§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
called the attention of the House to one or two questions which had previously occupied the time of hon. Members, and upon one of which there had been a considerable consensus of opinion. He referred to the question of land settlement in South Africa. There had been several debates in the House, in the course of which hon. Members from both sides had advocated what he now rose to urge, viz., that something more should be done towards land settlement in the Orange River Colony. He recognised as far as the Transvaal was concerned that the question had practically been settled, the present Government, under amiable pressure from both sides of the House having consented to appoint a Land Board to deal with the lands upon which settlers had already settled in the Transvaal. That Board was to exist for five years unless before the expiration of that time an arrangement should be come to between the Board and the Government of the Colonies that the functions of the Board should cease. He would like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he was able to announce that the Board had been appointed.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL,) Manchester, N.W.
For the Transvaal.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
For the Transvaal. Could the hon. Gentleman announce the names of the Members 491 of that Board, and exactly what the Board would have to do? In a speech made last year the hon. Gentleman told them he could not go closely into the details as to the work of the Board. The Board had for its duties to take over all moveable property vested in the Government, and to use all moneys paid to the Government by settlers in discharge of their obligation, and any money appropriated by the Inter-Colonial Council under the Transvaal Guarantee Loan of 1903. Those were the chief obligations of the Land Board. They had to administer certain money and protect the settlers already placed on the land. He wished to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the constitution of that Board, and with what moneys the Board would have to deal. There was the money which came in yearly from land already sold to the settlers under certain conditions and the £58,000 now in the hands of the Inter-Colonial Council. But there was also another important item, the £500,000, the greater part of which had been diverted from the purpose for which it was set aside by the British Government. They set aside for land settlement about £3,000,000 under the Guarantee Loan of £30,000,000; of that sum something like £2,500,000 had been spent. There remained £500,000 which had been diverted from its original purpose and devoted to repatriation. That money had gone to repatriate not Britishers alone, but Boers; indeed he was not sure it had not gone entirely to repatriate Boers. They did not know, but they ought to know what portion had gone to British settlers and what portion to Boer settlers. He suggested to the Prime Minister that, if the Land Board had nothing to do except to control the money due from land settlers which, subject to fair climatic conditions and good crops came in yearly, it gave very little security to the settlers established there. They asked that the Land Board should be established permanently, and that there should be at their disposal, for the purpose of buying land for British settlers, something more than the £22,000 represented by the money due from the people already settled. He wished to know what was to be done with the £58,000 in the hands of the Inter-Colonial Council, and whether they were going to get any 492 of the £500,000 for the British settlers in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies. If that sum were restored to the financial administration of the two Governments and placed at the disposal of the Land Board, something really effective might be done for the settlers; little enough had been done so far. He was certain that neither the Prime Minister nor the Under-Secretary for the Colonies was inclined to agree with any policy which would restrict British settlement in the Colonies. No one who had visited the South African Exhibition during the last three weeks could help being struck by the possibilities of those two Colonies. Let them take the Orange River Colony alone. They had wool there, which has obtaining a standard value in the British market. Under the old Boer conditions the wool was practically of no value upon the British market, but the wool recently shown at the South African Exhibition in Vincent Square was considered to be of the best possible quality. There was a great future for wool and fruit production in the Orange River Colony. The influence of British methods upon the agricultural development of the Colony during the last four years had been enormous. The improved methods adopted by Dutch settlers and Boer residents had generally increased the whole value of the productions of both the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. Those who were familiar with the history of French Canada knew that until within the last fifteen years the inhabitants of that Colony were a solidblock, unresponsive to all the influences surrounding them, and there was scarcely any English spoken except in Montreal and Quebec. But since the invasion of industry there the aspect of affairs had been gradually changed, and now they found English spoken in every part of French Canada. If they had in the Orange River Colony simply the influence of one body of Boer settlers wedded to the soil and preserving their old ideas in the country, whilst in the towns British influence predominated, he believed it would be bad for the Colony as a whole. To make the people united and work harmoniously together it was necessary that there should be an English agricultural population as well as Dutch. That was the only way to 493 bring about a well-balanced state of things and a proper distribution of power and population. If they could only get the population to work together for a common development both in the towns and in the country, he thought they might look forward with great hope to the future of our South African Colonies. Without a substantial settlement of British subjects in the Orange River Colony the path towards a good understanding would be greatly obstructed. He hoped that in granting the new Constitution which had been promised it would be fully realised that the Dutch were in a vast preponderance, and a certain section of the Dutch were entirely opposed to British settlers. He hoped the policy adopted in regard to land settlement would be a liberal one, and that the door would be thrown open to British settlers. He would like to read to the House a passage from a letter written by Dr. Adam Jameson, whose death the other day everybody in the House would lament. That gentleman came from Western Australia, and he had done a great work in connection with the Lands Department of the Transvaal. Dr. Adam Jameson wrote:—I look upon this question as one of the very gravest importance, not only as a safeguard to the settlement which has already taken place, but also to meet the sentimental aspirations of the other great Colonies outside South Africa, such as Australia and Canada. After all, it must be remembered that these Colonies suffered as much on behalf of South Africa, both in life and treasure, and they feel sure that the open door to South Africa ought to be maintained in their interests. Even if such opportunities were not availed of for settlement in these Colonies, yet there would be established the feeling that the rights and privileges of other Colonists had not been entirely discarded.He thought that was the general feeling throughout the Empire, and he was certain that feeling was shared in the House. It was a most unfortunate thing that hon. Members had not been permitted, for the purposes of information, to see the Report of the Ridgeway Committee, and the petitions presented to the Committee by the British settlers. In one of those petitions it was stated—If we are to remain on our farms, it is of the greatest necessity that we should be controlled by a sympathetic Government, from whom those of us that are deserving may receive that helpful consideration we have had in the past, and which our circumstances may demand in the future. As we gain experience, and with the help of the latest and necessary 494 implements, we feel confident that under favourable conditions we may be able to raise such crops and develop such agriculture as have hardly been considered possible before. Individually, up to the present, the feeling between the two races has steadily improved, and we feel that one desire of the present Administration in placing us here was to draw together the two races. But it is our belief that to further this end it is necessary for some time to come that we should not be handed over in a condition in which we are wholly dependent on their mercy and charity.That petition was signed by a number of British settlers in the Orange River Colony. In view of the promised granting of a Constitution to that Colony, he did not think it was at all unreasonable that they should ask for a full statement of the intentions of the Government regarding land settlement. The conditions in the case of the Transvaal were difficult, but the races were more evenly balanced, in fact the British were in a majority, and that fact would be sure to have a steadying influence upon any tendency towards the ill-treatment of the British settlers. The leaders of the Dutch arty had not hitherto Pbeen sympathetic towards land settlement, and he hoped that in granting the Constitution to the Orange River Colony more would be done in the direction of land settlement than was done in the Transvaal. They could only produce an even balance in that new Colony by encouraging settlers from Great Britain. If the Land Board was to be of any real service to British settlers, it should have money to spend. He had no faith in the policy of giving the Land Board only a five years life; that was a farce. It was true that it gave security for a period of five years, but unless they felt secure for a longer period than that British settlers would not go out to the Orange River Colony. He was connected with an association which sent out settlers, and their experience was that it was impossible to get people to go to the Orange River Colony because things were so uncertain. They argued that they did not know what was going to happen to them, and if nothing more was going to be done in the way of promoting land settlement than had been done in the Transvaal he could assure the Government they would not get British settlers to go out there. They wanted some assurance and some security that if they got behind with their rent through plague, pestilence, or famine they would be able to struggle through 495 such a difficult crisis. He wished next to refer to a subject which was likely to become one of some difficulty in the near future. He referred to the Newfoundland difficulty. He was sure no one would desire to make Party capital out of such a difficulty as that. The Government had not been entirely fortunate in their dealings with the Colonies. There had been difficulty with Natal, the difficulty with Australia over the New Hebrides; and now there was the difficulty with Newfoundland. He would not go into the merits of the Newfoundland question, but there were some general observations which might be made without entering upon any complicated argument. If there was any Colony in the Empire which had suffered from bad bargains made by past Governments it was Newfoundland. In 1783, so far as two-thirds of its coast was concerned, Newfoundland was by a British Government handed over to France, tied up hopelessly with no opportunity for settlement until the matter was cleared up three or four years ago by a Convention with France. It was intolerable that two thirds of the coast should have been closed to British development, and that France should have continued in possession of that legal right when the moral right had long since vanished. The United States also had a legal right by the Treaty of 1814 and the Convention of 1818, which morally had long since lapsed. If hon. Members would recall the conditions of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty they would realise the force of the argument he was stating. For years this country by virtue of a legal right under that Treaty was able to prevent the United States from carrying out a policy of defence on the coast of the Panama Peninsula. At the time the Treaty was made the United States had no Navy, and under the Treaty there was reserved to the co-operation of Great Britain and the United States certain control of the Peninsula, and the United States could not move without the consent of Great Britain. Years passed, and the United States found that she must have for her national development greater control of the Peninsula, freer passage across it, and power to set up forts and armaments if necessary. There were hon. Members in the House—the hon. Member for Fareham was one—who said that our legal rights existed, but that our moral rights under 496 the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty had long since lapsed. The Foreign Office asked for something and got it, but in the end the right judgment of the people of the country prevailed, and an arrangement was come to by which a cause of serious strife and contention between our Government and that of the United States was removed. We of our own free will gave up our legal right. If under the Treaty of 1814, and the Convention of 1818, the United States had the legal fishing rights in the territorial waters of Newfoundland which she had exercised for a great many years to the detriment of the people of the Colony, then those territorial waters were practically controlled by a foreign Power. What was the attitude of our Government in connection with certain claims made by the United States? In 1886, Newfoundland, suffering as she did from fishing exploitation in her waters, passed the Bait Act preventing Americans from purchasing bait or getting bait in home waters. That Act was put into operation against France as well as against the United States, but counsels of conciliation prevailed, and Newfoundland approached the United States, and proposed that although the fisheries were being injured by the purchase of bait, they would give the United States the right to get bait if they in return would give the right of free entry of Newfoundland fish to the markets of the United States. That was thrown out by the Senate of the United States. Negotiations went on from 1888 till 1905. Newfoundland was always eager to have an understanding with the United States, whereby, if she lost through granting permission to purchase bait in her waters, she would gain by receiving a right of entry for her fish into American markets. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was Colonial Secretary, the Bond-Hay Treaty was entered into, but that was also disallowed by the American Senate in the interests of the fishermen on the east coast of the United States. Meanwhile the Newfoundland Government permitted the United States fishermen to get bait in its waters in the hope that the matter would be settled. It was not settled. The United States quite naturally took all she could get and asked for more. In 1905, Newfoundland passed an Act to make it unlawful for foreign vessels to engage native Newfoundlanders on any 497 part of the coast of the island, or to procure bait in any of the waters of Newfoundland. When the Act became law, the Americans persisted in defying it. Then came a protest on the part of the United States against the application of the Bait Act During all that time our Government was in active negotiation with Newfoundland and the United States trying to find a way out of the difficulty, but that way did not appear. In 1906 Newfoundland, finding that American fishermen evaded the law by going outside the three mile limit to engage Newfoundlanders, passed the Foreign Fishing Vessels Act which provided (1) that it should be unlawful for a resident of the Colony to leave it for the purpose of engaging in foreign fishing vessels intending to fish in the waters of the Colony; and (2) that it should be unlawful for the master, owner, or agent of any foreign fishing vessel to engage British subjects to fish for them within the territorial waters of the Colony. These were simply reprisals, founded upon what Newfoundland believed to be its rights. The British Government agreed to the measure of 1905, but when the Bill of 1906 was brought in grave difficulties arose, and the negotiations became acute and critical. From 8th August, 1906, till 11th October, 1906, a series of despatches passed between Great Britain and Newfoundland on the one hand, and between Great Britain and the United States on the other, and it looked as if they were leading up to a critical situation. The result was that our Government proposed to the United States a modus vivendi which gave permission to the Americans to use purse seines during the ensuing season, the use of which instruments of capture the law of Newfoundland had prohibited and penalised, and to ship Newfoundland fishermen outside the three mile limit, which also, by the law of the Colony, was prohibited and penalised. Then came the critical point of the whole business. He had no doubt our Government had good reason for what they did. They granted a modus vivendi which overrode the statute law of the Colony of Newfoundland. That would be a very serious matter in any circumstances, but particularly in the case of Newfoundland, because Sir Robert Bond had protested and urged their rights as a Colony under the Imperial 498 Act of 1865 "to remove all doubts as to the validity of Colonial laws" which provided that—All laws or reputed laws enacted or purported to have been enacted by the Legislatures which have received the assent of Her Majesty in Council, or which have received the assent of the Governor of the said Colony in the name of and on behalf of Her Majesty, shall be and be deemed to have been valid and effectual from the date of such assent for all purposes whatever.That was the principle. The Home Government had a perfect right to annul a Colonial Act. It was in their power by an Act of Parliament to suspend the Act of 1906, because it was this Parliament which gave legislative rights to the Colony, and it could take those rights away. Anyone who had read Sir Robert Bond's speech must have regretted that the Premier of any Colony of the British Empire had been impelled to make it. It was couched in language careful, courteous, but determined, and wound up with two very important statements. Sir Robert Bond said that it might be that there were high public reasons for passing that modus vivendi over the heads of the Newfoundland Government, and practically amending an Act passed by the Colonial Legislature, but those reasons had never been shown in the despatches, and had never been presented to the Colonial Government. Neither the Memorandum of the American Minister of the Interior nor anything else had been published to enable the Colonial Government to judge of the facts. Finally, Sir Robert Bond said that the Colonial Government would have been spared a great humiliation, and the pride of the Colonists would have been saved from injury, if the Home Government, instead of coming to a modus vivendi with the United States, had asked the Colonial Government to refrain from putting the Act of 1905 into force for another year, and so allowed them another opportunity of presenting their case to the Imperial Government and to the Government of the United States. If the dates were noted it would be found that several days elapsed between the last communication from the Newfoundland Government and when the Home Government cabled that the United States had proposed such and such conditions. Meanwhile, an American ship came into Newfoundland waters, but outside the 499 three-mile limit, and began to recruit Newfoundland fishermen. The next thing the Newfoundland Government received was a cablegram from the Home Government stating that a modus vivendi had been entered into with the Government of the United States. He believed that to be a very serious matter indeed. The Newfoundland law had been violated, and no reply had been made by the Home Government to the representations of the Newfoundland Government in regard to the recruiting by the American vessel. The opinion of the Colony was unanimous that a great limitation had been unnecessarily put upon it. The interpretation of treaties was, of course, a thing for experts.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said the statement he was making was based on that made by Sir Robert Bond in the Legislature of Newfoundland, in which the Premier of the Colony represented that if the Home Government had asked the Colonial Government to refrain from putting the Act of 1906 into operation, it might have been done.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The Act of 1906 was passed by the Colonial Legislature with suspensory clauses, and was not to be made valid until it had received the Royal Assent here. The Act never received the Royal Assent here.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said that he knew that the Act of 1905 had received the Royal Assent, because its provisions were in force, and that Act did matter, to prevent American fishermen from recruiting just over the territorial waters of Newfoundland.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I never said that it did not matter. What I said was that it was quite a different matter. The hon. Gentleman was referring to the Act of 1906.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
asked if it was not the case that when a law was passed by a Colonial Legislature and had received the assent of the representative of the Crown, it might be put into operation at once?
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he was only putting the case as it had been presented by Sir Robert Bond. No one could read the White Paper recently issued without being struck by the statesmanlike position taken up by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in discussing the question with the American Government. Sir Robert Bond said that the Foreign Secretary's despatches had presented the Newfoundland case as fully and fairly as it could be presented to the world at large. But then came a gradual diminution of the claims put forward by the Imperial Government on behalf of Newfoundland—under what pressure the House did not know. It was admissible that there were times when the House should not press for information regarding a critical situation between Great Britain and foreign countries, but he held that the questions he had addressed to the Foreign Secretary that afternoon had fairly interpreted Sir Robert Bond's speech. Now that the Newfoundland Government had taken legal action the matter would be determined according to law. But when the modus vivendi had elapsed the difficulty would occur again if the Imperial Government took up the same position as last year. The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies might rest assured that if anything could be done to put Newfoundland in a more honourable position with the United States, it would be appreciated by hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House as by his own supporters. But on the other hand, there was at present in Newfoundland excitement, passion, and a feeling of bitterness which could only be understood when it was remembered that for 120 or 130 years the inhabitants of Newfoundland had been subjected to a kind of cruelty, owing to the terms of a treaty to which no other colony of the British Empire had been subjected; and they had shown, under pressure of a kind which was likely to excite rebellious feeling, a moderation which ought to receive the whole-hearted approval of Parliament and of the British people. He hoped and trusted that the hon. Gentleman would be able to answer in a manner satisfactory to both sides of the House the arguments he had brought forward.
§ *MR. ASHLEY (Lancashire, Blackpool)
said he wished to draw attention to the constitutional aspect of the Newfoundland question, in order to get from the Under-Secretary for the Colonies an authoritative statement in regard to the modus vivendi. For a great many years there had been, he reminded the House, a series of frictions between this country and our oldest Colony, Newfoundland, between that Colony and the United States, and between ourselves and the United States and France. But, luckily, it was possible a few years ago to come to an agreement with the French Government in regard to the lobster fisheries on the Newfoundland shore. It was to be hoped that when the modus vivendi came to an end it would be possible for the Government to come to some arrangement with the United States, so that once and for all that difficult subject, which damaged so much one of our most loyal Colonies, might be settled. He would suggest that, if it were possible, the best way would be to renew the Treaty of Washington of 1871, which threw open the whole of the North American waters to American fishermen, and by which the United States admitted Newfoundland fish without duty. What was the history of the question? In 1818 a treaty was signed in London which gave the inhabitants of the United States the right to fish in common with British subjects in certain Newfoundland waters, in certain bays and off certain shores. In 1871 the question was again considered by both sides and settled, upon the whole, satisfactorily. As the result the Treaty of Washington was signed, which allowed Americans to fish in British North American waters, including Newfoundland, in return for free imports of Canadian and Newfoundland fish and fish oil to America. Unfortunately, in 1879 a quarrel broke out among the American and Newfoundland fishermen—he really did not know which were to blame—the treaty was abrogated, and the reprisals had been getting worse from year to year. A duty was put on British fish by America, and in 1886 the Newfoundland Legislature passed the Bait Act in order to put pressure upon the United States by preventing American fishermen from getting bait from the Newfoundland shores. There had been three distinct and separate attempts made by the United States and this country jointly with New- 502 found land to get back to the Washington Treaty, and twice, when everything was apparently settled, the United States Senate had thrown out the proposal, as they very often did what the President arranged. The other attempt was defeated owing to a misunderstanding because Canada wanted to get a similar settlement, and therefore no arrangement was made. In the year 1905 the position became acute owing to the Newfoundland legislation, and in August of last year, as they knew, in consequence of the very difficult situation, the Home Government entered into negotiations, and he cordially agreed that they were right in doing so, with the United States for the establishment of a modus vivendi. If the Government had not taken that course there might have been conflict between the two sets of fishermen. The Home Government seemed to have kept the Newfoundland Government fairly fully informed as to the progress of the negotiations, but they did not seem to have communicated with the Newfoundland Government that they had notified the United States of a wish to arrange a modus vivendi. They should, he thought, have informed the Government of Newfoundland in the first instance, but the first intimation the latter received was a letter to the effect that at the time the letter was written they were in communication with the United States Government on the subject. He thought it would have been more courteous and better policy to have informed the Newfoundland Government previous to the negotiation. No doubt the modus vivendi was necessary, but the point he wished to make was whether the action of the Government had been constitutional. By that modus vivendi they had set aside the Acts of 1905 and 1906 and had permitted American fishermen to use purse seines, although those Acts said that any Newfoundland fisherman who shipped on board an American fishing boat should be penalised and punished. It was arguable whether the Government had the right to suspend the operation of those two Acts, but he would point out that it was a little inconsistent to do so when at the present moment the Government were prosecuting English fishermen who were in precisely the same position on Norwegian vessels in the Moray Firth. Then as to the use of purse seines by Americans, it was against the 503 wishes of Newfoundland, as it was considered to be most injurious to the fisheries. That it was injurious they had the testimony of the naval officer who was employed on the coast to prove. On 3rd September, 1906 the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs wrote to Mr. Whitelaw Reid—Your Excellency, In my note of the 14th August I stated that His Majesty's Government hoped shortly to be able to submit to the Government of the United States proposals for a provisional Arrangement which would secure the peaceable and orderly conduct of the forthcoming herring fishery on the coast of Newfoundland. I have now the honour, on the understanding mentioned in my note, viz., that the Arrangement would be in the nature of a modus vivendi to be applicable only to the ensuing season, and not in any way to affect the rights and claims of either party to the Convention of 1818, to submit the following proposals, viz.:—(1) His Majesty's Government will not bring into force 'The Newfoundland Foreign Fishing Vessels Act 1906,' which imposes on the United States fishing-vessels certain restrictions in addition to those imposed by the Act of 1905. (2) the provisions of the first part of Section 1 of the Act of 1905 as to boarding and bringing into port, and the whole of Section 3 of the same Act will not be regarded as applying to the United States fishing vessels. (3) the United States Government will in return direct their fishermen to comply with the Colonial Fishery Regulations, as was in fact done last year, with the exception of certain breaches of the prohibition of Sunday fishing. (4) the demand for payment of light dues will be waived by His Majesty's Government. (5) the United States' Government will direct the masters of the United States fishing vessels to comply with the provisions of the Colonial Customs Law as to reporting at a Customs house on arrival in and departure from Colonial waters.The answer of Mr. Whitelaw Reid was as follows—My Government hears with the greatest concern and regret from the opinion of His Majesty's Government there is so wide a divergence of views with regard to the Newfoundland fisheries that an immediate settlement is hopeless. But it is much gratified that His Majesty's Government desire to reach a modus vivendi for this season and appreciates the readiness to waive the Foreign Fishing Vessels Act of 1906. This and other restrictive legislation had compelled our fishermen to use purse seines or abandon their treaty rights.Mr. Whitelaw Reid went on to say—The small amount of purse seining this season could not of course materially affect the common fishery any way. Besides, many of our fishermen have already sailed with purse seines as usual and the others are already provided with them. This use of the purse seine was not a free choice of our fishermen. They had been driven to it by local restrictive legislation, and the continued use of 504 it at this late date this year seems vital. But we will renounce Sunday fishing for this season if His Majesty's Government will consent to the use of purse seines and we cannot too strongly urge an acceptance of this solution.He thought that His Majesty's Government, in their desire to get the United States to agree to the modus vivendi, gave away a great deal more than was necessary, because they not only suspended the Acts of 1905 and 1906 but they also permitted the purse seine. Then as to the constitutional point. By the Act of 1874 (Consolidated Statutes, Title XXVII., Chapter 102, Section 1) purse seines were absolutely prohibited in the territorial waters of Newfoundland, but the Americans were allowed to use those nets in spite of that statute. The question was, did the Act of 1874 apply to Americans? It was obvious that the Government could not set aside the Act of a self-governing Colony such as Newfoundland, especially as the Treaty of Washington said that American subjects had rights "in common" with Newfoundlanders to fish in Newfoundland waters. What was the opinion of Lord Granville, a Liberal Colonial Secretary? The noble Lord said—In the opinion of Her Majesty's Government the clause in the Treaty of Washington which provided that the citizens of the United States shall be entitled 'in common with British subjects' to fish in Newfoundland waters within the limits of British sovereignty means that the American and British fishermen shall fish in these waters upon terms of equality, and not that there shall be an exemption of American fishermen from any reasonable regulation to which British fishermen are subject.Mr. Lowell did not deny this interpretation. No doubt the Under-Secretary would bring forward a statement made by Lord Salisbury in the same year, but it was not germane, as the despatch of Lord Granville was written six months subsequent to that of Lord Salisbury. If the Act of 1874 was abrogated we had to fall back on the Treaty of 1818, and he might, he thought, with advantage call attention to a despatch of the present Foreign Secretary dated 2nd February, 1906, in which he took the same views as Lord Granville. He said—The views of the United States Government with respect to the position of affairs on the coast of Newfoundland, and to the rights of American fishing vessels in those waters under the Treaty of the 30th October, 1818, as set forth in Mr. Root's note to His Majesty's 505 Ambassador at Washington the 19th October, 1905, had received the serious attention of His Majesty's Government. I have now the honour to in close a memorandum dealing seriatim with the propositions formulated by Mr. Root, and with his observations with regard to some of the provisions of recent Newfoundland legislation for the regulation of the fisheries.In the memorandum the Foreign Secretary said—Mr. Root's note does not give any indication of what laws of the Colony would be regarded by the United States Government, as inconsistent with the Convention if applied to American fishermen. The opinion of His Majesty's Government on this point is as follows: The American fishery under Article 1 of the Convention of 1818 is one carried on within the British jurisdiction and 'in common with' British subjects…American fishermen cannot therefore rightly claim to exercise their right of fishery under the Convention of 1818 on a footing of greater freedom than if they had never ceased to be British subjects. Nor consistently with terms of the Convention can they claim to exercise it on a footing of greater freedom than the British subjects 'in common with' whom they exercise it under the Convention. In other words the American fishery under the Convention is not a free but a regulated fishery, and, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government American fishermen are found to comply with all Colonial Laws and Regulations including any touching the conduct of the fishery so long as these are not in their nature unreasonable and are applicable to all fishermen alike.Therefore the law was held by the right hon. Baronet to apply to American and Newfoundlanders alike. If that was so what should be the course adopted by His Majesty's Government? The Government had three alternatives. They could have gone to the Newfoundland Government, as Lord Salisbury did in 1891, and asked them to suspend the law of 1874 for a short time whilst the modus virendi was in operation, or they could have come to Parliament and got it to pass a law overriding the colonial law of 1874, or they could have adopted a third alternative. As the modus vivendi was signed when the House was not sitting, the Government could have made the modus vivendi, and could then have come to the House and got an Act of Indemnity passed to regularise their position. He had endeavoured to put forward his views, he was afraid rather imperfectly as he was not a lawyer, but he thought unless it could be proved very clearly that the law of 1874 did not apply to American fishermen, the Government were in the strange position of having set aside a law of a 506 self-governing Colony, which could only be done by an Act of Parliament.
§ *Earl PERCY (Kensington, S.)
said that before the debate passed to other topics he would like to say a few words upon the Newfoundland modus vivendi, and to make clear what he thought was the point of view of those who sat upon the front Opposition bench. He would say at once he did not canvass the action of the Government on the merits or demerits of the modus vivendi. It might be said and in fact had been said, that that modus vivendi was a breach of the principle laid down by Lord Taunton in his despatch of 1857, in which he said that no rights of Newfoundland were to be ceded without her consent. He did not think the Government had laid themselves open to the charge, because in this case there had been no cession, there had only been a temporary waiving of rights. Neither did he think that by the modus vivendi the Government had given away, as had been said, the whole case of the Colony and agreed to a surrender rather than a compromise. On the whole he confessed he did not think the bargain was a very bad one. So far as he could see, the only net advantage the United States obtained was that she got the right to use the purse seine. And that was only to be used with due regard to other modes of fishery, and he believed it. was the fact that the exercise of the right had been renounced by the skippers in the Bay of Islands on the ground that the qualification deprived them of any benefit they might have gained by the concession. On theother hand, they were still precluded from any right to purchase bait in Newfoundland, or to recruit fishermen inside the territorial waters or just outside them, and they also pledged themselves to observe all the local regulations as to reporting at the Customs, the payment of light dues, and the prohibition of fishing on Sundays. He did not think, therefore, that there was a case to be made out for saying that the modus vivendi virtually gave away everything so far as Newfoundland was concerned. Even if he thought the bargain was a bad one for Newfoundland, he did not think he would make that a ground for an indictment against the Government, because it was quite clear that where local interests conflicted with 507 Imperial interests local interests must give way. Of Imperial interests only the Imperial Government could be the judge. All that could be said was that the Imperial Government having this power, should be particularly careful as to how they used it in dealing with a small Colony like Newfoundland which was very jealous of its rights. The point of view he wished to emphasise was not the merits of the modus vivendi, but the means by which the settlement was arrived at. It was almost impossible to believe that the Government would really have taken the course they did in September last year unless in their opinion the situation had become very critical. His proposition was that the situation only became critical owing to the supineness and negligence of the Government. Mr. Root's first despatch reached this country in October 1905—the despatch in which he questioned the compatibility of the provisions of the Act of 1905 with the rights of the United States under the Treaty of 1818. That despatch was not answered by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs until February of the following year. There was, it was true, a general election in the interval and he therefore would not make it a ground of complaint against the right hon. Gentleman that he took time before answering the despatch. In his reply the right hon. Gentleman repudiated the contention of Mr. Root that the Act was inconsistent with the Treaty, but suggested that it might be desirable to communicate with our Colony with the view of clearing up any ambiguity as to the manner in which the Act should be interpreted. Apparently the Colonial Office did not even forward the despatch of the Foreign Secretary to the Colony until a fortnight later, and took no steps whatever to act upon his suggestion with regard to a conference on the question, before Mr. Root returned to the charge four months later on the 30th June, 1906. The Government allowed another month to elapse before they forwarded Mr. Root's despatch to the Newfoundland Government, and then they followed it by a telegram two days later saying that the Government had decided to enter into a modus vivendi with the United States and asking the Colony to say what form the modus vivendi should take. If the Government was open to the charge of culpable negligence in the earlier part of the nego- 508 tiations, in the later part they were open to the charge of almost incredible tactlessness. That telegram was sent on the 8th of August. The Colony replied on the 19th with a virtual non possumus. They made no suggestions, protested against the idea of a modus vivendi altogether and declared that the proper course for the Government to take was to put into operation the Act of 1906. He was not prepared to defend the procedure adopted by the Colony. But before the end of the month, on the 31st, the Colonial Secretary received a despatch from the Governor of Newfoundland, who said he had already drawn the attention of his Government to what he thought was an oversight on their part in omitting to make the suggestions for which the Colonial Secretary had asked. That telegram was received here on the 31st, yet the Colonial Secretary, although he had been advised that definite proposals might reach him from the Colony, telegraphed on 3rd September not only that a modus vivendi had been agreed upon in principle but that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had already submitted to Mr. Whitelaw Reid the conditions upon which a settlement might be arrived at. At the same time he put a pistol to the head of the Colony by asking whether, if the United States advanced claims for compensation, the Colony were prepared to undertake the liability or whether, if the negotiations fell through, they would undertake to pay all the costs of arbitration. That was an inquiry not only wanting in tact and almost insulting, but one which was wholly unjustifiable having regard to what had taken place before. His right hon. friend the ex-Colonial Secretary had informed the Colonial Government in the previous year that the matters dealt with by the Bill of 1905 lay within their sole competence; and although no doubt His Majesty's Government disapproved of the policy and declared that they could accept no responsibility in the event of retaliation by the United States, yet in view of the fact that they had not advised His Majesty to refuse his assent to the Act they must be held to have virtually guaranteed the compatibility of that Act with the Treaty provisions of 1818. Lord Elgin's telegram asking the Colony whether they were prepared to undertake all the expenses which might be incurred in connection 509 with claims to compensation, or a settlement by arbitration, seemed to him to amount to a virtual repudiation of responsibility for their treaty engagements by His Majesty's Government, and could hardly do otherwise than convey to the Government of Newfoundland the impression—no doubt an erroneous, but a most unfortunate one—that His Majesty's Government were prepared, if necessary, to sacrifice the interests of the Colony rather than incur the unpopularity of making a demand on the British taxpayer at home. The curious thing was that His Majesty's Government had not only taken no pains to make themselves acquainted, as they might easily have done, with the views of the Colony, but when they had obtained those views they seemed almost to have gone out of their way to misunderstand them. One of the most remarkable despatches in the Blue-book was the despatch of Lord Elgin announcing the terms of the modus vivendi, in which he informed the Colonial Government that the Imperial Government had offered no concession which the Colonial Government had not declared itself willing to grant. Almost the first thing that the Colony did when it was informed that these matters were under discussion with the Government of the United States was to protest against any arrangement which would involve differentiation between the citizens of the United States and the citizens of the Colony, or the citizens of any other Power. Long before Lord Elgin gave that assurance, the Foreign Secretary had already been in communication with Mr. Whitelaw Reid as to suspending the operation of Sections 1 and 3 of the Act of 1905 in favour of the United States. That suggested rather an interesting point about which he would have been glad to put a question to the Foreign Secretary, had he been present. He did not quite understand how one or two clauses in an Act affecting all foreign vessels could be waived in favour of one Power and not in favour of the rest, without virtually a breach of most-favoured-nation rights. Apart from that point, it was quite obvious that a concession had been made in that respect which was not only not approved of but earnestly deprecated by the Colony. The Colony of Newfoundland had taken up a perfectly clear 510 position. They said, "We will do one of two things. We are quite willing to waive the question of payment of light dues, which we do not particularly care for, if you can induce the United States to assent to all the other local regulations—reporting at the Custom-houses, observance of the prohibition of Sunday fishing, and so on. Or on the other hand we will not insist on these minor conditions provided that the Home Government will assent to our initial request and put in force the Act of 1906." But the Government refused absolutely to put in force the Act of 1906, and gave away the one thing which the Colonies really appeared to care about, at all events as a counter in the negotiations, namely, the right of the United States to use purse seines. All that, no doubt, was matter of past history; and he did not know that very much was to be gained by dwelling at great length upon mistakes which it was impossible now to undo. But he would like to ask the hon. Gentlemen opposite one or two questions with regard to the future. The present position as he understood it, was that the modus vivendi had been protested against by the Colonial Government, and enforced against their will, he did not know how, he supposed by proclamation of the Governor. Very much the same situation arose in 1890 in regard to the controversy which then took place with the French in regard to the lobster fishery, In that case the Government at home insisted on a modus vivendi which was unpopular in the Colony, and they forced it upon them against their will. But the Colony on that occasion appealed to Parliament against the decision of the Imperial Government, and year after year there was friction between the Home Government and the Colonial Government in regard to the renewal of the modus vivendi, until the whole question was set at rest by the Anglo-French Agreement of 1904. He earnestly trusted that they would not have a repetition of that state of things in the present instance. He was quite at a loss to see how the disastrous prospect could be avoided except by recourse to arbitration. In the earlier despatch from the United States it was said that no great objection would have been raised to the Act of 1905 if Sections 1 and 3 had been strictly interpreted in 511 the light of Section 7. Section 7 said that the powers given under Sections 1 and 3 to the Newfoundland Government were only to be exercised in conformity with treaty rights. But as the whole controversy between the Imperial Government and the Government of the United States was as to what were the rights of the United States under the Treaty of 1818, it was very difficult to see how a settlement could be arrived at otherwise than by arbitration. On the other hand, it was equally obvious that they could not force such an arrangement on the Colony against its will, without a breach of the engagement given in the despatch of Lord Taunton to which he had referred. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would be able to assure them that there was some prospect, at all events, of arriving at an agreement with the Government of Newfoundland on the subject. He would like also to be informed whether His Majesty's Government were contemplating any new machinery for preventing similar friction and misunderstanding between the Colonial Office and the Government of the Colony again. This dispute had been cited in various quarters as an argument for the creation of some machinery, in the shape of an Imperial Council, or something of that kind, which would place His Majesty's Government more completely in touch with the views of the various Colonies. He was not going, on the present occasion, to discuss the desirability or otherwise of creating machinery of that kind; he did not think it was relevant to the particular matter of the Newfoundland dispute. It seemed to him that the whole of the difficulty in that case had been the fault of His Majesty's Government, and that the main cause had been an astounding lack of co-operation—which had happily not occurred under the late Government—between the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. It was impossible to believe that a statesman so tactful as his right hon. friend the Member for the Berwick Division could have made the proposals he did to the United States, if he had been informed at that time that the Colonial Office had in their pocket a letter from the Governor of Newfoundland holding out hopes of a further communication of the views of the Colony. It might 512 be remarked that exactly the same absence of co-operation was observable in the case of the New Hebrides Convention. Under the late Government the original idea of the Convention to be drawn up between ourselves and the French was one for the settlement of land claims between the two Powers. To that hour the Colonies had never raised any objection to the ultimate settlement which was arrived at on that point; and, before his right hon. friend went out of office, he had taken the greatest care to acquaint the Australian Colonies with the fact that a Commission was about to sit. But when the present Government came into office they decided, owing to the fact that the French Commissioners had refused to consider the question of a temporary Land Court, to extend the inquiry to cover not merely the land claims but the question of jurisdiction over natives—the only one which had excited strong feeling in the Colonies. Yet they never informed Australia or New Zealand that the inquiry had been extended in that way. There was also the greivance that the Foreign Secretary had never taken any steps to bring to the notice of the French Commissioners the objection raised to the system of indentured labour on the part of the Australian Colonies. He did not make that an indictment against the right hon. Gentleman, because it was probable, from a perusal of the Blue book, that it was not his fault; but he did suggest, in the light of the history of these negotiations that the Foreign Secretary would be well advised to keep a more strict look-out on his colleagues than he had thought it necessary to do in the past.
§ *MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)
said that when the attack was made on the Government in connection with the New Hebrides Convention, he took no part in it, because he thought it was not warranted and ought not to have come from the people who made it. They sought to establish an analogy between the New Hebrides Convention and the Chinese Labour Ordinance, but that was not in the least warranted by the facts. In the New Hebrides there was no compound system, with all its inevitable evils and scandals; there was no ostracism of the labourer from civil and social life, no curtailment of liberty outside labour hours, and no forcible expulsion from the country 513 when the term of labour was at an end. The Party opposite ought to be the last people to attack the Government on that matter, seeing that they were the authors of legislation which had led to the gravest moral and political disorders in the Transvaal. They were disorders about which the late Government were warned, and about which they professed the greatest concern, and yet they took no steps to prevent them, and gave no helping hand to those who advocated the taking of such steps. The Opposition stood in regard to that question to-day as they stood three years ago—the champions and supporters of a system of the most vicious and demoralising kind, which was forced upon the Colony against its own will, against the will of the great self-governing Colonies, and against the will of the Mother Country. He did not, therefore, desire to take any part in the very unedifying spectacle of Satan rebuking sin. There were however several provisions in the New Hebrides Convention of which he did not approve, and he especially disliked those relating to the deportation of women and girls. He thought the provisions which dealt with the regulation of the hours of labour and the conditions under which repatriation was to be carried out were carelessly drawn up; in fact they had been so badly drafted as to leave doubt in many minds as to whether the real intentions of the British Government had been carried out. He trusted that the power which had undoubtedly been preserved of revising the Convention by regulations or Amendment would be acted upon so that any apparent deficiencies might be set right as promised by the Foreign Secretary. He regretted the want of sympathy which had been shown towards the urgent remonstrances of the Colonies of Australia and New Zealand, who were anxious that there should be greater protection for the interests of the natives, and he would have liked to have seen the Secretary for the Colonies receive those suggestions from the Colonies in a more sympathetic spirit. They were very important and related to the protection of the natives from opium, from fraudulent and oppressive contracts, and from ill-treatment by their employers. Those were all weighty matters, but he could not find that any of them had been treated as being of sufficient importance to be even submitted to the 514 French Government. No Amendments had been made at all in the Convention, and the net result had been to give occasion to the enemy to blaspheme, and the confidence of the friends of the Government had been shaken. In the Colony of Natal, what was called the native rising there last year was suppressed with admitted severity. It arose out of a scuffle between the police and some natives in the levying of a tax which undoubtedly, at the time, was illegal. Two policemen were killed, and for those two deaths seventeen natives had, at different times, been executed—two in March, twelve in April, and three more in October. Those three had been so badly wounded that they had to be nursed up for their trial, and the people of Natal and the Governor himself had urged the Natal Ministry to exercise clemency. But all in vain. It was much to be regretted that the Secretary of State for the Colonies did not find himself in a position, on behalf of the Mother Country and a Liberal Administration, to urge on the Natal Government not to pursue those natives with such severity. All that appeared in the Blue-book was complimentary telegrams shortly before congratulating the Natal Government on "theri self-restraint and moderation in commuting the sentences of courts martial." With regard to the Transvaal, at the general election two great points were insisted on by the Liberal Party—the gradual abolition of Chinese labour and the full grant of self-government to the two Colonies. He congratulated Lord Elgin on the grant of self-government to the Transvaal; but there was a blot with regard to the Second Chamber, which he thought quite unnecessary, and made more serious by the way in which Lord Selborne had constituted it.
§ *MR. MACKARNESS
thought his hon. friend would not say that the nominations were not suggested by the High Commissioner. However they were received on ill sides in the Transvaal as nominations pour rire; and if Lord Selborne's object had been to bring the Second Chamber into ridicule from the start he had achieved it. With regard to the gradual abolition of Chinese labour, he could not 515 conceive why the 16,000 licences granted by the late Government should have been recognised. There was plenty of evidence in Blue-books of the cruelties that went on. There was the flogging which took place under the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
May I ask what business the hon. Gentleman has to say that the flogging took place under me?
§ *MR. MACKARNESS
thought the right hon. Gentleman would understand that he meant during his tenure of office. He had always stated that he thought the right hon. Gentleman was extremely badly treated by Lord Milner, and that the flogging took place behind his back.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said he failed to see what these matters of past history had to do with the present Bill. The Opposition were not now on their trial, but the Government; and if the hon. Gentleman had any criticisms to make they should be on the Government and the Votes contained in the Bill, and not on events of a past epoch.
§ *MR. MACKARNESS
said he was only drawn into the subject by the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman. [Opposition cries of "Oh."] He was criticising the action of Lord Elgin in recognising the licences granted by the late Government. The policy of repatriation at the expense of the State had been carried out by the Secretary of State in such a way as to defeat its object. The first proclamation was couched in terms which were calculated to deter Chinese coolies from availing themselves of it; and, in his judgment, the second proclamation was little better. Then there was the evidence of the appalling amount of crime committed by the Chinese against the white inhabitants, and no stops were taken to deal with that state of things. The white people were left to protect themselves by their own rifles against Chinese criminals. It seemed to him that when that state of things was realised and thoroughly proved, it afforded ample ground for the Secretary of State to step in and say that a system which produced such a state of things could no longer be 516 tolerated. There followed the revelations by Mr. Bucknill's inquiry of the state of things in the compounds, but what steps had been taken in regard to that? Several hundreds of coolies had been deported, but the compounds still existed, and they were managed by the same officials under whom those evils grew up. They had also reason to complain of the failure on the part of the Secretary of State to break down the monopoly of recruiting in Portuguese East Africa, the object of which monopoly was to keep up the case for the importation of Chinese coolies, and to prevent the introduction of a larger number of white men to work in the mines. The result was that the High Commissioner was obliged to appeal to the Australian Government to deport to their homes as paupers white colonists who had come to the Transvaal to fight or work for the Empire. That failure seemed to point to want of belief on the part of the Colonial Secretary in his policy or want of ability to carry it out. He could not conceive how, if the Government were at all serious in the matter, it should take all these months to come to a friendly arrangement with a Government like that of Portugal. In regard to the future he would like to feel perfectly sure that the policy of His Majesty's Government as laid down in the Constitution of the Transvaal, namely, that there should be no renewal of any of the Chinese contracts, was certain to be absolutely adhered to. He would not have doubted that for a moment, but for a speech which the Secretary of State had made in another place, in which he appeared to suggest the framing of another ordinance in which there would be no difficulty about the renewals. He hoped the noble Lord was misunderstood, and that the statement did not mean what it appeared to mean. Although he was sure that the Secretary of State had acted from the highest motives, he had lost opportunities of impressing on our Colonial policy a spirit of Liberalism and humanity, and by so doing he had weakened the Government's power for good. Supposing that trouble arose under the New Hebrides Convention, who would be blamed? If a native rising were to take place in another part of the Empire and was put down with great severity, would it not be said that Lord Elgin had approved of those methods in Natal? Would it 517 not be said, with great force, if indentured labour under the conditions of the Transvaal Ordinance was established elsewhere, that for two years under the late Government, and for one year under the present Government, the Chinese Ordinance, with all its abuses, was tolerated? It was not his business to suggest what were the reasons for the policy of the late Government, but in regard to the present Government, whose policy he supported in most things, he did not know what answer there could be, except that during the past year the Colonial Office had been administered by a statesman who, however well meaning, was not imbued with, or had not appreciated, Liberal sentiment on this question, and who had trusted far too much to the High Commissioner, who, although a highly honourable man, was openly and frankly in complete disagreement with Liberals on many points of their policy.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
congratulated the hon. Member on his consistency, and his determination to carry out his election pledges in regard to so called Chinese slavery. He understood that the hon. Gentleman stood out as the protagonist of Liberalism and humanity, and suggested that neither the Government nor the Opposition had any share in such a policy in this matter. He desired enlightenment in regard to the question of land settlement in South Africa. He himself should rather support the appeal of his hon. friend the Member for Gravesend. They wanted a great deal more enlightenment on that subject. In deciding that a Land Settlement Board was required the Government had admitted that protection was necessary for British settlers at the present time. He wished that they were to have a longer period of protection than five years. He thought that protection would be needed. Watchfulness would also be needed for fully that period. He ventured to think that the Government would not have established that Board had it not been for the debates on the subject in Parliament. He could not say whether or not it was one of the recommendations of the Ridgeway Committee. Personally, he believed it was. He wanted to make one or two inquiries. Had that Board been appointed, and had the Governor yet selected the three Members of it whom he was to 518 appoint? What would be the powers and the duties of the Board? Would the Land Settlement Board for the Orange River Colony be constituted in the same way as that of the Transvaal? Over what land would the Board have control? There was a great deal of land still unappropriated. Would the British settlers in any way benefit by it? Was the Imperial Government going to obtain any control over it? What amount of money had been placed at the disposal of the Board? He understood that there was a balance of £58,000 out of the £3,000,000 intended for the British settlers. Two and a half millions had been spent, and £442,000 out of the remaining £500,000 had been devoted to other purposes. Only £58,000 was left. Was the £442,000 to be replaced for the benefit of British settlers? It was estimated that £22,000 would come in annually from repayments by land settlers in the Orange River Colony, and that a similar yearly sum might be hoped for from the settlers in the Transvaal. the Land Board would have at their disposal the sum of, say, £50,000 a year, but he maintained that that was not sufficient for carrying on its business of encouraging British settlement in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. Then it had to be borne in mind that administration might cost a great deal, and he pressed on the hon. Gentleman the necessity of replacing the sum of £442,000 which had been appropriated to other purposes for advancing more extensive British settlement in the South African Colonies. It could not be denied in any part of the House that the object of British policy should be to encourage British settlers to go out to South Africa, and he wished that the control of the Land Board had been established for more than five years. Assuming, however, that British settlers were placed on the land in the next four or five years, on the existing condition that they repaid the sums advanced to them in annualinstalments in thirty years in order to become owners of their land in fee simple, was there any guarantee that after the abolition of the Land Board and a new Government, say a Dutch Government, came into power, those settlers would not be called upon to pay all their instalments in a lump sum? That was a very important point. Was there any guarantee that the Land 519 Settlement Ordinance under which the advances were made to be repaid in thirty years would not be repealed? He pressed the point the more strongly because in the Orange River Colony under the new Constitution there would be no representatives to put forward the claims of the British settlers there. He understood it was the desire of the Imperial Government to make British and Dutch interests in South Africa as similar as possible, so that the two races could work in co-operation for the good of the Colony. It was the interest of those resident in the two Colonies, whether British or Dutch, that there should be an increase of the farming community so that the cost of living might be decreased. That of itself should lead to better co-operation between the two races. He, however, still thought that the grant of self-government at the present time, both to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, was a rash experiment; and he had always regretted that His Majesty's Government had shown a constant disposition to do so much for the Boers and so little for the British. He believed that it was largely in consequence of the pressure brought to bear on them by the hon. Member for Newbury and his friends that they had really put a premium upon siding with the Boers. By all means he would like to reciprocate what had been said by General Botha in his speech at Pretoria on 11th March. He did not for a moment question the sincerity of that speech, and he welcomed it; but it must be borne in mind that the policy of a United South Africa which the General advocated was nothing new. It had been put forward before the war by Mr. Hofmeyr, and the idea had been rather that of a Dutch than a British federation. He thought that it would be wise on the part of His Majesty's Government to keep a careful watch over British interests in South Africa.
§ *MR. THEODORE TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)
said he wished to draw attention to a new aspect of an old question—viz., the opium traffic in our Crown Colonies in the East. Hon. Members must not imagine that our connection with the opium trade was limited to India and China. We had very special responsibilities with regard to the opium traffic carried on in our Eastern Crown 520 Colonies. While we were wondering whether China was bona fide in her expression of her desire to put an end to this traffic, it would not be surprising if she were wondering whether we were earnest in expressing our desire to assist her to put an end to that traffic so long as we raised a large amount of revenue from opium dens ourselves. While we were nominally opposed to opium traffic, we were fostering opium smoking in our own Crown Colonies. Twice the House of Commons had affirmed last May unanimously that the Indian-Chinese opium traffic was indefensible. They agreed that opium smoking was a curse in China; but was it less so in Hong-Kong? Out of 300,000 inhabitants in Hong-Kong there were only 10,000 Europeans, and it might be regarded as a piece of China under British rule. It was the headquarters of the Chinese opium traffic, and also the headquarters of the opium smuggling trade; so that we had not only a moral but a financial responsibility. Instead of suppressing opium smoking, we farmed out opium-smoking dens as a business. Lord Charles Beresford, in his book, "The Breakup of China," said that the opium farmers were known to be the greatest opium smugglers, and that they could not pay the heavy licence duties demanded of them otherwise. Of the total revenue of the Colony of Hong-Kong in 1905, amounting to $6,918,403, there was received for licences $4,725,906. He had not been able to ascertain the exact proportion derived from opium licences, but he was quite sure that it was considerable. It was well known that the American people had a similar difficulty in the Philippines and appointed a Commission to inquire into it. Among other places they visited was Hong-Kong, and in their Report they stated that—Perhaps one-third of the Chinese in Hong-Kong use opium and the habit seems to be spreading. No effort, except the increased price demanded by the farmer to compensate for the higher price he has to pay to secure his monopoly, is made to deter persons from using opium in this Colony. A good deal of the drug—rather one-third of all used—is smuggled into Hong-Kong. Its use seems to be increasing.There were also protests on the part of British residents. Last summer a memorial was presented to the Governor of Hong-Kong by the Bishop of Victoria, Archdeacon of Hong-Kong, and all the 521 leading clergy of all denominations against the opium traffic in the Colony. That memorial stated—In our opinion the present system of farming which is in operation in this Colony tends directly to encourage the use of opium and for this encouragement the Government is responsible. The Government is interested in getting as much revenue as possible. The opium farmer must get his money back, and therefore he uses every means in his power to encourage the use of opium. He pushes his business to the utmost extent.Then the memorial went on to urge the Government to seek means to check and abolish the use of opium and to see that pupils in public schools should be taught, the evil and debasing results of the opium habit. The memorial said in conclusion—So long as the Government encourages rather than checks the opium vice, instruction in the schools will be of little use.What did opium smoking mean? He knew the House did not like details which were painful even if they were graphic, but he might give them one incident related by a missionary, Dr. Park, who writing on 10th December, 1898, said—While I am penning these lines the crying of a wife who has been sold by an opium-smoking husband can be heard on the street in front of our house. He is one of our nearest neighbours, and I have known his wife ever since I came to China, when she was a pretty young girl. When he first began smoking, his mother (who was a widow, and had some property, and was also a teacher of embroidery in our mission), seeing no hope in life, took opium and killed herself. He then sold off the houses one by one, then the furniture in the house, then his wife's clothes, then his grandmother's grave-clothes which she had prepared against her burial. Then he sold his own clothes, and now he has sold his wife. The two children born to him have fortunately died, else he would have sold them next. This is not an isolated case, but can be duplicated in every street, in every city and town of this vast Empire.Naturally, all the best people among the Chinese detested opium-smoking, whether in or out of China. So strong was the feeling against opium-smoking that the Rev. Arnold Foster told them that in Hong-Kong when there was a competitive examination for a clerkship, five young Chinamen competed, and one of the subjects put before them was that of opium-smoking, and although they all knew that the Colonial Government derived a revenue from opium, and therefore that the course they took was not likely to commend itself to the authorities, they all five denounced the opium vice as the ruin of China. China was beginning 522 to reform in regard to opium-smoking. If that was so, why should Hong-Kong remain a black spot close to the Chinese Empire? There was, however, some hope for Hong-Kong, because with China and Japan joining against opium-smoking probably their influence would spread to our subjects there. Already there was an anti-opium movement commencing among the people in Hong-Kong and they were holding meetings on the subject. But Hong-Kong was not our worst case, and there was some hope through its proximity to China, because if the reform movement went on in China, for very shame we should have to abolish opium-smoking in Hong-Kong, following the example of those non-Christian Powers, Japan and China. But let them go a little further West to the Straits Settlements, which were managed by our Governors under the Colonial Office. Out of a population of 603,460 in the Straits Settlements proper, more than half were Chinese, and there were many Indians. The Government there farmed out the sale of opium in periods of three years at a time to those who kept opium dens, and the revenue from that source was rapidly increasing. For the period 1898–1901 the annual revenue was $2,318,000; for 1901–1904 it was $3,732,000; for 1904–1907 it was $5,580,000. The amount had thus practically doubled in six years, and was nearly half the total annual revenue, which in 1905 was $11,657,000. The excuse for the opium traffic was that it was carried on there in order to oblige the Chinese, but that was only an excuse and not the reason. The real reason was that it was the easiest way of obtaining revenue. It always had been easy to raise revenue by the licensing and taxation of vice. That had always been the case, and he supposed the Prince of Monaco found that that was the easiest way of raising his revenue. Last year Parliament passed a Street Betting Bill, but if instead they had licensed and taxed bookmakers, by licensing the ruin of individuals, they would have tapped a new source of revenue for the State. That was what we were doing at the Straits Settlements, with this difference, that whereas the gambler lost only his money, the opium smoker lost not not only his money but his health, strength, self-respect, and character as well. Everyone 523 agreed that opium smoking was bad, especially for Malays, and in his evidence before the Royal Commission held in 1893, acting Auditor-General O'Brien said—I look upon a Straits Malay who takes to opium in any form as a lost manCaptain Shellebear, ex-officer of engineers and later a missionary, stated—Any employee on an opium farm in Singapore smoking opium is at once dismissed.It was also stated that Malays were not allowed in opium shops as customers. Before the American Commission of 1903 Dr. P. V. Locke, who had lived for fifteen years in Penang and had an extensive practice, when asked if Malays used opium, said they did so very extensively, and he did not actually know that the laws prohibited it. He had never heard that there was a law against opium, and if there was it was so dead a letter as to be of no importance whatever. Before that Commission Dr. F. B. West, who had practised in Singapore for seventeen years, said in December, 1903—My own opinion is that the law in operation in Singapore is intended directly to encourage the use of opium. There are two parties interested, the Government and the opium farmer. The Government is interested in getting as much revenue as possible and the opium farmer is interested in getting back his money and therefore pushes the trade. There is not a single inducement offered by anybody discouraging the use of opium.The doctor went on to tell them that a prohibition against morphia injection came into force on 1st January, 1904, and said it was prohibited, not because it was injurious, but was done at the instigation of opium farmers in order to preserve their income. The American Commission regarding the Straits Settlements said that they—Find nothing in the Opium Ordinance of the Straits Settlements commending it as apt to check or prevent the extension of the opium habit. The testimony and figures indicate the opposite effect.One of their witnesses, who was formerly a managing partner of a Singapore opium farm and was born and educated there, said—As a business man I say that the laws give a good opportunity for making money. Speaking from my conscience I am dead against the opium business. I should be glad to see other and better legislation. But if that law calls for tenders I will take advantage of that law. I know in my conscience that 524 the Use of opium is bad, but it is a paying business.Two figures from the Report of the Federated Malay States for 1905 had struck his attention. It showed that in the State of Perak the cotton goods imported for 1905 were of the value of $1,384,000 while the value of the opium imported was $2,719,700. He was not aware that they did any cotton spinning in Perak, and therefore it was obvious that the opium imported was nearly double that of the cotton goods used. Last year saw the beginning of a great reform movement in the East, and last summer and autumn large popular anti-opium meetings were held in China itself, and the movement had spread to the Straits Settlements. In some places as many as 2,000 Chinese assembled to aid in forming an anti-opium association, and he had with him the first number of a magazine published at Penang by that association which was subscribed to by many wealthy Chinese who were very keen in the matter. Voluntary effort was all very well, but if it was fought against by our own Government who at the same time raised a large amount of revenue from a traffic (in the case of the Straits Settlements practically half the revenue) which everybody agreed was demoralising, that was not an encouragement to people to reform, and the House had a great responsibility in the matter. Then again they had the case of Ceylon, where the revenue from opium-smoking was gradually assuming substantial dimensions under our rule. In 1905 the revenue was 31,000 rupees, and last year he believed it was larger still. The habit was still in what he might call the bud state in Ceylon, all the best native opinion was against it, and it could be easily nipped. There was a Colony crying out to be delivered from the curse, and with a little firmness on the part of the Government, the traffic could easily be extirpated. They heard the same thing in Ceylon as they heard everywhere else. All the best native opinion was against the traffic. Last October in the Legislative Council there they had a debate and again last month, and all the native members, all the Ceylonese representatives, were on one side. They were in favour of the extirpation of the traffic on the same lines that the United States were extirpating it in the Philippines and the Japanese in 525 Formosa. The reason why the people wished for it was no reason at all. There would always be some who would wish for it. Japan did not allow her people to have opium. The penalty for importing, manufacturing, selling, or exposing it for sale was seven years penal servitude, the penalty for those who imported or manufactured pipes and implements for smoking it was five years, whilst that for those who insisted upon eating or smoking it was three years. It was not a new problem. The Japanese knew how to deal with it effectually and that was the reason of their strength. America had followed their example in the Philippines. They had prohibited the use of opium except for medicinal purposes after three years, and in the meantime that only applied to registered users of it over twenty-one years of age. All others were prohibited at once. China also was endeavouring to stamp out the evil in a common sense way. They prohibited the use of opium after ten years, and in the meantime were registering all the persons who had hitherto taken opium and allowed no new ones to be registered. How long were we to remain behind Japan and the United States in this matter? How long should we have to remain behind China itself? Did we care less for our Colonies than Japan for hers? Were we less interested in the welfare, less civilised and less humane in the treatment, of our subjects in our Crown Colonies than Japan in Formosa and the United States in the Philippines? When dining in the House he often discussed with his hon. friends our rights and duties in our Crown Colonies and possessions as the guardians of the subject races, and while sometimes he felt half inclined to agree with his hon. friends that we had no moral right in those places, he rather hold that it was our right and duty to be the guardian and teacher of those subject races until they could go on alone. But if we did not rise to our responsibilities and were not equal to our duties; if we, instead of doing what we ought to do, merely considered the easiest way of raising money instead of looking upon ourselves as the hand of providence, as he hoped we were, then we should be the worst instead of the best friends of those people. He pressed the Government strongly to condemn the traffic in the 526 same way that the House condemned the opium traffic in India. If they so regarded it in their hearts; if they regarded it with full sense of their responsibility, then he was right in calling on the Government to do the same with regard to our Crown Colonies as the House called upon them to do with regard to China, to put an end to the traffic as soon as possible.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Before this debate goes further I want to recall the Government and the Foreign Office to the question of Newfoundland. I do not usually call attention to the absence of hon. or right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I do say that, on a question which has excited the interest which this question has in the oldest of our Colonies and which affects the Foreign Office as this does, I think a representative of the Foreign Office should be here to give that explanation which such a delicate matter requires. I wish to bring before the House with what brevity I can the situation in Newfoundland. There has been, as the House knows, a long and troublesome controversy between the United States and the Newfoundlanders with regard to the fishing rights of that community. Broadly speaking, the controversy has arisen over the true construction of the Treaty of 1818. By that Convention the Americans were given rights to fish in the territorial waters of Newfoundland. Perhaps I had better read the exact words of the Treaty—it is extremely short—in order that the House may fully understand the situation. The words are these—The inhabitants of the United States shall have for ever in common with the subjects of His Britannic Majesty the liberty to take fish of every kind in that part of the waters of Newfoundland.Then a number of boundaries are given. It was the construction of those words which caused the controversy. The Newfoundlanders say that in the exercise of these rights the American fishermen are bound to obey the laws and regulations of Newfoundland so long as they are reasonable, and not framed to the prejudice of the United States as compared with the Newfoundlanders. That is the contention of the Newfoundland Government and always has been. The American lawyers say, "We are not bound by the municipal laws of Newfoundland 527 at all. Those municipal laws cannot alter or in any way modify our rights under the Treaty of 1818. We have a treaty right to fish in these waters, and your municipal laws cannot affect us. We do not wish for a moment that the fisheries should be unregulated, and we say we are perfectly willing to meet the Government of Newfoundland and agree with them to those regulations which will be for the common benefit of the fishery. But we say that those laws and regulations must be made with the consent of the American Government, and not made by the Newfoundland Government alone." Both those views have good sense in them, but they are conflicting. It is impossible to ignore the American case, because the late Lord Salisbury has thrown the ægis of his authority over some portion of it. I have my own firm opinion on the subject, and I do not wish to dogmatise upon it. There is the issue, a growing issue, an issue that is likely to lead to friction and collision unless it is settled. The controversy as managed by the Government came to a head just before the season of the fishing in 1906. They had no chance of a settlement at that time; no chance of a settlement until the fishing season came on with its opportunities of friction and collision between the rival fishermen. The modus vivendi last autumn was essential to be made after the manner in which the Government had conducted the matter for the twelve months preceding. They made it impossible for any other arrangement to become to, because they were so negligent and apathetic in the long months that preceded the season of fishing. I agree with my noble friend that no prejudice ought to arise in the future from the making of that modus vivendi. Both parties stood aside and said, "We will not insist on our full rights for this short season, we will treat them as in abeyance." Those are the contentions of both sides. Are they to continue in the future? The Government having allowed this controversy to continue without any consultation with Newfoundland until just before the autumn fishing, they were compelled to enter into this modus vivendi; but on the other hand were they justified in the apathetic and negligent manner with which they treated the matter before that time? Let the House think for a moment what the nature of this con- 528 troversy is, and how painfully important it is to Newfoundland. The American Government challenges the right of Newfoundland to make reasonable regulations herself for her chief and most ancient industry. They challenge her right to make these regulations as against them in her own territorial waters, and they challenge the power of the Newfoundland Government to bind the action of her own subjects within her own jurisdiction. For Newfoundland to yield to these conditions would involve the admission that the Americans rightly claimed that they were exempt from the Colonial laws.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
They are just in the same positions as the French claims. In what way do they differ?
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
I am not at this time discussing the French claims. I am not saying whether they are right or wrong. I am only saying the nature of these claims are painful to Newfoundland.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
I merely thought that it might save discussion from this side of the House if the right hon. Gentleman could show in what way the American claims differed from the French claims.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
I am not really concerned with the French claims. That is not the point I am on. The point to which I am addressing myself is that the controversy is of very painful importance to Newfoundland. It involves a claim by the Americans to use nets which the islanders are prohibited from using in their own waters. That involves a depreciation of maritime enterprise, the extinction of a large source of wealth, and, at any rate, a partition of Newfoundland's sovereignty in her own waters. I do not wish for a moment to say that the construction of the Treaty of 1818, is an easy matter; but I say that, considering the character of these claims, there was a case for careful and scrupulous consideration of the Colony affected, the exercise of a reasonable foresight, and for the most cautious tactics in dealing with the position which it has in the matter. Has the Colony received that consideration? I am sorry that we have no 529 representative of the Foreign Office present to answer the powerful case made by my noble friend. This controversy had been going on for many years, but, when we left office in November, an actual representation had been made to the British Government by the United States upon the matter. That was in October, 1905. A full statement was made to the British Government of the American case, and before we left office I invited the law officers of the Crown to report upon the legal aspects of the question; and the report of the law officers of the Crown must have been in the hands of this Government in 1905. Nothing was done at all—although the whole matter had already been prepared and sifted—either in November, December or January. Then on 2nd February, a full statement was made of the British case, which was transmitted to America. I say nothing about the three months, though it seems rather a long time to take to appreciate the report of the law officers. But I will pass that by. In February at any rate, the issues were joined between the two Governments; they knew the views of both parties. The Government ought then and there to have consulted the Government of the Colony on the matter. It is all very well to have despatches some months afterwards, but we have the months of February, March, April, May, and June elapsing before the Newfoundland Government are consulted upon the matter at all. It would have been easy, considering the care and attention which is paid to the matter in Newfoundland, to have brought over a number of the Newfoundland Government to consider the situation. Many fallacies thrive on the platform which die when they come to be discussed over a table. I think the Government, I say it strongly, ought to have tried during those long months to consult the Newfoundland Government, and have given them such a policy with regard to the fisheries as would be, if possible, acceptable to the American Government, but, if not acceptable to them, acceptable at all events to Newfoundland and Great Britain, which are vitally concerned. What did the Government do? Why, it was not until the 6th August that they communicated with Newfoundland at all. And how did they communicate with them then? Not by asking them to pass their 530 view upon the matter. No; because the main point was actually decided then. Page 18 of this correspondence tells us that Lord Elgin said—The matter is enjoying the earnest attention of His Majesty's Government, and I will communicate with you again as soon as I am in a position to state the decision to which we have come in this matter.The Foreign Secretary on the 14th August sent a communication to Mr. Whitelaw Reid in which he says that His Majesty's Government had made up their minds in accordance with the suggestion of Mr. Whitelaw Reid's letter, to confer with the United States Government with a view to some arrangementwhich will secure the orderly conduct of the forthcoming fishing.Therefore, they had made up their minds to enter upon a modus vivendi, and it was only a question of consulting or getting from the Colonial Government some ideas as to the terms on which the modus vivendi could be made. How much time had the Government of the Colony in which to submit their views? Why, Lord Elgin telegraphed again on the 8th December, giving a summary of his intention to negotiate this modus vivendi, and saying—Telegraph reply immediately.Do the Government, when they look back upon these things, approve of this course? Do they approve of arriving at a decision, after months of consideration themselves, without any consideration being shown to the Colony or the Newfoundland Government? Do they approve of a decision to which Newfoundland is permptorily asked to telegraph her reply immediately? Is that a thing which is likely to secure contentment on the part of the Government of the Colony? On the 14th August, very properly, the Newfoundland Government wrote their reply, and protested in the most vigorous way against the modus vivendi, and against the decision to which His Majesty's Government had come. As my noble friend, earlier in the evening, pointed out, it is a fact that when the Colonial Office had actually in its possession the reasons which had been stated by the Newfoundland Government against the decision, they allowed the Foreign Secretary to communicate with Mr. Whitelaw Reid without the right hon. Gentleman ever having seen what the Colonial Office had received.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir W. ROBSON,) South Shields
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why he makes the assertion that the Foreign Secretary had never seen what was received by the Colonial Office?
§ SIR W. ROBSON
Will the right hon. Gentleman say on what he bases his inference, or what is his suggestion?
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
My suggestion is that the Foreign Secretary, writing on the 3rd September, made no reference to the reasons which the Newfoundland Government had given, and I have too much respect for his caution in dealing with these matters to imagine that he would ignore such reasons had they been presented to him. If he were here to explain his own conduct in that matter, instead of leaving it to my hon. and learned friend the Solicitor-General to make suggestions which may or may not be correct, I think it would be respectful to the House, especially on the part of those who used to call attention to the absence of the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister, and even when matters not affecting him were under discussion. That is the position, after that long controversy has gone on, after acute difficulties have arisen, after His Majesty's Government have considered them for many months, and after they have arrived at a decision which conflicts with the policy which the Newfoundland Government had themselves desired to adopt. When I was at the Colonial Office, I deprecated the particular method of enforcing their views employed by the Newfoundland Government before the passing of the Act of 1905. Though I deprecated it as not being the best or wisest way of conducting the controversy, yet it was perfectly clear that in passing the Act of 1905 the Newfoundland Government were within their rights; and it was not in the power of this country, unless it was done by Parliament, to set aside that Act of 1905, which was a particular machine employed by the Newfoundland Government to press for the concession which they desired from the American Government. What was that method? The Newfoundland Government thought that 532 they might exercise pressure upon the American Government, in the first place, by refusing their own citizens the power to sell bait. In the second place, they desired to refuse to their own citizens the right to engage in American vessels for the purpose of assisting them in rival fishing. Can anybody say, can the Under-Secretary or the Solicitor-General say, that these are not matters within the jurisdiction of the Newfoundland Government, and which it was, therefore, competent to them to enforce? The modus vivendi which His Majesty's Government have entered into entrenches upon one of these rights, the right of the Newfoundland Government to jurisdiction over its own subjects, and to prevent their being recruited as fishermen by the American Government. I want to know what authority there was for the British Government's controverting the provisions of the Newfoundland Statute of 1905 (not the one of 1906), which had been duly passed by the Newfoundland Government, and which had never been vetoed by His Majesty's Government? The position was this. In a matter on which Newfoundland was never consulted for many months, and upon a point which she considered vital to her interests, a decision was communicated to her which involved the making of a modus vivendi which—to say nothing as to whether its terms were advantageous to the American Government or not—contained provisions which were repugnant to the provisions of a Colonial Statute duly passed. Some explanation of this is necessary. I wish to make it again clear that the modus vivendi, in my view, is not to be attacked on its merits. So great a horror have I of a conflict between fishermen in these matters which might kindle so great a flame that I think the modus vivendi, even if it contained some illegality, was better made when it was made. But I do complain, most seriously, of the Government's having allowed themselves to be placed in a position in which these conflicts were imminent, when, had they exorcised ordinary care and diligence, they might have ascertained the views of Newfoundland long before, instead of placing the Colony in a position in which they were compelled by telegraph to reply, and at a time when it was quite impossible for His Majesty's Government to give that weight to their representations which they were 533 undoubtedly entitled to receive. I desire in conclusion to express my hearty agreement with my hon. friend the Member for Gravesend in the opinion that nothing is more likely to engender contentment and promote racial fusion in the Orange River Colony than proceeding with the experiment made by Lord Milner in land settlement. Such social experiments are far more effective for these purposes than political measures. the people who have most bravely endeavoured to acquiesce in the present political arrangement and to abide loyally by it, and from whom such sacrifices have been asked, ought to be well-treated; but unless there is an explanation I do not think that the £500,000 should have been withdrawn from the money actually appropriated in the Orange River Colony and nothing substituted. Neither do I think that the term for which the Board was created is nearly long enough. Five years, I fear, will not seethe settlement of the land question in the Orange River Colony. I hope, therefore, that the Under-Secretary will be able to give his assurances that there is sufficient revenue attached to the new Land Board to make it efficient, and that a much longer period than five years will be fixed.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I think we have, at any rate, the right at the Colonial Office to congratulate ourselves on being, so far as Parliamentary debate is concerned, an exceedingly fashionable Department. Ever since the beginning of the session every single vehicle of Parliamentary procedure—the debate on the Address, the passage of Supplementary Estimates, the Vote on Account, and the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill—every single vehicle of Parliamentary procedure which enables the House to discuss the subject in which it takes at that particular time the greatest interest has been used for the purpose of raising debates on one or other of the complicated questions which come under the charge of my noble friend Lord Elgin. If the House takes this keen interest in Colonial questions, if it is pleased by their amazing variety, and by the novelty of the circumstances which each in its turn presents to us, I trust that the representative of the Colonial Office in the House of Commons may also ask from hon. Gentlemen, on whatever benches they may sit, a measure 534 of indulgence, equal to the measure of their interest, in his attempt to supply them with the information they may require and to meet the adverse criticisms of which the Colonial Office is the object. My hon. friend the Member for Radcliffe referred to the question of the laws respecting the sale of opium in the British Colonies. No opium is grown in any British Colony; but the presence of a considerable number of Chinese in the Eastern Colonies makes the traffic in opium a serious feature in the politics and economy of these Colonies. We are very carefully watching the movements of China in regard to the repression of the opium habit. That great assertion of a determination on the part of the Empire of China to effect a stupendous moral reform in the conditions of her people carries with it a mandate—an imperious mandate—to all other countries in the world that they shall aid that movement, and, above all, that they shall keep themselves thoroughly abreast of it. My right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India has already made statements to this House on the subject; and I can only say that Lord Elgin, in consultation with the India Office, will watch every opportunity that may occur to bring the legislation of our various Colonies and Dependencies more into harmony with what is the overwhelming opinion of this House, and more into harmony with what is, I venture to think, our plain duty as a great civilising Power. The hon. Member for Newbury drew us to South Africa in his speech. He spoke of the rising in Natal and of the renewal of the licences of Chinese coolies. I do not desire to refer to either of those subjects to-night. The first lies wholly in the past; and in regard to the second I would venture to enjoin upon my hon. friend the practice of patience. No doubt it is a virtue more easy to preach than to exercise; and yet I venture to think that by this time next year my hon. friend's anxieties on this question will have been satisfactorily allayed. Further than that I do not desire to go. We have a new Government in power in the Transvaal, and I for one desire to accord to that Government the most respectful treatment which is in the power of a Minister in this House. Therefore I do not think it advantageous at this stage to speculate on what their 535 action will be. [A laugh.] I think that scornful laugh is unworthy of the hon. Gentleman, and unworthy of the patriotism of the Party opposite. After all, a Party may go into Opposition and still preserve some patriotism. This would be especially becoming in the Party which has always endeavoured to turn patriotic impulses to its own Party interests. Still less is it advantageous at this juncture to state what His Majesty's Government would do in circumstances which have not arisen, and which, in my opinion, are unlikely ever to arise. So, Sir, I confine myself, in dealing with South Africa, to the subject of land settlement, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Gravesend, and by the hon. Member for Aston Manor, and which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has just touched upon. The position of the British settlers in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony is well known to the House, but there is an air of misconception about some of the statements which have been made upon their behalf. These settlers were given grants of land and had advanced to them sums of money to settle upon the land under the provisions of the various land settlement ordinances. In return for these great benefits—and they were great benefits, amounting to large capital endowments in the first instance—they contracted to pay by instalments the loans which had already been advanced to them, and to pay a rent for the farms and the land which they now hold. It was the object of His Majesty's Government in erecting the machinery of the Land Board to interpose between those settlers and the new Governments which were coming into being in both Colonies, something of a shield or screen which should make sure that those obligations should not be too harshly or too severely exacted, so that if there was a very bad year the demand of the whole amount of the rent or instalments due that year should not end in the man being driven out of his farm. We put that provision in not because we thought that the Boer Government would deal with the settlers in a harsh manner, but because we thought the settlers had a right to some guarantee on our part that they would have that sympathetic administration which they had believed would be an essential condition of their tenure. When the land settlement policy was 536 originally started it was more ambitious than it has now become. It was proposed not merely sympathetically to administer the existing settlers who had already been placed on the land, but it was proposed to bring more land into cultivation, to raise it to an economic level, and to place a steady stream of new settlers upon the land. With those further extended aspects of land settlement proposals His Majesty's Government have not associated themselves in any way. In setting up the Land Board which figures in the Letters Patent to the Transvaal we have carefully excluded from the function of this Board the settlement of new settlers on the land. The Board is endowed with all the existing assets of land settlement. It is placed in posses session of all the repayments which the settlers have made on the loans which have been advanced to them. It is also placed in possession of the rents which the settlers may pay, but it is not asked to spend any money upon placing new settlers on the land. It is not asked to bring new lands into cultivation, nor is it asked—and let me draw the attention of the House to this very important point—to pay any portion of the interest on the £2,500,000 of money which constitute at the present time a charge on the revenues of the Transvaal, and which have practically, though not altogether been handed over to the Land Settlement Board, so that the Land Settlement Board is possessed of the assets of the land settlement policy without all its liabilities. And what reason is there for assuming that the funds at the disposal of the Land Settlement Board will not be sufficient to meet the reduced functions required from them? On the face of it they must be more than sufficient. The main function of the Land Settlement Board is a sympathetic administration of the rents and instalments exacted from the existing settlers on the land. The income of the Land Settlement Board is that derived from those very rents and instalments, and in proportion as the Land Settlement Board choose to reduce the income at their disposal in that very proportion they can release the settlers in any year from the obligation of repayment. When that has been conceded it seems to me impossible to suppose that these settlers are not 537 placed in a highly favoured position. They are not merely placed upon the land in the first instance—they have been already there for a period of three years, some of them—but now for a period of five years more they are to be shielded from the discharge of the legal obligations which they have contracted through the operation of a sympathetic Land Board, which in any year can forgive them any portion, or even the whole, of the payments which they are bound in law to make. The right hon. Gentleman seems to expect that we should go further and indulge in some capital expenditure. I do not see why we should go so far as actually to pay these settlers for remaining rent free on the land. That would appear to me to be making them into a favoured class, and invidiously to draw upon them the hostility of other farmers who are living all around them in the country, and who have none of those advantages either in respect of credit or of the easy means by which they have acquired their holdings. It is quite true that the Land Settlement Board has not received the remaining £500,000 allocated to it under the guaranteed loan. The sum of £3,000,000 was set aside for land settlement, and only £2,500,000 have at present been paid over to it. It would be in the power of the Inter-Colonial Council to pay the additional £500,000 if it chose, but the Inter-Colonial Council will almost immediately undergo a great change. The nominated members will disappear, and they will be replaced by elected members of the Transvaal Assembly, and I think it is at least unlikely that the Inter-Colonial Council will pay over the £500,000 in question, and, as I say, I believe the Land Settlement Board have ample money to carry out their work without such a large capital sum as that being entrusted to them.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
The loan of £35,000,000, of which this £3,000,000 was a part, was guaranteed by the British Government. What has occurred to release the Government of the Orange River Colony from the liability to spend the £3,000,000 in the way in which it was allocated?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The whole character of the land settlement policy has been altered, and is greatly restricted, 538 and there is no need at the present moment to apply that sum of money in that particular way. It is estimated that the income of the Orange River Colony Land Settlement Board will amount to £27,000 a year if the settlers pay their dues, and the cost of administration of the Board will only amount to £9,000 a year. There is, therefore, a margin of £18,000 within which remissions can be made to the settlers from the very modest obligations which are now required of them. As to the Transvaal, I am not able to give the figures of income and expenditure at the present time, because Lord Selborne has telegraphed that there is some uncertainty as to the exact figure. But I think there is no doubt that the Board will be fully solvent for the limited purpose to which it will now be applied. The Board has already been constituted, but as I am not certain whether the names of the Commissioners which I have here have been published in South Africa, I do not think I ought to state them to the House this evening. I will, however, say that General Botha has informed Lord Selborne that he will give directions to the Department of Agriculture in the Transvaal to assist the Transvaal Land Board in every way, and has shown a disposition to facilitate the transference that is now going on of the rents and all the other assets under the Land Settlement Ordnance to the new Board which is being created.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The £500,000 is for the time being spent in the extra expense of compensation and repatriation, largely upon the Boers, and although there is every reason to believe that that money will afterwards be repaid by those persons to whom it has been advanced, that repayment has not taken place during the period within which the affairs of the Transvaal were directed by His Majesty's Government, and it will be perfectly impossible for us to dispose of that sum without reference to the opinions of the Transvaal Government.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL
May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he will answer my inquiries as to whether there 539 is any guarantee that British settlers will not be called upon at any time after the five years to pay up the whole of their future instalments?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The British settlers have their regular contracts and they know the conditions under which they hold them, and they are protected in exactly the same manner as every law-abiding man is protected in South Africa, and I cannot see why it should be assumed that the Government of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony will proceed against these people by lawless and unusual methods. Indeed it is very undesirable and impolitic at this juncture to suggest such a thing.
Now I come to the subject which has been principally discussed this evening, the Newfoundland modus vivendi. And here let me say that I willingly acknowledge the moderation and the good temper which have characterised the speeches of those who have dealt with this very complicated question. In replying upon it I feel conscious of two difficulties. First, it is a very tangled matter, involving most delicate questions of diplomacy and international law, and also involving highly technical questions connected with the conduct of a herring fishery. And there is this further difficulty. His Majesty's Government have been drawn into a dispute with the Government of Newfoundland, and they are reproached by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite with the part they had taken in that dispute. But we are also engaged in a diplomatic discussion with the Government of the United States, and there is this risk that in endeavouring to defend His Majesty's Government against the reproaches to which we are subjected on the ground of our relations with Newfoundland, and being successful in that defence, I might be led into making admissions which would not, I think, be of great service to my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary, in those negotiations which he is still conducting and pressing forward with a foreign Power in the interests of the Colony of Newfoundland itself. So I will not attempt any general statement of the whole problem of the Newfoundland Fisheries. I will only try to set before the House as shortly as I can a few of the salient points which have been referred to in 540 this debate. The right hon. Gentleman opposite directly stated the essence of the dispute. The essence of the dispute is whether the local regulations made by the Government of Newfoundland for the conduct of the fishery are binding upon the subjects of the United States who come under treaty rights to use that fishery.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
Well, reasonable regulations. Reasonable is not a very sure foundation upon which to stand, because obviously there may be two interpretations of what is reasonable where there are two parties to the dispute. The right hon. Gentleman correctly stated the issue, but he did not tell the House how the dispute originated. Under the Convention of 1818 the American fishing vessels had the right to fish in some parts of the Newfoundland waters, and not in other parts. Up to 1905 they had been allowed, as a commercial transaction, not to fish, for that was not their practice, but to purchase fish, not only in those parts of the Newfoundland shores covered by the treaty, but from outside those limits. And so it came to pass that for a great number of years the Convention of 1818 had been in practical abeyance; for the American method of fishing was that the vessels sailed from Gloucester and other ports on the New England coast at the beginning of the season with nucleus crews—that is to say, with only sufficient men to navigate the vessels—and on arrival off the Newfoundland shore they engaged the native fishermen in large numbers to fish for them. The Newfoundlanders understood the working of the gill net, which requires great skill in its use. This arrangement for a great many years was eminently satisfactory to both the Americans and the Newfoundlanders. But in 1905 Sir R. Bond, who was displeased by the non-ratification by the United States Senate of the Hay-Bond Convention, passed a law through the Newfoundland Legislature, prohibiting Newfoundlanders from engaging themselves to Americans within the territorial waters of Newfoundland. That law, when it was passed, caused 541 great consternation among the fishing community in Newfoundland. They were forbidden to work for the Americans, and they were determined that the Americans should not fish if they could not participate. But it was discovered that by going outside the three-mile limit the law could be evaded, and it was by that process that the season of 1905 passed off successfully. In the year 1906 the Government of Newfoundland went further and passed another Act, which, among other things, made it illegal for a Newfoundlander to engage on an American fishing vessel, even outside the three-mile limit; and the Government of Newfoundland may have been under some doubt as to the powers which they possessed in this matter, and how far they were infringing upon inter national rights, because they specially put in a suspensory clause which made the Act invalid until it had received the assent of His Majesty's Government, His Majesty's Government have reserved their assent to the law. The effect of not allowing the Newfoundland fishermen to engage upon American vessels is very curious. The gill net is the net which the skilled Newfoundlander can handle; but there is another net which does not require such special skill—the purse seine. It is not moored in the narrow inlets; but, when a shoal of herrings is observed on the surface of the water, the purse-seine is towed all round the shoal, and then the whole of the fish in the net are caught, big and little together. There is no doubt that this habit of purse-seining is injurious to the fishery in the long run; but it was particularly painful to the Newfoundland fishermen, because they saw that by this wholesale introduction of the purse seine the Americans had been rendered permanently independent of them, and they would no longer have the advantage of being engaged on remunerative terms on American vessels. As might have been expected, the situation during the autumn of 1906 filled His Majesty's Government with some anxiety. The right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord have complained of the negligence of Lord Elgin and the Foreign Secretary.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
My right hon. friend will appreciate, I am sure, the favour which exempts him from an attack which, if justified at all, is justified equally against the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office.
§ *EARL PERCY
I said that it was impossible to believe that the right hon. Gentleman opposite would have made the proposal he did to the American Ambassador if he had been informed by the Colonial Secretary two or three days before that a despatch from the Newfoundland Government might be expected, containing the suggestions of the Newfoundland Ministers, which had already been invited.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
Before that, the noble Lord dealt with Mr. Root's communication of October, 1905; and he said that the communication reached His Majesty's Government on October 12th, 1905, and that it was not until February that a reply was made. But what Government had this communication reached? During the whole of October, November, and through the early part of December the late Government were in office.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I make the right hon. Gentleman a present of the fortnight. But still that accounts for six weeks of the time. Then ensued the period of the general election. It is, no doubt, a great disadvantage that general elections should occur to disturb the smooth course of official business; and no doubt right hon. Gentlemen opposite have a right to complain of the interruption.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I did not make any point of that interval. But I pointed out that the time from February to the end of June elapsed without any reply being sent.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
If it were excusable, I am surprised that the noble Lord should have referred to it as "an act of supineness and negligence." The noble Lord says that it was not until February that an answer was made. But what date in February? On February 2. On that date my right hon. friend addressed an answer to the American Government, we having been in office six weeks and a half, and having had to make ourselves masters of most difficult and complicated questions of policy in all quarters of the globe. I do not think, therefore, that the charge of negligence can be sustained. But what follows? My right hon. friend addressed a long reasoned statement to the Government of the United States. The noble Lord applauded that statement and the hon. Member for Gravesend spoke of it with admiration. But what was the next thing the Government had to do, having addressed such a statement to the American Government? They had to wait for an answer. We waited during the summer months of the year for the answer that we had reason to expect would be delivered in time for arrangements to be made before the fishery season began.
§ *EARL PERCY
The Foreign Secretary said in a despatch that it was desirable to confer with the Colonies, and four months elapsed before the Colonies were consulted.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
We naturally desired to be in possession of both sides before addressing the Colonies; and we had no means of knowing at what date we should receive the American reply. It reached us in the month of August. We were then close upon the advent of the fishery season, and at that stage a modus vivendi, a provisional arrangement of some sort, was absolutely necessary, apart from the merits of the question, if the fishery was to be conducted in a peaceable and orderly manner. On the one side the American fishermen were saying that they would not conform to the local regulations of Newfoundland, and, on the other hand, the Newfoundland 544 fishermen were saying that they would engage themselves to the Americans; there was danger of rioting and disorder and of the fishermen's cutting each other's nets, and of brawling of a dangerous and disastrous character, affecting not only the hard-working men engaged in the industry, but also the good relations between two powerful and friendly countries. In these circumstances we were absolutely justified in making arrangements with the United States of a temporary character. The noble Lord, who is a great authority on this subject, and who speaks with digested knowledge, did not in any degree impeach the provisions of the modus vivendi. He thought that it was a good arrangement on the whole, and did not prejudice the permanent interests of Newfoundland. I was very glad to hear him say that. We could not persuade the Americans to abandon the use of purse seines, because those appliances had been to some extent forced on them; and their ships, some of which had already sailed, were now equipped with them. But what we were able to do was to procure that such methods of fishing should not be used to the prejudice of other methods of fishing. Further, the Government of the United States agreed to conform to all the local regulations which the Government of Newfoundland desired to enforce for that year; they entered the customs, paid the light dues, and abstained from fishing on Sunday, which was considered to be a hardship when indulged in by American fishing boats while being forbidden to the fishermen of Newfoundland. All these features were satisfactory in the modus vivendi; but when the modus vivendi came to be put in practice we gained the additional advantage resulting from the appearance of a naval officer on the scene. When we hear of the necessity of having the British Fleet represented in many seas and in many parts of the world upon grounds of public safety and strategy, I am quite sure that there is an additional argument to be found in the extraordinary tact and skill of His Majesty's naval officers to deal with every situation, however complicated. Captain R. H. Anstruther, of the cruiser "Brilliant," arrived at the Bay of Islands, and induced the leaders of the fishermen and parties belonging to all nationalities to enter into a friendly arrangement, the 545 result being that a successful working agreement was arrived at. The purse seines were not used at all, and the fishery was of considerable profit to all engaged in it. In the report of Sir William MacGregor reference is also made to the friendly relations between the fishermen and the Americans, and to the strong desire shown by the Americans to comply with the provisions of the modus vivendi in every particular. The hon. Member for Blackpool spoke, of the constitutional aspect of the question, and the right hon. Gentleman asked by what authority this Government entered into a modus vivendi with the United States which overrode the provisions of the statutes passed by the Newfoundland Legislature. First of all I will deal with the law. The statute of 1819 was passed by this House carrying out the provisions of the arrangement of 1818. This law empowered the authorities to make regulations for the conduct of the fishery. The law officers of the Crown have recorded their opinion.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
A similar provision in the case of France was defended by the law officers of Lord Salisbury, but the House had to pay damages.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
It is true that Mr. Gladstone's Government had to pay damages, but with the strict reservation that all treaty rights raised in any way by the question at issue stood wholly outside the payment of compensation for the lawless act on the part of our fishermen. The statute of 1819, in the opinion of His Majesty's advisers, gives to the Government power to make regulations for the conduct of the fishery, and that is the legal basis on which we have proceeded. But apart from the legal basis some further justification is needed. We were dealing with a Colony and had to put pressure on it in a matter which affects it intimately and which is to it a matter of great importance. I will not, therefore, base our action merely on the legal procedure. I will go beyond 546 that, and I will say that we have a moral right also which entitles us to be the supreme judge in matters affecting the carrying out of the treaty obligations of this country. Our main right in coming to an understanding of a temporary character with the United States for the peaceful conduct of the fishery was that we are dealing with a subject which is not a Colonial subject, but an Imperial subject; it deals with the interpretation and punctual execution of Imperial treaties. The late Lord Salisbury said that we have given self-government to the Colonies because they suffered if we make a mistake; but we must be ourselves the principal deciding party with regard to Imperial treaties, because it is upon us that the burden, the loss, and the disaster will fall if a wrong decision is taken. The second point is this. If disorder arises in the conduct of the fishery who is to pay? The right hon. Baronet has referred to 1878 when as the result of one day's disorder this country was forced to pay £15,000. The cost of maintaining order at the fishery for a season by means of a cruiser is calculated at £20,000 a year. In these circumstances I submit that not only have we observed strict constitutional and legal propriety, but also that we are sustained by the commonest consideration of the merits of the case, and that we have in making the regulations which we have entered into been justified both on the merits and in law. An hon. Member referred to Lord Elgin in terms which I regretted to hear, because the allegation is that my noble friend has failed to impress on the Government of the British Empire those sentiments of Liberalism and humanity which this Parliament was called into being to set forward. I think that my hon. friend will on reflection see that there is a grave injustice in that charge. No one who has listened to these debates or who has studied the Papers can fail to see the enormous expanse of territory and the perplexity of interests with which the Colonial Office has to deal. There may be parts of the Empire where practices and systems of labour, of taxation, and other political features exist which we in this House disapprove and which we are determined steadily to improve. But I do earnestly submit 547 to the House, after reviewing the whole course of events during the past year, that, considering the many difficulties, we have done a good deal to earn substantial results in South Africa and elsewhere. It is not open to the House to make this complaint, and the speech of my hon. friend, as well as the other criticism, should rather stimulate my noble friend and encourage him in the heavy work that he has undertaken, and which he is carrying out with increasing success.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said that there were one or two points which had arisen in the debate which concerned the law officers of the Crown. There was also a point involving a personal charge against the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office which needed some special treatment. It had been suggested by the noble Lord, and emphasised by the late Colonial Secretary, that there was gross and incredible tactlessness and neglect at one stage of the negotiations, inasmuch as there had been a failure of communication between the Foreign and Colonial Offices. The charge was that on August 20th, the Government of Newfoundland wrote to the Colonial Office setting forth the case of Newfoundland against the United States, but that there were no suggestions for a modus vivendi, that a modus vivendi was universally recognised to be desirable, and that the Governor had said that he had drawn the attention of Ministers to the omission. In their anxiety to find some ground for attacking the Government both the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the late Colonial Secretary had overlooked a telegram of August 22nd, which should not have escaped their attention, because it showed that immediately after the Governor of Newfoundland sent off his letter, without waiting for it to be received, he promptly went to his Ministers and received from them a distinct and categorical refusal to enter into anything like a modus vivendi. That answered the point, for the telegram showed that on August 22nd both the Foreign Office and Colonial Office knew perfectly well that Newfoundland was not going to assent to any provisional arrangement. The modus vivendi was not finally concluded until October 5th, but before that date the Colony had in their 548 possession every proposed term of the arrangement, and they categorically rejected everything. With reference to a point made by his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean in regard to an Act passed in 1819, the case arose in connection with our treaty with France. We made a modus vivendi with France with features corresponding to those we had now made with America. But in that case there was no Act. In this case there was an Act. That modus vivendi provided that no nation should upon the Newfoundland shore erect lobster factories. A certain gentleman proceeded notwithstanding to erect a lobster factory, and an English admiral proceeded to put it down. The owner brought an action for damages, and it was held that the convention or treaty between the two Governments did not interfere with private rights, that what was required to affect private rights was an Act of Parliament, and if an Act of Parliament had existed it would have made all the difference. It was wrong to say that the Act of 1819 was repealed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, stated the issue as between Newfoundland and the United States fairly accurately so far as it went, but the statement did not quite cover the whole ground. There was a third party to be considered as to whose rights and duties the right hon. Gentleman said not one single word. That third party was England. England also had rights and powers and duties in relation to the regulation of those fisheries. She had them under the Convention of 1818 and the Act of 1819. If any Act of a local Legislature was inconsistent with the fair exercise of a treaty right, it was not merely our right, but our duty to arrest its operation.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said it did not matter how long it had been in force. Any Colonial statute, even if it received the Royal Assent, if it was inconsistent with any Imperial statute or obligation was ipso facto void to that extent. The duty of England in this matter was one that ought to be more clearly understood in 549 the country. Scarcely one word in the debate had been devoted to the English aspect of the case. Our duty was to safeguard treaty rights. They were paramount. Whenever a local Legislature carried its powers so far as to interfere with the exercise of treaty rights, our duties, powers, and obligations applied. What had the local Legislature done? It was desirable that the country should understand in order that the justification for our conduct might be understood. In 1905 the local Legislature passed an Act purporting to enable any justice, constable, collector, or other officer to go on board any American vessel, to examine the master on oath, to take such vessel engaged in the lawful exercise of legal rights to the nearest port, and there, if the stipendiary magistrate was of opinion that the vessel had got on board any herring bait that had been purchased in the waters of Newfoundland, a penalty of forfeiture might follow. It might be that the stipendiary magistrate would find that no bait had been purchased, and then the vessel would be allowed to go free. But that would be a great interruption of treaty rights. When the magistrate came to consider the matter, he was further directed by Section 32 to treat as prima facie evidence the presence of any herring on board the vessel. American vessels went to these waters to fish for herring or cod, or both. The herring they wanted for bait, or they might also want them for export; but if an American vessel, exercising its treaty rights, was found in Newfoundland waters with herring on board, that fact was to be treated as prima facie evidence of its having committed some offence against the local laws of Newfoundland, because presumably they had been buying the bait from Newfoundland fishermen. The Americans regarded that as an interference with treaty rights. It was true that it was said that treaty rights were not affected, but the American replied that if it did not affect their treaty rights what was the object of the legislation? They pointed out in their despatches on the introduction of the Bill by the Newfoundland Legislature that it would make American fishermen dependent on Newfoundland. In those circumstances the greatest danger arose to the peace of the world, because, be 550 it remembered, the Newfoundland Government claimed the right to exercise all these powers through officers who were not necessarily men of discretion or experienced officials. On the other hand the Americans were proclaiming very loudly indeed to the whole world that they were going to fish with purse seines, and there was every prospect of a disturbance arising. In those circumstances was it not necessary and just on the part of His Majesty's Government to seek, at all events, some modus vivendi, in order to give them a greater period of repose and leisure in which to try and get some further information? It was absolutely necessary. The Colony maintained a stiff back about the matter; they would consider nothing; and his Majesty's Government in order to maintain the peace were driven to take steps in regard to a matter which was under Imperial, and not local, guardianship. He wondered what hon. Members opposite would have done in the same circumstances. They could not have done otherwise, unless they were prepared for consequences so grave and terrible that one did not like to mention such an hypothesis. His Majesty's Government could not allow the case which the Americans put forward to be condemned as though it was not worthy of consideration. It would be, he was sure, a misfortune if anything was said in that House which tended to embitter relations with either Newfoundland or the United States. The United States Government in their dispatches had preserved the most moderate tone; they had shown the greatest possible willingness and anxiety to reach a reasonable arrangement. They had never denied that the fishery ought to have some regulations, and the question was what those regulations should be. They had surrendered their right to Sunday fishing, but they did not give up their right to use purse seines, which were necessary to them owing to the refusal of the Colony to allow their citizens to embark in American boats. He would not venture to call their action very unreasonable, because if the Colony had allowed their citizens to ship on American vessels, then they would not have used the purse seines. But the Colony insisted, and the Americans had very little alternative 551 except to use purse seines. If the Colony had not taken that course stationary nets would have been more extensively used, but the Americans had practically consented that purse seines should not be used so as to interfere with stationary nets. These were considerations which he hoped the House would bear in mind, and he could assure them that the Government had shown no supineness or neglect. It had been said that nothing was done from the time his right hon. friend had written his despatch, in February, until the end of June. But whose was the delay? The delay was on the part of the United States. They did not answer the despatch from Whitehall until the 30th June, and Mr. Whitelaw Reid communicated it to them on the 20th July. His Majesty's Government could not possibly have done more than they did. They could not communicate to the Government of Newfoundland the American case when they had not received it. They had no reason to anticipate any such delay, and they were compelled to wait until they had got the document. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, had said that he made no charge against the Foreign Office because they had not more quickly answered the despatch of 12th October which reached them on 22nd October. But the ex-Colonial Secretary had not done justice to his own speech, in which he mentioned the despatch of 12th October, and said that nothing was done in that month, or in November, December, and January. The right hon. Gentleman had associated himself with that unfortunate charge, forgetting that he himself was responsible for anything that was done during the months of October, November, December and part of January. Hon. Members opposite thought they were doing very well for their Party when they suddenly resigned and a dissolution followed. Possibly they were thinking about those things, and not of despatches which were left part of October, the whole of November and December, and some days in January. It was after the resignation of the late Government that his right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary took up this extremely complex matter. The despatch which his right hon. friend wrote in February was a 552 masterpiece of comprehension of the whole of a complicated subject, and all he could say was that so far from its being an act of neglect it was an act of extreme vigilance that that despatch of 2nd February should have been written within so limited a time as was left for consideration of the question.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated, if he understood him aright, that a Colonial Act was void if repugnant to a British treaty. What was the hon. and learned Gentleman's authority for that proposition? The Colonial Laws and Liberties Act did not seem to contain any such proposition.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said the noble Lord had not quoted the exact words of his proposition. He had said "inconsistent." Any Colonial statute which was repugnant to the provisions of an Imperial statute was void to the extent of that repugnance.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said he was not talking of treaties being void. He was talking of a Colonial Act being void which was repugnant to an Imperial Act.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said what he had understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say was that the Colonial Act, which was repugnant to the treaty, was void, and that the whole basis of his argument was on that ground, which made it lawful for the modus vivendi to set aside the Colonial Act. Otherwise the observations of the Solicitor-General did not appear to be relevant.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said he had stated that the treaty was confirmed and strengthened by Act of Parliament. This was not an ordinary treaty which was not embodied in an Act. It was embodied in an Act, and therefore it stood on a totally different footing from an ordinary treaty.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN (Shropshire, Oswestry)
desired to refer to the profoundly unsatisfactory statement of the Under-Secretary in regard to the question of land settlement in South 553 Africa. When his hon. friend the Member for Aston Manor suggested the necessity of safeguarding the settlers at the end of five years, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies said it was unpatriotic to make such a remark. It had come to a pretty pass if a suggestion for the protection of loyal subjects in South Africa, who had settled on the land, was to be described as unpatriotic. They could not read the speeches of the leaders of the Boers upon this point entirely without apprehension. What was far more serious and not sufficiently understood by the House was that £500,000, part of the £3,000,000 voted for the specific purpose of land settlement was to be devoted to repatriating the Boers, an object for which it was not voted, and according to the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies there was no probability of that sum over going back to its original purpose. That money was intended for a particular purpose, and the Government had no authority for using it for the purpose of repatriating the Boers. They heard a great deal at the time of the election about providing work for British workmen in South Africa. They now knew that all that had been attempted by the Government in that direction was to try and force people to attempt hopeless experiments by employing underground white men who would have been far more suitably employed upon the land. Last year they had a debate in the House on the question of land settlement, and upon that occasion the hon. and learned Member for Reading and others expressed their apprehension of what might happen if the land settlement policy was either discontinued or diminished. Where were those Liberal Imperialists to-day, when for the first time it had been made known that £500,000 out of the £3,000,000 voted for land settlement had been devoted to another purpose? He was certain that the people of the country never intended that money to be used for repatriating the Boers; it was distinctly intended to employ the white population on the land.
§ *MR. SMEATON (Stirlingshire)
made no apology for switching off the current of debate from South Africa to other parts of His Majesty's dominions, and to a matter of great importance in Colonial administration. He wished to refer to 554 the disclosures which had recently been made in regard to the exploitation of the pearl fisheries in Ceylon by an ex-Governor, and to two other similar transactions in West Africa and the Pacific islands. He was reluctant to mention names of distinguished officers; but under the circumstances he had no option. In January, 1902, the then Governor of Ceylon, Sir West Ridgeway, introduced a scheme for the purpose of developing to the utmost extent the resources of the pearl fisheries, which up to that time had been inefficiently worked by the Government as a Government monopoly. Two professional gentlemen, Professor Herdman and a marine biologist, Mr. Cornell, were brought to the Colony and continued investigations there, and in the following March or April they made known the result of those investigations. Sir West Ridgeway was aware of the result of those inquiries and the effect they would have upon the development of the pearl fisheries, and although that information was available in March or April nothing whatever was done in the interests of the Colony to use to the best advantage the results which those inquiries had brought to light. Sir West Ridgeway retired from the Colony in November, 1903, and consequently there was a period of eighteen months during which the new methods recommended by the professional investigators might have been put into operation. It should not be forgotten that those investigations were conducted at the expense of the Colony, and he thought it might very well be asked why the results had not been utilised. The sequel to these events probably revealed a possible answer. In November, 1903, the Governor retired, and immediately in 1904 the Gulf Syndicate was formed by Sir West Ridgeway, who entered into negotiations with the late Colonial Secretary for a concession of the pearl fisheries of Ceylon. The terms of the arrangement were at first somewhat vague, but the negotiations were carried on for several months and were absolutely secret and confidential. It was not until October, 1905, that the provisional items of the contract which was then maturing became known even to the officials in the Colony itself. In October, 1905, the arrangement was agreed to, and Sir West 555 Ridgeway became principal managing director of the company formed to work the pearl fisheries, fie might add that no tenders at all were called for, although the opportunity did arrive for the Colonial Secretary's putting the concession out for public tender; and as the event proved, there would have been no lack of offers.
I must remind the hon. Member that we are not now discussing the acts of the late Government. Possibly the hon. Member is giving an historical survey for the purpose of leading up to the conduct of the present Government, and, if so, I will not interfere at present; but he must not criticise the action of the late Government, for that does not arise on this Bill.
§ *MR. SMEATON
said he would cut the matter short by saying that in December, 1905, on the eve of the general election, the late Colonial Secretary concluded the arrangement which he had provisionally made with Sir West Ridgeway, and an Ordinance was passed by the Legislative Council confirming the agreement. The Ordinance was carried at the Second Reading by the official majority, the four independents non-officially opposing it. A public petition was immediately prepared by the public of Ceylon and Colombo protesting against the secret arrangement which had been made, and the substance of the petition was telegraphed to the present Colonial Secretary, Lord Elgin, who was asked to suspend action upon the agreement in the Ordinance. That he refused to do, on the ground that the negotiations had reached an advanced stage and he did not think he was then called upon to intervene. What he (Mr. Smeaton) and many hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House complained of was the failure of the Colonial Secretary to act in a time of emergency when his intervention might have arrested a transaction which was adverse to the interests of the Colony and detrimental to good and honest government. It was also utterly opposed, as all monopolies were, to the principles of free trade. In his opinion the Colonial Secretary ought to have intervened and at the last moment suspended the operation of that arrangement, brought it under review, and, if 556 necessary, advised the King to disallow the Ordinance. No doubt there was difficulty, and he quite appreciated the Colonial Secretary's reluctance to interfere. But, in his opinion, he should have interfered in the interest of the Colony for which he was trustee. He would of course be told that the transaction was not now capable of revocation, and that it was beyond the power of the Government, at the present moment, to do anything to restore those fisheries to the Ceylon Government. That was true and much to be regretted, because the people of Ceylon considered, and rightly considered, that their interests had been sacrificed. The rent payable by the company was £20,000 based on an average of twenty years profit—but there had been eleven years barren out of those twenty years, whereas now, with the improved methods, there would be no barren years. The average of the last three years was between £80,000 and £90,000; so that the rent of £20,000 was totally inadequate. The company's profits were enormous. The ordinary shares were at a premium of 75 per cent., and the deferred shares were at a premium on the London Stock Exchange of something like 1,350 per cent. That represented the loss to the Colony by this iniquitous transaction, and what he asked was that future proceedings of that sort should not be permitted, because he and those whose opinions he voiced were anxious that the probity and integrity of the Colonial Government should be maintained and no stain of any sort permitted to rest upon them. Two other similar cases had arisen, one in Sierra Leone and another in the Pacific under the High Commissioner of the Fiji Islands. The House would hardly believe that an ex-Governor of Sierra Leone obtained a concession of 4,000 square miles of a remote part of the Protectorate, together with power to compel all the subjects of the various native chiefs to work for him in the cultivation of, among other things, indiarubber. He obtained by that concession a monopoly in the trade of indiarubber. That product had figured disastrously in the history of a part of South Africa of which they had heard, and the very name of the material stunk in the nostrils of those who had tried to protect native races. The other case occurred in an island of the Fiji group. 557 There an ex-High Commissioner had obtained a gigantic monopoly in guano at practically a nominal rent for ninety-nine years, when the island itself was groaning under taxation, and when the sources of revenue thus alienated might have been used to relieve the natives from the heavy burden of taxation. His object had been attained in calling attention to these discreditable transactions, and he had only to express the hope that for the future the lesson would be learned, so that if attempts by ex-Governors to obtain by official influence concessions in their Colonies occurred again they would be checkmated long before the stage was reached when the Colonial Secretary was precluded from intervening.
MR. STANLEY WILSON (Yorkshire, E.R., Holderness)
called attention to the question of the prohibition of English vessels fishing in the waters of the Moray Firth. He said that since the Act of 1899 the Moray Firth had been closed to English trawlers and the question had engaged the attention of all connected with the fishing industry. A new situation had been created by the action of the authorities in Scotland. Up to the present foreign trawlers had been allowed the right, denied to English trawlers, of fishing in the Moray Firth. It was a somewhat anomalous position that the right to fish in Scottish waters should be allowed to foreigners and not to Englishmen. He could give an excellent instance. An Aberdeen trawler, in a fog, drifted into the Moray Firth, and when the fog lifted she found herself by the side of a Norwegian boat, the skipper of which ordered her out and said that if she did not go he would give warning to the cruiser. Such treatment of Englishmen and Scotsmen in Scottish waters by a foreigner was not particularly handsome. The action of the Scottish authorities had brought about a situation exactly foreseen by the late Lord Salisbury, who, in 1895, speaking on the Fisheries Regulation Bill, said they must not prohibit trawling by a British vessel in any place where a foreign vessel was able to go. That was a broad principle, and the Government would be wise if they followed it. At present there were a considerable number of Norwegian vessels engaged in the fishing industry 558 trading between the Moray Firth and Grimsby. He knew there were Members who thought those vessels pirates. He believed that in years gone by there had been several Grimsby vessels sailing under false colours, but he believed now everyone engaged in the industry had been properly sold and registered as Norwegian vessels. During the past few weeks the Scottish authorities had been endeavouring to put a stop to the trade, and ten or eleven Norwegian boats had been arrested in the Moray Firth. Their skippers were prosecuted, convicted, and heavily fined. The Norwegian Consul intervened, and the proceedings were quashed and the fines remitted. The Scottish authorities, however, were now proceeding to prosecute subordinates. They were taking proceedings against eleven British subjects who were on board. Those unfortunate men were to be prosecuted at Elgin on Wednesday, and stood liable to a fine of £100 for each offence or to sixty days imprisonment. Such prosecution was most unjust and un-English. The men were engaged, not through the Board of Trade office, but through the Norwegian Consulate. They were placed under command and were not in charge. It was impossible for them to dictate where the vessels were to go and fish. Naturally it was for the skipper to say and for them to obey. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman would reply that the men knew they were breaking the law, or if they did not, at any rate, the men who engaged them did; but that was not the fact. The men had no idea that they were breaking the law. The law was only a Scottish by-law, and he did not think anybody had any warning of it until Lord Fitzmaurice in the House of Lords on 21st February said it had been decided to take proceedings against British subjects who could be proved to have acted in contravention of the bylaw whilst serving in vessels flying the Norwegian flag. Never before had prosecutions taken place on similar lines. Never before had a subordinate been held responsible for any action of a ship at sea. The only person up to the present who had been held responsible was the skipper. Now, however, under a Scottish by-law, it was proposed to put upon subordinates a new responsibility, not upheld by English law. 559 The effect would be to prevent Englishmen from taking places upon foreign vessels. Reverting to the discussion on the question of the Newfoundland fisheries, he contrasted the action of the Government in the two cases, and declared that their position was most inconsistent and contradictory. He earnestly appealed to the Secretary for Scotland to see that justice was done to the men, to see that Englishmen received the same treatment as was given to foreigners. The action of the Scottish authorities had brought about a very dangerous position. He knew they had been pressed into their position by many Scottish Members, but their action was not in accord with the views of the English authorities, and he thought it would be a good thing if the Scottish Fisheries Board and the English Board of Fisheries worked in unison. At present their views upon the subject were opposed. He was told last Wednesday, when he asked what arrangements were being made with Norway with regard to the Moray Firth difficulty, that the Foreign Secretary was negotiating with Norway upon the subject. He regretted that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was not present, because he should have liked to address a question to him on the subject. Was the Foreign Office backing up the Scottish authorities in the views they had adopted? Were they going to assist the Scottish authorities in completely closing the Moray Firth to foreign trawlers; because if so a most dangerous situation would be brought about. Before the Foreign Secretary entered into any negotiations with Norway he ought to have consulted with the National Sea Fisheries Protection Association. Many Members on both sides were pressing the Government to extend the three-mile limit to nine, and even to thirteen, miles. He trusted the Government had no idea of doing anything of the sort. If our territorial waters were increased the example would be followed by Germany, Denmark, and Norway, and the result would be that one-fifth of the trawling area would be closed to British trawlers. And that would be done in order to benefit a few line fishermen in the Moray Firth. They were told that 560 the reason for closing the Moray Firth was that that was the breeding ground for fish; but the head of the Marine Biological Department contradicted that statement. The Government must not tamper with one of the largest sea industries of the country. Fish was one of our chief food supplies. If hon. Members were to accompany him to Hull or Grimsby fishing docks one morning when several of the trawlers were discharging their cargoes, the amount of fish landed and then despatched to the Midlands for the poor people would be an eye-opener to them. He had no financial interest in trawlers. His only interest in the question was that he had been connected with the port of Hull since he was a boy, and that he looked upon it from the point of view of the supply of food to the people. During the last eighteen years the amount of fish landed in this country had doubled in value. Some 80 per cent. of the fish landed last year was landed at east-coast ports. In the interests of the poor people of the country this food supply ought to be protected in every way.
§ MR. A. WILLIAMSON (Elgin and Nairn)
said that the last speaker had given as the reasons which induced him to bring this subject before the House of Commons, first, that he would like the Moray Firth to be open to all trawlers in order to increase the food supply of the people; secondly, that the trawlers which they in the north of Scotland contended were poachers were, for the most part, genuine Norwegian trawlers, and that the shares of the companies which owned them were held by Norwegian subjects; and thirdly, he asked the Secretary for Scotland to ensure fair play for British subjects on board those trawlers, who were charged with breaking the laws of this country. As to food supply, it must be known to every hon. Member that there was very great destruction of fish by trawlers, not only in in-shore waters, but also in the open sea. The hon. Member for Holderness had referred to the opinion of the head of the Biological Department. He did not know that gentleman, but he had read the Report of the Scottish Fishery Board issued within the last few months, which stated that the more important 561 areas of the Moray Firth were visited by the trawler belonging to the Board last September, October and November, and the fishing grounds of Aberdeen in March. Some of the hauls which were made showed the enormous destruction of fish in shallow bays. In Dornoch Firth, for six hauls 25,563 were caught, and of these 18,809, or 73½percent., were thrown overboard as unmarketable. Of 10,361 haddocks caught, only 394 were large and marketable. Ninety-six per cent. of the catch was returned to the sea. Of course all the young haddocks perished. In in-shore waters a large amount of rubbish and seaweed was brought to the surface with the fish, which crushed the life out of them, and even those that were marketable were not as good for human food as fish caught on the line. Again, the Report of the Fishery Board showed that haddocks undertwo years of age were present in the shallow bays in the autumn, and that the greater part of those which were caught were thrown over board, while the percentage of small fish trawled from the deeper ground was less than that from inshore waters. Those who spoke for the line fishermen had no objection to trawling carried on in the open sea; their objection was only to otter trawling in shallow waters like the Moray Firth, where the destruction of the young, immature fish was immense. The closeness with which the trawlers worked was almost incredible. The hon. Member for Holderness had spoken of the thousands of trawlers which left the Humber in the fishing season, in addition to those from other ports. The six so-called foreign trawlers, he believed, could cover the whole of the fishing banks and trawlable area of the Moray Firth in two days. He would also remind the hon. Gentleman that the area for trawling in the open sea was not unlimited. As to the effect of the trawling on the Moray Firth, in the few months before it occurred the line fishing had very much improved, but following the raid which took place by the trawlers at the end of last year and the beginning of this, the catch fell off very much. There seemed to be some evidence, at all events, of the falling off of the catch coinciding with the raid of the trawlers 562 upon the banks. He could justify the exclusion of the trawlers from the Moray Firth on another ground than the destructiveness to the fish there: they were also very destructive to the lines and other apparatus of the line fishers. The Moray Firth had a very limited area, and its shores were inhabited by a limited number of fishermen who got their living by setting lines which were of considerable length and extended for a great distance. If, in that small area, they had trawlers careering up and down, it followed that there must be great destruction of the fishermen's lines. That argument did not so much apply to fishing in the open sea, although there had been complaints of that kind also. Both Parties in the State had been very much concerned in preserving the Moray Firth, not only on the ground of the fishery, but also because they were conducting interesting experiments as to the new fishery. He was glad to say that, so far as the Scottish fishermen were concerned, they had behaved properly, and there had been no cases of the Aberdeen people putting their money in foreign trawlers and registering them in a foreign port, and then using the trawlers in the Moray Firth. If, in the cases which had taken place, the acts which had been committed were the acts of genuien foreign-owned trawlers, the fishermne in the north of Scotland would feel less indignant than they did. But the facts were otherwise. There had been little increase of fishing in the Moray Firth by genuine foreign trawlers, but there had been a seriously increasing number of boats which belonged to our own country. It transpired at the trials at Elgin that the foreigner who was supposed to be the captain of the Norwegian vessel was really very often only a deck hand, while the real captain was an Englishman, and the bulk of the crew was English. It would have been interesting if the hon. Member for the Holderness Division had told them, when the genuine Scottish trawler went into the Moray Firth by accident, and was told to clear out, what language was used.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
said it was surprising that the Aberdeen trawler was able to understand Norwegian. He could only tell the hon. Member what occurred at Elgin. A Norwegian subject was tried in the Sheriff Court and found guilty, and condemned to pay a fine of £100 or undergo sixty days imprisonment. The real captain on the boat sent a telegram to his owners in Grimsby, "So-and-So has been fined, what am I to do?" The reply came back to the Lossiemouth Post Office in plain English: "Go on fishing." There was no Norwegian about the telegram.
MR. STANLEY WILSON
said the telegram was sent to the acting agent at Grimsby for the owners in Norway.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
said it came to this—that the Grimsby capitalists, or some of them, were in such haste to be rich that they were willing to adopt transparent disguises in order to flout their own country's laws. Their patriotism rejoiced in inviting friendly foreigners to intervene in order that they might be protected from the laws made by their fellow countrymen. The honesty of the Grimsby owners was of such a standard that they considered the stealing of fish to be advisable and right if it could be carried on with impunity by wearing a mask. The food of the people was thus interfered with, and the livelihood of those who resided upon the banks of the Moray Firth was jeopardised by action which was entirely contrary to the law of the country. By means such as those the people were robbed and the Government were fooled and the position had become intolerable—so intolerable that it was surprising to him that the line fishermen of Scotland had not taken the law into their own hands and committed reprisals. He hoped the Government would persevere with the enforcement of the legislation which they had enacted to prevent this kind of fishing; and as the penalties had been inadequate to stop illegal trawling in the Moray Firth, he trusted that the Government, when they were introducing further legislation on the subject, would increase the penalty beyond £100, which, as hon. Members who were acquainted with the subject 564 knew, could easily be made up within a few hours by a successful haul by the trawler.
§ *Sir ARTHUR BIGNOLD (Wick Burghs)
said that as he represented a constituency which was interested more than any other in Scotland in the present crisis in fishing interests, he desired to direct attention to one or two features in the controversy. His first observation was, that the coast line of Scotland, which without allowing for gulfs and bays, was 1,470 miles in length, could not at present be protected by the cruiser patrols however efficient the vessels engaged in that duty might be. There were now four cruiser patrols, "Minna," "Freya," "Brenda," and "Vigilant"—all capable and efficient ships, whose speed was equal to something like twelve and a half to fourteen knots an hour. He did not take any account of the fifth ship to which reference had been made, because her speed was only nine knots. But such a small fleet were admittedly unequal to the task they had to perform, which was to protect the seaboard of nearly 1,500 miles, or if allowance was made for gulfs and bays, of nearly 2,400 miles. The result was to create a situation which practically invited a trawler to run in on the coast and drop his trawl knowing that he could do so with virtual impunity. It was not an over-statement on his part to say that for every twenty offences committed on the coast of Scotland there was not on the average more than one prosecution. The trawling industry itself, as well as the line fishermen, has suffered much thereby, for on many parts of the coast the immature flat fish have almost been exterminated, and it appears, too, from a trawler Return, that in 1905 they had taken 1,000,000 cwt. less fish than they did the year before; the linesmen have either emigrated or taken to the herring fishing in large numbers. In Ireland the case might almost be described as worse, for there, with a coastline of 1,400 miles, there were but two protecting cruisers, the "Hecla" and "Granuale," neither of which could make twelve knots. Such was the position up to recent events. He was aware that two wrongs did not make a right, but he was glad that recent events had brought the subject forward. He 565 would not weary the House with the well-known facts of the prosecutions, convictions, and pardons of last autumn, but must mention the case of the first conviction to show that there was no surprise in the action of the Executive. He referred to the prosecution of Martin Olsen, of the "Catalonia," a trawler registered at Stavanger, manned by a Grimsby crew, and fishing four miles from shore in the Dornoch Firth. When the conviction was obtained a nominal penalty of £10 was imposed, but never paid, the feeling being that the accused should have the benefit of the ignorance pleaded—"that he had the right, to fish when more than three miles from the shore." The widespread publicity which ensued debarred the Grimsby Fleet from any such plea. The recent action of the Government in prosecuting the trawlers, whether more or less than three miles from the shore in the Firth, following on the unanimous decision of the High Court of Justiciary of Scotland that it was territorial waters, was indeed welcome news to the linesmen, but, whatever might be the future action and policy of the Government, the law as it stood was clear and unassailable. That was that the one Scottish bay, by fishing in which the majority of the linesmen gained their livelihood, was declared to belong to Scotland, and that the waters within Duncansbay Head and Rattray Point could not be trawled in by any vessel, British or foreign. Now the Foreign Office had intervened and said there was a conflict between the law of Scotland and international law, and the Government appeared to have satisfied themselves that Foreign Powers had established a right to fish in the Moray Firth because it had a wide mouth, for they had remitted all the fines and released the offenders. As the case stood, fish might be taken by foreign hands out of Scottish waters and sold in English ports, but no Briton might fish there. Surely that was an intolerable position. He believed the action of the Scottish Office was correct, and that even now if the Foreign Office would confer with Belgium a fair solution of the difficulty might be arrived at. The Government was in no way hampered by its intervention in the case of the Iberian 566 Peninsula, for there was no bay involved in that dispute, but only the question of a three or six miles limit. Really the case almost suggested a conundrum, "When is a bay not a bay?" to which the answer was, "When a foreign trawler comes in to fish." The upper Bristol Channel, thirty-seven miles wide, had recently been admitted to be territorial. Norway had successfully claimed the Vestfjord at the Lofodens, fifty miles in width, against every Power in the North Sea Convention. Hew as, therefore, not without hope that the recent decision of the Scottish Courts would ultimately be upheld on the broadest principles of international law.
§ *MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said the speech of the hon. Member for Holderness had been so fully answered by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that there was very little to add. The hon. Member looked with horror upon the closing up of so large a water as the Moray Firth, and in the first part of his speech, quoted the late Lord Salisbury with regard to the limit of territorial waters. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman had read the whole of the debate from which he quoted, but it was interesting to see what Lord Salisbury said on that occasion. Lord Salisbury said that great care had been taken not to name three miles as the territorial limit. The territorial limit extended as far as a cannon shot would go, and a cannon fired on Jubilee day threw a shot twelve miles. That was very little less than the thirteen miles they now asked for, and with modern developments, a gun of the present day might throw a shot further. With one point made by the hon. Member he cordially agreed. The hon. Gentleman said it was a question of the food supply. The question really at stake was, how best to secure the largest and most lasting supply of fish as food for the people. But did any one seriously contend that that object was to be obtained by throwing the Moray Firth open to trawlers? It was well known that the North Sea had been gradually depleted of fish by trawlers for the last twelve years. Two Committees—in 1893 and in 1900—reported in favour of closing the fishing grounds 567 against trawling, and even the trawlers themselves in 1895 contemplated the shutting up of an area of 5,000 square miles because of the depletion of fish, but nothing was done because they could not agree with each other. In this interest the Moray Firth had been closed, and he hoped the Scottish Office would not be baffled by a few gentlemen from Grimsby, who, disguised as vikings, indulged in a little poaching under the Norwegian flag, and that, while negotiations were ontinued to remove international difficulties, legislation would close the Firth in the interest of the national food supply.
§ MAJOR ANSTRUTHER-GRAY, (St. Andrews Burghs)
as representing the interests of many fishermen, complained of there being only four cruisers to protect local fishermen against the depredations of trawlers disguised as foreigners. Much had been said about reprisals by foreign nations, but there was little to fear on that account, because there were few places where such a policy would be effective. The Norwegian Government had already closed large areas; and if they could close the Western Fiord, a navigable strait fifty miles across, it was strange if we could not close the Moray Firth. Trawlers had all the open sea, but prescribed waters were limited; and to admit trawling in the Moray Firth would destroy the livelihood of honest, hard-working men. If they allowed foreigners to get hold of the trawling industry of Great Britain they would destroy a British industry, deprive the country of a valuable reserve of sea-faring men for the work of the Fleet, and men who in the time of war or blockade could supply the country with one of the most valuable supplies of food.
§ *MR. SUTHERLAND (Elgin Burghs)
said the present position of affairs in regard to trawlers was intolerable, and to many incomprehensible. It had been suggested by the hon. Member for the Holderness Division that the advice of the National Sea Fisheries Protection Association should be taken. In 1890, that 568 Association passed a resolution asking the Fishery Board of Scotland to—take into consideration the advisability of holding an inquiry with a view to, if necessary, closing the Moray Firth from Kinnaird Head to Duncansbay Head against trawlers.In the same year delegates from Hull, Grimsby, Yarmouth, and other places, who for themselves and for the companies, corporations, fleets, and associations which they represented, passed an ordinance that they would not trawl in the North Sea, over an area of 5,200 square miles. They also passed a resolution unanimously asking Parliament to prevent trawling on the banks, where so many immature fish were caught. In 1892, again, at the National Fisheries Association meeting two representatives from Aberdeen proposed and seconded the following—That beam trawling should be legal within territorial waters at certain seasons of the year, and that shutting up such a large space of water as the Moray Firth would mean a serious loss to the food supply of the nation, and lead to complications with foreign Powers.That was not supported, and the conference unanimously carried the following resolution—That in the opinion of this conference all trawling should be illegal in territorial waters, and that further restrictions be imposed for the purpose of protecting spawning beds and breeding grounds.That was the position taken up, not by the interested line fishermen, but by the trawlers themselves. When they considered the improved methods of trawling, the increased size and number of boats, and the substitution of the otter for the beam trawl they were bound to come to the same conclusion as had been stated by several trawl-owners, that if the Moray Firth was opened to all trawlers it would be cleaned out in four weeks. What attitude had the present and preceding Governments taken up in the question? In the year 1899, Lord Salisbury, receiving a deputation of Scottish local authorities, expressed to them the view that international difficulties might arise. In July, 1905, the Fiscal of Dornock appealed against a decision of the sheriff refusing to convict the master of a foreign trawler found 569 trawling in the Moray Firth, outside the three miles limit. In December, 1905, the then Secretary for Scotland (Lord Linlithgow) stated that he had been advised that the result of that judgment would be to give more effective control over trawling in waters prohibited by by-law than had hitherto been exercised, and that instructions had been given to institute proceedings against trawlers operating in the Moray Firth. In August, 1906, the High Court of twelve Judges unanimously convicted the master of a foreign trawler found trawling well outside the three-miles limit. In November, 1906, in answer to a Question in the House as to whether the Secretary for Scotland had yet consulted the Law Officers of the Crown as to steps against foreign trawlers, in view of the decision of the Court of Session, the Secretary for Scotland stated that the matter was under the consideration of the Government. On 23rd November in answer to a printed Question the Secretary for Scotland stated that instructions had been given to the cruisers to report foreign trawlers working in the Moray Firth with a view to their prosecution. In January, 1907, a number of prosecutions took place, and convictions followed. Shortly afterwards there was the fiasco of the liberation of those convicted. Both the late and the present Governments were committed in the matter. The Unionist Government had taken the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown. The Liberal Government after deliberate consideration had resolved to insist on the right of this country to prohibit illegal trawling in the Moray Firth. Both Governments asserted the right to deal with the Moray Firth as territorial waters. The position of difficulties could not have been unforeseen. It could not be supposed that such possible difficulties were not in view of both Governments when after long and careful consideration they resolved to proceed with prosecutions. It was said that if this policy of closing the Moray Firth were strictly adhered to reprisals must take place. Why so? In May, 1901, at Christiania, where there were delegates from eight Governments, including the Government 570 of Norway, which was represented by Dr. Nansen, this resolution was passed—In distinct areas of the sea, as for example the Moray Firth, in which any Government has undertaken scientific experiments in the interests of the fisheries, and in which the success of the experiments is being hindered by the operations of trawlers, it is to be desired that measures be adopted for the removal of such hindrances.Norway asserted an exclusive right to fishing off her coast, which included the must valuable cod fishings in Europe, employing about 20,000 men. These fishings were far outside the three miles limit. Norway also claimed exclusive right of fishing in a fiord which was really a navigable strait 100 miles long and 50 miles wide at the mouth. Surely, if the Norwegian Government maintained their protest the British Government had a right to invite their attention to their claim to these exclusive lights which he had pointed out. What was the decision of the Court of Session? Lord Kyllachy said—The primary enactment, it will be observed, is directed not against persons or classes of persons. It is directed against certain things—the commission of certain acts—within a precisely defined area. It contains no elastic expressions—no indefinite terms.In other words, what was prohibited was not individuals, but the ruinous method of fishing known as trawling. It was only two years ago that the National Fisheries Association met in Aberdeen. One of the speakers stated that many of the Grimsby trawlers were sailing under a foreign flag, and that the pecuniary interest of Norwegians in those vessels amounted to £5 or £10 only. Something of a scandal had been created in Aberdeen over two years ago when the late secretary of the English Board of Fisheries and Agriculture went on to the trawling platform on two occasions, although it was blatantly announced that the trawling interest intended to violate the laws of the country. A noble Lord had suggested in another place, the other day, that Aberdeen had also her trawlers sailing under a foreign flag. A good many harsh things had been said about Aberdeen. The Aberdeen trawlowners, although many of them were delightful socially, 571 were Conservatives of the deepest dye. If their candidates used the word "liberal' even with a small "l" in their election addresses, he believed that new candidates would be selected. It gave him pleasure as a political opponent to say that keen as Aberdeen men were to make money they declined to follow the evil example of the Grimsby trawlowners. These latter afforded an exaggerated example of men with the mudrakes. Discarding the ties both of humanity as well as of patriotism, they engaged Norwegians as skippers who, it was said, had to perform the duties of cooks when at sea, and to take the risk, as a regular condition of employment, of going to prison when convicted of illegal trawling. Some of the gentlemen opposite interested in the trawling industry insisted on the two-Power standard for the Navy. He supposed that the tramp trawlers, these Grimsby foreigners, would add materially to the fighting strength of a foreign navy. It was often said that line fishing was behind the age, and that the controversy was but another illustration of the stage coach being supplanted by the steam engine. That was far from being the case. Within the last three or four years over £300,000 had been spent in one district in the North-east of Scotland on steam drifters. One hundred of these vessels were being built this year in Scotland, and that number would have been exceeded had builders been able to execute more orders. He advocated anti-trawling by law on the ground that trawling would deplete the fishing banks. Even if it did not, he still said that the hardy fishermen in the Moray Firth, who formed so great a part of the Naval Reserve, should receive the greatest consideration and not be crushed out by the Grimsby capitalists. He appealed to the Secretary for Scotland to use his influence with the Government, that foreign trawlers as well as British should be excluded from the Moray Firth.
§ *MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
said he was very glad that they had had an opportunity to discuss this matter, because it was a very serious question for a large part of Scotland, and especially for his own constituency. The hon. Member for Holderness had referred to the prosecution of fishermen at Elgin, but the House had nothing to do with 572 that, and as the trial had not yet taken place he thought it was very unwise and very unusual to discuss it in Parliament. He thought the hon. Member might trust the Scottish Judges to do what was right, and plenty of money would be found in Hull and Grimsby to provide the necessary lawyers. The hon. Member who had introduced the subject seemed to make it a question of where he had spent his boyhood at Hull. He had said very little about Norway, but he had endeavoured to protect the Grimsby and Hull people against the Scottish by-laws. It was really a question of law and order, and the protection of the poor against the rich trusts and companies of Hull, Grimsby, and other places. All he (Mr. Morton) was asking for was that the law should be obeyed by the rich as well as the poor. His own opinion was that the Moray Firth was territorial water, and could not be properly considered to be the open sea at all. That was, however, a matter which they might very well leave to the Foreign Office and the Law Officers of the Crown to settle in a friendly way with the Governments concerned. He was not at all alarmed about the talk of reprisals; that was the usual red herring which was drawn across their path to frighten them from doing what was right. This was not merely a question of the Moray Firth, but of trawling all round the coast of Scotland. The whole of the north and west coast of Sutherlandshire was affected, and the fishing industry was being damaged by the trawlers who illegally trawled within the three mileslimit. If the practice was not put a stop to the livelihood of the Scottish line fishermen would be destroyed. He had a right to appeal to Parliament as well as to the Government to protect the poor line fishermen. He did not ask that they should be treated any better than other people; all he asked was that they should have the full benefit and protection of the law. If they did not wish to see these Scottish fishing villages and districts depopulated altogether they must protect the line fishermen. That was not the time to discuss whether trawl fishing was a good thing or not. He was inclined to think that in the end trawling would destroy 573 and ruin the fishing industry altogether, and that they would be better without it and to trust to the line fishermen. They had been told that fish was largely the food of the people, but fish was no cheaper now than it was before they had these trawlers, and fish was no more the food of the people than it was ten or twenty years ago. Merely to take a trawler out to sea and scoop up everything, including gravel and rock, did not make fish any cheaper. He hoped the representative of the Government would be able to tell the House that he meant to have the law upheld. The hon. Member who had introduced the question had sneered at the Scottish by-laws. Why did he not inform the House that they were not merely Scottish by-laws but the law of the land? Last week the Lord Chancellor distinctly stated that the Scottish Judges were right in insisting that the law should be upheld, and that that was the law with regard to the closing of the Moray Firth. If there was an international question to be settled it could be settled by the Government, and he trusted that it would be settled in a friendly way. They had to remember that the so-called foreign trawlers belonged to people at Grimsby or Hull or some other English port. It was admitted that Norwegians had been put upon Grimsby trawlers. It might only be a cook, who had nothing whatever to do with the trawler. What he complained of was that the Norwegian nationality and the Norwegian flag should be used in that way in order that Grimsby or Hull people might break the British law. The Norwegian Government had repudiated the people on these trawlers, and they had been told that they must not reckon upon getting any assistance from that Government. So that these pirates as they had been called had been repudiated by the Norwegian Government. It was admitted that the trawlers were acting illegally, and he appealed to the Government to protect the line fishermen. He thought the Fishery Board cruisers as at present provided had not sufficient speed. They could only steam at the most 12¾ knots, and as the Grimsby trawlers could go much faster than the Government cruisers, they had no difficulty in getting away. 574 He hoped the fishermen in the north of Scotland would get the assistance from the Government which was now asked in order that their industry might be protected from the depredations of trawlers, and that the Highland counties might not be depopulated by the injury which was done in the way described.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said he would like hon. Members who sympathised with the trawling industry to endeavour to realise the mischief which was done to the fishing industry in the north of Scotland. He was satisfied that if they realised the terror and dismay caused in fishing villages, not only along the Moray Firth, but on the other coasts, they would pay greater heed to the complaint now made. After one or two trawlers had come and cleared a bay of fish, weeks had to pass before the poor fishermen were able to earn a shilling to maintain themselves and their families. He was sure if hon. Members connected with trawling companies realised the facts they would give instructions to the captains of their vessels that the three miles limit should not be evaded. They did not do that, or if they did they "winked the other eye." The trawlers caused the Scottish Fisheries Board infinite trouble and expense. For years the Government had been asked by Scottish Members to pass legislation to bring the owners of the trawlers and the managers of the companies to book. After infinite trouble they had succeeded in getting a number of prosecutions. The captain was fined £100, but he did not pay it. He went to jail, but that was no penalty on the company who owned the trawler. Their capital was not touched. Occasionally the nets were forfeited, and sometimes they were bought back for a mere song, because there was nobody else to buy them. The nets ought to be destroyed, and the companies who sent out their men to poach should be in some way penalised. Fishermen had a hard lot, and Parliament should do everything in its power to prevent the law being broken by the companies who owned the trawlers. A question had been asked in regard to certain rewards which had been given to some people in Scotland for obtaining convictions against persons engaged in illegal practices on in-shore 575 waters. He had yet to learn that there was anything immoral in that. In some places, he was glad to say, convictions had been obtained, and his hon. friend the Member for Wick Burghs had been instrumental in that direction. It gave the fishermen a little encouragement to say where they had seen foreign trawlers within the three miles limit. This was not a Party question, and the sympathy and assurances he had had from the Members of the Opposition in the House and in the country, justified the Scottish Members in a king the Government for much more stringent administration of the law than obtained at the present moment. The position was so acute that in some parts vigilance associations had been established which offered rewards to fishermen who could secure convictions against the poaching trawlers. Only the other day he received a letter from a gentleman, not on his own side of politics, enclosing a cheque for three guineas as an expression of his sympathy with the work of the vigilance associations. The gentleman went on to describe how in a small bay in the island of Hoy, which was a happy hunting ground for the poachers, the lines of the local fishermen had been destroyed, and when the fishermen tried to get the numbers of the poachers, those on board the poachers turned boiling steam upon them. The marks by which trawlers might be identified were being continually obliterated, or sails were hung over the ship's side to conceal the number. It was an economic as well as an industrial question. If the depredations of these trawlers were allowed to continue, in many places the sea would be so depleted of fish that it would not be worth anybody's while to go there. Hundreds of tons of fish trawled were destroyed, or sold for manure. He hoped that the Government would realise its duty and do something to protect our fishermen in a better manner than they had been protected for many years past.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. SINCLAIR,) Forfarshire
My hon. friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland is unwearied in his efforts to protect the interests of his constituents and of fishermen in other parts of the country. He raised the question as to 576 whether or not the protection afforded to fishermen by the sea police was adequate. As the House well knows, the duties which are performed by the fishery cruisers are exceedingly difficult and onerous, but nobody who has watched them at their work could fail to recognise that the sea police carry out these duties most admirably, and I was glad to hear the warm recognition by the hon. Member for St. Andrews Burghs as to the effectiveness of the work done on some portions of our coast. It has been urged that the sea police are not adequate for the duties they have to perform. We would very gladly have increased that force before now, if the funds at our disposal had not been so limited. The Fishery Board has not yet a sufficient accumulation of funds to furnish another cruiser. When funds are available it is hoped that the Fishery Board may be able to buy another cruiser, and so strengthen the existing fleet for sea-policing purposes. The discussion opened by the hon. Member for the Holderness division has been very useful. Much criticism has been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House on the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman, and there is, therefore, little that it is necessary for me to say on this occasion. There is no doubt whatever about the law; and let me say it is not Scots law, but British law—a law passed here by the British Parliament in 1889, and since maintained by successive Governments. All we have to do at the present moment is to maintain the existing law; and that is all we have done hitherto. Whenever international issues have been raised we have given way. I can hold out no hope whatever to the hon. Member for the Holderness Division that we shall relax our efforts. We will exercise our present powers. The hon. Gentleman referred to a case which he described as coining on for trial on Wednesday next. It would not be proper for me to make any observation in regard to any of the circumstances connected with that case; but what I put to the hon. Gentleman opposite is: Here is a British law which is obligatory on British subjects. Surely no one will maintain in this House that if British subjects break a British law they should go unpunished. It is the duty of the subject to obey the law of his 577 country. [An Hon. Member: "But he does not know it."] I am not able to say whether in this or that case, one or another individual does not know where he is going and whether he is responsible to the law if he takes service on a certain ship; but it is very hard to believe that a man who ships in a trawler at Grimsby does not know the risks he runs if he goes to the Moray Firth. For many years there have been no trawlers in the Moray Firth except these pseudo Norwegian-Grimsby trawlers. The House knows the policy the Government intends to pursue. We intend to maintain the law. We are in communication with Norway as to whether some friendly arrangement cannot be come to on this point, and we have under consideration proposals which we will submit to the House, to extend to England the law now applicable to Scotland with a view to making it illegal to land in England fish taken by trawlers from the Moray Firth.
MR. STANLEY WILSON
inquired whether the Government intended to interfere with the three miles limit as it existed at the present.
§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
called attention to the reduction for the Garrison Artillery at the Mediterranean stations and especially at Malta. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had stated that the War Office had been acting in conjunction with the Admiralty in regard to that matter, and that the proposal had been approved by one of the most highly skilled military and naval Committees which had sat for some time. He did not wish to say anything against that description except that the members of the Committee would be surprised at the enormously important position given to them by the right hon. Gentleman. He thought it was a flight of rhetoric to describe the Committee in that way. The description of the right 578 hon. Gentleman in regard to Malta was, he thought, entirely misleading, because it would lead any impartial man to the conclusion that the great, changes which he had indicated had been actually carried out. The Secretary for War, moreover, in answer to the hon. Member for Chorley, had stated that he could not say whether the military authorities at Malta had expressed approval of the reduction of the garrison, but the highest naval and military talent of the Empire had been employed, and to ask the opinion of a military officer in such a remote place would be like putting a problem in higher mathematics to an elementary schoolmaster. Who were these officers? One was Sir Mansfield Clarke, formerly Quartermaster-General at the War Office, and the other officer principally concerned was Major-General Henry Barrow, of the Royal Garrison Artillery, one of the officers of the British Army with the longest experience of coast defence, and who was eminently qualified to give an opinion. The Minister for War had the reputation of being tactful and courteous in his dealing with officers of all ranks, but that reputation would probably suffer in the eyes of the Army on account of the insult which the right hon. Gentleman had put upon two distinguished officers.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. HALDANE, Haddington)
thought the speech of the hon. and gallant Member must have been heard with surprise by his leader. The Owen Committee, which he himself had described as one of the ablest Committees appointed for a long time, was constituted under the direction of the Defence Committee, not in his time, but in the days when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London was Prime Minister. It was constituted for the consideration of a problem that was as much naval as military. Its Reports were not to be carried out until approved by the Defence Committee. In those circumstances he had ventured to say in the House that the joint approval of the Owen Committee and of the Defence Committee was almost the highest authority that could be found for any action. He repudiated in the strongest terms the idea that it was desirable 579 that the military and naval authorities should be controlled by local advice. He had the greatest respect for the distinguished officers referred to by the hon. and gallant Member; but the joint naval and military problem at stake was too important for its decision to be controlled by local advice. In such a matter the authorities should be guided solely by the highest naval and military experts. He was sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman would appeal in vain to his leader for any countenance of the extraordinary doctrine he had lain down. Moreover, the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not seem to be aware that the Owen Committee had conducted its proceedings on the spot. The Committee proceeded to these places, examined them, and then reported. The present Government had been guided by the opinion of the Committee, and if any other course had been adopted it would have led to a deplorable state of things.
§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON
I did not object to these officers not having been consulted. My objection was to the extraordinary expression the right hon. Gentleman used when he said their opinion would be worth no more than that of an elementary schoolmaster.
§ MR. HALDANE
said he had the deepest respect for Sir Mansfield Clarke and for General Barrow; but on the question of defence—a question of the very highest importance—the people to be consulted were not the gentlemen on the spot, however eminent, but those who had been chosen as representing the very highest naval and military talent. The right people to consult were the Defence Committee, the General Staff, and the highest military and naval opinion. If the Government had strayed away from that principle they might have gone back to the old method of taking the advice of Service Members in the House of Commons—a method which, he trusted, they had quitted for ever. The principles the Government had adopted were principles laid down in the time of the last Government. He was perfectly certain that our system of defence was far more efficient than ever it had been in the past.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said he would not have intervened if the 580 right hon. Gentleman had not pointedly referred to him in the course of his remarks. He could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman had quite misconceived the point of his hon. friend. His hon. and gallant friend was in hearty agreement with most of the views the right hon. Gentleman had expressed, but he objected to the unfortunate metaphor used a few nights ago, which reflected rather unfairly upon the character of two distinguished and gallant officers. The objection was not that the right hon. Gentleman did not consult those gallant officers, but that he did insult them.
§ MR. MACLEAN (Bath)
said he desired to call attention to the Land Registry, and to the most unsatisfactory character of its operations. It occupied a building which had cost £265,000, and it had a staff of 240 officials whose remuneration amounted to nearly £50,000 a year. Several changes had been made in the operation of the system, and experience of it had been sufficiently long to justify a test on the part of the Government as to whether it was simple, secure, swift and economical. The Registration Act was passed in 1875, and nine years ago a further Act was passed to make compulsory the former enactment, which Lord Cairns had abandoned as unworkable. There were no less than seventy-two forms and 371 rules, administered by about 200 officials. Each year the whole system became more and more complicated. There were four kinds of title—good, possessory, qualified, and absolute. They could have whichever of those titles they chose, but when they had made their choice they must pay their money. As regarded the test of swiftness, his case was that it led to intolerable delay. There were two processes—the ordinary method of conveyance as between vendor and purchaser, and the other process of registration in which was interposed this practice of Government registration, which was so great a source of delay. The representatives of building societies were strongly opposed to this objection able system, and the representatives of co-operative building societies had condemned the system, while professional men in the provinces were aghast because of the delay. When, he would ask, had the interposition of a Government office ever facilitated the despatch of business? 581 Then with regard to the question of security, his point was that there was no security as to title. It had been decided in the Court of Appeal, in the case of the Capital and Counties Bank v. Rhodes (in which the Lords Justices of Appeal had used strong expressions as to the intricacies of the system) that when a property had been registered, it was not necessary to go to the Registry again on subsequent transactions, thus showing, judicially, on what a rotten foundation the whole system stood. After all the expenses incurred, after all the protection claimed for registration, they found that the Lord Justices, after hearing the case said that the register was absolutely immaterial for the purpose of deciding who had the legal estate, which was the very basis on which the Act existed. Thus, it had been decided by the Court that it was unnecessary to go into the question as to the whereabouts of the legal estate. A Select Committee of the House of Commons had declared that the possessory certificate was "a useless additional expense, to the ordinary conveyance." The Registrar himself had said—The far better plan is to have it quite understood that the possessory certificate not only is not to be relied upon for anything prior to registration, but that it entirely ignores it, and that people must look outside for all encumbrances prior.So that the system in regard to security had absolutely failed. Then, in conclusion, with regard to the question of economy. The additional charge was accompanied by complication, delay and insecurity; there was absolutely no economy in connection with it; on the contrary, there was a gross and disgraceful expenditure of public money. In 1904–5, the expenses of the Registry exceeded the income by to less than £11,000. In nine years fines had been levied on London house and property owners to the amount of about £430,000. It was well known that by far the largest number of transactions were in small properties of £500 and less, and the small house and property owner was the most badly hit under the Land Registry Act. Take a property bought at £400. Under the scale which obtained apart from land registration, the cost amounted to £8, but now, under the operation of the Land Registry Act, it was £11 6s., an increase of 41 per cent. on such a small transfer as that. On a 582 property of £200 it cost £6, and it was now £7 13s., an increase of 27 per cent; on £90 the transfer was £3 10s., and now it was £4 6s. 6d., or an increase of 24 per cent. the whole system was a glaring example of misapplied officialism. It had been declared to be experimental, yet all inquiry had been shirked. It had been condemned by bankers, bankers institutes, building societies, co-operative building societies, architects, engineers, and nearly all conveyancing experts; and the time had now arrived when inquiry should be made into the whole question. This system was nothing short of a scandal and a gross example of how officialism, left to itself without proper inquiry into its operations, and without proper sanction, would most uselessly spend public money to the detriment of the public service.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.