§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I think it will be recognized that this is a Bill of very great importance, both to the finance of this country and of the new colonies in South Africa. It covers a loan of £65,000,000, of which £35,000,000 is to be guaranteed by the British Exchequer, and £30,000,000 is to be received, as I understand, from the colonies as a payment to the British Exchequer. In the earlier part of the Bill there are the particulars which you would generally expect with reference to a loan of this magnitude; but as to the war contribution, that appears only as a sub-section to Clause 2, in which it is stated that any sums paid by the Transvaal as a contribution in repect of the expenses incurred by His Majesty's Government in or incidental to the prosecution of the South African War, and any sums paid for a similar purpose by the Orange River Colony, shall be paid to the National Debt Commissioners for the purpose on paying off the War Loan, the Supplemental War Loan, the Supplemental War Loan, and other obligations, in reduction of debt. The remarkable part is that this clause does not give any indication how much the contribution 340 is to be, how it is to be made, how it is to be secured, or even the dates at which it is to be paid. That is a most extraordinary manner of dealing with the application of £30,000,000, which was made part of the financial statement this year. In the Budget it was one of the elements which determined what the Sinking Fund was to be; because, when it was stated that the Sinking Fund would have been inadequate without this payment, this payment, became part of the financial statement of this year. Yet in this Bill we are given no information as to the amount, no security as to the payment, and no indication as to the manner in which it is to be dealt with, or how it is to be raised! What is the meaning of this indefiniteness? It is evident that this loan could only be raised by two methods. It might be charged in some form or other on the revenues of these colonies, which can be done, I suppose, as they are Crown colonies, by the Imperial Legislature; or it might be done, also, I suppose, by the local Legislature. If there is one thing more necessary than another in this connection, it is that there ought be legislative authority for the levying of this loan, and we ought to have the security, which apparently has not been produced. All we know of it, as far as I am informed, is a certain conversation that took place certain parties in South Africa upon this subject and certain transactions with reference statements, and none of the parties with whom the conversation took place could be held responsible to this House. How is the underwriting going to operate, how are the underwriters made responsible to the Treasury for what is part of the finance of this country? It is perfectly obvious that we cannot be satisfied with this sub-section as it stands. There must be legislative action in this country or in the Transvaal to raise this money. The contribution of the money is a departure Colonial Secretary on this subject, although I am not going to criticize that. His view originally was that it was to be a contribution made from 341 the gold mining industry, which was to have been a very considerable sum. He used the word indemnity in his speech on 29th July, 1902. [Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN dissented.] Yes, I have the paper in my pocket, I am perfectly certain that was the word. An indemnity was to be paid after the war, and in this case the indemnity should be paid by the interest which had benefited so largely by the war. I remember commenting myself at the time, on the phrase that that interest was a justification of the war, or a great part of the justification of the war.
§ THE SECRETARY or STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN, Birmingham, W.)
I wish very much that the right hon. Gentleman, if he has the papers to which he is referring, would kindly state the correct words. What I object to is the statement that the interest of the gold mining industry was a justification for the war.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I will supply the right hon. Gentleman with the quotation later. As I have said, I am not criticising the right hon. Gentleman's alteration of view on that subject when he got to South Africa. When he got there he thought that it was better, as he said, to secure that sum of money at once, that delay might affect the receipt of the contribution, and that on the whole it was better that matters should be settled out of hand than that they should depend on a contribution which might be regarded as indefinite. Now, the question is. How is it going to be secured, and what is going to be done? The right hon. Gentleman presented it as the case of a bird in hand; but how is the bird in hand, the payment of that sum of money which we are told is to be contributed, to be secured? We must do something now to secure the payment of that money. I would now pass on to the part of the Bill dealing with the loan of £35,000,000. The existing debt, that is, the pre-war debt of the Republics, was £2,500,000, and you are apparently starting them now with an additional debt of £62,500,000. In the schedule to the Bill it will be seen that of that debt only £10,000,000 is appropriated to new development in the new colonies. The rest of the £35,000,000 is what you might call dead weight. First you have the deficit of the Transvaal, £1,500,000, the 342 former debt of the South African Republic, £2,500,000, and compensation by the Transvaal and Orange River Colony to loyalists in Cape Colony and Natal, £2,000,000; that is £6,000,000 of non-reproductive money. You have the acquisition of the existing railways, £14,000,000; in a certain sense, I suppose, that will return an adequate income, which has presumably been calculated. But that is not a new development, that is a state of things which existed before. Then there is repatriation and compensation, £3,000,000; of course, these advances by the way of loan are not reproductive, they are payment for losses incurred, and neither are the "other charges," £2,000,000, reproductive. It is to my mind a very serious matter for the finance of the new colonies that only £10,000,000 out of £65,000,000 can properly be called new development and reproductive. That is to my mind very serious. When you are raising large loans on any community you must have regard to what is the revenue of that community. It is now rather more than a year since peace was concluded, the financial year in the colonies ending on 30th June. There was an estimate last December which gave the revenue as £4,000,000.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I was going to say that I expected the revenue would exceed the estimate which was then made. Now what would he the charge on a loan of £65,000,000 at 4 per cent.? The old charge on the debt in President Kruger's time was £125,000 a year, but the interest upon the two new loans will a mount to not very far short of something like £2,500,000.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I thought it was £2,500,000. Well, that is considerably more than half the whole revenue of the colonies as it stands. This is a considerable charge for the new colonies to start with. Well, of course, we ought to have now—and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will give it to us—estimate for the coming year of the revenue and expenditure of the colonies. The time for the Budget, I suppose, arrives at the close of the financial year, on 30th June.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have some recollection of a calculation in which there would be in the third year a deficit which would have to be covered by increased revenue. Take it at £4,500,000, what will be the amount of the charge created by the moneys which are to be borrowed? I now come to consider what portion of the loan is to be applied to reproductive works, and what is calved new developments? One of the great difficulties, I always thought, during the course of the late war was to get people to realise the size of these countries with which we are now dealing. In a military sense, we unfortunately had to realise that in a manner we had not understood before. It is commonly said that these two colonies amount to the size of France and Spain put together. The sum of £5,000,000 does not go a very long way to develop a railway system in a country as large as France and Spain; it is about what it has cost us to make a single line rom Mombasa to Uganda. That does not seem to be a very adequate sum for what you call the "new development" of these countries.
344 I come to the next special point. When you have levied such a large sum as that in respect of loans, you come to the land settlement. I think now we might ask for some information as to what progress has been made in regard to land settlement; whether this covers the cost of purchase of land, and, that which is really the most serious part of the whole thing, whether it covers the cost of the restocking of the whole country where the stock has been practically destroyed. Then we ought also to know what the measures are in regard to land settlement, which is to establish a large British population ultimately upon the whole of these territories, and then what are the "other public works." Now what does "other public works" cover? We have been told that a great and indispensable necessity of these colonies, and certainly of land settlement, is irrigation. Is this £2,000,000 to cover that? Irrigation, as we all know, is a most expensive operation, even if you have to deal with large streams which are dispersed over the country; but here irrigation, as everybody knows, must to a great degree consist of the construction of large reservoirs to store up water which is not to be found constantly in the streams. We had an estimate of £30,000,000 out of these great loans from Mr. Wilcox for irrigation alone. Why do I enlarge upon this? It is because it shows, in my opinion, that this is only the beginning of loans. It is perfectly obvious that the requisites of these countries will demand loans for development in addition to these and far beyond them, if anything is to be done at all resembling what we are told is in contemplation. But that is not the most formidable part of the thing. The most formidable part is unquestionably the cost of carrying out these undertakings, and the cost of carrying out these undertakings depends upon the question of labour. Now, I have for some years past insisted that this is the critical question in the whole matter. When you have gut to consider that we are, first of all, dealing with a country which has been devastated, and with vast territories which will require great development, the critical and deciding 345 question is the question of labour. And everybody knows that at this moment the question of labour is the disputed, and violently disputed, question in the Transvaal. Now, there have been some very curious developments upon this question of labour quite recently. One of the most formidable things, to my mind, is that the mining industry, the great industry there, has made what I may call a declaration of industrial insolvency, and has stated that with the resources which they can command they cannot conduct that industry unless they are allowed to conduct it upon the basis of Asiatic labour. That is a most formidable question. It is a question which does not and cannot affect only the mining interest, but every other interest. Every other interest is just as much entitled to cheap labour as the mining interest. Why is the whole of the rest of the community to be told that they must employ dear labour in order that the mines may have cheap labour so that they may pay greater dividends? That is a situation that will never be accepted, and ought never to be accepted.
I saw the other day an extraordinary paragraph describing what had taken place in the Transvaal at a meeting of what is called the Inter-Colonial Council. The paragraph stated that the Council had determined that the railway constructors should employ white labour—a thing which the mines had absolutely refused to employ because it was so dear—and that the railroads should be restrained to employ only 10,000 Kaffirs, and in order that the Kaffirs now employed on the railways should be compelled to go to the mines. I do not know whether that is true. If true, it is the most unjust proposal I ever heard made by anybody. The railways serve the whole community; the mining interest serve their shareholders. But by what right have the Inter-Colonial Council to determine that industry which is for the service of the whole community should be called upon to employ white labour because white labour is too dear to suit the mining interest. The mining interest go to the Stock Exchange and say that they are the wealthiest people in the world; but when they come to deal with other people they sue in formâ 346 pauperis, and say, "We cannot afford to employ labour at the same price that other industries do in the colonies." I do not understand that language, nor have I ever been able to understand why in other parts of the world the gold-mining interest can be conducted by white labour and not there. If they are right, it is quite plain that the gold-mining industry on which the colony depends is impossible except on the basis of Asiatic labour. Then what we have to determine is, whether these new colonies, which we have purchased at such a vast expenditure of life and treasure, are to be a white man's country or a yellow man's country. That is really the decision that is to be taken by the British Government and the British Parliament. We are responsible. They are not self-governing colonies but Crown colonies, and the action which has to be taken in this matter has to be taken on the responsibility of those who express the policy and carry out and originate the policy of the British nation. That that is a very serious matter I think everybody will admit.
Now, as regards the railways, there appeared three days ago in the papers this telegram, dated from Pretoria, July 24th—In the Legislative Council to-day there was laid on the table correspondence between Lord Milner and Mr. Chamberlalin on the subject of Indian labour. Lord Milner requested Mr. Chamberlain to use his influence to induce the Secretary of State for India, to agree to a request for the Importation of 10,000 coolies from India for railway works, on the condition that the men should return to India on the expiry of their indentures. Mr. Chamberlain, in reply, stated that while the proposal was free from some of the objections raised by the European population in South Africa against imported labour, it was still necessary to ascertain the public feeling on the matter.We are in the course of inquiry on many subjects. Is this to be a new inquiry on the subject of public feeling in South Africa in regard to Asiatic labour?In any case," the Colonial Secretary added, "it was improbable that the Indian Government would consent to the proposal unless certain specified improvements in the present status of Asiatics in the Transvaal were effected.I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has taken that view of the subject. Let it not be said that no information can be 347 given on the subject at present, because there is a Commission to inquire into it sitting in South Africa. We have a right to know now the decision of the Government. The Papers which were laid at Pretoria show a difference of opinion between Lord Milner and the right hon. Gentleman. Why did Lord Milner request this importation of Indian coolies for the railways? Was it at the instance of the mine-owners? So far as we know the Kaffirs are willing to work on the railways. Their objection is to be forced to work underground in the mines. Therefore, the railways, which are for the benefit of the community at large, can have their labour made cheaper. It is curious enough that in the same column of the newspaper from which I am quoting there is a telegram dated Johannesburg, July 24, which says—The Consul stationed here has received a cablegram from Hong-kong containing a positive offer of 200,000 Chinese labourers to work in the mines for a term of five years, the wages to be £3 17s. 6d. a month, food included. The cost of the transport is to be arranged by the mining companies and deducted from the wages. This offer has been submitted to the representatives of the industry.That is the real question. The mine-owners are determined to force the British Government, if they can, to sanction the introduction of Chinese labour. They have discredited white labour, they have depreciated black labour, and they are insisting, time after time, on the importation of Chinese labour. I do not attach much importance to these telegrams. They are the gambling counters of the bulls and bears to galvanise the paralysed industry of the Kaffir market. One man says to another, "At last the Government are going to give way. We are going to get Chinese cheap labour." So things go up one-sixteenth, and if there is any doubt about the matter next day they come down one-eighth. But I say it is time for the Government to speak out and tell us whether or not they are against the introduction of Chinese cheap labour into South Africa.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I fail to see how the question of Asiatic labour arises on this Bill. I am aware that the difficulty of obtaining labour 348 for the new works is relevant to the Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman is going into a much wider question, which would be more properly discussed on the Colonial Vote.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
If you will allow me, Sir, may I submit that there is a controversy going on in the Legislative Council as to the labour to be employed on these railways; and the question whether or not this £5,000,000 for the railways will be sufficient depends upon the nature of the labour that is to be employed on them. Lord Milner desires that Asiatic labour should be employed on the railways; but I am glad to say, so far as I can see, that is not the view of the Colonial Secretary. I cannot see how, if we are to discuss the Vote for railways, we are to leave out of consideration the question of the cost of labour, which is a most material consideration.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I do not for a moment say that the right hon. Gentleman is not in order in pointing out the great difficulty there would be in carrying out the works owing to the want of labour. But I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going into the larger question of the employment of Asiatic labour in the mines, which hardly arises on this Bill.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
It seems to me to be of consummate importance that tins question of labour should be set at rest in tins country and in South Africa. I hope we shall not be excluded on this Bill, which is really going to dispose of the whole of the finances of South Africa to the amount of £65,000,000 from discussing the question of labour, upon which the revenue and expenditure of the country must depend. Otherwise, it would he idle to discuss this Bill at all. The Colonial Secretary told us frequently during the progress of the war that we ought to have great regard for the Opinion of the other colonies in that matter. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have an equal respect for colonial opinion in tile matter of the question of Chinese labour in South Africa. The colonies have had experience of Asiatic labour, and there is no doubt of their sentiments with respect to it. Curiously enough, in the same issue of the newspaper, following the telegrams to which I have referred, there 349 is a telegram from Wellington, dated 24th July, which says that the Prime Minister of New Zealand was that day asked in the House of Representatives to give a day for the discussion of a Resolution of protest against the employment of Asiatic labour on the Rand. Mr. Seddon, who is well informed about South Africa, for he was there, said he had some doubt as to how far they could take that course. He said that it would put them in a delicate position, for it the mines were self-governing, it would be an encroachment. Apparently, the impression which Mr. Seddon carried away from Pretoria is that the mines are the self-governing power in South Africa. He seemed to think that the mines are the Government.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I know they are not. But it is curious that Mr. Seddon, who is in intelligent man, should have carried away that impression from what he saw of things in South Africa.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman is basing his argument on a few words of summary of a long speech, and I have found, in my own experience, that that is a dangerous thing to do. But, taking the words as they stand, it is perfectly cleat that what Mr. Seddon said was that if the mines were self-governing something might be done which he would not do as they were not. That was his argument.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I did not sneer at him. I have enjoyed the friendship of Mr. Seddon, and I have never found him incapable of expressing his own ideas perfectly clearly. He says, "the land, being Crown colony, the question of propriety arose." That is true. These being Crown colonies it is for us—it belongs to the Executive of the British nation, it belongs to the authority of the British Parliament—to interfere in a question of this kind. One line more I will read of Mr. Seddon. I do not know whether the right hon. 350 Gentleman has any explanation to offer as to this.The introduction of Asiatics might make South Africans think that their sacrifices had been in vain. The Chinese were a signal failure underground. He would take steps to ascertain the views of the members of the House concerning the protest.That was only a few days ago, and we shall probably learn what tool place in consequence of that. You cannot leave undecided what you are going to do about this matter of Asiatic labour. You have raised this question yourselves, and I believe unless you make it perfectly clear that the British Government are not going to commit the country to this form of labour as the basis of the social condition of the colonies which, in every country that has had experience of it, in every country that has colonies which, in every country that has had experience of it, in every colony which know it, is regarded as a mark if degradation and of infinite injury to the society in which it exists, unless you make that clear you are encouraging that gamble which is now going on entirely upon the basis of this question of labour in South Africa. You are enabling some people to delude ignorant speculators more than they have been deluded already, to their injury and ruin; and are encouraging hopes, which ought never to have been encouraged and can never be fulfilled, in respect to the future of the social condition of the new colonies which you have purchased at such a price and for which you are now responsible. The question is whether higher dividends are to be procured in gold mines by the adoption of a policy contrary to the opinion of the people and most injurious to their permanent interests. It is perfectly useless to raise this question at present because the over-whelming opinion of the population is against it. If so, why not declare at once that it is a policy to which you will not consent, and than I believe you will give great relief to the sentiment of the colonies and retrieve the Government of this country from the adverse Judgment of other nations. You can do no greater service to these new colonies than by holding decided and intelligible language on this subject.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Before I answer the questions of the right hon. Gentleman, I hope I may be allowed, on behalf of this side of the House, to offer him our most hearty congratulations on his recovery 351 from his recent indisposition, and our delight that he is well enough to be once more with us and to add lustre to our debates. At the commencement of his remarks the right hon. Gentleman, as I understood him, asked what was the security for the loan we were asked to guarantee and also as to any security we should have for the payment of the money which was to be given to us as a war contribution. A great deal of what he has said has really been answered by me in advance in the very full statement which I made to the House when the Resolution which preceded this Bill was introduced. I then explained, as a matter of course, that the legislation for the £30,000,000 loan would be introduced into the Legislative Council of the Transvaal. The only reason why it has not been introduced up to the present is that there has been some necessary communication between the Treasury and the different Departments in this country and the Transvaal as to the exact form of the Ordinance that is to be passed, but I entertain not the slightest doubt of any kind that the Legislative Council will without any difficulty pass this Ordinance giving legal security to the loan which we will raise, and the first instalment of which we will probably raise at the commencement of 1904. The right hon. Gentleman asked what security we had for the underwriting part of the agreement promised by representatives of the Transvaal. That is now under negotiation. The exact form of it is now being settled, and I have no doubt it will be easily arranged.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
With the Gentlemen who have agreed to underwrite the first £10,000,000 of the loan. I have no doubt that the agreement will be faithfully carried out by all the parties to it and that a satisfactory agreement will be made between us and the underwriters of the loan, to make it absolutely certain, at all events as to the first instalment of the loan that it will be placed on the market. Even if we had not the agreement I am of opinion, founded on information I have received from persons qualified to advise, that 352 the loan will be easily put on the British market. The total result of what the right hon. Gentleman has said is that the new colonies will start with a debt of £65,000,000. I do not think he quite grasped the amount of the sum. Of course, so far as £30,000,000 are concerned, it is not reproductive. It is like our own debt, it is the result of war. And according as you think the war was a good or bad thing for the country you can approve or disapprove of the indebtedness it involves, but as regards the £35,000,000, £25,000,000 is to go against the existing liability and is not in any sense a new indebtedness, £10,000,000, or rather £9,500,000 to speak more accurately, is to be devoted to immediate developments, and one reason why we have taken that sum and not a larger sum is that it was believed we could not expend in the next few years a larger sum than we have taken in this loan. The right hon. Gentleman said that I said in the speech referred to that it is to be remembered that this is only the beginning. I entirely agree, and I congratulate the House upon it. I believe in the new colonies we have two of the most progressive countries in the world, and that it is absolutely certain that in the near future they will require very large sums for their further development. As the right hon. Gentleman says, this is the first step. Should it unfortunately prove to be unsuccessful, and the expenditure not prove to be productive, my expectations will not he fulfilled, but from the best information I have been able to obtain, my own opinion is that it will succeed in the most remarkable way, and that these colonies will have no difficulty whatever, whether they are under our control as Crown colonies or as self-governing colonies at the time, in raising any funds required for further development. The right hon. Gentleman, however, seems to flunk that the charge is a large one, £2,500,000, he says, is half of the revenue of the country. It is a large charge, and a large one proportionately to the revenue, but it is not so large as he thinks, because he has omitted the revenue which we have separated for the purposes of account—the revenue to be derived from the railways. The revenue to be derived from the railways is estimated at £2,500,000. The total revenue, therefore, is £7,000,000 and not £4,500,000. The 353 charge is calculated to pay the full interest and sinking fund on the liabilities which we are now proposing. If there is, as we believe there will be, in the future a large surplus, that will form a basis for further borrowing operations for public works. I agree that £2,000,000 is a small sum if it were to be considered as a final sum to provide for public works, and, above all, for the purposes of irrigation. At the present moment, however, the works of irrigation to which we are to confine ourselves are those smaller works which are to be carried out by the people themselves, and from which they will derive immediate profit. I saw in South Africa more than one case in which a local farmer had himself carried out at his own expense a small work of irrigation, and it turned what would otherwise have been an unprofitable farm into a farm that produced very large advantages. I have no doubt with the assistance of the Government an immense deal can be done, and, as a matter of fact, is being done, to give additional value to the farms already working. Lord Milner and the Government contemplate something much larger in the future. We must gain our experience. It will be a considerable time before we can present a plan which will commend itself to the House, or even to the local Legislature, but we do believe we shall be able to present a plan which will deal in the first instance with the damming of the Vaal River, which will turn into most valuable land that which is at present productive of small results. All this, I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman, will only be undertaken if there is clear evidence of its being productive. Therefore, I beg the House to consider that neither we nor the Transvaal need he afraid. As regards the future, whoever may fill my place will have to show plainly that the results of this expenditure have been so good that he is justified in asking the House to sanction something further in the same direction. I confess that, as regards this part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I asked myself what object could he have in view in recalling the attention of the House in a somewhat pessimistic spirit to these calculations? He cannot desire that we should refuse this gift or contribution of £30,000,000, which, according to my view, through their patriotism the people of the Transvaal have made towards the cost of the 354 war. Neither do I think that he will come down and, as a matter of principle, ask the House to refuse the guarantee of the £35,000,000 which is required to meet the existing liabilities of the Transvaal, to secure the conversion of their loans and liabilities into a less expensive security, and also to provide for the immediate developments of the next few years
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am very glad to hear that. In that case we are agreed as to the principle. I suppose I may take it, therefore, that the principal reason for the remarks the right hon. Gentleman has made has been to call attention again to the question of labour in the Transvaal colony. In regard to that he called attention in the first place to a resolution of the Colonial Council, which represents both races in the Transvaal, and, I believe, is thoroughly representative of every interest in the two colonies. That resolution was to this effect—that, in their opinion, it was undesirable that Kaffirs who had no objection to underground labour should be taken for the superficial labour that may be required in connection with the railways. That appears a perfectly reasonable view. I see no cause whatever to object to that resolution. I consider it a matter of local concern whether effect should be given to it or not. The object of it is plain. At the present time you have a certain amount of labour which comes, apparently willingly and without the slightest compulsion, to work in the mines. If you tempt that labour away by higher wages, or even by employments which they might prefer—although I do not know that that is the case with a great many of these tribes—you throw the whole of the industry out of gear. The right hon. Gentleman always speaks as if he sees in this some sordid matter of Stock Exchange speculation. There is a Stock Exchange speculation which may be sordid, but that has nothing to do with the main question which this House has to consider. We have to consider that this industry, however it may have been used for speculative purposes, is the main industry of the Transvaal, that upon it depends the prosperity of 355 the Transvaal and every man, woman and child in it. Upon the prosperity of this industry depends the prosperity of every Boer farmer and every Boer inhabitant, and the prosperity of the natives, as well as of the white population. It is at the present time the main stand-by of the Transvaal.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I will come to the right hon. Gentleman's Chinaman in time. May I hope from that interruption that, so far at all events, I carry the right hon. Gentleman with me? He agrees with me that we have to consider this thing altogether apart from the Stock Exchange. I wish he could get the Stock Exchange out of his mind, and that he would regard it entirely as a question affecting an important industry in an important colony, on which everything in the colony depends. Why is it that at the present time we have a revenue of £4,500,000 in the Transvaal? Twenty years ago the revenue was £100,000, or something of that sort. Why has it increased from a mere nothing to £4,500,000? Entirely because of this industry. Why are we able to make railways? Why do we want railways? We want them for two reasons—in the first place, to serve this industry, and, in the second place, to enable the Boer farmer to profit by this industry by selling his produce to the centres of population which this industry has created. So, whichever way you look at it, you always come back to the fact that this is an industry the prosperity of which it is the bounden duty of anybody who sits upon this Bench, to whatever political Party he may belong, to assist and encourage in every reasonable way. I think it would be a grievous mistake in policy, and fatal to the prosperity of the country, if we were suddenly to create a new and tempting demand for the labour of the Kaffir, which would still, more than has already been done, lower the produce of this great industry. What would be the result? What on earth would be the good of employing 10,000 Kaffirs to make railways to serve the mines and the population of the mines if the mines 356 ceased working, if the population were dispersed and the country were ruined? How on earth you could pay the interest on this or any other loan for the life of me I do not know. Therefore, when it was proposed to me that the work done for the railways, for this fresh development, should not, as far as it can possibly be avoided, interfere with the existing labour system which provides for the success of the industry, I thought it was a perfectly fair and reasonable proposition, and, so far as I am concerned, I entirely approve of it. Now, in order that the development may proceed at the greatest possible rate, Lord Milner applied to me and said, "We are thinking of employing coolies on the railway. Will you represent to the Indian Government our desire in that respect, and use your influence to induce their assent?" It was assent to a proposal which the Indian Government had already accepted in the case of Natal—namely, that the coolies should come for a given period, that their indentures should expire in India, that the balance of their pay should be given to them in India, so that they would not be permanent residents in the South African sub-continent, but would return to their native country with their savings in their pockets. It was believed by the Indian Government that that was the best way in the interests of India, and it was believed by the Natal Government to be the best way to secure labour for the sugar estates and other work without inducing a permanent population of Asiatics. That agreement has been made and assented to by both sides; and even if the right hon. Gentleman disapproves of it, which I do not believe he does, he would not ask me to make any protest against it. He would not ask me to make any protest against it in the case of a self-governing colony—why, then, should I make a protest against it in the case of the Transvaal because it is not a self-governing but a Crown colony? I have explained already the policy which I intend to pursue, so long as I am in my present office. Unless a distinctly Imperial interest is concerned, I intend to treat the Transvaal as though it were a self-governing colony. For the security of Imperial interests, I believe it will be necessary for some years—I cannot say how many—to continue in the Transvaal the system of Crown colony government; 357 but, as far as I am concerned, it shall be as little onerous as possible. It shall interfere as little as possible with local opinion, local wishes, and local aspirations; and I am not going to interfere in this matter of Transvaal labour any more than I would in the case of the Cape Colony or Natal. Now, the right hon. Gentleman says that the correspondence to which he refers showed a difference of opinion between Lord Milner and myself. I do not regard it in that light in the least, and I am not certain that Lord Milner is not in entire accord with me. He did not know of any objection, and he applied to me to know whether I had any objection. I said that before I assented to any introduction of Asiatic labour, whether Chinese or Indian, into the Transvaal I must have some reasonable proof that it was a policy which the Transvaal, if it were a self-governing colony, would approve. If I got that assurance, any opposition on my part would at once disappear.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Certainly, with pleasure. But I had also to point out to him that I had been in communication with the India Office upon this matter, and that the India Office, on behalf of the Government of India, made complaints of the treatment of Asiatics already in the Transvaal, and the Indian Government asked for certain concessions to be made in their favour. I pointed out to Lord Milner that I had applied to the India Office to know how they would regard such a proposition, and that they would not agree to give any assistance to a proposal of this kind until they were convinced that fair consideration was being shown to those for whom they were responsible, the Indians in the Transvaal. I do not think that is likely to be a permanent difficulty. It appears to me to be probable that an arrangement may be come to between the Government of the Transvaal and the Government of India as to the treatment of Asiatics which may be regarded by both sides as a fair and satisfactory agreement in the circumstances. It has not been arrived at yet, but I think 358 it might be. If so, that difficulty would be removed, and the only other point would be the one to which I have referred—that I should want some evidence that the people of the Transvaal by a large majority were in favour of the employment of coolie labour. Why should coolie labour—the labour of our own fellow-subjects—be refused in a British colony? What principle is involved, and on what ground are we to be asked to prevent what seems to me so natural an arrangement? In Uganda the railway was wholly made by coolies. Was that a disadvantage either to India or to Uganda? There was not sufficient labour in East Africa, and they had to rely entirely, in the first instance, upon coolies. In some cases the coolies have settled in the East African Protectorate, where, to the advantage of the country, they are still most useful citizens. But the majority of them return to India and take back with them an amount of money, which is to be spent in India, altogether above anything they could possibly have gained if they had remained in India. Why should not an arrangement of that kind be repeated again and again? We have had exactly the same experience in the West Indies. We depend largely upon coolie labour, and, again, although in the initiation of that arrangement for an interchange of labour there were difficulties, they have since been prevented by a series of humanitarian laws which have amply protected the coolies. The result has been, not merely that a great number of coolies have found large advantages by working for a time in the West Indies, but also that a very good colonising movement has gone on there, and that a very considerable number of peaceful, industrious, and thrifty subjects have been established in some of the islands where their labour is required, Then there is the case of Mauritius. In Mauritius the population, which was originally of quite a different character, is now, I believe, by a majority, Indian and coolie, and Mauritius is more closely connected at the present time with India than it is with any other part of the world. That has taken place under a similar system. Is there to be free trade in everything except labour? I really do not understand how those who profess to speak in the interests of our 359 Indian fellow subjects can deny to them the right of giving their labour in countries where their labour is desired. There are countries, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out—Australia, for instance, and New Zealand—which do not desire Asiatic labour; and, exercising the powers which they enjoy, they have passed stringent egislation to exclude it. Very well; let us treat the Transvaal in precisely the same way. If the opinion of the Transvaal is against this labour, let them pass legislation to exclude it, and no objection will come from this country.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
As I say, if they object to this labour, let them legislate against it. They have a Legislative Council, which is not, perhaps, as Representative as hon. Members opposite would desire, but it is for the present as near a representative Council as we think it prudent to go. Of course the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member, if they came in, might try—I do not say they would—to upset the whole of our policy; but if they did the consequence would be on their heads. Meanwhile, about our view there is no doubt whatever. We think we have gone as far in that direction as we are justified in doing, and we say to, the Council which we have created that we wish them to express their opinion. I admit we are perfectly ready to give due weight to any other expression of opinion.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not professing that I am going to take the opinion of the Legislative Council as a final opinion in such a matter; but there are other means of attaining to a knowledge of the public opinion of the Transvaal upon the subject. I have attained to that knowledge; and I have told the House that, in my opinion, which I do not think any one will contest at the present time, opinion is hostile. It is because I believe that at the present time the opinion of the Transvaal is hostile to the introduction of Asiatic labour that I 360 make no movement whatever in its favour, and should not assent to it if it were proposed. And so long as the opinion of the Transvaal is hostile the right hon. Gentleman may rest perfectly satisfied that I shall not assent to it; and I shall certainly not be a party to imposing it upon a hostile majority. But the right hon. Gentleman asks me what the future is likely to be. I think it is very likely that the opinion which is now hostile may not always be hostile; and I have received information—I do not know exactly what importance to attach to it at the present moment—that amongst the Boer farmers the pressure for labour has become very acute, that a great change of opinion is taking place, and that provided they could be ensured the same terms as have been obtained by Natal as to the country in which the indentures of the persons imported should terminate, possibly a great majority of the Boer farmers before long might desire, might even ask and petition for, such an arrangement. Very well; all I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman is this. Let him be satisfied now that, as I believe the opinion is hostile, I am not going to give assent to any such proposal. But let him understand that, if opinion should cease to be hostile, then the same reason that leads me to give effect to what I believe to be the opinion of the majority in the Transvaal in one direction will also lead me to give effect to it in the other. If there came to me a demand, which I was quite unable to doubt was the demand of the great majority of the people of the Transvaal, quite irrespective of race, for the employment of Asiatic labour, I certainly should offer no objection. I really think I have practically dealt with the subject so far as it concerns this Bill. As regards Chinese labour, I will only say that is really a premature question. The right hon. Gentleman relies upon the little paragraphs which he sees in the newspapers. I assure him that, unless you have before you the full information, of which this is merely a summary, you are extremely likely to be misled as to the importance and the character of any movement whatever. At present, no suggestion of the kind has been made to me, and, so far as I know, no suggestion about Chinese labour has been brought formally to the notice of the Transvaal Government.It is perfectly certain 361 that, whatever may be the objection to the employment of coolies, the objection to the employment of Chinese would probably be much greater. I hope, and I think I must gather from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that he does not himself, any more than I do, take a pessimistic view of the situation. I think he is inclined to agree with me that there are enormous potentialities in this news colonies, and that we have reason for our belief, and that we have reason for our belief, not only that they will be able to meet their present liabilities, but that a great development will take place and that they will be among the most prosperous countries which are covered by the British Flag.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I really did not quite gather what the position of the Colonial Secretary is in this matter of coolie labour. I under stood him to say discussions have been going on between the Indian Government and himself, that that Government have demanded certain conditions, and that he has, to a certain extent, agreed to those conditions. Under those circumstances I should have supposed that the arrangement was going to be concluded. Lord Milner is apparently doing his best to induce the inhabitants of the Transvaal to agree to those conditions. At the end of his speech the right hon. Gentlemen tells us that ha admits that the opinion of South Africa and the Transvaal is at present hostile to this labour, and so long as that opinion is hostile the Colonial Secretary says he will not permit it. I should like to know how the right hon. Gentleman arrives at the conclusion that opinion is hostile in the Transvaal. He said he should always wish to treat the Transvaal as a self-governing colony, but unfortunately the Transvaal is not a self-governing colony. The Colonial Secretary derives his information mainly from the Legislative Council, but what is that Council? It is practically the opinion of the mineowners, and we know perfectly well that the mineowners are desirous of having some sort of additional contract labour for the mines. They have sent persons into West and East Africa, and they obtained an agreement—I presume with the consent of the Colonial Secretary—that a certain number of persons should be sent from 362 East Africa. That, I understand, has not proved successful because the Eas. Africans did not appreciate the positiont They were taken ill and could not work out their contract. We then had a proposal that they should have labour either from China or India. The first idea was that labour should be obtained from India to work in the mines. I gather from the newspapers that Lord Curzon replied that there was not enough labour in India for the mines, and that he could not do that. Then the idea seems to have sprung up that we should enter into contracts with a certain number of coolies and we should bring them to the Transvaal in order to free the black men and to ensure that they should work in the mines. The Colonial Secretary asks if the black man has not a right to choose whether he shall work in the mines or above ground? Of course he has. If you ask a farm labourer whether he prefers working above ground doing spade work to working underground he will most assuredly say the former. The right hon. Gentleman waxes indignant upon this point and asks—is there not to be free trade in labour as well as in other things? That is precisely what we have demanded again and again. But is it free trade when you tell a coolie that he may come to South Africa, but he will be sent back again when his contract is finished.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the West Indies as an instance of success in regard to coolie labour. We have had to subsidise it there, and we are paying a subsidy at the present moment for introducing coolie labour. But what do the black men day these? They say it is most unfair because these coolies do not go back; they engage in business, and compete with local labour. Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the coolie should be allowed to go individually if he likes to the Transvaal to contract for work above ground or under ground, or to engage in any other occupation? The right hon. Gentleman cited Natal, but the natives complain bitterly of their position in that colony, and say that they are not allowed to hold land, or to engage in this and that trade, and that they are practically to all intents and purposes little better than slaves. I am not going 363 to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, but unless we can get a clearer understanding as to what is to be done in regard to this coolie labour, I think when the Bill goes into Committee it would be very desirable on the part of some Gentlemen on this side of the House to move that we should reduce the Vote by £5,000,000. We should get a clearer understanding then than we have at present that there is to be free trade in labour in the Transvaal. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh! my right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouthshire, whom we are glad to see back, is always sneering at this great industry, because he calls it a Stock Exchange industry." The Colonial Secretary says it is a great industry. But what it depends upon is the Stock Exchange in England. Who are the heads of this great industry? The heads are speculators here. They do not hold their shares when they bring out a mine; they get hold of a mine or a claim and spend a little on it; it is made into a company, and then it is handed over to another company, and so it goes round and round until the capital is about twenty times what it ought to be. Now we are told that we ought to legislate, and agree to a division of labour which will enable these mine promoters to be able to secure a dividend on the immense capital which they have brought out. In the United States, and other parts of the world, but particularly in the United States, there are plenty of mines which are worked because they pay, and there are other mines which are not worked because they will not pay under the conditions insisted on. In America it is enacted that neither Chinese nor even black labour should be allowed in the mines, and I cannot understand why we should make this exception in the case of the Transvaal. The real reason why we do make it is that we have fallen absolutely under the subjection of these mine-owners or promoters. Let there be perfect freedom there in regard to labour. Let us not make railways by coolies in order that the promoters may get the men for a mere pittance. Let them employ black men if they like, but when the right hon. Gentleman says that we are not aiding them to get black men I think he is mistaken.
It has been contended in this House that it is our business to tax 364 black men, so that they may not remain on their little farms but be obliged to go out and work in order to be able to pay the tax. That is one way of aiding the mineowners. I do not say that we ought to destroy the industry for one moment, but why not subject it to the same conditions as it would be subjected to in this country or America? I wonder what would be said if it were proposed to reduce the price of coal and to give better dividends to great coal-owners by allowing them to import coolies or black men into this country. We should not allow it for a moment, Working men have had to pay very largely for the war. Surely they ought to profit by it, if anybody is to profit by it. What do the mineowners say? They say that that would introduce the serpent of trade unionism into the Transvaal, and that wages would go up. I do hope for my part that some missionary of labour will go to the Transvaal and induce the black men themselves to unite in a trade union. With trades unions people have got fair wages. Whether you take the coolie, or Chinese, or forced black labour, it is to all intents and purposes a species of veiled slavery. I wish to say one word about this particular loan of £30,000,000. Here again I do, not think the right hon. Gentleman made it very clear what was the condition of the underwriting. The right hon. Gentleman thought we should be able to issue £10,000,000 which were underwritten in 1904. We may do it or we may not do it. I think in all these underwriting questions—and I speak to many who understand these things—that you have to he exceedingly careful to see that the underwriters do not get an option of underwriting or not underwriting, and that they should not have an opportunity of riding off on some little point if they like. We do not know what is to be the interest on the loan, or at what price it is to be issued, and these things ought to have been gone into before the right hon. Gentleman met gentlemen in the Transvaal and agreed that we should guarantee the £35,000,000 loan, on the understanding that they would underwrite in this vague way £10,000,000 of the other loan.
There is one Question I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman. I remember some years ago in a debate in this House upon loans to Crown colonies, the right 365 hon. Gentleman said that whenever a loan to a Crown colony is issued we practically guarantee it because we are responsible for it, and that if the interest was not paid, and the principal not repaid, we should have to do it. The Transvaal is not a self-governing colony. I suppose it would be called a Crown colony at the present moment. If the Transvaal does not pay, should we be bound to pay the interest on the loan, and also to pay back the principal? According to the doctrine laid down by the Colonial Secretary that would be the case unquestionably. If that is the case, we are practically guaranteeing both these loans, and when the Transvaal becomes a self-governing colony it is very likely they may say, "You have inflicted loans of £65,000,000 upon us; we have not been consulted; you have consulted a simulacrum of representation—this Legislative Council, but we are not bound to it, because our consent was not obtained." For my part I do not complain of the right hon. Gentleman entering into what he considered to be a good bargain, but I think he would have done much better not to have made the bargain as to limiting the amount to be paid by the Transvaal to £30,000,000. He ought to have waited to see how the whole thing turned out in the mines, and considered what they could pay. My impression is that it will be very difficult for them to pay much, and if they could not pay anything, it would have been much better not to give in the form of a loan what we should pay ourselves. If they could pay, we ought to have made an estimate from experience and insisted on their paying it. The right hon. Gentleman cannot answer the Questions I have asked, because he has already spoken, but perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will explain to us a little more about these Transvaal loans.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
In regard to the statement the Colonial Secretary made on the subject of Asiatic labour I think most Members of the House will be satisfied, because it implies that Asiatic labour is not to be introduced unless it is conformable to the sense of the great majority of the people themselves in the Transvaal. It is true that he did not explain, nor do I think he could explain, how the opinion of the 366 majority could be decisively and clearly ascertained. At the same time, there is no doubt that it is the true test, and I hope the Colonial Secretary will continue not to admit this labour unless and until it does commend itself to the opinion of the people of the country. But, after all, this Bill does not deal with that subject. It is a Bill dealing with a large sum of money—£35,000,000—to which, in addition to our existing burdens, we are asked to give our assent, thereby increasing the liabilities of this country to that extent for one of the British colonies. That is a very large affair, but it is not the only part of the bargain. There is in addition to that a condition that a sum of £30,000,000 also should be lent to the Transvaal and guaranteed by this country. I should like very much if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would tell us explicitly whether or not this country is to he liable, not by direct guarantee, but substantially liable, for the £30,000,000. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why I ask. There is not the least doubt that when a Crown colony incurs a debt, there is an opinion in many quarters that the Treasury is bound to see that that debt is paid. Well, if that is so, it would be far better and far cheaper for this colony itself for the fact to be explicitly stated. If, on the other hand, it is clear that we are to be held in any case liable for it, it would be equally desirable that it should be explicitly stated, because it would have a great effect on the amount of the interest at which this loan should be raised. Reference has been made to the fact that the first instalment of £10,000,000 is to be underwritten. It has not been stated, I think, that those who promised to underwrite the £10,000,000 would not do so unless the interest was 4 per cent., the consequence of which is that they may be making an extremely good thing by lending at 4 per cent., for besides the liability of the Transvaal they also have behind them the liability of this country. It is a matter on which there ought to be no doubt left, and in every sense it should ho made clear. Provision is also to be made for £2,600,000 a year for repayment and the interest of these loans combined. But that leaves nothing at all for the sinking fund for the £30,000,000 loan, and certainly that is not a business-like way of issuing any loan of this kind. 367 Apart from that, if the £30,000,000 is added to the £35,000,000 there will be a debt of £65,000,000 on the country. I wonder if the House appreciates what an enormous burden that is. The white population numbers 400,000, and a debt of £65,000,000 amounts to upwards of £160 per head of the population, man, woman, and child. In the case of this country, which is generally supposed to be an affluent country beyond all others, our national debt amounts to £18 per head of the population, as against £160 in the Transvaal. Moreover, the people of that country are taxed to a degree of which we have no experience. Already their indirect taxation amounts to £10 per head, and our indirect taxation amounts to £2 per head of the population. But beyond all that, the cost of living has been stated by the Colonial Secretary in the last debate to be excessive to a degree of which we have no experience. An artisan, with wife and three children, cannot live in the Transvaal for less than £24 a month. He gets £30 a month wages, and all he can save beyond the necessaries of life is £6 a month. And the right hon. Gentleman said what is perfectly true, that there is no population in the world which is so heavily taxed, and that the present taxation interferes most materially with the well-being and the comfort of the people. I must say that that is a condition of things which makes one apt to criticise any fresh taxation to be imposed in that country. And it should be remembered that one source of revenue has been closed, because it was part of the bargain under which the underwriting of the loan was under taken, that no fresh taxation should be imposed on the gold mines.
I remember what we were told during the war: that the gold mines were a source of inexhaustible wealth, that they were going to pay the whole cost of the war as well as the ordinary taxation of the country. But now they have secured an exemption in advance that there is to be no further taxation upon them beyond the gold tax, which is to amount to £600,000. Where, then, is the money to come from to pay the interest upon £65,000,000 of loans, in addition to the current expenses of the country? Apart from the sinking 368 fund of the £30,000,000 loan, the annual service of the debt of the £35,000,000 loan will be £2,600,000. Where is the money to come from to pay it? The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary came into the House and delivered artistic and eloquent speeches, glowing with generalities and general anticipation; but if you examine his figures you find that unless there is a very large rise in the revenue, he himself and Lord Milner estimate that there will be a deficit three years hence: that unless there is a great in crease in the product of the railways and of the general revenue the funds of the Transvaal will not be sufficient to pay the interest on the loans. The right hon. Gentleman anticipates that in three years time the railways will produce £2,500,000; but only a few weeks before Lord Milner estimated them to produce £2,000,000, not at their present earnings but at the anticipated earnings three years hence. That is a strange way to estimate for the future.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I think that the right hon. Gentleman said that the estimate of £2,500,000 was based upon the income anticipated three years hence. That is not so.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
I am bound to bow to the financial authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer: but I have gone over the Blue-books very carefully and I do not understand that the £2,500,000 is to be derived from the railways on present earnings. We do not possess the railways now. I am speaking of what is to be found three years hence in order to meet the services of the debt. I say that the estimate of the right hon. the Colonial Secretary when he last spoke on this subject was £2,000,000. He also assumed that the general revenue apart 369 from railways will be swollen by £600,000 beyond what it is at the present time. These are estimates speculative in the highest degree, and unless these anticipations are realised there will be a deficit. My hon. friend the Member for, I think, Nottingham, stated in the last debate that these railways in the time of President Kruger brought in about £300,000 or £400,000 a year; and he said he could not understand how that £300,000 or £400,000 could be swollen to £2,500,000 in so short a time. He also added that the reason why there had been an abnormal increase in the railways earnings was that after the war an enormous quantity of material had to be brought up to replenish the country devastated by the war. And that is the speculative nature of the increase in railway earnings on which we are asked to vote this guarantee! The Colonial Secretary said that it was astounding what the results would be in the future. Every one of these things were to happen in the future, not in the present. They are all estimates of what will happen some time hence, and though I most heartily trust that these hopes will be realised, it is a very strong order to ask the House of Commons to endorse a Bill for a loan of £35,000,000 by discounting the future.
Let me examine for what the sum of £35,000,000 is required. It may be divided into two portions. £12,500,000 represents the money that is to be repaid to this country for compensation due to Natal, for repatriation, for compensation for property destroyed, for the cost of the conversion of the debt. All these are legitimate and useful purposes; and I quite agree that that money ought to be found. But let me point out that of the £35,000,000, a sum of £22,500,000 consists of mere development of the country—money which the people of this country are asked to subscribe for the purpose of the development of the Transvaal. That may be right or it may be wrong; but why should we be asked to subscribe £13,000,000 to buy the railways, £5,000,000 to build new railways, £2,500,000 for land settlement, and £2,000,000 for roads and irrigation? Is it necessary to find that money at once? 370 As regards the existing railways we have never had any explanation offered to us. The railways are there; they must continue to run. What is the necessity during the next two or three years for spending £13,000,000 for the purpose of buying these existing railways because £1,000,000 had been spent already for plant. There may be a very good reason, but it has not yet been given in the debate. It is rather a strong thing, unless there is a necessity behind it, to ask this country to guarantee the money merely for the purpose of buying the railways in one of our colonies. Then £5,000,000 are to be spent on new railways. I understand that, according to the Blue-book, it is estimated that the new railways will make 8 per cent. That is part of the calculation on which we are asked to advance the money; but no particulars are given. If that is anywhere near the truth, why should not contractors, in the ordinary way, should not contractors, in the ordinary way, build these railways as in other colonies instead of finding a guarantee from the British taxpayers? Then, again, there is land settlement and irrigation, from which a total sum of £4,500,000 is asked. In regard to land settlement we have already spent £1,000,000 at the cost of upwards of £1,200 for each one settled. How far is that to go? In the Orange River Colony there are 360 settled at a cost of £1,200 each. If hon. Members will count that up they will find that land settlement is going to be a very expensive luxury. The original estimate was £1,000, and now it is £1,200. I know it is said that behind the minds of many men there is the idea, in that way, to infuse British blood into the Transvaal. But £100,000 is to be spent in settling eighty men and £1,000,000 for 800 men, that is the scale. Before anything of that kind is entertained I hope that hon. Members will reckon the cost and consider whether they cannot spend their money in other preferential methods by which to secure the settlement of the country.
The right hon. the Colonial Secretary told us to-day that the money now asked for, which amounts to £9,500,000 for new railways, irrigation and other public works is only a very small part of the sum that will be ultimately required. The amount now asked for is a very small part of what will be required. 371 The Colonial Secretary told us, in the most explicit language to-day, that we are only at the beginning of this expenditure. We are now asked to guarantee £35,000,000, of which £22,500,000 is for development. That is only the beginning, and a small beginning. The right hon. Gentleman was at pains to point out that it was only a small beginning. It is said by him, and also in the Blue-book by those who know, that it is contemplated that this development of the country is to be at the expense of the State, and is not to be done by private enterprise. With £65,000,000 of debt upon them, does anyone believe that the 400,000 population of the Transvaal will be able to raise any more money on their own responsibility. It will mean a further guarantee from us; and a further outlay of an incalculable kind for purposes as vague as they are enormous. For my part, I enter my most emphatic protest against it. Let us see what the general plan of development, even at this small beginning, amounts to. The general plan includes irrigation. A special report on irrigation was published about eighteen months ago, and the then estimate for irrigation alone was £30,000,000. It was a very general report, I grant, but I read it with very considerable interest, and there was a very strong indication at the end of it that the estimate mentioned would not be sufficient. I wonder if any such estimate ever does prove sufficient. So much for irrigation. Then there is buying land and settling it, so as to have an infusion of British into the rural districts. I have already stated the cost of that. There is also the restocking of the farms. It is stated that the native stock is almost entirely exterminated. Not only that, but a series of experiments will be required before we can find out what is the most useful stock to import; and at some future day we may have to again restock the country. Then there is afforestation, as well as railways, roads, bridges, water supply, and public buildings. For all these enormous sums will be required, according to the Colonial Secretary's information, far exceeding anything in this modest Bill for £35,000,000. We are now only being asked for money which may be spent within the next three or four 372 years. We are told that the money is to come from the State; and we know that if the first £35,000,000 has to be guaranteed, the second £35,000,000 will require still more to be guaranteed; and the third still more than that. I say it is a vast, incalculable speculation.
I do not know whether I am single in my opinion—perhaps I am—but if any hon. Gentleman divides against this Bill I shall have the greatest possible pleasure in supporting him. I believe this to be a most unwise course. I believe the proper course would be to wait for two or three years, so far as the development part of the Bill is concerned. I am not speaking of the £12,500,000 which relates to the repayment of existing loans, and so forth. I sincerely hope there will be more of a representative element in the administration of the Transvaal. I believe both sides of the House are agreed as to that, and look forward to it, as I think they are agreed that, at this moment, it would be impracticable to introduce a self-governing system. I say it would be far better to postpone these things, because in a few years we would not have a far distant Government paying money for outlay on the spot where they are likely to be plundered, pillaged. and deceived according to the usual course of nature. I believe it is absolutely unprecedented for this country to guarantee a loan of £35,000,000 to one of the colonies. I do not say that both the British and the Boers are not entitled to our fullest sympathy. I believe they are, because their country has been devastated by a war which I believe was absolutely unnecessary; and for that reason they are entitled to our sympathy. I go farther. So far as meeting the present necessities of the case is concerned, no man would more readily vote money than I; and that applies also with regard to the obligations imposed upon us. But I consider that this Bill, which is merely a small beginning of a huge vast plan for the development of the country, through guarantees given by this country, is a most unwise course. It would have been better to have waited for a few years until a more self-governing, perhaps a wholly self-governing, colony could have undertaken it themselves. That would save this country 373 being unjustly subjected to a burden which they should not he asked to bear.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Certainly to a financier, even to a humble student of finance like myself, this proposal does not, at first sight, commend itself as a financial operation. The right hon. Gentleman opposite mentioned that we are going to buy the railways. That is part of our security. By the loan we are going to raise, we are going to purchase securities for it. But my objection to the Bill goes much farther than that. It seems to be almost inconceivable, and certainly it would not have been contemplated two or three years ago by anyone, that after spending £160,000,000 in conquering the Transvaal, instead of entering at once into the fruits of our victory, the first thing we have to do is to guarantee a loan of £35,000,000, and practically to undertake to guarantee another loan of £30,000,000 for the development of the country. The idea of endowing a colony with large sums for its development is entirely a new one. The Australian colonies were endowed with nothing but convicts; and the pilgrims who first colonised the United States never got a halfpenny from the mother country. Now it appears we are entering upon an entirely new method of dealing with the colonies. The Colonial Secretary rather appalled me when he introduced the Resolution on which this Bill is based. Let me remind the House that the £30,000,000 loan is part and parcel of this proposal. In introducing the Resolution the Colonial Secretary said—The support of the Committee for the loan now under consideration is conditional on the contribution of £30,000,000 to which I have referred.The Colonial Secretary also said—What are the advantages of this arrangement. In the first place, it is a final arrangement. After three years we shall hear no more on the subject. The bill will have been paid, and the claim met; we shall no longer have any grounds for intervention, and all interference with the internal finances of the Transvaal will be avoided.The language of the right hon. Gentleman is very different to-day. He now says we shall have to interfere from time to time by furnishing further sums. That is a prospect that I cannot look upon with any satisfaction. The right hon. 374 Gentleman looks upon it with great satisfaction; he says he congratulates the country upon it. I trust his grounds for congratulation may be made more apparent than they are to me at present. As to this £30,000,000, upon which the £35,000,000 is conditional, £10,000,000 of that has been guaranteed by the mine-owners. They have underwritten the forthcoming loan of £30,000,000 to the extent of one-third, but that is a conditional underwriting. The guarantee, or the underwriting, of this £10,000,000 is purely conditional, and now the right hon. Gentleman says that the terms of the agreement for this underwriting are not yet settled. That seems to suggest that the underwriters may have repented their bargain, or conceivably that the Treasury have repented of their bargain to let the mineowners have this £10,000,000. If it be true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary says, that the £30,000,000 and the £35,000,000 are inextricably bound up together, then we ought to have some further information as to what chance, if any, there is that the agreement for the underwriting of this £10,000,000, which is to be the first instalment of the £30,000,000, will ever be completed. That £10,000,000 may be the only £10,000,000 of the £30,000,000 that we shall ever get, and it is extremely important that we should know what condition the agreement is in with regard to that.
Now one other point. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, when he introduced the Resolution upon which this Bill is founded, most ingeniously separated the income of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colonies into two portions. There was, he said, the common fund and the other revenue, and by taking one part of the common fund and adding it to the other revenue and one part of the other revenue and adding it to the common fund the right hon. Gentleman succeeded ill making the whole disappear like cards in the hands of a brilliant prestidigitator, leaving nothing behind but rosy prospects. I do not think that is the way to deal with this matter. I think you should take the whole revenue. What is the whole revenue? There is the common fund, £2,500,000. That is derived from the profits arising from the railways, that is to say, the profits derived from the 375 £14,000,000 plus the £5,000,000 raised by this Bill that we are asked to provide for the purchase of the railways. This, then, is the contribution of the common fund. So that outside the £,35,000,000, we are to pay £19,000,000 for the security for the £35,000,000. Returning o the revenue of the Transvaal, there is the common fund supposed to give £2,500,000, there is the Transvaal revenue proper of £4,500,000, that makes £7,000,000, and then there is the revenue of the Orange River Colony, £500,000, which brings the total revenue up to £7,500,000. But the Orange River Colony is not charged with any part of this loan; the orange River Colony has made a separate arrangement; what the right hon. Gentleman called a hypothetical contribution of £5,000,000. So that what we have to deal with, therefore, is the £7,500,000 derived from the Transvaal part of which this railway is to provide You are to provide for £65,000,000 of new debt out of a revenue of £7,000,000. It is about the same as if you were to impose a new charge upon this country of £50,000,000 a year. In spite of all the rosy anticipations I believe it is almost a sinking weight to put on the revenues of these colonies.
There is one other most important point to which I must refer. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary has told us that he has no doubt whatever that the Transvaal Legislature will do all that is necessary for carrying out the business portion of the £35,000,000 loan and will see to all that is necessary for the £30,000,000 loan. Yes, but at present it is a Crown colony. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do when it comes to take its place as a self-governing colony. Does he propose to saddle the Government of the Transvaal with this £65,000,000. If so, I am not sure that the position will be so good as it appears now. If you are going to give self-government to these colonies you must give them a right to say whether they will or will not assume this liability. It seems to me we are launching this loan and assuming this liability without proper guarantees. At present, you are dealing with a Legislature of your own nominees, who may agree at once to anything you propose, but it may happen 376 that when the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony become self-governing colonies and have a large number of Boers in the Government that they may repudiate this liability altogether. It seems to me that you have not looked forward to what may happen under those circumstances. We are told that this enormous liability which the House is now asked to assume is only a portion of the liability which South Africa will have to beat; we know it is the heaviest-burden that could be placed upon a country. It seems an interminable vista of debt, debt, debt, entered into without proper examination, to lay at the feet of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the next few years, and I very much regret the prospect. Of course we must leave a certain amount of responsibility to the Government. We must believe that the Government have some ground for the brilliant anticipations they have formed of the future of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, but nothing I have read in the Blue-books or listened to in the speeches made in this House seems to me to afford adequate justification for the burdens we are going to place on these colonies.
§ MR.LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
Those responsible for the government of South Africa seem to be afflicted with an incurable optimism, and to be always prophesying a boon that does not come, and this loan, I am afraid, is very much on that basis. It must be remembered that the revenues from the Transvaal and the railway receipts will not be larger for some years than they were during last year. The war stopped all business, and nothing was allowed to pass over the railway but military stores, and directly the war stopped all the goods which had accumulated passed over the railway. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not been optimistic about the interest of the loan, and when he gets up I hope he will explain why it is that a loan guaranteed by the Imperial Government on the revenues of the Transvaal has been issued at 4 per cent., including the sinking fund, when he was able to promise the issue of about £112,000,000 or £120,000,000 on Irish land at only 3£¼ per cent. In regard to land settlement in South Africa, I would urge the 377 Government not to be in too desperate a hurry in spending money for the purpose. So far as I can judge, according to the report presented to the Legislative Council a few days ago, the capital expended on land settlement up to June last amounted to £718,955, in addition to expenses of administration, while the number of the settlers is only 313. It seems to me the cardinal fact in regard to agriculture in these colonies that has been forgotten is that the healthy plateaux in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony are 4,500 to 5,500 feet above the sea level, which will show to anyone acquainted with the subject that the extremes of climate are very great and must prove exceedingly hazardous to agricultural pursuits. In addition to this there is a drought prevalent at certain times of the year. I was informed by the manager of Mr. Rhodes' estate just outside Bulawayo that you may have a green crop growing, almost fit for harvest, and a hailstorm may come and render it worthless. In fact, this gentleman told me that he had had a crop of oats, of which he had reaped one-half, and the other half was devastated by a hailstorm before he was able to harvest it.
We have been told, by no one more eloquently than by the Colonial Secretary, that there is no reason why, with irrigation, the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal should not become as fertile as Egypt. I demur entirely to that statement. Egypt is practically on the sea level, and has none of these other adverse conditions to contend with. Moreover, in Egypt you have the Nile coming down in a fertilising flood, manuring the soil as it comes, whereas in these colonies whatever water you do collect will be clear or clarified water, by irrigation which will tend rapidly to exhaust the soil, and yon will at once have to bring in manure, thereby increasing the cost of cultivation. That is one reason why U think people should not be led away by the example of Egypt. I have been told, also on most excellent authority, that in the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, and also Rhodesia, you may have an excellent crop growing and the locusts will come and sweep the ground as bare as any road. My informant said that that had been his experience three years in succession. 378 That is not a very encouraging prospect with which to tempt agricultural settlers. As regards cattle, I come upon the surer foundation of the documents of the Government themselves. In the Bluebook issued by the Government there is a despatch to Lord Milner by Mr. F. D. Smith, the agricultural adviser to the Transvaal Government, in winch he says that the importation of cattle up till now has been a chronicle of disaster. Everybody who knows anything about cattle recognises that it would take cattle a considerable time to become acclimatised. Mr. F. D. Smith also states that the native stock is practically decimated, that many cattle diseases are endemic, and that there exist a large number of poisonous plants which are extremely dangerous to cattle. According to this gentleman, the country is infected with almost every form of contagious disease known to modern science—glanders, mange, rinderpest, pleuro-pneumonia, redwater, and scab. I contend that with all these disadvantages in the face of settlers, unless you are extremely careful in expending your money, the whole of your experiment will end in failure. We are told that these contagious diseases are to be curbed and curtailed by supervising the outbreaks, investigating the diseases, fencing the country, and so forth, but in view of the enormous distances to be traversed in these colonies, we know from our experience in England that it will be extremely difficult to eradicate the diseases. The Boers have been charged with being such backward farmers—so unprogressive and unproductive. But they have adapted themselves to the peculiar needs of the soil and climate of the Transvaal. Many Scotch and English emigrants went to the Transvaal before the war, and they had fallen into the same methods.
The Colonial Secretary said the land in these colonies had doubled in value. Why? First, there was the expectation of the boom that British occupation would bring. That boom lamentably failed. Then there is the significant circumstances that the Government themselves had been purchasing large tracts of land for agricultural settlement. The Boer may be as simple as is sometimes made out, but he knows the value of the land, and if the Government are in the market he will 379 sell the land to them at a price. There is said to be a gigantic market for agricultural produce. That is an entire delusion. Before the war, Johannesburg consisted of 90,000 people. That is not a large market for so enormous an expanse of territory, and I have been told that if a large quantity of produce is brought in, the price immediately goes down because there is no demand. In my opinion the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony can never expect to compete with countries possessing the natural resources of Argentina and other parts of America. If there were an elected Legislature in the Transvaal to saddle themselves with this loan of land settlement, I would say by all means let them carry it out, but what are we going to do if the experiment is a failure, as I am afraid it will be? Are we to saddle the Boers with this large debt for an experiment which they distrust? It must not be forgotten that the Boer does not altogether believe in a lot of British being "dumped" down in order to take Boer land. I am afraid the scheme will exasperate a great many of the people. Personally I should not object to it if the people of the Transvaal approved of it, but as, they do not, I fear that any loss which might accrue will have to be borne by the British people. In my opinion the mining industry is the sole industry. Any attempt to plant agricultural settlers will end in failure, and the experiment will be at once costly and disastrous.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I wish to direct the attention of the House to the financial questions involved in this Bill. May I say that we have been engaged in a debate which is altogether unreal? We talk about the control of this House over expenditure. What are we supposed to be here doing? Our assent is being asked to the issue of a loan which we are guaranteeing. But that loan was constituted nearly three months ago. More than ten weeks have elapsed since the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued his prospectus to expectant crowds in the City; the loan was oversubscribed the allotment has been made, the transaction cannot be undone; and yet to-day we are being asked to give it our sanction. If we are to have many 380 more Bills of this kind—and nobody knows how many we shall have to pass—we must have a change in the practice of the House with regard to the Resolutions from the Chair. The only occasion when there can be real and effective debate is when the Resolution is submitted in Committee. But when the Resolution is read, we do not know the terms of it, and we cannot tell what is in it. We must insist on having the terms of the Resolution some days beforehand, so that we can have a real discussion when the real decision is taken—viz., when the Resolution is submitted in Committee. This debate is unreal in another respect also. An entirely wrong account has been given of the nature of this transaction. We are going to guarantee this development loan of £35,000,000. In return for that, the Transvaal is to raise a loan of £30,000,000 as a contribution to our war debt. It is said by Lord Milner that the spending of this development money is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of getting the other. The one is the consideration for the other; the one depends upon the other. That is the description of the transaction which has been given from the beginning. This very day the Colonial Secretary spoke of the £30,000,000 as a gift from the Transvaal. Generally it has been spoken of as the contribution which the Transvaal is to make in return for the contribution we are making to day. I propose to show that that is a wrong and delusive description of what we are doing.
First, let me say a word about the result. Putting it at its best, we are going to start these new colonies on their career with a debt of £65,000,000. After the unparalleled sacrifices we have made in connection with the war, we are going to acid £35,000,000 to the contingent liabilities of this country, which, through the operations of the Government in every part of the Empire, are multiplying every day. Beyond that, we are threatened with—or promised—a further loan on the same terms and guaranteed in the same manner. What is the true nature of this transaction? Is there a contract at all? Can you honestly say there is a contract between this country and anybody else? 381 If there is a contract who is the other party to it? What is the Transvaal? The Transvaal is a country governed by a Government consisting of a Lieutenant-Governor, an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. All of them holding office absolutely at the will of the Colonial Secretary for the time being. It is absurd to set up a kind of quasi independence, because Lord Milner is not equal in power to the Colonial Secretary, and both Lord Milner and his Government are the mere instrument, of the right hon. Gentleman. To say we are giving this guarantee in return for something from the Transvaal is both an illusive and delusive description of what we are doing. If it is true that the Transvaal is not independent, then the right hon. Gentleman was using vague words when he said he was going to treat it as a self-governing colony. If what we are doing in regard to this Bill is being done by ourselves, then there will follow two consequences. The first is that this country is just as much liable for the £30,000,000 loan, which it does not guarantee, as it is for the £35,000,000 loan which it pretends to guarantee. It has been said that Crown colonies may borrow upon the strength of their own security, but that contention has been impugned by my hon. and learned friend, and I hope some answer will be given to it. By this Act you are raising a loan to be spent upon local purposes in that colony. Can anybody contend that this country could hold up its head amongst the nations if we had to resort in default to the belief that this loan was the act of the Transvaal? The conclusion which I ask the right hon. Gentleman either to accept or refuse is that we are making ourselves responsible not for one loan but for two loans, arid that our liability for the £35,000,000 is even greater, though not technically so strong, because the £35,000,000 is for local purposes. The second consequence is equally serious. In what light will the Transvaal Legislature of the future regard these transactions? The Transvaal is a colony at this moment, but it is unlike any other because it is one which has the right to self-government at the earliest possible moment. It is not going too 382 far to say that the title of the Crown in the Transvaal depends upon the terms of surrender made by an international instrument, creating international obligations, and that the inhabitants are entitled to say when the time comes to grant it that self-government is due to them. How will they look upon such a loan as this £30,000,000? The Colonial Secretary argued that no colony which repudiated a loan of this sort could be expected to be regarded with anything but suspicion in the markets of the world. That is all very well if tile colony had been responsible for the loan. If Australia were to repudiate a loan made by itself that remark would be relevant and pertinent, but it is a mistake to treat the Transvaal Colony as if it were an independent outside authority acting independently. We have had a warning upon this point already. The other day there appeared in the papers a letter from General Botha, and he is not likely to speak in inflamed language either of his own country or of us. In his letter General Botha said that—The main point to bear in mind was that an unprecedented war debt was placed upon the Transvaal against the expressed wishes of the burgher representatives and without the consultation or concurrence of a single section of the population of the country; and in the face of this Mr. Chamberlain recently declared at Birmingham that the representatives of every class in the Transvaal took upon themselves this burden of a war debt.Here you have a leader of the people declaring in these strong words that no single section of the population had assented to the institution of this loan. That is a fair warning that when the right of self-government is given to the Transvaal there will be, at all events, one powerful body of the population, represented by their leader, who will take the objection I am now taking: that whatever may be the moral obligation of the Transvaalers to pay this loan, it cannot be based upon the fact that they have assented to its introduction now.
There is just one other financial point to which I think allusion has not been made. We have had a great deal said about the estimated surplus that is likely to be the result of the next few years government of the Transvaal. My hon. and learned friend has discussed the revenues expected 383 from the railways, and the estimate, as far as I can see is for the current year. Whatever estimate is made of the railway earnings is made on the strength of the experience of the first year after the war, when unusual conditions prevailed, conditions so unusual that no safe inference can be drawn from diem as to the future. As to the surplus, it seems to me impossible to take in a rational way any account of surpluses in the Transvaal so long as it is a Crown colony dependent upon an army of occupation. This surplus is dependent for a long time on the presence in South Africa of a large portion of the English Army, and I think the cost of that Army is relevant to this point. The Secretary of State for War told me the other day that it was costing £110,000 a week at the present moment, and he added that that was about £45,000 more than if the same number of troops were kept at home. Since then new preposals have been suggested, and I will take tine right hon. Gentleman's own figures. If you take the higher figure and charge South Africa, and the Transvaal in particular, with the cost of the maintenance of the present force, then you have an expenditure of £6,000,000 a year. How much of that is chargeable to the Transvaal is not for me to say, but the Transvaal being still a Crown colony it seems monstrous and absurd to talk of a surplus, because it leaves out of account the fact that it costs us perhaps £3,000,000, £4,000,000, or £5,000,000 to hold it. So long as the presence of our forces in South Africa is necessary to hold the Transvaal it appears to me to be only fair to count the cost of the military occupation, and we should not begin counting upon a surplus until we have allowed for this expenditure upon the military. That appears to me to be a fair point to make on the financial part of this question. The country is entitled to charge that to the other account and refuse to accept as real surpluses what is mentioned in the despatches of Lord Milner, arid in speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman. I have said that this is an unreal debate because this transaction has taken place already and is an accomplished fact. This debate, however, may serve a useful purpose if it makes it clear to the country and to the House what is the real nature of the 384 transaction with which we are dealing. The right hon. Gentleman may say that he has made a good bargain for the country, but I deny that he has made any bargain at all.
§ M. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)
The Colonial Secretary, with regard to the purchase of the railways, has told us that the arrangements are not yet complete and that the sum of £30,000,000 mentioned in the Bill is only an estimate. We should like to know whether progress has been made with this transaction, and whether we have to consider ourselves bound by this estimate of £13,000,000 for the purchase of the railways. There is a further item I wish to mention which the Colonial Secretary in the month of May last left uncertain in the Papers he circulated—I allude to the claims which the military have against the Transvaal for certain repairs and other matters connected with the railways. He told us that it would amount to £300,000 or £1,000,000. I think we ought to be told what the sum is to be under the arrangement that has been arrived at. My right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouthshire asked a number of questions about the finances of the current year and last year on which the Colonial Secretary did not give a complete reply in the first week of May last. The Colonial Secretary said then that he estimated the railway revenue for the year ending the 30th of June at £2,500,000, and the general revenue at £4,500,000. Since that time the financial year in the Transvaal has come to an end, and I think we have a right to ascertain from the Government what the actual figures were. We ought also to ascertain from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the actual expenditure of the Transvaal during the year just ended. In order that we may be enabled to judge of the financial prospects of the future I think we ought to get the Budget of the current year as to the estimated revenue of the Transvaal from railways and from general sources. Surely we should also have an estimate of the expenditure for the current year. The revenue for the year just ended is probably an exceptional revenue owing to the amount of material going into 385 the country at the conclusion of the war.
THE MASTER OF ELIBANK (Edinburgh, Midlothian)
Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether we have acquired the property of the Netherlands railway to Delagoa Bay? We were told that it was of considerable value and that it would be of advantage to acquire it.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. RITCHIE, Croydon)
The hon. Gentleman opposite has asked me about the Netherlands railway. I can only say that the negotiations are not actually concluded yet. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Perthshire, so far as the revenue to the 30th of June last is concerned the railway revenue was estimated at £2,500,000, and the result comes out at £2,524,000. The general revenue was estimated at£4,700,000, and it has come out at £4,682,000. So far as the estimates for the next year are concerned I may say that we think that the estimates will be substantially the same and that the results will certainly approach the estimates we have formed.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
As to the estimated expenditure I am unable to tell the hon. Gentleman what that will be, but I should not be surprised if it is slightly higher.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us as to the £13,000,000 for the purchase of railways?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
As to that I cannot exactly say. The negotiations are drawing to a close and I am unable to give the hon. Gentleman any information except to say that I shall be very much surprised if the estimates we have formed are not sufficient for the purpose. The hon. Gentleman knows that the matter is one of some difficulty. The stocks and shares are held in a great many hands in many different quarters, and we can hardly yet form an exact estimate of what the amount will be. The 386 right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire asked some questions with regard to the £30,000,000 loan, and I think he expressed surprise that we had not entered so fully into particulars of that loan as the £35,000,000 loan. He wanted to know why we have not dealt at length with the mode in which the loan was to be launched and to be given full particulars with regard to it. He asked why there was n o legislative sanction for the issue of that loan. The reason is simple. No legislative sanction is necessary in this country. A local ordinance is necessary and an ordinance has been prepared, and the Colonial Office is now in correspondence with the Treasury in regard to it. It will, I think, be finally settled in the next few days. The rate of interest, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, which was mentioned in the guarantee given for the first £10,000,000 was 4 per cent, but we do not pledge ourselves in the meantime as to what the interest will be when we issue it. It is quite true that so far as the guaranteed the first £10,000,000 at 4 per cent., but the rate of interest is quite open to negotiation. Of course, if we vary the rate of interest, that is, if we make it less, we shall have to enter into negotiations, as indeed we are now entering into negotiations, with those who guaranteed the loan at 4 per cent. It will depend upon the circumstances when we come to consider the state of the money market.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to ask—Is the ordinance only to cover the £10,000,000 or is it to cover the whole sum?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
The ordinance is not yet finally settled. The right hon. Gentleman will hardly expect me to inform the House now what the rate of interest will be—whether it will be 3½ or 4 per cent. It is really a matter which is not material to the issue we are now 387 discussing. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the mention made of the loan in this Bill and criticised our action in alluding to it and not going into it fully. The reason why we mention the matter in the Bill is because we consider it necessary to inform the House in the Bill how we propose to appropriate the money when we get it, and the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the position we take up in that matter, namely, that when the £30,000,000 is obtained it will be used for the extinction of debt. It so happens that the amount of short securities created for war purposes is, I think, something like £37,000,000, and the amount of repayment for war purposes from the Transvaal is £30,000,000, which, with the other money which we are to receive from the guaranteed loan, will be almost exactly equal to the amount of short securities, and will be appropriated in the first instance for the payment of that debt. I have been asked by one or two Members who have spoken as to whether or not the Government undertake any liability in regard to the repayment of principal or interest of this £30,000,000 loan.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
It cannot be laid on the Table before Parliament is prorogued. It has to be prepared here and sent to the Transvaal. It cannot be laid on the Table here before it receives the sanction of the Transvaal. The right hon. Gentleman will see that it would be impossible to lay that ordinance on the Table now. With regard to the liability of the Government the loan will be issued under the Colonial Stock Act of 1877, and I think the questions that have been asked on that subject are best answered by reading a portion of one of the sections of that Act.Every prospectus and notice inviting persons to subscribe for or take the stock, and every stock certificate to bearer, and every coupon and dividend warrant, and every other certificate awl document issued to a stockholder in relation to stock held by him, shall state that the revenues of the colony alone are liable in respect of the stock and the dividends thereon, and that the Consolidated Fund of the 388 United Kingdom and the Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury are not directly or indirectly liable or responsible for the payment of the stock or of the dividends thereon, or for any matter relating thereto.It is therefore quite clear that neither directly nor indirectly does the Imperial Government become responsible for the debt.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to ask this question? Does the right hon. Gentleman not hold to the doctrine that we, generally, are responsible for all loans to Crown colonies?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I have read to the House the terms on which all colonial loans are made, and it is perfectly clear that neither directly nor indirectly are we liable for principal or interest. But, Sir, while I am unable to answer the questions put by the hon. Gentleman I do not dispute the fact that there is a considerable moral obligation upon the Imperial Government with regard to the stock of any self-governing colony, but it is perfectly evident that there is no legal liability on this country in regard to the loan.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer excuse me, as tins is a very important point. If there is a moral obligation of any kind I cannot imagine a stronger one than this—when we get the money and use it, is it not a much wiser thing to accept the moral obligation and put it into legal form? For this reason, that you would get the money for 3 or 2¾ per cent. instead of four. I can understand that the moral obligation would suit the underwriters exceedingly well, but will it suit the British taxpayer?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
What is it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman desires us to do? To take upon own shoulders the debts of all the Crown colonies? How could you take upon yourself such a responsibility as that with regard to this loan, and not also do the same with regard to all the other colonies?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
But is not the money justly due to us? This is an obligation which the colonies have willingly undertaken because they believe they ought. This is no attempt at a forced contribution from the colonies; they have undertaken it voluntarily. It would be quite unwarranted, and certainly quite unprecedented, to take upon ourselves any such obligation as the hon. Gentleman desires. We take our stand upon the Act—[An HON. MEMBER: Like Shylock.]—of Parliament which regulates the issue of all colonial stocks for Crown colonies, and say that for us to have made any difference in this case would have been entirely wrong. We are not under any obligation whatever to depart from the usual practice. My hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn spoke with some suspicion about the negotiations with the guarantors of the £10,000,000, and asked if that implied any hitch. It was quite natural that we should enter into these negotiations with the guarantors, but there is not the slightest hitch of any kind whatever. The negotiations are being conducted in a perfectly friendly manner. My hon. friend seemed also to think that the colonies might repudiate their obligations under this loan when they became self-governing colonies. The hon. and learned Member for Dundee spoke very much in the same sense. It is rather remarkable how some hon. Gentlemen desire to lay stress on what they believe is the possibility of repudiation when the colonies become self-governing. I do not think myself that that is quite the right way of approaching this subject. I think it would be very much more in the interests of the colonies themselves if hon. Gentlemen would assume that the colonies intend to keep their promise rather than make suggestions to them, all of which seemed to imply that they would repudiate the bargains which they had made.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
My suggestion was based on Sub-section 4 of the Loan Act, which says that any Act which impairs the validity of the security 390 shall be void. That suggested to my mind the possibility of the repudiation.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I believe that is the common form used, and a very right and proper form; but the suggestion I am now referring to was rather more noticeable in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dundee than in that of my hon. friend.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I drew a distinction between what a self-governing colony might do as to a loan contracted by itself in the past, and what it might do in the future as regards a loan contracted for it when it was not a self-governing colony.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
When these colonies are made self-governing, one of the conditions will be that they take over the liabilities incurred; and if they do that—which is one of the essential conditions of giving them self-government—the hon. Gentleman asks the House to assume that it is quite possible that they will repudiate the debt incurred and taken over. I do not believe they will do anything of the kind. On the contrary, I believe the assistance we are giving to the colonies by guaranteeing this undoubtedly large loan will be so productive of good to them that, so far from any attempt to repudiate any debt contracted in consequence, they will be the first to acknowledge that we have placed them under the greatest obligations in doing what we have done with a view to their future development. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries asks—
"Why are we to do all this? Why cannot we let the colonies hugger-mugger on without any assistance of this kind? Why do we want to buy railways?"
We want to buy railways because we believe they will be a valuable source of revenue to the country. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says—
"Why raise all this money for development? Let them develop themselves."
We do not think it would be a right way of dealing with the colonies to let them develop alone. We have incurred, rightly, great obligations to the colonies. It is our bounden duty to do all we can by monetary assistance and otherwise 391 to assist these colonies along a path of development which we have every reason to believe will be successful for them. Lord Milner, who has had great experience now in these colonies, believes that not only the mining industry will go on prosperously, but that railway development and other public works will enormously assist agriculture. I remember seeing in one of his despatches that, great as he believed to be the future of the mining industry of the Transvaal, he believed that agriculture and other industries would be of greater value in the future of the colonies than gold mining. It is with the view of assisting that development that we are finding for the Transvaal the money necessary for the purpose of building railways. I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman would be wrong if he were to support a policy of inaction, and that it is better for us to incur, as we willingly incur, this financial responsibility, than to leave them alone to depend entirely on their own resources. Although some doubt has been thrown on the capacity of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony to pay interest on the loan, I am satisfied from a close investigation of the prospects of the Transvaal that there is ample security, and we need be under no apprehension that the money will not be forthcoming to pay the interest of the debt. The liability of £35,000,000 has already been undertaken by the country; and, although on the basis of the present revenue a deficit is shown when the interest on the whole £30,000,000 has to be provided, Lord Milner is fully persuaded that be that time there will be such a large development of the Transvaal that the country need be under no apprehension whatever that without any injury to the colonies themselves they will be able to meet the indebtedness which they are undertaking, and to pay the interest on the loan. I hope we may now be allowed to come to some conclusion upon this Bill, which I am satisfied is in the interests of the colonies and of this country.
Bill read a second time and committed for Wednesday.