§ On the Vote in the Civil Service Supplementary Estimates and Excess Votes for a further Supplementary Sum of £120,000 for Sundry Colonial Services, including Colonial Grants-in-Aid,
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
I had hoped that in proposing this Vote to the House, and putting forward some resolutions on 1539 the subject, I might have had an opportunity of making a general statement as to the present condition and the future prospects of the West Indies, and also as to the proposals which the Government will have to make ultimately to the House, on what may be called the temporary crisis there; but I have already stated, in answer to a question put by the hon. Member for Northampton, that it will be impossible for me to give any answer upon this general question at the present time for this reason, that we are engaged in negotiations with the United States of America, and also with the Dominion of Canada, which we hope may result in the reciprocity arrangement between those countries and the West Indies for their produce. I am unable at present to say that the negotiations have made much progress. The United States of America ask very considerable concessions from them in return for reciprocity concessions, and I am not quite certain that it will be possible for the West Indies in then present condition to make the concessions which the United States of America call for from them. But, while that is uncertain, it is clearly impossible for Her Majesty's Government to form an opinion as to the necessities of these Colonies. It is evident that if the reciprocity concessions were made in the first instance they would be of great advantage to the sugar industry. It would give the islands something like a bounty on all that production which goes to the United States, and, as at least, something like three-quarters of their produce does go to the United States, it is very plain they would be in a very different position if such negotiations were successfully concluded. But, as I have already said, the West Indies will have to give something in return for the boon which they are to receive, and that will be in the nature of a very considerable reduction upon their import duties, which will affect in a most serious way the budgets of these Colonies and undoubtedly disorganise the finance. Until we know what the reciprocity concessions are going to be, or until we know what may be possible, we cannot form any opinion of the necessities of the West Indian Government on the position which will have to be accepted 1540 by the sugar industry; so that what I have to do this evening is to ask the House kindly to treat the proposals which we make entirely on their own merits, and I would venture, if I may, respectfully to deprecate any discussion on the general question. I am not quite certain whether any general discussion would be in order upon such a Motion as I have to make, but in any case I think it would be inconvenient and unsatisfactory to hon. Members, who desire to raise the general question both of the condition of the West Indies and the extent to which that condition is affected by bounties, and as to the measures which ought to be taken in order to meet—
§ MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Are we to understand that there will be an opportunity for discussing the general question before anything is done?
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
Yes, I was first going to say that undoubtedly I have already given a pledge to-night which I think covers the question of the hon. Gentleman, that not a penny shall be spent for the benefit of the West Indies until the pleasure of the House has been taken upon the proposals, and I wish the Committee to understand that the proposal which we are making to-day is a very small proposal on the fringe of the subject, and which does not at all touch the much larger question of what will have to be done, or may have to be done, if matters continue in their present state. The Committee may take it from me, a full opportunity will be given to consider whatever proposals Her Majesty's Government may ultimately bring forward. I ought to point out to the Committee that the present proposals are altogether independent of the larger proposals to which I referred just now. The present proposal will be necessary under any circumstances—that is to say, even if the bounties were abolished tomorrow we should still come to the House and ask for these particular grants. The grants are of two kinds. In the first place, there is a grant to wipe off certain deficits which have accumulated, in many cases, over a considerable period of 1541 years, in eight of the islands, or groups of islands, in the West Indian Colonies, and which the resources of the Colonies are entirely unable, to discharge. In the second place, a grant is asked for to assist in land settlement in the island of St. Vincent, and in the making of roads in the island of Dominica. As regards these deficits which we are asking the House to clear up, I want, in the first place, to meet an objection I have seen taken to proposals of this kind—namely, that they are in the nature of doles. I do not know really if they were to be considered as a free gift proceeding from the generosity of this country, whether that would be any objection, or whether, in fact, the House would not be perfectly well justified in conceding it. But, as the word "dole" is always used in order to create prejudice, I venture to say, in the present instance, that these grants are not to be considered as doles, but as the necessary expenses of empires. They are not, in any sense, unprecedented. We have always had to make grants in aid of those of our Crown Colonies or Protectorates which have been unable, by themselves, to secure the necessities of ordinary administration. We undertook a responsibility with regard to these Crown Colonies and Protectorates which are distinctly under our control. We have to see that the responsibility is fulfilled, and, of course, it includes the provision of all that is necessary for reasonable and proper administration. We recognise that in the case of Protectorates which have not been developed and which are in the early stages of our possession. For instance, we take a grant at the present time for Uganda, for British Bechuanaland, for Basutoland, and we are asking, in addition, for an increased grant for Cyprus, and, also, we are asking for the first time this year for a grant which has been rendered necessary by the developments of other Powers in connection with our West African Colonies. As I have said, it is part of the necessary consequences of empire. We cannot be an Imperial Power unless we undertake to fulfil these responsibilities, but it is, no doubt, rather an exception that we should come for any grant of this kind. We have been much more fortunate, or, at all events, our policy has been very different from that of other colonising Powers. The grant for the Colonies, in 1542 the case of France, amounts annually to something over three millions sterling. The grants for the German Colonies are also of a very largo amount indeed. In our case, in the vast majority of our Colonies, no claim whatever is made upon this country, and even where a claim has been made it has always hitherto been very small; but I will not say that, in all cases, our policy has any advantage ever that of our Continental competitors. They, perhaps, may spend too much, but I also am bound to say that I think, on many occasions they spend very wisely, and they recognise that in the long run it will pay them to develop their Colonies by means of assistance from the mother-country, and develop them much more speedily than is possible if they are left entirely to their own resources. Be that as it may, we are not asking now for investments in the Colonies; we are only asking for that assistance which, as I shall show, is absolutely necessary in the present instance in order that they may be decently administered. The principle, therefore, which I ask the House to accept, is that in all cases in which we are ourselves fully responsible for the administration of the Colonies we must, if necessary, provide for the unavoidable cost of that administration, and we cannot allow these Colonies to fall into anarchy, or the necessary Services, such as education or police, to be neglected, in consequence of want of funds. But I must go a step farther. What I have said applies generally to any Crown Colony which might find itself in the position of those to which I am referring; but I do not hesitate to go farther, and say that in the case of the West Indies there is a special obligation which rests upon this country. That special obligation is referred to in the Report of the Royal Commission, and let me express here the gratitude of Her Majesty's Government to the Royal Commissioners who undertook what was a very laborious inquiry, and have presented to us a most admirable and valuable Report. In the concluding paragraphs of that Report the Royal Commissioners say that, in the case of the West Indies, the population, which is chiefly a population of negroes, has been placed in the islands by force, either by compulsion employed by this country in the old days of the slave trade, or by compulsion employed by other 1543 countries, but of which we took upon ourselves the consequences when we took possession of the Colonies; and the Commissioners go on to say—We have placed the labouring population where it is, and created the conditions, moral and material, under which it exists, and we cannot divert from ourselves responsibility for its future.I associate myself entirely with that observation, and I believe it constitutes an additional claim upon this country, in consequence of the distress which now overhang's the islands. One other remark must be made, and that is that the distress is due, as the Report of the Commissioners shows, to the failure of the sugar industry. The failure of the sugar industry is due in part to the failure of the bounty system.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
If the hon. Gentleman raises that point, he must remember that we shall go into it.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIKS
I will put it in this way: The failure of the sugar industry is stated by the Commissioners to be partly due to the bounty system which is imposed by foreign countries. I am only summarising the paragraphs of the Report on that point, and then at the same time it points out—I will use the exact words—We, the British taxpayers, have been reaping great benefit from precisely that set of circumstances which have been a factor in bringing the West Indies to the verge of serious disaster.I think that is a fact which none will be disposed to contest, and that is a reason which is put forward by the Commissioners as a reason why we should treat them generously in the circumstances in which they find themselves. There remain, however, two questions to consider before we can ask the House to pass these grants. The first is, whether the expenditure of the islands can be further reduced; and the second is, whether the taxation of the islands can be further increased. Now, I think, it will be sufficient to take the case of two of the islands as illustrative of the condition of the rest. The island of St. Vincent has a deficit at the present time of £15,000, which is the result of successive deficits extending over a long period of years. 1544 The duties were largely increased in 1895, and a further increase of 10 per cent. was again added in 1896. The result is that the revenue has decreased. The revenue in 1894 was £28,000, and in 1897 it had fallen off to £24,000. I think that is a proof that the limit of profitable taxation has been reached. You cannot get blood out of a stone. These people are people who are excessively poor, and who consume very little, and the moment you put additional taxation upon them you reduce their power of consumption, and you do not bring anything more into the treasury. If I turn to the other side of the account, to the question of possible economies, I have to say that already everything has been done that could be done to save money. A change has been made, chiefly in the shape of the reduction of salaries of some of the less absolutely necessary Services, by which it is hoped something like £3,000 a year may be saved; but nothing more is possible, except at the expense either of public order or of public health. Then there is the case of Dominica, where the deficiency is still larger. In the case of Dominica, the story is the same. Taxation has very largely increased, but, nevertheless, the revenue has fallen off from £57,600 in 1894 to £46,800 in 1897. The Commissioners say—It is not easy to see how further taxation can be imposed. The island is quite unable to provide for its own administrative needs.I need only add that we recognise that in the past there may have been, and there has been in some cases especially, unnecessary expenditure, or expenditure that has not been wisely made nor wisely watched; and, in order that this, may not happen in future, it is the intention of the Government, in every case in which a grant is made to> any of these islands, to see that we have full and absolute control over the taxation and the expenditure. I say that generally, although, perhaps, in order to be perfectly accurate, it may be necessary to make some sort of exception in the case of Barbados, which is exceptionally situated. It has a Constitution which goes back for 300 years; a Constitution which, in the case of that island, has on the whole worked well, and the economy on the whole has been fairly satisfactory. At the present time we are not asking 1545 anything for Barbados, but I mention the case of that island in order hereafter that it may not be supposed that I have misled anybody. I have now said all that is necessary in order, I hope, to justify the first part of the proposal which I ask the Committee to accept. I have pointed out that it is absolutely necessary, and, in our opinion, it is the duty of this country to provide what is deficient in such a case; but I do not wish the Committee to think that even then we shall be in a position of losers by the transaction. If we consider the possibility that the only alternative to such grants as these, is that we should bid these islands good-bye, and sever the connection which has so long existed between the mother-country and the West Indies, I think it would be easy to show the Committee that we should lose more then than we shall pay in the grants that we propose. Even now, in spite of the condition to which they are reduced, these islands still take from us every year from £2,750,000 sterling to £3,000,000 of British and Irish produce, and I think it will be evident to the Committee that, even to such a trade as ours, that amount must be of very considerable importance, while it finds subsistence for a large number of the working people. The remainder of the grant, £30,000, is asked for special expenditure in Dominica and in St. Vincent. Whatever else may be thought of the general recommendations of the Royal Commission on one point, I imagine there must be universal agreement and assent, and that is the proposition which they have laid down that, in view of the possible failure of sugar, it is absolutely necessary to find other industries, and other employment for the working people of these islands. The Royal Commission lay very great stress, in connection with all these islands, on the possibility of creating, where it is not yet created, an extended peasant cultivating class on the waste lands that are not yet appropriated in the Colonies; and, undoubtedly, they are right. So far as actual subsistence goes, the negroes can live on very little; and on a comparatively small area of land they would be able to keep their families from starvation. But in order that they may obtain such other necessaries as they require beyond mere sub- 1546 sistence —such as clothes and tools—it is necessary for them to provide something which can be exported, something which is valuable as a matter of export, and so it will be necessary to pay great attention to the possible subsidiary industries of fruit, coffee, and cocoa, according to the suitability of the different islands for the cultivation thereof. But in the case of the two islands—St. Vincent especially—it has become urgently necessary to provide some employment for the people, because a large proportion of the population are at the present time almost without occupation. Employment in St. Vincent is very scarce indeed, and the wages are reduced almost to starvation point. Under these circumstances the Government propose to accept, and to carry out, the recommendations of the Royal Commission and to endeavour to secure land in order to settle upon it some portion, at any rate, of this population. St. Vincent is rather peculiar at the present time in its condition. There is very little Crown land available in St. Vincent, and what there is is so situated as not to be useful for this purpose. There are no proper communications to it. Besides, much of it appears to be situated on the hills, and, therefore, quite unfitted for the purpose which is required. What the Commissioners recommend is to purchase a portion of the abandoned estates on the coast, in order to place upon them the population—in fad, to carry out on a very small scale, with Government funds, in St. Vincent what is already being carried out on a large scale with Government funds in Ireland.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR the COLONIES
The land belongs to some one. If the land is to be purchased it has to be bought from some one, and I assume that the owner may be called the landlord, although I believe the person from whom we shall purchase has no tenants, and whether he can be called a landlord under those circumstances I do not know. There are certain estates on the coast in St. Vincent, which cannot be carried on as sugar estates. The owners of them have not the capital, and, even if they had, it 1547 is doubtful whether on this island the industry could profitably be worked. These estates either are, or will be, in the market. They may have to be sold in consequence of the foreclosing of the mortgage, but if they do not come into the market in ordinary circumstances we shall take compulsory powers to expropriate them. I may say I will pledge myself to the Committee, as far as I personally can, to see that nothing like an exorbitant price is given, because the land has ceased to be valuable for the purpose of sugar cultivation, and we shall only pay for it what may be really called a fair and reasonable market price. That is the case so far as St. Vincent is concerned. With regard to Dominica there is no necessity for purchasing land, because the Crown, fortunately, have a very large estate, amounting to 90,000 acres of land, which is extremely suit able for small cultivation. But in Dominica the difficulty is that there is no communication to this land. I must say, with reference to Dominica, the state of the island is not at all creditable to the British Government, that while we have been in possession of the island for more than a century we have done absolutely nothing for it. It is almost in the undeveloped condition in which we took it. Here is some of the best and richest land in the whole of the West Indies absolutely unworkable at the present time, in consequence of the Government having in the past neglected to give any assistance to make the necessary communications. What we now propose to do is to open up a portion of the Crown lands in that island by means of roads, and it is for the making of those roads we ask for this small grant. As soon as we have made these roads, there is no doubt we shall be able to dispose of a considerable portion of the Crown land to peasant proprietors, or to small cultivators, if they prefer it, at a nominal rental. This is only a small proposal, and must be treated entirely separately from the great question of the future condition of the West Indies. To that matter we shall return as soon as the negotiations with the United States of America and Canada have come to an end, but in the meantime we hope the Committee will accept the small proposal we bring before them, and will not refuse the grant for which we ask.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
In this question, with regard to item "D," I have an Amendment to propose, and upon item "S" I have a few observations to make. I was very much surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, who has always been in favour of expansion of the Empire, speak as he did. I have always been under the impression that, even if we did put some small amounts into these new Colonies, such as Uganda, when we first occupied them, we did so as a matter of speculation, because not only would they pay for themselves but we might ultimately benefit from them. But he has now started new premisses. He says it is for Imperial power that we should always pay. We spent £20,000,000 there in the days of the slave trade, and we are now asked to spend a further amount because these people cannot pay their own taxes. We have had these Colonies for very-many years, and now we are told that we must advance money because they have deficits, and, in all probability, as far as I can see, we shall invariably have to advance these moneys. What possible advantages are these islands to us? Take the case of Dominica and St. Vincent. The right hon. Gentleman said that several millions of British manufactured goods are imported by these Colonies, but, as a matter of fact, the whole of the imports of manufactured goods to Dominica and St. Vincent is about £100,000, and of this a very considerable amount comes from the United States. Therefore, if we look at it as a mere business speculation, I really do not see where we can possibly hope to gain by making these advances. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman said that we ought not only to do our duty and be just to the Colonies in advancing this money, but that we ought to act in a generous spirit, because these Colonies have lost by the bounties and we have benefited. Sir, I shall be prepared to show when we come to consider the question of the bounties that the West Indies have lost absolutely nothing. But the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that it was impossible to reduce the expenditure of the islands of Dominica and St. Vincent. I hold that it is very easy to reduce the expenditure. 1549 Take the case of Dominica. In the case of Dominica the expenditure is £26,000 per annum. There are about 26,000 inhabitants in the whole of the island, of which one-third are white. Well, Sir, we know that Dominica, and many of those islands, have been the dumping ground for English civilians. I was told only a day or two ago that you have practically found civilians tumbling over one another, rive men doing the work of one, and that every man had three times the proper value. You could very well work the whole business of government for infinitely less than £26,000. I hold that until yon have looked thoroughly into the whole question of expenditure in these islands we ought not to advance one shilling of money. It is all very well for these islands to come to us after a succession of years, and say, "We have a, debit, and cannot pay it ourselves." It is the case of a young man who gets recklessly into debt and then goes and sponges on his father. We ought not to act in this foolish manner. We know perfectly will that as long as there is a paymaster in England ready to pay for all the expenditure that haw taken place in these islands, or any of the Colonies, money will be squandered. I want the cost of government to be reduced. bought to have a clear and definite understanding that the expenditure will be reduced—that the coat will be cut according to the cloth—and that these people will not come upon us every year to pay the debts of their government. It has been asked what would become of these islands if the help were not given. I will fell the right hon. Gentleman. I have been a great deal in the West Indies, and I have been a great deal in Central America, and there is no place where people live more comfortably upon nothing than they do there. Well, it is the case. They have the simple clothes which Nature requires in that part of the world—of course, exceedingly little—and they live happy and contented lives. Let us leave these people alone, and they will be infinitely better off than many people in Ireland, and infinitely better off than many people in this country. Well, the people of this country are called upon to give these grants to make them more comfortable. I protest against these per- 1550 sistent raids on the British taxpayer. The present Government, seems to have but one idea, and that is to buy up any number of people who come forward with a grievance, at the expense of that poor, wretched creature, the British taxpayer. It is all classes, classes, classes. The fact is that the real persons who are going to be benefited by these grants are the sugar-planters, or, in other words, the landlords. They have been at the bottom of all the trouble with the people of Dominica. The people of Dominica will not, and cannot, benefit in any sort of way by your advancing this money; nothing you can do will benefit the commercial condition of those black fellow-countrymen of ours. Leave them alone. Leave them happy and contented, as they really would be. If you do away with the sugar system, which has been the curse of the West Indies, do not start the theory that it is one of the duties of the Empire to stand money whenever we are called upon to stand it, taking it from the British taxpayer and giving it to the people who really do not want it.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I do not propose to enter upon the policy involved in these grants-in-aid, although the impression I have gained from reading the Report of the Commission is that throughout the West Indies generally the expenses have been great, the deficits large, and economy totally disregarded. But I wish to particularly address myself to the financial aspect of this Vote, and I do very seriously lament the fact that the Government brought in such enormous Supplementary Estimates. The system of bringing in Supplementary Estimates can only be defended in an emergency. Then, of course, if is proper to come to this House for Supplementary Votes in respect of matters which are not foreseen. This is a modern practice. There were no Supplementary Votes in 1894, and very few in 1895, but more recently they have increased, and this year they are over £2,000,000. The tendency of the Government seems to be to take possession of the surplus, and to prevent any of it going for the diminution of the national expenditure. In, fact, it is like taking this year's income and putting 1551 upon this year charges which ought strictly to come in next year's changes, and to be provided for by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget for next year. I think, Sir, Supplementary Estimates require special attention on the part of this House to see that it really is an Estimate that can be justified on the ground that it is caused by an unexpected emergency. Well, now, I have looked at this Estimate, and I must say generally, with regard to it, that although my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies says that it is but the fringe of the larger question, it does seem to me that we cannot adequately discuss even this Estimate until we have the whole position before us. It might be that when we come to the fabric we shall find that the fringe has nothing to do with it. But we cannot judge at present. It may be, on the other hand, that when these proposals are brought forward they will be found to intimately concern the other Vote. I think, to say the least, it is inconvenient that Her Majesty's Government should have been forced to bring in Supplementary Estimates at all. But I am still more surprised, not at what the right hon. Gentleman said, which, as usual, is admirable, but at what he did not say. Of course, I expected with regard to this item of £90,000 asked for to clear off some floating deficiencies with regard to these islands, that my right hon. Friend would tell us what those deficiencies were in each case. He only gave the deficiency in the case of St. Vincent, which he said was £15,000.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I have made a mistake. I should have said that the deficiency in the case of St. Vincent was £11,000. The difference between the Commissioners' Estimate and the present Estimate is probably accounted for by the fact that since then the deficit has been increased.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Quite so. Well, now, the Committee are entirely without information as to how this £90,000 is to be made up. I have endeavoured to make up the total deficit from the Report of the Commissioners, and I cannot make it more than £59,000 1552 altogether. I should, therefore, like the right hon. Gentleman to explain how he arrives at the total of £90,000 which we are asked to vote. Perhaps when be replies he will be able to give a list of the deficits.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
The deficit in the case of Tobago is £4,000; St, Vincent, £11,000; Antigua, £30,500; St. Kitts, £29,500; Montserrat, £8,250; Virgin Islands, £2,000; Dominica and St. Lucia together, £1,500; and in all these cases there is some question whether the amount will be required. The total is £86,750, but there will be required further sums for the excess of expenditure over the revenue during the first three months of 1896.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I am extremely obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for those figures, but I still cannot understand the statement as to the deficit in Dominica and St. Lucia. In February, 1896, the right hon. Gentleman proposed, and obtained, a Vote of £15,000 for Dominica. Of that sum, £5,000 was for roads and £10,000 was to clear off the deficit and start the island afresh. The only result of our policy seems to be to produce a succession of further deficiencies, and I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee that they are opening up an interminable avenue of grants. Although we have large surpluses and opportunities for appropriating money, the day may arrive when we shall find it difficult to meet our own expenditure. It is hard enough to do that without being called upon to find further, and perhaps increased, sums to increase the prosperity, if possible, of the West Indies. There is one other point I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. The total sum recommended by the Commissioners is £60,000, and the right hon. Gentleman asks for £90,000; consequently, he can please himself with regard to the £30,000 beyond the recommendation of the Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman has told the Committee incidentally how that sum is made up, consequently we shall be able to get some further light upon it, and 1553 probably a Commissioner may tell us what he thinks of the fact that, whereas the Commission recommended £60,000, the Colonial Office now ask for half as much again. There is only one more point, and I have done. This item of £60,000, it will be observed, is a free grant, made in respect of certain specified islands, and it is to be spent during this year. Now, what I want to ask the right eon. Gentleman—or, I would rather ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I am glad to see in his place—is, whether this grant-in-aid is to be subject to what I consider is an extremely proper rule, that in case the whole of this £90,000 is not required will the balance be devoted to the reduction of the debt? I dare say the Colonial Secretary will say that there is no chance of getting any money back. I would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this did occur in the case of Bechuanaland, for this House voted £30,000 in that instance, in consequence of events which took place there. Nevertheless, the amount was something like £20,000, and, instead of being surrendered, the balance was kept back. What I want the right hon. Gentleman to do, if he can—or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will—is to tell the House whether, if the whole of this £90,000 is not required for the purpose for which it has been voted, the balance will be surrendered to the reduction of the National Debt. I think it is a very important point—considering the number of those grants-in-aid—in principle as any financial point that will be raised with regard to these Supplementary Estimates, because they have become enormous, and they are calculated to relieve next year's income at the expense of this year's surplus. The surplus is only a blunder, and if there be two or three millions of a surplus, it only means that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken two or three millions more in taxation than he needed to have taken. I think it is false finance to do this, and thus relieve the following year of its proper burdens. I view with great apprehension this multiplication of these Supplementary Estimates and the system of grants-in-aid which are neither to be extended nor surrendered—I am speaking of specific grants-in-aid. This is the condition of things; it is applied to certain specified objects, and unless we have the 1554 balances surrendered, it is a secret matter. Sir, I would draw the Committee's attention to these matters from a financial point of view, and I hope they will receive that attention which they deserve.
§ MR. SYDNEY C. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I am glad that this matter has not been mixed up with the larger question, and, therefore, I am able to support this Vote with a clear conscience. I wish to support these Votes, because I believe they are absolutely necessary. I do not believe that these islands, and especially the two islands named, can continue as belonging to a civilised nation, without the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman, has made this afternoon. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, who opposed this Vote, said that the expenditure on these West Indian Islands ought to be reduced to the lowest point before we made any material grant. But one point I heard with satisfaction was that wherever these grants are made to these islands we should have a regular financial control over their taxation and expenditure. That, I am glad to think, is going to be done now, because, in my opinion, the sort of hybrid constitution which we have given to the West Indies has certainly not been to their advantage, and has done much to bring these islands into the financial straits in which they are now. I wish to support these Votes this afternoon, because I do not agree with the views expressed by the hon. Member who opposed it, because he thought it would be in the interests of the sugar-planters. On the contrary, these proposals seem to me to be aimed not at improving the position of the sugar-planters, which is a question we shall have to discuss upon some future occasion, but to improve the present condition of the native populations in these islands. Those are the grounds on which I give the right hon. Gentleman my support. It seems to me that—while it is a very serious thing that this country shall undertake great responsibilities for any of its Colonies; and while, no doubt, this is a new feature in our Colonial policy—we have done it before when we have found it necessary with Crown Colonies not able 1555 to carry themselves along from year to year. We did it with Bechuanaland, with Cyprus, and so on. We have also given grants in Mauritius and other cases. The proposals of the Government as regards these islands seem to be specifics which are not only a necessity, but will also be an advantage to the people and the Government as well. My hon. Friend below the Gangway said he should oppose it because it involved the expropriation, of some of the planters. From what fell from my hon. Friend opposite, it seems to me that the expropriation proposed will be a good thing, because the land will be bought, taking into account the fact that it has not been in cultivation, but that it has been kept out of cultivation. Therefore, we hope it will be obtained at a very low rate, and at a rate which will be profitable to the island in the future. But the proposals axe most likely to be successful in the island of Dominica, because the late Sir Robert Hamilton, in the report he made after we had sent him out there, specifically stated that, in his opinion, if Dominica had an opportunity of being developed, the land was so fertile, and wood in the forests so plentiful, that it was of such value as to repay any expenditure of money that might be spent in its development. From the mere fact that Dominica has practically lost all its trade in the sugar industry it has been sufficiently elastic, commercially, to recover the amount of its loss on sugar by the increased value of its other exports. We know that the dual proprietorship there is not in such a flourishing condition, and, with a little assistance, the present proprietors would be willing to devote themselves to other industries, in regard to fruit cultivation and so on, in which they might make a profitable living. It seems to me that as regards Dominica, at all events, we do owe the people there a duty. We have more than once altered their constitution, and I think nearly always for the worst, and we owe them a duty which Dominica has perpetually urged from the time when, a number of years ago, the funds were handed over to the Imperial Government. We have in the past endeavoured to assist them, but, unfortunately, the incompetence of those who made that endeavour has been such as to throw many burdens on Dominica 1556 without any corresponding benefits accruing. I am not now going into the very melancholy history of what occurred in the attempt made to open out Dominica, in which the expenditure of something like £40,000 was incurred, and was practically thrown away in regard to that island, which, I am sorry to say, was due to the mismanagement of that island. Now, I understand, in regard to the future, that when this proposed expenditure is undertaken it will be undertaken under the strict supervision of the Imperial Government, and all questions of taxation and revenue will be taken in hand by the Imperial Government, so that we may hope that any of the mistakes of the past will not occur again in the future. I am not myself very sanguine that this experiment will be of very great value to the West Indies, but I do believe that, with regard to Dominica, it is a proposal which, from a commercial point of view, will be profitable, and is worth trying. But, whether it is profitable or not, or whether it is successful or not, we, as the Imperial Government, are in such a position that it is essential and necessary that we should come to their assistance. I cannot believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton is really seriously in earnest when he says that you ought to allow these islands practically to revert to barbarism among the black population. It is quite essential, from our point of view, that we should keep up a proper administration in these islands, and though I wish to reserve my opinion in regard to any proposals which my right hon. Friend may make as to the sugar bounties, I support these Votes heartily, because I believe they are made in the interests of the native population, for whose welfare we are responsible, and not in the interests of any particular class. Therefore I shall certainly give them my support, and I trust that the hopes of the right hon. Gentleman will be fulfilled.
§ MR. LEONARD H. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has stated that it is not in his power to make any permanent proposal with respect to the West Indian Islands, 1557 and that he did not wish to make any statement while negotiations between this country and the United States and Canada for reciprocity Treaties, which would confer great benefit on the West Indian Islands, were going on. But they would have to be balanced by something on the other side, and that might involve great sacrifices on the part of the islands, which I am not at present prepared to say they are able to meet. What is meant, I presume, is, that the United States desire that the tariffs of the West Indian Islands should be so formed that goods from the United States should be admitted at lower duties, or, perhaps, without any duties at all. With regard to the word "sacrifice," I will offer a single observation. The sacrifice, therefore, which is suggested, is the abandonment of certain import duties. But I beg to protest against the word "sacrifice" being used in this connection. It is not a sacrifice, and the use of that word may have an effect upon the minds of those who are negotiating the business, which may possibly lead them to reject an offer which might be advantageous to themselves. All that is involved is a readjustment of the revenue, which raises the same amount in another fashion.
§ MR. COURTNEY
Those responsible to the United States Government have raised their duties, but not necessarily against British goods. It is a question of reciprocity which is concerned, and a question whether it is a sacrifice in the real sense of the word for the West Indian Government to abandon some part of their duty. Some years ago I visited these islands, and anything more antiquated and inconsistent than the policy of the Imperial Government there I never saw. There was a cry for reforms throughout the islands, and the duties imposed pressed hard upon the poor, and were not likely to be more remunerative from the point of view of the exchequer. With regard to another observation of the right hon. Gentleman, I support the view which I am now emphasising, that, if the supposed sacrifice is carried out, it will be a benefit to the 1558 island rather than a loss, and the use of the word "sacrifice" ought to be abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman had said that nothing could be done in the matter of reform, but a certain sum would be raised, and 10 per cent. will be put on the final result, and the total revenue raised will be the same as under the lower tariffs. Well, Sir, that is very likely to be our own experience, for, we have a revenue there which is not adequate, and there is a deficiency year after year, and the result is that the revenue is diminishing instead of increasing. So far as regards the general question. As to the special question, I am not prepared to vote against the resolution put from the Chair. I confess I should have liked it very much more if it had been put before us under the good, intelligible, and truthful name of doles, than under the suggestion that it was part of the cost for keeping up the Empire. I demur altogether to the notion that the Empire was extended, or primarily extended, by such payments from home, especially in the case of the established parts of the Empire. Mr. Sydney Buxton really outdid the Colonial Secretary in keeping up what he called the Colonial Empire. Let us consider what he means. This is an entirely new departure. The suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary for the Colonies are not really in point. The Colonial Secretary founded his arguments upon the conduct of the German and French Governments. I have yet to learn that England has any secrets to learn, either from France or Germany in the way of the administration of Colonies. In our former days we did very little in the way in which we are now invited to undertake, in imitation of the Germans and French, and I protest against these methods being put before us as examples to be followed, for I rather look upon them as examples to be avoided. Just note the discrimination between special examples quoted by my right hon. Friend and supported by my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Sydney Buxton). These are examples of expenditure in support of the preliminary cost of the extension of Empire. In going into a new business you have to seek new capital; in extending your premises you have to undergo considerable outlay. That 1559 may or may not be defensible; it depends very much upon the particular circumstance of the case. But those expenditures, whether wise or imprudent, whether well or wisely made, were in the way of developing and increasing the Empire. In the present case you are taking in hand a considerable number of islands which have been in your possession for 100, 200, or even 300 years. It is not a case of extending the old Empire, but of meeting the deficiencies of the administration. I venture to say it is a good old and sound policy of the House of Commons that such property should pay its way, and that there has been a miscarriage of administration if it does not. It has been admitted by the right hon. Member for Poplar that there has been mismanagement in the past. He has also assented to a Vote to wipe out a similar debt some time ago, which he now sees followed up by a fresh debt. I have no confidence in such Votes, I am quite satisfied that the policy rather tends to reduce and weaken the administration of the Colonies. It will be followed by fresh demands, unless the Government is more resolved and energetic in their action. I am not going to oppose this Vote; but I entirely agree with Mr. Labouchere that these islands must somehow manage to pay their way, and I believe if you reduce your expenditure to what is necessary, having regard to the requirements of the islands, that it can be done. Does any hon. Member believe or think that most of the islands, if managed independently, would not pay their way? They would be obliged to pay their way, with a very frugal and reduced administration, you must insist upon that, and the necessary consequence will be that you will get an income in excess of your expenditure.
§ *SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chesterle Street)
Sir, whilst I agree with the arguments the right hon. Gentleman has just given utterance to, I regret to say that I do not altogether agree with his conclusions when he says that he did not intend to vote against this Resolution. I am bound to say that, personally, I have a very great objection to grants-in-aid to any country, and I certainly think it is incumbent upon a Minister, when he 1560 proposes a Vote of this kind, to give the very strongest argument possible to induce the House, or, I should say, the Committee, to agree to any State contributions of this kind. I thoroughly agree with my right hon. Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies when he states that these grants-in-aid made the Colony extravagant, and led to the money being misspent. I think anyone who looks to the different grants which have been given to different parts of our Empire will see that they have led to very great extravagance, and very often to useless expenditure. I was a very short time ago paying a visit to the Isle of Man, and there I saw, in one or two cases, places where enormous sums seem to have been spent in connection with harbours that have proved to be utterly useless, and, Sir, on that account the Secretary of the Colonies consequently in moving for this Vote ought to have given us very much stronger reasons for supporting it than he has given us. He stated in the first place that he objected to this new form of dole. I am afraid, notwithstanding his objection to that phrase, to my mind it is nothing more or less than a dole. When you consider that it is to make a deficit up which exists in these islands, to make the revenue meet the expenditure, I cannot see it in any other light than that of a dole. If you continue to pay these deficits, these deficits, instead of decreasing, will continually increase. We have a striking instance of that given by the Secretary for the Colonies himself, when he said that since the first mention of the paying of this deficit was made it has increased, and, therefore, the deficit of Dominica has gone up very much—from £6,500 to £11,000. After all, Colonies and communities are very much like individuals, and if an individual gets into debt, and he has a kind friend who comes forward to pay the debt without insisting upon him changing his character or his method of expenditure, well, I feel sure that the kind friend will be obliged to come forward again in support of his friend. It is exactly the same with Colonies and with communities as it is with individuals. One or two statements which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, referred to the government of these islands being of an 1561 inadequate character. I think that that is so. I should have been better pleased if the right hon. Gentleman, before he asked us to give this large sum of money, had set himself to work and had shown us the remedy for this extravagance, and pointed out such changes that the Government were able to make in the control of the expenditure of these islands as would have prevented this deficit from growing year after year. Now, Sir, who is responsible for the great expenditure of these islands? As far as I have been able to learn, the expenditure is practically controlled by the officials who receive the salaries. It is scarcely likely that any of these gentlemen are going to coma forward and suggest that the expenditure should be reduced in the shape of salaries when they receive the salaries themselves. I think there should be some strong changes made with regard to the government of these islands. I confess that I would rather have seen the whole question of the West Indian Islands brought up for us to discuss than this partial statement of the question. I am not prepared to say that I should always vote against any grant-in-aid to our Colonies, but I think that we should have the whole question before the House of Commons, showing exactly what the Government propose to do, before we are asked to make State grants of this kind. This is why I consider it my duty to oppose this grant.
§ *COLONEL VICTOR MILWARD (Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon)
I rise for the purpose of supporting the proposal of the Government. I, in common with nearly every Member of this House, have a great objection to paying debts or deficits. On the other hand, I do not regard this as a dole to the West Indies. The Member for East Wolverhampton, in discussing the question of some contribution towards the war in the East Indies, said that he disliked very much the word "dole" in connection with that grant. I dislike it equally with a grant of this kind. It is an act of justice, or of even something much less than justice. I do not intend to go into the general question on this occasion. I would remind the House that 20 years ago, in 1562 1879–1880, there sat a very important Select Committee in order to inquire into the West Indies and as to the Sugar question. That Committee made a Report, and in that Report, amongst other things, there are to be found these words—All witnesses agree in looking forward to the abandonment of the sugar cultivation, and estimate that in 10 years one-half of the West Indian production will be destroyed.Now, Sir, in the face of that warning raised by the Select Committee, we can scarcely wonder that the West Indies should now be in a state of great distress. The House was asked to do certain things, to make certain changes in legislation, with a view to improving the condition of the West Indies. It deliberately refused to do so, and from that day the West Indies have gone back. Sir, I regretted very much the speech of the Member for Northampton. I am sure that when his words are reported, as I have no doubt they will be, in the West Indies, it will be felt that they are wanting in that sympathy which ought to be given to that country. He said, amongst other things, what advantage do we derive from our connection with the West Indies? They have plunged recklessly into debt, and all we are asked to do is to pay the debts of the sugar grower. I myself do not see anything but what is fair and just in our helping them in what way we can. Remember that we retain full control of the policy of the islands. The Colonial Secretary said that we are in future to control the expenditure, and fully control the expenditure, of the money given to these islands. If that is so, we are fully and in every respect responsible for everything that goes on in the island. If we undertake in every way to direct their affairs, I maintain that we are responsible, and should treat them with generosity. There are only three courses of action open in reference to the West Indies. We must either do what the Royal Commission said, that is, restore the sugar industry, or we must leave them to govern themselves and make the best they can of their position, or permit them to become part of the United States of America. As a matter of self-preservation, I think, if for no other reason, we should retain control over the 1563 West Indies. We know that in a very short time there will be a canal made through the Isthmus of Panama, and that will be one of the strategical points of the world. In the West Indies we have harbours that dominate the canal, and, therefore, I cannot believe for a moment that any policy with respect to these islands would be undertaken but the policy of doing our very best for them. I only add that although, in common with every Member of this House, I dislike the idea of paying deficits, yet I am prepared to accept the proposal of the Government, and I hope that we shall soon have those large measures of policy before us which we can discuss in this House, and determine what is the best for the future of our West Indian Islands.
§ *MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
There are many arguments which have been used in the course of this Debate which I am unable to accept. One point that the right hon. Gentleman made is that the population of these islands have been placed there by force; but that raises a large question. In some of these islands we still are bringing in population by force. We are still importing coolies.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
The arrangements for coolie labour are voluntary, and are carefully watched by the Government.
§ *MR. LOUGH
We are still helping to increase by artificial means the population of these islands. We pay some of the expenses, and we help the coolies to get there. Would it not be better to discourage this immigration? In this way more employment would be available for the native inhabitants. Where there is too much labour now, those seeking employment might go to the other islands, where vacancies are filled by the coolie immigrant. The right hon. Gentleman said there was nothing else to be done, as I understood him, except to make the grant or sever connection with these islands. The Report presented by the Royal Commission is full of suggestions of what might be done quite apart from making this grant. I will take the case of the island of St. Vincent, and I will merely 1564 mention the suggestions which the Royal Commission made, and ask you to compare them with what the right hon. Gentleman said when he told us "there was nothing else to be done." The Report suggests that the poor population should be settled on the lands which are now vacant. It suggests that we should introduce a system of compulsory purchase. This is a point to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and I am glad to say he makes provision in the Second Vote for a certain degree of compulsory purchase. But it could be carried a great deal further. We hear that in each one of the islands the state of education is most, backward, and it would be within the province of the Government to improve the condition of education. I hear that in the island of St. Vincent on the great estates there is a Truck system in existence. There are shops belonging practically to the landlord, and the labouring people are forced to buy the goods they require in these shops. That is an evil similar to our own Truck system. The Government should take the hints of the Commissioners instead of making this sort of pernicious grant. The evil of those grants was illustrated by the hon. Member for King's Lynn in pointing out that we made a grant two years ago in Dominica, and another is asked for now; and the right hon. Gentleman, in answer to him, made a most important contribution to the Debate. He said, "I don't know when it will stop." It will never stop. When you make such grants you destroy the stimulus to avoid debt. Without it they would not get into debt. They should be taught to cut their coat according to their cloth; and then there would be no necessity to make the grant, which only encourages them in their extravagance. There is one matter I would like the right hon. Gentleman in his reply to explain more fully. Perhaps I misunderstood him, but I gathered that the negotiations with the United States are not going so well as when he made the announcement this day week on the subject, and spoke rather cheerfully of the possibility of making some reciprocal arrangements with the United States. The objection I have to this proposal is, that it is only a half proposal. We have not got the full scheme of the Government before us, and 1565 I think the full scheme ought to be laid bare before we deal with any part of it. I think it is hasty and premature, and that it would be much better to wait for the full proposals. Those who have examined this Report will find one initial defect in it, which I believe will render all the recommendations worthless. I say this without in the least depreciating the excellent work that has been done by my right hon. Friend and the other Commissioners. The Report has this defect—the reference that was made was about the condition of an industry, and not about the general condition of the islands. There was not a single word in the reference that enabled the Commissioners to examine into the general state of the population. They were told to go and report into the condition of the sugar industry. It is quite outside the province of this House to inquire into the condition of an industry, however great the difficulties that may overtake it. The closest approach to a general expression in the reference is this: the Commissioners were told—to inquire into the condition and prosperity of that industry, and of the said Colonies generally in connection therewith;so that the Commissioners did not get a free hand. They had no opportunity of going to see if poverty was increasing, or if the population was increasing, or to inquire into the state of the islands broadly. They were told to go and report on a particular industry. It was a most dangerous and perilous inquiry for this House to embark upon. Every day, among modern industries, whose conditions are apparently far more hopeful, there are those which fall into decay. Take the instance of coffee cultivation in Ceylon. That was the chief crop, but after several disastrous seasons the coffee entirely disappeared. For a time there was the greatest distress, but this House did not come to the relief. Then instead of coffee they planted tea on the estates, and those estates were richer than they were before. When you have an inquiry into an industry it is almost impossible to get a single word of truth; for what do you find? Those who are not doing well come and make their complaints, and those who are doing well say nothing about it. Most try to make as bad a 1566 story as possible, because they hope to get the Government money, so that it is impossible in such an inquiry to get at any truth which might be useful to the House. We must read this Report with a great deal of care. There are many things in it which rather tend to heighten the evil than to exhibit it in its true colours. You will see that when the exports are alluded to, value in nine cases out of ten is mentioned, and not quantities, because the value has decreased much more rapidly than the quantity. The value of everything has gone down, as well as sugar, during the last eighteen years. But this does not necessarily mean that they are worse off. They get a great deal more in exchange for the sugar at the lower price than they got before. If you look into the broader question which the Commissioners should have inquired into, you will see that it does not encourage the gloomy view that has been presented to us this afternoon. The population is increasing in the islands almost as fast as in Great Britain itself. Therefore, measured by the test of population, you have no evidence of suffering. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman hardly stated that there was suffering in the islands. If we proceed on the general principles accepted by this House, there is no particular cause for interference. The question concerns an inquiry into a particular industry, and whether this House can do anything to help it. I maintain that it can do nothing to help it. The House must let it alone. It it could assist the industry, it is doubtful if it would be wise to do so. Those who read the history of the islands will see that the sugar cultivation has not been altogether a blessing there. A hundred years ago there were a great many other products grown, but gradually these declined and sugar became the only crop. Sugar was an easy thing to grow, but it created such mental and physical torpor in the inhabitants as to prevent them making those efforts to support themselves which people in less-favoured climates had to make. New industries have sprung up in many of the islands, such as the cultivation of limes in Montserrat and cocoa in Trinidad. These industries must be extended, new crops introduced, and some efforts made to replace those that have 1567 declined. When you examine the sum that is asked, you find it is only £10,000 or £11,000 in some islands. It could be added to their debts, and gradually cleared off when circumstances improve. The best policy would be, not to constantly help these islands when they get into difficulties, but to tell them they must improve their system of government, improve the education of the people, and then, assisted by their beautiful climate and most fertile soil, endeavour to produce other things which will support them, instead of relying longer upon the one industry of sugar, which is failing them. I move that the Vote be reduced by £90,000.
§ The House divided.—Ayes 78; Noes 236.
§ On Civil Service Supplementary Estimates, Class V., Vote 3, to move to leave out Item "T" (West Indian Islands) (Grant-in-Aid of Roads and Land Settlement).
§ MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
We are not dismayed by the great majority in the last Division. All sound men, who look thoroughly into this matter, must be with us. The Government not only had with them hon. Gentlemen on their side of the House, but, as usual, hon. Gentlemen sitting on the front Opposition Bench. I am really beginning to ask myself when right hon. Gentlemen are going to spirit themselves up to vote against the Government. Let them remember what Lord Randolph Churchill said: that the duty of an Opposition is to oppose, and, if they want to lead the Opposition, let me tell them that they should head the Opposition themselves. I perfectly understand hon. Gentlemen opposite saying no, because it suits them well, but it does not suit hon. Members on this side of the House. There is an item in the Vote of £30,000, a portion of which is to be spent in buying land in St. Vincent and the other portion in making roads. I am inclined to think that there ore some hon. Gentlemen in this House who do not know much about either St. Vincent or Dominica. Probably, therefore, those gentlemen will allow me to tell them a little about those 1568 two islands. Both are somewhat rocky and mountainous, and on their seaboards are large forests. The whole of St. Vincent consists of 83,000 acres, of which 31,000 acres are swampy, and the remaining 52,000 acres—or, if you like to add the small island adjacent, it would be 62,000 acres—is cultivable. Of this total, 50,000 acres are in the hands of persons owning more than 100 acres, and there are only 1,360 acres which are held by peasant proprietors. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies has himself admitted that the Crown lands are practically valueless. With that I entirely agree. I find in the Report it is stated that 1,000 acres of fertile land are in the hands of private individuals, who are ready to sell it at a reasonable price, as they are unable to cultivate it. If we want to get hold of this land, what ought we to do? We ought to levy a tax upon all lands, whether cultivated or uncultivated. A considerable portion of this land is in the hands of sugar planters, and they admit themselves that the land is valueless, unless they can get the Government to come forward and aid them in the cultivation of sugar, which, I am glad to hear, the right hon. Gentleman is not going to do. In the case of the island of St. Vincent, you cannot cultivate sugar without what is practically slave labour, in order to compete, whether against cane sugar or against beet sugar, in the island of Barbadoes. I am going to show what the system has been in Barbadoes. There is no waste land. The sugar planter lets at £4 an acre to the negro, and besides that obliges him, as a condition of obtaining the land at this high price, to work for him for three days for 10d. I am taking this from the Report. There is, and always has been, in Jamaica a great deal of free land, upon which the negro has established himself, and we find that the result is that Jamaica gets on perfectly well without our coming forward to aid it; whereas islands like Barbadoes, or with systems like Barbadoes, are coming to us for help. The taxes at the present moment are mainly raised by import duties. They are not raised by taxes on land, and I would suggest, as I said before, that, instead of talking about buying this land, we put a tax upon all land that is cultivable, but which is at present uncultivated. 1569 We should soon find that the owner of the land would give it up, and we should get that land for nothing. Again and again, in the evidence given as to St. Vincent, it is shown that the land is absolutely worthless, and that we are to pay out absentee landowners in order to enable us to give negroes in St. Vincent two or three acres that they require in order to be comfortable. I want to show how things have been conducted there. The exports from this island are £57,000 per annum, the imports are £60,000; therefore, you find that the imports exceed the exports considerably. The public expenditure is £26,000. The right hon. Gentleman said that the public expenditure could not be cut down. The right hon. Member for Bodmin pointed out how absurd this was. I maintain that these European officials with large salaries are not required, and in all probability the government could be carried on for far less than £26,000. The population is 41,000, of which 2,445 are whites. There is something curious with regard to this white population. Some interesting evidence was given by a man named Parker (I think of the house of Porter and Company). He stated that he, or his house, were the principal proprietors of the sugar plantations in the island. He was asked whether it would not be possible to send young Scotchmen there as farmers. He said: No. What reason does he give? This will show the evil example set to the negroes by the whites there. He said that the practice of his firm had been to get young Scotchmen as overseers, but some of them turned out badly; the great curse with young Scotchmen was drink; if you could keep them steady they were all right, but they could get rum easily in the island, with the result that they gave way to drink. I ask this Committee to consider the state of things. Here, then, you have a number of estimable but drunken young Scotchmen, a number of absentee landlords, who take away all the money, the imports greater than the exports, and from generation to generation the black population not allowed to have an acre or two of land, while endeavours are being made to force them into these sugar factories. If you do away with the sugar industry, and levy a tax on cultivable land uncultivated, I do not believe you 1570 will want a farthing from us. We are told that cocoa and arrowroot can be profitably grown by the people. What is the evidence before us, which, in my opinion, the Committee should look carefully into before it decides? It is that at the present moment St. Vincent supplier more arrowroot than is needed in the market, and it is supposed to be the best. The consequence is that arrowroot has gone down in price by one-half. Can you suppose, then, that the position of the island will be in any way benefited by cultivating more arrowroot? The same remark applies to cocoa—there is more in the market than is required. Mr. Parker, who seems to be an intelligent gentleman, points out the absurdity of cultivating cocoa as a panacea for the West Indian Islands. There is already as much cocoa made as is required. Everyone knows that there will be a heavy fall in cocoa, and that people who go in for cultivating it will be ruined. The other suggestion is fruit. I do not know whether many hon. Gentlemen have been in the Colonies. If they have, they will bear me out when I say that you do not get good fruit from the tropics. The sun is too hot, or there is something else which prevents the growth of good fruit there. There are, however, certain fruits that you can export from the tropics, such as bananas, oranges, etc., but here again the market is limited. As a matter of fact, your sole market at present is the United States, where, practically, all the fruit that is grown in Jamaica is sent. We know that the United States wish to encourage their own industries. In the United States they can grow bananas, lemons, and oranges; and if you seriously were to compete with the fruit produce of the United States, you would find that the United States would stop that market by putting on a duty. It is a mistake to expect that we could export more than a very small amount of fruit from these islands. Jamaica is infinitely better situated for the export of these fruits, and at the present time they are in Jamaica taking steps to grow more fruit. If Jamaica still retains the market in the United States, it will be found that it will maintain it at the cost of the other small islands. So much for St. Vincent. Now I come to Dominica, an island of 186,240 acres, 60,000 of which are held 1571 by private individuals, about 30,000 acres being cultivated. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, said that in the interior was the most fertile land, and he could not understand why it was not cultivated. I expect it is not cultivated because there is more fertile land elsewhere. The population of this island, although it is larger than that of St. Vincent, is 26,841, and of these some 1,286 emigrated during the year 1896. Here also the imports are greater than the exports. The former are valued at £57,000, and the latter at only £46,000. There is in this extraordinary island a tax upon exports. This has been put on lately; formerly the money which is now obtained by a tax on exports was obtained by a tax on horses. The revenue of the island was in the last year £24,879, and, although we are told that this island is going from bad to worse, I find that the revenue has gone up. In 1882 the revenue was only £20,284, and, as there is a deficit, it is obvious that not only has the revenue gone up, but that the expenditure has gone up also. We are told that cocoa and coffee might be cultivated here, and there is one point in connection with this to which I should like to call attention, because it shows the kind of stuff that was told to the Commissioners, and which they seem to have taken in. A Mr. Temple, who was Administrator of the island, said that if you take an estate of 300 acres in Dominica and spend £10,000 on it, you would, at the end of four years, have a coffee estate which would produce a net profit of £2,500 per annum. Now, I ask the Committee, is this anything but mere theory? Can we suppose that, when money is so cheap, some person would not have bought 300 acres in Dominica, spent £10,000 upon it, and have been in receipt of the handsome income, after four years, of £2,500 per annum? But, of course, we know perfectly well that we could do nothing of the kind. If we could, this would be one of the richest islands in the world. It could be very well expected to look after itself, and would become a perfect Garden of Eden, owing to the large amount of money that would be thrown into it. We have again heard, in regard to this island, the same ridiculous statements about cultivating fruit and cocoa. They have one industry in Dominica—the in- 1572 dustry of limes. They exported £14,851 worth of limes last year. It seems a very excellent industry; but it is also stated by witnesses that limes have a very limited market, and that it is very questionable whether, if they could grow more limes, they could find a market for them. We are asked to make roads towards the interior of this island. In. February, 1896, we voted not only £10,000 to pay off a little deficit, but we actually voted £5,000 for roods, and I see that in their Report on Dominica the Commissioners point out that the greater part of this money has been wasted and practically thrown away.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I would not correct the hon. Member in an ordinary mistake, but the one he is making now is an extraordinary mistake. The money which was wasted was the money of the Colony itself. They spent money badly, and it was wasted; but the £5,000 voted by this House has not been wasted.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Then they tried to make roads, and, finding that the money was wasted, gave up the attempt, saying, "We will not waste any more of our own money upon roads; we will apply to these foolish English people." In 1896 we gave them £5,000. That was a very handsome gift; but what has been the result of it? They now come and ask for more. I do not know how much they are to have; how much is to go into the pockets of absentee sugar planters in St. Vincent, or how much is to go to Dominica for roads. It may be half for one and half for the other. Because we have given £5,000 we are asked to give £15,000 more. I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for correcting me. The case is much worse. It is perfectly shocking after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. The truth is, as everybody knows who has been in these parts, or in Central America, roads are not wanted for the commerce of these 1573 countries. The people are not accustomed to roads as we understand them. It is all fancy work giving them roads. Mules and bridle paths meet the general need. The only people who can benefit by these roads are the wealthier classes, who will either try to bolster up their sugar plantations, or start coffee plantations, in which case roads are very beneficial. But it seems to me that if it is possible to make £2,500 per annum on a capital of £10,000 in Dominica, they ought not to want us to step in and make the roads. It must be understood that the mode of life in these countries is perfectly different to the mode of life here. What we call necessaries are not necessaries for the people who live there. The peasant proprietors in Dominica are perfectly happy, and are not, in my opinion, so badly off as thousands of the peasants in this country and in Ireland. I find that the island produces 28,000 gallons of rum a year, and does not export any of it. Only one per cent. of the population is white, and, therefore, we may take it that these 28,000 gallons of rum are drunk by these 26,000 black people. It is the old story—you must reduce expenditure. If it could be shown that by doing what is proposed you could set these two islands on their legs and make them more prosperous—make them pay their own expenses—I should be in clined to think that there might be some reason for doing it; but if you mike this grant you will be called upon not only to give more money for roads, but you will be asked every year to pay the deficit. So long as you pay off the deficits there will always be a deficit. Under those circumstances, I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £30,000.
§ COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I desire to say a few words. Mr. Lowrher, in support of this Vote. The hon. Member for Islington, in the course of his speech, said we ought to do something for our fellow-subjects in the West Indies, but he adopted an extraordinary way of showing his sympathy by moving a reduction in the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in a speech at Liverpool, said—We do not intend, if we can prevent it, that our colonies shall be destroyed1574 And I think the House, irrespective of politics, ought to show their determination to support the Government. I congratulate the hon. Member for Northampton on having hurriedly read up Whitaker's Almanack—
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I have read and digested both the Report of the Commission and the evidence taken before it.
§ COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT
I thought the hon. Member's information was taken from Whitaker, as I happened to have read it there myself. I have an advantage over him in having been to St. Vincent, and of all the Colonies in the West Indies which have endeavoured to stay the disaster in the sugar industry, St. Vincent has shown itself to be one of the most enterprising. After the sugar industry failed, they went in for the cultivation of arrowroot, and did all that was possible to cultivate cocoa—both of which, as hon. Members have told the House, also failed. I heartily support this Vote; and I heard with pleasure the statement of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in which he pledged himself that the House should have full opportunity of discussing the whole question of the depression in the sugar production of the West Indies when the full proposals of the Government are laid before the House. My constituents feel very strongly on this matter; they feel that unless a real effort is made to put an end to the bounties, which are the source of the difficulty, it is absolutely useless, and money thrown away, to do anything considerable in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin approved the conclusion of reciprocity Treaties between the United States and the West Indies. But the revenue which must be raised by the West Indies can only be raised by indirect taxation; and if the duties on imports from America are decreased, those on imports from this country must be increased.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
That is not now before the House. You must not discuss the whole question.
§ COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT
I accept your ruling, Mr. Lowther. I will not pursue this subject further. If the hon. Members for Islington and Northampton had read the Report of the Royal Commission in reference to the island of St. Vincent, they would see at once how urgent are the needs of that island. In their Report the Commissioners say—We desire to draw special attention to the very critical position of affairs in St. Vincent, where the population is threatened with the almost complete loss of the scanty amount of intermittent employment at very low wages which it at present manages with difficulty to secure. No time should be lost in introducing any measure which it may be deemed advisable to adopt.I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having brought forward this Vote so promptly, and I am very much astonished that any Member of this House should see fit to move a reduction on that Vote.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
The report of the Royal Commission on the West Indies has been frequently referred to in the course of the evening. As the whole of the proposals that will be placed before the Committee are based upon the recommendations contained in that Report, I desire to take this opportunity of expressing my acknowledgments—and I am sure my colleagues, if they were present, would share my sentiments—to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Sheffield for the appreciation he kindly expressed for the work done by the Commissioners. As to the general questions raised in that Report, I am aware that some of them have given rise, and will give rise, to great controversy. But I gather, Sir, from your ruling that it would not be in order to discuss any question except the particular Amendment before the House; and I therefore wish to take notice of one or two points raised by the hon. Member for Northampton on that Amendment. In arguing upon his Amendment the hon. Member addressed one or two homilies of rather special application, one directed particularly against Scotsmen. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: I quoted from the Report of the Royal Commission.] I understood the hon. Member to quote from the Report, in order to make some application of his remarks, but I did not understand 1576 that that application was in any way directed towards me. I do not propose to examine all the advice given to the House upon its duty to vote against this Amendment. I quite admit that the hon. Member for Northampton is a great authority on the duties of opposition, because he has had considerable experience in voting against Governments from both sides of the House. As regards my own position on this Vote, I suppose the hon. Member would hardly carry his theory of opposition so far as to say that, when one has adopted certain recommendations and signed those recommendations, and when the Government, in turn, has adopted them, any other course was open except to support those proposals. Apart, however, from that consideration, even if I had not been responsible for the particular proposal now before the House to the extent of having signed the Report in which these recommendations are contained, I should have associated myself with the policy advocated, and the line taken up by the hon. Member for Poplar. The question really before the House was raised earlier in the evening by the remark of some speaker to the effect that the Report of this Royal Commission had been given precedence over other Reports of other Royal Commissions. But, Sir, why was it given precedence? Not because it is necessarily of greater value or greater intrinsic merit than the Reports of other Royal Commissions, but because of the necessities of the case. People may have theories as to what may be done in the future, or as to whether far larger proposals should be made for developing these Colonies; they may take what views they choose on large questions of that kind, but the question before the Committee is the necessity of these islands to be provided for. The case is one of absolute necessity; it is a case, as in the island of St. Vincent, of starvation, and some relief must be found somewhere. It has been argued that more money might be raised by taxation; but, especially in St. Vincent and Dominica, the resources of taxation have been exhausted. Increased import duties have been suggested; but the import duties have already been increased, with consequent suffering to the poorer classes, and no one would surely 1577 suggest a still further increase. There are no other means of revenue; no other form of taxation is possible. These people are practically on the verge of starvation, and, with people in that condition, you cannot impose direct taxation. The change from direct to indirect taxation is, no doubt, very desirable, but a certain basis of prosperity is necessary before it can be made. As to other sources of taxation, a tax upon land is impossible. Although taxation has been increased, the revenue it brings in has diminished. That seems to prove that the resources of the islands are exhausted, and that their necessities cannot be met in any other way than by a grant such as is now proposed. The hon. Member for Northampton has, I think, taken an unduly pessimistic view of the future of the islands of St. Vincent and Dominica. There is independent evidence as to the capacities of these islands, besides that contained in the Report of the Royal Commission. Dr Morris is an authority whose name stands very high, and his Report should be studied independently of the Report of the Royal Commission. In his Report on St. Vincent and Dominica Dr. Morris does not speak at all hopelessly of these two islands; indeed, he speaks more hopefully of them than of the other West Indian Colonies. In the case of Dominica, the land has not yet been cleared. It is virgin soil, and undoubtedly very rich soil; we have the best authority for that. The hon. Member for Northampton says that, as soon as you produce any tropical fruit, the price of that product falls. But the demand is growing for some forms of tropical produce, such as india-rubber, which has recovered from a very great fall; and the place which can produce these products most cheaply will continue to produce them permanently. It seems to us that Dominica, provided there is access to these lands, would be just one of those places which, if put into communication with good markets, would grow fruit and tropical produce as cheaply as any other part of the Colony. We have had some experience of what can be done with regard to fruit. The hon. Member for Northampton has spoken disparagingly of the fruits of the tropics, but there are some fruits which are more agreeable than those which are most associated 1578 with the Colonies. The demand for tropical fruit is increasing very greatly. Jamaica has been most remarkably successful within recent years in developing the trade in oranges and bananas, to such an extent, indeed, that the trade has gone a great way towards relieving Jamaica of the very serious and intense distress which has fallen upon every island without these resources. The evidence given to the Royal Commission, and confirmed by Dr. Morris, points to the conclusion that St. Vincent and Dominica could produce fruit quite as well as Jamaica, provided they had access to a market. This form of cultivation will be taken up by the small proprietors. But small proprietors cannot make roads and undertake the development of the land in the way that large proprietors could. These farms have been taken up most successfully by peasant cultivators, but to enable peasant cultivators to keep on the land and grow fruit you must provide them with roads to make the interior of the island accessible. I will go so far as to say that, unless we repudiate all obligations to these islands, the spending of a certain amount of money in the making of roads in Dominica is not merely justifiable but, on the whole, is likely to be the cheapest way of relieving the necessities of the island. If you do not do that, I do not see how the case is to be any better, and that is, I think, under present circumstances, the least that can be done. With regard to buying land in St. Vincent, it was said in the course of this Debate that the islands could not be so bad as represented, because the population had been increasing. That is not the case in St. Vincent. I think the direct contrary has been stated. On page 47 of the Royal Commission Report, the condition of St. Vincent is described as follows—For several years able-bodied males have been emigrating, leaving the women and children to shift for themselves. The population is decreasing, and the labouring classes are discontented.At the end it is said—The population in St. Vincent has no land on which it can labour, and is threatened with the almost complete loss of the scanty means, or intermittent employment at very low wages, which it at present manages with difficulty to secure.1579 The hon. Member for Northampton advocated the possibility of a very low standard of life amongst the population of these islands. Left to themselves, he said, they might support themselves by cultivating food supplies, and they might be so left to themselves. But in St. Vincent the people must have land, and that land they have not got. It is a proposition, I gather from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to acquire this land by compulsory expropriation. If there has been any difference between the two sides of the House on that principle, it is on this side it has found its strongest support. [The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES: If necessary.] The principle of compulsory expropriation applies where land is really needed for public purposes, and it seems to me that, if the condition of these islands is as bad as it is supposed to be, it would justify compulsory purchase. With regard to the purchase of land from the landlords, I am afraid that in St. Vincent itself there are no tenants, because nobody has any money with which to pay rent, or, indeed, is in a position to lease land; but the land to be bought would, of course, be bought from those who have always been responsible for its cultivation. I have put before the Committee some of the arguments upon which the Royal Commission came to the conclusions on which its recommendations are based, and it seems to me the Committee has simply to ask whether or not we are to admit any obligations to these Colonies. If we are to admit obligations, the proposals before the Committee are the very least form which these obligations can take. They are based solely on the necessities of the case, and I do not think any speaker has hinted at a possible alternative. The people have no money; without money there can be no revenue, and without revenue there can be no government. Order cannot be preserved just when order most needs to be preserved. Education has made some progress in these islands, but it must be given up; hospitals must be given up; the system of dockyards must disappear. In the absence of any alternative, I have no choice but to support the Vote.
§ *SIR GEORGE S. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
My knowledge of 1580 West Indian affairs is based upon many months of work as Commissioner to investigate their revenues and expenditure in 1882–4. I maintain there are others matters that can, and must, be brought forward before we can decide what to do to secure the prosperity of the West Indies. The West Indies are passing from sugar to other products, and, although we may grieve to see this in the case of such a great industry, yet I think consideration should be paid to other West Indian products. Now, in my opinion, this House and this Committee have nothing to do with the promotion of this, that, or the other industry. Our duty clearly is to preserve civilisation in that part of the world, and in doing that, preserve every opportunity for all industries. In St. Vincent and Dominica this opportunity of preserving civilisation cannot be taken advantage of unless we have aid and assistance from the mother country. It is no new matter, and no new departure; we have before now assisted these Colonies in some degree. Every year we contribute £4,000 towards the Government, and we have often before raised sums of money for them. I earnestly appeal to the Committee not to hamper the Government when they are, as now, pursuing a right path. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his endeavours to develop a system of administration in the West Indies which will be closely linked with a new system of Imperial control which will be well received by those who have knowledge of as well as sympathy with the West Indies.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I desire to say one word on this subject. It seems to me, if what we have heard is the real state of these islands, it does not reflect very much credit on us for the manner in which we have managed them during the last 100 years. It seems to me that the present policy is only a continuation of the policy which has been carried on with regard to these islands—a policy of rippling doles—which cannot put them on a proper basis, and makes it very unfair for the mother country. If this were a Vote for, and we could discuss the general question of, the Colonial Office taking charge of these islands, and putting the Government on 1581 a proper basis, even at a large cost, I should be willing to support such a policy and vote what was necessary to carry it out. That seems to me to be the proper policy. Of course, the abandoning of these islands to another nation is a course I could never consent to; and, whatever cost they may be to us now, I hey should have become self-supporting Colonies in the same way that our other Colonies are. Here, if we have the desire to do anything to put these natives on a proper basis of living, and to elevate them, then I consider the dole for making roads, etc., is a miserable proposal. There are many other ways in which this matter might be met—I am not going to enter into the question of the sugar industry, but I think it is only fair to say that if this trouble has been brought about, which I somewhat doubt, by the alteration in the regulations of the sugar trade, the relief by Imperial grants for making roads can hardly be very effectual. There are many oilier industries in this country—there have been persons injured by changes of fashion and habit and other things, which have brought towns and districts into great poverty—I need not instance Ireland—they are all places which might on that ground require grants. Take the tin trade of South Wales, ruined by the tariff of America. If because the industry is changed we are, therefore, to make parliamentary grants to the Colonies, surely that practice would apply to districts of England for the same reason. The Colonial Secretary was, I thought, rather unhappy in the observation he made with regard to the Colonies of France and Germany—those are systems of colonisation of a totally different character from any that we have had. We do not wish to have Colonies managed as are those of Germany and France. We wish them to be spontaneous and to develop themselves, and be satisfied in themselves. I should like to enter a word of protest on behalf of England, Ireland, and Scotland. It seems to me that these various enormous additions to the taxation of the country are getting serious. If we are going to tax ourselves in blood and treasure in all these places—Egypt, Crete, Cyprus, Uganda, West Africa, and so forth—it will enormously swell the expenditure from our Exchequer. We are entering on a 1582 policy which should be very carefully overlooked before we enter into it. If this policy was going to strengthen our foreign policy, and give us more backbone all over the world, I should not object to the spirit of the policy; but I have not seen that it has that effect. In many parts of this country there are many people quite poor and distressed with the taxation now, and although I am one who wishes heartily to extend the Empire in every possible way, I say the enormous growth of expenditure is a matter for grave consideration; and if this country once gets the idea that our Colonies are to be maintained by means of the Imperial Exchequer it will be an evil day for this country, because many of the people will not tolerate a system of large Imperial grants for the maintenance of our Colonies. I do not wish to say a word unsympathetic to these Colonies, but I do say, in the interests of the Colonies themselves, we should be careful in limiting the grants.
§ *MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
I must say I cordially agree with most of the remarks which have fallen from the hon. Member for Islington, although I always thought that the English taxpayer was one of the lightest taxed in Europe. I am intimately connected with the West Indies, and I must say that those who know the West Indies most like this Vote the least; and while we are not in the least prepared to oppose this Vote I should like to assure the House that it will only give very partial relief for a very short period. An hon. Member told the House that this Vote was a Vote for civilisation, but I think very little will civilisation be advanced by it. The only question we have to consider and make up our minds upon is whether the most civilising influence can be supported by these minor industries which, however important they may be in themselves, will not bring home to the people the comforts which they would derive from the capital, energy and skill of the sugar planter. I have some knowledge of the West Indies, and I say we are voting for one island what has not brought happiness and content to another. Thus we are to vote for roads in Dominica, while 120 miles of roads have done nothing for Tobago; we are asked 1583 to create small proprietors in St. Vincent, while Dominica, with land and to spare, has not induced them to settle. I say, by voting these doles we may soothe our consciences with this "philanthropy on the cheap," but it will not bring that self-supporting character which we all desire to see, and which is the desire and aim of the people of the West Indies. They are not here to ask our sympathy because they cannot support themselves, but they do feel the fiscal relations here which have rendered their only industry unprofitable. The hon. Baronet seems to think that it is a matter of perfect in difference, and if a man loses 40 per cent. of his industry he ought to accept the loss and be very cheerful, and turn his energies to another industry. I wonder what he would have thought if, say, under the Employers' Liability Act, the revenue from the coal mines he is interested in were to be reduced to the same extent—
§ *MR. W. F. LAWRENCE
I am sorry if I have misunderstood the hon. Baronet, but I think I am giving the purport of his remarks to the House. It seemed to me that he thought when a man lost half his industry he ought to close it up and start something else.
§ *MR. W. F. LAWRENCE
Well, I leave that. What the hon. Baronet said is in the recollection of the House, and What I say is this: what is in jeopardy in the West Indies is the sugar industry; to-morrow we shall see what he did say, it is the only industry that has stood its ground for many years, and when the hon. Member says, go in for other minor industries, he must recollect that whether you cultivate bananas, pine-apples, or cocoa there is no manufactory in connection with them, and that is what the islands stand to lose when the sugar industry is in jeopardy. The House must not lose sight of that very important fact, and if they want to benefit the West Indies they must do what they can to 1584 maintain the only manfacture by which the islands can be benefited.
§ The House then divided:—Ayes 46; Noes 222.
§ *MR. R. MCKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
I should like to make one or two observations on the main subject. We have had two Divisions on the same Vote, and I cannot help regarding it as a difficult situation that I should have felt bound to vote with the Government on one Division, and against them on the other. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary in his opening observations said that grants-in-aid were essential for the well-being of the Empire, and he illustrated his proposition by the experience of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and other African Colonies. Now, Sir, although in various parts of the Empire we have had to give grants-in-aid, in almost every case it has been in aid of a new Colony, and we have had a substantial element of hope that a larger local revenue in the future would relieve us of the necessity of continuing the grant. But in the case of the West Indies we have very old Colonies to deal with, and we ought to take care, if we start giving grants-in-aid to the West In dies, that they shall not be necessarily repeated in future. The Commissioners, in making their recommendations, accompany them in each case with certain proposals of reform, which, if carried out, would give us some hope that in future the condition of the West Indies would be improved, and that we should not be called upon year after year to continue these grants-in-aid. The Commissioners proposed a general settlement of the labouring population of the land, and the establishment of minor agricultural industries. For the first of these purposes it is proposed to spend £30,000 in the case of two islands only, and, inasmuch as this expenditure carries out the recommendations of the Commissioners, we may hope that this grant may be a final grant. But with regard to the other and larger amount—£90,000—we are not given any assurance that it will be accompanied by a policy which will ensure us against further demands in future. 1585 Now, Mr. Lowther, this Committee have always resisted giving general grants-in-aid on a mere policy of philanthropy. It has been felt, and rightly felt, that it is not the duty of any Member of this House to vote the taxes of the country for general purposes of philanthropic relief. We are only justified, I submit, in voting these grants if they are accompanied by a general outline of policy, which will demonstrate to us that the expenditure of the money would serve a useful Imperial purpose beyond the mere affording of relief. What we have a right to ask for when the right hon. Gentleman makes his proposition is that he should carry out in its entirety the recommendations of the Commissioners, and should give us a policy of a general establishment of minor agricultural industries throughout the West Indies and a general settlement of the labourers on the land. We know that that policy has been absolutely successful in Jamaica, although in Jamaica it has not been established by the Government, but by the mere process of "squatting" on the land by the negroes. There is another question. Ought this opportunity not to be taken in order to fundamentally alter the present system of Government in these islands? We ought to have some security that the Government would be in sympathy with the people, and not under the planters' influence. Upon this point, Mr. Lowther, I would like to repeat one paragraph of the Commissioners' Report. It is very valuable as indicating what are the present difficulties of the Government in the West Indies, and the direction in which the relief should be looked for—I refer to paragraph 118:—It must be recollected by the Commissioners that the chief outside influence which the Governors of some of the Colonies have to bear in mind is that of the representatives of the sugar industries; that the establishment of any other industry is often detrimental to their interests; and that under such conditions, it is the special duty of Her Majesty's Government to see that the general condition of the public is not sacrificed to the interests, or supposed interests, of a small English minority, which has special means of enforcing its wishes, and bringing its claims to notice.It is true that the Commissioners do not embody in their final recommendations the suggestion contained in this particular paragraph, but when the right hon. 1586 Gentleman brings his proposals before this House, he might be expected to give us some assurance that the broad political views here expressed would be taken into account. We know as a matter of fact that the planters' influence in the West Indies is absolutely dominant. We have an opportunity now, as the price of the money which we are spending, of establishing a more sympathetic and popular Government in these islands. The right hon. Gentleman laughs, but I think that he, of all men in this country, might have been expected to establish our Government upon a more popular basis than he insists upon at the present moment. The negro, although a man and a brother, I admit, may not be the very finest specimen of a citizen, but the popular interests of the West Indies ought to be considered apart from the mere planters' interests. I go farther, and say that if you do not consider the popular interests apart from the planters' interests, the only way in which you could govern the West Indies satisfactorily would be by a strong despotic government connecting the whole of the islands. To continue the state of things which has existed up to the present time, under which the West Indian islands have undoubtedly been badly governed, and under which the interests of the negroes Lave not been considered—to continue this system, with the assistance of grants-in-aid, without any promise of amendment in the future, is, I regret to say, missing the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman had, and which I hope he may yet find it in his power to take.
§ Vote agreed to.