§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what moral protection will, under the New Hebrides Convention, be provided for native female children who, being of a certain height, as provided in Article 33, become liable to engagement as recruited labourers, subject to the consent of the chief of their tribe; whether such protection, if any, will be afforded to these children on the journey to their 1024 destination, and after their arrival thereat; whether persons of extra-European race will be allowed to engage such children; and whether any means will be taken to ensure that the chief of the tribe consenting to the engagement of such children is a fit and proper person to undertake that responsibility.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (MR. Churchill,) Manchester, N.W.
No recruiting of native labourers can take place except under a licence from one of the High Commissioners as provided in Article XXXI. Under Article XXX VII. the recruiter remains responsible for the natives whom he has engaged until they are handed over to the employer; and under Article XXXVIII. an official Report is to be immediately drawn up and sent to the competent authority if irregularities are detected in the operations of the recruiter. There is no provision in the Convention to prevent natives being engaged in the New Hebrides by persons of extra-European race, but they will of course, be subject, in such matters, to the legislation in force in the places in which they reside. If, when the Convention comes into operation it appears that the chiefs of the tribes are not competent to exercise their responsibilities as to the engagement of unmarried females, the High Commissioners will be able to introduce such regulations as may be necessary to ensure the protection desired.
§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON
Can the hon. Gentleman inform us what practical steps will be taken to ensure that all persons to whom power is delegated in the supervision of contracts by which women and children are engaged are responsible people and fit to exercise that important duty?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I have already informed the House that the English and French Commissioners will jointly consider these important matters, which have been hitherto unregulated.
§ *LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire Chorley)
What inspection will be secured to these women and children when indentured in foreign countries which neither belong to England nor to France?
§ MR. ASHLEY (Lancashire, Blackpool)
asked whether there was any provision for securing the knowledge of the ultimate destination of these women and children under the Convention.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
said that the instructions for carrying out the Convention might be amplified to any extent by the Commissioners on the spot. These instructions were not yet prepared, and when they were prepared they would be found to deal with the points mentioned.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
Do we understand that England will only have control over such natives as may be employed at Fiji and other British possessions and that France will have absolute control over those sent to New Caledonia, or is the control to be a joint control?
§ MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
asked whether the hon. Gentleman stated as a matter of law and construction of documents that regulations could be made forbidding the employment of children.
§ MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what regulations and system of inspection will be employed, in order to ensure that the 1026 recruiting and engagement of native labourers is carried out in accordance with the New Hebrides Convention; and, if so, will he lay the Papers upon the Table of the House.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
It is impossible at this stage to forecast precisely what regulations may be necessary to supplement the provisions of the Convention in regard to the recruiting and engagement of native labourers in the New Hebrides. As to the system of inspection, I may refer the hon. Member to paragraphs 50 and 54 of the despatch printed on pages 53 to 66 of the recent Blue-book. Both regulations and the system of inspection will be settled in details by the High Commissioner and the Resident Commissioner, subject of course to the approval of His Majesty's Government, and the hon. Member may rest assured that they will be adequate. The question of publishing any correspondence on the subject will be considered when it has taken place.
§ MR. STAVELEY HILL
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the minimum height of children recruited under the terms of the New Hebrides Convention has yet been fixed.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
As the hon. Member will have gathered from my reply on Tuesday to a Question of the hon. Member for the Ludlow division of Shropshire, the Answer is in the negative.†
§ MR. WALKER (Leicestershire, Melton)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether in any further negotiations with the French Government in regard to the exportation of labourers from the New Hebrides he will bear in mind the safeguards against abuses in the over-sea traffic under the British flag, contained in Section 3 of the Pacific Islanders' Protection Act of 1872, and seek to secure that, if this section be repealed, it shall be replaced by more stringent regulations acceptable to both†See Col. 706.1027 Governments, and such as shall be made mandatory upon their nationals, whether in the islands or upon the high seas.