§ (1) Parliament may by law prescribe the qualifications which shall be necessary to entitle persons to vote at the election of members of the House of Assembly, but no such law shall disqualify any person in the province of the Cape of Good Hope who under the laws existing in the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope at the establishment of the Union is or may become capable of being registered as a voter from being so registered in the province of the Cape of Good Hope by reason of his race or colour only, unless the Bill be passed by both Houses of Parliament sitting to- 1616 gether and at the third reading be agreed to by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both Houses. A Bill so passed at such joint sitting shall be taken to have been duly pased by both Houses of Parliament.
§ (2) No person who at the passing of any such law is registered as a voter in any province shall be removed from the register by reason only of any disqualification based on race or colour.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to move, after the word "persons" ["to entitle persons to vote at the election of members of the House of Assembly"], to insert the words "either male or female." Fortunately it will not be necessary for me to detain the Committee more than a minute in stating the object of this Amendment. I have put it down in order to ascertain whether, under the provisions of this clause, the Union Parliament will have power to make alterations in the basis of the franchise in future? Will they be able by an ordinary majority vote to extend the franchise to women? I raise this question because I am not quite certain that in law, and especially franchise law, the word "persons" includes women. So far as I understand the meaning of that word in English franchise law, women are not included, and I wonder whether the word has the same meaning in this measure. I should like to have an assurance from the Attorney-General that at any time the Union Parliament would be able to extend the francise to women by an ordinary majority vote.
§ Sir W. ROBSON
I think the construction of the word "persons" in Clause 35 would include males or females. The female suffrage might be granted by a local Parliament forthwith. Clause 152 provides that "Parliament may by law repeal or alter any of the provisions of this Act," subject to certain restrictions and reservations with regard to Section 35, with which we are now dealing.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
There is a clause in the Bill which provides that certain things shall not be done except by a majority of two-thirds. May I ask whether that would apply in the case of a Bill to give female suffrage?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I take it, on the statement of the Attorney-General, that the 1617 Union Parliament will have at any time, under the powers conferred by this Act, the right to extend the franchise to women by a majority vote. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I beg to move, in Section (1), after the word "Hope" ["any person in the province of the Cape of Good Hope "], to insert the words "or the Province of Natal." I think the House is entitled to some explanation of the necessity for the Amendment which I am now moving. Clause 35 stipulates that before the franchise can be taken away from the coloured voters in the Cape of Good Hope a two-thirds majority must be obtained. In Natal there is also a native right to the franchise, and though it has been considerably nullified by legislation it still exists, and somewhere about 1,000 persons, native and coloured, are actually qualified now in Natal under this franchise. It will be seen from the clause that while the native in the Cape of Good Hope requires a two-thirds majority to be obtained against him in the new Parliament before he can be deprived of a vote, a simple majority is sufficient to take away the vote from the native in Natal. In both these cases the natives enjoy the franchise, not through anything done by the local bodies, but as a result of regulation issued by the Crown, which conferred equal political and civil rights upon natives. The proclamation of the Governor of Natal in 1843, in granting the Constitution, declared "That there shall not Ids in the eyes of the law any distinction whatever of colour, origin, livelihood, or creed, but the protection of the law in letter and in substance shall be extended impartially to all." That was the Imperial attitude towards the people in Natal in 1843 when the Constitution was granted. The point I want to raise is a point of substance as to why the special protection is not to be afforded for the native voter in Natal. The two men stand on terms of absolute equality in the eye of the Constitution. Both obtained the right under like circumstances and conditions, and if any distinction is drawn at all as between the two Colonies there is more need to give effective protection to the native in Natal than there is in Cape Colony. The Bill is drafted so that the native in Natal can be deprived of his vote by a simple majority in the Union Parliament. The 1618 object of my Amendment is to extend the protection of the two-thirds majority to the native of Natal, the same as the Bill provides is to be given to the native of Cape Colony.
§ Colonel SEELY
I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment, because I do not really believe it is one of great practical importance, for this reason: I presume there was no two-thirds protection put in here because the number of voters in Natal is so very small. Speaking from recollection, there were either two or six natives and about 150 coloured people who had the franchise. There are something like 200 out of the whole population. The advantage, from the point of view of the balance of power, of taking away these votes is clearly negligible, and the difficulty of doing it would be intense. To reverse a law giving franchise to all the race is a most difficult thing to do. Therefore, I think that such a thing could never by any possibility arise. Of course, it might be asked: Suppose in years to come they were to relax the franchise in Natal so as to let all the natives in? But if they were to do that they would do it in pursuance of a policy of extension of franchise to the natives, and, ex hypothesi, they would not want to take it away. Of course, my hon. Friend knows that under Clause 36 existing rights cannot be made away with except by an Amendment of the Constitution, and, therefore, I do not think the point is of any very great importance.
§ Mr. GEORGE GREENWOOD
I sympathise very much with this Amendment, because I think that the native franchise ought to be safeguarded. We talk a great deal about the colour bar to the right of entrance by the native into the Union Parliament, but it strikes me as a really more important point that, except in Cape Colony, really there is no representation for the native at all in South Africa. They have had it for 50 years in Cape Colony, and, by universal consent, it has worked admirably.
§ Mr. GEORGE GREENWOOD
They have had it nominally, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not know whether there were six or two native voters. I have here the most admirable and interesting speech delivered by Lord Selborne in February last before the congregation 1619 of the University of the Cape of Good Hope. In that he says:—I am not one of those who say that the natives require no system of representation whatever. Far from it, because I do not believe in the possibility of the white men, however good their intentions, being able to rule the natives wisely unless the natives have an opportunity of being heard and expressing their views on what concerns them most.I do think those are words of wisdom and common sense. It is absolutely impossible for white men to govern natives wisely unless the natives have some measure of representation. I would not argue for, say, equality of representation for the natives. We know that in the Orange Free State and in the Transvaal they have man's suffrage, and it would be absurd to suggest that the natives should have manhood suffrage. We see perfect equality working well in Cape Colony. We come to Natal. I might in that connection remind the Committee that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary himself said on 13th May in this House that "what His Majesty's Government are committed to is in any solution of the South African question some special representation must be found for the natives in order to safeguard their rights, and with that I am glad to think all people in South Africa are now practically agreed." There is very little representation at all at present; there is no real representation in Natal. It is only in Cape Colony that it exists. Now it is wanted to be safeguarded in Natal; and that native representation is greatly wanted in Natal I think has been proved by this most interesting report, with which hon. Members are so familiar, of the Native Affairs Commission in Natal, to one sentence of which I do not think sufficient justice has been done, and I trust that the House will pardon me for reading it. This is from the Report of the Native Affairs Commission, 1908:For the information of those persons who are apt to revile the people in this Colony for a supposed desire to deny the natives the common rights of mankind, the following particulars may be noted in passing regarding their position or standing in the State. Legal status may be somewhat difficult of definition, but in the case of the natives the civil rights which they enjoy which had been conferred by law compare very favourably with those of Europeans. For instance, Europeans can only sue or be sued in the Colonial Courts, while the natives sued both his own courts and the Colonial are open. He can equally with others possess moveable and immoveable property, and if for his own good he is restricted in the use of liquor, firearms and franchise, he enjoys a much wider connubial experience than the Europeans.That seems to me a flash of humour. They are not to have fire-water, firearms, and 1620 the franchise as being dangerous things for the natives. We have heard a great deal about the female franchise of late, but the idea of giving the natives females in lieu of the franchise is most comic and peculiar. Speaking quite plainly, the whole Report of this Native Affairs Commission does show that the rights of natives in Natal need to be more safeguarded. I will only make one further quotation from the Report, which says, on page 21:—The majority of the Commission contended that the exempted natives should be permitted individually to qualify for the Parliamentary franchise by means of education and the possession of landed property or income, and, by a system of registration based upon compliance with certain tests, have their names entered upon a special electoral roll, applicable to the whole Colony.At any rate, this shows that the majority of the Commission were of opinion that the natives ought to have some form of representation. We now find that by a bare majority they can take away that right of representation. I was one of those who during the war was called a Pro-Boer. I entirely sympathised with Lord Morley (then Mr. John Morley) when he characterised that war as one of "uncompensated mischief and irreparable wrong." We are doing what we can to compensate that mischief and repair that wrong. I deplore certain statements made by the leaders of the Dutch party—with whom we so fully sympathise—in regard to this native franchise. We must not forget that in this country and in this House we have immense responsibilities for the natives which, it seems to me, we are now shuffling off our shoulders, although in any court of honour or of justice it would be held that we could not free ourselves from them.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I regret the reference which the hon. Member made to the late war. After all, we are a long way removed from the pains and difficulties of that time, and I think if he visits South Africa again he will find that those who were most bitter against us as a race now realise that the war was inevitable. ["No."] I was led to make this remark on account of the statement made by the hon. Gentleman. I will not pursue it. The Committee understands perfectly well that I do not wish to import anything controversial into this Debate. The hon. Gentleman on my left (Mr. Keir Hardie) and other Members feel very strongly that the vote may possibly be taken away from the natives of both Cape Colony and Natal—in the case of the Cape by a two-thirds majority, and in the case of Natal 1621 by a bare majority. I agree with the Under-Secretary, who said that the evidence of history shows that the franchise once given is never taken away. We have an example of that in the United States, and if you were to poll the United States to-morrow ninety-nine one-hundredths would not take away the franchise which has been given.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The Amendment before the Committee proposes to extend to the Province of Natal the same benefits which Clause 35 confers upon the Province of the Cape of Good Hope in preventing disqualification.
§ 9.0 P.M.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I was using Cape Colony as an illustration. Personally, I have great sympathy with the arguments used by hon. Members, but I do not think there is the slightest possibility of the vote being taken away from Natal natives. On the contrary, I hope and believe that the franchise which has been given will be extended. The Leader of the Opposition on Monday night said that we could not solve this problem in this House by imposing upon the people of South Africa, or any portion of the people of South Africa, that which they do not desire to have at this moment. That I believe is the point. I think there is a constantly developing feeling in South Africa generally in regard to giving the natives increased advantages, not only politically, but educationally, and in every other way. This Constitution is a compromise. That compromise was arrived at amidst difficulties which we cannot understand, unless we have lived there or have known intimately the life of the people in South Africa. The difficulties are enormous. Natal, I believe, will be influenced by the progressive policy of the Cape. The Cape is essentially progressive, and there is seen there the successful application of the principle of local government. There are native district councils, where the native taxes himself and votes as much as £25,000 for educational purposes. Does anyone suppose that, with 51 members representing it, the most powerful and progressive portion of South Africa, with the most influence at the present time, naturally, by virtue of its position, in the new Parliament will not have enormous influence, because of the very success of its policy in the past? I think I am in order when I say that the fact of the Cape representation will produce a more forward 1622 policy in regard to Natal. I think I am in order in using that as an illustration.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I do not in the least oppose your ruling, Sir. I thought I was justified in saying that what the hon. Member desires will eventually be accomplished by extending the advantages which may be given to Natal, and, ultimately, I believe, by the advantages given also to the Transvaal and to the Orange River Colony.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I ask why this protection was given to the native in the Cape, who I agree is fairly strong and able to protect himself, and has been refused in Natal where he is weak. Can the Attorney-General explain why this protection is given to a two-thirds majority in the Cape, and withheld in Natal. Is it because the voters in Natal are mostly Indian gentlemen that it is proposed to-take away the franchise from them without any special protection. The point is one of some substance, and we ought to know why the distinction is made.
§ Sir W. ROBSON
I do not think it is very difficult to answer. In the case of the Cape the number of coloured voters forms an appreciable and important and substantial element, as compared with Natal. No doubt they are numerous enough to have a distinct effect on the policy of the Cape Parliament. In the case of Natal, a totally different state of things prevails. No party in South Africa would trouble about a franchise which resulted only in putting a very, very small number of persons on the register. Therefore Natal apparently does not desire this franchise should be protected, as nobody would desire it should be attacked. The fact is that it is left alone, and I do not suppose there is the slightest possibility anyone will take action against it. In the case of the Cape, if unfortunately any political party or body of men should set themselves to get rid of the coloured men, this is a protection.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH moved, in Section (1), to leave out from the word "colour" ["of his race colour"] to the end of the Clause.1623
§ This Amendment is of very great substance and, if I may say so, of very great importance, because, taken in conjunction with Clause 64, it gives the power of reservation of Royal Assent to Bills. Clause 64 provides "All Bills repealing or amending this section or any of the provisions. … under the heading' House of Assembly' and all Bills abolishing provincial councils. … shall be so reserved." It is rather a melancholy sight, only one Member sitting on the Conservative Benches, and still more melancholy that he represents Gravesend. As I understand, the clause as it now stands it empowers the Union Parliament, without any reservation, to limit the future electorate, that is, to discriminate between the coloured voters. They cannot affect those already on the register without being subject to reservation. Now, if these words are left out, there is no measure of discrimination which they can pass which is not immediately subject to reservation by the Crown. I submit that is a very important alteration. As I understand it, the future electorate under this clause as it now stands can be limited without any reservation. My object in moving this Amendment is to make it clear that if in future there is any discrimination by the Union Parliament to effect the colour bar that such an attempt at legislation would be subject to reservation and subject to Imperial control, I beg to move.
§ Sir W. ROBSON
I listened with some surprise to my hon. and learned Friend. The effect of his Amendment would be to cut out the most useful safeguard, one of which I think the whole House approved, against the disqualification of the coloured voter. Clause 35 deals not with the existing voter, but with coloured persons who may become voters under the existing Cape franchise. Section (2) of Clause 35 deals with existing voters. My hon. Friend proposes to omit from Section (1), and entirely remove those words which require any measure affecting the qualification of coloured voters to be passed by both Houses of Parliament sitting together, and with not less than two-thirds of the total members. He would really put those voters at the mercy of a majority of the Union Parliament. That clause which above all is intended to safeguard the position of the coloured voter, would now by the action of my hon. and learned Friend, who is himself a most sincere and able supporter of the 1624 coloured voter, be destroyed. The reservation we always have, and it does not require any special enactment with regard to this in regard to Clause 35. Really the Executive Government here can always by instructions to the Governor-General ensure any particular measure or clause of a measure would be reserved.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
The learned Attorney-General has been exceedingly plausible. He has taken certain words, and, if I may say so with great respect, with a vast amount of innocence, has told us to take this clause upon its face value, and that upon its face value it is a guarantee that the Union Parliament shall not be able to delete from its registers the names of future coloured voters in Cape Colony. That is all very well; but that is not the intention of the clause, nor of the proviso to which my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Ellis Griffith) objects. So far as I am concerned, I should feel that there is much more security in an Act of the Union Parliament passed for this purpose just in the ordinary way. I will tell the Committee why. The two-thirds majority is no safeguard at all. If the Attorney-General will go into the figures and distribution of the representation, he will see that the two-thirds majority simply means that if nine votes from the representatives of Cape Colony can be detached, the assumption being that the representatives of the other Colonies will vote for disfranchisement, the whole thing is done. It is no good, for the purpose of being polite and nice, to shut our eyes to the facts and feeling in South Africa and to follow in the footsteps of the Under-Secretary. We know that, in the opinion of three of the provinces, the coloured man should have no vote at all. In two of the provinces he has no vote now, not by any accident, but upon a principle which the typical citizen of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony holds to be as sacred, as rational, and as just as anything I hold to be sacred, rational, or just. We may put it this way: that it is part and parcel of his religious conviction that there is a gulf fixed between himself and the native which must be expressed in political inequality, and that it is essential to the expression of that political inequality that the native should have no vote at all. That is in respect to two provinces. As regards Natal, perhaps the less said the better. I suppose they would be as unanimous in Natal in regard to the political rights of 1625 the native as we were in regard to the position that we have just been discussing. Therefore the onus of maintaining the political rights of the coloured man in Cape Colony will lie on the Cape Colony representatives, and this magnificent safeguard, when interpreted in actual fact, is simply a device for enabling a majority in the State affected to be over-ridden by a majority of outsiders. Still, literally, the Attorney-General is right. It is a two-thirds majority.
Then we come to another point. The alternatives are these: A Bill passed by a bare majority, reserved for the Royal Assent, and a Bill passed by a two-thirds majority, reserved for the Royal Assent. If the two-thirds majority was really substantially different from a bare majority I am not at all sure that I should not consider that this safeguard was a good safeguard; but as it really means that the province where the strongest opinion and the largest vote can be had in favour of the native franchise is to be put in such a position that a minority of its representatives are to decide the future position of its registers, I say that it is no safeguard at all. From our point of view what is the difference? Supposing there came over to this country a Bill passed by a bare majority, taking away from Cape Colony citizens rights which have been recognised for years and years—rights which have not only been recognised, but have been valued by the natives, and the value and wisdom of which are admitted by practically 90 per cent, of the Cape Colony people to-day—should we not be in an infinitely stronger position to withhold the Royal Assent from such a Bill than we should be in withholding it from a Bill passed under this so-called safeguard of a two-thirds majority? In actual working this clause, first of all, is an invitation to take from the natives of Cape Colony political privileges which they now enjoy; secondly, under guise of being a safeguard, it is, as a matter of fact, an easy method of taking away those rights; and, thirdly, it really puts this country in a much more awkward position in making up its mind to disallow a Bill than would be the case with a Bill passed by a bare majority in the ordinary way. The simple fact that you are establishing special machinery to do a special piece of work means that when that special piece of work is done you are less entitled than you would be under ordinary circumstances to disallow that particular piece of work. Therefore, when one really understands the 1626 position of the Colonies, and knows what the intention of this provision is, the whole thing does not take the value which it bears on the face of it, but has the value which I have attempted to describe to the Committee. If there is the least doubt about that, and if the Attorney-General is really as innocent as his speech would seem to indicate, perhaps I may read the opinion of some of those who attended the Convention, and at whose instigation the so-called safeguard was included in the Bill. General Botha, speaking at Pretoria, on 4th February, said:—There is not a matter upon which I have stronger feeling than this. The native franchise was not a matter which the people of Cape Colony laid clown in the Constitution; it was given to the meat the time they received responsible Government; therefore under the circumstances the only possible course for us to follow was followed in our draft constitution—that was, to create machinery which would make it possible for the people of South Africa to solve this problem.That is a fair indication of what General Botha has in mind. I do not blame him for it. It is part and parcel of the opinion which he holds, which his fellow-countrymen hold, which we all know they hold, and to which we expect they will do their best to give political effect. General Smuts said:—On the first occasion it can be swept away (that is, the safeguard). It was found necessary that there should be some check, but it was not a powerful check; perhaps it was no check at all.I quite agree.it had been put there. But he did not think it meant to be.As a matter of fact it was never meant to be. These are other opinions. I quote them, not to put them on the same level as the two opinions, but as expressing the opinions of the ordinary man in the street—the man who honestly expresses what is the prevalent feeling of his fellow-countrymen. The first says:—So long as they did not turn traitor to their skin they would never allow a coloured man to have a vote in this country. The Constitution would give them power.That is the safeguard.And he declared when once they had diddled the British Government to give them this power, by jove, they should use it!That is the safeguard that the hon. Gentleman has been telling us is such an admirable system to keep the Cape Colony coloured voter upon the register for ever. Now, the whole point rests upon the position I took up on a previous Amendment, whether we have got any guarantee by the events which are happening in South Africa or elsewhere that the white races are recognising more fully or more generously than 1627 they have done before their proper obligations to the coloured races. I am bound to say that I believe, in spite of the per-fervid oration of the Under-Secretary, who stood up in such an unnecessarily manful way against those who had never said a word against the political morality of the leaders of South African opinion, and who simply made the reflection, which everybody knows is true, that where two streams of civilisation mix neither stream is so pure as if separate from each other; and where you have a white civilisation mixed up with a black civilisation you have to adopt a lower method of social—not individual—morality in order to effect what my hon. Friend the Member for Galway expressed in a previous speech—namely, to secure the independent existence—the pure existence, according to some theories—of the white race. The very fact that these provisions are put into the Bill shows some haunting idea in the minds of the very best friends of the natives in South Africa that something of the kind that I have been foreshadowing is going to happen. It was exceedingly suggestive that when the Under-Secretary quoted the opinions of a man who had been 40 years in South Africa, to show that his feelings for the coloured people were generous, and thus the two races were coming closely together—I say that it was most suggestive that that 40 years' resident was the Premier of Cape Colony, one who was spasmodically interested in the operation of this franchise that is going to be taken away under this Bill. The franchise is not going to be granted to any new qualified coloured people if a two-thirds majority of the united House has decided so: the franchise is going to remain so long as the existing Provincial Council, as it is now called, is concerned, after the power that makes the Provincial Council a Legislature is taken away from it. What we find is this: the Cape Colony Parliament is to be no longer a Parliament, but a County Council. Its financial powers are going to be the financial powers of an English county council. The powers of administration are, strictly speaking, powers of administration, and not powers of legislation. Whatever it desires of legislation it has got to present a petition for to the Parliament of United South Africa. Then the Under-Secretary tells us that the position of the voter in Cape Colony is not going to be deteriorated, and his powers are not going to be taken away. The fact of the matter is that the 1628 argument I am making is a perfectly sound argument. It is perfectly well understood by everybody in South Africa. Everybody who has expressed an opinion and defended their action, everybody concerned in depriving the coloured voter of his privilege, has stated perfectly honestly, perfectly candidly and clearly, that this clause is meant not to be a safeguard, but to be a method of depriving the coloured voter of his privileges! And as a proof of his opposite contention the Under-Secretary chooses to put up as evidence a man whose only experience in South Africa has been Cape Colony. But let me quote one who has also been in South Africa, and knows it even better than Mr. Merriman, and knows the tendency between the two races much better than Mr. Merriman; whose experience has been wider, and whose insight is equal. I refer to Sir Harry Johnson. He, referring to this clause, together with the clause that we debated earlier, says:—The mere suggestion of it is a backward step in the ethics of the British Empire.Sir Harry Johnson knows Africa perfectly well.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Nominally the argument we are using refers to South Africa. Nevertheless, it raises the Imperial issue. This latter argument has been made so often that I did not desire to trouble the Committee with a repetition of it. The argument I used was the tendency between the two races which is undoubtedly affecting South Africa, amongst other places, but Cape Colony least of all on account of the fact, that the native there has received a substantial measure of political recognition. Why I am opposing this, and why I am going to support the Amendment, is that the effect of this so-called guarantee, this apparent safeguard, is this, that the franchise is really going to be taken away from the Cape Colony native in such a way as to make it absolutely impossible for us here, when the time comes, to disallow the Bill. I would just like to hear the Under-Secretary then. I hope he will still be Under-Secretary for the Colonies, unless his merits have given him a higher position. But for the sake of the amusement that I, at any rate, shall have when the time comes, I should hope that my hon. Friend will be Under-Secretary, and is opposing the Resolution which we will put down to disallow the Bill for the disfranchisement of the Cape Colony 1629 natives. I know what he will say. He will speak in most eloquent and impassioned language, telling us about self-government, telling us—as he can do so well, and with bated breath—that "we must remember that this is not merely a Bill that has been passed by a bare majority in the United Parliaments; this is a Bill which was the subject of agitation; that both Houses had met before it was considered, and before it was settled; and in both Houses a two-thirds majority had actually to be found, yet hon. Members below the Gangway (he will say) have so little respect for a self-governing Empire that they will actually say that a Bill passed under such circumstances should be disallowed by His Majesty." That is an accurate forecast of his speech. I feel perfectly certain, when the time comes, and when he has sat down, that all his followers and his friends will agree that we were right in principle, but were wrong in practice. Although they will deplore taking away the franchise, they will feel that it is being taken away because it was passed by a two-thirds majority and not by a bare majority; by the two Houses sitting as one, and not by one House sitting separately from the other House.
§ Colonel SEELY
Something in the nature of a personal appeal has been made to me by the hon. Member who has just sat down. First of all, let me meet the point of the assumption that all the delegates and all the Members of the Union Parliament and the representatives of the Cape Parliament will be opposed to the native franchise. I think it so unlikely that it cannot be seriously contended. I have been looking since Monday into the history of such matters, and I find there is no precedent for the disfranchisement of a whole race of persons. I do not think it could be done, and I would strongly demur from any suggestion that this thing should happen. I do not think it is a fair statement of the case, and there certainly is nothing in this Bill to disfranchise a whole race. The only disqualification in this Bill is this disqualification of certain persons to sit in the Union Parliament. There is no disqualification of a whole race—that would be a thing quite apart from anything contemplated here. I would in broad terms appeal to the Committee, in discussing these things, not to lose sight of the fact that, taking the Bill as a whole—and it is a Bill of 152 clauses—that it is a high measure, showing a fine appreciation of the rights of the natives 1630 and showing that its promoters have not lost sight of the rights of the natives or of the interests of the natives to some share, not so much in political power, but to some share in the land they live in. It breathes throughout the whole of the clauses a spirit of conciliation and therefore I would urge upon the Committee that, although the Bill may have points to which exception may be taken, still it is a great measure, and we should not take upon ourselves to say that this great measure is designed by mean persons seeking by this means to take away rights from other people. That is foreign to the whole principle of the Bill, and it is foreign to the whole character of the people who framed it, and no one knows that better than my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. I appeal to the Committee to remember all the time that we are discussing a great measure, not only of conciliation between the white races of South Africa, but a conciliation between them and the black races also.
§ Mr. RYLAND ADKINS
I am rather glad to have an opportunity of speaking in favour of the Amendment of my hon. Friend to this clause of the Bill. I quite concur with what has fallen from the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies that it is unwise and untrue to assume that the worst would happen in South Africa and to assume that those carrying out this constitutional change are not quite as likely to be in sympathy with the dark races, and that they are to be in determined and persistent animosity to them. But the point of view I personally hold is this, I cannot see how the Imperial Parliament is justified in leaving the fate of the black franchise in Cape Colony to the risks of the future. Our partnership in the present state of things is not a passing acquiescence. It is specific and positive, as has been pointed out many times by the Colonial Office. What I feared to have heard during the Debate was that some Member of this House whose knowledge of Colonial history is far more detailed than mine would have got up and given us some precedent in favour of the clauses of the Bill, but so far nothing has been said to that effect. There is no precedent for the Imperial Parliament consenting to any Act which will take away existing rights and existing securities from fellow subjects of ours over whom this Parliament has responsibility. If that be true, as I believe it to be true historically, it is very difficult indeed to offer any argu- 1631 ment of expediency such as those we heard from both Front Benches, which would lead one to acquiesce in so remarkable a change of policy and such a departure from what has been the greatest safeguard of all the subject races in all parts of our Empire. I wish that this embarrassing doctrine of verbal instruction was not made at every turn of this discussion. It is to be regretted, and I think the blame does attach to the fact that there should have been left in the House of Commons no power to modify any of the details of this kind. I am sure if my hon. Friend's amendment were adopted and embodied in the Bill it would show that England adhered to her time-honoured attitude in seeing that where any race of people acquired rights under her flag they should never be deprived of them.
§ Mr. F. C. MACKARNESS
I only desire to say just one word in answer to the arguments raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, which appeared to amount to a charge of bad faith against the delegates who came to this arrangement. It seems to me he had no ground for making what is a very serious charge. He did quote, indeed, at length, two speeches by delegates of the Transvaal, where, as he knows very well, no vote at all is given to the native races. But these were speeches made to electors explaining that although this arrangement had been come to it was still left open to the Parliament to deal with franchise in the future. That is surely a very different thing from the suggestion that there was a deliberate attempt to hoodwink public opinion here and to enable the South African Parliament to brush the Cape native franchise aside at the first opportunity. The hon. Member does not venture to suggest that any of the delegates from the Orange River Colony or the Cape Colony, or even from Natal, suggested that. We have had the statement of the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony given to-night by the Under-Secretary in a totally opposite direction. There may be, of course, a great deal to be said for the Amendment of my hon. Friend upon its merits, but it is not at all necessary to support it by charges of the kind made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. I think his charges lose sight of the real point. At the present moment any self-governing Colony can alter the franchise by a bare majority. I think this proposal of a two-thirds majority has been made with the 1632 deliberate object of showing a desire to consult public opinion in this country by making alteration more difficult.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
In the quotations I made I was reading certain extracts not, as the hon. Gentleman has assumed, from election speeches, but from, speeches made in regard to what had happened at the Convention and made by General Botha and General Smuts, and they were not election speeches. If I may say so with due respect, there is a little difference between speeches to electors and election speeches. I thought I made it perfectly clear that the opinions I quoted were held perfectly honestly, and I had no intention whatever of making any such imputation as the hon. Member opposite has suggested.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
As I under stand it the effect of the clause as it now stands is that if the Union Parliament, by a two-thirds majority, says that in future no native or coloured voter shall appear on the register of Cape Colony, and a two-thirds majority of the joint Houses come to that conclusion, that Bill is not reserved. I think that is so.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I understand that the policy of this Bill is to trust the Colonies, but why trust them only when there is a two-thirds majority I Why cannot you trust a bare majority? If it requires a two-thirds majority on this question, why trust a bare majority in regard to other things? My hon. Friend will remember that when General Smuts made his speech on 24th February he spoke in the presence of General Botha, and he said that this provision was no check, and they never intended it as a check. If they had said it was a check it would be quite another thing, but they never intended it as a check. In saying this they were perfectly sincere, and I have not a word to say against that policy, but what will the natives say? General Botha, speaking in November, said: "No self-respecting white ought to sit in the same Parliament with a coloured or a black person." What will the natives and the coloured men think of that? I think we ought to take the ease of the natives into account, and that is why this Amendment ought to be accepted. Upon these Amendments we 1633 are speaking under extraordinary circumstances, because we have not had the courage to divide the Committee. I shall persist in speaking upon these Amendments, if only to show these natives and coloured voters that there are still some men left in the House who are prepared to champion their cause, and to show them that there is a vast body of public opinion in this country, whether represented in the Division Lobby or not, prepared to back them on the lines taken up in this Amendment. I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. R. W. ESSEX moved, in Section(1), to leave out the words "both Houses of Parliament sitting together and at the third reading be agreed to by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both Houses," and to insert instead thereof the words "the members representing the Province of the Cape of Good Hope in both Houses sitting together, and at the third reading be agreed to by not less than two-thirds of the total number of such members."
§ It seems almost hopeless to advocate even this miserable shred of liberty for these people in Cape Colony. If they have any electoral power, I have very little doubt that it is intended to be taken from them. We are told that we ought to treat South Africa with full and generous feelings of confidence. I know it is urged that those on the spot have a greater knowledge of these questions, much greater, in fact, than that which is possessed by the majority of the people in this country. The Prime Minister, speaking about the necessity for confidence in this way, said: "Our ideas, we believe, will prevail." That was to say, in his opinion, the time was approaching when there was to be a widening rather than a narrowing of the colour-franchise in South Africa. This Bill gives not the slightest glimmer of hope that that desired end is likely to arrive. I defy anybody to say there is here any substantial grant of large powers or liberty to the coloured people in South Africa. The one point only the Premier was able to offer us was that, after the passing of this Bill, the representatives of Cape Colony, being themselves elected in part by a coloured vote, would carry the influence of the coloured man's vote into the greater Parliament, which ruled over the united South Africa. When he had said that, he said no more. The beginning and the end apparently of 1634 the gain that was to come to the coloured man in South Africa was the shadowy grant of four persons who would look after his interests, and we do not seem altogether clear as to whether these interests may be reasonable or otherwise. We have carried on this Debate to-day under one very serious disadvantage. We were told that no Amendments would be accepted, so to-night, if this Bill passes, we ring down the curtain on another interesting experiment of bringing into the Empire, on the footing of hopefulness and expectation of the coloured people associated with us in building up an Empire. I want to know whether there is any necessity whatever to imperil the liberty which the coloured people in South Africa enjoy? My Amendment would, at any rate, ensure that the limitation of their powers should come from those who know them best, who have lived with them, who have worked with them, and who understand them.
§ 10 P.M.
§ There is another aspect of the question to which the House might have its attention drawn. The position of the coloured people in Cape Colony is, one might almost say, unique in the Empire. They are probably amongst some of the oldest settlers of the Eastern people speaking our speech. They are not an inferior type of people. I understand, in part, why a Transvaaler or a Free Stater objects to the liberty which is suggested should be given to the coloured native. But these others come from a higher type of the human life, and they might, if you will but infuse them with self-respect and reasonable aspirations, make splendid citizens. What is the secret of the antipathy in Natal to this clause being amended in favour of the few Indian voters at present on the list? It is a trade objection. The Indians in Natal, by cutting down the conditions of life, have managed to introduce tremendous competition, and the white man hates and abhors him. That is the secret of it there. In Cape Colony, however, these people are filling all sorts of posts and contributing in all sorts of ways to the social well-being. You would not have this clause in the Bill to-day if Cape Colony thought you were going to sweep these people out of the Colony. Not a bit of it. They are too valuable an asset. We want these people to be an object lesson to other Colonies similarly situated as to what may be done with a coloured population when it is trusted and when its reasonable aspirations are encouraged.1635
§ If you scorn and despise men you not only do not get the best out of them, but they become mean spirited and degraded, and I fear if those people who are strongly clamouring for a white South Africa have their way, we shall never have the lifting up of the head of the coloured man, be he Asiatic or African, within the length and breadth of that great country; and if they do at any time, under some great and inspired leader, break out, it will only provoke eruption, wild disorder, and bloodshed, to be trodden out by merciless force. We have here to regard this matter from the point of view of what our other Asiatic Imperial subjects think. I believe in many and many a distant home and palace in India this day's Debate will be read and pondered over, and all over the world the question is rapidly growing as to how long the intolerant domination of the proud white is going to last. The black people are wondering, not as to when full equality is to come, for that is not in the mind of the average coloured man, but when his elder white brother will take him by the hand and try and lift him on to a higher platform. I believe this clause makes the Bill a hypocritical Bill. I do not believe any real advantage will be conceded to the poor coloured man. I shall, however, have said my word in protest against this measure. I would not like to wreck it. God forbid that I should do that! we love South Africa too much. This clause, however, is framed in an ungenerous, unenlightened, unprogressive spirit. I abhor that section whilst commending the rest, and I deeply deplore that the House of Commons has been called upon to discuss it muzzled rather than in a free Imperial spirit, by which we might have held out a hope to the aspirations of coloured folk all over the world.
§ Colonel SEELY
I was glad to hear my hon. Friend say at the close of his interesting speech in moving this Amendment that he supported the Bill as a whole, and, "God forbid, we should lose it." He said that the Bill was conceived in an ungenerous spirit to the natives. Honestly I do not believe that to be the case. That was not the intention of the framers, nor is there anything in the clause we are now discussing which carries out that idea. While everybody else in South Africa will be disfranchised by a bare majority under this clause, the natives in Cape Colony cannot be disfranchised except by a rather 1636 more than two-thirds majority. It is suggested that the Union Parliament for this purpose shall divide itself up into its component atoms; that only the Cape members shall have a say in this matter, and that in their case there must be a two-thirds majority. I do not think we can ask the delegates to accept such an Amendment as that as being one which we can fairly claim to be an essential safeguard to the Cape native vote. In the view of the Government, the Cape native vote is adequately protected under the Bill, and to make this vital Amendment in a very unusual direction would be an unreasonable course to pursue. While, therefore, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend in being anxious to see the native franchise adequately protected, I must say the Government are convinced that it is so protected under the Bill, and we regret we cannot accept the Amendment proposed in that excellent speech to which we were all glad to listen.
§ Mr. REES
I must take exception to the description of the natives of India as a black race. They are people of a high civilisation, and, while I wish to speak with all respect of the inhabitants of the Cape who are dealt with in this Amendment, I must state that they belong to an absolutely different plane, and the Indians and the Africans should never be confounded. There is only one respect in which they resemble one another, and that is they really do not care at all for representative institutions. The hon. Gentleman will remember that when the Indians were complaining of the treatment they met with in South Africa they have always been at pains to say, "We do not want representation; we only want to be relieved of humiliating conditions." I desire to protest against the way in which India has been most irrelevantly introduced into this Amendment. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) suggested that there was a great Imperial danger if this Amendment were not passed, and that there was a possibility that the people of India might be offended and goaded into rash acts. But the danger is rather the Imperial danger of self-governing Colonies being coerced by this Parliament into doing that which they do not want to do. There is no similarity of sentiment or solidarity of interest between the 300,000,000 of natives in India and the 5,000,000 in South Africa. To suggest otherwise is one of the most absurd things that could be 1637 laid before Parliament. On many occasions before self-government was given to South Africa I pleaded for these Indians, but now I am bound to say I do not think they care the least bit about this matter. All they want is liberty to trade freely. They are impeded in their trade by the regulations. I wish to protest as strongly as I can in the same terms as the Under-Secretary used in the admirable speech he recently delivered against that self-righteousness which induces certain hon. Members to assume that Members of this House have a monopoly of all the virtues. I was distressed to see the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Cox) led astray in that direction; but, after all, the net result of his excessive logic was a recommendation, which has luckily no chance of being accepted, that all troops should be withdrawn from South Africa.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I really do not see what this has to do with the question before the Committee.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
Are we to understand that the two-thirds majority in the Union Parliament means a two-thirds majority of the Cape members? I think that is the object we should aim at.
§ Colonel SEELY
If I can commend this matter to the authorities in South Africa I shall be glad to do so. I do not think it is necessary, but I will see, at any rate, that they are informed of the views put forward by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. MORTON
Although a great number of these Amendments are moved and withdrawn, still it will let the people on the other side know that we are anxious for their interests. The Amendment will be withdrawn in the usual way.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. LUPTON moved, in Section (1), after the words, "A Bill so passed at such joint sitting shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses of Parliament," to insert the words, "but no such law shall become operative until it has been sanctioned by an Act of the Imperial Parliament."
§ This Amendment is one which I feel certain the Under-Secretary for the Colonies cannot possibly resist. We have heard all the way through that the right of veto would be reserved, and I want to make it quite clear. The Under-Secretary has intimated, and I have no doubt sincerely believes, that this horrible suggestion of this two-thirds majority being used for 1638 the purpose of taking away the franchise in Cape Colony will not be carried out, and I gather that, supposing it is, it would, he thinks, be a case for the exercise of the Royal Veto. I propose to put an Amendment in the Bill which would make this quite secure, as we are all in agreement about it. If that is put in, it is quite certain that the franchise cannot be taken away in any hole-and-corner way, although, of course, it is possible for an Under-Secretary for the Colonies to come down to this House and say that a Bill must pass without the slightest Amendment, or South Africa would be ruined, and perhaps carry it by means of a majority from the smoking and reading rooms. I confess it would be a much more serious thing to over-ride the vote of a Parliament constituted under this Act than to amend this Bill, but now is the time to prevent this wrong being done, and I, therefore, move this Amendment, and await with interest the reply of the Under-Secretary.
§ Colonel SEELY
The point raised by the Amendment is an interesting one but I think the hon. Member really means to refer to the question raised by Mr. Schreiner in a letter to "The Times." The point would be better dealt with on the next Amendment. The actual method he suggests for ensuring Imperial control would be so entirely unprecedented and so obviously unreasonable that I do not think he would wish to press that. What he wants to ensure is that the Government of this country shall have a say in the matter under all circumstances. I think I shall be able to satisfy the Committee on that important point on the next Amendment.
§ Mr. LUPTON
The Under-Secretary says my Amendment is unreasonable because it is unprecedented. Has he any precedent at all for this Bill? Is there any case in the world where a two-thirds majority of white representatives in three Colonies, where the natives have no vote, shall disfranchise the natives in another Colony? If you have an extraordinary condition of affairs you want extraordinary methods of dealing with them. That seems to me quite evident and very reasonable.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. GEORGE GREENWOOD moved to add at the end of Section (1) the words, "but any such Bill shall be reserved by the Governor-General for the signification of the King's pleasure thereon."1639
§ The Prime Minister and, I think, the Under-Secretary stated that it was provided by the Bill automatically that in the case of a Bill being passed by the Union Parliament to provide by a two-thirds majority that in the future no natives should be on the register, that Bill by the provisions of this Bill would necessarily be reserved for the (signification of His Majesty's pleasure. The Bill specially reserves certain matters for the signification of the King's pleasure, and the Amendment I am now proposing would make it clear that a Bill dealing with the qualification of voters should also be reserved. I have searched through his Bill, and I have not been able to find any provision that such a Bill would be reserved for the signification of the King's pleasure. It is said that if it is not so reserved special instructions could be given to the Governor-General to reserve such a Bill, but I think it would be very much more satisfactory to have it stated in the Bill.
§ Colonel SEELY
This point is one of considerable technicality, but to me, at any rate, it is one of great interest. I hope I shall make it clear to the Committee in a few words, although it is technical. The question is whether there is a double safeguard against the taking away of the native vote in Cape Colony. The Prime Minister and myself both stated in the Debate the other day that there was a double safeguard. But my hon. Friend asks: Do the safeguards both operate together? With regard to existing rights and with regard to natives in Cape Colony there is no doubt whatever that for those who have the vote there is a double safeguard. My hon. Friend will see that under Section (2) of Clause 35 no one can lose the vote under any circumstances. The only way he could do it is by an Amendment of the Constitution, which can be done by a two-thirds majority. So much for the natives who have already got the vote. There the double safeguard exists. Though he did not put it in this form, Mr. Schreiner, in a letter to "The Times," in effect asked: Are you quite sure in regard to future rights that they are safeguarded? I know it is not contemplated, and I vehemently demur to its being contemplated that these rights should not be safeguarded, but let us talk of it in the abstract. Supposing a Bill were passed through Parliament without the necessary 1640 two-thirds majority disqualifying future voters or disqualifying for registration in future, then it is said that Section (2) of Clause 35 does not operate because it only protects persons who already have got the vote. Now let us turn to Clause 36. Put in broad language, it says that the qualification for the Union Parliament shall remain the same as it is for existing Parliaments. Therefore, it is urged by those who take what is called the South African view, the view of the framers of the Act, that whatever else you may say at the beginning of the clause, if you alter the qualification you do in effect amend Clause 36, which comes under the operation of Clause 35, involving a two-thirds majority. Against that it may be urged that the first line of the clause, "subject to the provisions of the last preceding section," over-rides that consideration, because, although it does in effect alter the qualification, although people who were going to have the vote are not going to have it now, although everything is changed, yet it is not an Amendment to the Bill, because the point of Amendment is provided for in the Bill; and that it is not an Amendment of the clause itself, although it is an Amendment of the provisions of the Bill. I have submitted this matter to legal authorities—in fact, to all the highest legal authorities. Those who are less cognisant of the South African side of the matter are inclined to read the law as I have first stated it, that it is an Amendment of the Bill. On the other hand, my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is of opinion that, although that view may be an arguable view, yet it is quite possible, taking the first line, "subject to the provisions of the last preceding section," that the Bill might not be considered by a court of law to be amended, although the qualification was amended. I am glad to be able to announce that I have dealt with the matter, having consulted my hon. friend Mr. Schreiner, and the matter is now merely an academic one. For in order that there may be no possible mistake in the matter it is provided in the Royal Instructions that any such Bill shall be reserved, and therefore the matter becomes purely academic. If anyone takes the view that the Instructions are liable to alteration, I may say that that is not a likely case, because we in our party are not likely to advise His Majesty to alter the Instructions with a view to taking away other people's votes easily. I trust that I have met the points which have been raised.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 36 to 63 inclusive, agreed to.