§ MR. LONSDALE
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the fact that a number of British West Indians have been held in a state of slavery on the Galapagos Islands; and whether any steps have been taken to procure their liberation.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (MR. RUNCIMAN, Dewsbury, for Sir EDWARD GREY)
Rumours having reached His Majesty's Government that a certain number of British subjects were detained at Chatham Island in the Galapagos. Group, His Majesty's Ship "Shearwater" was at once sent to inquire into the matter. Her commander has now reported that there are eleven West Indian negroes, British subjects, in the employment of a Colombian company in the island, which trades under the name of F. E. Ortiz & Company, the principal industry of which is a sugar plantation. These negroes are stated to have signed contracts with the company to work for one year and, should they at the end of that period owe money to the company, to continue working till their debt be paid. The men owe the company some $2,300 between them. This money has been borrowed from the company and is believed to have been lost in gambling. There is little, if any, prospect of the men being able to repay it, and they are therefore not in a position to leave the island. They have not been actually subjected to ill-treatment of a serious nature, and the commander of the British ship impressed upon the Governor his responsibility in the matter, and for their good treatment in future. His Majesty's Government will at once make representations to the Ecuadorian Government on the subject, and will communicate with the Governor of the West Indian Islands concerned. But as the report 156 was only received this morning there has not yet been time to consider it fully.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
We only received the report this morning, and could not possibly make any announcement this afternoon.
§ MAJOR ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
Are we to understand that these men may be kept on the island an indefinite time?