HC Deb 19 December 1906 vol 167 cc1508-9
SIR FRANCIS CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether having regard to the decision arrived at in the Belgian Chamber as to the annexation of the Congo Free State, and having regard to the declarations of King Leopold, in his letter of 3rd June last, claiming that in any annexation the continuance of his arrangements with existing companies and concessions should be guaranteed, he will now take steps to convene an International Conference of the Powers who have treaty rights and obligations as to the Congo, so as to ensure that any final settlement of the future of the Congo Free State by annexation by Belgium or otherwise shall be carried out under explicit conditions and guarantees to protect the natives from the cruelties of its existing administration, and to secure just administration, under some form of effective joint European control.


The debate in the Belgian Chamber has only just concluded, and may, apparently,, lead to Belgium taking over the Congo State in a short time. It is not desirable to prejudice the chances of this solution †See (4) Debates, clxii., 700; clxv., 384. by any other form of interference at this moment, which would have a less definite and effective result in changing or controlling the Administration of the Congo. In any case, it is not in the power of His Majesty's Government to convene a Conference. This can only be done by the consent of the other Powers interested, who would have to be consulted first. My right hon. friend would, however, remind the hon. Member of the Answer which has already been given respecting the opinion of the United States.


asked whether the right Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had considered the fact that the proposed policy of annexation had been repeatedly postponed and frustrated, and whether the Conference which he suggested would not strengthen the hands of the Belgian Parliament in dealing with the question.


My right hon. friend is taking all these matters into consideration, and the statement I have made is the only one that can be made at the present moment.