HC Deb 04 August 1899 vol 75 cc1510-31

19. "That a sum, not exceeding £277,335, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900, for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad, and of the Consular Establishments Abroad and other Expenditure chargeable on the Consular Vote."

Resolutions agreed to.

20. "That a sum, not exceeding £154,463, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900, for Grants in Aid of the Expenses of the British Protectorates in Uganda and in Central and East Africa, and under The Uganda Railway Act,1896."

* SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

I gave notice to move in Committee of Supply a reduction upon two particular items in this Vote: Item (a) in respect to Uganda, which includes the Martyr Expedition, and Item (c) in respect to British East Africa, which includes the Juba Expedition. I propose to take the two together at this present stage of Report, and to move a reduction of £200. I shall be very brief, in accordance with the general desire that we have to discuss as many as possible of the Votes to-day which were not discussed yesterday or previously. We have a certain difficulty in discussing this Vote in the absence of the Under Secretary, because the few words we wish to say are chiefly on points as to which he has full information, which is probably not in the possession of other members of the Government. But I have no doubt he will be here directly. The Martyr Expedition, which is provided for in this Vote, is an expedition which was despatched from Uganda down the Nile, in the direction of Fashoda, to put it generally. It has continued, and is still upon the Nile at the present time, and it has followed the course of the Nile, and not left it for any considerable distance. The Martyr Expedition found the Congolese forces on the Congo side of the Nile, outside that district to which it was supposed they were confined. The Congolese, by an arrangement with this country, received two leases of territory which we claimed as being a portion of the British sphere of influence, which has since been called the Anglo-Egyptian sphere of influence upon the Nile. One lease dealt with a strip of land along the Nile bank, and the other lease concerned the whole of the territory at the back of that strip, and is generally called the Bahr-el-Ghazal country. The two leases together covered the whole, or nearly the whole, of the Egyptian province of Bahr-el-Ghazal. These leases were denounced by France, acting in concurrence with Germany, Germany not being herself concerned in these particular leases, and the result of the action of France and Germany was that the King of the Belgians renounced to France, without any negotiations with this country, the whole of one of those two leases and a half of the second. The King of the Belgians promised the French Government he would withdraw his troops and his officers from the whole of the Bahr-el-Ghazal country, and from a point about the middle of the other strip along the Nile, and he withdrew his forces into what is commonly called the Lado enclave. Our Government took no action in this matter, but left the King of the Belgians to make his own agreement with France. I have put questions twice this session to the Government with regard to what is to be the future of these territories. At one moment the Government have spoken of these territories as though they were of great potential or great future value. On two occasions recently they have told us that they cannot make any statement with regard to the future of these territories, that at present the country is too unsettled and there is too little known about it, and that it is impossible at present to make any definite statement with regard to the future. Now, Sir, the King of the Belgians or his friends in Brussels have been stating repeatedly of late that he is the inheritor of this country, that the leases are still existent, and that the whole of the Bahr-el-Ghazal territory which was at one time in dispute between the Anglo Egyptians on the one side and the French on the other will fall to him. The Government here have very carefully abstained from denying that statement. They have twice been asked about it, and they have only said that they could say nothing at present with regard to what is to be the future of this country. Now, we have at least once debated in this House the character of Congolese rule; some of us have made strong statements based upon the knowledge that is before the different geographical societies, and which is given to us by the formal documents of the Congo State itself, with regard to the nature of the rule of the Congo State. I think it may be said without the slightest fear of contradiction that the Congolese rule is the worst of the rules to which any portion of the African peoples are subject. Some of us have always attacked this policy of leases to the Congo State. I am one of those who do not believe in the value of the interior of Africa, or in the likelihood of our getting back the money we spend there, But we are there; we have incurred an immense responsibility by being there, and, being there, the worst thing we can possibly do for the territories is to hand them over to the Congo State. Therefore the reduction which I have moved with regard to the expenditure on the Martyr Expedition is intended to elicit from the Government some statement as to what is to be the future of these territories, as to whether the King of the Belgians is right in stating that these leases to him still continue and that he is to be the ruler of the whole of the Bahr-el-Ghazal territory. In the absence of the Under Secretary we shall not be able, I suppose, to get any assurances from the Government, and it is a little difficult to debate the matter at all in his absence. The only other remark I will make upon item (a) is that the cost of the Uganda Protectorate is very great, in spite of a distinct statement to this House at the time that Protectorate was entered upon that the cost to this country would not exceed £50,000 a year. When we are asked to engage upon other operations of a similar kind, and when we are told that the cost of those operations will be very small, and when we get Bills like the Bill we were debating a few days ago and are told that the net cost of certain operations will be but a very small sum, it is interesting to remember how enormous the expenditure on Uganda has been against the definite statement that the total expenditure would not exceed £50,000 a year. With regard to the reduction on the other item I have named—item (c)—that concerns the Juba Expedition. I have never known any case in the whole course of my experience of this House where the House has been so completely misled by a Government as in the case of the Juba Expedition. When that expedition was first sent out the very name of it suggested that it was an expedition in the direction of the River Juba, a river the first 200 miles of which have been frequently traversed by small British men-of-war, and the upper course of which have been followed by three distinguished British travellers, and which is as well known as any of the African rivers. The object of the expedition, however, was explained to us in a Blue Book, and there was a curious phrase in that Blue Book which went to show that its real object was to anticipate the French at Fashoda. It is now admitted by the Prime Minister that that was the case, that the expedition never was intended to go anywhere in the direction of the Juba, and that it was intended to go in the direction I have specified. Colonel Macdonald, the head of the expedition, has recently read a paper before the Geographical Society, and has given a full and complete account of the expedition. [At this point the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs entered the House.] I am glad to see the Under Secretary now in his place. I was just saying that the House had been entirely misled originally with regard to the Juba Expedition, and that the extent to which they had been misled had been now shown by the Prime Minister's speech in another place, and by the paper which Colonel Macdonald has recently read before the Geographical Society, and the map which accompanies that paper. Of course, we know that the Juba Expedition was virtually stopped by the rising in Uganda, and that it only succeeded in reaching a point twenty miles to the north of Lake Rudolph, which had been passed by three previous travellers, and of which we had complete surveys and full information, and then it went off in another direction straight towards the Nile. There it got within about 100 miles of Lado, a point on the Nile which was occupied by Congolese forces, and about which, also, everything is known. The discoveries made by Colonel Macdonald's Expedition within 100 miles of the Nile are of some geographical interest; they add to our knowledge about the country, but they are entirely outside the scope of the operations which it was pretended this Expedition was to undertake; and instead of being in the direction of the River Juba, they are in exactly an opposite direction, as we always said they were intended to be. I merely mention that to show how absolutely the House was misled when it was asked to incur expenditure on the Juba Expedition. [The right hon. Gentleman then briefly re-stated that portion of his speech which he had delivered in the absence of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and moved the reduction of the Vote by £200.].

Amendment proposed— To leave out '£154,463,' and insert '£154,263.' "—(Sir Charles Dilke.)

Question proposed, "That '£154,463' stand part of the Resolution."


was understood to say that the right hon. Baronet asked for information as to a divergence of opinion of which he had also complained in March last, when the matter was discussed. The complaint amounted to this, that Colonel Macdonald was sent on an Expedition to Lake Rudolph, the Expedition was afterwards diverted in the direction of the Nile, but the House was not originally told that the Expedition would be sent in that direction.


We were told differently by the Government.


said the whole matter could be divided into two parts. The late Under Secretary made a statement a year and a half ago, and the right hon. Baronet now complained that it did not tally with a statement made some months afterwards. The primary object of Colonel Macdonald's Expedition was of an exploring nature, but months afterwards further possibilities undoubtedly did present themselves, and Colonel Martyr, six months after the late Under Secretary made his statement, did start with the object of going down the Nile. He had never been able to see on what the right hon. Baronet's grievance was based. His grievance was that he was not taken fully into counsel at the earliest possible moment as to what might possibly be the ultimate result of Colonel Macdonald's Expedition. But when the troops were sent to the Nile, it was announced at the earliest possible date after the meeting of Parliament, and he (the speaker) could not see that the right hon. Baronet had any serious grievance. With regard to the leases to the Congo State, they were made subject to rights of Egypt. Those rights, which were then dormant, were now revived, and obviously in any negotiations those rights would have to be considered. The right hon. Baronet had said he did not believe in the value of this territory——


I said that, personally, I had my doubts as to the value of the country. But putting that aside altogether, I say we are morally responsible for its future, and we ought not to hand it over to so bad a Government as that of the Congolese.


thought a great deal of the value must depend upon the results of the surveying which would be undertaken, but until it was known what works might at some future date be undertaken with regard to the White Nile, it was obviously impossible to make any statement on the subject. The right hon. Baronet had also said that the cost of the Uganda Protectorate ought not to exceed £50,000 a year.


No. I alluded, in passing, to the fact that £50,000 was named as the outside sum when the Uganda Protectorate was taken over. I was using that fact as showing how greatly the House is deceived by estimates of that kind.


pointed out that estimates were liable to change, but the Foreign Office were sanguine that the estimates now put before the House would be ultimately brought within narrower limits. Sir Henry Johnston, an administrator of great experience, had been sent out, and it was hoped that both civil and military administrations would be put on a basis suitable to carry on the work, and at the same time reduce the expenditure. The House must guard itself from believing that in such cases as these the exact future expenditure could be foretold, but the Estimates were very carefully prepared. With regard to the condition of the Uganda Protectorate, it was a greal deal better than it was four or five months ago. The mutiny had completely died out, and there was no doubt whatever that the work of administration would be proceeded with greater experience, and might be expected to assimilate to the work in East Africa, where revenue was coming in and the expenditure was being brought within reasonable limits.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

The hon. Gentleman reminds me of a duty which I have no intention of performing. The hon. Gentleman expects me to say something as to the railroad in Uganda, but as I cannot enter into that subject in the way I desire I will only say this. The hon. Gentleman insists that we shall be able to finish that railroad at the estimated cost. If the railroad is finished at the amount of the estimate, I will frankly admit that I am in the wrong; if it is not, then the hon. Gentleman, with that candour for which he is famed, will admit that he is wrong. We have always been told that we may anticipate that expenditure will be less in the future; the hon. Gentleman is of a somewhat sanguine mind if he thinks it will be so in this case. It will be found that Uganda does not pay its way, and the result will be that we shall gradually retire from, that country. The ultra-Jingo persons will grumble, but the Government will withdraw from places like Uganda. The Chancellor of the Exchequer usually takes sound financial views in these matters, and it will become more and more difficult to obtain money from him, and we shall retire from that country. I certainly think my right hon. friend has a grievance with regard to this Juba Expedition. The House was told that the object of the Expedition was to explore the sources of the Juba river—why, I do not know; but money having been obtained for that specific purpose, the Expedition never went near the Julia

river. The money, I believe, has been entirely thrown away. With regard to the Bahr-el-Ghazal, it is common knowledge that commercially it is entirely valueless, and my own impression is that, just as in the end we shall retire from Uganda, so in the end we shall withdraw from the Bahr-el-Ghazal. Because I believe this will be the result with these territories, I have always been against the expenditure of money on these expeditions. They do no good, and simply waste money.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 103; Noes, 47. (Division List, No. 359.)

Arnold, Alfred Doughty, George Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverp'l)
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Douglas', Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Maclure, Sir John William
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Drage, Geoffrey M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A.J. (Manch'r Drucker, A. Malcolm, Ian
Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds) Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart Milward, Colonel Victor
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edwd. Monk, Charles James
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Field, Admiral (Eastbourne) Moore, William (Antrim, N.)
Bathurst, Hon. A. Benjamin Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir. M. H. (Br'st'l) Fisher, William Hayes Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Fison, Frederick William Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)
Bethell, Commander Flower, Ernest Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Galloway, William Johnson Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Bigwood, James Gilliat, John Saunders Nicol, Donald Ninian
Bill, Charles Goldsworthy, Major-General Pierpoint, Robert
Blundell, Colonel Henry Gordon, Hon. John Edward Purvis, Robert
Boulnois, Edmund Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matt. W.
Brassey, Albert Goschen, Rt Hn G. J.(St George's Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Bullard, Sir Harry Gull, Sir Cameron Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin) Hanbury. Rt. Hon. Robert Wm Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Carlile, William Walter Howard, Joseph Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil Sharpe, William Edward T.
Chaloner. Captain R. G. W. Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm Johnston, William (Belfast) Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r Kimber, Henry Spencer, Ernest
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Knowles, Lees Stanley, Hn. A. (Ormskirk)
Charrington, Spencer Lawrence, Sir E Durning-(Corn Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool) Stone, Sir Benjamin
Coghill, Douglas Harry Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.) Tomlinson, Win. E. Murray
Colling, Rt. Hon. Jesse Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry) Valentia, Viscount
Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth) Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)
Cook, C. W. R. (Hereford) Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn- (Swans. Wyndham, George
Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Curzon, Viscount Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Davies, Sir Horatio D (Chath'm) Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)
Ambrose, Robert Donelan, Captain A. Macaleese, Daniel
Asher, Alexander Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) M'Ewan, William
Atherly-Jones, L. Gourley, Sir Edward T. Maddison, Fred
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Griffith, Ellis J Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe
Bainbridge, Emerson Harwood, George Moss, Samuel
Caldwell, James Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth) O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)
Charnning, Francis Allston Hedderwick. Thomas C. H. O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.
Crilly, Daniel Horniman, Frederick John Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)
Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal) Kearley, Hudson E Pickersgill Edward Hare
Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.) Kilbride, Denis Pirie, Duncan V.
Dalziel, James Henry Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland) Randell, David
Dillon, John Lewis, John Herbert Steadman, William Charles
Sullivan, Donal(Westmeath) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Labouchere
Trevelyan, Charles Philips Williams, John Carvell (Notts)
Wallace, Robert Wilson, Henry J. (Yorks, W. R.)
Whiteley, George (Stockport) Yoxall, James Henry

21. "That a sum, not exceeding £l,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900, for a Grant in Aid of the Revenue of the Island of Cyprus."


I desire to offer my very cordial acknowledgment to the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, for what he has done for the island of Cyprus since he came into office. I had an opportunity of visiting the island in the early part of this year, and I found in every way, both material and economic, evidence of material improvement. The roads are very much better than they used to be. Good and substantial bridges have replaced fords which formerly were almost impassable, and land drains have been made which are the means of carrying off the occasional floods which sometimes do a great deal of devastation. The great difficulty of the island has always been the droughts to which it has been subjected. On one occasion, I believe, a drought lasted for thirty years; but, happily, recently there has been great improvement owing to the afforestation which has taken place, and the droughts now are neither so great or so frequent as they used to be. One of the chief ways in which the right hon. Gentleman has served the island is by meeting the great physical difficulty of the island, which consists in the steepness of the descent to the sea from mountains very near the coast. This led to the rain water rapidly passing away, thus producing the droughts. At Famagusta a great reservoir for irrigation purposes has been constructed, and that I think will be the means of preventing the effects of drought to a large extent. As in Egypt, the result of irrigation will be to increase the productive powers of the island, and, consequently, very greatly increase the prosperity of the inhabitants. Anyone who has been in Cyprus knows the difficulty of either landing on or getting away from the island. That has to be done in an open roadstead, and frequently travellers have been detained on the island for a considerable period, owing to steamers not being able to get close in shore. An improved service of steamers has been arranged for. All goods have to be trans-shipped into lighters at considerable cost, and risk at times; but, in spite of these difficulties, there has been great growth in the shipping industry and regular communication has been established between the island and Liverpool, Hull, and other British ports. That communication is greatly stimulating the production of the island, particularly as regards the fruit of the carob tree, which is the principal ingredient in the manufacture of feeding stuffs. There has also been a considerable stimulus of the local industries of the island, owing to the general improvements that have taken place. The wine production has considerably increased. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to increase the wine duties, I wrote him a letter pointing out the effect that would have on this industry. Even, he was not aware how great was the recent growth of the wine industry of the island, both for actual consumption, and as a basis for the wines of other countries. The methods of manufacture are greatly improved, and I believe the industry will speedily attain to very considerable importance. Not only has the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies done excellent work in improving external communication, but he is making a railway from Famagusta to Nicosia, which will cross the most fertile plain in the island, and which will be found to be a distinctly reproductive and remunerative work. I had a conversation with Lieutenant Richards, R.E., who told me there are no engineering difficulties, and that in all likelihood the railway will be extremely useful. The silk industry, in which I know the right hon. Gentleman takes a great interest, has been advanced, and the planting of mulberry, trees has greatly increased of recent years. There are some old and some new textile industries, which, to say the least, are very promising. Perhaps the best feature in the present condition of the island is the collective and co-operative agriculture which has been established. That system, which has done so much for Denmark, and, to a less extent, for Ireland, promises to be distinctly useful to the trade of the island. The stock and the character of the seeds have been very much improved, owing to the measures taken by the right hon. Gentleman. Even in municipal mattes there has been progress. At Limasol, the water supply, sanitation, and education are conducted under municipal auspices. For these things I am able to convey to the right hon. Gentleman the assurances of the gratitude of the Cypriotes, and the firm belief that, in doing what he has done, he has promoted the prosperity of the island, and of the Empire of which it forms a part. The present proposal is for a new grant in aid. Grants in aid are acceptable, but I am bound to add that the feeling in the island, which is well founded, is that these grants in aid would be wholly superfluous and unnecessary if the island were dependent on its own financial resources. If the tribute to Turkey had not to be paid, there would be a large surplus, and that surplus could be devoted to public works. The feeling in the island is very strong against the tribute, and is a source of very great discontent. I have had the opportunity of seeing many of those who take an active interest in the affairs of the island, and one and all protest against the payment of the tribute, because it prevents the execution of public works out of the island's own resources, and also because it is a very great limitation on the reproductive powers of the island, owing to the high taxation, having regard to the means of the inhabitants. Various causes have been attributed to the origin of the tribute. One is that our Ambassador was not fully aware of the facts, that the amount paid to Turkey in the past was exaggerated, and not properly collected, that it was paid very irregularly and in paper currency, and was not equivalent to the sum the island is now called upon to pay. If the original proposals of this country had been carried out; if, as was first intended, Cyprus had been made a place of arms, and if great public works had been constructed there, the tribute might have become a matter of comparatively less importance. But now we have changed our whole policy, and these great public works will probably never be carried out. Yet the island is called upon to pay a very large sum, in the fixing of which it had no part. I do think that there is a claim on the consideration of this country, and that the strong feeling which exists in the island on the subject is not without some foundation. I am quite aware that the association of the tribute with the guaranteed loan of 1855, is accidental. At the same time, it is a very singular circumstance that the amount of the tribute and the interest on that loan closely coincide, and one theory is, that the fixture of the amount of the tribute was a very convenient mode of dealing with that financial matter. I know that this is a matter with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is primarily concerned, but it is one on which some change should be made. One other subject I must mention, and that is that the wharf age dues, which were intended to be temporary, have been made permanent, and no considerable portion of them is devoted, as the islanders think they should be, to the construction of piers, harbours, and like works. Another complaint is that articles of general antiquarian interest have been removed from the island to this country, America, and elsewhere, instead of being left on the island for the attraction of travellers, and the education of its own people. I repeat, that from my own observation, from the results which are already apparent, from the cordial feeling of the islanders themselves, the greatest obligation is felt to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies for his policy of development in this, as in other colonial possessions of the Empire.


As I had a motion for the reduction of this Vote, which I was unable to move yesterday, I should like to say a few words on this subject. I should wish to associate myself with what the hon. Member for Islington has said as to the wisdom of the right hon. Gentleman in developing the resources of Cyprus. My own opinion is that Cyprus should form part of the Hellenic kingdom of the future, and I hope that may be a happy solution of the problem in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. Undoubtedly, as long as Cyprus is under the control of British power, it should be treated in the spirit of the kindly and wise administration of the right hon. Gentleman. The only question I wish to bring before the House is that of the tribute, on the grounds of the interest of the taxpayers of this country, as well as in the interest of the inhabitants of Cyprus. It is perfectly clear that if it were not for the tribute there would be a considerable surplus in the revenues of Cyprus, even if taxation were reduced, which might be applied to useful public works in the island. That is impossible now, because the tribute paid to Turkey creates a deficit which in some years amounts to a considerable sum. This tribute is connected with the guarantee of the payment of certain loans advanced to the Sultan in 1855 by various speculators in England and France, with whom I have but slender sympathy. It seems to me that the financial genius of the British Government should be devoted to meet the views of the inhabitants of Cyprus, and that some reasonable compromise should be come to as to the payment of the tribute. I would invite the right hon. Gentleman to indicate whether some means may not be arrived at, if not to extinguish the whole of the tribute, at any rate, to reduce it to something like the proportion which it ought to have been when the undertaking was given in connection with the Cyprus Convention. I should like, if I were in order, to enter on the wider topic, whether we have not the right to deal with this tribute in connection with the terms of the Cyprus Convention. We have done nothing within the whole of these years to insist on the Sultan performing his part of the contract, in regard to the protection of the Christian population of the East from barbarous cruelties. It seems to me not beyond the reach of statesmanship to make this question of the tribute a means by which we can enforce on the Sultan the carrying out of these obligations.

* MR. PIERPOINT (Warrington)

I desire to associate myself entirely with all which my hon. friend the Member for South Islington has said concerning the good work done by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the inhabitants of Cyprus. I think it would be a small thing to say that the right hon. Gentleman has done more for the island than all the other Colonial Secretaries since the occupation of the island. I wish he could see his way, in consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to provide for further public works on the island. I have had the opportunity lately of suggesting to the right hon. Gentleman that Famagusta should be a free port, so that merchants, instead of taking their goods to Beirut, where they have to pay very heavy customs duties, should bring them to Famagusta, where they would be able to draw from their stocks as orders came in from Asia Minor and Syria. They would therefore have only to pay duties on such stock as was required for immediate sale. Then, Famagusta could be made into a commercial harbour. There can be no doubt that the existing harbour is too small to accommodate any but very small ships, and I hope that the success of the experiment which the right hon. Gentleman is now making will justify the enlargement of the harbour at Famagusta, and that the time may even come when the First Lord of the Admiralty shall establish a naval arsenal there, for nature has provided it with accommodation which would allow of the swinging of twelve ironclads. As to the wharfage dues, touched on by the hon. Member for South Islington, this question affects Limasol and Larnaca, where particularly the grievance is felt that these dues are not devoted to the improvement of the harbours. Larnaca is only an open roadstead with a very small harbour, and if the serf happens to be running, it is impossible to land men or goods. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take into consideration the claims of merchants, both in Larnaca and Limasol, to improve the harbour accommodation there. The money might be provided or a grant-in-aid. I have great hopes of the future of the island under its present enlightened administration. For taking the figures since its occupation in 1878, the whole of the revenues amounted, up to 31st March, 1898, to nearly three and a-half millions, and the expenditure on the island during that period has only been about two and a-quarter millions, leaving an excess of revenue over expenditure of £1,193,000. I think everyone must see that if the island were only left to spend its own money, it would be exceedingly prosperous; and, instead of coming to this House for loans or grants in aid, there would be such a balance in the local exchequer as to reduce the too hard taxation of the inhabitants. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared now to make any statement concerning the Convention signed between Turkey and England yesterday a year ago. We know nothing about it, excepting for one paragraph which appeared in The Times on the 5th August last. What are the conditions of the Convention? The Leader of the House spoke a few days ago of a Bill to ratify that Convention, but no Bill has appeared. I should like to know what are the conditions of that Convention, and whether it will be a relief to the Imperial Treasury, or a relief to Cyprus itself. I should like to press upon the right hon. Gentleman that, whatever views he may have held upon this matter, the Cypriotes are certainly deserving of great sympathy from himself, and from everyone else, because they have been paying this large amount of money. It may be that this money is properly paid, or it may not be; but, at all events, we make them pay it according to the Convention with Turkey in 1855. According to the Convention, the interest on the guaranteed loan of 1885 was to be paid from the residue of the Egyptian tribute, and after that from the customs dues of Smyrna and Syria. I have not been able to find that any serious attempt has ever been made to get hold of these customs dues. After taking possession of the island of Cyprus in 1878, I suppose it was seen that it would be an easier way to pay the creditors of the loan out of the revenues of Cyprus. I should like to mention that the country which benefits most from our possession of Cyprus is France. Because its liabilities have been paid to the last penny, from the default of Turkey, by Great Britain, and France has had to simply ask for their money to get it, and give a receipt. It is interesting to note that while France gets with punctual regularity the payment of £41,000 of interest on the guaranteed loan, England has occasionally got off with a loss of £50,000 a year by the occupation of Cyprus; for when the finances of the island are bad we have to make grants in aid, with the result that France benefits at our expense. I hope that some day we may be able to do something substantial for the benefit of those people, who were intended to be an object lesson in the Eastern Mediterranean of the beneficence and justice of English rule.


I am obliged to all the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken for the kind appreciation which has been expressed of the efforts of the Colonial Office to improve the condition of the island, and without making any invidious claim for myself, as compared with my predecessors, I think that the English Government have some right to congratulate themselves on the immense improvements which they have carried out. Very recently, not only have the roads of the island been placed in good repair, but surveys have been made with a view to proceeding with a railway across the island. It is also intended to improve the state of the harbour at Famagusta, and, most important of all, a large experiment in irrigation is also being undertaken. I am advised by the experts that it is likely to be financially successful, and in that case we may look forward to still further improvement. The question of the taxation raised in the island has also been under consideration, and a number of changes, all to the advantage of the taxpayers, have been made. With regard to much of the produce chiefly grown by the small cultivators, we have abolished the tithe—a very irritating tax and difficult to collect; and with regard to olives and olive oil, it is hoped that it will be possible to substitute an export duty for the tithe. There are many other matters in which careful attention has been given to the wants of the islanders, and in which there has been a material improvement of their condition. I am glad to hear that they recognise the good-will of the British Government, and are grateful for what has been done. One result has been that the revenue of the island has greatly increased. Last year it amounted to no less than £210,000, which is the largest sum ever raised in the island during the British occupation,, except for one abnormal year, 1891, when the harvest was exceptionally productive, and consequently the revenues went up. The expenditure has been £135,000, and the difference is, of course, accounted for by the tribute. Hon. Members have expressed the wish that the island could be relieved of this obligation. So do Her Majesty's Government; but it is not an obligation which the Government have placed on the island, it is an obligation which we took over with the island. Without adopting the very drastic suggestion of the hon. Member opposite, which would be in defiance of our international obligations, we cannot say to the Sultan of Turkey at the present time that this tribute, which we engaged to pay, shall no longer be paid to him. But the islanders have been led by local people who are insufficiently acquainted with the real history of this matter to suppose that they have exceptional claims to relief; and these statements have been repeated so often that they begin to believe them. It is therefore necessary to go back once more to the way in which this obligation was incurred. To read some of these statements which come from Cyprus, one would suppose that the island was worse off under British rule than under the Turkish régime. Under the Turkish régime the tribute was paid just the same; but the amount of money which the Turks spent in Cyprus never exceeded £30,000; whereas we spend £135,000 a year. The fact is, the island is better off now than ever it was; there is now absolute equality between religions and classes, even-handed justice, peace and security; the people are not subject to Armenian or even Cyprian outrages, and all this constitutes a change which they are a little apt to forget. The hon. Gentleman opposite suggested that the island should be handed over to the Greeks. I have no doubt that in some respects that would appeal tothe sentiments of the Grecian population in the island; but I. have no reason to believe that the Mahomedans in the island, who are equally worthy of our good-will and care, would at all like any such transfer. I am not certain that even the Greeks themselves would, considering the financial disabilities under which they would immediately be placed, feel that these would be compensated for by sentimental considerations. The amount of the tribute payable by the Cypriotes to Turkey was settled by a Commission, of which Sir Robert Biddulph, who went to Constantinople for the purpose, was the head. The whole question was examined and criticised again and again. It is not the fact, as my hon. friend appears to have been informed, that the calculations for the tribute were based upon the paper currency, which, having depreciated 60 per cent., no longer represented the real value of the tribute. On the contrary, account was taken of that depreciation, and only the intrinsic value of the currency was reckoned in settling the tribute. Sir Robert Biddulph was unable to convince the Turks that they should reduce their claims; and a final settlements made by the British Government without the consent of Turkey. It was the British Government which decided that the present sum fairly and reasonably represented the annual tribute which had actually been paid by the island for five years or more previous to the British occupation. It may be alleged that Sir Robert Biddulph did badly, and that his views were wrong, and that his calculations were mistaken, but I do not think that Her Majesty's Government could listen to such representations. There is no proof of them whatever, and it is known that Sir Robert engaged in the work with every desire, as was natural, to reduce the tribute to the lowest point, because he then knew well, what has since turned out to be the fact, that if the tribute was placed at a high amount the British Government would in the long run be mulcted for a considerable proportion of it. The net result is, not only that the Cypriotes have to pay not more than they paid before, but that during the twenty years of the occupation they have been relieved of a portion of their obligation, averaging about £30,000 a year, at the expense of the British taxpayer. I need not say that the rumour to the effect that the amount of the tribute had any reference to the amount of the loan which had been hypothecated is utterly and entirely without the shadow of a shade of foundation. The fact is, that all the revenues of the island were hypothecated for the loan of 1855. No doubt the result of the hypothecation has been, I will not say a pecuniary advantage to France, for I have no doubt France would have been able to get the interest on the loan from other sources, but an immense advantage in the sense that it has relieved her from all trouble and anxiety; because France has always obtained the money by cheque from the British Government, without having to exert pressure on the Turk. My hon. friends ask whether any arrangement is likely to be made for the reduction of the tribute. I have very little to say on that point, but one thing I must say in order to prevent any false anticipations. We might be able to reduce the tribute; but if we did so, it would not benefit the Cypriotes, immediately, at any rate, but only the British taxpayer. Whatever reduction was secured would have to be set against the British grant in aid, which was this year £30,000. Therefore, although I am anxious to see this tribute reduced, the Cypriotes are not likely for a long time to get the benefit of a reduction.

* MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

Cannot it be capitalised and paid off profitably?


The debt might be paid off by a loan at a lower rate of interest, and there would be a saving to that extent. Efforts have been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Office to come to some arrangement with the Sultan in regard to this loan, and some considerable progress has been made in that direction. But the negotiations are not concluded; and I cannot say at the present time that a satisfactory agreement has been obtained. But I still hope that some transactions of the kind may be arranged, though I think it necessary to warn the inhabitants of the island that in the first instance, at any rate, the British taxpayer, and not they, would benefit.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

said it could not be denied that the condition of Cyprus had improved very substantially during the last two or three years under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary. At the same time, he confessed to a certain sense of disappointment at the announcement that had just been made, that the people of the island had nothing to expect from the increase in the revenue. The right hon. Gentleman, and those who took the same view, seemed to overlook altogether the political considerations of the case. This country took Cyprus under the impression that they were getting a great political advantage, and it was boasted of as a great stroke of policy. It was then represented to the Cypriotes that they had come into the possession of a great and wealthy Empire, and that it was the intention of the English Government to maintain, as in Malta, a large number of troops there. Of course, if that policy had been pursued there would never have arisen the slightest difficulty among the Cypriotes in paying their way. But for a long time the island was completely neglected, and nothing was done to improve the condition of the people, who were left entirely to their own resources. He fully admitted that, since the administration of the Secretary to the Colonies, a new leaf had been turned over in this regard, with the result that the revenue had immediately begun to rise. But there was a long time during which the complaints of the islanders met with no response, and they were subjected to an enormous and undue burden of taxation. He therefore thought it was ungenerous to propose, immediately there was a gleam of prosperity in Cyprus, that there should be a reduction in the grant in aid. He hoped the Colonial Secretary would come to recognise that the people of the island had at least a moral claim to a share in the increase in the revenue.

Vote agreed to.

22. "That a sum, not exceeding £36,241, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900, for the Subsidies to certain Telegraph Companies."


I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Secretary to the Treasury, three questions. It has been very strongly rumoured lately that the companies subsidised in this Vote are making of themselves an alternative route to the Cape, in order to anticipate possible competition. Two of the agreements which govern these subsidies expire this year, but they have already been extended in a new form by other agreements which were made a few years ago, and which will begin to run before we have this Vote again next year. I should like also to know whether the Government can give similar information to that contained in the White Book, which has been laid before the Cape Parliament, on the subject of the working of the lines subsidised in this Vote, of the proposal for an alternative line to the Cape, and of the opinions of the Home Government as to the strategic importance of the proposed line. It is now admitted that the enormous increase of trade in South Africa in recent years has made these subsidies wholly unnecessary, and this will have a considerable bearing, of course, on any future arrangements we have to make. I should also like to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer can tell us anything about the recent delays in Government messages from the Cape.


There have been proposals under the consideration of the Government from the telegraphic companies for a new cable between this country and the Cape, touching at St. Helena and Ascension. Negotiations have also been in progress for a considerable reduction in rates. I cannot say how far the matter has approached completion. I think the time is hardly ripe for laying Papers on the subject before Parliament, but there are proposals before us, and it is quite true that considerable strategic importance is attached by the Admiralty to the proposed communication. With regard to the alleged delay in transmitting messages from the Cape, I really know nothing at all about it.

Vote agreed to.

Forward to