§ For ten years after the establishment of the Union the constitution of the Senate shall, in respect of the original provinces, be as follows:—
- (i) Eight senators shall be nominated by the Governor-General in Council, and for each original province eight senators shall be elected in the manner hereinafter provided:
- (ii) The senators to be nominated by the Governor-General in Council shall hold their seats for ten years. One-half of their number shall be selected on the ground mainly of their thorough acquaintance, by reason of their official experience or otherwise, with the reasonable wants and wishes of the coloured races in South Africa. If the seat of a senator so nominated shall become vacant, the Governor-General in Council shall nominate another person to be a senator, who shall hold his seat for ten years:
- (iii) After the passing of this Act, and before the day appointed for the establishment of the Union, the Governor of each of the Colonies shall summon a special sitting of both Houses of the Legislature, and the two Houses sitting together as one body and presided over by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, shall elect eight persons to be senators for the province. Such senators shall hold their seats for ten years. If the seat of a senator so elected shall become vacant, the provincial council of the province for which such senator has been elected shall choose a person to hold the seat until the completion of the period for which the person in whose stead he is elected would have held his seat.
§ Sir CHARLES W. DILKE moved, in Section (1), after the word "nominated," to insert the words "four by the Governor-General and four."
§ The first two sections of the Clause contain the only provision which the Government has made in this Bill—as far as we understand—relating to the rights of the natives or the representation of the natives in these four Colonies. Reading the distinction between the Bill as originally introduced and the Bill as it stands now, there can be no doubt that during the discussions in London important points concerning the Protectorates and their future were obtained. But the provision in the original Bill we know to have been obtained in advance by the efforts of the Government and by the disposition of the four Colonies to meet and to explain them to us in the Debate on 13th May last year. In the speech of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies (Colonel Seely) on that occasion—we all of us quoted it the other day—he informed us that he was happy to be able to state that the statesmen of the four Colonies all then said that there ought to be some form of native representation and the representation of native interests. In the first place, he corrected himself by adding the words "direct or indirect," and Lord Selborne afterwards took up the same passage, the same expression, the same idea, and explained his great preference for "direct" over "indirect" representation as it stood at that time. I do not think it can be denied that my hon. Friend at that time hoped for something better than we have now got, and undoubtedly Lord Selborne stated that he did. My hon. Friend used the words "representation in the democratic sense." He said all the four Colonies had come to agree that the natives should have some representation, governed, no doubt, by the words "direct or indirect" being put in, but of a democratic kind. But the only representation that has been obtained, after all the efforts of the Government and of the High Commissioner, is that found in the first two sections of the Clause. That representation is of a kind which stands condemned in advance by the words used in the Debate I have referred to, and also by Lord Selborne's words. I see my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Simon) in his place. In his admirable speech the other night, he 1535 took a different view from that which I take, but I am one of those who frankly recognise the merits of that speech. The hon. and learned Gentleman expressed the view, in which large sections of the House concurred, that you can only produce a lasting and permanent settlement in South Africa by "liberty"—the only solvent and cure of discontent was "liberty." He went on to add that the methods must be those which South Africa devises for us. This particular form of representation of the natives in the future Parliament of the Union has been devised for us in South Africa, though it stands condemned by Lord Selborne's words and by the words of Lord Crewe in another place last week. Lord Crewe took the view that we take of this representation. He said that unless they got representation the Protectorates would be dealt with by a Parliament in which the natives were not represented, or not really represented, and that would be far worse for them, because, he said, all interests of the whites who were there represented were different from or in conflict with those of the natives. I think this particular proposal stands condemned in advance, and certainly Lord Selborne's words are fresh in the memory of those acquainted with this subject.
§ We are told unfortunately that no Amendment, however arguable, or, however moderate, can be accepted. The same thing was said at the time of the Australian Commonwealth Bill. We were told not a comma was to be changed, but it was changed, and nothing happened. That Bill had a much higher authority than this had. That Bill was a Bill which we accepted from a great Convention which had sat in public, and whose debates were laid before us a year before in a Blue Book. At that time the leaders of the two parties in Australia came over united in support of the Bill, not a comma of which should be touched. But the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), supported by the present Secretary of State for War, and others in this House did make changes, and one considerable change, and that change was ultimately accepted by Australia. This Bill is our Bill; it is not a Bill of South Africa, but entirely ours. We are now to be here in the position to accept every word from 1536 the preamble to the schedule, for the effects of which we shall be afterwards reproached even in South Africa. It is familiar to the Members of this House that we have been blamed for having inserted certain provisions, that were not ours and that we did not desire in the least, in the Letters Patent in the Constitution of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies has stated that the natives would be represented under this provision in the Senate by their life-long champions. I think that was the phrase, or, at all events, that was the impression made, and I do not wish to use any that was not said. The impression was that four senators will be men whose names, said the Under-Secretary, will command their whole confidence, and that there has been some preliminary arrangement as to the appointments. If so, surely there is a case for making, in the first instance, non-party appointments. If that was so last week it is still more so to-day. A week ago it was thought that the first Government would be a coalition Government. It is now understood that it is to be a pure party Government, and that being so, these nominees, these eight senators, at the beginning will be men of strong party views. I plead that the four of them who are held to represent native interests shall be put in before the Union is actually brought about after the passing of the Bill. That is the intention of this Amendment and of the Amendments which follow it, and which, of course, depend on this Amendment. I do not think if I were to speak for a month I could add strength to the case as it appears to me to stand.
§ I wish to say one word upon questions which we shall discuss later, and upon which the Parliament will have direct control. The Parliament will have to deal with the land of the natives outside the reservations, it will have to deal with the taxation of the natives, and that taxation is exceptional and different from that of the whites. The poll and hut taxes will come before the Parliament, and by the use of those poll and hut taxes it is possible for that Parliament to break up the reservation system and to convert the natives, according to a policy which has been advocated by those who are likely to form the first Administration, into landless serfs who are absolutely at the disposal of the mining interest and the farming interest for the future. There was evidence given on this point by General Botha himself as to the policy, which was adopted 1537 by the whole of his friends, by the Boers, in 1904. I believe that General Botha has learned a great deal since that time. I doubt now whether he would be disposed to act on that policy, which he then stated was the policy universally adopted. We are going to have a party Government, and I greatly fear we cannot trust to not having those opinions raised in the form of four years ago. Reservation of Bills and Veto cannot be trusted. Mr. Merriman is likely to be the first Prime Minister, and no one has spoken so violently against the Veto and Reservation as he has. It would be far better, if this is the only kind of representation we can obtain, that at all events that representation should be by men put in as non-party representatives before the Union is actually brought into effect.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Colonel Seely)
My right hon. Friend has raised several points which are not directly concerned with the Amendment that has been moved. He said so himself, and indicated in a portion of his very interesting speech that they would be raised again in the course of the Debate. Therefore, I am sure, he will understand it is through no lack of respect for him that I defer dealing with those points until a later stage, when, of course, he will have the opportunity again of putting forward those particular views. This applies to the general question of the native reservations and the powers of Parliament in relation thereto. It also applies still more to the question of the Amendment of this Bill. I think it would be more convenient for the Committee if I deal with that point on the next very important Amendment, which has reference to the partial elimination of the words "European descent." With regard to the particular Amendment before us, setting aside those important matters which we will discuss on subsequent Amendments, as my right hon. Friend suggested—
§ Colonel SEELY
Perhaps the Committee will agree that may be a convenient course. I trust it will allow me to deal with the Amendment before us. The Amendment proposes that of the eight senators who are to be nominated four shall be nominated, not by anyone responsible to the Government of South Africa, but that they shall be' nominated by the Governor-General; that is to say, that they shall be 1538 nominated from here. Now, that raises the whole question of whether you are really going to trust South Africa or whether you are not. In regard to the natives in the Protectorates, it is quite true we are directly responsible, and have never divested ourselves of any responsibility, and they are not referred to at all here. We are dealing only with the four and a-half millions of natives, or a little more, who are inside the present self-governing Colonies. With great respect to my right hon. Friend, I must say that I regard his proposal as an impossible one to accept. The Government could not accept it. See what the position would be. We have given full self-government to each of those Colonies, full powers to regulate the whole of their internal affairs, and yet it is proposed that with regard to those internal affairs we shall from here nominate four men on our authority, without any reference to the Government in South Africa. If such a proposal were made in regard to any other self-governing Colony, I am sure it would receive no support whatever. Any suggestion with regard to Canada, if we had the power, that we should nominate four senators to look after the native races there, would be regarded as impossible of acceptance. Then why should we do it in the case of South Africa, when we have, by our own deliberate act, said to the people of South Africa, "You must work out your own destiny; you, who have to bear the brunt of any error, must yourselves direct the policy"? The nomination from this country of four persons on the Senate would seem to me to be a deliberate taking away of the powers we have already given. I am confident that the Parliaments of South Africa could not possibly agree to so flagrant an interference with the indubitable rights of any self-governing Colony to govern itself. Therefore, I respectfully urge my right hon. Friend not to press this Amendment, because it is one, I believe, impossible of acceptance in South Africa, and one which the Government could not possibly advise the Committee to accept.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I cordially support the contention of the Under-Secretary of State. If responsible Government had never been given, there would not be in this Amendment any interference with the action or the will of the people or the Government of these Colonies; but it would now be an unpardonably reactionary step to take away the power which 1539 has been given and acted upon by the administration of these Colonies regarding the natives through a long course of years. The position seems to me to be quite impossible. You cannot take away, without injury to the amour proper and the constitutional rights of the Government, that which is once granted. You have given them full rights, and any attempt to limit those rights, in however small a degree, could only do injury. Under this Amendment you would have on the Senate four men appointed directly by this Government, in sympathy or not with their colleagues, and the temptation would always be to suspect their action as being influenced by the Home Government or by the people of this country. Nothing could be more injurious to the administrative welfare of the country, or to the interests of the natives themselves. While I agree with the right hon. Baronet in many of his contentions with regard to the natives, I think it would be a serious infringement of the rights of responsible government to take the course he suggests on this occasion.
§ Sir C. W. DILKE
I have not the slightest intention of pressing this Amendment to a Division; but it was impossible to allow this Clause to pass without some protest being made. It might almost be supposed, from the sound Whig doctrine preached on both sides of the House, that this Clause was a democratic provision, whereas it is just the reverse. I will not withdraw the Amendment, but leave it to be negatived.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
The course outlined by the Under-Secretary of State is quite correct. I would remind the right hon. Baronet that at the time responsible government was granted to these Colonies, we on this side of the House were repeatedly told that once responsible government was granted we should not be able to interfere except in cases of vital Imperial concern.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
I do not think that that makes any difference. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot raise great eulogies and pæans on the granting of responsible government without taking the full consequences of your action. It is quite impossible, especially in a community which is admittedly democratic, to enforce upon them the acceptance of four 1540 senators, selected not by themselves, but from here. In fact, this Amendment really goes to the root of the arguments of the right hon. Baronet's Leader the other day. Six thousand miles away, as we are, we cannot undertake to be responsible for measures affecting the natives in the South African Colonies. It is far better for everyone that the people concerned should feel, not merely that they have the responsibility and the trust, but that if they should misuse that responsibility—which I do not for a moment suggest they will—upon them the consequences will fall.
§ Mr. ARNOLD LUPTON
However good this Clause may be, it is impossible for the Government to support it without using arguments which will not hold water. We are referred to Canada—as if there was any connection between the two cases. Canada has a population all of which has the vote, whereas in South Africa the great body of the people have no vote or representation at all. The Under-Secretary speaks of the merits of self-government and leaving the people to work out their own salvation. I think "salvation" is hardly the word. Damnation is more likely to be the result from this Bill. The right hon. Baronet does try to secure that, at any rate for the first few years, there shall be a certain number of senators appointed who have the interests of the subject races at heart. I do not know whether we should include Asiatics among the subject races, but he, at any rate, wishes that these races should be represented, at least for the first few years, until the progress of liberalising thought shall have made such appointments unnecessary. Whatever the demerits of the Amendment may be, there can be no question about the unsatisfactory character of the arguments by which it is opposed.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I regret very much that the Under-Secretary has not seen his way to accept this Amendment. I understand, however, that no Amendments are to be accepted. But if the hon. Gentleman is going to talk about democracy he had better produce a democratic Bill. These eight senators, as he has already been reminded, are not part and parcel of a democratic machinery. If we are to trust United South Africa to the full extent that he seems in his reply to assume, why has he himself provided in the Bill that four of these senators must be of a special character?
§ 4.0. P.M.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Well, Mr Emmott, I for one absolutely decline to take that view of this Bill. This Bill is our Bill. Does the hon. Gentleman really tell us that he has asked us to come here to-day and waste our time over a measure which is not his Bill, and for which the Government is not responsible? Are we merely asked to come down and dot the "i's" and cross the "t's" of a Bill that has come to us from 6,000 miles away? If so, we had better go home; we had better leave the matter altogether if you say that this Parliament has got no Imperial control, and has got absolutely nothing whatever to say as to granting of self-government in South Africa! If, however, the other view is right that we have responsibilities—even though they are limited responsibilities—then we are entitled to discuss this Bill. To pursue the argument: why, if this democratic view is animating His Majesty's Government, is it provided that four of the eight senators must be of special character and possess special capacities? If that provision is to be of any value whatever it ought to be carried out under conditions that will make it effective. As I understand it, that is the purpose of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. We admit that four of these senators ought to specially represent native interests. We will take that as the minimum. Very well, the Government agrees with us; South Africa agrees with us; and the private and secret Convention agrees with us. Surely, then, nobody will object if provisions are put in this Bill which make the intentions of the draftsmen of the Bill and the promoters and sponsors of the Bill effective and assured? That is the effect of the Amendment. I do not understand why it is rejected. Might I just turn to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover-square (Mr. Lyttelton). I am delighted that at last the right hon. Gentleman has decided to leave South Africa alone. I am bound to say that it is a most extraordinary doctrine that he has preached. Only a few days ago he was finding fault with my hon. Friend opposite because he had not censured Mr. Hertzog for not discharging certain insubordinate officials connected with the Education Department.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
That is not in the least what I said. I most carefully said that I did not require or ask the Undersecretary to censure or do anything of the 1542 kind. What I asked was that the hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, should constitutionally exercise his influence with the South African Government in the matter.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
That is precisely our view. I would never think of suggesting for a single moment to my hon. Friend that he should exercise his influence in an unconstitutional way. Far from it. I do not want to press the point, but I think we have been very familiar with speeches, statements, and movements from Opposition quarters regarding the discharge of officials who happen to be English, regarding the allegations that Dutchmen were being substituted for Englishmen in South Africa, and similar statements. Of course, it is always difficult to draw a line in these matters. It is absolutely impossible to say, "This is a matter of local concern which must not be interfered with by the Imperial Parliament; and this is not a matter of local concern, but of Imperial concern, which may therefore be interfered with by the Imperial Parliament." I do not want to push the argument too far, but I am bound to say—and this is the point I want to bring out: If it is legitimate for the Opposition to defend the interests of white men who happen to be English living in the Colony—the racial element of which is predominantly Dutch—then surely it is infinitely more important that this Parliament should look after the interests of the natives at this particular juncture in the history of South Africa? It is really for this purpose, and simply as a preliminary to what is going to happen afterwards, that I desire to rise and repudiate absolutely the idea that this Parliament has got no right adequately to safeguard native interests in South Africa, as provided for in this Bill. More particularly when a certain provision in this Bill not only shows that everybody concerned has agreed that at least four senators should be appointed to safeguard those interests is it right that we should see that the appointment of those four senators will be under conditions which will make that safeguard absolutely secure, and placed altogether beyond dispute.
§ Mr. W. P. BYLES
I agree with the view of the hon. Member for Leicester as to the arguments which have been put before us by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies that the Governor-General in Council should appoint these senators as 1543 servants of the South African Ministry, and not in any way as representing the Imperial Government. I want to know what the Governor-General is for unless he is in some respects, in some degree, an intermediary between the Imperial Government and the Colonial Government? My hon. Friend (Colonel Seely) has put forward an argument that finds a great deal of acceptance and response among hon. Friends who sit behind him, and indeed Members in all parts of the House, that if we give a self-governing Colony a Constitution we wish to keep our hands off it altogether, and let those concerned have a free hand to do as they think right. We must, he suggests, trust them all or not at all. In regard to their control of the natives, their government of a vast native population much more vast than the white population, and a population for which we have always claimed to have some Imperial responsibility, and over which we have hitherto always exercised some Imperial control—in regard to them we are now abandoning all this responsibility, and giving them over absolutely to the newly-constituted Government. The words of my hon. Friend were that they have to bear the brunt of the situation, and therefore you must let them have the responsibility. I just want to appeal, I will not say from Philip drunk to Philip sober—but from my hon. Friend who is now Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies to my right hon. Friend who was lately Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. On 28th February, 1906, I introduced a Motion into this House which began:—That in any settlement of South African affairs this House desires the recognition of Imperial responsibility for the protection of all races excluded from equal political rights.To that, at the end of a long and interesting Debate, we had an answer from the right hon. Gentleman who is now President of the Board of Trade. Towards the close of his speech he said:—We will endeavour as far as we can to advance the principle of equal rights to civilised men irrespective of colour.And he had earlier in his speech stated:—In South Africa above all other Colonies we are provided with a most sure foothold for intervention on behalf of the natives. We have greater power and therefore greater responsibility. A self-governing colony is not entitled to say one day hands off, no dictation in our internal affairs,' and the next day to telegraph for the protection of a brigade of British Infantry.1544 Time after time we have asked the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War—some of us, anyhow—why we cannot withdraw the troops from South Africa. The reason always given to us is that they are wanted, or may be wanted, for purposes of this kind. I hope that the Government will shortly return to what in my judgment is the wiser attitude expressed in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and which I have just read. One observation on another matter. The Government themselves have told us, the Members of the House of Commons—the Members of their own party at any rate—in advance, and before this Debate occurred, that they are not going to listen to any Amendment or to make any Amendment; that it is-practically no use for us to come down here and propose Amendments, because the Government will not yield to them. I received a whip this morning which says that the Government will not be able to accept any Amendment—
I really think that is getting very wide of the point. I have been listening to the hon. Member for some time. Hardly anything he has said has any real relevance to the actual Amendment.
§ Mr. J. D. REES
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) always speaks as one having authority and not as the scribes. It is with some hesitation that I mike any remarks upon his speech, because as he spoke it really seemed as if he was really of the opinion that Members of this House could not be properly brought down to consider this Bill under the sort of conditions that we are discussing it under, and that the House was being muzzled. Surely the hon. Member has left out of account the consideration that is the dominant factor of the whole situation; that this is not the making of a new Constitution—it is the amalgamation of the existing Constitutions of Colonies that already possess certain powers of self-government which has been conceded to them, and who themselves have arranged under certain conditions that they would work together as one. Can it be said under these circumstances that we are brought down here to 1545 pass a Constitution without giving it any consideration? I submit, in spite of the authoritative air of the hon. Gentleman, that his speech omitted to take into account the one circumstance with which we have to deal, and that absolutely dominates every other one that is likely to be brought before us to-day. The hon. Member, or one of his predecessors—I believe it was the right hon. Baronet—said that the House is bound to accept this Amendment because it has a special responsibility to defend the natives of South Africa against the white man. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, said that it was the cause of labour. English versus labour.
§ Mr. REES
Well, I meant that. The cause of labour versus the employers of labour. I submit that it is a very unfortunate complexion to give the matter, and one really not justified by facts. It is the hon. Member for Leicester who seemed to think and seems to assume that the Bill protects the white man in regard to his labour. We are all prepared to vote for the protection of the white man. I should have thought that the hon. Member would frankly have been in favour of the protection of white labour. I do not understand his indignation on this point, and it seems to me to be less justifiable from his than from any other quarter of the House. Nor could I see what rights, what valid rights, can be conceded to the natives unless they are voluntarily given by what, after all, however regrettable the hon. Gentleman may think it, is the dominant race.
The hon. Member's remarks are very wide of the question. [An HON. Member: "They usually are."]
The hon. Member forgets the Amendment. He is following parts of other speeches which, as he is using them, are not relevant to the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. GEORGE GREENWOOD
I beg to move, in Sub-section (ii.), to leave out the word "reasonable" ["The senators to be nominated … shall be selected on the 1546 ground mainly of their, thorough acquaintance…with the reasonable wants and wishes of the coloured races."]. This is a verbal Amendment, and, though I do not attach too much importance to it, I think it moves, in the direction of commonsense. It is provided in the Bill that the senators to be nominated by the Governor-General in Council shall hold their seats for ten years, and that one-half of their number shall be selected on the ground mainly of their thorough acquaintance with the reasonable wants and wishes of the coloured races in South Africa. What you really want is that the senators should be acquainted with the known wishes of the natives, whether reasonable or not. I should like to know who is going to say whether the wants and wishes of the natives are reasonable or not. The word "reasonable" is rather characteristic, and seems to indicate a morbid fear that the senators might be induced to attach importance to certain quarters of the natives who, in the opinion of others, might be considered to have wants and wishes that were unreasonable. Unless the Bill is so sacrosanct that we are not to be allowed to change a comma of it, I think that wore might be taken out.
§ Colonel SEELY
My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment in the very short speech which he has just made, stated it was a point to which he did not attach very great importance, but that he thought the omission of the word might be an improvement to the Bill. With regard to the actual wording of the Bill, I think that the idea expressed in the clause might be put in another way, but to leave out the word "reasonable" in any case does not at a first glance appear to me to improve it. The effect would be that you want people to be reasonable by leaving out the word "reasonable" You might reach the same object in another way. It is an arguable point which is the better way to provide in order to carry out the known intention of the Bill, which is that the senators should give a reasonable attention to the wants and wishes of the natives. It might be said that they should pay reasonable attention to the wants of the natives, but, as I say, it is very arguable which is the better way to carry out the known intention of the framers of the Bill. That brings me to another point, namely, as to the Amendment of the Bill in matters of detail. As regards the question of Amendments in detail, I will ask the Committee to realise 1547 the position in which we find ourselves. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) spoke of provisions having been inserted by me as representing the Government. I feel bound to point out to him that the details of this Bill have been passed by certain South African statesmen; it is their work, and has been brought to the Government. The question is, Is it on the whole a reasonable and a just measure? The House has generously confided to the Colonial Office and the Government the task of making minor Amendments, and it has done that for this obvious reason. Amendments of principle cannot be accepted by the terms of the Instruction given to the delegates. Amendments in detail presumably may be, but the question of what is an Amendment of detail and what is an Amendment in principle may be one of some difficulty. Therefore if you accept Amendments in detail, and if the delegates afterwards find that in the view of their Parliaments they involve questions of principle, you may wreck the whole great scheme—for it is a great scheme—simply because you do not know that what you consider was a matter of detail here was, in the South African view, a matter of principle. For that reason the House has generously put their confidence in the Government to deal with matters of detail and to carry out the intention of the framers as to what is best in the interests of all concerned. I ask the Committee to realise, for the reasons I have given, we cannot amend on points of detail without running the risk of losing this great Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. W. P. Byles) referred to the statement of the President of the Board of Trade that the Government would not accept Amendments of any kind, but that if the House of Commons did not like what they proposed they could always turn them out. There is nothing in the least improper in such statements. It has been explained to the House of Commons on various matters that the Government cannot accept Amendments for the reasons I have given, and which I think are fully appreciated by hon. Members of this House, and therefore I say upon this particular Amendment I do not think there is sufficient, speaking for myself, to justify us in making this change. I trust the House will accept the statement which I have just made.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I understand from the statement which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just made that the Government is determined to make no change in the Bill. This is a system of carrying Bills under the guillotine, and it is the strangest thing that has occurred in my experience of 15 years. It is an absolute abnegation of our Imperial functions. If South Africa wants troops we have to send them to her, but neither in matters of detail nor of principle can we amend this Bill. We cannot accept Amendments of detail because the Under-Secretary for the Colonies confesses he does not know the difference in this Bill between matters of principle and of detail, and therefore he cannot allow any Amendment. On 27th May, speaking in this House, he said:—The draft Act cannot be brought in here in identical terms. A fresh Bill will have to be drafted; there will also be Amendments proposed by His Majesty's Government. We have settled upon broad principles, but there are certain principles between this country and South Africa which have to be discussed. After these discussions have proceeded for a little time, a Bill will have to be brought in. It is proposed as more convenient that the Bill should be introduced into the other House, but of course it will also be brought in here. The Amendments which we have agreed upon will also be brought in here, and it will be competent for any Member to move fresh Amendments, but it is unlikely that a great many Amendments will be proposed.So he has been able, to get some Amendments accepted by the delegates, and they, in violation of this position, have gone behind the backs of their Parliaments and accepted Amendments from the Colonial Office.
§ Colonel SEELY
We are at cross purposes. If my hon. Friend will read the whole of my speech he will see I made it quite plain that it was anticipated that Amendments, not of principle, would be suggested by His Majesty's Government, and were suggested. I made a statement in the House when my hon. Friend was not present, and the House gave His Majesty's Government the task of making such Amendments, carrying out the known intentions of the framers of the Bill. No Amendment of principle was accepted, or could be accepted, by the delegates.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
May I ask my hon. Friend whether this Amendment of principle has not been accepted by the delegates? Did not the delegates accept an Amendment to the Bill as it originally came from South Africa preventing them from splitting up territories in South Africa? I think my hon. Friend will find, if he compares the Bill as it came from South Africa, with the sanction of the four 1549 Parliaments, with the Bill as it now stands, he will find the Bill was altered in that very material respect. Now, if the delegates who came from South Africa made so great a concession as to deprive the Union Parliament of the power of splitting up territory, if they were so amenable to argument and pressure, it is not too much to hope that in other directions also they may act likewise. The hon. Member for Leicester talked of our power in relation to this Bill, and said that we were only to be allowed to cross the "t's" and dot the "i's." I may tell him that he is not going to be allowed to cross the "t's" and dot the "i's." As I understand it, we have got to take the Bill as it stands. We want men who know the unreasonable views of the natives much more than the reasonable views. It is the people of unreasonable views that cause difficulty, and I should much rather have one of those senators acquainted with the views of the natives, both reasonable and unreasonable, and I am quite sure my hon. Friend would be the first to allow this Amendment to be made, if he could, because, I am sure, he feels it is a reasonable Amendment.
We are going very much off the track if we try to get up a debate on or allow ourselves to debate whether or not the conduct of the Government is hostile to the powers of this House or not. This is really a purely practical question. The powers of this House are undoubted. We may accept purely verbal Amendments, such as the hon. Member has just moved. We may accept that which is much more fundamental, namely, Amendments which are going to be moved in the subsequent stages of the Bill, and nothing that the Government can do can take away from the House that absolute power. But is it unconstitutional or even foolish for the Government to make an appeal to the House of Commons, and to point out the special circumstances of this Bill, and say that, under these special circumstances, it surely is unwise for this House to endeavour to amend this Bill in exactly the same way and in exactly the same spirit as they would be justified or even obliged to deal with the details of a Bill which had its origin in the Government Department here, which dealt only with domestic affairs, which was brought down by a Minister concerned only with domestic affairs, and had the authority of the Government of which he is a Member to put it before an Assembly whose most 1550 competent work is to deal with such a Bill? The Government come before us and say, "This is a Bill of other Parliaments, and involves other duties." How are these duties on one of the greatest occasions that they can be exercised to be carried out? Is it by this House using its undoubted powers to modify, either in matters of principle or detail, a measure which has passed the ordeal of the four great self-governing Colonies of South Africa, which then passed through further sifting and criticism in that country, which has come to this country with that great weight of authority behind it, and which has then been reconsidered in matters of detail by the Colonial Office? Is the House doing its duty best either by accepting or rejecting broadly a Bill of that kind, or is it best carrying out its great functions in these circumstances and in the special conditions applying to this Bill and to Bills of the kind by either accepting or rejecting this measure, by either trusting the Government and the self-governing Colonies, or by saying to them both, "You have done your work; we mean to revise it; we mean to scratch out a word here and a sub-section there, to alter this principle, and to send the Bill back, not in the shape in which it came to us, but in the shape in which we think it ought to have come to us"? I cannot say that that is an answer to the plain and practical question. It has nothing whatever to do with the constitutional powers of this House. When that plain and practical question is put to us there is but one answer to it, and that answer is, if the House is prepared to accept this Bill it had better accept it graciously and without meticulous objections in points of detail or principle. Having agreed unanimously—and we rejoice to think South Africa is going to be henceforth one of the great united dominions under the Crown—we should not tamper with the smaller details by which it is going to be attained.
§ Mr. H. F. LUTTRELL
I hope my hon. Friend will not withdraw his Amendment, because the Government have raised no objection to it whatever. They cannot say that it is unreasonable, and after all who is responsible for the details of this Bill? If this Amendment be a reasonable one the Government ought to accept it. After all we are not here to say ditto to what has been agreed to by our two Front Benches. The Bill has, it is true, been drafted in South Africa, but we are 1551 responsible for the passing of it, or else what is the use of having a Committee at all? Is the Committee going to do that which the Government sanctions, or which is sanctioned in South Africa? We have the responsibility of this measure, and we ought to exercise our rights. We ought to look at each Amendment upon its merits, and not because it has been put before us by those in South Africa or by the Front Bench. I feel it is my duty to examine this Amendment on its merits. In regard to Amendments to any measure, that has always been the custom in this House, and I have never heard any arguments put forward in the contrary direction. I am astonished to hear that it is the opinion of the two Front Benches that we should sit skill and not press our Amendments. If we think a Bill is not perfect then it is our duty to try and make it as perfect as possible. We shirk our responsibility if we allow ourselves to be dictated to either by people in South Africa or on the Front Benches. I strongly advise my hon. Friends to move their Amendments and not withdraw them.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I am afraid I cannot accept the doctrine which has been laid down by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies. May I point out to the hon. and gallant Member that this Bill as it now stands is not the Bill as it left the hands of the South Africa Convention. Perhaps the House will allow me to read the change that has been made in the Bill since it left South Africa and came to this House. Clause 149 of the present Bill, which was Clause 150 of the original draft of the Bill as it came to the Colonial Office, provided that "Parliament may alter the boundaries of any province, divide a province into two or more provinces, or form a new province out of the provinces or territories with the Union." In the clause as it is now presented to the House, the Colonial Office, with the assent of the South African delegates, have struck out the words "territories," consequently the Colonial Office has thereby limited the power of the South African Parliament in this very important matter of dividing up territories. If that has been done by the Colonial Office, surely the House of Commons may make minor Amendments which do not raise the same points of principle as those which have been agreed to. Because there is an agreement on this matter 1552 or supposed to be an agreement in South Africa, surely to contend that the House of Commons should be both muzzled and gagged is a new doctrine which is alarming in its potentialities and possibilities.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
Apparently the right hon. Gentleman is somewhat ashamed of that doctrine. In spite of what the Under-Secretary of the Colonies has said, this Bill is now the Bill of His Majesty's Government. There is no dispute about that, and whilst we are bound to pay all respect to South African opinion, still, in the granting of such extensive powers as this Bill confers in regard to natives in the South African Union, it is most important that the House of Commons should exercise its proper function, and not on account of an agreement between the two Front Benches, forego its right to criticise and to amend a measure which may prove to be epoch-making in the history of the British Empire.
§ Mr. S. L. GWYNN
The measure which we are now dealing with is wholly different to the one which originally came before us. This measure has been carefully considered in South Africa, and the only question for us to consider is whether we shall accept or reject it, and not whether we ought to amend it. I know that the procedure is in the hands of the House itself, but the general principle of this measure has been approved on the second reading. There are certain great principles which are embodied in this measure, and if Amendments are carried to those principles, the Bill will be practically defeated. I understand that all these matters of detail have been discussed between the Government and the representatives of the South African Colonies. When that discussion took place, surely the representatives of the Colonies were present. I think it puts the Government in a very unfair position now to say that such Amendments as the one now before us are matters of detail which the Committee can reasonably accept. In this matter the Government have to consider what the representatives of South Africa will say to such changes. I am not so much in love with the Imperial prerogative of this House, but I am prepared to abrogate that Imperial prerogative in order to establish the principle of local autonomy in South Africa.
§ Mr. GEORGE GREENWOOD
In view of what has been said by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 25 agreed to.