HC Deb 14 February 1902 vol 103 cc110-5

4. £13,000, Supplementary, Diplomatic and Consular Services.

(10.32.) MR. JOHN DEWAR (Invernesshire)

said he wished to ask a question with reference to the compensation claimed by British subjects in connection with disturbances in Turkey.


said that the Supplementary Estimate did not include any money for the Turkish Embassy.


said he desired to call attention to the enormous amount of the Supplementary Estimate. When the original Estimate was framed, the troubles in China had arisen, and certainly the Committee ought to have some explanation of the reason why the original Estimate was swollen to nearly double its amount. They were not told whether the increase was due to the Alliance with Japan or to the troubles in China, and it would be well if hon. Members were given information, instead of being left to grope in the dark.


said he would explain the practice adopted with reference to telegrams. It was impossible to foresee at the beginning of the financial year what telegrams and correspondence would be required, even in times of peace. That must always be a matter of doubt, and the practice adopted was to take a normal sum every year, and if there were a larger number of telegrams than that amount would cover, to charge for them in a Supplementary Estimate in the following year. Of course in ordinary times that normal sum might cover the total expenditure, but in times of great crises, especially in the Far East, where the rates were very expensive, there would be certain to be a large excess. He need not remind the hon. Member that the troubles in China lasted a considerable time, and necessitated a large amount of correspondence.


said that the country was very much concerned in the work of the China Tariff Commission, and he thought before they passed the item under that head the noble Lord might give the Committee a statement as to how matters stood with regard to it. He desired to know if the Commission had come to any conclusions with the Chinese Government, and whether they had been able to obtain the favourable results anticipated; and if they had not concluded their labours, how near were they to a conclusion?

MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

said that the noble Lord stated that he only took a normal amount for telegrams; but last year, war was proceeding in China a long time before the original Estimate was framed; and he wished to know whether, notwithstanding that state of affairs, only the normal sum which would have been required in time of peace was estimated. He could not understand why even a Government Department should have been so wanting in foresight as to submit an Estimate to cover normal conditions, when they knew perfectly well that abnormal conditions prevailed.


said he had already explained to the Committee that the system adopted was to charge a normal sum, and to make up the difference, if any, by a Supplementary Estimate. He thought, however, that in the next original Estimate he would have to ask the Committee for an increase in the normal sum that had been estimated for many years past for telegraphic service. He supposed it was thought not worth while to attempt to frame an Estimate for a service which was so uncertain, and that therefore the system which he had explained was adopted. He quite agreed that opinions might differ as to whether it was or was not a good system, but it had been pursued for many years past. With reference to the China Tariff Commission the Committee would remember that there were two provisions in the protocol which the representatives of the Powers at Peking had put forward with reference to commercial matters. There was, in the first place, the provision which permitted the raising of the normal Chinese tariff to an effective 5 per cent. ad valorem, and there was also Article 11, which prescribed that certain commercial reforms should be established in China. With reference to the first, there were certain commercial advantages which were promised in return for that 5 per cent. They had to do with the navigation of the Pei-ho and the Wang-pu, the river, as hon. Members will know, on which Shanghai is situated. In order to reach a 5 per cent. ad valorem standard it was necessary to go through a very elaborate calculation. The old specific duties had to be completely recast in order to fit them to the new standard. That was done to a large extent in London and partly out in China. The adjustment was entrusted to this special Commission, over which Sir James Mackay presided. Besides that, the Commission was charged to negotiate with the Chinese Government for the commercial reforms which were contemplated in Article 11 of the protocol—such questions as the abolition of the likin and other internal charges, and other matters of great importance to the commercial community urgently pressed by the Powers on the Chinese during the debates in the conference of representatives at Peking. With that principal object this special Commission was appointed. It was thought by Lord Lansdowne that the matter was so elaborate that it would take a considerable time, that it was impossible to overtake it by the ordinary diplomatic staff at Peking, and that it was necessary to send out experts to China with that object. The Government were fortunate enough to obtain the services of Sir James Mackay, an eminent member of the Indian Council in London, to take the lead in this Commission. With him were associated Mr. Cockburn, the Chinese Secretary of the Legation at Peking, a man of great experience, and Mr. Dudgeon, of the China Association, a man of great eminence resident at Shanghai. They had to consider a very large number of questions, and Sir James Mackay was very carefully instructed before he went out with reference to all the points which the Foreign Office knew were of interest to the commercial community. One of the things which the British representatives insisted upon more urgently than anything else during the debates at Peking was that no consent would be given by Great Britain to the raising of the 5 per cent duty, except in return for those commercial reforms. It became a very urgent matter that we should arrive at some conclusion with the Chinese Government as to what these reforms ought to be. The result was that this special Commission was sent out and sums of money had become duo in respect of travelling expenses and salaries. That was the reason for the Supplementary Estimate.

He had had to trouble the House of Commons so often with the commercial side of the Chinese question that he could not bat believe that hon. Members in all parts of the House would be glad if the Foreign Office had undertaken operations of such a hopeful kind in order to bring the policy of the Government to a fruitful conclusion; and he ventured to think that the money necessary to defray the expense of the special Commission would be ungrudgingly voted by the Committee.

MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)

asked if the 5 per cent. ad valorem duty meant the abolition of likin duty.


said the Chinese Government could charge a 5 per cent. ad valorem duty. The duties formerly levied were much less than 5 per cent.; and, therefore, under treaty rights they were readjusted, so as to be equivalent to a 5 per cent. duty. However, the Chinese Government had to fulfil their treaty obligations, and when the Powers consented to raise the Customs to 5 per cent., they did not do it unconditionally, but stipulated for certain commercial reforms in return. That finished that chapter. Then the further question was raised as to whether the duty should not be increased beyond 5 per cent. ad valorem, and the Chinese Government were informed that the Powers would not consent to that except in return for much more extensive commercial reforms, and it was those reforms that Sir James Mackay was now engaged in negotiating.


said that the noble Lord had done a great deal towards the removal of the very exorbitant charges on British trade in China, and he congratulated his noble friend on his success.


said that a sum of £6,000, which should have been added to the £19,000, making a total excess of £25,000, had been deducted from it. Surely that was not correct.


said he thought if the hon. Member would look again at the Estimate he would see it was right. The £6,000 was an appropria- tion-in aid, and therefore deducted from the £19,000, leaving £13,000.


said surely the noble Lord would see that the revised Estimate should be the larger sum.


said that the £6,000 was an appropriation-in-aid, and had been paid back.

COLONEL. DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)

said he would suggest to the Government that the special Commission which had been sent out to China should be empowered to settle the indemnity for the loss of the "Kowshing." If that could be settled now it would save the expenditure of much more money later.

Vote agreed to.

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