§ Question again proposed.
§ Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "And humbly pray Your Majesty that instructions be given to the Governor-General of the Union of South Africa that the Indemnity Bill, now under discussion in the Parliament of the Union of South Africa, shall be reserved under Section 64 of the South Africa Act, 1909, until a judicial inquiry be instituted into the circumstances of the proclamation of Martial Law within the Union and into the scope of the Indemnity Bill, particularly the provision relating to the deportation of trade union leaders."—[Mr. Ramsay Macdonald.]
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I rise for the purpose of moving the Amendment which is down on the Paper in my name. I want to say right away that it is a matter of special regret to me that the Amendment should refer to anything done by the South African Government, a Government to which we owe much patience, much forbearance, and very much sympathy. Nevertheless, the action which it has taken in the proclamation of martial law and the special form winch it has given its Indemnity Bill compels us to take some notice of its action. I should like also, as a preliminary, with reference to the observation which fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite when he wound up the Debate last evening, and when he stated that the action which we would review to- 354 day with hostility would throw a very illuminating light upon the Home Rule controversy, to say that I admit frankly and freely that local self-government is bound to cause us difficulties in detail, such as those we are going to consider now. But I would far rather face those difficulties in detail than attempt to commit the insane folly of governing the Empire without self-government. The reason why my Amendment has taken the form it does will be apparent to the House if I may be allowed to quote the first part of Section 64 of the South Africa Act. That says:—When a Bill is presented to the Governor-General for the King's Assent, he shall declare, according to his discretion, and subject to the conditions of this Act, and to such instructions as may from time to time be given in that behalf by the King, that he assents in the King's name, or that he withholds his assent, or that he reserves the Bill for the signification of the King's pleasure.4.0 P.M.
The matter has been specifically provided for in the South Africa Constitution Act. I therefore claim that the terms of my Amendment in no way entrench upon the rights of self-government enjoyed by the South African Union. I have quoted from the Constitutional Act. It was evidently premeditated and foreseen by the authors of the Act that matters of the sort might arise, and they are provided for specifically in the provisions of that Act. Therefore, no Member of this House can get up this afternon, with Section 64 in his mind, and accuse me of attempting, either by my Amendment or by criticism, to limit the rights of self-government given to South Africa by this Imperial House. I admit that there is one little difficulty which we have to face, that is the difficulty of facts, but in view of the way in which this Bill will have to be rushed through the South African Union Parliament, in view of the necessity of us allowing no chance to pass, and no opportunity to go without expressing our opinion on the events that have taken place in South Africa during the last few weeks, I venture to say that there is a sufficient body of facts now at our disposal to justify us in entering upon the Debate this afternoon. It is perfectly true that the cables have all been censored. That means, however, that only what was in favour of the action of the Government has come through. Therefore, we take them with that estimation of their value.
355 It is perfectly true that the news agency which has the responsibility for supplying the news from South Africa to this country has got a bias, and a bias always consistently and persistently against us. It is perfectly true that everything we have got has been carefully sifted and winnowed, so that if anything could be kept back in the nature of censure upon South Africa it has been kept back, and if upon the information we have got I can establish the simple proposition that the condition of affairs in South Africa did not justify the proclamation of martial law, then I submit that further evidence would be of the nature of strengthening my case rather than of weakening it. Let me begin by referring to the long statement made by General Smuts. I do not want to discuss it; I only make this observation: that all of us who have the pleasure and honour of some intimate personal acquaintance with General Smuts know he is a man not only acute, but able. We know perfectly well that if a case could be made out in favour of any action which the Government took General Smuts is the man exactly to make it. It must be remembered that the South African Government has seized private letters, private papers, private books, and private documents, and has laid its hands upon the offices of the Trades Union in Johannesburg. It has put policemen inside these offices, and it has taken their documents as well as their money. Therefore every particle of evidence that could have been at the disposal of any Minister was at General Smuts' disposal, and must have been reflected in the speech he delivered before the South African Parliament. I do not want to characterise that speech; I will allow Mr. Merriman to do it, and the only extract from Mr. Merriman's speech reported in our papers today that I will give is this: he said of General Smuts and the other speeches made that in each there was remarkably slender evidence of conspiracy. That is quite enough, I venture to say, judging by the speech which Mr. Duncan made at an earlier stage of the South African Debate, to show the line which Mr. Merriman is going to take will be supplemented by Mr. Duncan.
Again, those of us who know the value of Mr. Duncan's services from the time he went out to South Africa, first of all under conditions of grave stress and exceptional difficulty, will, I think, bow with respect before any opinion Mr. Duncan 356 may express in the South African Parliament. There are one or two points that have appeared in our papers that perhaps the House will pardon me if I turn aside for a moment to consider. It has been alleged that the conditions in South Africa are such that severe measures, like the proclamation of martial law, can quite reasonably be taken much more frequently than would be justifiable for a Government to take either here or in Canada or Australia. I venture to say that whilst that as a general proposition may be perfectly sound, it will not be sufficient for hon. Members this afternoon opposing my Amendment to lay it down as a general proposition. They must give us the facts, they must tell us what happened during the last three or four weeks, if they base their action in regard to my Amendment upon that general proposition. There is the statement made that the strikers were in possession of dynamite. If that were true it would be serious, but, as a matter of fact, only four strikers were arrested for being in the possession of dynamite. Three who were brought before the magistrate were immediately discharged, and the other was discharged in a very short time after certain inquiries were made. That is the whole substantial case upon which the statement was made that dynamite was in possession of the strikers and the trade unionists or Syndicalists, of whatever name they go by, who have been subjected to the operations of martial law. But there is one curious thing in connection with this point which I hope the House will remember.
In 1911 there was a strike of municipal employé in Johannesburg, and the accusation was made against a person of the name of Whittaker, a tramway worker, that he was laying dynamite on the tramlines. He was arrested, put in prison, in solitary confinement, and was not allowed legal advice or to interview his lawyer, and he was tried. In the course of the proceedings—I am not going into the full story—it was discovered that a witness against this man—it is all on record, and is not tittle-tattle—was in the pay of the police, and as a police agent had gone about and suggested to various persons that they should place dynamite on the public thoroughfares. The case came up before a magistrate, and then there was subsequent proceedings which came before the High Court, and which were the subject of various judges' decision, and in the end the accused person, Mr. Whittaker, 357 was acquitted. But what happened then? The police spy was immediately put upon Government railway service, and the Government knew his record. These men who are now being accused in a general way of using dynamite protested against working alongside of this man. Their protests were overruled and he remained in the Government's service. This incident which does throw a certain amount of light upon these extraordinary stories which are being told against the trade unionists of South Africa will, I hope, lead hon. Members of this House, at any rate, to reserve their opinion when honest trade unionists are accused of plotting diabolical actions against the lives of their fellow subjects.
The other cause brought up is the racial peculiarities of the South African population. Again I admit quite frankly and unreservedly that that as a general proposition is perfectly true; but is there any evidence in the events in South Africa this year to justify the statement that the Government were faced with serious racial disorder and danger. The only case was the raid at Jaggersfontein, but everybody knows that had nothing to do with the strike. The natives living in Jaggersfontein considered that in regard to one of them who had been murdered, the case was not receiving fair and equitable judicial treatment, and they gave trouble as a protest against that; but that had as much to do with the strike as the suffragette procession on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament had to do with the proclamation of martial law in South Africa, and the curious thing in the Jaggersfontein raid or trouble, was the extraordinary way, in recent leading articles, and special article about the situation in South Africa, in which that incident was mixed up with the strike and the labour trouble, suggesting, I venture to say, rather dishonesty than ignorance on the part of those responsible. Then a final observation which I make under this head is the attempt to cast some slur upon the character, particularly of the deported men. The Law Courts are open. If there is anything to say against these men's characters let it be said in the proper place, but that does not justify martial law and deportation. I am not now dealing with individuals, but with citizens, and I venture to remind, at any rate, hon. Members who sit upon this side of the House, that Providence has very often chosen the most unsavoury characters in order to be the medium of progressive reform.
358 The name of John Wilkes is not altogether unknown to Radical politicians, and his reputation is not altogether unknown to the general public of the country. I have nothing to do with personal characteristics, I have simply got to do with certain actions of the Government which I believe are contrary to the traditions of the Constitution of this country. Now, what happened was simply this: there was social inconvenience on account of the strike. I admit it, there was a threat that the food supplies of Johannesburg might be cornered; prices go up, and a certain amount of inconvenience caused. I admit it. It is perfectly true Johannesburg is supplied by a single line; it is not the fault of the trades union, but of the Government. The Government all this time has closed its eyes to the fact that the facilities for the supply of the Johannesburg population are inadequate, and they have done nothing in providing better supplies to remedy the deficiency. That is its lookout, and not the fault of the railway servants or anybody else. We have in South Africa social inconveniences; we had an attempt on the part of the workmen, by combined action, to force it in front of the Government, so that the Government might sympathetically consider certain claims that they have made; and if the Preamble of the Indemnity Bill is carefully studied there is not a single phrase in it, there is not a single claim in it, there is not a single charge in it, that could not be made in respect, say, of the High Wycombe strike and the strikers active in that town at this moment. The 4th and 5th clauses of the Preamble go on to say, "Whereas certain persons whose names are set out in the Schedule to this Act have by various acts, words, and conduct, during 1913 and the present year, so created unrest amongst the wage-earners," and so on, in familiar language, but that simply amounts to a hostile description in general terms of the most ordinary trade-union action in times of trade disputes. That is all it amounts to. Up to now, at any rate—not even excluding the case of Natal, which every constitutional authority now admits was a bad case, although when I raised it in this House the House of Commons was not prepared to say exactly that it was a bad case—the only justification which has been accepted as adequate for the proclamation of martial law is a state of war. The expression "state of war" may be defined with a certain amount of liberal imagination, but no hon. Member can take up the 359 Preamble of this Indemnity Bill and pick out from it any statement, or any claim, or any charge, that can by any stretch of the imagination be construed into such a grave situation as to justify the expression "a state of war." That is the first point which I want to make.
In order to make it clear, and to fortify it by facts, I hope the House will allow me to recite in a very few sentences what actually happened before the proclamation of this martial law. The House will remember that in July there was a strike on the Rand. In order to quell that strike the South African Government applied to the Governor-General, Lord Gladstone, for Imperial troops; those troops were supplied, and in due course the strike was settled. General Smuts, in a speech which he delivered the other day in moving the Second Reading of this Indemnity Bill, used an expression regarding the settlement of the strike which I hope does not escape the observation of hon. Members of this House. General Smuts said he felt that in settling that strike, and in putting his hand to the instrument which closed it, that he was disgraced and grievously offended in consequence. It was evident from the words which he used that the whole thing had rankled in his mind ever since then. It is quite clear he approached the present Government with prejudices rankling and rampant in his mind. He has confessed so much. How do the recent circumstances arise? The railway men had very great grievances, and the Government admitted those grievances so far that it appointed a Commission to inquire into them. No sooner did the Government agree to appoint a Commission than it began to take action which unsettled the confidence of the railway men that the Commission was going to do anything for them or that it was going to act in a judicial capacity. The representatives of the railway men were to be elected first of all. It is perfectly well known that the South African Government—this came over in the newspapers long before the trouble broke out at all—did its very best to get Mr. Duncan elected as the men's representative. The men themselves nominated Mr. Poutsma, who is now on the high seas, deported. He was elected as their representative by an overwhelming majority. It was a bad opening for the Commission that there should be some conflict raising suspicion in the minds of the 360 great mass of the trade unions concerned, but that is not all. I see the fact that this Commission has been in existence has been used as a reason why the men should not strike.
This Commission, when it was still taking evidence, was told by the manager of the railways that the men were going to be discharged One of the grievances and one of the complaints of the men was that retrenchment was being pursued as a definite policy of the railways, and therefore one of the questions which was referred to the Commission was actually being dealt with whilst the Commission was sitting. I ask any hon. Member, irrespective of his political opinions, what he would do under those circumstances? Would he wait if he found that claim after claim he was making, and grievance after grievance he was voicing, instead of being considered by the Commission, was actually being dealt with by the Government whilst the Commission was sitting and taking evidence on those points? That actually took place. Hon. Members opposite will have great sympathy with this, because I remember it was dealt w7ith by the late Mr. Lyttelton one year when considering the question of retrenchment in regard to Civil servants. I admit it was a somewhat different point. The fact of the matter is the men see the volume of railway business going up, they find the trains being lengthened, and the numbers increasing, and then when retrenchment takes place at that time and when reductions in wages also take place, what conclusion can they come to? What conclusion can they come to when they find the people who are retrenched, discharged, and the people whose wages are reduced happen to be the active men in the trade unions? All this happens whilst the inquiry is going on. Moreover, when they make their protest, the manager says he is only retrenching seventy men, but, as a matter of fact, they have evidence that 494 names are on the list waiting for discharge. These are the things which unsettled and upset the railway men in South Africa before they came out on strike, and it was those experiences which, acting upon their minds, had inflamed their feelings and suspicions, and made them declare for a strike. That was the first thing.
Then our syndicalist friends came in. I will tell the House what I think of syndicalists and syndicalism. I consider them the greatest enemies to organised labour. I have said so before, and I am prepared to 361 say it right through. They came in, and a general strike was declared. What I want this House to remember—I am still trying to make it clear that no state of war was ever created in Johannesburg at all. As soon as the syndicalists came in, a great meeting was held on 11th January in the Market Square of Johannesburg, and a resolution was carried declaring a general strike. The newspaper accounts of that meeting are quite unanimous in describing it as large and peaceful, and the speeches as dull. Every man who addressed that meeting begged it to keep quiet, and begged it to do nothing except simply come out on strike. They told it that any display of force or any threat of violence would be immediately met by armed force on the part of the Government, and the description of its dispersal was that the people simply went quietly away, as if they had been attending some Sunday religious service, and were going home to think over what they had heard at the service. One paper says there was no enthusiasm in the meeting, and the dispersal took some time, the people talking quietly together in groups. Then after that the speeches which men like Mr. Bain delivered in great quantities and at considerable length did not contain, so far as I have seen—and the newspapers are over here now—one single sentence that if read in with the sentences that preceded or succeeded it, could be taken to mean anything at all except the ordinary exhortations of a leader of men trying to keep his men united. Three days after the strike took place, Mr. Bain made a statement in which he said:—He would suggest us a working basis that they should form a hoard of administration of railways, composed equally of nominees of workers and the Government.This revolutionary person who is supposed to be advocating civil war is actually asking his followers to authorise him to go to the Government to suggest, the formation of a board of management which would be composed partly of working men and partly of Government officials. That is true, not only in Johannesburg but in Cape Town In Cape Town there was a mass meeting of men employed on the railways, and their secretaries and presidents went to it and urged them to vote against a strike. They did vote against it, and they remained at work; but owing to one of those unfortunate blunders that very often happen under those circumstances, Sir Thomas Smartt obtained liberty to go inside the railway works and address the men next day. The men re- 362 sented interference. Mr. Poutsma was arrested, and then, and only then, did the Cape Town men join the strike. These facts one can glean from the newspapers, and occurred and were published before martial law was proclaimed. These are the facts which would enable one to follow in their minds the development of this unfortunate trouble, and I repeat that the whole circumstances of the case, troublesome as they were undoubtedly, and difficult as they were, never came within a thousand miles of justification of the proclamation of martial law. This is a sentence from a memorandum of a leading trade union which an official sent to me:—The story which has been assiduously put about by the Union press, and no doubt cabled home, of a syndicalist revolution is entire rubbish and without the slightest foundation, being designed partly fur British consumption and partly to enlist middle-class sympathy out here.That is a description of what was taking place in South Africa, and on that martial law was proclaimed. My first contention is, that that does not justify the proclamation of martial law. Immediately martial law was proclaimed, as hon. Members know, a series of arrests took place. The executive of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers was arrested, and its money was taken. Several representatives of the railway men were arrested, members of the Union Parliament were arrested, including Mr. Cresswell and town councillors. No charge was made against them, and no solicitors were allowed to see them. Men standing conversing in the streets like Mr. Cresswell were taken charge of by a policeman. One man who smiled at a policeman was brought before the magistrate. Remember that it was an exceedingly hot summer, the middle of January being the summer there, and people frequently went out to spend the cooler parts of the evening on the slopes in front of their houses. Hon. Members can understand what a curfew law is when put into operation if a man standing on his doorstep smoking a cigar in the evening is regarded as having broken that law, and hon. Members can understand what absurd provocation was used by the South African Government in the administration of the proclamation under martial law.
There is the case of a man standing on his own doorstep, because his house was so frightfully hot on account of the weather, smoking a cigar, arrested by a policeman, brought before a magistrate, and fined £2 with the 363 option of seven days' imprisonment. Whilst all this was going on, the law was perfectly effective. Let us assume that there was conspiracy, and let us assume that there was sedition talked. The law was perfectly effective; the judges were sitting in their courts every day, and nobody ever obstructed them or threatened them. As a matter of fact, an application was heard with reference to the deported persons, and the judge expressed certain opinions which are, very valuable, and which ought to guide the Home Government in its action in this respect. General Smuts said that they could not get convictions under the Law of Sedition in South Africa. Of course, it is unfair to say that his statement is inaccurate because his full statement has not come over apparently, but, if he did say what he is reported to have said, he is absolutely inaccurate, because convictions have been got under the Sedition Law in South Africa. Sentences up to seven years may be imposed, and sentences have been imposed; certainly one to my knowledge of six months. The difficulty that the Government of South Africa had to face was that it had no evidence at all. Even when it got all the evidence that was at its disposal, all the books and all the private letters of the leaders of the Labour party in South Africa, it had no evidence to bring any of them before the courts. That is why they resorted to martial law. We admit that trade unionism is being very very troublesome to the present Government. General Smuts is smarting under the humiliation of the July settlement. Victimisation has been practised by Government officials against trade unionists on the railway, and men prominent in the trade union movement have been practically banished from the country by being boycotted by Government officials. Wanting to finish it altogether, wanting to make a complete job of it, and not being able to pursue the matter in the courts because they knew perfectly well that they had got no evidence upon which the courts would convict, they made up their minds that by one fell and comprehensive swoop of illegality, the Executive would clear the whole thing out and crush out trade unionism on the Rand if they possibly could. There is another sentence from a memorandum published:There is the gravest reason to believe that the crisis was deliberately sought and prepared for by the Government in order once and for all to kill the labour movement by a coup de main. As it has been an 364 essentially constitutional and law-abiding movement, this could only be effected by suspending the law. It is a deliberate effort to suppress political opponents by removing their leaders and terrorising their rank and file, and at the same time to swamp Herzogism by exciting Dutch reprisals against a common enemy.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
It is a memorandum, which I have got here and which I will be very pleased to hand to the hon. Member, issued by several leading trade unionists, including Members of Parliament, who say that certain members who would have signed it have been either deported or sent to gaol, and would prefer that their names should not be given in public, and I think that the House will, under the circumstances, observe that. It is a very admirable statement of the case. They say:—Several gentlemen who agreed in the first instance to the outline of this memorandum have, since its drafting, been cast into prison under the provisions of Ordinance 38 of 1902, and consequently, under the terms of Government notice 43 of 10th January. 1914 —although only awaiting trial — prisoners are not permitted to sign any document not revelant to the subject of their discharge, for these and other obvious reasons, the gentlemen not yet in prison under Ordinance 38 of 1902–all British subjects—are not prepared, for the sake of their wives and families, to sign their names to this memorandum. We trust in these circumstances that the authorities at home will not hesitate to accept our bona fides, remembering the difficult position in which we are at present placed. All we ask is that Great Britain shall be just to her sons before she is generous to the strangers within her gates. Do we ask in vain?I think that explanation will be sufficient to excuse me from mentioning the names, which I can perfectly easily impart to any hon. Member who desires to have them. We had then an attempt on the part of the South African Government to suppress trade unionism. There is not the least doubt about that. Trade unionism and the action of trade unionism in South Africa are no doubt awkward and troublesome, but, nevertheless, collective bargaining, with all that it means, from merely joining an association to coming out on strike, has been the one method by which the working classes of every country in the world have been able to improve their conditions. In the Australian Colonies the labour movement has gone in for politics. It has supplemented its industrial action with political action, and, having established a confidence in the State, it has apparently surrendered its right to strike under any circumstances, because it has protected itself by legal and judicial safeguards; but until those legislative and judicial safeguards are set up in any country, it is, I assert, part of the essential rights of citizenship that working men may combine, 365 may meet in common, act in common, may hold meetings, may elect officers, may give them plenary powers, and in the last resort may strike and lay down their tools until their grievances have been considered and redressed. That is my first point. Nothing in the circumstances of South Africa justified the proclamation of martial law.
The next point is a little bit more serious. We all admit, at any rate I am not one to resist it, that if a Government proclaims martial law it is going to have its indemnity. We can proclaim and protest against it, as I think we ought if we feel as I certainly do and as my colleagues do regarding the circumstances under which martial law was proclaimed in South Africa, but when it is over, and when the crisis has passed, then the Government produces its Indemnity Bill, and I suppose it must go through, though it must, I submit, go through after very careful scrutiny, and the Home Government ought to be exceedingly careful not to allow Indemnity Bills, year after year, to be widened in their scope and to change steadily every time that we have a new Indemnity Bill the constitutional principles upon which Indemnity Bills were supposed to be drawn. They allowed a Natal Indemnity Bill to go through with provisions that had never been, inserted in any Indemnity Bill before. Now, there is a new thing in this, and I would appeal to the Government not to allow this Indemnity Bill to go through in its present form. I refer to the deportation clause, Clause 4, with its complementary schedule. I see that General Smuts, in that speech which he delivered, referred to certain action I took with reference to the deportation of a gentleman known as Mr. Cole from British East Africa. He informed Parliament that I. signed some memorial to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Harcourt) asking for his deportation. I never heard of such a memorial I never saw such a memorial, and I certainly never signed such a memorial. I only mention this now in case somebody has got it up his sleeve, and to save time.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
If the point had been raised in that way it would have raised another matter altogether. I make this statement with a great amount of assurance: There is not a single lawyer 366 in this House who will say that the deportation of Mr. Cole from British East Africa has any likeness whatever, or any similarity whatever, from a constitutional point of view, to the deportation of the nine men from South Africa. I simply deal with facts. It is stated that I signed a petition in favour of his deportation. I say that I never saw such a petition, and I never knew that there was such a thing. As a matter of fact, I have made some inquiries, and I do not believe that there ever was such a memorial. It has been laid down by the courts of South Africa as recently as 1907 that deportation cannot be a punishment for any crime. I understand that is the case. If the Government of South Africa, in its Bill of Indemnity, had asked indemnity for deporting those men, I think it would have been in order. If they are going to be indemnified at all, they must ask to be indemnified for every illegal act they have done. Therefore, I would not have raised the point at all if they had simply asked to be indemnified for having ordered and having effected the deportation, but that is not what the Bill says. The Bill goes further. It is not an Indemnity Bill at all. In Clause 4 we have got a separate proposal; we have got a separate legislative proposition, and that proposition is in the nature of a Bill of Attainder. Surely we do not require at the beginning of the twentieth century, to ask the British House of Parliament to express an opinion upon a Bill of Attainder. The Legislature has gone back upon everything which was supposed to have been settled in that respect, and it says we are not only in times of suspension of the law to punish people, but we are going to put a Clause into our Indemnity Bill which makes that punishment a legislative act. We are going back to the old times when Legislature, and not the Judiciary, punished criminals.
I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House. Cannot we for once, at any rate, in spite of the many divisions that separate us, unite in trying in some way or other—I suppose they will say that voting for my Amendment would be the wrong way; very well, I do not mind, but cannot we unite in some way or other, either by an expression of opinion in this House, publicly made, or by private representations in some way or other to convince the South African Government that it must take Clause 4, in so far as it is a Bill of Attainder, out of this Indemnity Act? Clause 4 declares that these men 367 shall be undesirable aliens, or "prohibited emigrants," is, I think, the phrase used. If the South African Parliament or the Government wish to redefine what an undesirable alien, or prohibited emigrant should be, let it do it by general legislation. Let it introduce a Bill and get it passed, and then, if any of the gentlemen who are deported care to go back to South Africa, let them raise their case in the Courts, and let a judge, sitting as a judicial authority, listening to and weighing the evidence, settle whether they are going to re-establish their domicile there. I believe that from every quarter of this House I shall receive assent to my proposition in that respect. I believe my right hon. Friend has only to express an opinion to the South African Government, through the Governor-General, to that effect, and the South African Government, on calm consideration, will see that it is destroying the constitutional liberties of the British people, and that it is doing a great disservice to the Empire of which it is part, and will remove the objectionable parts of that Clause.
I have raised this subject, and it is a very difficult subject to raise here. One has to skate over somewhat thin ice. One is perfectly well aware of the jealousies of self-governing Dominions; one desires to be absolutely generous when giving self-governing powers, and one does not desire to interfere in the exercise of those powers once they are given. But there is a great problem now facing this Empire. It faced it in a very acute form, unfortunately again in South Africa, only a few months ago. I do not believe any Member of this House can appreciate what the feeling was as a result of the treatment of the Indians in South Africa unless they had been privileged to be on the spot, as I was, when that was the subject of cables and articles in the newspapers every day. We have to face this problem regarding our Imperial citizenship. Is there any meaning at all in the expression Civis Britannicus sum? Has it any common meaning from one end of the Empire to the other? Is it going to give us any pride, any inspiration? Is it, or not, a fact that the privileges habeas corpus, Petition of Rights, and so on, have given us are going to be carried with us wherever we go, provided we keep under the shadow of the Union Jack and within the bounds of the British Empire? Is that going to be the case or not? If it is not, I venture to say your Empire cannot possibly remain 368 in the place of honour which it occupies to-day. If the civil liberty which is ours, the civil liberty which has come to us, not merely by generous accident, not merely by accidental events, but because it is essential to the very spirit and genius of our people, is not going to be an assumption in the constitutional procedure of the Governments of our self-governing; communities, then the expression "Empire" must be used in future in an exceedingly limited and exceedingly narrow sense. But it is because, at the back of my mind, I have an idea that Empire really stands for something that is constitutionally magnificent, I feel I am in duty bound to raise this question, even although at the same time I desire to be absolutely generous in my thoughts and in my criticisms of self-governing communities exercising their rights as self-governing communities. The greater force of unity, the greater force of the British Empire, with its traditions of the past, and with some sort of earnest that we are going to have a future that is not going to be a smirch on our past, compels me to bring this question before the House and to move this Amendment.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)
I think it will probably be for the convenience of the House if I state at once, as shortly as is possible, the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the recent occurrences in South Africa; and, in doing so, I should like to express my appreciation of the eloquence and moderation with which this Amendment has been brought before the House by my hon. Friend. The House will, I am sure, forgive me if I attempt to survey a rather wider field, because those whom my hon. Friend generally represents, and whose views he voices in this House, have not been quite so moderate outside, either in the charges they have made against the Governor and the Government of South Africa, or in the demands which they have advanced as to the methods by which the British Government should deal with this question. I acknowledge the recognition which the hon. Member gave to the special circumstances surrounding the existence of responsible self-government in South Africa, and I hope the House will throughout this Debate bear those circumstances in mind. This House has great responsibilities. It also has great powers—powers 369 which are decreased and not enhanced by a capricious or careless exercise of them. It is quite possible, in the observations I have to make in relation to South Africa and others of our distant possessions, I may use phrases and express opinions which may seem to hon. Members opposite applicable, or at least available missiles, in our controversies nearer home. I do not grudge and could not prevent their use in the future for that purpose. I will only beg them not to-day to confuse a debate which may turn on grave Imperial topics with those matters which concern our controversies in this country. The speeches to be made here to-night will be cabled throughout the Empire, and any words said here in derogation of autonomous rights will reverberate throughout our Dominions.
I would not for a moment suggest that autonomous rights can be divorced from Imperial duties. Autonomy carries with it no immunity from Press or public criticism, but it deserves and is entitled to the largest amount of relief from official interference and Parliamentary censure which is compatible with the inherent rights of freedom. British citizenship to which my hon. Friend referred is really a misnomer. It does not, in fact, exist, it is an attempt to make too literal a translation of the Civis Romanus sum. What does exist is British subjecthood, which entitles its possessor to the protection of his Sovereign through the Executive. But it gives to the individual no right of entry to and no licence in any part of the Empire if he violates laws which it is within the competence of the Dominion to pass and to administer. The Imperial Parliament here cannot grant responsible self-government, as it has done throughout nearly a century in varying degrees, in different climes, and to different races, with practically unqualified success, and then hope or attempt, when its feelings or prejudices are aroused to interfere or intervene as if it were dealing with a Crown Colony or a Protectorate. The late Mr. Lyttelton said, in 1910, that—so far as policy is concerned, the Governor of a self-Governing Dominion is bound to take the advice of his Ministers.I deal especially with this point because, outside this House, there have been violent demands for the recall of Lord Gladstone. Mr. Lyttelton went on to say:The Imperial Government makes no claim whatever lo interfere in the local or internal affairs or measures of self-governing Dominions, even if those measures be entirely repugnant to our views.370 I think it was the late Prime Minister who said, on one occasion in this House, that it was more important to a country to be self-governed than well-governed. You may dissent from that view, but, even if you do, we can still boast, as I shall do, that our Dominions are both. We have? never insisted on similarity or simultaneity in their law-making. We have allowed them, without let or hindrance, to try what many people in this country regard as experiments, and some people regard as dangerous experiments. We have not interfered. In Australia and New Zealand there is compulsory military training, which at present is neither in force nor in favour in the United Kingdom. In Canada, South Africa, and elsewhere there is compulsory arbitration in labour-disputes, which makes, under certain circumstances and conditions, a strike a criminal offence. These are not our laws or practice, but we do not prevent the Dominions from trying them, and every British subject entering one of these Dominions is legally liable to those laws.
In South Africa the laws and surrounding circumstances are widely different to our own. In the Transvaal many clauses of Lord Milner's Indemnity and Peace Preservation Act, 1902, are still in force, with a very different definition of sedition to our own. Under that Ordinance a man may be arrested, without warrant, by a police officer, and charged with sedition, and sentenced to a maximum of five years, and, under certain circumstances, of seven years' imprisonment for these offences:—"Inciting His Majesty's subjects to attempt to procure, otherwise than by lawful means, an alteration of any matter in the Transvaal by law established; or inciting any person to commit any crime in disturbance of the public peace, or to arouse discontent and dissatisfaction amongst His Majesty's subjects, or to promote violence, ill-will or hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects." I wonder how many Members of this House would be safe from conviction for sedition under this Ordinance?
§ Mr. HARCOURT
That qualification makes no difference to my point. I believe it was under that ordinance that Mr. Poutsma and other leaders were originally arrested. I spoke just now of the conditions and surrounding circumstances in 371 South Africa. It is only necessary to mention, in relation to that, the fact that there are less than 1,250,000 whites and over 5,000,000 natives in the Union of South Africa, inextricably mixed up in location and occupation. The gold mines have collected around them, as they do everywhere, a cosmopolitan and polyglot community which has not more and sometimes less regard for legal obligations than other classes of labour.
5. 0 P. M.
In Johannesburg alone there are 250,000 natives employed upon the mines, and when work ceases in the mines these natives are idle, hungry, restless. I do not agree with my hon. Friend that the illustration of Jaggersfontein and the outbreak of the Basutos is not in point. It arose, I believe, from a suspicion that the death of a black man might be attributed to one of the white overseers. At all events, hon. Members can realise for themselves that that is the sort of volcano on which everyone is sitting in South Africa. It is no part of my duty—indeed, I think it would be a grave indiscretion in the office I hold if I were to offer publicly any opinion upon the incidents of Dominion administration. I shall express neither criticism nor approbation. It is my duty to keep an eye and an ear upon all the Dominions, and to try, as best I can, to hold the balance even between the interests of this country and of our great Dependencies. But I know there are some people who think that the Union Government have erred in action and in judgment. I express no opinion, but I would say to those who think so: "When you gave self—government, did you think that you had discovered any immaculate and impeccable race? Did you think no Dominion would ever commit an act with which you disagreed?" If you did, it was a dream of infallibility you would not dare to claim for yourself. It is human to err and it is humane to make allowances for what you regard as errors. You could easily smash the Empire by a day's Debate in this House if you evinced a desire to meddle and to muddle with the vital affairs of your Dominions whenever their action does not coincide with your ideals of legislation or administration. I hope and believe that this House will commit no such folly to—day.
I am prepared to express my opinion on Lord Gladstone's action. While I express neither condemnation nor approval of the 372 action of the Union Government in recent events, I am bound to make their case for them, because I am their only representative in the Imperial Parliament. They have, rightly and fortunately, had an opportunity of making their own justification and their own explanation in their own Parliament) though we have not yet had time to receive it fully. I ask the House to look for a moment at what has been their situation and their experience during the last eight months. Six months ago they had the Rand strike, which led to very grave disturbances in which dynamite was used. Men were asked to come armed to public meetings. A general strike of all the public services was threatened. Two hundred and fifty thousand natives in the compounds at Johannesburg were alleged to have been approached with attempts to raise them also against the authorities. In the transition period of local defence the Imperial troops had to be used. Many people were, unhappily, killed, and the innocent, as usual, suffered most. Then, in November, came the Indian so-called "passive resistance." I do not want, and I hope the House will not endeavour, to discuss that matter to-day, because there is a Commission now sitting in South Africa, with the countenance of the Indian Government and with the assistance of a distinguished Indian Civil servant, with, I believe, very good hopes of arriving at a settlement. There, again, on that occasion, there was considerable loss of life and much disturbance both of peace and of labour.
Then, in December, came the railway strike. I will not deal with its merits. It arose, I believe, out of a desire of the Union Government for retrenchment and economy, but its original merits were soon lost sight of. A sympathetic and general strike was declared; dynamite and sabotage were threatened and effected. My hon. Friend challenged me as to the dynamite outrages, which he declared to be either untrue or exaggerated. Within the last few days a Return has been laid on the Table of the Parliament in South Africa giving the number of the dynamite outrages between 7th January and 30th January as twenty—four. The participators in all this work were known to be, and were, indeed, instructed, to be armed. All industry, all the public services of health and light, were threatened by a stoppage from want of coal. The whole population were threatened with 373 starvation by the stoppage of the food supplies. The Union Government regarded this as a condition of anarchy and of revolution, which necessitated extra-legal action for the moment. No suggestion of and no request for the use of Imperial troops was ever made. So far as I know there was no contemplation of that. No communication as to Imperial troops was made either to Lord Gladstone or to The Union Government mobilised their own forces, and, whatever you may think of the object with which that was done, you must admit that it was done with extraordinary rapidity and success. They dealt with the situation by and for themselves. Happily there was no collision between the local forces and the population. No lives were lost, and there was no firing upon crowds or upon the people. The Union Government, knowing the facts as we here cannot know them, deemed the proclamation of martial law to be essential to the safety of the country. On their Ministerial responsibility they advised Lord Gladstone to sign that Proclamation. He did so, in my opinion rightly and necessarily, and without any reference to me. There was no time and no necessity for that. I could not judge here of the gravity of the emergency.
Lord Gladstone was fully apprised of the facts, and he was aware, of course, of the immensity of the danger of a native conflagration throughout the Union and the Protectorate. He properly assented to the only method which his responsible advisers recommended to deal with an existing and urgent situation. But he did so on the assurance that his Ministers would immediately endeavour to obtain from their Parliament the ratification of and an indemnity for the action they proposed to take. That is the Indemnity Bill which is now before the Union Parliament and which is fully within their competence. At a later stage the decision—a serious one I admit—was taken by the Union Government to expel from South Africa certain men who had been primarily concerned in the preceding events. After the proclamation of martial law—which is a of course, a contradiction in terms, because it is a negation of all law, and action under it is illegal until it has been indemnified by the law—making power—Lord Gladstone ceased to have any direct or personal responsibility for the action of the military or the Executive. His consent to and concurrence in the expulsions was neither sought for nor obtained. He was informed of the fact 374 at the time it was taking place. He took note of the information of his Ministers that the expulsion was required, in their opinion, in the interests of public order in the Union, and that the Ministers' action would be immediately submitted to Parliament for confirmation. Lord Gladstone had previously been informed by his Ministers that they might feel it necessary to expel possibly a dozen men, that the Ministers were fully aware that this would excite strong feeling in England and elsewhere, not excluding South Africa, and that they would not undertake it without clear and urgent necessity. Lord Gladstone took note of that information. Having done this much, he had, in my opinion, done all he was entitled to do in his position as constitutional Governor with responsible representative Ministers.
Where an act is irreparable and final, like the execution of a death sentence, other considerations may arise, but undoubtedly expulsion is a less severe penalty than the five or seven years' hard labour which might have been inflicted on these men had they been convicted under Section 17 of the Peace Preservation Act, which I have just read. Indeed, expulsion could have been made under the process of the ordinary law which has been in force iii the Transvaal from 1907 to 1913, a law which was only altered and amended by the passage of the new immigration law of last year. It is probable, indeed, I suppose it is certain, that legal questions will arise in this country in regard to these expulsions, and, pending the decision of the Courts, I would not wish to offer any opinion on the situation which may arise here in this matter. As to the legal prohibition of their return to South Africa, no confusion should be allowed to arise from the fact that it is included in the Indemnity Bill. Many matters germane to the future peace and good order of a country have been often included in Indemnity Bills, as anyone will at once see if he looks at the Transvaal Ordinance of 1902, which I have already quoted. It is admittedly within the competence of the Union of South Africa to legislate as to the class, the type, and the nature of immigrants whom it is prepared to admit. This power of restrictive immigration has long been in active operation in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
I will now deal for a moment specifically with the action and position of Lord Gladstone in relation to these events. It is said by some—in fact, by a good many out 375 Side—that he ought to have refused his assent to or prevented the proclamation of martial law, and that, failing to do so, he ought to have been recalled by His Majesty's Government. I entirely deny the validity or the justice of such a suggestion. The position of Governor-General of South Africa is, in the main, largely analogous to that of a constistutional Sovereign in this country, and those who suggest Lord Gladstone's recall would be the last to suggest here that a constitutional sovereign should neglect or act contrary to the advice of his Ministers possessing the confidence of an existing Parliament. But assuming their premiss for a moment, let me ask them what they think that Lord Gladstone or any Governor of any Dominion could do in such circumstances by attempting to act contrary to the advice of his Ministers? A situation had arisen, with a railway and general strike in operation, in which a body of responsible Ministers had deliberately come to the conclusion that martial law must be proclaimed. No body of men would lightly come to such a decision as that. They so advised the Governor-General. What do hon. Members think would have happened if he had refused his assent to their advice? It is no use making pretences to ourselves or blinking the facts. Only one result could have followed on such action: General Botha's Government would have resigned, and no other Government could have been found to take its place. Lord Gladstone would have remained a solitary and powerless figure with a state of public tumult round him which he could neither conciliate nor quell, and with no resources to his hand except those Imperial troops, which we must all be glad have not had to be used on this occasion. As to the expulsions, Lord Gladstone had no responsibility. That was the act of the Executive and the military authority after the proclamation of martial law. I said it was neither my duty nor my intention to offer comment, by way of criticism or approval of the acts of the South African Government, and that that course would be an unwise and a dangerous precedent. I beg hon. Members to believe and to realise that a habit of nagging criticism of the conduct by the Dominions of their own internal affairs is the worst cement which we can apply to the distant democracies of your Empire. But in the case of Lord Gladstone, as Governor-General, I feel bound to speak, 376 and I desire to say, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, that we feel that, in the circumstances as we know them, his action was entirely correct, and that he retains the full confidence of the British Government, which he has possessed throughout the tenure of his post in South Africa.
I turn for a moment to the subject of the Indemnity Bill which is before the South African Parliament. We know its contents by telegraph, and I have circulated them in a White Paper for the convenience of the House. We find that it conforms in every way to the proper wording and structure of such measures, of which there have been more than one in South Africa, with, of course, the addition of the Expulsion and Exclusion Clause. I am now aware that Clause 1 will be altered in Committee in South Africa in order to bring martial law to an end immediately everywhere, on the passage of the Bill. It has been suggested—in fact, it is suggested by this Amendment —that Lord Gladstone should be instructed to reserve this Bill until some inquiry has been granted and held. A motion to that effect is at this moment before the Union Parliament in. South Africa. If they agree to that suggestion, hon. Members will get the inquiry. If they reject it put there you cannot hope to obtain it by reserving the Bill. It has been suggested and demanded that I should advise the disallowance and veto of this Bill. That would be an unprecedented and wholly unjustifiable course. It would be unprecedented, because the case of New Zealand—the Act of 1866–is not really in point. Assent was withheld from that Act because it did not contain he usual provision that the Acts indemnified should have been done in good faith, hut when a new Bill containing these words was passed through the New Zealand Parliament in the following year the Act was immediately assented to. When I said the withholding of assent from the present Bill would be unjustifiable, I did so on the ground that such legislation is essentially one of the attributes and prerogatives of the responsible and popularly elected Parliament of South Africa. The hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) a few days ago used some very admirable words—I wish he had repeated them to-day—describing the situation. He said:—The Union Parliament is the proper battleground. We cannot fight these battles from the House of Commons. It is the trade unionists of South Africa through elected Labour member who have got to fight their own battles in that self-governing community.377 That I think is the true and proper view of this matter. The Union Government is responsible to the Union Parliament. If that Parliament gives them their support and passes the Bill which indemnifies their action, then it would be in the highest degree unwise and impolitic to attempt to reverse that decision here. If the democracy of South Africa is dissatisfied with its Government it should put pressure upon its representatives to reject that Bill and to turn out the Government. If they fail to do so they will have an opportunity of a General Election, which, like our own, cannot be delayed beyond the end of next year; but with that early and sufficient opportunity you will not, if you are wise, attempt to interfere with the discretion of the Union Parliament. It is hardly necessary for me to remind the House how sensitive are responsible Governments even of supposed reversals of matters which are under their direct control. Hon. Members will not have forgotten that a few years ago a predecessor of mine asked for the suspension of some capital sentence that had been passed in Natal, merely in order that he might have time to obtain the particulars. The Government of Natal, erroneously thinking that their discretion was being interfered with, immediately resigned, and they only withdrew their resignation after an assurance by the Secretary of State for the Colonies that—His Majesty's Government at no time had the intention to interfere with the action of the responsible Government of Natal.And to show the House how closely these events are watched throughout the Empire, I would remind them that within two days of the resignation of the Natal Ministry formal protests against the supposed action of His Majesty's Government were received here from the Governments of Australia and of New Zealand. I have said this much in order to show the House why, if and when this Indemnity Bill has passed both Houses of the Union Parliament, I shall not advise its reservation or disallowance, subject to any new fact or situation which may arise in the meantime, and I would remind hon. Members who wish me to take the opposite course that the possible and probable result of such action would be that martial law would be maintained in South Africa until the Indemnity Bill had been assented to.
Expulsion, except of undesirable aliens after conviction, is foreign to our ideas and methods in this country, but the word and method are more familiar to 378 residents in South Africa, because they have been taught them by ourselves. In July, 1900, during the war, on the discovery of a plot at Johannesburg to murder British officers, no fewer than 1,700 men of various nationalities were arrested and, without any trial or process of law, were sent by train to the coast and deported in British ships. Again, in 1901, after the war had long been officially declared to be over, there were some burghers still resisting our authority, and Lord Kitchener, on instructions from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) and the British Government, issued a Proclamation that unless these burghers surrendered in five weeks they would bepermanently banished from South Africa.I only quote those two instances to show that on previous occasions expulsions have been threatened and effected against people in South Africa, and that for the last six years it has been part of the ordinary law of the Transvaal. If this Debate is to continue, I hope it will be conducted with careful regard to the feelings and the just sensitiveness of the people and the Governments of our self-governing Dominions. I would say to the hon. Member who moved this Amendment that to labour, above all classes in the community, the maintenance of responsible self-government and the constitutional action of the supreme authority is of an importance which transcends any apparent or alleged departure from administrative correctitude; and I would say to all those who are interested in the Imperial connection, though it is a well-worn platitude, that the Empire is held together by a silken cord. Beware lest you twist that cord into a whip-lash, for the crack of that lash would be the knell of your Empire. We here have created of our own free will these great free Parliaments and institutions which are wide flung throughout the world. They are our constant pride, and only our occasional embarrassment. Treat them with a broad mind and a wide confidence and we and they shall win through for all that is the essential basis of freedom and of civilisation. But it is your toleration and your restraint which can alone proclaim your confidence and your generosity, and which alone can maintain the good fellowship of a united Empire.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I think every Member of the House has listened to the speech of the Colonial Secretary with 379 great respect. I also think that the Mover of the Amendment was strictly moderate in his statement, and was careful to avoid any incitement to controversial or acrimonious debate, but while I am willing to acknowledge that, and gladly, I do not think I ought to let the speech of the Colonial Secretary pass without some comment as moderate as his own speech was eloquent. I am entirely in agreement with him that we should be extremely careful indeed in making comment or criticism upon the executive action or the legislative action of the Governments of our Overseas Dominions, but it is just possible to carry eloquence a little too far and to give the impression that we ought to preserve a hushed admiration in the presence of the acts of our Overseas Dominions, through their Legislatures, without remembering that this Parliament cannot rid itself of the final responsibility for any act of any Legislature or any Governor within the King's Dominions. I will not presume to call myself in evidence, but I remember a debate upon martial law in Natal when the extreme mildness and the extreme care which the Colonial Secretary has shown this afternoon was not exhibited in the same degree by the spokesman of the Government. He took, as I believe, a more constitutional view, for while the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon was very careful to say that the final authority rests with us, he said, in effect, "Hush! you must say little, lest you disturb these Overseas Dominions in the exercise of their authority, and you must be careful how you question the authority of the other links of the Overseas Dominions, because they are so slender that they are but as silk." Our Overseas Dominions are not quite so thin-skinned as the right hon. Gentleman would suggest. There have been such things as copyright law being thrown back on the Colonies. There have been such things as the Acts of British Columbia made the question, of strong protests upon the part of this Government to the Canadian Government. I take the statement made by the Attorney-General at the time of the declaration of martial law in Natal as the proper view on this matter, rather than the extremely eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. In reply to myself and others, the Attorney-General (Sir W. Robson), speaking in this House on 3rd June, 1908, said:—He really could not help believing that the legal advisers of the Natal Government were, he would not 380 say not doing their best, but were not really weighing all the legal considerations they ought to keep in mind in dealing with the situation, because undoubtedly we were under obligations both of law and of honour which we could not, and ought not. and would not seek to escape. There was no desire to enter into a conflict, unless of an academic character, with Natal with regard to the general operations of martial law, because martial law was not necessary to our contention so far as Dinizulu was concerned. At the same time he might express the hope, and perhaps the belief, that Natal would see the danger and inconvenience of allowing martial law to prevail under the particular circumstances for so long a time. Undoubtedly it was a matter within the cognisance and the rights of the Imperial Government. The Imperial Government were always slow to move because of the great constitutional difficulties involved. There might come a situation—he hoped it would never come—when, however slow the Imperial Government might be to act, it might find itself forced to act.I do think that that is a more correct constitutional view to take. Undoubtedly, as the Colonial Secretary pointed out, the situation in South Africa was an extremely grave one, and in making this protest I am making it in view of the fact that the utterence of the Colonial Secretary this afternoon is a most momentous one. I am making the protest that he has strained the point, that he has coloured too much in order to condone the present situation. I do not think it was necessary I do not believe that if the hon. Member for Leicester had sought to excite the feelings of this House in opposition to the Union Government of South Africa, he would have succeeded in exciting even the Members of his own party to a strong condemnation of the act of the Union Government. It is done, and cannot be altered. The Act of Indemnity, as the hon. Member said, must be passed, but the Empire still goes on, and other questions will arise, and it may be necessary for the Government of this country at some future time not to take issue, but to enter a strong protest to some Dominion Government for some Act which might appear to interfere with, we shall say, the rights of British citizenship, or some Act which would materially cross the bounds of an Act this House had passed in the interest of the Empire as a whole. When that time comes, I should not like to see the speech of the right hon. Gentleman quoted. I should prefer to go to other authorities and advisers than himself, though I do frankly admit that the right hon. Gentleman was moved by a tremendous sense of responsibility, and I am frank to admit that in recognising that responsibility, he used every power of his intellect and of his known capacities to influence this House. If it were not that the question was an extremely grave one, I should want to 381 present a protest against the too-strained interpretation of our constitutional position. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that there is no such thing as absolute British rights throughout the Empire.
Sir G. GLBERT
I beg pardon, I meant to say rights of British citizenship throughout the Empire. I would ask the House to allow me, since we are on a constitutional matter of importance, to quote my authority on that matter. I have seen in the Press, and it has been persistently said by the friends of the hon. Member for Leicester, and the hon. Member himself said it this afternoon, that we ought to know what was the position of British citizens throughout the Empire; that we ought to be able to say such and such are the rights of a citizen of Great Britain in Australia, or in Canada, or throughout the British Empire. The Colonial Secretary has wisely said that it is not possible to do so.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I was perfectly well aware of the great controversy going on with reference to citizenship, and subject citizenship, and I have lent my position in favour of that. I said that there were certain fundamental rights. I refer to habeas corpus. I want to know whether when we go to South Africa we carry habeas corpus. At the present moment I know that we do not. My argument is that if the Empire is to mean anything, we must be a little more distinct in regard to citizenship than we are at the present moment.
Sir G. PARKER
I am very grateful to the hon. Member for putting his case more clearly to me. I wish to say that that position which he would like to see established cannot be established by this Legislature. It must be established by the steady and sympathetic co-ordination of laws passed throughout the Empire in the different Legislatures, representing a general principle in their application. I shall take the liberty of quoting from Mr. F. T. Piggott's work on "Nationality." Referring to the rights of British subjects not being uniform in the Empire, he writes:—But though the law which governs nationality in the Colonies is the same throughout the Empire, it does not follow that the rights of all subjects are everywhere identical Even in the case of common law rights, generally presumed to he inherent to the quality of the British subject we have seen that in conquered or ceded 382 Colonies they do not exist, and that. British subjects therein—and not necessarily born therein—are under another code of rights altogether. And those which depend on Statute do not apply to the Colonies without express reference. Even in the case of Magna Charta and the Habeas Corpus Act, the question whether the legislation extends to the Colonies must be decided on the same principles as any other Statute.Passing from that point, I want to say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester. I frankly admit that he was bound, representing the interests that he does represent, to speak in this House to-day. I found the earlier part of his speech strangely unconvincing. He presented to the House evidence which he had got from private sources, and which this House could not secure by any means in its power. He declared that martial law was unwarranted in the circumstances. It is not necessary for me to reply to that. The Colonial Secretary has replied to it by repeating statements made by the responsible Minister of the Crown in the South African Government, and he has added to that the view of this Government that ire the circumstances the action of the Union Government of South Africa was justified. I do not think the hon. Member for Leicester is quite fair—and I can only attribute that to lack of full knowledge of South Africa—when he refuses to take into consideration the immense danger that exists where there is a native population. In South Africa there are various tribes, uncivilised, and as yet not drawn: very far within British control and governance. I would point out to the hon. Member for Leicester that he and his friends were very hard upon Members of this House, like myself, who at the time of the granting of the Transvaal Constitution said that it was being granted too soon. Members on this side of the House believing in the granting of constitutional responsible government, bade this House wait. What for? We said that our new fellow citizens in South Africa, the Dutch had not by their experience come into harmony with the ideals, constitutional or otherwise, of the British race. We strongly advised a period of probation in which there should be and would be a coalition Government representing both Dutch and British, understanding all those ideals which underlie the activities of our constitutional Government within the British Dominions.
The hon. Member for Leicester is very hard indeed upon General Botha and his Government, whom he declared we have no confidence in and do not sufficiently esteem. The hon. Member thought and 383 believed that when that Government came into power, for which due preparation was made by the gerrymandering of the constituencies, the case of his friends connected with Labour would be no worse than it was generally under the old condition. What does he find? He finds a Government which acts with an iron hand —I am not saying justly or unjustly, wisely or unwisely—and which passes laws which Can, effectively prohibit trade unionists from exercising what he considers lawful functions in this country. I have a good deal of sympathy with the hon. Member when he states, that there ought to be freedom in these matters until laws are passed which provide for the regulation of trade matters, such as have been passed in Australia and Canada, for dealing with trade disputes, and giving facilities for employers and employed to come together. Until that time comes labour ought to have the right, I think, in this country to strike. But the hon. Member is not justified in coming here to-day and making so tremendous a protest against the operation of martial law which we all, with the exception of the hon. Member and his friends, believe to have been justified in the circumstances, and he was not fair either to himself or to his own opinion. I believe that he was impaled upon the horns of a dilemma from which be could not escape.
The hon. Member said that the Jaggersfontein riots were not a matter of grave concern. They were just a sign of what would have happened if railway communication had been interrupted, and if the authorities had not been able to arrange throughout the country that there should be no disorder, which it was not in their power to quell. Think of the terror of the situation! A handful of whites scattered throughout the district at the mercy of an excited horde of savages—for that is what they are—is a thing to appal the minds of all men. The hon. Member treated it, as I think, all too lightly. As for the merits of the retrenchment, I thought that the point which the hon. Member made was very petty. He said that there were 490. I should liked to have asked the hon. Member how many trade unionists were attending to work in South Africa. I should have said that even 490 was but a small number compared with the whole number employed; but when he asserts, in this Case, that a Government that depends 384 upon votes, and the votes of the very class whose interests were involved, is going deliberately to pursue a course of intimidation against the voters in the country in order to pursue a policy of exclusion of trade unionists, he makes too large a call upon our credulity. At any rate, I should like to hear better evidence than the hon. Member has adduced to this House this afternoon. The hon. Member said that the Courts were sitting, and that the Government could have tried these men who were deported before the Courts, and that instead of that, by one comprehensive swoop of illegality, they attempted to wipe out trade unionism in the land. If the case which the Union Government put and which the Colonial Secretary put this afternoon is a correct one, there was a danger, through interruption of communication and lack of supplies, of an awful calamity falling upon the people of South Africa, and in these circumstances the idea of taking these men into Court and awaiting a legal decision is really absurd. If their position was a correct one, and if they were justified at all in their act of establishing martial law with the assent of the Governor, then it seems to me that the suggestion that legal action ought to be taken at such a time is ridiculous.
But suppose I am wrong. It is quite certain that the friends of the hon. Member in South Africa are, to a certain extent, responsible for the situation that has arisen. It may possibly be that the Government of South Africa struck too hard. I do not assert that they did. But the incidents of July brought not only consternation into the minds of the South African Government, but a deep-seated anxiety into the minds of the whole of the South African people, except the combination of trade unionists on the land. No Government can exist long without the confidence of the community. I may point to the notable fact that those papers which have been most opposed to General Botha's Government, and those members of the Union Parliament who were most opposed to the Union Government, were among his strongest supporters in that crisis. Mr. Merriman, as the hon. Member says, did not think deportation was necessary, but the hon. Member failed to state that Mr. Merriman approved of the proclamation of martial law. I believe that that is the case. But as in past years I took a considerable part in the discussion of South African affairs, particularly with 385 regard to martial law in Natal, I felt bound to say these two things: First, that the Government of this country is still responsible for the acts of the Governor-General appointed to represent the Crown in South Africa, and the Attorney-General accepted that responsibility for the acts of the Governor-General. The hon. Member for Leicester did not raise that question this afternoon as to the wisdom or unwisdom of the Government. I am very glad that he did not do so, but I do want to repeat, as one who is anxious always that the Government of the Overseas Dominions shall not be interfered with, that I believe if our Constitution is to work freely and well throughout the Empire, the authority of this Parliament should not be exercised unduly, but should be exercised in influencing, where necessary, so that it shall not be diminished; and, in the second place, I want to say that the action taken by the hon. Member for Leicester this afternoon, warranted as it was from his standpoint, has behind it no warrant in one sense, because I believe, honestly, that the crisis was brought about by circumstances which, if he and his friends had sought to influence them, might not have happened, so that there might not have been, either the riot of last July or the martial law of January, 1914.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary was evidently a carefully prepared essay which had no relevance to the speech of my hon Friend the Member for Leicester. He entirely ignored the trouble which was said to exist, which, as my hon. Friend pointed out, was an ordinary strike. He overlooked the fact that at the time martial law was proclaimed there was no racial struggle more than usual, and that, during the whole of the alleged industrial trouble, not a shot was fired and no crime was brought home to anyone in connection with the dispute; and he submitted no proof of any crime or anything having occurred in the nature of sedition. The fact that the Courts were sitting, and in full operation, has hitherto been held to be a preventive of martial law being declared, and the suspension of the ordinary law has been justifiable only when the law has ceased to run, and when the Courts cannot administer the law. None of these things were alleged to have taken place during the recent disputes. He dwelt with much elaboration on the risk run to the permanence and goodwill of the Empire 386 if this House attempts in any way to interfere with the action of the Governor-General in sanctioning the proclamation of martial law and the deportation of these men, or if there is any refusal to sanction the Indemnity Bill which the South African Parliament is now considering. He did not tell us what the clause is there for. Is this House never to Have the right to interfere? And if not, what is the meaning of the clause in the Constitutional Act which expressly gives the Attorney-General power to assent to a measure to withhold his assent for the time being, to hold the measure up until it has been considered here, or even to suggest amendments? When are these powers to be operative if in a crisis like the present, when everything which has hitherto been supposed to be constitutional has been reduced to smithereens? If that is not an occasion for interfering, then when can such an occasion arise?
Several references have been made to the strike of last year. I was surprised to hear the Colonial Secretary repeat all the old stories told then, which are now known to have had no foundation in fact. He told us about handbills being issued calling upon the workers to come armed to defend themselves. He did not tell us that whatever truth there is in that statement is due to the fact that the right of public meeting had first been taken from the workers; that the meeting proposed to be held in the square at Johannesburg had been prohibited; that force had been threatened if a meeting was held, and that then a handbill was issued calling upon the workers to come armed, if necessary, to maintain the rights of public meeting. That all took place after the action by the authorities. Then the right hon. Gentle- man made long statements about the supposed action of the white workers in the Randt district. I spent a very few days in South Africa, and therefore cannot speak with any authority on the point, but I think experience will bear me out when I say that the very last thing the white worker would dream of doing would be to stir-up a native rising in any circumstances whatever. The relations between him and the coloured people are not so favourable as to make that possible; but apparently the Colonial Secretary—this is rather serious—has adopted General Smuts' view of trade unionists in South 387 Africa. In his speech to the Union Parliament, and in his reference to the men who were deported, General Smuts used the expression that there were "plenty of other consummate scoundrels left behind." I ask the Colonial Secretary whether that is his point of view concerning the men who have been deported. Are they consummate scoundrels? They have been treated as though they were. I knew some of these men before they went to South Africa. I have had a more or less constant correspondence with some of them, and a description more insulting could not be employed than that which was applied to them, namely, that they are "consummate scoundrels.' I ask the House to remember the facts of the case. There had been no rioting.
The so-called rioting in July was butchery by the Government, of course; there never was a riot. There was plenty of shooting down on behalf of the Government, but nothing then occurred in the nature of a riot. On this occasion what took place was a strike, and what happened is not in dispute. General Smuts, in the speech to which I have referred, made it quite clear that the whole trouble was the strike of the workers. He put forward no other definite justification for what was done, and he pointed out that if there was a general strike certain consequences must inevitably follow. That means that the South African Government, with the consent of the Governor-General, and apparently with the approval of the Cabinet, have now declared the right to strike, which the workers won with such effort and sacrifice, can only be exercised by the good will and pleasure of a capitalist Government. It is a serious matter for us, I can assure you, and also for the working classes generally. We have seen that the same thing took place— on a minor scale, I will admit, compared with what has happened in South Africa— in connection with the strike of miners in British Columbia. We saw something similar during the railway strike in 1911, when some 80,000 British troops were turned out to assist the railway companies in defeating the workers. It is true that on that occasion no martial law was proclaimed, but, despite protest, troops were sent at the request of the railway companies. Our point is, that what happened in connection with the deportation from South Africa of working-class leaders, against whom no crime was 388 alleged, except that they had been successful working-class leaders, presents circumstances of such gravity that, if it is allowed to pass unchallenged, that kind of thing will spread and grow until the rights won by the workers have been taken from them again in an insidious manner and by side issues.
Then there is the question about the right of South Africa to deport undesirable aliens. The Colonial Secretary has asserted that the Transvaal possessed, or possesses, that right. But, assuming that the right is possessed, deportation can only follow from a decision of the Law Courts. The gravamen of the present charge is that the Government in South Africa constituted itself superior to the Law Courts, and put themselves in the position of over-riding the law. Now they come to us, through the Governor-General, and ask us to sanction a revolutionary and illegal act on their part. I hope the House will allow me to substantiate my statements by citing the opinion of Mr. Justice Wessels and of General Smuts himself. When the case was brought before Mr. Justice Wessels by the Government for the deportation of these men the evidence was not sufficient, and the case was adjourned until the following day, by which time the deportation had taken place Mr. Justice Wessels, in reply to a statement made to him on behalf of the men, said:—He regretted that he had not hart the information which he now possessed before him on the previous day, as if he had, lie would certainly have granted the order restraining the Government from deporting the men concerned.There we have the Justice of the High Court in Pretoria stating that what the Government had done was illegal, and that had the case come before him he would have prohibited them from carrying out the deportation. He also made some other remarks, to the effect that if the Government wanted to do an illegal act no Court had the power to stop them from doing it. General Smuts in his speech raised that very question of the power to deport these men. He said:—The South African Criminal Law did not provide for cases such as this of the deportees. If they had been indicted in the ordinary Courts, he believed the Government would never have secured a conviction, either on the charge of high treason or on a minor charge.That is General Smuts' own statement: that there was no law of treason, high or low, which these men had broken, and therefore to have brought them before the Courts would have been to ensure their immediate acquittal. General Smuts 389 goes on to deal with the other suggestion that had been made, that before expelling these men, the sanction of Parliament ought to have been asked. He said:—''It. might be asked why bad the Government not waited for Parliament to give its sanction. The reply was that these men could not be kept in gaol until.sanction was obtained. They would have had to be released on comparatively small bail, and Parliament would have been asked in cold blood to pass legislation for their deportation. Did members for one moment think that, Parliament would have passed this legislation.''The Courts would not have convicted, and the Parliament would not have, sanctioned the deportation of these men. The Governor-General assents to it, and now we are asked to give it our endorsement. Surely, such a claim as that, which pledges the constitutional powers of the Governor-General to so great an extent, was never put before the House of Commons. That is the point which the Colonial Secretary has evaded in his speech, his apology, rather, for what has happened in South Africa. It is because the working classes of South Africa are fighting for their freedom that this thing has been sanctioned and is now being endorsed by the Government. I put it to the House, and I believe lion. Gentlemen opposite will admit that what I am going to say is true, that if this had taken place before 1899, and had been done by the Transvaal Government, the then Boer Republic, that of itself would have been held as a justification of the war. Surely, what would have been an illegal and unconstitutional crime justifying war when done by the Boer Republic cannot become a virtue to be sanctioned by this House when done by the Cabinet, without the sanction of its Parliament, without the authority of it people, and in a way and manner which it cannot attempt to justify to its Parliament nor in the Law Courts. That then is the reason why my hon. Friend has moved his Amendment. We want to find out the opinion of the House of Commons in regard to a matter of such importance and such gravity.
Have we any responsibility for Lord Gladstone; if not, we want to know what he is doing there. What purpose does he serve? Whatever else he is, we know that he is not merely ornamental, and if this House has any control over him, and if it has any responsibility for what he is doing, then let us know what is he doing there. We claim that Lord Gladstone is there to represent the British Constitution, the freeest Constitution in the world. We are bringing no charge against that, and, because 390 of that, we ask the House of Commons to say that when the Parliament of South Africa goes out of its way to outrage and violate every principle of the Constitution, the representative of His Majesty the King shall not sanction such action and find endorsement in this House for it. The only other point which I desire to make is that we on these benches, at least, enter our emphatic protest against the theory that this House has no responsibility for what has happened. If Lord Gladstone did not agree with what was being done, the honourable course open to him was to have resigned. That course was open to a former Governor of South Africa, the late Sir William Butler. When he was asked to do what he regarded as dishonourable things towards the Boer Republic, he resigned his position rather than be a party to them. In defence of the British Constitution, Lord Gladstone surely could have taken a, similar course. As he has not seen fit to do so, and as the House is now being asked to condone one of the greatest violations of British liberty which modern times have known, I hope my hon. Friend will press this Amendment to a Division, and that a majority of the House will express its detestation of what has been done under the auspices of our Governor-General.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has made an interesting speech—as, indeed, I think he always does. I observed that at the beginning of it he made the complaint about the Colonial Secretary that he had read to the House an essay rather than made a speech in answer to the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). It is only fair to the Colonial Secretary to point out to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) that he really did no more than all Ministers do at the present day. Very seldom we have, the honour of hearing a speech from the Treasury Bench, though we often have the honour of listening to an essay. In the course of that utterance the Colonial Secretary said that it would be wrong for us to disapprove of the action of Lord Gladstone, who only did what he was constitutionally bound to do. I think that is a plea which even hon. Members opposite and on the platform ought to admit. I do not think it is really reasonable to say that a Colonial Governor in the position of Lord Gladstone is able to refuse his assent to measures proposed to him by his Ministers. In the same way there was a 391 good deal in what the Colonial Secretary said disapproving of criticism of the criticism of the Government of South Africa with which I personally find myself in hearty agreement. I quite agree that it is impossible for us here, once you have given self-government, whether to South Africa, or to Ireland, to interfere in that self-government, and to reverse in this House decisions to which the Parliament of that Government has arrived.
I can quite understand the view that it is improper that this Amendment should have been moved, but at the same time I think we all understand why it has been moved. The hon. Members on the Labour benches have been making very violent speeches in the country on this subject. They have to justify their existence. They have to convince their supporters in the country that they really are something more than a wing of the Radical party. I do not think that they will convince any body in this House of that, but they have to do their best, and so they are in the habit of selecting, generally on the Address, one particular Amendment which they usually draft in such a way as to make it unlikely that anyone else but themselves will support it. They move it to the Speech from the Throne, and make a great parade of their independence, and say very solemnly that they are entering an emphatic protest, and are going to a Division, and all the rest of it, knowing perfectly well that their operations are absolutely as futile as the movements of troops on parade. It does not take any body in, nobody at all. We all know that hon. Members opposite there would rather do anything than risk doing anything seriously disagreeable to their friends and leaders on the Treasury Bench. Therefore, I cannot say that I have any great sympathy with the Mover of this Amendment if it is to be treated as a serious attack upon the Government policy, and I am bound to say that I thought the Colonial Secretary displayed a very proper contempt for the proceedings of the Labour party in that regard. He did not make any attempt, it is perfectly true, to answer criticisms made by the hon. Member for Leicester, and the Prime Minister did not even think it necessary to wait out the speech of the hon. Member, but left the Bench as he usually does when there is—
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
What a humbug the whole thing is, moving a solemn Amendment about which they have been speaking in the most violent way on every platform, saying that their liberties are attacked and the Constitution in danger, while at the same time they send a deputation to the Prime Minister which secures that the greater part of the Labour party and the Prime Minister would be absent when the matter was tinder consideration. I am very glad of the interruption, because it emphasises more thoroughly than I should be able to do the thorough hypocrisy of the whole proceeding. Apart from that, let me deal with the question, the substantial question, that is raised. I quite agree with the Colonial Secretary that it is very improper to express any opinion, either favourable or unfavourable, to the action of the Government of South. Africa, but there are some aspects of it about which questions of general importance arise, and about which something may be said, without expressing approval or disapproval, which we certainly are not in a position to express at the present time, if ever we shall be. In the first place, from the published accounts it is difficult to understand how this dispute over the railways really arose. I am not sure whether any Member of the Labour party quite followed it. It certainly does seem rather an astonishing thing that there should have been an attempt at a general strike, because a few men were dismissed from their employment on the railways, if that was done merely with the view to reduce expenses. On the other hand, it may have been a very much more serious matter behind that; but what I want to point out to the Labour party is, that this is done on the Government railways. It was not the action of a private capitalist, it was the action of the democratic elected Government of South Africa.
If they succeeded, as some of them pretend to wish, in putting the whole of the industries of this country into the hands of the State they would have exactly the same conditions of affairs existing in every industry that exists in South Africa with respect to the railways. I believe that it is quite true that under such circumstances any attempt at protest by the workers would be very harshly dealt with indeed by the employing body. The Government if they are the employers are not in the position of private individuals at all, because they are also those who have in their 393 hand the whole forces of the State, so that if there is a serious dispute between workers and the employer it is certainly possible and almost inevitable that the employing Government should use the whole forces of the State to put down any resistance to their will, though that may arise in a perfectly ordinary dispute as to working conditions. I think that a very valuable matter for the whole working classes of this country to consider. Are they really, those of them who are Socialists, or inclined to Socialism, of opinion that they would get any addition to their liberties whatever if they transferred the industries of this country from private individuals to municipal or State employers? The hon. Member who has just spoken said that the Government of South Africa went so far in this case—and I am mot saying whether he is right or not—as to destroy the right of strike. That must inevitably happen where you have the Government as the employer. They never will submit to the right of their employés to strike against the Government of the whole country.
That seems to me to be one aspect of the case which raises general consideration, and which is well worthy of attention, and there is another. The Colonial Secretary said that it would be very improper to say anything about Home Rule in this Debate on the ground that this was a great Imperial question. Home Rule is quite as great an Imperial question as even this, and I make no apology whatever for pointing out to the House what seems to me to be entirely missed by the hon. Member for Leicester in his speech, namely, the importance of this question on the Home Rule controversy. He said we are prepared to grant self-government, though we know it must cause a certain amount of difficulty and inconvenience. That is not the point at all. It is not a question of this being a difficulty or an inconvenience, but the proof that this incident affords that no limitation on the power of a self-governing Government can be of the slightest avail. That is the real import. What can a paper safeguard do? All it can do is to make tyranny illegal. That it can do. You can say, "Such and such a thing shall not be done which a minority fear." You cannot do more than make it illegal. You have no other power. Now, in this matter, no one doubts, and the South African Government does not doubt, that what they did was profoundly illegal, and that there was 394 not the slightest justification in law for their action. What the hon. Member has just said on this point is perfectly true. There was no justification; it was an extralegal act. It was an arbitrary exercise of power by the Government which they thought necessary—and they may have been right or wrong—in the higher interests of the State. Under those circumstances nothing could have been more illegal, but we, as the Government say, as most of us say, and as hon. Members opposite, I have no doubt, will say in the Lobby, are absolutely powerless to deal with it, for the very sufficient reason which was given by the Colonial Secretary. He said if you do that, and I think I took his words, and if you interfered with General Botha, he would have resigned, and no other Government could have been found to take his place, and, therefore, we should be absolutely left without any power of governing South Africa at all. That must be always so in every attempt to limit the authority of a responsible Government, because a responsible Government, if you try and interfere with them, however clearly you have a right to do so, will take the action he mentioned. Nothing could be clearer than our right to interfere.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil was perfectly right when he read Section 64 and pointed out that that actually provided that Bills might be reserved, and that they should not be passed into law without our assent in this House, and that the Government had a perfect right, representing the majority of this House, to refuse the Royal Assent to any measure it liked. I thought there was a great deal in what he said, assuming his facts are right, and that this very strong Act, which undoubtedly infringes the ordinary rights of ordinary British citizens in this country, seems a very strong case in which that power might be invoked. If it ever could be invoked profitably in reference to a self-governing country, what stronger case could you have than this, if the hon. Member is right in his facts? I am sorry the hon. Member for Leicester is called away, because I should have liked to have had his corrections of a very imperfect note I took of the passage he read from a memorandum from a gentleman in South Africa, which said that this is a pure political movement, and an attempt by the Government there to crush its political opponents and overwhelm certain persons. I know that that is not a correct transcript of what he said, but it is the substance. 395 How well that might be applied in the case of Home Rule. Assume such action for a moment by a Home Rule Government, not necessaily this; assume an attempt by the Government to crush its political opponents in Ulster and to overwhelm the O'Brienites. The parallel is absolutely complete. You cannot have anything closer. Yet in that case, as in this, this House would be absolutely powerless to enforce any paper safeguards that you might put in the Bill. Nothing could be more germane or more closely relevant to the Home Rule controversy than the whole of this incident. The Labour party, if they were capable of surprising me at all, would have surprised me by the attitude which they have taken in this matter. They see how bitter this matter is when it affects their friends in South Africa, but they have no sympathy for Ulster, not an atom. They are not prepared to give them the slightest protection. They have never said a word to protect that minority. They care only about themselves, and they do not care even about themselves sufficiently to vote against the Government in any effective Division. I venture to think that this is quite as important a consideration as any that has been raised in this Debate.
When I come to the substance of the complaint raised from the Labour Benches, I wish to observe as closely as I can the caution given to us by the responsible Minister for the Crown. Even so, I feel bound to express profound misgivings with reference to the measure, and perhaps even greater misgivings in reference to that portion of the Indemnity Bill which proposes to inflict a retrospective penalty upon those who have been deported. It may have been justified; I do not wish to attack the South African Government; but I must say that the thing in itself is certainly very repugnant to the British view of liberty. I cannot regard this Act from the point of view of precedent, apart from the special circumstances which may or may not exist in South Africa, as anything but an attack on liberty. I think also—and here, perhaps, I shall not carry so much assent from the benches opposite—that the dangers to liberty are very considerable even in this country. Hon. Members on the Labour Benches and elsewhere constantly vote for measures in this House which seem to me likely to undermine the British sense of independence and liberty. 396 The most obvious and best known instance is the Insurance Act. I myself believe that to be a grave attack on liberty in this country. I said so the moment I was elected to this House. It may not have been so clear when the Bill was going through, but it is perfectly evident now. I am referring not only to compulsion, but to the whole system of the insurance card, which I believe to be a very serious attack on liberty, and on that very right to strike about which the hon. Member opposite was so solicitous. There is much, too, in the administration of the Education Acts which seem to me a very dangerous attack on the liberty of the people of this country.
These things are very serious, not only because they are in themselves attacks on liberty, but because they are accustoming the people of this country to the loss of their liberty. Hon. Members opposite constantly accuse us of being the enemies of trade unions. That is utterly untrue. I quite agree that I have on some occasions criticised the action of trade unions, not at all because I disliked trade unions, but because I thought their action on the facts given to me was tyrannical, or an interference with liberty, and I will criticise that whether it comes from a trade union or from anybody else. All these are serious matters, and they tend to a general decay of the sense of liberty. I believe that the course of legislation is to exalt the power of the machine, whether in trade unionism or in Government. It is the triumph of bureaucracy. You see it in. its most extreme form in some of the Fabian publications, which are always clamouring for some new limitation of the rights of the people of this country. For my part, I believe that liberty is by far the most valuable possession of the people of this country, and political liberty is the most valuable of all. I believe profoundly that if this action in South Africa calls the attention of the working classes to the danger that lurks in all forms of Government, of the infringement of personal liberty, it will not have occurred in vain.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Several years ago I had the privilege of administrating justice in South Africa. I know and like the people; I know and like the country. In spite of that I want to support the Amendment to the Address which has been moved to-day. I quite agree with the criticism made by the Noble Lord opposite. I have seen the difficulty all along. How are we to justify interference in South Africa 397 when we will not justify interference in Ireland? How are we to justify interference with the right of any self-governing Dominion to do wrong? It is quite simple. I base my justification entirely on the presence in South Africa of the British Army. It is the British Army that has provided the steel at the bottom of the heel of General Smuts, and as long as the British Army is there, paid for by the British elector, the British elector will be perfectly justified in doing all that he can to prevent injustice being perpetrated by a Government so supported. It seems to me also, that the argument used by the Colonial Secretary was sound. He said quite rightly that, supposing we disallowed this measure in South Africa, the Government there would resign; we should be powerless to enforce our disallowance of the Act, and we should have to climb down, as happened in the Natal case some six years ago. That we all know. The real safeguard against injustice throughout the British Empire, whether in Ireland or in South Africa, is not clauses in an Act of Parliament, but public opinion expressed fearlessly by people who are capable of giving expression to those British traditions which have made our Empire. This seems to be the raison d'être of this Amendment. If we had said, "What is done in South Africa is no affair of ours; we are powerless, even if we carry an Amendment, to put it into force," and the Labour party had declined to move an Amendment, then there would have been no criticism of what all of us on these benches consider to be a monstrous act of un-British injustice in South Africa.
The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ram say Macdonald) dwelt in his very moderate speech, as I thought unduly, on the justification of the strike in South Africa. I am not here to consider whether the men are justified in fighting for freedom, or whether they are justified in striking against a reduction in the number of men employed on the railway. It does not seem to me to be necessary, in order to make a case against martial law or against the South African Government, to show that the strike of the railway men was justified by the actual facts of the case. We surely base ourselves on something far more primal than the justification of a particular strike. We base ourselves simply on the fact that no Government, whether it be backed by law, or acting under martial law, has a right to make a man work against his will. The final 398 basis of individual freedom is a man's right to fold his arms. Whether the Government takes away that right by Act of Parliament, as in Australia of in Canada, or whether they take it away by act of brute force, as in South Africa, in either case I deny that they are acting in accordance with the principles of British justice. We should never tolerate it in this country, perhaps because we have a better educated democracy than they have elsewhere, perhaps because we know our traditions better than they do in some of these new Dominions. But whether it be done in South Africa or here, it is unjust, and every man amongst us knows that it is unjust. You cannot force a free man by Act of Parliament or by violence to work against his will.
Anybody who reads the accounts coming from South Africa realises that the whole force of martial law has been directed towards farcing these men to work against their will. People have been sent to prison merely for telling the men to stand solid and to stick together at all costs. There is one case where they actually went round to the houses of the strikers and tried to make them go to work. That use of the forces of the State, I do not care where it is, or under whose management, is a monstrous contravention of the rights of man. There is this to be said, that, whereas such action in the Broken Hill district of Australia or in Canada might be justified by law; in South Africa it is justified by no law at all. They are not only acting on laws made by Parliament which are in contravention of the ideas of liberty, but they are actually creating laws without any sort of justification from any democracy. They are creating laws merely to satisfy the whim of the moment. I know that hon. Members opposite and many on this side think that you are justified in forcing people to work or in breaking a, strike by extra-legal means, if it is dangerous to the State or a positive injury to the community, as at Leeds the other day; that there are certain cases where you are justified in doing something that is illegal or contrary to our sense of justice, in order to save the State or for the benefit of the community as a whole. I differ from them entirely; I believe that all those who are really founded on liberal principles must differ from them. You cannot expect any permanent benefit to the State by acting unjustly. In the long run that which is unjust can never be expedient 399 Although statesmen in South Africa came to the conclusion that it would be desirable to act in this way, although they came to the conclusion that it was expedient under the circumstances to break all the laws of individual liberty, we know well enough that by drawing the sword in this way, by starting a class war, by objecting to the passive resistance of a strike, we can count on the fact that the sword will be drawn on the other side, too; and instead of a peaceful method of striking, we may very well see the far more dangerous weapon of the armed class war. That is what comes when you act, with the best intentions, actuated by ideas of expediency, but forgetting those more elementary laws which base themselves on justice. You have no right to put a man in prison who has committed no crime. You have no right to deport a man who has committed no crime, either in India or in South Africa.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Well, perhaps things are a little better in that respect than in South Africa, though it does not make it in accordance with our ideas of justice, for all Englishmen have much the same sort of impression of justice.
The Colonial Secretary laid down a very dangerous principle when he said that it was impossible to accept this Amendment, and that it was impossible to veto this Act of illegality in South Africa because it was unprecedented. The situation itself is unprecedented. That is our difficulty. But, after all, if you make an Act of Parliament reserving certain legislation for the consent of the Home Government, I think that on this occasion you have the greatest possible justification for acting upon it. It has been said over and over again that we cannot successfully interfere. Let me put before the House this case. Suppose Indians or Kaffirs in South Africa were treated in a way that we conceived to be unjust, so monstrously unjust that we can hardly conceive South Africa to be guilty of it, we would then be jutified in saying, "Unless you refuse to pass this Act, or unless you consent to our vetoing this Act, we will 400 withdraw the British troops from the country and not allow the British flag to fly over it." One can conceive a state of affairs in which such a position would be taken up by many men in this country. We should, in that case, certainly be justified in taking the unprecedented step which at present we refuse to do. The position of the ordinary worker, the ordinary trade unionist on the Rand is, to a certain extent, comparable with the position of the Indian or the Kaffir in South Africa. It is more comparable to the position of those two subject nationalities than it is comparable to the position of the trade unionist in this country. Therefore we are justified in taking this unprecedented step in order to protect trade unionism in South Africa for this reason: that in this country every constituency contains trade unionists; every Member of this House depends to some extent upon the Labour vote. He cannot act with injustice against a particular class, because in every constituency some of that class is represented. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not universities."]
Everyone knows that a very different state of affairs prevails in South Africa, and this applies to what was said by the hon. Member for Gravesend. On the Rand you have, no doubt, the trade unionist strong. There you have the proletariat, both Dutch and English; in Krugersdorp, the Dutch; in Germiston, the English. All along the Rand you have the landless proletariat, comparable with the proletariat of this country. Outside this area there is an area in which the people who represent it, these country districts, in the Parliament House of Pretoria are as independent of the unskilled labour vote as we were in this country before the days of the great Reform Bill. They are in a medæval position as compared with ourselves. A Parliament composed in that way is very different to this House of Commons. We must not compare the deference we show to all classes of the community to the attitude of the South African House of Commons in relation to the labour vote. How much different it would have been if the Indians and the Kaffirs in South Africa had had votes! Then we know what respect would have been paid to unskilled labour everywhere. As it is you have a small group of members representing the Rand dependent on the labour vote, and outside a limited aristocracy such as was in this country before 1832. With a government 401 such as that it behoves us to keep a very strict eye upon legislation directed against trade unionism and the labouring classes of South Africa, as strict as we should in the case of Indians or Kaffirs. You are making that country impossible for British workmen. They are leaving the country rapidly. The places of the unskilled labourer will be taken by the scourings of Europe, by Kaffirs, by Indians, and the labouring men will be similar to those to be found in tropical countries further north in Africa.
Note what South Africa is storing up for itself. In course of time they will get into their country two classes, free and unfree, and the upper classes represented in Parliament will be able to carry out their will in entire disregard of the submerged classes. We are divesting ourselves of the power to interfere to protect these classes. I do not like it. I do not like it for this country, because I think it will soil our honour. I do not think it even expedient for the upper class, because although they may set up a tyranny over the period of years, yet as years go on the Dutch will increase in population, the Dutch will get divorced from the soil, and the Dutch slaves will drift into Johannesburg; and you will get there an overwhelming proletariat which will be a great deal more ready to do violence than the British workman. Any Government that keeps down the lower orders may look forward to the day when the lower orders, even the Dutch lower orders in South Africa, will sufficiently increase in numbers that they may overwhelm them. May it be soon. The Government have acted very illegally. They have acted not only illegally, but they have acted contrary to what every Englishman knows from the bottom of his soul is justice. They have gone contrary to English justice, and they ask us to sanction their acts. They have acted in a manner which to my mind insures for South Africa in years to come a period of stress, turmoil, slavery, risings and revolutions. I think we have a duty to South Africa. We have a duty to criticise it. We have been told that it is dangerous to criticise. We have been told that if we criticise the South Africans we may injure that thin thread which binds the Empire together. We may damage that Empire of which some around us are so proud, but, Mr. Speaker, that Empire of ours is mot built up by men who merely fly the Union Jack; our Empire is cemented 402 together, not by treaties, not by conquest, not even by self-government; it is cemented together by the Britisher's love of justice.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
The House has been in a very grave difficulty throughout the whole course of this Debate, because of our very imperfect knowledge of the facts which led the Government of South Africa to take the steps which they did. A good illustration of that imperfect knowledge has been contributed to the Debate by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Wedgwood). If I understood aright his remarks he attributed a very considerable amount of responsibility of the Government of South Africa to the fact that they had at their backs British soldiers; that the use of British soldiers, the use of force against the forces of labour in the Colonies, was responsible for some of the difficulties that occurred. I have consulted some of my friends to see whether or not my view is right, and so far I have been able to learn, and I think the Colonial Secretary supported that view, there was no use snade of British troops at all throughout the recent events which led up to and was anterior to the proclamation of martial law. I think the Colonial Secretary confirmed that view.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
I do not wish to do the hon. Member any injustice. I only wish to point out to the House the grave difficulty in which we are placed, because we are invited to form an opinion before we have really got the true facts before us. We shall certainly not be acting in accordance with our duty or our dignity if we do pass judgment without waiting ho hear all sides, and with the accumulated facts before us. We start our proceedings every Session by claiming to discuss an Outlawry Bill, a Bill, the contents of which are known only to the clerks at the Table. It seems to me that we are now very much endeavouring to discuss an Outlawry Bill, because we are purporting to pass judgment when we have not got the full facts. I admire the restraint which the hon. Member for Leicester exhibited in moving the Amendment. He obviously was desirous of doing justice to those who are responsible, and he felt the difficulty of being without a full knowledge of what had occurred. But while I sympathise with a good many of 403 the observations that he made, and, indeed, with a certain portion of the Amendment that he has proposed, I should like to point out again to the House that if we were to ask that this Bill should be reserved until a judicial inquiry was instituted the only effect of that would be to make martial law the law of the country for a very considerable time. Instead of doing what we ought to be desirous of doing—that is, good to the Colonies— we should be doing a distinct wrong, because martial law will not be abandoned, revoked, or recalled, until the Indemnity Bill has been passed. If hon. Members will take the trouble to look at the Indemnity Bill they will find that provision is made in it, as in all Indemnity Bills which are passed after the declaration of martial law, that martial law shall be revoked by proclamation as soon as the Indemnity Bill is passed. On all sides and in all quarters of the House we should hope that this Indemnity Bill will be passed as rapidly as possible, and that martial law shall be withdrawn from South Africa as rapidly as may be. Now there is one portion of the Amendment which asks that a judicial inquiry shall be instituted into the circumstances of proclaiming martial law, and with that aspiration I sympathise. If it was the duty of this House to make any reflection or to pass any criticism of any sort or kind that might be fairly said to have precedent to justify it, it is that, as a rule, when there has been a proclamation of martial law there has also been an inquiry into the circumstances in which it came to be made. That really would be in the interests of all persons, because the more the facts are known the better will it be for persons, whether they are those who suffered under martial law or not, or the Government who proclaimed martial law. I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester in that view that the very fact that martial law has been proclaimed does in itself justify the claim that there should be a judicial inquiry instituted into it, because the step is one so serious and far-reaching that it is one in which those who are responsible ought to be able and ought perhaps to be called upon to justify their conduct before a judicial tribunal. But what I venture to express might be a better course is this. Surely we ought to assume that that will be done by the South African Government themselves, and while we have but imperfect knowledge we ought not to assume 404 that the South African Government will not be prepared to have a judicial inquiry and to take a course similar to what has been taken in previous cases, particularly the case of Ceylon in 1849 and Jamaica in 1866. Therefore, whilst, as I say that I sympathise with the suggestion of an inquiry, this Amendment does ask us to intervene and calls upon the Colonial Secretary to intervene in a manner which could only have the effect of prolonging the existence of martial law in the Colony, whereas we are really anxious that martial law should be recalled as soon as possible and the ordinary tribunal reestablished.
May I also remind the House that this question of martial law is always a difficult one. There is a responsibility upon governors and administrators in our Dominions which at times may impose upon them the duty of proclaiming martial law. I do not quite agree with the hon. Member for Leicester that a state of war-only justifies martial law. I think if he will look into the cases where martial law has been proclaimed before he will not find support for that view. The true view is rather this—That if there is going to be, or there is likely to be, such widespread disaffection that the ordinary law of the land will be set aside, and unable to cope with the disorder, then it may be the duty of those in authority to proclaim martial' law. Now, was that the case here or not? We do not know. But I should like, in justification of what I said, that there is this responsibility, upon those responsible, to proclaim martial law to remind the House that when these matters were very much discussed in 1866, after the proclamation of martial law in Jamaica, and after the Debates had taken place in this House, there was a despatch sent round from the Colonial Office to the governors of the Crown Colonies in reference to cases in which there might be proclamation of martial law; and no doubt it was pointed out that it was an extremely serious step, and ought not to be taken without cogent and, perhaps, absolute necessity. That despatch also contained these very remarkable words:—The justification, however, for such a step, must rest on the pressure of the moment, and a governor cannot by any instructions be relieved from, the obligation of deciding for himself under that pressure, whether the responsibility of proclaiming martial law is or is not greater than that of refraining from doing so.I should like to ask the Colonial Secretary whether these instructions to Colonial Governors still obtain, or whether they were recalled or modified. I should 405 like to point out that we ought to give the Government of any of our self-governing Dominions credit for having taken into account the possibility of the spread of this rebellion or sedition, or disorder, or whatever you call it, that happened to call for the proclamation of martial law, which had to be decided by the immediate facts of the moment. You have to consider whether there is a likelihood of the disorder spreading to such an extent that it will become unmanageable, and therefore that it is safer to proclaim martial law than to take the risk of the sedition outrunning the law; and we ought to give credit to the South African Government for having considered that very carefully.
The Colonial Secretary used a somewhat remarkable phrase in reference to the constant situation in South Africa. He spoke of South Africa with its unstable equilibrium as a volcano. He gave the figures of one million and a quarter whites and five million of blacks, and in his care-fully-worded speech he used the word "volcano." I do not know whether that is a happy expression or not, but if that be so it clearly behoves this House to give credit to the far-seeing character of the South African Government and to suppose they have taken into account not only the immediate, but also the imminent possibilities of what might happen if they had not proclaimed martial law. Let me also recall the circumstances of what took place in Ceylon in 1849, which led to an extremely interesting Debate in this House. There, of course, the proclamation of martial law was bitterly complained of, and representations were made as to the conduct of the Governor and so on. The late Lord John Russell, who will always be respected in this House as a lover of liberty, and a person, by no means desirous of coercing in any direction any fellow subject, used these words in 1851:—That rising which at first is weak and may lie easily crushed may become formidable. The Governor must consider that the whole order of the Colony may be destroyed, that the obedience due to the Crown may be withheld; that property of an indefinite existence may be spoiled and ruined, and, above all. humanity, for the sake of which martial law is withheld, that that humanity itself may be such that a good many more lives may lie lost in the struggle that might ensue than would have been lost in the struggle if martial law had been for a few weeks continued.These are considerations the Government has to keep in mind when deciding, yea or nay, whether they will suspend the ordinary law. I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Leicester in another matter. I have looked up the terms of the Indemnity Bill, and I agree 406 with him that the Preamble is by no means a forcible document. If we are to take this Preamble as stating what the facts were that necessitated the proclaiming of martial law, they do not in their terms indicate any such necessity. The Preamble says:—Whereas it is necessary to take such precautions for the suppression of internal disorder, and the maintenance of good order for the public safety"—I agree these words are wholly inadequate in themselves to justify the proclamation of martial law. Therefore I beg the House, before it comes to any decision, to wait for further facts, because it cannot be that these words adequately describe what was the situation when martial law was proclaimed. Perhaps I might point out to the hon. Member that if lie reads a good deal further on in the recital he will find a description which indicates facts more like what ought to be the facts before martial law is proclaimed, and which prove, perhaps, that the Bill was hurriedly drafted, and that these words may betaken to be really an indication of what the situation was, and that there might be a greater justification than appears in the descriptions we have got, and which I agree are quite inadequate for the course that was taken. Then there is the wider question of policy as to whether this House can take any special steps. It has already been pointed out by the Colonial Secretary and other speakers that it is a very serious step indeed to interfere at all with those Colonies to which we have granted free and absolute self-government, certainly in matters of internal order. They might accept any criticism on our part as an affront. What would we think of foreign countries who criticised the way in which we maintain our order at home? Naturally the South African Government would resent it, and our interference, instead of getting rid of martial law, would give a blow to our system of Colonial government, and a blow that would travel far throughout the length and breadth of' our Empire. A good many speakers have indicated their views that this House has absolute authority to deal with the matter. I can find no such authority, either in the South Africa Act, or in any other Act, or in the practice of this House. I think this House ought to hold its hand, and not to express any opinion, at any rate until the facts are known, even if the facts are facts which do not lead us to conclude that there was necessity for martial law. We ought to be patient. The Colonies know their 407 duty in these matters, and we ought to uphold their better judgment of what was necessarily their duty on this occasion.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I rise, in a few words, to make an appeal to the Labour party. The appeal I desire to make is that this Amendment should be withdrawn, I ask every Member of the Labour party, and indeed every hon. Member of this House, to reflect as to how the result of this Division will be interpreted in South Africa. I suggest that my hon. Friends have overlooked the fact that the great majority of the Members of this House will undoubtedly, for the cogent reasons given by the Colonial Secretary, be compelled in the interests of self-government, and because we know and believe that South Africa cannot be governed from Whitehall, to vote against the Amendment although they do not condone in any way the action of the South African Government, and are entirely opposed to many of the things done in the name of that Government. I think it is a great misfortune that it should be made to appear that there is a general approval of what has been done because there is no such approval. The Noble Lord opposite expressed the feeling of the great majority of Members when he said that the actions of the South African Government were repugnant to the British conception of liberty, and the hon. Members who have just sat down repeated that sentiment in other words. The hon. Member for New castle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) also expressed the same idea, and from every part of this House there has been the expression of sonic measure or other of disapproval. I think it would be well if this Debate, with those expressions of opinion, went to South Africa instead of pressing the Amendment to a Division, which would only misinterpret the feelings of this House. I am sure hon. Members do not undervalue self-government, and they have no idea of suggesting any interference with that principle. I earnestly appeal to the Members of the Labour party to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
The hon. Member just stated that it would be an impossibility for us to interfere with a self-governing Dominion in regard to questions of law and order, but I see in this matter something more than the mere maintenance of law and order. There is a, policy behind this question, and I believe that it 408 is in the interests of the Empire and of democracy in this country, that we should interfere with a law which exists simply for the maintenance of that policy. I am not troubled by the fears of the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he suggests that action here might disrupt the Empire. If we do not interfere with the policy which the Indemnity Bill is to establish we shall lose South Africa, and it will become merely in name a British Dominion. Behind this Indemnity Bill, and the policy which it establishes, there lies the influences which have been exploiting the wealth of the Transvaal. I want us to get a little below all these troubles, and to do so you have to go back to the time following the war when the mines were first reopened. A policy was laid down then by the men who controlled the gold mines of the Transvaal, and that policy was exposed by Mr. Cresswell, who was then the manager of the Main Reef Gold Mining Company, in the evidence he gave before the Commission inquiring into the question of native labour. I want to remind this House that Mr. Cresswell exposed the policy of the mine owners in a letter written to the Board of the directorate of his company, and when I read this letter the House will see the relevance of it. He says:—With reference to your trial of white labour. I have consulted the Consolidated Gold Fields Group and a friend of mine haft consulted Messrs. Beit and Company, and the feeling seems to be one of fear that having a large number of white men employed on the Hand in the position of labourers, the same troubles will arise as are now prevalent in the Australian Colonies, and the combination of the labouring classes will be so strong as to more or less dictate, not only on questions of wages but also on political questions when representative government is established.That has been the underlying policy of the mine owners. The then Colonial Secretary went to South Africa, and the engineers of the various mine owners presented him with a memorial in which this phrase occurs:—There is no place in South Africa fur the trail f the serpent trades unionism.Later on, when they decided to introduce Chinese labour, the engineer of the East Hand Company said:—Chinese labour will cut up trade unionism by the roots.The whole policy of the mine owners has been directed to the destruction of trade unions by the exclusion of white labour from the Transvaal, so that would not have a large labour-voting population which might establish a labour party on the Rand. We now find the Government taking up the policy of the mine owners. In the past, whenever the Government 409 desired to improve the conditions of the workers, the mine owners always said, "You do this and interfere with our vested interests, and we will close the mines and bankrupt the Transvaal. The gold will remain there to wait our pleasure. We will bankrupt the Government and exhibit you as an anti-British Government." I speak with some slight knowledge of the position of the Government in this matter. I was one of those who asked that responsible Government should be granted to the Transvaal. I claim both General Botha and General Smuts as intimate friends, and I know they have always the threat being used against them that it they ameliorate the conditions of the workers so as to interfere with profits and dividends, the great monopoly would close down the mines. Consequently the intolerable conditions remain* and I will give one fact to show this. In 1907, I was a correspondent in South Africa when the miners were on strike, and they asked me to speak at one of their meetings, and having spoken at a strike meeting it was actually suggested that I should be deported from the country. There was a strike committee of some fifteen men in 1907, but there are now only two of them left now. The workers have revolted against these conditions, and have caused trouble through strikes, and the Government have found it more easy to use coercive measures of a violent nature against the workers than to attack this monopoly and see that justice is done. This is a matter in which we are intimately concerned; in fact, the whole Empire is concerned. So far as my view goes, if the British worker is to be driven out of the country the Transvaal becomes an alien country so far as the Rand is concerned, and it becomes British in nothing else but in name. If those conditions are to be maintained I have no fear whatever in voting, and would be glad to see the whole House vote for this Amendment, even if the effect caused feeling in South Africa which might lead to disruption, for I would sooner see South Africa go out of the Empire than remain in it under such conditions.
It appears to me that there will be no British conditions maintained in South Africa, and we shall eventually become responsible for the maintenance virtually of a slave State, and trouble will arise in consequence. The Colonial Secretary says we must remember our terrible responsibility in regard to this volcano of a 410 quarter of a million of coloured men. Why does this responsibility exist? It is because those men are kept there in a condition of servitude. They are sent to the Hand from Portuguese territory. They are confined in the compounds, and for them to strike is an offence and a crime, and they are kept in subjection. Above them are a few skilled overlords, who are well paid, but the whole system is virtually a slave system, and it is intolerable that such a system should be maintained within the Empire. If the introduction and proclamation of martial law and the over-riding of all laws is essential to the maintenance of these conditions, I hope we shall not consent to this Indemnity Bill, in order that we may do something to break down this intolerable, vicious, and immoral labour system.
§ Sir J. D. REES
It is a singular circumstance that right through this difficulty no hon. Member has referred to the effect of these circumstances upon labour. I can well understand the attitude of the hon. Member for Leicester, because he studies the interests of British labour in British India, but the hon. Member from Merthyr Tydvil has given up India as one of his subjects. It is rather remakable that no reference whatsoever has been made to the effect of what has happened in South Africa upon British labour. How is British labour affected by the events which have taken place? Only, I submit, in one way. The African Government by taking this action have preserved a great industry from danger and probably from destruction. The hon. Member spoke of these mines as being the property of certain monopolists, but he knows as well as I do that this property belongs to the British public, and not to any capitalist or monopolist. The whole of this property is spread in the smallest parcels all over the United Kingdom. The labouring people who hold this property and are interested in it were affected by this conspiracy, this Syndicalism, or strike, or whatever you like to call it, and had the Government not intervened there would have been such disorder in South Africa that this property would have been destroyed. The hon. Member does not contradict what I say. He must be aware that it is the property of the British public, including the poor, and it is not the property of any capitalist or group of mine-owners, and to say so is to entirely misrepresent the whole circumstances.
§ Sir J. D. REES
If the hon. Member contradicts me he must have studied to very small purpose the list of shareholders of this property. He will find that it is no longer, whatever it may have been once, the property of any few great holders, but is spread in small parcels all over the British public. If he can contradict me, let him do so in the Press after inquiry. The speech of the Colonial Secretary, whether it was an essay or a speech, was a sound, statesmanlike production, suitable for Colonial or Imperial consumption. It is to my mind an inconsistency that in other matters the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are not imbued with that spirit which I was glad to see that he displayed to-day. I would like to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). He took exception to General Smuts' statement that he had put in a memorial praying for the deportation of Mr. Galbraith Cole. When the hon. Member denies that, I, of course, immediately accept his denial, but if he had been here I should have asked him whether he spoke the whole truth, and whether he did not heartily approve of the deportation of Mr. Galbraith Cole, which was a perfectly legal act, because in British East Africa, as in British India, there are laws which allow the Executive to resort to such measures. Nobody declares that deportation is legal in South Africa, and time has been wasted by those hon. Gentlemen who have described it as illegal. That which is done under martial law is a fortiori illegal. The hon. Member wanted the Government in Africa to reserve the Indemnity Bill to be dealt with by the King in this country. It is not a very democratic proceeding to desire that the passage of a Bill shall be taken away from a democratic Parliament and submitted to the Monarchy in this country, so that the action of the democratic Parliament in Africa, may be overridden by the action of a nominally democratic Parliament at home.
Then he complained that the African Government had confiscated the papers of certain trade unions. Why not? The circumstances being as they were, a dangerous and difficult state of things occurring, surely it was a very small measure to seize the papers connected with a trade union. In such circumstances as that private letters, even of persons who are under no suspicion at all, may properly 412 and fairly be opened and investigated by the Government. I know it is very painful for hon. Gentlemen there, whom I have heard so often in this House extolling the experiment made in South Africa, saying how perfectly it worked, and how admirable it was that the Boer and the Briton should lie down together and that are responsible Parliament should be immediately given after a disastrous war, and how great was the courage of those who made such an experiment. I sympathise with them in the result of the experiment, whilst I do not regret the action of the Government in Africa. The experiment in their eyes, not mine, must have failed, and I hope less will be heard of the smug satisfaction which has always been expended upon that premature grant of responsible Government in South Africa. The hon. Member, as it seemed to me, gave away his whole case when he was arguing that there was no sufficiently serious state of affairs to justify the proclamation, and had to admit that there was only one line of railway to Johannesburg by which the food was to be brought there in order to keep the inhabitants alive. If it is not a sufficient reason for the issue of a proclamation when a single line of railway is held by syndicalism or strikers, so that the inhabitants at the end of it cannot have food—
§ Mr. BARNES
I understood the hon. Member to allege that the hon. Member for Leicester had said that there was only one line of railway, and that it was held by syndicalism.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I said that it was held by syndicalism; he said that there was a single line of railway. Then he proceeded to refer to High Wycombe. If he has been there he must know that there ave two lines of railway to Wycombe. Could there be any greater justification than the fact that one of the greatest cities in Africa at the end of one narrow line was unable to supply itself with food for its inhabitants. Several hon. Gentlemen, including the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood), objected to the inherent injustice of this proceeding. The hon. Member for Newcastle had the hardihood to complain that there 413 must necessarily be a connection between law and justice, he supporting a Government which passed the Trades Disputes Act, which admittedly allows injustice to be done in certain cases as a privilege granted to those who are able to compel a powerful and pusillanimous Government to pass a measure in the form they desire. An hon. Member behind me instanced the Insurance Act—and I agree with him heartily—as a proof that in this country liberty is invaded right and left by the Government. He did not mention picketing and the Trades Disputes Act. It seems to me most absurd to talk about the loss of liberty in Africa when all the Socialist legislation leads to the loss of liberty at home. The hon. Member for Leicester was exceedingly indignant about any British subject being dealt with by legislation instead of by the Courts. I wonder whether he would have objected to Lord Stafford being dealt with by a Bill of Attainder.
There is no proof that the Government in South Africa acted with tyranny, or that it has gone beyond the requirements of the case. For my part, I hope that hon. Gentlemen who follow will respond to the appeal of one on their own side and withdraw the Amendment which has led to a discussion which I think should never have taken place in the British House of Commons. The Colonial Secretary, I think, did a public service in dissipating the idea so frequently put about, that any subject of the British Empire has equal rights in every part of the British Empire. The acceptance of that theory would bring the whole Empire down like a pack of cards. It is a fortunate thing, I think, that the only good circumstance that has resulted from this Debate is, that we have had it from the responsible Minister that British subjects in one part of the British Empire have not necessarily the same rights as British subjects in another part of the British Empire, though they may be quite as good and, indeed, better. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie), with whom I never can agree, said that the labour members in Africa, the gentlemen who had been deported, were not stirring up any uprising or doing any act which would be likely to lead to disorder in South Africa. All I can say is that the hon. Gentleman is an extremely bad judge of what acts are likely to lead to disorder, and what are likely to stir up strife. He himself, I am bound to believe unwittingly, was the cause of stirring up strife during the tour he made in India 414 some time ago. The hon. Gentleman is a very bad witness upon this point, and we had much better believe the responsible Government out there, which found that these gentlemen who have been deported were a danger to the community. The hon. Member for Merthyr quoted Mr. Merriman. He quoted what really is the "Times" comment on the speech of Mr. Merriman, who said that General Smuts had produced remarkable slender evidence of a conspiracy. That is a matter of opinion. It is a pity that he did not go on to quote another portion of Mr. Merriman's speech in which he said:—Those who are objecting to the action of the Government have made heroes of the sorriest lot of fellows that could have been seen, of men who were thoroughly discredited.''Why shed any crocodile tears about the removal of men discredited by their supporters in Parliament in those terms? Why make heroes of them here? Why not leave them in that oblivion which I am sure they are so well suited to adorn, and which in an ill-advised moment they left in order to make the trouble to which we are now referring. The Noble Lord behind me referred to what might happen if the railways in England were under the State, and he pointed out that these troubles happened in a country in which the railways are managed by the State. I should like to reinforce this argument, with which I most heartily agree, by saying that the great strike in France, which was put down with so much courage and capacity, occurred equally on railways managed by the State and those owned by private companies. France is a country which affords a useful opportunity of seeing the two systems working side by side, and it is noteworthy there was greater difficulty in dealing with the labour unrest on the State railways than on the. lines which were the property of private companies. I think it is a serious thing that this matter should be debated here at all. I hope there will be no Vote taken upon the Motion. I believe the Government in South Africa acted with wisdom and discretion and that they knew far better what was required in the interests of justice and of all, and not merely of any particular section, than does any section in this House or, indeed, than the House collectively can know.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I view this Amendment with mingled feelings, and the whole of the speeches delivered from both sides of the House show that those mingled 415 feelings are shared by Members in all parts of it. I welcome this opportunity for the expression of individual opinion, but I hope the Mover of the Resolution will not press it to a Division. The opportunity is welcome for an expression of individual opinion as to the serious nature of the departure by the South African Government from fundamental traditions with regard to liberty and constitutional practice in its action in suppressing the recent strikes in South Africa, We all recognise that the conditions which prevail there are seriously different from those which obtain here. The existence of a large native population of an uncivilised character, a population outnumbering the whites largely, a population which might easily be stirred to violence and riot, and which might be guilty, if so stirred, of excesses that would stagger opinion in this country even more than the present action of the South African Government has done—the existence of that danger and that possibility does make a very great difference in South Africa. It is quite possible that it may constitute a danger which, in the opinion of the South African Government, would justify special legislation, legislation prohibiting certain kinds of agitation, legislation prohibiting strikes, and legislation vesting the Executive Government with extraordinary power, powers which we do not consider it right to vest in the Government of this country. It may be so; we do not live under these conditions or dangers, and are not entitled to express an opinion. But it can be said that the South African Government has not thought it necessary—neither this nor past Governments which have existed in the different States have thought it necessary to pass such legislation. There has been no legislation in South Africa prohibiting strikes or agitation, or vesting extraordinary power in the Government. It is the Government itself which has been, in this matter, the chief exponent of anarchy, which has torn up the law, destroyed the ordinary guarantees for liberty and freedom, and its action, especially in regard to the imprisonment of Mr. Cress-well, who was not even accused of any incitement to violence or riot—its action in kidnapping and deporting the labour leaders—has from all sides of this House elicited grave expressions of alarm and distress.
There is also the allegation which is made by spokesmen of the South African 416 Government that there existed on the part of these men who have been victims of this special action a criminal conspiracy tooverthrow the Government—a conspiracy on the part of syndicalists and revolutionists to hold the community up to ransom, and to extort, by violence and terrorism, terms and conditions which they could not extort by constitutional, legal action. With regard to that allegation, all we can say is that there is absolutely no evidence at the present time of the existence of any such conspiracy; there is no evidence of it in the very able speech which was made by General Smuts, there is no evidence in any of the cables which have come to this country, in fact there is absolutely no evidence of it whatever. Even if it were true, even if there did exist such a criminal conspiracy, I do not think anyone can deny that, after martial law had been proclaimed, the South African Government had the situation absolutely in hand, that it was in no danger from these conspirators, that it had destroyed their power, anticipated them, and drawn their fangs, and that martial law having been effective in that way, it could then, if it had evidence of a criminal conspiracy, have put these men upon their trial and punished them, and punished them severely, by the ordinary law of the land. For this reason, and in view of the gravity of the departure from British traditions which are regarded as fundamental, I think it is welcome there should be an early opportunity for the expression of individual opinion on this matter. This House offers a platform from which the opinions expressed will undoubtedly reach South Africa, and which can perhaps influence public opinion and even Members of the Government more than any other platform in this country.
Having said so much, while I welcome the opportunity of expressing individual opinion, I do deprecate most strongly the attempt to take action by this House or to exercise any interference in the action of the South African Government on this matter. Parliament has in its own discretion granted self-government to South Africa. Colonial self-government has no meaning at all unless it includes also the right to do wrong. It is a mere mockery to suggest that a self-governing colony has only the right to pass legislation or commit acts so long as that legislation and those acts are in accordance with our ideas of what is right and proper. That would be a mere mockery, a mere travesty of self-government. It would not be self-govern- 417 ment at all. South Africa, enjoying self-government, has to learn by hard and bitter experience what is the true and the wisest policy to pursue in these matters. The South African Government by its action has fomented the forces of disorder; it has shown an example of anarchy; it has by precept and practice set an example that may be followed brother forces in a country which embraces many elements of disorder in its population. We ourselves in this country did not devise our present ideas of liberty and constitutional freedom all at once. They did not spring complete and fully-fledged from the brain of some individual legislator. We also had to work them out by hard and bitter experience.
Every action on the part of the South African Government at the present time can be paralleled by similar action on the part of British Governments with regard to industrial disputes during the past century. Labour has had its martyrs in this country. I am not suggesting it has been the action of one particular party or one Government rather than another, but there have been acts in the past history of labour disputes of this country for which men of all parties would blush, and which they would repudiate if they were attempted to be perpetrated at the present time—acts not so far beyond the memory of living persons—the treatment of labourers in the South of England, their death, their imprisonment, their deportation, their transportation for actions which we regard at the present time as the mere ordinary constitutional liberties of every individual in this country. We learnt the evil and the mischief of such policy by experience. It is not likely we would have learnt it more quickly if we had been subject to interference and subject to dictation by some outside Power; that would rather have stiffened our necks. In the same way it is not likely South Africa will learn the lesson which she has to learn, and which all self-governing countries must learn which have to face the problem of organised labour—it is not likely South Africa will learn that lesson more easily if we attempt to interfere as outside dictators. I was impressed by the reference of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil to the situation which existed while the Transvaal was still a separate state, and before it came under British domination. He asked whether Members on the opposite side of the House would have tolerated this action which is now being 418 perpetrated by the South African Government if it had been perpetrated by the Boer Government. I agree with him that if these acts had been perpetrated by the Boer Government they would probably have been made a cause of war by those who were looking for a cause for war, and they would have been just as good a cause for war as the denial of the franchise to the Uitlanders, which was made the cause of war. It is within my recollection that the hon. Member for Merthyr was one of those who strongly protested against our interference with the Transvaal when it denied the franchise to so many British subjects who were living there, and I cannot understand why he should suggest that he would change his view when the action in question was done by a British Colony. Indeed, I should have thought that the British Colony would have been allowed the same opportunity to learn its lesson from experience as he was willing to accord to the Transvaal at a former time.
The objection which I made just now to proceeding with this Amendment is an objection in principle, but there are some objections not in principle, but in detail which I think are worth considering. Surely it is unprecedented that it should be proposed with regard to a Bill which has not yet been passed by the South African Legislature, a Bill which is stilt under consideration, whose final form we do not know, which may yet be changed fundamentally, that we should veto it in advance, that we should issue a mandamus to the South African Government, or rather to the South African Parliament—because we are dealing with the Parliament and not the Government, and with the elected representatives of the whole of the South African people—and that we should issue this notice of veto in advance. The Colonial Secretary has already told us that in one important detail in the first Clause substantial alterations will be made during the Committee stage. Is it not possible that opinion in South Africa and opinion in the South African Parliament may require further changes to be made in the Bill, and that the Bill as finally passed by the South African Legislature may be quite different from what it is at the present time? We do not know and cannot say, and in these circumstances I suggest it is rash to anticipate matters and veto it in advance.
419 The other objection in detail is that, confessedly on the part of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment and others who have supported it, our information at the present time is not full. Practically the only information we have before us is not a complete narrative of the circumstances in a volume of the evidence and not a full report, but a single speech made by General Smuts in the South African Legislature. In a matter of this kind, which so gravely affects the Constitution of the Empire and the future relations between the different parts of the Empire, it is advisable that we should wait until we have the fullest information before we take any action. This action of the South African Government raises problems of the greatest importance with regard to the Empire and the Constitution of the Empire. Our Imperial Constitution is very vague, indefinite, loose, and fluid. There are many problems which crop up from time to time to solve which the Empire has no constitutional machinery. We live from hand to mouth, and we are opportunists in that matter. Gradually and slowly, by practice and by experience, we develop our machinery in this and that direction. This is not the only serious problem that is coming up for solution at the present time. There is the other problem, very grave and ominous, raised by the treatment of Indians in Natal, a problem to which the Colonial Secretary has referred. There is also the problem with regard to the Colonies sharing in the onerous burden of defence—a problem brought before us very urgently by the declaration of Mr. Borden that if Canada contributed to the defence of the Empire, she would demand some share in the control of public policy which our present constitutional machinery gives us no means of affording her.
All these things point to the conclusion that in regard to these grave matters of Imperial importance we shall never be able to interfere with the individual liberty of the Colonies until we have some central assembly in which the Colonies themselves are represented. We are elected by the electors of Great Britain, but have here no representatives of the South African people, and we lack the knowledge, the authority and respect to sanction that interference in those matters which, while they are of Imperial importance, are still of the gravest importance, locally and domestically, in the various Colonies. This 420 leads me, finally, to the reference made to Ireland by the Noble Lord opposite (Lord Robert Cecil). I think he has ignored the complete and fundamental difference between the position Ireland would occupy under the Home Rule Bill, if it becomes an Act, and the position which is occupied by all the self-governing Colonies. There is one fact which makes all the difference in the world—it is that Ireland would still be represented in the Imperial Parliament and that the Imperial Parliament, if it interfered in any Irish matter would have the authority of a body which represented Irish constituencies. If we seek for a parallel to the position of Ireland we should find it nearer home, in the position of the London County Council, rather than in the position of a self-governing Colony entirely unrepresented in the Imperial Parliament. For these reasons, I think, that the parallel drawn and the lessons it was sought to draw from that parallel as to the possibility of the Imperial Government interfering in Ireland, as it is not interfering in South Africa, are completely false and misleading. I think they only serve not to have any influence on the proceedings with regard to Ireland, but to make matters more difficult for those who have to deal with grave Imperial questions.
§ Mr. BARNES
In the first place, I should like to make reference to a suggestion which has come from the hon. Member for East Northants (Mr. Chiozza Money), and also, with his customary good feeling, from my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that we should withdraw this Amendment. I have consulted some of my colleagues, so far as I could reach them, and I find, as I expected to find, that that course is not one that commends itself to them. We have brought this Amendment forward in good faith. It has been admitted by both hon. Members who have suggested its withdrawal, that it has been a good thing, because it has enabled many expressions of individual opinion and expressions of sympathy with the terms of the Amendment to be made. That being so, to withdraw now would place us in a very invidious position, and inasmuch as we believe in what is expressed in the Amendment, we think it best that we should follow up our declaration by putting it to the vote. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) must be congratulated upon having inaugurated, in his usual able way, a very fair and temperate Debate. I am sure that neither 421 he or any of us on these Benches have siny cause to complain of what has been said, except, perhaps, of what fell from the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil). From the hon. Member for East Nottingham we had a variant upon the "poor widow" argument. We are always told when we are advocating some measure of reform, especially if it is some economic reform, that widows and orphans are interested in the maintenance of some hoary old abuse. We have been told to-night that the widow, and orphans, or in this case the poor labourers in this country, hold blocks of South African shares, and are interested in the maintenance of the interests of the South African millionaires.
§ Mr. BARNES
I can assure the hon. Member that that argument does not weigh very much with us, and if there are any workmen in this country holding blocks of shares in South African mines they are so infinitesimal in number that they should not figure, even in his mind, in this matter. The hon. Member rather misrepresented my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, because my hon. Friend did not admit that there was any danger in South Africa. On the contrary, he expressly denied the existence, so far as he has been able to ascertain the facts, of any sinister plot in South Africa. For instance, with regard to Johannesburg, he said there was nothing to indicate that a single line was in the possession of the syndicalists or the trade unionists. With reference to the speech of the Noble Lord, I should like to make mention of one or two facts, otherwise there might be on record a statement which appeared to pass unchallenged. He made merry at our expense, and said that we had brought forward this Amendment in a hypocritical spirit, which was proved by the. fact that while this Debate was proceeding a deputation from the Labour party had waited on the Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, nothing of the sort has taken place. It so happens that a deputation from a labour body outside this House altogether, with which we are more or less in harmonious relationship—I am not saying a word against them—a deputation arranged for a considerable time ago, was waiting upon the Prime Minister at this particular time this afternoon. We did 422 not arrange for it, and did not have anything at all to do with it. It has no relation to this subject, and the Noble Lord need not have dragged it in at all. Then the Noble Lord proceeded to make merry and pass some scathing observation on what he was pleased to call the contemptible character of the proceedings to-day, and he said that we went about making violent speeches outside, and therefore we now had to do something in this House and bring forward some Amendment of this sort in order to make those speeches good. The hon. Member (Mr. Eamsay Macdonald) said outside that the proper battle ground for fighting this thing out by the working people of South Africa was in their own Parliament, and therefore I think that did not lie against him, at all events, neither did it lie against any of us.
Then the Noble Lord said that Lord Gladstone had only done what he was compelled to do, and that he had no option but to sign the declaration of martial law and the deportation of the, nine or ten men. That may be so. I do not think anybody on this side of the House, on these benches at all events, has said anything to the contrary. I can see no option which could present itself to Lord Gladstone's mind but to sign the declaration of martial law when presented to him by the responsible Ministers of South Africa. But he might have foreseen the trouble that subsequently led to the declaration of martial law, and might have constitutionally exercised his authority and advice in such a way as to prevent those troubles. After all, they did not start this year; they started last July by a strike, and on that occasion the military were brought in, and General Smuts, a week or two ago, paid a tribute to what he called the enormous assistance which the South African Government received last July from the British military. Is it not evident to anyone that that must have caused keen resentment on the part of men in South Africa, who felt, rightly or wrongly, that they, whilst struggling to be free, had been smashed by the. British military, paid for by the people of this country. Therefore there was that resentment, and I think something might have been done by Lord Gladstone or the Colonial Secretary, exercising their constitutional right of advice, to have given the trade unionists in South Africa an opportunity of so stating their case as to prevent the recurrence of the scenes that we have heard of 423 this year. On 24th July the hon. Member (Mr. Outhwaite) put some questions to the Colonial Secretary. He asked him if, through Lord Gladstone, he could not see his way to give a proper chance to the trade unionists of stating their case on a Commission which was then about to be set up. The Colonial Secretary refused. He was pressed over and over again subsequent to that by the hon. Member (Mr. Outhwaite), the hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), and the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie), and he turned a deaf ear to all their appeals. Therefore, while I admit that when it came to the point of signing, or otherwise, the declaration of martial law, there was no alternative, yet I think before that, either he or the Colonial Secretary, or both in combination, should have taken some steps by which the declaration of martial law could have been avoided.
Then the Noble Lord had some philosophical observation to make to us of the Labour party on strikes—and I think he was supported by the hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Rees)—on railways and other Government works, just the same as on works of a private character; and he indicated that in his opinion strikes ought to be made illegal, and would be made illegal in the event of the railways being nationalised, and therefore he was good enough to warn us against nationalisation. For our part we have no fear of that. We believe that, on the whole, when railways are nationalised they will result, not only in a more efficient service to the community, but better labour conditions for those who work the railways; and we believe that will be more so in this country when the working people have sense enough to send more of their own Members along here. Then he could not refrain from bringing in King Charles's head in the form of Home Rule and the position of Ulster, find he charged us with having no regard for the people of Ulster, and, as a matter of fact, if martial law were declared there, would we take the same stops that we are taking here? There is absolutely no parallel between Ireland and South Africa. You would still, in the event of Home Rule being passed, as it will pass, have Irish Members here, and you would still therefore have Irish public opinion represented here; and, moreover, it ought to be pointed out still further that when Home Rule for Ireland is passed, the Irish Parliament will have no power, as the 424 South African Parliament has, to set up a citizen army of their own, and therefore the parallel does not hold at all.
Then he had a lot more philosophical remarks about liberty and the danger of bureaucracy which almost prompt me to exclaim, in the hackneyed quotation:—Oh. Liberty! Liberty! how many crimes are committed in thy name!It is all very well to declaim against bureaucracy, but, as a matter of fact, the Government is now taking more and more concern in industrial matters and all sorts of things connected with the people's lives, and that, it seems to me, is being forced upon the Government by economic conditions over which Governments have no control, and therefore it is idle to declaim against bureaucracy altogether. I associate myself to the full with the words of detestation which have been already uttered by my colleagues in regard to this matter. Apart altogether from the legal aspect of it, and from the question whether we have or have not the power to intervene, we surely: have the right, and ought to exercise it, of expressing ourselves strongly in regard to a matter which cuts so deeply, as I think, into human rights, and especially should we so express ourselves when those happenings have been within the British Empire and within an area governed under the terms of a Constitution granted to it only some five or six years ago. When one reads of what has been done during the last few weeks one's mind is almost turned to the attention of some semi-civilised country or some autocratic country like Russia. We have heard of men being held up and liable to be shot at sight simply for being in the vicinity of certain buildings. We have heard of men being told they must be indoors by eight o'clock at night under danger of being shot. We have heard of men being deprived of the ordinary right of meeting together and discussing things of common interest to them. We have heard of men, even being liable to be shot by any uniformed jackanapes who came along. We have heard, further, of people being denied the right to strike, which simply means reducing them to terms of slavery. I think we are justified in expressing ourselves strongly at things of that sort going on under the British flag, under the sanction, and with the connivance, of Lord Gladstone, our own representative in South Africa, the son of an illustrious sire 425 who did so much to uphold liberty in all parts of the world, and not only in the British Dominions. Martial law, and the deportation of these nine men, it seems to me, constitute a denial of the civil rights of men in South Africa, and constitute a danger to the civil rights of men here. In fact, I think it indicates, along with a lot more things which are taking place, that we are face to face with one of the greatest dangers that have yet confronted industrial democracy. We are face to face with this, that Governments everywhere are more disposed than ever they were before to apply force against their critics or, at all events, to apply force in order to stamp out those, movements which are troublesome to them.
They will not stop with labour. There will be other people concerned in these things besides labour and, therefore, there is a volume of indignation in this country arising at the present time, and which I venture to say will grow within the next few weeks or so into a volume unparalleled my time. It is being met in advance by two replies: First of all, it is said by some people, "Serve them right. We want a Botha here." If that is not said in words, it is said in deeds by some people. In the second place, it is sometimes said, "It has nothing to do with us." In regard to the first answer, there is no good arguing with people who talk in that way, for to their mind and conscience freedom has no meaning and human rights have no value at all. There always have been folks in this country who have been against all measures of civil, religious, or political freedom, and I suppose there always will be. There have always been folks in this country who have been against any measure tending to the uplifting of the common people, and who indeed regard the common people as persons providentially provided to do the fetching and carrying. With these I have nothing to do, I simply give them up. But there are others who think it has nothing at all to do with us, and who plead Home Rule. I admit, quite frankly, that Home Rule has its implications, but surely the British Empire also has its implications. I would ask these people: Do local rights in any part of the British Empire override the implication that there is in the Empire some minimum of civilised government, and some minimum of civil right, for the people who live in the British Empire? I have never endorsed the principle that folks in distant climes over 426 the sea whom we protect with an immense army and navy for which we pay can do absolutely as they like. When this particular Constitution was set up, some five or six years ago, under which these deeds have been done, I moved an Amendment in regard to the franchise in which I expressed that opinion. We went to war with the Boers thirteen years ago, because of some alleged, and as I believe fanciful, grievances on the part of so-called Uitlanders, and I am not going to fold my arms and say nothing about the crimes committed by the self-same Boers.
I have read the speech made by General Smuts in the Parliament of South Africa, and I cannot see anything in it, except generalities. He says that there are among those who have been deported men who have been convicted of offences. It seems to me that that is the strong condemnation of what has been done. General Smuts denounced one of these men as the most desperate character he had ever met. One would think that if that is so, that is just the sort of man any common-sense intelligent jury would have clapped in gaol. Therefore, to say that those men are such desperate men and such well-known bad characters is to admit that if there was a case against them they could have been taken into the Courts in South Africa where the offences were committed. It is easy to make general charges. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is thought to be a desperate character by some landlords who are opposed to him, and I am perfectly sure that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) is considered by some people not only a desperate character but a man who ought to be shot at sight. The real trouble does not arise in the character of the deported leaders, but in the conditions of labour in South Africa. I absolutely agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite), that if it meant those conditions of labour on the one hand, or letting South Africa be cut off from the British Empire altogether, I should choose the latter as the lesser of the two evils. If half of what has been said about the conditions of labour in South Africa is true, if half of what is alleged by the hon. Member for Hanley is true, then the agitation was not only justifiable, but a strike in South Africa was a manifest duty on the part of the men there.
I read the other day that on the railways there 3s., 4s., and 5s. a day were 427 the wages of hundreds and thousands of men, while the cost of living there is nearly double what it is here. I read also that there were some 300 or 400 men being discharged from the mines, that blacks were being substituted, and that at a time when we are told that the small number of whites constitute a danger to the community there. These are the causes which have led up to the events in South Africa. They will not be cured by force, by turning the Army against the men, or by deporting the leaders who are endeavouring as best they can to voice the grievances of the South African workers. I am not going to say anything to lead to the belief that I support what has been said of the deported leaders. Neither shall I stand up for anything in the nature of revolt against the State. At all events, so far as I am concerned, I am not going to support anyone leading an insurrectionary movement against the State as the State. But we do protest against the State being manipulated by international financiers without the slightest regard for human freedom or liberty. I am going to vote for this Amendment, because by it we declare that, at all events, there should be time given, and that this Indemnity Bill should be held up until such time as we get full information about it, and until such time as we can deal with the whole facts of the matter with knowledge, with statesmanship, and, as I should hope, with sympathy.
I wish to state the reasons why I cannot support the Amendment. I believe that, from the point of view of South Africa, the adoption of the Amendment might do a great deal of harm between us and South Africa.
§ If it were possible to carry this Amendment it would surely mean that the Indemnity Bill would be held up, and. martial law would not be withdrawn from. South Africa for some time, possibly for months. The Amendment itself stultifies the position of the hon. Member and shows that the position in South Africa is entirely misunderstood. At the time of the deportations, when the hon. Member and other Members with him were referring to this matter, I happened to meet a gentleman, from South Africa, and he asked me was it possible that any of these hon. Members had been in South Africa and knew its conditions? It is impossible to argue this matter from the English point of view. The Government there has not got behind it that reserve which the Government here has got, and, if they had allowed that particular trouble to grow, perhaps in another twenty-four hours it would have got beyond their control. This Debate has-been carried on in a manner at which South Africa could not feel umbrage, and in that respect it is quite different from some of the speeches delivered by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil and others at Glasgow. But a Division, I believe, would have a bad effect, and I hope that even now the Labour party will see fit not to divide the House. They are judging solely on the telegrams that have been received. They do not even yet know what has happened. This Debate merely means a pin-prick to the people of South Africa. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will see fit not to divide the House.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 50; Noes, 214.429
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.||[8.40 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Goldstone, Frank||Snowden, Philips|
|Alden, Percy||Hancock, John George||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Barnes, George N.||Hardie, J. Keir||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Barton, William||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Thomas, James Henry|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hudson, Walter||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||John, Edward Thomas||Wardle, George J.|
|Brace, William||Johnson, W.||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Jowett, Frederick William||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Kenyon, Barnet||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Clynes, John R.||Macdonald. J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Crooks, William||Outhwaite, R. L.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Raffan, peter Wilson|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Gill, A. H.||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||George Roberts and Mr. Pointer.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Smith, Albert (Lanes, Clitheroe)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Hazleton, Richard||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen)||O'Dowd, John|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Henry, Sir Charles||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Higham, John Sharp||O'Malley, William|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Hinds, John||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hogge, James Myles||O'Shee, James John|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Holt, Richard Durning||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Boland, John Pius||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Joyce, Michael||Pringle. William M. R.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Keating, Matthew||Radford, George Heynes|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Kelly, Edward||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Kilbride, Denis||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Clough, Willam||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Reddy, Michael|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Lardner, James C. R.||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Leach, Charles||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Levy, Sir Maurice||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Lundon, Thomas||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lyell, Charles Henry||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Cullinan, John||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Russell. Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||McGhee, Richard||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs, Louth)||Mocnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Macpherson, James Ian||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Delany, William||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Steehy, David|
|Dillon, John||M'Kean, John||Shortt, Edward|
|Donelan, Captain A.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Doris, William||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Duffy, William J.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Taylor. Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Tennant, Harold John|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Falconer, James||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Millar, James Duncan||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Molloy, Michael||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Field, William||Molteno, Percy Alport||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Waring, Walter|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||Mooney, John J.||Webb, H.|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Morgan, George Hay||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Morison, Hector||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||White. Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Munro, Robert||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Murphy, Martin J.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset. E.)||Nannetti, Joseph||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Gulland, John William||Needham, Christopher T.||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Wood, Rt Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Hackett, John||Nolan, Joseph||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Norton, Captain Cecil William|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nuttail, Harry||Illingworth and Mr. W. Jones.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.