§ £5,000,000, Transvaal and Orange River Colony.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
I have not the slightest intention of offering any opposition to the Vote. On the contrary, my feeling is that this is the most proper course that could be adopted, apart from the constitutional question as to the method with which the Vote has been brought forward. I think myself that the Government will require to make a further demand on the liberality of the House and the country for the purposes for which this Vote was proposed. Very likely at present there would be no advantage in asking for a [...]rger sum than the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes, but hereafter I feel confident more will be required, and I for my part shall not hesitate to accede to the demand of the Government if they come forward hereafter and ask for a larger sum of money. Although I have not risen for the purpose of offering any opposition, I do want to say a very few words which I believe to be absolutely necessary. It would be useless entering upon old stories, or to revive past controversies with regard to the causes of the situation now existing, but I believe that the country is not at all apprised of 212 the full extent of the misery and devastation in South Africa. We are bound by every obligation to do all we can for the purpose not of restoring the country to its former prosperity—that would not be practicable—but to enable the population to settle down and recommence their industries, chiefly agricultural, with some prospect of themselves bringing back the country to its former condition. I believe that our hope of reconciling the inhabitants to British rule will in a large measure depend on the generosity of this country. If we are to look forward to the r becoming contented citizens in the future, we must not merely try to get them to forget, by ourselves forgetting, the causes of the quarrel but we must also get them to recognise that our rule is as benevolent as we are wealthy. It rests upon us to prove to them that we possess qualities which would make them value us as fellow-subjects, and I think that nothing better could be done in that direction than to show this liberal spirit. Very scanty information as to the condition of these countries has been published in the Press or in the Blue-books. There was, I know, about a year ago, a despatch issued, in which Lord Milner described the crippled state of the agricultural districts, and compared them with a desert. For six months after that Bluebook was issued the war went on, and it is not difficult to imagine that the misery and devastation thereby caused substantially increased the trouble. I hope we shall be told, in the course of this evening's debate, what has been done—and I hope a great deal has been done—to alleviate this state of affairs. But we do not know all. There has been no authoritative statement as to it, and the information coming through the Press has been extremely meagre. I think that the House, while quite right in voting, as I hope it will do, this money, ought to be informed what the true condition was at the conclusion of peace, and what steps have been taken, and with what success, for the purpose of restoring the prosperity of these countries, of replenishing the stock, and of rebuilding and repatriating the people to their farms. I think we ought to know, among other things, what is the number of persons still in the concentration camps—the number of men, women, and children. I am told—I hope I may be mis-informed—that there are still a 213 large number there. I think we ought also to know what has been done in the way of bringing back the prisoners of war, and whether there is still any substantial number remaining in exile.
There is one other point to which I should like to refer. When a sum of £500,000 was voted a year ago, the application of it was, I think, left rather at large, and I do not know that there was any specific appropriation of it to any particular object. I gather from the despatches of Lord Milner that out of that £500,000, £400,000 has been spent in the purchase of farms which were in the market, with a view to carrying out a scheme of settlement. I do not think we are informed whether any portion of this present Vote can be applied to any such purpose as that, and I hope we shall be told whether it is intended to spend any of the grant in buying land with a view to a scheme of immigration. I do not intend to discuss that at any length, but I have been very much alarmed in reading the despatches of Lord Milner on this question of immigration and of putting British immigrants in possession of farms thus purchased. It must be remembered that a great many of the Boers who have lately been in arms against us have large farms. A very considerable number of them are held under mortgage, and, of course, during the three years that the war lasted payments have fallen into arrear, and the farmers may be liable to foreclosure at the instigation of those who lent the money. What I want to say is this. If there is a real market in which farms are genuinely offered, spontaneously and voluntarily, I can quite understand the policy of buying them with a view of satisfying some obligation that we contracted with those who went out to fight our battle. But what I would deprecate in the strongest possible manner is anything in the nature of taking advantage, of the present necessities of these men, either by buying their mortgages or by the refusal of grants and pressing them to part with their land, or still more, using compulsory powers for the purpose, of depriving them of a portion of their land. Lord Milner, in one of his dispatches, suggests that in the case of a man with 5,000 acres, it might be legitimate to make him sell 4,000 acres, giving him, of course, the full market price, 214 with a view to the new plan of settlement. I cannot imagine anything more disastrous than such a policy. If you do that you will, I think, to begin with, violate the terms of settlement, which prescribe that these men shall not be deprived of their property. Even if you have the right to do it under the terms of settlement, you could not undertake a more fatal or more disastrous policy. There is no means of reconciling these people except by endeavouring to replace them in their full proprietary rights and giving them assistance, so far as you can, in re-instating them in their holdings. These are the observations I wished to make, and I have only this to say in conclusion. I have, as every hon. Member knows, most strongly opposed the policy of the Colonial Secretary. I hope, however, that it may prove to be in the event a policy true and wise. I think it is our duty now to do everything we can to restore kindly feeling between our late enemies and ourselves, and, above all things, for that purpose it is essential not only to be just, not only to refrain from interfering with their property for the sake of any wild schemes that may be brought forward ' for immigration and settlement, but also to show that we are really desirous to be generous and to assist them in every way we can for the purpose of restoring prosperity to these colonies.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
said he desired to make .some remarks on the question of land settlement in South Africa. He had always felt that there was but one key to the solution of the South African problem—the problem which this war had left behind it, still unsolved and still fraught with great possibilities of Imperial gain and Imperial loss. He had always felt that the key was to be found in a large scheme of irrigation and colonisation. He must ask the permission of the House to make one or two remarks of a personal character, and he did so with the less hesitation because those remarks would show that he was adhering to his rule only to intrude upon the House on subjects of which he had some personal knowledge or with which he had some personal connection. Five years ago he engaged in a project of irrigation in the North West Territory of 215 Canada, a project which had been recognised by the Canadian Government as one of great importance and as forming the cradle of a new population for that vast and almost uninhabited country. From this experience he could put the financial aspect of the question into a nut-shell. Land which was practically unsaleable—they could not sell it for half a dollar per acre, at any rate—they had been selling from the first introduction of this irrigation project at from ten to fifteen dollars per acre, and it only cost three dollars per acre to irrigate it. The population was increasing by thousands. The problem they had to deal with was similar, in its main features, to that which now existed in South Africa. It was true it did not involve those political or Imperial considerations which, for his part, he thought made the South African problem far inure pressing. It was true also that the physical conditions of the country were different to those which existed in South Africa, where it was imperative that any large scheme of irrigation should be undertaken by the State and the State only. In Southern Alberta there was a vast territory which was quite useless for the purpose of cultivation and was practically uninhabited. By the introduction, however, of water they had converted it into a country where a farmer could live and keep himself and family in comparative prosperity on 150 acres of land, to which he could add, if he liked, a portion of the hinterland of their water system for the purposes of ranching. The same conditions existed in South Africa and the same beneficent change could be effected there. He proposed to trouble the House with a somewhat detailed explanation, because he thought the comparison between the two cases was a pretty close one. They sold the land with the water right attached to it; the purchase money had to be paid back in ten annual instalments, and, until it was so paid, the settler did not receive his title. The purchase money covered the original cost of irrigation and the profits of the undertaking. In addition to the water right there was the water rental—so much per acre per year—which was retained in the hands of the central authority for maintenance and income. In South Africa the State would stand in the position of the central authority until 216 the whole of the purchase money had been paid back by the settler, when the whole property in the undertaking—water, land, irrigation works and all—could pass to the freeholders under the same system as was practised in some of the Western States of America. For the purpose of constructing their irrigation works they used the labour of those whom they intended to become settlers, and they paid them—
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
Order, order! I think the hon. Gentleman is going rather far away from the Vote. It is not a Vote given for the purposes of irrigation; it is a Vote given to those who are already settled in South Africa, and who have suffered from the war.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
Of course, Sir, I cannot dispute your ruling. I understood that the £500,000 already granted to Lord Milner was part of this Vote. As I desired to confine my remarks to the question of irrigation and land settlement, I think I had better bring them to a conclusion and leave it for another occasion. But I should like to take your ruling whether I mini not in order in suggesting that some of the money to be spent in resettling those who are now in South Africa should be spent on the lines I have indicated.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
This is a Vote of money for necessaries for those in South Africa, and I think it would be rather remote to go into the question of water supply.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
My argument was that irrigation is one of the most pressing necessities of South Africa. Am I not entitled to put that forward?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
As a point of order, I would ask whether this money can be applied to any purpose other than that of the restoration of the burghers to their homes, and to supply them with any necessaries that may be required.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
And may I remind you, Sir, and the right hon. Gentleman as well, that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in his speech last 217 July, upon this question, distinctly stated that the subject of land settlement, and, I believe, of irrigation, would come under discussion when this vote was taken in the Autumn Session.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I do not think the hon. Gentleman would be in order in discussing that question on this particular Vote. I must adhere to the terms of the Vote on the Paper.
§ (9.30.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I want to call the attention of the Committee especially to head No. 3 of the Vote ("Sum required for loans to be advanced by the Colonial Governments to supplement the grants under 1 and 2, such loans to be repayable as provided in the terms of surrender—£3,000,000"). I spoke last night on the subject of 1 and 2—£3,000,000 for free grants to burghers and £2,000,000 for grants to other persons in respect of war losses in the two colonies. There was some discussion of the nature of these grants. I have studied again the terms of surrender, and how any person reading these terms could for a moment have doubted that these were free grants which were to come out of the British Exchequer I cannot conceive. The words of the surrender are these:—His Majesty's Government will place at the disposal of these commissions a sum of £3,000,000 for the above purposes"—that is, for the purpose of the restoration of the people to their homes, who owing to the war losses are unable to provide themselves with food and shelter. It is indispensable to the resumption of their normal occupations. That is the object of the free gift. There is to be placed at the disposal of these commissions a sum of £3,000,000, and further to identify it it is said "in addition to the above mentioned free grant of t3,000,000." That is to make it quite clear that it was a free grant without any connection with any loan at all. It was a free gift by the British people out of their taxation. That seems to me so clear that I cannot conceive how anybody could ever entertain a doubt about it; but it seems to have been so misunderstood by the Government that when they announced this £3,000,000 they gave an 218 assurance that it would be repaid by a loan levied on the Transvaal. That appears to have been an extraordinary misapprehension by the Government of the terms of the surrender to which they themselves had been a party. A statement was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on June 4th, which I at the time earmarked. He said—It is clearly understood that these £3,000,000 are to be advanced from the British Exchequer and repaid by a loan on the Transvaal, and, if so, it seems to me a sound and reasonable transaction to give the money at once when it is wanted by advance, and have it repaid by a loan afterwards when it is convenient to levy that loan.That was the clear understanding. I, following the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—The arrangement, then, is this. The £3,000,000 is to be advanced from the British Exchequer and is to be repaid by a loan upon the Transvaal.That was accepted, and so we proceeded, and never was there a word said until this Vote was put forward on a totally different basis. That, of course, has upset the whole arrangements of the finance as they were announced at the end of the last meeting of Parliament. At the time the Colonial Secretary spoke, On July 29th, there was no statement of any other view on the subject at all. The result of that was that we received the amended Budget with the express statement on the printed paper that there would be available nearly £6,000,000 out of the Budget for the reduction of the British Debt. Of course this new paper that has come forward entirely upsets that financial result, because, whereas in the Paper presented on June 9th it was stated that out of the loan of £30,000,000 raised this year there would be left a sum of nearly £6,000,000 which would be so applicable, now the result of the Vote we are going to give tonight will be that out of this £6,000,000, £5,000,000 will have been removed from the office of reducing the British Debt. I do not object to that; but I say it is a very unfortunate circumstance that the Government should have so misapprehended their own arrangement that they should have held forth ever since last June to the country that their financial arrangements would enable them to reduce the Debt of the British taxpayer by about £6,000,000, whereas, in point of fact, it is now discovered that their 219 arrangements require them to take almost the whole of that £6,000,000 and apply it to the purposes of the restoration of the ravages made by the war in South Africa, and that they are not to be recouped by a loan as was then held forth, so that ultimately the British taxpayer would recover the money he had advanced. That is one of the most extraordinary, in my experience, financial misapprehensions formed by a Government of a convention of which they themselves are the authors. Reading the document of surrender over again, it is utterly unintelligible to me how any statesman of ordinary intelligence could have arrived at the conclusion that this was not to be a free grant. I do not object to its being a free gift. It has been promised by the Government, and it is wanted and I think a great deal more than £5,000,000 will be wanted—for the purpose of repairing the ravages of this war. My opinion is that very likely peace, before we have restored the country, will have cost as much as did the war.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN)
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
He right hon. Gentleman is one of those who told us that the war was going to cost us £10,000,000.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, we know the calculations that were made of the probable cost of the war, and we know the estimates that were made of the number of troops that would probably be required. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not regard him as infallible on these subjects. I remember some time ago, at the beginning of the war, expressing a very different opinion of its probable cost and of the probable force that would be required, and the right hon. Gentleman very amiably told me that he was an optimist and that I was a pessimist. The only reply I thought it necessary to make was that I was sorry to say that the optimists 220 were always wrong and the pessimists always turned out right. That that has been so in the last three years nobody can deny. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to say tonight that he thinks this devastated country can be restored at a cost of £3,000,000. I do not think it can. I am pessimist enough to say that I do not think £3,000,000 will restore the condition of South Africa as it is at present. Therefore I am not the person to object to this country and South Africa, the Transvaal and the Colonies, and even the favoured owners of the gold mines, contributing to that cost, whatever it may be. It is a disappointment to me, no doubt, that I find that the owners of the gold mines are not to contribute, as we were told they were to contribute under the loan, to any part of this money we are going to vote tonight; but as the Government has promised it shall be given by us without any return, it should be, and it is quite right that that sum of £5,000,000 should be given, not only £3,000,000 to the Dutch, but also, of course, to those who are not Dutch, to British subjects and subjects of other nations who have suffered in the war.
Therefore I do not object to No. 1 and No. 2, but I may be permitted to express my disappointment that we are not to be recouped that money ultimately, as was promised by the Government in June last. However, that cannot be helped. The Government were under a delusion upon the subject, and, of course, the promise must be fulfilled as it was made. But I desire to express my opinion that a great deal more than £5,000,000 will be required for the purposes which are named in Clauses 1 and 2 of this Vote. At the time of the surrender the sum of £3,000,000 was accompanied by a statement that, in addition to the free grant of £3,000,000,His Majesty's Government would be prepared to make advances on loan for the same purposes free of interest for two years, and afterwards repayable over a period of years with 3 per cent. interest. No foreigner or rebel will be entitled to the benefit of this Clause.The loan spoken of there is not a loan to be raised by the English Government or by the Government of the Transvaal. The loan there is to small people to whom the money is lent, and who are to repay it on those terms. But this loan reappears in Clause 3, in 221 which the sum "required for loans to be advanced by the Colonial Government" is spoken of. But I find nothing in the terms of the surrender to say that it is the Colonial Government who are to advance these loans. I do not know whether the Government are in the same haze upon this subject as they were upon the £3,000,000, as to who is to advance these loans. I find nothing in the terms of surrender corresponding to this statement—The loans promised by the terms of surrender are to be made by the Colonial Government out of their own funds.That is the translation of the words—In addition to the above-named free grant of £3,000,000, His Majesty's Government will be prepared to make advances on loan.I do not know what view the Colonial Government will take on the subject. They may say, apparently with great truth, on reading the terms of surrender, that, as the free grant was to come from the British Exchequer, so the loans are to come from the British Exchequer, and, therefore, you may have exactly the same muddle over this question of the loans that you have had over the question of the free grant.
Now, let us go on, because the terms of this Vote have no correspondence whatever to the terms of surrender.The present provision is required merely as a temporary advance to enable those Governments to proceed with the loans until such time as the necessary funds can be raised on their own behalf.That is a clear statement that these loans are, unlike the Free Grant, to be a really temporary advance, and that the loans are to be charged on the Colonies. That may be so. Of course that is a favourable arrangement to the British taxpayer, but will it turn out to be well founded?The amount so advanced will be repaid by the colonies out of the proceeds of the first loan raised by them.That is exactly the arrangement that was promised in respect of the free gift. I can find nothing in the terms of surrender which makes the loan stand on a different footing, or would prevent the Colonial Government saying, "You undertook the loan as you undertook the free gift." That is a point that ought to be cleared up. I understand that the Boers objected to 222 the £3,000,000 being placed on the Transvaal. I can understand that, because they will be resident in the Transvaal, and would have to pay their share of the interest on the loan. I say also that, as there is nothing in the terms of surrender to place the loan on a different footing from the free gift, they are entitled to say to the Government, "As you were mistaken about the free gift, you may be also mistaken about the loan."
As to the loan itself, I do not think it is too large. Indeed, I think it is a great deal too small, having regard to the miserable condition of the Colonies which require instant repair. From what I can gather these £3,000,000 will be—I will not say a mere drop in the ocean—but certainly they will be quite insufficient to place the burghers in a position to carry on the industry. I do not ask the amount of the loan you are to guarantee; I know that will be a subject of careful consideration by the Colonial Secretary, who, we are glad to know, is going to inquire into the matter on the spot. For my part, I should be glad if the Colonial Secretary had a much larger sum at his disposal for the purpose, if necessary, of restoring the condition of the country which has been devastated by the war.
§ SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON (Staffordshire, Handsworth)
said he would not follow the right hon. Gentleman in the question of who had been right or wrong in the past; all he was concerned about was that the money now to be voted should be so expended that we obtained our money's worth from the Colonies in the future. The reward we hoped for from the vast expenditure incurred in the war, and the sacrifice of so many lives, was a happy and prosperous South Africa. The country could not be happy without being prosperous, and the object which should be aimed at in the spending of the money was to assure that prosperity. He believed the one thing absolutely necessary was a plentiful supply of labour at a not too prohibitive cost.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
, rising to a point of order, asked whether it was in order to raise the question of labour in the mines.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
said he understood the hon. Baronet to refer to labour on the land. If, however, he proposed to deal with the question of labour in the mines he should be obliged to rule his remarks out of order.
§ SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
said that in that event he should conclude his remarks. The whole of his argument was intended to show how some of the money could be got back by ensuring a supply of labour in the mines.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Baronet proposes to deal with the question of labour in the mines, I shall be obliged to rule the discussion out of order.
§ SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
said that in that event he should conclude his remarks. The whole of his argument was intended to show how some of the money could be got back by ensuring a supply of labour in the mines.
§ (9.55.) MR. LABOUCHERE
said he had no objection to the debate taking that line, but he wished simply to obtain a ruling from the Chair as to whether they might take that line or not. He thought it would be unjust to levy the £3,000,000 on the Transvaal, and he agreed with his right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth that the amount of the loan was too small. He knew perfectly well that they could not now move an addition, but he thought he might move an Amendment on the ground that this sum was too small. He was not prepared to move a reduction of £100 in order to establish that view, but he would ask the Colonial Secretary to take into consideration what had really been going on in the Transvaal. It was generally admitted that that country was an absolute desert. What was happening at the present moment they really could not judge of from the information which they received in the newspapers. The wildest and most contradictory statements as to the condition of South Africa were made on both sides. According to the official statement, only 400 farms had been burnt, but General De Wet declared that the ravaged farms numbered as many as 30,000. This was such an enormous difference that, in 224 considering what amount they ought to give to these unfortunate burghers, they should distinctly know what the information of the Colonial Secretary was at the present time on the subject, and whether the devastation really was so great as had been stated by the Boer generals, whose statements were certainly believed by a very large number of persons. With reference to the£2,000,000 he noticed that it was to be given to "other persons." He supposed that meant those who were not engaged in war against us, but he desired to know if the mine owners were included in "other persons."
He should like the Colonial Secretary to tell them who were the "other persons." There were losses incurred by large and small mine owners, and he wished to know if the Colonial Secretary included them in "other persons." He wished to know if the losses incurred by the mining companies in any sort of way, either directly or indirectly, were to be recouped out of this £2,000,000? Another question he would ask was when it was spoken of as "other persons," did it merely mean the people in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony who had suffered losses, or did it include the people in Cape Colony and Natal? If it did include Cape Colony and Natal he did not think they ought to be included, because they were self-governing Colonies, and if they had sustained any losses owing to the war, those losses ought to be paid by the inhabitants of Natal and Cape Colony. The £3,000,000 was undoubtedly necessary, but he regretted that there had been delays already in providing this money for the Boers. He thought it was a pity that the money was not at once voted last session and applied immediately to the purpose to which it was pledged by the treaty. It was stated that this money would form part of a loan to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. He supposed that Natal and Cape Colony were not included. This loan would be a Colonial loan in the sense that the Colonies would be responsible for the payment of the interest, but this country would have to guarantee the loan. It would be interesting to know what the amount of the loan would be. He thought this point was in order, because they were told 225 that this would be part and parcel of the loan. He wanted to know what amount the Transvaal would be able to pay. Perhaps the Colonial Secretary would tell the Committee whether the large force of constabulary was to be maintained by this country, what the amount of the cost of the excess in the Army in South Africa due to the war—over and above what the Army was before the war—would be, and whether it would be paid by this country? Broadly he wished to have the right hon. Gentleman's own opinion as to what the cost of the administration of the new Colonies, inclusive of the police force, would be. He was sorry that the hon. Member for Westminster was not in order, because he should have had much pleasure in making some observations on his statement. The hon. Gentleman was not his Member, although he was one of the hon. Member for Westminster's constituents, but, while he entirely disagreed with him, he must congratulate the hon. Member upon having been in an exceedingly good business.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
rose to a point of order, and asked if the hon. Member for Northampton was in order in pursuing the very subject for discussing which he himself had been ruled out of order.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said he would not pursue the subject, and all he wished to do was simply to congratulate the hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said he wished to ask the Colonial Secretary a question in regard to the second item on the Paper. He wished to know if the money was going to he confined entirely to the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal, or whether any part of it would be applied to persons in Natal and Cape Colony. It was exceedingly difficult very often to tell where war losses had been actually incurred, but they knew that very considerable losses had been sustained by the loyalists in Cape Colony and Natal, 226 and it was very important that they should know if they would be entitled to share in this grant of £2,000,000. Another question he wished to put was as to how the sum of £2,000,000 would be allocated. He desired to know whether all persons would have a right to go before the courts and make their claims, or would the disposal of this sum he left entirely in the hands of Lord Milner. He would only say one word in regard to the £3,000,000 granted to the burghers. He thought all persons who looked at this matter from an impartial point of view would say that this was an exceedingly generous sum to give them. Whether it was enough or not it was quite impossible to say. He had taken considerable pains to find out how much would be necessary, but no exact calculation could be made to show what amount would be required to assist the burghers of the late Republics in the restoration of their homes. No doubt there would be ample opportunity of spending £8,000,000 or any other sum, but he thought £3,000,000 was an exceedingly generous allowance. He wished to point out that the issuing of this loan at 3 per cent. interest was about half the interest at which sums were advanced in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony therefore he thought that this was again a very generous contribution to the two Republics. It was greatly to be regretted that some parts of the two colonies were in a state of devastation, but that was absolutely inevitable from the war, and it must not be forgotten that the war was not caused by us, and therefore this country was being very generous indeed in granting these sums from Imperial funds for those purposes.
MR. LABBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
said that he did not rise to oppose the Vote which was at present before the Committee, but he wished to complain that the Colonial Secretary had not given them the information to which they were entitled, considering that the British taxpayers had to find this money, and it would have to be paid from British funds. Only that afternoon he asked how much of the free grant to burghers had been issued, and he was told that the sum already distributed amounted to £1,500,000. He also asked upon what system the grant had been distributed, but he did not receive any information 227 upon this point at question time, and all he was told was that the money had been issued under Article 10 of the terms of peace. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would now he able to tell them something in regard to the principles upon which these amounts had been distributed in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. He understood that this money had been credited to them, and the burghers were held to be debtors to the Government for those amounts. If that were so the amount of book-keeping that would be entailed by those transactions would be something enormous. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to tell them bow many burghers had been repatriated, and how many had received the benefit of half the sum which was to be devoted to their repatriation. He also wished to know how much money out of this fund had been paid to the military for the animals which they had supplied. He understood that something like £1,000,000 had been paid to the military authorities for the horses, mules, and the oxen which they had supplied. He should like to know whether they had been overpaid for them or not. He had heard that the prices charged by the military for those animals in the Transvaal were exorbitant, and in some places many animals were sold by public auction that were diseased, and they were the means of spreading disease. At Bloemfontein very great complaint was made that horses with glanders had been sold by the military to the burghers, and a few days afterwards those very same horses had to be destroyed by order of the civil authorities, and consequently that caused a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst the local purchasers. [MINISTERIAL laughter.] If the military authority sold horses with glanders did hon. Gentlemen opposite think that this would not cause dissatisfaction, especially when they had to have those horses destroyed by order of the civil government without compensation? Those people naturally looked upon it as sharp practice that diseased animals were sold to them which had afterwards to be destroyed.
There had also been a great deal of complaint in the two Colonies that the military authorities had charged very large sums for their oxen and mules. It had been freely stated that Lord Kitchener at the end of the war had totted up more 228 than the full value of all the horses, mules, oxen, and waggons, and that they were sold to the Repatriation Board for the sum which he had placed upon them. It was also stated that the Repatriation Board had come to a standstill on account of the exorbitant prices put upon these animals by the military authorities, because practically the whole of the transport of the country at the close of the war belonged to the military authorities. He wished to know whether those statements were correct or not, because if they were incorrect the military authorities ought to be cleared from that imputation. There had undoubtedly been a considerable amount of delay in giving out the cattle and stocking the burghers with oxen, mules, and waggons, and also with seed corn because the season for sowing in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony had just passed and if the seed corn had not been supplied in time, of course the burghers would have nothing upon which to maintain themselves during the next year. This had been a subject of great complaint, because it would create a thriftless class who would remain in the concentration camps, subsisting upon the free rations provided by the Government. Of course it was very easy to criticise these matters, but he did not wish ill the least to criticise too severely anything which had been done by the Repatriation Board, because he was aware that if they had to distribute this money in kind and create the organisation for this, there must be a great deal of dissatisfaction. He trusted that, when the right hon. Gentleman went over to South Africa, he would see that as many Boers as possible were placed in a position to help themselves to earn their own living instead of remaining in the concentration camps.
There were at present a large number of horses in the hands of the military authorities which were not being used, and these would have been a great benefit to the burghers had they been distributed. He could not help feeling great apprehension as to the feelings of the burghers when they came back to a country which was devastated. There was absolutely no cultivation, the whole of the stock had been destroyed, and there were hardly any houses standing. When the burghers returned and found that they had actually no home, and that no cultivation was going on, he almost shuddered to anticipate what would be their feelings. Some 229 hon. Members had questioned whether £5,000,000 would be enough to bring back the country to its normal condition. He thought that was practically impossible with that amount of money. They would not get anything like the conditions that existed before the war for such a sum. They should remember that the cattle imported into South Africa had to be acclimatised. The late Mr. Rhodes imported stock from Australia and most of them died; and it should be remembered that Australia was a much better country to import stock from than this country. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman in all seriousness whether it was wise policy for him to introduce the system of loans for the burghers. These loans would, some time or other, have to be repaid, and it would be a very difficult matter to recover them. He could imagine nothing that could lead to greater ill-will between the creditor nation and the burghers than that they should have to refund this money. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give them some information on these points, and he congratulated him most heartily upon his visit to South Africa, and hoped that he would be able to do something to settle that very disturbed country.
§ (10.19.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
As the few remarks which I shall now have to address to the Committee will probably form the last, or, at all events, one of the last speeches, which I shall offer to the House before I leave for South Africa, it is my earnest desire that they shall not partake of a controversial character. I cannot help, however, inquiring what hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side think is to be gained by the sort of discussion which has been raised to-day. I imagine that it is their desire, as it is mine, that I should proceed upon this visit which I have undertaken with a mind as open and as unprejudiced as possible. And yet the apparent object of this debate is to commit me beforehand for or against certain principles which are being laid down by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I could not fully answer the questions which have been addressed to me without stating very clearly my present view, if I have a view, upon the subjects which have been raised. I do not want to put myself in that position. I go to South Africa with the predetermination to 230 listen there to everything that may be said to me. I will not say by every individual—that would prolong my tour to an extent that I have not yet contemplated—but, at all events, to every representative man and every representative body who has a right to be heard. To all of them my ears will be open, and I do not want them to think I have made up my mind on disputed, questions before I have heard them. With that prefatory observation, which will prevent me from going into a number of the questions which have been asked me, I will do my best to refer to one or two matters of principle that have been raised, and I will also give an answer to one or two questions of detail which appear to me to be not of the slightest importance under the existing circumstances, but which out of courtesy to hon. Members I will do my best to answer.
The hon. Member who has just sat down, the hon. Member for South Molton, has stated—Heaven knows where he got it from—that the Government of the Transvaal has expended the money which was intended for the benefit of the burghers of the Transvaal in purchasing horses that have got glanders from our own officers, and the hon. Gentleman asked me for information on this subject.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I see, in the Orange River Colony. I do not see that that changes the issue. The particular question arises at Bloemfontein, and not at Pretoria. Now, I would give the hon. Gentlemen a principle. In my opinion it is absolutely impossible for the Colonial Secretary, or what is commonly called Downing Street, to deal with every matter of detail in the administration of something like forty countries off its own bat. That is absolutely absurd and ridiculous, and we have, therefore, to trust to those whom we appoint. We have to take, in, the first instance, the greatest possible care, to secure that the best ma n is selected for the particular work which is required to be done, but having done so, and until it is conclusively proved to us that he is unworthy of our 231 confidence, we have to place our confidence in him in regard to all matters of detail, and give him general instructions as to the lines of his policy and the principles he is to pursue. As to any attempt on my part, or the part of my Department, to look into and examine every detail of a transaction which involves the expenditure of millions of money, I can only say that not only will I absolutely refuse to undertake it, but I should think any man was a lunatic to undertake it. What, after all, does it amount to? It amounts to this—I do not see my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War present on this occasion, but I think if he had been present he would have felt that he had his triumph. It is always the custom to contrast the War Office unfavourably with other Departments of State, but here a Gentleman on the other side of the House informs the House from information he has received that in a great transaction which has taken place at Bloemfontein the War Office has got considerably the better of the Colonial Office. I do not know whether that is so or not. What I do know is that at the close of the war the War Office—that is to say, the military—were in possession of enormous quantities of stock, mule-wagons, ox-wagons, and stores, of every kind arid description, including the celebrated blockhouses, which will always form a very important and romantic incident in the war. These under ordinary circumstances they would have disposed of to the best advantage in the market. They would have sold them to the burghers, and not only to the burghers but to the citizens of the two colonies generally, and they would probably have got a much better price than they did in the arrangement we made with them. We said, and they agreed, that this was a matter of high policy, and not a question of one Department getting a few pounds more or a few pounds less from another Department, which does not in the slightest degree affect the finances of the kingdom. We agreed that it was a matter of high policy that everything that could by any possibility be useful in the resettlement of the country should at once be transferred to the civil authorities. That was done; we came to an amicable agreement as to the price; we did not 232 attempt to haggle about the price of a mule, or a donkey, or an ox, or a wagon; but we put the whole together, and, having examined it carefully by means of an inter-departmental committee, we settled the total sum to be paid, which amounts to considerably over a million sterling. This sum is now represented by goods either already in possession of the burghers or still under the control of Lord Milner and the civil administration for the purpose of the repatriation which is going on.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries Burghs in my absence asked me one or two questions to which I desire to reply. He inquired as to the numbers in the concentration camps. At the close of the war the number of persons in concentration camps was about 103,000—men, women, and children. At the present moment—I am obliged to use rough figures, for they change every week, but I give the information as far as I have it—the number is 34,000. I marvel when I think what the local administration has done. A great war which has lasted over two and a half years, which as hon. Members say has no doubt caused great suffering and devastated the country, has come to an end, and within a few months of the close of that war we have been able to help to repatriate something like 70,000 persons. Let it not be thought that we keep one man, woman, or child there against their will, or unless we are convinced that to allow them to go would be to expose them to suffering, and possibly to death. The numbers in the camps at the present time have been increased by the practical necessities of the situation. We have to move these people to their farms. We have to see before we move them that we can supply than with the means of subsistence for a reasonable time, and that thereafter our transport is sufficient to keep them supplied, and as the prisoners return from the distant countries in which they have been interned they also in many cases go to our concentration camps as a sort of intermediate state before they are placed on the farms. At the present moment, in addition to the 34,000 I have already mentioned, there are a great number of persons who have come in, since the war, to concentration camps as camps of refuge, and of prisoners who have also adopted 233 the same position. Need I explain to the House, what must be in the mind of every Member, that these camps, which are costing us £200,000 a month, are camps the dispersal of which we should see with the greatest satisfaction. We would have closed the camps the day the war was over had we not known that, as a matter of certainty, it would have involved the deaths of thousands and tens of thousands of women and children whom we ought to protect. The hon. and learned Gentleman also asked a question as to the number of prisoners returned and still to come. There again I must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman not to hold me too tightly to the figures I give. Originally there were 24,000 prisoners from South Africa. Fourteen thousand have already returned and 7,000 are bound to be repatriated before the end of the year, and the remainder in a very short time after. There also he will understand that every prisoners' camp costs us an enormous sum of money. To a small nation it would be ruinous; to a big nation it is considerable. It is our desire to break the camps up at the earliest possible moment, but we have to consider what would he the result of throwing into South Africa under existing circumstances a number of people for whom provision has not yet been made.
Let me next deal very shortly with what seems to me to be a technical question, raised last night by the Member for West Monmouthshire. The right hon. Gentleman, if he will excuse me, has a habit of always endeavouring, whether in the House or outside of it, to prove that his opponents are either knaves or fools. On the present occasion he seems to be doubtful, but we really have only those two alternatives to choose from. If we, knowing that a heavy charge of this kind would be placed upon the Imperial funds, deceived tire House of Commons by telling it that we expected to get the sum out of the Transvaal loan, then we are knaves. If we did not know, then we are fools. No doubt as their leader the right hon. Gentleman fully expressed the feelings of hon. Members behind him. Oh! I beg the pardon of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I forgot that he was the Leader.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten something else. He appealed to the House to deal with this matter in a friendly and in a non-controversial spirit. He is not doing so himself.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Oh! I see. I shall try to follow the right hon. Gentleman. What I said was that I would endeavour, as far as I could, to deal with the matter in a non-controversial spirit. I made no appeal to the House. I said that, as far as I could, I should deal with it in that spirit. Where is the matter of controversy between us? I spoke of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire as their Leader. Is that a matter of controversy? [Cries of "Oh, oh," and an HON. MEMBER: "Shame."]
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am glad to have the opinion of so good a judge. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. There was nothing controversial in what I said until the right hon. Gentleman interrupted me. Now I go back to where I was when the right hon. Gentleman interrupted me. I venture humbly to submit to the Committee that this matter does not come under either of the categories I have described. We did not intentionally deceive the House. That is my first position. We declared—it was published in the Blue-books and in all the papers—at a very early period during the war that we would insist upon compensation for loyal subjects and for those who had suffered unjustly by the war, and that we should exact—or, rather, require, to use a less harsh word—compensation in the shape of a contribution from the two colonies. I agree that I made another statement. I admit that I thought it was generally understood—I know that it was understood by Lord Milner and Lord Kitchener, that I can answer for—that the grant, which is called a free grant, which was to be made for the repatriation of the burghers, was to come from the loan that was to be raised on the security of the Transvaal. That was our opinion, and under the 235 influence of that opinion we told the House of Commons that a vote would not be required for that purpose. Almost immediately we heard, I think it was General Botha—I am speaking from memory, but, at all events, it was one of the signatories of the terms of surrender—called Lord Milner's attention to this point, and said that those who had signed the terms of surrender had believed that the grant that was to be made was to be made by the Imperial Government from the Imperial funds and not from Transvaal funds.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am sorry to say (not in any controversial spirit) that I do differ from the right hon. Gentleman. My view is that it is a question which might very fairly be argued by lawyers, and that, probably, if we went on the letter of the agreement we should be held to be in the right in our view that, under the terms of the agreement, the charge should be one on the Transvaal loan. But we never entered upon that kind of consideration. We felt, just as much as hon. Gentlemen opposite, that when we entered into an arrangement of this kind it was above all things desirable that, if possible, both parties should feel that the terms of the convention were carried out, not merely in the letter, but also in the spirit. That does not mean that we should always adopt the views of the other party to the question, for there may be questions on which we shall have to insist upon our own interpretation of terms. But in this case we did not think that the matter was of sufficient importance to justify us in hesitating for a moment, and when these representations were made to us on behalf of the Boer signatories to the terms of surrender we at once yielded to them. Therefore it is that, without having changed our minds, without having any intention of deceiving the House of Commons, we now put before you the proposition, which is undoubtedly different, although I do not think that the difference is very substantial, from the proposition which we laid before you in June last. I hope, at all events, 236 that I have made the matter absolutely clear to the Committee. I do not think I can go beyond that.
Now, Sir, coming to the merits of the Vote, I admit that I do not think that the sentiments expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite will contribute to the success of the mission I have undertaken. After all, I confess, as I am perfectly ready to confess, that I do not know everything about South Africa. I admit that there is much that I have to learn. I am anxious to hear all sides, but what is perhaps a more important feature of such a visit, I am anxious to find myself in an atmosphere which is permeated with what I may call, in the best sense of the word, the best South African policy. If I admit that, surely hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit that they have even less reason to be dogmatic or to speak with confidence of the present situation and future of South Africa. They, then, should do their best to help me. It is under these circumstances that we are told that the expenses of the peace will equal the expenses of the war. I cannot help pointing out the extreme exaggeration of a statement of that kind. The war has cost us 228 millions. Does the right hon. Gentleman, who has been called a pessimist, think in his most pessimistic moments that the peace expenses which we are incurring, or that we ought to incur, will reach anything like that sum? Does the right hon. Gentleman, or any of his friends, think that we will incur in peace an expenditure of £228,000,000? The right hon. Gentleman declares that the country is devastated; he speaks of the destitute condition of the population. Sir, I will not speak of that, because that is one of the things which I am going to see for myself. But I am forced by the course that the debate has taken to put in a caveat. In one sense there is great devastation. I have said before to the House, and I have been cheered by hon. Gentlemen opposite, you cannot make war without suffering on both sides, and I think we ought to be thankful that is the case, or else there would be many more wars. You cannot expect or ask, after people have been at war, and been beaten—this has nothing to do with the rights of the matter, but merely with the facts—that they should be put back 237 into the same position in which they were before. And here I state one of the general principles to which I say commit myself without being considered to be prejudiced. Sir, the defeated party in a war must suffer more than the victors. That appears to me to be common sense, and cannot be contravened. But I do not admit of my own knowledge at present that although the country has suffered tremendously in material matters—I do not speak of the terrible suffering in regard to the loss of life and the despair and distress of those who have lost their relatives and friends—but although the country has suffered enormously in material matters, that is another side and a very important side. When, for instance, the Boer Generals or their representatives have said in other countries that the £3,000,000 which we offered them was a derisory dole, and that they required £75,000,000, I venture respectfully to differ from them, unless their contention is that, having been defeated in war, they are to be put in a better position than they were before the war. One thing is certain. The property of the ordinary Boer consisted in his farm, in his farmhouse and buildings, in his cattle and his stock. No doubt in very many cases his farmhouse has suffered or been actually destroyed and his cattle have been taken; although there are, according to the latest return, a very large number of cattle and stock still in the two colonies, but only a fraction of what there was before the war. But the land, which, after ail, is his principal capital asset, has increased in value, since the war, and I am informed—I speak only from information—that the average value of land in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony at the present time is very much greater than it was before the war. That is one of the things, then, that have to be taken into account. When we are told that the money we are offering as a free gift—and a sum to which we have put no limit at present, but for which today we are asking £3,000,000 in order to he able to loan it to those burghers who are in a better position and can afford to pay interest after a period of two years—when we are told that that is insufficient. I say that such judgments are entirely premature, and it is only my desire as far as possible to avoid pledging myself to 238 any total that leads me to leave the matter there and not to continue my argument.
But there is one other point of great importance, on which I think that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and certainly some of the representatives of the Boers, have misapprehended the situation. We offered £3000,000 of money of our own accord,. It was a voluntary offer. We were not asked for that amount, and I believe a less amount would have been accepted. At all events, be that as it may, we offered that amount as a free grant. For what? There seems to be in some persons' minds the idea that that was offered as compensation for war losses to those who had been our enemies. Well, surely that would have been a perfectly monstrous proposition. It is quite true that General Botha, in May 1901, and again the signatories for the surrender the other day, asked that this money, or some sum, should be set aside in order to pay notes and receipts which had been given by them in connection with their requisitions. But I beg the House to observe the difference between the proposal which was made to us at that time and the proposal to which we actually assented. It is an important difference, which really is a matter of principle. We refused to pay those loans. Why, a note might have been given to a man of substance—a gentle, man of large property—a note might have been given to him for a portion of his stock, and I should say undoubtedly under those circumstances that if he lost his money it was a loss which he must take as many loyal subjects have had to take losses, as a necessary consequence of the war. The people we have to care about are two classes. But first the destitute, the widows and orphans—the people who would starve but for our assistance—and secondly, the people who, not being actually destitute, are, nevertheless, without the requisite means of restoring the industry in which they had been engaged previously to the war. Those are the two classes and the only two classes, which we take into account. We agree that the notes and the receipts should be received by us as evidence of war losses—that is to say, of evidence that destitution, where 239 it existed, had been caused by the war. We do not engage to pay those notes or receipts unless the parties require money in order to enable them to recover their position and means of subsistence. Now, Sir, for the purpose which we had in view, that is to say, the relief of the people who are absolutely destitute from any fear of starvation, or any misery approaching starvation, and, in the second place, enabling all people to work the land which belongs to them and for which at present they have not the necessary capital—if the money which we are to devote to that purpose should be insufficient, I, for one, should not hesitate to cone for more. But I say, so far as I know, as I am at I present advised, I believe the money which the House has granted is sufficient for that purpose.
The hon. Member for Northampton, while expressing his readiness to vote more money for those who have been fighting against us, expressed some objection, as I understood him, to giving any money at all to those who fought for us. He wanted to know why this £2,000,000 was asked for. Well, Sir, the £2,000,000 has nothing whatever to do with the loans in Natal and Cape Colony. For those we have provided otherwise. We have undertaken with the Government of Natal to repay to them the compensation which they have given to those loyal subjects who were injured by the invasion. And we desire, and intend that it shall be given on a liberal scale. We have also agreed that a contribution shall he given to those loyal subjects who in the Cape Colony have suffered by the first invasion. I say the first invasion, because we consider that in the case of the second invasion the responsibility lies with the Colony itself. But with regard to the compensation which we are to give in the Cape Colony, we have expressed in the clearest terms our determination that not one penny of Imperial money shall be given to compensate those who have rebelled against the Imperial authority. That, as I say, is independent of the Vote tonight, and I merely introduced it because the question was raised by the hon. Member for Northampton. The Vote tonight is for those loyal British and Dutch subjects, of whom there are many, who stood by us in the conflict, and who have suffered loss in the two Colonies. Lord Milner is of opinion that the sum will enable him to compensate 240 those persons in a larger measure, with a greater percentage of their loss, than in the case of those who fought against us. I think that is fair. I think it is right, and I do not think any impartial man can contravene it. It is right that the principle should be clearly stated, for here we are creating for the first time in the history of the world a new precedent. We have often been referred to the great civil war in America as an instance of the magnanimity which victorious troops and victorious Governments could show to those who had opposed them. Yes, I admit that up to that time no greater instance of magnanimity had ever transpired. But we are going much beyond that. The Northern States of America had, necessarily, in the course of the war, with that higher humanity—because, after all, it is a higher humanity—which exercises severity in order to shorten a war, desolated a gigantic extent of territory. Sherman's march had made a desert of fifty miles of country on each side of his route. For all that desolation the Northern States of America gave not one penny. They gave pensions to those who had suffered in the war, to those who were related to them in a distant degree; but to those who had fought on the other side not one farthing.
I say, therefore, that under these circumstances we are making a new precedent, and in actually giving, I will not call it compensation, but assistance to those who were our former enemies, we should clearly state what are the reasons. The reasons are humanity and policy. Humanity first, because we do not wish, under the British flag, that anyone should be subjected to the misery which these people would otherwise have to suffer. But policy because, as we have said over and over again, we have got to live together and want to live together. We hope that we shall live together as friends. We have absolutely no vindictive feelings towards those who, by superior force, we have conquered, but whose merits and qualities we are the first to recognise. We say it is good policy that these men should not be discontented, but that as far as possible we should enable them, not indeed to place themselves in the same position in which they would have been if there had been no war, but at all events to place themselves in a position in which they may recover their former 241 prosperity. I think I have said all I need to say, all I ought to say, and my right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth, as I shall call him on this occasion, at any rate, will, I think, agree with me in this case, at any rate, it is wise to be an optimist. Let us believe in the future and the future will answer our anticipations. I do believe in the future. To my mind what has been done in the short period that has elapsed since this desolating war was brought to an end is the greatest encouragement that we could possibly have. I did not mind saying to my own friends—I do not think I ever talked of it in this House—that at the end of the war I anticipated that the prisoners would not be repatriated for at least a period of three years. They will be all repatriated within twelve months of the close of the war. I could not have conceived that 70,000 men, women and children would have been able safely to leave the camps in which they have found homes for so long and be restored to their farms, no doubt suffering many annoyances and considerable hardships, but still without any fear of serious danger. I want to say that up to the present time the results of our efforts at re-settlement and repatriation have exceeded my most sanguine anticipations. And I hope I may have even greater cause for congratulation when I go to South Africa, going as I shall do with the most earnest desire to forget all that is controversial, all that is unhappy in regard to the recollections of the past, and with the one sole desire to bring together the people, a kindred people after all, separated only by the circumstances of recent times—to bring together this kindred people in one great African nation tinder the British Crown.
§ (11.0.) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Sir, I have no desire whatever to find fault with, or to criticise in any way, the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman has concluded his speech. I envy him his extreme optimism, but I am quite willing to wish that we could all share it. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Why not?"] I say, I wish we could all see reasons to feel the degree of optimism he expresses, 242 but I think it is not only natural that he should entertain that feeling—I think it is the very best spirit in which he could go to South Africa—and I most earnestly hope, as I am sure we all do, that his mission to South Africa will be followed by the success he thinks may come from it. But the right hon. Gentleman began his speech in a way which does not commend itself to me. He began by inviting the House, as I understood him, to a calm and unheated and uncontroversial discussion of this matter, which certainly was a reasonable expectation to form in the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day. But the right hon. Gentleman may not be aware of the contemptuous tone into which he immediately entered in the answers to the questions which were addressed to him. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No.]" I am in the recollection of the House and of those hon. Members who heard him. The way in which he spoke of the hon. Member for South Molton, the way in which he spoke in answer to my right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth, attributing to him the position of thinking that everyone opposed to him must be either a fool or a knave, was not a very friendly or kindly way of expressing his sentiments. These were not the methods in which to provoke a right feeling in the House, and I will say more, it was not the way to treat the House of Commons by any Minister, however distinguished he may be. But the right hon. Gentleman, I daresay, is a little tête montée at this moment. The right hon. Gentleman was entirely unjustified in saying that there was any desire or that there had been any attempt to commit him to any opinion. What we are doing tonight is obeying the invitation and the promise held out by the right hon. Gentleman himself in July last, when he said that in the course of the Autumn sittings there would be an opportunity for him to state to the House the exact position reached in South African affairs and for the House to express its opinion and come to a judgment. We refrained from expressing opinions for the reason that the right hon. Gentleman appealed to us. "Why should we dogmatise?" he asks. No one has dogmatised. What we have asked for is information on a great many 243 important points on which light seemed to be required. There are many not touched upon in connexion with South Africa which do not come properly within the scope of this Vote, and therefore we do not refer to them at all.
But the right hon. Gentleman has himself referred to one question, and has given some explanation which I think does deserve the attention of the House and as to which public opinion has gone a little astray, from what the right hon. Gentleman says. It is the question of the money which it was thought was being given in payment of requisition notes given by the burghers on commando. How does that matter stand? In the earliest document—namely, the letter from Lord Kitchener to the Secretary for War—what was said was this. There was nothing said in this part of it as to war losses:—A judicial Commission will be appointed to which Government notes issued under the law of the South African Republic may be presented within six months. All such notes found duly issued under the terms of that law, and for which the persons presenting them have given valuable considerations, will be paid, but without interest. All the receipts given by the officers in the field of .the late Republics, or under their orders, may likewise be presented to such Commission within six months, and, if found to be given bonâ fide for goods used by the burgher forces in the field, will be paid out to the per sons to whom they were originally given. The sum in respect of Government notes and receipts shall not exceed £3,000,000 sterling, and, if the total amount of such notes and receipts approved by the Commission is more than that sum there shall be a pro rata diminution.That was how the question stood in the draft arrangement forwarded by Lord Kitchener. The Government at home amended it, and the £3,000,000 was made applicable both to this question of the requisition notes and the repatriation:—His Majesty's Government will place at the disposal of this Commission the sum of £3,000,000 for the above purpose, and will 244 allow all notes and receipts given by officers in the field to be presented to a Judicial Commission which will be appointed by the Government, and if such notes and receipts are found to have been duly issued they will be received as evidence of war losses.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
"As evidence of war losses." Then the third step in the development is this Vote which we are dealing with tonight, in which there is no mention of these notes. An impression largely entertained—and I am glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that it is not true—was that a large portion of these £3,000,000, which the people of this country desire should go to the relief of destitution and the restoration of the ordinary life of the burghers, had been absorbed in the payment of these requisition notes. I quite understand that anything received under these requisition notes should be taken as a deduction, as it were, from what should be allowed on the ground of destitution; but there was a danger, as many of those interested in it thought, that a large portion of this sum might be given to men comparatively well off in diminution of the sum available for the poorer people who have suffered from the war. If the right hon. Gentleman tells us, as I think he does, that that has not taken place, and will not take place, it will be a considerable relief to those who are anxious on this subject. Can the right hon. Gentleman inform us how far the process of paying for requisition notes given by our own forces has been completed? The right hon. Gentleman was asked about this in the earlier portion of the Session, but said it was a slow process and he could not then give 245 the information, but that by-and-bye it would be given. I should be glad to know how far the process has been advanced, for these requisition arrangements for our forces are as much a debt as anything else we owe. [Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN: Hear, hear.] We are bound to make good the word given by our officers. Our army has had the benefit of those commodities, and we are bound to make them good, and I should be glad to know how far that process has proceeded.
Another thing upon which a strong feeling exists—a feeling of curiosity, to say the least of it— is how this relief under the head of the £3,000,000 is to be apportioned. What are the tests? What are the criteria? How are the recipients chosen where the recipients are more numerous than the money would suffice for? On what principle is the distribution made? Can the right hon. Gentleman say that? What we have to do here is to remove all chance—all suspicion—of ill-feeling. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said some wise and patriotic words last night, when he observed that in all these matters we have not only to do what we ourselves know to be right and just, but we ought to remove anything that might give rise to a taint of suspicion in the minds of those whom we all desire to conciliate. If the right hon. Gentleman would tell us about that it would be very useful. Some words have been written on this subject, which, I think, I am justified in referring to, because they startled the public considerably. A letter of Lord Milner's addressed to the Lord Mayor appeared in the papers the other .day, in which he said:—It is too early to make an accurate estimate of the extent to which the amount 246 granted by Government will meet the claims put in for compensation and assistance. But his Excellency considers that he may safely say that British subjects will receive at least 50 per cent. on the total assessment of their claims—' are those claims on the ground of requisition acknowledgements or on account of distress'—whereas it is improbable that the burghers will recover in anything like the same proportion the losses sustained by them.On what ground is that difference maintained? I wish to meet the case of both with full generosity and justice. There is no question that the British who have suffered losses have just as great a claim, and in one sense have a greater claim, upon us than those who have been our adversaries, but the only line you can take with safety, and from which you cannot depart, is to do equal justice to both, and if this proposal means that there is to be a great gulf fixed between them, and that the one class are to be treated—[HON. MEMBERS: Oh!] Well, what does he say? He says that 50 per cent. at least of all British subjects will receive, and it is improbable that the burghers will receive anything like the same proportion. [An HON. MEMBER: And quite right, too.] That is a most regrettable position to take up. The cardinal virtue of the whole matter, and the direct and only way to remove these suspicions and jealousies and antipathies, is to do equal justice all round—full and equal justice all round. The right hon. Gentleman, as I began by saying, ended in a most optimistic tone, and I have expressed the wish, which I am sure is shared on this side of the House, notwithstanding our little disagreements sometimes, as even this evening, that his expectations may be fulfilled. He goes out to South Africa with tremendous responsibilities, as he doubtless is aware, but there is nobody, even among those 247 who are most opposed to his policy, who does not wish him the most complete success.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I only rise to answer the questions which have been addressed to me. The payment of notes and requisitions issued by the War Office is, of course, a War Office matter. That is a sacred obligation which, of course, must be observed to the last penny. Although I am speaking for another Department, I believe the War Office are making every exertion to close the accounts and pay those requisitions as quickly as possible. At anyrate, the liability is fully admitted, and they will be paid at the earliest possible moment. The right hon. Gentleman has correctly interpreted the view of the Government as to the use to which the £3,000,000 will be put. It is distinctly stated in the article that the money is to be applied in order to, provide what is essential to enable the burghers to reconstitute their position.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
As to the notes, in my view there should be no payment for the notes as such. They are collateral evidence in aid of any claims, but the real distribution of the money will be guided rather by the necessities of the claimants than by any question of the notes. In regard to the last point, as the right hon. Gentleman said the issue is a broad one. I have said before in this House that it was the desire and intention of the Government at the end of the war to 248 make it clear that it was not a disadvantageous thing, even if it was not an advantageous thing, to support the British flag, and, therefore, that any distinction that was to be made must be made in favour of the British. I use the word as including all loyalist persons, all persons who have assisted the Government. We are going to do a great deal for those who were recently our opponents, but I sincerely hope, as long as I have anything to do with the matter, to do more for those who have been with us.
(11.20.) MR. BRYNROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
said he wished to put a question to the Colonial Secretary with reference to the notes given by the Transvaal Government. He quite acknowledged that after the proclamation of the annexation of the Transvaal by Lord Roberts, this country was entitled to disregard any notes or acknowledgments given by the Boer generals or the Boer Government; but he would ask the Colonial Secretary whether he would not recognise it as an international obligation to acknowledge all the notes up to the date of the annexation, which the Transvaal Government, had it been permitted to continue, would have been bound to honour. He submitted that that was a proposition in international law which was incontrovertible. He did not suggest that every document produced by every burgher which claimed to be an acknowledgment of debt owed to him by the Transvaal Government should be paid. Of course, the genuineness of the documents should be inquired into, and if they did not represent full consideration, he did not suggest that they should be paid; but he submitted that it was not only an 249 obligation of honour, but also an obligation of international law, that they should recognise to the full every obligation for valuable consideration or value received given by the Transvaal Government to its own subjects up to the time of the annexation. The right hon. Gentleman conceded that the compensation which would be given by this country would be based on considerations of humanity and policy. He submitted that there was a stronger consideration than either, and that was international obligation and justice. Our obligations to the Transvaal were greater than the right hon. Gentleman was willing to admit, because the British troops had destroyed property which they were bound not to destroy. That was, he submitted, incontrovertible. According to The Hague Convention we were bound under Article 46 to respect private property. Therefore, if private property were seized and destroyed, full compensation should be paid for it. Otherwise we would be disavowing the obligations of The Hague Convention. Again, Article 47 said that pillage was prohibited. If pillage was prohibited, we were bound to make good all the cost of the pillage committed by the British troops. That pillage was carried on to a great extent was not disputed. Lord Kitchener issued a proclamation in which he severely censured the British troops because they had too much transport with them, and he mentioned such things as pianos and kitchen ranges. But the Globe newspaper afterwards said that these articles had not been taken by the troops from home, but were loot taken from the farmhouses. That was an admission that the farms were looted. In addition, it was absolutely indisputable 250 that practically the entire country had been devastated for military reasons. He was not arguing whether that was justifiable or not; all he said was that, inasmuch as it was contrary to The Hague Convention, we were in duty bound to pay compensation for the property destroyed, not merely as a matter of policy or humanity, but matter of international obligation. It was said that the terms of peace were unprecedentedly generous by those who so conveniently ignored the trifling fact that they had annexed these countries. The way to judge whether the terms were generous or not, would be to apply them to ourselves. Suppose this country had, by some misfortune, been conquered, would the terms be regarded as generous under which the country was annexed by, for instance, Germany, and was after annexation given a small trifling sum to compensate individual inhabitants for losses sustained at the hands of the German troops? The fact that we had annexed the two Republics altered the situation completely; but having annexed them it was absurd to say that three millions sterling in discharge of all our obligations was anything like generosity. So far from the terms being generous, they were the most severe that had ever been imposed by any foreign Power. The Boers would have preferred to continue their nationality, as Englishmen would, even if they had to pay a double indemnity. In 1870, the French paid the Germans an enormous indemnity, but they retained their country and our nationality, which was of greater importance to them than treble the amount of the indemnity. Having seized the Transvaal, the least we might do was to reimburse every farthing of damage which had been committed by the troops. The 251 Colonial Secretary suggested that some people imagined that the Boers, having gone to war, and having been defeated in war, ought to be placed in the same position as before the war. No one, as far as he knew, suggested anything of the kind. He fully recognised that war entailed inevitable hardships and losses which could never be compensated for, such as indirect losses resulting from the destruction of trade; but every direct loss should be compensated for under international law and The Hague Convention. To fail to do that, was to recede from the obligations of war and of honour. He was glad that the Colonial Secretary recognised that not only motives of humanity, but also motives of policy should be considered. If we were to govern the Transvaal with anything like success, we ought to compensate the Boers for every farthing's worth of property which was seized, and even then the Boers would have to sustain an almost incalculable loss, which could not be compensated for. He was glad that the Colonial Secretary had not shut the door completely, and that if the money was not sufficient a further loan would be issued. He did not care whether it came out of Imperial funds or from the Transvaal. The important question was, not where it came from but where it went to. It ought to be spent in compensating every one of the Boerswhose property was destroyed. With regard to the British subjects who had lost property, he fully recognised that they too ought to be compensated, at all events, for property destroyed, whether by the Boer forces or by the British troops. But compensation for indirect losses was a different question altogether. He did not think, however, that they on that side of the House 252 would complain very much even in that compensation were provided, if it were given all round.
§ Resolution agreed to; to be reported Tomorrow.