HC Deb 21 July 1915 vol 73 cc1512-63

51. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,710,386, 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, 1916, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class II. of the Estimates for Civil Services, including the Colonial Office, £37,410."

[For details of Services included in total Charge, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1915, cols. 1131–1132.]

Resolution read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

4.0 P.M.


I am afraid the little preliminary is rather trying, because one hon. Member has suggested that I have an important statement to make. I am afraid that he and any other hon. Members who have formed the same idea will be disappointed. Hon. Members will quite understand that at present in the Colonies, as at home, all development is stopped, and it would, therefore, be a very inappropriate time to attempt to give such a survey of the development of the Colonies as has been given on more than one occasion by my predecessor. I found, however, when I went to the Colonial Office that I had only the vaguest notion of what had been happening in our Colonies adjacent to the German colonies. It occurs to me, therefore, that perhaps some other hon. Members may be in the same position, and it would possibly be of interest to the House if I attempt to give a very brief statement, even though it must necessarily be a dull statement, I am afraid, of the military operations in connection with the German colonies, and of the position in which these colonies stand now, after nearly twelve months of war.

At the outbreak of war the German colonial possessions consisted, in addition to Kiao Chao, which fell from them in November, a number of islands in the Pacific and a variety of very valuable possessions in Africa. When the War began our commerce was very much interfered with by German cruisers, and the depredations of these raiders were greatly assisted by the wireless stations, both in the Pacific and in Africa, which were in the possession of the Germans. It was, therefore, of the utmost importance that, by some means or other, we should either obtain possession of these stations or destroy them. There were a number of them, all very powerful ones, in the German Pacific Islands, and the suggestion was made to the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of New Zealand that they should take possession of the islands containing these stations. Those Governments at once agreed to take that course. New Zealand undertook to take possession of Samoa, and within a week of the outbreak of War the New Zealand Expeditionary Force was ready. It sailed from Wellington and on the last day of August took possession of Apia, where the wireless station was situated, without any opposition, and since then the Samoan Islands have been in the occupation of the New Zealand Government. The Pacific Islands, with which the Commonwealth Government undertook to deal, were more important. They consisted of Kaiser Wilhelms Land, as it was called—a name given to the German part of New Guinea—the Bismarck Archipelago, and the German Solomon Islands. The Australian Expeditionary Force was large, and it was escorted by three Australian warships—the "Australia," the "Sydney," and the "Melbourne," one of which, as the House will remember, had the honour of being in at the death when the "Emden" was destroyed. The occupation of those islands did not take place without fighting. Some fighting took place before HerbertshÓhe, in Kaiser Wilhelms Land, was occupied. That was on the 11th September. On the following day, the Australian troops took possession of the place. At subsequent dates, all within a few months, at the outside, of the outbreak of War, all these islands were in our possession, and they have since remained outside the power of the German Government.

The chief German possessions were in Africa, and very important colonies they were. In order to take them in some kind of order I shall begin on the West Coast. The German colony there, furthest North, was Togoland. In the early eighties, when practically the whole of Africa was being parcelled out among the different European Powers, there was a small strip of territory between the British territory of the Gold Coast and the French Colony of Dahomey, which had not been occupied. It consisted only of about 30 miles. It was the only bit of coast land from the Niger to the Gambia which had not been taken possession of. Some German traders had gone there, and in 1884 the German Government took possession. This is a comparatively small territory, only about the size of Ireland, but the land lent itself very readily to development, and the Germans set to work by building railways. It has the unique distinction of being, I think, the only German oversea possession that has paid its way, and has not had to be subsidised from the Home Government. In this country of Togoland the Germans had built an immense wireless station, about 2 miles long, which cost something like £250,000, and was in communication with Berlin direct. On the 5th August, almost at the same time that we were aware of it in this House, the Gold Coast Government was informed that war had been declared, and at once, with the approval of the Home Government, they set about invading Togoland, with the object of taking this wireless station. Their proceedings were not long delayed, for, on the 7th August, they took the capital of that country, but the rest of the procedure was not so easy. A considerable force under Colonel Bryant, who was assisted by French Tirailleurs from Dahomey, were engaged for something like twelve days in constant fighting. They had to drive sometimes superior forces from strong positions, but, fortunately, at the end of that time, they reached Kamina, where the wireless station was situated. The Germans had destroyed the station, but the acting Governor there surrendered the colony without any conditions, and from that day to this it has been in the occupation and administration of the Allies in Africa.

Coming further down the coast the next German colony is the Cameroons. It is a very large territory, about a half larger than Germany, and its history is interesting. It affords a good instance of the scrambling among European Powers when they were all engaged in what, I think, Lord Rosebery described as "pegging out claims for posterity." At one time the biggest chief of the district had asked the British Government to annex the country. We declined. But, as sometimes happens, Governments change their mind, and in July, 1884, they sent a representative to annex it. They found that the Germans had been there a week before them and had made a treaty with one of the chiefs. We still had a chance of taking a share in the territory and our representative proceeded to make other treaties with other chiefs. The week after that a French gunboat arrived, also for the purpose of annexing the same territory. It was too late, but the British Government, on account of the treaties which it had made, had a technical right, at least, to claim some part of the territory. We did not, however, show any desire to shut Germany off from her place in the sun, and did not press our claim. It was in that way that Germany came into possession of the country.

As the House probably remembers, as the result of the Agadir crisis, France ceded to Germany a portion of her territory, which constituted about onethird of the German Cameroons when the War broke out. This territory is bordered from the coast to the North by our strong Protectorate of Nigeria, and the rest of this territory is surrounded by French possessions. Immediately on the outbreak of war, His Majesty's Government made vigorous and elaborate preparations directed specially to seizing the port of Duala, where there was another powerful wireless station. They were assisted in this by large forces from the French dominions which were near. The expedition went by sea to Duala and bombarded it, and in September it was surrendered to our Army. That was in the South-West corner of the Cameroons. This force, which was a fairly large force, was under the direction of Major-General Dobell, Inspector-General of the West African Frontier Force, whose operations from the first have been successful, for he not only took Duala but he took in November the capital of the Cameroons, and by the end of the year we had possession of the whole of that part of the territory where the railways were running. He has continued his operations since then and has uniformly been successful.

In addition to these operations in the South, Nigeria attempted to invade the German Colony from the North. In the early days of the War an attempt was made to capture Garua, one of the towns in that direction. It failed, and our troops, suffering severe losses, had to retire to the Nigerian border. Though the attempt failed then it was not abandoned, and with the assistance again of French forces their progress has been continually kept up, and the House wall probably remember that on the 11th of June this year we succeeded in capturing the town in question and with it a considerable number of prisoners, a great many guns, a large number of machine guns, and a very large amount of ammunition. We have not, of course, obtained possession, or anything like possession of this Colony, but in addition to the forces which I have mentioned French forces have been moving up from the East and from the South and the Cameroons coast has been bombarded, and I think that it is not too much to say that the hold of the Germans on that particular possession is a very precarious one which is not likely to last very long. The other German possession on the West Coast is German South-West Africa, of which we have all heard a great deal lately and in which we have all been interested. The House will remember that the Prime Minister gave an account of the military operations there the other day, and I am not going over the same ground again. The victory was won under very difficult conditions, especially difficult natural conditions, and was a very complete victory. I happen to have noticed, by extracts from German newspapers which have reached me, that Germans are much depressed at the loss of that Colony, but they have taken to themselves the satisfaction that this, which, as they say, is the only victory won by the English, has been won by the Dutch under a Dutch general.

If that is any satisfaction to them, they are perfectly welcome to it. I think that I am speaking, not only for the House of Commons, but for every citizen of the British Empire, when I say that the satisfaction which we should have felt in any case at the capture of that Colony has been greatly increased by the fact that it was won by one of our self-governing Dominions, and that the General Commanding was the Prime Minister of that Dominion and was himself a distinguished general, and perhaps our satisfaction is further increased by the fact that not very long ago he was in arms against us, but that he has now thrown in his lot wholeheartedly with the British Empire. I do not know whether it will interest the House to give a short account of the way in which the Germans became possessed of this Colony. Here, also, as was the case in the Cameroons, it was British traders and settlers who alone had secured a footing in the Colony. We not only did not take possession, but even, when almost invited to do so by Prince Bismarck, declined to undertake the responsibility of the territory. It was, therefore, taken possession of, with our consent, in 1884 by the German Government, and a very troublesome time they had in connection with it In 1903, I think it was, a rebellion broke out and the House remembers what happened at that time. It was repressed with ruthless cruelty, but in spite of that it lasted for something like five years. It was only ended by something approaching the total extermination of a great number of the tribes in that country. That rebellion cost the German Government something like £25,000,000 sterling. From the point of view of finance the Colony has never been a profitable speculation to the German Government.

I am glad to say that there is only one other German colony in regard to which I have anything to say—that is German East Africa. It is the largest of all the German colonies. It has a coast line of more than 400 miles, and an area about twice as great as the whole German Empire. Here I am sorry to say that I am not able to give an account of complete victory such as we had in Togoland or German South-West Africa, nor even of an advance which looks like an early victory, as in the case of the Cameroons. The position has been largely one of stalemate. This is not surprising. Our Colonies have never been prepared for aggression from the outside. The German colonies were under a different system, and from the first have had a military organisation. The border line between German East Africa and British Possessions includes Nyasaland, British East Africa and Uganda, and extends for a distance of no less than 700 miles. Raids have been taking place against that territory all this time over that extent. They have been directed chiefly to the destruc- tion of the Uganda Railway. In every case they have failed. The raiders have always been driven back, and the railway has not been destroyed, and I think the explanation of our having been able to do so well is due to this, that not only have our Colonists in these British Protectorates volunteered for service, but they happened to be a class whose services were specially valuable. Many of them were ex-officers in the British Army, and many more were from South Africa, both British and Dutch, and had experience of the fighting there. The result has been that we have more than held our own even in East Africa.

The only other Colony of ours which was affected by being close to German possessions was the British Protectorate of Nyasaland. Of all our Possessions this was the most precarious. When War broke out the force available there was very small. It could not possibly be increased from outside, and the Colonial Office, as I knew at the time, was in very serious apprehension of something very bad happening there. That did not happen; but the extent of the danger may perhaps be gauged by a single incident. One post which was held by us with fifty men with only one officer was attacked by an enemy force of over 400. Our small body was able for nineteen days to hold its own until help came from other British settlers, and when it came the German forces were driven back with severe loss. I think that that was largely due to great enterprise and daring on Lake Nyasa. On the 14th of August a small British steamer surprised a German armed boat on Lake Nyasa, and took out its guns, and by that means gave to our forces command of Lake Nyasa, which they have held ever since, and which has tended very much to secure the safety of that Protectorate.

I promised that my account would be a brief one, and that is all that I have to say about these Colonies. There are some general considerations in connection with these operations which seem to me important and which I would like to put before the House. The first and very obvious one is that in Africa, as in Europe, the Germans were much better prepared for war than we. They had superiority in artillery, and still more in machine guns and ammunition, and in the Cameroons they actually had two aeroplanes. Fortunately our people acted so quickly that they seized them and sent them on to South Africa, and I think it very probable that they were used by General Botha in the conquest of German South Africa. They had this superiority, but after all the fighting there is of a different character from what, unfortunately, it is now in the trench warfare in Europe. Character tells more, and so, though we had inferiority in preparations, we had superiority in men.

The one feature which to me is most striking, though it is not surprising, is the way in which British Colonists and settlers everywhere have thrown themselves whole heartedly into joining the Government Forces in support of the operation against the enemy. That has been the case everywhere. For instance, in the case of the invasion of Togoland to which I have referred, of the total unofficial European population of the Gold Coast 95 per cent. actually took up arms on that occasion, and as to the official population, that is, those who were in the service of the Colonial Government, I have only to say that the difficulty was to prevent them joining in order to carry on the administration of the country. In this operation against Togoland I think that the first British casualty occurred. An official on the Gold Coast was wounded on the 15th August, but I am glad to say that he has now returned to his duties. What happened there happened in every other British Colony in Africa. In Nigeria, I am told that practically the whole white population volunteered to join and serve, and nearly the whole of them have joined. In one thing at least we take satisfaction, and that is that we are entitled to say that the same spirit which was shown by our forefathers overseas, the spirit for instance which took Clive from the desk, and made him conquer or retain the Indian Empire, was never stronger or more marked than it has been shown to be throughout the British Empire to-day.

That is true not only of these Colonies where fighting has actually taken place, but there is not a single British Possession where, when the numbers are not large enough to enable them to create a unit of their own, large numbers have not come forward and joined the forces in our Dominions. I happened to be shown today a private letter from Ceylon, which is typical, I think, of every British Possession. The writer says that nearly all his friends who were young men had joined the forces, and that as to the rest their sons had all joined, and he added that the position in Ceylon was precisely the same as in London to-day. The bulk of the people are suffering from the loss of those who are dear to them. As a nation I think we can say that we are fond of peace. Our habits are peaceful, but we can also say that neither business nor luxury has sapped the courage of our race nor made them less able to fight than in the past when fighting became a necessity of the existence of the Empire.

There is another consideration, and that is the way in which the natives have acted thoughout the War. With the single exception of East Africa to which some reinforcements have been sent, the whole of our fighting has been done by local forces. The bulk of it has been by native levies, the chief of which, and perhaps the only ones, are the West African Frontier Force and the King's African Rifles. They have been faced for the first time with modern weapons, directed by people who thoroughly understand how to use them. They have fought in the bush, in country where it was impossible to exercise complete control over them, yet nowhere have there been any excesses, nowhere has there been any want of discipline, and everywhere they have acted with great gallantry. As an example of that, perhaps it will interest the House if I give one incident of many which I have read. During one of these fights the tripod legs of the machine gun were blown away, and I remember reading with admiration a similar act of heroism in Flanders. Two privates of the West African Frontier Force at once stepped forward to allow themselves to be used as the legs of the machine gun, which was used effectively until the enemy were driven off. It is not only those natives actually fighting for us to whom we have reason, I might almost say, to be grateful. One sometimes hears in this House complaints of the way in which our representatives abroad deal with subject races. This country has shown, on the whole, that we have a good record in that respect, and it is a record which is appreciated by the natives themselves. Throughout they have been thoroughly loyal. They have assisted us in every possible way, and perhaps I may add that nothing has done more to make the African natives appreciate the value of British rule than the experience they have had of German rule in Africa. That experience has made our course easier, and has made it comparatively easy to administer those parts of the German possessions which have been taken over by us. I was reminded in this House the other day of a saying of Bismarck:— Colonies are settled, not by fighting there but by fighting in the central theatre of war. It is quite true, but after all it must be a satisfaction to us to feel that out there, where they have to depend on themselves, our own people have more than held their own. I have made no reference to our Colonial fellow subjects who are fighting side by side with our own soldiers. I do not think it is necessary to do so. What the Canadians have done in France is as familiar, is as much a household word here in the United Kingdom, as it is in Canada. And anyone who has read, as we all have, the dispatch of Sir Ian Hamilton must feel that neither in this War nor in any war that I know of has there been any act of greater courage, or which showed better the qualities of the soldiers, than the landing of the Australians and New Zealanders in Gallipoli. Nothing, therefore, that I can say can possibly add to the estimate which has already been formed by the House of Commons, and by the country, of the qualities of those troops, and of the value of the services which they have rendered and are rendering to-day to the Empire.


I may say that we have all listened with great satisfaction to the lucid and inspiring narrative which the Colonial Secretary has just given to us, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to add that, at this particular moment, it is a fortunate coincidence that a native of one of our great Dominions is at the head of the Colonial Office. I have no desire to anticipate the decision of the Government with regard to the future of these Colonies which have been won from Germany, but I must express my own strong feeling that—not for the sake of further adding to our Empire, but for the sake of the people, and especially the natives themselves—these Colonies will not be asked to exchange the beneficent rule of this country for the rule of the Germans in any future time. As far as German rule in Africa is concerned, I think the right hon. Gentleman was justified in making allusion to their conduct in the Colonies. I think it would be a very poor return indeed for the valour of our soldiers, and for the natives and men of our own blood, to give these people back to the rule of which they have been able to get rid. I think we may say with some national pride that South Africa has done a splendid work; and self-sacrificing action in Sierra Leone and in other parts of Africa has saved millions of lives by the war on mosquitoes and on maladies belonging to that country.

I have risen to say a few words on a subject on which the right hon. Gentleman was silent, and perhaps the reason for his silence was that he did not think it was a proper moment to raise the question. But I have been much struck in conversations I have had with dwellers in our Dominions, both in the past and quite recently, by their attitude towards the place they hold in the counsels and deliberations of our Empire. I know I am approaching rather a thorny subject, though my own opinion about it is clear, and has been clear and precise for many years. But we have this extraordinary juxtaposition of affairs, that while Canada and Australia and New Zealand and South Africa have all poured forth treasure and blood, and fought with the bravery to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded in the most critical moments of battles and operations—while we have all these things on one side, on the other we have a remoteness, almost amounting to exclusion, from any share in deciding the policy of the Empire for which they are so willing to fight. Of course, I acknowledge that something has been done to remove that reproach. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Harcourt), who occupied the position of Colonial Secretary for some years, took the first great step by publicly pledging the Government that consultation with the Colonies would take place when we come to consider the terms of peace. The presence recently at a Cabinet Council of Sir Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of Canada, is an epoch-making event in itself, and it is not merely an important event in itself, but is a promise and a beginning of better and closer relations between our Dominions and ourselves.

On my visit to Canada I heard remarks which were new to me as an indication of feeling there towards the Mother Country and their relations with us. I take one subject, namely, our communications with our Dominions. I found in Canada, when I happened to be travelling through that country, that so far as anything like a day-to-day communication or enlightening information, with regard to the movements here at home were concerned, I might as well have been in a country utterly foreign to the British Crown. In fact, I found that the information on which our people, the men of our own blood, of our own race, of our own country, mainly relied in regard to the state of affairs, was nearly all supplied through American agencies—when I say American, I mean agencies in the United States. These agencies are very well organised, but after all they are American agencies, and the events which most appeal to them are events which are far more interesting to Americans than they are to the people of our own country. I felt myself, at a time so critical, certainly anxious to know what was going on in this country, and I felt that I was absolutely incapable of forming the least judgment of the progress of political events in England or Ireland. I found myself as remote as though I were travelling in Russia. I remember it being said to me in Vancouver, "How can you expect us to fight for you, to love you, to be loyal to you, when you never take the smallest interest or the smallest care to keep up anything like continuous communication between us and you?" And it was added, "Things cannot go on as they are."

In addition to that, recently I had the pleasure of meeting some Colonial friends of mine in London. They first talked about what Canada had done and referred to the services which the Dominion had rendered to this country, and, when they had said that, one of the gentlemen wound up with the strange observation—and it came from one of the greatest men in Canada—"It is the last time Canada is going to do this." That observation not only surprised but alarmed me, and I asked him the reason why. The reason he gave was, that we could not count in the future on that splendid contribution of Canada to our armed Forces if we do not take Canada more into our councils and confidence. I put that feature of our treatment of Canada on one side. I take another instance. I remember about twenty-five years ago meeting a Scotsman who was living in Johannesburg. At that time there was an exciting incident in a small Irish town in which some heads were broken, and in regard to which there were some considerable differences of opinion as to the evidence given upon the matter. My friend from Johannesburg referred to this incident. The Parliamentary Session was just about to open, and this Scotch gentleman, a resident in South Africa, said to me: "For the next few weeks, if not months, you will be discussing this incident. I understand the nature of party passions waging in this country, and you will have innumerable speeches and scenes and all the rest of it; but during all these weeks, or months, or during the whole Session, you will never hear a word about South Africa which is one of the most important parts of the Empire, and where there are to-day some of the most dangerous problems the Empire has to face." I have since been reflecting that if we had in this Parliament devoted some of our attention to those problems of South Africa, we might have been able to avoid some of the many tragic events which followed our neglect. Let me give another instance. I remember, not a long time before the War, when the Foreign Office Vote was down for discussion, the Debate began at four o'clock in the afternoon and it ended at 8.15. Four hours and a quarter were given by this Parliament, nicknamed Imperial, to the discussion of the Foreign policy of this world wide Empire. That was absurd enough, but the absurdity was so pointed by what immediately followed that, much as it struck me, it had the much greater effect of striking your mind as well. Sir, because I remember you noted the fact in your evidence before the Procedure Committee. When at a quarter past eight we had disposed of the Foreign policy of this whole Empire we started discussing for an equal, or nearly an equal, length of time, or, indeed, for a longer time, because we renewed the discussion two or three nights afterwards, the affairs of a suburban water company and as to how many gallons of water should be taken out of a stream. Is not this juxtaposition the condemnation of our whole system of dealing with our foreign affairs and with those great Dominions to which we owe so much?

I do not make any proposal. This is not the time to do so. The only purpose I seek to serve at the moment is to ask the leaders of the different parties in this House and the Members of the House generally to devote their minds to some consideration of this problem. There could be no more favourable moment for beginning the study of this problem. On the one hand, we have this truce of parties which enables us to see things without that refracted light of party politics, which, of course, obscures the issues, and which enables us to scrutinise matters in an entirely dispassionate spirit. In the next place, this is a time when the Empire is more united in spirit as well as in action than it ever has been in its existence. Those of us who are old enough remember how in 1870 the folly and arrogance of France united Germany and we see to-day how the folly and arrogance of Germany has had the reverse effect and how it has united this Empire and its Allies. I believe in adding to the strength of this Empire, because I interpret the support it has got from all parts of the world, and I attribute that, whatever be its faults and its crimes in the past, because every Empire has faults, to their sense that it stands to-day for freedom and for democracy, and those freedom loving peoples and those democracies of our Dominions would not have been on our side if they did not feel that we were fighting for freedom and democracy. I plead for the consideration of that closer and more intimate association of our Dominions in our councils and in our policy in the interests of the unification of the Empire.


I desire to say a very few words in support of the view which has been expressed so eloquently just now by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). I know that at the present time when events of such dramatic significance call for all our practical efforts it is hardly convenient to devote attention to matters which will concern us when this War comes to an end, or is approaching its end. As to the precise terms of peace, and as to the precise methods of uniting our Empire—and I suppose we are all agreed that will be one of the great results of this War—I have nothing to say. But it does seem to me that at this time there is one subject which we cannot safely leave without continuous and careful thought, and that is not the settlement at the end of the War, whether within the Empire or outside, but the machinery by which we are going to bring in with us after the War the daughter States of this Empire, when it comes, as we all hope it will come, to the reaping of the harvest which is the result of the victory which they have won no less than we. The end of this War, whenever it comes, will produce in the life of the nations what is known commonly in the life of individuals as a psychological moment—that is to say, hearts will be stirred, as they are not commonly stirred, and they will be impressionable to a degree to which they are not com- monly impressionable, and it will be possible to achieve things in that moment, if you do not let the opportunity pass, which it may never be possible to achieve subsequently. If the House will allow me I should like to refer to an incident in the very early history of these Islands, which I think puts more shortly, and perhaps more sympathetically than I could in any other way, the essential idea that I want to express at the present moment. In the earliest of our historians—Bede—there is a little incident described of a very human and dramatic character and with enormous consequences. The missionary Augustine had landed in Kent and had succeeded there. He became ambitious of converting to Christianity the remainder of our barbarian ancestors, and he suggested to the King that he should invite into council the Celtic Churches, and notably the Welsh Church. The Welsh representatives arrived and Augustine, the proud representative of Rome, remained seated According to Bede they said to one another, "If he remain seated when we come to him as strangers, how will he treat us when we have made him our master?"

I put that point because from that moment the first great opportunity of reconciling the Celt and the Teuton was lost in that little lack of tact. The object of that conference was to convert the Anglo-Saxons of these Islands. I am perfectly certain that the Minister for the Colonies would never have been guilty of that solecism. From that little want of tact emerged immense historical consequences. In our history we have often been tactless. It is essential at the end of this War that we should not be tactless, however right we may wish to be, in our dealings with the other portions of the Empire. To be in the best form you must have given thought before. I know that we have been told and assured—and no one for a moment doubts it—that the leading statesmen of the remaining portions of the Empire will be consulted and will be taken into counsel when the critical decision comes to be taken. But that is not enough and that is not sufficient to seize for the good of the future that impressionable moment that there will be when for six months, it may be, a great European Congress is sitting, and when, side by side with the reorganisation of Europe, you might achieve the reorganisation of the Empire, for which you would fight for generations afterwards. What we want is something more organic. I am not going to make any suggestion as to what the reorganisation should be. I follow the precedent set by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. It is for Executive Governments, with all the means at their command, to investigate practical measures. It is for us at such a moment as this merely to offer suggestions, merely to put forward the faith that is in us, merely to attempt to express the relative weight as we see it of the problems which are before us.

5.0 P.M.

I will just illustrate from two events in the recent history of this Empire how vital it is that we should be thinking beforehand in these matters. Many of us have on our bookshelves at the present time certain volumes, three I think they are, large volumes, which were the product of a certain group of men in South Africa, sitting apart and I believe secretly, who thought deeply and exhaustively, and inquired with determination and with minuteness into the problem of creating the Union of South Africa, that Government which has recently triumphantly proved its efficiency. That Union was the product of careful thought on the part of constitutional students for months beforehand, gathered together without any publicity of reporters. They produced a Report which, I venture to say, is one of the greatest constitutional authorities of the world. From that forethought there emerged the Government which has stood the test of the present difficulty. The other instance that I will cite is to remind Members of that dramatic moment in the history of this House when at the beginning of the War we were made aware that the War Book, as it in as called, has been opened, and that the plan for ensuring the shipping of the British Empire had been thought out before in all its details in such a manner that we had one of the most remarkably efficient pieces of organisation created at the opening of the War, a piece of organisation which, I venture to say, has perhaps more than any other single factor in this War gone to secure the wonderful position in which these Islands to-day stand in the presence of all Europe. My point is that we in this country are apt to leave too much for the spur of the moment and too much to our traditional methods of compromise by Parliamentary give-and-take, and that we are too little apt to thinking out carefully beforehand, however much you may have to modify and amend when you come to actual practice. What I venture to ask is that we shall, before all things, while this War is in process, somewhere or other, have a body in existence—called into existence, let us hope, by the Secretary of State for the Colonies himself—which, without any reporters present, may quietly consider all the pros and cons, and see whether it is not possible to do something, to think out something, which shall be ready when the happy time comes in order that we may seize those three or six months, whatever it may be, of armistice and conference and achieve all that is possible—I know the difficulties—in the way of the organic union of this Empire, for the immediate purpose of making peace and of enabling those who we trust will be co-victors with ourselves to take their share in the settlement of the world terms which will then be before us.

Sir J. D. REES

Would it be in order on this Vote to refer to the affairs of Ceylon? Inasmuch as it does not appear in the Estimates, being a self-supporting Colony, apparently it would not. On the other hand, it would be a singular result if the affairs of the chief Crown Colony, in which during the year there have been serious riots, racial and religious, were excluded from consideration in this House


I think it would be in order, because the salary of the Minister is born on the Vote, and as long as he has any authority over the affairs of Ceylon it is competent to discuss them.


I should not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the two extremely interesting speeches to which I have just listened. I am in whole-hearted sympathy with the views which have been expressed by the two hon. Members who have last spoken. I agree especially with the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Mackinder) that we in this country are apt to treat important things in far too happy-go-lucky a manner. The time has come when we are faced with very vast problems, and we cannot too soon set to work in the study of them and in preparation for the future. The particular problem which those two hon. Gentlemen have placed before the House is one that must have puzzled many students of constitutional history. The British Empire is different in formation from any Empire that has previously existed. We are confronted, as the hon. Member for the Scotland Division said, with this vast responsibility, and we see before our eyes to-day, on the one side, the splendid help that has been given to us by our Dominions, and, on the other side, our neglect to ask them to participate in our councils. Our first idea seems to be that some sort of central Council for the Empire should be set up. Like those who preceded me, I do not want for a moment to lay down any sort of suggestion; I want rather to sound a note of warning against any possibility of the over-centralisation of the vast Dominions of the British Crown; and for this reason: We here in the British Isles are closely involved in all the complications of European diplomacy. I think we ought to hesitate before we bind great, free Dominions, such as the Dominion of Canada, by any chains of an unbreakable nature to these particular difficulties in which, by our geographical position, we are naturally involved. To put it in another way, I do not want to feel that we are going to drag the Dominions at the other ends of the earth into these difficulties which surround Europe, and which have proved in the past and are proving now to be a source of great danger to the whole world.

I am not sure that we shall be rendering our Dominions a great service if we bind them too closely to the centre. I look forward rather to a future for them where they will gradually find themselves in a position of sufficient responsibility and independence to keep the real links of affection and consanguinity with the Mother Country without any constitutional or artificial bonds which will bind them necessarily to the policy which the Mother Country has to adopt towards the countries of Europe. It seems to me that, in facing this problem, that point ought to be taken into account. But I think we may be grateful to the hon. Members who have preceded me for having brought this matter forward and urged that it is one of such importance that it ought to be faced and preparation made in regard to it immediately. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division gave as one of his illustrations the fact that the affairs of the Empire, so far as they concern foreign questions, were discussed only a few hours during the course of last year, just before the outbreak of the greatest catastrophe that Europe has ever seen. That, indeed, was a great scandal. In that respect not only have the Dominions and Colonies no say in the question, but our own people in this country are kept from having any sort of control. This and other questions must be faced; now is the time to make every preparation. Those who are not engaged immediately in the military operations and who can find the opportunity to understand and study the vast problems which must come up, and which will not be efficiently dealt with unless preparation is made, should spend their time in thinking over these problems and should not be blamed and abused for so doing. The speech of the Colonial Secretary, I think, moved the whole House. It is a very fine record as an illustration of what the British Empire means. Let us bear in mind that we do not want to consolidate the British Empire on too cut and dried, hard and fast lines. The links that bind us now are proving very strong indeed, but I agree that the Mother Country should show more consideration towards the Dominions than she has done hitherto.


I listened with the greatest pleasure to the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and to the interesting details that he gave us as to the origin of the different German colonies. It must be a matter for satisfaction to the House to know that in the conflict which has taken place we have been on the whole successful, and that success has been most marked in South Africa, where but a few years ago we were ourselves waging war against those who to-day have proved themselves to be our strongest supporters in that country. I took the opportunity the other day of reminding the Colonial Secretary of the statement of Bismarck—to which he has himself referred, and the truth of which he has acknowledged—that the retention of colonies in the last resort depends on the result of action in the main centre. I did not call attention to that observation of the great German statesman with a view to throwing any doubt on the value of our conquest or on the valour of our soldiers. I did it in order to concentrate attention on the fact that there was always the contingency that if we did not succeed in the main centre of action we might have to restore those colonies, and also to call attention to what, if they were restored, would be the position of our own Colonies in the neighbourhood. I trust that the result in the main centre of action, through the sacrifices that we are making and are prepared to make in conjunction with our Allies, will be such as to enable us to retain, not only our own Colonies, but also very considerable accessions to them.

The discussion to-day has developed on somewhat larger lines. I agree that the Colonial Secretary was perfectly justified in keeping within the natural ambit of such a discussion; but the Debate has become enlarged through the observations of the last three speakers. With regard to the remark of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division that only a few hours last Session were spent in the discussion of foreign policy, it may be that there is substantial ground for a different opinion, because it may be possible that the shorter the discussion in this House in regard to strictly foreign policy the better for the country. That does not prove discussion among the representatives of the people and their leaders in this House to be without value. But we must remember that in the most powerful continental nations foreign policy is rarely discussed in their legislative bodies; it is usually determined by the Cabinets of the countries, and secrecy is of such importance that discussion would only damage the result the nations have in view. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division also stated that he has found in the countries he has recently visited a lamentable lack of information with regard to the affairs of this country, and he mentioned Canada. I was somewhat surprised at that, from two points of view, because, firstly, I thought the people of Canada had a fairly general idea of what was going on in this country; and, in the second place, it was not quite understandable to me how they could be in ignorance, because the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Liverpool Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) is himself a prolific contributor to the Press of Canada. I myself have repeatedly read with much interest those long letters which he sends to the Press of that country. He has endeavoured, I must say, to contribute information in that process. I do not say that I have always agreed with his contributions. Sometimes I had reason to reject the conclusions at which he arrived. I trust that none of the misapprehension which may prevail in that country is in any way attributable to the contributions of the hon. Gentleman.

Looking at it, however, from a larger point of view, we quite understand that responsibility may rest for lack of information—if such be the fact—in our Colonies. Take the recent changes made in the postal regulations in regard to Canada. I do not say where the responsibility is. It may be here, or it may be with the Government of Canada. But I think it is deplorable that for the small sum involved there should be a change in the newspaper and magazine postage. Anybody who knows Canada well knows that the main reading matter, outside the local Press, circulated in that country comes from the United States of America. Very often, if not of a hostile character—and I do not want to say that, although that might sometimes be said—it is not of a character calculated to propagate the unity of idea referred to to-day in this House. If the postage rates could be restored to what they were, it would contribute very much to the circulation of literature in that country which is very much required: possibly the same observation is true in regard to the circulation of literature in other of our Dominions.

There is the matter of the telegraphs. If the ultimate project is the greater consolidation of the British Empire, certainly we must come more closely together through communications under the sea and above the sea. If private companies can conduct their telegraphic offices at a profit—as they do—why should the State hesitate directly to establish a line, perhaps not at this time of war, but at an early period later, which would do not only the business of the State, but would also do commercial business? I have no doubt that, given foresight on this head, you might provide a means by which a telegraph line could be perfectly independent and yet at the disposal of the State, as those wireless systems spoken of by the Colonial Secretary were at the disposal of the Germans at the commencement of the War. Arrangements might be made by which that land or lines should pass entirely through British territory. That is not the case to-day with regard to our telegraphic communications across the Atlantic. There is, again, the matter of cheap communication, of early news, of reliable news, as one of the most vital means of cementing the whole British Empire far more, and better, than a great many theories which are propounded with regard to consolidation. If one ventures to look at what is to be the outcome, in so far as its effect upon the Mother Country and its great Dependences and Colonies is concerned, I must say that I am some- what staggered at the suggestion that we should come to a conclusion on important matters within six months after the close of the War. This is not a new subject. It has been a subject for a century. Those who read Curran's speeches will see that he refers to projects of a like character connected with the new use of the words "British Empire." When we commence to discuss these subjects, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are the result of the evolution of time and circumstances. As William Watson, the poet, says:— Time, and the ocean, and some fostering star. In high cabal—have made us what we are. And what we are is no slight thing! But when we come to think about betterment, we must analyse the situation. We must remember the position of each of our self-governing Dominions—South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, and the Commonwealth of Australia. They are running their own shows. They are paying their own way. They are imposing their own taxation. They are making laws that regulate life, liberty, and property perfectly independently, and they are combining for their own defence to the extent of their opportunities. The King reigns just as effectively, and to all intents and purposes, over the immediate concerns of the people at Melbourne, Ottawa, Cape Town, Pretoria, and in Wellington (New Zealand), as at Westminster. Consequently, what you have is this: Though these nations are young, they are practically nations in alliance with us to-day. They are proving that by the most practical and patriotic methods of what can occur between nations, whether in a struggle for existence or in a very struggle of arms, and nothing greater could contribute to the consolidation of our peoples in sentiment, and ultimately in prosperity, than the process we are going through to-day. Therefore we must not count too much on artificial means of developing this peculiar fabric known as the British Empire. Those perhaps who are wiser than we are, and more experienced, under new and more fitting conditions, may be able to shape a form of Government entirely suitable to an Empire which comprises one-fifth of the surface of the earth, and more than 500,000,000 of the population of the whole world. But to-day I must confess I was somewhat staggered when I was asked to ride very far afield from the safe frontiers in which we are now entrenched.

There are other things binding us together. There is the sentiment of kinship, of blood, of ancestry—a strengthening of bonds that conies from strength in danger, and from the obligation of maintaining principles that must endure. So long as these forces are in existence I have no fear of the different parts of the Empire pulling against each other. But it is said, and perhaps with considerable wisdom: "Why should you not call us to your counsels?" I heard with some astonishment to-day the observation of the hon. Member for the Liverpool Division that a leading man in Canada said, in regard to coming to the aid of the Mother Country and joining the War: "This is the last time." I must confess that that is new to me. I know the country. I speak after long residence there, very close connection with it, and after having been a member of two of its Legislatures. I must say that I have never in my experience heard any Canadian, man or woman, express any other idea than what has been expressed by Sir Robert Borden and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, when the Mother Country is at war the Empire is at War, and that, consequently, Canada is at war. There is not the slightest hesitancy in any respect to-day as regards Canada contributing to the uttermost farthing and to the last man to fight the battles in which the country is now engaged. It has been said, "Call us to your counsels." Sir Wilfrid Laurier said that some years ago, and the present Prime Minister of Canada has said the same thing—except that the present Prime Minister has gone a little further, and suggested that the country should be consulted as to the terms of peace at the close of the War. We must all agree that the different self-governing Dominions and Dependencies should be consulted before the close of the War—because the close of the War might be too late for consultation. Consultation ought to come in good time. I see no difficulty whatever in consulting the Prime Ministers of the different Dominions to-day, and taking their advice or suggestions in regard to any matter of Imperial policy.

The Mother Country is the centre of the Empire, of course, and the Mother Country is in the main responsible. It is natural that if the Mother Country leads the other parts will follow. Difficulties occur. Consequently, it is natural when they do occur that the Colonies should be consulted. I am quite sure from communications that we have had that in the future there will be no difficulty about the Colonies being consulted to any extent that they wish to be consulted. We all recognise that the Imperial Ministers here are primarily responsible to the United Kingdom, and that the Ministers of the self-governing Colonies are responsible to their Dominions. Perhaps it will be found to be very difficult to go much further beyond that, without consultation, if we desire to preserve the integrity of the Empire in anything like the strength that we have to-day. What seems to me most important in regard to the self-governing Dominions and the Mother Country is that they ought each to be able to see the others' point of view. In order to do that they must have information, and they must have the best information, and the best and most reasonable means of communicating that information. I have often found ignorance in my native country with regard to the Mother Country, and I will not say that I have not found nearly the same sort of thing in this country with regard to our Empire. On both sides there is fault and a very great deal to be corrected. I would offer one suggestion to the Colonial Secretary. I am sure he will take it in good part. It is that in this thing he should confer with the Minister for Education. From the point of view of education this country has a good deal to learn about the Colonies; and we cannot after all learn everything from the Colonial Secretary in a Debate even in the House of Commons. I believe that in our schools there are faults, both in the Colonies and in the Mother Country, and that there might be much more taught in the schools than is taught to-day in regard to British development. It is not very pleasant if you ask a young shorthand writer what is the capital of Canada to be told that it is the city of New York.

I will give another instance of not seeing things from the point of view of each other. If you travel in India—and my hon. Friend (Sir J. D. Rees) knows the country very well—and wish to have your name put down for membership of a club where you will meet a number of people who may give you information, it is only a matter of the proposal being made and being very rapidly put through. In addition, of course, you may have to pay a very small fee. Nobody objects to that. You get rapidly in touch with the conditions of the country. The same applies to a golf club in India. Now let me tell this: On the 12th of this month I applied to a leading golf club in this country for the privileges of the club for my friend Sir Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of Canada. I tell this story by way of illustrating the phase of my subject I am dealing with. Three days afterwards I received a letter stating that my application had been received and that it would be placed before the committee of the club on the 28th of this month. If Sir Robert Borden is at a loss for a game of golf—at which he excels—he might remain in this country beating his heels around the Savoy or the Westminster Palace for a fortnight, and then he would know whether he could enjoy the privileges of the club. That certainly shows a lack of appreciation of the views of our own countrymen abroad. Of course, anybody going to Canada, particularly anybody of any consequence, wishing to have his name put down for a golf club, would simply have to ask any member of the club to place his application before the committee, and it would be granted as a matter of course, and he would immediately come into enjoyment of its privileges. That is the case with Canada and with all our great Dominions, as well as the United States. Yet, here is an illustration of waiting which might have been regarded as penalising the Prime Minister of Canada if it had not been for the fact that he had abundant opportunities of going elsewhere, because at the same time that I made that application I made one to another club, and it was granted immediately That club showed appreciation, and I am glad to say it was a club of which the Colonial Secretary is the President.

There has been a great deal of complaint in Canada and, for all I know, there may have been complaints elsewhere in our Dominions, that the manufacturers of that country did not get a fair opportunity to contract for munitions of war required by this country, and I have seen it stated on high authority in Canada that this was a matter which rested entirely with the Mother Country. However that may be, of this I am certain, that throughout Canada there is very considerable dissatisfaction because more opportunity was not given, and at an early stage, to undertake some of those contracts that were so fundamentally essential to our success in the War. This is all I wish to say in conclusion: Whatever the result of the War may be, I believe that, whether it is successful or otherwise, and we all hope it will be successful, a means will be found of settling any of those domestic questions which distress us in the present or are before us in the future. I believe there is sufficient resource, imagination, and sound commonsense left in our race to devise means by which the integrity of our Empire may be preserved, and that the Mother Country acting in concert with our Great Dominions, whatever form of Government they may adopt, will continue the mainprop of freedom, the defender of the smaller nations, and the preserver of the public law of the world.


I will not deal with the larger and more general topics touched upon by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and the last speaker. I listened with the greatest interest to the tour round Africa which the Colonial Secretary made, and, if he will allow me, I will ask him to extend his tour a little further East, because I wish to draw attention to certain events which have recently happened in the Colony of Singapore. I regret that I should criticise his new Department, and certainly should not do so unless I felt it was my duty to speak about this matter. The mutiny of Singapore took place on 15th February, there has been a Court of Inquiry into it, and the guilty men have been shot months ago; yet, at the end of July in this House when we ask for some information on the point, we are put off with the answer that the Report of that inquiry has not yet reached the War Office. Some of us, I am afraid, are suspicious that the Colonial Office is trying to make this a purely military matter, so that they may wash their hands of it and avoid all responsibility in regard to it. Now, if it were a mere regimental matter, and if the men had shot their own officers, and finished at that, it might be a case of military discipline alone; but it was not. If it had been a case of Asiatic troops slaughtering Europeans indiscriminately, it might have been put down to religious fanaticism; but it was not.

There are certain points about this outbreak which, I think, give one reason to suspect that it was an act of war brought about largely by German intrigue and German money, and the point I wish to raise is whether our authorities in dealing with this question have shown that zeal and activity which the Crown Colonies claim from them. Now I think it may be definitely claimed that the Government of Singapore were fully forewarned upon this particular point, because recently an Indian merchant of considerable wealth, of the name of Mansoor, has been tried in a public, court, and has been shot as a traitor. This man's correspondence with his allies and friends in Rangoon was intercepted by the Censor in Rangoon, and I think I am right in saying that his machinations in regard to this particular regiment were known to the Government of Singapore before the mutiny took place. The Governor is a military officer, and yet, after being forewarned in that particular manner, these troops under suspicion were allowed to retain their rifles, and at half-past three on the afternoon of 15th February wagon loads of ammunition were dragged under their noses, from which they helped themselves as they wished, and proceeded to shoot down every Englishman they saw. My contention is that the fact that they were levelling their attacks specially against the English goes to show it was a German scheme. Five mutineers walking along a road said to a colonist, "Are you English?" and he said, "No, I am Irish." They said, "Oh!" and let him pass. The fact was these troops were not out to loot, because they left untenanted houses alone, and they shot Englishmen in houses where there were Dutchmen close by. Their attack, therefore, was certainly levelled against British power and British people.

The Government of Singapore, having been forewarned on that point, what attitude, I ask, did they take in regard to the German prisoners in that Colony? We have asked questions in this House on more than one occasion, and we have never been able to get a satisfactory answer to any of them. The Colonial Office has adopted an attitude of ignorance. On the 21st April I asked a question as to whether German prisoners in Singapore had been permitted to draw money on their bank accounts. That is a very important point in view of the fact that many of them were wealthy men, and that if they had large sums of money at their disposal they were able to bribe. A definite answer to that question was possible in a few hours, a telegram costing a few shillings being all that was necessary. The answer received from the Colonial Office was that they did not know what amount those Germans were allowed to draw. I claim that is not fair, and it must give rise to the feeling in people's minds that either the Colonial Office knew that these men were allowed to draw too much and they were ashamed to name the amount in this House, or else they cared so little about it that they never bothered to send a small telegram. It is well to bear in mind that a German prisoner in this country is not allowed to draw more than £2 a week. It was evident that the Singapore authorities themselves knew there was something very far wrong because they appointed a Commission of Inquiry. On the 28th April I asked the Colonial Secretary a question with regard to the Commission, and he said it consisted of Sir Evelyn Ellis, Mr. Vick, and Captain Chancellor, Inspector-General of Police. We now know from the Press that that Committee, the names of which were given to us on the 28th April, did not exist at all. On the 17th March the Committee apparently was reconstituted, consisting of General Hoghton, Colonel Ferguson, and Captain Chancellor. For what reason were these civilian members turned off and the police officer retained? If anyone should have been turned off I think it should have been the police official, and then possibly, if it had been necessary, his own action might have been brought under review. In any case, I do not think it is quite dignified for the Colonial Office to be unaware on 28th April of a radical change in the Committee of that importance which was made on 17th March.

When I asked the other day whether this inquiry had been completed, and whether the evidence would be laid on the Table as a Parliamentary Paper, the Under-Secretary for War replied that no report had yet been received by the War Office, and that, of course, until he saw it he could not make any statement regarding its publication. As the Governor is Commander-in-Chief in Singapore, did not the Committee report to him as soon as the inquiry was over, and surely the Report must be in the hands of the Colonial Office? Of course, if it is against public interest to publish it, that is another thing; but that the Colonial Office should be in a state of ignorance six or eight months after the event I cannot conceive. I think the way the German prisoners were treated in Singapore might be summed up in the words that they were treated "not wisely, but too well." One individual prisoner was especially noticeable. He was one of those who got away. It is worthy of notice, as emphasising the fact that this was an act of war engineered by Germans, that the mutineers went to the internment camp and, after shooting down the unsuspecting guard, they broke open the gates and flung in rifles to the Germans, calling out, "German! German! Islam! Islam! "One man, pointing to a picture of the Kaiser, said, "That man my king!" The principal German in that place was Diehn, a rich, able man, who adopted the German method of utilising the confidence of Englishmen to destroy them if possible. I am told that, having escaped by means of a motor car and steamboat, by the aid of money, he had the impudence to wire to the Governor, from the Dutch port he reached, "Arrived safely," and with him escaped the officers of the "Emden."

I would like to protest against the secretive and evasive attitude taken up in regard to this inquiry. In replying to the hon. Member for the St. Augustine Division (Mr. Ronald McNeill) the other day, my right hon. Friend opposite said he could not say anything until the Report of this inquiry had been received and considered, but will he assure us that we are ever going to get a Report of that inquiry? It is not a good thing for the people in our Crown Colonies to feel that the Colonial Office is under the thumb of the India Office, or the War Office, or anyone else. They have always looked to the Colonial Office for protection, which I hope under my right hon. Friend's management will be continued with increased vigour. The only activity the Singapore Government has shown is in collecting funeral expenses from the relations of the men who have been killed. These men were shot down by the paid servants of the British Government, and they have been led to think that they might get some compensation. But, instead of that, the Colonial Government has taken a very thrifty attitude. Thrift is an excellent thing in its way, but you can have thrift misplaced, and this is one of the cases where it is out of place. I have cut this extract out of one of the Singapore papers:— In the case of a young widow who was in a motor car when her husband, a friend, and a Malay chauffeur were shot to death by mutineers on the afternoon of 15th February … a bill has been presented, at the direction of the Government, to the father of the young widow for $125 for the funeral expenses of the murdered son-in-law. The policy of the Government in this is a ghoulish atrocity. We have not heard that any of the poor widows in Belgium, whose husbands were shot by troops who were the paid servants of the German Government, have been required to pay in addition for coffins for their murdered husbands. We have to leave Belgium for Singapore to discover that sort of refinement in the art of officially 'rubbing it in' to the bereaved. I hope that in this matter the Colonial Secretary will exercise his authority and see that the dead are left in peace and that the Singapore Government do not pursue their relatives in this undignified manner. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the courage which our people have shown in every quarter. In this matter may I point out that we received assistance from Russian, French, and Japanese ships, but in the main I think the position was saved by the British Colonists showing that they were good men in a tight place. It is also to be remarked, and I hope it will be fully acknowledged, that the other nationalities fell in and gave us most material assistance. The Japanese appeared in a body under their own Consul, and offered their services; and the French, Scandinavians, Italians, and Swiss also gave their assistance with great willingness, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that they receive our thanks. I might suggest that having now got rid of the Germans from our Colonies we should not be in too great a hurry to get them back again. They will always intrigue against us, and now that the cancer of their presence is cut out I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do all he can to prevent its malignant tentacles from spreading anew in our Colonies. They have abused our national hospitality by their cold-blooded schemes of murder, and violated all feelings of fair play, and this deprives them of all consideration. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matters I have brought to his attention, and see that he is not side-tracked by endeavours to make this a military issue. I trust there will be nothing approaching a whitewashing inquiry. If he does this, I am certain that everybody in the Crown Colonies will take his word at its full value, and we shall never again have to repeat references to circumstances of this kind.


In times of great national excitement, and especially in time of great mondial excitement, there are aspects that bring home to us the metaphors derived from great convulsions of Nature, and when we look closely at the phenomena, bending our gaze to its inmost causes, we seem as though To watch the abysm birth of elements. That may seem a strange exordium with which to take part in a Debate on the question of the ministration of our Colonies. But before I sit down I hope to show what is the real pith of certain important questions which have been raised. I intend to speak with the utmost boldness, so that I may feel sure myself that I may cry, Lo, I have touched it with a little rod. With regard to what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), with all due respect to his opinions and his sincerity I wish to say at the outset that I entirely disagree with his arguments, and more especially with his conclusions. I disagree with them from every motive which animates my hopes for the future greatness of Australia, and also the Irish cause itself. The hon. Member has advocated a greater representation of the Dominions in the counsels of this country, and he has made his appeal ostensibly on behalf of the Dominions themselves. I do not think anything could be more fatal to their best interests than that there should be a realisation of such aspirations.

It must be remembered that Ireland has never lacked representation in the counsels of this country. Judged by the standard of population, Ireland has been over represented, and the result has been that for a hundred years the great bulk of the Irish people have been struggling amid pain and misery, and through what their enemies called their "crimes," for a release from that system. Representation means something more than formal representation. The difficulty has been that in great crucial questions the interests of Ireland, or at any rate the sentiment of the overwhelming mass of the Irish people, has been sharply opposed to that of the people of this country. Consequently, although there has been adequate representation according to population, the mass of representation of this country has entirely submerged Irish opinion, so that the result is worse than if there had been no representation at all. If there had been no representation at all, the Irish people would have stood before the bar of the world upon the justice of their claim, unjustly denied; but they are now cut away from that, except in regard to the minds of those who examine into the intricacies of the whole question. So with the Dominions, they will see the folly of entering into a hard and fast formal system with this country which would embroil them in all the disputes of this country, so that they would have to shoulder the responsibility for every act of this Government, which, nevertheless, would deprive them of any real representation of their own situation as Dominions.

But there is involved a greater question. What my hon. Friend advocated is really that British Imperialism, having first of all subdued, should take the place of, German Imperialism; and, having put forward this colossal output of energy in a war the like of which has never been known before, we should arrive at this lamentable conclusion: That we have struck hard at German Imperialism, appealing to every argument and every sentiment that finds an echo in the human soul, that we have struck down Kaiserism and German militarism, and have set up in its place British Imperialism and British militarism, and that we shall find our chief glory in the expansion of Empire and the dominations of other people.

But there is something that in times of deep stress rises from the very depths and hearts of peoples and from the secrets of the system of things, and that comes to the surface. That was clearly shown at the time of the French Revolution. I say in regard to this present War, that if we seek the root causes we must go not merely to the French Revolution, but far back into history, into the very centre of the Middle Ages; and then we find that, after all, the very meaning of this War, as far as it has a spiritual meaning, is that it is a great battle between medievalism and those glorious principles of liberty which found their eclosion in the aspirations of France and the ideas of the Republic. This War is the last inspiring flicker of the dark ages of Europe.

6.0 P.M.

After agitating the whole civilised world and stirring it to its depths in such a way that problems that were thought to be merely theoretical, far fetched, and remote have suddenly come to be the very centre of our ideals; if, after having stirred up the sentiments of human beings affecting the most pregnant thoughts and deepest hopes, the most sacred of motives and ideals; if, in the solution of these questions, we are content to go back to a system which has descended from the Middle Ages, which is the hereditas dam nosa of the Middle Ages to us; then, I say, that future generations will condemn this War not only as having been murderous, but as having been futile.

The Australian, and the Canadian, and the South African people will have to face these problems. Then, how are you going to bind people, for whom it cannot be claimed, as it has been claimed for Australians and Canadians, that they are people of the same race, born with the same aspirations and ideals, who have grown up with the same traditions, how are you going to bind them to the British Empire by appeals of this kind if, at the same time, you ask them to renounce something of that very liberty which they have acquired, renouncing this in order to bind themselves in the fetters of a hard and fast and formal system?

I wish here to interpose a very brief personal reference, not that I desire to thrust myself into the picture at all, but simply to explain my attitude. I do not speak with any hostility whatever to the idea of a close union—the closest possible union if you will—between the Dominions and the Mother Country. At the beginning of this War—on the very day of the outbreak of this War, in fact—I had the desire not merely to advocate the cause of the Allies, but to go to the front and take my part in the fighting line, and I made a proposition to the War Office which, had it been accepted, would have led to my fighting at the front, where I might have been now. That proposition was not accepted. I am not criticising the War Office now: I merely introduce this to show that I do not speak with any hostility to the idea of the closest possible union between the Dominions and the Mother Country. But I say you shall not shackle the hands of the Dominions, and you shall not interpose any barrier between them and what they consider their forward march towards the most free and unfettered liberty.

If having invited them to become a closer part of the governing system of this Empire, so that they should shoulder the responsibilities of every future war, some of which may be entirely unjustifiable as they have been in the past, you also deny them the right to question the origin, the character, and the efficiency of that system, do you think that they with their new ideas, their ideals, their aspirations, that they, bringing the light of reason upon the system of the British Constitution and judging it solely by the standards of liberty, democracy, and of efficiency, would find it acceptable—a system which has come, as I say, as a relic of the Middle Ages, and every part of which shows the opportunist patches of makeshift and of arrangement between conflicting interests; a system not in the least responding to the aspirations of the great free people of to-day? The British Constitution is not a democratic Constitution.


On a point of Order. Is it in order on the Colonial Office Vote to discuss the British Constitution, the Middle Ages, and the War?


Only so far as the Colonies and the Dominions are concerned.


These questions have been already raised and have been debated in full. The scope of the question has been already enlarged so as to embrace these questions, and therefore I am perfectly in my right to show how far they Dear on the future of the great Dominions. There is in this House a great misunderstanding of the true sentiment of the Dominions, and I do not think that sentiment can be gleaned from conversations with stray visitors to Westminster. We have already had an illustration of that in this very House and in this very Debate. An hon. Member, born in Canada, and who made one of the most judicious and carefully reasoned speeches we have heard for a long time, came in direct conflict with my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). My hon. Friend, having stated the effect of a certain conversation, found himself in total opposition to the opinion of the hon. Member below, derived not from mere conversation but from that peculiar point of view which is gained from having been born in that Dominion and grown up with its sentiment, and which nothing else can supply. One proof of how far the sentiment of the Dominions is opposed to this scheme of Imperialism may be found in the fact that whereas an Englishman who has distinguished himself in peace and war looks forward to be honoured, and it is a perfectly legitimate ambition from his point of view, there has been recently, and the tendency is growing more and more, such a sentiment in the Dominions that very few of the most highly distinguished men in the Dominions have accepted any title at all. These titles have become something quite different from honorific, if one may say so, because whereas great and representa- tive men refuse them, they arc often bestowed upon men whose reputations are merely local and whose great services have yet to be discovered.

I would therefore say that you cannot ascertain the atmosphere which prevails in any of these Dominions simply from the point of view of Westminster. Any man who has travelled abroad, as for instance in America, in Australia, or in Canada, will know that his prepossessions in regard to the prevailing sentiment there are entirely upset, and he has his point of view entirely changed, and new and hitherto unknown ideas enter into his mind the moment he becomes familiar with the life of these countries. Many of those who are Imperialists, and especially high Tory Imperialists, a short time ago would not merely have dissented from the views I now express, but they would have given vocal demonstrations of that dissent; and, if I were an enemy of this general union, I should say that I could pursue no policy more effective or even more Machiavellian than to encourage that kind of sentiment, because I know, whereas South Africa has teen held up as an example to the whole world, that if South Africa had remained under the régime of Imperialism, the very men who have now fought against the Germans would have been those who would have used this occasion to throw off the binding ties altogether, in order to assert the complete independence of South Africa. I know that under the régime of Imperialism the men whom the Empire now delights to honour were the very men who were smarting and protesting against the galling chain, the continual interference by this country with affairs with which they felt themselves not merely competent but entitled to deal.

Therefore I would utter this word of grave warning. If the Government desires to hold together all these great Con-dominions they will entirely renounce that scheme, however plausible it may seem, for binding the Mother Country and the Dominions in a closer formal union; and that at no stage of the development of those Dominions will they interpose any obstacle or check which emanates from that desire. I speak, myself, as a native of Australia, and moved by those sentiments which make the name of Australia thrill through my mind with a meaning which it can bear to no man not a native of Australia; I say I can interpret even the magnificent demonstration of Australia in this War. It was, no doubt, actuated by a desire to come to the help of England and the Allies fighting in a just cause, but it was also actuated by a desire to illustrate Australia, to magnify Australia, and to glorify the Australian sentiment before the world.

If, by any movement of the Government in power, by the influencing of public men of the Dominions who come to this country and who are susceptible to influences that are unknown to the vast majority of Australians, it ever came to a definite issue, and Australia were at the cross roads and had to choose between two paths, one of formal Imperialism with all its concomitants of Imperialism and Kaiserdom, and the other the path of Republicanism, I would strike resolutely forward in the path of Republicanism, and I believe I would light a fire that no after generation of men would extinguish.


I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his very lucid and short statement, which I think was one of the first which has been given to the House of the part which the Colonies as a whole have taken in this War. His reference to the action in South Africa was one which everybody followed with very great interest. A great many people have referred to the question as to how we should dispose of the German colonies. It is a great deal too early to say how we should dispose of them; our business is to bend all our energies to bringing the War to a successful conclusion. That is more important than the question of the disposal of the German colonies. There is one thing which will stand out more clearly than anything else at the conclusion of this War. It will not be what the people of this country will say, but it will be what our Colonies themselves will say as to how these colonies should be disposed of. There was in Australia strong opposition to allowing Germany to come into Samoa. That was an act of Mr. Gladstone. I regretted it at the time, because I felt that it was injudicious to introduce another European race close to our own Australian Colony. It was strongly resented. I very much regret it took place, and I am quite satisfied whatever may be the views entertained in this country as to the disposal of New Guinea, the Australian Commonwealth itself will simply not tolerate again that Germany should occupy any part whatever of that Colony.

I think also we should not forget at a time like this, when we owe so much to what has been done by our troops in South Africa, the meed of praise which is due to the man, who, of all others, was responsible for creating the goodwill of South Africa—the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. We have erected a monument to his memory in Westminster Abbey, but I venture to suggest that his greatest monument will be in what South Africa is to-day. I think we should bear that in mind. It is quite true that the granting of self-government to South Africa was a question on which very acute differences of opinion prevailed in this House and in the country, and those who know what took place, and who know more particularly as to the activity of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in securing the goodwill of South Africa and the part he took in that great controversy, will feel that South Africa will always stand as his greatest monument.

My main object in rising was to say a word or two on the subject discussed by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). The hon. Member referred to the fact that when he was in Canada he found that the people there were entirely, or at any rate, very largely, dependent on getting their information from the Press of New York. I do not want to say a single word suggesting that news gathered from the Press of New York is at all biassed, or that anything is done to cast any reflection on this country. I am not going to suggest that, but in a conversation I had with members of a firm, which is one of the largest proprietors of newspapers in Canada, I was told that it was deplorable that they could get so little direct information from this country for the Press, and that they were nearly wholly dependent on the information which came from American sources. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool spoke as a Press man, and possibly was biassed in favour of something being done; but, speaking from the commercial side, I am sure when the War is over, if not before, something should be done to bring Canada into more direct communication with this country from a telegraphic point of view, and if the Colonial Secretary at that time still occupies his high office, and will do something to help the Canadians to realise what they have been so long craving for, namely, more direct information, he will have made his occupancy of that office an event for which we shall be very grateful. Canada, of course, must bear her fair share of the cost. She is defended entirely by our own Fleet, but still I think in this particular the best service the right hon. Gentleman can render both to Canada and to this country would be to do something to establish much more direct communication than we have at the present time.

Colonel YATE

I am proud indeed to have an opportunity to say a few words of congratulation to the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary on the splendid narrative he gave us of the military operations in the Pacific and throughout Africa—a narrative which held the House enthralled from start to finish. The whole House joined with him in his expression of pride at the manner in which all the Colonies throughout the Empire had come to the help of the Mother Country, and I think when we see we have a Maori contingent coming from New Zealand, a Jamaican contingent from the West Indies, and all the Colonies everywhere between joining hands, we can be proud we are co-sharers in such an Empire. I Lave no knowledge of the Pacific or of West Africa, but, as an Indian officer, I take considerable interest in East Africa, and I should like to seize this opportunity to say how sincerely I trust that the result of this War will be that German East Africa will become a British and not a German colony.

We are, I am glad to say, realising at last that Egypt is a British Protectorate. Cairo is the apex of our Eastern Empire, and I honestly look forward to the time when we shall see, taking Cairo as a starting point, that we shall be able to have a clear run due south from Cairo to the Cape, and due east another clear run to Baghdad, Teheran, Kabul, and Lhassa. I do not hesitate to express my hope that the obstacles presented by German East Africa to the Cape to Cairo Railway will be completely taken away. I join entirely with the praise the right hon. Gentleman has given to the grand conduct of our Colonists in East Africa, and the way in which British East Africa withstood the attacks from German East Africa. Although it has been said that the fate of the Colony will be decided at the end of the War, still possession is nine points of the law, and I hope to see that German East Africa will be recognised as a British possession before the end of the War. If I may make one little suggestion, it is this: that in the autumn, when the time comes when the Indian contingent in France can be relieved, I hope to see the Indian Infantry transferred from France to German East Africa, and then these gallant men will have a chance of knowing that they are conquering a Colony that may be colonised by Indians, and getting some reward themselves for the great services which the Indian troops have renedered to the Empire throughout the whole world.

With reference to Persia, Afghanistan, and Thibet, as these places come under the administration of the Foreign Office, I cannot touch upon them, but I do hope to see Mesopotamia also becoming a British Colony. It is a country which cannot be colonised by Europeans. India is the only country in the world that could really carry out the grand schemes of irrigation which have been planned by that great engineer, Sir William Willcocks, and I hope the day may soon come when we shall see this prosperous Colony become again the granary of the world and the Garden of Eden, as it was once before.

There are two other points I should like to touch upon. The first is Somaliland. I have known Somaliland from the time when it was administered by the resident at Aden. It was then a most prosperous country. It was open to travellers, it fed the whole garrison at Aden, and supplied it with all kinds of stores, including meat and fodder. It was then taken from the Government of India and handed over to the Foreign Office. That Office was utterly unable to administer it, and speedily handed it over to the Colonial Office. After that everything went from bad to worse. The wretched Colony became the subject of every sort of vacillation and change of policy, which eventually ended in our disastrous retreat to the coast. We gave up the protection which we had promised to the tribes of Somaliland, and thus created a ghastly record of failure to fulfil our undertaking. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the former Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Harcourt) is in his place. He acknowledged his mistake and agreed to raise a fresh Camel Corps. I trust, as a result, the deaths of the gallant Corfield and his officers and men will be avenged, and I trust, too, that the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, when he speaks, will be able to tell us how the Colony is going on at the present moment. Finally, I should like to say a word with reference to Ceylon. I believe my hon. Friend the Member for East Nottingham intends to deal with that question—

Sir J. D. REES


Colonel YATE

We all know of the disturbances that have occurred there, I would like to point out that if there is one thing more certain than another throughout our Colonial Empire in the East, it is the necessity of having tried officials to rule the country—men who have a thorough and intimate acquaintance with the natives of the country and understand them most thoroughly. What did we see in Ceylon? Again, I am glad to notice that the former Secretary of State is in his place. During his time, as he will remember—two or three years ago—there was an old and tried Colonial Secretary in Ceylon. He was a man with thirty-five years' service; he thoroughly knew the country. He was recommended by the Governor for succession to the post of Permanent Colonial Secretary. What did we see? That old officer of thirty-five years' service, who had been strongly recommended by his Governor for that particular post, was not given it, but a young clerk from the Colonial Office, with only ten years' service, was sent out by the right hon. Gentleman to fill it. He had no know-ledge of the natives, and the result has been a ghastly and terrible mutiny. I venture to assert that we must have tried and strong men in charge of these countries, and I trust that the present Secretary of State for the Colonies will give an assurance that, throughout the Colonial Service, old and tried men will not be set aside. The official to whom I have referred returned home with a broken heart. Many others have felt in the same way. They have been superseded and have come home broken-hearted. I trust that under the present Administration we shall never see old and tried men sent home and replaced by young men who know nothing about the country. We have seen the result of that policy in the disturbances that occurred in Ceylon.

Sir J. D. REES

I do not know whether the hon. Member for West Clare (Mr. Lynch) included our honoured guests, Sir Robert Borden and General Botha, statesman, general, and Privy Councillor, among the second-class Colonial politicians who never by any chance accept honorary distinctions at the hands of the British Government. But when the Colonial Secretary referred to General Botha and his actions in South-West Africa, I could not help recalling— the happy omen, That the staunchest friends are bred out of the stoutest foemen. The same reflection occurs on his eloquent references, so grateful to old Indians like my hon. and gallant Friend and myself, to the conduct of the Indian troops in South Africa and elsewhere. But I did not rise to continue the Debate upon the high altitude which it has reached, and in a few minutes I shall get to my own particular corner. I will only say, as regards Ceylon, I will not accept the invitation of my hon. and gallant Friend—I am not sure it is endorsed by the House—to deal with affairs in Ceylon. I would only ask the Colonial Secretary, who was so good as to give me a very full answer the other day, whether he has any further information regarding my suggestion that the recent racial and religious riots in Ceylon, which have been of a rather serious character, had their origin in German intrigue? In a somewhat similar case in India, when a like suggestion was made by myself, it was at first scouted by the India Office, but it was subsequently acknowledged that the suggestion was correct. I would only like to know if the right hon. Gentleman has anything more to say upon that subject, and with that I leave it.

As regards Singapore, I think it is pretty well admitted that German intrigue was at the bottom of the riots and of the very serious mutiny which occurred at that place, and I can only say that, in one respect, good has come out of evil, if. as I believe is the case, a Bill has been introduced making service compulsory, or rather I would say, universal, amongst all Europeans in the Colony. If that is the case, they are setting a great and glorious example, which I hope will spread upwards until it reaches the centre of the Empire. I have but one remark to make with regard to what fell from the hon. Member for Chertsey (Mr. Macmaster). Although he is a great authority on Colonial affairs, he should remember the spirited departure by Sir Wilfrid Laurier from the policy attributed to him, when he said England at war did not necessarily mean Canada at war. I am glad indeed that Sir Wilfrid has recanted the speech he made on that occasion.

I come now to my immediate subject, with which I wish to deal quite briefly. In German East Africa, in April, it was found necessary to adopt a defensive attitude all along the northern frontier. I believe that to be the case up to this date. It is better to know the facts, and I am sure the Colonial Secretary thinks so. I should like to know quite clearly whether this is, as I believe, the case up to the present time; also whether Jassin, at the extreme south of German East Africa, just where it borders our territory, and only 20 miles inland from the coast, is still, as I believe it is, in the possession of the Germans after their successful engagement with our troops. I should like to be clear on the point, because this is, in fact, the most serious engagement which has taken place between the British troops and the Germans in East Africa. I believe the Island of Mafia is still in our possession, and I hope it may so remain. I hope the blockade along the East African coast is as effective now as it was expected and intended to be when it was undertaken by us. Would the Under-Secretary kindly consider these points? The Colonial Secretary, in his very interesting resume of military operations, did not refer to a spirited little engagement understood to have taken place at Muenegambe, on the Nyasaland border, in which a small force of North Rhodesian Rifles and Rhodesian Police routed the German force, and when that gallant officer Lieutenant Irvine lost his life. I have not seen this reported anywhere in the London Press. I saw it in a provincial newspaper, and as that was the "Nottingham Guardian," I have no doubt it was correct, but I should like to know.

As regards the operations in Nyasa-land I am sure the Under-Secretary will take the opportunity which the Colonial Secretary happens not to have taken—I do not at all upbraid him for it—of acknowledging the gallant conduct of, and the great assistance rendered by, the planters and public servants in Nyasaland in the operations which have taken place there. As regards the railway extensions in this Protectorate I should like to know if there is anything to be said? If so, it would be gratifying to those who are interested in this somewhat remote part of the British Empire. I understand that arrangements have been made to make a survey from Blantyre up to the South of Lake Nyassa. If that is the case, I hope nothing has occurred to alter the intentions of the Colonial Office in that respect. That money can be provided at this time is too much to hope, but this is a convenient opportunity of taking all steps short of finding the money. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary can say anything about the extension of the railway which runs, under two companies from Blantyre to the Zambesi, down to Beira. I should not be surprised if he tells me he cannot. I dare say it will be news to many Members of the House that railway trains are actually running now from the Zambesi river right into the heart of Nyasaland—Blantyre—and that the Colonial Office proposes at the earliest moment to carry that connection on to Lake Nyassa.

I do not quite understand the accounts that are presented. It appears that £65,800 was granted by the Colonial Office to Nyasaland as a Grant-in-Aid in 1914–15. I have not yet received any reports from Nyasaland later than 1913–14, when no Grant was made. It would be rather astonishing if a money Grant was made, because the Colony is now self-supporting, and was in 1913–14, and it would surprise me if in the following year, 1914–15, a Grant was made which was double the Treasury Grant ever previously made. There is, no doubt, some explanation of this, so instead of troubling the House I will await it when the Under-Secretary replies. I should also like to know from him whether the rise in the hut tax of £4,000 odd in 1913–14 is due, as I believe, to an increase in the number of huts, which is satisfactory, and not to a large increase in the taxes, which would be unsatisfactory. I should also like to know whether it is the case, as I believe, that the trade of this Protectorate has so far increased and become so satisfactory that we may fairly expect that it will require no further Grants-in-Aid from Imperial revenues. If that is so, and it may prove to be the case, because in 1913–14, according to the last year of the Colonial Office reports, the exports exceeded the imports,, it is an extremely satisfactory feature of this Protectorate, which for a long time had been regarded as a drag upon the-Exchequer.

I have only one more point. There was recently a small rising in Nyasaland, which cost the lives of a few Europeans, but which was promptly and ably suppressed by the Governor, Sir George Smith. So far from having any criticism to make, I would add my humble praise of the Governor's excellent conduct in that affair. There is much reason for believing that the real trouble arose from the missionary schools. The native missionaries there have charge of single schools without supervision. There are Seventh Day Adventists, or something with corresponding names, who are extremely mischievous people, who are backed up to some extent by negroes in America, and seem to be provided with funds. Under the manner in which education is conducted there—I do not know that it is very different from what it is elsewhere—they seem to have every opportunity for the spread of their sinister propaganda among the youths of the country. I believe very stringent measures are required to meet this difficulty.

I would ask the Colonial Office to continue to do what it has well done; that is, to see that German firms whose real centre is Hamburg, but who have correspondents in Nyasaland, are not enabled to compete with our own flesh and blood who are trying to make a living in that country. The right hon. Gentleman, who was formerly in charge of the Colonial Office, and whom I wish to take this opportunity of thanking for his invariable courtesy and attention to all business matters which I brought before him, took satisfactory action in this matter, and when I have occasion to come to the right hon. Gentleman now in charge of the Colonial Office, I believe he will be equally kind when I ask him to see that all laws in regard to trading with enemies are enforced in Nyasaland as well as, or I would rather say better than, they are enforced in the United Kingdom. I do not feel justified in travelling over the ground covered in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend Colonel Yate, but I most heartily agree with all he said. I have travelled almost all the countries with which he dealt, and it is only my regard for the feelings of hon. Members of the House, and of the Front Bench opposite who want to reply, that prevents me from following him in detail.


I shall not intervene, but for a few moments between the House and the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, whom I am sure we are all waiting to hear, but I must call attention to the fact, which was borne in upon me as I listened to the very interesting and illuminating speech of the Colonial Secretary, that in 1885, at the Conference at Berlin, a General Act was passed dealing with Africa, Part 3 of which provided for the neutralities of territories over a large area of Central Africa. I believe it is understood that that General Act, which was signed by this country, Austria-Hungary, France, Russia, and Belgium, was ignored, or possibly forgotten, at the outbreak of hostilities. At any rate, it is interesting to remember that when it was signed in 1885, Prince Bismarck, who was, of course, Germany personified at that time, declared that at any rate we ought to preserve Africa from the horrors and miseries of war. I am afraid that those who succeeded Prince Bismarck's rule in Germany did not follow either his spirit or his policy in that connection. I venture at this time to express the hope that when the day comes later on when great Colonial issues will be settled, that the aspirations, in fact, the pledged word and faith of the Allies with that of all the States of Europe, will be remembered and that some attempt will be made to make Africa a neutral zone and to preserve it from the military preparations and military rule which Germany, especially, has established there. It is in that hope and believing that though the faith of our country and other countries pledged in 1885 has come to nought to-day, yet the day may come—I hope it may come soon—when these aspirations and arrangements may be brought up again and established on a firm and more lasting foundation.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Steel-Maitland)

I rise to answer as briefly and adequately as I can some of the points raised by various Members. To start with, I would refer to the question raised by the hon. Member who has just sat down. The real fact is that in a War like the present it has been quite impossible to limit the sphere of its operation, but, at the same time, everyone would agree with the very great desirability, if it were only possible, of trying to preserve a great territory, especially under the conditions like those obtaining in Central Africa, from being a seat of war. There is one fact, which is a palliation of what has occurred, on which the hon. Member may rely. That is, among all the difficulties under which warfare has been carried on in Central Africa we have every reason, from the dispatches we receive, to believe that it is being carried on on our side at present with more restraint than the War has been carried on in the sphere of European operations. As an earnest of our good will, too, the hon. Member would do well to bear in mind that some places in Africa, Northern Nigeria for example, were a mere cock-pit of battles and wars for centuries among the native races, and at any rate it is some set-off against what has occurred that the pax Britannica established there has conferred benefits far greater than the evils which have been caused by the state of warfare existing in Europe. I know that Nyasaland is always close to the heart of the hon. Member (Sir J. D. Rees). As regards the general position in Nyasaland, he is perfectly right in thinking that economically affairs there, considering the strain that exists everywhere at this moment, are uncommonly satisfactory, and I should like to add one word in that connection as to the obligations which I think the country owes in regard to Nyasaland, to the work which has been carried on there by the British Cotton-growing Association. No doubt tobacco is the principal staple of trade, but cotton has been very greatly increasing there, and the increase, and the satisfactory character of the increase, is a great deal due to the fact that the association has not merely regarded itself as a commercial body, but has taken its responsibility with a very great deal of public spirit. The hon. Member asked a question with regard to the Grant of £65,000. I am afraid in that respect, while I may pay a tribute to his interest in Nyasaland, I am not quite so sure that I can compliment him on the interest he has in the railway with which he was there connected. Had he only studied the affairs of that railway more closely he would have known that the Grant was not given in respect of the Colony generally, but was directly made in connection with the railway of which he himself has borne a great share of administration. It is due as a payment in connection with that railway, and that is the whole explanation with regard to the figures appearing in the Vote. So that I could almost have looked for enlightenment from him rather than have to give it him in this connection.

Sir J. D. REES

The report for 1914–15 has not reached me.


It is the last instalment of the Grant paid in connection with the railway, and that is why it appears in one year and not in the other. As regards the extension of the railway, what the hon. Member thinks is perfectly right, that the survey is being proceeded with, but as regards the upper part of the railway it really is a difficult question of choice as between which routes the railway may possibly take. That is the difficulty in the question. With regard to the downward extension that he has asked about, it is, as he realises, not so much a matter for the Colonial Office, but I do not think there is the same probability now of its being extended downwards towards the coast, as appeared likely in former years. The hon. Member also asked a question with regard to German East Africa. He asked whether the town of Jassin was still in German hands, and it is still in German hands. But, on the other hand, the blockade of East Africa, about which he asked, is carried out with just as much efficiency as ever could have been hoped, and a visible proof of it is in the destruction of the "Königsberg," which took place not so long ago. I do not think the hon. Member himself could wish for more efficiency in the tarrying out of the blockade.

I now come to one or two other Dominions of the Crown which have been mentioned. With regard to Somaliland, the situation there is, to use a common phrase, quite well in hand, only with the tribes that you have to deal with there there may at some seasons be a recrudescence, and it is just the sort of recrudescence that anyone who administers Somaliland has to be on the look out for. The one thing that the hon. Member knows just as well as 1 is that the Commissioner, Mr. Archer, is as capable an administrator as probably could be found in any Dependency of the Crown, and if they were safe in anyone's hands affairs there at present are as safe in his hands as they could possibly be.

Colonel YATE

Have you any news of the Mullah?


There has been no bulletin of late, but we gather that he is as well as could be expected in the circumstances. With regard to Ceylon, as distinct from Singapore, the matter is one of much more recent occurrence, and it is quite possible that German intrigues were at the bottom of the rising in Ceylon. From the evidence that we have, there is no reason whatever to suppose that any change of officers was the cause of the rising. That rising, as far as can be seen, whatever may have been the effect of German intrigues, has been a matter of plotting which really has had nothing to do with any particular change of officers, and to which the change of officers gave no particular scope. It started on the anniversary of Buddha's Day, 28th May. There is no need to deny that it caused a certain amount of loss of life amongst the inhabitants, but since then it has been got completely in hand. The whole of the rising took place amongst the Cingalese, who are two-thirds of the population. The remaining third has not really been affected, and the whole situation is now perfectly under control.

I pass from that to Singapore, which is a more serious matter in some ways, and about which the hon. Member (Mr. Stewart) spoke with a good deal of feeling. I should like in that connection to express my entire concurrence with him in one matter, and that is the very great bravery, promptitude, and public spirit with which the citizens there came forward to meet an extraordinarily difficult situation. On that I should like to digress for a moment. The hon. Gentleman (Sir J. D. Rees) said a word about Lieutenant Irvine in Africa just as the hon. Member (Mr. Stewart) mentioned the bravery of some individuals at Singapore. I have had a considerable number of communications which made it quite clear that those who are fighting in all these Colonies and Protectorates and other Dependencies of the Crown have displayed just the same qualities as we are accustomed to expect from those who are fighting in the field in Flanders. But I find this difficulty, that public attention is focussed, quite naturally, very much more on Flanders, which is so near and where the fighting is on such a vast scale. Equally brave deeds are being done from week to week and from hour to hour in all these different Dependencies. I sometimes think, from what I hear, that those who are engaged in these various smaller operations, or perhaps rather their relatives on their behalf, almost feel that the same appreciation is not being given to what they have done, when they are doing their best, as is being shown to those who are engaged in the Dardanelles or nearer home. But of this I am quite sure: I have always said, in reply to any letters of that kind, that out of sight, in their case, is not in the least out of mind, and that applies both to the case of Lieutenant Irvine and many others who have behaved equally gallantly both in East Africa and in Nigeria, as it does to the civilians in Singapore. I do not think the hon. Member really need have apprehension as to our viewing the matter in a huckstering spirit from the point of view of compensation, or sending in accounts for burial expenses. It is not quite an easy matter to decide, but at the same time I can assure him that all these claims will be really considered as sympathetically as possible and with an understanding of the circumstances under which they arose.

I go on to some other features in connection with it. I can quite understand the feeling with which the hon. Member spoke, and I sympathise with it. With regard to the Court of Inquiry, I say perfectly frankly that we did not have the information soon enough as to the change. I hope the House will not mind me admitting it perfectly frankly. It was an absolute oversight. It was nothing more, but it was an oversight that we did not have the information quickly enough as to the reconstitution of the Court of Inquiry. The reason for the reconstitution is this, that General Hoghton on arrival was appointed to make it as strong a Commission of Inquiry as was possible. Given a strong Commission of Inquiry, and, given the fact of a very considerable number of influential members on the Council, I think there is no question whatever of the possibility of concealing any facts that ought to be brought out in the public interest; nor is it the wish of the Secretary of State that anything should be concealed in the matter and not properly dealt with.


Has the right hon. Gentleman the terms of reference to that Committee when first appointed?

7.0 P.M.


No, I have not got them. The hon. Member has spoken about German intrigue, and referred to the money which was allowed to the German prisoners. I have not myself any doubt whatever that the Governor was perfectly alive to the disadvantages of allowing money for use for improper purposes in this connection—I mean for purposes of bribery—and I have not the least doubt that there was proper supervision in that matter, but at the same time we are inquiring, and I shall be glad to let my hon. Friend have the answer when we get it. On the other hand, there is no suspicion of German complicity, for this reason, amongst others: It is quite true that the mutineers flung open the gates of the camp where the Germans were interned. I cannot imagine any body of mutineers doing anything else, whether there was German complicity or not, when they knew that there were German prisoners interned. But the fact of the matter was that although the Germans escaped they did not take part with the mutineers, as they might have done, and if they had they would have created an infinitely more serious state of affairs for the Colony than actually existed. I do not for a moment minimise the seriousness of the state of affairs there. But if, as the hon. Member thinks, it was a pre-concerted plan between the German prisoners and the mutineers, surely they would have taken sides, and, if they had, they could have produced a still more serious state of affairs. I sympathise quite sincerely with the feelings which anyone must have who has known what the crisis was like out there. I hope my hon. Friend will not think I do not do that. I think the real gravamen of what the hon. Member feels is that there was undue concealment about the whole matter. For that reason you suspect, or are likely to suspect, that possibly much more has taken place than has actually been the case. I can only give him the perfectly distinct statement that there was absolutely no wish whatever to conceal or to hush up anything of any kind from Members of this House or from our fellow citizens in this country of what took place in Singapore. He must in a case like this exercise some imagination for himself. The hon. Member must realise that there are sometimes other reasons for censorship which prevent us in this House having full knowledge of the state of affairs. I ask the hon. Member, and any other Member of the House, just to use their own imagination in these matters, and I think they will agree with me with what I have said.

There is only one more topic to which I will refer. It was raised by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), by the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Glasgow, and others, in regard to the much more general question of federation. One or two specific points were raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool as to the question of communications. The more communications you can have with any of our great self-governing Dominions, the better. The more we can get news carried there—if it be party news under normal circumstances, than with every view set forward from every side—the better. The more the whole situation is understood as to what occurs here the better. I can say this, that during the whole of the first months of this War a thing was done which had never been done before. Instead of the ordinary summaries which are telegraphed to the Dominions of the really momentous speeches made either in this House or in the country, speeches like those of the Prime Minister or of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, have been telegraphed to the Dominions fully. It was considered they were really of vital importance, and deserved to be transmitted in full. That had never been done before, but I think the advantage of it was very great. On the more general question it is quite clear, and I think everyone knows, what the policy of the Government has been. It was outlined perfectly clearly by the late Secretary of State for the Colonies. It is intended to take the responsible Ministers for the Colonies into our confidence in every matter of importance during the War, and also in matters that may arise at the end of the War, and in regard to the question of the settlement of the terms of peace. Our wish is not to keep them out of our confidence, but to take them into it, and to consider matters with them freely. That is the reason why Sir Robert Borden was present the other day at a meeting of the Cabinet, at which no previous Colonial Prime Minister had ever been present. That is not an isolated phenomenon in itself, but only a part of the general trend of events. In connection with the Naval Conference in 1909, the Ministers of the Dominions were invited to be present, when an outline of the whole of the foreign situation, so far as it affected the British Empire, was given to them by the Foreign Secretary. That is only part of the process of giving them more and more information, and taking them more and more into our confidence. Therefore, the undertaking which was recently given by the late Colonial Secretary is not an isolated incident, but only carries out the general trend of policy which is proceeding further in the same direction.

When I hear objections being offered to any further development of this kind, they seem to me to show either a lack of analyses or a lack of imagination. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby) was afraid that if this evolution proceeded further there might be an over-centralisation which would involve the Dominions in European politics. I am bound to say that I cannot imagine their being further in- volved in European politics than they are at the present moment. Quite apart from their voluntary action, the fact is that the more we link up the world by means of communications, whether of persons actually travelling from one part of the world to the other, or by the news of the world spreading from one part to the other, the less it is possible to live in isolation. The old ideas that you can keep the world in watertight compartments are becoming obsolete, and consequently the kind of objection raised by the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs does not hold water when it is carefully analysed. Similarly, I am inclined to think that the hon. Member for Clare (Mr. Lynch) has hardly shown sufficient imagination, especially in remarks coming from the author of "Evolution and Progress." This evolution does not in the least mean that British Imperialism need resemble German Imperialism. In British evolution you do preserve liberty, self-government, and local autonomy; you do preserve all the local characteristics. Any evolution, therefore, of that kind means that the whole common stock of British, civilisation, and indeed of civilisation generally, is enriched by the fact that you get out of local evolutions different forms and customs, all brought to bear, giving their light and influence, one modifying the other, and so enriching the stock and store of the knowledge and experience of civilisation.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution reported.

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