HC Deb 04 August 1902 vol 112 cc563-71

Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £395,093, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1903, for Grants in Aid of the Expenses of the British Protectorates in Uganda and in Central and East Africa, and in Somaliland, and under the Uganda Railway Acts, 1896 and 1900."


said he would confine his remarks to asking certain questions of the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. On one of the various items contained in the Vote he did not propose to say anything upon this occasion, for in regard to the Uganda Railway he fancied the noble Lord would have to make a statement before long. In reference to the grant in aid of the revenue of Uganda he wished to ask the noble Lord whether he had any fresh statement to make to the Committee. He desired to have some information respecting the Uganda and British East Africa Protectorates. He said that at one moment the Government seemed to look forward to a merging of the two protectorates. Since then he believed a change of boundary had been effected and that a capital had been chosen, which might be the capital of the two united protectorates if they were merged together. New facts brought home to us lately showed that great devastation had been wrought in Central Africa by the wars which had been carried on since we first went into that country. In a work newly published on the foundation of British East Africa it was pointed out that the population of Unyoro had been reduced by the wars since we had anything to do with the country to one-fourth of what it formerly was. Sir Edward Lugard stated with regard to West Africa that— Throughout Africa East and West much injustice and oppression has been unwittingly done by our forces acting on crude information. Patient and unwearying investigation by properly trained officers with good interpreters is the only way of checking these forms of oppression. Up to the present the chief complaint against the Foreign Office had been that they had not had a proper service of officers who understood the native languages. He believed that the perpetual series of wars they had had to face in British East Africa and Somaliland had been the direct result of this bad system of government. He next wished to ask certain questions with regard to the British Central Africa Protectorate. Up to the last Report many of them were left under the impression that it was the-one bright exception in Africa, that it was the one great success on which they might congratulate themselves. The Report now before them hardly bore that out. No doubt there was the serious difficulty of obtaining a market for the tropical products owing to the difficulty of transit, and this prevented the products from competing with the tropical products in other parts of the world produced under conditions far more favourable. If they could not make the West Indies pay they could not make this country in the heart of Africa pay. For these reasons he believed it would be difficult to make the produce of Central Africa profitable. The last Report published this year showed that coffee was a failure. It had failed through one of the diseases of the coffee plant, and there was an account of the means being taken now in this favoured protectorate to carry on tropical production to which he desired to draw the attention of the Committee. They were told in the latest Report upon the condition of British Central Africa Protectorate that— A revised scheme of hut tax will be put in force in 1902. Natives in the settled districts' who cannot produce satisfactory evidence that they have done one month's work for a European employer during the past twelve months will pay, instead of the ordinary tax, one fixed at a higher rate. That was a very dangerous principle, and it appeared to him to be one of those indirect means of forcing the natives to labour, of which not only all those interested in the welfare of the natives but also the working classes had frequently expressed their disapproval. They objected to this mode of obtaining labour. Another item in this Vote was that for British East Africa, and in this case they had no new facts to go upon. The old conditions still existed there, and once more he had to call attention to the fact that the legal status of slavery still continued in British East Africa, and this was a disgrace to their rule, and was condemned by all the best and most competent administrators. This state of things was carried on in a country which was practically a British colony. Sir Edward Lugard in his last Report had very properly claimed credit for our administration, that in the course of last year they had been able to abolish the legal status of slavery in West Africa. They knew what his opinion was with regard to British East Africa, for his Reports had stated for years past that they ought to have got rid of the legal status of slavery in British East Africa. Sir Edward Lugard had done this in another part of Africa where the difficulties were equally as great as in British East Africa. Our responsibilities in British East Africa were as direct as in any portion of the British Empire. With regard to Sir Arthur Hardinge, he had always held that he was out of place in British East Africa on account of the retrograde opinions ho held on this subject, which he had very frankly put before the House of Commons. Sir Arthur Hardinge had written a paper on "Legislative Methods in the Zanzibar and East Africa Protectorates" and it was contained in the studies of the Society of Comparative Legislation, of which the Clerk of this House was the editor. He says— The British East Africa Protectorate is directly administered by the British Foreign Office through a Commissioner and Consul-General, who is at the same time political agent at Zanzibar. He states that— The territories comprised in the protectorate are ruled directly under Her Majesty by the British officers in charge of them. It had been alleged that in this case there were special difficulties, but Sir Arthur Hardinge himself had pointed out that— In practice, many of the enactments made in modern times under British pressure by the Sultans of Zanzibar are in flat contradiction to the law of Islam. He further states— Thus an enactment in itself illegal becomes legal and binding oil the subjects it held by the doctors of the Mohammedan law to come within this category; and they themselves have no scruple about applying it. He thought it might be taken from this evidence that they were perfectly able to abolish the legal status of slavery in British East Africa if they chose to do so. He did not think it could be contended that this was a protectorate in anything but name. In the Report of August last year upon this protectorate, which was the last Report issued, the following words were used by our own administrator— Though the coast strip is still theoretically part of the Sultan's dominions, it is practically almost as much under British administration as India. In India they had been able to abolish every trace of the legal status of slavery, and if British East Africa was as much under our rule as India, surely the time had come when the legal status of slavery might be abolished in British East Africa. The administrator went on to say— Within the ten-mile strip the law recognises the institution of domestic slavery. It is, no doubt, disagreeable to say this of any country administered by British officials; but the evil of the position lies almost entirely in words and not in facts. Anything like slave trading, or the sale of slaves, is punished by the severest penalties, and no persons born after 1890 are born as slaves, or can by any means become slaves. But in the case of such persons as were slaves before 1890 the law nominally recognises the status of slavery— that is to say, if a master and a slave appear before the court, the law takes account of their relation as master and slave, and does not set it aside as illegal and void. It was no use, he supposed, to address the House of Commons upon a subject upon which it had made up its mind. The debates they had had on this question year after year showed that the House of Commons had made up its mind, but they would be false to themselves and to their convictions and policy in every other part of the world if they did not take the opportunity every year of uttering their protest against the continuance of the legal status of slavery in British East Africa. In conclusion, he wished to ask the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he could tell them what was the present state of things in Somaliland in regard to the war which was going on there. They had had no information upon that subject lately, and he thought the noble Lord ought to give some information to the House upon this subject.


drew attention to the great increase in the Estimates for Uganda, and said that although many millions had been spent upon it they had never yet had any statement from the noble Lord indicating whether Uganda would ever be a source of profit to this country. He did not see that there was any rational hope for trade in that direction, at least to any considerable extent. Last year, the grant in aid was £93,000, and this year it was £244,000. What was the cause of that enormous increase? He wished to know also why British East Africa should be charged with the deficiency on a railway provided to serve Uganda.


said that a good deal of the apprehension of the hon. Member for East Mayo would be dissipated when he realised what, evidently, the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had already realised, that there had been a change in the boundary between Uganda and British East Africa. When it became clear that the railway was approaching completion, it seemed to His Majesty's Government that, in the interests of good administration, it would be far better that the whole of the area to be served by the railway should be within one administration; and, consequently, the Foreign Office moved the former boundary between Uganda and British East Africa westward, so as to embrace all the country which I the railway traversed in one protectorate —namely, the East African Protectorate. Now, under the new state of I things, the boundary was coterminous with the eastern shore of the lake. That, of course, carried with it a considerable re-arrangement as well. The right hon. Baronet asked as to the frame of mind of the Foreign Office in respect of the much larger question of the complete amalgamation of the two protectorates. They had given very close attention to that subject, and he was not sure that he could say that even now the moment for a definite decision had arrived; but, undoubtedly, they had not abandoned hope that before long there would be an amalgamation between the two protectorates. For many purposes that had already taken place. The Post Office and the Customs were amalgamated. So much, indeed, was the administration already amalgamated that he would invite the Committee, when considering the finances of the I protectorates, to consider East Africa and Uganda as one fiscal unity. If they did that, he believed the hon. Member for East Mayo would find that there had not been so great an increase in the grants in aid as he seemed to imagine. The excess over last year was £114,000, which was accounted for b; special charges in connection with the Uganda Railway and the steamers on the lake, which were, of course, de pendent on the railway. They were taking a sum of £57,000 for the provision of two steamers on the lake They were taking slightly over £6,000 for a survey of the lake, and, in addition, £50,000 for the working expense of the railway during the ensuing year The Committee undoubtedly were en titled to, and would receive, a full ex planation of the extra money which was being asked for on behalf of the Uganda Railway. But, having regard to the hour and also to the fact that it would be necessary for the Government to come with a special demand for more money for the Uganda Railway, he would suggest that the time and convenience of the Committee would be best served by his not dealing with that very important subject at that moment. The Committee might rest assured that there was no desire whatever on the part of the Government to conceal the matter from them, and when the time arrived he hoped he should be able to satisfy the House that the additional money which would be asked for should be granted. There had not been a large trade with Uganda yet, but he would like the Committee to realise that what trade there was was mostly with this country or with the dependencies of this country. If they excluded, as they ought to exclude, Government imports and Uganda Railway material, and took merely the general imports, it would be found that 63 per cent, of the imports came either from this country, from India, or from some other British dependency.


Will the noble Lord give the total value?


said the total value of the general imports was £ 415,000. It was a small beginning, of course, but they hoped that when the country was opened up, as it would be now by the railway and by the steamers which would bring traffic to the railway, they would be able to show a still better balance-sheet. The right hon. Baronet had said it was a matter very much to be regretted that their presence in that country had led to a large diminution in the population. Undoubtedly there had been some very serious fights in the past in these Protectorates; but although the figures of the right hon. Baronet had astonished him, he should hesitate to admit that all they conveyed was due to the presence of the British Government in East Africa. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it was most necessary that their civil servants, and, indeed, their military servants too, out there, should be enabled, by a knowledge of the customs and the language of the people, to avoid those opportunities for friction which led to these wars and their regrettable results. The right hon. Baronet expressed the opinion that the prosperity of British Central Africa was on the wane. He did not think so. Undoubtedly the revenue did not show quite so well as it did last year; but they were starting a second tobacco factory there, and it was hoped that, by the assistance of the South African market, this would prove a source of industry for the people and of revenue to the Government. The great want was that of labour. Nearly the whole of the labour of the Protectorate was taken up in the transit trade from the Zambesi to the Central Lakes. That was a tremendous strain on their resources; but they hoped before long that the energy of private individuals would have produced in British Central Africa a railway which might take the place of these porters, and might release the labour they so much required, and save time to both the transit trade and the trade of the locality—which was so much o be desired. As to the question of slavery on the British East African main-land, he admitted that the principle was bad, but the application of the principle was a very small one. Let him say this, lowever—that slavery in the form in which it showed itself in East Africa was as unlike the slavery they had been brought up to hate and abhor as one thing could be unlike another. The sale of and traffic in slaves was absolutely forbidden by law; and, in short, he might ay that exactly the same spirit that had dictated the abolition of slavery in all other parts of the world whore the British Government had power, had in this case diminished the institution of slavery in all. its more objectionable features almost to the vanishing point. There were very few slaves left. They were rapidly dimishing, and in a very short number of years the institution would have ceased altogether. He had only one word to say with respect to Somali-land. Undoubtedly they were disappointed in regard to their expedition against the Mad Mullah. They had hoped that, once they had met the Mad Mullah and had beaten him, they should have completely destroyed his prestige, and that he would vanish as a disturbing force in Somaliland. That was not so, and it became absolutely necessary to re-undertake the expedition against him. They were fortunate enough to secure the services of Colonel Swayne, who had been so successful in dealing with the Mullah before, and they gave him a free hand. Colonel Swayne had driven the Mullah away from our frontier, and he had retired into the Italian sphere, many miles south of our frontier. Colonel Swayne was now in pursuit of him. They had this great advantage on the present occasion, that they were enabled to work in complete co-operation with the Italian Government, who had given Colonel Swayne permission to cross into their sphere of influence. They might hope before long to be able to announce to the House the destruction of the Mullah. In the meantime he could say nothing beyond the fact that His Majesty's Government thoroughly approved of all the steps Colonel Swayne had taken.

MR. FLYNN (Cork Co., K)

referred to the increasing cost of the Administration of these Protectorates, and to the fact that in the future they had all the elements of uncertainty. He likened the policy of the Government to that of a man who took out policies of insurance upon which the premiums were more than his full income.

It being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolutions to be reported Tomorrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again this evening.