HL Deb 19 June 1865 vol 180 cc437-8

asked the President of the Council, What progress has been made in the Transfer of Singapore and the other Settlements in the Straits of Malacca from the Indian to the Colonial Department? The population of these Settlements were entitled, he thought, to the favourable consideration of the Parliament and Government. At the time the English flag was hoisted in these Settlements the population was chiefly composed of piratical Malay fishermen. Now, however, there was a peaceable, industrious, and thriving community of a quarter of a million, with a trade which might be estimated at £15,000,000 yearly. The greatest portion of that commerce was transacted with this country, and the capital embarked in it belonged to merchants of London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow. Singapore, the principal settlement, was 1,500 miles from Calcutta. It was true that these Settlements possessed a Governor; but he had no legislative power, that power being lodged in the hands of the Governor General of India, who was necessarily unacquainted with their wants and interests. Not only were these Settlements situated at so great a distance from the seat of Government, but the population was chiefly composed of Malays and Chinese. They now naturally desired to come more directly under the authority of the Crown. They wished to have the same kind of constitution that had been granted to Hong Kong and Ceylon. For five long years they had been petitioning Parliament for this boon, but hitherto without success. In the beginning of this Session there was a slight gleam of hope that before its termination they might be transferred—the Secretary of State for India, after having demurred, gave way, and said he was ready to get rid of them; the Colonial Office said they were perfectly ready to receive them; but the Treasury naturally asked if they could pay their way. They gave a most satisfactory account of themselves, saying they raised an annual revenue of £250,000, which was amply sufficient for all municipal purposes, and for the military expenditure. The Treasury were satisfied, and sent them to the War Department. But here a little difficulty occurred. Some "circumlocution" took place. The present garrison consisted of two batteries of artillery and two companies of Madras Native Infantry. The Straits Settlements, or those acting for them, proposed that there should be three batteries of artillery, and one Native corps for police purposes, and to do duties of fatigue unfitted for the European constitution, with a due proportion of European officers and non-commissioned officers. The noble Earl the Secretary for War gave the agents for the Straits Settlements reason to believe that the War Office accepted their proposals; but some time after, as he understood, the Horse Guards insisted it was indispensable that artillery should always have the protection of infantry, and therefore the proposal of the War Office was that there should be two batteries of artillery and a wing of an European regiment. The annual expense of all these combined, it was calculated, would be £48,000 a year. The Straits Settlements proposed to throw in £2,000 more, so as to make the amount £50,000 a year, leaving the War Office to make what arrangements they pleased. Considerable delay had since taken place, and the Straits Settlements were anxious to know the cause of it. He hoped their just expectations would not be disappointed, and that his noble Friend the noble Earl would be enabled to give a satisfactory answer to the question he had put to him.


said, that a week ago he might have been enabled to give his noble Friend a more satisfactory answer than he could now do. At that time it was thought another hour would have settled the whole question; but there was some difficulty as to the practical details which it would require the authority of Parliament to remove; and, although the Government were very anxious to do so, he could not give his noble Friend any assurance that it could be done this Session.

House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow a quarter before Five o'clock.