HC Deb 26 February 1907 vol 169 cc1426-7
MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his speech of 18th December, 1906, cabled under the authority of the Secretary of State for publication in the Transvaal, contained the following passage concerning the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, "this body which has a tremendous and sinister influence over the local Press, and whose influence may sometimes be traced even in the columns of some of our leading newspapers, was given by the Chamber of Mines the power of turning off or on as a tap the supply of native labour"; whether the Secretary of State, in reference to this charge, had stated that he did not in any way impute malpractice to the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association; and what steps he has taken, or proposes to take, to withdraw charges to which currency has been given officially and at the public cost. †See Col.706,828.


Such a passage occurs in the cabled report. Both the statements made by me in this House and by the Secretary of State in another place can only be judged in their general context. So studied, no contradiction or disagreement can, in my opinion, be inferred, and certainly, whatever may be inferred, none exists. I am much obliged to my noble friend for having defended my action in the House of Commons when that action was called in question in another place; and for myself, I can only say that after careful consideration of the remarks made by me upon the Chamber of Mines and the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, and the influence exerted by these bodies in various directions, to which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn attention, I am of opinion that those remarks were well justified in fact and in the public interest at the time, and have not become either obsolete or inaccurate since.


May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman is not aware that a direct challenge was made to Lord Elgin to produce any evidence for the statements set out in this cabled speech; that no evidence was produced of these charges; and that Lord Elgin said that he did not impute in any way malpractices to the Native Labour Association; and, if so, how does the hon. Gentleman reconcile that statement of Lord Elgin's with his own?


I have answered the Question upon the Paper; and I will leave to the right hon. Gentleman the task of reconciling that Answer with any impression he may have derived of the actual fact or of any statement made in this place or another place at this time or any other time.