§ Vote for £270,181 (including a supplementary sum of £41,500) to complete the sum necessary to defray the charges of sundry Colonial services, including certain grants in aid.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
I have now to ask a Vote for a series of grants in aid of various Colonial services, but in rising at this stage, while I am prepared to defend all these Votes, I can only say I intend at the moment to ask for the consideration of the Committee for only those Votes which relate to the West Indies. It will be in the recollection of the Committee that somewhere about four months ago I had to ask for certain grants in aid in reference to the situation which was then established in the West Indies, and a sum of £120,000 was voted by a very large majority; but on that occasion I asked the Committee to be good enough to consider the suggested expenditure entirely on its merits, and I deprecated anything in the nature of a general discussion as to the situation in the West Indies, on the ground that Her Majesty's Government were then engaged in very 872 important negotiations both with the United States of America with regard to some reciprocity agreement, and also in connection with the movement for the abolition of bounties, for which a Conference was about to be held in Brussels. I am sorry to say that neither of these negotiations has resulted in, any conclusive settlement up to the present time, but I am not at all without hopes that they may do so in the future. Up to the present I am not able to make any complete or final statement. I feel, however, that the Committee is entitled to something in the nature of a general review of the position as it is at present, and I propose to make that general review while asking the Committee at the same time to consider, under the circumstances, that it is not possible for me to lay down any final or complete view of what may be the policy of the Government, inasmuch as that policy may be altered very considerably if the negotiations to which I have referred should take a favourable turn. In the first place I shall have to tell the Committee what has been done with regard to the grants already made. These grants consisted of two items, the sum of £90,000, voted for deficits which already accrued in the finances of many of the islands. The greater portion of this sum, amounting to £80,950, was required for the putting right of the deficit in Tobago, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts, Montserrat, and the Virgin Islands. The balance is still held to meet deficits which are expected to accrue from January to March, 1898, until the close of the present financial year. Now, Mr. Lowther, these grants were grants to clear off the deficits of the past, and in asking the House to make these grants I do not conceal from them now that unless the circumstances materially alter we shall have to come to the House—any Government will have to come to the House—again and again for some time to come for further grants for similar purposes. At the present moment it is perfectly clear that some of the islands, especially the smaller ones, are not in a position to pay for ordinary administration out of their own resources, and it will be 873 necessary for the Imperial Government to come to their assistance unless these islands are allowed to relapse into something very little removed from administrative anarchy. When the discussion took place on the last occasion I was urged from various quarters of the House to go into the finances of these islands to see whether some further economy could not be effected in the administration. Now, I can assure the Committee that that has had, and will continue to have, my most careful consideration. Everything has been done up to the present time that can be done, and will be done in the future, to reduce the cost of administration. I have looked carefully into the point whether the cost could be reduced, but I cannot hold out much hope that any considerable saving can be effected. Some honourable Members, who have, perhaps, hardly considered the subject from a broad standpoint, have pointed out that the cost of administration was large in proportion to the population. That is perfectly true, but it is due to the peculiar condition and situation of the islands. It must be borne in mind that every one of these islands is a separate entity. Each island is separated from the others by very considerable distances, and the difficulty, therefore, of intercommunication is very great. If the whole of the West Indies constituted one mainland it is perfectly certain that we could make a great reduction. You might reduce the number of judges in places where their whole time is not fully occupied in one portion of your territory, because they could easily travel to another part, but that is impossible under existing circumstances. The judiciary and the medical services and the educational service cannot be transferred from one island to another. Each service for each island has to be complete in itself with all the proper administration of government. I have looked very carefully into the expenditure for these islands and compared it with similar expenditure in other parts of Her Majesty's dominions. The expenditure which strikes one from the first is in regard to three branches of the service—(1) the judiciary; (2) the medical service; and (3) for education. As regards the judiciary, I think that, in spite of obstacles to which I have referred, we might 874 make some saving as changes take place in the existing tenure of these offices, and every attempt will be made to reduce the service to reasonable proportions, but as regards the medical and educational services I do not think that it will be the wish of the Committee that any serious reduction should be made. It must be borne in mind that the majority of the population are in a very dependent position, and are quite unable to provide medical attendance or educational facilities unless that is provided by the Government. It is quite impossible to leave this to private enterprise, because the population are really too poor to pay for them. Then the population, is so small in comparison to the size of the territory that no private practitioner could obtain a living out of the service, and therefore, unless these people are to be left absolutely uncared for so far as regards these important services, it will be necessary to continue to provide for them, and the expense, no doubt, will always be disproportionate to the size and importance of the islands. Sir, some question has been raised as to the salaries, and it has been suggested that they might have been reduced, and these have been already reduced to some extent, but in some cases the reduction has been carried too far. The difficulty in the case of these islands is not that the better-paid posts are paid too highly, but that there are too many posts, and that is largely due to the qualified self-government we have left to the islands. Let me explain that that arises because the better-paid posts are almost invariably filled by persons from this country who alone have the necessary qualifications, whilst the smaller posts are naturally filled by natives of the islands, and therefore any local assembly is under the temptation to multiply posts that can be filled up by its own fellow-citizens rather than posts which have to be filled up by outsiders. The conditions and happiness of the people depend chiefly upon these higher posts and those who fill them, and at the present rate of salaries it is difficult to get men to fill them. It would be impossible to get men to fill these higher posts if the salaries were reduced. A reduction may be made hereafter by reducing the number of posts and increasing the amount of work that each 875 man is called upon to perform in return for the salaries paid; but what I have to say on this point is that, after making all the savings we can in regard to the administration, there would still be a deficit in many of these islands between the ordinary expenditure and the ordinary revenue until either the sugar industry is restored to something like a normal condition of prosperity or until some alternative industries have been discovered which will take the place of sugar and which will find employment for the population. As I shall show in the course of my remarks, we are trying to secure both these objects; but in the meantime I want the Committee to observe that there must be some annual demand from this House of some grants in aid of deficits which necessarily will accrue, and unless we are prepared to find the money it is absolutely impossible to carry on the administration of the islands in any proper form. I said on a previous occasion that these grants were not to be considered as doles, but as necessary to the expense of the Empire, and I repeat that statement, which, I think, expresses our views in regard to the position in which we find ourselves. There is nothing new in these grants. Grants of this kind have always been made from time to time for different Colonies, and they are absolutely inseparable from Colonial dominion. It may be thought that Colonial dominion is, or is not, a desirable thing, and as to that I have no doubt myself. I believe confidently that, on the whole, this country benefits from, and it almost lives upon, its Colonial Empire. If there is to be such a Colonial Empire we cannot allow any part of the territory which we control and over whose finances we have complete authority to fall into anarchy and ruin. Taking the Colonial Empire at large, as I have said, we have greatly profited by its existence. From time to time some assistance has to be given to them, but no Colony has permanently been a charge upon the Empire. Every colony in the Empire, in the long run, has been a profitable undertaking for the Empire. So I think it will be with the West Indian Colonies, though I believe it is right to state frankly that something will be necessary for some time to come, owing to the conditions to which these islands have been reduced by the depression in the 876 sugar industry. The second grant made by the authority of the Committee is one for £30,000, which is intended for the making of roads in Dominica and for the purchase of land in St. Vincent, upon which it is intended to settle the peasant proprietors. As regards these two matters some progress has been made. In regard to St. Vincent we have sent experts there from Jamaica to inquire and select suitable land for peasant proprietors, and, above all, to see that in purchasing this land we are not called upon to pay exorbitant prices and to only buy it at the market price. As to Dominica, inquiry has been made, and in a short time roads would be made. The condition of Dominica is hardly creditable to the Imperial Government. Here is one of the most fertile islands in the whole of the West Indies; magnificent land, suitable for all kinds of cultivation, and although we ourselves possess, in the shape of Crown lands, more than 90,000 acres of this fertile territory, we have never made a single road to open up the territory, and at present it is just as distant from all profitable cultivation as though it were in the centre of Africa. When I contrast what we have done with what the French have done in the neighbouring Colonies I confess the comparison is not to our advantage; but I hope that now the matter will be earnestly taken up, and I believe that, in the long run, it will prove a profitable investment. From all the information at my disposal I cannot doubt that this island may be made profitable both to the Colony and to the mother country, and I sincerely hope that in the future, at any rate, Dominica may cease to be a pensioner upon the bounty of the Imperial Government. Sir, so much as to the past. Now, I must ask the Committee to follow me in a general review of the present situation of the West Indian Islands as a whole. For this I go to the admirable Report which we owe to the Royal Commissioners, Sir David Barbour, and to my right honourable Friend opposite, who kindly, at my request, undertook this laborious task. In that Report will be found the most complete and picturesque view of the present situation, or, at all events, of the situation of the West Indian Islands at the time of the visit of the Commis- 877 sioners, and it is upon this Report of the Royal Commissioners that I propose to base my present suggestions. To summarise the Report in a sentence, the Commissioners say that they anticipate either the extinction, or, at all events, a serious reduction, of the sugar industry, if the present conditions continue much longer, and they add that, as a result of the extinction or of this serious and rapid reduction of the sugar industry, there will be lack of employment amongst the population, there will be a fall in the rate of wages, there will be a decrease of revenue and further increasing charges upon the Imperial Government, and there will be general distress in the islands. They go on to say that they fear, under these circumstances, there may be local disturbances which will cost both blood and money to put down. Well, Sir, already I think I may say, in the smaller islands, at any rate, these anticipations have been fully justified. In the smaller islands there is, undoubtedly, at the present time a great lack of employment, wages have been cut down until they hardly afford subsistence for the population, the revenues are unable to meet the expenditure, and the grants to which I have referred have become necessary in consequence. There has been great local distress, and I am sorry to say there have been serious disturbances in St. Kitts, Nevis, and Dominica, which, although they may have had subsidiary causes, are no doubt mainly due to the state of depression which has been brought about by the failure of the sugar industry. But, Sir, although to this extent the anticipations of the Commissioners have been justified, I am gald to say other circumstances, which, of course, it was impossible for them to foresee, have slightly improved, and I think I may even go so far as to say, for the moment, at any rate, the crisis they anticipated has been postponed, and that the urgency of the question is not quite so great as it appeared to be in August, 1897. I wish to state to the Committee the reasons which lead me to that conclusion. In the meantime I desire to point out that although the difficulty may have been to a certain extent diminished and the crisis postponed, yet there is nothing which we can see in the future to give us absolute confidence that a more favourable state 878 of things may come about, and at any moment the whole question, with all its difficulties, may be upon us. No one, however, will deny that at present the Government have to face a very grave and serious condition of things. In the Debate the other night upon the Colonial Loans Bill the honourable Member for Northampton spoke of rotten Colonies. I do not know whether the honourable Gentleman meant by that to refer to the West Indian Islands.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
That is a charming expression for a patriotic Englishman to use with regard to Colonies which have always been loyal, which at one time were the most prosperous possessions of this country, but which, for the moment, have fallen into temporary misfortune. Well, Sir, I assume from that that the policy of the honourable Gentleman is not far to seek. He would let those Colonies rot. I do not believe he will have anyone to support him in that view, and it is hardly necessary to refute such a policy as that at any length. It appears to me that it can be clearly shown that the interests of this country and the honour of this country demand that these Colonies shall not be destroyed. Sir, I say the interests of this country. Why, even at the present moment, in spite of all that has happened, in spite of the difficulties in which these Colonies find themselves, the West Indies at the present time take of British manufactures—not foreign manufactures which come through Great Britain, but manufactures which have their origin in the United Kingdom—something like three million pounds sterling per annum. Remember that these manufactures are almost entirely paid for by wages, and if you will make the calculations you will find—and I am sure I am not exaggerating—that something like 40,000 families in this country are dependent at the present moment upon the trade with the West Indian Colonies. If that is the case with regard to our industries, I say, in regard to our honour, I do not believe public opinion would permit our oldest Colonies, associated as they are with some of the most striking naval triumphs of 879 this country, to fall into ruin through no fault of their own, but owing to circumstances out of which we have incidentally made very considerable profit. The Royal Commission say that the only complete remedy for the present state of things is the restoration of the sugar industry to a profitable condition. Now, Sir, that is a truism, because sugar is the natural product of the West Indies. It is undoubted that there is no part of the world which is more suited to sugar cultivation than the West Indies, and I include Cuba in the West Indies generally. I think it stands in quite as good a position, and perhaps if it were under the protection and ægis of the United States it might be said to stand in a better position than the West Indies; but with the exception of Cuba no one will differ from my statement that the West Indies is peculiarly suited for the cultivation of sugar; and at the present time, excluding the gold products from British Guiana, 75 per cent. of the whole exports of the West Indies are sugar. I wish to call the particular attention of the Committee to this. They will see that the proportion being so large no sudden change is possible. It may be desirable to substitute other industries, but it is perfectly clear you cannot provide other industries at any early period to take the place of 75 par cent. of the total exports of the West Indies. Well, now, Sir, before dealing with the question of the sugar industry I will deal with what I may call the alternative suggestions which have been made by the Royal Commission. Let me say at once that, having most carefully considered them, I agree with all the recommendations. The Government propose to adopt them, and, subject to the approval of the Committee, we ask for the means and power to carry them all to completion. What are those recommendations? The first recommendation is that the labourers should, as far as possible, be settled on the land in the position, of peasant proprietors. Sir, I think that is an excellent suggestion. In these islands subsistence is extremely easy to obtain. A very little cultivation would secure enough for a man and his family to live upon, and therefore, if we have to contemplate the worst, we should, at all events, do something to save the 880 population from starvation. But I must point out that too much must not be expected, even from, this remedy or alter-native, because a man does not live upon bread alone; he does not live upon ground provisions alone. He requires clothes and tools.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I was not referring to the honourable Member for Northampton. It is very interesting to know he has been there, but it is not relevant to any remark I was making. As a matter of fact, men in the West Indies require clothes, shoes, and other things, and they require tools with which to cultivate their land; they require certain things which are absolutely necessary for anything like a civilised existence, and for which they must have something to exchange. The ground provisions upon which the people live are not in the West Indies exchangeable products unless the sugar industry is kept up. In Jamaica the peasant proprietors exchange their products with the labourers on the sugar estates. If the sugar industry in the West Indies were destroyed the peasant proprietors would be totally unable to exchange their products. Although it is most desirable as far as possible that the peasant proprietor should be encouraged, it must not be supposed that that would relieve us from difficulty. If sugar were to fail we should still find the population in great difficulty and distress. Still, we are doing all we possibly can in regard to this matter. We are seeking specially for accommodation at St. Vincent, and in other Colonies in which we have Crown lands; we have directed the Government to do everything in their power to enable the labouring population to establish themselves on easy terms on the land, and report to us any suggestions they may make in the matter. The second suggestion of the Royal Commission is much more important—that we should seek, 881 as far as possible, to substitute partially for sugar alternative industries. No doubt there is some encouragement to believe that in the future, at any rate, this may relieve the stress of the situation; and, indeed, it will be the only hope of the island if, under any circumstances, the cultivation of the sugar were absolutely to fail. But, as I have said, the Royal Commission themselves point out that any attempts to substitute other industries for sugar must be a slow process, and must proceed with the greatest caution. It is not easy to extend indefinitely the production or sale of any particular class of produce. In the first place, it seems as if nature revenges itself in some way or other, because almost invariably the action is followed by some kind of disease or pest by which the industry is hampered and damaged, as with cotton in Ceylon and arrowroot in Montserrat. Not only that, but, as the demand in all these cases is limited, if you increase the production too rapidly you destroy all profit in connection with it, and you will only be replacing one industry by another which has already failed. Still, Sir, we are bound to make the experiment, and we may be encouraged by the success attending the experiment in Jamaica, which was at one time an almost exclusively sugar-producing Colony. At present only 18 per cent, of the exports of the Colony are in sugar, the other exports being made up of fruit and other ironical productions. We agree entirely with the recommendation of the Royal Commission that everything should be done that can be done to promote a better knowledge of the industries likely to be successfully carried on in the West Indies, and any other Colonies, where possible. The obstacles in the way are, in the first place, the ignorance of the population—their technical ignorance of cultivation of this special character—and the lack of communication. The fact is that the West Indies are separated, one island from the other, and all from the great markets of the world, only being related to them by communications which at the present time are very slow, imperfect, and unsatisfactory. Where tropical produce is concerned speedy communication is of the first importance. The recommendations of the Commission 882 in this regard were twofold. In the first instance, they suggested that a special public department should be established dealing with all questions of economic plants and botanic stations in all the islands—we propose to adopt that suggestion—and that this establishment should be placed under the direction of Dr. Morris, assistant director at Kew, who is marked out, as, I think, anyone who knows anything of Kew will admit, by special qualifications for a post of this kind. Not only has he all the scientific and other knowledge in the possession of the authorities at Kew, but also special acquaintance with the West Indies, and if those other industries are to be successful, there is no one more capable of doing it than Dr. Morris. Let me express, in passing, what I think is only due;—my deep sense of obligation to the authorities of Kew for the assistance they have given me in regard to the West Indies and other Colonies. I believe my predecessors would heartily join me in this recognition of the services at Kew. I do not think it is too much to say that at the present time there are several of our important Colonies which owe whatever prosperity they possess to the knowledge and experience of, and the assistance given by, the authorities of Kew Gardens. Thousands of letters pass every year between the authorities of Kew and the Colonies, and they are able to place at the service of these Colonies not only the best advice and experience, but seeds and samples of economic plants capable of cultivation in the Colonies In order to carry out this scheme—which we owe entirely to the Royal Commission, because, except in detail, I know no way of improving on their recommendation—we ask for a grant of £4,500, all the money we can spend during the present financial year. But we estimate that the annual charge will be £17,500. That will be the future demand, and it must continue, if the experiment shows a prospect of success, until the Colonies are once again placed in a self-supporting condition. In connection with this, there is another recommendation which is of equal importance, and that is that communication between the islands and the markets should be greatly improved. We wish to establish direct communication with 883 Canada. When I come to the question of reciprocity I will give reasons for it. We also propose to establish a line of steamers to carry fruit between the islands and New York, and, if possible, to secure better communication between Jamaica and London, where at the present time no large fruit trade has been established with the West Indies, but where there is a market of almost unlimited extent if only communication was satisfactory. We also propose, for the sake of the islands generally, and the present population, that inter-Colonial communication should be established—fortnightly communications—between the different islands. The sum we ask under this head is £5,000 for the present year—all we expect to spend during the financial year—but, as far as we can at present say, the probable estimate of future expenditure is £20,000 a year. As regards both grants, and other grants which we ask from the Imperial Exchequer, I have to point out that it is absolutely impossible for the Colonies to bear the cost under the present circumstances. We hope they may in the future be self-supporting, but at present it is absolutely impossible for them to do anything for themselves. If these grants were thrown on the revenues of the Colonies, the only result would be that their deficit would be increased, and we should have to ask for an increased grant in aid, instead of a grant in aid for communication, agriculture, and technical instruction. The advantage of taking the whole matter into our own hands is that we shall have it under our control, and we shall not be hampered with local jealousies, and we shall be able to introduce something like a general scheme, which will be impossible if local legislatures in each case have to be consulted and local jealousies were brought into play. I regard the whole of this cost as being an expenditure intended to relieve the British Government of future charges. The object is to assist the West Indian Colonies in every possible way to provide alternative industries for sugar. If it succeeds the Colonies will again become self-supporting, and if it fails I am bound to say that we, at any rate, are unable to suggest any other alternative. Now, these suggestions—for the establishment 884 of the present proprietary for agriculture and botanical education, and for improved communication—exhaust the general recommendations made by the Royal Commission, and the position is this: that if the Committee adopts them, and enables us to carry them out, they will not bring, they cannot bring, immediate or certain relief, but they are the only course which the wisdom of the Commission or the experience of the Colonial Office is able to suggest to provide for the future of these Colonies, if sugar fails, and to mitigate the consequences of temporary depression. For many years to come the islands must depend on sugar, owing to the enormous proportion sugar bears. Even if we contemplate the entire extinction of the sugar industry and the substitution of these other industries, for many years to come their staple industry must be the sugar industry. If the sugar industry is extinct, or considerably reduced, if the estates go out of cultivation, and the labourers are thrown out of employment, the responsibility will be thrown on this country. We must face it; we cannot help ourselves, for there will be at stake the whole social framework of the West Indian Colonies. That is a serious contingency, and it is worth some effort to prevent. Under these circumstances, it evidently is of urgent importance to maintain the sugar industry; and, Sir, do not let it be said—as it was said by the honourable Member for Northampton in a previous Debate—that any proposals for supporting the sugar industry are made in the interests of the sugar planters. I feel the greatest sympathy with the sugar planters, and I do not see why, because they are unfortunate, through no fault of their own, they are to be spoken of with scorn and contumely, and their extinction is to be regarded as a matter of satisfaction. I do not think that their position gives them a greater or less claim than manufacturers or producers in this country who may be reduced to an evil case. But if we ask the House now to consider the possibility of doing anything for the sugar industry, or to bear in mind the necessity of maintaining the sugar industry, it is not for the benefit of the planters, but of the population which depends on the planters. Without the 885 sugar industry the population must be reduced almost immediately to a state of absolute starvation, unless this country intervenes. Why is the sugar industry in this state of depression? Well, Sir, there are subsidiary causes, in my opinion; but one great cause in the past has been the bounty system. It is not so much—and this must be borne in mind—the actual reduction of prices which may or may not have been caused—it is a matter upon which authorities disagree—by the granting of bounties, but it is the uncertainty under which the whole trade has been thrown by lack, of confidence, which has made it impossible to conduct trade on ordinary conditions. That statement, I think, is beyond dispute. What do the Royal Commission say on the subject? They say—The best immediate remedy for the state of things we have shown to exist would be the abandonment of the bounty system by Continental nations. This change would in all probability enable a large portion of the sugar cane cultivation to be carried on successfully, and certainly reduce the rate at which it will diminish.I agree with every word of that, and having gone most carefully into the matter, I believe that if the bounty system were abolished the sugar industry would be able to continue as an ordinary industry in its normal state. I do not think that the sugar planters would make large fortunes—the time has long gone by for thart—but it would be an industry in which English capital might be invested with a fair chance of a moderate and safe return. The Report of the Royal Commission goes on to say—We have therefore no hesitation in saying that the abolition of the bounty system is an object at which Her Majesty's Government should aim if they should see their way to secure that result, and that the accomplishment of such aim is worth some sacrifice; provided always that such a sacrifice would be really effective and would not involve evils out of all proportion to those which it desires to remove.Well, Sir, with that declaration o the Royal Commission I wish to identify myself, and I think it will have the assent of every Member of the House so far. We may differ about the methods by which the abolition of bounties, is to be secured, but we do not differ as to the effect that 886 would have in securing trade. I find that even so strenuous an opponent of any drastic methods for securing this result, of countervailing duties and prohibitions, or anything of the sort, as Lord Farrer himself, nevertheless says that—if Mr. Chamberlain were able, in any fair way, to get foreign nations to do away with bounties, we all would wish him God-speed.I take it, then, that Her Majesty's Government will be considered to have been amply justified in joining the Brussels Conference with other Powers, with the object of attaining by international agreement, if possible, the abolition of the bounty system. The Papers regarding that Conference are in the hands of Members, and I think the situation is clearly described in those Papers. I do not myself think that it is at all hopeless to expect that the financial pressure which has now been placed upon foreign nations by the mistaken fiscal arrangements in regard to sugar may bring about on their part the voluntary abandonment of their evil policy. At the Conference it was perfectly evident that Austria, Germany, Belgium, and Holland were all willing and anxious to abandon bounties. Russia declared she did not give a bounty, which was disputed by the representatives of Austria. I do not think, Sir, it is necessary to consider the case of Russia further, because it has no special interest for this country. France, however, while willing to abandon direct external bounties on exportation, refused even to allow any consideration of its internal arrangements. There was, I am sorry to say, evidently some misunderstanding at the calling of the Conference, with which we have nothing to do, because it appears that Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom all understood that the whole question of bounties might be discussed, whereas France and Russia understood that they might only be asked to discuss the question of their external direct bounties, and that they were not to be asked to discuss internal arrangements, and accordingly the Conference broke down because the French and Russian delegates had no instructions from their Governments to enter into this discussion. Now, since then 887 there has been a change of Ministry in France, and it is possible that even the late Minister and the present French Ministry may, under the circumstances, be willing to reconsider their instructions and to take into account the effect of their internal arrangements, which amount practically to a large bounty in export, and to consent to some reasonable compromise by which they shall be placed in no worse and no better position than Germany or Belgium. It is perfectly clear from the discussions of the Conference that England is the market at which all these bounties are aimed. There are protective arrangements securing them in the full enjoyment of their own market. We import 1,500,000 tons of sugar in the year, and it is important to bear in mind that the import of French sugar during the past 10 years has not exceeded 200,000 tons per annum. Therefore it is only about one-eighth our consumption, and even if it were excluded altogether by any fiscal arrangements it would not materially affect our supply or materially affect prices. I have no doubt that in future dealing with the question the French Government will take that into consideration. They must feel that whatever may be the policy of this country—about which I shall say nothing at this moment—it would be perfectly easy for us to exclude French sugar altogether without greatly affecting our supply. Now, Sir, what is the attitude of the British representatives at this Conference? I should describe it as one of judicious reserve. We did not think it was either necessary or desirable at this stage of the proceedings to use anything in the nature of a threat, and accordingly the instructions we gave to our Commissioners were as follows with reference to this point:—Her Majesty's Government sincerely trusts that the result of the deliberations at Brussels may relieve them from the necessity of prosecuting any elaborate Measure which might be rendered necessary, especially in regard to British Colonies, if the system of bounties should still be retained, but in this respect it is desirable that you should maintain an attitude of reserve at the Conference, reporting to me from time to time as to any suggestions that may be put forward.That is Lord Salisbury's letter of instructions. The object of the British Govern- 888 ment in attending this Conference was to ascertain the views of the other Powers and to keep an entirely free hand as to any steps which they might under given circumstances find it necessary to take, and as to the time at which they ought to be taken. We are blamed in some quarters—I am blamed especially by the legislators and other representative bodies in the West Indies—for not having gone far enough, for not having insisted that the British representatives should enter this Conference with a threat that unless bounties were abolished the British Government would ask Parliament to impose countervailing duties, or prohibit the sugar of any country which refused to come in. I do not think our friends are fully informed as to the present situation, or probably they would not have made this criticism; at any rate, the matter is one of such great importance that I will endeavour to make clear the attitude of the Government in reference to it. Sir, if we did not threaten countervailing duties, it was not because we were influenced by any theoretical idea that such a course would be opposed to free trade. That, for one, I absolutely and entirely deny, and I assert that a statement of that kind is made by modern free traders who have gone astray in the true doctrines of free trade, or who profess to be more orthodox than the authors of free trade. I say it would be impossible to find in the writings of any of those who advocated free trade any justification for the theory that bounties given in the way in which these are given by foreign Powers to the detriment of British producers may not in some way or other be countervailed. I read in the speeches of Bright and Cobden, and other great authorities on the subject, that the main object of free trade is to secure the natural course of production and exchange, that each nation is to produce what it is best fitted to supply, and to exchange its produce with other nations without artificial preferences. That is the object at which free trade aims, and it is violated by the bounties which give an artificial preference to foreign products in British markets, and a countervailing duty would only restore free trade and secure the natural condition of ordinary competition which it 889 is the effect of the bounty to destroy. That is the opinion of those who lay down the principles of free trade, including names like those of Ricardo and McCulloch and Joseph Hume, who said that—free trade should only properly exist where the parties were in like circumstances, and where they were at liberty to apply the same means to the same end with equal facility.I think I have said enough on this point to show that the question of whether countervailing duties or similar methods should be adopted is a question which may be considered wholly independently of what are called the principles of free trade. All I desire in what I have said is to destroy that argument which appears in the minds of some people to be a fetish. They appear to think that if a thing is opposed to free trade they have said enough to show that it must be abolished by people in this country. At any rate, in my opinion it cannot be logically or properly or historically contended that countervailing duties are any infraction of the principles of free trade. Let me now point out what are the natural, self-evident, and practical objections to countervailing duties. In the first place, the trade in sugar is not absolutely free in this country, and the imposition of any duty or any condition on the entry of sugar would necessarily involve complication in the trade at the Custom House; it might raise the question of the country of origin, of bonding and warehousing, and delay. And undoubtedly under these circumstances I am informed on the best authority that, independent altogether of any question of duties, the mere extra expense imposed would be something considerable. Taking into consideration these circumstances, in dealing with the price of sugar, it does seem to me that it would be a cumbrous method only to be adopted if nothing better could be found, and placing an obstacle in the way of a trade of 1,500,000 tons in order to benefit the West Indies trade, which is only 260,000 tone. We should avoid interfering with a trade of 1,500,000 tons in order to benefit a trade of an eighth of that amount. In the second place I have no doubt that the imposition of a countervailing duty will increase the price to the consumer of 890 sugar and to the trades dependent upon sugar, and necessarily so. Yes, Sir, the Royal Commission say, and I agree with them, that this is a thing which ought not to be an insuperable argument against them. I should think the question is one which could fairly be argued, how far we should be justified in putting forward the advantages we are alleged to have derived from this system, as a reason why the West Indies should be crushed. In any case, so far as I can make out, the effect would not exceed an eighth of a penny in the £. That may be a very serious thing to consider, but at least let us not exaggerate. At the present moment bounty by which this countervailing duty will have to be measured is roughly 30s. per ton for Germany; it is by the minimum duty that the injury to the trade has to be measured. Now, how much of that goes to the consumer at the present time? It is a matter for argument. It is perfectly certain that the German producer of sugar will keep as much as he can in his own pocket, and will only give to the consumer as much as is absolutely necessary in order that he may be able to compete in the market. I will assume for the sake of argument that he only keeps 10a. for himself, leaving 20s. for the consumer; in that case, 20s. measures the advantage to the consumer at the present time. I believe it is at the very outside an eighth of a penny in the £. That may fairly be considered the injury done to the consumer if the bounties were abolished. Let me say that the result would follow equally whether the bounties are abolished by voluntary means or by any pressure upon the countries giving the bounties, and therefore it is most illogical for any honourable Member to get up and say that the injury to the consumer is so great that countervailing duties, or any other duties, must not be resorted to, when at the same time it prevents us going into a conference to get the same duties removed by voluntary means, which would have the same effect as if they had been removed by pressure. Now, Sir, I do not consider that any of the two objections I have stated are fatal to the adoption of the system pressed upon us in the interest of the West Indian Colonies. They are very serious objections, 891 and it does not appear to me that we should be justified in disturbing so important an industry as the sugar industry in this country by raising a question of such magnitude, unless we can be certain that at any rate the case was urgent and that all other means of providing a remedy was exhausted, and that the change would be of great benefit to threatened interests. Now, Sir, none of these conditions are at present. In the first place, we are not required to face a change of this kind except as a last resort. The present situation has improved since the date of the Royal Commission's Report. At the present time the price of sugar has risen both in New York and London by about 20s. per ton.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
Oh, I do not care what it is through; it has nothing to say to the argument. I am only referring to the rise which has taken place. At the moment I believe that the increase ever August, 1897, is even more than I have stated, but I want to be moderate. The result of that rise is that the production of sugar in the West Indies at present, as I will prove from figures, is not unremunerative in the case of well-equipped estates. Many of these estates which produce only inferior sugar are in a totally different position. But, so far as the larger estates are concerned, which are well equipped, and which have been able, somehow or the other, to put up the latest appliances, they can at the present time get some interest on the capital invested. But then there is another matter which has happened, and which is of the greatest importance, and which I hope I shall be able to make clear to the Committee. That is the action of the United States. The United States have no hesitation in regard to these questions of countervailing duties. They have done for our Colonies what we have failed to do. They have put on countervailing duties, and thereby they have benefited the West Indies. At the present moment the West Indies have their best market in the United States, being the nearest, and they have a preferential tariff over the German and 892 French sugar to the extent of 30s. per ton, and they find so good a market in the United States that practically none of their sugar goes anywhere else; all of it goes to the United States at these advantageous prices. The result is, the curious result, that if to-morrow the bounties were removed, the direct and immediate effect upon the sugar industry would be a loss. They would lose as compared with the present position. I will show that very clearly. The present price of centrifugal sugar is £11 7s. 8d. per ton. The freight from the West Indies is 10s. Therefore, the return to the producer in the West Indies for sugar sold to New York is £10 17s. 8d. per ton. Now, as far as I can calculate, sugars are different, but I have been advised by authorities on the subject that the price of similar sugar in London would be £10 per ton, and the freight from the West Indies is 20s. Therefore, the return to the West Indies would be only £9 per ton at the present moment. Therefore, the financier in the West Indies would receive 37s. 8d. per ton more for sugar sold to New York than to London. If the bounties were removed New York would pay 30s. per ton less, the countervailing duties to that extent being removed, and the West Indies would only get £9 10s. per ton. I take the countervailing duties at 27s. 8d., they vary anywhere between 25s. and 30s.; and meantime in London the price would be raised 20s. per ton, and the producer would get £10, and accordingly it would pay him to send sugar to London, because he would get 10s. more than in New York, but his price in London being £10, he would get 17s. 8d. less than he is now getting in New York, so that the actual loss to the sugar producer in the West Indies would be, roughly speaking, 17s. 8d. per ton by the removal of the countervailing duties.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
Oh, no; the duty on sugar is £7 10s. In talking of 30s. a ton I am only talking of the preference given to West Indian sugar in the United States. Now, let me recall the present situation to the Committee. If 893 it were permanent, there would be no question of countervailing duties. But it is not permanent, and we cannot pretend to hope it will be permanent. At any moment the situation may be altered either by a change in the United States fiscal system, or by the conditions of the United States market. There are people who think that after the war is concluded Cuba will supply all the sugar the United States wants. All I can say is, it will take some doing. Cuba at its best, under Spanish rule, produced a million tons a year. Now, there is a falling off of 250,000 tons; but even if it increases to a million tons it would be still very far from supplying the whole of the United States import demand, and the remainder of the demand would still come from the West Indies. But the whole situation is precarious, and what I want to impress on the Committee is, that while I am very confident in recommending them to these views as appropriate to the present situation, I do not bind myself to the same views if the situation should hereafter change. For the moment I say that the removal of the bounties would not be directly or indirectly any advantage. Now I come to another point. In the meantime we hope to do something in regard to the United States markets. We are engaged in reciprocity negotiations. These have been going on until they came to a temporary postponement because of the adjournment of the Congress. We hoped, in commencing these negotiations, that the United States might see fit to give us the same terms we had in 1892, when they gave us a reduction of 20 per cent. of the duty on sugar, equal to £1 10s. per ton, in return for our 1892 tariff, which was a certain reduction on articles imported into the West Indies of common consumption and of common production in the United States. I am sorry to say that the United States are in the present negotiations very bad bargainers indeed. They have refused to give us the terms they gave us in 1892, and it is still uncertain whether they will give us any terms at all. At present they offer us a reduction of 9 per cent. in return for the concessions, which amount to a reduction in our duties of nearly equal amount, and in the case of our smaller colonies it would be impossible to accept. Those terms might 894 possibly be accepted in our larger colonies—British Guiana, Trinidad, and perhaps Barbadoes—and although it is never possible to say anything positive on the subject, I am inclined to hold that we may come to a satisfactory settlement, in which case I should anticipate that to the sugar grown in these great colonies we may secure a further and additional advantage in the United States of something like 10s. per ton, but I am unable at the present moment to absolutely count upon that, and I can only put it forward at the present moment as a hopeful speculation. Now, we have also been applying to Canada, and Canada has met us in the spirit of liberality which the Dominion has recently shown in so remarkable a degree in regard to all Imperial and British matters. Canada at once acceded to our request, their full preference of 25 per cent. upon their sugar importation duties, and this in return only for the concession on the same terms which we shall allow to the United States, which indeed we shall allow to Canada in any case, according to the system which we have adopted. Well, Sir, unfortunately, the concession thus made, which amounts to something like, I should say, about 16s. a ton, does not give West Indian sugar a sufficient advantage to induce the West Indian planters to send their sugar to Canada rather than to the United States; that is to say, the United States still give a greater advantage, owing to their countervailing duties, than Canada will do under the reciprocity arrangement. We are in communication with the Government of Canada to see whether it is possible to secure any further advantage, because I do feel, and I do think the Government of Canada also feel, that it would be of the greatest possible advantage to them, to Canada, and to the West Indies to encourage and promote by every means in our power the trade between those two colonies. And we think in return for the sugar carried to Canada from the West Indies—their demand being something like 100,000 tons a year, and rapidly increasing—the ships could take back the produce of Canada in the shape of lumber, food, corn, pork, etc., and in this way trade would be carried on which would be beneficial to both countries. Whether 895 this would be practicable or not I am at present unable to say, but it is in view of an arrangement of the kind that I have ventured to suggest to the Committee, among other matters in this connection, that we should be authorised to subsidise jointly with Canada a line of steamers between the principal ports in the West Indies and Halifax, or some other port in Canada. Well, Sir, this state of things which I have described, which, as I say, is for the moment fairly satisfactory, applies only to the greater islands. It does not apply to the smaller islands. In the case of Barbadoes, where 97 per cent. of the total export is sugar; in the case of Antigua, where 94½ per cent. of the total export is sugar; in the case of St. Kitts, where 96½ per cent. of the total export is sugar—in all these cases the islands make inferior sugar, and they make it by old-fashioned processes, and they are not in a position—they are not capitalists—they are not in a position to provide capital in order to provide in relation to the manufacture the latest resources of science. The consequence is that they cannot compete with other places, even with well-equipped factories in British Guiana and Trinidad; these people are being ruined, and have to abandon their estates, unless they are assisted. That is fully brought out in the Report of the Royal Commission, and the Royal Commission, aware that it is absolutely impossible, as private individuals, that these people should be able to restore the industry, especially as now under the bounty system you cannot get the confidence which is necessary for the investment of British capital, they recommend that the British Government should grant a loan—and £120,000 is the sum suggested—for the creation of a central factory in one of the islands, which would take the produce of the various small estates, work it up on the best methods, and so secure a ready market. Now, Sir, after consulting all whom I thought could give me information, I think this is an extremely hopeful proposal. What would happen is this, that in such a case, supposing a factory to be equipped with the very latest appliances, it could make sugar better than anything that has been made hitherto, except, perhaps, by the latest factories in Egypt. It could obtain the 896 cane from all the smaller planters upon an arrangement which is a co-operative arrangement—namely, that the price of the cane should be fixed according to the price of the refined sugar, so that there will always be a margin for the factory. The factory would always be what it was fair it should be, and pay a fixed and proportionate price for its raw material, dependent entirely on the price at which it can sell its finished product, and always allowing a fair margin for profit and interest. Under these circumstances I do not myself believe there is much risk in adopting the proposal made by the Royal Commission, and I believe that the offer of a loan might be made with every prospect of restoring and maintaining the sugar industry in those smaller island's, and of preventing further and larger demands upon the British Exchequer. At all events, I think the risk is worth taking, and I confidently recommend that the same, risk should be taken by the Committee. But I desire to have my hands free to adopt an alternative plan, which, I think, is much better than the proposal which was made by the Royal Commission. After examining the subject, I find that the sum now suggested was much too small. A well-equipped factory in either of these three islands, and each of them needs such a factory, would cost £250,000. In order to provide, therefore, for the whole three, we want a capital of £750,000. I did not think that the Committee would increase the loan to that extent, but what I suggest is this, and I believe it can be done with success, although, as no provisional contract has been signed, what I now say must be taken subject to that possibility, but I have every hope that if the Committee agrees, an arrangement of this kind may be made: we can arrange with private capitalists in this country to advance £750,000 for this purpose, and to carry out the whole project, beginning with one island, and probably sending it to the other two, upon a guarantee by this country of 3 per cent., limited to 10 years. If any money were ever paid under this guarantee, such payment would always be a first charge upon any future profits. I anticipate, however, that nothing will be paid except for the first years, during construction, and 897 before the central factory got into full work. For those years 3 per cent. would be paid on whatever capital was expended, but that would be recouped as soon as the factories got into profitable work. I believe that the Committee have it in their power, by offering this guarantee, without serious risk to the British Exchequer, to secure an investment of private capital to the extent of £750,000, and to restore prosperity to these three important islands. But I wish to take the alternative. If you suppose that the whole thing breaks down, if you suppose that it is an utter and entire failure, and every penny of the money is lost, the utmost that the British Exchequer can lose is £200,000 —3 per cent. for 10 years on £750,000. That is the utmost it loses if it loses every penny, and, as I have shown, I do not think there is any probability of that. That is to say, it would not lose more than would be required, in any case, if it carried out the suggestion of the Royal Commission, because, in order to carry out the suggestion of the Royal Commission, to establish one of these factories, we must lend at least £200,000, the same amount; £120,000 would not be sufficient for the purpose, and the security would be exactly the same in both oases. All the difference really is this, that by the plan I propose, I induce the private investor to come in to the extent of £500,000, or of £550,000, instead of taking the whole burden upon the Imperial Exchequer. Well, now, Sir, I think I have completed my statement. I am sorry there has been so long a review of what is really a very complicated and difficult situation. I will just summarise what it is we propose.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
The £10,000 is provided chiefly to afford the Committee an opportunity of discussing this Measure, but it will be used to pay 3 per cent. upon such portion of the capital as may be expended, and which will come due before the works become profitable. The larger sums will have to be annually asked for, or repeated sums will have to be annually asked for, 898 if the guarantee becomes operative; but, as I have said, it is my hope and expectation that after the first year or two no such grant will be required. If I may, I will summarise, as I have said, the recommendations we make. We propose, as I have said, in the first place, to adopt nil the recommendations of the Royal Commission. We propose to assist and encourage the alternative industries to sugar by improving the means of communication between the islands, and between the islands and their markets, and by establishing technical establishments for encouraging agricultural and botanical progress. We propose, in the second place, as the result of this grant, to endeavour to sustain sugar by maintaining a preferential market in the United States of America, and, by making possible the application of improved methods in the smaller islands, by the introduction of capital under the system which I have explained, and for the present—I speak only for the present—I believe that by these proposals we shall do something to relieve the existing pressure, and ultimately to reduce the claims which otherwise cannot but come upon the Imperial Exchequer; while, at the same time, paving the way for a possible substitution of other industries for the industry upon which, up to the present time, the West Indies have been too entirely dependent; at the same time we shall continue our efforts to secure the abolition of the bounty system, not because we believe the abolition of the system would for a moment be otherwise than a small relief to the industries concerned, but because we believe that, until the ultimate abolition, there can be no safe position for the trade, there can be no confidence, and it is impossible that the trade should be conducted upon anything like normal conditions. While at the present time the Government refuse absolutely to pledge themselves to any policy of countervailing duties, we hold our hands absolutely free in the future if we think it desirable, if circumstances change—the United States market is closed, the bounties are raised, or other new circumstances come into view—we hold ourselves absolutely free to propose on our own account, and in our own time, any measure which we think will be effectual in order to prevent the policy 899 which, we believe is disastrous to all the interests concerned, which is ruinous to the West Indies, and which is contrary to the doctrines of free trade. I think the House will agree that the department over which I preside has really a very difficult task to perform. It would have been rendered much easier had these difficulties been earlier foreseen, but, as is well known, although the fate of sugar has been more or less in doubt during the last 15 years, during the whole of that time very little indeed has been done to promote the alternative industries to which in the future we have in part to look for the prosperity of the islands. The circumstances of each island must be considered upon its own merits. Each one considers its own interests. Each one varies in its resources, opportunities, and its population. All I can say is that, while we shall bend all our energies to discover in each case the best remedy for the evils with which these islands are beset, we shall make it our policy—a policy to which we shall adhere—not to allow these islands to be destroyed.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
It appears to me that the whole case of the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary is that there are a certain number of colonies in the West Indies that are absolutely rotten, and that is the only reason that he gives for us taking over the expenditure for them. They have gone into bankruptcy, and therefore we must now come forward to help them. That is the proposal of the right honourable Gentleman. I venture to think I have proved that we have a great number of rotten Crown Colonies. It seems to me that the right honourable Gentleman argued for a long time that countervailing duties were not foreign to the principle of free trade, although I doubt very much whether Mr. Bright or Mr. Cobden would not be somewhat astonished if they were told that they would ever be in favour of countervailing duties. But we are not told yet whether the right honourable Gentleman is going to put on countervailing duties, or not going to do so. The right honourable Gentleman holds the balance equally, because he knows that there would be a very great outcry on this side of the 900 House if he proposed to do so, and on the other hand there would be as great an outcry on the other side of the House if he set his foot upon them. He has established himself in this position, that so long as he is in power he will have no countervailing duties; but if ever the Conservative majority and Government is replaced by a Liberal one, he will then be able to pronounce in favour of them and join his honourable Friends on that side of the House. Now, the right honourable Gentleman is a good, sound business man, and so is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not know whether the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has listened to the speech of his colonial Friend or casually looked into the Report of the Royal Commission, because it seems to me that if there are two things there more certain than others, one is that we cannot by raising the price of sugar make any money, and at the same time that the West Indies cannot in any sort of way hold their own as manufacturers of cane sugar even if the bounties were done away with to-morrow. I think that I can prove that by indisputable figures. The mistake which underlies the whole of this matter is the idea that the West Indies have been ruined by these bounties on beet sugar. They have been ruined by the fact that cane sugar can be produced under better conditions elsewhere than in the West Indies. The price has nothing to do with the matter at all; it may in part be due to the beet industry, but in great part it is owing to cane sugar being produced elsewhere under better conditions, and if there were no bounties to-morrow the West Indies would not profit in any way whatever from the cane sugar industries in the West Indies. Now, a good deal has been said about the beet industry and about the damage it has caused to the Colonies, but, in my opinion, it is an unmixed blessing to the world that these bounties have been given. When the West Indies had almost the monopoly of the manufacture of cane sugar, the expense of producing cane sugar was enormous. We had scientific examinations of the matter, and it was owing to the industry of the beet sugar being taken up in Germany that the cost of producing sugar has 901 largely decreased. The cost of the production of a ton of sugar was then £16 1s. 7d.—that is, the cost of producing one ton of cane sugar. Now, what is the cost at the present time? Everybody differs as to what the cost really is; but I think, so far as I can make out, it is £8 18s. 9d. Now, 7,000,000 of tons of sugar are produced every year and bought by consumers every year. Now, if you take the difference in the cost of production at £7 a ton—it is, as it happens, a little more—tut if you take the difference in the cost at £7 per ton, the gain to the world between the cost of £16 and £8 is £42,000,000. In the United Kingdom you import 1,500,000 tons of cane sugar, and the gain to this country between the difference of the cost of production now and the cost of the production before the beet industry came forward is £10,500,000. Therefore we ought not to complain very much of the beet industry. Now, the West Indies produce 255 tons a year. I think the right honourable Gentleman took the total amount of the bounty given by Germany at 30s. a ton. As we import 1,500,000 tons of sugar, we should have to pay, if we raise the price, £2,500,000; and the gain to the West Indies would be £382,000. But it is suggested that if there was a rise in the price of sugar, more sugar would be produced in the West Indies than is at present produced, but that suggestion is an absolute error. There might be a few more tons produced—I do not say that there would not be a few more tons produced—but, speaking broadly, there would be no more sugar produced in the West Indies than at present. The whole reason of their condition is that they are competing with cane sugar, which can be produced at other places with greater facility and less cost than in the West Indies, In 1888 there was produced 1,783,200 tons of beet sugar and 2,016,000 tons of cane sugar. In 1896 the amount of beet sugar produced was 3,709,284 tons, and the amount of cane sugar was 4,950,000 tons, so that there was in that period of time more than 3,000,000 more tons produced of cane sugar than there was at the commencement of the beet industry. But did the West Indies profit by this? Certainly not. The output of the West 902 Indies diminished by 80,000 tons. Take from 1891 to 1896: In Java there was an increase of 100,000; in the Sandwich Islands there was an increase of 100,000; in Egypt there was an increase of 35,000, and in the various other sugar-producing countries there was a corresponding increase. But during these, same years there was a decrease in the produce of the West Indies, including Demerara, where the decrease was 20,000. Since 1895 Java has increased its produce by 60,000 tons, and the Sandwich Islands by 90,000 tons. If you take away these bounties to-morrow, and if the West Indies have to compete with these other countries, the West Indies will not be able to hold their own from the start. They will not be able to bring their produce into the market. When we are told about the bounties, how is it they do not affect Java and the Sandwich Islands and the other sugar-producing countries? We are told now that the West Indies are suffering from want of capital, but there is plently of capital in the world to invest in the cane sugar industries, as I have shown by the figures I have quoted. But capital goes where it can get the best return for its investments, and if it thinks it can get a better return in Java and the Sandwich Islands, it is perfectly obvious that it will go there, as well as many other more available districts where this industry is a success. It is not quite correct to say the West Indies are suffering from the absence of capital. It may be so in the case of some of the smaller islands, but in Demerara and Trinidad they have well-equipped sugar factories, and they certainly do not suffer from want of capital there. If they want capital they can always get it. The real truth about this question is that the West Indies cannot compete with other sugar-producing countries. Now, in talking about bounties, it is a curious thing that in Demerara and Trinidad a bounty in favour of sugar at present exists. In those islands they employ coolies for the plantation; the planters get them by indenture, and pledge themselves to send them back to their own countries or free them from their labour when their indentures are at an end; and the Government of this country give a bonus for the coolie trade, so that there is an actual 903 bounty in favour of sugar in the case of Demerara and Trinidad against the West Indies of 8s. 8d. in the one case and 5s. 2d. in the other; but even with this bounty you will find, if you look at the Report of the Royal Commission, that in Demerara the cost of production of a ton of sugar is £8 19s. 4d., and in Trinidad the cost of production of a ton of sugar is £9 6s. Bounty-fed sugar costs the producer £9 6s. 3d. If, therefore, bounty-fed sugar costs £9 6s. 3d., and Demerara costs £18 19s. 4d., and Trinidad sugar £9 6s., it is evident that it is absolutely impossible for the West Indies to compete in the European market against the sugar that is produced in Europe. One reason is to be found in the fact that the frieght duty is very high; it is over £1; while the freight from. Antwerp to England is almost nominal. Another reason why you cannot produce so easily in the West Indies is because of the difficulty of labour. As we know perfectly well, the "blacks" whom English West Indian people employ are a very useless article from a commercial point of view. A black does not like hard work; he is perfectly happy if he can have his little plot of land, and, by raising bananas, chickens, and eggs, get a living. The right honourable Gentleman asked me if I had been to the West Indies, Sir, I have lived in Central America, and I know perfectly well that the people there are infinitely better off than the agricultural labourers in England. They want exceedingly few clothes; they do not indulge in many luxuries; they do not have to pay for their houses—for they make them out of a few bamboo canes themselves; and they live contented lives. I can assure the Committee that most of the agricultural labourers in England would be infinitely better off in the West Indies than they are likely to be remaining in this country, as far as their material interests are concerned. In Demerara and Trinidad you import coolies in connection with the industry, but this coolie importation is a very expensive affair, because a coolie will not remain a day after his indenture time. Immediately this is over he either insists on being sent back to his own country, or he engages in some little trade speculation there. Anyhow, he refuses to work, 904 so that you have to perpetually obtain men now. Sir, I have never known a subject on which so much error is concentrated in the newspapers as in regard to this particular industry. People seem to be under the impression that it is an artificial industry kept up entirely by bounties, and that without bounties it would not exist.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
An honourable Member says, "Hear, hear!" Let me refer to the Reports, because honourable Gentlemen will not read the Reports; they allow themselves to be humbugged by statements in the newspapers. I am aware that the beet process was once a costly one, but science has since turned its attention to the subject, and you now get, a great deal more out of the beet than before. You have the most perfect machinery, and at the present time it is a very open question whether tropical cane or European beet is the better article from which sugar is obtained. Anybody who has studied the question knows that this is perfectly true. People talk of Demerara crystals. But Demerara crystals have only a very limited market. As a matter of fact, Demerara crystals are sold at a profit by the refiners, by what I may call a certain amount of adulteration. Now, I will go into this question of refinement——
Order, order! I do not think a discussion on the question of refinement would be in order. This is a Vote for Colonial Services.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
If I am out of order, I submit to your ruling. But let us consider for a moment what is the present state of the industry. In 1884 there were 842,000 tons of sugar refined in England. At present there are 623,000 tons; therefore, the reduction of the sugar refined in England is 219,000 tons. Against this there are 396,000 more tons of sugar introduced into England, these being largely taken by jam and confectionery manufacturers, and the result, therefore, is that while on the one hand there is a loss in the amount of sugar refined in this country, there are, on the other hand, more people employed. The whole of the question of refining is a 905 perfect myth. The industry is on its last legs. If there were a rise of 20s. a ton, the industry would not pay the sugar planters. In fact, at the present moment, as the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary says, there is a rise of 30s. per ton in the price of sugar. It is one of the curious features of the literature of this country that one moment you take up a pamphlet which tells you that there will be no rise, and the next moment you take up another pamphlet which tells you that there will be a rise. Sir, the right honourable Gentleman says, in a speech which he delivered a little time ago, that one of the reasons why he urged that something should be done was that cane sugar would be ultimately driven out by the beet sugar there would It is said that when the cane sugar is driven out by the beet sugar there would be a monopoly amongst those manufacturers who manufacture beet sugar, who would make us pay enormously for what we have. But figures are against the right honourable Gentleman; I have quoted them already. I have pointed out that in the last, three years there has been this expenditure, and there has been an increase of 3,000,000 tons of sugar. I think we do benefit by these bounties, but I do not think that cane sugar will be driven out. What I want to know is what the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary meant when he gave us his theory of free trade, and said that all bounty-fed articles were to be kept out of the country. We give a great many bounties in various ways. There are subsidised railways, and there are subsidised steamers, and other subsidised undertakings. Are all these to be met by a countervailing duty? Where is it all to end? Where are you to apply it in the case of sugar? We know very well that in the opinion of the honourable Member for Sheffield we should apply this countervailing process also to wheat, and the wheat being grown under better conditions and at a cheaper cost by other countries, we ought to give the British farmer the advantage of countervailing duties. If we are really to begin this sort of thing it is very difficult to know where we shall really end. I think it is pretty clear that, although the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary has given some theoretical crumbs 906 of comfort to his friends on that side of the House, he himself is not prepared to embark in this countervailing duty policy, and that he has another plan of establishing central factories in the various West Indian islands. I think he proposed to have one factory for the three islands.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
His proposal is that he shall have three factories for three islands. He proposes, I presume, to begin in the island of Barbadoes. I take it that that is so because that is the place from where the strongest appeals come, according to the Report of the Commission. Now, what is the island of Barbadoes like? Everywhere else, as a general rule, the machinery for producing sugar is exceedingly bad. It is so stated in the Report, and it is necessary to have three factories in Barbadoes alone. The right honourable Gentleman has put the cost of those factories at £250,0,00 each; therefore, if we are to follow out the suggestion of the right honourable Gentleman, £750,000 is to be expended. But, if you do that in Barbadoes, you must also do the same thing for the other islands, and Heaven knows how much it will all come to. How is it that Barbadoes is in this miserable condition? It is because of the sugar industry. It is because almost the whole industry of the country is devoted to it. In Jamaica, which is close by, you have other industries, and you do not hear these complaints. Why? Because in Jamaica there is a great deal of land which has been deserted, and which belongs to nobody, and which the black population are able to cultivate. In Barbadoes and the other islands there is, on the other hand, a very strong determination on the part of the owners of the land to prevent any black man—any black labourer—holding any land. That is what is said in the Report. The Report says the land is in the hands of the white man, and the labourer does not cultivate any land at all—that is to say, that the man who has the working of the estate has to buy his food either from the owner of the plantation or from the United States. He has to buy it, and 907 pay a heavy duty—because all taxation is indirect, and all raised upon the labouring population—to the United States merchants, who bring down such commodities as he requires. Now, what wages do these labourers have? Their wages are 10d. a day, and the land that is held by the white man, if let at all to these men, is let at the rate of £4 per acre. Such a system would not be allowed here for a day, and I certainly do think that the best thing that could happen to these islands would be that not one cane of sugar should be grown for the next 50 years. They would then devote themselves to other industries. While you have this sugar-growing industry you sap this population, and turn it almost into slavery, and the owners of the land, do not make money, and have to come here for assistance. The right honourable Gentleman has sketched out what he is going to do with this £10,000. He is going, as I understand, to pay one or two instalments of interest with it to those capitalists who are likely to find the money he requires. But if he does this, he may have to make a bargain with the gentlemen to pay them for the whole 10 years. Now, I want to know whether, by giving our assent to this £10,000, we are assenting to the principle that we are to borrow for 10 years £750,000. I do not see that it is put down in any way in the explanation of this Vote. The right honourable Gentleman has given us this explanation to-day, but I think we ought to have it clearly from him; we ought to have a clear explanation as to what he means to do with the money that we are now about to grant. If you have these factories at all, then you will also require a great number of railways and tramways to bring the sugar to the factories. If you want to set the sugar industry on its legs you must have these railways and tramways to convey the sugar to and from the factories, and you would have to have also new machinery. In America they tried these sugar factories, and they were an utter and dismal failure. In the West Indies themselves, in St. Lucia, they tried it, and there it was a dead and a positive failure, and the sugar factory was eventually sold to a private purchaser, and neither my right honourable 908 Friend the Member for Berwick nor his friends are extremely enthusiastic about these sugar factories. I find in the Report it says that this is the least costly method by which the responsibilities of the Government may be fulfilled. For whose benefit is this obligation on our part? It is certainly not for the benefit of the workers there, who will not be employed as they wish to be employed. The workers would not thank the Government for it. I say this is class legislation, and done for the purpose and for the benefit of the sugar planters, so that they may go on a little longer. It can be clearly shown by past years that unless sugar goes up in price they will not be able to hold their own and pay their way, and it is only chucking money away to devote it to this purpose. The right honourable Gentleman referred to the United States. He admitted that at the present time Cuba ordinarily sends to market 1,000,000 tons of sugar. At the present moment she only sends 200,000 tons, but now Cuba will be pacified, and joined to the United States in some manner or other, and in all probability the whole of that million tons, and more besides, will be added to the amount raised in the West Indies, and although there is an over-production of sugar at the present time, the right honourable Gentleman appears to think that he will be able to save those places which are not so well adapted for growing sugar by assisting in the over-production. The right honourable Gentleman spoke of a Treaty with the United States which he hoped to carry into effect, but I very much doubt whether that Treaty will ever be made. America is a Protectionist country, and has already spent large sums in aiding sugar in Louisiana; and now, having got hold of Cuba and other islands, the last thing they will do is to allow West Indian sugar to come into the market against their own. The right honourable Gentleman has pointed out, so far as I can understand, that the proposal with regard to this Treaty is that the United States shall give certain advantages to the sugar planters of the West Indies, and that they, in return, should give certain advantages to the United States a very large portion of the im- 909 ports come from us, but if his Treaty is carried out he will give up those imports to the United States.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
No, the United States require, in return for the concessions which they offer us, that a reduction should be made upon certain goods in which they are interested. If those reductions are made we hare accomplished all we desire. They will extend to the whole of the British Empire. They are not preferential.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
All that is desired, as I understand, is to put an end to the Protectionist system in the West Indies, and to have free trade as between the West Indies and the United States, and that, in my opinion, is a very desirable thing; but although it is our bounden duty, as the right honourable Gentleman says, to assist our Colonies, I do not think we ought to keep them entirely. Take the case of Cork: there are butter factories in Denmark and other countries, and I have heard it argued that if we established butter factories at Cork it would be greatly to the interest of that county; but it must be remembered that in all these cases it is the British taxpayer who is the plundered and robbed; but if a man does not pay any taxes in England, then he must be the best loved subject of the mother country, and the English taxpayer will be called upon to contribute to his assistance and support. But when it is suggested here that our own labourers and small farmers, and other poor men, shall profit, what occurs? Why, that the relief is given to the large landowners, and that is the practice that is carried out in this matter in the West Indies. There are some suggestions which the right honourable Gentleman made in regard to agriculture. Now, I am not going to divide against those. I cannot think much of them, but at the same time I do not intend to divide. He proposes to have botanical gardens in the West Indies, and distribute leaflets, and give prizes at agricultural shows to those who produce the biggest cabbage or banana, or whatever they may be growing. I think it is hardly the thing to do, but I am disposed to take a generous view, and I 910 should be very sorry to pub an end to his prize system. Whenever I get a leaflet I must admit that I generally throw it into the waste-paper basket without reading it, and I very much doubt whether the leaflet the right honourable Gentleman proposes to send out will ever be read by the black inhabitants. Another proposal made by the right honourable Gentleman, to which I do not object, is the proposal with regard to these steamers. I do not believe in it, but still I do not object. The nearest islands are the Leeward Islands, and they do not produce a greater supply of fruit than is now obtained. When you talk of cocoa and arrowroot and such like commodities you must remember that the market is a very limited one, and the same is the case with fruit, and the only market you would have for fruit would be the market for perishable fruit; and that market would be the United States. Now, what is the right honourable Gentleman going to do? Is he going to subsidise these steamers to carry this fruit? In order to carry this fruit they will have to make a visit to the Leeward Isles once a week at least, and the steamers must be of special construction in order to carry on that trade. Has anybody been found to undertake this most difficult duty? With regard to grants in aid, I certainly shall oppose the grants in aid. The last one asked for, to meet past difficulties, was £90,000, and now there is a further demand for the deficiency this year, and the right honourable Gentleman thinks, as it seems to me, that we ought to vote it, because he thinks that we shall always have to pay it, or, at least, for a great number of years. The real truth is, in the same way as in Barbadoes, that there is a struggle between the landowners and the negroes, who want to get hold of a small portion of the land and till it; and until you get to the bottom of that matter, and so tax the landowners that they will be glad to give up a certain portion of their land upon which to plant the negro population, you will never get prosperity in these islands. Take St. Vincent, for instance; in that island there are thousands of acres of sugar estates, which are abandoned, which the landowners refuse to sell, but which they are unable to cultivate; and if we do help them by these steamers and these other things these 911 owners will cling to the land, and insist upon a still greater price. I think they ought to be dispossessed of the land which they do not cultivate. I am against confiscation, but I am greatly in favour of taxation, and if I found a West Indian planter who did not cultivate his estate I would put such a tax upon that estate that he would be glad to give it up. Now, Dominica seems to be put in the front by the right honourable Gentleman. He asked us the other day to give him £30,000 for the purpose of making roads in Dominica, and a very large amount of the deficit money is to be given to her. Yet she is not satisfied, and she comes again for more money. Now, there are 26,000 negroes in Dominica and 330 whites, and it is stated—I have seen it again and again—that these unfortunate Colonies have done their best to retrieve their position and effect a change, that they have reduced their expenditure, and tried their best to make both ends meet; but that is not so in the case of Dominica. In 1882 the revenue expenditure was £19,400, and the charge for public debt was £788. What is it at present? The revenue expenditure is £25,890, and the charge for public debt is £3,961. Now, if the Dominicans had simply continued to spend what in 1882 they thought was sufficient for their needs, instead of now coming to us to make up this deficiency, they would have had a surplus. With regard to this island, it does not seem to me to be treated so badly after all, for honourable Members will be interested to learn that they produced last year 28,000 gallons of rum, which, however, they did not export, but which, in order, I suppose, to console them for the Colony going to the bad, was consumed by the population—28,000 gallons of rum! The right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary said that there had been some disturbances in these islands. So there had been in Dominica. But why was that? Because the free and independent Dominicans seem to have a high spirit. The right honourable Gentleman said that in order to obtain the assistance that they required they would have to give up the shadow of self-government which remained to them. But they said that they were not going to sell their heritage for this sop of pottage, and they declined the assistance offered 912 under such circumstances. What happened then? All the elected representatives of Dominica voted against the grant being made, and this thing was forced upon them by the nominated members of the Legislature; so that you are in the position of forcing upon 26,000 Dominicans money taken from the British taxpayers, and which they say they do not want. The right honourable Gentleman has grandiose ideas with regard to the Colonies. He told us, in a speech delivered about an hour or two ago, that he thought we ought to improve our estates. He has looked over the matter, and has realised lately that those estates cannot be improved, and that though you may spend money on them, you cannot spend it advantageously; but the right honourable Gentleman felt that having taken these Colonies under his wing, he must do something for them, and that is the only reason for the suggestion of these sugar factories, not that they will be any benefit to the West Indies at all. I myself always supposed that Imperialism meant that our rich Colonies ought to be defended by us without their paying anything for it, but the right honourable Gentleman has improved upon this, and has shown that not only are we to defend them, but to pay them for doing it, and to also pay their taxes. This is a very one-sided Imperialism. I believe that we must commence at the beginning, and recognise the fact that it is impossible for the West Indies to compete in the sugar industries. It is not their proper industry. It might have been a flourishing industry in past times, when the plantations were cultivated under the system of slavery, but now that, slavery is done away with, and sugar may be obtained from other parts of the world at far less cost than from the West Indies, they cannot compete, and sooner or later the West Indies must realise that fact, and turn their attention to other industries. In Jamaica they have done it, but they do not complain so much, because in that island there is plenty of land for the black population to cultivate, and in consequence you have variety of other industries. The other islands are not thriving because they are trying to keep up the sugar industry by means of gifts and doles and loans from us. I have put 913 down two Amendments, and intend to take two Divisions upon them; but there are some other Amendments which come before mine upon the Paper, and therefore I do not intend to take a Division at the present moment, as by doing so I should shut out a great deal of discussion upon this grave question. In my opinion, therefore, it would be better to have a general discussion first, and that I should not take these Divisions until the House has had an opportunity of having that general discussion.
§ * MR. SINCLAIR (Essex, Romford)
Mr. Lowther, as one who has spent some considerable time in the Colonies, and having been personally interested in sugar estates, and having come across many sugar planters, I feel that I should like to say a few words on this most important matter. No one who has studied the subject from all sides can help realising how intricate and difficult a subject it undoubtedly is. First of all, I would say how I welcome the present action of the Colonial Secretary, as I consider that it is a step in the right direction, and that it will convey to foreign nations that the Government is alive to the exigencies of the case, that it does not intend that our Colonies shall suffer without taking some step to mitigate the unfair competition that bounties have created. I hold that it is time we realised that there is nothing to prevent other branches of industry being subsidised in the same way to the detriment of British commerce; and this operation, however beneficial it may be on the surface from the consumer's point of view, enabling him to buy the commodity cheaper, must eventually react. Once allow foreign nations to ruin any of our trades, and the object they have in view, the tens of millions they have spent, they will have achieved their object—a monopoly will have been created. In the case we are now dealing with a sugar famine could easily occur, and we should be at their mercy, and very high prices would assuredly be the result. In order to show that this phase of the question has not escaped notice of those who chiefly derive a benefit from the present state of things—namely, the jam makers, who view with great alarm 914 the extinction of our sugar-growing estates—they say that the abolition of bounties will benefit fruit-preserving trades, as it will give them ultimately a cheaper, a more regular and reliable supply. I am afraid, Sir, that the present Vote before the House will not have the effect of compelling or inducing foreign countries to remove the objectionable bounties—objectionable from a free trade point of view and objectionable from a fair trade point of view. I think the process might be called unfair trade. The fact we have to face is that, instead of there being a decrease in the bounties, they have been increased, and to add to this injury it is a fact that freights are also subsidised, and that, for instance, Austria pays 10s. a ton towards the freight of sugar from Trieste to Bombay. France at the present moment pays between four and five millions in bounties, and naturally puts a prohibitive tariff to exclude all sugar from other parts; she then taxes her people to such an extent that they have to pay 6d. a pound for their sugar. Germany pays over two millions in bounties, and her people have to pay about the same price. Austria, Belgium, Holland, Russia pay two millions more. Compare the nine millions spent in this manner with the £45,000 that we are asked to vote now, and that sum is simply insignificant. Undoubtedly good as are the objects of erecting central factories, as recommended by the Royal Commission in their most admirable Report, I trust that the Colonial Secretary will see that the most modern of scientific methods are carefully considered, so as to erect the most economical and efficient machinery that modern science can produce. He will have to consider as to whether mills are to be used, or whether the cane will be treated by means of diffusion. Then the residue will also have to receive treatment, molasses taken into account; in fact, it will be found that many things could be utilised if properly treated. I hope account will be taken of how foreigners treat their beet. After the sugar is extracted, the residue, a pulp, is sold to the farmers as an excellent food for their cattle, and the leaves are also utilised. Hence Germany, France, and Austria are enabled to rear a much larger 915 quantity of cattle simply through their sugar industry. It is also a fact that by careful cultivation beet, instead of yielding 5 per cent., now yields as much as 16 per cent. It will be necessary to consider all these points, and if a proper system is adopted it will be found that cane sugar can be produced cheaper than beet, and the following figures will illustrate this. Korbesdorf—if not the very best and modern German factory, the cheapest beet factory in the world— produces sugar at a cost of £9 2s. 4d. per ton, whereas the Colonial Company, British Guiana, produces a better article at £8 19s. 4d. But, thanks to the bounty given by Germany, Korbesdorf can sell its sugar at £8 a ton, and yet make a profit. As an illustration of how suitable the soil of Barbadoes is for sugar-growing, it has been computed that, in spite of primitive machinery driven by hand power, sugar can be produced there at about £8 12s. a ton. All that is really needed in the West Indies is confidence. Once establish the feeling that England will not allow her interest to be interfered with by other nations, capital will be forthcoming and the staple industry will be revived. If, on the other hand, you allow things to go on as they are, in spite of your grants in aid and all that you are now doing, utter ruin must issue, not only to the planters, but also to the several Governments, as they will have to repatriate the coolie labour which exists there. When this is done and the industry hopelessly ruined, the object of the foreign nations will have been achieved, and up will go the price of sugar. I certainly think that we ought to be alive to our own interests, and not allow such a process as this to succeed. We saw how delighted foreign nations were at our strikes and lock-outs, how money was poured in to keep up the dissension between employers and employed, in order to attract our legitimate trade to their shores. Let us look ahead at all possible contingencies, and frustrate such nefarious designs. If once we manage to abolish bounties, trade will revive, machinery will be ordered over here, and a large export trade in other commodities may well be anticipated. Now, Sir, it is a fact that at the last Conference all the Powers, except France and Russia, 916 were agreeable to remove their bounties, providing they all agreed, and the result was that nothing was done, and that this Conference, like several others, has had no result, and that bounties are as firmly established as ever. Fifty years before the bounties 93 per cent. of the sugar was British and 7 per cent. foreign. Now 83 per cent. is foreign and 17 per cent. is British. I hold that strong measures must be taken, and if countervailing duties are not adopted, I would suggest that a small tax, say of 5s. a ton, be imposed on all bounty-fed sugar; this would produce about £500,000, and if this sum were allocated as a bounty to our planters they would receive about £2 10s. a ton, which would enable them to live, and would effectually prevent bounties being continued. We must also take into consideration that the West Indies is not the only part of the world where British sugar is grown. A cry comes from Queensland, Mauritius, Natal, Fiji, etc., that the planters there suffer also from this most unfair system, and although it has been urged that they can and do protect themselves, the tariff imposed by them is not such as will exclude foreign sugar. They do differentiate between bounty-fed sugar and other sugar. But I do think that England is in duty bound to set the example of protecting its own interests. Sir, I have heard it said by some that if bounties were abolished sugar would go up 2d. a pound, but this is impossible. Twopence a pound means £18 a ton. The scheme that I proposed of 5s. would be one-hundredth part of a penny. All that is needed is confidence; and I certainly think that any action of the Government in this direction will meet the approval of the nation. This would indeed forge another link in the chain between the mother country and her dependencies, which our Colonial Secretary has done so much to make. We must not lose sight of another important fact, that if sugar bounties were abolished the beet-growing industry could be easily introduced in England and form a most lucrative employment to our farmers, both as a means of cultivation and that the residue, as abroad, would be utilised as an important cattle food, which is better than the mangold. I certainly think I have trespassed on the 917 time of the House long enough, and I thank honourable Members for the attention they have given me. If action such as this is taken, and thereby bounties are abolished, it will draw our Colonies, or better, our dependencies, closer to the Mother Country, and they will realise that our interests are their interests, and their advancement our advancement.
§ SIR E. GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
I have, in the first place, to express my thanks, in which I am sure my colleagues would join most warmly if they were in the House, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the very handsome terms in which he has spoken of the value of our Report. I am sure it is satisfactory to all who were engaged in the work that the Colonial Office find the Report of value, and it is a satisfaction to us that the recommendations have been adopted, and are now in a practical form before the Committee, because it is our belief, after much consideration, that these recommendations will be of practical value and advantage to the West Indian Colonies. Sir, everything was done by those with whom we were brought into contact to make our work easy, agreeable, and interesting, but the feeling that accompanied us through the whole of it, and which we all had, as day by day the prospect before a great number of these islands became evident, was a depressing one, because at the end of our labours we knew very well that the remedies upon which we were all agreed, and which are now before the Committee, could at the best be only palliative of the depression and distress in the Colonies, but they would not in themselves restore to the Colonies the prosperity they had once known. A very large field has been covered by the Debate already, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies has put, as forcibly as it could be put before the Committee, the actual condition of the islands, and his description agrees entirely with the impression made on our minds. It is not necessary, therefore, for me to go over the ground so amply and effectively covered by the right honourable Gentleman, and I will confine what I have to say to, as far as possible, meeting such objections as have been raised 918 to the actual Votes now before the Committee. The first Vote which is to be opposed, I understand, is the one which stands first on the Paper—the grant in aid of local revenue. As to this it is not difficult to make up one's mind whether it is necessary or not; the description given of the condition of the islands will convince everybody that some grant in aid is necessary, and if any honourable Member doubts that, let him examine the statements in the Blue Book and see what an enormous proportion of the exports from the islands consists of sugar, in several cases amounting to 90 per cent. of the whole exports of the island, and that in island after island, as will be seen from the evidence, a great part of this industry is carried on at a loss. It will be plainly seen that the state of distress in some of the islands is of an acute and widespread character. Why does the honourable Member for Northampton oppose this grant? I gather from his speech that he is under the impression that the grant in aid ought to be opposed because, in effect, it is an attempt by the Government to bolster up the sugar industry, and that the fault underlying the whole condition of these Colonies is that sugar is the only industry, and let this industry go, and there will be no need of a grant in aid. Well, as regards a large number of the islands, there is nothing in it about the maintenance of the sugar industry, except the last item in aid of sugar factories, and as regards some of the islands, there is nothing in the Vote expressly directed to the maintenance of the sugar industry. As a matter of fact, the money is urgently required now, and whatever changes take place, if the sugar industry should disappear to-morrow, there is no prospect before the cultivators that they can realise anything from a new industry, and the money is urgently required this year. No possible change can avert that necessity. As a matter of fact, when the honourable Member for Northampton inferred—as by his argument he seemed to infer—that the islands would be better off without the sugar industry, what does he think is the condition of the islands? Suppose to-morrow the cultivation of sugar were to cease, and that the land is divided among the negroes for cultivation, would they require no further assistance? The 919 honourable Member says all their wants are simple; they would go on the land, grow food; they need no clothes, and their condition would be satisfactory—I think he said materially better than that of many agricultural labourers in this country. They might grow food, but in some islands they could not grow enough—in Barbadoes certainly not—and when they imported food, whence would they get it unless they had marketable produce? If they have no revenue, though in some of the islands they may have enough food, that is all they would have; there would be nothing for education, for medical relief, and everything of that nature; and they would relapse into a state of savagery. The policing of the island would be an Imperial expense, and that alone would be a heavier tax than the amount asked for in the Vote; and this Vote is asked for relief, not in order that the negroes may be able to supply themselves with food and lead a wretched, bare existence, without improvement, but that the government of the islands may be carried on in such a way as will enable the islands to maintain that state of civilisation to which they have been brought. That is an inevitable necessity that must be met, as the Committee will realise. There is only one other point I need deal with in relation to the grant in aid of local revenue, and that is whether the islands could themselves produce an increased revenue by increase of taxation; and if they can do this, of course, they should not come to this House for assistance. Now, taxation has been increased in these islands continually in recent years, and if taxation has reached that point that it has ceased to produce increased revenue, it is of no use to increase it further. If the prospect were still as good as it was five or six years ago, having reached that point, it would be no good increasing it further; and, as a matter of fact, the pressure has been increasing in some of the islands very seriously, and not only can they not produce increased revenue, but the burden is more intolerable than it was a few years ago. They have come to the end of their resources, and this grant in aid of local revenue is inevitable. The next part of the Vote is a grant in aid of the botanical department, and I am exceedingly glad to hear that Dr. 920 Morris is to be in charge of this department. He will bring to the discharge of his duties a knowledge of tropical produce, the possibilities and conditions of the cultivation of that produce, which I do not think can be surpassed by anyone. He will bring to the administration of the department the greatest ability, energy, enterprise, and devotion to work. His knowledge and assistance in reference to the prospects of the islands were of the greatest value to the Commission, and I am sure his work at the head of the department will be of the highest value to the islands, and, should the appointment become permanent, will be of increasing value year by year. So much in regard to the personnel of the department. The object of providing alternatives of cultivation is referred to in the Report of the Commission. Though we may give relief in a pecuniary form, we cannot be content with that. We ought to take what steps we can to restore prosperity, that relief may become less necessary every year, and as soon as possible cease altogether. That is the object of this part of the Vote, that in the islands where the sugar industry has almost disappeared, or is likely to do so, an alternative industry may be created as soon as possible. In some of the islands there is a possibility of doing that at present, and in Jamaica, to which the honourable Member for Northampton referred, alternative cultivation has saved the situation, though it has not restored prosperity. The honourable Member for Northampton has noticed this, and he seemed to think that what had been done in Jamaica might be done in the other islands. But it is impossible for the smaller islands to do for themselves what Jamaica has done. A first necessity is to have good communication with markets, and this the smaller islands have not. Jamaica is a larger island, and the industry is more extensive in proportion, and there are easy and cheap means of communication. Dominica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and perhaps some of the other islands are just as suited to the growing of the fruits which have been to the advantage of Jamaica; but at the present moment the situation is that no one will attempt to grow the fruit because they could not send the fruit to market, and no one will provide the 921 steam communication because there is no fruit to bring away. What is essential is cheap and rapid freight, and that steamers should call regularly. The object of this Vote will be to provide steam communication, and to encourage the growth of produce. The honourable Member for Northampton said that in our Report we contemplated a rise of 30s. a ton in the sugar industry as being the gum which would save the situation. That rise, he says, has taken place; therefore, if what you desire has come about, why is it necessary to do anything at all? We never said in our Report that a rise of 30s. a ton would save the situation in all the islands. We were taking the best factories in British Guiana, and in Trinidad, which produced in the cheapest possible way, and we said that, in our opinion, it was in those places, where they had the best machinery and the most favourable conditions, that a rise of 30s. a ton might be effective, not in restoring its prosperity, but in keeping the sugar industry in a state of existence, at any rate, with a reasonable margin of profits.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
IS it my right honourable Friend's view that, if you do away with the sugar bounties, which are estimated at 30s. a ton, you might possibly benefit, the sugar planters in Demerara, or those who have the very best machinery, but that you would not save the industry?
§ SIR E. GREY
Our view was this, that a rise of 30s. a ton would keep the industry going for some years, but that there are some islands where the rise would not re-establish the sugar industry. So that, even with a rise of 30s. a ton, this Vote would still be required for the relief, at any rate, of some of the islands. I gather that the honourable Member for Northampton thinks that the sugar industry must go anyhow, and that, if that is so, there reason for the Vote. But my view is that, even if there is not likely to be any return of prosperity in the sugar industry at all in the near future, this Vote will still be necessary to place the islands in a sound condition. The essence of the Report is that there is, and always will be, great danger to these small islands, 922 which depend solely on the sugar industry, from the perpetual recurrence of crises. That is likely to be so as long as there is the dependence upon a single industry, and that an industry which collects more people on the land to carry on that industry than can be supported by any other industry which takes its place, and which, at the same time, unfits them almost—at any rate, leaves them without any training—to turn to other occupations. That being so, it is desirable that the existence of these islands should rest upon a broader basis than it has done in past years. I do not propose to go into the question of countervailing duties at all. They are discussed in our Report, and, if the question really before the Committee in a practical form, I should be quite ready to defend the conclusions at which any other of my colleagues, as well as myself, came to with regard to countervailing duties. But countervailing duties are not at the present moment before the Committee in a practical form, and I propose, therefore, simply to say a few words on the question of bounties. A good deal of dislike of countervailing duties has already been expressed in this Debate, but, while I put that question on one side now, I am bound to say that the impression left upon me by the work which we went through on this Commission was a dislike of bounties. I do not think the Committee can be familiar with the aspect, of bounties as it presents itself, and must present itself, to people who have seen the industry which is struggling under their pressure at the present time. In this country discussion has ranged so much around the subject of countervailing duties, and their merits and demerits, that people have hardly realised the feeling which bounties must have created in the minds of those who have been engaged in the sugar industry. The first objection I would bring against the existence of bounties is the sense of injustice which they create. What the planters demand is that they should have a fair chance, and that, there should be no unfair handicap against them, and when I heard the honourable Member for Northampton, I thought—I do not know how to describe it—there was a great want of sympathy on his part towards these men. Though the Committee is not 923 asked at this moment to give the planters the particular assistance of bounties, at any rate, they ought not to speak disparagingly of the efforts they were making. They should rather have sympathy with those who have been engaged in the sugar industry. Of course, they are not all alike in all the islands, but you will find in some parts that the greatest energy and enterprise have been exercised in improving the machinery, in reducing the cost of production, and in the management of the works as well. There are some central factories, at any rate, existing both in Trinidad and in British Guiana, where the management and the machinery has been made in recent years as good as they could possibly be made. In those cases, at any rate, the planters who think that they are unfairly handicapped in the struggle by the bounties are entitled to our sympathy. The second objection to bounties, apart from their material effect on prices, is their effect on the stability of trade. There are quite enough natural causes to produce instability, and when you add to those the artificial cause of bounties that instability is bound to bring a sense of injustice and a feeling of insecurity to all concerned in the trade, and, in the long run, whatever advantages may for the moment be derived from cheapness, that artificial condition of things is not likely to be beneficial to the consumer either. You have an industry here in which enormous improvements in the cost of production and in machinery have been made in recent years. Further improvements possibly will be made, but you want for these ready access to capital; but, so long as the bounty system continues, that access to capital is denied owing to want of credit, and I think to reproach the planters, as they have been reproached, for not having done enough to improve their machinery and their processes of production, and at the same time to ignore the effect which the bounties, an the prospective increase of the bounties have had in crippling their credit, is to do them a very great injustice. So much for the subject of bounties, and what I have said justifies, I think, the statesmen in our Report that the Government ought to regard the abolition of bounties as in itself a most desirable object. I do not 924 propose to go into the question of what he effect of the abolition of bounties might be on prices. That will be most interesting for the Committee at the moment it has before it some practical proposal for the abolition of bounties. I will only say that, when I heard the lonourable Member for Northampton discounting the prospective gain to the sugar industry of the West Indies by saying that there are other places in the world more suited than the West Indies which could supply the markets of the world with cane sugar, and that therefore the cane sugar industry of the West Indies, even if they had a fair field, is bound to die out anyhow, I think that inclusion is not justified by anything which appears in our Report, and is not one which I believe to be substantially accurate. The fact is, as regards the best islands, that the best factories are holding their own at the prices which existed when we went out. If that is the case, if even at the very low prices which existed when we were engaged in our inquiry, the best central factories could still exist, then I do think that that is a strong argument for taking into favourable consideration the last item in our Report, which is that some help should be given in establishing central factories elsewhere. The honourable Member for Northampton said that there were central factories in St. Lucia which failed. But at all events the Committee should bear in mind when talking of the West Indies you are not talking of one place in which all the same conditions apply, because the conditions are different in different islands. When we came to make the recommendation to establish central factories in Barbadoes, we took into consideration that some of the central factories in Guiana were holding their own and were so favourable that good central factories might be expected to produce sugar more cheaply than in the other islands. I think the honourable Member for Northampton suggested that 10d. a day was a very miserable wage, but I think that even 10d. a day is better than a bare existence in cultivating the ground without any money to purchase what even are considered to be the necessaries of life. I think that even 10d. a day wages is better than the conditions of 925 things to which the honourable Member for Northampton, referred.
§ SIR E. GREY
Well, they cannot get any money by selling chickens and pigs to each other. The present proposal of the Government is not quite the same as that recommended in the report of the Commission; we recommended a grant of £50,000 as a loan to Barbadoes. Well, Sir, the question arose whether this money could not be provided by private enterprise, but the question was not discussed because we had no means of forming an estimate or an opinion on the question. It is perfectly possible that private enterprise might provide a certain amount of the capital required. Our proposal was a liability of £120,000 with regard to Barbadoes alone, and we admitted in our report that the situation in St. Vincent and Antigua was analogous to the intensity of the distress and the pressure which existed in Barbadoes. As regards Antigua it was thought that if central factories succeeded in Barbadoes it should be extended to Antigua. Now, the right honourable Gentleman proposes that the House, instead of undertaking a liability as we recommend it of £120,000 in all, spread over the whole time, that we should now undertake a liability of £200,000. That is rather an increased liability, but out of that increased liability of £200,000 he proposes to provide assistance for three islands, whereas we contemplated £120,000 for one island. If the Colonial office can carry out the proposal which has been sketched to the House this evening the increase of liability incurred by the Committee will be comparatively small, because the amount of service rendered will be over a much larger area and will have a wider scope than was contemplated by us; and I shall be exceedingly glad to see that proposal carried out. I spoke of the Barbadoes, which was specially compensated by us. Before I sit down I would just ask the Committee to consider the actual condition of this island. The Committee have listened to the speech made by the honourable Member for Northampton. Now, Barbadoes has a population of something over 1,100 to 926 the square mile. It is most densely populated, there are no spare lands in the colony at all, the whole of the land has been cultivated, with the exception, I believe, of about 6,000 acres, which are incapable of cultivation. The sugar industry is largely carried on at a loss, and without central factories I fear they will have to be carried on at a greater loss in future years. When the sugar industry goes you will have this very dense population absolutely incapable of producing anything for export at all, because in Barbadoes it would be positively impossible that they should grow any other articles of produce for export, whatever they may be able to do in the Island of Dominica and elsewhere. If the Committee will look at out special Report of Barbadoes they will see that they cannot have alternative manufactures as in other islands. They are absolutely incapable of producing anything else. How will you deal with that situation? In the first place, the people would begin to starve. Then there are riots; then you have the emergency, and you must send an armed force to quell the riots and take violent measures. Then the House will find themselves in the position of seeing what the intensity of the question is like in riots being put down by force, being told that there was an emergency, and that this was necessary to preserve order, and it will find itself then absolutely helpless. That really is the alternative if nothing is done. The people will first starve, then riot, and then you will have to put them down by force. There will be bloodshed and everything which is most distasteful and most disagreeable to the House and to the Government. Our report contemplated that if some relief were not given to certain islands, that would be the result. What we recommended, and what is in part adopted before the Committee this afternoon by the Colonial Office, are in the nature of palliatives, which we hope will stave off and in time remove altogether the dangers of such a situation as that which might occur in the most distressed land. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Committee cares to go very closely into the question of the expense which is being thrown on the British taxpayer for the palliatives we have recommended, if it were to make two columns of figures 927 showing, first of all, the amount we are being asked to vote now under this scheme in future years, and, secondly, the probable amount of expense to which they will be inevitably put if violent measures have to be resorted to, it will be found that the expense of the latter contingency, which we should all deplore, will, in the long run, be much greater. Now, Sir, if there is any part of the British Empire more than another for which we have special obligations it is with regard to these islands. In most parts of the British Empire the population is what it has made itself, but here the population was deported originally to these islands, taken in hand under our influence, and whatever there is there has been put there by those for whose actions we are responsible, or by our own ancestors in previous years. That intensifies the obligation which we all feel as regards this part of the British Empire, and in regard to these measures of relief, there is nothing more unfair and untrue than to say that they have been actuated by the motive of desiring to help the planters. It was not the planters especially that we had in view, although they had our sympathy, it was the prospect before the population in these islands and our obligations to them that we had in view. The difficulties are very great; the palliatives we recommended were not framed on any lavish scale, but were framed as the minimum which we considered to be necessary rather than in any spirit of expansive generosity, and I think the Colonial Office and any Government whatever which may have in the course of the next few years to deal with these West Indian Colonies, will be confronted by such difficulties that they will deserve whenever they come to this House the assistance, the credit, and the sympathy of this House.
§ * SIR J. LUBBOCK
I have listened with interest to the very able speech of the right honourable Baronet who has just sat down, and it seems to me to be a very conclusive reply to some of the arguments of the honourable Member for Northampton. I desire also to say a very few words in reply to some of the arguments of the honourable Member for Northampton. I think the honourable Member was somewhat ungenerous with 928 regard to the action of the West Indian landowners. Everybody who knows anything of the state of the sugar industry in the West Indies will agree with me when I say that the present state of the West Indian islands is mainly due to the sugar bounties. The honourable Member for Northampton spoke of the produce of the West Indies as having fallen to 250,000 tons; but, Sir, that is only the amount which, as was stated by the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, is imported into this country, and not the amount of production for the whole of the West Indies, but the particular amount which comes to Great Britain. The greater part of the produce of the West Indies goes to the United States. The honourable Member for Northampton quoted some figures which satisfied him that under no circumstances could sugar ever be properly grown in the West Indies, or could it ever be expected to compete with other countries. He spoke of the cost of production of sugar in Java, where it is very little lower than in the West Indies, but the figures which he quoted are for a particular year in a particular country. They really prove nothing, because they largely depend on the amount of the crops, and the cost of a particular year is no sufficient evidence, because in other years it might be very different. An argument based on the production of a single year is entirely fallacious, but even if it were true that in Java and the Sandwich Islands they could produce sugar cheaper they could not produce the amount required by the whole world. Then, Sir, I think the honourable Member for Northampton was hardly fair to the West Indies when he said that we had to thank the German bounty system for the reduction in the price of sugar. I am sure, from the statements made by those who know the West Indies better than I do, that the cost of sugar-producing has been greatly reduced by the improved machinery, and it is by no means entirely owing to the bounty system. That point has been very ably dealt with by my right honourable Friend who has just sat down. It is impossible suddenly to change the whole produce of these islands. I agree with the honourable Member for Northampton that it would be desirable that other products should be encouraged 929 in the West Indies. The steps now proposed by Her Majesty's Government seem to be wisely designed to carry out the policy which the honourable Member for Northampton advocates. Of course it would be out of place now to discuss the question of the tax on rum, which was not alluded to by my right honourable Friend. The Commissioners were unanimous in their opinion that the present mode of levying an extra 4d. per gallon on rum was unsound and unjust to the West Indies. The removal of the surtax on rum would have the additional advantage that it would extend to the whole of the West Indies and not to any particular island or any particular district. I must say myself that it does seem to me that the West Indies have just cause for complaint in the extra 4d. per gallon which is placed on the rum. It would be a great benefit to them if that question were considered, and I hope that it will have the attention of Her Majesty's Government. I congratulate the Government on the selection of Mr. Morris for the important duties which are to be entrusted to him; I think Her Majesty's Government—and, in saying this, I think I am expressing the general opinion of botanists—could not have chosen any man more likely to succeed, and I hope that the West Indies may derive considerable benefit from this appointment. Before I sit down I must say that I am sure that I am expressing the general feeling of the Committee when I acknowledge the great ability with which the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies has dealt with this very important and very complicated subject.
§ COLONEL SIR H. VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I share the opinion of the right honourable Baronet who has just spoken in his great admiration of the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. At the same time I must say that I do fail myself to approve of this Vote entirely. It is not that I grudge the money in any shape or form, on the contrary, I should be only too delighted to vote not only this sum, but a considerably larger sum, if I thought that it were calculated to ameliorate the unfortunate condition of affairs in those once prosper- 930 ous Colonies. The Vote which the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies has put on the Paper this evening deals only with a comparatively small sum of £41,500, but this expenditure he very fairly told the House pledges the country to like action for a number of years; if not to the extent of three-quarters of a million, at least half a million of money is involved in the action which we shall take this evening. I sit in this House on behalf of those who will have to pay the money not only this year but in subsequent years, and I do not think that my own constituents would hesitate one moment at my voting for this sum in its entirety if they thought that it would secure the end in view. I ask the Committee, Mr. Lowther—and I will be as brief as I possibly can—are these proposals really calculated to secure the end in view so long as foreign bounties are maintained, and are they ever likely to be successful in rehabilitating the West Indies? A few days after the Report of the Royal Commission was issued I had an opportunity of consulting my constituents upon these recommendations. The facts were fully placed before them as detailed in that Report, and the opinion of the honourable baronet opposite and Sir David Barbour, side by side with the view of the Chairman, Sir Henry Norman. Sir Henry Norman said—After prolonged consideration of the subject, I think that without countervailing duties the sugar production of the Colonies must decline rapidly and perhaps disappear.This was held to be sound common sense. It was, indeed, so far endorsed by all the Commissioners, who, although two of them shrank from the only effective means of obtaining their end, yet they unanimously declared—That the best immediate remedy would be the abandonment of the bounty system by Continental nations. This change would, in all probability, enable a large portion of the sugar cultivation to be carried on successfully.On October 18th, therefore, I received this mandate from Central Sheffield. It ran—not to use its vote for the pecuniary aid suggested from the Mother country, unless at 931 the same time steps are taken by Her Majesty's Government to put an end to this outrageous bounty system.Now, the question I have to ask myself, Mr. Lowther, is: has the Government taken these steps so as to enable me to support their grant in the Lobby? When on March 14th I voted for the grant of £90,0000 in aid of deficits in the West Indies, and of £30,000 in aid of roads and land settlements in St. Vincent and Dominica, the Secretary for the Colonies on that occasion deprecated much discussion, and advised that our general views should be deferred to such time as he should propose the present Vote. I thought I was justified in doing so, as Her Majesty's Government had accepted the invitation of the Belgian Government to a conference—with the object of examining the question of the abolition of bounties, and the points connected with the subject.It was reasonable, I thought, to assume that at that Conference the British Government would take a leading and a decided part, inasmuch as it had thought itself of convening a Conference in London to consider the abolition of the bounties. I submit, Mr. Lowther, that this was a reasonable assumption, because Lord Salisbury had positively declared to a deputation that—to go into negotiations when we are absolutely bound to propose no countervailing duty is a harder task than Pharoah's taskmaster ever imposed—asking bricks to be made without straw. To go into the market and buy without money, to go to war and fight without weapons. Do you imagine,said Lord Salisbury to the deputation—that supplication, or preaching, or exhortations, or lectures, or political economy will affect the policy of foreign nations? How would you be affected, if someone came to bargain with you, by something that would appeal to you interests one way or another? and foreign Powers are very much like individuals. If it is the pleasure of the people of this country to give to the Foreign Office the power of saying this, 'Unless you are able to find some means of alleviating this which we conceive to be an injury, it is in our power, and we shall exercise that power, of raising a countervailing duty.'It was reasonable to assume, after the abortive results of seven Conferences, and especially of that held in 1888 in London, 932 that no fresh Conference would be entered upon without instructions to use such language. Again, the assumption was reasonable, because the Secretary of State for the Colonies had written to the Prime Minister on November 9th, 1896, and he said—That he was not prepared to accept the responsibility of allowing matters to take their course, and to acquiesce in the policy of non-intervention hitherto pursued in regard to the bounties.At Liverpool, moreover, on January 18th of this year, my right honourable Friend said—That he did not agree that free trade was in the way of countervailing duties, and that assuming that countervailing duties were an effectual way of preventing bounties, it would be perfectly justifiable to adopt that weapon to secure free trade in sugar.On the same occasion the right honourable Gentleman declared—If we are to defend our trade, which is attacked from so many quarters and in so many ways, we must give up the old policy of apathy and indifference for one of initiative and resolution.Upon the Journals of the House we also have the opinion, or, at least, what was the opinion, of the President of the Board of Trade. He said—If this bounty continues, I anticipate the inevitable day when sugar will cease to be grown in our West Indian Colonies. If things were left to themselves, we could supply as cheaply, or more cheaply, ourselves. What is a foreign bounty but a tax upon our manufactures? A bounty paid on exportation by a foreign Government is practically a tax upon our manufactures; a bounty is a violation of free trade.Lastly, in April no less than 180 Members of this House, representing 180 constituencies and nearly 2,000,000 electors, signed a memorial to the acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs praying that the British plenipotentiaries might be grantedsuch powers as will enable them to bring pressure to bear in support of those countries which are willing to abolish the bounty system.And, replying to a deputation of these Members at the Foreign Office, the First Lord of the Treasury, replacing Lord 933 Salisbury, then most unfortunately all but now happily recovered, said—Every means that we can employ to bring the deliberations of the conference to a successful issue will be used. We are heartily at one with you in the earnest wish that something may be done to restore the sugar industry of the world to a healthy and a natural condition.Now, Mr. Chairman, did the Government set about fulfilling this engagement, justifying our legitimate anticipations? These were the instructions to Her Majesty's representatives by Lord Salisbury. They read—It being the earnest desire of Her Majesty's Government to secure the suppression of all bounties on sugar, which they consider to be prejudicial to the general interests of the British Empire, you are authorised to press for, and to assist in the negotiation of, an international convention for this purpose; but inasmuch as no bounties are given in the United Kingdom, it will be your duty to consider, and to report to me upon, any proposals which may be made by the delegates of Belgium, or of other bounty-giving States, rather than to put forward in the first instance any definite proposals on behalf of Great Britain. It will be desirable for you to ask for instructions before committing Her Majesty's Government to any definite line of action.At the second session of the Conference, on June 10th, Sir Francis Plunkett made a declaration in this sense to his colleagues. He said—Our duty will be to listen with attention and good will to the proposals which may emanate from bounty-giving States. Our Government sincerely trusts that the result of the conference will be such as to avoid the necessity of considering ulterior measures which might become necessary in the interests of British Colonies, and to remedy the regrettable situation resulting from bounties.I know, Mr. Lowther, that this pacific and mutual attitude threw a wet blanket over the Conference and suffocated it at its birth, with the keenest disappointment to the Belgian Government, Germany, Austria, and Holland, who were all anxious for the abolition of bounties. Spain and Sweden were quite agreeable. It only needed, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, a firmly-announced intention to close the British market to French bounty-fed sugar, to secure the abolition of this disastrous system. The French Government could not believe that this 934 was the outcome of all the anticipations formed concerning the action of Her Majesty's Ministers, that they would shrink from saying to France that the 175,000 tons of French bounty-fed sugar exported to this country should find no market in England, save on a duty equal to the bounty, unless the Republic and Russia fell into line with Europe. At the next sitting, on June 11th, M. Sebline, the French delegate, was undoubtedly instructed to make use of that, and there was no misunderstanding. He said (on page 30 of the proceedings)—There is practically only one of the nations represented at the conference—England—on whom depends the solution of the question, and there appears to be little probability of her being disposed at once to take a firm attitude.This drew Sir Francis Plunkett to his legs, and, as was intended, His Excellency declared—That the British delegation was obliged to reserve any answer on the subject until it was acquainted with the results of the work of the Conference.The President of the Conference, the Belgian Minister of Finance, to whose efforts we owe a debt of gratitude, thereupon saidthat the declaration of the honourable representatives of Great Britain was equivalent to a motion of adjournment,so clearly did he see that after this there was no hope of the Conference doing any good; indeed, it only held three more desultory sittings. The incident to which I have called the attention of the Committee is clearly referred to in the Report of the delegates, on page 3, in these words—It became evident that great interest was attached to the views that might be entertained by Great Britain in regard to a penal clause for the imposition of countervailing duties on, or the prohibition of, bounty-fed sugar. We, however, maintained an attitude of reserve upon this point, stating that the decision of Her Majesty's Government could not be taken until they were in possession of some definite project of agreement, and were in a position to know which Powers were willing to become parties to it.Good heavens! Mr. Lowther; an attitude of reserve when the British West Indies are being ruined, when British India, 935 British Queensland, and British Mauritius are seriously threatened, when nearly all the sugar refineries in this country have been killed, when the interests of machinery makers and of coal miners supplying six tons of coal for every 10 tons of sugar refined are seriously affected! And all because one nation, abusing our good nature and our fear of the people, and our ultra-conservatism, adheres to bounties. This is made perfectly clear by the Report of the delegates, who say—It had become evident that of all the countries represented at the Conference, only one—namely, France—was opposed to the complete suppression of all export bounties, whether direct or indirect, and that one Power—namely, Russia—declined to discuss the question of her internal legislation, contending that her system does not, in fact, amount to a bounty on the exportation of sugar. These two Powers therefore presented an insurmountable obstacle to any agreement.It is not, therefore, surprising that Lord Pirbright, who so skilfully presided over the Conference of 1888—which was itself the seventh Conference abortively held—with the same object in view, should write—The Brussels Sugar Conference is a failure in the strongest sense of the word, its conclusions are ridiculous, the chances of its ever re-assembling nil, and the result of its deliberations, as far as the abolition of bounties is concerned, the only question affecting Great Britain and the Colonies, absolutely useless.For this result, as the French delegate himself implied, England is responsible. The blame surely cannot be attributed to Lord Salisbury, for in August, 1888, his Lordship signed the Convention giving power to countervail or prohibit bounty-fed sugar. It cannot be the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who has written and spoken so strongly against bounties. Can it possibly be the Chancellor of the Exchequer? who so emphatically declared that—the door of legitimate trade must be kept open, even at the cost of war.But if this weakness, this fear to strike, is the result of the influence of any Member of the Cabinet or of any Minister on that bench, I must respectfully say that the most welcome news to the Empire would be that he had handed over his seals. The result has caused con- 936 sternation in the West Indies, and been the cause at home of keen disappointment and regret. The question is, what is to be done? The British delegates report—It seems clear that in these circumstances there are but two methods of securing the suppression of the bounty system:And the delegates add—
- "(1) By coming to some arrangement for such modifications or limitations in the French and Russian systems as may be acceptable to the sugar-producing States in return for the suppression of their bounties;
- "(2) By the conclusion of a convention between a certain number of sugar-producing States, providing for the total suppression of sugar bounties within their dominions, and engaging that they will either impose countervailing duties or prohibit the entry of bounty-fed sugar coming from States which cannot be induced to become parties to the convention."The market of the United States is already rendered unprofitable by this means to all bounty-fed sugar.Is Her Majesty's Government willing to move in this direction? Of course, there would be a certain amount of political declamation. That is inevitable. Lord Salisbury was frightened by it 10 years ago, but now his position is stronger. To protect British trade, and, above all, the British Empire, this great majority was sent to sit on this side of the House. It must be worthy of its traditions, or it will fall. Even Lord Farrer has declared thatbounties are an abomination, they are bad and foolish things, they revolt his conscience.The great majority of the Press are in favour of action. The Times says—If bounty-fed sugar were excluded from the English market under an agreement by which German and Austrian sugar should cease to be bounty-fed, our actual supply would, at the worst, be diminished by some quarter of a million tons, now imported from France. It is quite probable that this would have an effect on the price of sugar.The Standard says—There is no reason why this country should not sign such a convention, as the matter cannot be left where it is.937 The Daily Mail says—The imposition of such countervailing duties would in no sense be a protectionist measure. We shall thereafter pay through the nose for the cheap sugar we are so cheerfully eating to-day. Indeed, we have already paid in the loss of the sugar refining industry. In the interest of our Colonies, it is time for us to see fair play.The Morning Post is even more emphatic. It says—With the failure of the Brussels conference must go the proposed grant, unless the nation is prepared to continue an indefinite allowance to the West Indies in order that the bounty-giving Powers may preserve a fiscal policy instituted with the object of breaking up the British Empire.The whole of the Conservative Press in the Provinces speaks in the same vein, and it knows the feeling of the country. The Government proposes this annual grant of £45,500 to the West Indies from the taxpayers of the United Kingdom; and what for? To endeavour to stave off the ruin caused by foreign bounties. There is no mistake about this. The Commissioners are unanimous on the subject, as pages 8 and 9 of their Report show. It states—Any lowering of the price of sugar, due to the operation of the bounty system, is too dearly purchased by the injury which that system imposes on your Majesty's West Indian and other subjects.And again—We have no hesitation in saying that the abolition of the bounty system is an object at which your Majesty's Government should aim, and that the accomplishment of such an end is worth some sacrifice.Then the Commissioners (on page 8) unanimously declared that they do not concur in the opinion that—The reduction in the price of sugar which has resulted from the bounty system is such a source of gain to the British Empire as a whole, that it would not be right to initiate measures to bring about its abolition. By far the greater portion of the fall in the price of sugar is not due to the existence of bounties and would not be lost if they were abolished.This opinion receives important corroboration from the well-known firm of James Keiller and Sons, of Dundee, the great 938 makers of jam and marmalade. They have written—That the abolition of foreign sugar bounties would only be an act of justice to our home refiners, while it would prove a national benefit in promoting the industries of our Colonies. If the abolition of the bounties did raise the price of sugar, we feel sure it would not do so permanently, and we do not believe that any such advance would be detrimental to our trade. Jams and preserves of all kinds are so cheap now that a moderate advance in the price of sugar would not materially affect the consumption.This they repeat in a letter to Mr. Neville Lubbock, who has laboured so indefatigably in the cause, and it says—The abolition of bounties would not injure the fruit-growing, the fruit-preserving, and confectionery trade of this country, but will confer a direct benefit upon them by giving them an ultimately cheaper, as well as a more regular and more reliable supply of sugar.Messrs. Batger and Co., of London, confirm this, and say that—After a short interval this kingdom would be provided with a larger, a better, a cheaper, and a more reliable supply of sugar than it has ever yet had. If once there is real free trade in sugar, the confectionery and allied trades would not be liable to the sudden and serious fluctuations which hamper it.Let me turn, now to the situation in the West Indies. The Commissioners declare that the depression is not due to extravagance in management, to imperfection in manufacture, to inadequate supervision consequent on absentee ownership; that wages and salaries have already been so reduced that no further economy can be expected in respect to them, and that even the estates which had introduced the best machinery suffer from the depression, and that no other industry is possible. Is there any hope of the expenditure proposed proving remunerative, or even effective, in obtaining the object in view, unless bounties are abolished. The Anti-Bounty League, which includes the most prominent persons connected with the sugar industries, which has Mr. Beeton as its able secretary, and which is represented by my honourable Friends the Members for Liverpool and Warwickshire, records its conviction that—Grants in aid not only do not afford a permanent remedy, but leave both the home 939 refining industries and the other sugar-producing Colonies as before at the mercy of the financial policy of foreign Governments.British Guiana, Trinidad, the Leeward Islands, Barbadoes, Jamaica, have all by their constituted representative bodies or by public meetings condemned grants in aid as affording no permanent remedy. The Governor of Barbados indeed, went further, and said—Were the foreign bounties to be raised after we have adopted the central factory system, I conceive that our position will be almost worse than it is at present, for not only would we have again to compete unequally with the bounty-fed products, but we—and that includes the home taxpayer—might possibly be saddled with liabilities which we could not meet.On these grounds, Mr. Lowther, as it is not only a question of the West Indies, but also of Queensland, with five millions of capital embarked in the production sugar; of Mauritius, with 122 sugar plantations; of India, with large factories, each engaging from one and a half to 16 lakhs of rupees of capital, besides numberless village works in which bullock power is used, already imperilled by the import last year of two and a half times the quantity of bounty-fed sugar than in the previous year; as it is a question of more than half the sugar refineries of Britain being closed, throwing thousands, directly and indirectly, out of employment, I, by direction of my constituents, do move a reduction of £1,000 in this Vote, and reserve to myself the right also to vote against the whole sum. I only ask leave to thank the House, and say that I take this course, not in any grudging spirit towards the West Indies themselves, but because I feel that unless these bounties are done away with first of all we shall be putting the cart before the horse, and we shall entail, not only loss upon this country, but keen disappointment in the Colonies which we desire to benefit. I therefore beg move the reduction of the Vote £1,000.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I have heard the conclusion of my honourable Friend's speech with con- 940 siderable surprise, for it appeared to me that it did not fit in with the argument which he addressed to the House. He dwelt upon the disastrous position in which the planters and the population of these islands now find themselves, and his remedy is to diminish the assistance which it is suggested that this House shall give to them by so considerable a sum as £1,000. It is perfectly true that my honourable Friend is within his right in discussing the question of the sugar bounties—that question cannot be excluded from this Debate; but, at the same time, I would remind my honourable Friend that it is not the principal subject of the Debate. The principal subject, and the one which I think the House will address itself to, is the actual advantage which will be given to the West Indies by this Vote. It has nothing to do with the sugar bounties, which only come incidentally, though I do not think my honourable Friend was out of order in discussing it. As he himself confessed in the end of his speech, he was not speaking so much in the interest of the West Indies as in the interest of the other countries which he had in his mind.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Countries which have no connection with this Vote. I do think that it would be well not to turn this Debate into a discussion upon the question of sugar bounties, but to confine it strictly to the proposals which are now before the House. There are two reasons why I desire to impress that view upon my honourable Friend, both of which are made perfectly clear by the speech of my right honourable Friend the Colonial Secretary. The right honourable Gentleman, in his speech, showed two things; the first one was that the immediate destruction of the sugar bounties, however desirable—and I think it would be most desirable—would have this collateral disadvantage, that its immediate result would be to injure, and not to benefit, the West Indian Colonies; and the second is this, that we, the Government, have not proposed any action that it may be necessary to take in regard to the matter. By this Vote, we do not ask 941 the House to say anything in favour of or against them. We do not ask the House to pronounce upon the economical, social, or international issues raised by that very difficult and important subject. We have a sufficient number of difficult questions that must be dealt with at once, without employing the time of the House in a discussion upon a subject which is not before the House, and which it is not desirable to discuss at this late period. Let us leave this question, and let us deal like business men with the proposals laid before us, and avoid, as far as possible, introducing matter which, however important, however menacing in the future, is not immediately relevant to the business before us. Those are the general considerations which I should feel justified in urging at any time, but there are special reasons to-night why I venture to make the application to the Committee to shorten as far as possible the Debate. It is the desire of a large number of honourable Members, as we are informed, to deal with the Report on Supply, and raise the question of the Far East upon it, and unless honourable Gentlemen will consent, in charity to those honourable Members who wish to discuss the matter, to exclude from their speeches wide economical issues which are not strictly relevant to the subject before us, and so give an opportunity for that important matter to be discussed, that desire cannot be gratified. I hope the House, therefore, will not think that I at all desire to cut short this Debate if I ask them now as soon as possible to bring it to a conclusion.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I rise to support the appeal that has been made by the right honourable Gentleman, and I also desire to rescue the Colonial Secretary from his supporters, who desire to reduce his salary by £1,000.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Very well, then, from those who desire to deprive the West Indies of £1,000, which, perhaps, after all, is not a desirable thing. I am going to follow the advice of the right honourable Gentleman. He has said 942 that this discussion upon the bounties and countervailing duties is absolutely irrelevant to this Debate, and that was obvious from the first. I entirely follow my honourable Friend the Member for Northumberland in the statement he has made in favour of the Report of the Commission. That Report bases this grant on the ground of temporary relief to the distress in the West Indies. The Colonial Secretary has suggested a modification of the Report, and states that he expects to find in the city some company promoter who will procure for him £750,000 at 3 per cent. for 10 years. I hope he will succeed in his proposal. I say no more than this upon that, although I may have a little scepticism as to such a financial operation; but when we are told that this discussion is irrelevant, I must say I think the responsibility for the proposal of the honourable Member for Sheffield really rests upon the shoulders of the Colonial Secretary, for out of his speech of an hour and a quarter in length a considerable portion was devoted to the subject of countervailing duties. I am not, however, going into the question tonight. I only wish to enter a caveat against the Free Trade theories of the Colonial Secretary. I know that a few years ago he persuaded himself that the scheme of a Zollverein was entirely consistent with the doctrine of free trade. His views upon that subject have been given with great force, and to-night he has gone still further. I say no more upon the subject, except that I absolutely demur to the doctrine which has been laid down to-night upon the subject by the Colonial Secretary. He said he based his proposal on the Report of the Royal Commission, but so far as I can see the Report of the Commission condemns the imposition of countervailing duties in the strongest terms.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Then I am afraid I must trouble the Committee with a few details from the Report. I find that the Commissioners, upon page 12, say this—A rise of price such as might reasonably be anticipated from the imposition of countervailing duties would not, according to the 943 representations made to us in evidence, place the West Indian sugar industry in a satisfactory position. The different witnesses who have given evidence do not agree as to the increase in price, which would make the industry profitable. With a countervailing duty of 25s. a ton on raw beet, produced in Germany, the rise in price might be substantially less than 30s. a ton. Whatever the rise in price might be, it would stimulate the production of cane sugar, and bring into operation a cause tending to reduce prices.According to that they say that countervailing duties would not place the West Indies in a satisfactory position. Then they go on to say—Whilst, therefore, we think that the imposition of countervailing duties on the import of bounty-fed sugar into the United Kingdom would cause some rise in price and benefit the West India sugar growers, we consider it impossible to predict precisely amount of that rise would be.Then at the end of the Report there is this—In view of the foregoing considerations—namely, the loss to the British consumer that would result from any rise in the price of sugar; the inconvenience to trade that would be caused by the imposition of countervailing duties; the uncertainty whether any such measure would permanently save the sugar industry in the West Indies; the inexpediency of raising questions connected with the interpretation of the most-favoured-nation clause, which might have the effect of weakening its force; and finally the danger, direct and indirect, of departing from what has hitherto been considered to be the settled policy of the United Kingdom—we have been unable to agree in a recommendation that such duties should be imposed.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Certainly—At the same time, we consider it to be our duty to draw attention to the precarious condition of the sugar industry in the West Indies, and to the very serious consequence to the colonies from the failure of that industry, and that practically countervailing duties is the only remedy which has been pressed upon us by the witnesses who have given evidence before us.Surely that is true? Very wisely, the right honourable Gentleman has not adopted that remedy; he has hung it out to-night to dry. But, in my experience, 944 when you want to get a Vote you do not need to overlay the question with controversial matters. Why all this talk about countervailing duties and bounties, and their consistency with free trade, I cannot understand. There is one more sentence I would read to the right honourable Gentleman, with which I concur. It says—It has been urged before that it would not be necessary actually to impose countervailing duties, but that the mere threat to do so would be sufficient to lead to an abandonment of the bounty system.I suppose that what we have heard tonight is that threat, and that the speech we have listened to is addressed rather to Paris than to London. They also say it must be a matter of opinion whether a mere threat or the imposition of the duties would have this effect, but it seems to us a sufficient answer to the contention to say that we could not recommend Her Majesty's Government to make the threat or impose the duties unless they were prepared to accept all the consequences which might flow from their action. Well, Sir, all I desire to do is to enter my caveat, and if ever a time should arrive when this threat assumes reality I should be prepared to contest the economic doctrines of the Colonial Secretary altogether. He has told us the exchange of commodities in their natural condition, but I believe that such exchange is a very rare thing, therefore I support, the Commission in what they recommend, and what they disclaim, and I hope to defend the Colonial Secretary against the reduction in his salary of £1,000 proposed by his supporter, the honourable Member for Sheffield.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
Most of us are agreed that the countervailing duties, far from going in for what is called protection, would benefit the free trade of the country. I was rather surprised to hear the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Monmouthshire enter a caveat that this was the case; but, while he entered a caveat, he gave no particulars regarding the 945 matter at all. With this exception I do not think there is any single Member who has spoken who has not agreed that the bounty system is a very bad system and ought to be abolished. We have to thank the right, honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary for his very lucid statement to-night, and also the right honourable Baronet the Member for Berwick for his very admirable speech, as well as the Commissioners for their valuable Report—so far as facts go—but not regarding the conclusions from these facts, they propose, among other things, a grant in aid of local revenues. That appears to be inevitable in the circumstances of the case. They also propose to have an agricultural department, and that the department is to erect in the various Colonies botanical, gardens. I congratulate the Colonial Secretary on the fact that he considers it desirable to appoint so excellent and valuable a man as Dr. Morris, than whom there is no more clever and valuable servant of the Crown in the Department in which he serves. I had the pleasure of travelling to and from the West Indies with Dr. Morris, and I am speaking from personal experience, and am not merely voicing the remarks of the honourable Members who have taken part in this Debate. I think we ought to look at this question from a broad and comprehensive standpoint. I venture to think that before long we may have vast trouble in the West Indies. We have had an indication of it not long ago. Let us recollect how the vast amount of these people came into the West Indies! They did not come voluntarily; they came after we conquered some of the islands, occupied others, and obtained some by treaty. They came as slaves to work for our benefit and for the benefit of planters. For years vast profits were made by that system, then we abolished slavery and we did not care whether the West Indian planters lost or gained by it. Now, Sir, we as the predominant power are responsible under the existing condition of things for seeing that the people living in the West Indies have a subsistence. As 946 the honourable Member for Northampton is present, I should like to refer to one or two remarks made by the honourable Gentleman during his speech. The honourable Member, in reference to the West Indian sugar profits, stated that even if bounties were abolished, cane sugar could never came into use in the United Kingdom again. Now, I have before me a chart published by a paper called the Graphic. It simply shows the amount of sugar imported. In 1852, 465,000 tons were imported into the United Kingdom, of which 275,000 tons were cane sugar, 62,000 tons foreign cane sugar, and only 85,000 tons beetroot sugar. I will not go into all the figures, but will simply state that, as a matter of fact, cane sugar has not increased at all from foreign countries. It has remained stationary, whereas beetroot sugar has increased to 1,053,000 tons. The right honourable Gentleman also spoke as if it would be useless to have fast communication between our various islands to enable them to bring their fruits to market. America is the great market, as everybody is well aware, for bananas and oranges, and bananas will stand a very much longer voyage than a fortnight. They are put on board the steamers partially ripe, and will probably last two or three months, and be very good eating afterwards. Oranges, as we know, are brought from all over the world. Therefore the fact that we are only asking for partial communication with the small islands to aid them in their very difficult circumstances, is not, to my mind, a good objection from the right honourable Gentleman. I have been to Barbadoes myself. The right honourable Gentleman rather implied that it was solely held by large proprietors; but that is not the fact, so far as I was able to judge, for I found a large number of what are called cotter proprietors all over the place. I do not think they were making much profit, and I believe they were living in a sort of hand to mouth sort of existence. If 947 Barbadoes were to give up sugar-growing, the population would be reduced to starvation. I do not see how you can alter these conditions of growth. You might do so in Jamaica and Trinidad, but it does not seem to me that Barbadoes is suitable for anything better than the growth of sugar. So much for that point. Now, Sir, I would urge that the duties should be levied in the same way as was recommended by Sir H. Norman. I would advise that we should say to the foreigner, "You are going to put all these bounties on your sugar, and you keep on increasing those bounties from time to time, and to that extent you prevent a fair free-trade market." The duty may be 5s., or 10s., or 15s. a ton, but we have no security of solidity for the price we have to pay, because the foreigner keeps on increasing his bounty from time to time. But every other country, even including Russia, would be willing to abolish these bounties tomorrow; and France alone and her politicians keep these bounties on their legs. If this is the case, as I believe it is, it is undoubtedly our duty to do everything in our power, and I think all democrats will agree with that view, to assist the French working man to pay this immense bonus. Although it may be under a quarter of a farthing in the £, it is not the working man, but it is the middleman, it is the tradesman and that sort of people, who have to pay. Now, Sir, I would like to refer the House to the feeling of the country and the Colonies; but I suppose I should not be in order in referring to Queensland and other sugar-growing places. We have had these things before us, and we have never come to any conclusion. I should like to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who made such an excellent speech on the Colonies at Glasgow, what was his real meaning. It was in the earlier part of a most Imperialist character; but the point was in the peroration which puzzled me, and of which I should like to have an explanation. The right honourable Gentleman:said—If we are to defend our trade, which is attacked from so many quarters and in so many ways, we must give up the old policy of apathy and indifference for one of initiative and resolution. Markets are closed to us, 948 sometimes by hostile tariffs, sometimes by commercial occupation. Our own markets are threatened, even our own territories are regarded apparently with jealous eyes, and if we are to meet this, we can only do so by opening new markets, and by defending those that we still retain. And, gentlemen, we shall do this, and at the same time shall seek to maintain the solidarity between all parts of the Empire. We shall try to earn the confidence of our Colonial fellow subjects by making their interests our interests. It may be that now we have come to their assistance, but may not the time come when we shall call for theirs? And, meanwhile, let us be enabled to say, in the words of an Imperially-minded poet——I do not know whether this gentleman is a minor poet, but I should like to know a little more about his poetry. He says—Also we will make promise, as long as blood endures,I shall know that your good is mine; ye shall feel that my strength is yours.In the day of Armageddon, in the last great fight of all,The house shall stand together, and the pillars shall not fall.So far as I can find, Armageddon is the last battle at the end of the world. But are we to wait to the end of the world for a satisfactory solution of this question? I sincerely hope that while our Government is in power we will put a stop to this bounty system, and the only way of doing so is by a countervailing duty. I shall therefore vote for this proposal, in the hope that the Colonies will yet prosper.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, N.)
I should have been very glad to approve of the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House, if it had not been for the remarkable attitude assumed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, I thought that throughout this Debate it was absolutely agreed on both sides of the House that we were against a bounty system and a countervailing duty. But the great point is, Mr. Lowther, that they would not effect the purposes for which they are intended. What is it that has caused the decline of refined British sugar? It is the development on the Continent of Europe of refineries on the spot on which the sugar is grown. All the processes connected with the 949 manufacture of sugar are carried out on one spot on the Continent, and the only chance for the West Indian Colonies is that they should also adopt that plan, and that the whole manufacture from the growth to the production of the refined article should be concentrated at one place. The point that I am dealing with here is the point raised by the honourable and gallant Member for Sheffield, who suggested that sugar refining could be maintained and built up again by the aid of countervailing duties. But, Sir, I maintain that sugar refining must in future be done where the sugar is grown. Well, now, Mr. Lowther, I have, perhaps, been longer than I intended on this point of the countervailing duties. I would rather return to this broad question of the grant to the West Indies, brought before us in this Vote. There has been so much argument on side issues that I do not think the Committee has really fully realised the extent of this grant that we are making to the West Indian Colonies. This is the second time you have had the subject up; and when you add this grant to the grant made last March, you find we are giving no less than £160,000 in a single year to the West Indian Colonies, and we are not only doing that, but we are undertaking for an indefinite number of years, a liability of £80,000 a year. I think that is a very serious responsibility for this House to undertake, and, at any rate, the Committee should not rush into it without realising the full amount that this grant makes. The present Vote is of a comparatively insignificant character, but it has been explained to us by the Colonial Secretary, and so sure as we pass that Vote in its present form so surely will it lead to continually recurring grants of far greater magnitude. For instance, we are only passing £5,000 for subsidies to steamers, but the right honourable Gentleman has explained that this will come to £20,000 a year in future years, and there is no limit to the number of years. I know, Sir, in the Report there was a recommendation made that this subsidy should be made to steamers, but it is distinctly guarded in that Report. It is suggested in the Report that it should only last for a certain number of years and should grow less until it diminishes altogether. We have none of these pre- 950 cautions from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. We have not had the scheme explained to us at all in connection with the subsidy for the steamers. A statement has been made that part is for intercommunication with the islands, and another for a steamer to Canada and New York, and possibly for a steamer to London. Sir, I think it a great pity that the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies is not here to defend the Vote, because I would have liked to have heard a little more explanation of this matter. We have no full defence of this question of what is really proposed with regard to the steamers. With regard to the steamers, Sir, we ought to know this: to whom is this grant to be paid for the steamers, and who will the steamers belong to? We have heard that the refineries are to belong to private persons, but with regard to the steamers, we have not had any explanation at all, and before passing this large amount of money, I think we should have a great deal more detail than has been given to us to what will be done with the money. Well then, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman said that we are not going to do anything more for these manufacturers in the West Indies than we do for our own manufacturers. Now, Sir, I would like anyone in this Committee to-night to point me out any of our own manufacturers who are getting such help as it is proposed to-night to give to these West Indian sugar-makers. There are other trades, as well as this West Indian sugar trade, in great difficulty, and yet does the Government come to their relief? No. So far as I can see, every other trade except the manufacture of sugar is left to struggle for itself, and yet we are asked to-night to grant this money to prop up an industry which it seems exceedingly doubtful whether we shall succeed in retaining after all. The Secretary for the Colonies said that the sole cause of the difficulties in the West Indies is the bounty system. I think that is the initial mistake the Government are making in all these matters. It is not the bounty system. That is not the main cause at all, and I believe that if bounties were abolished altogether the West Indies would be still unable to compete. At any rate, if they are not 951 able to compete on their own strength, and without these grants, which we are constantly giving in this House, then assuredly we shall not be able by these artificial means to keep the industry on its feet. If we look at the growth of this beet-growing sugar industry for a few years, we will see that it is a far more difficult thing to deal with than the House has yet heard to-night. Fifty years ago 93 per cent. of all the sugar grown in the world was grown from the cane, and only 7 per cent. was from the beet. Fourteen years ago 50 per cent. was cane sugar and 50 per cent. was beet sugar. But to-day, Sir, only 17 per cent. is cane sugar and 83 per cent. is beet sugar. Now, I say, Mr. Lowther, that an industry which shows such remarkable progress as this must have something at its back which will make it a very difficult opponent to deal with. So far as we are concerned, in this country only 5 per cent. of the sugar imported now into this country is cane sugar, against something like 95 per cent. of beet sugar. Therefore, whatever is done about bounties, there will be a most formidable rival of the cane in this beet sugar. When we look into the question a little more closely, Sir, we see many reasons for this. In the first place, with regard to the proportion of sugar, there is a larger proportion of sugar obtained from beet than can be obtained even from the cane, and the only advantage that the cane has is that there are a greater number of crops of cane than can be obtained of beet in the country in which it is grown. But there has been such improvement in the growth of the beet that the proportion of sugar has risen from something like 8 per cent. to 13 per cent. I believe the average of sucros that is found in the cane is not more than 10, or 11, or 12 per cent., and that there is a greater proportion in the beet, especially the highly-developed beet, which is now used for this purpose. When we add to this the point I have already mentioned, that where the beet sugar is grown the whole manufacture is carried out—on one spot—the Committee ought to recognise that there is a most formidable rival here with the West Indian Colonies, and that unless a far greater change takes place than anything 952 we have reason to hope for in these Colonies, it will be impossible for them to compete on fair grounds, even with the help of these grants, with their rivals on the continent of Europe. Well now, Sir, the worst thing we have heard on this subject from the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies was that there is no finality in this proposal. We are going steadily down the incline. We are granting more this year than we ever granted in any previous year, and we are not only pledging ourselves to grant it this year, but to make a regular annual grant of a minimum of £80,000, and I think it is more likely to be £100,000. We have heard that there is to be £20,000 a year for steamboats, £17,000 or £18,000 for the agricultural department £20,000 for deficits, and £21,000 for the interest on the loan. Therefore, here are four sums of £20,000 each, to which this Committee is pledging itself for an indefinite period. The fact is, Mr. Lowther that the Government is grossly exaggerating the difficulties of the position. No doubt these Colonies are now passing through a severe crisis, but I think the great fall has taken place in sugar, as it has taken place, I think, in all other commodities. Many of the circumstances which tend to ameliorate the severity of that fall in price have not been mentioned by the Government tonight. For instance, though sugar has so much fallen in price—and the figures are all based on the fall in price—all other prices have fallen in proportion. The fall in price has been universal, and has not imposed nearly so much suffering upon the Colonies as has been represented. But, at any rate, the Colonies, like everybody engaged in trade, will have to meet opponents on a fair business basis. We are not really doing these Colonies good; we are really doing them harm by giving this artificial aid. It would be far better for them to realise the difficulties they have to deal with, and then to find some means of dealing with the situation. There was one part of the right honourable Gentleman's speech with which I think the Committee will hardly be able to agree. The right honourable Gentleman said he had looked into the question of economies, but that he was not able to suggest to 953 the Committee that any serious economies could be effected. Well, Sir, I will point to one economy that may be effected, and that is that, instead of these half-dozen of separate Governments, surely there might be a single Government for all the islands. I think it would be inevitably cheaper, especially now when we are improving the communications between the islands. I think if you had a centralised Government, a good many economies could be effected. At any rate, I do not believe that the extent of the grant we are making has been realised by the Committee, or the seriousness of the position in which this country will find itself. I cannot help thinking, Mr. Lowther, that it is a great pity that no member of the Ministry who is interested in this Vote is here to listen to what we have to say, and I think I will move the adjournment of the Debate, in order that some member of the Government may be induced to put in an appearance. I beg, Sir, to move to report progress.
That progress be now reported.
§ MR. LOUGH
Sir, I beg to withdraw the Motion. The object I had in moving it was to bring somebody representing the Colonial Office into the House. I did not speak in my own interest, because I do not intend to detain the Committee any longer, but I will ask the right honourable Gentleman one question which I have already put. Will he give us any explanation he can with regard to the question of steamers—has been made with regard to this grant, this £5,000 this year, and £20,000 next year—whether the Colonial Office has made any specific arrangement? I ask this question—whether they will be Government steamers, or whether they will be steamers belonging to private proprietors?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
In answer to the question, no specific arrangement has yet 954 been made. There is no idea of employing Government steamers, and creating a fresh line. The idea is that the same private firms who run steamers in these waters may be willing to give a more regular, complete, and satisfactory service in consideration of the subsidy.
§ COLONEL MILWARD
Sir, I do not desire to detain the House more than a few minutes, but I do wish to protest against the somewhat unpatriotic speech of my honourable Friend the Member for Islington. He said the Colonies ought to be prepared to meet their opponents on a fair business basis. That is the only thing he argued at all relative to the Vote. But the Colonies are prepared to meet their opponents on a fair business basis. The circumstances of the case, however, are such that they have no chance whatever of meeting their opponents on a fair business basis; on the contrary, they are hampered by circumstances which, after what has fallen from some honourable Members who have spoken, it is impossible to keep out of the Debate. I only rise for the purpose of replying in a few words, if I may, to some observations of any honourable Friend the Member for Sheffield, who seemed to think that the result of the Brussels Conference was that it had broken up without any finality whatever. I hope, Sir, that that is not the case, because, in reading very carefully the account of the Brussels Conference which has been published, and which has been laid before the House, I find, first of all, a very great advance was made in the instructions given to our delegates on that occasion—that Her Majesty's Government most strenuously urged them by every means in their power to use whatever pressure they could to get rid of foreign bounties, that they even made a kind of covert thread that ulterior proceedings would be adopted in case the foreign nations were not willing to do this. And it does seem that when a great nation like this, in the presence of other nations of Europe, even covertly threatens ulterior proceedings, it is impossible to stop there—it seems that we must, at all events, follow up this which is really a threat. In addition to that we have the expressed opinion of the delegates from Germany, that they 955 were anxious to do away with the bounty system, and they claimed to have led the way towards the abolition of the bounties. We have the declaration of the President of the Conference, and of the delegates from Belgium, who stated that not only were there a hundred reasons against the bounties, but one specific reason was that whatever they might say as to their own internal policy, they had no right whatever to interfere with the internal policy of a neutral Power—namely, England. That, Sir, is an argument we, the opponents of the bounties, have used over and over again in England; We say foreign nations have a perfect right to make whatever law they wish with regard to the admission of goods into their own territories, but that they have no right to decree or decide under what circumstances sugar or any other article shall come into England from our own Colonies; that is to say, that the relation between the Colonies and ourselves belong to ourselves alone, and that we alone ought to settle it, and that this attempt to force their products on us by using their own public money for the purpose is an unfair competition, and that it is a thing which they have no right to do. This was stated by a Belgian delegate. The only delegate at that Conference who spoke against the abolition of the bounties was the French delegate, who said that, while France was perfectly prepared to give away the bounty on exportation, they would reserve to themselves the right to consider, and the right to legislate, as to their own internal bounties. But, Sir, he added to that that he was also prepared to consider this question diplomatically—that, although it exceeded his powers to consider it at the Conference, he was perfectly willing that the question should be considered diplomatically, and on the strength of that the Conference was dissolved. But, Sir, he added one very significant thing. He said, when once you look at the condition of France, you will see that the whole question which you are raising vanishes into thin air. The whole export of sugar from France was only 235,000 tons, and of that 110,000 tons come from her Colonies. Therefore, he said, the question vanishes into thin air. If that be so, if it be true that this country is strongly in 956 favour of the abolition of bounties, that Germany and Austria, and Belgium are also in favour of it, and that France says it is of so small importance to her that it is scarcely worth consideration, then I say we must be within sight of the time when Her Majesty's Government, under the co-operation of other foreign Governments, will be able to do away with bounties altogether. I have only one other word to say with regard to this question, and that is, have Her Majesty's Government, and has the country, considered the effect of the Spanish-American war? We shall now see Cuba, perhaps not annexed, but, at all events, under the protection of the United States of America, and we shall see our own West Indian Islands side by side with a prosperous island belonging to France. The island of Cuba will be producing sugar for America, it will be flooded with American money, it will be under a system of protection which will, at all events, guarantee that the whole of the inhabitants of that island shall be in a state of happiness, and I say that side by side with that we shall have our own islands, to which we are deeply attached, but which, owing to our fiscal policy, are in a state of poverty. The contrast between the condition of Cuba in those circumstances and the West Indian Islands should lead us, and we must be prepared, to make sacrifices to increase the prosperity and increase the happiness of our West Indian Islands. I do think, Sir, also, that when this House is considering a sugar question, at any rate we should not forget the case of a large part of our population which is dependent on the sugar industry. I cannot say more than that. When the interests of our West and also our East Indian Colonies are considered, we must not omit to consider the interests of our own population.
§ MR. LOGAN
Sir, I have listened most carefully to the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, for I was anxious to know how he would justify this country in giving this dole to the West Indian people, a dole, Sir, which our people in this country will have to pay. I was very anxious to see how the right honourable Gentleman would justify taxing the poor people 957 of this country to prop up or to maintain the cane industries in the West Indies, or in any other countries. The reason the right honourable Gentleman gave for this course was that, if something was not done in the West Indies, large numbers of people would be unemployed there. Now, Sir, it is only a few winters ago that large numbers of people were unemployed in this country; but, Sir, I did not notice that any Government in this country came forward to find money to set upon its legs again the various industries which were more or less suffering, and which led to the large want of employment that was unfortunately so prevalent in this country a few winters ago. Another reason the right honourable Gentleman gave for this subsidy to the West Indies was that they were large customers of ours; that they took from this country, I think he said, some £3,000,000 worth of goods every year, and that some 40,000 families in this country were interested in maintaining and continuing the trade with the West Indies. Well, Sir, that, I venture to think, may be a very good argument from the point of view the right honourable Gentleman takes of this question at the present time, but I venture to say it is a very dangerous argument indeed to use. If we are, with money collected by taxing our people, to subsidise all our customers across all the length and breadth of the world, whenever they get into difficulties, then, I venture to say, we are setting ourselves a task which even the enormous wealth, industry, and perseverance of this country will find it very difficult to meet and keep going. Now, Mr. Lowther, I do not propose, in the few words which I venture to address to the Committee, to go into the reasons why this industry has decayed in the West Indies. I have been told that if some of them there had used, or used at the present time, more up-to-date methods of manufacturing sugar, they would still be able to keep their markets; and that, Sir, I can quite understand is a very correct view of the situation, because, to my surprise, the noble Baronet on this side of the House who, I believe, formerly occupied a position at the Colonial Office, told us that in one of the islands, at any rate, in the West Indies, at the present moment, they 958 are able to work at a profit. Therefore, I say that if they can work at a profit in some of the islands to-day, there is no reason, as far as I can see, why they should not be able to work at a profit in the other islands. But, at any rate, I am not going into the reasons for the decay in this industry, nor, Sir, do I propose to criticise the various methods suggested by the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies for meeting the situation, beyond this, that I do say it is an extraordinary proposition to make to the people of this country that they are, out of their hard earnings, either to find capital or to guarantee the interest upon capital to start an industry for which, if there is a reasonable prospect of its succeeding, there would be any quantity of money found by independent capitalists to keep it going. Indeed, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman admitted that if the taxpayers of this country will but guarantee the interest upon this £750,000 there will be no difficulty whatever in finding it. But, Sir, I do not wish to go into detail. All I want to do is to protest to the best of my ability against this policy of taxing the poor people of this country for the benefit oil decayed industries anywhere. I want, in all seriousness, to ask the Committee where this is to end? We are beginning with the West Indies. Are we going to subsidise decaying industries in Australia? Are we going to subsidise decaying industries in New Zealand? Are we going to subsidise decaying industries in the various other Colonies which we have scattered up and down the world? I venture to say this is but the thin end of the wedge, and that this Committee ought to hesitate long before commencing to subsidise decaying industries in any portion whatever of our Colonial possessions. In this particular case, Sir, I say it is monstrous to subsidise this industry in face of the fact, admitted by the honourable Member for Northumberland, who sat upon the Commission, that they are in one of these islands now making a profit out of the sugar industry. Then again, Sir, if I was able to understand the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies—if he will allow me to say so, an exceedingly clear and lucid statement; he will 959 pardon me for venturing to congratulate him upon being able to make such a statement—if I understand it rightly, this policy, after all, is but a make-shift policy. The right honourable Gentleman himself almost insinuated that he did expect to succeed, and his concluding remarks, in which he kept the policy of the Government open, were to the effect that eventually it might be necessary to go in for countervailing duties, and his suggestion was that these bounties should be done away with. Well, Sir, the bounties cannot be done away with without countervailing duties being imposed by this country, and I ask the right honourable Gentleman, or anyone in this Committee tonight, does he imagine that the people of this country are going to consent to countervailing duties? I do not believe anything of the sort. Sir. Then, Sir, not only is it a reversion, in my judgment, to the policy of protection, but it has another great objection; I do not believe by doing it real good will be done to the people of this country. Take, Sir, the case of the sugar refiners. The statement is made that we have cause of complaint in this country in that the sugar refining industry has been destroyed. Sir, I am told by those who know the facts of the case very well indeed, that for every one man who has been thrown out of employment by the destruction of the sugar refining industry three or four persons have been given additional employment in such businesses as the manufacturing of confectionery and jam, and other kindred trades. At any rate, my only object in rising was to say that if we have money to throw away, let us begin at home. Charity begins at home. There are industries in this country which we ought to begin with if we have money to subsidise industries with. Take, for instance, the tin plate manufacturing trade in South Wales. If we are to begin subsidising declining industries, let us begin at home. In conclusion, I would suggest to the right honourable Gentleman the next time he has £80,000 to dispose of he should remember that the poor people of this country are still without those old age pensions, and that this £80,000 a year which we are going to give to the West Indies would 960 provide 5s. a week for 6,000 poor families in this country. At any rate, Sir, I have risen to protest to the best of my ability against taxing the poor people of this country for the benefit of an industry in any portion of the world.
§ * SIR T. SUTHERLAND
Sir, if it had so happened that either the sugar growing or the sugar refining industry had existed in Ireland, and had been put an end to by the bounty system, either in Great Britain or any other country, we should have heard a speech from the honourable Member for Islington of an entirely different character.
§ SIR T. SUTHERLAND
Sir, with regard to the matter with which we are called upon to deal, inasmuch as I represent a constituency largely associated with the sugar industry, I wish to say a few words. I confess when I listened to the speech, the admirable speech, I may say, of my right honourable Friend the Colonial Secretary, the thought which rose to my mind was one of wonder whether we were really in anything like a fair way to settle this question so far as the West Indian interest is concerned, and so far as the sugar industry is concerned. I wondered whether the effect of the policy we are going to decide upon to-night would be to bring capital to the West Indies, to restore confidence, and, in fact, give those Colonies a new point of departure. I must say I have considerable doubt with regard to those results. I doubt very much whether the effect of what we do to-night will be to restore that confidence to the extent which is desired—will bring about an outlay of fresh capital upon works in connection with these industries. As I cannot help fearing that the result will hardly be so satisfactory as is perhaps hoped, I confess I am in some doubt as to the policy on which we are embarking in this matter. I do not like grants in aid very much, even in connection with Great Britain, but when we extend the system to our Colonies it appears to me exceedingly difficult to foresee at 961 what point such a system is likely to stop. Therefore, Sir, I must say I found the greatest satisfaction in the singularly frank and open manner in which my right honourable Friend the Colonial Secretary dealt with that, much-discussed question of countervailing duties in his speech. Sir, in all probability, I should be out of order if I were to enter at length, although some of my friends have entered, upon the question of the interests which have been involved and destroyed by bounties, the refining interests, such as those of my own constituency; but it is not necessary I should do so, because the whole world is perfectly well aware that while the importation of this bounty-fed foreign sugar has been proceeding in this country by leaps and bounds, our own manufacturing trade has been falling off in inverse ratio, and, therefore, Sir, we and the West Indies are exactly in the same position in this matter. We do not ask, and I believe myself, from the evidence tendered to the West Indian Commission, that the West Indies did not ask, at all events directly, for the sort of assistance now proposed. The West Indies asked, according to the admirable Report of that Commission, for assistance of another kind altogether; and I very much regret that the honourable Baronet the member of that Commission, who had no doubt a great deal to do with the framing of that admirable Report, finally, with one of his colleagues, ran away from the conclusions which the evidence before them and the nature of their own reasoning really imposed upon them. I say what we want, and what we desire, is, simply fair play—that we should be placed, and that, our Colonies should be placed, in the same position as foreigners are placed in, to supply our own products and manufactures. Therefore I find the utmost satisfaction in noting the admirable exposé in the Colonial Secretary's speech as to the conditions affecting the question of countervailing duties, and as showing in reality that countervailing duties are absolutely consonant with the principle of free trade. Now, Sir, my honourable Friend the Member for Sheffield has alluded to the fact that this Brussels Conference was attended with a simply negative result; but, Sir, any of us who have 962 watched the progress of this question could have foretold that a negative result could be the only effect of that Conference, because in the first place the attitude of Franco was perfectly well known—it was one of those open secrets which are known to all the Chancellories of Europe, that in the Conference France would absolutely refuse to consider the question of the internal bounties on sugar. It was known that that was the case, and, therefore, if our Government was not prepared with any alternative policy, any policy suitable to the occasion, it was quite certain that, as the President of the Conference said, the effect of our negative position, we being the most interested in the question of the importation of bounty-fed sugar, could be only that a negative result would be arrived at. Now, Sir, I must say we are told that since that conference France has changed her mind to a very large extent on this question, and I have the strongest hope, from the observations which have fallen from my right honourable Friend to-night, that the diplomatic negotiations now proceeding between the various countries in Europe will, if they are carried out to the extent I anticipate, ensure that this bounty system shall be put an end to. I hope that any such effort on the part of Her Majesty's Government will be fully and loyally supported, at all events, by the Members on this side of the House, and I trust by a considerable section of Members on the other side. I remember in a Debate which took place on this question some 10 years ago a remark was made by the honourable Member for Morpeth, who may certainly be credited with knowing the mind of the working men of this country. The honourable Member on that occasion said that what the working man wants was not so much cheap sugar as honest sugar. The issue with which we are face to face to-night will be merely a negative one unless it is followed, as I hope and believe it will be followed, by a comprehensive measure of a totally different kind. We may be embarking upon a series of experiments which will never solve the difficulty, but which will lead to more serious consequences. The true and only solution lies 963 in putting an end to bounties by diplomatic action.
§ SIR J. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
I willingly admit, Sir, that the light honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is anxious to meet what he considers a very pressing demand by our West Indian Colonies, has a very difficult question to deal with. But while that difficulty exists with regard to our West Indian Colonies, it is a difficulty which we, who have been in the commercial world, have often had to meet with in different parts of the country. There is no one who has greater sympathy than I with the industries in connection with sugar in our West Indian Islands, because I have seen the declining industries on the banks of the Tyne and Clyde. I have seen industries which have employed thousands of men, both on the Tyne and Clyde, owing to the competition of foreign countries almost disappear. I will just mention the commercial industry. I remember the time when on the Tyne there were 17 or 18 large and flourishing works, giving employment to thousands of men in connection with those industries, but owing to severe competition, both in Germany and America, where there is a huge tariff against the productions of this country, I have seen them disappear one by one, until at the present time there are not more than two commercial works on the Tyne. And what I say with regard to the Tyne is perfectly true of the Clyde and of other Darts of the country. I therefore quite sympathise with the right honourable Gentleman in his desire, if possible, to assist these decaying industries, whether in the Colonies or in any other part of the world. But what I am in doubt about is what has been mentioned by my honourable Friend who has just spoken—namely, whether the relief which it is proposed should be given by the Colonial Secretary is the relief which will be for the ultimate relief of the West Indian Islands. I am afraid, from what I am able to gather as to the remedies proposed, that I must agree with my right honourable Friend the Member for Berwickshire [Sir Edward Grey], who delivered a most telling and admirable 964 speech on this question. Speaking of the remedies, he said—Those remedies are the best which restore the Colonies to prosperity.When I look at the remedies proposed by my right honourable Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies I am bound to agree with my right honourable Friend that there is little chance of the remedy which is proposed by this Vote being a remedy in the truest and best sense of the word. It will simply put off the difficulty for a short time. If the right honourable Gentleman had brought forward a proposal which in my judgment would have really removed the existing grievance, and would have made the remedy a real, substantial, and permanent one, I would not have, opposed it; but so far as I am able to gather I am afraid that a proposal like the one before the House will not have the results which he thinks. Now, Sir, as I have said before, there are a great many industries which are decaying industries. There is the copper trade in Cornwall, and there are the tin industries in Wales. I could indeed mention half a dozen industries which are really decaying to such an extent that there are scarcely any people employed in them. I am afraid that even the lead industry will also to a large extent disappear. What with the competition of trade and the richness of the lead produced in foreign mines, we shall see thousands of people who at the present time work in those industries having to give up their occupation. Well, Sir, what does the right honourable Gentleman propose? First, he proposes a subsidy for the steamers. Well, I am bound to say, from my experience of trade, that the establishment of easy communication between the markets and the productive industries is a very valuable and important scheme, and if he were to confine his assistance to giving a subsidy to the steamers running between this country and the West Indian Islands, I scarcely think that I should be disposed to oppose the Vote; because I know from experience that there are many cases in which, just by a little assistance, you can enable a good line of steamers to connect markets and the pro- 965 ductive districts with very great advantage to both. I think the West Indian Islands case is one of them. If we had a line of steamers which would make quick passages from the West Indies to this country, I feel sure it would be a very great benefit to the producers in the West Indian Islands and to the consumers in this country. But, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman does not confine his efforts to that. He proposes to establish what he calls, I presume, factories, to deal with the sugar trade in the West Indies. He proposes at first to raise capital, and guarantees 10 years' interest at 3 per cent. per annum, and by that means he is going to erect three factories to cost something like £250,000 in each island. Well, I am very glad to find that the right honourable Gentleman is able to get capitalists who will be prepared to accept the terms he proposes. He stated that the agreement was almost signed. I should have been very much better pleased if the right honourable Gentleman had said that it was signed, because, so far as I am able to judge—of course I do not know what the other conditions may be attached to this agreement; there may be conditions which are not mentioned by the right honourable Gentleman—if it is merely a 3 per cent. guarantee for 10 years, I have the gravest doubts whether the right honourable Gentleman will be able to find capitalists to accept these conditions. But, Sir, with regard to these factories. I am in doubt whether when these factories are established they will be found as beneficial as the right honourable Gentleman thinks. The first thing, I presume, that the capitalists would do, if they did not get their 3 per cent., would be to take possession of the factories, and I am very doubtful indeed whether the ultimate result of giving 3 per cent. for 10 years would be as satisfactory as the right honourable Gentleman thinks. Then the right honourable Gentleman spoke of bounties. There is no stronger opponent of bounties in this House than I am. To trade by means of bounties is a most unfair and unjust method of trading. In France every ship that sails with a French crew receives a large bounty from the French Government. Every ship that is built in France by French workmen receives a large bounty from the French 966 Government. These bounties are given every 10 years and then renewed. Well, Sir, I am bound to say that so far as my experience goes the shipping industry two or three years ago was just as much pressed, aye, as the sugar industries in the West Indian Islands or in this country. But, Sir, there was no attempt made to ask for countervailing duties. The shipowners were left to their own resources to build larger ships and to build better ships in order that they might be enabled to compete with, aye, and outvie the French ships. But this is not the case with the gentlemen who have charge of the sugar industries; on the other hand, they come and ask the Government to do for them what every other manufacturer, every other trader has to do for himself. I am bound to say that when the Government comes and asks us to give a special grant for this special industry—not for an industry which is directly to benefit the workers in this country, and which is to benefit the workers in the West Indian Islands, but to benefit those gentlemen who receive the rent from the land in the islands—I fail to see that the right honourable Gentleman has made out a sufficiently strong case. Sir, I am in principle against a grant in aid of any description unless a thoroughly strong case is made out. I have heard the right honourable Gentleman's speech, and, so far as I have been able to judge from the Debate, such a case has not been made out as would induce me to support him.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I would again remind the Committee of the situation. An appeal has been made to me from many parts of the House that there should be an opportunity of discussing the Report of the Foreign Office, Vote to-night. It has also been represented to me that such a discussion could not conveniently take place upon the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill, because by the time that stage has been reached a great many Members who wish to take part in it, or who are interested in the subject, will be absent from London. As far as I am aware, this is the last opportunity upon which the Report stage can be taken. If, therefore, the House desires to have an opportunity of discussing upon the Report Stage this Vote, and will begin 967 the discussion before 12 o'clock, this is really their last chance.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
I quite appreciate the force of the appeal which has been made by the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House, and I do not, therefore, propose to detain the Committee for more than a very few minutes. The question, however, is one of so much importance that I should have been extremely sorry if the Debate had been closed, as suggested, at the early hour of eight o'clock, because I feel bound, representing a very important industry, to say a few words on the proposal of the Government. The honourable Baronet who has just sat down made a speech which I daresay will appeal to many commercial men, but I cannot help thinking that some of the points will not bear that weight that he would wish them to have. He referred to the fact that on the Clyde and on the Tyne industries had decayed. He did not tell us whether those industries had decayed owing to the artificial action of bounties of foreign Powers. He said that we had to face protection in foreign countries, and that is what happened in the West Indies. At this moment many sugar planters are competing in the American markets with a protective duty of 50 per cent. of the value of the article sent. The honourable Baronet referred to the bounties in shipping. I am quite aware that they are very scandalous. But they are insignificant compared with the bounties in sugar, when we remember the proportionate value of the articles. The sugar bounty in France is 25s. upon a commodity worth between £7 and £9 per ton.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE
I agree with the honourable Baronet about the prejudicial effect these bounties have had on the refining industry of the country. Neither the refiners nor the sugar growers ask for subsidies or bounties. The honourable Member for Leicestershire [Mr. Logan] said that charity begins at home. Sir, has he entirely forgotten that the 968 Colonies are our kith and kin, and that our Whitehall Government controls the whole of the West Indies? If the people there are allowed to exercise their free will, is it quite certain that the Colonies, treated as they have been, will still be united with the Mother Country? There is much heartburning in the islands over this treatment by the Mother Country. Two months ago I received a letter on this point, which I think I am justified in reading to the House. This is what the writer says:—The feeling is getting pretty strong that we ought to be part of America. It is not a case of want of love for the old country, God knows, but we must live; and, as a Barbadoes planter said to me on the steamer coming out, 'If he was offered a fortune to join America, or a living by remaining an English subject, he would a thousand times rather take the living.'I think honourable Members ought to measure their words when they speak with regard to these people so far off. It has been truly said that the Government scheme is a plan of palliatives. I have the pleasure of knowing Jamaica well, and I can give the House some information with regard to it, different from that which has already been placed before the Committee. It is proposed that we should try and promote small cultivators. This has been largely done in Jamaica for several years past, and the results are interesting and rather significant. The right honourable Baronet the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs pointed out that a man must not merely grow enough to keep alive, but enough to export. What has been the result in Jamaica? In 1894 the population of Guiana produced £15 per head for export. This is an entirely sugar colony. Barbadoas, another entirely sugar colony, produced £13 per head of the population, but in Jamaica in the same year the sugar was only about one-twentieth of the whole export, and the production is, for export only, £6 per head. Therefore, the House will see that when they started those small industries the production of exported goods very considerably went down. In Jamaica, in 1881, when the sugar industry was 77 per cent. of the whole export trade, the sugar export was no less than £20 per head. The Com- 969 mittee may be assured that the islands do not desire hard cash from the Mother Country; they want justice and fair treatment. In the last 50 years they have had a very hard time; they have had to combat the exigencies of the home commercial policy. No sooner had the slave trade been abolished in those islands than they were asked to compete with sugar cultivated by slaves, and when they had got over the evils connected with unlimited freedom of trade, they were asked to grow sugar which had to compete with Continental bounty-fed sugar. Therefore, I submit, Sir, that they have had very hard times in the past half-century, and that they are entitled to fair treatment at the hands of this House. I certainly wish every success to the various schemes of the Colonial Secretary, but I am perfectly convinced that the establishment of central factories is economically un-sound, and certain to be unsuccessful unless that policy is supported by some measure for the abolition of the bounty system.
§ * MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I will not keep the House for more than a few minutes in the few remarks I desire to make. A few months ago I was in Queensland, and visited the Government sugar mills, which have been eminently successful (1) in increasing production, (2) in reducing the cost, and (3) in increasing the number of small cultivators. The production of sugar in Queensland has increased within a few years from 50,000 tons per annum to 150,000 tons, and the cost of production is from £6 to £8 per ton. The preferential tariff in Canada for British products has had the effect of attracting sugar from Queensland to the Dominion. Arguing from this analogy, I strongly support the immediate erection of central Government sugar factories in the West Indies as proposed by the Colonial Secretary, especially as the Canadian market is at their very doors. But this forms only a small part of a much larger question which must be faced very soon—namely, that if we are to retain Colonial markets for our manufactured goods we must ensure fair treatment for their raw 970 products in the home markets. It is essentially a working man's question, and one with which I believe the present Colonial Secretary and the present Government can successfully deal, supported as it would be by practically the whole Unionist Party, as well as by a large number of honourable Members on the other side of the House.
§ Question put.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I desire to take a Division against the whole Vote on the ground that I have been prevented from moving a reduction of the sum through the tactics of the honourable Member for Central Sheffield.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am very glad to hear it. I beg to ask whether the Secretary to the High Commissioner is Sir Graham Bower, whether his salary has been raised, why it has been raised, and what is the position of Sir Graham Bower in the Civil Service?
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
The honourable Member for Northampton has made a speech which can only be accounted for by an ignorance on his part of the rules of the House, with which he professes generally so intimate an acquaintance. I am anxious that the issue which the honourable Member has said he wishes to raise shall be carried to a Division, in order that there may be no misunderstanding whatever as to the Committee's view. The honourable Member in the speech which he delivered earlier in the evening denounced the Vote which was proposed. If the honourable Member does not take the course which the Chairman has said is open to him, it can only be because he is afraid to test the Committee upon the matter about which he has been so eloquent. The gentleman who is now acting as Secretary to the High Commissioner of Cape Colony is Mr. Fiddes, who is a first-class clerk in the Colonial Office. 971 Sir G. Rowe has resigned his position as secretary, and holds no position in the Colonial Office. The salary given to the secretary is the salary appropriate to the office, and I doubt very much whether the services of any gentleman whom it would be desirable to appoint to the post could be obtained for a smaller salary, because the standard of expenditure in South Africa is very high.
|Allen, Wm. (Newc.-under-L.)||Joicey, Sir James||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Brigg, John||Langley, Batty||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Logan, John William||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Macaleese, Daniel||Wallace, Robert (Edinburgh)|
|Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Colville, John||McEwan, William||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Crilly, Daniel||M'Ghee, Richard||Woods, Samuel|
|Crombie, John William||Maddison, Fred.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Dillon, John||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand|
|Doogan, P. C.||Nussey, Thomas Willans||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Labouchere and Mr. Lough.|
|Foster, Sir W. (Derby Co.)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||O'Connor. T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Healy, T. M. (N. Louth)||Randell, David|
|Arnold, Alfred||Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (C.of Lond.)|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Gibbs, Hon. V. (St. Albans)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Charrington, Spencer||Gilliat, John Saunders|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Chelsea, Viscount||Gordon, Hon. John Edward|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. H. H.||Clarke, Sir Edw. (Plymouth)||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Clough, Walter Owen||Goschen, Rt Hn. G. J. (St. G'rg's)|
|Baker, Sir John||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Balcarres, Lord||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manc'r)||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Greville, Captain|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Colomb, Sir John Chas. R.||Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Compton, Lord Alwyne||Haldane, Richard Burdon|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Cook, F. Lucas (Lambeth)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Cranborne, Viscount||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm.|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Cross, Herbert S. (Bolton)||Heath, James|
|Bethell, Commander||Curzon, Rt Hn. G. N. (Lanc, SW)||Hermon-Hodge, Robert T.|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Denny, Colonel||Hickman, Sir Alfred|
|Bigwood, James||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Hoare, E. B. (Hampstead)|
|Bill, Charles||Drage, Geoffrey||Hogan, James Francis|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Duckworth, James||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle|
|Bond, Edward||Edwards, Gen. Sir James B.||Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. G.|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph D.||Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)|
|Brassey, Albert||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Jackson, Rt. Hon. W. L.|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Ferguson, R. C. M. (Leith)||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick|
|Butcher, John George||Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J. (Manc.)||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Kenyon, James|
|Caldwell, James||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lafone, Alfred|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward||Fisher, William Hayes||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverp'l)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Fletcher, Sir Henry||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hereford, E.)||Flower, Ernest||Legh, Hon. T. W. (Lancs)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Lockwood, Lieut-Col. A. R.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Gedge, Sydney||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)|
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am not afraid to test the question whether the House approves or disapproves of the Vote, and I therefore beg to move the reduction of this Vote by £30,000.
§ Question put.
§ Committee divided:—Ayes 40; 178.—(Division List No. 272.)973
|Lowe, Francis William||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.||Sutherland, Sir Thomas|
|Lowles, John||Paulton, James Mellor||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pease, J. A. (Northumb.)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Lucas-Shadwell, William||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Ure, Alexander|
|Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Pierpoint, Robert||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Maclure, Sir John William||Pollock, Harry Frederick||Warkworth, Lord|
|McArthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|McArthur, Wm. (Cornwall)||Purvis, Robert||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|McKillop, James||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)||Whiteley, Geo. (Stockport)|
|Malcolm, Ian||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Martin, Richard Biddulph||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Williams, Joseph P. (Birm.)|
|Milton, Viscount||Roche, Hon. Jas. (E. Kerry)||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Milward, Colonel Victor||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Wills, Sir W. H.|
|Monk, Charles James||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|More, Robert Jasper||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Morrison, Walter||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Woodall, William|
|Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)||Wyndham, George|
|Moss, Samuel||Sidebottom, W. (Derbyshire)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Smith, J. Parker (Lanark)||Young, Comm. (Berks, E.)|
|Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||Spicer, Albert|
|Myers, William Henry||Stanley, Lord (Lancs)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Sir William Walrond ant Mr. Anstruther.|
|Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Strauss, Arthur|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Strutt, Hon. Chas. Hedley|
§ Vote agreed to.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
May I be allowed to appeal to the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord not now to take this Vote. It would make it impossible to have any discussion on the Foreign Office Vote. As I think it was understood by the House that there should be a discussion upon that Vote, I ask the right honourable Gentleman to postpone this Vote.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
As far as I remember what passed at Question time, it amounted to this. The right honourable Gentleman made an appeal to me to get the Report of the Foreign Office Vote on early in the evening, and I expressed every desire to further his wishes. I suggested as an arrangement which would probably be agreeable to all parties, that we should get the Vote just passed and the remaining Votes in Class 5, which the right honourable Gentleman hoped might entail only a small discussion, and then proceed to the Report of the Foreign Office Vote. It is true that the earlier discussion has taken longer than the right honourable Gentleman desired or I anticipated. We are now in the position 974 of having to choose between taking the Consular and Diplomatic Vote on the one hand and the Report of the Foreign Office Vote on the other hand. If we take the Consular and Diplomatic Vote, I cannot promise any long discussion on the Report of the Foreign Office Vote. On the other hand, if we take the Report of the Foreign Office Vote, I hope the right honourable Gentleman will not blame me if I cannot find time between this and the end of Supply for taking the Consular and Diplomatic Vote. To the Government, as a government, it is a matter of indifference which course is followed; we are only anxious to meet the convenience of the House.
§ SIR C. DILKE
I shall not, of course, stand in the way of the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the discussion he wishes to raise on the Report of the Foreign Office Vote; but I do wish to enter a strong protest against the idea of, for the first time, closuring the Consular and Diplomatic Vote. There is not, I think, very much left in that Vote, but there are two or three questions of considerable public importance which can only be properly raised upon that Vote, and it would be very unreasonable, I think, not to give opportunity for discussing them.
§ MR. LOWE (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I wish to raise, upon the Consular and Diplomatic Vote, a question of great 975 interest to a large number of my constituents, and if that Vote is closured to-night, I shall not have an opportunity of raising the question. I do not wish to stand in the way of the discussion of any great Imperial question, but at the same time I think the Consular and Diplomatic Vote covers matters of very great importance, and I trust we shall find time to discuss it.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)
May I point out to the right honourable Gentleman that on Saturday he said something about having a further day for the Session After all, everybody is not possessed of a grouse moor in Scotland; and I think if the right honourable Gentleman would only add another day to the Session, everything would go well and everybody would be satisfied. In the Debate we have just had I think the right honourable Gentleman will find that four or five of his own supporters have spoken for every one who has spoken this side. The Debate was carried on mainly by his own supporters. Whether that was done by the advice and instigation of the Whips of Her Majesty's Government I cannot say; but it was well known that the Leader of the Opposition had expressed a desire to debate certain matters upon the Foreign Office Vote. I do hope that the Consular and Diplomatic Vote will not be passed through without Debate. It has never been done before, and I do not see why the right honourable Gentleman should not, if necessary, curtail the holidays by one day. After all, there is plenty of time between this and February for holiday-making. I hope the right honourable Gentleman will give one day extra for the conduct of business.
§ MR. YERBURGH (Chester)
I am not in any way desirous of standing in the way of those honourable Gentlemen who are anxious to discuss the Consular and Diplomatic Vote. As I gather, if we discuss the Foreign Office Vote at any length, it will be impossible to have any discussion upon the Consular and Diplomatic Vote. Perhaps the general convenience would be met if the Report of the Foreign Office Vote could be taken at some early day.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I would submit this compromise to the House. In class 5 we have already passed No. 3, the Colonial Services Vote. I understand that the right honourable Gentleman wishes to raise some questions upon the Consular and Diplomatic Service Vote. My honourable Friend behind me also wishes to say something about Cyprus upon Vote 4, and there is something also to be said on the Uganda Vote, connected with the slave trade. But I understand that Nos. 5 and 6 are really uncontroversial. Now, let us take those without any word, and I will then go on with the report of the Foreign Office Vote, and I will do my best to find an opportunity for discussing the other Votes in Class V. upon which honourable Members wish to speak.
£612 to complete the sum of £1,112 for Slave Trade Services.
£40,100 to complete the sum of £751,000 subsidies to telegraph companies.
§ Agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee report Progress.
That a sum not exceeding £50,971 be granted to Her Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Resolution read a second time.
To leave out '£50,971,' and insert '£50,471.'"—(Mr. Yerburgh.)
§ MR. YERBURGH
In putting an Amendment upon the Paper to reduce this Vote by £500, I have not done so in any spirit of hostility to the Government, but I have put it down in order to raise a discussion upon the state of affairs in China. Sir, in doing that I have been actuated to a certain extent by the very strong feeling of anxiety and, I may add, distrust which has prevailed very largely in commercial circles in Lancashire and elsewhere on the subject. I think we may offer some con- 977 gratulations to the Government upon the announcement made yesterday by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs with regard to the instructions that he told us had been sent to our Minister at Pekin, that he should take every opportunity of supporting equal treatment for our people in any concessions that might be granted to foreign merchants, and further, that the Chinese Government would receive support from our Government if they were threatened with aggression from any hostile Power for giving concessions to British subjects. Upon that announcement I would like to ask one or two questions. In the first place, I would like to ask when these instructions, with regard to our people receiving, if possible, "favoured nation" treatment, were sent to our representative at Pekin, and I would also like to ask whether, in the various railway concessions that have been granted to foreign merchants, our people in China have received equal rights—that is to say, whether, in the various concessions that have been granted for foreign railway enterprise in China, there have been clauses which prohibit preferential rates being given against our merchants and manufacturers. Then, as regards our promise of support to the Chinese Government, I would ask why that promise of support was not given earlier; why was it not given at the beginning of the year? Further, I would ask what that promise of support implies? Does it mean a merely academic promise of support; is it merely a diplomatic support? I am the more inclined to ask that because I remember, when the question of the loan to the Chinese Government was before us, the Chinese representatives, the Yamen, told Sir Claud MacDonald that the only thing that could help them was a promise of protection from this country—a promise of protection, as I believe, against Russia, will not labour that, but, at any rate, it was a promise of protection. What would ask now is: does this undertaking given to the Chinese Government convey a promise of protection? Now, if I may, I would turn for a short time to the consideration of the general policy of the Government. That policy may be summed up as the policy of the open door and equal opportunities. Is the door open? 978 Over a considerable part of China the door is shut to-day.
§ MR. YERBURGH
It is shut in Shantung. Is it not the fact that Germany has been granted special mining and railway facilities in Shan-tung? Then, can it be said that the door is open in Manchuria? I do not say that it is shut at present, but, as we know that M. Pavloff has obtained a concession for the extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway to Port Arthur, that will hardly mean an open door in Manchuria. Then there is the policy of equal opportunities. Where are the equal opportunities with regard to railway enterprise in Manchuria? An English syndicate has obtained a concession for a railway to Shan-hai-kwang, our trade port at the end of the Gulf of Pechili. That concession has been, I believe, hung up for a considerable time. Further than that, a concession was obtained, I think by an English syndicate, for a railway from Pekin to Ta-kaeng, on the Yang-tsze. That was opposed by Germany, because it was alleged that the railway would go partly through the German sphere. I would ask, where is the equal opportunity there? I am glad to see that that demand has been met in a very satisfactory way. Then, again, concessions to English syndicates have been opposed by France on much the same grounds. It appears to me that the only place where the open door exists at the present time, and where equal opportunity exists, is in our own sphere of influence. In other words, the open door and equal opportunities mean that advantage is given to foreign competitors. Our people who are engaged in railway enterprise in our sphere have to contend with enterprises financed by foreign Governments. Therefore I say that, as regards our own sphere, our people have not equal opportunities, and I submit that the open door and equal opportunities are practically gone. Now, the time has arrived to recognise that the only way in which we can properly safeguard our interests in China is by frankly adopting the sphere of influence policy. I should suggest that the proper way to deal with this matter would be not to approach the Tsung-li-Yamen at all. Why cannot 979 we go frankly to the Governments concerned? Why not deal directly with the Government of Russia and the Government of France? Perhaps our Government have already dealt with them. It seems to me that that would be infinitely wiser than going on with a hopeless contest with the Tsung-li-Yamen. Now, with regard to this question of spheres of influence, I suggest that it would be wiser to delimit your sphere, and I would say that in addition to that, you ought to go as far as to assist railway enterprise in your sphere. We are told that this is a new departure, and that there is no precedent for it. Sir, are we always to be bound by precedent? Must we always follow precedent? If we had been bound by precedent, we should not now be in possession of those shares in the Suez Canal which are of such immense advantage to this country. But then, on the other hand, our Government at the present time have themselves set up a precedent in carrying through financial loans to China on their sole responsibility. I can find no precedent for that, and if we make a precedent in that respect, why should we not make a precedent in assisting railway enterprise by our own countrymen in China? There is this further argument in favour of helping railway enterprise as compared with the justifiability of financing the loan to China, as proposed recently. Where would the money have gone in the case of the loan to China? We know that it would have gone in payment of the Japanese war indemnity. But if you assist the promotion of railway enterprise in China, a large part of the money will go in railway material made in Great Britain, and in that way this country will obtain a great advantage. Then, again, we have an undertaking by China, which, we are told, is a binding and definite undertaking, and one to which the Government will hold China, that she will not alienate certain territories in the Yangtsze Valley. That, I think, must carry with it a certain obligation on our part to protect our sphere of influence, and also to assist China, if by our action she is threatened with aggression by any other Power in that sphere of influence. If that is sound, then surely, in assisting the development of railway enter- 980 prise, we shall place within our reach lines which will be of great strategical importance in giving China the means of defence against any attack in the Yangtsze Valley. Some reference has been made to a railway in Smyrna, and a comparison has been drawn between that railway and the proposed Chinese railways. I ask, what comparison, can be made between a Turkish railway and the great trunk lines in China? How can you compare the case of a railway in a weak country like China, which is dominated by foreign Powers, with a railway in a strong country like Turkey? Is the comparison just? I think anybody who considers it will see that no such comparison can be made. On strategical, political, and commercial grounds it is our duty to make our own precedents—to sever ourselves from tradition, and to support British enterprise in the matter of railways by Government guarantees. Now, it may be said that in doing this you are shutting the open door altogether, and the Government will say that we do not recognise that our rights and our interests are confined to the Yang-tsze Valley, but that they may be extended all over China. Now, I wish to ask those honourable Members who hold that view how, if you delimit your sphere of influence, it will prevent your also endeavouring to keep the door open for our trade all over China. I submit that the two things are perfectly consistent; and I would point out this: there is a Power with which we happen to be now on the most friendly terms, whose trading interests in China are enormous, especially in the north of China. That Power, the United States of America, would undoubtedly be bound to be with us in endeavouring to keep the open door in China. I can only think of one other argument, against the policy that I am advocating, and that is this: you may say that a policy such as this would lead to war. Why should it? Is it not rather a policy of drift and of living from hand to mouth that is likely to lead to war? Does a policy which clearly lays down boundaries and positions, which says exactly what it wants and what it means to have, lead to war? In my opinion that is a policy which tends directly to the preservation of peace. And it has a further advantage. We ask for an 981 alliance; we are always wishing to be on friendly terms with Germany. What is holding Germany back at the present time? Because she is waiting for our lead. Germany does not believe that you are a Power whose strength is worth calculating upon. That is well known; nobody can deny it. That being the case, if you take definite action, if you show that you are not going to evade your responsibility, you will go far to convince Germany that you are a Power whose friendly feeling and whose alliance is worth having. Sir, on these grounds I do not think that war is possible. But suppose that you did risk war, what is to be said then? This Government have been ready to risk war before now. They were ready to risk a war on account of a telegram from the German Emperor to President Kruger; they have been quite prepared to defend our just rights in West Africa at the risk of war. I submit that a trade with four hundred millions of people, a trade which is absolutely necessary for the welfare of our wage-earning population, is better war for than a telegram, or what has been called "a swamp in Africa." I do not think for a moment that we need apprehend any risk of war. I do not speak as a Jingo. If there are Jingoes to be found on this side of the House, I venture to think that they are to be found on the Treasury Bench, because I can never forget the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Bristol, in which he said that he was prepared to keep the door open even at the cost of war.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
The door is open.
§ MR. YERBURGH
All I can say is that the right honourable Gentleman seems to have a boundless capacity of belief. However, I will not argue that further. Then, again, the First Lord of the Admiralty, in introducing the Navy Estimates the other day, and proposing a large addition to our Navy, with which everybody agreed, made allusions to Russia which I certainly think were of a Jingo character. If there is Jingoism in this House it is to be found on the Front Bench; but I do not believe at the 982 present day Jingoism has any power in this country. It has no power because it has no attraction for people of sober judgment and those who study affairs. But what is dangerous is not Jingoism; it is the timidity and the vacillation which masquerade under the guise of caution. That, I submit, is the real danger in the conduct of the relations of this Empire with other Powers. I regret, Sir, that I have detained the House so long, and I now beg to move the reduction which stands in my name.
* MR. J. WALTON (York, W.R., Barnsley)
I rise to second the Amendment moved by the honourable Gentleman opposite. The question that we have to consider is, how far the Government have been successful in carrying out the policy which they originally announced. With regard to Russia, I think it is clear that the first fatal blunder that the Government permitted was in not giving to the Chinese Government the promise of protection which they asked in order to enable them to resist the threats of Russia, and to prevent Russia thwarting the conclusion of the loan which we were on the point of giving to the Chinese Government, Then, again, the policy of Russia seems to have been devoted to the purpose of destroying British influence at Pekin, and preventing our having an equal opportunity of trading with Northern China in future. In my humble judgment, although I am not a Jingo, a great blow was given to our prestige and influence when Her Majesty's Government withdrew our ships from Port Arthur within a few hours after Russia had made some protest against their presence there. I ask, what is the use of our having splendid naval forces, and our talking of augmenting them by an extra expenditure of £15,000,000 sterling, if the Government in power, with those forces at their back, have not the courage to uphold British interests? I venture to say that the only reply they ought to have made to the protest of Russia was that our ships were at Port Arthur in accordance with our rights, and that we could not admit the right of Russia to address us on the subject. With regard 983 to railways, Russia insists on having exclusive rights of constructing and controlling railways north of the Yellow River, and has resisted a loan from the Hong-kong and Shanghai Bank for the construction of a railway to Neuchwang. I would ask the Government whether they are able to inform the House as to the terms on which the Russo-Chinese Bank has advanced the money to the Chinese Government for the construction of the railway from Pekin southwards to Pao-ting, and whether they would insist on similar terms and conditions being given for the construction of the railway north to Niu-chwang. If not, what becomes of the equal rights privileges guaranteed to this country by the Treaty of Tien-tsin? At the commencement of this Session we were told that not one iota of our treaty rights had been surrendered—that there was no intention whatever of surrendering them—indeed, that there was no effort that we would not make sooner than surrender them. Yet, unasked by the German Government, a dispatch was addressed to them practically surrendering our treaty rights throughout the province of Shan-tung.
* MR. J. WALTON
The dispatch was quoted in the speech of Herr von Bülow in the German Reichstag, which has been referred to on previous occasions in this House. The Germans insisted on having the exclusive right to construct and control railways throughout the province of Shan-tung, and the right honourable Gentleman opposite undertook in particular that he would not connect Wei-hai-Wei with the interior of Shan-tung by railway—that he would not take advantage of those rich coalfields in the interior of Shan-tung which might have been so very valuable for the purposes of our fleet.
* MR. J. WALTON
All railways seem to be physically impossible to Her Majesty's Government. Not only do the 984 Germans insist upon that extraordinary right, but it appears that they are opposed to a concession being granted by the Chinese Government to any people but themselves. With regard to Wei-hai-Wei, I must not quote a communication which a very important German trader sent to me the other day, because it might be unparliamentary. [Laughter and cries of "Quote."] Well, he said—You had the Germans in Shan-tung, on the seaboard of China, as a buffer between your sphere of influence in the Yang-tzse Valley and Russia in the north. We are very much obliged to you for taking Wei-hai-Wei, but you are damned fools for doing it.As to that white elephant, Wei-hai-Wei, surely it would have been infinitely better that our Government should have secured some strong position at the entrance of the Yang-tsze-Kiang, where our real sphere of influence is, than to devote their attention to the barren rock of Wei-hai-Wei. Now, one word as to the Pekin-Han-kau railway. I have endeavoured again and again to draw from the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—who, in his official evasive replies, conceals a great deal of information, and does not give very much—I have endeavoured to draw from him information as to the facts connected with that railway, on what conditions the concession has been granted. My right honourable Friend has told me in reply to my questions that he does not know the nationality of those who compose the Belgian syndicate. I have asked again and again as to whether the French were parties to the Belgian syndicate, and I would again remind the right honourable Gentleman of that French Foreign Office note, which was issued on the 27th June, distinctly announcing that the Pekin-Han-kau railway concession had been granted to a Franco-Belgian syndicate. That French Foreign Office note goes on to set forth the enormous advantages expected to be derived from this concession, and the commercial and political advantages that would accrue to France from having gained that concession. Then upon the question whether Russia is also at the back of this syndicate, I ask the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary whether the 985 money has not been found by the Russo-Chinese Bank for the construction of the first portion of the railway from Pekin—namely, the portion from Pekin to Pao-ting. My contention is this: it is simply notorious that the French and Russian Legations backed up the Belgian syndicate in the course of the negotiations for the concession of this railway from Pekin to Han-kau. There is no doubt in my mind, and I believe there can be no doubt in the minds of Her Majesty's Government, that this railway will be dominated by Russian and French influence, passing as it does right down into the very heart of the British sphere of influence, and in the Yang-tsze Valley, and very seriously endangering the future of British commercial interests in that important region. Now, turning to South China, I have again and again addressed questions to the night honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as to when he would give to the House the correspondence that has taken place in regard to the upholding of British commercial interests in southern China, and again and again he has replied that negotiations were still proceeding, and that therefore no information could be given to the House. But on the 10th June last, when I asked him as to whether he would lay on the Table the correspondence between Her Majesty's Government and the Chinese and French Governments, he actually stated that with regard to the French Government no correspondence had taken place with them on the subject. Now, we made an agreement with France in January, 1896, under which we were to have equal opportunities, advantages, and privileges in relation to commercial enterprises in Yunnan and Szechuen. Yet we learn from the Chinese Papers, already given to the House, that the French Government had not only protested against our having a concession to construct a railway from British Burma to the Yang-tsze-Kiang Valley, but that they had also violently protested against the opening of Nanning on the Red River—two things violating both the letter and the spirit of our agreement of January, 1896. Not only do they appear to be anxious to enter into effec- 986 tive occupation of the Hinterland of Burma, but they appear to be determined to enter into the occupation of the Hinterland of Hong-kong. What use is it to gain additional territory on the main land opposite Hong-kong, if you are going to allow the French practically to enter into the occupation of the Hinterland of Hong-kong? We have been told by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that up to the 10th June no communication had been addressed to the French Government in regard to the performance of our agreement with them of January, 1896, or in regard to the proposed non-alienation of the provinces of Kwang-tung and Kwang-si. When we agreed that France should have equal rights and privileges, surely we are fairly entitled to demand that she will give us equal opportunities and rights and privileges. Sir, I am sorry that I have detained the House so long. This is a question in which I have for many years taken a special interest. It is a question that is far-reaching in its consequences, and it is a question involving to a greater extent the future commercial prosperity of this country than any other question that we have to consider. We know that as years go on the Protectionist countries of Europe and America, and elsewhere, are more and more successful by their protective tariffs and their increased facilities of manufacturing for themselves what we used to send them, in excluding the products of British labour from those countries, and therefore I would remind the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who laughs at the idea of anything that will promote the success and prosperity of British trade——
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
No, no! The honourable Gentleman must not misrepresent me. I laughed at the ardent free traders whom the honourable Gentleman had to support him.
* MR. J. WALTON
I say that, seeing that we are excluded from many countries in the world, and have not the right to trade there on equal terms, it is of the most extreme importance that we should have preserved to us the great markets of China, containing nearly a quarter of the world's population, and with possibilities 987 of expansion of trade that are almost unlimited. I venture to say, Sir, that this is not a party question; it ought not to be considered as a party question; it is a question in which, if the Government would only adopt a definite policy, if they would only come to recognise that they must preserve and uphold our interests and secure for us a fair share in the trade of that country in the future, they must adopt a definite policy suited to meet the altered conditions, and changed circumstances, under which they have to compete with other nations in that country. We know that the Governments of Russia and France and Germany initiate all kinds of enterprises. Syndicates, who obtain railway concessions, are backed with all the resources of their respective countries. It is, therefore, useless for the Government to say that we should adhere to the traditional policy of bygone centuries; it is absolutely necessary that we should also adapt our policy to meet the altered conditions that we have to face, and upon Her Majesty's Government rests the enormous responsibility of making the change of policy, and adapting it, so that this great country shall have railway and other concessions commensurate with our trade to China, and such as will ensure us the fair share which we are entitled to have of the future trade of that great empire.
§ * THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
We have had, as I am sure every honourable Member in this House will admit, the advantage of listening to two very interesting speeches—speeches which I am bound to say did not appear to me to be consistent with each other, but indicated wide departures of policy which I doubt very much whether the speakers had adequately thought out. I listened with much interest to the speech of the honourable Member on this side of the House, who has distinguished himself by the great activity he has displayed upon Chinese matters during the present Session, and I shall endeavour to point out, in the few remarks I have to make, that there was not exactly that precision and cohesion of argument which the long study of the honourable Gentleman would have led me to expect. 988 Indeed, if I ever had any doubts about the policy pursued by the present Government in respect of China—which I have never had—I confess those doubts would have been altogether removed this evening, when we have had laid before us from opposite sides of the House what I suppose is the alternative policy which, in the opinion of the speakers, should have been pursued. After the speech of my honourable Friend came the enthusiastic and ingenuous utterances of the honourable Member for Barnsley, and as he poured forth his phrases and enunciated his theories I was only sorry this obstacle—this box—prevented me seeing the face of his right honourable leader below him. I should like that right honourable Gentleman to get up and tell us later how much or how little of his supporter's speech he agrees with. The House will expect me, however, to deal rather more closely and connectedly with those two speeches and the questions asked in them. The honourable Member for Chester began by putting to me a number of questions about the assurance with reference to China which was read out in both Houses of Parliament last night. The first question was as to the date of that document. I think I gave it yesterday.
§ * MR. CURZON
If my memory serves me aright the date of the first assurance was several weeks ago; but I cannot pledge myself to the actual date. The first assurance was a mere repetition to Sir Claude MacDonald of instructions which have been repeatedly given him as to our Treaty position in China since the commencement of the Chinese crisis. The date of the second assurance, the assurance of support, was July 22nd. My honourable Friend asked me why that assurance was not given earlier. My answer is that the battle of concessions in China, as the newspapers have called it, had not reached the point at which this particular assurance of support to the Chinese Government from Her Majesty's Ministers had become necessary. Then my honour- 989 able Friend asks, "What does the assurance mean?" If he has read it, as I am sure he will have read it, let me ask him, are not its terms so clear that nobody can possibly misunderstand its purport? What is the assurance; what does it declare? It is an assurance of the support of Her Majesty's Government to the Chinese Government in the event of any aggression by any other Power because of any railway or industrial concession granted to a British subject. Well, it is difficult for me to imagine an assurance more definite, more concise, and more clearly stating the circumstances under which the contingency of support may arise than an assurance in the terms I have read out. Then my honourable Friend went on to ask, "Where is the open door?" And his own impression about the open door and the controversies that rage around it is this: that there is a hopeless contest going on between Her Majesty's Government and a number of unscrupulous and powerful opponents, in which Her Majesty's Government are worsted at every turn, that we scarcely make any stand for the protection of our rights and privileges, and that from this unhappy position we are only to be extricated by a counter policy, which he then proceeded to unfold. Now, what are the facts? We challenged my honourable Friend in his statement about the open door, and we asked, "Where has it ceased to be open?" This was his reply. He first took the case of Shan-tung, and he said that Germany had secured special and exclusive railway and mining concessions in that province.
§ * MR. CURZON
Then I am right in saying that he said Germany had secured special and exclusive railway and mining privileges and concessions in that province. But that is not known to Her Majesty's Government. That is not contained in any form of the German agreement with China about Shan-tung which 990 has been published in Germany or is known to us.
§ MR. YERBURGH
I think the right honourable Gentleman will find it in No. 131 of the China Blue Book, in a dispatch from Sir Claude MacDonald to Lord Salisbury.
§ * MR. CURZON
I do not think I shall find anything of the kind. I am tolerably well acquainted with the contents of the Blue Book, though I have not the reference beside me, and I may say the final terms of the German privileges in regard to Shan-tung are not of a special and exclusive character.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
I would remind the right honourable Gentleman that the words of the German agreement were that Germany should have the preferential right of the first offer of any enterprise involving the use of foreign capital or labour.
§ * MR. CURZON
Quite so. The honourable and learned Member has reminded me of a point that had escaped my poor memory. The Germans are to have a preferential right, but the point I am referring to is that they have not an exclusive right.
§ * MR. CURZON
What is the difference in practice? Well, I do not think I need elaborate the distinction. Then the honourable Member for Barnsley went on to say that we had surrendered all power of competition with and resistance to Germany in Shan-tung, and then he gave, if I may be allowed to say so, a most incorrect version of what had passed. If he will look at the assurances given by Her Majesty's Government to Germany when we took Wei-hai-Wei, he will find that we said that Her Majesty's Government had no intention of connecting Wei-hai-Wei by railway with the interior—an assurance, I may say, which was very easy to give, because I believe such railway connection was a physical impossibility—and that we did not, in taking up that position, intend to use it in any manner to affect German interests.
MR. J. WALTON
It was by no means restricted to the question of the railway. The assurance was that we had no intention to interfere in any way with the rights and interests of Germany in the province of Shan-tung.
§ * MR. CURZON
I do not think the honourable Gentleman is quite right. I think he will see that the assurance was given in connection with our occupation of Wei-hai-Wei, and that it was strictly limited in that connection. Then the next case which was taken up by my honourable Friend behind me was the case of Manchuria. There, he tells us the open door has been shut, and shut in our face, and yet in another part of his speech he indicated, as in his own knowledge, the fact that at the present moment a British bank has signed a preliminary agreement with the Chinese Government for the advance of a loan to that Government for the construction of a railway in Manchuria. How is it possible, then, for my honourable Friend to argue that the door has already been shut in Manchuria?
§ * MR. CURZON
I am not misrepresenting my honourable Friend at all. He said that Manchuria was one of the parts of China where the open door had been closed.
§ * MR. CURZON
It is very difficult for me to pursue this argument. I have no desire to misrepresent my honourable Friend, and I hope he will believe me; but it is very difficult to pursue an argument if, in the middle of a sentence, I am interrupted. I was endeavouring to point out to the House that it could not possibly be contended of Manchuria that the door had there been shut, because at 992 the present moment Her Majesty's Minister is using his best efforts to secure the final ratification by the Chinese of an advance of British money for a railway, every yard of which will be in Manchuria.
§ * MR. CURZON
The railway from Shan-hai-Kwan to Niu-chwang. Now, as regards the loan, the honourable Member opposite talked as if the opposition of the Russian Government had been successful; but the House may be interested to known that we heard only this morning, by telegram, from Sir Claude Mac-Donald, that the Government of China had not, so far, shown any intention whatever of abandoning that loan, and therefore I think there is no reason for saying that the open door has been shut in Manchuria. Then I come to the further illustration of my honourable Friend, and that was the so-called French sphere in Southern China. Here the proof given by my honourable Friend was the successful protest alleged to have been made by the French Government against the British demand for a railway from Kau-Lung to Canton. We have never heard of any British demand for a railway from, Kau-Lung to Canton; we do not know of any company who have come forward to ask for that concession, and therefore, à fortiori, we are ignorant of any French opposition to that scheme. If the French interest in-Southern China is to be interpreted as it was by my honourable Friend, as a sphere of influence in which the open door is closed, how comes it, I would ask him, that the French have, with regard to that sphere, assurances no more precise, no more formal, but, on the whole, less precise and less formal than those we have about the Yang-tsze Valley? In the case of the Yang-tsze Valley the assurances, we are told, are so vague that they amount to nothing, but in the case of the South of China the assurances to the French are much less precise. Then with regard to the claims that have been put forward as to the advantages gained by the French in that part of China, the honourable Member for Barnsley made a great point about the Chinese promise to the French not to 993 alienate certain provinces, and he seemed to think that was a great blow to British interests. He does not seem to be aware, and I tell him with great pleasure, that we have received from the Chinese Government precisely the same assurance in regard to those provinces.
MR. J. WALTON
The right honourable Gentleman refused all information, and I am only too glad to find that my speech has drawn this valuable information from the right honourable Gentleman.
§ * MR. CURZON
Then there was another point the honourable Member alluded to, and very properly, and that was the question of Nan-ning. We have often had assurances from the Chinese Government as to the ultimate opening of Nanking; but, as the House knows very well, there has been a rising in the province of Kiang-si, and the present moment is unfavourable, but the ultimate opening is a promise upon which we believe that we may count. I hope these few remarks will show my honourable Friend that the illustrations he gave afford no justification for his contention that the open door has been shut against this country. Then my honourable Friend shadowed out his alternative policy, and, having successfully proved that everything we had done had been wrong, he recommended us to adopt what he calls the sphere of influence policy. Now, when he came to that part of his speech, I listened with the utmost interest as to what he might be going to say. I imagined that after long and careful study he was going to elaborate, what I believe might be elaborated, an alternative policy which might be right or wrong, but which is, at all events, capable of being stated and argued as to the sphere of influence policy in China. But he had no information to give us; he dismissed the subject almost in a sentence; he had nothing but academic regard for it, and he left us without any of that light for which I can honestly assure him we are pining. Will he allow me to endeavour to fill the gap he left open? Will he allow me to point out what this sphere of influence policy means, if logically thought out to its conclusion? My 994 honourable Friend apparently meant, though he did not deliberately say, when he recommended us to take up a sphere of influence in the Yang-tsze Valley, that we should exercise some sort of control, how definite or how vague I do not know, because he did not tell us, but at any rate that we should warn off and exclude all foreign contractors and concessionnaires from that region, and that, in fact, we should do something, not necessarily amounting to ownership, but amounting to a prior and preferential claim on that part of China. As I say, that is a definite policy, and one worth considering, but it is a policy entirely inconsistent with the previous speeches and votes and action of my honourable Friend himself, and of everybody who sits on this side of the House. If we are now to assert this sort of ulterior claim to ownership over part of China, why did we pronounce, without a dissentient voice, only a few months ago, that the integrity and independence of China was essential to the trading interests of this country? I say, with all respect, that if we had a little more clear thinking and a little less wild talking about this China question we should get more forward. My honourable Friend is anxious, as I say, that we should in some way or other exercise some sort of exclusive rights over the Yang-tsze Valley, but he apparently did not see that such a claim necessarily involves the surrender of our equal rights, and the giving of similar rights to other Powers in other parts of China.
§ MR. YERBURGH
I must protest against being misrepresented, because this is a very important matter. I said distinctly that we welcomed the "open door" in our sphere of influence.
§ * MR. CURZON
Yes, but I am attempting to guide my honourable Friend to the logical conclusion which his own mind is apparently unable to grasp. I do not think there is anything unfair in that. I am attempting to show that, whereas he argued to the House that you can at the same time adopt and have the advantages of a sphere of influence policy and an "open door" policy side by side, the one is incompatible with the other. My honourable Friend is 995 anxious about our obligations and our special rights in the Yang-tsze Valley. And yet he is also one of those who are most thankful that we, by the support of our Minister, enabled the Pekin syndicate to secure valuable concessions in Shansi and Honan; but the former of these provinces is not in the Tang-tsze Valley. I believe he also referred to our occupation of Wei-hai-Wei. But Wei-hai-Wei is not in the Yang-tsze Valley; it is in Shan-tung. He is also very anxious to secure, or to prevent anyone else from securing, the great trunk line from Canton to Han-kau. And I might equally use the same argument about the railway from Han-kau to Pekin, for a considerable portion of both these railways is not in the Yang-tsze Valley. Neither is the Niu-chwang railway in Manchuria in the Yang-tsze Valley. I hope, therefore, I have shown my honourable Friend that it is impossible for us to take the line of demanding that we should have an exclusive interest in one slice, and not, I may say in passing, an inconsiderable slice of China, and that we should have an equal share of advantages everywhere else. We cannot both eat our cake and have it; and in the argument of this question, which I do not profess to carry any great distance, I hope honourable Members may, at any rate, bear in mind the considerations I have laid before them. Then the honourable Member went on to advocate—and here he was followed with even greater energy by the honourable Member for Barnsley—a new railway policy for China. What is the policy we have hitherto adopted, and are now adopting? It is a policy of giving to our Minister at Pekin every possible encouragement to support any trustworthy British firm, syndicate, company, or individual who gives sufficient evidence of financial ability or financial support, and who applies for any legitimate and bona fide concession. I shall say a word later as to the manner in which that influence has been applied, and as to the fruits which it has won. Can my honourable Friend in impugning our methods show me any case in which there has been any failure on the part of our Minister to apply that influence? The policy which the honourable Gentleman recommended 996 this evening is that the Government itself should invest money and embark the credit of this country in the scramble for concessions now going on in China.
MR. J. WALTON
Not necessarily. What I suggested was that the Government should take the initiative in securing concessions; it does not necessarily follow that the concessions would not be carried out by syndicates of English capitalists.
§ * MR. CURZON
I am sorry if I have misrepresented the honourable Member. I confess I am not certain that I understand the honourable Member's interruption, but I certainly have gathered from what has been said to-night, and what has been said by the advocates of this theory in the Press, that what they are recommending is that the Government of this country should invest British capital in railway construction in China or in guaranteeing railways. Otherwise what is the relevancy of the parallel of the Suez Canal and of the loan proposed for China some time ago? I dispute the contention that the taxpayers' money should be, I will not say thrown away, but should be devoted to the building of railways in China, which does not belong to us, while in India, which does, and which is thirsting and yearning for railways, the need for the same policy is so much greater. I dispute the proposal that the Government should guarantee the interest on lines most of which may never be built, and the majority of which would, perhaps, never pay if they were built. That is a new policy, and I deeply regret that we have not had the advantage of hearing a speech from the Leader of the Opposition upon it. I see that in the House of Lords last night Lord Kimberley spoke, in language of most discreet obscurity, about this new departure. He indicated a sort of academic sympathy with it, but further than that he did not go. It will be interesting to know what the Leader of the Opposition, who, with one melancholy aberration—I refer to the famous Budget of the right honourable Gentleman—has always shown himself an orthodox financier of the old school, 997 thinks of this proposal. With regard to this new policy, Lord Salisbury pointed out in the House of Lords that it was entirely contrary to the traditions of every Parliament and every Government of this country. It involves a novel and almost revolutionary departure in our system of finance. If we are to employ the money of the taxpayers for railways in China, we may equally be called upon to employ their money for railways in Persia, in Turkey, in Siam, and the gigantic task may be thrown upon the Government of taking in hand the undeveloped properties or the backward estates of half the declining Powers of the world. Such a policy requires very grave consideration, and ought not to be treated in any light-hearted spirit by this House, and no Government would be justified in expressing any sympathy with such a proposal in response to a casual suggestion thrown out in a speech from my honourable Friend. This proposal looks suspiciously like an attempt to throw upon the Government a financial responsibility which concession seekers and capitalists in China, who know perfectly well the condition of that country, are willing to undertake for themselves. If that be so, all the greater ought to be the caution with which we welcome these suspicious proposals. Now, let me take for a moment the two analogies of my honourable Friend. He says, "Why should not you do this, when you were willing to make a loan to China earlier in the year?" Can anyone contend that there is any analogy between making a Government loan to China on the security of the taxes and Customs of that country, which are largely under British administration, and in return for certain definite political advantages, and the proposal for constructing railways here, there, or anywhere in China? Then I take the other case. Is there any real parallel in the case of the Suez Canal investment? Can anyone pretend to compare for a moment the investment of that great sum of money in a canal already constructed through a settled country in which the 998 commerce and the interests of the world are concerned, with a proposal to assist in the construction of railways for which the surveys have not been made, about which nothing is known, which in all probability will never be constructed, and which, if constructed, it could not be said with certainty would be commercially successful? I hope that these few remarks on the sphere of interest policy of my honourable Friend and the railway policy of my honourable Friend may indicate in outline the views of the Government. Before I conclude, may I fulfil a promise which I made a little earlier, and endeavour to show to honourable Members on both sides of the House the actual success that has attended the existing policy, and the endeavours put forward by our Minister in Pekin? I have already defined his duties as British Minister. They are to forward by every possible means all legitimate British enterprise. What has he done, and what foundation is there for the charge of lukewarmness on the part of the Government? In the first place, he has secured a valuable mining concession in Shan-si and Ho-nan, which probably exceeds in value any two or three concessions gained by any other Power in these controversies, and he is backing the combination between the Hong-Kong and Shanghai Bank and certain English capitalists for financing the Niuchwang Railway, to which I have already referred. Then the House will remember that when the new regulations for inland navigation were first put forward it was found that they were inimical to our interests, and we insisted that those regulations must be revised in a manner suited to the free operations of British trade. They have been so revised under pressure from Sir Claude MacDonald, and the new regulations, which are about to be issued, will open every river of China, not only in the treaty-port provinces, but in the other provinces. I admit we have yet to see the regulations in working order, but we have arrived at a point, through the activity of our Minister and the exertions of the Government, at 999 which in the future success will depend in the main on the diligence of British merchants and British subjects. Then I might allude—I think it would be unwise for me to give names—to great trunk lines in China for which Sir Claude MacDonald has had instructions to press on behalf of concessionnaires; cases in which the main difficulty is not in getting concessions, but in getting concessionnaires. There are other schemes which he is now pressing on the Chinese Government for mines and various industrial undertakings. We have offered to send him from this country an experienced railway engineer to assist him at Pekin, but he has preferred to have the help of a specially-competent commercial attaché. Then there is the question of the lease of that great strip of territory of 200 square miles at Kow-Loon. That is a concession which the British community in Hong-Kong have been agitating, appealing, and praying for for years. I venture to say that if any similar concession had been made during the last six months to any of the European Powers, honourable Members would have cried out in this House that British prestige had suffered an irreparable disaster. And yet this concession is never mentioned. It is dropped completely out of sight in the hands of those critics and newspapers who are bent on finding fault, and on finding fault alone. Then there is the permission, subject, of course, to surveys which will shortly be put in hand, to extend the Burma Hallway into Yunnan. Whether it is possible for that railway to be extended over the thousand miles to the Yang-tsze-Kiang is a matter about which I have my doubts, but which must be left to the surveyors. Then there is the promise of the opening of Nan-ning, and I will not again refer to the opening of other treaty ports, the lease of Wei-hai-Wei, and the control of the Customs. But I challenge contradiction on this—that the catalogue of 1000 concessions which we have procured during the last six months in China, subject to a never-ceasing flow of criticism and of misrepresentation, is a substantial and creditable one, and that it represents advantages incomparably greater than those gained not only by any one of our rivals but by all together. It shows also a willingness on the part of China to meet the advances made to her by the British Government; and, so far from indicating any decline, it proves, on the contrary, that we maintain our ascendancy in the political councils of Pekin. Of course we cannot provide the capital where it is not forthcoming. Of course we cannot produce syndicates if none are willing to come forward and be helped. I have seen the Government attacked for their inability to prevent a certain concession from being given to other parties, when Sir Claude MacDonald has himself been going up and down to find concessionaires on whose behalf he could appeal. If our financiers will not burn their fingers it is not the business of the Government to burn theirs. I will only say in conclusion that I hope these remarks may help to some extent to remove what I cannot help thinking is the unnecessary panic into which the public has been thrown in this matter of China. Most of it is unjust, and after a few years have passed and the new provisions are in working order it will be seen to have been ridiculous. I do not much fear that in the future the superior capital and industrial organisation and the enterprise if our people in China will not continue to maintain the position which they have won.
§ SIR E. GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
We shall probably have, I suppose, no other opportunity this Session of saying anything about foreign affairs, and, late as the hour is, I will try to compress my remarks into as short a space as possible. I do think that the position of affairs is not such that this House ought to separate for several months 1001 without some expression, at any rate being given, and as full an expression as possible, to the sense of anxiety that, is felt with regard to this Chinese business. My honourable Friend has had very arduous duties to perform this Session, and I think he seems to perform them with a desire to give satisfaction to the House, and with an ability which gratifies us all. But, while I do not wish to disparage the way in which he defended the policy of the Government, when he says that he has no doubts about that policy, I say that he has not succeeded in removing our doubts. He gave a list of certain concessions that have been made; he put his finger on them one after another. We do not dispute that some of these concessions are of considerable value, but this Chinese question is far too large a question to be settled by an addition of details on one side or the other. The fact remains that public opinion, outside, as well as in this House—and the sense of strain intensifies—the sense that somehow or other British interests are being squeezed in the Far East—has grown stronger in the course of the Session. There is a feeling of depression, an idea that things are getting darker, which makes people have doubt about the policy of the Government, and I would ask the House to remember that lately a great point has been made of whether the Government should or should not give guarantee, or itself obtain concessions to make railways in China; that is by no means the only point on which the policy of the Government should be judged. What is the cause of our anxiety—what is one of the causes, at any rate, of the anxiety? It is this ceaseless talk, some of which may be mere rumour, but a good deal of which is certainly fact about concessions of railways to other foreign Powers. We hear of an enormous scheme of railway development which, if carried out—and although it may take a long time I think in time it will be carried out—will cover a great part of 1002 the country. There is a railway which is to go south-west from Pekin. There is talk of two railways to go south from Pekin to the Yang-tsze-Kiang region. Then there is a question of a railway up from the south for which one concession has been given. I do not know what others may be in contemplation, but what we want to know about these concessions is something definite. Is it a fact, for instance, that British materials are to be excluded from the making of the railways, and that materials are only to be purchased in certain places? If that is so, then, undoubtedly, if such railways are made, they will be so worked as to be adverse to British trade. When the right honourable Gentleman is asked about the railway concessions he says he is not in a position to deny the statements in the newspapers, but that he has no information which enables him to say that they are true. Take the case of the Pekin-Han-kau line. It is stated in the newspapers that that is a Belgian concession. When the right honourable Gentleman was first questioned on the subject he told us that Russian influence was not behind it. We are now told that the Russo-Chinese Bank is the agent for the railway. Are we to be told that British capital, of which there is the largest supply in the world, is loth to come forward in China? It seems to me that when we find foreign capital coming forward more readily in China than English capital the circumstances cannot be disassociated from the influence of foreign Powers in China. When we are told that the Russo-Chinese Bank is the agent for the Pekin-Han-kau line, we are interested to know what information the right honourable Gentleman has in the matter.
§ * MR. CURZON
The reason why I was unable to answer the question about that particular concession is this—it was only signed about three weeks ago. We have heard of the agreement as on its way from Shanghai, where it was signed, to Pekin, and Sir Claude MacDonald will 1003 forward a copy of it to us as soon as he receives it.
§ SIR E. GREY
I did not mean to reproach the right honourable Gentleman or Sir Claude MacDonald for any slackness in obtaining information, but began by saying that we felt considerable anxiety in regard to affairs in China, and I am doing my best to justify the existence of that anxiety until we have further information. If anything like the scheme of railways which is contemplated is carried out there will be a network of railways in China which may be so worked as to seriously affect the course of Chinese export trade, and, in doing so, materially affect the interests of British trade. As regards some of our own concessions, I do not disparage the estimate the right honourable Gentleman has placed upon them, but I think that one or two of them have been very much overrated. There is the question of the opening up of the rivers. I remember that at one time the right honourable Gentleman said the rivers would be opened, and that British steamers would be found at every riverside town. It was said that the opening of the rivers would mean the turning of every riverside town into a treaty port. Will that be said now? The carrying of British goods in steamers up the river is of great advantage; but the goods must be landed. There is the case of Nan-ning. We have failed to open Nan-ning. To-night we are told that the opening of the town was promised, but that it could not be performed owing to a disturbance or a rebellion in the province in which it is situated. But the difficulty of getting that promise performed was not originally connected with the rebellion, because it arose before that rebellion was heard of, and we have never heard what it was which prevented the opening of Nan-ning after the promise to open it had been given. I now come to the assurance of which a great deal was made 1004 some time ago, but not to-night, by the right honourable Gentleman. We have heard much less about the assurance as to the Yang-tsze region since the terms of it were published. Somehow or other I was not alone in forming the impression that there was something more to be published, something a little more definite than we had heard. However, we have got the terms at last. Well, the construction put—whether rightly or wrongly—upon the assurance about the Yang-tsze region when we first heard of it, was that in some way or other we had been given special interest. We have been given no special interest at all. The terms of the assurance given by the Chinese Government seem to me expressly calculated to exclude the idea of our having any special interest. There is no reason why to-morrow they should not give the same assurance to any Power who asked for it about every part of China except the parts already leased. There is no reason why we should not give such an assurance ourselves. The fact is, that assurance gives us no special interest in the Yang-tsze region. That special interest remains to be established by British capital and British influence. That is a considerable deduction from what was said originally to be the state of things in regard to the Yang-tsze region. I think, too, that considerable deductions have been made from the original policy of the open door. Some time ago, when the right honourable Gentleman was asked about some special part of China, he said we must remember that British interests extended over the whole of China. That is true in fact and in form, as the right honourable Gentleman expressed it, and it is quite right that it should be expressed now; but it is not at all relevant to the difficulties with which we are dealing. The fact is that while we are talking about the policy of the open door, what is felt through the country is that week by week the policy of other Powers, which was not declared, which is never defined, is taking 1005 material form, that that policy is becoming more and more a reality every day, bit by bit, while our policy is becoming more and more a phrase. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated just now that the Government's policy had not been a failure. The right honourable Gentleman made a point of distinguishing between preferential rights and exclusive rights. The resemblance between preferential rights and exclusive rights is much more important than the difference, but they are both incidental to the policy of the open door. Now, Lord Salisbury generally defines the policy, which is the same policy as the "open door," as that of the Treaty of Tien-tsin. The Treaty of Tien-tsin is co-extensive with the Chinese dominions; and we no longer look to the Chinese for upholding that Treaty. Three other Powers are concerned in upholding it in certain parts of the Chinese dominions. We have got no direct binding assurance from two Powers, at any rate, with regard to that Treaty; we have got none from Germany, we have got none from France. Now, I do not want the Government to abandon the policy of the open door, but what I want to be assured about is that they are not going to fall between two stools. Tonight, again, the right honourable Gentleman argued against the policy of spheres of influence, as being incompatible with the policy of the open door. It is not really inconsistent with the policy of the open door. The change which has taken place more and more has been this: whereas originally the policy of the open door was proclaimed to be one in opposition to that of spheres of influence, the object of the Government—it is really now forced upon them—is not to treat that policy as one of opposition to the spheres of influence, but to reconcile the policy of spheres of influence with that of the open door. That is the task before them. The position we seemed to have got into a little time ago was that the Yang-tsze region was not our sphere of influence, 1006 and therefore anyone else might go in and obtain concessions, but that Manchuria and Shan-tung were other people's spheres of influence, and therefore we could not have concessions in them. I do not say the Government admitted that, but that was the way in which events were shaping themselves. We could not press our commercial interests in some places because of our friends, we could not press them in other cases because of our rivals. They were to claim exclusive spheres of influence themselves, and the only part which they have not claimed to have was that Yang-tsze region in which they were all entitled to combine in pressing for anything they pleased. Well, that is falling between two stools; if the policy of spheres of influence is to be ignored, and meanwhile to become translated into fact, while the policy of the open door is being maintained in name, the ground beneath it being undermined. Lord Salisbury has said that, besides the open door, our object is to give moral courage to the Chinese Government. On that point, certainly, I welcome 1he announcement which was made last night in the answer given by the right honourable Gentleman, and expanded in Lord Salisbury's speech, to the effect that Sir Claude MacDonald was to press that most-favoured-nation clauses should be inserted in concessions given to other Powers. That is good as far as it goes. He is to press for that. But, supposing a concession is given by the Chinese Government—it is a very weak country and may give anything—and the most-favoured-nation clause is violated, then the question arises how much that instruction of Sir C. MacDonald is worth. That, of course, rests with the Government to show. The second instruction, and I think a still more important one, because it is more definite, is the instruction to Sir C. MacDonald to inform the Chinese Government that they would be supported by the British Government against aggression, if aggression was brought to bear upon them, owing to 1007 their having given a concession to British subjects. That, again, I welcome, but that remains also to be applied. It may mean much, or it may mean little. Aggression is not the only way of opposing a concession. It does not follow that because that assurance has been given occasions may not be so framed as not directly to provoke action upon that assurance, and yet to effect the very damage against which that assurance was intended to guard. I am exceedingly glad the assurance has been given. I do not think at the present moment the Government can do more than that; but I do say that, of course, its value must be judged by the use which is made of it. I am quite aware of this: that this assurance may be a new departure with very grave consequences; it may be the beginning of a diplomatic struggle which may originate at any time, now that assurance has been given, the consequences of which we cannot see. It may take a more definite form, and have a more definite centre. The Government have been reproached before—I do not think I have associated myself with that reproach—in that on this or that occasion, when the Chinese Government has come to them, and asked for assistance, they have not given it. I do not want to press the Government on that point, because if they are to give assistance of this kind, deliberate assistance intended to counteract the action of another Power, if they are ever to do that it should quest of the Chinese Government; the British Government must always keep to themselves the choice of the ground, and the actual occasion on which they will definitely take such a departure as that. I do not say the present is necessarily the occasion for blaming the Government for not taking action. But, having given an assurance to the Chinese Government, they must see that it is not a dead letter, but that it is made really effective. And upon that there arises this further point: complaint is made that British capital 1008 is not forthcoming. How much British capital is forthcoming must depend to a large extent on the opinion British capital has of the influence of the British Government. If you can succeed in doing that upon which so much doubt has been thrown, and convince public opinion that British capital is to have a fair field in China, that your influence is sufficient to secure concessions, and carry them through, and see they are not hampered and, impeded, I think British capital will be greatly encouraged. If British capital has not hitherto been forthcoming it is because the course of events has discouraged it. This is not a question of the different policies of the two Parties. In matters of foreign policy, it is not for the Government to say to the Opposition, "What is your alternative?" The question is, "Are things well managed; is British influence upheld; are opportunities taken advantage of?" It is impossible, unless there is a great moral difference of policy, for the Opposition to prescribe a different policy without having full information. But we have one point on which we lay our finger and say, "There you have made a mistake," a point on which we have never had an answer to our questions. I will show the relevancy of that in this way. There has been talk of an alliance. We do not wish, on this side of the House, to hamper the Government in any views they may have, but we have limited our aspirations rather to having understandings. If you are to have an alliance or understanding with other Powers, they must feel that your influence is worth having and that an understanding with you is worth having. Look at the opportunity which has been missed! Some time ago, before events had become nearly so serious as now, the Russian Government approached Lord Salisbury and asked that British vessels should be removed from Port Arthur. There was a good opportunity for making Russia feel that it was possible to have an understanding, and that it was worth 1009 while to have an understanding with us. That opportunity was absolutely rejected, as far as we can see from the Papers which have been published. The proper answer to the Russian Government was to ask for an explanation and to say that the ships had been going from Port Arthur in the ordinary course, but that they would not go now until we had had an explanation from the Russian Government of what they meant. If the Government had made up their minds, as I think they must have done, that they did not intend to oppose the Russian occupation of Port Arthur, then an understanding would surely have been possible. I cannot believe for a moment it the Russian Government had been told definitely that our Government were prepared to say they might acquire those leases which they had acquired and that extension of influence in Manchuria, on a distinct assurance as to their neutrality as regards other spheres, that it would not have been possible to have arrived at an understanding. The whole line of the Government's policy appears to be based on the belief and assumption that an understanding with Russia is absolutely out of the question and impossible. (I say understanding, not alliance.) We have never been convinced that any effort was made to have a direct explanation with other Powers. There has been too much diplomatic correctitude—too much always going to Pekin on the subject. There ought to be far more direct communication with the foreign Powers whose interests are concerned. If there had been more direct explanations, I think matters would not have drifted so far, and we should net be in the difficult situation we are in at the present time. What is the impression that has been created? Because, whatever the right honourable Gentleman may know of the actual course of events, I am sure the impression given by them does not correspond with what is his own impression as to the success of that policy. The 1010 impression abroad as to our policy has been that it has been one of weakness. I hope that such things as we heard last night in this House may be of some use in correcting that impression, but undoubtedly that has been the impression. What is the good of our building ships? Not to necessitate a war, but to strengthen the hands of the Government, and especially of the Foreign Minister. Nothing has given a greater impression of weakness than the contrast between speeches and action. I do not say this of the speeches of Lord Salisbury, but the speeches of more than one of his colleagues have been couched in terms not merely to attract the attention of the country, but of the world. These have been succeeded by a passive time, during which other countries have been making great advances which a few years ago it was part of the settled policy of this country to resist. That has given an impression of weakness, and the contrast between the speeches and action has produced a feeling that it has been difficult to have an understanding or explanation with other Powers, because there has been a lack of initiative, of energy, of life—personality, if you like to put it so—about the conduct of our foreign policy. There seems to be a difficult in getting into personal relation with foreign Governments. I cannot but believe that the Debates which have taken place during this Session, and the criticism to which the policy of the Government has been exposed, not merely in this House, but outside, have had some effect, and I hope that during the next few months the Government will be able to take such opportunities as arise—and I am sure there will be opportunities—to dissipate that impression, because I am sure of this—the House is so impressed with the difficulty and importance of this Far Eastern question that they desire really not to make capital against the Government, or indulge in censorious or carping criticism, but to support the Government if they themselves only make it 1011 clear to us that their policy is one capable of being embodied in material results and calculated to give material form to what we know are their aspiraitons—namely, the upholding of British trade.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
I confess that I do not think the attacks that have been made upon the Government policy have been so direct and formidable as they might have been. I was very sorry to hear the honourable Gentleman the Member for Chester press upon the Government the idea of suporting the sphere of influence policy of China. I cannot but think that that would have been a very disastrous policy for us to advocate, and would probably have facilitated the partition of China. The only policy for us is that which was laid down some time ago, namely, the policy of the territorial integrity of the Chinese Empire. The question of this or that concession in China I look upon as of comparatively small importance. Of course, it is desirable that as much British capital as possible should be employed in the development of China if it can be so employed with safety; but after all these questions of the amount, the magnitude, or the smallness of the concession is, as the honourable Baronet who has just sat down said, of comparatively minor importance. Sir, the real point in our relations with China and our interest with China has been, I venture to say, entirely overlooked in the course of the Debate to-night. The honourable Baronet rather hinted at it, but the honourable Member for Chester did not even touch it. If the honourable Baronet opposite will allow me, I will congratulate him upon his speech to-night, and upon the interesting fact that we have on the other side of the House a gentleman of apparently as Imperial a mind as almost anyone on this side. Even he hardly referred to it. Now, Sir, the real reason of the anxiety 1012 which is felt in the country, the reason of the danger which undoubtedly overshadows British interests in China, is the Russian possession of Manchuria. The right honourable Gentleman the Undersecretary made a great deal of the railway from Shan-hai-tung to Neu-chwang. I think he was mistaken in saying that, the whole of that is in Manchuria. I think Shan-hai-tung is in Pechili.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
It may be geographically in Manchuria, but strategically it would not in any way command Manchuria, because it only just touches the south-west fringe of that province. The real fact we have to consider is that Russia, in obtaining Port Arthur and getting command of Manchuria, is not only obtaining a most rich province with enormous agricultural and mineral wealth, but it is also obtaining material for the future control of the whole of China. The situation, as I have ventured to say before, is in the hands of Her Majesty's Government until the Trans-Siberian railway is completed. We have only got to act up to our power to use the fleet we possess, and the political influence that we possess, and the ally we have in Japan, and to come to the understanding or alliance that Germany has offered us—we have only to use our power up to the moment the Trans-Siberian railway is completed, and we are masters of the situation; but once allow that railway to be completed, and the control of the whole situation passes from this country into the hands of Russia. I should like here to call attention to the absolute worthlessness of the pledge which was read to the House last night. It is a perfectly idle pledge, and the Chinese Government show that they consider it a perfectly idle pledge by the way in which they word it. Suppose our Government were called upon by the Government of Germany or France to give a similar pledge about some valley 1013 in Kent; we might make exactly the same answer, and it would be of the same value. Absolutely the only protection that we can rely upon is in bayonets—Chinese or British—Chinese bayonets under British guidance, or British bayonets. If you allow Russia to retain control of Manchuria and to recruit the splendid fighting population of that province, Russia will have the power to overrun the whole of that part of China. The real reason why British capital has not been tempted to move in the direction of China, is because people are aware that if you allow Russia the control of Manchuria you practically give up to Russia the whole of Northern China, and with northern China the Yang-tsze-Kiang Valley. I think everyone who has at heart the interests of British trade in China will listen with the greatest satisfaction to the pledge which Her Majesty's Government gave—the distinct promise and pledge of protection to China in the event of aggression by a foreign Power. If that pledge had been given on the 26th January last there would have been no case of Port Arthur, and Manchuria would not have been under Russian control. When the honourable Baronet opposite accuses the Government of not making a proposal for an arrangement with Russia, he is evidently overlooking the fact that from the very beginning of these troubles every statement of Russia was marred by the grossest perfidy. I can say that as an independent Member, although the Government cannot say it. We cannot make terms with Russia about Manchuria. We can make no terms directed against the territorial integrity of China. Russia has moved in every direction in opposing all British concessions in China. I deeply regret to see that the honourable Baronet the late Under Secretary has drifted away from his usual fairness and statesmanship and tried to play the double-stringed game of making out that an arrangement with Russia is possible when he must know that any arrange- 1014 ment or alliance with Russia is perfectly impossible. He must know that we could make no arrangement with Russia which would fail to be used by Russia as a lever for her advantage.
§ MR. KENYON (Lancashire, Bury)
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the speech that we have just listened to. Russia is the only country that probably would or could have opened up Manchuria, and I believe that the opening up of Manchuria will not only be beneficial to Russia, but must be beneficial to ourselves. Any manufactures which Russia may send out, any textile goods that she may send out, will be made by machinery manufactured in this country. Ninety-five per cent. of the machinery now used in Russia has been made in Great Britain, and any development in the manufactures of Russia will have a beneficial effect on the trade of this country. While I am speaking of machinery which is exported from this country to other large countries, I may call attention to what has happened to the British manufacturer in China herself. A year ago there was a mission sent out by the Lancashire Chamber of Commerce to try to develop the export of manufactures to Chins. The point I wish to bring before the House is this. When the gentlemen who composed this mission returned to this country, a notice appeared in the papers that one of the gentlemen who had been there was interviewed by the machine-makers of this country and asked to go out again to China and see if he could find a suitable site for the erection of mills and for the development of that industry there. The development of Manchuria by Russia will, I believe, do a great deal of good to the trading interests, not only of this country, but of the whole world. China is an immense empire. There is a field there which will satisfy the business wants of a great number of manufacturing nations, and I only hope that our 1015 Government will go on with the policy they have pursued this year of trying to safeguard the interests of our trade and to keep the open door as open as possible. I am sure that the development of the country in that way must be beneficial to this country.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.