HC Deb 21 March 1910 vol 15 cc741-4
Mr. JOSEPH KING (for Mr. Silvester Home)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if sanction has been given to the erection of a colonial church at Lagos; if half the cost of the erection of the church was to be paid from the revenues of the Colony; if the church would be available for services other than those of the Anglican communion, and if Europeans and Natives will have an equal right to sittings in the church?


asked whether a chaplain had been appointed, or was about to be appointed, at Lagos; if so, whether he was of the status of a Colonial chaplain, and, if not, what were the conditions of the appointment; whether official sanction had been given for the erection of a church at Lagos, and from what source the funds would be provided; whether natives would have the same rights as Europeans as to the use of the church; whether religious services other than Anglican would be permitted; and whether Sir Walter Egerton stated on 8th September, 1909, that a majority of the Europeans in Lagos were not adherents of the Church of England?


asked whether a Colonial chaplain has been appointed, or is to be appointed, for Lagos; if so, on what conditions; and whether the House would be allowed an opportunity to discuss the affairs of this Colony and the action of its Governor, in view of the fact that public criticism had been directed against them?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Colonel Seely)

I will reply to these questions together. The Governor represented that there was a strong feeling among the European community at Lagos, the majority of whom were members of the Church of England, for the appointment of a chaplain, as they had otherwise to depend on the ministrations of a missionary whose permanent presence in the town could not be anticipated. The Secretary of State, in view of this representation, and of the fact that the proposal was supported by the Legislative Council, did not feel that he was in a position to veto the appointment. The proposal to contribute from colonial funds to the cost of erecting a church was dealt with in the same manner, the Governor having urged that the circumstances of Southern Nigeria were exceptional, owing to the fact that the unhealthiness of the climate allowed very few of the residents to remain long in the country, so that they could not fairly be expected to contribute largely, as might be expected in healthier colonies. It is proposed that the Government contribution should (with certain limitations) be equivalent to the amount raised by subscription, and £1,500 has been estimated as the sum payable in the current year from the funds of the colony. As regards the questions of detail, raised by my hon. Friends, the Secretary of State has not sufficient information at present to enable him to reply with certainty. He will, without delay, cause enquiry to be made of the Governor, and will communicate the results of the inquiry as soon as they are received; but I would take this opportunity of observing that the Secretary of State has no intention of departing from the policy of his predecessors in such matters, which has been to authorise no exceptional treatment to any particular Christian denomination. If, therefore, representations should be received from members of other denominations at Lagos of the same nature and with equal support, he will undertake to consider them in a spirit of complete impartiality.


Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that this matter will not be finally settled until he has replies to the inquiries which are now being made?

Colonel SEELY

I can undertake that there will be no fresh steps making any exception to the principle I have laid down without the sanction of the House, but I may state for the information of the House that we propose in this matter to treat every denomination as in the past with impartiality.


Will the proposed grant appear on the Votes?

Colonel SEELY

It is not a grant from funds in this country, but a grant from the funds of this colony. Of course, it can be raised on the Colonial Estimates.


Are we to understand that the people of Lagos—the Mahomedans, heathens, and others—will be taxed in order to provide this building for Christian worship?

Colonel SEELY

So long as the natives of that country pay taxes they will contribute their share to the place of worship, but they attend places of worship also. It has been the long established practice in various Colonies to give grants from the funds of the Colonies for places of Christian worship, and there is here no departure from the usual custom. The only departure would be if we favoured one denomination at the expense of another.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this step has aroused considerable indignation in Lagos, and whether prosecutions are now taking place of natives for protesting against the waste of their money?

Colonel SEELY

No, I am not aware of that, but if any such step has been taken, I shall be very glad if my hon. Friend will bring it to my notice.