. If the Sultanate were abolished, the administration might be economised and placed in the hands of one Englishman, who might have absolute control. There were official advisers of Her Majesty's Government who did not favour this step; but there were other high authorities well acquainted with all the circumstances of administration in East Africa who believed it was right that this economy should be effected and the Sultanate abolished. It would be very easy, and could be done at the small cost of a pension to the Sultan, who had no hold either of primogeniture or any other claim on the Throne. The only use of the Sultan of Zanzibar was that he was a sort of figure, behind whom the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had sheltered himself when confronted with questions in this House. He would point to one or two things that would result from establishing a Crown Colony at Zanzibar or Mombasa on the coast. It would be a valuable base of operations in the event of trouble in that part of the world; it would economise at least £10,000 a year in the expense of the staffs already alluded to; and it would also enable their own Government to re- 1338 duce greatly the war vessels they maintained there. The last suggestion alone would, he estimated, mean an economy of about £150,000 a year. In addition, it would be possible for slavery to be put an end to in the event of the Sultan being abolished and a Crown colony established, and with a reduction of slavery they should no longer require so many ironclads to look after the suppression of slavery on the coast. If slavery was abolished in the Island of Pember and in Zanzibar the great demand for slavery would be cut off, and the same necessity for maintaining a large station would be diminished. Again, in the administration of the Customs, reform was needed. They were at present farmed by the British East Africa Company for the Sultan, and there was no economy of collection. On page 9 of the Report before them, Members of the Committee would see the following recommendation by the Vice Consulate:—Another reform urgently needed is the proper administration of the Customs of the Island of Pemba, where there exists at the present moment administration in name only, and little or no control.Another advantage would be that individuals who at present escaped taxation would have to pay their fair share of both local and Imperial taxation. Under the administration of the Sultan, and by the Mahomedan law, any individual who had any right whatsoever to claim any citizenship of another nation could escape the burdens of taxation. Not only so, but he could enable any slave whom he employed to escape any such burdens, the result being that a great number of people got scot-free from all taxation or payments to the revenue in those parts under the administration of the Sultan.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Sir J. GOLDSMID)
reminded the hon. Member that the administration of Zanzibar had nothing to do with the question of the abolition of the Sultanate, and the establishment of some other form of Government.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE
thought that as Her Majesty's Government were responsible for the administration it would not be out of his province to allude to one or two recommendations whereby money could be saved, and advantages could be secured which would have justified the 1339 Government in taking a more active course. It seemed to him the Government had allowed things to drift too much, and had not adopted a course which could be thoroughly justified, and, therefore, he thought that, if he could point out to the Committee certain things which, in his opinion, would be beneficial to their country as a whole, he should have been in order in doing so. By the adoption of such an administration as he had suggested the internecine tribal wars which existed inland, to the great detriment of the country, would be settled, and they should be able to perform those obligations they entered into at the Brussels Conference.
§ MR. LAWRENCE
asked for some reply to the question which had been put as to whether there would be a further publication of Papers.
§ SIR E. GREY
, in reply, said, he did not see that there was any reason for the further publication of Papers with regard to East Africa. A great many Papers had been published lately, and the position was undoubtedly still one of transition, so that the time had not arrived for publishing further Papers. With regard to what he had said earlier in the evening about the question between the Government and the East Africa Company, the Government did not want to deal hardly with the Company; at the same time, they had the interests of the taxpayers to consider as to the fair amount of compensation due to the Company for the work done and the value of that work at the present time. If the Company could not negotiate on those lines then the Government must fall back on the present position of the Company under its Charter, having regard to the question whether the withdrawal of the Company from the greater part of the territory did not entitle the Government to revoke the Charter if the Government desired to exercise the right. Sir Gerald Portal's opinion was that the withdrawal of the Company had practically given the Government the right to revoke the Charter if they chose to do so. He had no further announcement in regard to the railway; and with reference to the question of Zanzibar, he begged to say that he had 1340 never sheltered himself behind the Sultan of that country, who had taken most enlightened views; and the least thing this House could do was to recognise that fact. He had not sheltered himself behind the Sultan; all he had said was that so long as the country was a British Protectorate, the practice of Protectorates must obtain, and so long as it was a Mahomedan Protectorate it must be governed according to Mahomedan law. The present Government had added one Protectorate in East Africa already, and he thought it was going a little too fast to propose that they should change the Zanzibar Protectorate into a British Crown Colony.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. LEGH (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
said, it might be thought that the subject he was about to raise was a subject of minor importance to raise on a Vote on Account, but as hon. Members now got no fair opportunity for discussing the Votes, they were obliged to take every chance afforded for raising questions in which they were interested. He moved to reduce the Vote by £100, in order to call attention to the appointment of Sir Mortimer Durand as Minister at Teheran. He had no desire to say anything against Sir Mortimer Durand. On the contrary, he recognised in that gentleman a distinguished and capable official, and he had no doubt that he was well qualified for the post with which he had been entrusted. But he took this opportunity of making a protest against the system of putting all kinds of people into the Diplomatic Service, which was carried on by both political Parties alike. Of the eight principal posts in the Diplomatic Service—Embassies which might be regarded as the prizes of the profession—no less than four were filled by gentlemen who had had no original connection with the Service at all. If any one would take the trouble to peruse the foreign lists he would discover that the whole Service was permeated by outsiders. He asked whether this system was fair, whether it was reasonable, whether it was even profitable? The Diplomatic Service was recruited by the process of careful selection; the persons who be- 1341 longed to it had to pass a severe examination; and he thought it would be admitted that their duties were discharged with zeal and intelligence. That being so, was it not most important that every man in the Service should be induced to interest himself as much as possible in his profession, by being able to look to promotion as a reward for intelligent application to work? But what encouragement was there to young men in the Service if they were liable to be supplanted by one of these gentlemen who had no connection with the Foreign Office and probably were entirely ignorant of the duties they were called upon to discharge? That was a condition of things that did not exist in any other branch of the Public Service. They did not see officers of the Army who had worked their way to the upper ranks of the Service superseded by Admirals. He wondered what would be the feelings of legal gentlemen if, on the vacancy in a Judgeship, a Bishop was put over their heads? Why, if a messenger in a public office or a postman was passed over, there were hon. Gentlemen in the House who would champion his cause and denounce it as a job, but any kind of person was considered good enough to be a diplomatist, and anybody might be called upon at five minutes' notice to discharge duties which it took a good many years to learn. He was aware that the Foreign Secretary was allowed ample discretion in the matter under the regulations, and could pick and choose those persons whom he considered suitable for the appointments; and occasionally excellent reasons were given why particular persons were appointed to particular posts—in other words, because they were, or were supposed to be, experts. That was all right so far as it went; but the expert did not remain in the place where his knowledge and information were of value; he got tired of remaining in the same place; he gradually moved up the ladder like everyone else, and in his declining years found himself at Washington or Lisbon. Sir Mortimer Durand came within the category of a distinguished expert; and he thought it would be of advantage to the country that Sir Mortimer Durand should be able to exercise the knowledge and information he 1342 possessed where that knowledge and information were most wanted. Sir Mortimer Durand was also the special nominee of the Indian Government. The Indian Government contributed part of the expenses of the Persian Minister, and it was only fair that it should have some voice in the appointment. What he would suggest, therefore, was that Sir Mortimer Durand should confine himself to those countries in which the Indian Government had a direct interest. Sir Mortimer Durand might be a most valuable official in Persia, but it did not follow that he would be equally valuable if transferred to Europe or America. He could not help thinking that this proposal would be found satisfactory to all parties concerned. He was quite sure it would be satisfactory to Sir Mortimer Durand himself, because he would prefer to be employed in countries upon which he had special knowledge. He was quite certain that it would be agreeable to the Indian Government, because Sir Mortimer Durand would always be on the spot to look after Indian interests, and no one was better qualified than he to do so. As to the third parties in the matter—namely, the members of the Diplomatic Service, he was quite sure they would be even more satisfied than the others by the proposal. He begged to move a reduction of the Vote by £100.
It is not necessary to move a reduction. The hon. Member can make his speech and it will be answered without moving a reduction.
MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
said, his hon. Friend had asked whether it was fair or reasonable to appoint gentlemen not trained in the Diplomatic Service to high diplomatic posts. He answered most emphatically in the negative. He had no hesitation in saying that, in order to be a successful diplomatist, a man must have worked his way up the ladder. Diplomaticus fit, non nascitur.
§ SIR S. NORTHCOTE (Exeter)
said, that as one who had been connected with the Diplomatic Service he thought the question which had been raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Newton was deserving of serious consideration in the interest of the future position of the Service. At the present moment our 1343 Ambassadors at Paris, Washington, and Constantinople, and also Sir H. Drummond Wolff, and now Sir Mortimer Durand, had been appointed from outside the ranks of the Diplomatic Body. It would be unfortunate for the future of the Diplomatic Service if any impression got abroad that long and claim for promotion. It must be known to all persons having any knowledge of the Service that it was not possible for any gentleman connected with the Service, until after many years in office, to live on his salary; and if promotion were taken away from gentlemen who entered the Service in the ordinary way, and who did loyal and valuable service to the State for many years, he could not help thinking that the consequences would be disastrous to the Service as a whole.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
hoped the Government would continue the policy of selecting the fittest persons to direct our policy abroad. There was nothing more important than that the Foreign Secretary should retain the most absolute power of liberty in selecting men who could advance the interests of this country to fill these important posts. He would like to see an even larger number of the junior members advanced to the higher posts, more especially those men who showed an interest in the advancement of the commercial interest of the country, watched commercial developments, and sent in timely Reports of changes in fiscal policy and commercial action in the countries in which they were stationed. He also desired that the Secretary of State should have greater liberty in transferring to diplomatic posts those Consuls who had shown especial ability. He had in several foreign countries met Consuls of extraordinary ability in advancing the commercial interests of Great Britain, and it would be of the greatest advantage if they could be encouraged in their zeal and activity by knowing that their services were recognised, and that there was a possibility of their being promoted to higher posts in the Diplomatic Service.
MR. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
said, that several of his hon. Friends had discussed with great ability many questions of African policy connected with the Foreign Office Vote. He would therefore say nothing on those subjects, but 1344 would confine his attention entirely to affairs arising on the Continent of Asia. With regard to the point raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Newton, without expressing any opinion on the general question, he should like to say with what very great pleasure he and all who had had experience of matters in the East had welcomed the appointment of Sir Mortimer Durand at Teheran. He hoped that Sir Mortimer Durand would stay at Teheran so long as health, inclination, and ability to serve enabled him to do so; but he should be sorry if his hon. Friend's suggestion was carried out, and if Sir Mortimer Durand were compelled to live all his life at Teheran, or at any other place in the East, which was not at all so pleasant as his hon. Friend might imagine. He desired to allude to three separate parts of the Asiatic Continent. The first was the region of the Pamirs, and the disputed border in that part of the world between Russia and Great Britain. Negotiations on this question had been going on for a long time between the two Governments, and last year Her Majesty's Government discouraged any discussion upon it in that House because negotiations were still proceeding. Another year had since passed, and as far as public knowledge was concerned we were no nearer a settlement now. He should not, therefore, be making an unreasonable or extravagant request if he asked the Government to give them some information on the question before the Session closed. It might be asked what importance there was in this question of the Pamirs, and he was ready to admit that no particular physical or intrinsic importance attached to this lofty, inclement, and sparsely-populated region. But the strategic importance of the Pamirs was overwhelming. There was also much political importance attached to the territory. As long as the frontier between Great Britain and Russia in those territories was undetermined so long would a dangerous feeling of unrest prevail among the wild tribes inhabiting them, and so long would there be constant risk of collision between the outposts of those two great Powers. They had had experience in recent years how easily and quickly such collisions could take place, and it was directly in the interests of both Governments that the difficulty should be settled as soon as 1345 possible; for whatever were the rival interests of Russia and Great Britain in other parts of the world, it would be an absurd grotesque and indefensible thing that those two great Powers should come into armed collision over a territory such as the Pamirs. He hoped he might venture to say that the considerations which Her Majesty's Government must have in view in dealing with the subject were, first, the preservation of the military frontier of India, second, the protection of the interests of our loyal friend and ally the Ameer of Afghanistan, and third, a clear and unmistakable understanding with Russia as to what the actual boundaries were to be. We had had too many disputes in Asia in the past, arising from the possession of shifting indeterminate and inchoate boundaries; and he hoped we would not lose this opportunity of providing ourselves with a boundary in those remote regions which would be precise, scientific, and well defined, and which, by virtue of possessing these conditions, would be a guarantee for the maintenance of peace between two great Powers who never ought to be at war with each other. He would remind the House that, although it was several months since Sir Mortimer Durand's Mission to the Ameer of Afghanistan was concluded, no information had yet been vouchsafed to the House on the agreement arrived at. He did not desire to press his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the point if his hon. Friend conceived it to be in the public interest still to withhold the information, but he could not help observing that the Asiatic policy of the Government had all along been overwhelmed in a somewhat unusual obscurity. He passed now to regions still further East. He must raise again the question of Siam. It might be thought an uninteresting and ancient question by many Members of the House, but those who were aquainted with the subject and realised its vital importance would fully approve of his action in calling attention from time to time to a matter in which British interests were more at stake than in any question affecting any other part of Asia, and on which our prestige and our domination in Asia so largely depended. If the information he had received from that country was correct, matters were in a most unsatis- 1346 factory condition. The King was ill and the Government of the country had almost come to a standstill. A very general apprehension existed both among foreign inhabitants and among the native peoples that still further aggressions were intended by a great European Power. The Government had assured the House that they had the fullest intention of protecting British interests in Siam, but he had never succeeded in ascertaining what was their conception of British interests or of the particular point at which these interests were likely to be touched or imperilled. He should allude to the occupation of Chantaboon, on the southern coast of Siam, which was taken possession of by the French last year, ostensibly as a guarantee for the execution by the Siamese Government of the terms of the agreement between the two countries. It must be remembered that Chantaboon had no connection with the Mekong or with the territories in dispute; it was in an entirely different part of the country; it was the maritime outlet of the provinces on which France had not laid a hand, and its continued occupation by France was a menace to the integrity of Siam. Over and over again the Government had assured the House that the only condition that required to be realised before the French quitted that port was the completion of the trial of a certain Siamese officer alleged to have been concerned in the assassination of a French Militia Inspector near the Mekong River. On the 17th February of the present year he asked a question of his hon. Friend opposite on the subject, and his hon. Friend, in reply, said that assurances had been received from the French Government that their forces remained at Chantaboon only for the purpose of securing that the Siamese Government fulfilled their engagements with regard to this trial. He then asked whether they might expect the evacuation of Chantaboon by the French as soon as this trial took place, and the Under Secretary gave this exceedingly explicit reply—Yes, that is the only possible interpretation which can be placed on the assurances of the French Government.That trial was now over. By a legal process, into the details of which he would not enter, but which appeared to him to be a travesty of justice, this unfortunate 1347 individual having been first acquitted of the charge by a Siamese Court, was condemned by a French Tribunal and sentenced to 20 years of hard labour. That trial being over, the Government were naturally asked whether the French had intimated any intention of carrying out their promise to evacuate Chantaboon, and the House received in reply the surprising intelligence that no such communication had been received by the Government, and that no steps had been taken to remind the French Government of their undertaking. It might perhaps be said that there were further conditions to be fulfilled before evacuation took place. If that was so, why had the Government hitherto deliberately ignored them? Why had they not found out those conditions earlier in the day? He hoped the hon. Baronet opposite would be able to assure the Committee that communications would pass between Her Majesty's Government and the French Government, and that the matter would not be lost sight of. He could not help alluding to the attitude of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the production of Papers. No doubt their action had been characterised by great agility, but it could not be said to have been marked by great confidence in the House of Commons. They had been discussing this matter on and off for a year and a-half, and during all that period, although repeated promises had been made, with the exception of one Protocol, no Papers relating to the main subject had been yet published A short time ago, when pressed to give the reason for this delay, they were told that fresh Papers could not then be presented because the French Government had just been changed, and that time must be allowed the new officials. He thought the Government in France was sufficiently old now to admit of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs overcoming his scruples and presenting the Papers asked for. On the 17th of July the hon. Baronet had said that in a fortnight the Papers would be published. That fortnight had passed, and they had not yet had the Papers, and from former experience in such matters his fear was that owing to these tactics they would not get the Papers in time to have a discussion on the question this year, and 1348 that it would again be a case of the Government allowing matters to "draggle on" from month to month, and from Session to Session until the House, weary of waiting, from sheer disgust allowed the matter to slip altogether. Another question he wished to refer to was the buffer State it was proposed to construct in the extreme North-East of Siam. They had been told more than once by the Government that owing to climatic reasons the despatch of the Commission had been postponed to the autumn of this year; but France had, he knew, not only already appointed her Commissioners, but had sent them out, and he believed that one of them—namely, the French Consul from Bangkok—was by this time actually on the spot. When was it proposed that our Commissioners should start? Who were they, and what instructions were they to receive? Information on these points had been promised again and again, but so far none had been received. He did not attach much importance to the creation of another buffer State; but whether he was right or wrong in that, one thing was certain, it must be a trans-Mekong buffer State alone. The main interest that England had in the whole question was the imperative necessity that existed for preserving the integrity of Siam itself, for it was undoubtedly to the direct interest of this country that Siam should be kept an independent political unit in the Asiatic system, free from the encroachment and aggresion of any Foreign Power, whoever it might be. By all means let Her Majesty's Government give a joint guarantee of the integrity of Siam with France if France was willing. If France was willing to assist England in maintaining the independence of Siam, all the better, but if there was any refusal on the part of our neighbours across the Channel to do this, then he submitted that the Government should not hesitate for a moment to take upon itself the responsibility. He should not, perhaps, speak on this matter with so much feeling were it not that he had a great many correspondents in that part of the world who were continually writing to him giving him information which, perhaps, was not similarly communicated officially to Her Majesty's Government. From the in- 1349 formation he had received it seemed that a state of genuine apprehension did exist in Bangkok, and that at a time of general commotion, such, for instance, as the death of the Sovereign, there was cause for fear that a further movement would be made by the advanced Colonial Party in France, which would have the effect of riveting still more firmly the chains of servitude on the unhappy country of Siam. Such a course would be in open violation of the pledges and assurances of the French Government, and most serious injury would be involved to British interests. He ventured to say that the present Government or any other Government that was a consenting party to such a condition of things would be guilty of the gravest dereliction of public duty. He was aware that anyone who expressed with any honesty or freedom the sentiments to which he had now given utterance was liable to find himself very much attacked and vituperated in the French newspapers. That was the penalty that had to be paid by everybody who ventured to set his knowledge or influence—however small they might be—in opposition to the ambition of the extreme Colonial Party in France. He did not complain of that. The members of that able and accomplished nation across the water were entitled, of course, to look after their own particular interests in the first place in the manner best suited to themselves, and were entitled to call British politicians what names and to heap upon them what abuse they pleased—though he could not help being somewhat amused at the sensitiveness to the slightest criticism of these gentlemen who placed no measure on their own invective when addressing British statesmen. He only claimed that the same attention should be given to British interests in the East as he was sure was being given by the French and German Governments on behalf of the interests that their own subjects had in that quarter of the globe. He believed there was no Englishman who was thoroughly acquainted with our interests in the East, in Rangoon, Singapore, Penang, Bangkok, or in any part, from Colombo to Hong Kong, who would not repeat the views which he had uttered in the House, and who had not looked with 1350 distress and regret upon the apparent indifference to what was taking place of Her Majesty's Government. The doors of that House were presently to be closed for six months, and for six months Members of the Opposition would beat at them in vain. They would hear nothing, and get no information from Her Majesty's Government; and he implored the hon. Baronet to give the Committee some assurance that in the interval British interests would not be allowed to suffer, but would be carefully safeguarded by the Government of which he was a Member. There was only one other subject he wished to mention which had reference to events taking place still further to the East—namely, the conflict between China and Japan in Korea. Before, however, alluding to the controversy now proceeding between those countries, he would ask whether some information could be given with regard to Treaty revision with Japan. Our commercial and other relations with that country were governed by Treaties that were concluded more than 40 years ago, and were now obsolete, owing to the astonishing advances that Japan had made in civilisation and reform. It was an open secret that negotiations between the two countries had recently been resumed, and if the hon. Baronet could inform the Committee that they were proceeding towards a satisfactory conclusion, it would be a matter of great gratification to all interested in the maintenance of friendly relations between Japan and this country. He took a personal interest in Korea, because it was scarcely a year and a-half since he spent some time in the Peninsular, and saw there at work the germs that had produced the present unfortunate crisis. The Government stated that war had not broken out, and possibly they ought to describe what had taken place as "military operations," though, after a naval engagement in which 1,700 men were sent to the bottom of the sea, the distinction between "war" and "military operations" did not appear to be very obvious to the lay mind. The subject in controversy was a trifling one. Japan pretended to be interested in the question of reform. She was really anxious to show the superiority of her reorganised forces over 1351 those of her old rival, and also to seek an escape from Party wrangles and the con stitutional deadlock at home by a policy abroad that would arouse patriotism among the people. China, on the other hand, had to regard her indisputable and inalienable suzerain rights. She felt that in this case she was the aggrieved party, and could not submit to the provocation she had received. However, they were not concerned to talk about the respective views or policies of China or Japan. He would only speak of the light in which the controversy should present itself to Her Majesty's Government. He had been glad to read in the papers that efforts had been made by Lord Kimberley to bring about a peaceable solution, and so long as war was not actually declared, they might hope that peace was not absolutely out of the question. He hoped that these efforts might still be continued, and might ultimately meet with success. It must be remembered that an Asiatic war was very different from and more serious than a European war. It was certain to be long in duration and bloody in nature, and sooner or later European Powers would be drawn into the vortex. There were great Powers in the neighbourhood of Korea who had an interest in the question, and they might be certain that this quarrel could not long continue without the appearance of other and much greater antagonists on the scene. If warlike operations were proceeded with, he hoped that the Government would take steps to protect the Treaty ports of China with the vast British commerce that daily entered them, and the persons and property of British subjects in Korea. An Oriental people in time of war had no great regard for life and property, and the first victims were usually foreigners. He hoped the Government would take steps to provide for the safety of our countrymen who happened to be in Korea; and should the Government feel compelled in the interests of peace to take in combination with other Powers even stronger steps than mere moral suasion, he believed they would be backed up by public opinion. He begged to move the reduction which stood in his name.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item (Class 2, Vote 5), of £7,000, for the Foreign Office, be reduced by £500."—(Mr. Curzon.)
§ SIR E. GREY
said, he would endeavour to answer the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down as fully its it was in his power. With regard to the general principle of promotion in the Consular and Diplomatic Service, he fully admitted that it was desirable, when good posts fell vacant, the rule should be adhered to of promotion in the Service. As far as the present Government were concerned, he believed that rule had been generally observed, except in the special case of Sir Mortimer Durand. There had been no attempt in the course of the Debate to recognise that appointment as other than very suitable. Sir Mortimer Durand was appointed specially on the ground of his experience, success, and the abilities he had shown for this particular post. This gentleman being in that post, and having been placed there for special reasons, the Government was not going to give any pledge as to changing that appointment, leaving the Government free to make use of Sir Mortimer's abilities as seemed best to them. As regarded the general principle, he agreed that promotion in the Service should be the rule. As to the question of the Pamirs, he admitted that it was most desirable, in this part of Asia, as in many parts of Africa, that the different Powers interested should, as quickly as they could, arrange boundaries which were definite, precise, and scientific, so as to put an end to the unrest which continually existed in those parts of the world where a clear agreement had not been come to. Undoubtedly, there had been some delay in the progress of these negotiations, but invariably Her Majesty's Government had been able to use both in that House and elsewhere favourable language as regarded that progress, for the reason that there had always been a sincere desire on the part of both Governments concerned to found an ultimate and satisfactory agreement upon them. He was now in even a stronger position to use that favourable language, because, in the course of the last few weeks, they had come to a more favourable position than they were before to assure the House that the negotiations were progressing satisfactorily, and that they were within measured sight of the end of them. Certain details remained to be settled, but having arrived at the present stage, it 1353 was not likely that anything would interfere with the success of the negotiations. At the same time, he was not yet in a position to publish the Papers, but they were in a position to say that this country need have no anxiety as to the ultimate outcome between Russia and ourselves. As regarded Siam, he took the definition of British interests to be to maintain the independence of Siam, and to secure to this country a Treaty with Siam, giving us the Most Favoured Nation Clause in commercial or other respects. The question, of course, was, as to how far Her Majesty's Government were likely to be called upon to protect those interests; and the point which had been especially taken was whether the French occupation of Chantabun was to be indefinitely prolonged Some words of his own had been quoted. He had spoken those words, of course, according to what he understood to be the circumstances of the incident in question. He had understood that the incident was at an end. How far it could be revived he was not in a position to say, but the words he had spoken expressed the view he entertained at the time he spoke. The French had received a report that an armed Siamese force was in the prescribed zone.
§ SIR E. GREY
said, his impression was that the French Government had not withdrawn the original statement. But the ultimate question of Chantabun could not be settled by incidents of this kind which occurred from time to time. The point was as to whether the occupation of Chantabun was to be indefinitely prolonged. They undoubtedly relied on the French assurances, made from time to time, that they desired the independence of Siam, and that they had no intention of prolonging the occupation of Chantabun indefinitely. He should push forward the production of Papers. The hon. Member opposite said he had promised that Papers should be produced in a fortnight, and that the fortnight expired to-morrow. If the Papers were not presented within the fortnight he could only say that he had used language which was too sanguine. But if he had used that language hon. Members might be assured that he would press 1354 forward their production to the utmost of his ability. There was no reason why they should be delayed beyond the mere mechanical process of getting them ready for presentation. With regard to the staff of Commissioners, they were in consultation with the India Office, and he imagined that the time for them to start was October. The French Commissioners had been appointed, but he understood that the journey of the French Commissioners referred to was not in connection with the buffer State, but in connection with a visit to the newly-acquired French territory. As to the question of Corea, it was not for him to give any name or definition of what had occurred between the Japanese and Chinese vessels. All he could say was that war had not yet been officially declared between the two countries. Having made that statement, he must leave hon. Members to define as they pleased what had already taken place. But, as long as war was not actually declared, at any rate there was a hope or possibility that the two Powers might come to terms without further enlarging the breach which had occurred between them. The view which Her Majesty's Government had taken with regard to the whole question had been, in the first place, that it was desirable to maintain peace between Japan and China on the ground of the very general interests of British trade. Of course, it was very undesirable that loss should be inflicted on British trade in that part of the world. But, after all, the main interest was that of peace in any part of the world—those large moral grounds which ought to actuate any Government. From the first Her Majesty's Government had offered friendly advice impartially at Pekin and Tokio in the interests of peace; and finding other Powers had done, or were inclined to do, the same thing, Her Majesty's Government had asked those Powers, including Russia, if they would act in concert. Favourable replies were received from all the Powers; and they agreed to give in concert friendly advice and to exercise what moral suasion they might in keeping the peace. As long as war was not actually declared, there was some hope of success. As to the question of Treaty revision with Japan, within the last fortnight a Treaty had been signed between 1355 Her Majesty's Government and Japan. He could say nothing further at present, because it would be impossible to make any statement about the Treaty which would not give a partial or unfair view of it until the full text had been laid before the House. It was a matter of great interest and importance, and as far as Her Majesty's Government were concerned, there would be no delay in presenting the Treaty to the House; but it was, of course, necessary to act in concert with the Government with whom the Treaty was signed.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, the House and the country would hear with pleasure that the Government had tendered advice and counsel to the Governments of Japan and China in the interests of peace, for a serious and protracted struggle between these countries would undoubtedly be of the gravest injury to British commerce, and might ultimately tend to the interference of the Great Powers in the Corean Peninsula, which we had the utmost interest in avoiding. As to the Pamirs, he asked whether the House was to understand that the boundary question was actually on the point of being settled, or that, only negotiations for the appointment of a Boundary Commission were on the point of being settled?
§ SIR E. GREY
When the question is ripe for the appointment of a Boundary Commission it may be regarded as practically settled.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, as the question had been going on for two years, he did not think they could congratulate the Government on its progress. The Siamese Question afforded one of the most striking instances of the mistake which the Government of this country made in yielding to the demands of a Power, great or small, whose interests in a particular case were opposed to ours. This question began to assume a form of gravity 12 months ago. The demands of France were at first comparatively moderate. But Her Majesty's Government had backed down before them, encouraging fresh demands, each of which was followed by a fresh surrender. Her Majesty's Government had allowed each of the promises of the French Government to be deliberately 1356 broken; and, owing to the fact that at the critical moment the British squadron was withdrawn instead of being increased, and to the fact that the Government in both Houses made a statement practically giving carte blanche to France, Siam fell a spoil. The hon. Member opposite had spoken of maintaining the integrity of the independence of Siam, but he forgot that one-third of the territory had been taken from her and joined to the French possessions, and he forgot the occupation of Chantabun. Six-sevenths of the commerce of Siam was in British hands; the country adjoined our Indian Empire; therefore, its independence of integrity was of vital importance to our credit and prestige in the East; and yet all those encroachments on the part of Franco were done without any protest on the part of the Government. If the Government hoped to preserve what remained of the independence of Siam, they must show a much bolder front to the French demands. There was one motto in regard to the French which he would recommend the Government to remember, and that was that they were the worst people in the world to run away from.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
assured the Committee that if Russia were allowed to occupy the Pamirs unrestrained the whole of the north-west of India would be disturbed. Afghanistan would be threatened, Cashmir would be disturbed, and the Punjab would be in a state of anxiety. That being so, he had heard the statement of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that before long there would be a settlement of the difficulty by the demarcation of the boundaries with great satisfaction. He could assure the Government that few subjects more vitally concerned British India than this question. The fact that the region of the Pamirs was so lofty and so barren in many respects showed that there must be some strategic reasons why Russia wished to have control there. But the territory in question was not quite so impervious as might be supposed, because it was easily traversable during some two or three months in the year. As regarded Siam, he believed that if the present state of things was to go on for any lengthened period public opinion there with regard to this country would be most injuriously affected, and the moral 1357 mischief it caused might spread amongst our subjects in the eastern part of Bengal. As he had been Governor of Bengal, the House might test his words on that point. Of course, he had heard with satisfaction the statement that the Government did not regard the interests of this country in Siam as being limited to a purely commercial interest, and that they were of opinion that it extended to the preservation of the independence and integrity of that country. He was afraid the integrity of Siam was shattered and was past praying for; but the independence of Siam, or all that remained of it, could be and ought to be secured, and, therefore, he was glad to hear such explicit assurances from the Government on the subject. But those words must sooner or later be translated into action. Of the many true things the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had said, he had never said a truer than that sooner or later the occupation of Chantabun by the French must come up; and when the question did come up, we must be prepared to take a firm stand and declare that so long as British power remained, France could not be allowed to remain in occupation of Chantabun. France had put off the evacuation of Chantabun first on one excuse and then on another. She showed no disposition whatever to leave, and if anything untoward were to occur in Siam—if there was a revolution in the country or if there were disturbances owing to domestic causes—France, if allowed to continue in the occupation of Chantabun, would be able to make a further move, and then what would become of the independence and integrity of Siam? We must take time by the forelock and insist upon a settlement of this question by an International Agreement between the two Great Powers before it was too late; and he ventured to say that if we were not fit or able to take up a strong line against France in this matter, we were unfit to maintain our Imperial possessions in Asia.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
rose to call attention to the correspondence that had recently been pub- 1358 lished between the Colonial Department and the Board of Agriculture with reference to the restrictions upon the importation of Canadian cattle into this country. That correspondence was, he thought, of the most extraordinary character, and it would indeed be hard to find any parallel for it in any correspondence that had ever passed between two Government Departments in this country. In order to understand that correspondence, it would be necessary to make the position clear to the Committee. The Committee would remember that in 1892 it was found necessary by the Board of Agriculture to impose restrictions on the importation of Canadian cattle into this country by requiring their slaughter at the port of debarkation. Previous to that time Canadian cattle were permitted to land and pass freely into the interior of the country without any restriction whatever. But in 1892, pleuro-pneumonia—a most disastrous contagious disease—was detected in some of the Canadian cattle landed in this country, and, consequently, in order to comply with the law with regard to contagious diseases in animals, it was found necessary to require the slaughter of the cattle at the port of debarkation. Since then great pressure had been brought to bear upon the Board of Agriculture to get them to relax those restrictions upon the importation of Canadian cattle. The pressure came from three sources, and three sources alone. In the first place, the Canadian Government put upon the Board of Agriculture all the pressure in their power, the Canadian Government representing persons who were interested in cattle ranches and in the cattle trade at the other side of the Atlantic. The second quarter from which pressure was brought to bear was the Colonial Department in this country; and, thirdly, pressure came also from feeders of stuck as opposed to breeders of stock in two or three counties in Scotland, and to a still more limited extent from feeders of stock in one or two of the Eastern counties of England. With those few exceptions, he was quite sure he was right in saying that nine out of every 10 of the agricultural community of the United Kingdom heartily approved of the maintenance of the restrictions which had been imposed by 1359 the Board of Agriculture. He might also say, having some considerable experience in the matter, that he was most strongly of opinion that the maintenance of the restrictions for some considerable time was a matter of the gravest possible importance to the agricultural interests of this country, and that it would be impossible to remove them without the greatest risk of bringing back the disease into this country, and without throwing away the money which had been spent that during the last two or three years, and successfully spent by the Board of Agriculture of successive Governments, in saving the flocks and herds of the country from the ravages of pleuro-pneumonia. He must call the attention of the Committee particularly to the action of the Colonial Secretary in the matter. Lord Ripon had, as far back as December, 1892, asked for the removal of the restrictions. That was absolutely impossible, for the disease lay dormant for many months, and the request was very properly refused by the Board of Agriculture. But, in spite of the fact that year after year since then, it had been proved that animals landed in this country from Canada were suffering from the disease, during the present year the Secretary for the Colonies had again brought pressure to bear on the Board of Agriculture to obtain the removal of the restrictions, and pressure, too, which he was sure the Committee would agree with him in describing as without precedent altogether. Writing on the 26th of April of this year to the President of the Board of Agriculture, Lord Ripon said he had great difficulty in accepting the view that the animals were suffering from contagious pleuro-pneumonia, and believed that it was a mild type of disease due to the hardship and exposure of the journey to this country. He (Mr. Chaplin) should say that he thought it the greatest presumption on the part of the head of the Colonial Office to tell the experts of the Board of Agriculture—who were celebrated throughout the world for their great success in their profession—that they did not know their business; that they must be led in this matter by the Colonial Office, and that, despite the overwhelming evidence those experts had produced that the animals were 1360 suffering from contagious pleuro-pneumonia, they did not know whether or not the animals were affected by the disease. Lord Ripon went on, in the same communication, to censure the Board of Agriculture for not having taken his advice and instructions on a subject about which he knew absolutely nothing, for he expressed his regret—and "regret" was always the first word in a Vote of Censure moved in the House of Commons—that the Board of Agriculture had not felt themselves able to accept the recommendation of the Colonial Office that the restrictions should be moved on the re-opening of the trade in Canadian cattle for the approaching season. A Special Committee had been appointed by his hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture to investigate the whole question, aided by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury and other learned gentlemen. That Committee, he was informed, had made a most exhaustive examination of the subject, and had concluded their labours, and he was unable to understand the cause of the delay in laying their Report on the Table of the House. He was, however, informed by some of the Members of that Special Committee that they had conclusively arrived at the opinion that the animals lauded from Canada during the present year were unquestionably suffering from contagious pleuro-pneumonia, and it came to this: that if the Colonial Office had been successful in obtaining the removal of the restrictions the gravest risk of injury would have been inflicted on our agricultural community, and on Ireland more than on any other part of the United Kingdom, because Ireland, as everyone knew, was a great stock-breeding country. He had been anxious to draw public attention as emphatically as he could to the action of the Colonial Office in this matter, because it was an action which, if it had been successful, would have inflicted the greatest conceivable injury on that industry which it was his duty to represent in the House, and in which he had the greatest possible interest personally. He did not wish to prolong the Debate, but he hoped that the Government would take this matter into consideration and would prevent in the future this most unwarrantable pressure being brought to 1361 bear by one Department upon another Department.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Commitee to sit again upon Wednesday.