|UNITED KINGDOM AND ENGLAND.|
§ Resolution read a second time.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
moved to reduce the vote by the sum of £100. He said his object was to call attention to the Convention made between this country and China on May 13th, 1904. This was a matter well worthy the attention of the House, for by this Convention with China the whole system of indentured labour, to which exception had been taken by hon. Members on that side of the House, was made possible. Had it not been for that Convention, as he gathered from the correspondence, Chinese labour in the Transvaal could never have taken place. His particular point was that our Consuls were engaged in assisting in this traffic. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs told the House the other day that he was not aware that the Convention had anything particular to do with Chinese labour in South Africa, but in point of fact it was part and parcel of the whole arrangement, and the Chinese could not have proceeded to South Africa without it. He would draw the attention of the Under-Secretary to the correspondence which took place prior to signing the Convention. It showed conclusively that it was only signed in order to provide Chinese labour for South Africa. It therefore behoved them to consider whether they should not stop their Consuls from engaging in a traffic which they regarded as immoral and wrong. We should be placed in a ridiculous position if we allowed this thing to 1271 go on. He gathered from the Papers that it was in their power to stop it. The second article of the Convention provided that our Consuls should consult with the Tao-tais of the ports in order to obtain coolies. They were to make known by proclamation and through the native Press the text of the indenture the coolies would have to sign; and it was clear that at this moment they were acting as recruiting agents and were engaged in facilitating a system which had been described by the Lord Chancellor as one of semi-slavery. They also had, by Article 3, to fit up buildings to receive coolies prior to their embarkation, and in effect to act as gaolers, while under Article 4 they were called upon to act as gaolers, as these emigrants were not permitted to leave the depôt except on a pass signed by the Chinese inspector and counter-signed by a British Consul. The British Consul was in fact made responsible for the safe keeping of these Chinese coolies. The situation was quite intolerable. The Foreign Office appeared to have had very little concern with this Convention; but, in his opinion, the matter required the urgent and careful thought of the Foreign Office as well as of the Colonial Office. The present Foreign Secretary was in no sense to blame, but it was apparent that the matter was rushed through because it was unpopular in this country. There was no reason why, because they did this in haste, they should repent at leisure. If repentance was to come—and hon. Members on the benches around him did repent—the sooner the better. He would ask the Under-Secretary for the Colonies whether he could give the House any indication of the steps it was proposed to take to put an end to this hateful system. If the Government had power to put a stop to it, it would be well if notification were given forthwith. Delay and uncertainty would cause distress to hon. Members who regarded the thing as wrong, and it would do harm to the industry in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had said that certain allegations made in the country with regard to Chinese labour had brought us into disrespect with foreign countries; but the posters in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency had nothing to do with that. What brought us into some contempt with foreign countries when we wished to intervene in the Congo was the fact that 1272 official documents showed that, contrary to the promise given to the Chinese Minister, these coolies had been ill-treated, and that, presumably in consequence, they had spread over the country and committed a series of outrages. The Chinese Minister demanded before the treaty was made, first, that Chinese labourers should not be flogged without due process of law, and, secondly, that they should not be transferred from one employer to another, and both these conditions had been evaded. This latter point was dealt with by the late Member for Lincolnshire in a speech which made a great impression on the last House of Commons, a speech in which he said it was a strange thing for this country to be taught its duty to an inferior race by the Minister for the Heathen Chinee. The Secretary of State could effectively intervene if he wished, because the Government could truly say that, in point of fact, we had not been able to fulfil either of the promises on the faith of which the Convention was signed, and he would ask the Under-Secretary whether he could not give an assurance that action would be taken, if possible, to bring the Convention to an end. He was aware that it did not come up for revision or renewal for a period of four years from the date of signature, but it was possible to abrogate it by consent, and the fact that we could not carry out our own undertakings would be a very good reason for abrogation. Had the Under-Secretary communicated to the High Commissioner the important decision of the Government to veto the employment of Chinese labour under conditions at all similar to the conditions under the Ordinance, and, if so, had he asked the High Commissioner to make that decision known among the future electors of the Transvaal? Now, while parties were being formed and pledges were being given in that Colony, there must be no misapprehension that Chinese labour could continue to be imported under a system described by the Lord Chancellor as semi-slavery. If once it was made perfectly well known to the Transvaal that His Majesty's Government would stop it at its source in China as well as make it impossible for any such system again to be reintroduced, then they would know at last that Chinese labour was at an end, and the people of this country would rest assured that they had done their duty by determining that a system 1273 they had denounced as semi-slavery should no longer exist.
To leave out '£21,410,000,' and to insert '£21,409,900.' "—(Major Seely.)
§ Question proposed, "That' £21,410,000' stand part of the Resolution."
§ THE UNDER - SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL,) Manchester, N.W.
I certainly do not quarrel with my hon. and gallant friend for having raised the question of the China Convention, because I think it will be admitted that the subject is one on which the House stands in need of information. I regret that in the debate on the Address I did not deal more fully with this subject, but I had already presumed on the indulgence of the House for a very considerable time, and I hardly dared embark upon the somewhat complicated details of this diplomatic instrument, and, in consequence of my unfortunate brevity, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham described all this apparatus of enlistment in China in a jaunty and scornful manner, and suggested that it was the intention of the Government—I am not sure he did not attribute it to me personally—to bring some influence to bear, I did not gather how, upon the Dowager Empress of China. But this China Convention is an instrument in itself not less effective, and I think far more convenient than the direct veto. It is an instrument which, used in conjunction with the direct veto, enables that veto to be exercised, if necessary, without raising in any direct manner the question of collision between the Colony and the mother-country, without infringing in any direct manner that principle of self-government which, on this side of the House at any rate, we are bound always to respect. The China Convention is based upon the Treaty of 1860. Article 5 of that Treaty stipulated that the Chinese Government should always allow its subjects to leave China for the purpose of labouring within the British dominions. Regulations were to be laid down later on, but no regulations were, in fact, made under the 1274 Treaty until the year 1904. The Convention of 1904 prescribed the regulations which really made the Treaty of 1860 effectively operative, and the Convention, like the Treaty, was general in its character. I may remind my hon. and gallant friend, when he speaks of wishing to abrogate the Treaty, that the question of Chinese Labour in South Africa, important and urgent as it is, is not by any means the only system of labour covered by the operations of the China Convention of 1904. Under that Convention and under the Treaty of 1860 the Chinese can go to the Straits Settlements, to the Federated Malay States, to Burmah, and to the Protectorate of British North Borneo. Of course they go freely to those places. They go there free if they wish to settle, they bring their wives and children with them, and sometimes they choose to do so because they are able to make a new home in those countries and to colonise them as well as to labour for their development. It seems to me that these tropical countries are well adapted to colonisation from China, and that a totally different question is raised when we are confronted with the system which prevails in the Transvaal. Let me ask the House to follow what is the operation of this Convention. On the notice of the British Minister at Pekin the Chinese Government instructs the local authorities at the Treaty Ports to facilitate emigration by every means in their power, and on receipt of these instructions the Tao-Tai appoints a Chinese inspector who, in conjunction with the British Consular officer, or his delegate, supervises the details of the emigration. My hon. and gallant friend is quite right in stating that the action of the British Consular officer is essential to the carrying out of the Chinese Labour Ordinance. It is the linch pin on which the whole of that system depends, and the action of the British Consular officer or of his delegate is essential both in regard to the signature of the contract and also in regard to making it clear that the emigrant understands fully the terms of the contract. In practice the Consuls delegated these important functions under the late Administration to the emigration agents of the Transvaal Government, and these agents derived their only legal status and exercised their powers solely in virtue of this delegation by the British Consular officer. The 1275 House will see that the Treaty with China binds her to permit and actively assist in the emigration of Chinese coolies from China. Without it China would not be bound to allow the coolies to go, and it is extremely improbable she would allow any large number to go, for, even with the Treaty in force, the Viceroys of the southern provinces have steadily blocked emigration from the south. We are asked, first, how can we abrogate this Treaty? My hon. and gallant friend is quite right when he says we can give notice in the first instance at the end of four years from May 13th, 1904, when the Convention was signed, to terminate it in one year, or by the consent of China—and I am not at all able to say whether China would be reluctant to consent to such abrogation—we could abrogate it at once. But if we did that it would affect other countries; it would affect emigration to those other tropical countries to which the Chinese now go to labour, and in which, when they go, they are, by the operation of the Convention, protected and supervised in the process of emigration by British Consular officers. Therefore, if it were possible, without interfering with the general structure of the Treaty, to separate that portion of the Ordinance affecting the Transvaal from the other, I have no doubt that it would meet the view of my hon. and gallant friend, and of those who think with him. And it happens that there is such a third method—that of instructing the Consular officers to resume the functions which they have delegated to the emigraition agents of the Transvaal Government. If they do that, the Convention becomes, so far as the Transvaal is concerned, a dead letter, because the provisions of the Ordinance cannot be applied except through the Consular officer delegating his authority or exercising it himself. If he is instructed to resume the authority, and not to exercise it himself again, unless he receives instructions from the Government, the whole of the Chinese Ordinance will be put out of gear, and no Chinaman can be enlisted under it,although they will still be free to go to the Transvaal under the same conditions as to other countries. That, briefly, is what His Majesty's Government propose to do. As I have told the House already this session, when we came into office we found ourselves confronted with 16,000 of these outstanding licences, which a prudent fore- 1276 thought or "an intelligent anticipation of events" had placed at the disposal of the mine owners in South Africa. To the carrying out of these contracts His Majesty's Government have been reluctantly compelled to consent, and the House has not less reluctantly agreed to that course by an overwhelming majority. While this importation continues it is impossible for us to revoke all the delegation of authority which the Consuls have made to the labour emigration agents, but in June or July of the present year these licences will have been worked out and the coolies contracted under them will be already on their way to South Africa. As soon as that has taken place, instructions will be given to our Consuls to cancel the powers they have delegated to the Transvaal emigration agency, and they will not take part in any further recruitments or enlistments until they are further instructed from home. If we do that we shall have turned the tap off, and if the tap is turned off, anyone who calculates how long a three years' agreement will take to expire and who studies the date when the coolies arrived will be able to tell the date when they will sail once again for their own country. But will that tap ever be turned on again? Well, Sir, that depends first of all upon the Transvaal Assembly. Within a year—I hope within a shorter period of time—the Transvaal will be a responsible self-governing Colony upon the general model of all self-governing Colonies which are to be found throughout the British Empire. As soon as that constitution is settled and the Transvaal Government is invested with its new powers, His Majesty's Government will fix a date when the existing labour Ordinance which was passed in the last House of Commons will come to an end. That will be fixed so as to allow the new Government in the Transvaal to take a reasonable survey of its affairs and to examine this labour question in all its bearings. My hon. and gallant friend asks me whether Lord Selborne has been notified of the new policy of His Majesty's Government. Quite apart from the electric telegraph which conveys regular, though somewhat one-sided, accounts of our proceedings in this House to South Africa, Lord Selborne is in daily communication at great length and considerable expense 1277 with my noble friend Lord Elgin, and my hon. and gallant friend may be quite sure that there is no decision announced by the Government to Parliament which Lord Selborne is not regularly apprised of, and of which South Africa does not become speedily aware. In the interval, until the potential Transvaal Assembly, the future Transvaal Assembly, has been formed, so far as the weight and influence of the Ministry can be thrown on one side or the other, it will be thrown in the direction of convincing the people of South Africa that the importation of 60,000 coolies under the conditions of the Chinese Ordinance is not a sure or satisfactory way to found a state. Unless within the time fixed by the date on which the Ordinance will automatically expire the Transvaal Assembly bring forward new proposals, the whole system of Chinese labour will automatically fall to the ground. No more Chinese will come in, and by that time those who first arrived will be on their homeward journey or about to start. Of course no new contracts or re-enlistments will be possible; the whole system will therefore come to an end within a time which may be accurately fixed.
Now, Sir, let us look at the other alternatives. I have always tried to argue this question quite fairly, and let the House see exactly what is the position of the Government, and what are the great difficulties and considerations, which on every hand, harass and hamper our action upon this question. Suppose, on the other hand, that the Transvaal Government make new proposals to us. We must subject those proposals to a searching examination, and no doubt there will be much correspondence before they are brought before the Transvaal in a definite and practical form. [OPPOSITION dissent.] I should imagine that there would be communications between our representatives in South Africa and the Colonial Office, and we should endeavour to show them what were the real objections entertained in this country to the Ordinance.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Does the hon. Gentleman anticipate that the Ministers of a self-governing colony would consult Downing Street before introducing a measure to their own Parliament?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I should imagine that on a subject of this character it would not be impossible for informal communications to pass; but this is an entirely subsidiary point, and in any case the Government will be prepared to use the veto of the Crown without shrinking if the conditions of any proposal that may reach us from the Transvaal, no matter by how great a majority it may be supported, are really derogatory to the fundamental and elementary principles of liberty, and, I may say, of decency also. I do not for a moment minimise the importance of a veto of the Crown against a responsibly governed colony upon a matter in which the material interest of the colony is directly affected and the material interest of this country only indirectly affected, for that would be a very serious event in British colonial history. I do not for a moment attempt to minimise the importance of such a step, and I hope the House will not overlook that point. Hitherto in dealing with the Chinese question the Government have been able to act with the full sympathy of all the self-governing Colonies of the Empire. We have endeavoured to give effect to the wishes and desires of all those great Colonies who took part in the South African war, and who considered, like a great many of the working classes here who supported the war, that they had some right to be consulted as to the use that should be made of the victory. I hope that that sympathy and agreement Will be preserved during the conduct of these difficult and delicate negotiations. I hope that in relieving the Empire from what we consider a stain we shall have the moral authority that comes from common agreement among great and scattered communities. Here is where the importance of the Chinese Convention comes in, for I look upon its machinery as something like a pneumatic buffer which would prevent the direct impact of a veto and prevent the raising of the great issues of self-government. The Government are not only asked for assent but for assistance, not only to acquiesce but actively to assist, and surely in common reason the Government are entitled to refuse participation and responsible co-operation in a business for which they have so little liking.
Having said so much, perhaps I may be allowed to say one thing more on the subject 1279 which arises directly out of the Question asked by my hon. and gallant friend. What chance is there of the Transvaal proposals being acceptable if ever they are put forward? I feel bound to say I think the chance is not at all a good one. The Chinese are attacked here and in South Africa from two opposite points of view. Every restriction which South Africa demands on the ground of safety, we refuse on the ground of freedom; they dislike the Chinese, and we dislike the precautions they take against them. I really wonder whether it is worth while for an industry which depends so largely upon public confidence to establish itself upon the precarious footing of the chance of a compromise being reached in the future—in the not too remote future—a compromise to which not only the Transvaal Assembly, but the House of Commons will have to be parties. It is high time that the leaders of this great industry should face the facts of the situation. The House of Commons has exercised great restraint in spite of every taunt flung at the Government by the very persons who are responsible for this state of things in South Africa, and who have repeatedly assured us that the Empire depends upon this unsavoury system. I recognise the moderation the House has shown, and hope the Government will be permitted to proceed prudently and firmly to the end I have endeavoured to outline. The leaders of the mining industry here and in South Africa ought to recognise also the forbearance of the House of Commons. If it relieves their feelings to abuse the Government, by all means let them continue to do so. Surely it is about time they should leave off wringing their hands and weeping and wailing over the prospect of Chinese labour lost, and turn with manly energy to the discovery of some less unnatural substitute. Reasonable time is now given for them to look around. Reasonable time is now given for the transition to be effected. His Majesty's Government wish them no ill. Every law-abiding man—every lawful industry is a matter of serious concern to those who now are responsible for the direction of public affairs. Still more is the welfare and prosperity of the great city, which is, after all, the economic main-spring of South Africa. For my part I have always thought it wholly absurd to pretend that the prosperity and even the existence of 1280 the Witwatersrand Reef depended on the labour of 60,000 Chinese. I do not apprehend that any disastrous collapse will result from their gradual withdrawal. Bubble companies may break, rotten flotations may founder, shares which have been forced up far above their value may fall to their natural level, but I do not believe that any intrinsically valuable property—and after all we are dealing with the most valuable goldfield in the whole world—will be injured, or that the flow of gold from South Africa to this country, which so strongly and powerfully stimulates enterprise and credit in this country, will be sensibly or suddenly reduced. I am inclined to think that the arrangements which are made in South Africa to-day for recruiting native labour are wholly inefficient, and that a reorganisation of those arrangements might be found to produce much larger supplies of labour out of the enormous' native population. But I would suggest as a preliminary to that reorganisation that the conditions of labour should be made more attractive, that, at any rate, the men should be paid for working in the bowels of the earth not less than is offered for working on the surface on farms in the country, and that the natives should be permitted to some extent to choose their own mine so that they may avoid a few mines which have a name for unusual severity, or where, perhaps, a particular native may remember that he has been ill-treated. I was told the other day what the conditions of labour are in Western Australia in connection with the Ivanhoe Gold Corporation. That mine is working at a depth of 1,200 to 1,300 feet—working the most difficult ore in the world. It is hampered by the cost of water, which, I believe, is 5s. per thousand gallons. I give these figures under reserve. Wood, which is the fuel there, costs a price equivalent to that of coal at 30s. per ton. The one great advantage there is that food is cheap. Compare these facts with those now prevailing on the Witwatersrand. There the mines are working at a depth of between 1,000 feet and 1,200 feet. The ore is amongst the easiest to work in the world. The value of coal is, I believe, 7s. per ton at the pit's mouth. and has to be brought a very short distance. Water is cheap and abundant, and only the cost of living is expensive. The wages of manual labour in the 1281 Ivanhoe mine average about 12s. 6d. per day, and the mine is worked entirely with white labour. I believe that the lowest wage paid below ground is 10s. per day. The Ivanhoe mine is able to crush quartz at 24s. per ton, including an ample margin for development, against 22s. 8d. per ton, including 1s. 7d. for development, in the Transvaal in the year 1904–5. I do not say that these figures are conclusive.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
May I ask for information as to the yield of gold per ton in the Ivanhoe mine, and the yield of gold per ton on the Rand?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
My hon. friend does not seem to understand that the cost of treating a ton of ore is alone in question. It is quite true that there may be more profit per ton in one place than in the other. The hon. Gentleman is looking to profit. I was thinking of the working expenses which, after all, occasionally deserve consideration. As I have stated, I do not say that these figures are conclusive, but I think they are stupendous. I put that forward with all moderation, and I ask you to consider that the Ivanhoe is worked with the dearest labour of the kind, and that the mines on the Wit-watersrand Reef are worked with the cheapest and worst labour in the world—clumsy Kaffirs and sullen Chinese who leave before they have time to become skilful workmen. But let me say that in the last two years the productivity of the Ivanhoe mine has increased by over 50 per cent. as against practically no increase in the labour efficiency of the South African mines. But, as I say, I do not wish to draw any decided conclusion from that. I hope that,in the next few months we shall be able to go much more thoroughly into all these matters, and I trust they may be fully discussed. But I am anxious that we should not abandon the hope of having the South African mines worked more largely by white labour. I hope I have said enough to show that His Majesty's Government, while adhering to the policy declared to Parliament, are willing to consider in a reasonable spirit any practical or reasonable alternative which may be suggested, and, most of all, that we would encourage the increased employment of white labour in South Africa, which would not only 1282 support the Industry but sustain the British flag in the Colonies.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
The debate which, unexpectedly to me at all events, has been initiated by the hon. Gentleman below the gangway and carried on by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies is one which, everybody must admit, whatever view he takes upon the particular controversies which have raged round this question for months past, raises a question of the most fundamental importance, not merely as regards public morality, but as regards the basis on which our Empire, largely composed of self-governing elements, can be expected to subsist. The House will recognise that it would be very easy for me to make play, if I thought it worth while, with all the subtleties which hon. Gentlemen opposite have indulged in with regard to the distinction between that which is slavery, that which is semi-slavery, that which can be described as slavery, and I know not how many other methods of manipulating that word, which would have puzzled a sixteenth century casuist. But I think the question is really too serious, after the speech which has just been delivered, for it to be worth anybody's while, this afternoon at all events, to make points against the speeches which have been delivered in this House or in the country by hon. Gentlemen opposite, or to knock their heads together, however easy that process may be. I do not mean to do it. But what I do want to call the attention of the House to is this. The hon. and gallant Member who initiated this debate asked the Government what they meant to do with regard to the China Convention. I understand from the explanations of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies that China is obliged, by the treaty of 1860, to permit and even in certain circumstances to encourage the emigration of Chinese labourers to British possessions; that by the regulations entered into in 1904 the British Consuls have delegated their powers to the agents of the mines; and that the British Consuls who are alone the legitimate channel through which this process can be carried on, might be instructed to withdraw these delegated powers, to reserve them to themselves, and then under orders from home not to use them at all. That, I understand, is a brief and not inaccurate 1283 summary of the view of the Under-Secretary, and I understood him to say that that was what the Government actually contemplated. Do they contemplate doing it at once?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then what do they propose to do in this connection after they have given self-government to the Colony? Supposing they come to some agreement with the Colony, are they then going to instruct their Consuls?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
Yes; if we come to an agreement on a system that we regard as proper there will be no objection to our Consuls carrying it out.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that there will be a hiatus of some months after the existing contracts are concluded and before self-government is granted to the Colony in which the Consuls will be instructed practically to offer no encouragement at all to Chinese immigration.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
May I ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, without intervention on the part of the Consuls, it would be possible for a Chinaman, supposing he got permission or eluded the prohibition of the local Chinese officials, to emigrate to South Africa, and there take up his position in the mines under the existing regulations?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir EDWARD GREY, Northumberland, Berwick)
Of course there is nothing to prevent the Chinese Government from doing what they like.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The Chinaman could go freely; but he would not go under the Ordinance. He would only go to South Africa as a free man.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I should say that the Chinaman would not go as a free man. He would go under the contract which he chooses to make with his employers. Supposing the contract he proposed to 1284 make with his employers was the precise contract granted under the Ordinance?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then it would be impossible, according to the Government, for a Chinaman, however willing or desirous to enter the Transvaal under the existing system of employment, to work for employers, however willing to carry out that arrangement?
§ MAJOR SEELY
It is the law of England. I think it is admitted by every legal authority that no man can contract himself in this country under such terms as those of the labour Ordinance, because the law would not permit it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That has nothing to do with the Transvaal or British Guiana. It does not effect the argument. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I never object to his interruptions, but I do object to interruptions which have nothing to do with the argument in hand. I hope the Secretary of State will make this point quite clear. Supposing the British Consuls were forbidden to act in this matter at all, under the Treaty of 1860, would it be possible for any Chinamen to enter the Transvaal under conditions similar to those under which he enters the Transvaal at the present time?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
The Convention does not bind the Chinese Government not to do anything. They can allow what they please to go on in China, apart from the Convention. But they cannot force us in the Transvaal to recognise what they have done in China.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But would there be any legal difficulty in the way of a Chinaman who desires to enter the Transvaal under the existing conditions? There was one part of the Under-Secretary's speech which I profoundly regret, and that was the threat which he held out to the existing mine owners in South Africa. 1285 After all, the interest that this country takes in any industry is, and ought to be, the interest it takes in that which makes for the prosperity of the community in which that industry prevails. It is not whether this or that rich man is to be made richer or poorer by this or that operation. What we must recognise in this House is that the Transvaal is as dependent on the gold industry—is far more dependent on it—than we are, or ever have been, on any single industry; and if that industry be really injured, you cannot measure the effect of it by its consequences upon the income of this or that wealthy man in England, or of the multitude of humble shareholders in mines in this country, though their interests are worth consideration. The main point is, what will happen to the Transvaal itself? It is from that point of view only that we ought to regard that great problem. I do think that for the hon. Gentleman to threaten the mineowners, to threaten the industry with this or that consequence if they do not at once fall in with the views of His Majesty's Government, is to use the powers which the Government possess in this House in a manner which is most detrimental to the general welfare of the Empire. It is an enterprise, no doubt like all other industrial enterprises, conducted for the profit of those who carry it on. But it is upon this enterprise that the wealth and prosperity of the Transvaal depends—the power of paying its debts, its power of affording a field of occupation to white men—[MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh !"]—its contentment, and its place in the great heirarchy of the British Empire. That is not a matter to be considered from the point of view of small shareholders or big shareholders, but from a far wider standpoint, and when I heard the Under-Secretary, speaking on behalf of the Government, threatening this industry, on which the whole social and industrial fabric of the Transvaal now depends, with pains and penalties if it does not at once fall in with the views of His Majesty's special advisers, I confess that in my belief, if the hon Gentleman has truly represented the views of the Government, as I have no doubt he has, it is an evil day for the management of the great Colonial work for which this House is responsible. But it is not that observation of the hon. Gentleman which makes me most un- 1286 happy. There are other things which fell from him which filled me with despair, or, at all events, with a profound anxiety for the future of our relations with the self-governing Colonies. What are we to understand the policy of the Government to be from the speech to which we have just listened? It is a policy by which the Government, during the period in which they are responsible for the affairs of the Transvaal, mean to put an end as far as they can to the existing system. Before complete self-government is given to the Colony, they mean to fix a date after which the Ordinance is to have no effect; and then they will leave it to the colony to determine whether they shall or shall not produce a new Ordinance which may happen to suit the views of His Majesty's Government. That is the policy which, I understand, is approved by gentlemen of all shades of opinion on that side of the House. I do not see how you are going to deal with self-government on those principles. I perfectly understand, although I do not agree with, the policy of a Government who should say, "We object to the existing system of Chinese indentured labour. Some of us think it slavery: some of us think it half-slavery; some of us think it partakes of the nature of slavery; some of us think it a servile condition; and others have objections to it of various kinds. Therefore we, being responsible for the government of the Transvaal, mean to put an end to it." That is an intelligible position. There is another policy which is also intelligible, and which says, "We do not profess to judge of this question. We think the Transvaal has reached the point at which its mature judgment may be trusted. We mean to endow it, as we have endowed Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand, with complete control of its own affairs; and we should no more think of interfering with the management of its affairs after we have given it these powers than we think of interfering with the self-government of Canada, of the Commonwealth of Australia, or of New Zealand." That also is intelligible. But what is the policy of the Government? It is a hybrid between these two policies—an unnatural mixture of these two schemes of dealing with your dependencies. On the one hand, you say that you are making the Colony self-governing; and at the very same moment 1287 that you tell them that you also inform them that, as regards the industry on which their whole prosperity depends, they are not to be masters in their own house. They are to be the slaves of the Foreign Office [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh"] as far as China is concerned, and the slaves of the Colonial Office as far as the forms of any future Ordinance is concerned. This Colony which you profess to endow with all the privileges you have given to Canada and to Australia with regard to its nearest and dearest interests is to be put under the heel of Downing Street. The Under-Secretary, who made so able a contribution to our debate, has not been very long a denizen of the office which he holds with such distinction. But I think that even his experience, brief and imperfect as it necessarily has been, through no fault of his, has informed him by this time that there is nothing which produces a keener jealousy and more bitter antagonism in the Imperial relations than interference from Downing Street with the affairs of self-governing Colonies. How many cases have there been in the last twenty years with regard to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape, or Natal, in which this House and the Government of the King, who are dependent upon this House for their very existence—how many cases have there been when interference has been tried with the legislation of the Colonies, dealing with their own internal affairs? I doubt whether there has been one. I am quite sure there has not been one in regard to a question in which the interests of every man in the Colony were directly or indirectly concerned, in which its whole future, its financial prosperity, its manufacturing and economic standing were involved—I am quite sure that there is not one, in which this House, or the Government dependent upon this House, having given the great boon of self-government to those Colonies, have ventured to take it away in any particular case. I venture to tell the House, with all respect, but with a feeling of deep anxiety, that the policy which they are now pursuing is a policy which must lead to disaster. I think the Government are profoundly mistaken, and that they will be committing a grav error if they say to these Colonists 1288 of ours, "If you are not pursuing a course consonant with our ideas, we still have control over you, and that control we mean to exercise, whether you like it or not. You are still in statu pupillari and you must submit." I think that would be the greatest folly, but it is wisdom compared with the course they mean to pursue, because the course they mean to pursue is to say, "You are no longer a child, you have grown to years of discretion; you have all the elements which enable you to manage your own affairs without interference from home; we give you full self-government, but we do not give you that part of self-government which most concerns your commercial prosperity and welfare. We put you in a position which Canada and Australia would not stand, and unless you carry out the dictation of Downing Street to the letter, we tell you that we shall use our diplomatic power with China to keep your industries down—we tell you that we shall disallow your Ordinance and modify any regulation which you make which does not happen to square with our ideas, and we trust you will make the best of that position." All I can say is, that no British Ministry has tried to manage the British Empire upon these principles, and no Ministry ever will manage the affairs of the British Empire with success upon these principles. These gentlemen, however highly endowed they may be by nature ["Oh"], however rich they may be in experience—and I do not doubt either their ability or their experience—however well endowed they may be in all these great qualities—I tell them that they will most unquestionably fail if they attempt a task which their predecessors have never tried, and embark upon and undertake an experiment which has never entered into the head of any wise statesman, Liberal, Radical, or Tory, in the last generation, which would have been laughed out of court by all the great masters of Colonial policy, and which, if persisted in, as I gather it is to be persisted in by the present Government, can bring nothing but disaster to our great Colonial Empire.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I had no intention of intervening in this debate 1289 after the speech of my hon friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and I only rise now because the right hon. Gentleman opposite has asked me a Question and demanded an Answer.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I did not use the word demand in that sense. I am quite willing to answer the Question to the best of my ability. My first difficulty has been in understanding it, and if I did, I do not know what bearing it has upon the subject of discussion. The Question I understand was this. Supposing this Convention was abrogated would there be anything to prevent the Chinese Government allowing its subjects to be recruited in China for employment in the Transvaal?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I assume the Treaty of 1902 to be still in operation. I wanted to know whether, if our Consuls were forbidden to take part in this recruiting, it could be done by private individuals?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
That is the same Question. I do not mind which way it is put. Of course there would be nothing to prevent the Chinese Goverment from allowing its subjects to be recruited if they pleased. They are perfectly free now, if they decide to do so, to allow their own subjects to be sold into slavery, and will always be so, but even if they were allowed to leave China under those conditions they would not be allowed to land in any place in the British Empire. On landing the status of slavery would not protect them. Now supposing the Chinese Government, without going so far as that, were to say, "We will allow our subjects to be recruited privately for the Transvaal, and we will allow them to be bound by certain restrictions which provide that 1290 they are not be be employed in anything but unskilled labour, and are not to be allowed to settle in the country," I imagine that if the Ordinance of the Transvaal were repealed, none of those conditions would be recognised by law. Therefore I come back to this—I do not see the object of the Question, because while the Chinese Government has the right to do anything it likes in its own country, it has nothing to do with what would be permitted on British territory. As to the Convention itself, I said the other day that I do not understand what the Convention has to do in this matter. As my hon. friend said very properly, the Convention is the linch pin. Although the Chinese Government could allow recruiting in China without the Convention, I understand, as a matter of fact, it has so much regard for the welfare and prospects of its own subjects, that it would not allow them to be recruited without some Convention of of this kind. Consuls were named in the Convention in 1902 to carry out certain powers, but, as a matter of fact, there has been no Consular action lately. Since 1904 they have delegated their authority to the Transvaal agents, and all the recruiting has consequently been done, not by the Consuls, but by the Transvaal agents delegated for the purpose. Those delegates have discharged functions under the Convention, but it is open to the Imperial Government to tell the Consuls either not to renew this delegation or to withdraw it. What my hon. friend has said is that when the existing licences have run out, there will be no more recruiting in China; and that will be made effective by the Consuls withdrawing delegation. That, I think, is perfectly simple and plain. But that does not alarm the right hon. Gentleman opposite very much. What does alarm him is that the time may come when, under responsible Government, the Transvaal Government, being a self-governing and responsible Colony, may say it is desirable to resume the importation of Chinese labour, and then the Imperial Government may say, "We refuse to allow our Consuls to delegate powers of recruiting under the Convention." The right hon. Gentleman anticipates that it will bring a very 1291 serious state of affairs into the relations of the Transvaal and the Imperial Government.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, I said there were two dangers, both relating to a collision between the Home Government and the self-governing Colony. One was that the Home Government would use its diplomatic power to defeat and thwart the self-governing Colonies, and the second was, that it would use its power of veto for the same object.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I will deal with the first point, viz., that we should use our power to defeat and thwart the self-governing Colonies. What would happen would be this. The Colony, being under responsible government, would go to other countries, and would say to us at home, "Will you use your diplomatic influence to help us to carry out what we want?" If you refused to do that except under proper conditions, you would not be using your diplomatic influence to thwart the Colony. The position, then—and I think the right position—is this. So far as we know the disposition of the Chinese Government they will not permit recruiting unless they have some guarantees that the conditions will be properly observed by the recruiters, and they seek for those guarantees through the diplomatic sanction of the Consular authorities in China. Therefore Chinese recruiting cannot go on without the diplomatic machinery being set in motion to promote it. I think the only right and dignified position for the Imperial Government is to lay down, once and for all, that the Imperial diplomatic machinery will not be allowed to be used over any part of the Empire for an improper purpose. That is the position that has been laid down by my hon friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman anticipates from that still more conflict, between the self-governing Colony and the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. I decline to believe that when the Transvaal has got responsible government, freely elected, on a proper suffrage and with a full sense of responsibility, there will be a moral conflict between the Colony 1292 and the mother country. My opinion from listening to the debate was that my hon. friend the Under-Secretary said that that was what might happen under certain conditions, but he did not anticipate that those conditions would arise, and that the right hon. Gentleman as a skilful debater would, and I do not complain, translate that into an anticipation that a conflict would probably occur. A serious moral question he called it, and I do not believe it would happen. It is equally right to say that there are probabilities of serious moral questions arising from a responsible community of white men in this country. The position we take up, and I think the right position, is that the industry of the Transvaal should be based on labour employed under conditions which are neither unnatural nor unwholesome. We are told that we are embarking upon a course which may endanger the Imperial sentiment. If we reverse this Ordinance we shall be reversing something which is already repugnant to to moral sense. The right hon. Gentleman brought in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The sentiment of His Majesty's Government throughout in this matter has been one which has commanded the sympathy and approval of all those Colonies. I believe that if the occasion ever arises when that sentiment has to be translated into action, it will also command that sympathy and approval; but I do not believe an occasion of that kind will arise. I believe that when the Transvaal has its responsible Government—whether it wishes to continue the importation of Chinese labour is doubtful—but if it does desire to continue it, I believe there will be no difficulty in arriving at an agreement between the Transvaal, as a self-governing Colony, and the mother country, that the importation shall continue only under conditions which are neither offensive nor repugnant to public sentiment in this country or in the other great self-governing Colonies.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
All Members of this House who have listened to the last three speeches will agree with me as to the enormous importance of the matter we are discussing and the desirability that we should come to a 1293 right understanding upon what, after all, is really a very complicated subject. I have noticed now and again some interruptions and some hilarity. I think interruptions, except for the purpose of explanation, and hilarity are altogether out of place. We will endeavour to make our point of view clear, and we will ask you in return to make your point of view clear. We are not desirous of making a mere party point. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs tells us, and no doubt it is the opinion of gentlemen on that side of the House, that Chinese indentured labour, in the circumstances in which it is carried on in the Transvaal, is repugnant to the moral sense. That is, of course, an extremely strong declaration of opinion, and I am perfectly prepared to agree that as it has been represented it is regarded with intense dislike, not only by the majority of this House, but probably by a majority of British subjects. We think, however, there is a mistaken apprehension of what is going on. We think that if we really knew exactly what are the conditions of this labour, your moral sense would not be affronted in the way in which it is. We are entitled to hold that opinion—and, remember this, we at all events show our sincerity by pressing on the Government in the most urgent terms to send out an impartial Commission to deal with the subject. We do not believe that our fellow-subjects in South Africa are knowingly consenting to what would be repugnant to our moral sense, and therefore we think there has been the grossest exaggeration in the reports that have come home. While we give you every credit for honesty of opinion, we think you are deluded and mistaken. Why, then, if the Government are so confident, why, recognising as they must do, after this debate if not before, the extraordinary importance of the questions with which we are dealing, why do they insist upon hastily and prematurely giving their opinion and coming to their decision without making the inquiry for which we ask? We ask them to appoint a Royal Commission representing the economic as well as the moral questions which are involved. Send out your best engineers to inquire into the economic question. What authority has the Under- 1294 Secretary for the Colonies upon a mining question? I have the greatest respect for him, but neither he nor, I believe, any one in this House alone, has any right to decide in regard to the Transvaal whether or not that great industry can be carried on without the use of extraneous labour. Let the question be decided by the very best engineers whose services can be obtained by the Government. As to the moral question, I have asked the Government, and it has been refused to me to-day, to send out a Royal Commission, and it should be a judicial Commission, to inquire into the working of this Ordinance and how the system is being administered. If it be true that it is slavery, or semi-slavery, or has the taint of slavery, or any of the other expressions by which it has been designated by the other side, we on this side will be just as ready as you to say it ought not to continue. But do let us have authoritative knowledge on this subject. My second point is this—if you will not do that, if you are certain you know all about it, why do you allow this thing, which is repugnant to your moral sense, to continue for four, five, or, it may be, ten years? Why, holding this opinion, since you can stop it, do you not stop it? I do not want to use too strong language or to be carried away by a natural indignation on account of the way this subject has been prostituted for Party purposes; but I say that this system can be stopped immediately if you choose. It is only a question of money, and that is a small matter in relation to a question of morality which you profess to believe is here involved. How can you consistently, with moral indignation mantling upon your cheek, let a few hundred thousand pounds deter you from stopping this slavery? I do not think the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs understands, even now, the point of my right hon. friend. I daresay I shall not be more successful. It is rather a difficult question. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to regard this matter as a joke. I cannot understand that kind of treatment of a matter of this sort. That has not been the treatment given to questions of this kind in previous Parliaments. It justifies the statement of the Prime Minister about the tone and temper upon which he relies. Our first point is this:—assuming you refuse to deal with the 1295 matter yourselves and postpone it till the new responsible Government has been created in the Transvaal, if that Transvaal Government takes your view, if it holds this system is repugnant to the moral sense, then, cadit guœstio there is an end of it. Of course, in these circumstances the system will stop and no further Chinamen will be imported into the Transvaal. But our point is that if the new responsible Government does not take your view, if it want s these Chinamen, and if it makes Ordinances to allow them to come in as indentured labourers, then no interference of yours with the Chinese Government will have any effect at all, and you are deluding the House by professing, as you do, that you have got the matter in your own hands, and that by refusing your diplomatic assistance you can thwart a self-governing Colony which is determined to have these men. All you can really do is to deprive these men of the protection which the Convention was intended to give them; for the whole meaning of the Convention and of the intervention of the British Consuls is that, in deference to British humanity, we demand that British officials or those they delegate shall be responsible for seeing that the men engaged are acquainted with the terms of the indenture, and are not in other ways to be ill-treated or deceived. Therefore, all that your boasted refusal to give diplomatic assistance will do is to deprive these unfortunate Chinamen of the protection of the Convention. I have heard it said—I do not believe there is any truth in it—on behalf of those who hold the views entertained on the other side of the House that the officials of the Chinese Government are corrupt, and that you can get as many Chinese as you like, not only as indentured labourers but even as actual slaves, if only you bribe the Chinese officials enough. If the intervention of the British Consuls is removed, it is to that that you are coming as an improvement on the present state of things of which you complain. I hope I have made that point clear. I repeat that as long as the Transvaal Government is in favour of indentured labour your proposed interference in China will not be worth the breath with which you will have spoken. I come now to another 1296 point. You have a weapon which you threaten to use and which you have used. I share all the strong feeling of the leader of the Opposition, and I share it with perhaps more experience than my right hon. friend in regard to the influence of these proceedings and discussions upon our Colonies. It is perfectly true that in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand there is the strongest feeling—a feeling, quite as strong as it is here—against cheap labour. But there is another feeling which is stronger still, and that is against any interference by the home Government with the self-governing Colonies. Nobody but one who has been in the closest communication with almost every authority, every prominent politician and statesman, in those great Colonies can-appreciate, as I do, the intensity of that feeling. They would say, "If you interfere when we think you are wrong it is intolerable; but it is not less intolerable when we think you are right. What we object to is the interference. We are self-governing, and you have no more right to interfere with our views, be they right or be they wrong, than you have to interfere with similar views on the part of the United States of America."
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman does not know much, I think, about our Colonial Constitution. Of course, I exclude anything: in which Imperial interests are concerned.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Do you think that the question of indentured labour is one which we can rightly put forward as being of Imperial interest? All I can say is, I warn you, and I have the right to warn you solemnly, that if you try to give effect to that idea, if you think that on the ground of Imperial interest you can impose your ideas of morality upon self-governing Colonies, you are very much mistaken. I know there are plenty of people who are always ready to urge that idea, and they are almost invariably on the Liberal side. The 1297 Liberal Party which boasts, entirely without foundation, that they and they alone are the authors of all constitutional freedom in the Colonies, and that to them is due all the affection and patriotism of the Colonies, it is from them that come continual demands on every Colonial Secretary to interfere with the self-government which we have given, the moment the Colony begins to act in any respect to which we take exception, and especially when it is our moral sentiments that are aroused. You may admire the strong sense of humanity which leads to this interference, but you cannot act upon it—it is impossible—and keep your Empire together. I remember, in my time at the Colonial Office, I was asked to take the strongest possible measures by well-intentioned people who complained of the treatment of natives by West Australia. My own belief was then, and is now, that those statements of the ill-treatment of the natives were grossly exaggerated. But, whether they were right or wrong, I refused to pay any attention to them beyond conveying the letters in which the accusations were made to the Governor of the Colony, leaving it to his discretion to communicate them to his Government, but making it perfectly clear that I had no claim whatever to interfere in what was a matter of local interest and local interest alone. I deny altogether that on any ground of Imperial interest, as understood by any constitutional authority, we have or could have any right of interference in the case of West Australia, or, again, in the case of the Transvaal. How far are you going to carry this idea? The other day there was a discussion here on the treatment of the natives in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. The treatment of these natives, as alleged by certain people, has been worse than anything which has been alleged in regard to the treatment of the Chinese. But here your morality would come in very strongly. The treatment of these natives would also be an Imperial interest. [Cries of "It is."] Yes, it is an Imperial interest as long as you are responsible for it; and no one has ever thought of throwing off such a responsibility as that which under existing circumstances you retain. But is it the spirit of the Party opposite 1298 that they are going to give self-government to the Transvaal, and at the same time withhold from them the right, not only to deal with great economic questions, but also to deal with the native population? Let it be known what the Liberal Party mean when they talk of giving self-government to a Colony. There will be a long list of exceptions. I tell you that that will be an absolutely impossible policy. Even the threat of such a policy is the most injudicious and imprudent thing I have ever heard. Even if you contemplated—as I am sure you would do with the greatest regret—the possibility that you might have to interfere, I should have thought that common prudence would have prevented you from saying anything about it until that terrible necessity arose. But here is the Under-Secretary of State speaking for the Government and warning the people of the Transvaal, British and Boer alike, that whenever our morality is offended then an Imperial interest springs into being, and then you are to interfere with the liberities which you have granted. There is to be freedom for the Chinese, but there is to be no freedom for. the self-governing Colony.
§ MR. RIDSDALE (Brighton)
said he might ask the indulgence of the House, rising as he did as a new Member under somewhat exceptional circumstances to disagree to a certain extent with the policy of his own Party. He only did so under the very gravest sense of the responsibility which this House was incurring by the action which he believed was contemplated. The first speech that was made by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies was one which he, and he believed every Member on the Ministerial side, welcomed. It promised the settlement of all questions in South Africa by the responsible government of the Transvaal which was to be given at the earliest possible moment. That had his full support, and had the full support, he believed, of every Member in the House; but he was sorry to say that step by step the Government seemed to have been forced further and further in a direction which he personally believed to be a direction of the greatest danger. He looked on it with the greatest possible misgiving that this country should in 1299 any way thwart or hold out expectations of thwarting any act that might lie entered into by a self-governing Colony of British subjects. He said "any act" because he could not conceive of any act of any of our Colonies that would not be as moral as any act of the Imperial Government. There was much talk about slavery; but the people of the Transvaal, who had the thing at their doors, were the best judges of whether the condition of the Chinese labourers was slavery or not. They were the people to judge the conditions. Surely as Liberals they ought to leave the question of a settlement of a problem like this to those who were the best judges of what was really taking place. He had as much objection to Chinese labour as any hon. Member sitting on the Ministerial side of the House, and had he been a Member of the last House of Commons he should have opposed its introduction into South Africa tooth and nail; but as Chinese labour was there, and the prosperity of the Transvaal had been built upon it, although he agreed that it was built upon an insecure and unsound foundation, he was not going to upset that prosperity by pulling away its props suddenly. [MINISTERIAL cries of, "No, no."] It certainly seemed to him as if those props were going to be withdrawn suddenly, but even if they were to be withdrawn gradually, that should be decided upon not by those who had not the information to know whether those timbers should be taken out, or how fast they should go, but it should be left to the decision of that Transvaal assembly which must be the best judge of what was best for its own country. And then there was a more sordid point, that was the money point.
§ MR. RIDSDALE
It should not be forgotten that the Transvaal depended practically entirely upon the gold mines, and if they stopped the working of those mines they would check the prosperity of the Transvaal. Stop the outflow of gold from South Africa, and they would have a rather serious state of things in the City of London. It was 1300 certain that the stoppage of this Chinese labour, whether sudden or not, would have the effect of checking that outflow of gold. But whichever way the Transvaal might decide, this country ought not in any way to interfere with them. The Government had had no mandate with regard to Chinese labour. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Yes."] Well, he was surprised if hon. Members thought they had a mandate from the country to stop Chinese labour in South Africa that yesterday they should have gone into the lobby and declared that the sole issue or the main issue at the last election was free trade. He would not occupy the time of the House further, but he thought it was time that it should be known amongst the Liberal leaders that there was a strong feeling that in this matter the Government were going too far. There was a feeling that the best way of settling this matter was to leave it to the Transvaal people who knew most about it. He asked that the question should be left to the people of the Transvaal, whose views of slavery were no worse than ours, and who, whatever hon. Members might say, were not people to be bought. [Cries of "Oh ! oh !"] Well, he had never tried to buy one at any rate, and he did not think those who did try would find it a very easy task. He urged the Government to treat this matter as one to be left to the Transvaal and to the Transvaal alone. He thought it was a very serious thing that this Imperial Government should threaten to place a veto upon any settlement which a Colony, after due consideration, might have determined to adopt.
§ MR. WALSH (Lancashire, Ince)
said he spoke with some diffidence on this matter, because he had listened with considerable satisfaction to the very lucid and he believed very sincere statement which had been presented to the House by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies. He found himself in most active opposition to the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down in saying that he believed the Government was going too quickly upon this matter. He would invite the House to consider the length of time it would take for the Government 1301 to develop its policy and bring about what might be described as its effective operation. The House had not been given the slightest hint or indication that any of the conditions under which the licences at present in operation, or the 16,000 licences issued in November and December last, were granted were to be at all abrogated. He would remind the House that not the slightest suggestion had been made by the Government that the existing Ordinance, or any of its conditions, was to be in any way abrogated until responsible Government had been conferred upon the Transvaal people themselves; and only after that particular Government had considered the requirements of the case would the possible right to veto be exercised. With regard to the undue haste of which the hon. Member opposite was afraid, he wished to point out that the first Chinaman set foot in the Transvaal in June 1904 to work under indentured labour. It might be therefore taken that to the end of the year 1905 there had elasped from the first to the last licence, eighteen months, giving an average of nine months for the general body of licences issued up to December last. So that, speaking broadly, there were on those licenses from 1904 to December 1905 in the first portion a term of twenty-seven months yet to run. The Ordinance further permitted re-indenturing, so that the men in the first batch of licences issued to December, 1905, had on an average from December, 1905, two years and three months to serve, and they might also serve a further period of three years. He did not think that was very great haste; at any rate it was what the Scotch would call making haste slowly. But supposing the men working under the present licences were permitted to re-indenture, then the Liberal Government, of whom the highest possible hopes were entertained, would find the first batch of licences still in operation when they were making a second appeal to the country. He had heard of many people in English history appearing in white sheets before their accusers or judges, but with every regard to the record of the Liberal Party of the past, and with every desire that they should set a better record in the future, he appealed to the Govern- 1302 ment to quicken their pace on this subject. It was said by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies that by June or July this year the whole of the coolies under the 16,000 licenses issued in November and December last would be shipped. He was not prepared to challenge that statement, but Lord Selborne had stated that those licenses would take up to September next to ship, and that a boat-load might be calculated as consisting of about 1,900 men. There were 16,119 licences issued, and that would certainly take very nearly nine months to ship. The last boat-load of men would probably be arriving in the Transvaal at the end of the present year. Their licences would enable them to work three years, so that even without reindenturing three years from the end of this year would elapse before those licences had a possibility of expiring. He submitted that that was a most serious matter. He was one of those who placed before his constituency in Lancashire day by day, and week by week, the depth to which this nation had descended by introducing Chinese labour at all into the mines of the Rand. Consequently he had nothing to withdraw, and he distinctly stated that this was one of those matters that deserved the severest condemnation. It was the kind of conduct which, greatly as they loved this Empire, would bring it to ruin if they disregarded human elementary rights. Although he believed that the Liberal Government was sincere and desired to bring Chinese labour to an end as quickly as was consistent with a minimum of economic disturbance, yet he believed that they had not accurately gauged the feeling of the country or the moral reprobation with which the people regarded this matter. With regard to the issue of 16,000 licences in November and December last, there was not one single word in the Blue-books or despatches from the Lord High Commissioner which justified the issue of those licences. He had spoken of the continuous expansion of the industry, but in the month immediately preceding the High Commissioner's despatch the industry had fallen, and there was a lesser output of gold from the mines than the average for the preceding six months. These licences 1303 were in no way justified. It might be said that that continuity of policy which was necessary in high State matters rendered it essential that these licences should go on. He did not believe that continuity of policy ought to be exercised in defiance of moral law considerations. These licences were issued in defiance of moral considerations. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies had spoken of intelligent anticipation. He and his friends did not think "intelligent anticipation" should be exercised by a gentleman occupying the position of Lord High Commissioner or by those acting under him. Its exercise up to now had been limited to successful journalists. He believed that the public had been deceived in this matter and that the Government too had been deceived, and they ought to exercise their right of suspending if not of abrogating all the licences issued in November and December last. Because, after all, what did it mean? He could speak for every man on the Benches around him at least, and he hoped he could speak for those on the other side of the House. It meant the moral degradation of labour the world over. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, with some part of whose appeal at least they were in agreement, had spoken of the futility and of the very grave danger involved in interfering with the Colonies' right of self-government. But, after all, the right of the British Empire to secure justice and equity and fair play overrode every right that the Empire conceded to the Colonies. They were the subjects of this State, and as such in moments of danger and distress they were entitled to demand and receive the assistance of Parliament. The Answer given to a Question by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies a few days ago was that the Government "did not view with pleasure" the issue of the licences to which he had referred. Well, if the issue of those licences was immoral—as he submitted it was—if it was not founded on equity, it was a mere legal fiction, because they were at present in a state of suspense. Thousands and thousands of them—probably 12,000 out of the 16,000 sanctioned in November and December last—had not yet been 1304 granted at all. That legal fiction was unworthy of the consideration of the Government, and those licences should be suspended, if not entirely abrogated, until a full and complete and unfettered inquiry had been made into the conditions under which they were granted. He believed most earnestly that the High Commissioner had not acted in that faithful and open manner to that House and the nation in which he ought to have acted. An hon. Gentleman who had recently spoken in the debate referred to the prosperity of the Transvaal. Had he read anything during the last eighteen months or two years—or even for the last three or four months—about the condition of life in the Transvaal, as described in the Board of Trade Gazette? Was he aware of the thousands and thousands of white people—many of them British subjects—who were tramping the streets of Johannesburg, depending upon soup kitchens and relief works? Was that the prosperity which the hon. Gentleman desired to maintain? Why, it was the experience of all the past, and undoubtedly it was the opinion of every economist and every employer who had given that matter serious consideration, that degraded labour was the worst possible form of labour. He was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in his heart knew that that degraded labour was not a form of labour upon which a self-governing colony worthy of the name could at all be founded. This was a system which had disgraced the British name—which had laden us with reproach—and he most earnestly appealed to the Leader of the House to take stronger action in the matter. They asked the Government to consider less the investors and the mining speculators. Let them think of the thousands of people who were out of work and who would have found both work and better wages had this condition of labour not been introduced. In a word, he submitted that this matter was one of the highest moral consequence. It was not a question of playing off one Party against the other. In controversial matters most of them were inclined to say, "A plague on both your Houses." But in matters which went down right to the very 1305 bed-rock of the Empire—matters which really touched their hearts and their existence—they did most earnestly appeal to the Government. There was no right to compensation if no right was taken away. What did those men suffer who had never been given the power of using the labour of other people? The line of boldness in this matter was the true and honest line, and it was the most moral line. They ought to go outside the finnicking interpretation of the law given by the Attorney-General of the Transvaal. If the Government did not do what was expected of them in this matter they would find thousands of white people roaming the streets, while large hordes of Asiatics were introduced under conditions repellant to white men. Therefore he hoped that the Government would take a bolder action and thus place themselves more in sympathy and touch with the feelings of the nation.
§ MR. MARKHAM (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
said the last speaker had dealt at considerable length with the question whether Chinese labour was right or wrong. Might he be allowed to ask the hon. Member this question? Supposing the Chinese came to South Africa free, would he say it was the duty of this House to prevent the introduction into South Africa of Chinese labour or not? [Several MEMBERS: "Agreed, agreed."] Members around him said "agreed," but he thought that Gentlemen on the opposite Benches would not agree. [A LABOUR MEMBER: Certainly not.] Therefore they were now to understand, so far as the Labour Members of the House were concerned, that the position with regard to Chinese labour stood in this way. Even if the people of South Africa through their elected representatives said that Chinese labour was in their opinion necessary to develop the resources of the Transvaal, if Chinese labour came there on conditions which were not repugnant, His Majesty's Government should prevent it. [Cries of "No."] He was perfectly willing to take the conditions existing in British Guiana. Was he to understand that if Chinese labour came into the Transvaal free no section in this House was opposed to its introduction 1306 provided the people of the Transvaal were in favour of it? [Cries of "No."] Then what was free labour? In 1900 he wrote an article in the Nineteenth Century in which he pointed out that there was not a sufficiency of Kaffir labour in South Africa and that the mines could only be worked by introducing outside labour. The late Sir William Harcourt dealt with that article at considerable length in this House and stated that there was an abundant supply of labour to be had in South Africa. All the evidence went to prove that there was not a sufficiency of labour in South Africa. That was a debateable point. In his opinion as a mining engineer it was not possible to work the Transvaal mines with white labour. [A LABOUR MEMBER: What about Australia?] An hon. Member said, "What about Western Australia?" He had been on every goldfield of the world. He knew the West Australian mines and the American mines, and he did not hold a single gold-mining share, nor had he held a mining share in South African mines since he had been a Member of the House. But what were the conditions in Western Australia? The average yield of gold per ton of ore milled was 76s. per ton, but the average yield in the Transvaal, according to the last Return, was 35s. 5d. per ton The great feature of the Transvaal gold mines was the regularity of the reefs; in this respect they were different from the gold-fields of Australia and all other parts of the world. Before the discovery of gold the revenue of the Transvaal was £50,000 a year, and when the Uitlanders were groaning under the burden of Mr. Kruger's Government the debt of the Transvaal under that terrible regime amounted to £12,000,000. What was the position to-day? The debt of the Transvaal, including municipal and Colonial debt, was now £40,000,000 and the expenditure for administration was £3,800,000, or £1,500,000 more than under Mr. Kruger. Now, from what other source than the mining industry could the Government of the Transvaal derive revenue to meet their obligations?
§ MR. MARKHAM
said that where a Boer could live a British subject could not. [Cries of "Oh" from the LABOUR Benches.] How many Britishers were engaged in the Transvaal in agriculture? [An HON. MEMBER: A large number.] A very small number. He was not now talking of the Orange River Colony but of the Transvaal. There were drought, locusts, and otherdrawbacks to agriculture, and the result of placing British subjects on the soil would be that, in six months, they would be sitting on the steps of the mining magnates in Johannesburg asking for mining tips. The Transvaal was not a country where British subjects ever would settle. They would never create a British population on the soil there, and it was from the mining industry that they would have to look for the revenue to carry on the administration of the country. The question he desired to ask the Under-Secretary for the Colonies was whether those mines could be worked with a larger proportion of unskilled white labour than at present? The question as to whether these mines could be worked entirely with white unskilled labour was one that no mining engineer had ever put forward. Certainly the great majority of electors in this country were of opinion that it was possible to work these mines with white labour, and they pointed to the high dividends paid by the mines in the Transvaal, which amounted, in some cases, to 280 to 300 per cent. on the shares. No one said that the mines in the Transvaal could be worked by white labour alone—not even Mr. Cresswell. [Loud interruptions from the LABOUR Benches.]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I would point out that it is really impossible to continue the debate if hon. Gentlemen insist on these interruptions.
§ MR. MARKHAM
said that his point had been disputed, but Mr. Cresswell had admitted that in the Village Main Reef Mine only one white man was employed for every three Kaffirs. A large number of people in the Transvaal, and certainly a majority of the people in this country, believed that it was possible to work these mines in South Africa by means of white labour. There were twenty rich mines in the Transvaal 1308 which might be worked by white labour, but it should be remembered that, taking rich and poor mines, the average yield was 35s. per ton of ore. He proposed that the Government should send out a Commission to South Africa to inquire into this whole question as to whether the mines could be worked by white labour, and suggested such gentlemen as the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division, Mr. Stokes, His Majesty's Inspector of Mines in the Midland district, some gentlemen nominated by the Mining Association of Great Britain, and two gentlemen from the Board of Trade as members of such a Commission. An inquiry by such a Commission would be of immense benefit to this House and primarily to the people of the Transvaal. At present the people in the Transvaal itself had not the opportunity of forming an independent judgment as to whether the mines could be worked by white labour. Investigation should also be made into the terrible rate of mortality among the Kaffir labourers It was because of this awful death-rate that in 1897 he approached the late Mr. Kruger and asked him to introduce Chinese-labour into South Africa. He had been in Portuguese East Africa and had seen the conditions under which the Kaffirs were recruited there for the gold mines. In that territory the chiefs had the power of life and death over the natives; they could farm them out and do what they liked with them. These Kaffirs, who had probably never worn any article of clothing, were taken from their tropical country on to the high veldt, and the-result was pneumonia and an appalling mortality. Besides, these Kaffirs did not go to the mines as free men, but as forced labourers. The cause of the high mortality was the bringing of Kaffirs from tropical and sub-tropical Africa upon the high veldt, as in that region they suffered from chest and lung disorders. He hoped the Under-Secretary would give his serious and earnest consideration to this terrible mortality. Rather than allow it to continue it was the duty of His Majesty's Government to suffer the mining industry of South Africa to perish. For himself he would rather see that industry perish than thousands of these unfortunate Kaffirs being done to death in the Transvaal. They were in 1309 most cases forced to go to the Transvaal against their will, whereas the Chinese went there of their own free will. The mortality among the Chinese, moreover, was only one-sixth of that which prevailed amongst the Kaffirs. He believed that until a class of labour was introduced upon the high veldt which was able to face the climatic conditions prevailing at 6,000 feet above the level of the sea, this mortality would continue. Therefore, so long as labour was brought from tropical and sub-tropical Africa, the decimation of Kaffirs would continue. The only alternatives were unskilled white labour or Chinese labour. As to the first, he held that it was impossible to work these mines with unskilled white labour. He had held these views for ten years, and if he was accused of countenancing the introduction of Chinese native labour into South Africa, he would plead guilty. This, however, was a question for the people of South Africa to decide, and if the people of that country said that Chinese labour was essential to the development of South Africa—and he believed that the people would say that by an overwhelming majority—they were entitled to do so.
His Majesty's Government were endeavouring, and justly endeavouring, to see that any condition which they found in the Ordinance, which might partake of the character of slavery, was amended. What those conditions of slavery were he did not know. The only difference between the British Guiana Ordinance and the Transvaal Ordinance seemed to him to be that under the latter the labourer was not entitled to settle in the country after he had served his indenture, and he was prevented from undertaking any work except that of the unskilled labourer. But these were matters for the Colony, and if they were going to give self-government to the people of a Colony 6,000 miles away, they must trust the people absolutely. They could not discriminate; it was impossible to do so. If the Government thought they could not trust these people they must not give them self-government. They could not have it both ways. If the Transvaal was ripe for self-government then it must be full self-govern- 1310 ment; it must not be within the power of the House to say that in the opinion of some of its Members the policy of the Colony was incompatible with the views of the English nation. His Majesty's Government were prepared to grant self-government, and he hoped it would be granted at the earliest possible period; and when they had given to Transvaal that self-government they had no more right to enforce their views upon the Transvaal than upon any other colony. He was in Australia at the time of the Chinese labour trouble several years ago—he thought it was in 1889—when certain Chinese asserted the right to land at. Sydney. What was the position? In spite of the declarations of His Majesty's-Government the Colonial Government refused to allow these Chinese to come in to Australia. He did not think he was disclosing any secrets when he said that the Ministers of Australia said at that time that if the policy was insisted upon the Colony would cut the cord which bound them to the Empire. The action was repeated on another occasion when His Majesty's Government attempted to tell a self-governing Colony what it should do. To say that the mining magnates were going to treat 250,000 electors in South Africa, as nothing was absurd. They could not do it. They did it in former days on a very wide scale, as was shown by evidence which was complete, but to say that 150,000 of our fellow countrymen could be so treated under present conditions-was an insult. What was the position of the Boer? He had said in that House-several times that we had lost South Africa. He said it again. There was a portion of the British population in the Transvaal which was discontented, and would be discontented with the capitalist domination which had been going on since the occupation of Pretoria. The Boers were united on the question of nationality. A Legislature might make laws, but when once they struck at the nationality of a people they could not stifle it. If there was a dissatisfied Uitlander population they would make terms with the other side, and the time would come when the tie of affection, which was the only tie between Great Britain and her colonies, would be severed. The moment His Majesty's Government 1311 started to interfere with the rights of her self-governing Colonies the whole representative power of those Colonies would be opposed to her. Since Chinese labour had been introduced there had been an increase of 6,000 white men working in the mines in the Transvaal, and the average wage of these men, according to the mining engineer's report which had been presented to the House, was £1 a day, which was the highest wage paid in any part of the world to-day to any British workmen. Mr. Cresswell, before the Commission, said he paid 10s. a day but that that was not sufficient to enable the workmen to bring their wives and families out and support them. Mr. Cresswell said that the wage which unskilled labour received did not allow a man to bring his wife and family to South Africa. Was it not better to have 6,000 men who were, owing to a wage of £1 a day, able to have their wives and families with them, than to have a larger number of unskilled white labourers who could not settle in the country. Mr. Cresswell was the only mining engineer who said that these mines could be worked not entirely with white labour, but with a large proportion of white labour. It was the duty of His Majesty's Government who had been returned to the House because their supporters thought that these mines could be supported by white labour to inquire and report to the House whether that was the case. He appealed to the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary to send this Commission to South Africa so that this matter might be considered in all its phases. If it was found that the mines could be worked by white labour he would be one of the first to admit that he was wrong, and if an impartial Commission composed of impartial mining men were to say that such a thing was in their opinion possible, then it would be the duty of the House to give every possible support to any movement which would bring a larger white population into the Transvaal. Lord Elgin had not made up his mind whether it was possible to work the mines with white labour or not. Mr. Cresswell and many others believed that it was, and therefore it was only right that the Commission should be ap- 1312 pointed, and that their report on the whole subject should be laid upon the Table of the House so that the country might know the truth. He also asked the Government to say whether it was humane that natives recruited in subtropical Africa should be allowed to work in the mines. The Government had nothing to fear; so long as the country had the truth it would be satisfied; and he was certain that all those who conscientiously believed that these mines could be worked by white labour would be the first to welcome a Commission which would enable this country to have true information on the subject. It was not yet too late to do so before the grant of responsible self-government. The result of appointing a Commission would be that confidence would be restored in South Africa, because the people would feel that the Government had placed the interest of the country before the question of Party.
§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said he rose to call attention to the drastic and fundamental changes which had been introduced by the Home Secretary with regard to the Aliens Act, and to express his amazement that such changes as the right hon. Gentleman had foreshadowed should have been hastily made by the issue of regulations without this House having been given any opportunity of pronouncing upon them. The changes the right hon. Gentleman had made amounted in fact to a repeal of the main provisions of an Act of Parliament which had not yet been three months in operation, and which was passed by an overwhelming majority of the last Parliament. The Aliens Act laid down certain categories of persons to be excluded from this country as undesirable immigrants. The effect of Clause 1, Sub-Section 3, was to lay the whole proof upon the immigrant that he was seeking this country as a refuge from religious or political persecution, but under the new rules and regulations the position had been changed, and, he maintained, the whole spirit of the Act completely altered. The instruction or the essential part of it which 1313 had been issued was in the following terms—
I have issued to all immigration officers instructions that, in all cases in which immigrants coming from the parts of the continent which are at present in a disturbed condition allege that they are flying from religious or political persecution, the benefit of the doubt where any doubt as to the truth of the allegation exists must be allowed and leave to land must be given.The onus of proof had thereby been removed entirely from the immigrant, and everyone must now be admitted on his bare, uncorroborated, and untested statement that he was suffering in the manner described. It must be obvious that the whole Act became null and void under those conditions. Persons in the categories excluded by the Act must now be admitted as a right upon their making this statement. The right hon. Gentleman had further raised the limit of the number constituting an immigrant ship from twelve to twenty. By doing that he further watered down the provisions of the Act, because it was notorious that the present limitation of twelve as the number which constituted an immigrant ship had been freely used for the purposes of evading the law. It amounted to this, that by this regulation any person could come in from any country however undesirable he or she might be, without question, and, so far as Russia was concerned, the principle was laid down that they were to be admitted on their own statement that they came from a disturbed country. It was therefore announced to the world that any country which chose to misgovern its subjects could thereby export them to England and that we could not protest against it. His first point was, had the Secretary of Statealegal constitutional right to alter the provisions of an Act of Parliament by means of regulations and instructions, while he still pretended that the Act remained in force? In his judgment the Secretary of State had stretched his powers beyond all precedent. Here was an Act of Parliament only in operation a few months based-on the findings of a Royal Commission after a long and exhaustive inquiry, repealed by a subterfuge, while a pretence was maintained that it was still in force. Why had this been done? Had the Act broken down? Had any 1314 allegation been proved to justify this extreme, hasty, almost indecent, and certainly unprecedented, course? What were the allegations? The hon. Member for Woolwich, who represented a certain school of thought in this matter, regarded the Act as a fraud and a sham. How could that possibly be proved with regard to an Act which had been in force for so short a time? If it really were a fraud and a sham, then that would be a ground for courageous repeal of the measure, and not an insidious step of the kind taken by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. With regard to the value of the Act and its administration they had not to look at the ports of arrival in this country, but to the ports of embarkation. He had been at some pains to find out whether the deterrent effect they anticipated from enforcing the provisions of the Act had in fact resulted at the ports of embarkation, and he found that before these instructions were issued emigrants to this country were being weeded out and selected by the shippers and agents interested in this business in precisely the same manner as they were weeded out and selected for America. Firm administration in this country for, say, a period of a year at most would have resulted in as beneficial an effect for this country as was at the present day enjoyed by America. Under the instructions issued by the Secretary of State for the Home Department all this was now to he thrown away. So much for the first allegation as to the uselessness of the Act. The second allegation was that the administration of the Act had been harsh, cruel, and unjust. What was the source and foundation of these allegations? The source was tainted, the foundation was prejudice and the methods adopted grossly unfair. That section of the Press which had dealt daily with columns of bogusatrocities had themselves complained that they had not been admitted to the Boards where these oases were inquired into and tried. To whom then did they go for their information? They went to the rejected immigrant himself or to some person interested in his importation, and then they dished up as facts, stories given to them by these people, and served them up to a hysterical public in order to prejudice feeling against this Act. The principal charm of these 1315 stories was, of course, that they reflected upon the good name, the humanity, the justice, and the honour of gentlemen who sat upon these Boards, and whom the Secretary of State had himself described as men of intelligence and character. When these alleged cases of hardship came to be examined in this House, what did they find? The Secretary of State for the Home Department had told the House that a good deal of inventiveness was being exercised with regard to these stories, and that already there had been a number of cases which apparently had been of great hardship, but in many of which there had been no corroboration. It was on a basis of this kind that the Secretary of State introduced these changes. The right hon. Gentleman further said that any reasonable probability of a claim to persecution being genuine sufficed to admit an immigrant. If that were so what possible case had been made out for altering the Act? The Secretary of State had himself in this House blown to pieces the very allegations upon which these changes were now announced. There was another source of information as to the way in which the Act was administered. The Manchester Guardian, a newspaper which was certainly not prejudiced in the direction of being too favourable to the Aliens Act, had recently published the result of independent inquiry, made on its behalf in London and Grimsby. In regard to London it appeared—
That the Act had been administered in a liberal spirit,and that if a man stated that he came from any of the disturbed districts it was accepted as ample ground for the immigrant's being admitted. With regard to Grimsby, the Manchester Guardian reporter stated that—
A review of the two months' test of the working of the Aliens Act at Grimsby seems to show that at this port the various officials have administered the Act with tact and discretion, and in a broad-minded spirit. The examination of the immigrants appears to have been conducted in an expeditious and considerate manner. The shipping companies have shown willingness to meet the wishes of the immigration officers, and no friction has occurred.Most contradictory arguments were used against the Act. In one breath they 1316 were told that it was a farce and a sham, and in the next that the refugees were being delivered over to their tormentors in scores, and that the country was being closed to the poor and deserving. Hon. Gentlemen could not have it both ways. Capital had, moreover, been made out of charges of alleged hardship arising from rejection of diseased persons. On Monday last one such case was mentioned in this House. It related to a consumptive patient who was not allowed to land and was detained on board the ship. He yielded to no one in his sympathy with this poor creature. At the same time he would remind the House that consumption was now proved to be a highly contagious disease, easily communicated, especially where people were living under crowded conditions. They should, therefore, have some thought of the suffering that would be almost inevitably produced if they allowed people with this disease to come into the crowded quarters of our cities and towns. The same argument applied to the case of a girl named Chane Slutsky, who was rejected as suffering from trachoma, which was highly contagious, frequently led to blindness, and was the third chief cause of total loss of sight. Praiseworthy sentiment might admit the child, but how would that sentiment protect our own children against the infection of so serious a disease? It was our bounden duty to keep out diseases of that kind. Steps had been taken to protect the cattle of this country from infection from abroad, and was it reasonable when such a disease as miners' worm was imported to raise an outcry against sending; immigrants back who were suffering from that and other dangerous diseases? The question was one of principle. Either they had to admit diseased persons or to reject them. If they admitted one, they must admit all. It should be remembered that the responsibility in connection with the bringing of aliens in that condition rested with the shipping people who brought them. If those entrusted with the administration of the Act maintained their position firmly with regard to diseased persons, in a very short time no such cases would be sent to this country. He submitted that no case whatever had been or could be made out for 1317 changes which he thought were of doubtful legality and were tantamount to the total repeal of the Aliens Act. What was the reason for taking this course? He found it in the characteristic want of courage of His Majesty's Ministers. They expressed determination one day to administer the Act firmly, and a day or two afterwards the Secretary of State turned round and ran away from his responsibility. Of course, they all knew that it was very inconvenient for the right hon. Gentleman to be worried with Questions from his own side. Therefore, he was going to get rid of such criticism by a bag-and-baggage surrender. The House had become painfully familiar with this humiliating spectacle. An hon. Gentleman belonging to the Liberal Party below the gangway said "Boo," and then the great fabric of the Government began to tremble, and they saw Ministers running about like scared rabbits in a warren. This indecent surrender which they had witnessed in the Regulations just issued would have very serious and painful consequences. All the bitter discontent that existed in the East End of London and in the other great cities would be revived. All the complaints would be renewed. Since the Act came into force considerable improvement—or some improvement at all events—had been experienced in the state of things. [Cries of "Oh !"] That was perfectly true. He knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite said, and it had been said in the Press, that he was the originator of the discontent. Nothing could be further from the fact. He found the East End of London seething with discontent and deplorable bitterness of feeling on this subject. It was only after two or three years careful inquiry that he ventured to give expression to these strong feelings on behalf of the people he represented. It was said, too, that in advocating the strong administration of this Act and upholding its provisions he was inhumane or actuated by feelings of an anti-Semitic character. He repudiated the statements which were constantly made against himself with absolute scorn. If charges of anti-Semitism were made let them be levelled against the great Jewish financial houses on the Continent, who were making huge loans to the 1318 Russian Government. That money went to uphold and perpetuate the very tyranny of which Jews complained, and under which they suffered so severely. He might be called an anti-Semite, but he would sooner starve than lend money to a Government who were the oppressors and persecutors of his own people. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might say that the Act was a sham. That would not do. They had not tried the Act, and they were not giving it a chance. They were yielding to the first puff of opposition and to ignorant and prejudiced clamour. For what might occur as the result of these illegal changes the Government, and the Government alone, would be responsible.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GLADSTONE,) Leeds, W.
I think I heard the hon. Gentleman say that I and my colleagues ran away, and that I had been conspicuously active in running away. I do not think the hon. Member ought to talk about "running away" in this House. If there has been any running away it is perhaps owing to the infectious example of the hon. Gentleman and his friends, who in the last Parliament so frequently ran away. Time after time my hon. and gallant friend opposite was conspicuous by his absence when a subject in which he took great interest was before the House in the last Parliament.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
It is perfectly clear that the hon. Gentleman and his friends ran away over and over again, and therefore I think I may protest against this charge by the hon. Member. The hon. Member who has just spoken has failed to show that his charges against me of making drastic and fundamental changes and of practically repealing the Act are true. He has 1319 not quoted a single sentence in support of the statement that the immigration boards have been held up to scorn and reprobation. I repudiate that.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
The hon. Member has not explained his charges to the House, nor has he shown how the charges are true in any degree. He has been attacking me all through his speech. The immigration boards have been doing their duty extremely well and I should be the last man to put any extra difficulty in the way of their accomplishment of their task. I have not heard any charges such as those indicated by the hon. Member made against the boards. I have heard many charges made against the Act they have to administer; but that is an entirely different thing from personal charges against those administering the Act. The hon. Member spoke as if what I have done meant that every diseased and dangerous person could be brought into this country under the Act. I think the shortest way to answer the hon. Member will be to tell the House what I really have done, for the hon. Member seems to have gone wild under the idea that I have in some hidden, sinister, and illegal way abrogated the provisions of the Act. I have had particularly in my mind in what I have done individual cases of hardship. I have told the House that I thought it was my duty to administer the Act fairly and that I would do so. I am not responsible for the passing of the Act. I found it when I came into office. This does not relieve me from the obligation to watch over its administration, especially where in my opinion that administration led to cases of individual hardship which were severe even though they were not very numerous. What is my offence? In a covering letter sent with my circular to the immigration boards, dated March 9th, the Under-Secretary asks that the contents should be borne in mind when cases are being dealt with; and in the circular letter itself I express my opinion that it is desirable to set forth certain considerations of great importance in 1320 the administration of the Act. Then proceed to say—The Act was passed for the purpose of checking the immigration of undesirable aliens. Parliament, in the judgment of the Secretary of State, never intended that in the administration for that object of the provisions of the Act they should be applied with a rigidity which excludes considerations as to whether refusal of leave to land would involve great personal hardship or suffering in the case of women and children.Does the hon. Gentleman dispute the justice of that? Does he, or does he not?
§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON
The particular questions which have been raised with regard to women and children are questions as to disease. I would not admit cases of serious disease.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
However distressing the cases were, the hon. Gentleman would send a woman or child back because she was ill and separated from her friends. The hon. Member would wish to see this Act put into force and administered with a degree of rigidity which took no account whatever of the greatest hardship that might be inflicted on women and children. If that is the hon. Member's view, it is not my view. I proceeded—So, too, a man who is free from any infectious or objectionable diseaseThe hon. Member does not seem to have marked these words:—may be in a critical state of health, and to refuse him leave to land might expose him to cruel hardship.Does the hon. Member still think there is no latitude to be shown in the administration of the Act in such a case? The next point is one on which the hon. Member would have a greater right to criticise the letter from his point of view—Again, the statements of a man claiming to be a political, or a religious, refugee may be insufficient or inaccurate, yet he may be exposed to serious risk from political causes if he is forced to return.That is true. We know perfectly well by experience that these immigrants coming from some parts of Russia, absolutely ignorant of the English language, are told by their friends what to say, and that stories are put into their mouths; but this is not necessarily done because they are not fleeing from danger. That is 1321 the point. In my judgment an inaccuracy of statement on the part of one of these ignorant men should not necessarily be taken as a cause for exclusion. Then my letter goes on to express a hope—I have no power to do more than that—That, having regard to the present disturbed conditions of certain parts of the Continent, the benefit of the doubt, where any doubt exists, may be given in favour of any immigrants who allege that they are flying from religious or political persecution in disturbed districts, and that in such cases leave to land may be given.The hon. and gallant Member has referred to a statement in the Manchester Guardian that certain disturbed districts are scheduled, and when a man said he came from one of these districts that was considered sufficient to justify leave to land. The hon. and gallant Member to my great surprise approved of that. If he approves of that I think he may as well approve of the whole of my circular.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Then I do not quite understand why approval is not extended to the suggestion in my letter. I have the authority of the Leader of the Opposition on my side, who, in the course of discussion, on July 17 th said—There was no difference of opinion in the House as to the desirability of admitting aliens into this country who were genuinely driven out of their own country on the grounds of their being accused of political crime or involved in political agitation.Then on July 19th the right hon. Gentleman went rather further, and said—We have heard a great deal of the possibility of Jews and others coming to this country in an absolutely destitute condition and being rejected under this Bill from our shores, although they were flying from religious or political persecution. Nobody desires that such a contingency should occur.That is my opinion, and it is in order that such a case should not arise that I have addressed my letter to the immigration boards. Even though action taken on that letter may result in the benefit of the doubt being given in some cases where individuals in ordinary 1322 circumstances would be rejected, I think English people generally will approve. Perhaps the action which I have taken last week ought to have been taken earlier. The hon. Member says that I have done this without coming to Parliament for sanction. As a matter of fact I have altered only one Order. What is the history of these Orders? They were never presented to Parliament. The whole machinery for carrying the Act into operation was constructed during the autumn and winter, and when I came into office, I found it necessary to give my own signature to these Orders so as to put them into operation. Surely, if that were so, it was within my power, subject to the decision and approval of this House, to alter one of these Orders. We only came into office in December and the rules had to come into force on January 1st. I could not suspend them. I had no authority for that and it would have been most improper action on my part. I could not amend the Orders without consideration, and I had no time to consider them. I signed and accepted them as I accepted the Act which was passed—not on my responsibility. I have done my best to administer the Act fairly, and I tell the hon. and gallant Member that what I have done is, from his point of view, in the interest of the Act, for if I had not done that perhaps something more drastic might have had to be done. The time has not come for any general review of the operation of the Act, and I am not going to be dragged into any attempt to give an opinion on the subject. All I have done is to remedy certain grievances and to prevent great hardships being inflicted. I am confident that the whole country would have resented if I had not done so if it were in my power to do so. I repeat that it has not been my intention to deal unfairly with the working of the Act. I wish to give it a fair trial. If the Act is a bad Act we cannot prove that to the satisfaction of all parties concerned unless we have had experience of its working. I would point out to the hon. and gallant Member that during this session the Department over which I preside has had very important work to discharge in other directions than in the administration of the Aliens Act. I found the whole 1323 work of the office was being seriously interfered with by the administration of that Act, and I have been compelled to take action in order, if possible, to mitigate the pressure on the office and to enable the staff to turn their attention to other matters in connection with the present session of Parliament. I have acted from a sentiment which one ought to act on in a matter of this kind. At any rate, I have acted on grounds of reasonable humanity, and for my part I could not feel myself responsible for the continuance of the special hardships which had been inflicted on the men, women, and children who came to our shores, if it was in my power to remedy the evil.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said he had every confidence in his right hon. friend, but it was with some dismay that he had heard an answer to a Question a few days ago as to very considerable changes which had either been made or were contemplated in the rules in force under the Aliens Act. Obviously it was much too soon to make these changes, and his right hon. friend had not carried out his own intention of giving the rules a fair trial.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman talks about rules and orders which have been altered. I point out that only one out of twenty-five rules has been altered.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
That was the most important order of all—the instruction to the immigration boards. These instructions were "that in all cases in which immigrants coming from the parts of the Continent which are at present in a disturbed condition allege that they were flying from religious or political persecution, the benefit of the doubt, where any doubt exists, as to the truth of the allegation must be allowed, and leave to land must be given."
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
asked what right had the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to issue such an imperative notice to the immigration 1324 officers? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman rely on the discretion of the immigration officers? He asked his right hon friend distinctly if he would furnish the House of Commons with the Report of the Committee on which these rules were framed? Would not the right hon. Gentleman circulate among Members the rules as originally defined and any proposed alteration in those rules.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
said it was necessary that the House should have before it not only the rules, but also the Report of the Committee. Nobody desired that the Act should be administered with unnecessary harshness. Full latitude should be allowed to the board, and it was not the duty of the Secretary of State to send out these imperative instructions. The Act, which had been in operation for two months, had been working smoothly until quite recently. The people in the East-end of London were deeply interested in the administration of the Act, and any weakness on the part of the Home Office would be resented. No political considerations should be allowed to influence the administration of the Act. The only consideration should be the welfare and interests of our own people. The hon. Member for Accrington complained of the treatment he had received, but an admirable regulation, drawn by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, was to the effect that the Aliens Act which took effect from the 1st of January 1906 would: cause no inconvenience to passengers to and from the Continent holding first class tickets. [A laugh] He did not understand the laugh. Did his hon. friend the Member for Accrington travel steerage or as a deck passenger? The regulation pointed out that the only question which could be asked was whether a passenger was a British subject or not, 1325 and the only answer required was "Yes" or "No." He gathered from his hon. friend that he was unable to give that simple answer. If there was any weakness, by the Home Office, in the administration of the Act, deep and serious resentment would be felt.
§ MR. LEVY (Leicestershire, Loughborough)
hoped the Home Secretary would not be influenced by any pressure put upon him by the other side. The hon. Member for Sheffield said that the Act was working very smoothly, but if hon. Members looked at the papers day after day they would see that the name of Great Britain was suffering serious injustice from the way in which the Act was being administered. The whole evil arose from the fact that the gentleman who, under the late Government, was allowed to frame these rules, had exhibited an anti-Semitic feeling and had shown great bias against the aliens, and was an intimate associate of the hon. Member for Stepney. When the Aliens Bill was under discussion the late Government and their supporters repeatedly asserted that the Bill was not intended to preclude political or religious refugees. He therefore hoped the Home Secretary would see that the Act was administered in a fair and impartial manner, so as not to prevent political and religious refugees from landing in this country. Many of the interpreters who had been employed had not known their duty, and had not correctly interpreted the answers of people who perhaps showed some cunningness, as they dreaded to be returned to their native land. He appealed to the Home Secretary to show magnanimity and humanity in the administration of the Act, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not yield to the pressure which the hon. Member for Central Sheffield, and others, put upon him.
§ MR. LEVY
said the hon. Member had tried to put pressure upon the right hon. Gentleman. All that was necessary was to keep out the undesirables. Had the Act by its administration kept out any of the souteneurs of the West End of London or the owners of the 1326 gambling dens in London? No, and it never could. But, on the other hand, it had resulted in cases of gross injustice. Aliens were being excluded in consequence of the immigration officers claiming that there was no further demand for labour in the trades in which they wished to engage. This was a violation of the Act. New industries had been built up by aliens who had come and settled in this country, and if the administration of this Act refused people who could not show that they had at once a place of employment to go to it would be a very great hard ship, and he hoped the Home Secretary would not administer the Act in that spirit. Some of the greatest industries of this country had been introduced into the country and built up by aliens, who did not come here to take employment away but had created employment for the people of this country.
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
said he only desired to say a word on this subject, because he was in the House when a Question was put to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, and from the cursory examination he was able to give to the Answer he formed the opinion that the right hon. Gentleman was by the powers conferred upon him interfering with a statute passed in the previous session. Having heard the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, he believed that he (Sir E. Carson) had come to an absolutely erroneous conclusion. He believed the Act was one which required very great discrimination in its administration, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman had not a very easy task in securing a proper and moderate administration of what he believed to be a very important and useful Act, because on every hand if cases of undue hardship occurred under the Act the right hon. Gentleman would no doubt have great influence brought to bear upon him to mitigate those hardships, perhaps even by straining the powers which under the Act were given to him by Parliament. So far as he could see there was no justice in the allegation that the rules and recommendations of the right hon. Gentleman had in any 1327 way interfered with the Act of Parliament. are thought that all the criticisms had arisen through the right hon. Gentleman having given instructions to the immigration officers. When he did that he would always be open to criticism. But if they were going to criticise him they ought to see the full extent of what he had done. He had told the officers that in cases in which they were in any doubt as to whether the alien was a political or religious refugee they ought to give him the benefit of the doubt. He (Sir E. Carson) should have thought that was the duty of the immigration officer without any instructions whatever. That was an ordinary rule in the administration of all Acts of Parliament. Therefore, the only matter in which there might be ground for criticism seemed to be taken away if they looked at the thing fairly and honestly, because all the Home Secretary had done was to bring to the minds of the immigration officers a sense of their duty which even without the instructions they no doubt obeyed. He had thought it right to make these observations after listening to the debate, because he would very jealously look upon anything that would interfere with an Act of Parliament. As the right hon. Gentleman was going to give the Act fair play, it was only right that he should have a fair chance.
§ MR. STRAUS (Tower Hamlets, Mile End)
said he took the view that it would be a bad day for this country when they closed their doors to the oppressed. One of the noblest characteristics of the Englishman had been his desire to do away with oppression, his love of freedom, and his willingness to open his portals and to welcome all those who were suffering from any form of religious or political persecution. It would be one of the worst day's business ever performed by the House if they refused to amend the Act in such a way as to make it impossible for these refugees to be refused admission. When they spoke of undesirables it was not the poor who were the most undesirable. It was the corrupt monied man who was the greatest danger to the nation, The most undesirable alien lived nearer Park Lane than Stepney. Another 1328 class that was undesirable was the prostitute, but this Act did nothing towards remedying that evil. An attack had been made on the Home Secretary for doing what was not only an act of justice but an act which was popular all over the country. The hon. and gallant Member for Stepney suggested that the instructions ought to have been considered by the House before they were given, but was it not the fact that the original instructions in the hands of the immigration officers had never been before the House or considered by any one except the hon. Member's friends when in power? He would mention that during the bye-election in Mile End a Stepney tradesman had placed a large and vulgar cartoon in his shop window depicting an alien, who was meant to be himself, robbing an Englishman of his work and food, and yet this very man was one of the first to be placed upon the Alien Immigration Board. Could one expect him to be unbiassed in his judgment after having shown these vulgar cartoons? He hoped the Act would have a fair trial, but he felt confident that it would prove quite inadequate, and it ought never to have appeared on the Statute Book. It was as absurd as engaging an elephant to kill a flea to have brought in an Act that would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to prevent a few aliens coming into this country. The Act was one of the many inadequate and incompetent measures typical of the lat3 Government, which disgusted the people and gave the tone to the general election. He was glad to think that the people in East London were not led away by the Act, which they had already realised was a fraud, a delusion, and a snare. He believed the Secretary of State for the Home Department had taken a right and proper course in this matter. He felt strongly on the question. He had suffered from it. He had been told on repeated occasions that he was one of these aliens and could not speak a word of English. The truth of that statement the House could judge for itself. The question had been most unfairly dealt with in the East End of London, and it had taken some of them months of hard work to teach the unfairness of the Act. He did not believe the 1329 hon. and gallant Member for Stepney was actuated by any but the most honourable motives, but he was labouring under a misapprehension. This Act ought never to have appeared on the Statute Book, but now it was there they should all do what they could to make it work fairly and leniently towards those who were fleeing from persecution. He believed the majority in this House looked with pleasure upon the action of the Home Secretary, and he felt confident that the country would endorse the feeling of this House. When the hon. and gallant Member for Stepney suggested that they were only keeping out undesirables, what did he think of the poor nine-year old girl who, it was stated, was sent away because she was a deaf mute? That was a mistake. She was sent back because she was certified as being an idiot. In Hamburg she was seen by an eminent authority on the subject, and he found that she was a deaf mute of peculiar and remarkable intelligence, certainly not an idiot. If this enormous machine had been brought to bear upon poor people of that character—one of a family, the others being permitted to enter—it was not a credit either to the hon. and gallant Member for Stepney or the nation.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said in view of the highly satisfactory assurances and the very definite statements made by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
said he did not venture to question the right of withdrawing the Amendment, but he did desire to say that he had an undertaking from the Government the other night that he should have the opportunity on the Report Stage of bringing forward the question of General Botha. He also desired to bring forward a matter concerning the Scottish Office. He did not, however, wish to delay the Resolution, and he would content himself by saying he would take the very earliest opportunity he could get of bringing these matters forward at another time, when he hoped 1330 the Government Would endeavour to keep their promise.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Resolution agreed to.