§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD STRACHIE)
My Lords, I will explain the reason why it has been necessary to come to your Lordships' House again as regards the Soudan Loan This Bill makes no alteration in the principle of the Act which was passed last year with the general assent of this House and with the support of the great authority of Lord Cromer, who we all regret is not able to be with us this evening. The alteration which this Bill makes is entirely with regard to the schedule of the Act of last year—that is to say, in regard to the allocation of the money. For instance, instead of £1,000,000 being applied for the purpose of irrigating the Gezireh Plain, that amount has been doubled, a further £1,000,000 being allotted to it. Then as regards railway extension, the amount has been decreased from £1,600,000 to £800,000; and the amounts under (ii) and (iii), together with the amount for contingencies, in the schedule of the Act of 1903—the three amounts totalling £400,000—have been reduced to £200,000. The object of reducing these amounts has been that there should be no change in the amount asked for, but only in the allocation of the money.
This is not a loan to the Soudan. But the Treasury, as your Lordships will remember, have power under the Act to guarantee the interest on the Loan so that the Soudan Government may be able to raise it at a lower rate of interest than would be the case were there no Imperial guarantee. The reason for this alteration in the allocation of the money arises front the fact that Lord Kitchener appointed a Committee of technical experts to inquire into the cost of the construction of the dam for irrigating the large area of land between the Blue Nile and the White Nile. The original estimate which we had last year was £1,000,000, but that had been made on only a tentative survey. It was impossible until there had been an investigation on the spot to say what the cost actually would be. After very careful inspection by this technical body appointed by Lord Kitchener, it was considered that a further £1,000,000 was necessary for the scheme in order that the 4,500 square miles of land 107 might be irrigated. Up till the time of this investigation no accurate estimate was obtainable of the necessary expenditure. The expert Committee reported that it was necessary that there should be a dry dam built, and in order to do that it is necessary to drain that part of the river and lay it bare so that the foundations may be laid. Consequently this additional expenditure is necessary.
Although there will be this increased expenditure on the dam Lord Kitchener is of opinion that the net result will be a very large increase in the revenues of the Soudan. He estimates that there will be something like 10,000 tons of cotton raised from this area after irrigation, and that the increase in revenue thereby will amount approximately to £250,000 a year. This additional expenditure will also make the irrigation of a much larger area possible at a later time. I think this will show that it is a wise step on the part of Lord Kitchener to ask for a revision of the schedule in the Act of last year in order that an extra £1,000,000 may be spent on the dam instead of being spent on railway extension and contingencies. I hope that, after this short statement, your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading and that it may have a speedy progress through this House. It is of the utmost importance that the Bill should become law as soon as possible in order that the estimates may be put out, as the only period during which this dam can be constructed is between the months of November and May.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Strachie.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.