HC Deb 03 July 1919 vol 117 cc1143-4
25. Captain ORMSBY-GORE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the South African Parliament has now passed a Bill which seriously affects the rights and privileges hitherto enjoyed by British - Indians resident in South Africa; whether the Royal Assent to this Bill has been reserved; whether representations have been made by the Imperial 'Government to the South African Government pointing out that this Bill imposes grave injustice on British subjects of Indian birth, and is contrary to the letter and spirit of undertakings given by the representatives of the South African Gov- eminent at the Imperial War Conference; and whether advice will be tendered to His Majesty to withhold the Royal Assent to the Bill in question until such time as it may again be considered by an Imperial Conference at which representatives of the Government of India may be present?

The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for the COLONIES (Lieut. - Colonel Amery)

The Bill referred to has been passed by the Union Parliament, and assented to in the King's name by the Governor-General. As stated in my reply to the hon. Member for Sevenoaks on the 30th June it is a matter of controversy how far the Act constitutes a diminution of existing rights enjoyed by the Indians in the Transvaal, or merely prevents evasion by Indians of existing legislation. No representations were made by His Majesty's Government to the Union Government with regard to the Bill, as it was known that the Union Government were fully alive to the difficulties of the position and that the matter was being closely watched by the Governor-General, who could be relied on to do all that was practicable in the circumstances to safeguard Indian interests. The Bill pot having been reserved for the Royal Assent, the last part of the question does not arise, but I may mention that postponement of the legislation would not have been to the advantage of existing licensees and property owners as it would have left them exposed to the grave consequences of a recent judgment of the Union Courts from which they have now been relieved.