HC Deb 09 June 1904 vol 135 cc1216-8

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Chinese labourers under the Transvaal Ordinance can undertake work of a class in which hitherto white men have been engaged.


I stated some months ago that Chinamen would be excluded from work of a class in which white men had hitherto been engaged. I adhere to that statement, and it is given effect to in the Ordinance under penalties of £500 or two years imprisonment in default of payment. It follows, therefore, that white labour cannot be displaced by the introduction of Chinamen. On the contrary, a larger opportunity for the employment of white men will be afforded.

MR. SYDNEY BUXTON () Tower Hamlets, Poplar

Is it not a fact that the gangers or overseers over the Kaffirs are at present white men. Will it therefore be competent for Chinese to act as gangers?


I do not profess to have any exact knowledge of the precise conditions obtaining now in the mines, but every employment in which the Chinese are permitted to engage is subject to the limitation that it has not hitherto been the employment of white men.


On whom is the fine imposed or the imprisonment inflicted? Is it the Chinese labourer who is to be fined?


With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I can hardly think that he is in very much doubt on the subject. Section 31, Clause 5, of the Ordinance says that any person who employs these labourers, otherwise than in unskilled labour, in the exploitation of minerals, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £500, or in default of payment to imprisonment for a period mot exceeding two years.

MR. CATHCART WASON () Orkney and Shetland

Did not the right hon. Gentleman state clearly in the House yesterday that Chinamen would be employed as overseers?


I beg to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that no British miners in the Rand can speak the language of the natives employed in the mines, and that all ganging work in the mines has been exclusively carried out by white men; and whether the right hon. Gentleman will inquire of Lord Milner what construction his legal advisers place on the terms "ganger" and "mine-overseer," which are both found in the schedule of occupations closed to Chinese labourers, seeing that a large number of British miners will be unable to find employment which they otherwise would find if Chinese gangers were not allowed to do that class of work.


The Question only reached me a short time ago. I cannot profess to have any exact knowledge as to the exact conditions of employment in the mines. I think the hon. Gentleman will see that the inquiry he suggests is unnecessary because Chinamen can only be legitimately employed under the Ordinance provided that they are not employed in work that white men have hitherto been engaged in. Anything that can make that clear I shall be glad to do.

MR. JOSEPH WALTON () Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley

May I ask whether the employment of Chinese labourers is not absolutely restricted to unskilled labour, and whether in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion the work of a ganger is a form of unskilled labour.

MR. BAYLEY () Derbyshire, Chesterfield

; Are the gangers in the mines going to be Chinamen or white men?


If gangers hitherto have been white men, they will be white men in the future. It is impossible for me to say from my own knowledge the exact conditions of labour that prevail. I should imagine that there would be cases in which, when Kaffirs came up from a considerable distance, speaking different languages, an intermediary would be employed to interpret the orders, and in the case of a black man being employed for that purpose now it would be competent for a Chinaman to fulfil the office. If, however, a white overseer doss the work at present, it would, of course, be competent only for a white man to do the work in future.