HC Deb 20 July 1911 vol 28 cc1377-95

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question proposed on consideration of Question, That a sum, not exceeding £38,616, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant-in-Aid of certain Expenses connected with Emigration." [NOTE.—£21,000 has been voted on account.]

Which Question was, "That Item A (salary of Secretary of State) be reduced by £100.—[Sir Gilbert Parker.]

Debate resumed.


On the 9th May the Secretary for the Colonies gave some details as to the military contributions of the Crown Colonies, and I should like to know upon what principle these contributions are arranged. Ceylon, with a revenue of two and a half millions, pays £101,000, or about one twenty-fifth of its income; Hong Kong, with a revenue of £611,000 pays £120,000 odd, or one-fifth of its income. Ceylon is prosperous; but at this moment the trade of Hong Kong is being strangled by the hostile tariffs of its neighbours, and although the garrison of Hong Kong is bigger than that of Ceylon it must be remembered that Hong Kong is a rendezvous for troops and ships which go there for Imperial and not for local purposes. Yet it is the only place on the China coast which pays a farthing towards Imperial defence. I should like next to draw attention to the moral side of this complex opium question. When you stop, the trade with India you will not entirely stop the consumption of opium. By violent political action you cannot change human nature, and at this moment substitutes are taking the place of opium. Drink is being indulged in more freely; the consumption of morphia and things of that sort is on the increase; cocaine for the first time appeared in the list of imports of last year, and when unofficial members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council asked the Government to assist in stopping these evil things at the source they met with a refusal. The answer was "If we do not do this trade somebody else will." I think it is a great pity we should protect the manufacture of these evil drugs. They are mostly made in Edinburgh and shipped from London, yet this Government will not take any steps to exercise supervision at the source. If there were voters in the Colony to be conciliated and seats in this House to be won there would be much' better treatment accorded it than at the present moment. The highest ideal of Colonial administration should be to impart in the breasts of those at a distance the feeling that their interests are as equally safeguarded as though they were close by, and I would suggest that the Council of Hong Kong should know where they are financially, and the Government should accept an annual contribution of a million dollars. The present form of contribution has this very wrong effect. If there is an outburst of plague and extra charges are incurred; if there is a typhoon and the Colony has to put its hand in its pocket for repairs and that sort of thing, the present system of military contribution has this very evil effect, that the greater the Colony's troubles the more profit you make from it, and you are really making a profit in matters in which you ought to treat it with every consideration. You are making a profit out of their misfortunes. At present the Colony is at a crisis of its development. It requires consideration, or you may have it on your hands as a permanent invalid. I would plead for more consideration for Hong Kong in regard to the opium question, because I am quite sure this House is able and willing to pay for any moral experiments it may choose to undertake.

I should like to say a word on another point. The appointment of a military officer to the post of Governor of Mauritius. I approach this in a spirit of inquiry. I have no personal feeling in the matter at all. I have not the slightest doubt that the fortunate officer who has been pitch-forked into the Governorship is a very able man, but at the same time I know a great many most deserving Colonial officials, and I know exactly how they feel in a matter of this sort. It must be remembered that owing to the consolidation of South Africa, four governorships have been lost to the Colonial service, and now to this is added a fifth post. Those who know anything about Mauritius must know that the post of Governor is one which requires very great experience and most tactful management. The financial position is bad and the place is full of racial trouble. It seems to me that a position of that sort requires a man with a certain amount of Parliamentary experience, just the sort of experience that the Colonial Secretary in many colonies gets in his connection with the legislative council of his particular colony, and Colonial Secretaries are naturally accustomed to deal with men of all races and all beliefs.


Whom have they made Governor of Mauritius?


It has been in the Press lately. It is Major Chancellor, an Engineer major. It is not as if you were getting another class of man. You have men in the Colonial Service who have entered by competitive examination, men who have come out on top and have chosen Colonial appointments. To all these men it must be a very great disappointment to think that their services do not qualify them for positions of this sort. Then from the military point of view, if you wanted a military Government, as you did in 1886, it might be as well to appoint the general. Having appointed a junior officer you are putting the general in a somewhat invidious position where he has to salute a man very much junior to himself. It must be borne in mind that if this country were at war and two steamers loaded with cement were dropped in the Suez Canal, the position of Mauritius would become all-important as a strategical point. In peace the appointment of a junior officer is a slight upon the Colonial Service, and you inflict a slight on the commanding officer if the new Governor is sent there for warlike purposes. It is a double-barrelled appointment which inflicts injuries on two services. Then, if you are going outside the Colonial Service, how is it that the Army gets all these appointments and the Navy gets none? The officers of the Navy are second to none in this country. Our whole existence depends upon them. Here you have appointed a gentleman with the equivalent rank of a naval lieutenant of eight years' standing. What would be said if you suddenly appointed a naval lieutenant of eight years' standing to be Lieutenant-Governor of an Indian province? The Indian Civil Service would make its resentment so felt that I do not think you could hold to it, and this House would be so staggered that it would certainly ask questions about the matter. The thing that has happened in this particular Colonial appointment is, analogous to that. I should like to appeal to the Colonial Office. I know the right hon. Gentleman has only been there a short time; and he is tremendously occupied with the great questions which have been before him. But when gentlemen have spent their lives in the junior ranks of a service, it seems only fair that they should get some of the higher posts as they get on in life. It is only by giving them some encouragement of that sort that you can hope for an efficient and effective service.


The hon. Gentleman made a very temperate and interesting speech from the Hong Kong point of view, and I am very glad we have their wishes and opinions so well voiced as he has voiced them to-night. He wound up, however, with one of those sayings which are short and terse, but not applicable, "We must not pay for our morals with other people's money." In the matter of governing the Crown Colonies we are responsible for their morals as well as their money, and I am very glad the hon. Gentleman has not defended the vice of opium smoking. It used to be defended in this House, and there are people yet in high quarters who defend it. The mode of raising revenue by selling an injurious article and interesting the people at large in the revenues derived from it is either right or wrong. Almost everyone now contends that a Government Revenue derived from opium smoking, which all the great nations of the world now are gradually coming into line to denounce as a vice, cannot be right. I am not competent to judge as to the amount of claim that the Colony of Hong Kong may have upon the Home Exchequer— £12,000 or £13,000 has been granted hitherto in lieu of the revenue that they formerly got from opium—but they have not at all stopped the opium traffic there. We all said beforehand that if you stopped the opium divan, or public house as you might call it, you would not thereby stop the opium traffic, and it is still going on. I think the Government have taken it into their own hands, though I am not quite up to date in this. They farm the sale of it, and do not allow it to be smoked in public places. I quite agree that cocaine and morphia are equally dangerous. Some strenuous measure should be taken to bring opium smoking under control, and I know of no effort that is being made. If they have been accustomed to take one kind of stimulant, they take another, and it is for us to see that what they take is reasonable alcoholic or nicotine stimulant, and not drugs. We cannot discuss our allowing the opium vice to go unchecked—and the Hong Kong Government to make a part of its income from it—without contrasting it with what the Chinese Government is endeavouring to do. In many cities of China they have been trying to stop the retail sale, and we have granted them power to do this by a recent agreement. If we have allowed the Chinese Government to stop the retail sale of opium and the smoking of opium, it does seem a very curious thing we should allow in Hong Kong a very considerable traffic to go on. Is this good for our prestige in China?

Our Home Government has proved its sincerity. I do not think there is much occasion for sneering at the action of the Government of India. The British Government, and the House of Commons, and public opinion in this country are entirely solid now that it is wrong to derive revenue from opium smoking. If we are making a sacrifice in India, surely the Government in Hong Kong can find other means of raising revenue. Hong Kong is the freest port, as we have been told, in the world. Every one who goes to Hong Kong must know the advantages of the port. Surely there are other ways of raising revenue. The value of land in Hong Kong is rather high, and land duties could be paid without robbing anybody. It is inconsistent with our duty for the Government to go on receiving a considerable part of its revenue from the sale of opium, while all around in China most heroic, and most costly efforts, are being made to put down this vice. It is only those who cannot buy tackle and opium pipes or who cannot meet with friends to lend it to them (there are some very poor coolies in Hong Kong); it is only these who are really prevented from smoking. We want to go to the roots of this traffic. I said myself in 1908 when we discussed this question that the only satisfactory end of this traffic would be the entire termination of the use of opium without medical control. "The Times" is not a very bigoted, fanatical journal, but "The Times" only a few months ago said it was equally imperative that British Colonies in the East should not continue to countenance the vice which China is trying to extirpate. The Colonial Secretary should tackle this question in the same way as other nations have tackled it. It has been tackled in Australia, Mew Zealand, Canada and South Africa.

These great self-governing colonies, though afflicted only to a small extent by this vice, imported by the Chinese, have imposed most stringent laws against the sale of opium and apparatus and against the smoking of opium by people in their own houses. In Japan the laws are most stringent. They include imprisonment with hard labour for three years for anyone smoking opium; five years for anyone selling an opium pipe, and seven years with hard labour is the law against anyone selling opium. I think anyone may take it that this is a most dangerous, most ruinous vice. There are people who do it in moderation, of course, but China would not make such sacrifices if from experience it was not known that this vice was a most injurious one. Sir Frederick Lugard in a memorandum regarding opium in Hong Kong—about three years ago—gives as one reason why we should go slowly in stopping opium smoking in Hong Kong— that China was still producing seven-eighths of the opium consumed there. He said that 66 per cent. was grown in Sz'echuan. In March last Sir Alexander Hosie reported that he was satisfied that opium growing had been suppressed in Sz'echuan. The reason Sir Frederick Lugard gave has thus gone. I myself have never pressed for the immediate stoppage of the dens or of opium smoking, though there has now been a very fair advance since the drastic telegrams were despatched on 5th May, 1908, when the right hon. Gentleman's prede- cessor sent word that the opium dens must be summarily stopped. That, perhaps, was rather drastic at the time. At all events there has been three years' notice that the traffic must cease.

The opium dens came to an end eighteen months ago. We have a dispute going on in other Colonies of a similar character. There was a report from Ceylon on which our Government is now acting, and I wish to ask the Colonial Secretary some questions about this. I will recite the six provisions which were recommended for Ceylon, and which the Governor (Sir Henry McCallum) endorsed, with the exception of the fifth. The provisions are: (1) That the licensing of opium houses be abandoned; (2) that all opium shops be closed at the expiry of the existing licences; (3) that the import distribution and sale of the crude drug become a Government monopoly, and that for every opium shop closed the nearest Government dispensary be made available for the drug to all habitual users; (4) the registration of opium users; (5) that the use of the drug be entirely prohibited after a certain period; and (6), a system of careful inspection of the establishments. I wish to ask the Colonial Secretary whether the fifth provision has now been adopted. I do not press for anything unreasonable. The Anti-opium Board, of which I have been a member for five years, consists of representatives of all the anti-opium societies in this country. They are the best-informed men on this subject in the world. Many of them are ex-missionaries, and people who have lived in those countries. We do not want anything unreasonable, but we do want measures which, to use a phrase of the late Under-Secretary, will secure that Hong Kong must act up to the standard set by China.

That is very little to ask, and we have pressed for it before. We want it, not only for Hong Kong, but for the Straits Settlements, and for every one of the Eastern Colonies where opium-smoking prevails. We want the Government to keep the trade in its own hands, not with the object of raising revenue, but with the view to the early extinction of the habit. We ask also that in the meantime no fresh smokers should be registered. The Under-Secretary said three years ago that steps would be taken to stop the opium dens in Hong Kong, and he added that difficulty would be felt in regard to the stoppage of the revenue, not from the opium dens merely, which he said was a relatively small matter, but from the opium trade as a whole. I think the vested interest of the farmers is done with now, but if there is any farming going on it will expire in a year or two. Hong Kong is worse than any other part, because it makes such a contrast with China. When I was in the Straits Settlements four years ago there was a commission of inquiry into opium questions. They have done little to stop the sale-there. They have now got the trade as a. Government monopoly, but they are deriving still, as appears from the latest statistics, large revenue from it. In 1909 their finances were very good. They had an overflowing exchequer, and they seemed naturally to cling to this monopoly. In 1909 in the Settlements two-thirds of the revenue came from opium and alcohol licences, and a large proportion of that—equal to half of the total revenue—came from profits on the sale of opium. I do protest that this reform is not going quickly enough. Three years ago we had a report, and I believe there is nearly as much opium being sold there as ever. I would impress upon the Colonial Secretary that this is not a question of opium only, but of other dangerous drugs as well. There ought to be a restriction in the sale of morphia and other drugs, the danger of which the people of this country do not know. The non-medical use of these drugs should be clone away with in the British Empire. In the self-governing Colonies they have been put under strict medical control. I ask that in our Crown Colonies opium smokers should be registered, and that as in China, Japan, the Philippines, and elsewhere, the opium smoking habit should be entirely prohibited after two or at most three years.


There were one or two remarks made by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Martin) of which some notice should be taken. We have both had some experience in some Canadian affairs. There was some diversity of opinion with regard to the fiscal policy of Canada. Some years ago the present Prime Minister of Canada advocated a distinctly different policy. He advocated a policy very-similar to that adopted in the Reciprocity Agreement. That policy fell through, and, as an alternative, he adopted the policy of British preference—preference to the Mother-country. There were some who at that time thought he adopted that policy in order to get rid of the suspicion that he favoured a closer commercial connection with the United States. When it was brought before the House of Commons in Canada the first question raised was whether, if a concession of the kind were granted to the Mother-country, it would not be equally available to all the other countries that had the benefit of the favoured-nation treaty. Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Government and the Finance Minister contended it would be only applicable to the Mothercountry, whereas Sir Charles Tupper and others-contended that it would be applicable to all countries that had the benefit of the most-favoured-nation arrangement. It went through, and within a year it was discovered that the other nations could claim the benefit, so that there was a revocation of that part of the concession. It is not a question of whether one party pursued one party policy in Canada and departed from it, when the other party pursued another policy and departed from it. Even if we assume that the Conservative party in Canada had withdrawn their opposition to British preference and adopted it, to which they now adhere, it makes no difference one way or the other. It makes no difference that the present party in power in Canada once were Free Traders, and when they came into power, like wise men they abolished their own views, for practical purposes, and adopted a policy of Protection, which prevails there from that day to this.

It is immaterial to draw fine distinctions between what is Imperial and British preference, because while Canadian parties are quite willing that British preference should be maintained, that is to say, a reduction of duties which Canada imposes against all the world in favour of Great Britain, at the same time they are both highly favourable to the view that we could benefit by mutual preference with our trading. There is no doubt whatever, when Sir Wilfrid Laurier proposed before the conference, that there should be a Commission issued to inquire into the resources and trading conditions of the Mother-country and the different Colonies as regards each other, that he had in mind trade questions implying tariff questions, and questions of mutual preference, because at page 340 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, he says:— We are endeavouring to obtain all the information possible as to the trade conditions that exist now between the United Kingdom and the self-governing Dominions— The trade conditions of necessity must imply tariff or non-tariff— not only with respect to the trade we have with the Mother-country, but the trade which there is with the different Dominions amongst themselves. By way of illustration I may say here that our relations in Canada with our brothers from Australia are not as satisfactory as they ought to be. We have been trying to get mutual preferential treatment, but we have not been able to do so and I strongly hope that such a Commission as I have indicated would find it possible to come to the end which we have not been able to reach up to the present time. Looking at the resolution and at those words in support of it, it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than that he was anxious to come to a mutual trade agreement, not only with the Mother-country, but with the other countries of the whole Empire. I do not go into the comparative merits of one system or the other. That is a question which in itself is a very large one. The Secretary of State for the Colonies thought that to investigate the question of tariffs would open a wide door. Probably he is quite right in thinking that. He gives his adherence in very polite terms, but in a form which was very familiar to us, that of "banging, barring, and bolting the door." But I do not think it was intended to act, or that it would act as a bar, because it admits of a negative determination on the part of the Commission. Under the fiscal conditions which exist it would not be impossible, with free and open scope left to them, for the Commission to determine what should be done. I am quite at a loss to understand why this Commission should go all over the world unless it has some object. Surely the door ought not to be barred against a consideration of what may be beneficial. Whatever Commission is appointed by His Majesty's Government I am sure it will be fairly representative. I am sure it will not be one-sided, but that both sides will be well represented. I have a strong conviction that in the result they will take rather an Imperial and larger view than that which may obtain in the Mother-country or in any one of the individual Colonies.

We have an example in that respect in the commission which went to the West Indies. That commission was composed of men of broad views and open mind, notwithstanding their particular fiscal ideas, and they saw the means by which different countries could benefit themselves by trading between each, even with different tariffs. While that is so it may be a question whether an absolutely free-trade country could ever make as advan- tageous a trade arrangement with a protected country as protected countries can with each other. A word or two with regard to the Imperial Conference. Both sides of the House, I think, asked that the Declaration of London should be referred to that conference, and that was done. But my point is this: In my humble opinion I do not think the Declaration of London was ever explained to the Colonial members of the conference. I have taken a great deal of trouble in reading up all the points that have been made at the conference. I do not find that there was a full exposition made to the Colonial members of that conference, as I think should have been made, in order to enable them to come to a right conclusion. For example, it has been one of the crucial questions, what was the significance of the basis in Articles 33 and 34 of the Declaration of London. In Article 33 conditional contraband is liable to capture if it is shown to be destined for the use of the armed forces or of a Government Department of the enemy. That is the old policy, and the Leader of the House, in explaining the position with regard to the point, stated as appears on page 112 of the Minutes of Proceedings:— With reference to something Sir Edward Grey said. I do not think it has been sufficiently noted that Article 34 is merely commentery upon and interpretative of Article 33. Article 33 is the governing Article, and nothing is liable to capture unless it is shown—[...]etabli —to be destined for the use of the armed forces or of a Government Department of the enemy. That is a limitation which is extended by Article 34 of the Declaration, and that extension was not put before the conference by the Prime Minister or by the Foreign Secretary. Article 34 does not refer to Article 33 only as was presumed—


It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman is re-debating the Second Heading of the Naval Prize Bill. Only one day is devoted to the Colonial Office Estimates as a rule, and I think the discussion should deal directly with Colonial administration.


I bow to your ruling, but I am merely pointing out the character of the statements made before the conference, and reference has been made to the report of that conference. I say a full statement was not placed before the conference as to what constituted the basis of conditional contraband. One minister stated that there was no definition of the basis, whereas we know there is a definition as a basis of operations and supplies. Then there was the extraordinary statement made in the conference that this country might be at war and its Colonies might have the right to decide whether or not they would take part in the war.


I really do not think the hon. Member is making quite a legitimate use of the discussion on the Colonial Office Vote. It seems to me he is in an indirect way rediscussing a matter to which two or three days have been devoted already. I am sorry if he was not heard on the merits of the Bill on that occasion.


Several other Members have made reference to what took place and to what is contained in the Report of the conference. If I have transgressed I am sorry. I do think that as to the substantial result of the conference, and the advancement of the principle of co-operation between the Mother-country and the Colonies, if it did not accomplish all that was intended at this particular time, it probably laid the foundations by which that work may be continued. As to what I regard as the substantial accomplishment, namely, the appointment of this Commission, if the Commission has full scope, is properly composed, and goes about to the different parts of the Empire to ascertain correctly what are their resources, capabilities, and opportunities of trading—if that is successfully accomplished, as I hope it will be, great benefit will result not merely to the Mother-country, but to the different portions of the Empire.


In reference to the argument that because the Prime Minister of Canada advocated a preferential treaty between Canada and Australia, therefore it follows that he wanted preferential treaty between Canada and England, I would point out the great difference between those two ideas. First, we are a Free Trade country, and it is impossible for us to make a preferential treaty with the Dominions unless we raise a tariff and then break it down here and there to suit the preferential arrangement. It is quite a different matter for two protectionist countries to make a preferential arrangement. I think it is quite unfair to try to bring the Prime Minister of Canada into this House as if he were attached to the party opposite, and advocated their views, when he has said over and over again that he is a Free Trader of the school of Gladstone and Cobden. One other point. Whenever Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Canadian people wish to make clear their views on any question they do it through their Parliament. Twice, and on both occasions the party opposite were in power, the Canadian Parliament expressed the unanimous view of the people of Canada. The first occasion was when the Canadian Parliament asked the late Conservative Government to remove the embargo on Canadian cattle, and the second was when both Houses of the Canadian Parliament unanimously passed a resolution in favour of Home Rule for Ireland. When right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite urge us to pay particular attention to the views of Canada, it is well to note that on the two occasions on which the Canadians have spoken through the proper body, namely, their Parliament, their views have not been received with enthusiasm, but have, in fact, been ignored, by the party opposite when in power.


Is the hon. Member aware of the answer that Mr. Gladstone returned to the resolution passed by the Canadian Parliament in regard to Home Rule for Ireland?


Yes, and exactly the same answer was made by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham when he was Colonial Secretary to the second resolution unanimously passed by the Canadian Parliament. The resolution—to which I do not object—was that in these affairs each part of the Empire must act as it sees fit. But from 1903 to the present time we have had a cheap form of noisy Imperialism advocated on a thousand platforms and placarded on a thousand walls, and attempts made to persuade the people of this country that the self-governing Colonies wished the adoption of Protection in the Home-country. There is not a tittle of real evidence to show that the Canadian or any other Colonial people have asked the people of this country to adopt Protection in the interests of the Colonies. On the contrary, at the last Imperial Conference not a word was said about Protection, not a speech made for preference. The five Dominion Prime Ministers, with the Prime Minister of the Home country and the Colonial Secretary had a most successful conference—a conference in which differ- ence of opinion was never acute, a conference that brought the self-governing Colonies with all their might and power as fighting units of the Empire into the international arrangements of the Home-country, a conference that was so successful in spite of the many speeches made outside this House—not always speeches like those of this afternoon; in spite of the "roaring propaganda" that has gone on since 1903; there was no one to vote for preference if the matter had gone to a Division. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his success as a Colonial Secretary. I congratulate him and the Empire upon the success of the Imperial Conference, whilst I feel sorry for many of my hon. Friends opposite whose ammunition is all spent without bringing any gain to them. I am bound to confess I feel—speaking now as a Colonial myself—that the greatest danger that the Empire has ever passed through is past, and the risk of trying to bind together these great and growing democracies with the miserable and paltry bonds known as preferential trading has passed away for ever.


I have to refer to a small matter of criticism and administration of the Colonial Secretary during the past year. But if it is a small matter, I have the consolation of knowing that I am dealing with a matter not of imagination, like the last speaker, but of fact. The matter is one in connection with the engagement of certain constables for service in Ceylon. In my opinion the grievance is a very serious one. In June of last year efforts were made in this country, on behalf of the Ceylon Government, to engage a certain number of constables. Some twenty or thirty picked men were invited to go out, on condition that they were to become sergeants and receive higher wages. There can be no question that the men were engaged as sergeants, not as constables. I have the contract here, if there is any question about it. The matter is of peculiar interest in the North of England, because efforts were made to secure for the Ceylon Civil Service some of the hard-headed, capable representatives of the North; some were invited from my own Constituency, and from Manchester and Salford.

The men were engaged, and duly proceeded to Ceylon. There were some difficulties—not very great, and I do not propose to say anything about them—on the voyage out. But on arrival there were very considerable difficulties, because these twenty or thirty constables who had been definitely engaged to work as sergeants found that their position was extremely unsatisfactory. They could not get their duties fixed, and when duties were definitely allotted to them they were such, as it has always been admitted, white constables should not be put to do. They were put to work in the blazing sun, work that is always allotted to native constables. They were given the same duties as native constables, and treated as such, and not as men of the white colour. That is not a very satisfactory state of things. From every point of view I should have thought the Colonial Secretary, who had some strong language to use some years ago on the subject of Chinese slavery, would not have encouraged that state of things under the present Government. Naturally, the men felt it. They made representations, but they were assured they got all they contracted for, that their positions of sergeants were only nominal, and that they could call themselves sergeants or what they pleased, and that they were to do constables' duty.

Speaking as a representative of a northern Constituency, I say the men not unnaturally declined to sit down under that sort of treatment. They made complaints in a perfectly proper manner in a petition which they signed. A point of Order was raised about their sending in a joint petition, and then they sent in petitions individually, but they got quite unsatisfactory answers. The points they raised were that they should be paid proper rates of wages, that they should be given duties according to their rank—and that was the main point—and that proper pension rates should be secured. They were assured in answer that the two first points, which were the important points, could not be granted, and in regard to the third point they were told it would be considered. Having got these petitions, the authorities apparently thought the best course would be to get rid of the men altogether. Pressure was put upon them to resign or to sign arrangements agreeing to resign. One man, for instance, was interviewed by the Inspector-General, and something of this sort, according to my information, took place. He was asked whether he desired to cancel his agreement. The answer was, he was quite prepared to consider the question of returning home if his passage was paid and if proper work was provided for him in this country. He was told the Government would not find him employment, and he said "Very well. I am not prepared to break my agreement." He was then told he might, if he liked, give two months' notice under the Ceylon Police Ordinance, which is applicable to the case. He refused to do so; he was told he had much better do so, and if he did not—I do not profess to use the exact words—it would be made unpleasant for him in Ceylon. He still said, "I am prepared to do my duty, and I can stick a little ill-treatment like anybody else." That interview took place in the morning, and in the course of the day some unsupported charges were preferred against him of being a defaulter, and he was fined half a day's pay. Seeing the screw was going to be put upon him so severely, he thought he had better reconsider his position. If after all he was going to be branded and his character taken away he concluded that he had very much better see whether it would not be advisable to sign the agreement to withdraw and accept, as he understood, either two months' notice or payment in lieu thereof and return home. He evidently did so, and then having done that, he was told that he had in fact resigned, and that he would get no payment in lieu of two months' notice. He was told that he was discharged and must at once make his way home. No arrangements were made for paying his passage home. The matter was taken up by the Ceylon Press, and the Government of Ceylon, realising that this might make them unpopular, made arrangements to pay the passage of these men to this country. Apparently they were classed as undesirables simply because they protested that they had not been fairly treated. I asked the responsible Minister a question with regard to this treatment, and the answer I received was:— A number of English police constables were engaged as police sergeants in Ceylon. Some of these men were for good reasons employed on duties which a constable should perform, but none were employed on any duties which a sergeant could not legitimately be expected to do. According to my information that is entirely and indignantly denied. It has never been expected that white men should perform point duty in the blazing sun, and certainly not sergeants. The crucial point is that these men were engaged as sergeants. The policemen in Ceylon are now natives, but it was then considered desirable that European officers should have a higher rank, though this should not debar them for employment on the special duties intended. The unfortunate thing is that they were not given sergeants' duties when they got to Ceylon. I have only taken the case of one man, but there are others in the same position. It is quite clear that these men have got a case for compensation.


Are we to understand that all this relates to one man only?


No, I have only given one case, because it is the one with which I am more particularly concerned, but there are ten or twelve others in the same position, and they were all sent home under similar conditions. The argument I am urging for compensation applies to them all. These men were forced to sign, or perhaps voluntarily, signed agreements to resign under the Clause of an ordinance which gives them either two months' notice or compensation in lieu of notice, but not one of them has been paid anything in lieu of notice. They were induced to sign these agreements to resign, and directly they had signed them they were told, "Very well, you are discharged, and you have no claim for compensation or for two months' wages in lieu of notice." In the first place, as the pay for a sergeant is £100 a year, they have a claim for £17 in lieu of notice; in the second place they have a claim on the ground of loss of wages for a breach of contract on the part of the local authorities; and, in the third place, they have a claim for loss of work until they get employment again in this country, and a further claim for the loss of so many pensionable years' service. Those are the grounds upon which I suggest that they have claims for compensation. I would ask the Colonial Secretary whether he could not do something to meet the case of these men—a case in which they and their supporters in this country feel very strongly, and in which, I think, this House will feel very strongly now it has been brought before it.


I listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker), who compared the Colonial Secretary with Mephistopheles. After all, Mephistopheles had his good points, those of suavity, persuasion, and a knowledge of the world, and in those excellent qualities the Colonial Secretary excels. There is a quotation from a French source: "Ou sont les neiges d'anton"—where are the snows of former years—and, when I heard the hon. Member for Gravesend, talking in the style of nearly a generation ago, trotting out his half-forgotten formulæ, I was compelled to say: "The snows of former years are here. "The most important event in the Colonial world is undoubtedly the Imperial Conference, and my impression of the Colonial Secretary was never higher than when I listened, not to his own speech, but to the speeches of those who attacked him, because I saw the number of pitfalls into which an inferior man might have fallen. You remember the anecdote of the Abbe Sieyes, who, when asked what had he ever done in the world, said, "I survived the French Revolution." The Colonial Secretary has survived the Imperial Conference, and that, in view of the speeches that have been made by the hon. Member for Gravesend and the right hon. Gentleman who was former Colonial Secretary (Mr. Lyttelton) is no mean achievement. His path was strewn with pitfalls in one direction and in another. Perhaps the most dominant note with regard to the whole conference was that the self-governing Dominions are determined to follow their own line. They are determined to brook no interference of any kind whatever, and they are determined to claim what is almost invariably denied in this House, that they are not subordinate, but co-ordinate, countries. The only way to preserve the great Condominium is not by trying to relegate them continually to a subordinate position, but to recollect they are now, at any rate, in every possible circumstance, quite co-ordinate members of it. Take, for instance, that which was put forward in favour of wider terms of reference to the Imperial Commission, or the proposal in favour of forming a permanent Standing Committee to regulate the affairs of the Empire. Let us consider, for instance, what is in the way of a permanent Standing Committee. One of the greatest difficulties is that it would be in the air, and that, however admirable its work might be, there would be no means of giving any sanction to its decisions. There is considerable difficulty in the way of the proposal of the hon. Member for Gravesend to widen the terms of reference to the Royal Commission, because every question brought up affecting any one Dominion affects them all, and some of them unequally. So that the only possible way of making a working permanent body such as a standing committee would be to do the impos- sible and to endow it not only with legislative but with executive powers. What has underlain the arguments advanced by that great party has not been the direct point of attack but the ultimate objective. The party represented by the hon. Gentlemen is on its last legs. It has made the most desperate efforts to prop up its fallen fortunes; it is making almost absurd efforts to prop up the tottering fabric of mediævalism and feudalism which is falling about its ears, and the most absurd attempt is being made to rope in the Colonies. It shows how far they are from touch with the opinion of the great self-governing Dominions when they expect what they call the Colonies to support the tottering fortunes of the Conservative party—when they propose to rope in the most democratic states on the surface of the world to be the bastions and buttresses of British Toryism. If the Colonial Secretary wishes to live without friction and to have the best record of all Colonial Secretaries let him make no history. Let him remember that the men with whom he comes in contact are men of as high calibre as himself and quite as competent, and perhaps more determined, to carry on their business in their own way. The best hope for the future is to shake off the shackles of medievalism. England herself should shake off all the impediments and shackles that have come to her from mediaeval times, and march boldly forward in the first line of advance and to the democratic tune set by the great Dominions over the sea.


I should like to express my sense of confidence in the Colonial Secretary and his staff. I cannot say the same of all Departments, and especially of the Board of Education. I feel the right hon. Gentleman has a great advantage in that respect. I wish to say a word or two as to the Southern Nigeria house ordinance, and to assure the right hon. Gentleman that opinion in the Colony is entirely in favour of the strictest amelioration of the conditions of life for the natives. If the promised report from the Governor should afford any justification whatever for action in this matter, I hope it will be taken at once.

And it being Eleven o'clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next, 24th July.