§ FOREIGN OFFICE.—(Class II.—VOTE 5.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £39,730, 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, 1914, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs." [NOTE.—£30,000 has been voted on account.]
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir E. Grey)
I only rise at this moment to say a very few 346 words to the Committee as to the reason why the Foreign Office Vote is put down specially for to-day. Some time ago, I think some years ago now, I gave a pledge which has often been repeated, that we would not officially complete our recognition of the annexation of the Congo by Belgium until we ourselves, as a Government, were prepared to say that the Consular Reports showed that the condition of things in the Congo was substantially in accord with the treaty obligations of the original Congo State, and until the House of Commons had had an opportunity of discussing those particular Reports. We are, as I stated in reply to a question before Whitsuntide, of opinion that the time has now come when we ought to recognise officially the annexation of the Congo Colony by the Government of Belgium, and the Vote has therefore been put down in order that the Committee may have this opportunity of discussing those Reports. It is for the Committee itself to decide what use it will make of the opportunity. The Foreign Office Vote has been put down as a whole, and I have no desire to prescribe to the Committee what subjects it should discuss in dealing with the Vote. I only want to be quite clear on this, that after to-night it is to be understood that we have redeemed our pledge with regard to the discussion of the question of the Congo. If the Committee desires only to take a short time on the question of the Congo, and to proceed to other matters, that is in its own hands. I shall, to the best of my ability, endeavour later on to reply to whatever points are raised by those who take part in the Debate. I would only say, with regard to the particular point of the Congo, but I am sure the Reports that have now been placed before the House show that the condition of affairs has completely changed from that which existed under the old regime in the Congo before the responsible Government of Belgium took the Congo in hand. Every other country has either explicitly or practically recognised the Congo as a Belgian Colony, and now that the state of affairs has been so vastly improved in the Congo from that which it was under the old regime, for us to continue to separate ourselves from all the other Powers and to withhold the recognition others have given, would give Belgium a justifiable sense of complaint, and would impair those cordial relations which it is our earnest and sincere desire to maintain with the Belgian Government. I therefore simply 347 state to the Committee, that in our opinion the time has now come when it would be neither justifiable nor politically expedient that we should refuse to give the Government of Belgium that recognition of their annexation of the Congo Colony which has practically been given by all the other Powers.
Sir G. PARKER
I have on several occasions during the last nine years, opened the Debate upon the Congo question, and it is perhaps fitting that, as one who has had some strong words to say concerning the Congo administration, I should say a few words this afternoon following upon the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. I regret very much, as I am sure everyone in this Committee must regret, that after nine years of wholly justifiable agitation on the part, not only of Members of this House, but of all sober-minded humanitarian people in this country, there are not present to-day at least three figures who represented the feeling of this House when these Debates were in progress. I refer to Earl Percy, Sir Charles Dilke, and Sir George White, who have now passed out of the activities of this arena. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken may well congratulate himself that after these nine years of agitation he is able to announce to the people of this country, and to the people in other countries who have associated themselves with Members of this House and others in this country with regard to this question that the Government have now arrived at the opinion that the Congo State, under the liberal and free administration of a responsible Government in Belgium, has now arrived at a condition when annexation may be recognised without doubt as to the future. If there were any doubt as to the future, I and many others in this House who originally took part in these Debates would certainly raise our voices to-day against any recognition of annexation by the Belgian Government, but there is now upon the throne of Belgium a monarch who has shown his sympathy and his desire to understand the condition of affairs in his Oversea Dominion of the Congo by visiting that Dominion himself. He is undoubtedly an enlightened Sovereign, and he is supported by a modern and enlightened Government, who did not find it easy when the Congo was first taken over to carry out the reforms desired, not by a body of reformers in Belgium alone or by 348 the people in this country alone, but also by the people of every civilised country in the world, and more conspicuously by the people of the United States and France, because there was in the Parliament of Belgium a body who supported the Napoleon policy, and who strenuously put obstacles in the way of these reforms being accomplished.
The right hon. Gentleman, during the period of years he has been in office, has realised the difficulties of the Belgian Government. I believe those difficulties to have been adequately surmounted. Those who have read the latest correspondence published within the last two days realise that we can without hesitation accept the attitude that this Government has now taken up concerning the annexation of the Congo Belgium State, because if the reports of our own Consuls are to be credited—we credited them when they said hard words of what was going on in the Congo—and we know they are, then the condition of affairs as shown in this correspondence of the Consuls warrants the action taken by the Government to-day. Those of us who had to express ourselves with great vigour concerning the shameless atrocities that were perpetrated in the Congo have the very deepest satisfaction in reading these reports to-day. To take one report alone, our Vice-Consul Castens says that the things that struck him most now in travelling through the Kasai district, once an area of rapine, bloodshed and torture—no other words can be used to describe it—was the abilities shown by the natives, the taxes they paid, the enormous quantity of powder and guns sold to them, not for purposes of aggression but for sport, and, finally, the absence of complaints against the State. Moreover, he says, that forced labour is apparently non-existent, and he finds the natives generally happy and contented. I should like, if I may, to congratulate the Minister of Belgium in this country, who, over a long number of years, has passed through very difficult times, on hearing, if he were here, for the first time in this House a statement made which warrants him in conveying to his Government the information that the officials of this country in the Congo and the Members of Parliament of this country, and all those associated with Congo reform, can now say that the state of affairs in the Belgian Colony is, according to our Consul's report, equivalent to the state of affairs in our own native Colonies in 349 Nigeria, West Africa, East Africa, and other portions of His Majesty's Empire, so far as the administration of the State is concerned.
There is one question, however, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, because, unless it is answered satisfactorily, it will be apparent that, no matter how peaceful the natives are now in these districts, there still is something in which this country is acutely interested, because it involves the position of the natives in the Congo for which we, in common with other countries, were originally responsible. I refer to the question of access to the land for the natives, the cultivation of it by them, and the sale of the produce of it. There is no doubt at all about the access of the natives to the land in certain districts. It may be that in all districts, even in the third zone, they have access to the land everywhere. But the Congo Reform Association, which represents all parties and all creeds in the State, have taken the ground very properly, from the beginning, that the one thing beyond all others that should be achieved for the native of the Congo is his right in the land and his right to the produce of the land. The Belgian Colonial Minister, many months ago, announced that instructions would be given throughout the whole of the Congo, to the free zone, that the natives should have access to the land, and that they should have the free working of the soil without any embargo being placed upon them by the State, except ordinary taxation, such taxation to be, not in kind, but in cash. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if the assurance that the land of the Congo should be opened to the natives before recognition of the annexation has been given effect to. Has he received full assurance that the proclamation has been issued and instructions have been given throughout the Congo States that the natives shall have access to the land?
Many of us take the view, and hold it strongly—I am not sure the right hon. Gentleman himself did not hold the view—that a Legislative enactment would have been a wise process on the part of the Belgian Government for satisfying those of us who were responsible, with other countries, for the carrying out of the Berlin Act, and who thought that a Legislative enactment should have been passed by the Belgian Government to secure the natives in these rights. We know that the Belgian Jurists took very strong views upon this question and raised very complicated issues regarding it. I do not think we need be very 350 anxious about the ultimate result if the right hon. Gentleman has assured himself that the instructions that were promised by the Belgian Colonial Minister have been given. If they have, then the Belgian nation is upon its honour, and being upon its honour, it would be a gross betrayal of international trust if there should be in the future any real difficulty regarding the rights of the natives in the land and in the soil. I believe that public opinion in Belgium can be trusted just as much as it can be trusted in this country.
The quarrel of this House and of the people in this country who are interested—absolutely and unselfishly interested—in the Congo was not with the Belgian administration, but with the autocratic administration of one man. Of course, the dead past must bury its dead, but I do wish to emphasise the fact that the quarrel was with the administration of one man who did not see eye to eye with civilised opinion in this country and in every other civilised country. But now there is a responsible Government like our own. A democratic Government is in power in Belgium and is administering the Congo State, and it is gratifying to know that every Consular officer who travels in the Congo for the purpose of inquiring into the condition of the natives gives satisfactory reports. I can understand the feelings of a democratic people like the Belgians, who believe that their country is just as well governed as our country. I can understand what they have endured from the position which has existed up to the present, a position in which a nation like England has withheld its assent from, or rather its endorsement of, the annexation, which other nations of the world have recognised. I think the people of Belgium since the annexation have shown great restraint in a very difficult position. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure the friends of the Congo and the friends of good government and good administration of the natives throughout Africa that the instructions promised by the Colonial Minister of Belgium have been given.
From the beginning the questions that affected me most in this matter were these: First, that if the old administration of the Congo continued, the effect on the native races in South Africa as a whole would be one of great peril to the future of all government—all civilised government throughout the whole of Africa, because it was shaking the very founda- 351 tion of the belief of the natives in European administration, and it was quite idle to tell our natives in West, East, or South Africa that civilisation was for the benefit of the natives if the proceedings in the Congo were to continue to exist. That was why I primarily associated myself with other Members of this House representing not only the Labour and the Liberal party, but also the party on this side, because Lord Lansdowne was one of the most outspoken critics of the administration of the Congo at that time. It was because I believed the future of native government in South Africa was imperilled that I finally associated myself with this movement. Secondly, I associated myself with it because the honour of this country was bound up in seeing that the obligation it had entered into under the Berlin Act was fulfilled. There can be no question at all that in this country, and in other countries which interested themselves in reforms in the Congo, had nothing to gain whatever except the adoption of civilised methods. It was to the shame and disgrace of civilisation that, while we were responsible for allowing the Congo to be placed under the administration of the late ruler of the Belgians, these dreadful practices and this dreadful tyranny and persecution of the natives was allowed to continue. For these two reasons—and they were sufficiently large as it seems to me—Members on both sides of the House associated themselves with this movement. But the opinion of Members of this House would have been of little account if it had not been backed up by opinions throughout the country. Lord Lansdowne, in one of his speeches in 1908, said:—Public opinion in this country has been more moved over this question than almost any question of the kind which I could name.Lord Percy, in 1904, said:—The Government adopted a policy of which it might be said truly that it was the policy not so much of the authorised Government as it was the policy of the House of Commons and therefore of the country.I am very glad and proud that the efforts of this country, in conjunction with reformers in France, Belgium, and the United States, have resulted in so satisfactory a settlement for civilisation. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the close of a very serious international incident, more extended in its difficulty than perhaps any other of recent years, and involving greater bitterness of feeling. The right hon. Gentleman knows we have 352 sometimes been impatient—no one has been more impatient than myself at times—with his conduct of the negotiations between this country and Belgium. But we are bound to say that the result has justified the right hon. Gentleman's attitude and his negotiations, and, therefore, in common with other Members of this House, I beg to offer to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Government, and more than all to the people of this country, congratulations on our having arrived at such a point in these international negotiations as to be able to applaud the Government for recognising the annexation by Belgium of the Congo.
Mr. SILVESTER HORNE
I should like to associate myself with everything that has been said by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker), who certainly, for one, has always been loyal to the cause of the Congo people. I should like to remind the Committee, if I may be allowed to do so, that it is almost exactly ten years ago this month that the first Debate on the Congo took place in this House. They have been ten years, as we all know, of sustained agitation and even of very strained relations between our people and Belgium. The earlier years certainly were years of horrible barbarities, and they were followed naturally enough by losses to the country which I suppose it will take years and possibly generations to repair. But the question we have to face to-day is whether, in view of the reports contained in the corespondence that has been published, the Foreign Office is justified in taking the very serious step of recognising the annexation of the Congo State. I will state in a minute the reasons I have for agreeing with the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker) that the time has come for the recognition of that annexation, but I think the Committee and the country will feel it is a very serious step to take. So far as I can understand, the repugnance to recognition of the annexation has been really and truly the one effective diplomatic weapon by means of which we have been able to secure that the promised reforms of the Belgium Government have really been carried into effect. We are now going to abandon that one weapon. It may be that the time has come to abandon it. I think it has. But I do think we are entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can give us an assurance that recognition, at any rate, does not mean any prejudice to any existing treaty rights 353 that we possess, that we are not laying aside conveniently any obligations and responsibilities we have undertaken as a nation, and that we shall still retain full diplomatic power to bring to bear every influence we can to secure that those reforms which have been so well initiated are fully carried out throughout the Congo district. That, at any rate, I think we are entitled to ask.
I am not going back upon the miserable and tragic story of the past. We are all very well aware of that, and we are only too glad to know that it has reached its conclusion. Let me ask what it was to which our attention was really directed. In the first place, we found there was a country responsible for the good government of the Congo which in the earlier years was deriving enormous revenues from these people. We pointed out again and again that it must have meant that the labour employed was underpaid, forced labour, and that it must have involved that the natural resources of the country were being speedily exhausted. We also pointed out that the unhappy inhabitants of this country were obliged to pay the total cost of the so-called government and administration of the country and that they had to support entirely an army to be used against themselves. They were hunted from place to place until at last they were caught, and then transported, sometimes a thousand miles from their homes, in order to be employed on public Government works, and those who were left behind found themselves without anything to live upon, their lands having been alienated. That was our contention, fortified by every Consular report that we read, fortified even by the reports of the Belgian administrators themselves, and the fact that we stand to-day in as satisfactory a position as we do is, I believe, very largely due to the courageous leadership of one man, Mr. Morel, who gathered together the evidence and put the whole world in possession of it. That was our contention. Let us look at that contention in the light of the reports we now have. Let us consider what new evidence these reports furnish as to the changes that have taken place in the Congo district. In the first place, we find that in the Congo Budget for the year 1913, there is an excess of expenditure over revenue of something like 10,500,000 francs, which means that no longer is the Congo being regarded simply as a country to be exploited. 354 Money is being spent upon the Congo now instead of the money being taken out of it, and a good deal is undoubtedly being done in the way, not of exhausting the country, but of developing its natural resources. In the second place, and I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will lay a great deal of stress upon this, I noticed with very much satisfaction in, I think, two of the Consular reports, that there is a gradual improvement in the personnel of the Belgian officials. The Committee will agree that that at any rate is not the least satisfactory part of the reforms. Then we find that the people are now paid in cash and not in kind, so that instead of being sometimes overloaded with salt, or something they cannot use, they have a currency into which they can convert them for the articles they actually need.
We find from the whole of the reports that free access is now being permitted to the land. One Consul reports that the native, for the first time in the history of the Congo, finds himself a free man. We find also throughout the whole of the Congo that forced labour for public work has been abolished. We find that there is a surprising consent on the part of the natives of the Congo to pay their taxes, and, what is more that they do not complain of the taxation, a fact which distinguishes them meritoriously from the people of this country, even though comparatively it is the fact that they are taxed four times as much as are the natives in our own Empire. What gives a great deal of satisfaction to many on this side of the House is that the Ordinance which was promulgated by the Governor-General from Boma, and afterwards confirmed by the Belgian Government, came into effect on the 1st February, prohibiting the sale or delivery to natives of distilled alcoholic liquors. In the last place, the Consul reports that nowhere did he find religious interference, but that Protestant and Catholic missions existed side by side upon an absolute level. Those of us who remember the horror and agony of those past years must, I think, agree that these are indeed beneficent, substantial, and gratifying changes in the story of the Congo. There are still, I believe, some critics who argue that these are superficial and temporary, and are intended to be superficial and temporary, so that the Belgian Government may secure this recognition, and that when she is free possibly complaints will be made of 355 the unremunerative character of the Congo, and pressure will be brought to bear again upon the Belgian officials, and through them upon the natives, and that there will be a recrudescence of the old evil state of things. I do not share that view, for the reason that many forces are in operation now which will prevent a return to the old system. The extension of the railways, the multiplication of steamers upon the river, the development of legitimate trade, the increase of industrial and educational mission centres all over this district, with other influences and activities, will, I believe, make impossible a return to the old order of things. I do not think it is even conceivable that we shall ever go back to the nightmare of the dark days of the Congo. I would submit that it does not lie with us to impugn the good faith of the Belgian Government so long as they are able to produce evidence of practical reforms as great as that which is contained in these Papers. Perhaps I may be allowed, before I close, to emphasise what has been emphasised here, one warning and one criticism. There is one warning on page 108 of this correspondence. There is this rather remarkable paragraph in the report of Consul Lamont. He says:—The Congo native is taxed four times as heavily as his South African brother, and in the greater portion of the unfrequented districts visited by me, is purely and simply a machine for the convenience and enrichment of the State, and trading companies. His opinion is not consulted when it is a question of work for the State, and his moral welfare is something too utterly remote to be considered. I have never in any other colony seen such insolence and overbearing manners as are exhibited by the natives of Stanleyville towards the European. I have equally never seen natives in such subjugation to the will of the white man, as the inhabitants of the more remote districts that I have visited.I am perfectly certain the Secretary for Foreign Affairs will agree that there is in that fact the material for possibly recrudescence of trouble in the future, and that if the day of recognition has come, the day of vigilance has not wholly departed. I should like also to add, although it has been anticipated by the hon. Member for Gravesend, just one word of criticism. The Congo Reform Association has insisted from the first that the root of the mischief in this matter has been the deprivation from the natives of the lands which they possessed. We have been told again and again that it is exceedingly difficult to settle the natives again upon their land. But once again, in one of the latest of our Consular reports, we are reminded that possibly there is no single 356 native district where the boundaries of the native tribes are so definitely laid down as they are in the Congo district. There never was any practical difficulty about the restoration of tribal proprietorial rights in their land. At the same time we must admit that it has been suggested that even our own land system is not ideal. I have heard Members on this side of the House argue along that line, and we know that there are those in the Belgium Parliament itself who are interested, as the hon. Member suggested, in carrying on this agitation until the natives are fully installed in their ancient rights. The right to the cultivation of the soil is one thing, but the right to the soil which they cultivate is another, and it is that to which the Congo natives are fully entitled. I should like to join with the hon. Member, if I may be allowed to do so without impertinence, in a word of congratulation to the right hon. Gentleman on the fact that matters are to-day as satisfactory as the reports show them to be. I cannot help feeling that of the many and deserved laurels which he wears, he will feel that this one, at any rate, is not the least gratifying to himself, for during his tenure of office many millions of the Congo natives have been delivered from what he once described asan intolerable thraldom,and that a new era has been inaugurated which promises freedom to the natives.
§ Sir E. GREY
Before the Debate passes away, as I assume from the tone of the Committee it may possibly do to other questions, I should like to take this opportunity of saying how much I appreciate the tone which has inspired the speeches of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker) and the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Silvester Horne). The hon. Member for Gravesend asked me a particular question with regard to the land which I will answer in the first place. A decree was issued in 1910, which secured to the natives the right to use the products of the soil on native lands. It has been proposed to supplement that by further instructions, making it clear that the natives would be able to obtain freely what lands they desire for cultivation. The hon. Member asked whether these instructions have been actually issued. These instructions have not yet been actually issued, but they are being drafted. I understand that the reason for the delay has been that the instructions as originally drafted were not sufficient really to meet 357 and fully carry out the intentions of the Belgian Government. It has been necessary to consider various points with a view to securing that the natives shall become proprietors of the land which they cultivate. Some time has been required to find a solution of the difficulties likely to arise. A draft of the regulations will shortly be completed, and, when approved, will be signed at once. Meanwhile, I understand that the Governor-General has been acquainted with the intentions of the Government, and the authorities of the Congo know that they would act in accordance with them in granting lands gratuitously to the natives applying for them. That is how that question stands. As to actual practice at the present moment, the latest infÓrmation I have from our own Consuls is that the natives have in practice no difficulty in securing such land. The fact of the drafting of these instructions will make sure that the intentions of the Belgian Government will be permanently and fully carried out. That is my answer on that point.
On the general question I will not go back in the question of the old regime in the Congo, and all the things of which we complained so often and so strongly, further than to say this, that I always made it very clear, and I think people in the House generally made it clear, that we did not hold the Belgian Government or the Belgian Parliament or the Belgian people responsible for everything that happened. It was an irresponsible government which Belgium itself as a nation was not responsible for. We occupied ourselves for some time with grievances which arose under our own treaty rights, and we occupied ourselves with the question how these things were to be put right, the evils of which everyone admitted. I used to say often in the House that Belgium had the prime right, if she wished to exercise it, to take the matter in hand, and it was not for us to dispute her right, and she ought to have every opportunity of taking the matter in hand and putting it right herself. That attitude of ours has been amply justified by the present state of things. Belgium has taken the Congo over, and has completely changed the system from what it was under the old regime, and I am exceedingly glad that what Belgium has done has received recognition in the speeches which have been made in the House, on that side and on this, because it has been no easy task to take over the Congo as it was under the old regime and bring it up to the standard of a Euro- 358 pean Colony, and the Belgian Government, the Belgian Parliament, and the Sovereign of Belgium himself have all worked together with the best intentions and with great energy and with a great desire to repair what was wrong and to bring their Colonies up to the standard of other European Colonies, and if we wish to do justice to Belgium we must bear in mind that in examining the state of the Congo as it is to-day, and estimating it, merely to take the standard of comparison of comparing the Congo with other European Colonies in Africa does not do full justice to Belgium. We have to make the comparison between the Congo as it is to-day and the Congo as it was under the old regime if we wish to do full justice to the work of the Belgium Government. That has been done in the speeches to which we have listened, and it is the true standard of comparison. The hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Parker) congratulated us on the close of the old chapter, and on our having reached the stage which we have reached to-day. It is a subject of congratulation. There is no more disagreeable task than having continually to make complaints about your treaty rights and other matters with regard to a nation with which we wish to be on the most friendly terms.
The hon. Gentleman said he himself has sometimes been impatient with regard to the state of things in the Congo in past years. There has been a great deal of impatience all round. In Belgium, also, there has been considerable impatience. I have always replied to any intimations of that kind that when the recognition did take place, after so many years of complaint and discussion, it was eminently desirable that it should not be the mere act of the British Government of the day, but the act of the British Government of the day carrying with it the good will of Parliament, and whatever intimation of impatience I have had from Belgium I have always pointed out that it was impossible for me by mere words here to secure the good will of the House of Commons and of public opinion unless I could publish and lay before Parliament reports from our own Consuls which would bring home to the House of Commons how great the change in the actual state of things has been. I have waited for that, and I hope, both here and in Belgium, it will be felt to be worth while waiting for, and now that the time of recognition has come that it should take place with the good will of both sides in the House of Commons, and 359 with the recognition, coming from some of those who have been most critical of the state of things under the old regime in the Congo in past years, that the state of things is now entirely different. That is a cause of great satisfaction, and I feel that in making the announcement that we are prepared officially to recognise the Congo as a Belgian Colony we are happily in the position of doing what is morally right and justifiable as well as politically expedient. It is not always that those two things go together, but I have always hoped that this long chapter of complaint and trouble connected with the Congo would be closed in some such way as it has been closed to-day, and I am exceedingly glad that the announcement has been received by the House in the way it has been received. I hope it will be appreciated in Belgium, and that they will feel that we have only delayed in order that when the recognition came it might wipe away all the complaints, all the friction, and all the trouble of a state of things which has now ceased to exist.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I should like to join with those who have congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the closing of this chapter of the relations between this country and Belgium, and I only hope that the most optimistic forecast which he makes will be fulfilled by experience. I rose, however, to turn the Debate on to another subject about which I put a question earlier in the day. The matter involved is one which seems to give rise to some differences of opinion amongst international lawyers, and, therefore, I do not pretend to know exactly how it stands, but the simple facts are most extraordinary. If the right hon. Gentleman's answer to me to-day is really the final word with regard to the status of Russian or any other Consuls under the Capitulations in Egypt, the sooner that state of things is put an end to the better. May I read first of all the appeal which this Russian, who has been arrested, and is to be deported on Friday, makes to this nation. It shows the impression under which he is regarding our rights, and I think if nothing more can be done, it will certainly serve to clear a very cloudy atmosphere if the exact position of this country in relation to Egypt in these matters is made clear. This gentleman writes:—Before being delivered into the hands of the Russian authorities and buried alive in some Siberian prison cell. I want to know the law and the ground on which all this is done. I do not know to whom I should apply 360 with that question, and therefore, I put it to those in whom I put my faith when I came to Alexandria. I see British soldiers in the street, and the British flag flies here. To this flag I entrusted myself. I address myself to those who raised this flag here—to the British people and to the British Government representing that people. I want to know, when I have committed no offence either political or criminal in Russia, why I have been deprived of liberty here and delivered into the hands of the Russian Government.That very pathetic appeal, making certain assumptions which, if the answer given me this afternoon is correct, are erroneous, ought certainly to lead to some very clear statement regarding what we can do under these circumstances. I only wish that I were able to raise the whole question of the international law involved, but apparently, according to an extract which has been handed to me from Dr. Theobold Marten's "Consuls and Consular Jurisdiction in the Oriental Countries"—it is stated that at the present time the control of the Consul does not extend so as to give him the right to interfere in the private affairs of his fellow subjects or to arbitrarily limit the freedom of their movements.
If that is so, let us see what has happened. This man, a Russian subject, engaged some years ago in a political propaganda which the Russian Government declared to be illegal. He was arrested and tried, and I am informed he was acquitted. He gave up the propaganda, and went to live in Belgium where he remained for about eighteen months as a private citizen. Then a movement was made along the Black Sea amongst the mercantile marine—and I emphasise "mercantile," because it had no connection whatever with the Russian Navy—to form a trade union and they appealed to this person Adamovitz to come back and be the secretary or president or chief adviser in some capacity or other of the new union. He went to Constantinople, and he became an official of the union. He edited a paper called "The Seafarer," in which, from the very beginning he counselled two things. He said this trade union must not interfere with Government marines. It must not touch the Navy, and it must have nothing to do with the dockyard. It must confine itself absolutely to the mercantile marine. He also advocated, so far as the political views of the paper were concerned, a sort of moderate Liberalism which the right hon. Gentleman himself has long ago gone past. In one of the most recent issues of this paper, I am informed he gave a list of newspapers and books which the readers of the paper were recommended to study, and they 361 were the representatives of the most moderate section of the kind of Radical movement in Russian politics to-day. Then when the Balkan war broke out, he went from Constantinople to Alexandria intending to come to London, but finding himself stranded for financial reasons, he continued to publish his paper and conduct his trade union business from Alexandria. Then one fine day the Russian Consul arrested him in the street, and the circumstances to which I am drawing attention arose. One point surely must be germane to the consideration of this question. Apparently what this man is arrested for is not for anything he has done in Russia. He is arrested for something that he has done in Egypt. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the Consul in Egypt can apply any sort of law to a private person who is not breaking any of the laws recognised by the Government of Egypt itself? Surely that is a doctrine which would lead the right hon. Gentleman far astray in connection with anything he could not properly defend in this House. Surely he cannot come here and defend a condition of things which will enable the Russian Consul to arrest a trade union secretary in Egypt for being a trade union secretary. If a person is a Russian criminal, I suppose the Capitulations would cover that. The Capitulations were created and amplified for the purpose of protecting foreign subjects, so that their own law for their own protection would be applied to them in Turkey and Egypt. But here is a man who comes to Alexandria for the purpose of doing a thing which in every other country in Europe, with the exception of Russia, is an ordinary operation of civic rights. He has not been accused apparently, so far as we can get information, of any crime. He has not been accused of inciting to any crime. He has not been accused of sedition apparently. The only thing he has done is to edit this paper, which is a very ordinary Radical paper, so far as politics are concerned, and trade union paper, so far as economics are concerned. In this case there is a tremendously wide interest being taken. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman has had his attention drawn to the interest taken in it on the Continent. In the German Press, the Labour Press in particular, in the French Labour Press, as well as in our own, very lengthy reports have been published regarding the man himself, and regarding the right hon. Gentleman's own 362 action. I dare say his attention has been drawn to the fact that trade councils, trade unions, and labour meetings of all kinds, during the last ten days or fortnight have been passing resolutions appealing to him to exercise such authority as he can in order to prevent the deportation of this man.
There is one thing to which I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. I have been informed that Lord Cromer himself once exercised the right of refusing to allow the deportation of so-called political prisoners. When the Young Turkey movement was in process of formation, certain Young Turks went to Egypt, and the Sultan asked that they should be sent back to Constantinople. I am informed that Lord Cromer declined to grant the request. If that is so—I know that it is not on all fours with the present case, but the same spirit is there—surely Egypt being Turkish, and Turkey desiring its own subjects to be sent back, if Lord Cromer refused to send back these subjects of the sovereign authority, the case is very much stronger in the present instance when the Russian Consul arrests a man in Egypt for doing something which is not illegal under Egyptian law, but for something which he did not do in Russia, but in Egypt—surely the case is much stronger for the right hon. Gentleman even stretching points to protect the rights of this person. We know—when I say "we" I mean those who have only been able to take a more or less superficial interest in this matter, and simply acquaint ourselves from the outside as to what is going on in Egypt—we know how these Capitulations have been abused from time to time. Lord Milner, in his book on Egypt, has made himself responsible for an exceedingly important statement. He said:In no part of the Ottoman Empire have the privileges granted by the Capitulations received so wide, and indeed abusive, an extension as in Egypt. Claims have been made and admitted, and practices have sprung up and acquired the sanction of use and precedent, which, in many cases, are not only not justified by the treaties, but actually contrary to their express provisions. The fact is that, in their constant efforts to extend the limits of their privileges, foreigners have obtained from the weakness or mistaken liberality of the rulers of Egypt concessions which were not to be wrung from the stronger and more conservative Government of Turkey.That is a protest against the sort of thing that is going on now. Let us assume that the action of Lord Cromer was not on all fours with the case which is troubling us at the present moment. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us of any case where the Consul of any Power enjoying 363 privileges under the Capitulations has done an action like this? Is the right hon. Gentleman not able to raise a legal point regarding this case which might be carried to another Court? Is he able to raise the question whether this does or does not come within the scope of the privileges of the Capitulations? Is it impossible for him to compel Russia to establish the right she now claims under the Capitulations, and, at any rate, to withhold the deportation of this man until it is absolutely clear? If there is a precedent, I have no more to say about it, so far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, except that this surely is further evidence that the whole question of the Capitulations and their effect in Egypt ought to be immediately reconsidered. I do not want at all to be unfair. I know just enough about the constitutional position we occupy in Egypt to know how very difficult that position is. But I would beg and pray the right hon. Gentleman not merely to use the uncertainty of the position when it suits himself, and then to shield himself under the plea that it is impossible for him to take action which may be a little bit difficult and awkward. I do not believe there is a single Member of this House but would support the right hon. Gentleman in taking any action he could in order to stop the deportation of this man.
My final point is this. Within the last few minutes the translation has been handed to me of a letter written by a lady who apparently was arrested in the street with the man. She claims to be a Swiss subject, having married a Swiss subject, and she has been the subject of a domiciliary search, although she protested against it. That is absolutely contrary to the power and privilege of the Russian Consul under the Capitulations. He is not allowed to make a domiciliary search upon anyone except a subject of his own country without the consent of the Consul of the country to which the subject belongs, and on whom a domiciliary search is to be made. As soon as Adamovitz was arrested he raised the point that he had a German passport, and so much was that the case that the German Consul was represented at the domiciliary visit which took place immediately after the arrest of this lady. She writes:—Anyhow, I had to go through many troubles when, as you know, I have not quite recovered from my illness. I came here three months ago in order to recoup in the Egyptian climate. It was extremely difficult for me to pass the whole night sitting on a 364 chair at the police station in company with two half-naked policemen lying on the tables, but that was the best I could obtain after my demands. Before I was put in a room with arrested Arabs. It is true that they put me between two tables where the officials sat. Those officials were polite to me, and talked all the time of cigarettes, and were very much surprised when I did not take them; but they did not care about my presence, and were beating the arrested to such an extent that I many times almost fainted.I just draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to that to indicate that, surely quite apart from the arrest and proposal to deport this man, there have been irregularities in connection with the whole case which it is his duty to inquire into, and to see, at any rate, that they will not be repeated. I hope this case will receive very serious consideration. I hope also that, if it is at all possible for the right hon. Gentleman to do anything in the matter, he will leave no stone unturned to do it, because the deportation of this man will be repugnant to the sense of the people of this country, who will be very much ashamed indeed if such a thing is possible.
EARL of RONALDSHAY
The hon. Member for Leicester has raised a question of great interest which ought to be discussed. It is rather of a technical nature, and should be considered by those who are acquainted with international law. I do not myself profess to any such knowledge, and therefore I do not mean to pursue the case to which the hon. Gentleman has called attention. I wish to offer my congratulations to the Foreign Secretary on the very satisfactory conclusion arrived at with respect to the Congo. The views which I hold in regard to that question have been admirably expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker), and I should only be wasting the time of the House if I were to go over the ground again. I rise with the intention of asking the right hon. Gentleman if he is now in a position to give us some information with regard to the negotiations which have been proceeding for something like two years past between this country and Turkey in connection with the southern section of the Baghdad Railway, and in connection also with other matters of interest to this country in the neighbourhood of the Persian Gulf. I think it is very desirable that we should have an authoritative declaration on these matters, because rumours of a varied character have appeared both in the Press of this country and the Continent, which have received a semi-official denial, and which are 365 obviously very misleading and inaccurate. The negotiations between this country and the Turkish Government in regard to the southern section of the Baghdad Railway became possible in the spring of 1911, when the Baghdad Railway Company concluded an agreement with Turkey, under which Turkey received once more her right to deal with that section of the line. The Baghdad Railway Company possessed concessions giving the right to construct a port at Alexandretta, and a line from Alexandretta to the main trunk line. They possessed exclusive rights of construction from there to the Persian Gulf.
Last year I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he was then in a position to give us any information as to the progress of the negotiations. He stated that there was very little he could then tell us. He made, however, one very definite statement. He said that with regard to any railway built south of Baghdad it must go no further than Bussora. He stated that ho would be opposed to it going any farther. That is a perfectly explicit statement, from which we infer that the right hon. Gentleman, in the negotiations he has been undertaking, has expressed a very strong opinion against the construction of any line from Bussora to the head of the Gulf. He has given no information as to what his policy has been with regard to the construction of a line, not from Baghdad to the head of the Gulf, but from Baghdad to Bussora. The right hon. Gentleman might have assumed anyone of three different attitudes with regard to such a point. He might have pressed for the construction of such a line with the participation of British capital, or adopted an attitude of benevolent neutrality towards the construction of such a line by other Powers, or have opposed the construction of such a line altogether. Can he tell us this afternoon which of those policies he has been pursuing with regard to this question? I ask this because of the different rumours which have appeared in the Press as to the result of the negotiations which are now supposed to have come to a conclusion. We have been told, on the one hand, that the right. hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to purchase, if, indeed, he has not succeeded in purchasing, the Turkish interests in such future railway. Then we are told quite a different story in other quarters, namely, that he desires that British capital should take no part in the construction of such a line, but that the Bagh- 366 dad Railway Company should themselves receive back their right of building the line, provided that they did not carry it further than the town of Bussora.
If he can clear up for us the mystery in which that matter is at present enshrouded we shall be very grateful to him, but the negotiations which he has been carrying on with Turkey during the past few years cover a very much wider field than the mere construction of the southern section of the Baghdad Railway. They touch also upon matters of the greatest interest to this country in the nieghbourhood of the Persian Gulf. I asked the right hon. Gentleman last year whether he could give us any indication of what he was doing in regard to our position on the Persian Gulf. He was not able to give a very explicit answer, but he did make a statement of very considerable interest and importance of which I may remind him. He said that, any agreement with Turkey as to the Persian Gulf which will make it perfectly clear to Turkey that we are not going to infringe her rights and make it equally clear to us that there is a signed documentary understanding between us and Turkey as to our position on the Gulf, to which we attach great importance, which will not be interfered with, will really be a satisfactory agreement in itself. We are all very found of talking about our position on the Persian Gulf, a position to which, in the official words, we attach the greatest importance, but when we talk about our position on the Persian Gulf very often we do so with a somewhat vague idea as to what we mean by the phrase. If the right hon. Gentleman has undertaken the responsibility, or is about to undertake the responsibility of defining in a State document what he considers to be our position on the Persian Gulf, I think that it is not too much to ask him if he can give us, not necessarily in detail, but in general terms, what he really means by the phrase. We have some ground I think for asking for such an explanation, because the phrase at used by successive Foreign Ministers for years past has not always meant the same thing. Ten years ago, for instance, it included as an essential feature our position of ascendancy in those provinces of Persia, which abut on the Persian Gulf, though, when the right hon. Gentleman signed the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907, our position of ascendancy in that part of Persia went by the board, and for the first time in our history we admitted 367 the claim of any other Power to a position of equality with ourselves along the whole of the Northern Seaboard of the Persian Gulf. That was a very material alteration in our position on the Persian Gulf.
For that reason largely I do ask the right hon. Gentleman, before finally defining our position on the Persian Gulf in a State document, whether he can give to this House the general lines which his definition will contain. There are many points upon which he could give us information in this connection. I suggest one point which, perhaps, he may be able to answer in his reply: Would the admission of the suzerainty of Turkey over Koweit be compatible with his idea of our position on the Persian Gulf; or, again, would the admission of the suzerainty of Turkey over the territory of the Trucial Chiefs be compatible with our position on the Persian Gulf? There are many other points which will occur to the right hon. Gentleman himself, and I merely throw those out as suggesting the lines which his answer on this matter might take. I would also ask him if he could give some further information as to the present position of railway concessions in that country. Railway projects in Persia may be divided into three main categories. There are the railway projects of Russia in the North of that country. There are the railway projects of Great Britain in the South, and there is the international project of a transcontinental railway, of which we heard a great deal this time last year. I understand that the Russian Government recently acquired a concession for the construction of a railway in the North of Persia, quite independently of the so-called trans-Persian Railway, which was to be an international undertaking, and there are four specific questions which I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this matter. The first is this: Is there in existence any valid agreement between this country and Persia under which we can claim the right to construct railways in Southern Persia as soon as railway construction takes place in any other part of the country? I ask this question, because some years ago when Lord Lansdowne was Foreign Secretary, he alluded to some such agreement as that, and the actual words which he used were:—Though that agreement may not be recorded in any very formal manner, it is nevertheless looked upon by 368 the British Government as a binding engagement by the Persian Government.The second question is, has the right hon. Gentleman been approached by any British syndicate with a view to his applying for a concession for a railway up the Karun Valley? He would probably remember that some two years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman was dealing with the interests of British merchants in that part of the world, he suggested that if we were to protect our own interests we must do what we can to build our own railways, and the railway which he had in his mind at that time was quite obviously a railway up the Karun Valley. I understand that there is a British syndicate willing to, build such a railway, and I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has been approached by any such body with a view to obtaining a concession for that railway. The third question is, If he has been so approached, has he been successful in obtaining a concession?
Then there is another question of general interest. With regard to all these negotiations which have been going on between the right hon. Gentleman and the Turkish Government, there is a lever which we have in our hands—that is the right to withhold our consent to any increase in the Turkish Customs. In the year 1907 we entered into an agreement with the Turkish Government by which we consented to allow them to raise the Customs Duties from 8 per cent. to 11 per cent. for a period of seven years. That period will lapse in the spring of next year. The Turkish Government are not only desirous of our consent to the retention of the Customs Duties, but they wish further to increase them up to 15 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman, as a, Free Trader, no doubt would tell us that that would really not affect British trade very much, because the duty would be paid by the Turkish consumer, but in his more responsible position as Foreign Minister he will, I think, admit that any such increase in the Turkish duties would be, to a certain extent, at any rate, paid by the foreigner, the foreigner in this case being largely the British merchant. I want to ask, therefore, whether in the course of these negotiations he has given his consent to the continuation of the Turkish duties at the present rate of 11 per cent., or whether he has gone further than that and promised to agree to an increase of from 11 per cent. to 15 per cent? If so, can he tell us what he has received in return for his consent to that proposal? The right 369 hon. Gentleman, in answering demands for information affecting Turkey and Persia, very often has been able to say that negotiations with those countries move slowly, and that he was not therefore in a position to give any information until the negotiations had actually been concluded. That is the answer which the right hon. Gentleman has been obliged to give to me for some two years past on these very questions. I hope now that these negotiations, as I understand, having practically been concluded, he will not find it necessary to withhold information from the House on those grounds, though, of course, should he tell us that the negotiations have not been concluded and that he is quite unable in the interests of the country to give us the information for which I have asked, I shall feel bound to accept the answer which the right hon. Gentleman, I regret to say, will consider himself obliged to give.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
May I, as I am not a member of the right hon. Gentleman's party, offer him my warm congratulations on his recent action, which, though drastic, has saved a continuance of the great war that has been in progress? All parties in the country are thankful to him for that result. I wish now to say a few words on the question of Armenia. That question was raised on the last occasion by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Annan Bryce), and a thoroughly satisfactory assurance was given by the Under-Secretary in the necessary absence of the right hon. Gentleman. I will only allude to the subject by saying that I understand that the Government is pledged to raise the Armenian question in the Conference which is to settle the future of Turkey, including the future of this people. The right hon. Gentleman is already aware, because I believe a memorandum has been sent to him, of the extreme operation of the demand which has been made by the Armenians themselves. Many people, including myself, were of opinion that when they did make proposals they would have been of a more extreme kind. It is understood that the Armenians do not desire independence; still less do they desire annexation to any other Power. They wish to remain Turkish subjects and do their best to preserve the integrity of the Turkish Empire. All they demand is that there should be adequate reforms—especially, of course, as to security of life—the due and proper administration of justice, and these other 370 primordial rights of human beings. This is not the time to go into the history of the Armenians. We know that there were about 300,000 massacred under Abdul Hamid, and about 30,000 were massacred under the regime of the Young Turks. Europe has made up its mind that such a state of things shall come to an end. The only adequate guarantee for the carrying out of these reforms, of course, is European control. I do not venture to throw out any suggestion as to what form of European control there should be, but I am glad to think that some form of control is no longer objected to by the high Turkish authorities in the way that was done before. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman, amid the many demands made on his time during the last few weeks, has been able to read a very interesting interview published in the "Daily Telegraph," but I will read one or two quotations from it. The interview was by a correspondent of that paper with the Crown Prince Youssouf Izzeddin Effendi. The correspondent said to the Crown Prince:—May I be permitted to hazard the observation that in Turkey the question of reform is complicated by questions of different religions and races? Thus, there is the Armenian question and the Arab question.'Do not speak to me of those questions,' the Prince replied eagerly, 'they have been our misfortune for too long a time. My grandfather, the Sultan Mahmoud, said there ought not to be any religious question except at the Mosque, the Church and the Synagogue. There you have the truth. We must become a modern State.'Then the correspondent goes on to ask him some further questions, and the Crown Prince said, with regard to the Armenians:All our officers have loudly praised the courage of our Armenian soldiers, many of whom remained on the, field of battle, while others have left the hospitals crippled for life. My heart bleeds every time I think of it. We have heavy obligations to fulfil towards the Armenians. But rest assured that for them the hour of security, of justice, and of happiness must, and is, about to strike.On another point the correspondent asked His Imperial Highness whether he regarded it as opportune to make an appeal for the collaboration of foreigners in this work of reform. The Prince replied:—I do not regard it as opportune; I regard it as indispensable.I think that the Powers of Europe, if they recommend that reforms should be guaranteed under European control, would have no difficulty in getting the Turkish assent to that proposal. The Armenians have declared, and I think there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of their declaration, that in asking for these reforms 371 they are not asking them for the Armenians alone nor in the interests of the Armenians alone, but in the interests of good government generally. It is impossible that Turks, any more than the Armenians, in a country which is periodically subjected to devastation and plunder. My strong contention is that these reforms should be carried out, and that they would do much to maintain the integrity, security, and future prosperity of that country. Further, I believe that the Foreign Secretary in England would have the support of France, where they are in favour of these reforms. I have been reading several French newspapers, and I have had conversations with several prominent French gentlemen, and I did not find one who was not in favour of raising the question of satisfactory reforms under satisfactory guarantees. I approach a question which is more difficult, and on which I wish to speak with caution so that I may not say anything to embarrass the situation or embarrass the right hon. Gentleman. It has been suggested that Albania should be enlarged by adding to it Epirus. Are the Albanians in a position to use democratic institutions to the best advantage? Let me state that I start, on all these questions, on the principle of recognising nationalities. The Albanians are a distinct race, with strongly marked racial characteristics; but with regard to the proposition to add Epirus to Albania, I cannot understand how any British politician of any party in England can deny that Epirus is mainly and predominantly Greek. Nobody can deny that. These people have indicated in every possible way what they desire, and on this question I believe Liberal opinion all over Europe is unanimous; I certainly have not read in any French or English papers anything in the opposite direction. Could anything be more monstrous and absurd than to put this large Greek population under the control of another race—a race which in point of culture and civilisation is far inferior. It is now proposed to hand over the people of Epirus to the Albanians, after having been subjected to massacre and pillage by those very Albanians. It is a perfectly impossible proposition, and I cannot imagine any Englishman whatever giving support to it. In regard to the possession of the coast in those regions, it is said that it might constitute a military and naval danger to Italy, but, if necessary, 372 there need be no naval base and no fortifications. I believe that the Greeks are perfectly ready to give undertakings to that effect. As to the Ægean Islands, I do not suppose that anybody would say that every one of these Ægean Islands should be restored to the Mother-country. We have heard that some of the islands might be a danger to Asia Minor because they contain such a large Greek population, but I believe the greatest danger to the integrity of the Turkish Empire in Asia would be to keep these islands out of the hands of the Greeks. No enduring peace can be obtained sinless based on the principle of nationality, on which we have won in Ireland, and on which I think they will win in other countries.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I will not follow my hon. Friend opposite into his remarks about Albania. It is too thorny a question to be discussed here and now. As to his concluding remarks regarding the Ægean Islands, I should like very emphatically to support the appeal which he made. I am also in full accord with what he said in regard to Armenia, but I would like to add, with regard to the Armenian question, which has been before us for so many years, and in which this country has taken such a very special interest, that the question is not so much the acceptance by Turkey of a scheme, but that there should be a guarantee that such a scheme would be brought into execution. In 1897 a scheme was accepted, but it was not brought into execution. What we want is some sort of lever, some sort of influence, to bring to bear on the Turkish Government in order to secure that the unanimous wish of the Powers with regard to Armenia shall be actually brought into effect. As my hon. Friend has said, the demands of the Armenians are in no way unreasonable. They are simply asking for a form of Government similar to that which exists in the Lebanon. In order to secure peace in Asia Minor in the future, and also to prevent the horrors which have taken place from time to time for years past, it would be a very grave error on the part, of the Great Powers if they neglected Armenia at the moment when the settlement of the whole question of the Ottoman Empire was coming under review. I want now to regard the events of the past few months from a very broad point of view. In general on these occasions there is some complaint and some criticism against the Foreign Secretary, but I think that Liberals to-day, and indeed I think all 373 parties, would desire to join in congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman. He has conducted the negotiations during the past six months in a way that has won for himself a very prominent place amongst the statesmen of Europe, and he has managed, I do not know how, to screen himself from the searchlight of inquisitive public attention. One thing we can never expect of my right hon. Friend, and that is that he will blow his own trumpet. Therefore, I think that we ought to show him that we realise that by his calm persistence and his transparent honesty of method and purpose he has brought about a state of affairs in which this country stands foremost amongst the Powers of Europe in the councils of the world. That is a source of satisfaction.
The two points that appear to me to require comment are these: First, I welcome very much the establishment of the Concert of Europe. The Concert of Europe has been for some time past a slow working machine. It accomplished very little, but this time it has proved to be a great success. The former policy, which I think was a pernicious policy, of dividing Europe into two camps which regarded one another with suspicion and jealousy, has been abandoned, and I hope has been abandoned for good. In instituting the Concert the chief feature has been that Germany and ourselves have drawn more closely together. It is that rapprochement between these two great Powers that brought about the really remarkable series of affairs that ended in what we hope will be in a few days a completely unclouded sky. The institution of the Concert is one point, and the other point I notice is that the Foreign Secretary has not been so much embarrassed in addressing Europe by the voice of the Admiralty supplementing his diplomacy by remarks with regard to naval construction. The Foreign Secretary has worked by himself, and therefore successfully, and without the accompaniment of any boasting or any loud language he has quietly accomplished his end. Great Britain has exercised, on the whole, a moderating influence, and I think we can safely say that never in the history of the world have the Great Powers of Europe emerged from such a critical situation without having had recourse to the arbitrament of arms. That is a very great tribute to the growing good sense of the Governments, and it is a very great tribute to the more rational turn which the peace movement has taken all over the world.
374 May I express the hope that my right hon. Friend will not cease from his labours even when peace is declared? I do not mean cease from his labours with regard to ordinary foreign relations, but cease from the labour of establishing and consolidating peace in Europe. I cannot see why, if he has been able to steer the Powers away from the abyss of war, he cannot be the chief agent in gradually securing concerted action for the maintenance of peace. After all, in the abstract, it appears to me that to induce the Powers to come to an agreement, do not let us say for the reduction, but for the cessation of further increases or for the limitation of expenditure on arms, is a far less formidable task than the one which the Foreign Secretary has recently accomplished, which was to maintain peace amongst the Great Powers of Europe in the midst of turmoil and conflict, in which the interests of several of them were most deeply and closely involved. Peace is the keynote of the present situation, and it appears to me a more appropriate moment to speak on that theme on the Foreign Office Vote after the accomplishments of the right hon. Gentleman than on the Naval Vote, when the Estimates come forward. Pacifists are accused, not always without justification, of being very negative in their views, and there is no worse argumentative weapon than just a bare negative. If the Committee will allow me, I want to try and deal rather more constructively with this subject. I studied the Army and Navy Estimates lately with a view to ascertaining how many individuals were employed and paid by the Government in the war service. More than 500,000 people are employed in one way or another and paid by the Government in war service. We have an Imperial Defence Committee, and we have also as the Prime Minister told us in debate last year, the War Book. We all profess to desire peace, and what does the State do to directly encourage the consolidation and the maintenance of peace? The State does not spend a sixpence in any effort to maintain or consolidate peace. Peace propaganda is left to individuals and private societies which often suffer from want of money and organisation. It may be said that in a negative way the State does support and does help to maintain peace, but what I appeal for is something a great deal more constructive. I would ask the Committee 375 to consider whether it is impossible, whether it is impracticable, to suggest that a peace department should be established in connection with the Foreign Office. It may be said that the Foreign Office with the Diplomatic Service forms in itself a peace department, but, as a matter of fact, they are the channel of communication between this country and others, and that is not necessarily the best instrument to use for the promulgation and maintenance of particular principles and for the furtherance of a particular policy.
What we want is something a great deal more positive, something more actually constructive. I should like to see this department constituted in the Foreign Office. It might consult with similar bodies and similar departments in other countries, and co-ordinate the elements that make for peace. I believe such a department might be of real service. For instance, our delegates to The Hague Conference might be coached and prepared by this department, instead of, as at the present time, a few eminent gentlemen being appointed a month or two before that conference sits, and going into that conference with very vague and hazy notions of what it is they have to say. I believe a peace department, specially organised for this purpose, might do a great deal in preparing those gentlemen. I believe such a department might gradually lead to a common basis of international consultation of a friendly character, for the purpose of taking the first steps in the solution of this great question of the insane competition in regard to armaments. I believe the institution of such a department would be a visible proof to the country that the Government of the day, that the State itself, was really in earnest in the pursuance of this great object. We spend £72,000,000 on war preparations, and there are many who believe in the maxim that the best way to maintain peace is to prepare for war. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that maxim is true. I believe if it ever were true, it is less true than ever at the present time. I do not want to discuss armaments, but I would ask those hon. Members who believe in force, and who place their entire confidence in force, anyhow to be tolerant, and not to ridicule and condemn a constructive scheme which will go beyond a mere negative act. I believe that it is a deplorable attitude on the part of the Powers to take up, and especially 376 in this country, to fold their hands and say that the present expenditure is absolutely necessary and inevitable, that if other countries spend those large sums we must do so, that we must devote all our national energy and enterprise to the construction of machines for the destruction of life, that we must continue to do so, and that there is no help for it. That is the attitude we seem to be taking up. It requires enormous effort to shake our belief in that, and it requires a good deal of thought and very careful consideration to see what opportunities lie in other directions, and to see what steps can be taken in a purely constructive way towards the maintenance of peace.
To put it very briefly, I make these proposals: First, that this country should take the initiative in calling together a Conference to discuss the question of the limitation of armaments, when the sky is completely cleared and the war clouds have passed away. Secondly, I suggest the establishment, in connection with the Foreign Office, of a Peace Department for the consideration of constructive schemes for the consolidation of peace by international discussion, for the close study of new developments in international law, for the analysis of the economic and financial effects of war, for the careful preparation of the delegates to The Hague Conference, for the practical encouragement of all kinds of conferences and visits—political, scientific, and social—between the nations, and also for other purposes which the Foreign Secretary of the day could settle. I am encouraged in submitting these proposals because we have in our present Foreign Secretary a statesman who has gained for himself a position from which he can guide and even lead the other Powers of Europe, and the present opportunity seems to me particularly auspicious. I feel sure that my right hon. Friend would be the first to realise that the experience of history has taught us that ideas sanely conceived and wisely nurtured have in them ten thousand times more authority, force, and power than all the battleships and battalions which the misguided energy and labour of nations have ever produced.
Sir MARK SYKES
I venture from a back bench on this side to praise the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the magnificent way in which he has maintained the dignity of Great Britain and the peace of Europe. I am certain there is no word already said which we cannot support. It cannot be repeated too often that 377 the whole of this country is deeply indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the splendid solution which we are now approaching. With regard to the remarks of the last speaker (Mr. Ponsonby), there are two points to which I wish to draw the attention of the Committee. One is that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs cannot be said to have been very greatly assisted during the last six months by the professed friends of peace, because if ever there has been an awkward question asked or debate proposed in this House it has come from the very quarter which usually claims to speak on behalf of peace. The other is that the right hon. Gentleman, although he may not think it politic to say so, would probably admit in private that so-called bloated armaments have assisted in keeping the peace—for this reason: It is not, I think, the fear of war that keeps nations from war so much as the fear of unsuccessful war. If the Allies had imagined that the Turkish army had been thoroughly efficient, they would not have taken the Turkish Empire in the way they did. At the same time, if Russia or Austria had had sound information that the other side was not fit to take the field, their demands might have been a great deal more difficult to meet. I submit that even bloated armaments are very often just as good friends of peace as vegetarianism, Esperanto, or anything of that kind. It may sound a foolish thing to say, but, if I am permitted, I would wish to make the quotation—Our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not.I think that armaments are the price which humanity has to pay, and will have to go on paying for some time to come. Leaving the general subject, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider the present condition of Persia. In what I am about to say I shall make no criticism of Russia. I submit, however, that the general result of the Anglo-Russian Treaty in regard to Persia has been—not because the Russian Empire has not played straight with us, but inevitably through the terms of the treaty—that Russia has gained in prestige, trade, and territory, while we have to a certain extent lost. We have certainly lost in prestige by the fact that we introduced into Persia a regiment which had to be escorted to the coast by other than its own authorities. Our trade must have lost in Southern Persia, because it is impossible for us to govern that territory, and it is very difficult for the Persians to do it when 378 the administrative part of their Empire is practically under the dominion of aliens. Lastly, I am certain that the present developments in Persia have undoubtedly irritated a great number of our subjects in India. I submit that that harvest should be a lesson to us in the future not rapidly to alter the status quo when we find, as in this case, that the alteration has resulted in considerable disadvantages to ourselves. But these disadvantages, I suggest, have been to a great extent counterbalanced in very different directions by the brilliant and illuminating dispatch from Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. The Agent-General in Egypt has done much, by the sympathetic wording of his dispatch with regard to the hostilities which are now I hope practically over, to rehabilitate us in the eyes of the Moslems, and also to suggest to the world that it is possible for a policy to be liberal and progressive in its ideas, and at the same time extremely conservative in its methods, by using native methods to introduce progress into a country instead of forcing alien methods which are not suitable at all.
I wish also to draw attention to the question of the Ottoman Empire, and its future. At the present moment Great Britain has many points of contact with the Ottoman Empire, which, with the consideration of the condition of the Ottoman Empire, must certainly come up for general review. There is the Turko-Egyptian question. In reply to an hon. Member, who referred to the subject, I would suggest that there are two sides to the question of the Capitulations in Egypt. I admit that to administrators in Egypt, and even to the Egyptian people it would be a great advantage to get rid of the Capitulations altogether; but if the Capitulations go, I submit that the theory of occupation by mutual consent may possibly come up for revision. That has to be borne in mind. There is also the question of suzerainty. It might be advantageous to get rid even of that shadow suzerainty in Egypt, and annex it, but I submit that as long as we hold our present position in Egypt, a great moral impetus is withheld from Egyptian revolutionists and nationalists so long as the shadow suzerainty, which can do no harm, remains. There is also the question of the Dardanelles. That is the great question between England and the Ottoman Empire. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider what has happened in Persia, and not welcome the change of any of the treaties, or any of the existing 379 arrangements with regard to the present status of the Dardanelles. I cannot see that any change could have any strategic advantage, but must have disadvantages to ourselves. In regard to the Baghdad Railway, I do not in the least desire to say anything that could be construed as adverse criticism of Germany. But I submit that no treaty and no paper agreement with regard to the Persian Gulf can be of the slightest avail if the whole of that part of Mesopotamia, between Mosul and Bussora, falls into the hands of a foreign financial corporation, which might eventually hand it over to one of the European Powers. No amount of paper treaties can possibly withstand the dynamic forces of corn and petroleum, the enormous wealth of the country, when once it is developed and actually going down the Persian Gulf. If we do not participate in the development of Southern Mesopotaimia, I am sure that our position in the Persian Gulf is as good as lost, no matter what treaties our diplomatists may make.
Our position in the Persian Gulf, with regard to the Dardanelles, and in Egypt is wholly bound up in the future of the Ottoman Empire itself. If the Young Turks, after the revolution, behaved in a foolish fashion, surely it cannot be denied that the Powers of Europe have for the last thirty years treated Turkey in a way that can hardly be defended at all. In the time of Abdul Hamid, under the worst Government Turkey has ever seen, the Powers allowed every crime to be committed so long as the interest on the Debt was paid and a number of swindling contracts could be given to a number of shady financial persons. That was in the days of the worst Government Turkey ever had. Afterwards, since Turkey tried to reform, she has certainly not had much encouragement. I admit all the folly of the Young Turks, and also their crimes. But I say that Bosnia, Herzegovina, Tripoli, and the attitude of Europe with regard to the war are matters which we shall have to remember. At the beginning of the war it was said that the ring was to be kept, and no atrocities were to take place. That was on the hypothesis that Turkey might possibly win. But when Turkey had lost, and lost handsomely to the Allies, the atrocities took place. I think it cannot be denied that not one word of complaint was uttered. It may be said that it is difficult for the Powers to be unanimous. But I think the humanitarians of England, 380 who justly and rightly complained of the treatment of the Armenians, and who justly complained with regard to Macedonia under the Turks, should have come forward and not maintained what people who are friends of the Ottomans cannot help feeling is to a certain extent a partisan attitude. When the last three years are surveyed, it must appear to the average Moslem when he comes to international questions, that there are two, laws—one for the defendant when it is Moslem against Christian, and one for the plaintiff when it is Christian against Moslem. I submit that civilised nations, and even Continents, suffer for the crimes which they commit upon any portion of humanity, and unless Europe makes an amende honorable to the Ottoman Empire great trouble is in store for Europe. If Turkey goes to the wall there are certain legacies that the Ottoman Empire will leave to Europe. There is the division of of the Ottoman Empire. It is impossible to divide the Ottoman Empire on any sound geographical basis. If we go back in history we find constant war in that part of the world which is the Ottoman Empire in Asia Minor. I do not want to weary the Committee. I would only remind them that it has been the scene of constant strife between Persian and Greek, Roman and Parthian, Roman and Sassonian, and afterwards between the Arabs and the Byzantines, and peace only came when that particular tract came practically under one Government. When the Turk is gone, we are faced with the old evil position leading to war which was seen during the 2,000 years of struggle. The first legacy that a destroyed Ottoman Empire leaves to Europe is that Europe is face to face with new frontiers. There is another. With the destruction of the Ottoman Empire comes the last free state of Islam, and when Islam is subdued by Christendom, Christendom for the first time will be faced by a united Islam. The last legacy which will be left, not to Europe alone, by the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, will be the creation of a new situation in the Mediterranean, a new situation in the Persian Gulf, a new internal situation in Egypt, and a new internal situation in India. I submit that policy, morality, and the peace of the world demands that Europe should do her best to make one huge effort; that everybody, whether they follow the old Gladstonian policy or the 381 Disraelian policy, should combine together now; that the whole of Europe should combine to try and make one cohesive independent central State in that country for the Ottoman Empire that exists to-day. That can only be done by double co-operation. It means the co-operation of Europe whole-heartedly, giving their very best men and money eventually, and being easy in their loans in order to start that country whose resources are immense. On the other side it is right of us to expect and demand from the governing class in Turkey—one cannot speak of the Turkish people—trust in Europe. That is a great demand, but still we have a right to ask for it, if there is to be a complete understanding, if they ask us to give them Europeans for a period of time, who should have real executive control. Personally I would have nothing to say to advisers. I do not believe in them. We are face to face with real facts, and we must have men who know how to run the country in control for a time, so that the new generation may grow up capable of profiting by their work. My last appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, is that he is in the position, if anyone is, to induce Europe to persuade the Turks to make that double co-operation a possible policy. I am sure that in doing that he will have the support of not only everyone in this House, but of everyone in England, of everyone in Europe, and of everyone in the world.
§ Sir JOSEPH WALTON
I have listened with the greatest interest to the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hornsey (Lord Ronaldshay). He addressed to the Foreign Secretary various questions which I might otherwise have made. One remark he made when he referred to an old understanding of Persia, that if and when the Persian Government gave the original concession in Northern Persia to Russia we should be able to claim concessions in Southern Persia, I would mention to the Noble Lord that that arrangement must have been substantially altered by the Anglo-Russian Agreement. That Agreement, commercially, has placed us at a disadvantage, but if we have to have regard to international relations, to the improved relations between a great and powerful empire like Russia and the British nation, I believe that ultimately there will be an advantage; that it will tend over and over again, on critical occasions, to promote the maintenance of the peace of the world, to have those improved 382 relations between England and Russia which fortunately exist to-day. I join with the Noble Lord in hoping that a British Concession will be granted for the construction of a railway through the Karum Valley or River. As to the Baghdad Railway, I had the pleasure of travelling right down from Haidar Pasha to the Taurus Mountains two years ago, a distance of some 2,000 miles. I also had the opportunity of making the journey from the head, of the Persian Gulf to Baghdad a few years ago. I can only say to the Committee, from information then gathered, that Turkey-in-Asia has a territory not only enormous in extent, but possessing enormous possibilities of development. With irrigation in the tract of the Baghdad Railway down to the Taurus Mountains, there are huge areas capable of cultivation. So, far as Mesopotamia is concerned, the report of Sir J. Wilcocks, I think it was, showed that it was possible to restore the old irrigation once there and reconvert Mesopotamia into one of the granaries of the world. I believe we should approach this question of railway construction in a broadminded way. We have, by the Anglo-Russian Agreement, conceded to Russia the right to build a railway down through Persia into the Persian Gulf at any point west of Banaar Abbas without objection on our part. That being so how can we adopt a very different attitude towards the German nation in connection with the Baghdad Railway? I, personally, have confidence that the Foreign Secretary will sufficiently safeguard British interests in connection with the southern part of that line from from Baghdad from Mosul down to Bussora.
Personally I believe the clay is not far distant when we shall have to adopt a different view of railway construction as between one country and another, and that we will have to have a chain of railways extending right through Persia to India, and linking up Central Asia with India, in order that those great regions may have a chance of proper development, not only for the benefit of their inhabitants, but for the benefit of the trade of the whole world. This question is a most important one. Personally I have regretted the diminishing amount of British trade in Persia. The situation in Persia, the situation in Turkey-in-Asia, the situation in the Balkan provinces, is probably the most complex that civilised nations ever had 383 to deal with. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool hope that the Armenians will secure justice and protection in respect to their freedom and rights in all these districts. I have had the opportunity of spending some months in the Balkan States two years ago, and that included a little trip in Albania. What did I find? We have not an autonomous Albania. But do we sufficiently reflect that that great region is inhabited by people so diverse as to race and religion that it seems almost hopeless, without very great skill, to make arrangements with the different populations, the different races inhabiting Albania, so as to form an autonomous State and preserve the peace for the next generation. In all the districts of the Balkan States we have an admixture of races. In the so-called Greek district there are inhabitants of many other races. All we can say is that all parties in this House believe that we have had in the Foreign Secretary a Foreign Secretary who has displayed the greatest tact, good judgment, and ability in the negotiations which have been taking place in the last six months. The whole nation is indebted to him for the quiet, persistent, powerful, bold influence that he has exercised to preserve the peace of the world, and the whole nation will congratulate him when peace is finally signed. I feel that I can leave with confidence in his hands all further dealings in the most complex and difficult questions involved, knowing that they will be settled, not altogether on the lines perhaps that we could desire, but on the best lines possible under the circumstances for securing better government in those large areas, and also for preserving all safeguards to Turkey-in-Asia, which will have great possibility of development and which yet may become a powerful nation. I believe that there never was a Debate on the Foreign Office Vote in this House where there was greater unanimity than on this occasion, where all have the same objects in view. I believe the spirit of the House generally, and of this nation, and of the other nations is, broadly, that the jealousy between the nations will become less; that it will become more and more recognised that the prosperity of one nation is the prosperity of another nation, and of all the nations. By co-operation, as has been our experience in the Conference of the Powers in the last few months—by co- 384 operation between the nations shall we secure to the fullest degree the better government of the world, and promote the prosperity and the good of the nations.
Mr. GEORGE LLOYD
Tribute has been paid to the Foreign Secretary on both sides of the House to-day for the way in which he has carried on the affairs of this country during a particularly difficult time. That tribute is also an eloquent expression of the relief from very great tension under which the country had been labouring for a year past. Since we took this Vote a year ago the right hon. Gentleman has had to deal with a period of almost continuous war. If we have come nearly to the close of this chapter of our anxiety with British interests unimpaired, and with the reputation of British diplomacy enhanced, it is sufficient for everyone who takes any deep interest in foreign affairs to be very grateful for the way the Foreign Office has been managed during that time. Incidentally, I think it might be remembered later by those who are very often opposed to diplomacy, and who say that diplomatists are fomenters of war, that during one of the most critical years of European history it was diplomacy almost alone which has saved Europe from a big war. I think further, in reference to what has been said to-day in favour of no armaments, that the Foreign Secretary would scarcely have been able to do so much as he has done if his dispatches had not been weighted with the very heavy armaments behind them. Before passing on, I would like to refer to what my hon. Friend behind me said in respect to Turkey. I would just like to mention one feature of the European situation which is, I think, more important than any other at all, and which for that very reason, perhaps, had better be very briefly touched upon. The greatest result of this war had possibly been its effect upon Austria—The alterations in her population tended to reduce her power as a military factor in regard to her Eastern frontier. This is a matter whose importance cannot be under-estimated at the present time, whose effect may reach to the North Sea, and which certainly must have a very big effect upon the grouping of the Powers in Europe during the next five years. That is not a very useful or profitable field for speculation at this moment, and, I will therefore pass on to other subjects alluded to by other Members of the House.
385 It is generally assumed, I think it has been assumed to-day already, that the position of Turkey in Asia now after the war, is practically a hopeless one, or at any rate a very difficult one. I scarcely agree in this though it is obvious there are many difficulties; there is the Armenian difficulty, the Arab difficulty, the Kurdish question, the Syrian question; there are the French interests in Syria, Russian border interests and German interests in Anatolia. These are not easy to reconcile. There have been letters in the Press latterly, foreshadowing and outlining certain schemes for foreign intervention in Turkey in Asia. They are very interesting and most of them are very dangerous. I am perfectly certain it would be a most dangerous experiment to give foreign advisers to the Turkish Governors at the present time; it would mean that the Governor would have great power and no responsibility, and that the European advisers would have great responsibility and no power. I do not believe any Turkish Governor with the European adviser could give his European adviser very great latitude, and therefore I think we should be liable to repeat many of the mistakes we made in Macedonia before, and should altogether find ourselves involved in grave difficulty if we attempted to interfere with Turkish administration in Asia. One other point I would like to make as regards advisers. It must be in the recollection of many that there is an intermediate system between actual advisers and Consuls. There was an excellent system of military Consuls started by Lord Beaconsfield, and regrettably ended by Mr. Gladstone. They had no direct responsibility and no direct power, but they achieved great respect and influence and they gave great assistance to Turkish administration; I venture humbly to suggest that if the Turkish Government needs any assistance or guidance, it will probably be safer to follow these lines rather than definite adviserships which may involve us in great difficulty.
As soon as the Foreign Secretary is able to persuade the Balkan delegates to sign peace we shall be able to turn our attention to other questions in Asia, such as the Baghdad Railway, which are approaching settlement. We have no interest in Turkey-in-Asia except to preserve our roads to India, and to maintain our good relationship with that very important Power. If we are going to get a settlement of the 386 Baghdad Railway upon good terms, I should be very glad, and I believe most hon. Members on this side of the House would be also, but we have no information. We have tried to assist in this matter by remaining absolutely silent on the Baghdad Railway question for nearly two years, and therefore if it is possible to give us any information now that rumours are current and widespread, and possibly well founded, we should like very much to have it. I base myself now on perhaps the most serious rumours published in the Press. I should like to know if the terminus of the railway is to be Bussora as foreshadowed in more than one report. I think that would be a most excellent result. It is the economic terminus, and will give proper colour to the views which Germany has always put forward, that her railway was economic and not political; therefore if the terminus is to be at Bussora, I think as far as that goes and given a proper harbour authority, that would be satisfactory. Equally if it is true that Germany is to build the line right through to Bussora, that is to say, that she resumes the rights she was supposed to have given up in March, 1911, I think there will be very little to quarrel with in such a suggestion. We do not want to build the railway provided it goes only to Bussora and provided our interests are not jeopardised.
I associate myself with what was said about most of the territories to the North between Baghdad and Mosul and the effect that the fertility and wealth of these regions must eventually have upon our position in the Persian Gulf, but I think that that is an academic matter now, and we need not go further into it. Therefore if the terminus is to be at Bussora, if Germany is to build it, and still more if there are to be two British directors, I think it is all to the good. I think it is a great achievement to have secured two British directors on the railway after a long discussion extending over seven or eight years. Now I come back to an old question I raised as to the effect of the railway upon British Trade—an old but an all important question. We should very much value some more information with regard to the differential rates question upon the Baghdad Railway. I tried to point out the immense importance of safeguarding our trade interests by making absolutely certain that no differential rates can be imposed by the German company upon British goods. Now 387 the only safeguards we have been given have been the safeguards mentioned in the Cahier des Charges. Lord Morley, in the spring of 1911, said in reference to British interests that they could never be safeguarded by the plastic stipulations of the Cahier des Charges, and as Lord Curzon pointed out more than once, what is obviously true, to everyone who gives the matter a moment's consideration, that no mere clauses in a tariff prohibiting different treatment are a real safeguard. It is perfectly easy to frame a tariff applicable to all nations alike which may yet favour certain categories of goods coming mainly from Germany and penalising categories of goods coming mainly from England. Our trade in that part of the world, being mainly Manchester trade, is very susceptible to that kind of treatment, and I hope the Foregin Secretary is taking ample means to safeguard us. It is a real danger.
I turn for one moment to the Koweit question. I am one of those who have no objection whatever to restoring or recognising Turkey suzerainty over Koweit under certain conditions, but only under very careful conditions. The autonomy of the Sheikh must be real and his relations with us as well as his teinty undisturbed. But I noticed in the "Times" one phrase which says that it was going to be made an autonomous Kaza of the Turkish Empire. They say Turkey agrees not to interfere with the internal affairs of Koweit, but that they would have it as an autonomous State of the Turkish Empire. What I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether this autonomous Kaza is to have a Turkish Kaimakam or resident. One could not but regard any proposal which entailed the residence in Koweit of any Turkish official as being dangerous. If the Turkish Government is not to interfere at all in the affairs of Koweit, I can see no reason for having even this little cause of friction. Then there is the question of Behrein and coast, where it is said the Turkish Government has renounced what rights they had in the islands. I ask the Foreign Secretary whose subjects these people are to become when Turkey has renounced her rights? Are we entitled to protect them? Are we allowed to protect them? I think it is rather an important question which should be very clearly defined before we can come to a general agreement upon the point. Then there are two other points. 388 The first is with regard to compensation with regard to Alexandretta. It is a very involved question, and none of us are very clear about it. All we know is that in March, 1911, a series of three agreements were come to between the Baghdad Railway and the Turkish Government. They had to do with the prolongation of the railway to Baghdad, to the building of a harbour at Alexandretta, and to the relaying of the railway to Alexandretta. Now there is, I think, ample evidence to show it was believed on all sides that Germany obtained these concessions in return for her renunciation of rights to build the sections below Baghdad. I have plenty of quotations from the European Press here with me but I will not trouble to read these to the House. I will only mention that the "Tanin," the Turkish Government organ, wrote supporting this view. It was generally understood by everybody that it was taken for compensation. Lord Morley at that time was subjected to some questions and he was very vague in his answers, and though I have read his speech I cannot possibly make out what his views were as regards the question of compensation. However that may be, the German company are now going to build the railway from Baghdad to Bussora, and therefore Germany can have no claim to compensation now that she has resumed her rights. The "North German Gazette," however, three days ago, said, "We shall want further compensation for not, building the line from Bussora to Koweit." I should like to make this point clear. I think there is no claim at all for compensation there, because the Turkish Government never had any right to give a concession for a railway to Koweit, to a place outside its territories. The concession therefore in this respect was not valid and was never considered so by us. The arrangements recently come to still further prove the point.
I would just like to hurry on to one more point with regard to Tibet. The situation there is very serious and something ought to be done as soon as possible. The aggravation that Tibet has been subjected to by China in the last two or three years had, produced a very serious situation. Our position there is very simple. We do not want a Protectorate over Tibet; we do not want to extend our responsibilities beyond their natural limits. We do not want to occupy Tibet in any shape or form; we do not want a military expedition in any shape, manner, or form. 389 We do, however, want to trade there, and we want openly, and in a regular manner, to know all that is going on there. We have no political designs ourselves there, and we have a right to demand that no other Powers shall have any designs there. The Dalai Lama thought he could get rid of Chinese influence by bringing in Russian influence, but all that failed owing to the Russian war. Then we came in with Colonel Younghusband's mission which resulted in the Lhassa Treaty. The Lhassa Treaty is still operative, and it gives us great privileges in Tibet. Under it the Tibetans are not to lease, cede, or sell, any territory, or pledge the revenues, and they have to keep the integrity of Tibet absolute. That treaty is still in force to-day as far as I know. This was followed by the Anglo-Chinese Convention two years later, and we went to China to get confirmation of the Lhassa Treaty, and they confirmed it. In return for that we said that we would never annex Tibet. Therefore the only other instrument that could affect, though it could not nullify, the Lhassa Treaty was the Anglo-Russian Convention a year later under which, while Russia recognises our special position, we undertook that we would only negotiate through China. We have no designs on Tibet, but many of us think that the time has conic when we should have a Consul at Lhassa, and we ought to negotiate with Russia for the alteration of those Clauses of the Anglo-Russian agreement which bind us not to keep a representative there. If the Foreign Secretary can give some reply to the questions I have raised I shall be very much obliged.
§ Sir E. GREY
Perhaps I had better now answer some of the questions which have been put to me. So much material has already accumulated that I could not possibly deal with it in one speech; but I will try and dispose of the points raised in the Debate so far, and other matters can be dealt with later in the evening. I hope the Committee will realise that I feel very grateful for the many kindly references to myself, and they will understand that if I do not dwell much upon the subjects which are most closely connected with those kindly references, it is because there are so many difficulties ahead of which we have not yet seen the end, that it is very difficult for me at the moment to make any statement. It is quite true, of course, that the tension and anxiety which have been very great at times among the Great Powers have diminished, and the prospects 390 of peace have improved. But, as everybody knows, there are still many difficulties and some very delicate questions ahead. I will deal as far as I can with the points in the order they were raised in the Debate. The first point is that raised by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) with reference to the arrest of a Russian subject in Egypt. In the first place, let me observe that this is not a case for the British Government. In the Soudan, where the British and Egyptian flags fly side by side, the Capitulations do not apply; but in Egypt, where the Egyptian flag is flown, the Capitulations do apply. Therefore, for anybody going to Egypt, who is not a British subject, to assume that he goes there under the British flag is not correct. He goes there under the Egyptian flag, and any action we take in Egypt with regard to foreigners is limited by the treaty obligations which the Egyptian Government entered into before the occupation.
I cannot go into the merits of the case of the Russian subject who has been arrested. In the first place, I do not know about it, and I do not even know what the charge was, and, in the next place, it does positive harm to discuss affairs belonging to another Government for which we are not responsible, and with which we cannot deal. The broad situation is this. As far as Egypt is concerned, a foreigner in Egypt is under the jurisdiction of the Consul of the country to which he belongs, and can only be protected by the foreign Government of which he is a subject. I admit that in this case, apparently, there was a complication, because the Russian subject had a German passport; but that is not a point which we can take up, although it is a point the German Government might take up. We cannot take up the case of a foreigner having a German passport, but if it was a British passport we should have to do it. As a matter of fact, I am informed that the German Consul was associated with the Russian Consul in the proceedings which took place in connection with the arrest. The hon. Member for Leicester asks how it comes about that when Turkish subjects are in Egypt, Turkey is not able to lay hands on them and extradite them. It is because Turkey has not the benefit of the Capitulations. The whole status of Egypt in regard to Turkey is not regulated by the Capitulations, but by firmans. The rights under the Capitulations in Egypt which capitulatory Powers have do not extend 391 to Turkey at all. Egypt has a comparatively free hand with regard to internal affairs compared with Turkey—a much freer hand than she has with regard to the subjects of a European Power which has capitulatory rights.
The hon. Member for Leicester brought up another case in connection with a Swiss subject. There again it is for the Swiss Government to take up the case of one of its own subjects. Supposing a foreign Government took up the case of one of its own subjects in Egypt and complained that the Egyptian Government had not acted in accordance with the Capitulations, then, of course, we who are in the position of insisting that the Egyptian Government should take our advice about these matters would have to go into the question to see whether the Egyptian Government had acted in accordance with the Capitulations or not. But we could only do that if the Government itself took up the case and complained of the action of the Egyptian Government. I have asked what are the exact rights under the Capitulations with regard to extradition, and I am told that they are these. In the case of a capitulatory Power, the Consul of that Power is entitled to demand the extradition of a subject without even specifying the grounds on which the extradition is demanded, and that is a treaty right. The hon. Member for Leicester went on to make an attack on the Capitulations. If he wishes to do that I am sure he will get plenty of material for it if he looks through Lord Cromer's Report. It is not my interest to defend Capitulations because they have been recognised as being a very great burden upon the freedom of the Egyptian Government to develop its own country. When you come to the question of the factory laws you are at once brought up against the rights of foreign Governments under the Capitulations, and in all sorts of ways the Egyptian Government is hampered by the Capitulations. There they are at the present time, and this is an international question. It has long been one of our objects on general grounds to get some modification of the Capitulations and, as a matter of fact, we are in possession of promises from certain Powers that that matter shall be favourably considered when it is taken up. It is a matter which is occupying our attention, but it can only be dealt with in discussion with other Powers. In cases of this kind, whatever 392 the merits may be, it is absolutely impossible for us, while the Capitulations remain what they are, to interfere or accept responsibility. That is really the root of the whole matter of the Capitulations.
I think I had better proceed with the point raised by the Noble Lord the Member for Hornsey (Earl of Ronaldshay) and the hon. Member who has just sat down, who raised the question of the Baghdad Railway. On this point it is very difficult at this moment to know how far to go in regard to the negotiations, because they are not finally ratified or concluded, although we have got the drafts of certain agreements with the Turkish Government, which I hope will be finally concluded. It is difficult to go into details, because until you can disclose the whole thing and put it before the House as a full Paper, if you deal with a particular detail—I am not so much afraid of public opinion in this country as in other countries—it is sometimes fixed upon and given an undue perspective and importance, and it prejudices opinion against the agreement as a whole. I will, however, give as much information as I can safely do to the House, and I will deal with the large lines of the agreement we hope to make. As far as the Baghdad Railway is concerned it is an agreement between Great Britain and Turkey, and the central point of the agreement is that the Baghdad Railway is not to proceed beyond Bussora without an agreement with us, and we are making no agreement that it shall proceed beyond Bussora. We are contemplating that Bussora should be the terminus. We have a definite understanding that it will not run beyond that place without an agreement with us. That is the central point.
Then the Noble Lord asked in what position we stand with regard to the construction of the section from Baghdad to Bussora. There are so many difficulties about our participation in that matter that we thought the best arrangement for us would be that we should waive any question of participation ourselves in the branch from Baghdad to Bussora, and that we should be left simply in the position that if we got a clear understanding that the railway will not go beyond Bussora without our consent, it would cease to be any interest of ours to oppose the extension from Baghdad to Bussora, and we are leaving the matter in that position. Then we want to have two directors on the 393 board of the Baghdad Railway. The question of having two directors is very intimately connected with the question of differential rates. The hon. Member for West Stafford (Mr. Lloyd) asked some searching questions about differential rates. It is quite true that in the agreement we are making it as clear as possible that there are not to be differential rates on the railway. It is also true that however clear your agreement may be, that there are not to be differential rates, you want to be sure that in actual practice and in the actual schedule of rates, a difference does not creep in.
Of course, you cannot control the schedule of rates, which may vary from year to year, unless you control the railway, and you cannot control the railway, because it has long been a concession to Germany, and not to us. We cannot have control of all the railways, and we are not asking for control, but we are asking to have two directors on the board of the Baghdad Railway, who will be too few to exercise control or to impede the real management of the line, but who will be there present on the Board able to keep us informed of the rates which are being fixed and how the rates are being worked. If, at any time, it appears in practice that the schedule of rates is being fixed or worked in a way which is unfair to British trade as compared with other trade, we shall then, of course, be able to bring the question up diplomatically under the agreement which guarantees that we are not to have differential rates, and to contend that it has been broken in practice. Germany have other railway projects besides the Baghdad Railway—German companies have other railways which are already in working order and in existence; the Anatolia Railways, for instance—and I am bound to say that I do not remember any complaints with regard to differential rates on those railways. I think that in the agreement we are making that the railway should not go beyond Bussora without our consent, and in asking to have two directors on the Board, we are really making an arrangement which, if you look at it in all its aspects, does relieve us of the anxiety which existed at one time, when we did not know where the railway was going to end or what disturbances might result on the Persian Gulf, and which justifies us in saying that it is no longer in British interests to oppose the line.
Germany has her own agreements with Turkey with regard to the Baghdad Rail- 394 way. We, of course, are not parties to those agreements, and I cannot go into them and discuss what they are, because that is a matter between Germany and Turkey. Our agreement will be made with Turkey. Germany will not be a party to it, but, at the same time, it is essential that Germany should be satisfied that there is nothing in the agreement we make with Turkey which is inconsistent with her own rights in her agreement with Turkey. That is to say, you will not really get an agreement which is going to settle the whole matter unless it is an agreement which, though between Great Britain and Turkey so far as the two Powers are concerned, is also an agreement which Germany is satisfied by her arrangement with Turkey does not conflict with the rights of her own special agreement with Turkey. In other words for the smooth working of the agreement it is necessary that not only Great Britain should be satisfied that her interests are protected, but that Germany should also be satisfied that her interests are not injured. I hope that it may work out on lines such as these: that there will be a complete understanding to which Germany will agree that the Baghdad Railway will not be made beyond Bussora without an agreement with us, and, on the other hand, that there will be a complete understanding that no opposition is going to be offered to the making of the railway down to Bussora on the conditions I have mentioned. That it seems to me will bring about a clear bargain which may remove out of the way a subject of discussion which, as long as it remains unsettled, must be a cause of friction, and which it is very desirable from every point of view, whether economic or political, should be settled by agreement.
There are other matters in our agreement with Turkey apart from the Baghdad Railway. There is the Persian Gulf question about which I have been asked for some details. I will see if I can give any further information, but it is a little difficult to go into all these details about particular places. I am not complaining of hon. Members asking about them. They are things I will bear in mind, but it is a little difficult for me to go into particulars for fear of putting some detail in a position which is not its true perspective, and of prejudicing feeling, not so much here as elsewhere, against the agreement as a whole. I will say this with regard to the Sheik of Koweit. We should under the 395 agreement recognise the suzerainty of Turkey over Koweit. On the other hand Turkey would agree that the autonomy of the Sheik of Koweit should exist in the future as it has done in the past, complete and unimpaired, and that the arrangements which have been made between the British Government and the Sheik of Koweit in previous years should be recognised. That is what I mean by preserving the status quo with regard to Koweit. We have always regarded it as important that the status quo should be preserved. One hon. Member spoke of restoring the suzerainty of the Sultan, so that the question of the suzerainty of the Sultan has always been a little ambiguous in connection with the status quo. It is not a new thing. It is not inconsistent with the status quo. The important thing in the status quo is that we should be quite sure the autonomy of the Sheik of Koweit is not going to be interfered with, and that our agreement with him is not going to be disputed. There is another point of importance, which is that the navigation up to Baghdad, in which there has been a British interest, should not be impaired. We should hope to make an arrangement under which the British interests which have existed for many years in connection with the navigation up to Baghdad would be extended and consolidated and we should be guaranteed that the navigation would be developed, and that in that development there would always be a substantial and satisfactory British interest. That would be an arrangement between ourselves and Turkey. Those are the main lines, and I can only say that as soon as I am in a position to do so I shall lay the agreement as a whole before Parliament.
Then I come to some questions about Persian railways. The Noble Lord (Earl of Ronaldshay) asked me whether there was an agreement whereby we could claim a railway in the South and Russia one in the North. There is the agreement of 1890, which I believe we have always considered as being in force. With regard to the practical question which he asked me as to whether we had been approached by a British syndicate as to a railway in the South, I may say that we have been approached by a British syndicate with regard to a railway from Mohammerah to Khorramabad. We have supported an application to the Persian Government, and the syndicate has got an option for two 396 years, and is going to make a survey of that particular railway. With regard to the actual details, I believe I have given them more exactly in answer to some question in the House previously than I have done at this moment, but, if I have not, I will give the information as accurately as I can in answer to a question. Roughly, we have secured an option for a railway from Mohammerah to Khorramabad for a British syndicate. There was one point with which I should have dealt in connection with the Baghdad Railway—the increase of Turkish Custom dues, about which I have been asked a question. If this agreement were concluded, we should give our consent to an increase of Turkish Custom dues when other nations gave theirs. The position would be this: As far as we are concerned, we should give our consent when other nations gave their consent, and we should not make any further demands in return for our consent to an increase of Turkish Custom dues.
The question of Persia was very shortly touched on by the hon. Member for Hull (Sir Mark Sykes). He sketched in unfavourable terms the result of the Anglo-Russian Agreement respecting Persia. It is always present to my mind the very lurid picture I might draw, considering all that has taken place in Persia, of what would have happened if there had been no Anglo-Russian Agreement. He stated with some force the case against it on the ground that British interests have suffered. Of course, it is not pleasant for me to hear it stated in that way, but I have this compensation. One of the difficulties connected with the working of the Anglo-Russian Agreement is that people complain here that it is not satisfactory to British interest. But that is not only one difficulty. The other difficulty is that there is a party in Russia who complain very much—and criticise their own Government in the same way as we are criticised here—that but for the Agreement Russia would have had a very much freer hand in Persia than she has had. I am afraid most agreements between countries are open to that kind of criticism in each country, and all one can say is that however disagreeable the criticisms may be for either Government, one hopes that in making criticism here it will not be forgotten the difficulty the Russian Government have in defending the Agreement against corresponding criticism of the same kind in Russia itself, and that the Russian Government in dealing with the 397 criticism brought against it in Russia on account of the Anglo-Russian Agreement will not overlook the criticism which is brought here from the British side, and which is really the answer to the criticism brought there.
The other question with which I must deal is that of Armenia, and of that I can say very little, but it is not for lack of sympathy or that I do not think the matter important. The question of reform in Asiatic Turkey is a matter which concerns all the European Powers who have interests in Asiatic Turkey. They must deal with the matter in consultation with the Turkish Government, and I hope a comprehensive scheme of reform will result. It has been impossible to take the matter up with the Turkish Government while they have been engaged in the war which has been going on for so many months past. It has also been impossible for the Great Powers, upon whom the war has brought one anxiety after another, especially upon those Powers who, either geographically or by national feeling, are most intimately affected by the changes taking place in the Near East, to elaborate schemes of reform in Asiatic Turkey. Putting it shortly, both Turkey and the Great Powers have for the last two months been so wrought and exercised and occupied by the European question in the Near East that it has been impossible for them to elaborate schemes of reform for the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey. But we are all aware—the Turkish Government as much as anyone—that disorder and massacres in the provinces of Asiatic Turkey would raise another question of anxiety to Turkey itself, as well as to the Powers who have economic interests in Asiatic Turkey. The Powers who are specially interested in that part without exception wish to avoid that anxiety. They wish to avoid having any political question raised with regard to Asiatic Turkey that will cause anxiety. The Turkish Government themselves, and the people of Turkey, are just as anxious that there should not be disturbances which will give rise to interference or difficulties in the Asiatic provinces. I believe there is every disposition on the part of Turkey to avail herself of European assistance, and on the part of the Powers to give that assistance to establish the authority of the Turkish Government in its Asiatic provinces. The real strength of Turkey, which we wish to see consolidated and maintained in Asiatic 398 Turkey, as soon as peace is concluded, will depend on the establishment of justice and sound finance. These are the two things we wish to see established in Asiatic Turkey, because they are essential to the consolidation of the position of the Turkish Government itself. I trust that all the Powers will co-operate in giving assistance to Turkey in this matter in such a way as not to impair Turkish authority, but to enable, through Turkish authority, these two great foundations—justice and sound finance—to be established on a sure footing in her Asiatic provinces. That, at any rate, is our object. If I do not say more it is not because I do not think it important, but it is because it is a subject for discussion between the Powers themselves, and the Powers and Turkey, and it will be impossible to make real progress with questions such as these until the conclusion of the war between Turkey and the Allies. Then I trust to make some progress with the other matters that remain to be dealt with.
I will not deal with large questions of policy, some of which were raised by the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby), because the Foreign Office Vote on these occasions is rather an occasion on which people ask for information on many different subjects. I do not think it necessary I should make any new statement of general policy on behalf of the British Government at the present moment. Such a statement could not be made at any rate without careful preparation, and ought not to be tacked on to a Debate such as this. I have endeavoured to deal with some of the points raised in the Debate. I know hon. Members have other questions to bring forward. I will only say this with regard to the Vote. We are not asking the House to deprive itself of the opportunity of discussing this Vote on some other day. I am not going to press that the Vote should be taken to-night. It may be put down on a future occasion. Whether or when it is put down will, of course, be settled according to the desires of the House, through those channels about which I remain in as much mystery as any hon. Member of the House, although, of course, I am always ready to receive instructions.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (who was very imperfectly heard)
It would be very unusual for a Debate on the Foreign Office Vote to go through without some observation from this Bench, and it is for this reason, 399 and not because I have anything special to say, that I wish to occupy the attention of the Committee for a very few minutes. Naturally there would be a great deal that one would like to say, and to hear discussed if it were possible. There are subjects in connection with foreign policy in which we are all interested naturally, but, and I am glad the whole Committee has taken the same view, this is the very last occasion on which I would expect the Foreign Secretary to dwell upon those subjects. He has just told us that he has no intention of closing the discussion, and that there will be an opportunity of raising the question again if and when the House desires. This Vote was put down, as I understand, primarily for the purpose of fulfilling a pledge that the annexation of the Congo to Belgium would not be ratified by us until the House of Commons had had an opportunity of approving it. I join with what has been said by everyone who has spoken on this subject in thinking it is in every sense a matter of the highest congratulation, not only that we are able to ratify that annexation now, but that we are able to ratify it with the full approval of every section in this House, and with that of the whole of the people of this country. I think that is a great achievement. Anyone who knows what has happened there, and who has listened to previous debates on this subject, must feel that the Belgian Government deserves, as we are ready to give them, the highest credit for the immense change which has taken place in that region.
I quite agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker) that we are not to take it for granted that difficulties will not arise again. It is the kind of country in which inevitably such difficulties do arise. Wherever you are dealing with natives who are only gradually coming under the influence of civilisation, it is extremely difficult to adjust the terms of any Government to their ideas. I happened yesterday to read the White Paper last placed on the Table, and found it extremely interesting. One of the points dwelt upon by one of the Vice-Consuls was the tendency among many of the natives to object to work. They would not work if they could help it. That is contrary, as a rule, to what happens under civilisation. But in a temperature like this I felt a good deal of Sympathy with those natives who 400 are able to get their subsistence without work. That is precisely the kind of difficulty that occurs where white men are governing natives. After all this desire to avoid work is not confined to natives. I happened—if the Committee will forgive me for referring to it—to be in a club the other day where I overheard two gentlemen engaged in conversation. One of them said, "Your time is up next week." "Yes, thank you; I retire then, for I have had enough of the rot about the value of work." That seems to me the view of these natives, and they are able to carry it out more successfully than is usual in our state of civilisation. But there is something more to be said about this Congo settlement. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt on the political expediency of our recognising the annexation. I do not suppose I would be justified in pointing out more clearly what that means. But everyone who realises what the general political situation of Europe is must feel that the moment the moral necessity of refusing recognition of the annexation was taken away it was in the highest degree expedient that Belgium should no longer have any possible sense of grievance against us on the ground that we have not sanctioned that annexation.
I am not going over the ground traversed by others. The only point I will refer to is what the right hon. Gentleman said about the condition of Persia and Baghdad Railway. We all know there has been in the past a good deal of difference of opinion with regard to it. When the right hon. Gentleman said he had made an agreement that the railway should not go beyond Bussora, I felt he had said everything I could desire. I feel with the right hon. Gentleman it was not merely a question of our making an arrangement with Turkey to deal with our own grievances. In that part of the world there are other interests than ours, and it is in the highest degree to our interest, and to the advantage to the peace of Europe as a whole, that no question should arise, or difference of view exist, between us and another Power in that region. I was glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said on that point. I am not prepared to disagree with what has been said about the action of the Foreign Secretary during the critical times through which this country has passed. I am not going, naturally, to put it in quite such glowing language as an hon. Member who sits behind him, but it is probably because we have all felt how serious the state of 401 things was that I, for one, during all these months have really never looked on the right hon. Gentleman as a Member of that Government at all. I think he has only fulfilled his duty in devoting himself to his own work, so that we could look upon him as representing not a party, or even the Government, but as representing the nation.
As my hon. Friend behind me said, in dealing with the negotiations the right hon. Gentleman had certain advantages, and he would not have been grateful to be deprived of them. We had the advantage in these negotiations that, as a nation, we had absolutely no personal interest in the quarrels that had arisen. We were there utterly disinterested, and we gained credit for it. In addition to that, perhaps I may be permitted to again say that, on this question, all the countries knew that the right hon. Gentleman spoke not only for a particular party, which at one time represented the country perhaps more strongly than it does to-night, but that he represented the country as a whole, and had the authority of the country behind him. I think that the necessity for that is growing more and more important. I am not going into any of the larger questions of policy, but I do not think there are many Members of this House who will disagree with me when I say that as a nation we cannot stand alone with that security that would have been possible twenty years ago. Our position depends on our foreign policy, and for that reason it is more and more important that those who have the responsibility, whether in office or in opposition, should be ready to consider the interests of the country as a whole in the conduct of our policy. May I be permitted, without suspicion of undue partiality, to add this. In addition to the fact that we had no national interest to serve, and that we had the credit of being disinterested, we also had the advantage that the character of the right hon. Gentleman lent itself to the claim that in the part he played he had no personal or national interest to serve.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
With much that the right hon. Gentleman has said I agree, and with his last sentence I am in thorough accordance. I agreed with what he said in his just and proper tribute to the Foreign Secretary. I can claim the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to be more or less in favour of a view 402 which I have often expressed—that is, that there should be greater control by the House of Commons over foreign policy. The success of the present Foreign Secretary has been very great. The secret of that success has been that he has taken the House of Commons into his confidence on foreign matters to a greater extent than has any other Gentleman in his position. He has now been Foreign Secretary for a longer period than anyone who has ever occupied the office. Of all officers whose return from the House of Lords to the House of Commons we welcome, it is that of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. To one who has served under many Foreign Secretaries it is quite refreshing to see the Foreign Secretary, when he is there, upon the Treasury Bench. My recollection of the first fifteen years of my Parliamentary life is that foreign affairs were scrupulously hidden from the House of Commons, and that they were kept deliberately in the dark about them. When the Prime Minister also held the office of Foreign Minister there was an Under-Secretary upon the Treasury Bench, his son, the present Lord Salisbury, who had commands from him not to answer supplementary questions in regard to foreign policy. So much was that the case when the present Lord Salisbury was Under-Secretary, that on one occasion a Motion for Adjournment was instituted to discuss the impropriety and unreasonableness of that conduct. Now all that is changed. We have as Foreign Secretary one of ourselves, a Member of the House of Commons, and a thorough House of Commons man, ready, so far as he can, to answer all questions, and to give us, so far as he can, proper assurances as to how matters stand. Having said all that, and having said that I believe he is the best Foreign Secretary in this respect who has ever occupied the position, let me ask the Committee to consider the horrible disadvantage of not having it as a regular practice that foreign affairs should be communicated to this House, and that, in the last resort in matters such as peace and war, the sanction of the House should be obtained.
On 21st July, 1911, we were within one ace of a foreign war, about which not one of us knew anything. That was under the control and management of the present excellent Foreign Secretary. I find fault not with him, but with the system. The system can 403 easily be modified. The system of not giving the House a full knowledge of foreign affairs is a new one which has grown up during the last 130 years, and has grown up just as we have got popular rights. In former days the House of Commons had absolute control over foreign affairs, and Queen Elizabeth listened with a wrath she did not care to disguise to representations from its Members. The reason for the change is that all the prerogatives with regard to peace and war have been transferred to the Cabinet and the Foreign Secretary, whereas in former days it was the Monarch who could make peace and war, arrange treaties, and ratify them. Those prerogatives have passed to the Foreign Secretary, and he now exercises them. It may be asked, "Where are the Supplies? Can we not stop them; and cannot a Vote of Censure be passed?" All that is theoretically true, but once war has been made or peace concluded it is utterly impossible by any Motion of the House or by any Parliamentary privilege in the slightest degree to undo either the mischief or the good that has been done. I have written about these matters in the papers, and I have spoken in the House about them. It is a shocking thing that the House of Commons, which theoretically has control over every letter and syllable of a Turnpike Bill, has no control whatever over international obligations, which may bind us for generations and involve matters of war with all the shocking circumstances attending them. The Committee owes this speech, such as it is, delivered from my heart of hearts, to a chance observation made by a member of the Labour party. It was irrelevant at the time, and was merely one of his obiter dicta. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), a few weeks ago said, and repeated it twice, that the House of Commons has no control whatever over foreign policy. That is actually and literally true. Our control over foreign policy is as much or as little as the Secretary for Foreign Affairs chooses to give us.
Unless this system be changed and some arrangement made whereby in matters of the last resort all treaties be laid before this House for their sanction, we are undoubtedly in jeopardy every year. When we recollect that £500,000,000 a year is being spent on armaments, that 4,000,000 soldiers are armed to the teeth, that 1,000,000 more men are required merely in operations of machinery for destructive implements of war, how much ought it to 404 appeal to a Labour Member to think that all that amount of unproductive labour might be appropriated to the popular use and the popular good? They talk about defending our houses and homes! The proper thing to do would be to make our houses and our homes worth defending. If the policy of foreign affairs were straightforwardly conducted by this country, other countries would have to follow suit. I have travelled extensively, and know pretty well the ordinary trend of the minds of the men who are now all the world over practically masters of the situation—that is, the working classes. They are peacably disposed; they wish to live quiet, good, and healthy lives, and they hate war. War is the result of secret diplomacy, and secret diplomacy is the result of the machinations of half a dozen men. Of all the men who know, theoretically, foreign policies and their trend and development, I should put Mr. Bryce very high. He was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs here, and he has written many books dealing with public policy and foreign affairs. In his book, "The American Commonwealth," in which he contrasted our institutions with those of the United States, he wrote with considerable approval of the Senate having the power to ratify treaties and of making peace and war. He said it was a power that the English Government and English public men might well consider, having regard to the fact—and these are his words—to the practically almost unlimited control of the Foreign Office over foreign policy.On the 18th March, 1886, a Motion was all but carried in this House—it was defeated by only four votes—in which it was proposed that all treaties, declarations of peace and war and solemn international treaties and obligations, should be submitted to the previous sanction of the House of Commons. There are various ways in which mysterious and secretive and foreign diplomacy can work. I am old enough to remember circumstances under which they have worked to the deterioration of public life. There was the celebrated observation of Lord Palmerston when he was Foreign Secretary, that he did not interfere with home affairs and that he should be allowed to conduct foreign affairs as he liked. A Foreign Secretary has a freer hand than all the Ministers of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister consults with him as a matter of practice, and, I understand, that all these secret documents are given to every Minister, but we all know that in the pressure of public work the whole 405 responsibility and control of events are with one man, and that a good man at present. My right hon. Friend is an example of the benevolent despot, but because he has succeeded does not mean that there may not be others who may not succeed. Everyone who has read the Debates in this House in the seventies knows that Foreign Secretaries and Prime Ministers have again and again, because there has been no proper discussion in this House, and because we were not given information in this House, acted contrary to their own desires and wishes, being impelled by other and superior forces. Anyone who looks at the Debates on the Crimean war will see this strange thing: Ministers making contradictory statements within hearing of each other. It may be said that mistakes will be made by indisscreet speakers. Are there no mistakes made by indiscreet questions every day? The House of Commons in foreign matters should be, as in every other matter, the grand inquest of the nation. We should have control over foreign policy and everything that relates to the status and position of this country with foreign nations, and such matters should be as open to Members of the House of Commons as everything that relates to its own procedure and practice. Of course I do not mean in regard to the preliminaries, but with reference to the sanction of the House to them. A pretty thing occurred in 1910, when the Treaty of Algeciras was made. In respect to that treaty there was a secret clause between this country and France, that in certain circumstances the independence of Morocco should be preserved. I have asked again and again whether there are secret treaties with other Powers, but the right hon. Gentleman has not answered because he cannot, but there should be none, and everything should be open and above board. I do not believe a man who has experience of Parliamentary practice believes in Parliamentary legerdemain. The working men of England, who are masters of the situation, have nothing to fear, and they should be the first to be consulted in every matter in reference to peace and war, and to the general policy of the country in which they are mainly interested. I thank the House very much for permitting me to speak once again on a matter, as I think, of very great importance. I am not sure that I have many supporters, but I shall continue to be as the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
§ Mr. NOEL BUXTON
I am glad my hon. Friend has raised the question of the relations of this House to the control of foreign policy, because I think this Debate itself is an illustration of the need of change at one point, though perhaps not precisely the point which he has emphasised. No one can fail to be conscious that the most important question before us to-day is that of the near East. It is inevitable that it should be discussed, and yet we must all be conscious of the delicacy attaching to it, a delicacy which makes the atmosphere of this House unfitted for the discussion of delicate points in the fierce light of publicity which beats upon these Debates, and owing to that fierce light, we have, in my short experience, had more than one appeal from the Government for complete silence on particular points which interest the country very greatly. I take this occasion to ask the Foreign Secretary very earnestly to consider the desirability of establishing a Foreign Relations Committee. This Parliament is almost the only one which has no such official Committee, and I think I may draw an illustration of an extremely practical kind from recent experiences. I hope I shall not be considered critical in doing so. It seems to me that the severe crisis through which we passed in 1911 might have been solved with greater advantage to the country if there had been an official Foreign Relations Committee. In July, 1911, occurred the Moroccan incident. The House was asked to be completely silent on the matter. In the end the compensation to Germany, which was the very natural and foreseen outcome of the Morocco episode, was not a large one, and I have no hesitation in saying there is a great body of very influential opinion, including a very influential section of diplomatic opinion, which regrets that the compensation which concluded the Moroccan affair was not greater, and did not do something more towards granting the German Empire that place in the sun for which the German people are properly desirous.
If that is so, I think I may suggest that if there had been in existence a Foreign Relations Committee, it would have been the means of keeping the Foreign Secretary in closer touch with the opinion of the House. It is not unfair to say that at the end of that crisis there was what might be called an outburst of opinion expressing extreme regret at the 407 irritation which had been aroused in Germany, and at the degree in which we had leant somewhat violently towards the side of France in that case. There was an expression of opinion in the country, voiced by the president of the Liberal Association in a very unusual way, of which possibly the Foreign Office was not fully aware at the time. I am only suggesting the normal means by which foreign Parliaments keep their Governments in touch with public opinion when I ask the Foreign Secretary seriously to consider whether the time has not come for such a Committee—a Committee I mean very much on the lines of the French Committee, not too small and not too large, to supersede the duties of the House, say between forty and sixty, not deliberating in secret, a Committee which would save the time of the House which is with such difficulty granted for the discussion of foreign affairs, and which would increase the value of the opinions held in this House, which have been brought to light by the existence of the informal Committees formed already in it. At the same time—and I think this, from the point of view of the Foreign Secretary, seems to be advantageous—the danger of rash utterances would be diminished by the existence of such a Committee.
I wish to suggest that the praises given to the action of the Foreign Secretary this evening have not been adequate in regard to his services to the cause of peace and progress in the Balkans. As one who takes a very special interest in that part of the world, I should like to add a further meed of praise. Everyone of course is grateful to him for his unremitting work in regard to peace. Lord Lansdowne used to say that the Balkan question was a standing menace to European peace, and Europe has passed the danger of that menace. But more than that, many of us feel grateful for the judicious efforts and touches which he has contributed from time to time to promote good relations between the Balkan nations themselves, and we hope and trust that his efforts will be as conspicuously successful in the future as they have been in the past in that as in every other direction.
There is one danger with regard to the Balkan Settlement which I feel ought not to be forgotten. At the end of the crises in which a settlement of the Turkish 408 Empire takes place, there has previously been a certain tendency to react towards a feeling in favour of Turkey, and a certain tendency, as we know from the history of the Berlin Treaty, to a settlement which is anti-national, is not upon national lines, and we have seen something of that danger not only in the notorious history of the results of the Berlin Treaty, but in recent days. I refer to the question of the Ægean Islands and the frontiers proposed for Greece—all the country along the Marmora to be handed back to Turkey after it has been for months in the hands of the Bulgarians—a country not small, about a hundred miles or more in length, and containing a large Christian population, which will share the fate which Macedonia shared in 1878. Then in regard to the coast of the Servian and Montenegrin races, obviously the Servian race suffers a hardship which cannot be exaggerated, and, whatever the necessity of such a settlement, it is an anti-national settlement. And for all four nations who are concerned, one must be anxious that there shall be fair treatment in regard to finance. There have been warnings that possibly an indemnity will not be allowed and that there will be a heavy debt imposed upon those countries. We must remember that for more than a generation the Powers, for reasons known to themselves, have forbidden the self-liberation of these people. They have an intolerable and unparalleled grievance against the Powers in that while they were willing and anxious and, as it proved, able to liberate their co-Nationalists in Turkey, they were not allowed to protect their women from outrage and their relatives in some cases from massacre itself. They have a great claim upon the generosity of Europe, and I am sure the Foreign Secretary will not forget it in his treatment of nations who, owing to misgovernment are extraordinarily poor. You cannot find to my knowledge outside Connemara such poverty as the people of the Balkans suffer from, and it is not a case for being hard upon them in regard to finance.
But, perhaps, the danger of a revulsion of feeling towards Turkey affects most closely the Armenian question. It is a mere matter of history that in the early stages of a Turkish crisis you get a general recollection in this country of the settled convictions of the people of this country that the Turkish Government is a bad Government. Of course, everyone remembers the very hard things which 409 have been said by almost all Liberal statesmen in the past. You had in 1897 Mr. Bryce, Mr. Morley and Sir William Harcourt again and again carrying on a campaign against a policy which was pro-Turkish on the generally accepted ground of humanity. You had the present Prime Minister saying things which indicated a generally felt opinion. You had not only Liberal, but Conservative opinion. In 1878 Lord Carnarvon resigned from the Government because it proposed to vote Parliament £6,000,000 in order to protect the Turkish Government. Lord Salisbury himself, in 1876, went to Constantinople to co-operate with General Ignatieff in favour of the drastic reforms proposed by Russia, and in the end the provisions of the Treaty of San Stefano, as Walpole says in his history, were on very much the same lines as Lord Salisbury had originally proposed when he went to Constantinople. But then you get a stage when a revulsion of feeling takes place, when the Turks have been beaten in the field, when the influence of the diplomat naturally disposed towards the status quo comes in. You had Sir Henry Elliot strongly resisting the international committee which was proposed, and you had Lord Derby in those days telling the Turkish Ambassador in London that the reforms which England was nominally supporting would not be backed by coercion on the part of England, and that, as the historians record, placed Lord Salisbury in a very difficult position. The result of that was what we have deplored for many years past—a settlement which was anti-national, which was too favourable to the Turks, and which provoked the just condemnation of statesmen. Mr. Bright declared that their object was to sustain "that multitudinous crime which we call the Ottoman Government," and Mr. Gladstone, in 1878, denounced the Anglo-Turkish Convention as "insane." These are hard things which one does not like to recall. That is partly the reason of the anti-national settlement, because it is odious to say things against a beaten belligerent.
But I do not think I shall be myself charged with want of co-operation in the exercise of reform in Turkey. I am not unsympathetic, far from it, towards the idea of reform from within, but short of a definite hope of reform from within a settlement which is favourable to Turkey is a settlement which is condemned by this 410 country. And if we are to rely upon the idea that because the Turks have suffered they will learn wisdom and mend their ways, we are guilty of conscious self-deception, because history refutes such an idea. Even if we had hopes, which I have not myself, of reality in regard to Turkish reforms, history again in recent times has dashed these to the ground. We cannot have hopes of the adequate reform of the government of the Armenian population in Asia Minor unless there is to be real control, and I would only urge the standard laid down by the Foreign Secretary himself in 1908 (when he came to the conclusion that nothing less than European government for Macedonia was necessary) as the standard that must be followed in regard to the Armenian question—active administrative control.
§ Mr. NOEL BUXTON
I am glad to hear that the hon. Member for Hull feels that that will be the policy not only necessary, but most advantageous to the amour proper of the Turks.
Our policy has three aims, namely, the promotion of peace, the promotion of national rights, and the promotion of the interests of oppressed populations. These are the three great branches of the work of the Foreign Office. It is interesting to note that two of these ends have already been fulfilled in the course of the Balkan episode. Peace has been promoted and the interests of some of the nations have been so much promoted that they might almost be said to be born. It will be a triumph which we will all welcome if, in the resettlement of the Balkans, the Foreign Secretary can not only secure a satisfactory peace and national rights, but also the protection of the interests of the oppressed people to whom I have referred.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
The hon. Member (Mr. N. Buxton) has declared that, in his view, the present settlement is too favourable to Turkey. He looks upon it as a hardship that Turkey should receive back a part of the conquered territory along the littoral of Marmora. After all, there are 700,000 Turks in Macedonia out of a population of 3,000,000, and the hon. Member did not tell us his view as to these 700,000. Where are they to live? Surely, unless they are going to be put into the sea, they must have some strip along the coast!
§ Mr. NOEL BUXTON
What I wish is that they should be governed on the lines of the European government suggested in 1908 for Macedonia.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
I understood that the hon. Gentleman objected to leave Turkey in Europe at all, and I am glad to know that I was wrong. The Foreign Secretary in his statement explained the impossibility of dealing in any way with the present international situation as it affects the Near East. I am sure the House will understand his difficulty, and expect no statement from him on that subject. But I feel sure that he will not resent the action of those who feel strongly on the Eastern question if we urge the importance of giving consideration now to some of the smaller subjects, such as the Albanian frontier, which might possibly be lost sight of at the present time owing to the more urgent anxieties of the international situation. There are so many pressures and counter-pressures to be yielded to in Europe at the present time that the great danger is lest the Powers might take the line of least resistance, and might, to gain an early settlement and to be freed from the immediate difficulties of the moment, accept a solution which would only lay up a harvest of difficulties in the future. If the Albanian Constitution is to succeed, it must be applied to a self-supporting economic community. If it is impossible to get a large enough Albania to have the prospect of its prosperous existence, it is much better to have no Albania at all. It would be better from the point of view of European tranquillity, just as it would be fairer to the Albanian population. The Great Powers, of course, most immediately concerned in the Albanian question are chiefly interested in the neutralisation of the seaboard. The friends of Albania must feel that, owing to this fact, there is great danger that in order to obtain this neutralisation they may consent to a "deal" with the territory that lies further back from the sea. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) claims the whole of Epirus for Greece, and said that an exception might be made in the case of Kortcha.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
It is a difficult case, but as there are 100,000 Albanians out of a population of 120,000 altogether, I think it would be a very great hardship if Kortcha were placed under Greek rule. Unless 412 Albania is to have a fair chance in the South, it is absolutely certain that she will be strangled at birth. The figures on which the hon. Member for the Scotland Division relied are taken from Turkish returns. The practice with Turkey is to distinguish between Moslems and Christians, but there is no distinctive name for the Albanian Christian sects. The people are Greek Orthodox for the most part in the South, and the Greeks have made a large assumption in claiming that all those shown as Greek Christians in the Turkish returns are Greek by nationality. That is absurd. In the North the Albanian frontier has followed the line of least resistance. The boundary has been made to cling to the edge of the mountains, leaving the Albanian shepherd tribes on the uplands, which afford good pasture in summer but which in winter are deep in snow. The plains have been apportioned to the Servians, although, without access to those pastures, the sheep of Albania must starve. They are very hardy, but they cannot live on snow alone. The plains of Scutari are at some distance away, and not available for them, and it is a very bad beginning for the new State to be faced with that great economic difficulty among the shepherd tribes of the North. I hope sincerely that the same trouble will be avoided in the South. The Italian interest is so much restricted to the Adriatic Littoral that one can understand that they may find it an irresistible temptation to secure that object at the expense of the Albanian rights in the interior.
Great Britain has neither these rights nor the temptation, and it is possible for the British Foreign Office to consider the Albanian frontier question unaffected by any consideration of compensation or territory elsewhere. Owing to the fact that in any case at least half of the Albanian population would be excluded from the new State, the very greatest importance I think attaches to the words used by the right hon. Gentleman two months ago in the Debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill as to guarantees for the protection of minorities in the territories ceded to Servia and Montenegro. I hope he has not lost sight of that, and that he will exact the same from Greece. Equal political rights and guarantees for the exercise of religion, education, and national languages are absolutely necessary not only on the ground of justice, but in the interest of the Christian minority in Asia Minor. I agree with what 413 has been said by hon. Members this afternoon as to the urgency of Armenian reforms. I rode last year through some of the Turkish provinces, and if I had time I think I could convince the House that there is urgent need of reform of Turkish administration. Armenian autonomy is, of course, impossible. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division said that the Armenians were content to live under Turkish rule. They must be. They must know that, however you might draw the bounds of an Armenian State, you could not arrange it in such a way that the Armenians would not be outnumbered by the Kurds. In that case the new State of Armenia would be worse than the present. The question of the rights of minorities in Macedonia is of urgent importance to Armenia, because if Great Britain and the other civilised Powers are to save her, they must at least set their house in order. They must go to Turkey with clean hands, and they must not put Turkey in the position that the reactionaries could turn round to the Western Powers and say that the position of the Christian minorities in Asia Minor is not worse than that of those of the Moslem religion in Macedonia.
I think the Turk himself is possessed of a great degree of toleration. He has no feeling against subject races or rival sects. Where he has failed is in not making the subject races respect each other. He is tolerant himself, but he has allowed those warring interests to go on cutting each other's throats, and I think the only way in which you can get Turkey to out her house in order in Asia Minor is by setting a good example in Europe. I think from the information at the disposal of every Member of the House it will appear that without some such guarantee there is urgent and grave danger to those Moslems and Albanian minorities cut out from the new State. Of course it is not only necessary to secure the liberties of the Albanians outside of the new State, but also within, for undoubtedly the new State will have very great difficulties to contend with owing to the unrest which has so long existed in Macedonia and which probably will be extended to Albania. We can see the immense importance of a powerful force of gendarmerie from the recent history of the Balkans. I have no desire to shatter the dreams of the sentimentalists who see in the recent war of aggression and outrage a victory for 414 civilisation and the spirit of Christianity. I do not deny that Turkey in her administration of Macedonia in the past has very great responsibility for having brought about what has taken place, but I would refer for a moment to the records of recent years so as to urge upon the Foreign Office to profit by the experience of the past and make impossible in Albania at least a repetition of those artificial disturbances which are got up by the emissaries of the various countries which surround it. Until the Turkish Revolution the British Foreign Office used to publish monthly returns showing political crime in Macedonia. From the last two Blue Books it appears that, exclusive of the insurgents killed by troops and the troops killed by insurgents, 1,600 murders were committed by Christians between December, 1905, and March, 1908, and about 400 were committed by Moslems. A great number of these murders were apparently committed from religious motives. Bands, often led by Greek officers on the active list of the Greek Army, often protected by Greek Consuls, were in the habit of killing those ex-Archists who were unwilling to join the Patriarchist Church. On the surface, the position in Macedonia rather reminds one of the doggerel:Fighting like divils for conciliation and killing each other for the love of God.But, of course, there was no religious motive behind all this unrest, because the religion of the ex-Archists and Patriarchists is practically indistinguishable. One sect murdered the other sect, not from mistaken zeal for the souls of the other sect, but simply because religious allegiance was adopted as a convenient way of differentiating between the political affinities of the races in Macedonia. Outrage and murder have been for so long a recognised political instrument in Macedonia that they have become absolutely ingrained in the Balkan population. There was a case not very long ago of a British Consul in Turkish territory who offered sanctuary to a number of Christian refugees. His Consulate was surrounded by their angry enemies, and while he was remonstrating with their oppressors from the gate of the Consulate he heard a bullet ping past his ear. He turned and saw one of those to whom he was giving refuge kneeling and shooting at him, and, having disarmed his assailant, he was told, "Certainly you have been very good to us and have saved our lives and we have eaten your bread for many days, but I felt it my duty to do this, because if I could only kill a British Consul, then 415 probably Great Britain would take more interest in the affairs of this part of the world." I do not wish to attack any recognised Government of the Balkans. I am quite prepared to admit that many of the outrages were committed against the wish of the Government, but we have got to recognise that these outrages were brought about and the object with which they were started. The "Times" correspondent in the Balkans is not generally, recently, very generous to the Turks, but yet when writing about the Kotchana massacre, which was an outrageous and cruel massacre by Turks of Christians as the result of bombs which they had thrown, the "Times" correspondent wrote:—The scheme of the Bulgar revolutionary organisation in Macedonia seems in this instance to have succeeded only too well. Their calculation is that if by bomb outrages the Mussulmans can be provoked into atrocious reprisals against the Christians, the Bulgarian Government, and eventually the great Powers will be compelled to intervene. The scheme was deliberately adopted by the Bulgar revolutionary organisation and announced by them to the European public last spring.This same system is apparently already spreading in Albania. Admiral Burney has had to take prompt and drastic measures with two Serbs who were trying to stir up trouble with the Moslems of Scutari. Considering the territorial ambitions of the neighbouring States and the brilliant success of fishing in deliberately muddied waters in Macedonia, there is great danger that the agents provocateurs and all the turmoil they were able to bring about in Macedonia will reappear in Albania. If the Powers wish to ensure peace in the new State it is necessary not merely to grant reasonably wide boundaries, including plains as well as sterile crags, but also to secure the territory from internal disorder by the creation of an ample police force, backed by efficient legal means of dealing with political offenders. The Balkan war, after all, began under the banner of liberation. I think that it is the duty of Europe to see that it does not end by the enslavement and partition of the one Balkan race which throughout its history, closely as it has been pressed and terribly as it has suffered, has never been completely conquered by the Turks.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I deeply regret the terms in which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds spoke with regard to the Allies in the present war, the motives which have actuated them, and the 416 methods which have marked their campaign. I wish—I hope not in any spirit of extravagance of language—to reply to some of the remarks that fell from the hon. Member, and also from the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Sir Mark Sykes). The hon. and gallant Member for Hull spoke of our silence with regard to the atrocities of the Allies. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds has gone very much beyond that, and has made vague but general charges of outrage and misconduct against the Allies. I regret that the matter should be raised, and especially that it should be raised in such violent terms, as I conceive them, as those used by the hon. Member. But, as the matter has been raised, it is extremely important that the case should be fairly and fully put, and that a gross and disgraceful stigma should not be allowed unfairly to rest upon the fair fame of the Governments and the armies of the Allies in the present war. It is extremely unfair, and I believe entirely untrue, to charge the armies of the Allies generally with having waged a war of outrage. That, I think, was the term used, very improperly, by the hon. Member. I do not deny that there were many excesses in this war on both sides. I am not going to speak of those methods which marked the conduct of the Turks in this war, and which have been the feature of their warfare and their Government, but I do appeal to the Committee not to believe that those methods were a feature of the war so far as the Allies were concerned. Where excesses occurred they were, as I have already had the opportunity of pointing out in this House, the work of those bands which exist under no authority of the Governments of the Allies, and have long been a feature of the troubled state of the Balkans. But I would like the hon. Member to give any example, where a Christian Government has been established, of the continuance under that Government of any form of outrage or massacre or cruelty. The hon. Member quoted some statistics—I know not on what authority—of what he called murders that had taken place, not in Bulgaria, or Servia, or Montenegro, or Greece, but in this no-man's land—in Turkey in Europe. I must ask him to remember the conditions that existed in that land, and the part played by the Turks, and remind him that once Christian government is established by any of the countries which we know as the Allies, those horrible 417 features of life at once cease, and I challenge him to point out to me the continuance of any such features of national life under a Christian Government in any land in any part of the Balkans where Christian government has been established.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
The hon. Member has challenged me for an instance where a Christian Government in the Balkans has been responsible for murders. He has only got to look at these two Blue Books. He has only got to read Turkey No. 3 (1908), and Turkey No. 8 (1907). I have got continual references there. I have gone through them during the last two days, and marked pathetic letters to the Foreign Secretary as to Greek responsibility for these outrages, and the strong words of the Foreign Secretary in which he said that if it were not for the Greek bands led by Greek soldiers and helped by Greek Consuls Macedonia would have been at peace; and if the hon. Member wants murders I can only suggest to him that he should go to Servia. I do not know whether he thinks it a civilised performance to kill the King and Queen in the way in which it was done in that country.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I begin to regret that I gave way to my hon. Friend, because he has shown his anxiety not to meet my point, but to evade it. The quotations he made refer to the unsettled conditions under Turkish rule in Turkey in Europe. The case I am putting is that no sooner is the rule of a Christian nation established than these unhappy features of their life disappear at once under the Government that is established. The point which I made, and in which I believe I express the views of the vast majority of the Members of this House, is that as Christian government is established in what we have known until to-day as Turkey-in-Europe, the same conditions of good government that now exist in Bulgaria or even in Montenegro, will exist there, and I should be very sorry indeed if I were silent when vague and groundless charges were made against the Allies as a whole, or their Governments or their armies. It was my duty only a few days ago to expose in this House the gross means that were being taken in order to prejudice and inflame opinion in this country on this matter. I pointed out that a committee in Constantinople had drawn up for publication a report of atrocities which contained faked photographs, which were hawked about three years ago, and were first used 418 by one side against the other, and by the other side against their opponents. I observed to-day in the "Times" an impudent attempt to re-establish the truth of the statements then made by again asserting that one of these photographs, which is in the hands of a Member of this House, and has been in his hands for two or three years, is a photograph of an incident that occurred a few weeks ago. I had the melancholy privilege of being for some time in Servia, and in Bulgaria during the present war, and I should like to give the Committee my own personal experience with regard to the humanity and the chivalry of the armies of the Allies. At one place in Servia where I was, there were between 8,000 and 10,000 Turkish prisoners. Those thousands of prisoners were carefully and comfortably lodged, were regularly fed, and were treated with kindness and sympathy. If any hon. Member wishes to deny what I state, let him rise and do so, and I will certainly give way to him. Not only were these Turkish prisoners kindly treated by the military authorities, but they were also treated with great kindness and sympathy by the civil population.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am replying to the attack made on the armies of the Allies. I had an opportunity of seeing in what spirit the war was waged by the army of the Allies, and I say without any hesitation that they maintained the highest traditions of humanity and chivalry, and I am glad in this House to-day to be able to say this tribute to them, after the attacks which have been made upon them. I believe that the attempt of the committee in Constantinople to corrupt public opinion in this country will fail, as it deserves to fail. It can only deceive the ignorant and the credulous. I pass from that aspect of the Debate, because I desire to deal with one other question that has been touched upon to-day, though not at any great length. I desire to speak, and to speak with great satisfaction, of the better feeling which now exists between this country and Germany. That is a matter, I think, for general satisfaction and congratulation. But I want to take advantage of this better understanding that now exists in order to impress upon the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a possible course of action that he might 419 take at the present time, and which might lead to far better relations not only between Germany and this country but between the countries of Europe and of the world generally. There have recently taken place some amazing revelations in Germany, showing how bad feeling is promoted between nations by the influence of those individuals and firms who make great profits out of supplying armaments to the Governments of Europe. We have recently been able to see how naval and other scares are manufactured by the interests concerned, and how those scares and the influence of those interested parties affect the co-operation and friendship of nations, and indeed bring them to the brink of war. These revelations which were made in Germany concern immediately the German Government.
The question I desire to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: Are we in this country equally free from influences such as have recently been exposed in Germany? I well remember two or three years ago that we had something of a naval scare in this country, and I think that to-day we are beginning to appreciate that that naval scare owed its origin, to some extent at least, to the part played by individuals and firms who were financially interested in promoting a naval scare. It therefore seems to be clear that just as Germany is subjected to these hostile influences, so we, in common with other great nations of the world, are similarly subjected to them. I ask my right hon. Friend to take this matter into consideration, and, in view of the close co-operation which has been found to be possible between the great nations, to consider whether a conference of those nations would not be possible and advisable, to consider this branch of the general question of armaments, but particularly the specific point of the international part played and the international influence used by armament firms and people interested in armament firms in influencing the conduct of, and supplying the knowledge or supposed knowledge to, the Governments from whom they wish to obtain orders. The question is so important and so vast that I suggested it would properly form the subject of a special conference between the Powers. In urging this matter, I would only point out this further fact, that no matter how friendly the feelings of one country may be for another, no matter how much we may desire 420 mutually to reduce our armaments and slacken this great race in building up war materials, if we allow to go on unchecked this great international vested interest, whose continued prosperity and profits depend upon the continuance of this international rivalry, we shall, I fear, seek in vain for any method by which we may come to an understanding, to be followed by definite action. I venture, therefore, to make these suggestions, and to add my voice very respectfully to the tributes that have already been paid to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the efforts he has made on behalf of peace, and to congratulate him on the results of his labours.
§ Mr. FALLE
I trust the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Acland), who is the sole occupant of the Front Bench, will forgive me if I express some little regret that his chief has gone to dinner, though no doubt the hon. Gentleman will hear me with courtesy and will reply to my points perhaps as well as his chief. His chief has received very considerable tributes from every speaker that has risen this afternoon, and I should not be surprised if the right hon. Gentleman thought that he had for the moment sufficient tributes, and indeed if he sat on the benches on my left would say, "What price 'butther'?" I must frankly admit I would regret keeping him from a well-earned dinner. There are two points to which I wish to draw attention, and the first takes me back to, the opening remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of the Congo. There was a deplorable agreement made in the early' nineties which leased a certain portion of the Congo to King Leopold of Belgium. We were practically forced by the German Government to give up the lease of the Southern territory granted us in return and the lease to Belgium continued in the words of the agreement, so long as the Congo, as an independent State or as a Belgian Colony, "remains under his present Majesty or his present Majesty's successors." What I am anxious now to know is, in the event of this going through, and on the recognition of the Congo State does that lease remain under the same conditions, or have we definitely decided and agreed to give up this territory to the Congo State, which is at the head waters of one of the principal reservoirs of the Nile. That means, if the Congo Free State is at any time taken over by the French Government, because they 421 are supposed to have the first claim on the Congo, placing the French at the largest reservoir of the Nile. That is a situation which no one interested in Egypt or our Empire can contemplate with any degree of satisfaction, or indeed can contemplate without very great anxiety. We ought to know these things before we are asked to ratify this agreement, because it is a new departure.
Before we recognise this Congo State I trust some arrangement may be made with regard to enlistment or recruitment, or what they call in Australia "black-birding," of the natives in Portuguese West Africa and the Portuguese Cocoa islands. At the present moment, according to that most interesting book the White Book of Africa, there are a good many Belgian firms in the two islands of San Thomé and Principé, and that a large number who are working there as contract labourers come from the Congo. I desire to bring forward the case of those contract labourers in those islands. I believe it is denied that they are really in a condition of slavery. My point is that those men are nothing but slaves. I need not refer to the late action brought by Messrs. Cadbury against the "Standard" newspaper. That was the only time the slave ever won. He did win, and it was proved to the hilt that the Portuguese maintained slavery in their West African possessions and in the islands of San Thomé and Principé. The present Attorney-General expressed the view which I understand the Government say was his personal view only, and not that of a Member of the Government; that the condition of those contract labourers amounted to slavery. I think that for all purposes their condition is the condition of slaves, and it is my purpose to try to get the right hon. Gentleman to ameliorate that condition. This specially touches right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, inasmuch as a large number of them at any rate, if they do not owe their power, hold their seats on a cry much similar with regard to Chinese slavery in South Africa. I am not here to defend Chinese slavery, or any other kind of slavery, or any other condition of slavery in the wide world. The subject comes particularly down on them, when they remember that they swept the country by, shall we say, representations on the subject of the Chinese. These two islands, San Thomé and Principé are a considerable distance apart and a long way from the mainland. 422 Consuls and Vice-Consuls, and people of all kinds and classes, have reported on these islands, and the extraordinary thing to me is that these men, as soon as they get to these islands, seem to lose all touch with European feeling and to take more or less the Portuguese view of the matter. There is an honourable exception in the case of Colonel Wyllie, who states of San Thomé that—The contract labourer is under sentence of death every day he remains in the island.He adds that that is true of every living being on the island. He says the conditions of labour in Principé are absolutely indefensible, and that the present problem demands the earliest possible solution. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that this Government has been in power since 1905. There is an interesting gentleman of the name of Vice-Consul Montgomery, who writes on the subject of San Thomé, and says the natives at one time possessed all the land of that island, but as they were unwilling to work they gradually had to dispose of their property. Our language is rich in those kind of words, "disposed" or "acquired." If the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) were here I should ask him to give the exact words of the old Statute of Henry VIII. when he purchased St. James's Park. I imagine he purchased it at very much the same kind of price for which the people of San Thomé were dispossessed. The labour regulations of 16th July, 1902 and 13th May, 1911, for these contract labourers lay down the rule that every native is to work for wages unless he can prove that he is otherwise provided for, or that he cannot work, and the wages paid to him are about 1½d. per day. It is thought strange that he shows no great anxiety to labour under these conditions. Out of this l½d. a day he has to pay 20s. a year for his hut and 8s. for registration. That means that a man is in debt from the moment of his capture and is never really free.Occasionally,says Vice-Consul Smallbones,I have heard remarks that even this modest wage is merely fictitious in many cases, as most of the employers keep stores at which the cash handed over to the natives is recovered at a profit.When I read this book through it seemed to be impossible that the conditions in any land could be as horrible as they are in these two tropical islands. Money is also deducted for repatriation. I will not go into that question, but it is a fact that large sums of money which ought to be in 423 the repatriation fund are not to be found. The idea of the fund was to give every native on his repatriation £18, and the whole object seems to have been never to repatriate.The process of liberation and repatriation,says Vice-Consul Montgomery,must necessarily be slow, otherwise San Thomé would cease to exist for want of labour.It appears that these Englishmen, as soon as they get to these places, develop a sense which they certainly never had in this country. They seem to think that it is the duty of these black men to labour for three-halfpence a day and submit to this taxation, because otherwise the plantations of San Thomé might suffer. The new regulations of May, 1912, are supposed to be gentler and easier than the regulations of 1902. Here comes in the extraordinary wisdom, if you can call it wisdom—some people might call it the devilry—of the Portuguese Government. Though legally in force, says the Vice-Consul, these rules have only been applied in some instances. Why? The regulations were made for all the Portuguese colonies, but it was left to the local authorities to issue rules under the general rules, so that the general rules cannot be put in force unless local rules have been made first. Can you imagine anything more clever if you want to cheat or dupe? Of course, local regulations have never been made; therefore the, general regulations do not apply. This is not comic opera. It concerns the lives of men, and even of British subjects, for some of these men come from Northern Rhodesia. As an additional safeguard there is a gentleman called the Caradu-Geral, who is said to interest himself in and investigate every case. If he does that, he is more wonderful than even a panel doctor, because there are 60,000 of these slaves or contract labourers, and if they all complain it is impossible for any single man to go into their cases. Vice-Consul Smallbones gives a most interesting example of how this gentleman is, shall I say, cheated. A certain number of them were asked by the interpreter whether they would care to go to San Thomé, and they answered with a very distinct and decided "No." The interpreter interpreted this to mean that they were all exceedingly anxious to embark for San Thomé. So much for the value of this gentleman. There is another account from Vice-Consul Smallbones. I do not like to attack a man who is not here to answer for him- 424 self, but I call him Simple Simon Smallbones. I am glad to hear from my hon. Friend that he is an excellent man, because on reading this book I came to the opposite conclusion. I thought that he had started by being a good fellow, but that the climate had certainly washed away a very considerable amount of that quality. He tells us a story of the Governor-General, who went to a plantation called "Tentativa," in the district of Alto Dande. This plantation employed about 700 labourers, who actually had the impertinence to make a demonstration opposite His Excellency's house. They asked to be allowed to leave the plantation. They even accompanied His Excellency to the railway station, five hours' away. Thirteen soldiers were sent from Loanda, and these people returned to work. These poor men returned to slavery at the point of the bayonet. Hope was dead in them. They had gone down to the Valley of the Shadow, and the gates of their earthly Hell were shut upon them by these thirteen soldiers.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Acland)
Is this in San Thomé?
§ Mr. FALLE
This is on a plantation called "Tentativa," belonging to the Companhia Agricola de Dande, in the district of Alto Dande.His Excellency informs me that he had them recontracted under the regulations of 1911. I pointed out to His Excellency, who discussed this question with me most willingly, that according to those regulations this was irregular,Section 3 of Article 2 provides that a man shall not be obliged to work more than a certain number of months in the year. Therefore, having served from five to nine years, these men could not be immediately recontracted; they did not come under the regulations.His Excellency admitted my contention.Just think what a charming individual he must be.His Excellency admitted my contention, but remarked that, in the present state of the labour supply, such scrupulous observance of the regulations would entail the entire stoppage of a large plantation, for which he could not be responsible.Sooner than that, he swept away all the regulations upon which we rely and all the Orders in Council.
§ Mr. FALLE
I am referring to Portuguese West Africa. I said that I desired to draw attention to Portuguese West Africa, 425 Thomé and Principé. As I say here, is the name of Vice-Consul Smallbones at the foot of this most extraordinary document, He goes on:—I have ventured to relate this incident because it shows the difficulties of the situation. The plantation on which it occurred is exceedingly well managed.Just think of that!It is well managed, and the labourers are very well treated there.Just think of what the conditions must be on the other plantations.Yet it has failed to make the conditions of labour attractive to the natives. So long as the Government are unable to force a supply of labour according to the regulations they will have to tolerate, or even practise irregularities in order to safeguard the property and the interests of the employers.Is it necessary to prove "slavery" after that? It seems to me that it is in no sense necessary to prove that slavery exists on the mainland, and in these Islands, because we have it in the very words of our Vice-Consul, who does not seem to think anything shameful about it. It seems to me to prove that these people ought to be exceedingly happy to work for three halfpence per day for five years and nine years consecutively! There is another class of labour that comes from Cape de Verde, and these people have some Portuguese blood in them. They are not for the most part illtreated, for the Report says that they are somewhat short-tempered and carry knives. That will give you some idea of what the other people may be. These people when they are illtreated are apt to use their knives. All honour to them! Vice-Consul Fussel says that it is not a fact that the native is not willing to work. The natives are perfectly willing to work if they are properly paid. We get a letter now from Mr. Charles Wingfield, who is in the Foreign Office. Of course he is an honourable gentleman. He says that you cannot take it from the letter of Senhor Vasconcellos that the, contract labourer or serviçaes in Angola are indistinguishable from slaves. He says that is not fair language to use. He says it is a fact that the Biheans, having enslaved their fellow labourers, sold them as serviçaes. What occurred, says Mr. Wingfield, and still may occur, is the following: A native becomes indebted to another. That native convicted by witchcraft, perhaps, of having killed a cow or something of that kind, the injured party takes a member of the other one's family or household and sells him as a domestic slave. There is no hesitation about it.This habit (says Mr. Wingfield) is so deeply ingrained in the native's customs, that the slave takes it 426 as a matter of course if his master sells him serviçaes. When questioned on his willingness to enter into such a contract, he answers Yes.'I suppose through an interpreter.Moreover, if he did not acquiesce he would most certainly be killed on his return to his native village.Certainly, this gentleman, Mr. Charles Wingfield, is the "cheerful Charlie" the Foreign Office. But I would like to ask him whether there would be any sale if there were no demand? We cannot get away from that little point. If there were no demand there would be no sale, and if there were no sale there would be no demand! There is another report, which scents to me to be the best report in this White Book. The writer says:—One must realise that the natives of a 'roca' such as Aqua IZé outnumber the whites by forty to one, and if strict discipline were not maintained the consequences indeed might be terrible. By law when the service man 'needs correction.'I suppose he goes up and asks for it. He is sent to the Curador-Geral for examination, and he has the right of appeal to the same authority against his master. We are told the consequences would be terrible. Terrible to whom? To his white Christian master? Terrible to the so-called white man? It seems to me—I do not think I am exaggerating either—that we would be doing God's work in wiping them, all out, and not only they, but those who batten and fatten on their labour in these islands and on that coast. After all is said and done, it is these receivers, these "fences", as the criminal classes call them, that do the harm and the damage, and without them these atrocious sufferings would end. I said that I would say nothing about the Repatriation Fund. It would take me too long. There have been twenty-five Governors in Angola during the last ten years There must then have been one of two things. They must have all been thoroughly honest men, they must have been ashamed of what they saw, and that they were not able to stop—and which we are aiding and abetting by our countenance of Portugal—or else they were exceedingly cute and skilful people, who, in the average space of less than six months, succeeded by speculation and investment to return to Portugal rich men. I cannot myself see any other alternative to these two. We get another report front Mr. Drummond Hay, who says that the native surveyors ask for a legal maximum of four months in the year, but that is considered "merely as a means of getting these men accustomed to contractual work" It is the old story of skinning the eel. We have skinned it for so long that the eel, as the 427 story goes, rather enjoys it. If it does not, then I do not understand why it has not shed its skin like the snake. I have heard that there is a somewhat similar practice in India at the present time in the shape of long-necked goats. They skin their necks before they sell them, so that the skins may sell for more than they otherwise would. Presumably, if they followed Mr. Drummond Hay, those goats would have soon to grow longer necks.
I am unable to connect the observations of the hon. Member with anything that the Foreign Secretary is responsible for.
§ Mr. FALLE
I will give my reasons at once. At the present moment we are an ally of the Portuguese nation. We have guaranteed her her position, and without that guarantee her position would be her position but for a very few weeks. Therefore, being her ally, to abet her in these practices makes us at least as guilty as she herself, and it lies in the power of the Foreign Secretary to remedy this matter at once.
The hon. Member, as I understand, was interesting the House by a disquisition upon long-necked goats in India, and I wondered where the relationship was.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. FALLE
My point there, if I may repeat it, was that our Consul there says that these men are made to work not for the good of the State, but in order to "get accustomed to contract for work." I say that the remedy for these things is in our own hands, and if we do not use it we aid and abet in this slave trade which the First Lord of the Admiralty was so proud to try to put a stop to. Portgual is a great nation. She was our ancient ally for many generations. We spent much blood and treasure in Portugal. She is a nation still with great possessions, and we have guaranteed these possessions There are some people who are unmindful of these things, and who think it would be a good thing to hand these possessions over to the Germans. The dictates of political honour are curious things. For myself I have no certainty that these people would be any better under the Germans than under the Portuguese, but it is certain that under the Portuguese we have some power to interfere to mitigate their lot, while if they were under 428 the Germans we would have none short of war. While the Portuguese hold these Islands and the Mainland we can put pressure upon them, and I say it is the duty of the Government to put pressure upon them. I utterly repudiate the idea of throwing them over to the tender mercies of other nations. It would be terrible if we were to disgrace ourselves in such a manner. In the Portuguese West African possessions there is a bay, Lobito Bay, and it is the nearest doorway to our possessions in Rhodesia, and there is a railway running from that bay which gives the nearest access to these Northern territories, and it would be quite impossible for us to allow that doorway or railway to pass into the hands of any other nation. It appears to me, and I have not the smallest doubt of it, that if we had a Consul in Angola and Principé to see the regulations are carried out, and that there is no such thing as slavery you would put a stop to this ulcer at once, and I believe and I am certain that it is our duty to do that. It is our duty that our Minister at Lisbon should speak with no uncertain voice to the Portuguese Government, and that they should speak to their representatives in these distant parts, and that we should have Consuls there to see that these men carry out what our Minister says should be carried out, and that nothing should stand in their way—neither consideration of plantations, nor owners, nor employers, nor the ruining of crops should stand in the way of the liberty of those slaves, and until that is done we are as guilty as the Portuguese almost in allowing slavery to go on. If I have been so fortunate as to awaken a spark of interest in the breast of the hon. Gentleman opposite who represents the Foreign Office, and if he will communicate that spark to his Chief I shall be satisfied. I trust the House will forgive me for having wearied it with this frightful tale, because it is a frightful tale, and I think the glory the right. hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has been given to-night for "preventing a European" war which nobody wanted will be as nothing compared to the real humanitarian good he will have accomplished if he stops this work, this terrible matter even now, although the Government has been in power since 1905 she will if he listens to the cry of the black slaves on the West Coast of Africa.
§ Mr. HOARE
If I venture to disagree in one or two instances with my hon. Friend who has just sat down, it is not that I do not feel just as strongly as he does upon the question of our responsibility for the present state of affairs in San Thomé and Principé, but because he seemed to me to include in his condemnation, much of which was well justified, one or two individuals who I think do not deserve it. I understood, for instance, that our present Consul, Mr. Smallbones, has adopted a vigorous policy which deserves our encouragement rather than our condemnation. Apart from these details, I can assure him I feel just as strongly as he does as to the gravity of the case he has outlined. He alluded to the fact that we were responsible in a peculiar manner for that state of affairs. Under two treaties we as well as Portugal are obliged to put down slavery and the slave trade in these districts of the world, but beside that, under an ancient treaty, which, as we heard from the Foreign Secretary last year was confirmed in 1904, we guarantee the integrity of these West African Colonies of Portugal. It, therefore, comes to this, that if it can be shown that a state of slavery is in existence in San Thomé and in Principé or in Angola we are directly responsible through our treaty for that practical state of slavery. During the last six months Lord Cromer has written some very weighty words upon this subject. He says:—There are some things which no British Government, however powerful otherwise, can undertake to perform. First and foremost amongst these things is the use of the warlike strength of the British Empire to maintain a slave State. In spite of the long-standing friendship between the two countries, in spite of historical associations which are endeared to all Englishmen, and in spite of the apparently unequivocal nature of treaty engagements it would, I feel assured, be quite impossible should the African possessions of Portugal be seriously menaced for British arms to be employed in order to retain them under the uncontrolled possession of Portugal so long as slavery is permitted.These are weighty words, and all the more so coming from a man who speaks with the responsibility of Lord Cromer. This question has been raised in the House upon several occasions before. I myself raised it upon this Vote last year, and I do not intend to go back upon what is past history, but to limit myself to what has happened in the Dependencies in the last year, and in the time covered by the White Paper published during the last year. As to the past, suffice it to say that the fact has been clearly established, not only by missionaries, but by traders and by explorers 430 and by officials that a state of slavery has been in existence in the Dependencies, and the slave trade has been known to be in existence upon the mainland. The problem with which we are confronted to-day is whether this state of affairs still continues to exist. I am quite ready to acknowledge that during the last year an improvement has been made. I will give some instances. Repatriation has at last begun upon a considerable scale. As far as I can understand the figures, some 3,000 labourers have been repatriated since 1908. An attempt is being made to get the deficiencies paid up upon the Repatriation Fund, and a number of detailed regulations have been issued by the Governor-General on the spot. In these three directions I agree that some improvement has been made, but reading the White Papers that have been published, and after conversations with those well qualified to speak, it is my conviction that only the fringe has so far been touched.
Let me make good that contention. Take, first of all, the question of statistics. I believe that if the present state of affairs is going to be materially improved one of the first things we ought to obtain is more reliable statistics as to the number of labourers and as to the death rate and the birth rate. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Falle) said that at present there were 65,000 labourers in these islands. That is only one estimate, and there is another which places the number as low as 30,000. In a matter of this importance where we believe the lives and the fortunes of many thousands are at stake, we ought to press upon the Portuguese authorities and upon our Consul on the spot that we should be given more reliable statistics as to the number of these contract labourers. It has been established at least in one case that one of these labourers was a British subject, and I think we ought to know whether there are any more British subjects amongst those contract labourers. I hope the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs will deal with this point.
§ Mr. HOARE
The hon. Member says that he cannot tell, but I ask him to communicate with the Consul on the spot and ascertain whether any more of these labourers are British subjects. I am told 431 by those who have travelled in these districts that it is not a difficult thing to identify the origin of these native tribes. I am sorry the hon. Member did not take the opportunity, when it was clearly established that one of these labourers was a British subject, of seeing whether there are other British subjects among the 30,000, 40,000 or 60,000 labourers now in those islands. I wish to impress the need for more detailed and more accurate statistics. I want further to appeal to the Government to adopt an even more vigorous attitude than has been adopted during the last few years with a view to improving the conditions of the labourers who are there at the present moment. The hon. Member for Portsmouth quoted one or two cases in which it was clearly stated by our officials on the spot that as far as recruitment goes, and the actual condition of the labourers when recruited, there is great room for very material improvement. I am aware that the representatives of the Foreign Office have laid stress upon the point that technically these labourers are not slaves.
I am quite ready to acknowledge the truth of that contention. Technically they are not slaves and they never have been slaves, but when you come to consider the details, first, of their recruitment, and, secondly, of their labour when once recruited, I think that any impartial inquirer into the question must come to the conclusion that for all practical purposes they cannot be distinguished from slaves. I am aware that detailed regulations have been drawn up with a view to bettering their condition, but I am very much afraid that those regulations are not being carried out. The Member for Portsmouth quoted one instance in which the Governor-General acknowledged that the regulations were not being carried out, and that he could not carry them out because he would dislocate the system under which cocoa is grown, and under which these plantations are worked. Besides that one instance there are many others which may be cited to show that however excellent may be the intention of all those regulations, they are a dead-letter, and these contract labourers are really in a condition of slavery. There is a particularly important statement made by a gentleman named Mr. Mackie, who, I understand, is no longer Consul, although he occupied that position a short time ago in 432 those districts, and this is what he said with reference to the recruitment of the natives:—The Angolian native, on the other hand, is contracted in a wild state, under circumstances of doubtful legality, and is so convinced that he is a slave that nothing short of repatriation, which should therefore be compulsory, would serve to persuade him that, at least in the eyes of the law, he is a free agent. It would be obviously useless to argue that the 'servical' is not a slave merely because he is provided with a legal contract, renewable at the option of his employer, in which he is officially proclaimed to be free.That official spoke with responsibility, and I believe that is the state of affairs. Although technically these labourers may not be slaves, for all practical purposes their condition does not differ from slavery. There should be one safeguard, and a most important safeguard, upon which I would like to say a word. I believe that if you are to improve their lot, and if you are going to maintain their position as contract labourers rather than as slaves, it is our duty to lay special stress upon making the system of repatriation possible and easy. I undertasnd that the labourers take service for five years, and that at the end of that period they have the right to go back to their homes and to leave the plantations. Up to 1908 I believe none of them were repatriated, but since then 3,000 have been repatriated, and I am glad to see that the number which is being repatriated month by month is attaining a high figure. I do not believe, however, that it is yet anything like the figure at which it should be. I understand the carrying capacity of the ships from the islands to the mainland is capable of taking ten times as many natives as are now being repatriated, but repatriation is not much good unless it is carried out in a way which makes it real and possible and easy, and I own that I am gravely disappointed at the manner in which it is being carried out at the present moment.
Instead of these labourers being landed on the mainland with money in their pockets it seems that they are turned adrift with scarcely anything, and in some cases with nothing. Cases have been cited in which they have been found to die of starvation when they have been landed upon the mainland. If repatriation is to be any good at all, it must be real, and these men must not be turned adrift to die of starvation when they are landed on the mainland. If repatriation is to be a real thing the Repatriation Fund must be fully paid up. Under present conditions a contract labourer has to pay from one-half to 433 three-fifths of his wages. This sum accumulates so that at the end of his five years he is entitled to receive a sum which will stand by him when he is repatriated and landed upon the mainland. What has happened to this fund? In December, 1907, it was admitted to have reached £100,000. At the same time when Mr. Cadbury was shown the bank's receipt in San Thomé the sum was only £62,000. I should like to know what happened to the other £38,000. Further, a sum has been accumulated to the extent of £25,000 a year. That takes into account no interest at all, for, although it was certainly contemplated that interest should be paid upon it, not a single penny has been paid upon it at all. There should to-day be a sum of from £225,000 to £240,000 available for the repatriation of contract labourers, but it seems that a considerable amount cannot be accounted for. I see that Mr. Wingfield, one of our diplomatic representatives at Lisbon, states that £80,000 has not yet been paid in. I should like to know when that £80,000 is going to be paid in, and I should further like to know how many of the natives who are now being repatriated receive the £18 which the Portuguese Planters' Association declared was the minimum they would receive when they were taken from the islands.
Let me summarise the three points that I have raised. In the first place, I say that we want more statistics as to the numbers and the nationality of the natives. In the second place, I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to adopt a vigorous policy which will clearly demonstrate to Portugal that we cannot maintain an alliance with a country which lays itself open to the charge of countenancing slavery and the slave trade. Thirdly—I regard this as a very important point—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will lay special stress upon the need of making repatriation a real and a wise thing. We do not, of course, contemplate that the whole number of labourers should be repatriated at one time, but we do believe that if this contract labour is not to degenerate into slavery repatriation must be made a real thing, and, if it is to be made a real thing, the Repatriation Fund must be fully paid up, and these labourers, instead of being turned adrift with nothing, to starve upon the mainland, must receive, at any rate, the minimum of £18 to which the Planters' Association say they are entitled. I have ventured to treat this 434 subject in as uncontroversial a way as possible, but I feel most strongly that as things are now we do lay ourselves open in the eyes of the rest of Europe to the charge that we are associating with a country which is not making the active endeavour to put down slavery and the slave trade which we as their allies are entitled to demand. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to satisfy the House that he intends to adopt a vigorous policy and to impress upon Portugal the need of carrying out the reforms which I have ventured to outline in a definite and in a speedy manner.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
It is not uncommon in a debate of this character that the discussion moves from time to time to, the different parts of the world in which British interests are affected. I therefore need make no apology to the Committee if I shift the scene by inviting attention to the Far East. We have dealt in considerable detail with the Near East, but there is the question of China and our interests in China. China's own interest as affected by our action and our interests as affected by our action in China; these are things which are well worth the attention of the Committee for a short time, and I want to draw attention for a moment to an aspect of our relations with China calculated, I think, to prove of lasting and perhaps irreparable damage to the interests of China as a Sovereign Power. China's ability to provide her own finance is a question in which China's liberty should not be affected by British action or by the action of any European Power, except in so far as it is necessary for the best interests of China. But in addition to that if it is necessary to interfere, if it is necessary to put limitations, then these limitations should only be put in such a fashion that it should be impossible to say in this country that the Government delegates to a particular financial house favours privileges and rights which are not open to the great financiers of our country as a body.
I may remind the Committee that the system is not a system of modern date. It is a system which the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary inherited. It is a vicious system. It is a system the vice of which has been much aggravated, however, during the years 1909–12—years during which the right hon. Gentleman had control, and for which, therefore, he must accept particular responsibilty. In 435 China unquestionably policy and commerce are so intimately associated that policy must to a large extent be governed by commerce. It was a pity that in earlier times British interests, so far as finance in China was concerned, were entrusted to one particular group—the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. From 1895 to 1909 the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, in virtue of a pooling agreement it had with a German institution, the Deutsche Asiatische Bank, did the financial business of China on equal terms; but the terms were only equal in this way, that while the Deutsche-Asiatische Bank was a purely Teutonic institution, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank was controlled by a directorate in which no fewer than five out of eleven members represented prominent enterprising German firms. In 1908 negotiations took place between those two banks—negotiations which remained long in obscurity, and which resulted, in the opinion of good judges, in the sacrifice to the Germans of immense British interests in the Yangtze Valley, and in regard to the Canton-Hankow Railway. It would be well, in the public interest, if more light could to-day be afforded us to enable a just appreciation to be formed on the soundness of the policy of the Government in China in this matter. A little more light ought to be thrown on the inner history of the Hukuang Railway, and I will ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether, at this stage, Papers could not, without detriment to the public interest, be laid The danger of conferring upon one institution very large powers to the exclusion of general body of financiers in this country is great, and it is more serious when it is pooled with a purely German body while the British body is tinctured with German influence. It is sufficient to quote these words, used in 1909 by Sir Valentine Chirol at the China Association dinner:—It had been something of a shock to him to know that so powerful a British institution as the Hong kong and Shanghai Bank, winch had rendered immense services to British interests in the past, now included in its court of directors no small proportion of German names, representing the most important German firms in the Far East, who were also the most relentless, and often the most successful, rivals of British trade and industry. Possibly he had not made sufficient allowance for the growing cosmopolitanism of modern finance, but he would have liked to see in these matters also a little more reciprocity, and he could not imagine representative Englishmen being admitted in the same generous fashion to the Board of the Deutsche-Asiatische Bank or other equally enterprising German firms in China.436 Up to that point we have had the Government conferring privileges of a monopolistic character upon a particular institution not too British in its nature. The Government, I venture to think, could not fail to have known of its cosmopolitan character and international alliances, for these were notorious. The Government talk of the policy of the open door. But the policy pursued by the Government in regard to finance in China has not only led to the shutting of the door so far as China is concerned to her power to borrow, but it has shut the door also upon British enterprise in that area. Monopoly is supposed to be abhorrent to a good democrat. When I refer to a good democrat, I mean the democrat who believes in freedom as an essential to success. I do not, of course, refer to such a democratic prophet of freedom in trade as that protected monopolist the hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea (Sir. A. Mond). I refer to those who really believe that, under a democratic constitution, you should have whatever element of freedom is possible for your people. Yet you have by this arrangement denied freedom both to China and to your own financiers In 1909 the four Great Power group was formed as a result of the Hankow-Canton Railway scheme. The two-Power group became a four-Power group, France and the United States being taken in. In 1910, a further agreement was made, the terms of which, so far as I know, are still unpublished. In 1912 you had an agreement by which the Chinese Government undertook, in exchange for the provision of their monetary requirements, to give an option for a loan of £60,000,000. That was undertaken for the Government by one single branch of financiers, a branch not truly British in its character. Then another bank approached the Government, the Eastern Bank, and asked for permission to participate in the loan. They were assured in February, 1912, that they would have such assistance as the Foreign Office could properly give them. But that assistance amounted to no more than this, that they were referred to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, a body of protected monopolists, to ask permission for the Eastern Bank to participate in the option. Nothing, of course, resulted. The result of all this is that you have damaged British commercial interests, and you have also incalculably damaged, both politically and economically, the best interests of China herself. You have not only granted 437 patronage and privilege to a particular institution, but you have failed to afford facilities to other equally respectable and equally weighty concerns; and you have gone further, you have actively opposed any other British house which endeavours to float anything in the nature of a loan for China. What, meanwhile, is happening elsewhere? The German houses are floating loans independently of the arrangements between the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and the Deutsche-Asiatische.
Far worse than that, firms represented upon the court of directors of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, supposed to represent British interests, and Chinese financial firms, represented by individual directors upon the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, are themselves floating loans upon their own account in the provinces of China. You get the cases of Carlowitz and Company and the case of Arnold Karberg and Company, Carlowitz and Company being the agents of Krupps, the great firm of Essen, who make terms advantageous to Krupps in doing so. These firms, which are representative of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, which is supposed to represent the British side of finance in China, are allowed without protest from the German Government, and without protest, so far as anyone knows, from the Government on this side, to float provincial loans in China upon their own account. Is that on the part of the Government a due regard for the protection of British interests? The matter goes further than that, because you find that even outside firms, German in their origin, such as Diedvickoen and Company, are floating provincial loans in April, 1912. What meanwhile does the Foreign Secretary say to British banks in this country? He says, "I cannot do anything; consult the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and see if you can make terms with them." What an abnegation of his duty to the general commercial interests of a great commercial country. What did the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank do? For nine months nothing. Eventually four other banks are taken in—the London County and Westminster Bank, Barings, Parr's, and Schröder. What I want to ask is this: What difference is there in character between a monopoly which consists of five firms and a monpoly which consists of one? I gathered from the right hon. Gentleman from time to time in this House that so soon as the present necessities of China are over this vicious system of monopoly 438 is to be abandoned. I trust that in the meanwhile it will not be taken by any thinking person that a monopoly is less a monopoly because five persons are in the group instead of merely one.
I want to speak of the further extension. I have dealt with the increase of this consortium from two to four. The further extension is far more grievous and vicious in character. In April, 1912, negotiations for the inclusion in the group of Russia and Japan were entered upon, and on the 18th June of that year Russia and Japan were added. From March to August of that year the negotiations for loans to China proceeded. China was wanting to borrow, had to borrow, but could not borrow, because, as the Chinese Government said, this group of foreign financiers, favoured by their individual Governments, imposed conditions which were incompatible with Chinese sovereignty. That led to a loan which I only allude to in passing, a loan merely of importance in the sense that China was desirous of borrowing from those who had money to lend. The Crisp loan was floated. The Government, not content with merely favouring with their patronage and protection their particular pet of olden times, actually deemed it to be part of their duty to take active steps to prevent another British firm doing business in the Chinese area. What justifications do the Government put forward? There are two. One is that the Chinese Government were under an obligation to deal only with the six-Power group. The other justification put forward was that the British Government were under an honourable obligation to oppose an outside loan. Let us see how far these rested upon either good international law or ordinary common justice. It is said the Government of China were bound to the six-Power group. On 30th October last I asked the Foreign Secretary whether China was consulted as to the admission of Russia and Japan into the consortium. The answer I received was "No." Yet it is put forward as a reason for compelling China to do her borrowing through this group upon this group's terms that China is under an obligation to them. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that what he is saying is that when four people have an agreement that they shall provide money upon certain conditions, that those four, without consulting the other party to the contract, can introduce two other lenders and say that the other party to the contract is bound to borrow from them? Is that good 439 law or is it good justice? Most of all, is it good justice, when the two new members to be introduced without the consent of the borrower are Russia and Japan, neither of whom have money to lend, and both of whom have political interests in regard to China? What justification has the Government for saying that China is bound to the six-Power group, when she was admittedly not consulted as to the extension of the group from four to six, or as to the new entrants to the group, who are admittedly borrowers themselves, not lenders, and both of them admittedly having great political interests bound up in the future of China?
The other justification of the Government is that this country is under an honourable obligation to support the consortium. Why? It is an honourable obligation to support a monopoly damaging to British interests, and calculated to paralyse the very administrative efficiency of China as an independent Power. Why were Russia and Japan added to the consortium? Why did His Majesty's Government consent to their addition? Both are borrowing countries, and both have political interests antagonistic to China. Neither have money to lend. Was that action calculated to benefit China, to increase China's confidence or her credit, or to improve confidence or credit in this country in regard to Eastern matters?
Chinese integrity is important. Chinese commerce is useful. The stoppage of money to China to serve political ends would damage us commercially, and it might damage China economically. What has happened? The Foreign Secretary, on 13th June last year, said that the Governments concerned would not give their approval or support to any agreement which did not make the real interests of China the primary consideration. Then Russia and Japan are introduced as lending Powers, and when the right hon. Gentleman says that will he bear in mind, in looking back upon the past, and will the Committee bear in mind, what the President of the United States said in withdrawing from the six-Power group and making it five? So far from endorsing the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that nothing would be done that did not make the real interests of China the primary consideration, the President said that the six Powers were on the verge of exacting an agreement touching very 440 nearly the administrative independence of China itself.
The independence of China, the integrity of China in foreign matters—they are nearly as great commonplaces as in domestic matters are mandates and the will of the people. The integrity of China is the thing that we have to consider. You have to consider it not merely from the Chinese point of view, you have to consider it from the point of view of our own political interests. The expression "the integrity of China" occurs in the Japanese Treaty of 1905, and is constantly repeated. It is a commonplace in treaties, dispatches and speeches. Since then Japan has incorporated Korea, and is getting a foothold upon Southern Manchuria. Russia has consolidated her position in Northern Manchuria and, if one may read the signs of the times, is already tending to encroach upon Mongolia. The constant reiteration that there is no suspicion of political aspiration on the part of Russia and Japan carries to my mind no conviction whatsoever. The signs of the-times point rather to the fact that diplomacy has been duped—diplomacy as represented by our Foreign Office—than that Russia and Japan are actuated by no political aspiration. Our political interests require a strong China, just as much as China's political interests require permission to conduct her own affairs. Many financiers in this country have money to lend. China is willing to borrow. The paralysis of China to benefit a monopolistic group will, if it means, as it may mean, the permanent impairment of the independence and strength of China, carry a great sense of responsibility to the Government which has been responsible for that policy. Who will gain? Those members of the lending consortium which have no money to lend may gain politically. Those who have money to lend and may not lend because of the attitude of the Government will lose. And look what it means to China. Look at recent history. To avoid worse crises than those through which she has passed, China has been compelled to agree to a loan on terms as usurious as the greediest bands of monopolists could devise. A loan issued at 90 looks respectable. Of that 90, China receives 84, leaving 6 to be dealt with. Take 1 per cent. for your revenue stamp, and say 3–4ths per cent. for brokerage and other expenses and you are left with a profit of over 4 points per cent. Three per cent. of your 441 6 per cent. without any sort of risk merely given by the Government to those whom they favour. In addition to these direct advantages, which are considerable, there are all sorts of further special advantages given. They get the exchange rights, they get commission on the payment of coupons, they get the handling of the money, and probably they get an option on future loans. As between this country and the other countries politically we are equal. We have one vote in five, and then we find £7,000,000 in this country, and Russia and Japan between them find £4,000,000.
Then right on the heels of the finding of that £7,000,000 comes the announcement—I am aware of the dementi from the Chinese Legation, a dementi of a nature which is not without parallel in the past—very circumstantial in character, that China has agreed with Russia to recognise the independence of outer Mongolia. Has the right hon. Gentleman any information to give us upon that point? If there be any truth in it, it is a sufficient proof of every criticism which I have offered on the policy of the Government during the past two years. Politically and commercially we want a strong China. Our interests in China are far larger than those of any other country. Trade depends upon prosperity. For all these reasons you have to consider China's position, not from China's own point of view alone, but from your own. China cannot be an active factor in the Pacific for many years, other Powers may. You have therefore to consider whether your interests or China's interests are best consulted by the course which has been adopted by the Government, a course foreign to the whole character of freedom in a free country, a course inexplicable when taken by those who insist upon freedom of every kind. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will believe I am not intending at any rate to speak in tones of undue bitterness, and certainly not to criticise, as limited to himself, a policy which began before his regime at the Foreign Office started; but I would invite him to consider whether it is not time to discontinue the talk about the open door in China, when the door is bolted, both to British financiers and to Chinese. Is it not a mistake to believe that a monopoly of five ceases to be a monopoly because it has increased from a monopoly of one? Is it not folly to preach against trusts and foster a monopoly? Is it not a mistake to sacrifice international friendships at the present moment 442 without having in view a more distant future when the present friendships may not dominate the whole situation? Is it not a mistake to talk about a free China when you fetter her by your every action? Would it not be better to reconsider the whole relations of this Government with regard to China as to matters of finance, and the relations of this Government as to the Governments of other countries? Would it not be better to introduce a system consistent with the true interests of China which would not injure and fetter the commercial and financial interests of our country.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. KING
I find myself in the very interesting position of having during the last hour and three-quarters listened to three speeches from hon. Members opposite with every word of which I agree. I have listened to extremely well-informed, ably argued, and extremely conclusive speeches which I expected would receive at once the prompt attention of the Under-Secretary in the way of reply. However, while he is preparing his answer, I will give him something else to think about. I could add to the arguments which have been brought forward by the hon. Members for Portsmouth and Chelsea upon the terrible state of the natives of Angola, Principé, and San Thomé, but I shall not add anything except that I believe the present Portuguese Government is sincere in attempting in a way no Portuguese Government has before attempted to deal with this evil. I want to appeal to all Members of the House to give the present Portuguese Government a chance. Some very unfair attacks have been made upon them recently—attacks in which I am sorry to think certain Members of this House have joined. Having visited Portugal and interviewed some of the chief politicians there, I can only say personally that I am convinced Portugal has got a reforming Government which does intend to take this question in hand in a way that has never been done before. As to the Chinese question I will only say that the hon. Member for Paddington has well pointed out that the policy of our Government has thrown the Chinese Government into the hands of what I shall venture to call second-rate financiers connected with large armament firms who have said to China, "You have failed to get money from certain financial houses. Take it from us. We will give it if you will give us orders for £1,500,000, to be taken out of the loan." That is how it was stated recently in the "Economist" 443 newspaper, which is generally more accurate than His Majesty's Government. The "Economist" has pointed out that two financial houses—one connected with works in Stettin, and the other with works in Italy, have offered to lend £3,000,000 to the Chinese Government. Only £1,500,000 is to be handed over in cash. The rest is to be withheld pending orders for torpedo boats and other armaments. What does China want with torpedo boats and other armaments? I do not know. I will only say that we get finance and armament production thus mingled together, and imposed upon the struggling nationality of the Chinese. I will not say more about it, because I see the Under-Secretary thinks he knows a great deal, and I will await his reply.
I wish to point out how the foreign policy of this country, if wisely administered and guided, may lead to a great reduction of our expenditure, and a great economy in our finance. I hope to have the support of my hon. Friend opposite, who is a great economist. I want, first, to put this point to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench. Will they consider the making of a channel tunnel between England and France jointly with the French Government? If that were done we could at once dispense with half a dozen of "Dreadnoughts," because if we had a war our food supply would be absolutely certain. Our food supply could be landed at neutral ports in France, the Netherlands, or Belgium, and brought undersea to our country with absolute safety and security. I hope this subject will receive the attention it deserves before long. I have looked into it seriously, and discussed it with people who know more about it than I do, and I am convinced it would be a very good investment and a means by which we could save much of our warlike expenditure.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
What would happen if we were at war with France, or if the Germans had taken the French ports?
§ Mr. KING
Well, what would happen if we were at war with the Man in the Moon? Absurd suppositions only occur to absurd minds. The Foreign Secretary and myself look at it on the plane of practical politics. I leave that suggestive subject to go to another. 444 I want to put it to the Foreign Secretary that he should look at other possible methods of economy and consider whether he cannot lop something off the Secret Service Fund. It has been voted for many years past at £50,000 a year. In many years it has not been used to the extent of more than £30,000, and I am glad here to recognise that the lowest sum at which it has actually been used in recent years was in 1900, when the Conservative Government was in office. That is the only reason up to the present why I wish the Conservative Government back. I want seriously to approach this problem as a means of not only saving a few thousand pounds, but I want to put it to the Committee that the Secret Service money is productive of great misconception and a great deal of suspicion which is really of no use at all. What information do we obtain that is worth anything as the result of our Secret Service Fund? I have asked people who profess to know everything in reference to these matters behind the scenes, but they have never been able to inform me. Moreover, I believe that the actual existence of this fund creates a great deal of suspicion which ought not to exist. For one thing, whenever there is a spy case, either in this country or in Germany, we hear something about the Secret Service Fund, and in this connection I may point out that in this whole question of spying we have—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That money does not come under the Foreign Office Vote. I do not think that it is under the control of the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. KING
With due respect, I think that it is entirely under the control of the Foreign Secretary. I have looked this up, and I think that you will find that it is so. If you will take a note of Miscellaneous Papers, No. 8 of 1912, Command Paper, 6144 of 1912, you will see that I have got ample authority for bringing this in as under the control of the Foreign Secretary. I wish to point this out, because this Secret Service money has been made the means of scare articles in this country and in other countries with the object of stirring up international suspicion and animosity. I hold such articles in my hand. France carries on very well with a Secret Service Fund of only £40,000 a year. We come next lowest with £50,000 a year; Austro-Hungary spends £62,000 a year; the German Empire £80,000; Italy £120,000; and the Russian 445 Empire £750,000. The Committee will observe that the really strong countries spend much less than those countries which are, comparatively speaking, weak, or are uncertain as to their international position. It is worthy of the consideration of the Committee to avail of the opportunity for economy afforded by reducing the Secret Service money, with the object of eventually abolishing it altogether, and removing a fertile source of suspicion and misunderstanding both at home and abroad. Another suggestion for economy which I have to make is in connection with our diplomatic representatives in Germany. I entirely approve of the best Ambassador we can possibly have, being well paid, well housed, and well maintained in Berlin, but why is it necessary to have Ministers at Munich, Darmstadt, Coburg, and Dresden? To my mind they are absolutely useless, except that they are gentlemen of high social position and no doubt very agreeable personalities, but they are not wanted at all. It is quite obvious how we came to have these Ministers. Before the establishment of the German Empire in 1871 we naturally had Ministers in these various independent German States. After the Empire was established it was a question how long they should be kept on. They have been kept on from that day to this with no duties to perform, spending our money when they might very well be employed elsewhere, simply because no one has brought the matter forward. I do not suggest that those officers should be swept away at once, but, as they fall in, no new appointments should be made, and gradually our resources in the way of diplomatic personnel would be used to better advantage and considerable economy would be effected. Though I have ventured to offer some remarks not entirely in consonance with the views and traditions of the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, I do offer my sincere tribute of admiration and respect for the way in which, as a whole, they have conducted foreign affairs. I trust that I shall be here for many years to come and that I shall never have any other Foreign Secretary to look up to than the present Foreign Secretary. I do not think that it is at all likely that we shall see him on the opposite side of the House, and I believe that we shall have the pleasure of seeing him for many years in his present position.
§ Colonel YATE
I wish to ask one question in reference to China. The right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday that all Chinese officials and troops had now left Tibet and that the country was now being peaceably administered by the Tibetan authorities. That is exactly what we wish to continue. He also told us some time ago that the Government of China was not to be recognised until the Tibetan question was settled, and it is in the interests of the Government of India that that stipulation should be adhered to. I gathered from a reply which the right hon. Gentleman gave yesterday to a question of mine that he thought of abandoning this condition, and I most earnestly beg the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter before deciding to waive this stipulation. I do not think that he will be thanked for it. It would be simply put down to sheer funk, and unless he stands firm now there is no prospect of any definite settlements being really come to. Unless we insist upon the present status quo in Tibet being formally recognised by China, and upon an agreement being given that the present peaceful administration by the Tibetan authorities will not in future be disturbed by China, not only will all the small remaining results of that wonderful and unique feat of arms in the Tibet expedition be lost to India but the whole of the good of our treaty with China on the subject as well. There is nothing that I can see to justify the Under-Secretary's statement that it would take weeks, and might take months, to satisfactorily settle up this question. There is no reason to suppose anything of that sort whatever. All we ask of the Government of China at the present time is to recognise the present status quo, and not to interfere. The Foreign Secretary will, I hope, stand firm and adhere to his former standpoint and not recognise the Republic until this assurance is given.
With reference to Russia, I desire to mention the question of a Consulate-General at St. Petersburg. At present we have only a Consul there with a very inadequate staff. The prospects of trade with Russia are growing brighter day by day. We are doing nothing to help on that trade. The small increase of £3,816 to the British Consular service throughout the whole of the vast territory of Russia, stretching right across Europe and Asia, is a mere flea bite.
Russia may some day be of more importance to us commercially than the 447 whole of Europe put together. So much do the Germans recognise the value of Russian trade that, not only do they maintain a Consul-General at St. Petersburg, but they give their Consul-General eighteen salaried officials as against the British Consul's two. The London Chamber of Commerce estimates the expenses of the German Consul-General at St. Petersburg at £12,000 a year, while the British Consulate's expenses is £1,840. I was delighted to hear from the Under-Secretary that a Consul-General was to be appointed to Moscow, and I hope that he will have an adequate staff. That is something, and I now ask that the same should be done at St. Petersburg. There is one other point. Considering the difficulties of the Russian language, and the necessity that our Consular officials should be thoroughly conversant with it, I would urge that special provision should be made for the training of student interpreters for service in the Russian Empire, the same as is done in the Turkish and Chinese Empires. Russia is just as important commercially as Turkey. To talk of meeting the need of trained Russian interpreters by the Under-Secretary's proposal to send one or two probationer Vice-Consuls to Russia to learn the language is ridiculous. I think we ought to have a school of student interpreters for service in Russia, and that a Consulate-General should be established in St. Petersburg. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take that into consideration. I turn to the subject of the railway to Baghdad, and the probable conclusion of an agreement with Turkey. I sincerely trust that the result of the agreement will be that the relations between Turkey and England will be drawn much closer than they have been for some years past. We have had an old standing friendship with Turkey from the time of the Crimean war, and I am sure that very little will enable us now to come to the same friendly relations with Turkey, as existed in the olden days. The question of the railway from Bussora to Baghdad, does not concern us much at the present time, because the traffic can go by water from Bussora to Baghdad. There is no immediate necessity for making the railway, and it can very well stand over for some time. The whole prospect of the railway depends upon England and India, but especially India. The passenger traffic that will make that railway pay will be the pilgrim traffic from 448 India to the holy places. The days of that railway will come, but they are not yet. Under the scheme of Sir William Wilcox we may be able to help Turkey in days to come to bring back prosperity to Mesopotamia by helping her to carry out vast works of irrigation. Then I have no doubt it will be found more profitable by Turkey to utilise the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates for irrigation and to leave the question of transport to the railway. This though will take some time, and there is no hurry about the railway at present. I hope Turkey will now see that there is no necessity for her to continue her intrigues amongst the chiefs along the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf. Our interests there will be thoroughly safeguarded I hope under the new arrangement when we shall have our interests in the Persian Gulf acknowledged both by Turkey and Russia. Russia has freely acknowledged them already. Our interests in the Persian Gulf consist in the maintenance of the security and safety of the routes from the Gulf Ports to the interior of the country.
As to Persia I hone the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us how the Swedish gendarmerie is progressing, and whether they have succeeded in getting a supply of arms and ammunition safely from the coast to Shiraz. I wish the Swedish gendarmerie every success. The Swedish officers have behaved wonderfully well under great difficulties. I sincerely hope they may succeed in protecting the Shiraz route. We have also the important road from Bundar-Abbas to Kirman to protect, and I trust that, if the Swedish gendarmerie is not able to take it over that the right hon. Gentleman will lend a few British officers to help the Persian Government to protect it. There is also the Ahwaz Isaphan road. Those are the two main roads, and I hone measures may be taken to keep them open, and to secure the safety of British merchandise. At present, the right hon. Gentleman said, it was hopeless to get compensation for robberies which had taken place until Persian finances were secured. Whenever a loan is given to Persia, I hope that a stipulation will be made that there will be satisfaction, which is long overdue, to the British merchants for the losses they have incurred. The right hon. Gentleman said that the only way to secure the safety of trade was to recover the goods when they were stolen. I would ask him to lend some British officers to the Persian 449 Government to raise a force so that if robberies do occur they will be able to recover the articles stolen at the earliest possible moment. I have every hope the Swedish Gendarmerie will succeed. The question of their arms and ammunition is a very important one, but equally important is the question of arms and ammunition getting to the robber bands. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to see if he cannot secure the assent of the Admiralty to the rearming of the vessels of the Royal Indian Marine, so that those vessels, which have done excellent service in the past, will be able to help in the policing of the Persian Gulf and in putting a stop to gun-running.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I desire to refer to a subject which I think will commend itself to the House, and that is the recognition of China. It will be remembered that at the opening of Parliament three countries had recognised China—Brazil, Persia, and Peru. The Chinese showed their gratitude to Brazil by flying the Brazilian flag side by side with their own on all the public buildings. Members will agree that there is no point upon which a nation is more sensitive than one affecting its status and recognition by foreign Powers. Since then America also has recognised China. Does the Foreign Secretary consider that that action has been in any way detrimental, either to America's interests with regard to China, or to America's status with regard to the other Great Powers? On the contrary, it is evident that America has gained enormously, and she will be not only formally, but also in the hearts of the Chinese, one of the most favoured nations. May I touch on one or two objections which may be urged? Perhaps there is a fear of the restoration of the monarchy. But the Chinese revolution was one of the most amazing in the whole of the world's history in its bloodlessness, thus showing that it was not the uprooting of a system with its roots deep in the life of the country, but the mere passing off of a dead slough. The monarchy is dead. Another difficulty may be the differences of political parties, and the contest between North and South. I would suggest that the reports come from somewhat suspected sources, and must be taken with a large grain of salt. Just consider the situation. Suppose a Chinese reporter gifted with imagination described the course of events in, say, an American Presidential election. How, within the lines of perfect 450 truth, he could draw a picture of the North being marshalled against the South, and of party feeling running so high that one of the candidates was almost assassinated at a public meeting! The reporters of European papers also have some imagination, and I suggest that the lurid pictures which appear from time to time in various European, and perhaps English, papers, are greatly the creatures of that imagination, and must be seen through a medium that will reduce them to their proper proportions. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman himself to exercise his own imagination and to rise to the greatness of the whole conception. Since her establishment as a Republic, as a new nation, China has given every sign of being determined to march resolutely in the very forefront of progress. It must be remembered that China is one of the greatest nations in the world. Her people are peculiarly gifted with the highest intellectual qualities, which will fit them to be one of the greatest nations of the world, not merely in material power, but in the advance of civilisation. I believe that it would be of enormous advantage to this country to enter into the most friendly relations with China, to become one of the most favoured nations in every sense of the term, and to bind the ties of trade, commerce, and mutual prosperity as closely as possible. Therefore I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to cast aside all lesser motives, picayune considerations, to use a phrase of the Yankees. Let him imitate their boldness and also their success without waiting for the other Powers, all of whom have interests which do not coincide with those of this country. Let him consider only the interests of this country and China, and following in the wake of America, grant with delay this boon of recognition.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
I am indebted to my hon. Friend, the Member for Thanet, who told me an hour ago that he was going to introduce the matter of China, because I was thereby enabled to listen to his speech on the financial position. I only wish to say a few words in response to his very vigorous attack upon the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the financial institution which has carried through this China loan in British interests. He is entirely under a misapprehension when he says that this is not a British institution. I was in a humble way an officer of that bank myself, and I know pretty well how it is constituted. It 451 is manned entirely by men collected, examined and trained in London. I do not think, apart perhaps from one German in Hamburg and one Frenchman in Lyons, there is anybody on the staff of that bank who is not an Englishman. It is probably the greatest commercial asset east of Suez which this country has, when it comes to Far Eastern questions. The Government very wisely found that out, and they have during the last twenty years used it for purposes which have been beneficial both to our trade and to that of China. It is true that there are German directors on the board, but the bank was formed in days gone by, before political and commercial rivalries became so acute as now. In China the German directors of the board have no political influence; they are merely there as members of the commercial community. I can understand people attacking the bank who do not understand it, but I do think it is most extraordinary for an hon. Member to come here and make statements concerning an institution which has succeeded in doing good by giving us a good working example of Englishmen and Germans working together in perfect harmony for fifty years—an example that so many at the present day desire to see followed on a wider scale.
The Consortium has grown gradually and was perhaps unavoidable. It commenced by an agreement between English and Germans. Then the French and the Americans came in. In view of the competing of the nations, and of concession-hunters working in every direction, there can hardly be any doubt that the Consortium was the best device possible. Crisp and Company came on the scene, I think, after the negotiations for the greater loan came on, and if the Foreign Office had taken up with another body of British financiers, it is quite possible that England would have been accused of double dealing, and would have been open to grave suspicion by the other Powers interested. The hon. Member for North Somerset pointed out what I noticed myself in the "Times" of two or three days ago, that is, that the concession-hunters thought that China would be forced to borrow, and, therefore, that the very hardest terms should be granted her. The hon. Member was quite right in his figure, for of the debt of £3,200,000 incurred she got £1,400,000 in cash -and some torpedo boats, the upkeep of 452 which will be a great burden. Therefore, I think the Consortium in insisting upon regularity in Chinese finance is doing good for China against her will. There is nothing to prevent anybody lending money to China, if they get security. There is a Canadian firm, I see in the papers, who are lending money to China. Provincial loans are, I suppose, possible if people get security. I think at the moment China is suffering from too much Home Rule, and too much Democracy, but I am not going to say anything on that point. There are people who are opposed to granting a loan to Yuan Shi Kai and his party, but after all, they are the only solid force in China at the present moment. The Southern section seems to me a mere amorphous body, and I think anybody who knows of the horrors of which Chinese disbanded troops are capable must be thankful that owing to the action of the Foreign Office and the conclusion of this loan there is a possibility of these soldiers being paid and sent home and becoming useful citizens. I support the action of the Foreign Office, and I think probably China would not have had such good terms as she has now had the Foreign Office acted otherwise than it did.
§ Sir EDWARD GREY
I want to answer a few of the points made in this Debate. I do not attempt to deal with everything raised, because I think the Committee will realise that if I or the Under-Secretary representing the Foreign Office were to deal with every question raised in the course of the evening it would occupy so much time that the proper object, which is that the House should express its opinion on different questions, would be defeated. I will deal very shortly with some of them. I must say something upon the question of the China loan, although the charge made is partly answered by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. One of the strongest criticisms brought to bear upon the group is that Russia and Japan were included. With regard to the attitude of the Chinese Government about that an answer was given in the House on 17th May last year approving of the extension of the old consortium and it has never since been questioned. It seems to me it does not matter to China of whom the group consists. What matters to China is the terms. It has been continually represented that because Russia and Japan were in the group, therefore political terms would be imposed to establish 453 the interests of Russia and Japan. Nothing of that kind has happened. Conditions of that kind never would have been admitted by the other parties to the group. The loan which is now being made contains no political conditions of the sort apprehended, and the real object of the broadening of the group was that with China in the delicate state of things, having just passed through a time of revolution, it was most undesirable that there should be political contentions and political competition amongst different nations represented at Peking, and that in the interest of China itself those nations should come to an agreement to work together, and should none of them, so far as the loan was concerned, endeavour to exploit against each other the difficult situation in China which they might otherwise have done. I do not regard monopolies as desirable institutions at all.
With regard to this particular loan, remember that the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank is not the only representative of the British group, but other substantial financial houses have been taken into the British group. What would have been the alternative with regard to the organisation loan to an agreement amongst the Powers? Supposing there had been no consortium and no international agreement, you would have had a scramble between financiers of different nationalities to exploit the situation in China. The result of that would have been improvident borrowing on the part of China, and no security that the money borrowed would have been spent in a way which was not wasteful or in a way which was really remunerative to China herself and no proper arrangement made in the loans that the securities on which the loans were made would not disappear. We have had examples before, especially in Oriental countries where they have been passing through revolutions of what improvident borrowing has led to. It has led to panics. That, I think, is really the alternative to the policy which we pursued. The alternative to the policy of consortium was a policy which would have led to improvident borrowing on all sorts of terms, satisfactory neither to China nor in the long run to the lenders themselves, or at least to those who held the loans eventually, and the result would have been certainly not a strong China. The Committee may realise some of the difficulties if they realise that a year ago 454 we were being very much criticised for having given our support to this international consortium instead of allowing loans like the Crisp Loan to be made which we could not prevent ourselves, but standing aside and allowing those loans to be freely made. The argument then was that China should get whatever she wanted, wherever she liked and that we ought to stand aside. Now the criticism is whether China ought to have had any money here at all. We have tried to steer between those two courses and to secure first that there should not be that very undesirable political competition between the Powers exploiting the position of China for their own advantage, and, in the next place, whatever loans were made so far as we could secure that they should be made on terms that would ensure that the money would be spent in a way remunerative to China herself, and that the security which was allotted to them should be administered on such terms as would preserve the security. Those are really the two alternative courses that might have been pursued, and I still think that the course we have pursued, and which has resulted in the present loan being made, is, as far as the present time and circumstances are concerned, the best of those two alternative courses, the other being to stand aside and let the scramble take place.
With regard to Chinese recognition it has been urged by one hon. Member that we should recognise immediately and independently whatever other Powers might do, and on the other hand I have been urged by the hon. and gallant Member to defer recognition until we have an agreement about Tibet which might involve our being the last Power of all to recognise and being left in the position of being the only Power which had not recognised the Chinese Republic. It is very desirable that there should be a satisfactory agreement with China about Tibet, and it is very undesirable when other Powers are recognising that we should not act with them. What we propose is to act with the other Powers and recognise as soon as we are all agreed without attaching special conditions for ourselves, but on the same general terms of recognition of treaty rights which other Powers have also stipulated. That does not prevent our negotiating with China on the subject of Tibet.
The policy in Tibet which China pursued immediately after the revolution I think 455 was a very unwise policy. We were not doing anything in Tibet ourselves; we were not disturbing Tibet. As far as China was concerned, she could rely upon it that Tibet would remain exactly as it was undisturbed by us, we pursuing no forward policy. China herself had a revolution at home, and her first object and interest naturally was that she should become strong at home and consolidate and organise her Governments. At that moment she embarked upon a forward policy in Tibet, and tried to transform Tibet into an ordinary province of China instead of being content with the influences she exercised there under the status quo. Of course, that forward policy of China in Tibet sooner or later leads to disturbance on the Indian frontier, and what we want to secure is something which recognises, as we have shown we are willing to recognise, the old Chinese position with regard to Tibet which we had no desire to disturb, and which will leave Tibet in possession of that autonomy which she had before, and which she presumably has at the present moment. That result, I trust, we shall secure. It is in our interests Tibet should not be disturbed, and I am sure it is in the interests of China that she should not pursue a forward policy on her frontier when what she needs is consolidation at home. She may be certain that if she leaves Tibet in the enjoyment of its autonomy, there will be no forward policy on our side. The hon. Gentleman raised several other matters in connection with student interpreters and Russian trade, of which I can only take note. He always deals with things on their merits. I will only say that roughly I do not dispute the merits of the points he raised. We have already a commercial Attaché as well as a Consul at St. Petersburg. If I do not make promises with regard to these things it is not because I dispute the merits, it is because there are so many things among which we have to pick and choose. We cannot promise things which mean an increase of money on every side, even though they may be themselves desirable. I regret I was not present at the time the question of the Portuguese Colonies was raised, although we have very little to add to what we have already said.
I think I need hardly enter upon the subject of control of the House over foreign affairs. It has been often discussed. It falls into three parts. First 456 of all, people do not like to have secret treaties which are not disclosed. We have always agreed about that, and, as far as we are concerned, our policy has not been to make more secret treaties, but on the whole we have done something to publish treaties which have been secret before, although I admit that when they were made they could not have been published, and we have avoided making secret treaties which entail serious obligations on this country. The second point, which has often been raised, is that all treaties should be subject to ratification by Parliament. That is a point very interesting to people who have constitutional minds. It used to interest Mr. Gladstone very much, and he was always a strong opponent of what he considered a grave change in the Constitution. It is not a Departmental point; it is a constitutional point, and I could not go into it on the Foreign Office Vote. The third branch of the subject is how far the House can control any administrative Department. I believe, as regards the Foreign Office, that it has just as much control over Foreign Office administration as it has over the administration of any other Department. It controls the administration by the fact that it has the right of voting money, and money is not voted unless there is general approval of the administration which has been carried. I doubt whether the House could transform itself into an administrative body. Imagine a Foreign Affairs Committee to which the administrative work of the Foregn Office is to be submitted before it is carried out, and to which drafts of telegrams must be submitted before they are sent! I believe it to be an entire mistake to suppose that a Committee could really administer. You cannot carry on administration through a Committee. To make administration dependent on a Committee would result in bringing administration to a standstill. That is the real question which the House is raising when it talks about control over the Foreign Office, and it applies equally to other Departments—to the Colonial Office and the India Office. This House is a deliberative body; it passes legislation but it reviews policy and gives it approval or not, as the case may be. The House cannot really, by any arrangement of Committees, make itself into a really executive administrative body. It must be content with the position that the Cabinet is the real executive body responsible to Parliament to which the administration must be left, to be reviewed, how- 457 ever, by Parliament. If the House wishes to make an experiment in administration and selects one of the great Departments over which to exercise administrative control, I would suggest that the experiment be not made, in the first instance, with the Foreign Office.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I should not have risen but for the speech of the hon. Member for North Somerset, and it is perhaps the more necessary I should do so as the Foreign Secretary has taken hardly any notice of any of the questions put to him by that hon. Member. One of those questions was of importance. It has been raised on many occasions in times gone by, and it was at one time a more or less practical issue—I refer to the question of the Channel Tunnel. The hon. Member seems to think that economy might result from the making of the Channel Tunnel. I understood him to suggest that we should not be obliged in the event of the Channel Tunnel being made to maintain a large and powerful Navy, because our food supply would be landed at various ports on the Continent and then conveyed through the Channel Tunnel. I put to him what seemed to me to be a really serious question: What would happen if we were at war with France, because, as I understand it, the tunnel at the other end would be under the control of the French Government. The hon. Member, instead of giving a reasoned answer, simply replied, "What would happen if we went to war with the man in the moon?" That was no reply at all. As the right hon. Gentleman did not reply to the hon. Member I think someone ought to get up in this House and say that of all the mischievous ideas ever brought forward in this country one of the most mischievous was the idea of the Channel Tunnel—a vague, sentimental idea, which would have the effect of destroying the greatest protection that this country has, namely, the sea which surrounds her shores—a protection given her by Nature. I will not pursue these remarks because I understand that the Under-Secretary wishes to speak. I thoroughly endorse all that the right hon. Gentleman says about Treaties and the futility of a Committee trying to do what he himself is doing at the present moment extremely well. I agree with him in regard to the Chinese loan—a very difficult question, on which I should have liked to say something if time permitted.
§ Mr. ACLAND
The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Falle), and the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Hoare), would like me to reply to some of the points they brought forward. The first point raised by the hon. Member for Portsmouth was with regard to the énclave on the head waters of the Nile, and whether it would be affected by our proposed recognition of the annexation of the Congo. That reverted to us some years ago, and has been occupied by the Sudan Government, so that there is no question at all of that coming up again in connection with the recognition of the annexation.
§ Mr. ACLAND
It is over and done with. It has reverted to us; it has been occupied by us; and there is no question of any change in the status of that part of the country owing to the recognition of the annexation. With regard to the main part of the hon. Member's speech a few years ago the great main line of criticism of Portuguese administration was with regard to definite allegations of slave trading between the mainland and the islands. It was alleged that there were grave scandals in that connection, and that the recruiting from Angola for the islands was carried on under very bad conditions. There was no recognition in the hon. Member's speech that that for ever is over and done with. There is no longer any recruiting from Angola for San Thomé, and a great deal of what he referred to as being conditions of slave-trading on the mainland is a closed chapter altogether. It would be rather difficult to gather that front the hon. Member's speech. I do not deny that in some parts of the hinterland of Central Africa a state of domestic slavery or something very like it probably exists, not exclusively in Portuguese Dominions, but the great matter of complaint, namely, a real system of slave trading between Portuguese Dominions on the mainland and Portuguese Dominions in the islands has been brought to an end.
As regards statistics, the hon. Member for Chelsea raised that point before, and when he raised it we brought it to the attention of the Portuguese Government. We have suggested to them that they should do what I think they themselves suggested doing, namely, obtain a better census of the 459 labourers on San Thomé. We hope that will be done; we certainly shall try to go on suggesting that it should be done. With regard to British subjects, I suggested that there might be considerable difficulty in finding out how many there are, but our Consul, Mr. Smallbones, is doing his best in that matter. With regard to repatriation, it is, of course, a fact that we acknowledge that we must watch the figures of the numbers repatriated, and the amounts they receive on repatriation, but it is also the fact that in January and February of this year the number repatriated has been considerably over 600. That is in two months, and as the hon. Member says that there is only one ship a month, I can hardly accept the hon. Member's estimate that they could easily repatriate ten times as many as they have been repatriating.
§ It being Eleven o'clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; Committee to sit again upon Monday next (2nd June).
§ The remaining Orders of the Day were read and postponed.