HL Deb 10 August 1896 vol 44 cc305-8

in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said: The matter has been before the House more than once, and opinions in favour of mating this railway have been expressed on both sides of the House. It is about four or five years since, standing in this place, I first urged that such a railway should be made, and I am glad to be able to move this Bill, carrying out that view at the present time. I regret that circumstances, which I daresay were inevitable, have prevented the Measure being undertaken before. There are two considerations of important public policy which justify a departure in this case from the ordinary practice of Parliament in respect to rail ways in any part of Her Majesty's possessions. In the first place I believe it is felt that the construction of such a railway would be the most fatal blow to the slave trade which could possibly be delivered—["hear, hear!"]—because all slaves are now conducted to the coast by caravans. It is needless to say that if this railway be made slaves will not be conducted by it. Put the railway will have a much more important effect than that. It will dry up the supply of caravans, and the trade which supports them. Caravans would cease to be profitable, and therefore would cease to be used, because the difference in the cost of sending 60 lbs. on a man's head and sending it by railway is a sun' too enormous not to have an immediate and dominating effect. Therefore, the state of things that will come to pass will be that caravans will have passed out of use, and if a slave caravan is found going down to the coast, its character will be proclaimed by the very fact that it is a caravan, and it cannot possibly escape the vigilance of the authorities or avoid the punishment due to such a crime. There is another consideration which I think recent events have brought before us. What has happened in Matabeleland shows that it is a position not exempt from danger, when the assertion of your authority is very far in advance of your power of moving up either supplies or forces, or any other instrument of your dominion, so that the authority may be challenged, and yet you may not be able to take with rapidity the full measures necessary to assert it. There is no doubt that the authority of our Protectorate in Uganda is completely recognised, and that there is every prospect of a peaceful, and, I hope, rapid development of that country. Put still the circumstance exists that it is separated from the coast by 600 miles, and of that 600 miles the first hundred are almost entirely waterless, and that the tsetse fly prevails in every part of the road. The result is that all communications have to be conducted by caravans, and every kind of supply has to be carried in loads of 60 lbs. on men's heads. What has happened in the South of Africa shows it is a state of things which it is not wise to acquiesce in permanently, and I think not only the prosperity of Uganda but its security, and the facility with which the advantages of British rule will be extended to it, will be largely increased when we are able to announce that this railway is complete. Financial measures have been taken, so that it will progress, I trust, without delay or change of policy or purpose, and I believe it will have a most beneficial effect in fostering British trade and establishing the newly-born dominion of Great Britain on that continent. [Cheers.]


I do not rise to say a single word on the subject of the Measure, partly because it is a Bill purely financial in its character, and, therefore, I take it, outside our competence, and from the more gratifying reason that I fancy that the question of the Uganda railroad is one of those rare but none the less grateful questions on which both sides of the House are agreed. ["Hear, hear!"] I can only assure the noble Marquess, in respect to something that fell from him, that the late Government took the earliest opportunity practicable in their judgment to submit the proposal for the railway to Parliament. What I would strongly say is that I believe that, great as your expenditure has been for putting down the slave trade on the coast of Africa, vast as are the efforts you have put forward for the abolition of that horrible traffic all over the world, you will never have struck a blow at it so fatal and direct as the construction of this railway that the Government have set on foot. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not believe anybody who could see at all clearly the ordinary results of ordinary causes, could doubt for a moment that, when it fell to be the duty of the Government to take over the remote territory of Uganda, that it would be necessary, as soon as may be, to connect it with the coast by a railroad. I should not, if I may say so, advise the noble Marquess to base his argument for the railroad much on the existence of the fly, because I have always understood that the fly existed but sparsely on the route, and that only for a few miles on the coast. That is a minor criticism on which I do not wish to dwell. What I would rather have heard from the Prime Minister than the arguments in which I agree with him is, what is the cause of the great increase of the estimates for the railroad beyond that originally laid before us. Of course, in these matters, one is well aware that the cost and the estimate are usually figures that are materially different. None of us have carried out the smallest enterprise without realising that truth to its fullest and most painful extent. But I am afraid this is not a difference between cost and estimate, but a great rise in the estimate itself, and I think the cost will rise not disproportionately; and it would have been more gratifying to the House if the Prime Minister had been able to tell us how the increase arises, and had not confined himself to the arguments in which we cordially support him. [Cheers.]


I hope this is a covering estimate—that is to say, that if anything it is in excess of what the expense is likely to be. The noble Lord asked me the cause of the increase of the estimate. I must answer that it is due to the original sin of the engineer. I never heard of an engineer who was not too sanguine a man. But in this case there is a special cause for the increase of the estimate—the necessary inadequacy of the original survey. I do not hint that anyone was to blame, because over such a vast and unknown territory it was inevitable that the survey should be rather summary, and it has been found necessary to alter the course in some places and undertake engineering difficulties more formidable than originally contemplated, and these considerations have increased the estimate. I think, perhaps, that the weight of the rails has been rather increased over what was originally proposed, but that has been done on the best engineering advice. But I am not skilful enough to go into all the details on which the rise of the estimate is justified. I think the noble Earl will find satisfaction for his curiosity in the papers already published. At all events I think he will join with me in saying it is better to put before Parliament a full estimate of what we believe is likely to be the cost, and so avoid the reproach which might be directed against us that we consciously skimped the estimate so as to make it more acceptable to Parliament.


I do not deny that Ministerial statements and explanations are usually anticipated in the daily Press or in Papers submitted to Parliament. I only wished to have an official statement from the noble Marquess.

Read 2a (according to Order); and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.