HC Deb 20 November 1906 vol 165 cc628-30

I beg to ask the Prime Minister, if he is aware that there has been a loss in the market value of property in the Transvaal of upwards of £150,000,000 since the accession to office of the present Government, and that this, coupled with the uncertainty as to the future, has led to the stoppage of development work upon 24 non-producing mines and to the discharge of over 300 white workers earning £20,000 a month in wages; and if, having regard to the impossibility of obtaining other employment owing to the prevailing depression, as also to the stoppage of South African orders for machinery and other goods in Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, and Glasgow, he will do what he can to hasten the freedom of the Transvaal from the interference of Downing Street in the development of the natural resources, with due provision for the interests of British settlers.

MR. J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that Question, I should like to ask him whether he is aware that the loss in the market value of securities in this country during the late Administration was over £500,000,000 and whether this depreciation of home securities has not been the direct cause of much of our unemployment at home.


If the right hon. Gentleman proposes to answer that Question I would ask him whether it is within his own knowledge that securities quoted on the London Stock Exchange have fallen in a much greater ratio since his own Administration began.


I am not on the Stock Exchange, as my hon. and gallant friend appears to be.


No, I am not. I wish I were.


I cannot answer a Question like that without notice in order that I may get friends better informed than myself to investigate the subject, As to the Question of the hon. Member for Stoke, I do not know that it is quite germane to this subject, although it certainly may bear on the conclusion formed from the Question as asked. I do not know whether all the figures quoted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman are correct, though I believe it to be the fact that there are now about 300 fewer white miners in non-producing mines than there were in May, 1904. I cannot profess to be impressed by his insinuations as to the cause of the depreciation, which began long before the present Government came into office, and which has become more acute since the adoption of Chinese labour. It was anticipated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, I believe, that the introduction of indentured labourers would relieve the financial situation, but it was evident that it would do nothing of the kind before the last Government quitted office, now twelve months ago. I can only hope that when responsible Government is established—and we are doing everything in our power to expedite it—and as the process of repatriation is hastened, and South Africa reverts to a more normal and healthy condition of affairs the situation will gradually become clearer.

MR. BONAR LAW (Camberwell, Dulwich)

asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was not aware that the Undersecretary for Colonial Affairs had himself stated in the House on 22nd February that the action of the Government had had a big effect in causing a fall in the price of mines.

MR. SEAVERNS (Lambeth, Brixton)

asked whether six months before the accession of the present Government to office, and during the time when there was a plentiful supply of Chinese labour in the Transvaal, the condition of general trade in the Transvaal and in South Africa generally was absolutely deplorable and much worse than it had been at any time since.


asked whether any date could be named when the Letters Patent would be issued.


could not name any date, but it would not be far off.


asked what interest the hon. Baronet had in the natural resources of the Chinese people.

The following Question was asked and answered on Thursday, November 15th:—