§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £792,376, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1909, for sundry Colonial Services, including certain Grants-in-Aid."
MR. LYTTSLTON (St. George's Hanover Square)
As the House understands there will be another' opportunity of discussing general questions connected with South Africa, I do not now propose to say anything in regard to South African questions, but I will confine my observations chiefly to East Africa, and to certain matters of Colonial administration connected with that country. The late Under-Secretary for the Colonies, after his recent journey, at any rate will not dispute the general interest in East Africa, and the general interest and opportunity that this country has in the future of East Africa has been recognised by very large sums of money being spent in the interior development not merely of East Africa, properly so-called, but what we may call the eastern side of the African Continent. It is hardly necessary to remind the House that large sums, amounting to something like £6,000,000 had been spent on the Uganda Railway, an expense which was always greatly deprecated by the late Sir William Harcourt, who prophesied the most gloomy financial results in respect to that railway, prophecies which, I am glad to say, have been very largely 1295 falsified in the result. Extensions of that railway, I believe, are actually in contemplation now, and with the general approval of those who are administering that country. If the Uganda Railway has been a success and done very much to open up the country, so we may recognise that further northwards a railway has been opened from Port Suakin to Khartoum which has opened up the Soudan, and that in Nyassaland the Shiré Railway is shortly to be opened.
§ AN HON. MEMBER: It is open.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I will not labour this point. At Beira and Lorenco Marques great extensions of trade have also taken place. Many of these enterprises have been fostered especially by British enterprise and British capital, nor can it be denied for a moment that the British taxpayer has had a considerable burden and risk, and a very proper risk in my opinion, laid upon him for the development of these countries. What I wish to bring to the attention of the Colonial Office and of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who no doubt will speak later on, is that there seems to have been an arrest of activity at what the French would call the "beau moment"; that is to say, that while a very large expenditure has been made upon these internal communications, all the ports from Durban to Zanzibar had been allowed to fall into the hands of a subsidised German Shipping Company, who practically now hold the monopoly of all those ports. I do not wish the Committee to suppose that I complain of the Germans' action in this matter. They get £70,000 a year, and they are only following, as they are bound to do in consideration of the receipt of that subsidy, exclusively German interests, and of course, from their point of view, they are perfectly right to do that. They are pushing the merits of their country into East Africa, and they are pushing also the export of the raw materials of these countries for use in their own industries, and they are doing that with the energy and closeness always associated with German enterprise. Let me remind the House that I have been told by those who have been actually on the spot, as an illustration of the way in which British ports are treated by this German Company, that in their southward 1296 voyage down the east coast of Africa they actually stay for only two hours at Zanzibar and that they then go on to Dar-es-Salaam, a German port, where they stay for several days, collecting German letters, and then they return to Zanzibar, in order, naturally enough, that the British interests in that place may be definitely deferred to the German interests at Dar-es-Salaam. I submit that this is a state of things which requires investigation and action. I think that in 1902 a Select Committee of this House, presided over with great ability by my hon. friend behind me, the Member for Aston, reported in favour of subsidising some British line in East Africa, having regard to the then condition of affairs, and I do not think it will be denied by any of those who have gone into the matter that the occasion is much more imminent now than it was then, because in those days, at any rate, the Austrian-Lloyd ships were in existence and had some business in that part, and so were also the Messageries Maritimes, the French company. Both these companies, I understand, are no longer running steamships to East Africa, and we therefore have this peculiar situation, that immense sums have been spent, and rightly spent, on the development of the interior of East Africa, and yet the ports are left exclusively in the hands of the Germans. To even the most devoted disciples of Cobden there must be some apparent absurdity in subsidising a country and permitting trade rivals to monopolise your ports. After going to vast expense in developing the Colonial estate it is a strange proceeding to draw timorously back when you are just about to gather important fruits as the result of that enterprise. I suppose they imagine this refusal to subsidise steamers is founded on a definite principle, and that the relations of this country with the Crown Colonies are those of the distinct laissez aller or the Manchester principle, or, as it is sometimes humorously called, the principle of free trade. I submit that that so called principle does not exist with respect to the relations between this country and her Crown Colonies. No less distinguished a man than Lord Cromer fell into what I believe is the general fallacy in respect to the matter. Let me remind the House of one or two fundamental 1297 matters with regard to Crown Colony finance. It is supposed to be one of absolute free trade. I say it exhibits very clearly and concedes the principle of Colonial preference By the instrumentality of the Crown Agents the Crown Colonies obtain the advantage of the credit of this country. Their loans are brought out here by the Crown Agents, and it is a fact, I believe, not generally known but worth knowing, that no Crown Colony has ever defaulted in one sixpence of interest on the loans which have been raised. Nobody will doubt that that is largely due to the great stabilty and credit which results to them from the flotation of these loans by the Crown Agents and by the credit of the country which inferentially is at the back of the Colonies. But that great assistance is not given for nothing. The Crown Colonies, broadly speaking, have been equipped in railways, in electric apparatus, in public buildings, and in what we may call the apparatus and equipment of civilised government, in the first place by money lent by this country, and next by stores bought in this country by contract with the Crown Agents; so that you have on one hand the credit of the country assisting the Crown Colony in its development, and on the other the very important advantage for this country of supplying not universally, but in almost every case, that equipment and those stores which are necessary to building up a civilised community in those lands. There is, therefore, the most definite reciprocity. There is the preference granted to the Colony by the lending to her of money and by the raising of loans in this country by the Crown Agents, and there is reciprocity and preference to this country granted by the purchase of the various and great necessities of her civilised existence by the Colony, which has the result, of course, of affording a very great amount of custom to our manufacturers and a very great amount of employment to our artisans. I have pointed out that in East Africa at the present moment there appears to be an arrested development. It is against common sense that we should do so much and yet stop at just the last moment—that we should in the first place go to the immense risk and expense of the acquisition of these countries, that we should call upon 1298 and encourage our citizens to develop them, to build railways and bridges and make roads, and then leave at the last moment when, with a very small expenditure in comparison with that which has gone before—£50,000 or £60,000 a year in subsidising steamships—we might, at any rate, occupy, not to the exclusion of the Germans but with them, both with honour and utility, those ports and those Colonies in whose development we have already spent so much. I am not at all saying that hon. Gentlemen opposite are solely responsible for this curious lapse on the part of the Colonial Office. I think all Governments, owing to the old traditions, have been, to a certain extent, responsible. But I attribute these defects very much to the want of actual contact of those who rule these Colonies as governors with the Colonial Office. The system of Government in Crown Colonies is, to some extent, responsible for this failure of touch, and I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman a question in regard to the organisation of the Colonial Office: What has become of a certain scheme which I had directed to be set in order just before I left the Colonial Office, and what reason there has been for its determination? I am referring to a schema with which I desired to make some experiment in order to give greater contact and greater interchange between our Colonial service and the Colonial Office. In the Foreign Office, officials are often changed from the Ambassadorial service abroad to the Foreign Office at home, to the great profit, I believe, of both services. I need hardly refer to the fact that our present Ambassador at Paris was the Chief Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, and Sir Charles Hardinge, now the Chief Permanent Official of the Foreign Office, was Ambassador at St. Petersburg. The India Office utilise the great experience, wisdom, and skill of their Indian administrators, by using them in the India Council. Lord Curzon pointed out, and I was pleased that he did so, because it corroborated my own action at the Colonial Office, how the country wasted the material of administration which it had at hand. He pointed out how many of those who had served the country abroad as Colonial Governors, 1299 or in India, were without occupation, coming back on pension, still with many years work in them, still with experience which is very much needed, and is almost unique, and yet is very much wasted. I have always felt there was great force in it. Before I left the Colonial Office, as the result of very prolonged consideration, I desired to make an experiment in this matter. It is peculiarly applicable to African administration. Our Governors, for instance, in West Africa, by reason of the climate, get six months holiday for every eighteen months that they serve. The whole continuity of their Governorship is broken, and they cease to be Governors when they come back to England for these six months, and they say that the gear of the Crown Colonies which they administer is thrown out for the time when the Deputy-Governor is appointed. There is a great desire, and it must be felt to be reasonable that, if possible, our (Colonial Office administration should be continuous, and the enormous bulk of correspondence between the Crown Colonies and the Colonial Office mitigated, as I think has taken place in some other offices, by more personal contact between the Colonial Office and those who administer the Crown Colonies. There is also the consideration, and it is a very vital one, of the health of our administrators in hot climates, and there is also the not less important consideration that under the old system, breaches of domestic life necessarily took place, because the wives and children of administrators are not able to be taken out in those climates. This throws a considerable burden upon Governors, and makes these positions not as popular as we should wish them to be. It would be an immense advantage if you could utilise the opportunities when Governors come home, to place them in an actual official position at the Colonial Office. Take the instance of a very distinguished man, Sir Frederick Lugard, who had administered with great distinction Northern Nigeria, for eight years, who was profoundly attached to that country, and of whose work there we are naturally proud. Why was his work there so good? Amongst other reasons, because it was continuous for eight years. Why was 1300 Lord Cromer's work in Egypt so abundantly fruitful? Because it was continuous for a long period of years. Putting aside controversial matters, and looking at Lord Milner's civil work in the Transvaal during his eight years of office, who can doubt that the continuity of his rule had a most important effect upon the efficiency of his administration? I do not say that this tendency is universal, but I believe that when men have held public offices not only abroad but in this country for three or four years, they are just beginning to find out what the office really means, and what its possibilities are. I believe myself that there are administrators in East and West Africa in regard to whom it would be good for them and the service and for the Colonial Office and the country if they could serve in the Colonial Office for three or four months periodically in the rainy season without vacating their Governorships. I believe that this system would settle many difficult and controversial questions which have, under the present system, to be submitted at immense length in correspondence to the Colonial Office. These administrators would then get the benefit of the experience and ability of the officials at the Colonial Office, and those who had administered for many years our Crown Colonies could discuss with the Secretary of State and the permanent officials those questions in regard to which there is any difference of opinion, and they could reason them out together. This would be spending their time far more satisfactorily than engaging in the almost interminable correspondence which now takes place. I do not say that there are no difficulties in the way. I desired to make an experiment in the case of Sir Frederick Lugard, allowing him to come home for five months while retaining his Governorship. He would then have been administering seven months in the Colony, and would have been at home five months. I think that that would have retained his services in Nigeria for a considerable time longer, and it would have formed a valuable precedent and example in the future for extension if it proved successful. Such a system would save a great deal of time and friction when there are differences of opinion between those at home and the Governors 1301 abroad. That personal contact with those who have been on the spot would give life and vigour to the Office, and it might form the germ of a council of administrators in tropical matters—corresponding in some respects to the Indian Council—which in that development of East and West Africa we all expect to see might be of the greatest possible service. Those matters were at the back of my mind when I suggested what was considered to be a cautious and tentative experiment. I regret that for some reason or other it was not pursued, and I should like to hear what the reason was. Very likely it was owing to the great burden of work thrown upon the Colonial Office in connection with South Africa when this Government first took office. I should be glad to hear that the proposal has not been definitely pigeon-holed, but that the Colonial Office are keeping in mind the great advantages which might accrue to the country were our administrators in these tropical climates given more frequent opportunity of being brought in consultation with our permanent officials at home. This would save a good deal of the labour and difficulty which arises in conducting important affairs of administration, finance, and the like, by correspondence. I trust that we may hear something satisfactory on this point from the Under-Secretary. We ought to be looking towards the time when the Crown Colonies should be separated definitely in administration at the Colonial Office from the self-governing Colonies, and there should be some open-mindedness with regard to the necessity of bringing our Colonial Governors into closer contact with the Colonial Office and obtaining for the country for a longer period than at present the benefit of their advice and prolonged experience.
§ MR. ASHLEY (Lancashire, Blackpool)
said he wished to bring to the notice of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies certain recent events which had occurred in British East Africa. Before entering into any details he would like to congratulate the Colonial Office upon the fact that the Estimates for British East Africa had fallen from £192,000 to £138,000, a net decrease this year of 1302 £54,000. He confessed that that of itself was satisfactory, but he would be glad if the hon. Member would state how this great reduction had been brought about. Had it been brought about by the wholesale sale of Crown lands to the settlers without reserving a legitimate amount for the future? If so, he thought they might regard that diminution with some suspicion. He did not think the Committee quite realised what a great asset the Empire had in the Colony of British East Africa, which presented conditions which were unique in Crown Colonies. Take the case of the white settlers. There were some thousands of whites and Englishmen who had gone out to gain a livelihood and make a fortune if possible. There were also a certain number of Boer farmers from the south who had been pressed out of their own country by an increasing number of white settlers. There were also a certain number of native Indians there, and a large population of natives. Again, the natives were just as diverse in their characteristics. There were the coast towns and the districts where cotton could be cultivated in a greater degree year by year. Along the Uganda Railway they would find fine healthy plateaux where the white race could flourish in future, and where he had seen white children as healthy as any in England. On the north of the Colony they had unknown regions towards Abysinnia. Taking all these things into consideration the possibilities of this Colony were something which he thought in the not very distant future would be a very great advantage to our Colonial Empire, not only in regard to trade but also as an outlet for its surplus population. He saw no economic reason why this Colony should not prosper if the present labour difficulties there were smoothed over as they might very easily be. What were the difficulties which had arisen lately in British East Africa? The first was the economic difficulty. A great many men had gone out there thinking they would be able in a very short time to make fortunes out of agriculture, but they had found the elements against them, and many of them had been discouraged with the difficulties they had met with because 1303 they had tried to work on too small a capital. The inevitable result in all such cases was that those men became dissatisfied with the Government. Consequently these labour troubles which had arisen had found in this Colony a very fertile ground in which the seeds of dissatisfaction could be sown. The chief difficulty had been the inertia of the Governor and the permanent officials in failing to help the Colony to get a proper supply of native labour. The trouble had been going on for some time, but it did not reach an acute stage until last March, when deputations from the settlers were received, and the Governor convened a meeting at Nairobi. He did not like to criticise the action of the Governor, who was the representative of His Majesty, but he submitted that if the Governor convened a meeting and took the chair at it, he by that action rather laid himself open to hearing remarks and listening to speeches to which it was inadvisable His Majesty's representative should have to listen. But that was only a minor point. The Governor at the meeting made a speech which practically amounted to a refusal to modify in any serious way the present labour ordinance. In the speeches made at the meeting, various members pointed out that individual officials had discouraged the natives from coming in to labour. The Governor stated that, after all, he could not be responsible for the individual acts of his subordinates. Here, again, he was loth to criticise the Governor, but he thought they could not admit in this House that the Governor was not responsible for the acts of his subordinates. If they had done wrong he must bring them to book, and if their action was right he must support them. After the Governor withdrew, the Colonists held an indignation meeting, attended by two members of the Governor's Council, and a resolution was passed deprecating the action of the Governor. Members of the meeting proceeded to the Governor's house, and requested an interview, which he at first refused but eventually granted. There was no practical result from the interview, and they withdrew a certain distance and held another indignation meeting. He himself cordially sup- 1304 ported the action of the Colonial Office in supporting the Governor in suspending these two members of the council from their office, for it seemed to him that, whatever grievances there might be, they were no excuse for members of the Governor's Council attending an indignation meeting and practically appealing to him to give an answer whether he wished to do so or not. The gist of the matter was that the settlers had legitimate grievances, but that they were not very happy in the way they expressed them. What remedial measures did he ask the Government to adopt? He would suggest that the Government should see that the Governor, whoever he might be in future, possessed the great virtue of tact, that he had energy, and that he had great knowledge of the native character, because that was of very great importance in managing African natives. He did not think it was possible for this country to enter into the minute details of any labour regulations that might be laid down in East Africa. General principles could be laid down, and the working out of the details must be left to the Governor of the Colony and his Council. At present he thought the labour regulations were rather too one-sided; they said that an employer of native labour must provide cooking pots, food, blankets, and all sorts of things. That was quite right, but if the regulations were framed in a more liberal spirit, and carried out in a less dictatorial way, they would be more acceptable to the good employers of labour, and good employers were in the great majority there as in most other countries. At the same time the regulations should strictly lay down that any employer of labour who was found cheating or improperly treating his men would be most severely punished. Such regulations would carry the assent of the great majority of the people there. The Governor ought to try to take steps whereby an employer of labour who lost some of his men should be able to let the labourers know that they could not leave their work without any punishment at all. Some hon. Members might not agree with him in that. What he meant was that if a labourer was taken on for a month, and ran away within a week or 1305 ten days, it was surely only right that the Government should support the employer in bringing the labourer before the magistrates. These men were brought to a district at great expense from long distances, and employers should have security, if they were treating the men well, that the men would give a certain amount of stability of employment in the carrying out of agricultural operations. Another reform which he wished to see carried out was the substitution of a poll tax for the hut tax. At present they taxed only the father of a family, and this diminished the number of huts the people could live in, because they knew that the more huts they built the more they would be taxed. The change he suggested would have the advantage of causing lazy young natives who now only took to drink to do a useful day's work. There was a point in regard to passes from native reserves which ought to be dealt with. At present when a native left the reserves he was obliged to have a pass. He was practically unable to move without a pass. It was well-known that a great deal of blackmail was levied on the natives in connection with this matter. He would read an extract from a letter lately received from a prominent settler which illustrated this matter—It is always said to be a desirable thing for natives to enter into the body politic of the country and give up living in reserves, but let's see what happens to them. The other day Nagollagwony, a lyoni (Masai), who used to work here thought he would give up living with his own people and go and live in one of the towns by working. He sold his cattle, much to the annoyance of his relations, and got a job as boy. He was paid off at Hisumu, promptly arrested by the police for being alive or something. He happened to know me and asked the police to wire to me, and all was well, but only because I knew him.Is it likely natives are going to leave the reserves if that is what happens to them?Another: three lyonis came in to visit my men in Nairobi the other day and asked me for a pass to go and feed and sleep in the town. I said that the other men had got one, and they could go under that. These three and two of my men went down to sleep in the town and as they could not all go together these three small boys went and slept at a different hut. All five were arrested. I was dining at the hotel and went to the police station. They released my men but refused to release the other three, although I told them I was responsible for them. I went into Court next morning and after a so-called trial in which 1306 no one, either prisoners, magistrate or interpreter, had the slightest idea what was going on, they were fined 2 rupees each for being outside the Masai reserve without a pass. I paid the fine, but if I hadn't they would have gone into the chain-gang. I turned round to the interpreter, a Masai with a blanket, and asked him for his pass. Of course as he was a Government askari he was outside the law and hadn't got one. I therefore called on the magistrate to have him arrested. He refused to do so. Of course they were quite wrong in law but they simply refused to carry it out.It was within his personal knowledge that that was a practical instance of what happened in East Africa. If the hon. Gentleman could not see his way to abolish the pass system, he would urge him to see whether it could not be made lighter and less stringent for the sake both of natives and employers of labour. The petty restrictions imposed on both white men and natives were rather paternal in their nature. The Government was started there when there were only a few wild tribes in the country. Since then the natives had got more educated and there had been a large influx of white population. Therefore, regulations which were suited for former times were not suitable for the present. He would conclude by reading another passage from the same letter, because it summed; up the situation very well—In fact the official caste in this country which is all powerful here is putting the native under the same disabilities in the petty things of every-day life that he is under in South Africa and which were, according to the Natal Commission, the cause of the unrest in Natal. The Commission says it is not the taxes which cause the unrest but the fact that they are not thoroughly understood and their manner of collection. Take ourselves: we don't the least mind paying taxes but we object strongly to all the petty little childish regulations and rules we live under in this country. And the natives are just the same, at least they tell us so. They say we recognise that you people who have conquered our country have behaved well to us in not taking all our cattle and belongings and in not making us all slaves, because you are able to do so, and we are willing that reasonable limits should be put on the land we hold, and if you pay taxes—well, we must pay them too, and the young men can go out to look for work to pay them, as there is nothing for them to do now that raiding is done away with, and a great many of them take to drinking. That is all right; but in the name of goodness why do your policemen and askaris never leave us alone, and why do we have to walk several miles to get a pass to go half a mile, and why can't we go about as we like without being bothered? I will give you one or two instances 1307 illustrating this. I was talking the other day in the bar of the club to a police officer at the time this labour bother was on, and he said of course Kikuyu won't come in to work; they are afraid of you settlers on the roads. I said I believed on the contrary that one great reason was their fear of the police. I said let us have first-hand evidence, ask the Kikuuy serving behind the bar. The police officer asked him in Swahili why Kikuyu did not like coming in to work in Nairobi now, and the answer was: 'Because the police always arrest everyone for nothing.' I think that is worth a thousand assertions by people who never speak to a native.He was not at this point blaming officials there. On the whole they were doing excellent work under difficult circumstances. It was not easy to give an unbiased statement of what went on, but the administration of the law should be made as easy as possible to enable the natives to move about. He believed that a proposal had been made that the native reserves should be very greatly diminished. It was said that they should not keep natives in the reserves; that if they were allowed to remain in reserves they would not come out and work. He strongly protested against that argument. The natives of British East Africa were there long before we went there, and if the land belonged to anybody it was to the natives of that country. We had taken the country for good or evil, and we had done a good deal for the natives in the way of giving them security, law and order, and the opportunity to earn wages if they wished. We had given them many of the advantages of civilisation and also some of its disadvantages. But, as we had taken nine-tenths of their land from them, it was only fair that they in the House of Commons who had any say in the matter should preserve to these the land which yet remained to them. They knew what had happened when Crown Colony government ceased and self-government was given in certain Colonies. They knew that the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand guaranteed the lands forever to the Maoris and their children, yet the Maoris did not now own a quarter of the land which they used to do. The Waitangi Treaty had been absolutely torn up. He asked the hon. Gentleman to look very closely into any proposals that were made for a change in the land laws in British East Africa.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said that the hon. Member for Blackpool had referred to New Zealand, a country he knew well. The hon. Gentleman would be gratified to know that the Maoris in New Zealand were exceedingly well-off at the present time; that they were increasing in numbers and that in fact they were the landed aristocracy of the Dominion.
§ MR. ASHLEY
said that legislation had been passed which deprived them of a great deal of their land.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that that was so at one time, but it was only possible now for the Crown to acquire land from the Maoris. Perhaps what had done more than anything else to satisfy native feeling in New Zealand had been the calling of the representatives of the Maoris themselves into the Colonial Parliament so that they might tell the Government what they wanted and how they felt, in a way which it would have been otherwise impossible for them to do. They all sympathised very much with the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Blackpool. There was very little to find fault with in it, except a hint at first of some wrongdoing on the part of the Governor. He believed that the Governor of British East Africa possessed all the requisites of an excellent administrator. He had a complete knowledge of the natives, had great energy, and had long experience in Uganda before going to East Africa. The gentleman had travelled all over the country, and with few exceptions his conduct had, he believed, commanded the general approval of the settlers in East Africa. He thought that some of the settlers in East Africa did not quite realise how much they owed to the Governor. There were, of course, settlers and settlers. There were poor men who wanted to make a living peacefully, and establish a home for themselves where they could bring up their children. There were other settlers who merely went to that country to exploit it; men, representing large syndicates in this country and elsewhere, whose sole desire was to make what money they could out of the country and out of the natives. No doubt the Governor was made aware 1309 of very great abuses which had taken place, connected with the employment of the natives. Hon. Members, however, had not yet had all the Papers with regard to that subject. When the President of the Board of Trade was in that country he saw quite sufficient to warrant him in seriously considering the desirability of introducing certain regulations for the protection of the natives. Let the Committee realise what those regulations are. They did not amount to much. The hon. Member forgot the great fact that laws were made not for good men, but for bad men. He knew that a good man might object to laws which seemed to press rather hardly upon an individual here and there, but it should be remembered that laws were made for the general good. It was for that purpose that the labour regulations had been put in force by the Governor, and he was glad to hear that there was no intention of departing from them. They were as reasonable as they possibly could be made. The first was that the employer must see that his labourers were properly housed. The second had to do with the provision of blankets to the labourers. It was almost a paramount necessity that natives should be provided with blankets if they had to go from extreme heat to extreme cold within twenty-four hours. Other regulations applied to food rations or an allowance in lieu thereof, to an adequate supply of good water, and to security for the payment of wages. He did not think that there was one of the regulations to which the hon. Member would take objection if put in force in this country. At the celebrated meeting at Nairobi the spokesmen of the discontented settlers put their case and stated exactly what they wanted. He said—I hold there is to-day a scarcity in the labour market, a ridiculous position when we consider the idle millions in this country all capable of being taught their responsibilities to the common State.What were we that we should attempt to dictate to the natives of East Africa that they must labour, how they were to labour, for whom they should labour, and at what rate they should labour? East Africa fell into our hands, so to speak, 1310 after it had been almost depopulated by many wars. For the suppression of slavery there we incurred an expenditure of six or seven millions, and he did not think that even if that great financier, the late Sir William Harcourt, were here now, he would grudge one penny expended in such noble work. We did not expect to make money out of that expenditure.
§ MR. ASHLEY
asked if we had not some responsibility for regulating the work of those natives and encouraging those who were not now inclined to work to engage in work?
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he hoped that British East Africa was, and would always remain, a free country. We had no right to regulate labour there any more that the hon. Member had the right to regulate labour on his own estate.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that if there had been trade unions among the natives the settlers would not have got as much labour as they did now. These natives could make a living on their own land. The taxation of the natives in Uganda amounted to only 2s. or 3s. a year, and that was not a heavy burden for all the advantages they enjoyed. But to say that the Colonial Governor was to regulate their labour and their rates of pay, and that they should be punished—possibly whipped—if they left their employ, was what he believed this Government and this House would never tolerate for a moment in any Colonial Possession. He hoped there would be many British settlers in British East Africa but not men who went there merely to make money.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that there were many people who went to East Africa, as they did in the early days to Australia and New Zealand, simply to make a home.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that homes were not made by money alone; and there were many homes in these Colonies at the present time made for the sake of homes, not money. As to the question of native lands in East Africa, he was sure they all felt glad to hear of the pledges given by the late Colonial Secretary and his predecessor in office, that the natives were to have ample lands for themselves and their children in the future. We had learned bitter lessons in other Colonies in regard to robbing the natives of their lands, and he hoped that we were not going to take away land from the people of East Africa so long as they could possibly obtain an existence from it. He congratulated his hon. friend on having the same good opinion of the country as he had from having visited it. He agreed with one remark of the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, as to the necessity for more communications in East Africa if progress was to be made in that country. The communications hitherto hade been exceedingly unsatisfactory. He did not say they were to abandon free trade principles, but everybody knew very well that in all the mail contracts we had regard to the class of vessels that were to be employed for the conveyance of mails. He submitted that if the Government decided to send mails to America or Australia without giving a subsidy it would result in a very serious disturbance of business, and it was obvious that the Government must do something for East Africa in the way of subsidising a mail service. He did not agree that the development of East Africa was being arrested, and even if it were there was no principle which should be so close to the heart of the Administration as the principle of hastening slowly. If things were hurried they would only result in landing the country and the Administration in a hopeless position. He believed the Administrator of East Africa was a most capable manager of affairs, and he trusted the Government would condemn the action of those well-placed individuals who had set such a bad example to their fellows and to the natives. The natives possessed a strong sense of government and paid more 1312 duty and allegiance to their chief than any other people. He congratulated his hon. friend, and he agreed with much of what he said, on the sympathetic way in which he spoke.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said that with regard to the question which had been raised by his right hon. friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, which might be called co-operation in relation to the Colonial services, he would like to see the Government take advantage of the experience and service of officials of the Colonial Office over the seas by using them in the Colonial Office at home, and thereby providing a kind of co-ordination of the over-sea service in relation to the Colonial Office in this country. He regarded this as a very important matter, and the time had come when such a system was necessary in the case of the self-governing Colonies for the settlement of questions between those Colonies and ourselves. In the case of the Crown Colonies they were not in such close touch, and this country could not regard lightly the wonderful and important services rendered by Colonial officials in subordinate Crown Colonies. Our Colonial stake in the Colonies of West and East Africa in point of population was enormous and we had always been rather anxious as to the value of our great dependencies in Africa to the Empire. Most of those who had read the yearly Reports from West and East Africa must be satisfied that we had in Northern Nigeria particularly a country where Europeans could live, on the plateau, without that climatic change which was necessary for them when living in other parts, such as Southern Nigeria. The Committee could not estimate too highly the importance of these West and East African Colonies. When Canada ceased to take in the surplus population of these Islands—the arrest had already come in the United States with the agricultural development—we should need new places for our overflow, and Rhodesia, British East Africa, and Northern Nigeria, would, he believed, be settled by vast numbers of people. The lure of those lands would be as great then as was the lure of Canada now. The pessimism with regard to our Colonies was not, in his opinion, well-founded. His 1313 right hon. friend had spoken of the question of subsidising steamship companies. His right hon. friend was rather pessimistic in his view of British trade, which no doubt was not so good as it ought to be in view of the enormous opportunities we had had. In Uganda no doubt Germany had made enormous strides as against this country. Both Germany and the United States had done well for themselves in getting a share of the trade of Uganda and East Africa, and we were approaching the point at which we should lose; but in the main it was satisfactory to find that the grants-in-aid to these Colonies were steadily decreasing whilst the revenue was increasing by leaps and bounds. The record of imports and exports was entirely satisfactory in view of and in relation to the reduction of the grants-in-aid. The serious thing was that the British India Steam Navigation Company only visited these ports once a month. The Messageries Maritimes visited them once a month, but the Germans sent a ship every three weeks, and there was communication with Bombay every fortnight. That was a very serious thing. He remembered visiting Samoa in 1888 at which time we had scarcely any commercial connection with that island. We left it to Australia to control. We lost our connection with it because of the German subsidy to the North German Lloyd Steamship Company which sent little steamers from Sydney to carry all the trade that could be got. That policy eventually secured for Germany the complete control of Samoa, and the country that secured the commercial control of another country was eventually bound to secure the political control. Our position in the South Seas had been injured because we had not taken advantage as we ought to have done of the position we once held. We once had absolute commercial control of the Sandwich Islands. The United States eventually obtained it by means of subsidies, and had since made regulations which prevented a British ship carrying a single ounce of goods from those islands to the United States. Their policy had been to give an advantage to their own ships to devop trade. We did not confine our subsidies for mails to steamship companies. We extended them to rail- 1314 ways which carried mails. The Government, who had already infringed the principle of free trade, might very well do in British East Africa what they had already done in regard to cotton-growing in another place. It was an extremely elementary form of protection to subsidise cotton-growing, which cheapened cotton from Manchester. But he was not really trying to make a tariff reform discussion out of this subject. He was only pointing out what we had to face. The best of rules were infringed in the practical life of a nation. It must be so. We had deliberately infringed in the Merchant Shipping Acts and in the Patents Acts—["No"]—the old-fashioned theory of free trade. He did not want to be controversial, however; he was only making his plea for the consideration by the Government of increased subsidies and encouragements of British steamships to assist in developing the fast-growing trade of British East Africa, and what would be the still fast-growing trade of Northern Nigeria. Sir Percy Girouard believed, and anyone reading the Reports would agree with him, that in Nigeria we had a great commercial asset. The whole question of subsidies must be dealt with by this Government or a succeeding Government, in due course. He hoped his hon. friend would make more clear the difficulties, and the solving of those difficulties, if they had been solved, which had existed between the Government and members of the Council who had been removed. It was very difficult across the floor of the House to get at these matters, because the Government sometimes did not want to give an answer, or sometimes it was not expedient to give it. Sometimes the questions were not altogether wise, and sometimes those who put them were conscious that they were making difficulties for the Minister. But in a debate like the present they had the right to ask, and the public had a right to know, exactly what the situation was. He should like to know whether there was any indication that these gentlemen who had been removed were likely to be restored to their position. If they had been in the wrong, or if they had made a mistake—he did not know that they had; he believed that they had, but he had not all the facts before him—was 1315 there any possibility of their being restored to the Council? When in a strife between the Government and individuals the individuals had been worsted, it was a good thing on the part of the Government not to bear anything like a permanent reproach, and he should like to hear from his hon. friend that a settlement of the question had been arrived at, and, perhaps, at the same time he would make clear the exact condition as regarded the labour regulations. It would satisfy a good many of those who were greatly interested in the question. He did not wish to harry the Government in regard to a difficult problem. Might he raise another question which had been discussed in that House, sometimes with great acrimony, though he did not at all wish to discuss it with acrimony: he referred to the question of the New Hebrides and native labour. He believed the hon. Gentleman had been ore of the most strenuous in urging the Government to see that there were proper regulations concerning the recruiting of natives. They were really in the dark at the present time as to the exact position of affairs. He had asked Questions from time to time concerning the New Hebrides and had not had very satisfactory answers. For instance, he had asked whether France had proclaimed the Convention.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Colonel SEELY,) Liverpool, Abercromby
was understood to say that they had made a proclamation.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he had asked the other day whether Deputy Commissioners had been appointed who would have control of the regulations dealing with native labour inside the islands jointly, and he had received no reply to that. These were very important questions. If the Deputy-Commissioners had not been appointed, if they had not been installed in their office, they had no direct control over the conditions of importation and the general regulations agreed upon by France and this country. Australia was making complaint. At the present time, arms, ammunition, and liquor were being imported into the islands. 1316 That was a very serious thing. He noticed in reading the Reports the other day that in 1905 £3,000 worth of ammunition was imported from France, and from this country or Australia £1,000 worth. There was no regulation so important as that relating to arms, ammunition, and liquor. The less arms and ammunition were put into the hands of the natives the better. Australia was right in protesting against this importation, and asked that a check should be put upon it. The House had never thoroughly understood the facts with regard to recruitment in the outside islands. It was quite true that the late Under-Secretary had made several statements which, if he interpreted them aright, meant that so far as those islands were concerned the two countries were jointly responsible for the recruiting that went on inside the islands, but when it came to a question of recruiting outside the islands, then each country became individually responsible. That was an extraordinary state of things. He knew the neighbouring islands and what was going on and what had gone on there, and as he had pointed out in the debates which first occurred on this subject, France ought to agree as to the regulations concerning natives who were recruited in the islands for work in New Caledonia. He held that view very strongly indeed. The Foreign Minister and the Under-Secretary for the Colonies held the view that legally and constitutionally France alone could be responsible for labour regulations inside her own territory. That was perfectly true, once the labour got there. But there was no reason whatever why we should not be responsible for the well-being of the natives. The Governments of France and England were the only Governments in the New Hebrides. He did not distrust France, but that was not the point; it was our duty as joint protector of the natives of these islands to know what the regulations were that were going to be enforced in regard to those who left the islands which were under our protection. He thought there could be no question of that; and if the Government were consenting that France should make for the natives recruited in the New Hebrides her own regulations in which we had no voice, to which we 1317 had not given our consent, and concerning which there was no agreement, then the Government was wanting in its duty, and was not playing fair to the natives for whom it was directly responsible. That was the point which he made most vehemently, and he maintained that it was the only position which the House could possiby take up. We were in those islands a sort of police, and we should either see that order was maintained as far as possible, provide that opportunities for settlement should be made easy, and see that the natives were well cared for and properly treated, or withdraw. France would have a perfect right to criticise any regulations that we made with regard to Fiji, and to say that she did not approve of the regulations we were making for the settlement of natives there. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would give the Committee a satisfactory statement, for he believed that the principle involved was of vital importance, namely, that we should be responsible for everything that happened to these natives. He believed the Committee understood how important these islands were to the future of the Empire, as well as to the future of Australia. New Caledonia and the New Hebrides lay in the line of the trade routes to our own territories. They had Germany on the north and there was uncertainty as to what would eventually become of Java; they had the Philippines on the North-West owned by the United States; and quite apart from any question of who owned the territory it was a most important thing as to who should, as it were, control the lands that lay along our trade routes. We had deliberately given up the New Hebrides as we had deliberately given up Samoa to the Germans. It was offered to us and we refused to take it. We had always hesitated to add to our dominions. He had never advocated the acquisition of territory in order to enlarge our Empire, but he doubted if any man who knew the commerce of this country would not agree with him that it was important that in the South Pacific our influence should not be allowed to decline on a single one of these islands, because they represented to us the only security for our future. He did not 1318 suggest that the United States or Germany should not have coaling stations, but it had always been important that we should defend and protect our immense interests in Australasia and Oceania by seeing to it that along our trade routes we had practical control of the territory. When he first went to the New Hebrides we had practical control. France united with us and our settlers were the only settlers there. Since then the French settlers had come to outnumber ours, and they had a dominating influence there to-day which we ought to have in view of the contiguity of those islands to us. He was making this plea on grounds of high policy, that we should not give away an item or an atom of our grave responsibilities in these islands regarding natives or anything else, because if we did we should give away our influence, which was the most important asset we had. We were obliged to see to it that the several millions of people who lived in Australasia, and who were building up a nationality and a great civilisation there, were not dissatisfied with the arrangements which we made. The Australians had always been right in the policy of the South Pacific. They were right regarding New Guinea, Fiji, and Samoa, not because they were wiser, but because of their contiguity and their experience, and because they understood the situation. We should do everything to develop British interests in the New Hebrides, because it made not for the aggrandisement of the Empire or of Australia, but for the development of our trade, and the security of our trade routes; and, more important than anything else, since we had taken the responsibility regarding the natives there, it made for a strong position for ourselves for the future in the face of the vastly developing influence of France in those islands, to stand for the rights of the natives, and for their welfare. If we strongly defended and established a position now it would be much easier for us than when in days to come our position, commercially and politically, was weakened there. With the entente cordiale so strongly developed in the mind of both nations now, any effort to clear the situation and establish our relations regarding the natives upon a surer basis 1319 would receive the warm support of the authorities in Franco.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said he had made a gallant attempt to get hold of the actual Vote before he rose, in order that he might once more discover what was in order on this occasion and what was not. It would be difficult for the Under-Secretary in his reply to cover the ground covered by the hon. Member for Gravesend without going outside the bounds of the Vote. For instance, there was a flavour of the well-known naval heresy of believing that trade routes were controlled by naval stations, whereas the fact was that they could only be controlled by a superiority of naval force over the force which was likely to attack them. The opinion that we ever should have been in a position to control the whole of the trade routes across the Pacific by holding every station which might be of some conceivable value, at our own expense, without a contribution towards holding them, was moonshine, if he might say so. With regard to the New Hebrides, undoubtedly Australian interest had always been clearly defined from the time when the great protest was made by Mr. Deakin against Lord Salisbury's cession of the New Hebrides to France in 1887, which Lord Salisbury had to get out of at a high price. There was a most mysterious incident about the New Hebrides Convention. Party had always prevented its being brought up in the House, but who was responsible for the Convention was a matter they had never been able to elucidate. Mr. Deakin stated at the Colonial Conference that he received in December the Convention almost exactly as it was afterwards signed from France, and he himself had seen it published in an obscure Colonial paper, before the change of Government occurred,—almost exactly as it was afterwards signed—as having been already agreed to in principle. He was perfectly certain that the heads of the Colonial Office, under the late and under the incoming Government, knew nothing about it, but there must have been some officials who had discussed the matter, and it had been treated as settled. He did not very 1320 much wonder if they did because it was a working arrangement on a basis which had long ago been agreed on. That we should be able to control the islands was out of the question, and it was only a question of arranging the details of joint control between ourselves and France. He came now to the portion of the speech of his hon. friend which opened the considerations which he wanted to raise. The series of articles which he had evidently read in the Sydney Morning Herald were full of statements which would not bear investigation. He doubted whether successive Governments had wilfully refused territories, such as those they were specially debating, without very strong reasons. In every case it was a matter of picking and choosing, and the balance ought to be against rather than in favour of extension. But where we were forced into these new dominions at great and continuing cost, even in this case of British East Africa, we were deliberately entering on a course laden with mischief, and, even if in the interests of the Empire it must be undertaken, full of dangers of the most horrible description, and they ought to do so in every case with their eyes wide open. British East Africa was no exceptional case. It was a typical Colony. In the essentials of the difficulties it presented it was like Ceylon. There was, in Ceylon, a great deal of low tropical land, and a great deal of high land where Europeans could live. There was a great and flourishing white population, but the labour was all black. In countries like these we had always been in the past led on step by step. After expending a great deal of money and incurring great responsibilities we were asked to give self-government. Then hut taxes and poll taxes were imposed and customs duties were raised on food, the natives paying almost the whole of the taxation which was spent ultimately on bringing in some better form of labour to compete with the natives who were said to be idle. Then, finally, after refusing it for years and years upon perfectly sound grounds, what was called full self-government was granted. Lord Kimberley, after refusing self-government to Natal in the most definite way ended by being wearied and worried into 1321 granting it. Then, as in Ceylon, as in Demerara, as in Jamaica, came something which was dignified into the name of a rebellion or a rising, and then they had martial law—the will of a frightened Government, or a frightened subordinate. It was a sort of a Devil's chain in which we involved ourselves whenever we went to a country of this kind. It might have to be faced, but it must be faced with full consideration of what we were coming to and where we were going, always at great cost. In the case of the West Indies he had often declared that the sham self-government by local Council was not democratic in any sense, and that in those cases where full self-government was obviously impossible, there was much to be said for enlightened despotism. As in such cases the elective Council was a planter oligarchy, the rule of a first-class Governor, tactful as well as strong, was best for the white minority and for the black majority alike. As had been said by a great supporter of autocracy in Russia, "Autocracy needs an autocrat," and the difficulty was to find him among Colonial Governors. The best men were ambitious, and consequently they would not stay long. Obviously in this case, although those who visited the country and received kindness from the Governor spoke as well as they could of him, there seemed to have been incidents which threw doubt upon the tact and strength of the Governor. However that might be, his policy had been supported by this House and they should not overlook the difficulty of having to rely upon native police and upon interpreters who were worse than the police, if that were possible. The difficulties in his way had been tremendous, and they were all desirous of supporting anything like a sound policy. In the West Indies and in such a Colony as British East Africa those who were extreme Radicals must not be under the illusion of believing that a Council, even with some show of being an elective Council, was a Liberal institution, or that it was necessarily on the side of the natives who formed a great majority of the people of the country. That was not the case, because it was a veiled oligarchy of the worst description, only rendered tolerable by the fact that the majority of the planters being of good 1322 stuff did the best they could under very difficult circumstances. The system itself Was as bad as possible, and it was distinctly on the capitalist side. They raised their taxation from the labourer, and they brought in outside labour to compete with native labour. He wished to support the words which fell from the hon. Member who opened this debate as to the desirability of maintaining the inviolable character of the native reserves. The land which was left ought to be made secure to them beyond all possible doubt. They ought to support the suggestions which had been made by the hon. Member as to mitigating the sharpness of the pass law, which although it might be thought necessary by the people on the spot, was always viewed with suspicion by hon. Members of this House and was revolting to the ordinary European mind. The choice of Governors was affected by the considerations which the late Secretary of State to the Colonies had put before the House. If they could get a higher type of general supervision, such as had been exercised by Sir Harry Johnstone both in East and in West Africa, or by Sir Frederick Lugard, there would be something to be said for the trial of such a scheme. In the case of the West Indies they had made experiments of that kind and no doubt there was some hope in that direction for the future. The Lugard experiment was tried, because he was at home for a long time and exercised a general direction over the Dominions he ruled. He had also ruled in similar fashion previously on the other side of Africa, in Uganda. At any rate they might support the suggestions which had been made as a tentative experiment. He wished, however, to protest against the constant pressure put upon Governments to grant sham representative institutions in these cases. That was a bad step in itself, and it generally led to a worse step, viz., the pressure of the locality to obtain full self-governing institutions, unsuitable to countries always destined to rely on black labour.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
desired to say a few words in support of the arguments which had been 1323 put forward in favour of ail improved direct communication with East Africa. This view had been supported by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland and the hon. Member for Gravesend, and it had many supporters in various quarters of the House. He wished to remind the Committee that it was one of a number of recommendations proposed by the Steamship Subsidies Committee over which he had the honour to preside in 1902, and although many of those recommendations had already been carried out by the late Government and the present Government, this was one of the important ones which still remained outstanding, and which he hoped very soon would also be carried out. The general principle upon which mail subsidies were granted were that they should be for value received taking into consideration the speed and excellence of the vessels and the regularity of the service, and trade interests as a general rule were not considered except so for as the mails followed the lines of get commercial traffic. Of course, there were special cases, but the particular recommendation of the Committee to which he desired to call attention was as follows—That rare cases occur where in view of special Imperial considerations subsidies are necessary for establishing fast direct British communication, and that at the present moment such a subsidy should be favourably considered for a line to East Africa, where there is no direct British steamship service and where British trade is handicapped by foreign subsidised steamship lines.It was important to bear in mind that that was the unanimous decision of a Committee which consisted of Unionists and Liberals, tariff reformers and free traders, and the special circumstances of the case were borne out by some of the liberal-minded witnesses who gave evidence. This was not the first case of the kind. The House would recollect that a Jamaica subsidy was in existence, and was proposed and carried through upon the recommendation contained in the Report of the West Indies Royal Commission, of which the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was chairman. In the year 1901 a subsidy of £40,000 a year was established for ten years for Jamaica, of which sum this 1324 country paid £20,000 and the Colony the other £20,000 in order to improve Imperial communications as well as to pioneer and encourage trade. Consequently this particular recommendation was not quite the first of its kind. A subsidy was needed to establish trade in a new and promising market, and this was not an exceptional case. East Africa was a new and promising market which ought to have direct communication with these Islands. Such a subsidy might be withdrawn afterwards when the object had been attained, or it might be reduced as the traffic to or from this locality acquired a firm hold. It w s important to bear in mind that in all those special cases the experience of merchants constantly showed that the trade remained with those who originated it, and as in this case Germany had suceeded for various reasons in pushing her goods into our Colonies the native merchants in East Africa were more disposed to continue ordering their goods from Germany, and it was very difficult for English goods unless they were put on equal conditions to be able to enter this Colony in the same way and at a similar profit. Every new business required an initial outlay and Imperial enterprises were no exception to this rule. This was a special case for Imperial enterprise. They had shown by past Votes of this House that East Africa and its improvement and development was an Imperial enterprise, and it seemed penny wise and pound foolish if they were not going to spend sufficient money to carry that experiment through at the outset. Why had they spent all this money on the Uganda Railway if the best communication with it and the main profit from it were going to remain entirely in foreign hands? A direct British line of steamers would be valuable to Port Soudan, and to the Shire River and British Central Africa. That trade they knew had been going into foreign hands simply because some hon. Members believed in stereotyped dogmas which made them think they ought not to support any special lines of communication. The Committee to which he had alluded reported on impartial and not otherwise than free trade lines, and it was entirely a special case, and ought to be pleaded and granted 1325 on those lines. They might very well have laid the foundation for this particular line of steamers at the time they took out the material for the Uganda railway. That was an opportunity which was lost in the year 1894 or 1895, and if they had set their minds upon it and put their best efforts into it at that time to establish a line of that kind it was quite possible they would have had all the trade which now went through the German East Africa Line. What was the history of German competition? Nearly all the goods that went from Europe direct from East Africa had to be transhipped at Aden. At Aden there were constant delays and losses in consequence of the weather, breakage, or native thefts. It was true that the British India Line ran steamers direct between 1889 to 1892 from this country to East Africa, but he believed that the balance sheet of the company showed that there was a loss of something like £44,000 a year. It was a curious circumstance that the German East Africa Line, started in 1890, was originally supported with a subsidy of exactly £45,000 a year, or just about the same as the British India Company was losing. Though now the German East Africa Line had a subsidy of £67,500 for a more extended service, he believed that we could possibly run a service for our own trade purposes, and for strengthening our communications with the Colonies, for a sum considerably less than that. The way in which the Germans had pushed their trade was very remarkable. It was difficult to get all the German figures, and he had not succeeded in doing so. He found that the German East African trade rose from £300,900 in 1891 to £955,600 in 1898. He had not been able to get more recent figures. That was a gigantic increase, and one which might well be envied. He had looked to the British exports to Zanzibar and Pemba to see if they had increased to anything like the same extent. The British exports to Zanzibar and Pemba in 1892 amounted in value to £105,670, in 1898 they were only £114,217, and in 1906, as appeared from the latest Consular Report available, they were only £131,945. These figures were 1326 very telling and showed that we were not doing enough in this country. It was necessary to get more communication between these islands and the mainland. No doubt special rates on a scientific basis were granted in Germany to East Africa, but that did not completely account for all the results. When they remembered the great possibilities of development in East Africa which would be valuable to this country, he thought they should not neglect their opportunities. It was quite well known that Uganda was a great cotton growing country. A beginning had been made already in the growing of cotton. There was every opportunity for a vast development of that industry, and that would be of great use to Manchester. Why not have a direct line of communication by British ships? He did not see why cotton grown in Uganda should have to be shipped by German or other foreign lines. He wished to make one or two practical suggestions as to inter-colonial communication. There was a large amount of copper ore coming from the Hinterland which could be used at Beira as return cargo on ships taking out British goods to that part of the world. Another kind of return cargo which was probably possible was Natal coal. At present complaints came from Uganda that there was a great deal of deforestation in order to provide timber to burn in the railway locomotives. Deforestation in Uganda was likely to continue apace unless some coal fuel could be procured. It seemed to him that it might be perfectly possible to send out ships direct from this country to East Africa with British goods, to let them load Natal coal for the Uganda railway, and bring back copper ore from Beira, and so counter-balance trade in such a way as to make it profitable, after a subsidy had promoted its commencement. He commended that suggestion to the Under-Secretary for consideration. It was remarkable that successive Governments had not taken action in this matter, or, at all events, that this House had not pressed it more strongly than it had done when it was recollected that Consular Report after Consular Report from East Africa had been 1327 urging the improvement of the means of communication. The latest report from Zanzibar contained the following:—One of the great grievances the British and Indian merchants have is that there is no direct British line running to and from the United Kingdom and Europe. They complain that at times they have great difficulty in getting their goods away by the foreign steamship companies. The British steamers have lately cut into the trade of the steamship companies of other nations, both from Europe and to India, and more could be done were a direct outward and homeward service maintained along the east coast of the mainland. It is now rumoured that an American line contemplates running direct steamers from America to Delagoa Bay, with a coasting service reaching as far as Mombasa.Those who had been in the country knew how much American machinery was taking the place of British machinery. [An HON. MEMBER: Is it a subsidised line?] He had no information about the rumour beyond what was stated by the British Consul. The Report also said—It would be a pity for lack of a little enterprise on the part of British steamship companies to see trade which has been developed, and is daily developing as the interior of the mainland is opened out by British enterprise, captured by others.This complaint was constantly being made in the Consular Reports. There was nothing new in what he had read o the House. If our Consular officers were trusted, it was time that their recommendations should receive serious consideration. He did not wish that there should be an excessive subsidy. He merely wished such a subsidy as would pioneer and encourage trade, and provide direct mail communication with East Africa. He would do his utmost in season and out of season to bring that about. To show that this was not a tariff reform proposal—hon. Gentlemen opposite might think there was something insidious of that kind behind it—he would quote evidence which was given before the Steamship Subsidies Commission in 1902 by Sir Spencer Walpole, who was a member of the Cobden Club and for many years Secretary to the Post Office. In answer to the hon. Member for Pontefract he said—If you thought it right to have a direct mail line to Zanzibar for Imperial purposes it would come within my principle, and you ought to establish it. I confess I thought till I came into this room that there was direct communication there.1328 It was a very sound principle, and he should like to commend it to the Colonial Office for their very best consideration and to urge that this line should be established as soon as possible.
§ COLONEL SEELY
said that the debate had ranged over a wide field. The late Colonial Secretary had referred to his scheme for bringing the Colonial Office into closer touch with the Governors of the Crown Colonies. He was acquainted with the scheme as the right hon. Gentleman had left it, and he thought that everyone must sympathise with the object that the right hon. Gentleman had in view. There could be no doubt that misunderstandings arose owing to the lack of this close touch, and during the short time that he had been in office he had often felt this want acutely. It was often said: "How easy it would be to get over any kind of difficulty if the men were on the spot instead of having to communicate with them by telegraph." Lord Elgin, having considered the matter fully, had decided against the scheme as it stood for two reasons. First, because it was necessary for the Colonial Office to criticise the action of the Governors from time to time. But if they were to have a Governor walking into the Colonial Office the morning after some action of his had been disapproved co-operation would be more difficult, and the position would not tend to promote more cordial relations. He would not say that this was an insuperable objection, but it had to be borne in mind, and it had certainly weighed with Lord Elgin and the Colonial Office. There was another difficulty which, he thought, the right hon. Gentleman did not fully appreciate when he made the proposal. The proposal was that the Governors should come over and spend part of their time here, and that they should come to the Colonial Office as in some official capacity. It was also suggested that they should come over during the unhealthy season of their own Colonies, and that, in this way, they would be enabled to keep them there for seven or eight years and so get that continuity of policy in which would be found the most efficient administration. Yes, but what about the Deputy-Governor? Was he to be condemned for seven or eight years to be always there during the 1329 unhealthy season? That was a really practical objection to the proposal, and hitherto no way had been found out of the difficulty. Everyone who had read, as he had read, the Memorandum left by the right hon. Gentleman, realised to the full that his main contentions were absolutely true and just, and they hoped to succeed in carrying out some portion of his scheme, though he should imagine, from what he had been told, in another manner. The hon. Member for Aston, who had been Chairman of a Committee on the subject, had asked him a question in regard to a subsidy to run a line of steamers to British East Africa. It was quite true that we had spent large, almost vast, sums on making railways to Uganda and elsewhere. It was also true that at least one of them was paying its way.
§ COLONEL SEELY
The Uganda Railway might be said, in one aspect of the case, to be paying its way. It paid a great deal more than anybody ever anticipated. But the question was asked, why did we allow Germany to have the trade from this country or elsewhere to the port of embarcation? There was always the question of pounds, shillings and pence. This was not a matter of sentiment, but of cash, and if he found that British goods were not conveyed in British ships, but that, as in this particular case, the German taxpayer was paying directly to enable British goods to be carried to a British port at a cheaper rate than we could do it ourselves, it seemed to him that, except for the loss that fell on the German taxpayer, there was something to be said for the arrangement.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL
said that the subsidy introduced far more German than British, goods. German goods thus obtained a footing from which British goods could not oust them.
§ COLONEL SEELY
said the hon. Gentleman was in error. A great quantity, in fact the largest part, of the goods carried on these German ships were British goods. That was part of the hon. Gentleman's own contention. [Mr. EVELYN CECIL dissented.] And why 1330 were they carried on German ships? Because the German taxpayer paid a large subsidy to run these ships. That did not fill him with horror, and, while there was a good deal to be said for preventing the complete disappearance of the British flag from any part of the sea, he confessed there was nothing here to fill them with alarm. The hon. Member said he was not in favour of an extravagant subsidy, but would it not be an extravagant subsidy? The right hon. Gentleman, he thought, suggested £50,000 or £60,000. The information in their possession was that they could not get a service for that amount, and that it was doubtful whether they could get it for a subsidy of £80,000. The Colonial Office had recently made inquiry on this subject, and they could get no lower offer at present than the sum he had named. Was it worth while? For the moment they said "No," and, while he fully sympathised with the view that they did not wish to see the British flag disappear, so long as we had more than half the tonnage of the world and so long as the British flag predominated enormously in every part of the world, they could not spend an unusually large sum on a shipping subsidy in a case where British goods were being carried, by a more or less satisfactory service, at the cost of the German taxpayer. A question had been raised with regard to the Governor and the members of the Legislative Council who had been suspended—Lord Delamere and Mr. Bailey—and he had been asked directly by the hon. Member for Blackpool what action the Government had taken or would take. His Majesty's Government proposed to support the Governor of East Africa to the full. They thought the action he took was perfectly right and perfectly correct. They were determined that nothing like forced labour should exist, with their consent, in any part of the British Empire. They did not think that either of the members of the Legislative Council who were suspended would themselves wish to employ a system of forced labour; but there was no doubt that some of the proposals which they urged before the Governor would, in fact, have had that result, and therefore the Government were of opinion that the Governor 1331 acted rightly, and they proposed to support him to the full. Papers would shortly be laid on the Table of the House in which the replies of the members of the Legislative Council were given in their own words, and the House would then see that it would not be proper for His Majesty's Government to ask the Governor to reinstate these members until a more complete understanding had been reached between the Governor and the members whom he felt it his duty to relieve of their functions. At the same time, everyone must wish that they would see that the action they took was quite unjustifiable in the view of any Member of that House, and it was to be hoped that they would soon be able again to put their talents and services at the disposal of the Governor. The question of the reduction in the Vote had been raised by the hon. Member for Aston. There were three reasons for the reduction in the Vote from £191,000 to £138,000. The first was that there was an increased amount from the hut tax; the next was the largely increased takings on the Uganda Railway; and the third was the increase in the Customs duties. These three together made so large an increase in the total amount received from Uganda that they were fortunately enabled to ask for the reduced sum of £138,000. The Committee were glad to hear that, but he was told that they must not expect a continuance of the diminution to this striking degree, as the increase in the takings on the Uganda Railway could not be expected to show so continuous an amount as had been the case in the past year.
§ COLONEL SEELY
said he was much obliged to the hon. Member for reminding him of that point. In regard to the pass law, he did not know exactly what steps the Government proposed to take, but he did know what they thought about it, and that there was much in the contention that the pass law worked badly, and that it tended to make blackmail easier. He did not say they could abolish the law at once, but there was every reason why it should be amended. The 1332 hon. Member for Blackpool had asked whether a poll tax might not be substituted for the hut tax. He should have thought that a better plan, but he was told that the advantage of a hut tax over a poll tax was that it was easier to count huts than heads. However that might be, he thought it was a very excellent suggestion, and he would certainly bring it to the attention of the Governor. Breach of contract was a more difficult question. The Government could not sanction any proposal which would be in any way likely to lead to oppression, but the matter should be considered. The hon. Gentleman was as good a friend to the natives as anyone in the House, and he must realise that any step which it could be shown would not lead to oppression of any kind would receive the fullest consideration, always bearing in mind that they must make it quite plain that we were in East Africa and elsewhere not only for the good of the white settlers but for the good of the natives. Might he say how heartily they re-echoed the aspiration of the hon. Member for Blackpool that no further alienation of native reserves might take place, and they knew from the Governor that no such step would be taken, realising, as they did, that it was their country, that we had already taken too much of it, that alienation caused unrest, and that there was plenty of room for all in that country. The hon. Member for Gravesend and other hon. Members had addressed definite questions to him with regard to the New Hebrides Convention. The hon. Member had pressed him to say that the Convention was not complete in every detail, and if it was not complete why was it not complete? He could not help wondering why it was that a short time ago hon. Gentlemen opposite were abusing the Government somewhat hardly for making the Convention at all, and that now the Government was to be blamed for not going on more quickly. They were anxious to bring the Convention into operation, and the delay had been caused by the fact that it was a most extraordinary state of affairs that existed there. The New Hebrides contained a population which, as far as he could ascertain, was the only population in the world which had not a Sovereign. It did not belong to this country or to France; it did not belong 1333 to anybody. At every step the Government had been hampered by the fact that there was no precedent, and that was the excuse for delay. However, progress was being made. Both High Commissioners had been appointed, and that was a most important matter. The British High Commissioner was Sir Everard im Thurn, and the French High Commissioner was now M. Richard. The Deputy-Commissioners, he was glad to say, had been appointed, so that everything was in order for proceeding to carry out the Convention in full. The task was difficult. There were no buildings which could be used for the post-office or the police. It was a very primitive country. He had reason to believe, however, that order was being evolved out of chaos in the New Hebrides, and that something would be done to make the place rather happier for the unfortunate natives, who had been much harried in the past.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
Will the hon. Gentleman answer my question whether there is joint responsibility or separate responsibility for recruiting labour outside the New Hebrides?
§ COLONEL SEELY
replied that, under the Convention, this country had no control over the recruitment by France of natives for service in New Caledonia. We must rely on the well-known justice and humanity of the French in the matter. He believed we could do so. His hon. friend said that Great Britain had great responsibility for dominion or con-dominium in this matter; that we had a special responsibility to see that the natives were well treated; and that in the past we had led the way, and were not going to fall back. That was quite true; but we could not assert or attain the power. As he had said, the New Hebrides belonged to nobody. We had made a Convention with France by which some sort of order would be restored. We did not covet the New Hebrides, and we had been obliged to accept that kind of joint occupation—for it was not ownership—with France. If the question were raised, he was sure that France would resent the imputation that we should be likely to make better provision for the safety and well-being of the natives than she would do. 1334 Indeed, there was no doubt that France had been very near us in showing humanity to native races. He had looked at the papers which arrived that morning to see if we had any control under the Convention, and they showed that the Convention was intended primarily to regulate the recruiting of natives within the New Hebrides. Recruiting for New Caledonia was entirely outside the control of His Majesty's Government. He regretted it, but did not see how it could be altered without giving offence to a great and friendly nation, especially at a time when the head of that State was the honoured guest of this country. His right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean had opened up a wider field when he said that in British East Africa they were seeking to reproduce the evils which necessarily followed the extension of Empire where a small minority of white men found themselves in the midst of a native population. The right hon. Baronet said they were led step by step, first, by trade interests, to take the country; then, by great and growing expenditure in that country, to give some kind of representative government to the small white population; and, finally, by the troubles which always arose under that half-and-half arrangement, to give what was called full self-government, which, after all, was only an oligarchy given to a few white men over the whole race of blacks. A great part of that statement was true. That difficulty must arise in any case where a small white population found itself in a small minority, especially if that small minority were composed of people of our own race. They were determined to govern themselves. A paternal form of government could not be maintained; they would not have it. The difficulty was caused partly by the merits of our own people. That inevitable fate must be accepted, and all that could be done was to hand over more of the work to the people on the spot. Although government by a small oligarchy had never been a good form of government and never would be, there was this to console them—that matters seemed to be going on better now, except in one part of the British Empire. Very strong reports had been sent from British East Africa 1335 by persons well qualified to judge of native affairs, pointing out that the natives had no reason to work unless they wished to do so, and that the land belonged to the natives as much as, or even more than, to the white population. These facts were pointed out with growing force by the white settlers in British East Africa, and he assured his right hon. friend that the Government did not lose sight of the fact that this House was primarily responsible for the unrepresented native races. The Government must work, as far as possible, in cooperation with our fellow-countrymen across the sea, and they had every confidence that those fellow-countrymen were growing in sympathy with the views entertained at home. The Government were determined to maintain the British Empire intact and its honour intact, and to see that it was a place in which white and black received unswerving justice.
§ EARL WINTERTON (Sussex, Horsham)
thought it was rather unfortunate that they had not had the assistance of the President of the Board of Trade in this debate, because the right hon. Gentleman had paid what might be regarded as an official visit to British East Africa, had been in communication with the Governor and had had a unique opportunity of studying that country and its development. He would remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman had seen fit to publish in a certain magazine an illustrated account of his trip, although they had had no official account of his visit, and now when they had this debate the right hon. Gentleman was not present and they had not the assistance of his knowledge. The Under-Secretary had dealt with the matter as fully as he could, and no one would complain of the spirit in which he had spoken. He was not able, however, to answer some very important questions which could have been answered by the President of the Board of Trade. There was one very important point in respect to which he could not give a full answer, and that was with regard to the pass law. The hon. Gentleman did not know what step the Governor proposed in that matter; in fact, he seemed 1336 scarcely to realise the immense responsibility this country had for British East Africa. Here was a country which it was generally admitted had a great commercial and agricultural future before it, and this question of the pass law was of the greatest importance.
§ COLONEL SEELY
said the noble Lord quite misapprehended what he had said. If he waited until to-morrow, or went to the Vote Office now, he would see a full account of what had happened and what was proposed to be done in the way of emendation. He did not know exactly what was being done, but he was fully aware of the general position.
§ EARL WINTERTON
said he did not know himself what steps the Government proposed to take in the matter. The President of the Board of Trade had been in British East Africa, and presumably had discussed this most important matter with the Governor, unless he was too busy taking photographs; yet the Government were unable to tell them what decision had been come to, or what they proposed to do. Another matter which he desired to bring forward had reference to the unpleasant incident connected with Lord Delamere. It was obviously necessary on both sides of the House to avoid making this an acute personal matter, and he was most anxious to avoid doing so. But he respectfully urged that they were entitled to have a little more light thrown on this case. One could understand that at the time the incident took place there was a very great deal of acute feeling in British East Africa on certain subjects, but they could hardly believe that Lord Delamere and the other gentleman concerned would have acted as they did without strong reasons. That Lord Delamere should have taken the line he did everyone regretted, and everyone must support the Under-Secretary in sustaining the action of the Governor; but surely there was something behind the scenes which they had not yet had brought forward. It was incredible that a man like Lord Delamere and those joined with him would have acted in the way they did, or that the Governor would have taken up the attitude which 1337 he did, unless there was a greater question between them than appeared from the reports they had received. At any rate he thought they were entitled to emphasise the need there was for avoiding such incidents in the future. So far as he had heard in this debate, no one had attempted to hint that the same incidents were not likely to occur in the future. The whole situation was fraught with danger; and until these questions were settled one way or the other there was very great risk of further incidents of this undesirable nature. There was the question of white police which last year very nearly caused a similar outbreak A great many of the colonists of British East Africa were in favour of a white police force, because they did not think that the white men and women were safe in the midst of the enormous black population. So far as he knew all that had been done had been the appointment of some twenty or thirty men, a number absolutely useless. If the President of the Board of Trade had been present they could have discussed all these questions at much greater length. His hon. friend had visited British East Africa, but they had not had the same advantage of studying this question. It must be the wish of all parties that causes of friction between the Governor and the white settlers should be removed, and he was afraid they would not be removed as soon as the Undersecretary seemed to think unless the Colonial Office gave the very closest attention as to how the grievances which undoubtedly existed could be dealt with. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland seemed to resent the suggestion that the Governor of this Colony ought in any way to regulate labour. Surely that was one of the primary duties of the Governor of a Colony such as British East Africa. Surely it was his duty to see that labour was not forced or exploited, to see that the ignorant natives were not taken advantage of, and to exercise almost the duty of the Board of Trade or of a trade union in this country. It was one of the primary duties of a Governor to look after the natives.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
Is the noble Lord aware that the suggestion made at this meeting was that the Govern- 1338 ment should actually call upon the natives to work, and teach them the responsibility of work?
§ EARL WINTERTON
said he was not present, but he understood that the hon. Member laid down the general proposition that it was undesirable in British East Africa that the Government should regulate labour. But it was their duty not only in the interests of labour, but in the interests of employers, in a great undeveloped country like British East Africa, with a vast number of natives, to deal in some way with the native problem. The fact of our not having regulated native labour in South Africa in the past was one of the causes of the terrible troubles that had taken place, and were likely to take place, all over the country. The fact that the Boers exploited native labour in the most scandalous way was one of the primary causes of the trouble there. We ought surely to avoid the same state of affairs taking place in this instance by drawing up a set of regulations which would be harsh neither to the natives nor to the settlers. So far as could be judged from this debate, and from what they had read in the Press, the present regulations for labour in that country tended to annoy and harass both the employers of labour and the natives. The Undersecretary shook his head, but he had given no answer to the fact brought forward by his hon. friend the Member for Blackpool with regard to the way in which the hut tax and pass law operated. It was obvious that the whole question of the regulations required to be very carefully looked into. There seemed to be very considerable danger that the whole future of British East Africa, which from a commercial and agricultural point of view should be great, was being jeopardised by the unfortunate system of bureaucracy, and because the Colonial Office in the last few years, and, he was sorry to say, this House, had very largely neglected and ignored the very grave problems which had to be discussed. During this debate, until the last hour, not a single representative of the Labour Party had been present; yet there was not a subject connected with the Empire which should 1339 be of more interest to that Party than this question of British East Africa, where there was an acute labour problem, which tended to become acuter every year, and which must be settled if the future if that country was to be saved.
§ MR. MOLTENO (Dumfriesshire)
was understood to say that this was not a question of tariff reform; it was a question of trade not being sufficiently free. What was the reason why shipping did not go to British East Africa? It was because the place must be served through the Suez Canal. But shipping did not go that way because of the enormous charges upon it. The Suez Canal earned enormous dividends, but like the old robbers on the Rhine, they descended upon all trade which passed them and levied enormous tolls. It would be better if they got the Suez Canal charges reduced. The matter had been brought before the recent Colonial Conference, and he understood that Australia and New Zealand had taken steps with regard to those charges. An effort should be made by His Majesty's Government to get them reduced, so that British shipping might be able to get through the Canal on even terms with the shipping of other countries. He had risen, however, to draw attention to the enormous increase in this Vote. Ten years ago it was £109,000, and last year with the Supplementary Estimate it had risen to £1,410,000. The question of reducing this Vote should be carefully considered. Ten years ago the item as regarded the High Commissioners stood at £1,000; but he saw that this year it was £11,500 for salaries alone. And there were various other items of expenditure which might also be reduced. He suggested that South Africa should meet this expenditure herself, for with these payments we were really becoming tributaries to the Colonies. What was a High Commissioner? It was difficult to say. He was not a Governor-General. He had no locus standi in the Colonies. He would urge strongly the Government to save our money, to meet the wishes of the people in South Africa, and also to safeguard the interests of the natives by making the change he had suggested.
§ SIR F. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
said he wished to call the attention of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies to the dearth of native labour and the conditions imposed on settlers in East Africa. As the hon. Gentleman was no doubt aware, settlers had to undertake to spend a certain sum of money when they received a grant of land. With the dearth of labour they were not able to fulfil the conditions imposed upon them. Several people, he was informed, wanted to go forward with their schemes. The money was already provided, but they were not able to sign the leases because they knew they would not get the necessary labour in East Africa. He was also informed that at a recent conference, over which the Governor presided, it was stated that between 3,000 and 4,000 labourers were wanted there now. He asked the Under-Secretary to take this great scarcity of labour into consideration, and also the conditions on which the leases were granted. Possibly the Government might be able to help the question forward.
§ MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
desired to emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for Gravesend with regard to the New Hebrides. He had listened with great interest to the Under-Secretary detailing what had been done in that rather chaotic part of the world. The hon. Gentleman had informed them that the only part of the Convention which had been put into force was that relating to arms and ammunition, and alcoholic liquors. He would like to inform him, with regard to one of those points, that information which had reached him was not in accordance with his statement. There was a telegram from Sydney on the 18th of this month saying—The latest news from the New Hebrides emphasises the immediate importance of the appointment of British officials to enforce the Convention, because French traders, alleging that gin is the only prohibited liquor, have unloaded on two of the islands in question large cargoes of wine, beer, and whisky.He had asked the Under-Secretary a question, and he had Said that he would cause immediate inquiries to be made. He had no doubt those inquiries would be made, but he thought it was only due 1341 to him that he should place before him this information which had reached him in order that he might bring pressure to bear on these traders and see that the regulations were actually enforced. With regard to the closer touch into which the hon. Gentleman wished to bring the Colonies with the Office of which he was Under-Secretary, he conceived that that was one of the most important functions which the Colonial Office had in hand. The House would look forward with interest to a statement of what was being done to carry out one of the recommendations of the Colonial Conference of last year in regard to the Secretariat.
§ MR. REES
felt sure that in commercial circles pleasure would be manifested at the proposal of his right hon. friend opposite, and that it would be gratifying to people concerned in enterprises in the Colonies and Protectorates if there was some system under which the Governors and administrators of those Colonies could be got at and consulted about the various works in which they were so much interested. Nor could he quite understand his hon. and gallant friend's answer upon this point. He said there would be difficulty, and it would be awkward if a Governor walked into the Colonial Office when the Colonial Office was about to reprimand him. But the Colonial Secretary was always a statesman of resource, and he could always post the reprimand so as to catch the Governor when he returned to his Colony. That was a simple way out of that difficulty. If that was too simple, might he suggest that although it was usual in Colonies to have another officer designated the Deputy-Governor, who took over charge when the Governor went away, there was no particular virtue in the title, and it was quite a simple matter to let the next senior officer administer during the absence of the Governor? Therefore he hoped the hon. Gentleman would again consider that scheme which he regretted Lord Elgin was not able to accept. He was making his recommendation entirely from the commercial and not from the official point of view, because he belived it was a good thing that there should be this frequent intercommunication between the officers administering and the Colonial Office. It 1342 was with great respect to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean and with submission to the House, that he took considerable exception to what the right hon. Baronet had sketched out as the ordinary course of events in a British Colony, and more especially to the view he took of the planting interest. He had said that these European planters became a white oligarchy, and the Undersecretary had said that oligarchy was always a bad form of government. That was rather a comprehensive conclusion, and it might be capable of argument that this country had been fairly well-governed by a great oligarchy. It went on anyhow, and he was inclined to think it was a good Government. The Colony which the right hon. Baronet singled out as his example, Ceylon, owed its prosperity to its planters. It was they who had provided occupation for the natives of Southern India, and it was they who in India had clothed the barren hills of Assam and other districts with tea. So much had they raised the wages and so well did they treat the coolies that these men settled in crowds when their indentures were finished. Ceylon, India, and Trinidad owed their prosperity chiefly to the planters. The man who took his capital into one of these territories and invested it in planting had interests which were very closely bound up with the true interests of the people. It was not a sham representation, for these men were generally sincere friends of the natives, amongst whom they brought a great deal of money, whose wages they invariably raised, and whose true friends he declared from lifelong experience they were. Take the case of Nyassaland, in which he was interested. He trusted he would not put himself out of court by saying he represented a large commercial interest there. Since the railway was made there the wages of labour had been exactly doubled. Those who made the railway had to pay two or three times what they expected, and the higher wage immediately became the usual wage throughout the Protectorate. If the natives could express their opinion they would say: "Give us the men who doubled our wages." He had no doubt the two non-official members of the Council of East Africa, whose proceedings 1343 he was far from defending, were representatives of this character, and even in regard to them, they might wait to pronounce judgment until they saw the Blue-book which the hon. and gallant Gentleman said they would receive tomorrow.
§ COLONEL SEELY
said he found that an unexpected delay had arisen. A further communication had had to be made, but he expected they would be able to publish the book in less than three weeks.
§ MR. REES
said he was quite satisfied with that since the Colonial Office was supporting the Governor, and added that there were various matters connected with Nyassaland to which he desired to refer. For the information of the hon. Member for South Down he might explain that the Zambezi ran south of that Colony and was not "somewhere in Siam." The hon. Member for South Down illustrated in his own person by his speech the other evening the deplorable condition of elementary education in Ireland. He did not seem to know in what quarter of the globe were situated the places he mentioned, or how important it was to persons trading in Africa that the Colonial Office should cure sleeping sickness, and keep an eye on the tetse fly. There was a matter in which he was greatly interested which had been referred to since the Under-Secretary to the Colonies had spoken, viz., the question of steamer communication on the East coast of Africa. That question had been argued as one of free trade or protection, but the question was whether a subsidy would be a good thing or not for the East coast of Africa, and he cared nothing at all whether it would be classified by fiscal purists as falling under the one heading or the other. The question was whether it was a good thing for East Africa or not.
§ MR. REES
said that that was just the point, she did not come in. There was no English line at all serving these ports. It seemed to him a most 1344 unfortunate thing that those who wished to ship rails or other materials to South Africa could not do it in British ships. It had been said, and it was prima facie a strong argument that the British shipper got the advantage of the cheap German rate, which was lessened in proportion to the subsidy paid by the German Government. That argument, however, only carried the matter to a certain point, because when once these low rates had driven all other lines away from these ports, it was in the power of the German monopolists to raise their rates. Therefore, the argument was only good up to a certain point, and that point had now been passed, because that line of ships was now in practically complete control of the coast. He urged upon the Under-Secretary for the Colonies the serious consideration of what his hon. friend opposite had said, because many British subjects were interested in business on the East coast of Africa. Personally he would be very glad indeed to see a little subsidy given, and he could assure the Committee that business men would not inquire whether it infringed the scientific principles of any particular fiscal system. The Colonial Office had appointed a small Committee to consider certain questions affecting Crown Agents. He would like to speak on behalf of those persons, who had business with the Colonial Office, who had to make contracts with the Crown Agents, on behalf of that office. The question in which they were interested was, the status of the Crown Agents, as an outside Colonial Office, standing between contractors and the Secretary of State. He confessed the terms of reference to that Committee as he read them did not seem to him to cover the case so thoroughly as he would like to have seen, but he was assured by the Under-Secretary that this question was covered by the reference. As regarded the Council which had been mentioned he sincerely hoped the advice which had been tendered on this point by several hon. Members would not be entertained. The abolition of the Council in East Africa would be viewed with considerable disfavour and would cause alarm along the coast of Africa where a similar Council had been appointed for Nyassaland, which contained two members of the Legislative Council who 1345 represented the natives as well as the Europeans in that part of the world. The hon. Member for Blackpool had referred to the necessity in a primitive community of some law for regulating labour and protecting the labourer against a breach of contract. It had been pointed out that in Africa an employer might get labourers under contract to come at very great expense from long distances. The employer had to trust very much to their good faith and very often they left him in the lurch and he had no remedy. In such cases the defendant had no means and could not to any advantage be sued, and it was a matter worth the consideration of the Colonial Office whether or not some form of law, such as that which existed by way of criminal breach of contract in the planting districts of Ceylon and India, could not be introduced on the east coast of Africa and in the African Protectorates. He was glad to hear in the interesting speech of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies the statement that in his opinion the English law was not suitable for those regions. He hoped, however, some simple and suitable form of law to meet such breaches of contract as he had referred to would be introduced, for he felt sure this would be much to the advantage of those doing business in protectorates upon the East Coast of Africa.
§ MR. REES
said he had not suggested anything of the sort, but that where a man contracted with an employer at considerable expense to that employer who gave him an advance, and did so simply to run away, surely there ought to be some way of dealing with him otherwise than by civil suit for breach of contract.
§ MR. BENNETT (Oxfordshire, Woodstock)
said that he would make no attempt to follow the train of thought contained in the utterances of that amazing, and, indeed, unique exponent of Liberal ideals, the hon. Member who had just sat down. But he would remark that the system of oligarchy which had been so warmly eulogised by the hon. 1346 Member in question was held by most serious students of political history to be one of the worst forms of human government ever devised by the evil ingenuity of mankind. His only object in rising that evening was to call attention to certain grants of public money made to our Crown Colonies. Let them take for example the grant of £1,350 made to the island of St. Helena in order to assist the people of that Colony in meeting certain trade losses incurred from the removal of its small garrison. Here they had an island garrisoned by a company of Regular infantry and a handful of sappers and gunners. For cogent and sensible reasons of Imperial policy these troops were in 1906 removed from St. Helena. Immediately upon the withdrawal of these troops an outcry was made that the British Exchequer must make good to the islanders the amount of trade which they had lost from the removal of the soldiers. He had lived for a few years of his earlier life in St. Helena, and he hoped that anything he might say would not be regarded as ungracious towards the inhabitants of his former home. He had merely cited the case of the St. Helena grant because it was typical. It embodied a vicious principle far too prevalent in the case of our financial relations with our Colonies. For the life of him he could not see what greater moral claim the island of St. Helena had upon the British taxpayer than, say, any town or rural district in the Mother Country. Suppose, for example, that the War Office resolved, for good and sufficient reasons, to remove a cavalry regiment from Colchester, Canterbury, or Edinburgh, would any hon. Member of that House get up and claim a subsidy from the Imperial Exchequer because, say, the tradesmen in any of these towns who had supplied the troops with bread or beer lost a great deal of their trade in consequence of the disappearance of the regiment in question? The monstrous character of such a demand was apparent and obvious in the case of any portion of Great Britain; but if the applicants were Colonials no difficulties were made, and the British taxpayer was bled without further scruple or delay for the benefit of Colonials who were almost invariably far better off, man for man, than ourselves. 1347 We had not neglected St. Helena in the past; we had sent her a variety of crowned heads from Napoleon to Dinizulu, and the despatch to the island of a large number of Boer prisoners during the South African War had brought the islanders a great increase of trade. But their theory seemed to be that we were to keep useless troops in a useless island in order to provide trade for the civilian population, and if we declined to do this, the British Exchequer was to make good any trade losses. He was afraid that the former prosperity of St. Helena, the golden age of the little island, was gone, never to return. The cutting of the Suez Canal had dealt its prosperity a blow from which it could not, of course, ever hope to fully recover, and these subsidies were, besides being unjust to our people at home, mere palliatives to the distress of the islanders. He hoped that the condition of St. Helena's people might materially improve without artificial aids like these doles from the central Exchequer. The island had no public debt, enjoyed a beautiful and equable climate, and could produce good crops, and it was worth noticing that its once considerable export of potatoes to the Cape was ruined by the high tariff imposed by that neighbouring Colony; so much for Colonial amenities in trade relationships! He found the same bad principle which he had instanced in the case of St. Helena prevalent all along the line in these Colonial subsidy Estimates. There, for example, was a line of steamers trading, between Canada and the West Indies, and coming nowhere near the Mother Country at all. Nevertheless the Imperial contribution to this line amounted to no less than £13,500! Lower down he noticed that the British taxpayer actually provided the salary of a lecturer in agriculture in the Barbados! Suppose a grant were wanted from the Exchequer to provide a few lecturers in our English counties who might go round the villages and teach our people the advantages of co-operation, and the best methods of cultivating small holdings, what sort of answer would be given? Not a favourable one, he feared. Money was wanted in England for all manner of good and useful purposes—money to establish credit banks, money to make the Housing Act a real 1348 success, and so on in many directions. For such urgent needs as these at home no money might be forthcoming, but if a lecturer was needed to teach the people of Barbados the best way to cultivate their own farms for their own benefit, the British taxpayer paid the lecturer's salary without hesitation. He wondered how much longer the nation was going to tolerate these selfish and unreasonable demands from the Colonies? The only possible justification for Imperial subsidies might arise from the claim that they were made on a strictly business footing. The grant of money, for example, to a railway in Nigeria might be supported on the ground that it would develop large cotton districts and so ultimately prove of some real benefit to England in general and Lancashire in particular. But this claim could not conceivably be made good in the case of many of these Imperial grants-in-aid and subsidies. He hoped, in conclusion, that the present Government would not be content always to follow the same path in these Colonial matters, but would from time to time initiate, so to speak, an Imperial stock-taking, and weed out from our Imperial responsibilities these financial abuses, and so accord a tardy act of justice to the British taxpayers, the vast majority of whom are poor men and women.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
said that Liberal Members had constantly made merry over the folly of France and Germany in paying sugar bounties in order that we might get cheap sugar and cheap jam. It seemed slightly inconsistent to suggest that they should now pay bounties in order that Lord Delamere, Mr. Bailey, and others interested in East Africa, should get their goods cheaper. That was merely by way of comment on the arguments he had heard in favour of a subsidy to British East Africa. So far as he was concerned, whether it was a decaying trade or a decaying port, whether in this country or in the Colonies, or in any other part of the world, he had an equal objection to the payment of bounties, subsidies, rebates on Suez Canal rates, or any other form of preference whatever. He was quite certain that that was the only possible attitude for a free trader to take up. 1349 The right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, had urged that grants-in-aid to the various Colonies should be continued and not be stopped just when they were beginning to be paying concerns. He was very anxious that these grants-in-aid should not be stopped when it was bad for business in the Colony and this country also, and in order to put them on a better footing he was extremely anxious they should be made not as grants but as loans. The revenue of British East Africa and Uganda and Nigeria was rising every year. It had risen in Uganda from £108,000 in 1903–4 to £395,000 in 1906–7. In fact, the time was coming when Uganda would begin to pay its way, and no more grants-in-aid would be required. What he asked was that as soon as a Colony began to pay its way we should at least have some interest on the grants which had been made in the way of grants-in-aid. If money was advanced on loan instead of by grants-in-aid we should in time get money back from some of the Colonies at all events. He did not think that either the Colonial Office or the Treasury should miss an opportunity of recovering some of the vast sums which had been swallowed up in Uganda and British East Africa. It was obvious that all these Colonies would pay their way soon, and they would become profitable to the British taxpayer and trader sooner if we did not give away the valuable assets which the Colonies possessed. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Blackpool that in British East Africa we had a great asset, but, unfortunately, it was a constantly diminishing asset. Every year we sold off permanently to private persons more and more of the public lands in that Colony and in all our other Crown Colonies. He would give one example from British East Africa. The sales of public lands there amounted in 1903 to 3,000 acres, in 1904 to 21,000 acres, in 1905 to 31,000 acres, in 1906 to 41,000 acres. In 1906 247,000 acres were leased for an average period of ninety-four years, which was practically as good as a sale, and only 4,500 acres were leased for what he called the reasonable period of forty years. Altogether, we had alienated almost permanently 1350 over 1,000,000 acres of land, in the value of which, with the increase in population in British East Africa and. the expenditure of public money, there would be a constant increase. We, who were making the value, would not reap a penny of benefit. Surely it was good business not to part with assets which must increase in value. There were plenty of Crown Colonies which were not alienating their land permanently. The Federated Malay States only let land on thirty-year leases. There was another objection he had to this common habit of selling land. These sales were either made in private or by public auction. It was obvious that a private sale lent itself to all manner of jobbery and back-stairs dealing, and the State did not get the best bargain out of private sales. Private sales were recognised as the worst possible way of selling national land. Sale by public auction was better, but even that was not the best form of disposing of land, because it was easy to form rings. There were not many people in those Colonies who had capital to make large purchases of land. Even sale by auction produced very unfortunate results for the country that was selling its land. Lord Milner invented what was, perhaps, the best way, if they must alienate land permanently. No public land in the Transvaal was ever to be bought or sold without being put up to auction, the upset price being first of all fixed by Government valuers. In that way the benefit of competition was obtained, and the risk was avoided of rings being formed to give too small a price for the land. That was not done in British East Africa and one or two other Colonies, and he begged the Under-Secretary to see that in future these sales were conducted by public auction, and that the upset price was. arrived at by careful valuation made by Government valuers. He wished to say a word about one drawback to the system of treating land in the Federated Malay States. A good deal of land there had been permanently alienated before Sir Frank Swettenham took the country in hand. In one of the states the Government were going to the expense of a re-survey of the country which had been so alienated in perpetuity, and in that 1351 way they were making the land far more valuable for its owners. He maintained that such a survey had always been carried out at the expense of the owners. That was done in the Argentine, in the Transvaal, and in Swaziland.
This Vote is for certain Consular services. I do not find any reference to the valuation of land in the Malay States.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD
said it would surely be in order to discuss Northern Nigeria on this Vote. Perhaps the best possible method of dealing with land in Crown Colonies was that at present adopted in Northern Nigeria, and which we owed to Sir Francis Lugard and Sir Percy Girouard. Originally, the Emirs held all the land as far as Kano, and all the peasants or ryots held their land from the Emirs, and paid rates for it. Now in Northern Nigeria we had taken the position of the Emirs who held off the Crown, the same as the barons held their land in England off William the Conqueror. The Emirs, however, had been changed into tax or rent collectors. They handed over sometimes a half and sometimes three-quarters of the rents to the State, retaining the balance for the purpose of carrying on local government. It was exactly the same system as prevailed in Bengal. Practically the whole rent of the country was paid either as local taxation or as general taxation. It was called a land tax, but as a matter of fact it was rates. He was extremely anxious that this system should be extended from Northern Nigeria to Southern Nigeria and the Northern Territory of the Gold Coast.
The hon. Member is again out of order. Southern Nigeria and Lagos are not on this Vote.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD
said he hoped the Under-Secretary would consider the possibility of extending to the countries he had mentioned the powers of the 1352 reference of the Committee which was inquiring into the question of the tenure of land in the Colonial possessions.
§ MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
said that the impression seemed to be left on the Committee that the Labour Members objected to coolie labour from the point of view of morals. What they objected to was subsidies being granted to planters in connection with the supply of coolie labour. They saw no reason why planters had any right to be treated differently from other employers of labour in the Colonies.
§ MR. SUMMERBELL
said that subsidies or grants had been mentioned as having been given to planters in connection with the introduction of coolie labour. The Labour Party objected to grants or subsidies being given out of the taxes of this country or out of the taxes of the Colonies for such a purpose. The coolie labour so introduced had reduced the rate of wages paid in one of the Colonies from 60 to 32 cents a day. There was plenty of labour already to be had in the Colonies if only the planters would pay a proper wage.
§ COLONEL SEELY
said that perhaps the Committee would like him to say a few words in reply to the criticisms that had been made. His hon. friend the Member for Montgomery Burghs had urged again the question of subsidies to steamers to East Africa. He could assure the hon. Member that the matter was receiving consideration. But with regard to the alleged amount of trade lost to this country, in point of fact there had been an increase in the amount of British goods sent to East Africa to a very great and striking extent, while of German goods there had been a positive decrease. The imports from the United Kingdom had increased by £62,000, and the imports from British possessions had increased by £48,000, whereas the imports from Germany had decreased by £5,000.
To East Africa proper. The total trade was even more 1353 striking. The increase for the United Kingdom was £427,000, and for Germany £48,000. At the same time he quite agreed that we should keep a close watch on these matters. An hon. Member had asked a question in regard to breach of contracts. That would be carefully considered. He did not think it would be wise that breach of contract should be made a criminal offence. In regard to Crown Agents, that did not arise on this Vote, but he would give all information on the matter as to the arrangement come to with these gentlemen when the proper Vote was reached. The hon. Member for the Woodstock division had referred to the grant to St. Helena. That grant was fully justified because the military who formerly formed so large a proportion of that population—one to three—had been withdrawn from the island, and it was obvious that great hardship—amounting to almost a cataclysm or an earthquake—had been caused. A very large proportion of the small population had been deprived of their means of subsistence by the removal of the garrison, and, as he had said, the grant was fully justified. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme had raised the very interesting question of the alienation of land in Crown Colonies. The Colonial Office were fully alive to it, and the Committee which was about to sit on the subject would carefully consider all the points raised by the hon. Member. It was not proposed to allow the native land reserves in East Africa to be permanently enroached upon. A question had been asked as to a High Commissioner for Johannesburg. That matter was very important no doubt, but he could not take any steps in regard to it at present. The hon. Member for Berwickshire had raised the question of the imports of gin into the New Hebrides by French traders and said that the import of all kinds of liquor should be prohibited in an equal degree. The High Commissioner of the Pacific would make a report on the subject. The Colonial Office had taken note of the point raised by the hon. Gentleman opposite in regard to labour in the West Indies, but he did not think that the particular suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman could be entertained. It was a fact that coolie labour was imported into the West Indian 1354 Islands very considerably, but it was not quite true to say that the coolies displaced native labour. He had had a conversation with the Governor of Jamaica who had very strong views or the subject of the natives, and he assured him that the work done by imported labour was work that would not be done by indigenous labour. Of course the actual condition of the labourers must in every case be made all that was desirable, nor was it desired that the coolies should lower the native wages. He was assured that they did not; but he undertook that representations should be made on the subject to the proper authorities. He hoped the Committee would now allow the Vote to pass.
§ MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
called attention to what, in his opinion, appeared to be a strange vagary in our system of finance. He noticed in the Votes that it was expected that we should receive £20,000 from the Gold Coast Colony in respect to their debt to us. In 1905–6 and again in 1906–7 the Committee was informed that the Gold Coast was going to pay us no less a sum than £100,000. That no doubt greatly influenced the Committee in voting the grant-in-aid. Yet in neither of these years had we received any of this very large sum.
pointed out that this question did not appear to arise in Committee of Supply and was therefore out of order.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
submitted that appropriations-in-aid were in many cases charges on the taxpayer. He had known occasions when debates in Supply lasting two hours had taken place in connection with the appropriation-in-aid from seats in Hyde Park.
§ MR. BOWLES
said he bowed to ruling of the Chairman and would not proceed further with the subject. Another vagary in our financial system was the manner in which these grants-in-aid were 1355 dealt with. It seemed that they had to be subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but if they were not spent during the year in which they were granted no surrender was to be made of them to the Exchequer. He could not understand on what principle that arrangement was made. The only object of an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General was to ensure that such part of the money granted for a particular purpose as was not spent should be returned to the Exchequer in the ordinary way. The truth was that these grants-in-aid were free gifts. We gave away so much and there was an end of it. We never saw one halfpenny of it again. He, therefore, could not see that there was any utility in the account of it being audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and unless some advantage could be shown he would suggest that the practice should be discontinued.
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
pointed out that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had not replied to the Question of the hon. Member for Dumtriesshire with regard to the mail services and the payment of dues on the Sues Canal. The subsidies given to steamers by other Powers were protection pure and. simple, and it was an extraordinary doctrine to be advanced by hon. Members opposite. Many of the ratepayers of this country who were interested in the Suez Canal had no wish to make presents to the shipowners, who were quite able to take care of themselves, especially if they were free trade shipowners. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had dealt with the question of the New Hebrides in a most unfortunate way. He said that something had to be done to make the conditions of the natives happier; but children were to be employed, not according to their age, but to their height. Then there was the repatriation clause, when it was to operate in another place, to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman so much objected.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said there were also the extraordinary hours from sunrise to sunset, no interval for Sunday, and 1356 no proper precaution taken with regard to the food the natives should have. Did the hon. and gallant Gentleman propose to see those conditions altered, especially with regard to child labour? The hon. and gallant Gentleman had also stated that the Government could not be responsible for the employment of natives outside the New Hebrides; that, therefore, the Convention would not apply to natives employed by France in New Caledonia. He said it would be discourteous to throw upon France the imputation of treating the natives badly. But the question did not arise here. The question that did arise was this. The Government were responsible for the treatment of the natives in this quarter of the world. The place apparently belonged to nobody, but the Government had thought it right, in conjunction with another Power, to interfere on behalf of the natives and, therefore, had made themselves responsible for the well-being of the natives in the country. If that were so, then we ought to be responsible for their well being both inside and outside the country, especially when it was a question of forced labour, for it should be remembered that very often only the chief was asked and he had power to order his people to go, whether they liked it or not. Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not suggest that France, a nation of great humanity, should be left free to act as she pleased inside the New Hebrides. Our responsibility could not be shirked in that way. France could not object to our entering into a Convention to regulate the conditions of native labour inside the New Hebrides and therefore she could not object to its being extended to the employment of natives outside that country. It made very little difference to the native whether he was transported to another part of the New Hebrides or to some other country, and he was surprised that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had made such a reputation for himself as a humanitarian in the matter of the Chinese coolies should have dismissed this case so airily.
And, it being a quarter past Eight of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing 1357 Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.