HC Deb 04 August 1906 vol 162 cc1804-24

Motion made, and Question proposed: "That this House at its rising to-day do adjourn until Tuesday, October 23rd next, and that for the remainder of the session Government business have precedence at every sitting, and at the conclusion of Government business on each day Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without question put."—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.)

MR. MURPHY (Kerry, E.)

said he desired to raise several questions dealing with educational matters in Ireland. He complained firstly of the action taken by Dr. Starkie, head of the Irish Education Board, in the course of public speeches, in attacking the clerical managers of the elementary schools. As far as he himself and those for whom he spoke were concerned they had no doubt whatever that Dr. Starkie might be a very clever and highly educated gentleman; they had nothing to say against him personally, but they did complain of the way he administered educational affairs in Ireland. He antagonised himself and put himself in opposition to the best educated and most powerful force in Ireland, viz., the Catholic school managers. What would be thought of the official head of the Education Department in England if that official went round making speeches attacking the clerical managers of elementary schools? He would not be allowed to do it. He thought Dr. Starkie should be restrained; he should be put into another sphere for the exercise of his great ability and power of administration. It was not the cleverest men who were always the best, and certainly when anyone in Ireland or elsewhere set himself in opposition to great public opinion as represented by the Catholic school managers, he had very little chance of dealing with matters in a satisfactory manner. He and other Members had argued the question in reference to the need of reform and improvement in the educational affairs of Ireland, and lie believed he was right when he said that the present Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General were in agreement that things were unsatisfactory and in need of reform. With such affinity of feeling one might expect that some thing would be done, but they had been told by the Prime Minister that there was little hope of dealing with the question in the Autumn sitting. There were some 14,000 teachers affected by the present position of things in Ireland. It was impossible to have a prosperous country if its primary education was neglected and left in the present ruinous condition of such education in Ireland. He would suggest that the Attorney-General might ask the Chief Secretary to direct his attention to this question during the coming recess. He (Mr. Murphy) knew all about the conditions under which boys had to attend the elementary schools and of the little opportunity given them to make head way. A little expenditure upon these schools would make their condition more suitable for educational purposes and would give the poor children, who had to attend them clean and well furnished rooms. He hoped also some provision might be made for a new supply of books. Another matter he wished to bring before the notice of the House was that of the civil rights of teachers. He was informed that there was scarcely a county in England where the teachers were not allowed to enter into public life. In Ireland, however, every restriction was placed upon the teacher, and the result was that they were practically slaves at the mercy of the Public Department. Under such conditions they could not educate the children to become self reliant and self-respecting men. He hoped reforms would be immediately secured in this direction. Also, he hoped that the question of the salaries and pensions of teachers would be considered. It was because he took a deep interest in primary education that he had taken the present opportunity of referring to these matters, and he hoped the Attorney-General, who had always shown the greatest courtesy, would make it his business to represent to the Chief Secretary and the Department that there was a very strong feeling in Ireland with regard to primary education, and that such a state of affairs as at present existed could not be tolerated much longer.

MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)

also called attention to grievances in regard to Irish education, and especially to the case of a National school teacher who was dismissed without just cause by the school manager and was only able to secure a reversal of the decision by reason of the fact that the Board in Ireland, by the referees, were able to hold an inquiry into the facts. He complained further that the Intermediate Board and the National Commissioners were not duly responsible to this House, and that there was often undue delay in the payment of teachers' salaries. The Irish Administration at the present time was a fraud and a wanton. There were forty-one Boards in Ireland spending money over which this Parliament had no control. [An HON. MEMBER: Try Home Rule.] There were millions of money expended of which Parliament, although it had to vote the cash, had no control of the spending. That was a. state of affairs which if not promptly remedied by the present Government would have to be dealt with by another Government which would have to be substituted for the present one.


apologised for the absence of the Chief Secretary, and hoped that, considering the right hon. Gentleman's laborious week, the House would excuse him. Hon. Members from Ireland would remember in an especial degree the amount of trouble and anxiety the light hon. Gentleman had gone through in connection with the Labourers Bill, which in a few minutes would receive the royal assent. Everybody would agree that the Government had done an act which would certainly conduce to the increased prosperity of a great mass of the Irish people in securing that the measure should be passed into law before the adjournment for the summer recess. Everyone concerned in Irish administration would admit the extreme importance of the questions referred to by the hon. Member for East Kerry and the pressing call there was for legislating on them. But they could not do everything at once, and the Government would not have been expected during the course of the present session to deal with such a thorny question as Irish primary education while they were passing the Labourers Bill through the House. Primary education had been neglected in a shameful manner in the past. It called for action so soon as the House could possibly take it. He lamented that the funds which ought to have been devoted to primary education corresponding to the funds devoted in England to that purpose had been diverted and applied in other directions. That was one of the most regret table circumstances connected with the late administration of Ireland. They were face to face with a great financial difficulty. If the position of primary education was to be improved and the schools were to be properly equipped, the teachers properly paid and the pupils given proper education, it would need the expenditure of a large sum of money. [Cries of "the development grant."] That grant had already been assigned to so many subjects that he doubted whether any sum would be available from that grant for this particular purpose.


Assign it to the original purpose for which it was intended.


said he could not make a complete change at once. The Government would by some way or another secure sufficient funds for primary education. Every member of the Government regarded the matter as being of as much importance in Ireland as in Eng land, and it must be dealt with. As to Dr. Starkie, he did not propose to enter into details of that question. The hon. Member would himself recognise what a very great difficulty every permanent official was placed in owing to the transitional stage of Irish administration. Irish administration in the past had been in an unsatisfactory condition. The present Government hoped to make a change in that, and it was one of their most earnest hopes that in the course of next session or some future session the administration of Ireland would be brought into closer connection with the people of Ireland. He was glad to hear that the hon. Member for South Belfast welcomed those changes.


What changes?


In the administrative boards.


Yes, I should welcome changes in the administrative boards, but it must not be assumed that I shall welcome the changes suggested by the Government.


The leopard cannot change his spots.


hoped the hon. Member's speech would be remembered in the future, and add to the favour in which the proposals would be received by the House. He accepted it as an indication of the spirit in which the hon. Member would act, and hoped it would be adopted by other Members who sat for Ulster constituencies, although he could not say he had much confidence as to that. Mention had been made of the Intermediate Board, and complaints were made that it was not responsible to this House. Correspondence on that subject had been going on between the Board and the Government, and it would be seen when that correspondence was published that the Government had been asserting most strenously, and would continue to assert, that the Board was responsible to the House. Until the Intermediate Board and all the other Boards were made responsible to this House they would not have good government in Ireland. It was essential that the administration of any country should be under the control of the representative body.

MR. MACKAKNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)

referred to one or two aspects of the proposed grant of self-government to the Transvaal. On the general character of that grant of self-government he heartily congratulated Ministers. The new Constitution had the great merit of being based upon trust of the brave people who fought against us instead of the distrust which marked the Constitution proposed by the late Government, and he was convinced that no measure which was not based upon trust would ever succeed. He passed over the objection to the second Chamber, which was only provisional and temporary, but the withholding of any grant of responsible government to the Orange River Colony was more serious. Many Members on the Ministerial side were highly pleased with the attitude of the Government on the Chinese labour question, and welcomed the declaration that they would not tolerate when self-government was introduced any kind of labour which was accompanied by servile conditions. It was welcome because it showed the Government had resumed that attitude towards freedom of all labour which was abandoned by the late Government. It was also satisfactory as showing that the Government would encourage white labour in the mines and throw open to responsible reputable persons the power to recruit our own black subjects to take part in the working of the mines. But he wished to point out that under the proposed policy in the Transvaal the existing state of things in relation to the employment of Chinese labour in the mines would continue for some years unless stringent measures were taken. The record of murders and outrages committed by the coolies was appalling, and by the herding together of 50,000 Chinese of the lowest class without women a horrible moral cancer had been introduced into our new colony, and the population and settlers in the Transvaal were becoming habituated to practices that had always been held in deepest detestation by our race. He earnestly pressed upon the Government that instead of waiting, they should make every effort to hasten the repatriation of the Chinese, and, as far as it was possible, to obtain withdrawal of licences. Instead of allowing 5,000 more Chinese to come in and adding to the gravity of the situation, they should extend the admirable policy which, they had begun, and persuade certain mine-owners to withdraw the licences and begin at once a gradual system of repatriation of this class who could not be allowed to remain in South Africa without contaminating the public life and purity of the Colony. He held that the whole policy of the war in the Transvaal was a gross wrong to the people of the Transvaal, but it was still more wrong to introduce into that Colony this terrible moral cancer. He therefore appealed to the Prime Minister to press on the policy of repatriation.

MR. FIENNES (Oxfordshire Banbury)

said he had had no intention of speaking on this or any other question to-day, but having listened to the remarks of the hon. Member and because recently he had felt compelled to vote against his Party he wished to say a few words on this question. He had formed his opinion on the Chinese question from letters received from South Africa, from men who were in his Yeomanry regiment and who were now working in the mines men who though they disliked the principle of Chinese labour said the only way in which work could be provided for the many white men starving in the streets at that time was to have more Chinese labour. There always was a great scarcity of natives labour in the mines even before the war. There were now 50,000 Chinese on the Rand. Those 50,000 were finding work for 6,000 white men, and unless a substitute was found for those 50,000 Chinese the position of the 6,000 white men would be jeopardised. He would be only too glad to see 50,000 white men take their place; he would be only too glad to see the experiment of Mr. Creswell carried to successful issue, but at the same time if that could not be done substitutes for these 50,000 Chinese must be found. Until they could find these substitutes they would be running the risk of throwing out of work 6,000 white miners, which would mean a loss of four seats. Where, then, would be our British supremacy? He would like to know the opinion of the Ridgeway Committee on the Chinese labour question.


was understood to say that there was no allusion to Chinese labour in the Report of the Committee.


understood that, but there were such things as lobby rumours, and although he had no ground for his suggestion he would be glad to hear what any of the members of that Committee had to sayupon the labour question. So long as the Boers continued through their leaders to make violent speeches and to sow sedition as they had done, it was dangerous to give them a con stitution. It it were true that the Boers before the war wished to drive us into the sea—he did not think it was true, but at all events it was one of the pretences on which we went to war— then ten thousand times more had the Boers got a reason now for wishing to drive us out of South Africa. He hoped and trusted with all his heart that we might be able to unite with the Boer nation, who proved so gallant a foe, and he believed there were some who wished to be loyal to the British Crown, and who looked forward to the time when they would be part of the great Empire which, he thought, they on the Ministerial side had as much reason to be proud of as hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House.

*MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)

said his hon. friend the Member for Barnsley, who was unable to be present to-day, on Thursday last called attention to the failure of the Chinese Government to carry out the Mackay Treaty, to the necessity for further development of China by British con cessions, and to the administration of the customs. To the last mentioned matter he himself called attention on his own behalf, and on behalf of his hon. friend the Member for Montgomeryshire, who was unavoidably absent. The Secretary of State's answer to a question he put yesterday disposed for the present of this matter, but he should be grateful if he could give any reply in other respects to the speech of the hon. Member for Barnsley, as it was regarded by his hon. friends and himself, and by all interested in the China trade, of paramount importance that the customs should remain as before under European control and supervision. An imperial decree to this effect not only containing the conventional and meaningless ending, "tremblingly obey," but also the intention that it should be obeyed, would appear to be the necessary cure for the present situation. He should be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if he would give the House any information regarding the so-called Baghdad Railway project, a name which concealed rather than illustrated the immense importance of the scheme, which the representative of the Foreign Office in another place justly described as one of the greatest questions of our time, of similar character, and of equal moment to, the Suez Canal. He had endeavoured to show that His Majesty's Government formally consented in December, 1905, to allow the Turks to include military expenditure in the Macedonian Budget on the condition that the deficit, if any, should be supplied by drafts of the Ministry of Finance on the existing customs duties; that there was an annual deficit of £600,000 caused by military expenditure, which was being met from existing customs; and that it was as clear as daylight that if they consented to the extra 3 per cent, customs duty they would liberate more than a sufficient sum to pay the interest on capital, more than sufficient to carry the railway through the Taurus range, into the Mesopotamian plain, whence the descent to the Persian Gulf was easy and inexpensive. We were absolutely bound to participate in the whole scheme under some inter national arrangement and to have political control of the Gulf section, under pain of losing our commercial and political position in Turkey, Persia, and the Gulf, of having the flank turned of our Indian North-West frontier, and of seeing our commanding position in the Middle East seriously compromised, if not destroyed. He had endeavoured to show, among other things, that no considerations affecting Macedonia, the possession of another independent Power, for which we were not responsible, and which it was doubtful if we could benefit, could justify our consenting to the increase of 3 per cent., except upon the clearest and most satisfactory guarantees for our participation in the proposed new avenue of approach to the Persian and Arabian Gulfs and the Indian waters. If the right hon. Gentleman considered it unwise to en lighten the House as to the situation, he did not ask for any revelations, but it would be a comfort to know that he rightly appreciated, as he was sure he did, the true proportions of the Macedonian question, and the Baghdad Railway, the former of which related to the well-being of a population, sympathy with which should not blind us to the political and commercial necessities of the situation as regarded our own people. There was, indeed, little reason to believe that the increase, if sanctioned, would really benefit the people of Macedonia. Another subject he was concerned about was that of the British Indians in the Transvaal. The Government, he knew, had no power to coerce, and he was the last man in the House to wish to coerce Colonial ad ministrations. But certain speeches, epithets, and opinions, of individual Members, from which he profoundly differed, and which he deeply deplored, had found their way to South Africa where they occasioned very natural and very deep feelings of resentment. When, therefore, a Member, who regarded intervention from home in domestic Colonial affairs as generally unjustifiable and almost always disastrous, lifted up his voice in solemn protest against the treatment of our humane, civilised, and, in spite of intolerable provocation, always to the last degree helpful and friendly Indian fellow subjects, it was permissible to hope it would be taken in good part by the Colonial Government concerned, which indeed might reasonably reflect that its attitude in this behalf gave the only possible justification which could be found for the ungenerous criticisms and unfounded accusations of those who regarded our own flesh and blood in our own Colonies as oppressors of coloured and subject races.


desired to draw the attention of the House to a matter germane to a Question which he had had several times on the Paper. But first of all he would ask the Under-Secretary for the Colonies a Question which arose out of his recent statement about the Transvaal Constitution. Would it be possible for the hon. Gentleman to give the House some information as to whether the Transvaal Parliament, when, it was elected, could immediately proceed to change certain matters provided for under its constitution. He referred, for instance, to the boundaries of constituencies. Would it be competent for the Transvaal Parliament within the next year or so, say, to appoint a re-redistribution commission, or to enfranchise women? How far were the establishment of a second chamber, the basis of the franchise, the exclusion of the natives, and the particular constituencies fixed by the Letters Patent that had been issued, and how far could they be the subject of Bills that might be immediately introduced into the new Parliament? With reference to the Question on the Paper to-day in his name he should like to say that he totally disagreed with his hon. friend who had just addressed the House in his view of Empire. He did not hold the idea of a little corner of the Empire doing what it liked without admitting that the rest of the Empire had any right to interfere or to advise. If we were to have an Empire we must have something that corresponded to a political unity, and if we were going to have that then the parts of the Empire that shared in the glory, pretension and honour of belonging to it must, as a quid pro quo, allow some central Imperial authority to take charge of the traditions, the honour, and the reputation of the whole. He defied any Imperialist to come to a conclusion as to Empire apart from that, and, having come to that conclusion, he defied anyone to supplement that conclusion with any such doctrine as had been stated this afternoon. The point he wished to raise was the present operation of martial law in Natal, and particularly in connection with the trial which was either proceeding or had finished this week. The chief Tilonkwe was invited by the Minister for Native Affairs to go to Pietermaritzburg a week ago last Monday. Tilonkwe went, and was immediately arrested, and was told that he was to be tried by court-martial. The news papers immediately published that the result of the trial was to be that Tilonkwe was to be either shot or hanged. After this was known, the Minister, or some responsible authority, allowed him to return to his tribe for the remainder of the week, when he was again summoned to Pietermaritzburg, and last Monday he was to be tried before the court-martial. That was in accordance with the statement made by the Under secretary in reply to a Question. He was not going to make any charge, but here was the case of a chief who was told to go to Pietermaritzburg, and when he obeyed the instruction was arrested and condemned to trial by court-martial. Then he was informed that he was going to be shot, and next that he could go back to his tribe for a few days, after which he was to return to Pietermaritzburg to undergo his trial. Surely a man would not obey a second summons under such circumstances. If the Minister for War ordered a court-martial to be held upon him (Mr. Macdonald), and he was told that he was going to be shot or hanged in the course of a week, he thought lie should try to get a passage to America or some other place where a writ could not be served upon him. Supposing Tilonkwe had refused to obey the second summons, his tribe would have been said to be in rebellion, and an armed force would have been sent to vindicate the honour and secure the safety of the Colony. Last Monday, however, Tilonkwe returned, and he thought this House ought to pass a special vote of thanks to him for having done so. Tilonkwe was an exceedingly trustful man for having appeared in spite of his having been told that he was to be shot or hanged. Then he was brought before the court-martial, and counsel was provided for him. The counsel informed the Court that it was absolutely impossible for him to go into the papers in the time. The accusations made against Tilonkwe included deeds beginning in January last, before martial law was proclaimed, up to the other day, when it was stated he had said or done something which might be construed into an intention to commit a wrong. Although Tilonkwe's counsel appealed for time in which to examine the papers, the Court told him to go on immediately with the case. Certain people were in the Court who knew Tilonkwe personally, and his conduct as a tribal chief, but they were at once ordered out of Court. He might refer to one in particular whose name would carry weight amongst impartial people, and that was Miss Colenso, who at great personal inconvenience went to Pietermaritzburg to see, so far as she could, that justice was done. She was informed that she had no business to be present. So far as he had been able to read the accounts, whilst everybody else were turned out of court the Crown witnesses were allowed to remain in court and listen to the proceedings. He did not think that was exactly the kind of proceedings that our Natal colonists should impose. He had asked several times what the Government were doing in the matter. They had heard a great deal during the previous sitting about breaches of pledges, but he would like to remind the House what the Under-Secretary said in reply to a question on May 2nd regarding courts-martial. He said— The Secretary of State has been informed that it is the intention of the Natal Government to try all natives other than those actually taken fighting with arms in their hands by the civil tribunals and not by courts-martial. It was not alleged that Tilonkwe was ever in the field, or that he had anything at all to do with the rebellion. The only allegation was that he said something rude to the magistrates, and refused to pay his poll tax. Therefore trying Tilonkwe by court-martial was a breach of the pledges given by the Natal Government, and communicated by the Under-secretary to this House. It was quite impossible to carry the matter further, and all they could do was to utter their protest and express their heartfelt regret that they had not had a more satisfactory Answer to the Question addressed to His Majesty's Government on this matter. He was exceedingly sorry that they should start upon their holidays with such a thing as this pressing on their minds, and making them feel uncomfortable lest they had not fulfilled their responsibilities to the Empire in respect of what was going on in Natal at the present time.


hoped his hon. friend would believe that the vigilance with which the Secretary of State was watching what took place in Natal would not be relaxed in the short period for which Parliament was about to adjourn. So far as their powers allowed them they would neglect no opportunity of bringing influence, by way of friendly counsel, to bear upon the Government of Natal. A very great number of communications passed almost daily between the Colonial Office and the Governor of Natal, and the Governor was constantly in council with the responsible Ministers and was constantly receiving from those Ministers minutes which were transmitted to this country. It was not possible for the Colonial Office with any advantage to say before hand what friendly advice they would or would not give to the Natal Government. Any statement of that kind on behalf of the Government here would tend to offend the susceptibilities of Colonial self-government, and remonstrances or advice and representations which might otherwise have been considered favourably might be met in a harsh and unyielding spirit, and hardly any practical result would be achieved. He hoped his hon. friend did not suggest that he had been guilty of any breach of faith to the House. He gave the House the full substance of the statement of the Natal Government with regard to their intention not to try any prisoners by court-martial except those found in the field with arms in their hands. But he did not think it could be called a pledge. A pledge was something given in return for value received. The fact that the rebellion had extended in scope no doubt influenced the Natal Government. As to the case of Tilonkwe, he had not heard what verdict had been given by the court-martial, but the fact that the chief had returned to take his trial showed that he was not apprehensive about the proceedings. In regard to the sentences that had been given by the court-martial, they seemed to him to be not at all disproportionate to the gravity of the offences proved against the persons convicted. He had not heard of any capital sentences that were likely to be carried into execution, and the fact that the Natal Government had brought active operations in the field to a conclusion would no doubt relieve the administration of justice from anything like the appearance of severity.

MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

asked whether there had been any confiscations of lands.


thought there was no possibility of anything of the kind being apprehended in the immediate future. He had been asked whether the Transvaal Government would have authority and power to change the new Constitution. He hesitated to speak on matters of constitutional law. He could only say, speaking without authority in such a matter, that, subject to the assent of the Crown, it was within the competence of any responsible Government to make any changes they might choose, within their own jurisdiction, either in the franchise or the distribution of seats or in the constitution of its Legislature. With regard to the question whether it would be possible for the new Parliament to alter the boundaries of seats, it was an integral part of the Government's proposals that arrangements should be made for automatic redistribution, and he had no ground to suppose that such a power would be twisted to any partisan purpose. He thought the House would agree that the Government had tried to deal with the Transvaal in a perfectly fair and above-board spirit. They had endeavoured to frame a Constitution that would give all the elements of the country a fair chance of having their views represented, and would afford no Party an unfair triumph. As to the question of a Constitution for the Orange River Colony, the conditions were not the same there as in the Transvaal. There was no register of voters in the Orange River Colony as there was in the Transvaal, Mid on that account there must be delay in granting a Constitution to the Orange River Colony. But he did not think it was an extravagant expectation to indulge in when he said that, if the Government continued to receive the same loyal and confident co-operation from South African parties in dealing with this delicate problem as in dealing with the case of the Transvaal, they hoped to see both these Parliaments called together in the course of next year. He wished to say a word in reply to the hon. Member for the Newbury Division of Berkshire. On several occasions he had been asked for information about cases of murder committed by Chinese coolies, and he regretted that he had given the House a wrong impression in replying to a Question, when he said that there had been twenty-seven murders among the white population. On investigation it was discovered that only two of these twenty-seven were murders of white people, and that the rest were committed by coolies upon their fellow-labourers. [An HON. MEMBER: Or blacks.] He had laid before the House on other occasions the plans which the Government had sanctioned for improving the security of the population other than Chinese against outrage. They believed and hoped that there would be a diminution of the violent crimes which had taken place lately in the short interval in which the administration of these matters would remain in their hands. Whether the extra police arrangements would be successful or not he could not attempt to forecast at this moment, but at any rate he thought hon. Gentlemen would agree that it would be much easier to administer and have effective control over the Chinese population, and effectively to reduce the number of that population, if they were supported, as they might very shortly be supported, by the opinion of a really representative Transvaal Parliament. As to the question of immorality, he thought it must be quite clear that the fact of so large a population living under conditions of enforced and unnatural celibacy must raise very disquieting reflections in the mind of anyone who contemplated the situation. The hon. Gentleman had rightly stated that the law in the Transvaal imposed severe punishments on whites and blacks under certain conditions, and he himself had not heard that that law had not been put in operation against the Chinese. It certainly should be put in operation, and if it should be found that it was at present neglected, instructions would be given to secure that the law should be made operative. But the hon. Gentleman proceeded to speak of an even worse aspect of the Chinese labour question. He made statements as to the unnatural vice which prevailed in the mines. The hon. Gentleman said it was rampant and obvious. All he could say was that he had never seen any document or paper— and a good many came before him—from South Africa which made reference to such a state of vice in the mines as that to which the hon. Member for Berkshire had called attention. It was only quite recently that the hon. Member, and. several persons from South Africa, had brought the matter to the knowledge of his noble friend Lord Elgin. He must remind the hon. Member that when he asked him to place the statements on record in writing he declined to avail himself of that opportunity, and consequently the Colonial Office was not able to give that attention to the charges which no doubt they deserved. Having regard to the later evidence as to the condition of things which the hon. Gentleman had brought forward, it was necessary that immediate inquiry should be made. He under stood, indeed, that his hon. friend had had several consultations with his noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and that Lord Elgin has assured him that inquiries would be immediately addressed to Lord Selborne on the subject. He should suppose that, in these circumstances, the Colonial Office would be in possession of information on the subject before the House re-assembled. He had very frequently stated to the House the policy of the Government in regard to Chinese labour, and, in the absence of new facts, they were not inclined to change that policy. But, if such a state of things were disclosed as was indicated by the statements which had been brought before them by the hon. Gentleman, and if the charges he had made could be maintained, then he thought it would be clear that the general position of the Government in regard to Chinese labour, even during the transition period with which they were dealing, would have to be entirely revised. The hon. and gallant Member for the Banbury division of Oxfordshire spoke with knowledge on the subject of South Africa, for he had fought bravely in the field against the Boers. Therefore, his frank and straightforward opinions on South African matters deserved attention. The hon. and gallant Member made no attempt to repudiate or to answer the charges which were made by the hon. Member for Berkshire. All that he put forward was that the 50,000 Chinese were necessary if 6,000 white miners were to be kept in full employment, and that unless we kept them in full employment British supremacy would be imperilled. He would be sorry to place British supremacy on such a ground. He hoped that we should find other props and buttresses for British supremacy. He could only say that the matter would be carefully inquired into, and he hoped to be able to speak with some official knowledge on the question when Parliament re-assembled.

*MR. J. M. ROBERTSON (Northumberland, Tyneside)

said he wished to pass one comment on the extraordinary proposition of the hon. Member for the Banbury division that we should be prepared to maintain abominable conditions of life for 50,000 Chinese in the hope of giving labour to 6,000 whites.


said he wished to thank the Under-Secretary for the Colonies for the extremely kindly way he had spoken of him. He had received numerous letters from South Africa, and he had taken every step to ascertain the facts in regard to the moral conditions of the Chinese who were working alongside whites in the mines. He had the letters and the facts before him, and, perhaps, in his hurry he had passed over some matters to which he should have liked to refer. He should have been glad to answer the hon. Member for Berkshire with regard to the moral conditions which were said to exist among the Chinese. He himself disbelieved the charges entirely.


said he had only to say on that head that what was going on was well known to the white miners on the Rand, who did not regard the presence of the Chinese as a means of giving labour to them. They had persistently opposed the presence of the Chinese. As to the lives of the Chinese, if his hon. friend did not believe the charges, he must know little of life in the East and of ordinary human nature under the conditions described. It had been notorious from the very first that these abominable conditions obtained, and it was a matter of some surprise to him that the Colonial Office should not long ere this have heard all about them. In regard to gold mines in other parts of the world it had been found possible to employ white labour. It was only in South Africa that it had been found necessary to sacrifice civilisation to the Stock Exchange. He desired, however, to turn from this subject to another which he feared was equally painful About a month ago when the Foreign Office Vote was before the House the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made an impressive appeal to the House on the subject of the executions which had taken place at Denshawi in Egypt. That appeal did not entirely silence the House, but it silenced the Ministerial side of the House, the general impression being that if they attempted to raise their voices in regard to the executions which had awakened horror throughout the country they might give an immeasurable impulse to a movement in Egypt which might end in bloodshed, or a large movement of troops. Now that there had been time to look into the situation he ventured to think that the House was no longer called upon to regard the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman then made. The right hon. Gentleman told them that there was a fanatical movement in Egypt which ought to prevent them from making comments which might make the position more difficult to deal with. There had since then been published among other papers an anonymous letter received by Lord Cromer ostensibly from a Moslem, but written in a style that astonished all students of the letter. The authenticity of the letter had caused the greatest doubt. It had been called in question by one who knew Egypt so well as Mr. Edward Dicey. That letter said that there was a general feeling among the Moslem population that if there should be a conflict between Turkey and any Christian Power, the tendency would be to take the side of Turkey. In that letter there was no new proposition. Such a statement had been made again and again and disregarded by Lord Cromer. In any case it was entirely irrelevant to the question of the Denshawai executions. It was admitted in a white document officially published that the assault upon British officers had nothing to do with any political movement. At the time this occurrence took place this House was shut, most of the leading Egyptian officials were away on furlough; Lord Cromer himself was absent, a there was noboly there to deal with any spirit of unrest which was said to exist. Evidently there was no fear of it on the part of the officials; and they could fitly discuss the sentences passed in the Denshawai case, though they could not go into the details of the trial. Even now the evidence taken at the trial was not before the House. Of course, no blame whatever attached to the right hon. Baronet; but if he had been content to publish to the House the semi-official reports given in the Egyptian Gazette they would have been regarded by most Members as quite sufficient grounds to discuss the matter on its merits. Great credit had been claimed officially on the score that all the judges were more or less familiar with Arabic. From all the reports which he had seen, however, they made extremely little use of their knowledge. The examination of fifty accused natives took but thirty minutes, and the bulk of the evidence was given by British officers. The papers which had been published alone sufficed to show that the charge of premeditation was not only false, but absurd. The only evidence as to premeditation was a suggestion that the fire broke out in the village about the time of the affray, and that that fire must have been the signal for premeditated action. The fact was that the officers came on the scene utterly unexpected by the villagers. The villagers resented the intrusion, and the affray followed it. He brought no species of charges against the officers. One had paid an appalling penalty for any indiscretion which they might have committed. He did not desire to charge them with more than indiscretion, except that there was one question which would have to be discussed when the matter was fully before the House. When that happened he should wish to discuss whether the gun which went off and wounded four natives was fired in the hands of Lieutenant Parker, or after having left his hands. He should be glad to accept the view that it was fired after it had left his hands, but it must be noted that he was put under arrest with a view to pacifying the villagers.