HC Deb 04 August 1877 vol 236 cc423-7

(Mr. J. Lowther.)


Order for Third Reading read.


complained of what he regarded as the undue haste with which this Bill had been passed through its later stages. No doubt the proceedings in Committee were subjected to a great deal of obstruction by certain hon. Members, with regard to whom he should only say that although he could understand their objection to legislating after midnight, he could not understand the principles upon which they reconciled, even to their own reasoning, an obstruction to a Bill which proposed to give to another part of Her Majesty's dominions that federal Home Rule which they sought to obtain for themselves in Ireland. But what had been the effect of these proceedings? It was that in the course of two days and a night little progress had been made with the discussion of the really important clauses of the Bill; and when, at a reasonable hour on Wednesday morning, they came to discuss these clauses, it turned out that many Members who had sat through the night were so fatigued physically that it was impossible that the clauses could be fairly discussed, and he ventured to say that they were not fairly discussed. ["Oh, oh!"] He thought that there was a kind of implied, if not express, agreement with the Government that the discussion of some of these very important Amendments should be postponed until the Report, the Bill meanwhile to be reprinted, and when he saw that this stage of the measure was fixed for Thursday, he thought, as a matter of course, that it was Thursday week that was intended. Having gone for a little fresh air into the country, he was astonished to find upon his return to his Parliamentary duties that the Bill had been run through this stage at a Morning Sitting. It seemed to him that the undue haste with which the Bill had been pressed forward was totally unnecessary, because it had already passed the House of Lords. The result of this haste was that there were very considerable blemishes on the face of the Bill which would remain to the end of time if it passed in its present shape. There was one very important subject to which he wished once more to allude, because he had proposed an Amendment in regard to it which obtained a far greater support in that House than that accorded to any other Amendment which had been moved. The Amendment was that Confederation under the Bill should not take place unless the Cape Colony was a Member of that Confederation. It had been represented by the Under Secretary that what he proposed was that the Cape Colony should be placed in the position of being able to say to the other Colonies—"We will not confederate; no more shall you." That was not his position at all. He was not averse to the Confederation of the other Colonies, provided it was a proper Confederation under a proper Constitution; but what he still maintained was that the Constitution under this Bill was not a proper Constitution, or one under which Natal and the Transvaal could properly confederate. He was willing to admit that the Government, in concert with the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had agreed to an Amendment of enormous importance—namely, that Native representation should in some shape be provided for. He was free to admit that if the clause of the Bill as it stood with that Amendment could be fairly, fully, and successfully carried out, his objection to a Confederation of Natal and the Transvaal would be removed; but he confessed that he was still inclined to doubt whether it was possible at the present time, with the state of progress of these Colonies, to carry out such a representation of the Natives as would satisfy both parties. If it were not possible at the present time to obtain a proper system of election of Native Representatives, then it would be necessary that they should have nominated Representatives, and these Colonies, if confederated at all, would be confederated under what was known as a severe Crown Colony system. There were other points in the Bill which showed marks of the haste with which it had been pushed forward; but he was delighted to find that an Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Bradford had been accepted, which would go far to settle the two points which he himself thought extremely objectionable in the Bill as it was originally drawn. That Amendment was to the effect that laws relating to emigration and the tenure of land should not be passed without the previous sanction of Her Majesty. As regarded emigration, he was inclined to think that no better arrangement could possibly be made; but as to the tenure of land, he rather thought they had gone so far that they would entangle themselves very considerably. There was no provision in the Bill enabling the present most unjust laws as to the tenure of land to be got rid of; and before any free Constitution was given to the States under this measure Her Majesty's Government should insist that those laws should be done away with. According to the Bill as it now stood, Her Majesty's Government, without the consent of Natal, the Transvaal, or any other Colony, might annex them bodily to the Cape. He was glad to have the assurance of the Under Secretary that there was no intention to do so; but it was a distinct blot on the Bill, showing the haste with which it had been passed through its later stages, that they had a clause in it which gave such enormous power to the Government which it was never intended to give or that they should exercise.


could not agree with his hon. Friend that the Bill had been pushed through with undue haste, or, indeed, with haste at all. He frankly declared he could not look back to many Bills—quite apart from the extraordinary opposition that had been recently manifested in the House—that had been better or more adequately dis- cussed than was the South Africa Bill. He regretted that the House had not the advantage of the presence of his hon. Friend on the previous occasion when the Bill was under consideration; but he thought that when his hon. Friend had been a few years longer in the House, he would not at this period of the Session be likely to mistake Thursday for Thursday week. He could not agree that there had been any important question connected with the Bill that had not been fairly discussed; and it would be very disadvantageous if it were to be supposed either in the Colonies or in this country that the Bill had been passed through with haste or without discussion. He was inclined to agree with his hon. Friend's view as to union without the Cape; but a large majority decided against that, and it would have been useless to moot the question again on the Report. With regard to the Native question, he did not know how it could be put better than it was now by the Bill, and he thought his hon. Friend ought to be satisfied. According to his experience, very few Bills had passed through the House of Commons with fuller discussion, and, in reality, with more care. When he returned to the House after a short absence on Wednesday, he found a great many Members who showed no signs of fatigue at all—his hon. Friend being one of them—and the result was that the Bill underwent a very good discussion, which lasted for two or three hours, and was confined to the details of the measure. He had merely interposed now because he thought it was not desirable that the Bill should go out to the Colonies with the character stamped upon it of having been passed in haste. He believed our fellow-countrymen at the Cape would see that the Parliament of this country had been earnest and sincere in making the offer to them of a possible Confederation for their own good—that it was for them that Parliament was doing it, and not for this country; and that we had put ourselves-to some inconvenience in order that the offer should be fairly made.


said, he was afraid that the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford would not satisfy the country that the Bill had not been passed with undue haste, nor that the measure would affect that good to the Colonists which it professed to have in view. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be unfortunate if there should be an impression in the Colonies that the Bill had not received full consideration by Parliament; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman would have done better to join with those who endeavoured to secure a full discussion of the Bill than to join with the Government in carrying it through by force, almost at the point of the bayonet.


said, that the entire course of proceeding adopted by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) throughout the whole course of the Bill bad demonstrated a total absence of familiarity with the proceedings of the House. The hon. Gentleman had wasted a good deal of time, for in objecting to the ordinary formality of the postponement of a clause he had started a hare which ran for several hours. If the hon. Member had devoted some few minutes to consulting any authority on the Rules of the House he would have saved much valuable time. He (Mr. Lowther) entirely concurred with the right hon. Member for Bradford. The character of the Bill was exceptional; but it had been carefully and fully discussed, notwithstanding the extraordinary interruptions and opposition it had to encounter, and he had every confidence that it would prove acceptable to the inhabitants of the South African Colonies.

Bill read the third time, and passed.