§ Mr. CROSS
asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will state for how long a period this phosphate agreement at 6d. per ton payment made with the Pacific Islands Company continued; what is the date of its expiry; whether he will say how much money in sterling the Imperial Exchequer has received during each of the years since the contract began, and what have been the declared profits of the concessionaires; 789 whether any inquiry whatever was made before concluding this contract; and whether the Colonial Office was led to believe that the quality of the phosphate was inferior and low class, whereas, in point of fact, it contains over 80 per cent, phosphate of lime, and is one of the finest and most valuable sources of supply in the world?
§ Colonel SEELY
The existing licence is for 98 years from the 1st January, 1902, and expires at the end of 1999. In respect of the first four years rent was received to the amount of £200 in all; for the year 1906, when the royalty in lieu of rent began, the sum received was £3,532 2s. 6d., for 1908 £4,599 5s. 6d., for 1908 £5,351 11s. The Pacific Phosphate Company has paid dividends on a capital of £250,000 as follows: 1903, 25 per cent.; 1904 and 1905, 15 per cent.; 1906, 30 per cent.; 1907, 50 per cent.; 1908, 25 per cent. When the royalty was fixed, the Secretary of State was informed by the Company that they were led to believe that the value of the phosphate at the Island might be estimated at about 10s. per ton; and it was on this basis that the royalty was fixed. Private inquiry was made as to the value of the phosphates then on the market, but the Secretary of State had no means of checking the correctness of the estimate suggested for the Ocean Island phosphates.
§ Colonel SEELY
Some time ago. It did not come under my cognisance or that of the Secretary for State at the best time. An attempt was made to ascertain the value, but it was impossible to ascertain it exactly. Ocean Island is a very remote spot.