HL Deb 18 March 1887 vol 312 cc703-6

, in rising to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he could assure the House that every endeavour would be made by Her Majesty's Government to secures the presence, at the opening of the Colonial Conference in April next, of suitable local Representatives of every Crown Colony, in addition to those of the self-governing Colonies for whom provision had already been made, so that the whole of Her Majesty's Colonial Empire might be represented on tin's important occasion? said, he had found that some great misapprehension had arisen with regard to the supposed action of Her Majesty's Government in not summoning the Representatives of the Crown Colonies to the forthcoming important Conference at the Colonial Office. He was himself convinced that there was some mistake; but the question was an important one, which strongly affected the feelings and sentiments of the Colonies, whom we desired to treat with the greatest consideration. He was sure no one desired to treat the Colonies with greater respect than his noble Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Onslow), whose long association with the Colonies and his known sentiments fully bore that out. This Conference would mark a new departure of the greatest importance in regard to the Colonies. It was possible that the Colonial Office even now hardly appreciated the very grave importance of the step they had taken in summoning the Colonies to confer with us as to matters affecting the Empire. Perhaps those outside the Colonial Office saw more clearly than those within it the gravity of the matters involved. In the first place, the object of the Conference was to confer as to the mutual business arrangements between the Colonies and the Mother Country, as to our mutual defence in case of war, and it also applied to facilities for inter-communication by post and otherwise, and he imagined it would touch upon Colonization. The Conference ought to tend, and ought to be so conducted as to tend, to the unity of the Empire and the mutual relations of every part of it. The sight of the Colonies meeting in Council with ourselves would help to raise the question out of the position of a merely local one, and he ventured to say that it was needed to get rid of the local feeling which existed in many of our Colonies. He had been told that in one of our leading Colonies at the present moment there was not an elementary school in which the history of England was taught; the only history taught was the short and purely local history of that Colony itself. He would ask their Lordships to remember what our Crown Colonies were, which apparently had not been represented in the list of Colonies invited to the Conference Amongst the Crown Colonies that had hitherto not been represented or summoned to this Conference were the West Indies—Jamaica, Honduras, Barbadoes, Trinidad, Bahamas, Bermuda—the West African Settlements, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Ceylon, Eastern Mauritius, the Straits Settlements, Borneo, and Fiji. The safety of the Empire depended on the safety of these Colonies whoso names he had gone over. Anybody who carefully considered the matter would feel doubtful whether our more important Colonies could be maintained but for the existence of these precious little spots on the ocean. In case of war it would be everything to us to have the warm sympathy of the inhabitants of those Crown Colonies. He was in great hopes that his noble Friend would be able to assure the House that Representatives would be invited to come from every one of the Crown Colonies. It was possibly too late now to issue invitations to the first sitting of the Conference; but he would suggest that there might be two sessions, to the second of which the leading men of the Crown Colonies might be invited. He hoped they would this year see the Representatives of all the Colonies joining in the Jubilee Thanksgiving Service In conclusion, he hoped no question of expense would be allowed to stand in the way of having the very best Representatives from all these various Colonies. He was sure their Lordships would be the very last people to grudge the expenditure necessary to secure so great a result.


, in reply, said, he was very glad to have an opportunity of removing what the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) had accurately described as a certain amount of misapprehension which appeared to have arisen in the public mind not only with regard to the Representatives of the Grown Colonies at the coming Conference; but also as to the value and importance which Her Majesty's Government attached to the meeting of that Conference generally. He believed he spoke the opinion of Her Majesty's Ministers, as well as of noble Lords in that House, when he said that there was probably no event in the forthcoming Jubilee year which would be of such interest and importance as this great meeting of distinguished men from all parts of Her Majesty's Empire. The increasing interest which was felt with regard to our Colonies in this country, and also the increasing desire on the part of the Colonies for closer communion with the Mother Country, were among the most significant features of the times, and he was quite certain Her Majesty's Government were desirous and eager to accord a hearty welcome to the Representatives whom they had summoned from distant shores and all parts of the world to meet in the capital of the Empire for the purpose of conferring together on Imperial questions. Since the Question of the noble Lord had been placed on the Paper, a Notice had appeared in the Press that the Colonies not possessing Representative Governments would not be officially represented in the Conference. That was to say, a communication had been made by the late Secretary for the Colonies to the Governors of the Crown Colonies, in the course of which he made the following statement:— In the case of any Crown Colony which may not send a special Representative, I shall take care that other provision is made for securing such representation. If, however, you are in a position to furnish me with the name of any high officer or leading public man connected with the Colony who is likely to be in London during the Spring of next year, I should be glad to arrange for his presence at the Conference, at which matters specially affecting your Colony are likely to come up for discussion. After the first meeting of the Conference he apprehended that there would not be a very large number of subjects which would fall under that latter category, but at the same time the noble Earl might rest assured that if there were such subjects there wore Representatives in this country for most, if not all, the Crown Colonies, who would be invited by Her Majesty's Government. He might inform the noble Earl that Her Majesty's Government had made inquiries as to which of the distinguished persons from the Crown Colonies were now in England or could arrive in time for the opening of the Conference, and the result of those inquiries had been to show that there would be a Representative from very nearly every Crown Colony, who would be invited to attend at the opening meeting. It would then be seen that Her Majesty's Government had endeavoured to carry out the proposition contained in the Question of the noble Earl. He might add beyond that, that where there was more than one such distinguished person in this country, preference would be given to Members of local Legislatures, in order that they might hear the views of Her Majesty's Government and explain such unofficial views as were taken on the subject in the Crown Colonies.

House adjourned at quarter before Five o'clock, to.Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.