HC Deb 17 February 1903 vol 118 cc106-32

Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Question [17th February], "That an humble address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—

"Most Gracious Sovereign,

"We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament." — (Mr. Grelton.)

Questing again proposed. Debate resumed.

MR. SCHWANN, continuing his speech, said that when interrupted by that one touch of Nature which makes the whole world kin, he was expressing the hope that in the future Germany would walk hand in hand with this country in the paths of civilisation, and he was suggesting that loyal co-operation would be quite as successful as high-handed sentiment, but that presents of statues to the United States of America, and presents to the Sultan, were not necessarily sentiments of amity. He had noticed that in any negotiations we had with Germany we had always come worse off. He personally attributed that to the incompetence of our Foreign Office. That had been clearly shown in regard to the negotiations in connection with Venezuela. The country had had a clear statement of what our demands on Venezuela were, and the public had been able to take a clear view of the situation, and it had not redounded to the credit of the Government.

He was afraid that in other quarters of the globe the Government were preparing fresh disasters for themselves. The Prime Minister, at Liverpool, referred to Somaliland, and said:—

"We are at this moment, for example, engaged in military operations in Somaliland. I do not think the public have taken the smallest interest in it; but the cost will be more than Venezuela both in men and money, and the effect of the operations will be far-reaching."

He thought that the Prime Minister had made a great mistake; the public was taking a great interest in all this expenditure of money in the wars in which we were engaged; they say how easily they were entered into, but they did not see how we were to get out of them. They had been told that the Venezuelan question was to be settled in a fortnight, and it had lasted two months; and that Somaliland was to cost only a quarter of a million, but if we were to pursue the Mullah all over the country, everybody knew that the cost of carrying supplies in Africa was enormous, and nobody could see what the extent of our liabilities would be.

There was a prospect of another muddle in North Nigeria. Referring to the occupation of Kano by our forces, he accused the Government of ingratitude, asserting that it was largely owing to the fact that the chiefs of Kano and Sokoto remained loyal to the Niger Company that England was able to make good her claims to Nigeria against France and Germany when the delimitation of that part of Africa took place. Sir F. Lugard's action might have serious consequences. He was said to have acted precipitately and without any command from the Foreign Office, but the Foreign Office was responsible all the same. Kano and Sokoto were peopled by Mahomedans, and if the standard was raised against the "infidel Christian" we might have a repetition of the Soudan trouble in West Africa, the area of North Nigeria was not to be counted by thousands, but by hundreds of thousands of square miles; the population was counted by millions, and the whole of the Chad Basin was a slumbering volcano which one spark of religious fanaticism might set in eruption. He was afraid that we might find that in that case we had again put our hands into a hornets' nest. He would not labour the subject, as it was just possible that when Members had digested the Blue-book some Amendment would be moved to the Address with regard to this matter.

With regard to the Venezuelan question they must take into consideration, when pressing their claims, that President Castro was attempt- ing to put down one of the worst revolutions that the country had ever seen, and that it was not easy for a man who had the greatest difficulty in paying his own army and obtaining his own supplies to meet all claims made against the State at once. On the question of Army Reform, he advocated the appointment of a Commission, with full power to make the radical changes necessary to secure for the country an adequate and efficient army. The disclosures in connection with the Grenadier Guards showed that no great improvement would be made in the Army system until all regiments were directed and officered by professional men. He recalled the fact that Sir Clinton Dawkins indulged in some reminiscences at a dinner at the Article Club at which he was a guest, and said that, as a young man, he had been warned against a certain General who was described to him as "a damned professional soldier, and ought to be cut by everybody." But the army would never be efficient until it was controlled by professional men. A case came before his (Mr Schwann's) own notice. A young soldier, who had served in South Africa and had returned, called upon him and stated that he wanted to enter the Reserves; he had applied to the War Office, and his claim was not admitted; he had been in the regiment in which his father and his grandfather had both previously served; and for two consecutive years he had secured the prize for being the smartest man. He had also a certificate of education, and yet the War Office refused him permission to enter the Reserves. He (the hon. Member) had written to the War Office and pointed our that this was a man that ought not to be refused; that such a man not only was a good Reservist, but also acted as a recruiting sergeant, which was quite contrary to what many young men who had returned from South Africa had done.

He regretted that the King's Speech contained no indication of any measure to make provision for the greater safety of railway servants. He pointed out that since the compulsory attachment of automatic couplings on some of the American railways the percentage of deaths and injuries to railway workers had de- creased to a large extent, and he hoped that promises made in this direction had not been forgotten. The Government were to be congratulated on the success of the new Licensing Act, and he was glad to see it was proposed to extent the Act to Scotland, where it was certainly needed. He congratulated the Government that the almost immediate effect of the Licensing Act had been to lessen the practice of pawning among the poorer classes. More money now found its way home, and the necessity for the pawnbroker was not so great as before the passing of the Act.

The Irish question was too large for him to deal with on that occasion, but on that side of the House the land proposal would be received with interest and a desire to carry through any Bill that promised to remove the state of agrarian warfare which had existed so long. He believed that the British public would be ready to pay any reasonable sum to bridge the division between the landlords' demands and the amount tenants were willing and able to pay. He hoped that the visit of the Colonial Secretary to South Africa would be followed by the best results, expressing his strong opposition to the legalising of forced labour there.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said he rose only to call attention to two matters connected with the Metropolis in which, as a London Member, he had a special interest. The principal question on which he wished to say a word was that of education. His right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition had said earlier in the evening that he hoped if any change was made in the constitution of the London School Board, to which he referred in a most eloquent and friendly manner, it would be transferred to the London County Council, but he (Mr. Lough) hoped that is would not be too readily concluded that the view of the Liberal Party generally was that the new educational authority for London should be the London County Council. He was in favour of an ad hoc authority, which was justified by the great success of the London School Board. The most influential opinion expressed among the teachers and managers of the London School Board was that at any rate a great part of the controlling authority should be by a directly elected body.

Coming to the appointment of a Royal Commission to consider the question of locomotion and traffic in London, he desired, in the first place, in the name of the London Members, to enter a protest against such an important and delicate matter, affecting the health and development of the Metropolis, being suddenly referred to a Royal Commission without some communication being first made to the Members for London, or to those who had devoted many years to the study of the subject. The responsibility for that rested, of course, mainly with hon. Gentlemen opposite, because the very large majority of the representatives of the Metropolis were supporters of the Government. But surely before the Royal commission was announced, they ought to have had communicated to them, in some friendly way, the reasons for the action to be taken and the proposed terms of reference, and then opinions should have been invited in regard thereto. He was bound to say that the reference was. a most extraordinary one, viz., to "consider the organisation and regulation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic." That reference might have been an excellent one, if they had had a clean slate to deal with, but in this matter they had not. Did it not seem somewhat of an interference with the work of the Chief Commissioner of Police? How could they regulate vehicular traffic, he would like to know? The second part of the reference was just as extraordinary. It asked the Commission to suggest some authority or tribunal to which all schemes of railway and tramway construction of a local character should be referred. Why should these matters be taken out of the control of Parliament? This work was going on steadily day by day; there were all sorts of schemes being carried out in London, and many others were projected. What was to become of the London railway and tramway schemes which were to be brought before Parliament this session, and upon which a great deal of money had been or was to be spent? Were they to be hung up until the Commission had reported? It seemed to him that the Government had made a great mistake in thinking that these schemes could be brought before a Royal Commission which could throw no special light on such matters. He thought that London Members on the Opposition side of the House had great reason to the Commission. No doubt, personally, the gentlemen selected would be most excellent members, but the fact remained that the whole body of progressive opinion in London was practically unrepresented. It would have been wiser for the Government to have selected for the Commission men closely connected with London, like the members of the County Council, and, therefore, with the necessary knowledge of the problems of its traffic. Why should Sir George Barbour, for instance, have been selected to act as chairman? He was no doubt an eminent Indian official, but of what especial value would experience gained in India be in dealing with the problem of London traffic? And again, the only representative of that side of the House on the Commission was the late Attorney General, the hon. Member for Dumfries Burghs. He was a Scotchman and a lawyer, but did those qualifications specially fit him to deal with this great London question? Why had not someone more closely identified with London been chosen in his place? Again, why was there such a strong railway element introduced? Why had the settlement of these delicate questions been put in the hands of men who, by their action in the past, had proved that they thought more of the development of their own large interests than of serving the needs of the Metropolis? He could not understand why there was such a strong representation of the railway element. Further, he would ask why was not Labour represented on the Commission, seeing that it was so deeply interested in the question. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to modify the composition of the Commission, and also to inform the House what was to become of the schemes which were to be brought before Parliament this session. Were they to be hung up until the Commission had reported?


The complaint of the hon. Member for West Islington is that the Royal commission has been appointed in too great haste and without consulta- tion with the London representatives and local authorities. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that he stands alone in this opinion. Since the Commission has been appointed I have received many communications with respect to it, but not one on the lines of the hon. Gentleman, who seems to think that, among other bodies, the London County Council will be unduly prejudiced by the appointment of the Commission. He does not seem to be aware that the London County Council has been pressing for months for the appointment of such a Commission with some such reference. The hon. Member seems to hold that the London County Council is not satisfied either with the Commission or the reference. My information is that they are not dissatisfied. On the contrary, they recognise that what the Government have done has gone a long way towards the carrying out on their own wishes. Then the hon. Member complains of the reference. He gave it a most extraordinary interpretation. He seems to think the Commission has been appointed, not merely to inquire, but actually to administer. It has no administrative power whatever. If it had it would, no doubt, constitute a precedent of a very remarkable character, but if the hon. Member will kindly take the trouble to read the terms of reference more carefully he will see that its duty is to advise on the methods that would be most effectual in developing tramway and railway communication in London. It will not be called upon to decide as to the merits of any particular scheme, but it will have to advise whether it is desirable in the case of railways and tramways to appoint a body constituted on lines similar to the Light Railways Commission or the Traffic Commissioners of New York. That is the very point on which the London County Council laid the greatest stress, I do not desire in any way to prejudge any conclusion at which the Commission may arrive, but in any case I think the hon. Member is almost alone in the attitude he has taken up. He asks what will happen to the schemes now before Parliament. In appointing this Commission the Government were aware that one on the arguments against that course of action was the possibility that enterprise might be checked; but they came to the conclusion that on the balance of con- siderations it was desirable to appoint one, even at the risk of delaying the carrying out of schemes which might otherwise have been brought forward. It is not possible to lay down any general scheme as to the treatment the House may extend to schemes that come before it during the period of inquiry; but probably there will be some schemes which it will be desirable to stop on the second reading, others which may be sent to a Committee, and a third section as to which the promoters must be prepared to take the responsibility of going before a Committee, knowing, of course, that the Committee will be aware that the whole subject is being investigated by a Commission and that consequently it may not see fit to pass the preamble of the Bill. It is not possible to be more explicit on that subject. Another question raised by the hon. Member was as to the constitution of the Commission. The hon. Gentleman has mistaken the principle on which members of the Commission have been selected. It was felt that special interests should not be strongly represented—if represented at all on the Commission. But it was desired to have a very strong Commission, because this is a very important and difficult question. Anybody who reads the names will admit that the Commission is a very strong one. The hon. Member has made an attack on the Chairman, and has suggested that he is not a fit person to preside. But everybody who knows Sir David Barbour must be aware that he is a man of the very highest capacity. For work of this kind you must have a man not only of the highest capacity but one also of the inclination to devote himself to it.


I only complained of his want of local knowledge.


That local knowledge can be acquired in the course of the inquiry, seeing that it is the duty of a Commission to take evidence; and I am sure that long before the Commission reports Sir David Barbour will be thorough master of the subject. As to the representation of the London County Council, I am not aware that that body have found any fault with the representation given to them. They have two Members, one belonging to the Progressive and the other to the Moderate Party, and both gentlemen take a very great interest in the question of railway and tramway communication in London. I am not prepared to accede to the hon. Member's suggestion that a working man should be put on the Commission. I am not desirous that any special interest should be represented. I would reduce rather than enlarge the number of Commissioners, and I should be very reluctant indeed to put on the representative of any special interest who would serve on it with the deliberate object of dealing with the question in one particular way. That is not the type of Commissioner I have sought to obtain. I am perfectly aware that certain Royal Commissions are constituted on the principle of putting a number of partisans on the one side, and another set of partisans on the other. Sometimes it is almost impossible to avoid that particular method of constituting a Royal Commission, but where it is possible I think it is very desirable to avoid it, because I do not believe that on the whole you get the best results from a Commission constituted on that principle.

*MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

I desire to refer to certain aspects of foreign politics to which the King's Speech itself devotes rather more space than has usually been the case of recent years. Amongst those questions of foreign politics there are two, one of which might have attained dimensions of great gravity, whilst the other is becoming more and more serious every day, and may at any time attain the position of an international question of the first importance. I should not have thought of coupling together two such entirely different questions as Venezuela and Macedonia had not the Prime Minister at Liverpool a few days ago placed them in the same juxtaposition. The right hon. Gentleman used a very singular argument. He said, in effect, "How can you object to co-operation between two European Powers with regard to Venezuela when you advocate international co-operation with regard to Macedonia?" The two positions are diametrically opposite. In the case of Venezuela, what was objected to by responsible critics, was not the fact that Great Britain intervened for the purpose of redressing certain wrongs, but the hard and fast agreement between ourselves and Germany, who, as was considered on the other side of the Atlantic, had different aims and objects. The chief objection was to the particular method and the terms of that co-operation. It was, moreover, of a temporary, incidental, and accidental character.

With regard to Macedonia, the case is absolutely different. There, in common with other great Powers of Europe, we are under definite treaty obligations to intervene. Under the Treaty of San Stefano Macedonia was taken from Turkish rule, and placed temporarily under Bulgarian auspices. For various reasons Europe, at the Berlin Congress, thought fit to place Macedonia once more under Turkish rule. I do not desire to enter into the merits of the question. I still think that the solution provided by the Treaty of San Stefano was not a satisfactory solution, because it laid more store by the wishes and needs of the Bulgarian population than by those of the other numerous races which form part of Macedonia. But this must be obvious; that the European Powers, of which we are one, having taken upon themselves the responsibility of restoring that great province to Turkish rule, are absolutely bound, morally and by treaty, to see that the inhabitants do not suffer by that action. We have been promised in the course of a few days some Papers as to the reforms which are being urged upon the Sultan of Turkey by Austria-Hungary and Russia, with the assent of this country and other Powers. Until those Papers are presented it is impossible to go into details. But this question is not a new one. There has been a chronic state of misgovernment in Macedonia for years, and it has recently become aggravated mainly by action instigated from Constantinople itself, but partly also by the fact that certain extremists in Bulgaria, being driven to desperation by the oppression of their kinsmen over the border, have resorted to methods in themselves indefensible, but the outcome of the abominable state of things there prevailing. We have heard a great deal about the Bulgarians, but after all, they are not the ony, perhaps not the chief, sufferers. For years tribal feuds have been going on between the Albanians and the Servians, and if the matter is looked into one will perhaps be driven to the conclusion that the Servians have had more to suffer than any other race in Macedonia. In the Southern part of Macedonia also Greeks and Kondzo - Vlacks have had their grievances, and the whole matter has been fermented by the state of misrule which prevails. The Turkish Government, by sowing dissension, and often by the employment of provocative agents, have produced a condition of affairs which they have proceeded to repress in accordance with their usual methods. That is obviously a state of things which Europe ought not to tolerate, and that it should have been tolerated for so many years constitutes a serious reflection on the indifference of the great Powers. I would urge the Government to do their utmost to secure that the reforms now being pressed upon the Sultan should be manageable reforms. I agree with the hope of the Prime Minister that they will be of a simple character. What is chiefly needed at present is adequate guarantees for life and property. It would be impossible at the present stage, with the divisions which exist between different races and creeds in Macedonia, to secure an absolutely permanent settlement. But we can, and ought, to insist on a reasonable amount of law and order being restored, and that those who at present are in daily and hourly jeopardy should have a reasonable amount of security.

How is that guarantee to be secured? We do not know what this proposed scheme of reform is to be, but, according to reports, Macedonia is to be divided, for administrative purposes, and a Christian Governor appointed. I have considerable doubt whether a Christian Governor who is a Turkish subject would be of much avail in the present state of Macedonia. Something of the kind was tried in Crete, with the result that the condition of affairs was worse than before. A Christian Governor does not command sufficient respect among the Mohammedans, who form the principal part both of the army and of the official classes, and he would not be treated with sufficient respect from Constantinople. In addition to that, the agencies which are constantly at work would be intriguing against him, with the result that, although the Powers might be pacified ostensibly by such an appointment, the evil of misrule would, as a matter of fact, continue. The only guarantee for sound administration is that the Governor who is to carry out the work of administration under the scheme of reform should not be an Ottoman subject. Unless the Powers are able to devise a scheme under which such an arrangement is possible, I am afraid the position of affairs will become worse and worse, and that before long we may be brought face to with one of the most serious European complications, and possibly conflagrations, of recent years.

The Government have a serious responsibility in this matter, partly in conjunction with other Powers, and partly on account of its action in connection with the Berlin Treaty. More important even than the points I have urged is the necessity of an adequate sanction for the carrying out of these reforms. It is not the practice for the Turkish Government to yield except to a certain show of coercion, nor is it lawful under the sacred law for the Sultan to yield unless there is some such show; therefore, unless Austria-Hungary and Russia can, with the assent of other Powers, use some such means, there is little hope for the future. Fortunately we have instances in the Balkan Peninsula of provinces which have been reclaimed under the influence on good administration, such as that of Baron de Kallay in Bosnia, and if in Macedonia some scheme of reform, however simple or modest, can be carried out under the auspices of a European administrator, simply preserving the suzerain rights of the Sultan, I think a greater step in the direction of reform will have been taken than is possible by any other method under present circumstances. But no such arrangement can be of more than temporary advantage. The problem lies too deep to be solved so simply. Where you have various races whose historic course has been interrupted by invasion, it is only natural, when there is some hope of the rule of the invader coming to an end, that the old jealousies and ambitions should revive. But even a temporary effect of a beneficial character may have the greatest possible influence in maintaining the peace of Europe, and in securing some elementary guarantee of life and property. I hope, therefore, the Government will leave no stone unturned to secure a practicable scheme of reforms, adequately thought out and adequately enforced.

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

Before the noble Lord replies, I wish to put to the Government certain questions, one on which concerns Venezuela and the Foreign office, and the other the Colonial Office, the latter arising out of a most extraordinary Parliamentary paper which has been placed in the Vote Office since seven o'clock this evening.

The question of Venezuela was well dealt with by my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, but in language less strong than many of us would wish to employ. I wish to elucidate the real meaning of the defence of the Government as to our relations with Germany in this question. The Prime Minister last Friday repudiated in the strongest possible terms the suggestion that the influence of the German Emperor himself, during his recent visit to this country, had been used for the purpose of tying up the relations of this country with Germany in a way that would appear to constitute a very dangerous alliance, and on a question in regard to which an alliance with Germany was specially dangerous to the interests of this country. The Prime Minister said that during that visit no arrangements were made and no business done. That denial is very strong, but so are the facts as laid before us by the Governments themselves. The despatches which have just been circulated on this point are precisely the same as those we received on the last day of the sittings in December last. In the principal despatch, the one that ties up our interests with those of Germany in a way which is unprecedented in questions of this kind, the opening words are, "Foreign Office, November 11. The German Ambassador informed me this evening," while the Memorandum attached to this, and communicated by the German Ambassador, is dated "London, November 13." What has struck the country, and ought, I think, to be further explained, is the fact that neither Lord Lansdowne nor the German Ambassador were in London on the dates here given. As a matter of fact, Lord Lansdowne and the German Ambassador were under the same roof at the time these transactions occurred—viz., from the 10th to the 15th November. The Prime Minister has complained very bitterly of Lord Rosebery for introducing the analogy of Mexico. In that case, in the first instance, we took joint action with France and Spain in a matter of a similar description. But that action followed the ordinary precedents, and was entirely different from the action taken on this occasion. Instead of our claims being tied up with those of the other Powers, as in the present instance, absolute liberty was left to other Governments to come in—the United States were specifically asked to come in—and liberty was left to recede at any time. As a matter of fact, we did afterwards recede. A convention provided for the appointment, by each of the three Powers, of a Civil Commissioner, with full authority to determine for each Power all questions as to the money to be recovered; each Power had control over its own action.

In asking these questions specifically as to the authority, precedent, and origin of this proposal, I should like to put it to the House that it was most dangerous to tie us up in this way. In the case of Venezuela the question is one of peculiar delicacy, and it is most dangerous to tie up our interests with those of Germany. In America, Germany has undoubtedly been suspected of having designs on the southern province of Brazil which are at variance with the Monroe Doctrine. In this country there is an overwhelming opinion in favour of the Monroe Doctrine; we have an enormous customer in the Republics of South America. In 1900 we sent to the Continent of America £51,500,000 of the produce and manufactures of Great Britain. Of that amount £23,000,000 went to the Latin Republics, £20,000,000 to the United States, and £8,500,000 to the British Colonies. This enormous trade gives this country an overwhelming interest in the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine, in the maintenance of the virtual status quo on the American Continent. The German interest is not the same, and to tie ourselves up in direct defiance of the precedent of Mexico seems to me to be a peculiarly dangerous and reckless act. Those on the Opposition side of the House who entertained doubts as to the policy of this action had ground to think that there was in the minds of some Members of the Government the idea of an alliance with Germany which had sometimes led to action a little like blacking the boots of Germany. There has been a continual harking back to the idea of a German alliance, a continual hankering after it. Between the July proposal as to joint action with Germany and November 11 and the tying up of our interests with those of Germany, occurred the most unfriendly action of Germany towards this country at Shanghai. I should like to know whether there is any truth in the very direct statement of The Times correspondent in China on this subject. The correspondent of The Times has frequently informed the country, and there has been no contradiction of the statement, that Germany presented a secret Memorandum to the Chinese Government as to the date on which they would leave Shanghai and withdraw the German troops. This was done behind the backs of our Government, and at the moment when the Venezuelan operations were in contemplation.

The other one of the two subjects which I should like to ask certain questions about is one which has been affected and changed since the Leader of the Opposition put his question to the Government at the beginning of this debate—I refer to the Kano expedition. The position has been affected by the issue of a most extraordinary Paper, which has not yet been circulated to hon. Members, but to which, by the kindness of the Government, my attention was called before we separated this afternoon. The Kano expedition has led to a most painful censure upon a very distinguished officer, namely, the Commissioner of Nigeria, in words which are very strong. What the House ought to be quite clear about is that that censure is deserved by the Commissioner and not by the Government, and I will just ask my question in order to put hon. Members in possession of the special points of the case. Our suspicions as to the intention of an attack on Kano were first aroused by the proceedings of some distinguished clerics, who, in the course of an interview, stated that Kano "must be dealt with." This statement was telegraphed all over the world, and the phrase even occurs in the Lugard despatches. In the belief of the Government the preparations for the expedition to Kano were for an escort to accompany the Anglo-French Commission for the delimitation of the frontier. Before the date at which the Government changed their minds on the subject and addressed remonstrances to the Commissioner in Nigeria, it was known in France that the delimitation of the frontier would have to be postponed on account of the British expedition to Kano. The arrangement of the despatches in the White Paper is a little confusing, but the first telegram is dated 10th December, the day after the Question was put in the House, to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred. That telegram begins:— Reuter states that it has been decided to undertake hostile operations against Kano, but I presume that you are only taking necessary precautions for safety of Boundary Commissioners. That suggests that the Questions put in this House were only put upon the basis of that Reuter telegram, but it is not the case at all. The information which was in my possession, and in the possession of my hon. friend the Member for Oldham, the hon. Member for Manchester, and several Lancashire hon. Members, was of two descriptions. We had information from commercial houses in Liverpool and Manchester who knew of this expedition, and also from officers who had been recalled to service for the purposes of this expedition. It was upon that information that we put our Questions. The Government telegraphed five times before they got any answer to their telegrams, and at last they sent a very emphatic telegram on December 24th, which will be found on page 3 of the correspondence relating to Kano.

The telegram states:— Referring to my telegrams of 19th December and 22nd December, His Majesty's Government must have information asked for before any expedition starts for Kano. The first telegram, which clearly replies to those five telegrams, is one of a most unsatisfactory kind. The High Commissioner states that reports have been spread throughout the Protectorate concerning the movement of troops, and he seems to think that that is a good reason for an expedition. He added:— I must dispose of Kano before withdrawing troops. I cannot send adequate escort Boundary Commissioners until threat of Kano is removed. On January 2nd the Government asked a question which, in my opinion, it ought to have asked long before. It was alleged in Liverpool, in the Press, and in that House that the difficulty with the Emir not only of Kano, but of Sokoto, had arisen through the suspension of the payment of the annual money grant which had been given by the Niger Company. The Earl of Onslow, on January 2nd, wrote to the High Commissioner stating that he should be glad to receive from him a despatch explaining generally the action he had taken with regard to the subsidies formerly paid by the Niger Company, and detailing more especially the circumstances in which he decided to suspend the subsidy to the Sultan of Sokoto. There is no answer to the Earl of Onslow's despatch, and we are left, therefore, in unhappy doubt as to the justice and the origin of this campaign. Now we come to the actual terms of the censure on the High Commissioner. The High Commissioner sent a long and somewhat indignant despatch stating that on previous occasions he had given information which clearly showed that he intended that an expedition should be sent to Kano, and he refers to four despatches from which he says the Government ought to have clearly understood his view. He gives another reason, and says:— It is now the universal belief among the native chiefs that an immediate advance on Kano is intended. He further states that:— Events have, therefore, been precipitated by the action of those opposed to us. I had hoped that this crisis might have been postponed till late in January. Having stated his case, he was afterwards censured by the Government. In a despatch dated January 28th, the Earl of Onslow, writing to the High Commissioner, says— There was nothing to indicate that you were then contemplating an expedition against Kano, but it was understood, and I think rightly, that your military preparations would be confined to taking such measures as might be necessary to ensure the safety of the Boundary Commissioners, and to guard against the possibility of hostile action on the part of the rulers Sokoto or Kano. It was, however, evident that, in consequence of the extension of the area of effective occupation to the westward as far as Bornu, it was desirable to increase the military force in Northern Nigeria, and you were informed by telegram of 20th December that His Majesty's Government were prepared to approve of your raising in 1903–4 a third battalion, 1,000 strong, in addition to the 400 mounted infantry and 500 civil police proposed by you in your despatch of the 28th August. It is an extraordinary fact, but that battalion and the whole of that force is paid for out of the Civil Service Estimates, and is not under the War Office, and does not come under the military expenditure of this country. Now we come to the actual terms of the censure:— His Majesty's Government regret the necessity which has arisen for taking action against Kano. They think that you should have kept them more fully informed of what was passing, and that you should have given them an earlier opportunity of considering, with the knowledge which they alone possess of the general situation in other parts of the Empire, whether it was necessary to send an expedition to Kano, and whether it was expedient to do so at this time and with the force which is available. That is the censure with which the despatch concludes. I remember that when General Lugard was attacked for his operations in Uganda, many of us sided with him, I am not quite sure, after reading the Papers, as to whether the censure upon Sir F. Lugard is thoroughly deserved, and I am doubtful whether we ought not to censure the Government for not having kept their eyes open to what was going on, and to what had been going on ever since that interview with Bishop Tugwell, and to the preparations with which many hon. Members were acquainted, which were known to every one in Liverpool and Manchester, and of which the Government alone seem to have been ignorant.


I hope the House will excuse me if I reply now to what has been said upon this question. I think the speech which the right hon. Baronet has just made ought to receive an answer at once with regard to the question of Kano. I must frankly admit, as my right hon. friend admitted upon an earlier occasion in the course of this debate, that when I answered the right hon. Baronet just at the close of the Autumn session of Parliament, I used language in reply to a supplementary Question, of which I had no notice, which I would not have used if I had been in possession of the information which came into the hands of the Government a few days later.

The right hon. Baronet has spoken of the reports and rumours which were current in different circles at that time, and which he thought ought to have been a warning to the Government as to what was proceeding. But reports and rumours are very rife in Africa. They are often very untrustworthy, and I do not think it would be safe to answer questions basing one's answer on such rumours as might be rife. The right hon. Baronet cited the declaration of Bishop Tugwell; but that was not binding either on the High Commissioner or on the Government. I have not risen to explain my previous answer or to expand the statement of the Prime Minister, but because the right hon. Baronet has spoken several times of the censure inflicted on Sir F. Lugard, the High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria, and the right hon. Baronet on the first occasion alluded to "the very grave and severe censure." I think if hon. Members have not read the Papers they will be altogether misled by the adjective the right hon. Baronet has used in his description of the view taken of Sir F. Lugard's conduct by the Government. That which the right hon. Gentleman describes as censure is an expression of regret in Lord Onslow's despatch of January 28. The right hon. Baronet quoted the words. The Government regretted that Sir F. Lugard had not informed them earlier as to the circumstances that were present to his mind, which the Government could only know through him, and which led him to consider the expedition justifiable and necessary. When the Government obtained the information they asked for, they agreed in the view taken by Sir F. Lugard. We have absolute confidence in his proved judgment and great experience; and I am confident the right hon. Baronet will be the last man to accuse this distinguished African administrator of such wide experience, and who has rendered such great service to this country, of rashness—of any unnecessary provocative action in the protection of the interests committed to his care.

What are the circumstances which led Sir Frederick Lugard to consider this expedition necessary? Ever since the Anglo-French agreement for the settlement of the disputed boundary question on the West Coast, the Government have been under agreement with the French Government to send a Joint Commission for the delimitation of the frontier, the general lines of which were already settled. That Joint Commission ought to have started, and it was intended that it should start, at once; but it was delayed, at our request, because the Government were not in a position to give the necessary protection to it during its work. The Government would have been glad not to have been obliged to have brought their relations with Kano to the present stage; they would have been glad to have waited longer in hope of a friendly solution of difficulties. But it is undesirable to have an indefinite frontier between the possessions of two great European Powers in Africa, because that position is very apt to lead to friction and unfortunate incidents, the results of which may be very serious and very much to be regretted by both of the great countries concerned. It has been necessary for the French to pass through our territory to their own, and there are circumstances that make the delimitation of the boundary necessary. The Boundary Commission had to pass behind the territory of the Emir of Kano and that of the Sultan of Sokoto, and it had to be protected during the time it passed, and had to be revictualled through Kano in the course of its operations. Sir Frederick Lugard had to make provision for these operations, and while considering these, the Emir of Kano, so far from showing any disposition to become more friendly, was making preparation for an attack upon our post at Zaria, and, on 13th December, Sir F. Lugard telegraphed— Information received that Kano preparations completed for provoking war, demonstration in favour of murderer of Moloney. Safety of garrison of Zaria, prestige of British Government, possibility of delimitation of frontier depend on energetic action. The murderer of Moloney, a British officer, was protected by the Emir of Kano. I think that telegram discloses very grave and sufficient reasons for the action Sir F. Lugard thought it necessary to take, and which the Government have sanctioned.


The Government did not say so, for on 1st January they said that the expedition was not to take place.


No, Sir; they did not say that it was not to take place, but they said it was not to take place until they sanctioned it. The right hon. Baronet would have been the first to criticise us if we had not acted. The right hon. Baronet said it was stated in a French paper that the Anglo-French Boundary Commission had been postponed on account of our military operations. It was not postponed on account of the military operations, but it could not be undertaken until the military operations had been brought to a successful conclusion. The right hon. Baronet said he was in grave doubt even now as to the justice of our action, and suggested that all the trouble with the Emir of Kano arose from the British Administration having failed to pay a subsidy, or subsidies, which had been paid, or were payable, by the Niger Company when it was the governing and administrating authority in that territory. There never was any such subsidy, either paid or payable, to the Emir of Kano; and, whatever questions may arise about subsidies, they do not affect our relations with Kano, and cannot be an excuse for his hostile preparations against the British Administration, or his treatment of the representations sent to him by Sir F. Lugard. The Emir of Kano has, unfortunately, shown himself persistently hostile to the British Administration; but I am glad to say that the anticipations which Sir F. Lugard has formed, that the great mass of the people would regard us as deliverers rather than as conquerors, appear to have been justified by the results. The Haussa population and the merchants appear to have welcomed our occupation of the capital as bringing with it security and freedom of trade, and an assurance that slave-raiding and the tribute of slaves that has been paid by Kano would no longer continue.

The only subsidy agreement with which the Government were concerned was an agreement to pay a subsidy to the Sultan of Sokoto. As to that, the Government are not in possession of full information, and we have asked Sir F. Lugard to supply the facts and give a full account of the circumstances. The Sultan of Sokoto did receive a subsidy from the Niger Company. There is reason to think that the Niger Company had already decided that they would not continue to pay that subsidy any longer to the Sultan of Sokoto when their administration ceased and passed to the British Government. We have reason to think that the Company had taken that decision on the ground of the very unsatisfactory nature of their relations with the Sultan of Sokoto. Sir F. Lugard, when the Niger Company's administration was taken over, sent a messenger to the Sultan of Sokoto to inform him of the transfer; but the Sultan of Sokoto refused to recognise the transfer in any form, and has treated all the attempts of Sir F. Lugard to open friendly relations with contumely and contempt. I do not think the right hon. Baronet would contend that in such circumstances it would be desirable that we should pay the Sultan of Sokoto a subsidy, even if there had been good ground for such a payment. However that may be, as I have stated, the Government's information on that subject is not complete' but that cannot affect our operations at Kano or our relations with the Emir of Kano. The right hon. Baronet would make a great mistake if he supposed that the Government had in any way lost confidence in Sir F. Lugard, or if he attached a graver meaning to the expression of regret that the Government were not earlier informed of the facts that were within his knowledge, than the very simple words in which that expression of regret was couched would warrant. We retain full confidence in that most experienced administrator, and we are quite certain that he will act with all forbearance and with great discretion in dealing with the circumstances which arise in the great area under his control.

*MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)

I desire to say a word in regard to the Sugar Convention. The debate last session was confined to a single sitting, and that, I consider, was far too short a time for the discusson of so important a subject. It will be remembered that the Colonial Secretary spoke at considerable length, and had the last word on the subject. I remember that two of his chief arguments in favour of the Convention were, firstly, that the country was pledged to it in honour by reason of its agreement with foreign countries, and that to withdraw from it would be to incur the charge of mala fides; and secondly, that very great injury had been done to the sugar refining industry of this country, and that that industry might have been an extremely large and flourishing one but for the bounties paid by foreign countries. What is the real case of the sugar refiners? It is, forsooth, that the interests of 40,000,000 of consumers, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of hands engaged in various industries, are to be imperilled and set aside by the Convention lately entered into, a Convention on which the country has not had a word to say, on which it had not a word of warning beforehand, and about which no word was said at the General Election. The people of the country are committed to it without having a word to say in the matter. Well, now, what is the case of the sugar-refining industry? The fact is, that, so far from having been crushed out and destroyed by the sugar bounties, it is, I believe, well known that it had already begun to be a declining and diminishing industry before these bounties were paid at all. It is a fact that a very large diminution in the number of sugar refineries in the country had taken place before the sugar bounties came into force. I think they had diminished 50 per cent. before the introduction of the bounties. The fact is that sugar refining is now very largely and more profitably carried on on the spot where the sugar is grown, and that the greater portion of the sugar imported into this country comes into it in a more or less refined condition. Therefore it is a mistake to say that the great decline in the sugar-refining industry is the direct consequence of the sugar bounties.

We have become more or less accustomed to strange departures on the part of His Majesty's Government. We have seen our system of absolutely free imports of food broken down, and a tax placed upon the bread of this country, which, however small it may be said to be, nevertheless does amount to a bonus of 4s. or 5s. per acre of wheat grown in this country. A tax on wheat of 1s. 1d. per quarter means a 4s. or 5s. bounty or bonus on every acre of wheat in this country. If that tax had been proposed in that form instead of a duty of 3d. per cwt., I wonder what the people of this country would have said of it. In this case the proposal of the Government to do away with sugar bounties is one of the strangest and most indefensible of the strange things which this Government have done. It is a fact, no doubt, that protective duties do injure our trade with foreign countries in manufactured articles, but, after all, the great rivals who impose these tariffs—France, Germany, and America—are our best customers, and take more of our manufactured goods than any other countries in the world. Then take the comparative values of the imports of sugar from the West Indies and those from other sugar-producing countries. I believe that of every 100 Ib. of sugar that come into this country only 2½ Ibs. come from the West Indies, and those colonies are already in the most favoured position in regard to five-sixths of their total exports. They have in the United States a country in which they have a free market, and which already places a countervailing duty on bounty fed sugar. As my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition has said, it is doubtful whether we shall not be doing the West Indies considerably more harm than good by putting an end to the bounties. And, worst of all, as has been said, we are placing our fiscal arrangements for the first time in the hands of a foreign council. Last, not least, we may be incurring the greatest difficulties with our own colonies, for we may be brought by this very convention under obligation of closing our ports against the import of sugar from Queensland and other colonies of the Empire. On all these grounds I think that we on this side of the House ought to give the strongest possible protest we can against the ratification of the treaty.

DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)

then moved the adjournment of the debate.


asked whether the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs had any statement to make regarding the Macedonian question.


I should be sorry if the hon. Member thought I had been discourteous towards him in not rising to answer him, but as the debate proceeded it diverged from the affairs of the office with which I am connected. I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise that this is not a particularly appropriate moment to discuss the Macedonian question; but, if he wishes to take further opportunity of raising the subject, I will do my best to give him an answer.

Motion made, and Question, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Dr. Macnamara).

Put, and agreed to.

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.

Adjourned at ten minutes after

Eleven o'clock.