HC Deb 11 December 1906 vol 167 cc125-6
*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, having regard to repeated assurances given by the Colonial Office as to the maintenance of the rights of natives to land, property, and freedom of labour, and to the fears expressed by many Members that these may be violated by recent or future concessions and grants of trading rights in West Africa and elsewhere, the Secretary of State will lay down publicly general minimum conditions respecting the issue of territorial leases by governors or administrators, upon which alone the Secretary of State can approve such leases or allow them to be made.


In West Africa there is very little land at the disposal of the Government, but the land generally is in the ownership of native chiefs or tribes. Laws have been passed in each Colony regulating the grant of rights over land by natives; and it may be observed that the effect of these laws was to render invalid a great part of the concessions by native chiefs in Sierra Leone which have recently attracted attention. In East Africa where all land is held to be Crown land, there are provisions in the Crown Lands Ordinance governing the grant of leases of Crown lands by which the rights of natives are protected; and there are similar provisions in the Uganda Ordinance, although there the land at the disposal of the Crown is limited. Having regard to the laws already in force in East and West Africa, it does not seem necessary to lay down any fresh conditions respecting the issue of leases by Government.


Perhaps my hon. friend will consider the recent concessions in the Pacific Islands as showing the necessity for a wider extension of the principles.


Yes, Sir, and if my right hon. friend will speak to me on the subject I will see that his points are brought to the notice of the Secretary of State.