HL Deb 13 May 1925 vol 61 cc192-236

EARL BUXTON had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether the reports upon slavery which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs undertook to call for in 1923 have yet been received; whether the League of Nations has asked to be supplied with any available information and assistance on the subject of slavery, and what reply has been sent to the League of Nations; whether the reports in question will be published, and whether they will include any representations made to His Majesty's Government by the Governments of territories raided by hostile units; whether any representations have been made by His Majesty's Government to other Powers on the question; and to move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in asking this Question and moving for Papers, I want to make it quite clear that I am not doing so in any hostile spirit to the Government, or to any action they may have taken, or not taken, in regard to this matter. I hope the debate will show, so far as it goes, that I am forcing an open door, and that it will not he necessary for me to divide on the matter, though I shall move for Papers formally in order to give me an opportunity of dividing. I think, as regards the main object, we are all at one, and a Division might give a wrong indication outside this House of your Lordships' feelings.

Perhaps I may be allowed to express my great regret that the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston has passed away, and is not able to take part in this debate, because, on every occasion on which we have had an opportunity of discussing it, he always showed great sympathy with the object that we have in view, and took a great interest in the question. If he will allow me to say so, I am very glad that the Earl of Balfour is undertaking the work of the Foreign Office in your Lordships' House, and I am quite sure that from him we shall also have a sympathetic listener and a sympathetic actor.

Some of your Lordships may be surprised that it is necessary at this time of the day to raise questions dealing with slavery, slave raiding and slave trading. One would have hoped that, with the exception of the wilds of Central Africa, slavery, as such, in all its branches, had more or less disappeared, but unfortunately we have almost at our doors, in Northern Africa, slavery still existing. The recrudescence of it is probably due to the fact of the war and the evils which followed the war, the disorganisation which took place during the war necessarily slackening the vigilance of the nations in regard to slavery.

I am not going to give any cases to your Lordships of actual slave raiding and slave trading which have unfortunately taken place during the last few years. There have been raids in British territory, in Kenya Colony and in the Sudan, but I am not going to give particulars of these cases because we have not at present sufficient detailed information before us to enable any one interested in the question to deal with particular cases. It is because of this that I am asking the Government to give the House and the country such information as they have on the matter, so that we may be in a position to know exactly what has taken place. We know that the Foreign Office has made more than one communication on the subject during the last few years. They have been in communication with Abyssinia, and we want to know what has been the outcome of these communications.

One reason for raising the matter at this particular moment is the fact that, during the last two or three years, a new factor has come into the question which has profoundly modified, I hope for good, the international position. The League of Nations has of late taken up the question, and it is anxious to do what it can, by international agreement and discussion, to bring to bear what I may call the international moral sense in regard to slavery and slave trading. The matter is, indeed, no longer a local one, or even a national one. It has become an international question, and any country interesting itself in the matter will now have behind it the opinion of a large number of other countries in the world.

I do not propose to detain your Lordships by recounting the history of this matter in the League of Nations. The League of Nations comes into the question under Clauses 23 and 24 of the Covenant, but, being occupied with other things, it did not make any active intervention in regard to it. It was only until the Third Assembly of the League in 1923 that Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland, a member of the present Government, brought the matter unofficially before the Assembly. With the universal approval and support of the other nations represented, he brought the question of slavery to the notice of the Assembly, and a resolution was passed recommending the Council to take up all questions connected with slavery and slave raiding and bring up proposals to be dealt with at a subsequent date. The result was that at the Fourth Assembly in September, 1923, resolutions were passed to the effect that all the nations concerned in the question should be circularised, asking them to bring forward any information they had on the subject. In all, about sixty nations were so circularised by the Secretary-General, in order that the League of Nations might be in possession of all information that was possible.

Then, at the next meeting of the Council, a strong Committee, was appointed to go into the matter and draw up recommendations for the benefit of the Assembly. Meanwhile, in July, 1923, as your Lordships will remember, the question was raised in your Lordships' House by Earl Beauchamp, who asked for information on the subject and urged that the Government should publish such information as they had obtained and also communicate it to the League of Nations. The late Leader of the House, the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, who was then at the Foreign Office, made a most sympathetic speech in reply, pointing out that he had no recent information in regard to the question but that he would call for information from officials and consuls concerned and that this information should be placed before the public and before the League of Nations.

The late Lord Curzon emphasised the point, which I desire also to emphasise, that the League of Nations could not act without full and adequate information. What the late noble Marquess, speaking on July 30, 1923, said, was this:— I have given instructions that these gentlemen [the consuls] and others are to be written to and informed that we should like a report on this particular question. There is, of course, no hope that their replies will arrive in time to be placed before the League this year, and I doubt very much whether the information in the possession of the League will enable it to take any very active steps this year. But it is clear that the League or anybody"— that is, the public here— can only act upon the information if it is fairly adequate and complete, and we shall have to make our contribution to that sum total of knowledge as soon as it is possible. In addition, the Colonial Office and the India Office were asked to obtain, in their own Departments, such information as they could in reference to the matter. It is clear, therefore, that at that time it was intended and expected that this information should be obtained, and that it should be placed before the public here and at the disposal, in so far as it was useful to them, of the League of Nations for the Assembly that was to meet in 1924.

Then came an interlude during which the information was being obtained and during that period, about a year ago, there came a rebuff and a check from a very unexpected quarter. The Labour Government had come into office and we know, or at least they tell us, that they are not quite as other men are—that they are more sympathetic and more inclined to assist the poorest and the most oppressed, and to do their best to put them in a better position. One of their points was that we ought to bring at once, and completely, to an end that which they called secret diplomacy; that we ought to have open diplomacy; that everything ought to be above board; that nothing ought to be kept back; and that all information available ought to be at the disposal of the country. They said that this secret diplomacy had been at the bottom of many of our previous troubles. Unfortunately, if they will allow me to say so, they did not on this occasion translate their ideas into practical politics, because nothing was done to assist these unfortunate persons, and when the Foreign Office and the Admiralty were pressed to place this information before the country and at the disposal of the League of Nations, the request was refused curtly and completely.

On May 21, 1924, when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was asked in the other House— whether, in view of his announcement that reports have been received by the Government concerning slavery in Abyssinia, and that these reports are to be brought before the League of Nations, he will lay such reports on the Table of the House of Commons, the Under-Secretary, speaking for the Foreign Minister, said:— It would not be in the public interest to publish the reports to which the hon. Member refers. Later on, when the Commission of the League of Nations, to which I have referred, was appointed, Sir Frederick Lugard, as I understand, more or less represented the Government, and he stated that he had reports but that they were confidential and could not therefore be placed before the League of Nations. Mr. Ponsonby, being further pressed by Sir Robert Hamilton, a very distinguished former official of Kenya, as to why it was not in the public interest that the House of Commons should know the facts, "so that this curse might be stamped out," replied:— . … the object being to try to put down slavery, in this particular case the publication of the reports would defeat that object, and would involve several people concerned in very unnecessary embarrassment. That really was not an answer to the suggestion that people here and the League of Nations were entitled to the fullest possible publicity.

In former Governments, under Lord Lansdowne and Lord Grey, who, I suppose, are awful examples of secret diplomacy, information at their disposal in regard to the question of slavery and the slave trade was published in full, with the exception that the names of individuals were not mentioned where this would injure them, nor was information given which might have been been of use to the raiders. But it seems to me that that is a totally inadequate reason for refusing all publication and not producing information which would have been of the greatest possible advantage to us here; because this question of slavery and the slave trade is very much a question in which public knowledge and public pressure are of great importance, and unless we have the information we cannot endorse the action of the Government in endeavouring to meet the difficulties which have arisen.

Meanwhile, the strong Commission to which I have referred was appointed by the League of Nations, and represented France, Italy, Great Britain, Portugal and one other country, in addition to the representation of the Labour Section of the League of Nations. Our representative was a very distinguished man, who has done much good public work in Africa and elsewhere—I refer to Sir Frederick Lugard. That Commission, after many meetings, drew up with great care a very complete questionnaire, to use the technical term, in regard not only to slave catching and slave trading but also to all the various branches of slavery itself, and they made far-reaching proposals which will be put before the Council of the League at their future meetings. They also pressed further for information from the different countries and asked that the various nations concerned should give them the names of those associations and individuals who they thought might be able to bring useful information to bear on this question with advantage to the League of Nations itself. That proposal also, I believe, was refused by the Government on the ground that they could not make themselves responsible for these associations before-hand, but they said that if the League of Nations consulted them, they would provide, privately and confidentially, their views in regard to them.

I have traversed as shortly as I can the various steps which have been taken, or not taken, in the past, bringing us to the position at which we now stand in regard to this matter. So far—and I am not putting any stress on this, because there has not been an opportunity—we have not had any expression of the views of the present Government. It is -on that account that I am asking this Question this afternoon. I am sorry to say, as one very much interested in this subject, that the attitude of Great Britain in the last few years has given a very unfortunate impression abroad. While nations like France, Belgium and Italy have given such information as they had in their possession to the League of Nations, Great Britain, having declined to do so, is now, instead of being in the van, somewhat lagging behind in this matter. I trust that the Government, in their reply to-day, will show that such an impression is entirely undeserved and that they are anxious again to take the lead in this great question.

I have spoken of the League of Nations, but I would emphasise one point. Altogether apart from the advantage of giving such information as is in the possession of the Government to the League of Nations, so that they may act upon it, I think that the public here are entitled to information in the possession of the Government. I press very strongly in my Question, and I press it now, that the Government will not merely inform the House that they will give such information as they possess to the League of Nations, but will publish in the form of a White Paper, or in any other way by which publicity can best be obtained, the full information to which I think we, in this country, are entitled. People in this country take a great interest in any question of slavery. They take it a great deal to heart and are very anxious for the honour and prestige of this country.

We know, to a certain extent, what has been happening lately. We know that there have been raids into British territory in Kenya and the Sudan of late years, that British subjects have been captured and taken into slavery, that there have been conflicts in consequence of these raids and that British casualties have occurred. We know that the Navy has been active in the matter and we have information to the effect that a considerable number of slaves have been captured by them. We know that Notes have been presented more than once to Abyssinia and that lately a Note in reference to this matter has been presented to the Hejaz Government, but, however much interest we take in the matter, none of us have possession of the knowledge of the facts to which I think we are entitled. We do not know what number of raids has taken place in British territory in the last few years, and I would ask the noble Earl as representing the Foreign Office, now and certainly in publication, to let us know what the number of raids has been in the last few years. The information which I have had given to me shows that the number of these raids, in which many British subjects have been captured and carried into slavery, is very large indeed. They are not to be counted by units but even by scores, and I press the noble Earl to give us that information to show how the matter stands in regard to this question of slave raids into British territory.

We do know that there have been raids into Kenya, and not long ago the question was raised in the Assembly there from this point of view. The Colonial Secretary for Kenya was asked to give information with regard to the raids which have taken place. He declined to give information at all in full and there was a great deal of feeling in the Assembly, I understand, that they were subject to these raids and, although they had to pay for the protection of the frontier, yet were not in a position to know what was happening, or how far there were incursions into that territory. I think they are entitled, like us, to the fullest possible information. We want to know whether the matter is increasing and what steps the Government have taken, or are taking, to deal with it effectively.

I think we are specially entitled to ask what is the nature of these representations which have been made to the countries to which I have referred and to others, and what has been the result of those representations—whether they have really led to any diminution in slavery and slave raids. What I think we desire is that the fullest possible information should be given in this matter. I suggest that the best way of dealing with that is that the information which has been obtained should be published in a White Paper, subject to the safeguards I have named, and then, having obtained that information ourselves, we could with propriety give it, so far as it is germane to their requirements, to the League of Nations. I desire to emphasise what Lord Curzon said, that without full information on these matters it is not possible for the League of Nations to deal effectively with these questions.

I think we ought to remember that when Abyssinia, a little time ago, applied for membership of the League she was submitted to considerable cross-examination with regard to slavery existing in her territory, and she undertook, as far as she could, to deal with it. She was told that the League would require that Abyssinia should take into consideration any recommendations which the Council might make in regard to the fulfilment of the obligations with which she recognised that the League of Nations was concerned. I ask whether it is possible for the League of Nations to deal with this matter effectively, and to tell the Abyssinians in what respect they ought to amend their ways, unless they are in possession of information which is now in the hands of this and other countries, so as to enable them to deal with the matter more effectually.

I have dealt with the general question as far as it stands at present. There has been, as I have said, a recrudescence of slavery, of slave trading and raiding, but I think we may say that there are some favourable signs in regard to this question to which we are glad to attach importance. In the first place, Abyssinia has now become a Member of the League of Nations, on the condition that she will take really effective steps to put down slavery in her territory. There was a rather interesting incident the other day. It does not directly affect the question before us, but it is an indication of the opinion of the world with regard to slavery. The other day the Maharajah of Nepal, who represents a large country with a population of millions, in which slavery exists, issued a courageous manifesto with regard to slavery, which he declared must be brought under control, and stated that he was intending to deal with it in all its aspects and to bring it to an end. I think, from what I have heard, that his declaration has been favourably received by the inhabitants, and we may look for a diminution in that part of the world in slavery and slave trading.

I only want to say one word in conclusion. I have indicated, that which I very much regret, that, rightly or wrongly, an impression has been conveyed to other nations, and to the League of Nations especially, that England is a little lukewarm with regard to this matter. It is, I confess, not pleasant to hear that at one of the sub-committees, presided over by Dr. Nansen, when this question was being considered a little time ago, the representative of one—I am not sure whether of more than one—foreign Power emphasised that there ought to be great caution in dealing with these matters, because of the hesitation of Great Britain to put her information before them. I think that is not a position in which we should like Great Britain to be in regard to any question appertaining to slavery. It has been our proud boast that, very often to our own hurt and to our own cost, the United Kingdom has been in the forefront in dealing with any question of slavery, and I am quite sure that public opinion here would endorse any action which the Government took to reassert our prestige in regard to this matter.

What I am asking the representative of the Foreign Office to give us is a clear indication that the Government will do their best to deal with the matter. They have, as we know, the information before them. We ask that they will give us the fullest possible information, that there will be no concealment about it, and that they will bring to bear the moral effect of that information in order to get rid, as far as they can, of this deplorable situation. I have endeavoured to deal with the question in no hostile spirit, but I am extremely anxious, if possible, that we may avoid any imputation in this matter and that the Government will give us such undertakings as will satisfy us. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, it is very fitting that this subject should be brought before your Lordships' House by the noble Earl who has just sat down, bearing, as he does, a name that is nobly associated with the contest against slavery for several generations. The noble Earl devoted some part of his speech, as, indeed, is now customary on the Liberal Benches, to calling the Labour Party over the coals for some presumed shortcomings in their action while they occupied the opposite Benches. I am not going to deal with those matters. I do not know precisely what the gravamen of the charge against the Labour Party is, but my noble friend Lord Parmoor, who was in charge of the matter on behalf of the Labour Party, will be able, I am sure, to give a satisfactory account of his part in it.

I, also, have a certain hereditary claim to take an interest in the subject. My great grandfather was the first treasurer of the London Missionary Society and was very closely associated with the noble Earl's grandfather in the struggle, in the early part of the last century, against slavery, and I have myself for a good many years taken a part in the proceedings of the Anti-Slavery Society and have paid rather continuous attention to these questions of slavery.

We were all greatly pleased when the League of Nations decided to appoint this special Commission to deal with the subject and to inquire into it. I want to express my entire concurrence with what has fallen from the noble Earl with regard to certain unsatisfactory characteristics in the atmosphere which has recently surrounded the dealings of Great Britain with this subject, and I want to engage your Lordships' sympathy in my feeling that it is most important at the present time, in the interests not only of the credit of this country and of persons enslaved throughout the world but in the interests of the efficiency of the League of Nations, that there should be no such suspicion. The society with which I am connected, and committees appointed by it, have been dealing with various aspects of slavery—slave trading, actual slavery and also conditions of labour having the characteristics of slavery; that is to say, conditions of labour where men are held in servile bondage. We had, at one time, a considerable amount of correspondence about very deplorable conditions of labour in the territories of one of our Allies. At one time we exercised a sort of check and supervision upon what was going on in those territories, through our consuls and vice-consuls. During the war the staff of vice-consuls was reduced and since then we have not had the same amount of official information with regard to those conditions that we formerly had. But I am sorry to say that my society has continued to have unofficial information which does not reassure us that the need for vigilance has entirely passed away.

I do not wish to say more on that point particularly. I know there are noble Lords in this House who have recent information with regard to those conditions. We have also had very grievous reports to our society of severe conditions of forced labour in the territories of the same Power on the other side of Africa. Again, I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, in a. former debate, mentioned that it was within his knowledge, as an officer who had served in the Eastern Sudan and also as an officer who had served in the Hejaz, that our Ally the King of the Hejaz and the Arabian Powers generally were participants in the slave trade, even in some cases coming out of our own territories. Again, we had, not long ago, the correspondence with regard to Abyssinia, with which the noble Earl has dealt, and we had extreme difficulty, which all Parties have had, in eliciting from the Governments of all Parties proper information upon the subject, although we knew perfectly well that the information was in the hands of the Foreign Office.

We all knew of these conditions. Now there does very clearly arise in the minds of censorious persons an idea that, although Great Britain is a subscriber to the Covenant of the League of Nations, and is pledged with other Powers to do her best to put down slavery in all its forms throughout her Dominions and to assist in putting it clown throughout the world, she is a little mealy-mouthed, possibly a little cautious about saying unpleasant things, or willing to hide unpleasant facts with regard to Powers or Mandatories with whom she desires to remain in pleasant relations. That is supposed to be a diplomatic attitude. The noble Earl said that Great Britain was falling back from her tradition of being the common censor of the universe. Well, I am not at all sorry that Great Britain—


Not censor, but leader on questions of slavery.


I acknowledge that I travestied what the noble Earl said. I think he spoke of our having been in the foremost van of those who did their best against slavery, and that Great Britain has claimed among other nations rather the reputation of being a self-abnegating censor in these matters. Since the League of Nations was instituted it was very right and proper that there should be entire community, entire homogeneity with regard to the spokesmanship of the conscience of mankind. So far as I can see, the only nation now which still maintains the position of common censor of the morality of mankind is a nation which does not belong to the League of Nations, and that nation rather claims that justice and the love of liberty, and the love of temperance, and the detestation of narcotics, in departing from the world, are leaving their last vestiges in the West. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, I am sure, has had a good deal of admonition from that quarter in regard to Great Britain's wickedness towards the subject of narcotics.

Whilst there should be no suspicion against any particular Power that she is tender to her friends, and whilst it is also right that there should be no imputation against any particular Power that she is excessively self-righteous, it is surely involved and implied in the Covenant of the League of Nations that there should be absolute frankness and confidence, as in the confessional, and is the spirit of mutual understanding, and an entire disclosure of all documents and of all the facts that come before any of the parties that are concerned in the League of Nations. That is what we want to urge most strongly. We say this — We, the Anti-Slavery Society have certain documents, certain letters, and certain statements; we can put them before the Committee of the League of Nations, we can hand them in, and our representatives can say that they come from more or less credible witnesses.

Where we know that our own public officers can give us information they should be instructed on our behalf, as part of the League of Nations and on behalf of the League of Nations, in the execution of their duty, to give us officially the fullest information, whether it be unpleasant or discreditable to anybody or not, in order that it may be considered in that common court of conscience which is being set up, and I hope will be yet further set up and established, in the League of Nations and its Committees. That is why I sincerely deplore the line that has been taken, as I say, by one Government after another of our own country in not giving, as it appears to me, sufficient publicity to the world, or sufficient information to the Committee of the League of Nations which has had to deal with the matter.

I agree—and I think most of your Lordships will entirely agree with what fell from the noble Earl—that the public has a right to know everything that can be known about these matters and that, whatever may be the discretion of diplomats and however easy diplomats may think it is to influence another nation by friendly representations, the fact is that no great change in the morality of nations has been made by the intervention of diplomats and by judicious representations, but always by the publication of things that have scandalised the conscience of the human race. Therefore, it is wholesome for the, human race that all these things which are known as to what goes on in one part of the world or another should be made known in the common interest, which the Covenant of the League of Nations deliberately asserts that it is its purpose to forward.

The noble Earl referred to a recent case of the emancipation of slaves by the Maharajah of Nepal. It is greatly to the credit of the Maharajah of Nepal that he should have taken this step without, on the whole, anybody knowing—I certainly did not know of it until the date that it occurred—that slavery really existed in Nepal. I think that it would have been better had the world known that slavery continued to exist in Nepal, and that the world should know of any other country in which slavery or servile conditions, or forced labour of any kind, continue to exist. Therefore, on the ground of those principles and with a view, as I believe and hope, of strengthening the influence and position of the League of Nations as an agent of human welfare, I hope that His Majesty's Government will take a satisfactory line and give a satisfactory answer to the question of the noble Earl.


My Lords, I desire to support the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Buxton. He has asked for full information about this matter, and has asked also that that information shall be published as a White Paper and in the form of a book. He quoted a statement by Lord Curzon, who is no longer with us. I re-echo what the noble Earl said about the Earl of Balfour having taken up the duties of the Foreign Office and I congratulate the noble Earl upon his safe return from Palestine. The late Lord Curzon's reply on the occasion in question was a very guarded one. He said that our consuls were most likely occupied with trade and other business, and that it never occurred to them to send in reports on slavery; but he had given them instructions to do so. I am informed that our consuls have been removed in a great many instances and, therefore, the point made by Lord Curzon rather falls to the ground. I can also understand the reason for the noble Earl's Motion.

Let me say a word with regard to Abyssinia. A good many years ago I went right into the centre of that country m far as the River Mareb and almost into the province of Walkit. I could not go there because it was very dangerous, and I should probably have been killed. I read everything that is written on Abyssinia, because one likes to know what is going on in a wild country that one has visited, and I believe that the Abyssinians are very much the same as they ever were. They live in a country which is easy to protect. It is a country of flat-topped mountains, on the tops of which there is a hard frost in the morning. At the foot of those mountains are enormous valleys, full of tropical vegetation, which are unhealthy and where the mosquito is very bad. The Abyssinians are the Swiss of Africa. They are intensely patriotic and will brook no interference in their country from anybody. They are Kopfs and very strict in their religion. They are also cruel, as I think I shall be able to show your Lordships.

We were all very pleased to see the Emperor and King of Abyssinia when he came to this country last year—the first time in the history of the world that the ruler of that country has left it, except when the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon. It must be remembered that at Addis Ababa, the capital of Abyssinia, the Emperor and King is surrounded by an army, but it must not be thought that, like other Kings and Emperors, he is in complete command of his country. The Rases are governors or chieftains of the different provinces, and the further they are from the capital the more turbulent they become. It is all very well to say that the Emperor and King will do his best to stop slavery, but the real point is that the Abyssinians under these turbulent Rases, whom I met when I was there, are very much the same as ever they were and are still raiders. There are a great many small raids that we never hear about in this country.

In the East the spoils of a raid go to the victor. It may be that a few men are captured, some of whom are killed and some spared. Sometimes children and women are taken; the old women are generally killed and the young women and children are spared and made slaves though, sometimes, the children, too, are killed. It must be remembered, however, that domestic slavery is a custom, almost a rule, in the East, and that domestic slaves are not badly treated. I have been waited on by domestic slaves in Abyssinia and on the West Coast of Africa, where the Portuguese have such slaves, who are well treated and regarded as part of the family. The cruelty and unkindness come in when a slave owner dies and his property is divided, or left, to his heir, and the latter chooses to sell the slaves, as he has a perfect right to do according to the Eastern custom, which is almost a law. Then, women are separated from their husbands, daughters from their mothers, brothers from their sisters and fathers from their children; and as your Lordships know, the Easterns cannot understand, and they resent, interference very strongly in this matter of domestic slavery.

Great Britain and Ireland have set their faces against slavery for very many years, since the days of Wilberforce and the days when that book was published which really had a great deal more effect than we have any idea of. I refer to the book written by Mrs. Beecher Stowe, entitled "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Since the days of which I am speaking, when I was in Abyssinia, that Empire has become much larger. So large, in fact, has it become, that it is almost difficult to realise the enormous extent of the frontiers that we have to guard. In Africa they have to be watched. Africa is a country which, even now, is not properly mapped, and those who have been, as I have, on the West Coast, will realise the enormous distances that have to be traversed. One has no idea until one gets into the country, of these great distances. Without going there it is so difficult to have any true conception of the huge extent of the Continent. Therefore it is most difficult to get reports of any sort from that country—a country which, no doubt, in the future, will be properly guarded by our officers, who always do their duty when they are put into a position of trust.

I shall not say anything upon that part of the Question referring to the League of Nations. The noble Viscount sitting below me, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, will, I am sure, deal with that. In the latter part of his Notice, Lord Buxton asks: "Whether the reports in question will be published, and whether they will include any representations made to His Majesty's Government by the Governments of territories raided by hostile units." May I say a word about raiding by hostile units? I have alluded to Abyssinia, and I will tell your Lordships what happened to me when I was there. I was using an interpreter, and asking an Abyssinian gentleman questions, and this is the coversation that took place. I said: "You are very often raided by the Gallas tribes?" He replied: "Yes." I said: "They are very cruel, and they do horrible things; they mutilate." He hesitated a moment, and then said: "And we do it, too." That gives your Lordships a picture of what goes on at these frontiers, in regard to which even now we really have very little information. The East is very cruel. Life counts for nothing at all there in the Near East as well as the Far East they have very little respect for life.

A very interesting letter was received two months ago in this country. It said that a good many Abyssinian slave traders had been hung and the curious part of the letter was that in which it was stated that they had been hung primarily for political reasons, and not on account of the slave trade. I am not going to mention the name of the person who wrote that letter, because I am told he is not above suspicion. That means that the gentleman who wrote the letter is supposed to be just as much of a slave raider as any one else. Why he wrote this rather extraordinary letter I do not know, but I think it shows the subtlety of the Eastern mind in trying to cover up delinquencies by saying that these people, who no doubt were slave traders, were hung primarily for political reasons. I am told that the gentleman who wrote the letter deserves as much hanging as he could possibly get at the hands of anybody who dislikes slavery.

I should like to say one word about Lord Olivier's reference to one of our Allies on the other side of Africa. Of course, he meant the Portuguese. I know something about the Portuguese, because I travelled once with those Angolan natives who were taken in chains into forced labour to work on the cocoa plantations in Sao Thome and Principé. That goes on still. The truth is this. First of all, Sao Thome is almost on the line; it is a very unhealthy climate, and a very great many Angolan natives come from what is, in comparison with Sao Thome, highlands, and therefore they die. Portugal is one of our Allies, and it is difficult to get information about what is going on, but I learn from private information, which I believe to be true, that that forced labour still goes on.

I hope the Government will be quite frank in this matter. If this information is to be given to the League of Nations in the form of a White Paper or book we shall then, at all events, have, the information that we want. There are a great many people in this country who do not like the idea of slavery in any form. I do not think for a moment you will be able to stop domestic slavery, because the idea of it is so ingrained in the Eastern mind, but I think you will be able to stop the raiding. It must be remembered, however, that there are many ways of getting across the Red Sea into the Hejaz by dodging the gunboats. It is an easy business for the dhows. They can hop across there. I have been to Jeddah and other ports, and I think if I was in a dhow with a good Arab pilot I could easily slip across on a dark night. The Arab pilots know every reef and dangerous shoal. They run these dhows on to the sand, and off go the slaves into the interior in a few minutes. I beg to support Lord Buxton's Motion, and I hope the Government's reply will be satisfactory, and that we shall have the full information asked for.


My Lords, mention has been made of Abyssinia and the Sudan. The frontier of Abyssinia and the Sudan is about 700 miles long, and the southern 300 miles of it have never been delimited. On the Sudan side of the approximate frontier there is an area of about 30,000 square miles, which is entirely unadministered. I lived for two years on the edge of that "No Man's Land," and I know very well that it is freely used by slave raiders and by elephant poachers, who are often, if not always, the same people. These raiders, so far as my experience goes, are invariably armed with obsolete French army rifles.

It may be said that the Sudan Government ought to administer to the frontier, but it is a country with a very sparse population, communications are very difficult, the Sudan is not very rich, and there is no doubt that if it did administer that frontier the administration would cost very much more than the Sudan would be able to obtain in the way of revenue. There is no doubt, however, that until this frontier is properly delimited, and until the Sudan Government administers the country up to the frontier, these raids, to some extent at any rate, are bound to continue.

As regards the Hejaz, His Majesty's Government have no control over it, but there is no doubt that a certain number of slaves are exported from the Hejaz to the British mandated territories in that part of the world; and that is the thing the Government should be able to stop. In conclusion, I hope the Government will accede to the noble Earl's request and tell us everything they know about this question.


My Lords, I will occupy but a moment or two of your Lordships' time, but I desire to support the Motion that has been moved by the noble Earl. May I, in the first place, however, refer to the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, who scoffed at the noble Earl—


I did not scoff.


Well, how shall I put it? Jeered would be even more offensive. Shall I say, who fell foul of the noble Earl for his enthusiasm on this question?


I must entirely disclaim any such intention. I put myself in the hands of the House; I never said anything that would bear the interpretation that is being put upon it by the noble Lord.


Well, shall I put it this way—he fell foul of the noble Earl for his enthusiasm for the idea that England should take the lead in philanthropic and noble ideals? I am speaking within his recollection, and I understood him to say that there was a certain hypocrisy, something of self-righteousness, in the claim of this country to be a leader in public opinion.


I did not say there was any hypocrisy. I said we had a reputation for self-righteousness on account of it, and that we had now a common organisation for the conscience of humanity in the League of Nations which made it less necessary for us to assert ourselves as being better than other men.


If the noble Lord welcomes an ally in this self-righteousness I am perfectly ready to agree with him, and it is just as well that we should have as many of these self-righteous persons to carry on this work as we can. This inclination to criticise the attitude of Liberal speakers may perhaps be expressed in the psychological jargon of the present day as being a complex—a state of mind which forces you to attack a certain object whenever you see it—and perhaps this complex is the possession of the Liberal as well as the Labour Party.


I must entirely protest against any such suggestion—


Order, order!


I am sorry that on the first occasion on which I have addressed your Lordships I fall foul of the Front Bench of the Opposition. However, I will leave it at that. For my own part, I welcome the fact that this country should take a lead in matters of this kind. The debate, so far as it has gone, has been confined to the grosser forms of slavery, and it is with some hesitation that I ask your Lordships to bear with me if I depart from these grosser forms, which we all condemn, into somewhat more debatable ground, ground which at one time was described in another place as something approaching a terminological inexactitude arid which would define slavery as that which partakes of a somewhat servile nature. There is every gradation from free labour to abject slavery, and it is difficult to say where compulsion begins and freedom ceases. In a sense, every man who works is under some form of compulsion or other. He is under the compulsion of his own nature, a desire to serve the world in which he finds himself. More often he is under economic compulsion to maintain himself and his family; and there is a Government compulsion, under which we all labour, some in respect of 50 per cent. others in respect of rather smaller amounts, in order to pay the taxes which Government exacts.

There is, therefore, great difficulty in drawing the line between the compulsion which we all look upon as an intolerable evil and the compulsion which is put upon every one of us by the circumstances in which we live; but we may, I think, try to distinguish between economic and political compulsion. We are all more or less subject to the economic compulsion. Political compulsion to work may, of course, be a pardonable thing, but it is always a doubtful thing. For a Government to say to a class of men or women that they shall work in a certain way for a certain employer is to import into that labour something which is not wholly free, something which partakes of the nature of servile labour and may partake of the nature of slavery. In view of the fact that in this House we are free to discuss without the trammels of an exact supervision by an austere Chair, and in view of the fact that the noble Earl in introducing his Motion alluded to the programme which has been drawn up by the League of Nations, I should like for a few moments to deal with a few of these more debatable questions.

One of the outstanding features of the present day is the growing dependency of the civilised world upon the tropical areas of the world. The products which in former years were things of curiosity or extreme luxury are every day, becoming products which enter into our everyday life, but every one of these products can only be obtained from the tropical belt and can only be produced by coloured labour, cheap labour, and it is labour which does not require all the indulgences and accessories which modern white labour demands. Many of the needs of this country depend on the products of the tropics, produced by coloured labour, and it would be a deplorable thing for this country and for the tropics if that demand were hindered or impeded. Yet the very fact that this demand is growing and increasing every day, for things like rubber and cotton and many of the minerals and metals which we daily use, indicates that there will be a tendency to exploit and compel this tropical labour, which alone can effectively produce these products. It is not entirely true to say that every tropical product can be obtained only by means of coloured labour, because there is a considerable production of sugar in Queensland by White labour, which has replaced the coloured labour which previously cultivated the sugar cane. But, broadly speaking, the bulk of the tropical products we use in ever-increasing quantities in this country are produced by coloured labour, and the demand for these products, growing year by year, will tend to produce a desire to force the somewhat indolent labour of the tropics into more efficient and extended production.

The danger, therefore, at the present time appears to be not so much in the grosser and cruder forms of slavery as in the tendency which exists to exploit and to force unwilling labour to produce on unfair terms the products which we, who call ourselves the superior races, demand and desire. I think it is the duty of this country, of the League of Nations and of the civilised world as a whole, to see to it that, in meeting the demands which we make upon these lower races of the world, we do not abuse the power that we command as a great country with large tropical Dependencies. There is a tendency to urge the Governments who are directly responsible for the tropical Dependencies to compel labour to flow in those channels in which we consider that it is most advantageous, and that compulsion may be by means of an economic lever, such as taxation, or by ordinances compelling labour to flow into a channel in which it would be unwilling to flow if it were not compelled.

Every year the world's demand for these staple products of the Tropics increases. I will not burden your Lordships with many figures, but I may mention that the annual requirement of rubber is 450,000 tons and of sugar to the value of £200,000,000. The British Isles alone require 1,600,000,000 lbs. of cotton annually. There is no prospect of any reduction in these demands, and production must consequently go up. We must look forward, not to a decrease, but to an increase of tropical labour, and we must consider how that increase can be brought about. There are, I take it, two methods—one the plantation method, and the other the peasant cultivator method. I do not say that peasant cultivation can immediately and totally, or even to a great extent, supplant the plantation labour now existing, and yet plantation labour contains possibilities of grave evils which can be, and obviously are, completely avoided by the method of peasant labour.

You must recruit labour for your plantation either by economic or, worse still, by political compulsion, or — a method even worse than either—by recruiting in other countries by means of ignorant and often harsh administrators in those countries. I am not going to give any examples—perhaps it would be unwise to do so—but it must he in the minds of all of us that there are occasions when grave criticism can be brought to hear against those who are responsible for the administration of recruiting ordinances, not under the British flag but in territories outside the British Empire. Those ordinances may be operated in the most harsh and cruel fashion. It is true that they may also be operated with fairness and kindness, but there is always a danger that the operation of the recruiting agency may be in the direction of thinly-veiled slavery or even of complete compulsion.

It may be said by those who defend the plantation system that you cannot get coloured labour to work unless you apply that element of compulsion, and that the coloured labourer is such that he is content with a few bananas a day and with a rag of cotton to tie round his loins. In other words, it is said that he has no economic incentive to labour but requires only enough to keep body and soul together. I do not think that this is a complete statement of the case. I do not believe that the black man's nature is so dissimilar from that of the white man that he will not rise in the economic scale if sufficient inducements are held out to him. It is true that no man is prepared to work for the benefit of another unless adequate compensation is coming his way. It may be true that you have to educate labour to a higher scale of living, as we have done in this country. In the last hundred years the scale of living of our working classes has risen materially and substantially by means of education, not by means of compulsion. We have not compelled men to work in order that they might raise their standard of living. They have done so because they have seen the advantages that are derived from that raising of the standard of living. In the same way I believe that you will find, and, indeed, can find at the present moment, that there are indications that black labour, like white labour, can be educated to a higher standard of living.

I should like to give a couple of examples of what can be done in the way of introducing greater production, not by means of compulsion but by giving to the labourers themselves the produce of their labour. On the Gold Coast, which has now become, I will not say the rival but the leader of those two islands of Principé and Sao Thome in cocoa production, this production is carried on wholly through the medium of peasant proprietors. In 1891 the Gold Coast produced 80 lbs. of cocoa; in 1924 it produced 500,000,000 lbs., with a value of £8,000,000. No one can say that the Gold Coast has been compelled to produce that cocoa except by that inducement which is the strongest in the world—namely, a desire to increase economic freedom and economic range. The production in the Gold Coast has not been brought about by Government ordinances, by labour compulsion or even by heavier taxation, but because the people of the Gold Coast have discovered that it pays them to produce. They live a better, a freer and a happier life by being producers. The result has been that the daily cup of cocoa of the people of this country has been produced more cheaply and—a thing that is worth having—more happily under a free system of production. It is therefore possible to point to the fact that it is not necessary to have the quasi-servile conditions which are almost inseparable from plantation production.

The same is true in Trinidad, where a plantation of the Waterloo estate abandoned the plantation system and introduced peasant cultivation, with the effect that the production of sugar cane rose from 3,500 tons a year to 15,000 tons a year. Uganda provides an even more striking case. In 1900, less than twenty-five years ago, Uganda produced no cotton whatever. In 1913, the year before the war, it produced 45,000 bales of a value of £351,000. In 1922 it produced £2,027,000 worth of cotton. In 1913 the acreage under cotton was 118,000 acres. In 1924 the acreage was 565,000 acres. The bales produced were 200,000 against 45,000 in 1913, and the value had increased ten-fold—namely, £3,500,000 against £351,000 in 1913, all under peasant proprietorship. I think we should consider these facts, however great may be the urgings of interested parties who say that the black man will not work except under compulsion. No man will work except under some form of compulsion. It may come from himself, and not from external sources. He should be compelled to work by his desire to improve his economic condition, and not merely in order to swell the exports of a comparatively small class of persons—namely, the white planters in the settlements.

I do not know whether I have departed too far from the subject of debate, but I trust I have not. I trust I shall be given freedom to raise these rather wider aspects, and if I may do so I would urge that as it always has been the business of this country to be in the van of progress, it is the business of this country to set the example of encouraging these most happy and fortunate experiments in the creation of wealth in our tropic Dependencies. It is not for us to sit back and say that what has been done in the past is good enough. It is not for us to say that these black men are lazy dogs and are not prepared to work unless they are driven to do so. It is for us to try every experiment we can to increase the prosperity of the world at large, and to make life, not merely for the white man but for the black man, brighter, better and wider—a life with more interest in it. And because I believe that these experi- ments—they are more than experiments—these experiences in production, without the rather unpleasant sort of compulsion which follows plantation labour have shown themselves to be successful, I think we ought in every way possible to enlarge and increase them. We should, I think, give the experience that we have to the League of Nations' Committee dealing with this subject, and let them know that we support, as far as possible, the abolition of any form of compulsion of a political nature, and look to the compulsion that comes from within to bring about a better state of things.


My Lords, I am sure that we all desire to congratulate the noble Lord who has just spoken on what I believe is his first speech in your Lordships' House, but at the same time I am bound to say that I think the topics to which he has referred, though immensely interesting in themselves—and personally I think I am in entire agreement with much that he has said—are only remotely connected with the Question asked of the Government as regards slavery by the noble Earl. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will not think that I treat his speech with any discourtesy, if I suggest to him that the topics he has raised, particularly with regard to indentured labour and what he called labour under compulsion, are topics which may well be considered by themselves, apart from the important matters directly concerned in the Question of Lord Buxton.

I want to say at the outset, in reference to the Question of Lord Buxton, that I entirely agree with him, and I hope that I shall be able to state quite frankly and freely the reasons why I do so. I want to go further. I believe that on the matter of publicity, when properly understood, all Parties have the same view, so for as I know, upon the question involved in the matter now brought before the House by the noble Earl; and I say this because, as I shall have to point out, I hope quite shortly, I think his attack upon the Labour Government in this matter is ill-founded in itself, and I think also it is regrettable that upon a question of this sort he should even suggest that, in our main views and ideas, there is any difference whatever between any Governments or between any parts of this House or of the House of Commons.

Just one word on the general question. It is surely unnecessary to emphasise not only the historic attitude which this country has taken on the question of slavery, but the fact that its position is the same now as it has always been in the past. The first great historic instance, as regards the destruction of slavery in the civilised world, was really the great judgment of a member of your Lordships' House, Lord Mansfield, when, in granting a habeas corpus in the case of a slave who had escaped from a ship at Liverpool, he laid it down as a wide, general principle that the whale question of slavery was inconsistent with any advanced idea of Christian humanity; and if I may add one authority to the authorities to which Lord Mayo referred, I think, if any one wants further confirmation on the matter, he may find it in the well-known Journal of John Woolman, which led so directly to the abolition of slavery in the Southern States of America.

On this question I think the fullest possible publicity ought to be given, subject only to what I may call this necessary limitation, that you must not, by extending publicity in certain directions, destroy, and destroy for all purposes, the sources of your information. In the same way this House has laid down, in a judicial decision, that whereas publicity is an essential condition of all true justice you must not press it to the extent of destroying justice itself. I recollect answering Lord Beauchamp in this House upon the same point as that with reference to which the answer of Mr. Ponsonby was called attention to by Lord Buxton. I do not think there is the slightest intention to refuse publicity, at all events on the part of the Labour Government, but I say that there are matters which you cannot disclose on inquiries of this nature without really stopping the sources of information, which you want to keep open in order that information may continue to be obtained.

The particular point is one very much in question. It is disclosing the names of those who have given the information, or disclosing the information in such a way that, although they are not given, the names can obviously be ascertained from the information given. Subject to those limitations—which I think must always apply in cases of this kind, and which do not raise any distinction between common sense and diplomatic action—so far as I have read, and I have read all through the various discussions in either House upon this topic, the general principle that I have ascertained and that I believe is true, is that every Government, when asked to give the information in a form which would not injure the sources from which it was derived, has been willing to give it.

I will refer now to the next point introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Buxton. I must say that the information which he gave—I do not know where he obtained it from—is not in accordance with the information which has come to me. I think it was on March 14 of last year, the first time that I attended a meeting of the Council of the League, that we instituted what was called the Temporary Slavery Commission in order to deal with certain matters to which I desire to call attention a little more in detail presently. On that occasion I never heard these allegations against my country. I never heard it suggested that we were standing in the background, that we were losing our pioneer position, and that in Great Britain, to-day, there was less desire to put an end to all forms of slavery than there was in the historic days of the past.

In addition to that, I was present when the discussion in the Fifth Assembly took place on the question of slavery. I do not know whether the noble Earl was there. The matter was brought forward by a great protagonist on these questions, Dr. Nansen. The work and report of the Temporary Slavery Commission was referred to, and a resolution was passed adopting with full approval what that Commission had done, and there was not one word during that debate, at any rate that I heard—and I have read the debate since—casting this allegation upon the honour of Great Britain. For I believe it to be a very serious allegation to say that we are not still in the forefront—as I believe we are—in pushing forward in every way the attempts to abolish the whole system of slavery, wherever it is found. These are the words which the Assembly passed in accepting the work done by the Temporary Slavery Commission:— The Assembly, relying completely on the wisdom and tact of this Commission to carry out a delicate and difficult inquiry entrusted to it"— no doubt it is a delicate and difficult inquiry— approves the programme and methods of work set forth in the Commission's report. The Assembly thereby gave its complete approval to the work that the Commission had done up to that point. Beyond that date personally I cannot give information. I do not know whether the noble Viscount (Lord Cecil of Chelwood) can carry the matter further, but at that date any direct connection which I had with the League of Nations came to an end.

Let us see what Great Britain really did. I was acting then as the Delegate from Great Britain and as the accredited representative of this country. On March 14 the Council instituted, I think on our initiative, though I have not got the actual facts before me, the Temporary Slavery Commission. It was a Commission very carefully composed. It has already been stated that it had representatives upon it of various countries. It consisted of eight members, and really was of a most representative character. But what, perhaps, is notable from the point of view of Great Britain—a fact to which, I think, attention ought to be called—is that we thought ourselves extremely fortunate in obtaining as our representative a person of such experience and knowledge as Sir Frederick Lugard. That really was a factor of very great importance in order to enable a Commission of this kind to make a report of real value. When Sir Frederick Lugard was appointed to this Commission he was universally asked to act as Chairman. He could not act as Chairman, and great regret was expressed, but he has remained on the Commission, and I want to state in a moment one of the conditions which has been applied, at any rate when I knew what was being done by the Government, and I do not. believe it has been altered since.

There is a difficulty as regards certain information, but I will not go back into that point. I desire myself to have the fullest publicity possible. I want there to be no mistake on that head. But there are certain matters which, at any rate in the view of persons of great experience, could not be made completely public without considerable risk and danger. Therefore, the arrangement made was this—I do not think it was a bad arrange- ment; I think it w as a good arrangement—that Sir Frederick Lugard should have every item of information that was under the control of the Government of this country; nothing of any sort was to be withheld from him; and it was left to his discretion, a discretion which could be thoroughly trusted, how far, as regards certain matters of detail, he thought it would be wise to go further, than to state the facts as he had obtained them. No one would doubt for a moment that Sir Frederick Lugard's statement of facts would be absolutely reliable. The only question was whether, if he was asked the source from which some of this information was obtained, it would be wise for him to disclose it. That was left absolutely in Sir Frederick Lugard's own discretion, and I do not think it could be left in a better discretion or in the hands of an abler administrator.

Let us see what this Committee did. It met early in July, because it desired to get its report ready for the Fifth Assembly. It discussed two very important matters. One was whether it had obtained sufficient information front the Governments, or whether it would have an additional questionnaire. It decided that it was not necessary, and that it would be likely to cause trouble to ask from the Governments for an additional questionnaire, having regard to the information which it had already obtained. The second question which arose in this delicate and difficult inquiry was whether information should be sought from organisations and individuals which had not been designated by any Government or State, and which were not connected with any Government or State. I think it was rightly held that they ought to get that information so far as they could. These were the three methods of procedure of the Commission indicated in the report which they issued: First, that the Commission would consult with organisations and individuals which might have been, or might be, designated by the States; secondly, in the case of communications otherwise received, the Commission would ask the Government concerned whether it considered the organisations or individuals competent and reliable. Surely that is a precaution which any one would seek to take in conducting an inquiry of this kind. Thirdly, it was decided that all communications so received would be forwarded to the Government under whose administration the facts alluded to were alleged to have taken place.

I have gone into these matters at this length merely for this purpose. It was suggested in asking for an inquiry of this kind, a request which I fully desire to endorse, that criticism was levelled at the action of the League in not being sufficiently forward in this matter, and also at the action of Great Britain, which was alleged to have lost its pioneer position, and also as regards the answers on publicity which the Labour Government had given. I deprecate this constant reference on a great question of this kind to what appears to me to be a feeble criticism of a particular type. Let me take a much more generous attitude. This matter began with Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland, who is now a Minister of the present Conservative Government. When he brought the subject forward, he did so not as representing, this country but New Zealand. From that time to this it has been pushed forward and progress has been made. The last information I have is that it was hoped that within a short time the final report might be ready and that final report, of course, would be published. In addition, I see nothing in the request of the noble Earl that could not be granted, and I agree with him that one should appeal not only to those who are conducting the inquiry but to the conscience of mankind in regard to a great crime of this character; because I regard slavery as a great crime against Christian humanity.


My Lords, I must begin by explaining to my noble friend Lord Buxton how it is that I am replying and not the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, on a matter which is one which evidently affects the Foreign Office generally and also affects that office in dealing with League of Nations matters. By arrangement with my noble friend Lord Balfour and the other members of the Government, I have been asked to reply on League of Nations matters, and, as my noble friend was unable to be present this afternoon, he asked me to deal with the matter generally.


Certainly; I have not the least objection.


So far as I am able to do it I propose to do so. I need not say that the Government have no kind of complaint to bring either against the substance or the form of this debate. We have, indeed, every reason to be grateful to the noble Earl and to those who have followed him for the very conciliatory and, if I may say so, statesmanlike way in which they have dealt with this subject. May I say at the outset how heartily and how deeply I agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, said about the great loss that we have suffered on the present occasion, as on so many others, in the lamented death of Lord Curzon? Everything he said about the attitude of Lord Curzon in regard to this question was more than justified, and on re-reading, as I happen to have done, what Lord Curzon said nearly two years ago on this very subject, I could not help being bitterly reminded of the loss the country and this House have sustained.

I want to say in that connection in the most emphatic language at my command that the attitude of the Government remains precisely what it was described to be by Lord Curzon on that occasion. We recognise to the full our duty in this matter. We are anxious to carry forward to the utmost of our power the suppression of slavery in general, and in particular of the slave trade, and I trust this Government will not be found wanting in any way in carrying that duty forward in the most energetic possible fashion. Undoubtedly, as Lord Buxton pointed out, the situation has been modified by the fact that the League of Nations has undertaken this inquiry into, and discussion of, the subject. I agree very much with what Lord Olivier said that though it does not mean that we must relax our efforts in any way—




—and it is still our duty to do our utmost to suppress slavery, yet it is right that we should recognise that we are acting as far as possible through and with the League of Nations, and that we should not put ourselves forward as in any way different from, or superior to, other mem- bers of the League who have agreed to co-operate with us in this great work. It is not only that. As Lord Parmoor is well aware, one of the great advantages of the League is that it works with complete, or almost complete, publicity and, particularly, any question that is to be brought before the Assembly has a guarantee of publicity which is as full as can possibly be given. Therefore, the fact that we are asking that of the League ought to put an end to any suspicion that we desire to conceal or to hide anything that we are doing. As I shall show your Lordships in a moment, we are only too anxious that the League should have all the information in our possession to enable them to carry out their duty, and I feel confident that when this matter comes up, as it will come up at the next Assembly, the desire of noble Lords opposite that the whole matter shall be fully and properly threshed out will be more than gratified.

Let me add that in the debate, to which I have already referred, in the summer of 1923, the then Government, as your Lordships have been told, promised to obtain further information. Of course, they have obtained all the information they can obtain, and they have no desire whatever that the facts and the statements in the information they have thus received should be concealed from the public. But there is a certain delicacy to be observed in this matter. Abyssinia has become a Member of the League of Nations. When she became a Member of the League of Nations, as I think Lord Olivier or another of your Lordships reminded the House, she was asked her attitude as to slavery and she gave certain assurances on the subject. It is only right and proper, therefore, that in the first instance the League should look to Abyssinia for information on this subject.

It is a matter that must be carefully weighed and considered whether Abyssinia might not justly feel that if we were to rush in and give to the world information on this subject—a subject which she claims to be a domestic one—until at any rate the League had had an opportunity of hearing what she has to say on the subject, that would not be a very friendly or courteous action with regard to herself. We have no desire whatever that the matter should be concealed, and I am confident that all our information will ultimately be made public. But I must ask your Lordships to consider carefully what is the proper method of publication and whether the steps we have taken, which I shall describe in a moment, are not really the proper means by which to attain the object which we all have at heart.

There is the other point—a point to which Lord Parmoor referred—that in making public the information we have received we must evidently take great care not to close the source of the information which we possess, and that therefore anything like the publication of a Despatch in full would be a hazardous proceeding, because it would lead to identification of whence it came and that would make it very much more difficult for us to obtain the information we have hitherto obtained from that source. Here too, I think, we must exercise caution and care if we are not really to defeat the very object which the House and the Government have in view. At the same time, I am authorised to say that if, after considering the information which will be laid before the Slavery Commission, the Council of the League express to us any desire that further or more complete in formation, or information in any different form, should be given to the League, any request of that kind will receive the most sympathetic consideration on the part of His Majesty's Government.

What then have the Government actually done? I need not describe, because Lord Parmoor has already done so, the appointment of the League Commission on slavery; nor need I say that I heartily agree with the expression of confidence in Sir Frederick Lugard which Lord Parmoor uttered. I think, indeed, it would be quite impossible to find a more adequate or a more thoroughly satisfactory representative on that Commission from this country, or from any other country. What the Government have felt is that, having this very highly qualified gentleman to represent us on this Commission, the proper course was to give him the fullest information that we have, and I am informed that every scrap of information in the possession of the Government has been given to Sir Frederick Lugard, to be used by him at his discretion, for the proposes of this Commission. That I venture to submit to your Lordships is the proper course for the Government to have taken. They have found this highly-qualified gentleman to represent this country on this Commission, and, having found him, the right thing is to trust him completely, and to give him the fullest information on the subject.

The question of slavery will be, indeed already is, I believe, on the Agenda of the Assembly which will meet in September. It will, therefore, come before the Assembly automatically. The Commission will, no doubt, report to the Assembly; they will state their conclusions, and, so far as they think it ought to be made public, state the evidence on which they have arrived at their conclusions. As the noble Lord opposite knows, that report will be the subject of investigation first by the Committee of the Assembly, which will sit in public. It will be thrashed out in public before that Committee, it will then come back to the Assembly itself, and will be there debated again in the Assembly, and all the documents that are used either in the Committee or in the Assembly will be published. I do not think it is possible to devise any instrument of publicity more complete or more satisfactory than that. The Commission is at this moment, believe, actually in session, but if it is not in session it is shortly to be in session. I think that is the best way in which the Government can leave this matter.

I would not like the House to think that in reference to other matters referred to in the Question on the Paper, the Government have taken no action. For instance, something has been said about the representations to other countries. Representations have been made about slavery not only to Abyssinia, but to the Hejaz and also to Liberia. I trust those representations will have produced their effect. They have been met in each case by a reply that the Governments concerned are very glad to receive any observations we have to make on the subject, but that they regard the question of domestic slavery as a matter of their own internal affairs, and intimating to us that they are quite capable of dealing with it. However, we have done our best as far as that is concerned.

As to the question of raids I am a little surprised. I know the noble Lord would not have said what he did say about them without having some very important in- formation to back up what he said, but as far as I can learn there have been no slave raids. I think he mentioned Kenya. Kenya is under the direct control of the British Government, and I am informed there have been no raids there.


No raids since when?


I could not tell the noble Earl exactly the date. I have not the dates in my mind, but I imagine that in the last year or so there have been no such raids. But after what the noble Earl has said, I need not add that I shall make it my business to inquire further, and see whether by some accident there has been a mistake. Certainly the information that I have is very precise and definite, and it conveys to me that no such raids have taken place.

That is really all I have to say on this subject. I desire to repeat once again, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, that they have no desire to practise a policy of secrecy in this matter. They are anxious for publicity, but they are anxious for it under such condition as will really serve the end we all have in view, and they have taken the steps which they think most desirable for that purpose. I desire to assert in the strongest possible way that this Government are prepared to carry on the historical policy of this country with regard to slavery, a policy which, I like to remember, is associated with a great member of the Tory Party, Mr. Wilberforce, and, therefore, a policy which I have every possible reason, both as a member of the Government and as an Englishman, to support and promote to the utmost of my power. I venture to ask whether, in these circumstances, the noble Earl will think it necessary to press his Motion.


My Lords, I do not desire to detain your Lordships for more than a moment, but I should not like this debate to close without my taking the opportunity of saying how thankful I am that the air of mystery which has surrounded this matter for two or three years should have been to a great extent rolled away by the speech of the noble Viscount who has just addressed us. No one, I think, could note what has passed during the last three years on this subject in both Houses of Parliament without feeling that there has been a sort of mystery about it. That mystery did not appear to me to be necessary, nor, from what the noble Viscount has said to-night, can I see now that it was then necessary. The facts do not seem to have really changed.

I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, if he refreshes his memory by looking at the words which were used by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs when information was refused last year, will see that they were very much more abrupt, very much less explanatory and very much more peremptory and curt than the words of the noble Viscount, being to the effect that it was not in the public interest that this information should be given, and that kind of thing. There is a very great contrast between that and the speech of the noble Viscount, which has given enormous relief to those of us who have long been interested in this subject. I shall be very much interested to hear the result of the further inquiry which the noble Viscount proposes to make with regard to the question of raids into what is British territory, or what, at least, is under the British Protectorate. The rumours—I cannot say that I am prepared to verify them—that have come to me have been from quite different sources, from sources not specially connected with Abyssinia at all, but with other countries, saying that one of the difficulties has been that these raids have taken place. How long ago it is since they stopped, what the exact date is, I am not able to say, but I am glad to know that the matter is likely to be elucidated and the raids brought to an end.

I do not think anything can be more satisfactory than what the noble Viscount has told us about the trust that is reposed in Sir Frederick Lugard, who I should put in the very forefront of the people to be trusted in a matter of this kind. I am glad to know that he is to be furnished with every possible information, and to be able to act as he thinks best in the use of that information in conjunction with the other members of the League of Nations. It is undoubtedly, as more than one speaker has said, a very real gain that our action in this matter should be not isolated but should be part of something larger, and that the League of Nations, representative of various nations, should be showing and declaring their interest in this great and far-reaching matter. I believe that the inquiries which have been made since the League of Nations that set its hand to this task have given cause to a great deal of uneasiness.

Uneasiness has also been caused to some of us by the admirably clear declaration, or letter, published by the Maharajah of Nepal. Nothing could be more to his credit. It is not merely that he has shown a great desire to bring slavery to an end, but that he is doing it at an enormous sacrifice. He is giving something like £300,000 of his own money towards the compensation fund to those whose slaves are being set free, and altogether his action in the matter seems to me to be beyond praise. But is it not to most people, to most of your Lordships, a matter of undoubted surprise to learn that in an enormous territory like Nepal, extending along our own frontier for many miles, constantly in touch with us, slavery should be so universal and of such a character as the letter of the Maharajah shows it to be? As he describes it, there were more slaves than free people in Nepal; slavery appears to have been of the widest extent in the dominions over which he rules. It is a revelation to some of us that this state of things could have gone on until now in a country whose frontier borders our own, under a ruler who has been acting with us, and in a country over which we exercise some control as regards foreign affairs but, of course, no control as regards internal affairs. As I say, this is a fact which causes us some uneasiness as to what may be happening elsewhere.

The revelations about China and the degree and character of Chinese slavery were to me startling in the highest degree. I had occasion to talk over the matter with an eminent Chinaman who is in this country. I drew a very dark picture of what China appeared to be. It appeared so dark to me that I hardly liked to put it to him as being true, but he said it was not nearly dark enough. I spoke of Western China, where slavery is rife, but said that it was impossible to buy slaves at this moment in the great cities in the East. He said: "Oh, yes, it is. I could buy them in half an hour. There is not the slightest difficulty in buying girls; I could buy them anywhere." In Hong Kong the position is different, but I am told that in Shanghai, even with its European zones of influence, slavery is still rife.

It is high time that the League of Nations was at work. It is very surprising to many of us, who imagined that the slave trade in its more active forms was dead, to find it existing in the less known parts of the countries with which we have to deal. The inquiries which are now going on, on behalf of the League of Nations, will be stimulated by the discussion in your Lordships' House to-night and by the expression of opinion that we adhere with all our might to the principles for which we have always stood and with which the name of the noble Earl is so closely connected. It will give to our debate an importance which will cause it to be read outside, and I feel that such a discussion will tend to bring to an end an evil which seems to be rather wider than we imagined.


My Lords, I am sorry, at the termination of this debate, to have to strike a somewhat discordant note, but I feel very strongly on the question of slavery in British Possessions. Years ago, when Sir Frederick Lugard was identified with East Africa, I used to go to him for information in regard to the extent of slavery, its abuses, and the steps that should be taken in order to remedy it. He always gave me the information he possessed whole-heartedly and fully. I used it in Parliament, and through the information he gave me we were instrumental in abolishing slavery in certain areas on the east coast, especially in Mombassa and the islands on the coast. To-day it is impossible for me to go to Sir Frederick Lugard. He possesses information which is denied to us in this House. It was denied to us last year by Mr. Ponsonby, who represented the Foreign Office. He said that the object of putting down slavery would not be promoted by the divulgence of information in the possession of the Foreign Office; indeed, that it would be an embarrassment. That was his word—an "embarrassment."

Personally, I think nothing but good can come out of the publication of in- formation which we have every right to demand from the Government. We know that our areas have been raided. It has been reported that they have been raided as many as 85 times, to the knowledge of certain of our officials, during the last ten years. I do not say there have been any recent raids in Kenya; I have no knowledge of them. But these raids have taken place and we have no information, beyond that which noble Lords who have visited these areas give us, of raids on British soil in which British subjects are taken into slavery across the Red Sea and reach Mesopotamia through Arabia. This is all very horrible to me, and I do not understand why the Government should hesitate to divulge the information in regard to these raids.


It is not that we hesitate, but that we have no information in regard to recent raids.


It is surprising that the Government have no information such as has been collected by the Earl of Mayo and Lord Raglan. A brother of mine for many years went out to the Sudan. He used to tell me of exactly similar raids, which are apparently still being repeated. I am told that the Treasury have redeemed a certain number of the people that were not long ago taken into slavery. We are given no information in regard to the amount of money, our money, that has been spent in redeeming these Indian or British subjects who were taken into slavery. It is astonishing that information has not been procured after nearly two years' patience on our part. The late Lord Curzon of Kedleston, two years ago, promised us that he would make adequate inquiries, and he gave us the impression that as soon as he had the adequate information it would be published. Any information the Government Possesses, if it was published, would help the position very much in the League of Nations whenever this matter is discussed.

It has been said that Abyssinia might be affected by such information. I do not see why the Government should hesitate to give the information in advance to the League of Nations. It would help sentiment not only in this country but in other countries, and apply a necessary pressure in order to secure that the terms upon which Abyssinia came into the League of Nations should be observed. I do not want to trouble your Lordships by reading the conditions under which Abyssinia consented to come into the League of Nations, but it was very obvious that the League was prepared to be influenced by information which could be procured. It will be sufficient if I read Clause 3 of the arrangement entered into:— Abyssinia declares herself ready now and hereafter to furnish the Council with any information which it may require, and to take into consideration any recommendations which the Council may make, with regard to the fulfilment of these obligations, in which she recognises that the League of Nations is concerned. I see no reason why this information should not be published.

I am not suggesting the advisability of inserting all the names, although I do not feel very much inclined to be what I may call mealy-mouthed about individuals who commit raids and cruelties against British subjects, but I do feel that it would strengthen the position enormously if the Government would come out into the open and tell us a lot of things which they know. We do not know the number of raids in connection with ivory which have taken place on many occasions. Raids are made ostensibly to obtain ivory which ate really connected with the abduction of human beings. A great number of British officers have suffered casualties in their efforts to put down these raids, but we have no information with regard to British casualties, nor with regard to the number of Abyssinians who may have been shot whilst in British territory for raiding purposes. Further, as I have said, we have no knowledge of the amounts which have been provided or of the number of slaves who have been liberated. This is the information which I think would have helped public opinion in this country to place proper pressure upon the League of Nations.

I realise fully all that the noble Viscount, who spoke on behalf of the Government, has done for the League of Nations. I accept fully his assurance that he will see that no effort shall be relaxed in connection with putting down slavery and that the matter may be raised subsequently after it has been, as he said thoroughly threshed out in the League of Nations. At the same time, I desire emphatically to enter my protest that greater publicity cannot be given to the information which is at present in the hands of the Government, because I believe that nothing but good would come from its publication.


My Lords, I was glad to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, because, as I understood him, he agreed with the view that I ventured to express in my opening speech that the Government ought to give to such information as they have full publicity, subject, of course, to certain possible excisions safeguarding individual interests or even the persons of those who might have given evidence.


Hear, hear! May I say one word to prevent misconception? I think that this was what was said by Mr. Ponsonby. I think that he intended that, in the remarks to which reference has been made. I entirely agree with that which the noble Earl has said.


As a matter of fact, if my noble friend will look at the report of Mr. Ponsonby's answer, which I have here, he will see that it was an absolute refusal, without any qualification, to give the information. He mentioned that it might possibly injure individuals, but he did not say, as I gather that my noble friend now claims—and I venture to put this before your Lordships—that, subject to care that no individual person should be injured, there ought to be full publication. Possibly this was due to some unfortunate misunderstanding, but at any rate Mr. Ponsonby's reply was an absolute refusal to give any information—a refusal without qualification. There is another point in connection with the matter upon which I should like to ask for an answer on behalf of the Government. Lord Parmoor referred to the fact that Sir Frederick Lugard is, in fact, the British representative, though not directly an official representative, on this Commission. All those who know Sir Frederick Lugard will agree that nobody could have been chosen who would carry greater weight or possess greater knowledge.


I think that upon this Commission he is our representative. The name was suggested by us, and we thought that he should go upon the Commission as our representative.


He is the representative, but not exactly in the same sense as the members of the Assembly are representatives. He is not a member in that sense, but he is, it seems, an official representative. I am glad that my noble friend acknowledges that, because it is the point that I want to make. When this Commission met last July and the question of information was before them, Sir Frederick Lugard, speaking on behalf of the Government in his official capacity, mentioned that he had a considerable amount of information—I think my noble friend opposite said every scrap of information—before him, but unfortunately he told the Commission that he could not give it to them, or that he must withhold part of it, because it was confidential. That is just the position that I desire to change. The British representative on this Commission, or elsewhere, should not treat this kind of information as confidential but should put the whole of it at the disposal of the League of Nations, subject to the qualifications mentioned just now. There should be no concealment and no withdrawal of such information from the purview of the League of Nations.

I confess that I was rather surprised at one thing that my noble friend who spoke on behalf of the Government said. I ventured to say that there had been a great many more of these raids than the public were aware of. He rather dissented from that and said, speaking, I suppose, on behalf of the Foreign Office, that he was not aware that there had been any raids of late. I would draw his attention to the fact, which I had in my mind, that as late as last September, in the Assembly at Kenya, the Colonial Secretary, speaking on behalf of the Kenya Government in reply, I believe, to Lord Delamere, is reported to have said that he understood that representations had been made in regard to raids, and full details were sent to the Colonial Office. He added that since that time he had had a further Despatch dealing with further incursions into Kenya.


Were these slavery raids? They may have been raids for other purposes. I do not know. My information is as to slavery alone.


The people who are going to make raids do not send leaflets ahead to say whether they are coming for slaves alone. When they go after ivory they do not, as a rule, go back without some black ivory. All these raids, so far as my information goes, result in a certain number of British subjects going into slavery, and I do not think, if he will allow me to say so, that the noble Viscount ought to distinguish, or to try to distinguish, between raids which are solely for slaves and raids in which the slavery motive is covered up by other pretexts.

I fully approve, if the noble Viscount will allow me to say so, of the spirit in which he has been good enough to meet my Question and my Motion for Papers. I do not for a moment intend to divide the House after his speech, but, with my noble friend who sits beside me, I do rather regret that we are not to have now, as I hope that we may have in the future, the opportunity which is surely due to the British public and Parliament, to see this information in the form of a White Paper. The noble Viscount says that every scrap of it will be before the League of Nations, but we here, who, after all, are the persons primarily interested in questions concerning British territory, are not to have that information, although it has gone to the League of Nations.

I know that my noble friend is very much interested in the League of Nations. He thinks that there is "nothing like leather" and that the League of Nations—and here I agree—is the great authority on these matters. But surely, if information is to go to the League of Nations, we over here are equally entitled to have it placed before Parliament, and, if there is any delicate question such as those to which he referred, it is equally delicate to communicate to the League of Nations information concerning matters affecting ourselves. I do not wish to try to press him now, but I would ask him to consider when he has an opportunity of looking into the question a little further, whether, in addition to presenting full information to the League of Nations, he could not see his way to let us have the information here, so that what I can only call sonic considerable uneasiness among those interested in the matter may be allayed, and that We may at any rate know what has happened and be in a position to discuss and consider this matter with fuller information than we have at present. I thank the noble Viscount for his speech, and I will withdraw my Motion.


I will certainly convey that to the Secretary of State.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.