Motion made, and Question proposed—.
That a sum, not exceeding £14,781,000, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the rear ending on the 31st day of March 1900, viz.:—
|Royal Palaces and Marlborough House||16.000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||40,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||12,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||18,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||10,000|
|Diplomatic and Consular Buildings||9,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||100,000|
|Surveys of the United Kingdom||80,000|
|Harbours under the Board of Trade||2,000|
|Rates on Government Property||210,000|
|Public Works and Buildings, Ireland||70,000|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|House of Lords, Offices||4.000|
|House of Commons, Offices||13,000|
|Treasury and Subordinate Departments||30.000|
|Privy Council Office, etc||5,000|
|Board of Trade||60,000|
|Mercantile Marine Services||30,000|
|Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade||3|
|Board of Agriculture||75,000|
|Civil Service Commission||15,000|
|Exchequer and Audit Department||22,000|
|Friendly Societies Registry||2,000|
|Local Government Board||66,000|
|Mint (including Coinage)||10|
|National Debt Office||5,000|
|Public Record Office||10,000|
|Public Works Loan Commission||10|
|Registrar General's Office||13,000|
|Stationery and Printing||250,000|
|Woods, Forests, etc., Office of||7,000|
|Works and Public Buildings, Office of||19,000|
|Secretary for Scotland||4,500|
|Registrar General's Office||2,000|
|Local Government Board||4,000|
|Lord Lieutenant's Household||2,000|
|Chief Secretary and Subordinate Departments||15,000|
|Charitable Donations and Bequests Office||750|
|Local Government Board||15,000|
|Public Record Office||2,000|
|Public Works Office||12,500|
|Registrar General's Office||6,000|
|Valuation and Boundary Survey||6,000|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|Miscellaneous Legal Expenses||26,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature||120,000|
|Police, England and Wales||14.000|
|Prisons, England and the Colonies.||200,000|
|Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain||140,000|
|Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum||10,000|
|Law Charges and Courts of Law||30,000|
|Register House, Edinburgh||15,000|
|Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions||30,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, and other Legal Departments||38,000|
|County Court Officers, etc.||35,000|
|Dublin Metropolitan Police||35,000|
|Reformatory and Industrial Schools||55,500|
|Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum||2,500|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|Public Education, England an Wales||3,600,000|
|Science and Art Department United Kingdom||200,000|
|National Portrait Gallery||2,500|
|Scientific Investigation, etc. United Kingdom||15,000|
|Universities and Colleges, Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales||38,000|
|Endowed Schools Commissioners||350|
|Diplomatic and Consular Services||220,000|
|Uganda, Central and East Africa Protectorates and Uganda Rail way||250,000|
|Cyprus, Grant in Aid||12,000|
|Subsidies to Telegraph Companies||35,000|
|Superannuation and Retired Allowances||280,000|
|Merchant Seamen's Fund Pensions, etc.||3,000|
|Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances||1,000|
|Hospitals and Charities, Ireland||10,000|
|Congested Districts Board, Scotland||—|
|Total for Civil Services||£9,271,000|
|Post Office Packet Service||210,000|
|Post Office Telegraphs||1,300,000|
|Total for Revenue Departments||£5,510,000|
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
The House is to be congratulated that the Colonial Vote has at last been put in the Paper. In South Africa, or rather in the Transvaal, during the past three years, the opportunities for discussing South African matters have always been absorbed by the question of Rhodesia and the questions relating to that country. Now, I propose to bring before the House, and for which I ask the attention of the House, an entirely different matter. The non-Boer population of the Transvaal is generally known by the name Uitlanders. These Uitlanders, who comprise the great majority of the non-Boer population of the Transvaal, are something over three-fifths, and something under three-fourths, of the total white population. Of those three-fifths at least two-thirds, and probably three-fourths, consist of English or British subjects; so that it may be fairly said that more than one-half of the enthe white population of the Transvaal consists of British subjects. Well, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman who now occupies the position of Colonial Secretary has been continually in office for quite three and one-halp years, and it is over three years since that the events occurred which are generally known and referred to as the Jameson Raid. At that time the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary did declare himself very forcibly in favour of an amelioration, both politically and economically, of the condition of the non-Boer population in the Transvaal. He wrote some very strong dispatches on the subject; he made definite pledges to the Uitlanders—definite and distinct pledges, which I regret to say have not been carried out. Since that time the condition of the non-Boers in the Transvaal, so far from having been ameliorated, has been aggravated. It has been so bad during the last three years as to be absolutely intolerable at the present time. We used to say that under the late administration the Uitlanders were chastised with whips, but under the present administration we may fairly say that they have been scourged with scorpions. This year the government of the Transvaal has become more tyrannical and corrupt, and the condition of the non-Boer population has been injured and made worse. 1349 We are now face to face with a spectacle of a great European population who pay five-sixths of the taxation of the Transvaal, who have, beyond doubt, made its prosperity, and who are deprived of all political rights and most civil rights, and whose privileges are being steadily diminished. What has become of the pledges made by President Kruger to the Uitlanders of Johannesburg? What has become of the pledges of this Government to those Uitlanders?—the pledges under which the Uitlanders were induced to disarm? There has not been one performed, and the result is that the position of the Uitlanders is made intolerable. There has been played in this House with regard to the Transvaal what I may describe as an amusing farce. Each time the Debate has been postponed to the last moment, and then the right honourable Gentleman has made a very clear and decisive speech, in the course of which he suggested certain schemes for the improvement in the condition of the Uitlanders, and then the House adjourned; and directly the House adjourns President Kruger and his myrmidons set to work there and then to flout you. The right honourable Gentleman has made some protests; and there have been some telegrams, mostly inspired by those who control the Press out there, and the net result has been that the position of the Uitlanders has been weakened and made worse. Let me give the right honourable Gentleman and the House two or three incidents of what has happened, in detail, towards worsening the condition of the non-Boer population. In 1896 the right honourable Gentleman made a speech, early in August, of the character of which I have described, a very optimistic speech on the affairs of the Transvaal; directly this House had adjourned, the Volksraad met and proceeded to pass three Bills most injurious to the happiness and the rights of the Uitlander population. They brought in what is known as the Alien Immigration Law, the Alien Exploration Law, and the Press Gag Law. It is quite true that the right honourable Gentleman protested against the Alien Immigration Law, which was the least important to the Uitlanders of the Transvaal; but the other two Acts still remain upon the Statute Book, and the Boer Executive, which consists of President Kruger and 1350 six others, have it in their own power to exclude by their own act any Uitlander at present in the Transvaal. Not only do they control the liberty of every Uitlander, but they hold this position as well, that the Press Gag Law is just in the same position, for every writer, editor, and proprietor of a newspaper is at the mercy of the Boer Executive. Again, in July, the right honourable Gentleman made an optimistic speech, and again there was no Debate upon the Transvaal. Directly this House rose, President Kruger formally repudiated the suzerainty of Her Majesty the Queen. The right honourable Gentleman protested against that, but President Kruger and the Volksraad have never withdrawn that repudiation. They refused to relieve the gold industries, and they practically carried out the invasion of Swaziland, and have destroyed the few rights which were retained for these unfortunate people by the Convention made by us in 1894. This is practically what has happened in the Transvaal during the last three years. Of course, there are many other facts which might be given to the House, but it is very well known that the condition of the Uitlander is becoming more and more intolerable; they are being subjected to many acts of tyranny and oppression and extortion, against which, in many cases, they dare not protest. The conduct of the Boer officials is exceedingly oppressive and corrupt, and to the medical and legal class of Uitlanders the oppression and corruption of the Boer Government is becoming intolerable. I am perfectly aware that these oppressions may not apply to the great kings of the gold and diamond industries who spend a great deal of their time in other countries, and who know how to secure for themselves personal immunity from these abuses. But I have always tried in this House to protect, not the great people of South Africa, but the vast majority of British subjects who live in the Boer country—the lawyers, barristers, doctors engineers, mechanics, etc., who have to earn their living there. Their position is unbearable, and it has not been redressed. It operates when the gold industry is flourishing, and they are getting large wages, which are all but taken out of their pockets, and the English and non-Boer population of the Transvaal find it exceedingly hard to get 1351 any justice at all under Boer law. A crisis arose in Johannesburg when an Englishman was shot by a Boer policeman in a dispute. I am not prepared to say it was an act of deliberate murder, but it was a very violent act. There may have been some provocation for it, but it is an act that would not be permitted in this country. But what I want to draw the attention of the Committee to is the fact that when this crisis occurred, and the Uitlanders of Johannesburg, especially the Englishmen, endeavoured to hold a meeting, they were threatened in many ways by the Boer police, and the Boer population, some of whom advised the entire destruction of Johannesburg, but at last the Boer Executive consented to allow the meeting to be held. Now, under the law passed in recent years, all rights of public meeting have been taken away from the Uitlanders. They are denied the right of political meetings and every other meeting, and every right can be refused by the Boer Oligarchy and the Boer Executive. Well, this meeting was at last consented to, but the meeting was invaded by a party of armed Boers, most of them engaged by the Boer Government; they behaved with exceeding violence, and broke up the furniture of the meeting, and but for the sound advice that was given to the Uitlanders, because the Chief of the Police was watching the scenes of confusion with gratification, there would have been a very serious riot. The Chief of Police had a large body of armed Boers at his command to bring down, and there is no doubt that this meeting was broken up by armed Boers, who were certainly encouraged by the Boer police. So the House will be able to judge the state of things there. I have details with which it is scarcely worth troubling the House. The policeman who shot this unfortunate man was liberated on bail, which was only one-fifth of the amount required in the case of the leaders of the Raid. The condition of the present taxation in the Transvaal is also worth considering in this House. During the last six or eight years, I am not quite sure whether it is six or eight years, the expenditure of the Transvaal has increased from under £1,000,000 to £4,500,000, and the greater part of that goes in corruption. The total white population of the Transvaal is 245,000, of which only 1352 66,000 are Boers. The Boer population are only taxed to the extent of £6 18s. 6d. per head; the non-Boers have to pay £23 1s. 0d. per head. Out of the £4,589,000 which forms the total revenue of the Transvaal, £1,216,000, or 25 per cent, of the whole, is actually spent in the costs of administration. Of the remainder, £2,985,000 goes in the military service, which is directed against this country; a large portion goes for bribing the Press and general acts of corruption in South Africa, and Europe as well. It is well known what control the Boer Government keep over all communications. All telegrams sent are sent with extreme Boer bias, and they endeavour in every possible way to control the companies. Out of the total money made out of the goldfields 46 per cent, goes for working expenses, 23 per cent, goes to the Transvaal Government, and 31½ per cent, goes to the shareholders of the various companies. I see, by the paper to-day, that President. Krugcr is reported to have made a conciliatory speech promising certain reforms. It is possible that he was advised of the arrangement come to between Germany and this country, and of the visit of Mr. Rhodes, before he made that speech; but we have had many speeches of a similar kind from him during the last 15 years, and we have had many pledges from both President Kruger and the Boer Executive, in the shape of promises of reforms, but none of those promises have been kept, and I am suspicious of these interminable speeches, and of these verbal promises of President Kruger, unless they are backed up by very strong guarantees of Her Majesty's Government. I see that President Kruger has suggested the reduction of the period of residence qualifying for the franchise of the Uitlanders from 14 to nine years. Now, to get political rights, nine years is a very long time to wait for the franchise; but this reduction is of no value. No reduction would be of the slightest advantage to the Uitlanders unless at the same time two conditions which are attached to the franchise are removed. The first of these conditions is that every application for the franchise on the part of a non-Boer shall have the direct support of the Boer magistrate of the district in which the Uitlander resides; and the second, that it shall receive the consent of the Volks- 1353 read. So it is perfectly clear that unless these conditions are removed or modified it does not matter much to the Uitlauder population whether the period of residence is reduced from 14 years to nine or live, because the Boer magistrate and the Volksraad will have the power to prevent the Uitlanders having the franchise at all, and they will take care to have it. Now, we have seen that something has been done in South Africa. During the last two years 3,000,000 square miles have been added to the British Empire; our territory has been extended l,500 miles northward, and there is every reason to believe that it will be connected by telegraph and railroad. This is due to a single man. These great achievements are due to the enterprise of Mr. Rhodes, and I am very much afraid that if the future of this country in the way of administration had been left to the British Government we should have been in a very different position to-day. What the Government has to do is to look after the interests of the British residents in the Transvaal, and in that they have failed. It may be that there have been, and I will not contend for a moment there have not, great difficulties in the way of the right honourable Gentleman. There have been difficulties in South Africa and elsewhere which would be to a certain extent an excuse for the delay that has taken place. I cannot admit that it is so entirely, as I believe that those difficulties have been sometimes due to the action of Her Majesty's Government and the right honourable Gentleman. I am very glad that those difficulties have been removed, and that the interests of this country are established, and that our position is infinitely greater in repute than it was six months ago. But I think if the right honourble Gentleman who is now one of the most devoted supporters of the Gorman alliance had been converted three years ago our business in South Africa would have gone up by leaps and bounds. In a dispatch to Sir Hercules Robinson on the 13th of January 1896 the right honourable Gentleman gave perhaps the most distinct pledge that could be given to the British Uitlanders. He said in that dispatch that there could be no settlement until the questions raised by the Uitlanders were disposed of, and the people of Johannesburg laid down their arms; 1354 and until the reforms were granted or definitely promised by the President the real cause of the trouble would remain, and it was the duty of Sir Hercules Robinson to use firm language. The dispatch constitutes a most definite statement, and the people of Johannesburg laid down their arms at the voice of the High Commissioner, who was acting under the orders of the right honourable Gentleman. They laid down their arms, not only upon the pledges made to them by President Kruger, but that the Government would see that their undoubted grievances would be redressed. In conclusion, I say that none of those grievances have been redressed; for five years this condition of things has gone from bad to worse. They are under more serious obligations than they were before, they are under heavier taxation than they were before, the rule of the Government is more tyrannical and corrupt than it was before. And now that the hands of the Government are clear, and they have more support, and are less isolated in Europe, I appeal to them to do something for the grievances of the Uitlanders in the Transvaal.
§ *SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
There is one question with regard to the Colonial Office Vote which the honourable Gentleman the Member for Southampton proposed to raise, with regard to the contract which the Colony of Newfoundland has entered into with Mr. Reid. I am not aware of the reasons upon which my honourable Friend has decided not to raise that question tonight, but it is a matter which many of us looked into, and some of us looked into last Session when it was first heard of; it is a question on which we may not be disposed to blame the Government, but which deserves the attention of the Committee for a moment. Now, the Colonial Secretary said in his dispatch that there was no precedent whatever for such legislation on the part of a Colonial Government, but that the scheme was one which concerned the Colony. He had given the House two reasons which led him not to veto, not to disallow the Reid contract. Now, my honourable Friend the Member for Southampton wished, I suppose, to blame the Colonial Secretary, but that 1355 is not my intention. I should like to try and make clear to the Committee, if I can, what is the position between this country and Newfoundland in dealing with the matter. I have here the contract itself, and that contract is one entered into by the Colony of Newfoundland, by which they have handed over to Mr. Reid, the contractor of the railway, the railway system, the telegraphs, the whole of the coal fields, and mineral mines, and, so far as I can make out, the whole of the best land in the Colony as well. There is a nominal payment in all of 1,350,000 dollars by the contractor, and so far as I am able to discover the charges which he is entitled to make on the postal service contracts which have been made over to him will almost immediately give him back the amount he has paid. On page 15 of the contract we find this—From the time when the contractor shall satisfy the Government that he is able to operate his coal mine or mines as to supply not less than 50,000 tons per annum of coal of good quality, and to continue to furnish such supply, the Government agree to procure the imposition of a duty of not less than $1 per ton upon all coal imported into this Colony.That appears to me to be a contract on the part of the Government with regard to future legislation of a most extensive character, and one which deserves the attention of this Committee. Then, in the last paragraph but one of the contract the Government give a general contract in this form—The Government undertake to enact all such legislation as may be necessary to give full effect to the contract and its several clauses and provisions thereof, according to the spirit and intent thereof.As a condition of the arrangement, the Government also undertook to carry into effect at a future time all such legislation as may be necessary in the interests of the contractor to give full effect to the contract. Now, Sir, the position of Mr. Reid with reference to the railway is this. The original railway of 80 miles, which has been working for nine years, has been working lately under my honourable Friend the Member for Southampton, who is the receiver in the original bankruptcy. I am informed that since the railway has been working under my honourable Friend it has paid its working expenses and interest on debentures. That railway was 1356 bought three years ago by the Colony for £350,000. The rest of the line has been built as far as it at present extends by Mr. Reid, who has contracted with the Colony to build it at 15,600 dollars a mile. This undertaking will cost the Colony 12 million dollars. Both these lines, 80 miles of which have been paying their expenses have been handed over to Mr. Reid for one million dollars, and in return for working that railway for 50 years he gets in addition the coal and best land in the Colony. Then, Sir, there is also a dock handed over to Mr. Reid. The dock cost over 600,000 dollars, and that has been handed over for 325,000 dollars. The dock is not, perhaps, worth more than the sum put down for it, but it is at present in the hands of a lessee who is under an agreement to return it to the Colony as good as new. Mr. Reid is under an engagement to carry on the coastal service. The conditions provide for a much longer term of years than those previously stipulated, namely, 30 years, and I am informed that the best judges in the Colony believe that the amount which has been paid Mr. Reid makes the contract a very wasteful one. Now, Sir, I need not, I think, labour these points, because the Colonial Secretary in his dispatches admits the badness of the contract to the Colony. The Governor has conveyed to him that opinion—and the Governor is a very high authority—in the strongest terms, and the Colonial Secretary acepts that opinion, and, therefore, it is not necessary to ask the question as to whether it is wasteful or not. We may assume that it is an absolutely wasteful contract. The whole of the assets of the Colony, which have been handed over to this contractor, were the assets put forward when the money was borrowed by which the 80 miles of railway and the dock were built, the loan being advanced from London. The Colonial Secretary has discussed in his dispatches the question of whether the assets which were handed over to the contractor were already pledged to someone else, and he appears to have rejected that view, and to have been of the opinion that there was no positive breach of faith towards anyone: he therefore concludes that it is impossible to interfere with the discretion of a self-governing Colony. Well. Sir. I do not think anyone could 1357 question that judgment. At the same time, if the power of veto is ever to be used, this contract, embodying as it does undertakings involving the sacrifice of the rights of the future inhabitants of the country, forms a fitting instance for the interference of the Colonial Secretary. Those who are opposed to centralisation in local government—those who object to the interference of the Local Government Board, for example, with the rights of districts —have always admitted that where present ratepayers interfere with future ratepayers by putting those who are to come 50 years hence at a great disadvantage, there ought to be governmental interference: and I am bound to say in a case of this sort, where the assets of the Colony as regards railways, telegraphs, mines, etc., are done away with for a small sum of money, such a course has something to recommend it. The matter has been sprung with extraordinary suddenness upon the Colony. It has followed an election, in the course of which it has not been even discussed, and has been rushed through both Houses of Parliament with a speed almost as great as that with which the Explosives Act was once carried through the Houses of Parliament here. The Colony, I say, was undoubtedly taken by surprise, and when we consider that the whole birthright of the Colony, so to speak, appears to have been sold to the contractor for a comparatively small sum of money, I cannot but think that this is a case in which time might have been given to enable the electorate to pronounce its opinion on the subject. There has been no appeal to the electorate at all on the question, and I confess that this does seem to have been a case, not perhaps for veto or refusal, but at all events for fully allowing the intention of the Government to be known. Of course, no Colonial Secretary would dream of interfering with the action of such colonies as those of Australia, Canada, or New Zealand, but the position of Newfoundland is not the same as that of the Colonies I mention. Mr. Lowther, the only other subject connected with this Vote which I should like to mention before I sit down concerns another matter of self-government. When, on the Colonial Office Vote last year, and the year before, we discussed the new grant to the West Indies, and the probable 1358 future financial policy towards these islands, the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary did not see his way to announce any general change with regard to the administrative and legislative position of these islands. Since that time he has taken steps in respect of one or two Colonies in the direction of getting rid of the oligarchical system—
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN, Birmingham, W.)
The right honourable Baronet will recollect that the Royal Commission recommended that wherever grants were made from Imperial sources the Crown should have full control over the financial proceedings of the Colonies, and I announced that as our policy.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
The right honourable Gentleman said two years ago he did not see his way in that direction, but since that time he has taken steps in the direction of giving increased control to the Crown. Now, Sir, the two policies which really seem defensible in the West Indies are the two extremes and not the middle course. The policy which has been followed up to the present time has, except in one exceptional case, been the middle course of giving real power to the Crown in a certain indirect form. In some Colonies there are some members who are elected by the Crown, that is to say, who are selected by the Crown, as well as the regular official members. In other Colonies the whole power is in the hands of the officials. I must confess that if the right honourable Gentleman is unable to admit in any of the islands the experiment of free government resting upon a vote from the mass of the population, then I would sooner myself see him assume the responsibility of sending out persons in a high position who would govern those islands directly —autocratically if you like; because I believe they would have greater regard to the interests of the masses of the population. When we discussed this matter last year, I ventured to mention the case of the French colonies, where they rely upon the votes of the mass of the population. The right honourable Gentleman then said that his impression was that these Colonies were more autocratic than the government of any of the islands by this country. I 1359 cannot gather that there is sufficient foundation for the statement of the right honourable Gentleman. But if you are not prepared to trust local opinion, it would be better to get rid of this Government machinery which we possess in these islands, and to substitute direct rule by the head Colonial Government itself; because I am convinced that if you choose the right man —and you generally do—he is more likely to govern the islands according to the real wish of the general population than are those who are selected under the curiously complicated methods which exist at the present time. I think, at all events, the right honourable Gentleman is hardly prepared to dispute that his own man, responsible directly to himself, would be more trustworthy in financial matters and would be more likely to govern the country in the interests of the whole population than many representing the Colonies at the present time.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
Mr. Lowther, I regret very much that owing to the prevailing influenza, the Debate upon the question I desire to raise, which was to have taken place this afternoon in another place, has had to be postponed. I find some excuse in bringing this question before the House, because in 1893 I had the honour of taking a very humble part in the abolition of the paddy-tax. That abolition was chiefly due to the efforts of Mr. George Wall, Mr. Le Mesurier, and Sir Henry Havelock, the Governor for the time being. When that abolition took place, it was received with great rejoicing by the natives, who let off fireworks, and expressed in every way their delight at the change. But, Sir, while that impost, which fell heavily on the population, has been removed, other abuses remain. If not literally correct, I believe it is practically correct to say that the Governor in Ceylon is absolute ruler, whilst in the legislative council the official element predominates. There are nine officials, but only five representatives of three millions of Cingalese, and three of the rest of the population. Now, no doubt the right honourable Gentleman will say that Ceylon is in a very flourishing condition. I am delighted to know it. The exports from Ceylon last year were three millions in 1360 tea alone, and the whole revenue of the island amounted to £666,000. But it is no reason why, because the island is prosperous, the citizen rights of any individual should be attacked. Now, the question of abuse to which I wish to refer is what may be called the appropriation by the Government of Ceylon of lands which belong to private individuals. I refer chiefly to jungle lands, which lie just by the low-lying rice-fields between the coast and the high ranges of forests. In 1819, the English Government, found they could not get on without some taxes being paid, and they claimed as a tithe one-tenth of the produce, and took one-fourth to a half for rent. In 1895, the Surveyor of Forests announced to the Government that there were still remaining two million acres of good forest land, and another two million acres of wilder jungle suitable for the growth of tea. This was at a time when tea lands were very valuable, and I suppose the officials of the Government saw a vista of enormous wealth before them if they took possession of these lands. Now I am coming to a very interesting phase of the question. In 1896, the present Governor, Sir West Ridgway, arrived in the island. I may remind the Committee that in the very same year Mr. Le Mesurier, who had been an official of the Government of Ceylon, and who had shown that he took a very deep interest in the welfare of the Cingalese, bought some of these lands which the Government claimed, in order to test whether the Crown had really or not a right to them. Well, I may relate to the House that when Mr. Le Mesurier took this step, he was met by a very prompt and summary opposition. He was very severely handled—indeed, it was said that his life even was in danger—and was driven off the lands which he supposed belonged to him by right of purchase. While his case was pending in the courts, the Government thought they had better strengthen the law, and they brought in Ordinance No. 1 of 1897, and passed it through the Ceylon legislature. It was carried by the rine official members against the eight unofficial members, three of whom represented Europeans. That Ordinance was denounced by one of the members of the legislature as a most unprincipled Bill, devoid of all the principles of common honesty. Well. I am 1361 going to give the House, if I may be allowed, the latest paragraphs in this Ordinance. It is of no use talking to the House of Ordinance No. 1, 1889, if the House does not know what it contains. I apologise if I seem to be tedious, but I regard it as my duty to bring this matter fully before the House. The first paragraph says—That all forest waste, and unoccupied or uncultivated lands, and all lands that can only be cultivated at intervals of several years (these are called Chenas lands) shall be presumed to be the property of the Grown, till the contrary thereof be proved.The second paragraph runs—That the occupation by any person of one or more portions or parcels of land shall not be taken as creating a presumption of ownership against the Crown in his favour for any greater extent of land than that actually occupied by him.I take it that to an unbiased mind it must bo evident that if a man claims a piece of land as his own, and that land is immediately adjoining the land the surface of which he occupies and cultivates, there is a slight presumption that it belongs to him. The third paragraph says—That the term unoccupied land ' includes uncultivated parts of cultivated lands;and the fourth paragraph goes on—That all land that has not been in the uninterrupted personal occupation of the claimant for five years before the passing of the Ordinance shall be declared to be Crown land.I think that is very stiff indeed. I am not a lawyer myself, and I do not profess to understand the whole ramifications of this clause; but my learned Friends will perhaps be able to point out the full force of the iniquity of that clause. The next paragraph sets out—that Government Agents have a summary power to declare such land to be Crown land without any right of appeal.That is pretty stiff, too. I am bound to say that there is a right of appeal in the Act further on, that is to the Governor himself. Well, we all know in this House that some hare-brained individuals send up petitions to the House of Commons. I don't know any more 1362 fatuous or futile proceeding than that of these poor petitioners. The petitions are deposited in some pigeon-hole or cupboard, and nothing more is heard of them. I am sure that it is very much the same thing in. Ceylon. If you attack, by petition, the Attorney-General or any very gorgeous person of that character, in all probability the petition or claim to be heard will be refused. The sixth paragraph declares—That if a man wrongfully loses his laud under the operation of the above provisions, and proves in court that he has suffered pecuniary loss by the eviction, even then he cannot get back his land, but he can only get as compensation what the Government get by the sale of it by public auction, or what the Govenor chooses to allow him.The seventh paragraph sets forth—that it is a criminal offence punishable by fine and imprisonment for a man to go on his own land after the Crown has claimed it.That is the sort of plan they have in Ceylon. If a man looks after his own property he can be forcibly ejected from it. Well, I am glad to think that the course of injustice, like that of true love, does not always run smoothly, as was found when Mr. Le Mesurier appealed to the judge of the Matara district court. It appears that three months' notice must be given to the occupier when any land is claimed by the Government. Hut the officers of the Government were so exceedingly anxious to take possession of this land of M. Le Mesurier's that they seized it within two months and six days. They had not the patience to wait for three months. That was a very fortunate circumstance, because the court decided in the plaintiff's favour on 8th June 1898. The judge, Mr. Cassie Chetty, said—It is an Ordinance enacted in contravention of the well-established laws of the country.That is a sort of sly hit at the Ordinance which he evidently does not approve of. That is one for the Governor. But Mr. Cassio Chetty was only the judge in the Matara district court. What was it that the Chief Justice said when the case was taken on appeal to the Supreme Court before the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Withers on 2nd September 1898? Chief Justice Bonser "spoke scornfully of the Ordinance as one of an extra- 1363 ordinary nature' and one in the enforcement of which ' no irregularity ought to be condoned.' "What a condonation coming from the Chief Justice of the High Court of Colombo ! There is a much longer and a still more condemnatory judgment by Mr. Justice Withers, who was the companion on the bench of the Chief Justice. I do not wish to take up the attention of the House longer than necessary, and therefore I will not trouble it by reading Mr. Justice Withers' judgment. But to return to Mr. Cassie Chetty; I am sorry to say that very shortly after having given the bold judgment to which I have referred ho was removed to Pana-dura, a distant part of Ceylon, and promoted to the position of a police magistrate with a much smaller salary. I do not know by whose instructions this was done, but I suppose all these matters came under the care and solicitude of the Governor. And if you are to have absolute Government tempered by the House of Commons it seems to me that it is the Governor who must bear a large responsibiity for any miscarriage of that kind. Whenever anything goes wrong in Russia, where the Tsar is an absolute monarch, we do not care very much for what the Minister of Education or the Home Minister says; we look directly to the Tsar. And, therefore, I may fairly say that it is the Governor who is responsible for this awkward instance of promotion to a lower position and a lower salary. Well, Mr. Cassie Chetty was transferred to Panadura, which means in Spanish "hard bread," and Mr. Cassie Chetty must have found it a case of hard bread with him, and that it is not always best to express an honest opinion on a Government Ordinance. Besides that, I am bound to say that the Government has had various experiences in its attempts to convict Mr. Le Mesurier. Mr. W. H. Moor convicted him for having entered on his own land, and sentenced him to three months' imprisonment—I suppose with hard labour—which would be in harmony with the views of the same judge. But that sentence of three months' imprisonment was afterwards reduced to a fine. Then, I am sorry to say, that a counter charge of murder was brought against Mr. Le Mesurier in another court. That is a very serious charge to be made against anyone in 1364 this world; but when it was brought against Mr. Le Mesurier, the magistrate dismissed it and described it as "a baseless fabrication." Fortune again varied, for the three men who had attacked him on his own property and beat him on the head a good deal, were convicted and sentenced to three months' imprisonment. When I asked a question on the subject the other day, the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary admitted that that was the case. I am glad to say that Mr. Le Mesurier has the noble qualities of a generous foe, and he interceded with the Government for these men and got their sentence remitted, because he knew perfectly well that they were only tools and bound to carry out the orders given to them. Not only did he secure the remission of their sentence, but pleaded that they should be restored to the Service, which is about to be done. I think I may draw the right honourable Gentleman's attention to the fact that these conflicts between that judicial part of the Government of Ceylon and the Executive do not tend to edification, and I hope that he will himself see the importance of putting an end to these conflicts by looking into the Ordinance of 1897. The right honourable Gentleman is cute enough to forming his own judgment, and he can send out instructions for the modification of that Ordinance, which is really of an arbitrary nature. I cannot help mentioning Mr. Le Mesurier's name so frequently, because he is the man who has taken up this question as champion on behalf of the people. Well, Mr. Le Mesurier has claimed 80,000 rupees for the cost of the abortive actions which were brought against him, and for compensation for the charge of murder laid against him. Such a charge is always distressing to the mind, and should be compensated for if it is found by the magistrate who tried it to be "a baseless fabrication." Then he claims compensation for the occupation of his lands by the Government, during which time, of course, the lands went out of cultivation. Then there are the fines imposed on Mr. Le Mesurier, which ho demands should be refunded. But Mr. Le Mesurier's is not the only case, although it was typical. There are other cases which I shall mention to the House. There is the case of Don Simon, 1365 who rented from a man called Andris a piece of land with a growing crop of citronella grass upon it. It is quite common in Ceylon, us it is in England, to purchase a standing crop. Andris had held this land for years, and, as I have said, Don Simon made an offer for the crop, which was accepted. Hut when he went to carry off the crop he found that the land had been claimed by the Government and he was put into the Martara police court on 30th July 1888, where he was lined 50 rupees and sent to prison for a month with hard labour. I am glad to say, however, that this sentence was quashed on appeal after ten days. Judgment was given in his favour, and Don Simon was set at liberty. If I had been the Governor of Ceylon I must say I should have been rather disappointed if all the cases brought before the courts by the Government were overturned. I am sorry to say that Don Simon is still a mournful man, because up to the present he has not received any compensation for his grass, nor any compensation for his imprisonment. Further, if I am not misinformed, that very land which belonged to the original owner, Andris, has been advertised for sale in the "Government Gazette" of 20th January 1899, and that the sale by auction was to take place on the 10th or 11th of this month, although Andris had appealed to the District Court against the appropriation of the land by the Government. The decision of the District Court has not yet been given, and, when given, is subject to review by the Supreme Court in Ceylon. These various opinions having been given by the highest judges against the Ordinance No. 1 of 1897, the Government has begun to think that that Ordinance is pretty nearly unworkable; and quite recently they have drawn another Ordinance, which is to strengthen No. 1, and which will be submitted to Her Majesty for signature. When I read to you the last paragraph of the new Ordinance, you will understand that it is a sort of whitewashing Ordinance—that its object is to whitewash any errors or faults on the part of the Government of Ceylon or their officers which occurred in previous cases. The draft of the new Ordinance was printed in the "Government Gazette" in Colombo on the 18th November. 1898, and I shall 1366 read the concluding paragraph, which is by far the strongest. It says—No notice purporting to have been published and advertised under the provisions of section 1 of the principal Ordinance, or Order purporting to have been made under the provisions of sections 2 and 4 of the said Ordinance, prior to the passing of this Ordinance, shall be deemed to be invalid or inoperative by reason of any irregularity in the publishing, advertising, or making of such notice or order.In other words, whatever errors or legal laches which had been committed by the Government or their officials in administering the original Ordinance are to be condoned, in spite of the Chief Justice having said that "no irregularity ought to be condoned" over such an act. There are many other points to which I might refer in connection with the Government of Ceylon, such as the road tax, and the arrack monopoly. The sale of arrack is a monopoly of the Government. It is one of the strongest spirits known, and it is forced on the inhabitants of the colony; at any rate, if it is not forced on the inhabitants, wonderful facilities are given them for imbibing it, and the income derived from its sale is 3,000,000 rupees per annum. I do not wish to take up too much time of the House, but I desire to concentrate attention on the land Ordinances, actual and prospective. The Act of 1897, No. 1, is, I hold, harsh and unjust. It annexes by the Governmentall lands which at the passing of the Act were not in the actual occupation of any person or persons; and also all lands which shall not have been in the uninterrupted occupation of some persons or person for a period exceeding five years next before notice given by the Government.It must be noted that many lands are, according to the custom of the country, only cultivated at long intervals. My next point is that the Ordinance of 1897, No. 1, has settled little or nothing. On the 30th November 1898, although 280 notices had been issued referring to 140,000 acres of land and 700 separate parcels of land, down to the present lime only 61 parcels of land, covering 318 acres, have been settled. That is to say, only one-twelfth covered by the notices and l-400th part of the acreage has been settled. That, I think, shows that the judges are obviously 1367 against the working- of the Act, and that it is productive of conflicts between the judiciary and the executive. There is another case which I think the House ought to be in possession of, because it shows what a gulf is widening between the judiciary and the executive. At Colombo, on 24th January this year, Mr. Justice Lawrie tried a case of alleged fratricide. In that case it was admitted by the magistrate, who enjoys the name of Mr. Rosemalecoeq (who appeared himself as a witness), that he had detained certain persons in custody, although no charge had been laid against them. He only said he had very good reasons for detaining them. At an inquiry in the Supreme Court on the 25th January, Mr. Justice Lawrie inquired from Mr. Roscmalecocq how-he came to detain people in custody against whom there was no charge. His Lordship observed that he could not understand how anybody could be kept in custody without a complaint being made against them. Mr. Rosemalecocq answered that, in serious cases they had instructions from Government to do all they could in the interests of justice. His Lordship, tendering a copy of the Code to the witness, asked him to point out his authority for such a proceeding. The witness admited that there was nothing in the Code permitting him to do so, but that he had instructions from the Government to keep such people in custody. What does Mr. Justice Lawrie say to that? He observed that the Colonial Secretary issued a large number of circulars which did more harm than good, and were, more often than not, quite irregular and illegal. Mr. Rosemalecocq's conduct, Mr. Justice Lawrie continued, was very serious; and he would make a serious report to His Excellency the Governor. It was a very serious thing: that Mr. Rosemalecocq had done, and his Lordship would see that the bullying of witnesses by magistrates in this country would not occur again. That was to say, that if Mr. Rosemalecocq did not cease from crowing he was going to have his comb cut. I trust that the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary will listen to the petition of Mr. Le Mesurier. I remember that two or three years ago he received petitions from the Zulu chiefs regarding their grievances. I trust that in this 1368 case the right honourable Gentleman will do all that lies in his power to remove what we consider the very serious and somewhat ridiculous position which the Government have taken up. I believe that, moved by those sentiments of justice common to him and to all of us, he will think it right to take an interest in the poorer inhabitants of Ceylon, the native Cingalese, who have inherited their lands from their forefathers. It is with the greatest confidence that I call upon the right honourable Gentleman to redress what I consider the factious and illegal action of the Governor, Sir West Ridgway. Of course, I know it will bo said in this House that it is always necessary to protect our Colonial Governors, but I trust the right honourable Gentleman, while protecting the Governor of Ceylon, will see that abuses are put an end to, and that this internecine strife between the judiciary and the executive shall be terminated.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I think it will be more convenient to the Committee, as the Debate has already travelled over a considerable space, and as several Members have dwelt at great length upon the subjects which they have introduced to the Committee, that I should answer them at once while the matter is fresh in the minds of honourable Members of this House. That, of course, will not prevent my giving any further reply to any other questions which may be brought before the attention of the Committee by any other honourable Members. I will first deal with the statements made to us by the honourable Member for North Manchester. I am sorry, I confess, that the right honourable Gentleman who has given, I think, notice of a Motion on this subject for another stage of the Estimates, should have thought it necessary to bring the subject forward to-day, because he had been informed by me, in answer to a question on these matters, that I have called for a report, and, of course, until I have received that report I am in the position of a person who has only heard one side of the case. I am dealing with an exparte statement, and it is impossible for me to do otherwise than give a perfunctory reply to the numerous charges la-ought by the hon- 1369 ourable Gentleman. If he had only been willing to wait until the time originally contemplated, I think I should have been able to give him a more satisfactory reply than I can possibly give him to-night. I understand the honourable Member puts forward a series of charges, which he considers are well founded, against the Governor of Ceylon, and he expects that I shall take notice of them. Of course, if a Governor does wrong it is quite right that his conduct should come up for review. But at the same time, I may lay down the general rule that charges of this kind affecting the character of a Governor who is in a position of great responsibility, and who cannot by any possibility reply for himself, should only be made upon the most complete evidence, and under circumstances which would thoroughly justify their being brought before the notice of this House. What is the state of affairs on the present occasion? Certainly, it may be that some criticisms may be justly passed upon the Ordinance to which the honourable Member has referred. Upon that I offer no opinion whatever until I have received the reply for which I have called. It may well be that the Legislature of Ceylon, like some other legislatures I know, has passed a faulty Measure; and, if so, on the case being proved, steps may be taken to correct that action. It may be, although, again, I have no knowledge of the subject at the present moment, that certain persons in Ceylon—subordinate officials, I understand from the statement of the honourable Member, or even subordinate magistrates, may have done things which they are not entitled to do and which it would be quite wrong for them to do in their position. But, Sir, there is a great difference between a statement that that is done, and that something has occurred which would involve the condemnation of the Governor. You have to prove, not merely that irregular proceedings have taken place on the part of a subordinate, but that this subordinate has been subsequently upheld by the Governor. Take the only case which has been brought before the Committee in the speech of the honourable Gentleman. He has mentioned the case of Mr. Rosemalecocq, who, he says, wrongfully imprisoned persons without authority. But then we have the state- 1370 ment of the Colonial Secretary of Ceylon, speaking for the Government, that this was a most wrongful act on the part of Mr. Rosemalecocq. But, Sir, surely, if matters of this kind are being dealt with in that spirit by the Governor of Ceylon, it is unnecessary to bring forward charges against the Governor, as if he were responsible for everything done, and of which he had subsequently expressed disapproval. Before charges of this kind can be brought it is of course essential that the honourable Gentleman should be furnished with the necessary brief of the case, and it becomes of the greatest importance to know from whom that brief comes. In the present case the honourable Member has, so far as I can gather, received all his information from Mr. Le Mesurier.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I am speaking on the general question. The brief, as I have said, has been furnished by Mr. Le Mesurier, and the starting point to know is who is Mr. Le Mesurier? The honourable Gentleman, as I understand it, tells us that Mr. Le Mesurier was an officer in the service of the Ceylon Government, and that he was arbitrarily dismissed by Sir West Ridgway.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
Well, I have seen that stated in a London newspaper which is taking notice of these charges, all of which I invariably trace to Mr. Le Mesurier. They come from every quarter, and are raised in many places. They were, I understand, to have been raised in another place to-night, and I believe that in every case they are to be traced to the energy and zeal of Mr. Le Mesurier. Mr. Le Mesurier was in the service of the Ceylon Government; he was dismissed by the present Governor, as he says, tyrannically dismissed, and has been subjected to persecution ever since. What was his fault? Mr. Le Mesurier was married to an English wife. He sought a divorce from that wife, and he failed to obtain it. Thereupon he converted himself to Mohammedanism, and married a second English wife under Mohammedan rites.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
That was the reason why he was dismissed. In fact, it was by my instructions—because the Governor applied to me for instructions upon the subject—that he was at once dismissed from the Service, because I thought his conduct constituted nothing more nor less than a scandal. Since then what has he done? I am not blaming the honourable Gentleman for undue credulity, but, also on the authority of Mr. Le Mesurier—
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
Also on the authority of Mr. Le Mesurier, the honourable Gentleman has told the Committee that Mr. Le Mesurier has taken the steps he has taken in the interests of the native population—that he is a champion of the natives, and it is as a champion of the natives that he is presented to us. On what ground is he presented to us as the champion of the natives? Is it because this ex-official of the Ceylon Civil Service has been buying up at absolutely insignificant sums from the native population speculative claims against his own Government, and trying to make them good in the Ceylon courts? It appears that many of these lands are valuable only because of certain property which would become vacant, and Mr. Le Mesurier has been taking possession of these lands, to which, after all, there is only a speculative claim, clearing the plumbago out of them, and leaving the natives to make good their claims. It was in consequence of this action, and of the temptation which an example of this kind afforded to others to follow in the same line, that the Governor found it necessary to introduce these ordinances. As to whether those ordinances are all they should be, as to whether they are more arbitrary than necessary, I pronounce no opinion at the present stage; but such conduct had to be promptly dealt with, and I am informed by the Governor that these ordinances are not objected to by the non-official members of the 1372 Council, and that the principle of the ordinances has been accepted by them. He says, further, that they are regarded with satisfaction by the vast majority of the natives, and that under them the legitimate, the bona fide, claims of the natives are being rapidly settled. They are being confirmed in possession of their lands, and they would be the chief sufferers if everything was thrown into the pot in order merely to enable Mr. Le Mesurier to continue the practices to which I have referred. That is all I can say on the subject to-night. If the honourable Gentleman is not satisfied, I will take care, as soon as I get a full report from the Governor, to present it to the House, or at all events to take steps to enable me to make a further answer on another occasion. Then I come to the speech of my right honourable Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, who referred to matters of great importance. In the first place, he referred to the Reid Contract. I wish very much he had been a little more distinct in saying what it was that he wished me to do. He rather played with the subject. He pointed out how grave was the injury which this contract might inflict on the Colony, how unusual it was, and how it would affect future interests and rights; but when he came to the point as to whether or not I should have advised Her Majesty to disallow the Act, then he gave an altogether uncertain sound.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
The Governor has himself, in one of the dispatches published in the last Blue Book, given very powerful reasons which, in his opinion, might tell as against veto, and although in the difficult circumstances I hesitated to express a direct opinion, I intended to suggest that the grounds given by the right honourable Gentleman against veto appear to me to be stronger than those which he has given against delay.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I still fail to understand what the right honourable Gentleman advises me to do, or what he would have done if he had been in my place. Does my right honourable Friend, as a Home Ruler, recommend me to take this line in connection with a self-governing Colony, and to interfere with their legislation because it 1373 does not suit my ideas of what is for the benefit of the inhabitants? The arguments with regard to delay are precisely the same with regard to disallowing the Act. In the meantime, the Act was in force, and a considerable sum of money had been paid by the contractor under the Act, and the result either of disallowing the Act or of delaying its operations would have been to plunge the Colony at once into bankruptcy, for which I and the Governor would have been held responsible. My right honourable Friend's argument is a strange one coming from those Benches. He contends, as I understand, that if this had been Canada, for instance, or Australia, I could not have interfered, but he says the politics of this Colony are confessedly on a lower scale. Well, suppose, for' example, we had granted Home Rule to Ireland. Would we subsequently have been justified—because we thought, as very likely some of us on this side of the House would have thought, that their politics were on a lower scale—in vetoing their Acts because, forsooth, although they dealt absolutely and exclusively with matters of domestic concern, we considered that for a period of fifty years they were pledging the future of the country? Then the right honourable Gentleman says that he thinks the best people on both sides in the Colony would have supported me. I have heard that "best people" argument very often; but if we were to proceed, either in this country or in any colony, upon what those who considered themselves the best people on either side say upon the matter, I am afraid we should always be supported by a very small minority. It would be a very dangerous principle to set up, and I for one am not at all prepared to set it up in any attempt to deal with those Colonies that have got Home Rule, and, having got Home Rule, must be trusted to act under it. I will only say this as regards the contract itself—that, although I share very largely the opinions which my right honourable Friend has expressed on the subject, still there is another point of view. It may be that we are mistaken, and that the Government of the Colony have done the best for themselves. At all events, what they say is that the property, the assets, they have handed 1374 over were involving them in an annual expenditure they could not well bear, but from which they are now entirely relieved. They admit—I confess it is an extraordinary admission for any Government to make, but they do admit —that as matters are at present, they do not feel as a Government that they are capable of carrying on with efficiency these very large public obligations, and that they prefer handing them over to a contractor as to whom, at all events, I believe there is a general consensus of opinion that he is a very competent and a very honourable man. Then my right honourable Friend went on to discuss the general constitution of the West Indies, and there again I found difficulty in understanding what he was driving at, or what was the change he suggested in our procedure. The fact is, that the Constitutions of the West Indies, especially up to a very recent date, afforded almost every diversity. They varied from a very wide franchise and a very considerable, practically an absolute, control of financial operations, to what my light honourable Friend calls the mixed system, under which the Governor, in the last resort, was supreme, but was assisted by the advice of a consultative council. My right honourable Friend thinks that the mixed system is the worst. I, on the other hand, think it the best. I think it is absolutely impossible to giro to these Colonies at the present moment representative government in the sense that we have representative government at home. It would be, in my opinion, perfectly absurd to give household suffrage, or practically universal suffrage, to the native population in some of these islands. I think there is sufficient proof that they do not value it, because in the cases in which the suffrage is very low, and in which a very large number of the coloured population might avail themselves of it, only the very smallest proportion ever go to the poll; and, when they do go to the poll, the gentlemen who are elected under this system have certainly not shown themselves so efficient as to justify any sanguine expectation of advantage from any extension of the system. Take the case of Trinidad. I saw the other day that a deputation from that Colony waited upon certain 1375 Members of this House,I observe that one newspaper suited that the Colonial Office was officially represented. That is a mistake. So far as I can make out, no intimation of the deputation was sent to Members on this side of the House, much less to the Colonial Office. These gentlemen came forward to represent their views—views which they represented before the West India Commission, but which, I am happy to say, made no impression upon the Commission. They asked for an extension of the representative Government in Trinidad. They have representative Government in Trinidad in the shape in which. I think, it is the most useful, and which, at all events, is the least dangerous—a municipality. What has been the result? These gentlemen of the municipality of the Port of Spain got the finances into the most hopeless disorder, and then came and demanded that the Imperial Government should go to their assistance, and, still more, that the necessary deficiency should be met by taxation to be levied on the whole of the Colony. I protested against this, as unfair to those who did not live in the municipality, and did not benefit by this expenditure, and I called upon them to make such rates as were necessary to meet the deficit in their finances. They refused absolutely to do that, and under these circumstances it has been necessary to abolish the municipality and to carry on the work by a Commission. That is the experience of the representative Government of which these gentlemen desire an extension—an experience which does not encourage us to go further. As regards the government of the colonies, they are, with the exception of Barbardos, which, as my right honourable Friend says, is altogether an exceptional case, practically under the control of the Colonial Office. I do not mean by that to say that we should use our control on every occasion or on every matter. On the contrary, we should give a very large amount of freedom to the elected and unofficial members, but in matters of finance, in matters where the vital interests of the Colony are concerned, we have in the last resort the power to say what should be done. That system gives us at once the means of knowing what is the opinion of the mass of the population, and it gives us the opportunity of consulting and of obtaining suggestions 1376 from the representatives of the population, while, at the same time, it leaves the last responsibility in our hands, and is, I think, on the whole, the best system which can be adopted in the West Indies in their present state of civilisation. Then, Sir, I come to the speech of my honourable Friend the Member for Sheffield. It was an interesting speech, and my interest in it is not diminished by the fact that I heard it once or twice during the present Parliament. Of course, the details are altered, but the substance is always the same. My honourable Friend makes statements as to what he considers the grievances of the Uitlanders, but he will not expect me to accept these ex parte statements as being absolutely correct without some allowance to what may be said on the other side. Now, I ask myself when my honourable Friend speaks what is the object, granting that everything that he states is true, what does he wish us to do? Does he wish this Government to send an ultimatum to the Transvaal Government on these matters? Does he wish us to insist upon the reforms which my honourable Friend brings before us, and, failing satisfaction, does ho expect us to go to war with the Transvaal? I believe he does. It appears to me that my honourable Friend would not be continually making these speeches unless he had a definite policy of the kind to impress upon us. If, however, that is his view, the first question I should like to ask him is, whom does he represent? Of course, he does not represent the Transvaal Government. But does he represent Uitlanders? My honourable Friend comes here as if he had authority to speak in their name, but I am very much inclined to think that if we were to adopt his advice the Uitlanders themselves would be the first to quarrel with us on that subject, and they might ask why we had interfered when they had not asked us. They might say that we had interfered in the wrong- way. Let me quote from a gentleman who represents the principal industry, that of gold-mining, in the Transvaal, and who is President of the Chamber of Mines at Johannesburg. He said that on one side, he deprecated this perpetual criticism of every act at Pretoria, even if the facts could be constructed so as to justify it. He says that this constant nagging is undignified, and does not 1377 tend to the advantage of anyone; and that they should not apply the microscope to magnify every incident into an event of colossal magnitude. "We have given the Transvaal Government credit when credit was due." I do not think that my honourable Friend has ever done that. Then the President of the Chamber adds that it will not be a party to a policy of pinpricks, which is unworthy of them That is the opinion of the representative of those on whose behalf my honourable Friend makes these strong suggestions. I am not inclined to adopt his policy, even at his suggestion. I am going to admit a good deal of what he has said. It is perfectly true that, at the time of the Raid, three years ago or more, President Kruger made certain promises. He promised to forgive and forget. He promised to listen attentively and favourably to representations made to him as grievances. I think he promised to deal with several of the leading grievances, and I am sorry to say it is true that, up to the present time, not one of those promises has been fulfilled, and that up to the present time those grievances have been rather increased than diminished. In the matter of education, nothing has been done to satisfy the natural demands of the English speaking people to allow their children that education which they have a proper right to claim, and that they should have some proportionate help from the State. Nothing has been done in the way of giving a municipality to Johannesburg. Even in such a question as the disposal of sewage, that is taken out of the hands of the people, and it is made a monopoly—to their great disadvantage, and possibly to the danger of their health. Nothing has been done as to the dynamite monopoly, and nothing has been done in regard to the franchise. It is true that to-day, as on previous occasions, we have what I hope I may call an advance towards the representation of the Uitlanders grievances; but after reading the telegram which professes to give an account of what President Kruger has lately promised, I confess that, so far as I can see, these promises are entirely illusory. I do not think that what he suggests as to the franchise is of the slightest advan-tage. I observe, as to the dynamite monopoly, that, though it is to be in 1378 the hands of the Government, it is still to be a monopoly, and I see no advance towards the remedy of other grievances. There would be an easy way, in my opinion, of remedying these grievances—at least the most important of them—without derogating from the interests of the Transvaal, or from the dignity of the Transvaal Government, or any interference with its national dependence, and that would be to give to the people of Johannesburg, where the Uitlanders mostly congregates a municipality—a real municipality, in the sense in which we understand the word in the United Kingdom. That would give them the control of their own sanitary business—the control of their education and the control of the civil police, which would not be an armed police; and this one step would remove nine out of ten of the grievances put forward by the Uit-lander population. Though, as I think, a grant of this kind might be made without any possible injury to anything which President Kruger might think of importance, still I am assured that there is no chance of such a concession at the present time. That being so, what are we to do? My honourable Friend says that I make pledges and promises three years ago which I have not fulfilled, and he read out a number of them well, what he refers to were not pledges or promises at all. It was a statement of fact, and not a promise at all, which in no way binds the Government. It was a statement to the effect that the people of Johannesburg had laid down their firms in the belief and expectation that Sir Hercules Robinson would make representations on their behalf, which representations he did accordingly proceed to make. It was communicated to President Kruger from Her Majesty's Government that, in the opinion of the Government, so long as those grievances continued so long would there be more or less unrest and so long would the situation be unhappy, and even perhaps disastrous. I adhere to every word of that. But what more can we do? There are certain clear cases where we can intervene, and rightly intervene, in the Transvaal, In the first place, we may intervene if there is any breach in the Convention; but it is not contended, so far as I know, that any of these things to which my honourable Friend refers are breaches. 1379 Then no doubt we should have the usual right of interference if the comity of nations is not observed—that is to say, that the treatment of British subjects in the Transvaal was of such a nature as would give us the right to interfere as to the treatment of British subjects in France or Germany. When we have been asked to interfere, and when we have not interfered, it has been because we have been advised that no such case has arisen for interference. We interfered in the case of the Alien Law, and subject to our intervention the Alien Law has been repealed. I say subject to our interference, but not in consequence of it; other reasons dictated their action. The Transvaal was anxious that we should understand that it was not because of our interference. We have interfered in the case of the Cape boys, and we have interfered with good results. We have complained of the harsh conduct shown to some of these Cape boys, natives of the Cape Colony; and we complained of the action of a certain field cornet. He was, at least temporarily, removed from his position, though I have heard that he has since been re-appointed. That is, no doubt, bad, but other Powers have acted in precisely a similar way, particularly one Power, in which my honourable Friend takes more than ordinary interest. We have heard of similar things happening in Turkey, and yet my honourable Friend does not advise us immediately to go to war with the Sultan. Then there is only one other case—the third case—in which we can intervene, and it is this—we can undoubtedly, having regard to our predominant position in South Africa, make friendly recommendations to the Transvaal for the benefit of South Africa generally and in the interest of peace. That we can do; but I do not know that my honourable Friend would suggest that this would be a particularly suitable time to take such action. We did do it at the time of the Raid, because we believed that President Kruger was inclined to make some concession to the non-Boer population. But nothing has occurred since, and nothing has reached me since as to the tone and temper of the Transvaal Government which would lead me to believe that friendly suggestions of that kind would be for a moment effective. Therefore, under the cir- 1380 cumstances, I do not think that it would be dignified or expedient to make a representation which would receive no consideration. I would say, in conclusion, that I think the condition of the Transvaal must be to every friend of the Transvaal, as well as to every friend of South Africa, unsatisfactory. It must be unsatisfactory to see that the Transvaal cannot come to any kind of terms with the great majority of the white population, who contribute so largely to the prosperity of the State. As long as that condition of things continues it constitutes a real danger; and I can only say that we are watching the situation most carefully. Sir Alfred Milner is on the spot, and I have every confidence in his tact and discretion; but I do not feel at the moment that any case has arisen which would justify me in taking the very strong action which seems, at all events, to have been suggested by my honourable Friend.
§ MR. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
In reference to the last remarks made by the right honourable Gentleman, with regard to the Transvaal, we have had many friendly representations, and I hope from the tone of the recent speech made by President Kruger that the President will be able to meet our views and the position taken up by the Colonial Secretary. It is perfectly true that President Kruger has made promises before which have not been fulfilled, such as on the question of the franchise and taxation, but he has now met the right honourable Gentleman half way. That is a matter of very great regret, I am quite sure, to everyone who takes an interest in South Africa, and it is a very serious danger to South Africa itself. I trust that the speech of President Kruger, the other day, will be considered as an approach to the position taken up by the right honourable Gentleman, because I understand that the President not only proposes to deal with the question of the franchise and taxation, but he is also going to reduce the enormous burden under which the franchise is obtained There is no doubt that the real matter which rests at the bottom of all this agitation is the question of the impossibility of obtaining a Vote in the country in which they dwell. I trust that what President Kruger said yesterday may 1381 be a step in the right direction, and the only difficulty that I feel in regard to the matter is that, unfortunately, President Kruger has, as the right honourable Gentleman has stated, made previous promises which have not been fulfilled. In regard to what fell from the honourable Member for Sheffield, I can only say that he made no suggestion or proposition which would lead to the carrying out of the policy which he ad-vocated. We all agree that, as a general proposition, if the existing oath of allegiance is enforced, it will be almost impossible for a British subject to become a subject of the Transvaal, and it is an absolute injustice in regard to all those British subjects who are living in that country. He has no real suggestion to make, and I can only again say that, with regard to the future of the Transvaal, the only policy we can pursue since the Raid has been a policy of friendly advice and giving advice where it is likely to be taken, but not forcing it where it is certain to be refused. The position as regards this country and the Transvaal was placed on a totally different basis after the Raid, for we are getting more reforms carried out in a more satisfactory way before the Transvaal Raid took place, when our relations were steadily improving, but that Raid caused the Transvaal Government to look upon us with absolute suspicion. With regard to other matters discussed this evening, I may say, in reference to the Newfoundland question, which has been raised, that I think the only course for the Secretary of State to have taken was to refuse all responsibility. My right honourable Friend suggested that he might have undertaken the responsibility of delaying this contract, but to have insisted on delaying its completion would have been as great a responsibility as to have disallowed it. It seems to me that in this matter you must have one rule and one rule alone. You have the varied interests of the country to consider, and the only justification for intervention in a self-governing Colony is the protection of Imperial interests. In regard to this legal contract, it may be possibly absolute ruination, and the most extraordinary financial transaction that any Colony has ever undertaken but it is, after all, purely a financial and local matter, whatever 1382 else may be said about it, and it cannot interfere with Imperial matters. Therefore, I think the Secretary of State had only one possible course open to him in connection with this matter, and that was to wash his hands of all responsibility, and to say that, whatever might be the result of this contract being carried out, he declined to accept any responsibility at all as representing the Imperial Government. With regard to the Ordinance of the Government of Ceylon, I think my honourable Friend the Member for Sheffield was quite entitled to bring this matter forward, because it is, as it were, the only occasion, and he would not have another opportunity of doing so.
§ MR. BUXTON
The right honourable Gentleman has asked for Reports with regard to this matter, and, when they come, I suppose he will lay Papers on the Table with regard to this matter?
§ MR. BUXTON
I think my right honourable Friend should bring this matter forward in the House. I have no information in regard to the matter, but I have some knowledge as to whom the right honourable Gentleman referred as possibly being at the bottom of this agitation. I think my right honourable Friend, after reading the official Papers as he does, is perfectly entitled to lay the matter before the House and give his version of the matter. The right honourable Gentleman has asked for a Report, and, until that Report is received, we must, of course, reserve our opinion in regard to this matter. I think those are all the points raised by the different honourable Gentlemen who have spoken alreadv in the Debate, and I will only conclude by again saying that, in regard to the question of the Transvaal, that we on this side of the House do not feel at the present moment that any special or extra pressure should be brought to bear with regard to the internal affairs of the Transvaal on the Transvaal Government. I do not believe that the honourable Gentleman the Member for Sheffield is correct in say- 1383 ing that matters are worse now than they were before. We do not think that the Government ought to go beyond the Convention either in regard to foreign or local affairs, and I for one shall certainly support the right honourable Gentleman in the attitude which he has taken up.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
There are one or two statements which I much regret that the right honourable Gentleman has made. After reading the telegram in this morning's paper, he has proceeded to criticise some remarks made by President Kruger, and he has offered an opinion, after reading this abstract and very condensed telegram, that if those changes were carried out they would not be of the slightest value to anyone in the country. Well, surely, on a matter of this kind, if the right honourable Gentleman had made a speech of an hour's duration, and it was condensed into a telegram to South. Africa—and misrepresented, as is often the case—it would not be very creditable for somebody out in Africa to discuss his remarks in the way the right honourable Gentleman has treated this telegram to-night. I am very much inclined to think that he has not tended to bring-about the reforms desired by the course he has taken, and I believe that, in consequence of the attitude taken up by the Press, both in England and Johannesburg, reforms have been delayed by the course which has been taken. Now, President Kruger has been in London and he knows the condition of things here, and, when he hears the right honourable Gentleman pleading that Pretoria should have a municipality and the right to control the police, the President knows that in London you refuse to give the local thority control of the police. Therefore, you are asking President Kruger to give to foreigners the right which you refuse to your own people in London. The President also knows that the police in Ireland are under the control of the Imperial Government, and therefore you are asking him to give to foreigners a right which you will not give to your own countrymen in Ireland. I do not think—and I say it advisedly—that there is very much to complain of as far as the franchise is concerned. It is perfectly true that under the present 1384 law you have to wait 14 rears before you can have a voice in the election of the representatives to the First Chamber. But you can live in this country a whole lifetime and you never have the right to vote for anybody who sits in the First Chamber in this country, and yet you complain that you have to wait 14 years in the Transvaal. After two years you do get a vote for the Second Chamber. I remember when my honourable Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Perthshire and myself were in Pretoria when this scheme was brought out, we impressed upon President Kruger the desirability of giving further powers in this respect, and he told us that he would increase those powers later on. This has not been very long in operation. Now, I know that one of the most important reforms is to give the control of the purse strings to the Second Chamber, the same as we have in England. If they had that, then I think nearly all the grievances complained of would be met, for that seems to me, looking at the facts of the case, to be the only real grievance. Then, again, as far as taxation is concerned, I do not see why there should be any complaint, because the rate of taxation in the Transvaal is lower than it is in the neighbouring Colony. In our own Colony everything that we say is wrong in the Transvaal is still worse there, because the rates are still higher. As far as education is concerned, I think that you have no ground at all to say a single word, and if you want French, German and Russian taught in your schools you must pay for it yourselves. The State control of education has not a very long history, and we cannot look upon ourselves as being very far advanced in educational matters, and it is really preposterous, because foreigners go into State schools in the Transvaal, that you should demand that they should be taught various languages there, and if you once begin to give a special teaching to one particular class you will eventually have to give it to the others. Lastly, with regard to the dynamite concession, the right honourable Gentleman thinks the changes proposed will not be very beneficial, because there will still remain a monopoly. This is then, monopoly, and it will always remain a monopoly. And why 1385 are they so Strongly in favour of this monopoly? Why, simply because of the past action of the British Government. When the Boers have been fighting native wars you have stopped their supplies on several occasions and have left them at the mercy of the tribes. You stopped their impoi-tation of explosives, and because of that they have determined upon this policy of having explosives manufactured in their own country. This monopoly will always remain, because it is now the settled policy of the Transvaal to have all explosives under the control of the State, and I think the policy is a very wise one. Then, with reference to the policy of indirect taxation and protection, if you are having a policy of protection in India in regard to sugar, surely they cannot be far wrong to have protection in the Transvaal. These grievances have been magnified by the right honourable Gentleman, and the result is that reforms which otherwise would have been granted if different tactics had been adopted both in London and Johannesburg, have not been passed because the Transvaal Government is much more easily led than driven. In the Transvaal, as in this country, there are reforms required, but I do not think the speech of the right honourable Gentleman to-day will tend to make President Kruger do more to persuade his Volks-raad to pass those Measures. There is a powerful Conservative Party in the Transvaal, and it is like our own Conservative Party, very difficult to move when it has got cherished ideas, and they think some of your changes in the Transvaal may do what was done before when the gold industry was first discovered and developed, namely, bring a lot of foreigners who will try and overturn their independence. With regard to the oath of allegiance which has caused so much trouble, it is only analogous to the oath of allegiance in the United States, and it is absolutely word for word the same as the American system, the only difference being that you have the South African Republic instead of the United States. That is the character of some of the bogus grievances mentioned in this House, and which have prevented some of the real grievances being removed.
§ MR. CLOUGH (Portsmouth)
I desire to point out that in the Legislature of Cape Colony there has been passed an Act imposing an additional tax on companies which very seriously affects limited companies trading in that Colony. It is entitled, "An Act to amend the law relating to Licenses and Stamps," and by this Act a tax of one shilling per cent, on the paid-up capital of a company has been imposed. This tax is in addition to the taxes which already exist. For instance, there is the dealers' tax of £3, the importers' tax of £12; and then the limited companies trading in Cape Colony who have offices and warehouses have the usual expenses of rent, rates, and taxes, which are very heavy indeed, especially in Port Elizabeth. My point is this, that this is a tax not upon the volume of trade which limited companies may do with Cape Colony, but it is a tax upon the entire paid-up capital of the companies doing trade with that Colony. In round figures it works out as representing about 1½ per cent, upon the trade done, and it constitutes almost a prohibitive tax with many Cape merchants. Take, for instance, a company with £150,000 capital, the tax would be £75; assuming the year's trading to be £5,500, it would mean l½ per cent, of a charge upon the direct trade done with the Colony.
THE SECRETARY or STATE FOR THE COLONIES
May I ask the honourable Gentleman when this Act was passed.?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
In what way is it suggested that we should interfere with that Act?
§ MR. CLOUGH
My intention is to call the attention of the right honourable Gentleman to these facts, which are very seriously affecting trade in London, with a view to the Colonial Secretary taking some steps in the way of remedying this state of things, and with a view to getting him to bring his influence to bear upon the Cape Legislature.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I have no influence whatever, and I would not interfere on any account, because it is a matter which concerns the Cape Parliament solely.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
Order, order ! Unless the honourable Member can show that the Secretary of State for the Colonies can forbid the passing of the Act or withhold his assent from it I do not see how the honourable Member can raise the subject here. He ought to raise the question in the Cape Parliament.
§ MR. CLOUGH
Not having a seat in the Cape Colony Legislative Assembly, and as it affects a very large number of merchants who trade in London, and who have approached me on this matter, and whose business as English traders is going to be very much affected, I deemed it to be my duty to bring this matter forward in this House, but after the answer of the right honourable Gentleman I do not think it is any use pur-suing the subject further.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
Before this House proceeds to take a vote upon this question there are two or three words which I should like to say. I think most of us on this side of the House will entirely agree with the decision at which the Colonial Secretary has arrived with regard to Newfoundland. The temptation in this case to overrule the action of the local Legislature was, no doubt, a very strong one, because it would appear that the contract was not only highly objectionable, but, in some circumstances, it was very improper, and there was evidence that the local Legislature had exceeded its powers. Nevertheless, I think the Colonial Secretary arrived at a right decision when he said that we ought not to give self-government by halves, and that if you once concede self-government to a Colony you ought to allow that Colony to take the result of its own action, and you ought not to bring in the Imperial Government unless some large Imperial interests are at stake. To the reasons stated by him and by other honourable Members who have spoken, I would like to add others. I understand from what has been said by my honourable friend the Member for Southampton, that it will be in the power of a future Legislature to repeal this Act, and, of course, there will be 1388 no moral obligation upon the Colonial Office in the future to interfere with the local Legislature in using any power it may have. My other argument is this, that if any of our self-governing Colonies —even such a small one as Newfoundland—begin to expect the Home Government to deliver them from the consequences of their own improvidence and want of care in the selection of legislators or ministers their case will go from bad to worse. These Colonies must learn that their future is entirely in their own hands. With regard to South Africa, if we were now reviewing the whole policy of the present Government as regards the Transvaal, I should have some observations to make with regard to that policy as a whole, and I should criticise a good deal the conduct of the present Government in its earlier stages, believing that that conduct has had something to do with the unfortunate results which have followed. But all that I have to add on this occasion is to express the satisfaction with which I heard from the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary that he does not intend to listen to the inducements which come to him from many quarters, and adopt a policy of aggression against the South African Republic; that he intends to adhere strictly to the lines of the Convention of 1884, that he will enforce that Convention clearly and firmly, without interfering in matters where the Convention does not authorise interference with the internal affairs of the Transvaal. I believe that the right honourable Gentleman is acting in a way which will open up a prospect of an early settlement of the difficulty. Of course, we do not agree with the honourable Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, that this state of things is worse now than it was three or four years ago, but I am bound to say that I agree with him to this extent—that I do not think it is substantially better. I think there is a great deal of mis-government in the Transvaal, and I am sure President Kruger lost a very valuable, and what I may call a golden, opportunity of trying to unite the people of the Transvaal after the events of 1895–96. Reforms would then have been accepted with thankfulness, the position of the country would have been much better, and his 1389 own government would have been stronger. Unfortunately that opportunity was lost, and it is impossible to acquit President Kruger from the blame of losing it, because, in spite of what has been said to the contrary, no one can doubt that his opinion is paramount there, and that if he were to tell his Conservative friends that they might safely accept—and I think they might very safely accept—these reforms, his Government would accept them. Therefore the fault is to be laid on President Kruger himself. No doubt President Kruger has a tenacity which belongs to an old man who has had a troublesome life, and who wishes to keep things quiet as long as he lives. Still there is unrest, and so long as these grievances last, that unrest will remain. But the real reason why I feel glad that the Government appear to have determined not to listen to those who ask them to embark on a policy of aggression is, that the real difficulty in South Africa for many years past has been the tendency everywhere to take sides in politics according to racial divisions. Ever since 1826 there has been a tendency on the part of Englishmen to take one side, and men of Dutch blood and speech to take the other, and that has been a constant trouble in the way of all Governments which have had to deal with South Africa. The latent dissension between the Dutch and the English elements has been always present, ready to burst into flame whenever that feeling is stimulated by events. It appeared to have nearly died out until it was revived in 1877. When we annexed the Transvaal it was revived so much by that annexation that it very nearly led to a civil war in the Transvaal in 1881, and that, I suppose, was the principal reason that the British Cabinet of that day determined to make terms with the Transvaal and give them back the qualified authority which they enjoyed under the Convention of 1881. Between 1881 and 1895 this feeling of animosity between Dutchmen and Englishmen had again almost ceased, but unfortunately it was revived by the events of 1895, and since then it has been, and is now, a very powerful factor in South African politics. I suppose there can be no doubt that at the present moment the feeling runs as high in South Africa as it has ever 1390 run before, but, fortunately, in Cape Colony there is no disloyalty towards Her Majesty or the British. The Dutchmen are just as loyal to the British connection as the Englishmen. At the same time, it is extremely desirable that the home Government and the Cape Government should avoid any new cause for disquiet or hostility which would arouse racial passions in South Africa, and set Englishmen and Dutchmen against one another, and we know that to enter upon a policy of aggression against the Transvaal would have this result. For this reason I am extremely glad that a policy of patience and quiet is being adopted by Her Majesty's Government, and I hope the right honourable Gentleman will persevere in that policy, and that the result will be that those reforms will be instituted which are so necessary for the well-being of the country.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfar)
I should like to call the attention of the Committee to the evils resulting from the importation of strong drink into semi-civilised countries under British protection. I will do so briefly, not by way of complaint against what has been done by the right honourable Gentleman, but in order to urge upon him the desirability of using his influence with the Government to get them to do something more than has already been done. We should administer our Colonies in such a way as would be for the best advantage of the natives themselves, and only in a secondary degree for our own advantage and our own profit. This question is a very important one from a business point of view, because these natives are customers of ours. It is amongst them that we hope to increase the sale of our merchandise which is exported to these countries. I know this is a very difficult question, because what we do is very often counteracted by what is done by other nations, and with a Revenue very largely depending on this source, we are always confronted with the danger that if we in any way diminish that revenue we should be doing so at our own loss and to the profit of the traders of other nations. But the fact still stares us in the face that, in spite of what has been done, the importation of strong drink 1391 into these Colonies and Protectorates is a trade which is very largely on the increase, and which is doing serious injury to the native population. In Lagos, over £23,000 worth of spirits and rum were imported in 1883, and in 1895 this amount had increased to £38,000, but has now diminished to £32,000. In the Gold Coast there has been a gradual increase in the importation of strong drink generally. The import has increased relatively in a larger degree in British Central Africa. These are, I think, sufficient grounds for considerable apprehension, alarm, and great regret on the part of a considerable body in this country. The evil is very difficult to deal with, because it has been shown by the Papers which have been presented to the House that where there is trade in liquor there is trade in other goods, and if we were to entirely prohibit the trade in liquor we should probably strangle our trade in other goods. Various methods of controlling the drink traffic have been considered, but none of them seem entirely to meet the difficulty. Prohibition might lead to smuggling and illicit manufacture. One must not forget that these native races have their own special brands of strong drinks, but still I cannot help thinking that the present is not an inopportune time to draw the attention of the Committee to this question, because the regulations made under the Brussels Act will come up for revision this year. Both the right honourable Gentleman and the noble Marquess at the head of the Government are agreed that a conference, with a view of getting other European Powers to raise their duties to the same rate as ours, is very desirable in order to prevent the present demoralisation. The other part of the world to which I will direct attention is the New Hebrides. The right honourable Gentleman was good enough to answer a question I put to him the other day on that subject, but there is a very strong feeling on the part of those who are interested in the New Hebrides that the influence of this Government might now be exerted very beneficially to prevent any relaxation of the present restrictions which are placed upon the importation by British traders of spirits into the New Hebrides. Perhaps I may, in one or two words, explain what has 1392 arisen in the last two months. The Federal Council in Australasia has had the matter under consideration, as traders under the British flag taking spirits to the New Hebrides have found that, in consequence of the restrictions placed upon them, they are, in selling these goods to the natives, at a disadvantage with French and German traders. Reports in the newspapers go to show that the Federal Council addressed a communication to the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, urging the view that if the French and German Governments could not be persuaded to raise their restrictions to the same level as those which are imposed on British traders, it would be necessary that the British restrictions should be levelled down. Unfortunately, a report got into the Australian papers that the right honourable Gentleman had expressed himself as being favourable to the view of the Federal Council, a report which the right honourable Gentleman contradicted the other day in answer to a question put to him. Those who have taken the matter up are still extremely apprehensive lest the Federal Council, or the honourable Gentleman, or both, should be committed to any action in this matter by any expression that has been given, and for that reason I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether it is in his power to give us any further and fresh information on the subject. There are other instances which could be given of this trade in alcohol and strong drink in other parts. In regard to East Africa, I hope it will be possible for the Government to use even stronger and more energetic efforts to obtain joint action on the part of the civilised Powers in regard to the importation of spirits.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
I gather that the honourable Gentleman has read the Blue Book published on this subject, which contains a very full account of the matter, and that he has also read the speeches which he himself has repeated again and again in this House. I think, under the circumstances, that a great part of the honourable Gentleman's speech was entirely a work of supererogation. What can we say more than we have said? I have told the 1393 honourable Gentleman, and I tell him now, that whatever interest I take in this matter, it is not greater than that which the Government have taken and are taking. They are doing everything they possibly can, and more than that is impossible. The honourable Member has referred to statements which have been made, and with regard to that I think myself it is a disgraceful thing that after the contradiction I gave to the statement which had been made it should now form the subject of a pamphlet which is being passed round the House and in other directions, and which is supposed to be in aid of the temperance cause. Anyone who knows what has passed in this House knows that it is absolutely unfounded. We are most anxious to stop the sale of spirits, and the only difficulty arises from the unwillingness of other Powers to join us in the arrangements we propose.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
As to the right honourable Gentleman's condemnation of the pamphlet he has referred to, I should like to say that I am in no way responsible for it. I am sorry that the right honourable Gentleman does not take the view that I have endeavoured to do him a service in enabling him to again contradict the statement which appeared in the Australian paper.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That Item 5, Class 2 (Foreign Office), be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Joseph Walton.)
§ *MR. JOSEPH WALTON (York, W.R., Barnsley)
The correspondence respecting the affairs of China, the presentation of which to the House has so long been delayed, makes it necessary to ask the Government for certain information, in order to enable the Committee to understand more clearly what is the present actual situation in China. It is hardly necessary to remind the Committee that the announced policy of the Government at the beginning of the last Session was the upholding of the rights which the Treaty of Tien-tsin conferred upon Great Britain; and the Foreign Secretary declared that there was no sacrifice which the Government were not prepared to make rather than allow those rights to be destroyed. The 1394 question is, how far has that announced policy, as revealed by the Blue Book, been successfully pursued? In order to show how far the policy of Her Majesty's Government has failed, it is necessary to recapitulate some of the principal events which have taken place in China during the last 18 months. First, with regard to Germany, when she took possession of Kiao-chau and a limited area of territory around it, Her Majesty's Government very properly 6ought to obtain from the German Government a satisfactory assurance that British Treaty rights would in no way be interfered with. It was, indeed, startling to learn, however, that instead of adhering to this position, the Government almost immediately afterwards declared spontaneously to Germany that in establishing herself at Wei-hai-Wei, England had no intention of injuring or contesting the rights and interests of Germany in the Province of Shan-tung, or of creating difficulties for her in that Province, and that it was especially understood that England would not construct any railroad communication from Wei-hai-Wei, and the district leased therewith, into the interior of the Province. The right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary contended in the Debate on China at the opening of the present Session that our trading rights were not affected, inasmuch as Kiao-chau was a free port, which was Letter than a Treaty port. But I would remind the right honourable Gentleman that, though the port of Kiao-chau is at present a free port, yet it is equally true that Herry on Bulow had distinctly stated in the Reichstag that, whilst he believed that the best way to serve the commercial interests of Germany would be to put Kiao-chau on the footing of a free port, he would not like to pledge himself beforehand, especially to foreign nations, for he believed it was better to hold themselves free to do what they liked, as he believed the English had done and were doing at Hong-Kong. Therefore, whether in the matter of the construction of railways, the acquisition of mining rights, or equal opportunities for trading in Shan-tung, British rights under the Treaty of Tien-tsin have been disregarded, and there is no guarantee whatever that they will not ultimately be destroyed. By annexation Germany 1395 is now in a position to extinguish at any moment the rights which Great Britain have hitherto enjoyed in the great Province of Shantung, with its 37 millions of people. Therefore, I think I have a right to say that though Kiao-chau may now be open as a free port, yet it has been put into the power of Germany, when she thinks fit, to practically extinguish the rights we have hitherto enjoyed in the Province under the Treaty of Tien-tsin. Now, I ask what quid pro quo has this country got from Germany in return for the encroachments upon our Treaty rights which Her Majesty's Government have suffered her to make? I know of none; on the contrary, there is the extraordinary declaration to Lord Salisbury made by the German Ambassador on the 11th of May last, that Germany, by her occupation of Kiao-chau and her agreement with China respecting Shantung, has acquired a special position in that Province, which consequently is not unreservedly open to British enterprise; whereas Great Britain, not having occupied any place in the Yang-tsze region, that region is still unreservedly open to German enterprise. Lord Salisbury, no doubt, has said that he is unable to assent to that. As matters, however, stand at present, the contention of the German Ambassador cannot be gainsaid. It is with the greatest satisfaction that I find from the Blue Book that the British and German Governments have come to the conclusion—in September last—that it is desirable to agree about the sphere of influence of the two countries regarding railway construction in China, and to mutually support the interest of either country, the Germans undertaking not to compete in the English sphere, or the English in the German sphere. And I may point out to the Committee that in the arrangement concluded the British sphere of interest and the German sphere of interest in the matter of railway construction is actually defined between the contracting parties. This certainly involves a practical adoption of a "sphere of concessions" policy in place of the policy of upholding unimpaired the rights we enjoy under the Treaty of Tien-tsin, which states that we are to enjoy—Free and equal participation in all privileges, immunities, and advantages which may 1396 have been given, or which may hereafter be given, by the Emperor of China to the nationals or Government of any other nation.This undoubtedly conferred upon us not only an equal right with other nations to trade, but also an equal right to undertake commercial, enterprises throughout the Chinese Empire. The agreement, however, for the construction of the Tien-tsin and Chin-kiang Railway jointly by Germany and England on equal terms and conditions, constitutes a friendly co-operation in favour of which there is much to be said. With regard to Russia, I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee by referring again in detail to the series of diplomatic defeats which Her Majesty's Government have sustained at the hands of the Russian Government. I will deal only with the present situation as created by accomplished facts. Russia is practically in military occupation of the whole of the North of China. The "open-door" has been actually closed; so far the undertaking of commercial enterprises by British capitalists on equal terms and conditions to those obtained by the Russians is conclusively shown by Her Majesty's Government having allowed Russia to impose terms and conditions, in connection with the Niu-chwang Railway Extension loan, of a much less favourable character than those which they themselves obtained for their Manchurian Railway system. I will draw the attention of the Committee to what the Tsung-li-Yamen consider a fair view of the question of terms and conditions for railway concessions. They state in their communication to Sir Claude Macdonald, of the 14th August last, in defending the terms and conditions of the Pekin-Han-kau concession, which confers enormous powers on the concessionaires that—In borrowing funds for the construction of a railway, if the lenders of the money or their representatives were not allowed to have anything to do with the concerns of the line (prior to the repayment of the loan with interest) would your Excellency permit your merchants to commit themselves to such a wild cat undertaking? What you would not permit your own merchants to do you can hardly require the merchants of other nations to undertake.And yet those are precisely the terms and conditions which Her 1397 Majesty's Government have allowed the Russian Government to impose upon British capitalists who are providing money to construct 250 miles of railway north of the Great Wall to Niu-chwang. They have permitted our merchants to commit themselves to what the Tsung-li-Yamen in their wisdom declared would be "a wild cat undertaking." The fact that the public subscribed £12,000,000 sterling for the Niu-chwang Extension Loan, as against £2,300,000 required, shows that British capitalists are quite prepared to take part in the development of China even on somewhat disadvantageous terms. But the shock which has been given to the confidence of the investing public by the renewed, though fortunately unsuccessful, opposition on the part of Russia to the amended Niu-chwang Loan contract has probably created such a sense of insecurity in the minds of British investors that, unless some clear and definite understanding become to, as between the various Powers interested in China, as to spheres of concessions, our commercial interests in that country will seriously suffer. By their acquiescence in the demands of Russia Her Majesty's Government have surrendered the principle of equal treatment in commercial enterprises for British traders north of the Great Wall. The Government will no doubt contend that the open door is still open in Manchuria for general trade, but they are bound to admit that Russia has placed herself in a position to absolutely close the open door by annexation, whenever she considers the moment opportune. Not only has Russia been allowed to acquire, however, exclusive and preferential rights in Manchuria, but, as clearly shown in the Blue Book, the Governments of Russia and France are at the back of the Belgian Syndicate which has obtained the concession for the railway from Pekin right down into the heart of our supposed sphere of trade and commercial enterprise in the Yang-tsze Valley at Han-kau. Her Majesty's Government, in their dispatches, recognise the serious danger to British interests that the giving of this concession by the Chinese Government to foreign nations constitutes. The terms and conditions upon which the concession is granted are clearly a contravention of the agreement on the part of the Chinese Government that they 1398 will never alienate any territory in the provinces adjoining the Yang-tsze to any other Power, whether under lease, mortgage, or any other designation. The fact that Russia and France are both interested in this railway is further proved by the steps they have taken to secure large concessions of land at Han-kau, and, further, by the fact that not only has money been found by the Russo-Chinese Bank for the construction of the northern end of the railway from Pekin to Pao-ting, but they have also taken steps to secure a concession for a lino from Tai-yuen-fu which will connect with the Pekin and Han-kau line at Shan-tung. It appears, therefore, that Russia has no intention whatever of confining her operations to the portion of China north of the Great Wall, but is making strenuous efforts to place herself in a position, in the not remote future, to dominate the very heart of China, the Yang-tsze Valley. I am convinced that the question of the Pekin and Han-kau concession ought to have been made the Fashoda of China. There seems to be little doubt that Russia has been enormously encouraged in her aggressive action by the series of humiliating surrenders made by Her Majesty's Government, just as France was encouraged by the surrenders made to her prior to the Fashoda incident. Her Majesty's Government should have absolutely declined, on the ground of infringement of their Treaty rights by the Chinese Government, to allow the Pekin and Han-kau railway contract to be ratified, and they ought at the same time to have entered into negotiations with Russia and the other Powers interested, with the view of defining, by friendly arrangement the spheres of concessions to be reserved to the respective countries. I venture to suggest that Her Majesty's Government might, with great advantage to the interests of this country, learn a lesson from the policy so unflinchingly and successfully pursued by Lord Palmerston, who, when Lord Granville had advised a concession being made to France, replied—What France may want is either just or not—it is either right or wrong. If it is just and right, it ought, therefore, to be done; and if it is unjust and wrong, it ought, therefore, not to be done; and I never can admit that it can be wise to give way to the unjust 1399 pretensions of France. Depend upon it, no good is gained by such concessions; you only what the appetite, instead of satisfying it. We should betray our weakness and encourage fresh demands.This applies equally to Russia. Again, in 1841, in commenting upon the policy of Lord Aberdeen, Lord Palmerston said—As to our foreign affairs, they go on as usual; we yield to every foreign State and Power all they ask, and then make it our boast that they are all in good humour with us. This is an easy way of making friends, but in the end a somewhat costly one.I am afraid that to a large extent it may be truly said that history has repeated itself in this respect under the present Tory Administration. I am aware that Her Majesty's Government claimed that they had sought and obtained compensation for the breach of faith on the part of the Chinese Government in the granting of the Pekin and Han-kau Concession over our heads; but I am bound to say that, in my opinion, we ought to regard the concessions obtained not as compensation, but as merely our just and equitable right, apart from all idea of compensation. In any case, valuable though some of the concessions undoubtedly are, they in no sense give adequate compensation for our consenting to leave under the control of foreign Powers an undertaking like the Pekin and Han-kau Railway; which may in the future be fraught with such serious consequences to British interests in the Yang-tsze region. Further, Japan also has acquired a sphere of concessions in China by obtaining an assurance that no territory in the province of Fu-kien shall be alienated to any nation but Japan. Italy likewise is seeking as a naval base and coaling station, Sammun Bay, and will no doubt look to having its hinterland as a sphere of concessions. With regard to the action of France in Southern China—and I must remind the Committee that the densly populated regions of Southern China are of much more value commercially than Northern China—I have more than once drawn the attention of the House to the Agreement of January 1896 between the French Government and the British Government, in which it is provided thatall commercial and other privileges and advantages conceded in the two Chinese Provinces of Yun-nan and Szu-chan either to 1400 Great Britain or France shall, as far as rests with them, be extended and rendered common to both Powers and to their nationals and dependents, and they engage to use their influence and good offices with the Chinese Government for this purpose.The Papers on China presented to the House last Session disclose, however, the fact that the French Government have contravened both the spirit and the letter of this agreement, in opposing our efforts to get a concession for a railway from British Burmah to the Upper Yang-tsze, and in putting pressure upon the Chinese Government to prevent the opening of Nan-ning on the West River. Whilst the Blue Book, just issued, shows a further contravention of that treaty, inasmuch as France has compelled China, not only in regard to the Province of Yun-nan, but also the Provinces of Kwang-si and Kwang-tung, to enter into a similar agreement as to non-alienation, ceding and leasing to that which we have obtained from the Chinese Government in respect of the Yang-tsze Valley. In the course of a Debate last Session Mr. Curzon stated that this country had obtained an agreement precisely similar to that which the French had got; but from the Blue Book, so far as it gives light on the subject, it appears that our Representative has applied for such an undertaking, in writing, only in regard to the Provinces of Yun-nan and Kwang-tung; thus apparently sanctioning the claim of France to preferential rights in the Province of Kwang-si. Perhaps the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary will inform the Committee whether this be so or not. But, so far as can be gathered from the Blue Book, the pledge in writing demanded by Her Majesty's Government has not been obtained, the Yamen merely stating verbally that they have no great objection to giving England the same pledge: but that France will ask for a similar pledge in regard to the Yang-tsze. More than once last Session it was stated in the House that the correspondence relating to affairs in Southern China could not be published, because it was still proceeding. But, though I have carefully searched the Blue Book just published, I have not found any dispatches whatever addressed to the French Government with regard to their attempted encroachments upon our Treaty rights in Southern China, and especially 1401 in reference to the action they have taken in contravention of the Agreement of January 1896; and I will therefore be glad if the Under Secretary will make a statement to the Committee on the subject, and also say whether a special effort will be made to come to a friendly understanding with France respecting affairs in China generally in connection with the negotiations now proceeding for the settlement of outstanding difficulties between the two countries. A question of the greatest importance to the trading interests of this and other nations is that of the opening of the inland waterways of China, in accordance with the understanding announced in the House last year, namely, that an arrangement had been arrived at, under which the waterways of China were to be opened so that British goods in British ships could be taken to every riverside town and station throughout the Chinese Empire. I gather from the Blue Book that this agreement has not yet by any means been fully carried out; and I should like to have some assurance from the Government that this subject is engaging their earnest attention. I understand that the waterways of China have up to the present been but partially opened, that only the treaty ports can be traded with and the intervening riverside towns and stations are not opened to trade. I shall be glad to know from the Under Secretary whether this is so or not, and whether Her Majesty's Government are determined to insist that the arrangement shall be given effect to in its entirety, with the least possible delay. Her Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on the firm stand which they took, jointly with America, in making and successfully maintaining their protest against France obtaining an exclusive settlement at Shanghai, where the total French tonnage visiting the port in 1896 was only 115,000 tons out of a total of nearly 4 millions, and where she has already an equal right with other nations to use the international settlement for trading purposes. This shows how powerful united action on the part of England and America is; and I trust that a similar line will be taken whenever necessary. To sum up the situation, it is clear that Germany, Russia, Japan, Italy, and France have secured, or are taking steps to secure, 1402 special spheres of interest in China, where they will enjoy preferential, if not exclusive, rights to concessions. Yet England, notwithstanding the fact that she was the pioneer in opening up China to trade, and has waged more than one war, at heavy cost, to keep that market open, and though at present about two-thirds of the whole foreign trade in China is in British hands, has no special sphere of concessions in which she will have any right of priority. I have quoted the express statement of the German Ambassador to show that, in consequence of our non-occupation, in any form, of the Yang-tzse Valley, they regard that region as being unreservedly open to German enterprise; and the fact that Russia, France, and Belgium have secured the Pekin and Han-kau Railway concession on the one hand, and the Americans the Canton and Han-kau concession on the other, shows that we alone among the nations interested in the trade of China have no sphere in which we have any preference in the matter of concessions for railways or for mining enterprises. This condition of affairs, involving, as it necessarily must, the sacrifice of British interests, ought not to be allowed to continue, and I must press the Under Secretary for some definite statement of what Her Majesty's Government really intend to do. I do not overlook the fact that latterly Her Majesty's Government have been more successful in securing railway concessions, but I notice a discrepancy between the statement of the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary, in the Debate on the 8th of February, when he gave the mileage for which concessions up to that time had been "granted" to British investors as 2,800 miles, and his statement in reply to a question I subsequently addressed to the right honourable Gentleman, when he referred to the concessions as those to which a preference had been "secured" or "promised" to British enterprise, and I may remark that, in dealing with a bad life like that of the Chinese Government, there is a vital difference between a concession granted and one merely promised. The right honourable Gentleman added that he could not give the particulars of the concessions comprised in the total of 2,800 miles. I am glad that what was then declared 1403 to be impossible has since become possible, as a full detailed statement of the various concessions obtained appears in the Blue Book recently issued. Under these circumstances, I hope the right honourable Gentleman will now be prepared to inform the Committee in respect of which concessions comprised in the 2,800 miles agreements have been finally ratified by the Chinese Government. I am glad to observe that included in the list of British railway concessions is the right to extend the Burmah railway system into China as far as the Yang-tsze; and I trust that this indicates that Her Majesty's Government no longer consider the construction of the railway a physical impossibility. I have no wish to depreciate the success of the Government in the matter of gaining railway concessions, but I would point out that the Canton to Han-kau line, having been granted to an American syndicate, and the Tien-tsin to Chin-kiang Railway having been secured by the joint efforts of Germany and England; also, the Pekin, Tien-tsin and Shanghai-Kwan line being already constructed, these can hardly be regarded as achievements to be placed to the credit of British diplomacy alone. It is, however, not the less essential, if the future commercial interests of this country in China are to be upheld, that the special sphere in which we are to have a preference in regard to the construction of railways and the working of mines on at any rate equally favourable terms to those enjoyed by the Germans in the Province of Shantung, should be clearly defined and embodied in an agreement with the Chinese Government, and subsequently notified to other Powers. It should be borne in mind that the fact that other Powers can rely upon the British special sphere of concessions remaining open on equal terms to the trade of all nations leaves no ground for objection to our having a sphere commensurate with our trade in China reserved to us in the way I have indicated. In order to facilitate such an arrangement, it seems to me that the proper course would be for Her Majesty's Government to frankly admit the right of Russia to regard that portion of China to the North of the Great Wall as her sphere of concessions, and endeavour to come to an arrangement with her to take 1404 over the Niu-chwang Extension lino contract in exchange for the Pekin to Han-kau concession, and thus obviate any interference in our respective spheres. The policy I have indicated as regards spheres of concessions does not necessarily conflict with the "open-door" theory, and I submit that an agreement ought to be earnestly sought by Her Majesty's Government with the various Powers interested in the trade of China, under which the right to carry on general trade throughout that Empire would be equally enjoyed by all nations.
§ On the Return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval—
§ MR. MOON (St. Pancras, N.)
It appears to me that in this matter Russia occupies a special position in her sphere of influence in Manchuria, and that we have recognised this special sphere of influence in a very marked manner. We have recognised the special character of it, because we have compelled people of our own nationality, British subjects, to recede from contracts which, but for the special nature of the position which Russia holds, would have been reasonable and proper contracts. I hope that the honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Foreign Office will be able to give some assurance to the Committee that our sphere of influence in the Yang-tsze Valley has also received a similar degree of special recognition. But there are, unfortunately, causes for apprehension that this is not the case, because we have very strong reasons for believing that the Belgian syndicate which obtained the concession for the railway from Pekin to Han-kau is in reality a Franco-Russian syndicate. I believe in the contract that the French Minister is to be made arbitrator in the event of any conflict on this agreement arising between the syndicate and the Chinese authorities, and that the Russo-Chinese Bank is financing it. Prince Uchtomsky, the President of the Russo-Chinese Bank, is an intimate friend of the Tsar's—that is a matter of pretty general knowledge —and he is credited with having the support of the Government. Therefore, the Russo-Chinese Bank can hardly be regarded as a private concern, especially if, as is believed to be the case, the con- 1405 tract contains a clause giving the syndicate a right to call for a mortgage on the line, and to enter into possession if default is made either in the repayment of the principal or interest. I do not think that our position in connection, with the railways in the Yang-tsze Valley is equal to that of Russia in Manchuria. The honourable Member for Barnsley has made a suggestion that we should effect an exchange with Russia. Whether that is possible or not, I cannot say; but there are many of us who see that other Powers are endeavouring to acquire and carry out railways in our sphere of influence, and we should be very glad if some arrangement could be come to with Russia upon this very subject.
§ *MR. DRAGE (Derby)
I rise to give all the support in my power to what we understand to be the policy which the Government is now carrying out in China, which is mainly a case of coming to some understanding with Russia as to the questions at issue between the two countries. I have never believed myself that it was possible for the Peace Conference, which is now about to assemble, to produce any scheme of disarmament which would prove feasible; but it seems to me that it was always possible that out of the Conference we might obtain some scheme of settling our difficulties with Russia in China, or such as are likely to arise in Persia, and in other parts of the world where we are likely to come in conflict. That seems to me a practical method of dealing with the Peace Conference. I should like to point out to the Committee that the present moment is, perhaps, one of the most opportune for arriving at some settlement of the outstanding questions between this country and Russia. We stand in a very favourable position for entering into this Peace Conference. The Russian Army on a peace footing is placed at about 1,000,000 men: our standing army is not half that number. As regards the Russian Navy, whether we take the country which it has to protect, or the amount of commerce it has to safeguard, it is several times as large as ours; and, after the statement to this House by the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, it cannot be said that we do not enter into this 1406 Peace Conference under the most favourable circumstances. But I should like to point out to the Committee that, earnest as the Tsar's desire is for disarmament, it is not always in the power of the Tsar to conduct the foreign policy of the Russian Government. This is no new fact. Twenty years ago, in 1879, Count Andrassy writing to Prince Bismarck, after the Russo-Turkish war, used the following remarkable words—I entertain no doubt as to the personal intentions of the Emperor Alexander. I am convinced that he does not wish for war at present, bat as the Minister of a neighbouring State I cannot forget that he had no desire for the war just concluded, and that from the beginning he was trying to master the movement which originated in his immediate entourage. I consider it a European necessity to provide in some way against this danger.Now, what is the entourage of the present Tsar at the moment. It consists of four very remarkable men, all of whom are imbued with Slavophile ideas, and believe that Russia has a great political, social, and religious mission to carry out, and it may be that in the future the Tsar may not be able to control his entour-age, autocrat though he be, as he has in the past A few days after he sent out. the Peace Rescript he sent out another most remarkable rescript to the Admiral of the Russian Fleet in the Black Sea, in which ho said he rejoiced in the results-obtained, because in the strong fleet assembled at Sebastopol he saw a sound guarantee for the further peaceful development of Southern Russia, and expressed the confident hope that the Black Sea Fleet would ever maintain the famous traditions of its predecessors, the heroes of Sinope and the bastions of Sebastopol. Who are the councillors of the Tsar, and what are the views that they have expressed in no unmistakable terms? First and foremost comes Count Mouravieff, who is familiar to this House after the negotiations described in the China Blue Book of last year, and I should like to call attention to some remarks made by him before he was in his present responsible position. They show the policy he favours, although he may not be in a position to carry it out. While a diplomatist at Stockholm he said, in an interview published in a Swedish newspaper—Russia is the silent Power, and is growing stronger in geometrical proportion than any 1407 other Power. She is able and ready to wait. One must howl with the wolves while one is among them.This is an interesting observation, if one compares the action of Russia just now-all over the world with her peace proposals. He went on to say—I am a Slavophile, as all Russians are in their inmost hearts. I believe that Russia has a civilising mission, not only in Asia, but also in Europe. We come to relieve the tired men.Honourable Members who have read that extremely remarkable story by Mr. Rudyard Kipling, the story of "The Man Who Was," will observe the remarkable coincidence between the views put into the mouth of the Russian agent Dirkovitch, and those which were expressed by the gentleman who now occupies the highest post in the Russian service. But perhaps it is better to pass from Count Mouravieff to another extremely gifted Russian public man, who occupies a position of a different character. I refer to Prince Uchtomsky. My honourable Friend on my left (Mr. Moon) referred to him just now. Prince Uchtomsky is an intimate friend of the Tsar. He was at the head of the last special mission to Pekin; he is also the head of the Russo-Chinese Bank, and the editor of the "Petersburgskiya Viedo-mosti." Now, the Committee is aware that in Russia newspapers have far more influence and far more latitude on subjects connected with foreign policy than on subjects connected with internal policy, and the influence that Prince Uchtomsky undoubtedly has is directed, as I desire to show the Committee, on very definite lines. Prince Uchtomsky, in words which I quoted in this House last year, has laid down the policy he desires to see carried out in Russia. He desires to see an alliance with Germany against England to destroy hercommerce. He also desired the absorption of China under the regis of her present dynasty, and the last of his remarkable observations was that any opposition on the part of Great Britain would be met by the invasion of India. With regard to this, honourable Members who have read the recent Blue Book will recollect the context in which the invasion of India is there mentioned. There remain, however, two more great and important men, with an equally thorough belief in the mission of Russia in the direction 1408 in which they desired her to advance, but more inclined to peace at the present time—M. de Witte and M. Pobyedonost-seff. M. de Witte is the Finance Minister, who has had to cope with some of the most difficult problems, at any rate within the last 20 years, that have fallen to the lot of any Minister. He has had to find money to make the grants to meet railway advances, to meet famine and agricultural depression; he has had to effect the transition to a gold standard, and he has to deal with the demands now made on the Russian Central Government by Poland. Those honourable Members who have read the recent Report of Prince Tmeritinsky are well aware how deep is the discontent of Poland, and how much the Russian Government has to do to cope with it. M. de Witte has been a railway man to start with, and is a railway man still; and he is the author of that network of railways stretching throughout the whole of the Empire, and to him has been attributed the remark that Russia will conquer China by railways. I point this out to the Committee, and I ask the Committee to bear in mind that not only are these extensions of Russian railways in northern Europe, but we have the project of a railway projected from Alexandropol in Transcaucasia to Tabriz in Persia. We have the new railway which has been pushed on from Mery as far as Kushk, in the direction of Herat; and we have the project of a railway through Saistan to Benduabbas on the Persian Gulf. Last of the four great statesmen is M. Pobye-donostseff, who desires to see the orthodox Greek Church supreme in Russia before moving further forward. He has already made his hand felt on the Protestants in Livonia and the Roman Catholics in Poland. It is due to him that our missionaries have been driven from Persia. He has absorbed the Nes-torian Church, and will in time absorb the Armenian Church. He is behind the movement against Protestant Finland as much as the military authorities. He disbelieves in liberty and Parliamentary government, which he has called the greatest falsehood of our time. It is he, to turn to Africa, who desires Russian interference in Abyssinia on religious grounds. Well, the Committee will see what are the points of difference with 1409 reference to which we should ask the Government to try and come to an understanding in the Conference which is to take place at the Hague. Sir, I do not think it is always remembered in this country upon how many points at the present time we come in contact with Russia, nor how many guarantees this country has given that are likely to conflict with Russian interests. In the first place, there is the Treaty of 1855 with regard to the integrity of Sweden and Norway; then the Treaty by which we guaranteed Turkey in Asia; then there are treaties with regard to Abyssinia; treaties in a recent Blue Book with regard to the integrity of Persia; agreements with Afghanistan; and, last of all, the agreements we have undertaken with regard to China. It appears to me that in looking at the policy of Her Majesty's Government, which we understand they have undertaken, and which the honourable Baronet the Member for Northumberland has so often pressed upon the Committee, we must take into consideration the points of possible difference in future, and ask the Government whether, even supposing the Peace Conference fails to achieve the object which the Tsar of Russia has in view, it would not be possible on these points to obtain some firm and stated understanding between Russia and this country. One word before I sit down, and one word only, with regard to the policy which we desire to forward in China. Of course, there was a guarantee, by a Resolution of this House last year, with reference to the integrity of China, but it is no longer possible to go back. We must recognise that, and, looking at the future, I cannot help expressing the belief that the only sound policy in China now is the delimitation of our sphere of interest; because I, for one, feel convinced that in that sphere, and in that sphere alone, will be found what is called the "open-door" for all nations. That is a point which some of us pressed on the Government last year. There are three other points, not less important, which I desire again to urge on the Government. First, that we should patrol the Yang-tzse with our gunboats to insure the safety of our shipping; secondly, that we should reorganise the judicial system of the local Yamens, for our commerce 1410 will require trustworthy law courts; and lastly, I believe, in order to secure order and justice in the interior, we shall have to organise the local military forces within our sphere. If I have ventured to detain the Committee on these points, it is because I believe that there is now before us a chance of incalculable value; because, although we are in no sense afraid of Russia—and the more one knows of Russia, the less is one likely to be afraid of her—still, the one great interest of England is peace. I would therefore venture to press upon the Government the desirability of coming to an understanding with Russia on one and all of these points.
*MR. PROYAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
Mr. Lowther, I think what has-fallen from the last speaker is a very useful contribution to this Debate. According to recognised authorities, not only in this House, but outside, until we can arrive at some definite arrangement with Russia, all our trouble in China, and all our anxieties and doubts as to the future of that country, must remain as they are, and fresh difficulties at regular intervals must be created. At the same time, I can hardly see how we can divert the attention of representatives of the Peace Conference from the Tsar's Rescript—the one matter we are called together to discuss—in order to consider our relations with China. Though the replies of every European country to the Tsar's invitation have no doubt been couched in the language of strict diplomatic courtesy, I think there is not much general faith in any practical diminution of the risk of war, or even of a decrease of naval and military armaments. At the same time, I hope some understanding will be arrived at to enable us to conduct the business we have in China, which is entirely commercial, alongside, not only with Russia, but with all other countries, with equal advantage to ourselves, to them, and to China. The last speaker referred to our special sphere in China, but what part of the country have we any right to at all? At the present time there are at least three leading European countries—Russia, Germany, and France —and all have carved out a portion of the country to themselves. They say "We have prior rights in this province for 1411 our own people with regard to railways, trade, mines, and every sort of commerce. "Against the claims set up by all these countries—claims which, I venture to say, China will not nor ever will be able to dispute—we have nothing but the valley of the Yang-tsze. Of what value is the promise of China to this country? She is prepared to promise anything to any country to keep peace for the day. There is no love of war amongst the Chinese. I have lived amongst the Chinese people, and speak from experience. In dealing with mandarins, there is no doubt whatever that we are under a great disqualification, inasmuch as we cannot bribe anybody. We have no money for the purpose. There is in this country an enormous amount of bribery and corruption. No one has lived in China of any authority—missionary or merchant—who has not expressed himself in the plainest language to that effect. There is no secrecy about it, and there is no attempt to conceal it. Well, Sir, as to the delimitation of our sphere, I think the Government should look to that point as soon as possible. I should like the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary to inform the House what is being done to obtain some delimitation of our geographical position in the future. There may hereafter be some variations proposed which are not indicated in the Blue Book. The right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has spoken of the railway concessions that have been made to us by China. I attach very little importance to them. Apart from a few short lines near the Eastern seaboard, I do not believe more than 10 per cent, of the 2.800 miles of railway has in the early future the least chance of being constructed. For my part, I should be sorry to see the Government find a shilling for any such purpose, and I hope it has no intention of doing so. Germany may find money for railroads, but unless the German Government either find money or guarantee the payment of a dividend, capitalists are not likely to interest themselves in such enterprises. The concessionaires do not expect to make their money out of railway building, but out of the concessions themselves. Therefore, I hope the right honourable 1412 Gentleman will not expect the House to be satisfied when he tells us that concessions have been made for so many hundreds or thousands of miles of railroad in China. Well, Sir, when the China Papers were issued last year, we had to read one of the most humiliating documents ever placed on the Table of this House—it was in reference to the taking of Wei-hai-Wei—and before we read the first three pages of the new Blue Book, just issued, we shall find as humiliating a dispatch as was ever writen by a person in authority in this country. We took Wei-hai-Wei as a counterpoise for Russia taking Port Arthur and Talienwan. They have Talienwan and Port Arthur, with the whole of Russia at its back, soon to be connected by a complete railway system with the extreme east of Russia. What have we got at Wei-hai-Wei? Now the Government have decided to make it a naval base. Well, it would be an advantage to a naval base to be able to obtain coals from Shan-tung, where there are many coal beds; but we have expressly barred ourselves from doing so, because no railway is to be constructed to connect Wei-hai-Wei with the rest of Shan-tung. It is said that it was impossible to make a railway from Wei-hai-Wei to the Hinterland. I should like to know on whose authority that statement was made. We have heard of many impossible railways in different parts of the world, which were, however, all ultimately made. I question if there is any place at all in which a railway cannot be made. Most certainly, hills do not stop engineers from making a railway. All over South America you have many instances where huge mountains have been negotiated by engineers. There is no difficulty about making a railway from Wei-hai-Wei, but we have deliberately shut ourselves out from the trade of the Hinterland, which should have gone to the port of Wei-hai-Wei. In the very first page of the Blue Book the First Lord of the Treasury said it was impossible to make Wei-hai-Wei into a commercial port, and that it would be foolish to try to do so. There is no doubt the Government have done their best to prevent its being made a commercial port. They have shut out railway communication, and whatever goes into Wei-hai-Wei must, therefore, be taken into it by water. A naval base 1413 must have a very large stock of coal, and now we must take it over sea. There are ample coal deposits, as I have said, in Shang-tung, and I want to know why it was that the renunciation of our rights there was made. The right honourable Gentleman told us the last time the Chinese question was discussed that no door had been closed. But this door has been closed by themselves. We want to know the reason why that dispatch voluntarily renouncing our rights was written. Germany never asked for anything of the kind, but we calmly said we will not build a railway into the Hinterland, and we will not make Wei-hai-Wei a commercial port, I would like to know what policy the right honourable Gentleman thought he was carrying out when he renounced all those rights which we possessed under the treaty of Tien-tsin. It is impossible to say that that renunciation does not fly in the face of the 54th article of the treaty of Tien-tsin. It was not only that this was given in this way without being asked for by Germany, but we allowed the German Government afterwards to actually dictate the very words in which the Government agreed to make the renunciation. It is the moat extraordinary case of the kind in the foreign policy of our country. I believe it is without precedent, and that no Foreign Minister of this country ever did such a thing as to voluntarily renounce the rights we possessed in that place. And yet we cannot get a full and complete explanation for it from our Foreign Office authorities. What reasons they had at the time I expect were merely panic reasons. So far as we know just now, there is only one country we have any difficulty with in regard to China, and that is Russia. There is one thing which should be impressed on the Front Bench, and that is that it is idle for us to make any arrangement with the Tsung-li-Yamen. There is nothing they will not promise to us, and there is nothing they can possibly perform if any-other European country interferes. Anything promised us might hereafter conflict with the interests of France, or Russia, or Germany, or even any small Power, and it is perfectly certain that the Chinese Government would be ready at any time to renounce and to promise to agree to any terms these other countries may demand. That has been shown in 1414 years past, and it will be shown in the future. The Chinese Government is willing to do it because they cannot help doing it. I am astonished that no one connected with the foreign policy of the country is at the present moment in his place on the Front Benches; but I would ask that some account should be given to-night of what it was that dictated the policy of renouncing our rights in the Shang-tung peninsula. I would also like that the general policy of the Government in China should be clearly announced, because notwithstanding the 400 pages of the Blue Book, we are as much in doubt about it as we were last year.
Mr. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
The honourable Member who has just sat down has discussed the reason which had actuated Her Majesty's Government in spontaneously making the declaration to Germany that England would not interfere with the German position in Chang-tung, and in Kiao-chau, and that they would not make a railway from Wei-hai-Wei into the interior of the province of Chang-tung. The reason lies on the surface. It was that we were then about to occupy Wei-hai-Wei, and the Foreign Minister naturally foresaw the possibility of an objection being made to that occupation by Germany. And consequently, in order to forestall and stave off Germany he favoured Germany spontaneously with this concession of very enormous value. That is really the history of the transaction. I think that neither the honourable Gentleman nor anybody else who has read the Blue Books and considered the real aspects of the case can have any doubt whatever that that concession was a concession intended to buy off any possible objection by Germany to the British occupation of Wei-hai-Wei.
§ *MR. PROVAND
It is because of the enormous value of the concession that I fail to understand why the Government voluntarily made it.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
No doubt it was most enormous. By the 54th article, not the 9th as the honourable Member said, of the treaty of Tien-tsin, it is expressly stipulated that the British Government and British subjects should 1415 always have free and equal participation in all privileges and advantages with all other nations in China. We renounced that 54th article by the spontaneous declaration we made to Germany, and consequently, I say, the declaration to Germany involved enormous concessions in the whole of the province of Wei-hai-Wei, and in the whole of the territory occupied by Germany. I think that is undoubtedly the true and the only explanation of that concession. I have painfully toiled through this conflicting Blue Book. A more conflicting one I have never read, for it is full of useless details and astounding mistakes. Mistranslations we expect, of course, from the Foreign Office. But here is simply a farago of nonsense, and some of the most execrable English. But that is a small matter. I have read the Blue Book with some sense of shame. I have seen the British Minister going day after day to the mild diplomatists of the Tsung-li-Yamen—those wretched people who are being pestered by every nation from every quarter of the globe. I have seen him bluffing them—I can scarcely find another word for it—and squeezing them with the most pitiless pressure, menacing them with English Fleets, and threatening them with war the next day. But I was more ashamed to find that Her Majesty's Government have published in this Blue Book documents strictly confidential—confidential communications from the Minister and from the Tsung-li-Yamen—which I cannot conceive were published with the consent, of the Chinese Government. I hope the right honourable Gentleman in the course of his reply will tell us that he received the consent of the Chinese Government to their publication. It is unusual for such confidential documents to be published without the assent of the Foreign Government, and if the Chinese Government gave that assent I shall receive the information with the greatest surprise. Well, what is the policy of England in regard to China? It is the integrity and independence of China, and the maintenance of the "open-door" into China itself. I am sorry to see these smiles and to hear these laughs, because it is the declared policy of this House made by a solemn Resolution against which no Member protested. No honourable Member denies that that Resolution was passed unani- 1416 mously, and therefore it does not lie with any honourable Member to laugh, or any honourable Member to wreathe his face in smiles. If my honourable Friend dissents, then why did he not challenge a division. Sir, that is the policy of England, and I am warranted in saying that England is capable of maintaining that policy now, as she was capable of maintaining it before the annexation of Port Arthur by Russia. It has been declared many times by Ministers that England is stronger and that Russia is weaker since the annexation of Port Arthur by Russia. It has been declared by Ministers in this House and in the other House, not only by an Under Secretary, but by the Chief Arbiter of the Ministry—the Colonial Secretary. He knows, whoever else fails to know, what England can do. He has told us that strategically and commercially England is far stronger to-day than before Russia had got Port Arthur; therefore I say that we have got a policy, and the strength to maintain that policy, which is the integrity and the independence of China, and the maintenance of the "open-door" into China—not, mark you, into Russia, or into Germany, or Italy, or some other country, but into China itself. I come to the modification that has been made in the situation by the introduction of spheres of influence and spheres of interest. We were told by that eminent person who surveys mankind from China to Peru—I need not say I allude to Lord Curzon—on 25th January 1899—It seemed to be thought in some quarters that any foreign Power might, by establishing what is called' a sphere of influence in China or elsewhere, succeed in introducing its own tariff, and in establishing exclusive commercial control.That is precisely what Lord Salisbury said in one of his dispatches a year back. But I shall show that Lord Salisbury did not know the real effect of spheres of influence, because Lord Curzon said—He was certain, however, that no sphere of influence which stopped short of actual annexation could possibly give to any Government the right to abrogate or curtail Treaty rights possessed by other Powers. Under our Treaty rights with China we enjoyed precisely the same right of entry to every port under the game conditions and the same tariff as any other Power. The Treaty rights of Great Britain rendered the operation of spheres of influence impossible,1417and these were rights which every British Government might be relied upon to assert, and which no British Government could afford to see extinguished.Hero there were loud cheers. Well, that is what we were told by the great authority about spheres of influence. It is now suggested that the policy of the integrity and independence of China and the "open-door" is to be in some way modified by spheres of influence. Well, no doubt, in a sense, spheres of influence might be held not to be inconsistent with "open-door," and if there is to be merely spheres of concession, this might not be inconsistent with the integrity of the country. If these are to be held as spheres of territory, wherein are to be granted railway concessions, which, in my opinion, are almost valueless—-if we except the railway from Shanghai to Canton—if there are to be spheres for the construction of railways, which may or may not pay, and probably won't, and spheres of concessions for mines, which probably won't pay either-—then I think that they may perfectly well consist, with the integrity of China and the "open-door" into China. If, therefore, spheres of concession mean wholly and solely and exclusively spheres of concession, then I don't know that there would be any reason to quarrel with them. But what is the thing in practice? Germany has a sphere of influence. It is Kiao-chau. In this territory she has a complete sovereignty. It is not a question merely of a railway concession or a mining concession; she has a complete sovereignty.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
You do; then I shall have to quote. Here is Article III. of the Treaty between the German Empire and China respecting the lease of Kiao-chau, on page 70 of the Blue Book—In order to avoid the possibility of conflicts, the Imperial Chinese Government will 1418 abstain from exercising rights of sovereignty in the ceded territory during the term of the lease, and leaves the exercise of the same to Germany.Does the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs doubt it now? No, he does not. Sir, that is what has occurred in the sphere of concessions of Germany. Germany has obtained absolute sovereign rights from the Chinese Government, and from England the spontaneous declaration that she will respect the rights of Germany, and that she will not run a railway into the Hinterland. That is a complete renunciation on the part of England in regard to Kiao-chau of the 54th Article of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, because it is a renunciation of the article which provides for equal rights and privileges to England as to any other foreign Power. Take the case of Port Arthur. We have renounced our rights there in connection with the 54th Article of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, and it will be found on page 128 of the Blue Book. Russia has absolutely prohibited the entry of British men-of-war into Port Arthur, and that is a renunciation of the 52nd Article of the Treaty of Tientsin, which says that British ships of war coming for no hostile purpose, or being engaged in pursuit of pirates, shall be at liberty to visit all parts of the dominion of China, and shall receive every facility for the purchase of provisions, water etc. Is that a mere concession for facilitating the building of railways or opening mines? It is far more. Well, take the French sphere of influence. I have been very much struck by the fact that in the whole of this Blue Book, which is very much concerned in French concessions, there is not a single hint given that Her Majesty's Minister at Pekin, or our Government in London, were cognisant of the distinguishing feature of that French concession. First of all, the Chinese Government agreed not to alienate the three provinces in the neighbourhood of Ton-king—the provinces of Konang-tong, of Konang-si, and of Yunnan. But in addition to that we find, on page 48 of the French Yellow Book, published in October last—of which I have taken the precaution to obtain a copy, knowing that I could not rely wholly and exclusively on the British 1419 Blue Book—in that Yellow Book there is a dispatch, in which the Minister describes, in his own words, the concessions that have been made by China to France. Now, in our Blue Books we have a general notion conveyed to us that China has conceded to France a railway from Ton-king to Penang. But we are not told, as in the French Yellow Book, the conditions—the extraordinarily favourable and altogether unusual conditions which accompany that concession. Not only has the Chinese Government given to the French Government the right to make this railway, but they have undertaken to give to the French Government, pro forma, all the lands required for the railway and its dependencies. The French Charge d'Affaires says it is the first time this concession has been made by the Chinese Government in any concession. I will read the words of the Chinese concession—The right to construct a railway from the frontier of Ton-king to the capital of Yun-nan is conceded to the French Government, or to a French company which it will designate, the Chinese Government having no other charge than to furnish the necessary land for the railroad track and its dependencies. That is the first time that a concession has been given under this form by the Chinese authorities.I think that is a very remarkable thing. I have heard nothing in our concessions of the land being given-—not only for the line, but for all that belongs to the line, the stations, sidings, etc. I do not know, and I do not believe that the English concessions imply any such grant as this, which is a very important one. Furthermore, the Russian sphere of influence is defined, the German sphere of influence is defined, and the French sphere of influence is defined, but who shall define the English sphere of influence! The very words are chosen with the most subtle ambiguity. No one can tell what it means. At one time it speaks of a region, at another time it is a territory. All we know is that it is home part of the earth's surface through which the Yang-tsze flows. It may extend from the North Pole to the South Pole; it may extend for a breadth of a quarter of a mile or for hundreds of miles. But its real extent no human being can know. It is a region, it is a territory, but nothing more. Then, again, having entered 1420 into a policy of a suggested sphere of influence, nobody knows what it is, although we know what the foreign spheres of influence are. And in these foreign spheres you are admittedly deprived of your Treaty rights by your voluntary renunciations, although the infinite mind of Lord Curzon had declared that—Great Britain had a right to demand compensatory advantages, and to demand that the privileges given to others should not be inconsistent with our Treaty rights.You find that while your sphere of influence is entirely uncertain, and unaccompanied by certain advantages, the foreign spheres of influence are well defined, and carry with them decided advantages to your detriment. Another point I want to notice is a certain hesitation on the part of Lord Salisbury himself, and a certain doubt as to the effects of the concessions to foreign countries of these so-called spheres of influence. In one of his dispatches he says—but I must not vulgarise his language. He first of all remarks that we are getting the worst of it in the race for concessions, and on page 164 he says—It does not seem that the battle of concessions is going well for us, and that the mass-of Chinese railways, if they are ever built, will be in foreign hands is a possibility that we must face. That we cannot help.Now mark—One evil of this is, that no orders for materials will come to this country. That we cannot help.But observe, Lord Salisbury goes on—The other evil is, that by differential rates and privileges the managers of the railways may strangle our trade. This we ought to be able to prevent, by pressing that proper provisions for equal treatment be inserted in every concession.Now mark, that eminent statesman, Lord Curzon, showed us that nothing in the spheres of influence could touch us. Lord Salisbury says—Oh, yes! The evil is that by differential privileges the managers of these railways may strangle our trade, and that we ought to be able to prevent it.How are you going to prevent it? Take the assumption that you have a sphere 1421 of influence, which you have not, handed over to France and Germany. In that sphere of influence China chooses to give a concession to make a railway to France or Germany, and, of course, the managers of these railways will put on differential rates on British goods and strangle your trade in your own sphere of influence. Lord Salisbury says you ought to be able to prevent that, but there is no suggestion how you are to be able to prevent it. The railway is a foreign railway, conceded to a foreigner with rights to make his own tariff. With what sort of a face can you go and say that these rates are such as will strangle your trade? When you agree to an exclusive sphere of influence you agree, as in the case of Madagascar, to all its consequences, and consequently you must have also agreed in advance to that strangling of your trade which is one of its necessary concomitants. Now, I have said that we present rather a humiliating spectacle in the attitude we are adopting towards China. China, from the beginning, has been ready to do whatever England wished her. She applied to England for support against those who would dismember her, and use her as a lever against England and English trade. She was most anxious for our support, and perfectly ready to do what we wished, and it is singular that on the only occasion on which we professed ourselves ready to give her assistance, when the French wished to extend their territory at Shanghai, France withdrew her claim, where Great Britain objected. Here is the dispatch dated 29th December 1898—Under instructions from the Tsung-li-Yamen the Chinese Minister called here on the 28th inst., and stated that as the French Minister is pressing the Government at Pekin for a settlement of the question of the land Proposed to be leased to France at Shanghai, he was to request that the matter might be settled by direct negotiation between England and France, so as not to place the Chinese Government in a difficult position. In reply I have informed him that this suggestion was not one on which I could undertake to act.Now mark this—Further he inquired as to what amount of support in resisting French pressure Her Majesty's Government would give to China. Her Majesty's Government will, I have informed him, support China materially in refusing to give France rights over British owned property.1422 On that particular occasion Great Britain offered China the support which she had been asking for for months and months, and Great Britain succeeded in averting the evil which China feared, and France, as I have said, withdrew her claim entirely, and I believe it was owing to the action of Great Britain that the French demand fell through. One thing I would say—I am still on the spheres of concession. I think I have shown that if spheres of concession are to mean in practice, which in theory they are supposed to mean, they will amount to little. If they continue to mean what we say they mean—that is special privileges to strangle British trade, and the exclusion of England from equal opportunities, then I say it is a very deadly policy for China and for England. In the meantime, China is being gnawed away. Every beast of the field is taking a bite; not only the bear and the lion, but the jackal and the mongrel terrier are all snapping. At first it was Russia, Germany, and England; now it is Italy and Belgium. To-morrow it may be Holland and Monte Carlo. I confess I view this with great misgiving. I believe that if we are to agree, if we are to stand by while the ports and naval stations of China are thrown away one by one—and we are bound to agree because we cannot now resist, after having set the example and encouraged Germany—but if this course of action is to be continued, there will be very little of the integrity of China left, and there will not be much value in your sphere of influence when you have got it delimitated and marked out, which you have not done yet. These infringements upon China, these violations of her integrity, are perpetrated against the policy of England, and in spite of the fact that England still retains preponderating strength in China and the Chinese Sea. Do let me affirm once again that, certainly during this generation, until the Russian railway is built, and for years afterwards, whoever may be strong in China, Great Britain will be stronger. It matters not that there will be a railway from St. Petersburg to Talienwan and Port Arthur. Railways for transporting large masses of troops with their supplies are not to be compared with fleets, and for every man and gun that Russia could send by railway Great 1423 Britain could send 10. Therefore, both now and for many years Great Britain will remain the strongest of all Powers in China. Nay, even in Pekin, we could put a larger body of troops into it, taking into account our resources, than even Russia herself could. Therefore, we are still masters of the situation in China, and can dictate our own policy. Of course, I admit that the situation is very much altered from what it was. There is no doubt that on that fatal day in January 1898, when the Fleet was ordered away from Port Arthur—I have never been able to get the First Lord of the Admiralty to avow that he did it—on that fatal day we did practically give up, not only the integrity of Manchuria, but the integrity of the whole of China. We were never in a stronger position to negotiate in pursuance of our policy to maintain the integrity of China, but when we sent our force away we practically gave up the whole fight. I confess I look with much misgiving to the future of China, and to our future in that country. I cannot read the Blue Book without seeing that when other countries make aggressions on China, it is not to them we complain, but to poor weak China herself. We visit on China the sins of those who are trying to dismember her. If we have reason to complain of the action of European Powers as to their conduct in China, it is to them we ought to complain, not to the miserable Chinese victims of their aggression. I do hope a better spirit will animate the Government, and that they will carry out the policy they have adopted and avowed—the policy of maintaining the integrity and independence of China, coupled with it, if you like, spheres of influence, so far as they are merely spheres of concession, but no sphere of influence should include the partition of China, or the exclusion of Great Britain from those spheres by the imposition of special regulations which would injuriously affect our trade.
§ MR. BECKETT (York, N.R. Whitby)
I think that if we compare the aspect of the House now with reference to China with the aspect last year, we will see that more confidence is felt in Her Majesty's Government. I think the sense of alarm which pervaded the House last year has given way to a sense of security. I think anyone who will 1424 study the Blue Book just issued, and compare it with the Blue Book last year, will be inclined to agree with me on that point. At the same time, I think we are still somewhat in doubt as to the policy to be pursued by Her Majesty's Government, and a little information would be acceptable on both sides of the House. It may be that the policy of the "open-door" is still their policy, but I venture to say that the most dangerous of all policies in China is the policy of the open mind. That, I hope, is a policy which the Government will repudiate. I think that if we knew exactly what we want, and what is the end of our policy, it would relieve the tension of the present situation. We know what we are not prepared to do. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has stated that the Government refused to guarantee the integrity of the Chinese Empire against any or all of the Powers. With the exception of the honourable Member for Sheffield, I suppose everybody will agree that that is a sound policy, but does the Government realise what that commits them to? It means that there are certain portions of China where other Powers may secure a footing without any protest from us, and having secured a footing, it means they will exercise administrative power there, first of all by interference, then by direct control, and finally the whole government of that particular portion will inevitably pass into their hands. My right honourable Friend said we might spend half an hour in defining spheres of influence. A sphere of influence sooner or later becomes a sphere of interest or concession, and then develops into a protectorate. In any part of Europe, Asia, Africa, or America you always find that is the inevitable result. You cannot resist the march of events. You may say that the integrity of China should be maintained, but what I have pointed out will inevitably happen. It was certain from the day that Germany occupied Kiao-Chau that China would be parcelled out into spheres of influence. We can only maintain our policy of the "open-door" by maintaining the integrity of China, but how are you going to maintain that integrity? The noble Lord the Member for York, speaking with the fullest information, told us that the only means of maintaining the integrity of China was to form an alliance 1425 between England, Germany, the United States, and Japan, as against Russia. I do not think that people in this country would be inclined to adopt that policy, even if the other three nations would be prepared to agree to it. Our policy at the present moment is the "open-door" and the equality of opportunity. It may be the best policy from an ideal point of view, but, however, the best is no better than the worst if it cannot be carried out. What effective action can be taken if it is resisted, and if other Powers refuse to keep the "open-door" in their spheres of influence in Manchuria and elsewhere? What are you going to do? Are you going to compel them? If not, they will inevitably establish a protectorate, and we will be unable to prevent them from doing what they will. It seems to me rather unfortunate that we should be trying to shut our eyes against facts recognised by all other Powers. My honourable Friend who has just spoken has certainly changed very much from the views he expressed in his speech delivered a month ago. He then entirely repudiated the idea of spheres of influence or concession; now he practically admits that they exist, and he has told us that China is being gnawed away by Russia, Germany, and Italy. Spheres of influence have practically been established in China—we cannot back out of that, and it is folly to be feeding ourselves on a form of words when facts will not fit in. We are running serious risk by clinging to an antiquated form of words, and by discrediting spheres of influence we are certain to lose a valuable opportunity for consolidating our position in the Yang-tsze Valley. That is the object to which we should direct our policy if we wish to get something out of the scramble for China. My right honourable Friend said that the pledges given by the Chinese with regard to the Yang-tsze Valley are of the highest possible value. The pledges may be, but they certainly will not be of any value to us if we repudiate spheres of in fluence and do nothing to consolidate our position. Other countries, at all events, have recognised the policy of spheres of influence. I saw the other day a quotation from "The Times" with reference to the railways which Germany proposes to build. It said that the 1426 building of these railways would inevitably lead to the occupation of a sphere of interest towards which the whole tendency of German policy in China seems to be now directed. We also know that Italy has recently demanded what practically amounts to a sphere of influence, with the approval of our Government. I have said enough to prove that whatever the Government may say, the policy of spheres of influence has undoubtedly taken a practical hold of other European nations. We may repudiate the idea as much as we will, but I think that policy will remain. My right honourable Friend spoke about the realisation of our aspirations in China. What are our aspirations? He defined them very well indeed. One of our aspirations is to see transport on every river in China, and the country studded with railways. I do not think we can secure that by the policy of the "open-door." It can only be secured through concessions and by the investment of capital in China. You will not attract capital to China without security, and the only possible security that will attract capital is when capitalists know that when pledges are given by the Government they will be maintained. How are you going to maintain the pledges which you give? If you repudiate spheres of influence, those pledges will be of no value, certainly in the East, and unless people believe that an effective force will be employed to maintain the rights given by these pledges, it is no use giving them a local habitation and a name. They must be practical and tangible, and in the sight of all men. That could be done if we establish spheres of influence. On this point it is evident that the Government will be forced to adopt a policy of spheres of influence, and they will be drawn, in spite of themselves, into that policy. There is just one question I would like to ask my right honourable Friend. At the beginning of the Session, I urged him to let the House and the country know whether the reports as to the possibility of an arrangement with Russia were sound and substantial, and whether he could hold out to us any hope of an understanding with Russia, which would enable us to avoid those alarms which certainly of late have exercised the mind of the country very 1427 considerably. It was only a short time ago that we seemed to be on the brink of a serious breach with Russia. That would not happen, however, if we had an understanding with Russia. It was said last year by those who urged the Government to adopt a more vigorous line of policy in the Far East, that they were Russophobes. I do not think that at all. Years ago I advocated a friendly understanding with Russia, and everything that has happened since confirms me in that view. But you cannot come to an arrangement with a country by weak concessions on every point. If you want to negotiate with Russia you must negotiate direct with St. Petersburg, but until we have arrived at an understanding with Russia with regard to our policy in the Far East, any other understanding would not rest on a sure foundation, and would be certain to be disturbed by alarms and excursions, very injurious to our trade and to our interest in the Far East. I think last year, as my honourable Friend pointed out, we had a unique opportunity of arriving at an understanding with Russia. It may not occur again, but if we had maintained our ships at Port Arthur, Russia would have been forced into the open, and obliged to show her hand, and having shown her hand we should have known how to have dealt with her. Unfortunately, through an inadvertence, we lost that opportunity. It is true that the Government has made up a good deal of lost ground. The Government stands in a very strong position in the Far East, far too strong to be beaten off by Russia, and the present moment, when the heart of the Tsar is settled on peace, is a great opportunity, and it would be unfortunate if we were to throw it away again. If the Government are well advised, they would put in the forefront of their policy the necessity of coming to a sound and friendly understanding with Russia.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
There are two questions I wish to put before the right honourable Gentleman replies to the Debate. One is in reference to China and the other another subject also connected with the salary of the Secretary of State. I should like to ask whether I ought to put that other question now or upon another occasion?
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
It will probably be most convenient to continue the discussion which is now going on.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
The only question I will put, then, is one which concerns the spheres of influence of which we have heard so much in the course of this Debate to-night. My honourable Friend who moved this reduction alluded to the Chinese promise to France not to alienate territory in three provinces of which Yun-nan is one. That matter is one which is left by the Blue Book in a most unsatisfactory position, and the question I wish to put concerns it. It is stated in the Blue Book that the French received from China a pledge with regard to three provinces of which Yun-nan was one, and one given in the same terms as the pledge given to ourselves in regard to the Yangi-tsze Valley. The honourable Member for King's Lynn in his speech a few minutes ago, alluded to what the French had obtained by quoting a statement contained in their own Yellow Book. All we have before us in our own Blue Book is the French demand which has been accepted by the Chinese, and which gives them the province of Yun-nan as one of the three provinces which they state border on the French frontier. This promise was given in the same terms as it was given in the case of the Yang-tsze Valley, and that promise has been stated by the Under Secretary to be "of the highest possible value to ourselves." This province of Yun-nan is said to be conterminous with Ton-king, but it is also conterminous with British Burmah, along a much longer frontier than that which is connected with Ton-king the French possession. It is within 20 miles of the British station at Bhamo, and within 110 miles of British India proper inAssam. This French demand was granted by the Chinese in the same terms in which the grant was made to us in what we sometimes call rather loosely our Yang-tsze sphere. This French demand was followed by a demand from ourselves with regard to the same province. I shall not go into the point which was raised by my honourable Friend in opening this Debate as to whether the promise to France was a violation of the agreement with our- 1429 selves. What has now become of the demand by ourselves that the province of Yun-nan should not be alienated? As far as I can gather, the Chinese having made this promise to the French as regards the district which so greatly concerns British Burmah, we asked for a similar undertaking which would have given us an equally privileged position with the French in this province behind British Burmah. But as far as I can gather from the Chinese Blue Book the Chinese made the greatest difficulty about giving a promise to us in the same terms as that given to the French. We are not finally told in this Blue Book what comes to us with regard to the province of Yun-nan. There is some talk of a verbal statement which the Chinese are willing to make as to Yun-nan, but there is no written undertaking similar to that with regard to the Yang-tsze Valley, or similar to that given to the French with regard to Yun-nan, and the French claim that this province is within their sphere of influence. The Committee, I think, will feel that this is not a matter which ought to be left in this vague position, for it is one of those questions above all others, from which disputes and difficulties are likely to occur. I want to know whether there has been any negotiation between ourselves and France with regard to anything like a division of our respective spheres of influence in Yun-nan, or whether it is the view of the Government that being mainly on the waters of the Yang-tsze, it is included in our Yang-tsze sphere. If so, I confess that I fail to see why the Government did not make that statement and not ask for a further engagement on the part of China not to alienate this particular province. However that may be, I feel convinced that the matter ought not to be left in this absolutely vague condition. Here is a province bordering on British Burmah to a larger extent than it borders on Ton-king, which is claimed as being in the Yang-tsze sphere, but which, if so, is now affected by the promise given to France which the honourable Member for King's Lynn has read to the House from the French Blue Book, and which gives the concession of a railway. I am sure the matter ought not to stand in the absolutely vague condition in which the Blue Book leaves it, and I trust the Under 1430 Secretary will give us some further explanation.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
I think it is very desirable before the right honourable Gentleman replies that he should make a note of the various opinions expressed with a view to clearing up the doubts which exist in the minds of some honourable Members upon this subject. Several questions have been specifically addressed to my right honourable Friend with regard to the concessions to the French, and the conditions attached to the various engagements into which China has entered. Now, we have heard to-night a good deal about various rival policies, and we have heard about spheres of influence and spheres of interest, and we have heard one or two references even to that defunct institution the "open-door." It is desirable, I think, to have these terms defined. As regards the "open-door," I confess that I do not like open doors, because you are apt to get your fingers jammed in them under certain conditions. As regards spheres of influence and spheres of interest, I must say that I associate myelf completely with my honourable Friend behind me in thinking that this policy of spheres of influence is a policy which all persons who are authorities on China—with one exception—appear to advocate, and that is a clear delimitation of one section of China over which British influence is to be supreme. I do not mean that we should annex it, or administer it, but at any rate we should ear-mark it so that when the inevitable partition takes place it will naturally be a clearly defined sphere of British influence. The one exception which I allude to is that of my noble and gallant Friend the Member for York, who is now occupied in the preparation of a valuable historical document which, when it appears, will be one of the most marvellous productions of our time. I believe, according to what my noble and gallant Friend is reported to have said in speeches outside this country, that he is prepared to advocate the deliberate assumption by this country of the guardianship of China. I believe my noble and gallant Friend is quite prepared to advocate the officering of the Chinese army, and the commanding of the Chinese fleet by British officers, and 1431 I imagine whenever a ruler of China is relieved of the cares of State and relegated to the more genial functions of tending goats and monkeys, or when any-domestic incident occurs in China, my noble Friend will ask in the House of Commons if the British Government are prepared to intervene. That is not a prospect which Members of this Committee will view with great satisfaction, and with which I do not think this country will agree; in fact, I very much doubt whether Her Majesty's Government will be prepared, through my right honourable Friend to-night, to announce that the policy of my noble and gallant Friend the Member for York is their policy. It is believed in some quarters that my noble Friend held some authoritative position as the representative of the Government, and this was the view entertained by the Leader of the Opposition. Now, I do hope that my right honourable Friend will be prepared to assure the Committee that Her Majesty's Government entertain no sympathy whatever with any policy of this kind, and that this country intends solely to devote its attention to securing British interests in that particular sphere in China which we have marked out as peculiarly our own. We have heard a great deal about the Treaty of Tien-tsin, and I am afraid that some Members of Her Majesty's Government have committed themselves to the doctrine that all our rights and commercial privileges under existing treaties were to be adhered to, even when the territory had passed into the hands of other Powers. According to that, we could insist upon the Treaty of Tien-tsin being executed within the limits of Manchuria. Now, do Her Majesty's Government contemplate insisting upon their privileges in the Treaty of Tien-tsin within the limits of Manchuria? Some of the language of Ministers might be capable of that interpretation, but it is an absurdity. As we have seen, Russia has invested an enormous amount of capital in Manchuria, and railway lines have been and are being constructed there with Russian capital and with Russian supervision, and I think we can hardly expect that when Russia has assumed those responsibilities she is going to allow any more interference with her jurisdiction there than we should allow in the Valley of the Nile. At any rate, Russia is, for 1432 all practical purposes, in effective occupation of Manchuria, just as much as we are in the effective oecupation of the Valley of the Nile, and any attempt to vamp up obsolete privileges extorted at the cannon's mouth when China was a very different locality than it is now, I think, will only lead to mischief and disaster. Therefore, I hope we shall be assured that Her Majesty's Government realise that any idea of appealing to-obsolete Treaties like the Tien-tsin Treaty—which is as obsolete as the Treaty of Tilsit—with regard to territories over which European Powers have deliberately assumed control will not be for a moment considered by them. I do not wish to detain the Committee at this hour, and I merely rise to ask my right honourable Friend where the limit is going to be placed in this race for concessions in China? We have already been told that we have obtained railway concessions, and I for one should be very glad to see railway systems constructed in China, but it is scarcely the right thing for the influence of this country to be thrown into the scale in order to encourage and bribe mandarins with a view to promoting concessions for the purpose of their being exploited on the Stock Exchange. I would especially apply that remark to concessions which extend, either wholly or in part, to the spheres which have been declared already to be within the special province of foreign States. Now, what power in the world have we of guaranteeing the money of those who are foolish enough to invest their capital in enterprises in Manchuria? Doubtless the Russian Government, until they have got their railways completed and their preparations made, will not take any active part in deterring people from investing capital in Manchuria. But what a prospect in time to come if the British Government are to-be called upon to compel the Russian Government to allow persons who have been foolish enough to embark in those enterprises to have their money back! Is that a nice prospect for this country? The Russian Government will be in a position to say that they have given full and due notice that the whole of Northern China from the Great Wall was within her exclusive sphere, and that nobody could say that they had not been fully apprised of that fact before they invested a shilling. Consequently, any 1433 person who loses his money in this absurd way which my noble Friend the Member for York practically advises them to embark in, any person who put* his money in such investments, deserves to lose it. I hope that by my right honourable Friend's statement we shall have the mist cleared away from our eyes as to this lingering doubt whether the "open-door" has been taken off its hinges and broken up for firewood or not. If there is any idea that this country is going to interfere hereafter within the spheres of foreign States as to commercial privileges, I think we are embarking in a polity which we cannot too soon repudiate, and I venture to hope that we shall stick to our own sphere of influence in China, and not attempt to interfere with those spheres which have been acquired by others.
§ MR. KESWICK (Surrey, Epsom)
I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without making some remarks upon this subject. The statement made by the French Government I regard as meaning what was entered in the Blue Book, and I do not find that it assumes for one moment to set aside a single provision of the Treaty of Tien-tsin. We have in Shan-tung a Treaty port, and it is not stated that from that port there shall be no railway into Shan-tung, or that there shall be no trading in the country of which Chefoo is the outlet. It has been remarked with regard to this railway which France has obtained into Yun-nan, that for the first time in connection with these concessions the land has been given by China. Allow me to say that of all the concessions with which I am acquainted, the same rule has been made that land will be given by China for the construction of her railways. There is one other point that I think we should very carefully bear in mind in connection with the naval station of Port Arthur. I regard—as I have very little doubt the majority of the Members of this House regard—our withdrawal from that port with great regret. But we did withdraw, and I think the moment the mistake was discovered the best remedy was applied to it; and allow me to say that, acquainted as I am with that part of China, and knowing something of Chinese ports, if those two ports were available for us the one 1434 that I should say our country should choose is Wei-hai-Wei, and not Port Arthur. Wei-hai-Wei occupies a position on the point of a promontory, and as a naval station, and if due care be taken to convert it into a stronghold, we shall be able to defy the fleets of the world. With regard to the sphere of influence or interest in the Yantr-tsze Valley, I think that the whole subject comes back to the fact that China is unable to take care of herself. It is no use bolstering up or attempting to maintain a Government which will not be maintained. Its corruption, its weakness, its childishness, and the almost imbecility of its rulers must inevitably lead to those spheres of influence which have been mapped out becoming spheres of annexation. In connection with these spheres of annexation those territories within which we have at present Treaty ports, with which Great Britain has had intercourse since they were opened, and which, through her influence, were acquired, we should endeavour at all hazards to maintain all the privileges which we enjoy at those ports, and see that those privileges shall never be alienated. I do not for a moment imagine that this country is to stand up and maintain, in the face of a united Europe, and dictate and maintain her position in China to the exclusion of other nations. That is not possible. Therefore, what is practical has to be considered, and not what is chimerical and impossible. What is practical, is that in the Yang-tsze Valley and the adjacent country connected with it, including the group of islands and the Hinterland of that district—which is the wealthiest part of the whole of China, and the very garden of the country—we should maintain as our sphere of influence until, we meet our own dominion in India. I have seen in to-day's newspapers a telegram that the Belgians want a, concession at Han-kau, Now Han-kau is in our sphere of influence on the Yang-tsze, and any concessions granted to any Power when we look forward to what is inevitable—that it will be our territory—will be a thorn in the side of the position we desire. I quite recognise that Belgium ought to have a place there, but that concession should be granted by England, and the right given to Belgium to build upon it; but it 1435 should not be given to Belgium, nor should there be any concession whatever, from my point of view, allowed to any foreign nation within that sphere which is exclusively our own. It is to be remembered that when we acquire territory, such as we obtain on the Yang-tsze, that it is not for ourselves alone. We are the only nation which throws open the whole of our territory to the commerce of the world, and that we deny, in taking up such a position in the Yang-tsze, no nation a right, because we give them the same rights which we possess ourselves; but the jurisdiction and the absolute territorial power we should possess, and with that we admit of no interference, and no possible alienation of a single inch of that territory. There are other places in China where we enjoy treaty rights, and we cannot, surely, allow that the treaty rights which we possess shall ever deprive us of the privileges which we at present enjoy there, which are of the greatest possible importance to our trade. And, whilst regarding it as impossible that we can maintain our influence over the whole area of China, still we should regard it as an impossible thing that we should ever be deprived of that priority of position and of influence, and that priority in everything that has been connected with China which we have bought, and bought dearly, with blood and treasure, and we cannot allow that those privileges which we have obtained shall ever go from our hands. There is much that I could say in connection with other matters, but it would be, perhaps, going somewhat beyond what I have the exact data for, because I was not aware that this Debate would take place, and I have come to the House, in a measure, unprepared for it. I thank the House for listening to me so patiently.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. BRODRICK)
My honourable Friend, who has just spoken for the first time, was certainly entitled, in the short time he has taken to give us his views, and I confess that, while I feel sure the cheers which greeted his speech must have assured him that the Committee welcomed his interposition in this Debate, I have welcomed it from another point of view—that, at all events, to use his own words, 1436 he has addressed the House from the point of view of what is practical and not what is impossible with regard to China. In that respect his speech differed from some of the speeches that preceded it. I have been struck by the extraordinary unanimity which the House appears to present during these Chinese Debates—unanimity in favour of an ultra-forward policy, which does not appear on the surface in any other Debates on Foreign Policy in which the House is engaged. It is specially absent in some cases in which our interposition is even more natural than in China, and which, coinciding as it does with the extreme silence of honourable Gentlemen opposite who usually do not agree with the forward policy, leaves on the Member of the Government who has the honour to reply the task of throwing cold water on many ambitious schemes, and of appearing unsympathetic in many matters on which the House is entirely set. This evening we have had extreme progress suggested. We have had it suggested not merely that we ought to exercise a sphere of influence of our own, equal in the Yang-tsze Valley to many rights described by the honourable Member for King's Lynn as rights of Sovereignty, and equal to those enjoyed by any foreign nation, and to keep the door open in the spheres of interest of others, but that we ought to maintain the independence of China. But I ask the Committee to consider rather more closely what it has been possible to accomplish and what the Government have accomplished. The honourable Member for Barnsley was very much exercised at any other Power getting a share of China at all.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON
I must interrupt the right honourable Gentleman. I distinctly advocated spheres of concessions for all Powers interested in trading with China as regards railway construction and mining enterprises, and the "open-door" in regard to general trade throughout the whole of China by an agreement between the Powers.
But each case in which a foreign nation had obtained any one of these advantages the honourable Gentleman subjected to the severest criticism.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON
What I said was that the terms and conditions on which these concessions had been gained by the various foreign Powers were an infringement of the treaty rights of Tientsin.
§ MR. BRODRICK
In other words, they ought not to have been given, and we ought to have protested against them. I was greatly struck, not merely by the honourable Member's arguments, but by the manner in which, by a summary process, he proposed to make adjustments in these concessions already obtained. He objected to the Pekin and Han-kau Railway concession having gone to another Power. We objected also. The honourable Member in a variety of well-chosen periods explained to the Committee the extraordinary weakness which Her Majesty's Government have shown. He maintained that the moment they heard that the Pekin and Han-kau concessions had been given to another Power they ought to have gone to the Yamen and claimed that the concession should be cancelled. He went further; he contended that this country ought to have addressed an ultimatum to France, Russia, and Belgium.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON
I cannot be misrepresented in this way. I said that they ought to have compelled the Chinese Government to respect our treaty rights in regard to the Yang-tsze Valley.
§ MR. BRODRICK
And in doing so they ought to have forced the Chinese Government to cancel the concession. It is absolutely impossible in all these affairs in China to carry on business in the style which the honourable Member prefers. We, on our side, have had some regard for international amenities, and we have also considered that our first object should be not to show a vehement jealousy, which the honourable Gentleman shows, of other Powers, but to show a studied regard for the commercial and political advantages which they may obtain and which it is necessary we should obtain in the spheres in China to which we are specially addicted. What I cannot understand is why honourable Members assume that all these pledges of the Chinese Government to foreign nations are valid with regard to 1438 the spheres they have obtained, and why they should assume that the pledges they have given us with regard to the Yang-tsze Valley are null and void and waste paper. The right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean argued that we should clear up the question of the pledge given to the French Government with regard to Yunnan. There are several allusions to it in the Blue Book. I do not see why we should object in any way, or that those who are so anxious for the integrity of China need object in the least, to any pledge being given to any foreign Power that there will be no alienation or concession of any particular province. The fact that the Chinese Government pledged themselves to France not to alienate the Province of Yunnan, while at the same time they have pledged themselves to us not to alienate any province bordering on the Yang-tsze Valley, cannot stultify that pledge, but only rather fortifies it. But honourable Members made a great point of the fact that in the single case of a particular railway the French Government had received a pledge that there would be given with the railway the land on which to make it. That has been disposed of by the Member for Epsom. He told us that the same condition had been put into other concessions. The provision which affects us most is this, not that in giving a commercial concession it is made easier for one Power to cany it out than for another —although this great number of concessions has been obtained, there is considerable doubt whether they will all be acted on—but what is far more important is that the Yamen has declared that no exclusive concessions have been granted to France. My honourable Friend the Member for King's Lynn said he could not read this Blue Book without a sense of shame, and his shame consisted in what he called our ungenerous dealings with the Yamen. What I want to know is, with whom is it our duty to deal so long as there is an established Government in China? Are we not bound to go to the Yamen, a body of men eminently alive to their own interest, with an uncommon perception of the advantages of China on one side or the other, and a faculty of weighing one Power against another, and, as far as I can see, of playing off one Power against another. We are 1439 bound to go to them. We all know-that in the East you are exposed to pleasing talk which is not always conducive to action. On 1st January 1898 the President of the Yamen, in welcoming the foreign representatives at a banquet, expressed the hope, in proposing their health, that all of them would receive, in the course of the year, every advantage or privilege they might ask, a suggestion which it has been pointed out would have left China very little jurisdiction in her own dominions at the end of the year if it had been realised. But even my honourable Friend will admit that there is some advantage in having the Yamen to deal with as a buffer at all events against Foreign Powers competing in China at the present moment. What my honourable Friend asked was that we should go direct and attack the European Powers on this subject, and not China, and that we should show spirit by defending the integrity of China against all comers. I noticed some cheers at that statement, but I do not believe they represent the deliberate opinion of the House of Commons. I believe this policy of asking China to concede everything to ourselves and to refuse everything to everybody else is an untenable one in the present condition of affairs. It has been said that it would be most dangerous for the Government to appear to preserve an open mind. I do not believe this Blue Book, properly considered, indicates that the Government have faltered in a single instance. You will not find a sentence in the Blue Book to show that we accept the idea of closing a single port to commerce of the world, including our own. You will not find a single sentence in which who recognise the right of any other Power to interfere exclusively in the Valley of the Yang-tsze or to place itself in a position in which they can interfere with our trade. It is true that, by the old treaties with China, whose inland ports are open to the navigation of steamers as well as boats, trade can only be through the treaty ports. I hope some day the Chinese may be wise enough to see the desirability of enabling us to distribute goods as well as to bring them in, but at present that has not been done. But we have succeeded in getting all the treaty ports named last year open. All that was then asked for has been carried 1440 out, with the single exception of opening Talienwan as a treaty port. Nan-ning has been opened on the West River, an object upon which British diplomacy has been long engaged. An undertaking with regard to the Yang-tsze has been given, and has been acted upon. A demand we had not even then put forward with regard to Hong Kong has been conceded, and our protection there is assured. And Wei-hai-Wei has been taken in the north. All these are solid advantages. When we are asked to compare what we have obtained with what other nations have obtained, I venture to repeat what I said on the second night of the Session, that there is not a nation in the world which, standing in our place, would not be satisfied with what has been achieved in the last year on our behalf. When concessions are weighed, I think there is considerable force in the statement made in the course of the Debate that of the 2,800 miles of railway for which concessions have been granted it is doubtful whether more than 10 per cent, will be made. I do not give that as my opinion, but there is every reason to believe that what we are waiting for in China now is not concessions, but concessionaires—not merely men who have gone there to get concessions which they can sell to the public, but men who have got money at their back to enable them to carry them out. My predecessor, Lord Curzon, recently referred to the unequalled field, as he believed, presented by railways in India for capital. At this moment we have not got the evidence as regards a single line of railway, except that to the north, as to the possible traffic, or even the possible expenditure. Of the majority of railway concessions which have been applied for by foreign nations as much as by our own people, the concessions have been obtained even before the surveys have been carried out. I gather from that this fact —that when we are attacked for not having secured all the concessions that might be demanded, I think we may be perfectly certain that in connection with concessions in China British capitalists will not have the slightest difficulty in finding persons ready to take their money. After all, what we have at heart is not that these lines of railway should be laid by British capital, but that they should be open to the com- 1441 merce of all nations. We must not regard these questions from a narrow standpoint; we must look at the broad facts of what has been achieved during the past year. But let the Committee understand that we are not prepared to proceed with our eyes shut in regard to these concessions and other questions. My honourable Friend the Member for Derby asked that we should not forget the organisation of the military and naval forces of the Chinese Empire. That has been a strong point also in the speeches of my noble Friend the Member for York, whose views, I have been asked to assure the Committee, have not obtained the support of the Government. The noble Lord represents himself. I believe he also represents a certain number of commercial individuals who were interested in his expedition; but from first to last the noble Lord has told the public, what must have been evident to all, that he in no sense represented the views of the Government. But I cannot help feeling that we ought to be very careful in listening to the extreme views which have been expressed to-night, such as that we should undertake the reorganisation of the Chinese army and navy, for the end of all these steps—the end, indeed, which those who advocate them have in view—would be that which we have no intention of undertaking, namely, the taking upon ourselves of the whole responsibility of the Government of the Chinese Empire. The progress we have achieved during the past year can only be appreciated by looking back upon the past history of China. I doubt whether, if we go back for 50 years, we will find so great a change made on paper as that which has been in fact made during the last 12 months towards the opening up of China. In that we have obtained our share. We have been asked to-night to define our position in regard to Russia. The Blue Book before the Committee does not contain any allusion to the particular point of the railway in Manchuria in which Russia is interested. We have been obliged to exclude it because the negotiations with Russia in regard to it are not absolutely completed, and until we are able to put our case before the House necessarily we must stand condemned. But when we 1442 are in a position to tell our story we shall be able to show that we have thoroughly safeguarded our interests; that we are thoroughly aware of the importance to our trade of keeping open the north of China; and also that we are impressed with the extreme desirability of coming to an understanding with the Russian Government. We are not without hope that such an understanding may be come to. There is, so far, a perfectly conciliatory and friendly disposition on both sides; and I think the House will be prepared to leave the matter there, seeing that, as the negotiations are still proceeding, it is absolutely impossible to say more without trenching in some degree upon the reticence imposed upon us. Our desire is at the earliest possible moment to lay Papers before the House to show what has been accomplished in this matter. But, in the meantime, we stand by the policy we have proclaimed in regard to China. We stand by the necessity for safeguarding 1o the utmost of our power the particular sphere in which we are interested—I do not call it a sphere of interest, but the particular part to which our trade mainly goes. We also, in all our operations, desire to preserve freedom of trade, freedom of commerce, for the products of other nations as well as for our own, which we believe to be the best policy for China, as well as being the policy upon which our own fiscal system is based. But when we are asked to lay down a hard and fast rule as to what we must have ourselves, and as to the limits we must lay down in respect to other nations, we are obliged to stand back. It is impossible for us to map out China according to our own desires; and we cannot lay down a law to the whole world in regard to it. But, so far as our own interests are concerned, we propose to continue the course we have taken in the past year—a course which, so far as we can see, will prove to be advantageous to China, and which will certainly secure, with due regard to the rights of other nations, a considerable and proper share of benefits to the British nation, and which, in the minds of those who are best qualified to judge —those whose interests in China are the largest—entitle the Government to their gratitude and their confidence.
§ SIR E. GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
The right honourable Gentleman at the opening of his speech complained that there had been a general consensus of opinion in the House in favour of an ultra-forward policy, and he selected as an instance in proof of that contention the speech of my honourable Friend the Member for Barnsley. I think my honourable Friend's criticisms were perfectly legitimate, as appeared in the explanation he made when the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary was speaking. What he was doing was to examine the policy of the Government, judged by its results, and to see whether or not that policy had admitted of any infractions of the Treaty of Tien-tsin. The upholding of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, Lord Salisbury told us last year, was the test of the policy of the Government. I think the best way to test that is not to push forward uninvited an ultra-forward policy, but to apply to that policy exactly that test which it had been asked should be applied to it. I think if there has been an ultra-forward policy, I should say it was to be found in the speeches which have been made on behalf of the Government on such occasions as that of the moving of the resolution last year by the honourable Member for Sheffield, when we were told that the first point in the policy of the Government was the maintenance of the independence and integrity of China. I do not know whether those words are still adhered to, but if so, they are construed in a different sense to that of a year ago. I think the true genesis of the ultra-forward policy is to be found in those speeches much more than in that of my honourable Friend behind me. It is exceedingly difficult to deal with the Blue Book in Debate, because, although the Blue Book is interesting to us, it does not deal with the large issues of policy involved, but with a succession of miscellaneous incidents—many interesting, some of them important, but which do not take us very much further forward in our judgment as to how matters have been going on in China regarding our policy as a whole. There is a list of concessions, and some of these are valuable, but they do not justify the assurance quoted this evening, and attributed, I believe, 1444 to the Colonial Secretary, that the result of these transactions is to leave England far stronger in the East than she ever was before. If she is stronger, we can only say that strength is a relative strength, and that she is stronger compared with what might have been expected at one time, considering the drift taken. No list of concessions as a whole compensates us for the disturbances of the balance of naval power and the disturbances of territorial ascendancy which have taken place in various parts of China. I suppose we all recognise willingly and gladly that there is a certain brisk tone about Sir Claude Macdonald's diplomacy, the very reading of which has contributed to the interest of the Blue Book; and we recognise also that, in pressing various matters upon Chinese Ministers, he has met with a considerable amount of success. I am sure the Government feel they have been exceedingly well served by him, and I am sure the Committee feel that British interests have been guarded by him with energy and activity. I do not wish to depreciate the value of some of the concessions gained. Take, for instance, some of the railway concessions given to British concessionaires. It is true that some of these railways may either be long in making or never be made at all. But this we are sure of—that when a concession has been given to British capitalists for the making of a railway in any part of China, that railway has, at least, as good a chance of being made as if granted to any other Power; and wo may be sure that, when made, on the ground occupied by that railway there will be no differential duties. The general impression produced on me by reading the Blue Book was one of discomfort all round. It is the record of a continued struggle at Pekin of one Power against the concessions given to another, and the discomfort is greatest of all, of course, in the unhappy Chinese Government itself. The Under Secretary said the Chinese Government had a great deal of perception. Yes, I think they have a great deal of perception of the evils to which they are exposed. I wish we could say that their perceptions of the remedies to be applied were equally clear. At present they seem to-realise most thoroughly the position in 1445 which they are placed. At one part there is a pathetic appeal that Lord Salisbury will cease to press at Pekin and deal with the French direct about some questions in which the two Governments were interested. The Chinese Ministers, in regard to concessions, do not object to grant them simply because they dislike particular concessions, but they are afraid to grant anything because of the demands consequent on the granting of it from other quarters. The real difficulty is not a lack of perception on the part of the Chinese Government, but their weakness. The question we ask is Is that Government growing weaker or stronger? If it is growing weaker, all these concessions which have been granted, and the very extension of trade, will be apt to lead to further trouble in China. Wherever trade goes, there goes a natural desire on the part of the Government to whom the traders belong that that trade should be protected. Wherever a railway is made, if that railway is interfered with, if it is not allowed fair play in the working, there will at once come demands to the Government to whose subjects the concession was granted that their Government should interfere and protect the interests of their own subjects. The more China is pierced by railways, the more trade is spread, the more important should it become that the Chinese Government should, at any rate, be in a position to keep order in its own territories. We all have an interest in maintaining the strength of China, not merely for resisting outside aggression, but in order that she may prevent those provocations to interference which are certain to arise in the working of the railways and the extension of trade if she is not supreme in her own house. I will pass lightly over some of the concessions. The concession with regard to the opening of river-side towns is, I have no doubt, beneficial, but not so beneficial as we were led to suppose when it was first announced. The last information about it is that it will not be so important a concession because of the regulations which have been made in regard to it. Then take the concession of Nan-ning. That we all welcome; but we are told again here that the area of settlement is to be so narrow, and the likin duties outside the area are likely to be so heavy, that the 1446 opening of Nan-ning will not lead to any extension of trade. This question of likin is far more important with regard to the development of trade than the opening of any number of ports. In one part of the Blue Book there is an expression of opinion that it would not be difficult to place the collection of likin in the same hands as the collection of the Customs duties themselves. If that be carried out, if the collection of likin be placed on some respectable basis judged by Western ideas, more would have been done, I believe, to facilitate the progress of trade in China than by the opening of any number of ports or the opening of waterways. Now I come to the question of preferential rates on railways. The right honourable Gentleman opposite asked that we should mention Something definite that the Government might have done. I should like to see these preferential rates guarded against on the railways, and the suggestion I would make is, that Lord Salisbury's own suggestion should be carried out. His suggestion is that we ought to be able to provide for proper provisions for equal treatment being inserted in every concession. I should like to know whether provisions against differential treatment have been inserted in concessions such as the Pekin-Han-kau concession. That is a definite question of fact on which we may some time get an answer. Then with regard to the Yang-tsze. I cannot say that the right honourable Gentleman's speech has taken us into a much more definite sphere of thought with regard to the concession in the Yang-tsze. The concession given to Germany in Shan-tung is definiteness itself compared with our concession in the Yang-tsze. We have given them a promise that we will not construct any railway from Wei-hai-Wei to the interior of their sphere of interest, and I think the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury cheered the suggestion that we were still at liberty to construct a railway from any other place. But then why did we give the pledge about Wei-hai-Wei at all? We were told that its very commercial future depended upon having a railway constructed, and I do think that we ought to recognise that the giving of the pledge was a concession, and we ought to expect that there is some mutual 1447 recognition of our sphere of interest. As far as our information goes at present, we have a request from the China Association, or a statement made by them, that no doubt explicit communications have been made to other Governments as to our sphere of interest in the Yang-tsze region which safeguard it. We have the statement that such communications really have been made, and we have the statement that the Germans themselves do not at all accept our view with regard to the Yang-tsze. We know that the region is pierced by the Pekin-Han-kau Railway, and we now hear that the Belgians are asking for a concession themselves at Han-kau. All these things increase our doubt as to what is meant by our sphere of interest in the Yang-tsze region. It clearly does not mean that no other railways can be made into it, as is the German view with regard to Shan-tung, and we should like to hear a little more about the Belgian concession at Han-kau. I recognise that in the case of the Italians there were reasons why the Government could not possibly stand aloof, and that their support of Italy may rather have modified than have exaggerated what would have taken place if they had stood aside altogether. We defend the policy of the "open-door," but we do not want the "open-door" to be understood in the sense that everybody is entitled to press for territorial acquisitions in the Yang-tsze region, and before we welcome the support given to the Belgian concession I think we should like to know what its conditions are. I think it would be interesting to know what has been the result of the struggle about the settlement of Shanghai. That also is in the Yang-tsze region. But I pass from these small points, and I take the larger issues, which we hope will be dealt with in a subsequent Blue Book—the larger issues which can only be settled by direct discussions between the British Government and the other European Governments interested. What we really want to be assured of is that there is some direct understanding between the different European Governments interested. What is that understanding to be upon? What is to be the base of that agreement? The bate of that agreement undoubtedly must be the recognition of spheres of interest. We have got so far that it is no good ignoring the fact that 1448 spheres of interest must be the base of whatever settlement takes place. I do not see why the "open-door" should not go with spheres of interest. There is nothing in this book, there is nothing in the format on before us, to show-that the sphere of influence as at present arranged is through the "open-door." I hope, however, it may be possible to come to some arrangement, and that an agreement may be arrived at which will safeguard us from two dangers. The first is that two Powers should fall out, and the second is that all or any of them may be led on to annex large tracts of country, and, above all, it is surely a thing on which we are most in doubt as to what progress we are making in getting an understanding with the Russian Government. Our last cause of anxiety is as to the extension of the railway to Niu-chwang, and about that we have very little in the Papers before us. We did hear this—that Lord Salisbury proposed to exchange that railway to Niu-chwang for the Pekin and Han-kau Railway. That would have been a legitimate and consistent step to have taken if it were possible, but, as it has not been carried out, I presume that it has not been found possible. Then there occurred a further hitch, about which we are still in the dark, and which we were glad to hear, from the answer given to a question, has now been removed. It must be quite clear that, with Russia especially, if we are to come to an understanding, our negotiations must be with her direct, for it cannot be done at Pekin. On the contrary, we have had a most unpleasant incident displayed in these Papers, which is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Chinese Minister to make trouble between us and the Russian Government, by misrepresenting the words of the Russian representative. That emphasises the necessity for direct negotiations between the British and the Russian Governments. We have consistently advocated that, because we believe them to be not only reasonable, but possible. I do not know whether any such view is held in this country now, to the effect that difference of opinion is so inevitable between ourselves and Russia, that there never can be an understanding between us. But that is not the view which we hold, and 1449 it is not the view, which I am glad to hear from the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary for War—which we always supposed to be the case —which Her Majesty's Government hold. They hold, as we all hold, that there is room in Asia for both ourselves and Russia, provided there is a reasonable amount of moderation and common sense on either side. And the only obstacle I can conceive as a reason why it should be at all impracticable to come to an understanding with the Russian Government is that, in the course of these transactions in the Far East there have been instances of inconsistency in Russian policy which may have shaken people's hopes as to how far it was possible to get a binding agreement. Of course, frankness and good faith must be the essential elements of an understanding between the two countries, but we ought not to forget, when we criticise what seem to be the inconsistencies of Russian policy in the Far East, we ought not to forget that, just as here we have two schools—one in favour of a Russian understanding and one against it—so there have been two schools of different political thought in Russia; and that distrust which Russia has displayed to us in the Far East has not arisen in the course of these transactions, but it has its roots in what our declared policy was a few years ago. When a distrust has grown up like that with a past policy it creates in the country a school of politicians who believe that it is only by opposition, outwitting, and circumventing that they can get the way of their country. Suspicions have existed for the last few years, ever since we declared this ancient policy to be the diplomacy, and who have tried to get rid of that distrust, but it does need energy and initiation to overthrow what has been the growth of years, and to show how far the Government has displayed that energy and initiation in this vital policy of the country The Blue Book told us nothing last year except that a great opportunity had been lost, but I will not labour that point at length. Can anybody believe that if we had departed so far from our policy of past years as to willingly admit the occupation by Russia of a commercial and naval port in Chinese waters; and, further, if we had been also prepared 1450 to admit the extension of a railway from Siberian territory to that port with a considerable amount of political ascendancy in the province through which that railway passed; could anybody, if they had believed that, say that we could not have been able to get an excellent understanding with Russia? But that opportunity has passed. Russia was not prepared, and we were not prepared, to make this concession. The Government, in the autumn, in some of their speeches, claimed credit for having refused to be driven into a war over this question of Port Arthur. But, if they meant to yield, why did they not say so sooner?. Instead of doing that, they first put forward a demand about Talienwan, that it should be made an open port. Then Russia, construing that as an attempt on the part of the British Government to forestall her plans in Manchuria—though I am not sure that it was not—Russia resists the British demand, and then the British Government submits or allows the Chinese Government to withdraw its promise under pressure. Then comes the episode of the withdrawal of the ships at Port Arthur, and Russia occupies Port Arthur, and finally there is a belated attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to get Russia to forego the advantage of her occupation. Now, that is not the way to take advantage of the opportunity of removing distrust and coming to an understanding; that was not the way to make Russia feel that we were either cordial in support of what we might consider to be her legitimate interests, or that our friendship was worth having. We did not show in the earlier stages either that clearness of view or that strength of purpose which was necessary to promote an understanding with Russia. Now, I welcome most cordially the statement from the right honourable Gentleman that, since the information given us last year, some fresh information is contained in the recent Blue Book, and since that time some progress has been made. We shall welcome that progress and we most sinterely trust that it will lead to the favourable conclusion which the right honourable Gentleman opposite anticipates. The Peace Conference at Brussels was adduced earlier in the Debate as a reason why this should be a specially favourable moment for an 1451 understanding. That Conference, I take it, is to deal purely with international questions. Its conditions will not be such as to permit that two Powers will be able to avail themselves of it, for special understandings, as far as that problem is concerned. It is clear that it is a matter in which all the Powers must be engaged, and I have always felt that, whatever the direct result of that Conference internationally might be, the indirect results may be still greater. The result of the proposal of that Conference has been to make it felt—and we have made no secret of it —that we believe that proposal to be genuine and sincere, and that the motive of that Conference is a real desire for peace. Now, a desire for peace on the part of a great Power is a strong asset on the side of peace, and I hope that this year a more peaceful atmosphere has been introduced into the Councils of Europe by the European Powers which will entirely get rid of this friction that ha3 existed between us and Russia, and, perhaps, between some other Powers as well.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON
My object was to have a discussion. I beg leave, with the consent of the Committee, to withdraw my Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed—
§ SIR C. DILKE
I will now put a Question in relation to the United States and the recent Conference. I believe that by an understanding with both parties it was decided to keep the proceedings secret until the Conference meetings were resumed in August next. That, I understand, was the opinion of the delegates on both sides. But, unfortunately, statements have been made very widely in the United States bearing the complexion of authority with regard to what has passed in that Conference. It has been said with regard to a matter which, at any moment, may become a very dangerous one—I allude to the Alaskan Boundary Question—that it was agreed to refer the matter to arbitration, but that the proposal had broken down upon the stipulation by America that the ultimate arbitrator, in the event of a difference between the two sides, should 1452 be chosen from Central or South America. I can hardly believe in a matter so dangerous as the Alaskan frontier, that the arbitration would have been allowed to break down upon the mere question whether a referee arbitrator chosen for the event of a difference between the arbitrators selected by the two sides should come from Mexico or from Chili, or some other States of South or Central America, which are well able to provide an impartial referee. I cannot help but think, Sir, from what I have gathered, that matters had not reached such an advanced state, and that if a breakdown occurred it was not after we had reached a point of being completely satisfied with all the conditions which were to be submitted to arbitration. But the Government must be aware that such statements have been made in the United States, which profess to be on very high authority indeed, and if the right honourable Gentleman can reassure us with regard to this matter, I am sure it will be a very wise thing to do.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The right honourable Gentleman has rightly said that there was an agreement among the members of the Commission on both sides that absolute secrecy should be preserved as to the proceedings of the Commission. But, as constantly happens on such occasions, some sort of accounts have crept out, which are more or less authentic, no doubt. With regard to the statement made by the right honourable Baronet, I am sure he will see that it will bo extremely undesirable for me to give, either by contradiction or assertion, any partial account of what took place. But so far, I can say at this moment, the accounts which have crept out have not been exact, and must be accepted with considerable reservation. I will say, however, that the one desire and hope of the late Lord Herschell and of the other Commissioners, was that an agreement would be arrived at when the Commission met again.
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
I should like to know if the right honourable Gentleman can give us some information regarding the North Sea Fisheries Conference. I do not wish to make any complaint against 1453 Her Majesty's Government, but I desire-to know how the Conference will be constituted, and it is extremely desirable that this matter should be disposed of, so that the Committee can get to work. I should, therefore, like to ask him whether he can tell us when this Conference will really go to business? At the same time, perhaps, ho can give the Committee some information with regard to the constitution of this proposed Conference, and what instructions will be given to it. I am aware, of course, that the initiative in this matter comes from the Government of Sweden. I recently had an opportunity of visiting Sweden, and making the acquaintance of the eminent scientific gentleman who initiated this proposal. My point is this: I am aware that the object of the original proposal was a scientific one, but at the same time the ultimate object, as set down by Sweden, was that there should be some international regulations as to fisheries, and what I wish to point out is that if this matter is laid too much on a scientific basis, hope of a business settlement would be delayed. We know that when scientific gentlemen start on a commission their investigations will spread in various directions, and who can hardly expect them to voluntarily come to an end with their investigations. Therefore, what I wish to put to the Foreign Office is that they should put this matter rather in the hands of practical administrators. There are two interests concerned, namely, the practical administrators, and the scientific experts. What I wish is-that the matter should be commenced by the appointment of practical admin is trators for the Conference who would be able to settle something like a practical basis, and they could decide what sort of regulations were practicable. Then a reference might be made to a Committee of scientific experts who could give their opinion as to the best scientific methods to be followed in order to guide the drawing up of these regulations. I would also point out that the present condition of affairs, as has been often stated in this House is very anomalous, and it is extremely desirable that some modus vivendi amongst the fishermen should be established as soon as possible, and I take it that if this Conference of practical men is not to meet soon they might find 1454 some temporary and provisional arrangement which would prevent the antagonism now existing between fishermen of different nationalities and between the different classes of fishermen in our own country. We know that there is considerable antagonism between the trawling interest on the one side, and the line fishermen on the other. The object who have in view is not to favour one class of fishermen or another. The two main objects, as I understand it, of this Conference will be to make international regulations which will maintain and increase the supply of fish, and also make such international regulations as will prevent conflict and antagonism either between the fishermen of different nations, or between the different classes of fishermen among our own people. This matter is a very urgent one, for there is a very large population in Scotland, estimated at about 400,000 individuals, more or less dependent upon this industry, and they are extremely anxious that this matter should be settled. I should, therefore, be very glad if the right honourable Gentleman can give us some information as to what is being done, and will assure the Committee that efforts will be made to come to a speedy settlement.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
The Foreign Office are quite aware of the urgency of this question to which the honourable Baronet called attention in the last Session of Parliament, and the Swedish Government are on the point of issuing invitations to a Conference. We have urged the Swedish Government to hurry on the assembling of the Conference, which will probably meet in the month of May, and delegates will be sent to it by the various Powers concerned. This question will be fully considered by experts and by practical men. Practical considerations will be put forward first, and a reference will be made to a Committee of experts who, we hope, will sit together. The proposal for the programme of the Conference is now before He Majesty's Government.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I do appeal to the House now to bring this Debate to a close. The Twelve o'clock Rule was not suspended with a view to a very long Debate on the Vole on Account, but in order to 1455 enable the Government to bring in the Besolution in Committee of Ways and Means, without which we cannot comply with the law.
§ DR. CLARK
I will not take up the time of the House more than a couple of minutes, but I trust that one aspect will not be forgotten, and that is, that British fishermen are prevented from fishing at certain times or from selling their fish in this country, while the foreigners are allowed to fish in our own waters and to come and sell their fish in this country. Either you must abolish the regulations and permit British fishermen to trawl where Swedish and German trawlers are trawling, or you must prevent the landing of this fish by foreign vessels in this country. I do hope that something will be done in this matter by legislation. There are two or three points which we shall require to discuss when the Vote comes on, but I hope something will be done under which our own fishermen on our own coast will be enabled to fish as well as foreign fishermen, and that they will be able to come and sell their fish in our own country, as the foreigners do at present. I also desire very briefly to ask for some further information with regard to a question raised by my honourable Friend the Member for Canterbury with regard to the people who invested money in a foreign railway. The Portuguese Government took charge of the railway from Delagoa Bay to the Transvaal frontier. On pressure being brought to bear by the Portuguese and American Governments, it was agreed that the questions in dispute should be referred to Swiss arbitrators, and that was nine years ago. These gentlemen took evidence up to about three years ago, when they ceased to take evidence, and they sent two or three experts out to Delagoa Bay to view the railway, and estimate the value of some of the property, but towards the end of last year they began to take evidence again. They received evidence from the Transvaal Government, from the Transvaal standpoint, evidence which three or four years ago they refused to receive at all, for they then considered it quite outside their jurisdiction and quite outside the case. They have been again hearing evidence, and in the worst days of the Chancery Court things were not as bad 1456 as that. If this kind of thing is to go on; if these matters are to be considered, and nine years afterwards we are to be told that something is being done in the matter, then the principle of international arbitration receives a deadly blow. After receiving evidence year after year, and sending out experts to get information, they again opened the evidence, and it looks as though it will be another nine or 10 years more before they arrive at any decision. We ask the right honourable Gentleman today if, in the interests of international arbitration, he will communicate with the arbitrators on the Delagoa Bay Railway question, with a view to having it settled without further delay. Surely it is time for the British and American Governments to bring pressure to bear upon these Swiss gentlemen, who have taken too long already, and it is time that the British Government—because it is a question in which Britain is just as interested as other countries—should bring some pressure to bear to get these gentlemen to give their decision. The company is practically bankrupt, the bondholders having had no interest for the last 10 years. I do not think we ought to be put off in this evasive fashion as we were by a reply given by the Under Secretary to a Question. We do ask the right honourable Gentleman to say whether the Government are going to allow this state of things to continue, or whether they are going to bring legitimate pressure to bear to see that these gentlemen carry out their duty. I think during the last five or six years four or five Questions have been put by various Members on both sides of the House upon this question, and we are always told that we are to have the decision in the autumn, but now we seem to be as far off as ever we were. I think the Government ought to do something under this condition of things, and not give us the usual official reply that they are making some inquiries about the value of this property.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The honourable Member puts to me this Question, but I may say that it is not a matter for which the Government are responsible, and the honourable Member puts the Question as if we had some control over it. If it were in our power we should do so, but, as is perfectly well known, Her 1457 Majesty's Government desire that the matter should be concluded, and that a decision should be come to as quickly as possible. We have, however, no power in the matter, and we have no power in any way either to withdraw the question from arbitration or to bring pressure to bear upon the arbitrators.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
All that we can do is to wait for their decision. We have made it perfectly clear that the sooner the decision is given the better it will be, and we can go no further. When you refer a matter like that to arbitration, you place it in that way out of your own hands, and we cannot withdraw it now. The other question which the right honourable Gentleman asked me the Government do not propose to deal with, and do not intend to take any steps with regard to the fishery laws, as they exist at present, as it is obvious that the matters alluded to will come on at the Conference. Therefore the Government are not pre pared to take any steps pending the sitting of that Conference to make any alteration of the law, but when the Conference has reported, the whole matter will be open for consideration.
§ The subject then dropped.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
There is a question with regard to the printing and stationery which I want to put to the right honourable Gentleman. The Secretary to the Treasury has very kindly carried out the promise he gave at the beginning of this Session that he would distribute the "Parliamentary Debates," but that promise has been carried out more in the letter than in the spirit, for it is a very troublesome thing now for the Members who desire to get the "Debates" in consequence of the unsatisfactory arrangements made, which are also, I understand, giving a great deal of trouble at the Paper Office. When the right honourable Gentleman was asked a question on this matter he said the subject was in an experimental stage, and, therefore, he could not make any change until ho had had some experi- 1458 ence of how it was working. I understand that some 175 Members of the House have applied for copies of the "Debates" daily, and yet every one of these 175 Members, including some right honourable Gentlemen on the Government Bench, have to fill up their pink paper, which I think is a useless bit of red-tapeism. Why are we not allowed to write out an order at once that these "Debates" may be sent to us direct? I do not think this is a very handsome way of carrying out the promise made by the right honourable Gentleman, even if we admit that the proposal was a considerate one. It is well known now that a very large section of the House want these "Debates," and I believe there are only 130 orders for the whole of the papers. I hope the right honourable Gentleman will be able to give us some assurance of a more satisfactory arrangement, for he has got now some evidence that a good deal of interest is taken in the matter, and I would like to ask if he has been able to make arrangements that those Members who desire to have the "Debates" may be able to fill up an order at once and order them direct.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HANBURY,) Preston
I have not been able to make a convenient arrangement yet. I agree, to some extent, that the present arrangement is not a satisfactory one. I think it is unsatisfactory, not only as regards signing for the "Debates," but with regard to the great length at which the Debates are printed at the present time. Even from the point of view of expense, if we could got the House to agree that these reports should be printed at a more reasonable length than they are at the present moment—
§ HONOURABLE MEMBERS: No, no!
§ MR. HANBURY
And if we were content with something like the eight or nine volumes we used to have, instead of everybody's speech being printed verbatim—I think it would be much more convenient to the business of the House. If that were done, the expense would be considerably reduced, and it would be quite possible for the Treasury to make arrangement by which the reports 1459 would be so short that we should be able to supply them to every Member of the House who might require them. I know a great number of Members who have subscribed who have complained very much of the great length to which the reports run at the present moment. There is a great deal in the reports of what I should call "padding," which I think might very well be avoided, and, if they were condensed, I am quite certain that we should have a very much more satisfactory report, and one which would be much more valuable as a record of the real business of the House if they were cut down a little more, and we went back to the old state of things when the speeches were reported, instead of verbatim, at about two-thirds of their actual length.
§ HONOURABLE MEMBERS: No, no !
§ MR. HANBURY
I think that on most subjects that would be a sufficient record, and I believe that the great majority of the House would be quite content if all the speeches—except perhaps their own—were condensed to that extent.
§ MR. HANBURY
I do not want to answer right off, but I do see my way to doing something of that sort, and I shall have to make some such arrangement.
§ MR. GODDARD (Ipswich)
There is one other point with regard to this subject which I think might easily be rectified. Under the present regulation it is absolutely impossible to get the back numbers. I do ask the right honourable Gentleman if he cannot, in some way, by sending a letter to the Vote Office, make arrangements so that we shall be able to get the back numbers of the "Debates."
§ The subject then dropped.