§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.) in the Chair.]
§ Civil Services and Revenue Departments Estimates, 1903–4 (Vote on Account).
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £20,265,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, viz.—
|Board of Education||6,000,000|
|Board of Agriculture||65,000|
|Crofters Commission, Scotland||2,000|
|Royal Palaces and Marlborough House||40,000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||50,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||16,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||30,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||20,000|
|Diplomatic and Consular Buildings||18,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||225,000|
|Surveys of the United Kingdom||90,000|
|Harbours under the Board of Trade||7,000|
|Rates on Government Property||250,000|
|Public Works and Buildings, Ireland||110,000|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|House of Lords Offices||2,000|
|House of Commons Offices||12,000|
|Treasury and Subordinate Departments||40,000|
|Privy Council Office, etc.||5,000|
|Board of Trade||75,000|
|Mercantile Marine Services||30,000|
|Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade||3|
|Civil Service Commission||18,000|
|Exchequer and Audit Department||25,000|
|Friendly Societies Registry||3,000|
|Local Government Board||85,000|
|Mint (including Coinage)||5|
|National Debt Office||6,000|
|Public Record Office||10,000|
|Public Works Loan Commission||5|
|Registrar General's Office||19,000|
|Stationery and Printing||320,000|
|Woods, Forests, etc., Office of||8,000|
|Works and Public Buildings, Office of||30,000|
|Secretary for Scotland||25,000|
|Registrar General's Office||5,000|
|Local Government Board||6,000|
|Lord Lieutenant's Household||2,000|
|Chief Secretary for Ireland||16,000|
|Department of Agriculture||75,000|
|Charitable Donations and Bequests Office||1,000|
|Local Government Board||25,000|
|Public Record Office||2,000|
|Public Works Office||18,000|
|Registrar General's Office||6,000|
|Valuation and Boundary Survey||7,000|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|Miscellaneous Legal Expenses||27,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature||140,000|
|Police, England and Wales||18,000|
|Prisons, England and the Colonies||340,000|
|Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain||140,000|
|Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum||14,000|
|Law Charges and Courts of Law||30,000|
|Register House, Edinburgh||15,000|
|Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions||35,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, and other Legal Departments||45,000|
|County Court Officers, etc.||46,000|
|Dublin Metropolitan Police||45,000|
|Royal Irish Constabulary||600,000|
|Reformatory and Industrial Schools||55,000|
|Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum||3,000|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|National Portrait Gallery||3,000|
|Scientific Investigation, etc., United Kingdom||22,000|
|Universities and Colleges, Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales||42,000|
|Endowed School Commissioners||400|
|Diplomatic and Consular Services||250,000|
|Uganda, Central and East Africa Protectorates, and Uganda Railway||320,000|
|Telegraph Subsidies and Pacific Cable||32,000|
|Superannuation and Retired Allowances||280,000|
|Merchant Seamen's Fund Pensions, etc.||2,000|
|Miscellaneous, Charitable and other Allowances||1,000|
|Hospitals and Charities, Ireland||17,000|
|Repayments to the Local Loans Fund||——|
|St. Louis Exhibition, 1904||——|
|Total for Civil Services||£13,035,000|
|Post Office Packet Service||250,000|
|Post Office Telegraphs||2,000,000|
|Total for Revenue Departments||£7,230,000|
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said he did not rise to start any debate upon the Colonial Vote, though he was glad to see the Colonial Secretary had not suffered in health from his travels by land and sea and was apparently quite ready to enter upon such a debate. The Colonial Vote had been put down first, not at the request of the hon. Members on that side of the House, but because the Government very properly thought that the House should have the earliest opportunity of expressing an opinion or of putting questions upon a subject in which it was deeply interested—the state of affairs in South Africa. Whether the right hon. Gentleman himself desired to make a statement was not known to him, but there was a general desire for a full discussion on many important matters connected with our South African policy. The House, however, at present, was without the materials which alone would enable it to usefully embark on such a discussion. The Colonial Secretary, in the course of his visit to South Africa, had many interviews, some public and some private, as to which their only source of information was newspaper correspondence, and until, in relation to these, the House had more information than had been made known, it was not in a position to express any opinion on the right hon. Gentleman's views or on any decision at which the Government might have arrived. It would be well not to embark on an imperfect, ill-informed discussion; and he rose for the purpose of asking the right hon. Gentleman in what form he proposed to give the information it was generally agreed was required. Even if the right hon. Gentleman's speeches were all printed it would not be sufficient because it was quite clear 1241 that he must have said many things in a tentative way. The speeches, too, did not necessarily embody the formal decisions arrived at. He took it there must have been some record kept of the decisions arrived at. Could they not have that placed in their hands. He would like, too, some information in the shape of figures.
It would perhaps, be as well for him to enumerate the points upon which in formation was desired. The first of these had relation to the question of native labour, and the various suggestions made for the importation of labour, or for giving forcible inducement to the natives to work. He would like to know if the Government had come to any decision, and, if so, what decision. He would also like to know what was to be done with regard to taxation of the natives. The next subject was that of loans, and the question was what portion of the loan of £35,000,000 would be applied to the satisfaction of existing obligations, and what portion would be devoted to railway and other public works. The second loan, proposed to meet the expenses of the war, was discussed at Johannesburg, and he desired to know the terms arrived at, and what certainty there was that the rest of the loan, over and above the ten millions underwritten, would be raised. Were there any other conditions beyond those already made public attached to the transaction, and who were the persons with whom the right hon. Gentleman dealt? Next he wished to know what was the financial position in regard to the disposal of public land in the new territories and a plan of assisted emigration. The gold laws, the form of contribution from old and new mines, the amount of revenue, and the prospect of it being sufficient to bear various charges at present borne by this country, were other matters of interest.
This did not exhaust the many points of interest arising, upon which he did not anticipate there would be objection on the part of the Government to give the information at their disposal. The Papers presented within the last few months could not convey the latest opinion of the Government, and they perhaps might desire some consideration as to the form in which 1242 the necessary material for discussion should be presented. He hoped he had made it clear to the House that this was not a convenient moment for entering on the debate owing to the lack of material on which to form an opinion. All he desired to have from the Government was an assurance that, as soon as possible, adequate material should be forthcoming, and that then they would be allowed a full opportunity of discussing various questions, the importance of which, to the future of South Africa, it was impossible to overestimate.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN, Birmingham, W.)
I do not rise to answer in any fulness the questions of the right hon. Gentleman, but merely to deal briefly with the question of procedure he has raised. The view of the Government was that, my recent mission to South Africa having come to an end, the House might very naturally desire to make some remarks on anything that has taken place, or to ask further information as to incidents that occurred in the course of that mission. Therefore, they offered, as I understand with the full assent and almost the desire of right hon. [Gentlemen opposite, to put down the Colonial Vote first on this occasion. But if right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not wish to take advantage of the opportunity, nothing can be easier than to allow the debate to die away and to take such further opportunity, as may suggest itself to them, for any discussion in which the House may be pleased to engage. The right hon. Gentleman, however, appears to be under some misunderstanding when he talks of lack of materials. I made arrangements with Lord Milner that reports should be made upon the main subjects, that is to say, immigration, railways, finance, the constitution of the legislature, and other matters of very great importance, which I could present in Blue-book form to the House. Those Papers have not yet reached me, but Lord Milner telegraphs that they are on their way. As soon as they arrive they shall be presented, and I hare no doubt they 1243 will give a great deal of new and interesting information to the House of Commons. But as regards my tour, I have no additional materials to furnish.
The right hon. Gentleman appears to think that I have come to a vast number of decisions which have not yet been communicated to the House. That is not the case. It is quite true that in addition to my public work, I think, I saw something like 150 deputations, and had personal communications and interviews with something like 500 representative men of all parties and of various shades of opinion. My object in having those interviews was, as I said when I started on my journey, to inform my own mind with regard to the various questions with which the Government hereafter may have to deal. All of those interviews, and most of the deputations, were private, and there is no information whatever to communicate to the House in regard to them. Where they resulted in a decision, that decision has already been communicated to the House, not officially, perhaps, but through the ordinary channels. Those decisions are, I think, confined to two, viz. the question of the loan dealing with the indemnities, and the way in which the Government propose to deal with the claims for compensation, and with the receipts and promises made by the military authorities. Only with regard to those two, I believe, has any definite decision been arrived at.
The right hon. Gentleman refers, for instance, to the question of native labour. No proposals were made with regard to native labour, except a minor one that I should use my influence with the Foreign Office to allow an experiment to be made in certain districts which have not hitherto been utilised for the purpose, and to see whether native labour could be obtained from those districts. I understand that, as a result, my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is prepared to give authority to allow 1000 natives to be recruited in Central Africa, as an experiment, for service in the mines. That is, I believe, absolutely the sole result of our proceedings hitherto, and the only decision which has been arrived at. As regards the two points upon which a decision has been arrived at, I am quite prepared to 1244 give the fullest explanation to the House. But as regards the loan, I can conceive that it might be thought more advisable that that matter should be discussed when the Bill comes before the House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
To both. When the £35,000,000 loan is discussed, I think it would be a proper occasion for considering also the question of the £30,000,000. In the meantime I might say, in reply to one suggestion of the I right hon. Gentleman, that the arrangement for the loan is to be taken as absolutely confined to that arrangement; it is not connected with, or related to, or conditional upon any other arrangement of any kind whatever, either direct or indirect.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
After Easter. The question of the gold law, on which I heard a great deal in South Africa, is not one on which I can be called upon to pronounce any opinion. A draft gold law has been prepared, and will be laid before the new Legislative Council, which I hope may meet in the course of the present month or next month. There has been some difficulty in getting the nominated members whom we wished to place upon that body, but when it is completed an early meeting will be called, and the gold law will be one of the first measures referred to it.
I do not quite understand what the right hon. Gentleman means by assisted immigration. There is no proposal, as far as I know, to assist immigration by the Government of this country, and no proposal to assist immigration by the Government of the Transvaal, except by the favourable terms on which land will probably be obtainable in the new Colonies.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The whole question of land settlement, to 1245 which I attach the greatest importance, is one which will be dealt with in the reports which are coming home from Lord Milner.
Another point is with regard to compensation, and what I may call the eleemosynary grant under the terms of peace, and the payments in accordance with the promises of the military. The House is aware that by the terms of peace the sum of £3,000,000 was allotted as a free gift in order to provide those who were destitute, on returning to their homes, with the essentials requisite to enable them to resume their avocation. In accordance with that provision a considerable sum of money has already been expended in connection with the work of repatriation, which has been going on in a manner which is perfectly marvellous, and which reflects the greatest possible credit upon Lord Milner and all concerned. Since the war something like 100,000 have been repatriated upon their farms, kept there so long as it was necessary by the supply of rations, and assisted with stock and material; and now, for the most part, are in process of restoring their fortunes.
Beside the £3,000,000, a further grant of £2,000,000 was made by the House of Commons to be applied to those who had assisted the British Government—British subjects who also had suffered in the course of the war. In addition to that, large sums have been spent in resettlement and repatriation: and beyond all there remain the claim*—partly claims of grace, but principally claims of right—due to the promises made by the military while they were in occupation; that is to say—as the military went about the country they had very often to requisition stock of various kinds, and also material, and for these they gave receipts which have now to be honoured. Already a sum of nearly £2,000,000 £1,600,000 or more—has been paid out in return for these receipts, and I hope that the rest of the money will be distributed in the course of the next few weeks.
But a much wider liability is due to those proclamations which promised protection to the men who surrendered before the end of the war. The 1246 claims under this head have been very numerous, amounting, I believe, to something like 100,000, and have involved enormous demands. Of course, in such a case, as may be well understood, these applications have had to be subjected to a very narrow scrutiny. The process, as long as it remained in the hands of military commissions, was much delayed. A military commission was by the necessities of the case, owing to military emergencies, a changing body. Its chairman might be summoned home or sent on other work, and a new man have to be appointed. The heads of some of these commissions have been changed three or four times in the course of as many months. In these circumstances it was most difficult to act according to any settled principle. The difficulties which arose in dealing with such a vast variety of cases were found to be extremely great, while at the same I time the operations of the civil commission, which had to deal with the two grants to which I have referred, were delayed until they could tell how far the persons who were applying for assistance were likely to derive that assistance from military funds. Accordingly, after discussing the matter fully with the General Commanding-in-Chief and with Lord Milner, we prepared and submitted to the Government a scheme under which the whole of the future administration of all moneys to be granted in the shape of either free gift, compensation, or payment on receipts, should be placed under the control of the civil administration. The War Office agreed to pay down a net sum of £3,000,000 in discharge of all demands upon the military authorities, and the civil Government of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony has undertaken to bear the whole charge whether it be more or less, with this proviso—that if it be less, which I do not think is at all likely to be the case, the balance will be returned to the military authorities. The advantage of that arrangement I think the House will at once perceive. It will secure the uniform administration of the whole business; and it will place the administration in the hands of those who have to consider policy as well as economy. The military authorities naturally felt it to be their duty to reduce these charges as much as possible, and in some instances I confess I have been impressed with the conviction that the rules laid down did not carry out in full 1247 the promises which had been made, and it would be most impolitic to insist upon such rules. But the civil administration, which has to look to the future pacification and contentment of the people, will no doubt take a just and generous view of the situation and be prepared to deal with these claims in a way which, on the whole, I believe, will be satisfactory. I had an immense number of representations of all kinds made to me during my visit, showing the extraordinary variety of the claims, and the difficulty of laying down rules, and, as a result of those communications, new regulations have been laid down and new Commissions are now at work with every expectation that whereas, if we had left it in the hands of the military authorities, the work would have taken three or four years; it will now be completed in the course of the next few months. When that difficulty is removed from our path I have not the slightest doubt whatever as to the favourable prospects of the agricultural portion of the population in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony.
In the meantime I have to acknowledge the co-operation which a great number of the Boers have given to the Government in their efforts to deal with this difficult matter. Some of those who fought against us to the end have joined and worked upon the repatriation and settlement Boards, and their action upon those Boards has elicited from their British colleagues expressions of the highest admiration. On the other hand, we ought to do nothing which would tend to pauperise the population. Therefore they have joined with us in dealing with the claims which have been made in a firm and just, as well as a sympathetic spirit. I think that will give the right hon. Gentleman the information which he desires as regards the points which were settled during my journey. As regards the rest, I have only to add that I am still ready to deal with any incident in that journey, or to give, as far as lies in my power, any information to the House which it may desire, in regard either to the matters which the right hon. Gentleman touched upon, or in regard to any others that arise in regard to our future administration in South Africa. I certainly do not feel that any good purpose would be served by my undertaking to 1248 read a lecture to the House on my journey and travels in the South African continent.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I wish at once to say that it was not in consequence of any request from this side of the House that this Vote was put down first, because, until we have fuller and more authentic information, we cannot review the whole of the ground which is necessary to enable us to come to a decision. I understand that it is only in respect of two points that actual decisions were arrived at during the time the right hon. Gentleman was in South Africa.
§ MR. ASQUITH
One of the decisions relates to the resettlement, and the other to the loans. As regards the loans, I understand that we shall have a full opportunity of discussing them when the Bills are introduced after Easter. I will, therefore, only make one remark. I am glad to hear that the loans will be dealt with entirely independently of any other question connected with the general settlement in South Africa; and that they will be discussed exclusively on their merits. As regards almost all the rest of the subjects which have formed the text of the interrogation of the right hon. Gentleman, it is quite plain that until we get the information lie has promised us, it is impossible to have anything in the nature of a complete or exhaustive discussion. I should like to know, and the country would like to know, from the right hon. Gentleman or Lord Milner, how far the bodies who are at present entrusted with legislative authority in these two colonies contain a representative element, and what progress is contemplated as likely to be made, within a measurable distance of time, in the development of self-governing institutions. I think that is a matter upon which, even at the present stage, the right hon. Gentleman might, perhaps, give us a little more information.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said he rose for the purpose of asking a question. He understood from 1249 the Secretary of State that a decision had been come to by His Majesty's Government that natives should be recruited in Central Africa. The recruiting of natives in Central Africa for the purposes of labour in the Transvaal gold mines required to be most carefully safeguarded unless it was to sink into virtual slavery. In the case of the recruiting in India of coolies for service in the sugar plantations, most elaborate regulations were made by the Government of India for the purpose of securing their proper treatment during the time they were working for white employers, and provision was also made for their repatriation in India when their term of service had come to an end. He desired to know whether the regulations under which the recruiting of natives would take place would be laid on the Table of the House, in order that the country might judge whether they were sufficient to preserve the rights of the natives and to prevent, under the cloak of recruiting, the real curse of slavery.
§ MR. A. BLACK (Banffshire)
said the debate seemed to be more or less in the nature of a catechism, and he had another question to ask about the language. He understood from the right hon. Gentleman that only two questions had been decided, namely, the question of the loans and the question of compensation. From a statement made yesterday he also understood that the language question had also been decided upon.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The orders with regard to education were passed before I went, to South Africa. The other matter which the hon. Member s now referring to was the subject of an absolutely private conversation, and to that conversation I should not like to make any further reference.
§ MR. BLACK said the right hon Gentleman had laid great stress upon 1250 the question of compensation, and he had also alluded to the rights created by reclamation. He wished to know what proclamation was alluded to. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean the proclamation annexing the Republic, and did he consider this country liable for damage done by the military forces after that proclamation was issued? After the Franco-German war the French Government compensated all parties for damage done by the military, whether done by their own soldiers or by the Germans. The question was whether, in annexing these territories, they did not make those territories themselves liable for all this compensation. With regard to compensation, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned hat in addition to the grant of £3,000.000, the military receipts were to be respected, and the £3,000,000 was to be set apart for further compensation. A further £2.000,000 append in the Estimates this year, and he wished to know if this was in addition to the £3,000,000 already provided for. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had come to no decisions in South Africa, but he was inclined to think that it would have been very difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to have spoken so often as he did without announcing some decisions. At Pietermaritzburg the right hon. Gentleman stated that it was obvious that full self government would not be granted until three conditions were fulfilled. In the first place he said that self-government would not be given until active loyalty, as against passive loyalty, had been shown; secondly, until the Colony should undertake its own defence; and thirdly, until the guarantee loan was paid off. It seemed to him that in giving that decision t he right hon. Gentleman vitiated the whole concern. They would like to know what he meant by these conditions of self-government. With regard to native labour, had the right hon. Gentleman heard anything from the native women about their hardships directly, or was it from the Johannesburg millionaires that he heard of the grievances in regard to these native women?
§ With regard to these loans, the Member for East Fife had stated quite properly that full discussion upon this subject might 1251 very well be delayed until the Loans Bill was before the House. With regard to the loan of £5,000,000, he would like to know if the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony were liable for it, and was it a loan simply to be charged upon the assets to be acquired for railways and other public works I Was this country to have any say as to how these assets were to be administered and what return was to be got from them? It was said that those who paid the piper should call the tune, and he understood that they would call the tune with regard to the administration of the railways and rates to be charged. With regard to the £30,000,000 loan how was that to be worked? Under the terms of surrender, undertakings were given that no charge should be made upon landed property as compensation for the war. Was it to be charged upon the Transvaal as a whole, and was that consistent with the terms of surrender? If not, what was the money to be charged upon, and who was to undertake the charge? He took it that the Government of the Transvaal could not segregate its territory and declare that one part was liable for a certain charge and another part was not liable. The right hon. Gentleman must have some method of observing the terms of surrender. What means were to be taken for raising the interest on the £30,000,000? He thought if the right hon. Gentleman answered this catechism some light would be thrown on these matters.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said there were a few points on which lie desired information from the right hon. Gentleman, and he would state them very briefly indeed. The right hon. Gentleman had informed the House that he received over a hundred deputations during his visit to South Africa. He was sure they all sympathised with the right hon. Gentleman in the amount of labour that entailed on the limited time at his disposal. But there was one deputation which was not received, and the refusal to receive which had caused considerable dissatisfaction throughout the mining regions of the Transvaal. The white miners of the Transvaal had considerable grievances, certain changes 1252 having been made in the law which adversely affected them. The Transvaal Miners Association and the Trade Council, he was advised, requested the right hon. Gentleman to receive a deputation and hear their complaints. He was receiving deputations from the mine owners and other property owners, and naturally the workpeople thought they too would be received, but they were refused.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
It may simplify matters if I say that the hon. Gentleman has been misinformed. I received several deputations from the working classes, including the Trades Council and also the Transvaal Miners Association.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE said he was much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but that was contrary to the information supplied to him. Another point on which he desired information had reference to the white miners in the Transvaal, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give him an equally satisfactory assurance on the subject. Under the old laws of the Transvaal mining claims were allocated by allotment, and in this way every working miner had an equal chance of drawing a favourable lot, and becoming possessor of one of those claims. Recently, however, he was informed that the law had been altered, or it was proposed to be altered, so that these claims, instead of being disposed of as formerly, were to be sold to the highest bidder.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman has really been most unfortunate in his informant. What he has stated is not the case. There was a proposal—I am not certain whether it was passed into law by the late Government—to establish a lottery in regard to those claims, but no such lottery, I believe, was then held. The practice then was, that when the mining area was I proclaimed it was open to everybody on a certain day, and people came in great numbers the night before, and as soon as the hour struck they formed up on the ground, and pegged out their respective claims. That law has not been altered, and the statement that the 1253 lots have been put up to auction is entirely inaccurate. Of course, the matter will be dealt with by the new gold law, but that is at present only a draft law and has not been submitted to the Legislative Council.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE said there was another point on which he desired to put a few questions to the right hon. Gentleman. He associated himself entirely with the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Cambridge University that in securing natives from Central Africa great care should be taken to safeguard their rights and liberties as freemen. Among the many pledges given previous to the war, and during the earlier days of its continuance, none was more explicit or solemn than that the rights of the natives were to be rigidly preserved, and that anything approaching, even the appearance of, forced labour was to be neither encouraged nor permitted. But since those days there had already been the imposition of, a new tax in the Transvaal upon natives. The old tax of £2 per hut had been extended. Not only was that tax still paid, but £2 per wife was also claimed as an additional tax. It was self-evident, disguise the fact as they might, that this meant forced labour. The natives were able to live in comfort without going to the mines to work, but in order to induce them to go to the mines to work they were being called upon to pay a sum in money which could only be obtained by their proceeding to the mines to work them and to earn wages. This was forced labour, and there was no use in pretending that it was not. All the sophistry that was used about making the native pay his share of the taxes was a mere blind to prevent the people of this country from seeing and realising the truth. If the mine owners of the Transvaal would treat natives fairly, and pay them the reasonable wages which were paid before the war, there need be no great difficulty in obtaining the necessary supply; and if native labour in South Africa was not adequate there was plenty of available labour in England, which could be obtained for the mines, if only right wages were paid. It was sometimes said white labour was not suitable for the 1254 mines, but at this moment the agents of the mining companies of the Transvaal were scouring Europe outside of England for white men. The objection to the British workman was not that he would not work in the mines but that the employers refused to pay the wage necessary to enable him to live a comfortable life in South Africa. [Hear, hear.] He would also like to know from the Secretary for the Colonies whether it was the case that the old Sunday laws, by which unnecessary Sunday labour was prohibited in the mines of the Transvaal, were being violated by the mining companies since work was resumed; and also whether the harbour works at Simons-town were being constructed by means of British labour, or whether cheap labour from the Continent—Poles, Italians, and others—was being used; and whether, if that was the case, it was not a violation of the terms of the contract.
§ MR. PEEL (Manchester, S.)
said he would like to make one or two observations in reply to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. The hon. Member was under a complete misconception as to the idea that any British minister would countenance anything in the nature of forced labour in South Africa. He had spoken about the possibility of white labour being obtained for the working of the mines, and he said that agents had gone all over Europe to try to discover white labour to work in the mines. He himself believed, and it was known to all those who understood mining in South Africa, that it was impossible to get white labour to work in the mines of that country. It might be possible to obtain abroad a certain amount of white labour of a very undesirable kind, but he did not believe it was possible to get the right kind of white labour from this country to work in these mines.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE said this was not so. At a meeting of the Gold Trust in London a few weeks ago the Chairman gave three reasons why white labour from this country was not used in the mines; first, because it would cost too much; secondly, because white labour from this country would introduce the trail of the trade union serpent; and 1255 thirdly, because 100,000 Englishmen taken to the Transvaal would hold the government of the country in the hollow of their hands, and, with all respect to the working men, Lord Harris said the government should be where the brains were.
§ MR. PEEL said he was no familiar with the remarks which had been quoted by the hon. Gentleman, but he knew something about the mines, and he could tell the Committee that one of the great reasons why it was difficult to employ white labour was that in no part of the world could white and black labour be got to work together on equal terms. That was a thing well recognised in South Africa, in America, and in any country where there was black labour. He believed that there was a great field for skilled British labour, and the more they got native labour to fill up the mines the greater would be the demand for skilled labour in that country. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil said it was only necessary for the mine owners to pay more to the natives in South Africa in order to get any amount of labour. He had some figures on this subject which he thought disposed of the view the hon. Member took of this question. He believed it was not possible in South Africa, south of the Zambesi, to get sufficient native labour to work the mines. Of course South Africa could not be compared with many other portions of Africa. It could not be compared with West Africa, where there was a kind of civilisation, and where there was a large population. This was a country which had been invaded at different times, and the number of people scattered over the area was very sparse indeed. The figures which he had showed that six millions represented the whole of the native population south of the Zambesi. Now, supposing they took the proportion, which he believed was taken in France, of the active able-bodied people to the whole population at one in thirteen, that would give something like 400,000 for South Africa, south of the Zambesi, who were capable of active labour. What numbers were required for the mines? Before the war 97,000 were employed in the mines, and at the present moment there were only 50,000 so employed. He believed that at a low calculation 150,000 might easily be employed, 1256 and if the development which they all expected from recent indications, and from the visit of the Colonial Secretary, were to take place, no doubt 30,000 or 40,000 more could be employed. That I would give 200,000 labourers—or half! the number of able-bodied men in the country. It was, of course, impossible I to expect that one-half of the active able-bodied population could devote: themselves to labour in the mines. There were enormous quantities of these I men employed on the farms and in I domestic service; and there was this further fact—that they were told there I was to be a great development of railway construction in South Africa; eight hundred more miles of railway were to be built in that country. That, of itself, would, at a modest computation, employ something like 30,000 more natives. When these reductions were made it was found that the able-bodied population in South Africa was scarcely sufficient, even if any amount of pay or the highest bribes were offered, to supply the mines as they were, and certainly not as they would be under some future system of development. Then it must be remembered that it was not every native or every class of native who were fit for work. Take the Basutos, who were a vigorous population always ready for; and inclined to war, but who were not anxious to labour in the mines. He I wanted to deal frankly with this matter and put aside all considerations of forced labour. That was absolutely out of the question, and nobody would agree to anything of the kind. He would also put aside the controversy in which Mr. Phillips had been engaged as to getting labourers for the mines South of the Zambesi. That labour was not to be bought with money, because it did not exist. He should like to know what was the actual policy of the Government on this matter, because it was a matter of extreme importance.
§ The prosperity of the Transvaal very largely depended upon the development of the mines. The price of living there, as everybody knew, was extremely high, and it was only if there was a rapid development of the mines that the cost of living would be lowered, and that they would be able to attract the white population which they all wanted in South Africa.1257
§ Various suggestions had been made, and among them that native labour should I be brought from Central Africa and Uganda. He was more familiar with the conditions existing in Uganda than in Central Africa, and he disliked the idea of bringing labourers from Uganda for the reason that this country had recently spent large sums of money in developing the railway in Uganda. There was not a large excess in the number of labourers there, and they wanted to get back some of the money they had spent there. The only effect of importing labourers from Uganda, supposing they could be got, would be to raise the price of labour in that country, and make its development much more difficult. But there was another matter familiar to those who knew that country. It was generally supposed that the native savage was more capable of bearing hardships and the ill effects of climate than people like themselves, who enjoyed late hours and big dinners. He believed that was not the case. From the sea-board the land rose by terraces to the heights which bordered the Great Central Plateau of Africa; and he believed it was the fact that if the natives were transported from one plateau to another they suffered from diseases which they were able to combat on their own plateau, and with a slight rise of temperature they were unable to live. How much more would that apply if the Government or the mine owners were to bring down native labourers from Uganda to a totally different climate, and set them to work in the mines under totally different conditions to what they were accustomed to. Much as he was interested in mines in South Africa he was himself afraid I hat a solution of that kind was wholly impossible, and therefore he dismissed the question of the importation of native labour from Uganda.
§ Then there was the question of coolie labour from India. There were great difficulties attending that also. Of course if our own subjects were brought from India we could not bind them down to work merely in the mines, and when they had worked a certain term to return at once to India. We must allow them, if they wished to 1258 remain in the country, to settle there. He believed that there was a very great objection to the importation of labour, from India on the part of the Indians themselves who had settled in Natal, and who would suffer from the competition of natives brought from India under any kind of indenture. What he wanted to point out was that the impossibility, or difficulty of getting the requisite amount of labour from South Africa, south of the Zambesi, or from other parts of Africa, and the further difficulty, or impossibility of obtaining white labour, because of the prejudice existing between white and black la hour wherever they were employed together in any part of the world, had a very important bearing indeed on the question of the loan and the debt which was going to be placed on the Transvaal. That debt amounted to something like £65,000,000, and hon. Members could easily calculate for themselves the interest on that large amount. The income of that country was about £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a year, and it was starting at once with a debt of something like fifteen times its income; if that was compared with the National Debt of Great Britain, calculated at fifteen times the Annual Budget, it would be seen what an enormous burden the Transvaal would have to bear. It would amount to a debt of £228 per head of the population. The inference he drew from that was not that they ought to diminish the amount, but that they must look with extreme care to all the sources of revenue that existed in that country. They must look to the mines on which the prosperity of the Transvaal depended, and the facilities for the payment of the war debt which so many people were anxious to put on South Africa. In conclusion, he wished to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the success of his visit to South Africa, on the number of deputations he had received, on the number of speeches he had made, on the great mobility he had shown—a mobility which perhaps would put to shame many of our most distinguished generals; and he could only hope that some of that oil which the right hon. Gentleman had scattered so freely and impartially on both parties in South Africa would be reserved to be shed on the troubled political waters at home.1259
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
said it seemed to him somewhat extraordinary that the British Central Africa; Protectorate, which was already short of labour for the construction of their much needed railway—and which, on that account, was making very little progress—should be deemed capable of sending away natives to South Africa in order to work in the mines there. If that was to be the policy great care should be taken that any natives recruited were entirely voluntary recruits. He knew that in this he had the sympathy of the Secretary for the Colonies because that right hon. Gentleman said in 1896 that "he had grave doubts as to the wisdom of direct inducements being offered to chiefs to supply native labour as it might lead to something like compulsory labour which could not be permitted." And in 1899 the right hon. Gentleman had repeated the same warning to the British South Africa Company. He hoped that nothing of that kind would be allowed by the Foreign Office. The Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office would know of a case which had been tried in the High Court of Central Africa, at Blantyre, with reference to the; arbitrary conduct of the native police. He held in his hand a letter from Mr. Sharp, the Administrator of the Protectorate, in which that Gentleman acknowledged that the Assistant Director and the Chief Constable acted quite improperly in attempting to secure the services of natives who were already working for other Europeans. That showed how very important it was, when the actual officials were censured for improperly seeking to induce natives to work in the South African mines, to see that the recruiting should be very carefully supervised. He regretted that it should be done at all, for he believed, with the hon. Member who had just sat down, in the harm done by moving natives to a climate to which they were not accustomed, and that the British Central Africa Protectorate needed all their men for the construction of their railway.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
I desire to ask one question. I wish to know if the Committee can have a statement of what has been spent for compensation in the new colonies, in order that we may know what the exact 1260 financial position is. I am not objecting to that expenditure; but I think we should have an exact statement of it, in order that we may know exactly where we stand. There is a kindred matter on which I wish to ask for information; and that is with reference to the financial position of the colonies themselves. Can we have an account of their revenue and outlay past and prospective, in order that we may know where we are.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I think it is perfectly natural that the hon. and learned Gentleman should wish to have a full statement showing exactly what has been expended for compensation. I imagine it will be impossible to give the figures accurately at the present time, because they have not been wholly ascertained, but if a general statement will satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman's wish, I can tell him now roughly from memory what the amounts are. They are as follows: £3,000,000 as a free grant under the terms of peace; £2,000,000 additional for British subjects; £2,000,000 paid away for military receipts; and about £3,000.000 paid in Cape Colony and Natal. Then for compensation under proclamations, principally the proclamation by Lord Roberts, but also proclamations by other generals promising protection, an amount will be required which is at present estimated at £5.000,000. The total, therefore, which this country is paying, under circumstances in which such payments have never been made before, in order to restore the prosperity of the countries that we have annexed, amounts to something like £15,000,000.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. That is very satisfactory as far as it is concerned, but I asked the right hon. Gentleman also about other outlays, for example the £1,000,000 voted this year for compensation for the constabulary.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
When we established the South African Constabulary we considered that for the purposes of police protection 6,000 men would be sufficient. While the war 1261 was in progress that force was used for military purposes, and Lord Roberts desired that it should be increased to 10,000 men. We, of course, agreed to that; but at the same time we made a condition that the additional expense should be treated as a military charge, and should not be charged to the colonies, but should be regarded as an Imperial charge. Accordingly, the £1,000,000 that has just been voted is in regard to so much of the expense as was due to the enlargement of the force over 6,000 men.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman; but I also asked for information with regard to the outlay on other matters, not necessarily war expenditure, in these two colonies: for example, in supplementing the deficits in their budgets, and also for money spent in the purchase of land, the amount of which this House is not at present acquainted with. We ought to have before us an account showing the total outlay this country has incurred, irrespective of the £222,000,000 which we spent on the war; and also estimates of the revenue and expenditure of the two colonies, so that we may know our financial position in regard to them, what it is we have to spend, and the security on which we are asked to find this money.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I think I can quite understand. As regards the first point, I believe I can assure the House that no charge of any kind in addition to what I have stated will fall on this country. The £1,000,000 to which I referred was purely a military charge, but outside that there is, so far as I know at the present moment, no money to be voted or spent by this house on behalf of the people of this country for the benefit of the two colonies. Sums have been voted as grants-in-aid, but they will be repaid out of the loans; as, for instance, the amount for deficits in the earlier budgets of the Transvaal during the war. These will be repaid out of the first loan. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman asked me, very naturally, for a statement of the financial position of the two colonies. That will be submitted before the Bill is brought before the House. But it may be very 1262 satisfactory to the Committee to know that every succeeding return shows that the Estimates are being enormously exceeded; and I believe I am right in saying that the surplus in the two colonies next year will exceed the whole cost of the charge for the two loans.
*MR. KEIR HARDIE said he desired to make a personal explanation. Speaking from memory earlier in the evening, he stated that the right hon. Gentleman had refused to receive a deputation representing organised labour in South Africa. He had since had an opportunity of ascertaining the facts. The following extract appeared in the Johannesburg Tribune—
Our readers will remember the mass meeting that was held in the Market Square, on 20th November last, to deal with the situation created through the invalidation by a Supreme Court verdict of the Kruger Rent Proclamations. Motions were carried that the Secretary for the Colonies should be memorialised, and that a petition should be presented to him asking for relief, an influential Committee being formed to carry out the intention of the meeting. The Committee subsequently requested Mr. Chamberlain to receive a deputation in the matter delegated to them by the citizens. It will be learnt with indignation that Mr. Chamberlain has refused to meet the deputation. The landlords and mortgagees are amongst those to banquet Mr. Chamberlain on Saturday.
He now wished to ask whether that deputation was refused a hearing; and, if so, on what grounds?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
This is a totally different charge to the one made by the hon. Member in the first instance. He then said I refused to receive a deputation from working class representative organisations—the Miners' Association and the Trades Council. I told the hon. Member in reply that I had received a deputation from both these bodies; and that several complaints were brought to my notice by these deputations, and dealt with at the time. Now the hon. Member says that the deputation which I am reported to have refused to receive was a deputation from a mass meeting. I have hid a large experience of mass meetings; and this particular meeting would undoubtedly not have been a successful demonstration in Hyde Park. It had nothing to do with the working classes; and it dealt with a particular class of property owners who complained 1263 of some regulation or ordinance made by the local government. I do not recollect any application to me to receive a deputation; I do not recollect having refused to receive one; but if I did, it was probably entirely on account of the fact that my time was so fully occupied that; it was absolutely impossible for me to receive everyone who desired to see me.
§ MR. J. H. WHITLEY (Halifax)
said he deeply regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not been able to say anything to relieve the uneasy feeling that undoubtedly prevailed very widely in this country that something in the nature of compulsory labour was taking place in the new colonies. He would try and lay before the right hon. Gentleman the grounds on which this uneasy feeling, which undoubtedly existed, was based. He had hoped that in the very first word which the right hon. Gentleman would address to the House after his tour, he would have been able to give an assurance that under the British flag no compulsory labour, direct or indirect, would ever be permitted; and he hoped that the time would not be far distant when the right hon. Gentleman would give that assurance. In reply to a Question yesterday the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be plainly contemplating an increase in the taxation of the natives. The uneasy feeling to which he referred, and which he thought had a great deal to do with the great revulsion of feeling in connection with the war, was due to people asking this question—"What did we fight that war for? Certainly not to get cheap labour for the mine-owners." He could tell the light hon. Gentleman that that question was being asked all over the country. It was based, perhaps, not on facts which could as yet be regarded as certainties, but they wished the suspicion to be removed from their minds by the right hon. Gentleman.
He would give three instances of what it was that had given rise to this uneasy feeling. In the first place, the moment the war was over the mine-owners reduced the wages of the natives from 60s. per month to 35s. That was the very first change made in the policy of the mine-owners, when the sufferings of the British 1264 troops and the money that had been expended had won a hard-earned victory. That fact arrested attention. The second piece of evidence was the undoubted pressure which had come from the mine-owners for many months past in order, as they had put it, to compel the native to recognise the dignity of labour. That was a doctrine in which he firmly believed, but he thought if the Government were going to uphold the doctrine they would do well to commence at home rather than in the colonies. With the permission of the Committee he would quote what the Transvaal Leader had to say upon this subject. This was how they regarded the native question—There is one way and one way only to subdue the negro, and it, is with the lash. Never treat a native with more than ordinary human kindness. There is in fact no difference between the ordinary native and the baboon beyond the fact that the former can talk and the latter will not.Was not such an attitude alone sufficient to justify the very uneasy feeling which existed in this country that something was going on which was not to be expected would go on under the British flag? That was the attitude of one section of the people of South Africa on this subject. On one occasion it was said in this House that we were all Members for India; were we not also all Members for these colonies, and for the black races who were now our fellow-subjects? He hoped we should never come to regard the native races in such a manner as was indicated in the passage he had just quoted. The third reason for this justifiable feeling of uneasiness was the new tax which had already been placed upon the native at the instance of the mine-owners. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary had stated on the previous day that the taxation of the native was now lower than under the Boer régime, but he (Mr. Whitley) had evidence, which the right hon. Gentleman would not contradict, to the contrary. The Boer law of 1895 provided that there should be a poll tax of £2 a head on every native; Lord Milner's ordinance not only provided for the re-imposition of that poll tax, but for a further tax of £2, instead of 10s. for each additional wife. The right hon. Gentleman had said he did not approve of polygamy—
§ MR. WHITLEY said he certainly did not approve of abolishing it by means of taxation, and he did not approve of the violent interference with the customs of natives so recently subjected to our rule. That tax had been put on at the instigation of the mine-owners, apparently with the view of teaching the Kaffir, as the phrase went, to recognise the dignity of labour. That meant that it was not sufficient for the native in the location which he had been placed, when the white men had taken his country, to till the land and tend his cattle and grow sufficient food for his wife and children; he must work at a wage for the white man. He wished the Committee to bring some pressure to bear on the right hon. Gentleman to consider the labour question of South Africa from the opposite point of view. The great idea of the war was that we should make South Africa a country where the British workman could live. The white labour question was the important problem to us. The idea was not that there should be a ring of millionaires and wealthy people at the top, but that there should be a broad basis of a great white citizenship. The experiment of white labour had been tried in one mine, and the result of that experiment had been to show that the work had been carried out with white labour with such expedition that it was a record in the country, and the in creased cost, as compared with black labour, had only been about 20 percent. Upon that he had made a calculation. He had found that the dividends paid by the mines which had re-opened since the war were some 25 or 30 per cent., and as the result of his calculation he had arrived at the conclusion that the introduction of white labour in place of black would only mean a reduction of 10 per cent, in those divisions. All the black labour did was to allow of the working of the low-grade mines, and if that was the only excuse for the introduction of black labour, in his opinion it was better that these low-grade mines should not be worked.
§ Another question to which he wished to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, who he regretted had been 1266 obliged to leave the House, was the question of the loan of £30,000,000. He had no objection to the loan of £35,000,000, but he had the greatest objection to the loan of £30,000,000, which was to be a contribution towards the cost of the war. He could not see why the mine-owners who met the right hon. Gentleman at Johannesburg should have power to pledge the total assets of these colonies as security for the loan. His objection to the transaction lay in the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had allowed a group of mine-owners to underwrite this loan, and to that extent had put them in the position of mortgagees of the assets of the Transvaal, and put them in a position to direct the future of these colonies, which, in his opinion, was most undesirable.
§ The last matter to which he wished to refer was the "Conference Ring," with regard to freights in South Africa. The high rate of living in South Africa was largely due to this "ring," which controlled all the shipping of South Africa. He wished to draw the attention of the Colonial Secretary to the very serious position in which we stood with regard to British trade in this matter. He thought it was very hard that the British trader should find that, by reason of this "ring," in freights the best business should be given to Germany on the one side and the United States on the other. It had been pointed out by Mr. F. Thompson, a member of the Cape Assembly, that to business men the whole important question was the shipping one. The "Conference" lines of New York could send goods for a freight charge of 12s. a ton, while British merchants had to pay from 35s. to 40s. a ton, and that it was no use to attempt to bring goods to the Exhibition in Cape Town unless they combined to attack the shipping rates.
§ He had risen at the earliest opportunity, because matters of very intense interest to a vast number of traders in this country were involved, and they were matters which were very serious indeed, as affecting the prosperity of British trade in South Africa. In one instance an order for steel rails was quoted on equal terms and at the same price by a British and an American maker, but the 1267 order went to America because the freight from that country was about half. From German ports he had known freights at much lower rates even in the same ship. He trusted the Colonial Office would give careful attention to this matter. The money connected with these new loans would be very largely expended upon materials shipped from this country, and the Colonial Office ought to use their influence to secure freedom of British trade, and enable British traders to have at least equal terms with their competitors in other parts of the globe. He trusted the matter would receive careful attention from the Colonial Secretary.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said he quite conceived that it would be impossible to discuss these matters properly until the Papers connected with them were laid on the Table of the House. Therefore he did not propose to enter into many of the questions. With regard to the £15,000,000 which had been paid after the war, and the amount paid for compensation to meet those claims, nobody would grudge the money. What they complained of was the occasion that had made this liability necessary, but any generosity displayed in that respect he was sure would meet with the general approval of everybody on both sides of the House. With regard to native labour he understood the Colonial Secretary to say that he had arrived at no decision upon this question. That might be due to the imperfect reporting of his speeches, but certainly an impression had been caused by speeches delivered in Johannesburg that the right hon. Gentleman had arrived at a decision, and that he had made a declaration in favour of forcing the natives by taxation to work in the mines. If the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of that policy it was desirable that it should be known. He understood that this was regarded more as a tax for the repression of polygamy, but it was really a tax encouraging polygamy. What happened at the mines? The natives went to the mines, earned a lot of money, and then they went home and bought wives. What was the process? The Colonial Secretary 1268 proposed to repress polygamy. He first imposed a tax to drive the natives to the mines, and then they earned a lot of money and bought wives with it. So far from being a tax for suppressing polygamy, it promoted it. It was not the polygamist that would be driven to the mines, for he would remain at home with his twenty or thirty wives, who would probably work for him, and possibly pay the tax as well. It was only the bachelor that they would drive into the mines, and this was simply using an argument for putting upon a false basis the whole problem of the taxing of labour in South Africa.
The real object of all this was to get cheap labour in South Africa under market prices. The hon. Member for Manchester represented the views of those who were in close contact with capital in South Africa, and he said that there were only 400,000 natives available for this class of work in South Africa. His own reckoning was that the total was 500,000, but he would take it at 400,000. Before the war there were 150,000 natives employed in the mines. Really that was not an unfair proportion of the population available for working in the mines, and it amounted to about 30 per cent. That was as large as the proportion in this country. Why should they have special legislation for the purpose, not of enforcing labour but of compelling British subjects to work in a special class of labour in which they did not want to work? This was not the kind of work which attracted a native in sunny climates. Here they were forcing him to work underground at the most unattractive form of labour, even for a Kaffir. The result was that the Basuto, who was the finest type of native in South Africa, would not work in the mines. Why should they compel them to do this? The proportion of those working in the mines was given as 150,000 out of 400,000, but what about the natives working in Cape Town, Durban, in the docks, and employed in all classes of labour around the towns, and on all the farms as shepherds? Surely that was quite as important to the development of the country as working in mines.
1269 Those who defended this system would probably say they were not forcing them to work anywhere. He wished to point out, however, that a tax meant that they were forcing them to work in the mines, because they were not paid in cash for working on farms, but were paid in kind, or perhaps got a plot of land. Why should they force them to work in labour which was not healthy? Anyone who looked at the statistics of the deaths due to natural causes in mines knew how horrible the class of labour was for the Kaffirs. There was no class of labour in this country that caused so many deaths as this labour, which was forced upon the Kaffir in the Transvaal. These natives were not old men, but men in the prime of their strength, and still the number of deaths amongst them was appalling, because it was a kind of labour that did not suit the Kaffir constitution. It was not as if they worked for ten or fifteen years, but it meant that in the course of a year or two this labour was so unsuitable to the Kaffir that he broke completely down. It was an act of unheard-of oppression that they should force the natives to work in these mines. Why should they do it? In the mines in America white labour was employed. If they took Australia, it was also white labour, and he should like to see the House of Commons try to force black labour upon the mines in Australia. He knew what would happen if they did.
Since the days of the Spanish Empire in South America nothing of this kind had been known, and that undermined the strength of the Spanish Empire at home. The reason for this was that they were obtaining wealth by oppressive means, and they would deserve to be punished for it in the end. Before the war there were about 110,000 people working in the mines around Johannes burg, and they were paid at the rate of £3 10s. per month. That was not an unfair proportion considering the number of people available. After the war the total was 57,000, and why? Because the rate of wages had been put down to 1s. per day. A very remarkable letter had just appeared in the Press from the rector of Thaban-Chu in which it was stated that the natives 1270 were being forced to work on Government works, and the natives were complaining. They stated that they were perfectly loyal during the war, and they were most helpful to our troops, and he believed himself that but for the assistance of the natives he did not think hey would have brought the war to a conclusion at all. The natives complained that now the war was over this country was using her power to force hem to work like slaves upon Government works and in the mines around Johannesburg. The rector of Thaban-Chu stated that if they would treat the natives kindly they would readily respond, and there was no difficulty in keeping them to their agreements. Why should the natives not be treated fairly, and allowed to go with their labour to the best market, like anybody else? The mere fact that they were black men ought to compel us to treat them with generosity. What would be the value of sending missionaries to South Africa in the face of the practical working of this Christian Empire? If it was desired to give these people an exalted idea of Christian morality, let justice, first of all, be done to them. The mines ought to be closed unless they could keep open without a system of slavery. In Wales there were no end of mines—coal, slate, copper, and gold mines—closed because of the heavy cost of labour. If Chinese or Indian labour was to be imported, or if the natives were to be forced to work for a shilling a day in order that the South African mines might be kept open, why should it not be done for the gold mines in Wales? There was no reason why the mines should be kept open unless they paid the fair market wage. It was too expensive for the Empire to keep them open, because it was being done at the cost not only of the £250,000,000 spent on the war, but also of perpetrating an act of injustice such as no Empire could survive. The reason had been given that it was to keep the British connection. British connection! Who were the Britishers for whom the name of the Empire was being soiled with this infamy? Who were the British patriots that had underwritten the debt of £10,000,000? Among the names were Werner Beit, Barnato, Hyams, and 1271 Goerz, while the remainder was bought up by a gentleman named Moses. In the whole list there was only one Britisher, who, it needed scarcely to be said, was a Scotchman. No other race could survive such environment. He rather thought that in the meeting between the two cities of Birmingham and Jerusalem the latter had got the better of the bargain.
A real sense of uneasiness existed on this question of native labour, and the Committee were entitled to ask for information as to what was happening. The notion that the Boers were oppressing the natives had more than anything else to do with the popularity of the war and the determination of the British people to put an end to the Transvaal Government. Would there have been that determination had it been known that we were going to set up a worse system of forced labour? The war was entered upon, £250,000,000 had been spent, and thousands of precious lives forfeited, largely for the purpose of emancipating the natives, and the country ought to insist on the undertaking given and sealed by the blood of our soldiers being carried out.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I think the I discussion has gone far enough to justify me in getting up in answer to the appeals which have been addressed to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for; East Fife and others. The right hon. Gentleman said he would like to hear something as to the progress which is being made towards the establishment of those representative institutions which we have always regarded as the ultimate goal of our operations in South Africa. I need not say that the opinion and the policy of the Government have not changed in the slightest degree in respect to this matter. We are anxious, as I took occasion to say in public several times in the course of my visit, to be relieved as soon as possible of the responsibility which Crown colony government entails, and to give the new: colonies the same institutions as are enjoyed by other self-governing colonies. Up to the present time we have taken only one step in that direction, which indeed is the usual first step in the 1272 progress of a colony from the strictest form of Crown colony government to free institutions.
We have, in the first place, now established elective municipalities. I do not think the election has actually taken place, but we have proposed elective municipalities for Johannes burg, Pretoria, and other places, which will give fully representative municipal government. In addition, we have established a semi-representative Legislative Council in the Orange River Colony; that is to say, we have established a Legislative Council in which, in addition to the official members, a minority of members have been nominated by the Government, having been selected by the Government as representing in the best possible way the different interests in the colony. As far as I know, I believe the work of the Council has given satisfaction.
We propose to follow that up by calling together in the present month, or, at the latest, in April, a Legislative Council for the Transvaal. There also, in the first instance, we shall retain a majority of nominated members, but the representative element will represent every class and section. There will be representatives, of course, of the great industry of the Transvaal, of the shop-keeping element, of the farming element, of the old Boer element, of the new Boer element—that is, of the Boers who early surrendered, or who supported the Government in their endeavours—and of the working classes; in fact, we shall endeavour, as far as is humanly possible, to secure what will really be a representative minority. It is the intention of the Transvaal Government to bring various important questions before this body, and not to use the Government majority except in cases in which Imperial or other similar interests are concerned. That is the first step. According to the original view of the Government, and my present view, that should be followed, I hope at no distant date, by substituting elected for nominated representatives, but still maintaining the Government majority.
Then the third and last step will be the concession of full self-government That is the process through which the Cape 1273 Colony, Natal, and all the self governing colonies have proceeded to their present position, and, in my judgment, there is much to be said for observing it in the case of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. In regard to; that there is one point I should like very much to impress upon the House, and that is the decision of the Boer Generals not to take part in the Legislative Council. I have had the most intimate intercourse with General Delarey, close to his own residence, where he received me most hospitably, and where, I hope, we established a friendship which may probably last; and on that occasion I asked the general to serve as a representative on the Council. After some little protest on his part, he agreed to do so. He did I not, at that time, raise the objections which were subsequently raised, but he expressed the opinion that he could better assist the Government in his own way among his own people rather than by absenting himself from them for considerable periods in order to attend to legislative work at Pretoria. I suppose that after he reached Pretoria he consalted with the other two generals—General Botha and General Smuts—and that they persuaded him to withdraw his assent. I only mention his previous agreement to show the spirit in which he, at all events, is prepared to meet the situation. He assured me then—and I have not the slightest doubt whatever as to the sincerity of his; assurance—that he was perfectly ready to co-operate with the Government in every possible way. The generals addressed to Lord Milner a lette which, no doubt, is within the knowledge of the House. I have seen attempts to go behind the letter, and to impute to the generals other reasons for their refusal. That seems to me to be most insulting to the generals themselves. At all events, I have no reason to believe that they had any arrière pensée in the form of the document they presented. What they said was—and I think they are wiser than some of those Liberals who are so anxious at any moment to impose self-government on colonial possessions—that in their opinion the country was not ready for self-government. What they needed above all was 1274 rest from agitation, and at present they preferred to trust to the action and to the responsibility of the Government rather than to throw into discussion all the difficult and complex questions which might arise.
I often think that people talk about self-government without remembering exactly what it means. People talk about self-government as if it meant the government of the individual who is talking by himself, but it is nothing of the kind. Self-government is the government of the majority, and a majority even of one is able, under a system of self-government, to impose its will, however tyrannical and unreasonable it may be, upon the minority, and nobody may say them nay. Crown colony government is not, as generally supposed, the arbitrary government of an outside authority. It is rather a government which, while it directs its proceedings in accordance with the general wishes, so far as they can be ascertained, of the majority, also considers it one of its first duties to protect the minority against a majority which may be unreasonable, and it is on that ground that Crown colony government can be, and is, defended in all the cases in which it now exists, and it is upon that ground that the Boer generals represent, as far as they were concerned, that they would prefer to see the continuance of Crown colony government for the present rather than an immediate resort to self-government.
Great importance seems to be attached to their view, that in the interests of the two colonies it is desirable that a certain time, not a long time in the history of a nation, but still a certain time, should elapse before full self-government is accorded. Whether a long time will elapse I really cannot say. One thing is clear—if the population of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, both Boer and Briton,, by a large majority desire this self-government, even although it might seem to us to be premature, I should think it unwise to refuse it. I do not myself believe there is any such danger connected with Imperial interests that we should hesitate to accord it on that ground. The ground on which I should desire that it might be delayed is really the interest 1275 of the two colonies themselves, and not any Imperial interest. I believe that the temporary influence of the Crown colony system is desirable, at all events for some years to come, in the interests of the two colonies.
I think that gives to the House information as to what has been done, and also information, for what it is worth, as to what I think ought to be done. But there is one point to which I wish to call the attention of the House in connection with the other matter to which attention has been directed. When you have given this self-government to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, what use will it be for you to protest against their native policy, whatever it may be? I confess that I regret the discussion which has taken place, because I believe it is mischievous, because I am certain it is ill-informed, and because I think it is calculated to produce the very evils which those who have introduced it deprecated. What does this discussion imply? It implies that our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colonies, and the members of a self-governing colony, are unworthy of their name of Britons, are anxious for violent methods, are ready to introduce forced labour—slavery—and to do this with the meanest motives and the most sordid personal objects. I say that this charge—and I say it now when I am fresh from my recent experience—is resented, and deeply resented, by our kinsmen across the water, and that it does infinite harm by the sense it produces of injustice and unreasonableness, and the display of cheap philanthropy at their expense. All this goes far to separate our own people from us and to provoke in them an antagonistic feeling which, as I say, may lead to the very results which you desire to avoid.
Now for all the charges which have been made in fairly moderate language by other Members, and in his usual violent style by the hon. Member for Carnarvon, there is not the slightest foundation. There is at the present time no demand by any person of any responsibility or authority for forced labour in any shape or form. As for slavery, the idea does not enter into the mind of any British subject out there. The condition of the native at the present time in the 1276 Transvaal is better than it was before the war. All the promises we have made have been fulfilled in that respect. But there is one thing I am bound to say in justice to our late foes. I was led, as probably the majority in this House were led, by statements which were made, to think and to believe that the treatment of the native by the Boer was very bad, and in that belief we expressed the hope that when we came we should be able to improve it. Now the war itself is evidence that this charge against the Boers was exaggerated. I freely make that admission. If it had not been exaggerated, it is impossible to believe that the Boers could, as I know they did in hundreds and thousands of cases, leave their wives and children and property and stock to their charge, and in the care of a few natives they had had previously on their farms. Very few outrages took place, and undoubtedly in many cases the natives gave assistance to the Boers during the war just as in many other cases they gave assistance to us. And, therefore, although the conception of the native by the Boer is something totally different to the conception which has been put before the House in the course of the present debate, and represents, no doubt, the British idea of the relations between the races, yet of real brutality, violent misconduct, or ill-treatment, I think that in the majority of cases at any rate they must be absolved. The relation between the two races is quite different from that put forward. They repudiate entirely any idea of equality. They regard the native as little better than an animal, and certainly in no case as deserving of different treatment from what would be given to a child. They do not hesitate to apply corporal punishment for very slight offences, and in other respects they act in a way which would undoubtedly be reprobated in a British subject. But they seem somehow or other to have understood the native character. They have not been regarded on the whole as hard or severe masters by the natives, and and no ill-feeling has ever sprung up between them.
In spite of that, the position of the natives is better under the present Government than it was under the last. In many ways they have been relieved, and especially they have been relieved in the matter of taxation.
1277 I do not know where hon. Members get their information from, but, at all events, it differs altogether from that which is in my possession. The taxation under the late Government was as follows—hut tax 10s., poll tax £2, road tax 2s. 6d., dog tax 10s., making £3 2s. 6d. In addition passes were charged 2s. per month, which amounted to another 24s. a year, the total taxation payable by the native thus being £4 6s. 6d. I do not mean to say there were not some exceptions, but that represents the general condition of taxation. We have substituted for that one consolidated tax amounting to £2, in lieu of all the taxes hitherto imposed upon the natives. But if the native has more than one wife he has to pay a further tax of £2 for each additional wife. Some hon. Gentleman said that this legislation is at the dictation of the mine-owners. That is absolutely without a scrap of foundation. As far as I know the mine-owners had nothing whatever to say to it from beginning to end. [An HON. MEMBER: "They asked for it."] They did not ask for it; I deny it. They did not ask for that particular tax. I suppose what the hon. Gentleman has in his mind is that they are asking for more taxes now. That is a different thing. This legislation is independent of any influence on the part of the mine-owners. This particular taxation is against polygamy, over which practice the hon. Member for Halifax appears to be inclined to throw his shield. Tins taxation is suggested by a leading missionary, and to my mind there is an immense deal to say for it. I do not say the practice of polygamy is one which the Government should encourage. On the contrary, I think it is one we should, as far as possible, endeavour to discourage. But the practice of polygamy is very closely connected with the labour question, as I have pointed out when I was in South Africa, because the wife does the outdoor labour for the husband. The husbandry of the native on the land is carried out by means of the wives he possesses. Therefore, in addition to the comfort and companionship and womanly solace which numerous wives may give the men, there is also the important consideration of the addition to the reduction in his labour bill. As regards the question of taxation. I really cannot understand the line of argument of 1278 some gentlemen who have said that if you put a tax upon the native it is a mere sham for you to say that that is not forced labour.
Sir, we are all taxed. Are we the subjects of the condolences and commiseration of hon. Gentlemen? We are all of us taxed, and taxed heavily. Is that a system of forced labour, against which hon. Members think it necessary to protest 1 No; the sham is in the argument which these gentlemen adduce. Of course, if you can show that the taxation is unfair on its merits, or excessive in its amount, let that by all means be made the subject for consideration, but to say that because we put a tax on a native, therefore he is reduced to a condition of servitude and of forced labour is, to my mind, absolutely ridiculous. I have said, in answer to a question, that, in my opinion, he is nowhere overtaxed, and in some places immensely undertaxed, having regard to the advantages brought to him by the British Government. What are those advantages? What is the position of these native races now, and what was their position before we undertook the responsibility for them? No Zulu under Cetewayo, or under Umtali, or, indeed, under any great Zulu chief, could call his life his own. No Zulu could hold property except by the permission and goodwill of his chief. Every man was liable to be wiped out, and whole tribes of them were decimated under the tyranny which prevailed. From what do we protect them? From the consequences of internecine warfare, from slavery in its direct and worst form, from the slave-trade. From all these evils we are protecting the native: and it is perfectly fair, to my mind, that he should contribute something towards the cost of administering the country. It is ridiculous to say that any charge which has hitherto been made on the native represents more than a very slight contribution in the way of personal labour. Many do not require to give personal labour at all. When they enjoy a large family of wives they do not require to give personal labour. The whole of the tax can be earned by a few weeks' of moderate labour. In these circumstances I do not think they are 1279 deserving of the pity and consideration which have been extended to them.
Now, Sir, hitherto I have spoken generally as to the principles which must regulate the question of native labour everywhere and in every colony. Here it is complicated by the connection of the subject with the great industry of the country; and, unfortunately, some hon. Gentlemen opposite have somehow or other contracted such a prejudice against this particular industry and the persons engaged in it that they seem disinclined to hear anything whatever in its favour whenever it comes in question. I have pointed out before to the House of Commons that, if that prejudice is caused by envy and jealousy of the large fortunes which have been made, it should be borne in mind that these fortunes have not been made, as a rule, by the direct working of the gold mines, but by speculation, which is open to, and I believe sometimes engaged in, by persons who are not mining magnates. Gold-mining is just as much a legitimate industry as the coal industry in this country. It is wholly a question of the cost of getting material, and the price it will fetch in the market. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!] Yes, but I have to put these rather simple truths before the House, because I have to make my way clear. Incidentally I am answering some of the statements made in the course of the discussion It is a very simple question: What rate of wages can be paid in order that this industry should be self-supporting and prosperous? Before I discuss that, however, let me remind the House what hangs upon this industry. It is the great industry of the Transvaal. The prosperity of the Transvaal, at all events for many years to come, will entirely depend upon it. It does not affect the British population alone; it affects still more largely, perhaps, the Boer population and the agricultural population. The prosperity of the agricultural population will depend upon the extent to which they can find markets for their produce in the towns. Our whole policy in South Africa, its success or its failure, is enormously hound up with the success or failure of the legitimate gold-mining industry. It is, therefore, our object and interest 1280 that the mines, not only the wealthy mines where gold is found in comparatively large quantities and where a profit can be easily made—not only that those mines should be profitably worked, but that the low-grade ores should also be profitably worked; and it is the contention of the mine-owners that they cannot be profitably worked if any addition, however slight, is put on the cost of working; that the margin is so small that it will only allow them to employ the smallest amount of white labour; in fact, that no addition to the cost of working can safely be made. On whose authority is that statement made? After all, it seems to be the opinion of some people that these statements are rashly made for their own personal interest by those who are described as mining magnates. That is not the case at all. These statements are made by the mining engineers, who are not, as a rule, millionaires, but men of great capacity and great experience. The majority of them are Americans, who have been accustomed in their own country to working, with white labour, various grades of ore; and it is on the authority of these men that those statements are made. Their statement is that, although you may slightly increase the proportion of white labour, you cannot depend upon white labour-Wherever the work is purely muscular—and a great deal of the labour is purely muscular—the native is as good as the white man, and the white man cannot possibly do the same work at anything like the same rate of pay as the Kaffir can. I accept these statements from people who are much more competent than I am myself. I have had to inform myself on the subject and to hear the different views expressed. One engineer, and one only—he is in a minority of one—is more sanguine than his colleagues as to the possibility of greatly increasing the proportion of white labour; but at present the experiment he has tried, with the full authority of the mine owners, is still in the trial stage, and it is too early to say whether it will be a success. In tire meantime it is perfectly evident that it the mines are to be worked as they have been hitherto, it is necessary that something like 100,000 additional native or 1281 other cheap labourers must be found. Let me allude in passing to the observation of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil. He said that white labour might be introduced instead of Kaffir labour, and then he said that those who were interested in the mines were scouring Europe for cheap white labour. One of the deputations, which the hon. Member thought I had not received, came to me with a complaint on that same point; and undoubtedly those men who are paid high wages in South Africa are opposed to the introduction even of white labour. Therefore the mine-owners are reduced to this, that their choice is confined to Kaffir labour at 50s. or 60s. a month, or skilled white labour now worth £30 a month; and the House will see that, as long as that enormous margin remains it is clearly impossible that the mines which can be worked profitably with cheap labour can equally well be worked profitably with the higher-priced labour. First of all, before the war the mines had 100,000 Kaffirs working in them. At the present time they have only about 50,000, although since I left I believe that number has considerably increased. This falling off was due to many causes. In the first place, it is, I think, justly attributed to the face that the mine-owners attempted a reduction of the wages. I do not know that the Committee are aware that they all recognise that that was a mistake, and they have now gone back to the original rate of wages. It was undoubtedly a hasty action on their part, and was not calculated to secure the large amount of additional labour they required. But the mistake has been corrected, and now the wages are practically the same as they were before the war. That no doubt in some way accounts for the reduction of the number.
But in addition to that, there has arisen since the war a very large demand for Kaffir labour for other purposes—for railways, for building operations, and even for agricultural operations; and it is the belief of those who are well informed on moment there are as many Kaffirs actually labouring in South Africa as there were before the war, although a much smaller proportion of them are employed in the mines. I believe that larger numbers 1282 can be obtained even now from the old source of supply; and I would venture to urge on the mine-owners that more might be done to make the work more attractive, and especially to make the time of recreation more enjoyable. I visited the mines at Kimberley, and there I found a state of things existing very much in advance of anything on the Rand. There the mine-owners constantly employ 12,000 labourers, and they have no difficulty whatever in obtaining a sufficient supply of labourers. The natives come from very great distances, and come voluntarily to take up the work. That is entirely due to the care and attention given to them while in the compounds, and to the efforts made to make their life happier and more agreeable. I think, therefore, that if more attention is given on the Rand, if more efforts are made to make labour attractive, we may expect to get a larger proportion of labourers from the existing source of supply.
Then, turning to other districts north of the Zambesi, I quite agree with my right hon. friend the Member for the University of Cambridge that we have to be careful in any matter of this kind; and there can be no possible objection to laying on the Table of the House the regulations which have been framed. As I have said, it is proposed now to put 1,000 natives of Central Africa in the mines, and if they appreciate the life there, no doubt a much larger number will hereafter go there. The railway of which an hon. Gentleman opposite spoke has not been commenced, and will not be commenced for some time; but it does not at present affect the question at all. And let me point out that it is a very unfair thing to say to the labourers in a particular colony or protectorate, "You shall not go, whether you like it or not, where your labour will be best remunerated." The feeling of anxiety to prevent labourers going from the Central African or East African Protectorates is the feeling of the people on the spot, who are now getting the labour of these men for a quarter or a fifth of what the mines are willing to pay, because when they return they will demand larger wages from their former employers than are now paid in these protectorates. I think it would be wrong to lay down any general policy and to declare that the native 1283 labourer is practically to be adscriptus glebœ; that he must not more from his own protectorate even if higher wages are offered to him elsewhere.
I believe that from these various sources very considerable additions will be made to the ranks of labour, and that without anything in the nature of either forced labour or compulsion in any shape or form. Whether it will be sufficient, I must leave it to the future to decide; but I say it is premature to discuss that question now. I saw that there was considerable feeling expressed at the proposal said to have been made to me for the introduction of Asiatic or Chinese labour. Let me say, in the first place, that no such proposal was made or, as far as I know, is likely to be made. Every one concerned in the matter, even those who take the most pessimistic view of the future, is agreed that every other possible source of supply must be exhausted before the introduction of Asiatic or Chinese labour is even thought of. At the present moment, as every one knows, colonial feeling throughout South Africa is, by a very large majority against any such proposal. Why, then, should the House of Commons intervene to beat itself against an open door, and to teach our colonists what they ought to do, to interfere with the rights which we have conceded to the self-governing communities? It is against that that I protest, as being bad policy on the part of the House of Commons. As I have pointed out, if it had ever come to pass that a self-governing colony like the Cape or Natal should desire the importation of persons from any part of the world outside the British terrilories, there is no power or authority or right on our part to prevent it. And if that is so, is it dignified to be making protests especially when those protests are entirely premature? I have said as much as I need to say at the present moment and I hope I have convinced the House that if there has been in the minds any hon. Members any such anxiety as has been alleged with regard to the new regulations, or interference with the liberty of the natives, which would constitute forced labour, I hope I have been able entirely to remove that anxiety. I say again there is no shadow of a shade of foundation for it.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said that the right hon. Gentleman had lot convinced him, and he did not think he had convinced many hon. Members, n that side of the House, that there was no intention to force the natives to labour in the mines in South Africa, by imposing on them a heavy tax. The right hon. Gentleman very fairly stated he arguments used by the mine owners in South Africa. The truth was there were certain high-grade mines which paid very well; but there were other nines of low-grade which could only pay by very cheap labour; and the only way in which those mines could be worked was to impose a heavy tax on the natives, who would then have to leave their homes and earn money; and the only place that would be open to them would be the mines. The light hon. Gentleman did not tell the Committee that the reason why the wages had been reduced was to prevent the natives working for a time, and accumulating a sum of money. Fancy such a doctrine being enunciated in any part of England! What was it but forced labour? It was the plainest thing in the world; and he thought the country was beginning to perceive it. The natives were to be taxed with the deliberate intention of obliging them to work in order to pay the tax; that was to all intents and purposes forced labour. The right hon. Gentleman alluded again to what he might call "the wife argument." He seemed to be particularly enamoured of it. It was first used in defence of the tax upon Kaffirs in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman said that by making the Kaffirs work in the mines, they would be practically doing away with slavery; bf cause otherwise they bought wives and forced them to work for them. That was quite a mistake. Had the right hon. Gentleman been in any of the kraals in which the natives lived? It was quite a mistake to suppose that the Kaffirs forced their wives to work. He himself was not in favour of polygamy; and he did not suppose any hon. Member was; but he was rather surprised that the missionaries should complain of it, seeing that many of the patriarchs had a great many wives. What happened was this. The native law with regard to marriage was in- 1285 finitely better and safer for women than the law in this country. When a Kaffir wanted to marry a wife, he handed over a certain number of cattle to one of her friends. Those cattle were regarded as belonging to the wife; and if the woman was maltreated she might go to her representative., and if it were proved under native law that the Kaffir had ill treated her, then he was fined one or more head of cattle; and if the ill treatment continued the wife might withdraw to her family and take possession of all the cattle. He believed it would be much better for many unfortunate women if there was such a law in this country. He only referred to the matter to show that it was a perfect mistake to suppose that the women were in any sort of way slaves; a Kaffir himself did not care about the dignity of labour; he looked after the cattle, and the women did the hoeing in the little plot round the house.
It was stated on the best authority that as a rule Kaffir women were not ill-treated by their husbands they were proud of working in the little plots; and in fact acted as good, respectable wives. The tight hon. Gentleman and his friends in South Africa seemed to have adopted the system, of which they had read in the Scriptures, of a man working seven years for a wife. They were using the wives of the Kaffirs to attract labour to the mines. He did not understand why the Kaffirs should not be left alone in their villages. Was the theory of the dignity of labour to be applied in this country? Were landowners to be compelled to work on their own land? Were those who toiled not, neither did they spin, to be told that they must practise the dignity of labour? Let them apply those laws in England if they were to be applied in the Transvaal. What was their object? It was to get cheap labour for the mines, and to prevent English labourers from going out to South Africa and selling their labour. In every part of the world employers of labour would be glad to have cheap labour. In this country the coal owners might make a very good case for importing Chinese and African labour. They could point to the competition of foreign countries, and say 1286 that if they had Chinese or African labour they would be able to export coal in very much larger quantities. But what reception would such a proposal receive in this country. What would the working men of this country say if such a proposal were made? That it was a bad system to allow money to accumulate in the hands of a poor man because he might get proud and haughty? No doubt there were a great many seams of coal in England which could be perfectly well worked if native labour could be imported.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of a number of American engineers whom he met, and whom he described as independent men. They were very as independent independent indeed! They were in the pay of the mine-owners. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman task them what they did in their own country? Was not public opinion in America determined not to allow the importation of Chinese labour 1 Where they had low-grade mines in America they worked them by machinery purchased at great cost; hut in Africa, where labour was to be had for almost nothing, it was cheaper to employ it than to expend capital in machinery. It was the old old story in favour of slave labour. In this country they had been endeavouring to raise the status of the working man; and he could not understand that what was right and proper here should not also be right and proper in the Transvaal. The right hon. Gentleman said that the whole future of the Transvaal depended upon cheap labour. He said, perish the Transvaal and all its mines rather than they should allow such a step to be taken as one as they were responsible. Cape Jolony, Natal, and Canada had their own laws with reference to labour. This country was not responsible for that; but as long as the Transvaal remained a Crown Colony it would be responsible. Forced labour was thrown upon these people by a mode of taxation for raising the revenue. The right hon Gentleman had said, as to getting more labour from other parts of South Africa, that the blacks preferred to work above rather than underground, and that so many had been taken for the purposes of navvying and other work that it was 1287 hopeless to expect there would be enough for the requirements of the mines. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had approved of their ransacking the whole of Africa to get men to work in the mines, and he had allowed as an experiment 1,000 men to be imported into South Africa from Nyassaland. These poor people had no one to protect them. In Uganda and other places where they were more civilised they had protection, and in those places, when any suggestion was made of taking men to South: Africa, loud protests had been made against their being dragged away from their homes. Did anyone suppose when these poor creatures were asked to sign a contract that they knew anything about it? What happened was this. The person who wanted to get the 1,000 men was a speculator, like the slave merchant of old. He obtained the men, to sell them down South, in the same way as was done before slavery was abolished in America; and as wag frequently done in South Africa under the Boer régime, when gangs of blacks were taken down by a man who put them up to auction to the mine owners The chief from whom they were hired would get a certain sum, and these unfortunate people would know it would go hard with them if they did not obey their chief; they would go down and be shipped away, and the same thing would happen to them as happened to negroes shipped to South America in the past. The same arguments as to the blessings of civilisation which they would receive were used in that case, but at the bottom of both arguments lay the same fact, that the capitalists wanted themselves to regulate the wages and make them as small as possible because, obviously, the lower the wages the greater the profits they would receive.
In support of forced black labour the report of the Commission on Mines in Johannesburg urged that if English miners came out they would bring their obnoxious trade union views with them. But were we to abjure the doctrine of trade unionism? The great point urged in favour of forced labour was that the English miners would get higher wages and that their trades unions would see that they did get them. These poor creatures would be forced to 1288 work in the first place, and, in the second, would be compelled to work at wages which the capitalist would fix. He much regretted the attitude taken by the right hon. Gentleman on this matter. A Conservative friend of his who had gone down to the recent election at Rye, and who had been speaking to him about the election, in answer to his inquiry as to how such a result had happened, said that it was owing to the attitude of the villagers, who were indignant at the idea that the present Government were; forcing blacks to work. He admitted that their action was not entirely governed by the abstract morality of that matter, because one gentleman had complained that they were earning 12s. or 14s. a week, and that they had been told that if they went out to South; Africa they could make £20 or £30 a week, but they were unable to do so because the British Government were allowing slavery in that country. He had not alluded to that election for mere; electioneering purposes, he took a much higher ground, that they ought not to abrogate their noblest traditions. There was nothing of which they ought to be more proud than their action on the question of slavery. It was they who put an end to the slave trade, but they were now I going back on their noblest traditions, and, for the benefit of a miserable set of cosmopolitan adventurers, were allowing slavery in a country which they had annexed and which was now a Crown Colony.
§ *SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
compared the state of affairs in South Africa with that of the State of Nevada twenty or thirty years ago, when the silver mines were highly productive, and were yielding large returns, and thereby contributing to the wealth of the world. There was no scarcity of white labour there, because the mine owners, making large profits for themselves, did not grudge adequate wages to their workpeople. The mine owners there might have resorted to three sources of supply for cheap labour, the negroes in the South, the Aborigines in the reservations, and the Chinese in San Francisco. To their credit it must be said they resorted to none of them, and, although they wielded great influence in the Congress and the 1289 Senate, they made no efforts to induce forced labour, but paid such wages as insured a sufficient supply of white labour for the mines. Such views might well be taken into consideration in South Africa. Everybody knew of the enormous wealth the mines produced, and a sufficient rate of wages ought to be paid to procure white labour there. He was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that the mine owners did not desire to import the yellow peril into South Africa. He trusted there would be a continuance of this state of feeling on the subject, and he also hoped that the people of this country would adopt only one note and tone on this question, namely, that those who were extracting so much of the mineral wealth of South Africa should not desire merely to pay large dividends to shareholders in this country, but also that they should satisfy the claims of the miners who aided in procuring it. If this were done he believed this question of forced labour would entirely disappear, and it should disappear, because of the moral feeling of the whole of the sensible people in this country that they were not to enrich themselves, or allow other people to enrich themselves, at the expense of any labour, whether it be white, yellow, or black.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
said the Colonial Secretary had avoided giving the assurance which had been sought from that side of the House. They quite recognised that the lower-grade gold mines could not be worked without native labour, and they agreed that it was right to tax the natives for the benefits they enjoyed. It was true that they submitted to taxation in this country, but it was not imposed for the purpose of driving them to any employment to which they did not wish to go. What they believed on that side of the House, on the strength of the statements made by the capitalists themselves, was that they (the capitalists) desired to make use of taxation as an engine to compel the natives to go into the mines, and the assurance they desired to have from the Colonial Secretary was that he did not agree to that proposal, nor was disposed to entertain the principle that taxation should be 1290 exacted from the natives with a view of using it as an engine to force them into the mines. If the tax was only intended to compel the natives to contribute their portion towards the cost of Government, why was there all this anxiety on the part of mine owners? Why did they talk about the polygamist native? Did the right hon. Gentleman ask them to believe that there was no attempt or design on the part of mine owners to use taxation as a means of driving the natives into the mines? If the right hon. Gentleman said there was no such design, and that he would not countenance such a thing, then they would be satisfied. But short of giving them that assurance the right hon. Gentleman was simply evading the question when he talked about the necessity for taxation. They were aware that the natives were taxed in other countries, but in no other country were they taxed with a view of forcing them into the mines, and this was what they called forced labour. The Colonial Secretary ought to give them a clear and explicit assurance on that points In reply to his hon. friend, the Colonial Secretary had declined to enter into the discussion of a private conversation he had had with the Rev. Mr. Bosman, but the right hon. Gentleman had disclosed a private conversation of much greater importance with General Delarey. The Colonial Secretary said he was entertained by him in his own house, and in that conversation General Delarey expressed his readiness to take part in the Legislative Council; but after he had seen General Smuts and others, he seemed to withdraw from that position, and he came to the decision that he would not sit upon the Legislative Council. Was not that a private conversation?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Certainly not. I immediately communicated that information to Lord Milner, and there was no secret about it at all.
§ MR. BRYN ROBERTS said he failed to see why the conversation with Mr. Bosman should be treated as private, because the rev. gentleman had communicated information with regard to it to the Press.1291
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Does the hon. Member say that Mr. Bosman has communicated an account of his interview with me to the Press?
§ MR. BRYN ROBERTS said he did not say that.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Has the hon. Member himself seen an account in the Press of our conversation which has been communicated by Mr. Bosman.
§ MR. BRYN ROBERTS said he had seen communications in the Press which appeared as statements emanating from the Rev. Mr. Bosman. [An HON. MEMBER: "You said he communicated them."] No, what he said was that he understood the Rev. Mr. Bosman had made communications to the Press as to the subject of his conversation with the Colonial Secretary, and those communications must have come either from one or the other. He wished to know, in view of the damage which the right hon. Gentleman now knew had been done by the destruction of private property in South Africa, whether he was ready, on behalf of the Government, to make some compensation for that destruction. The obligation of compensating those who had had their property destroyed was an obligation binding upon them by international usage and international law, but when the right hon. Gentleman was challenged upon this he seemed to suggest that the damage done was very slight. In the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, he admitted that the country had been devastated and depopulated, and the extent of the injury done was now beyond all dispute. The Boer Generals, in their appeal, stated that they were convinced from personal knowledge that 30,000 houses on the farms, besides a number of villages, had been destroyed by the British. That had been admitted and proved by the corroborative testimony of British soldiers who had fought in the war. That was confirmed by the famous letter of Lieutenant Morris. The same thing might be said of the testimony of Captain Marsh-Phillips. The hon. Member was proceeding to read a quotation with regard to farm-burning, when—1292
§ THE DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN reminded him that these matters were consequent on the action of the war, and had nothing to do with the Colonial Office.
§ MR. BRYN ROBERTS said he was putting them forward simply as affecting the right to compensation. These farms were burnt, not for treachery on the part of the Boers, but in the course of military operations, contrary to international usage, and the owners ought therefore to be compensated. There were matters in connection with the usages of war which could not be compensated for, but these were not among them. They certainly constituted a breach of the Hague Convention.
§ THE DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN said the hon. Member could not discuss the Hague Convention on this Vote.
§ MR. BRYN ROBERTS said that his contention was that if the matters of which he complained were contrary to the Hague Convention, those who suffered under them were entitled to compensation. But even putting aside the question of right, it would be a wise policy on our part to compensate these people. To offer money as an eleemosynary gift was simply adding insult to injury. As a, nation which professed to be civilised and Christian, and which set some store on its honour and good name, we ought to give these people that to which they had a right, and not either leave them to> starve or pauperise them by doles.