HC Deb 27 July 1899 vol 75 cc518-20

In asking leave to introduce a Bill to authorise certain public loans to certain colonies or places, I have to point out that for more than a year there has been a Bill before the House, under the title of the Colonial Loans Fund Bill, for the purpose of establishing a fund similar to the Local Loans Fund, out of which loans may be made by separate Bills to Crown colonies. I was sanguine we might be able not only to pass that Bill in the present session, but also a Bill which my right hon. friend the First Lord described as a daughter Bill authorising certain loans out of the Colonial Loans Fund; but, unfortunately, for some reasons which I find it rather difficult to understand, a good deal of opposition to the Colonial Loans Fund Bill has manifested itself in certain quarters of the House. It is a Bill which does nothing more than provide certain machinery for making loans, and itself authorises no loan whatever; but in making inquiries I gather it is felt to be a new departure of considerable importance; and the proposed Amendments to it are such that it is perfectly obvious that it would be impossible to pass the measure during the limited time that remains of the present session as well as another measure authorising loans to certain colonies. The Bill, as I have said, has been before Parliament more than a year, and, on account of the probability of early legislation, the Crown Agents for the colonies, who have long been entrusted with the issue of loans on behalf of the Crown colonies, have withheld issuing loans for more than a year and a half in the hope of their being provided through the machinery of the Colonial Loans Fund Bill. The result is that there is now a considerable accumulation of such loans. These loans cannot now be issued in the ordinary way, or the market would be glutted. Therefore, although the Government are very reluctantly obliged to say they are unable to proceed this session with the Colonial Loans Fund Bill, I now ask leave to introduce a daughter Bill, substituting only for the purpose of those particular loans the Local Loans Fund as the source from which the money shall be provided. The Bill which I now propose contains a list of loans amounting to a total sum of £3,351,000. I may say briefly that there are loans, already announced, to Barbados and St. Vincent to aid them in meeting the damage done by the hurricane. Then there are loans to Cyprus for irrigation, the construction of a light railway, and the repair of the harbour at Famagusta; to the Malay States, for the construction of railways to connect existing lines which have proved largely remunerative; to the four West African colonies, for harbour works at Accra and Old Calabar, and for railways in the Gold Coast, Lagos, and Sierra Leone, parts of which have already been constructed, and show every indication of a very considerable traffic; to Jamaica, for sanitary improvements and waterworks at Kingston, and for completing the railway and providing it with sufficient rolling stock to deal with the existing traffic; also in aid of revenue and for arrears of interest to the railway debenture holders; to Trinidad, for improving the harbour and pier, with which the Government railways are connected, and a small sum of £52,000 for public works and roads in Mauritius and the Seychelles. The maximum amount to be lent in each case and its object will be stated in the schedule to the Bill. It will rest with the Treasury, in concert with the Secretary for the Colonies, to decide in each case the rate of interest to be charged and the period for repayment. But the Bill provides that the rate of interest shall in no case be less than 2¾ per cent. and the term of repayment not longer than fifty years, according to the purposes of the loan. The Treasury will not concede in any case better terms to a colony than are given to local authorities in the United Kingdom, and in some cases, at any rate, they ought to pay more. Of course, before any loan is sanctioned the colony to which it is to be made will have to provide, to the satisfaction of the Treasury, for meeting the payments for interest and sinking fund of the loan. That describes the Bill I ask leave to introduce, and I need hardly add that any further explanation desired will be given in its future stages.


From the right hon. Gentleman's description of it the Bill appears to be of a complicated character. Are we to understand that these are all Crown Agents' loans and not new loans undertaken by the right hon. Gentleman or under his supervision or authority? Even so they are numerous, and the House knows so little about them that I think to introduce a large and varied programme of financial procedure within sound of the knell of the session is a rather unusual proceeding. Because this Bill takes the place of another which was very much contested, the right hon. Gentleman must not expect that it will simplify matters too much. I myself am afraid it will be subjected to such a degree of discussion that the prospect of its passing into law—unless it proves much simpler than we imagine—will not be very bright.


There are only two clauses in it.