§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER, Chairman of Committees, in the Chair.]
§ Progress, 9th June.
Question again proposed:—
That it is expedient to make provision for the construction of a Railway in Africa from Mombasa to the Victoria Nyanza, through the Protectorates of Zanzibar, British East Africa, and Uganda, and to authorise the issue, out of the Consolidated Fund, of any sums not exceeding in the whole £3,000,000 for that purpose; and to authorise the Treasury to borrow, for the purpose of providing money for sums to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund, or for the repayment of sums so issued, by means of Terminable Annuities, such Annuities to be paid out of moneys to be provided by Parliament for Foreign and Colonial Services, and, if those moneys are insufficient, out of the Consolidated Fund."—(Mr. Hanbury.)
§ Debate resumed.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said that it was impossible for those who had consistently opposed all these proposals for a railway to Uganda to allow this Vote to pass unchallenged. Though he could not complain if the Government desired to reserve the statement till Second Reading, he did complain that no Papers had been laid on the Table to show the changes which had been made with regard to the nature and cost of this railway in the scheme of the Government's 554 predecessors. Repeated and serious changes must have occurred under successive Governments, because the sums asked for had varied; and the present Government contemplated a much larger expenditure than the late Government. He did not complain of that in itself, because previous estimates were founded on very imperfect data. No one could tell what the cost of this railway would be, and much less what would be its probable returns. The Mombasa Railway Survey, the results of which were laid before the House two years ago, led to an estimate of £2,210,000 as the probable cost of the railway; but it was admitted in that Report that there would be a deficit on the working expenses of the line. The present Government did not anticipate such a deficit, because, in answer to a recent Question, the Secretary to the Treasury said, "The excess of receipts over working expenses will be paid into the Exchequer." Did the right hon. Gentleman really anticipate an excess of receipts over expenses? Then the late Government thought the line might be made more cheaply by abandoning the idea of bringing native labour from India, and employing the labour to be obtained on the spot. Was that the scheme of the present Government; because there had been repeated renewals of fighting; since the late Government thought that the country was quiet enough for the employment of African labour? A principal objection to this railway was that it was a defiance of natural conditions, and attempted artifically to divert trade-routes—a thing which had never been successfully done. Trade-routes were very permanent. They were maintained over flat country and along water-ways. This railway went over the highlands to Uganda—a route which trade had never followed. As the War Office Report of 1892 pointed out, it had chosen the easiest and most circuitous route. From a commercial point of view, therefore, the railway was almost certain to be a failure. He did not speak as one who was opposed under all circumstances to the extension of the responsibilities of the Empire. It was a matter of time and place in each instance. But at this particular moment of our history he was disposed to view such proposals negatively, especially when they involved 555 operations at a long distance from the naval base. Our position now was difficult. We had many rivals and possible enemies, and we ought rather to strain every effort to maintain our defensive position. Our military system was not suited to this territorial extension in the interior. It had already broken down, and schemes were now before Parliament for remedying the deficiencies. But many hon. Members would join in opposing this particular extension to Uganda.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said that he had only mentioned that point lest it should be made a matter of reproach against him. The railway had been recommended by the late and the present Government on the ground that it would pass through and open up a healthy district capable of plantation by Europeans. The line would indeed pass through high altitudes, but it was a great mistake to suppose that they were districts which were likely to be the scene of prosperous European colonisation. At the Geographical Conference held in London last year, two men of great authority spoke in relation to this question—Mr. Silva White and Mr. Raven-stein. No more competent authorities on the subject of the future of the highlands through which the railway would pass could be found, and they agreed in saying that those highlands were not, in the opinion of scientific African explorers, likely to have a great future; that they offered no prospect for the acclimatisation of the white race; that a fall in temperature did not make up, in regard to health, for the absence of seasonable change; and that allowance was not made by Governments for the great humidity of those parts. They added that unless this part of the country was rich in minerals—of which there "was not the slightest evidence at present—there was not much chance for its development, and that it was unsuitable for European colonisation. In conclusion he would merely add that he believed this railway would not only involve this country in enormous expense at the beginning, but would be the cause of a continual deficit year by year and a constant drain on the taxpayer. [Cheers.]
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
said it was too late in the day now to discuss the principle of the Uganda Railway. That had been decided by a vote of the majority of the House during the administration of the late Government, and was accepted by a unanimous vote of the House in August last, when the present Government came into Office. The right hon. Baronet said, in the first place, that there appeared to have been considerable changes in the financial scheme which the Committee were invited to accept, and he complained that no Papers had been laid before the House explaining or justifying those changes. The only Papers that could be laid before the House relevant to the matter since last year had been the private accounts of the proceedings of the Committee which had been sitting every fortnight in the Foreign Office to carry out the details for the making of this railway. So far from no Papers having been laid, the right hon. Baronet surely must have seen the Paper laid before the House a few weeks ago, which contained a summary of the proceedings of that Committee. It appeared to him that they had in that document as clear and concise an account as could possibly be desired of the circumstances under which the Government had decided to bring in this Bill, and to ask for £3,000,000. The right hon. Baronet justly pointed out that the original estimate of Major MacDonald was for a total sum of £2,240,000, and as against that he set the estimate arrived at by the Committee of experts, which sat during the time of the late Government, and which reduced the total sum to £1,755,000. But the right hon. Baronet omitted to state what was the method by which that reduction was arrived at. It was produced, in the first place, by reducing the gauge of the railway. Major MacDonald proposed 3 feet 6 inches, the Committee reduced it to 3 feet. They reduced the weight of the rails from 50 lb. to 35 lb. They allowed the minimum amount of stations and rolling stock, and they limited in every possible particular to the barest requirements the provisions which had to be made for the railway. That was a clear explanation of the causes of the 557 difference between the original estimate of Major MacDonald and the reduced estimate, framed on principles of economy, by the Committee of experts of 1895. The present Government had preferred to go back to the original estimate of the engineer who surveyed the whole route—[cheers]—and in asking for £3,000,000 they were asking for rather more than the original estimate. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: "Hear, hear!" Why did the Government ask for more? The reason was that no very detailed surveys of parts of the line had been taken. It was by no means certain in respect to certain parts what route would be actually adopted. They could not even be certain what amount of bridging, when they came to particular spots, would be required. As prudent business men, therefore, the Government had thought it right to allow a margin, and, instead of asking for the precise sum which appeared in the original estimate, they had asked for a sum of £3,000,000. ["Hear, hear!"] In regard to the question of labour, the Government would be only too happy to employ both native and Indian labour. At present, owing to the dearth of native labour, they had been compelled to go to India for the supply of labour, and there were now about 3,000 coolies engaged in the work of constructing the line. As the work advanced further into the interior it was hoped that the native tribes might come in and work for wages, thereby permitting of a reduction of the coolie establishment. One thing, at any rate, the Government had resolved upon. No forced labour had been, was, or was going to be, employed on the work. [Cheers.] The work would be done entirely by free and paid labour—[cheers]—and it did not seem to him to matter much whether that labour came from India or was provided on the spot. [Cheers.] What the Government desired was that the work should be well and economically done. "Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Baronet had indulged in the familiar apprehensions of trouble on the route, and he alluded, not unnaturally, to an unfortunate incident that happened in the early part of the year, when a caravan was attacked by the Masai. From this circumstance the right hon. Baronet considered that the prospects of the railway's engineers 558 would be bad. He was happy to be able to tell the Committee, however, that this was an isolated incident, which arose from a misapprehension. A large caravan of Swaheli porters was returning to the coast when some of their number made an irruption at night into a Masai camp. Upon this a large number of the Masai rushed to their arms, and practically butchered the whole caravan. It was a most lamentable incident, but it arose out of a nocturnal blunder. Such a thing happened sometimes even in organised warfare, and it was still more likely to occur in such a country as this. The matter had been composed, and the Masai were ready, he believed, to give assistance in constructing the line when the operations reached their country. In reference to the question of climate, he confessed that there was a division of authority among experts. Mr. Silva White and Mr. Raven-stein had, no doubt, spoken in somewhat uncomplimentary terms of the climate of the plateau through which the railway would pass; but Sir John Kirk, who was in those parts a greater authority than either of the two gentlemen named, said that in his experience there was not a more healthy part of the continent than this particular plateau. With this conflict of opinion the Government, he thought, might be permitted to rely on the opinion of Sir John Kirk. ["Hear, hear!" Any further discussion on the wider principles involved in the matter should, he thought, be reserved for the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said he had throughout been opposed to the scheme of the construction of the railway to Uganda, and he claimed the right to challenge it whenever possible. In these matters he did not take a Party view. He took a patriot's view—[Ministerial laughter]—and, as a patriot, and one of the guardians of the public purse, he had always protested and should always protest against this great waste of public money. One of his reasons for opposing annexation was that he knew perfectly well that, directly they annexed some wretched, miserable jungle in the centre of Africa they would be called upon to build a railroad to it. ["Hear, hear!"] He denied that Uganda, admitted to be 559 worthless by successive Governments, would ever be made valuable by the building of a railroad to it. He denied that there were products there which could be brought to the coast with any possibility of advantage. The Africans were a lazy people. If an African could get another African to work for him he did so, and if they really wanted to carry out a system of large crops they Lad better not only allow, as they did at present, domestic servitude, but establish the slave trade in all its horrors. It was hoped to establish a trade for their manufactured goods in this part of the world. Every country had its advantages and so had Africa. It had the advantage of a hot climate and consequently they did not require clothes. [Laughter.] So far as he had ever been able to gather, the African was a simple-minded and somewhat practical man. All he wanted off foreign countries was a little gin if he could possibly get it, and a gun with which to shoot his neighbour if he could possibly get the chance of shooting him. [Laughter.] The only things he wanted they refused to supply him with. [Laughter.] It was quite proper that they should refuse, but if they thought the Ugandese were going to labour and toil in order to get what they in this country considered necessary for them they were thoroughly mistaken. Of course the old argument had been used that, if they established this railway, the slave trade would be done away with. It had been proved over and over again, by men who had looked into the matter very closely, that the railroad would do nothing of the sort, because slaves from Uganda and the surrounding country did not pass down to Mombasa and the coast through British territory, but through Portuguese territory, and, to a certain extent, through German territory. The slaves that were brought down from the interior were employed in Zanzibar and in the island of Pemba, and he was perfectly certain that, if they put an end to slavery in Pemba and on the coast, they would do far more to stop the slave trade in that part of Africa than they could by the building of this railway. His right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean had already pointed out that the estimate had gone up. 560 Major MacDonald laid it down that the maximum cost would be £2,240,000.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
said if the hon. Member would look at the original return, he would find that that did not include the further works which Major MacDonald thought might be necessary.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said he did not understand that these further works were to be established. But last year they were told that this estimate was in excess, and that the railroad would cost £1,750,000. Now they had suddenly sprung upon them a demand for £3,000,000, and there was not the slightest guarantee that still more would not be asked for. They might take it that, if they were really going to build this railroad, it would cost in all probability £5,000,000 rather than £3,000,000. ["Hear, hear!"] His right hon. Friend also pointed out that about G00 miles of the country through which the railroad would pass was a desert, inhabited by fierce savages in the main. [Ministerial laughter.] The Under Secretary smiled, but he admitted that he had not been there—[laughter]—and he hoped he would not go, because they would be very sorry to lose him. [Laughter.] What was the Under Secretary's explanation of what had occurred a short time ago? They were told in August last that the Masai had become a sort of missionary people—[laughter]—longing to welcome the English with open arms. Since then they butchered a caravan, but the right hon. Gentleman said they must excuse that; it was a little going back to their old nature; it was quite a misapprehension. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman did not explain what the misapprehension was, but when he told them that these Masai were the best of human beings he asked the Committee whether they could seriously accept his estimate of these people. The right hon. Gentleman also told them that the climate was excellent. All he knew was that about 60 per cent. of the English officers who had been sent there were dead—["hear, hear!"]—and that those who had come home had come back so utterly ruined in health that they were hardly worth anything. ["Hear, hear!"] He 561 thought it was a dispensation of Providence that Europeans should be unable to live in some parts of Africa. [Laughter.] If it were otherwise, so greedy were they that they would either destroy or reduce to servitude the whole African continent, and establish themselves there as the masters. ["Hear, hear!"] He would ask the Committee to seriously consider what it was they were undertaking. He would put the cost at £3,000,000. That, at 3 per cent. was £90,000 a year. Major MacDonald put down the requirements at one train per week, and he estimated—though he believed this was a very sanguine estimate—that the gross receipts would be "£61,000, but that the working expenses would be £07,000. He was not a railway director himself, but he should like an hon. Member who was to tell him whether it was possible to pay all the expenses of a railway in Africa and to maintain it on £07,000 a year. His own impression was, not only that the railway would cost more than £3,000,000, but that they would have to pay some £40,000 or £50,000 per annum to keep going a railway that nobody wanted. It started from nowhere, and nobody wanted to use it. It went nowhere, and no one wanted to come back by it. [Laughter.] In his opinion this money would be absolutely thrown away. If the Government really wanted to spend money to increase the area of their commerce, surely they could have found a better place than the centre of Africa. It would be a better speculation to spend money in making a railway in Siam rather than Central Africa. It would be even better to make a railway in South Africa than to Ugunda, where there were no European settlers to make use of them. If the Government were really so anxious to spend this money, why should they not appropriate it towards the construction of light railways in the Highlands of Scotland? This wild proposal to make speculative railways in the tropics of Africa was absurd on the face of it. He had been called a "Little Englander," for the part that he had taken in this matter, but it did not much matter to him what he was called. He was in favour of the extension of our commerce by every legitimate means at our command, but he asked the House to be guided by common 562 sense and to lay out the money of the country to the best advantage. Let hon. Members put aside Party feeling in connection with this subject and ask themselves whether this railway, upon which they were asked to spend three or four millions, was ever likely to pay or to be of any advantage whatever to this country. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
said that he thought the Debate was proceeding on a somewhat low plane. Amongst the many subjects of great importance directly connected with this railway, only one—that of slavery—had been touched on, and the hon. Member who had just sat down had dealt with the subject of slavery in Africa, he would not say with ignorance, but with that partial exposition of knowledge with which he sometimes dealt with subjects where he was desirous of making out a good case on one side or the other. He believed that it was perfectly well known to the hon. Gentleman that the slavery in Africa of which he complained and of which Uganda was the nerve centre, consisted in the main in the practice of portage between the centre of the continent and the coast. It was owing to that practice that so many natives lost their lives, and therefore the construction of this railway would be the most serious blow that slavery in Central Africa could receive. ["Hear, hear!"] He confessed that he had been rather surprised that the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Lean, in which he attacked the proposal for the construction of this railway, had not been more forcible and more interesting. The right hon. Baronet had objected that the railway was intended to be used for the supply of our own officials in Uganda, but when the line was constructed the transport of goods which now cost £200 per ton between the coast and Uganda would only cost £7 per ton. He quite admitted the force of the phrase of the right hon. Baronet as to the difficulty of diverting traffic from its accustomed channels, but he appealed to the hon. Baronet himself to say whether, as soon as this line of railway was constructed, the traffic would not naturally flow along it instead of through the old channels by caravan. They ought not, however, to judge of the scheme solely upon 563 its own merits, without looking at the policy it was intended to carry into effect. This line would eventually link the finest harbour on the east coast to the backbone of Africa, which would afford unbroken communication between the north and south of that continent. Without this railway it would be difficult for England to establish a hold upon the key of Africa, which at the present time was Uganda. He did not wish to detain the Committee in reference to this subject upon that occasion, because he thought that the proper time for discussing it would be on the Second Reading of the Bill which was intended to carry out the Resolution, when, if the opponents of the railway really had a case, he supposed that stronger arguments against the proposal would be adduced than had been put forward against it that evening. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. R. W. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, when the proposal was first suggested, that this line of 657 miles could be constructed for £1,750,000, whereas now the cost was estimated at £3,000,000.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said that the line now proposed would be of a broader gauge and of more solid construction than that which was originally suggested.
§ *MR. PERKS
said that he was quite aware of that fact, but the alteration of gauge from 3 ft. to 3 ft. 6 ins., and the weight of rails from 35 lbs. to 50 lbs. did not account for that extra cost, nor did he see any reason to suppose that the estimate of £3,000,000 might not be largely exceeded. Taking the estimated cost of the line at £5,600, which appeared on page 9 of the Report as the ultimate cost per mile, that would give a total cost of £3,600,000, and even that would be less than the average cost of other railways in South Africa of the same gauge. He held in his hand a list of 10 such railways, the average cost of which was more than £8,000 per mile. It was said that the authorities had obtained no new information during the last six months, and that the House had nothing new beyond the few memoranda which certain gentlemen at the Foreign Office had put down on paper. Therefore, 564 the House was thrown back on a statement presented to the House in August 1895, which was brought up to date in the Treasury Minute of April last. That statement declared that no detailed surveys or specifications, or bills of quantities had been prepared, and added that were the Government to embark on the undertaking on such incomplete preliminaries, they would incur a very grave responsibility. The fact that these preliminaries had not been completed was given, he admitted, as a reason for not letting the contract, but it was also sufficient reason for the House not to plunge into this enormous expenditure without knowing what ultimate outlay they had to face. But the question arose, was this a railway at all? Was it not an undertaking in the nature of warlike operations? Every station was, according to the engineer's reports, to be a sort of little fort; the staff was to be a mobile military body, a sort of flying squadron on shore. [Laughter.] They were to be converted into a sort of military band for the protection of the passengers going up and coming down by the one train a week each way. It was gravely recommended that the water tanks should be capable of being converted into forts. What was to become of the passengers when the staff was away on warlike operations? Who was to collect the tickets? [Laughter.] Were the passengers to travel without tickets? The hon. Member for Northampton said there would be no traffic down this line. He thought, probably, the only traffic would be down the line. [Laughter.] But he might be asked: "Do you object to this railway?" Possibly he did not, but he ventured to point out that there was an alternative proposal in Major MacDonald's Report, which he ventured to say it would be wise to adopt. Major MacDonald said:—make a railway for a portion of the distance and treat the rest as a caravan route, and you can test the value of the experiment at a cost of £850,000.How would any business men set to work to build this railway? Not in the ridiculous way suggested by the gentlemen in the Colonial Office. Nothing more opposed to commercial ideas could 565 be invented. Would any limited company ever dream of going to the public to raise £3,000,000 without ascertaining what the line was to cost. Let the surveys be completed, let competent engineers accurately ascertain the cost, and then let the Government raise the money on Government credit at a low rate of interest, say 2¼ per cent., and place, as other Governments were accustomed to do, the work in the hands of people who would give a price for the work. The only truly economical and successful way of constructing such a line was to raise money on Government credit, and to do the work through substantial contractors. Therefore, he thought they were absolutely wasting their time in proposing to the country to embark at this stage this large sum of money in an investment which no reasonable business man would, with the present information, tolerate for five minutes. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said the House was asked to vote £3,000,000 to the Foreign Office to speculate in a railway from the coast to the interior of Africa. If this were done, the £3,000,000 would soon swell into £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. Even if a railway could be built for that price, the cost of keeping it up would be very great. He doubted if such a line as this could be made for less than £7,000 a mile, and as probably 800 miles would have to be made instead of 657, the cost would be £5,000,000. This was only the first cost. Did right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench know anything about the cost of upkeep? The annual cost of repairing bridges and culverts would amount to something like £300,000 a year. Why should Parliament spare £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, and take this responsibility on themselves I What good would be got from it? It was said that it would lead to the suppression of the slave trade. He doubted that very much. Both the present and former Governments had plenty of chances to do that. The present Government had evaded their responsibility, and had condoned slavery and supported it. He should oppose the Bill at every stage, believing that the £3,000,000 which it was proposed to spend on the construction of this railway could be much better expended at home. He feared that there 566 would be a good deal of bloodshed in the course of the construction of the line, and it would be necessary to renew the rails frequently, because the natives would be certain to appropriate them, and use the iron for their spears and other purposes. It was a harebrained scheme altogether.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
observed that the hon. Member who had just sat down admitted last August that the construction of the railway was only the logical outcome of the policy of the occupation of Uganda. That policy having been accepted by the country, what were the Government to do? Having assumed responsibility for the country, were they to utilise it or were they to leave it in a condition of barbarism? The country could not be utilised if the railway were not constructed, that view was taken by the late Government, and was accepted by the House last August. That being the case, it was a little hard, on a Motion of this kind, which was tantamount to a Motion for the introduction of a Bill, to raise the whole question over again. Much had been said as to the probability of traffic on this line. One thing was certain, there would be an enormous difference, if the railway was constructed, in the cost of carrying goods and merchandise between the lakes and the coast. Whereas the Government had now to pay £37,000 a year for the conveyance of stores between the coast and Uganda, that cost after the construction of the railway would be reduced to £6,500. A traffic of 3,500 tons, three trains being run each way per week, would pay practically the working expenses of the line. It had been said that the estimate for the railway was too low. He admitted that it was impossible for the Government to say that the estimate of three millions would not be exceeded, but it was made on the authority of a committee composed of gentlemen who were thoroughly competent to express an opinion. The committee consisted of Sir Percy Anderson, of the Foreign Office; Mr. O'Callaghan, who had been chief of the Railway Department in India, and who knew well the cost of constructing railways over a country very similar to that which the Uganda line would traverse; Sir Montagu Ommanney, who had been intrusted with the construction of 567 many railways in our colonies as Crown Agent; Mr. G. L. Ryder, of the Treasury; Sir Alexander Rendel, the consulting railway engineer of the Indian Government; and Sir John Kirk, who was better acquainted with the district in question than any other Englishman. It would have been impossible to obtain better authority for this estimate than the recommendation of a Committee such as that. Then it had been said that the estimate was based upon an insufficient survey. But was that survey so insufficient? With regard to the first 100 miles which it was proposed to cover during the present year, most detailed estimates had been furnished of the probable expenditure in respect of land in the cultivated belt, and on construction, permanent way, rolling stock, and administration. Estimates had been furnished with respect to each of these items, just as if they related to the construction of a railway in England. There were surveyors at the present moment at work among the very hills where the survey had not yet been completed. They were probably as safe as they would be in London, and one of them in a letter just received reported that the climate was as good as he could wish it to be. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought that the exaggerated statements that had been made in that Debate were due to the fact that hon. Members had not yet been able to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the details of this scheme. He hoped that they would now be allowed to pass this Resolution, which was only a preliminary to the introduction of the Bill.
§ *MR. C. P. SCOTT (Lancashire, Leigh)
said they were told it was not worth while to discuss the question of principle at this stage of the matter, and he did not know that they need now go into that question at any length, because there would be other opportunities of doing so. At the same time this must not be considered as having approved the principle. ["Hear, hear!"] It was worth while protesting against a mischievous principle at any time and at any stage. He could promise that on that side of the House some of them would do all in their power to protest against the construction of this railway whenever the opportunity might occur. But, even if they allowed that the principle 568 of this Measure was conceded, he supposed it was not asserted that they were bound to carry out the work at all costs. There must be some proportion, he assumed, between the cost and the return, and they were not to be asked to lavish millions of money—money contributed not by that House, but by the workers of this country—upon the sands of Africa. They were not to do the thing for the mere pleasure of doing it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told them this was the logical outcome of the policy of the occupation of Uganda. He thought they might take exception to that assertion. It was not so regarded by Sir Gerald Portal, who did not regard as at all necessary the construction of the whole of this line as proposed. ["Hear, hear!"] The utmost Sir Gerald Portal insisted upon was the construction of a part, and very much the easiest part, of the line, and they might appeal to the Government to give them some better reason than they had yet given for carrying the line beyond the "halfway-house," up to which point they had a fairly satisfactory and reliable survey. But when they came to the great escarpment of Kikuyu—then they were all at sea. They did not know how they were to get up the escarpment, or how they were to get down. [Laughter.] When they had got to the other side they were met by another great escarpment, and they did not know how they were going to get over that. They were told that the Government, in asking for these three millions, were doing a very businesslike thing, and that they desired to be regarded as men of business. He asked if there were any men of business in this country who would undertake to construct this line from the coast to the Victoria Nyanza for three millions. If so, he would be glad to be introduced to them—[laughter]—because they might be profitable persons to know. In the district which he represented a ditch had to be cut through a piece of country not many miles in extent, and of which, presumably, the conditions of construction might be supposed to be fairly well known. Eminent engineers were employed and expert opinions were received, and the result was that the original estimates had been exceeded about threefold. At the present 569 moment the great Corporation of Manchester was saddled with an enormous debt because it had embarked on an undertaking without seeing the end of it; it was begun without knowing how it was to be finished. This was exactly the case with the Uganda Railway. It was trifling with the House and squandering the taxpayers' money to ask it to begin on an enterprise of this magnitude with a calculation of costs so inadequate, and with a mixture of motives and allegation of reasons which were multifarious, but which did not make up by their multiplicity for their individual weakness. [Cheers.] He hoped that before the House was called upon to read the Bill founded on this Resolution a Second time, it might have something like a rational estimate of cost and a rational estimate of returns to be expected from this railway submitted to its consideration, and something like a definite and clear estimate of the great national advantages which were to be looked for when the railway was completed. ["Hear, hear!"] He would vote against the Resolution which embodied such an enormous and wasteful expenditure.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
thought that the hon. Gentleman had not taken the trouble to read the Report of the Committee which had been laid on the Table.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
replied that it was in these circumstances curious to note that the suggestion that the railway should stop 300 miles from the coast was looked upon as likely to throw the traffic on to the German line. He asked the hon. Gentleman whether any proposal was likely to be more popular in Lancashire than the proposal to open up new markets, and whether the Lancashire people did not recognise that the best way in which the Government could help the struggling industries of the country was to open up new markets by such undertakings as were provided for by this Resolution.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (Yorks, E.R., Holderness)
presumed that the Manchester Ship Canal, to which the hon. Gentleman opposite had referred, had been well surveyed and estimated for. If the illustration here given of the 570 expenditure exceeding the estimate was to hold good, did the hon. Gentleman not think that the country would be throwing away more money if they continued a closer survey in Uganda than had already been carried out?
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 255; Noes, 75.—(Division List, No. 306.)
That it is expedient to make provision for the construction of a Railway in Africa from Mombasa to the Victoria Nyanza, through the Protectorates of Zanzibar, British East Africa, and Uganda, and to authorise the issue, out of the Consolidated Fund, of any sums not exceeding in the whole £3,000,000 for that purpose; and to authorise the Treasury to borrow, for the purpose of providing money for sums to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund, or for the repayment of sums so issued, by means of terminable annuities, such annuities to be paid out of moneys to be provided by Parliament for Foreign and Colonial Services, and if those moneys are insufficient, out of the Consolidated Fund.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.