§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £35,850, 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, 1917, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant-in-Aid of certain Expenses connected with Emigration. [NOTE.— £23,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
I rise to draw attention to a question of extreme gravity in connection with our 530 Colonial Empire, to which this House as yet has given no attention. I refer to the very serious riots which took place in Ceylon at the end of May and in the early part of June last year, to the method of dealing with them by the Colonial Government and by the right hon. Gentleman, and to the resulting condition of the island since they occurred. The House would have heard a great deal more about the riots—they were the most serious that have occurred in Ceylon at any time, and some of the most serious that have occurred in our Colonial Empire—but for the condition of war in which we find ourselves. Even now, though I am bound to raise it, I feel that the question is one requiring a great deal of discretion in the handling, and I hope that nothing I may say may do any harm to any of the vast interests involved in our Eastern Empire. I think I shall satisfy hon. Members why I desire to raise it at the present time. I should like to say that in all the statements which I shall make I shall base myself on the Blue Book issued by the Government in reference to these disturbances in Ceylon. The Blue Book is not only remarkable for what it contains, but also for some of its omissions. It is not very easy in this country at the present time to find out exactly what has happened in Ceylon, or in any other distant part of the world, but it is quite evident that in the Blue Book we have not got the whole truth about the riots. There is quite enough, however, to justify us, and, indeed, to make it our imperative duty to realise what has happened there, and to express our opinion to the Government in regard to the disturbances. Now what happened is, as I gather from the Blue Book, that on the 29th May, on the occasion of a Buddhist procession—it was the anniversary of the birthday of Buddha, a day corresponding to our Christmas Day, a day on which it is the custom of the Buddhists to have a great procession, with singing and a march to their temples—the procession was interrupted on its march to the temple, and there was a collision with some Mahomedans who were standing by, and the riots began. There was fierce fighting, and there was killing and wounding as the result of the riots. We have not been unfamiliar with such rioting on holidays and feast days in other parts of our Empire; but in this case the 531 rioting was not purely local; it spread rapidly from one end of the island to the other in the western province, and the riot which began, as I say, with the interruption of this religious procession was one in which a number of people joined who could not be in any way described as religious or taking part in religious festivals, and there was a great deal of looting of shops in different parts of the island. For five days the riots went on, and on 2nd June the Governor proclaimed martial law throughout the western province, and the rioting was put down with a stern hand. Now I hope that in nothing I say can I be understood to offer any justification whatever for any of the rioting or of the attacks on the shops of the Moormen, the Mahomedan in different parts of Ceylon. I recognise that the riots were of a most grave character and especially considering the times in which they occurred when we are involved in a war. I quite recognise the seriousness of the problem with which the Government of Ceylon was concerned, and when they found that these riots went throughout the western province they proclaimed martial law, a state of affairs which lasted until 30th August. Many executions took place, and severe floggings without, as far as I can make out, a trial, and there were many arrests and imprisonments.
As showing the serious character of the riots, the Blue Book records that the total number of people killed during the riot was about a hundred. On page 47 of the Blue Book, according to the figures supplied by the Registrar-General, the total number of deaths attributable directly to the riots was 106, and according to the figures of the Special Commissioners 116. The Governor says that probably slightly over 100 were killed in the course of the riots, sixty-three being killed by the military and police, thirty-nine by the rioters, and four by persons unknown. The Governor adds that possibly we have not got the whole total of the killed, but his estimate is of about a hundred. It was obviously a very serious riot and a most anxious time on the island, and the Government repressed it with a very stern hand. Under martial law there were 412 trials by court-martial. This is recorded on page 39 of the Blue Book. Out of these 412, fifty-four were acquitted, and of the remainder eighty-three were sentenced to death by the Court. But the death sen- 532 tence was commuted to penal servitude or rigorous imprisonment in the case of forty-nine, and in the result thirty-four were executed. In addition 248 persons were sentenced to various terms of penal servitude, twenty-five to imprisonment with hard labour, and two without hard labour. There were also various fines. In addition, Special Commissioners were sent throughout the island to investigate matters, and before the various Courts in the island 8,736 persons were charged with offences, and of this number 4,497 were convicted and sentenced to various punishments. I think the Committee will agree that the riot, however serious, and I do not want to minimise its seriousness, was, at any rate, very sternly suppressed by the courts-martial and other Courts under the Proclamation of martial law. But they did not stop, and quite rightly they did not stop, at the punishment of the rioters.
The Government of Ceylon said that the damage done by the rioters should be made good to the victims of the riots, and I make no complaint of that. But I have some complaint to make, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman's particular attention to this point, of the method in which the compensation to be paid to the victims of the riot was assessed upon the villagers and upon the people throughout the island. Damage done was assessed by the Special Commissioners appointed by the Ceylon Government, and the method adopted was, not to do as you would do in this country if there had been a riot of assessing it upon the ratepayers. In Ceylon the conclusion was come to that the attacks had been made by the Sinhalese population upon the Moormen, and the assessments were placed on the Sinhalese population in the villages. At first no exceptions were made at all; there was no attempt to make the guilty pay the computation to the rioters. The Government of Ceylon simply said "that the Sinhalese had been guilty of riots against the Moormen, that they had attacked and looted their shops, and that the damage was estimated at 5,500,000 Rupees. It was estimated at much more at first, and the Governor admits that there was a great deal of exaggeration as to the damage done, and it was all assessed on the whole of the Sinhalese population. I venture to say from the Blue Book, and from other communications which I have, received, that the great mass of the Sinhalese population have no share whatever in the riots, and, in fact, disapproved of 533 them. I think I can prove that from the Blue Book itself. Some of the Sinhalese are Roman Catholics. On page 25 of the Blue Book there is a most interesting letter from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, in which he protests against this method of assessment of the damages. The Roman Catholic Archbishop says:Thank God, all my missionaries fulfil their duty of teaching their flocks to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's, to serve God and honour the King, to keep God's commandments, of which the fourth enjoins loyal obedience to those who are legitimately invested with temporal authority in the State for the material well-being of its citizens.The Roman Catholic Archbishop goes on to deprecate, as I deprecate, all these racial riots directed against men of another race, and he points out that the Roman Catholic Sinhalese took no part whatever in the riots, and should, therefore, not have punishment inflicted upon them as a result of the riots. Many of the Sinhalese are Protestant Christians. The Anglican Bishop of Colombo writes— this will be found on page 27 of the Blue Book—begging the Government not to insist upon punishing the whole Sinhalese population by inflicting all the assessment of damages upon them. But the Government were deaf to all appeals of this character, and in the end they assessed upon the Sinhalese population throughout the district affected the whole of the burden of making good the damage which had been done by the rioters. This was done in two ways. My right hon. Friend will find on page 16 of the Blue Book in the paper sent by Mr. J. G. Fraser, one of the Special Commissioners, an account of the method of assessment in the Western Province. He says the system was
I do not find in the Blue Book any justification for having imposed upon the Sinhalese inhabitants of these districts, upon them alone, the burden of paying compensation assessed to make good the damage done by the rioters. It was a very strange proceeding and it had very strange results, because when an assessment like that is put in the hands of a Special Commission and each village has to assess on individuals the amount of payment which each has to make, that 534 lends itself to all manner of duties. Of course, I recognise the great difficulty of the task that the Government had before them, but I am afraid that the Commissioners did not escape doing a considerable amount of injustice in certain cases. But there is worse than that. Mr. Fraser, in describing the scheme, says that it is not proposed to seek to apportion the amount of indemnity due amongst the various villagers, and that this can best be done by the villagers themselves. He goes on to say that if any of the rioters fails to pay his share the amnesty—intended only for persons who make reparation—will not extend to him, and the other villagers should hand him over to the Special Commissioners to be tried. There is thus a direct incentive to black- mail among these villagers. I must call the attention of my right hon. Friend— and this is one of the commissions from the Blue Book—to the form of receipt given by the Special Commissioners to the men who paid the fine which was levied upon them. In the humble memorial which was addressed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies from a public meeting of Sinhalese, held in Colombo, on 25th September, 1915, most remarkable receipts are shown. One case is given as follows:
- (a) Paying, or giving security for the payment of, the amount of indemnity and costs fixed by the Commissioner.
- (b) Awaiting the levy of a rate on all property in the village belonging to Sinhalese to cover its share of the indemnity and costs."Aron Fernando, of Magamwana, in Karawan-ella, was arrested and made to pay the sum of 10,000 Rupees. A case had been instituted against him and several others for rioting and committing theft, but upon his payment of this sum all the accused were discharged.He was given the following receipt, which, it will be noted, is signed by a military officer. The receipt is as follows:Received from Aron Fernando the sum of ten thousand Rupees in full payment of Riot Damage A/c.That is what would be called in this country compounding a felony. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] What else was it? These people had been guilty of rioting, but had not been brought to trial, yet, because of the rioting, they had to pay 10,000 Rupees, or to collect that sum, and no further proceedings would be taken against them. Here is a worse receipt than that:D. C. Lewis, of Welikada, Colombo, after acquittal by the District Court of Colombo, was rearrested by order of a Special Commissioner and made to enter into a bond for the payment of Rs. 5,000.He was given the following receipt:Don Cornelis Lewis, of Welikada, is to-day giving a bond for the payment of Rs. 5,000 to the Riot Fund in five instalments of Rs. 1,000 each. Upon the faithful performance of the terms of 535 this bond and full payment of the money, Don Cornelis Lewis hereby purchases amnesty from all further or pending criminal charges in connection with the recent riots.That man is shown there to have been already acquitted by the District Court. What is the meaning of that fine which is charged against him? It is signed:C. V. Brayne, Special Commissioner.That is a most extraordinary proceeding in dealing with this case. I do not know what my right hon. Friend has heard, but I have received much evidence in regard to cases where this extraordinary power vested in the Special Commissioners has led to the blackmailing of the wealthier members of the Sinhalese community and pf the villages affected, and "to a great deal of malpractice and dishonest and dangerous proceedings among the lower classes of the population. I have shown the reasons for the riots, and have shown with what a stern hand and even terrific severity the Government dealt with the rioters and the people in the districts where the rioting took place. I come now to the origin of these riots. After all, that is a matter which should determine very largely the action of the authorities in dealing with the after effects of the rioting when once order has been restored. I find no evidence in the Blue Book, and certainly all the other communications I have received point to the same thing, that there was anything like an organised system of outbreak throughout the island. It is perfectly true that it spread rapidly from place to place, but there is nothing to show that it was organised except a phrase in the very letter, from which I have already quoted, of Mr. Fraser. He says:Thus every village, or almost every village, took part in the riots, not only in the village, but elsewhere, in accordance with a preconcerted plan.It is said there was a preconcerted plan. There is no other evidence of it throughout the Blue Book, and nothing that I have been able to learn in regard to the condition of the island justifies us in supposing that there was anything like a preconcerted plan to bring about these outbreaks. They were the accidental result of a state of feeling on which I shall offer some evidence in a moment. They were in no way prepared; there was no conspiracy; and it is exceedingly important that we should not imagine that in this very loyal island of Ceylon there 536 has been anything in the nature of a preconcerted outbreak or outrage against any section of the population. The second point I wish to make is that I cannot gather that the outbreaks were really racial in character. It is quite true that the two parties concerned belong to different races, and that it was in its inception a riot by Sinhalese Buddhists against the Moors, who are Mahomedans. It was a religious dispute in its beginning, and not a racial dispute. Illustrations of that are not unknown in other parts of the world, and there are disputes in regard to religious questions in islands much nearer to us than Ceylon. It was not a racial quarrel. I insist upon that, because the Government do rather persist in saying that it was a matter of attack by the Sinhalese against the Maho-medan race. Again, it was not in anyway an attack upon or a revolt against the British Government of Ceylon. The evidence on that is important. For instance, on page 3 of the Blue Book, Sir Robert Chalmers, the Governor of Ceylon, in the second telegram he sent home in reference to these affairs, says—and I think the Committee should bear this well in mind:I do not attach political significance to the outbreak, which, with one possible exception, is now, I think, well in hand. There is no feeling against Government, nor any desire either to molest Europeans or to damage railways or non-Moslem property.He does not modify that position when he comes to the dispatch in which he gives his opinion as to the origin of the rioting. There is only one place in this Blue Book where it is suggested that there was something in the nature of an attack on the Government. That is in a very curious place. I would ask my right hon. Friend to explain the presence of this particular document in the volume at all. It is on page 8 of the Blue Book, where the Governor sends home to the Colonial Office a copy of a letter from a Mr. Markar, a leading Mahomedan, in regard to the riots and the damage caused. It appears from that dispatch that Mr. Markar made a tour of the island, a sort of what in Elizabethan days would have been called an "inquisition" of the parts of the island over which he travelled. He furnished the Government of Ceylon with an account of his journey and the sufferings which his brethren had incurred through the riots, and he called for summary vengeance on those who had done these things. That was natural enough. 537 I do not in the least complain that a Mahomedan of standing should have been greatly roused to anger by what took place, but it is very extraordinary that the Government of Ceylon, having to deal with a dispute between these two parties, should have sent one of their number, or at any rate should have made use of the report of one of the parties as if it were a document by an impartial observer who had been through the area affected. That Mr. Markar was not impartial, anyone who reads the letter will see. He winds up, for instance—I hope the Committee will attend to this point—by saying:While thanking the authorities for quelling the disturbances and for the timely services rendered lo my community, I sincerely believe that our benign Government will mete out such punishment to the perpetrators of this great crime, so much so, that even after a century the Sinhalese people will not even think of an attempt of such an outrage as has been done in the present case ….That cry for vengeance would be much better omitted. It is only in that letter that there is any charge made of disloyalty to the British Government.A very significant utterance by Durmabundu, a chief mover, was also related to me by Mohamed Zainadeen, Mahomedan priest of Kalutara.[An HON. MEMBER: "That is hearsay!"] Yes, it is hearsay reported by a Mahomedan priest of what a Buddhist priest is alleged to have said. He goes on to say:This leader is said to have stated, in the presence of a large gathering of Moors, that the time has come to do away with the Moors in Ceylon—and substitute, I suppose, Buddhist rule. That is the only case. I am justified in insisting that this was not a racial disturbance, that it was not organised, and was not directed in any way against the Government of Ceylon. I take the evidence of the Governor himself to show-that it had a twofold origin, that it was partly religious, and partly economic. The people against whom the riots were directed are described in the Blue Book as "transitory aliens" Transitory aliens are never popular anywhere, especially if they are small shopkeepers and moneylenders, and if prices are very high and times are rather hard among the villagers. There is no case on record of an attack by Buddhists upon Mahomedans. Sir Robert Chalmers says that it is the first outbreak of its kind, and that it was not directed against Mahomedans as such, but it was directed against particular Mahomedans who came over every year or two years. It was an attack upon a particular class of shopkeeper 538 very unpopular among the inhabitants when times are hard. Sir Robert Chalmers says:It was the combination of creed and purse which gave the outbreak its strength and universality.He goes on to say:Whatever may be the ultimate object of those who directed the crusade against Mahomedans, the rioters certainly neither did nor wished to include Europeans or Government in their attack. Indeed, in many places the rumour was industriously spread that, as Turkey was at war with the United Kingdom, Government really wanted the Mahomedans roughly handled and eventually removed from the island.It is significant that the writer of the letter I quoted a short time ago to the House was the late Turkish Consul in the Island of Ceylon. At this point I desire to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to another aspect of the case which is brought out in Sir Robert Chalmer's letter, in which I take a rather paternal interest. It is a charge made against the temperance societies in Ceylon of having instigated in some degree the rioting. The charge is to be found on page 35 of the Blue Book in Sir Robert Chalmer's letter. He says:The ground had been prepared for animosity against Mahomedans by articles printed in vernacular newspapers and by oral exhortations at meetings of village societies, which, although originally formed to promote temperance, have long since been extended to other purposes.I read that with some misgiving. I have made inquiry so far as I could in regard to it, and the information which reaches me is that there is no foundation whatever for associating these temperance societies with anything in the nature of a seditious propaganda. The other object to which they have devoted themselves has been to things like penny banks and educational matters, and in no case have I been able to get any evidence of disloyalty or anything like a movement against the Government as such in connection with these temperance societies.
There is one point I wish to impress upon the Committee in this matter, and that is that the Buddhist population, and, in a minor degree, the Mahomedan population, are very seriously against the Government in their Excise policy, and I warn the right hon. Gentleman that he and those associated with him who are responsible for the government of Ceylon are doing a very dangerous thing when, in the eyes of the population, they allow the Government to become identified with the liquor trade. The Government has 539 now become a distiller on its own. It has set up Government distilleries, and more and more the Cingalese population are coming to associate the Government with the trade in liquor. I do not know if that is going to prevail in this country and if we are going to associate the Government with the carrying on of the liquor trade. I speak with some anxiety, for I foresee that I, a most loyal supporter of the Government, when denouncing their wrong policy, as I think it, about the liquor trade, may suddenly find myself accused of disloyalty and bad feeling towards the Government of my country. In Ceylon, after all, temperance with the Buddhists and with the Mahomedans is a matter of religion, and when the Government deliberately associates itself with the sale of liquor, when it sets up its own distilleries, lends its authority to putting pressure upon the Buddhist landowners to give their land for the setting up of taverns, when it declares illegal resolutions of associations, it is running a very serious risk, and I appeal to them with all earnestness not to go through with this policy of identifying themselves with the liquor traffic. I know they realised this some years ago. It is only three years since the Ceylon Government, in an official document, declared that it was the most genuine temperance organisation in the country. Can they say that to-day? There was that famous Proclamation that headmen were not to be members of temperance societies. It is true it was withdrawn, but not before it had done mischief. There is now a declaration that school teachers must not join societies which are directed against Government policy, and part of the Government policy is the maintaining of distilleries and the carrying on of the liquor sale in Ceylon. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend on this point particularly to take care as to the direction in which the Government is moving. I have asked him, and other people have asked him, to produce evidence, and I want evidence, not hearsay, not statements by one person of what someone else said at a meeting where he was not present, but I want evidence that the temperance organisations in Ceylon have had anything to do with either disloyal or seditious propaganda or had any share whatever in these riots. Many temperance leaders were arrested under martial law. Some of them were set free, and to one the Government offered an apology 540 for having arrested him. In another the order for release came too late. One, at least, was dead in prison when the order for release arrived.
I have got through my story, and I leave it to the Committee. What I ask of the Government is to deal with the matter anew. I have not attempted to minimise the gravity of the riot. I recognise to the full the dangerous world situation in which we are placed. But fourteen months have parsed since these riots took place. There has been no recurrence of the disorder. The processions which led to the disorder in this particular case on 29th May have taken place again. Other similar processions have been held on other religious festivals and there has been no disorder. The riots when they arose were put down with a stern hand. In the necessity of dealing with them strictly, without full investigation, in the face of an outbreak of unknown dimensions caused by unknown agencies and actors, the Government necessarily bad to take hasty action. Some injustice was admittedly done to individuals. It is believed at present that many innocent persons are still in prison. Others have been released with a stigma resting upon them which is odious. I urge upon the Government, what has been urged in the Legislative Council of Ceylon, that the time has come for a thorough inquiry into these proceedings— an inquiry not by officials of the Government out in Ceylon, but by an impartial Commission, of which at any rate there should be some members sent out from this Island with no previous connection with the government of Ceylon, to inquire into all the circumstances of the rising. I ask that these sentences, imposed hastily by Courts set up under martial law without the possibility of full investigation, and under the bias of a panic lest these things should spread further and further, may now be reconsidered in the light of a year of perfect peace in Ceylon, and that reparation may be made to all those innocent people who have suffered injustice. By yielding to this appeal I think the Government which put down the rising with a stern hand, will help to blot out the memory of all the unhappy proceedings in connection with this outbreak.
§ Mr. JONES
I do not think I am asking anything unreasonable. It has been put forward by Ceylon and by this country, and I think the Government, instead of doing what the hon. Member says, would really help the Government of Ceylon by removing the sense of rankling injustice which is undoubtedly in certain minds in the island at present, and would remove, as I think, a just feeling of indignation which the loyal Cingalese feel at being accused of disloyalty and sedition. Ceylon has been very loyal in all its history to British rule, and such action as I propose would do much to restore confidence in the Government to the islanders, and to strengthen and not weaken British rule in Ceylon.
§ Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £35,750 be granted for the said Service."
§ Mr. MACMASTER
I wish to speak of the administration of the Colonial Office itself, and I am going to suggest that in the interests of the best possible administration of the office, the Secretary of State for the Colonies should, if possible, visit the different Dominions and Dependencies, and in that way he will get firsthand knowledge which will be of very great benefit to us, and much better than he can get through any written communications. While I say that, I quite recognise that at this time it would be very difficult for us to spare the right hon. Gentleman, especially in the midst of a War when he is required here for very important purposes of administration, but, speaking generally, it seems to me that the Colonial Secretary should be as much as possible free from controversial politics in this country and that in going to the Colonies he might be regarded not so much as a political partisan as one who takes a very close and a very deep interest in their success and in their welfare and no doubt they would all be impressed by the fact that he had paid them a visit. I recognise that that is not quite possible at the moment, but quite recently the late Under-Secretary, Lord Emmott, did make a visit, and I consider that the information that he acquired on that occasion would have been of great value to him in discharging his duties, but unfortunately he was removed to another office immediately after he returned, which, to a certain extent, deprived us of 542 the great benefit of his experience and his observations at a time when he was in touch with Colonial matters.
I do not join in the discussion for the purpose of giving actual effect to a reduction of the right hon. Gentleman's salary, because he has discharged his duties most efficiently, but I wish to refer to another subject which was recently given great prominence owing to a statement made by the Prime Minister himself that the fabric of the Empire must be refashioned after the War. That being so, of course it is very properly a subject for discussion. What the Prime Minister said on that occasion was most apposite from every point of view. He said:When the War comes to an end, when the reign of peace is re-established, we shall have to take stock as an Empire of our internal relations, Never in history has there been a more moving spectacle than the eager loyalty and unsparing profusion with which our Dominions have lavished their help to the Mother Country in a war which they felt to be waged in a just and righteous cause, but in the making of which the had no voice. Australia and New Zealand have given us in the now familiar word Anzac a name which for generations to come will make bright schoolboys thrill with pride. (Cheers.) Canada—(Loud cheers)—has again and again been in the forefront in the battlefields of France and Flanders, and during the last fortnight her sons have been waging a gallant and stubborn struggle in the bloodstained Ypres salient where we rejoice to learn they have won a striking success. (Loud cheers.) In the south-west and in East Africa General Botha—(Cheers)—and General Smuts have conducted, and are conducting, for the Empire, with the utmost skill and tenacity, masterly campaigns. With such an Imperial record it will never be possible, in my judgment, to revert to our old methods of council and of government. (Cheers.) The fabric of the Empire will have to be refashioned, and the relations not only between Great Britain and Ireland, but between the United Kingdom and our Dominions, will, of necessity, be brought, and brought properly, under close and connected review. Such at least is my own opinion, and I respectfully commend this consideration to my countrymen both in this Island and in Ireland.It does seem to me that if seem to me that it one gives adhesion to these splendid sentiments we must give proper consideration to the question of what the refashioning is to be. It is evident from the cheers which greeted the Prime Minister's remarks, and from what is happening in other parts of our great Empire, that there is unity of opinion with regard to this subject, and we can look for evidence in other respects. This speech of the Prime Minister's was made on the 14th June last, and on that same day there was this remarkable coincidence that an ex-Prime Minister, far distant from Ladybank, addressed to me a communication in which he practically expressed the same views. He had not the benefit of having a telegraphic dispatch of the views of the Prime Minister. This is what he said:Yes, my Imperialistic ideas grow stronger every day. This war, and Canada's Australia's New 543 Zealand's and South Africa's Imperialistic action in the present contest will hasten the event of a closer union of the outlying portions of the Empire than has ever existed in the past. The feeling is growing that those who have to assist in the fighting and the paying in order to preserve the Empire from annihilation must, in justice and equity, have something to say in the affairs of the nation. Patriotism and devotion to Empire is with many a sentiment, and must he made something more solid and substantial, if the glorious old Empire is to continue her hold upon her children.These were the views expressed on that day by the right hon. Sir Mackenzie Bo well, an ex-Prime Minister of Canada. About the same period there was an expression of opinion on the same subject coming from the representative of Australia, the right hon. Andrew Fisher. On the last day of; January he pointed out that if he had remained in Scotland and was a voter there he would have an opportunity of heckling his Member, and of having questions addressed through this House with regard to the position of our foreign policy, or other matters of interest to the Empire. He said:I should have been able to heckle my Member on questions of Imperial policy, and to vote for or against him on that ground. I went to Australia; I have been Prime Minister, but all the time I have had no say whatever about Imperial policy— no say whatever. Now that cannot go on. There must be some change.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
That may change too. I will now quote a sentence from an opinion expressed by Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister of Canada. He said:When Great Britain no longer assumes sole responsibility for defence upon the high seas, she can no longer undertake to assume sole responsibility for, and sole control of, foreign policy, which is closely, vitally and constantly associated with that defence in which the Dominions participate.Seeing what we have seen with just pride and satisfaction, the way in which our great Dominions and Dependencies have come to the aid of the Mother Country in the gigantic struggle in which she is now engaged, and have poured forth their treasure and their blood in a cause sacred us and sacred to them, there can be no doubt whatever that these observations which I have quoted, emanating from our own Prime Minister and from other Prime Ministers of the Dominions, must command our very close attention when the change is at hand or is in fashioning. What is that change to be? Hon. Members will observe that none of these gentlemen suggests a scheme. There can be no doubt that any scheme must be surrounded with 544 great difficulty. I do not disguise from myself this circumstance, that upon the whole the Dominions have gone on well under self-government. They have gone on well up to the present time, but now there appears to be a new stage arising, and that there must be a change in those respects which have been put so much better in the quotations I have made than I can indicate. Of what nature must that change be? Even at this stage it seems to me that it is very difficult to make any very serious change in what may be called structural formation, either in the constition of the United Kingdom, or of the self-governing Colonies. For the moment I leave out of account India, the Crown Colonies, and Egypt. Once we commence to tamper with the actual written Constitution of the Dominions, or to make any vital change in what has become to us—
§ Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present.
§ House counted, and forty Members being found present.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
(resuming): I was pointing out that even at this time it is difficult to make structural changes in the Constitution of the self-governing Dominions, or in the Constitution of the Mother Country, but I think it is possible with a very moderate degree of change to give effect to the general idea of refashioning the Empire. I want to make a suggestion in that connection. My suggestion is not that we should interfere with the Constitution of this country and have a Parliament overlapping the Imperial Parliament, and not that we should impinge upon the autonomy of the self-governing Dominions, because I firmly believe that the self-governing Dominions would be unwilling to part with any portion of the rights of self-government that they now enjoy, but that we might find some via media—and I am convinced that we can— by which we can accomplish the object of producing greater consolidation, greater unity, and greater co-ordination, and enable the different parts of the Empire to contribute what may be their reasonable contribution towards maintaining the forces that are essential to protect the Empire and its interests throughout the world. It seems to me that we have a 545 beginning in the Committee of Imperial Defence, although the scope of that Committee is not large enough for the purpose I am about to suggest, it does seem to me that if that Committee was enlarged, or if a new Committee could be created having the powers that I am about to suggest, the objects in view could be accomplished without impinging upon the rights of self-government in the Dominions Overseas, and without interfering with the well-recognised Constitution of this country.
What I suggest is that the Prime Minister in this country, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and a representative from each of the Departments of the Munitions and Air Services should, in the Committee that I am suggesting, form the representation of the United Kingdom, and that from each of the five self-governing Dominions the Prime Minister and one of his Ministers should sit on the Committee as representatives of the Dominions. I would suggest that the Minister who with the Prime Minister of each Dominion would represent that Dominion should be the High Commissioner of that Dominion in this country, and should reside here permanently for the term of his office. Without discussing for the moment whether it would be possible to include India, Egypt, and the Crown Colonies, I would point out that if we have representatives of the self-governing Dominions and the Mother Country as I suggest, we should have a Committee of eighteen. My proposal is that that Committee of eighteen should be constituted a Committee of Defence and Foreign Relations, having to do with everything that relates to defence and foreign relations, and it might possibly have to do with communications, by sea, by land, and air, and possibly also with the development of resources that might be regarded as vital to the Empire as a whole. For the purpose of carrying out its duties I suggest that the Committee should have power to consider and report what contribution in money should be paid by the Mother Country and the Dominions overseas, and that upon the report being made as to these respective contributions the responsibility would be with the respective Governments of the Mother Country and each of the Dominions to procure the money through the imposition of taxation in such a manner as they thought proper 546 in their respective countries. In that way we would have representation on the Committee, and the money acquired by way of contribution being afterwards assessed through the Overseas Parliaments themselves the taxation would be imposed by the Overseas Dominions themselves, and, therefore, there could be no complaint on that score. The only objection there could be to this suggestion would be that the Overseas Dominions might say, "Is this a proper proportioning of the responsibility?" "Are five millions too much for Australia, or seven millions too much for Canada? I am using these figures simply for the sake of illustration. It is true that the figures might be criticised, but, on the other hand, when you came to justify them in the respective units of the Imperial partnership you would have the authority of the Committee of Defence and Foreign Relations in support of it, and you would have the support of the individual Governments which had taken responsibility upon the report of their own representatives that that was a proper proportion.
It seems to me that this would be a better and safer course to adopt than any attempt to have a Parliament overlapping this Parliament, or to impose on this Parliament the great responsibility of facing here at first hand the imposition of taxation which would be necessary for every part of the Empire, in order to maintain the Imperial purposes to which I have referred. I know something of the Dominions, and I have no doubt whatever that upon the recommendation of a Committee of that character, and upon the endorsement of that recommendation by the individual Parliaments, you would get the taxation to secure the contribution, and the contribution would be obtained with certainty and regularity. That is the substance of the suggestion that I make. The Committee might require to sit at least once every year, perhaps several times a year, and as it might not be possible for the Prime Ministers of the self-governing Dominions to be here, I would suggest that the Prime Ministers of the self-governing Dominons who could not possibly be here on every occasion should have the right to nominate one of their other Ministers, in addition to the one who might be High Commissioner in this country, to represent them on the occasion of the assembling of the Committee. At all events, is it not perfectly obvious that a Committee of that kind 547 would be the best way imaginable for getting first-hand accurate information not only with regard to affairs in this country, but affairs throughout the world and the Dominions and Dependencies with which we are concerned? I do not ask the Colonial Secretary to give assent to my plan. I know that he has got grave responsibilities on hand at this moment. What we all want to do now is to get on with the War, but, as the Prime Minister said, this matter must be dealt with after the War, and it is time now for all of us to give it careful consideration.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
I hope the hon. Member will not consider me disrespectful if I do not follow him on the line which he has taken in his most suggestive speech. I have no doubt that a great many of us are thinking of the subject about which he has been speaking. There is just one central idea in his speech of which those of us who are not so familiar with the Colonies as he is must take note—that is, his opinion that the Dominions would not be ready to allow the central Imperial Parliament to tax them. That, I think, is really the kernel of the subject, and as I think it will be a very delicate operation to settle this question of taxation, I welcome the opinions of the hon. Member, who is acquainted with opinions from the outer borders of our Empire.
Before turning to one or two subjects connected with this Vote, I wish to express my sympathy with the hon. Member who has spoken about the Ceylon riots. I will not go into detail, because it has been gone into very fully already, but it strikes me, after interviews with the delegates from Ceylon, and reading many of the documents, that there are charges supported by evidence which those of us who are interested in maintaining the high ideal of British justice cannot allow to go unanswered. Men appear to have been arrested and shot who were not actively participating in the riots, and they were punished either without a trial or after a trial at which they were not represented and whose proceedings possibly they did not understand. People were flogged who were possibly innocent. Women and children are stated to have been held as hostages, men were condemned to death on evidence which was subsequently proved to be false, and arbitrary fines were inflicted and immunity from prosecution purchased.
548 In ordinary times I should demand with all the force that I possess that there should be an inquiry of a most searching kind. At present I feel that I must be very moderate in my demands on the Colonial Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman must consider not merely the position in Ceylon, but the position in connection with some of the religions in Ceylon and in the East. I must not be too positive in my demand for an inquiry, but I shall feel that we have not got to the bottom of the thing unless there is something more than we see at present. Sir John Anderson's concession has made a difference. It does seem to offer a means whereby those who are innocent may cease to suffer penalties which have been unjustly inflicted upon them. The Colonial Secretary says that he has no doubt that Sir John Anderson will make any inquiry which he thinks necessary into these matters which are brought to his notice. I throw upon him the responsibility of refusing an inquiry which I feel ought to be held.
I desire also to say a word or two about the cultivation of cotton within our Empire. I think that there ought to be no slacking of our efforts in regard to this matter, and no petty cash savings. I regret that the Government art; not able to continue the Grant of £10,000 a year to the British Cotton Growers Association. The Government have acknowledged the services of the association by giving them a grant of £1,000 for the current year, but I feel that if the £9,000 which is thus saved is not spent upon extensions and experiment, such as have been conducted by the association, the benefit of the saving will be very doubtful. The council in their last report placed on record their thanks to Mr. Bonar Law and Mr. Steel-Maitland for the interest which they have taken in matters connected with cotton growing in the British Empire. In this connection I would wish to strengthen the right hon. Gentleman's hands if he has to have a little tussle with the Treasury. The point of view of many in Lancashire is this: the world's consumption of cotton is growing more quickly than its supply. The United States, which supply more than half the cotton, are getting now to the point at which they use possibly half that which they grow themselves. In our own Colonial spheres there has been a little set-back in production in the year 1915. If energy is slackened in those extensions which come from the Government experimental farms and seed distribution, it is not merely a 549 loss of one year's production, but the loss of increase. We lose not merely this year's egg but next year's goose, because the increase goes on at an increasing rate.
For instance, there has been a change in Southern Nigeria. A variety which is more suitable for English use, and which has the advantage also of paying the native better has been introduced. In the report of the British Cotton Growing Association it is mentioned that forty acres were devoted to cotton on the Government experimental farm at Ibadan and various other places. The forty acres cultivated in 1915 would make seed for 700 acres in 1916, and for about 12,000 acres in 1917. That is entirely too golden a prospect. No one could possibly expect such an extension, and even in the matter of cotton seed, the sins of the father descend on the children, even unto the third and fourth generation, and we find seed degenerating and going back. I am glad to say, however, that there also are splendid experiments being made in India in cotton growing, from which much most valuable information, I hope, will be obtained. But to take a more moderate view, I may refer to a letter from Mr. Lamb, the director of agriculture in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria, addressed to the British Cotton Growing Association. It states that he had just returned from a tour in one of the best cotton growing districts where the Government have introduced this improved variety of cotton, and that the natives seemed most enthusiastic over this variety as compared with the native cotton, and were no less pleased with the high price it commanded. Mr. Lamb estimates that whatever is the output of long-stapled cotton this season the quantity next year will be fivefold at least, if only the association can maintain the buying price of 1¾d. per pound. So that the benefit is not merely an addition, but there is a multiplied benefit. I would suggest in this connection to the right hon. Gentleman that there should be some interchange of opinions between those scientific investigators in India and those who are serving in various parts of the Colonies.
I come now to a less pleasing subject. There has been recently a Committee on edible and oil producing nuts and seeds. In many respects their Report is a very admirable Report. It is most useful for agriculturists, and I think that all British agriculturists would do well to read certain portions of it. We learn that a form 550 of palm kernel cake definitely increases the amount of milk fat by 16 per cent. to 34 per cent.; that it is very good for summer feeding as it produces firm butter and better milk, and it is also very good for bacon, and produces cheaper bacon. Our want of progress in regard to this trade has been very largely due to the fact that British farmers have not found out what was good for themselves, and actually those nuts that came to England and were crashed here—the feeding-stuff that was produced from them was sold to Germany, and German farmers recognised their value before our farmers did. There were a number of difficulties connected with the development of this trade. I am sure that everyone is in sympathy with efforts to effect improvement in that direction. The extension of this trade is a very proper subject for Government activity. Our machinery was not adapted to this object, but that is being remedied. There are certain faults which I dare say the British farmer soon finds out, and perhaps he is too easily stopped by them. The cake was said to be rancid. It was tested chemically, and Professor Wood, of the Cambridge School of Agriculture, made a number of very valuable suggestions. The Committee wisely suggest further co-operation between the school of agriculture and seed crushers. Other matters which affected traders were the German system of banking, and the fact that the Germans ship in bulk, which is said to be an advantage of from 3s. to 5s. a ton. Liverpool is said to be a dearer port than Hamburg, as there is an advantage of 2s. 7d. in favour of Hamburg. Our system of inland carriage is expensive compared with the inland waterways on the Continent, where the goods are put into lighters and go from the lighter direct into the mill, whence the oil, having been expressed, goes back into tank barges and goes from the mill to the margarine factory. All these, I am sure, are difficulties which organisation can overcome. The Committee has not overlooked it. It lays stress on many of these things.Many of the difficulties," they say, "are simply the result of an industry having developed along certain lines and in certain places. Trade channels once dug tend to deepen unless some special circumstances arise, whether of design or not, to arrest the flow in the old direction or to give a special impetus along a new course. Once a market is created in the United Kingdom the security of supplies should be as great as in Germany. If kernels were carried there in bulk they can be carried here in bulk. Port and other dues may be high in Liverpool, but they may be decreased by handling through elevators and by 551 lighterage, or the cargoes can come to other British ports where the charges before they reach the mill should be no higher than they were in Germany. What is true of the raw material is also true of the products. Palm kernel cake had been unfamiliar to our farmers, and the farmer is said to be a conservative person.… By the assistance of the Press, the Board of Agriculture, and the Imperial Institute, the attention of farmers was drawn to what was to them a new feeding material. As a result, there has been no difficulty in disposing of all the cake and meal produced and this feeding material has thus been widely introduced to farmers. Since the appointment of the Committee steady progress has been and is being made, and the evidence which they have received has shown that large quantities of kernels are being crushed here and the products satisfactorily disposed of to British manufacturers and farmers.I do not think that it is quite to our credit that we were so late in discovering the value of this product, whereas the Germans recognise that half a ton of oil is worth 10s. more, and half a ton of cake is worth from 10s. to 15s. more than the market price in England. Why? They know its value. There is one small point in connection with this Report that I should just like to interpolate here, and that is in regard to sending spirits as a return cargo. The Committee say:Mr. Moore's views must not be taken as representing those of the Committee.I am very glad indeed of that, and I consider that any means that are taken to encourage the supply of spirits to the natives of Africa would be a move very much in the wrong direction. There is a general international agreement, which I hope we will extend and favour, not to degrade the natives by this traffic—and it seems to me not at all creditable to us that we should discourage this traffic, and then say, "But if there is any profit we will have it." Whatever is done in connection with this, I hope that idea will not be pursued further. I will not go more into the details of this very interesting Report, but I should like to say that none of the reasoning founded upon this exhaustive examination seems to me to justify the Export Duty. This, to me, is a rather unfortunate incident in the midst of this great War. Here we are exhibiting ourselves to our Allies and neutrals as unable to utilise to the best advantage the resources of our Empire to such an extent that we must forbid the sale to them of some of those things which are produced by us. It is practically a suggestion forbidding purchasers going into the market, because, although the duty is only £2 at first, if it is inadequate the further suggestion is made that it shall be raised. The objections are both economic and 552 political, and in my opinion its effect on the Colony must be depressing. That appears to me to be recognised by the Committee, as they recommend that Colonial Governments should be able to abolish the duty if advantage is taken of it to depress the prices paid to native producers. The right hon. Gentleman himself has recognised the possibility of the duty being made use of to depress prices. Surely the exclusion of the French, Dutch, and German purchasers must depress prices. If you remove a number of purchasers demanding the article from the market, the experience of anyone who attends markets is that it must tend to depress prices, and that is an extremely serious matter. In the action we are taking we shall put the native producer at a disadvantage and advantage ourselves in the use of the article that they produce. It is a new departure, hastily made, without public discussion, and is taken in a Colony which is subject to our arbitrary rule.
It appears to me that the idea has arisen of putting it into force there only because of the fact that the overwhelming number of the population of blacks are not directly represented. If the system is good, why not let us recommend it to some of our Dominions? We are short of wood pulp—let us ask Canada to put an Export Duty of £2 on wood pulp sent to the United States. I do not know why you should arbitrarily apply to one of the Crown Colonies for the benefit of Imperial trade measures that you would hesitate to suggest to some of the Dominions. And the Dominions are going to get the benefit of this Export Duty; they are to be allowed to come in and buy without paying the £2 duty. The natives, it appears to me, suffer twice, both economically and in the method of the Government. The native has hitherto been quite confident that the action of the Government is for his protection. We have set our face against direct exploitation of the native, and I think, in general, the Home Government has also set itself against indirect exploitation. We seek to show him how to grow cotton, and we give him a market price, the transaction being of mutual benefit. But now we are restricting his market for our benefit. The lack of demand, owing to his great customer being shut off, the shipping difficulties from which he suffers as well as others, are already having an adverse influence on the native. The lack of confidence on his part, if he 553 finds his goods commandeered by the Government, and the Government not guaranteeing him a good price, but £2 below the market level, may have a very bad effect on production, not on this article only but on many, and beyond the limits of the Colonies in question.
Another very doubtful expedient in taxation is taxation by Order in Council. I should like to know where else there is taxation by Order in Council. If £2 is ineffective—if Dutch, French and German buyers are not kept out of the market by this £2, and if they are willing to give our price and the £2 duty, then an Order in Council is to be possible of issue in order to banish them expeditiously. The Order in Council has been adopted because it is an expeditious way of imposing a higher tariff. What will be the effect in that case on the market? Three foreign buyers and three British buyers are in the market, say, and to drive out the three foreign buyers—an Ally, a neutral, and an enemy—you will put on a higher duty of £5 a ton against them. Then will the British buyers give the same price? It is an advantage, certainly, to the British buyer, who will give less, if not by the whole £5. How is the right hon. Gentleman going to deal with France in this matter? I am sure I do not know. If one considers the principle of the Paris Conference, I am hoping, though possibly I am too optimistic, that the result of the sentiments expressed at that conference will be rather to lead to destruction of barriers.
But we are erecting a barrier here against one of our Allies, and at the same time giving the broadest possible hint to Holland that her only hope of getting fair treatment as regards her imported raw materials is to join Germany. By thus creating a new British monopoly in an important raw material, we bring upon ourselves inevitable retaliation, if not from Allied nations, at all events from neutral Governments who have any interest in the matter. I have no confidence in the device. It appears to me that it will be costly and difficult to maintain, that it will check the flow of kernels towards our Colonies, and provide a prop for an expanding trade which may fail it in difficult times. It seems to me that it may reduce reliance on science, on mechanical skill, and on enterprise. By the measure of its effect in driving custom from our Colonies it will encourage development in other spheres, as, for instance, in South America and other places where our 554 export duty would practically become a bounty. What this trade requires is more science, more energy in the agricultural and forestry departments, improved organisation in banking, in shipping, and in home carriage, and a wider knowledge of the riches of our Empire, and a more careful study of their uses. These, in my opinion, are the avenues of progress. Our efforts should be directed to making wider and deeper our own channels, and not damming those of our neighbours. Above all, there is one thing that I think Englishmen are proud of, and that is our treatment generally of what are sometimes called the inferior races. Above all, the inmost secret of our usefulness—I hope the House will not think I am lacking in reverence—is our Divine mission to govern, wherever our power extends over backward races, in their interest and for their good, and never to prostitute our power to selfish ends.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I hope when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies rises to reply on the Debate he will, among other subjects, address himself to the important question of using for fighting purposes some of the native populations of the Crown Colonies. My right hon. Friend knows well, as I addressed him on this subject more than a year ago, what my views are. I must say, frankly, that I greatly regret that a whole year has passed away without effective steps having been taken to develop the very large and diverse resources which are possessed by the British Crown—
§ Mr. DILLON
On a point of Order, Sir. I wish to know whether it is in order on this occasion to raise this very difficult question. I imagine that it is one for the War Office, but I make no objection to the Debate being raised now if it is clearly understood that we shall all be at liberty to pursue the subject.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
On the point of Order, Sir. While the question is partly one for the War Office, am I not allowed to seek from the Colonial Secretary some assurance connected with the supply of men for the field?
Let me state my view on this point of Order. I think that the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) is right, that this is a subject which must necessarily come first before the War Office. The question as to whether native 555 troops should be employed is a military one for the War Department, and I feel bound to rule that the question ought not to be raised on the present Vote.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I venture very respectfully to remind you, Sir, that I raised this matter at Question Time today. There were a number of questions on the Paper on this subject, and I understood the Prime Minister to assent to the fact that this would be an opportunity, probably the last this Session, when this matter could be debated.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Then I understand your ruling applies not only to War Office aspects, but Colonial Office aspects. For instance, suppose I wished to complain that the right hon. Gentleman—and I am putting purely a hypothetical case—had not facilitated the action of the War Office in regard to the raising of these troops, surely that would be relevant!
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Bonar Law)
I must say that I think the War Office Vote is naturally the place to raise this question, which is a big question. There are certain things which arise in connection with the Colonial Office, but I do not think that is what my right hon. Friend desires to deal with, and that he means the employment of troops in Europe, which is clearly a War Office question.
§ Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
There are two general principles on which, broadly speaking, are laid the foundations of the British Empire. The first is self-government for all white races, and that our Dependencies should be governed solely in the interests of the governed. We are able to hold our heads high in our own estimation, but we do sometimes have lapses. We saw the Prime Minister, a lifelong adherent of Home Rule for Ireland, putting aside self-government as a dangerous experiment and sending to govern that country a gentleman of affable manners as a Chief Secretary. But that is not the point I wish to pursue to-day. I wish to raise the question of government in West Africa. The day has gone by when the administration of our Colonies is purely a commercial affair. The administration of the British Empire was, according to Arthur Young, entirely commercial, a traders project, and the spirit of 556 monopoly pervaded every step of its progress. Since the days of Warren Hastings the fundamental principle of British Government and Imperial policy has been that the natives have rights and the Europeans obligations. I think that with regard to West Africa we do not always keep those ideals as prominently before us as we ought. If I were to say that the output of palm kernels was founded on the supply of cheap spirits to West Africa, I should be accused of exaggeration, but there is plenty of evidence in this Report that it seems to be the accepted doctrine in Nigeria that it is not possible to have a proper output of palm kernels unless a bottle of gin is dangled before the nose of the natives. Here is the evidence of Mr. Cowan:If the import of liquor into these districts were prohibited do you think it would stop the volume of trade?—Undoubtedly very largely.Is the native a great drinker?—No, not individually; it is a luxury, and if it were taken away from him, and he wanted it, he would destroy his palm tree for the sake of getting it to begin with, and he would not turn over the same amount of produce. There would not be the same incentive.What do you mean by drinking individually?—There is a large quantity of liquor imported into the country, but the amount consumed per head is not great.You think that if liquor were prohibited, the native would not be able to collect so many kernels?—It is not a question of not being able, I am sure he would not.Why would he not?—There would not be the incentive. He looks upon drink as a luxury, and if he wants it, he has to get produce in order to be able to buy liquor.One enterprising member of the Committee, Mr. Moore, enlarged upon that theme, and unfolded a project of Empire which I am very glad to say did not commend itself to the Committee. In the Report there is a memorandum from him lamenting that the restrictions on the manufacture of cheap spirits and the absence of modern plant, and the extra cost of the cases and bottles, have enabled the Germans to capture the trade of cheap spirits in West Africa. He goes on to advocate that a higher tax should be placed upon cheap spirits coming from Germany, and other countries, and that preference should be given to British spirit imported into West Africa in order that the British importer might have a monopoly. What I want to know is, what is the policy of the Colonial Office with regard to this import of gin and cheap spirits to West Africa. When is gin a luxury, and when is it a necessity? Perhaps the Colonial Secretary will explain what is the exact amount of gin which it is necessary to administer to a native in order that he may turn out a profitable 557 amount of kernels. It seems to me, if you want to deal a blow at German trade, you cannot do better than put a swingeing tax on spirits, and shut them out altogether from West Africa, and, to my mind, that is a thing that ought to have been done long ago. With regard to the proposed Export Tax on palm kernels, let me say I have no prejudices in the matter at all, or to the putting on of this tax or that tax. As long as the interests of my Constituents are not injured, and the cost of their food is not increased, or of their raw material, personally I am quite indifferent as to what tax the Government of the day puts on or takes off. Nor have I any prejudice as to capturing trade in Germany. I think it is a capital idea, but I think we should not try to capture trade in Germany by exploiting natives who are under our control.
There is a wrong and there is a right way of capturing this trade of palm kernels. There is a way which is in conformity with, and consistent with, the traditions of the British Empire, and there is a way which is inconsistent with the traditions of the British Empire. I am very sorry to say that the Colonial Secretary proposes to adopt a system which I cannot help thinking is utterly inconsistent with the principles of the British Empire. It is urged in defence of this Export Tax that there is already a monopoly, a German monopoly. That may be so, but I cannot see that two wrongs make a right, or that the native will be in any way benefited by exchanging a German monopoly for an English one. The inevitable result, of course, will be that combinations will be effected, and that the shipper and the merchant and the crusher will reap all the benefit, while the price to the natives will be rigidly controlled, so that they shall not get too saucy. It is said in the Report that there is no evidence of there being pools or combinations. Though there may not be, it is apparently more polite to say that there are understandings. For instance, Mr. Cowan was asked, "Have there been in your experience any pools as to the price payable to the natives. He replied that there had been understandings, but they did not last any great length of time." It stands to reason that if there is an opportunity for making an understanding or a pool or combine, whatever you like to call it, that it will be made. I really think that the only fair way of capturing 558 this German trade is to study the means whereby the Germans have acquired the trade and follow the same course. For instance, the Germans have been able to capture this trade chiefly because their crushing plant is modern and up to date. They have a system much superior to ours of sending these palm kernels to Bremen, Hamburg, and Rotterdam. We have an extra charge, at least, if we want to send beyond Liverpool. The port charges of delivery cost from Liverpool 2s. 7d. per ton more than in Hamburg, and Germany has a superior system of shipping in bulk, whereas we ship in bags. It seems to me to be quite obvious that the proper way to capture this trade is not to exploit the, native and put a tax upon him, but to improve our own methods, and to follow the German plan of improving our crushing plant and our transit facilities.
One gets considerable support of that view by a paragraph in the Report which says that this German superiority is not due to any natural disability in the British position, but to vis inertiae which a special stimulus would overcome. There is no doubt there has been vis inertiae, and if it is to be overcome I submit that the proper way is not to tax the native, but for the British manufacturer and the British importer to buck up themselves. This is part of a very large question, and the increase of our resources and the development of our resources will become a most tremendously urgent problem if we are to pay the enormous debt which is being incurred. But it seems to me that the proper way to develop our own resources is not to put this petty tax on or that petty tax on, but to adopt proper methods, that is, to organise our own resources so that we can get the greatest amount of supply in the cheapest possible way. I do submit that the proper way of capturing this trade of palm kernels is first of all to encourage a larger production in the country, and then to appoint responsible and impartial people to pay the natives and marshal them and to put the supply on shipboard, and the shipping rates to be reduced to the lowest possible limit. That is, I think, the proper policy and that we ought to be most jealous indeed as to the way we treat natives. Here we have thousands and thousands of people dying for us every day, and coming from all parts of the Empire, and we ought to be most careful that the Empire does really represent our highest ideals 559 To my mind it is a departure from our highest ideals to effect this monopoly by putting a burden upon the native and not on ourselves who are going to profit.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I wish to ask the indulgence of the Committee for a short time to pursue the subject that has been opened by my hon. Friend behind me and pursued a little further by the Noble Lord (Colonel Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck)—the question of this extraordinary Report upon the edible and oil producing products in West Africa. I am sure the House was very much struck last night when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies told it that he was very often suspected by his late colleagues that he was not having sufficient influence with his new colleagues in the Cabinet. I have never come across such an example of base ingratitude on the part of a man's colleagues than apparently the right hon. Gentleman is suffering from at the present moment. Judging by this Report which is now before us the right hon. Gentleman is dominating the economic and political policy of the Cabinet. We had yesterday a very interesting and a very important Debate upon the Paris resolutions. I do not think I am very far wrong if I say that that Debate was confined very largely to generalities with the exception of one or two speeches, notably that of my right hon. Friend who used to be at the Board of Trade (Mr. Robertson). But on the whole that Debate was one of generalities. To-day we have got a footnote to those generalities. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) appealed yesterday for details. To-day we have got them. The first detail is the £2 Export Tax—so-called; it is not an Export Tax at all, but we will leave that for a moment—the £2 per ton Export Tax upon edible fruits, particularly palm kernels grown in West Africa. In these Debates the Committee is very often strangled by the wealth of the subjects hon. Members may discuss, and we are in that position to-day.
This is a tremendous departure in colonial policy. It is a departure that ought not to be discussed in connection with this Report. This Report is a very small illustration of the departure. This House ought not to allow these large questions of Imperial relationship and Imperial government to be discussed outside, but ought to claim its right to have 560 general principles raised here in a proper way, so that the House may in a leisurely and intelligent fashion guide Ministers not so much in details as upon general considerations. The bulk of the Members of this House, I am sure, are not aware—on account of the very worrying and multitudinous duties that are now put upon the shoulders of hon. Members—are not aware that this is the beginning, not of a new policy, but the revival of a very old policy, one that has been condemned by every party in the State on account of the experience that the Empire; has had of its pursuit. What are the facts? They have been given in a somewhat piecemeal way already, and I leave them there. The export of these oil-producing nuts has become very important to-day on account of the development of margarine production particularly. The nuts go to Germany, in the main, but some go to France, some to Holland, and some come here. This Report candidly says that the Committee considered the problem for the purpose of capturing trade in Germany. There was no question of Colonial policy, there was no question of the well-being of the natives, there was no question of the regularisation of the market; the one purpose was, "How are we going to capture for the British Empire the export of these kernels that now go to Germany?" The Committee are perfectly candid about it. I have down here seven reasons—and they are not exhaustive. They are given in order to explain why the trade docs not come here. My hon. Friend behind me has referred to them. Three of the causes offered are: bad business organisation, inefficiency of machinery, a poor market (or something of that kind)—everything relating to conditions internal to ourselves end nothing whatever to do with the Colonies and Dependencies.
This proposal, in effect, says, "All these things might be remedied, but we are not quite sure that they may be remedied, and we are going to adopt a new policy, we are going to say to Germany and to France—because it is not merely Germany—we are going to say to Germany, France, Holland, and America, "Not one single palm kernel are you going to take from West Africa unless you are prepared to pay £2 a ton more for it than we ourselves are to pay." That is how it will work out. I venture to say that the accommodating harmony which must be in the mind of the Prime Minister when he, as a Free Trader, can accept that as a way of capturing foreign 561 trade is a perfect marvel to me, and reaches a state of perfection that I have been hitherto unable even to imagine. This is an ordinary, rather commonplace, unforeseeing application of the crudest Protective ideas to an exceedingly simple problem. It must be remembered that this is not even a key industry. If this new method of using our Colonies had been adopted on account of the importance that is now put upon this new classification, this sort of new scale of industrial importance, one might have understood it. But this is an insignificant industry, an absolutely unessential industry. If it had been applied to a key industry, I do not say something might not have been said for it; but this is just an ordinary industry. A key industry with such an insignificant export might matter, but it is simply absurd to talk about this as a key industry. It is just one of those industries where A, B, and C (merchants) are benefited against the whole of the consumers of the goods that they produce and handle. It is nothing but this: A, B, and C (manufacturers, oil crushers) make a complaint that they cannot capture the German trade, and they go to the Colonial Secretary and say, "Will you appoint a committee of officials and ourselves"— because that is the committee—"will you appoint a committee of officials and ourselves and give us a chance of telling you how, by using your political power as the sovereign authority in this State, we are going to put money into our pockets and establish an industry that we have failed to establish hitherto on account of our own neglect and inefficiency?"
That is the position of affairs. The kind Colonial Office, having got such a report from such a committee—with the exception of my hon. Friend who is behind—immediately sends out to the governing authorities of the Colony a dispatch which is published on notepaper that has the heading of the Tariff Reform League upon it. This is Protection in its very first form. It is not a protection which the consumer or the protected country is going to pay for exactly. It is a protection which is going to be paid for largely by the natives, who have no voice in this matter or in the Government which settles the economic conditions under which they have to live. As a matter of fact, when we take what it means, and take the position of the Committee, it reminds us of what Adam Smith wrote about a similar sort of method. It was, I am very 562 glad to say far more common 150 years ago than now, but this Report rather shows it is going to be still more common in the future than it has been in our lifetime hitherto, that interested persons are going to be appointed on Committees that are to report upon how their own interests are to be conserved and advanced by political authority at home. Adam Smith says:Of the greater part of the Regulations concerning the Colony trade, the merchants who carry it on, it must be observed, have been the principal advisers. We must not wonder, therefore, if in a great part of them their interest has been more considered than either that of the Colonies or that of the Mother Country. In their exclusive privilege of purchasing all such parts of their surplus produce as could not interfere with any of the trades which they themselves carried on at home, the interest of the Colonies was sacrificed to the interest of those merchants.That is exactly what is happening now, and that is the sort of thing I think the House of Commons ought to consider as a principle and not merely as an expedient. But the same issue is raised by the Report and by the dispatch which the Colonial Secretary sent out after he had received it. I said that this is not an export duty. The Committee that drafted the Report does not appear to understand what an export duty is. It referred to the Malay export duty on crude tin. I am perfectly certain if the Committee had known anything about the history of the export duties of the Malay States imposed on crude tin they would have known they were proposing something which would have exactly an opposite economic effect, to that produced by the export duty on Malay tin.
You can have an export duty for the purpose of revenue as the export duty of plumbago in Ceylon or the rice export duty in India and elsewhere. That is an honest, straightforward method of raising State income. It may be justified or it may not, it may be sound or it may be unsound, but it is a perfectly simple thing, it is an export duty pure and simple. Or you may have an export duty like the Malay duty. The Malay tin deposits were attempted to be exploited by two or three monopolists who were going to take them away from the Malay States in a crude state and treat them away from that State. Rightly or wrongly the Malay States Government said, "We are not going to allow you to exploit these deposits of crude tin, we will impose an export duty upon you, and so compel you to smelt the tin in the Malay States and supply opportunities of labour for us." The Malay case is quoted 563 in this document actually as if it were the same thing as this document does propose. What does this document propose? The form of this proposal was the system of duty which was imposed upon the Philippine Islands by the United States Government when the United States Government imposed a certain export duty upon hemp, but when the hemp was sent direct to the United States ports then no export duty was paid. That is what is happening here. Not a single farthing of the £2 per ton proposed by this scheme is effective, and of course the Colonial Secretary and the Colonial Office want the scheme to be effective. If it is effective, not a single farthing will go into the Exchequer of the West African Colonies, because all the nuts will come to the British Empire, and, consequently, all the deposits of £2 per ton will be given back to those upon whom they have been levied. The idea is that the £2 shall be nominally an export duty, but that everyone importing nuts into the British Empire and crushing them in the British Empire shall, upon the production of the certificate that the nuts have been crushed in the British Empire, claim a rebate of the £2 which has been left as a deposit. That is not an export duty at all. Given the inequalities in other directions, given inefficiencies at home, given the continuation of the ten or twelve impediments mentioned in this Report as reasons why we have not been able to use these nuts hitherto—allowing these to exist—even then we are going to take these nuts, and use them as monopolists do, for our own special benefit, not for our national purposes, but for the purposes of the few crushers and manufacturers. These gentlemen represent five or six members of a group of West African merchants and shippers—Maypole, Margarine, Lever Brothers, and so on. They are looking after their own interests. This particular method of making improvements without any outside competition coming in to upset their ring and shipping arrangements, and for no other purpose whatever, is not bad. They say to us, in the most naive sort of way, that of course they must face the question, Will the native be affected or injured by it? The native is bound to be injured by it. You limit his market. They say, "Oh, but you have taken the German State and added it to the British State." That is not a market 564 which affects the price of these nuts. It is the demand on the spot, and if you reduce the width of the competition on the spot for the purchase of the nuts, it does not matter how wide you make your market for the consumption of the products. They mix the thing, and, of course, they are business gentlemen. They prefer to make a reply which does not touch the point at all. The effect of this is that you limit the thing to one nationality and to one group of men—men whose business in this country is mixed up together through the banks and shipping arrangements, and through the crushing, and margarine, and soap arrangements, and you limit the purchase of the nuts on the spot to those who represent these men, and then, forsooth, they come and tell us, "You are adding to the British market the German market, and therefore you do not release the economic forces which are contained, but only reduce the price of the nut." The language in which it is expressed is very amusing. I will trouble the Committee with one extract. The Committee admits that there is the risk for the natives. This is what they say about it, on page 23, about the middle of the first paragraph:In any event the Committee are of opinion that whatever risk there is in this matter is worth taking for the proposed term of years in view of the objects to be obtained.That is a very delightful sentiment. See what it means:In any event the Committee are of the opinion that whatever risk there is in the matter—Whose risk is it? It is the natives' risk. They are dealing with the natives' risk as a matter of fact. The text shows that. The "proposed term of years in view of the objects to be obtained." What objects are to be obtained? The capture and the setting up of certain crushing mills in England. Therefore, there is a proposition that it is worth while for the native to risk the loss of the price of his nuts in order that there should be two or three new crushing mills opened in England. I hope the business capacity is better than the method, which shows in passing the gravest and most obvious economic difficulties attending these proposals made to the Colonial Secretary.
There is another security. They say if this ring is going to be formed, then the duty can be reduced. If we find that prices are going down, somebody—I do not know how or who, but some authority 565 —it is not very clear what—can reduce this so-called Export Tax, and then the foreigner comes in over the top of a lot of others. We can imagine a gentleman who has sunk thousands of pounds in crushing mills in this country when the price of nuts and kernels goes down and the Colonial Office, or some persons in it, explain to him why the prices have fallen in the West African market. Their ingenuity will be perfectly equal to the occasion. They will prove to him up to the hilt that no operation of theirs has had anything whatever to do with the lowering of the price of kernels. The ring will continue its operations. Profits will be made. The native will continue to take the risk of the low prices in order to establish these two or three mills. The guarantee that there will be no movement in this Export Tax once it is started is a guarantee that it will move the other way. We know perfectly well sometimes there is less danger of foreign competition in the purchase of these kernels. For the moment merchants, quoting Adam Smith, will be busy—it is a thing which has happened in every State in the world which has adopted this method. I am not blaming our own country more than others. The same thing happened when America adopted this method of taxation in regard to hemp in the Phillipines. Once you establish a connection between the personal interests of a few rich men, the Colonial Secretary, and the general political administration of the Colonies, it is absolutely impossible to dissociate the Colonial Secretary from that influence, or so long as this pernicious system of strangling and limiting the market is pursued as an approved Colonial policy. There is the shipping side. We know perfectly well how the trade of these districts is dealt with. The shipping interests are very well united.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I will take my hon. Friend's remark and say, quite united. There is the ring. There is no competition. What happens? Anyhow, we are told in this Report that at the present moment the German and British ships both go. I am told that even that is a bit of make-believe so far as their competition is concerned. I do not know. I am a very innocent person, indeed. At any rate, so long as you have got the two there is the possibility that friction may 566 crop up, and that some justice will be done to the public in reference to these enormous profits. There is going to be no danger of that. They are, I think, all under one management, with common directors, a common chairman, and a monopoly of the market. Mr. Moore suggested that you should bring home kernels and take out whisky in order to preserve the balance. This is commerce divesting itself of everything which is decent in order to increase commercial efficiency, and to accumulate profits even in such times as these, when one does not want to think of these things at all. We may make this departure. We are living at the present time in an atmosphere which is created by atrocities, hatred, ill-will, and feelings of the sort, and by the horrible things which are going on all round. The detestation in which we "hold certain acts of our enemy legitimately makes every man think of some form of punishment for those upon whose back punishment ought to rest. In that atmosphere and under those circumstances this Report should be accepted by this Committee. The dispatch sent by the right hon. Gentleman may be accepted by this Committee. This pernicious policy which begins its new departure in Colonial policy may be inaugurated. This is the first effect of the Paris resolutions. These may be approved and accepted. Of this, however, I am perfectly certain, when those times go by and we are in a position to consider what we have done this afternoon—if we give this Report our approval—we will see we have done two things: We have sacrificed the interests of the natives that we ought to have guarded, and we have deteriorated the honour and conditions of the Colonial policy of this Empire.
§ Captain Sir OWEN PHILIPPS
I have listened to the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Leicester. It is a very fine exposition of the doctrines of the obsolete Manchester school. From the way he dealt with the matter one would have thought it was a matter of absolute indifference to the hon. Member whether or not we brought trade from Germany to England. When he goes down to address the working men of Leicester, I think that they, and especially their colleagues when they come home from the War, will not have quite the same opinion of the hon. Gentleman's views. In any case, I believe that the working men will 567 hold a very different view of the gentlemen, whether Members of this House or not, who endeavour to increase the trade of Great Britain. I am not ashamed to say that I am chairman of the British lines trading to West Africa. In that position I succeeded the late Sir Alfred Jones. The hon. Member has given the impression to this House, and is endeavouring to give the impression to the country, that British shipowners in the West African trade are making enormous profits. I can only say—I was going to use a word which was not Parliamentary—that it is absolutely untrue. The position is that, since the beginning of the War, the British lines trading to West Africa have carried palm kernels, which, it may interest the House to know, are a bulky article, and occupy considerably more tonnage space, going about 13 cwt. to the ton in measurement, and we have carried those kernels for twenty-four months of the War at £2 a ton, or a little over pre-war price. The difficulty is that when we have to go into the market and get outside tonnage to meet the requirements of the merchants, we have to pay an equivalent of £6 or £6 10s. per ton, and I do not think, in view of those facts, that the inferences drawn by the hon. Member for Leicester from the British companies carrying on their trade are fair, and I think that when the hon. Member has had time to think over and read his speech he will come down to the House and apologise for it.
Owing to the nature of my business I know something of the West African trade, and I think I am not behind anybody in my keenness to help the West African natives and develop the West African Colonies. West Africa is practically dependent on two things. It is dependent on cocoa, and it is dependent on a palm tree that only grows in West Africa. It does not grow in any other part of the world, the reason being that it can only grow where there are 120 inches of rainfall, and that is only for a certain distance from the seaboard all down the West African Coast. This palm oil produces two valuable products—the palm kernel, which is crushed, and the palm oil of commerce. Between these two the export from the British West African Colonies is about 350,000 tons, to the value at present of over £6,000,000, and it is a trade that is likely to increase as the Colonies are opened up by railways and 568 otherwise. I know it does not interest the hon. Member for Leicester, but three-quarters of that trade before the War was done by Germany. I do not want to do him an injustice, but I gathered he said it was of no interest to him.
§ Captain Sir O. PHILIPPS
I accept the hon. Member's statement Why did it go to Germany? Well, the trade began in a small way, and the German: discovered that the palm kernels made very good feeding cake. When crushed, the kernels became half palm kernel oil and the rest feeding cake. They discovered the feeding cake had certain qualities. English chemists advised the English farmers that nothing they could give a cow would increase the amount of butter fat in the milk, at least for more than a few days; but the Germans discovered that palm kernel cake given to milking cows would increase the amount of butter-fat by as much as over ¼ per cent., so the result was that by giving it to their cattle they were able to get as much butter from nine cows as before it took ten cows to produce. For that reason throughout the German Empire for many years palm kernel cake has been more valuable than it has been in this country. In former years the oil was used for soap purposes, but latterly they have found it much more valuable for making nut butters, and the German chemist may have been a little in advance of the English chemist on that subject. Anyhow, those two things together kept the trade as a German trade.
What the Committee appointed by the Colonial Secretary had to consider was what they could propose, with due regard to the interests of the West African natives, that would bring this great trade of the British Empire away from Germany. That was the proposition, and by the proposal of an Export Duty of £2 a ton they felt that it would get over, in the first instance, the fact that the whole of the efficient mills in Germany could deal with this. I should explain there are plenty of mills in England that can crush palm kernels, but the pressure of mills that are constructed specially to crush linseed or cotton-seed is not great enough to get the full quantity of oil out of palm kernels, and, therefore, although there are a very large number of mills in England 569 that can crush palm kernels, there are to very few mills at the present time in England that can crush them economically. What you want is something to start the industry fairly in this country, and if it is once here, I believe it can hold its own; but if we are going in all these cases to turn to old ideas that have been shown to be obsolete, and not look at these matters in a practical way, then the result of the resolutions passed at the Paris Conference may be written off as useless. The hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham was evidently very concerned that the natives might lose under this arrangement put forward by the Committee. All I can say is that we went very fully into that matter, and we had the benefit of the views of two of the principal local Governors on the Committee, and, unless I had been personally absolutely satisfied that the natives would obtain in the future at least as good a price as in the past, I, personally, would not have signed the Report.
§ Sir O. PHILIPPS
It is not for me to speak. I have no authority to speak for the Governors. They had left this country before the Report was signed, but I did have the benefit of discussing the matter fully with them before I formed my own personal opinion, though I do not think it would be right for me to say in this House what the opinions of the Governors were.
§ Sir O. PHILIPPS
I think that is because there is a memorandum from that particular Governor in the Appendix, or it was going to be printed; but I can only say I have discussed the matter very fully with both of them, and without saying what their particular views were, the discussion certainly helped me to arrive at a decision, and I believe that if what we recommended is carried out, the net result will be that there will be a much larger demand for palm kernels in the future than there has been in the past. There is this other very important factor that influenced me in arriving at that decision. To everyone connected with West Africa anything is of enormous interest that increases the output from West Africa, and the native turns his attention to that article which produces the greatest profit. For instance, it may not be known 570 to many Members of this House that twenty-five years ago the natives in West Africa exported one ton of cocoa; this year they exported 77,000 tons. It is by giving the West African producer a good price that you get the greatest output, and I am satisfied that our recommendation will lead to a greater output of palm kernels from West Africa than even there has been in the past, and, on the whole, it has been steadily increasing for some years.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I think one may say that probably the deepest rift there is between the two sides in the economic controversy lies in this—I do not think it is putting it unfairly—that those who hold what they consider the orthodox faith refuse to count one great fact as economic, which we, on the other side, consider to be one of the greatest economic facts in the world, and that fact is war. I am going to apply that to this particular case, but may I say in passing that it seems to me if we consider the cost of this War to this Empire as being some £5,000,000,000 or £6,000,000,000—we do not know exactly what it will be, but it will be something of that kind—that in all the economic considerations and calculations of the last generation, if you had thrown that fact, or insurance against that fact, into the scales, you would have altered very greatly many of the conclusions that you drew from purely economic arguments. Applying that idea to this case, what do I find in the Report of the Protectorate of Nigeria in the Colonial Office Series for 1914, which is, I believe, the last Report available? I find this statement, that Germany provided a market for 44 per cent. of the products of Nigeria. I find also the statement that trade with Germany, which ceased on the outbreak of war, declined by £900,000 as compared with 1913. That is to say, trade was cut off to a value representing £2,000,000 a year owing to the fact that the trade had been conducted with a country that became our enemy. We hold command of the ocean, and had that trade been conducted with this country the inhabitants of West Africa would not have suffered loss at the rate of £2,000,000 a year during the first portion of the War. I have not the statistics of what has happened in Nigeria during the long period that has followed, and I simply say that during the first five months of the War there was a loss of £900,000 due to the fact that the market was cut off.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
No, there was a great decline in the total trade. When I look into it I find in the matter of palm kernels that in 1913 the value was £3,100,000, and in 1914 it fell to £2,500,000, or a loss of £600,000.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I must be allowed to argue the case in my own way. My argument turns on values and not on quantities. The value of palm kernels exported in the last full of year of 1913 was £3,100,000, and the value, in the incomplete year of 1914 was £2,500,000, in round figures. That is to say there is a decrease of nearly £600,000 in values. This duty which it is proposed to put on is, I understand, taking normal prices approximately, a 10 per cent. duty. If you take the value for the whole year, amounting to over £3,000,000, and assume for the sake of argument, and for no other purpose, that the natives are going to pay the whole of the equivalent of that duty of 10 per cent., which will be about £300,000, then it will amount to one seventh of the loss which they experienced in the breaking away of the German market. If we adopt the line of argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and assume the most rigorous line of what I will call the Free Trade argument, the economic effect of introducing was is that you alter the whole aspect of the case, and for a small protected country in the position of one of our Crown Colonies or Protectorates, it is immensely to their advantage to trade with the protecting country, rather than the country that may become its enemy. That is a single instance' of many cases that might be put in regard to this business. It is a portion of the dislocation that comes from the fact that you have attempted in past years to separate your economic sphere in politics from your sphere of foreign policy and war.
War is one of the greatest economic factors in the world. The attack made by the hon. Gentlemen opposite is based wholly on the fact that they consider this is the first instance in detail of the 572 infringement of their dogmas under the policy of the Paris Resolutions. But they think in the present case they have got a special instance of controversial value from their point of view, because you are going to inflict a loss on the native. I want to consider not merely one year, but a group of years in this matter. After the announcement made by the Prime Minister' yesterday, I think I may say that we have adopted the Paris Resolutions as our policy, and also the second portion of those resolutions, but not the third part, which may become the subject of longer controversy afterwards. The second portion applies immediately after the War. I think it is agreed that the raw materials of the Allied countries and Colonies shall be reserved for the use of those Allies. If that is going to be your policy, then in the interests of the producers in West Africa the sooner you get to work to stimulate the investment, of capital in this country for the purpose of utilising those products the better it will be for those in West Africa. You are not going to get that capital which is a costly investment in up-to-date crushing machinery unless you give some promise of security. If you are going to adopt that policy in the interests of the inhabitants of West Africa, do it at once, and let them have the full advantage of the period of peace which is to follow. It is doubly in the interests of these people, because the War has taught you that you cannot leave war out of your calculations, and economic suffering has fallen upon the Protectorate of West Africa, and therefore you OWJ it to them to bring them into line with the new policy which you have announced, and which you should adopt at the earliest possible moment.
I go further than that. I say that those who have fought in this War from our land are entitled to a portion of the prosperity of West Africa. They have fought, and in fighting they have fought to maintain the peace and administration of the Niger regions. A German going to that region paid nothing except certain import duties as compared with what we paid to the administration of Nigeria. You must always include in your estimate the cost of the protection of that country by your large fleet of ships that keeps open communications between that country and Europe. The Germans who traded there did not pay proportionately for the maintenance of that administration. I say that the men of our own race who have fought 573 in Europe to maintain the security and the peace of our vast tropical protectorate—because that is the indirect result of what they have done—are entitled to have a portion of the advantages which are to be derived from West Africa.
That seems to me to be the broad policy governing the whole situation. You have no right to apply your ordinary Free Trade theories which may be applicable to the ordinary highly civilised States in Europe to such territories as those vast countries which are now more than half empty, and are of enormous wealth in the centre of Africa. Those regions ought to be treated as an asset of the Empire. If they are so treated and developed with the help of our war-like expenditure, an expenditure in money and in life, if we keep the pax Britannica throughout vast areas of the world by that expenditure, then we are entitled to treat those regions as being Imperial estates. It is our bounden duty to see that steadily we have progress in the condition of the savage and barbarous inhabitants of those regions who number some 25,000,000 in the Nigerian area. But our duty is not limited to them. Our duty is towards our own race and mankind. Our duty is to develop those vast regions, and a portion of the results we are entitled to take for ourselves and for civilised mankind, for that civilised mankind which in the course of some generations probably the people who inhabit those regions will be able to join. We are entitled to take it, because we have fought and spent that which cannot be estimated in cash and that ought to be taken into your economics. It has cost us the lives of our men, and we have spent millions on our Fleet and on those great forces which in various portions of the Empire are called upon to defend our possessions. Do not let us think those charges are entirely paid for locally.
Even the men who are sent out there to take command are men who have been trained hero before they go. The payment of their salaries and wages there is a small portion of what is the real cost, and the main cost is contributed here and only here. Therefore, we are entitled to a considerable proportion of the advantages that come from those regions, provided that we treat the welfare of the inhabitants as part of the development of those estates. I say that at all times, but now above all times, and at the end of this War we shall be entitled to treat those 574 regions as a vast estate. My view is that this small beginning of the policy is amply justified. If you take war into account, if you take into account the cost of maintaining those regions, what I have suggested is justified if you regard us as trustees for those great potentialities of the local inhabitants, and we do this not merely for them but for mankind, but above all for that vast portion which is in our Empire and which holds the pax Britannica in those regions.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in the vast subject which he has opened up. He is obviously dealing with the great question of national policy after the War, and that is a question which has no relation whatever to the conduct of the War. He has advocated a policy which involves a reversal of our attitude towards the Crown Colonies, and there may be much to be said for making them contributory States. That, however, is a subject which cannot be decided in reference to some small petty article like palm kernels, but it must be decided in view of the broad and general consideration of national and Imperial policy. I rose for the purpose of supporting the appeal which has been made by the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) for some kind of inquiry into the origin and the subsequent measures taken in connection with the riots in Ceylon. The hon. Member has gone over the evidence which is available on that subject in such full detail that I will not trespass further upon the time of the House in that connection, because I know that there is only a single day to be devoted to Colonial affairs, and there are many other hon. Members who want to raise questions in detail which have not yet been discussed. I merely desire to press the demand for an inquiry. This I am not doing in a hostile spirit or with a critical intention, but it is being pressed upon the Colonial Office as the best means of strengthening the hands of the Colonial Office and enabling it to carry out and discharge its duty towards the Empire in this matter.
I will refer only to three aspects of these riots with regard to which, I think, inquiry is necessary and essential in the interests of the Colonial Office itself, and the control which it ought to exercise over the administration which is subject to it. In the first place, there is the question of the 575 origin of these riots. We have had evidence given to us by the hon. Member who first dealt with this case that there was no treasonable origin whatever. Yet that suggestion has been made and was present in the mind of the officer commanding the troops in Ceylon in suppressing the riots. He had in his mind at the time that these riots possibly and probably had a treasonable origin. That matter requires investigation. Secondly, investigation is necessary into the question of the suppression. Were the best methods adopted? Were the Government prepared? Were the measures that were taken by the Executive effective measures? Were the rioters allowed to get out of hand? Could the riots have been delimited and circumscribed and lessened if more efficient measures had been taken to suppress them? Is the local Executive free from Censure in this matter?
Lastly, inquiry is desirable with regard to the punitive measures adopted after the riots were suppressed. This is quite a distinct thing from suppressing the riots. There was a very dangerous crisis in some respects, quite apart from the question of the origin or motive of the riots. There was no seditious origin in these riots. The circumstances, with this exception, resembled the situation in Ireland. Did the Executive Government, by its bad preparation and dispositions, let the crisis completely get out of hand? Apart from the actual use of force in the suppression, were the punitive measures adopted after the riots were over, and there was no further danger, wise and prudent measures? Take in the first place, a very important matter, the manned of raising the funds necessary to pay compensation to the injured persons. Levies were imposed on persons throughout Ceylon. If these levies were not wisely made, if full consideration were not given to all the issues involved, if they were rough and ready military measures imposed on the spur of the moment, it is possible that great injustice may have been done to individuals and, quite apart from the origin and the religious motives underlying the riots, that a new sense of injustice may have been created in the minds of many people. It is important that the Colonial Office, which is the guardian of the rights and interests of the people of Ceylon and of the interests of the people of this country in 576 that Colony, should be well informed as to whether these measures of levies were wisely and prudently taken.
There is the question of the courts-martial and the sentences imposed under court-martial. Martial law was prolonged for months after all danger from the actual riots had passed away. Was it wisely prolonged? We have the opinion of a high judicial officer, given in a case where martial law was challenged on a writ of Habeas Corpus, that martial law was not imposed in Ceylon on account of local conditions or anything arising out of the riots, but was justified solely and simply because the Empire itself was at war. The Empire being at war, it might be desirable to maintain martial law in Ceylon. Was this wisely done? It is desirable to inquire into that matter. I asked a question last Session as to whether it was desirable when there was a complete state of peace, and when the established Courts of Justice were still sitting, to refer these cases to courts-martial. The answer was that, first of all, cases were referred to the ordinary Courts, and then, if they seemed grave and difficult, they were referred to courts-martial. I should have thought that the argument was all the other way. If they were grave and difficult cases raising important questions of law and evidence, if there were complete peace, and if the ordinary Courts were sitting, sitting sufficiently to hear the preliminary inquiries, I should have thought that it was desirable that they should have been heard in the ordinary Courts. The more difficult they were, the more desirable it was that they should be heard in the ordinary Courts. We know, on the Report of the Governors, that there was no treasonable motive in these riots. We know that they were purely religious riots between the sects, and that there was no desire to attack Europeans or the Government. What were the charges that were made against these people who were tried by court-martial?
Whereupon the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod (Captain T. D. Butler) having come with a message to attend the Lords Commissioners, the Chairman left the Chair.
MR. SPKAKER resumed the chair.
Message to attend the Lords Commissioners. The House went, and, having returned,
§ Mr. SPEAKER
reported the Royal Assent to—
- 1. Consolidated Fund (No. 4) Act, 1916.
- 2. Gas (Standard of Calorific Power) Act, 1916.
- 3. Output of Beer (Restriction) Act, 1916.
- 4. Isle of Man (Customs) Act, 1916.
- 5. Public Works Loans Act, 1916.
- 6. Police, Factories, etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1916.
- 7. Expiring Laws Continuance Act, 1916.
- 8. Local Government Board (Ireland) Provisional Orders Confirmation (No. 2) Act, 1916.
- 9. Local Government Board's Provisional Order Confirmation (No. 3) Act, 1916.
- 10. Local Government Board's Provisional Orders Confirmation (No. 5) Act, 1916.
- 11. Local Government Board's Provisional Orders Confirmation (No. 7) Act, 1916.
- 12. Pier and Harbour Orders Confirmation Act, 1916.
- 13. Land Drainage (Feltwell) Provisional Order Confirmation Act, 1916.
- 14. Land Drainage (Lilleshall) Provisional Order Confirmation Act, 1916.
- 15. Aberdare and Aberaman Gas Act, 1916.
- 16. Tynemouth Corporation Act, 1916.
- 17. Colchester Gas Act, 1916.
- 16. Ferndale Gas Act, 1916.
- 19. Great Central and Sheffield District Railways Act, 1916.
§ SUPPLY again considered in Committee.