HC Deb 03 July 1902 vol 110 cc702-59

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £35,150, 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 the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."

*(2.40.) SIR CHARLKS DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

said that in a speech of the present year on foreign affairs, the Secretary of State for the Colonies (11th January, The Times 13th January) boasted that, although his colleagues had received an "evil legacy" from Lord Rosebery in 1895, the present Government had settled everything in a satisfactory manner. The treatment of questions relating to Siam, Venezuela, Samoa, and other places had been so many triumphs, and the Government had "grappled successfully with all these questions." He would not be tempted to go back: he had had his say upon them before; and, whatever might have been the weakness of the policy of thé Government in the matters mentioned by the Colonial Secretary, the loss of the Italian alliance and the distracted wobbling of our policy in China concerned matters even more important, and was likely to have results even more sadly lasting. The Colonial Secretary, when he "settled everything," did not name the most dangerous of ail our foreign affairs—Newfoundland. The only information with regard to it which had been given by the Government since last year's debate was misleading. The Secretary of State prefaced his answer by saying— I have inquired at the Foreign Office, and find that— A curious form of reply—and added— His Majesty's Government has been in communication with the Government of France on this question. He challenged the Government as to what communication had been made to France in reference to the question. The French Government had declared that nothing had passed except that the Government of France had asked for compensation as to one real and one doubtful case of arson on the so-called French shore. What had passed in fact? He did not think that the Government had been frank on the question, but he wished to pass to another and more important matter.

An extraordinary change had taken place since last year's discussion without attracting attention in this country. He blamed the policy of the Government for the loss of our longstanding mutual alliance with Italy. While the Treaty with Japan had been represented as a new departure, a maritime alliance for the maintenance of the status quo, it had been forgotten that we had had and had lost a similar relation with Italy in the Mediterranean. Lord Palmerston's assistance to Italy in the Garibaldian expedition, when British agents in civil uniform accompanied Garibaldi on his entrance to the Italian capitals, and Mr. Gladstone's long friendship with that country, had brought about a virtual alliance which in February, 1887, became an actual alliance, though not by treaty. Notes were exchanged by us with Italy which meant a maritime alliance for the defence of the status quo in the Mediterranean and the adjacent seas, — the Adriatic and the Ionian, and a speech was made by Admiral Hewitt at an Italian banquet a little later, in which he used language which confirmed the Italian accounts of the notes exchanged. This arrangement, undisturbed by Mr. Gladstone and Lord Rosebery, was still in force in 1896 when Mr. Goschen, as First Lord of the Admiralty, referring to Italy in the House, declared that if we had to fight in the Mediterranean "we should not stand alone." The maritime importance of such a virtual alliance as that referred to by Mr. Goschen was illustrated by the most recent writing of the American Author, Mahan, who was regarded as the highest authority upon naval politics and strategy, and who agreed with our Admiralty in his opinion of the vital nature to our Empire of the command of the Mediterranean Sea. Lord Salisbury, who had already deeply wounded Italian feeling in the case of Tunis, was incautious enough to conclude an arrangement with France as to the eventual disposition of the hinterland of Tripoli, of which the French Foreign Minister made use to anger the Italians. Last winter, the able representative of France at Rome, M. Barrère, succeeded in concluding a special arrangement between Franco and Italy with regard to future disturbance of the status quo in the Mediterranean. We knew from the French and from the Italian explanations that it provided for the transfer by Italy to France of the eventual rights in the hinterland of Tripoli which we had gone out of our way to recognise to France, France having only asked for them in order to give them again to Italy. We knew also from the Italian explanations that the future of Tripoli itself was provided for and that Albania was also considered in connection with any future disturbance in the Mediterranean and the adjacent seas—that was in the Adriatic—of that status quo which the Italians had previously undertaken with us to respect and to cause others to observe. There was some question whether Morocco was also included, and everyone knew the danger of that subject. Some Members of the House might think that the relations between Italy and France did not matter much, because Italy was in the Triple Alliance and France was not—they were in a different grouping in the political system. But theirs was a prehistoric view, for after all no fine now believed in the risk of a continental land war. Naval wars were much cheaper, and consequently much more likely to arise. The Mediterranean was a much more dangerous matter. Count Von Billow had spoken of the pleasure with which Germany contemplated special arrangements between Italy and France with regard to the Mediterranean, and he could not but think that those arrangements had entirely upset our situation in the Mediterranean. We might look for ward eventually to some danger in the direction of Morocco, It certainly could not be denied that the Anglo-Italian understanding for the maintenance of the status quo had been replaced by a Franco-Italian understanding which, if it had any meaning, concerned the disruption of the status quo, and that, in face of this latter arrangement, the maritime alliance between ourselves and Italy, to which the, late First Lord of the Admiralty alluded when he said that we should not fight alone, was at an end. In other words the new arrangement exactly negatived the previous arrangement between Italy and ourselves. Our new maritime alliance had been claimed as a triumph for our diplomacy. It was undoubtedly an alliance which we could have had at any time for the asking, and which probably, if we ought to have had it at all, we ought to have had sooner.

For a system of such maritime alliances there was a great deal to be said. The greatest value of the Japanese alliance, according to the noble Lord the Member for Woolwich, consisted in the use in the event of war of the harbours of Japan as a naval base. That was the great value of the Italian alliance in the event of Mediterranean war. If the Government were to be praised for the Japanese alliance, they must certainly be blamed for the loss of the virtual alliance with Italy which Lord Salisbury had put into Notes. The Japanese treaty was, of course, vague; and the question of his right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth, "What is the status quo in Manchuria?" remained unanswered. The treaty could not include Chinese Turkestan and Mongolia, and seemed destined to eventual failure as regarded Manchuria, Japan being mainly interested in the Korean peninsula. He confessed he could not understand the position of his hon. friend the Member for Barnsley, who desired an understanding with Russia, but approved of the Japanese treaty; propositions which appeared to him to be contradictory. When an understanding with Russia was proposed ho wished to know something a little definite. What were we to yield? What were we to secure? At one time those who desired this understanding wished to offer Northern Afganistan. Now his hon. friend the Member for South Wolverhampton wished to offer a port on the Persian Gulf, while his hon. friend the Member for Barnsley did not. Personally, he was opposed to giving away things not ours. Our Japanese treaty appeared to imply a policy which was hostile to that of Russia, and divergent from that of Germany. When we considered the feeble inconsequence of our policy in China we must remember the sequence of events. First came the invitation to Russia to occupy an ice-free port, that is to come across Manchuria to Port Arthur. Next the declaration that the promise to respect Korea obtained by a former Government had been made, by Russia, not to us, but to China only. Then came the encouragement to Germany as to Shantung. Then the occupation of Wei-Hai-Wei on strategic grounds, now repudiated by the present First Lord of the Admiralty. Then the Anglo-Russian Agreement, apparently giving up Manchuria, as well as Mongolia and part of Chi-li, with the exclusive right of railway construction, seemingly in consideration of a similar right to us, i.e., a preference in the Yangtsze Valley. Then Anglo-German understanding as to spheres of influence in railway construction, by which the German Government was apparently not to compete with us in the Yaugtsze Valley, which was represented as being a British sphere. Then came the Anglo-German agreement, celebrated by the Tory press in Oct. 1900, as giving us a German alliance, and building up a wall against Russia: but in fact accurately represented by Count von Bülow as an abandonment I of a Yangtsze sphere and recognition to Germany of preference in Shantung. Moreover, we had previously, in a despatch published in the Blue-book, contested that German preferential position in Shantung, which we had originally encouraged, and which we had now conceded. In his speech of the 4th March, on the Anglo-Japanese alliance, Count von Bülow again boasted of the Anglo-German agreement of Oct. 1900, which, in his opinion, did nothing except give up British and secure German interests. He condoled with the Government about Count von Bülow. He was a most trying partner with whom to negotiate agreements, but he confessed that he had always thought with Count von Bülow that he got the best of the agreement which he secured. Count von Bülow ended his speech with a special fling against England by saying that Germany intended to leave a garrison at Shanghai—"especially in Shanghai." Our Chinese policy had been a mass of contradictions. We had, indeed, committed so many errors that the treaty with Japan was the only means left of pretending to repair them.

The practical matters which had been left outstanding at the time of the debate upon this Vote last year were still outstanding now. The latest reply as to negotiations as to Newchwang was unsatisfactory, and so was the account of the present position of the Tientsin land dispute between ourselves and Russia. The latter matter deserved examination. The Blue-book, China No. 7, 1901, with regard to it was issued immediately after the debate last year on the Foreign Office Vote. He could not but think that it was kept back on purpose, as the latest despatch upon the matter contained in it was dated the 1st May, and the latest important despatches early in April. It told an extraordinary story. They now knew from his hon. friend the Member for South Wolverhampton (page 415) that Li Hung Chang was a paid Russian agent— Russia has lost her friend at Court by the death of Li Hung Chang, who was a paid Russian agent, and who, in the negotiations for the settlement, was acting all the time in the interests of Russia. He served her well—as he had often done before This paid Russian agent, without authority—the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State admitted last year 'Li had probably no legal right"—ceded to Russia at a most singular moment a concession of enormous size at Tientsin, between the British concession and the railway, and in eluding railway'land which was part of a legal British security. The news of the concession was telegraphed home by newspapers in October, and the first British action in the Blue-book was taken in November on newspaper information. Yet it was afterwards contended that this exact concession was not really made until some months after the date at which the newspapers had told us all about it. The same thing had happened again lately, when they learned the details of the action of Russia in forcing them into the onerous conditions for the evacuation of Tientsin and then repudiating them from newspaper information, the Government stating that they had no information of their own about the matter till a much later date.

To return to the Tientsin land matter, the seizure and the concession both covered land belonging to the Northern Railway. The sole value of the land was given by the station of the railway whose property was seized, and, as the Consul General pointed out, the Russian Government took advantage of political complications "to acquire gratis a piece of land which British subjects have made valuable by forty years of effort." He had been all along convinced—and the Blue book (China No. 7, 1901) proved the case—that the action of the Russians was deliberate, and that it was not commercial; that the site chosen for the enormous concession to which they helped themselves was purposely chosen so as to make trouble with ourselves; that it was taken opposite to the British concession, there being no "room for two lines of wharves" (Consul General, page 116), and intended "to bar the way from the British concession to the railway." He confessed that arbitration upon points of detail did not appear to him to meet the situation. The replies from time to time of the Foreign Office on this matter had not dealt with the question otherwise than truthfully, hut they had never met the point. The noble Lord bewildered the house with little foggy truths. With regard to the new Tientsin question, which was still pending, he invited the noble Lord, if the telegrams which had been published in The Times each week had not been accurate, to tell the main outline of the real story. So far as they knew, they had been accurate, and either Russia or Germany, or both, appeared in an unpleasing light. The conditions for the evacuation of Tientsin agreed upon by the allied commanders seemed to him to have been wholly outside the document which the Chinese must have regarded as concluding the discussion of all demands upon them—the final protocol which settled the indemnities. The conditions even as cut down by the representatives of the six Powers at Peking appeared to still go far beyond our rights. Then came the extraordinary incident of Russia withdrawing from an arrangement which had never had the sympathy of the United States and leaving the Japanese with England to force on China, with or without the help of Germany, the arrangement to which it was known that we and the Japanese were not favourable.

On the main question he could not concur with his hon. friends who thought that we could avoid all our difficulties by an arrangement with Russia, arrangements meaning the giving away of things which we had no title to give, without getting anything definite in return. Although, however, the Russian Government was not a Government sympathetic to Radicals—a Government which persecuted Protestants as well as Jews, and destroyed the constitutional liberties of the Finns—s yet if not Russian Ministers who were here today and gone tomorrow, and had nothing behind them but the Emperor's support, not Ministers but the Emperor himself wished for a frank understanding in the nature of a clear explanation and definition of interests, he was all for it. Those who desired something more, namely, a treaty with Russia, asserted that that existed a secret treaty with Germany concerning access to the Persian Gulf. The statement was distinctly made in "All the Russias" by his hon. friend the Member for South Wolverhampton. He did not believe the fact, and he invited the noble Lord to inform them to the contrary. Such a treaty would be at "variance with the doctrine laid down by the noble Lord this session, for it would constitute a disturbance of the status quo in the Gulf, and would justify Russia. It would, in fact, be an invitation to Russia, similar to the unfortunate invitation which called her to Port Arthur. But he agreed with his right hon. friend the right hon. Baronet the Member for Northumberland, that they might try—as he would put it—by the personal intervention of the Emperor, to remove between ourselves the cloud of suspicion and mistrust. The Government had made continual advances to Germany which had constantly been repelled, and Germany had over and over again got her way with us by rudeness. The close of the war placed us in a more favourable position to adopt a clearer policy and to state that policy with a perspicuity which in itself was favourable to peace. To sum up, then, we had not during the year distinguished ourselves by the brilliancy of our diplomacy in China; we had failed to attempt to remove the last great menace to peace; we had by opposing bungling stupidity to genius unnecessarily lost the Italian maritime alliance, essential, given the position of the Italian ports, to our complete success in any maritime war that may be forced upon us. He begged to move a reduction of the salary of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs by £100.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That item A (Salaries, &c.) be reduced by £100, in respect of the salary of the Secretary of State."—(Sir Charles Dilke.)

(3.20.) MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)

said he had seldom heard a more important speech than that which had just been delivered by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, or a more scathing indictment of the Foreign Office. With regard to the question of Newfoundland, it was and had been a standing disgrace to this country, and it was within his own personal knowledge that nothing could be easier than to come to an "understanding with France in all matters relating to the French shore. Undoubtedly, the French had rights there, foolish as it was to grant them, and still more foolish to extend them, but those rights were capable of being compensated. They were only the rights of fishermen, and not territorial rights in the ordinary sense, which made it difficult to deal with another nation. Every right which had been conceded to France was perfectly capable of being extinguished by compensation, and he was stating what he knew to be the case when he said that no French Government during the last ten years had shown themselves unwilling to listen to proposals for compensation. This was a matter which was threatening the most serious complications for which the blame lay entirely with the Foreign Office alone. The right hon. Gentleman had drawn attention to the relationships existing between this country and Italy, and he used the word "alliance." He thought that was rather a strong term.


I said "virtual alliance."


said that in his opinion it was not absolutely an alliance but an understanding, and that understanding had now come to an end because it was inconsistent with the other arrangement made by Italy. This other arrangement which has been made by Italy raised a very serious side indeed of this question, especially in regard to Morocco, if it were true that there was some understanding between France and Italy with regard to the eastern unappropriated shores of the Mediterranean, and that most splendid and important country, Morocco. What it amounted to was that it was an alliance between France and Italy made with the consent of Germany and Spain. That alliance might bring about the most serious complications that could possibly be conceived in the Mediterranean. He did not quite follow the right hon. Baronet in his view of the importance of the new departures with regard to our naval predominance in the Mediterranean. The right hon. Baronet had said, and said truly, that the great importance of the alliance to us lay in the use of the Italian harbours. He did not mind saying that he valued the harbours much more than the Fleet. He would rather seek an alliance with Spain, in order to have the use of Port Mahon. He believed it would be worth while to make an offensive and defensive alliance with Spain, in order to secure the use of that port in the event of war in the Mediterranean. There was always this trouble with regard to any alliance or understanding. They never knew where they were. They were given what appeared to be the most precise assurances; in course of time those assurances were entirely violated, and the violations explained away by the other party. He instanced the case of Persia. The noble Lord had suggested by answers he had given that we had an agreement with Russia, whereby we engaged to respect the, integrity and in dependence of Persia. The noble Lord knew perfectly well" it was not true to say there was any such treaty. All that existed was certain correspondence stating that that was our view and our object; there was no engagement whatever, and he challenged the noble Lord to say there was.


Yes, there is.


said the understanding with regard to Persia was contained in a correspondence which began in 1834. In that year Lord Palmerston wrote to Mr. Bligh expressing— The satisfaction of His Majesty's Government at the decision which has been taken by the Shah of Persia to nominate Mahommed Meerza as the successor to his throne; an event which it is to he hoped will avert the danger of civil war in Persia on the next demise of the Crown; and you will also say that His Majesty's Government are gratified to find that the Governments of Great Britain and Russia are acting, with regard to the affairs of Persia, in the same spirit, and are equally animated by a sincere desire to maintain, not only the internal tranquillity, but also the independence and integrity of Persia. That was only a desire. What was the answer of Count Nesselrode in 1838? It was that the policy with regard to Persia remained unchanged—and that was a policy of desire. Then in a letter from St. Petersburg in 1839— … As we consider that, on our part, we may rely upon the intention and upon the desire which the, British Cabinet has, on its part, expressed. Then in a letter from Lord Granville to Lord A. Loftus in 1873— … Although no formal treaty or agreement existed by which the two countries mutually agreed to respect the integrity of Persia, yet … in the year 1834, an understanding was arrived at. What did Lord Granville mean by making the distinction which the Under Secretary of State now repudiated? The understanding was based on a "sincere desire," and nothing more; there was no treaty or agreement; there was only an understanding that each country had a "sincere desire," and if the noble Lord was prepared to call that a treaty stipulation to respect the independence and integrity of Persia, it was surprising how little lie had learnt since he had been at the Foreign Office. There was no such engagement on the part of Russia, but it was extremely desirable that some sort of understanding should be come to with regard to Persia. Russia had practically taken up a position of sovereignty in regard to a considerable portion of Northern Persia; she had built a road, in connection with which she levied toll; she had an exclusive right to make railways; while, on the other hand, Germany was about to cut in at the head of the Persian Gulf. The matter of Persia demanded the most serious consideration of the Government, and he was profoundly convinced that, no understanding with Russia short of an absolute treaty would be of any avail, and certainly one of the most unfortunate of the many unfortunate events which occurred while Lord Salisbury was at the Foreign Office was the absolute abandonment of Persia to the tender mercies of Russia.

No doubt it was desirable that some understanding should be arrived at with Russia with regard especially to the Far East. Up to the present we had always been out-manœuvred by Russia, and in no instance more strikingly than in the recent Tientsin incident. The policy of the Government concerning China expressed in a solemn resolution of the House, was to maintain its territorial integrity and independence. All that had occurred had recently been due to the action of Germany; in fact to his mind Germany appealed to be the one disturbing Power of Europe. She was continually going about the world, and, on the maxim quieta movera—if he might so adapt it—trying to trouble the waters. The whole of the recent Chinese War arose from German aggression. First, of all it started the Boxer movement. That movement was entirely created by the seizure of Kian-Chow and the conduct of German troops in the province of Tientsin. That led to the seizure of Port Arthur by Russia, and of Wei-Hei-Wei by England, and that concatenation of events brought about the war which had recently concluded. We, who were supposed to be the backbone of the maintenance of the independence of China, were the persons to make difficulties about giving Tientsin back to the Chinese, and it was not England but Russia who had retired from the unworthy position of trying to prevent the Chinese regaining their own territory. Where had Germany so much disturbed the peace as in South Africa The Boer War, and especially its continuance, was largely due to the telegram sent by the German Emperor in 1896, to the underhand assurances conveyed to the Boers then and since, and to the ammunition carried by German mail ships. Lord Salisbury had not the courage to stop them, and when one was found chockful of ammunition he not only sent peremptory orders for its release, and got no compensation from Germany, but actually paid compensation to Germany. He greatly regretted that the Foreign Office had traditionally shown so much subserviency to Germany as had been displayed both in China and in South Africa, The Department still lived in the tradition of the Seven Years War; it still believed in Frederick the Great; it learnt absolutely nothing from then up to the date of Holy Alliance, and was learning nothing now. Indeed, he believed that was the explanation of many of the blunders of the Foreign Office. It was, no doubt, a very respectable office and very well manned, but it had never risen to the conception of the now England which had been created and was growing. He believed that diplomacy consisted in managing affairs with, through, and between the nations that occupied this little chess-hoard of Europe, whereas England had grown far beyond that. The policy of England must be a world policy. Europe had sunk in importance, and the great world beyond the seas had risen in importance to England, but the Foreign Office had not appreciated the fact. One of the most remarkable things in the history of the Foreign Office was the most recent. Some of the most important negotiations into which England ever entered, viz., those before and after the Boer War, had been carried out without any official of the Foreign Office taking part in them. In both cases the Foreign Office had been displaced by the Colonial Office, and the negotiations had been conducted by others than members of the Department whose sole reason for existence was the conduct of the art of negotiation. That appeared to indicate that the opinion of the Government for its own Foreign Office was not a very high one.

But, if the importance of English interests in Europe had diminished, the importance of English interests in India remained as great as ever. India was still a great prize of the Empire and a great responsibility. No doubt India had a special case of its own. It had a long frontier, and a very, he would not say active enemy, but longing friend, looking at it over that frontier. The recent great development of the field of English foreign policy, however, lay in the Colonies, and these the Foreign Office had never understood. Our Colonies were not possessions that might be taken or left as other countries could take or leave their colonies; they were not mere jewels or ornaments of the British Crown which could be dropped out without any impairment of the soveignity. They were great and growing nations, a part of the Empire, which must be dealt with as though they were of ourselves. The consequence of that, if properly understood, was that English policy must not merely extend over Europe, or deal only with the small affairs of small German Courts; it must deal with the whole of the seas and the whole of the world—and if it dealt with the seas it would have dealt with enough, because it was the seas which held the Empire together. The time had probably arrived when they might press for the infusion of a new spirit into the Foreign Office. He was glad to pay his tribute to the ability of the noble Lord the present head of that Department. His advent had been the signal for an introduction to a certain extent of that new spirit which was so much desired. It was notorious that Lord Salisbury never dared to take risks. But a great Empire like ours could not be conducted without risks, and sometimes very serious risks being taken. Almost the first achievement of Lord Lansdowne was the Japanese Treaty. That was a treaty involving great and unknown risks, risks dependent on the character of a people little known, but the risks were worth running, because they gave us a position, strong as well as definite, such as our position there ought to be. Ho was very glad, therefore, that the treaty had been made.

There was one other aspect of our foreign affairs to which he desired to call attention. It was an aspect little thought; about, but really most important, viz., the enormous extent of the guarantees under which this country lies, with regard to the territories and sovereignties of other States. He did not know how large the liabilities in the different relations might he, but we had guaranteed the independence and neutrality of Belgium by the treaty of 1839, the perpetual neutrality of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg (1867), the possession of Prussian Saxony to Prussia (1815), to Norway and Sweden all their possessions against Russia (1855), the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire (1856), the independence of Greece (1832), the perpetual neutrality of the Ionian Isles (1863), the possessions of Turkey in Asia against Russia (1878), to respect the independence of the Sultan of Muscat (1862), to defend Portugal and all her colonies against all comers, and, although we had not guaranteed it, we had expressed our desire that the independence and integrity of Persia should be respected; and, finally, we had guaranteed to China the possession of Chusan. But these were not all the guarantees we were under. There were others in the Pacific, and, in addition, there were certain financial guarantees. The situaion was extremely important, and very risky. Not only were there these guarantees, there were other matters. For instance, there was a secret agreement with Germany, now two years old. No human being outside the Foreign Office had seen that treaty. It was clear that at the outbreak of the Spanish and American war, we did give assurances to the United States, and in all probability England had a quid pro quo. Under these circumstances he wished to road to the Committee what Lord Salisbury thought of the value of the Fleet. In a speech made in 1871 Lord Salisbury said— We are too apt to be misled by the great things the Fleet did during the great Revolutionary War. No doubt it was n powerful instrument in hampering and ultimately in subduing Napoleon, but why? We had then the power of declaring a genera blockade, and of searching neutral ships for enemies, goods. In your reckless Utopianism you have Hung these two weapons away, and your Fleet can only blockade the particular port to which it is sent, or bombard any fortress which may happen to be, on the coast. I believe that, since the Declaration of Paris, the Fleet, valuable as it, is for preventing an invasion of these shores, is almost valueless for any other purpose. And yet Lord Salisbury had gone on year after year with what he called a valueless Navy, He was dealing with these Treaty obligations, and lie said— My fear is that when the extremity comes we shall look at the obligation, turn it round and round, talk very big, lecture one side or the other, and then when Europe cries shame on us, we shall congratulate ourselves upon the moral pinnacle on which we stand. That was the prospect held out to us with regard to these very serious obligations under which the country lay. There were a great number of these obligations from which we ought to be freed. Ho hoped there might yet be time to bring the Foreign Office, to a sense of its responsibilities, and to bring about a revision of these obligations, many of which had outlived their purpose; but a belated Foreign Office, with antiquated traditions about the balance of power, had shown no disposition towards revision. The Foreign Office was a most respectable institution; the world was full of its works, and half the world of its failures.

One other matter, and he had done, and that was by way of suggestion. The Foreign Office had devoted its attention in recent years to other purposes and they found it undertaking, the conquest of territories in Fast Africa. The Foreign Office was ceasing to be a negotiating Department, and was turning itself into a railway company. In each of the territories administered by the Foreign Office it had failed, as was to be expected if a Department was put to do work for which it was not organised, and it had failed in regard to the railways. The great defence of the, policy of the Foreign Office was that it had to carry on its work in secret, but it never allowed the light to be let in upon what it did until it was too late to remedy the blunder. The doctrine was that they should not be interfered with while negotiations were going on, and when they were completed it was too late to do anything. Our cousins across the Atlantic had a much more practical system of dealing with their foreign affairs. It was very remarkable that the only absolute control which was provided in the English system was that exercised by the Public Accounts Committee, of which he had the honour to be a humble member. Exactly such a system obtained in the United States, where they had a Committee on Foreign Relations. Perhaps it would surprise the Committee when he told lion. Members what that Committee were able to do. The Committee may take the initiative and consider and report, to the Senate its conclusions there on any subject bearing on our relations with foreign nations. The Committee, as a Committee, may request information of the Secretary of State. The usual way, however, when the Committee desires any information is to report to the Senate a resolution, either directed to the Secretary of State or other Departmental officer or to the President. When the resolution is addressed to a Departmental officer the form is that ho is 'directed' to furnish the information; and when to the President he is 'requested,' if not incompatible with the interests of the public service, to furnish it. When such resolution is reported to the Senate, that body usually adopts it although not always. In addition to this, the State Department will, in most cases, allow individual members of the Committee to inspect the correspondence of the Department, even although the President may think it 'incompatible with the interests of the public service' to transmit such correspondence to the Senate. The Committee has no power in itself over pending and uncompleted negotiations, except as the President and Secretary of State may, through courtesy and a desire to conform to the wishes of the members of the Committee, give consideration to such views as it may express. It may, however, through the action of the Senate, in adopting any affirmative action the Committee may recommend, prevent any action on the part of the President and Secretary of State which it may deem undesirable. It seemed to him that that was a most valuable body, and it was instituted in 1813. It seemed to him that a Committee exercising control of that kind was urgently needed in this country. Year after year, when the work of the Foreign Office came to be reviewed, there was increasing disappointment in regard to the result of its policy. He felt, therefore, that some control over the Foreign Office should be exercised by the House, and, if they did not obtain it evil days would yet be in store for this country.

*(3.55.) MR. NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.)

said he felt sure the Committee would await with interest the Under Secretary's reply to the question put by the right hon. Baronet about the lapse of the understanding of this country with Italy. The right hon. Baronet had dealt with the matter in a manner befitting the extreme delicacy of this question, and he would say nothing about it except to repeat the hope that the noble Lord would have something satisfactory to say upon it. There were many questions in regard to foreign affairs, and they had only this very brief afternoon to deal with the whole affairs of the Empire, therefore, the speeches must necessarily be of a hotch-potch character. The first point he desired to mention had regard to their old friend the open door in China, and he wished to know whether His Majesty's Government was doing anything with regard to the increasing claims for exclusive rights on the part of Germany in the province of Shantung? While Germany had a certain absolute monopoly in that province, it was now claiming more monopolies. Germany had already three definite monopolies there, and was now engaged in claiming a fourth.

A question to which no attention had been directed was that of Mongolia. He did not think anybody had even mentioned Mongolia in that House. That province had mines which were enormously valuable, and he understood that they were now being exploited by Russia with very great profit. He had asked several questions with regard to the mission of the Thibetan envoys who were sent to St. Petersburg, and he was informed that it had no diplomatic significance He could not help expressing surprise that the Foreign Office should accept a vague answer that the mission had no diplomatic significance whatever. The question of Mongolia was really a very serious one, and he should like to know whether the Foreign Office knew anything about it, whether it was aware that the Thibetan envoys had a certain relation to affairs in Mongolia, or whether its attention had been called to it in any shape or form. He felt sure that all the business classes of the community would greatly welcome any assurance from His Majesty's Government as to the steps taken to assist British railway enterprise. We insisted, in 1898, upon a concession for a railway from Nanking to Shanghai, and he wished to know what was the position in regard to that. Both the Belgians and the Russians were seeking new concessions and these concessions of Chinese railways were quite as much political as commercial, and it was simply absurd to say to British merchants in China, "You must look after your own interests. If you do not you are very much better out of it." Every Foreign Office except our own recognised the fact that these railways for opening up the country were as much political as commercial, and supported its merchants from that point of view. Were we demanding that in whatever was granted by the Chinese to foreign nations in the way of railway concessions we, at least, should receive the "favoured nation" treatment? The matter was particularly urgent at this moment because foreigners were coming into contact by two railways, one made by French and the other by Belgians, across our own Yang tsze sphere. It would soon be too late to take action in that matter.

Perhaps the most important question pending in China was that of the indemnity. According to statements in the Press, China had refused to pay the July instalment. The Committee would be glad to know if that was so, and also if the United States Government had expressed sympathy with the Chinese attitude. What did the British Government intend to do? Had it any view of its own with reference to the matter? Had it taken any different line? Had it, after what the United States Government had done, come in with a paltry suggestion of its own? Every statesman in Europe knew perfectly well that enormous sales of silver on the part of China would be necessary in order to enable her to pay off the instalments of the great indemnity, and that this would necessarily result in a fall in the gold-price of silver. That was overlooked by the Chinese, and now it was found that £9,500,000 sterling had been added to the indemnity China had been called upon to pay. The effect of this upon the relations of European nations to China would be a very serious one indeed, because the people of China would be squeezed and sweated to get the sum. The hatred of the Chinese towards foreigners would be intensified by the grasping policy of squeezing out of them not only the original sum, but the increase which had resulted from inevitable financial causes. This policy would rebound and strike us again both in our trade and in our relations with the Chinese people.

The question of the military occupation of the province of Pe-chili and the city of Tientsin had been briefly touched upon by his right hon. friend. It seemed to him to merit further consideration. So far as he could understand, the British Government was at the present moment in the position simply of breaking its word to the Chinese. We promised through our Minister that we would undertake to evacuate that province and city by a certain date—he thought it was May 1st—on condition that the other nations would do the same thing. Before the date for the fulfilment of that promise was reached, we agreed with all the other commanders to impose a totally new set of conditions upon the Chinese. We agreed to impose the conditions, while protesting against them. The situation at the present moment was that the British Minister was actually supporting the German Minister against the Japanese Minister in continuing to enforce this unjust occupation of the province. Of course, the inevitable had happened. The Russian diplomatists and Foreign Office had seized the opportunity to withdraw, and to exhibit themselves once more in the light of the true friends of China. If we did not mind what we were about, the next thing that would happen would be that the Germans would withdraw. We had in this merely followed the Germans. He did not know why the British Foreign Office seemed to be paralysed by what the Germans did. Why, in heaven's name, should not this country take a definite line of action of its own and keep its promise? He thought the Committee should take this opportunity of protesting against this useless and fatuous policy, which was injuring our prestige and doing great damage to our commercial interests in China. He asked the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to state what stage had been reached by the Tariff Commission which had been sitting at Shanghai. Was it the policy of His Majesty's Government to allow the Chinese largely to increase their tariff on foreign goods in exchange for a remission of the whole or part of the likin, or internal taxation If that was so, he thought anybody who knew China would protest most strongly against any such policy, because we were entitled to what the Chinese were offering us by the Treaty of Tientsin, and to what was granted under the Japanese Treaty of 1896, and because under no circumstances in the immediate future was it likely that the likin would be abolished. Likin was an essential part of the finance of the provincial authorities, and the Imperial authorities were far too weak to enforce its abolition. Some years ago Lord Curzon, when Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, assured the House that in future traffic was to be permitted on the sea coast and on the rivers of China, and everybody who did not know China cheered the statement. Nothing whatever had happened in consequence of that statement. If we accepted the abolition of likin for greater taxation of British goods, we should find ourselves, after a little time had elapsed, in exactly the same ridiculous position. With regard to China, our Government had not had a consistent policy from the beginning. We had sent to China men who knew nothing about the country until they got there. He was not aware that there was anybody at the Foreign Office who had been to China, or who could claim to express any view about that country with authority. He gladly admitted the better spirit in which our negotiations had been conducted during the past year, but the want of any definite policy seemed to be the fatal cause at the root of all we were suffering from. If he and his hon. friends seemed to be unduly exigent in regard to China, it was because they saw that the relations between this country and China had been conducted in a piecemeal fashion, and not in that broad spirit which they should be when it was remembered that the bread and butter of tens of thousands of British homes depended upon them.

His right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean had challenged him on one or two points in regard to Persia. He had recently had an opportunity of setting forth his views on this question at considerable length, which were open to any hon. Member who would do him the honour to glance at them, therefore he would not recapitulate them here. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had said that he had advocated that a port should be given to Russia on the Persian Gulf. True; but what he said was that it should be given on very stringent conditions. While he was speaking of Persia, he hoped the noble Lord would turn his attention to the concession which was said to have been granted to Russia for the construction of a railway to Teheran. This had been confidently asserted in the press. This whole question was of enormous importance. Was the attitude of His Majesty's Government to be to say to Russia: "Hands off; you cannot come down to the Persian Gulf," while Germany was coming along with a railway down to the Gulf. If so, he feared we would not only suffer commercial injury, but would court Imperial disaster.

He wished to draw attention to the obligations which this country had undertaken under the Treaty of Berlin. The 44th Article of that Treaty dealt with Roumania, and said that no one should suffer in any civil rights or political liberty on account of his religious opinions. It was common knowledge that Roumania owed its liberty and its present position to the consensus of Europe as embodied in the. Treaty of Berlin, but the Government of that country had evaded, in the most shameless and cynical manner, these responsibilities, and was imposing the gravest and cruellest disabilities on a large section of its population. He thought they were entitled to know whether the British Government had taken any steps to communicate with the Roumanian Government, or to elicite their opinions from the other great Powers who were parties to the Treaty of Berlin, in regard to this important point. It was impossible to speak of the Foreign Office without expressing the desire that something should be done for re-organising the consular service of this country. He had addressed a Question on this point to the noble Lord on a former occasion, and was informed that some inquiry was on foot; but in answer to a second Question he had put to the noble Lord, he had been told that the inquiry would result in a series of conversations between the Foreign Office and the Treasury.


And the Board of Trade.


Well, between the three Departments of State. But the noble Lord did not seem to be under the impression that the result of that inquiry would be communicated to the House. In the consular service at present there were no definite entrance conditions, no definite work, and no definite system of promotion. Consular duties had of late greatly increased, and that increase had not been justly recognised by the authorities. In many ways the consuls had been treated with marked and deliberate unfairness by the Foreign Office authorities. If the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs wished to have information on this point, he could give him instances of absolute breach of pledges given by the Foreign Office to our consuls abroad. There were in the consular service many brilliant officers, rendering invaluable service to the State, both openly and confidentially; but in the lump the members of the service were not what they ought to be, because there, was no certainty of their making a career in it. He thought the time had come when consular officers should be placed upon a different and a definite footing, and that above all things they should be relieved from the fear of being passed over for promotion, because a Minister at home wished to reward some follower for political services rendered. There had been an inquiry in regard to the War Office, but the time would come when the country would realise that in no Department of the State was there greater necessity for reform than in the Foreign Office. There was at present no hope of obtaining any promise for such a comprehensive inquiry, but he trusted that the noble Lord would have some definite information to give on the points he and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had raised, and particularly upon the change for the worse in our relations with Italy.

*(4.25.) LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Woolwich)

said he would like to say a few words on the very important subject which the right hon. Baronet had brought before the Committee in regard to the understanding with Italy as to the Mediterranean. We were entirely dependent on the command of the sea, but in the Mediterranean we were short of naval bases, owing to the mistakes of the Foreign Office in former times. That shortness of naval bases had been to some extent made up for by the understanding or alliance with Italy, which would have given us access to docks, stores, and all the essentials without which we could not fight. He hoped that the noble Lord would give the Committee a clear account of what had happened, and would say whether there was an understanding between France and Italy which was detrimental to British interests in the event of war. The want of policy as to Wei-Hai-Wei was a glaring example of the necessity of a thinking Department at the Admiralty and War Office for making out our requirements. If there had been a thinking Department, we should not have had the change of policy with regard to Wei-Hai-Wei. He further pointed out that at Chi-fu our merchants had a property near the foreshore. The Russians built a great factory between the British property and the foreshore. We fined the Chinese most heavily because the Russians built that factory; and this incident bore out the statement which had been made, that we were either fining the Chinese for damage done to us by another nation, or making presents of things that did not belong to us. Most of the news from China came through the correspondent of The Times, and some of the facts which had been published had been known to hon. Members long before the Foreign Office heard of them. Instead of referring any question of British interests to the whole body of foreign Ministers, which had happened over and over again to our detriment, why should we not look after our own interests ourselves? They all wanted a better understanding with Russia, but how was it to be brought about? Russian policy was based on the giving of assurances, and there was no case in the history of Russia with regard to assurances where they had not been broken when Russia was in a position to do so. He did not blame Russia; her Ministers were very clever. But he blamed our Foreign Office for listening to their assurances, always knowing that they would be broken. He did not agree with the hon. Member for King's Lynn in his preference for an alliance—perhaps alliance was not a good word, he would prefer the word understanding—with Spain rather than Italy. He thought that what his hon. friend had in his vision was the idea that the Rock might be bombarded some day by Spain from the Western side. Of course, the Spaniards might, under certain conditions, place guns on the Western side and bombard the Rock, but they could do very nearly, though not quite, the same on the eastern side.




The hon. Member said "No." He had never agreed with him, because if his ideas were carried out in their entirety, the country would never build a battleship, because it might be sunk. Well, he knew the Rock as well as he knew his own home. But if we kept the command of the sea, we could mount ten guns against every one placed on the other side, and, if matters became critical, we must land a party and occupy that shore. The idea of his hon. friend was so chimerical that he never entertained it at all. In no case could the ports which Spain was able to place at our disposal be so useful as those of Italy, and so long as we had this understanding with her, we need not consider what Spain might do. The alleged mastery of Russia in Persia was a very grave affair in relation to our trade and commerce. If the information was correct that Russia had absolute control of the Persian Customs House, they might say that she had absolute control of Persia and everything in the country. Reverting to China, he asked whether, as the indemnity was fixed in April, 1901, and there had been a fall in silver since of about 20 per cent., the Chinese had warned the British that they would not be able to pay the increased sum which might be charged upon them owing to the fall in the rate of exchange. He had the most hearty sympathy with the Chinese. In their financial obligations and trading transactions they were as honest people as any in the world, and if they had to pay more than was originally asked, they would regard it as a fraud. If, however, this matter was not cleared up as to what the Chinese would have to pay eventually, it would be a bad thing for British trade and commerce; because it would tend to stir up rebellion, and this would have a great effect upon prices. He also wanted to know when the bonds would be ready for distribution, and what progress was being made with the settlement of certain individual claims on account of the action of Russia. Amid some causes of censure, however, he congratulated the Government on the alliance with Japan. Nothing of late years, in our foreign policy, had been so materially good for England. The interests of the two Powers were nearly identical. Both wanted the open door, and an outlet for their trade. The utility of the alliance to us in regard to the command of the sea was immense, because Japan had a very strong and efficient fleet; there were no better guns or rifles in Europe, the equipment of the Japanese troops was excellent, and their reserves of guns and ammunition were quite perfect. Owing to their chivalrous action all the rancour of the China-Japanese War was past, and the Chinese were going to the Japanese before any European nation for advice. He hoped we should keep ourselves very friendly with China and Japan, because, if ever China got organised as Japan was, it would be a tremendous menace to Europe.

(4 44.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

asked what steps had been taken to carry out the hope which had been expressed recently by the Foreign Office that more would be done to extend the scope of our Consular service in Eastern Asia Minor and Armenia. Those regions were at present comparatively quiet, but no one knew how long that state of things might continue, and it was most desirable that there should be a British Consular officer where disturbances were likely to arise. As to our general Consular service, he could speak of its efficiency from personal experience in many parts of the world in the highest terms of praise. He deprecated the policy of making our Consular officers trade agents. It was quite right that they should watch trade, and that their reports on trade should be brought up to the highest point of efficiency, but on the whole they would be less effective for the purposes they now served if they were trade agents. The one thing he regretted was that appointments to the service were often made in the spirit of what might be called pure patronage, men being appointed for political and personal reasons, to the disappointment of the legitimate hopes of better men in the service. With regard to our relations with Italy, he hoped that matters had been brought to a successful conclusion, and that nothing had occurred to substantially affect the good relations between Italy and this country. It was a subject which one must approach with caution; and he thought the Committee would feel that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs ought not to be pressed, in giving an answer to the question, to go further than the noble Lord thought the interests of the public; service permitted. In the absence of the information which most of the Committee could not possess, they might fairly feel that a great deal depended on the permanent nature and entire sense of security of the bond. As had been well said by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject, our sentimental and traditional relations with Italy had always been of the best character. There was no country in the world from which this nation obtained more sympathy and support. Since the days of Palmerston and the rise of United Italy, England and Italy were constant in affording each other sympathy and support; and he did not believe that these mutual feelings had been impaired by anything that had recently occurred. They had been threatened by some unfortunate proceedings in Malta, but that cause of trouble had been removed, and he did not think that the memory of it would linger in the Italian mind He was of opinion that there could be no divergence between Italy and England on substantial or material grounds. As it was the interest of Italy that she should not be overpowered by foreign fleets in the Mediterranean, it was necessary that she should be on friendly terms with England. There had been an arrangement between France and Italy with regard to Tripoli and Albania. Considering the frontier relations and the commercial relations between Italy and France, it was the most natural thing in the world that Italy should be on good terms with France, and every one would also agree that it was to the best interests of European peace. Nor did he see anything for alarm and disquiet in the arrangement between the two countries as to Tripoli and Albania, as no British interests were affected in those quarters. If Morocco had come into the agreement it would have been different, for in no part of the world did danger signals stand so thickly as in Morocco. Therefore, he thought the noble Lord would be able to assure the Committee that the relations between Italy and England remained perfectly friendly, and on the same substantial basis that they had hitherto occupied. He thought it was of the greatest possible importance that questions still outstanding between France and us should be cleared up; and now that peace had been restored in South Africa, and that a friendly and capable Minister was at the head of foreign affairs in France, the time was opportune for the settlement of these questions.


This debate has ranged over such a great variety of topics, extending to almost all parts of the habitable globe, that I despair of being able to satisfy hon. Members with regard to all the points which they have brought under the notice of the Committee. I do not think the criticism of the hon. Member for South Wolverhampton with regard to the Departmental inquiry into the condition of the Consular service is quite deserved. The inquiry is of a highly technical character; it concerns three Departments of the State; the gentlemen who have been appointed by those Departments to serve on the Committee are highly qualified for the work they have to perform; and I can only ask the hon. Member to possess his soul in patience as to the result of the inquiry, until matters are more advanced. Complaint has been made that gentlemen who have placed the country under obligations in other Departments of the public service have been rewarded with appointments in the Consular service. That is true to some extent, especially in regard to the African Protectorates. There are a large number of devoted public servants who are governing with admirable success those great territories. The work is extremely arduous and dreary, and after men have served a large number of years in that service it is no abuse of patronage that they should be removed to consular appointments in other parts of the world. Being men of ability, they can undoubtedly perform the duties admirably, and without such a system I think it would be impossible to maintain the service at its present level.

A word or two has been said about the consular service in Asia Minor. A consul has been appointed at Bitlis; that is an important appointment. He resides at that place, and occasionally goes to Diarbekr. Another has been appointed at Van. As to Roumania, to which the hon. Member opposite referred, the obligations under Article 44 of the Berlin Treaty rest upon Roumania, and that country is responsible for their performance to the Powers who are signatories to the Treaty. His Majesty's Government have on several occasions represented to the Roumanian Government that they ought to carry out, in the spirit and in the letter, the terms of that Article, and the Roumanian Government assure us that they have done so. However, I am bound to say that persons entitled to respect have made representations that that is not the case.

LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)

Is there a report from our Minister?


It is the habit of our representative to send us continual reports.


You said there were representations from persons; were those from the Minister?


I meant that persons outside the service had made representations which greatly impressed us, and we shall undoubtedly take care that this question does receive careful attention, and if we are satisfied that the Treaty has not been maintained, we shall make further representations.

With regard to the larger questions which have been brought before us, the Committee will have realised that the Foreign Office has come in for a good deal of abuse in the course of the afternoon. That Department is supposed by some to be partly inefficient and by others to be wholly inefficient. The hon. Member for King's Lynn, whose condemnation of the conduct of all Departments of the Government is well known, belongs to the latter class. He tells us, perfectly truly, that the Foreign Office ought to have regard to the world-wide interests of this country. Indeed, as far as I could make out, he thought it ought to adopt all the work of the Colonial Office as well as its own. I agree with the hon. Member in saying that the interests of Great Britain are world wide, but I cannot agree that we have no important interests in Europe. In fact, the hon. Member on that point answered himself. He referred to the importance of the various guarantees we have entered into, and most of those guarantees refer to Europe.


I did not say our interests in Europe were wholly unimportant; I said they were relatively unimportant.


The hon. Member conveyed the impression to the Committee that in his view they were wholly unimportant. However that may be, the interests of Great Britain are undoubtedly world-wide in their character.

Here I would like to say a word on the subject of Newfoundland. The right hon. Baronet, in a most able speech, founded a criticism on the fact that my right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary, in answer to a Question, said he had consulted the Foreign Office. I hope my hon. friend behind me will note that the Colonial Office does sometimes consult the Foreign Office.


I said it was extraordinary he should have had to ask.


The right hon. Baronet referred to two very trivial matters about which I need not trouble the Committee. As a matter of fact, however, perpetual communications have passed between France and this country almost ever since the Treaty of Utrecht was signed. The idea that these great questions are allowed to sleep for years is not founded on fact. As a matter of fact, they are perpetually before the Foreign Offices of both countries, and I need not say that we should be very glad if the Newfoundland question could be settled. It is a difficult question, because there are conflicting interests over which we have not complete control—the interests of France and the interests of our colonies. I need not say that, in the opinion of any English Government, where the interests of our colonies and foreign countries come into conflict, we must consider in the first place the interests of our own colonies. I can assure the Committee that the subject is always before us, and that we are not neglecting it.

Then the right hon. Baronet proceeded to deal with the question of various agreements and alliances and groupings of Powers in different parts of the world as they affect the interests of this country, and he made a passing reference to a Russian understanding, of which I rather gather the right hon. Gentleman did not approve.


I said that I did not approve of giving up things for doubtful consideration, but I was entirely in favour of the idea of an understanding with Russia in the way of a definition or interests.


The view of the Government is that they would like an understanding with almost every Power, and I can assure the Committee that it is not our fault that there is not that understanding.

In addition to that, the right hon. Baronet raised the very important question of our relations with Italy. I would like to emphasise the fact, in the first place, in reference to what, I think, fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that our international friendships are never aggressive, and are never intended to be aggressive; and our friendship with Italy belongs to that class. I do not assent to the historical account which the right hon. Baronet gave of all that has passed between this country and Italy. Indeed, I am occasionally amazed at the boldness with which hon. Members deal with what they admit to be secret matters. There never was a Treaty or Agreement with Italy. The real fact is that, important as are treaties and agreements, there is something much more important, and that is the interests and sympathies of the countries concerned, upon that nothing can be said, by way of criticism, as regards our relations with Italy. No doubt, as the right hon. Baronet reminded the Committee, there have been from time to time matters which have given rise to some disappointment in Italy, but I hope they are all swept away now. There was the Maltese language question; but, owing to the action of my right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary earlier in the session, all the feeling in respect of any question affecting Malta has entirely disappeared.


Thanks to the Irish Members.


Then there was the question, to which the right hon. Baronet referred, of the feeling of coldness that arose in consequence of the understanding with France affecting the Hinterland of Tripoli. I think the Committee are aware that we have lately had an opportunity of giving an assurance to the Italian Government which has healed any soreness which might have existed in respect of that matter. I need not say that we have no design on Tripoli ourselves, and we were able to assure the Italian Government that nothing which passed between England and France at the time of the Agreement of 1899 affected in any way the present or the future position of Tripoli. We are anxious, if I may use a phrase which is very often indulged in in this House, to maintain the status quo. We have certain treaty obligations which govern our action towards Tripoli. To these treaty obligations we intend to adhere; but I need not say that in this, as in every other matter subject to those Treaty obligations, we have every disposition to study Italian interests.

What is most important in these international relations and international friendships are the traditional sympathies and mutual interests of the Powers concerned. In this connection, what is to my mind of great value in the Japanese Agreement is that it is an Agreement founded on the mutual interests of the two contracting Powers, and therefore has a strong foundation. Some people think a treaty can be made with this Power or that as if we were playing a game of chess. That is not how international relations can be managed. You have first to. ascertain what are the interests of your country in regard to a proposed treaty, next to find out what view the people of your country will take of that Treaty. On these foundations, and on no other, can we found an international; Agreement that will last; and no others are sound. The only criticism the right hon. Baronet has made as to the Japanese Agreement is that we did not make it sooner. He said it could have been had for the asking. It is not for us to ask; for treaties: we grant them. We are only too delighted to have the opportunity of granting this Treaty to a Power whose interests are so much in conformity with our own as are those of Japan.

The right hon. Baronet turned to China, and declared that in nearly all our dealings with China we had shown great inefficiency. I think the Japanese Agreement alone should be an answer to the observation of the right hon. Baronet regarding our dealings with China. None have rejoiced so much in the Japanese Agreement as the statesmen of China, and we may depend upon this—that when she comes to consider what this Power has done or what that Power has done in her favour, China knows her friends perfectly well. She is not likely to be misled. She can arrive at a perfectly accurate judgment, and she knows by this time that it is not only the avowed but the true policy of this country to maintain to the best of her ability the integrity of China and to increase her material resources by means of trade. It may be thought that what is got by other countries is got as against this country; but the policy of this country in regard to China has often been stated by me and by others abler thin myself on numerous occasions. I am almost ashamed to use the old phrase. We are for the open door. That policy has governed our agreements. It is true that in the Russian railway understanding and our position with regard to Germany, railway enterprise has, to some extent, been relegated to spheres. But, on the whole, our agreements and our financial arrangements have been in the direction of the open door, and are intended to maintain it.

I do not know what ground the right hon. Baronet has for saying that we have failed altogether to maintain the open door in Shantung; because, turning to the last speech which Count von Bulow delivered on Chinese questions, I find that he assured the Reichstag and Europe generally that there was no question of exclusive rights for German trade in Shantung, and he spoke later of the open door, using the German equivalent for that very phrase, and showing that Germany has not closed the open door in that part of the world. Under these circumstances I do not admit that we have failed in our policy in respect to Shantung. An hon. Member opposite has asked what about the concessions? The hon. Member for South Wolverhampton asks what about these mining concessions which Germany is obtaining in Shantung. The question as to whether such concessions mean the closing of the open door is a question of degree. Every concession in a sense closes to some extent the open door in respect of what is conceded. It expressly and avowedly does. And we have obtained concessions in parts of China just as Germany and other Powers have done. If such concessions are to apply to a very large area, they may properly be described as amounting to a definite closing of an open door; but I do not think that can be said of these German concessions in Shantung. Quite the contrary.

The right hon. Baronet turned to somewhat later history and pointed out that upon the last occasion when he had the opportunity of discussing this question the Committee was not in possession of the requisite information because the Blue-book had not been presented. I admit that, and I apologise to the right hon. Baronet and to the Committee as I have apologised before for this delay. I regret the delay in the publication of the Blue-book, and I am sorry hon. Members were not in possession of the Papers before the last debate on China. It is not my fault, except that pressure of other work may have rendered me less urgent than I otherwise might have been, and I do not admit that it is the fault of the office which I represent. Blue-books take a long time to prepare and delays are unavoidable owing to the necessity of communication with other Powers as to the publication of documents in which they are committed.

It has been suggested that the Government have a right to object to the Russian concession at Tientsin. We have got a concession there, and we are not in a position to say that the Russians are not entitled to have a concession; but if it is a question where the concession shall he, and of the area it shall embrace, the position is different; and upon these points we have had a great deal to say to the Russian Government, and I think we said it with considerable effect. In the first place, we protested against British property being included in the Russian concession, and the Russians have assured the Government that they never did intend, and do not now intend, that British property should be included in the Russian concession; and, for their part, where it can be shown that any property is British owned, they do not claim it. On the railway question there was great controversy, which at one time was very acute indeed, until the armed forces of either Power were drawn up so close to one another that there was no greater space between them than divides me at this moment from right hon. Gentlemen opposite. But that passed away, and we were able to bring the controversy to a successful conclusion. From the Russians we said that we claimed nothing but what was our due and we proposed a proper and impartial inquiry. The Russians, moving rather slowly, as is the fashion of Russian diplomacy, finally agreed to this proposal, and Consular officers on the spot, very familiar with the question, have been appointed, so that the matter may be brought to an issue. I do not think that an unsuccessful piece of diplomacy, and on the whole, I believe the right hon. Baronet will agree with me. Then the right hon. Baronet spoke of another Tientsin question—the terms on which the provisional Government is proposed to be abandoned. A certain amount of misapprehension appears to exist on this question. I cannot give a full account of the matter to the Committee, because negotiations are still proceeding; but I can say something that boars upon what has been said in the debate.

It has been said that the Press get information much more rapidly than the Foreign Office, and that the information is invariably accurate. I can assure hon. Members that this is not the case. I am not saying anything derogatory to the Press. The newspaper telegrams are admirable. It is a wonder they get the information they do; but it is not always, and cannot be always, accurate; for the terms, of which my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury spoke in answer to a question a week or two ago, were not definite terms. They were the conditions which the military commanders thought ought to be imposed before the provisional Government was given up. It is not an unreasonable proceeding to consult the military commanders, because we have a treaty right to occupy Tientsin. One of the terms of the protocol which was concluded last year was that we have the right of military occupation of certain points which lie between Peking and the sea, and one of these points is Tientsin, as any one will see who reads the protocol. We have a right to occupy Teintsin, and it is not unreasonable to say that certain precautions must be taken to maintain the safety of the military garrison there. It is not an unreasonable thing that the military commanders should be consulted as to what in their opinion the conditions should be; but it does not follow that the diplomatic body or ourselves will accept or are in favour of every particular recommendation of the military commanders. All we ask them to do is to give the representatives of the Powers the benefit of their advice, and it is this advice which was published in the Press as if it was the definite terms which the Powers were imposing upon the Chinese Government. These recommendations were nothing of the kind; they were simply the record of military opinion submitted to the diplomatic body, who, of course, are the immediate representatives of the Powers in China. The actual terms are now the subject of negotiation, and I am not at liberty to state the exact position of those negotiations, but this I will say, that the idea that the British Government are holding out for the uttermost farthing of those terms, or have ranged themselves with Powers who desire to impose the, hardest terms upon China is not the fact.


I do not wish to be understood as suggesting that position. I said we were pressing terms against our own opinions. The terms, as I understand, were, as the noble Lord informed us in answer to a question in this House, modified and accepted by the representatives, and after that an attempt was made to alter them.


The terms have not been definitely agreed upon between the Powers, and, as a matter of fact, the British Government would be very glad, and have said so, to see modifications in those terms. I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman if I have misrepresented him, but in such matters one's memory sometimes plays one false. We are anxious that there should be modifications in those terms, and I have very little doubt that there will be.

There are one or two other points in reference to China I have to deal with. I have been asked whether we are doing our best to support, English railway enterprise in China, and the reply is undoubtedly that we are. But there is an old proverb. "You may take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink." The Government, of course, support, as they ought to support, British conccssionnaires who are sound in all respects and in earnest in their efforts to develop China industrially; but I am bound to say that there has been a certain—I will not say remissness—perhaps a certain amount of indolence on the part of concessionnaires in the development of their concessions and in pushing their opportunities. Perhaps it may be said it is no business of mine to cricitise them, but I think lion. Gentlemen on either side should not assume that, because there has not been immediate development of British concessions, the fault lay always with the British Government. So far as I remember, there is not at present a single case of the kind. On the contrary, we are anxious to press things forward so far as the British Government legitimately may, in accordance with the practice which has always prevailed in our diplomacy.

The noble Lord behind me, and others, have asked me about the indemnity. This indemnity was a sum of money which the Chinese Government engaged to pay the Powers, and this is a gold debt. Of course, it is represented in taels, because the tael is the currency in China; but it is none the less a gold debt, and we cannot accept in payment anything but the equivalent of gold. I do not think we can recede from that position. Let me say at once that we have some sympathy with China in, this matter. The value of the tael has fallen, and whereas it stood at 3s. when the Agreement was entered into, it is now only 2s. 4d.

*MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)

Two shillings and sevenpence.


Then it has gone up again. At any rate, there has been a considerable fall—much greater than anyone anticipated at the time the Protocol was signed. But, of course, that makes no difference in the obligation, and we must still hold to the gold basis of our debt; but there are certain ameliorations we may grant to the Chinese in respect of it. I think, when the history of the negotiations comes to be written, it will be found that the British Government were anxious to treat the Chinese Government with all the consideration it was possible to give them. The noble Lord asked about private claims, and in answer to this question I have to say that where claims have occurred in consequence of the death of the breadwinner of a family, or where the claims are in amount under £100, they will be paid out of the first instalment, and in cash at their full nominal value in English currency. Other private claims not death claims and not of small amount we cannot treat quite so favourably. They will be paid as early as possible, as the money comes in from China; but claimants must submit to the loss which undoubtedly such a delay involves.

Then I have been questioned as to the likin negotiations. I can assure the lion. Member that the Government went into the negotiations with the greatest possible desire to carry them through, and I agree that it is almost hopeless to expect a total abolition of likin stations in China. At one time this was very much urged upon the Government by the hon. Member for Barnsley, who has taken so much part in Chinese debates, and I myself expressed a hope that such abolition might be possible. But the difficulties in the way seem to be almost insurmountable, because the larger part of the likin is raised, not on foreign, but on native trade, and therefore the sum of money involved in the abolition of the likin stations is very large—far larger than any reasonable increase in foreign trade would make good. If, as a matter of fact, we did obtain the abolition of the likin stations, and this was loyally carried out by the Chinese, it would undoubtedly involve a large loss of income. It would be hopeless, therefore, to expect it would be adhered to. On full consideration, the Government have, on the advice of those interested in Chinese trade, abandoned any hope of the total abolition of likin stations in China. But we still confidently hope that we shall be able, by fiscal arrangement, at any rate to relievo foreign trade of this enormous burden — an unfair, unknown, and incalculable burden of illegal likia—which at present weighs upon it.

Having answered most of the questions addressed to me, in conclusion I must decline to admit the charges of inefficiency made against the Foreign Office. The excellence of the Department is not entirely duo to its Parliamentary representatives, and not at all to the Under Secretary sitting in the House of Commons; but I must say my experience since I have been at the Foreign Office has shown me that in that Department the country is served by a devoted body of public servants, who in. all parts of the world have given proof of ability and resource; and if Members of the House really knew as much as I do on that matter, they would share in my commendation of them.


said the Committee could be congratulated upon the stronger and more satisfactory position of this country today for maintaining our interests in all parts of the world from that of twelve months ago. The conclusion of peace in South Africa had effected this change, and coupled with that, there was the statesmanlike Anglo-Japanese Treaty concluded in the interval—a treaty having no aggressive design, but based on just and equitable principles for the preservation of China for the Chinese and equal opportunities for all nations trading there. That Treaty carried with it responsibilities more than justified by its advantages, and especially by the fact that it was a. most powerful instrument for the preservation of peace in the Far East, and for securing that "open door" policy in China which was the basis of' the Government policy, and advocated on both sides of the House. In answering the many questions put to him, the noble Lord had omitted mention of Persia. Earlier in the session there was an interesting, and, on the whole, a satisfactory debate on the question of British interests in Persia, and on the relation of events there to the preservation of the safety of our Indian Empire. He should like to ask the noble Lord for information on three or four important points, in order to ascertain how far the, on the whole, satisfactory re-declaration of the policy of this country in regard to Persia was in process of having practical effect given to it, not by words only, but by deeds on the part of His Majesty's Government. Now, since that debate they knew that Persia had concluded a loan with Russia for £1,000,000 sterling. Everybody admitted that this country" had made a gigantic blunder in refusing to guarantee a loan of £2,500,000 to Persia some years age.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

No, no!


said his hon. friend be-low the gangway said "No, no"; but he thought it would have paid even the Government of India to guarantee a loan not only of £2,500,000, but of many times that amount, having regard to our expenditure on the military and naval defence of India, It would be interesting to know the terms and conditions on which the new Persian loan had been guaranteed by Russia. It might seriously endanger our influence land rightful predominance in the Gulf of Persia, if the custom receipts in the Gulf were allocated to Russia or to any other Power. Then, it was important to know whether the conditions of that loan included any railway concessions to Russia through Northern Persia to Teheran. One of the most influential Russian newspapers said in regard to this subject— It it is to be hoped that the friendly relations existing between the Persian and the Russian Governments will have prevented Persia from granting to Great Britain, without the knowledge of Russia, the right, to build-railways in any part of Southern Persia if Russia build lines in Northern Persia, as such a concession would be equivalent to a defeat of Russia, and would render it necessary for her to abandon her persistent desire to make an outlet for herself on the Indian Ocean. But it is none the less probable that British diplomacy has, for all that, succeeded in obtaining some important limitations of the Russo-Persian Agreement relating to railways, and, consequently, that if Russia continues to maintain her present altitude of expectancy her political opponents will redouble their efforts to obtain still further limitations of her rights, and during this time foreign civilising agents will gain an entry into Persia, even without railways. Such a state of affairs (concludes the journal) forces us, nolens rolens, to modify our policy with regard to Persia, by proceeding to construct railways in that kingdom, and by taking every other means to strengthen and to further our influence, instead of confining ourselves, as hitherto, to trying to preserve Persia from foreign influences. Reference had been made to the under standing between England and Russia in regard to maintaining the status quo in regard to Persia. It was of the highest importance, having regard to the position of Persia, that the integrity and independence of that country should be maintained. They had been told that that was the determined and settled policy of His Majesty's Government, and he asked the noble Lord to see that the Government took care that, when Persia was to be supplied with a system of railways, Great Britain should enjoy an equal right with Russia in supplying those railways. We should have the same right to build railways in Southern Persia, where, our interests were predominant, as Russia had to build railways in Northern Persia. He trusted that this matter would have the vigilant attention of His Majesty's Government, and that British rights to equal treatment would be resolutely maintained. It was also a matter of great importance to secure facilities for trade in Southern Persia by the improvement of existing roads, the building of new roads, and the removing of obstructions to river navigation. Without in the slightest degree wishing to be aggressive, he maintained that it was our duty to claim that in Southern Persia we should actively set on foot the improvement of communication so as to facilitate trade. By concerted action with the Government of India, the Karun river trade route should be improved, and a road made from Bunder Abbas, Kerman, and Yezd to Isfahan. That road would traverse for a great distance the telegraph line to Beluchistan, and it would be of the very greatest importance, as it would facilitate the entrance of British goods into Persia as well as forming an outlet for Persian trade. When this subject was previously discussed, they had to complain of an interference by Russia with our trade by the Quetta Nushki trade route. The Russian Government had sent down doctors, with Cossack guards, to harass our caravans from Beluchistan. He would like to know whether the representations which lie understood the Government had made to Russia in regard to this matter had been effectual or not. Our fellow-citizens in India had a right, to trade freely with Persia. We could take credit for this, that while we bore the whole cost of policing the Persian Gulf, we allowed foreign nations to trade there freely and on the same terms as our own; whereas Russia excluded every flag but her own from the Caspian Sea. He would further press the urgent necessity for proper facilities being given for the trade of India with Persia by the Quetta-Nushki trade route. Russia had already built three roads in Northern Persia with great advantage to her trade. He hoped the Committee would be assured that British interests, commercial and otherwise, in Persia, were receiving the careful and serious consideration of His Majesty's Government.

In regard to China, the noble Lord the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had not made it quite clear to the Committee what the policy of the Government was in regard to the situation in Newchwang. He thought that the handing back of Tientsin should take place simultaneously with the handing back of Newchwang to Chinese administration. England, Japan, and the United States, who had the same objects and shared the same views, ought to act together more closely, and not be dragged at the chariot wheels of Germany. Germany had done nothing whatever for the relief of the Legations at Peking. All that she had done was to send out, later, needless and marauding expeditions in Chi-li, which had sown a legacy of bitter hatred on the part of the Chinese to Europeans. It was high time that the British Government should dissociate itself from Germany in North China. Germany had invariably played into the hands of Russia, and treated the British unfairly.

Though the noble Lord was quite correct when he said that Tientsin was a place which we were at liberty to occupy, it was clearly contemplated by the protocol that the occupation of the city should be only temporary. He therefore submitted they ought to give the easiest terms possible for returning that important city to Chinese jurisdiction. The Viceroy of Chi-li, Yuan-Shik-Kai. had proved himself to be an enlightened, statesman, and he was the most powerful force for the protection of life and property of foreigners in North China; yet he was prevented from coming into Ins capital. Although the population of over one million was turbulent, and piracy was rife in the neighbourhood, he was forbidden to have more than 300 soldiers within eighteen miles of Tientsin. A more absurd and unjust proposal was never made. Russia today posed as the only friend of China, and that fact, having regard to the manner in which she had placed herself in the military occupation, of Manchuria, showed there must be some bungling in our diplomacy somewhere. He hoped the noble Lord would give, the Committee some clear intimation of their intention to disassociate themselves from Governments like that of Germany, and to treat the Chinese equitably and fairly, and with some humane consideration. They had heard nothing about the handing over of the Shan-Hai-Kwan Neweh-wang Railway to the Chinese. Then there was the transfer of the line from Tientsin to Shan-Hai-Kwan, which was prevented owing to the objection of the Russian Government, and the conditions were, in consequence, to be varied. When was that sort of tiling to end? We were supposed to have the strongest Government the country had ever had, and yet, on the objection of Russia, we were to back down and alter the forms and conditions of an equitable agreement. The Government should look after British interests, and act in concert with Japan and the United States. For the first lime in her history, the great and wealthy Empire of China was to be supplied with railways; we were a great manufacturing nation, and should have our share in supplying the materials for those railways along with other nations. The Committee was told that British concession naires had obtained concessons to lay 2,800 miles of lines of railway, but the curious fact was that, while they found other countries laying down railways under the condition that all the material must be drawn from the country of the concessionnaire not one yard of the British concessionnaires' railways had been laid. He did not think that was entirely the fault of the Government, but was due rather to the fact that, British concessionnaires had not the energy of their competitors. The 2,800 miles of railway for which we had obtained concessions were among the cream of the railway concessions of China, The railway enterprises in the Yang-tsze regions were among the most premising in the world, yet the money had not been found to build them. It might be that the British concessionnaires would say they were not backed up by their Government in the same way as those of Belgium, France, Germany, and Russia, He believed that was true. He believed that the concessionnaires of these countries obtained these concessions on the best terms they could, and then when they had obtained them, snapped their fingers at the terms, and carried out the concessions in the form most favourable to themselves. He thought all rights granted to other concessionnaires should be granted to British concessionnaires also.

With regard to the new commercial treaty, he was bound to confess, after further information, and after having studied that most complicated question of likin. that though it was most desirable that, likin should be abolished, yet as the whole question was involved and complex, such a change could not be expected in the near future. The effect of the swollen indemnity, which was in the aggregate twice as large as the European nations could justly claim, if it were demanded in full, would be rendered doubly oppressive to the Chinese owing to the fall in the price of silver, and would make the abolition of likin impossible. The Government had expressed sympathy in this matter, but he would have them sympathetic in a practical manner. This indemnity had to be paid in the main by the rich districts like the Yang-tsze region, and a significant fact was that Manchuria would not contribute anything. What would be the effect on this fertile region of the Yang-teze, which had been kept in a condition of law and order during the recent crisis, when the people were called upon to pay this sum to the foreigners for their operations in northern; China? In all probability three, times as much as was needed to pay the indemnity would be extracted from them. There was a great danger of a strong anti-foreign feeling growing upon the minds of the Chinese of Central China, which might culminate in greater trouble in the future than they had experienced in the past, if this was persisted in. The policy of dealing leniently, and not demanding our pound of flesh from these people, would be the wisest that the Government could pursue. He hoped some assurance would be given by the noble Lord that these I matters should receive his consideration. We desired facilities for trade in China, and if, through some modification of the policy of the Government we could; get greater facilities for trade, the opening up to trade of the rivers of China, and the free right to trade with every riverside town. If there could be International Conservancy Boards for the removal of obstructions to navigation on the great rivers, there would be a greater opening for trade with China. It was in that way we should seek for compensation from the Chinese people, rather than by an indemnity. There was no question whatever but that the Government had an opportunity now, seeing that we had Japan as our close ally in the far East, and knowing as they did that the United States held these just and liberal-minded views, of rendering a most important service not only to the Chinese people but to the people of this country by increasing British trade with that great Empire.

*(6.15.) MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR (Essex, Romford)

said the criticisms of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean might have been of weight, and would no doubt be duly considered. Although it was easy to be wise after the event, he could not help thinking when the right hon. Baronet described the policy of the Foreign Office as weak and vacillating, he went beyond the mark. The policy adopted by the Foreign Office had been to get all they could and to tell others to keep their hands off. He rose however to draw attention to the commercial side of the question. The consular attaches were ignored in this country. If they compared what England did in Germany with what was done by the United States, they would find that the consular reports handed to the business men of this country were absolutely useless to them, and would not compare with those furnished to American traders. The persons we appointed as Consuls were usually men retired from business.


reminded the hon. Member that there was a separate Vote for the Consular Service, arid that the hon. Member would not be in order to go into that matter.


submitted to the ruling of the Chair, and called attention to the money wasted by the Foreign Office in having diplomatic Ministers us Saxony and other places, and complained of the policy of the Foreign Office in not resuming the commercial relations with Bolivia which were severed in 1840 by our consular agent there becoming an agent for the revolutionary party. We did more trade with Bolivia than with any other South American country, and he hoped the noble Lord would find it convenient to appoint another Consul, and not keep alive the sentiment which animated us; when, in 1840, Mr. Lloyd our agent there was asked to quit the country. He also hoped the time was near when the noble Lord would attend only to the political side, and a Minister of Commerce would be created to deal with commercial matters.


said this country had been able to bear with equanimity the disadvantage of not having a Minister at Bolivia ever since 1840, and, in his opinion, the hon. Gentleman had given excellent reasons for not having one there now. From bad things there was always something good to be got, and he was very glad that Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister and not his hon. friend the Member for Barnsley, who, if he were Foreign Secretary, would in a short time involve us in a war with China, Germany, Russia, and France on the subject, of concessions, and while waiting for that war would spend our money in building railways and improving the roads arid rivers in Persia. Did not his hon. friend know that at the present moment we were dependent upon American energy for moving about in this country? He was one of those who desired to see money spent at home, and not in other countries for the benefit of other people. As for the concessionaires, they might be the innocent people which the hon. Gentleman assumed they were, but as a rule the concessionnaire was sent out by some vague syndicate in England to urge that a concession should be given to him, and no sooner did he get it than he communicated with his syndicate, which possibly paid £600 or £700 for it, which brought out a company for £500,000 or perhaps £1,000,000, and then went to America for their materials. The syndicate made their money, and the people who lost were those who joined the company to open up by railway communication the towns with the almost unintelligible names which his hon. friend had referred to.

He looked on the Japanese Treaty as a mistake. We could always have made a treaty with Japan when we required to, and we should have kept our hands free. But we had tied our hands by making a general treaty; we had entered into almost an offensive treaty, because Russia and Japan had their eye on Korea as we had ours on the Transvaal, and if they went to war we were bound to go to the assistance of Japan, while Japan would not assist us in defending our possessions at home. He agreed that the open door was most desirable in China, but that ought to be obtained in concert with the other Powers, and by making treaties first with one nation and then with another. We made a treaty with Germany, and then when Count Von Billow explained that it meant nothing, we went to Japan.

He rose, however, to controvert one or two observations of his right hon. friend; the Member for the Forest of Dean. His right hon. friend had said that the understanding with Italy was a beneficial one. The origin of that understanding was this: When Crispi, who had been at the head of the Radicals, still retaining his views, went over to the Conservative Party, much as the Colonial Secretary had done in this House, he went to Berlin and saw Count Bismarck. Count Bismarck proposed a treaty to him between Italy, Austria and Germany. Crispi said he foresaw that one day they might be in conflict with France: that Germany could not defend the coast; that it was England who must do that. The Minister in power in this country at the time then arrived at an arrangement with Italy, which enabled her to join the Triple Alliance. In 1891 Mr. Gladstone, always the strong friend of Italy, called attention to the arrangement in an article in a magazine, and protested against this species of engagement into which we had entered, and protested still more against the practice of Ministers entering into them without discussing the matter in the House. It was arranged that with the support of Mr. Gladstone he (Mr. Labouchere) should raise that question in the House. Mr. Gladstone pointing out that if Ministers denied any treaty or understanding he was to accept the denial at once, because if it was denied the Liberal Party were not bound in any way, as it would then only be a private arrangement between Lord Salisbury and the Italian Minister. The question was raised, and there was a general admission made that something had been done, but the Government based their position on the status quo. But they had gone a good deal beyond preserving the status quo; a variety of engagements had been made by the Government, not only to defend the Italian coast, but with regard to other matters. He thought the Committee had a right to ask the Under Secretary of State whether the Government had pledged themselves at the present moment.


said notes had been exchanged with regard to the maintenance of the status quo in the Mediterranean and adjacent seas.


said that at any rate these arrangements went on, and the records were at the Foreign Office. The Committee had a perfect right now to ask what those arrangements were, and how far they were valid. Were the facts with regard to Italy as, stated by greatest mistake to suppose that the the right hon. Baronet? It was the Liberal Party in Italy desired any arrangement either with this country or with the Triple Alliance. It was practically admitted that those arrangements were made to induce Italy to enter into the Triple Alliance. But the Alliance obliged Italy to maintain a large army, and must involve her in war if hostilities broke opt between Germany and France, so that the people there did riot thank us for having aided and abetted in securing their country to join the Triple Alliance. The action of France in enormously raising the duties on wine and silk almost ruined commerce in Italy, rand it was purely the financial difficulty which had induced the country to make a treaty and enter into friendly relations with France. Our business ought to be to remain perfectly neutral if there happened to be a great war. The Committee had been told that the status quo in the Mediterranean must be maintained. To desire that status quo to exist was one thing, but to enter into a treaty which must involve the country in war in order to maintain it, was a totally different thing. His right hon. friend had at any rate hinted that it would not be a bad thing to enter into a treaty with Italy with regard to Morocco. Did the Committee suppose we could enter into such a treaty without giving something to Italy? The Italians were uncommonly good diplomatists, and always wanted to get whatever they could, and they would certainly want something in return. He protested against all treaties which compromised the country, and against the habit, which was growing more and more common with the Foreign Office, of making engagements and giving pledges, winch, they were told, were not treaties, but which compromised the country. He was of the school who hold that no treaty ought to be made or any war engaged in without the House of Commons having been consulted, and its assent obtained. Such an arrangement would be a great safeguard. He asked the noble Lord whether he would frankly tell the Committee under what obligation to Italy we were at the present moment.

*(6.52.) MR. BECKETT (Yorkshire, N.R., Whitby)

said that, having recently returned from China, the Committee would perhaps permit him to speak on this question, fie did not rise to curse the Foreign Office, nor did he intend to bless them altogether. The noble Lord would himself probably admit that during the last few years there had been many opportunities which had been either thrown away or of which full advantage had not been taken. It was not fully realised how much our foreign agents depended upon the 1 Foreign Office. In fact, the Department and its agents all over the world were like one great body. If the brain, which was the Foreign Office at home, were at all sluggish or inert, its agents also were sluggish or inert; if, on the other hand, the former were active and enterprising, so also were the latter. The agents were very responsive to the influences they received from home. The machinery of the Foreign Office was entirely under the control and management of the head of the Department. If a man like Lord Salisbury were at the head, the Department would be worked in one way, while under a man like Lord Palmerston it would be worked quite differently. That being so, he did not think it at all necessary to set on foot an inquiry as to the working I operations of the Foreign Office as suggested by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, inasmuch as its effectiveness or I otherwise so largely depended upon the man who was the head of it.

The hon. Member for King's Lynn had said he would like to investigate the secret correspondence of the Foreign Office. No doubt he would, and the result of his investigation would be a series of amusing and instructive speeches in the House, but it was rather doubtful whether the public service would be benefited thereby. Complaint had been made that the Foreign Office did not pay sufficient attention to the interests of the British Empire outside Europe. The Anglo-Japanese Treaty was a conclusive answer to that complaint. Anybody who waded through the correspondence in the Blue-book would be compelled to admit that such a charge was unfounded. When that treaty was first proclaimed, he had doubts and misgivings in regard to it. But it bad been received with acclamation in this country and in Japan, and be. fully admitted that it bad done much to strengthen and establish our position in the Far East. At the same time it should be borne in mind that many newspapers were rather inclined to overrate, at all events, the military power of Japan. The noble Lord the Member for Woolwich had spoken highly of the Japanese Navy, and of that he was a good judge; but as to the Japanese Army, it should be remembered that it bad fought a successful campaign only against very inferior forces, and how it would fare against trained European troops was a matter of conjecture. He deprecated the power given under the treaty to Japan to involve us in enterprises in the Far East of which we might not quite approve; it would be an unfortunate thing if the Japanese were allowed to dictate to England the lines of the policy to be there adopted. The Government, however, in making this treaty had probably wrought better than they knew, because recently there bad been a strong tendency on the part of the Chinese to throw themselves into the arms of the Japanese. They were sending their young men to be instructed and taught in Japan in modern knowledge and science, and they were adopting Japanese methods in the training of their army and navy. They could not go to Europe, because by so doing, jealousies would be created among the various European Powers, but by going to Japan they could acquire an immense amount of modern information, and adopt European methods in so far as they could he adapted to Chinese ideas. The Chinese and the Japanese were now closely linked in friendship, and the fact that we had this agreement with Japan would undoubtedly tend to extend our influence over China. He would remind the Committee, however, of almost the last words of Li Hung Chang, viz.— We wish to be friendly with England; we have every disposition to fall in with your views; but we must know what you want. We know what Russia wants. She always fulfils her threats, and sometimes her promises; whereas England changes her policy from day to day. The policy of the open door was all very well, but the policy of the open mind was dangerous in the extreme, and had been the cause of most of our difficulties and the loss of our prestige in China. The Chinese felt that if they took steps to help England one day, they would probably find what they had done being used against them by other Powers shortly afterwards. If we wanted to establish our friendship with China on a firm footing, we must settle upon our policy and pursue it steadily.

He congratulated the noble Lord on the fact that the more recent policy of England, in many matters outside the Japanese Treaty, had gained the confidence of the English generally in the Far East, and that it was generally approved of by the Chinese themselves. There was one thing which he should like to say with regard to a remark in the speech of his noble friend. He said in a rather peremptory tone that it was not for us to ask for treaties, but to grant them. He would like to see that statement toned down a little. These words might be taken to mean that other Powers should come to us, hat in hand, begging for treaties; that we were graciously pleased to extend our favour to them or not, as we felt inclined. The noble Lord, he was sure, did not mean that, and he would not wish either to offend the susceptibilities of Japan in any way, with whom we had made our treaty on terms of equality. It was a mistake, in dealing with foreign nations, and especially Germany, to give away concessions unasked, as we had done in 1898 to Germany with regard to Shantung. In that case, undoubtedly, we gave away our rights unnecessarily when we bound ourselves not to ask for mining rights nor to make railways there, nor, in fact, to extend our enterprises beyond ten miles round Wei-Hai-Wei. Germany did not ask us to make that concession. He did not think his hon. friend the Member for Barnsley need disturb himself very much about German influence in the Shantung Peninsula, because the Germans were not making very great way there. The merchants carrying on trade there did not like the military régime, which was too straight-laced for them. With regard to railways, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had blamed the Government for not assisting British enterprise in China, He would like to know what that meant. Did he mean that the British Govern ment should guarantee a loan for the purpose of constructing railways under a concession? If the British Government used its influence to obtain concessions it was for capitalists to come forward and work them. Ho did not think the Government should be expected to do more than they had done. The Government had done all that could be reasonably expected with regard to concessions in securing a fair field and no favour. If capitalists would not take advantage of them, what; more could the Government do? A very enlightened Chinaman had said that he was in favour of China giving concessions to everybody to make railways, because if the railways were a success the Chinese would buy them, while if they were a failure the foreigners would lose their money. The idea in asking for Government aid was that they would thereby be enabled to occupy the country politically. That was an impossible dream. China could never be occupied or partitioned by foreign Powers. Sir European Powers failed to govern one province; how would they govern eighteen? They would be helpless. Their laws would not be obeyed, and they could not collect their taxes. China must be left to herself, and she would soon be able to protect herself against any aggression. There; was no reason to fear a military; invasion by China. It was not a military nation, and it was not an aggressive nation by any means, but undoubtedly if we opened up China and made it rich and prosperous we would raise up a most forcible commercial rival to ourselves, and we would be exposed to competition which did not at present exist. He must say that everybody who had studied the Question of the indemnity regarded it as nothing more nor less than an extortion. In the raising of money to meet the demand, the punishment would fall upon the innocent and not the guilty, and it was on account of that condition of things that the outbreaks had recently occurred in the southern provinces. Therefore, in dealing with the matter of the indemnity, they ought to be very careful indeed. It was an extremely difficult question, and he was not at all surprised that the Government should hesitate to make up their minds upon it. With regard to the withdrawal of the troops from Tientsin, he said the authorities there were apprehensive that if this were done there might be a recrudescence of the disturbance. It would be a great misfortune if that result were to follow the withdrawal of the troops. But the present Governor of the province was a young man with pro-foreign sympathies, and he had been so far backed up to a very large extent by the Government at Pekin. He had every disposition to be friendly to us, and our best policy was to trust him, as if we distrusted him he might be turned into an enemy. The Germans had not the slightest intention of withdrawing their troops until they were compelled to do so. If we wanted the country to settle down, we must get the Germans out of it. The Committee knew the charges that had been made against our soldiers in South Africa by people in Germany, but if those who preferred those charges had a full, true, and particular account of the outrages practised by the Germans in Pechili, they might be astonished, but they would feel that they had no right to attack us for what they supposed our soldiers had done. Some complaint bad been made that our Consuls in China were underpaid and overworked. That was true. But it was untrue that commercial affairs were neglected by our Consuls, who were always ready to give all reasonable help to our traders and merchants. They exercised certain judicial duties, and they enjoyed the confidence of the Chinese in a measure which was not extended to the Consuls of any other nation. He invited the attention of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the fact I that they were seriously overworked. He hoped he had not attacked the Foreign Office unfairly in regard to anything they had done in China; and; he trusted that the noble Lord would continue the line he had lately adopted, I and administer Chinese affairs with impartiality, and in sympathy with the; Chinese, and with a clear and settled idea as to what we wanted, and a firm determination not to be baulked or turned aside in the pursuit of the objects we sought to obtain.


said he intended to move the reduction of the salary of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. No information had been given them that afternoon in reference to the position of the Japanese people in Australia, under the treaty between this country and Japan. He was afraid that a certain amount of uneasiness existed in Australia in regard to that treaty. On the 8th of May last the hon. Member for the Scotland Division had asked a question whether the Anglo-Japanese Treaty contained terms by which Japanese subjects might go to Australia; and the answer of the Secretary of the Colonies was "No;" that the subject of emigration from Japan to Australia had not been contemplated. Before this Vote went, through, the noble Lord the undersecretary for Foreign Affairs ought to make some statement in reference to what had taken place between this Government and that of Japan. It could not be expected that if Great Britain entered into an alliance with Japan, the people of Japan were not to be, allowed access to portions of the territory of the nation with which they had entered into alliance. At the same time, it was of enormous importance to the people of Australia that their country should not be flooded by Asiatic immigrants. As to the noble Lord the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he had long resolved to say frankly across the floor of the House what, within his own knowledge, a large number of Members had said; both inside and outside the House, although, so far as he knew, they had not had the courage directly to say it across the floor of the House, He did not desire to be personally offensive to the noble Lord. He was not anxious to deal with this as a personal matter at all, but he did say that, from a public point of view, it was regarded, not alone by many Members of the House, but by a largo section of the public outside, that it was a most improper thing that the noble Lord should occupy the position he did in this House. The representative of the Foreign Office; in this House occupied one of the greatest I positions which any Member of the House ' could occupy, and the foreign1 relations of this country constituted perhaps the most fluxions and important point of the Government of the country. And yet when this Vote came up for discussion for the first time that afternoon there was not a single member of the Government present except the noble Lord. More than that, there were not absolutely throughout the afternoon more than a dozen supporters of the Government on the Benches opposite. He had himself several times counted the number of Members present in the House, and he saw that there was not a quorum. Why was this, when such serious questions were being dealt with as our relations with China, the position of Russia and Germany, and many other important matters connected with foreign affairs? He maintained that it was because, since the noble Lord had had charge of foreign affairs in this House, foreign affairs had ceased to have the interest for hon. Members which they had when the Foreign Office was represented in this House by some responsible statesmen. No one who had hoard the noble Lord's arrogant statement that this nation would make a treaty with no other nation that did not come as a supplicant and beg for it, would not have been convinced that the man who made that statement was absolutely incapable of occupying a position of a Minister for Foreign Affairs. Why was he Minister for Foreign Affairs in this House? They talked sometimes of the methods by which America was governed, but if the President of the United States attempted to make his own son one of his most prominent Ministers—the Minister for Foreign Affairs, for instance—[Cries of "Oh, oh" from the Ministerial Benches]—the people of America would not stand it. He did not mean to be personally offensive; he would say the same thing of any other Gentleman. But the fact that the noble Lord was at the head of the Foreign Office was not due to his ability, or to his service and record in this House, but was absolutely due to his being the son of the Prime Minister.

The hon. Member was still speaking at half-past seven o'clock when the sitting was suspended.

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

The Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.