HC Deb 30 April 1908 vol 187 cc1392-3
*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any proposals before the Belgian Parliament can affect the Congo Treaty, by which Belgium, should she accept the territories covered by the treaty, will assume the sovereignty subject to the obligations specified in Annexe A; whether such obligations relating to the Concessions, as, for example, the Lomami Concession, the exclusive right to forest produce forming a commercial monopoly in the Kasai, and the concession to the Société du Lac Léopold II granting exclusive rights in a portion of the Domaine, as well as the concessions to the Grands Lacs, A. B. I. R., Anversoise, and Katanga Companies, are consistent with the Berlin Act and with the British Treaty, the signature of which followed that of the American Treaty and preceded the signature of the Berlin Act; and whether these obligations by which Belgium will be bound, if inconsistent with British Treaty rights and with the Berlin Act, can be laid before the house, in order that Parliament may be in a position to support the policy declared by him in accepting the recent resolution of the House of Commons.


Up to the present, His Majesty's Government are aware of no proposals before the Belgian Parliament purporting to modify the terms of the Treaty of Cession. In any case, the treaty obligations of the Congo State cannot be impaired by any conditions of transfer made with the Sovereign of that State. The declarations already made in public by the Belgian Government take the same view. I propose to put in the Library of the House the Treaty of Cession with the Annexes, which include the Concession referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. The question of how far the maintenance of these Concessions as worked at present is inconsistent with the treaty obligations of the Congo State has already formed the subject of communications with the Belgian Government. I cannot at present say when any statement can be made to the House respecting these communications. We have explained to the Belgian Government very fully our view as to what the treaty obligations are, and Papers on this subject will be laid before His Majesty's Government take any step to recognise the transfer of the Congo State to Belgium, should Belgium eventually decide to annex it.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any representations have been received from the Belgian Government to the effect that the Congo State, having been constituted prior to the conclusion of the Berlin Convention of 1884, cannot be held bound by the provisions of that Act; and, if so, what action he proposes to take in the matter.


It is presumed that the hon. Member is referring to the Berlin Act of 1885 when he alludes to the "Berlin Convention of 1884." The Answer is in that case in the negative.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister made a statement in the Belgian Chamber the other day as to the inapplicability of the Berlin Convention to the Congo State?


I understand that the declaration in the Belgian Chamber was to the effect that Belgium recognised the Convention.

Back to