§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for the Second Reading read.
§ *THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Earl PERCY,) Kensington, S.
The object of the Bill to which we ask the House to give a Second Reading this afternoon is to obtain the assent of Parliament to a monetary indemnity and to certain cessions of British territory which are necessary in order to carry out the provisions of the Agreement recently concluded between the British and French Governments. The text of that Agreement has been for some time in the hands of the House; they are therefore aware of its provisions, and I should be wearying the House if I were to recapitulate them in detail now. But it is advisable to remind hon. Members that the proposals of the present Bill are only to be explained or defended in the light of the larger issues of policy embodied in the general Agreement; and it is presumably with those larger issues of policy rather than with the details of this measure that our debate will be principally concerned.
§ *EARL PERCY
Yes, understand so. The House will remember that the general Agreement consists of three separate documents. The first of them relates to Egypt and Morocco. By that document the two Powers agree to recognise Egypt and Morocco as falling respectively within the sphere of paramount influence of Great Britain and France. At the same-time, it guarantees for a period of at least thirty years, and independently of any political changes which may supervene in the interval, the principle in both those countries of absolute commercial freedom and equality of opportunity. It also secures for an unlimited period the principle of the free navigation of the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar, and the non-fortification of a large part of the Mediterranean and Atlantic sea-board of Morocco, between Melilla on the North-east and the heights above the River Sebou on the South-west.
The second of these documents relates entirely to Newfoundland. Under that convention France surrenders the privileges which she hag hitherto enjoyed in virtue of the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht In return she obtains from this country a monetary indemnity—the amount of which remains to be determined, but which will certainly not be considerable in any case—for the forfeiture of the private rights of those who have hitherto been engaged in the French fishing industry on the treaty shore. In the second place, France obtains territorial compensation for the sacrifice of public rights; and that territorial compensation is found in three separate cessions of territory on the West Coast of Africa. We give up a small group of islands—the lies de Los—opposite Konakry, the capita] of the French colony of Guinea, The lies de Los were originally ceded to this country by the king of the Bago country in 1818; and they were retained in the possession of this country in 1882, when we ceded to France the greater part of the mainland. Under the Agreement we give up these islands which have lose the importance for us that they had formerly. It was on these islands originally that the principal British trading stations were placed, but the warehouses have now been transferred to the mainland. In the second place we agree to the extension of the French 501 colony of Senegambia, so as to include in French territory Yarbutenda or "The Strangers' Wharf," which is merely a landing stage containing no population but a few huts that are removed in the rainy season. The history of the French position on the Gambia may be briefly described. ID 1857 we gave to the French the right of free access for her ships and commerce to the Gambia River; and subsequently in 1889 an arrangement was come to by which a strip, ten kilometres wide on each bank of the lower portion of the river, was reserved for Great Britain, while the upper waters were reserved for France. It so happens that the stretch of river navigable for ships drawing as much as ten feet of water ceases at the rapids, a few miles to the north of Yarbutenda. Therefore, under the old arrangement, the French have been absolutely excluded from the navigable portion of the river; and it is that disability which is removed by this new Agreement. In the third place, we agree to a readjustment of the boundaries between British and French Nigeria, which will give to the French a considerable accession of territory—some 14,000 square miles—and above all, what they attach most importance to, and what they have never had—? uninterrupted access from their territories on the bank of the Niger to their territories on the eastern and southern shores of Lake Chad.
The third document which is included in this Agreement contains a general readjustment of the interests of Great Britain and France in those parts of the world which lie to the east of the African Continent. In Siam, France recognises as falling within the British sphere of influence the territories to the west and south-west of the basin of the River Menam, and we recognise as falling within the French sphere the territories to the east and south-east of the same region. In Madagascar we give up a protest founded, after all, on a disputed point of international law against the exclusive commercial régime which was instituted in the island by the French Government when they converted their protectorate into annexation. On the other hand, in return the French surrender the extra 502 territorial rights which they have hitherto exercised in the island of Zanzibar; and in the Pacific the two countries agree to take concerted measures for a settlement of disputed land claims and for the establishment of jurisdiction over the natives of the New Hebrides where no provision for it previously existed. The House will see that it is only under the second of these documents—the convention which relates to Newfoundland—that any surrender of rights or privileges or any territorial cession by this country is involved. It is, therefore, only with the convention that this Bill deals, and it is only in connection with the convention that the opportunity for legislation arises, I say "opportunity" advisedly, because the question whether such legislation is necessary or not is not, I think, at issue on the present occasion. By inserting in the preamble of that convention the provision that it is only signed subject to the assent of Parliament, the Crown, in the exercise of its discretion, signifies its desire to obtain that assent, not merely to the monetary indemnity, for which, of course, the: consent of the House of Commons would be necessary, and not merely to the cession of territory, in regard to which the practice of consulting Parliament has varied widely from time to time, but also to all the other provisions in the convention for which there is obviously no constitutional obligation to obtain our approval.
Before entering into discussion of the Agreement itself may notice one or two criticisms which have already appeared in some quarters and may possibly be: repeated by some of the speakers to-night. We may be told, for instance, that there are still certain outstanding points of controversy which are left unsettled by this Agreement; and that, therefore, it cannot be said to be a complete and final solution of all the disputes which have; arisen between the two countries. That is perfectly true, but it is not, I think, a very serious criticism. It is obvious that even if it were not true, and this Agreement had removed from the sphere of controversy all the questions pending between the two Governments, there would have been no guarantee in that fact against the recurrence of similar small disputes in the future— 503 disputes which are inevitable between two great conterminous and colonising Powers. But this Agreement does remove from the sphere of controversy all the questions which have occasione the greatest difficulty and friction in the past, and therefore it will considerably facilitate the task of diplomacy in disposing of the minor differences which remain to be settled. One of the few outstanding subjects of dispute between the two Governments—the question of the compensation of British companies in the French Congo—is at all events in a fair way to a settlement. There is no difference in principle between the view we take and that which the French Government take; they admit that under the terms of the concession to the French companies they are bound to come to an equitable arrangement with the British companies which have been expropriated, and they have promised to do all they can to promote such an arrangement.
And now I pass to another form of criticism, concerning not so much the provisions of the Agreement as our mode of procedure in concluding it. It has been said, I think by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, that we have come to an arrangement with France affecting certain countries like Siam and Morocco without previous consultation with the Governments concerned. Well, there is no reason that I can see why either of those Governments should have been consulted in the matter. This Agreement does not altar or impair the validity of any existing arrangements to which we are a party and which affect those countries. On the contrary, it confirms them. Under this Agreement both we and the French reassert our interest in the integrity of Siam and in the political status of Morocco. If we go further and define the area within which, and the conditions under; which, subject to those limitations, the influence of the two countries is to be exercised in Morocco and Siam, I think it must be patent to the mind of my hon. friend that our right to disinterest; ourselves in any portion of those territories is an absolute right which concerns ourselves alone and for which we do not require the consent of their 504 Governments. While, on the other hand, the extent to which we or the French are able to make our influence felt in the future in the areas recognised as falling within our spheres of influence will depend after this Agreement has been signed, just as it depended before, on the assent and acquiescence of the native rulers.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
Do I understand the noble Lord to say that there is in this Agreement a reaffirmation of the integrity and independence of Siam? I cannot find it.
§ *EARL PERCY
I should have thought that it was stated on the surface of the Agreement that the two Powers do recognise the integrity of Siam and the political status of Morocco. The Sultan of Morocco will certainly gain prestige and relief from the financial embarrassments which have beset him in the past, by relying on the support and advice of France; and I am unable to see that either Siam or Morocco can derive anything but benefit from an Agreement which ensures that whenever they do wish to apply in the future for European counsel and assistance, they will not at all events find themselves trammelled and hampered by divided counsels and conflicting ambitions. The case of Spain is somewhat different. We have all along recognised that no arrangement between ourselves and the French in regard to Morocco would be tolerable which did not take into account the undoubted rights and claims of Spain in that country; and we have only signed the Agreement on the understanding that a corresponding arrangement should be come to between the French and Spanish Governments, and that that arrangement should be communicated to ourselves. Had we adopted any other course, had we made an Agreement between France and Spain a condition precedent to any arrangement between the French and ourselves, had we insisted on dragging the Spanish Government in as a third party to all these long and complicated negotiations, I think it will be obvious to every one that, with the best will in the world, those negotiations might never have reached a successful issue. That that would have been a great misfortune to 505 this country and to France every one will admit; but I think the misfortune to Spain would possibly have been even greater. The situation of affairs in Morocco was such at the time the Agreement was drawn up that at any moment we might have found ourselves confronted with a condition of anarchy in that country in which the presumptive rights of international claimants would have had to give way to the paramount necessity of preserving by the readiest means available, and irrespective of any ulterior considerations, security for life and property.
Then I pass to the question of the Suez Canal Convention, I think my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn takes the view that we and the French Government have arrogated to ourselves the right to modify in concert an international instrument to which eight other Powers were parties. We have done nothing of the kind. Article 6 of the declaration which relates to the Suez Canal Convention does not impair, on the contrary, it gives its sanction, and, in fact, new vitality, to the existing arrangement. In point of fact the Suez Canal Convention was never put into effective operation at all, because at the time that it was first drawn up in 1885 a reservation was made by Sir Julian Pauncefote which was repeated by Lord Salisbury two years later, when the convention was communicated to the other European Powers, to the effect that we appended our signature on the understanding that we assented to its provisions only in so far as they were compatible with the existing state of affairs in Egypt, and did not hamper our liberty of action in that country. That reservation was not objected to by any of the other Powers to whom the document was communicated, and it was with a full knowledge of that reservation that they ratified the convention. But, although they raised no protest against that reservation, they have in fact regarded it, and one Power at all events has explicitly interpreted it, as throwing doubt on our acceptance of the principles of that convention as a whole. That was never our intention; and it was long the wish of the late Lord Salisbury to seize the first favourable 506 opportunity of clearing up the misunderstanding and regularising the position. That is precisely what we have now done. We have reaffirmed our acceptance of: that convention as embodying the principles and methods by which the free navigation of the Suez Canal is secured. We have explicitly stated what is the meaning we attach to our reservation of 1885; and we have obtained the assent of France to the proposition that we have acted and shall be acting loyally to the obligations which we undertook in 1885 if we continue to observe the principles so laid down. Considering the prominent part which France has played in the creation of that great international waterway I do not think it is surprising that we should have selected her as the first confidante of our intentions in regard to it; and there is no reason whatever to suppose that the recognition which she has given of our loyalty to the obligations we have undertaken will be withheld by any of the other Powers whom we have asked to take note of them.
Now I come to the last class of criticism which, perhaps, it is necessary to notice. It may be said that an objection to this Agreement, or the main objection to it, is that the advantages which France gains from it are greater than the advantages which are gained by this country. Well, I do not take that view, and think it would be very easy to prove the contrary. But I am not in the least anxious to demonstrate that we have driven a hard bargain with the French, and should be very sorry to think that the French had got the worst of it. The desire of both parties to these negotiations throughout the whole of our discussion has been to see not how little we could concede to one another, but how far we could meet one another's views. If we have been able, as, I think, on the whole we have, to meet the French in regard to most of but not all the points to which they attach importance, I am very glad that we have been able to do so; and if, on the other hand, we have given up very little that was of value to ourselves and at the same time have obtained a great deal which we have long attempted to secure, then think we have no reason to complain of the advantage we derive from the arrangement. 507 What are the advantages which this country gains? Let us take the declaration affecting Egypt and Morocco first. Under that declaration we give up absolutely nothing that we possess already. On the contrary, even in Morocco, where we seem to be making the most considerable sacrifices, we are, in fact, substantial gainers. The only rights and privileges which we possess at the present moment in Morocco are rights and privileges affecting our commerce and our shipping. Those privileges we retain under this Agreement—[An hon. MEMBER: For thirty years.] Yes, for thirty years—in return for corresponding concessions in Egypt; and those rights and privileges in Morocco will, of course, become more and more valuable with the progressive development under French auspices of the resources of that country It may be of interest to remind the House in this connection of our experience in regard to the arrangement we made with France at the time they assumed the Regency of Tunis. I looked at the figures the other day, and I find that since that date the commerce of this country with Tunis, both imports and exports, has increased by leaps and bounds; yet, although under that arrangement we did obtain most-favoured-nation treatment for our goods, it was explicitly stated on the face of that instrument that most-favoured-nation treatment was not to entitle our goods to the same treatment as the goods of France. Considering, therefore, the far more liberal provisions of the present Agreement in regard to Morocco, I think we may legitimately hope that our trade with Morocco will derive a proportionately greater advantage. Then the only political interests we can be said to possess in Morocco that I am aware of are interests of a strategical character; and those are certainly rendered more and not less secure from the fact that for the future we have placed the principles of the non-fortification of the seaboard and the free navigation of the Straits under the dual guarantee of the two foremost commercial and maritime Powers of Europe.
Well, as I have said, we give up nothing; on the contrary, we gain a great deal in Morocco. But if we turn to Egypt we find that France is 508 making a considerable sacrifice. She is giving up the right of financial and administrative control which she has exercised as long as, and in fact longer than, we have exercised any influence in that country ourselves. She not only abandons all right to interfere in the administration of Egypt in future, but she pledges herself, in what I think we shall recognise as a spirit of generous self-effacement, to act as our coadjutor and ally in a sphere in which she has herself been in the past no mean pioneer. She also pledges herself that at no future period will she ask that a time limit should be put to the splendid constructive and creative work which it has fallen to the lot of this country to undertake in the valley of the Nile. It will not be out of place to allude very briefly to the advantages which Egypt gains under this arrangement. It would be an entire mistake to suppose that those advantages, although inextricably mixed up with, finance, are wholly of a financial character. Everyone who has studied the system which has grown up in Egypt under the capitulations and the various international conventions will be aware that that system ties the hands of the Egyptian Government in regard to every item and detail of her administration. They may not alter any of the taxes which are assigned to the service of the debt without the consent of the Powers; they may not alter any taxes which are not so assigned, if such an alteration is calculated to lead to a deficiency, with out raising extra taxation to double the amount necessary to supply the deficiency. If they wish to embark on capital I expenditure they may not raise a loan without the consent of the Powers; and if they do raise a loan, they may not, without that consent, charge the annuity to their authorised expenditure. Inregard; to their debt, they are obliged every year to set apart half of their annual surplus towards paying off that debt, not in the most economical way by drawings at par, but by the provision of an extravagant form of sinking fund by purchases of their own Government stock in the open market, naturally at prices often; above par. Lastly, if they convert their own debt, they ipso facto lose all control themselves over the economies thereby effected. What is the result of that 509 system to Egypt? The obvious result is that she has locked up a large amount of revenue, amounting to £5,500,000, the conversion economies, and, I think, £967,000, which is the unpledged portion of the general reserve fund, which she may not use for the purpose of developing her own resources. She would have locked up a great deal more but for the fact that the Powers during the past few years have adopted a more liberal policy in allowing grants for such purposes from the general reserve fund; and, indeed, they had less incentive to refuse it, because under the convention they were not allowed to accumulate a sum of more than £2,000,000 in the general reserve fund, but any accumulation in excess of that figure would have gone to swell the sinking fund in the same way as the conversion economies. But the control of the Powers over the general reserve fund is itself limited. The House will remember that in 1897 the Egyptian Government wished to defray part of the military expenditure in the Soudan out of the accumulations in the general reserve fund and obtained the consent of a majority of the Caisse to that allocation. The matter was subsequently brought up in the Appeal Court, and that Court decided that the Commissioners had acted ultra vires in giving their assent. The less obvious, but far more serious, result of this system to Egypt is that it throws on the existing generation of taxpayers a vast amount of expenditure which is ordinarily charged in other countries to capital account. The whole of the expenditure necessary to abolish the corvdée, the system of compulsory labour, and the greater part of the expenditure necessary to effect a reduction of the land tax has been met out of annual revenue. Perhaps it may be said that this was only reasonable, because the existing taxpayers get the principal benefit from the change; But that is not the case with regard to expenditure, for instance, upon irrigation. In this year alone, of the portion of the general reserve fund, amounting to over £1,700,000, which is already pledged to various forms of expenditure, fully one-third is pledged to capital expenditure upon irrigation. Lord Cromer, in his last Report, estimated that during the last eighteen years no 510 less than £10,000,000 had been spent in the same way for the benefit mainly of future generations of taxpayers, the whole of the cost of which has fallen on the shoulders of the present generation. What is true of irrigation is equally true of the railways. Lord Cromer's view at the present moment is that the most crying need of Egypt for the next few years will be an expenditure of something like £3,000,000 on railway construction—that that expenditure is even more urgently required than any expenditure upon irrigation. Yet under the provisions of the Law of Liquidation only 45 per cent, of the net profits of the railway administration is allowed to go to meet working expenses, a sum barely sufficient even for that purpose, and no adequate provision is made for capital expenditure on rolling-stock and the like. The whole of that expenditure, again, has to be borne by the present generation of taxpayers, and at the present moment the: whole of the special reserve fund, amounting to £1,750,000, is pledged for the future construction of the Suakim-Berber Rail-way.
The House will see from this somewhat dull enumeration of financial points: that what Egypt really gains by this Agreement is not merely the control of the greater part of her own taxes by the substitution of a single land tax for all the various taxes which have hitherto been assigned to the service of the debt, not merely the control of revenues; amounting to between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 now locked up, not merely the power to pay off her debt in the most economical manner, but also the priceless advantage of being able to meet calls for extraordinary capital and remunerative expenditure without charging the whole of that expenditure to annual revenue. She gets rid at once of the mixed administrations of the Port of Alexandria and of the railways and telegraphs; and the Cease de la debt itself, whose functions, while it survives, will be strictly limited to securing the punctual payment of the coupons will cease to exist as soon as the debt is redeemed. It may be said that all these advantages are contingent upon the acceptance by the other European Powers of these arrangements, to which France has given her assent. That is not quite the case. 511 Egypt has always claimed the right to pay off her debt at any time after 1905, and the Khedivial decree embodied in this Agreement represents a concession on her part which, of course, she is free to reconsider if her offer is not accepted. But I may repeat what I said in regard to the Suez Canal Convention, that we have no reason to anticipate that any difficulties will be raised by the other Powers. Their connection with Egypt has been historically far shorter in duration and far less intimate than the connection of France. Without going into ancient history, France was associated with us in the dual control as early as 1878. Italy and Austria were not even represented on the Caisse de la Dette until 1880, under the Law of Liquidation; and Germany and Russia had no representatives on that body till 1885. None of the other Powers are represented it all, as France is, upon the mixed administrations. As regards the proportions in which the debt is held, I find that 90 per cent, is held at the present moment in London and Paris, 9¾ per cent, in Egypt, and only ¼ per cent, in Berlin.
I will say one or two words with regard to the convention which relates to Newfoundland. What we give up under that convention I have already explained. We give up a few strips of territory, no doubt of considerable extent, but of no considerable value to ourselves, of which I think few people in this country had even heard, and which are of very great value, both practical and sentimental, to France. What do we gain? We gain in Newfoundland the abolition of the system under which our right to fish in the territorial waters of a portion of our own coast was enjoyed in strict subordination to the fishery rights of the French. Henceforth we are free to fish in those territorial waters as we please. We have an absolute monopoly of the fishing rights within the mouths of the rivers; we are free to draw up any regulations we please with regard to the seasons at which, and the conditions under which, the fisheries shall be carried on. Lastly, and this is the most important of all, we get rid of the system of dual ownership of the actual soil of Newfoundland, a system which, in Newfoundland, as in 512 other countries nearer home, has proved incompatible with the application of capital or the development of a country's resources; and henceforward we are absolute masters of every inch of the soil of. Newfoundland, with full liberty to apply our capital and develop its mining and other resources as we please. Only two obligations are imposed on the colonists. They are obligations of a kind which I think might well have been conceded out of mere feelings of neighbourliness and good fellowship; The colonists must allow the French to participate equally with themselves in the fishery of the territorial waters on the old treaty coast, where, may remind the House, the citizens of the United States obtained the right of fishing themselves under the Treaty of Washington in 1871. They are also under an obligation to allow the sale of bait to the French on the treaty shore. It may be said, and I think said with some force, that a more satisfactory arrangement would possibly have been one under which the French would have had an absolute and unrestricted right to purchase bait wherever they liked in Newfoundland, and in return would have surrendered the artificial stimulus which their fisheries derive from the system of bounties. It was these bounties and the unfair advantage which they gave to French produce in the markets of the Mediterranean, and not any jealousy of the French fisheries as such, which led the Newfoundland Government some years ago to pass the Bait Act, forbidding the sale of bait to the French. They passed that Act mainly as a lever to secure the removal of the bounties. The Act did not have that effect, and, whatever injury may have; been inflicted on the French fisheries, in itself hardly a matter for congratulation, the measure has inflicted far greater injury on the population of the southern shore, where the principal bait fisheries are situated. They used formerly to obtain a considerable livelihood—I think the amount was £30,000 to £50,000 a year—from the sale of bait on this shore, and that source of livelihood they lost under the operation of the Bait Act. That Act was repealed a few years later and a new system instituted under which the French obtained 513 the right to purchase bait on payment of fees for licences. The power of the French to obtain bait under this Agreement will be strictly restricted to the treaty shore; but, on the other hand, the French will retain their system of bounties, to which they attach importance, not so much because of the assistance it gives to the French industry as because it subserves their policy of training fishermen in time of peace for service in the French fleet in time of war.
I will only say one word with regard to the declaration which relates to Siam. I allude to it because, although in that declaration the two Powers reaffirm the Agreement of 1896 they only specifically mention Articles 1 and 2 of that Agreement. The reason why these two Articles are selected is that they are the only ones which relate specifically to Siamese territory. By reaffirming Articles 1 and 2 we reaffirm the principle of the sovereignty of Siam and the principle of free trade in the Menam Valley and the upper portion of the Mekong. At the same time we define the spheres of influence of the two countries outside that guaranteed portion. As a matter of fact, the influence of Great Britain and of France is already exercised in these territories; and we hope before long to take the House into our confidence and communicate to them the Agreement embodying the measures we thought it necessary to take in order to safeguard our interests in the districts which fall within our sphere of influence. The House will see that both Powers disclaim any intention of annexing Siamese territory, and they say that any influence they may exercise shall be exercised in strict conformity with the provisions of existing treaties.
I think have now said all that it is necessary to say, I hope at not undue length, about this Agreement from the point of view of what may call a profit-and-loss account. But that is not the point of view which, interests the people of this country, and it is not as a commercial bar- 514 gain that we present the Agreement to the House. There is one excellent reason if there were no other why we should not discuss it or criticise it from that point of view—I mean that most of the rights and privileges which have been surrendered either by ourselves or by France are sentimental rather than tangible, and there is manifestly no common standard by which you can assess the value or appraise the equivalent of a sentiment you do not feel yourselves. We present this Agreement to the House as an international instrument for securing an object of State policy which has been long and ardently desired and often attempted, but hitherto without success, by statesmen of both political Parties in this country. If Lord Lansdowne has been more fortunate than his predecessors in achieving that result, it is partly due, no doubt, to the fact that he has taken up the threads of diplomacy at a time when the personal wishes and exertions of the rulers on both sides of the Channel were seconded by the unanimous sentiment of their subjects and Parliaments. But it is due to Lord Lansdowne to say, what he would not and could not say himself, that the result would never have been obtained at all but for the patient perseverance and the sympathetic tact which he has brought to bear on these negotiations, and with which he has insisted throughout all these long months of discussion—months not devoid of serious anxiety with regard to events which were passing in other parts of the world—on subordinating all minor considerations of detail to the achievement of the great object he had at heart. This Agreement marks a great step forward in the direction in which all of us desire that we should travel. The last quarter of a century has been for ourselves, as for the French nation, an era of increasing territorial aggrandisement and accumulating responsibilities, forced upon us for the most part against our will, by the changing of the old order into anew one by the virtual discovery of a new continent and the inevitable dissolution of its ancient barbarisms when brought into contact with, the march of Western civilisation. Opinions may, of course, differ here, as they differ on the other side of the Channel, as to the wisdom or 515 the necessity of that policy in the past. But as regards the future there can be no two questions that the only safe and prudent policy for us to pursue, the only policy consistent with the faithful discharge of the stewardship we have undertaken, will be a policy of administrative concentration and consolidation. It was impossible that we should devote our efforts whole-heartedly to that task so long as there existed in different parts of the world causes of conflict between ourselves and our principal colleagues in the regeneration of Africa, delicate questions, touching acutely national susceptibilities, and supposed points of national honour. That these difficulties should have been removed so smoothly and comprehensively is not merely a conspicuous triumph for diplomacy not merely a fresh guarantee of international peace, but I hope it is also a system that we are passing out of that transitional stage in which the success of one nation is regarded as implying of necessity detriment to another, and in which the missionaries of Empire, like too many missionaries of another class, demonstrate their affection for the ideals of progress and civilisation by the hearty jealousy and distrust which they entertain for one another.
In our opinion, the advantages we gain under the convention itself are ample to warrant any sacrifices we ask the House to make; but the real quid pro quo for these sacrifices is not to be found within the four comers of the convention, nor even in the general adjustment of interests between the two countries embodied in the documents which accompany it. If that were so, there would be nothing to distinguish this Agreement from agreements entered into from time to time by various countries for the settlement of some frontier dispute or some trivial question of jurisdiction. What constitutes the distinctive feature of this Agreement, to my mind, is that the parties pledge themselves, not merely to abstain from poaching on one another's preserves, but to do all in their power to further one another's interests. We promise to give to one another, as friends, advantages which are ordinarily given only to allies; and it is as the pledges of friend-ship rather than as the terms of a compromise between jealous and exacting litigants that we ask the House to assent 516 to these concessions. In Africa, as well as in Asia, there is room enough and to spare for the influence of different European nations. And if that influence is exercised, as under the provisions of this instrument it will be, not in a spirit of commercial or political exclusiveness, but in a spirit of friendly and loyal collaboration, the Agreement will I hope not only prove of great advantage to those on whose behalf our influence is exerted, but also provide a working model for the adjustment in other parts of the world of differences between ourselves and rival nations which have contributed largely to those feelings of jealousy and distrust that have done so much to retard the spread of Western influence, and to add to that increasing and well-nigh intolerable burden of military expenditure which is thrown on the shoulders of the peoples of Europe.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
SIR EDWARDGREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
The House is indebted to the noble Lord, not only for a very clear and comprehensive survey of the scope and details of the Agreement, but more especially for the closing part of his speech, in which, in a lofty tone, he sketched what ought to be the ideal state of relations between the different great nations of Europe in the process of their expansion in the world at large. Why we especially welcome that is that in the convention that is now before us we have to a degree which we have never had, at any rate for a very long time, a proof that an ideal of that kind is not entirely separate from practice. There are two ways in which we may look at this Agreement. I admire the way in which the noble Lord, discussing it from the point of view of profit-and-loss, held that the scales have been delicately adjusted, and pointed out how the concession was so evenly balanced that the scale inclined neither one way nor the other. I do not propose to discuss the Agreement from the point of view of a bargain between two Governments; but, if I did, I do not think I should be quite so confident as the noble Lord is that the balance of the scales is so equally adjusted. There is, no doubt, 517 a good deal to be made out of the Agreement, if you look at it from the point of view of a bargain between the two countries. I admit that it is a considerable gain, as the noble Lord has contended, that our land in Egypt is to a considerable extent freed; but do not think it is as free a hand as we are giving in Morocco; and when the noble Lord instances the progress of our trade in Tunis, he might have mentioned another Agreement with regard to Madagascar, which draws a very different picture as to what British trade might be in Morocco. Again, the rights which France sacrifices In Newfoundland were limited, admittedly limited, though the extent of the limitation was always the subject of debate. But the rights which we give up in return for the French concessions are absolute. There are many criticisms of that kind to be made, and I do not mention these in order to discount the effect of the Agreement, because I think it is entirely wrong to look at it as a bargain between the two countries. I am not going to pursue the question which country has got the most. If it be the case, at think it is, that France has gained a great deal, both sentimentally and materially, under this Agreement, do not grudge it in the least. A great deal certainly she has gained with our good will and in consequence of our concessions, and that will be a matter for satisfaction to both countries.
But the real point of view from which we ought to look at the Agreement is the point of view of general policy. I do mot think it is an expression of general policy so much as an expression of general sincere good will towards each other on the part of both nations. That is the spirit in which the House will desire that the Agreement as a whole should be regarded; and if they will study the Agreement closely they will see low much more important the Agreement is in the spirit in this case than in the letter, especially with regard to the future. Take Article 9, for instance, of the Agreement, which relates to Egypt and Morocco: "The two Governments agree to afford to one another their diplomatic support in order to obtain the execution of the clauses of the present declaration regarding Egypt and Morocco." The words "declaration re- 518 garding Egypt and Morocco" are in themselves somewhat vague, and the phrase "diplomatic support" is again vague. Everything depends on the spirit and not upon the letter; but it is precisely because so much does depend on the spirit that there are, in that clause alone, great opportunities, looking to the probabilities of future politics, for the two nations using the Agreement, by a liberal interpretation of that article, to draw closer to each other. There will be continual opportunities of befriending each other under that one clause alone, if it be interpreted in the spirit in which I believe the Agreement is conceived.
The notable feature of this Agreement is that, although it is drawn up between ourselves and France, it deals with the interests of third parties—with the interests of Morocco, for instance, and with the interests of Siam. I think that is rather a novel way of dealing with the interests of third parties; but when you are dealing with the interests of those countries which are in a position of minimum stability, I have always been an advocate for the great European nations who have joint interests dealing directly with each other and not leaving their interests to be settled by intrigue or diplomatic strife at the Courts of the Powers. It is much better that they should be frank with each other; and, to take the noble Lord's illustration, I hope that what the Government has done in regard to Morocco and Siam may be used as a working model when favourable circumstances arise, in the case of Persia, China, and other places where we have interests of the same kind. It is true that this Agreement does begin by setting out that the Governments concerned do not mean to disturb the status quo in Egypt or in Morocco. It has hitherto been the case that whenever two Governments laid special stress upon their desire and intention to maintain the status quo it was really meant that the status quo was in imminent danger of being disturbed. I agree, of course, that in all good faith it is the desire of bot parties to this Agreement to see the status quo. maintained in Morocco; but Morocco itself is not a party to this Agreement, and nobody looking towards the future can help fearing that the status quo, as far as Morocco is concerned, is not 519 one which it is in the power of Europe to maintain. It is essentially so unstable that you cannot contemplate with confidence that the status quo will be maintained. What this Agreement does, therefore, is to prescribe and preserve the policy of friendship between the two countries in the event of that status quo being disturbed, and that I think is a great advantage. Both with regard to Egypt and Morocco, and with regard also to Newfoundland, we have all felt that there has been danger for years past of our relations with France being disturbed by events which were beyond our control and beyond the control of the French Government. These three questions alone have been like mines that have drifted into the sea of our diplomacy, and have made navigation very difficult and perilous, and made us feel that there has been real danger, even with the best intentions, of an explosion taking place which might endanger The relations of the two Governments. I cannot say that these questions are removed by this Agreement, but their explosive character is taken away. There is no longer a danger that the relations of the two Powers will be disturbed by these questions, and that is an enormous gain.
When we come to the Agreement as it stands, it would seem very simple—so simple that it has been asked, quite naturally—Why has it not been arrived at before? The noble Lord was careful in his speech to explain that, whatever credit he took for the Government for having made this Agreement, that credit was not taken at the expense of their predecessors. It was a natural reserve for him to make, because the present Government have been in power, I think, for two years, but for thirteen out of the sixteen years preceding their predecessor was Lord Salisbury's Government. Now, Lord Salisbury was not averse to making graceful concessions. He was, I think, willing at any time to make not only commercial, but territorial concessions if by doing so he could secure favourable relations with our European neighbours. So far from criticising that, I will say I am sure that sober reflection even now, and perhaps still more in the future, will always be ready 520 to place that to Lord Salisbury's credit. He would not have been averse to an Agreement of this kind, had it been possible sooner. I do not think it was possible that it could have been made two years ago. I doubt whether any Government in this country could, a few years ago, have with confidence recommended to the House of Commons or to public opinion in this country the concessions we have made in this Agreement. I doubt also whether the French Government would have ventured to recommend to their Chambers or to their country the concessions which they have made in the present Agreement. The fact is that this Agreement means really a change of policy which is common not only to ourselves, but to some other nations in Europe as well. Other things have happened in the last few years that were not possible some time ago. Europe was some time ago divided into two, I will not say hostile, but certainly not friendly, camps—the Triple Alliance and the Dual Alliance. There has been a tendency to obliteration of the hard-and-fast lines between those two camps. Italy has made her own arrangements with France directly. Austria has made her own arrangements with Russia directly. There has been a tendency to more direct inter-communication, more direct settlement; and this has been more favourable to a frank adjustment of the relations between these Powers; and we in our turn have now taken part in making a sort of arrangement with a view to creating greater frankness and friendliness between ourselves and France. It would not have been possible to establish this Agreement between ourselves and France some years ago, because the atmosphere was not so favourable. We are told by geologists that our own country has gone through various changes, from a glacial epoch to a genial epoch, and that trees and plants which flourished in this country in the glacial epoch would not grow with us now, and plants and trees that flourish with us now could not have flourished in the glacial epoch. Some time ago the atmosphere between ourselves and France may be said to have been of the glacial epoch. It has happily now changed to a genial epoch.
521 How has the change been brought about? The noble Lord has said that the head of the State in France and our own King have had a good deal to do in promoting the change. The Governments of the two countries have also borne their share in promoting the change. I entirely endorse what the noble Lord has said about the willingness of Lord Lansdowne to take advantage of the favourable opportunity which offered, and especially we may mention on the other side M. Delcassé as a Foreign Minister equally quick and ready to take advantage of the change. Groups of Members of this House and of the French Chamber have had something to do, through their friendly relations with each other, in promoting this change. And last, but not least, think the Press on both sides of the Channel have had their share. Without their cooperation I doubt whether all the efforts of other parties, whatever the intention, could have gone as far as they have done. The result of all that has been to make possible an Agreement of this kind now, which would not have been possible some time ago, and the great return to both countries for the concessions they have made in this Agreement is the good will of each of them. It is sometimes said that good will is not an asset on which we can rely between nations. Well, of course it is not a thing which we can put on paper as you can put the terms of a treaty on paper. But anything written, anything expressed in definite terms, is valueless unless good will is behind it. If there be good will which is genuine and sincere, the mere fact that it is not expressed on paper is not of very great importance. Like all human relations, good will and friendship may be disturbed by unforeseen events in the future; but we all feel that friction between ourselves and another nation is a great liability which entails upon us anxiety and expenditure; and do not see why we should not count good will between ourselves and other nations as an asset of some value. In this case especially I welcome it, because France, I think especially amongst nations, has shown, what is not common in international relations, a certain capacity for friendship. There are many nations who conduct 522 their relations with perfect propriety and all the forms of friendliness; but France when she has had friendly relations with other Powers has specially distinguished herself by her capacity for friendship. No one viewing the relations between France and Russia since the Dual Alliance was known to the world, can fail to discover that when France is a friend she is an exceedingly good friend; and, therefore, I think in the good will, which is not the result, so much as the cause, of this Agreement, there is an asset of real value to the two nations. I trust the friendship for which I claim so essential a part in bringing about the good relations between the two nations will continue to keep these relations good. I trust the two existing Governments and their successors on either side of the Channel, when they have any, will also do their utmost to promote this good will. I think it is based upon a real recognition for the first time, both on our part and on that of France, that we have ceased to be aggressive Powers.
I believe with regard to ourselves the feeling is really spreading in the world that we are not an aggressive Power. [An HON. MEMBER: Tibet.] It may seem soon to say so. An hon. Member exclaimed "Tibet." I do not wish to introduce controversial topics. It may seem a little soon, a little bold, to make that statement now as to such a feeling being abroad so soon after the comments aroused in Europe during the Boer War; but I think there is some substance in it. Other countries have come to realise that even those among us who are the most watchful of the actions of other Powers and solicitous for our own expansion have come to look upon our responsibilities as now large enough. What the noble Lord has so well said this afternoon about the consolidation of our resources is not new; it has been said before, but never with much general acceptance and never with such real sincerity of feeling in the House before. The necessity for consolidation and, I do not say restriction, but restraint of further expansion, has been brought home to the country, and is likely to continue to be brought home to the country; and if there be expansions as, for instance, in Tibet at the present moment—if there be an exception there—I wish to remind the 523 House of the fact that Iam dealing with the state of public opinion, not with the action of the Government, and the mere fact of the jealousy with which public opinion is watching the course of events in Tibet and the apprehensions that have been expressed are further proof that public opinion is settled in the desire that there should be restriction of further expansion and responsibilities. Of course the coolness of our relations with France some years ago arose out of the fact that we had an expanding colonial empire and France wanted a colonial empire. But now France has such an empire—no doubt to a great extent undeveloped, but full of possibilities—and France has come to realise that the concessions we have made in Africa of rights indisputably ours are willingly made with the object of enabling her to develop the power she has there. Her claim, I understand, was put forward, not as a right to any concession in Gambia or adjustments of territory in the region of Lake Chad, but on the ground that we had our territory so disposed that we could freely develop even if we made these concessions, whereas the concessions we have made are absolutely vital to the development of the French possessions. We have made the concessions not so much from the idea that they are a fair quid pro quo for the Newfoundland arrangement, but for the inherent reason that we regard these matters as of little importance to us and essential to France. It is evidence of our good will that we make these concessions to her. That is the spirit in which the Agreement has been made, and that is the spirit in which believe it has been entered into by France; and in the future we shall see these two Empires side by side in West Africa, for to a considerable extent they will be conterminous, with an increasing development of their resources and an increase of the friendly relations between the two Powers I welcome the Agreement, and I hope, as the noble Lord has said, the Government will lose no opportunity of making it a working model for other cases where it is possible to do so. I welcome this Agreement because I believe not only will it be a working model for other cases, but be cause it has in it great possibilities for keeping us in contact with France, with a growth of friendly relations to the 524 advantage of both countries, and the many points of contact in various parts of the world will not, as in the past, be occasion for dispute and debate, but will be so many opportunities for the interchange of international courtesies.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
The extremely lucid speech of the noble Lord in introducing this Bill, and the highly interesting moral lecture given to us by the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken, must make the House feel—and I think it is true—that there is a strong feeling outside this House in favour of this Agreement. I have put down an Amendment to the Second Beading of this Bill as a statement of the case the noble Lord would have to meet, and of certain criticisms he would have to answer. The noble Lord has to a certain extent answered those criticisms; and for that reason, and for others which the House will appreciate without my mentioning them, I do not propose to move my Amendment, but to leave it as my statement of certain criticisms which required, and some of which still require, to be answered. We have had a duet of approval of the whole of this Agreement from the Under-Secretary and the ex-Under-Secretary. Minister smiles at ex-Minister, Under-Secretary smiles at ex-Under-Secretary, like the augurs in the streets of Rome. The right hon. Baronet referred to Siam and other places and expressed his approval of the action of the present Under-Secretary. But it is right to remember that he, too, is a lady with a past, that there have been lapses from virtue on both sides; and under these circumstances it may possibly be permissible to a Member of the House, who takes an independent view of this matter and has independent criticisms to offer, to speak. I was struck by one remark of the noble Lord. He said that the dispute between England and France was not how little they could concede to one another. No, it was how much belonging to somebody else they could concede to one another. The noble Lord seems entirely unconscious of the fact that almost all the gifts from England to France and almost all the gifts from France to England are made at the expense of other countries. That 525 is a criticism which has not been answered.
It has already been remarked that while the House is asked to approve the convention, it is not called upon to approve of the two declarations which form part of the scheme. The declarations are even more important then the convention itself. They are quite as much binding treaties, and are far larger and more serious than the convention which alone we are asked to approve in so many words. We are asked to give express approval to the convention and tacit approval to the declarations; on the ground, as I under stand it, that the more important declarations are acts done by the Sovereign in the exercise of his prerogative, and, therefore, do not require approval from the Houses of Parliament, while the less important convention, forsooth, only because it makes a charge on public funds, and alienates territory of our own, does require such approval. I believe that is an entirely unsound doctrine. I hold that every serious treaty made by the Sovereign should receive the approval of Parliament. That is a doctrine which is laid down in our history. When in 1701 the Partition Treaty was made this House passed on 21st March of that year an Amendment to the Address to the King in these words—Resolved, and also to lay before His Majesty the ill-consequences of the Treaty of Partition) passed under the Great Seal of England during the sitting of Parliament and without the advice of the same) to this Kingdom and the peace of Europe.The result was that the Whig Chancellor Somers was impeached, and though acquitted by the Lords he was dismissed from the King's counsels for passing the treaty under the Seal. That Resolution, which remains on the Journals of the House, taken with the subsequent message of the Sovereign of 6th June, 1812, does seem to me to embody the doctrine that all serious treaties ought to be submitted to the House "to use the Queen's words before the same should be concluded"; and may remind the House that although we have allowed to fall into desuetude the doctrine there laid 'down, it is still adhered to by the United States whose earliest act after achieving independence was to set up that Com- 526 mittee of Foreign Relations whose eleven members may require information and inspect the Foreign Office correspondence while negotiations are proceeding, and who can, through the Senate, prevent the President from concluding any treaty whatever. Something of that sort is urgently needed now here.
Now come to the convention. I will not recount the whole of its history. What I contend is that in this convention France has only given up rights she never possessed and still retains the only rights to which she ever had a title. Let the House remember that Newfoundland was discovered by Cabot, an Englishman, in 1496, and was annexed in the sixteenth century to the Crown of England, and what the treaty of 1713 did was to add to the English rights of discovery the right of conquest and the treaty rights of France. Newfoundland has always been treated as the Cinderella of the Colonies. It was positively until the end of the eighteenth century the settled policy of the English Government to keep Newfoundland uninhabited under the notion that it was only useful for its fisheries. What now did the 13th Article of the Treaty of Utrecht do? It acknowledged in England the fullest sovereignty over the whole of Newfoundland, France engaged not to raise any pretensions to any part of that territory of any sort or at any time, not to erect any habitation, and not to land on the island at any other time than the fishing season. There was another Foreign Office mistranslation in this treaty, for the words "not to land" were translated "not to frequent," which are much less restrictive. The French were not to land except at a specific time and for a specific purpose, that specific purpose being to dry fish. On these conditions they were allowed to fish in the territorial waters of the French shore which is two-fifths of the whole shore of the island. That was the right given to the French by the Treaty of Utrecht; and it required an absolute grant of that right from the Sovereign to enable them to fish in the territorial waters at all. It was an equal, concurrent, and not an exclusive right; and to suggest that it was exclusive of the English right to fish in the English waters of the island was to suggest that 527 the surrender of sovereignty made in the most solemn terms by France was not real or effective. Now, in making the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 at the close of our war with the United States the English Sovereign declared that he would prevent his subjects from "interrupting by their competition" the exercise of the French right of fishing, which was, however, not enlarged by that declaration, for it was denned as the right assigned to them by the Treaty of Utrecht. It is clear, therefore, to me—I will not labour the thing and I know it is disputed—that the French right was a right, not exclusive but concurrent. There is undoubtedly this to be said that that declaration of 1783 did lend itself to what I should call a wresting or forcing of the text, to the art of what the French in a neat expression call solliciter les textes. The forcing of that text has gone on ever since, and it has been encouraged and accepted by English Governments in a manner to my mind very surprising indeed. As I read that declaration the French only had an equal right with the English people of fishing in the territorial waters, but they went further and claimed the exclusive right. It practically came to this, that any man other than a Frenchman might not catch a fish for his breakfast. No doubt the French regard this fishery as a source of supply of men for their navy, and that, no doubt, is the reason why they pressed their claims with such pertinacity. With English compliance the French pretensions rose to an amazing extent until at last it came to this, that in 1891 in the French Senate a French senator said—On the French shore of Newfoundland we are as much at home as at Paris.. we may prevent the English from so much as looking at the French shore.The result of all this English compliance has been that Newfoundland, so far as the French shore is concerned, is practically an uninhabited country. There is not a building, not a tree felled, not a mine opened, not a field ploughed, not a line of railway, aid the few people who live there live under no law and are the inhabitants of a sort of Newfoundland Alsatia. At the same time the French make no use of this place except for the drying of fish and for the catching of 528 lobsters. I do not know whether there is any French version of the fable of the "dog in the manger," but even in that fable it was not suggested that the master of the horse helped the dog up into the manger to keep the horse away from his food, and that is what England did here. I will not dwell on the question of whether canning lobsters is drying fish, or upon French bounties or the Bait Act, though these are important incidents. Suffice it to say that these fishing rights so used, and so wrongfully admitted, have had the effect I have described, and have made it impossible to develop the enormous resources that Newfoundland possesses. They have rendered the place almost uninhabitable; and they seriouslv interfere with the welfare of the large population, amounting to over 250,000, who now inhabit the island. I have never denied that the French had rights, but I say under this convention they have abandoned rights they never did possess, and still retain all the rights they ever had. In order to compensate them for this abandonment of nothing we are to give them compensation, the amount of which has yet to be settled.
This Agreement indeed bristles at every turn with unsettled conditions which may lead to great difficulties in the future. They are to get not only pecuniary compensation, but also territorial cessions in Gambia and on the Niger. An illustrious Frenchman once said—Never was there any treaty between the French and English but that the French always overreached them by their wit and ability,That certainly seems to me to have been the case on this occasion. One question I am going to ask, and that is, Has Newfoundland been consulted. On the 14th of April last, I asked the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord—How it is proposed to provide for the payment by His Majesty's Government of the indemnity stipulated by the Convention with France, of the 8th of April, 1904, to be paid to French citizens; will the convention providing for that payment and for certain French rights on the coast of Newfoundland be submitted in any, and, if so, in what manner to the approval of the Colony of Newfoundland, and in what manner will it be submitted to the approval of this House.529 To that the First Lord of the Treassury replied—As I think I have already indicated, the indemnity will be paid by this country, and of course an Estimate will have to be presented for that payment. The Newfoundland Government need not be consulted with regard to that payment as they will not share in it. They will have to be consulted as to the regulations which will have to be put in force upon what is known as the treaty shore.That was the answer given to me then, but I think there is now something more than that. It appears from supplementary declarations made by Lord Lansdowne, that the treaty absolutely prohibits the Newfoundland Legislature, for all time, from passing a Bait Bill. It prohibits them from doing that which in 1887 they did do and which but for this treaty they might do again. That may be right, but at the same time it is a serious interference with the rights of the colony. But that is not the only interference, because we have undertaken that the policing of the territorial waters and arrangements for the prevention of the smuggling of alcohol shall be carried out under an arrangement arrived at between the English and French Governments. That certainly takes out of Newfoundland's hands a thing which ought to be left to her. But that is contrary to our most solemn undertakings if done without Newfoundland's consent. In 1857 the question arose as to how far the Imperial Government could interfere with the rights of Newfoundland, and the Imperial Government then disclaimed any intention of interfering with the rights of Newfoundland at all without the previous consent of the Newfoundland legislature. I read from a despatch signed by Mr. H. Labouchere, 26th March, 1857—There are," he said, "two principles which have guided them and which will continue to guide them—namely, that the rights at present enjoyed by the community of Newfoundland are not to be ceded or exchanged without their assent, and that the constitutional mode of submitting measures for that absent is by bringing them before the Colonial Legislature.And he adds that—The consent of the community of Newfoundland is regarded by His Majesty's Government as the essential preliminary.I submit that that is the right course to take on this occasion. You are interfer- 530 ing seriously with the rights of Newfoundland, and before concluding the matter it should be submitted to the Legislature of Newfoundland. There has been a modification of the territorial and maritime rights of Newfoundland without such safeguards and previous consent as required by the assurances given in 1857. I gathered from the answer made to me on the occasion by the First Lord of the Treasury that it was not considered necessary to get the consent of Newfoundland. I hope I was wrong in that, but that was the inference I drew. I trust there has been consultation and that in these matters their assent has or will be obtained. Sir, this arrangement is still full of the vice which tainted the former arrangements with regard to Newfoundland. It still leaves the question of the territorial waters undecided. It leaves the policing of the district to England and France, and to that extent it impairs and leaves under: considerable uncertainty the sovereignty of these waters and these shores, and thus retains the vices of all the old arrangements which led to the disputes in the past. I think we have made a bad bargain. I do not think it is so bad for the Newfoundlanders if they choose to consent to it. On the whole it is rather a good thing for them because they have got rid of some of the strong fetters which bound them. We are to pay the indemnity, and it is only right that we should do so because the position to which they have been brought is largely owing to the acts of this country. But, indeed, I do not quarrel with the compensations we are to give, for I would give this, of our own, and much more to be on good terms with the French.
There are, however, the other declarations which are far more important. My quarrel with these is that they give away, not our own, but other people's possessions. There is first of all the Far Eastern declaration. In Madagascar we have withdrawn our protest against the French tariff, a concession of great importance. In the New Hebrides we have agreed—and here there is another instance of undecided matters — we have agreed to draw up an Agreement, and a Commission is to settle all disputes of the so-called "nationals" — a strange word—why 531 are to come under the Agreement. That leaves that matter very much undecided. These two points involve no principle. But the matter of Siam is very different. It does involve a principle. No doubt the French have cast longing eyes upon Siam for a considerable time. In 1889 the French Government proposed its neutralisation, and the House will remember the debates on Siam which took place in 1893. The French claimed the whole of the territory to the east of Mekong; Lord Rosebery used the most minatory language but to no effect. When the French forced the Menam, invaded Siam, and ordered British cruisers out of Siamese waters, Lord Rosebery gave way, and the French annexed the one-fourth of Siam to the east of the Mekong. In 1893 we, who were then on the other side, resisted and reprobated Lord Rosebery's concessions. Luang Prabang, Battambong, and Angkok were familiar in our mouths as household words, and Chantabun especially, the annexation of which by France engraved it on Lord Curzon's heart, where it lemained engraved till he went away to India to annex Tibet for England. After this came Lord Salisbury's Agreement of 1896. I could never quite understand why that Agreement was made, or why things were not allowed to remain as Lord Rosebery left them in 1893. That Agreement dealt with two other fourths of Siam and neutralised them. Now comes the present Agreement which strikes a line through the neutralised portion, and for the first time makes the limit of French influence, not the frontier line of the neutralised portion, but the Mekong itself. In other words, by this new arrangement, French influence has been spread over the whole of the country between the Mekong on the East and the Menam on the West. That is a very serious matter. It is the more serious because Lord Salisbury when he made his arrangement gave us to understand that it was absolutely the last that would be entered into with regard to Siam. These were his words—We fully recognise the rights of Siam to full and undisturbed enjoyment in accordance with long usage. The events of this recent history certainly have a tendency to encourage doubts of the stability of the Siamese dominions, and without in any degree sharing those doubts, or admitting the possibility within any future 532 with which we have to deal of the Siamese independence being compromised. Her Majesty's Government could not but feel that there would be an advantage, in giving some security to the commercial world, that in regard to the regions where the most active development is likely to take place, no further disturbances of territorial ownership are to be apprehended.But now we come to a further disturbance.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I understand it to be, I say it is, a further disturbance. The Government have agreed that the French sphere of influence should extend up to the left bank and that ours should end on the right bank of the Mekong.
§ EARL PERCY
Under this Agreement there is no disturbance of the frontier of the neutralised portion of Siam as fixed by the Agreement of 1896.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
It is quite true that the neutralised two quarters, of Siam are kept neutralised, but the French sphere of influence is now extended up the middle of them. The difference between the 1896 and the present Agreement is that, whereas under the former France was to keep to the east of the Mekong, she is now let loose over the whole of the intermediate country between the Mekong and the Menam. Although certain high-sounding phrases are used—it is now "political status"—there is no doubt that what is intended sooner or later is, first, the establishment of a protectorate, and then the annexation by France of the whole of that territory. I can expect nothing else, and it seems to me that that is what those who signed this-declaration must have anticipated.
I now come to the North African Declaration, and that, morally speaking, is even less creditable than the Siam arrangement. The declaration begins, by saying that England has no intention of altering the political status of Egypt. Why, Sir, I defy anybody to tell me in language known to the law of nations, what is the political status of Egypt and England's place therein. We are there in defiance of the Sovereign of 533 Egypt; we exercise authority there by a Consul-General acting through a Viceroy, and yet we entirely disregard the Sovereign whose vassal the Viceroy is, and act wholly according to our own ideas of what is for the good of the country. There is no political status: it is all chaos. Lord Lansdowne speaks of "our work," of "our task," and of "our predominant position." It must doubtlesss be admitted that the occupation by England has been a great blessing to Egypt; it has produced most remarkable prosperity, and were our occupation to cease great injury would undoubtedly result to the Egyptian people and to Egypt herself. But that does not alter the fact that our presence there is in violation of the rights of the Sovereign of the country, in violation of our most solemn promises to Europe to retire, that we are there in no sort of settled or known capacity, and that the whole position as regards "political status" is nothing more nor less than chaos. Even now, we are to hold Egypt only on condition that we accept the Suez Canal Convention of 1888, whereby we undertake to allow our enemies to use that canal against us in time of war. But France now acquiesces in our occupation of Egypt, and the difference that that acquiescence makes is enormous. It appears to prepare the way for that protectorate and that annexation which I fancy cannot now be delayed much longer. The real price of the acquiescence of France in our occupation of Egypt is the abandonment of Morocco to France, and in spite of the terms used to conceal its character, the transaction seems to me to be one of a proloundly immoral and improper character. France is to "watch over the tranquillity" of Morocco, which is an express destruction of its independence, yet both France and England profess to have "no intention of altering the political status," when they simply destroy it. France and England assume the right to forbid the erection of fortifications on the coast of Morocco. But it is a well-known fact that the Sovereign of a country has a right to erect any fortifications he considers necessary for his own defence. That right was indeed expressly affirmed by 534 all Europe for all sovereigns in the Treaty of Paris of 1814. Any denial of that right is a denial of sovereignty, and the very fact that this provision has been put into the Agreement shows that France means nothing less than the denial of the sovereignty of the Sultan of Morocco. The whole country is to be brought under the influence of France, and of Spain to such extent as France may sanction. In none of these arrangements has any Power interested been consulted by this country. In regard to Morocco, Spain has been handed over to France to make such Agreements as France may choose to sanction. Now between France and Spain a protocol was certainly signed last year by Senor Leon y Castillo and M. Delcassé, expressing the views then held by Spain and France with regard to Morocco, and that protocol declared that the triangle on which Cape Spartel and Tangiers lie was to be neutralised, that south of that a large band should be placed under Spanish influence, and that south of that again there should be a still larger band under French influence. There was also an engagement that Spain should hand over to Germany one of two ports—either Casablanca or Rabat. I am sure that that protocol was signed. I admit it probably no longer exists, but I believe it is on those lines the final settlement will be made, and we may confidently expect Germany to come in and demand her port, whatever else may happen.
These two declarations together amount in Egypt, Siam, and Morocco, to no less than the partition of three new Polands—to a compact of plunder. It will not, and cannot, come to good either for England or for France. I have felt it right to criticise the convention from that point of view. But I must now say that from a European point of view—and, as M. Thiers once said, one must be a good European—this Agreement is of the highest import and may be of the greatest advantage. We in England have long been isolated from Europe. We have gone to the uttermost ends of the earth to gain settlements for trade rather than for political purposes, and that has isolated us. Nevertheless, from time to time we 535 have made efforts to bring ourselves back to the general system of Europe, and to make arrangements for the performance of our duties. There has been the Concert of Europe, always insufficient, always cumbrous, and, at the moment when most wanted, always in competent to deal with the culprit it was intended to reach. This present Agreement with France is a return to the older, simpler, and, as I think, better system of the balance of power, which, strangely enough, the Treaty of Utrecht was the first expressly to recognise, for an article of that treaty declares that it was made, among other purposes, "for securing the tranquillity of Europe by a balance of power." The balance of power instead of being an arrangement to keep the peace of Europe by an agreement between all the Powers is an arrangement to keep the peace by an Agreement between two or three Powers. This is not new to this country, for both Queen Elizabeth and Cromwell came to agreements with France against Spain upon the balance of power and with the same object. This balance of power has been much derided and has, in fact, been used as a pretext to cover the commission of crimes, but it is an effectual method of keeping aggressors in order. It is simply an imitation of those elementary devices by which society bands itself together and keeps its own members in order. I believe that no combination can be so effectual in producing a balance of power as the combination of England and France, and, from that point of view, I think great good may result. There are not absent from Europe at the present moment dangerous elements. We may have no Charles V. or Philips, but there are stalking through Europe ambitions which must be curtailed and which may be developed to a greater extent than seems at present. Against such it is well to raise a visible barrier in England and France. The successive plunder of successively isolated Powers has been seen. The business of the balance of power is to isolate the so later, to put the isolation on the side of the aggressors, I trust this may have that effect. For Europe it is well that France and England should stand together. After all, there are no people so naturally geographically belonging to us as allies and 536 friends as are the French people. England and France are not naturally enemies but friends, and ought to be permanent allies. From this point of view therefore, and from regard to its beneficial effect on the European situation, I welcome this agreement, as being calculated, apart from the immortality of portions of it, to secure the peace of Europe.
*SIR CHARLES DILKEForest of Bean) (Gloucestershire,
The Government ought to be congratulated from this quarter of the House upon the new departure they have made in bringing this Bill forward for the approval of Parliament. Contrary to the views of Mr. Gladstone, who, upon this matter, always remained a Tory, and who always opposed vehemently such a proposal, the Government have rightly brought this convention forward for the confirmation of the House.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
We expressed that view in 1896. It is not new.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
This course has not been adopted before in a matter so large. This is a very large matter and the question has never before been brought before Parliament in this way. It is an acknowledged fact that we do not lose anything but gain by I these discussions and the hands of the respective Governments are strengthened by these proposals being brought before Parliament for confirmation. Foreign Governments in their dealings with us have very often had their hands greatly strengthened in the past by adopting this course, and I think we shall; do well to always in the future bring such proposals before Parliament. There are three declarations. The first is called the convention but it is not the convention alluded to here. The second declaration is brought before us and not the first nor the third in this Bill. But you, Mr. Speaker, have allowed full debate upon all the three, and it is undoubtedly impossible to separate them, and Lord Lansdowne and the Government have treated them in this way. We all shared the sentiments of the Prime Minister when he 537 expressed the hope that all these declarations would be debated as a whole. The first thing that strikes one about these two conventions and the declarations is the extraordinary new departure in the foreign policy of the country, the completeness of the reversal of the policy of Lord Salisbury, and the complete acceptance by the Government of the views we have been urging for years on this side of the House. M. Delcassé desired an agreement of that kind, and he made a statement to this effect in an interview with an English journalist, Mr. Arnold White, which was published in the Manchester Guardian. In times gone by Conservative Members and Conservative statesmen considered it absurd that such an agreement could be entered into by this country, but now happily this arrangement had been come to by a new departure. The basis of the foreign policy of Lord Salisbury had always been the maintenance of the status quo in the Mediterannean, and Lord Salisbury exchanged notes with Italy in which this policy was set forth. That was the basis of Lord Salisbury's policy, and Morocco was in view at that time, but he was then dealing with Italy, Spain, Germany, and Austria. Lord Salisbury's idea was always a German alliance, and this was shared by the whole of his colleagues and the Conservative Members of this House, and it was supported in the strongest possible language by the then Colonial Secretary the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who, in a speech at Leicester on the 30th November, 1899, said—The natural alliance is between ourselves and the great German Empire.We on this side of the House have continually protested against the doctrine of permanent alliances, and I hope that alliance has gone by the board for ever. With regard to the details of this measure I agree with what has been said by my right hon. friend the Member for Northumberland as to the importance at this time of establishing friendship between France and ourselves by this Agreement. This feeling exists on both sides of the House, but the country does not shut its eyes to the fact that this Agreement has been arrived at somewhat hurriedly, and passes by questions of great difficulty and danger 538 which might easily have been settled in this Bill. There are matters which have been under discussion for a long time, and which have reached such an advanced stage in negotiation that a very little push on our part at a time when we are giving up so much might have settled these points. This course would have avoided great dangers which may jeopardise the success of this Bill. On the whole, I approve of this Bill, although it gives up a great many things which might have been saved, and about which we are not going to wrangle, and it does not settle some of the questions which I are highly dangerous, and which could have been settled in connection with this Bill. The hon. Member for King's Lynn has attacked the Newfoundland part of this measure; but I should think that if there is one good feature of this Bill it is that part which deals with the Newfoundland policy. The hon. Member is wrong in suggesting that Newfoundland has not been consulted—
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I drew that inference from my noble friend's speech, but it appears that I was wrong.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
The Newfoundland Cabinet was consulted at every stage, and the Newfoundland Legislature has approved of the whole I Agreement which it has accepted. It is quite true that the great authority of Sir William Whiteway can be quoted against this Agreement, and he has published articles against it, and stated that the whole difficultyin the past had been caused by the ambiguities in the Treaties of Utrecht, Paris, and Versailles, and that the whole mischief will be caused in future by the ambiguity of this treaty. But the almost unanimous feeling in the Newfoundland Legislature is that ambiguities will be cleared up by this treaty, and those mostly concerned appear now to be fully satisfied. There is the secret report of Sir John Brampton and Admiral Erskine to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1899. This report is known in Newfoundland and extracts have been published. It is known to all the Newfoundland statesmen and it confirms the view of British rights which the hon. Member for King's Lynn has taken. Unfortunately we have been bound in this matter not by treaty rights, but by our 539 own action and the secret instructions to our officers which have been of such a nature as to make it impossible for us to set up the high and dry view as to the meaning of the treaties. But while the Newfoundland settlement is an excellent settlement of a most dangerous question the price paid for it really includes Morocco and Siam as well. This Agreement does not get rid of inter-nationalism in Egypt, and that prevents Egypt from being set off against Morocco. I may say in passing that there is a most extraordinary contradiction in the language of the arrangement, for although on the first stage of the despatch covering the Agreement Lord Lansdowne says that—Our occupation of Egypt, at first regarded as temporary, has become firmly established,and on the third page that our—task must not be impeded by any suggestion that our interest is of a temporary character,there is a curious declaration on page 5 which provides that "certain stipulations should remain in abeyance during the continuance of the occupation." The words which are employed are that the occupation is to be of a temporary nature. There is that strange contradiction, at all events, that internationalism is continued in Egypt, and that in Morocco there is no equivalent. Now the position which we have conceded to France in Morocco is the basis of the happy change in our relations which this convention makes, as regards the present and the future. It is an extraordinary and a startling fact that our policy appears to have been the result of a mere accident a mere blunder, because it was our recognition of the French right to the Hinterland of Tripoli, and our allowing France something to give to Italy in exchange, which caused France to be able to gain Italy to her view in regard to Morocco, which she undoubtedly did gain, and which led to the giving up of the whole status quo in the Mediterranean. We often hear of continuity of policy in foreign affairs. Here we have the greatest breach of the long accepted maxim as to continuity of policy in foreign affairs that has ever occurred. What has occurred in regard to Morocco is, I think, on the whole wise, yet there is ground for thinking in the case of Siam that we have gone rather fast, and have not, perhaps, had due regard to British 540 trade and capital in that country. The noble Lord has said that the Siam arrangement is based on Lord Salisbury's arrangement which was quoted by the hon. Member for King's Lynn. At the time the language used with regard to that arrangement was even stronger than that quoted by the hon. Member for King's Lynn. On 27th March, 1896, Lord Curzon used these words in this House—The illusion that under this Agreement there has been the creation of two spheres of influence, and possibly at some future day of possession. Siamese rights remain intact over the whole. France has not gained a single right under this Agreement.Lord Curzon quoted Lord Salisbury's despatch as to the right of Siam to the full and undisturbed enjoyment of the entire territory comprised within her dominions. There is something more interesting on this subject than the opinion of the French Government, and that is the declaration made by M. Etienne, who is not merely an ordinary Member of the French Assembly. As President of the Committe de l'Asie Francaise, he is stronger than his own Government. He dominates the Chamber on this subject. He says the Asiatic clauses of the Anglo-French Agreement are—Of a nature to satisfy those of the colonial party who understand that we may hope.…. Confirmation of the free hand of France in the basin of the Mekong.His paper, commenting further on the subject, and enlarging on his own words, says that Lord Salisbury's despatch was only for the British and Siamese, and the interpretation put upon the arrangement was "une mauvaise plaisanterie" Lord Lansdowne claims that the Agreement will put an end to the friction that has existed between the two countries with regard to Siam. I am afraid that portion of the Agreement will only intensify it. Now the new doctrine comes that they are to have "liberty of action within their sphere of influence" in Siam. The phrase used is "sphere of influence," and that phrase was indignantly repudiated by Lord Curzon when applied to the Agreement of which this forms an explanation. We have large trading and capital interests in Siam. The Lancashire trade in cotton goods is a very large one, as you will find if you look at the Siamese 541 figures. Our interests there were preserved by the arrangement of 1896, and we are told that they are preserved by this arrangement. The territory in the French sphere of influence comes within eighty miles of Bangkok and it includes Khorat, and one-third of the railway from Khorat to Bangkok, which taps the trade, and the swallowing up of that sphere will mean the destruction of very; large British interests in Asia. Lord Lansdowne says this will end the attempts at Bangkok to play off one Power against another, and he says it puts an end also to what he call the seeds of international discord. What I am afraid of is that it means pressure on Bangkok for annexations, which are so prejudicial I to British interests, which are the cause of alarm, and which in my belief might have been avoided if they had been looked to beforehand. French trade in Siam is very small as compared with ours. I doubt whether it is one per cent, as compared with ours. Siamese trade is nearly all within the British Empire—Singapore, Hong-Kong, the United Kingdom, and India. There is an enormous amount of our capital invested in Siam, and I think it is most unfortunate if by the looseness with which this treaty has been drawn there should arise such a feeling in Siam as should lead to difficulty there which a very little precaution might have avoided. The Government take up a position with regard to Siam which I think it is impossible to justify. The Government position is that the treaty; of 1896 guaranteed Siam in her possessions, and that there was to be no annexation, while in this treaty also there is to be no annexation. Siamese territory has been annexed between 1896 and now. I am not putting forward these facts for the purpose of nagging against this treaty. I accept the treaty, but I regret that greater care was not used in its preparation. The noble Lord said he hoped soon to be able to give to the House the arrangement we have our-selves come to with Siam. There is a joint arrangement for the protection and good government of the Siamese Malay States, but the House is in the strange position that though neither the French Agreement nor the British Agreement is known, Lord Lansdowne 542 freely incorporates our arrangement and the French arrangement in this despatch. They are mentioned in the despatch as if they were virtually a portion of the Agreement. The noble Lord says—Two Agreements were entered into with Siam by the French Government. As the first of these was not ratified, a second Agreement was negotiated. The first Agreement has been entirely superseded, and there would be no object in presenting it to Parliament. Until the second has received the sanction of the French Chambers we cannot undertake to say that it has assumed its final shape.Lord Salisbury was pledged against annexation in 1896. Under the present convention there is to be no annexation. But the French have forced annexation between 1896 and now. And yet we are virtually incorporating in this Treaty arrangements which have not received a final shape. I will not press this matter further, but I will say that the contention of the French colonial party that under this treaty they are going to get half of Siam seems to be too much based upon facts.
The other point I should like to mention is one to which we ought to attach importance. I mean the questions omitted from the convention, which one would have thought would have been dealt with, because they are likely to lead to danger in the future. One of them greatly interests Lancashire, and I am glad to see the hon. Member for Oldham, who feels very strongly on that point, present. That is the Concessions Regime of the French Congo. This is a matter which has double importance. It has been under negotiation between our Government and that of France for years, and now our Government are treating it as a private matter between the French Government and certain Liverpool firms. I suppose that hush money is to be paid in order to reach an equitable settlement; but that is no settlement at all of the principle for which we contend; it cuts the ground entirely away from the Government in their attitude to the Berlin Act in reference to the commercial basin of the Congo. One half of the Resolution which was unanimously passed by this House in reference to the affairs 543 of the Congo State was concerned with the Concessions Régime in the Congo State. The House and the Government asserted that the Concessions Régime was a violation of the Berlin Act and that it was fatal to the future of that country. The French have repudiated that Régime in their own colony, our Government have protested against it; but they have not taken advantage of the present opportunity to formally protest against it. The words of the Berlin Act, 1884–5, Article 5, are clear. They are "against monopoly or favour of any kind in matters of trade. … No monopoly or privilege of any kind in commercial matters." The French delegate at Berlin, Baron de Courcel, explained these words in our sense, that they implied and included "trade in all products of the soil." When we find the Congo State, on the one hand, and a French Colony on the other, have defied that doctrine, it is surely fitting that the matter should be dealt with on a proper basis, instead of being left to be settled between the French Government and private firms in Liverpool. On 26th April the noble Lord the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs said—It was not found possible to include in an Agreement dealing with general questions of an international character the private claims to which reference is made. We understand that the principle is admitted; and the earnest hope of His Majesty's Government is that an equitable settlement might easily be arrived at.That is that private interests are to be bought out. But that is not our point. Our point is that this is a breach of the Berlin Act, and that we should not, in the interests of British trade and of humanity, allow the matter to stand as it is. M. Roūme, the Governor-General of French WestAfrica, has declared against the whole policy of the Concessions Régime, as had done, also, the gentleman who, first amongst all the colonial writers, M. Chailley-Bert, has changed his former view. This was a moment when, by a very small amount of diplomatic negotiation, we might have been able to take France with us instead of against us in dealing with the Congo State.
I wish to mention another matter in connection with this Bill which has been omitted, although I will not venture to deal with it atlength. We have had actual trouble with France in regard to the misuse 544 of the French flag in connection with the trade in arms and the running of slaves. It has been the practice of the French Government to give the protection of their flag and semi-citizenship to people engaged in these enterprises. Great trouble has been produced in Siam in that regard as well as on the East Coast of Africa. Since 1814–5 there has been continual friction on this question. A perfectly satisfactory treaty was signed with France in regard to the use of the French flag for running slaves, but it was to be kept secret and was never acted upon. But surely, when we remember the declarations made by the present Government; the language used in 1886–8; when we remember what was said in the Blue-books; the language used by Sir Arthur Hardinge in June, 1897; by Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords and by Lord Curzon in the House of Commons, as to the indiscrimate grant of the French flag to Arab craft, this opportunity should have been taken to settle this question of the misuse of the French flag. The French Government themselves admit this misuse of their flag. When Lord Curzon recently visited the Persian Gulf this matter came up. A very well-known gentleman, of almost international weight, who was with Lord Curzon— a correspondent of The Times, authorised as such by the Viceroy, used these words—Lord Lansdowne had again brought the matter before the French Government.So that the matter was under discussion between this Government and the French Government last year. He said—The question of principle is to be referred to the Hague Tribunal.If so, let the Government tell the House that that is the case. I am certain that it would be a most gratifying announcement that this question, which has cost so much friction in the past between this Government and the Government of France, is to be dealt with in that way. I do not know whether there is any authority for that statement, but it would remove one of the most dangerous of all the omitted subjects in this convention. I repeat that I welcome this convention as a whole. I re-echo the words of the right hon. Member for Northumberland that it is a State Paper of first-class importance: 545 I congratulate the Government on having brought the matter frankly before Parliament and for the encouraging language of the noble Lord in which I am sure the whole House agrees.
§ *MR. MOON) (St. Pancras, N.
If the Government had attempted to deal with every point raised by the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean, there would have been risk of dangerous delay if not of failure in the negotiations instead of a success. In regard to Siam, in that country English is taught in all the leading schools. It is financially prosperous. It has no public debt. It has in its cash-box two millions sterling; including half a million of British Consols. It has 300 miles of railways, and if any difficulty were to occur between us and France in regard to Siam in the future, the fact that Germany has a large trade interest in that country would strengthen our situation. It may be in the recollection of hon. Members that recently two fleets of British merchant ships which traded with Siam passed under the German flag, A German was, or was till lately, at the head of the railway, and Germans have some of the largest rice-mills in the country. France, as well as ourselves, joined in the declaration of disclaming all idea of annexing Siamese territory. I think that lion. Members when they look at the declaration in Lord Lansdowne's despatch must feel satisfied that the Government have taken a perfectly, reasonable course. My hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn spoke of this country having acquiesced in partitions of territory in respect of Siam and Morocco, Any hon. Member who will look at the map attached to the Convention of 1896 with France about Siam will, however, see that my hon. friend is in error when he suggests that the present treaty will bring the French sphere of influence right up to the eastern border of the Menam, because he loses sight of the fact that the guaranteed region stretches a very considerable distance to the east and west of the River Menam. Chantaboon has been mentioned; but the fact that M. Etienne is in favour of restoring Chantaboon to 546 Siam shows that his intentions are not of a very aggressive character.
As regards Morocco, the statement that our trading rights are to remain undiminished and uninterfered with for thirty years will give very considerable comfort to every hon. Member. If I recollect aright what the First Lord of the Treasury has written on the subject, it is likely that by the time this treaty is at an end all European nations will have arrived at the conclusion that their present protective policy is superfluous; and, therefore, at the expiration of a generation from now we may expect France will have given up her protective ideas and that the proportion of our trade with Morocco, which is more than 50 per cent, of the whole trade of that country, will continue undiminished. I cannot, however, think of the history of Madagascar without feeling dissatisfaction but that is balanced by the improved condition of our trade in Tunis, which was mentioned by my noble friend the Under-Secretary. Tunis was acquired by the French under somewhat similar conditions to those on which Madagascar was acquired. I think it is within the circle of European influence, and or that reason freer from monopoly than Madagascar. As regards Newfoundland, I think very few Members of this House realise the hardships which were inflicted on the natives of that island under the requirements which are now to come to a conclusion. In an article in The Nineteenth Century a few years ago, written by Mr. McGrath, a Newfoundland journalist, it is stated—Every spring the French fleet visits Bay St. George, and a British warship compels the resident fishermen to supply them with bait at whatever figure the French offer, and even if American and Canadian vessels are there awaiting bait the residents will not be permitted by the warship to supply them until the French have been satisfied, even though they offer three times the price the French are paying.Further, it is stated that Sir Baldwin Walker forcibly closed a British cannery. Again, there was another modus vivendi, which placed the monopoly of the lobster canning industry in the hands of those alone who had it before 1889. The result is described as follows—All those who canned lobsters in defiance of the law were proclaimed as illicit packers, and the warships were sent to bunt them out, 547 destroy their factories, take away their implements, and con6scate their finished goods. That inhuman as well as unpatriotic procedure British cruisers had been pursuing even this season, until the condition of these wretched people has become deplorable in the extreme.On the Treaty Coast the population has in the last decade increased from 10,000 to 14,000. Books of reference show that there are possibilities of lumbering and also of mining—industries which have been stopped because the French would not permit the construction of wharves or the sinking of shafts. In the Statesman's Year Book for 1904 it is stated that rich deposits have been discovered in the West Coast, and that coal of excellent quality has been found near St. George's Bay on the Treaty Shore. During the last decade the railway has been brought near the West Coast, although the French did all they could to oppose it. As to the demand of the French to claim exclusive rights on the West Coast, I do not know what jurist my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn consulted; but the passage read by my hon. friend from the declaration of the Treaty of; Versailles of 1783 shows to laymen at all events that the French had very reasonable grounds for making this exclusive claim; and it was not unreasonable that on a declaration of that kind the French did think; they had an exclusive right. It was on that exclusive right that this sterilisation, as Lord Lansdowne called it, of two fifths of the coast of Newfoundland has been based; and if we have gained the abolition of that sterilisation by the cession of a certain portion of territory in Africa which is valuable to the French but of no value to us, the result is highly to be applauded. The hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn said the Amendment he had placed on the Paper suggested that the Government were not only making an Agreement behind the backs of third nations, but also an Agreement which would be disposed of by every British self-governing colony. As regards that, Mr. Seddon, on a public occasion recently, referring to the New Hebrides, expressed the satisfaction of New Zealand in regard to that portion of the convention; and in The Times of 548 23rd April the following cablegram from St. John's was published—There is unbounded enthusiasm over the French Shore Agreement. The schools are closed, the shipping is decorated, bonfires are to be lighted, and displays of fireworks will be given. One hundred and twenty Naval Reserves paraded to-day and there will be a parade of citizens to-night.I think that shows that on the island principally affected, communications must have been kept up, although not perhaps in a rigidly formal manner, which kept the authorities here in touch with feeling on the island. The Motion of my hon. friend would hamper the Government in future transactions, and in their attempt to secure every possible advantage to this country. Only to-day it appears from the Paper which has been circulated that there was to be an English Consul at St. Pierre, a thing which Newfoundland wanted. If we went in for further supplementary small advantages we might seriously risk and delay and perhaps lose the great benefit to ourselves and to France which I believe this convention will confer.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
The debate this afternoon has been additional evidence, if additional evidence were needed, of the complete disappearance of that antagonistic racial feeling which has prevailed between this country and France for so many years. We were always thought to be not merely casual, but permanent enemies. It was always said that the absence of those ties of race and religion between France and ourselves, which unite us to Germany, necessarily made us the enemy of our nearest neighbour. But so far as the speakers who have taken part in this debate are concerned, that has turned out practically to be not the case. It is to be hoped that this will turn out to be a guarantee of working friendship between the two countries. There is in England an absolutely universal sentiment to remove not only every cause of friction with France but to go beyond that removal, and show France a temper not merely of equity and fairness, but of positive generosity. At the same time we have to remember there is a business element in this convention, and we could not do worse, even from the point of view of pure 549 sentiment, than to ignore it, especially where, as in this case, the business element is something more than a mere question of petty national advantage. This business element does not concern England alone. It touched the most vital of all our Imperial and international objects of policy, which is the maintenance of the open door for our commerce and for the commerce of the world in the undeveloped markets of the world. The real gist of the Agreement consists in the surrender of our trading interests in Siam and Morocco. With regard to Newfoundland the French have made no substantial or any sacrifice at all. On the contrary they have made this treaty an occasion for reaffirming and improving their position in that country so far as it is a question of profit. For years they have kept alive this cause of difference and conflict in order that they might use it against us in diplomacy as they have now done. They have only been able to keep their fishing industry alive through subsidies. By this Agreement France obtains the privilege of purchasing bait, and in that regard improves her position. In addition to that England generously consents to pay an indemnity if France can show any pecuniary loss. There is nothing in the Agreement in regard to Newfoundland which justifies the sacrifice of any of our material interests in any other part of the world.
With regard to Egypt, England gets not a penny of material advantage, nor does France give any up. There is an abandonment on the part of France of the right to promote friction by the exercise of certain administrative restrictions upon the Egyptian Government. But what we have gained in regard to Egypt we might have gained in 1896. When we give up so much, we might benefit in England by some such restrictions upon the doings of the present Government. They were restrictions upon expenditure—an arrangement by which the Administration was compelled to pay its debts, and we might be grateful to Europe if they imposed such restrictions upon our Ministry. As regards Siam the speech of the noble Lord Bounded almost like an echo of the speech made by Lord Curzon when dealing with the Treaty of 1896. It was 550 understood then that we had made many sacrifices, and that the result was to be permanently good relations between us and France so far as Siam was concerned. I think I hear yet the careful exposition made in this House eight years ago, when it was pointed out that France always desired to come up to the eastern side of the Menam. We had allowed her to do so, and the question was not how far she should come, but when she should recede. The valley of the Menam, the heart of Siam, was to be carefully preserved to the unqualified independence of Siam. Neither England nor France has any right to interfere in the valley of the Menam. Now the Treaty of 1896 is to be treated as if it had never existed. Now France is to be able to use her influence right up to the valley of the Menam. I cannot imagine anything more likely to lead to conflict in the future than this treaty with regard to Siam. We are to have a sphere of influence in Siam, right up to the left bank of the Menam, and the influence of France is to extend up to the right bank. The effect of the arrangement will be that Siam will be subjected to the influence of two competing Powers, each of which claim the exclusive sphere of influence up to the banks of this river that runs through the heart of the empire. The effect of this will be to cause friction, and it seems to me as if France had no desire to remove any cause of conflict in the future.
Perhaps the most important feature of the whole treaty is the policy of the Government in regard to our trade rights in Morocco. Of course it will be said they have secured the permanence of our trade rights for a specified time, but at the end of that time we shall be entirely at the mercy of France. The policy of the Government in this respect is worthy of some consideration. It might be said to be a graceful concession, but these graceful concessions, so far as they go, always allowed France or some other nation to claim a commercial suzerainty over unconquered territories where we possess trade rights. These graceful concessions have always resulted in nations hostile to our commerce having complete control of our commerce. In Siam, Morocco, Madagascar, and Tunis, English commerce was supreme. But we know what 551 has happened in these places. It is said that in Tunis there had been an increase in our commerce. That may be so, but the surrender of our position in Tunis was accompanied by an immediate reduction of duty on the main article we exported. In the case of Tunis there was a longer period for the continuance of the treaty—forty instead of thirty years—and a corresponding immediate advantage was given by way of a reduction of duty.
§ MR. ROBSON
Then this increase in our trade with Tunis may come to an end in 1905 or 1906; so that we have got even less than I supposed.
§ Mr. ROBSON
They are our principal export to Morocco. Out of £688,000 of cotton goods imported into Morocco, Lancashire sends £591,000. Imagine, therefore, what an ultimate advantage it, would have been to Lancashire if there had been another such provision in the case of Morocco as there was in the case of Tunis for a reduction of duty. But there is nothing of the kind. All our Morocco trade is now to be under a "time limit." Ministers may think it is a considerable time, but thirty years is not a long period when dealing with the risks which accompany the opening out of new avenues of trade. You cannot run the national trade on the leasehold system. The risks of establishing new branches and of pushing our trade further into a country like Morocco are such that merchants will not willingly run for a mere temporary goodwill. They desire to establish their business on such a footing as will give them a goodwill which they can sell. Therefore it is little use for us to deal with this treaty as though we had obtained any substantial advantage, or any advantage when dealing as a matter of principle with any reservation of our treaty rights for thirty years. If France was willing in the case of Tunis, for forty years, and in the case of Morocco for thirty years, to allow the existence of 552 trade rights, why could we not put upon her that condition which she in Egypt puts upon us of allowing her trade rights and treaties go on in effect? But let us look at the trade of Morocco. The imports of Morocco amount to £1,700,000, of which we send no less than £930,000. That is a great trade to put at the mercy of a foreign country. It was a growing and a promising trade, and the effect of this Agreement will be to put a check on its immediate expansion. I do not say it will stop its immediate expansion, but it will put a check upon the rate of expansion, and place the trade under the prospect of ultimate extinction. The policy of giving up our trade rights, which this Government, if it has not initiated, has carried to an extent undreamt of by any other Administration, has seemed to some of us unintelligible; we have sometimes asked whether it is a policy at all, or simply diplomatic paralysis. Such a policy was not found necessary under Mr. Gladstone or Lord Rosebery; they at all events knew how to maintain the treaty rights of England without war or exciting general hostility.
A remarkable feature of the policy of this Government is that their concessions have been, not preceded, but followed by a condition of more general and more bitter hostility against England on the part of Europe than has been known in any former period of our history. Therefore, so far as conciliation is concerned, the policy of concessions without substantial equivalents does not seem to have been a success. And yet the Government are nursing it. Why? I think we are beginning to understand that it is part of the policy of the Government to care very little about the continuance of foreign trade. There is an ominous consistency between the domestic and the foreign policy of the Government in that regard. You cannot very well expect that they should be extremely eager to maintain foreign trade which they are constantly telling us is only a fit subject for penal taxation. What compensations are we to get in England for the prospective loss of our trade in Morocco? It appears that for one year at any rate—and one cannot help thinking it was in the mind of the Government—Morocco was a very serious competitor with English industry in the 553 matter of jewellery. We did not know it at the time, but we have been assured on high authority that they did interfere with the industry of Birmingham to a degree which excited alarm and apprehension in the minds of those concerned in the jewellery trade. It is true that Lancashire may lose a trade worth £591,000 a year, but on the other hand England will get compensation in the number of persons who will be employed in making the jewellery which hitherto Morocco has sent here. In addition to that, I find that Morocco sends us goatskins, bees, and wax. Therefore Lancashire will get ample compensation for the loss of her trade of £591,000 with Morocco in the additional employment of the happy multitudes who will give themselves up to goats, bees, and the manufacture of wax. One sees at once the real justification for the surrender of our trade in Morocco. It is not a question of an entente cordiale with France at all; it is the removal of one of those sources of imports which are so dangerous to our commerce and peace. We see now before us the possibilities of a source of immense national wealth in the hedgerows of England, because when goatskins from Morocco are prohibited, an enormous impetus will be given to the production of goats, bees, and wax in England. ["Oh! Oh!"]. Some hon. Members appear to be shocked at the concrete application of the principles of which we have heard so much lately, but every question connected with international affairs has a fiscal bearing, and it is well that we should consider the advantage we are to gain.
There are two main reasons which tell upon the minds of Englishmen when they are asked—as they are so frequently asked by this Government—to sacrifice trade and national rights. The first is a prudential reason—that we should make any sacrifice rather than run the risk of war. War for trade rights frequently means an isolated war, in which we should be left to uphold the interests of universal trade at our own cost. The sacrifice of any trade advantage here or there is little indeed if it really purchases immunity from international conflict. But there is another reason which is even more creditable, viz., the dislike and distrust increasingly felt in England with 554 regard to any policy which looks like one of selfishness on the part of our Empire. I would fifty times rather have a policy of weak concessions than a policy of greed and grab. A policy of grab is infinitely more dangerous than a policy of concession. It is the policy which this Government are always preaching, but their practice is confined to accepting the worst of any bargain that any nation makes with them. If the choice lay between a policy of weak concessions and a policy of national greed, I would not hesitate to welcome every concession. But those two extremes do not exhaust the alternatives. There is the policy of the maintenance by international concert of the trade rights not only of England but of the whole world in the great undeveloped markets of the earth. That is the policy which the Government have failed to remember. It is a policy noble in itself; you cannot call it selfish, because although it is best for our interests it founds those interests on the interests of mankind. The policy of international action is full of hope for the peace of mankind. It will be said that it is difficult of accomplishment. Everything is difficult to the inert, but I contend that the facilitating of international concert in defence of commercial rights is an object which any Government should have in view. The present Government, however, have completely neglected it. An illustration of what may be done by international concert is to be found in the case of Egypt, though I do not say that Egypt is an example I should like to see followed in all respects elsewhere. What is it that secures free trade in Egypt? It is not merely the fact that free trade is our universal policy? We might reverse the whole of our free-trade policy to-morrow, but we should still be unable to secure for ourselves a differentiation of trade rights in Egypt, because we have deliberately and, as I think, wisely chosen to recognise in Egypt certain international rights and treaties; we have made them the condition of our occupation of the country, and there is no reason at all why the same condition should not be attached to the occupation by France of Tunis and Morocco. It is idle to pretend that France would not allow such a condition to attach because it 555 would conflict with her general system of protection. If she refused to accept it we should need to pay little attention to her complaints of our position in Egypt. The interests of Italy in Tunis and of Spain in Morocco gave us an opportunity of establishing exactly that international concert that we want in such a case. The co-operation we ought to have invited from those Powers would have been the beginning of the recognition of rights which are common to all. Therefore We have missed an opportunity of identifying our diplomacy with a really great policy not merely national but international, and founded upon the recognition of the rights of mankind as well as the rights of England. With very little skill and a little more courage we could have maintained what we have lost without giving an equivalent in so many of the great markets of the world.
Perhaps it is scarcely fair to expect such enthusiasm on the part of this Government for open ports when we know that they are so extremely anxious to close our ports at home. That argument may have affected their minds, although they do not know it. Possibly they are acting upon their domestic policy in their international relations without being conscious of it. I think that is the frame of mind the Prime Minister would desire to see this Parliament in. We are entitled on this side of the House to claim that our international policy should be in accord and in sympathy with our domestic policy. Do not let it be supposed, when we are talking here about the good relations we are establishing with France, that we are running no risk elsewhere. We have not consulted Spain or Germany, and we have left Spain to make its own arrangement with Morocco. Is there not a strong likelihood that Spain may seek territorial advantages to counterbalance the gain given to France, and that those advantages may be to the detriment of England? Spain may do that on her own account, and it will be still more injurious to us if she does it in conjunction with Prance. I think the sympathies of England and of the Liberal Party are not of a narrow or sectional character in regard to any of these international arrangements. We do not desire to seek an inequitable or selfish 556 advantage; but we do desire that the* Government should endeavour to maintain by every means in its power the commercial rights of the whole world both in Morocco and Tunis as in Eygpt. What this country submitted to in Egypt it might not unjustly call upon other nations to submit to elsewhere.
§ *MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)
The question which the House has now under consideration is one that may prove to have very far-reaching results. We gather from the communication from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to the Minister in Paris that the Anglo-French Agreement is intended to secure the complete settlement of a series of important questions in which the interests of Great Britain and France are involved. We all welcome most heartily the conclusion of an Agreement bringing about closer and more friendly relations between this country and France on equitable lines, and, as previous speakers have stated, we are prepared to make even generous concessions to secure so desirable a result. It is, however, our duty when a Bill of this nature is submitted for the consideration of the House to make some examination of its provisions in order to arrive at a conclusion as to whether or not the objects which He Majesty's Government have before them have been really secured. We ought to remember the comments of the French Press in regard to the conclusion of this Agreement. Some of the most important papers in France have declared their opinion in regard to its provisions. The Journal des Débats says—France surrenders nothing of importance but obtains most momentous concessions.Another French paper, La Lanterne, regards the conclusion of the Agreement as a triumph for French diplomacy; and Le Petit Parisian says—France abandons none of her actual rights, and only consents to the recognition of acquired possessions.Then, again, regard must be had to the statement of M. Delcassé as to the object he had in view when negotiating this Agreement, and as to how far, in his opinion, French interests have been conserved and protected. With reference to the arrangement arrived at in 557 respect to Egypt, M. Delcassé says that there has been no change in the political situation and that the main interest of the negotiations relates to the financial arrangements. M. Delcassé notes with special satisfaction the clause as to the free use of the Suez Canal and the adhesion of Great Britain to the execution of the Treaty of 29th October, 1888. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that in return for a very slight concession to us on the part of France of the right of the Egyptian Government to employ certain surplus funds as they may desire, we have conceded to France practically the protectorate of Morocco, to do whatever she pleases there. With regard to Morocco, M. Delcassé says —Of all the questions involving French interests none, in fact, can be compared in importance with the Moroccan question. It is evident that upon its solution depended the solidity and development of our African Empire, and even the future of our situation in the Mediterranean. We have obtained a result on the importance of which it would be superfluous to insist.Up to now British and French interests in this respect have been practically upon an equality. Whereas we had before permanently the benefit of the most - favoured - nation clause with Morocco, we have that limited under this Agreement to the next thirty years. With regard to Tunis, our arrangement with France expires in 1906, and in that year our trade with the French colony of Tunis will be still further hindered by increased tariffs on the goods we send there. This Government is a Government which professes the greatest possible interest about the future of British trade and commerce. It is a Government possessing a retaliationist Prime Minister and some of its members are protectionists. They have told the country and the House that what we need to gain greater facilities for British trade in various parts of the world is the power to negotiate and the power to bargain. In this arrangement- with France we had a great deal in our hands with which to bargain. Hon. Members have heard the statement of M. Delcassé as to the enormous importance which the French nation attached to the concessions we have made in regard to Morocco. There is another provision in regard to Egypt and Morocco which is eminently satisfactory as affect- 558 ing British trade, and I desire to consider this Anglo-French Agreement mainly from the point of view as to how far British commercial interests in the future are likely to be advanced by these provisions and how far the Government have omitted to secure other concessions which they might reasonably have been expected to secure, and which would have benefited still further British trade. The further stipulation in regard to Egypt and Morocco is that French and English trade with Morocco and with Egypt shall enjoy the same treatment in transit through French and British possessions in Africa. But I would ask what efforts have been made to come to a similar equitable arrangement in regard to the transit of French and British goods through French and British territories in Western Africa. I also wish to know whether the Government have taken into account the serious hindrance to British trade in Western China and Siam which arises from the fact that the French Government impose a transit duty of 10 per cent, on all British goods passing through Tonquin to South-West China and certain portions of Siam. If it was equitable to make this arrangement in regard to Egypt and Morocco, why cannot we have the same arrangement in regard to South-West China in respect of which we have a definite Agreement with the French Government, entered into in 1894, under which each nation pledges itself to use its good offices to facilitate its equal rights and privileges in regard to trade? Therefore it is extremely disappointing that His Majesty's Government have failed to secure the abandonment on the part of France of this imposition of a 10 per cent. tariff on British goods passing through Tonquin to South-West China and Siam in the same way in which they have secured a concession in Tegard to Morocco. Not only is this true of Siam and South-West China, but it is equally true of Western Africa, where British traders have been very much hindered by the curtailment of their just trading rights, and certainly in regard to this His Majesty's Government have not upheld the interests of British traders as they ought to have done. We give to France the treatment that our own trade receives throughout our 559 world-wide Empire. Why, then, should a similar arrangement with France have been confined to Morocco alone, and not extended to other French colonial possessions? Surely our retaliatory Prime Minister might have devoted himself to securing better terms for British trade with France itself. The fact is that we take an enormous amount of imports from France, and, with the present friendly feeling between the two nations, surely during the negotiation of this Agreement there was a golden opportunity for the Government securing in a much fuller degree than they have done facilities for British trade with France and with the French colonial possessions. So far from having done that, they have absolutely acquiesced in the extinction of our trading rights in Madagascar for evermore. Our trade there was 95 per cent. some time ago, but since the French occupation it has dwindled down to 5 per cent. We are told that our trade with Tunis has increased, but the development of Tunis has gone on, and no one will make me believe that, but for the increased tariffs imposed on British goods, our trade there would not have increased in a greater degree than it has done.
Broadly, the commercial aspects of this Anglo-French Agreement are extremely disappointing, because an exceptional opportunity was afforded for negotiating better terms. There can be no shadow of doubt that we have made most important concessions to France, and the complaint is that His Majesty's Government have failed to secure in return anything like a quid pro quo. I say this in no sense in a hostile way to the Anglo-French Agreement. We would rather have it, very much against our interests as it is, than not have it at all, because it is a great guarantee for the peace of the world and the progress of civilisation to have such a friendly arrangement between two great neighbouring Powers. But when we come to examine it we find where the defects are. Take the question of fishing rights. We have given to France permanently concurrent fishing rights off the coast of Newfoundland. But what about the rights of our fishermen on the Los Islands? There our rights are granted for thirty 560 years only. The Government decline to put a time limit in the Licensing Bill, but they put a time limit in these valuable treaty arrangements all over the world. In the case of Tunis we see how soon they run out and we see the disadvantage of having our trade hindered and hampered by still higher tariffs. In regard to the fishing rights off Newfoundland M. Delcassé, referring to the new Agreement, says—We have only abandoned privileges in Newfoundland which were difficult to defend and in no way necessary, while we have preserved the essential feature—namely, the right of fishing in the territorial waters of Newfoundland, and have established for the future beyond all doubt a valuable right, that of fishing for and purchasing bait without hindrance along the whole extent of the French shore.And yet in return for their abandoning what was not necessary our Government have given these large concessions of territory in West Africa, and the cession of the Iles de Los. M. Delcassé says that the concessions received in West Africa—are of considerable importance for the development of our colonial possessions. As to Konakry, which promises to be one of the great commercial emporiums on the coast, the key of that port is now in French hands. The Agreement has effected a transformation greatly to the advantage of France, of the whole frontier of the region between the Niger and Lake Chad. This constitutes a considerable accession of territory by France in those regions and may prove of great importance for the development of the French possessions in Africa.I do not object to these cessions of territory in West Africa to France, but I think the Government ought to have secured larger mutual concessions in return. In return for the cession of the Iles de Los they should at least have had as a set-off the Islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre, off the coast of Newfoundland. These still remain in the hands of France, and I can assure His Majesty's Government, from information which I have received, that there is a strong opinion held in Canada, and among the inhabitants of Newfoundland, that this settlement is not by any means satisfactory. The question is, and I think the House has a right to know, whether His Majesty's Government made every possible effort to secure what would be a mutually equitable and satisfactory arrangement such as I have 561 indicated. At any rate, in the absence of any such agreement, we cannot but feel that British diplomacy has again been worsted. It seems always unfortunately to be the case when our diplomatists are brought into discussion with foreign diplomatists we somehow come off second best, and this, so far as our commercial interests are concerned, appears to be the case now. It is surprising that a better result has not been obtained by a Government which professes to take such a deep interest in the promotion of the trade and commerce of the country and who tell Us that unless we can have better conditions and lower tariffs to facilitate our trade all over the world, the country is sure to go to the dogs. If that is their real belief I do not know why they should not have embraced this golden opportunity of, at any rate, using their bargaining powers, in getting from France much more as a quid pro quo for the concessions France has received under the Agreement just concluded.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
Having for some years taken an interest in the policy which has just culminated in this convention and treaty, I desire to say a few words, especially of congratulation to the two Governments of England and France, and also in connection with the work which has been done by chambers of commerce. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean said that these treaties were a new departure; I venture to say that such is not the case as far as the commercial communities in France and England are concerned. I remember so long ago as 1895 being present at a gathering of many representatives of chambers of commerce in Bordeaux, and on that occasion the first intimations of the possibility of this rapprochement were made which have ultimately been fulfilled, and, in fact, I think we may say, paraphasing the words of a distinguished Frenchman, spoken at the Chamber of Commerce at Bordeaux, that commerce is peace, and that the chambers of commerce have materially contributed to what has ensued. One or two of the hon. Members who have spoken have seriously asked the question. Has the Government done its best for the ends in view? Is it possible that any British Government 562 should do otherwise, having regard at all times to the difficulty of coming to an arrangement and to the wisdom of not risking the result by imitating the Dutch in asking too much? I think the feeling of the House was admirably expressed by the hon. Member for Morpeth when he said that we must look in these matters not so much to particulars as to the general object in view, especially when it means not only the welfare and goodwill of the two nations, but probably at this moment the peace of the world. From that point of view I do not doubt, and I know that I speak the views of chambers of commerce, that not only has the best been done but that it is owing to the spirit of give and take that the result has been brought about at all—a policy of fair and frank friendship with France and Frenchmen, which we desire. I think it was my right hon. friend opposite who dwelt on omissions from this treaty of what might have been obtained. May I remind the House that if there are difficulties still left open, if there are possibilities of differences in the future, there is an element which in the course of the discussion has never been mentioned, but which has a most important bearing on the position to-day and hereafter, and that is the arbitration treaty which has been effected between France and England. Not only have many differences been removed, but the means of preventing, at any rate, hostile action with regard to differences in the future has been achieved. Yes, the force of right will now supplant the right of force, the barriers will fall down between nation and nation and be set up only between right and wrong. Many compliments have most rightly been paid to others during the debate, but so far not one to M. Cambon, the representative of France in this country, to whom we are under deep obligation. He has been perpetually moving between his own country and London, and it is to his ability, tact, and good offices very much of the result attained has been due. I think that both countries are under great obligation to M. Cambon for the manner in which this treaty has been negotiated, and I also venture to say that there is another name, to which no 563 reference has been made, but which has been a most important factor in the result. It should be mentioned in the House today, and that is the name of the President of the French Republic, M. Loubet. I know well how deep the interest M. Loubet has had in this compact of concord and amity in its relation to the future of his own nation as well as to that of this country. I know how he spoke to myself of his reception in this country— that it was profoundly most touching to himself and useful to the cause which he had at heart. Another French statesman must also be mentioned in this connection, M. Millerand. The British chambers of commerce which visited France in 1900, in its great Exhibition year, were received with a great welcome and hospitality by the President of the Republic and his Minister of Commerce, M. Millerand, and the larger intercourse which has since taken place between the two countries has undoubtedly contributed to the result we speak of to-day. Whatever we may say as to the result of the passing of the Bill now before the House, permanent peaceful relations between the two countries have been accomplished and accomplished chiefly through commerce and the commercial classes of the two peoples. Not only are France and England close neighbours, but in trade they stand more largely in the relation of mutual customers rather than competitors as in the case of England and Germany. The difference of climate and natural products leads each nation to supply the wants of the other; and when my friend who spoke last expressed the hope that we should have some relaxation of the high protective tariff of France, I would remind him that we may secure that, as a corollary of this convention, not so much by retaliatory methods but by means of commercial reciprocity by treaty, such as was accomplished by Cobolu's commercial treaty of 1860, which doubled in a decade the trade between this country and France. So that even if we lose something in Morocco or Madagascar we open a wider commercial horizon in greater commercial union and unity between France and England by this great plan for the improvement of international relations.
564 On the details of the convention I should like to make a few observations. As to Egypt, any one who has read the recent report of Lord Cromer must recognise that the financial restriction on the use of the reserve fund, etc., has impeded many necessary reforms and productive works. Speaking from personal knowledge and observation in Egypt—and I know that this is the view of the British Chamber of Commerce in Alexandria—many port improvements could have been effected if the triple administration had been abolished. May I say that I regret that the Mixed and Consular Tribunals in Egypt have not been dealt with in this convention, and that I hope that the Tribunals in Egypt will soon deal with their own cases, as in Japan, where the judicial example set by England has been productive of the greatest good. I would have wished that the Mixed and Consular Tribunals had been replaced by an administration of native Judges as in other countries. As to Morocco, though there is a time limit of thirty years, I take it that what could be done was done. There is internal evidence that great care has been taken in dealing for instance with dues and taxes and with charges for railway transport on equal terms and with the coasting trade, often a great cause of injustice to British shipping as in the United States. In regard to Newfoundland, it has been said over and over again that we have got nothing in exchange. The answer to that is that we have got a surrender of the shore rights, and of the right of the French to land and dry fish, after several attempts to jettison the old lumber of the Treaty of Utrecht, which is as dead as Queen Anne who made it. The hon. Member for King's Lynn rightly pointed out that these shore rights had been one great obstacle to the development of Newfoundland. In addition, the right of free fishing is maintained, and there is a provision for a close-time for different kinds of fish and as to the modes of fishing. The case of Siam is perhaps the least satisfactory element of the convention, and I hope that the references which are constantly made as to maintaining the integrity of that progressive and prosperous country will be insisted upon. I 565 agree with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean that the trade with Siam directly, and indirectly through Singapore and Hong-Kong, is of vast importance. But apart from that the Siamese people have a strong claim upon our consideration and sympathy. But there seems to be some singular misconception as to the exact terms of the treaty in reference to the French and English spheres of influence in Siam. It is most undesirable that that should be so. It is almost likely to lead to misapprehension, if not something more, in the future. The integrity of Siam is, and ought to be, assured, and I have no sympathy with those speakers who have said that such sovereign States as Siam, Persia, etc., ought to be ignored by the great Powers. Such integrity is declared to be regarded, as are our present treaty rights to favoured-nation treatment. The, wording of the convention and treaty as to the boundary of French and English spheres of influence is vague, the terms basin, Zone, region, and valley of the Menam being alternately used, and this might lead to future differences; indeed, one construction of the words of the Under-Secretary (Lord Percy), viz., that the river banks are the boundaries, which the hon. Member for South Shields said is possible, that Bangkok itself being on the cast bank of the Menam was in the French sphere, but there must be some misapprehension as to this. At any rate, these points should be made clear, and free from dubiety and difference. In regard to Madagascar, what have we surrendered by this treaty except futile protest against the protective fiscal and exclusive policy of the French nation? Merely a verbal protest against conquest and a consequent exclusive tariff effected years ago, to which there is a counterpoise given as in Zanzibar. Under all the circumstances, and for greater ends than any in Madagascar or Morocco, peace and goodwill, and I hope expanding intercourse and trade with France, I cordially support the treaty and conventions and the Bill now proposed to ratify them in the true interest of the two progressive, and most civilised and cultured nations of Europe.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I have no desire to act as a lightning conductor and to bring down prematurely the final fulminations and the play of sheet lightning of the Prime Minister. I have, equally, little desire to add to the length of this discussion. The most remarkable feature of this debate is that there has not been a single discordant note as to the main purport and object of the convention. A number of my hon. friends and Gentlemen on the other side of the House have found fault with the details of the arrangement which has been made; but I take the position, following the line of my right hon. friend the Member for Berwick, in saying that this is something more than a bargain between two competitive nations. It is an arrangement to dispose of certain possible grounds of difficulty in the future, and to get out of the way elements of discord between them. It is from that point of view that I think we ought to regard it. When we look into the details I do not think it is very difficult to find many blemishes, omissions, and possibly error; in the particulars of the convention. I think hon. Members to-night have pointed out several, and there is great force in what they urge, especially as to the apparent failure to safeguard the trade rights of this country, especially in Siam and Morocco. When we remember what has happened in Madagascar, Tunis, and several cases, we become more sensitive on that point. I wish to ask a question, not a trade question, with regard to Morocco. I have received a letter from those who have the control of certain schools in Morocco, and who are very anxious to know what the effect of the new relations will be upon them. The letter says—In Egypt it is stipulated that the Roman Catholic schools and missions are to remain free, with liberty to carry on their work, while in Morocco the Protestant schools and missions, which have been in existence for over twenty years, are altogether ignored. So those of our faith who have an interest in the country and have labourod long in Morocco feel themselves now in a trying position, as France has preponderance in Morocco, and there is great cause for fear that what has taken place in Madagascar will be repeated in Morocco, and we shall be either expelled or our work so hindered that it will be impossible to carry it on.I think that point, although comparatively a small one, requires to be 567 attended to, and I hope it has not escaped the consideration of the Government, although there is no absolute provision regarding it. But all these considerations are swallowed up when we contemplate this Agreement as a great instrument for bringing together two neighbouring nations and two old rivals —two nations that have been separated by what has been believed to be inborn, hereditary enmity—and for promoting friendship and co-operation between the two nations—I do not wish to speak invidiously about other nations—but probably the two nations of Europe most identified with progress and freedom, It has always seemed to me to be a most extraordinary thing that there should be a feeling of jealousy and almost antipathy encouraged between France and England, when really they are the two nations of all others that ought to go hand in hand in the work of civilising and developing the world. That, fortunately, we have no longer to regret. I do not know whether it is possible accurately to apportion the credit for this improvement. The King in this country and the President in France, the Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers on both sides all deserve our thanks for the part they have taken, and we all appreciate their wise and earnest action in this matter. I share the hope, freely expressed in this debate, that this arrangement with France may be a model for other arrangements with other countries, and an example of the way in which those traditional differences, which sometimes may be acute, but which are also sometimes in themselves almost on the verge of being absurd, can be disposed of when good will and the desire to be friends prevail instead of that jealousy and rivalry with which we have all sometimes been puzzled. The House will echo the general feeling of the country, which is one of intense satisfaction, at the conclusion of this convention.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
The debate this afternoon, which has throughout been of a very friendly character, began with two speeches of rare ability and rare elevation of tone. We could hardly expect the general tenor of the debate to remain throughout at that high level; 568 and, although the right hon. Gentleman, in the speech which he has just delivered, returned to that high level, there was no doubt between his speech and those opening speeches, in addition to a general congratulation on the conclusion of this Agreement, a certain amount of criticism, which I will not characterise as petty, but which certainly seemed to me to be hardly worthy of the occasion on which it was delivered. It is natural enough that when an arrangement is made between two countries there should be—there must and always will be—room for the critics in each country to suppose that it has got the worst of the bargain and to suggest that the other country has somehow or other succeeded in outwitting the feeble diplomacy and the poor powers of bargaining displayed by the Ministry criticised. The method in which that criticism is pursued is also the same in both countries. An hon. Gentleman opposite read out extracts from the speeches of M. Delcassé and other important members of the French Government explaining how great the advantages of this arrangement were to France. He founds upon that the inquiry, If this arrangement is really so good for France, if France got so much advantage, why did you not get a lot more? But supposing the debates in the two countries had been inverted and the debate in the House of Commons had come before the debate in the French Chamber, and even the very moderate statement made by my noble friend near me had been first criticised by a critic in the French Chamber, could he not have said, there has been a debate in the House of Commons and it has been pointed out how greatly England gained by this Agreement. How came you to make such a wretched bargain when you had such a felicitous opportunity? That is one trait which is almost inseparable from this kind of debate. Another trait is the criticism of the hon. Gentleman who looks at the arrangements from the point of view of their inadequacy. Something more might have been done; and always the something more that might have been done is the particular thing in which ha takes an interest. The hon. and 569 learned Member for South Shields delivered a speech in which the only matter that appeared to touch him was the question of tariffs; and an hon. Gentleman beside him, I think, also talked at some length about tariff negotiations which we might have brought to a successful issue. I am glad to hear from that quarter that negotiations sometimes can improve tariffs; but I would seriously point out that this was not fundamentally, primarily, or essentially a tariff negotiation. The question of tariffs only arose in connection with Morocco and in respect to Madagascar. An hon. Member told us that we had given up most valuable British rights in abandoning a remonstrance vainly made since the French annexed Madagascar. In these eight eventful years the international relations of France and this country have gone through more than one change; and in no phase of them, I venture to say, was there the slightest practical prospect of the French giving in on that point. And what lever had we to compel them to give in? Short of war, we had none. We could not use tariff negotiation, which, it seems to me, might be the appropriate method of dealing with a purely tariff difficulty. No other way was open.
Let us take the case of Morocco. Hon. Members got themselves in very low spirits over the fact that this treaty in regard to our commercial relations with Morocco will only last for a generation. They truly say that a generation is not very long in the history of a nation; but it is a considerable time in the history of a commercial arrangement; and I am not sure that if you make the time of indefinite length it would not with the lapse of years lose that vitality and concreteness which a definite arrangement always gives to a treaty. There is a point at which, not by the law of nations, but by the practice of nations, many treaties become practically obsolete in their provisions. [An HON. MEMBER dissented.] My hon. friend doubts that. I will not dispute the point with him. But during a time limit a treaty obviously must be enforced. It is impossible to say that things have so changed as to alter the situation. But putting that 570 general argument on one side, I would ask whether there has ever been a better bargain made by any Government with regard to a country in the condition of Morocco than the bargain We have made. I do not believe a case could be quoted from our diplomatic annals of a bargain half as carefully thought out, half as protective of trade interests, being added to the long list of international arrangements. I may be wrong, because this is not a point on which I have guarded myself by express investigation, but I should be greatly surprised if it were possible to quote any convention in contradiction of the proposition I have laid down.
I do not think it would really be desirable for me to go through all the criticisms that have been passed on the details of this treaty. But I may say, perhaps, with regard to Siam that surely criticism has been carried to an excessive point, seeing that we have simply repeated the provisions of the Treaty of 1896, not altering it in any way beyond, as I think, making an arrangement which will make it clear for the future and which will demarcate those parts of Siam in which we have a right to interfere as between the Siamese and the French and those parts in which we have no such right. Under this Agreement there are parts of Siam where we can make arrangements with the Siamese with which the French will have nothing to do, and, again, there are other parts of the country where it will be open to France and Siam to come to agreement in regard to which we shall have nothing to say. Then there is a third portion which is regarded as a matter of common interest as between the two countries, and in which we engage in no way to interfere with each other. This is perfectly clear and definite and extremely reasonable in the exceptional position of that country, and I cannot imagine any other plan better calculated to prevent international wrangling over that part of the Far Eastern question. I do not say that any arrangement can make wrangling impossible; that I do not pretend; but that a better arrangement than this can be made I have the very gravest doubt. The same right hon. Gentleman who raised the question of Siam raised 571 the question of certain commercial rights on the French Congo, giving an admirable illustration of what I said earlier—that everybody goes for the particular thing in which he is interested, and says that should have been done before you came to the final arrangement. I am not going to discuss these matters; individual interests are practically safeguarded, not by this treaty, but by separate arrangements with the French Government. I think it would have been perfect folly to drag into the negotiations with France the question of the true interpretation to be put upon the Treaty of Berlin, which might have imperilled the whole negotiations, and which certainly had no great relevancy to any of the burning issues between the two countries. The right hon. Baronet raised a more important point when he referred to French rights in Muscat.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The righthon. Gentleman quoted a statement that an Agreement had been made with the French Government last year.
I am referring to what happened last year, and what he rightly supposed had happened between the two Governments. It is quite true that last year a very difficult question arose between the French Government and ourselves which was not mentioned in the Press, or made matter of public discussion, though it presented many aspects of great difficulty at the moment. I am glad to say that question has by common consent been referred to The Hague tribunal for decision. I do not know whether there are any other points I need deal with in the way of smaller criticisms of these arrangements, but I must say a word on the general view of our foreign policy in recent years presented to the House by the right hon. Baronet. He is a great authority on this subject, to whom the House always listens with attention, but I confess 572 myself utterly unable to follow his statement in this particular connection. He described this treaty as a complete reversal of Lord Salisbury's foreign policy. I am unable to attach any intelligible meaning to these words. He further went on to suggest it was wholly inconsistent with any understanding or agreement with Germany.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will not go the length of saying no one ever suggested it, but I do not remember any such suggestion, and I am sure it never formed any integral portion of Lord Salisbury's policy. I entirely deny there has been any reversal of the traditional policy of our Party. I entirely deny that anything has been done prejudicial to the interests of Germany or any other Power. It would indeed be a blot upon our Agreement with France, from which we hope so much for the peace and amity of the world, if it were regarded as a stumblingblock in the way of similar arrangements with other Powers in other parts of the world. I think I need hardly add to that reply to the criticisms that have been delivered, except to say that during this debate there has been, except on the part of the right hon. Baronet, a great lack of appreciation of the enormous international benefits which the Newfoundland Agreement will give us. It is not merely that we have done a great deal to free Newfoundland from the shackles which, so long as the Treaty of Utrecht remained unmodified, necessarily hampered the development of the colony, but so long as these, provisions were in existence peace between France and England seemed almost to hang by a thread. I firmly believe that nothing but the tact of French and British naval officers on the spot, their unceasing vigilance, their resolute determination to allow no petty irritating friction to develop into a running sore, have made the Utrecht arrangement tolerable through all these long years. It has been a source of perpetual anxiety to all Governments, an anxiety that did not appear in Blue-books, and naturally and naturally and rightly was not referred to in public 573 speeches, but which yet was never absent from the minds of any men responsible for the conduct of the foreign affairs of this country. That perpetual menace has now, I am glad to think, been removed, I believe, for ever. Though it is quite true we should have preferred, as Newfoundland would have preferred, to see the last remnants of the Treaty of Utrecht swept away, yet the few traces of it that still remain are not of a kind ever likely to produce difficulty either between the colonists and ourselves or between the colonists and the French Government.
It has been said with great truth both by the Leader of the Opposition and by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick, that we must not look at this treaty merely as a bargain. It is true that as a bargain it has this enormous advantage, that, like all good bargains, it is advantageous to both sides. It is an advantage for this reason, that what the French give up and what we give up principally consists in the power of hampering the natural and free development and action of the other, and what each gains is the power of exercising to the utmost that freedom and that power of development, whether it be in Egypt, Newfoundland, or Morocco. The gain is incalculable; the loss is nothing, for it is simply giving up a national asset which could be used as a means of bargaining, but which in itself makes no Frenchman and no Englishman richer or happier, and which makes neither France nor England more powerful or more prosperous. That is the element in this arrangement which maybe regarded, if you like, from the lower plane of profit and loss, but it is of incalculable value because it is in its nature perfect. We are told that we have given up a great deal in Morocco; but I ask any Gentleman, on whichever side of the House he sits, whether he contemplates with equanimity a struggle, diplomatic in the first instance, possibly not always diplomatic—a constant struggle at the Court of the Sultan of Morocco for the next generation, which, I venture to say, from the natural advantages possessed by France and England respectively, could not end to our advantage? It could not end, even if we so desired, in giving us a 574 preponderating influence in Morocco which we could permanently maintain. We could have struggled for it and have used every diplomatic instrument in our power to maintain it; we could have hampered French designs in other quarters; we could have produced a great deal of ill-feeling between the two countries; but I have no doubt that France, conterminous as she is with an enormous frontier, would be a growing Power, and we, probably, a diminishing Power. Who would gain by it? We obviously not, and France obviously not. Is it not incomparably better to come to some arrangement like that embodied in this treaty? I have over and over again, so far as my voice would carry, told the House and the public, and particularly the public, that the great dangers to the peace of the world lie in the relations between semi-civilised States of the world—if I may use the term without offence—at all events non-Christian, Oriential States on the one side, and the great Western Powers on the other. They always play off one Power against another, and in the friction which then ensues the risks of collision are enormous and the gains problematical and very often visionary. One of these countries we have, at all events, entirely put out of the category I have described as being a danger to European peace, and in doing so I am convinced that not only have we not sacrificed any British interest whatever, but if we look to commerce alone—commerce, which can only flourish in a country where the elements of good government, peace, and order prevail—if we look to this, British interests have been greatly aided in Morocco, while certainly no territorial ambition any sane Englishman could possess has been spoiled. Well, then I turn from Morocco to Egypt, and were I addressing a French Assembly I could make precisely the same observations about Egypt as I have just made about Morocco. The French had great power to hamper us in Egypt, as we had power to hamper them in Morocco; more than that they did not possess; more than that and the great sentimental interest in a country which they had done so much to develop they did not possess. Is it not far better for us and also for them that we should clear the situation and that we should obtain the liberty in Egypt we are glad to 575 accord to them in Morocco? These appear to me to be the broad grounds why, on the mere profit-and-loss account, this is one of the greatest international transactions of which we have record; and if we add to that all the other advantages so eloquently brought before the House in the speeches of my noble friend and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick, if we look at the dangers to the peace of the world which are removed, if we consider what a load of anxiety is lifted from the minds of those who are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, and how great administrators like Lord Cromer have been freed from the perpetual worry which has hampered them in the execution of great philanthropic and administrative projects, then I venture to think that what is, after all, in spite of criticism, the common verdict of both sides of the House and the universal opinion of the country, will receive the seal of historical approval, and that this great instrument will be looked back upon as the beginning of a new and happier era in our international relations.
§ *MR.EMMOTT (Oldham)
I merely wish to make one or two remarks on two points. In the first place I think that the Prime Minister has treated with unnecessary acerbity some of the criticisms of detail which have been passed on the convention.
§ *MR. EMMOTT
I only paid that because we were appealed to by the noble Lord in his very able speech to look at the broad issues which lay before us rather than the minute details. I think that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are agreed that whether "honours are easy." or whether the French have got a little more than we have, or whether we have got a little more than the French, is not the main point at issue. The main point is that there should be a settlement of a large number of questions which have caused difficulties and which might at any moment lead us into dangers from which there would be no escape without serious consequences. The noble Lord took an even wider view. He expressed the hope that the treaty will be the 576 forerunner of a period when great nations may collaborate in the development of their respective territories, and of a period when suspicion will not be the chief factor in international relations. On this point I will only express the hope that this treaty may be the precedent for many others, and that the spirit in which the treaty has been received by both sides of the House will always be the spirit in which such treaties will be received. The real value of this treaty is that it is not only a treaty between Governments but also a treaty cordially acquiesced in by two peoples.
The other point I wish to speak about is the question of the French Congo. I am bitterly disappointed at the cursory way in which the right hon. Gentleman has passed that question over. The right hon. Gentleman said that it might have caused an upset of the whole arrangement if the question of the interpretation of the Berlin Treaty had been dragged in. That might have been said about anything. The fact remains that it is a great pity it has not been dealt with. The only reason that made me rise at this hour of the afternoon is because I desire to give expression to the view that nothing that the Government has said shows that they have a real grasp of the situation as it appears to some of us. There is a two-fold question. There is the question of the territory in which free trade does not obtain. There I admit English traders have been turned out, their goods have been confiscated, and their treatment may be treated as a matter of private right. But when we come to the free-trade zone the matter is altogether on a different basis. The Government have committed themselves to the view expressed in the Paper I hold in my hand, a Paper addressed to the Powers of Europe, and it states the opinion of the Government that the system of trade now existing in the Independent State of the Congo is not in harmony with the provisions of Articles I. and V. of the Berlin Act. The system in the French Congo is the same as in the Congo Free State, and it cannot be met by making compensating grants to individuals who happen to be unfairly treated; it can 577 only be met by international agreement. I regret very much that the hon. Gentleman has not given a better explanation of it, because it is a matter which affects the county for which he sits.
§ *MR. EMMOTT
I wish the right hon. Gentleman would deal with it in that sense. That is the only way in which the wider question can be dealt with, viz., another European Conference, in which I should have much more faith than any other method. But as regards the French Congo, it might have been arranged with France. There are many reasons why that might have been done. In the first place, these companies are not paying because they do not bring in the element of force. In the Congo Free State they bring in that element but the French area humane people. Again, I believe there is in France, as in this country, a genuine desire for friendship. I think it is a great pity therefore that we did not settle this question with France. On the whole, although the Bill justifies the criticisms of detail, and some of them are serious criticism; I am perfectly certain that the people of this country, as well as Members on both sides of the House, desire to cordially congratulate the Government on having made the Treaty, and they believe it is for the benefit of the nation.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time and committed for To-morrow.