HC Deb 23 July 1923 vol 167 cc14-8

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, before Departmental construction of the railways now contemplated in Kenya was adopted, any attempt whatever was made to find whether the work could be carried out as cheaply and as well by private contract; and what is the objection to obtaining in all such cases private tenders with the object of ensuring the maximum of cheapness and efficiency in construction?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)

Comparative tenders were not obtained, but the Governor was satisfied that economical and efficient construction could be effected by the chief engineer under the supervision of the general manager of the Uganda Railway. It may often happen that it will be desirable to obtain comparative tenders, but I do not consider that it is necessary to lay down any general rule on this point, just as it is undesirable, as I have indicated before, to lay down a general rule that construction shall be either Departmental or by contract.

Sir W. de FRECE

Is the decision as to the particular method of construction undertaken on the advice of the Crown Agent?


Not always, necessarily.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies what is causing the delay in the commencement of the extension of the Nyassaland railway to Lake Nyassa; whether the exact route of the railway has been decided; and what is to be the cost?


The delay in commencing the railway extension to Lake Nyassa is due partly to the question of the provision of funds, which is not yet settled, and partly to the necessity for making a satisfactory arrangement with the three railways which a present serve the Protectorate regarding through traffic rates and other matters. There is no intention of altering the route which was selected in 1919, after a detailed survey, and after full consideration of possible alternatives. This route known as the "Eastern" route leaves the Shire Highlands Railway at Luchenza and passes through the neighbourhood of Zomba to Pagonas, the proposed terminus on the South-Eastern area of Lake Nyassa. The total capital cost of the extension will probably amount to a little over £1,000,000.


Until this railway is completed, I take it that it is very little use urging the Treasury to expedite the completion of this very necessary line?


In view of the fact that these other railways are privately owned and have separate owners, negotiations with regard to through rates by that line are not easy to put through. I do hope that this very important railway, which will greatly assist the other railways, may be shortly constructed.

35. Sir W. de FRECE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can state the estimated cost of the Gold Coast Central Province Railway; when the line was begun; its actual cost per mile up to date; the reasons which induced the Governor recently to announce that he hoped to be able to reduce it to the neighbourhood of £11,000 per mile; and whether this line is being built departmentally?


The estimated cost of the Gold Coast Central Province Railway is £1,250,000. The line has not yet been commenced, the reconnaissance survey not having been completed. The only expenditure so far incurred is some £30,000 on surveys. I have not noticed the observation attributed to the Governor; but it is quite possible that there may be a reduction on the expenditure (£11,340 per mile) originally estimated. The line will be constructed departmentally.

38. Captain ARTHUR EVANS

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in the case of the mandated territories, the Government intends to carry out railway construction departmentally or throw it open to the private enterprise of the world?


The system under which railways would be constructed in the mandated territories would be determined according to the circumstances of each case. No general rule could be laid down.

39. Captain EVANS

also asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the official announcement that it is most undesirable to hold up any scheme of State railway construction in the African Colonies, in view of the desirability of placing orders for material in this country to relieve unemployment, the Government has taken into consideration the saving which might be introduced by the alternative adoption of private enterprise; and whether, seeing that the financial burden entailed by expensive and extravagant outlay falls on either the British taxpayer or on the Colonial taxpayer, he will, in the interests of sound finance, reconsider its present policy of carrying out State railway construction without any comparative estimate of the saving which would be entailed by entrusting such schemes to private firms?


I regret that I can add nothing to the very full answer which I have already given on this subject.


What is really behind all this matter of railway construction in the Colonies?

40. Captain EVANS

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will lay upon the Table of the House a White Paper showing the cost of railway construction in the African Colonies of all the European Powers, indicating whether this work has been carried out departmentally or by private enterprise, and giving in each case the freight charges in respect of the three chief commodities carried on each line?


The return proposed would involve much time and inquiry from foreign Governments, and I suggest that the Report of the Committee which has been appointed should first be awaited.

42. Sir W. de FRECE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of Colonel Hammond's strictures on the running of the Uganda Railway, the Committee which is being appointed to consider the openings in the Colonies for private enterprise will also consider whether the existing railways in the British Colonies in East and West Africa could be more cheaply and more efficiently run if leased to private enterprise?


It appears to me that under their terms of reference the Committee will have full power to deal with the point suggested by my hon. Friend.


Who is on this Committee?


There is a question to that effect on the Paper.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies how many of the railway staff in the British Colonies in West Africa and in East Africa are regarded as being on the permanent staff of the Colonial Civil Service; and what is the system of engaging temporary employés for extra work in connection with such railway staffs?


I regret that I am unable to give the number of pensionable officers employed on the several railways without longer notice. Temporary European employés are engaged usually by the Crown agents acting on behalf of the several Governments. Temporary native employés are engaged by the general manager or heads of departments on the spot.

Forward to