§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £34,887, 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, 1904, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages and Allowances) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."—(Sir Charles Dike.)170
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON,
continuing his speech, said he was referring, when the sitting was suspended, to the commercial treaty recently concluded between this country and Persia. The old original treaty which this one erased was the treaty of 1828, and under that treaty an ad valorem duty of 5 per cent. was levied on all merchandise from this country entering into Persia. The new treaty was better than no treaty at all, but it had this serious disadvantage, that in the place of 5 per cent. ad valorem duty all round, the new treaty as concluded by Russia with Persia provided for levying less than 5 per cent.ad valorem on certain commodities chiefly sent by Russia to Persia, while on commodities chiefly sent by the British Empire to Persia the duty now to be levied was greatly in excess of 5 per cent., and in the case of tea had been increased from 5 per cent. to 100 per cent. The new commercial treaty concluded by the Government was not one from which the commercial community of Great Britain hoped to derive much satisfaction. He recognised the difficult position in which the Government was placed with regard to this matter, but it was to be regretted that the treaty now entered into, which might he eminently satisfactory to Russia and which might remain in force for many years to come, should be one in which the favoured-nation clause, though strictly speaking was not violated, was in fact violated in-so-far that Russian commodities sent to Persia obtained a lower rate than the 5 per cent. previously imposed, while British commodities in the future would have to pay more than they did under the treaty of Turkoman Chai. It had always been declared by both the Russian and British Governments in regard to Persia, that their policy was directed to upholding the independence and integrity of Persia. What he desired to know was whether the Government had addressed any communications to the Russian Government in regard to what he was bound to consider a violation of the repeated declarations of Russia as to this policy in so far as they were involved by debarring Persia from giving concessions to construct railways to any other Power until the year 1910, and in also debarring Persia from the right to borrow money from any Power except themselves. Those two 171 conditions, which they had imposed upon Persia, in his opinion violated the independence of Persia.
Then he desired to know from the Government whether they had exercised vigilance, and would continue to exercise vigilance, to prevent the Customs receipts of the Persian Gulf Ports and the Province of Faro being allocated in satisfaction of any future loans which Persia might contract with Russia in addition to the £3,500,000 loan already concluded. Then an important point, so far as the British commercial interest in Persia was concerned, was the question of the improvement of the trade routes from the Persian Gulf into the interior of Russia. They knew that the Russians had constructed three commercial highways down into North Persia in order to facilitate their trade and strengthen their political influence in North Persia. He desired no aggressive action on the part of the Government, but he submitted that in the interests of British trade, and especially in the interests of Indian trade with Persia, it was important that the Karun River trade route should be improved; that we should also construct a road to facilitate our commerce from Thunder Abbas through Kerman, and Yezd to Isfahan. Then he wished to know whether the difficulties that were thrown in the way of carrying on trade between India and Persia, by the Quetta-Nushki trade route had been overcome, and whether our Indian fellow subjects were now able to trade freely by that route with Eastern Persia. There were three other routes, and he was glad to learn that some progress was being made in regard to the construction of a road from Kum to Isfahan with a branch through Sultanabad, Diszful, and Shuster. That was a road for which a concession had been obtained by the British Imperial Bank of Persia, and which had recently been taken over by a syndicate. What he wished to know was, whether the Government, either on their own account, or in conjunction with the Government of India, were prepared to give all possible backing to the concessionaires of these highways by subsidies, or in other ways, in order that British trade in Southern Persia at any rate might have the same facilities for its increase as the Russians had already given to Russian commerce by the 172 construction of their three commercial highways from the North into Northern Persia.
In view of the declaration of the Government in regard to the matter of railway concessions in Persia, they were informed that the British had a right to build railways in Southern Persia when Russia built railways in Northern Persia, but that right rested on a very shadowy foundation, a mere verbal assurance given and repeated, and he submitted it was desirable in connection with any agreement entered into for road concessions that there should be a definite recognition of the fact that the British should enjoy a priority of right to construct railways when required over the trade routes cow; red by these proposed roads. The question of Persia was a fascinating one. It was not so much a question of the volume of trade of the British Empire with Persia, it was because of the proximity of the Persian Empire to our great Indian Empire that the question of maintenance of British influence, especially in Southern Persia, was of such vital importance. We were spending millions of money in the North-West of India with a view to protect the Empire from a possible invasion by Russia, but if by neglecting and by not pursuing, not an aggressive, but a wise, definite, and firm policy of advancing British commercial and political interests in Southern Persia just as Russia had done, and was doing, in Northern Persia, they might avert the possible danger of Russian influence and Russian predominance extending from Northern to Southern Persia, it was the duty of the Government to do so. If Russia gradually succeeded in her demands in Southern as well as Northern Persia, she might eventually be established with a commercial port connected by railways through Persia with the Russian Empire and eventually with a naval base in the Persian Gulf. If the Government did not uphold the British position in Southern Persia it might ultimately result in Russia turning the flank of our mountainous North-West frontier of India and threatening India through Baluchistan and by sea. If that happened the whole teeming millions of India would have the burden thrown upon 173 them of finding out of their poverty many millions more for increasing the defensive forces of the Indian Empire. We had taken upon ourselves the responsibility of guiding the destinies of 250,000,000 of people in India, and it was our bounden duty to protect that Empire from any danger such as he had described from the adjacent country of Persia, whose independence and integrity we had declared it to he our policy to preserve. We had no aggressive designs on Persia, we adhered to our policy with regard to Persia, but what had been felt for years past was that the Government had been supine. They were looking now for a well-considered definite policy to be resolutely pursued, but he was bound to state across the floor of the House that they had not made much advance with regard to this question of insisting that British interests were paramount in the Persian Gulf and must be maintained. He was free to admit that in regard to Persia generally the Government had within the last year or two taken a stronger line for the promotion of British interests. He hoped to-night they would have a still stronger assurance from the noble Lord that the question of British interests in Persia vitally affected the safety of the future of our Indian Empire.
Turning to China there were several questions affecting British interests which at present appeared to be in a pressing and critical condition. First of all there was the question of the evacuation of Manchuria. He would not go back to ancient history; he would merely say the noble Lord and his predecessor had given in this House Russian assurance after Russian assurance that Russia had not the slightest intention of remaining in Manchuria, but that when peace was restored in China they would reconvey Manchuria absolutely as it existed before the crisis to Chinese jurisdiction and control. When peace was declared in China Russia received under the peace protocol no less than £17,000,000 sterling as compensation in connection with the Chinese rising, and on her part agreed to evacuate Manchuria; that on the 8th of April last she would have evacuated one section, including the treaty port of Niuchwang, but instead of doing so on the 18th of April last she presented fresh demands to the Chinese Government. Of course it was strictly 174 denied by Russia that any such demands had been made, but unfortunately her agent, M. Plancon, handed to Mr. Conger, the United States Minister, his own copy of the demands which had been made on China, including demands absolutely antagonistic to the interests of this country. Russia demanded that China should not open any additional treaty ports in Manchuria; she demanded, with regard to Mongolia, which was very far from Manchuria, that it should not have its administration altered without the consent of Russia; she demanded that the Russo-Chinese Bank should be made the Customs Bank of Manchuria, and that all Customs receipts should lie paid into it. The new Russian diplomatist, Count Lamsdorf, informed Mr. Hay that Russia had no intention of excluding other countries or to confer exclusive advantages on Russia. He told him that the United States might be sure that nothing would be done to close the doors now open. Fie protested also, or rather Count Beckendorf protested also, to Lord Lans downe that the measures to exclude foreign consuls were far from entering into the intentions of the Imperial Government; and to Mr. Hay they said that American commerce and American capital were the two things they most desired to attract. When the matter was raised in this House they had an assurance given to them, which he would not detain the Committee by repeating, by the noble Lord, and a further statement made in; another place by Lord Lansdowne, who said—I have received from the Russian Ambassador, to whom I had addressed an inquiry on the subject, a verbal statement o the following effect: 'The information which has reached the British Government as to the conditions required for the evacuation of Manchuria is not at all correct. The discussions which are proceeding at Pekin concern Manchuria alone, and have reference to certain guarantees which are indispensable for securing the nest important Russian interest in the province after the withdrawal of the Russian troops. As for measures which might tend to exclude foreign consuls, or obstructing foreign commerce and the use of ports, such measures are far from entering into the intention of the Imperial Government. I consider, on the contrary, that the development of foreign commerce is one the main objects to which the Russian Government have undertaken the construction of the line of railway in that part of the world.That was a most satisfactory assurance, and was given on the 2nd of May last. Yet to-night, on the 23rd of July, so far 175 as they knew, no step had been taken to carry into effect the assurances which were then, in the most, emphatic way, given by Russia. They knew now that the United States had been putting considerable pressure Russia, not on the Chinese Government, for they recognised that it was useless to negotiate with the Chinese Government in regard to this matter. They wisely turned their attention to the Government at St. Petersburg, and had been negotiating with them as to the maintenance of the open door in the great country of Manchuria, and as to the free right of other nations to arrange with the Chinese Government to open further treaty ports in that country. It was said a few days ago that these negotiations had terminated successfully, and that two new treaty ports, Ta-tung-kau and Mukden, would he opened without objection on the part of the Russian Government. Unfortunately, they learnt to-day from the papers that that had not yet been agreed to, and that serious difficulties had again arisen. He desired to have from the noble Lord to-night whatever information he could give as to the exact position of the negotiations.
But there was not only the fact of the action of Russia in Manchuria, and the opening of treaty ports in Manchuria, there was the question of the action of Russia in regard to the treaty port of Ninchwang, which was the only treaty port in that great country of Manchuria at present. The trade of that port had doubled in the last four years, and it was a port through which the British Empire did a trade of no less than three millions sterling a year. He wished to know from the noble Lord, in view of the repeated assurances conveyed to the House from the Russian Government with regard to to the restoration of Niuchwang, whether anything definite had been arranged to give effect to those assurances. It appeared to him that it had been found to be necessary by the United States Government, as it would be found to be necessary for His Majesty's Government, to negotiate direct with the Government of St. Petersburg on questions of this kind. The Government policy had been declared again and again as being a policy of the maintenance of the open door throughout the Chinese Empire, and 176 question now was, were they going resolutely to adhere to that policy, and not merely make representations to the Chinese Government, who had not the power to give effect to any arrangement they might make with His Majesty's Government, but that they should rather communicate with the Russian Government at St. Petersburg, in concert, he hoped, with the Japanese and United States Governments. The time had come to face the question of Manchuria and Niuchwang, and to induce Russia to come to an equitable arrangement with regard to Manchuria and the port of Niuchwang, which should be restored fully to the trade of all nations. There was one very important point. Since August, 1900, the Russians had been in possession of the Customs House at Niuchwang, and had collected nearly half a million of money in Customs receipts. That money had been paid into the Russo-Chinese Bank. It was paid into the credit of the Imperial Customs, no doubt, but it was not handed over to the Treasury of the Imperial Customs of China. Yet this money was part of the security for British bondholders who had advanced money to China. He did not think the Government could possibly allow the matter to test in its present position. Then, again, we had a British quarantine officer at Niuchwang, a Dr. Daly. He had been superseded and a Russian doctor put in his place. That was his pointed out, with regard to the port of Niuchwang, that the trade of Russia was practically nil; the whole trade was done by Japan and England, and United States of America. In addition to Dr. Daly being superseded, the British collector of Customs had also been superseded in favour of a Russia collector of Customs. He had a right, under the circumstances, to call the attention of the Government to this matter, and to suggest that they were not rightfully upholding the interests of the British trade, in allowing Russians to remain officials of the treaty port of Niuchwang. The question of British trade in China was one of the most important questions commercially that this country had to consider.
They had heard a great deal about the decay of British trade. He would venture to point out that in China we had a great neutral market without any hostile 177 tariff against us whatever—a country inhabited by 400,000,000 people, and if His Majesty's Government, in the course of their inquiry, would give a little attention to the causes of the decline of British trade in that market, and to the consideration of how they could arrest the decline and give us an increasing trade, he thought it would be infinitely more profitable to this country than the giving of so much attention, as they appeared to be doing, to the cultivation of an increase of our trade with 10,000,000 people in highly protectionist colonies. In the great neutral market of China there were possibilities of trade expansion infinitely greater than in the smaller sphere the Government had now under their special purview. China was only doing a seventh part, in proportion to population, of what Japan was doing. He attributed the decline of British trade in China to the Vacillation of His Majesty's Government during recent years—to the fact that they had made a succession of humiliating surrenders of British commercial interests in the Far East. Between 1896 and 1901 Chinese foreign trade had increased £9,000,000 sterling a year, but the trade of the United Kingdom with China had gone down 15 per cent. The Committee, therefore, would see that there was a serious decline in British trade. Those statistics excluded railway material, which was admitted free of duty, and railway material, as the Committee well knew, had been pouring into China from Belgium, Russia, France and German v within the last few years, but not from this country, because of the failure on the part of our Government to secure a fair share of railway concessions for British subjects. [An HON. MEMBER: What about prices?] The prices were very much the same, and therefore the quantity would be practically the same for the purpose of his comparison when he said that our trade with China had declined 15 per cent. since 1896. The actual diminution of trade between the British Empire and China was 5 per cent., so that it was specially in the trade of the United Kingdom there was this substantial fall. Our shipping trade with China had also gone down. In 1896 we had 65 per cent., and in 1901 only 54 per cent. of the shipping, whereas 178 the German shipping had advanced from 6 per cent. In 1896 to 16 per cent. in 1901, and Japanese shipping had advanced from 2 per cent. in 1896 to 11 per cent. in 1901. The question of our commerce in China was one of the most important that a manufacturing country like this could possibly have to consider. He desired to know whether the noble Lord could give the Committee any information as to whether the commercial treaty, in regard to which a preliminary agreement was come to, had yet been carried into effect. The new commercial treaty was not entirely satisfactory, for he saw that in the negotiations between China and the United States of America certain further concessions had been made. For instance, in the preliminary treaty concluded by His Majesty's Government the Chinese native Customs were to be continued. He wished to know whether an arrangement of a more favourable character had been come to under which only the native Customs at the ports of entry and the land frontages of China were to be continued and the other native Customhouses were to be abolished. This questions was of vital importance in connection with the new commercial treaty with china. In addition to that there was the question of whether certain works of river improvement, the river leading to Tien-tsin, which were provided for in the protocol of 1901. He desired to know whether any steps had been taken for the conservancy of those waterways and the removal of obstructions to navigations on the Cantonese waterways. The carrying of these arrangements into effect must be highly beneficial to British trade.
On the question of railway concessions in China the noble Lord told them this afternoon that he could not enter into details. As a commercial man, speaking on behalf of the commercial community of this country, he said that our position in regard to railway construction in China at the present moment was most unsatisfactory. They were told in this House that British concessionaires had secured concessions for 2,800 miles of railways in China. 179 Though he was glad to know that recently the final concession of a railway from Shanghai to Nankin had been ratified, so far as he knew no other British concession had yet been finally ratified. What did that mean at the present moment? They were told the commercial condition of this country was very serious—that the iron and steel trades were depress d, and that Americans and Germans were dumping down their surplus produce in this country and killing our iron and steel industries. On the other hand, there was China, the richest Empire in the world, being supplied for the first time with a system of railways, and although there were no hostile tariffs against us in that Empire, Russians, French, Germans, Belgians, and Americans were busily engaged laying down these railways. The whole of the rail material and the rolling stock for these railways must be drawn from the countries of the respective concessionaires, and he wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the gross violation of the most-favoured-nation clause, which resulted in the exclusion of British manufacturers from supplying materials. He asked the noble Lord whether this important point had had the attention of the Government, and whether there had not been opportunities for trade sacrificed by the supineness of the Government. It would be, as he had said, infinitely better for our Government to turn their attention to an inquiry into the causes of this condition of things in regard to our trade with the great neutral market of China if they wished to bring real prosperity and a substantial increase of trade to this great manufacturing nation. This matter had been drifting and drifting, and seemed to be making no progress.
He wished to know, also, whether the Government were giving proper diligence to the development of our trade relations with the Indian Empire, which had a population of 300,000,000, and had no hostile tariffs against us. Were the Government determined to direct their earnest attention to the recovery of lost ground in China, to resolutely uphold our treaty rights and commercial interests, and to maintain the open door through that great Empire? Foreign nations were constructing railways in China, and 180 he had pressed again and again in this House that His Majesty's Government ought to seek to secure an international agreement under which all nations would enjoy the same railway rates over the whole of the railways there. He had never yet been able to draw from the Government any definite reply as to whether this most important question was even receiving their consideration. He was glad the Government had wakened up to take some interest in British commerce, and he hoped that the proposals now before the country would prove to be a great blessing in disguise, and that out of the controversy which was now going on there would be developed keener attention on the part of the Government to the promoting of British commercial rights and interests in every part of the world.
§ * MR. MOON (St. Pancras, N.)
said he was in complete accordance with the hon. Member for Barnsley in regard to his historical sketch of the situation in China, but he disputed his view that it was the vacillating policy of the Government which had brought us into our present difficulties. So far as the Port Arthur incident was concerned, he agreed with the hon. Member, but apart from that deplorable incident he believed the present situation had been arrived at by causes which were almost inevitable. According to the telegrams in that day's Times, the latest information from New York appeared to be that the State Department at Washington relied on the assurance that two new Manchurian ports would be opened to trade. That would prevent, or, at all events, retard the speedy "Russification" of China. If up at the centrally-situated town of Mukden a port was opened, the outside world would, at all events, have some hold on the trade of Manchuria. He did not know why we should not ourselves take as firm a line as the United States Government had done. He thought that in taking measures to meet the Russian advance in Asia we must be on our guard at every point: we must meet Russia at the North-East and South-West. He agreed completely with the three points stated by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division in his speech that day. There should be no expansion of territory, we should 181 consolidate our frontiers, and preserve the open door. But he thought we must do something more than that. We must recognise in Asia as well as in Europe the principle of buffer States. Not only should we treat Afghanistan as a buffer State, but we should treat Persia as a buffer State, and also all those outlying dependencies which the Chinese called colonies, such as Eastern Turkestan, Mongolia, and Thibet. They read in the papers of all kinds of Russian expeditions, some scientific and some religious, to Thibet and Mongolia. We must do our best to help China to consolidate its rule over those parts of the world. During the past twelve months important events had happened in Persia. There had been two arrangements which, he supposed, were more or less accurately called commercial treaties. As far as he could make out, they took, place about the same time—namely, February this year. A treaty in regard to the Customs Tariff was made with Russia not a long time before they heard of the treaty made by ourselves with Persia, which in point of fact was only made available to hon. Members this week. The results of the ingenuity of the Russians in the way in which they had arranged their tariff were becoming apparent. It was only the day before yesterday that the Foreign Office issued a Paper containing a Report on the Trade of the Kerman consular district for the year 1902-03. His Majesty's Consul, Major P. Sykes, said—On the other hand, a new tariff of imports and export duties has been introduced, the net result of which is to make articles such as tea, which is consumed by all but the very poorest classes, very expensive, the duty having been raised from 5 per cent. to 100 per cent., and it is feared that the effect of the new tariff on trade in South-East Persia will he most unfavourable.This was one of the instances in which British import was penalised in the most appalling manner. The disadvantage at which British piece goods were placed as compared with Russian piece goods was more apparent to those who had studied the subject than it seemed to be from the figures. Perhaps his noble friend would be able to put a different complexion on the matter, but he could not help thinking that we had been outwitted or overreached in this matter of commercial 182 treaties and commercial arrangements with Persia. He pointed out that the Treaty recently made between this country and Persia was in French and Persian, while that which was made in 1857 was in French and English. East of Suez English was used, and not French. If he remembered rightly, the Treaty of Shimonseki, made between Japan and China after the war, made its English text the official text. He could not but think that, in that part of the world where such details carried weight, it would be believed we were going down hill when the Treaty was not signed in our own language. He wished to say a few words about the Consular Service.
§ MR. BRYCE
said that before the noble Lord answered the long indictment brought forward by the hon. Member for Barnsley with such a wealth of knowledge, he desired to put two questions in regard to two widely separated topics. The first had been suggested by a very interesting report which had been submitted to Parliament on slavery and free labour in the East African Protectorate. He would not deal with the question of shivery, but would confine himself to one particular point of very considerable importance suggested by that report. The House would remember that some time ago it was suggested that native labour should be recruited in Nyassaland and the East African Protectorate, but not to the extent of more than 1,000.
§ MR. BRYCE
said that the House was to be informed before any more than 1,000 were recruited, and he hoped that that undertaking would be strictly adhered to. The Committee would remember that very serious representations had been made by the missionaries as to the danger of taking natives from that part of Africa and sending them to the Transvaal. The report he had referred to was very interesting, and gave a very lively idea of the social position of the tribes in East Africa, and was 183 worthy of that very able and distinguished public servant, Sir Charles Elliott, our resident at Zanzibar. The report was entirely unfavourable to the recruiting of native labour in these territories for the mines in South Africa.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
No natives are recruited in East Africa. The arrangement which was made had reference to British Central Africa.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
"Never" is a long word, but there is co present intention of recruiting in East Africa.
§ MR. BRYCE
said that anyone who read the Report referred to would find that all the labour was wanted in that territory for itself, that it would be no benefit to the natives of East Africa to send them to the Transvaal, and that therefore the very strongest case would require to be made out before recruiting there was allowed. The other subject on which he desired to have some information was as to what was passing in the South-East of Europe, and what was the policy of the Government in relation thereto. Although this question had not been much before the House it was of very great importance. There were elements of danger it: South-East Europe which might at any time involve these countries ill still greater miseries than they suffered from at present, and which might take the dimensions of a European war. We had been very ignorant of what had been really going on in Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania, the papers last presented not bringing the story down to the events of the last four or five months, and the information in the newspapers being scattered and contra- 184 dictory, and often obviously biassed and tinged by the sources from which it came, or through which it passed, so that little confidence could be put in it. The promise of Turkish reforms, which has been so promptly accepted by Russia, and Austria, were dead before they were born. No-serious attempt had been made to put them in force, and they never would be put in force. Indeed, there had been such a carnival of bloodshed and strife throughout these countries during the last four or five months, that it would be impossible to apply any reforms whatever. Through the darkness of these intermittent conflicts and bloodshed there had been a possibility of a general massacre of the Christian population by the Turkish troops, and more than once the possibility of a war between Turkey and Bulgaria had been threatened. The danger of the invasion of Bulgaria by Turkey seemed to have passed away, and. he hoped that it would not again arise. He was told that the disorders in these countries would likely recommence after the harvest was gathered, or at any rate in the spring. Some active steps would have to be taken on the part of Europe to bring about a solution of this-serious question in the South-East of Europe. As the Committee knew, the policy of Austria and Russia, in accord, had been directed to secure the maintenance of the status quo, together with an amelioration of the condition of the people in the Turkish provinces. It might be said that the interest of Great Britain in those regions was a very secondary consideration. No doubt that was so when compared with the interest of Russia and Austria. But it was a real interest all the same. It was a commercial interest. These countries were once rich and prosperous, with a large trade, and they might become so again with absolute peace and good government. Besides that, we had the interest which belonged to us in common with the other Great Powers in the final settlement of the political control in these regions, and of the Dardanelles; and we had taken a special responsibility by the Treaty of Berlin. The 26th Article of the Treaty of Berlin expressly provided for the introduction of reforms in Macedonia. A scheme of these reforms was drawn up at that time by the 185 representative of this country, but from that day to this no step had been taken to carry out that scheme. That imposed a duty on this country which we could not ignore. When we refused to accept the Treaty of San Stefano, and participated in that of Berlin, we undertook a serious responsibility to these countries, and their present terrible condition was due to the fact that the Powers hail never put in force the Treaty of Berlin. It was quite clear that a case might arise in the near future in which the interest of Great Britain might become a very important factor. Suppose there was a question of endeavouring to prevent the Sultan of Turkey from declaring war against Bilgaria, and to induce him to really carry out reforms, the influence of Great Britain and France as disinterested Powers ought to be very great. He was sure the Committee would like to be told that His Majesty's Government would exert all the pressure they could to induce the Sultan to maintain the peace and introduce whatever reforms were possible. It had been suggested that Bulgaria should absorb Macedonia, and it had also been suggested that. Macedonia should be created into an autonomous State. One or other of these possible solutions of the question might become practical shortly, and they would like to know the position which the Government would take in the matter, and the part which they would play in brining about a permanent settlement These were questions which did not become easier as time pressed. Nothing was to be gained by letting them hang over as had been done in the past twenty years. Happily, Russia and Austria seemed to be in accord, and if England and France could induce these two Powers to tiring pressure on the Sultan, and give Macedonia a chance of peace and prosperity, no better use of British influence could be imagined The questions, therefore, that he desired to ask were: When were they to have any papers relating to the state of affairs in Macedonia, and what was the view Government took of the present condition of things in Macedonia and what their hopes were as to peace being preserved between Turkey and Bulgaria?
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said that the right hon. Gentleman had asked whether the Government proposed to lay further Papers before the House in respect of the 186 Macedonian question. He had thought that they had already laid a very large assortment of Papers before Parliament; but if the right hon. Gentleman believed that there was anything new that the Government could communicate to the House, he need not say that he should make it his business to prepare another Blue-book. [MR. BRYCE said that the last Blue-book only brought down information to February or March.] One of the characteristics of the politics of Southern Europe was a melancholy monotony. There was really nothing specially fresh on the Macedonian question. He was asked what prospect there was in respect of reforms. He had a note from one of our Consuls in Macedonia winch stated that the Moslems no longer maintained the rather insolent demeanour which they used to have towards Bulgarians and other Christians, and a large number of the more refractory among them had been exiled. A Norwegian and a Swedish officer had arrived in order to instruct the gendarmes. That was one of the Russian schemes of reform. The right hon. Gentleman might say that that information did not carry us very much farther. The political situation was certainly very bad, but in some respects it was improving. The other day there was a change in the Bulgarian Government, and the new Government adopted the policy of trying to bring about a solution of the difficulties by amicable relations with the Porte. He did not think that these negotiations came to very much. There was some unfortunate frontier incidents. It was said that the Turks were massing troops on the Bulgarian frontier, and the Bulgarian Government were very much concerned, and informed the Powers of the obligation they were placed under to increase their provision for defence. He thought the reports were very much exaggerated. In consequence mainly of strong representations by Austria and Russia to the Porte, the Turkish Government gave orders that the troops at the particular places on the frontier should be withdrawn. But still the difficulty undoubtedly remained. There was a very large force of Turkish troops under arms, and although the regulars were well controlled, there was no doubt that the presence of large bodies of armed men, irregulars, constituted a very menacing fact which could not be ignored. On the other hand there was no doubt that the 187 Revolutionary Association had not abandoned their propaganda, and that the Mohammedan population had been infuriated by the methods which the revolutionary bands had adopted. These methods restrained all sympathy which Europe might otherwise have given them. Dynamite, murder, outrage, were methods of achieving their emancipation, with which civilized Europe could have no sympathy.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said he agreed that their case was very sad, but unfortunately we had to take things as we found them. He would be sorry if the Committee carried away the idea that the Government were doing nothing. To Austria and Russia belongs the principal duty of intervention, and as the right hon. Gentleman had very properly said, although we had a real interest, it was a secondary interest. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted the Treaty of Berlin, but he ventured to remind him that the logical obligations which that Treaty involved were not only on Great Britain but on the other Powers as well. We could not consent to discharge our obligations under that Treaty apart from the co-signatory allies. There was nothing more to be regretted than the suspicion which seemed to grow up among the Turks that England was not their friend. England was the friend of Turkey in the best sense of the word. They had never scrupled to tell them how they had succeeded, and were succeeding more every day, in estranging all possible sympathy, and they had urged them again and again to try and recognise how the sands were running out and how the policy they were pursuing must end disastrously. They could do no more.
The hon. Member for Barnsley had asked him a large number of questions in regard to Persia and China. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that they were not neglecting British interests in Persia. They fully recognised that the Russian quarantine cordon on the Afghan border was a matter, interfering as it did wit h British trade from India, of which they had 188 every right to complain, and they had not neglected making representations in the proper quarter in order to have that grievance abated. He did not think the hon. Gentleman need conclude so confidently that the Persian Government were rigidly bound in the matter of their finance not to borrow from any other country except Russia. He would urge him to take a more cheerful view of the situation, and not always to dwell on the minor key. He hoped the next time the hon. Gentleman went to Persia, which he supposed would be pretty soon, he would find that the position of this country was not only not bad, but that it was really gaining ground every day. As to the Persian Treaty, according to precedent the Persian plenipotentiary signed the text he understood, not the text he did not understand. The reason why it was written in French was because it was more expeditious and convenient. Monsieur Nans was more at home in the French language, and Sir Arthur Hardinge, who was an accomplished linguist, was perfectly at home in it; and, therefore, it was agreed that the text should be in French. He found that an important convention between Great Britain and Russia in 1885, a protocol between Great Britain and Austria in 1881, and a convention between Great Britain and Portugal in 1885 were all in French; and therefore the Committee would see that the Government did not involve themselves in any great revolution in having the text of the Persian treaty in French. He thought hon. Gentlemen would agree that the Treaty was a great improvement on that that went before it. It reflected no small credit on Sir Arthur Hardinge, and showed that there was sufficient British influence at Teheran to induce the Persian Government to sign the Treaty which he had the honour of submitting to Parliament. Undoubtedly in respect of tea there was a great enhancement of the 'duty, but he had never heard that that would have any differential effect. He did not think the raising of the duty would place them in a worse position in regard to any competitors in the matter of tea than they were before. The idea, too, that British cotton piece goods were in any way 189 placed at a disadvantage in consequence of the Russian Treaty was a mistake. He could assure the Committee that for the future there would be no possibility of duties being raised to the disadvantage of this country without our consent. That was a matter of no small credit to the Government, and more particularly to Sir Arthur Hardinge, who carried it out with conspicuous success. With regard to China, the figures which he possessed did not bear out the view that our trade with China was in a bad state. The volume of trade between Great Britain, the British possessions, the British colonies, and China was enhanced by over a million between 1901 and 1902. British trade was two-thirds of the whole of the trade with China, and was increasing. He did not wish to deceive the Committee. He frankly admitted that the figures he had given included returns from Hong-Kong, and that it was possible that certain deductions would have to be made. There was no reason for thinking that we had been worsted in competition in regard to railways in China. The Northern Railway of China was perhaps the most important line in the whole Empire, and was entirely in British hands. They had also made it perfectly clear within the last few months that they had the right to make the branches of the line when they were required. There was no reason to suppose that Great Britain would not be able to secure their full share of the railway development in the Yang-tsze region.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
asked whether it was correct that they were unable to secure the only railway which they seemed to care about, which was the line opposite Nanking.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said the negotiations were proceeding. He should not say they were unable to secure the line. With regard to the Chinese indemnity, the British Government had always maintained that it was a gold debt, but owing to the fall in the value of silver, the Chinese Government were placed in a difficulty, and the British Government had allowed them to postpone the pay- 190 ment of the full gold value of the debt for ten years. They were willing to receive it as if it were a silver debt for ten years, after which, of course, there would be certain arrears to be paid. The Government fully recognised what was of importance to this country in Manchuria. On the other hand, they fully realised the special position which Russia had acquired. He thought the Russian Government knew perfectly well that we should he delighted to come to an agreement, but there were considerable difficulties. The right hon. Baronet described Russia as a glacier, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would admit that there was considerable difficulty in; negotiating with a glacier. The truth was he was driven to doubt whether the Russian Government was as homogeneous as à priori one would expect a despotism to be. On the contrary, there seemed to be at least two Parties in the Russian Government with whom they had to deal. The first requisite was that there should be willingness on the part of the Russian Government to make an agreement with us; and the second was that we should clearly understand what the Russian Government wanted. They had never been able to understand that. Some time there was a fitful glimmer of light, but it had been of a wholly illusory nature. They had never received from the Russian Government an intimation of what they would expect, and of what they thought the British Government could reasonably lie asked to assent to. Undoubtedly the result had been that Manchuria had not been evacuated yet. He did not deny that that was a very unsatisfactory situation, and he thought our ally, the Empire of Japan, was undoubtedly uneasy at the prolongation of that occupation. The United States Government, too, were anxious for some kind of settlement in Manchuria, their interests being mainly commercial. For Japan the principal question was the position of their interests in Korea. For this country and the United States it was the maintenance of our treaty rights, and particularly of the open door. There certainly were the elements out of which an agreement ought to be possible, and he could assure the Committee that, if the Russian Government was prepared to give due weight to our undoubted treaty rights and commercial interests, they 191 would not find us intransigeant in the matter. As to the position of the Customs revenue at Niuchwang, it was paid into the Russian Bank to the credit of the Imperial Maritime Customs, and as long as the Russians remained in occupation at Niuchwang, that did appear to be an unreasonable arrangement. They had no reason to suppose that when the Imperial Maritime Customs entered into their inheritance they would not find the full account of the money.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Burgles)
said he should like to ask a few questions about Somaliland. He should like to know what had become of the Mullah. The last thee had heard of him was that the Government had got him out of Mugdug; and the other day it was announced that they had captured his mother-in-law. Instead of being called the Somaliland Relief Expedition it should be called the Mullah Relief Expedition. He wished to know what the Government now proposed to do. They had a great faculty for blundering; but they of they never profited by those blunders. He saw telegrams appearing in the papers to the effect that the Mullah's forces were dispersed, that his friends were deserting him, and that if another expedition were sent out, it would smash him up completely. These telegrams were manufactured on the spot by persons who were interested in having another expedition. He wished to ask whether the Government were about to send out another foolish expedition. The last expedition considerably increased the prestige and power of the Mullah. The Secretary of State for War stated that the force had been increased by 300 men. Doubtless, the right hon. Gentleman thought that was an enormous increase, equivalent to three of his Army Corps.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I do not think the hon. Gentleman would be entitled on this Vote to discuss the military arrangements in Somaliland. There is a special Vote for Somaliland, and the military operations are now undertaken by the War Office. The hon. Gentleman would, however, be entitled to raise any question as the policy.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that that was his intention. The Foreign Office was responsible for the policy to be adopted; and what he wanted to know was whether the Foreign Office really meant to have another expedition into the desert or not; and whether they would be tempted by the information which was being sedulously disseminated with a view to during on the Foreign Office and other innocent Departments to another expedition. He observed that Abyssinia was disgusted with the British arrangements. The Abyssinian forces were to be met with at certain points, but the British forces did not turn up. He should like to know what arrangements in Abyssinia were; and whether. If any arrangements were made in Abyssinia and Italy, they were carried out. He saw it stated that the result of British action in Somaliland had been to foment disturbance in the Soudan, and to create a sort of feeling that the power of the British was not what it was. That showed the folly of the operations of the Foreign Office. He was certain that if a Liberal Government had blundered as egregiously and as often as the present Government had, it would have been denounced throughout the length and breadth of the land. The action of the Government was worse than anything that happened in connection with the Gordon business. With regard to the Persian Treaty the noble Lord stated that an assurance had been given that it did not refer to preferential treatment as between the colonies and the mother country. On the face of it, the treaty did not bear that interpretation. When did the noble Lord receive that assurance? Who gave it? Was it given verbally, or was it communicated in a document in the possession of the Foreign Office? If there was such a document, why was the House not placed in possession of it? With regard to the German Papers, he would call the attention of the Committee to the fact that all the Papers had not been laid before them. The Government had been asked for the documents showing the Canadian part of the negotiations, and the Colonial Secretary had replied that he was not aware of any such documents. As a mater of fact they were letters from the Canadian Government to the Foreign Office.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
That is certainly not true, because the Canadian Government does not correspond with the Foreign Office. [A laugh.]
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
That laugh is premature. I have the letter in my possession. It was communicated to the Foreign Office, and the Foreign Office communicated it to the German Government.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
The hon. Gentleman said the letter was from the Canadian Government to the Foreign Office. I suppose the hon. Member means a letter to the Colonial Office communicated to the Foreign Office.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that was a mere quibble. The letter was used by the Foreign Office and communicated to the German Government. It did not matter by what Department it was sent; it was used by the Foreign Office. It was a letter of the greatest importance. It was written on July 11, 1898, and communicated to the Foreign Office in the same month. It was important to know whether Canada had ever asked us to retaliate on Germany. Was there a single letter from Canada which made that request? Not one. All the letter he was referring to did was to ask the Foreign Office to make representations on the subject to Germany. The letter was written in July, and although it was of such importance that the Colonial Secretary based on it his proposal to reverse the fiscal policy of this country for sixty years, the Foreign Office took no notice of it till September 10—months after it was written. And they, the Foreign Office, simply enclosed a copy of the letter to our Ambassador and asked him to communicate the substance of it to the German Government and to ask for an explanation. The German Government gave their explanation and the Foreign Office practically accepted it. It further appeared from Papers presented to the Canadian Parliament that negotiations had been carried on, not merely by the Foreign Office, but between the Canadian Government and the German Foreign Office. 194 They had been carried on at Montreal. He wanted to know how it was that the documents which had been published in the Canadian Parliament had been withheld from this House. Those documents showed that Germany appealed to Canada, and said:The treaty arrangements are coming to an end in 1903. Leave the matter till then. Then we will negotiate a fresh treaty with you.It was not a question of retaliation. It was a question of allowing existing treaties to run out and then entering into negotiations for a fresh treaty. That was an entirely different state of affairs to that which had been represented. The idea given to the country was that Germany was punishing Canada because Canada had given us a certain preference, and that we could stand it no longer. That was not the case at all, as the documents presented to the Canadian Parliament showed. It was treating the House and the country very unfairly not to produce the documents in which Canada herself pointed out the state of her trade with Germany. Germany was selling five times as much to Canada as she was buying from her. Germany took of the produce of Canada to the value of 1,300,000 dollars; Canada bought from Germany in 1902 nearly 11,000,000 dollars worth of goods. What need was there for protecting Canada in a ease of that kind 3 Canada had gut Germany entirely ill her own hands. If Germany chose to stop trade with Canada she would lose at least 9,000,000 dollars. When an important question of policy of this character was discussed, which might inconvenience the whole of British trade, it was not the way to prosecute an inquiry to conceal a part of the truth by not giving information most vital to the consideration of the matter. Canada could retaliate; this country could not. We profited by German trade when we took shipping into account. The suggestion was that we should take the quarrel in hand and throw over German trade, whereas Canada could retaliate with ten times the effect that we could produce. Canada had never asked us to retaliate. She had never asked us to do anything but make representations. 195 Finally, he wished to ask the noble Lord whether he was going to let Parliament see the documents which gave the assurance as to the interpretation of the Persian treaty, and whether they could see the Papers concerning the negotiations between Germany and Canada that had been given in Canada and had been withheld from this country.
§ MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Ports-mouth)
said he wished to obtain from the Government a statement of what they intended to do in regard to railway construction in the neighbourhood of the Persian Gulf. The position, as he understood it was this: We had long enjoyed, and still enjoyed, a dominant position in the Persian Gulf, but our position was not guaranteed to us. We had won it by prestige and kept it by prestige. The country was primitive in its methods, and sooner or later it must be developed, if not by ourselves, then by some other country. They knew the jealousy which existed in this in regard to any enterprise on the part of Germany. But if we do not undertake the development of this country around the Persian Gulf it would be done by somebody else. It was impossible for us to take up the position of a dog-in-the-manger. He believed it would be a very important matter that we should look well ahead so that the development of this country should be undertaken by us. If we do not take a long view we shall find ourselves in the position of trying to lock the door after the horse was stolen. He would like his noble friend to tell the House what view the Foreign Office took of the situation, and to suggest to the Committee that it was one which should not be overlooked.
§ * MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
said it was inevitable, natural, proper, and right that in a discussion on the Foreign Office Vote hon. Members should survey mankind from China to Peru, but he wanted to bring the debate back to the negotiations with Germany about Canada. When the Prime Minister was speaking that afternoon lie interrupted the right, hon. Gentleman by asking how long the Government had held their present opinions on that subject. He 196 wished to assure the right hon. Gentleman that he had not intended to be discourteous, for all of them held him in great respect and affection, and undoubtedly the Leader of the Opposition very felicitously described that feeling when on the previous night be called him Penfant gâteof the House of Commons. With regard to the main issues on fiscal policy the right hon. Gentleman had said he had formed no opinion at all. Clearly the Government had not realised the importance of this controversy between Germany and Canada for any length of time, for it had been shown that afternoon that the Colonial Secretary only last year described it as a minor matter of sentiment and a question of little practical importance. He stated that the Colonies had an effective remedy in their own hands. Had the fight with which they were now threatened been foreshadowed a year ago that would have been very fully discussed at the Colonial Conference. The Colonial Secretary on the 17th June spoke of the ingenuous ignorance of the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, who had asked if he knew of any hostile discrimination against the British colonies. The right hon. gentleman replied that he did know, and that the Government resented it. He did not object to the resentment, but he would like to lay stress on the fact that this so-called hostile discrimination was not new; it had existed since 1899, and the only difference since made was that Canada had levied a surtax on German food. Therefore the duty was rather against Germany, and not at all more against Canada than it was at that time. What did the Colonial Secretary say in 18991 Speaking at Leicester, on November 30th, he said—There is something more tore which f think any far-seeing English statesman must have long desired, and that is that we should not remain permanently isolated on the Continent of Europe … It must have appeared evident to everybody that the natural alliance is between ourselves and the great German Empire. We have had, as I have said differences, but they have been about matters so petty as regards the merits of the particular case that they have not really formed occasion for anything like serious controversy. These differences have, under Lord Salisbury's wise administration of foreign affairs, been carefully removed, and at present I cannot conceive any point which may arise in the immediate 197 future which would bring ourselves and the Germans into antagonism of any kind.That speech was entirely inconsistent with the present attitude of the Colonial Secretary and the Government. The circumstances were practically the same; the only alteration was that Canada had put on this surtax. Not only was the hostile discrimination which then existed taken "lying down," but the Colonial Secretary fawned at the feet of those who were making the hostile discrimination, and begged for an alliance with them. He desired to make no attack on the Colonial Secretary, but certainly the right hon. Gentleman's treatment of this matter showed an incurable levity and changeability of purpose which were not worthy of the dignity of this nation. Four years ago he begged for an alliance; now we were to have an election cry of retaliation against foreign nations in general, but against Germany in particular. He protested against this question between Canada and Germany being made the cock-pit of a Party fight. There were matters of high policy involved, and it was surely to the interests of the nation that there should be continuity in matters of this kind, and that as far as possible both parties should pursue the same policy. Unless that were done England would certainly not keep the high position she had attained in the world. It was not statesmanship to have these sudden changes of policy put forward as they had been of late. The present proposals consisted of two policies which were; mutually antagonistic—the policy of preferential tariffs, and the policy of; retaliation, which was practically the protection of home manufactures. Speaking for himself, he considered the controversy with Canada a serious matter. Every, effort ought to he used to prevent discrimination against our colonies because they gave us a preference. There was no need to talk of war in regard to the matter, but neither was there any need to beg alliances with those who were exercising the hostile discrimination. Statesman-ship ought to solve the difficulty, and he hoped that statesmanship would solve it, for the last dispatch of Baron von Richthofen did show a desire to enter into negotiations on a particular important point, and the point brought out by the; hon. Member for Carnarvon that the matter would he taken up again in 1903 198 tended in the same direction. At the same time, our own trade was a matter of enormous importance to us, and we could not lightly begin a war of tariffs. By such a course we should inevitably hurt ourselves. Circumstances were onto; conceivable in which something would have to be done, but he hoped it would not be done as part of an election campaign. These matters should be treated not by sudden changes of opinion, announced by prominent statesmen, but by some carefully thought-out plan, which the nation could digest, and, if it thought it advisable, support.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
congratulated the Foreign Office on its firm1ness and resolution in withdrawing its Envoy from Servia after the murders; which, in his opinion, formed one of the most disgraceful events in the history of Europe for over a century. The "spirited policy" which had been suggested with regard to China and Persia would entail two armies of 50,000 being; in readiness for operations in Southern Russia and the Yang-tse Valley, and he was afraid the country was not anxious I for the expenditure which such a scheme would involve. As to the fiscal question, everybody seemed to attack the Foreign Office because nothing was done between 1899 and 1902. To his mind the reason was clear. No sensible nation, while at war, would irritate another first-class Power if it could be avoided, and the Government were perfectly right in allowing the matter to sleep until after the conclusion of die South African war. As to the matter of the Benedictine monks, he hoped the Foreign Office would be supplied with a list of the confiscated property. As far as he could make out, there was a grant of £400 a year, in addition to which there was £1,100 a year given through the Bishops. It was, not known whether the latter was confiscated or not. Then there were certain houses, the country house and a number of acres of land belonging to the old boys of the school, and the property of Mr. Ward. The speech of the Under-Secretary was very sympathetic, and he hoped the noble Lord would do his best in the matter, and that he would receive some support from French public opinion.
§ MR WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
, hoped the members of this Order 199 would take the advice of the Under-Secretary of State and furnish the Foreign Office with a full and detailed list of the property which had been confiscated, and also that they would ascertain in the French Courts whether the property was rightly or wrongly taken from them. It would, however, he rather a hardship on the members of the community to adopt that procedure, as they were by no means wealthy, but he believed it was the proper course for them to take if they desired to establish a good case for intervention.
§ MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, Keighley)
said he wished to impress upon the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the necessity of encouraging the production of cotton in the Soudan. This was a subject in which the noble Lord had already taken some steps. It was well known that there was a short supply of cotton in Lancashire, and what he wished to point out was the immediate necessity of constructing the railway from Berber to Suakin winch was necessary in order to promote the production of cotton in the Soudan. The cotton produced in the Soudan was very valuable, and was largely used iii the manufacture of other textile fabrics. He trusted the railway he had alluded to would be pushed on, because in the Soudan, which was under British influence, there were over a million acres of very suitable land for cotton pawing, and he had good information to show that cotton could he grown there to a very large extent
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs had brought a very important matter before the House, namely, that they had been practically deceived by what had gone on between Canada and the Foreign Office. They were told by the Colonial Secretary that he had received no information upon the matter. The hon. Member for Longford stated that papers on this subject had been laid before the Canadian Parliament and 200 that there had been a debate upon this question. His hon. friend the Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs gave an account of what took place in the Canadian Parliament, and he stated that a letter had been sent from the Canadian Government to the Colonial Office, which was sent on to the Foreign Office, and the Foreign Office had made that letter the basis of a communication to Germany. The Canadian Government did not demand retaliation from us, but they urged the German Government to take some friendly action in the matter, and the German Government replied that they would be very happy to do so in 1903. That threw an entirely different complexion upon the whole matter. He thought the noble Lord ought to give them some assurance that they were going to have those papers. The Cabinet Committee of Inquiry might have had these pipers, but the House of Commons had not had them, and he thought they were being most unfairly treated. He hoped the Colonial Secretary would promise to let them have those papers, otherwise they would have take very strong steps to get them.
* LORD CHARBORNE
said he did not think the hon. Member who had just sat down was justified in the kind of language he had used, for he declared that the House of Commons had been deceived upon this matter.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said the complaint was that there was certain letter which had been made a secret of. He did not believe the hon. Member could have read the Blue Book, because if he had done so he would have seen on page 22 that the letter was referred to there. Therefore the accusation he made that the Government were keeping something secret, had no foundation. If they had desired to keep it secret they would not have mentioned it in that dispatch.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
said there were other documents, and the noble Lord was not treating the Committee fairly.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said he would deal with the other document later on. As to the letter from the High Commissioner of Canada, of which the hon. Member pretended that such a great secret had been made, it was sent to the Colonial Office, was handed to the Foreign Office, and then formed the subject of a communication to the Ambassador at Berlin. It was not made the basis of a representation to the German Government. Then it was alleged that there were certain conversations between the Canadian Minister and the German Consul-General, and that the account of those conversations was communicated in documentary form to the Canadian Parliament.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that was not exactly the case, because the document was communicated to the German representative. It was not merely communicated to the Canadian Parliament, but presented by the Canadian Minister to the German representative, and afterwards to the Canadian Parliament.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said it was his business to reply for the Foreign Office. He had not seen this document, and neither had the Colonial Secretary. Therefore no charge could be brought against the Government as to the laying of a document on the Table of the House which they had not yet seen. He resented the accusation of the hon. Member for Northampton, and suggested that a question should be addressed to the Colonial Secretary. The subject did not concern the Foreign Office It belonged to the Colonial Office, and 202 the hon. Member might put a Question on the Paper about it, instead of making accusations of deceit across the floor of the House.
§ MR. BLACK (Banffshire)
said that a Question had been addressed to the Colonial Secretary at the beginning of the week, and the right hon. Gentleman had denied the existence of any such document or letter.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
suggested that another question should be framed and addressed to his right hon. friend. He could not, however, give an undertaking as to a subject which did not concern his Department. There was no desire whatever to deceive the House, and lie should be glad to give all the information in his power. He agreed as to the importance of the Suakin and Berber Railway and the encouragement of cotton-growing in Egypt. He assured the hon. Member that Lord Cromer and the Egyptian Government were keenly interested in the promotion of this railway, and no stone would be left unturned to push it forward without any unnecessary delay so far as the finances would permit. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had asked some questions about railways in Persia. The Persian Government were under an obligation not to build railways anywhere, and the British Government held a pledge that 203 when railways were constructed in the north of Persia they had a right to construct corresponding railways in the south by means of British capital. There was no question of railway construction by British capital in Turkish territory. Something was said about a fresh expedition in Somaliland. The present expedition had not come to an end. As regarded the prospects of the next phase in the campaign, that was a question which concerned more the Secretary of State for War. There was one matter which did belong to the Foreign Office, and that was the position of our relations with Abyssinia. The hon. member opposite said he had private information.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he did not say private information, because it was information which had appeared in the Press.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said there had been no friction between the Abyssinians and this country, and the Government were working in complete harmony with Italy and were in constant communication with the Italian Government with reference to these operations. A large part of the area affected was within the Italian sphere, but there was no friction between them at all.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said the noble Lord was technically quite right in saying that the question with reference to the Canadian Papers which had been laid before the Canadian Parliament ought to be addressed to the Colonial Secretary, but the Foreign Office was responsible for presenting the papers which were in their possession. They knew in laying those papers that something had occurred 204 between the Canadian Government and the German Consul in Canada, and it ought to have occurred to them that the story they were laying before Parliament was likely not to be complete without a reference to what had passed in Canada. The noble Lord said he did not know what it was, and the Colonial Secretary did not know, but it should have occurred to them to find out whether what had passed was important, and whether it was required or not to complete the case which was going to be presented to Parliament. The Foreign Office having been responsible for presenting the case were bound to lay them before Parliament, and they ought to have a definite promise that these papers would be laid before the House as soon as possible.
§ * SIR CHARLES D1LKE
said that perhaps it would be most convenient if he withdrew the Motion he had made.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ And it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.