HC Deb 02 March 1893 vol 9 cc797-8
MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can state the figures for 1892 respecting the Polynesian labour traffic to Queensland, in continuation of those given in Return, No. 17, of Session, 1893; whether, in view of the lamentably high rate of mortality in Queensland disclosed by this Return, the Secretary of State can take any steps not only to secure that the traffic itself shall be conducted with due regard to the dictates of humanity, but that the mortality of the labourers in Queensland shall be reduced; and whether, apart from this high mortality on the plantations, the Secretary of State has any reliable information as to the humane and satisfactory conduct of the recruiting from the islands?


The figures for 1892 have not yet been received, and are probably not at present complete; but the Colonial Government will be asked to supply them as soon as possible. The death-rate among the labourers on the plantations, of rather over 50 per 1,000, is unquestionably high. It has to be recollected, however, that in the islands themselves, from which these labourers are brought, the ordinary rate of mortality is also very high. The Secretary of State has no grounds for believing that the mortality on the plantations in Queensland is due to ill-treatment. I may add that, while the regulation of the traffic as regards the actual recruiting and the re-landing of the labourers is under the supervision of Her Majesty's Government, the duty and responsibility of looking after the labourers, so long as they are in Queensland, is entirely vested in the Colonial authorities under the powers of self-government granted to them. The Secretary of State has no reason for concluding that that duty has been, or will be, neglected. The Papers which will shortly be laid before Parliament contain much valuable and trustworthy information respecting the recruiting as now conducted; and my hon. Friend, after reading them, will be in a position to judge whether the recruiting, as now carried out, is being conducted in an humane and satisfactory manner.