§ * MR. J. S. AINSWORTH (Argyll)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War if he will state on what terms the Imperial Military Railways of South Africa have been transferred to the civil Governments of the Transvaal and Orange River States; what claim these Governments have as against the expenditure of £900,000 by the British Government on those railways, and what the claim of £1,250,000 by the British Government against the civil Governments of these States represents; and why the Imperial Military Railways were transferred to the civil Governments before these claims were investigated and settled.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER,) Belfast, W.
As the railways in the Orange Free State and Transvaal were conquered they were taken over and worked by the Army. 845 At the termination of the war they were handed over to the civil Governments of those Colonies without payment. The claim of £1,250,000 (which includes the sum of £900,000 referred to) represents approximately the amount expended out of Army funds on the construction of new lines, and the provision of additional rolling stock which was admitted to be beneficial to the new Colonies on taking over the railways, and so recoverable from them. The Colonies have admitted the correctness of the above claim, but preferred a counter-claim for the deterioration to the lines and rolling stock, while in military use, on the ground that very large expenditure would have to be incurred from colonial revenues to make this good. This counter-claim would, though not expressed in figures, in the opinion of the civil Government, extinguish the War Office claim. His Majesty's Government have declined to admit this counter-claim on the ground that these railways, which were held and maintained by the Army, did not become an asset of the Colonies until handed over by the military authorities on the termination of hostilities. It was obviously necessary to hand over the lines at the termination of the war to the civil Administration, subject so the reservation of the claim in question.
§ * MR. J. S. AINSWORTH
Are we to understand that in addition to the£900,000 and £1,250,000 a further claim has been made by the local Governments against the Imperial Government?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Practically the same amount as our claim against them. It is in respect of the deterioration of the line.