HC Deb 08 November 1916 vol 87 cc249-368

I beg to move, "That, in the opinion of this House, where enemy properties and businesses in Crown Colonies and Protectorates are offered for sale, provision should be made for securing that such properties and businesses should be sold only to natural-born British subjects or companies wholly British."

The Resolution which I have the honour to move this afternoon is one that, in the opinion of many in this House and, I believe, in the opinion of a very large section of the British public, raises matters of the greatest importance. There has been a good deal of discussion on the subject in the Press for the last two or three days, and suggestions have been made that those who are responsible for putting down this Motion are actuated by motives of a private or particular order in favour of particular firms or individuals carrying on business in this country. Many of the firms concerned have their places of business in my Constituency, but I want to make it quite clear at the outset that I, for one, have no scot or lot in any particular view entertained by any merchants or body of merchants in this country. I am not here on behalf of profiteers, as one paper kindly suggested. If there is any section or any class for whom I appear, it is the natives of the great African Colonies of the British Empire. It is in my view primarily the interest of the natives that ought to concern those who are responsible for the government of our African Empire. The glory of British Colonial government and of British government of native races has always been that we have sought their interests in the first instance. That glory I conceive to be a matter that is concerned in this day's Debate. There are one or two matters that have been brought into this controversy which seem to me not to concern it. The Motion involves, for instance, no hostility or antagonism towards neutral Powers—none whatever! Those of us who are supporting this Motion are here for this proposition: that the fruits of this War, in which we have been spending blood and money like water, ought to. be kept for those who are really British— for the members of the British Empire. It is not for us to hand over the fruits of the War to neutrals of any nationality, who have been paying no War taxes, who have been making no sacrifices, and who have been accumulating profits with which they can enter into the market to compete with British bidders.

The subject-matter which has led to this Motion is, as the House knows, the proposed auction of enemy properties in-Nigeria. The question as to what should be done with enemy properties during the War, and as to whether they should be wound up or not, again is a question which does not arise to-day. The proposed auction in Nigeria is taking place as the result of orders made in the Courts in Nigeria that those properties should be wound up. The question here is whether, upon the sale of those properties, neutrals, whether in name or substance, should be allowed to come in and compete with British bidders or whether we should reserve these properties for British bidders only. The subject-matter of this sale in Nigeria which raises this big question is, on the one hand, land and buildings, and, on the other, the goodwill of businesses and the trade marks used in connection with that goodwill. I notice in one of the papers to-day a statement that ships also were being sold, and that those ships could be used to break some combine to which the newspaper referred. No ships are included in that sale, and no such question arises. Another question of great public importance which, in my judgment, is not affected to-day is the question of policy after the War as to whether or not aliens should be permitted, as they have been in the past, to own land and carry on business within the United Kingdom or British Colonies without any restrictions of any sort. It is a question of the gravest importance, but I wish to emphasise this point particularly to those hon. Members who think that the previous practice ought to be continued, that the question as to what we should do with enemy properties wound up during the War does not by any means necessarily conclude any question as to what is the best policy to adopt in regard to the general position of aliens in British Colonies after the War. There are two other questions which, as it seems to me, do not arise to-day and are not involved in a decision on this Motion. One is the question of our relation to our Allies under the Paris Resolution. This question is not necessarily involved. Another question is as to the right of the natives to receive fair prices for the produce of palm kernels and oil, and so on, that they sell. That question is not directly involved here, and a vote of this House in support of this Resolution can keep open all such questions as that—all questions of the internal Government of our Colonies, such as Nigeria, all questions of what legislation is necessary to protect the natives, and all questions of what legislation is desirable to deal with trusts or combines.

The support in favour of this Motion, which has been indicated throughout the country already, is very large. I have resolutions here, which it is unnecessary to read in detail, strongly supporting it from chambers of commerce other than Liverpool and London, where most of the merchants engaged in West Africa are located. I take one as an illustration. The Chamber of Commerce of Manchester passed a long resolution which supports the Motion broadly on the grounds I am going to indicate to the House. The Newcastle Chamber of Commerce passed a similar resolution which is briefer, and therefore fitter for repetition in the House. It is a telegram: Re-sale of enemy properties in Nigeria, Council of this chamber desire that you will make urgent representations to induce the (Government to prevent these properties from falling into enemy or alien hands. The Newcastle Chamber of Commerce is not one of those chambers where any appreciable number, if any, merchants engaged in Nigerian trade carry on their business. Of the new firms or companies which have started in Nigeria during the War, I saw the representatives of one to-day, probably the most important—the African Oil Nuts Company, I think it is called—and they are also anxious to see this Motion carried, although they are directly hostile to the merchants who have been there hitherto, whom the Government have referred to in their answers to questions as the combine. That is the position as regards the question of public support.

But in my submission to the House the Motion is one which we, as British, ought to regard as almost a self-evident proposition. Why should we let these valuable businesses pass direct into alien hands? The Government, I imagine, has taken that course, because it has been the practice hitherto to sell to anyone who will come to buy, and they have not thought out this question—at least, I hope they have not. If they should have decided such a question as this deliberately without consulting this House, I think it would be a most regrettable course. Their case, as I understand it, is that there is at present a ring or combine, whatever you like to call it, of merchants engaged in the Nigerian trade which shuts out all competition. I am not here for a moment to say that there is not. I know that from one point of view it is a perfectly just statement to say that there is such a ring. I know it very well, and I have heard both sides of the question and have investigated it in considerable detail. But let it be admitted that it is desirable that the ring should be controlled. Is British statesmanship so bankrupt that, in order to control a ring of British merchants it has to invite America, Holland, South America to come in and buy in order that we may control our own subjects? And has there never been a ring in the history of commerce in which foreigners have joined with British subjects to make a ring? There has been a ring in the past between British and Americans and Germans in more trades than one, and there will be rings of the same kind in the future. It is the day of combines. It may be—I am rather inclined to take that view myself—that some kind of antitrust legislation in a close ring fence like a single African colony may be desirable; but that is no reason for giving away the fruits of the war to neutrals who have not earned them. After all, this question of the rights of neutrals to hold land and carry on business in British territory, whether it be in the United Kingdom or in British Colonies, is one which has received consideration in the comparable case of other countries and has been the subject of legislation. Take, for instance, the case of the French Congo. Ever since 1907, in the French Congo, which is next door to Nigeria for practical purposes—the Cameroons are between them—the rule has been that any person receiving a concession of land for the purpose of carrying on business must turn the property into a limited company, of which three parts of the governing body shall be Frenchmen, including the President and Vice-President, and the company has to pay over to the French Government 15 per cent. of its profits besides an annual charge, and in addition the whole of the board of management has to be approved by the French Colonial Minister for the first six years and thereafter has to be in effect French. In addition, the French Government always retains the power to repurchase, at a valuation, and a deposit has to be made to see that the French law is carried out, and I believe the head office has to be in Paris. That is the type of legislation by which complete control is kept. I am quoting from a book on French Colonial Law, which I can furnish to the Colonial Secretary.


Are we asked to admire that legislation?


Yes, as far as I am concerned. I do not say these particular details, but legislation on these lines may be, in my judgment, extremely desirable after the War. But that question is not involved in this discussion to-day. There are at least two sides to the question, and the side I take is that the French legislation is on the right lines in order that real control should be retained by our Government. Under the proposed sale in Nigeria, which we take as an illustration in throwing light upon the general question, my view is that the Government, in the first place, by their proposals, do not exclude enemy subjects, and, in the second place, are taking the very best possible steps to promote and boom German trade. The conditions of sale, of which I have a copy here, contains provision as to what the Government intends to do by way of restricting neutral Powers from transmitting property to enemies. The restrictions take the form of a proposed piece of legislation in Nigeria entitled "An Ordinance to make further provision with regard to the disposal of enemy properties." Under it the Government take powers to make certain restrictions in regard to the land and buildings that they are selling, but, so far as I am able to find, there are no restrictions whatever in regard either to goodwill or trade marks. In Section 2 of the Ordinance, a corporation under enemy control is thus defined: A corporation the shareholders in which holding shares or stock having a majority of the votes are enemies or enemy subjects. Let us see what that means. A corporation, according to the definition of this Ordinance, is neutral of which 51 per cent. of the shareholders are neutral, though 49 per cent. may be living in Berlin, and the 51 per cent. may all be, for instance, naturalised Americans who were Germans until two years ago and who are acting entirely in German interests. It is ridiculous. It is no control at all over property passing into enemy hands.

Then pass on to Clauses 9, 10 and 11, which are the proposals for limiting the property permanently to neutral ownership. In the first place, they only relate to immovable property—that is land and buildings. There is not a word in them about goodwill or trade marks. Under the provisions as regards immovables there is that provision that a neutral corporation such as I have described—49 per cent. in Berlin and 51 per cent. naturalised Americans—may buy. Secondly, there is a proviso that the Governor may, in his absolute, unfettered discretion, consent to a sale to an enemy. Take this alone. I think these positions are conclusive against the Government. What is to prevent a secret trusts The owners are located in America or Holland or the Argentine or somewhere else. There is no earthly means of preventing secret trusts. As to the goodwill and trade marks, assume for a moment in the Government's favour that the buyer of a factory, as it is called out there, the place where the goods are kept, with its site, wherever it may be, at one of the big coast towns or up river, is a neutral. There is no restriction in regard to the purchase of the goodwill of the business which was previously carried on or the trade marks in connection with it. What is there to prevent that neutral, while he owns the property, acting as agent in respect of German buyers of the goodwill and trade marks? A fortiori, what is to prevent him acting as agent to the German manufacturer in respect of German goods? Nothing whatever.

Let me just show the House what the trade marks are that are being sold by the Government in separate lots. I do not know whether the House can see them at this distance, but I have in my hand one "G. L. Gaiser, Hamburg," written all over it. That is the essence of the trade mark, that is what they are selling. This trade mark has been out of use two and a half years, and the Government are bringing it back into use and reviving it. Why? I suppose to boom German trade. It is inconceivable. Here is a whole book of trade marks, everyone, or most of them, with German names on them, writ large, as an essential part of the trade mark. Take an illustration of a neutral buyer—one of the neutral firms that it is understood is likely to buy or bid at this proposed auction if it takes place. It is a Dutch firm or company, Anton Jurgens. We have all heard something about it, but I should like to give the House one or two particulars in regard to it. The company is a large Dutch company, with a Dutch name, which, translated, is the Anton Jurgens United (Margarine) Works, and that company holds £400,000 worth of shares in subsidiary companies, and has lent to subsidiary companies money to the extent of two and a half millions sterling. The subsidiary companies are all German companies carrying on business in Germany, and the names of them are stated in a pamphlet which was probably received by most Members of this House, entitled "Sugar Supply Monopoly and Enemy Influence." It was sent out by Sir George Watson on behalf of the Maypole Dairy Company. The subsidiary companies are mentioned by name, six of them have places in Germany. Suppose Anton Jurgens bought them. He started a British company recently in England. Is there any power on earth for preventing the property he buys and the business he runs in Nigeria, being run in the real interests of the German manufacturers who want to ship goods out of Germany and who want to buy produce from Nigeria? The gist of it is that, during the War, there will be a trust by a neutral for the Germans of the business and trade mark, and after the War we shall see German goods manufactured in Germany brought into Nigeria under the old German trade marks which should have been dead and buried; and, on the other hand, the produce from Nigeria which they can lay hands on will be going to German works.

So much for what I submit is the utter inefficacy of the restrictions the Government propose, as they say, for preventing the Germans getting the advantage of these sales. Come to the other aspect of the case. I say what the Government are doing is to promote German trade, to bring back into existence German business that is gone, and to keep it comfortably warm for the Germans after the War, in order that they may do a big trade after the War. I do not want to trouble the House with law, but the lawyers in the House will know that what I am saying is correct. A trade mark is not the subject of property except as ancillary to the goodwill of a business. If the goodwill is gone, the trade mark goes with it, and when the trade mark goes the registration of it ought to be cancelled. That is in the Nigerian Trade Mark Ordinance, which is in identical language with -he Act of 1905, which applies to the United Kingdom. For two and a half years these German trade marks have not been used. These German businesses have been shut down. Is there any goodwill left? The "Daily Chronicle" to-day pointed out there was no goodwill left, and, if there is. none, there is nothing to sell. The trade marks cannot be sold, and the only proper course is for the Government to cancel the registration of these trade marks. Instead of that, what have they done? They have spent very large sums of money, we do not know how much—I would like to know—in advertising the sale of these properties, including the trade marks and goodwill, in neutral countries. For what purpose? To bring back into life, by fictitious means, goodwill and trade marks that have gone and are not worth a halfpenny, in order that they may sell them for large sums. For what purpose are they going to sell for large sums German trade marks with German names on them? Who is. going to find these large sums of money?

I hear—I do not know whether it is true or not—there is in contemplation a £20,000 offer for one series of these trade marks. What is the position of the Government if it is right to say, and I believe it is, that the goodwill has been completely destroyed? What will be the position of the Government after the War? It will be that they will have made no valid title to these trade marks, and they will be passing on actions brought at the instance of Germans in the name of natives in order that the trade marks may be done away with. The whole thing is a fiction. There is no reality. We are living in a realm of unreality in regard to these trade marks, and the only businesslike thing consistent with the realities of the case is to cancel the registration of the trade mark and have done with them. That German trade is likely to be at the back of these matters, that German commerce will want to come in again is pretty clear. At the beginning of October an association or union of West African merchants at Hamburg petitioned the Reichstag to support a proposal for subsidising German trade in West and South-West Africa for ten years after the War. They asked for a capital sum of one million sterling to be distributed by a board of management consisting of representatives of Imperial offices and the West African firms, repayment not to be insisted upon until after a lapse of ten years. I say no more on the subject of the effect of the Government proposals in rehabilitating, continuing, and maintaining German trade.

What is to be done under the circumstances? That is the capital question. Some of the British West African merchants—three firms or companies, one of whom had nothing to do with the combine that did exist before the War—but was a competitor of it—have made an offer to the Board of Trade to float a new company for the purchase, of these properties. I am not supporting this as a proposal. I am expressing no opinion whatever about it—I am merely stating the facts. They have made this proposal; they offer that the company shall be open to public subscription; they offer representation of the Colonial Office on the board of management, and, in addition, they have made this offer, which I regard as of the greatest possible public importance, that they will be willing to consent to the Government, if the Government think it desirable, to sell to them at a fair valuation, introducing a fair-price clause into their constitution, under which the Government would have a permanent right to see that the native producers receive a fair price for their produce. Such a fair price can easily be arranged. Liverpool spot prices are conclusive evidence of the market prices of the day. The cost of marketing from the producer to Liverpool is an item of expenditure that can easily be ascertained by an inspection of the books. A ratio between the Liverpool prices and the prices given to the native producer could easily be ascertained. There is no practical diffi- culty about it. I say that in the interests of the natives a clause of that sort would be of the greatest possible value, and I am instructed on behalf of the Anti-Slavery Society to say that they, who watch over the interests of the natives throughout the world with great and loving care and with great success, would welcome a clause of that kind more than anything.

I do not say whether that is a proposition that ought to be accepted, and whether that would meet the views of those who say that the combine in Nigeria has too much power. I am expressing no opinion about it. There are two views about that combine. I do say that the question of a fair-price clause, to my mind, is a great inducement in favour of that offer. What about the combine before the War? There was a combine consisting of four British firms—the African Association, the Miller Trust, the Niger Company, and the Company of West African merchants, together, as I understand, with certain German firms. But that went with the War. It is said there has been an arrangement—some people say it is a combine—but the arrangement had to be made for the very simple reason that the result of the War was to completely close the biggest market for palm kernels in Germany, and to make it possible that the natives would never be able to sell their produce at all. Whether that was a wise arrangement or not, I do not know, but it is a matter for investigation.

What I do submit to this House is this, that the desirable course to adopt hero to-day is to pass this Resolution which leaves open every one of these disputed questions, and in regard to those disputed questions—as to what steps are necessary to protect the natives—what steps are necessary by way of anti-trust legislation, to appoint a Select Committee of this House that can investigate the matter, after hearing evidence from the parties concerned, or some such procedure as that, so that these questions, which in themselves are so important, may be adequately discussed and publicly considered. They have not been publicly considered. They have been considered in a hole and corner way, and this House has had no opportunity of forming an opinion about them. Therefore, in moving this Resolution I suggest to the Government, and I hope it will receive the support of hon. Members, that we declare in favour of keeping the fruits of the War for the British Empire, so that these other questions, whose importance we recognise, may be investigated by a body -which may hear the evidence -with due publicity, and then the subject can have further consideration by this House.


In seconding the Resolution of my hon. and learned Friend, I shall, of course, go with very much less detail into the question before the House, especially in its legal aspect. But I do not think that the House can avoid, the more this question is discussed, a feeling of the greatest possible surprise at the attitude of the Government. The attitude of the Government appeared to me to be illustrated in a rather unusual fashion by the trap into which my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs fell just now. My hon. and learned Friend behind used the words that he was instructed, and no sooner had he dropped these words than my Noble Friend opposite was hilarious with delight and with ironical cheers, as much as to say, "Now the cat is out of the bag; now we know what the hon. and learned Gentleman is at."


Imputing corruption.


My right hon. Friend has made several uncivil remarks.


So was yours!


I was merely indicating the fact that I thought my hon. and learned Friend—I am sure that he will not suspect me of doing anything else—had made rather a forensic speech. That was the whole impression which I intended to convey.


I know my Noble Friend too well to think that he meant anything else, but the public Press would have thought it.


Perhaps, as I have innocently led to this little dispute, I may say that what was in my mind was that my Noble Friend opposite indicated that he thought that my hon. and learned Friend was instructed by British commercial interests. Suppose that that had been true—suppose that instead of representing an anti-slavery society my hon. and learned Friend had come into this House representing British commercial interests as against aliens. Is that a position which need cause shame or embarrassment to any hon. and learned Member, or is it a position which can-legitimately call for hilarious joy and the exhibition of irony on the part of a member of the Government? My own position is that if my hon. and learned Friend is not instructed in the strictly legal sense of the word; I hope that he-is instructed—though I am not a practising barrister I feel that I am instructed—on behalf of British commercial interests, I do not know what cause anybody in this House could be-more proud to put before this House and before the Government- so as to defeat the scheme which the Government have in this sale for the interests of aliens, neutral aliens, and to the detriment of those British commercial interests which I think my hon. and learned Friend and myself may be proud to represent. The surprising thing is not merely that in the middle of a great war, when we propose for the first time taking a step which will lay down a precedent of far-reaching effect for policy, that the Government of this Empire should", in the first instance, endeavour to carry through this scheme, or, at all events, be prepared to carry through this scheme, without notice to the country or to this House, without making public that they were taking such a definite and an important step. That is surprising. But what is most surprising of all to my mind is that this should emanate from the Government Department which is presided over by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary and by my hon. Friend who site beside him. That is not only astonishing, but, to some of us, very disappointing, and if there is such an entity as imaginative writers call the genius of our race, I think that he may point a reproachful finger at my right hon. Friend and mutter those historical words, "Et tu brute." But there is only this consolation in the parallel which my words suggest: My right hon. Friend up to this moment has not actually delivered the fatal stab, and I am quite certain that he himself means no mischief to Caesar, and consequently it is not too late to appeal to him to hold his hand and to spare what, in the minds of, I believe, the majority of this House, and I am perfectly certain the vast majority of this country, is regarded as one of the most important of national interests at. the present moment.

In the very able speech of my hon. and learned Friend there was only one thing with which I am not quite certain that I agree entirely. He said that one of the things which were not involved in this Motion were the Resolutions of the Paris Conference, and I am going to suggest—I may be wrong—that the Paris Resolutions are involved to this extent, that, although the Motion which is now before the House would not in any positive sense go to support the Paris Resolutions, the course of the Government is in absolute and direct violation of one of the recommendations of the Paris Conference. I am going to refer my right hon. Friend to the words of himself as one of the framers of these Resolutions, They are contained in this paragraph, which is No. B 3: The Allies declare themselves agreed to conserve for the allied countries, before all others, their natural resources during the whole period of commercial, industrial agricultural and maritime reconstruction, and for this purpose they undertake to establish special arrangement to facilitate the interchange of their resources. It may, of course, be said in answer that the Motion which is before the House does not suggest any special provision for our Allies. The answer to that is twofold. First, we ourselves are one of the Allies, and at all events we are objecting to the course which the Government propose, which I say is in direct violation of the promise to keep our natural resources in the Empire for the Allies before all. We propose that they should be kept in the first instance, so far as enemy property is concerned, for British subjects, and then, when they are in our hands, those arrangements may be made for mutual interchange between ourselves and the Allies, which the Resolution lays down.

But I do not base my view of this appeal by any means on the question of the Paris Resolutions or any other specific arrangement. I say, and my hon. and learned Friend has said, that there is a definite broad question here of principle and of policy which it is of the utmost importance to us that we should lay down now, because it is almost certain to become the precedent of innumerable instances that will crop up either during the War or immediately afterwards. I want to repeat with emphasis that we are not proposing here to do anything to prevent our Allies, or even to prevent neutrals, from coming into British Dominions and holding property and from carrying on trade. The Motion is confined entirely to the particular property, which was lately owned by enemies of our country, and which has come into our own hands owing to the upheaval of the War, and what we say is, that that property, apart from any other, ought to be preserved not merely for our Allies or for friendly neutrals, but ought to be definitely reserved for British ownership. I think that it is very much to be regretted, especially before the House or the country had any opportunity of knowing what was going on, that this great Imperial asset should have been advertised, boomed, and touted up and down America, North and South, immense sums of money being spent upon it, in order to advertise to all the world that we were asking aliens to come in and enjoy the fruits of our victory. It is on that definite, broad, intelligible principle that I for one base my opposition to the scheme of the Government.

But do not lot it be supposed that there are not also very definite specific objections to this scheme apart from the principle. I do not intend to go at all into the point, which I think was so very strongly and ably made by my hon. and learned Friend, in which he shows that under the published scheme and the conditions of sale, the attempt to preserve either the real or movable property from passing immediately into the hands of enemies is perfectly useless. I am perfectly sure that my right hon. Friend opposite made a bonâ fide attempt to secure that end. Both my right hon. Friend and his assistants have the good fortune not to be lawyers, and I think that it is quite possible that they were fully persuaded that the words which appeared in the conditions of sale, and the attached bill, will prevent this property from passing into the hands of the enemy. But my hon. and learned Friend who moved this Resolution has shown, I should have thought quite conclusively, that that is not so, and that there is no plan which you can devise—I believe that that is the case—which can secure that once this sale is made to a neutral, over whom you can exercise no control, you would be able to prevent it immediately afterwards passing into the hands of Germany. My hon. and learned Friend has pointed out that this property consists of two parts, movable and immovable, and the scheme of the Government, as far as I can understand, appears to assume that these two different sorts of property are inseparable, because they have made provision in the case of the immovable property, which is designed to prevent it passing into German hands, and they do not even pretend to make any such provision in regard to movable property. I can only conclude that they have assumed throughout that the two forms of property are inseparable one from the other. My hon. and learned Friend has shown very clearly that that is not the case. Take a case in point. If any hon. Member will look at these conditions of sale and the imformation which they give, he will find a large number of well-known German firms.

5.0 p.m.

Take, for example, the Deutsche Kamerungesellschaft, which has opened a number of these properties. What is to prevent, under this scheme, some hyphenated German-American, an American citizen, coming forward to this auction, purchasing some of that property which had been formerly held by the Deutsche Kamerungesellschaft, and becoming the owner of the building, lands, factories, stores, warehouses, and wharves, and that hyphenated German-American may himself be a large shareholder in this German company which was the late owner of the property? He will buy it by their directions, and, with a secret trust for them, probably with money supplied by them, possibly subsidised even by the German Government themselves—for they are very anxious about the restoration of this trade—and then that American citizen will have bought, as my hon. Friend points out, the trade marks which are designed to revive, and can only have the effect of reviving, the German trade, giving it a fresh start, and he will therefore be in a position not merely of buying the wharves and buildings, but, through their trade mark, which has a great effect upon the native mind, of enabling the Deutsche Kamerungesellschaft to start again after the War, to bring in all the goods, and mark them with the marks which are familiar to the natives, and recover, without any violation of the legislation of my right hon. Friend, all the trade that they were doing before the determination of their business. Let me say one word about the objections which I gather will be urged to the Motion now before the House. First of all, we were old—and there was something said on the other side of the House which indicated a certain amount of feeling on the subject, and my hon. Friend, I think, admits it—that there is a ring of merchants in existence, for some reason or other, to keep up prices. I think that is what is said in relation to this West African trade. The first thing I have to say about it is this: Supposing that is true—no one will imagine I am making this admission except for the sake of argument—but supposing, for the sake of argument, that the effect of carrying this Motion would be to strengthen that ring, does any hon. Member go so far as to say that, of two evils, it is not very much the lesser, for even if the prices were kept up, temporarily or permanently kept up, by a ring of British merchants, that this property should go to them rather than to aliens? Of course, it would have no such effect. How can it be made out that the allowing of neutrals to come in and bid at this auction is going to have any effect whatever in breaking this ring? The ring is objected to—I quite understand that—because it is said to be contrary to the interests of smaller firms and smaller merchants, and it would be to the interest of the country and trade that smaller merchants should get their share. With that I absolutely agree, and if anything can be done, if any proposal can be made which will enable those small traders to have a better chance in competition with big ones, certainly I, for one, would be among the first to give it support.

But is that likely to be the result of these restrictions? Are there not large capitalist rings in America and Holland, and is it not just as likely, and even very probable, that what will happen will be that the small British firms, the small bidders, who might possibly come in to hid, would have some chance of getting some of the properties, at all events, if the auction was restricted to British bidders? They would have no opportunity at all, however, in competition with the large firms who are going to bid. You ask bids from combined capitalists in America looking out for a favourable opportunity to extend their trade. You ask them to compete and to bid with large firms here, and either form a ring of their own or, if they are not strong enough to do that, to join up with a ring of our own merchants. I have no hesitation in saying that, from the point of view of giving the advantage to the small trader, and from the point of view of breaking the combines or rings which exist, this Motion before the House, so far from being a disadvantage, is a positive advantage. There is a point of very great importance in which I take great personal interest, and, so far as all the other questions are concerned, I may say that I have no interests whatever; I have no knowledge of West Africa, nor have I a penny of interest in its trade; my only interest is in the question of general policy, and there is one matter in which I do feel interested, and that is the condition of the natives. I think that in any step that we take in our Colonial Empire we ought to have a very high regard to the noble traditions of our dealings with native races, and that we ought to make their interests one of our first concerns when we are taking a stop of this sort, which is for the advantage of the natives.

I must say that it seems to me like a sort of insult which I should be inclined to resent, an insult to ourselves, to suggest that men of British birth, of British traditions, will, if they become owners of these properties, be less likely to consult the interests of the natives than Germans, Americans, or Dutchmen, or South Americans, or Argentinians, or Brazilians, whom the right hon. Gentleman is asking to come in to bid. The interests of the native, just as the interests of the small trader, will be not attacked but safeguarded if, as I hope will be the result of this Debate, the sale is restricted to British-born bidders and purchasers. But suppose that should not be so, suppose that the interests of the natives were found to be attacked by the British merchants, the whole country is under the charge of the Government and of this House. It is a British Colony; it is subject, as this Debate shows, to British legislation; it is open to the Government to make any arrangements that they choose, and to make any proposals they like to this House for safeguarding the interests of the natives. My hon. and learned Friend has already stated to the House that within his knowledge proposals will be accepted by certain parties who are likely to be competitors, and I do not believe that any responsible and reputable British firm or company, or syndicate, which might either be formed for the purpose of purchasing or might, in the course of its ordinary business, acquire ownership there, would object, or could object, to any enactment which the Government thought fit to make in order to safeguard the interests of the native. It is very largely because I feel so strongly that their interests would be better safe- guarded rather than worsened if the Motion were carried, or if the Government were to see their way to change their course, that I myself am anxious to see this matter settled.

I am rather afraid that the whole of this scheme, which now comes before us with the weight and prestige of the Government, was really started without, probably, much consultation with my right hon. Friend by the Governor of Nigeria (Sir Frederick Lugard). I can very well imagine that my right hon. Friend, with that loyalty which is a distinguishing-mark of his character, does not like to throw over the man on the snot. I have nothing whatever to say against Sir Frederick Lugard. I had the honour of his acquaintance; I believe him to be a very zealous and a very capable public servant, but I think it is quite possible that the Governor of Nigeria, who has been out there during the very strenuous two years which we have passed, has not got that larger perspective of the consequences of the European War which press themselves upon our attention in this country, and which have undoubtedly modified the opinions which many men in this country hold on questions of Imperial policy. I sympathise with him if that is so. If my right hon. Friend has found himself in that position, it is one in which I sympathise with him very much; but if we are right in maintaining, as I think we are, that a really great principle of policy is involved at such a time as this in the history of the Empire, who can suggest for a moment that personal considerations or even personal susceptibilities ought to be taken into account?

Hon. Members who come down to the House in time for prayers are in the habit, day by day, of hearing the Chaplain pray-that in the discharge of our very responsible duties we may be enabled, among other things, to lay aside all partial affections. I very freely acknowledge that I entertain a very partial affection for my right hon. Friend. I am going to lay it aside. I hope very much that other Members of the House will be able to rise to the same height of impartiality, and then decide their action upon this Motion, not upon any ground of personal feeling or affection or loyalty or anything else, but merely upon the decisions of their minds as to whether or not the interests of this country and of the Empire require their voice and vote to be given in one direction or the other. For my own part, I am inclined to think that the Colonial Once have now got themselves into a position with regard to this scheme when perhaps it is very difficult for them to recede from it, unless it is the expressed desire of the House of Commons that they should do so Consequently, I should like to appeal to the House of Commons to extricate my right hon. Friend from his very difficult and untenable position. I hope that they will not do so, but even if we should be reluctantly driven into the Division Lobbies, I trust that the majority of the House will appreciate the real greatness and importance of this occasion, laying down for the first time this great principle of Imperial policy arising out of the War, and that they will vote, if necessary, for this House and the country pronouncing at this stage of our existence that after this War, and arising out of this War, the property which comes into our hands from the enemy, as the result of the sacrifices of our people, shall be reserved for the British-born.

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

The hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott), who moved this Motion, said he hoped that there would be no misconstruction whatever with regard to his Motion. I can assure him for one—if he will take it from me—that no one whatever in this House, wherever he may sit, will have the least misunderstanding as to the motive with which the hon. Member has moved the Motion; and, in the same way, I would express my own obligations to the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. Ronald McNeill), for crediting us at least with good intentions, though he seems to be under no illusion as to the tropical climate to which those good intentions are leading us. If the House will allow me, I think, before an impartial judgment can be founded with regard to this question which we are considering it is necessary to describe, as briefly as possible, the circumstances of the trade and conditions out there under which a decision has to be taken. The hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion have both alluded to the recent course of trade out there since the beginning of the War, and I think it is advisable just to try and make the situation clear. There have been in Nigeria before the War, as every Member of the House is aware, British merchants, Ger- man merchants, a French company and others. Since the War, of course, no further trading by the German merchants has been possible. Before the War there were rings in Nigeria of one kind or another, rings and combines, none of them lasting very long, none of them having very acute effects; but since the outbreak of the War, and for reasons which I think are fairly intelligible, in many ways a closer understanding has been formed between the vast majority of the big British firms dealing there than has ever existed before. I hope no Member of the House thinks that in saying this I want to cast reflections on British firms. Out in Nigeria the circumstances have been quite abnormal during the War. There has been a difficulty in dealing with produce very often, and therefore it is perfectly fair to the firms to say that owing to abnormal circumstances of that kind agreements between themselves, if not absolutely necessary, at any rate present many advantages for dealing with such a state of affairs.

But at the same time I would ask the House to consider what the results have actually been. The principal item of produce with which we are concerned, though there are others also, is the old friend of many of us—palm kernels. Before the War there was, as the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) has said a more or less regular difference between the price paid to the native producer in West Africa and the price received from the British consumer in the Liverpool market. That difference in price ran with hardly an exception between £4 and £5. The price obtained in the Liverpool market—it may have been £1, £4 10s. or £5 more than the price paid to the producer in West Africa —that was more or less constant. That represented the charges which the merchant had to pay in bringing his produce here and marketing it, and the profit which he got. Since the combine came into operation that difference, which represented the intermediary charges between the price paid to the producer and the price obtained from the British consumer, has gradually risen from between £4 and £5 to £6, £7, £8, £10, £12, £14, and at the same time the price paid to the native producer in West Africa has declined. That has actually been the result. [An Hon. MEMBER: "What about freights!"] I have had many conversations with the merchants, and they put before me, as the hon. Member has suggested, that the? charges they have had to pay in the matter of freights and in the other costs of their trade have increased. It is quite true that they have. I have the charges for freight here, though the hon Member for Chester can give them with far greater authority than I can, but the increase has not amounted to a fraction of the total increase in the excess. I have them here if it is desired to see them, but the increase in the charges on the regular lines do not amount to more than £l, and even where steamers have been chartered do not amount to the whole increase that has taken place.


On the chartered boats it was 35s. before the War and has risen to as much as £7 5s. The freights are most irregular.


The freights have risen on the chartered boats, as I have said, but even allowing for the chartered boats they do not come near the whole of the excess, and the proportion of produce carried in chartered boats is a small one. If the average is taken over all the increases owing to freight, and here I would refer to the hon. Member for Chester, it has not amounted to one-fifth of the difference that now exists between the price paid to the producer in West Africa and the price got from the consumer in Liverpool.


May I ask whether he also takes into account the fact that they can get fewer steamers, fewer ships, and can therefore bring only a very much smaller amount of produce, and whether there is not, in fact, at present in Nigeria nearly a year's arrear of produce which cannot be brought in consequence of the scarcity of ships?


And which is depreciating.


What the right hon. Gentleman has said is quite true.


What is the price paid to the producer?


The price paid to the producer has been round about £9 and £9 10s. and up to £10; it has been down as low as £7 15s. The price before the War was something like £14 or more. What I have stated has been the fact. The merchants have brought to me quite reasonable arguments to show how their costs have actually risen. When all is said and done, the test really lies in the actual trading results. There are only two of them of which I have been able to obtain balance sheets as public companies. If I compare the last complete year of trading before the War of the Niger Company with the last year of trading in 1915 the profit for the last complete year before the War, after allowing for debenture interest, was just about £80,000, The profits for 1915 were £149,000. I have taken the average for the three whole years before the War. The average for the three complete years before the War was £83,000.


Was it all palm kernels?


This is the trade with West Africa; it includes other subjects besides palm kernels. This is the great export trade from West Africa. There is only one other public company whose balance sheets I have been able to examine.


Can the hon. Gentleman give the figures again?


Certainly. The average trading profit of the Niger Company, after paying debenture interest for the three years before the War, was £83,000. For the last year it has been £149,000. Similarly of the other public company of which I have been able to obtain balance sheets, that is the African Association, the average trading profit for the three years before the War was £57,000, and for last year it was £95,000, together with a reserve of undisclosed amount put aside as against Excess Profits Duty.


Can the hon. Gentleman give us the capital of these companies?


I am afraid I have not got them by me for the moment.


The capital of the Niger Company is two and a quarter millions.


What I think one has to compare is not what the original capital was, though I am not aware whether it was all paid up or not, but to take the actual fortunes of the company as they were before the combine became operative and afterwards, and precisely the same has been proved with regard to the African Association. I have not been able to obtain the details of profits of other companies. I have not wished to try and get their balance sheets unless I could do so in a perfectly open way, but I have not got the least doubt in my mind that these are typical of the results of the whole operations of the combine. If I may refer to the offer alluded to by the hon. Member for Liverpool, an offer has been made to buy all these properties which are for sale on behalf of these companies.


Not the Niger.


On behalf of the African Association, John Holt and Company, Miller Brothers, and others. But, in the first place, this I would say: When this has been the result of the operations of the combine in West Africa, is it to the advantage of the natives that all the possible competitive places of trading should be put into the hands of the same firms? If I may, let me remind the hon. Member who spoke that in the offer as made to us to form a company to take them over there was absolutely no mention made whatsoever of their willingness to accept a fair or stated price.


You received it yesterday.


There is no mention whatever of their willingness to abide by any fair or stated price.


I received a copy to-day of the letter sent to the Colonial Office yesterday, repeating in writing the offer which I understood they had already intimated previously, and in such the company state they would accept a fair-price clause in favour of the natives.


It was not in the first offer, but it may be in a later letter. I do not doubt what the hon. Member says. I only draw the attention of the House to the fact that it was not contained in the offer made to us, whether it occurs in a later letter or not. I hope I am not troubling the House too much, but the circumstances do need to be understood in order to realise the situation. As I say, the prices paid out there to the natives went down to £9, and remained about £9 for a considerable time, and then between £9 and £10 in those places in Nigeria in which the combine predominated. But if I come to the Gold Coast, away from Nigeria, to another colony, where there is no operative combine, I find that the price paid is £3, or 30 per cent. more than it was in Nigeria. Take the ease of Sierra Leone, where there is a great trade in the same article; I find that palm kernels are exported in large quantities from Sierra Leone. They are of rather inferior quality, so that the average price on the Liverpool market is £l less than what is got for Nigeria kernels, and yet the price paid for them on the coast where no combine operates was from £3 to £5 more than in the district under the. combine. Lastly, I noticed there was one place in Nigeria itself where there are small outside traders who have come in and therefore where the combine was not operative. Again, in that place I found that the price was from £3 to £4 a tort higher than was paid by the combine. I am quite sure that, after all, the ultimate object of the hon. Members who have moved and seconded this Motion and of myself is the same, and that is to do justice by the natives as well as by British trade. I am quite sure of that. We none of us differ, I hope, as to our ultimate object. But when these are the actual figures of the prices that have been ruling, I am sure that no one who has examined the facts—and I have been very closely through them now for a year—can come to any other conclusion than that these operations have been to the very great detriment indeed of the natives and the native producers.

What would be the result of the Motion? I have in my mind another company out there which has been established for a long time. It is the French Compagnie de l'Afrique Occidentale. What is going to happen to that French company? Is that French company not going to be allowed to apply for any of these properties? In West Africa, as elsewhere, the French and ourselves have been fighting side by side—in the territories next to Nigeria, in the North and West, and in the Cameroons in the south and in the east. What I would put to hon. Members opposite is, is a Motion going to be passed with regard to a company of an Allied country, in the same business, established in the country itself at present, declaring that it is not to be allowed to apply for these properties on an equal footing with our own companies there?


Does my hon. Friend imagine for a moment that the French people would wish a rule to be made which would let in all the Germans in order that their one firm might be saved? It is not an honest argument.


If the hon. Member thinks, he will realise that I have not questioned his motives and I am sure he will not want to question mine. Our objects, I hope, are the same. [An Hon. MEMBER: "They are not!"] The Motion might perfectly well have been drawn to exclude neutrals only. If it was wanted to exclude neutrals only, why was it not so drawn? [AN HON. MEMBER: "Will you accept that?"] I am dealing with the Motion as it stands. Here we have a French company, long established in West Africa, which, under a Motion of this kind, would not be allowed to offer for any of the properties that are being sold.

Colonel YATE

Will the French Government allow the English to purchase German properties in their territory?


At present, so far as I am aware, British companies in the French colony in regard to which I was making inquiries are placed at no disadvantage as compared with the French.


Does that mean in the sale of German properties?


I am not aware of any sale of German properties. It is true, I believe, as regards ordinary trade, at any rate. The hon. Member has said that perhaps we do not aim at the same thing in the end. May I say what I would conceive the principle to be at which I trust we might all aim, whether we differ as to the methods of arriving at it or not? To me it seems quite clear that the principle which really ought to guide the Administration in a matter like this is that we should look at the interests of the Empire as a whole, together with those of our Allies. I am sure that the hon. Members who moved and seconded this Motion will agree that we ought to regard ourselves primarily as trustees in the African Protectorates for the natives in those territories, and that, compatibly with that, we should regard it as our duty to safeguard, to stimulate, and to look after British trade. From that point of view, what is the course that ought to be followed under the circumstances in a case like this, if we are agreed upon that as the aim I Obviously the first course to be followed is to develop a great Dependency like that with the best power with which we are capable, and, provided—and this is, of course, a great proviso—that one can get adequate safeguards, to welcome capital to develop the Protectorate. Then, together with developing the resources of the great Protectorate we should do our best to see that the resulting flow of trade conferred the maximum benefit and prosperity upon this country. So far we are agreed. The only thing that strikes mo as somewhat humorous in this question of West African trade—I say it with all sincerity—is that, while that has been absolutely our rule and guide throughout to the best of our judgment, we have been criticised, first of all, by some Members on this side for sacrificing Nigerian interests to British, and now by Members on the other side for sacrificing British interests to Nigerian. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!" "German!" "Neutral!"] I think that that truly is a policy to which we all could subscribe. The question now arises as to what is the best way to carry it out. The hon. Member has dealt with the safeguards, and he says that the safeguards with regard to handing over properties to neutral bidders are insufficient. I would say at once that so far as the safeguards are insufficient our only wish is to make them as watertight as possible.


It is not possible.


It has been found possible. At the present moment, apart from leaks which, according to the hon. Member, may always exist, if there is a vendor who sells to an enemy company or a company under enemy control or agency, in the first place, he is liable to a fine of £5,000 and the property is liable, to be confiscated. That is a very considerable risk to run.

So far as the actual amount of the shareholding is concerned, I am entirely in agreement with hon. Members opposite. I do not want it to be a question of 49 per cent. and 51 per cent. on the one side or the other. We were already considering an Amendment with regard to that. But I do not know what will really meet the ideas of the hon. Member in that respect. Does he want there to be no enemy-shareholding at all in any company?




If the hon. Member wants there to be no enemy shareholding at all in any company that deals in West Africa, all I can say is that the companies whose balance sheets I have already mentioned have enemy shareholders. Therefore, at least there must be some reasonable limit, otherwise, whether it be Lever Brothers, or the African Association, or the Niger Company, none of them would be able to compete at all. If that be the policy, well and good. I would only bring it to the knowledge of hon. Members opposite that if I look through the list of shareholders in the companies of which the balance-sheets are open to inspection there is not one at present that fulfils that obligation. In any case the safeguards, in my opinion—and I have considered it with as good advice as possible—can be made perfectly watertight. But if the hon. Member or anyone else would be willing to make suggestions as to the way in which we can, so to speak, putty up any leak, we shall be only too glad to have them. Might I put the situation as it is, because that is what I think is so often misunderstood. It has been regarded by some as if we were whittling down safeguards which already exist. What is the situation at the present moment? Let me take any firm, without disparagement to them. If I take, say, Messrs. Lever, for example, whether in this country or in Nigeria, at this moment they are absolutely at liberty to sell any property of theirs in this country or in Nigeria to any of these purchasers to whom the hon. Member takes exception. The result is that what we are doing is not whittling down safeguards, but instituting safeguards which do not exist at present in the case of any ordinary private transaction. We are willing to make them as watertight as any help will enable us to make them. At the same time, I would have the House realise that they are quite new; they are in addition to anything that already exists. Therefore, if nothing was done, if these properties were sold in the ordinary way there would be nothing whatever to prevent their resale afterwards in a manner that would be much more disliked by hon. Members afterwards.


These are taken from the Germans.


What we are considering, as we agreed just now, is the great broad policy how we are to deal with the Dependencies as a whole, and how we are to deal with the trade of the British Empire as a whole and of this country. For the ultimate interest, whether of the natives in Nigeria or of the trade of this country, the same treatment ought to be applied to all properties alike. It is no good, from that point of view, making any distinction in the days to come as to what may have been the origin of the properties now. I take that broad principle once again of doing our best, to develop the British Dependencies, and of doing our best to bring trade here. The hon. Member dealt with one case— that of Messrs. Jurgens. Messrs. Jurgens owned factories in Germany before the War. I quite agree.


made an observation which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.


I beg pardon; they have no connection now whatsoever. They were occupied by the German Government. So far as I am informed, they are in a similar or the same position as Sir George Watson and the Maypole Dairy Company. They are in the same position i as Messrs. Lever. They all stand in the same boat. Just look at this difference. The reason why we are not willing to bargain out safeguards that may be devised is this: In the first place, if what we want to do is to develop British Dependencies like Nigeria in most important articles of trade, the existing companies cannot fully utilise some of the properties if they bid for and obtain them. Existing British companies have come to me not once, but several times, in order to say, "Unless you get our men exempted from military service we cannot adequately carry on our existing stations in West Africa." That is as regards the men now. Every Member of the House must realise that, when the War is over, capital will be scarce in this country, and if we want really to get the best that we can, then, provided that we can control it under proper safeguards and equal conditions, we would be very unwise to stop any development that we could bring about by means of properly safeguarded capital that is put in. from elsewhere.


Let the Germans have the Empire!


Therefore, what has happened is this: Suppose that the bidding is to be entirely limited to these companies at the present moment, development could not be: carried on from the point of view of West Africa, neither now nor after the War, to its full extent. The policy which we have acted on to the best of our knowledge and with the greatest sincerity is to allow foreign capital to be introduced, as we believe with fully adequate safeguards, but this does not preclude any further or more complete policy being adopted if this country thinks fit. At the same time, while developing the produce there, our policy has been—and this is where our difference was with Members on this side of the House we have done our best to see that it should be brought to this country, made up here for the benefit of British manufacturers and British workmen. The hon. Member quoted the case of Messrs. Jurgens. Just see what it actually means? It was because of the anticipation, of the policy which we have been trying to pursue that the very firm mentioned by the hon. Member bought the large site of ninety acres at Purfleet, and is starting to put up its mills and factory there in order to try and produce in this) country both the milled and manufactured articles. I think, therefore, that if hon. Members will think the matter over carefully, they will come to the conclusion that not only is it wise, from the point of view of Nigeria, to prevent all these properties being in too few hands, but it is wise also from the point of view of this country. The whole policy hangs together. By the development of Nigeria, and by giving a fair price to the natives, we, ensure that a large amount of produce will be exported. Then, by ensuring that it is brought to this country we get it made up here, whereas previously it was made up abroad, and in Germany. All that is the result of one and the same policy. The hon. Member for the St, Augustine's Division said that he thought our policy was against the Paris Resolutions. I suppose my right hon. Friend is a breaker, so to speak, of the resolutions which he himself passed! I truly think that the hon. Member spoke without quite realising the conditions under which production is utilised during the War, and can be utilised afterwards for the benefit both of this country and of our Allies.

What happens during the War? What happens with the produce at the present moment is this: A prohibition is put on to the export of any produce, be it meat, wool, oil, or other kinds of stuff that we need either in this country or in Allied countries. In order to utilise it, prohibition is imposed, and its export is refused to foreign countries, and is confined, it may be to this country alone, or to ourselves and our Allies. That is the policy by which we utilise it now during the War for this country or for our Allies, and by which it can be perfectly well utilised during the reconstruction period. From the point of view of the Paris Conference, I would venture to say with all emphasis that the policy which we are pursuing is much more in harmony, in the spirit and in the letter, with the Paris Conference than the Resolution which has been moved this afternoon from the opposite Benches.


You will not get a single Frenchman to agree with you.


If I may say so to my hon. Friend, I would suggest that he ought to ask the French West Africa Company, and see what answer he gets.


You ask them.


Really the point is this: From the point of view of reconstruction in this country after the War, as well as for the utilising now of our resources, when you have got really important food products, just as we have got in this question of palm kernels, the one and obvious course to continue is to increase the production to its maximum capacity, and then to take all measures, as we are taking them at present, to see that they are, by a policy of prohibition and licences, brought to this country and utilised here, and utilised in the countries of our Allies. I venture to say that though I have only been able to go into the broad outlines of the subject, yet considering the conditions which have been prevailing in West Africa, considering the interests of the natives themselves and the prices which have been paid, looking to the development of this country, looking to the manufacturer in this country, and looking to the interests of this country as a whole, both now and during the after-War reconstruction period, that the policy which we have been pursuing is both more in accordance with the spirit of the Paris Conference and is much more to the interest of the Empire as a whole than would be the case if this Resolution were carried.


I should like to say, in regard to this Motion, that I cannot go into the same Lobby with some of my hon. Friends around me for reasons which I feel that I ought to give. Really there are two questions as it appears to me, raised by this Motion. There is what may be called the local question—the fate of Nigeria—and there is a very large Imperial question. There are two questions, the local and Imperial, and those who have brought forward this Motion have purposely raised the Imperial question. They have, however, argued to some extent the local question. In regard to the local question there are just one or two things which may be said. I do not want to discuss the matter at any length, because, as the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has put it, there is a far larger issue before the House. In regard to the local question, we have this to note first, that, from what has been told the House, we must admit that the Nigeria Administration, as the trustee for the natives, in following the course of the markets in the last year or two, was very severely tried, if I may say so, by the combine of these companies, which the hon. Member, when he moved this Motion, admitted existed. The figures are quite simple. I only wish to add to what the hon. Member opposite said one further point, and that is that the offer which has been mentioned by the hon. Member who moved this Motion was only seen in its earlier form a short time ago, and in the amended form to which he referred in relation to securities on behalf of the natives apparently has not yet reached the Colonial Office. Therefore, when we come to judge of the local question, both in respect to the Colonial Office and the Nigeria Administration, we are bound to consider, not the offer which is now announced to the House by the hon. Member, but that which was before the Administration at the time. The Administration found itself against a group of companies who have by their action—I am not criticising them for a moment, nor am I criticising the prices given to the natives, or that the raised prices obtained in Liverpool allow a difference which is not accounted for by the rise in freights—got large profits. I do not condemn them for the profits so obtained. I merely cite these facts as being those which were before the Nigeria Administration and the Colonial Office up to this very evening—those facts which make it clear that so far as they could judge, the interests of Nigeria were being damaged.


Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me one moment. I think it is very unfair to British traders in Nigeria that on this Debate, where that question is not perfectly relevant, any ex parte statement should be made as to whether their conduct has or has not been fair to the natives. The suggestion I made was that the question should be properly investi- gated, but I would submit that on a Debate such as this the House is not in a position to investigate it or to come to any-satisfactory conclusion upon it.


What the hon. Member said is in regard to what I have stated. I think the House will agree that the prices paid to the natives, and the need for altering this state of affairs are most relevant


It is perfectly true that the Nigeria question is not raised by this Motion, but in the speech which, the hon. Member made on the Motion was reference to certain terms of sale which are in the possession of many Members of this House. Therefore I think it is true, technically, that while this Motion does not raise the Nigerian question, it has been raised; it has been published and talked of in the newspapers and abundant intimation has been given that this was the particular issue on which the whole question was to be put before the House. When we cite facts of this description, if those facts are challenged the answer to those facts ought to have been in the House. The hon. Member based his case on the Nigeria position, and he ought to have been in possession of data by which to challenge the data put forward by the Government, instead of asking that those data should be put out of court. The facts are comparatively simple, and, so far as I have been able to see, they are not challenged. In a certain typewritten document issued by the West African Association of Merchants, the average price at Liverpool and Lagos for 1915 is stated. We are not dealing with occult matters, but matters which are perfectly pertinent. All I say in regard to the local question is that it is only fair to judge the Colonial Office, and the Nigerian Administration, by the facts that were before them, and not by the offer which comes to them this evening.


On a point of Order. I submit that as under the Government scheme these firms are to be allowed to compete, and also under the Amendment; I would ask you, Sir. whether it is fair to these firms to attack them for any past record unless it is to be followed by a proposal declining to allow them to compete; and if it is in the general acceptance of the House that British firms which are now being called in question are to-compete, how can it be fair to discuss them in this manner now?


No point of Order seems to arise. This is an argument that may be used and perhaps answered. It is not for the Chair to rule it out.

6.0 p.m.


May I say, with reference to that, that no one proposes that these firms should not be allowed to bid, but the point is that other firms should be allowed to bid against them, and it was for that purpose that the whole thing was raised. Therefore, it was perfectly pertinent to the administration of Nigeria for the Colonial Office to put forward their reasons why they held that it was necessary, in the interests of the natives of Nigeria, that other firms and alien firms should be allowed to bid. The hon. Gentleman knows that, so far as large firms are concerned, it is not very probable that, with the conditions of capital in this country, there would be competition with those great concerns in Nigeria at the present time. So far as this country is concerned, practically they have got a closed market, and, therefore, if you are to have any effective competition with that great combine, if you are not to have a great knock-out, you must introduce outside competition. What the Administration was up against was that, given a combine—I am not at the present moment condemning the existence of a combine, for I believe the whole organisation of trade is tending in that direction, and I think we shall have to take precautions against the abuse of that form of commercial organisation; but that is another matter. I am not condemning that. I am simply saying that the evidence before the Nigerian Administration and before the Colonial Office was that the combine existed, and that it contained the greater number of the big firms of British nationality that were operating in this region, that that combine had been so successful that it had lowered the price for the natives and increased the margin of profit for the British companies, and it was in the highest degree probable that, if they offered these properties without outside competition, which at the present time must mean outside this country and Empire—[Mr. BOOTH: "Why?"]—-there would be a knock-out. That to my mind was what they had to face. Whether they have made the legal document here entirely watertight is not a matter upon which a layman can express a valuable opinion. We no doubt shall have two opinions with regard to it, but I feel quite sure that these terms of sale can be amended right up to the date of the auction. They can be amended in the auction room, and if hon. Members want simply to make these sales watertight as against the enemy, then by all means let them offer their suggestions, but do not let them base themselves upon the mere inadequacy of some legal technical phraseology, where you have a great proposition affecting the future of the Empire and all the various Protectorates and Territories connected with it. I do not want to say more in regard to the local question.

As regards the general question, I am sure that my hon. Friends on these benches, at any rate, will acquit me of wishing to present the fruits of the War to other nations that have not helped to fight the War. I am sure they will recognise—let me put it perfectly plainly as an old Tariff Reformer—


A past Tariff Reformer.


I said "old," and I am going to say something that may perhaps alter the hon. Member's opinion. We do not quarrel over an adjective. I am talking now of hon. Members on these benches, and I say that they, at any rate, will not suspect that I would wish that the natural resources of the Empire should be preserved for aliens and not for the members of this Empire. But I want to ask them what is the effect, from the point of view of the development of this very Empire, and for us and our fellow Imperial subjects, of the Resolution which they have tabled here? What will be the great want of this country and this Empire at the end of this War? Capital! Where are you going to get that capital? Not from the enemy countries. You would not have it even if you could get it. I am afraid not within the British Empire and the friendly countries, within the countries of our Allies. You will find they are as hungry for capital as we are ourselves. We have had the duty, even during the War, of supplying them with capital to fight the War, and therefore it follows with even greater strength that after the War they will be more denuded of capital than even we ourselves. The very basis upon which we who are Tariff Reformers argued for Tariff Reform in the past—and I wondered at some of the arguments of hon. Members who have fled from the House at the present moment—was that we might induce foreign capital to come into this country for investment in this country and to give employment here. How did they argue with regard to Canada? Canada put a tariff boundary as against the United States. Canada compels great companies in the United States, in place of importing American goods into Canada, to bring their alien capital into Canada, and to build their great factories which should build up the man-power of Canada with which she has helped to fight this War.

What we shall be face to face with at the end of this War will be to repair our man-power. We have got to give employment, we have got to find employment for our soldiers who will be disbanded; and in order to do that, first and foremost, and almost last, what we shall require will be capital—capital which is being spent at the present moment with both hands, and which will be slowly and painfully restored. Where is the great reservoir of capital? Surely in those very neutral countries, the United States, Holland, Norway, Denmark, which have not been fighting in this War, and which have been amassing profits. Are you going to say you will refuse to allow them to invest within your Empire, and with the security which comes from the power of purchasing property? Are you going to say you deny-that, when the result will be to give the very employment which is essential to the future of this country? Let us not look at this question raised by this Motion as a mere question involving this document and these legal terms. That is a small matter. The great matter before us is a bold, big policy. What attracted me to look into this question was that already the Secretary of State last spring authorised the Government of Nigeria to put on a heavy export duty of about 20 per cent. on the value of these kernels exported from West Africa, and there was in that permit given to the Nigerian Government a preferential provision to render it probable that the manufacture of the oil, then of the margarine, and, what is almost as important, the crushing of the kernel so that the cake may be available for the feeding of our animals in this country should be one portion of the policy, and here is the other portion. The whole idea involved here is that if we can transplant a large portion of the margarine industry of Holland to this country, we can permanently alter the normal course of trade which has hitherto been this, that these very British companies who are in the combine, in addition to the German companies, have been buying the kernel in Nigeria and have been taking it, not for the most part to this country, but to Hamburg. These very companies which are talked of so patriotically to-day were themselves go-betweens as between the natives of Nigeria and the Hamburg crushers of the kernel, and then from Hamburg the oil went to Holland.

What we want to do is to transplant the whole of that industry, if possible, to this country, so that the kernels shall be bought in Nigeria and shall be brought here and crushed here, and made into oil and cattle cake here, that the oil shall be made into margarine, and then what does it matter if Mr. Jurgens has his subordinate companies in Germany to whom he sells margarine for consumption? After the War, if Germany wishes to buy margarine, let her come to us to buy it. The trouble hitherto has been that you sent the raw material to Hamburg and that you gave all the employment there. What you want to do now is to transplant that industry. You cannot raise an industry in this country at this time. There is not the capital or the experienced men. We have heard that these British companies operating on the Niger have not the men. at the present time to operate their own business. How, then, can they operate additional business which it is suggested they should buy at knock-out prices to keep in pickle for some time afterwards? You have a far greater opportunity than that, and the result of this sale will be either, on the one hand, that these firms out of their great profits will be compelled to give an adequate price, or, on the other hand, the property will be bought possibly by the Dutch, possibly by Americans, but under your policy you will compel those Dutch and Americans to come and manufacture here. What does it matter whether it is Dutch or American capital if that is the case? You have not got the capital yourself. You are not stopping the employment of British capital, but simply attempting to stop competition and investment of capital here, and attempting to stop that against the end of the War. Therefore I do venture to say that I believe I have got very good reasons for not going into the Lobby with the hon. Gentleman.


The hon. Member who has just sat down seems to be in a very confused state both as regards the palm oil kernel trade and the margarine trade. He has made some assertions of a most amazing character, even to those possessing an elementary knowledge of the question. He has said, for instance, that during the War we cannot develop our margarine trade. I wonder if he is aware that large new margarine works have been established, and are being developed and increased by British firms during the War, and that there is no need to call in the help of Dutch margarine manufacturers in order to carry out this policy. Then there was the extraordinary statement as to the handing over of sources of British material in the British Empire to the Dutch or Americans. I wonder whether the hon. Member thinks at all about peace, for he speaks as if the War were going on for ever, and as if a system of licence and prohibition could be continued through all eternity. The hon. Gentleman opposite said the same thing. He said, "What does it matter; he has these stores of raw material; we will licence, we will prohibit, we will use his raw materials when they come here, and the wretched neutral who is now going to buy your property will never know what he can do with this property, because at any moment some new Ordinance or regulation may cut him off from the channel in which he wants to do his business." Does the hon. Gentleman and the Government consider that that is a feasible policy to be carried on for ever in peace time?


I am sorry the hon. Gentleman misrepresents what I said. I said that during the War it could be brought here, and was brought here, under a policy of prohibition and licence. It can be done for a limited period during reconstruction.


We will not quarrel about the period during the War, but he will find out that during the period of reconstruction to carry out this policy, if powerful neutrals like American citizens buy the property, will be very difficult, and I think he had better consult the Foreign Office, and he will find that it is not such an easy proposition. Although we can do many things during the War, to treat subjects of great Sovereign States after the War as if you are still at war would be impossible. I maintain that if these properties belong to British firms you would avoid a whole crop of grave political and diplomatic difficulties which will arise, and which I am certain will arise, and are bound to arise when you introduce differentiation. The hon. Gentleman talked about an, export duty which we have put on during. the War. That export duty is a very doubtful proposition. It is a very questionable matter how far it is a breach of our commercial treaties already in existence. We may want a remodelling of our commercial treaties. I have had some reason to study this question in detail, and all I can say is this, that where you have British subjects and British Dominions under your hands, you, at any rate, have some control over them, but you are laying up for yourselves a storm of the greatest dangers and difficulties by inviting neutrals to come in now with the idea that when the War is over you will be able to tie up their trade and prevent them from obtaining the best markets in the best country in which they can sell.

There is another point which I cannot follow in the speech of the hon. Member opposite, and it is this: He says we want to protect the British native in Nigeria, and what does he propose to do? He has. a sale. Supposing at this sale this wicked combine, some of these miserable British traders who do trade at a profit—the greatest crime which can be committed in the British Empire—come and bid against German competitors and acquire the property, not for the benefit of the Dutch and Americans, but for the British Dominions, then it is a terrible scandal which the Colonial Office have to look at with the greatest suspicion. These wretched people might buy this property and continue their combine, and still pay bad prices to the Nigerian natives, and what will the Colonial Office have effected then? All they will have effected will be that they will have to put up the price of these properties to British traders—that is to say, increased their capital—made their property less remunerative, and induced them to pay less to the natives, in order to earn the same dividend. That is the result of the hon. Gentleman's policy. That is the great Imperial policy after the War. Has anybody ever heard of a thing so absurd ! Has anybody ever seen anything so contradictory in the whole history of this country as first putting an Export Duty on this oil, which only damages the native and depreciates his product on the one hand, and then dragging in neutrals to seize property for which British men have died, and for which British taxpayers have paid! What for? In order to raise the price of the property. For whom? For the Germans, who will get it after the War.

The hon. Gentleman behind me (Mr. Mackinder) spoke of a knock-out price. Who is going to get the money to pay for this property? Germany. This property will be held, or, rather, the money paid for it will be held, by the Public Trustee, and at the end of the War it will be paid to the Germans. What is the hon. Gentleman afraid of? That Germany is not going to get enough British money from the British trader? That is his objection to a knock-out price. He says, "Let us drag in the German agent, and put the price up against the British trader!" Here is a great Tariff Reformer, who the first time he comes up against his own policy of giving preference to Britishers wants to give it to the Germans ! This is a new form of Tariff, the most extraordinary argument I have ever heard from one who has preached Tariff Reform. The chief view of this Tariff Reformer now seems to be to put us under the economic domination of some foreign Power, and not a German but an American capitalist is to come here and we are to work for him and slave for him and make wealth for him, and the profits are to go over to the United States. That is his forecast of the result of a great war. I never was a Tariff Reformer, and I understand why now. That I think is not the policy of those who are going to create a new national policy. What is that new national policy? I should have thought it was the British Empire first, the British trader second, arid all other considerations afterwards.


And the native nowhere!


No, not nowhere, but in his right place; but not the native before the British Empire, and not the native before the British trader, or the Dominion trader, but every trader after the Empire, and unless we make that great change in our conception, we shall never establish anything after the War. If you are going to deal with everything in this pettifogging. sectional way, if you are to consider and count up pounds, shillings and pence on palm kernels, you will never constitute after this War your British Imperial Alliance. What is the interest of the British Empire? Certainly not that neu- trals—thinly disguised alien neutrals—ace to go on taking the places and the properties which you have just captured. That cannot be our interest. The hon. Gentleman does not claim that it is our interest. The hon. Gentleman says. "I want to benefit the British Empire, I want to help the native, but I do not see how to do it." I will tell him. There are three ways in which he can do it. He can keep these properties and work them under the British Government. Why cannot the British Government develop British resources? Why have the Dutch or the Americans to do it? We have the men, we have the money, and we have the intelligence. You can do another thing. You can say to the British trader, "You must pay the native a fair price, and if you do not you can neither have the properties nor the materials." Where is the difficulty in doing that? Or you can say, "You must sell at a fair price." I am all in favour of developing our national resources, and in going far in that direction. They do not realise that unless the Government is going to control the prices to the consumer and the wages, we shall never be able to carry out any kind of policy after the War to establish national industries.

The whole thing we are discussing is a mere bagatelle of £5,000,000 of palm kernels per year. We hear a good deal about people who are making £50,000 more profit in British commerce, most of which they will have to pay away in excess profits, and yet the hon. Gentleman opposite stands up here for the Colonial Office and reads out a long profit and loss account, and produces endless figures which do not amount to a row of pins. That is not the question we are discussing. What we are discussing is whether the British people and the people who have fought this War are going to enjoy the fruits of it, or whether you are going to hand them over to some foreign control. The hon. Member mentioned what had been done in the case of Messrs. Jurgens, but I would point out to him that Holland is not at war with Germany, and no Dutch works have been taken over by Germany, and a large part of this business is being carried on just as it was before the War. The hon. Member mentioned a case of Sir William Lever's works, but that introduces an entirely different state of things. I do not want to say anything against any of these firms. Some of the firms mentioned are German, and others are American firms, but after the War and after the reconstruction period they may be sold again. In spite of all these things, how are you going to prevent these properties going back and the material going back to where you do not want it to go? It is impossible. It will be difficult enough to guard against this when you have only British firms to deal with, but it will be quite impossible when you have neutral firms to deal with.

How is it that the word "tin" has not been mentioned. Tin is a very important war material, and a very important metal of which we have very little in the British Empire. I thought we had come to some kind of decision that the mineral resources of this Empire were to remain under our own control. In regard to some matters I cannot understand what our Government does. We have been spending millions to get control of Australian spelter, and to secure a supply of Canadian nickel, and now when you come to tin, which you need not buy at all, and which now belongs to the British Government, they want to sell it to a neutral. The Government are continually adopting an absolutely contradictory policy. The hon. Member made a great defence of his policy and said it was much more in accordance with the Paris Conference than this Resolution. I do not think the hon. Gentleman was quite candid in that part of his argument. I would like to ask him is it not a fact that the palm kernel oil export duty operates against our French Allies, and that they get no preference under it whatsoever. If that is so, how can he get up and fiercely beat himself on the breast and say that the interests of France are not being injured. I say that is misleading the House and misleading hon. Members rather seriously.

The hon. Member suggested the insertion of the word "Allies," but I think that was a very poor debating-point. With regard to the Paris Resolution, I do not know whether they consulted the French Government, but in the opinion of a very influential French gentleman expressed in the Press, the members of the Foreign Committee of the French Senate have expressed their amazement at what the Government propose to do. I want to ask whether the hon. Gentleman's Department through the Foreign Office have ever asked for any opinion from French official sources. If they had asked they might have found out. If that is the case I do not think the hon. Member is entitled to stand up here and say the French welcome his arrangement more than our Resolution. The French are not stupid people; in fact, they are very logical, and they would consider it quite logical that British people should own what is in the British Empire, and they do not understand why we should hand over to any kind of neutral the property which we have just won in the middle of a great war. That is not encouraging your Allies.


We do not hand it over for nothing.


If you look at the Paris Conference Resolutions, which are well known to the Government, the Allies declare their common determination to ensure the re-establishment of the countries suffering from acts of destruction: The Allies declare their common determination to ensure the re-establishment of the countries suffering from acts of destruction, spoliation and unjust requisition, and decide to join in devising means to secure the restoration to those countries, as a prior claim, of their raw materials, industrial and agricultural plant, stock and mercantile fleet, or to assist them to requip themselves in these respects. The Allies declare themselves agreed to conserve for the allied countries, before all others, their natural resources during the whole period of commercial, industrial, agricultural and maritime reconstruction, and for this purpose they undertake to establish special arrangements to facilitate the interchange of these resources. The hon. Gentleman's answer to that is, "We are conserving the natural resources. We are putting them into the hands of neutrals. The neutrals will kindly look after them. We have neither the men nor the money to do it. These firms, who apparently want to bid, have not got the money to buy the properties or the men to work them." I cannot understand this: If these firms have not the money to buy them or the men to work them, why should they want to bid?


To keep competitors out.


The hon. Gentleman says, "To keep competitors out." You can make it a condition that if they buy they work the properties. It is not a very difficult proposition; it is a very common thing to do. You can say, "If you buy you utilise; if you do not. we sequestrate."


It would be infinitely, more difficult under the conditions in West Africa than making safeguards with regard to the proper use of any capital so introduced into the country.


The hon. Gentleman knows more about the local conditions than I do, and therefore I accept his statement. I should have thought, at any rate, that some such provision could have been made. I cannot understand why the Government are in such a hurry to sell. If there are no British people who can work these properties, I do not know why they should not wait. The properties are not being worked now, and I do not know that any great harm is being done. I do not know that you have any guarantee that these other people are going to work them, and what guarantee have you that some Dutch firm will not join the combine? They will do if they are people of business. Have the Government any opinion upon combines? On the one hand, we are continually abjured to follow German trade methods We are asked, "Why do not British traders combine?" We are always told that. Why do they not combine? Why do they not form export and import associations to push their trade like the Germans? The Gentleman Government have always taken the view that combines are a good thing. I do not express any opinion. It is a very controversial subject. But as soon as a few British firms combine, we have it thrown up against them in the House of Commons from the Government Bench as if they had committed some illegal act. There is nothing illegal about it, and economically it may be advantageous. You therefore introduce an amount of prejudice in this Debate by continually referring to a combine. It drags the whole question absolutely away from the real point at issue. The real point at issue is a much bigger question than the whole of Nigeria and its population. It is a much bigger question than West African conditions and conditions on the West Coast of Africa. The real question is what is going to be your future policy regarding the whole British Empire, and this is the message that you are going to send out to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the whole of the British Empire.

In order to damage a few British traders who are charging a few pounds too much for palm kernels, you are calling the whole world to witness, "We will give up everything we have got; we do not care what happens, but, by Heaven, these four firms in Liverpool shall not be allowed to make these excess profits !"


The right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Mond) has discussed a number of very difficult questions, the question of Free Trade and Tariff Reform and the question of trusts and combines, and, so far as I could follow him, he was, I thought, sometimes in favour of each in turn and sometimes against them all; but I am not quite certain that I followed his arguments, and I might be doing him an injustice if I spent more time in discussing his speech. I am in a position of some difficulty to-day. When I came I knew nothing at all about the question which is the subject of this Motion, but I have listened with great interest to all the speeches that have so far been made. They have covered a very wide range, introducing questions complex in character and difficult of solution, questions well known to the House, and which always raise many views and many controversies and which cannot be solved on the floor of the House when we are discussing a Motion of this nature. We are not tonight discussing the question whether or not there should be a law introduced which should govern the whole of our Crown Colonies and our Protectorates and under which nobody but a British subject should be able to hold land in those Crown Colonies and Protectorates. It might be wise to pass a law of that nature—I do not know—but it would certainly raise a very great and difficult problem. We are not discussing, either, the question whether or not the whole of the trades at present should be, as I hope they may be some time, conserved for ourselves and our Allies. I associate myself in the warmest possible manner with all those general propositions which were introduced by the Mover and Seconder of this Motion when dealing with what I might broadly call the proposition of the Empire for our own people: England for the English and the Empire for all those who are at present members of it. That is a proposition which probably finds general acceptance in this House; but, after all, one has got to pay some sort of attention to the Motion, because, unless one does pay some attention to it, it is possible to allow one's opinion to be deflected by the many difficulties which have been raised.

This Motion asks the opinion of this House whether, in regard to enemy properties and businesses which are offered for sale in Crown Colonies and Protectorates, provision should be made for securing that such properties and businesses should be sold only to natural-born British subjects or companies wholly British. Let me say a word as to those two last phrases. The phrase "natural-born British subjects" raises great controversy as to exactly who is to be treated as a British subject. Are we to have two categories: those who are natural born and those who in other ways under the Act have become British subjects? Let us deal with the next phrase, "companies wholly British." I was one of those very anxious indeed to see what is known as the Continental Tyre Case carried to the House of Lords, in order that we might as far' as possible ascertain and make certain that companies who are wholly British should be given certain privileges. The discussion that took place on that case, and particularly the speeches made in the course of its decision in the House of Lords, showed how very difficult it is to ascertain what is a company that is wholly British. It is very unfortunate, but one cannot wipe away altogether the fact that our system allows persons who are not of British birth to hold shares in British companies, and I think the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies has given an illustration of the very great difficulty of defining companies wholly British.

I leave, however, what the hon. Member for the Exchange Division (Mr. Leslie Scott) described as the "realm of unreality" and come back to the real facts of the present case. I have looked to see whether or not the Government have done something which they ought not to have done, or whether they have taken no trouble at all to safeguard the rights of British citizens and the citizens of the Empire. Are we not dealing with a great number of big propositions upon rather small and slender substratum? Let us look at this case. A sale is to take place in London on 14th November, at which certain properties are to be sold. We need not presume that there will be enemies there in person. If any interest is to be obtained by any enemy it can only be by their agents. The whole of this catalogue deals with properties, land, and buildings upon it, immovable property except for the trade marks, which are to form a small and subsidiary part of the sale. Let the House remember that this sale is taking place on behalf of the Receiver, who is acting under an Order of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and let it remember that under the Ordinance the Receiver is not to sell property to an enemy or an enemy subject or a corporation or anybody under enemy control, and is not to empower any interest in any immovable property to be sold to an enemy, and there is to be forfeiture of any estate or interest if it is acquired by an enemy. We have, therefore got special legislation of a kind which is more up-to-date, and which imposes greater disabilities as against the alien and enemy than prevails generally throughout the Empire. It, therefore, cannot be said either that the Colonial Office or this particular Protectorate has failed in its duty to try and bring some new measure to deal with the difficulties which have arisen since the War.

I welcome those three clauses as a contribution towards what I hope may be a larger policy, and I do not think it is possible to condemn either the Colonial Office or the Protectorate for not having taken steps, if not adequately, to some extent to try and secure that no enemy shall acquire an interest in these properties. Then I come to the conditions of sale. The conditions of sale require that before the completion of each purchase the purchaser is to make a statutory declaration, and unless adequate evidence is given that there is no enemy interest, which can be called for to satisfy the vendor—that is, to satisfy the officer of the Court—the sale can be cancelled. Those are the safeguards which are at present introduced into the sale of this property. They mark a step forward in a direction in which I have just as much sympathy as my hon. Friends who have moved and seconded this Motion, and those who have supported it. It does not stop there, because when you come to look at the conditions of sale of the property, you will find that all of it is subject to the four safeguards that I have indicated. Let us assume for a moment that all that is intended, if not expressed, in the Motion of my hon. Friends was carried into effect. What safeguards have you then got in the present state of the law that there should not be either a sale, or a disposal, or in some way an enemy interest creeping in hereafter, after the sale which has taken place with these safeguards to the most full-blooded Englishman and the most loyal British subject? Afterwards, what security would you have? It means this: that the question of the holding of land is a difficult one, and you cannot by any bond, you cannot by any law, easily, readily, or quickly refuse or prevent an enemy interest or an alien interest creeping in. It is a matter which wants to be considered as a whole, and not in respect of a somewhat small Colony or Protectorate like that on which this point has been raised.


This is of general application.


I think the right hon. Gentleman is quite right, but, at any rate, Nigeria is the basis and ground upon which this attack has been made. I think the hon. Member for St. Augustine's (Mr. R. McNeill) in particular said that his affection was no longer partial towards the Colonial Secretary because of his conduct in reference to this particular matter. Therefore, I do not think that one can exclude Nigeria from this Debate. If I did exclude it, I should be the first speaker who did not pay considerable attention to the question of this sale of Nigerian property. I think I am right in saying that in the Press generally the sale of Nigerian properties is the one question which has brought this matter into public prominence. The point I was making is this—assume that you put your safeguards into force, you have then got beyond the danger and the difficulty, which are very serious and grave difficulties, of the continuance of the policy which you wish to avoid. For my part I regard what has been done in reference to this particular sale as a distinct advance and a distinct contribution towards a policy which I believe has the good will of this House.

I turn to another matter which the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) dealt with, and which embraces the matter of goodwill—that is, the sale of these trade marks. I hope to hear the Colonial Secretary say something about that subject, because the trade marks that were held up to the House by the hon. Member for the Exchange Division seemed to indicate that they were impressed with German names, and that the trade marks sold would indicate German trade. I do not know how that may be, but I have looked into the particulars of sale to see what are the trade marks to be sold. You will find them described, and so far as I can find, there are descriptions of what are to be sold.


There is a separate book on that.


I have got them here. On pages 40 and 41 of the Conditions of Sale there is the goodwill of some German names, Witt and Busch, and the trade marks. They are all described and these descriptions seem to be wholly unexceptional. We have a description of lot 92, the goodwill of the Deutsche Kamerun Gesellschaft's business. These are the trade marks of that sale so far as I can see: three circles in a rectangular figure enclosing the letters D, K, G, and a man with a spear and a mask. I do not know whether it is suggested that the whole user by the Germans of these trade marks is to be sold. What I think is to be sold is the registered trade mark, which is registered, and it is properly described in these pages. To that, no doubt, the German owners of the trade mark would, I dare say, add something else, which they could quite legitimately add, showing that they have the particular use of that trade mark. The trade mark which is to be sold, if the conditions of sale are any guide, are certainly unexceptional, and I do not see, from the conditions of sale, that there is any danger in selling a trade mark which consists of anything so simple as three circles in a square, or three squares in a. circle, or anything of that sort. On that I dare say the person who becomes the owner will put his initials, or will by some other method indicate his trade. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh !"] I may be wrong; I dare say hon. Members think I am quite wrong. I am not quite certain. I have not had an opportunity of looking at the book. What I want to see is the registered trade mark. I care very little about the user to which the Germans put the trade mark before the War. I think the trade mark itself may be utilised in different ways and have different appendages put to it. What I understand is to be sold is the legal trade mark as registered, and that there may be various additions or detractions, according as it may suit the purchaser.

If Nigeria is not to have any part in this Debate, then what are we talking about? The hon. Member who moved the Motion expressly disclaimed that the Paris Conference had anything to do with it. He disclaimed a number of other larger questions as being mixed up in this Debate. We then come back simply to the question whether or not we are in favour, generally and broadly speaking, of there being some protection where a sale takes place. I think that this is a matter which ought to be grasped as a whole. If you are going to make an exception of one Protectorate, you must put considerations before the House which apply to all Protectorates. I deprecate any sort of piecemeal legislation or any sort of piecemeal attack, because I do not think that that advances the cause which we wish to see pressed forward. The question of enemy property has created a great deal of difficulty. Many persons would say, "Let us confiscate enemy property at once." There are others who are afraid of reprisals. It is a matter which must be discussed as a whole, and I do suggest that upon this particular matter, where we find that special safeguards have been taken, and those not hitherto introduced, we need not join in an attack upon the Colonial Secretary and reproach him as having neglected his duty. But we may regard this matter as one which has had his consideration, and in which no serious injury will be done if the sale takes place in the manner which is at present indicated. If that be the meaning of the Motion, then I certainly should support the Government. If we are supposed to be dealing with all the various questions which have been raised by the different speakers, then I say those are too complex and too difficult to be dealt with on a simple Motion, and I think we ought to ask that these matters should be debated seriatim, when the various considerations bearing upon them can be considered, when we can have true light and find a way and path where matters which are agreed by all persons at the present time to be difficult can find a solution.


I wish to place before the House a few arguments and a few facts in regard to this question, as being a business man who knows this market. I am not interested, as a shipper, inNigeria, but my firm is a large manufacturer of cotton goods in this country for Nigeria, and in the course of forty years' experience in the goods of the Nigerian market I have got a knowledge practically of every house in that market, and of the goods that go there, and of the produce that comes from that market, although we are not interested directly in that produce. Therefore, I claim to have a knowledge of what I say. A remark has been thrown out from this side of the House, bearing upon this sale, that we were not going to hand over these properties for nothing. That is just what we are going to do. We are going to hand them over, under the conditions of the sale, so far as Great Britain is concerned, for less than nothing. I can put it to the House in a few sentences. The people who are going to bid against us—there is no shadow of doubt about it—are the Americans. If they form limited companies to carry on these businesses in Nigeria, those companies will be limited companies registered in America, they will not pay one farthing to Somerset House for the registration of those limited companies. Further, when they are working, they will not be taxed, because they will have no offices in England, and the Government will lose the whole of the Income Tax. During the War they will not be subject to the Excess Profits Tax, therefore we shall lose the whole of that; the larger partners and shareholders of these businesses will not be subject to Super-tax, and we shall lose the whole of that. What do we get? We are going to sell these properties, and we have thrown the market open to the whole world, to get bigger prices. There can be no other reason. For whom? Not for us. Not for the Government. Not for any British merchant. Not for the advantage of British trade, because the debts of all these German companies have already been paid by the Receiver of these companies. I say this with knowledge, because as a manufacturer I have sold my goods to British houses for Nigeria, to French houses for Nigeria, and to German houses for Nigeria, and I have drawn the debts owing to me by Gaiser's. They have been paid in full. Therefore, whatever amount these properties sell for, it will be kept by the Public Trustee to be handed over to the Germans at the end of the War. That is how the £ s. d. of the matter stands in regard to these properties.

7.0 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Government said that under proper arrangements and equal conditions we want to develop Nigeria. Can you get equal conditions under the conditions which I have laid down just now? Is there any equality for a British merchant who is bidding for this property with the knowledge that he has to pay 5s. in the £l in Income Tax, and that he has to pay Excess Profits Tax and Super-tax, while the American who comes to bid against him knows that he has nothing at all of these taxes to pay? Under those circumstances cannot the Americans afford to pay a bigger price—the money of which will go to Germany—than the British merchant can afford to pay, with the knowledge of all these charges that will come against him? Then again, and here I speak with knowledge, the American exporters are almost without exception German - American firms. I put three questions in the House yesterday. There are in Nigeria to-day two men, Herr Muller and Herr Schoffer. I asked of what nationality they were. The answer given was that one was a Swiss and the other a naturalised American. These men came to Nigeria since the War began. They were introduced by our own Government at Lagos to our Resident in Kano, which is the head of the railway. I have seen my friend this day, and he said to me, in regard to Herr Muller and Herr Schoffer, that you have only to open your eyes and see their faces and German is written on every lineament, and that you have only to open your ears and hear their voices, and every syllable is German to the bottom. The answer given yesterday was that one was a Swiss and that the other was an American. That is quite true. It is this technicality which comes from our Government; it is this technicality which is guiding this sale and is going to hand over these properties to men who can afford to pay bigger prices than our British merchants—firms which will be absolutely German-American firms. We want to develop Nigeria under proper arrangements and equal conditions, said my hon. Friend representing the Government. We are spending tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds in trying to develop the growing of cotton in Nigeria. Is that an American interest? Would it pay American companies to come into the Empire to try to grow British cotton for British manufacturers against American cotton? The whole of the British efforts, so far as Nigeria is concerned, will be thrown away if American films get hold of these properties. I can speak from forty years' experience of this market. The hon. Gentleman said that the combine is injuring the native producer. The word "combine" smells rank in British nostrils, and rightly so. What is the combine to which he referred? There are about forty or fifty firms, fairly large firms, in Nigeria, and the combine consists of less than six out of the forty. That is not a combine as we understand combines generally. It is an amalgamation of three or four firms working together, with forty or fifty firms who are free and can compete against them in the purchase of the produce and the sale of the commodities all the year round.

My hon. Friend gave various prices. I do not know where his information came from, but his prices are not correct. He has been misled in them. I investigated only yesterday the accounts of a London house which is outside this combine, and I found that on the 1st November, that is last week, palm kernels in Lagos were being bought at ten guineas per ton. There-is an export duty of £l 2s. 6d., without any repayment. It is an export duty pure and simple on the palm kernels coming from Lagos. The hon. Gentleman said that the difference between the price in Lagos and in Liverpool was from £4 to £5 per ton. There we come to official knowledge as against the business man's knowledge. It all depends where you get the price for the palm kernels, whether you take it in Lagos or elsewhere. It costs £1 a ton to bag the kernels at Lagos. At present kernels are bought from the natives un-bagged. A British merchant at the head of a house in Lagos has to get a house opened here—I have seen the books here of half a dozen different houses—and it costs £1 10s. a ton for establishment expenses. Let me say a word here about Elder, Dempster and Company. There is no shipping company in the whole world which has dealt so fairly with the British Empire as Elder, Dempster and Company. They have kept their shipping charges down to almost pre-war rates, or not much more, and if our merchants who trade between here and Africa could rely upon bringing all their goods, such as palm kernels, by Elder, Dempster and Company's ships they could bring them here for £3 a ton. But they cannot. Practically one-half the ships have been taken by the Government. There is only one ship running between Nigeria and this country for three that were running between Nigeria and Europe before the War.

There was no market when the War broke out for these nuts. They were sent to Hamburg. The natives were bringing them in day by day and week by week to Kano, which is the railhead, and other parts of the line to the merchants' branches. The merchants had to decide upon a line of action. I know a Manchester merchant who had nuts lying at Kano for eighteen months and could not bring them here. I know other merchants—I have seen the charters of the steamers —who have chartered steamers specially in order to bring the nuts home, who have paid £8 per ton for chartering for the full cargo of nuts. The hon. Gentleman says that the difference between the Lagos price and the Liverpool price is from £4 to £5 per ton. With the price at £3 a ton, £l for bagging, £l 10s. establishment charges, you get £5 10s. The merchant cannot rely upon getting his nuts upon Elder, Dempster and Company's ships. He is in a cleft stick. He can do one of three things. He can charter a boat at £8 a ton, or leave his nuts to rot away, or he can take his chance of bringing a limited quantity of nuts by Elder, Dempster and Company's ships at £3 a ton. We can see there why there should be a wide difference in price between? Liverpool and Lagos. I said that on the 1st November the price of palm kernels at Lagos was ten guineas a ton. I have seen a cablegram showing that that was the actual price paid to the natives in Lagos. The Liverpool papers are open to every Member of this House to see. Palm kernels, were quoted at £24 5s. in Liverpool. That is a fair margin; but the Government will tell the House that during the last week they jumped up £5 per ton because the Government came into the market as a big buyer. If the Government had followed a business policy and dealt with the matter in a proper way, there would have been no need for that jump to take place. The kernels cost ten guineas in Lagos. There is a possible but not probable charter freight of £8. There is £l for bagging, £l 10s. for establishment charges, and £l 2s. 6d. export duty, making £22 2s. 6d. This leaves a margin of £2 on the day last week.


Not counting depreciation or loss of weight.


That is so. The figures of the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies would be vitiated by a simple statement by anyone connected with the trade. I have seen, during the forty years I have known this business, several variations in a single year. I have seen palm kernels which were £14 jump up to nearly £20. I have seen palm oil rise from £18 to £40 a ton and come down again, and nobody could tell the reason in the ordinary market. You cannot possibly compare the prices as the hon. Gentleman as compared them and use that comparison as an argument in the business transaction we are discussing to-day. What is it we are discussing? We do not want a combine as Americans and Germans understand combines. British merchants do not want a combine of that sort at all. How does the position stand today? From the moment the Government decided upon their policy with regard to these German firms in Lagos, at Kano and other parts, the Government began to let the buildings to British merchants. Some of these have been occupied nearly two years by British merchants who have been building up the connections which the Germans had, and they have been doing the business. There is a danger today, if these conditions of sale stand as they are and the sale goes on, that these merchants will have their money thrown away, their time and trouble wasted, and their businesses in these new places ruined by bringing in Americans who can afford to pay any price for this property. If they be German-Americans who come in they will pay the bigger prices, and all the money will go to their German friends after the War. We are trying to establish here new industries connected with Nigeria. We are trying to bring the nuts here in larger quantities. We have been encouraging manufacturers to build factories to crush the nuts. If Americans come into that trade and buy the nuts and establish themselves they can do practically what Hamburg did. We know that the Hamburg competition has not been exactly a business competition. I am not going to say that the German firms who dealt in that article were not honourable firms. I have sold hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of goods to G. L. Gaiser, and they have never repudiated a contract in this country all these forty years. They have been fair and honourable. But it is not the honour of firms or their business integrity with which we are dealing tonight; it is the national interest we are protecting. If I sold my goods to G. L. Gaiser I was not allowed to ship them by an English shipping company. I had to send them to Grimsby in order that they should go to Hamburg to be shipped by the Woermann Line. When this firm wanted the nuts they took them to Hamburg, and they were crushed—to get what? Oil from them? Yes. To make margarine? Yes, but to get glycerine for high explosives as well. German trade all over the world has been dominated by the German Government for national purposes.


This perpetuates it!


German farmers were educated and were pressed all over the country to use the oil cakes made from these nuts, and they ultimately found that they were good for their cattle and did use them. That was all subsidiary. The first thing was high explosives; the second, margarine; the third, the shipping line, and a long, long way down, British interests. That is why I do not want to get into a mess like that again with Germany or any other country. We are in a great War, and we have said over and over again that we are going to watch British interests. We are not watching them in this advertisement for the sale of these properties. If Great Britain is not prepared to watch British interests, who will watch them? We have to look after ourselves. I make no complaint whatever about the Compagnie Francaise. I have known them all the years I have done business. There would be no trouble with them. They would not complain for one minute; in fact, they will be delighted to know that none but British were allowed to buy these properties. Further, the French have shown no jealousy of us. I am not particularly in favour of the Resolution, although I shall vote for it if it goes to a Division. The Resolution says that the Government ought, in selling these properties in Nigeria, to sell them under exactly the same conditions that they sold Bechstein's yesterday. Why should the auctioneer in this country say that Bechstein's, if it is sold, must be sold to a natural-born British subject and yet a week later the auctioneer may say that that condition is not insisted upon, and that all the world can bid, that Herr Muller or Herr Schoffer can buy it. Under this Clause there is no doubt that Herr Muller and Herr Schoffer can be buyers of this property.

May I say another word, speaking personally again, for the Germans? I would rather have them in Nigeria than some of the firms which I am sure would come in under this Clause. Forty years' experience again! When repeat orders have come upon German firms I have got the orders, and British interests have been safer, so far as the manufacturer is concerned, in these hands than they will be in the hands of the firms who will buy under the conditions of this sale. Again, if outsiders come into Nigeria, they will pay no Income Tax and the Government will lose all that. The money with which they buy the property will go into the hands of the Public Trustee for the benefit of Germans, and we shall have introduced a competition hitherto unknown in Nigeria. My right hon. Friend (Sir A. Mond) referred to the pettifogging profits, because they are really pettifogging compared with the nation's interests. They are pettifogging compared with the enormous income of the country, and compared with the importance of Nigeria. He referred also to what had been said about the possibility of Nigeria not being developed if we restrained the competition of these businesses. There is no fear whatever of that. When I sold my first goods for Nigeria there were only three firms in Lagos, and I have watched the trade grow up all these years, and my trade has grown with it. I have watched British interests all these years, and they are firmer there now than ever they have been before. We want to keep them that way. The blunders which have been made have been Government blunders throughout. One blunder in the last two or three years is the throttling of the assistance which ought to have been given to the British Cotton Growing Association. Another blunder, some years before that, was when British merchants, recognising its importance to British industry, pressed the Government to take a derelict Colony, and the British Colonial Office refused to have it as a gift. To-day it is the most profitable colony France has. These are the sort of blunders that British merchants break their hearts over. They are made by the British Government. Then every British merchant to whom I have spoken recognises that if this sale goes on under these conditions we are doing the worst possible thing in the interest of British merchants, we are doing a bad thing in the interest of the British Government, and we are not doing a good thing for the interests of Nigeria.


If this Motion is taken to a division I intend to support it. I think the Government is absolutely wrong in the policy it is pursuing. We were led to suppose it had an unanswerable case in the line it proposed to take about the sale of these Nigerian properties. I listened very carefully to the speech of the Under-Secretary, but I could not discover what the case was. After all, the question before us is whether properties hitherto held by enemies in Nigeria, now in our hands, should be sold to neutrals, and I did not detect anything in the speech of my hon. Friend to justify the course which the Government is taking. He began by an examination of the course of prices since the operations of what he called the combine. I could not see what relation that argument had to the course which the Governemnt was proposing to take. It looked like an attack on this combine. I knew nothing whatever about the combine. I do not know any firms individually. He certainly did not make out a case that the particular course of prices, or that the particular matter of the prices secured to the natives was the direct outcome of the operations of the combine. On the contrary, he mentioned a great many other forces in operation which had to be taken into account, and if you are going to bring about a conclusion on an important subject like that, it is not only necessary to point out one of the causes of variation. You have to say which is the real and effective cause and what has been the net operation upon the course of prices.

Then my hon. Friend said nothing about the position in which the Government really is. I maintain that in view of the Resolutions unanimously agreed to at the Paris Conference and subscribed to by the British Government, whether the case is good, bad, or indifferent, the Government is not in the position in which it can take this particular line with regard to these Nigerian properties. The Resolution which my hon. Friend (Mr. McNeill) read out lays it down perfectly clearly that the resources of the Empire are to be conserved for the British and our Allies before all others. There is absolutely no doubt or ambiguity whatever in the terms of that Resolution. Moreover, we and our Allies are to confer together upon the measures which we will jointly take to suppress enemy influence in regard to such matters as we are now dealing with. They have to take joint measures, and both in the spirit and in the letter the Paris Resolutions, which the Prime Minister says are the policy of the Government, rule out this particular action which the Government is proposing to take. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Pollock) made, I thought, a very interesting speech in which he pointed out, that the particular safeguards the Government is introducing in these sales, an advance of our previous policy. I trust they are, but that is not the point. Suppose the Government has come to the conclusion that these safeguards represent the policy which they should adopt, then before we take action in accordance with that policy the Government is bound to consult our own Dominions, and at least to inform our Allies what we propose to do. Otherwise I do not see what the method of co-operation decided upon comes to at all.

Then I come to the form of the Resolution. My hon. Friend (Mr. Steel-Maitland) said what about the French company in Nigeria, and why was not the word "Allies" introduced into the Resolution? For a very simple reason. We are only following the precedent which the Government themselves have set in, let us say, the terms of reference which they drew up for Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee, which is now considering these very policies. We are, in the first instance, to lay down what is our policy here and in the British Empire, and so far from precluding action and co-operation with our Allies, the necessary condition for co-operation and for framing an alliance in these matters is that we should make up our minds first where we stand. When you know where you stand with regard to your own policy, you have some basis upon which you can talk with your Allies, and the engagements into which we have entered provide that when we know where we ourselves are—I am sure we do not know at present—we are to take joint action after conference with our Dominions and our Allies. Therefore the form of the Resolution is, at any rate, perfectly correct from the Government standpoint. Everyone knows that, so far from ruling out co-operation with our Allies in this matter, it is the necessary preliminary to joint action.

Then I have a further objection to the course the Government have taken. I want to know why they are doing it at all. Why do they not leave it alone? These properties have come into their hands. Why on earth do they not keep them and work them themselves? Why start such a controversial subject? We are not ripe for deciding what safeguards we should adopt in these different matters. I just mentioned a Committee presided over by Lord Balfour of Burleigh. One of the actual terms of reference to that Committee is this very subject. Why, then, does the Government steal a march, as it were, upon itself? Why does it lay down a policy which very few people in the country approve of? Why does it not, at any rate, formulate officially and finally its own policy? It can do that on these general questions, or, if it cannot, why does it not hold the properties and work them until the policy of the Government is finally decided? You certainly ought not to go on with this business in the present circumstances. I thought the Under-Secretary destroyed the ground for immediate action. Action of this kind should be postponed. This sale should not be proceeded with. It cannot be proceeded with now without exciting a storm of controversy in the country. It will certainly create an impression in the country that the Government is not acting with the discretion which we have a right to expect from them in leaving it possible for neutral firms to hold these properties for Germans after the War. They will certainly think they have a right to expect a more national and a more considered policy in this very important matter. If this goes to a Division I shall most certainly vote for the Resolution, but I trust sincerely that the Government will see its way to give a satisfactory assurance that this business will not be proceeded with and that they will at least wait until we are in the position of having a policy properly formulated to decide what are the proper safeguards to adopt in such a very important matter. They have certainly not considered that policy. I do not believe the Under-Secretary, or, for that matter, the Secretary of State, could assure the House that the policy which we have adopted in this matter has been considered by the Cabinet or by any Cabinet Committee. It is a policy which is departmental in its origin, and in view of the fact that there are all these important investigations going on and that you are setting a precedent for the whole Empire, I hope the Government will withdraw from what the country will regard as a very unsatisfactory position.


I confess I have considerable difficulty in making up my mind this afternoon, but there is one thing upon which I have not the slightest difficulty in coming to a conclusion about, and that is that some provision should be set up to safeguard the interests of the natives in this respect. Mr. Speaker, I do not feel very well. [The Noble Lord resumed his seat.]


I agree with the hon. Member who spoke a few minutes ago in saying that this matter ought to be postponed. We are called upon to decide a very important question but a very few days before the time fixed for the sale, and many hon. Members did not know anything of the particulars of this, matter until within the last few days. They, therefore, have not had much time in which to make up their minds upon the question. We are asked to agree to an open sale to everybody except alien enemies, and, on the other hand, it is suggested there should be a more limited market. There are certain things about this which I do not like at all. We have heard something about trade marks. When I look at the list I see there are trade marks which our Government ought not to be a party to selling. A great many are for spirits. Trade mark 196 is for gin, No. 199 is for Pilsener beer, and No. 238 again is for gin, and so on; and, really, if one has read all that has been written regarding the evils which had been done by the introduction of fiery spirits and even good spirits among the natives, he will agree that our Colonial Government should be the last to lend itself to the disposal of any such trade marks. I am not a teetotaler, but I feel that the day when we allowed spirits to be sold so freely as they have been in these Colonies in the past was an evil day.

I look with very considerable anxiety upon what has been done by the Government in selling alien private properties. It is a very bad thing for this country to depreciate the private property of an enemy alien during the War or at any time. Do not let the House forget that we have a very large amount of property, in the shape of money owing and other things, in Germany, and, of course, if the Germans have broken through the rule we may have to break through the rule ourselves. But it is a very dangerous precedent to put up private property for sale, with the result that all the efforts that a man has made, perhaps for a generation, are destroyed and come to nothing. With regard to these particular trade marks I should like to say this: the Government have a difficulty in-making up their mind. A little while ago they sold, by private, tender, a German business in London, and they sold it for very much less than they could have got if they could have guaranteed the trade mark. They refused to guarantee it. Then there was another business sold, Sanatogen. There was a difficulty there whether to give the trade mark or not, and, though they did ultimately agree to give it, they took such a long time in making up their minds that I think they got a worse price than they would have obtained if they had at the first made clear it was their intention to dispose of the trade mark. In Nigeria they are going to sell certain trade marks, and I am sorry, because, as a matter of fact, it is spreading disease of all sorts among the natives. The Colony would be much more prosperous, and would have greater opportunities of becoming a credit to the Empire than it will have, if all these trade marks are sold to promulgate the selling of dangerous spirits to the natives.

What is the hurry? Why cannot they keep this property? There is no difficulty in doing that. Why cannot they work it themselves or keep it in hand until the end of the War? Who is to know what the conditions of peace may be? They may be totally different to what we think now. We may even find ourselves in a very awkward position by having disposed of property which by the terms of peace we may be called upon to return. There is no hurry. I appeal to the Government that the way to get rid of this difficult question, seeing that the House is so undecided in some parts how to vote, is to withdraw the sale and keep the property in our hands till the end of the War.


The House has listened with deep interest to the speech made by the hon. Member for the Sowerby Division (Mr. Higham), who spoke with an intimate inside knowledge of what is going on in British Colonies. He depicted what, I think, is a typical state of things in a great many Colonies in our Empire. He described in very vivid colours the great evils that had resulted owing largely to the supineness of previous British Governments from the penetration of German influence and German trade into our Colonies, and I say that we should be guilty of a grave dereliction of duty if we did not at this moment endeavour to stop these evils and see that they do not occur again. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick (Mr. Pollock) made a speech to which I listened with some surprise. It appeared to amount to this, "Do not let us come to any conclusion on any broad question of policy to-day. Let us sell these properties to any neutral who likes to come forward— for preference a German naturalised in America or in England, or anywhere else. Do not favour unduly our British subjects in this sale. Let us be content with our conditions of sale—that is enough for us to-day, and let us not accept the broad question of policy involved in this Motion." I venture to call that a purely dilatory plea. I think we have had enough of delay in these matters already, and I hope the House will not indulge in any more.

There is one other thing I wish the House to note. I hope they will not give undue weight to purely local matters that arise or have arisen in Nigeria. What we are asked by this Motion to consider is not local affairs in Nigeria, but a broad question of policy, and that question is this: We are asked to say that where enemy properties in Crown Colonies and Protectorates have been acquired by reason of the War and of the great sacrifices which British subjects have made in this War, we shall take care the benefits of those sacrifices inure to British subjects. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies gave us some details, with what accuracy I know not and I care not, about the position of affairs in Nigeria. He said the natives were not getting as much for their produce as they ought to get, and he suggested as a cure for these evils that we should in this sale invite neutrals to come in—naturalised Germans most preferably, I suppose—and bid. He said that if these neutrals were invited to come in it would be a cure for the evils which have arisen through British ownership. I say that that suggestion is an insult to British merchants and to British citizens. I care not for. this purpose in the least whether these evils exist or not. If they do exist, the Under-Secretary's mode of dealing with them is not the proper way. I say the proper mode of dealing with them is to have an inquiry into the subject on the spot, and then introduce local legislation to remedy them. It would be perfectly easy to do.

The, question we are considering tonight is only part of a far larger one, and in order to see what we are striking at it is to my mind essential to see what we have done in the past. What has our past policy been with regard to peaceful penetration by those who are now our enemies? Our policy has been to allow the Germans to come into this country and into our Dominions and Crown Colonies, and every part of our Empire, and by their trade influence, by their financial influence, and by their penetration of our commerce, to inflict the gravest and most serious injuries upon our national Welfare and existence. At home we have had German banks permitted to exist. German industries have been sent up here, and now we are beginning to realise the danger and injury to British interests which has been caused by our supine indifference. If you look at our Dominions over the sea, we see by this peaceful penetration of Germany we have lost some of the key industries which were absolutely necessary to our trade in time of peace and which are vital to us in time of war. I need only refer as an illustration to the way in which the Germans got hold of the ore industry in Australia and controlled the whole export of concentrates from the Comm6nwealth. Mr. Hughes, in Australia, is not likely to allow that again. I confess I do not see why we who have suffered in the same way as Australia from this penetration should not take the earliest possible opportunity' of bringing the evils which result from it to an end.

But then the Under-Secretary says, "It is all right, sell to neutrals, and your conditions of sale will protect you." I venture to tell the Under-Secretary that if you allow the neutrals to come in under these conditions of sale there will be no real protection. He says that if the conditions, are not strong enough we must make them stronger; but, again, it has been pointed out that no provisions which you can insert into these conditions will prevent the Germans, by measures of which they are masters, from ultimately getting control of these industries and of these properties through the medium of neutrals. Let us put that aside as an impossibility. If we want to do justice to the sacrifices that have been made and to the men who have made them during this War, we must at the earliest possible time see that the benefit of those sacrifices shall accrue to the British. I have only one other observation to make. If the Government will not accept the Resolution in its present form, if they will not accept the broad policy therein laid down, why then should they not take over these properties and administer, them to the end of the War in the British interest? We can lease them, if you like, to a British subject, but we will keep them in our hands, and then when the War comes to an end we can, in concert, with our Allies, devise a well-considered industrial policy for our Colonies and those of our Allies which will ensure that German influence, that enemy influence which has been so powerful for evil in the past, shall never be allowed to rise again.


I do not propose to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman in his reference to the larger question. I will confine myself entirely to the particular Motion now before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the speech of the hon. Member for Sowerby Bridge (Mr. Higham). The hon. Member for Sowerby referred to the question I addressed to the hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond), in reference to these properties, and he went on to describe the precise position of the Government in this matter. As I understand it the position with regard to these properties is that they belonged to German interests and were held in a British Colony, and owing to the War they have come into the possession of the Government who for the moment are custodians or trustees of that property. I have just been informed a few moments ago by a Member of this House that he holds property in Germany, and he has been informed directly or semiofficially that his property is being administered, and I assume that he will hold the Germans to account at the end of the War for the administration of his property. The attitude of the Government is, I think, a perfectly right attitude. They place themselves in the position of custodians of this property, and very properly if they propose to sell it—I, for one, would rather support the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen that the best solution of this matter would be to postpone the sale altogether—but assuming that a sale is to be made I think that the Government representing a great country, fighting this just War as we all agree that it is, should carry it out to the end with clean hands, and as they are disposing of property held by Germans in a British Colony they very rightly, and to their honour be it said, propose to make the sale open, so that they may obtain the best price possible for it.

As we are justified in the opinion that Germany would desire to do this in the case of property held by Englishmen there, so in the same way we should follow that policy in our turn. If we are in doubts as to Germany pursuing that policy is that any argument why we should demean ourselves to the mean and contemptible proposal of my hon. Friend behind me and take advantage of the opportunity of putting our hands into the till and saying, "Here is our chance: let us take these properties and sell them to our British companies"? It would be a dishonour to this country and to this House. I honour the Government for the attitude which they have assumed. This is not the result of an attack upon a German colony. This is not the result of conquest. It is the act of custodians acting for Germans holding property in a British Colony. Do not let us step down from our high platform and sink to the position of being dabblers and pedlars in property which does not belong to us, and in reference to which the Government have taken up the position of custodians for those Germans, such as they were, who were in this British Colony. When one thinks of the attitude that is suggested by hon. Members who I have no doubt yield to no one in their patriotism—I do not cast any reflection on them: I can understand their attitude—though I yield to no one in my pride in the British Empire, yet I submit to these hon. Members that they have not quite grasped the true inwardness of this position.

It is a very natural thing. We are in the middle of a great war. Our minds are naturally concentrated on trying to beat the enemy and we are apt to mix up and confuse issues. We do not stop to dissect the true difference between property held in a British Colony and property which we might obtain by conquest of a German colony. The two cases are not analogous. They are entirely different. The House, perhaps, has been led away by the belief that the cases are analogous. I hope therefore that the Government will adhere to the attitude which they have taken up. Perhaps the best solution of all would be to follow the German precedent, because it is a precedent. They are dealing with our property as administering it during the period of the War, subject to adjustment at the end of the War. Still, it has its merits. It does not interfere with the ownership of that property, and as there is some doubt as to what should be done with it, it seems to me to resolve itself into either of two solutions—either postpone the sale of the property and hold on until the end of the War or, if you are determined to sell it, sell it as you propose to do, openly to the best bidder.


One of the hon. Members who have spoken has made the claim that he had been interested in the trade of this Colony for over forty years. I may take the same credit to myself. One of my earliest recollections was selling a cargo of palm kernels brought in the sailing brig, the old "Theodora," owned by a Manchester house. For forty years I have been more or less connected with this trade. Therefore I feel quite at home in talking on the subject now before us. The hon. Member who spoke last referred to the honour of the Government being at stake. He took up the position of a receiver being appointed for bankrupt estates. I must say that I understand that the gentleman who was appointed to wind up this property was a practical business man with knowledge of Nigeria. He sold all the movable property possible on the spot, and said that in order to get the highest price we must sell in London by public auction the actual buildings and factories, wharves and quays, and whatever was possessed by the German traders. That seems a businesslike proposition so as to get the best price possible for certain property that comes into the market. If that was the only consideration the Government's proposition would be perfectly right, but there are other considerations. In reply to my hon. Friend opposite with regard to the question of honour, does not he think that a Government should act honourably towards its own people?


And to others !


I am now in the Ministry of Munitions in an advisory position. We have had lately brought before us requisitions for corrugated iron and steel to go to this same Colony to increase the factories now belonging to British companies. Owing to the scarcity of iron and steel in this country, we have had to turn those down. Does he think it honourable to allow American firms to go over to this Dependency and buy the actual buildings which are now there to carry on the trade, because it is utterly impossible in Nigeria to conduct any business unless you have these storehouses. You must have your stores where you are to put your Manchester goods when they arrive, and where you are to put in the different products which the native brings down the rivers. And the possession of those buildings is not simply a matter of trade. It is a vital necessity. Whoever is going to enlarge and develop this business during the next two years, while the War is going on, must have those buildings because he cannot construct any other from Great Britain. Therefore it would be putting our merchants in a most unfavourable position to say that a New York firm might buy those warehouses, those jetties and quays that now exist, when British subjects are not allowed to get out material to build more. Those are the only ones that can be built. Therefore, when the War is on, British subjects should not be debarred by the fact that they are at war and cannot get iron and steel from being able to enlarge and develop their business. Local effort is a very small portion of the whole question. If we do talk about honour let us try to be fair.

The Under-Secretary said that we wanted to have equality of opportunity. It would not be equality of opportunity if the merchant of Liverpool were refused the right to send out corrugated iron and steel to put up more factories, to cope with the increased trade, while another man is allowed to come in and buy those buildings that are there in existence at present. The Liverpool merchants are using those warehouses now. If this auction takes place on the 14th November, every merchant who has now got any palm kernels or ground nuts or perishable goods in those warehouses will be required to take them out. In ordinary times it would certainly be an ordinary thing to take these goods away, but, as has been stated in this House, there is at present a year's stock on the West Coast of Africa of the products of the country which cannot be moved owing to the scarcity of freight. We all know what the weather is on the West Coast of Africa. If we keep goods in the open air for twelve months they will become rotten. You must have buildings. Are you going to allow the merchant who has got those buildings now to be served with short notice within fourteen days to clear out and take away his stock, while the newcomer would come into possession of the building and buy a fresh stock from the natives? This is not only not honourable, but the thing is absolutely unattainable.

If I have got 20,000 tons of palm kernels stored in these warehouses and I receive notice to remove them within fourteen days, it is impossible. I have no warehouses to bring them to. I can only get a certain percentage of the freight which is now available, and if I am ordered by the British Government to take away those goods I might as well throw them into the sea, because they would be rotten before I could get them home. These buildings are the only possible means of conducting the trade out there, and while the War is on we must keep them in our own hands. Personally, I want the Government to keep them for themselves, absolutely, at all events until the end of the War, when other and graver issues will have to be considered. There are one or two points as to which I wish to defend the merchants, who have been spoken of badly and referred to as being very greedy in the matter of driving down prices on natives. Let me explain what happens. When the War broke out in August, 1914, many of these merchants had contracts with Hamburg buyers at very high prices. It was stated by my right hon. Friend opposite that the price before the War was £14 in Lagos. Then there were the freight charges home. Those men had made excellent contracts. They were paying the natives £14 per ton for the kernels. On the outbreak of war those contracts were all cancelled, and the only market for the merchant was Liverpool. The result was that the price in Liverpool fell to £14 5s., without any freight or anything else. The Liverpool merchants met together, not to try to put up the price, but to try to safeguard themselves against further losses.

8.0 p.m.

I know for a fact that they were selling at £14 kernels which they thought had already been sold for £22 at Hamburg, and it can be readily seen that those men were faced with a loss of from £6 to £8 per ton. They were in a most serious position, with almost bankruptcy staring them in the face, and in self protection they came together so as to tide over in some way this evil time upon which they had come. They passed a resolution, as I understand it, that they would stand by one another and instead of paying £14 for these kernels, they would only pay £10, and that was the price. What happened? If any one of the Gentlemen in this room had been a warehouse owner in the port of Lagos he would have found himself in this position. The natives were bringing down the palm kernels time after time, and they were bought at £10 a ton until our warehouses were full. When the warehouses were full, we said we were sorry we could not take any more. What happened was that the native who brought his canoe or vessel full of palm kernels down to Lagos had to sell them to someone, and he went round to the native merchants, who bought at the price of £7 5s. If a man brought kernels down from the interior to a Liverpool merchant we would be only too glad to give him the market price of £10, but we had nowhere to put them. That is the important point in regard to this sale. The Government must not sell this property on 14th November. These buildings must be kept open as warehouses for British merchants to hold over this difficult time that we are still in. We have had all sorts of fluctuations in prices. It is perfectly right, as the Under-Secretary states, that the market has flared up. I could give the House the reasons why the market has gone up. It is the fact that on a large quantity of kernels which came to Liverpool in the last few weeks there was a very wide margin of profit. But there is this difference between the native and the Liverpool merchant: The Liverpool merchant pays 70 per cent. on excess profits to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The native, if he gets any more money during the War does not pay for the carrying on of the War, and he does not pay for the upkeep of the Army and Navy; whereas the Liverpool merchant has to pay. Therefore I do not think that he should feel aggrieved because, as it happens, there is a very big margin of profit at Liverpool at the present time. Ten pounds a ton is a very profitable business for him in gathering his kernels from the people of the villages of the interior and bringing them to Port Lagos. [An HON. MEMBER interrupted, and was understood to say that it was not very profitable.] If my hon. Friend had been in the market as long as I have he would know that £10 is a very paying proposition for bringing kernels down to the seaboard.

To my mind, however, this is not a very important part of the discussion here tonight. As the Member for Glasgow said, there is the local and Imperial aspect of this question. With regard to the Imperial aspect, if I could put it to the House, I do not think I could do better than use the words inscribed on a picture we have all admired in coming down from the Committee Rooms to the Lobby of this House. It is the picture where the Queen of England holds in her fingers a ring, and says: With this ring I was wedded to the Realm. Many of us regard our realm and our Empire since the War broke out with quite a different heart and different feeling, and, paraphrasing the words of Queen Elizabeth, I would say, "By this War I was wedded to the Realm." Many of us in this House do feel quite differently on Imperial questions since the War. The losses, the bereavements, the sorrows that we have passed through have made us feel towards our own realm a unity and a consciousness of oneness we have never had before. And here is a grave crisis at issue, the question of whether the unity of Empire shall be increased, or shall we bring a breach into it. If this Order is passed without further criticism, or without this decision to sell being withdrawn, I do recognise, as one speaker says, that we will complicate our position with neutral countries later on, when we are developing our Empire policy. If we sell by public auction under Government authority, and a neutral buyer purchases, we give him an altogether different title to his property than when it is bought from a private firm like Lever Brothers, or any other firm, which may transfer one portion of their property to another man. The title given by auction with the cognisance of the British Government would be noted by the Ambassador representing the neutral who bought it, and if we changed our policy, as we might do after the War, with regard to Empire estate, then I say, by passing this Order to sell, we should be creating for ourselves difficulties in the future which it would be very hard to get over.

My own great hope with regard to our Empire in the future is that, seeing we have four thousand millions of debt for the War, we should consider thoughtfully the possibility of paying that four thousand millions out of Empire estate. I say as a man who knows what I am talking about, with money after the War to develop these great properties in West Africa, I am of opinion that by due development of resources we could take that palm oil from these Colonies, and vastly increase the value of it, because we can make it into food for which it has never been used up to this time. The actual value of these palm kernels has never been realised in the world, because it has been only within the last few years that science has brought into our hands processes for treating these oils that greatly enhance their value, and I am of opinion that we might go on the West Coast of Africa to the extent of an experiment in Empire sociology, under which the British Government would pay these natives a more than generous price for the products they bring. We would take those goods and market them, by our own means, to all the world, and to all who want to buy them. We would use the merchants now engaged in the business, and who are taking out the Manchester goods, as our agents, and certify to them a positive profit on a reasonable capital engaged. I say that if that were done as an effort to pay off our war debts, I could turn over to the Government £15,000,000 a year of profit within a few years, through the developments I contemplate taking place. With a policy such as this, possibly, before us, and using not only these West African lands and many other lands within the Empire, which have never been tilled, forests that have never been touched, minerals that have never been discovered, and with a great policy to develop our Empire's resources, there would be sufficient money easily to pay off our Empire's war debt. The act that we are committing to-night drives a line right across that policy, and may make it very difficult for any Government that may be in power when peace is declared to bring in issue before all the Empire a new and great Empire scheme to develop the untold wealth and resources of the Empire that has been bequeathed to us by the men that have gone before us.

I assure Members of this House that the wise course we should pursue to-night is to drop this sale advertised for the 14th November and reconsider the whole subject. I think that the Colonial Office, of all the departments of the Government, has perhaps done as good work as any Department I know. This was, as I say, the act of a gentleman in the Department who had orders to wind up an estate, and he thought this the best way to get the most money for the property. If money were the only question, certainly that was the best thing, and the conditions which I have read to-day in the agreement might work and keep the matter within the lines forecast. I quite agree with the Member for the Exchange Division that these conditions cannot really hold water. It is an untenable position. If the Government will agree to withdraw the auction altogether and promise that we shall have an opportunity to discuss these great matters at greater length on another occasion, I think everyone here will be very satisfied. When the Motion was put down, many thought that it was to exclude altogether any neutral firm from bringing their money to Nigeria for development purposes. That is a wrong impression. As I understand it, a firm in New York or in Holland to-day are perfectly free to come and buy, say, the next lot, Gaiser's' factory at Lagos; but they should not be at liberty to buy that Gaiser's property. They might buy land in Nigeria and have the right to build factories and develop the industry there, but they must not have the right to buy plant and factories and buildings which are there now. Let them by all means bring their money and build places, but not take buildings which are now ready, and which are absolutely essential for the trade which is carried on by this country at the present moment. That, to my mind, would be a gross act of injustice to our own merchants who are now on the spot. If our own merchants could build more warehouses than they have got, we would not object. But they cannot do that. They cannot build or increase their warehouses, simply because the need of steel and iron in this country is so great that they are not allowed to be exported. Therefore, while this state of affairs continues, I do urge the Government to withdraw this auction of the 14th November.


The Mover and Seconder of this Resolution, and the Member for one of the Divisions of Yorkshire, took too limited a view of what the British Empire means. They do not seem to be able to extend their purview of British citizenship to the whole Empire. They do not quite realise that the natives of Nigeria are also British subjects, with all the British rights to which a British subject is entitled, and they are therefore entitled to the same consideration as other British subjects in any other part of the Empire. The statement has been made that the advantages of the War ought to be reserved for British subjects. If there are any advantages, I agree with him. But that must not mean that one set of British subjects in this country should be allowed to take advantage of another set of British subjects in Nigeria. That is what we want to avoid. We want to have perfectly fair and equal treatment of all subjects of this Empire, in every part of it, having equal rights. I notice that the Mover of the Motion was very careful to avoid making that claim. He said he did not think that any question arose of native interests, and that in fact he himself was rather representative of native interests. He also declared that no question arose in regard to the Resolutions of the Paris Conference. I join issue with him in regard to both those statements. With regard to the first, I would refer to the speech of the Under-Secretary. I was glad to hear what he said and to hear him announce a proposition which those of us who are familiar with the different parts of the Empire must regard as the right proposition, and that is that in the particular locality you must have regard to the inhabitants of the locality, to their rights and interests. I do not believe that those rights and interests are properly cared for if they are allowed to conflict with the trade rights and interests of merchants and others in this country. He enunciated the proposition that you never can neglect the rights and interests of such subjects if you are really going to make this Empire sound. He showed, so far as native interests are concerned, that this close combine had results on those interests which were extremely detrimental. I think this House ought to realise, because it does not realise as it does not live in Nigeria or Lagos, that what has happened there is this: Owing to the War there has been an enormous rise in the cost of living of the products which have to be imported into that country. It is stated by those who have the best means of knowing that the rise in the cost of the necessaries of life on imported goods has amounted to 100 per cent., while concurrently there has been a very serious fall in the price of the principal products of the country—that is, palm kernels.


Not on an average of five or ten years.


We do not usually look back ten years. If we made a good profit last year we feel it severely when it comes down a half or a quarter. I have the official figures given by the Under-Secretary as to the price of palm kernels at various periods before the War and during the War. I find that during the whole of 1913 palm kernels were £14 per ton. I notice that during the whole of the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) he never mentioned the native or his interests. He told us he was an exporter to Nigeria of cotton goods, and he gave us a disquisi- tion on the bringing of palm kernels to this country. I can only say he must have been speaking from second-hand information. I prefer the very minute and careful investigations made by the Under-Secretary in various places to any calculations made by the hon. Member, whose business is not concerned with these kernels. As I have pointed out, it is a very serious feature to have a rise in the cost of the necessaries of life in the case of imported goods of 100 per cent. and at the same time a fall amounting in some cases to more than 50 per cent. on the principal local produce. That is a very serious state of affairs, and that is the state of affairs with which this community is now faced, and with the development of a combination which they know has already been instrumental in lowering the price of their products. You cannot, therefore, be surprised to find that there is a very strong feeling locally in Nigeria and in Lagos against the extension of that combination.

The Mover of this Resolution spoke as if British firms were going to be excluded by the action of the Government in giving opportunity to competitors of tendering. That is quite mistaken. If British firms are prepared to give the value, there is no difficulty about it. On the other hand, those gentlemen know very well, and the Mover in particular, who represents, as he said, quite fairly, a number of constituents who are interested in this business, as does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea, if you want to sell an article the only way to get good prices is if you have a large number of customers. If you limit the number of customers the price goes down. The more customers you have the higher the price, and the better profit you can make. Those are fundamental principles which cannot be got over. The hon. Member's constituents would be the very first to admit the value of a large number of customers by giving them a good price. Why did he go so far as Nigeria? He went, of course, because he wanted an increased number of customers, and by increasing the number he got a better price for his products. That is really the universal principle. I desire to refer to the feeling which now exists in these places in regard to the unfortunate position which they now occupy. It is a position which must be very largely attributed to the War, but still we must sympathise with them when there is likely to be a chance of their position being rather made worse than improved. In the "Times" of yesterday there appeared a communication from a native of West Africa who has been sent over to represent the principal native traders in Nigeria with reference to the unfair treatment which he says: We, with other native and British merchants, are experiencing at the hands of a combine of seven British firms who have for years past dominated the trade of the West African Colonies. This combine was nominally formed for the purpose of regulating the price to be paid to the natives for produce. The combine extended its operations by an arrangement under which it secured 50 per cent. of the available space at all the coast ports of the sole line of steamers trading to West Africa. The only competition which they were too proud to tight was the German organisation, consisting of German merchants, supported by 61 German steamers. With this German organisation they made an agreement, with the result that the Germans took the best part of the trade to Hamburg. Since the War the combine at Lagos, Nigeria, have made an arrangement with the sole steamship company trading to Nigeria by which they have secured 60 per cent. of the cargo space for themselves, and 20 per cent. to the Niger Company, the London and Kano Trading Company, and the Tin Areas of Nigeria, leaving 20 per cent. for all the native and other British merchants, with the result that they are in a position to fix what prices they like for produce as no one outside the combine has the slightest chance of shipping any considerable quantity of produce. There is no desire on the part of the combine to live and let live as the following will show. Out of a total tonnage of 12,000 tons exported from Nigeria in the month of May by the steamers 'Karina,' 'Burutu,' 'Elmina,' 'Withernsea,' and 'Eboe,' only a little over 400 tons was allotted to the native shippers. In June, out of !l,000 tons, only 350 tons was granted to native shippers. This equally applies to other British merchants outside the combine. In fact Nigeria at present is apparently a private estate of the seven combine firms, and the steamship line operates as if they owned it. It will be noted that the combine evidently requested a Member of Parliament to ask a question in the House of Parliament last Tuesday on the advisability of allowing the British firms at present operating in Nigeria, that is the combine, to purchase the whole of the Nigerian German properties. This. I am glad to say, Mr. Bonar Law-declined to accede to. There is a representation made by a native of Nigeria who is himself a trader and who represents several British traders. The mover and seconder of this Resolution are, I am afraid, not sufficiently comprehensive in their purview of British traders, and the British Empire, and are really supporting a small section of British traders against another section, and a section who are in a position perhaps to unduly take advantage of their opportunities. Now what is the position? Nigeria, however it may have come about, was making a great sale of its products to Germany. The War supervenes; that trade is absolutely closed, and the result is that you have in Nigeria an enormous mass of produce worth some £5,000,000 which cannot immediately find an outlet else where. We know from the report of the Oil and Seed Committee that this country cannot take and utilise that immense quantity of palm kernels. I only hope they may set to and do it as quickly is possible. But it is not possible immediately to instal, particularly during the War, the necessary machinery for dealing with this enormous quantity of produce. What is to happen? Is it not only humane to give every opening for the utilisation of this; immense mass of produce which is on their hands, so that they may obtain a price which is a reasonable one. and upon which, they can live? The allegation made there-is that the native to-day is almost unable to live because he cannot command a sale of his produce. Why, if Americans or others are in a position to come in and assist in taking this enormous mass of produce, giving a reasonable price, should we do anything to prevent such a state of things? Should we not rather encourage it? Why should we do anything which: would prevent our own British subjects from obtaining a price which we cannot give, because we cannot take the material, but which they can get from our friends the Americans? I cannot see, if you are ready to take a view of this which comprehends every British subject within the British Empire and within the purview of our interest here, why you should step in to prevent that.

The mover of the Resolution was very anxious not to go into the bearing of the Paris Resolutions upon this question? can quite understand his anxiety to avoid it. I think the right hon. Member for Swansea also avoided it. What is the position? On the 2nd August we had an exposition from the Prime Minister in regard to what the Paris Resolutions really meant in regard to neutrals. I should like to recall to the House what he said, because it has a most direct and important bearing upon this very question. The hon. Member for Sowerby told us: that Americans will be purchasers of some of these properties. This is what the Prime Minister said in concluding his speech on the 2nd August: Finally—I am sorry to detain the House so long—there are two important points to which I think it right to draw attention. The first is the declaration of the common determination of the Allies to obtain reparation for the countries occupied by the enemy. From that determination the Allies have not swerved, and in these Resolutions they reaffirm it The second is that these Resolutions are in no sense aimed at neutrals. Our attention has been called to the fact that some uneasiness appears to have arisen it neutral countries, more especially in the United Stales of America, with regard to the consequence of the Resolutions of the Conference, and there seems to be a feeling- I do not say it is widespread—that the Resolutions may be directed at and aimed against neutral countries and impose unique, abnormal, and undue restrictions upon them on the part of the various countries whose representatives signed the Resolutions. That is not the case. The Resolutions contemplate only necessary measures in self-defence against economic aggression threatening the Allies's most vital interests, and in carrying them into effect I need hardly say that every endeavour will be made to ensure that neutrals do not suffer—in fact our interests and the interests of neutrals in this matter are the same. The determination of the Allies to defend themselves against aggression from elsewhere is or ought to be a pure guarantee that we shall pursue no aggressive policy towards other people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd August, 1916, cols. 342–3, Vol. LXXXV.] That pronouncement of the Prime Minister seems to me to be absolutely conclusive upon this subject. Our friends in America were free to go to Nigeria, or to any of our Colonies, and purchase property and to develop those countries. We know that America needs large quantities of oil, and she is going to Brazil and other places to get them. Why should she not go to Nigeria, where there is a large surplus at this very moment existing, which we cannot dispose of, and which it would be greatly to the interests of British subjects in that part of the Empire to dispose of to America? Therefore, as I say, as far as the Resolutions of the Paris Conference are concerned, I do not see how the Government could go back upon those Resolutions as explained by the Prime Minister, and refuse to allow neutrals, American or others, to come in here and have an opportunity of bidding for these properties. An hon. Member, I think the Mover of the Resolution, indicated that he would very much like to see a rule which, he said, applied in French colonies also applied here—that any company going into a French colony had to be absolutely controlled by the French Government. He did not elaborate that, and I do not wish to say much about it; but I wish to say this, that the development of our Empire could not have taken the course it has if we had had any arrangement of that kind. We have benefited enormously from capital coming in from other countries, which has helped us to develop this great Empire, and we could not have been in the position we are in to-day if that had not been so. I would remind hon. Members that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when asked whether he was aware that neutrals now held no less a sum than £300,000,000 in Treasury Bills, replied, "Yes, I am perfectly well aware of that, and I hope they will hold £400,000,000 very shortly." That shows that even in fighting this War we are depending largely on the capital of neutrals for most valuable and important assistance. We have gone to America and have got loans which have aided us enormously in maintaining our exchange there, which is vital to us.

It would be a very short-sighted view and policy which forgot these important factors for the saks of a limited small number of firms which are already making enormous profits, as the Under-Secretary has shown—profits beyond the dreams of avarice, so far as increase is concerned; 100 per cent. in one year—and if in order to enrich these we pursue a policy which would tend to alienate the sympathy of friendly neutrals and injure most seriously our own fellow-subjects. I do not want to weary the House, but I have other letters here which I could read showing the grave and serious apprehension felt in these countries. I could quote article after article from newspaper after newspaper published in these countries describing the seriousness of the economic situation to them because of the growing fall in the value of their products, enlarging upon the danger of the policy of placing such a great export duty upon their produce and pointing out; that there is even a danger of creating a pro-German sentiment amongst the natives if this policy is pursued without regard to their interests. In view of these facts I am very glad to find that the Government are resisting this Motion, and I sincerely hope they will continue to resist it. I have differed very much from the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Under-Secretary with regard to some matters, as they know, but I congratulate them upon having realised what this really means and how vital it is to the natives that they should not be placed in a position in which they cannot realise a fair and adequate remuneration for their produce and their labour. After all, what would it mean? We would be denying a portion of the British Empire the right to dispose of their produce in the best market in favour of a limited number of our fellow-subjects here, who are already getting most enormous and extraordinary profits.


I should like to offer a few remarks on the purchase and sale of these properties, and the terms on which they are put before the public, because some time earlier in the year I spent a good deal of time under my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies on a Committee which dealt with the industries on this part of the African coast. I am sorry that I was not then able to agree with my hon. Friend in the resolutions which were brought up by the Committee. I cannot help saying now that I feel rather justified in some remarks which I placed in the Minority Report in reference to the ring which would probably be set up more strongly than before if the proposals of the majority of the Committee were brought into force. It is admitted now, I think, that the small number of traders who are left in Nigeria have made it very difficult for the native to get his proper price for the produce, and I am rather alarmed, if this property which is now being put up to auction is limited only to British subjects, that the business of this country will get deeper and deeper into the hands of this group—a group not only of merchants who work together in very close alliance, but the millers, the crushers, and also the shipowners. We must remember that all these three classes of traders are working very, very closely together. The hon. Member for Birkenhead did not seem to mind that the native was going to get a great deal less for his produce because he had no taxes to pay. I say that that was quite beside the mark. In our own country we put no Excess Profits Tax upon the farmers, who are, to a great extent, in the same position as the producers of kernels. We put no Excess Profits Tax upon the farmers, although at the present time they are making very heavy profits.

I want to make a suggestion to my hon. Friend, because it does seem to me a pity that the House should be divided on a question like this if we can come to some understanding and some common conclusion. At the present time it would be very much better to come to such common conclusion. It is almost sad that so many hon. Members who are opposed to the action of the Government over this sale should have talked as if they were the only patriots in this House.? I resent that very much indeed. It seemed to me a waste of time that they should get up and talk of their own party in the Government as being almost pro-Germans. It seemed to me very sad that when a purely economic question like this is discussed that such a spirit should be brought into the Debate. The suggestion I have to put before my hon. Friend is that instead of selling this freehold by auction that the sale should be postponed, perhaps for a short time, and that arrangements should be made to lease this property. I know it is difficult to lease business premises with machinery, and warehouses, and everything of that kind attached to them. But if it were arranged to lease, the difficulty spoken of by the Member for Birkenhead would be got over. I believe these warehouses are being used now to store palm kernels for British firms. But that might be got over, and a longer extension might be given to them, and I do think that it would be better in all interests if a lease, even if it be a long lease, were granted. So far as I am concerned, I would rather let it on a short lease at a very low rent-even an inadequate rent—than I would take an unwise step at the present time. You might easily lease it I think, even to an American subject, than get it into the hands of the present group of Liverpool merchants who are working this West African trade. It would be far better. I therefore do suggest that if my hon. Friend can see his way and meet the House, it would be a great satisfaction to everybody here—if he can arrange some terms for a lease instead of selling the freehold.


I should like to differ from some of the remark:? that have fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno). He has approached this matter on an entirely wrong basis. If I understand him rightly—and I listened very carefully to his speech —he suggests that unless you allow neutrals to buy these properties the natives will be unable to sell their produce. I submit that there is no connection whatever between these two propositions. There are a number of British merchants there to-day. 3 hope there will be more British merchants there after these properties are sold; if there is a surplus of goods in Lagos or in any other part of Nigeria those British merchants will be perfectly willing to sell those goods to any part of the world. They do not hold them up and say, "We will hold them there and only bring them to England." They will be on sale. Therefore the natives will not suffer in the least, because anybody who goes there for these goods, who will pay the price, will obtain them. If my hon. Friend or any other Member of this House can tell me an instance where merchants have got into their possession large quantities of goods, more than they can use in their ordinary business, and if they can point out a case where these merchants would not sell for cash to the highest bidder, I should be very much obliged for information of such a unique transaction. The last speaker referred to a group of Liverpool merchants. If any merchants in this country, whether they be Liverpool merchants or not, are doing anything wrong, by all means let the Government deal with them. I do not for one moment stand here to bolster up any monopoly or to advocate that any mercy or leniency should be shown to people who are taking advantage of the War unduly to enrich themselves. But again I would submit this has nothing to do with the question we are to-day considering. [An HON. MEMBER: "Question !"] Well, in my humble opinion, that is so. Some other hon. Gentleman may hold a different opinion, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman who interrupted will allow me to hold mine. Here, again, there are two distinct questions. If these traders are forming a trust which is injurious to the interests of this country, surely it is not beyond the wit of the Government to frame regulations which will defeat that object. But that has nothing to do with the question as to who are to be the owners of these various properties.

It has been suggested that it might help to break such a trust if we were to allow our very good friends in America to purchase these properties. I must say that is a suggestion which causes me some amusement. I know a good deal of America, and I think we all know that if there is one place in the world where the trust system is thoroughly understood it is in America. The idea that we should invite Americans to buy this property in British territory in order to break the trust strikes me, if I may say so with all deference, as being supremely ridiculous.

There is nothing I dislike more than going against the Government. Particularly in this case I have the very greatest reluctance to differ from the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Under-Secretary of State, and I would, if it were possible, support them. But in (his case I cannot do so, because I believe that what we are considering to-night is a question of principle, and that, in the proposal which is now before us to sell these properties practically to anybody, we are taking a retrograde step. What is the rule when we wind up enemy firms in London under the Trading With the Enemy Act? I asked the question in this House a few days ago, Were those origin- ally German-owned properties in London being sold to naturalised British subjects of German origin? I was told that that was hardly ever done, and was avoided. I have since heard it was practically a rule—I do not say it was a law—that when we sell these German properties in London we insist that the buyer must be a natural-born British subject. If that is good enough for London, is it not good enough for Lagos'? I think that this is now opening the door and breaking the principle we have established in this; country, and practically saying to everybody in the wide world, "You can come into British territory and you can buy these properties, provided you take some precautions or such steps as will lead us to suppose that you are not acting as an agent for Germany."


The hon. Gentleman will know that I do not want to interrupt him needlessly, but I am not quite certain in dealing with what I said he has not misunderstood me. I dealt with the custom in London of selling to British subjects, and I pointed out that there is absolutely no guarantee against an immediate resale to any of the undesirable aliens, and that the intention of this was to give a guarantee against such possibility.


I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, and I believe he understands that I have not the slightest idea of misrepresenting him, but I think what he has just said rather strengthens my case. He says that even here in London there are difficulties in preventing the resale to an enemy agent, but if that is the case in London, how much greater must be this difficulty in Nigeria? Therefore if we take precautions in London, we ought to take greater precautions in Nigeria, instead of fewer precautions.




I do not wish to enter into any argument with the hon. Gentleman. I am merely stating my view. It is not only a retrograde step with regard to our procedure in this country, but I would like to inform the House of something which happened recently in Egypt. A number of German firms in Egypt, as in Nigeria, were being wound up, and the high officials in Egypt issued a circular in this country to the various chambers of commerce. They were published in the Press. I cannot commit myself to the words, but the effect was that, while we were winding up German firms in Egypt, those firms were not being replaced by British firms, but were being replaced by neutral firms, and that that was very objectionable, and that it was very much the desire that British firms should come into Egypt and supplant German firms, and not allow supplanting to be done by neutrals. If that is the principle we laid down in regard to Egypt, why not lay down the same principle for Nigeria? Why not have one broad principle which applies to Great Britain, Egypt, and every part of the Empire, that principle being that enemy captured, conquered, or wound-up property—I lay stress on the word "enemy"—should be reserved for the British nation, in order to counteract this penetration by German agents, with which we are so familiar, and which has such formidable results?

I have lately had a remarkable opportunity of seeing a document which I was not supposed to see, and that was a letter from one of the best known Germans—you would all know his name if I were to tell it—written to a neutral country, full of instruction to the agents in that country as to what steps they were to take to counteract British influence and defeat British aims. I should think there is every probability that this same German statesman is pulling the strings at this moment in some neutral country for some so-called neutral to buy these properties in Nigeria, and I do not believe that any paper safeguards that we can invent will defeat that object. I believe the best way we can defeat that object of Germany to continue the penetration—to take advantage, if I may say so, of our simplicity—is to insist that all enemy property which is being taken over should be taken over by Britishers, because, after all, although we may not have a complete hold even over British subjects, we have a hold over a British subject which we do not possess over a neutral subject, and we can make laws in this country regulating the action of British subjects, and we cannot make those laws regulate the action of neutral subjects. Therefore, I think it is most important that we should not in Nigeria, or any other part of the Empire, invite people of non-British nationality to come into the Empire and possess themselves of the properties which have come to us as a result of the War. I do not for a moment suggest, as I think one of my hon. Friends did, that we are averse to neutrals investing their money in the British Empire. They are perfectly free, so far as I know, to buy any property in the British Empire, except, as I suggest, these properties which we have acquired from the Germans, and which we ought to keep in our own hands in order to prevent any possibility of it going back by a circuitous route for the benefit of Germany. There are other Members I see anxious to speak, and, therefore, while there are one or two minor points on which I should like to touch, I think I have detained the House long enough.

9.0 p.m.


The subject we are discussing this afternoon naturally divides itself into two parts. I think it is a great pity that it does so, because while there are some points one might fairly raise in regard to the Nigerian question, what we really have put before us is whether or not we can vote for the Resolution which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott). Before speaking to the Resolution, there is one word I should like to say about the conditions of sale in connection with the Nigerian properties, and I should be very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State if, when he comes to sum up this Debate, he could give an answer to my question. There has been in my mind, and it must have been in the minds of every one who has read these conditions, that there are one or two things wanted in them to give this House the control they ought to have if such sales are to take place. In the first clause it says that the properties are to be sold to the highest bidder. I should like to see the conditions of sale, if possible, so altered that you may have in them what is the common form in tenders of all kinds, and that is, that the Government should have the right of accepting any tender put in that it likes, whether that tender is the highest or not, and I should like to see embodied in those conditions this one thing, that the ultimate decision as to whether a sale shall be allowed or not to the successful bidder shall be sanctioned by the Secretary of State. I think if we had those two points made clear we should have a safeguard that would give those of us I who are anxious about these conditions all that we can desire. At any rate, with regard to myself, it would make all the difference to my happiness of mind in giving my vote to-night, but with regard to the Resolution on which we are asked to vote we get on ground where I am certainly, in my own mind, a little afraid. I do not like the Resolution, and it is one which I much regret—I know I differ from many of my hon. Friends who sit around me—and I cannot support it in its present form for these reasons. It is true, as my hon. Friend who spoke last said, that there is no idea in this Resolution of confining the development of the British Empire to British-born subjects, and that is quite true. It goes a very little bit of the way, and the Resolution only specifies enemy properties in the Protectorates and Crown Colonies, but that embodies a principle which I find very great difficulty in accepting. I try to take a long view and to look forward beyond the War, and not to allow myself to be rushed by feelings that are only too natural at the present moment, and to which an appeal of passion may very easily and successfully be made. I see three difficulties, in my own mind, in consenting to bar out from the privileges of tendering all except British-born subjects. I sec a danger—not, I admit, a serious one, but still a danger—that you may cause a certain amount of irritation amongst Allies or neutrals that may lead to retaliation; because, after all, it is a very serious step to take by a pronouncement of this House for the first time that we mean to keep for ourselves, and for ourselves alone, what we can make out if this War. The second difficulty I have was touched upon by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Mackinder), and this seems to me a very real difficulty. It is the difficulty of capital. Of course, for many years before the War we had a very curious phenomenon connected with capital. We saw a slow and steady rise in the rate which it commanded accompanied by the usual concomitance of a slow and steady rise in the price of commodities, which had the inevitable consequence of causing real wages to stagnate even if not to go back; and it was the opinion of many men far better judges than I am that not only were we coming to a period of scarcity of capital, but it might be possible that a few more years of peace would lead to a famine in capital. If that was the state of things before the War, what may we expect after? And, whatever we may expect will be meted out, or rather will fall to the lot in a much more serious manner to our Allies. Holding those views as. I do, I find it very difficult to vote for any Resolution that would impede the flow of capital into our Protectorates and Crown Colonies, or any part of our Dominions. It will be most essential when this War is over for us, not only in this country but throughout the Empire, to throw the whole of our energies into our trade, into the Dominion trade and foreign trade, which is the only way in which we shall be able to recoup ourselves for the loss of capital during this War, and we shall have to look for that capital to a very large extent to countries outside ourselves and outside our Allies.

The third point that strikes me is one which I dare say will not commend itself to many hon. Members of this House. It is one that does not commend itself to me, but yet I am afraid it is a real one, and it is this: Here again I am obliged to mention neutral opinion. I am no fonder of neutrals than any man in this House. The term neuter is not a happy one. It is not a term of pride; it is not one which we should like to apply to ourselves, and the term neutral has unpleasant suggestions. One thinks of the Laodiccans, of people who are neither hot nor cold, and we remember what their fate was, and feel very much inclined to see that fate visited upon neutrals; but at the same time we are in the middle of this War. We are not within sight of emerging from it yet, and the War is not won. When the War is over it will be time enough for us to decide whether we think it is consistent with our own interests to flout the opinions of neutrals or not. That is a matter for the future, but I cannot myself see the wisdom at this present moment and at this period of the War of taking any step that might give neutral nations the idea that we are fighting this War solely to benefit ourselves, to secure our own trade, and to keep all other peoples, whether neutral or Allies, from what we believe to be our own preserves. I doubt the wisdom of that action. I grant fully the temptation to do it, but I think it is a temptation that should be resisted. I think we should take the wide view and the long view, and I think we should look to the future and to all that that will bring. I cannot help feeling that those who have come to an opposite conclusion from that to which I have with reluctance come have possibly focussed their attention too much on one or two small portions of what is a very great question with very far-reaching issues, and that by focussing their attention on those small and obvious points they have omitted to see other questions that form an equal, and possibly a more considerable, part of what is really a very great, grave, and most complicated problem.


I should not have intervened in this Debate at all if it had not been for the speech of my hon. Friend opposite, one of the Members for Yorkshire (Mr. Higham), which had a very great and marked effect upon the opinion and temper of this House. It was characterised by a very close and intimate knowledge of the subject, which he evidently had entirely at his command, and he spoke as but few Members in this House could speak with an inside knowledge of what is going on in this particular Crown Colony. I think, too, it was evident that he was of the same opinion as a very considerable portion of the Members of this House, and that he also voiced the opinion which is largely held in commercial circles in all parts of this country. It is clear that there is a very strong opinion in different parts of the country as well as in this House in favour of some such Resolution as that which appears upon the Notice Paper to-day. The text of the Resolution itself is worth looking at. It asks, in the first place, that where particular enemy properties are for sale, provision should be made for securing that such properties should be sold-—and these are very crucial words—only to natural British-born subjects or companies wholly British. Those words which I have emphasised show an obvious flaw in the intention of the framers of the Resolution. Supposing the Resolution were carried, and that it became operative upon the Government, what would be the effect at once? No native firm in Nigeria itself whose members were not native-born British subjects could become purchasers of these properties, even although they were financially in a position to do so.


The natives would be natural-born British subjects.


Pardon me. That, if I may say so, shows a lack of consideration as to the time when Nigeria became part of the British Empire. I am quite sure that was not the intention of my hon. Friend, but it shows how very easily, in drafting a Resolution of this sort, you can produce an effect which you never had in your mind at the time. I am perfectly willing to accept the suggestion which will naturally be made that there are few firms composed of natives of Nigeria who would be in a position to acquire these properties, but what about subjects of the British Empire who come horn South Africa? Take a man like General Louis Botha, whose name leaps to ail our lips. He or any of his family, or any of the many thousands of men who are fighting for our cause in the different parts of the world, and who happened to have been born in the Transvaal, would be ineligible under this Resolution. A message of this sort to our fellow-subjects and to our fellow-members of the British Empire at the present moment would surely be one of the unkindest messages which could be sent from the British House of Commons to those who are fighting for our cause, and that, I am sure, was never for a moment in the minds of the framers of this Resolution.

Let me say one further word upon the Paris Conference Resolutions. They are very apt in this connection, because the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bonar Law) was, I believe, one of the actual framers of the wording of the Resolutions. It is no use saying that the Allies who are mentioned in the wording of those Paris Conference Resolutions would not be excluded under this Motion, because they would be directly—I am not sure whether it would be intentionally or unintentionally—struck at by the wards of it. Surely that would not be a friendly act towards persons, towards men, and towards traders who are fighting side by side with us in France for a common cause. Therefore, the actual wording of the Resolution as it stands—I am not dealing now with its spirit—is certainly not all that could be desired in the interests of this country. There is another flaw in this Resolution, and it must surely be obvious to everybody. The Resolution says that provision should be made that these properties are sold only to British-born subjects. There is nothing said about a resale, and under the terms of this Resolution it would be perfectly possible for any British-born subject to attend the auction and to pay a lesser sum for the properties than is offered, and within five minutes of the conclusion of the sale to resell them either to a neutral or to an Allied subject. I may be wrong, but I do not see where the impossibility arises. In the speech of the Mover of this Resolution some reference was made to a firm called Jurgens. I know nothing about them except that they deal in margarine and other commodities. It was pointed out that that firm, while nominally a neutral and in some respects a British firm, had large German connections, and that they might acquire interests in these properties in Nigeria. It would be possible for Mr. Jurgens, under the terms of the Resolution itself to appoint a British nominee, to supply him with sufficient money to conclude the bargain and to carry out all its provisions, and then for him, the moment he has carried out its provisions, to hand over these properties to Mr. Jurgens, and so allow them to drift back to those German firms who my hon. Friend desires to keep out. Those are the flaws in the Resolution, as it stands, which occur to me.

I have been much impressed, however, by the speech of my hon. Friend, and I would venture, with great respect, to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Is it really necessary, in the interests of the country, to proceed with these sales? I am in entire agreement with his policy generally, and I do not find myself in agreement with hon. Friends on this side of the House, but is it really necessary, in the interests of the country, to proceed with these sales'! If it is not necessary, and if it is not even desirable that you should, at some inconvenience to the Government of the day, because that inconvenience has to be seriously faced and considered to-night, proceed with these sales in the interests of the country, why not abandon the attempt to realise these assets for the sake of certain present German possessors and leave the matter where it stands? I gathered from the speech of my hon. Friend opposite that both British and Allied creditors had been already satisfied in full by the assets which have been realised up to the present moment.


I can only speak for the British. I have no other knowledge.


I understand the position to be this, that there is no British creditor unsatisfied, that there is no Allied creditor unsatisfied, and that the only persons who are at present interested in the further realisation of these pro- perties are the German owners. If it were possible for my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary to withdraw the instructions which have already been given to the auctioneers to proceed with these sales, surely the proposals of my hon. Friend (Mr. Leslie Scott) would be satisfied, and the views of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House—which I share in the main far more than I do those of the proposer of the Resolution—would also be satisfied. There would have been no abandonment of principle on one side or the other, and we should have avoided the crisis which undoubtedly faces us at the present moment in the present temper of the House. Therefore, I think that the course which I have indicated to the right hon. Gentleman might be a happy means of escape from a critical and delicate situation.


It has been a most remarkable Debate this afternoon. One of its characteristics has been, that although we have had a large number of speakers, not one speaker has ventured to defend the policy and the position of His Majesty's Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Pollock!"] I think he made his qualifications. He seemed to agree with the Resolution for some considerable time, but finally I think his affection for the Colonial Secretary induced him to come down on the Government side. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Hobhouse) offered many criticisms of the Resolution. In attempting to criticise the Resolution, I think he was, without his knowledge, really criticising the Government, because, if all these terrible things can take place in. regard to a British subject immediately transferring his interest to a neutral or some other subject, the Government are allowing that sort of thing. Surely that is a complete condemnation of their policy in this matter. I do not agree with my light hon. Friend that his interpretation of that point is quite correct. I have not a very high opinion of some of the things the Government do, but I can hardly imagine that, having a sale, they would allow transfers to go through so easily after making the conditions which they have made.


Under the terms of the Resolution, and it is that I referred to, that would be possible. I do not say it was in the minds of the Government, because I have no means of knowing, but under the terms of the Resolution I think it was possible.


I do not think we ought to confine ourselves too closely to the exact terms of the Resolution, because it is open to my right hon. Friend, and to anybody else if they agree with the main policy of the Resolution, to suggest any Amendment which they consider necessary in order to make it more practicable A straight issue has been raised, and raised for the first time in this House, and that is whether in connection with properties which we have acquired as a result of the War we should immediately invite neutrals to come and be competitors with us for the property which we have so acquired. That is the issue that is before us, and there is really nothing else in it. There is a subordinate issue, and that is what is the policy of His Majesty's Government. I hope that the Colonial Secretary when he replies will defend the policy of the Government in selling enemy firms in this country and not inviting neutrals, but selling them only to British subjects, and making that a condition, and making the purchaser sign a document that he is a British subject, and not under enemy influence, as they were able to do yesterday at sales in London. Why make these conditions in London, where we may be able to keep an observant eye on neutrals who may be under enemy influence, and not do it in Nigeria, where our supervision cannot be as close as it can be at home, instead of inviting neutrals to come in to raise the price against us and to acquire properties which we have acquired in the course of the great War in which we are engaged?

What kind of neutrals may purchase? According to His Majesty's Government, who have invited them at great expense, the different neutral countries may provide purchasers. A German who has been naturalised a year as a Swiss will be able to buy under the conditions of the sale. An American who was a German a year ago because he has become a naturalised American citizen will be able to compete with the British purchaser. Any man who is looking ahead, and counting possibly upon the weakness of the British Government, has been able to get naturalised—there has been plenty of time to do that—and now we are going to provide for them and invite them to come and raise the prices against possible British purchasers. There is more than that. Have neutrals been so terribly helpful to us in this War that we ought to make special provision for them to acquire property? I cannot individualise, but if I could I think I could show that some of the neutrals we are so careful about in a sale of this kind have been concerned not for British interests, but in making as much money as they can out of the enemy in order to provide them with the goods necessary to carry on the War. In my opinion no case has been made out for a departure from our British policy in regard to the sale of enemy firms. Our British policy in regard to the sale of enemy firms is that only Britishers can purchase, and the declaration has to be made that they are not under enemy influence. Is it not easy for Germany, if she desires these properties, or any portion of them, to acquire the property through a friendly neutral as the nominee? That friendly neutral could continue to hold the property not only until after the War, but for all time, and it could continue to be the representative of the enemy interest or enemy firm. It is the law of the land at this moment that a British company cannot trade, say, in a country like Italy. You have to appoint a native to act for you if you are a British company. Some of the biggest interests in this country have not really acquired an interest in their own name in a foreign country because it is against the law of the country. That has gone on quite satisfactorily, and the profits in the course of time, if there were any, were returned to this country. It is possible that a neutral may purchase these properties and may continue to be in close alliance with Germany. We have a security if the purchaser is a British subject, because it is more unlikely that he would be ready to hand the property over to the enemy.

The points which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hobhouse) made are good in themselves, but they are only points of detail. The issue to-night is whether we are going to retain for this country what we have obtained as a result of the War or whether we are immediately, on the very first occasion of importance, to invite all neutrals to come in. whether enemies or friends. There is no guarantee that a neutral enemy may not purchase. Although the country to which he belongs may be neutral, he may be an enemy. There is no guarantee at all with regard to that, and no provision whatever has been taken against it. The present moment is not favourable for British capital. A great amount of capital has been tied up as a result of the War, in some cases through extension of plant and the buying of new property. Meanwhile neutrals have been making money beyond their wildest dreams. They are in a better position at this moment to go into the market and pay spot cash than Britishers would be. I maintain that that is a consideration to be taken into account, apart altogether from the fact that neutrals will not be liable to war taxation which is now in force and to any other expenditure which will be incurred as far as Britishers are concerned. The whole issue, so far as the Government is concerned and the defence they have made, is one of profits and prices. They say, "Certain people in this country have made a considerable amount of money out of the War. That is most obnoxious, and we must try to break it down." For this Government of all Governments to complain about prices being high and profits being made, is about the most ridiculous thing I have heard. When you see the price of food, the price of coal, and the price to which ships have gone under their supervision, I do not think the question of a reasonable profit being made by merchants in Liverpool or elsewhere is one that is raised with very good grace by His Majesty's Government.

Then there is the question of price. They are anxious that the natives should get the fullest possible profit from their labour. The whole of that complaint has gone, because they have the power to provide, in regard to any purchase that takes place, for a reasonable price being paid. Therefore there is no case with regard to that, and in my opinion it completely falls to the ground. The crosscurrents we have had to-night with regard to this matter have been curious. I look upon my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary as the high-priest of the very policy which is being pressed upon him to-night. We have not heard what the case is up to the present time. The Government manages its business in such an extraordinary way that we only read in the newspapers of the most important declarations and the most important departures in policy, such as the Shops Regulation the other day and many other things. This thing has gone so far that I quite recognise it is very difficult for my right hon. Friend at this moment to practically cancel the whole machinery he has set in motion. He is the high priest of the doctrines we are pressing upon him to-night. I thought that he was the champion and that his party were the champions of the policy of fair play for British trade. What is the standard to-night? Open markets for Germany ! Who is this Amsterdam margarine manufacturer who has received such high and lofty compliments from the representative of the Government—this Jurgen firm which we are told is so patriotic to Great Britain that it is going to open a factory in this country? Does anybody imagine that Jurgens are opening it in this country for the benefit of this country? They are opening it because the right hon. Gentleman put on £2 a ton export duty from Nigeria. Therefore by dealing with the article in this country they will not have to pay the tax. I want my right hon. Friend when he replies to answer one question. I understand that it will be possible for Jurgens to purchase the property if it is put up for sale. I would like the Colonial Secretary to tell me if that is so.

The SECRETARY Of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Bonar Law)

If they come under the conditions, of course they will. If they do not, they will not.


I am pressing this because the representative of the Government made such a point of this particular firm. He insinuated that they were fighting some great ring of British capitalists, therefore they ought to be allowed to compete in order to keep prices down. I want to ask a definite question about this great firm, whom the Government are So keen should have an opportunity to purchase. Is it true that this firm was fined £25,000 by the Overland Seas Trust for sending war material to the enemy in Germany? That is a question which can be answered by Ministers. It is freely stated that it is so. I understand they made £75,000 out of it. I want to know whether it is true that they are also running at the present moment a margarine factory in Germany? It is notorious in the City and in the trade that this is a pro-German firm. I have taken the trouble to ring up three or four firms engaged in business since the Debate began, and they are all agreed "We know perfectly well it is a pro-German firm." They are entitled to be what they please, but the British Government is not entitled to afford facilities to a pro-German firm, or to invite men who have been caught supplying the enemy, to compete against British capitalists in this country. This is an indication of what we have seen so often, namely, too much tenderness for the enemy and for the German. It is a case over again of "Do not hit the Germans too hard." Of all the people who ought to be defending that doctrine, the last should surely be the Colonial Secretary.

I regard this as a declaration of a new policy by the Government in regard to all these important matters. If we sanction this, we approve of the policy that neutrals are to be invited to compete with us in all other sales, and under all other conditions of sale in the future. I should like to know whether my right hon. Friend has consulted the Colonies upon this subject. There are other places throughout the world that have been taken in the course of this War—some of them by Japan, and others by the Colonies. Surely this is one of the things that might well form the subject of consideration by representatives of all our Colonies. For the life of me I do not see why they should not have been consulted. My view is the same as that of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down and the same as that of many other speakers in this Debate We ought not to be rushed into a new policy at the present moment. I believe the Government would have secured all they desire and that their purpose would have been fully achieved if they had taken these properties over practically as Crown possessions for the moment, reviewing the whole position in a new light at a later stage of the War. I am very sorry the Government have taken up their present attitude. I understand that they are adamant, therefore it is useless to put any fresh arguments before them. This I do know, that if the House of Commons had a free hand to-night there is no doubt what the result would be. It is possible that the esteem, the very proper esteem, in which the Colonial Secretary is held in all parts of the House may enable the Government to obtain a majority in the present House of Commons; but if there is one thing of which I am more certain than another, it is that if the House of Commons adopts the policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter, they certainly do not represent the great mass of the people outside.


I beg to move, as an Amendment, after the Word "should" ["properties and businesses should be sold only to natural-born"], to insert the word "only."

I am fully in accord with what has been said by my right hon. Friend who has just spoken (Sir H. Dalziel), except in this, that he said that if the Government goes to a Division in a free House there is no doubt as to what the result would be. I would like to know why it is not to be a free House if the Government does go to a Division. So far as I am concerned, nothing on earth would persuade me, as a lifelong Imperialist and Canadian, to vote for the establishment of a doctrine which will paralyse every Dominion, offend every Colony, discourage every soldier and make mock of every sailor who has taken any part in this War. To treat a German agent or a neutral exactly the same as you treat a British or Colonial merchant is, to my mind, an insult to this House and an insult to this Empire. I should like to know, in the first place, why the Colonial Secretary wants to sell these properties now at all? The amount involved is trivial. The expense already gone to must be very large in proportion to any possible amount which may be realised. But why the Colonial Office and the Government should challenge a decision—not only a decision of this House but of this Empire—on a question of paramount importance at this time is a thing I cannot comprehend. I would be no party to a policy which forfeits at once every sacrifice which has been made and paralyses every patriot throughout our broad domains.

Another point. The Under-Secretary based his principal argument on a love for the natives of Nigeria. He may be more fond of the natives of Nigeria than I am. There are eighteen millions of them, and I share with the Under-Secretary a warm Imperial affection for these black brethren. But the greatest curse these natives of Nigeria, and the natives of every Colony and Protectorate, suffer is the curse of the almost unlimited supply of the worst possible alcohol which can be introduced—by whom? Principally by German and by neutral traders. German and neutral traders have the inglorious record of ruining more natives in British Colonies than one dares reckon in numbers. It is the British merchant who sends out his calico, his cotton, his wool, his cutlery, and all the articles which indicate the advance of civilisation. It is the Germans and the neutral, and none worse than the Dutch, whom we have so much ill-founded sympathy for to-night, who feed these unfortunate people, for whom they have no more responsibility, whose lives and souls they care nothing for, with the worst liquors that ingenious mankind can produce. The best evidence of that is to look through this catalogue of trade marks. Nearly every one represents a bottle of gin. The principal trade of Germany, not only in Nigeria but in the rest of our Colonies and Protectorates where they are allowed to enter, has been in this accursed gin, and how the Under-Secretary can talk like a recently converted missionary about the natives of Nigeria, and not make an effort to stop neutrals and German agents from continuing this industry in the wrecking of these natives is a thing I cannot understand. If we restrict the trade of these Colonies and Protectorates to cur own people, to our Allies, and to our Dominions, we can control the articles that they import into those Crown Colonies and Protectorates. We can stop in every Crown Colony and Protectorate the sale of drink, which is already prohibited to natives by the Governments of our self-governing Dominions. I am all for protecting natives. I am going to save them, if I can, by my vote from being deluged with alcohol brought to them, to the detriment of legitimate trade, by the neutrals and German agents who are going to be allowed to compete in this sale about to take place if this House permits it, which I hope it will not. With my Amendments the Motion will read: Properties and businesses should only be sold to or held by British subjects or subjects of our Allies or companies registered in the British Empire or Allied countries. That would give the Government of the day complete control over the industry and the trade of these Crown Colonies and Protectorates. It would follow the spirit of the Paris Conference, which the Colonial Secretary attended. It would do more It would encourage every Dominion, it would encourage every British trader and subject within these -Crown Colonies and Dominions. The reason why I do not propose to limit it to companies wholly British; and make it read "registered in the British Empire or allied countries" is that it must not be forgotten that if you restrict it to companies wholly British you rule out a large number of very successful, loyal, and important corporations outside the United Kingdom. In my view in this matter, which is a great Imperial matter, we must put it on the broadest possible basis and carry with us not only the whole of our Empire, but of those Allies who are fighting so gallantly.


The Amendment comes in several parts. I am afraid I can only put it at the moment in regard to the first word. The other Amendments will follow.


I beg to second the Amendment.


The only reason why I did not rise when the hon. Gentleman proposed his Amendment and when it was seconded was that I am really anxious to get a Division or a declaration of policy by the Government upon the real substantial question here; and I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that, so far as verbal criticism, or even criticisms in substance, which would improve the form of my Motion, I do not think he need' imagine for a moment that those on this side of the House who support it would not be quite glad to extend it in the direction which he suggests. The discussion this evening, in my opinion, raises a question of vast and vital importance, and one which the country is looking forward to as to the result. They will be anxious to know to-morrow whether the Government which is waging this terrible War at a terrible cost of their kith and kin, not to talk of their fortunes, is waging it in order that whatever advantages may accrue shall accrue to this country and this Empire, and to no one else. I am sorry that this discussion with all its importance has to be carried on with a number of Members of this House fighting in the trenches, or otherwise serving at the front. I would have liked—no, I am not sure that I would have liked—some of them to be here and listen to the arguments and the speech of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and to go back and tell their friends in the trenches what they heard in the House of Commons—that what we gain in this War can be better developed by neutral countries than by the British Empire.

I am also sorry that those in the Government who are accountable for sending out Whips in not unimportant matters did not think it worth while in the Whip to refer to the Motion which is before the House. Their Whip ran: "You are asked to attend and consider a matter of Colonial administration." No, Sir, this is a question of considering a whole policy, and what is to be done with the fruits, scanty enough up to this, gained from the Germans out of this War. That a matter of "Colonial administration"! About as dull a Whip as you could possibly issue. There has been a good deal of observation on the terms of the Resolution that has been moved by my hon. and learned Friend. I do not think, on this occasion, there is anything to be gained by parsing the language of the Resolution. The Resolution is pretty plain on the face of it as to what it means. May I say here that it has no special meaning as regards Nigeria, although it is that which has directed our attention to it. We want to have a clear definite policy laid down tonight, and the country will judge of it afterwards, as to whether this Government means to allow the proceeds of this War, so far as we have got any, to be applied to the benefit of the British, or whether others are to be allowed to share them, or, for all I know, take the greater part of them, having regard to the critical circumstances in which this country finds itself by reason of the stress and strain of this War.

How will the country, how ought the country to look upon this question of the proposition to allow neutrals to come in and buy against British merchants? I will come to the reasons in a few moments. You propose that these neutrals may be 49 per cent. Germans, and the whole of them may really be Germans, because the rest may be naturalised Germans, or they may be of a patriotic international character having great interests all through the German Empire. You propose all that, but what will the country say? Who paid for the war which gave you these properties to put up for sale? This country paid for it and is paying for it. Who do propose should buy them? The men who are receiving our money, because we are in difficulties and have to deplete our resources because this War is going on—they are to come in, forsooth, and take advantage of what the hon. Gentleman calls the difficulties of Britishers finding capital—difficulties of finding capital because it is in the pockets of neutrals who are to come in and oust British merchants, for the reason that these are the conditions that happen to exist at the present time.

That is not all. The country will ask if these gentlemen purchase, what contribution will they make when they are in possession of these businesses in Nigeria? May I say in passing, as far as I can judge, some of the very finest sites in Nigeria, for the purpose of carrying on business, are involved in these sales which we are now trying to stop. What are they going to pay towards the War, who are doing this to British merchants, who seem to be almost outside the pale of the Under-Secretary? At any rate, British merchants pay Income Tax and Excess Profits Tax, but you prefer to hand over these properties to those who will pay neither of these things. For whose benefit? Who is to get the money? Is it this country? I wish they would tell us it was. We know perfectly well it is not and could not be. The money is to be held over and accumulated for the Germans until the end of the War. I hope we have not heard the last word on this matter.

I believe the Government have approved of these conditions of sale in reference to Nigeria merely upon the action of those who are in Nigeria themselves. I say nothing against Sir Frederick Lugard. I should be sorry to do so. His vision is Nigeria. I think our vision ought to be somewhat greater. I think the country will expect us to have a vision somewhat greater than Nigeria. Let me put to my hon. Friend—and there is no one, I may say with absolute sincerity, I dislike being in controversy with more than with him—let me put this to him, that no loyalty towards Sir Frederick Lugard, or no personal consideration of any kind, ought, if this case is made out. to prevent him getting up here in this House and saying, at least, that this is a matter which requires further consideration, and we think, having regard to the expressions of opinion that have been made in this House, and the arguments that have been put forward, that the least we may do out of common respect to this House, or a large section of it, is to say we will postpone this sale. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take that course. I can assure him that no Government ever loses by taking a course of that kind, rather than imagining that they are showing themselves strong, when it is not at all events their general character, by holding out upon a matter of this kind.

I really find it difficult to argue this question with patience. It is a new policy that this Government have adopted. Up to this the policy, as I understand it, has. been, when German properties were sold in this country, to limit the sale to natural-born British subjects. I have here in my hand the particulars of a sale under the Trading With the Enemy Act, 1916, on 8th November, 1916. That is not very long ago. There was one yesterday at the Bechstein Hall of 60,000 5 per cent. cumulative preference shares and 31,000 ordinary shares of £l each fully paid in Conrad William Schmidt and F. A. Glaisser, Limited. Here is what the purchaser had to sign: I, So-and-so being the buyer of so many preference shares in So-and-so hereby solemnly and sincerely declare as follows: I am a natural-born British subject, and I. am not purchasing the said share or shares for or on account of any enemy or foreigner, or foreign corporation or corporation under foreign control, as those terms are respectively defined in the annexed conditions of sale. What has occurred to make the change of policy on the part of His Majesty's Government? The Controller, the Public Trustee, the Board of Trade, whoever draw these matters, were not doing them by accident. They were doing it through a set policy, and I can only imagine what that policy is.

10.0 p.m.

I will tell you what I believe it to be, and I think that it is very germane to this question of future sales in the Crown Colony and Protectorates—for I am not confining it solely to the case of Nigeria. I believe that it has been found that under no conditions of sale drawn up by the most eminent and acute lawyers who ever lived is it possible to prevent this property going back to the Germans when the War is over. And I would like to ask this question of my right hon. Friend, who was anxious that he should reply to me rather than that I should reply to him: Is there anyone of our Allies who, when they come to dispose of German or enemy property, will allow anybody but people of their own nationality to come in and purchase? I do not believe that there is one. Will he tell me also this, because, of course, he is acquainted with the facts: When the Germans wind up and sell our property, do they allow neutrals to come in with the chance and the danger of the properties being held for us? I do not believe for a moment that they do any such thing. But recollect that we are not dealing now with movable property, such as shares or other matters of a personal character. We are dealing with the soil of a part of the Empire which it is our pride and our glory to develop. I do not know. Probably my hon. Friend will be able to correct me, but I was sent to-day by a gentleman, and I believe that he is in a position to have the information, this statement: That the Russian Government have taken possession of two German, manganese ore properties in the Caucasus, that they are working themselves, and. they are about to sell them. A circular letter issued by the Board of Trade states, on the authority of the Consul at Batoum: The enterprises are to be disposed of by the State,. not by, auction as it was at first generally supposed they would be, but by sealed tender. The origiual idea of sale by auction has had to be abandoned as the Russian Government are most anxious that the property should not fall into the hands of undesirable persons. The instructions to their authorities in regard to their sales of the property stipulate that they can only be acquired by persons of Russian nationality. Whether that is so or not, nobody has yet shown to this House any possible way in which, by any conditions of sale, you can prevent these properties going back into the hands of Germany except by the method that is advocated in the Resolution which I am now supporting. There has been criticism that this Resolution does not go far enough, that it does not go on to say that when a British subject or corporation gets it, he cannot transfer it on to anybody else, say a neutral. I think that they are very much less likely to do it than anybody else, but at the same time, if it is thought necessary- the conditions of sale can be altered, and they can put that in, and they can put exactly the same declaration, or even a wider declararation, than what is required in the case of property that is sold in this country. No; you will have to lay down to-night the broad principle, once and for all, and let the public of this country know and let the whole Empire know. Are you fighting to hand your properties over to neutrals, or are you fighting to hand them over to your own subjects? There is no way out of it. What is the answer to all this? I wish this House had heard the speech of the Member for the Sowerby Division of Yorkshire (Mr. Higham). He knocked the bottom out of the whole case. And what happened? Was he immediately answered from the Front Bench on a speech which deserved the most important answer that could be given? Not at all. He had hardly sat down when every Member of the Front Bench hurried out of the House, every one of them, And I wish the House had also heard the speech of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Hewins), with reference to the Paris Resolutions, which he has inquired into. It was almost a scandal. There was not a single Minister present while he was making that speech. Does it not matter anything to the Government as to how this question is treated? Does it matter nothing to the Government to try and satisfy the country upon a point of this country? Do they know the state of tension in the country at the present moment as regards enemy influence, enemy properties, aye, and enemy interference in this country? Do they know that the country has been told over and over again that the one object of this War is to smash Prussian ism and to smash the interference of Germany with our trade throughout the Empire? Yes; and the country is asking, "When are you going to begin?"

What is the answer? Perhaps, before I come to the answer, I may just mention? one or two points. Is there no alternative to what the Government have put forward? Have they ever considered it? I wish the Prime Minister were here. I dare say he has very good reasons for being away, because I always notice that whenever I and my Friends get up on this side of the House, and whenever I and my Friends come into collision with the Government, it is always left to the Unionist Members of the Government to reply. That is a pretty tactical manœuvre, but I do not think my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite ought to lend themselves to it. I tell them this, however, that the country thinks so also. There are many alternatives. Not one of them was mentioned by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. What is the hurry about this auction? I would have thought that, having got possession in our own territories of our own premises, we might at least have considered whether we could not very well, both in the interests of Britishers and in the interests of the natives themselves, have administered these properties ourselves. Why not treat them as Crown lands? Why not do what the French do? They take good care to keep control by a system of short leases, and if they find that the people who get the short leases do not do what is best for the place and for the natives, they do not renew them. I suppose that is an outlandish sort of idea that has never occurred to the right hon. Gentleman or to Members opposite. Why not do it? What is the answer? "Ah, we must hurry up and get money for the Germans !"Let me make another sug- gestion. It has already been made in the course of this Debate. Why not, if you want to have the neutrals in—I am not sure whether my right hon. Friend suggested this or the hon. Member opposite—why not say that whatever company is formed it must be registered in England? Make it an English company. You will have control over it then. What is more, it will pay you Income Tax, and it will pay you Excess Profit Tax. Of course, that is beneath contempt. We need not consider that.

But there is something more. I am coming to the defence made by the Under-Secretary in one moment. There was a proposal put forward by these condemned British merchants in Liverpool, those terrible men, who have made profits since the War—as if there were no profits going on in this country as well as in Nigeria or anywhere else. What did they do? What did they offer? I must say I was surprised at the very one-sided and partial way in which the Under-Secretary referred to it. What did they suggest? They suggested forming a company with the public subscribing. If you have any fear about what will happen to the natives or to the, development of this country of Nigeria, put your Government directors upon the company. The Under-Secretary did not tell us that. I think that would be better than selling to neutrals. I have no doubt there are many other suggestions which might be made as to the manner in which this might be carried out. But those are some. What is the defence, the ad captandum defence? Think of the poor natives, said the Under-Secretary. Quite right. I hope they have been thought of sufficiently in the past. I hope, with all the powers you have of setting up such legislation as you like in Nigeria, you have passed many laws in Nigeria for the protection of these men. I hope, if they are hardly treated by these merchants, and are treated unfairly in the price they are paid for their merchandise, that you have a Board of Control there. And if you have not, why have you not? You can do it now. "But," says the Under-Secretary, "we cannot trust these Liverpool merchants." And he said, "I do not wish to say a single word against them." But you cannot trust them: they enter into combines. Let the Dutch in; let the Americans in: they never enter into trusts or combines; their sole object in business is philanthropy. Was there ever anything more insulting in a time of war like this, when every man is straining his best and giving his best to the country, than his suggestion that you cannot trust British merchants but you can trust American merchants. You can trust Jurgen, the Dutchman, with margarine factories throughout Germany. No, Sir, that is only to prop up this unfortunate transaction that they made themselves a party to without full consideration. You had better say so than by going back on the merchants. Then the Under-Secretary goes on to attack those merchants. He says that since the War broke out their profits have greatly increased. What an awful charge to make against them. Have none of the profits here increased? Have the coal merchants profits increased?


Do you justify it?


I am answering the arguments of the Under-Secretary. I am answering a member of the Government you support. Let us look at this matter. Has he been fair towards these merchants? I do not know about one of them, nor have I had communication with one of them, but I have not the slightest doubt from what the hon. Member for the Sowerby Division (Mr. Higham) said that they have a very good case as regards those profits. What has happened. Not to talk of the freights; not to talk of the expenses or any of those matters, I believe that at the present moment they are unable to convey away merchandise from Nigeria for want of ships owing to the War. Is not that a reason why the merchandise would fall in value out there when they want the money? Then the Under-Secretary says merely take their balance sheets, and they have made more this year than ever they did before. Lucky men, no doubt, but how much percentage on their capital? He did not even tell us what the capital was. I believe it is millions, and I believe if the whole matter was gone into the percentage would be shown to be insignificant. Then he says, since the War, by reason of this combination, the natives are underpaid. I do not know how that may be. How has he dealt with it—by Nigerian legislation? We have had a great deal of legislation here about controlled establishments and about many other things, and we are getting rather late about a great deal of legislation that is wanted.

What is the good of alleging those excuses to this House? What is the good of pretending to this House that you are thinking of the natives, and making these insulting remarks and insulting suggestions as regards the merchants, when all the time you have it in your power to regulate the whole thing, and when you know perfectly well that Americans or Dutch, or whoever else will get there, will be exactly on the same tack as the merchants who are there—to make money the best way they can, regardless of what may happen to the natives or to anybody else. No, those are not the real reasons. We had no answer, and I doubt if we will have any answer, to the speech of the hon. Member for Sowerby, one of the Divisions of Yorkshire; and the valuable information which he gave to this House, gained not by dispatches or not by memoranda, but gained by his actual trading in this country, and knowing things and commodities and every particular of what is happening in that country for forty years. I think he said. I suppose my right hon. Friend will answer that speech when he comes to deal with this matter. Then the Under-Secretary wound up by saying—there is nothing like being bold—that this was the best method of carrying out the Paris Resolutions. I am bound to say I found it very difficult to follow him. The Paris Resolutions, as I understand, lay down that each of the Allies is to maintain its own resources for the mutual benefit of them all. The Under-Secretary tells us that the best way we can do it is by transferring our property to neutrals! No, Sir. Let us preserve our property for ourselves and our Dominions, and then when we come to treat with our Allies for the mutual advantage of our Allies and ourselves we will have a free hand to do what is best for them and to do what is best for us. That is all I desire to say upon this subject. A great deal of the Debate has turned upon Nigeria. That was not unnatural, because it was the transactions in relation to Nigeria which enabled us to be on the look-out and to put down this Resolution. I do beg and pray of the Government—and if the Government do not listen to it, I beg and pray of this House—in the circumstances in which this country is situated at the present moment, not to send out a message to our suffering fellow subjects—aye, and to our soldiers in the trenches—that the War is being waged, not for the British Empire, but equally for neutrals.


I cannot say that I have any feeling except rather of relief at the nature of the speech which my right hon. Friend has just made. This is a Motion of want of confidence in the Government, moved—and this I must say I do regret—with a violence which to my mind is hardly in keeping with the serious situation in which the country stands. I do not at all complain of the course taken by my right hon. Friend. I say at once that I am grateful to him for what he said about his personal feeling to me. I should like to reciprocate it and to say this—that however much either of us may think the other is taking a wrong course, I, at least, will never question the sincerity of the motives by which my right hon. Friend is actuated, and I hope and believe that our personal friendship will stand the strain of political opposition and even of speeches such as that to which we have just listened. My right hon. and learned Friend complained that when my hon. Friends opposite were against any course of action taken by the Government the Unionist Members spoke in defence.




Well, what my right hon. and learned Friend said was quite plain, that we were expected to take a leading part in Debates of that character. At all events, I should say that it was not unnatural, when my own policy was attacked that I should be the man to reply. My right hon. and learned Friend had a very great advantage in the speech which he has just delivered. He had behind him a very strong volume of sentiment, felt in this House and out of it, a sentiment based on the assumption that he is hostile to the Germans and that I, as represented by the policy which we arc carrying out, am more or less friendly to them. I hope he is wrong. But at all events his speech had that proportion of strength of language which naturally goes in the presentation of a case which rests more upon sentiment than it does upon reason. I am not going to attempt to emulate the strength of language of my right hon. and learned Friend. On the contrary, I shall make an appeal to common sense, which, I venture to hope, is not antagonistic to the patriotism of the House of Commons. My right hon. and learned Friend has told us that it is a great principle for which he is fighting. I have not been able to gather exactly what is that principle. I hope, however, by examination of his Motion and of his speech, to have defined more clearly what exactly he means. In the meantime I wish to point out to the House, with the greatest emphasis in my power, what the principle is not.

There is no difference of principle whatever on this point: that in the administra-tration of the Colonial Office: we have aimed, and are aiming, not merely at the winding-up of these enemy firms but at striking out the roots on which they exist so as to make sure that the plant will not grow again upon the same soil. That is our object The hon. Gentleman who introduced this Motion dwelt at some length upon a criticism of the conditions of sale. I am not going in detail into these criticisms. I will only say that apart altogether from any expression of opinion in this House, it has been my object to make these conditions stringent enough to make it certain that these particular properties will not be used, or held, in any shape or form in such a way that they may pass back to their German owners, and so revive German influence in Nigeria. I will point out to the House what we have done. I would say this: before this Debate the subject, so far as I am concerned, took this form: I gave instructions that the strongest measures were to be taken to secure this object. Amendments were given to me this morning to strengthen it. What are the precautions we have taken? In the first place, the solicitor to the liquidator has the right by personal examination of any buyer to make sure that he fulfils a condition that he is neither himself connected in any shape or form with any enemy firm or acting for any enemy firm. Further, that provision is to be made to apply to all subsequent sales, and as regards the point made by my hon. Friend who introduced the Motion, that of trade marks, I have seen the liquidator about this. The interpretation put upon it by the hon. Member for Warwickshire is the correct one and what was intended, but already, before my hon. Friend had spoken, amendments had been prepared and will be put into the conditions of sale to make sure that these advantages, like all others, cannot possibly revert by any chance to the German owners, and my hon. Friend was wrong—at least, I am so informed—when he said that the same conditions do not apply to the immovable properties. They were intended to, and I am informed that they do. At all events, I say this, that, so far as any provisions are possible, we are ready to make them, and if my hon. Friend is willing to assist us, we shall be glad to have his help in order to make it as certain as anything can be that these dangers do not arise.

Mr. SCOTT rose.


I think my time is limited.


You appealed to me.


I appealed to the hon. Gentleman, but I do not want his answer now. I said I am ready to accept his assistance.


My answer is that it is a futile task; it cannot be done.


Then the whole question between us is this: My hon. Friend thinks that by no possibility can you frame provisions in such a way as to make it secure that the property is not held for Germans if sold to neutrals. I do not agree with him, and that is the real difference between us. My right hon. Friend treated it very lightly, but look at the terms of the Resolution itself. Nobody knows better than my right hon. Friend that, as it stands, it is absolutely futile for the purpose he has in view.


I do not know that at all.


If he thinks about it he will see that it is. The provision is that the buyer is to be a natural-born British subject, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy has explained to us that in every country where there are rules of this kind Britishers do buy properties by using a native of the place to do it. What in the world is to prevent any neutral from employing a British subject to buy property for him, and to take it over the next day, and not having a single one of the provisions which we have provided?


You put that question to me. I say the form of declaration should be the same as you had in London yesterday.


I suggest to my right hon. Friend that that was something he should have thought about a little more before framing his Resolution. It is very important. How is he going to do it? Is the Regulation to be that never for all time is this property to be sold to a neutral? If so, what advantage do you get? You will lower that property not merely now but for ever, because you have taken away the competition in the purchase of it, and are doing it for nothing. So far as the object is concerned, the difference between us is simply whether you can or cannot protect the property from reverting to enemy influence if you allow neutrals to buy. I think it would be best if I explained to the House exactly how this situation has arisen. The course which has been followed here has been followed throughout all the British Crown Colonies and Protectorates. We have given instructions that the properties should be sold without delay. That is being done. In the other Colony Dominions they have not been sold by auction in London. They have been disposed of quietly locally, and, therefore, no question of this kind has arisen. In these Dominions, as everywhere else, we have given the most stringent instructions that the course which I have indicated should be taken. The same thing has happened in Nigeria. By an Order of the Supreme Court of Nigeria a liquidator was appointed to dispose of these firms. Having been appointed he proceeded to wind up the businesses, and on his own initiative, though, I believe, with the knowledge of the Government of Nigeria, he decided to sell the properties in London. He did so, and, I think, rightly, for two reasons. One was to get the best price possible and I think that was his duty. My right hon. Friend said, "You are getting the best price for your German enemies after the War." Are you quite sure of that? The Germans have broken so many of the rules of war that I think it more than likely that they may break the rules in this connection also, and that at the end it will be found that these properties which we are selling are properties of the British Government, to be used, first of all, for those who have had their properties confiscated in Germany. In any case, it is his duty to get the best price unless there is some serious disadvantage in doing so.

He did so for another reason. He believed that it was in the interests of the Colony, if possible, to attract new energy and new capital into this business. That was his desire, and I believe it was a right one. Now my right hon. Friend, in criticising our action in Nigeria, did so on two grounds. I do not quite follow whether he thought we ought to have made the sale at a valuation to this country. At all events, he thought we ought to have considered it. We did not get much time to consider it. We only received the first intimation that any such proposal was in their mind in a letter about a fortnight ago, which intimated to us that the subject was going to be brought up in Parliament—in fact, the two came together, the intimation that they were considering such a proposal and that it was to be brought up in Parliament. I do not for a moment, and my hon. Friend did not, make any attack upon these African merchants. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, he did."] Well, I do not think so, and I am certainly not going to do so. I ask the House of Commons to remember this—that the interests of these gentlemen who are engaged in that trade are twofold in connection with this business. One is, of course, to get the properties as cheaply as possible, and the other and the far more important interest is to prevent competition with them in the business in the future. That is a more important point.

I do not think that any more than the rest of us they are influenced by personal motives, but we are all apt to confuse our own interest with the public interest. There can be no doubt whatever that that was not the interest of the Protectorate of Nigeria. Might I point out to my right hon. Friend what the effect of such a proposal would be. It is not altogether a question of a combine. What is wanted to develop the country, which has simply enormous resources, is new capital and new energy. If you hand over these properties to the men engaged in the. business now you get no new energy, you get no real benefit, the managers are precisely the same, and you do not necessarily get any new capital. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, I cannot imagine a worse plan of dealing with that matter than that which has been suggested. It is pointed out by my right hon. Friend that you can control combinations. Of course it can be done, but it is not easy, and I for one would say that the plan of first of all setting up a monopoly, creating the disease, and then afterwards using your ingenuity to cure it, is not a plan which would commend itself to me.

Let me come to the general principle which my right hon. Friend says is important. First of all, there seemed to be some difference of opinion as to whether our Allies were or were not to be included. My hon. Friend the Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R. McNeill), whose great sacrifice in overcoming his affection for me I thoroughly appreciated, but who has made the sacrifice before, unless, indeed, he acts on the principle that if you spare the rod you spoil the child, openly defended this proposal. I believe that it is utterly indefensible. My right hon. Friend indulged in a good deal of rhetoric, though he does not like it. I do not admire rhetoric very much either, and, though I am not good at it, I will try a sample of it now. My right hon. Friend said, "Think of the message we are sending to the trenches !" I ask him to think of this message which we are sending to the trenches if we say to our brothers-in arms in France," We cannot express our admiration for what you are doing in this War which is our's as well as your's. We admire it in a degree which has never been equalled even by your great deeds in the past, but we tell you for the first time in British modern history that as a result of the War, and in order to prosecute the War in which you are acting so nobly, no Frenchman is to be allowed on any terms to compete for enemy property the sale of which is open to British subjects."


I never made any such statement. I said that the Allies would not be competing as against Britishers for property that we had won from the Germans in the War, which is exactly what the French do to us.


As a sample of rhetoric, I must say that I prefer mine. But this is not an academic question. The hon. Member for the Yorkshire Division (Mr. Higham), whose speech was so much praised by the right hon. Gentleman—


And by everybody else.


I am quite willing to praise it. He told us he was quite sure that the French company would be perfectly pleased. I wonder how he knows? I know, for the liquidator has told me this afternoon, that the French company has already intimated to him that they mean to compete for some of these properties. I know also that on a previous occasion, when I was running counter to another section of the House, although I distinctly stated in the House that during the War the duty was not to apply to the Allies, that the French Government at once approached our Government and wanted to know whether or not we were doing it. Does anyone doubt that if we had done what the right hon. Gentleman suggests the French Government would have come to us, and would have asked us what we meant by it, and if we had adhered to it there would have been an outcry from one end of this country to the other? I do not believe that anyone would have been louder in his condemnation than my right hon. Friend.


Absolutely untrue.


My right hon. Friend cannot know.


I can know. My right hon. Friend has no right to wilfully misinterpret me. What I say is that I have approved of the conditions of sale laid down by the trustee in all the sales here, which do exactly what the right hon. Gentleman is now condemning.


The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken as to what is done here, as I shall show later, if there is time. So much for the general principle of this Resolution. Let us come to what is really the general principle involved. I say at once that, so far as these properties are concerned, if the selling of them had been done by me or the Colonial Office we should certainly have considered, taking everything into account, that on equal terms the sales ought to be made to British subjects. The thing itself is a very small one for the total amount involved. I would not in the least object to its being done in that way. But think what it means now. The passing of this Resolution by the House of Commons would be interpreted by every neutral as the laying down of a new policy on the part of the British Empire, and, indeed, my right hon. Friend by his whole speech showed that he looked upon it as a question of principle as to our future action. So far as these properties are concerned, I cannot see any principle involved at all. I know that my right hon. Friend differs from me, for I have discussed it with him in private. Hero you take particular properties in a certain Colony and you will only allow them to be disposed of in a particular' way, and in the same Colony similar property owned by a private individual can be sold without any such conditions. If, therefore, this is a good principle, it ought to be applied all round; if it is a bad principle it ought not to be applied to any particular kind of property. What is the principle? I quite admit that there is a great deal to be said about the restriction of ownership by foreigners of immovable property in any country. Regulations of that kind have been made in many countries, and, as a matter of fact, the Committee appointed by the Cabinet is considering now what the relationship of this country ought to be in that respect after the War. I can see a great deal of force in adopting a policy, but what is that policy? Is the general policy to be this, that no foreigner is to buy on any terms property in this country? More than that, is he not to conduct business in this country? Is that to be the policy?


Certainly not.


Then what is it? I really wish to have this clear. I want to know what this policy is? If it is merely that these particular properties are to be disposed of in a particular way I do not see that any principle for the future is involved at all. If, on the contrary, it means that this is to be our principle for trade policy in the future, then I am altogether against it. It is the negation, the absolute negation, of everything which I have advocated on trade policy ever since this controversy was brought forward. Our policy has been a system of Preference. This is a system of Prohibition. I ask the House really, if they can, to do what an hon. Friend of mine on the other side said he was trying to do—to look at this question with a long view and free from the feelings and prejudices experienced by us all and by no one more than myself. What is it we really mean? Do we mean what I used to experience sometimes when I was engaged in making Tariff Reform speeches, of which I made as many, I think, as most of my hon. Friends opposite? Whatever some of those Friends may think, I do not believe myself that, because I think it my duty, in the middle of a great War, to support the Government which I believe is best suited to carry on that War, I have for that reason gone back upon any of those principles which I previously advocated. When I attended those meetings I often had a very bad quarter of an hour in listening to the chairman introducing me. He sometimes laid down principles from which I differed more pro- foundly than from the most bigoted Free Trader in the country. The general trend of the introduction to which I took exception was that our policy was intended to keep the trade of the British Empire entirely for the British people, with the corollary that, as nobody else was to be allowed to trade within the British Empire, we would not be allowed to trade anywhere else. I remember perfectly well that my right hon. Friends, who then took the other side, accused us over and over again of that policy. They said that we aimed at putting a Chinese wall round the British Empire. That was repudiated by everyone of us who took any part in that policy, and by no one so emphatically as by Mr. Chamberlain. I do not expect any of my hon. Friends here to agree with me, but I wish to say what my view on that question was and is. I believed and I believe—[An HON. MEMBER: "What has this to do with the question?"]—it has everything to do with it, because it is a trade policy which is involved—I believed and I believe that, inasmuch as other countries which compete with us give a preference to their people in trade, so, if we had a preference in the Home market and throughout the Empire, we should be able not merely to get a larger share of our Home trade, but be better able to trade in the countries outside the British Empire. That is my opinion. Mr. Chamberlain actually spent the best years of his life in urging, amongst other things, that a change of policy would mean that foreign capital would be attracted to this country, that works would be set up here, and that our people would get employment in consequence of it. That was his policy. My right hon. Friend, if his plan is adopted, will prevent anything of that kind.


Not at all. Nonsense !


My right hon. Friend is not very polite. On many questions I admit I should bow to his opinion. But on this question I think I

am as little likely as he to talk nonsense. That really is the issue. The question as to whether or not these particular properties should be sold in a particular way has, I admit, no meaning except to this extent: if it be true that by no precaution can you prevent them reverting to the Germans if you allow neutrals to compete. I hold that that view is absolutely unfounded. I have as good reason for that opinion as those who differ from me. Apart from that, as a question of trade policy in the future, in my opinion, the advocacy of this Resolution is the very worse service that can, when the War is over, be rendered to the prospects of any sound system of Imperial trade. I am sorry, very sorry, to be so much at variance with my hon. Friends opposite, but the conditions under which the Government is carried on produce strange results. All that any of us can do is, under a new situation, where we have yet the old party lines to guide us, to do what we believe best for the one object we all have in view. We may be right or wrong, but that is what we all, I hope, are doing.


Let the House vote freely.


The House, I hope, will vote freely. That is what, to the best of my ability and to the best of my belief, I am trying to do. I do not doubt that is what my right hon. Friend is trying to do, and I am sure he realises fully the seriousness of the course which he is taking, and is prepared to take the consequences if the Division is successful.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, "That, in the opinion of this House, where enemy properties and businesses in Crown Colonies and Protectorates are offered for sale, provision should be made for securing that such properties and businesses should be sold only to natural-born British Subjects or companies wholly British,"

The House divided: Ayes, 117; Noes, 231.

Division No. 63.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Archdale, Lieut. Edward M. Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Brookes, Warwick
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G. Bigland, Alfred Burdett-Coutts, W.
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Boland, John Pius Burgoyne, A. H.
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Booth, Frederick Handel Byrne, Alfred
Bathurst, Cot. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.) Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Campion, w. R.
Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton) Boyton, James Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Brady, Patrick Joseph Cator, John
Cautley, Henry Strother Hickman, Colonel Thomas E. O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Higham, John Sharp O Donnell, Thomas
Clancy, John Joseph Horne, Edgar O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Houston, Robert Paterson O'Shee, James John
Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole Hunt, Major Rowland O'Sullivan, Timothy
Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives) Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York) Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Cosgrave, James Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Perkins, Walter Frank
Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.) Joynson-Hicks, William Philipps, Maj.-Gen. Ivor (Southampton)
Craik, Sir Henry Keating, Matthew Quilter, Sir Cuthbert
Crumley, Patrick Kelly, Edward Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Kennedy, Vincent Paul Reddy, Michael
Devlin, Joseph Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West) Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Dillon, John Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlec Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Dixon, Charles Harvey Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Salter, Arthur Clavell
Doris, William Lundon, Thomas Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)
Duffy, William J. Lynch, Arthur Alfred Scanlan, Thomas
Faber, George D. (Clapham) Macmaster, Donald Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Farrell, James Patrick McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's) Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Field, William MacVeagh, Jeremiah Starkey, John Ralph
Fitzgibbon, John Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix) Swift, Rigby
Fitzpatrick, John Lalor Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth Thynne, Lord Alexander
Flavin, Michael Joseph Meysey-Thompson, Colonel E. C. Walker, Colonel William Hall
Fletcher, John Samuel Middlemore, John Throgmorton Wards, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland) Mills, Lieut. Arthur B. Wheler, Major Granville C. H.
Gretton, John Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Whitty, Patrick Joseph
Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Neville, Reginald J. N. Wills, Sir Gilbert
Hackett, John Newman, John R. P. Winterton, Captain Earl
Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham) Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Wright, Henry Fitzherbert
Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Nield, Herbert Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Nolan, Joseph
Hayden, John Patrick Nugent, J. D. (College Green) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Hazleton, Richard O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Sir Charles Hunter and Mr. George Terrell.
Henry, Sir Charles O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Hewins, William Albert Samuel;
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Hume-Williams, W. E.
Adamson, William Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Illingworth, Albert H.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Or. Christopher Cowan, W. H. Ingleby, Holcombe
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Crooks, Rt. Hon. William Jackson, Sir John (Devonport)
Agnew. Sir George William Currie, George W. Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)
Aitken, Sir William Max Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Jessel, Colonel Herbert M.
Alden, Percy Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) John, Edward Thomas
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
Arnold, Sydney Denniss, E. R. B. Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)
Ashley. Wilfrid W. Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H. Jowett, Frederick William
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B. Kellaway, Frederick George
Baird, John Lawrence Du Cros, Sir Arthur Philip King, Joseph
Baker, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Accrington) Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Baldwin, Stanley Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Knight, Captain E. A.
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.) Edge, Captain William Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Elverston, Sir Harold Lambert, Richard (Wilts., Cricklade)
Barnett, Capt. Richard W. Essex, Sir Richard Walter Larmor, Sir J.
Barnston, Harry Fell, Arthur Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)
Barran, Sir John N (Hawick Burghs) Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert
Barton, William Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)
Beale, Sir William Phipson Foster, Philip Staveley Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Gastrell, Lieut.-Col. W. Houghton Long, Rt. Hon. Walter
Beck, Arthur Cecil Gelder, Sir William Alfred Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Bonn, Com. tan Hamilton Gilbert, J. D. Lowther. Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Appleby)
Bentham, George Jackson (Glanville, Harold James M'Callum, Sir John M.
Bird, Alfred Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Goldstone, Frank Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)
Black, Sir Arthur W. Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Grant, James Augustus McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Bliss, Joseph Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough) Mackinder, Halford J.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C, W. Hancock, John George M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)
Brace, William Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) Maclean, Rt. Hon. Donald
Bridgeman, William Clive Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) M'Micking, Major Gilbert
Broughton, Urban Hanlon Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.) Macpherson, James Ian
Brunner, John F. L. Haslam, Lewis Magnus, Sir Philip
Bull. Sir William James Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham) Mallalieu. Frederick William
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.) Manfield, Harry
Buxton. Noel Hewart. Gordon Marks, Sir George Croydon
Cave. Rt. Hon. Sir George Hill, James (Bradford, C.) Marshall, Arthur Harold
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Mason, David M. (Coventry)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Holmes, Daniel Turner Mason, James F. (Windsor)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Robert (Herts, Hitchin) Holt, Richard Durning Midlebrook, Sir William
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Hope, John Deans (Haddington) Molteno, Percy Alport
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.
Chancellor, Henry George Hope, Lieut.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian) Morgan, George Hay
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Morrell, Philip
Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon) Hudson, Walter Morison, Hector
Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Thomas, J. H.
Munro, Rt Hon. Robert Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Murray, Major Hon. Arthur C. Roberts, George H. (Norwich) Tickler, T. G.
Needham, Christopher Thomas Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs) Tootill, Robert
Newdegate, F. A. Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Touche, George Alexander
Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncastor) Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M. Toulmin, Sir George
Norman, Sir Henry Robinson, Sidney Trevelyan, Charles Philips
O'Grady, Jamas Rowlands, James Turton, Edmund Russborough
Outhwaite, R. L. Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W. Walters, Sir John Tudor
Paget, Almeric Hugh Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen) Walton, Sir Joseph
Parker, Rt. Hon. Sir G. (Gravesend) Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby) Wardle, George J.
Parkas, Ebenezer Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Partington, Oswald Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Webb, Sir H.
Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek) Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton) White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse) Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield) Whiteley, Herbert James
Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) Sherwell, Arthur James Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Pease, Rt. Hen. Joseph A. (Rotherham) Shortt, Edward Wiles, Thomas
Peto, Basil Edward Simon, Rt. Hen. Sir John Allsebrook Willams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)
Pollock, Ernest Murray Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton) Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Pratt, J. W. Smith, Harold (Warrington) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Pretyman, Ernest George Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert Winfrey, Sir Richard
Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Strauss. Arthur (Paddington, North) Wing, Thomas Edward
Radford, Sir George Heynes Steel-Maitland, A. D. Worthingten Evans, Major L.
Raffan, Peter Wilson Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) Sutherland, John E. Yeo, Alfred William
Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon) Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.) Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Remnant, James Farquharson Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr. Gulland
Randall, Athelstan Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John

Question put, and agreed to.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 22nd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."

Adjourned accordingly at Eleven minutes after Eleven o'clock.

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