§ MR. D. E. GODDARD (Ipswich)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that, in a recent speech at Liverpool, Sir William E. Maxwell, K.C.M.G., Governor of the Gold Coast, stated that it would be proposed to make it impossible for the native chiefs to make any concession of land without the concurrence of the Governor; whether the native chiefs will be consulted before such a proposal becomes law; and whether the Colonial Office has sanctioned this policy?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
Yes, Sir: I have sanctioned this policy, and there are good reasons for it. ["Hear, hear!"] The land laws and land customs of West Africa are different from the law of land tenure in England, while the concessions are framed in the language of English conveyancing, and purport to convey the fee simple or to grant a lease with the conditions which are incident to such transaction here, but are probably unintelligible to the native signing the instruments. It is uncertain how far native chiefs possess the right of making 820 alienations of this character for their own benefit, and in some instances concessions have been brought to the local Government for approval which have proved to be signed by men who had no title in the land. In the interest of all the native tribes and chiefs, as well as of British investors, it is essential that the local Government should be able to see that such transactions are made in good faith and on reasonable terms, and that the conditions are thoroughly understood by the natives. ["Hear, hear!"]