I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that by the provisions of the Natal Act, Immigration (restricted), 19C3, the master and owners of any vessel, from which any person suffering from a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease nay be landed, are liable to a penalty of from £100 to £5,000; whether the master or owners of the British ship "Tweeddale," from which immigrants suffering from beri-beri were landed at Durban, have been subjected to the penalties referred to; and whether he will take steps to warn the masters and owners of British ships of the penalties to which they are liable for any infringement of the provisions of the above Act while engaging in this traffic.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I have telegraphed for information to the Officer Administering the Government of Natal and have received the following answer:—"My Ministers suggest that you give following reply to Question. Begins—'It is the custom in Natal to subject persons to penalties after they have broken the law, not before. The "Tweeddale" did not infringe the Immigration Restriction Act. No British ships are liable to penalties for engaging in this traffic—namely, the conveyance of Chinese immigrants under a scheme approved by the Government of Natal. Both shipmasters and Transvaal Government have been duly informed of our law and of the requirements there under.'" It will be observed that the Natal authorities do not consider beri-beri to be a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease.
The Answer, though somewhat discourteous, does not cover the Question whether in point of fact such persons were landed, and, if so, whether the penalties were inflicted.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
The hon. Member is aware that the Natal Government have, as a self-governing colony. Ministers who are the judges on this point— subject to the hon. Member. The Natal Ministers say that there has not been an infraction of the Natal law. [OPPOSITION cries of "Why]"] I presume the reason must be that they are satisfied that beri-beri is not a contagious disease.
With great respect may I point out that it is not denied that it is a loathsome disease?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member is not satisfied he must put down a more specific Question. The Answer given to the Question on the Paper is that, according to the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge and information, no breach of the law has been committed in Natal.