HC Deb 18 December 1912 vol 45 cc1476-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the licence which the Pacific Phosphate Company hold, giving them the monopoly of shipping away the guano phosphates from Ocean Island, in the Gilbert Group, on the payment of 6d. per ton royalty, was obtained under false pretences; that the company's statement that these phosphates were only worth about 10s. per ton was entirely incorrect; that Australian statistics show that these Ocean Island phosphates were in reality at the time realising £3 17s. per ton in Australia, giving them a value of between £2 and £3 at the island; if the Australian Government of officals were capable of ascertaining the correct value of these phosphates, can ho explain how the officials of the Colonial Office were totally incapable of doing so; and is he aware that while, by the terms of this licence, the Imperial Government and the natives have, during the last ten years, received between them on an average about £3,500 per annum, the company have on their real cash capital of £50,000 made an average net profit of about 400 per cent.?


It is the case that when the question of extending the lease of the Pacific Islands Company from twenty-one years to ninety-nine years was under consideration in 1901, the company represented that they were led to believe that the value of the phosphate at Ocean Island was about 10s. a ton. The Colonial Office was, however, aware that in the case of another island in which royalty was being paid at 5 per cent, of the value on the island, the value at that date was about 24s. a ton, so that on this basis a higher royalty than 6d. a ton might have been required. I have, however, as my hon. Friend is aware, been for some time negotiating with the Pacific Phosphate Company for the payment of an additional royalty of another 6d. a ton. The royalty is not now paid to the Imperial Government, but to the revenues of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Protectorate. I have no official information as to the profits of the company, but I would point out that their profits are not wholly derived from Ocean Islands, but partly also from Mauru, a German Island, in respect of which they pay a royalty of 6d. a ton.