HC Deb 10 March 1899 vol 68 cc450-65

1. £256,000, Supplementary, Uganda, Central and East Africa Protectorates, and Uganda Railway.

Debate resumed on the Question— That a supplementary sum not exceeding £256,000 be granted to Her Majesty to defray the charge which will come in the course of payment during the year ending 31st day of March 1899 for grants-in-aid to Uganda, British Central Africa, and British East Africa.

*SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

I had rather anticipated that the Colonial Office Vote would have been taken first, but as we arc going to finish the Vote on Uganda I should like to put two questions to the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Since the discussion which occurred on this Vote a few days ago we have heard from the ordinary sources of information of the return from Lake Rudolph of the expedition under Colonel Macdonald, which started in the autumn. I am sure the House will be glad to obtain any information which the right honourable Gentleman can give us in regard to that expedition, and whether it is intended to abandon the further prosecution of the expedition. The right honourable Gentleman led us to understand that the main object of Major Macdonald's expedition was to explore the neighbourhood of Lake Rudolph, and then to pass on to the sources of the Juba. The very large expense involved in sending the expedition hundreds of miles further than Lake Rudolph has evidently led to its being entirely abandoned; but, as we understand it, the expedition did leave some small stations in the neighbourhood of that lake which, however, had been previously partially surveyed by two private expeditions. Any information the right honourable Gentleman can give us will be grateful to the House. While I am on this question, I may refer to the slight indignation which the right honourable Gentleman showed at our pressing for information on the case of the Mombasa fugitive slaves. He told this House that it ought to be content with the statement that communication had been made with the Colonial authorities, but that great difficulty was experienced in reaching them. I ask the right honourable Gentleman when these communications with the Colonial authorities took place. Surely the right honourable Gentleman knows quite well that inquiries were made in regard to the matter last-Session, and if communication had been made at once to the Colonial authorities the information might have been obtained shortly after the House adjourned last Session If the right honourable Gentleman waited till this year before he called for a Report, you cannot wonder at the delay in obtaining the information. I want to ask when the communications were made with the Colonial authorities, and when he expects to receive a Report?


I am sorry that the right honourable Baronet is under the impression that on a previous occasion I had showed indignation in connection with this subject. If there was any, it was not against the right honourable Baronet personally, but only against an expression which was used by another honourable Member, and which seemed to me to be uncalled for. I objected to the expression that we appeared to be purposely withholding information from the public. I have looked into this matter as regards the actual date when communication was made with the Colonial authorities as to the Mombasa fugitive slaves, and I find that there was some little delay at the Foreign Office in making the inquiries. A pledge was given last Session by Mr. Curzon (now Lord Curzon) the day before he was taken ill to make inquiries; but his illness intervening the matter was not taken up again until he was able to attend to business at the end of August, and there was some delay in sending out instructions to the Protectorate authorities. Had I known that this question would be raised I would have obtained the particulars as to the date when these-inquiries were made. As yet we have no information from Mombasa, but it ought to be here in about a fortnight from this date. We are using every power we have in order to accelerate its arrival, and we shall have it before the House when we come to discuss this matter again. With regard to Colonel Macdonald's expedition, it is quite true that since we discussed the Vote last week Colonel Macdonald has actually returned to Mombasa, and is now in telegraphic touch with England. That, however, does not enable me to give the Committee any material information beyond that which I gave to the House a few nights ago. But I may say that Colonel Macdonald has returned to Mombasa from Juba, he having carried out to a considerable extent the work which it was intended he should do, and that his mission has now terminated. I understand that the Colonel, as the result of his expedition, has obtained important and valuable information, but we must now wait the arrival of the mail in order to get the details. As I have said, we have only telegraphic information that Colonel Macdonald has actually reached the coast, and is now on his way to England. When he returns the Government will be prepared to lay on the Table of the House whatever Papers we can that show the results of his expedition. It is to be clearly understood, however, that Colonel Macdonald has carned out his original instructions, and that his expedition has now terminated. The expedition of Colonel Martyr, which is now going on up the Nile, is under separate instructions.


The first item in the Estimates of Uganda states that the original Estimate of the grant-in-aid was £142,000, and that the additional sum required is £197,000, so that the so called Supplementary Estimate is much larger than the original. I wish to raise this point because it is a question of the manner of keeping the public accounts. Supplementary Estimates are intended for items which cannot possibly be foreseen, and they are intended to apply to absolutely nothing else; for, however small they may be, they are always a disturbing element in the public accounts. This year we have two millions of Supplementary Estimates, and these two millions will have to be provided for out of next year's receipts, although sometimes Supplementary Estimates are provided out of the previous year's receipts. I am not sure that a surplus is to be anticipated this time. My point is that a Supplementary Estimate should be capable of being explained as an expenditure that could not have been foreseen at the time the original Estimates were made up. I am, therefore, justified in asking the right honourable Gentleman to give me some answer to the question how it is that when this Estimate for Uganda of £142,000 was made up he did not foresee such a large additional expenditure as £197,000 would be required.

SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

Will the right honourable Gentleman at the same time inform us to what point on the Nile the expedition of Colonel Martyr has reached?


I stated the other night that Colonel Martyr had reached a. point on the Nile, the exact name of which I forget. We have had no direct information from him since his expedition left Dufile. There was a rumour that he has not yet reached Lado. As to the honourable Member for King's Lynn, I always welcome him when he appears in the particular role of financial purist. When I sat on the other side of the House with him I humbly assisted him in that role as far as I could. I think his Question is a perfectly fair one, but I also think I answered it the other night. of the £197,000, which is the addition to the original Estimate of which he complains, no less a sum than £175,000 was due to the necessity of bringing to Uganda an Indian regiment, and taking it up country at an enormous cost for transport and supplies. Now, the Indian regiment was brought after the original Estimate was framed, and the difficulties of transport in the conditions of the country at the time rendered it impossible to make any estimate of what the expense would be. I may remind the Committee that the bringing of the Indian regiment was absolutely necessary at the time in order to secure the quelling of the mutiny, in which they did such excellent service. I believe I can assure the Committee that there is not a single item in that £197,000 which could have been foreseen at the time the Estimate was prepared. It was entirely due to the mutiny and the bringing of the Indian regiment to Uganda, with the exception of the sum for the new steam launch ordered for the Lake.

*MR. McKENNA (Monmouth, N.)

I do not think the right honourable Gentleman is altogether right in regard to the exceptional expenditure of £197,000 if he compares last year's Estimates with those of 1899–1900. I maintain that had the proper Estimate been taken for Uganda last year we should not have been met now by this extraordinary Supplementary Estimate—so much larger than the original Estimate. Did I understand the right honourable Gentleman to say that Colonel Macdonald's instructions have been fully carried out when he stated that Colonel Macdonald's expedition was completed?


The expression I used was that Colonel Macdonald's instructions had been largely carried out. These instructions were that he was to make an exploration of the sources of the Juba, and to map out the whole country. What he attempted to carry out he has carried out—the most difficult part of his instructions. As regards the particular Estimates for Uganda, it must be remembered that they have to be given in some time in November, and that it was absolutely impossible early in November to estimate what would be required in the disturbed state of the country for the following year. Moreover, in the matter of the Uganda Estimates considerable difficulty was experienced because of the lateness with which certain of the accounts were presented or the information with regard to them was received.

CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps the right honourable Gentleman will give us some information with reference to the details of this excess sum of £197,000? Surely there must have been some basis to go on for the original Estimate of £142,000! It seems to me that £197,000 is an enormous sum to take this expedition from Mombasa to Juba and back.

MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)

Speaking from my experience, and from what has come within my own knowledge as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I can corroborate the statement of the right honourable Gentleman that the Uganda administration is very much behindhand in rendering its accounts. The Auditor-General has not yet got these accounts later than 3lst December 1896. If these accounts were rendered up to date accurately it would be possible to make the Estimates more accurate in future. And I trust that the Colonial authorities in Uganda will be stimulated to render their accounts hereafter more regularly. I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman as to the second item in the Vote fur British Central Africa, of £5,000 for the Sikhs, whether that is in any way connected with the reorganisation of the regiment which was brought up to quell the mutiny, of with those Sikhs who were going back to India after their term of service had expired


The honourable Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeen seems to be under the impression, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, that there is some fault on the part of the local administration of Uganda in rendering their accounts at a late date. But if he refers to Mr. Berkeley's report, he will see that the mutiny of the Soudanese was caused by the delay in the preparation of the Estimates for their payment, for the purpose of laying them before the House of Commons. We cannot fix the blame on the local authorities. The fault was with the Foreign Office.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

My complaint is that we have not got the exact dates in regard to the Mombasa slave case. The right honourable Gentleman does not tell us when he received the information on which ho decided to act. Did he learn it from the newspapers, or from reports made outside this House, or from some official source? The girl Kombo, who had been for 10 years under the protection of the missionaries at Ribe, was handed over to a former master, Salehe Bin Husein, last July, and the right honourable Gentleman must have had some information on the subject which will enable him to give us any information we require. In all these cases we are put off from time to time. When atrocities take place we are told someone must be written to; and then, long afterwards, we find that the right honourable Gentleman responsible in this House is unable to give us any information at all, and puts it off to some future occasion. In regard to Colonel Macdonald's expedition, it appears to me to be one of the most absurd and eminently silly expeditions ever dreamt of by the mind of man. Colonel Macdonald appears to have been sent on a wild goose expedition to look for the sources of the Juba, and he seems to have come to the conclusion that they did not exist, and were not to be found. The right honourable Gentleman told us, in regard to the Juba river, that the Government had entered into an agreement to make it the frontier between the Italian sphere of influence and our sphere of influence, and he pleaded, as a reason for Colonel Macdonald's expedition, that, having entered into that agreement, we ought to know where (the river was. I believe it was known before where the river is, and that steamers have gone up it. There was, therefore, no earthly object in sending an expedition to find where the Juba was. Was Colonel Macdonald recalled, or did he himself come to the conclusion that, as he had spent a large amount of money, he ought to come back? Why, when it was quite well known that there might be trouble in Uganda, and that the people were not well affected to our rule, should you have taken a large number of the Soudanese garrison which had been raised in order to keep down the Ugandese, and have sent them off to the Juba river? I pointed out the other night that the expedition started with a large number of women and children, who were afterwards sent back. These Soudanese were angry because they understood when they were enlisted in our service that they were to be employed in the Soudan, and to live there with their women and children. When they were ordered to the Juba, they got a vague idea into their heads that you wanted to conquer some other country, to raise the British flag, and declare it part of the British Empire, or some nonsense like that. These Soudanese, who seem an exceedingly intelligent body of men, were not to be caught by such nonsense, and therefore they mutinied. Now, we are told that Colonel Martyr, for whom the main part of the Vote is put down, has gone off on another expedition. I want to understand what Colonel Martyr is really doing. Is he confining himself to the waterway with his gunboats, or is he in any sort of way taking steps to establish posts in order to administer the vast extent of country that lies between Uganda and Omdurman, or wherever the Egyptian frontier is at the present moment? Are you, at the present moment, engaged in any expedition with the view of practically bringing under the British Protectorate those large tracts of country which you say are within our sphere of influence? I have not yet understood why the right honourable Gentleman puts down this large expenditure to the necessity of moving an Indian regiment up to Uganda. He says, perfectly truly, that it is an exceedingly expensive operation, but he should have thought of that before he entered into that expedition. I take it that that regiment of Indians consists of 1,000 men. Do I understand that the whole of that £150,000 was expended in sending these Indians up to Uganda? There is another point I should like to ask. When you send a regiment up country, you have to take porters from the coast. Is the way of getting these porters a system of slavery? Do you make an arrangement with the owners of the porters and pay them for their services; and are these porters actually and positively obliged to go, whether they like it or not? Is it not the case that they are naturally subject to the discipline of slaves; and although they receive a small amount of money themselves, does not the largest amount of the money paid for their services go to their owners? Again, does the right honourable Gentleman say that there are at present a sufficient number of troops in Uganda, or are we to anticipate further reinforcements of troops being sent there? The fact is, that this Uganda is a perfect sink for the money of England. Nobody did suppose when that country was taken over in the vague way we generally do these things, that we should go on spending money as we are spending it at the present time. The right honourable Gentleman says that he does not contemplate administering the country until the railway is built. But that will take many years. The right honourable Gentleman himself says it will take three years. Are we to go on perpetuating this enormous expenditure of money for years to come? Here you have a huge country, with a large population; you are attempting to rule it on the cheap, because you hope when you have a railway you will get more money to administer it. All this is an entire mistake. What we should have done was to have withdrawn these troops, and to have had nothing to do with Soudanese regiments or Indian regiments. A certain number of missionaries were there, and they got on very well before you went there; but ever since you have been there, there has been a long series of wars. You are never satisfied with the frontiers you have. Take the case of Unyora: it is perfectly understood that that country was not in any way connected with Uganda. We were told that the King of Unyora—King Kabarega—was a very wicked man, and he was sent out of his country, and Unyora was annexed to Uganda. This is all the more preposterous because, first of all, you sent a force to attack King Kabarega, as he occupied regions which belonged to Egypt, and that you said you wanted to establish Egyptian rule there. Is the Egyptian flag flying in Unyora, or is the English flag? or, under the system of the partnership of the lion and the lamb, are the English and the Egyptian flags flying there? So far as I know, we have declared our Protectorate over Unyora, but what earthly right had we, if the country belonged to Egypt, to conquer that country and lay hold of it for ourselves?


So far as I have been able to follow the remarks of the honourable Gentleman, I think he made them, and that I answered them, on the last occasion on which this Vote was discussed. We had also a Division on it. Item C (grant-in-aid of British East Africa) was discussed separately. I wish to know, Mr. Ellis, if the honourable Gentleman is in order in discussing this question?


I think the honourable Member is in order. If he had not been, I would have called him to order at once.


Can the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs give us any further information as to the real character of the Soudanese troops? On the last occasion on which the honourable Member for Northampton addressed the Committee, he described these Soudanese troops as the most horrible set of brutes that had ever existed. To-night he describes them as a highly intelligent set of men.


There is such a thing as an intelligent brute.


One other question I should like to ask. The honourable Member for Northampton informed us that the missionaries had a very happy time of it before our arrival in Uganda, I want to know whether that happy time was illustrated by the murder of Bishop Hannington?


My honourable Friend has asked me questions to which he obviously does not wish a reply. He must know by long experience, if he has watched the honourable Member for Northampton closely enough, that that honourable Member always supplies in one speech the answers to the statements he has made in another. The honourable Gentleman always finds out that what he has written has been more or less discredited by someone, and he never returns to the charge a second time. More especially is this the case with regard to Uganda. When the honourable Member for Northampton desires to treat a subject seriously he is always comic, and when he endeavours to treat a subject from a comic point of view it is really tragic. He is anxious that I should explain why it is that in six months I have not obtained information regarding the Mombasa fugitive slaves. I have already explained that there was some delay on account of Lord Curzon's illness, and I cannot go beyond that, because the details have not passed through my hands. The honourable Gentleman also made a point in regard to the expeditions of Colonel Macdonald and Colonel Martyr. Now, I stated the other night very clearly what the intentions of the Government are as to the administration of Uganda. I told the Committee that Lord Salisbury proposed to continue the administration of those districts over which we have established control, but that he did not intend, until the railway was further advanced, to extend our borders and attempt to establish administrative posts further than was necessary. The one exception was the expedition under Colonel Martyr. That expedition was meant to join hands with Lord Kitchener on the Nile. But in making that statement I could not give a pledge at the time that Colonel Martyr would do more than establish such posts as are necessary to maintain communications. At these posts such administration as is necessary will, of course, be carried out. Beyond that, it is not proposed to involve the House, in regard to the administration of Uganda, until the railway is completed and we can send up supplies. I have been asked to give the items of the expenditure on Colonel Macdonald's expedition. The main items are: Rations, which are of an especial kind for Indian troops, £110,000; transport, £17,500; mules and saddles, £15,000; stores, £35,000; making altogether, £175,000. So far as I know no money was thrown away, or unnecessary expense incurred. We have done all that was asked us by the military authorities on the spot, and we have done all that was asked us by the military authorities at home. We believe that the time is coming when the Indian regiment can be dispensed with and be brought down to the coast. Lastly, in regard to the Soudanese, the honourable Gentleman has answered himself. There is no doubt that the original body of Soudanese enlisted were a good set of men; but they had been influenced brother men who came over the border, and who had already given trouble of which we were not aware. We have had the very highest accounts of the Soudanese troops and their present officers, and we shall avoid as far as possible in the future the constant changes of officers, which were formerly a source of trouble.


What is the condition of the porters?


I do not know what their particular condition is at the present moment; but there is no difficulty in getting a supply of porters.


In former expeditions up to Uganda porters were employed who were obtained from their owners, on the condition that the owners should receive certain sums of money for their services. I wish to know whether the porters employed on this expedition were of this class of slaves?


There have been various changes in regard to porters. Last year, with the enormous increase of the forces going up country, there was necessarily a great increase in the number of porters employed. There were considerable difficulties in connection with the demand for porters on account of the extension of the railway at the same moment. The question, however, was carefully considered on the spot; and ultimately the Protectorate authorities succeeded in establishing a proper service.


I only ask a plain answer to my plain question. What was the status of these porters? Were they slaves or were they not?


I never heard any suggestion that they were slaves. I believe that some question arose in the early days as to whether some of the men who were employed as porters were supposed to have been forced. But, so far as I am aware, there was no question of slavery in regard to the Uganda porters. I believe, as a matter of fact, that a certain number of them had escaped from slavery; but they were taken on as free labourers.

SIR R. REID (Dumfries Burghs)

This point about slavery a very serious one. Some of us entirely objected to the propriety of our going to Uganda at all, and we pointed out that one of the methods formerly adopted there was that slaves which were publicly employed had been hired from their masters, and that masters let out slaves to different people. What we ask is whether or not the organised system of hiring slaves is going to be continued. The right honourable Gentleman does not appear to recollect that circumstance. Can he tell us now whether that is the system by which the railway is being built, and whether stores are being taken up country by the organised employment of slaves from their masters by the British Government? Can the right honourable Gentleman tell us whether that is the case or not? If he cannot tell us I think he will see that it is proper that he should obtain the information as soon as he can, so that the House may know that there is no direct encouragement or recognition of the employment by this country of slaves, us such, in the building of the railway. A second point I wish to make is this. There is a rather ominous observation made by the right honourable Gentleman in regard to the intention of the Government in extending the boundaries of British possessions in Uganda. I think that the right honourable Gentleman said twice that until the railway is completed there was no intention of extending the boundaries. Are we to under- stand from that that there is any fixed intention of extending the boundaries in these territories at any time?


In regard to the last point, the question of extending the boundaries, it is not a question of extending the boundaries of the Protectorate, but of establishing posts at points where we may come into conflict with the natives. In that enormous territory you may have a few points at which our influence is not felt, and where trade would not consequently follow. But as time goes on we may make an extension of administrative posts. In regard to the first portion of the right honourable Gentleman's remarks, as far as I recollect it, from reading the Blue Book, the question which arose was that certain tribes should furnish a certain amount of labour on a general claim, for pay; which was interpreted here to mean a claim by the masters for the services so rendered by their tribesmen. That was long before my time. I cannot say from memory when that system was established, but if it ever existed it was put a stop to. I can assure the Committee that so far as I am aware the whole of the labour now employed, either on the railway or in porterage, in Uganda is free labour, for which the men themselves are paid wages at so much a head.


I wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether the men employed were hired from Zanzibar masters at Zanzibar; and whether Colonel Macdonald was recalled from his expedition to Juba, or whether he came back of his own motion. I rather gathered that he has been recalled, and if that be so, how much of the expenses in the Supplementary Estimates were in consequence of Colonel Macdonald's expedition.


I cannot go into details until the accounts come in. Colonel Macdonald was not recalled. He returned having carried out the trust committed to him. As to the Zanzibar masters, I gave an answer just now. There never was any case of a contract so far as I know in which the wages were paid to masters; but if there was, it is not so now. The men are paid individually.


Can the right honourable Gentleman state on whose recommendation an Indian regiment was sent to Uganda for this work? The right honourable Gentleman says that the cost of the rations was £110,000, but surely a very large proportion of that must have been for camels, and there must have been a very heavy loss of these camels. The amount of impedimenta must have been enormous. Is it not the custom to take Somali men and train them on the spot for this work, as they are far more effective than other native troops? On whose recommendation were these Indian troops sent, and what was the cost of the Indian regiment as compared with the cost of Somalis, had they been employed?

MR. BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)

I would like to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether the money we are voting to-day is for free labour or whether it is for slave labour? That is the real question, Are these men employed on the railway free men, or are they slaves? Will the right honourable Gentleman make inquiry if he does not know the facts?


I really must apologise to the Committee. It seems impossible for me to make myself understood or to convey my meaning to the honourable Member. I have answered this question twice, and I do not think I should convince the honourable Gentleman if I answered it again.

*MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

I do not rise to discuss this question of slavery, but only to ask what is the cost of the new steam launch provided for the lake.


I believe that the actual cost of the launch on delivery would be £10,000.

MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

I should like to know with whom the contracts of the men employed on the railway are made; whether they are made with the individual workmen, or whether they are made with some agent, who assures the Government that he has some power over the workmen to make them work—in other words, whether there is a contract with each individual labourer or a general contract with an agent? In the second place, I would ask what are the terms of the contract? Is it a contract day by day, or for a fixed term; and if for a fixed term, for how long? I would ask, also, is there a payment made to anybody besides the individual workman?

*MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

I understand the staple article of food among Indian troops is rice. If so, are we to suppose that this Indian regiment consume £110,000 worth of rice, or does the term "rations" include other items than food?

Original Question put and passed.

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