§ 38. Mr. MAXTON
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the Zeila salt area on the coast of British Somaliland, where natural salt is found, has been leased to the French Salt Company at Djibouti, thus depriving British Somalis of the means of livelihood on which they have depended for centuries; whether the French company is to exploit the salt or merely to control it for the purpose of removing competition from its own salt monopoly in Djibouti: and whether any compensation will be offered to the inhabitants of the Zeila district?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
I am replying for my right hon. Friend. The suggestion that the salt area at Zeila has been leased to the French Salt Company at Jibuti, thus depriving British Somalis of their means of livelihood, is devoid of any foundation. The facts are that owing to the grant a few years ago by the Ethiopian Government to the French company of a monopoly for the sale of salt in Ethiopia, the salt producers at Zeila were faced 1754 with the necessity of selling their salt in Ethiopia through the monopoly company, or of foregoing their legitimate trade, so far as Ethiopia is concerned. In these circumstances smuggling has been resorted to, but this is unsatisfactory to all concerned, and particularly to the salt producers, who are exploited by the caravan owners and whose salt is liable to confiscation by the Ethiopian authorities. In the circumstances, the company has opened negotiations with the Government of British Somaliland which is endeavouring to conclude an agreement that will safeguard the interests of the Zeila salt producers. The negotiations are still proceeding.