HL Deb 13 March 1896 vol 38 cc871-3

*THE EARL OF STAMFORD rose to move:— That the Report to the Colonial Office upon the Finances and Administration of the Colony of the Leeward Islands (1895), be laid upon the Table of the House. He said that it was nearly three years ago, since he felt it to be his duty to call attention to the troubles in Dominica. At that time the island had few friends, but he was thankful to say it had more friends now, and more influential ones than himself. Since that day many things had happened. Sir R. Hamilton was sent out to inquire into the administration of the island, and his report was issued early in 1894. It dealt with the whole colony of the Leeward Islands, its administration, and finance. A sum of £40,000 was spent on roads and bridges, and of this £30,000 was raised by loan, and £10,000 was raised by the Governor from the Leeward Islands treasury and Crown Agents. It appeared that inaccurate and incomplete records were kept of the expenditure. Here was one term: '' To be accounted for, £2,475 16s. 1d." The report stated that there was a most inadequate return for the outlay. There were bridges that would not fit and stores which were useless; in fact, not more than £10,000 worth of work had been done, and that was all that was to be shown for £40,000. Sir R. Hamilton also reported on the balance-sheet of the island at the end of 1893, that there was nearly £20,000 due to the Leeward Islands Treasury, and nearly £7,000 to the Crown Agents, as well as £35,000 to bondholders. In 1894, the late Colonial Secretary stated in a Dispatch that a considerable proportion of the expenditure on public works had been incurred without the sanction of the Assembly or the Secretary of State. Sir F. Fleming was sent out, and the finances and accounts were found in great confusion, and Mr. Olivier, who was sent out as Auditor General, and the present Colonial Secretary, stated that the accounts seemed to have fallen into unintelligible confusion. In the Federal balance-sheet, issued early this year, this strange item appeared under the head of '' Sundry debtors:—Sir W. F. Haynes Smith, K.C.M.G., £2,461 Os. 1d." Whether there was any relation between this and the sum he had already mentioned he did not know, but no doubt the matter would be cleared up. The accounts were being fearlessly gone into, and confidence was being restored. It seemed to him that there was now an earnest and strenuous desire to see things set right again, and to let in light upon the dark places of Leeward Islands finance and maladministration. What was required now was to know who was responsible. Mr. Olivier stated in his farewell address in Antigua, that copies of his report should be sent out for general information. That report Mr. Chamberlain had referred to as being a most interesting and valuable report upon the whole subject. He trusted that Mr. Olivier's report would be made available to Englishmen, and he begged to move that the report should be laid upon the Table of the House. ["Hear!"]


said that it was, unfortunately, quite true, as the noble Lord had stated, that the local administration of the Island of Dominica had, up to a recent period, been distinctly bad. Public works had been undertaken without adequate care, and loans had been raised which had been wasted, and bridge girders were lying on the banks of rivers without any roads having been constructed to lead up to the proposed bridge. It was, therefore, quite true, as the noble Lord had stated, that the general financial control of the Leeward Islands had been most lax, and that it had been necessary to send out a gentleman from the Colonial Office to act as Auditor General, to disentangle the accounts. His Report had not yet been finally presented, and the Secretary of State must first have an opportunity of considering it before deciding whether to present it in whole or in part to Parliament. With reference to the statement that the proceeds of the sale of Crown Lands in Dominica had been paid into the Imperial Exchequer, he was afraid that there was some foundation for it, although the exact sums so misapplied were not ascertainable. Those sales, however, had taken place during the last century, and therefore the fault could not be charged against any modern Government. It would be premature to make any statement as to the policy which the Government intended to pursue with regard to the Leeward Islands, but, as had already been stated by Mr. Chamberlain, the Government intended to make proposals which, while adequately safeguarding the interests of the British taxpayer, would give a chance of development to the islands. In these circumstances, he hoped that the noble Earl would withdraw his Motion, and would not renew it until after Easter. ["Hear, hear!"]


said, that after the statement of the noble Earl, he would withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.