§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £29,050, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on March 31st, 1907, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant in Aid of certain Expenses connected with Emigration."
§ *SIR. J. DICKSON-POYNDER (Wiltshire, Chippenham)
said that he made no apology for again availing himself of the course of debate to draw the attention of the Government to the urgent need for proceeding with a vigorous policy of 621 British settlement in South Africa. He sincerely hoped that the result of this debate would be that they would get from the Under-Secretary for the Colonies some statement which would show that the Government were anxious to carry out such a policy. He was glad to note that there was a growing opinion in this country and in South Africa in favour of such a policy. In this House that opinion was not confined to the Ministerial Benches, but extended to all Parties. We Lad annexed these two States— the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. It was not for him to discuss the wisdom of the annexation. But whether it was wise or not, we had to recognise that these States now formed an integral portion of the British Empire and that, therefore, it was our bounden duty—no matter what Government was in power—to do all in our power to make them a part of the Empire and to transform them into a condition of order and peace. There was no surer road of attaining that object than the establishment of large bodies of English people in the agricultural districts, working in close and intimate relationship with the Boers. He maintained that that would be the policy of genuine Imperialism. Imperialism of recent years had signified a policy of annexation and expansion; but with aggression there had come wars with all their disasters. This policy was not that of expansion, but of the consolidation and expansion of those territories whoso destinies were now irrevocably bound up with our own. The problem with which we were confronted to-day in South Africa must excite the anxiety of all who were interested in that country, and he held that the policy which had been carried out with so much success in other parts of the Empire—viz., British land settlement — was the surest method of attaining the end everybody desired. The reason he had for bringing up this question again was the disappointment he had felt in the Answers given to the innumerable Questions which had been put to the Under-Secretary for the Colonies. True, the subject had been obscured. They had been obliged to have innumerable discussions on Chinese labour and the disturbed state of the native population in Natal. But as regarded both these questions there was no 622 reason for putting aside or turning away their attention from the important subject of land settlement by a white population. He contended that that was all the more reason for the Government to take up an active, vigorous and constructive policy of land settlement. A great deal was heard in these days about the labour question. It was due to the labour difficulty that the late Government, unwisely and with very little foresight, introduced the unfortunate system of Chinese labour, and the labour problem in South Africa on its practical side had led, so they were told, to universal depression. Why was it impossible for the labouring classes in South Africa to find a livelihood? It was because under a protective system 70 per cent. of the necessary food supplies were imported. He ventured to say that a very large proportion of those food-stuffs could be produced in South Africa. A great portion of the waste lands in South Africa could be populated with a vigorous agricultural people who could bring these tracts of land under cultivation. If that were done there would soon be a lowering effect on the prices of the necessities of life. The racial question was, not an antagonism between the Boers and the Britons, for no hostility should exist in future between them, but, unfortunately, between the white man and the black. We had had experience of that in Natal; and therefore it was all the more incumbent on the Government to encourage a system of emigration by which the country would be filled up with a white population. As to the political side of the question, he was sure that there was no desire to introduce what was known as a British garrison in South Africa. There was no idea of the British overruling the Boer. What was wanted was proper proportion between the Briton and the Boer, and he believed that that would be of advantage to both. He was bound to confess that the Answers to Questions put to the Government had shown that no steps had been taken to carry out the objects he and his friends had at heart. He thought he might say that the Colonial Office had appeared, of set purpose, to avoid the responsibility of adopting adequate measures for carrying out a scheme of land settlement in South Africa. The report of the Commissioner of Lands, which was extremely interesting, showed that the work of land settlement 623 was at a stand-still. It stated that the causes thereof were certain technical obstructions to land transfer ; and that land was withheld from the market for agricultural purposes which was proclaimed for mineralising purposes. The Report went on to say that the Lieutenant-Governor of the Transvaal had the power to deproclaim that land and open it for agricultural purposes: but that power had not been exercised. There were large tracts of land in the Transvaal available for agricultural settlement, and it appeared to him that the Government should give a stimulus to the Transvaal Government to open these tracts of land for agricultural settlement. Many people argued that that land was not suitable for agricultural settlement; but he preferred to take the opinion of men on the spot and that of the Commissioner for Lands who said that—There was no reason why the two industries —the agricultural and the mining industries— should not be developed side by side without clashing with the respective interests involved.That, to his mind, was a conclusive answer to those who said that the land now devoted to mineral purposes was not suitable for agricultural purposes. There were two directions in which the Government might use its influence, but, of course, financial difficulties were involved in regard to land settlement. Those two points lie had urged upon his hon. friend in the past, though he admitted that he had not been very successful in his endeavours. His hon. friends who agreed with him had been equally unsuccessful. The land settlement funds were exhausted, and in reply to a number of questions, the Under-Secretary said a short while ago—Any alteration in the Transvaal law affection the tenure of these lands will be a matter for the consideration of the responsible government about to be conferred upon the colony.If this was the policy of His Majesty's Government, they were evading their primary Imperial duty as the Government responsible. He believed that this question was so urgent that it could not wait; it should be dealt with at once. Every day that was missed was making the task more difficult of fulfilment in the future, and was a loss of valuable time which could not be recovered. We in this country prided ourselves as a nation upon our colonising faculty and our aptitude for 624 that work, and boasted that no obstacle had ever prevented us from succeeding in any part of the world. Let it not be said that this faculty was dying out and that we were incapable of colonising the Transvaal where compared with other territories the obstacles were trifling and the advantages to be reaped overwhelming. In days gone by we had overcome greater obstacles than would be found in South Africa. No doubt there were many hon. Members who would say that the obstacles in South Africa were insuperable. A great deal was said about the unsuitability of the land and of the climate, the diseases to which cattle were subject and other respects in which it was said the country was unsuitable for agricultural purposes. A complete answer to that kind of contention was to be found in the last report of the Agricultural Department of the Transvaal. That was a very remarkable and valuable document, and he wished to refer hon. Members to it. It was indeed an encouraging report to those who believed that the way to bring peace and prosperity into South Africa was by the initiation of a generous land system which would tend to increase the agricultural population. It demonstrated beyond all doubt the justification for all the work that had been done in the past, and he should like specially to allude to the admirable and persevering work done by the South African Association in this connection. That association in conjunction with the Government had done work in the Orange River Colony and in the Transvaal upon thoroughly practical lines. They were not "dumping" down irresponsible Englishmen upon land of which they knew nothing. They sent out carefully selected men and placed them upon land which also was carefully selected. By means of this association men were being placed upon the land under the most favourable circumstances, and the result of the experiment had shown that the climatic conditions and the diseases to which cattle were subject could be overcome. All this showed that there was large room for future development. What, however, was the use of a report of this kind furnished by expert gentlemen if the Government stood idle, and if the whole process of immigration and resettlement was to be checked by mere official lethargy or obstruction at home? There was the land, 625 and it was suitable land. There were the men and they were suitable men, and they were ready, able, and qualified for the purpose. There also was the machinery in their hands, and yet to-day the work stood idle and no scheme of immigration was going on. But there was another serious aspect of the question. If the reports were to be relied upon there was a steady and growing stream of emigration of Boers from South Africa. One could under stand that at the end of the Boer war, the Boers, smarting under the wounded feelings induced by defeat and a sense of patriotism, emigrated to Argentina, but they had had four years of beneficent British Government, and one did not expect those feelings to prevail now. He hoped the figures were exaggerated, but if they were to be relied upon, an official paper in Germany stated that no loss than 700 Boers had moved into German East Africa, and that 300 a month were going into that Colony. He had no doubt these figures were exaggerated, but he should like to know to what extent this emigration was going on. It was known, however, that the German Government were offering these men every facility and inducement to go to their Colony, the only condition they made being that they should have £450, and probably that £450 was repatriation money obtained from the British Government out of the £35,000,000 granted. This point seemed to him, however, to afford an additional reason why the Government should take up the question. If it was the fact that the Boers were leaving the Transvaal and the Orange River Colonies, it made the problem of filling up more urgent, and the British Government could no longer afford to disregard it and leave the residents of the country to seek their fortunes in another place. In view of all these facts he asked why should they wait for a responsible Government before this question was dealt with? With the best intentions in the world it would take much longer than hon. Members realised to establish a responsible Government. There must be many delays before the local Governments became active administrative machines. Nothing which the Government did was likely to conflict in any way with the opinions of those who would form the responsible Governments to be established in South 626 Africa. On the other hand, such action would redound wholly to the benefit and well-being of the country, and to the responsible Governments who were to rule it. Full machinery was in existence, and it only inquired impetus from the Government to work it. A Land Settlement Board had been well established, and there was the South African Association, which here at home was doing most excellent work and was ready work with the Board and the Government. Moreover, from conversations he had had, he knew that that great and beneficial organisation, the Salvation Army, were quite prepared to administer emigration schemes on the same lines in South Africa as they were carrying out now with such marked success in Western Canada. In face of all these facts, therefore, the Government had not to work single handed, and it was absurd to delay the carrying out of operations upon which depended the future of the two States. He had reserved to the last the most important factor, that of finance, which was at the root of the matter. He would not venture to come down to this House and suggest that the British Exchequer should defray the cost of any scheme of land settlement in South Africa, but there were funds in existence which were available for this purpose and which could be allocated to it. Out of the £35,000,000 he had previously mentioned £3,000,000 was allocated for land settlement in South Africa He gathered that the larger portion of that £3,000,000 had already been spent, but by a Question the other day he elicited the fact that £500,000 of that sum had been diverted to other purposes. That £500,000 might still be taken from the balance of what remained of the £35,000,000 and replaced as a portion of the £3,000,000 for puposes of land settlement. That would be one source of income for the purposes of this operation. Then there were the £30,000,000 ot which he had before alluded in this House. He understood that it was now rather a vague quantity, but there was no reason why an instalment of that £30,000,000 should not at some early period be asked for, for although the shares might be low upon the Stock: Exchange the mine owners must be making a good profit upon the mines. It was true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might 627 suggest that the £30,000,000 was due to the British Treasury, but he thought that in the end if the instalment were applied to land settlement it would benefit not only South Africa but this country. The money would be at compound interest and would be repaid by payments in regard to the price of the land which would increase every year. These amounts instead of going to the Transvaal Treasury could be placed in the Land Settlement Fund, and there again would be an automatic replacement of the money. He asked his hon. friend to give his earnest attention to the points he had raised, and he hoped he would not reply in the official manner. He was a man, he would not say of dialetics, but he was a man of words, and it was quite easy for him to got up and make a speech which everybody would enjoy and admire, but which would be as useless as the last eloquent speech he made three weeks ago. It was said by some that under the new constitution to be formed those who administered the government would mete out unsympathetic treatment to those Englishmen who were settled on the land. He hoped that idea would be at once discredited. Our future responsibilities in South Africa must be undertaken without any mistrust of our Dutch fellow subjects. With a properly constituted Government of two Houses those settled on the land should be just as safe as they were at present, and he hoped the answer given by some that this was a matter which should be left until the new constitution was granted would not prevent the Government pursuing a vigorous policy of land settlement. The development of South Africa was of urgent and immediate importance not I only to South Africa itself but to the British Empire. He earnestly asked his hon. friend to say on behalf of the Government that it should be taken in hand without delay, and that he would allow no official obstacle or temerity of purpose to deter him in this responsible task which rested solely on the shoulders of the Government. There was a greatly increased public opinion in favour of this view and while he did not wish to embarrass the Government he believed it was in the best interests of South Africa and of the Government itself that 628 this policy of land settlement should be carried out as soon as possible.
§ *MR. RUFUS ISAACS (Reading)
said that in dealing with South Africa we were dealing with a Colony which so far had not derived any accession of prosperity from being governed by the Imperial Government. It was because he realised and wished the Committee to realise the vast importance of creating in South Africa a large white agricultural population that he now intervened. Notwithstanding the fact that we were about to grant self-government to these colonies there was a very definite feeling in this country that there should be a constructive line of policy pursued by the British Government to ensure the future of South Africa as a colony with a large white agricultural community when the mines would no longer be producing gold, and when in all probability a great many of the British in South Africa interested in the mining industry would have left that country. The problem which had to be faced was one which the Government might say they could not deal with at present because they were about to grant a constitution to those colonies, and that the Government created under the constitution must be left to deal with these matters. He agreed entirely with the hon. Baronet that that was no reason why this Government should not busy itself and continue to busy itself in carrying out the policy started by Lord Milner. Although the Government's supporters did not agree with most of the policies initiated by Lord Milner, they cordially endorsed the view he put forward with regard to land settlement. While they agreed that that policy was costly, as it had hitherto been carried out, so far as the policy itself was concerned, it was one which they would like this Government to pursue. He wished the Government, when they proposed to answer that they must leave this matter to the new colonies, to realise that the policy was one which did not admit of delay. It was perfectly true that it would take time, but the longer it took to come to fruition the more reason there was that the Government should lose no time in carrying it out so far as they were able. What impressed him particularly 629 as an erroneous view was that it had been said that in dealing with this question they were seeking to induce settlers to go to South Africa and to engage in agriculture upon land which was not fitted for it. That was a question of fact which the experts could best answer. We in this country could only deal with that question on the reports which came from South Africa, and he did not see how any opinion pronounced by those who had not visited that country and had no personal knowledge of the conditions of the land could he of any value if antagonistic to that of those who were or had been on the spot. So far as he was able to judge from the reports already presented, this question had been the subject of serious consideration. It was fair to say with regard to the Crown lands of the Transvaal that all the lands in the hands of the Grown on the high veldt had already been alienated and no longer were available for this purpose, but that the middle veldt, of which one-half were Crown lands representing an area equal to one-fifth of the Colony was said by experts to be fitted for agricultural settlement. We had therefore large tracts of land belonging to the Crown on which, by the assistance of a State-aided scheme of purchase, we should be enabled to induce colonists from this country and elsewhere to settle and build up the country. The policy which he ventured to press on the Government was that they should take every means to induce white settlers to go to South Africa. When they looked at the present position in South Africa and they knew what they had to face in the shape of the difficulty with the natives and the serious difficulty of Chinese labour, they had all the more reason to believe that it was most desirable to make the Colony one in which there should be a white population able to meet the demand for labour and, what was of the greatest importance, to help to reduce the cost of living in the Transvaal. The great cost of living was really the most serious problem which had to be faced in the Transvaal. The country had been conquered and annexed by us, but our responsibilities did not cease with that annexation. Neither would they cease with our granting to the Colonies a new constitution. What 630 we had to recognise was that our treasure had been spent and British lives had been lost in order to obtain Colonies which it was our policy, and should be our persistent aim, to people with our own people, so that we might build up a population which would cultivate the land of those colonies and enable the Transvaal and Orange River Colony to exist after the mines were worked out When new schemes were put forward to press the Government along a line of policy which necessitated the expenditure of money it was always suggested by every Government that the finding of the funds was the great difficulty in the way. But in this case there were at least two sources upon which we could rely. There was the sum of £500,000 which was still available, although it had been diverted from its original purpose. Then there was the money coming in from the instalments, which would continue to come in from State aided purchases which had been granted to the present settlers, and there was the £30,000,000 to which reference had been made. Here was an opportunity for the great mining magnates of South Africa to show their interest in the Colonies by subscribing very promptly the £10,000,000 promised. Even without the assistance from these capitalists, it could not be said that no funds could be found to carry out this policy of land settlement. Notwithstanding that we proposed in the near future to grant responsible self-government to these Colonies, he suggested a means by which the administration of the land settlements might be controlled by the new Governments in conjunction with the Imperial Governments. It was possible to continuo the Land Board, which already existed under the Ordinance of 1902 or 1903, composed of its present members, with other members nominated by the new Government, so that for some time the Land Board, which was administering the land at the present moment, would continue to administer it with the assistance of those nominated by the direct representatives of the people. So that for a few years at all events we might have a continuation of the present system. That should he another inducement for the Government to act without delay without sheltering themselves behind the fact that the new constitution was shortly to be granted, and that the 631 new Governments should be left to deal with this matter. This was a question which in his opinion could be fairly described as non-Party. It was the desire of all sections of the House to co-operate with the object of pressing upon those who were responsible for this particular department of the Government the wish of a large number of Members of both sides of the House that no time should be lost, and that the Government should devote all its energies and all its efforts as early as possible to pursuing the policy which had already been started and which should be prosecuted until the new constitution was granted. The answer that this should be left to the new Government only meant a waste of valuable time. If the policy were carried out those who held the reins of government in time to come in South Africa would thank this Government and those who advocated this policy and pressed it on the Government. If, on the other hand, the Government took no notice and land settlement was not pressed forward, it would mean that when the mining industry came to an end, South Africa would have lost its great opportunity of attracting a large increase in the number of British inhabitants. Agriculture might be developed simultaneously with the mining industry, and it would make for the good of South Africa, for its future prosperity, and for its future contentment as a British colony.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said he was extremely gratified at the informative nature of this debate. Never had he heard a subject discussed with so much consideration in the presentation of the facts, or with so much moderation. The hon. baronet who opened the debate had complained that the Government had not proceeded with as much activity as he desired. But he could quite understand the difficulties in the way of the Government. They could not have great activity on the part of a Government at a time when Party feeling ran high and all sides met in a controversial spirit, unless a very wide public opinion was formed upon the subject under discussion. This debate showed there was being formed a wide public opinion upon this matter of land settlement. The public of this country were not ignorant of the facts, and therefore 632 the Government could move. In the first place, the public opinion of this country expressed the view that the time had come for the Government to act; secondly, that it had the power to act; and, thirdly, that the Government should not hold its hand on the plea that this was a question which should be left to the responsible Government to be formed in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. The Government had an absolute right before it granted responsible Government to these Colonies to say what the conditions were upon which it suggested the responsible Government should be accepted. The time of danger came when interference took place after responsible Government had been granted. There were four long years of discussion before Natal accepted certain conditions laid down with regard to the treatment of natives, and in this case the Government could lay down conditions with regard to the land settlement in South Africa. Now was the time to thrash the question out. With regard to the question of land settlement, the hon. Baronet who opened the debate had suggested that a certain association with which he (Sir Gilbert Parker) had been connected, had done some very effective work in this regard. It was true they had not sent out many settlers to South Africa, but those whom they had sent out had succeeded, and that was the important point. The hon. Baronet asked why South Africa was not able to keep her settlers. He knew it was not due to the mines entirely. The fact was they could not feed themselves. There had always been a lack of food. The whole land teemed with tinned food from America and elsewhere, and the possibility of the supplies being cut off had deterred people from settling there. South Africa had not food enough to feed herself, and, as the hon. Baronet and the hon. Member who had just sat down had said, it was only by the cheapening of food that they could possibly get a white-labouring class in South Africa. There was at present no such thing as a white labouring class in South Africa as it was understood here or in any other colony, with the exception, perhaps, of British Columbia in its earlier days, and in Queensland, where difficulties had made it necessary to employ other labour. But in South Africa the white labouring class, as we understood it, was non-existent, 633 and there would never be such a labouring class until by the development of agriculture they were able to obtain cheaper food. If that were not done, the anxieties regarding the labour question would be as strong ten years from now as they were to day. His Majesty's Government had a great majority, a free hand, and a strong arm, and, he would say sincerely, with moderation in their mind, as shown by the speeches of the Secretary and the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies, they had the opportunity of establishing now a condition of things which a future Government would not be able to alter. He did not suggest that a future Government would alter it, but he did say that security was better than promise, and safety was better than prophecy. This Government, as the hon. Gentleman who spoke last had said, could get certain things by pressure in one quarter and by fair dealing in another. He agreed that the £10,000,000 which was to have been underwritten should have been underwritten. He believed we should press for it. He had never had any other idea. A promise was given and it should be fulfilled. Public opinion in this country was much stronger than the Government—even than this Government. [An HON. MEMBER: This Government is public opinion.] For the purposes of his argument he would accept that statement for the moment. As it was public opinion, the Government had the force of right on their side, and let them then ask for this £10,000,000. If they could not get the whole of it, let them make a bargain and take £5,000,000 if need be, and apply it to the purposes of land settlement, stipulating that of the 30,000 square miles of Crown lands in the Transvaal a portion should be reserved for the Land Commission. There were plenty of precedents for that. He did not call for a land board, but an independent commission like the Charity Commission or the Public Works Loans Commission—in fact, anything so long as it was absolutely independent of the struggle and strife of the local Parliament. Out of the 30,000 square miles, why not ask for 10,000 square miles to be reserved, and then put the £10,000,000 or the £5,000,000 under the control of the Land Commission? He would trust the Government to select independent and impartial men to serve 634 on the Commission to administer the land and funds in the interests of white British settlers. He did not think that the time had come yet to attempt to encourage what might be called foreign immigration. Everything should be done to bring people to South Africa from our own Colonies if they wished to go. If they did not we should bond every effort to got people from this country to settle in South Africa. Practical experience, however, showed that men would net be successful in South Africa who had only £150 or £200 capital. Successful farming there could not be carried out unless a person had at least £400 or £500. That would not give the labouring class in South Africa. It would only give the small farming class, the value of which, however, was inestimable. The hon. baronet had spoken of the agricultural report presented by the Transvaal Government. The Departments of Agriculture in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony were the best Departments of Agriculture in the British Empire, not excepting even the august Agricultural Department in this country. And why? They had been wise enough to employ not men from England alone, but also men who had had experience in other Colonies. At the head of the Land Department of the Orange River Colony there was a Canadian, a guarantee at once of common sense, ability, and integrity. At the head of the Land Department of the Transvaal was one of the most able and distinguished officials of Western Australia, Dr. Jamoson—he did not mean the Dr. Jameson of more notorious history. He knew this gentleman some eighteen years ago in Western Australia, and he should like to pay a deserved compliment to the work he had done at the head of the Land Department of the Transvaal. He had done great service not only for the Colony but for His Majesty's Government and the Empire as a whole Although land settlement had not so far been the success it should have been, and there had been a great deal of unwise expenditure, he ventured to say that there never was an experiment made under such difficult conditions so successfully. What had been the loss? About 1,200 settlers, with their families and white helpers, representing a population of 5,000, had been dealt with under the experiment, and £200,000 had been lost. That was after 635 a great war which wasted the whole of the country. A large portion of that sum went to soldiers and to a floating population for whom the Press of this country and of South Africa insisted something should be done after the war. The greater part of that £200,000 went through the benevolence of His Majesty's Government. He did not say mistakes were not made. He thought something could be said against the tax on cattle. A great deal might be levelled against the Department of Land Settlement in the Transvaal, but if this or any Government came out of its general expenditure with as clean a record it would have done extremely well. Lord Milner's prophecies regarding land settlement had been justified by results. He had certainly only put down 600 settlers in the Transvaal, and for the reason that the red-water fever swept the Transvaal, and it was only within the last few months that they had had real control of it. The Orange River Colony did not have the red-water fever, or scarcely at all, and therefore they were able to proceed with their work more successfully, and practically without loss. In the Transvaal the same results were not produced owing to the hand of Providence, and not to any inefficiency on the part of the Land Settlement Department. They could not put a large population down upon the land in the Transvaal or the Orange River Colony, and as the process of settlement would be slow there would not be a danger of maladministration. As the development of land in South Africa would be very expensive, it was all the more reason why they should have a portion of the £10,000,000 in order to develop it, as was being done in Cape Colony, where, very wisely, the Government was lending money to small settlers, Dutch and British, in order to develop their farms. It was impossible for the kind of settler sent out by the Salvation Army to be successful in South Africa, unless the Government secured enough land to provide a small settlement for them. The South African Association had sent out over seventy settlers and not one of them had proved a failure. As for the miners, the whole history of the mining occupation throughout the Empire was that when mining disappeared it left behind those who went out as speculators to make money quickly, and when the mines were exhausted the miners usually settled down 636 to their original occupations. Many miners were men who had abandoned trades for the time being, and the history of Australia, the Western part of Canada-and California had been that the large population attracted to mines remained to work at other occupations when mining; ceased. If we left agriculture to the day when the mines were worked out, the country would be abandoned by the British population and by those whom they most wished to keep there. We must prepare for the establishment of a generous system of land settlement in South Africa. He urged upon the Government the necessity for removing all restrictions upon the ease with which land might be taken up. He trusted also that the lands which were unimproved in the hands of the great companies would be dealt with adequately by the Government. Some of the mining companies owned vast quantities of land, and they did not use it all for mining purposes. No such land ought to be retained on the chance of an unearned increment; it should be thrown open to agricultural settlers unless improvements were made upon it. Since the war they had been pretty busy in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal reconstructing matters after that great disaster. The people had been engaged endeavouring to make both ends meet in every occupation of life in order to re-establish themselves. As there was a strong feeling on both sides of the House in regard to this matter, and as public opinion was being formed upon it, he urged the hon. Member who represented the Colonial Office and the Government on this occasion, to reserve a large sum in perpetuity for land settlement. This could be done without exciting any animosity, and in this way a certain amount of the 30,000 square miles of the Transvaal could be reserved for British settlers. If that were done, in fifteen years time we should have a large British settlement in South Africa, the chief value of which would be to give to our fellow citizens a sense of the true spirit of British institutions representing the accumulated civilisation of the last thousand years.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
This is not the first time this session that this question of land settlement has been raised in the House of Commons by my hon. friend. 637 the Member for Chippenham, but I think he will regard the debate to-day, so far as it has proceeded, as being more satisfactory from various points of view than any of the other debates that have arisen on the question. He has made a speech in the course of which he stated with great force and clearness the arguments in favour of an active and immediate policy of land settlement, and he has been supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House who show, not merely by their words but by their knowledge of the country, how very warm and real is the interest they take in the agricultural future of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. I am sorry that my hon. friend does not feel that the Government have on previous occasions responded with sufficient directness and explicitness to the appeals which he has addressed to them. On the general question I should think that everyone would agree. We should all like to see a large tenant-farmer proprietary in South Africa; we should all like to see a large population based on a more stable and more lasting foundation than that of gold mines and speculative finance. We recognise how many advantages would be likely to flow from the growth of such a population, how food would become cheaper in the towns, and how it would become more possible for white labour to live, and for the inhabitants of the towns to bring in their wives and children. The development of the country would be greatly increased by the growth of the agricultural population, whoso business would be to supply the people in the towns, and agriculture would be stimulated by the fact of the increasing urban demand for its products. But there is another question which must not be overlooked. In every country there are varying conditions and divisions, but in no country in the world are there such bitter and marked divisions as in South Africa— division between town and country, division between Boer and Briton ; and these two divisions have hitherto coincided one with the other. So that there has been division of race, interest, and occupation separating the people who have to dwell for all time together in that land. Lately there has come, and I think there must come still more in the course of time, an increase of railways, correspondence, communication, and the accessories of civilised life, which must tend 638 to bring about a greater fusion of races. There are the cases of the sons of the more leading Boers—the Boers of position and wealth—who are being educated at the technical institutes as mining engineers and mining inspectors. In that way the Boer population is being drawn into the scientific industries of the country; and if by a transverse process we were able to mingle a steady stream of British farmers with the Boer farmers of the veldt and the countryside at large, I believe much would be done to rub away the sharp edges of the two populations who occupy that land. It has been found, as far as land settlement has proceeded, that the British farmer settler gets on extremely well with the Boers among whom he lives. They make friends, and they have a community of interests and ideas which has never before been apparent. the British farmer is usually a man more accustomed to take part in local politics and in local affairs, and at the farmers' meetings he is perhaps the best speaker, and he has more knowledge than anyone in the country as to the modes of conducting public business. In many cases the British farmer who comes in contact with the Boer farmer assumes a position of friendly ascendancy which is of the highest possible value in promoting good relations between the races. I need not say that in view of those considerations the cause of land settlement is one to which His Majesty's Government cannot be indifferent. But I should wrong my hon. friend and the Committee if I did not place before them some of the difficulties which seem to be attendant upon his request. State settlement of land is not an easy business for a country to conduct itself; it is still more difficult when it has to be conducted from one country in another country at a great distance. In the old days of colonisation things could be done which are not now possible. In the colonisation of 1828 to the east of Cape Colony 5,000 settlers from this country were placed on the soil. They fought the wilderness, they fought the wild beasts, they fought the natives, they lived like Robinson Crusoes for a generation; and now we find a loyal, healthy, contented population on the ground where one generation, at least, sacrificed its energy and its strength. I am not quite so sure whether this kind of experiment can be 639 repeated now. In these days of railroads it is much easier for people, under tremendous local pressure, to recede from an experiment that has been commenced, and certainly, in my opinion, no sort of scheme of land settlement can ever be carried out with the cheapness with which the earlier settlements in South Africa and in Canada were conducted. Even apart from the land, the settlers will not now face the appalling hardships with which the earlier pioneers of a new country were confronted.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
We have now a most complicated and elaborate machinery, but, like all complicated and elaborate things, it is a most expensive machinery. We have succeeded in settling 1,300 settlers in the two colonies, and that has cost £2,400,000, or something like £1,800 per settler. Of course, it must be remembered that each settler is the head of a family, and possibly there are two or three other persons dependent on him who come in at the same time. That does not at all dispose of the arguments in favour of land settlement, but it shows that any policy of this kind requires to be very carefully considered; and I think that those who have to find the money would be very rightly bound to examine other alternatives for spending smaller sums of money before adopting the particular course which has been put forward.
§ *SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER
A very large proportion of that amount is repaid by the settlers. About £2,200,000 out of the £3,000,000 will be repaid.
§ *MR CHURCHILL
Of course I do not want to convey the idea that the money advanced is spent for ever. The credit of the State has, however, been pledged to the extent of £1,800 per settler under the scheme as hitherto conducted, and although I do not say for a moment that it has been ill-spent or thrown away, I do say that an advance of that character imposes very serious considerations upon the Government which has to find the money. We cannot overlook the fact that the £35,000,000 loan from which this £3,000,000 for land settlement was to be taken is a loan charged upon the 640 Transvaal and to a less extent upon the Orange River Colony. These two Colonies will be compelled to provide the money from year to year for the service of their loan. It seems to me, therefore, altogether impossible to deny them the control of the details of the expenditure of the loan to the service of which they have to contribute from the general taxation of their respective Governments.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
At present the settlers pay the interest on that money, and the same obligation could be imposed upon all settlers taking up land in future, and the land boards would only have the disposal of £3,000,000, which is set apart for land purchase now.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
The credit of the two Colonies is behind the £3,000,000, and it is impossible to say without most careful consideration that this whole matter should be removed altogether from their purview. I do not think it is easy to reconcile such a view with the admiration of the rights of self-government which we so often hear eloquently expressed by the hon. Gentleman, and I am bound to say that I think any arbitrary action in this respect might easily provoke an antagonism on the part of the local government concerned which might prove positively detrimental to the cause which my hon. friend has at heart. Let me ask the Committee to consider three practical suggestions which have been made. In one respect I am aware that to the existing settlers the Government has a great obligation. We must see that they have that considerate treatment which is an indispensable condition to their undertaking a great adventure in starting life in a new country. But when we are asked to alter the conditions of the tenure and transfer of land under the Gold Law, I am bound to say that I do not think we can with any advantage touch so complicated a question in a Colony which has an administration of its own and which is about to receive a responsible Government of its own. I do not see how we could possibly attempt with any advantage, now that it is only a matter of weeks before the new Constitution will be set up, to deal with a question affecting the tenure and transfer of land. The speech of my hon. friend would be a very proper speech to address 641 to a Transvaal Parliament after the grant of responsible government is complete.
§ *SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER
It is not asking a change of land tenure; it is asking the home Government to put into operation an existing power which the Lieutenant-Governor possesses to deproclaim land already proclaimed under the old Gold Law. There are large tracts of land under these conditions, and I ask my hon. friend to reply as representing the Government whether they will give instructions to the Lieutenant-Governor to exercise that power.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
I think it is better that this matter should be left until the Transvaal is able to consider it for itself. Another suggestion made was that we should continue the automatic operation of the fund, that as the money was paid in so it should be loaned out to new settlers. Well, I believe that would be a very desirable thing. I should be glad to see it. But again I say that that is a matter which can only be settled subject to South African opinion. For instance, supposing there is a responsible Government in the Orange River Colony which has a Dutch majority. They might object to facilitating a scheme by which a steady influx of voters opposed to their own Government was to be maintained from year to year. That would be a very natural vie v on their part; and that we from this country should interfere to force them to continue to permit a system of land settlement of which they disapproved would, it appears to me, give rise to a great amount of racial friction and of friction between the two Governments which it is the earnest desire and fundamental principle of His Majesty's Government to endeavour to avert and allay. It is said—Why should we not endeavour to obtain an instalment of the £10,000,000 which was promised from the great mining magnates? I should be very glad to be informed on high authority that those gentlemen were anxious to come forward to sustain the promise they made. But my hon. friend is much better acquainted with them than I am and much more entitled to speak on their behalf. Indeed, I may say that I have been singularly unsuccessful in winning the confidence of these gentlemen, and no measure of their approval has 642 ever greeted my exertions in their behalf. If it were true that the mineowners of South Africa would be willing to come forward to produce a considerable sum of money which might be made available for land settlement, I should be glad to have information of that character from some responsible quarter, and I trust that the information will only be the precursor of the money. But I do feel that that is not a matter on which we can pronounce unless we have more decisive information. I think I have shown the Committee some of the considerations which seem to mo to place great difficulties in the way of any rash or decisive pronouncement at this stage. My hon. friend says. Why wait for responsible government? We have to wait until we have settled the form of Constitution, because the question of land settlement is one which must be considered as part of the general arrangement to be made; and I do not think that any advantage would be gained by my entering into pledges which we may not have the power to fulfil, or committing the House or the Government to a policy which may be reversed—as it can be reversed at any time—by the contumacious or heated action of the local authority. And, therefore, while I thoroughly recognise the importance of the policy which my hon. friend has outlined, and while I am prepared to exert myself, and am quite certain that Lord Elgin, who has taken a very keen interest in this question, will not neglect the considerations which my hon. friend has put forward, yet he must see for himself that it is impossible at this stage for any decisive pronouncement to be made. I can only say that, perhaps before the end of the session, when a general statement on the Constitution will, I hope, be laid before the House, we may have some news to give my hon. friend which will satisfy him a little more than that I have been able to give him to-day.
§ *MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)
said that the policy of the British Government since we obtained the possession of the two Boer Republics had been not to encourage white settlers, but to set up a huge yellow settlement which was bringing on the country increasing evils every week. That had been done, he admitted, by the late Government; and he did not think there 643 was any question hardly at the last election in which greater feeling was shown than that the present Government should reverse the policy of its predecessor. He was sorry to say that although the present Government had been in power for six months the hopes of many that they would do so had not been fulfilled. He maintained that the position in the Transvaal at the present moment was not better than it was six months ago, when the late Government left office. The number of Chinese labourers, whom they were all anxious to restrict, was now greater than when the Tories were in office, and that number was increasing fortnight by fortnight. In the last fortnight 1,800 Chinese labourers were landed in the Transvaal; two days ago 2,000 more were imported; and to-day there were 5,000 more on the water on their way. At the same time, while that process was going on, the evils arising out of the Chinese already there were being accentuated. Desertions had largely increased, and crimes were growing in number and seriousness. The Government of the Transvaal itself admitted that it was unable to control or regulate the proceedings of the Chinese. In reply to the representations of an influential deputation of the Transvaal people which waited upon him in September last as to the enormous number of crimes which were committed on themselves, their wives, and children by the Chinese deserters, the Lieutenant-Governor said that he could not deny that such crimes had been committed, and that the white population was entitled to security. The Lieutenant-Governor said he proposed to take certain steps for the purpose of meeting the crisis, and that he had raised a large force of police— not at the expense of the mineowners who had brought in the Chinese to the Colony, but at the expense of the unfortunate people who were suffering from the depredations of the Chinese deserters. In addition to that, the Lieutenant Governor proposed a new Ordinance which was more objectionable in its terms than any previous Ordinance, placing further restrictions on the movements of the Chinese labourers. The new Ordinance went so far actually as to deprive the unfortunate Chinaman, when charged with crime, of the right of going to the courts of the country to have that alleged crime investigated. It imposed 644 on them trial by managers of the mines in the compounds—a thing which had never before been heard of in the British Empire. Moreover, it imposed on the whole body of Chinamen in the compound the duty of paying the money to meet the fine inflicted on one of their number. This Ordinance also gave white men the power to arrest a Chinaman without a warrant, and they were allowed to arm themselves with rifles to shoot down the Chinese. Since then the state of things had grown steadily worse. He would prove this by a few figures. Desertions, which in July last were only 245 per month, had increased in September to 434 per month; in December they amounted to 610, in January to 780, while in February the number was 1171. It was thus evident that there were let loose in the course of a year in the Transvaal between 9,000 and 10,000 of these wandering Chinamen. According to an official return, since July last year, 140 serious crimes had been committed by Chinese deserters on our colonists, but the monthly list given in the Blue-books showed that the number of convictions had been very much larger. He asked the Committee to consider what might be the effect on a peaceable community of having these men let loose upon them all this time. According to a recent dispatch of Lord Selborne, they consisted in part of—Thorough scoundrels,ex-Boxers, and ruined gamblers,and, according to the mine manager of the Witwatersrand Mine, of—dangerous assassins who boasted of the many murders they had committed.It had been admitted by Lord Selborne that the present state of things was terrible. To a deputation of Transvaal people he had recently spoken of the recommendations of a Committee appointed by him, recommendations which urged the confinement of the Chinese within barbed wire fencing, and the raising of a mixed force of farmers and Zulus to help the police, and the serving out of rifles to all white men near the mines. It was an awful state of things, when, in a British colony, not a single man would be unarmed within ten miles of the Chinese compound on the Rand. Now, what did the Government propose to do to meet that state of things? They were promised at the beginning of the 645 session by the Prime Minister, endorsed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, that certain important reforms should be undertaken. One was that the Ordinance of 1905 should be amended, in one particular; for the Prime Minister certainly said that the Chinese should have the important right of being tried in open Court by magistrates instead of in a hole and corner way by mining managers. In regard to the original Ordinance, which no doubt it would be difficult to deal with, there was also the promise given that no further cruel treatment should go on, and that every Chinaman who signified discontent with his condition and was unhappy therewith, should have the right of returning to his own country at the expense of the Imperial Exchequer. None of those promises had been carried I out, he regretted to say. The Chinaman had not been tried before the magistrates, and, so far as he know, not a single Chinaman had been repatriated. [An HON. MEMBER: Twelve.] Well, twelve might have applied to be sent back home; but the fact was that the proclamation, instead of being simple and clear, was vague and obscure and even deterrent in its terms; and, indeed, it was hailed by the mine owners as one which was certainly not calculated to do them any harm, while there were placards all over London with the announcement "Chinese Labour Saved." The Chief Justice of the Transvaal said pretty plainly in his recent judgment on the legality of the Proclamation, that mine owners need not fear any application of it. And the result had proved that he and everybody else was right, and that as a result of the policy of the Government, for the present at any rate, not a single Chinaman would have to go. All this was extremely disappointing to those supporters of the Government who had listened to the speeches of the Prime Minister, and who remembered the attitude taken up by the leaders of the Liberal Party before the election. What was the reason why they had beer landed in this unsatisfactory state of things? He could not help thinking that one reason was that Lord Elgin, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, lived in a serene and detached atmosphere. He was a nobleman who had never had to appeal to any constituency, and his position reminded him of a celebrated 646 and powerful passage in Lucretius where he described the atmosphere in which the gods of Olympus dwelt. Lord Elgin was never seen in the gallery of this House listening to the debates, and he was unacquainted with the deep feeling which existed on the Ministerial side of the House in regard to the iniquity of the Ordinance. It was fair, however, to recognise that the noble Lord was confronted with the difficulty that all his agents in the Transvaal were appointed by the late Government and were committed to the policy of that Government. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary had passed a high eulogy upon Lord Selborne. If that eulogy meant that Lord Selborne was a man of high honour and very amiable character, he had nothing to say against it; but if it meant that Lord Selborne was carrying out Liberal policy, then he entirely dissented from it. The very fact that Lord Selborne was an honest and honourable man rendered him incapable of carrying out Liberal policy, because he was not only opposed to that of the Government but was committed to the policy of the late Government. If the state of things was anything like what he had described, surely there were only two things to be done. One was, that the policy of repatriating these Chinese should be carried out as soon as possible, without absolutely dislocating the gold mining industry, and the other was that they should secure agents in South Africa who were in sympathy with this policy of repatriation, and who would see that it was carried out at the earliest possible moment. There was one other matter to which he should ask leave to call attention, and it was not the least serious part of the business. That was, that during the whole time that this experiment was going on, there was one feature of it, namely, the social and sexual feature, which got worse and worse. More and more of these yellow men without their womenkind were brought into the country, and more and more it was found necessary to restrict their liberty. They now had 50,000 of them herded together in compounds, shut out from every kind of healthy life which could raise them, and subjected to hardships of the most degrading kind. They had no women among them, and were strong physical animals, and that must lead to a condition of things which had better be 647 imagined than described. A Liberal Government ought not to allow such a position of affairs to continue for a moment, and he appealed to both sides of the House, but mainly to Liberals, to say that it ought not to be tolerated. It had been suggested by those who were friendly to the Government that it was only necessary to wait for the evil to cure itself. It was suggested that if the outrages were allowed to go on the people in the Transvaal would become so sick of the experiment that they would put an end to it as soon as they got responsible government. That was not an honourable policy for the Imperial Government to adopt— to allow farmers and traders and their families to be outraged and robbed for months in order that a policy might be discredited. It was the duty of the Imperial Government to deal with this question before the Colonial legislature was set up. Let the Under Secretary make it clear that the policy promised at the beginning of the session was not to be abandoned, and that by some means or another the repatriation of the Chinese would be effected. If that were not done, he must warn the Government that they ran grave danger of creating the suspicion in the country that the attitude they took up before the election was not sincere, but was taken up for party purposes, and that they were not maintaining what was the life-blood of Liberalism—freedom, justice, and morality.
§ MR ARNOLD-FORSTER (Croydon)
said that the speech of the Under-Secretary was singularly lacking in some of the qualities which it had been expected to reveal. It led the Committee no further at all. It gave no information and no confidence as to future administration. The hon. Gentleman rarely spoke without any previous knowledge of the matters entrusted to him, but it struck him and perhaps some others that on the present occasion he had not so fully acquainted himself with the details of the subject he was speaking about as he generally did. He himself had not some of the knowledge which apparently the hon. Gentleman possessed of recent events, but he had an intimate acquaintance with this question, because he was a member of the Commission which five years ago investigated this very problem 648 of land settlement in South Africa, and the recommendations of that Commission, embodied in their report, had been the basis of everything that had been done in the nature of land settlement since that time. He thought, moreover, that what would be done in the future, would follow very closely upon the lines of that report. But the conclusions which that Commission arrived at were very different from those which the Under-Secretary had declared that afternoon. He thought they ought to take note of what the Under-Secretary had said and what he had not said. What he had said was that he admitted that there should be a larger settlement on the land in South Africa. What he had not said was that the Government were going to take any practical step whatever to effect that desirable object, nor had the hon. Gentleman stated how the Government were going to carry it out.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I said that the Government would consider what practical steps they would take to safeguard the interests of land settlement when they were considering, as they must soon consider, the general question of the Constitution to be given to the new Colonies.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that in that case a great part of what the hon. Member for Gravesend had demanded was conceded. It was of the greatest importance to know that this question should be one of the conditions precedent to the grant of self-government. The Under-Secretary had repeated a statement he had once before made in debate, that the Orange River Colony might have a Dutch majority which would use its power to prevent the entry of British immigrants, on the avowed ground that they might eventually constitute a British majority in a British Colony. The Undersecretary said that he did not think that would be unreasonable. He hoped attention would be called to that very dangerous statement. The danger of granting unconditional powers to the Orange River Colony was magnified tenfold if the Under-Secretary believed that what Mr. Steyn and Mr. Smuts had said was true, and that the first use which the Colony would make of its powers would be to exclude British settlers who might constitute a British loyal majority.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman will see that there would be a great difference between a Colonial Government's excluding British subjects and that same Government's fostering the influx of settlers by advancing sums of money at the rate of £1,800 a man.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that there was a sum of money set apart for the purpose of completing the work sought to be accomplished by the war. There was also the prospect that that work would be deliberately interfered with by the Government about to be set up. It was part of the policy of the Empire that we should have a preponderant voice in South Africa. Mr. Steyn had written a letter, in which he said that as soon as the power was given he meant to resume the position in the Orange Colony which he held before the war. That meant the re-establishment of the Republic, unless reasonable precautions were taken that the work which this country had set its hand to should be carried out. The nominal re-establishment of Dutch power in South Africa would mean the introduction of another Power. [Cries of "What Power?"] If we were once more to withdraw from South Africa it would be impossible for the destinies of the country to be guided by what was left of the Dutch population. He did hope that people outside this House would understand that the motive which had been put forward for the abandonment of an active policy of land settlement would not bear examination by those who desired to see our position in South Africa retained. The Undersecretary had spoken of the vast sum which had been expended as if it were a total loss.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said at any rate that was the impression the Under-Secretary's words created when he spoke of two millions of money having been expended in establishing 1,200 settlers, at a cost to this country of about £1,800 for each settler. But the cost of this attempt at settlement was coming back, not only in the form of capital and interest, but, best of all, in the form of descendants of the men and women we were planting upon the land. The Commission to which he 650 had already referred said it was not desirable to settle soldiers upon the land, : and if that were done it could only be done as an act of policy and not as a step likely to produce an economic return. The Government had adopted the view that the political should override the economical consideration. The experiment had been made, and was responsible for the loss of £200,000 referred to by a previous speaker. But with regard to ordinary settlement the case was quite different. After this country had got back its principal sum and its interest they would have something far more valuable than mere money. He did hope that the Government would take more active steps in this matter than the Committee had been led to believe that they would do; for, unless South Africa became in spirit and in fact a British Colony, it could not remain part of the British Empire. The emigrants who went out from Liverpool in one week would be sufficient to turn the balance of the question in South Africa. What was turning these emigrants away and sending them to Australia, Canada, and other countries? [An HON. MEMBER: The want of £20 to pay their passage.] They had no means of knowing whether that was so or not in some cases, but he would undertake to say that there were thousands of people who went to Canada who had not only £20 but far more than £20 in their pockets. The truth was that no man would go to a country where he was not on an equality with his fellow-citizens; no man would go to a country where his future was made uncertain by the act of his own Government; no man would go to the Orange River Colony where he was told that the Legislature would inflict disability upon him as Mr. Steyn had said he would inflict it upon Englishmen who settled there; no man would go to South Africa until he was assured that the system of government of that country was going to be a British system of government. One other matter he would like to refer to, these were the Colonial Estimates, and this was the great debate upon the Colonial policy of this country. He wished a large section of the public of this country could be admitted into this Committee upon the occasion of this great Colonial debate. Here they were discussing the whole policy of South Africa in a House of about forty Members.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that gave him the point which he desired to make. Why were those benches empty? [An HON. MEMBER: Because they are away playing golf.] The fact that there were only six Members on his side of the House showed that the Opposition recognised the futility and the absurdity of the whole of the agitation with regard to Chinese labour. They had long considered that this matter was played out; that it was completely exposed and was a dead issue. They had heard that from the Secretary for the Colonies, and they had much better be playing golf than playing with a dead issue. Here they were with a House of about forty Members discussing the Colonial Estimates. What did the hon. Member for Newbury say in his gallant but despairing attempt to revive the subject? He said, "If you do not take care people outside will begin to think that the whole of this agitation was got up for political reasons and electioneering purposes and for nothing else." The hon. Member for Newbury was a long way behind the times. Everybody had found that out long ago. The division when it took place would prove nothing. What would prove something would be the facts. Where were those thousands of poor slaves who this country was told were pining to return to their homes? Neither side of the House could refrain from laughter when the Under-Secretary was recently asked the result of the ameliorating measures which were taken for the benefit of these poor slaves. It was idle for the hon. Member for Newbury to try and make fun of the Secretary for the Colonies. After all, the noble Lord was a man of great experience and had exercised the trust reposed in him to the best of his great ability. It was idle to put off' the Committee with the tale that the Colonial Secretary was to be made the scapegoat. If he was to be blamed, how were the hon. Member for Newbury and the other supporters of the Government to keep their integrity unspotted? Did the Committee suppose for one moment that when the Colonel Secretary made a pronouncement on South African policy he did so without consulting his colleagues in the Government?
§ *SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER
demurred to the suggestion that the hon. Member for Newbury had attempted to make fun of the Colonial Secretary.
§ *MR ARNOLD-FORSTER
said they had heard the hon. Member speak of the Colonial Secretary as living in a serene and detached atmosphere like the gods of Olympus, and nobody who heard the hon. Member could doubt chat his remark was intended to detach the Secretary of State for the Colonies from this House and the country and that he was acting apart from and without the consent of the Cabinet, without their knowledge and without knowing anything of what the Under-Secretary for the Colonies had told the Committee. They had had a very interesting debate upon this question of land settlement, but they would have had a far more interesting debate had they discussed the subject which he thought should have been discussed, namely, Chinese labour. The Chinese labour agitation had become the laughing stock of the people of this country, and it was high time that the whole fraud should be got rid of together with the pretence upon which it had been founded.
§ *MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said the question of land settlements in South Africa recalled problems in the government of India. One of the great difficulties which this country had had in the government of India was the fact that it was quite impossible for British people to settle and live for generations in the greater part of that country. All our chief difficulties, the financial difficulties and the racial difficulties there, arose from the fact that we were absolutely cut off' from the inhabitants of the country. Civil servants, soldiers, and other people went there, stayed their brief day, and went away. Such reflection gave a peculiar interest to the subject which the hon. Member for Chippenham had brought before the House. He had hoped that the Under-Secretary for the Colonies would have given a little more encouragement to the suggestions which had been laid before him, and he did not find himself in sympathy with the attitude taken up with regard to-speculative investments in that part of the world. It was impossible to separate 653 the interests of the so-called magnates in that country from those of other investors in this country, who now owned the mines for the most part, and lost by their depreciation in value. Yet he noticed that in the course of the debate the hon. Member for Newbury had complained of the proclamation issued with regard to Chinese labour, because it had not done harm to the mining interest. Surely that was not what was wanted. He submitted that in all administrative matters it was of the greatest advantage that no harm should be done to any pecuniary interest concerned. For his own part he put the agricultural interest far and away above the mining interest. It was far more wholesome, far more permanent, find far more worthy of our support and for that reason he expressed his concurrence in principle with those who had spoken upon that subject. There was another point to be considered in regard to this subject. Whether South Africa was a white man's country or not was a matter to be proved hereafter, though the action of Divine Providence seemed to point to the fact that it was a black man's country. He hoped to see growing up by the side of those dark-skinned men a race of yeoman farmers and thought the experiment well worth a further trial. He hoped one suggestion which had been made would not be received with favour by the Government. He hoped that no sort of pressure would be put upon the Transvaal—no sort of agreement made with them that they should take any particular stops after receiving self-government. He trusted that in no way would their own complete liberty of action be infringed. He could not see how any colony could prosper if it was to be subjected to criticism and interference in respect of details at the hands of the British Parliament. It seemed to him that the light-hearted questions and injurious epithets and aspersions, which possibly at home were not of such great consequence, when they travelled over the telegraph wires to the Colony attained great significance and created a great amount of mischief and ill-feeling. He regretted the way in which the hon. Member for Newbury had spoken of the Colonial Secretary, who he stated lived in some atmosphere of aloofness from everyday 654 men, so that it was doubtful therefore whether he was up to date as to popular feeling. As a former colleague of the noble earl he had formed the opinion that no man could be found more moderate, more temperate, and better fitted to deal with questions such as those now before the Colonial Office. The hon. Member for Newbury had complained that the noble Earl was not in the gallery during the course of this and the like debates. But the noble Earl was not in the habit of frequenting the gallery or playing to it, and he would be found no doubt well engaged in the discharge of business. He was perfectly satisfied, and he believed, in spite of what had been said by one or two hon. Members, the great majority of the people of this country were satisfied with the action that had been taken and was being taken by the Government on the question of Chinese Labour, and he hoped the Government would not be persuaded hastily and without deliberation to alter its course. He contended that the Government could not reasonably be expected to terminate by a stroke of the pen legitimate interests which had grown up under a system which no doubt the Liberal Party unanimously disapproved, but for which they were not responsible. It was hardly possible to deal with the matter without having regard to any object but the satisfaction of sentimental feeling. He expected, at any rate, to see white and coloured races working side by side in Africa, and he ventured to say that wherever they found yellow labour and white labour, or black and white labour working together, they would find that the function of the white labourer would be the supervision of the yellow or the black, as the case might be. The sending out of half a dozen white men to work side by side with the Chinamen here and there was merely playing with the subject. No one who knew anything about the question could doubt that. Without going into the vexed and now settled question of the introduction of Chinese labour, he said the Chinese undoubtedly knew what they were about when they undertook to work in South Africa. It was not they who were complaining, nor was it the people of the Transvaal. They would have their opportunity directly of showing their attitude regarding what the hon. 655 Member for Newbury complained of. If every battle in the Colonies, from an action in the field to a police court case, were to he fought on the floor of this House, by persons other than those who were responsible for the decisions to be arrived at, no system could stand the strain. He hoped that what he might call the West Ham theory of Colonial government—the habit of setting down a country at a distance as of less importance than a village, town, or county, according to its relative population at home, and of assuming that Englishmen who left these shores lost their sense of justice and mercy, would not prevail. He believed the people on the spot knew what they were about, and were in the long-run likely to do right.
§ *MR. WALSH (Lancashire, Ince)
said he rose with considerable pleasure to give the undivided support of the Labour Party to the Motion which had been made to reduce this Vote by £100.
§ *MR. WALSH
said that in that case he would himself move that the Vote be reduced by £100. He had listened, with considerable surprise to the statement of the right hon. Member for Croydon that the Chinese question was a dead issue. He (Mr. Walsh) would have thought that the state of the Tory Party, as shown by empty Opposition Benches, would have proved to the right hon. Gentleman that Chinese labour was not at all a dead issue. Indeed, the Government themselves had not fully realised the intense living gravity of the issue. The Whips of the Independent Labour Party, and indeed many of them apart altogether from the Whips, were in almost daily communication with the heads of the labour political organisations in the Transvaal and the Transvaal Miners' Association. If this question could have been determined by the opinion of the men of our own flesh and blood, it would not have burdened the councils of the House nor the country the length of time it had. Was the Government seriously in earnest in the matter? The hon. Member for Gravesend had said very truly that security was better than promise. Yes; and 656 performance was also better than promise. They had been promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the servility of the conditions of labour should be removed. Had one step been taken in that direction? They had been promised by the Leader of the House that every Chinese labourer who sincerely desired to return should have every facility afforded to him at the expense of the nation. What was the case? The proclamation issued by Lord Selborne was to the effect that a man, if dissatisfied, must have worked six months in a mine—presumably as a guarantee of good faith—and that when he desired to return it must not be at the cost of this nation, as they had been given by the Leader of the House to understand, but by working his passage home. That was the way in which this Government, in whom they once trusted, and in whom the greater number of them still trusted, intended to facilitate the return of the dissatisfied Chinese. That was not the manner in which they thought the Government would redeem their pledge. In February last he directed attention to the fact that, although in the Albert Hall speech in the previous December the Premier said the intention of the Government was to arrest the further importation of Chinese labourers, licences had been issued for over 16,000-Chinese labourers, and at the rate at which the other Chinese had been imported it would take eight months to import them. The Under-Secretary at the commencement of the session told the House that he thought the whole of the shipments would be completed by July. He (Mr. Walsh) even then ventured to say that that would not be borne out by the facts. We were now in the middle of June and there were still 8,000 of the 16,000 to lie shipped. At the rate of progress being made the last shipment would not be reached until the end of this year, and, if the terms of the Ordinance were observed, they would have still three years to serve. He sincerely believed and was firmly convinced that the overwhelming issue at elections as it affected the working men of this country was the great moral issue of Chinese labour, and that there was no issue that was more responsible for setting in power right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. [An OPPOSITION Member: What about free trade?] Free trade was 657 an economic, not a moral, issue. He was authorised by the Labour Party to speak on their behalf on this matter, and he said that the Government had not risen to the fulfilment of the promises which the nation expected them to carry out. They were speaking of their own flesh and blood. The Member for Montgomery Boroughs had pretty clearly shown that the Almighty himself had declared that the lands in South Africa at least should be peopled and worked by blacks. What did he find? He found that in January, 1905, there were over 87,000 black labourers in the mines. In March, two months later, the number had increased by 15,000. But at the end of the year the total number had fallen to 87,000. The meaning of those figures was that as the Chinese, who worked at a less rate than the black men, arrived, the black men were denied the right to labour in their own land. It was said by some people that the black men would not work. They ascribed to the black man's laziness what was due to the mineowners' greed. He (Mr. Walsh) was proud of the Empire; but it was not by making a fortune quickly out of degraded labour that the Empire was to be maintained. If politics meant anything they meant good government, not evading or trifling with great issues. He had been brought up in a belief in the bona fides of the Liberal Party, but, if the Liberal Government were not prepared to rise to the height of their possibilities and earnestly to recognise their deep obligations to the country in regard to Chinese labour, then the Liberal Government was simply an organised hypocrisy. The Government should see to it that the further immigration of Chinese labour was prevented. It had been said that this would be illegal. But if the Government could violate the Ordinance by setting aside the provisions as to reindenture, was it any more illegal to prevent further importation t Where the labour of the Chinese was not already possessed by the mineowner, he sustained no loss. He asked further that the Government should proceed boldly with the repatriation of the Chinese. He and his friends did not desire to attack industry; but they wanted to see built up in the mines and in the Transvaal I generally a prosperous, intelligent, and contented white population. By them the Empire would be built up in the 658 future, as it had been in the past. He should be sorry to conclude otherwise, for then the Empire would be doomed to destruction.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A be reduced by.£100."— (Mr. Walsh.)
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
My hon. friend the Member for the Ince Division has spoken to the Committee very strongly because he feels very strongly ; and I am certainly not at all inclined to deny the gravity or importance of the subject to which he refers. Certainly I am not likely to underrate the poignancy and vehemence, the unquestionable sincerity of the feeling which acclaims and supports such words and arguments as the hon. Gentleman has used. But my hon. friend and also the hon. Member for Newbury may differ from the policy which the Government are pursuing in regard to Chinese labour, and yet I do not think they have any justification for suggesting —I am not complaining that the suggestion was improperly, unkindly, or discourteously made—but they have no solid basis for suggesting or asserting that the Government have departed from the policy which was declared to Parliament and accepted by Parliament with an overwhelming majority at the beginning of this session. I am compelled to remind the Committee of what that policy was. The first point was that the question of Chinese labour was to be settled by a Transvaal Legislative Assembly subject to the reservation of this country's right to disallow any provisions which might be contrary to the traditional principles of British liberty. Secondly, it was admitted that 16,000 licences, which had been issued, as I think, most improperly, in the last few days of a dying Administration, could not be set aside, and that those who held them should be allowed to import under them as they had been authorised to do. We have looked at that question more than once during the session, and I recognise how reluctant the House was to consent to this. I know how reluctant His Majesty's Government were to consent to it. But that the House and the Government did consent to it there can be no possible doubt; and it is not possible at this stage to go back upon that policy and break promises which we 659 have given and to commit ourselves to an act which we have more than once stated would be in fact, if not in name, an illegal and unjust act. The fact that 16,000 more Chinese licences were issued made it quite clear that during the period in which we are compelled to administer this Transvaal Labour Ordinance there would be an increase in the number of Chinese coolies employed on the mines. I am not trying to avoid the disagreeable and unsatisfactory conclusions and reflections which must naturally be drawn from that. I think it was the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down who said we must face facts and look at this question in its real character, and I say that that is one of the ugly facts we have had all along to face—that we should be responsible for carrying out the Chinese Labour Ordinance pending the grant of self-government, and during a time when the number would be increasing.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
I will deal with the increase of crime in a few moments; but I do not think the hon. Member can prove that there has been a large increase in crime in proportion to the numbers of Chinese in the country now as compared with last year. What was the third point stated on behalf of the Government? It had reference to the removal of what my hon. friend described as the conditions of servility which characterized the amending Ordinance of 1905. In no single case, said my hon. friend, had we altered those conditions. I am sure he would not wish to make a statement which would give an incorrect idea of the actual facts, and I have no doubt it is because he has not access to the official papers on the subject, or has not followed all the Answers I have given to Questions, that he is under that impression. I stated at the beginning of the session that the following provisions were objected to in the 1905 Ordinance— holding of trials within the mine premises, deduction of fees from wages, fining the head boy for not reporting offences, and collective punishments. It is true that the Prime Minister said, in addition, that the regular magistrates in the Transvaal 660 should deal with the Chinese. With that exception, all these provisions have ceased to be operative; and why has that exception been made? It has been made with the utmost sincerity, because we had reason to believe that it was in the interests of the Chinese labourers that they should lie tried before people cognisant of their customs and of their language, and who were at the same time very carefully selected officers in Government employment. Only one motive, therefore, prevented that condition being carried out—a desire honestly, whether rightly or wrongly, conceived in the interests of the Chinese labourers themselves. The deduction of fines from wages, the fining of the head boys for not reporting offences-—a system of monitorial discipline—and collective punishment—an odious and detestable principle, which I have always endeavoured to assail in this House—these provisions have been absolutely inoperative, and they are in the immediate future to be removed from the Ordinance. The reason they are not yet removed is that the Transvaal Legislative Council has only just been assembled, and until it assembled, the necessary amending order could not be introduced and carried through. But meanwhile, they have been, by administrative action, absolutely a dead letter. Had it not been possible to render them a dead letter by administrative action, the Government would have been prepared to intervene by an Order in Council to terminate them. There was one final feature in the policy of the Government declared at the beginning of the session about Chinese labour, and that was the policy of free repatriation for those who earnestly and sincerely desired to return to China. I am not prepared to admit that that policy is a failure because only twelve coolies have applied to be returned to China. I may add that of course those twelve coolies have been sent back without any of the precautionary conditions which were instituted and laid down in the proclamation. I say that that policy has not failed because only a few persons have availed themselves of it. Still less can it be said that that policy was a hoax, or, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon said, with his usual tact and urbanity, that it was a fraud towards Parliament and this country.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
No; I was referring to the representations made to the country with regard to the treatment of these men.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
I understand the right hon. Gentleman is of opinion that the proclamation was not a fraud, but was perfectly bonâ fide.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I made no suggestion that anything done by the Colonial Office was a fraud. I never made such a suggestion.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
I am glad to have that assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, because he differs from the principal organs of his Party, if I may judge from the current issues of the newspapers. It is a very extraordinary thing that Conservative papers like the Daily Mail should describe this repatriation proclamation, which was drawn up in South Africa under Lord Selborne's authority, as a hoax. I have always been very careful indeed never to try to claim for the policy of His Majesty's Government any particular advantage in that it was endorsed or supported by Lord Selborne. Not at all. I think it would be a very unfair use for us to make of a public servant who is serving us if we were to endeavour to shelter ourselves behind the use of his name. But I do say here, and I have said in the country, that of Lord Selborne's personal integrity and of his high character and perfect candour in official I relations there can be no possible doubt. Now, we have in respect of this repatriation policy not merely the official announcement that the policy of the Government has been carried out, but we have Lord Selborne's personal 662 assurance that the coolies thoroughly understood the proclamation, and that the intentions of the Government in regard to repatriation have been and will be carried out in future in an effective manner. When I read out the terms of that proclamation in this House an hon. Member on this side asked whether it would not be possible to issue a proclamation over some other signature than that of the Superintendent of the Transvaal Mines. I think he suggested that Lord Selborne himself should issue the proclamation in his own name. I do not know whether it was in consequence of that question being reported, but at any rate Lord Selborne himself visited a mine employing 8,000 coolies just before we separated for the Easter holidays. He went in full uniform, with his staff and an escort of cavalry. The object was to show that behind the proclamation there was the authority of the Imperial Government and that there was a higher authority behind it than that of the ordinary administration of the mines. Lord Selborne questioned the coolies, and he assured us they fully understood the terms of the proclamation.
§ MR. MACKARNESS
Were not the coolies asked to state their grievances in the presence of the managers of the mines?
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
I do not think so. My recollection is that Lord Selborne collected upwards of 100 "boss" boys in a separate room, and there put the questions that he had to ask them. I have never been one of those who attach too much importance to those stories we are told from South Africa about Chinese coolies petitioning for the continuance of flogging and struggling to get back to South Africa after being repatriated. They seem to me to be statements which are only credible on the assumption that the Chinese are an even more peculiar people than we believe them to be. But I do say, and it is my duty to state to the House what I believe, that after what has occurred in connection with this repatriation proclamation it is impossible to resist the conclusion that there is no general desire on the part of the coolies employed on the Witwatersrand to leave their work and to return to China. That, of course, may be perfectly true without in any way 663 removing the objections which we entertain to the system of Chinese labour. If all the Chinese on the Rand regard their period in South Africa as the happiest period of their lives, that would not be, in my opinion, an argument for perpetuating that system. It is still less an argument for departing from the policy declared by the Government at the beginning of the session, which was the policy, admittedly a modus vivendi, of allowing the system under the Transvaal Ordinance to be continued until there might be a free expression of the opinion of the Colony upon it. There may be another explanation why there were so few coolies repatriated under the provisions of the proclamation. Coolies have been repatriated under other clauses of the Ordinance during the present year at a very much greater rate than was the case up till four or five months ago. I have collected some figures which I should like to read to the House. Up to July 31, 1905, in fifteen months, 46,898 coolies had been introduced, and 1,676 were repatriated. Between July 31, 1905, and February 28, 1906, in a period of seven months, 1,000 coolies were repatriated; and since March 1 to the present time, a period of three months, 1,100 more coolies have been repatriated. In all, the total number of coolies who have purchased their discharge is over 500, and the number of those who have been sent back as medically unfit is about 3,000. In fact, you may say that in seven months, to the end of February, the average number of coolies repatriated per month was about 140 from all causes, and in the last three months the number has averaged upwards of 360 per month. It is quite clear that, if that proportion is maintained, the diminution of the coolie population of the Rand in the course of the present year will amount to something like 4,000 or 5,000, and that number, of course, has to be deducted from the numbers who are sent in in pursuance of the licences already issued. I believe that the proportion of repatriation for bad conduct or for inability to discharge work will not merely be maintained, but will be increased, because Lord Selborne told the Boer deputation who visited him that he intended to use the power of repatriation much more drastically than he had hitherto done in order to rid the mines of bad and discontented characters, so as to diminish 664 the crime to which my hon. friend has very properly alluded. I will say one word about the outrages which are committed. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that that is a most grave and serious matter. I agree that it is not possible to read without a flush of anger of the conditions of uncertainty which prevail along the line of the Rand and of the issue of shot guns and rifles to peaceful citizens in order that they may defend themselves. One of the causes of these outrages is undoubtedly the fact that the Chinese have a very peculiar code of ethics, which makes them regard it as a more dishonourable thing not to pay a gambling debt than to commit a murder. It is seriously asserted that when a Chinaman has ruined himself and lost his money through gambling, such a terrible pressure is put upon him by the public opinion of his fellows to pay his debt that he has only three courses open to him—to rob to obtain the money, to be repatriated in China, or to commit suicide. That has been one of the causes of the serious crime which has attended this most ill-omened experiment. The Report of the Commission to which the hon. Gentleman referred has already reached us in summarised form, but the Secretary of State has not finally decided upon it, so I am not able to make any very precise pronouncement. But the recommendations of that Commission may be divided into three parts. First, as to those physical restrictions to which the hon. Gentleman referred, wire entanglements and fencing to keep these Chinamen in, which seem to all those who advocate them to be an entirely proper and satisfactory arrangement, I have already used in this House a phrase which I venture to repeat now. His Majesty's Government will not lend themselves to unusual devices in restraint of liberty; and we have already intimated that the fencing which it was proposed to erect will fall within that category. Secondly, it is suggested that there should be much more careful police regulation—no one can object to that—and that there should be a larger proportion of white superintendents over the Chinese population to prevent irregularities of all kinds from being committed. Assuming that the policy of the Government announced at the beginning of the session is to rule our counsels, no one can object to that. On the contrary, it will be 665 a matter of satisfaction that a greater degree of supervision will be provided. And if that greater degree of supervision also implies a greater degree of expense, and that expense is borne, as it should be borne and will be borne, by the importers of the Chinese coolies, it seems to me you will add another weight to the economic scale which is steadily rising against the system of yellow indentured labour. I think that the provision of extra police at the cost of the mineowners and the more stringent application of the repatriation clauses, sending Chinamen back in much larger numbers than has hitherto been done, will be found to be the best plan that can at present be adopted to meet the complaints of certain sections of the inhabitants of the Witwatersrand Reef. Now, I think the extra taxation which these provisions will imply is already producing its effect upon the mineowners themselves. I believe they are not nearly so enamoured of the success of their endeavours as they were a few months ago. It is true that the opinions of the white miners in South Africa have become increasingly adverse to Chinese labour. My information, which I have received from a source impossible to doubt, was that there had been a real movement of opinion among the British working-class community in Johannesburg against Chinese labour, and that opinion has been fostered and stimulated by the speeches made in the House of Commons during the lifetime of the present Parliament. If that be true, is it not a good augury and a good ground for standing to the policy we have already declared of trusting to the judgment and the decision of a freely and fairly elected Transvaal Parliament? I am bound to say that I believe that when the British working class population of Johannesburg and many of those men now employed in the gold mines who have been asked to attend demonstrations against the Liberal Government, to help in the burning of my right hon. friend in effigy, to sign resolutions of protest against the anti- 666 Chinese policy of the Government, have an opportunity, as they will very soon, of voting under the secrecy of the ballot, the Parliament they will elect in the Transvaal will certainly not be a mineowners' Parliament. If we could only have at this stage in the Chinese labour controversy a fair experiment—such as the one Mr. Creswell attempted and was 'prevented from carrying through—as to whether the mines can be really worked with a high proportion of white labour and Kaffirs, carrying out at the same time some sort of reform in the methods of recruiting native labour, at present in an extremely unsatisfactory state, and I believe in a state not to be long maintained—if we could get these two important steps taken in the course of the next few months—and I am not without hopes that they may be taken— then I believe that at the very time when the Transvaal Assembly will be called upon to pronounce on this experiment all the evidence will be in their possession necessary to enable them to come to a decision to determine the whole position of the Chinese labour question. Do not let me mislead the Committee as to my views of Chinese labour. The more one looks into this experiment, the more one has to administer it from day to day, as we have been forced to do from no fault of our own, the more the dislike of the system and of the people concerned in the system grows. But I differ in one respect in the point of view from my hon. friend. Chinese labour to me and to my colleagues in the Government dealing with South African affairs is not the only question that we have to face. It is part of the general South African situation; and I hope that I do not part company from my hon. friend when I say that, important as Chinese labour is, I consider the constitutional settlement we are about to make of even greater and more momentous importance. The policy which animated the Prime Minister and his colleagues in appointing a Commission to investigate the Transvaal constitutional question has been, so 667 far as its results may be discerned, attended by a very great measure of success. We have not yet received the Report of the Commissioners, and until it is received it will be premature, not merely to express any opinion, but to attempt to form a final opinion. From information which reaches us from day to day, and week to week, we have every reason to believe that when the Report is received—perhaps it will be received in the course of a week or ten days—it will be found to contain all the materials and facts necessary for an immediate decision as to policy. We shall then know how the various principles of representation and franchise will work out when applied to the conditions that prevail in the Transvaal. We shall know the views of each Party and of both races, of each group and each Party in the Transvaal, on these various principles. We shall know what each wants and what they are each prepared to take. We shall know the points of difference, the insuperable points of difference which have prevented them from coming to agreement. It is true that in the mere process of investigation and discussion these points of difference have been whittled down to so small a compass that there were good hopes that an actual concordat on this question might have been reached between the two races in the community. But the decision which has to be taken by the Government very shortly has been enormously simplified and narrowed by the work which has been performed by the Commission; and I think I should not be at all over-sanguine if I were to assure the Committee that perhaps within the compass of six weeks it may be possible to make some decisive settlement of the constitutional question. If we were able by some good fortune to make a settlement in the Transvaal between the two races which would be lasting, which would give the Boers a direct partnership in the British Empire so that both races might work and live together and wrangle together in the rough-and-tumble of representative institutions, then I say 668 that we should have achieved a work which would linger in the minds of the people of South Africa long after every trace of this hideous Chinese monstrosity has been effaced from human recollection. It would be vain and rash at this juncture, however, when so much hangs in the balance, were we to depart from the policy which for good or ill we declared to Parliament at the beginning of the session, and which was then accepted reluctantly but solidly and plainly by our colleagues.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
, as a personal explanation, said that he had no intention of attributing fraud in anything that had been done by the Colonial Office. The Colonial Office was represented in his eye by Lord Elgin, Lord Selborne, and the Under-Secretary for the Colonies-He had never made and never could make I any suggestion of fraud against these gentlemen or the Government in South Africa.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
said that he was grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's assurance, and regretted that he had misinterpreted his words.
§ *MR. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD (Leicester)
said that everyone who had followed the unfortunate affairs of the Transvaal would hail with a great deal of satisfaction the final passages of the speech of the Undersecretary for the Colonies. He alluded to the passages in which it was foreshadowed that within a very short period—the hon. Gentleman ventured to say within six weeks—there might be a representative Government in the Transvaal. At the same time he thought the Government would do well not to be too hurried even in so good an object, and more particularly if it was really hoped to solve the Chinese labour question in a satisfactory way by handing it over in its present state to a Transvaal assembly for a final settlement. On the question of Chinese labour, he regretted that the 669 Under-Secretary had not gone a little further in the statement he had made to the Committee. He was bound to say he doubted very much whether, if the speeches of Liberal candidates during the election had been couched in the same tone of excessive moderation, or if hon. Members opposite had been so moderate in their positive proposals on this subject, the enthusiasm of the electors would have been so high as it was. Was there any considerable proportion of hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial side who thought that the electors of the country would have been satisfied at the election if they had been led to believe that all a Liberal Government was going to do in respect of Chinese labour was to put into more active operation certain provisions of the Ordinance relating to expatriation and more effective policing of the compounds? The electors would have declared that the speeches to-day were not at all in harmony with the posters on the hoardings during the election, and by means of which Liberal candidates supported their candidatures. The country had expected a great deal more than had been declared now. They expected, and he hoped that they might still expect, more drastic action than had been foreshadowed by the Under-Secretary. The people did not want the Chinamen to be left in South Africa at all; they did not want this abominable system to come to an end of itself, which was all the speech of the Under-Secretary amounted to. They wanted some guarantee that a definite and positive method would be adopted to send the Chinamen, whether criminal or not, back to China on the ground that they were in South Africa at present in a position which was tantamount to slavery. But the speech of the Under-Secretary had not foreshadowed any such policy of repatriation. The question he wished specially to bring forward, however, was that of Natal. Since that subject was last discussed a valuable Blue-book had been published. It dealt with matters that were still being fought for, and he would not raise 670 them now. The time would come when the House might have to consider whether the revelations made in the Blue-book and in newspapers like the Natal Mercury—revelations made with all the authority of Sir James Hewlett— about the character of the police and the character of the magistrates appointed to administer the disturbed districts of Natal—ought not to be made the subject of very serious official representations to the Government of Natal. So far as it related to the collection of the poll-tax the Blue-book contained statements which seemed to give colour to the rumours floating about in Natal that a deliberate attempt had been made to got the natives to rise in rebellion in order that certain things might happen. It had been said, for instance, that the land was wanted. How was it possible to explain the extraordinary state of things in Natal except upon some such assumption as that? When the poll-tax was imposed it was definitely stated in the Act imposing it that the tax would not be collected by force until May 31st following the January in which it became due. The 6th clause of the Poll-Tax Act of 1905 provided that—If any person liable to the poll-tax shall fail to pay the same within two months after the due date thereof, he shall be guilty of a contravention of this Act : provided that, no native shall be deemed to have been guilty of a contravention of this Act as aforesaid, and no legal proceedings shall be taken against such native until after the 31st day of May in any year in respect of the poll-tax due on the 1st day of January immediately preceding.In view of that, how could the fact be explained that natives were being prosecuted and handcuffed by policemen about the middle of February? Why were armed forces being sent to collect the tax from natives at the end of January and in the beginning and middle of February, if the clause was ever meant to be operative? These questions were now being fought out in Natal and perhaps this was not the proper time 671 to raise them. But there was one question which must be raised now—he referred to the position of Dinuzulu, who was the most powerful man amongst the natives. The Blue-book showed this to be the case, and the information to hand since the rising also showed it. Surely a. powerful man in that special position ought to be particularly well protected both by the Natal Government and the Home Government at the present moment. They knew that Dinuzulu was surrounded by people upon whom the most severe pressure was being put to manufacture stories about this great chief. In one of the very earliest pages of the Blue-book they were told that these anonymous bearers of tittle-tattle were listened to by the Government representatives in Natal. Poisoned stories were poured into the ears of our responsible representatives about Dinuzulu's schemes for a rising amongst the natives and secret goings on, and those stories had been proved to be untrue. They were repeated time after time, and yet this remarkable chief remained apparently perfectly loyal and almost unaffected by this abominable conspiracy which was evidently intended to drive him into rebellion. Let them take as an example the statement made on May 2nd, in the Times of Natal. Quoting from the Rand Daily Mail, that organ said—The Zulu rising is nothing more or less than a deliberately organised rebellion of a roost diabolical order, of which Dinuzulu is the instigator and head. These impressive words would become more impressive were we permitted to publish the name of the speaker and further to divulge the Zulu plan of campaign which was formulated. The Natal Government, however, are in possession of the Zulu plans and have forwarded a cordial letter of thanks to the authority who warned them of their danger.Had the Government been furnished with the Zulu plan and the name of this authority or would they ask the Natal Government to place them in possession of it? All this was simply nonsense and humbug. He wondered if it would be possible to find out whether the South 672 African correspondent of the Standard and The Times and the gentleman who wrote the article from which he had quoted in the Rand Daily Mail were one and the same person? The Standard correspondent in South Africa proclaimed one day "that he (Dinuzulu) has joined Bambaata with 600 men." That was proved to be untrue. A few days after this it was said that Dinuzulu had "doctored" five companies of his men for war. That statement was now discredited. In The Times of the 4th instant a Pietermaritzburg correspondent, while accusing Dinuzulu of machinations, said—The unrest now disturbing the natives of South Africa is always connected with with Dinuzulu's name. Unfortunately, there is not much reason to believe that any injustice is thereby done to Dinuzulu.He went on further—If the information I have been able to obtain would not satisfy a court of law "—they saw how the insinuation was conveyed—it is at least sufficiently trustworthy to put the white population on it guard and serve as a warning to the British public that the native problem in South Africa is both real and serious.He was bound to say that nothing more contemptible than the campaign against Dinuzulu had ever been transacted in the somewhat tainted records of our relation with natives from the beginning. These statements published in our newspapers amounted to nothing short of seditious libel, and he would respectfully urge upon the Government the desirability of protecting Dinuzulu against those charges. Surely something could be done to prevent the publication of these lying statements by anonymous correspondents — by gentleman who seemed to be playing the part of a stage army, at one time corresponding with one paper and at another time with another. Some action should be taken to protect Dinuzulu against a conspiracy to drive him into rebellion. He thought it was the duty of the 673 Government to give the Committee some assurance that Dinuzulu would be protected against this conspiracy which undoubtedly was being promoted against him. By doing so they would help to limit the unfortunate rebellion from which Natal was at present suffering.
§ *MR. J. M. ROBERTSON (Northumberland, Tyneside)
said he cordially associated himself with the request of the hon. Member for Leicester, that the Government should pay serious heed to the sinister drama now being unrolled in Natal. the conspiracy was not only against Dinuzulu. There was reason to suppose that a number of persons shaping i the destinies of the Empire were seriously desirous of having a native war; and there were many signs that attempts were being made to provoke native feeling in other parts of South Africa exactly in the manner in which it was being provoked in Natal. That was a matter of much seriousness, and he looked for some kind of assurance from the Government on that subject. He was still dissatisfied with the position of the Government in regard to Chinese labour. The Undersecretary for the Colonies had offered them certain encouragement and grounds for hope, and he had given certain suggestions and reasons why they should let this matter stand as it was now. He regretted to say that the securities offered by the Under-Secretary were not of a very valid kind. The assurances that Chinese labour in the Transvaal was being rendered uneconomic were of the same kind as statements that had been current in the past year. There were 16,000 licences issued just before the present Government came into office, and just before that they were told that the mineowners found that the experiment was not worth carrying on. The Undersecretary had told the Committee also that white opinion in the Transvaal was increasingly adverse to the use of Chinese labour. Was the hon. Gentleman not aware that white opinion was unanimously adverse to the first introduc- 674 tion of Chinese labour? The miners gave the strongest expression in their power against Chinese labour before it was introduced. A mass meeting of 5,000 was hold and expressed detestation of Chinese labour. After that it was forced on them. Did any hon. Member doubt the attitude of white opinion in the Transvaal in regard to Chinese labour? [An HON. MEMBER: They had no vote.] The Committee knew that the miners were in the hands of the employers now, just as they were then. Perhaps he might quote a letter written from the Transvaal, dated 26th December, 1903, as showing the fashion in which the mineowners controlled and made opinion on the subject of Chinese labour. It was written by one who was a strong believer in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The writer said—It is our only hope that Mr. Chamberlain will not forget us in the midst of his own campaign. If he only knew how we all look to him I am sure he would not.He read the following to show how the men were being dealt with by the employers—The way we are being forced to fall in with our masters on this question would make your blood boil. Talk about political freedom ! It does not exist for the man on the mines. We were ordered into Johannesburg the other night to break up an anti-Chinese meeting, were given eighteen inches of steel rope to do it with, and had our rail fares paid. Need I say that along with others I refused to go? Then a petition to the Legislative Council (for we are still a Crown colony without any say in the government of the country) is sent round the office for signature. Along with five others I refused to sign that. The next day it is again sent round, the chief draughtsman himself coming to each of us individually, Again we refused to sign. The next day, not the petition, but a black list is brought round with the names who had refused to sign typewritten along with a letter from the general manager (a—American-German) demanding our reason for doing so, if we still refused to sign. Although knowing that it meant that we were finished on the property, Chinese or no Chinese, we everyone of us wrote "Refuse to sign—refuse to give reasons" and now await 675 our dismissal without the prospect of employment elsewhere, as the five big houses who control the Rand stick to each oilier in a case like this.He had received later information that what was expected did happen. The men were dismissed. Some hon. Members apparently supposed that when self-government was given to the Transvaal this sort of thing would be prevented. Economic pressure would go on then as now. They knew from the testimony of the right hon. Member for Morpeth how the employers coerced the men in the mines. They knew that when they gave self-government to the Transvaal they would deliver the Colony to the rule of the men who brought about the South African War, and these men were capable of doing a number of things which the Under-Secretary did not seem to contemplate. If there was the slightest sign of a return to Boer domination under the new constitution they would get up an appeal to this country to put down that domination. What the hon. Gentleman had offered as securities were no securities at all. In regard to the hon. Gentleman's defence of the Ordinance for repatriation, he would point out that the Ordinance did not in any form offer what he and his friends understood from the Government it was their intention to do. What they understood was that they were going to offer Chinamen instantly an opportunity to go home at the expense of the British Government. What was the Ordinance that was put forward? It was an Ordinance hedged round with threats and conditions, and oven if it was understood by the coolie it would not be taken advantage of by one in a thousand. It was not an offer of a free return. The coolies must contribute so much if they had money to contribute. It seemed to many that the real object of the Ordinance was to deter the Chinese from returning to their own country. It was nothing to be assured of the personal integrity of Lord Selborne. The personal integrity of all officials ought to be assumed, and that question ought never 676 to have been raised. What they had to do with was the policy of Lord Selborne. The initial mistake of the Government was made when they did not recall Lord Selborne. The Government knew that Lord Selborne was pledged to maintain a policy which they were pledged to overthrow, and yet they continued him at the head of affairs in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon had said that Chinese labour was a dead issue. He ought to know something of dead issues. One dead issue which the right hon. Gentlemen had miscalculated had been discussed this afternoon, namely, the proposal to spend more capital in settling white men in the Transvaal. Why was it a dead issue? There was one kind of imposition which they could not make on the people of this country—they could not induce them to lay out more millions in settling white men in the Transvaal while carrying out a Conservative policy of driving away white men from that country. That was an absurdity which would not be repeated. Of course, that policy was defended by the hon. Member for Gravesend, who had taken the Empire under his protection in these matters. The hon. Member and others said that this ought to be done in order to maintain our position in South Africa. The sentimentalism known by the name of Imperialism was the most blatant of all sentimentalisms in British politics. That kind of sentimentalism aimed at a state of things which would enable them to go about boasting of the greatness of the British Empire. He ventured to say that an Empire, the main industry of which was supported by and lived, as in South Africa, on the degradation of Chinese labour, was a thing that cumbered the ground and stood in the way of civilisation. The first purpose for which the Government was returned to power was not to maintain Imperialism in that sense, but to undo some of the crimes which had been done in the name of Empire. Chinese labour was a fraud committed on the British people. If the people of this 677 country could have had the faintest inkling of what was going to follow the conclusion of the war in this respect, they would have prevented the war from occurring. The Government was pledged to the removal of that "fraud." The Under-Secretary totally under-estimated the difficulties which lay before the Government. The Government had failed to recognise the strength of the forces they were contending with. They were fighting the organised capitalism which ruled at Johannesburg, and they supposed that they could get behind that capitalism by a few constitutional devices. The capitalism which got behind the good sense of this nation in bringing about the war would be able to get behind the constitutional arrangements now to be made if the same men were left in possession of Chinese labour as an institution. It was on these grounds that he and some of his friends were dissatisfied with the explanation given by the Under-Secretary, and they appealed to the Prime Minister to take further action which would justify them in the eyes of the nation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were pleased to profess to believe that the cry against Chinese labour was a political device; if they would suggest in whose case it was a political device a settlement of the matter might be nearer. Every two Liberals out of three demanded the abolition of Chinese labour in the Transvaal. He thought the Prime Minister would not suspect of any lack of loyalty to his Administration those who held those views. They appealed to him to take a stronger line in this matter than he had yet taken. He would not say that it was absolutely necessary to recall Lord Selborne; but for the amazing document which had been issued in regard to the repatriation of the Chinese and which had been received with laughter by the House, the Government must substitute a real offer. Then it would be seen whether the ecolies wished to return homo or not. What the Under-Secretary had told the Committee would lead them to 678 believe that a great many Chinamen wanted to get home in order to get rid of their gambling debts. Why make their return more difficult? It was known that hundreds of the Chinese who had been brought to South Africa were criminals. There was no shame on that score on the part of those who backed up the policy of Chinese labour. There were scores of men amongst the coolies who were known to be habitual criminals, and the Government knew that it was leading to a state of things in which there was likely to be an outbreak of murder, suicide, or robbery.
§ *SIR W. EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said the hon. Gentleman and others had made a discovery which many on the Opposition side had had made long ago, namely, that there was a great and extraordinary discrepancy between the pledges given by the Liberal Party before the election and their fulfilment when they got into power. What was the meaning of the Liberal posters, handbills, and speeches at election time if they were not intended to convey to the country that if the Liberal Party were returned to power they would put an end to Chinese labour? The employment of Chinese labour was represented to be a disgraceful and monstrous thing, and it was implied, if not openly stated, that if the Liberal Party were returned to power that monstrous state of things would be instantly put an end to. The hon. Member for the Tyneside Division had used the word "fraud" in connection with the quotation of Chinese labour. —Yes, but by whom was the fraud committed] The Members of the Opposition said before the election, as they said now, that, whatever their wishes might be, it was entirely out of the power of the Liberal Party to fulfil the pledges with which they misled the country. [An HON. MEMBER: Why?] The reasons why had been given that afternoon, lamely if they liked, by the Undersecretary. As far as the Opposition 679 were concerned they would leave the Government to fight the matter out with their own supporters, for they felt that the issues connected with South Africa were far too grave to be turned into a mere Party issue. After what had happened, however, he thought that any fair-minded man would admit that they would be entitled to take the fullest Party advantage out of the discrepancy between the promises made before the election and the manner of their fulfilment. He, for his part, would be contented if the Government would stick to what was said by the Under-Secretary this afternoon, and leave this issue to the decision of the colonists.
§ *MR. BRODIE (Surrey, Reigate)
said the hon. Member for Leicester, in his references to Natal, and the position of Dinizulu appeared to be a little too much impressed by newspaper gossip. It was quite wrong that untruthful reports regarding the loyalty of Dinizulu should be circulated by the Press or by anyone; but it must be remembered that the Natal Government were not impressed by these reports. In the Natal Blue-book the Governor of that Colony referred to the fact that his Ministers had complete confidence in Dinizulu. The speech of the hon. Member for Newbury, interesting and full of information, was marred, quite unintentionally, no doubt, by an ungenerous reference to Lord Elgin, by a certain exaggeration in the use of the valuable statistics which had been collected, and on which its arguments were based, and by an entire want of sympathy with the spirit of the colonists, and the spirit of the Liberal Party in regard to colonial self-government. Lord Elgin needed no defence from him. He deprecated any exaggeration in the use of statistics in that House. He would say to the hon. Member that he was quite in error in thinking that the greater proportion, or even a great proportion, of the Liberal victories at the 680 last election were won on South African questions. A very large number of Liberal Members fought their elections on social reform based upon free trade. They adhered to the policy laid down in the great speech of the Primo Minister in the Albert Hall, in which he declared that no further importations of Chinese should be allowed than had been sanctioned, and that a democratic measure of self-government should be introduced when these matters should be left to the people of South Africa to decide for themselves.
§ Debate resumed.
§ *MR. BRODIE
said the majority of Liberal Members would be dissatisfied if the Government failed to carry out their declared policy of leaving the people in South Africa to manage their own affairs.
And, it being Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.