10 and 11. Mr. POINTER
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (10) whether, in view of the value of the phosphate deposits on Ocean Island, he will consider the possibility, by quashing the present licence held by the Pacific Phosphates Company, which allows them to make a profit of £300,000 on a paid-up capital of £50,000, to pay all the island expenses, and leave a margin for the purposes of home expenditure, thus relieving the natives of their liability to pay taxes and providing money for social reform purposes with the balance of profit; (11) whether the Ocean Island phosphate licence was secured by the Pacific Islands Company, now called the Pacific Phosphates Company, of which the late Lord Stanmore, formerly Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner of the Western Pacific, was chairman; whether he is aware that the list of directors includes, or has included, the names of Lord Balfour of Burleigh and Sir W. H. Lever; whether the list of shareholders, past and present, includes the Hon. Sir Robert G. Wyndham Herbert, formerly permanent Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and Sir Edwin 2026 Durning Lawrence; that the original agreement was for an annual payment of £50; and that the present agreement, entered into for ninety-nine years, stipulates for a royalty of 6d. per ton; whether that agreement was signed by the Colonial Office on the statement made by the company that the price of the phosphate in the island was 10s. per ton; whether he is aware that the actual price realised ever £2 per ton in the island; and whether, in view of the discrepancy between the price of phosphate quoted to secure the licence and the actual prices secured, and in view of the standing of some of the directors and shareholders who have held positions of trust, either in the Pacific or in the Colonial Office, he will consider the desirability of holding an independent public investigation?
The only contingencies in which I am empowered to revoke the Pacific Phosphates Company's licence are non-payment of rent and royalties, breach of any covenant, and failure to comply with the conditions that at least two-thirds of the directors must be British subjects. The royalties at present payable by the company are credited to the general revenue of the Protectorate. I have been for some time in negotiation with the company for the payment of a further contribution for the special benefit of the natives of Ocean Island. As regards the second question, some of the facts mentioned by the hon. Member are within my knowledge, but not others. I see no necessity for the holding of the suggested investigation.
Seeing that the Secretary of State for War, when he was at the Colonial Office, agreed that the royalties should be fixed at sixpence because of the false information given him, does not that constitute a reason for investigating the whole of the facts?
Seeing that the Colonial Office makes a claim of fair treatment for the natives, can that claim be upheld if gentlemen who have been in the Colonial administration use for their private profit afterwards information they have received while in the employ of the Crown? Can that be said to be treating the natives fairly?
What I said was that some of the facts mentioned by the hon. Member are within my knowledge, but not others.