HL Deb 11 February 1904 vol 129 cc965-1005

—who had given notice "To ask His Majesty's Government (1) what obstacles exist in the way of a very considerable emigration into the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies of unskilled labourers from the United Kingdom, such as would suffice to develop all local industries; (2) whether the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, which are under the direct supervision of the Colonial Office, do not impose tariffs upon the importation of foodstuffs, or permit rates having a similar effect upon railways under Government control; (3) what are the tariffs and what are the rates upon foodstuffs"—said: My Lords, two Blue-books and a White Paper have been issued dealing with this subject. I shall, however, make but very little reference to them, because, as it seems to me, they are presented to us in a some what imperfect form. In the Blue-book on the Further Correspondence relating to the Affairs of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony there is a long string of despatches from Lord Milner to the Colonial Secretary, but those despatches are not given to us in extenso. We have extracts from them, and I do complain that we are not in an adequate position to consider the question, for we do not really know what Lord Milner's views in full are. Let me illustrate my point. Despatch No. 91 is a most important despatch. It is the despatch in which Lord Milner first urges the Colonial Secretary to agree to the dropping of the instalment, but we are not given that despatch in full. Then, again, in Despatch No. 115 we find these somewhat significant words— We do not look to Indian labour for the mines. In the interview between Lord Milner and the deputation of the White League in June last, Lord Milner clearly alluded to the possibility of employing Indian labour; but in this Despatch No. 115, which is only presented to us in a fragmentary form, we find the phrase which have just quoted. I should very much like to know what communications have passed between the Indian Government and Lord Milner relative to employing Indian labour, and I should like to see that correspondence laid upon the Table.

If you glance through these important despatches from Lord Milner to the Colonial Secretary, you will find that the same thing applies to Despatches Nos.117, 127, and others. We are not given the whole despatch, but have to rely for our judgment upon extracts. That is certainly a most unusual form in which to present despatches and communications of this important character to Parliament. My noble friend Lord Ripon will remember that in 1864 Lord Robert Cecil, who was then in Opposition, censured Mr. Low for publishing what he described as garbled reports of the inspectors of schools. Mr. Low, as was his wont, somewhat caustically replied that it was necessary that the inspectors should keep their observations within bounds for the sake of public economy, but that if the House of Commons thought fit the reports should be printed in full whatever they might cost. However, my Lords, even this did not satisfy the House of Commons of that day, and a vote of censure was passed upon Mr. Low, who resigned, and his place was taken by Mr. Bruce, the father of my noble friend Lord Aberdare. I think those of us who object to this proposal to introduce Chinese labour are entitled to see these important despatches in full.

As regards the second Blue-book, containing Reports of the Transvaal Labour Commission, I contend, with all deference, that the Majority Report is of no value to us unless we have the opportunity, which we have not had, of studying the evidence that was given before that Commission. My noble friend opposite points to an enormous book, of which I believe there are only two volumes in the House of Lords. It is absurd to suppose that we can study evidence of that kind in two or three days. It was well known—it was a matter almost of common knowledge—that the majority of the Labour Commission were practically pledged on the subject before they were appointed—not pledged formally, but their opinion was known to be in favour of some outside labour from abroad. Therefore we cannot form an opinion of any value upon the Labour Commission's Report unless we have the opportunity of studying the evidence. The same argument, it seems to me, applies to the Legislative Council, which originally passed the Ordinance. That Council is under Lord Milner, is appointed by him, and his views upon this subject are well known. It cannot therefore be supposed that anything coming from the Legislative Council gives to us a very independent view, or that it has any title to support on that ground. However, as I have said, I shall not deal with what we can extract from the Blue-books.

Fortunately we have facts quite apart from the Blue-books which throw a lurid light upon the policy in South Africa which has culminated in this proposal to employ servile Chinese labour with a view of excluding free British labour. Barely two years have elapsed since the close of the Transvaal War—a war which, while it brought sorrow, anxiety, and suffering into every home, was ennobled by the common spirit of self-sacrifice both of rich and poor, and which we were told was waged with no sordid object, but to equalise the rights of white men and to release the native races from the slavery in which they were held by the Boers. But since that war we have learned a good deal; we have made a good many discoveries. Lord Milner has taught us the new political science that we can equalise the rights of white men by levelling down as well as by levelling up. In place of the old Volksraad, which, after all, did represent a certain portion of the white community, we have a Legislative Council, under Lord Milner, which is absolutely irresponsible to any of the inhabitants of the colony. I hear it suggested that we ought to have a referendum, but I do not suppose the Government will offer it, and even if they did, I do not think, in the present condition of things in the Transvaal, it would lead to a very satisfactory or a very honest result. I am reminded of the sort of plebiscites which were held during the declining years of the Second Empire. No, my Lords, it seems to me that so long as the Transvaal remains a Crown Colony we in this House and the people in this country have a right to decide questions of principle like this. If we want to find an explanation why there is to be no British labour in the Transvaal, and why an English Colony must submit to the very serious and dangerous introduction of Chinese labour, we must look to political and other con- siderations which, in spite of many contradictions, have remained the permanent policy of Lord Milner's administration. I suppose I shall be told by the Government that, after all, the reason why British labour is excluded and Chinese labour introduced, is purely a financial one. In reply to that plea, I would call your Lordship's attention to language employed by Lord Milner in his reply to a deputation from the White League in June, 1903. What did Lord Milner, on that occasion, say? Addressing the deputation, he said— I cannot make out what you think the policy of the mine-owners is. You assert that they want to work out the mines at an excessive pace, but at the same time you affirm that they are rendering white labour impossible, and that they are not making the least endeavour to get natives. Mr. Hay replied— They think they will be able to pay higher dividends once they get Chinese labour; hence this policy. To which Lord Milner retorted— I differ from you in thinking that Chinese labour will be cheaper. Then, again, are we to be told that the colony is confronted by financial ruin, and that on that account this importation of Chinese labour is rendered necessary and imperative? Again, I would call your Lordships' attention to language used by Lord Milner. Speaking in June last, he said— It is an unfortunate circumstance that so many people seem unable to discuss this question of fact in a temperate manner, but become partisans, so to speak, of a particular solution, and, while exaggerating everything that makes in favour of that solution, decline to see the plainest arguments on the other side. To listen to some extreme advocates of Asiatic labour you would think that this place was on the verge of total ruin. What is really the case? The production of gold even now is greater than in 1895 or 1896, when the Transvaal already was, and had been for some time, the marvel of the world in the matter of gold production. The world progresses, no doubt, but what was fabulous wealth seven years ago is not abject poverty to-day. Not only that, but the rate of production is steadily increasing. I do not understand how Lord Milner could use that language in June, and use totally different language barely a few months afterwards. If I am told, as I suppose I shall be told by His Majesty's Government, that Lord Milner has changed his mind, I again say that that emphasises and strengthens my claim that we should have fuller information than we have at present. If Lord Milner has altered his mind during these few months, it stands to reason that we cannot be expected to accept his authority as unimpeachable or infallible. We ought to have the full and complete evidence before us which induced him so completely to change his mind on this subject. The financial argument is, I believe, a false and fictitious one. The conduct of the owners is the real cause. The owners of the mines give an insufficient wage, and they treat their men badly. I am not making these statements, as I shall attempt to show, without corroborative evidence. The consulting engineer of the Consolidated Goldfields estimated that the increase of dividends to result from reducing Kaffir wages would be nearly £2,500,000 on the Rand mines per annum. This was a suggestion that was promptly put into action. In the second year of the war there was a conference of mining representatives at Cape Town, when it was resolved that on the opening of the mines the Kaffir wages should be reduced 33 per cent. It is not likely that, in view of this arbitrary reduction of wages, the colony would be specially attractive to free British labour. But, apart from that, the Kaffirs were not, and are not, well treated in the Rand mines. Sir Godfrey Lagden, whose authority, I think, we may accept because he is our Commissioner for Native Affairs in the Transvaal, gives in his return before the Commission the rate of mortality in the De Beers Mines as 30 per 1,000 per annum, but in the Rand mines the rate of mortality is 70 per 1,000 per annum. I will also give you a quotation from two speeches of certainly very impartial people. Dr. Jameson, speaking at Cape Town in November, 1903, is reported in The Times to have said— The De Beers Company would never employ Chinamen; they had plenty of labour, white and black, because they treated their people well. Sir Lewis Mitchell, speaking at the annual meeting of the De Beers Company, held at Kimberley on 16th November, 1903, said—and his words are very significant— Some statistics have appeared showing the mortality in the Rand mines. I find that the mortality in the Rand was 70 per 1,000, while ours was 30 per 1,000. We attach a great deal of importance to that. We believe the native question is not one entirely of wages. It is a question of treatment and of care. The natives are but men. They are men, not machines. If we study their interests I feel sure when we want more labour we can always get it. Besides all this, there have been, and are, political motives at work. In the Memorandum on the Mining Industry which the mine-owners presented to Mr Chamberlain on the occasion of his visit to Johannesburg in January, 1902, there was a reference to that "trail of the serpent"—the formation of labour unions. I will read a letter from a gentleman whom I know—a very shrewd man—which throws a clear light upon this question. It is from Mr. Percy Tarbutt to Mr. Creswell, written from St. Swithin's Lane, and it appears on page 171 of the Blue-book. It is as follows— Dear Mr. Creswell,—With reference to your trial of white labour for surface work on the mines, I have consulted the Consolidated Goldfields people, and one of the members of the Board of the Village Main Reef has consuited Messrs. Werner, Beit & Co., and the feeling seems to be one of fear that, having a large number of white men employed on the Rand in the position of labourers, the same troubles will arise as are now prevalent in the Australian Colonies, viz., that the combination of the labour classes will become so strong as to be able, more or less, to dictate not only on the question of wages, but also on political questions by the power of their votes when a representative Government is established. Not only are these the views of responsible people like Mr. Percy Tarbutt, but they are echoed—perhaps not so clearly, but they are echoed—by Lord Milner himself. For what other meaning can you attach to this? Lord Milner, in his speech in replying to the deputation of the White League alluded to in the Blue-book, used this language— Indeed, it is not merely a question of Asiatics. Constituted as we are we cannot admit an indiscriminate influx of people of a class which the country is unable to digest, whether from Asia or from anywhere else. It does seem to me quite clear from this evidence and from these facts, that the policy of Lord Milner and of the Government is to exclude from the Colony British labour. On the other hand, I maintain that those who advocate the employment of Chinese labour have to prove not only that every obstacle has been removed, but that every possible inducement has been offered to make the Transvaal British, not only in name, but in fact. The Transvaal was won by British blood. We now know that it is to be paid for entirely out of the taxation of the British people, and we have at the present moment this extraordinary bargain—that while the gold magnates have the gold we are to be left with the exclusive possession of the taxes.

Last, but by no means least, there is a feeling of the deepest repugnance among great masses of our fellow countrymen to this introduction of Chinese labour. Lord Milner, with incomparable taste, chose on one occasion to refer to this feeling of aversion as "the Exeter Hall view," which is always sentimental and always ignorant on native questions. I share with my right rev. friend the Bishop of Worcester some doubt as to what is meant by that epithet "sentimental." I am told by those who have great experience of Asiatics and of their habits that to herd masses of Chinese together in enclosures is productive of moral and social horrors upon which I have no intention to dwell this evening. No one, I think, can accuse The Times newspaper of indulging in sentimentality on this question. An article appeared in that newspaper in January in support of the draft Ordinance. That, of course, we expected, but we did not expect The Times to be so candid as to say— It must be admitted that the lot of the Chinese labourer does not promise to be very gay or very happy from our point of view. The Times mining correspondent went on to describe these indentured labourers as "muscular machinery." That may be a very picturesque phrase, but I believe it to be a very accurate description of what these Chinese labourers will be. I must say I feel from my heart that this language is also the language of degradation. It implies, I do not think I will say the lowering, but the complete abandonment of every great ideal which has hitherto controlled the relations in this Empire between the governors and the governed. I have no right to expect that, to those whose religion is based upon German philosophy, the Christian tradition can speak with any extraordinary sanction; but there are others—a large and powerful class, who are, I think, sometimes unwisely overlooked by politicians—to whom the Gospel still speaks as a living force, and they feel, and feel deeply, that to use the Chinese or any other subject race as "muscular machinery," as mere machines for our own advantage, is condemned by what is to them the most supreme and the highest law of God. They may appear to the Government to be old-fashioned and out-of-date, but they still cling, and cling with pride and determination, to the greatest and noblest of English traditions—that in all parts of the British Empire, wherever the direct control of Imperial officials is set up, there the people are to be governed for their own good and not exploited for the benefit of our commerce. I am aware that there have been individuals as well as classes who have been content so to use the native races, but I trust and believe that the Christian conscience—and by Christian conscience I speak of what is to me the highest conscience of the country—is sufficiently strong and powerful to put a stop to such a transaction. I beg to put the Question which stands in my name.


—who had given notice "To call attention to the further correspondence relating to the affairs of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony recently presented, with special reference to the question of the employment of Chinese labour in the Transvaal; and to move for Papers"—said: My Lords, my noble friend who has just sat down has, to a considerable extent, covered the ground of the whole question which I was desirous of raising on this occasion. I do not in the least desire to go over again, so far as I can avoid doing so, the matters with which he has so ably dealt, but I presume it will be for the convenience of the House if I at once proceed with the observations which I was desirous of offering to your Lordships on this subject. The Blue-book contains what I am bound to regard as very disagreeable reading. It shows a very unpleasant state of things to exist at the present moment in the Transvaal—a state of things highly unsatisfactory in financial and, I think I might say, in all other respects. But I do not wish to occupy your Lordships' time by entering upon all the questions which are raised by this Blue-book in one or other of its parts. I shall therefore confine my observations to the question of the proposed employment of indentured Chinese labour in the Transvaal—a question of sufficient importance in itself. This is a subject which requires and demands the consideration of this House and of the other House of Parliament, because there are involved in it matters of so great weight and importance that they ought not to be, and I will venture to say they cannot be, passed over in silence and with indifference.

The Ordinance contained in the Blue-book—the Ordinance for the purpose of establishing a system of Chinese labour under novel and strange conditions—is one which is without any precedent in any part of the King's dominions. I do not make that statement upon my own authority, I make it upon the authority of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman was asked in the other House last night by my friend Mr. Buchanan whether there were any mines in the British Empire worked by indentured foreign labour under conditions similar to those proposed in the Transvaal Ordinance, and Mr. Lyttelton replied, "No, Sir." That was a sufficiently emphatic answer, and I am entitled to say from that statement and from my own knowledge that the system proposed in this Ordinance is without any precedent in any part of His Majesty's dominions. We have, in various parts of our dominions, systems regulating the employment of indentured coolies, but none of them contain such conditions as are set forth in the Ordinance now before your Lordships.

I am not surprised that the conditions of this Ordinance should be remarkable, for there is throughout all English-speaking peoples in every part of the world the strongest objection to admitting Chinese labour into their country. There is a very interesting Paper in one of the Blue-books, containing a report as to the measures taken in various parts of British and American dominions for the purpose of regulating, and, as far as possible, preventing, the introduction of Chinese labour; and it is very natural that those who wish to introduce it into the Transvaal should regard themselves bound to devise some methods which would secure that there should not be competition between the imported Chinese labourers, when their period of work was over, and the ordinary shopkeepers and small traders of the country. They are, as is universally known, very dangerous competitors for persons of that kind, I have seen it myself, in my experience, particularly in Burmah, where the Chinese, by their superiority in certain respects, were constantly driving out their competitors of the intelligent Burmese race. Therefore, those who desired Chinese labour were compelled to devise some system under which it could be introduced into the Transvaal, and yet by which they could prevent, as far as was possible, any one of these persons so brought in being able to at any time leave his employment and turn to other and more profitable undertakings.

That, my Lords, is the basis and history of these special regulations. You dare not bring Chinese labour into the Transvaal or into any other British colony unless you tie it down with these restrictions and prevent the Chinese from entering into competition of the kind I have referred to. These labourers, when brought into the Transvaal, are at once to be shut up in compounds. They are to be confined and crowded together within the limits of those compounds, and are not to be allowed to leave for any reason, except with a permit from their employer which may entitle them to be absent for a space of forty-eight hours. Many of the larger mines will, I imagine, require as many as 1,000—or possibly more—I have heard it put as high as 3,000, and these Chinese labourers are to be confined within the limits of what is called in the Ordinance their premises. They are there to be shut up at an employment in which, according to the statement of my noble friend behind me, the death-rate is 70 per cent., and under conditions which I believe to be contrary alike to justice and to morality.

Allusion has been made to the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Worcester. The right rev. Prelate a few days ago addressed a very admirable letter, which does him the highest honour, to The Times newspaper. That letter has had its effect, because I understand it produced last night a statement of high importance from the Colonial Secretary. I will explain why I am in a little doubt on this point. I saw a report as to the Colonial Secretary's statement in an evening paper last night, and I took up the newspapers this morning, in which a fuller report was to be expected, to see whether they confirmed it. I found, when I looked at The Times, that it was not touched upon at all. There was no mention whatever of it in The Times. I therefore began to doubt whether the evening paper was correct. I next looked at the Standard, and in that paper I found a full confirmation of the report I had seen in the evening paper. The Colonial Secretary was asked by Mr. Herbert Samuel whether, before sanction was given to the Transvaal Imported Labour Ordinance, the right hon. Gentleman would secure that regulations should be made assuring to all Chinese labourers who might be recruited for the Transvaal mines, the right to he accompanied by their wives and children, if they so desired, on terms similar to those that would apply to the labourers themselves. To that Question Mr. Lyttelton replied— I have already stated that it is my intention to take precautions that all reasonable facilities shall be given for the introduction of the families of labourers, and the regulations will be framed with the object of giving effect to that intention. I am unable, however, to give the pledge which the right hon. Gentleman desires, as the preparation of the regulations will occupy considerable time. That is to say, Mr. Lyttelton was unable to promise that he would not give his sanction to the Ordinance before that matter was settled. That Mr. Lyttelton should have been moved by such a letter as that of the Bishop of Worcester is most natural, and thoroughly in accordance with all that we know of his high character; and I earnestly appeal to His Majesty's Government not to give their consent to this Ordinance until these regulations have been made. So long as you can say to the mine-owners in South Africa "unless you take these precautions we will not consent to your Ordinance" you have precisely that little pistol of which my noble friend the Foreign Secretary is so fond in diplomacy, and you can bring your negotiations with the mine-owners to a successful issue. But once confirm this Ordinance and put it out of your hands, and you will find it not so easy to deal with them in a matter which, if it be settled, as it ought to be settled as a matter of common decency, will entail upon the mine-owners a very large amount of expenditure. If they are to bring, not only the labourers, but their wives and children from China, the expenditure which will fall upon them will be great, and, therefore, I do earnestly appeal to the Government to have these regulations settled before giving their final consent to the Ordinance.

This system which it is proposed to establish is one of semi-slavery. There is no other term to be applied to it. I am afraid I shall incur the censure of Lord Milner for having made that statement. He will think me a most sentimental person. But at least I can say this, that I have never attended a meeting at Exeter Hall in my life, and, therefore, I am not open to the charge of being connected with that celebrated institution. It is not pure slavery, because it is preceded by what is supposed to be consent on the part of the parties who are to be emigrated, but, once they are in South Africa, if they are not slaves, at least they are prisoners, for they are not to be allowed out except under stringent regulations and with a possibility of being arrested at every turn. I should like to have some information from the noble Duke the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies as to what steps are being taken, or are about to be taken, for the purpose of securing that the conditions under which these men are to serve are explained fully to them before they leave China. I know they are to make contracts when they get to South Africa, and that arrangements are to be made there for the explanation of the contracts to the labourers, but how are they going to be explained to them before they leave China? Once conveyed from China to the Transvaal the labourer has very little option but to sign anything that is put before him; but it might be possible, if precautions were taken, to have the terms of the contract explained to him in China, that he might be able to exercise his judgment to a certain extent. I do not press that point far, because we know that recruiters of any kind are not very scrupulous persons, and that they are likely to paint very fine pictures to those whom they are about to engage; but, nevertheless, it would be a satisfaction if the noble Duke could state that proper arrangements are about to be made to secure, as far as possible, that these conditions are explained to the men before they leave China.

The arrangements proposed are, to my mind, highly unsatisfactory and unworthy of the character of this country, for they involve great privations and exposure to conditions and restrictions which render the labourers what my noble friend behind me called "muscular machines." It must be remembered that, if you crowd vast masses of people together into a very small space, you expose them, no matter what regulations you make, to highly insanitary conditions, and these insanitary conditions will increase as time goes on, for if you dump these men down in a small space, they will foul the country.

I pass from that to another consideration which has been largely touched upon by my noble friend who preceded me—I mean the tendency that any arrangement of this kind will have to exclude British unskilled labour from the Transvaal. It used to be constantly said by the late Mr. Cecil Rhodes that one of the great objects of his policy, whether in Rhodesia or in the Transvaal, was to open new fields of employment for British labour. Mr. Rhodes is dead, and those who were his followers and supporters have indeed abandoned his policy. Now, forsooth, it is found to be full of political and industrial danger that the labouring people of this country should be freely admitted to work in the Transvaal. I will not go over again the references upon this subject which have been already submitted to your Lordships—I thank my noble friend for having spared me a good deal of trouble in that direction—but there can be no question that Mr. Percy Tarbutt's letter which has been read by my noble friend is most convincing proof of the truth of that statement. Mr. Percy Tarbutt has been, and, I think still is, a director of some of these companies. He deliberately made that statement. In the debate Sir George Farrar referred to the statement, but did not deny it—he offered no denial whatever to the statement of the opinion held by Messrs. Werner, Beit & Co., as to the introduction of British labour. I do not think that is likely to commend itself to the people of this country. I think, as my noble friend has said, that if you had told them before the Transvaal war began that the ultimate result would be that they would be shut out of industrial employment in the Transvaal they would have taken a very different view of your policy.

Passing from that, I will refer in a few words to the effect of these proposals in His Majesty's other colonies. You have in this Blue-book protests from New Zealand and from Australia against the employment of Chinese. We know the difficulties that they have had in the matter, and the dangers to which those difficulties have at times exposed them. We know, as I have said, the dread of the employment of Chinese which is to be found wherever the British tongue is spoken. It is not unnatural, therefore, that the Australasian Colonies should enter a protest against these proceedings, but I do not desire to put that point too high I will merely say that their views, which are the results of their experience, ought to be weighed with the utmost consideration by His Majesty's Government, and that their wishes in this matter are entitled to the highest respect. I do not, of course, say that Australia and New Zealand could decide this question. I admit, at once that they lie too far from South Africa. Their protest, however, ought to be considered, and is a strong reason for not taking this step unless it-is absolutely necessary. But the case of the Cape is very different. The Cape is the neighbour of the Transvaal and is the greatest of our South African Colonies. The Cape has a long-standing tradition upon this subject and has entered its protest. What does the Cape say? I have here the Resolution of the Cape House of Assembly, and it is to this effect— That this House, taking cognisance of the resolution passed at the recent conference field at Bloemfontein on the subject of the qualified approval of the importation of Asiatic labour, desires to express its strong opposition to any such importation as prejudicial to the interests of all classes of the people in South Africa. That is the view, my Lords, of the Cape House of Assembly, arrived at after the Bloemfontein Conference, and their resolution was followed by a Minute of the Cape Ministers, dated 17th August last year, containing various objections to this proposal. The third of those objections was as follows— Thirdly, in relation to the policy of a British South African Federation which Ministers are most earnestly pursuing, they cannot but feel that the importation of Asiatics will greatly hamper its consummation, as it will induce a highly discordant element between the European natives, and it will certainly complicate, if not altogether prevent, the union of all the Colonies under a Central Administration. That was backed by a letter from Sir Gordon Sprigg, who was not satisfied with his protest of August, but made another in January last, in which he said— The Prime Minister requests that the Secretary of State for the Colonies may have his attention directed by cable to Minute of] 7th August last relating to the proposal to import Asiatic labour into South Africa, and maybe informed that the Prime Minister, who is charged with the whole administration of native affairs in this Colony, in which an enormous native population resides, desires to impress on the Imperial Government that nothing has occurred since that Minute was drafted to cause him to alter in the slightest degree the views therein expressed as regards the natives, and especially affecting the great question of federation. I attach to those views of Cape Colony the greatest possible importance, and I consider them to be entitled to the greatest possible weight. As I have said, Cape Colony is a close neighbour of the Transvaal, but that is not the main reason why their view should be considered, though it is a strong one. The main reason is given in the statement of Sir Gordon Sprigg, as to the fatal effect which the adoption of this policy will have on the great question of federation. I venture to say that there is no man who has paid attention to South African affairs, or who understands the question even in an elementary degree, who will not admit at once that the true solution of the difficulties of South Africa lies in federation. The history of federation in that country has been most unfortunate. My noble and lamented friend, the late Lord Carnarvon, saw what was needed, saw it with an almost prophetic eye, but was, unhappily, too much in a hurry. He took steps to bring about that federation before affairs in South Africa were ripe and failed. Since then other attempts have been made, but not with success. Now a time has arrived when it is more desirable than it ever was before that there should be brought about a federation of these Colonies, if we are to restore peace, tranquillity, and good government to our South African dominions. The Cape Parliament, and, I think, all those who understand the subject, have declared that the importation of Asiatic labour will be more fatal to the success of a policy of confederation than any step that could possibly be taken. I know Lord Milner sneers at this. He says it is nothing but electioneering. That, of course, is what one Party is apt to say of another when an election is impending. We know what it is worth and how to discount it; but surely you could not have a clearer proof that these proposals are universally unpopular in Cape Colony than that neither Party will support them, but, on the other hand, resist them. You find Progressives and Bond alike agreeing to denounce and condemn them, and alike agreeing, as a necessary part of both political programmes, that they should be opposed.

Now, there is another point to which I should like to draw attention, and I am rather sorry that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary has left the House, as it concerns him. I confess I cannot conceive a more unfortunate moment than the present for taking this step and for going to the Chinese Government to negotiate arrangements for taking their people under the conditions of this Ordinance. There is a great war in the Far East, and it should be our object to avoid anything which could in the slightest degree be irritating to China at the present moment, and we know that arrangements with regard to matters of this kind are very apt to lead to prolonged difficulty and disputes. As I understand the position, China is bound by treaty not to resist fair and legitimate emigration of labour from China, but she has a right, also under treaty, to insist that regulations should be made with her for settling the terms upon which, and the manner in which, that emigration should be conducted. I think that to raise the questions which are likely to be raised by the negotiation of such regulations at the present moment will not help the noble Marquess the Foreign Secretary in the tremendous task which lies before him of doing the utmost that he can to prevent this unhappy war extending further. The noble Marquess has fair warning of what is expected of him, because The Times correspondent at Johannesburg in November last wrote— Something more than a mere assent of the Imperial Government to the importation of Chinese will be looked for. To insure the success of the scheme, the active co-operation of His Majesty's representatives at Pekin will be necessary, in order that the Chinese authorities may feel that they are dealing officially with the British Government, and not only with the unofficial British community. Therefore, if my noble friend, who I see has now returned, follows, I had almost said the mandate of The Times correspondent, he will certainly have his hands fall of many thorny difficulties with the Chinese Government, and difficulties that it would be to the interests of this country he should, if possible, avoid.

That brings me to this question: Why is there this tremendous hurry about this matter? You cannot conclude it till you have settled with the Chinese. You cannot get the men out of China, consistently with your treaty, until those regulations are made. I conceive that in these circumstances there is no reason at all why His Majesty's Government should refuse to Parliament plenty of time for the consideration and discussion of this question. Mr. Lyttelton at first said that ample opportunity would be given to Parliament for the consideration and discussion of this question. Since then, for reasons unknown to me, he has drawn back from that declaration, and has said that he will not give anything beyond the period of the discussion on the Address; therefore, in another place this question is to be brought forward at the fag end of a long debate on the Address, covering a vast amount of ground, and at a time when it may be extinguished altogether by means of the closure. I do not think that this is a fulfilment of the pledge—the printed pledge—of Mr. Lyttelton upon this subject, and I say without hesitation that it appears to me that this attempt to burke discussion in Parliament is an indecent attempt. I see the most rev. Primate perusing a. Blue-book of which there are only two copies in your Lordships' House. I certainly think it is wrong that so limited a number of copies—two for this House and four for the House of Commons—are supplied to Parliament.

Now, as to the alleged urgency, I have no doubt whatever that it is very desirable to settle this question as soon as possible, but I have some doubts whether the mine magnates in Pretoria are entitled to demand that settlement in the imperious manner in which they are demanding it. These difficulties about labour are very much their own fault. My noble friend behind me referred to the sudden drop in wages. It is utterly unreasonable to suppose that, having made that mistake in 1902, you are in two or three years afterwards to say that you are in such an intolerable position that the whole principle upon which Coolie immigration has been hitherto carried on is to be overthrown to provide labour for the mines. My noble friend read Sir Lewis Mitchell's statement, and showed that those who were connected with the De Beers' undertaking had stated that there was no difficulty in getting labour. It was all a question of good treatment and price. That also ought to be considered. At the same time I do not deny in the least that it is desirable this question should be settled. All I venture to submit is that it ought only to be settled upon just and sound principles, and I hold that the principles of this Ordinance are neither just nor sound.

I want to say one word upon a point which was made by the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition during the debate the other night on the Address. My noble friend Lord Spencer spoke then of 100,000 Chinese labourers being required. The noble Marquess replied that that was a mistake and contrary to fact, and added that there were going to be 10,000 introduced at first, but that certainly 100,000 was quite beyond the mark. The Secretary of the Transvaal Chamber of Commerce in London has circulated a little pamphlet, which, no doubt, your Lordships have seen, in which he says— The demand for native labour for the Transvaal mining industry is in excess of the present supply by about 129,000 men, and whilst no complete data as to the future requirements of the whole industry are obtainable, it is estimated that the mines of the Witwatersrand will require within the next five years an additional supply" (that is, additional to the 129,000) "of 196,000 labourers. Therefore my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition was not far wrong in the figure which he quoted the other evening. Now, how does the Government meet this question? They meet it by saying that they are going to treat the Transvaal Government as a self-governing colony. It is not a self-governing colony, but a Crown colony. They cannot, by choosing to say that it is a self-governing colony, or by treating it as such, make it a self-governing colony. I wish they could. And they cannot divest themselves of one single atom of responsibility for the whole of these proceedings by professing their desire to treat a Crown colony as if it were a self-governing colony.

It is a bad habit for a man to quote his own speeches, and it is not one to which I readily resort, but I hope your Lordships will pardon me if I venture to refer to the language I used in the year 1899 upon this question of the responsibility of the Home Government for Crown and self-governing colonies. My object at that time was to show that the responsibility of the Colonial Secretary for the administration, and even for the legislation of self-governing colonies, was very small; that he had no power in administration, and little real power in regard to legislation; and that it was most important that that fact should be understood by the country, who should not blame the King's Government at home for anything that they did not like in the conduct of self-governing colonies. I added— But in the case of Crown colonies and colonies administered by chartered companies, like the British South Africa Company, the difficulty does not exist. In those cases the Government at home has full power, and, therefore, it is right that it should have complete responsibility. It can order what it pleases and what it thinks right, and, having ordered it, it has the power of enforcing it. I only give that quotation to show that when no such question as this was before us, and before even the late war actually broke out, I expressed in this House precisely the same views which I am expressing at the present moment, so that none of your Lordships can say I have brought forward this view for the purpose of this particular argument. The government existing at present in the Transvaal is purely a Crown colony government. The Secretary of State for the Colonies is absolutely and fully responsible for everything which that government does—responsible to Parliament, responsible to the people of this country, and it is no use trying to shift that responsibility by saying that the Government chose to treat a Crown colony as if it were a self-governing colony.

My noble friend opposite, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Leader of this House, gave some reasons for thinking that the opinion of the people of the Transvaal had been satisfactorily and sufficiently tested. I venture to say that there is only one way of really testing the opinion of any people, and that is through the medium, and by the means of, a freely-elected Legislature, guided by a Government responsible to that Legislature, and having its confidence. That is the English method of ascertaining public opinion. My noble friend spoke of plebiscites and referendums. I cannot say I am very fond of plebiscites. I am old enough to recollect certain plebiscites which were not generally considered to have produced satisfactory results, and I am bound to say I doubt whether a satisfactory result would have been produced by a method of that kind, particularly in the circumstances of the Transvaal. Then the noble Marquess the Foreign Secretary rested his case upon three grounds. I suppose he is of opinion that neither of them is quite conclusive, but that by lumping them together he may produce an impression that the proposal is supported by popular opinion. He referred first of all to the resolution of the Bloemfontein Conference. I will read that resolution to your Lordships. It is as follows— The Conference is of opinion that the permanent settlement in South Africa of Asiatic races would be injurious, and should not be permitted, but, if industrial, development positively requires the introduction of unskilled labourers, under Government control, by which provision is made to indenture and repatriate them at the termination of their articles, it should be permissible. A more grudging resolution I can hardly conceive. It may have been the result of a compromise, or the result of pressure. It is anything but hearty. How was it met? It was instantly met by the House of Assembly at the Cape by the resolution which I have read to your Lordships. Therefore, I do not think that the Government are entitled to lay much stress upon the Bloemfontein Resolution.

Then there is the Labour Commission. The majority of that Commission were more or less the intimates of the mine-owners of the Transvaal, and their opinion is not, to my mind, conclusive. Then there is the Legislative Council. I venture to say that the opinion of a nominated Legislative Council cannot and ought not to be taken as the opinion of the people of the country. I am supported in that view by no less an authority than the ex-Colonial Secretary, because Mr. Chamberlain, on 27th July last, after his return from South Africa, said— I am not professing that I am going to take the opinion of the Legislative Council as a final opinion in such a matter. I do not take it as a final opinion in the matter, and noble Lords opposite can hardly complain of me on that account. Then I come to the petition. Has that petition been examined? Has any one here seen it, or does any one present know how many people signed it in the same handwriting? My noble friend opposite, the Leader of the House, is now an old Parliamentary hand; he has had a large experience of public affairs, and probably knows the value of petitions of that sort, particularly when they are got up under the aegis of mighty corporations, who exercise all the pressure possible for the purpose of obtaining the required result. I cannot see how a petition can be held to be equivalent to the free declaration of an elected Legislature. You may take all these four together, and they do not approach in the smallest degree to the authority which would be afforded you by the Legislature of a self-governing colony; therefore the whole responsibility rests upon the Government. They must defend these proposals; they cannot rest upon the authority of a non-existing Government. The Government must defend the proposals in all their details On them rests the responsibility, and they cannot shirk it. We have not got before us either the free voice of a free Legislature, or even the result of a referendum. We have nothing effectual to show what are the real views of this community. I will go further and say that in this case, in which so great and enormous inter-colonial considerations are to be found, I should hesitate long if I were occupying the position of Colonial Secretary, before I could safely, even at the bidding of a free colonial Legislature, disregard those considerations and cast them to the winds. I do hope that it is not too late to make this remonstrance, but I am afraid it is. I am afraid that all the indications go to show that the Government have made up their minds. If they have, it must be so; but, my Lords, they are taking a very weighty and a very grave responsibility upon their shoulders, and they are establishing a system which is unworthy of the character of this country, which is restrictive of the employment of British labour, and which will, I fear, be fraught with the deepest injury to the future progress of South Africa.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the affairs of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, with special reference to the question of the employment of Chinese labour in the Transvaal.—(The Marquess of Ripon.)


My Lords, I remember that at the end of last session the noble Marquess the Leader of this House said, in a speech on the fiscal policy, that he was anxious not only to have a revolver in his hand, but also that it might on occasions be loaded. I cannot help feeling that during the recess noble Lords opposite have purloined that revolver and have loaded it with two barrels and presented it, on the first day that your Lordships have met, at the head of one of the most unimportant members of His Majesty's Government in this House. I recognise the force of the double discharge, all the more when I remember what a distinguished political marksman the noble Marquess is who spoke last, but I can assure him that I have no desire to take cover. I will come out into the open and do my best to reply to the many questions and points of view which he and the noble Earl who spoke first have put forward. I think I may say at the outset, in reply to the noble Earl, that the Secretary of State, in submitting this Blue-book to your Lordships and to the other House, has included everything that he thought could be of possible value to your Lordships, and although, as the noble Earl pointed out, there may be certain passages omitted, those passages, I believe, were not at all pertinent to the question; and I think I am right in saying that it is not unusual on occasions to leave out certain passages. The noble Earl said something about reports being "garbled." I do not know whether he was referring to this Blue-book.


What I said was that I should like all these despatches of Lord Milner published in full.


The noble Earl has the despatches from Lord Milner in this Blue-book, and the points that are pertinent are included. I notice, moreover, that the noble Earl declined to look at the Blue-book. He said it was of no use to him, and then he proceeded to quote Mr. Tarbutt. If the noble Earl had looked a little more into the Blue-book he would have discovered that the identical passage he alluded to is included in it. The noble Marquess has dealt with many poits of view of the South African question but in order to appreciate thoroughly the question of Asiatic labour it is necessary for us to remember that the financial success of South Africa depends largely upon this great staple industry, the mining industry. Your Lordships will remember, if you go back to the year 1870, that the revenue of the Transvaal at that time was only some £60,000. Up to 1885 it never amounted to more than £200,000; then in 1887 gold was discovered and we immediately witnessed a change. The revenue in that year amounted to £667,00 and we see that each succeeding year following up to the years before the war, the revenue of the country increased in proportion as gold was discovered. In fact, the revenue reached no less a figure than between £4,000,000 and £4,500,000 of money.

I rather understood from his remarks that the noble Earl had some slight misgivings, I can hardly say prejudice, against the mining industry. I know the industry is regarded by some as if it were a kind of speculative concern where one man is pitted against another in order to extract the greatest amount of gold out of the soil. I think that is the wrong view to take of Johannesburg. The mining industry is one huge industrial concern, and the only difference between that and an industry in Great Britain is this, that whereas we manufacture woollen goods, or iron, or steel, the people of Johannesburg manufacture gold. On this industry, which is, as I say, an industrial venture, the success and the prosperity of the colony largely depend. It is their one great asset. As your Lordships are aware, the mining industry has not of late flourished. Indeed, out of the 7,000 stamps that have been put down, I believe only half that number are working, and the immediate result is that the prosperity of the colony is not so great as anticipated. What is this lack of development due to? It is due to the depression in the mining industry. What, again, is that depression due to? Why, to the difficulty with regard to the labour supply. Let us consider a moment this question of the supply of labour, and also the Report of the Labour Commission with regard to it. I understood both the noble Earl and the noble. Marquess to criticise considerably the composition of the Labour Commission. I cannot help thinking that it was a fairly representative Commission. I notice upon it some Dutch members and some members of the Johannesburg Town Council, on the whole it seems to me to have been a fairly representative Commission. Anyway, I am sure noble Lords will admit this, that the Commission was perfectly competent to hear the evidence that was brought before it, and that the members discharged their duties in a satisfactory and proper manner. The characteristic of this Commission was that everybody was allowed to express his opinions openly and freely, and although the Minority Report fail d to establish their contention, yet they gave their opinion with that freedom of expression, which we are accustomed to from such minorities in a representative system of Government.

Your Lordships will notice that the Labour Commission divided the various territories from which supplies of labour could possibly be recruited under four heads—the districts where free recruiting was permitted, districts where recruiting was prohibited, districts where recruiting was limited, and districts where it was allowed under certain conditions. In the Transvaal itself, it was estimated that there were only 620,000 natives, of whom only six in ten were capable of doing the work. In Swaziland out of a population of 100,000, 6,000 was the maximum number of adults available; in Orange River Colony there was a shortage of labour for local requirements; in Basutoland the Resident Commissioner said that 37,000 men were employed and that the Transvaal cannot expect natives from that country. Then I come to Cape Colony. The evidence shows that there the demand for natives is greater than the supply. In Bechuanaland the Assistant Commissioner said that the full total of natives from that district available would be 2.500. But I would rather draw your Lordships' attention to the conclusions of the Majority Report, which were: (1) That the demand for native labour for agriculture in the Transvaal is largely in excess of the present supply, and as the development of the country proceeds this demand will greatly increase. (2) That the demand for native labour for the Transvaal mining industry is in excess of the present supply by about 120,000 labourers, and it is estimated that the mines of the Witwatersrand alone will require within the next five years an additional supply of 196,000 labourers. (3) That the demand for native labour for the Transvaal industries, including railways, is greatly in excess of the present supply. (4) That there is no adequate supply of labour in Central and South Africa to meet the above requirements.

I gathered that the noble Marquess attached no importance to the finding of the Majority Report. He had some doubt as to its value, but I ask your Lordships is there any other testimony at all that we have to support the finding contained in the Majority Report? What is the experience of the Transvaal Government itself in this matter? Our experience absolutely substantiates the finding of the Majority Report. If your Lordships will turn to page 69 of the Blue-book you will find a telegram from Lieut.-Governor Sir Arthur Lawley, which runs as follows— In view of the existing scarcity of labour, I have decided that the railways must suffer to some extent as well as agricultural and commercial industries. On page 175 there is another telegram from Lord Milner, in which he says— The immediate prospect is very bad. There is complete stagnation in commerce and enterprise, owing to the labour difficulty, and it affects almost every branch of revenue. And, finally, if your Lordships turn to page 176, there is a subsequent telegram from Lord Milner, in which he says— There are no signs of an adequate amount of labour being obtained from existing sources of supply. The consequent depression in every kind of business is increasing daily, the revenue is falling off, many people are out of work, and if the situation does not soon change a considerable exodus of the white population is inevitable. The Minority Report, which I do not think has been alluded to this evening, does not agree with the figures in the Majority Report. They claim that as labour can be found in territories north of latitude 22 in Central Africa and in Uganda, an adequate labour supply should be obtained from those territories, but this is not possible, and I will explain why. The natives who live in Central Africa live in a very hot and tropical climate. They exist upon fruit and vegetables of the district, and if you import them into Johannesburg, which is subject to a very cold and rigorous climate, you find your chances of success extremely limited. I believe, also, that the native supply from Uganda is quite impracticable. Indeed, when Mr. Chamberlain was in South Africa, he admitted that it was very unlikely that any labour could be got from Uganda. I am, moreover, reminded that sleeping sickness exists in Uganda, and that it, would be very dangerous to import it into the colony. Indeed, I think if we imported this illness into the Transvaal we might run the risk of bringing about a state of commercial repose at which even the noble Earl on the Cross Benches might feel rather horrified. There is further testimony with regard to the impracticability of using labour from Central Africa. Sir George Farrar himself says— No one would dream of investing capital in an enterprise worked on the assumption of labour being employed from Central Africa. The Minority Report put the population of Central Africa at 6,000,000, and of South Africa at 7,000,000, making a total of 13,000,000 in all, and then they said that surely out of this enormous population the mining community ought to be able to find a sufficient supply for their requirements. If this had been really the ease, we should never have had any labour trouble at all, a Labour Commission would never have sat, and I venture to think this question would never have been brought to the attention of your Lordships. We may just as well dismiss this consideration entirely. It is clear that the evidence before the Commission conclusively showed that everywhere in South Africa where labour might be got,that labour is required by each individual State itself, and that as regards Central Africa and in Uganda, districts to which we might possibly look for a labour supply, all efforts have failed to secure an adequate amount of labour from those parts.

I have dealt with the number of men that are available; let us consider a moment the number of men that are required. Again we find a difference of opinion between the Majority and the Minority Reports. They disagree, in the first place, as to the number of men required on the farms, and, secondly, as to the number required in the mines. The Majority Report states that twenty men per stamp are necessary in the mines, whilst the minority say that twelve are sufficient. All the mining experts who are Qualified to judge in this matter are unanimous that the number of men required per stamp is twenty, and I think we require very strong evidence to the contrary to prove that the statement is inaccurate. I am reminded, moreover that the Rand mines themselves were employing fifteen or sixteen men per stamp before the war, and are now obliged to work with only ten men per stamp. It has been said for some time that these figures have been prepared more or less for the Labour Commission, but that is not so. They form the basis on which the distribution of natives among the different mines was made under what is known as the Native Labour Organisation, and the figures were prepared eighteen months ago, long before this Labour Commission was dreamt of. I think the difference between the Majority and Minority Report is this, that whereas the Minority base their figures on the difference of the requirements of the Transvaal before the war and those of the present time, the Majority base their figures on the difference between those that exist to-day and the full requirements of the Transvaal, supposing the developments were at their full and legitimate capacity. I think our duty is fairly clear. Although we give every consideration to the Minority Report signed by two, yet we have to take into consideration a great deal more the Majority Report signed by ten, and His Majesty's Government are satisfied, in view of the evidence of the Commission and the Transvaal Government being exactly the same in both cases, that there is an insufficient supply of black labour available in South Africa to meet the requirements of the mining and other industries. The noble Earl said he did not think the natives in South Africa had been treated with sufficient consideration, that their wages had not been so satisfactory as he would have wished, and that the reduction of wages on the part of the mine managers was partly the cause of the lack of labour at the present time. But I would remind the noble Earl that it was the Transvaal Government itself which, before the war, reduced the amount of wages to the labourers. It is true that after the war was over the mining authorities did not increase the wages quite so quickly as probably would have been wise, but they were slowly increased from 20s. to 30s., and gradually they were raised to a figure between 60s. and 70s. per month. The noble Earl suggested that the natives were not properly treated.


I quoted statistics from Sir Godfrey Lagden, showing that whereas in the De Beer mines the rate of mortality was only 30 per 1,000 per annum, the rate in the Rand mines was 70 per 1,000 per annum.


What is the noble Earl's inference?


If the mortality is double in the Rand mines, it is clear that the men cannot work there under very healthy conditions.


There is a great difference. One set of men are working in gold mines, and the other in diamond mines, and, moreover, Johannesburg is a very unhealthy place. The noble Earl will probably know that Dr. Moffatt was recently out in South Africa, and his testimony was that the natives were exceedingly well cared for in all the districts which he visited, and he had no complaint to make as to the treatment they received. Since there is an insufficient supply of black labour, let us consider what other sources of supply there exist. It has been urged to-day by the noble Marquess and the noble Earl that we should use more white labour. In fact, I understand them to say that neither Lord Milner nor the mining authorities had sufficiently turned their attention to this question. Now, what is the evidence in this matter that we have before us? Directly after the war was over, who were the first people to employ white unskilled labour in South Africa? It was the mining authorities themselves. Sir Percy Fitzpatrick went to Lord Kitchener and asked him to allow the use of any men he did not require, and the consequence was that on the mines for which he was responsible they employed some 1,200 men. What was the result of that experiment? They found that after a certain time they were unable to continue using in large quantities white unskilled labour, because the increased cost of the output was so excessive.

The noble Earl referred in the course of his speech to the question of the increased cost of labour, and also to the dividends on the mines. I can assure the noble Earl that, so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, we have no interest at all in knowing what the dividends are. All we want to know is that the share-holders are satisfied, because if the shareholders are satisfied more capital will be invested in the Transvaal, and as a consequence those subsidiary industries on which we rely for the future prosperity of the country will flourish to a greater degree. Then there was another gentleman, named Mr. Creswell, who tried to employ white labour. What was his experience? The managers of his mine said they were unable to continue using white unskilled labour to a large extent because it became so expensive. The experts in this matter are all unanimous in the opinion that the employment of white unskilled labour is impracticable because of the excessive cost. The noble Earl has referred to the letter of Mr. Tarbutt. It is not my business to defend that letter. It contained an unfortunate expression on his part, perhaps, but I do not think you may generalise from one particular instance. I think I may say that these mining experts and engineers, and everybody connected with the mines, have been actuated in the statements they have made by the highest sense of duty, and have not made false statements for political purposes or political ends.

But there is yet further testimony with regard to the employment of white labour, and that is the testimony of the Transvaal Government itself. It has been said tonight that His Majesty's Government had not sufficiently turned their attention to promoting the employment of white labour in South Africa. What did the Government do last year? We sent out 900 men from this country to be employed on the railways in South Africa, and you will find on page 159 of the Blue-book a full detailed statement of the experience of the Transvaal Government with regard to the employment of white navvies. Our experience was that after nine months the cost was so excessive that we were unable to continue employing these men any longer. There is another point of equal importance. It is this. The black man and the white man will not work together. The white man finds the proximity of the black man extremely distasteful to him, and no one can claim that the force of this argument is diminished when it is remembered that the black man heartily reciprocates the same sentiments towards us. It has been pointed out by the noble Earl and the noble Marquess that this employment of Asiatic labour will curtail the employment of white men. I do not think that that is so. I understand that Asiatic is to be employed more for the kind of pioneer work. His employment necessitates the employment also of Kaffirs in other work, and where the Kaffir is employed, it is obvious that you require white men to supervise him and to act as overseers. The employment of Asiatics therefore, will open up a greater number of mines than are working at present; a greater number of Kaffirs will be employed, and there will be more work for the white man as overseer; so that the direct effect of Asiatic labour will be to increase the demand for white labour rather than to diminish it.

If I may venture to recapitulate my argument, it is this, that the prosperity of the Transvaal depends upon the success of the great staple industry of the country—the great mining industry. The mining industry to-day relies for all its maintenance and success on an ample supply of labour for its requirements, and it is depressed because it cannot get a sufficient supply of labour. The evidence is conclusive that there is not a sufficient supply, as is shown by the Report of the Majority Commission and by the evidence obtained by the Transvaal Government itself. White labour has been tried both by the mining people themselves and by the Transvaal Government, and in both cases it has been found impracticable owing to the expense. The noble Marquess has insinuated that His Majesty's Government desire to burke the discussion of this matter. We have no desire to do that at all. I think he used the words "indecent haste." I can assure him it has not been the wish of the Secretary of State to prevent Parliament from discussing this matter. He has given them the first and most favourable opportunity to discuss the question; and, so far as your Lordships are concerned, you certainly have no complaint to make of the treatment of His Majesty's Government.

Then the noble Marquess said it was impossible for us to treat the Transvaal as if it were a self-governing colony, and that in the last resort we were responsible. Nobody denies that fact, but the reason why the Secretary of State said he was anxious to treat them as far as he could in the position of a self-governing colony was that he desired to continue the policy of his predecessor. The noble Marquess said, amidst the cheers of his followers, that we could not divest ourselves of the responsibility of the government of the Transvaal. We have no desire to do so. On the other hand, Mr. Chamberlain, speaking on the South African War Contribution Bill, said— I believe I can safely, on behalf of the whole House of Commons, say that, although technically they are Crown colonies, and as such subject in the last resort to any ultimatum that may be propounded from Downing Street, the Government will treat them in all matters in which Imperial interests are not directly concerned as if they were self-governing colonies. That opinion of Mr. Chamberlain's was endorsed by members of the Party to which the noble Marquess belongs, and, having accepted it, I do not think they can blame His Majesty's Government for continuing the policy of Mr. Chamberlain as stated last summer in the House of Commons. Now, I venture to think that in this problem before us, the request of the Transvaal to import Asiatics into their territory, we have to decide in the first place whether this demand is based on grounds which are both reasonable and intelligible, and I trust that noble Lords may think that their demand is reasonable and intelligible. In the second place, after we have decided whether the demand is reasonable and intelligible, we have to make up our minds whether it is in conformity with the wishes of the people themselves. But before considering that point, your Lordships will, perhaps, allow me to remind you of the position of the question when Lord Milner last went back to South Africa. The Report of the Labour Commission became known to us, and it was also known that a Resolution would be introduced in consequence in the Legislative Assembly. His Majesty's Government told Lord Milner that before they could sanction such a measure they must have, first of all, a full expression of opinion from him as to the indications of public feeling in the Transvaal. Lord Milner said, in reply, that he thought the vote in the Legislative Council on the Resolution reflected the full state of public opinion, that the scale of opinion had changed of late considerably, and it will be seen that Lord Milner was strengthened in his opinion by the fact that this Resolution was passed by nine votes to four of the unofficial, and by twenty to four of the official and unofficial members together. We therefore consented to the introduction of a Government measure, always reserving to ourselves the right to modify our views if opinions of a pronounced character or of an organised nature were made against it.

We are censured to-day almost, for the contemplation of the immigration of Asiatics into the Transvaal. It was our view, and we were bound to take into consideration the opinion of the Transvaal itself. We felt that a grave responsibility would be on our shoulders if, without cause or reason, and without any other remedy to suggest, we prevented the discussion of this measure in the Transvaal. The decision of the Legislative Assembly on the merits of the Resolution was received with a general sense of relief, and there were no signs of active hostility to the measure, least of all in the country districts. It was therefore in the belief that this Resolution of the Legislative Assembly represented the opinion and the wishes of the inhabitants of the Transvaal, and that no organised opposition had been made against it, that His Majesty's Government consented to a Government measure being brought in, based on the terms of the Resolution that had already been adopted. The course we took is justified by the evidence that existed in favour of Chinese immigration. The more we consider it the more we may be satisfied that the conclusions to which His Majesty's Government arrived were both wise in substance and correct in form.

The noble Marquess has dealt very fully with the evidence on this matter in South Africa generally and in the Transvaal. Let us for a moment consider what the evidence is. We must take, in the first place, the opinion of the Transvaal itself, but it would be improper to ignore the opinion of South Africa in general. Let us consider the terms of the Bloemfontein Resolution to which Lord Milner has referred. That Resolution was passed by all the representatives of the colonies in South Africa, who we may believe largely reflected the opinion of the people they represented. It was carried absolutely unanimously, and the statesman who proposed it was no other than the Prime Minister of the Cape, Sir Gordon Sprigg himself. I do not know whether I need read the Bloemfontein Resolution—the noble Marquess has quoted it—but it was to the effect that if industrial development positively demanded it, then Asiatic labourers under a system of patrol should be permitted to enter. The noble Marquess has said that the Cape is opposed to this measure. It is true there is an agitation there—a slight agitation—at the present time, but we hope that it will pass away. If your Lordships will turn to page 187 of the Blue-book, you will see there what Lord Milner says with regard to this agitation— In the Cape alone is there any marker opposition, but this is in the main quite clearly due to electioneering. The Bond is seeking to make up for the votes lost to it through disfranchisement by a bid for the native vote.' I do not wish to dwell too much on the fact that the elections are taking place in the Cape, but I am sure that noble Lords who have had to submit themselves to popular suffrage will remember that frequently matters which in ordinary times did not seem very important assume during an election great importance; in fact, I daresay it has been the experience of some noble Lords that they have been obliged, during an election, to sink all their opinions on Imperial matters in order to discuss domestic questions, such as the vaccination of infants and the dangers to the State of unmuzzled dogs.

I turn from the consideration of the Cape to the other self-governing colony, Natal. What is the opinion in Natal towards this question? In July last a Motion was introduced both into the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly, protesting against the introduction of Asiatic labour into South Africa. That Motion was defeated in both Houses, and in one by an overwhelming majority. I think, therefore, we may claim that there is no direct preponderance of opinion in Natal against the importation of Asiatics. In Rhodesia there has been for some time past a strong desire for the importation of Asiatic labour, and the inhabitants of this country are supposed to regard with favour its introduction, not only into the Transvaal but into their own territory as well. The Orange River Colony has expressed its desire not to interfere with the declared wishes of the Transvaal, and the Transvaal itself is in favour of Chinese labour. It is clear, therefore, that if you take South Africa as a whole, there are four colonies which have expressed their opinion not unfavourably to the proposal, and only one, namely, the Cape, which has during the last two months displayed an unwonted hostility against it. We may claim, therefore, that the opinion of South Africa as a whole is in favour, and not against, the proposals of the Transvaal Government.

I now come to the expression of opinion in the Transvaal itself. What evidence have we in this direction? This evidence is the most important of all, because I think that we must admit that this matter is one which, as it affects the Transvaal directly, should be to the greatest extent determined by the opinions and wishes of the colony itself. We have, in the first place, the expression of opinion of the representatives of the Transvaal who supported the Bloemfontein Conference Resolution. In the second place we have the evidence of the majority of those who sat on the Labour Commission. We have, thirdly, to remember that the principle of the Ordinance was passed in the Legislative Council by a considerable majority, and that the Second Reading of the Government measure was carried without a division. Fourthly, there is the evidence of the Dutch population themselves. Ben Viljoen's evidence before the Commission is one which we cannot ignore. He said a great number of Boers see and feel the state of things at present prevailing through the state of the labour market, and would, therefore, agree to supplement the labour supply by importing labour if done under strict rules and proper legislation.

This statement which I have quoted agrees with the opinion that Lord Milner expressed, that while the majority of the Dutch are anxious to see the experiment of Asiatic labour tried, they are not prepared to give strong expressions of opinion in favour of it. We believe that, though the Legislative Council is no doubt a nominated Council, it does not possess in a Parliamentary sense a representative character; nevertheless, the decision they have taken on this subject is a decision in the best interests of the colony, and does not misinterpret the wishes or offend the sentiment of its population. I notice that my noble friend Lord Tweedmouth does not agree with my remarks. Noble Lords opposite may be right, and we may be wrong, but if we are right, I am reminded that this will not be the first time in the annals of our political life when an Assembly elected not on the basis of a popular franchise has rightly interpreted the desires and wishes of the people whose trustees they are. Reference has been made to a referendum, but I gather that both the noble Earl and the noble Marquess agreed with His Majesty's Government that it would be unnecessary and unwise to have had recourse to a referendum.


Because it is dishonest.


Why a referendum should be dishonest I fail to understand. However, I agree thoroughly with the noble Earl and with the noble Marquess that it is not necessary to have a referendum.


I only said that I thought a referendum was not a good method of obtaining the views of the public. I do not say that a referendum would not show better than your present testimony what the views of the people are.


My point is this: What is the use of having a referendum when it is not really required? Why should we put the colony to the vast expense and trouble of this novel and unprecedented method? The object of a referendum is to enable people to reject a measure they dislike without destroying a Government of which they approve, but by a referendum I do not think you would get that exact expression on the merits of the case which those who advocate a referendum are so anxious to ascertain. Though the opposition of the introduction of Asiatic labour is a natural one, and one with which we sympathise, yet we must not forget the problem that we are called on to solve. Are we prepared to arrest that development of the Transvaal which the inhabitants themselves have tried to build up? The superstructure which has been created during the last two years, a superstructure which comprises such items as railway extension, extensive municipal works both in Johannesburg and Pretoria, and vast sums of money laid out on the Rand water supply—this superstructure has been built up in the belief and in the anticipation that it would be sustained by the increased development of the main staple industry of the country. If we are not prepared to arrest this development, then we are reminded that the Resolution of the Bloemfontein Conference was founded on reasonable ground— That if industrial development positively demands it, unskilled labourers under a system of Government control should be permitted. This Ordinance, and the conclusion contained in it, we believe place the immigrants under Government control. The evils of importation of Asiatics have been dwelt on. I would only remind you, in reply, that whereas other countries have imported Chinese first of all and then legislated for them, the Transvaal proposes to legislate for them in the first place under a system of control, and then allow them to enter into the Colony. It is in the assurance that the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards this question has not been that of blind favouritism, born of a first impression, but the conviction that there is no other solution, that I hope you will record your sanction to the methods which the Transvaal Government have taken to solve this difficult and complex problem, a problem concerning which the Transvaal is so anxiously and so earnestly awaiting the decision of the Imperial Parliament.


My Lords, I approach this question from a somewhat different standpoint from that occupied either by the noble Earl who opened the discussion, or by the noble Marquess who succeeded him, for whatever difference of opinion may ultimately exist as to the urgency of the problem which has now to be solved, I should have thought that it would have been impossible for anyone who had studied the Blue-books care- fully not to realise the immense difficulty which surrounds it. In the speech made in opening the debate, the subject was referred to as though the solution was not really a matter of any difficulty; all we had to do was to refuse to assent to the proposal which had emanated from the Transvaal itself. To my mind, the matter is far more complex. Indeed, I am not prepared to say that, great as are the objections to this immigration, the difficulties are not equally great if we were simply and bluntly to follow the course which the noble Earl has suggested. I do not desire to enter into a discussion on the economic or the political aspects of the question. I wish to deal simply with the moral aspect of the subject, which it seems to me has been treated with strangely little consideration, both in the correspondence which appears in the Blue-book, in the Resolutions passed by the various South African bodies for and against the proposal now made, and in the speech of the noble Duke. It does seem to me that sufficient attention has not been given in any of these quarters to a matter which lies at the root of the question before us.

I have read without the slightest pre-conceived idea, and certainly, so far as I know, without bias, all the material which has been circulated on the subject. I will not profess that I have been able to look through that huge and priceless volume, which is one of the rarest of the treasures possessed by our library, but by the kindness of the noble Duke I have been allowed to glance at the copy in his custody, and I have examined the index, from which it does not seem that the moral aspect of the subject is alluded to in the multitudinous pages. This appears to me the more strange inasmuch as there exist in records of the past long accounts of discussions which took place half a century ago upon the difficulties that surround the moral, or, if it is preferred to call it so, the social aspect of this question. I do not for a moment believe that the Government is advocating this particular solution of the labour problem simply because it is important to secure better dividends for mine-owners. I do not for a moment share that view. If better dividends are wanted from the mines, it is because the prosperity of the two new Colonies cannot, so far as it appears, go forward as we wish, unless this the greatest and most important industry of that region continues to be successful. Therefore those of us who are thinking more of the moral and educational progress of the Colony than of its monetary wealth, are yet actively concerned in the endeavour to make the mines profitable, because we appreciate that the immediate question of dividends is secondary to far greater interests beyond.

I want to press the point that whereas in the past history of our different colonies, when there has been consideration of this question of Chinese immigration, there have been minute arrangements made for meeting the moral and social difficulties surrounding it, these difficulties do not appear to have received any adequate consideration in the present case. This is to me a new study; but it will be remembered by some of your Lordships that during the years 1852 to 1858 there were discussions upon the introduction of Chinese labour into the West Indies, into Trinidad, into British Guiana, and to some extent into Mauritius; and your Lordships will find that when the subject was under discussion in those years there was letter after letter, despatch after despatch, and witness after witness was called upon to discuss and deliberate upon the regulations that could best be made for preventing the moral evils that might result from such immigration. There were communications for example from Mr. Consul Alcock, then at work in China, and afterwards so well known to your Lordships as Sir Rutherford Alcock, in which he indicated the perils of bringing together large numbers of male Chinese, in the manner now suggested. Again there was a correspondence between the Colonial Land Commission and the Duke of Newcastle in 1854 on the subject. Many examples I might give to show that this is a matter requiring an amount of careful consideration it does not seem to me to have received on the present occasion. What I feel is this. After reading what has been put into our hands and comparing it with what was done half a century ago on similar occasions in dealing with our Colonies or other lands, and after to-night listening to the noble Duke, I remain as ignorant as I was before as to what are the plans, the hopes, or the anticipations of His Majesty's Government on this particular point. Has it been considered, and if so, where shall we find the result? of that consideration? If the gravity of the problem has not been considered, then it is high time that we should give attention to it.

If the Government can tell us the matter has really been duly weighed, and that plans have been made, and are expected to work satisfactorily, then I would not press that all such particulars or such details as the noble Marquess has asked for should be given to us before the Ordinance is sanctioned. I trust, however, that before the debate closes more information will be given to us with regard to the several regulations which are left to the discretion of the Lieutenant-Governor, subject to the approval of His Majesty's Government. We have in these Blue-books three copies of the Ordinance, and they differ widely in regard to the possibility of wives and families accompanying or following the labourers. The first draft of the Ordinance as enclosed in the despatch of 5th December, has two or three clause upon the subject, making the introduction of wives and children lawful, but these disappear in the second draft, given to us at a later date, and we merely have the provision that the Lieutenant-Governor may make regulations for the introduction, repatriation, and control of families. In the third copy this provision remains, and, further, there is a clause providing that it shall not be lawful for the wives or members of any family belonging to the race or tribe of any labourer to enter or reside in the colony except under conditions there alluded to. We want to know, not necessarily in detail, but in the roughest outline what the conditions are. We want to be assured that this system of indentured immigration will not be introducing a poison of a terrible kind into the community where the Chinese may be settled. If it is said this poison cannot be introduced because of the restraints put upon the immigrants, and that the evil cannot become rampant, because the Chinamen will be deprived of all liberty of action, or locomotion, or intercourse with other people, such a line of defence strikes one as in itself difficult to justify. At all events it is certainly a form of administration a little difficult to reconcile with the liberties and freedom which should exist in a British colony. It may be that the regulations have been well thought out, and that His Majesty's Government can tell us in outline how they mean to deal with the subject; but we ought to pause before we allow what is now proposed to go forward until we know that it is not going to be a source of moral and social evil in circumstances of which we have abundant examples in the history of the past in our own colonies and in those of other nations.

Moved, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Earl Grey.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.