HC Deb 21 February 1899 vol 67 cc175-8

I am painfully aware that the moment is a very unpropitious one in which to raise any question of this sort before the House, but under the new system by which the rights of private Members have been taken away, with the exception of certain opportunities, on the Address of which my right honourable Friend the First Lord always makes the most, I believe that this is probably the last occasion on which I shall have the slightest chance of bringing forward the wrongs of the Uitlanders before this House. For another reason I regret that I should have to make these observations to-night, and that is because of the absence of the Colonial Secretary. I am sure we all regret the absence of the right honourable Gentleman, though, perhaps, to-night it does not matter much, because he would hardly have an opportunity for replying. The present. Government have been in office for a little over three years, and I regret to say that the fair promise with which they began in regard to the Trarspvaal has been somewhat clouded. We used to say of the Uitlanders under the late Government that they were chastised with whips, but I am afraid we may say that for the last three years they have been chastised with scorpions. This is the lamentable condition of a large number of British subjects of the Transvaal %t present. The Uitlander population number, I think, more than three-fifths of the total white population of that country. They are deprived of all political rights, they are even deprived of the privileges of free men. Their condition has been worsened in the last few years instead of improved. Every year a very curious state of affairs prevails in the Parliament of the Transvaal. About August an exceedingly optimistic speech has always been made from these benches with regard to the Transvaal. Parliament is prorogued, and then President Kruger sends a message to the Volksraad, and they proceed at once to make the condition of the Uitlanders worse. In 1896, directly this House was prorogued, three laws were passed by the Volksraad which inflicted the greatest injustice upon the people of the Transvaal. There was an Alien Expulsion Law, an Alien Emigrants' Law, and the Press-gag Law. Owing to the representations of the Colonial Secretary there was some amelioration with regard to the Alien Emigrants' Law. The result of some of these Acts has been that every Uitlander in the Transvaal has been placed absolutely at the mercy of the Boer Government with regard to his residence there. Consequently, all freedom and redress has been taken, away from these people. The same thing happened in 1897. In 1897 we had an optimistic speech from that bench, and directly Parliament was prorogued the Transvaal Government proceeded to refuse all redress to the Uitlanders' demand. For instance, it refused to remedy the dynamite monopoly, and generally inflicted upon the non-Boer population all kinds of tyranny and insult. Well, Sir, the other day the non-Boer residents of Johannesburg found their position so intolerable that they protested against it, and in the course of the difficulties that arose an Englishman was shot by a Boer policeman. I do not propose to go into the details of that incident, but I can only say that the members of the society, which was formed for the protection of white men and Uitlanders, who ventured to hold a public meeting to assert the rights of the Uitlanders were arrested, and four times the amount of bail was asked for them that was asked for the Boer policeman who shot the Englishman. This is an example of the injustices to which the Uitlanders are subjected. It would be impossible even in the course of an ordinary speech to enumerate the whole list of tyranny and injustice with which our countrymen are treated in the Transvaal day by day. The thing has got so serious that some action must be taken by Her Majesty's Government. I am perfectly well aware that there may have been difficulties which prevented action being taken before, but I must say that I think some of these difficulties have been owing to the action of the Government themselves. I think it very unfortunate that in an early stage of this business the hostility of Germany was practically challenged. Since then things have ameliorated, and there has been an understanding with Germany, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will now be able to take action to protect the rights of the British residents in the Transvaal. I think it is very difficult to carry out and to indulge in any satisfactory discussion in the absence of the Colonial Secretary. I only hope that Her Majesty's Government will take this matter into their consideration, and will take effective steps to remedy the things of which I have complained.