HC Deb 03 March 1910 vol 14 cc1019-53

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £57,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1910, for expenditure in respect of sundry Colonial Services, including certain Grants in Aid."


moved the reduction of the Vote by £10,000. This is an enormous Supplementary Estimate. Although the sum asked is only £57,000, when one comes to examine the details of the Estimate, we find that it is in reality £96,000, for the purposes of the expedition in Somaliland The fact is, therefore, that the Supplementary Estimate in this case is larger than the original Estimate, which was only £94,500. Hon. Members who were in the last Parliament will recollect that at this time last year this question of threatened hostilities in Somaliland was debated at some length, and we were led to believe by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Colonel Seely), who unfortunately is not now in the House, that there was some prospect that the sum asked for would be ample, and that negotiations were in progress which probably would lead to peace. The first thing I should like to put to the representative of the Colonial Office on the present occasion is, What has become of those negotiations, and why have they not led to peace? I myself take a great personal interest in the Mullah of Somaliland, who some ten years ago was called the "Mad Mullah," though he appears to be no more mad than any hon Member of this House. He is a man of ability, because he has carried on a struggle against the forces of the British Empire for ten or twelve years, in which, I am bound to say, he has uniformly come off best. This gentleman has maintained throughout the whole of the ten years that he is very much ill-used person, and that he wants to remain at peace with mankind if allowed. The British Government has sent against the Mullah of Somaliland no less than three expeditions. I cannot without a great deal of research bring before the House the exact figures, but I have taken part in every Debate on the question of Somaliland during the last twelve years, and I have a fair recollection of the sums of money voted by this House on this matter. I venture to say that the Mullah of Somaliland has cost this country at least £4,000,000 of money. What have we got to show for this £4,000,000? Absolutely nothing. Two expeditions of British troops, or Indian troops led by British officers, have been more or less cut to pieces and annihilated by the Mullah. We were told over and over again that he and his force had been completely exterminated, but he has never been caught—or, rather I should say, he has been caught two or three times, but he "turned Turk" upon his pursuers, who got the worst of the encounter. For the most part, these expeditions spend their time flying through the most appalling, waterless and burning region on the whole face of the globe, with infinite cost of men and money and unfortunate cattle. Parties come and parties go in this House, but the Mad Mullah goes on for ever. This is the third Government that has undertaken an expedition of this character, I have never been able to extract from any Colonial Minister a coherent or rational statement of what it is they want to do with the Mullah. He lives in one of the most inhospitable countries in the whole world, waterless, very difficult to traverse, and with a temperature quite as hot as that of any stokehold: a subject referred to to-day at question time. What it is that the Government wants in chasing this man through his torrid region I can never understand or make out. At any rate, we have expended about four millions of money, and we have gained absolutely nothing.

I remember that the House was very much amused, and a great deal of laughter arose, when Colonel Seely, representing the Colonial Office, read out a communication in reply to a question by me which he had received from the Mad Mullah. I really think the Mad Mullah had the best of the matter in that communication. He said he could not understand why he was being hunted and persecuted. He said also that the British had nothing to get from him, while, if they continued, he should get their cattle. That is the history of these transactions, because I noticed the other day that in spite of this enormous expenditure of money that the Mad Mullah made a raid and carried off 20,000 cattle. We are called on now to vote another £96,000, and I want to know where it is going to stop. I made a suggestion, at least ten years ago, that this gentleman ought to be offered, say £2,000 per year, and then he would keep quiet. I do not really know that he has been doing any harm when let alone. I am perfectly certain that for a modest sum he would become entirely friendly to the British Government. And observe the saving it would be supposing you paid this gentleman, as is the custom of the Government in India to pay along the frontier subsidies to tribes as long as they keep quiet, whereas you have spent £4,000,000 and many lives in chasing him, and for what purpose I never could find out. I ask, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman who is to speak for the Colonial Office, to give us, if he can, a rational statement why these expeditions and why this quarrel should be pursued as long as the siege of Troy, and for what purpose this £96,000 is now required. I beg to move.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of these Votes if it is his intention to make a statement now such as the Under-Secretary for the Colonies did last year. There are a good many of us who are interested in this Question, and who have addressed ourselves to it in the Committee in the past. We were greatly aided last year by the statement the Under-Secretary made. A good many things have happened in Somaliland since he addressed the House on that occasion. Members upon this side of the House have not worried Ministers much concerning it, but they have been exercised regarding operations there. I would therefore like it if the right hon. Gentleman could now make his statement.


I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir Gilbert Parker), and I think there is considerable advantage in the Minister hearing the views in different quarters of the House before he proceeds to deliver his discourse. If the right hon. Gentleman adopted the procedure suggested no further attention would be paid to anything said by other hon. Members in the House, therefore I heartily disagree with his view on this point. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said that this Mullah was no madder than other people, and that might well be so, but I should be sorry to think it was a proof of sanity on his part, as the hon. Member seemed to think, that he spent most of his time engaged in attacking the British.


What I said was that he said that the British spent most of their time in attacking him.


I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that a proof of his sanity was that he was attacking the British.


Not at all.


I draw from these premises the exactly opposite conclusion. The hon. Member said also that he has beaten us for ten years running, but that is by no means the case. It is the exact opposite. It is the fact that we have been engaged in desultory and spasmodic conflicts for periods of that length. The reason they have been so much prolonged is not that we have been unable altogether to deal with this wild man of the desert, but because it is our invariable habit, whether a wise one or not, in dealing with enemies of this class, having defeated them, to treat them as fit examples for misplaced leniency, whereby opponents of this sort consider that we are unable to take those steps which, in their eyes, we did not take when we could.


When did we beat the Mullah?


I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman in this matter, neither do I think that it is conclusively proved that these expeditions have cost the British Government £4,000,000. I should be loath to ascribe all the expenditure in Somaliland to this purpose. Of course, if you start from the standpoint that British prestige is nothing, that there is no pride in the British flag flying anywhere, or protection under it except in our own islands, and I suppose in the neighbouring island of Ireland, then the hon. Gentleman may be right. As the exact contrary is the case, and as matters on the shores of the Red Sea and the adjacent countries are such that British influence should predominate, if possible, for the safety of our Indian Empire, I draw an entirely opposite conclusion, and believe this Supplementary Vote to be a sum which, though large, has been well spent, and that we could not, without great loss of British prestige, have treated the Mullah with that indifference which the hon. Member for East Mayo recommends. He says, What have we got to show for this money? If everything were to be judged from the purely commercial point of view, I take it this House of Commons would never have been dealing with anything but the affairs of these small islands, and there would have been no British Empire for hon. Gentlemen to criticise, and no British Empire, with servants in every part of the world, which the hon. Member could criticise in that hostile spirit which he invariably adopts.

It is true, as he says, that parties come and parties go, but the Mullah is always with us. It is the nature of Mullahs that they are not to die just like the Dalai Lama of Thibet, with whom we are concerned at present. They appear, whether from heaven or elsewhere, and there is a succession of them. This Mullah may be the same one, but even of that we are not sure. Personation is not so difficult in Somaliland as it is in the office of an old age pension agent. The hon. Gentleman said, and it is perfectly true, that there are considerable hardships endured by our troops in pursuing this potentate, if that is a correct description of him. Incidentally, he referred to the temperature, and quite rightly said it was often far higher than that referred to as the fate of Asiatic seamen to-day. The hon. Gentleman wanted to know what we have gained in pounds, shillings, and pence. If that had been the principle that had actuated us in the past we would never have had the Indian Empire, never regenerated Egypt, and never have had anything but this small island without any interest outside it, not even across St. George's Channel. A colleague of the hon. Member for Mayo on a previous occasion invited the Front Bench to state what were the military measures which were in contemplation for the purpose of crushing the Mullah. He wished them stated on the floor of the House, so that the Mullah, who seems to be a very up-to-date gentleman, might obtain, through his agents in London, the necessary information with which he could more easily meet our soldiers.


Has he got agents in London? He is a greater man than I thought. Has he got agents here?


Evidently. Then the hon. Member proceeded to say that it would be much cheaper to pay the Mullah £2,000 or £3,000 per year. That was the precise course adopted by the Roman Empire, with which we are often compared. In its days of decadence it bought off the neighbouring barbarians until the barbarians, being persuaded of its weakness, came down and destroyed it. The hon. Gentleman seriously put that forward as a policy, and he referred to a similar policy which, he said, was pursued along the frontier of Afghanistan. It is true it is pursued to some extent there, but speaking for my humble self I entirely regret it, and I believe it to be a bad policy. I think we do too much in the way of subsidy. I must point out, however, that the policy that is pursued on the Indian frontier is by no means the policy the hon. Member suggests. It is a policy no doubt of subsidy, but it is also of punishment whenever hostilities are engaged in against the British Empire. It is by no means the case that the British Government buys all barbarians on the frontier. It is the case that they smite them hip and thigh, and if they pursued the policy of subsidy less there would be less expenditure of treasure and blood and life on that frontier.

I repeat that the tribes on the frontier are punished, and that such necessary punishment is frequently commented on in this House as if it were a barbarity. Nevertheless, in spite of these considerations which arose from what the hon. Member said, no doubt it is desirable that this Vote should be discussed. There are points in it which certainly make it desirable that a full explanation should be given. For instance, there have been no doubt serious raids in Somaliland. I see, from the latest information which reached me on the subject, that a great many people were lately killed and a thousand camels looted. The question arises, Who amongst the different sections and tribes were the persons whose camels were looted and to some extent killed. [Laughter.] That is not a slip on my part, because in the eyes of these tribes the loss of camels is regarded as equal to the loss of life. They place a different value upon human life from what we do in this House. I do not say who is right, but that is their point of view, and in discussing their affairs it is desirable to see their point of view. It would be an extremely serious matter if the tribes who have suffered the loss of a few lives and many camels are friendly tribes, who have now been exposed to the resentment of the Mullah on account of our having recalled our troops, or having in any way pursued that policy of retreat and indifference which the hon. Member for East Mayo recommends. In my view, it would be a very serious matter if any such policy led to abandoning to the resentment of their neighbours those who, on the faith of our protecting them, have supported us. It seems to me not at all unlikely that these are friendlies who have been thus harried, and I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give us some information on the point. At Aden, only a month ago, thirty of the Mullah's men attacked a friendly tribe and killed twenty.


The hon Gentleman is on the wrong side of the water.


The right hon. Gentleman forgets that I have been in these waters far oftener than he has. I do not forget where Aden is, but I say that these were men in communication with the Mullah, and said to be acting under his advice or orders. That is my information. I shall be glad to hear that I am wrong. Aden is some little way from Somaliland, but not very far as Oriental distances go. I may be entirely wrong in thinking that our advance posts in Somaliland have been brought back towards their base, thereby exposing friendly tribes to the resentment of the Mullah's people. An explanation on that point will be acceptable. If there is any policy of hasty withdrawal or of curtailment of the protected area, it must seriously injure British prestige, not only in Somaliland, but also at Aden, which is practically the next door place, for, from an Oriental point of view, Aden and Somaliland are no farther apart than Middlesex and Berkshire. I so far agree with the hon. Member for East Mayo that I do not think we can altogether subjugate Somaliland. I do not know that I would advise it. But in any case you cannot ignore the Mullah in the way the hon. Member suggests, and it is necessary all over these regions that we should see that no tribes are the worse off for having been friends to the British.


I rise to ask for further information, and to endorse the remarks of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bees). I share with him the good fortune of having been in the public service in the part of the world now under discussion, and I also partake of his feeling of resentment at the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo. I have read the hon. Member's (Mr. Dillon's) speeches when in the service of the country in the parts of the world with which they were concerned, and nothing is more discouraging to public servants than such speeches, displaying either great levity or great ignorance in regard to the subject under discussion. The hon. Member for East Mayo suggested that the Mullah might be given £2,000. He also said that Mullahs come and Mullahs go. If there is one thing better than mother to make Mullahs come, it is to offer them £2,000 for coming. If it is once known in Somaliland, where Mullahs are as common as sparrows, that they have only to make themselves particularly disagreeable to the British Government in order to get £2,000, there will certainly be a vast increase of Mullahs. But there is a much more serious point of view, namely, the point of view of our responsibility as trustees of the Empire, the point of view of the brave Englishmen who are endeavouring, in face of great difficulties, caused mainly by such speeches as those of the hon. Member for East Mayo, to discharge their duty, and the point of view of the natives for whom we are responsible.

What do you mean to do with Somaliland? That is a pertinent question. I have taken part in one expedition against the Mullah, and I have had to do with two others. I think they were exceedingly futile. I do not mean to suggest that they ought not to have been undertaken; I think they certainly ought to have been, but on different lines. They all ended in the same way. We got the Mullah, so to speak, stone cold, but were not able to go on because the funds ran out. Having bought that experience once, the proper thing would have been to see if there was not a better mode of procedure. I think there is—a mode recommended ever since the Mullah question became a live one, namely, to build a railway into Somaliland. There have been discussed various schemes for making a railway, thereby to impress the tribes with your determination to protect them, and to abandon the insane policy adopted by both parties of sending expeditions, harrying the country, and then leaving to the tender mercies of their foes the people who have been your friends. The latter is an entirely false policy, and as long as it is pursued it will always have the same result of leaving the Mullah in charge of the country. If, on the other hand, we gave the Somalia a chance of choosing between a stable, fixed Government, such as they would have under the British flag and under British officers, on the one hand, and, on the other, the sort of happy-go-lucky business which government under the Mullah is, there is not the slightest doubt that they would flock to us. Somaliland would be pacified directly we made it perfectly clear that we meant business and that we intended to stay in the country.

Another aspect of the question which demands attention is that British Somaliland is only a small territory wedged in between French, Italian, and Abyssinian territory. It thus becomes a very vulnerable point. It is altogether beside the mark to say that it is very hot and desolate. Nature made it so. We have put the British flag there, and it is very desirable that we should hold it. But we shall not hold it by futile expeditions and speeches in this House. We must adopt some concrete policy for dealing with the problems that exist there. They are problems which have had to be faced in other countries. I might recall the case of the Soudan. We abandoned the Soudan, and by the exigencies of Empire we were forced to reconquer it. If we abandon Somaliland, as we are on the road to doing now, we shall be forced one of these days to reconquer it. There will be no necessity for doing that if we build a railway through it. If we want to keep our predominance in Abyssinia, to keep the trade of Somaliland open, and to keep peace among the men who look to us to protect them against their hostile neighbours, we shall have to take a stronger line in regard to Somaliland, and to make up our minds that although it is a small and poor country it is not by any means a negligible quantity. Instead of bringing in year by year Estimates and Supplementary Estimates for perfectly futile military expeditions the Government should bring in an Estimate to build a railway and properly settle the country. We should then achieve what I suppose we all want, namely, the prosperity and welfare of a certain section of His Majesty's subjects, who are just as much entitled to be looked after as any other section.


The Government are asking the House to sanction large additional expenditure, which they put down as being entailed by the defence of the Protectorate in consequence of the hostility of the Mullah. What is it that has caused this renewal of hostility on the part of the Mullah? From 1905 to 1908 I believe the Mullah was not attacking the Protectorate to any great extent, but at the end of 1908 the Government adopted a new policy, and the Mullah once more renewed hostilities. The Government first of all initiated what I believe to be the thoroughly sound policy of blockading the coast. The Somalis require or like a certain amount of rice and dates for their daily subsistence, which commodities have to be imported from abroad. The Government, about this time last year, by blockading the coast, largely stopped those supplies. For ten or twelve years, while the party with which I am associated were in office, the Mullah was the leader of a religious movement and at the head of a great body of fanatics. Since then he has been gradually losing his prestige, and has become a mere freebooter. A letter has been sent from Mecca stating that the Mullah is no longer a true Mahomedan or the head of a religious movement. Such was the state of affairs about a year ago, when the Government did what? They proceeded to send one or two military officers as a Commission to inquire into the matter and to treat with the Mullah. I understand that their endeavours were not successful, and that a second letter was sent, the bearer of which has not returned. When those negotiations began the Mullah was at a very low ebb indeed, and it is because the Government have treated him as a potentate instead of as a mere freebooter that this additional expenditure has been forced upon us.

6.0 P.M.

There is another point. The Mullah was largely at one time at the head of a purely nominal and wandering following, but since that time he has settled down. I believe his headquarters are now in the Italian Somaliland. He has there got a considerable establishment. If the Government would be prepared to renew the blockade of the coast, and to get the Italians to agree to allow the blockade to extend over that part of the Italian Somaliland coast through which the Mullah gets his supplies, and at the same time would make a forward movement by the aid of friendly natives against the Mullah it would be well. A forward movement towards our own border would cause the Mullah to retreat towards Abyssinia, and thus he would lose a great deal of his prestige. This prestige is really the cause of his remaining the thorn in our side that he has been for so many years. I think that one might ask the Government to explain more clearly what their policy is, and whether they do intend to make such a forward movement, or whether they intend to retire before the Mullah, and abandon everything, and so sacrifice our position; or do they intend to make a strong forward movement with a thoroughly mobile and mounted force which might be capable of dealing with the very mobile and very active force that the Mullah has at his disposal, even though his own headquarters are not so mobile as they used to be.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)

The Debate has certainly been productive of some very good speeches from hon. Members, many on this side of the House, and especially from those who have geographical knowledge of the place or have taken part in expeditions, and it has been adorned by the two speeches to which we have just listened from hon. Members on the other side who for the first time have taken part in our Debates, and who have spoken with conspicuous moderation on a subject on which they have special knowledge. I freely admit that there is a great deal of force in some of the arguments which the hon. Gentleman the Member from Mayo has advanced. I do not think anyone who looks at this matter in a cold light can be satisfied with the position we have occupied in British Somaliland during the last ten or eleven years. In the old days, when the Somaliland coastline was under the control of the Government of India, the posts held by the British Government were confined to the coastal region. It was there that the whole revenue was, and is still, collected. It was there and at Aden—the great centre of Somaliland, where the intercourse with the tribes was best regulated—that the revenue which was in those days raised upon the coast was sufficient to defray the main cost, and I think for many yeans the whole cost of the Somaliland Protectorate. Events have drifted and marched on their wayward course, and we have been drawn in the course of the last ten or eleven years into moving forward from the convenient and safe position which we used to hold with such little trouble, to occupy in the interior a certain area—not a very considerable area in view of the size of the country. Our presence in the interior has unquestionably led to the need of maintaining a military establishment which, if it is far too small to effectively police these vast deserts, is very far too large for the revenue which can be derived from the Somaliland Protectorate. In consequence of that we have had a prolonged period of grants in aid, which, apart from the expeditionary expenditure, cannot, I apprehend, be estimated at anything less than about £60,000 or £70,000 per year upon an average. That is not a very satisfactory situation from a financial point of view. Neither is the situation very satisfactory from a military point of view. It is quite true that the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Dorset, who has just spoken, has told that the power of the Mullah is at the present time on the decline. His reputation as a religious and spiritual guide has been very seriously affected by the Mecca letter. Instead of being, as he was some years ago, at the head of a large concentrated Dervish gathering, he is now exercising a sort of loose sway over three or four disunited and disconnected raiding parties, who maintain centres of disorder in different parts of this enormous region. But although the Mullah is at present in a period of decline, there is no doubt that the attempt to hold any large portion of the interior with a small force of 1,400 or 1,500 men for any long period of time must dispose you to a certain unceasing risk of military disaster. We have seen in the late war the great rapidity with which portions of Dervish horsemen can move at the proper seasons through this waterless country, and we know well the very formidable military power which on occasion they have shown themselves capable of developing. Therefore, I say that if the financial situation is unsatisfactory, the military situation is not one the indefinite prolongation of which can be viewed with any comfort or satisfaction even from the soldier's point of view.

Thirdly, I am bound to say that I have formed the conclusion that if we are not doing very much good to ourselves we are not doing very much good to anybody else by our present position. I have come to the conclusion that during the ten or eleven years we have been interfering and meddling in the internal affairs of Somaliland we have not been able to give any real security or tranquillity to the country. We have tried many different policies, and under both Governments—I hope this question will not be made a matter of party feeling. Under the late Administration a prodigious exertion was made, and nearly £3,000,000 were spent upon a powerful expedition which moved from converging lines into the centre of the country and fought several seriously contested engagements. But no satisfactory result was achieved, and I cannot myself resist the conclusion that we have during all that period not given any satisfactory measure of protection even to those tribes who have been nearest to our military zone. We have not given any satisfactory measure of protection to what are called the friendly tribes. They have been raided occasionally, and they have raided back occasionally. Sometimes we have found that a tribe which we were engaged in protecting had moved 100 miles from a military post established for its security and safety, and at the very moment was engaged in raiding somebody else's ground, sometimes with weapons we had given them for their own defence. If, again, a mobile column is employed to police the desert and to circulate through this wilderness of stone, and sand, and shrub, to circulate everlastingly upon police duty, the raiders disappear into other places. On the other hand, if the troops are placed in garrison at fixed points, with a system of posts and forts, they become immobile, and the raiding proceeds all round and under their very noses. Whether it be from a financial or military point of view, or from a point of view of the interests of the people of Somaliland as a whole, I frankly state to the Committee that we cannot be asked to view the position with any satisfaction. The country itself is barren. Certainly all authorities agree that it has no commer-, cial no mineral, and no agricultural properties. Even the Mullah, I believe, is forced to import such food as he cannot steal. The poverty of the land is extreme. It is a country valueless to all except the wild inhabitants who live in it, and to them it is dearer than life.

I do not feel myself if that were the whole argument there would be any difficulty in my drawing conclusions, which, at any rate on this side of the House, would be accepted with some measure of satisfaction. But as is perfectly well known, the situation is not completely described or covered by the arguments I have used. We have been in that interior of Somaliland, and, I think, mistakenly. I think it was a great mistake to have left the secure positon, which under the Government of India was maintained for many years on the coast line, and which gave us all we needed without any risk. But as we have left that secure position we have contracted obligations and responsibilities. It is the proper discharge of those obligations and responsibilities which form the principal preoccupaton in Somaliland of His Majesty's Government. I do not feel able to describe in any close details the actual military situation, but I will say this: we have thought it right and proper to reinforce the troops in Somaliland by a strong Indian battalion of the Baluchis. They have been brought across the Indian Ocean, and placed under the orders of General Manning, who is dealing with the situation there, who thus will be at the head of troops entirely unaffected by any local feeling, and who has been given this extra force to strengthen him in carrying out any policy which, in his own opinion and in the opinion of the Government, it may be desirable to embark upon Although I deeply and seriously regret the financial demands I have to make on the Committee—although it is very unsatisfactory—I think the House may rest assured that there are forces at the disposal of General Manning quite adequate to any movements which he may decide to make—and forces unaffected by any feeling of religious fanaticism which may be flying to and fro in Somaliland. I do not wish to say any more about the actual military position, still less would I like to say anything about the prospective movements whether of an aggressive or contractive nature. These are movements which may conceivably, if they were announced or spoken of in this House, cause real embarrassment to people on the spot who are dealing with the situation, and, therefore, I shall purposely deny myself the opportunity of making any clear or precise statement to the House, and I will only ask the indulgence of the Committee, and hope they will not press the Government unduly on this matter. After all the Somaliland Vote will come up again—unless some unforeseen circumstance shatters this Parliament, it will come up again very shortly in the course of the Session, and I think it very probable then that whoever is engaged in explaining the subject will be able to deal much more fully and freely with the position and policy than it is open for me to do at the present time. But upon the general Question, let me say, I feel that our present position is very unsatisfactory, and I should like to see us get to a firmer and securer position and a clearer and a more strongly reasoned policy than any which has hitherto been adopted. You cannot go on holding on from day to day in the hopes that something better may turn up. Sometimes that is the only policy in human affairs in Africa and elsewhere, and for the moment I am speaking of Africa. But, again, the moment is very often reached when that policy has to be finally discarded, and when sharp, clear and decisive action must be taken whether in Africa or elsewhere, and I think it is quite clear that although no doubt the building of a railway would have a very beneficial effect in the subjugation of the natives in British Somaliland there are other railways on the East Coast of Africa which it would be very much more worth our while to deal with.

When I think of this desert of scrub and sand in Somaliland on which we have spent so many millions, and turn my eye to the beautiful and fruitful regions of Uganda in the East African Protectorate, which for a very much smaller proportion of the money we have squandered, would all this time have been producing far greater supplies of oil, of rubber, and of cotton than they have ever yet achieved, when I consider how tremendously the investment of Imperial capital in this region has repaid, I do view with as grudging an eye as the hon. Member who moved the reduction the prospect of any extension of our responsibility in this barren region of Somaliland and of any military operation or railway construction likely to plunge us into large and indefinite liabilities. I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to address the House on the subject. I hope the Committee will have confidence in the Government and will believe we are endeavouring to relieve the cost and strengthen the situation and contract the area of our responsibilities in Somaliland, and at the same time to do justice to our obligations to those who, through mistaken policy on our part, have been led to rely, to some extent, at any rate, upon the protection of our military forces.


I could not help but remember when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking his first speech made in this House, in which, in a fine apostrophe, he held up the tattered rag of economy, to the protection of which he was going to devote his future energies in the House. I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in his position to-day, as I sympathised with him in those days, and I sympathise with him in having to accept what is forced upon him. He made a very gallant defence of the Government's position to-day in one of those speeches in which the right hon. Gentleman has some peculiar and fascinating facility. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a few questions? He has said he is in favour of a stronger policy—at any rate, he gave the Committee to understand that he was dissatisfied. He was speaking on behalf of the Government, and he is dissatisfied, and the Government is dissatisfied, with the position in which we find ourselves to-day. But we have been saying the same thing for a number of years, and I frankly say I have not the slightest faith in the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made. He makes that statement in all good faith, but I do not believe that anything will be done. Last year I ended the few remarks that I made by saying that the Government's policy was a futile undertaking. It is indeterminate. The right hon. Gentleman has given us no picture whatever of the present situation in Somaliland. I take up the last Report, and I find that nothing is given there; no indication is given of the military operations which were carried on. The right hon. Gentleman asks us not to compel him to say anything about the future military operations. We do not, but I think this Committee has a right to know something of the past military operations, and the right hon. Gentleman did not make a single statement that will enable us to understand what has been done during the last year since his colleague came to this House and asked for £52,000 in Supplementary Estimates. We have now got to £96,000, and it was prophesied the last time that £100,000 would be asked for.

What has that money been spent on? We do not know. I assume it has been spent well. I have the most absolute confidence in our military officers out there and our military organisations, but here is a policy which year after year this House is almost blindly supporting. We have never pressed the Government; we did not press the last Unionist Government as much as we ought to have done. Suggestions have been made—one by my hon. Friend, who in his maiden speech made a very strong impression on the House—that a railway might be built. My hon. Friend suggested that the only way to act effectively was to strike, and to strike hard. He suggested that we should build a railway and do what was done in the Soudan. If we are going to keep this territory at all we must act; we cannot keep going on with the policy we are now pursuing. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury over two years ago made a quotation from Unionist Ministers and said that the policy of inaction and of waiting and of marking time was a policy which could only bring confusion in the end. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken would have us think to-day that he is in sympathy with that. I think we are entitled to further information. Has the right hon. Gentleman anything to say about any general plans of operation which, broadly speaking, he can give to the House regarding the railway and regarding the accumulation of crops? It was suggested that you could corner the Mullah and drive him into the dry districts in the time when, being driven there, he would have no hope. His followers must be disordered, his cattle lost, and he must be placed in difficulties which would possibly end in his being destroyed altogether. There are three policies—the policy of remaining at the coast; the policy of moving forward a certain distance and then drawing back, of producing certain effects upon the Mullah and his faction and then retiring, and retiring without any particular effect to the advantage of the administration of Somaliland; and there is a third and final policy of having our firm determination translated into military operation which will probably cost this country £500,000.


Five million pounds.


I am not an authority on military operations, but that figure has been given to the Government by officers in Somaliland who understand the situation and believe, from their experience, that the whole thing could be done under £1,000,000. This year we are asked for Supplementary Estimate for this portion of Africa of £60,000. Ten years at £60,000 a year means £600,000, and we have already approached that sum. £1,000,000 would settle the whole difficulty by capturing the Mullah and having wide operations in this district. If £1,000,000 would settle this difficulty, it seems to me that it would be well spent. I have watched for a number of years, and I have found the Government every year facing the House, looking for a Supplementary Estimate. Anyone who really cares for British prestige, or, indeed, for our safety in the East or in British East Africa, must come to the conclusion that we must remain in Somaliland. We cannot abandon the country now. From the standpoint of Imperial prestige, from the standpoint of those native and friendly tribes to whom we have given assurances that they shall be protected if they sided with us instead of with the Mullah we cannot abandon it. Is this indeterminate policy to go on? Are we from year to year to say we must protect those friendly tribes while by our operations and actions we do not give them the mandate that they are entitled to expect?

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman also whether rifles are going into Somaliland to arm the natives under the Mullah? It was stated in this House last year that they had been coming in the previous year, and it was promised that inquiry should be made of the French and Italian and the Abyssinian Governments concerning the importation of rifles through their territories and particularly through Italian territories. We understood that specific information will be given to the House, but we have heard nothing but generalities ending with fine sentiments about clear, sharp, and decisive action. I should like to know what that clear, sharp, and decisive action is going to be which is the natural desire of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Blackpool last year made a speech on this subject, which everyone regarded with great satisfaction. It was a very clear statement of the position, and the Under-Secretary for the Colonies then made a clear statement as to the position of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has on this occasion made a clear statement only in regard to his own sentiments, and, however much we may admire the language he uses, sentiment will not satisfy this House when we are asking for information upon a matter in which this country is vitally concerned. We have to consider our interests all along that coast and our position amongst the Mahomedan tribes along our highway to India. All these things demand from us the most serious considration, and putting them off from day to day can only end in disaster. We get no further from the coast than we have done before, and we inflict no more injuries upon the Mullah than we have clone. Our prestige in Somaliland continues to decline, and it will probably decline just as much in 1910 as it did in 1908–9. If the Prime Minister had not left the House I was going to appeal to him to supplement what the Home Secretary has so ably stated, because the right hon. Gentleman's statement carries us no further, and before we pass this Vote we ought to be satisfied that the intentions of the Government are not only good and sincere, but that they have behind them a policy which is in the way of being worked out, and one which, I hope, will be different to the policy pursued in the past not only by this Government, but by previous Unionist Governments. Both parties have been to blame in the past, because they have done exactly what the right hon. Gentleman has done to-day. The only thing that can serve us is the death of the Mullah by natural causes or the assassination of the Mullah by some of his own people. I know that the present Government is incapable of assassination, although I am not sure that it is incapable of committing hari-kari upon itself. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make a further statement upon this important and vital matter.


I rise to support the observation of the hon. Member for Gravesend, because I think the statement made by the Home Secretary has only left us where we were before. I ventured to put upon the Paper a question asking whether the Government would lay Papers on the Table with regard to the military situation in Somaliland. I did so because ever since I left the position I had the honour to fill as Superintendent of Protectorates in the Foreign Office there has not been issued one single publication to give us information as to the actual state of affairs in Somaliland. We are told that any information that might be given to this House concerning any operations which the Government think it necessary to undertake would be immediately communicated to the Mullah, and in that way we should be assisting the cause of the enemy and not the cause we have at heart. I am speaking surrounded by colleagues who have worked with me and under me in the Foreign Office, and I have no hesitation in saying that not one of us would wish to do anything to embarrass the present Government or any future Government on matters relating to foreign policy or in regard to what is to be done in Africa. I think, however, as a matter of legitimate curiosity, we are entitled to hear something from the Government as to what is going on in Somaliland. Under the late Government we used to lay before the House the fullest possible information in regard to our proceedings in the Protectorates and in the different regions in Africa, and we did so because it was felt only right that we should treat the House of Commons in that way.

As far as the officials are concerned they would prefer to deal with these matters without the intervention of the House of Commons at all, but surely the House of Commons has a right to the information which we always endeavoured to give it. Those of us who have been connected with those countries are in an extremely difficult position, because we cannot cut ourselves off from all the information our old friends would give us, and we cannot suddenly say to them, "Do not write us letters telling what is going on." We are in the position of having received information, and we are unable to say what we know, because we are afraid of embarrassing the Government. I think if the Government would treat us with a little more generosity in the matter of information it would be very much easier for us to give them our support. I know perfectly well the extraordinary difficulty there is in dealing with the military and social question in Somaliland, and I should like to have some good reason given to me why I should support the Government. This is very difficult to do if you are told absolutely nothing by the Government, on the ground that it would be injurious to the public interest. We were told by the Under-Secretary to the Colonies, on a former occasion, that the Government would not pursue a forward policy, but that they would endeavour to defend the tribes, and there was to be no building of a railway. Since then we have heard nothing of a more definite character as to the policy which is being pursued, beyond being told that events have not marched in accordance with the wishes of the Government, and that the position in Somaliland has not improved. I think the Mullah found out from the last Debate that ours was not going to be a forward policy, and since then he has taken what steps seem most convenient to him. I think we might at least be told something as to the reasons which have prompted the Government to replace the King's African Rifles by a regiment of Baluchis.


I can answer that question at once. At the beginning of last year, when there was a certain recrudescence of raiding, rather of a petty but disquieting character, it was found necessary to bring into Somaliland first one and then an extra battalion of the King's African Rifles, which were moved in from the East Africa Protectorate. This left the East Africa Protectorate dangerously denuded of troops, because we have only a very small margin of force with which to maintain authority over large tracts of the country. The difficulty of keeping these two battalions such a long time away from their proper districts in which they are employed in East Africa and Uganda made it necessary to relieve them by bringing in a battalion from India, and so we picked out a very good fighting battalion, one of the Baluchi battalions, and, with the concurrence of the Government of India and the Secretary of State for India, that battalion was moved in, and it is now stationed at Burao. That battalion also has this advantage: It is quite unaffected by any of the currents of feeling which are moving in the country, and which might conceivably affect the minds of troops raised in the locality, and raised from races so closely allied to the Somalis as are the soldiers of the other two battalions of the King's African Rifles. I do not see any reason why I should not state that the Baluchi battalion and the Indian contingent of the 6th Battalion of the King's African Rifles, which is largely a mountain force, constitute the bulk of the troops we now have there, and they have recently somewhat contracted their advanced posts and have withdrawn from the high land. More than that I really do not wish to say. I have done my best to give all proper information.


I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the further information he has given us. The King's African Rifles were specially kept there for the purpose; they were specially organised and created for dealing with these small wars in Africa, and are supposed to be exceptionally suited for that work. I know they are infinitely cheaper, more mobile, and more able to deal with Somalis than the Baluchis, who carry about with them a great deal of impedimenta and are very difficult to move about. I will not, however, press the right hon. Gentleman at present for any further military details. I understand that the Vote for Somaliland will come up again and that we shall have a further opportunity of discussing this question. I hope the Government will consider on some future occasion whether it is not possible to give us some further information about the position of affairs in Somaliland. If the right hon. Gentleman will ask the representative of the Colonial Office when he returns to this House to look at the Report which was issued on Somaliland last year, he will find that all allusion to the military movements was cut out, and therefore we have not had any opportunity whatever of knowing anything of what is going on in that country. During last year's Debate on this question many solutions were proposed for the position in Somaliland. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, the Member for Rugby (Mr. Baird), who has had much experience in Abyssinia and is entitled to speak on the subject, that it is very desirable to make a railway there. It will show we have come to stay, and it is quite possible the country might develop hitherto unknown resources. Another method suggested by the Leader of the Opposition last year was motor traction. We have had no information about that, we have not been told whether any roads are to be made, and we have no idea what efforts are being made to develop Somaliland. Speaking with all knowledge and responsibility, and not wishing the Government to give us anything which would prove injurious to the country, I say I do think they should give us some Papers and some little further information on this subject.


During a long experience of these Debates extending over ten years, the only satisfactory speech I have ever listened to from a Minister of the Crown on Somaliland is that just made by the Home Secretary. His speech from beginning to end was a comprehensive and a severe condemnation of the entire policy of successive Governments in Somaliland. He pointed to a condition of things which I think has fully justified the contentions of those of us who for twelve years have resisted all these Votes. He pointed out that all military expeditions were futile, that millions were thrown away, and many lives wasted. The introduction of military protection posts was the first cause of the trouble. So long as the Government contented themselves with holding the coast, everything was peaceful, trade went on, and friendly relations existed between the posts on the coast and the natives. What caused all this trouble was the forward policy and the introduction of military posts into the country. What was the excuse? The protection of friendly tribes. The Home Secretary has told us that throughout the whole twelve years the attempt to protect the friendly tribes has been absolutely futile, and he described a condition of thing which, I think, really ought to be a matter of reproach and regret to any Government responsible for it. On more than one occasion a friendly tribe, for the protection of which a military post had been instituted, was discovered a thousand miles away raiding other troops with the weapons put into their hands by the Government. Is not that something worthy of one of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas? We are told that the country might develop in some extraordinary manner, that it might strike oil, and one hon. Member says that wherever the British flag is raised there it ought to stay. Really, I must say it is a reductio ad absurdum of the doctrine of the flag when you want it flying over the deserts of Somaliland at enormous expense. [HON MEMBERS: "Heligoland."] Heligoland is a much more important place than Somaliland.

The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker) who takes a great interest in these matters—he and I are old campaigners on this subject—said he had had it from military experts that the Government had had a plan put before them whereby they could finally extinguish the Mullah for £500,000. I heard of that ten years ago. We gave them £500,000, and the Mullah was going to be finally extinguished. We voted £2,500,000 on top of that, and it was not the Mullah who was extinguished but the British force. Then there was another expedition, and, I remember, week after week special correspondents writing "The Mullah surrounded," "The Mullah has at length been taken"; but the Mullah always escaped, and nobody suffered but the British force. I do not think I exaggerated when I said that these expeditions have swallowed £4,000,000. I think I should have been justified if I had said £5,000,000, but whether you capture the Mullah or not he is not worth £5,000,000. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Baird), who addressed the House with great eloquence and force, fell upon me with the utmost savagery and ferocity. He said that all these misfortunes with the Mullah and various other frontier wars were due to the speeches I had delivered in the House.


dissented. The treaty we made with the Abyssinians in 1897 reduced our limits and handed over to the Abyssinians a great deal which before was under our protection. That is not a forward policy.


I have listened to the statements of Ministers for ten years, and up to a few years ago the policy of the British Government was to hold the coast, and, as long as they adhered to that policy, they had peaceful relations with the tribes trade went on, and they had revenue sufficient to govern the country and pay all expenses, and all these great dangers to the British Empire were non-existent. It was when they commenced these incursions into the interior that all these troubles arose. The hon. Member, however, did say that a great deal of the trouble was due to my speeches and other speeches. Being an Irishman, I am naturally modest, and I never attributed such enormous power to my speeches before. I never really set up to be able to shake the British Empire by delivering speeches, but in this particular instance, although I do not pretend to be a very enthusiastic believer in the unlimited expansion of the British Empire, I believe I am the best friend of the British Empire, because had my advice and that of friends on both sides of the House—in the old days I used to be supported by Conservatives, who held as strongly as I do that these operations were a mistake and an absurdity—had my advice been taken, I should have spared the British Government a great many valuable Jives and a good deal of money which has been wasted.

What did the right hon. Gentleman say? He knows a great deal more of Somaliland than I do. He said it was a series of futile military expeditions. That is exactly what we have been objecting to all along. He said that when they were just going to get the Mullah money always failed. It was not the fault of the House of Commons, because we voted millions enough. The sands of Somaliland have swallowed up many millions, and will again. I draw an augary of hope, however, from the speech of the Home Secretary, and I do not propose to divide the House, because I cannot conceive that this forward policy will be persevered in. The speech of the Home Secretary was to the effect that it has been a mistake and a failure from beginning to end, and I conclude, therefore, that at last the Government has made up its mind to abandon that policy and to revert to the older and wiser policy which they pursued before all these troubles broke out, of confining itself to the coast line. Drawing that conclusion from the speech we have just listened to and in that confident hope, I do not propose to divide the House on the present occasion, but I shall look forward to receiving a satisfactory statement on the matter when it next comes up for discussion.


May I ask two questions? I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there is any ground for the assumption which appeared to underlie the speech of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker) that if a railway was made up to a certain point in the interior the Mullah would wait at the end of that railway in order that he might be attacked at the terminus by our troops when they detrained? The second question I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether General Manning, who is so conspicuously well suited by his experience and ability to deal with the present situation, has been, I will not say permanently appointed, but whether, as such appointments go, he has been more or less permanently appointed to Somaliland, or whether it is merely a temporary appointment? I think it would give general satisfaction if so able an officer is likely to remain where he is whilst affairs are in their present condition.


May I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to give any information to the House whatever concerning the report made by the Sirdar upon the condition of affairs in Somaliland? Will any Papers be laid, or, when the Vote is taken again, will full information be given?


I have asked my Noble Friend Lord Crewe what he thinks about that report, and whether it could be laid. I could not give any undertaking on that account myself, but I certainly think the House, which has treated the Government with so much indulgence in the Debate, is entitled to all possible information. I will represent to the Colonial Secretary, to Lord Crewe, the feeling there is that further papers should be laid before the House at the earliest possible opportunity, and I will also remind him of the desire of the House to have another opportunity later, if possible, to discuss this matter further. I have no doubt the Colonial Office will be able to lay Papers which will give a greater measure of information, if not about the precise military numbers, about the general conditions which prevail in Somaliland. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Montgomery Boroughs (Mr. Rees), I think it would be placing undue reliance on the somewhat slender qualifications of the Mullah to be classed as insane to base our railway or military policy upon the supposition that he would adopt such a simple course as that. With regard to the question asked about General Manning, we have sent General Manning out to look most carefully into this situation. He knows most thoroughly the view of the Government, he has worked for a long time in the Colonial Office, and he is perhaps more than any other officer on the active list thoroughly conversant with the conditions in Somaliland. I hope he may have the fullest freedom in any course which he may think it right to adopt.

Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £47,000, be granted for the said service," put, and negatived.

7.0 P.M.


There is another matter dealt with in this Supplementary Vote to which I should like to ask the attention of the Committee, and that is the question of the Vote for pathological research. It is quite true that, as in the case of the previous Vote, it is intended to fight one of the enemies of mankind, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman, if he has to speak on this Vote, will find it necessary to defend the grant of this sum of £1,000 to the purposes of pathological research. This modest sum is devoted to scientific research as to the nature of certain tropical diseases, and is a new departure which I hope will be supported on all sides of the House. I should, however, like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question as to the precise object to which this is to be devoted, and also the manner in which it is proposed to spend this £1,000. Probably hon. Members who take an interest in this Question are aware that, largely owing to the Tropical Schools of Medicine at Liverpool and Greenwich, great advances have been made in recent years towards discovering the causes of such diseases as sleeping sickness, yellow fever, and malaria. I hope and trust that in any further investigations that may be made under the authority of the Colonial Office due regard may be had to some previous investigations made by the Royal Society and also by the Portuguese Government, because I think, if regard is had to some of the previous reports, certain pitfalls may be avoided in further researches. I should like to know whether it is proposed to include in this investigation not only the question of the diseases of men, but also that of the diseases of animals—diseases prevalent both on the East and on the West Coast. There is, for instance, a disease supposed to be communicated by wild animals to domestic animals. The particular parasite is supposed to be communicated by some species of fly. It is not manifest as a disease in the case of the wild animal, and it is said it has no disease-producing effect until it is communicated to the domestic animal by some form of fly. I therefore should like to know whether the diseases of animals, as well as those of men, are to be included in the scope of this investigation. There is also the question of the African horse fever, to which Professor Koch has devoted great attention. Costly investigations have already been instituted into the pathology of African horse fever, but I believe that up to the present those investigations have proved largely unsatisfactory. The system of inoculation against that disease has practically turned out to be useless, and some other methods of prevention are now under consideration. I should like further to ask the right hon. Gentleman as to the mode in which the grant will be expended. Is it proposed to utilise the Royal Society for the purpose? Will one of the universities be asked to administer the grant, the University of Liverpool or that of London, both of which are well qualified to send out persons skilful in the investigation of tropical disease, or is it proposed to deal with the matter through the Colonial Office? If so, I hope and trust the right hon. Gentleman will see that those who are put on the task are not exclusively bacteriologists, but are capable of taking philosophic views on the natural history of disease. I hope it is not proposed to send out investigators to make merely laboratory experiments. Let us have men with wide philosophic views. I am not taking up a critical attitude with regard to this Vote. I am simply asking for further information. I entirely approve of the action of the Colonial Office in initiating this new form of expenditure.


I think I should say that, as I have been continually in contact with questions of this sort in Nyassaland, I believe it would be satisfactory that this money should be expended. I have to express my complete concurrence with what has been said as to the manner in which the Grant should be expended. In Nyassaland and elsewhere in Central Africa there is great dread lest sleeping sickness should arrive. I would urge the Colonial Office to spare no pains in any direction to avert so great a disaster.


I rise with no feeling of criticism in regard to this Vote, but I wish to endorse what has been said on the question of sleeping sickness. There can be no doubt as to the vast importance to Central Africa of dealing adequately with this scourge. It is astonishing how little attention has been paid to it in this country when we remember that in our Protectorate of Uganda and on the shores of Nyassa two-thirds of the entire population died of the disease. I am well aware that the Government has taken steps to deal with this question, although I feel that they have been somewhat inadequate, and I rise to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is being done in adjacent countries to the North of the Nile Valley and to the south down to Tongaland and Nyassaland to deal with this disease. I think I am right in saying that although medical science has discovered what brings about the disease, it has not yet found a cure. All that it has been able to do so far has been to remove the native from the infected area. I wish to urge on the Government that no money should be spared in dealing with this appalling scourge which affects the population of Central Africa. I should like to know if there are signs of the disease spreading down the Valley of the Nile or in the Protectorate of Nyassaland. I should also like to ask the Government whether they are acting in co-operation with the Governments of the neigh- bouring States—with the Egyptian Government and with the German East African officials, as well as with those of the Congo State. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman can tell us that that is being done the information will be most acceptable to the House.


I share to the full the feeling of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House as to the immense importance of dealing with sleeping sickness by every means in our power, and by concerted action with other Powers. Anything more tragic or melancholy than the ravages of this foul disease amongst the populations of Uganda it is hardly possible to imagine. As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, the late Governor of Uganda (Mr. Hesketh Bell) took very effective measures on a gigantic scale to try to check the disease in Uganda itself. As soon as it was discovered that it was spread by the mosquito carrying it from one infected person to another, it was possible to adopt some policy against the disease. In order that the disease should really have full play it is necessary you should have not only the fly from one infected person to another, but also the environment suitable to the fly, which is to be found in the bushes hanging over the water. If we are able to break any of these conditions the fell charm ceases to work. I have personal experience of that. What has been done throughout Uganda by a tremendous act of administration has been to cut down all the bushes and grass wherever it is necessary to go to the lake, and where that is not possible the population has been moved bodily back to some distance from the lake. We believe that will have a decided effect in stopping the ravages of the disease. But it will do no good to the people at present dying of the disease. The disease is curable in certain circumstances, where certain special efforts are used and where certain advantages are at the disposal of the surgeon, but for the great mass of the infected population, numbering many thousands, I am afraid that only a slow and painful death can be the outcome. The statistics of mortality have not undergone any marked decline, and they will not do so for a short time, because we are still passing through the period when those who were infected years ago have still to succumb to the disease. Infected people are, however, being isolated, and measures are being taken to separate the population from the area of the infecting fly. That is only one instance of exertions which are being made to deal with this scourge. I cannot speak with anything like precisely full information of the affairs of the Colonial Office, but I certainly have every reason to believe that concerted action with other Protectorates liable to the ravages of this disease are being taken, and that they are being fully apprised of the best methods of combating the fly and of dealing with the persons already infected. This is, of course, a matter of the highest consequence to the Governments which we have scattered about Africa, and also to the German Protectorates and to the Portuguese and Congo States. This Committee, over which Lord Cromer is presiding, and on which will be found the greatest practical authorities in regard to tropical diseases, is only another instance of the extension of the policy which His Majesty's Government is pursuing in dealing with these diseases. I cannot speak, of course, with the authority of the hon Gentleman the Member for West St. Pancras, but I understand that the Committee is entirely independent of the two Schools of Tropical Medicines, both of which schools receive contributions from the Colonial Office Vote, in return for which they do good work. This is purely a committee of Research. A Vote of £1,000 per year is proposed to be given to it, and later on there will come another £1,000 from some of the African Colonies. The committee will send two very skilled investigators, one to the East Coast and the other to the West Coast, to advise and report on any special points on which it may desire information. The inquiry covers the whole region of the diseases which are conveyed by insects, not only those which affect man, but those which affect animals and plants. I am quite sure that all the Members of the House, wherever they sit, who take an interest in the scientific treatment of tropical diseases will appreciate that in developing more highly the power of research, which is now possessed by the Colonial Office, and that by calling this new Committee into being we take an important step forward far more than the comparatively small sum of money which is involved would indicate—an important step forward which may conceivably be of priceless advantage not only to our own fellow countrymen who are serving beyond the seas, but to the great mass of the aboriginal population committed to their charge.


Before this Vote is passed I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain whether this money is to be devoted in part, at any rate, to vivisectional experiments, and I ask that question because, as is well known, there was a series of vivisectional experiments in regard to sleeping sickness carried out by Dr. Andrew Balfour, which involved an enormous amount of suffering to dogs and other animals. I hold in my hand the "Journal of Pathology" for March, 1906, with the description of those experiments, and it says that one of the dogs inoculated on 26th February died in a state of tremendous suffering on 23rd March. There is also a picture which is well known, and which has excited very much indignation because of these experiments, which are made upon dogs and monkeys. It is not pretended for one moment, that the slightest benefit to science, and certainly not to humanity has been arrived at in this particular case, and no cure for sleeping sickness has been found. There is no proof, moreover, that we are nearer a cure for sleeping sickness in consequence of this suffering inflicted on dogs and monkeys. I want to know before this Vote is taken, therefore, whether a sum of public money is going to be devoted for vivisectional purposes.


I only desire to say that as a Member of the Royal Commission, which has been sitting, and which has not yet reported upon the subject of vivisection, I think the picture which my hon. Friend has brought forward represents an animal which has not been experimented upon in England, but in a laboratory in Khartoum. That is what I desire to say, and with regard to these interesting experiments on the subject of the extirpation of insects which carry, or are supposed to carry, infection from one animal to another, and from one person to another, I remember we had some interesting evidence brought before us of an experiment which was made by a certain number of people, headed by a doctor, who went into one of these infected districts in the marshes. They divided themselves into two bodies, one which had been clothed in such a way that the insects could not penetrate to them, and the other not being protected. The result was that several of those who were not protected were attacked by insects, and one of them, a doctor, actually died; and certainly it is extremely interesting to hear that by the removal of sage and brush vegetation, and more particularly by the drainage of the country, that source of infection can be very largely decreased and that the expenditure of this money will be very well laid out.


I will just answer the question which has been put to me in two or three sentences. I do not apprehend myself that it is intended to put this money to the purpose which my hon. Friend fears. The methods of research of the committee will probably be more of a theoretic nature than in the nature of experiments of the kind which he dislikes so much. I cannot possibly make any pledge on this subject which should keep them off from any line of inquiry which they might think it advisable to have, but if they were to embark upon any such experiments, then the matter would come back to me in my capacity as Home Secretary in watching over the working of the Vivisection Act, and I should certainly be guided by a desire to minimise, as far as possible, the sufferings of dumb animals, while at the same time making sure that the advance of science was not impeded.


I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman assures the House that whilst deprecating, as everyone does, I am sure, any needless cruelties, the hands of this committee should not be in any way tied. I think after all, perhaps, the statement of the hon. Member behind me will not altogether bear close investigation, because we know that sometimes experiments can be carried on for a long time without apparently any hope of successful results, and yet eventually we may be rewarded for years of patient and apparently hopeless effort by great success. The striking thing to me about this Vote is the smallness of it. I suppose it would not be fair to compare it with the Vote which precedes it, but it is a striking feature of the British character that here we devote £1,000 to tropical research and £200,000 to policing Somaliland. I would respectfully urge that if we had spent another £199,000 in research in reference to tropical diseases, we should have done very much more to consolidate and expand the British Empire than we have done by spending that sum on the object I have mentioned.

I think the experience of the Americans in their endeavour to construct the Panama Canal shows very well how research in tropical diseases does enrich an empire, and long experience in times to come, in Nigeria and other tropical countries, will do much which is of value. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that an officer would be sent to East Africa and another to West Africa, and I should only like to express the hope that the results of their labour will be such that the Government in time to come will be encouraged to send not one but twenty to each of our dominions in the neighbourhood of the Congo. I think then we shall very soon find that the riches of those regions are more available for the merchants and traders of our country. There is one aspect of this work which the right hon. Gentleman has not referred to, and which I think might receive more extended consideration, and that is the co-ordination of the various efforts which are being made in different parts of the world in researches of this kind. Workers and Governments suffer very much sometimes from not knowing what other people are doing, and I think that £1,000 or £10,000 for that matter, might be spent in collecting and co-ordinating the information derived from workers in all parts of the world.

I think such a sum would be very well spent, and I do sincerely hope that the committee will bear in mind the value arising from co-ordinating and bringing together all the results of different men's work in these researches. I should think myself that the whole £1,000 might be well spent in this work alone, but so far as it will assist in helping men to spend their time out of doors who are engaged in research of tropical diseases, I am afraid it will not go very far. Finally, I would like to express the hope that the committee will not interpret the word "entomological" in the strict sense; in some diseases workers set out with the idea that the work is entomological in its character but it is not, and sometimes it is found to be of a bacteriological character. I hope that the committee will interpret the word broadly; and I cordially support this Vote, and hope that next year we shall have it ten times as large.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether Dr. Ross is on this committee, and also to take exception to the description of the hon. Member for Peterborough of Lord Cromer's Commission. It is simply to prevent the well-meant but mischievous efforts of anti-vivisectionists from impeding such a committee as this in its efforts to find out what are the causes of this terrible scourge, the ravages of which the right hon. Gentleman knows from observation, and which all those who are concerned in Central Africa are very much concerned about, that I venture to intervene. It is to prevent their being impeded that I heartily deprecate any such interference as my hon. Friend suggests. I would also tell the right hon. Gentleman that I have reason to believe that there has been actually one case of sleeping sickness in Nyassaland, and unless the Colonial Office is prepared to face the enormous expenditure of operations such as he has described in Uganda, at Lake Tanganyika, in other places, and even along the banks of the Zambesi, it will be necessary to spare no effort, in the way of research, by sending out officers in order to prevent this terrible scourge, compared with which the Indian plague, which is often brought before the House, is little more than trifling.

Resolution agreed to, and reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.