§ On the Vote of £1,000 for a grant in aid of the revenues of the Island of Cyprus,
§ MR. PIERPOINT (Warrington)
I had no opportunity of addressing the House in Committee last year upon this question, and therefore I take the present opportunity of doing so; but, before the few remarks which I intend to address to the Committee, I desire to say that I thoroughly recognise that my right honourable Friend the Colonial Secretary has shown far more sympathy towards the island and the people who inhabit it than any of his predecessors. He has shown an anxiety to promote public, works in the island, and also to promote the welfare of the people. I do not intend to enter to-day into the subject of the tribute, although I do regard it as one of the great grievances of the island, and perhaps the greatest which the island has had, and I wish merely to bring to the attention of the Committee a few figures to make that question quite clear. I take my figures from the date that England took over and occupied the island up to March, 1897. The revenue during that period has been £3,294,528, the expenditure during the same period, excluding the tribute, has been £2,159,421, leaving an excess of revenue over expenditure, exclusive of the tribute, of £1,135,107. The tribute during that period has amounted to £1,728,948. Subtract the total excess of revenue, exclusive of the tribute, from the lump sum of tribute, and there is left a deficit of £593,841, which has taken the form of grants in aid given by this country to the island. Upon those figures the fact remains that, had not the island got to pay this tribute, according to the Convention of the 4th June, 1878, it would actually have had during the 20 years it has been in the occupation of England an excess of revenue over expenditure amounting to £1,135,107. Now, after dealing with those figures so shortly, I desire to remind the Com- 503 mittee that, by the Convention of the 4th of June, 1878, the actual wording of the Convention is—That England will pay to the Porte whatever is the present excess of revenue over expenditure.and that has been, rightly or wrongly, interpreted to mean that Cyprus shall pay. Of course I need scarcely say that that is a very great burden on the island, especially when one considers the smallness of the population, which only amounts to about 210,000, which has to pay this large amount of money. I sincerely hope that some day or other some arrangement may be made by which this difficulty may be obviated. In the meantime I should like to remind the Committee that when we took possession of the island we took possession with a large intention of doing something towards the benefit of the island and its inhabitants. We promised them a great many things which we have never performed; and a very considerable promise was made by Sir Garnet Wolseley to the people that nothing should be left undone which would tend to their welfare. He issued the following proclamation:—Her Majesty commands me to assure the inhabitants of Cyprus that she proposes to order the acceptance of such measures as may be deemed most suitable for the advancement and the development of commerce and agriculture of the country. No measure will be neglected contributing to the moral and material progress of the welfare of the people.Now, Sir, it was known at that time that it was intended to make Cyprus a place d'armes, as it is called, and that would have meant the expenditure of a large amount of money in the island upon a naval station, and probably also a large amount expended in maintaining a large garrison there. Nothing whatever has been done towards making a naval station there, and as to the garrison, I think I should not be very far wrong if I said the soldiers there are practically reduced to no more than a handful of caretakers. There were one or two companies there some time ago, I believe, but they have new been removed to Egypt to join the Soudan expedition. Now, Sir, of course when you spend in an island a 504 large amount of money in naval works, and you also keep a considerable garrison there, you indirectly benefit the population very largely. Now, the people have not had any benefit from that kind of expenditure in the island. I should like to point out to my right honourable Friend, also, that it would not only be a benefit to the island, itself but to this country as well, and. I would further desire to impress upon, him, that he should, at all events, consider the advisability of starting naval works, in consultation with the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is of enormous, importance to our Navy that we should have a naval harbour capable of taking our Navy other than Valetta, Malta, and there are two reasons why it is desirable. One is that the harbour of Valetta in. Malta is, I think I may say, a proverbially unhealthy harbour. The town sewage used to drain into it; the ships do so now. The amount of fever round and about Valetta harbour is very considerable indeed, and I will point to the latest returns as to the health of the Navy with regard to malarial fever to illustrate it. The medical officer of the Howe, January 14th to April 10th, says—The weather is clear, dry, and exceedingly pleasant. The younger members of the ship's company suffered a good deal from Mediterranean fever.He speaks further of several cases of as later date having been primarily contracted in Malta. At Malta malaria, occurs very often in that port, and has been responsible for a great deal of the disease which has appeared in the Navy. Besides that, the advantage of it would be—and it would be a distinct advantage in view of possible occurrences in the future—that we should have a naval station in the far eastern Mediterranean, and considering that our ships were only lately at Alexandretta and other places in that part of the world it is necessary that we should have some re-fitting station somewhere nearer than Malta. With regard to the matter of the unhealthiness of Malta—Valetta harbour—I believe it is a very common thing in the Navy for officers to feel some regret 505 upon being ordered to Malta, because of the unhealthiness of the island. I have often been, and I know the harbour very well indeed. I was never there in the hot weather, but I must say that the smell from the water was simply abominable. One of these Reports speaks of a large amount of fever, which was supposed to have arisen in connection with a steam "grab-all," as it is called, which was dredging up the mud in one of the side creeks of Valetta harbour, but, from my own knowledge, there is no necessity to grab up the mud to get the smell in the side creeks. Our ships, perhaps, make their rendezvous at Alexandretta, and it is necessary to have a refitting station in those parts. In Cyprus there are two possible places for a harbour. One is ready-made by nature, and only wants the reefs built in and making good; that is at Famagusta. The old harbour is too small for modern ships, although it might have been useful in past times, but outside the old harbour there is a very large space of water around which is a natural reef. It has been surveyed, and I think in that harbour, if it were made, we should be able to swing 12 or 14 ironclads. That is the project so far as Famagusta is concerned. But there is another place, called Lake Limasol, in the promontory of Akroter, which is two miles and a half in diameter. It is shallow now, but when completed by the dredging and by a canal being made from the east side of the promontory to the lake, which is only half a mile, and a canal on the west side, the length there being one mile and an eighth, you would have a harbour approachable in all weathers, and it has high ground for guns and fortifications in the rear. The distance from Alexandretta to Cyprus is, roughly, 200 sea miles, from Port Said 205, and Alexandria 260 miles. To Malta from Alexandretta is 1,050 miles, so that it would be a very serious thing if the ships had to go and refit there. I have put that view to the Committee to-night at some length, and now, before I sit down, I desire to ask my right honourable Friend what is being done in Cyprus? The authorities there have passed a resolution for a railway between Larnaka and the capital, Nicosia, but whether there is 506 any likelihood of its being constructed, and whether it is to go direct from Larnaka to Nicosia, or whether it is to go viâ Vatili, I do not know. If it is made at all, it would be better to take the longer route, and go round by Vatili. The shorter and direct route from Larnaka to Nicosia is 25 miles, and if the railway is made it should not cost more than £67,000; but if the railway is constructed through the longer route the cost will be £95,000. I also wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether the steamship line to Alexandria is still going on, and whether it is prosperous. I also wish to draw his attention to what I understand is the fact, that the Ottoman Bank, which is the only bank in the island, has closed all its branches, and is also going to close its head office at Nicosia. If it does so, that will mean that the bank would remove itself from the island altogether. I should, perhaps, more than anything else like to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether he could give us any information as to the irrigation works which he has promised to the people of the island. I should also like to draw his attention to another matter which greatly concerns us there. There is on the island, in common with all parts of the Levant, an unhappy community of lepers, and although the disease is decreasing, still it exists, and is a shocking disease. What I desire to ask my right honourable Friend is this. The chief medical officer, who has been there for 20 years, has been working for many years upon what medical men have been investigating before, and what he believes to be a cure for this horrible disease. He is certainly of opinion that he has discovered a remedy which will cure the disease, if it is used in the early stages. I wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether he would not be able to get a sum of money granted to help the medical officer of health towards perfecting this discovery. If it turns out to be a good discovers, it will be one of extreme importance. Now, I have only a few more words to add. The right honourable Gentleman said last year that Cyprus was "no worse off for the British occupation, and there was no contract that she should be better off." I do not desire to tie him to the logical 507 conclusion of this statement. I think that he, and all of us, believe that wherever the English flag flies, it is not a matter of contract, but that we expect that the country over which it flies, and the people whom it rules, shall be better off. I desire to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether he will grant a Committee to inquire into the relations of Cyprus to this country, as to whether the view which has been held by Chancellors of the Exchequer is fair to the island, and as to whether something cannot be done to render it content, happy, and prosperous, after its long centuries of oppression and misrule?
§ MR. DILLON
It is not for the purpose of endeavouring to reply to the speech of the honourable Member that I now address the Committee, but for the purpose of considering the whole question of the occupation of the island. Having regard to the circumstances under which this country took possession of the island, I do think that there does lie upon the Government of England the obligation to see that the condition of the people is improved so long as they have the control of it. If we are to believe the statements of the people themselves, there is a very trifling improvement, so far as they themselves are concerned, under English rule. They complain that, so far from there being any improvement, they are now held to certain arrangements, to which I shall allude in a moment, and they are made to pay £160,000 a year more than they would otherwise have tO pay. I do not pretend to any such information as that possessed by the honourable Gentleman who has just spoken; I merely speak from statements which have reached me from the inhabitants of the island themselves, and where they hoped that when they came under the rule of England their position would be improved, as compared with the rule of the Sultan, it has not been improved, and they have been brought under heavier taxation without any adequate increase in the expenditure of public money in public works. Now, the last Debate that we had upon this subject was, so far as I recollect, on the 8th of March, 1895, and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right honourable Gentleman the 508 Member for Monmouthshire, declared that the responsibilities of the island of Cyprus cost the British taxpayer in round numbers £200,000 a year. Now, what struck me was that almost immediately after that, in the House of Lords, Lord Salisbury, then in opposition, moved for a Return for the purpose of showing that the statement of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was far from accurate, that so far from costing the British taxpayer anything, the island had been run at a profit. Then it was that the Cyprus Return of 1895 was made, which, so far from showing that any loss was made by the island, the Exchequer was actually making a profit of about £10,000 a year. In the subsequent Debate which took place on the 19th of March in the same year, it was said we had derived a benefit out of the island of £170,000, that being the profit which this country had made out of the island; and it transpired in the course of the Debate that the revenues of Cyprus had been intercepted by the Government, and used for the purpose of paying the Turkish Loan of 1855, which should have been paid by this country and France. Now, it appears to me a harsh and cruel condition of things. It was admitted by all parties that the island of Cyprus was taken over for the purposes of Imperial policy, and, under the circumstances, we certainly ought to have acted generously towards the island, and not made a profit out of the unfortunate taxpayers. It is a very small and poor country. We ought not to have made a profit out of the transaction; whereas, as a matter of fact, England has made a profit of £200,000 since she took the island of Cyprus. I think it is only fair that these poor people should have a hearing. Cyprus was taken up by a secret Convention, and a clause was put into the agreement under which it was contracted that the treaty which had been made in the base currency should in future be paid in gold. The result of it is, according to the Cyprus Committee, that the value of the tribute was enormously raised. If that be true, I must say that the loss in that transaction ought, to fall on England. Nothing could be more unjust, if it be true. The whole of the loss ought, unquestionably, to fall upon the English Government, Further, it is complained 509 that the amount of taxation now paid by the people of Cyprus enormously and grotesquely exceeds any fair proportion towards the actual gross products of the island. A statement has been sent to me, and it shows that the gross value of the island is £800,000 a year, while the revenue is about £200,000. I see that the figure given by the islanders as the loss in consequence of the tribute having to be paid in gold, is £45,000 a year. That is what they estimate it at. I want to know whether that is true or not. It is either true, or it is not true. The conversion of the loan, no doubt, was a very substantial relief to the people of Cyprus. It was a substantial relief to give them £27,000 a year. I would like to urge upon the Secretary of State for the Colonies that this is the case of an island that has recently emerged from the terrors of Turkish rule, and that it is notoriously very poor, because the produce of the island is of an agricultural character. I was looking at a report this year, and I see that the produce is confined to very few articles—a condition of things which argues that the island ought to be generously considered. Even if there is a reduction of £27,000 a year on the loan, they should not withdraw altogether the grant in aid. The grant in aid has averaged £30,000 a year, and if, under this new conversion scheme, the tribute were reduced by £27,000 a year it would be a harsh thing to make that an excuse for withdrawing the grant in aid. That would interfere with the opportunity of starting works, which would materially improve the condition of the island.
§ SIR A. K. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
Having some connection with the island, I desire to say a few words. I recognise the practical interest the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies has taken in this matter, and, even more, the prospects which he is tentatively opening up for further development in the same direction. I believe myself that if the operations suggested are carried out, the result will be beneficial; they will not only be of advantage to the island, but they will also prove a remunerative investment. My honourable Friend has proposed that it is desirable that there should be a Com- 510 mittee of the House on the financial relations between the island and ourselves, and I would venture to suggest that the precedent the right honourable Gentleman has created, with regard to the West Indies, should be followed, and that the appointment of an expert Commission would be an extremely desirable step to take. It is a step in which there is a field both for investigation and for action, which, I believe, might be made very profitable. Hitherto, so far from any real and permanent advantage having arisen, very grave doubts as to the value of our occupation of the island have been entertained. But I should hope that, under the application of this policy of development, which, I am sure, commends itself to this country, a new departure will be made, and we have reason to hope that the result of that will bring credit, instead of discredit, to our country, with which credit only ought to be associated. When we think how highly taxed the island has been in proportion to its resources, and what a drain upon its resources the tribute has hitherto been, and how much capital has been prevented from finding its way into remunerative investments in the island itself—when these things are thought of, the retrospect is not one which can be indulged in with great satisfaction by this country, and it is to be hoped that the occasion will be taken for developing the agricultural and also the general industries of the island, of the latter of which there are but few, too few for a stable position of affairs. I think the right honourable Gentleman has had one more opportunity of displaying his statesmanship in making the best, instead of the worst, of our Colonies and dependencies. But, in the first instance, as to the conversion of the residue of the 1855 loan, I should like to know for whose benefit that is to accrue. Sixty years hence is a distant period, and I should like to know who in the nearer future is going to get the advantage of this undoubtedly desirable conversion? Is it to be our own country, to the neglect of Cyprus itself? Or, are we going to continue the system of grants in aid of the country we took, and which we hold, for our own convenience, and the future of which we are considering, even to-day, from the point of view 511 of our own advantage? The origin of our occupation seems to me to establish a distinct claim upon us. I should hope, therefore, that the right honourable Gentleman will be able to tell us to-day that this financial portion of the scheme will in itself be advantageous, not only to this country, but also to Cyprus. But I have risen especially and chiefly to dwell upon another view of this matter, to discuss it not from the point of view of arms, but rather from the aspect of view of the arts. I congratulate the right honourable Gentleman on the practical steps he seems likely to take with a view to the commercial development of the island. In undertaking certain public works, at least tentatively, and in having as his professional representative there a specialist who has had great experience in India in dealing with similar matters, and in what has already been foreshadowed, I think the right honourable Gentleman is taking a course which will recommend itself to everyone who knows anything about the island. The irrigation reservoirs and works are absolutely essential to counteract the uncertainty of the rainfall, and they are in experienced hands; and even the immediate result of ending waste of water by storage indicates what the future may be. At present, few second crops are taken from the land, but under a good system of irrigation it would be quite possible to crop the country annually, instead of biennially, according to the present system of letting half the land lie fallow every year, and to get, without any difficulty, a second summer crop, which is now generally impossible. I hope afforestation will be carried further, as even the mere protection and preservation of the forests has proved a means of reducing droughts. With regard to agriculture, of course, primarily, the question is that of irrigation; but we are here also brought into contact with further requirements, especially the introduction into the island of a more collective system—a system of greater cooperation. Each planter now does his own work, and the consequence has not been for the advantage of agriculture. In these ways I believe very much more might be accomplished. One great want of the island is the introduction of a better banking system. I am 512 not forgetting that an attempt has been made in that direction; but it was an attempt made under not the best conditions. Having regard to the general success of agricultural banks in Germany, I believe that if we were to introduce such into the island, with the help of the Government, a great benefit would be conferred, and I regret that at present such banks do not seem to meet with official favour; still, they are worth a trial under the new and better conditions. As to roads, the need for them will be illustrated by the fact that some of the more important towns in the provinces have nothing to connect them more than bridle-paths—e.g., there is no carriage road between Limasol and Paphos. There certainly has to be done much for the island in the way of harbour accommodation, and more direct steamship communication; and for a commercial harbour the Lake of Limasol seems to be the best site. If an improvement could be effected, it would be very advantageous to the commerce of the island. Railways, too, are wanted; and I am told that they ought to be, above all things, of a light description. Such lines have been found to be of advantage in our own and in some other countries. In general industries, that of wine has improved in its manufacture during the 15 or 20 years in which I have now and again drunk it, but, like agriculture needs more collective and co-operative action. That of silk is promising under the help given to it, and might be more improved, and needs more irrigation and mulberry planting; and there are some very small village textile industries in homespuns which are worth attention. Well, Sir, the position in the past has been such as we have reason to regret. At present some steps are being taken which I think do not fulfil our original intention of keeping Cyprus as a place of arms, but which will at least do something for its commercial development; and I trust the right honourable Gentleman will, as he has done in some other parts of the world, apply those principles which bring countries into a better commercial position, and, at any rate, show that the mind of this country does not forget its great obligations. Thus in Cyprus, too, there may be both patience 513 and prudence, progress and remunerative investment both for the island and for this country, and also a realisation at last of right and duty.
§ SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
The honourable Member for Warrington has departed from his usual practice of dealing with Cyprus, and has launched out into a very ambitious naval and military scheme. The honourable Gentleman has taken a great interest in the subject, which is always to his credit; but may I suggest that on the present occasion he has not, perhaps, given enough preliminary consideration to his proposal for making a naval base in connection with the island? We are speaking here in the absence of any representative of the Admiralty. It would be rather for the First Lord of the Admiralty than for my right "honourable Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies to deal with that portion of the subject. These are not new proposals. They were made during two successive Governments. They were the subjects of very full Reports by naval and military experts, which were laid before this House. The two successive Governments sent naval and military experts to report upon the possibility of making a harbour at Famagusta. The effect of those Reports was that Famagusta could be made, by enormous expenditure, into a most valuable naval and military harour if one was wanted in the neighbourhood. As none is, the matter is not worth contemplating for one moment. It would mean spending something like two millions of money to make it a great naval and military harbour. My honourable Friend generally mentioned certain military and naval authorities from which he has got a certain opinion in favour of the course he advises us to take. In the debates in the Royal United Service Institution there has never been made any suggestion for making a great harbour in Cyprus. It is a well-known fact that there is a harbour in that part of the Eastern Mediterranean which is much better suited as a base in war. I think it is a very rash thing to ask the Government to engage upon. Now, Sir, the position in which for years past we have stood in Cyprus has been a painful position. Successive Governments of this country have been 514 forced to certain action by our original rashness in occupying Cyprus before we knew anything about its value. Recent achievements in the same direction show the danger in which this country may fall of acting without full consideration and without obtaining a sound and well-conceived opinion of the naval and military fitness of the step. As regards the present and future, that is a matter we can most usefully discuss to-day. There is a particular point to which no reference has been made, and in regard to which I believe there is a somewhat hopeful future. I believe it is a matter that has been brought before the attention of the right honourable Gentleman. Cyprus was celebrated in the past for the character of its silk cocoons. I believe the silk produced from the cocoons is superior to any other produced anywhere else in the world. Yet the silk made from that cocoon is inferior silk. The people have not got the manufacturing skill to make good use of their cocoon. I should be very glad if, in the course of any remarks the right honourable Gentleman may make upon the development of the agriculture and commerce of Cyprus, which I know has occupied his mind, he may allude to any chance he sees in the future of giving a start to what is likely to become a thriving trade.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
I have always taken an interest in the matter of the Turkish Loan, and there is a point I should like to mention. We do not know what becomes of the £10,000 a year surplus. It has been stated that it has not been applied to the service of the debt, and that this surplus has been accumulating until it now amounts to £170,000. I should like to know what is intended to be done with this money.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR the COLONIES
There is no surplus at all. The amount of the tribute, roughly speaking, is £80,000 a year; £40,000 a year of that goes to pay the interest of the French portion of the loan and the other £40.000 goes to pay the interest on the English portion. After paying this tribute of £80,000 a year there is a deficit in the finances of Cyprus which amounts annually to something like £30,000, and which has 515 been made up by this country. The total sum we have spent in making up this deficit is something over £500,000.
§ MR. BILL (Staffordshire, Leek)
With reference to what has fallen from the right honourable Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, I would say that he wrote an article last month in the Cosmopolis magazine, in which he stated—The British Government of 1880, containing as it did two prominent members of the present administration, put on record its opinion of the worthlessness of Cyprus as a military or naval station.He then proceeded to advocate the surrender of Cyprus to the Kingdom of Greece. Lord Salisbury, at any rate, did not consider Cyprus worthless from a naval point of view—for the Duke of Somerset, on the 21st March, 1879, asked Lord Salisbury whether it was the intention of the Government to undertake the works necessary to make Famagusta habitable. And this was his answer—The harbour of Famagusta has undoubtedly been selected, and such improvements are to be made in it as may be required to make it fit for the purposes of a great Power. When the harbour is completed, it will, I believe, be a considerably finer harbour than that of Malta, for, if I recollect rightly, whereas the harbour of Malta can only contain nine large ships, three-quarters of a cable length apart, that of Famagusta will be capable of containing 14 ships, one cable length apart. The position besides is one of very great importance in that part of the world, and is not to be overrated from a strategical point of view.I should just like to say a word or two about the agricultural value of the island, which, I think, after listening to all the Debates which have been held in this House since I became a Member of it, appears have been unduly depreciated. There are Members in this House who will hardly credit what I am going to tell them. The year 1891 was a bumper one as regards cereals in Cyprus, and proved the best harvest experienced since we took possession of the island. The cereal produce in that year from all our three Colonies—West Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland—amounted to 4,562,738 bushels; whereas the cereal produce of 516 Cyprus in that year amounted to 5,000,000 bushels, thus showing a surplus of 500,000 bushels over those three great Colonies all put together. Well, that shows the great value that must be attached to this island for wheat-growing purposes. If it grows such an enormous crop in a year without anything being put into the soil to help it, it conclusively proves what the island can do. I do hope, therefore, that although the island has been called by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer a dilapidated property, there can be no doubt that under proper government, favoured by a reduction of taxation, and with sympathetic treatment from England, it may become in the future, what it has given evidence of being in the past, the finest granary in Europe.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
I have listened with great interest to the speeches of my honourable Friends the Member for Warrington and the Member for Islington on this subject, and as to the desirability of forming Cyprus into a naval station, I would observe that the Mediterranean is already strongly fortified. It will not only be of importance to us to recollect what the Leader of the House has pointed out, that it has not only got a good harbour, but there is Malta, which, by the way is practically governed by a curious legislative body. Only a few years ago there occurred an incident for which no reason could be given that the Admiralty could understand——
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
I was merely alluding to the conditions under which the British Admiral was placed in quarantine in Malta. However, he took his fleet away. He said—You put me in quarantine. I will show you what quarantine means.And he took the fleet away on a six or eight weeks' cruise. It is a remarkable thing that this place of arms should be under the control, so far as the military forces are concerned, of the Home District of the War Office. I venture to hope that if Cyprus is aided by the various proposals of my honourable Friend the Member for Islington and the honourable 517 Member for Warrington, and others, much good will accrue.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
The object of honourable Members is, no doubt, to obtain information, and in putting their questions they have, in spite of the lateness of the Session, roamed over a wide variety of subjects; but I think it would tax even the ingenuity of my right honourable Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean to seize this opportunity for denouncing the acquisition of Wei-hai-Wei. In regard to the present Debate the Committee will recollect that my responsibility for the island only dates from 1895; and it is impossible for me to defend the policy which led to the acquisition of the island prior to the period when I came into office. From that time, however, I have had the pleasure to agree with my honourable Friend the Member for Warrington and other speakers as to one particular point in their speeches. That is to say, I think I laid it down, within a few weeks of my being in office, that I regarded the island of Cyprus as one of those Colonial estates which it was well worth the interest of this country to develop in a reasonable and cautious manner. But I wish at the same time to say that I differ entirely from those honourable Members, and especially from my honourable Friend the Member for Warrington, when the assertion is made that under British rule the Cypriotes have not already greatly benefited, and, indeed, that they were better off under their old masters.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I will take it any way the honourable Member, likes; and I am prepared to prove that they are certainly much better off than they were under their Turkish masters. If that is not the case, I should be surprised to learn if, on a vote, the islanders would be prepared to express any desire to revert to their old régime. It so happens that there is a considerable number of Armenians who are seeking entry to the island of Cyprus, and to 518 establish themselves there; and if we come to terms with regard to certain difficulties connected with their immigration no doubt land will be found for them, and I hope they will make a satisfactory and industrious portion of the population. In. the first place, let me say what has been done in the last few years on the part of this country in order to improve the condition of the island. Last year the Committee made a very liberal Vote—much, larger than ever before—in order to carry out what I consider to be essential in the shape of public works in the island. It was necessary to put the roads in order, and to rebuild the bridges, which had been destroyed by the torrents, and whose absence had made it impossible for the market produce to find a proper market. These works have been carried out with very great success and to the satisfaction of the islanders, who have evinced their gratitude in many different ways. We are making progress with what I believe to be one of the most important improvements. Irrigation works have been begun. The House authorised a loan in the first instance of £60,000, with the full intention on my part to propose a larger loan, if the first experiment turned out to be a great success. I believe that by the irrigation now proceeding we shall bring into cultivation a large amount of fertile territory, thereby increasing the production of the island, and finding opportunities for placing on the land a great number of the population. A director of agricultural education has been appointed, who is teaching the islanders all that is necessary with regard to the grafting and cultivation of their trees, and special attention is being given to the silk industry, to the cultivation and preparation of cocoons, to which subject, no doubt, great importance is properly attached. It was found that inferior eggs of silkworms were being imported into the island, and measures were taken to stop their importation with such success that the silk industry of the island has trebled within the last few years. The mail service to Egypt has been continued with great advantage, and it is found that the exports have very largely increased in consequence of railway communication. Certain reforms in taxation have been made; and though I cannot say that we 519 have been able largely to reduce taxation, some of the small taxes which caused irritation and embarrassment to trade, altogether beyond the value of the amount which they produced, have been entirely abolished. An engineer 'has been sent in order to make a proper survey of the railway to go to Nicosia, Famagusta, and Larnaka; but as to the exact route to be taken I must wait for further information. The whole progress of the scheme will depend to some extent on the growing prosperity of the island. At the same time, although there is no intention to make a great naval and military harbour at Famagusta, the subject is being attended to, and the harbour will be rendered more useful for commercial purposes. As regards leprosy, the segregation of cases which has been carried out has proved beneficial, and the disease, which was a common feature in the island, has now become rarer. I understand that the investigations made on the spot by the doctor were only temporarily interrupted, and I hope he will be able to resume them before long; but the question of funds is a question that does not cause the interruption. Then, Sir, it is true that certain branch banks of the Ottoman Bank were closed because it found that the business was not sufficiently remunerative, and it was rumoured that the bank would be withdrawn altogether. All I can say is that we are prepared for such an eventuality, and in case the bank should leave the island the Government will take measures in order to secure the necessary facilities. In these circumstances which I have described I cannot see any necessity for a special Committee. We are doing all that we are called upon to do at present. In asking this House to be liberal to the island, I undertake a considerable personal responsibility, and I should not ask for the money unless I thought the investment would make a good return. I do think it right to proceed prudently and cautiously, and not to make increasing demands upon the Exchequer, without giving some proof that my expectations are likely to be fulfilled. I say, then, I think it can be shown that in recent years the condition of the island has improved, regard being had to certain general features, to which attention 520 should always be paid when we test the prosperity of a dependency. I find that in less than 10 years the population of this island, which, we are told, is now in a worse condition than when under the barbaric rule of Turkey——
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
That the population has increased from 186,000 to 209,000. It shows that the condition of the island is not as bad as it represented.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I say that is also a mistake. Taxes upon wine and cultivation, which interfered with trade, have been removed or altered, and I believe very greatly to the advantage of the island. Now, Sir, I take another case. It is said that this island is heavily taxed. The population of the island must now be 230,000 people, and the average taxation of the island during the last 10 years has been £176,000—less than 13s. or 14s. per head. Compare that, for example, with the taxation of the West Indian Islands, where the taxation is sometimes nearly £2 per head of the population; or compare it with the taxation in England, Scotland, or Ireland. I think it will be seen that the taxation of Cyprus is not excessive, although, no doubt, the island is not a very wealthy one, and although taxation always bears hardly upon the poor people, at all events, the taxation is measured by the increase in population, which I have given. Now, exports have increased to an extraordinary degree. It is true they have not increased so much in amount, but if I look at the point it shows that in the production of the island a very largo increase has taken place since the British occupation, and therefore on a review of the whole circumstances I say that although for the first 15 years of our occupation we did not do quite as much as we might have done for the benefit of the island, yet, in spite of that, the mere presence of British administration instead of Turkish adminis- 521 tiation gave an additional confidence, and the expenditure of money for the benefit of the island has produced very satisfactory results. One other point as to the question of tribute. I think the statement in the Times is, to say the least of it, premature. Any arrangement that may be made will come before this House for discussion and approval, and as it is quite impossible that anything of the sort can be brought forward this Session, I think it ought to be left over until next Session before going into the details of the question. But I protest once more against the statement that this country gains anything out of the tribute. That is an absolute mistake. The tribute is treated as security in connection with the Guaranteed Turkish Loan of 1855. It was convenient that we should take our security in possessions of which we are the administrators. That arrangement made the matter more certain, but it did not alter our position as regards Turkey. The island was paying at the time an average sum of £80,000 a year. The amount of the present tribute was fixed by the British official sent over by the Treasury, in agreement with the Turkish Government. If we had never been in the island the inhabitants would still have had to pay Turkey £80,000 a year——
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
Or, as an honourable Member says, £90,000. In any case, the only difference under the existing arrangement is this, that where before the annexation the inhabitants had to pay the whole of that £80,000 or £90,000 a year, they now have in aid of that, payment the annual subsidy which has been granted by the British Government, which varies year by year according to the needs of the island, and which has mounted up to a total of £500,000. Under these circumstances, I think the islanders would be very ungrateful if they did not recognise the sacrifices made on their behalf by the Government.
§ MR. DILLON
It was admitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a previous Debate that it had been proved by 522 Lord Salisbury that, instead of this-country losing £30,000 a year, the British Exchequer was gaining £10,000 a year through the acquisition of Cyprus. The right honourable Gentleman says now that, on the contrary, the British taxpayer has lost half a million. There is here a direct conflict of testimony. But nothing can be clearer than that Lord Salisbury contended that this, country was to the good to the extent of £10,000 a year, and he undertook to prove that. I do not profess to have knowledge enough of the subject myself to know whether the statement of the islanders is correct or not; all I say is that it is stated that the circumstances under which the original convention was signed were opened by the British, official, and that the tribute had to be paid in base currency. That is a plain; statement. I do not know whether it is true or not, I only say that was the statement that was made.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
I remember that there was a question asked in the House five years ago on this, subject, and the right honourable Gentle, man the Member for Monmouthshire stated that the guarantee loan was£80,000—that is to say, that that sum taken from the uniform sum was over and above the interest on the debt. But as regards what the honourable Member for East Mayo has said just now, the matter does not admit of argument, because at the same time the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Monmouthshire stated that the present Sinking Fund was £88,800.
§ Question put.
§ Grant agreed to.