§ Motion made and Question proposed: "That this House do now adjourn until Thursday, 3rd June."
§ Sir CHARLES W. DILKE
The Questions on which I wish to address the House as to certain matters of administration are of such importance and so pressing that I make no apology for rising. They concern the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. The Colonial Office Question was raised to-day in an answer circulated this morning to an unstarred question of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, formerly Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Lyttelton), in which he inquires as to the speeches made by Lord Selborne, a speech on general Native policy, which we understand to express the views of the Government, and views which, I think, are shared in all quarters of the House. There was also a speech to which reference was made just now in an answer as to the future of the Protectorates 1379 and in reference to Swaziland. There has been complete unanimity in the House with regard to the matters those speeches covered and the policy which they described. Another question put to-day was concerned with the working and exact meaning of the South African Constitution as it affects certain engagements with this country. I think we have an opportunity of knowing from time to time in the great willingness of the Colonial Office to receive deputations expressing views held in this House, and of discussing these questions in private, which is an advantage when the extreme delicacy of the matters concerned is held in view. But it is the opinion of some of those who are most weighty in such matters in South Africa, and widely held that it would be well on this occasion very briefly to find out from the Government the exact course of procedure they propose in reference to a matter which is, I think it will be admitted, of almost transcendent importance. The draft of the South African Constitution has been already laid before this House. It has been altered since it was land before the House, and no doubt it will shortly be laid before this House in its altered form. But although those changes have been made in private sittings of the Convention the Debates in the Parliaments have been public, and their speeches and their replies made in Parliaments where the views of all parties in the House have been expressed. We gather that the changes made in the Constitution do not touch the questions to which I am about to refer. The Government accepted last year, and the House carried unanimously the Resolution of l3th May last year, which leis since been quoted by the Government speakers as representing its policy, and which is similar to the policy expressed by Lord Selborne, as High Commissioner, in the speeches to which I have referred.
There is a disposition, and a very natural disposition, to treat this draft South Africa Bill as one which can be settled by South Africa for itself, but there are portions of it which on reflection by anyone in this House cannot be so settled finally. The absolute responsibility of the Imperial Government and Parliament for this Measure I think can very easily be proved. For instance, in this document which was circulated will be found a Schedule as to future arrangements not yet actually made, but which can afterwards be made at a moment's notice without further legislation dealing with 1380 Protectorates as to which our responsibility stands very high indeed, and which is purely Imperial responsibility. The House somewhat wearily, and I think very unwillingly, felt itself forced to accept almost without protest in the Constitution of the Transvaal and Orange State the provisions barring native franchise which had, the House felt, been practically given up in the so called treaty of Vereeniging. These arrangements were temporary in their form, but the Government took the view, and was supported by the House in so doing, that they should be interpreted in the widest fashion. With great regret Parliament concurred in that view, and inserted an absolute colour bar in this Constitution. It cannot for one instant be contended that the arrangement of Vereeniging, by which the House felt bound on that occasion, affected the present Constitution. This is a Constitution for the Cape Colony, because, although nominally the powers of the Cape Parliament are not directly touched and its Constitution is not altered, yet the future Dominion with which the Empire will deal will be the new Union; and not only will many of the powers of the Cape Constitution be, as it were, merged in the new Union Parliament, but we shall know nothing of the guarantees conceded by the Cape Constitution—the oldest and largest Colony, and one which is more advanced in its views of the future treatment of South African problems than can be the case with some of the newer States. For example, there is in the Cape Constitution, for which we are responsible here, an absolute prohibition of a colour bar. That stands definitely in the Constitution. Although nominally it will remain, yet it cannot for one moment be contended that the transfer of powers to the new Parliament, with which we alone shall have to deal from here, will not affect that position. As regards all the great portions of South Africa which lie outside the actual Colonies at the present, the theory is that of the Cape. That is to say, in Rhodesia, for instance, the Cape Constitution is the existing Constitution, so far as there is one there; and, of course, it covers the future of a large portion of South Africa.
Here we have this document. Many of those in South Africa who have hitherto disliked interference by this Parliament or by the Colonial Office on this occasion recognise that non-interference might be carried too far, and might involve even greater dangers than were involved in the 1381 old clays by the policy known as "interference." At all events, to avoid interference in the future, it is necessary that we should put forward quietly and calmly our views at the present time, and this is the occasion on which to do it. I want to ask the Government what are the steps they propose to take with regard to the possibility of any amendments that may be required in the Bill. Are they going to follow the Australian precedent? In that ease there was very long delay caused by the negotiations with a view to certain Amendments proposed by the Government, of which some were finally made in an altered form by consent. The practical importance of the colour bar in eligibility is not great. I frankly admit that. But there is so wide a feeling in favour of the principle often quoted by Mr. Rhodes of "equal opportunity to all civilised men," and there is such a feeling that there are in South Africa some who will be excluded by the words of the new Constitution (from eligibility), that absolutely to close the door without consideration here would, I think, be deplorable. We have all seen certain men who are excluded from membership of either House of the Union Parliament, who are not excluded now the Cape, but who are not now as a fact sitting in the Cape, some of whom are exercising great public functions with universal praise and respect. The words "Not of European descent" have been differently interpreted in different places, and they are very dangerous worth. For instance, Dr. Abdurrahman, who speaks English and Dutch, who exercises great functions at the Cape, who has four generations of Cape descent, whose race was originally from the Arab shores, is one whose name occurs to all of us as being one who would be excluded by these words. What I wish to press is that if only on this account the Act must be our Act of Parliament, considered by us, and, as far as anything outside the Orange State and Transvaal goes, an Act made with our knowledge and on our responsibility. The main effect of that lies not so much in the Cape Constitution, which I have named, as in the Protectorates. The case of Swaziland is fully covered by Lord Selborne's words; the case of Bechuanaland is familiar to many Members of this House; and the case of Basutoland is one which I am sure has the attention of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, who knows it well. We took over Basutoland because South Africa had made a mess of it. Two great wars had.
1382 occurred in the course of an attempt to disarm;,he Basutos, and the Government had to take it over for the sake of South African peace. My hon. Friend (Colonel Seely) has described to this House the success of that experiment of the Government. Basutoland lies at the very heart of the new Union, and it is one of the territories contemplated for its growth. I need not waste the time of the House by extending the argument in any way. It is clear on the face of it to every Member. When we entered upon the war, those who made it thought—the famous speech of Lord Lansdowne is often quoted—that the result of the war would be to raise rather than to lower the status of African natives, who form an overwhelming majority of the people and all the labour of South Africa—a fact which differentiates this Constitution altogether from the Australian, where we can safely trust to white opinion. In this case, of course, we have a very influential minority, at all events in the Cape, who are rather shocked at any risk on this Question. We have also the fact that we are bound to provide for the whole future of a South Africa far larger than those portions which are at the present time mainly concerned in the active government of the country.
Sir William Harcourt prophesied the difficulties which would arise. They are now upon us. Although those of us who hold strong opinions are willing to act with the whole House of Commons and the Government, and to express our views with the deepest sense of responsibility and the greatest possible moderation, still we feel that it is our duty to show that the Act of Parliament is our Act, made upon our responsibility, and not accepted blindfold from a South African Convention. The Basuto Council have been sitting during this month in secret session considering possibly very reasonable and moderate proposals for Amendment, which will be addressed, no doubt, through the High Commissioner, to the Government. On the consideration of the Territorial schedule of this document it is obvious how very delicate are the questions that arise, and how carefully the Government, with the assistance of Lord Selborne, will have to scrutinise that schedule. The risks which we run by not providing carefully for the future of 13asutoland are very great. They are risks, I believe, to South Africa as well as to the Empire. That they are very grave risks no one can doubt. For instance, paragraph 19 of the 1383 schedule raises questions which evidently might be so interpreted as to override the safeguards inserted in other portions of the schedule. I will not press the point, which is a delicate one, and my hon. Friend knows how anxious those of us who hold these views, and who cannot but raise these questions, are not to add in any way to the difficulties of administration. I simply ask my hon. Friend, therefore, before I come to the other matter which I wish to raise, to tell us what is the course of procedure that the Government propose? What opportunity will be given in the first place by the Government to consider their own Amendments that they may have to make on the draft and in the Bill, and what course they propose to bring those matters before the consideration of the House of Commons?
The other matter which I wish to name concerns the Foreign Office. On the Debate on the Foreign Office Vote last year certain doubts were expressed by some of us as to the risk of our policy being misrepresented and exaggerated in such a way that its correctness would not be appreciated by the other Powers. On this occasion I shall not attempt to anticipate the Debate upon questions that will come up on the Foreign Office Vote again. But there can be no doubt that it is only necessary to remember the speech of the Secretary of State in the Vote of Censure Debate on the Navy of 29th March to show that these dangers have arisen and that the Government are very sensible in regard to them. The policy in this case is one of continuity —a policy developed by Lord Lansdowne and continued by the present Government. The language we have all admitted has been correct. As to the policy, some of us have doubts. But that it has been distorted and exaggerated abroad there can be no doubt. One of the results of that distortion has been the undue state of nervousness, and the undue friction which at present exists in European affairs. I fear there is also certain nervousness here on the part of all of us leading us to suspect trouble where trouble is not likely, and where a firm and prudent persistence in our own line of policy, previously declared, is the right line for this country to maintain.
The two matters which seem pressing, and where there is some doubt, are: Firstly, Crete. One of the doubts expressed by some of us last year on the Foreign Office Vote was whether it was wise for us to pursue in the Balkans, in 1384 relation to Turkey—after the Young Turkey Revolution which had then occurred—a policy which appeared to be Russian-French—the policy described as that of the New Triplice, and a policy, therefore, which seemed to be anti-Austrian and anti-German. In the case of Crete, Germany withdrew, in friendly fashion, from the Concert of the Powers. The four Powers who had their troops in Crete had promised formally to withdraw those troops. The answer given to me immediately after Easter was that this would be in July. From the answer it seemed clear that that promise would be observed. There has lately been some suggestion that we were the most backward of all the four Powers in this matter. The German Chancellor had said: "I lay down my flute in the European Concert." The German ships have left Crete. Italy, France, and Russia remain there with ourselves, and what I ask, what I assume, is that there can be no doubt that we, with our traditions towards Greece. shall not be the most backward Power in withdrawing; that we shall not conjure up dangers where Italy, so deeply concerned and so full of knowledge of the facts, sees none. It is understood that Italy is willing to take the lead in this transaction. With a certainty that Germany is willing that the withdrawal should take place, and nobody sees danger in that withdrawal, surely we who are supposed to be specially friendly to the Young Turk movement can offer advice which will be taken by every reasonable young Turk. [A slight interruption.] Well, of course, the history of seventeen Turkish wars in Crete is not an encouraging matter to those who desire to revive some vestige of Turkish rule. It is not encouraging. The withdrawal of Turkish troops was accomplished very unwillingly. Our English Admiral Noel took the leading part in procuring that withdrawal. At all events. I am willing to assume, even if no reply is made to this delicate question, that nothing should 1pr, said, and shall continue to assume that we are not to be the most backward Power in fulfilling these arrangements, which, if not fulfilled, are more likely to produce a war.
There is another matter which will be raised by other speakers on this occasion. It is also one where some belief exists that hesitation has been caused by some fear arising out of the existing nervousness of Europe—the nervousness with regard to a supposed desire of Germany to cause trouble, but the existence of which I, for 1385 one, do not believe in. It is a case of our own policy and that of the United States in the matter of the Congo. There has been no recession on the part of the Government from the policy which they have consistently pursued, but there has been a great deal—I cannot but fear—of over-caution which accounts for this delay. We are only in the position that we have been in for the last five years. When we accepted the policy of annexation we saw all the difficulties and dangers which we have seen from that time to this. It was decided that we should overcome those dangers. The policy went forth, although dangers were foreseen. Five years have elapsed without a change in the destruction of "the system differing only in name," in the words of the Secretary of State, "from slavery." When the principle of annexation by Belgium was adopted every difficulty was foreseen, including that of the Consular exequatur, before satisfaction and recognition. But difficulties have arisen in other cases before, and they have been brushed aside. Some words in reply to a question by myself referred to the Law Officers being consulted, it was hoped only on direct breach of treaty, and not on the larger issue." The reply, which I am bound to say seemed satisfactory to me, has been otherwise interpreted. It has been thought that We had expressed a willingness, inconsistent with our previous declarations, to refer this whole question to the arbitration of The Hague. That is not what we intend. That is not want Parliament meant. That is not the policy which successive Governments have given adhesion to.
In a state of Europe far more disturbed even Lord Castlereagh several times took in similar matters far stronger action than now necessary. For instance, when "the Four," i.e., the Allies who upset Napoleon, were divided two to two, and on the brink of war, in which Napoleon's army would have been commanded by the Duke of Wellington, with the support of Austria against the two Northern Allies, Lord Castlereagh took strong action at that moment in the case of France. The state of things in the Congo, the dominion for which we are responsible, is tantamount to slavery. That they have declared, and I venture to suggest that no fears that we may conjure up or any real reasonable fears as to the state of European relations Can affect the policy pursued by ourselves and the United States in this matter. It is impossible for us to submit to the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown 1386 the great questions and issues that have been at stake. No doubt any matter of our own treaty rights may be submitted, but to submit the larger questions which have been put—questions on outside matters—the right to submit these to our own Law Officers of the Crown cannot for one moment be conceded by us.
§ Mr. E. N. BENNETT
I should like to say very briefly, in reference to the admirable speech to which we have listened, that I endorse most cordially what my right hon. Friend said about the position that will accompany the withdrawal of the international flags next July from Crete. I served as a war correspondent with the Turkish forces in 1898, and from my own knowledge of that island and the towns of the interior, and despite my warm admiration for the Ottoman people and the ideals of the Young Turks, I think it is inconceivable that the island could possibly under the circumstances incur any retrogression under a definite form of Turkish rule. But that is not what I rose to speak about specially. I want to refer to the subject too briefly alluded to in the speech we have listened to—I mean the present position of affairs on the Congo. I deeply regret that after a lapse of years it is still necessary in this House to allude once more to this dreadful topic of Congo misgovernment. The necessity for alluding to it is greater to-day than at any other time in the Parliamentary history of this matter. I personally—and I speak also for others—never believe or expressed my belief in the value of the Belgian annexation as providing a solution of the difficulties in the Congo. Others were more optimistic, and that optimism was apparently shared by our Government. If anything stands out as a self-evident fact it is this, that our difficulties in regard to the Congo have not been lightened by annexation, but have been intensified to a very considerable degree. What is going on in the Congo at the present moment? Despite Ministerial pronouncements in this House, despite the spirited and unselfish work of Mr. Morel and the Congo Reform Association, backed up by the organised religious efforts of the country and strong resolutions forwarded from cities and towns; despite, too, the repeated assurances with regard to reform made in the Belgian Chamber, the old abuses are continued with unabated force at the present moment. We have the same absolute refusal of the Belgian Government to acknowledge the 1387 economic status of the natives, to acknowledge his right to the produce of the soil. We have the monstrous exactions under the guise of taxation. We have the same hunting of natives like wild beasts in the forests, the hostage camps, the floggings and brutal murders, and the whole system of cruel oppression which has been going on for years. These charges are in no way exaggerated. They are amply borne out by the reports of our Consuls and Commissionaires in the Congo. In a report which was received from Mr. Whiteside, he uses these words:—I have no hesitation in declaring that the conditions tinder which the people of this district exist are worse to-day than at any time during the past 12 years.It is worth while to recall very briefly the diplomatic negotiations immediately preceding the transfer of the Congo to Belgium. In March His Majesty's Government refrained, at the earnest request of the Belgian representative, from demanding definite guarantees as a preliminary to annexation. The Foreign Secretary hoped against hope that the Belgian Government was sincere in its promises, and merely laid down certain axiomatic conditions which he trusted would accompany the act of annexation. These necessary concomitants were (a) The abolition of forced labour which "in name only differed from slavery "; and (b) "a radical alteration in the economic system of the territory." As a quid pro quo for the right hon. Gentleman's acquiescence in Belgium's demand and his refraining from pressing for guarantees, the Belgian Government formally undertook that such reforms should immediately follow when the annexation was accomplished. That could be proved by the words used in the Belgian Parliament.
It is necessary to add that the Government of the King will set about. putting them in practice as soon as the transfer is complete. An immediate amelioration in the moral and material condition of existence of the inhabitant= of the Congo.These promises were repeated in July. Late in July the Belgian Government said it "could only repeat its promise with the same earnestness and sincerity as before."
What is the result? Absolutely nil. The annexation took place on 20th August. Nine months have now elapsed. Nothing has been done. The abuses are perpetuated, and are becoming stereotyped. Once more our Government has allowed itself I hope I am not saying anything disrespectful—to be bluffed by the insolent and brutal slave drivers who control the Congo policy of the Belgian Government. If any- 1388 one requires any proof they will find it in the figures showing the output of rubber, provided by the Belgian Government itself, In 1906 the rubber brought to the ports of Belgium was 4,848 tons; in 1907, 4,346: in]908, 4,262. There is practically no diminution in the supply of rubber in 1908, and this shows that, pari passu, as there is no diminution of the output there is no diminution in the system of slavery which alone makes such an output possible. As to the forced labour on the railways. which, of course, are not built for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Congo,. but as mere channels for the extraction of snore rubber, for the capitalists who, exploit the country, there is no change whatever. On 6th January of this year a decree for the forced recruiting for the railway of 2,225 labourers was issued. We know by this time what this recruiting of forced labour for the railways in the Congo means. Consul Mitchell writes as follows:—There labourers arc hunted in the forests by soldiers and are brought in bound by the necks like criminals.Consul Thesiger speaks in this strain:—Police raid, arc being carried on with the greatest energy in the native villages, and deserters and such prisoners as can be taken are rent in chains to work on the railway.In the three years from 1906 to 1908 no less than 6,500 of these forest dwellers have been dragged from their homes to work on the railway. By October, 1908, 2,000 of them had disappeared through desertion or owing to death, and in January of this year a fresh decree was issued for 2,225 more recruits to be seized in their homes for this work on the railway. In short, the whole vile system continues with all its revolting details, and nothing is changed. Meanwhile the Belgian Government is again trying on its old game of bluff. Monsieur Renkin, that staunch apologist for slavery and outrage, has been sent to the Congo, and he is to return in October. Possibly by next spring he will have proposed another code of perfectly useless, superficial reforms, and then it will be claimed that at least a year must be conceded in order to test the working of those reforms. Every-one can see that this is the same old game of trickery and interminable delay which is being tried on once more.
I do not know whether the Secretary for Foreign Affairs is content with that state of things but I am not. We cannot wait further because the limits of our national endurance and national honour have been reached in this matter. What can be done? My right hon. Friend has alluded 1389 to the subject of arbitration. May I point out that in Article XII. of the Berlin Conference arbitration is suggested, but as far as I remember it is arbitration only with regard to certain matters such as the extent of Free Trade areas, questions of fact with regard to commercial interests and negotiations on such facts as, e.g., the justice or injustice of certain schemes of taxation for mission sites. But no arbitration is possible or conceivable on any of the great ethical principles which underlie the whole case against the Congo system of Government. I say this advisedly, because sinister rumours have been afloat recently that the Law Officers of the Crown—I do not credit the rumours myself—have been requested to draw up some scheme of arbitration by which our whole case against the Congo regime may be submitted to arbitration. I can scarcely credit the story, it is almost inconceivable. In regard to such basic questions as to whether the natives of the Congo should have the elementary right to buy and sell freely the produce of the soil, or whether the natives should or should not be compelled to give their labour against their will for the benefit of private individuals, it is inconceivable that the British Government can submit questions like that to arbitration when they are already specified in the treaty. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do you want war?"] The news that any such step was even contemplated would come as a severe moral shock to all interested in this Question, and to some of those connected with the Congo Reform Association who, like myself, are strong supporters of Liberal ideals and the present Government, it would come as a bitter disillusionment and a bitter disappointment.
What can we do? We can go on refusing to acknowledge annexation. Surely that is simply a counsel of despair, and it is merely playing with the question. Does anybody believe that this attitude of merely refusing to acknowledge a fait accompli is going to absolve us from our definite obligation to insist upon carrying our undoubted treaty rights? The Belgians do not care a button whether we acknowledge annexation or not. If any hon. Member has any doubt upon this point, let him take lip any Belgian paper and read the article on Congo reform. I will translate an extract from the Independance Beige" of 2lth May:—The Congo Reform Association recalls that Sir Edward Grey affirmed (November, 19(16), that England would not give her support to Congo Annexation by 1390 Belgium, unless the system of the Government of the Congo was entirely changed. England is nit called upon to give this support which nobody asks her for; she has merely, both in law and in fact, to acknowledge, the notification of the transfer of the sovereignty Of the Congo State to Belgium. The question or recognising or not recognising does not even exist.I do not think that is an effective remedy for the present state of things, and the only effective remedy is force. I have seen too much of war to speak of it lightly. On several occasions in recent history the employment of that strangely-named method of coercion called a "peaceful blockade" has been found singularly effective. More than one instance might be recalled, but I only need to mention the despatch of the Italian battleships and the occupation of the Custom House at Mitylene, which quickly brought the Ottoman authorities to a different frame of mind. A single British cruiser sent to the mouth of the Congo and the occupation of the Boma Custom House would probably end the vile system of Congo misrule once and for all. If the United States would join us in this policy so much the better. Why should we hesitate to use force? Is it from fear of some Continental Power? Is it from fear of Germany? Does anybody believe that Germany would deliberately declare war upon this country if we established a "peaceful blockade" at the mouth of the Congo to guarantee the carrying out of a treaty to which Germany was a cosignatory'? I will only say that there have been periods in English history when vague alarms did not deter England from using her armaments to defend desolate and oppressed nationalities.
I am sure that if the Government take up a strong line of action on this point they would have the support of every right-minded man and woman of this country, irrespective of politics. At any rate, if force cannot be employed, it is better to know exactly where we stand. It is better that we should recognise the fact that, despite our treaty rights and the claims of humanity, we are really impotent in this matter, and have to acknowledge the painful and humiliating fact of our complete impotence in the face of Belgian opposition. At any rate, if we did that, we should refrain from making ourselves any longer the laughing-stock of Europe and an object of contempt and ridicule to Belgian journalists.
Mr. J. G. SWIFT MacNELL
I will only occupy the attention of the House for a few minutes, and I do so because this is the only occasion on which I can discuss this Question. If it were raised upon the 1391 ordinary Foreign Office Vote it would perhaps be wide and too little germane to allow it to be discussed. Upon this occasion we can have a wider discussion, and I will take this opportunity of laying very briefly before the House what I regard as the cardinal difficulties upon this Question of the Congo. There is no use mincing words. Whereas this House has practically a right to discuss every line of a Bill brought before it, it has no right to criticise treaties. Treaties may involve, and do involve, international obligations, and they may involve the lives or deaths of individuals, but they are not brought in the slightest degree before this House. Treaties are executed without the knowledge of this House, and behind the backs of the people of England. This is ridiculous. It may be a question of life or death, of peace or war, but treaties are executed by the Foreign Office without let or hindrance on the part of this House. That was not the case in what are called the good old times. The Constitution of England is so full of curious anomalies that we really do not know where we are. Formerly the power to make peace or war was a pre negative exercised by the Sovereign; but the prerogative has passed through a whole series of circumstances into the hands of the Executive—into the hands of the Foreign Office. In former times the King could make war without coming here. This power is now invested in the hands of Ministers, who do not consult Parliament before making the treaties or taking action. The House of Commons in these matters used to control the Executive. In the old days, at the close of the eighteenth century, it was the practice of Ministers to ask the sanction of Parliament in reference to international affairs. No doubt the power given to the House of Commons and the House of Lords with reference to treaties is this: when a treaty affects a change in our law, both Houses of Parliament may move an Address to the Crown expressing disapproval, but all this can take place only when the mischief has been done.
I cannot repeat too often that we have not got treaty-making powers in this House. Those powers rest with the Foreign Office. For practical purposes the House of Commons, so far as foreign politics are concerned, need not exist. I do not want to say even a word trenching on controversial matters. This is not a 1392 controversial Question that I am dealing with. I will take two treaties made in recent times—one by the late Government and the other by the present Government. In both cases Parliament was deliberately precluded from dealing with those treaties. The first was the Japanese treaty. It was agreed to on 20th August, 1905, and as Parliament was prorogued on the 12th it was kept from the criticism of the House of Commons. The treaty between Russia and England with reference to Persia was signed three days after Parliament rose, in order that there should be no discussion in this House on it. These things may be all right, and they may be approved by Parliament, but still, in these matters, the people are not allowed to manage their own affairs. The greater the trust in the people in foreign affairs the greater the confidence reposed in them, the less fear there will be of international complications. Such complications are generally brought about by the rich for the benefit of the rich at the expense of the poor. Mr. Cobden said that he did not object to a contract between the people of one country and the people of another, but what he objected to was a contract between one Government and another, because it might be for evil. The people of the United States are able to direct their own foreign policy. It might be said that irritating topics about treaties might be raised in this House, and might produce mischief abroad. It is a bad tendency, and is as likely to do harm as any discussion brought before the House of Commons in reference to a treaty or anything else. I thank the House for allowing me to make this protest, which I intend to renew whenever I have an opportunity. I wish to place before the public what I believe to be the undue secrecy of the Foreign Office. It is an uncalled-for and bad secrecy. We all recollect what is known as the Dinshawi massacre in 1900. Three or four young officers who were stationed at a certain place in Egypt went out shooting, and quite unintentionally shot some sacred pigeons. There was great popular indignation, and one young officer unfortunately lost his life.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
Yes, he was killed because he was killing pigeons that were as sacred to the natives as the hon. Gentlemen's religious emblems are to him, and possibly these people have not the self-control which the hon. Gentleman may 1393 exercise under such circumstances. But What occurred? Vengeance was inflicted on these people, a vengeance which, in comparison, really presents the Congo people denounced by my right hon. Friend in the light of Christian men and philanthropists. A Professor of History at Oxford once said that the English people were the most conscientious people of all—in seeing the faults of others, but they never saw their own. What occurred in this particular case 1 There was a drumhead court-martial on the prisoners, and crowds of people were forced to witness the flogging and execution of the accused men. Fifteen, I believe, were flogged, and with almost an ingenuity of torture these poor creatures were carried to the scene of their execution. The facts were kept from the Press, but eventually some accounts arrived in this country, and questions in this House were asked. At that time the House was just rising, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs promised that a full account should be obtained of the circumstances. We asked whether it would be obtained by telegraph, and he replied in the negative, saying that it would be received in writing, although it was surely quite as easy for the despatch to be sent by wire as by post. As a result the House of Commons was prevented discussing this question when the facts were fresh in its mind, and it could only be raised at a later period, when the probability was that the facts were forgotten. Yet the author of this transaction, or, rather, the man who was responsible for it, was, in consequence of the Foreign Office keeping back the information, granted a handsome subsidy in addition to his large pay. He was voted £60,000 by this House at a time when the people were starving. That shows what the secrecy of the Foreign Office can do, and it shows that Englishmen belonging to all parties ought to be free in this House in order to manage their own affairs. You will not have Home Rule so long as it is possible for the Government to arrange your relations with Continental Powers in matters which may involve the most of Europe and have serious effects on this country.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean said he did not anticipate there would be any discussion on general foreign policy on this occasion. He merely referred to the danger of mis 1394 representation and misunderstanding of British policy, which, in. his opinion, had been intensified of late, and he deprecated what he considered to be undue nervousness, not in this country alone, but in Europe generally, in regard to foreign politics. I, too, will not anticipate any discussion on general foreign politics, but at the same time I do deprecate any undue nervousness, especially at this moment. During the past six months we have been through a period when there have been times of nervousness owing to the complications on certain questions—nervousness not in this country merely, but in Europe generally. Now we have passed into a period of comparative quiet, and I should be sorry to think that that nervousness should be increased, when undoubtedly there is no reason for any such increase. If there has been undue nervousness at all it must have been due to the fact that there has been too much and too frequent discussion of the relations of European Powers to each other, and it is a question in my mind whether we should supplement these very frequent discussions by a Debate in this House. It is a very good thing, no doubt, that a man should from time to time feel his own pulse. For the present I am glad to think there is no European question which is likely to give rise to future difficulties, either between us and any other Power or between any of the European Powers. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean was followed by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, who made a speech which undoubtedly might revive nervousness in Europe and produce misunderstanding and misrepresentation of British policy in the very highest degree. I am anxious to say nothing which shall give rise to any European nervousness, and I will, therefore, pass at once to the question of Crete, and I will say that we have not been more backward with regard to the withdrawal of our troops from that quarter than any other Power. The four Powers in occupation of Crete came to an agreement before the revolution in Turkey to withdraw their troops at the end of July, and it is still their intention to carry that out. We, as one of the four Powers, will carry it out, and I think it is very undesirable there should be any discussion as to whether any individual Power is more forward or more backward than any other in this matter. However, that does not settle the Cretan question. The question of the status of Crete still remains. It is a very 1395 difficult one, and it must be considered by the four Powers and by the Turkish Government. The solution is one which offers considerable difficulty. During the last six months we have been confronted at different times by at least three questions connected with Crete, which have produced a complete impasse. Still, I hope a satisfactory solution will be found, and I do not think it at all impossible for the four Powers, in conjunction with Turkey, to find that solution. As to the offering of advice on our part, which the right hon. Baronet urged upon us, I must say that we have not been backward in recent years in offering advice. We shall do our best to contribute to a peaceful solution of every question which arises, but if we should be too frequent and too insistent in offering advice, it might be a, cause of some of those misunderstandings and misrepresentations of British policy which the right hon. Baronet deprecates. With regard to the Congo the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Bennett) spoke as one of those who do not approve of the policy of Belgian annexation.
§ Mr. BENNETT
What other solution has ever been suggested? Of course I accepted it, but I am one of those who never regarded it as a final solution of the difficulty.
§ Sir EDWARD GREY
What solution is to be found? The hon. Member for Oxfordshire said that resolutions were passed and sent to the Foreign Office on this subject. It is quite true that those resolutions expressed, very naturally, indignation at the state of affairs in the Congo, but they did not offer suggestions with regard to a solution. The right hon. Baronet stated that he assumed that there had been no recession from anything that we had said with regard to the Congo, but he thought we had been over-cautious. It is quite true that we have not receded from anything that we said, but I do not think we have been over-cautious. but if this question were rashly managed it might make a European question, compared with which those with which we had to deal in the last few months might be child's play. Take, for instance, the question of peaceful blockade which the hon. Member urged. It is no use talking about peaceful blockade. Blockade is blockade. It is the use of force, and if you are to have blockade you must be prepared to go to war, and a 1396 blockade at the mouth of the Congo means the blockade of a river which is not the property of the Congo or the Belgian. Government. They have one bank of the riper. It is a river which by international treaty has been opened to navigation, and if you are to blockade with any effect you must be prepared to stop every ship from going in and out of the Congo, whether under the Belgian, the French, the German, or whatever flag it is. Surely if you are going to pledge yourselves to take steps of that kind and to accept responsibility for them, it is not too much to say that you must be prepared to raise a European question, and that would be of the gravest kind. I do not say that there are not circumstances which justify a question of that kind, but do not let the House think that by smooth words, such as by applying the adjective peaceful to blockade, you are going to minimise what would be the ultimate consequences of the step you are taking.
The hon. Member was afraid that we were going too far with regard to arbitration. Certainly some questions connected with the Congo must be the subject of arbitration. Nobody can read the arbitration clause of the Berlin Act, to which we are a party, which binds us to refer questions of difference to arbitration or mediation, without seeing that, if you are to show any regard to treaty obligations at all, there are circumstances and commercial questions in connection with the Congo in regard to which we must admit that arbitration is the only honourable solution_ Therefore there are questions in the Congo which ought to be referred to arbitration. I agree when you come to the question of slavery it would be impossible for any civilised Government, having made up its mind that it was dealing with a state of slavery, gravely to draw up a case for an arbitration tribunal, and to submit to that arbitration tribunal whether such a system was a legitimate one or not. In that I agree. We have had the Belgian reply in our hands for some time. The reply is satisfactory in regard to general principles, but it is inconclusive with regard to what measures are to be taken to change the Government of the Congo. Most of the reports we have had from the Congo at the present moment refer to a date anterior to the Belgian annexation. Such reports as we have received, which refer to a later date, do not show that the abuses have diminished. Under these circumstances what we must look to, I 1397 think, is not so much a question of principle as a question of fact. What we want in this matter is results. What we are anxious about is to arrive at a state when the reports which we receive from the Congo will show that the abuses in connection with forced labour and the treatment of natives have come to an end. Facts are what we really care for.
We are now drawing up a reply to the Belgian Government. The Question his arrived at the stage when it must be carefully considered by the Government. Until the reply has been considered by the Government it is impossible for me to say more about it. But I can safely promise that it will not compromise our previous declarations with regard to the Congo, and it will observe the pledge I have given in Parliament that we will not take any positive steps with regard to the Congo until the Cabinet has had the papers before them and an opportunity of discussing them. I hope that our reply to the Belgian Government will be sent off in the course of next month. As soon as it has been received by the Belgian Government I should propose to lay it before the House, with the Belgian note to which it is a reply, and as soon as it is before the House, it will, of course, be in the power of the House to discuss it, on the Foreign Office Vote, for instance, on the reply of the Government. Pending that reply being made, which I will expedite to the utmost of my power—pending that reply being made defining the position of the Government, I do not think I can usefully say more with regard to the Congo Question at the present time. I will only say that I will endeavour to get that reply laid as soon as I can, anti the reply itself will define the attitude of the Government, and it will be so guarded that it will not commit the country to any positive action until Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing this Question.
Lastly, in reply to the hon. Member for Donegal, I must express my regret that when he was raising a Constitutional point which lie is perfectly entitled to raise, he should, after having raised that point, have gone on to give a version which I thought most unfair, of incidents which undoubtedly gave rise, and naturally gave rise, to considerable controversy some time ago, but which had been closed for some long time. He accused the Foreign Office of undue secrecy, but, as regards the particular Question to which he refers, there was no undue secrecy. The telegrams 1398 that I received were made public as soon as I received them, and with regard to the trial and evidence it was impossible to get any Report of that by telegraph' which would enable me, the House, or the Government to form an opinion as to the trial itself. As soon as that could be obtained it was laid. In the case of the Russian agreement I did all I could during the progress of the negotiations to hasten it in order that it might be published before Parliament rose; but one point after another came up in the course of the discussions, and I had to remain in London and see Parliament separate and still stay at the Foreign Office for a little time afterwards in order to get it complete, and when it was signed it could not be published. The hon. Member was mistaken in saying it was promulgated three days after Parliament rose. It was signed, but it could not be published, because the Persian Government and the Afghan Government had to be communicated with for some three weeks afterwards. It would be sheer pedantry, because Parliament had separated, to have said that the treaty must remain unsigned and unpromulgated for months.
With regard to treaty-making powers, of course, the hon. Member there raised a Constitutional question. The last time he spoke on the Motion for the Adjournment I think his complaint was that, owing to my stay-at-home sedentary habits, I broke the practice of the Constitution in not going abroad. This time he wants me to pledge the Government to alter the Constitution, because there is no doubt whatever that, as regards treaty-making powers, the Government has always maintained the Constitutional practice. Whenever Mr. Gladstone was asked, he was perfectly firm about maintaining Constitutional practice, and for Parliament to insist that treaties should not be ratified until they have been submitted to Parliament for decision would be a great Constitutional change.
§ Mr. MacNEILL
As the right hon. Baronet has mentioned Mr. Gladstone's name in this connection, what I said in reference to the practice of Parliament in the eighteenth century was word for word a speech delivered by Mr. Gladstone in this House on 19th March, 1886.
§ Sir EDWARD GREY
If the hon. Member can produce evidence that Mr. Gladstone ever expressed the opinion that treaties ought to be submitted to Parliament before they were ratified I shall be 1399 very much surprised, for such recollection as I have of what he said is that he always declined to give way on that point, and to give way on that point would be a departure from all Constitutional practice. As a matter of fact, I think the House of Commons really exercises more constant control over foreign policy than is usual in foreign Parliaments. What happens in foreign Parliaments? Two or three times in a Session, as far as I can judge, on a set occasion, on a day which is carefully chosen, the Foreign Minister makes an announcement on foreign policy. That happens comparatively seldom during the Session. In this House there is much greater freedom in raising foreign questions than I think there is in other Parliaments. First of all there are daily questions. I am sure there is not another Parliament in Europe where the Foreign Minister answers some 20 questions a week. These are supplemented very often by other questions to which impromptu answers are given, every one of which, if it is of importance, is reported in foreign newspapers, and taken there as a easefully considered utterance of the Foreign Minister. When the Foreign 'Office Vote comes on all sorts of questions may be raised. Generally the Foreign Secretary has had notice of the important questions. There is no restriction on the questions which may be raised, and the number of occasions in which in one way or another the House of Commons can ask questions and discuss matters of foreign policy I should think is greater in the House of Commons than in other Parliaments. So far as we are concerned we have no desire whatever to withdraw foreign questions from discussion in the House. When the House is sitting as soon as a Treaty is concluded I have it published in order that, if the House desires, it may discuss the question before it rises, and with regard to such questions as we are asked this afternoon about the Prize Court Convention and the Declaration of London, though the Declaration of London may not necessitate any legislation—I am not quite sure about that, but I do not think it will—yet the Prize Court Convention will necessitate legislation, and as legislation will be required I have carefully observed what has always been the practice that where legislation is required treaties and agreements should not be ratified until that legislation had passed the House of Commons. Though the Declaration of London may not require 1400 legislation, it is so closely connected with the Prize Court Convention that in the answer I gave this afternoon the hon. Member will realise that the ratification of the Declaration of London will not be given until the ratification of the Prize Court Convention, so that the rights of the House of Commons will be guarded.
§ Mr. H. F. B. LYNCH
I am sorry the right hon. Baronet rose so early in the De-late, because I shall not have the advantage of a reply from him. With the general proposition advanced by the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. MacNeill) I find myself in complete agreement, and I cannot say that the words which were used by the Foreign Secretary in reply to that speech convinced me, and I do not think they convinced the House of Commons. The right hon. Baronet spoke of the Anglo Russian Agreement, and he said this House was not kept in obscurity, but was kept well informed in that matter, and in fact had nothing to complain of. But what are the facts? Shortly before the House rose in the autumn I was informed in reply to a question that this agreement with Russia would have reference to questions connected with districts adjoining the frontiers of Russia and Great Britain and Persia. When the House rose and the agreement was published it was found to deal not only with questions relating to districts adjoining the two frontiers, but with districts many hundreds of miles from those frontiers, and indeed with the whole of Persia, in a comprehensive manner. I am perfectly certain that if this House and if the public opinion of the country had been given even general information as to the scope and nature of that agreement before Parliament rose it would have received very much criticism and I think opposition both in this House and in the country.
Then as regards the matter of questions and answers, the right hon. Baronet contrasted this House with other Parliaments, and he said this House enjoyed a great advantage over other Parliaments in the freedom which was given to Members in putting questions. Yes, but what is the nature of those questions? They are put mainly for the purpose of conveying information to the Foreign Office, because the answers as a rule are framed in such a manner as to impart very little knowledge. It may be urged that the publication of these answers in foreign newspapers necessitates great care in the framing of them; but, at all events, it cannot be said that these answers as 1401 a general rule form a satisfactory channel for communication between the Foreign Office and this House. What we need in this matter is what all, or nearly all, foreign Parliaments adopt, including the youngest of them—the Turkish Parliament—namely, a Committee of the House on Foreign Affairs. That Committee might be confined within reasonable limits, and it would enable the House to obtain a general idea of what is passing in the foreign diplomacy of the country, and so keep us informed of the important matters in which I think we all suppose we sent to this House to represent the country.
There are two questions on which I should like to say a few words. I must apologise to the House if I speak on them without sufficient preparation of the material which has been collected in answers to questions or in Debates, because I only last night returned from Constantinople, where, at all events, I have enjoyed the advantage of being in close communication with first-hand information. The first of these questions is that of Grebe. That is a question which was raised by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke), and which was alluded to by the hon. Member for Woodstock (Mr. Bennett). I was delighted to hear the Foreign Secretary declare that the removal of the international troops from the Island of Crete would not necessarily solve the Cretan Question. We are inclined to treat this Question of Crete as if no change had come over one of the Powers, which is the principal factor in all these transactions. The hon. Member for Woodstock (Mr. Bennett) spoke in this sense. He said that he hoped there would be no retrogression of Crete under the Turkish yoke, but surely the hon. Member knows that language of that kind is absolutely foreign to the true circumstances of the case. Where is the Turkish yoke? The Turkish yoke has been abolished. Turkey has removed that yoke from her own shoulders by the removal of the late Sultan and his Government. This country joined in congratulation to the men who brought about the overthrow of the old régime in Turkey, and we in this House and in the Press extended our warmest sympathy to the leaders of the movement. in Turkey you have now a Constitutional Government. You have a Parliament there which has in many respects even greater powers than we possess in this House. You have men there 1402 endeavouring to do all they can to bring the affairs of Turkey into harmony with Western ideas. I ask this House—Is this the moment for us, who have expressed all these platonic sentiments towards the new movement in Turkey, to take part in any endeavour to lessen the area of Turkish emancipation? Just think of what the effect of such action of ours would be on the Young Turks, who are waging a serious fight with the forces of reaction in their own country. We do not yet know which side will win. We have on one shore of the Bosphorus the Young Turks, who are endeavouring to carry out Western ideals and civilisation all over the Empire. We have on the other side of the Bosphorus the whole of Asia Minor and Arabia, instinct to a great extent with the spirit of the old régime and with the old ideas. That is the situation. Does it not strike any Member of this House that if these Young Turks, the leaders of the new movement, are deprived of any part or of any attribute of their Empire it would be open to the reactionaries to throw it in their teeth that the loss of Crete, the loss of their position in Bulgaria, and in Bosnia and the Herzegovina, are the direct results of the incoming of Constitutional Government? Therefore I do trust that the Foreign Secretary will be very careful how he deals with this question. I also venture to say a word to the Greeks who are pressing for the annexation of Crete. The Greeks form a large number of the inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire. We are pressing the Government of Turkey to grant complete equality between the Mussulman and Christian elements. One of the most important elements numerically is the Greek element, and I think it would be sound policy, and a sign of reciprocal good feeling on the part of Greece, if they were not to press at this moment the question of annexation, and if they were to wait until it could be seen how the new Turkish Government is going to administer the affairs of Turkey as a whole.
I should like now to come to another question of greater and more pressing importance, namely, the question of Persia. in this connection I wish to congratulate the Secretary for Foreign Affairs upon the success of his efforts in persuading the Russian Government that the best policy for Persia is the restoration of the Constitution. We know there has been considerable diplomatic correspondence over this matter, and I gather that the end of it has been that the Russian Government have come to see eye to eye with 1403 us, and that they have joined us in representations to the Shah to restore the Constitution, and that the Constitution has, in fact, been, restored. There can be no manner of doubt that if the Constitution in Persia has not merely on paper but in fact been restored, the state of things in Persia will return to the normal condition of tranquillity. The question I want to ask is this: Has the restoration of the Constitution been made in fact as well as on paper I have read in the newspapers of a loan that has been given. I do not know whether it is true, and perhaps the Under-'Secretary will inform me if a loan has been made to the Persian Government by the Government of Russia. It is one of the fundamental articles of the Persian Constitution that no loan shall be made to Persia without the consent of the Persian Parliament. if, therefore, the Constitution has been restored, obviously such a loan:as that is quite illegal until the consent of the Persian Parliament has been obtained. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, speaking a few months ago, said:—His Majesty's Government have informed the Russian Government that should a loan he considered necessary later on, the conditions would require careful consideration, and that they would not consent to any advance until approved by an elected assemblySurely it is a very grave matter if the Russian Government have now on their own initiative made a loan to the Persian Government before Parliament reassembles, which would seem to be in direct contradiction of the assertion made by one of the parties to the Anglo-Russian Convention, namely, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. We know that a considerable force of Russian troops is still in occupation of Northern Persia. I do not wish to cavil at that in the least. I am quite prepared to admit that some force—I should have liked to have seen a Turkish as well as a Russian force—was necessary in order to relieve Tabriz and the Europeans in Tabriz from imminent massacre, but I should like to know upon what grounds that occupation is being maintained. As the House knows, we were, obliged to land marines in South Persia. When we found that the conditions no longer required that force it was withdrawn, and I trust that the Under-Secretary will be able to inform us that the Russian Government contemplate an early withdrawal of their troops from the North 'of Persia.
As regards the reality of 'the Constitution should like to ask the Under-Secre 1404 tary whether he could give us an idea of what is being done by the Government there. Let me explain exactly what I mean. I think it was the Prime Minister who stated at the Guildhall last year, in a clear enunciation of British policy, that the requirements of the situation in Persia were, first of all, that the Shah should dismiss the evil councillors who surrounded him; and, secondly, that he should call to his council men possessing the confidence of the Persian people; and, in the third place, that he should restore Constitutional Government. 'It seems to me that the Shah has done the last of those three things, namely, proclaimed Constitutional Government; but I can see no evidence whatever that he has either dismissed the evil councillors or that he has recalled to his counsels men possessing the confidence of the people of Persia. The councillors who surround the Shah just now are members of the old Carnarilla. Who was the principal leader of that Camarilla? It was, as the House knows, a gentleman with a name perhaps difficult to pronounce —the Amir Bahadur Jang, and the Amir Bahadur Jang has always been known as the greatest reactionary in all Persia. He has not been dismissed from the Shah's counsels, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is now one of the leading members, I believe, of the Government, does not, I am told, possess the confidence of the masses of the Persian people. In fact, I cannot find that any of the evil councillors who have been guiding His Majesty these last years have been dismissed from his service. What I want to know is this. How is it possible to introduce Constitutional Government into Persia if the men who are going to conduct the elections are the instruments of the reactionary party in Persia? As regards the second condition, which, I understand, has always been put forward by the British Government, namely, that men possessing 'tine confidence of the people should be called to the Shah's counsels. Have they so been called If so, where are they? The leading statesmen of Persia—there are not many of them, but such as there are—art still in Europe, either in Geneva or Paris, or other European centres. They have not gone hack to Persia. What I want to know is: How are you going to have a Parliament, representing the opinion of the Persian people. when the posts and the telegraphs and all the machinery of conducting the election are in the hands of the old 1405 reactionary gang?Why, a Parliament summoned under those conditions would be a mere mockery of a free Parliament, and it is certainly not in this way that you will get the public opinion of the Persian people represented. Therefore I do trust that the Under-Secretary will be able to reassure us at least on these points. I do trust that he will be able to tell us that the Shah either has dismissed or is about to dismiss those men who have been in his council during the recent untoward events; and I trust that he will be able to tell us that the Russian and British Governments have joined in earnest representation to His Majesty that those statesmen who are now in Europe, and who possess the confidence of the Persian people, should return under a distinct and definite guarantee from His Majesty that nothing will be done to endanger their personal security. I should like further to hear from the Under-Secretary that the Prime Minister, whoever he may be, who may be chosen by the Shah to conduct the elections, shall be a man possessing the confidence of the Persian nation and of the Constitutional party; and that he will be given a free hand.
§ Mr.ALFRED LYTTELTON
I not wish that a very important question with regard to South Africa, which was raised by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke)at the beginning of this Debate with great ability and distinct moderation, should be lost sight of. The right hon. Baronet referred to a question I asked of the Under-Secretary as to whether he would be willing to lay upon the Table of this House the speech lately delivered by Lord Selborne at Cape Town with reference to the native question at large. I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office has taken the view that that is not an official document. It was obviously a speech made with the greatest possible consideration, and which has had, I understand, a very widespread influence in South Africa, and has been received with far more general agreement here than even, I think, the most sanguine of us ever expected, and I think myself that it is desirable that this document should become at the earliest possible moment a Parliamentary Paper, open to the inspection of all the Members of this House. The right hon. Baronet alluded in his speech, so far as it referred to South African matters, to the question of Protectorates, and especially of Basutoland, and although my disposition is with regard to internal questions 1406 of natives to rely, if unification takes place, upon the combined intelligence and wisdom of the combined States, yet I do not think that that is an attitude which can possibly be taken up with dignity by this country in respect at any rate of Basutoland. The reason I say that is, we have direct responsibilities towards Basutoland, and however highly we may think of the combined government of the four Colonies which are proposed to be unified we have no right to delegate our responsibility to them in respect of the natives of Basutoland who are under our Protectorate not by virtue of conquest by any means, but who voluntarily surrendered themselves to the control of this country, and who selected Basutoland themselves as a country where they could themselves develop their own laws and institutions, and who have of late years shown very remarkable evidence, not merely of civilisation, but of self-control.
As an instance of this, I may mention that during the late war it was anticipated that some breach of neutrality might be made by the Boers in Basutoland, and Sir Godfrey Langton sent down a Commissioner to Cape Town asking for 5,000 rifles to arm the Basutos, and undertaking on their behalf that he would hold himself as bail, that not one single shot would be fired, and that no act of hostility of any sort should take place unless the neutrality of the territory was invaded. That was a signal testimony to the absolute faith and confidence which the Government had in the native population. That they could make that request was a still greater warranty of Lord Milner's faith in Sir Godfrey Langdon and in the Basutos. The rifles were sent and the Basutos were armed, yet there was no act of violence or of incorrect behaviour in any respect alleged against any one of the natives. In regard to Basutoland, therefore, I certainly desire to confirm as strongly as I can the statement of the right hon. Baronet that we have a direct responsibility and that we cannot divest ourselves of it by delegation to anyone else. My opinion is that the Basutos are progressing both in civilisation and in self-control. I desire to say, however, that my position is not similar with regard to the Question of the native franchise in the four States.
§ Sir CHARLES W. DILKE
I did not raise the Question of the franchise, but the Question of colour bar and of ineligibility.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
I understood the right bon: Gentleman, but I was not 1407 quoting him. I was drawing a distinction as to my views on the internal native question. so far as I am concerned—I speak with diffidence on this point, it is a delicate point, but one to which I have given a good deal of thought—I think that our best plan will be to leave this question of the native franchise to the wisdom of the four States when they are united. I do not fear myself that they will exercise that responsibility otherwise than well; but, even if I had not that confidence, I should feel that any interference by us after the Union is brought about would probably result in turning opinion into a less desirable channel than it at present occupies. I agree with the right hon. Baronet that Mr. Rhodes's famous dictum is that we should put forth in South Africa "equal rights for all civilised men." I think that was his expression. Of course, the difficulty always must arise for a long time as to what precisely is the test of civilisation. We have only to remember, as Lord Selborne once pointed out, that we have had representative institutions in this country for 600 years, and that it is only within the last 50 or 60 years that the working men of this country have got the Parliamentary franchise. Therefore it would appear to be extravagant in the highest possible degree to say that the natives, who certainly are a thousand years behind us in civilisation, should at this early stage be granted the franchise, as has been suggested in some quarters. I trust His Majesty's Government and the authorities in South Africa will introduce, or at any rate consider, the question of an education test which might possibly be made the beginning of a native franchise in some of these States.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to ask the attention of the hon. Gentleman representing the Colonial Office. It is with regard to the reports which have appeared in the newspapers in reference to the dismissal of three school inspectors in the Orange Colony. It has always been my view that since responsible government has been granted to these two colonies we cannot, of course, interfere with their domestic affairs. But that does not make it impossible or undesirable for His Majesty's Government, or any Members of this House, calling attention to a matter which is consequent on or following upon the grant of responsible government, and which has resulted in injustice to British subjects who were citizens of that country before the grant of responsible 1408 government. In that case it would not be undesirable to call attention to it, and to ask His Majesty's Government to see if anything could possibly be done with a view to securing justice. Speaking for myself, I must guard myself against assuming that any of the facts stated in the telegram which has appeared are fully or even accurately stated. I think until we have got accurate official information we are not entitled in this House, as against the Government, which is the responsible authority, to postulate that any injustice has been done. I particularly desire to hear whether His Majesty's Government have any information on this matter, and, if it be the fact that these three inspectors have been summarily dismissed, what is the reason alleged, and whether any judicial or other inquiry had been made before that action, so hostile to them, and, as I understand, so much resented by the British population, had taken place. I feel particularly impelled to ask these questions at this moment, because in the very delicate condition of things in South Africa, almost all well-wishers of the country agree that after the union takes place that it will be far better if there is an explanation to be given on these matters that it should be given at once, rather than that a natural and legitimate feeling of bitterness should be entertained between any portions of the British population.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
In regard to the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean and by my right hon. Friend, I desire to say a few words; but first I may be permitted to refer to a question in which we on this side of the House are all deeply interested, and upon which we have had a declaration from the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. I regret that I did not hear the whole of that statement, but as the matter of the Congo has never been one on which the two sides of the House have differed, the House will realise that I would not in the very least twist any statement which has been made to me concerning what the Foreign Secretary has said to any particular controversial advantage. I did hear a portion of the statement of the Foreign Secretary, but I am bound to say that I heard it with intense regret and anxiety. We have had on the question of the Congo probably the most unanimous opinion that we have seen on any great public question that has arisen in this country over a period of generations. The whole country, irrespective of party, 1409 have given its support to Lord Lansdowne when Foreign Secretary and to the present Foreign Secretary in the position which they have taken up, and there has been absolute unanimity in regard to that policy up to the present time. The present Foreign Secretary said:—I think it is not too much to say no external question for at least thirty years moved the country so strongly, so vehemently, as this in regard to the Congo.That was the opinion of the Foreign Secretary, it has been the opinion of the people of this country, and up to the time when Belgium, through her Parliament, annexed the Congo territories to the statements, appeals, and questions asked by this Government the Belgian authorities gave every assurance that the reforms that were asked for would be granted. The Belgian Government in a despatch on 12th July said:—The Cabinet of Brussels intends to issue and to give effect to the said measures for improving the lot of the waives as soon as ever the annexation of the Congo and the Colonial Law have been voted by Parliament. It has promised the Chamber of Representatives to do so on more than one occasion; it has confirmed this promise to the British Government in writing; it can Only to-day repeat its promise wills the same earnestness and sincerity as before,I have a number of quotations here which I might read to show that the repeated promises of the Belgian Government were that just as soon as the Colonial law was passed and the territories taken over that reforms would be instantly instituted. They expressed satisfaction almost at the attitude taken up by the British Government. They were friendly, sympathetic, and amenable, but what happened a little later? As soon as annexation was accomplished by the Belgian Parliament, as soon as the Colonial law is passed, there comes a change in the attitude. Immediately there is a new spirit begotten in the Belgian legislature and in the minds of the authorities of Belgium. They—in reply to protests made and questions asked by our Government in which there occurred the words:—We ask for a radical alteration in the economic -system of the territory.assured us that there could be no question of their adopting radical measures. On 14th November last, as has been mentioned this afternoon, the Foreign Secretary said that some immediate amelioration should be introduced into the lot of the natives. The reply to that was on the part of the Belgian Government that the present condition was satisfactory. There has been a most absolute change of policy on the part of the Belgian legislature Mince annexation was achieved by their 1410 Parliament. To our previous protest there were promises upon promises, but instantly the Belgian legislation became responsible, then began a policy of resistance to any British demand or British representation based on their Treaty rights. Now, we who gave the support from both sides of the House to the Foreign Secretary during all those troubled years were moderate in our statements, were consistent and persistent in supporting this policy, and we have to face the fact now that since last November, when he asked for some definite action on the part of the Belgian Government, we have had nothing. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Woodstock in a speech which was replete with information, and based upon accurate knowledge, we had it shown to us that the position of the Congo so far as the natives were concerned was as bad as it was three years ago, or five or seven years ago, when we made our protest.
It must be abundantly clear that this state of affairs could not go on unless there was a feeling in the Congo among the officials there that they would not be interfered with if they pursued the methods that had been pursued for a course of years. It is not sufficient to say that there has not been time to institute reforms. If those responsible for the collection of labour, and for the treatment of natives, and for the commercial development of the Congo, though I use the word with a note of satire, if they believed that the intentions of the Belgian Government were to produce radical reforms, those reforms would have been produced without regulation and without active coercion on the part of the Belgian Government. The fact of it is that the evidence goes to show that there is apparently no intention on the part of the Belgian Government, and that those who are in the Congo who are doing the work for the concessionaire companies and for the Belgian company have realised that two countries in the forefront of civilisation, the United States and this country, have not been able to effect that determined reform to which they committed themselves for a number of years. That determined reform was that annexation should not be approved of until there was a change in the condition of the natives of the Congo. That change has not come about, and there is apparently no intention of it being brought about.
The Foreign Secretary this afternoon has said that while this Government is considering arbitration that that arbitration would be confined to matters of details 1411 in connection with commerce and trading, and with difficulties which may arise under the rights which we have through the Berlin Treaty and our own agreement made in 1884. That is satisfactory. We understand then that the Government do not intend to allow the large question of principle to be considered by any Board of Arbitration or The Hague Tribunal or any other Tribunal. The United States has said even more strongly than we have ever said that the system pursued by the late Government of the Congo was a system intolerable in the eyes of civilisation. The United States Government presented a Memorandum to the Belgian Government expressing itself far more strongly than the present British Foreign Secretary has ever done. What I want to ask the House is this: Does the Government feel that, with another great Government representing over 80,000,000 of people, in the forefront of civilisation with itself, it must now, as it were, mark time, stand still, and wait developments in the vague hope that things may improve? No one in this House desires what might be called a rupture with any other country; but if England and the United States were to express themselves presently as strongly as they expressed themselves last November, and repeated their statement that they meant what they said, with the understanding that all other countries have of the condition of things in that country, does anyone think that England and the United States would not be supported by public opinion throughout the whole of Europe? If they presented their case once again, not with smooth words, in diplomatic language certainly, but with the same decision, determination, and precision with which the Foreign Secretary spoke three times last year, and again at the Easter adjournment perhaps with less vigour, but with the same decision—today we have not had, as I think, the same decision, and it is a matter of regret to all of us—I say that the Government will do well. If they once again invoke the public opinion of this country and of the United States, and again make a statement to Belgium as firm as the statements they have made in the past, they will have behind them the general assent of the people of this country, and, I believe, of the whole civilised world.
I apologise for speaking so long upon this particular question. May I now ask the attention of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies to one or two matters upon 1412 which there has been some discussion this afternoon. In his very careful and—he will understand how I use the word—astute speech my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir Charles Dille), who always treads carefully on Colonial and foreign questions, knowing the consequences that ensue from careless words, raised one or two points which were also dealt with by my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Lyttelton) with equal care and caution, on which, perhaps, I may be permitted to speak a little more bluntly, since I am not official or ex-official. But, whilst speaking bluntly, I hope at the same time to speak with decent consideration for the difficulties which surround the question of the Constitutional development of South Africa. The native question raised by the right hon. Baronet is one to which the gravest perils are attached if there should be on the part of this Government or on the part of the Governments of South Africa any lack of clear policy, firmness, and decision. I am one of those who think that the Constitution as it stands does not offer any solution of the native problem. I view with anxiety the Bill which will come before this Parliament, embodying the authority of the Governments of South Africa to deal with the natives in their respective Colonies, with differing policies for each Colony, and trying to evolve from those different policies one clear and' general policy which will solve within those territories the native question for unified South Africa. But there is another very difficult position. We stand outside with our territories, with Basutoland, Swaziland, and Bechuanaland. We know generally what our policy is concerning natives. On the whole we are fairly agreed as to what our policy should be. We agree with my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Lyttelton) that we cannot give the franchise in a hurry. Our civilisation would represent nothing if we were going to give it to the natives as it was given to the negroes. The negroes themselves in the United States have recognised that the franchise was given too soon, even after they had had a hundred years of industrial development and technical education. We believe that the natives should be kept in a position of patriarchical administration, with opportunities to develop industrially and socially. and with an opportunity to acquire the privileges of the franchise under certain restricted conditions. What I see in regard to the future is this: Perhaps it cannot be helped: I am afraid it cannot be; and I am afraid it could not be 1413 The only way you could have had unification at the present time was to leave the native question out. Perhaps that is so; but I want to point out that we are going to be faced by two possibly distinct native policies in South Africa. You may have this country with its territories, with a policy of its own, clear and distinct, and you will have under the Constitution the right of the unified Government to make laws to control the natives and to control the entrance and passage of natives from our territories into theirs, which laws might in times of difficulty with this Government be repressive measures intended to provoke a difficulty between this country and the South African Governments in order get what they believe to be a proper solution of the native problem. Their proper solution would be the control of the natives throughout the whole of South Africa south of the Zambesi. That may occur. It may happen that the South African Government will desire that. See what a situation will then ensue. Whenever that was the case it would be impossible for this Government to take up an attitude of severity, of bitterness, or of strenuous opposition. Eventually, I believe, rightly or wrongly, the Government of unified South Africa will control the natives of the whole of South Africa south of the Zambesi. But before that conies there will be grave difficulties. Of that am assured. It is one of the drawbacks of the attempt to develop South Africa constitutionally through this draft Constitution that this question remains unsettled—much less settled han it is at the present time, because the issues involved will be so much the greater.
There is only one point more in the Bill as drafted to which I wish to refer. That is the question of the Supreme Court. I regret extremely that any tie between the Colonies and this country should be loosened or refined away. I believe it is the case there will be no appeal from the Supreme Court of South Africa to the House of Lords, or, rather, the Privy Council, which is the highest tribunal of the Empire. That I think is regrettable. There is one point more which has been raised by my hon. Friend below me. That is in relation with the dismissal of inspectors in the Orange River Colony. We have passed for the moment outside the range of bitterness in connection with discussion of questions concerning South Africa. What I am going to say is absolutely free from any taint of bitterness, or from any taint Of criticism which has behind it any re- 1414 membrance of past conquest. You have at the present time in the Orange River Colony an education system which has been embodied in the Bill lately passed. I am not sure whether I am right, but I believe that when that Bill was finally passed and received the assent of the Government, that the Government had not seen the Bill in all its details. They had only seen the draft of the Bill which was altered in the Orange River Colony Legislature. That Bill received the assent of the Government in its final form, and has not been submitted to this House. Briefly the position is this: that you have in the Orange River Colony a dual language established. That is to say, that both languages may be taught; that both languages shall be taught. Some of us pointed out when the Bill was passed that the result — not intended — would be that racialism, the effects of racialism, would ensue. The position now is that in the Orange River Colonies the British children are compelled to learn Dutch. This applies to three subjects—geometry, geography, and Latin. Just imagine British children being compelled to learn geography, geometry, and Latin in a Dutcb language ! [An observation was here made by an HON. MEMBER.] Well, Dutch is a medium of introduction to the Latin. Of course, any hon. Member who has just arrived on the premises, having taken a deep interest in this discussion, will be able to seize upon any slip of the tongue which the speaker for the time may be guilty of. My point is this, that Dutch covers the three subjects. Someone said it holds good for both races. Yes, but that is the unfortunate part of the thing. You have now the extraordinary experience of the Dutch in the Orange River Colony joining in a public meeting and protesting against their educational system because their children are compelled by the authorities to learn Dutch when they want them to learn English. I believe it is the case that two of the chief schools which I visited in the Orange River Colony, which were most successful and of which nine-tenths of the pupils were Dutch, have steadily declined since the passing of this law. I say this Government should make representations. as my right hon. Friend very properly said, that these were questions which had not solely passed out of our consideration, in view of the fact that there had been until lately such acute controversy over them, and that therefore we were entitled—as we are entitled—to make comments upon these 1415 things which were lately with us subjects of such delicate and acute consideration. I am quite satisfied that the hon. Gentleman, standing so well as he does with the Government of South Africa and with his own Government, which say that they have given blessings untold to South Africa—well, the hon. Gentleman would not put it in such illiterate language as that, but he would say the same thing in different words, that they have given great things to South Africa.
Let us grant it for the purposes of argument. I say the duty of this present Government did not cease then. These things should not be, ought not to be, withdrawn from purview when the Government granted the Constitution. I ask the hon. Gentleman if it is not a case that this Act was insufficiently considered by his Government and by the Colonial Minister 4 I think that a final draft of that Act was never in the hands of this Government until their assent had been given to it by the Governor of the Colony. The hon. Gentleman will know whether I am correct in that suggestion or not. One thing more. I did intend to say something about Somaliland, but I will not. I would like to ask how the question of settlements stands. What is the position of the Land Board, to which we, whether Members of that side or this, attach the greatest importance, since they secure the British settlers from any possible interference—perhaps they would not have interfered—on the part of what may be called an unsympathetic Government for the space of five years. I put a question on this point, and asked what will he the position of the Land Board if this Constitution is granted. The reply of my hon. Friend was that it would remain still under the control of the Imperial Government, but then he said something which I am bound to say startled me. I have since read the Act, and I almost regret to say that my hon. Friend is correct in his interpretation. I almost regret that because it raises a difficulty. I see that under the Constitution that a law passed by the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly may repeal or alter any provisions. The hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that the Government of South Africa could alter the law, and by it could alter the position of the Land Board, and by law take it over; but he said, however, that the Government would have the right of vetoing: the night to refuse assent to that law if passed.
Sir G. PARKER
Of course, we cannot throw our soft heads against these hard stone walls of the Constitution, which has been given by this country. But it does raise a very great question. Suppose that the unified Parliament of South Africa should decide to override, should find, perhaps, that it was incongruous to have a Government within a Government, an Administration within an Administration, a Land Board acting absolutely independently — suppose the Parliament say: "We will have no agreement with the Land Board, which is not provided for under the Constitution," what will happen '1 Suppose the Legislature of the Colony says: "We will pass a law taking over the Land Board." We have only the assurance now of the hon. Gentleman—well, we have not got it yet—that the Government may reserve their assent to that law. We have assurances that the Government will reserve its assent, but there is no certainty that the position of the settlers might not, in a possible case, be injured. It has only got 31 years to run, and then perhaps they will be able in that time to recover themselves from the losses which they have suffered and from the difficulties which they have had to encounter. But I would like—if I might press the hon. Gentleman to give me a clear statement of the case this afternoon —I would like him very much to do so because, after all, it is a question that concerns the settlers out there. A deputation waited upon the hon. Gentleman himself and Lord Crewe in connection with this matter. These people, with their families, are vastly concerned as to what their position is going to be under the new Constitution, and it will be a satisfaction to great numbers of the people in this country and of the settlers of South Africa and in the Colonies generally if the hon. Member will make an explicit statement and define for us what the position of the settlers will be under the new Constitution. With every apology to the House for having detained it so long, I leave the matter now with the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. J. D. REES
As one who rejoices as much as any loyal subject in and out of Parliament that the King won the Derby yesterday, I think we ought to have an extra holiday. I do not intend to postpone, except for five minutes, the all too brief period of holidays which we are to 1417 have. I must leave, therefore, unanswered the whole speech of the hon. Member for Woodstock alluding to the Belgian Government and his condemnation of that Government as under the domination of slave drivers, which I deny, and the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon suggesting that foreign affairs should be committed to the care of a Committee of Parliament, which would render impossible the conduct of business, which is already sufficiently difficult. But I will come to the subject about which I wish to ask the immediate attention of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies and that is the North Nigerian Railway. It seems there is some new system of carrying out railway work by the Government in Africa, because Sir Percy Girouard is carrying this out without the usual intervention of the Crown Agents. I do not regret their absence, but it is a new system, and I should like to know whether this is the form of model upon which the construction of railways in South Africa will in future proceed on behalf of Government.
I also particularly want to know—my intervention is interested, as my hon. Friend knows perfectly well, there is no secret—I want to know whether since trestle steel bridges are approved for Nigeria by Sir Percy Girouard, a famous expert, since they are good for that part of Africa I trust he may, should there be a railway constructed in any other part of Africa, remember that what suits in one part of Africa may be good for another, and that the elevation of this railway throughout is not so great as some hypothetical line of railway with which he may be acquainted. I would also remind him that one of the most famous viaducts in Burmah, a tropical country swept with rain and storms, is of the trestle-bridge character. I submit to him and to the Colonial Office that that type of bridge in America and other parts of the world has been found admirably suited for pioneer railways and that in Northern Nigeria, where there exists granite and stone suitable for masonry works. such work has very properly not been insisted upon when trestles sufficed. I say that this particular type of construction suits Africa extremely well, and if there was time I could refer my hon. Friend to the fact that similar bridges in other parts of Africa have also stood tropical Hoods exceedingly well. But I do not consider that a Member is justified for the special reasons I gave, and also because, of all the work that has been 1418 done and which has to be done, in browsing at large over a wide field of subjects on a day like this, occupying further time, and having brought this subject to the attention of my hon. Friend, who always gives them most careful attention and consideration, for which I take this opportunity of tendering him my grateful thanks, I will abstain from further taking up the time which the House, I am sure, is anxious to spend at this moment in any other manner rather than sitting here.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Colonel Seely)
I will reply at once to the appeal made to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery Boroughs (Mr. J. D. Rees). I do not think I will explain to the House the technical points?is to the different types of bridges in the different countries about the world, but I bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said, and I will bring it to the notice of the Secretary of State. I might remind my hon. Friend that if he will turn to the Parliamentary Paper which was issued on the subject he will find full information—
§ Colonel SEELY
If that be so I can supply my hon. Friend with some further Blue Books which he could read during the Recess.
§ Colonel SEELY
I turn now to other matters raised by two speakers, and if I may I will deal first of all with points of detail, and then come to the more important matter—the effect the Union of the South African States may have upon the native races. As to the question about settlers and the Land Board, it appears that the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Gilbert Parker) has, for the first time, discovered that it is possible for the Parliaments of the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal, as indeed for nearly every Parliament with which I am acquainted, to vary its Constitution. Of course the hon. Gentleman ought to have made his protest some time ago, because if he looks at the Act he will see plainly by Article 39 of the Transvaal, and Article 41 of the Orange River Colony Acts, that the Constitution may be varied, and of course, if Parliament so desires, they may vary any resolution in regard to the Land Board.
§ Colonel SEELY
Ever since I have been at the Colonial Office. It is not remarkable that that is so, and I think the lion. Member is alone in this House in supposing a Parliament cannot vary its Constitutions, subject to higher authority, upon any matter within its charter. The hon. Member will see that by Article 39B of the Transvaal and 41 (C) of the Orange River Colony any such proposal is automatically reserved. In the case of the ordinary laws, although they have not received the Royal Assent, they come into operation, and in due course the Royal Assent is given. The law, however, comes into operation before the Royal Assent is received. In the case of such a law as this the Governor reserves the law automatically for consideration, and that is the technical aspect of the case. How will that be affected by union? I made a very full reply at question time upon this point. Lord Selborne has consulted the South African authorities, and he says the Land Board will be under the Governor-General. It will be possible to delegate powers affecting the Land Board to provincial councils, but in many cases it would be unlikely, and we have the assurance of Lord Selborne that no such course is contemplated and would not be of any advantage.
Sir G. PARKER
My point was that the Land Board is not under the Orange River Colony or under the authority of any South African Government. Could any South African Government deal with a matter which is solely in the control of the Imperial Government?
§ Colonel SEELY
I have explained how we stand with regard to the Land Board or any other matter which the Government of a Colony can deal with, subject to reservation. It is extremely unlikely that any such attempt will be made, and we should know if there was any possibility of such a thing happening. In the case of union, the only difference will be that, instead of the Colony being the responsible administrator, the Governor-General of the new union of South Africa would be the responsible person. With regard to the possibility of them desiring to put an end to the Land Board, that power will be no greater than the power is at the present time, and no whisper or suggestion of such a course has come to us Clearly it would be the last thing a United Parliament would wish to do, when the Land Boards have only a year and a-half to run. Upon that matter the hon. Mem 1420 ber may rest satisfied and feel sure that no such state of affairs will arise.
With regard to the dismissal of school inspectors, which has been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lyttelton) and the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker), I may say that I saw the report in the papers, and I received a telegram on the subject about one hour ago. It appears that there is no definite information as to how the whole matter arose, but the Governor informs me that the Minister of Education in the Colony is going to make a full statement next week, and then he will telegraph to us further information. I think, therefore, it will be better that we should defer till after Whitsuntide any further statement on my part until we have heard what the Minister for Education has to say on the whole matter. No doubt it arises owing to difficulties connected with education. Although it may be true that the people of the Orange River Colony find it difficult to settle the education problem, at any rate they have found it easier than we have done in this country, and it is not for one side to lecture the other. I think we had better accept lectures from that Colony rather than give them lectures from this end. I will undertake, as soon as I have the information as to what the Minister for Education has said—assuming it has not all been published in the papers—to make the fullest statement I can as to the facts if the hon. Member will put down a question on the Paper. I think I have now dealt with all the comparatively minor questions, although they are important.
I come now to the question raised in a speech characterised with great restraint by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. The right hon. Gentleman has taken a life-long interest in the welfare of native races, and he never misses an opportunity of bringing to our notice the fact that it is our bounden duty at all times to endeavour to raise the status of the black races confided to our rule, and he now raises the question whether the natives will he raised or lowered in status should a union of the South African States take place. I think the right hon. Gentleman has clone well even at this late period of the Session to bring this matter to our notice, because it is almost certain that some proposals for union in some form or other will be presented to this House or the other House for our consideration before Parliament rises for the Recess. Of course I 1421 think most of us look forward some day to a union of all the King's Dominions in South Africa under some strong central Government. Most of us believe that by that means the greatest security will be given not only for South Africa as a whole, but also to the native races. The House will appreciate the fact that under the draft Act which is corning over it will be possible for any two colonies to unify themselves and join in union. The indications are so clear that at least two of the colonies will wish to come to closer union that we may say with certainty, or well-nigh with certainty, that proposals for a closer union of some of the States will he brought before this House before we separate for the Recess.
The question will be asked what will be the result of this unification upon the natives? Possibly there will be a unification of four, but under the Act a unification of two States may take place. What will be the effect of unification following the Australian and Canadian precedent, and then following on to a full union of all the States, which most of us look forward to with hope? I think we may say it is a broad rule that the stronger a Government is the more just and considerate it is. We are often told that this House takes a more generous view of native problems than the Governments of Colonies who have native populations to administer. That may be true, but if it be true it is not because of any inherent virtue in ourselves, but because in regard to the danger to which we are exposed we can easily give full play to cur generous sentiments without any corresponding danger. Exactly the same thing must take place when the Governments of South Africa come into union and become stronger, and are themselves less liable to suffer from any fear of the consequences or the action they may take. Broadly speaking, I submit to the House as being true that any scheme of union must render the Government stronger, and by making it stronger must render it more likely to be just and more considerate. My right hon. Friend asks me what opportunity this House will have of discussing Amendments to the draft Act. As I understand it, the Draft Act cannot be brought in here in identical terms. A fresh Bill will have to be drafted. There will also be Amendments proposed by His Majesty's Government. We have settled "upon broad principles, but there are certain principles between this country and South Africa which will have to be discussed. After these discussions have pro- 1422 ceeded for a little time a Bill will have to be brought in. It is proposed as more convenient that the Bill should be introduced into the other House, but, of course, it will also be brought in here. The Amendments which we have agreed upon will also be brought in here, and it will be competent for any Members to move fresh Amendments, but it is unlikely that a great many Amendments will be proposed. I wish to refer to two aspects of the native Question. It is provided "that it shall not be lawful to alienate any land in Basutoland or any land forming part of the native reserves in the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland from the native tribes inhabiting those territories." The sale of liquor shall he prohibited in the territories.
§ Colonel SEELY
It is embarrassing to reply to the question without implying blame, which I am anxious not to do, but so far as the unification of South Africa is concerned I do not think there will be any going back on the work that has been done. The custom, where it exists, of holding pitsos or other recognised forms of native assembly shall be maintained in the territories. No differential duties or imposts on the produce of the territories shall be levied. The laws of the Union relating to Customs and Excise shall be made to apply to the territories. As I have said, the sale of liquors to natives will be prohibited. I think that the South African statesmen are most enlightened on the question of native subjects, and that they are at one with us. We will not pursue a policy of distrust of South Africa, for we are confident that the more we trust the people of South Africa the more likely it will be that the result will be satisfactory. The Cape retains its native franchise under the proposals, and it is fair to say, I believe, that any attempt to ram down the throat of South Africa any plan of our own for dealing with the native races would be foredoomed to failure. We must safeguard the native races, but the more we trust the people of South Africa with their own destiny, the more likely are they to be just to the native races. I look forward with confidence to a unified South Africa, which should not only make that country a more prosperous place for white men to dwell in, but a place where the native may maintain all his rights and progress to higher things.
§ The UNDER SECRETARY for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. T. McKinnon Wood)
An hon. Member seems to think that there is more information in the questions which have been addressed to my right hon. Friend than in the answers, but I think that the answers will compare favourably with the questions. He asked questions with regard to certain movements in Persia. As to the advance made by the Russian Government, for the purpose of paying off the arrears in the pay of the troops, and for disbanding those troops, as well as for the purpose of paying the arrears of salaries of diplomatic officials, and for other urgent purposes. We are aware of the purposes to which this advance has been put, and are being kept informed of the way in which the money is being applied. The hon. Member referred to the presence of a large force of Russian troops in Tabriz.
§ Mr. McKINNON WOOD
There is, no doubt, a large force of Russian troops at Tabriz, and the hon. Member himself admitted the necessity for their intervention. In fact, he went a long way towards saying that the European troops ought to be there to prevent massacre and starvation. Still, we have the assurance that these troops will be withdrawn as soon as a governor has been appointed to take over the administration of Tabriz. I hope that will be satisfactory to the hon. Member. He said there were three things which the Persian Government ought to do in order to prove that they were really sincere in reintroducing the Constitutional movement. The first was the dismissal of evil councillors, and I think he specially mentioned Amir Bahadur Jung, a late War Minister, as one/ of the worst, in his opinion, of the councillors of the Shah. As a matter of fact, that Minister has been dismissed with two other Ministers. As to the new advisers of the Shah, which I think was the hon. Member's second point, Ain-ed-Dowleh is in control of affairs and Nasr-ul-Mulk is to be Grand Vizier if he returns to Persia, although he is at present in Paris. If he returns to Persia there will be a guarantee of safety.
§ Mr. McKINNON WOOD
It is most unreasonable to ask me that. We have urged this particular gentleman to return, 1424 but it is a question for him to consider whether the attractions of the high office to which he is called are sufficient to outweigh other considerations. The third point raised was the question of amnesty. I do not think the hon. Member put it in that way, but I can assure him that we are informed there will be an amnesty for all political offences. The hon. Member for Gravesend raised the question of the Congo. I quite admit the extreme gravity of that question, and that almost universal public interest is taken in it in this country. I realise the responsibility which is placed on the Government in connection with it, and I regret that the hon. Gentleman did not hear the speech of my right hon. Friend, because I can add nothing to what he said. He told the House that arbitration was not, in his opinion, applicable to a question which involves slavery. He also told the House that the Cabinet was considering what reply should be given to the Belgian Note, and as soon as that has been decided upon both the Note and the reply would be laid on the Table of the House.