HC Deb 29 May 1907 vol 174 cc1636-8
MR. MACKARNESS (Borkshire, Newbury)

I beg to ask the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether there is any precedent for the employment of Imperial troops in a labour strike in a self-governing Colony; and, if not, what are the circumstances which have led the Governor of the Transvaal to sanction the use of upwards of 800 Imperial troops against the white miners on the Rand.


I do not know of any exact precedent for the intervention of Imperial troops in a labour dispute in a self-governing Colony; but neither can I find any parallel in the history of the British Empire to the conditions which prevail upon the Rand. Of their grave complexity the House is well aware, and His Majesty's Government have been led to the conclusion that no agency short of a free Parliament with a responsible Executive is capable of dealing with them with any prospect of success. Such a Government is now in office, and the Transvaal Parliament will meet on the 14th of June for the full debating of all matters affecting the Colony. Meanwhile the information which has been received from Lord Selborne as to the circumstances in which the employment of the Imperial troops has been resorted to is contained in the following telegram:—"During the strike on the Witwatersrand, Ministers, of course, have adopted attitude perfect impartiality towards employers and employees, but from the first they announced officially their determination to maintain law and order, to prevent violence or intimidation, and to protect property. They have now asked for detachments of His Majesty's forces in support of police, and I have issued necessary orders to General Officer Commanding to send them. I am convinced that this step is absolutely necessary and has not been taken without a full sense of responsibility on the part of my Ministers."


asked whether the Government would consider the advisability, until the Transvaal Parliament had met, of instructing the High Commissioner that no Imperial troops should be used against the miners, and that any disturbances in connection with the strike should be put down by the local police, the Imperial troops only to be used in the event of an outbreak of the Chinese on the Band?


It would not be in accordance with the policy of my noble friend to impose any such limitation on the action of the troops lent to the Transvaal Government.

MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington)

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information as to the state of affairs on the Rand?


I have no further news, but I have reason to believe the trouble is abating.

MR. WALSH (Lancashire, Ince)

asked for information as to the exact nature of the disturbances that had occurred which needed the use of military against British workers on the Rand, and whether it had not been admitted that the troops were brought in owing to the presence of 50,000 Chinese.

SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the strike is about?


said that he had received a telegram stating that a despatch was on its way home embodying a full account of the strike, its origin and course, which had been placed before the High Commissioner by the responsible Minister of Mines in the Transvaal. He had no detailed information of an official character.


But cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the nature of the social disorder which necessitated the employment of Imperial troops?


I have said that a despatch is on its way. I have every confidence in the authorities on the spot and also in the Parliament there that will shortly discuss the subject.


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman had seen the statement made by the acting Prime Minister of the Transvaal that the troops were asked for owing to the grave dangers feared through the presence of the Chinese.


said that he had seen the statement, and it appeared to bear out the observation he had made upon it on Monday last, which was received with derision by hon. Members opposite.

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