§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £35,700, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending of the 31st day of March, 1908, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant in Aid of certain Expenses connected with Emigration: "—
§ MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)
moved to reduce the Vote by £100. He said he desired to call attention to the Government of the Orange River Colony, to which had just been granted a Constitution almost exactly similar to that granted to the Transvaal. The Orange River Colony as an independent State had been most admirably governed in the past and had never been interfered with from this side. It had no great mineral wealth, as had the Transvaal, but its other resources were steadily increasing. It was an agricultural country pursuing its quiet way, and successfully developing. It was unfortunately dragged into the war in South Africa, and formed the scene of a large portion of the operations which followed. Some of the principal battles took place upon its territory, and it was in its capital that Lord Roberts established his administration, and from that capital that he proceeded to the Transvaal. The Orange River Colony endured great hardships during the war, but it was hoped that the losses it incurred would, 698 so far as they could be, be recouped by monetary payments to the inhabitants, and that they would then be able to continue their quiet and prosperous life. Whether there was any necessity to give them this Constitution it was difficult to say. Had there been any demand for it? Of course it was known that the Transvaal, with its great mineral wealth and other resources, must have responsible government given to it, but the conditions of the Orange River Colony were different. They had no great wealth and could not pay such salaries as would be paid to the officials in the Transvaal. The Government of the Orange River Colony would have to be conducted in the most economical way, if the people were to live at all. It would have to be a most moderate Government with the smallest possible staff and lowest possible salaries. But its cost under the new Constitution would be doubled and trebled as compared with the cost of the Government of the country before the war. He did not think there was any evidence of a demand for a Constitution. There was an enormous preponderance of the Dutch element in that Colony, and when this Constitution was granted the power in the Colony would necessarily be placed in the Dutch. He was doubtful whether the Orange River Colony was sufficiently large in wealth or population to be a self-governing Colony, especially when the effect of the Constitution would be immediately to place all the power in the hands of the Party which not so long ago was classed among the enemies of this country. It was a question whether it would not have been better to have waited the result of a year or two's experience of the Transvaal Constitution before granting the Orange River Colony self-government. The granting of that Constitution was a great, bold, and, they hoped, successful policy, but that had 699 still to be proved, and while he hoped it would be successful, he thought they, should have waited a year or two to see how it worked before dealing in the same way with the Orange River, Colony. There was in the Orange River Colony a settlement of English settlers who were put there under a grant which was now almost exhausted, owing to its being used for other purposes also, and that was a circumstance which differentiated the Orange River Colony from the Transvaal and a reason why the granting of the Constitution should be deferred. Among those settlers there had been great successes and there had also been failures. The fund, as he had said, had been exhausted, and there were heavy instalments to come from the settlers. He hoped the Government, if these men became hard pressed and unable to pay the instalments on their loans, would see that it was made easy for them, and make them further grants in order to make the settlement a success. He did not know whether the Orange River Colony was to have a portion of the £5,000,000 loan which had been guaranteed for the Transvaal, or whether the Government proposed to grant a separate loan to the Orange River Colony. He imagined that the Orange River Colony would feel aggrieved if their wealthy neighbour received this great benefit while they were left out altogether, and had to struggle on with the small capital they possessed. Then there was the native question. The Orange River Colony had its native question just as the Transvaal had, and that was the question they had to attempt to solve. But while in the Constitution of the Transvaal the Home Government had reserved the native question for their own consideration, they had given much larger powers to the Orange River Colony, whore the native question would come very slightly within the scope or under the control of the Government or Parliament in this country. We could not in this country appreciate the position of the white men amongst these coloured people. We could not at all feel as the white men felt who were surrounded by these natives. The Boers knew how to manage them admirably; they were not afraid to deal with them at one time with excessive severity and at another with exceeding kindness. If necessary they flogged them, and the natives would rather have that than he 700 treated in the supercilious way in which Englishmen treated them. The Boers made friends of them, although they punished them; they made them almost as friends of the family. The Englishmen did them justice, but they could rarely get the sympathies of the natives in the way that some of them would like. From London we wanted to treat them exactly as we treated Englishmen, but we could not do that. What we thought was kindness they probably regarded as an insult, and what we thought was friendly to them they thought we only did because we were afraid. The Government were going to give these larger powers to the Orange River Colony instead of reserving the question to the Home Government, as in the case of the Transvaal, and he thought they were doing a wise thing. It was a small colony which was very much admired by Englishmen, with which they had the greatest sympathy, and for which they wished the brightest future. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £35,600 be granted for the said service."—(MR. FELL.)
§ *MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
said he desired to call attention to the question of municipal government in Port of Spain, Trinidad. For some years the people of Port of Spain had been appealing to the Government for the restoration of the municipal council which they had previous to the year 1898. Whatever were the causes which led up to the riots in 1893, and to the taking away of the borough council from Port of Spain, he submitted that it was unfair that this Government should identify itself with anything that was going to penalise Port of Spain in regard to taking away its municipal government. The Government had to recognise that whatever dereliction of duty took place the whole of the members of the council had been elected by the middle and upper classes; and in order to justify what he said with regard to the people who elected the borough council at that time, he would quote a few words uttered by the Secretary of State in 1898. The right hon. Gentleman said he found that the municipal constituency of 701 Port of Spain was only 627 out of a total population of nearly 50,000, and that it was believed that a more extended franchise would produce better results than had been achieved up to the present time. Six hundred out of 50,000 ! He ventured to assert that a council, elected on such a franchise, was returned by the middle and upper classes. To continue to penalise the people for the acts of those persons, who composed the council at that time, was in his opinion unfair. In fact he thought he was right in asserting that the limited franchise had had a great deal to do with the riots, and in support of that argument he would quote the Gazette Extraordinary, issued in 1896, which stated—Our attention was specially drawn to that portion of the Governor's telegraphic despatch of the 24th of March, reporting the riots, in which it is stated that the public excitement had' been increased by several public meetings called together by those who demand representative Government, and the whole excitement turned in that direction.'That being the case, he was sorry to have to admit that the present Government had given its sanction to the course of not restoring the borough council which the people had had for fifty years before 1898, but to create a wholly nominated board for the municipal government of Port of Spain, in which the working classes would have no say whatever. No man would be entitled to sit upon the board unless he had an annual rental of £20. That would practically debar the whole of the working classes of Port of Spain from having any part or parcel in the municipal government of their own town. Ho was also able to quote the opinion of high officials of Trinidad in regard to the contention that the £20 qualification was too high. He found that part of the Committee who had to do with the question recommended that the franchise should include occupiers at not exceeding £12 per annum: that would ensure a considerable electorate, they said; and, further, they communicated with the Secretary of State, to whom they stated their recommendation. He was, therefore, very sorry that the Government had fixed the qualification at £20, especially in view of the fact that in Trinidad to-day there were smaller towns such as San Fernando and Arima, which were enjoying full municipal authority 702 similar to that enjoyed in Port of Spain previous to 1898. Why the Government should refuse to give assent to municipal government being restored to Port of Spain, which was the capital of Trinidad, he could not for a moment conceive. There could be no doubt that had the report made in 1898 in favour of a wider representation, sent in by the ratepayers of Port of Spain, been received in time, they would not have had this nominated board created. The Gazatte Extraordinary went on to say—The fifth enclosure to this despatch is a petition, in original, which was handed to the Governor (Sir Henry Jackson) on 30th March, the day preceding that fixed for his departure from the colony, by a deputation composed of Messrs. Goodwille and David, Dr. Masson and Mr. Lazare. An examination of the signatures appended to this petition will show that it is supported by nearly 700 firms or individuals, comprising with a few exceptions the leading business establishments, professional men and property owners in Fort of Spain. The petition protests against the vote of the legislative council; states the opinion that a municipal council, whose members should be elected by popular franchise, is required by local conditions; and begs to support the Governor's suggestion, as detailed by me in paragraph 7 of this despatch. The petition is unquestionably supported by a large majority of these most intimately concerned, and its signatories must be regarded as forming a very highly representative body of men. It is to be regretted, however, that if they hold strongly the opinions which they now in this petition express, they should have refrained from giving expression to them at an earlier stage of the discussion. Had the Legislative Council been in possession of a similar strong statement of combined public opinion upon the subject prior to March 14th, it is at least possible that its action would thereby have been very materially affected.That was signed by Mr. Hugh Clifford, acting Governor of Trinidad. In face of that information, and in face of that opinion, he submitted that the Government should have hesitated before putting on one side the appeals of the people of Port of Spain and saddling upon them, for two or three years, this nominated board. But what applied to Port of Spain unfortunately applied to many of the towns of the West Indies. We failed to trust the people. If we trusted them more, and gave them an opportunity of sharing in the government of the towns we would have better results than we had had up to the present time. It might not be too late to ask the Under-Secretary for the Colonies to give a promise that after this nominated 703 board had existed for a year or two the Government should consider the question of giving an elective council to Port of Spain. He did not think it was too much to ask that they should trust the people of the West Indies with a larger measure of representation. In Georgetown, out of a population of 48,843 there were only 297 voters, and a franchise like that in regard to municipal government was a farce. He appealed to the Government, who had trusted the people in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, to look with a more sympathetic eye upon the people in the towns he had mentioned, because they had a right to participate more in local government. For a number of years they had been introducing into Trinidad a large number of indentured coolies for the sugar planters, who were subsidised by the Government. According to statistics worked out by the Receiver-General of Trinidad the immigration account from the 1st of October, 1904, to the 30th of September 1906, was as follows:—Immigration taxes received on sugar, molasses and rum, £38,708; immigration taxes received on cocoa, coffee, etc., £17,413; indenture fees paid by the planters, £22,151; balance due by the Government to the planters on the 30th September, 1904, £5,882; total amount paid by the planters from 1st October, 1904 to 30th September, 1906, £84,155;total amount due to the Government by the planters on the 30th September, 1906, £1,646; total amount paid by the Government in respect of immigration from 1st October, 1904, to 30th September, 1906, less £1,646 advanced to planters, £41,237. In his opinion there was plenty of room for economy in this respect. At the present time there were about 13,000 labourers in the island out of a population of 300,000. The average cost of introducing these indentured coolies worked out at about £25 per head. The cocoa and sugar planters asked that this year they should be permitted to introduce from the East Indies 2,314 coolies, but he found that the Legislative Council had decreased that number to 1,800. He would probably be told that there had been a failure of the cocoa crops, but if that was the case and a large number of labourers were released, why did the cocoa and sugar planters demand that they should be allowed to have the increased 704 number of labourers they asked for at the beginning of the present year There was room for a further diminution in the number of coolies for two reasons. In Trinidad, at the present time, there were a large number of residents unemployed, and they were men who were quite willing to do this work provided they were paid a sufficient wage. They could not, however, expect the men of the West Indies to go out and work for Is. per day, which was the amount of the wages paid to the coolies introduced from the East Indies. That there was plenty of surplus labour in the island was proved by the fact that the Government had given the American Government permission to recruit labour in Trinidad and more particularly in Port of Spain. Owing to this dumping of labourers in Trinidad with the assistance and consent of the Government the wages upon the cocoa estates alone had been reduced during the last twenty years from 60 cents per day to 35 cents per day, or about one-half. Those who had resided in Trinidad for many years had opposed the introduction of the coolies because there was in that town such a large number of unemployed, and that had led to a great decrease in the wages paid. With regard to committals for breaches of the law by these East Indian coolies they were as follows:— 1903–4, 1,745 out of 3,629; 1904–5, 1,906 out of 3,955; and in 1905–6, 1,659 out of 3,574, or an average of over 45 per cent. He hoped the Under-Secretary would be able to give his attention to these points.
§ MR. JOYCE (Limerick)
said he desired to call attention to the case of some men who had been imprisoned for nearly four-and-a-half years in South Africa. Early in 1903, after the war was over, a Leinster regiment were coming down from the seat of war, and naturally the usual military discipline was somewhat relaxed. A number of the men went on a "spree" to Pretoria, and when the picket was called out to arrest them there was a row. Whilst the row was taking place a rifle was fired, and one of the pickets was shot and died from the effects of his wound. A number of men were arrested, and five were tried for murder. Finally sentence of death was passed on one man named John Roche, and the charge in the case of the other four was reduced to manslaughter. 705 Although the jury found all the six guilty they recommended the prisoners to mercy. One of the men was sentenced to death, another got twenty years penal servitude, and three others were sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude. In the early part of April, 1903, it came as a shock to him that two of these men were constituents of his own, and one of them was the man who was sentenced to death. At the time he put a Question to the then Colonial Secretary the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who gave him a most sympathetic reply. He should never forget the right hon. Gentleman's kindness and practical sympathy during the few days he was trying to get something done for the unfortunate man who was sentenced to death. The result was that the clemency of the Crown was extended to that roan, and the sentence was reduced to one of transportation for life. During the year 1906 one of the five men was released. Two petitions were sent last year to the lieutenant-governor praying for mercy towards the four still in prison. From a return in regard to military prisoners in South Africa, he found that the conduct of these four men was marked "exemplary." The unfortunate occurrence in which a man lost his life was not premeditated. It was the result of a drunken spree, and it was not known even now who fired the shot. He really thought that the time had come when something might be done for the men. The crime of which they were convicted was not committed by ordinary criminals. Discipline being relaxed at the end of a long campaign in which these men had been serving this country, they got drunk, and the fatal shot was fired while they were in that condition. He hoped that the Under-Secretary of State would he able to give some sympathetic assurance in reply to his appeal. The prisoners were young men, and if the clemency of the Crown were extended to them now, they would be liberated before they were too old to be of any use in the world.
§ *MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)
said the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth seemed to have the impression that there was no demand for self government in the Orange River Colony. There was no ground for that opinion. The hon. Member could not 706 have read what had been going on in the Orange River Colony or he would not have made the statement. There had been meetings held and speeches made in the Orange River Colony in favour of self-government. Moreover, the hon. Member seemed to be entirely oblivious of the fact that the Orange River Colony was a party to the Treaty of Vereeniging in which self-government was promised to it as well as to the Transvaal. The grant of self-government was in every way justified, but he wished to suggest to his right hon. friend the Under-Secretary that, in regard to the constitution of a Second Chamber for the Orange River Colony, the example adopted for the Transvaal should not be followed. In the Transvaal Lord Selborne nominated a number of gentlemen to form the Second Chamber who were not only out of harmony with the popularly elected Chamber,,but were so entirely unknown that, from the beginning, the Second Chamber was an object of ridicule. After the names of the nominated Chamber had been announced, he met a friend who had been living in London for a year or so, but who had lived for many years in the Transvaal. His friend said to him, "How long it must have been since I left the Transvaal! There is hardly a single gentleman I know among those who have been nominated for the Second Chamber." That expression represented the prevailing feeling among others who knew the Transvaal. Nobody could understand upon what principle the Second Chamber had been nominated, and on the very first day it came into conflict with the popular Chamber, it at once had to give way. If it were intended as a check upon the popular Chamber it was utterly useless. If that was the case in the Transvaal, where there was a large admixture of the two races, the position of such a Chamber would be much worse in the Orange River Colony, where there would be a very large Afrikander majority in the lower Chamber. He appealed to the Government, therefore, to wait until the elections had taken place and a responsible Government had been formed, and then, after consulting that Government in a constitutional way, to bring into existence a Second Chamber which would work more in harmony with the popular one.
*DR. RUTHERFORD (Middlesex, Brentford)
supported the appeal to His Majesty's Government to wait until they could appoint a Second Chamber for the Orange River Colony in amore satisfactory manner than had been the case in the Transvaal. He congratulated the Government on the bold and wise step they had taken in giving the Orange River Colony full constitutional power. It was a step which would stand out in history as the wisest and noblest they had taken. That reparation was due to the Orange River Colony, just as it was due to the Transvaal. No more criminal act was ever performed by this country than when those two South African Republics were deprived of their freedom. He and those who shared his views rejoiced that at last England was standing up for freedom. A difficult problem with which they were faced in South Africa was the treatment of British Indians. They were suffering from serious disabilities. Protests having been made in South Africa, India, and also in this country, Lord Elgin took a wise and proper course when he disallowed the Transvaal ordinance. He regretted that the Colonial Secretary had since departed from the policy then indicated. He and his friends did not hide from themselves the serious difficulties attending this problem. After all, the Transvaal was a self-governing Colony, and they felt it would be difficult for the home Government to interfere. At the same time the Indians were subjects of the King, and it was for the Imperial Government as the supreme power to do all that could be done for them in the interest of justice and righteousness. Ho might remind the Committee that! there were in Natal 100,000 Indians—55,000 indentured, 15,000 free, and 30,000 freed. In the Transvaal there were- 13,000; in the Cape Colony 10,000, and in the Orange River Colony the number was infinitesimal, only some forty or fifty. These British Indians were introduced into Natal in the "forties" as indentured labourers. As a matter of fact the Natal Government voted the sum of £10,000 per annum to encourage their introduction. They had it on the best authority that these men had done a great deal to bring about the success of the Colony at a very critical period of its history. MR. Garland, a Member of the 708 Natal Parliament, dealt with this matter in the following terms—And at the last, as the only thing to be done, the immigration of Indians was entered upon, and the Legislature very wisely rendered their support, and help to this all important scheme. At the time it was entered upon, the progress and almost the existence of the Colony hung in the balance. And now what is the result of this scheme of immigration? Financially £10,000 has been advanced yearly out of the Treasury of the Colony. With what result? Just this, that no vote ever made of money to develop the industries of the Colony or to promote its interests in any way in this Colony has yielded such a financial profitable return as that shown by the introduction of coolies as labourers into this Colony. …I believe the Durban population of Europeans, had no such labour been supplied as was required for Colonial industries, would be less by at least a. half what it is to-day, and five workmen only would be required whereas twenty now have employment. Property in Durban generally would have remained at the value some 300 or 400 per cent. below that which now obtains, and the lands in the Colony and other towns, in proportion according to the value of property in Durban, and coast-lands would never have realised what they now sell at.What crime had the Indians committed? They were told that the Indians had been the salvation practically of the Colony; why then should they be treated in this unjust and derogatory manner? So far as he could understand it was because these men, when they had won their freedom, felt that they had a higher vocation in life and entered into competition with Europeans. What he might call the anti-Indian legislation began in Natal and then passed to the other Colonies. He did not want to deal with all the disabilities imposed on the Indians. There was the Dealers Licence Act. He bad asked many Questions with reference to that Act, and the Under-Secretary for the Colonies had told the House how many industrious Indian shopkeepers, who had lived for many years in Natal, had been deprived of their licence by the local authorities, many of whose members were in competition with them, and accordingly biassed against them. The injustice of the Act was revealed in the fact that there was no appeal from their decision to the Supreme Court. Again, under the Municipal Corporation Act the Indians had been deprived of the last rag of their civil rights. They were welcomed as labourers, but directly they rose above 709 that status the, British made a set against them. In the Transvaal the law passed by the Boer Government would not allow them to hold land, and placed other irritating restrictions upon them. Fortunately that Act was practically a dead letter, at least it was not rigorously enforced, but when the Colony was taken over by the British Government the law was tightened up and enforced. Lord Elgin was asked last year to sanction what was called the "Peace Preservation Ordinance," which was directed against the Indians, and the only reason given for the Ordinance was that it was to prevent a great influx of Indians to the Transvaal over the border from Natal. But the figures in favour of it were grossly exaggerated, because it was proved that they never amounted to more than a hundred a month. But the Ordinance) did far more than that, it degraded and drove out Indians, who had been after all for many years a source of commercial development in the Transvaal as well as in Natal. In the course of a discussion on this point in another place Lord Lansdowne said—The question is, does this new law really secure what the noble Earl (Lord Elgin) means by fair treatment? I own that I have a little difficulty in persuading myself that it does, because we have on record the statement of the noble Karl that the Ordinance which His Majesty's Government in the first instance disallowed contained proposals which could not be regarded as affording an adequate measure of relief from the disabilities to which the British Indians were subject in the Transvaal, and therefore fell far short of the reforms repeatedly pressed upon the Government of the South African Republic. Now the noble Earl tells us that the Act which has been passed differs very little from the Ordinance which he denounced in clear and emphatic language; therefore, we certainly cannot congratulate the noble Earl upon having succeeded in obtaining for British Indians what he himself has described as fair treatment.And the noble Lord wont on to say that —Even supposing that a few hundred more of these people had succeeded in crossing the front or, that is surely a lesser evil than even in appearance to throw over the interests of these Indians, who themselves look to you for protection, and whose fellow-countrymen in India are watching what is taking place.He realised the difficulties the Home Government had to contend with in dealing with the self-governing Colonies. But he thought the Government ought to have made it one of the conditions upon which the £5,000,000 loan to the Transvaal was to be guaranteed that fair 710 treatment should be accorded to British Indians in that Colony. In Cape Colony equal rights were meted out to the Indians once they got in. There was an educational test in the way of their getting in. Yiddish was accepted as a test for foreigners. He thought that Hindustani should be included in the educational test for British Indians. It was said that that would not make these Colonies a whiteman's country. That was an impossibility. There were two great laws which provided an insuperable bar to South Africa being made an exclusively white man's country. These were natural and divine. The Almighty drew no colour bar, and he had yet to learn that God had made South Africa for whites and Europeans. At present it was practically a black man's country and must largely remain a black man's country. It was a country in which the Indians could live, and they would do great good to the Colonies and bring distinction to this country. The treatment the Indians were at present receiving in South Africa might have serious consequences in India. Supposing the Indians in India retaliated— supposing they said that India was a coloured man's country and that the whites should clear out He hoped that in the interest of liberty, justice, and righteousness the Home Government would use their best endeavours to get rid of the servile conditions under which British Indians suffered in South Africa.
§ MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover-Square)
said a good many topics had been introduced, but he made no apology to the Committee for concentrating his observations upon South Africa which still claimed their principal attention concerning Colonial matters. A few days ago the Constitution for the Orange River Colon' was promulgated, and he admitted there was nothing in it but what had been anticipated, and there was no doubt that in a few weeks both the provinces annexed in 1902 would pass for the time being under the unqualified sway of Governments against whom we lately strove and prevailed. He did not desire to exaggerate the difference between Parties on this subject; it was right to remember that self-government in the two provinces was the ultimate goal both Parties wished to reach, and in the instrument which scaled the peace Lords Milner 711 and Kitchener deliberately and solemnly recorded that intention. Nor did he desire to ignore the difference that prevailed between Parties as to the time it would be wise or expedient to grant the Constitutions, He and his friends were compelled at the time, by reason, as they thought, of the premature character of the grant, to dissociate themselves from the responsibility that attended the transition from Crown Colony Government to complete independence. But from first to last they had expressed the hope that their misgivings would not be realised, and it would be ungenerous not to acknowledge that General Both a, when he visited this country, earned respect and esteem by the language in which he expressed his future intentions. But there was another aspect of the matter with which it would be wrong not to deal. He did not wish to deal with it in a partisan or unnecessarily controversial way, but it was useless to deny that in the annexed provinces there were two Parties with racial differences. The object of every Party in the House was the ultimate concord and harmony between the two races, but with all the earnestness in his power he said that nothing could be more odious, nothing could be more calculated to weaken the chances of co-operation and harmony between the two races, than for any Government in the country to show favour or undue preference to the one or the other. It was right surely to appreciate in the House, and with a majority constituted as it was—it was right to endeavour to appreciate the British point of view in the Colony as well as that of the Dutch. Hundreds, and he might say perhaps thousands, of men had given up their employment in this country and had sought South Africa after the war, had settled upon land or embarked in business there, or were following the professions of engineering, law, or medicine. They did this full of hope that the country where they proposed to settle would be ruled by British counsels and controlled by British statesman. For years they had been the subject of a storm of controversy, their principal industry had been the subject of menace by Government supporters, and the result had been of late—he did not say it was entirely attributable to that, but disaster had fallen on the country and the offices in which English- 712 men, Scotsmen, and Irishmen were placed; industry had been arrested and professions depressed, some of them paralysed, ruin and misery overtaking many of those who had made costly sacrifices to settle in the country. Human nature being what it was, it was natural that the iron had entered into the soul of many of the men, and that they should feel bitter resentment against those to whom they attributed the losses they had sustained. These men did not and could not join in the complaisant chorus which in this country had glorified the Government as they thought at their expense; they were not enthusiastic in support of Party Government, to whose success in this country they attributed many of their losses. Indeed, it was not unnatural that they were disposed to attribute to the indifference and the apathy of the many in this country the fact that that interest had been sacrificed. We ought not 6,000 miles away, and, in a manner, secure from the consequences of our own action, to resent this natural feeling of bitterness. The policy which had been undertaken was irrevocable; and therefore it was our duty to look steadily at the good elements rather than the bad. He had a profound sympathy with the feelings of the British in South Africa, and he would offer them this ground of hope and encouragement. The principle of the equality of the white races in South Africa had been asserted. In the last four years a marvellous work of reconstruction and recuperation had been achieved by the British. Their ability, energy, credit, and resource had built up a community desolated by war. This wonderful fabric having been nearly completed, it would be a source of pride for all time to Britons to have said—. "Here is our work. Here is the country restored by our toil and sacrifice. We hand it over to you against whom we lately strove; and we do it without advantage or reward." Such a policy might be Quixotic, but no one who had been the subject of that policy could do other than feel that national pride and national self-esteem had been vindicated, and that the race which had done such a thing had a right to hold its head high among the nations of the world. But if we asked the British population of the new Colonies to look at the matter in that light, and to regard the sacrifice with hope, surely it 713 was a corresponding duty on the part of His Majesty's Government to show to that population the most scrupulous impartiality, to be straightforward and open in their dealings, and to abandon all indirect political motive. He wished to put the policy of His Majesty's Government to those tests. No explanation had ever been given as to why manhood suffrage was established in these Colonies. It did not exist anywhere else in South Africa. Previous to the war there was a high property qualification, both in the Orange River State and in the Transvaal. Why was this now precedent started? He did not wish to be put off in this matter by the reading of rhetorical extracts—he would not say platitudes —from Liberal maxim books as to the liberty and general equality of man. That position was now negatived, for, having excluded the natives from the franchise, the Government could not have resort to that argument. Then what was the explanation—and he asked for details—of the financial attitude and policy of the Transvaal Government? He would not attempt to discuss the details of the forthcoming Bill, but he was anxious to consider what the effect of the promise of the Government was, a promise which had encouraged—he would go further and say which had enabled— the Transvaal to put out a loan and to borrow money. Was that policy justifiable, was it oven intelligible? What was the financial situation in the Transvaal? There was a population of about 300,000 whites. There was a State debt of £35,000,000, and a municipal debt of £8,000,000, making a total of £43,000,000, or £140 of debt per head of the population. Prima facie, was that a country, in the circumstances which existed at present, which they could encourage to borrow and to lay upon themselves a further annual burden of £200,000 a year? The Colonial Treasurer of the Transvaal in June, 1906, stated in his report that the revenues of the Colony showed no tendency towards expansion, that much expenditure was still required to promote the development of the colony, and, if a reasonable rate of progress was to be maintained, substantial sums must be provided annually for the purpose, but in the present financial condition of the colony it Would be highly unwise to have recourse to further borrowing. 714 Had things grown better since June, 1906? He found that MR. Smuts, the Colonial Secretary, in April said that the financial question was the root problem before them; they wanted money; that the fall in the revenue had been progressive, and there was no stoppage to it. In those conditions surely it was extravagant finance to borrow at ail, and inexpedient to encourage and enable the Transvaal to borrow. Surely it was unjust to the Cape Colony and to Natal, who both needed money and were about to float a loan, and who could not float a loan with any prospect of success with this guaranteed loan hanging over their heads. Was this encouragement by the present Government of the Transvaal to borrow money treating with scrupulous impartiality and fairness the British population? When he was at the Colonial Office he was told that 85 per cent. of the revenue of the Transvaal came from the mines; in other word, from those who represented the British, connection there. Therefore 85 per cent. of the taxation of the Transvaal fell upon the urban population, which was mainly British, and 15 per cent. on the rural population, which was mainly Dutch. This £5,000,000, which was to be added to the £43,000,000 under which the Colony was already burdened, would be paid as to 85 percent. of it by the urban population.. How was it to be applied? He thought he was absolutely the first voice in the country to advocate a policy of pecuniary liberality to the Boers after the war, and he had always favoured expenditure on behalf of the agriculturists in that country. But there must be some measure or limit. He thought £10,000,000 had already been, spent on their Dutch fellow-subjects alone in the' Transvaal, and they were going to add. £5,000,000. The proceeds of this loan were to be applied as to £2,500,000 to land banks, railways, and irrigation—all agricultural purposes! He did not wish to put it bitterly for one moment, for he was glad that they should have money if it could be done without injustice to other people, but what was the position of the Dutch rural population with regard to these land banks? The Under-Secretary would say that there would be the security of the land, and they would be able to pay back the money. But the Dutch farmers were 715 already indebted to the Government of the Transvaal for £2,000,000 in respect of the loans which were issued before their repatriation. They had been given time for repayment of those loans, but he was told that there was little prospect of recovering any part of the £2,000,000. They were going to give to men who were already their debtors to the extent of £2,000,000 an additional sum of £2,500,000, he supposed with an equally small chance of recovering the money. Surely, the House must recognise that that was an interference with and a reversal of the natural economic position of the country. The Transvaal could not have raised the loan without the credit of the Government behind them except upon terms so exorbitant that it would have been impossible for them even to consider it. This free-trade Government had interfered with the natural barrier against a country which was not rich enough to increase its obligations, by standing behind them and imposing upon the British population of the country heavy taxation almost entirely for the benefit of the Dutch. He did not think finance of that kind could possibly be justified. What had been the policy of the Government with regard to land settlement? Parliament voted £3,000,000 for land settlement, for Canadians, Australians, and Britons, and £500,000 of that sum had been arrested. How differently they treated their own population. The Government actually withhold from them the money which had been granted to them by that House. They might have reasons for doing so, but he had never heard them. Let them contrast that treatment with the behaviour of the Government to their Dutch fellow-subjects. Having already given them time to pay a debt of £2,000,000, the Government increased the benefits they had conferred upon them to the extent of several millions more. They placed the whole weight of the taxation, not upon the people who benefited, but on the people who were opposed to their policy, and with whose industry they had seriously interfered. Concurrently with the adoption of this financial measure there had been a modification of the policy of the Transvaal Government upon the labour question. General Smuts in January last was prepared to make an arrangement under which 716 there would have been a native labourer to take the place of every Chinaman before the Chinaman was sent away. In February he said they did not wish to cripple the mining industry, and guaranteed a substitute to take the place of each Chinese labourer. That was again announced in Lord Selborne's speech. General Botha had now obtained a promise of the assistance of His Majesty's Government under the circumstances which he had already stated, of a further borrowing from this country to which they already owed £2,000,000. He was aware that the Under-Secretary in that House, and that, according to the newspaper reports, General Botha also, had denied that there was any bargain with reference to this matter. He accepted their word, but everything depended on the meaning attached to the word bargain. There was a very strong wish, for political reasons, on the part of gentlemen in a certain quarter of that House that the Chinese should be repatriated; there was a strong wish on the part of General Botha to have the credit of the Imperial Government to guarantee his loan. He accepted the assurance that there had been no bargain, as the parties honestly believed; but was the simultaneous gratification of both these wishes a matter of pure coincidence or not? If it was not a pure coincidence, how were the two related? Were they totally independent transactions, or were they one transaction? There were certain wishes so strongly denied by two persons, and so mutually advantageous that they did not need to become the subject of bargaining. He did not pretend to fathom what had happened. Perhaps the Under-Secretary would explain what relation, if any, those two transactions had. He wished very succinctly to pat before the House the policy of native labour in replacement of Chinese labour. Everybody would wish that native labour, if its physical conditions were sufficiently strong, and if no compulsion were applied to it, should be employed rather than yellow labour, and the policy of the late Government was never to supplant natives, it was only to supplement them. Of course, every Member who thought must know that there were very many great objections to introducing natives not fitted for the purpose into the mines.
717 A very little over-pressure in that matter brought about a rate of mortality sometimes three times, always twice, as great as the rate among the Chinese. Therefore they would be carrying on an industry with a death-rate twice, three times, and sometimes even five or six times, larger than that of the Chinese. There was no real difference in principle between the two. Both were indentured labourers and both came from a distance, and the moral question was in the case of many tribes more urgent with the natives than with the Chinese. Therefore, so far as he had been able to apply his mind to the subject, it was a mystery to him how any thinking man could draw any grave distinction between the responsibility of those who indentured Chinese and those who indentured natives. He regretted to say, with regard to the present leaders of the Transvaal, that the policy which they had adopted in regard to the replacement of Chinese by natives was one which the House ought to watch in connection with the expressed intention of the Prime Minister of the Transvaal. In 1903, before the Labour Commission, speaking with deliberation and care in the matter, he said, in answer to the question—Would you recommend the breaking up of locations like Swaziland, Zululand, and Basutoland?" "I would suggest that those countries be given to the white people to live in.Then the question was put,—You suggest that we should break up such lands as Swaziland, Zululand, and Basutoland? These are great native reserves,and he answered, —Yes, I say such places are a serious evil. It is building up a Kaffir kingdom in the midst of us. It is not only bad for the Kaffirs themselves, but a danger for the future." "You want to cut up the lands into farms and give it to the white man and retain the Kaffirs on the farms?" "Yes.He did not know whether hon. Members appreciated the significance of that. It showed that a few years ago the policy 718 of General Botha was to force the Kaffirs to work by breaking up their reserves. If that method was pursued in the Transvaal, the Party opposite, who thought themselves the Party of morality in this matter, would lend themselves to a transaction which would first get rid of men who were working voluntarily and under the same moral conditions as the blacks, and substitute for them men not fitted for the task, but forced into the mines by having their reserves broken up, and by having taxation placed upon them which they were not able to bear. And they would have the further responsibility of removing the natural barrier protecting the natives against abitrary acts such as breaking up their reserves and forcing them to labour. The consequences of the removal of such a natural barrier was often rebellion which brought disaster upon the community which inflicted the injustice. They were removing that barrier because they had 15,000 British troops there ready to put down any native rising. Therefore, he urged the Government to watch well the responsibility they had in this matter. At any rate, let them not go into the country and endeavour once more to delude the people into the belief, which he thought they had happily given up, that their Party was the Party of high morality in these matters and that the Opposition only had been tinged with the cursed thing. He did not wish to dwell upon that. He wished rather to say, as he said at the beginning of his remarks, that the British population in South Africa had a right to equal treatment, and need not have the slightest apprehension that they would not be allowed to enter into peaceful and harmonious competition with their Dutch fellow-subjects in the country. He would never believe that the people of this country, if they knew it, would permit for a moment an unjust discrimination against them. Whatever their numbers in that House, however small they might be, they would take care to see that their principles were not violated.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL, Manchester, N.W.)
The hon. Member for Sunderland made a speech upon the town council at Port of Spain. I should like to say that the arrangements at present in force are of a temporary nature, and that in a couple of years the whole question of extending native institutions will be reviewed. In regard to the speech of the Member for Limerick on the subject of private soldiers recently in the Leinster Regiment, now in penal servitude in South Africa in connection with an affray some years ago, I could not speak on the spur of the moment on a matter of that kind; but I am of opinion that when a question of this character is raised by an hon. Member in his place on his responsibility, it is a matter which must be gone into specifically by the Department concerned, and I will cause inquiry to be made, but as to what result the inquiry will produce I cannot speak at present. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has confined his remarks exclusively to South Africa; and I am very glad he did so, because I think there is scarcely any part of the wide and various dominions at present administered under the Colonial Office, of our record in regard to which and of our policy in regard to which I should be more confident in making a statement to the House of Commons. What has been the great event of the last year in South Africa? It has been the establishment of government by consent in the two newly-acquired colonies. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that there was no difference in principle between us. The difference, he said, existed as to time. Yes; and I can quite see that time in such a matter may be an element of vital importance. Sir, there was a policy of delay in granting self-government promised by the Treaty of Vereeniging which would have had most injurious effects. What was that policy? It was a policy of maintaining the authority of the Crown in that 720 country by force, by bayonets, by a great garrison maintained thorp over a considerable period of years. I have heard it said that you can do anything in the world with bayonets except sit down upon thorn. But a great garrison was to be kept there a long time, and in the meanwhile efforts were to be made to create a population to outvote the permanent residents in the country. Every effort which Lord Milner's ingenuity and tenacity could suggest was applied. Land settlers were planted regardless of expense upon the soil. A cosmopolitan population of immigrants were encouraged from all parts of the world to enter the country. The great hope of creating an artificial boom in mining shares, and so erecting an artificial state of development, led to the wild experiment of importing thousands of Chinese from the other end of the world. It is scarcely necessary to say that all these plans were utterly visionary. The Chinese, from whose importation such results were hoped, proved detrimental at every stage to the employment of white labour. Whereas before their advent in May, 1904, the employment of white men working stamps was as one to six natives, in March, 1907, it was less than one to nine. And there is scarcely a point of view from which you can examine the gold industry, now that Chinese have been imported and before the period when they arrived, in which there is not a sensible degradation in the industry in the sense of the smaller employment of white labour in proportion to the natives, to stamps, and to output of gold. Of this population which was to be obtained in Johannesburg to outvote the Boers, half the indispensable voters at the election voted for the Party which is now in power in the Transvaal, and against the mine-owners and progressive leaders, who, we have always been told, were the only people entitled to speak for them. And even some of the land settlers who were planted on the soil at so much labour and so much cost have, I am credibly informed, preferred to vote for Dutchmen in 721 certain parts of the country because they think Dutchmen understand better and are more sympathetic to the needs of an agricultural community. So much for those calculations. They must, in any case, have been wrong, but, even if they had been right, what permanent, abiding security would they have offered? You would have had, oven if an artificial majority of a heterogeneous character, mostly in passage through the country, had boon obtained, all the most powerful, most permanent, and most formidable elements of the country divorced from any share in the responsibility and burden of administration; and when yon have, the really powerful and permanent elements in the country not effectively represented in its government grave political instability will result. From all this kind of weary, tedious, nightmare pilgrimages it has been our task to recall the mind and the conscience of the country. If we have had any degree of success in that endeavour, it has not been because we have employed any very astute or adroit measures. It is because we have followed a very simple and straightforward plan. We have established a democratic Constitution. We have held a free and open election. We have insisted that the real loaders of the Parliament elected at that election shall forthwith, in their own proper persons, assume the burden of government, with all its labours, with all its difficulties and dangers, and with all its advantages and honour. The right hon. Gentleman complains that we have introduced in our Constitution the provision of manhood suffrage. Well, I am quite prepared to defend manhood suffrage on its merits. But I will also admit that there is much force in what the right hon. Gentleman says of the difficulties of assimilating the different franchises of the different States in South Africa when, as we look forward, federation may come into practical politics. I agree that there is a difficulty as far as the natives are concerned, but it is not a difficulty which cannot be removed. 722 But apart from the merits of the subject, which I should be quite prepared to justify if I had time to go into it, we were endeavouring to make a constitutional settlement as between two races, and many things which the British contended for were granted to them. One vote one value, single member constituencies, six months residential qualification —all these are points to which the British attached special importance; all were secured to them in the Constitution. But, on the other hand, the representatives of the Boers put forward a request that manhood suffrage, which would enfranchise the sons of farmers and the day labourers who worked hard on the farms, should also be admitted; and while I do not say for a moment there was a bargain, I do say that there was a balancing of one set of considerations against the other in our Constitution. That is why it is that manhood suffrage figures in the Transvaal Constitution. When we came to the Orange River Constitution the question arose, should we treat the Orange River Colony differently from the way in which we treated the Transvaal? There were, on the face of it, many reasons for treating them differently; but there was one great reason against treating them differently —you would be exciting suspicion, you would be exciting fear that you were discriminating adversely against the Orange River Colony, because, forsooth ! the balances of population in the Colony were not as nicely adjusted as in the Transvaal; and we have felt it was important above all things to preserve that confidence which has been largely extended to us by both sections of the population in South Africa by proceeding on a perfectly simple rule in regard to the Orange River Colony, by treating it exactly the same in all essential particulars as the Transvaal. I would only say, in passing from this subject, that our task has not been the same task as the Party opposite had sot before them-solves when they were in office. As to their task, I do not comment upon it, 723 but our task was the task of reconciliation, and I am quite ready to admit that we had a great many advantages in that task which were not enjoyed by the right hon. Gentleman who has addressed us this evening. We had this great advantage, that there is at the head of His Majesty's Government a Prime Minister, and thefts are in it a number of Ministers of high position like my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India, and like my right hon. friend who is present on this Bench, who command a great measure of esteem throughout all sections of the Dutch race in South Africa, and words of peace and amity and reconciliation do not ring false when spoken from their lips. There is another subject on which I think we are entitled to congratulate ourselves. We have reached the end of Chinese labour. It has been decisively condemned by the verdict of the local administration. The House is going to witness within a few days—certainly within a few weeks—the spectacle of live Chinamen in real ships steering eastward. Upwards of 17,000 will have left the country before Christmas, and Sir George Farrer, the Leader of the Progressive Party, speaking in the Transvaal Parliament, has admitted that it is inevitable that the rest should follow. There is only one question upon this subject which I think I will venture to answer now. We have been asked why did we leave it to the Transvaal Parliament, why did we not, feeling so strongly as we did on this subject, utilise our power from this country to remove the Chinese before the new Government came in? Until there was an election in the Transvaal no one had a right to assert what the opinion of the people of the Transvaal was. We might say that it was hostile to the Chinese, but it was open to hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was 724 open to our opponents in the country to assert —and I am bound to say they took advantage of their opportunity —that the Transvaal was strongly in favour of the retention of the Chinamen, that it would be ruined, or would even break out in rebellion if they were removed. Well, we were bound to await the verdict of the locality and of the community directly affected before this question could be settled. The mining interest in South Africa had it in their power by their influence with the Press, and by their influence on their employees before the strike took place, to organise great demonstrations and to create the impression, that we were coercing the Colony, interfering with the internal affairs of the Colony and that we were prepared to sacrifice their interests to our Party views in this country. That view could have been placed day after day, not only before the people of this country, but of all the self-governing Colonies throughout the British Empire. We might have run the risk of losing the support of Canada and Australia, and of those Colonies who are hostile to the principle of Chinese labour and are also hostile to the principle of interference by this country. And we should have run a great risk of uniting all parties in South Africa against what is sometimes called "Downing-street dictation." That is why we have been in this difficult position for the last eighteen months, and that is why we have had to cast out three anchors and pray for day light.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
That is why I have had so often to present unsatisfactory cases to hon. Gentlemen with which I entirely agree in this House. But we had 725 faith that when there was an elected Parliament in the Transvaal that Parliament would declare against the principle of servile labour. What a vindication of the policy we have pursued ! What a vindication of the action of those Members of the House of Commons who in the last Parliament and in this have persisted relentlessly and tirelessly month after month in their hostility to the policy of Chinese labour, and who have shown such patience and extended such generous confidence to the Government! The repatriation of the Chinese will now be undertaken by those who have an absolute right to decide upon the question; it will also be undertaken by those possessing unrivalled knowledge of the facts. The present Transvaal Government is an authority upon the subject of the mining industry, and of the supplies of native labour which are available, not to be rivalled by any other body in the world. Although it is not a quarter from which I usually obtain much support or agreement, I observe, too, that the money market, which over wide areas is undoubtedly depressed at the present time, exhibits a buoyant tendency in that very South African area where we were told ruin and disaster would break out directly any reference was made to the repatriation of the Chinese. The right hon. Gentleman drew a very gloomy picture of the policy which he thought the Transvaal Government would pursue in regard to labour; how they were going to break up the native labour reserves and almost force the natives into the mines, in spite of a most hideous death-rate. The right hon. Gentleman had no right to attribute such a policy to the Transvaal Government. There is not the smallest ground for such an assertion or for attributing such a policy to them.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I did not attribute that policy to the Transvaal Government. I warned the House as to the opinion of the Prime Minister of the Transvaal.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The whole point of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention was to show a condition that would redress the admitted evil of Chinese labour. There is another statement which the right hon. Gentleman made in a very delicate and very courteous and correct form, but which has been repeated discourteously, indelicately, and incorrectly outside this House. It was that the Transvaal Government and General Botha had boon bargained with, or bribed, to get rid of the Chinese. So far as that charge affects His Majesty's Government, I treat it with the most superb indifference, but I should like to say that it is a highly improper charge to be brought against the Transvaal Government and against General Botha. General Botha has always been opposed to Chinese labour. In 1903, before the Labour Commission, he said in his evidence—I am in favour of keeping this a white man's country. I am in favour, if we are forced to import, of importing whites.In February, 1904, in a letter addressed to the right hon. Gentleman, General Botha said—The overwhelming majority of the Boer population of the Transvaal are unalterably opposed to the introduction of Chinese labour. It would be a fatal mistake to introduce Asiatic labour without full popular consent.In the election of 1906, General Botha said there were enough coloured races in South Africa as it was, and the Chinese should be repatriated at the expiration of their contracts. The Het Volk programme included the solution of the labour question by means of the gradual repatriation of the Chinese at the 727 termination of their indentures, and replacement by whites. I have dozens of quotations from speeches of the most responsible members of the Transvaal Government, not only since they have been members of the Government, but long before the Government was formed, and long before there was any question of a loan being raised, in which they condemned Chinese labour and declared their intention of getting rid of it as soon as they possibly could. In face of that I say it is monstrous to say that these men have been induced by some temporary financial convenience granted be the British Government to do what they consider is to the disadvantage of the country for the government of which they are responsible. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about not showing undue favour to the Boers. There is no other colony in the British Empire about whose Government he would have spoken in such unceremonious terms. Now, Sir, I have but a word to say upon the subject of the guaranteed loan. It is open to any responsible self governing colony in the British Empire to float any loan it chooses, whenever it likes; arid by an arrangement somewhat unthinkingly made, I have no hesitation in saying that any of these loans' would satisfy the requirements of 1907 and would have access to our list of trust securities. Consequently, if the Boer Government had decided, as I have every reason to think they would in any case have decided, to issue a loan for certain important purposes, which I will explain to the House when the loan is introduced, they would have been fully able to place that loan upon the market, and the derangement of our credit system which might arise from the flotation could not have been avoided by any resources at the disposal of the British Government, or by any 728 authority we possess in this House. [An HON MEMBER: "They could not have got the money."] The hon. Gentleman says they could not have got the money. Why, I do not suppose there is any territory in the world which, in proportion to its population, possesses such vast and gigantic riches as the Transvaal. With the most valuable diamond mines in the world, thousands of millions of gold, I have heard, actually in sight, and all the railways in the possession of the State, it is perfectly absurd to suppose that the trade of the Transvaal is not perfectly equal to raising this money without our assistance. [Cries of "Why didn't they?"] The Transvaal could have raised this money in any case. The difference is probably not more than 1 or 1£ per cent. as the result of the guarantee that has been promised. But I hope the House will realise this; I make no secret of it; the oiled of the British guarantee has been to make the Transvaal Government independent of the influence and control of those great mining corporations. We wanted to show them that there were other credit resources in the world besides those dependent upon the favour of the Witwatersrand connection. I have not had time to do justice to a great many of the arguments in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but let me say there are many things in his speech which I welcome; there are many notes which he struck which, I think, justify the representative of the Colonial Office in saying we are this year in a very much better position than we were in when I last presented Colonial Estimates to the House of Commons. I will only say that I trust the right hon. Gentleman will get out of the habit of talking about "our own people," when talking about His Majesty's liege subjects in South 729 Africa; all that belongs to a past period. The only course which a British Government should adopt is to try to make both races in South Africa feel that they can look across to an equal Sovereign, and find an equal encouragement, not in one Party in the State, but in both Parties, and in the nation, which is larger. In no other way can the sacrifices of life and treasure which have been so abundantly made be brought to their proper and secure conclusion. The right hon. Gentle-map has exercised great responsibility in the past in Colonial affairs; and no doubt he will again in the future exercise the responsibility of Government; criticism of administration is all very well, but I do trust the Conservative Party and its responsible leaders are not going to take up an attitude on this loan, on land settlement, and on the Constitution, which will lead them into permanent and declared antagonism, with the Dutch race throughout South Africa. I trust most earnestly they will not do so, because if they do so, their advent to power, whenever that may be—[An Hon. Member: Very soon.] —will be watched with great dismay throughout South Africa, and I think the right hon. Gentleman and others who will be in power will feel themselves gravely embarrassed when they have to deal, as they very likely will have to deal some day, with Dutch Ministers and Dutch Governments holding office under the Crown.
§ And, it being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.,
§ Committee report Progress; to sit; again upon Monday next.
§ Motion made, and question proposed, "That the House do now adjourn."730
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
asked what final decision had been come to with regard to the situation developed at Question time in relation to the Resolution to be moved on Monday by the Prime Minister.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (MR. Asquith, Fifeshire, E.)
said that in the circumstances the Government had no alternative but to propose that the House should meet on Saturday.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
called attention to the difficult situation in which the House found itself. The differences were surely capable of adjustment. The noble Lord, he agreed, was acting with the approval of many Liberal Members. The sole object was to prevent a grave abuse of the forms of the House which had almost become a great public scandal. He had seen a document which had been submitted to officials of the House which would meet the views of both sides, and which private Members might accept. If they abolished all blocking Motions the Government of the day might find itself powerless to stop discussion in a grave crisis such as had lately occurred in India; and, secondly, it was possible that any private Member might take away from the time of the House by moving the adjournment. The proposal was that on the Motion of a Minister of the Crown it might be decided without Amendment or debate that a Motion for adjournment should not be accepted. That would meet the case in which discussion would be contrary to public policy. The second difficulty would be solved by an automatic suspension of the eleven o'clock rule whenever the adjournment of the House was moved. Thus such Motions could not be employed to embarrass the Government by the consumption of time. It would 731 be ridiculous if the House were to put itself to the inconvenience of a Saturday sitting because it could not free itself from the fetters which ninety-nine men out of 100 wished to sweep away. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might bring in a Standing Order which, embodying something like the proposals he had suggested, would save the House from a ridiculous position.
§ LORD R. CECIL, (Marylebone, E.)
speaking for himself, thought that some such solution as had been outlined would meet the grievance complained of. He had no desire that a Motion for adjournment under Standing Order 10 should be allowed when a Minister backed by a majority decided it would be against the public interest. He could see no reason why a rule for automatic suspension should not be assented to. He had no desire to put the House to the inconvenience of a Saturday sitting, and if the House should be put to that inconvenience, it would be entirely to save the amour propre of the Patronage Secretary. He had no desire to press the matter in a hasty manner, his only desire was for a settlement of the question, and he could not accuse himself of having pressed the matter unduly, having waited for months.
§ MR. ASQUITH
was sorry the noble Lord had used one expression, for there was no question of saving the amour propre of his hon. friend. He agreed to every thing that had been said by the Government when the matter was discussed some months ago, and he felt that if a little more time were given an agreement might be arrived at. With some communications passing from either side, a conclusion generally acceptable could be arrived at to get rid of what was little short of a public scandal, to get rid of Motions for adjournment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
did not believe that any decision could be arrived at once. There were more difficulties in the I way than had been supposed. It was a far I more difficult problem than the right hon. Gentleman supposed. He had given the question a great deal of anxious thought when he was Leader of the House. There were occasions on which the existing rule had been grossly abused in this as well as in the last Parliament. But let not the House imagine that it could deal with a matter of this kind without very serious consideration. If the Government merely contented themselves with saying that further consideration was required, he was inclined to agree, but they had allowed over two months to elapse since the Easter holidays. He did not follow the reasons that the right hon. Gentleman had given; but his private conviction was, though he did not wish to hurt anyone's feelings, that the Government had forgotten all about the subject. He hoped that the Government would not forget it any more.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY
assured the House that no communication had reached the hon. Member for the Abercromby Division with his authority. A certain document had been in his pocket all day, but it had never left it. How the hon. Member had seen it passed his comprehension.
§ Major SEELY
said that naturally he had some knowledge of the document, as he was partly the inventor of it.
§ Adjourned at seventeen minutes after Eleven o'clock