§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £18,000, 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, 1913, for sundry Colonial Services, including certain Grants-in-Aid."
§ Mr. BAIRD
I do not want to move a reduction of this amount. On the contrary, I think that it is one of the best things the Government have done since they adopted the deplorable policy with regard to Somaliland, introduced some two and a half years ago. But I should like to call attention to the extraordinary proceeding of this Estimate. I suppose there was no other way of dealing with the question, and I am not disposed to cavil at that, but I think we are entitled on this occasion to treat it is a complete change of policy, and I hope we may be allowed to treat the subject rather more broadly than it has been possible to do in 659 connection with the other Votes. That this is a change of policy I think is made clear by a passage in the speech of the Colonial Secretary on 21st January. He said:—In order to stop any tribal looting I thought it desirable that steps should be taken, and last summer I authorised the raising of a camel constabulary of roughly about 150 men and three officers.That was a new departure, and what I should like to know is how far the Colonial Secretary can say at the present time that policy of increasing the armed forces in the Protectorate is to be extended, and what reason he has for thinking that this attempt to arm and train a body of 150 men is adequate to deal with a population of some 200,000 tribes in the Interior. There is this danger, as it seems to me, in this policy, that if you decide to withdraw to the coast and live inside barbed-wire entanglements, it is not necessary to have any armed bodies to operate outside. You cannot move outside, and you must leave the unfortunate tribes who live outside to suffer the fate with which anybody who knows the country prophesied they would suffer when we abandoned it. They are handed over to the Mullah, and have to make the best of a bad job. This new policy of arming a body of constabulary indicates the readiness of the Government to intervene once more in the internal affairs of the tribes of Somaliland. Indeed, as the Colonial Secretary says, the object of raising this force was to stop inter-tribal looting—that is to say, looting outside the towns which we occupy—and that certainly is a very important new departure. I should like, in this connection, to remind the House of the extent to which we are involved by this new departure. In March, 1910, the present First Lord of the Admiralty, who was at that time, I think, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, in the course of his speech said:—[...] "I hope the Committee will have confidence in the Government, and will believe that we are endeavouring to relieve the coast to strengthen the situation, and to contract the area of our responsibilities in Somaliland, and, at the same time, in 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 had not any confidence in the Government then, and have not got any now. What happened was precisely what everybody prophesied would happen. Somaliland was then in a more or less peaceful and contented condition—at least a large part of it, or, at any rate, it was shared between the Mullah and ourselves, he 660 keeping order in his part and we in ours; but now we not only arm the tribes who are friendly to us, but by so doing make a very handsome present of arms to the Mullah. Let me quote a passage from the report of the Commissioner of Somaliland, issued in 1910. He said:—The total population of the tribes with whom we have treaties of protection may be roughly estimated at 200,000, though only about one-half that number will he immediately affected by the withdrawal.One hundred thousand is quite a considerable number of men, and they were affected, and very unfavourably affected, by the withdrawal, because they were handed over to the tender mercies of the Mullah. The Commissioner went on—They (that is these 200,000) have for the most part been in co-operation, and, though some are not in immediate danger, may be described as luke-warm, and their apathy is due more to their reliance on us to protect them against danger, than any disloyalty to us or leaning towards the Mullah whom they have now learnt by experience to hate and fear.I expect they hate and fear him a great deal more now, and I venture to say it is a serious thing when you remember that we bad nine or ten treaties with these tribes which, so far as I am aware, have never been abrogated. We have simply informed the tribes we cannot do any more for them, and they must look after themselves. We cannot behave like that in Africa when you have a large native population under a native sovereign, as you have in Abyssinia, next door. It is bound to react on our prestige, and, indeed, does, as was made perfectly clear in the speech delivered only a night or two ago by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Glazebrook), who had just returned from Somaliland and Abyssinia:—Of course, there has always been inter-tribal fighting and feuds from time immemorial, but during the British occupation those feuds were in a state of suspension and there was comparative prosperity in the country. Now that we have evacuated the country and handed over a large number of rifles, I think 20,000, to the Friendlies to protect themselves against the Mullah the inter-tribal fighting has broken out again throughout a very large portion of that country. The Mullah, partly probably for purposes of revenge and partly to collect rifles, has been attacking those small bodies which have been supporting us and whom we have now left in the lurch."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1913, col. 38[...], Vol. XLVII.]It is a remarkable thing that everyone who has been out to Somaliland comes home and definitely states that we have left these unfortunate people in the lurch. It is not a good thing to do, and the last thing we did in that connection was when we abandoned the Soudan, and eventually had to undertake a costly expedition to reconquer it. There is no Nile running through Somaliland—I wish there were—but, as the intervening district between 661 the coast towns we hold and Abyssinia, owing to the proximity of the Soudan and Uganda, is bound to be an important place for us, we cannot afford to have chaos prevailing in Somaliland, and there is no doubt chaos is the prevailing condition at the present time. It applies not only to Somaliland but also to the neighbouring country of Abyssinia. In Abyssinia, as my hon. Friend, the Member for Manchester, made quite clear, it is impossible now to get justice done in the case of the dispute between Somaliland and Abyssinia and that has affected our prestage very considerably. I hope the Secretary of State for the Colonies will realise that I do not impute blame to him, because I know that, since he has taken over the management of Somaliland and the Colonies in general, there has been a great improvement. He is therefore the last man I wish to quarrel with in this matter. But the Minister for War was so exceedingly confident of the success of this changed policy that he fell upon me with considerable vigour when I ventured to criticise, with rather more knowledge than the right hon. Gentleman had at his disposal, the changes contemplated by the Government.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
I think the hon. Gentleman will admit I have allowed him some considerable latitude, and I hope he will not enlarge upon the point he has now reached but will come back more particularly to the question of the cause for the large increase in respect of the administration and policing of Somaliland.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is one of the unfortunate consequences, from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen, of Supplementary Estimates which, as a matter of fact, are as difficult for the Chair as for Members of the Committee. But we must deal with supplementary points and not with those questions which are properly dealt with in discussing the original Estimates.
§ Mr. BAIRD
With great respect, Mr. Maclean, we can have no other opportunity for discussing this very important question. It is only for that reason that I have ventured to detain the Committee 662 at greater length than I would have dreamt of under other circumstances. The whole principle is at stake in regard to our dealings with subject races in Somaliland and elsewhere. My object is not to quarrel for a moment with the creation of this force; I think it is perfectly right that it is created. But I wish to know how far it is going to lead the Secretary of State. Here is a Supplementary Estimate of £18,000 upon an original Estimate of £8,000. He is now enormously widening the degree in which he is meeting his responsibilities, and I want to know whether he is going to continue on the same lines, and what reason he has for thinking that this is a sufficient and satisfactory sum for meeting, not only the immediate difficulty he has to contend with, but whether he contemplates in the future further increases which I for one would certainly not be disposed to quarrel with if rendered necessary. But I venture to think that if a wiser policy had been pursued in the past it would not have been necessary to ask for this sum.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)
It is a complete delusion to suggest, as the hon. Member for Rugby has just done, that this is a complete change of policy. It is nothing of the kind. It is only a continuation of the policy which was adopted by His Majesty's Government years ago. It is notoriously dangerous to prophesy, and with regard to no place more dangerous than Somaliland; but I should like to assure the hon. Member that, so far as foresight and prophesy is possible, there will be no further increase of this force which has just been set up. It is believed to be amply sufficient for the purpose for which it has been established, and I venture to say that it has already had very considerable effect. The punitive expedition of December led to the settlement of two long standing feuds. I think that, even including the cost of the new camel force, the total Protectorate estimate of expenditure in the year 1913–14 is not likely to exceed £50,000. I think the provision we have made is ample to deal with the difficulties, and I think we may anticipate better times in Somaliland.
§ 1.0 A.M.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I am surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, in which he has declared that this sum of £18,000 we are now asked to Vote in connection with military and policing 663 measures does not involve any change in the system of administration.
What is this policy which the right hon. Gentleman tells us he is going to pursue in the future, and for which he requires this armed force to be paid for by the sum of £18,000? If he will forgive me for saying so, our original policy in that country was totally different. We assumed the administration of Somaliland nearly thirty years ago, when we entered into the military occupation of Egypt, because Somaliland was one of the out-lying territories of Ismael Pasha. At that time we undertook the protection of the country, and we had previously made definite arrangements with the chiefs of that country that we would assist and protect them with the help of the British Sovereign. This promise, I admit, we could only carry out with considerable difficulty and expense. On the ground, principally of the cost, we decided to change our policy altogether, and we came to a decision to evacuate the country and to concentrate on the coast—in fact, to adopt a policy which was very strongly advocated by the right hon. Gentleman the present Colonial Secretary's predecessor in office, but which was equally strongly opposed by the then Commissioner of Somaliland, Captain Cordeaux, who had had ten years' experience of the country, and who, as was admitted by the Government, was quite the most able and efficient administrator that the country had ever had. This gentleman's advice was absolutely ignored—as can be seen by an examination of the correspondence published a year or two ago. Captain Cordeaux was removed from his appointment and given another position in another part of Africa, and General Sir William Manning was appointed to succeed him, in order to carry out the Government's policy of evacuation. This discreditable policy was carried out in an equally discreditable way. The tribes for whose protection we had been responsible for over twenty-five years were not given any due notice of what was going to happen.
§ Mr. SANDYS
My point is that it did affect the whole of Somaliland, and that this is the policy which the right hon. Gentleman now says he is going to carry 664 on, and for which purpose he requires this sum of £18,000. At any rate, these instructions were carried out, and this evacuation was carried into effect. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor was extremely optimistic of what the result would be. General Sir William Manning, who had had previous experience of the country, because he was in command of the forces there in 1902–1903, was not nearly so optimistic as the right hon. Gentleman was, here in the House of Commons. I do not want to trouble the Committee with quotations from General Manning's letters, but it was quite obvious that, although he was carrying out that policy, he was not at all sanguine as to what the result of it would be. Now, the right hon. Gentleman's speech the other day was equally unsatisfactory. His remarks were more than confirmed by the statement which was made by the hon. Member for North-West Manchester, who had recently visited the country, and who described the absolute state of chaos, anarchy and confusion into which the whole country was thrown. He told us that the country was closed, that the Europeans were now living entirely in the towns, and that the trade routes were quite impassable. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that he had been passing through some anxious months in connection with the administration of Somaliland. He told us a good deal about cattle driving which was taking place in that country—to which he seems rather leniently disposed, in view of the constitutional attitude of his party in regard to that particular offence—and what struck me as a complete admission on his part was that the policy which he now contends he is continuing—that, of his predecessor—was a complete failure, and he regarded it as a subject for congratulation that the friendly tribes had now practically expended their ammunition.
When the right hon. Gentleman addressed us on the subject two years ago, he told us that the friendly tribes would be able to look after themselves, and would keep order in the country, because they were going to be provided with rifles and ammunition by the British commander before he completed the evacuation. It is quite obvious, from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that all the forecasts of the present Secretary of State for War were completely unreliable, that exactly the opposite has occurred, and that it has happened, exactly as Captain Cordeaux and General Sir William 665 Manning pointed out would happen, that instead of there being a fair order and peace in the interior of Somaliland, the whole country has been thrown into chaos and confusion. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do now? He tells us he is going to continue this disastrous policy. He admits, however, that this force, for which he is asking us to vote this money, is necessary, in order to preserve some semblance of order in the immediate neighbourhood of the towns on the coast. When it is remembered that only a few years ago it was quite possible to traverse a very large portion of that country in complete safety, it cannot be described as a continuity of the policy which was previously adopted. At any rate, I hope the fact that we are asked to vote this money for this military force, is an admission on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that this anarchy, which admittedly exists, cannot be allowed to go on, and that these unfortunate people, whom it was part of our policy for many years entirely to discourage from their warlike habits, and to attempt to transform into a peaceful, pastoral people—but whom we have now abandoned to the care of the Mullah—have some claim to our consideration. Our previous policy must be admitted to have been a complete failure. It is perfectly evident, from the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, that what Captain Cordeaux told us was right, and that the Secretary of State for War was absolutely wrong. I do hope that now we are voting this money it is, at any rate, the first step towards restoring order and rescuing from what appears to be absolute ruin, barbarism, and savagery these unfortunate natives, whom we took under our protection between twenty-five and thirty years ago, and the wiping off the slate of this somewhat discreditable episode in our Colonial administration.
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies to my hon. Friend, I want to ask one question with regard to the footnote to this Vote. I would like to point out to him, first of all, that this sum, which is now required, is in addition to, and over and above, the Supplementary Estimate made in July, 1912. This is the second time the right hon. Gentleman has had to correct his Estimate, and to come to this House for more money. I do not think attention has been drawn to that. But what I wish particularly to 666 make inquiry about is this, at the bottom Of the page it will be observed that—No surrender will be made, at the close of the year, of such sum as may be issued out of this Grant-in-Aid.I think it has been the general practice of the House—and if anyone cares to turn back to the Votes which we have already gone through, it will be observed that that note does not appear in any of the other Votes—that after a Grant-in-Aid has been made towards any Department, or towards, in this case, the Colonial Office—
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
On a point of Order, Sir. Hon. Members are snoring here, and we cannot hear what the hon. Member is saying.
I think it is the custom of the Chair to rule that Members are not allowed to sleep in the House.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Any noises associated with somnolence on the part of any Member of the House are certainly not orderly.
I would like to ask an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman, because it has hitherto been the custom that if a specific Vote was made and if it was found possible to effect a saving on that Vote, such saving went towards clearing off the National Debt in the ordinary course. It is quite possible that if that rule was not observed in connection with these sums, which total up nearly £2,500,000, it would be possible to get from the House large sums of money voted towards a specific object, that there would, owing to administration, be a specific saving which could be spent on a policy this House would not have had an opportunity of reviewing.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have no control over persons, orderly or disorderly, outside the precincts of the House. I have heard sounds connected with sleep coming from the Government corner of the House. If these Members are now awake I would ask them, if they desire to resume their slumbers to do so outside the Chamber itself.
I have just finished. I am sure there is more in this than appears on the surface, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to explain.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
This footnote always appears in these Estimates. This is no new departure. The money is not surrendered at the end of the financial year, but of course if there was a balance over it would decrease the Grant-in-Aid.
Question put, and agreed to.