§ On the Vote of £40,050 to complete the sum necessary for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs,
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said it was not his intention to enter into the questions of Armenia and China, because he did not think that the House had any fair reason to imagine that the Government were doing anything but what they ought to do in the circumstances. The action of the Government, both on the questions arising out of the Chino-Japanese and the missionary question, and also on the Armenian question, seemed to him to have been satisfactory; and the Government view, as 464 expressed by Lord Salisbury, was one which he thought would be generally satisfactory to the House, although it might not meet the views of gentlemen who held that this country had no right to interfere either in China or Turkey. There was one other pending question upon which, although it was unusual and even improper to say much on pending questions, he nevertheless thought a few words ought to be said, and that was the question of Siam. He believed that it would be desirable at that moment, in the interests of the negotiations now going on, that the Government should make some declaration of their policy towards Siam. Several statements had been made by past Governments in the House, even while negotiations were pending, and the policy declared by the late Government was a strong policy, but had had no effect up to the present. It was that Chantaboon should be immediately evacuated and that a buffer State should be created. Neither of these two things had been done. Chantaboon was still occupied and the buffer State had not been created. It was even said that France had never agreed to the creation of a buffer State. At any rate he certainly thought they might ask for information on this matter although delicate negotiations were pending. That was the only matter outside Africa with which he should trouble the Committee, but there were several questions relating to Africa which arose here and could only be dealt with on this Vote. In speaking of Africa in connection with the Foreign Office, there was, of course, one great question that might be raised—namely, the question of Egypt. In the last Parliament he had given expression to the views he held on that subject, and he need not repeat them now. He believed that the occupation of Egypt was the root of most of the difficulties in our foreign relations, and that in a military sense it was a weakness to this country. One matter concerning Africa as to which he pressed for information now was the matter of expeditions undertaken outside Uganda. It would be in the recollection of the House that there was an arrangement with the Congo State. That arrangement was objected to both by Germany and France, and it was at once seen that part of that arrangement would have to 465 be dropped. Under that arrangement it was proposed to lease certain territory to the Congo State, and although the French complained very strongly of the proposed lease, a small portion of territory was still leased to the Congo State, and it was in that territory that these expeditions had taken place. There was a previous expedition from the direction of Uganda down the Nile as far as Wadelai. There had been accounts in the newspapers—but no statement had been made on behalf of the Government in this matter—that there had been a recent expedition, which had penetrated further north into that portion of the British sphere which was still leased to the Congo State. He wished to know if that was so, and what was the international situation. He thought these matters required explanation. It would be remembered that in the last Parliament he on several occasions raised the question of slavery in our protectorates in Africa, and promises were made but not fulfilled. Finally, a Supplementary Estimate was brought in. The Supplementary Estimates were discussed at a time when the House was very full, being taken at the end of February or the beginning of March, and the matters contained in them were closely scrutinised. The result was that one of his hon. Friends who brought forward the matter in February last was able to make a great impression. On that occasion the Government promised immediate action. The present Secretary for the Colonies pressed them very hard indeed, and the Government, under strong pressure, gave way and promised immediate action or, at least, immediate inquiry with the view to immediate action. Nothing has been done up to the present, and the last Report laid before the House was of a most unsatisfactory character. There was a marked difference in the treatment of protectorates, but the nearest analogy to Zanzibar was to be found in the case of the Malay States. They came nearest from several points of view. In Zanzibar, as in the Malay States the Colonial Office, the Foreign Office had absolute control, but he contended that the Foreign Office was not the right department to have control over and to manage protected States. When a protectorate meant that the State 466 became a portion of the British Empire as Zanzibar practically was, then he contended the Colonial Office was the proper department to have charge. Some years ago he urged that Cyprus should not be under the Foreign but under the Colonial Office, on the ground that it was practically a portion of the British Empire, and the change was made. Of course the theory was that as long as there was danger of great complications it was better for the Foreign Office to have control, as it was in constant contact with Foreign countries but the distinction was very fine. There was a large number of colonies under the Colonial Office under such circumstances. The Colonial Office had immense experience in dealing, for instance, with the question of slavery. Now what were the facts with regard to slavery in Zanzibar? An attempt was made—he was sorry it was made, for it was a fraudulent attempt, to use a strong word—to pretend that there was no slavery in Zanzibar. The words "domestic slavery" were used. The slavery there was slavery of the worst type, and it was carried on practically under the British flag. When they took over the Malay States they insisted that slavery should be abolished in the protectorate, and on that occasion they only had to mention the matter once. It was not necessary to bring the matter forward year after year and press the matter on the conscience of the House. On the first occasion on which it was brought forward the Colonial Office said, "It must be put down," and it was put down. ["Hear, hear!" The question of the effect on the revenue was mentioned then as it was now. There was almost a small war, but slavery was put down, and instead of going backwards these countries were flourishing. What was the case as to Zanzibar? They had a Blue-book—all that they had up to the present in satisfaction of the demands made on the late Government and on that House. How did it conclude? They had a dispatch from Her Majesty's representative at Zanzibar—a man of great ability, but a man who on this question was a little afraid, and who needed a great deal of pressure before he would move. He tried to meet the case urged in Debate, and he said that we had forced abolition on the Sultan when he 467 was our ally, but he now found reasons for hesitation. Here they were, a great civilised country, which had done more to put down slavery than all the other Powers put together, not only tolerating the thing but making excuses to which they would not listen when made by the Sultan of Zanzibar. As to the revenue he did not believe it would suffer for more than a year if the change was made, but the islands were doomed to perish if free labour were not brought into them. They had information which showed that, under the present system men were used up very quickly on the plantations and there was no real supervision at all. There was one official representative of the Crown, but he never went near the plantations. Nothing was known to the Government, though it was known to many Members, of what passed on these plantations. It was known how fearful the slavery was, and he implored the Government not to be content with anything short of declaring that this slavery must be put down, and seeing that that declaration was carried out. [Cheers.] He wished next to refer to the drink traffic on the West Coast, and what struck him was the hypocrisy displayed on this subject by European nations. They met in Brussels or Berlin and passed Resolutions about slavery and drink. He had referred to slavery, and as to drink, they could see how enormous it was from the returns which they had. It would be found that in the Oil Rivers Protectorate, which was only a small territory, there were imported within the year ending July 1892, no less than 1,320,000 gallons of gin and rum. That drink did not even come from this country. It was taken there largely in British ships and was sent there by British merchants, but it was of German and not British manufacture, and was of a most poisonous character. The Niger Company had acted upon quite different principles. In the lower part of their river territories they certainly did sell drink, but in the upper part of the river territories they did not sell it, but carried out strict teetotal principles—in fact the Company appeared to have a geographical conscience. ["Hear, hear" and Laughter.] The Company, however, deserved great credit for excluding drink from nine-tenths of their territories. The importation of spirits into the Niger 468 Company's territories was not nearly as large as that into the Oil Rivers Protectorate, being only 319,000 gallons in the year 1893. He hoped that the result of the recent Inquiry into the outbreak at Brass would be some proposal for uniting the Oil Rivers Protectorate and the Niger Company's territories into one protectorate. Whatever system of Government were adopted, however, he did hope that a stop would be put to the practice of allowing the importation of spirits into those territories. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said that by their declarations in the Queen's Speech and their speeches in the other House, the Government had relieved him from the necessity of raising questions about Armenia and Asiatic Turkey. The position was an extremely critical one, and although he was sure no one had a wish to embarrass the Government on that question, still it was possible, if a Debate were to arise, things might be said which would have the effect of causing embarrassment to them. He therefore expressed a hope that as little as possible might be said by hon. Members, at any rate on his side of the House, which could at all add to the difficulties with which the Government were surrounded. [General cheers.] This question of the treatment of the Eastern Christians had never been regarded in that House as a matter of party controversy, and he hoped that that view of the matter would still be acted upon. ["Hear, hear!"] The reforms which her Majesty's Government were pressing for were, he thought, in the opinion of those who had studied the question, the minimum of what could be required, and those who had followed the statements in the newspapers, and still more those who had followed the despatches of our Consuls abroad, knew that at that moment that the position of the Christians all over the East was one of some peril. The Government knew fully how very serious the question was, and he must express the hope that they would soon see their way to publish the despatches, because he thought that the country ought to know all the facts, and should not suppose that the Government were acting in this matter upon mere rumour. There were, of course, some of the details which could not be laid before 469 the world, but, omitting those, there would be quite enough information to enable the House and the country to fully appreciate the nature of the difficulties and the need for urgency at this moment. He would refrain from entering further into the facts, but he believed that the country was unanimous, and he ventured to hope that the House was unanimous, on the question. He did not desire to ask for any statement from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. They had received a declaration on behalf of the Government from him, and on behalf of his hon. Friends on the Opposition side of the House he might say that the Government might rely upon their support in doing anything necessary for humanity and for the preservation of the honour and dignity of this country. [Cheers.] Then, with regard to Africa and Siam, he would remind his right hon. Friend the member for the Forest of Dean, with respect to slavery in Zanzibar, that the late Government gave an undertaking that everything they could do to put down slavery in Zanzibar and Zemba should be done. The Committee would remember, however, that these things presented problems of very considerable difficulty, which required some little time and no small measure of caution to deal with. It was easier for a Mahomedan Government to deal with those problems for themselves, than for a foreign Power which had assumed a protectorate over the country to do so. ["Hear, hear!"] At the same time that consideration did not detract from our responsibility in the matter. The undertaking was given very heartily by the late Government, and he was sure that it would be carried out no less heartily by the present Government. But, considering the caution that had to be exercised in the matter, it was not fair to expect instant action until the British representative should have an opportunity of expressing his views as to the way in which the subject ought to be dealt with. With regard to Siam, his right hon. Friend was quite right in saying that France had agreed in principle to the creation of a buffer State. He did not think that there could be any doubt about that, but he hoped that his hon. Friend would not think it necessary to press, and he himself 470 certainly should not press, the Government for any full detail as regarded the very recent events, the events of the the last two months, because they involved questions of some little delicacy. The British Government had endeavoured in circumstances of very great difficulty to maintain amicable relations over questions on which the sentiments of both countries were to some extent involved, and he thought that we ought to maintain that attitude and avoid saying anything here which would make it more difficult for the Government to act. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. REGINALD M'KENNA (Monmouth, N.)
said, that he was aware that any comments in that House upon matters which were at the moment the subject of negotiation between France and this country might prejudice the chance of an arrangement, and he should therefore confine himself to asking generally whether the Government retained the policy of their predecessors with regard to the creation of a buffer State on the Upper Mekong? If he might hazard an opinion with much diffidence it was that there was great weight in the view of the late Government that a buffer State was highly desirable. The claim of France to the left bank of the Mekong up to the point where the river left Chinese territory, and including so much of the province of Keng Hung as lay on the left bank, was inconsistent with the undeniable rights of this country over the whole of the Shan States of Keng Tung and Keng Keng, parts of which extended to the left bank of the Mekong. He could not help thinking that the hostility to the principle of a buffer State, evinced by some of the French exponents of a forward colonial policy, was, in a measure, due to the belief that the only alternative was to constitute the Mekong river the boundary between the possessions of the two countries. A clear understanding that the British occupation of Mongsing would be supported, failing a satisfactory agreement to create a buffer State between the river Nam Oo and the river Mekong, would, he believed, materially assist a settlement. He had no great faith in negotiations conducted on the principle of an Oriental bargain, and he believed we should do better by a firm statement 471 of our minimum requirements, rather than by excessive demands to be reduced by haggling. ["Hear, hear!"] Although, as he had already stated, it was undesirable to discuss questions of foreign policy which were the subject of pending negotiations, still, as this matter had been largely commented upon in the Press of both countries for the last two years, he felt it might strengthen the hands of the Government to ask for a definite statement whether they adhered to the policy of the late Government. [Cheers.]
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
remarked, that a discussion like this must necessarily be somewhat discursive, but he would confine his remarks to one or two points only. He would, in the first place, ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. G. Curzon) to give the Committee what information he could as to the questions pending between France and this country in the Niger territories. There were several questions, not perhaps of the highest importance, but which had excited a good deal of criticism and a settlement of which was desirable. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had referred to the most important question at present pendent in Africa, namely, that with reference to the Upper Nile, or the northern part of the Uganda territories. I asked for information regarding the treaty, or, rather, the remnants of the treaty made by Lord Roseberry. But he was going to press upon his right hon. Friend the fact that so long had elapsed without any progress having been made. There were still cloudy expeditions wandering about in Africa which were said to be threatening our territory. Of course, at the bottom of all this was the question of the occupation of Egypt—["Hear, hear!" from the Radical Benches.]—but he was not going to discuss that now. He was not one of those who advocated our withdrawal at present, though, on the other hand, he had not the smallest desire to annex Egypt; still less did he wish that we should be frightened out of Egypt by external causes. ["Hear, hear!"] He recognised, however, that a foreign Power holding the Upper Nile would be in a position to threaten Egypt. The contention of the French was that the rights of 472 Egypt were being violated by us in the action which it was supposed we were going to take in Upper Egypt. He never understood why, in this difficult question, something could not be done upon the basis of the existing legal state of affairs. He believed it to be true that the territories, nearly up to the lakes, theoretically belonged to the Turkish Empire, inasmuch as the Turkish Suzerain had never abandoned his rights there. But he thought that the susceptibilities of France and our own objects might be met if Egypt were encouraged to advance again from where she retreated some years ago, observing by the way that this action, if taken by us on behalf of Egypt, would preserve the rights of the Suzerain power till such time as we wished, as he hoped we should wish, to withdraw from Egypt when our work there was done—if it could, indeed, be done. The Committee had never had any announcement from Her Majesty's Government on this aspect of the question, namely, whether the territory in question was really abandoned by Egypt when she withdrew from the countries on the Upper Nile, and whether the French susceptibilities and our own objects could not be met on some neutral ground such as he had indicated. Time, however, went on and we seemed to get no forwarder. Everybody felt that a real danger was hanging over us, and the country would be very glad to be assured, not only that Lord Salisbury was devoting his most anxious consideration to this subject, but that there was some prospect of advancing towards a settlement of the question. [Cheers.] Turning to the new protectorate that we had practically made part of the British Empire from Uganda down to the coast, he observed that Uganda itself, Zanzibar, and the intervening territory, were all different in relation to this country. One was a protectorate, another was short of a protectorate, and another was more than a protectorate. Some simplification of the present complicated system might, he thought, advantageously be undertaken. On the whole, he agreed with what the right hon. Gentleman had said with regard to slavery. There were difficulties in the way which prevented the question being dealt with by a stroke of the pen, which it was so easy 473 to talk of. But in this question, also, as well as in the other to which he had referred, we seemed to make so little advance, and matters seemed to be in the same position as they were, two, three, or four years ago.
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
said, that he agreed with every word uttered by the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke), on the subject of slavery in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and he thought that the right hon. Baronet had done good service in bringing the matter forward. If there were at the present time such a strong feeling as formerly existed in this country that we should not, under any conditions and at any cost, tolerate slavery, then, he maintained, slavery would before now have disappeared from those islands. ["Hear, hear!"] The fact that it still continued there was a fact that we had not any reason to be proud of. The difficulties in the way had been stated in a Blue Book by two able gentlemen who, one after the other, were our representatives in Zanzibar; but he wished to point out that, at the time those despatches were written, both those gentlemen were new to Zanzibar, and each relied entirely upon that distinguished officer of the Sultan, General Sir Lloyd Matthews, who, in all these matters, took a point of view more Arab than the Arabs themselves. The despatches were very elaborate, and he thought that both, especially the facts and figures in the more elaborate despatch of Mr. Harding, were open to very serious criticism indeed. He did not wish to detain the House by going into any detailed criticism of the despatches, and he did not think his reasons and deductions were to be accepted, even if all the facts were as stated. [Cheers.] If slavery were abolished on these islands they would very soon find that large supplies of free labour would come into the country, not merely from India, but from the Continent. At present free labourers did not dare to go to Zanzibar, for if they did they would become slaves before very long. He hoped the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would recognise that the large body of public opinion which would be behind him would strengthen his hands in any action he might take for the abolition of slavery on the islands.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, the great urgency of foreign affairs was shown by the fact that those were the only subjects referred to in the Queen's Speech. It was true that Bechuanaland was touched upon, but that doubtless was to show that this was a dual Government, presided over by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary for the Colonies. He entirely agreed with the hon. and gallant Member that the root of almost all our troubles in Africa was our position in Egypt. He was in a minority on that side of the House in regard to this question, but he could not forbear from calling the attention of the country to the necessity that existed of our considering our position. It was now 13 years since we had occupied Egypt, and we had been from that day to this in a false position there. It was neither our possession, nor was it even our protectorate; it was in our occupation, but only temporarily. The English people seemed to be under the impression that we possessed Egypt, but so little was that the case that we had bound ourselves to Europe in the most solemn manner that we would neither take nor ask for any advantage there, political or otherwise, that every other country did not share. He was not averse to what was sometimes called British aggression when we could get something out of it, but neither our material advantage nor our strategical necessities were served by our occupation of Egypt. We got no gratitude from the inhabitants, and justly so, for we had lost what they had conquered—the Soudan, which was a valuable commercial possession. He admitted that the difficulties in the way of leaving Egypt were great, but they should be met, and he urged the present Government, which was professedly a Government expert in foreign affairs, to seriously consider what should be done with a view to our leaving Egypt. If that were done they would be able to make a very good bargain with France as regarded other questions. The most stupendous mistake was made in going to Egypt, and a mistake almost as great would be made if we did not leave it. There was another matter of supreme importance which involved an entire departure from the traditional policy of this country on the part of a 475 Prime Minister who had in former times championed it. He alluded to the policy announced in Her Majesty's Speech with regard to Turkey. They were told that we had entered upon a course of "interference with Turkey," that "the conscience of Europe" had been horrified, and that the concert of Europe must be evoked. They were solemnly assured that the present Government would follow the policy of their predecessors in regard to this matter; but what was that policy? It was the acceptation as gospel truth of highly-spiced accounts which appeared in newspapers whose peculiar form of competition was to vie with each other in the production of horrors from Hoxton to Persia, and the accounts of entirely unauthorised persons who seemed to be monomaniacs against the faith of Islam. The right hon. Member for Aberdeenshire had said that a clearer case for the intervention of the European Powers could not be imagined, and yet these accounts were those of men who rarely professed to date from the place; they came from the Russian frontier, and bore an unmistakable Russian postmark.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, he had not seen them. The hearsay evidence which had been produced was insufficient ground for the reversal of the ancient policy of this country. Then they were told that England was under a special obligation to deal with this matter, and eminent statesmen went about the country denouncing the Turkish Government and people. The right hon. Member for Aberdeenshire said we had no selfish interest in the matter; and that was enough for him, for in regard to Foreign affairs all our interests were selfish. As to the fulfilment of the treaty obligations, he reminded the Committee that the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, which constituted those obligations, was originally embodied in the Treaty of San Stefano, made at the end of a successful war by Russia against Turkey. England claimed that it should be submitted to the European Powers, and Lord Salisbury's Memorandum, written on the 1st April, 1878, set forth all the objections to the Treaty. Lord Salisbury entered into negotiations with Russia with regard to the submission of this Treaty to the Powers, and 476 the result of that was the secret agreement which his Lordship said, in the House of Lords, was unauthentic and unworthy of credit, but which was afterwards proved to be authentic and not entirely unworthy of credit. Then Lord Salisbury said, that in consequence of the course followed by Russia with regard to the Armenian provinces, and its effect upon the population, it was necessary for England in a special manner to make special arrangements for the protection of those provinces against Russia, and the result of that was the Cyprus Convention. Article 61 of the Berlin Treaty, and the Cyprus Convention were both the result of the secret agreement, and contained the obligation with regard to the Armenian provinces. Now, the 61st Article of the Treaty stipulated that Turkey undertook to carry out without further delay the amelioration and reforms demanded by local requirements in the Armenian provinces, and guaranteed their protection against the Circassians and Kurds, and also that the Powers would superintend the application of those reforms. Well, had the Powers at any time since the Treaty was signed, made any attempt or effort to superintend the application of such reforms? They had been told that this obligation applied to England especially, but the obligation, if it was one, was on the part of Turkey, not to England alone or especially, but to all the signatory Powers of Europe. But had those Powers combined to see that the undertakings made to them in this respect were properly carried out? Had the concert of Europe been again brought into play with regard to Turkey and Armenia? Not at all. Germany, Austria, and Italy, the whole of the Triple Alliance, now stood aloof from any attempt to interfere with the internal affairs of Turkey. The only Powers which stood in with England to take action in this matter were Russia, whose policy had always been to weaken Turkey, and France who joined with Russia in order to maintain her semblance of alliance with that country. There was no special obligation on England in this matter, but the responsibility rested equally upon the whole of the six Powers to the Treaty. Yet the three Powers most interested in Turkey stood aloof, but the Power most interested in the 477 destruction of Turkey was ready to take action with England against Turkey. That was not all, the 61st Article was not the whole or the most important part of the Treaty, for there were other obligations imposed by it more binding and of a more necessary character. For instance, there was the 9th Article, which was to regulate the tribute that should be paid by Bulgaria to Turkey. But the amount of the tribute had never been fixed, and the Foreign Office had been obliged to admit to him that the Article had not been executed. It was undoubtedly the fact that by the Treaty of Berlin many of her richest provinces were taken away from Turkey, and it was provided by the Treaty that Bulgaria, Servia, and Montenegro should pay to Turkey a proportion of her debt in respect of those provinces. To that day those articles had remained unexecuted. The condition stipulated by the Treaty that the fortresses of Bulgaria should be rased or destroyed had never been carried into effect. Moreover, with regard to the conditions that were laid down as to Batoum, the late Prime Minister wrote to our Ambassador in St. Petersburg complaining that Russia had violated the Treaty; but no attempt had been made to bring Russia to book for doing so. The fact was that all our strong language of diplomacy was invariably reserved for the weak and generally the friendly Power. If the Government were resolved to deal with Russia as it dealt with Turkey for any infraction of the Treaty of Berlin—if they were resolved to see that every Article of the Treaty (not only the 61st but the six others he had quoted) was carried into effect, whether Russia or Turkey were affected, he should have nothing to say, but he protested against repressive action against Turkey alone. He left aside altogether the statements about what were called the Armenian atrocities until trustworthy official evidence was placed before them, or a definite statement was made by a responsible Minister endorsing the allegations which had appeared in the newspapers. At the same time he was prepared to admit that there had been stern repression of insurrection in Armenia. But was England always going to interfere when insurrection in a foreign country was put down with unnecessary severity? Had we interfered 478 with Russia because of her treatment of the Jews, or with the United States because of the proceedings of Judge Lynch in that country? No. Our policy of the strong hand appeared to be reserved for a weak Power, for a Power which had always been a faithful ally, and which, as long as we kept India, would remain a necessary ally for us. It was strange, indeed, to find a statesman who went to Berlin and brought back what he termed "peace with honour," who was himself the author of the most conclusive arguments against the retention of the Armenian strongholds by Russia on the ground that it would lead to the constant sapping of the Turkish Empire, now engaged, with pick and crowbar, aiding in that very sapping work he so properly denounced in 1878. It was strange to find the noble Marquess supporting the very procedure which formerly he so properly denounced. They ought to be told whether there was any secret agreement with Russia and France, like the one which some years ago was said to be unauthentic. [A laugh.] There was, in his opinion, no reason why this country should keep secret her diplomatic acts. To a foreign Ambassador who came with a proposal for a secret engagement to an English Minister, the latter ought to say, "What you tell me to-day I will tell my country to-morrow." That was the only attitude which would insure the hearty co-operation of the people. Apparently, for no sufficient reason, the Government were about to abandon the policy which had been considered necessary hitherto for the protection of our Indian Empire, a policy which was dictated by gratitude for past acts and the expectation of future favours. If it really was the intention of Lord Salisbury to carry out the policy of his predecessors, as expounded by the right hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) and the late Prime Minister, he owed to that House and the country some explanation of the reasons which had induced him to depart from the best and wisest traditions of English statesmanship.
§ *MR. H. M. STANLEY (Lambeth, N.)
in a maiden speech, said that he had been much amused by the statement of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles Dilke) that we ought to abandon Egypt. He had been also astonished to hear the 479 hon. Member for Lynn Regis say that we ought to evacuate Egypt as quickly as possible in order to keep up our friendship with France. [Mr. GIBSON BOWLES: "Not only with France."] The author of "Greater Britain" was a gentleman of great ability, but he would possibly be much astonished to hear that he had been one of the retarding causes in respect of the evacuation of Egypt, for every time that he had heard a suggestion made that a railway was to be constructed to Uganda the right hon. Baronet had at once opposed the proposal; and that railway was the key of the problem. They had heard it suggested just now that we could not evacuate Egypt, because we had taken so much of her territory away from her. Well, the best step to take with a view to the restoration of that territory to Egypt would be to make the railway to Uganda. We could not evacuate Egypt until we should have restored her to her former strength, until she was replaced in the exact position which she occupied before we meddled in her affairs. Nubar Pasha's order to the last Egyptian Governor of Equatoria was that he was to retire because the communications were interrupted. Well, those communications would be partly re-established when the Uganda railway should have been constructed, and he dared say that by that time direct communications would be restored between the Equatorial provinces and Cairo. But at present there was a hostile Power between Egypt and her possessions in Equatoria, and he did not think the English people would approve a premeditated attack in cold blood upon any portion of Africa where the people were determined to defend themselves and their territory. He did not think that the English people would like the idea of an invasion of the Soudan. But what could not be effected by force might be effected by commercial strategy. As he had said, the key to the problem was the construction of the Uganda railway. Lord Rosebery was one of those who had listened to the advice which the right hon. baronet opposite was always ready to tender, and consequently for three years he had looked coldly upon the proposal to build the railway. The right hon. Baronet apparently represented the Little England 480 party, and now suggested that we should evacuate Egypt at once. It would be time to evacuate Egypt when in Uganda we should have organised the native forces at our disposal in that region, and when, without the expenditure of the blood of a single English soldier, we should have established our quarters at the head of the navigable Nile. Then with the extension of railway communications in the direction of Wady Halfa, the establishment of the Italians at Kassala and along the eastern frontier of the Nile Valley, and before the silent march of civilising forces, the whole empire of the Khalifa would collapse and crumble. Then would be the time to take possession of the Soudan and to restore it, if they should think fit, to its legitimate owner. Then they would be able to say:—We have done our duty to Egypt, we have restored her to her former power, made her more affluent than ever, and there is nothing more for us to do in this part of the world.The Uganda railway ought to have been begun three years ago ["Hear hear!"] but it had been systematically delayed at the cost of something like 30,000 native porters. The right hon. Baronet had said that he would like to see slavery abolished in Zanzibar, but as he had opposed the construction of the railway, he had thereby supported the perpetuation of slavery at Zanzibar and Pemba, which would have been impossible if the construction of the Uganda railway had not been so unwisely delayed. It was curious that the author of "Greater Britain" should not have seen that he was actually in conflict with himself. There was a grand objective point which the Uganda railway was to make for—namely, the Victoria Nyanza, with its 28,000 square miles of fresh water, with water communications to within 40 miles of the Albert Edward, from whence a sixty mile journey would enable us to reach the Albert Nyanza. All that enormous tract of country that used to be devoted to slavery would have been peacefully conquered for civilization by this time if the right hon. Baronet and his friends had only supported the construction of the railway. The right hon. Baronet, he supposed, wanted them to suppress slavery in Zanzibar precisely as they attempted to suppress it in Soudan, when 481 they so ignominiously failed. It was to the rash enterprise of the British in attempting to suppress slavery in the Soudan, without having made adequate preparations, without having established lines of communication, that the catastrophe at Khartoum and the loss to Egypt of so much of her territory were due, and now the same rash proceedings were being advised in the case of Zanzibar and Pemba. Of course, he did not compare those islands with the Soudan, and he did not suppose that the same horrors and atrocities as occurred in the Soudan, would result from a similar hasty action in Zanzibar and Pemba. Nevertheless, there were European merchants, doctors, churchmen and lady teachers in Zanzibar, and if we interfered in the way proposed by the right hon. Baronet, it is possible we should hear of the occurrence of events similar to the Chinese atrocities. With regard to Egypt, Uganda and the Soudan, the right hon. Baronet had been fatally wrong, ["Hear, hear!"] and now he proposed that we should be fatally wrong with regard to Zanzibar. If they stopped the slave trade in Central Africa, if they made railways and thereby obtained complete control over the territory, he undertook to say that slavery generally would terminate. In the meantime he would advise the House and the country to be guided by their officials at Zanzibar, their Consuls, and other accredited representatives. When, in their opinion the time should have come for the complete extinction of slavery at Pemba and Zanzibar those officials would, he felt sure, give the word, and the House would then know how to act. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, that before he dealt with the questions which had taken up the greater part of the time that afternoon, he wished to refer to the serious matters arising out of the Chino-Japanese war. In October last, Lord Rosebery and Lord Kimberley proposed that the European Powers should combine with the object of compelling Japan to accept the terms of peace offered by China. "The concert of Europe" was a most misleading political phrase. He did not believe in the concert of Europe. He had never seen the concert of Europe in working order; indeed, the only time it ever did anything was in 1880, when it undertook the ridiculous 482 naval demonstration against Dulcigno. In the present state of relations between the great Powers of Europe, a practical concert was, in his opinion, a most ridiculous chimera. Fancy a concert on any great European or Eastern question in which France and Germany, France and Italy, Russia and Germany, Russia and Austria, and England were forced to all act together with a common object. The late Government tried to set up this concert, and the attempt failed disastrously. Germany, Austria, Italy, and the United States rejected the proposal of Lord Rosebery. Indeed, the proposal to coerce Japan was only supported by Russia and France. The Government of this country received a serious rebuff, the Japanese were infuriated at finding our proposal was directed against them, the Chinese were injured because their weakness was made known to the whole world, and the war was begun again with renewed vigour, and China was entirely defeated and overthrown. Russia and France—who had offered to join us in the attempt to coerce Japan, just as they were offering to join us in the attempt to coerce Turkey—took advantage of our proposal to attempt a little coercion on their own part, with the result that the Japanese were driven out of a position of enormous importance to them and to us It was said that Russia had also obtained important railway facilities from China, and that France had got great trading concessions in the southern districts of China. The French papers had published what purported to be summaries of the Treaty concluded. If there was any truth in those statements, the Committee had a right to be informed of them by Her Majesty's Government. The statements were very serious, and, if true, the Committee had a right to ask that the privileges given by China to France should also be given to our traders in that part of the world. He had specially to ask whether the French force had been withdrawn from Cambodia, and whether the Government supported the statement attributed to the Chief Commissioner in Burmah, to the effect that Burmah was now an integral part of the British Empire? And, before leaving the subject, he wished to express his firm belief that our interests in the far East would best be served by a friendly and consistent understanding with the 483 great Japanese peoples. He did not mean that there should be an understanding which should be hostile to China, but one which would not in any way offend the susceptibilities of the Chinese. He would now pass to the question of Egypt, which had attracted some notice earlier in the afternoon. He ventured, first, to offer to the hon. Member for North Lambeth, who made his first speech in the House that afternoon, his sincere congratulations upon that speech. Everyone who had heard the speech would feel that not only had the House gained by the presence of the hon. Member—a man distinguished for those travels and enterprises which were so essential to our Imperial commercial development; but also a man who would be an ornament to the Debates of the House. The hon. Gentleman criticised somewhat severely the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. He did not wish to be severe on the right hon. Baronot, but the right hon. Baronet had directed the Foreign Affairs of this country in the Gladstonian Government of 1880–1885, and he was afraid the only verdict that could be passed on the policy of the right hon. Baronet at that time was that it was most disastrous to the interests of this country. He recognised that the right hon. Baronet had advanced very much in his Imperial views since that time, but in regard to such questions as Uganda the right hon. Baronet was still painfully wrong. With regard to Egypt, it should be remembered that it was the right hon. Baronet who forced the policy of the occupation of Egypt on the Gladstonian Administration of 1880–1885. It was the right hon. Baronet who advocated the Franco-English Alliance leaving out of consideration all the other Powers, and reversing the policy of Lord Beaconsfield, which led to our unfortunate entry into Egypt.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
Has the right hon. Baronet forgotten his conversation with M. Gambetta, when he entered into an arrangement about Egypt?
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
I have contradicted that statement thirteen or fourteen times when it was made by the 484 hon. Gentleman. I never had any conversation on the subject of Egypt with M. Gambetta.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
The right hon. Baronet will forgive me for saying that never before have I heard made the statement which he has now made to the House. But whether the right hon. Baronet was personally responsible or not—and of course he took his word that he was not—there was not the slightest doubt that the Government of the day made an arrangement with the French Government without consulting the other Powers; they endeavoured to enforce what was known as "the Joint Note" on the Khedive in January, 1882, and that fatal mistake had led to disaster after disaster, the effects of which still existed. These were facts beyond all doubt, and whatever the personal responsibility of the right hon. Baronet for that policy might have been, he was Under Secretary of State at the time he conducted the negotiations, he made every statement that was made to the House on the subject, he supported that policy to the utmost; and knowing that at the time the right hon. Baronet's Chief was an amiable nobleman—but not a man with a strong foreign policy—the responsibility for Foreign Affairs, at the time, was generally attributed to the right hon. Baronet, and the right hon. Gentleman had never before denied that responsibility. All the disasters in the Soudan happened under a Government in which the right hon. Gentleman represented Foreign Affairs in this House, and if he were not personally responsible, he shared a grave measure of Ministerial responsibility for what had occurred. Therefore his hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth was quite justified in stating that the right hon. Baronet was largely responsible for all the troubles and difficulties in the Soudan and Egypt. But what was the main fallacy of hon. Gentlemen who now abused our position in Egypt? They were thinking of a period 10 or 12 years ago. They had lost sight of the enormous changes which had taken place since then throughout eastern and central Africa. We were now on the very eve of establishing an African empire 485 of a character such as the world had never seen, and which would confer enormous benefits on Africa and enormous advantages to the commercial and political power of this country. Our great central possession, Uganda, had such great natural advantages that its benefit to this country could hardly be exaggerated. It was a fact beyond all dispute that our occupation of Egypt was absolutely necessary for the welfare of that country. The evacuation of Egypt would mean the giving over of Egypt to one of two things—to anarchy or to the French, and he did not think British people would care to run either of these risks. But it was the great African empire of ours, which was extending by leaps and bounds, that changed the whole position of our relations with Africa and Egypt. In his opinion the statesman who would abandon Egypt would commit an act most injurious to Egyptian civilisation, and most injurious to the future interests of this country in Africa and the East. He could not agree with the hon. Member for King's Lynn, that the occupation of Egypt was of no naval or commercial value to us. Egypt might possibly be evacuated if we commanded an overwhelmingly superior naval force in the Mediterranean. But, as compared with France and Russia united, we did not occupy that position. But our occupation of Egypt meant the command by land of the Suez Canal, which was the road to India. Besides, our own commerce with Egypt was enormous, and, as in Uganda we had a country of immense value and with great colonisation possibilities, he sincerely hoped that nothing the Government would do would weaken our hold upon Egypt and Africa. He now came to a subject of extreme delicacy—namely, our relations with Turkey, and our attitude in regard to what were known as the Armenian atrocities. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had said that there was no authentic proof of the truth of a number of those tales. With that view he agreed. He had not seen, nor had he the opportunity of seeing, anything actually worthy of acceptance as proof of the horrible stories with which the world had been overwhelmed. He was not going to deny that there was truth in some of the stories. He was not informed on the subject, 486 but he sincerely hoped they were not true, and if they were true, he trusted the perpetrators of the outrages would be punished as they deserved. That was the attitude he had always held, and which he would always hold. But he could not shut his eyes to the fact that there were tremendous British interests at stake in any attempt to deal with Turkey and Armenia, which no man who valued our Eastern Empire could possibly overlook. Turkey, as a country, was a conglomeration of heterogeneous and hostile creeds and races which the world had never seen before. That was no fault of the Turks. He repudiated the wholesale vilification of the Sultan, the Government, and the people of Turkey that was now being indulged in. He knew something of the people of Turkey, and from experience he could say with the utmost confidence that the great mass was a simple-minded, honest, temperate, courageous, and humane people. Their Government had always been singularly impartial and fair towards other religions. When the horrors of the Inquisition were disgracing Spain and other parts of Europe, when the fires were burning at Smithfield, Protestants and Christians of all kinds found a perfect toleration in Turkey, as they did to-day. The attempt to make this question a cause for a bitter anti-Mussulman crusade was most unjustifiable. Directly the news of these horrors became public, the Sultan appointed a commission of investigation and of his own motion invited the Great Powers to send representatives to the commission. He had dismissed two Pashas and had expressed his determination to punish the offenders and secure better government for the people of the districts disturbed. There was really no Armenia, for there was no province in Turkey in which the Armenians were not in a considerable minority. The country was very wild, and was the remotest part of the Turkish Empire; and there had been for centuries hereditary hostility between the Kurds and the Armenians. There had been massacres and counter-massacres, raids and counter-raids. It was not fair to condemn the Turks and the Sultan without making allowances for the difficulties of the position. As to the pressure put on the Porte by the late Government, he was 487 glad to see any Government urging practicable reforms in some of the Turkish provinces. But it was very unfortunate that the late Government combined with France and with Russia—the hereditary enemy of Turkey—to coerce Turkey. Russia had no moral right to press reforms on Turkey, for the atrocities committed on the Jews in Russia were greater in quantity and as bad in quality as the atrocities committed in Armenia. The atrocities committed on Turkish women and children by the Bulgarians in 1877–78 were very terrible. The whole Mussulman population were driven from their homes by the Bulgarian and Russian forces, and subjected to the most brutal and cruel outrages. Hundreds of thousands perished in that awful flight, and he had seen the public mosques and buildings in Constantinople crowded with the suffering and starving fugitives. Who could say but that some of the dark deeds done in the Sassoon district were done by Turkish soldiers who had seen their mothers and sisters massacred and maltreated by Christian troops 17 years before. All this ought to be considered by any British Government which attempted to coerce Turkey in conjunction with Russia. It was greatly for the interests of Russia and France to embroil Great Britain with Turkey; and that should give her Majesty's Government pause in combining with Russia and France. It was said that while the Russian and French Ambassadors were working outwardly with the British Ambassador to put pressure on the Porte, secret agents were at the same time encouraging the Sultan to resist the British demands, and promising him every support if he would only throw himself entirely upon the friendship of the Tsar. He did not say that those reports were true; but such things were probable and had happened before. Our natural friends in Europe—the great Peace League of Central Europe—to whom we must look for support if any difficulty arose—were, when the late Government was in office, strongly opposed to this excessive coercion of Turkey. It was a bad sign that the policy should be supported by our natural rivals and opposed by our natural friends. He would rather see the British Government acting on its own responsibility; for we had quite sufficient influence with Turkey without 488 allying ourselves with the Powers which were the hereditary enemies of Turkey, and which were certainly not our hereditary friends. They were countermining British interests all over the world. As to the actual scheme of reforms which was pressed on the Porte three months ago, he wished to know whether the same scheme was being pressed by the present Government? That scheme was well-intentioned, but utterly absurd and impossible. It was impossible for the Sultan to accept such a scheme without dealing a fatal blow at his sovereignty and Empire. Besides establishing a dual control, it established no less than 17 new sets of officials for some of the poorest provinces in Asia Minor. What those provinces wanted was a high commissioner of character and determination and a thoroughly efficient and well-paid police force. The scheme of the late Government included a new High Commissioner, a Committee of Surveillance over him, and a Permanent Commission of control in Constantinople, having the right to communicate with the Foreign Ambassadors directly and independently of the Porte. Let the Committee imagine what confusion would be established in this country if foreign Powers were to force on us a High Commissioner for Ireland, a Committee of Surveillance over him, and a Permanent Commission of control sitting in London—[Nationalist Cheers]—with a right to communicate directly with the Ambassadors of Germany, France and Russia. Was it reasonable to complain of delays and procrastinations on the part of the Turkish Government when such a scheme was pressed upon it? Besides the High Commissioner and the Permanent Committee of Control, the scheme of the Powers proposed Special Judicial Commissions, Special Commissions to inspect prisons, a Special Christian functionary attached to each Vali, Special Deputies for the Valis, Mutessariffs and Caimacams, Councils for the Nahies, Special Police for the Nahies, Preliminary Committee of Inquiry for for each town, a Tribal Officer for each vilayet, Special Property Commission, a Council of Ancients for each Nahie and an increase of the Justices of the Peace. A Nahie was a district consisting of 12 villages or so, with some 500 houses; and each of these was to provide and pay for a new 489 police force, to elect a suitable Mudir, who may be Mudir for only two years (in many places there was difficulty in finding any suitable man for the office), and also a deputy to the Mudir, and a secretary. Besides this the wretched Nahdie was to provide "special buildings for the communal buildings." He did not believe that the Ottoman Empire was in a state of dissolution, but that the Ottoman Government was perfectly capable of maintaing peace in its territory if it were not perpetually exposed to attacks from abroad. This was not a question of Mussulmans against Christians, but of Government against anarchy. Throughout the Turkish Empire the different Christian races and creeds hated each other more fiercely than their Turkish rulers. The Turkish rule had been moderating and controlling, and had prevented the different races from exterminating one another. The Turk had always shown great religious toleration for every race and creed. It was not internal dissension which threatened Turkey, but the attacks of the great European Powers. Only 17 years ago so strong was Turkey that not only was she able to resist the attacks of the Bulgarians, Servians, and Montenegrins, but she was within an ace of defeating the whole power of the Russian Empire. If it had not been for the compulsory support given to Russia by Roumania, Turkey would have won that great struggle. The Turkish Government was not one quarter so keenly opposed to the Bulgarian insurgents in Macedonia as were the Greeks, the Albanians, and other Christian races in Macedonia. And they had more to fear from the Bulgarians, who, directly they obtained their independence, drove the Greek population out of Bulgaria. Above all, it should be remembered that British interests in the East were enormously bound up with the maintenance of a strong and independent Ottoman Empire. To the Turk alone could we look for practical support if ever our Indian Empire were attacked. The Turkish soldier was of quality unsurpassed in the world; and as long as we were just to Turkey we could rely on the support of half-a-million of Turkish soldiers in case of need. But what if the fighting strength of Turkey were thrown against us when the fate of our Indian Empire was at stake? He hoped 490 that these considerations would receive the care of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said, that he was sorry to hear from the hon. Gentleman that he had no confidence in Lord Salisbury's Government. [Laughter.]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that the hon. Member entirely disapproved of the joint Note which had been presented to Turkey. Who presented that note?
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I must correct the hon. Member. He is mixing up two things. What I said was that the late Government presented certain demands to the Porte, and those demands I criticised. I said distinctly that I had no proof that the same demands were now being pressed by the present Government.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The hon. Member says I have mixed up two things. The hon. Member has mixed up one thing. [Much Laughter.] Continuing, Mr. Healy said that it was quite true that a particular Note was addressed to Turkey by the late Government, but what had Lord Salisbury said no later than two days ago in the House of Lords? The noble Lord said:—We will persist in pressing upon the Porte the policy and demands of the late Government.[Cheers.] The hon. Member did not pay Lord Salisbury the compliment of reading his speeches. [Laughter.] He himself read Lord Salisbury's speeches; and he ventured to say that, while the hon. Gentleman was purporting to make an attack on the late Government, he was really ready, stiletto in hand, to attack the present Government. [Cheers and laughter.] It pained him to see dissension and disagreement already setting in on the other side of the House. [Laughter.] It pained him above all to see these defects of loyalty displayed by a gentleman who formerly occupied an honoured post in a Conservative Government. [Laughter.] To his mind that made the ingratitude the blacker. [Renewed laughter.] Without knowing 491 anything of the views of Her Majesty's Government, he believed that he could assure the hon. Gentleman that, if he would abstain from asking annoying and harassing questions, and from making long and contentious speeches in Committee, the time would not be far distant when the hon. Member might find himself again in the bosom of a happy family. [Laughter.] Could the hon. Member deny that he had attacked the present Government? Had he ever heard of a newspaper called England [laughter], which had attacked the present Government, its administration, policy, and personnel? He hoped the hon. Member would, however, allow him to thank him for the suggestion of France and Russia presenting a joint Note to Her Majesty's Government on the subject of Ireland. It was a very proper and valuable suggestion; and he had no doubt whatever that the Turkish Government would reply to the note of England as presented on the subject of the bad administration of Armenia, "What about the counties of Cork and Mayo?" He should watch the criticisms of the hon. Member on her Majesty's Government as to foreign affairs; but he trusted that in future he would moderate his tone in the House towards his Majesty's Government. [Laughter.] With regard to Uganda, he asked whether the time was approaching when compensation would be given to the Roman Catholic priests for the destruction of their missions. He congratulated the officers of the Government on the admirable way in which they had succeeded in procuring the release of the captives in Khartoum. It would be only fair to the officers who had been engaged in that work, that an expression of thanks should be tendered to them for the admirable service they had performed, and it should be in the power of the Government to pay any special mark of recognition to those brave men for the manner in which they had delivered the missionaries from a horrible captivity. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
explained that the views he had laid before the House that afternoon were the views he had always entertained. He had made no attack on the Government, and he resented the imputation of motives which had been made by the hon. Member.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZON) Lancashire, Southport
I desire to acknowledge the courtesy of the speeches which have been made, as well as of the questions which have been addressed to me. With reference to the explanation of the hon. Member for Ecclesall, I certainly had no idea that he attacked the present Government, and I am certain that no one on this Bench suspected him of having done so. The discussion has been a very interesting one, both on account of the wide range of the speeches which have been delivered, and still more because of the first contribution to our debates of the hon. Member for North Lambeth. [Cheers.] Everyone, I am sure, listened with interest and admiration to his vigorous speech, and we look forward with pleasure to the hon. Member, with his unique knowledge on these subjects, finding frequent opportunities to join in our discussions. I ought, however, to offer one word of explanation. With the exception of a notice from my hon. Friend the Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, I have not received warning from any hon. Member of any question that was going to be raised in this discussion, nor has there been a notice on the Paper that any reduction of the Vote was to be moved by an hon. Member. I do not make this remark in a tone of complaint, but in order to explain, if my reply is thought to be imperfect by the Committee, that any such defect will arise from my ignorance of the questions that were likely to be raised, as well as from the short space of time that has been at the disposal of the Government for getting hold of the various threads of Foreign Policy. More than one speaker has complained with reference to Foreign Office affairs that the advance is slow. That is always the opinion of those who look at the movement of the machine from the outside. It is only when one is acquainted with the actual steps that have been taken, that the progress which may have seemed to be so slow, appears in a somewhat different light. But I am gratified to observe the tokens of confidence which have been given to the present Administration during their short tenure of Office. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean asked, during the Debate on the Address, 493 whether further papers would be laid before Parliament dealing with Siam. It is not yet a year ago since the last instalment of papers was laid before Parliament by the late Government, and the interval has been occupied for the most part with the geographical examinations connected with the buffer State on the Upper Mekong. The British Commissioner has only just returned to this country, and his Report only came into the hands of the Government a few days ago. It would, therefore, be premature to offer any papers at a time when the discussions connected with the buffer State are in an immature condition. The hon. Member for North Monmouthshire asked for a statement of policy from the Government about this buffer State. I have already said that the Report of the Commissioner has only just been put into print, and the fact that it has not yet been considered by the Government renders it impossible for me to state what their future policy as to a buffer State will be. The hon. Member also asked what was our position with regard to the trans-Mekong Shan States, and I am able to give the House more exact information on that point. Our position beyond the Mekong is one which has repeatedly been asserted by the Government in Parliament, and the clearest statements of our claims have been more than once made to the French Government. The hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield spoke about a French force in occupation of Mongsing, the capital of the State of Keng Cheng. No such force has ever been there. On the contrary, there has been in occupation in this State for some months a detachment of Anglo-Indian troops under British officers, and this is a significant declaration of the views of ownership entertained by the Government. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean pressed for some further declaration as to the general policy of the Government with regard to Siam. It is perfectly competent for me to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman as to general principles. Those principles are, in the first place, the vindication of the interests, political and commercial, of Great Britain in Siam; secondly, the procuring of safeguards for the continued autonomy and territorial integrity of that country, about which assurances have 494 been repeatedly given, not merely in this House, but by responsible representatives of the French Government. We hope that those two principles may be kept in view and acted upon with a perfect maintenance of the amicable relations with the only other Great Power interested in Siam, with whom we have no desire to quarrel. A question was asked as to the Anglo-Chinese Convention in relation to the upper parts of the Mekong. The hon. Member has read the reports in the French newspapers as to the Treaty. Whether they are true or not I cannot say, but the text of the Treaty is not in our possession, and it has not been ratified. As to possible commercial or mining concessions in those parts of the world, he may rely upon it that Her Majesty's Government will keep a close watch over the interests of British industry and trade in those parts, and under the most favoured-nation clause we should expect to be the sharers of any advantages that may accrue. The right hon. Baronet next asked about the expedition of Major Cunningham which has recently pursued Kabarega and advanced into the regions of the Upper Nile. I see that a question is to be put to me on Friday, and I will defer the answer on that point until then. I next pass to the question of slavery in the Islands of Pemba and Zanzibar. The right hon. Baronet gave an account of the proceedings on this question in the last Session of the late Parliament, and he complained that nothing had been done up to the present time. The right hon. Gentleman cannot be aware of the weekly communications, both by letter and telegram, between Her Majesty's Government and Mr. Hardinge.
No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman how serious are the rival considerations which have to be weighed in these matters. There is a question which we ourselves found very difficult in our own country in the early part of the century, namely, the compensation to slave-owners; and, further, there is the question of loss of revenue to the Zanzibar Government. All these are matters which require very careful and cautious handling; but the matter is not being lost sight of, and I 495 hope, at a later date, to be able to give some further information on the matter. While on the subject of slavery, I may say that, although the right hon. Baronet enlarged on the evils of plantation slavery, there is another aspect of the question—namely, slave-raiding, which is at least of equal, if not of greater, importance, and with the horrors connected with which, in various parts of Africa under the protectorate of the British Crown, the Government is doing its best to grapple. I now pass to the question of Armenia. Upon this point I think I was relieved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen from the necessity of making any observations this afternoon. Speaking with the great authority which he possesses —not merely as a former Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, but also as one of the greatest authorities in England upon the matter—he deprecated discussion at this moment on the ground of the critical nature of the situation. It is undoubtedly a moment in which reserve is desirable; but I am greatly gratified to find, from the references made this afternoon, that, on the whole, the action taken by the Government meets with support from both sides of the House. I may, perhaps, without deviating from the line of general reticence on this subject, allude to one or two specific questions addressed to me. I do not follow my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn into his learned historical disquisition about the history and the meaning of the Treaty of Berlin; but I must say one word on the observation he made with reference to our co-operation with France and Russia in this matter. That is a co-operation for which he appeared very severely to blame Her Majesty's present advisers; but it was a co-operation instituted by the late Government, and is a legacy of their policy which Lord Salisbury found on entering office, and which the Government felt it incumbent upon them to endeavour to prosecute to a successful issue. ["Hear, hear!"] He hinted indirectly at some dark clandestine agreement with France and Russia, and seems surprised at our co-operation with these particular Powers. That co-operation arose in a very simple manner. France and Russia, with Great Britain, were the sole European Powers who, at that time, had Consular representatives 496 in the regions where these atrocities occurred, and it was therefore extremely natural that the representatives of those Powers should be instructed to act together in inquiring into and investigating the nature of those charges; and from that simple, and, as I think, proper beginning arose the co-operation with the Ambassadors of those two great Powers—a co-operation not interrupted up to the present moment, and to the successful continuation of which Her Majesty's Government look. ["Hear, hear!"] Then the hon. Member went on to accuse Lord Salisbury of a change of policy. Well, it is not for me to stand here and defend Lord Salisbury from these charges; but at least it is my duty to point out that Lord Salisbury has only endeavoured to carry out the obligations of the Treaty of Berlin, of which instrument he was one of the signatory plenipotentiaries on behalf of this country. To any question as to the views or policy of Lord Salisbury a sufficient answer will, I think, be found in the speech he himself delivered a few days ago in another place. Another question was asked, by the Member for Sheffield, I think, as to the scheme of reforms which had been presented to the Turkish Government. Of course it is true that this scheme of reforms was drawn up when the late Government was in power by the Ambassadors at Constantinople and presented to the Sultan, and naturally, therefore, discussion upon the point, and the replies of the Porte with reference to it have been directed to this scheme of reforms, and nothing could have been more premature or more unwise than if Her Majesty's Government, immediately on coming into power, before they had time to pursue all the ramifications of this question, had superseded a policy and plan of reforms suggested by their predecessors and started another on their own account. I am sure he will recognise that as much as anyone. There is one other point about Armenia, and that is as to the publication of papers.
That explanation enables me to dispense with any further observations. I pass from the question of Armenia to that of West Africa. The hon. Member for the Holderness Division of Yorkshire asked for some information about French movements in 497 the bend of the Niger river. The latest information we have about the expeditions to which he refers is that the expeditions and the officers commanding them have returned to France; and in connection with our own position I may inform him that we have made the fullest reservation to the French Government of the rights we have acquired by treaties negotiated on behalf of this country. He complained somewhat of a want of uniformity and simplicity in our various jurisdictions in Eastern and Western Africa. That is to some extent true. Uniformity of jurisdiction can only come in time. After all we have only just commenced this work in Africa. We are there building up, as we believe, an edifice which I hope will be solid in its foundations and fair in outline, and if at the present moment there are architectural or structural anomalies which strike the attention of those who observe it, we hope in time they may be remedied and greater uniformity of administration may be attained. I pass next to a question about which I did not intend to say one word, but about which I shall make a few observations, lest it should be thought that certain remarks made in the course of the discussion to-day represent either the views of the House or the Government—the question of the occupation of Egypt. On this point all that I desire to say is this, that the Government accept and will continue the policy which was pursued, at any rate in office—I do not make any wider statement—by the late Government. In their opinion, the conditions laid down as the conditions under which evacuation might be possible certainly have not yet been fulfilled, nor has the time arrived for a reconsideration of the subject. There are, in connection with Africa, two subsidiary matters upon which information has been sought. As to the advantages, political and commercial, to be expected from the Uganda railway, I am in entire accord with the able statement of the hon. Member for North Lambeth. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean asked whether the supplementary estimate for £20,000 for preliminary operations in connection with the railway would be taken independently or in Class 5.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said there was a Report of a Committee on the 498 scheme of railways proposed by the Government, and he desired to know whether the Government accepted the Report of the Committee. Would a statement be made in papers or under a separate Vote?
The matter has not been finally decided by the Government, but I hope to be in a position to give information when the Vote is taken, which will be as a supplementary Vote at the end of Class 5. The hon. Member for Louth asked a question about compensation to Catholic priests in Uganda. It is quite true that this was part of the general scheme of the proposed negotiations with France which, unfortunately, broke down. It is a matter which will not be lost sight of. He also alluded to a matter which, I am sure, stirred a chord of hearty appreciation and admiration in the breasts of everyone who heard him—namely, the gallant release, during the last year or two, of more than one European prisoner left so long in captivity and in the hands of the Mahdi. He seems to think that some expression of thanks to the officers who have been responsible for organising the arrangements for the release would be acceptable to them. I have no objection to such an expression being given, and when he went further, and suggested that some special recognition might be given to the officers responsible for this daring and successful piece of strategy, I think that also is a matter which fully deserves attention in the right quarter. Mr. Lowther, I think I have now covered the entire field of action over which the discussion has ranged.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman had any information as to the existence of the expedition with which we had been threatened, and whether any definite and distinct step had been made to settle a difficult question between France and ourselves with reference to the Upper Nile?
As far as our information goes, we have no knowledge of any expedition to the Upper Nile. As to the second point, it would be premature to make any statement as to the negotiations with France.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL
said that the House had heard a reply on one question as to which he should like to press for further information. He could 499 not fail to recognise the grave distinction there was between the present attitude of the Government and that which they assumed a few months ago, when they occupied the Front Opposition Bench, on the question of slavery in Zanzibar. In February last a Supplementary Estimate was brought forward to provide a certain amount of money for the purpose of putting down slavery in Zanzibar. This was met by an Amendment by an hon. Member for one of the divisions of Northumberland, who moved a reduction of the Vote in order to emphasise his dissatisfaction with the action of the late Liberal Government in not having already put an end to slavery in Zanzibar. The reply of the then Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs was that an inquiry had been already ordered—not as to whether it should be abolished, which was taken for granted—but as to how it should be done. The Under Secretary asked the hon. Member to be content with that assurance, and gave a pledge that, with the least possible delay, slavery in Zanzibar would be a thing of the past. The hon. Member was satisfied with that declaration, and desired to withdraw the Amendment; but the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench would not hear of withdrawal, and they said that the Government had neglected an opportunity of abolishing slavery. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, in pretty strong language, condemned the Government for having allowed delay to take place. They were told by the Under Secretary, as they had been told that day, that the prosecution of the question could not be hurried owing to a number of considerations that had to be taken into account. The occupants of the Front Opposition Bench: "In two years you have practically done nothing at all, and slavery lasts as it did three years ago." There was no comparison between the question of slavery in our Colonies and slavery in Zanzibar. There it was admitted by all parties to be illegal, and since 1861 we had been using pressure to put it down. From year to year this had gone on, and now the House received the same reply it had often received before, namely: that there were questions which required consideration and prevented anything being done with haste. There was no doubt that slavery ought to be put down in Zanzibar, and that the Government had the 500 power to put it down. He pressed the Under Secretary to tell them whether the Government had received the report as to the manner in which slavery was to be put down. They had been told that as soon as soon as it was received negotiations would be set on foot with a view to abolition, and that, if the report were unfavourable, Government would act on their own initiative. Were matters to be allowed to stand still, and were they next year to receive the same reply they had now received? The present Government had practically adopted the attitude of the late Government, but, after the indignation they displayed at the inaction of the Liberal Government, they ought now to declare whether they still entertained the views they expressed in Opposition, and what they were going to do to give effect to them. The present Secretary to the Treasury condemned not only the Liberal Government but also his own Leaders, and said that both Front Benches were to blame. The right hon. Baronet was correct in declaring that nothing had been done, and, as this was not a Party question, they were entitled to hear from the Government a declaration of what they intended to do. As to Armenia there appeared to be a general agreement that the question was safe in the hands of the Government, and no one desired to increase their difficulties by extending the range of debate. But there was a disposition in some quarters to throw doubt on the reports that had been received of atrocities in Armenia, although they appeared to be absolutely confirmed by evidence coming from many different sources. In these circumstances, could not the Government publish the Consular Reports they had received? Indeed, they seemed to incur some responsibility by keeping them back. He was surprised that such a friend of Armenia as the right hon. Member for Aberdeenshire could not persuade the Liberal Government to issue them. The reports of the Consuls in other countries were published; and why should those of our Consuls in Armenia be withheld? On the subject of the evacuation of Egypt, he did not agree with some of his Friends, and hitherto he had not seen his way to give a vote in favour of evacuation. It was admitted that this question was a source of trouble in our relations with France, and that 501 we were bound in honour to withdraw when we could do so with safety. Some years ago Lord Salisbury was prepared to name a day for our withdrawal. Had not the time arrived when the Government might with advantage institute some inquiry as to the possibility of our withdrawing? They might have an independent inquiry into the condition of Egypt, or they might take the initiative in bringing together the representatives of the Powers. They could no longer maintain an attitude of point-blank denial, and ought to declare that it was their desire to withdraw as soon as we could do so with safety to Egypt and credit to ourselves.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
desired to ask for further information with regard to recent incidents in Macedonia; any reports that would throw light on what was going on there would be received with satisfaction. The hon. Member for North Lambeth said that the Uganda Railway was the key to the position in regard to Egypt, and a most significant sentence fell from the Treasury bench when it was said that her Majesty's Government were quite in accord with the hon. Member for North Lambeth in that view. When the House voted the Uganda Railway they were told that it would be a useful step in the interest of trade, but the hon. Member for North Lambeth said that the moment it was completed it would be used as the starting point from which this country would move to take possession of the mighty Empire of the Soudan. The hon. Member went on to say that when we had taken possession of the Empire and had presented it to the Khedive we might say our work in Egypt was finished. He put it to the Under Secretary whether the Government accepted that policy in its entirety. The word "might" had now been used for the first time in regard to the evacuation of Egypt. Had that word been deliberately chosen? Was there any change of policy?
I will read the words I used. I wrote them down before I spoke. They were as follows: The conditions which have been laid down as the conditions under which evacuation might be possible have not yet been fulfilled.
MR. PARKER SMITH
confessed that he had hoped after what took place last September, that some better answer would have been given on the subject of the question asked by his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs; especially in view of the action of his right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham last September in objecting to the withdrawal of the motion under which the late Government made almost precisely the same answer as that given to-day. He confessed he had hoped that they would have got a step farther today. He did not know whether the hon. Member who raised the question was satisfied, but if he went to a division he would be bound to support him. Of course the House welcomed the hon. Member for North Lambeth as an authority with regard to the evacuation question, but he thought the hon. Member had gone rather far in what he said about Zanzibar. He thought the hon. Member was rather trading on his reputation when he compared the slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba with what had been done in the Soudan. Again, the hon. Member tried to frighten the House by talking of the possible outbreak of atrocities in Zanzibar. He would like to quote the view of Mr. Hardinge. In his last despatch that Gentleman, after pointing out that the difficulties were almost entirely connected with Revenue, said he would respectfully ask that a sufficient Naval Force should be at hand—by that he meant a gun-boat. He did not, he said, anticipate any popular rising, but there might be a turbulent disposition amongst the natives, which a slight display of force would silence at once. He submitted that the view of the hon. Member was entirely exaggerated, and he hoped the whole opinion of the country in regard to slavery might once more prevail, and that the Government might once more be encouraged to overcome with a strong hand the difficulties that had been raised.
said, with regard to the complaints that had been made as to the old official answer having been made on the question of slavery in Pemba and Zanzibar, he had no idea that question would be raised. If the 503 hon. Member who raised it had given him notice he might have provided himself with more information. So far as he knew there was no desire on the part of the Government to adopt a policy of stagnation in this matter. ["Hear, hear!"] They were in communication with Mr. Hardinge on the point, but really, when they had only been in office for three weeks since the Election, it was a little too much to expect that they should have arrived at a decision on all the topics which had been raised by hon. Members. ["Hear, hear!"] Since the Debate last Session the Government had taken the every best step they could against the slave trade—namely, by starting the Uganda Railway. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to the non-production of the reports in connection with the alleged outrages in Armenia, that question was not quite such an easy one as hon. Members seemed to imagine. The publication of the reports might be fraught with considerable danger to the persons mentioned in them. Another hon. Member had asked for information about incidents that had occurred on the Macedonian frontier. It was true that there had been movements of marauding bands across the frontier, that villages had been attacked, and that there had been fighting. Very serious representations had been continually addressed by Her Majesty's Government and the representatives of the Governments of other European Powers to the Bulgarian Government, urging upon them the wisdom of restraining these movements, and there was every reason to believe that those representations had had effect, and that the movements would subside before they had attained any serious dimensions. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DALZIEL
did not think there would be any advantage in taking a Division. If they had acted on the example set by right hon. Gentlemen opposite a few months ago, they would certainly take a Division; but if the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to say that the attitude of the present Government with regard to this question was precisely the same as that of the previous Government, they might, he thought, fairly leave the matter as it stood. If, however, this was to be a case of "go as you please," it would not be satisfactory at all; but if the right 504 hon. Gentleman would say that the position of the Government was unchanged, then he thought they might fairly give them a few months longer to carry out that policy.
§ *MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
, said, he remembered that on the occasion when the question of Slavery in Zanzibar was last discussed, a Division was taken by the then Opposition on the very ground that the then Government gave no distinct assurance. He pressed the Government for a satisfactory assurance of their intention to do all in their power to suppress slavery in Zanzibar, and moved the reduction of the vote by £1,000.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said, that when the subject was before the House in the last Parliament he urged that the carrying out of the resolution of the Brussels Conference to improve communication with the interior of Africa, especially by the construction of a railway to Uganda, would be the most effective way of stopping the traffic in slaves. The number of these wretched creatures who were put on board ship on the coast was nothing compared with those who were consigned to miserable servitude in the interior. He still held that the making of a railway into the interior would be the most powerful blow that could be struck at this accursed traffic. Because the late Government avowedly fell away from the policy of carrying out the Resolution of the Brussels Conference, which Lord Salisbury had recognised, he voted against them in the Division in the last Parliament. The abolition of the status of slavery in Zanzibar or the traffic in slaves on the coast should not be the main object in view, but the suppression of slavery at its source in the interior. The steps that the present Government were taking in the matter ought to secure them against the ill-timed attacks which had been made upon them.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said the speeches of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and of the Secretary to the Treasury, when the subject was considered in the last Parliament, showed that the Division did not turn on the making of the railway to Uganda, but on the question whether or not, in the opinion of the Committee, slavery should by allowed to go on.
§ MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said, he should support the Government. While desirous of ending the horrors of slavery, he did not think it fair or reasonable to press the Government at once to redress grievances which for three years hon. Members opposite bore, if not with indifference, at any rate in silence.
§ MR. DALZIEL
pressed the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to say whether the Government would stand by the pledge given by their predecessors that, with the least possible delay, they would put an end to this slavery. The matter could not be left where it was.
§ *MR. H. M. STANLEY rose to make a brief personal explanation. He had not the slightest recollection of having said anything to inspire an hon. Friend, who had spoken, to charge him with trading on his reputation in the House. He begged his hon. Friend not to make such remarks in the future. [Laughter.] Slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba was comparatively a trifling detail that might be left altogether to the Consular officials and Her Majesty's Government to settle when the time had arrived. It could be stopped summarily any day that Her Majesty's Government chose. But what he desired to stop was this hasty impulse on the part of a few fanatics to drive the Government into a rash course of action.
§ *MR. H. M. STANLEY
wished to give hon. Members opposite two object lessons for the purpose of showing the evils that might be brought about by hasty action on the part of a Government in dealing with these matters. The rash fanaticism which prevailed among a section of that House sent poor Gordon with a white wand to Central Africa to suppress slavery. They thought it possible for one human being to accomplish that feat, and having sent that poor man there without any help they absolutely seemed surprised when he called out for help from Khartoum. The result was that 506 the Soudan was now a wreck. That was the effect of the rashness of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, who were urged on by a society to whose demands they were ready to-day to give attention. ["Hear, hear!"] The second object lesson was that at one time in the Congo Basin in West Africa some 50,00 persons were slaughtered every year in consequence of the slave trade. We went at our work there, patiently establishing our communications and forts, and creeping nearer and nearer to the centre of the slave trade, and then when every thing was ready the word was given, and at this moment there was not a single slave trader in that part of Africa. In the same way, before proceeding to operations in East Africa, it would be necessary to make our communications to the Lake, and by placing our steamers on the lake, and scattering our agents up and down the country, we should be in a position to take action when the word was given, and it would be found in a very short time that not a single slave could be carried to the coast, or to Pemba and Zanzibar. In the meantime these two little islands had better be left to the judicious care of Her Majesty's Government rather than be subjected to violent action.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry, W.)
said, he thought that the House would be inclined to agree with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. Unfortunately, however, travellers differed in their accounts with regard to slavery in East Africa. The right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) had addressed the House on this subject as recently as the 8th of March last, when he stated that the then Government were to blame in the matter of this slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba, that he had travelled a great deal in that country, and that he had never met with slavery in such an aggravated form as in Pemba, and that England was entirely responsible for the fact, because under her rule slavery had increased. He was not going to blame the present Government in particular for that increase in slavery.
§ MR. KNOX
said, the Government who were responsible for our policy in Zanzibar and Pemba. The right hon. Gentleman had gone on to contrast the policy 507 which we pursued in West Africa with that which we pursued in East Africa, and that in the latter place that policy had greatly increased the horrors of the slave trade. They were frequently reminded of the expense that would be caused by an attempt to put down slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba, but we were increasing the eventual cost of abolishing slavery in that part of Africa when we allowed the number of slavers to be increased for whom we should eventually have to pay compensation. With regard to the recent expedition to West Africa, he must say that it was a hateful thing that British sailors had been employed in hunting down fugitive slaves. He supposed that a fugitive slave was no worse than any other man, and our Government ought to be ashamed of hunting down such slaves in the West of Africa. That expedition had the lives of many men and a great sum of money, and in his opinion it would be cheaper in the long run for the Government at once to take steps to abolish slavery in all territories which were under their control.
§ MR. MURNAGHAN (Tyrone, Mid)
pressed for immediate action on the part of the Government in the matter.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
thought that it was altogether unreasonable to demand that Her Majesty's Government, after having been only two or three weeks in office, should take immediate steps for the suppression of the slave trade. It had taken years for the right hon. Gentleman the late Member for Midlothian to abolish slavery in our own West Indian isles, and to put £30,000 into the pocket of his family. If steps to abolish slavery were taken without due consideration, we should give rise to greater evils than those we sought to cure. He remembered hearing a story of a slave who jumped overboard from a British steamer on the Nile and returned into slavery at the request of his master. [Laughter.] He would suggest to hon. Members a consideration of that touching story in the New Testament about the two servants, one of whom said "I go," but went not; thus did the late Government. The other said "I come not," but afterwards repented and came; that is what the present Government would do if they were given time. He would unhesitatingly vote against this most 508 ill-advised Motion, which called for immediate action in a case where immediate action could not be taken.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he should support the hon. Member for Partick (Mr. Parker Smith.) The late Government refused to act. They refused to give a pledge to the House of Commons that they would see that the law was carried out in Zanzibar. In 1873, the late Sultan of Zanzibar passed a law for preventing any new slaves going into the Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, but Sir John Kirk had stated that the number of slaves had bean trebled The argument was brought forward that any change would lessen the revenue of Zanzibar by interfering with the spice cultivation, and it was hinted that we should have to pay for it. There were three kinds of slavery. He agreed with those who were of opinion that no Government could put down the domestic slavery which was common to all Mahommedan countries. Neither did they now propose to touch the slaves engaged in transport work. They simply desired to deal with plantation slaves, a class of men, the bulk of whom were illegally being brought into the islands from our own Nyassa Protectorate. The efforts to put down the slave stealers had caused the loss of several valuable officers. The case put was this. When Great Britain had very little influence indeed, during the time of the late Sultan of Zanzibar, a law was passed to prevent those slaves from coming into the islands, yet they had heard on good authority that the number of them had been trebled. Would the Government use their influence, firstly, in seeing that the old law was carried out, and secondly, that the secret law of 1892—a reactionary law in favour of slavery—should be changed, and that every influence should be brought to bear in Zanzibar to put down slavery. If the Government would give that assurance, he did not think there would be any necessity for dividing the Committee. The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles) who voted against the late Government in the spring, had told them that he intended to vote with the present Government on the same subject now. [Laughter.] Even if the abolition of slavery resulted in some loss to the 509 revenues of Zanzibar, he thought that the Government of the Sultan was rich enough to bear that loss. The Member for North Lambeth (Mr. H. M. Stanley) had urged the supporters of this Amendment not to be in a hurry, but they had been so urged for the last 10 years. ["Hear, hear!"] In conclusion, he expressed a hope that the First Lord of the Treasury would give the Committee an assurance that slavery should cease in East Africa and the adjacent islands, as it had ceased in the Congo Free State.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
This reduction is, as I understand, proposed with a view of expressing condemnation of the alleged laxity of the present Government in regard to slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba. But what are the facts? We came into office a little more than a month ago. Up to the end of last month we were engaged in work elsewhere. We are three weeks by post from Zanzibar, and, under these circumstances, we are required, not only to express our adhesion to the policy which we hold in common with our predecessors, and in common with every Government that has held rule in this country—namely, that of abolishing slavery in every part of the world to which our influence extends, a declaration which I should have hoped was unnecessary—["hear, hear!")—but we are also called upon to lay a detailed plan before the Committee with regard to the particular machinery and methods by which the abolition of slavery in East Africa is to be accomplished. That is an unreasonable demand to make upon us or upon any Government situated as we are. ["Hear, hear!"] The question of slavery on the East Coast of Africa is one that has long engaged the attention of Governments drawn from both sides of the House, and in the Debate of last February, to which reference has so often been made this afternoon, we pressed this question on the Government of the day. We think now, as we thought then, that one of the greatest steps towards doing away with slavery in that part of Africa will have been made by the construction of the railway between the East Coast and Uganda. [Cheers.] In February last the Government of the day showed apparent reluctance to embark in the construction of that railway, and we knew nothing from 510 their public declarations that would have led us to expect that they intended to do so. It was not till some months later that we were informed that they intended to carry out the policy which we had all along pressed upon them, namely, the policy of a railway between the East Coast and the interior of Africa in that region. We are pressing on that railway as fast as it can be pressed on. [Cheers.] No time has been lost, and I have every hope that the first actual steps of construction may not now be very long delayed. I quite agree that even then, when the railway has been built, the question of slavery would not be completely solved, and that there is a large number of slaves on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba whose fate would not be mitigated by any action which we might take on the mainland; but we do not yield to any of our predecessors in a desire to put down the slave trade, and any steps that can reasonably be asked of us we shall be willing and glad to take. [Cheers.] But, in the present circumstances, to ask us, as we are asked by this Amendment, to take immediate action in regard to a place from which we have not yet been in office long enough to receive despatches, and to require us to fulfil an obligation which no Administration, situated as we are, could possibly be expected to fulfil, is, I think the Committee will feel, to make wholly unreasonable demand upon us; and I trust, after the declaration I have now made, that we shall not be put to the trouble of dividing upon it. ["Hear, hear!"]
MR. PARKER SMITH
said he desired to make a personal explanation. He regretted to find that, in some words which he uttered, he had offended a distinguished new Member of the House. All that his words had been intended to convey was that the hon. Member held an exaggerated view of his position, and he wished to withdraw any expression which he had used which might be taken to convey anything beyond a judgment on his speech. In regard to the statement just made by the First Lord of the Treasury, it appeared to him to endorse completely what had been said by the late Government, and to go a long way towards satisfying his mind on the matter the Committee had been discussing. ["Hear, hear!"] What they wished the Government to 511 say was that they were determined that slavery should be abolished in these islands, and that promptly. The details must of course be left to them. That, he understood was practically the declaration of the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ MR. DALZIEL
remarked, that the right hon. Gentleman had been slightly in error in saying that the Amendment was put forward in order to condemn what he characterised as the slackness of the Government in regard to this question. The Amendment had been put forward in order to get a declaration from the Government that they would stand by the pledge given by their predecessors in office, and do everything in their power with the least possible delay to bring about the abolition of slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba. It was because, throughout the whole of the Debate that had taken place, they had not had that pledge that the discussion had been carried on. He was prepared to recognise that the declaration the right hon. Gentleman had made went a very long way in that direction. He said the Government stood by their predecessors in regard to this matter, and if so, they had got what they were contending for. As to the time taken for despatches to reach Zanzibar, the right hon. Gentleman should remember that in the Debate in February there was no consideration shown to the late Government on that score.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, the present Government also had been in office before, and it had been because they were aware of the facts that they took up such a strong point in condemning the late Government. If, however, they now got a pledge that no further delay would be allowed to take place in regard to this question, and that the Government would do everything in their power to abolish slavery, that Debate would have had some useful result.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
was bound to say that the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman did not go anything like as far as the hon. Member opposite or his hon. friend thought. If he gave a pledge that plantation slavery would be stopped upon the islands within some reasonable time—a few years—that would be a distinct pledge. 512 He did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to say anything of the sort; on the contrary, the impression conveyed to him was that the Government were determined to take no steps to abolish this slavery until they had proceeded first with the vast project of a railway into Central Africa, which could not be completed in a short term of years. This question, he contended, was quite apart from that of the railway. Zanzibar and Pemba were as much under our administration as the Isle of Wight, and yet we were keeping up there the most profitable slave market in the whole African Continent. Slavery on these islands under our control was quite apart from the question of slavery on the West Coast of Africa. They asked that the Government should lay down the principle that slavery should be stopped in these islands, and should direct their subordinates to carry it out. They expected the Government to take up some other position, than that of having no information.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, the Government never took up that position. It was in regard to the methods of carrying out their policy that he had referred when he spoke of the length of time taken by the despatches. That question was very difficult and complex, and it would be impossible to say more upon it until ampler communications had been received.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said, the hon Member for the Particle Division of Glasgow put his own view, and, he understood, the Leader of the House assented to it. That was in regard to the pledge given by the Government's predecessors. On the occasion when the pledge was given, the Under Secretary of State said—he had asked for a Report, not as to whether the thing could be done, but as to the best means of doing it, and he had said that the thing had got to be done. That pledge he now understood the Leader of the House to give.
§ *MR. FLYNN
asked leave to withdraw his Amendment, on the distinct under- 513 standing, by the Leader of the House, that the Government would deal at the earliest moment with this gigantic evil.
§ Amendment by leave withdrawn.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ *Mr. E. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.) moved to reduce the vote by £17,717, contending that no further increase of grants should be made for light railways in Ireland so long as grants were not given in England and Scotland. An Hon. Member from Ireland yesterday dwelt on the injustice of the general taxpayer having to contribute to the maintenance of works or local requirements that concerned and benefited London only, and on exactly the same grounds he objected to the English taxpayer being called on to pay for the construction of light railways in Ireland so long as like assistance was denied to England and Scotland. In the late Parliament the hon. Member for the Thirsk Division (Mr. Grant Lawson) complained a good deal of the advances that were made to Ireland out of the Imperial purse, while no such grants were made to England. Therefore, in the course he had adopted, he hoped to have the support of that hon. Member, and of other Members on both sides of the House, who represented English agricultural constituencies, and who should object to money being voted to Ireland in increased amounts every year for light railways, while England and Scotland could get no assistance of a like kind, although they wanted light railways in many districts quite as much as Ireland. It might be said that in regard to Ireland this was only an exceptional matter—that the grants were made because of the great distress prevailing in that country, and that therefore Ireland should be treated somewhat differently from the other parts of the United Kingdom. If the Secretary to the Treasury was inclined to rely on that argument, he would remind him that in the last Parliament the present Chancellor of the Exchequer held that what was 514 granted to Ireland should be granted to the rest of the United Kingdom if it was required, that the main object of the grants referred to was not to relieve people who were in distress, but rather to enable the fruit, fish, and market produce of the country to be conveyed more cheaply and quickly to market. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that what was good for Ireland in this respect must be good for many parts of England. He defied the Government to get over that argument, or the statement that many agricultural districts in England and Scotland needed assistance quite as much as Ireland. He based his opposition to the present Vote on the ground that no Government ought to continue to ask them to vote money any further in increased amounts year by year to Ireland for light railways, unless they were prepared to apply the same principle towards England and Scotland. They had been told it was intended a Bill should be introduced this Session to grant a large sum of money for the construction of a light railway in the West Highlands of Scotland. That being so, it showed that the present Government were prepared to do for Scotland what had been done for Ireland, while neglecting England. He asked the Government whether it was their intention to go on pouring money into Ireland while they did nothing whatever for English agriculturists on the same lines? He would not argue the point as to whether it was right or not to give those Imperial guarantees and grants for railways at all; all he contended was that they ought not to go on year by year increasing those grants to Ireland until the point was finally settled whether or not the policy of making grants for the construction of light railways should be applied to the whole of Great Britain and Ireland or abandoned altogether. He proposed to reduce the Vote by £17,000 odd, the amount of the increased grant this year.
§ MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
said he wished to direct the attention of the Treasury to an item of £4,000 for the Cavan and Leitrim Light Railway. The railway was constructed under the Act of 1883, and under that Act the Government were to give a contribution of 2 per cent. and the baronies 3 per cent. The work of carrying out the line was given into the hands of a close body, 515 —the Grand Jury—and the result was that the railway was over-capitalised. Landlords were given 33 years' purchase for their land instead of 15 or 16 years.
§ MR. E. CARSON (Dublin University)
asked the hon. Member whether he could give any particular case?
§ MR. TULLY
said he would give one, that of Mr. Lawlor, who also engineered the line. The cost of the line, which was 48 miles long, was £202,000. That had been a tax since 1885 not only on the Treasury but also on the ratepayers of Cavan and Leitrim. In Leitrim the tax was levied on a valuation of about £63,000 and in Cavan on £31,000. In Cavan the tax was 9d. per £ half-yearly, and in Leitrim 1s. 2d., and he had calculated that for the past 10 years the tax levied on the people of these counties amounted to nearly as much as the cost of the construction of the railway. In 1893 he introduced a Bill dealing with the question of the tax, and having been supported by hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House, it received the Royal Assent on the 27th June. The object of the Act was to capitalise the Treasury contributions for such railways, and to use the sum for the purpose of extinguishing the share capital and reducing the tax on the ratepayers. As soon as there was a prospect of the Bill becoming law, the shares of the Cavan and Leitrim Railway were artificially driven up in the market, and steps were taken by the astute gentlemen connected with the line to get hold of the Treasury money at the enhanced valuation. He therefore advised the Treasury to scan very carefully any proposals that were made while the shares were at their present figure. Those gentlemen looked on English gold as fair game, and were ready to make a grasp for it, but those who represented the general public of Ireland in that House thought the ordinary taxpayer and the poor should share in the utilisation of the money. It was therefore in the interest of the people he represented that he advised the Treasury to be cautious, and not to entertain any proposal of the character referred to until such time as the shares of the railway had resumed their normal value. With regard to the Tralee and Dingle line, the shares of which were at par, it would be a very good thing for the people of Kerry if the Treasury contribution was capitalised. 516 If in the case of the Cavan and Leitrim Line, and the Clogher Valley Line, it was seen that the Treasury Official having control was determined that no shady transactions should take place, a very healthy effect would be produced, and substantial benefit would accrue to the people. The Act of last June said, that the Treasury might make increased provision for securing the public interests by appointing directors, and providing in other ways for any modern changes in the management of the Companies. He trusted that the Secretary to the Treasury would insist on having that portion of the Act enforced when he came to deal with the question of the extinction of the Treasury contribution towards these railways by capitalisation. At present no effective control was exercised, either by the Government, who supplied the 2 per cent. guarantee, or by the cess-payer, who paid 3 per cent. Under the Act of 1893, a semblance of public control was provided for by the provision that the Grand Juries should elect a certain proportion of the directors. The Grand Juries, however, were close bodies; the Jurors were the nominees of the Sheriff and were not elected, and they were prone to appoint their own friends as directors. Now, however, the Act passed last June gave power to the Treasury to insist that in future there should be some effective control by the cess-payers, and he trusted that that power would be used, and that directors would be appointed who would prefer the public interests to the interests of small rings of speculators.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
urged that light railways would benefit Wales as much as England or Scotland, for no part of the kingdom was better suited for the purpose than the hilly and mountainous districts of the Principality. In the Principality, during the General Election, the most effective charge brought against the late Government was that they had done nothing to promote the construction of light railways in Wales. The Party represented by hon. Members opposite promised that if the present Government were returned to power by the help of the Welsh people, one of the first things that would be done would be the organisation of a complete system of light railways for Wales. He trusted that the Government would see their way to 517 give effect to the promises so lavishly made by their supporters.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, that he shared many of the opinions expressed by the hon. Member opposite, but he could not agree with the hon. Member that the reduction moved by him ought to be carried. He approved his promises but denied his conclusion. If light railways were good for Ireland they might be good for England, and the two propositions were not antagonistic, but consistent. Of the value of light railways in Ireland there could be no question; but they might be improved in certain respects. His own view was that the railways—over several of which he had gone during construction—were not sufficiently light. They formed part, however, of the best industrial policy ever initiated for Ireland. That country was dependent upon her agriculture and fisheries, which were capable of great development, and which would be helped greatly by such railways as that from Skibbereen to Baltimore, especially if they were continued to the watersides. This industrial policy, if apparently costly, was really economical even to England. We made certain demands upon Ireland, and insisted upon certain trade and industrial restrictions, and there was consequently a reciprocal obligation upon us to consider her circumstances and to treat her with generosity. If England was the predominant partner, Ireland was the poorer partner. The railways had been constructed by the authority of Parliament, under conditions which were well understood in the House. To depart from the policy which had thus been initiated, or to refuse to carry it out, would not be consistent; it would in fact be a breach of Parliamentary faith and contract, and was therefore not open to us. There was no justification for challenging these railways on the ground of excessive cost, having regard to the principles of their construction. In hardly any instance had the estimate of the cost of construction been exceeded. The estimate respecting the railway from Galway to Clifden was £274,600, and the expenditure upon it had only been £259,601. The estimate for the Baltimore and Skibbereen Railway was £56,700, and the expenditure upon it had been £55,749. These were but two examples out of several completed railways. He could not help thinking 518 that light railways would be useful in England and Scotland also, and that the agricultural interest were bound to look forward to their establishment as one practical means of relieving the present distressed state of agriculture. There had, as the Committee knew, been a conference upon the subject at the Board of Trade, and he trusted that a Bill based upon the conclusions arrived at by the conference would be introduced by the Government. But, of course, light railways could not be constructed in England and Scotland for nothing. A striking example of their value was supplied by Belgium, where they were constructed with contributions from the State, the localities, and private enterprise, and the refusal of the late Chancellor to pledge the State to anything had marred the Conference, and this principle made the reform as impossible as the refusal of the spokesman of the agricultural interest to contribute anything for it also did. He was ready to pay his tribute to the past results of private enterprise in this country, but looking abroad and seeing what the State was doing for many of the countries competing with us, giving those countries comparatively low rates, and remembering that, owing to their being dependent solely on private enterprise, our railways were over-capitalised to a great extent, and that owing to this fact, we had railway rates which were depressing the industry of agriculture—he was of opinion that in this matter of communications, the State, the locality and private persons ought each to contribute to the cost.
reminded the hon. Member that the question was not light railways in general, and therefore it was not within his competence to deal with that matter on this occasion. He could take exception to the Vote on the ground that no money was set apart for light railways in England, but he could not go further than that.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
bowed at once to the Chairman's ruling, and had only further to express the hope that his hon. Friend who proposed to speak in the name of agriculture would not interpose an obstacle in the shape of this Amendment to a policy which, provided the conditions were fulfilled, might be a source of great additional prosperity for all branches of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. J. BRYCE
remarked that those members who were in the last Parliament would be aware that the object of his hon. Friend was not to injure light railways in Ireland but to get a subsidy for light railways in England.
§ *MR. STRACHEY
No; I was careful not to go into the question whether it was right to give a Government guarantee or not. What he insisted on was that this House should not go on voting more money for light railways in Ireland until it settled whether England and Scotland and Ireland were to have like assistance as regarded light railway guarantees.
§ MR. BRYCE
pointed out that under the Chairman's ruling it was impossible on this Amendment to argue the question whether or not light railways should be constructed. He would remind the House that last Session the late Government brought in a Bill which he believed would have led to the construction of a large number of light railways without any subsidy whatever. He could not go into that question now, because it would be out of order; all he could do was to appeal to his hon. Friend not to press his Amendment, and so run the risk of stopping those light railways which had conferred such unquestionable advantage upon Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said, if hon. Gentlemen from England thought Ireland was getting too much, they would have to go into much larger questions than that of light railways, even the question of the financial relations of the Three Kingdoms. What was Ireland's proper proportion, what was the present expenditure, and what was the bargain at the time of the Union? He protested against the higgling policy with regard to a poor country which was embodied in the hon. Member's Amendment. On this Vote, however, he thought the Committee was entitled to be informed as to the attitude and policy of the Government with regard to light railways. This was not a mere Treasury matter; it was a matter of Imperial policy. In a week's time the Committee would vote money on Uganda. He should cordially support that Vote, believing it was a proper policy for Her Majesty's Government to adopt. In the same way, he thought Irish Members were entitled to some statement from the Government of their views with regard to expenditure in 520 Ireland. And finally, with regard to the Cavan and Leitrim railway, he concurred in the view that the Treasury should not give a penny over par for the shares. They should not go into the market and say: "We will buy these shares at the market price," in order to gratify a few individuals. Why were the shares now over par? It was because there was an expectation that the persons who held shares would hold on to them—because of course they had an imperial guarantee of 2 per cent.—in the expectation that the outcry in Cavan would be so great that the British Treasury would be forced into buying at an extravagant price. No; his advice to the Treasury was not to give over par, or much above par, for the shares. It would be a mercy if they took up that attitude, not merely to a few hundreds, but to the general public, because the general public, if they thought these shares would be bought up by the Treasury at a given figure, would become the victims of the stock jobbing fraternity. A statement from the Treasury that they would not give much above par would tend to the safety of innocent persons, and it would be an act of justifiable retaliation on the gentleman who had made an extravagant demand for the shares.
§ *MAJOR PRYCE JONES (Montgomery District)
alluding to the promises which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Denbighshire (Sir G. Osborne Morgan) alleged were made at the General Election by the Unionist candidates in Wales, observed that so far as he was aware no such promises were made or could be made by any candidate on behalf of any Party or any Government. For his part he regretted that the Estimates contained no Votes for the construction of light railways in the Principality.
THE CHAIRMAN (interposing)
I am loth to interfere with the hon. Member, as he is a new Member. I have, therefore, given him the opportunity of replying to a statement made from the opposite side of the House, but I must remind him that he must now confine his remarks entirely to the subject-matter of this Vote, namely, light railways in Ireland.
§ *MAJOR PRYCE-JONES
again expressed his regret that there was no provision in the Estimates of this year with regard to light railways in Wales. 521 The Government of the day, however, were not responsible for the Estimates, which were those of the late Government. He hoped that next year, when the new Estimates were brought in, that the present Government would do something in this direction, not only for Wales but for England also. If provision had been made in the present Estimates for the construction of light railways in Wales it would have tended to prevent the decrease in trade and diminution of the population which were now so noticeable in the Principality.
I am afraid I must remind the hon. Member that he must confine his remarks to the question of light railways in Ireland, and it is quite out of order to-night to discuss any scheme, either in general or particular, with regard to light railways in any other part of the country.
§ *MAJOR PRYCE-JONES
desired on behalf of the Unionists in Wales to say they had every confidence that the present Government would, in due time, do something for Wales.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
observed that the amount devoted to the construction of light railways in Ireland was smaller than most people thought. The lowest estimate for the construction of the suggested railway in Central Africa was £1,700,000, whilst the total sums spent on light railways in Ireland, under the scheme of the Leader of the House, had been only about £1,200,000, including the Estimate in this year. The money which had been so expended in Ireland had done a great deal of good to the country, and compared favourably with previous schemes which had laid large burdens on the ratepayers. The Irish Members had no objection to sums being voted for light railways in England, and when the time came for making proposals of that kind they should be glad to support them. With regard to the question of guarantee in the case of the Cavan, Leitrim and Ross-common Railway, the Secretary to the Treasury would have to be on his guard against persons who would approach him on behalf of the shareholders of the line. He would especially warn him to be on his guard when he came in contact with Messrs. Fottrell, solicitors of Dublin. These gentlemen were Home Rulers, so that he was not treating the matter from a political point of view. 522 The Messrs. Fottrell, at the time the Bill which had been referred to was stopped in the House of Lords, in 1894, owing to the efforts of an official who came over from Ireland, issued a circular, which was sent to the Member for South Antrim among others, which stated in so many terms that this scheme of commutation might be made the means of running up the shares. They were run up, and they were still artificially kept up above the natural figure, in order that big terms might be got out of the British Treasury. If the right hon. Gentleman found that any local people were backing up the shareholders in this demand and wanted any support against them, the Irish Members would be glad to do the utmost in their power to help him to secure an honest bargain. If there was any reorganisation of this line it would be essential that some alteration should be made with regard to the audit, so that power might be given to the Treasury, on the representation of the auditor, to insist on certain economies and reforms which might be necessary in the management of the line. In conducting these difficult negotiations the Irish Members would be glad to give the right hon. Gentleman any help they could, in order that the arrangements might be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ *THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
, thought the hon. Member for Somersetshire had moved his Amendment under a complete misapprehension. The hon. Gentleman appeared to be under the impression that this was a question of a further grant to Ireland. It was nothing of the sort, there was no additional grant, and the Estimate was simply for carrying out the statutory obligations incurred in previous years, by which the House was pledged to spend so much upon light railways. The main point in this discussion had had regard to the Cavan, Leitrim and Rosscommon Railway. The hon. Member who had first raised this question had made one or two practical suggestions with reference to the action of the Treasury under an important Bill which was introduced and passed during the last Session, and that appeal, which had been backed up by other of the him. Member's colleagues, should certainly receive the attention of the Treasury. So far as he understood the 523 contention, the hon. Member was afraid that the Treasury might use the powers of that Act, which were given to capitalise the Government contributions, and might buy up the shares of the line not at par, but when they had been run up to an extravagant price. He could promise that the Treasury would give every attention to the matter, and there was no possibility of their thinking of engaging in the extravagant expenditure the hon. Member had mentioned. He understood the hon. Gentleman to say that under the Act of last Session powers of further control over the management of the line were given to the Government, who could appoint additional directors under the scheme of commutation. He should imagine that the Treasury would only be too glad to exercise any powers they might have which would ensure that the expenditure on railways should be better controlled, and that they should also have better security. He thought he had answered all the points raised with regard to this particular railroad, and shown the hon. Member that he moved the reduction under a complete misapprehension. He hoped they would now be allowed to take the Vote, in which case they would be able to report progress.
§ MR. H. BROADHURST (Leicester)
appealed to his hon. Friend to withdraw the Amendment, inasmuch as all of them could not go so far as to support him, because, in the main, they approved of the policy of the grant to the Irish railways. The hon. Member had, however, rendered some service to the House in raising the point, because he had enabled hon. Gentlemen who had had practical experience of the working of the measures in question, to show the Government the weak parts of the system, and, no doubt, to cause them to guard against the repetition of those weaknesses in any Bills of a similar nature they might propose for other portions of the United Kingdom. If the Leader of the House could say that the Government would consider, at the earliest possible moment, whether it would be wise to propose similar schemes for other parts of the United Kingdom, he might thus meet the demand made on the Motion of the hon. Member for Somerset. There were, no doubt, other parts of the United Kingdom besides Ireland where light railways would be of some public service, 524 but, so far as he had ascertained, the opinions of those engaged in agriculture in the greater part of England attached no great importance to the construction of light railways.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, he had not intended to say a word upon this occasion, but as the hon. Gentleman had appealed to him personally, he desired to say that this plan for dealing with agricultural depression, like all plans, would be considered by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. PERCY THORNTON (Clapham)
regretted that something had not been done to improve matters at Baltimore and Skibbereen, as at present the good work of Father Dennis was greatly frustrated by the fact that at low tide it was impossible to land the fish which had been caught.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon District)
asked if it was not possible to lay on the Table some information with regard to the working of light railways in Ireland, in the same way as information was afforded as to the working of such railways abroad?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported to-morrow; Committee to sit again to-morrow.