§ MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the West African Colonial Governments or Crown Agents can ship any railway materials to the West Coast by any other vessels than those of the Elder Dempster line; whether if they employ any other shipper they forfeit all the rebates due to them from the Elder Dempster line; what the total rebates so forfeited would amount to if the monopoly were broken now; and whether any calculations have been made to see in how many years the reduced freight obtainable from free competition would repay the loss of these rebates.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL,) Manchester, N. W.
There is nothing to prevent the Crown Agents, as agents for the Governments of the West African Colonies and Protectorates, from shipping railway materials by other vessels than those managed by Messrs. Elder Dempster & Company if more favourable terms could be obtained. The rebates would of course be forfeited, but this would be taken into consideration in comparing rates and it might be worth while to forfeit them. In the three years 1903–5 the rebates for all the West African Governments averaged only £4,500 a year, but of course the amount of the rebate in any year varies according to the quantity of materials shipped. In the absence of the necessary data, it is not possible to make the calculations suggested in the last paragraph of the Question.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD
Would it not be better, in view of the growing trade to the West Coast, to break these rebates as soon as possible rather than wait till the sacrifice becomes heavier than at present?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
That is a very difficult question of policy which involves the balancing of very complicated considerations, and I could not give an Answer on the spur of the moment.