HL Deb 06 June 1905 vol 147 cc826-45

rose to call attention to the subject of the importation and sale of intoxicating liquor in West Africa, especially in Lagos and Nigeria; and to ask for information. He said: My Lords, I thought it my duty a few weeks ago to call attention in your Lordships' House to what seemed to me, and I think to all of your Lordships, to be an instance of quite exceptional and gross misrule and wrong-doing in Western Australia. I ask your Lordships to-night to give attention to a subject quite dissimilar in character, but, I think, more grave because our own responsibility is more directly involved. It relates not to Australia, but to the West coast of Africa.

The region to which I wish to call your Lordships' attention is a large one. The circumstances and conditions of it various parts are, of course, not identical; but I desire to concentrate attention upon one portion only of that great region—the colony of Lagos and the protectorate of Southern Nigeria, with, in the background, the protectorate of No them Nigeria. I dare say your Lordships all remember what is the geographical lie, so to speak, of the region—that along the coastline there is the colony of Lagos and the protectorate of Southern Nigeria, and that behind there is a hinterland quite separated from, the sea—the immense territory of Northern Nigeria, which is at present under somewhat different rules from either the colony of Lagos or the protectorate of Southern Nigeria. In Lagos and Southern Nigeria there is practically no restriction at this moment on the sale of liquor; there are regulations of a kind, but, as regards retail selling, there is almost absolute freedom; so much so that in some places liquor has become, strange to say, a sort of current coin of the country—it has become to some extent the actual coinage of the district. It is in Lagos and Southern Nigeria alone that the mischief that I desire to speak of at present exists in its entirety, but it is impending in Northern Nigeria, where at present the sale of liquor is absolutely prohibited, for as the railway approaches the frontier of Northern Nigeria the danger becomes great that by smuggling and in other ways liquor may be introduced into that region as well.

From the first it has been recognised, in regard to those regions, that one of the great perils which would attend larger commercial intercourse with Europe would be the introduction of liquor in a manner that would be deleterious to the health of the individual natives and to the prosperity, therefore, of their community as a whole. I do not, however, propose to take your Lordships back into the history of long ago. I will ask you merely to go back six years. In the year 1899 a deputation from the "Native Races and the Liquor Traffic United Committee "was introduced to Mr. Chamberlain; and no more sympathetic supporter of the cause advocated by the opponents of the liquor traffic among natives is to be found than Mr. Chamberlain. The answers he gave were in every sense encouraging, and as the starting point of the modern problem I desire to quote the words which Mr. Chamberlain used. Mr. Chamberlain was then speaking as Colonial Secretary, and I assume that His Majesty's Government will not repudiate responsibility for what he said. Mr. Chamberlain used these words— I think I need not say that I am well aware of the importance and the representative character of the deputation and that you are probably well aware of my entire sympathy with your objects; in fact, I was at first inclined to doubt whether it was really worth your while to come here in order to push an open door, and to preach to one who is already converted. I do not think I am a fanatic, and no one, I hope, has called me a sentimentalist, and I am certainly not a teetotaler, I hope I am not extreme with regard to any subject; but I hold, as a matter of deep conviction, that the liquor traffic, and above all, the increase of the liquor traffic in West Africa amongst the native races, is not only discreditable to the British name, not only derogatory to that true Imperialism—the sentiment which I desire to inculcate in all my countrymen—but it is also disastrous to British trade. Mr. Chamberlain went on to speak of the question of the duty that is imposed. He said— We have been asked to say what should be the maximum and what should be the minimum of duty, and we have unhesitatingly declared that in our opinion 4s, is the minimum which ought to be charged. As regards the maximum we have no maximum, because there is no maximum that can be proposed which we will not joyfully accept. I can only hope that other nations may be willing to take a similar view, in which case a very marked change would, we believe, take place in this traffic. … I agree with those who think that a special responsibility falls upon Great Britain, and, although I admit there is a great difficulty in the way of foreign competition in dealing with this subject, still I do not think that that difficulty is altogether insurmountable. That was Mr. Chamberlain's view, but he was only giving expression to an opinion which had already been most carefully formulated and expressed by a yet greater man—by Lord Salisbury himself some ten years before. Lord Salisbury, in reply to a similar deputation, which waited upon him on December 14th, 1888, said— Undoubtedly you are not wrong in assuming that the sympathies of Her Majesty's Government are entirely with the objects of this deputation. It is a case that stands by itself. I need not inform you that I am not a temperance enthusiast myself. I do not coincide with many of the views which I hear urged with great confidence in this country. But the controversy here and the controversy with respect to the native races have nothing in common. The native races are for all practical purposes children, and, so far as we can do it, like children they must be protected. No one who even looks at history, still less at contemporary history, can doubt the extreme character of the evil which this unrestricted traffic causes. It has before this swept whole races away; it is now producing the gravest havoc in all parts of the world. We are so deeply convinced of that, that any efforts on our part would never be wanting, nor would our attention for a moment relax, fur the purpose of inducing that common effort by which alone this miserable traffic can be restrained. So much, my Lords, for English statesmen; and I desire to rest my plea to-night upon the fact that those representative English statesmen did practically commit this country to a promise that we should protect these, as Lord Salisbury called them, children, these native races, from an evil which had been found so absolutely degrading.

I would turn for a moment from the words of British statesmen at home to the words of those who in that country are the experts specially conversant with the problem that, as administrators, they have to deal with. Some of your Lordships may be familiar with an article on this subject contributed to the Nineteenth Century in April, 1897, by one of the greatest authorities on all that concerns West Africa—Sir Frederick Lugard; and that article from beginning, to end is one sustained and carefully-reasoned argument in favour of the strongest possible restraint being placed on the sale of liquor among the natives of West Africa. Sir Frederick Lugard is now Governor of Northern Nigeria, and has maintained absolute prohibition in that territory. Sir George Goldie and Sir Frederick Cardew, Governors each of them in turn of districts in Western Africa, have spoken as follows. Sir George Goldie said— I speak from sixteen yean experience … and I say confidently that unless immediate steps are taken to stop this traffic—not by higher duties, but by absolute prohibition— I am not asking for that, but am quoting his words— a state of things will soon be brought about that must ultimately lead to the entire abandonment of the country. … I cannot believe that the conscience of Europe will long allow that the vast populous regions of tropical Africa should be used only as a cesspool of European alcohol. Those are strong words, but they came from one who knew what he was talking about and who spoke from the fulness of knowledge. Sir Frederick Cardew said, in a speech at the Royal Colonial Institute, that— ''As to the liquor traffic I can fully endorse all that the lecturer has said, so far as my knowledge goes. … I feel convinced that if you would take away from the natives the liquor, other wants would he created, and they would purchase other articles which would be far more remunerative to the British merchant.' Those are merely specimens, which could be multiplied almost indefinitely, of the opinions of those who have studied this subject as to the extent of the evil and the need of firm and decided action on the part of the British Government which is responsible for these portions of West Africa. To turn to a much lower level of capacity for understanding the problem, I would remind your Lordships that the Alake of Abeokuta, who recently visited this country, has appealed again and again to His Majesty's Government to protect him and his people from what he believes to be the curse which is harming them on every side.

These are the bare facts, which I honestly think are indisputable, and I do not suppose for a moment that His Majesty's Government will deny what these authorities have said. On the other hand it is urged by those who are adverse to further restrictions that natives will certainly continue to drink intoxicants of their own manufacture irrespective of the drink that is imported. The answer to that is to be found in comparing any native village or tract of country in which natives confine themselves to home-made spirit with a tract of country in which European spirit, has been introduced. There is no comparison between the results of the one and the other. Then it has been said by some of those who, with the best possible intentions to be honest, are necessarily biassed by the fact that they have to be responsible for raising revenue in the country, which is a matter of extreme difficulty, that the percentage of drunkenness in Lagos and Southern Nigeria is less than in the slums of London. Of course, that is true, my Lords. If you take the whole population of Lagos and Southern Nigeria you are dealing with more than 2,000,000 of people, the greater part of whom have no possible means of getting access to this drink, and if for the purpose of percentage you distribute over that immense population the drink which is consumed by those to whom the opportunity has come the percentage to the population will, of course, be exceedingly small.

I am not asking for total prohibition, such as was asked for by Sir Frederick Cardew and others; total prohibition of the importation of liquor for the natives would be, I believe, an excellent thing, but, as I have said, I am not asking for that. I have no doubt it is practically impossible at this time of day to bring that about; but what I think we have a right to ask is that there shall be a genuinely high duty imposed so as to make it very difficult to import on a great scale for native consumption the deleterious stuff that is at this moment ladled out to them. It is, I think, indisputable that even the efforts which I do not for a moment deny the Government have made to raise the duty have not been to anything like the extent that they might have been. Mr. Chamberlain spoke of 4s. as the minimum which he desired to see, but after all the raisings that have taken place we have only reached 3s. 6d., and your Lordships well know that 3s. 6d., or 4s. even, is about one-third of the duty charged on most spirits in England. The Government can hardly be regarded as having done everything possible in the matter while that remains the rate of duty levied.

These are, I think, the facts; but anyone who is unfamiliar with the subject may ask, How is the Government responsible? What can we practically do? The Government, of course, is omnipotent in those regions. It can do anything it pleases. I am not asking that it should do all it could, but that it should do more than it is doing at present. The Government have a double responsibility. In the first place, because they derive a revenue from the duties imposed on the liquor, and, in the second place, because it is by means of the Government rail road that to a great extent the liquor is being brought into regions where it was unknown before. The railway is Government property; the income of the railway, though I know it is not a remunerative concern at present, goes to the Government, and the outgoings on the railway are defrayed by the Government. This country has always held that there is no more civilising agency for the help of Africa than the introduction of railway communication, and that it is in the fullest sense of the word a civilising agency; but if that railway is to be largely, or mainly, as it is, used for the bringing of liquor into regions where that kind of stuff has been unknown before, then I entirely decline to regard the railway as a civilising agency or something that is in the long run likely to do good.

At this moment the railway goes 120 miles up country from the coast. Its construction has already been sanctioned to a place a good deal further; its name is, I think, Oshobo, and when it reaches there, it will be within easy touch of the frontier of Northern Nigeria, where prohibition is absolute, and into which it is at present difficult to smuggle liquor owing to the great distance of the territory from the coast and the lack of railway accommodation. But once the railway is brought up to the frontier there will be practically no difficulty in introducing this accursed stuff, which is sold as legitimate liquor, into Northern Nigeria, which is at present saved from its demoralisation. No returns are published of the traffic on the railway which would enable us to judge how much of that traffic is in liquor; but I have been told by one observer and another, by the man going about on business as well as by the chance traveller, that the main use of the railway appears to be the bringing up from the coast of enormous quantities of this liquor. The scale which it has attained is such that I am told that one at least of the mercantile firms concerned in it has built on Government land great sheds for the mere purpose of containing the cases of liquor which have been brought into the country for native consumption, and which are distributed by the firms that import it to the natives in the interior by means of the facilities. which we afford them. Of course, there are fairly high freights charged for the carriage of the liquor over the railway, but the cost is far less than the cost of porterage by native bearers for such long distances. The railway is, therefore, practically the sole means by which into the distant interior it is possible to convey the liquor on a great scale. In an Answer given in the House of Commons a fortnight ago the Colonial Secretary said that the rail-borne traffic bears an infinitesimal ratio to the total imports. I do not deny that. The total imports cover all the liquor which is distributed along the coastline. I am speaking simply of the liquor that is carried into the interior. It is a small part, perhaps, of the whole; but the railroad is the only way by which the liquor can be profitably taken into the uncontaminated regions, and that being so the directors of the railway, and the Government at home and in the colony, are re-responsible for the traffic.

Now, what is the liquor that is being thus imported? It is not English made; it is almost entirely German made; and for those who are dealing with questions between the two countries that question may very profitably be considered. I do not think myself that the point is of much consequence, but it is a fact that what we are facilitating is not the consumption of liquor made in England but liquor made from potatoes and other substances in Germany. This stuff, which is sold as gin or rum at a few pence a bottle, is of so poisonous a nature that no European would think for a moment of drinking it; and a friend of mine was informed by a doctor the other day that he was recently called to see a European, who, his own supply of liquor being exhausted, had for the first time taken some of the spirits sold to the natives, with the result that in three days he suffered from a most intense form of inflammation.


Where was that?


In Lagos or Southern Nigeria, I am not absolutely sure which. This testimony as to the character of the liquor will not, I imagine, be disputed. The quantity, again, is enormous. Statistics from the Gold Coast show that, whereas in 1889 506,000 gallons of this liquor were brought in, at a cost of £45,000, the quantity imported in 1903 was 1,238,000 gallons, the value of which was estimated at £133,000. The figures for Lagos are not quite so bad. The Colonial Secretary stated in the House of Commons recently that the importation of liquor to Lagos in the last two years had considerably fallen off. I do not know from what Returns the right hon. Gentleman was quoting, but according to the Government Returns there has, so far as I can see, been an increase, for in 1901 the quantity brought, in was 948,000 gallons in 1902, 1,260,000 gallons; and in 1903, 1,084,000 gallons. Then, again, there is a matter which I do not wish to bring to the notice of the House in detail, but I am sure the noble Duke who represents the Colonial Office in your Lordships' House will know what I allude to when I say that facts have come to light in the last two years as to the illicit importation of liquor, which must be regarded as modifying any congratulation which may be felt respecting the quantities shown in the Government returns.

What is the object with which we are constructing the railway there? It is, I presume, to increase legitimate trade. The proportion of liquor to other commodities carried on the railway is enormous, and the result is that the trade which we should desire to encourage is being cut out by the liquor trade. A trader stated the other day to a gentleman who repeated the conversation to me that for every £5 worth of cloth which he now sold, he sold £50 worth of liquor. That is the way in which the liquor trade is cutting out the rest; and although I do not dwell on the point, there are some of your Lordships who may care to be reminded that it is foreign-made liquor that we are importing at that rate. But this case rests, it seems to me, upon far bigger grounds. The unanimous testimony of every competent and unbiassed observer is that this liquor traffic has the most demoralising and degrading effect upon the natives. The whole character of the people is being lowered. I have received the following testimony within the last twenty-four hours from the man who perhaps knows better than anybody else what is going, on there— Wherever I go, on the railway, on the Niger River steamers, in the towns on the coast, and in the interior, I sec unmistakable signs of the degrading demoralising character of this traffic. I could multiply evidence of that kind if it were necessary.

Before I close I want to contrast what is happening in West Africa with what is happening in South Africa. None of your Lordships who are familiar with South Africa will doubt for a moment the legitimacy and the desirability of the stern laws which have been passed to put down or to prevent the drink traffic among the natives of South Africa. I do not know whether your Lordships remember how stern those laws are. Under those laws anyone who sells, barters, or otherwise supplies any coloured person with any of the beverages mentioned in the Ordinance is, for a first offence, liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour, for a period of not less than six months and not more than twelve months, and at the discretion of the Court to a fine not exceeding £250. In default of payment of the fine, imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a further period of six months may be inflicted. For a second offence the penalties, in all respects, are doubled. For a third or any subsequent offence, the period of imprisonment is for not less than two years and not more than three, and a fine not exceeding £1,000, with imprisonment in default of payment of the fine, for a further period of not more than two years. Hard labour, as in the previous cases, may or may not be inflicted.

Why is it that on the west coast of Africa we allow the coloured person to get as much absolute alcohol as he likes, even with the injurious proportion of 2.68 per cent. of fusel oil, while the one in the Transvaal is liable to find himself in gaol if he procures a glass of beer or spirits; and why should the illicit retailers in the Transvaal be stigmatised by Lord Milner as "undesirables" and be liable to such extreme penalties for selling liquor, while on the west coast no restriction whatever exists, no limit is placed upon the number of licences granted, and no inquiry is made as to the character of the licensee? It seems to me that we are either doing a gross wrong to the natives of South Africa in imposing such restrictions upon them, or else we ought to impose very different restrictions from those which obtain at present on the natives of West Africa, who are equally our fellow-subjects. That does not appear to me to admit of being disputed, and I shall be glad to hear through the noble Duke what His Majesty's Government have to say about it.

Lord Milner, in facing the problem in South Africa, spoke of it as one which must increase in difficulty as time goes on. He said— The real fight has got to come, and it will be a great fight. All I can say is, that the Administration is thoroughly alive to the momentous importance of the question, and that it has the public opinion of the respectable majority of the European inhabitants solid at its back. The real difficulty, of course, is that in the control of the liquor traffic the Government has to employ hundreds of agents, and the profit to be derived from making natives drunk is so enormous that every one of these agents will be exposed to bribes—and very big bribes. But while I realise the difficulties, I also feel that we are bound, by hook or by crook, to overcome them. The whole credit of this Administration is at stake in the matter, and I feel confident that His Majesty's Government will support us in the view that no effort and no expense should be spared in carrying out a policy which, if successful, will mean a momentous Triumph for civilisation in this part of the world. I appeal to His Majesty's Government on behalf of the natives of West Africa for protective treatment of a similar kind to that given to the natives in South Africa. If we look back along English history it is a sad story we have to tell with regard to the relation of England to the natives of West Africa, and I do trust that your Lordships will agree with me in expressing the hope that His Majesty's Government will take care that in future it shall not be in another and a different sense a sad story still.


My Lords, I have listened attentively to the speech of the most rev. Primate. He gave your Lordships a review of the quality of the liquor sold to the natives in West Africa, he commented upon the rate of charges on the railway, and he also offered some observations on the general administration and on the sale of liquor in our West African Colonies. I will deal first of all with the question of the quality of the liquor sold. But before I do so, let me assure the most rev. Primate that the principles and regulations laid down in regard to this matter by Mr. Chamberlain, and emphasised by Lord Salisbury, have not been modified by the Colonial Office. I would remind the most rev. Primate that so far back as 1889, at the Brussels Conference, the question of the quality of the liquor was raised by the representatives of this country, and the German plenipotentiary maintained, on behalf of his Government, that the spirits which were manufactured in Germany were made on a large scale, that every care and supervision was exercised by the Government to see that no injurious matter was allowed to be placed in the bottles which contained these liquids, that the latest improvements had been employed in this manufacture, that the merchants were honourable men in high positions, and that the German Government themselves had never thought it their duty in any way to challenge their integrity. These were the representations which were made to His Majesty s Government by the plenipotentiary of the German Government.

As the most rev. Primate reminded the House, Mr. Chamberlain was, in 1896, much exercised as to the question of the impurity of the spirits sold in West Africa. He consulted the chambers of sommerce with a view, first of all, to limiting the traffic, and, secondly, to improving the quality of the spirits. He was anxious that the Governors of the West African Colonies should take steps to see that the liquor that came into their ports was genuine, and not in any way adulterated. The result of the discussion between the late Colonial Secretary and the chambers of commerce was that a great number of samples—I think over sixty—were sent home from the different West African Colonies for examination. They were examined by the Board of Inland Revenue, and the Report which was issued upon that examination was to this effect— The presence of these by-products is important as indicative of the general character and mode of the manufacture of the spirit, but their total quantity is small, and it is an open question to what extent the presence of a more than usual proportion of these by-products may injuriously affect consumers when the spirit is used in strictly limited quantity, or add to its toxic effects when drunk in excess. In other words, the result of the analyses of this liquor was to show that there were no injurious ingredients in it, and although it is not claimed that it was of a very high quality, yet those who are experts in this matter were unable to point to any dangerous ingredients in it which were likely to do harm to those who drank it.

The question of the impurity of the liquor was not lost sight of, and at the Brussels Conference of 1899 the matter was again brought up by the representative of this country, and the representative of the German Government assured us that the products employed in the manufacture of this liquor were perfectly pure, that the regulations and restrictions governing its production were as stringent and severe as they could be made, and that it was practically impossible for the manufacturers to produce such injurious liquor as it had been suggested had been the case. After considerable discussion the conference decided not to insist on the inclusion of any provision in the convention dealing with the adulteration of liquor. That, in rough outline, is the story of the efforts made by this country at these various conferences to ensure that the liquor sold should be of a good and pure character.

I now turn to the specific case with regard to Lagos. Sir William MacGregor, as the most rev. Primate is aware, was Governor of Lagos up till about twelve months ago, and he addressed a message to the Legislative Council on the subject of impure alcohol, in which he said that a sample of alcohol lately sent in from a country market was, on analysis, found to contain a percentage of poisonous matter, and on the strength of this and other cases he intimated that he would ask the Legislative Council at an early date to consider a law dealing with adulterated or noxious food and drink. But he added— It appears that the gin, rum, brandy, and whiskey imported is free of injurious ingredients. Sir William MacGregor considered that some of the liquor coming in was of an injurious character, and therefore he brought in an Ordinance which was passed in the following year, Clause 4 of which prohibited the sale of articles of food containing ingredients injurious to health; and there is a sub-section of that clause which declares that for the purpose of this section spirits containing the article commonly known as fusel oil in certain proportion shall be deemed to be an article of food injurious to health.

I understood the most rev. Primate to say that the liquor in Lagos is bad, and he told your Lordships of a European who drank some of it, and experienced most injurious results. I do not know, of course, whether the results were due to the liquor or to the fact that the individual in question was unaccustomed to very strong drink. But unless the most rev. Primate can show your Lordships that the stringent law which was passed by the late Governor of Lagos, and which is now in operation there, is either being evaded or that its enforcement is being negligently or improperly carried out, I do not think he can with reason say that the liquor which now goes into the colony is either impure or of an injurious character. So far as I am aware, there is no Ordinance in Southern Nigeria corresponding to that which was passed in Lagos; but if there are grounds for supposing that the quality of the spirits entering that territory is bad or harmful, we are perfectly willing to suggest to the authorities there that they should consider the advisability of bringing in an Ordinance similar in character to that which Sir William MacGregor passed in Lagos.

I must, however, remind the most rev. Primate that in Southern Nigeria it is more difficult to exercise supervision over the liquor coming into that territory than it is in Lagos. The town of Lagos itself is practically the sole entrance into the colony, and on the spot there is a laboratory where the analyses and examination can take place, and so it is comparatively simple and easy to exercise supervision there. But in Southern Nigeria the Government would have to create more complicated machinery to secure the same successful results as those which we believe have been achieved in Lagos. I understood the most rev. Primate to say that in his opinion the colony was suffering seriously from the unrestricted importation of liquor; indeed, his statement was that the colony was— Degraded with drink. I do not think I can do better than quote the words of Sir William MacGregor upon the condition of Lagos. As the most rev. Primate is aware, Sir William MacGregor took the deepest interest in the welfare of the natives. He was ever solicitous for their well-being, and, a strong teetotaler himself, he might be considered as a Governor who would be exceptionally interested. In a report which he sent home in 1901 Sir William MacGregor said— I had occasion to point out to the Legislative Council, in my message accompanying the Estimates of revenue and expenditure, that the consumption of spirits had diminished by about one-third in the last two years; that the spirit imported here is not adulterated; that I have seen no evidence whatever that the natives in this territory are, as a whole, in any way visibly affected by the spirits consumed by them. Since I made these statements I have visited and closely observed several provinces of the interior, and these visits confirm and strengthen what I stated to the Council. and after a lengthy report he went on to say— I cannot pass by without remark the very strong expressions used in the letter of July by the Wesleyan Methodist Conference. I have looked here in vain for 'the ravages of the liquor traffic'.… I have visited and lived in many countries, but I have seen none in which the power of the vice of drunkenness is so conspicuous by its absence as here. I would ask these people to visit Lagos and then have a look at Glasgow and London. I am sure the most rev. Primate will give full weight to the views of Sir William Macgregor. Sir William had had long experience in the colony and knew what he was writing about; and I think we may take his views—we at the Colonial Office certainly do—as complete refutation of the exaggerated statements made.


I would remind the noble Duke that those whom I quoted were Colonel, now Sir, Frederick Cardew, for several years Governor of Sierra. Leone, and Sir George Goldie, founder and Governor of the Royal Niger Company. I assure the noble Duke that I was quoting from the best official information at my command, and not mere hearsay of a vague and unimportant kind.


I quite appreciate the point of view of the most rev. Primate, but I cannot help feeling that Sir George Goldie, when he made the observations which the most rev. Primate has quoted, was associating that statement, not with the inhabitants of His Majesty's dominions, but probably of territories outside.

Now let me turn to the question of railway rates, which exercised the mind of the most rev. Primate. The railway rates in Lagos are neither prohibitive in their character, nor are they so arranged as to encourage the transit of liquor along the line. They are based more or less upon what it would cost to carry the liquor by road over the same distance.


I can only say I am greatly surprised at that statement and that I think there is some mistake.


I have in my hand a statement on the subject by Sir William Macgregor, who observes that the cost of the carriage of spirits from Lagos 120 miles up country is by rail 47s. a ton, and by canoe and carriers 40s. 4½d. If the railway rates were raised, as the most rev. Primate seems to desire, the only effect would be—and I think this is lost sight of—that the liquor would be carried by the road, and the railway would lose both the freight on the liquor and the freight on the native products given in exchange for the liquor, which would be brought back by the natives. In the case of the Gold Coast the rate for the transport of spirits was fixed at 50 per cent., above that for first-class goods—that is 3s. 9d. per ton per mile—in order not to offer facilities to this trade. But what has been the result? An extremely small amount of liquor has been carried on the railway. It has been carried by native porters. The railway has not only lost the freight on the liquor, but also the freight on the native products given in exchange for the liquor—and the natives have obtained the drink all the same. Although the railway rates may not be as high as the most rev. Primate would wish, yet the rail-borne traffic in spirits undoubtedly shows a decrease, and it is infinitesimal compared with the amout of liquor imported. The most rev. Primate said he had been informed that in Lagos there was a gigantic traffic in liquor going on and that large sheds had been built specially to receive the liquor. I confess that that was a statement which I was amazed to hear, and it is one which we will certainly inquire into; but until it is verified I feel sure the most rev. Primate will allow me to accept it with a considerable amount of reserve.

I will now give your Lordships the figures in regard to the importation of liquor into Lagos during the last few years. The most rev. Primate reminded the House that the Colonial Secretary had stated in another place that the amount of liquor imported into the colony during the last few years had diminished, and the most rev. Primate proceeded to quote figures which showed the reverse, but I venture to think he did not go far enough back. He only went back to the year 1900.


Mr. Lyttelton's words were "for the last two years."


During the last ten years, since 1895, there has been a marked reduction. In 1895 there were 1,750,000 gallons imported; in the years 1900 and 1901 the amount imported each year was 1,000,000 gallons; in 1902 1,250,000 gallons, and in 1903 about 1,000,000 gallons. The most rev. Primate must remember that the population of Lagos is increasing, and the diminution in the amount of liquor imported, combined with an increase in the population, is a satisfactory point which must not be lost sight of. To-day there are about 3,000,000 inhabitants in the territory of Lagos, and if you divide that number by the number of gallons of liquor coming into the colony the average consumption amounts to one-third of a gallon per head per annum. I ask the most rev. Primate whether, in his opinion, that is an excessive amount.


Does the noble Duke, in calculating his percentage, include the whole population, tens of thousands of whom are cut off from access to the liquor at all? I do not mean in Northern Nigeria, but in the other regions.


No, I was speaking only of Lagos proper. The prohibition zone referred to by the most rev. Primate represents in population and area two-thirds of our West African possessiors. Outside that Zone, as the most rev. Primate admits, it is impossible to enforce prohibition. The liquor traffic; has grown up, and His Majesty's Government can only do their best to check and control it, but to exercise proper control international co-operation is necessary If there were higher duties in any region than in the surrounding countries smuggling could only be prevented by an expensive preventive service. It is the experience of those who reside in West Africa that if the native finds that liquor is being sold cheaper in a neighbouring country he goes there and purchases it and smuggles it into his own country, the Government of which loses the revenue on the liquor, but does not prevent the native obtaining it.

The most rev. Primate asked how it was that there were not in West Africa stringent laws similar to those in force in South Africa. I think the answer is very obvious. In South Africa you have perfect control, you have a large dominion under British influence, and you can draw up and enforce a regular code of rules. But it would be impossible to enforce in West Africa the liquor laws that obtain in South Africa unless we were able to secure the hearty co-operation of the European Powers who are our neighbours there. The attitude of the Colonial Office has always been that we were ready to raise our duties on spirits if the other Powers would do the same. At the Brussels Conference of 1899 we did our best to get other Powers to agree to higher spirit duties, but our representations did not prevail. We also tried to induce the conference to place a higher rate on spirits above a certain strength, to check the importation of what is known as concentrated alcohol, but again we were not able to induce the other representatives present to accept our view The view that the minimum rate should be 4s. has long been entertained by His Majesty's Government. It must nor be forgotten that even now the duties in the British possessions are higher than those in foreign possessions, and in recent years they have been considerably increased. Next year the International Conference will again meet. We shall certainly urge on that occasion as strongly as we have done before the importance of levelling up the rates, and we hope that those representations will receive more favourable consideration than they have hitherto. If we are able to induce the conference to accept our view, then I daresay the minimum rate will be as high as 4s., but, whatever the outcome of that conference may be, I can assure the most rev. Primate that His Majesty's Government are just as desirous as he is to see the drink traffic in our West African Colonies controlled, and, if possible, curtailed, and to see a proper and reasonable supervision exercised over the natives, so that they are not allowed to become the victims of the evils consequent upon the unrestricted traffic in. intoxicating liquors.


My Lords, I rise to make a practical suggestion, which may, perhaps, not be altogether unworthy of the attention of His Majesty's Government; and which, I hope, will receive the approval of the most rev. Primate, to whom the thanks of all those who wish to see an end put to the destruction of the native races by drink are due on this occasion for bringing forward the subject. My practical suggestion is this. Prohibitory laws such as those to which the most rev. Primate referred in South Africa are undoubtedly of great value, but there is considerable difficulty in enforcing them, and I believe it will be found that a far more efficacious remedy will be the passage of a law rendering the recovery of any debts incurred by natives for drink irrecoverable before any Court. That is a system which I had the good fortune to work for about five years with the most marked success. The traders, who, after all, are, I suppose, the only persons who desire to keep up this disgraceful traffic, very soon left of supplying when they found they could not enforce payment by law. It was not the 1d. worth sold by the glass which paid them; they sold considerable quantities to native retailers. An Ordinance was passed which rendered these debts irrecoverable, and the sale and drinking of spirits in the colony of Fiji decreased year by year in the most marked manner. I therefore venture to throw out this practical suggestion as one which may contribute to the diminution of this traffic, which, as I have said, none but those engaged in it wish to continue.

When I entered the House this evening, on my return from the Continent, I was quite unaware that this subject was going to be discussed. Had I known beforehand I should like to have said more on the subject; but as it is, I shall confine myself to this one practical suggestion. I cannot refrain from expressing my regret at hearing my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies appear to undertake a defence of the abominable stuff which we know is sold in Africa and other places as liquor. I was sorry to hear such a defence come from the Colonial Office, and to hear my friend, Sir William MacGregor, a total abstainer himself, and a man strongly desirous that all others should be abstainers, quoted as an authority for the goodness of the liquor and the little harm it did. The quotations which the noble Duke gave are no doubt perfectly correct. Sir William MacGregor is a fair and just man, and he thought it his duty to correct the exaggerated statements on the subject. But I think I can venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that Sir William MacGregor is one of those who would most hail effective restrictive measures for keeping liquor from, the native races.

House adjourned at five minutes past Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.