HC Deb 16 May 1906 vol 157 cc469-70
MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the question of the better controlling of the Chinese coolies employed on the Transvaal gold mines; whether the proposals submitted involve further restrictions on the liberty of the coolies; and what action His Majesty's Government has taken and proposes to take in the matter.


I beg also to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies what action it is proposed to take to carry out the recommendations of the Commission appointed to consider measures for the better control of Chinese minors on the Rand; and whether those recommendations include a system of guarding mine boundaries, the erection of wire fences, the strengthening of European guards, and other such measures.


Lord Selborne has informed the Secretary of State that copies of the Report of the Commission referred to are on their way to this country. One of the recommendations of the majority of the Committee is that wire fences should be erected round the mine premises to prevent egress of coolies except at gates where watchmen would be posted to see that the coolies leaving bounds were possessed of the necessary permit. Until the Report is actually before us it would be premature to form any final opinion of its proposals. But His Majesty's Government, while recognising the importance of preserving peace and order on the Witwatersrand, will not be readily disposed to concur in unusual devices in restraint of ordinary liberty. It would appear that the need of such devices might easily be removed by the provision of a more adequate police force; and there seem good reasons to support an opinion that the charges incidental to any such increase in the police force ought properly to be borne by the importers of that class of indentured labour which alone renders the increase necessary.

MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)

Arising out of that question, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the Secretary of State is aware that 1,850 more Chinese coolies have just arrived at Durban on their way to the Transvaal, and whether in view of the admitted inability of the Transvaal Government to protect British subjects from the outrages of the Chinese already on the Rand, he will decline to allow this large additional importation of coolies to take place.


I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the facts stated by the hon. Member. The policy of His Majesty's Government upon this question has been explained to and accepted by Parliament. That policy, as the hon. Member is certainly aware, did not contemplate the cancellation of any of the 16,000 licences which had been issued previous to the change of Ministry in December last. His Majesty's Government cannot at any time repudiate definite promises or undertakings which they have made. Still less would it be wise to make changes in a policy deliberately adopted pending the grant of self-government, when the period of delay may be said to be drawing to its close.