HL Deb 28 July 1924 vol 58 cc1034-5

EARL BEAUCHAMP had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether they have received since last July any information on slavery in Abyssinia which they can communicate to this House or to the League of Nations; and to move for Papers. The noble Karl said: My Lords, I am glad that I need not detain your Lordships at any length in putting this Question, but those of your Lordships who remember a discussion which look place last year upon it may recall that at that time the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon of Kedle-ston, who was then Foreign Secretary, promised your Lordships, under great pressure, especially from the Episcopal Bench, to try to obtain some information on this subject from our Consuls in Abyssinia. Twelve months have now gone by, and I hope that there has been sufficient time to obtain a Report on this Question and that the noble Lord will be able to communicate it to your Lordships' House. May I add one sentence: The most interesting and most important aspect of slavery in Abyssinia seems to me to be connected rather with the raids into British territory than with the subject which generally looms more largely in the newspapers—namely, whether we should send gunboats or other vessels to the Red Sea.


My Lords, I am afraid that I shall not be able to give the noble Earl all the information that he desires for reasons which I will state, but I should like to say also that great progress has been made in this matter under the ægis and influence of the League of Nations. I will explain to him exactly what has been done. In the first place, I am told that the publication by His Majesty's Government of the Reports which they have received would be the most effective method of closing this source of information and, in consequence, would not be in the public interest, nor would it be likely to bring about the results which the noble Earl desires. Apart from this, the noble Earl will, I think, realise that the publication by His Majesty's Government of these Reports regarding social conditions in Abyssinia might not unjustifiably be resented by a Power which has only recently become a fellow-Member of the League of Nations and which, as such, will now have an opportunity of furnishing the special Commission appointed by the League to report on slavery with full information regarding conditions within its own borders.

The Abyssinian Government have recently supplied the League of Nations with a copy of an Edict issued by them this year forbidding the traffic in human beings, and I fed confident that the League itself will watch carefully the manner in which this Edict is carried out. Sir Frederic Lugard, the British member on the special Commission, whose experience in these matters everyone recognises, has had access to all the information available to His Majesty's Government regarding conditions in Abyssinia. The special Commission on Slavery will ultimately present its Report to the Council of the League and this Report will naturally receive publicity. In these circumstances I trust that the noble Earl will not press his Motion for Papers to be laid.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord though, of course, he will not expect me to say that his statement is anything but entirely unsatisfactory. It will probably be necessary to have a discussion on this subject in October, when we may be able to enter more fully into the whole subject and expose, I hope, the wholly unsatisfactory character of the answer.