HC Deb 10 December 1906 vol 166 cc1550-2

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Premier Diamond Company has offered the Natal Government £30,000 for permission to employ the rebel Zulu prisoners in its mines, the period of employment for such prison labour to last two years; and, if so, whether His Majesty's Government propose to take any action in the matter.

The following Questions also appeared on the Paper:—

MR. MYER (Lambeth, N.)

To ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any official information showing that the new Natal Government intend to open negotiations with the Premier Diamond Mining Company with the object of sending the native prisoners captured during the recent military operations in that Colony to work in the mines, and that the company offers £30,000 for their use for the next two years; and, if so, what steps he proposes to take in the matter; can he also state the number of prisoners taken; and whether there is any precedent in modern times, except in semi-barbarous countries, for the sending of political prisoners to work in mines.

MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)

To ask ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, has the Colonial Office received information that the new Natal Government is negotiating for the sale of Zulu political prisoners to the Premier Diamond Mines; and, if so, will the Imperial Government interfere to prevent such a transaction.


The Secretary of State has received no official information as to such intention on the part of the new Natal Government. I understand that the number of rebels who have been sentenced to imprisonment is 4,192.


Can the hon. Gentleman state specifically if such a transfer would be contrary to the Act?


said he did not think it would be, as the practice had obtained in South Africa for a long time. He could not say, on the spur of the moment, whether such a transference, if proposed, would require the assent of His Majesty's Government, but certainly they would be informed of it in time to make representations to the Natal Government, and in deciding they would be governed by the desire, as far as possible, to alleviate the condition of these people.

MR. BELLOC (Salford, S.)

Will the Colonial Office take care that the sum paid for this forced labour is equal or superior to the sum that would be ordinarily paid in wages for labour of a similar kind?


I think that is a very material and important point.


Will the right hon. Gentleman appoint a Commission to inquire if there ever was any rebellion among the natives?


That does not arise out of the Question.

* MR. MOLTENO (Dumfriesshire)

Can the hon. Gentleman see his way to: suggest to the Natal Government that these 4,000 natives should be returned to their homes, where there is severe distress owing to scarcity of food in consequence of the women and children being left without their natural providers and protectors; it being unusual in cases of this kind to punish with great severity the whole of the rank and file?


I am very largely in sympathy with the desires of the hon. Member, and if any opportunity should occur which would enable the Colonial Office to bring them into reality or bring them near realisation, I can assure him that opportunity shall not be allowed to pass.


Is there any case in which white prisoners of war are put on labour of this kind; if not, why are these men thus treated?


Will the hon. Gentleman communicate with the Governor of Natal, so that he may know the views of this House?


I will, of course, communicate with him.