HL Deb 04 March 1904 vol 131 cc167-202

rose to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in what manner it is proposed to carry into effect the introduction of the wives and families of Chinese immigrants in the Transvaal, as promised by His Majesty's Government; and to move for copies of the Ordinances with respect to immigrants now in force in the Island of Trinidad. He said: My Lords, the notice which I have put upon the Paper consists of two parts—a question and a Motion, and I propose to take them separately. Before putting my Question to the noble Duke who represents the Colonial Office in this House, I must, in the first instance, tender my hearty acknowledgments to His Majesty's Government for the ample confirmation which they have afforded of the opinion which my noble friend Lord Ripon and myself ventured to express a few nights ago—namely, that this Ordinance, by which it is sought to import Chinese labourers into South Africa, is unprecedented and unique. Similar opinions to those expressed by myself and my noble friend have been given expression to in another place. And with what result? With the result that His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies pledged himself to effect certain changes in, and additions to, that Ordinance, every one of which pledges was in itself an admission that the Ordinance was unlike other Ordinances of a similar character. No doubt those pledges when redeemed, as I have no doubt they will be, and those alterations, when made, will go far to improve the provisions of the Ordinance. They will still leave much of defect and much to desire in the way of addition; but they will be, so far as they go, improvements, and the object of my Question this evening is to ask in what manner it is intended that those modifications should be effected and the pledges of His Majesty's Government carried out?

I apprehend, from all that we have seen and heard, that it is intended principally to carry out those emendations by way of what are called regulations. Now, regulations under an Ordinance are exceedingly useful things, and they can do a great deal, but they cannot do everything, and I am anxious to know whether it is intended in all cases, and especially in that case which relates to perhaps the most difficult question which the Ordinance touches—the introduction and repatriation of female immigrants—whether it is intended to rely exclusively upon regulations, or whether it is proposed also to have resort to amendments in the Ordinance before it is sanctioned or to an amending Ordinance to be passed subsequently. Regulations, as I have said, can do a great deal. Several of the pledges which His Majesty's Government have given can, I think, be redeemed by regulations, but on two, and, perhaps, three, subjects I confess that I entertain some doubts whether they can do so. The relation of a regulation under an Ordinance to the Ordinance under which it is made, bears a considerable analogy to that of an Order in Council to an Act of Parliament. As your Lordships are aware, an Order in Council can enjoin a great deal, but it must not contravene and cannot repeal any provision of an Act of Parliament. If it does so, or attempts to do so, that provision is ipso facto null and void, and it is the same with a regulation. A regulation cannot be contrary to the expressed words and intention of the Ordinance under which it is framed. It is only this morning that we have had placed in our hands some additional Papers with regard to these transactions—Papers of great some respects of a surprising character. We have a pledge from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, among others, that no labourer shall, under this Ordinance, be transferred from one employer to another without his own consent, and I am glad to perceive from these Papers that the Secretary of State has persisted in stating that his pledge must be kept, and that that provision must be enacted notwithstanding the remonstrances which have been made to him from the Transvaal.

But observe what the provision of the Ordinance is. We now see, having got the debates and the whole of the proceedings before us, that, as that clause originally stood, the labourer was not to be transferred without his own consent, and that that provision requiring his consent was deliberately omitted from the Ordinance for the express purpose of enacting that he might be transferred without his consent, to insist on which was said to be "inconvenient." Now, there is a distinct statutable provision of an Ordinance. An Amendment was moved and carried, and words were omitted for a distinct purpose; for the purpose of providing that the labourer should be transferred without his own consent. I do not see how it is possible for a regulation under the Ordinance to contravene and upset this distinct provision of the Ordinance deliberately made. Then with regard to the clause about the importation of women. There the contradiction is, perhaps, not quite so evident, but at the same time it seems to me open to very grave doubt whether a regulation such as that which the Secretary of State for the Colonies has pledged himself to enforce, would not be in direct contradiction of the literal wording of the Ordinance. The wording of the Ordinance provides that no wife or member of the family of an immigrant shall enter the colony except under certain limited conditions—except under the condition that she is imported by a licensed importer, at his expense, and is put to work of a similar character to that to which the male immigrants are subjected, whatever that may be. But that is wholly permissive. There are three "ifs" in the matter—a woman may be admitted, if the husband asks for her; if she is willing to go; and if the; importer is willing to pay the expense of her introduction. But suppose none of them are willing? There can be no compulsion. And I do not see how you can convert a clause, which makes it permissive for an importer of labour to introduce women, into an obligation. I do not see how you can convert "may" into "must" by a regulation; and I have some doubts whether it would be within the ordinary functions of a regulation to impose any such heavy expenditure as is necessarily involved in compulsory introduction of women by the importers. You change the character of that clause; you do not repeal it, but you contravene it; and I doubt whether that can be done by a regulation. It is possible it may be so, but it is at least open to considerable doubt, because, as I say, it changes the character of the provision. Unless is you have compulsion of some kind it comparatively useless. In all other Immigration Ordinances that I am acquainted with, where the introduction of females is required, a certain proportion of women must accompany a certain number of men. That is perfectly intelligible.


What proportion?


My noble friend asks me what proportion. It varies a good deal in different colonies; sometimes the proportion is one half, sometimes one-third, and in one case I know it is two-thirds. In this Ordinance, by the way, even supposing that a regulation or an amending Ordinance is passed making it compulsory that when a Chinaman wishes his wife to accompany him she must be brought over, I do not know how you are to force the wife to go with her husband if she does not choose to do so. The whole clause as it now stands is permissive. That is a point in which I hold the clause to be exceedingly defective. It will be greatly improved by the fulfilment of the Secretary of State's pledge that whenever an immigrant wishes that his wife should accompany or follow him it shall be done; but still it will be left an option to the immigrant and will not ensure that there shall be a certain equality between the male and female elements of the immigrant population. I want to know whether it is intended in all cases to trust to regulations, or to introduce an amending Ordinance, or to suspend the assent to this Ordinance until it is amended, or until it has been well considered whether regulations can indeed effect all the objects which it has been stated His Majesty's Government propose to effect. Those are my Questions.

The Motion I have made is for copies of the Ordinances with respect to immigrants now in force in the Island of Trinidad. The reason why I make that Motion is this, that, evidently in the most perfect good faith, it has been asserted, both in this House and in the other House of Parliament, that in the Island of Trinidad provisions exist restricting the residence of the immigrants to the premises of their employer in the same manner that it is restricted in this South African Ordinance. I am sure, as I have said, that that assertion is made in the most perfect good faith, and I can only account for its being made for one of two reasons—either that by some recent Ordinance, which is unknown to me, some such provision has been introduced into the laws of Trinidad—and if that is the case it is a very grave matter, and one which I shall touch upon later—or that noble Lords and others who hold that opinion have misconstrued some of the articles of the Ordinances in force; and I can quite conceive, if hastily looked at, how they might seem to bear that interpretation.

It is perfectly true that in the Ordinances which have been in force in Trinidad for the last half century there is a provision which renders absence punishable. There is a section in the Ordinance headed "Illegal Absence"; and absence of the labourer is a punishable offence. But absence from what, my Lords? Is it absence from the premises of the employer? No. Is it absence even from the estate of the employer? No. It is not; and, even if it were, confinement to an estate of some thousand acres in extent is a very different thing from confinement within the four walls of a mine compound. It is absence from work that is punishable, and to understand what is meant by absence from work you must look at other clauses of the Ordinance and see what work means. It is defined as work for nine hours in each day. That work usually began in the morning between five and six o'clock, and after the nine hours were finished, the labourer, though he was an indentured labourer, was a free man until the next day's labour began. He could go where he liked and do what he liked so long as he appeared again at work on the following morning when his services were required. The police had large powers of arrest, but supposing a man who had done his nine hours work was arrested that afternoon and brought before the magistrate (which was all that the police could do), and charged with illegal absence from work, he would immediately say, "I have performed my work. I have done my nine hours work and am free." And the magistrate could do nothing to him. The magistrate could do nothing to him unless he had been absent from legal work during part of the day; and desertion, which was another offence, did not begin unless he had been seven days absent. Therefore, unless it has been recently changed, the provision in Trinidad with regard to illegal absence is a very different thing indeed from the provision in the Ordinance we have under consideration.

When I was in Trinidad I lived in the immediate vicinity of a large sugar estate; the estate barracks, which, by the way, stood near the side of the road, were within easy view of my gate. I used to see, afternoon after afternoon, when the work was done, those labourers turn out. They went about into the markets and into the towns and did as they liked. The afternoon was a free time; but it may be, as I say, that some recent measure has altered the law which had been so long enforced. That law about absence from work was no fad of mine; it was not introduced by me. It was the law many years before I went to Trinidad: it was certainly the law for many years after I left Trinidad, and, so far as I know, it is the law still. If it has been altered it would raise suspicion that the Colonial Office of the present day is not quite so keen in watching after the interests of immigrant labourers as in former days it used to be. I have some reason to fear that in some slight degree that may be the case, for in recent years, in Trinidad, some of the safeguards which we used to think were most important safeguards for the welfare of the immigrants, have undoubtedly been abolished and repealed. There was a law—and it was a highly protective law— which rendered it impossible to allot immigrants, newly arrived, to an estate on which the mortality had in the previous year exceeded certain proportions. That has been repealed. There was another which rendered it impossible to allot new immigrants to an estate on which the wages earned in the previous year were a certain percentage below the wages earned on other estates in the same district. That, too, has been repealed. Some powers of interference on the part of the Governor with regard to allotment of immigrants have also, I understand, been repealed, and it therefore may be possible that other changes have taken place. But I should be sorry to think so, because it would imply that there was a less keen sensitiveness to the dangers and the risks which attend all these imigration laws, for even the best of them have to be administered with great care and infinite watchfulness.

There is a third case in which I have some doubt whether regulations would meet the evident intentions of His Majesty's Government. The Ordinance as it originally stood, we learn by the Papers now submitted to us, contained a definition of what the "premises" should be, and with that definition I am not altogether disposed to quarrel. The premises were defined as the premises of the proprietor and a radius of one mile around them. That gave the immigrant a mile in which to disport himself after his work was done, and resembled provisions in the Jamaica Law, where there was a five mile radius, and in the Guiana Law, where there was a two mile radius. But that mile radius was dropped out in the passage of the Bill through the Legislative Council of the Transvaal, and it was omitted with the express intention, as declared by the mover, of confining the labourers to the strict premises of the employer, or, as they choose to call him, the "importer," as if he were importing a lot of pigs or bales of cotton. This provision was, with the distinct understanding and assent of the Legislative Council, altered in order to secure the close confinement of the labourers to the premises of their employers, though one member of the Legislative Council, I see, had the humanity to observe that those premises were sometimes very confined. He instanced one mine—I think he called it the Grand Jubilee Mine—the compound of which was only 300 or 400 yards long, and he thought that would be a very confined space in which to keep the labourers. I entirely agree with him there. This clause of the Ordinance was deliberately passed to effect the confinement of these men to the premises of the employer; it was passed with that object, certain words being left out in order to make it so operate. Can you by a regulation set that aside and practically contravene it? I consider that to be open at least to doubt.

I do not intend to press my Motion if the noble Duke is able to give me some satisfactory explanation as to what the laws at present in force are; but, looking at the whole matter, I see no reason to change the opinion I previously expressed with regard to this particular Ordinance. It is quite true that I have not read the 150 Ordinances which the Secretary of State for the Colonies said had been passed with regard to immigration. The Secretary of State, with that candour which everybody knows he possesses, at once admitted that of those 150 Ordinances by far the greater proportion were wholly unimportant and mere amending Ordinances which no one would care co read. I have passed many such in my own time—Ordinances which substituted the word "April" for "March," and which substituted the figure "10" for "5"—Ordinances which did not count. But I have read all the important Ordinances with regard to immigration, and I repeat that this Ordinance, both in what it omits and in what it contains, differs not only in degree but in kind and in principle from any other that I have ever perused. I say from any other that I have ever perused but there was one other which did go, to a certain extent, in the same direction. In the Island of Mauritius an Ordinance was passed which made something of the same attempt which is made here, to force the immigrants to stick to one pursuit only, and to debar them from all others. It was attempted to secure that they should only engage in agricultural employment and should not serve in warehouses or shops, whereupon the Governor of the day was peremptorily ordered by the Secretary of State at that time to take care that no similar provision was inserted in any future Ordinance, and to disallow the Ordinance so passed. That is the only precedent I can find for some of the provisions of this Ordinance.

One feature that is most remarkable is the manner in which large and important provisions are left wholly to the regulations. It has generally been the doctrine of the Colonial Office—it was so during the whole reign of Her late Majesty, from the time when the original Order in Council was passed in 1838, which is the foundation and root of all these laws, and which contains the principles by which they all are more or less guided—that regulations were things to be dealt with very carefully, that they ought to be confined to details intended merely to carry out the provisions which were duly and strictly enacted in the body of the Ordinance and not to constitute new provisions themselves. But I find here that whole classes of questions seem to be thrown on the regulations without anything about them appearing in the Ordinance. Is there any other Immigration Ordinance in the whole of the British Empire in which there is not one single word from beginning to end as to the rate of wages? Nothing is said in this Ordinance on that cardinal point; nothing is said with regard to the duration of labour. In most Ordinances it is stated what holidays there are. Nothing is said here about holidays. Is Sunday to be a holiday? Nothing is said either about payment of wages, the duration of work, or about many of those subjects which generally form part of the law.

The spirit of the instructions of every Secretary of State during the last half century has been that legislation with regard to immigration should be legislation which should be directed, not only towards supplying labour for the employer, but should be for the benefit and for the raising of the social status of the immigrant himself.

This Ordinance is evidently the result of two different feelings. There is the feeling, on the one hand, that Oriental labour must be had to supply the shortage of labour in the country, and therefore they ask for Chinese labour. There is also a feeling that they do not want to have Chinamen in the country, and therefore they try to pretend to keep him out while they let him in. He is to be let in for one purpose only, and is to be kept out of sight and out of mind while they still try to preserve, as far as possible, the policy of exclusion. I believe that to be impossible. I believe it to be as impossible I as it certainly is unjust. A distinguished Secretary of State—the late Lord Grey, one of those who approached the subject in a more philosophical spirit than probably most other statesmen have approached it, wrote thus years ago— All experience tends to prove that no legal regulations, however severe, if they stop short of the extreme compulsion which is the characteristic of slavery, can succeed in enforcing really efficient labour, even though it may be in fulfilment of a voluntary obligation, from men I who have no interest in being industrious. What interest do you give these people to be industrious? You introduce provisions, the like of which are certainly not to be found in any other law of a similar character. You put into a schedule a whole list—a long and extraordinary list—of things which these men are not to be. The schedule enumerates the position; these men are not to fill. They are not to be signalmen, plasterers, signallers, drill-sharpeners, skipmen, stonecutters, timbermen, wire-splicers, and a great many other things—indeed, they are not I allowed any chance whatever of i rising. All that they are allowed is the wages that they will receive in the lowest class of labour.

We are told that the contract will be fully explained to them in China, and that by that contract they will stand. Well, I have some doubt about that. Such proper previous explanation is one of the most difficult things to make sure of, and I cannot but consider that the Ordinance, admitted, as it is, to be faulty by the confession of His: Majesty's Government in pledging themselves to amend it, ought not in its present condition to receive His Majesty's assent. I say that reluctantly and unwillingly, because I am no depreciator of the benefits which would result from a well-ordered immigration of Eastern labourers into colonies where their industry is needed. I have long been an earnest advocate of that, and I have I never in the least yielded to those who want to make out that in the West Indies, in Mauritius, in Ceylon, and in the Pacific the system is only one of disguised slavery. It is nothing of the kind. It is a system under which the immigrant has great opportunities of bettering himself, of rising in the world, of obtaining money and property, and of altogether improving his social status. But there is no such prospect open to the immigrant under this Ordinance. If you do wish for his presence, if you are compelled to desire his presence, I hold that you must also do something for his benefit.

My opinion, hostile to this Ordinance, is given reluctantly and is given as that of one who is not opposed to immigration. I may, perhaps, add that it is the opinion of one who is not altogether unacquainted with the administration of the immigration laws, for I have had to administer laws relating to immigration in four different and widely-separate colonies, and for a period of about eighteen years. I should be, indeed, hopelessly incapable if I had not learned something about them in that time; and I may therefore observe, after that experience, that these immigration laws, good as they are in their results and in themselves, all require the most careful watching. There was not one of them in any one of the colonies of which I have spoken which could have been left to work itself. There was constantly something required attention, and which, if not attended to, would have led to abuse. I will mention three of the most difficult things to deal with: first, abuses in the recruiting. That is a matter which, under the best system and with the utmost care, is almost always full of defects and abuses. You cannot overlook all your native recruiters. You cannot tell what they say, and you do not know what inducements they offer; and when the recruit is brought away from his home down to your depot where you question him, he has already parted with his freedom; he is a long way off from his home, is probably under obligations to the recruiter who has advanced him money, and it would be very difficult indeed for him at that period to draw back. Then you explain to him the contract, and I daresay you do so fairly; but it is very difficult to be sure that it is fully explained so as to ensure its true meaning being recognised.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies observed in another place that the wages to be paid to Chinese labourers in South Africa would be six or seven times more than they get in China. That will be explained to them, I have no doubt. Will it also be explained to them that the price of the necessaries of life is six or seven times greater in South Africa than in China? Of that I have my doubts. Well, that is one great abuse, and there is nothing whatever in this Ordinance to check it. Another thing most difficult to check under the best system is pressure to re-engage. In this Ordinance the immigrant is permitted, at the end of his period of indenture, to re-engage for a similar term of years. It has always been found exceedingly difficult to prevent an illegitimate pressure being put upon the immigrant, towards the close of the term of his service, to re-engage. With the best will in the world, and the best clauses that can be framed in an Ordinance, it has been found almost impossible to prevent the illegitimate influence which can be easily exercised by an employer who is desirous that a man should re-engage, and I think the conditions under which these labourers will be working in South Africa will make it tar easier for the employer to press, and far more difficult for the labourers to refuse, the request to re-engage. For that there is no provision in the Ordinance. The third difficulty which has always been experienced in the administration of immigration laws is with regard to the regular payment of wages. They have been apt to fall into arrear, and it has been found very difficult to make provisions to insure their regular payment. In this Ordinance there is not a word about the payments, when they are to be made and how often. In the West Indies they were made every fortnight. How often are they to be made here? There is no provision whatever in the Ordinance with regard to that.

It seems to me that, great as are the advantages of immigration, properly managed, great as are the mutual advantages to immigrant and to employer, yet it can only be advantageous when it is carried out on a true principle. That true principle is that you cannot possibly ignore the introduction of this foreign labour; there it is, and there it will be, and the introduction of the female and family element makes it infinitely more difficult to deal with You will have immigrants with their wives and families, and you will have to make a choice; you will either have to give them far more freedom than you give them under this Ordinance, or you will be tempted, as Lord Grey said in the extract which I have already quoted, to come nearer and nearer to that state of slavery which he refers to, in order to obtain by force what you cannot get by fair means. Therefore, although it is with great reluctance that I come to the conclusion, I am bound to say that, while I am in no way unwilling to see immigration from the East taking place to South Africa, and immigrant workmen employed in the mines there under fair conditions, yet if their presence is only to be bought at the price of the passage of an Ordinance such as this, then I say it is better to do without them.

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for copies of the Ordinances with respect to immigrants now in force in the Island of Trinidad."—(The Lord Stanmore.)


My Lords, no one in this House is more qualified to discuss the value of Ordinances with regard to the immigration of either coolies or Asiatics than the noble Lord who has just sat down. The noble Lord has been the representative of the Crown in many different colonies. He has served in Trinidad, in Mauritius, in Fiji, in New Zealand, and in Ceylon, and I do not I think there is any Member of your Lordships' House possessing a greater knowledge of the value and importance of these Ordinances than the noble Lord who initiated this discussion. When this matter was raised about a fortnight ago I inflicted a rather lengthy speech upon your Lordships, and I feel that you would not wish me to repeat a similar operation to-day; therefore my answer to the noble Lord will be somewhat brief. I owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend for kindly postponing the discussion on this question from last Tuesday until to-day, and I think the adjournment has been of some value, because it has permitted us to place before your Lordships fresh Papers dealing with this subjects—Papers which the noble Lord himself admitted threw fresh light on the matter and added distinctly to the value of the discussion. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, in the commencement of his remarks, admit that the pledges which the Secretary of State for the Colonies had given in another place would undoubtedly improve the Ordinance.

There were many matters raised by the noble Lord upon which he desires information. Let me deal first with the question of the number of wives who are to accompany the Chinese labourers to South Africa. The noble Lord seemed to think that a certain percentage of the wives of the Asiatics should accompany their husbands; but it is impossible to be certain that you will get the services of married men. The Secretary of State has distinctly said that we should permit every married Chinaman who desired to do so, to take his wife with him to South Africa. Indeed he went further and said he would welcome every effort to secure that those Chinamen who are recruited in China should be accompanied by their wives and families. But it is impossible to insist that a certain percentage of wives shall accompany the Chinamen, because we do not know what percentage of married men we shall recruit. If a hard and fast rule was made on this point it might tend to limit the facilities which we desire to give to every Chinaman to take his wife with him. I do not know the habits of the Chinaman well, but I am told that very often, when he takes his first voyage, he prefers to leave his wife at home, and after he has satisfied himself that his new occupation is both a remunerative one, and one which gives him satisfaction, he then decides to ask his wife to join him. Therefore, if in the first batch of immigrants all the wives do not accompany their husbands, it does not follow that at a subsequent date they will not do so. I think the noble Earl suggested that we should make it compulsory for the wife to accompany her husband.


Compulsory that there should be a certain number of females accompanying a certain number of male immigrants.


I am afraid I am not prepared to recommend a course of action which seems to be quite unprecedented and somewhat irregular.


It is the case in other immigration laws.


The noble Lord went on to discuss the question of wages that the Chinamen are to receive. It is true that there is no definite statement in the Papers before your Lordships as to the amount of the wages to be paid. That is still a matter which has not been decided. No doubt it will form a subject of negotiations between the Labour Bureau and the Chinese authorities themselves. I think we can be quite certain of this fact, that the Chinaman, being an extremely intelligent and clever individual, will demand a wage satisfactory to himself, and one which the mine-owners are prepared to give him. Then the noble Lord expressed regret that the hours of labour had not been decided upon. I do not know what he considers a fair day's work, but, if I remember correctly, nine hours is the limit in the Trinidad Ordinance, and I believe I am equally correct in saying that a labourer is entitled to work up to fifteen hours a day if he desires to do so. I assume that if something between that minimum and maximum number of hours is decided upon the noble Lord would be content—that is to say, something between ten and eleven hours a day. I think the Kaffir works ten hours in South Africa, and, therefore, I suppose it would not be a hardship if the Chinaman was asked to do the same.

The other point raised by the noble Lord was with regard to the contract itself. That matter was raised in the debate a fortnight ago, and I thought at that time that the noble Marquess on the Front Bench opposite (The Marquess of Ripon) made a very reasonable and proper demand when he said that the contract should be fully explained to the Chinamen before they left their native shores. We all agree that that was quite a reasonable contention, the noble Lord will have noticed that the Secretary of State has distinctly stated that every precaution shall be taken to ensure that every immigrant thoroughly understands the terms of the contract, not only before he leaves the port of embarkation, but before he leaves his own district to go down to the port. It is quite true that there are many points which appear still to be unsettled, and the reason for that is very easy to explain. It is because the final regulations have not yet been completely drawn up. The Secretary of State is still waiting for them, and we anticipate receiving them from Lord Milner at no very distant date. I can assure the noble Lord that when we do receive those regulations they will contain provisions giving effect to all the promises which the Secretary of State made in the House of Commons. I pass to the noble Lord's observations with regard to the Trinidad Ordinance. I understood him to say that under that Ordinance the immigrants were not required to reside on the plantations in which they worked.


That is not quite what I said. What I said was, that they were not obliged to remain on the plantation; that after the day's work was done they were free till the next day's work began, whereas under this Ordinance they must never leave the premises of the employer without a permit.


I do not think the Trinidad Ordinance is quite in conformity with the views of the noble Lord. It is provided in that Ordinance, with regard to residence, that the indentured immigrants are to reside on the plantations where they are under indenture.


Hear, hear!


And the Trinidad Ordinance further provides that indentured immigrants are entitled to a day and a night's absence after two weeks of satisfactory work, but not more than seven days at one time or twenty-six days in one year. I understand those regulations to mean that the indentured labourer has to reside upon the plantation in exactly the same way as the Chinaman will have to reside upon the premises in South Africa.


I apologise for again interrupting the noble Duke, but I must explain what I said and what I mean. It is quite true that an immigrant ii Trinidad was compelled to reside on the estate; that is to say, in the barrack or house provided for him. But when his work was done he was free to go where he liked for the rest of the day, so long as he returned to work the next morning. An immigrant may leave a plantation without ceasing to reside on it; residence is one thing, but perpetual presence, as provided in the South African Ordinance, is another.


I will not pursue that subject further, but I think that my contention is not an inaccurate one, that the principles of the Trinidad Ordinance and the one which is going to be applied to South Africa is not dissimilar. I may inform the noble Lord that there have been a few amendments in the clauses of the Trinidad Ordinance, but they are very insignificant and do not in any way affect the principle of the Ordinance, and I do not think the noble Lord would receive any further information if we republished it. I do not know that I can give the noble Lord any more information. But I can assure him, in conclusion, that it is the desire of the Secretary of State to embody in the regulations, which we hope to receive shortly, all those promises and conditions which my right hon. friend has more than once stated with perfect clearness in the House of Commons.


My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordshiy's for intruding so soon after my advent to this House, but owing to the great importance of this question of the treatment of races whom we call inferior, engaged under conditions of labour which are not fully free, and the fact that this Ordinance has so entirely omitted to take the necessary safeguards which should accompany such a dangerous form of engagement of labour, I would venture to make a few remarks upon the speech which has just been delivered by the noble Duke. The noble Duke put aside some of the contentions of the noble Lord, and seemed to treat them as absurd and unpractical. But I should like to ask those who are responsible for this Ordinance, whether they consider the whole series of Ordinances which have been passed and have been in force for the past half century in various tropical and sub-tropical colonies absurd and unpractical. The noble Duke spoke of the inclination some Chinamen had of leaving the country without taking their wives with them, and the impossibility of compelling them to take their wives; but I would point out that in all the other Colonial Ordinances of the last fifty years the difficulty, suggested by the noble Duke, in obtaining a due proportion of women immigrants has been overcome. The Colonial Office is daily administering those Ordinances, and, I assume, are administering them correctly, and where there is a requirement that 40, 50, or 60 per cent, of women should accompany the immigrants they see that this proportion of women go. This is being done every day of their administration. If you leave the onus of bringing the women upon the importer, whose interest, I think we may put it, is rather to get the maximum return for his money with the minimum obligation to consider the claims of labour, it will be very easy for him to instruct his recruiting officers to engage only bachelors. All that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has promised has been that where a married man wishes to bring his wife then the authorities will insist that that wife shall have a free passage at the expense of the importer; but if there is no obligation upon the recruiter to see that a reasonable proportion of the sexes is maintained he will simply enlist bachelors, or persons who state that they do not wish to bring their wives.

Where you have a servile kind of labour such as this is, it becomes the duty of the State to step in and remedy those shortcomings which in the case of free contract can be remedied by labour itself. I say, therefore, that it does not lie in the month of any member of the Government to say that it is impracticable and absurd to propose to I secure, by compulsory legislation, the importation of a reasonable number of women. Then we were told that the rate of wages was not yet decided. I find, in reading these Papers, that there is a very careful list of things which the regulations may deal with, one of them being the quantity and quality of the, rations. The regulations which deal with the rations might surely have dealt also with the rate of wages. If they do no t it may well be argued on the principle expressio unicus est negatio alterius that the rate of wages does not come within the scope of the regulations. We have been told by Lord Stanmore that in other colonies steps have been taken to secure that the wages shall not fall materially below those of free labour for similar employment in the district. Something of that kind might have been put in. When the Government tell us they are contemplating it we take that as a pledge, and therefore we may assume that they are in correspondence with the colony and taking steps to secure a reasonable rate of wages to those indentured labourers either by adequate regulations, or, if necessary, by insisting on an Amendment of the Ordinance.

There is the other point—and it is a very important one—upon which the noble Duke did not touch, namely, as to how far you can vary an Ordinance by regulation, and how far this Ordinance leaves scope for framing proper regulations under it. That, however, is not so very material, because, after the promises of the Government, we must assume, if they are advised by those whose duty it is to advise them that the regulations they propose to frame go beyond the powers conferred upon them by the Ordinance, that the Ordinance will have to be sent back for amendment before any action can be taken upon it. The next point was as to hours of labour. The noble Lord who initiated this discussion told us that in Trinidad the hours of labour were laid down at nine hours a day, and the noble Duke informed us that there was a power by which the coolie, if he liked, could work voluntarily up to fifteen hours. The noble Duke proceeded to say that it would not be unreasonable to split the difference between the two figures, which he worked out at ten or eleven hours, but which I should have made twelve. There is a great difference between an obligation to work for nine hours with a permission, if you may demand overtime, to work for a few hours more, and an elastic stretch of that by saving that because a man may, in time of pressure, work up to fifteen hours, therefore you contemplate allowing the mine-owner to put into his indenture an eleven or twelve hour day. I do not think such a prospect should be held out to any kind of labour. Nothing is said about Sunday or any other day of rest for these men.

I must say it was with some satisfaction that I heard the answer of the noble Duke that there were many points still unsettled, and that final regulations were not yet drawn up. One of the best things that has resulted from debating this Ordinance has been that day after day, as the discussion proceeds, fresh concessions have been made on the part of the Government. Until public opinion was directed to this Ordinance the concessions were all to the mine-owner and none to the men to be imported. I think the noble Lord who introduced this matter was rather trifled with by the noble Duke in his reply. The noble Lord made his point perfectly clear. He pointed out that, while the coolie was required to reside on the estate, residence was not interpreted in a strict or narrow sense, and that great liberty was allowed him so long as he performed his task of labour. If the words of the Trinidad Ordinance, which the noble Duke quoted, are to his mind so satisfactory and so entirely cover what is wanted in South Africa, I would make this offer: Will he amend the South African Ordinance by substituting the words of the Trinidad Ordinance? Surely that is a fair offer in view of the statement of the noble Duke that the words of the Trinidad Ordinance express what it is wished to be done. The noble Duke stated that the indentured immigrants under the Trinidad Ordinance were entitled to a day and a night's absence after a week of satisfactory work and further extension of legalised absence during the year. Those words are very different from the provision contained in this Ordinance, where no absence is of right and all depends on the permission of the employer. In this matter every moral and social consideration seems to have been passed over by the Ordinance. You cannot degrade any kind of labour without degrading all labour, and I feel that to have any class working in a British colony under such conditions as are contemplated in this Ordinance must be humiliating to those who sanction them and degrading to the country which accepts them.


My Lords, I should not have intruded myself in this debate if it had not been for a question almost of a personal kind and which may possibly be regarded as concerning others also. In the debate that took place in another place on 16th February the Colonial Secretary referred to words of mine presumably spoken in this House. He said— I understand that in another place the Archbishop of Canterbury was fully satisfied with the assurances which he received from my noble friend Lord Onslow. I do not take exception to these words of the Colonial Secretary if they are taken with their context and rightly understood. On a former occasion I was dealing specially with two points—indeed, almost exclusively with one point—namely, the moral question and the precautions that ought to be taken to avoid the moral dangers arising from this importation. I also referred to a question which has occupied some attention this evening, the question of the importation of wives together with the labourers. I am ready to admit that the assurances which were given on that particular point as regards precautions against moral mischief seem to me, provided this Chinese importation takes place at all, to be as satisfactory as circumstances admit. With regard to the wives I would ask to be allowed to say a few words more to-night.

I have had during the last few days a somewhat exceptional opportunity of obtaining information on this particular subject. I have had the advantage of conversation with a gentleman of very high qualifications and standing, who was for many years captain of a large steamer engaged almost exclusively in conveying the Chinese labourer to the Malay Peninsula, to Slam, to Java, and to other regions to which such emigration takes place. He has given me a great many details which I do not find in the Blue-books, but to which I am disposed to attach the fullest credence, as to the manners and the ways of the Chinaman in this particular matter. As far as he could judge, after careful consideration of the point, his opinion is that in the exportation of labourers from China, not more than 3 per cent, of the wives belonging to the men are ever exported in the first instance. The question not only interested this gentleman as a shipmaster, but also as a philanthropist; and he assures me that the universal custom of the Chinaman of the labouring class when emigrating is, if he be a married man, to leave his wife and his family at home. I understand that it is by no means an uncommon thing in the Malay Peninsula and elsewhere, where the Chinaman works and lives under different I conditions from those laid down for South Africa, for him to go back to China after his first period of indenture has been satisfied, and then to bring his wife and family back with him to settle. But the conditions under this Ordinance are very different. Presumably it is open to the Chinaman who emigrates under this Ordinance, and takes his place in the compound to which he is indentured, to go back to China and then come back re-indentured for a fresh start. Whether in such a case he would be likely to claim his legal right to take his wife with him I cannot tell. I fully admit that I, for one, in ignorance of the habits of the Chinaman, may have misunderstood this question of the wives accompanying their husbands, and may have regarded the new Ordinance in that respect as fraught with a peril or a hardship greater than I personally now believe it to be.

The words which I am supposed to have used to the effect that I was perfectly satisfied with the assurances which had been given must be taken only in connection with the particular detail I was discussing, and would therefore be inaccurate except in a very limited sense. On the moral question, and the evils that might spring from it, and also on the question of the wives, I honestly admit that it does not seem to be clear at this moment what more the Government can do, if the proposed emigration is to I take place at all. But if it is understood, and in my case it has been understood, that I am prepared to regard all that has now occurred or is going to occur as I in all respects satisfactory, I must guard myself from the imputation of having said anything of the kind. The conditions of necessity which are alleged to exist in South Africa for the importation of Chinese labour are regarded from various points of view. The necessity is either accepted, criticised, challenged, or denied by different persons; and the Blue-book circulated to-day shows that there are not a few critics—whether wholly inspired by a disinterested desire either for the welfare of the Transvaal itself or for the welfare of the Chinamen it is not for me to say—but a consider able number of critics believe the necessity to be less great than is alleged. On this point I find myself unable without ampler information than we possess from any impartial source to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. After careful study of all the contents of these two Blue-books, I still do not know enough about it to satisfy myself completely. I will I only say, that if it be true that a necessity has arisen which involves the importation of Chinese labour, under the conditions which are laid down in the Ordinance, while I may regretfully admit the necessity, I am certainly not prepared to express myself satisfied with what has happened in the ordinary sense in which the word "satisfied" is used.

I mention this now because in a subsequent debate in another place another speaker of some prominence again referred to the assurance which I was supposed to have given—namely, that I was perfectly satisfied in this matter. These references to my supposed words have resulted in my receiving correspondence from different parts of the country expressing surprise that I should so express myself, and asking me to say where and how I did so express myself. I do not know whether the Colonial Secretary was alluding to my speech or to private communications which he supposed me to have made either to Lord Onslow or to the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough). But I certainly have not to the best of my belief used any such expression, and if I can be shown to have done so, I must have used the expression in a strictly limited sense; corresponding to the explanation I have just given to your Lordships.

I feel that, if indeed the necessity be real, it is one of the most regrettable necessities that has ever arisen in the history of our colonial government—that it should be found necessary under the British flag, and under Christian civilisation, to arrange for the importation of labour where conditions are laid down that the labourers imported shall not be permitted to utilise any exceptional powers they may have, or fulfil the desire to rise above the conditions of the merest drudges, doing the lowest kind of work, whatever their qualifications for some higher kind of labour may be. That these conditions should be imposed presumably for the protection of white workmen who are in fear lest the virtues of these labourers should prove dangerous to their competitors seems to me to be a somewhat pitiful admission. The decision whether or not the existence of the necessity has been proved is a decision for which those in the colony, and at home, who are obliged to act administratively in this matter, must accept the responsibility. Certainly, if it be a necessity, it is one which I personally feel to be of a very painful kind, of a very lamentable kind, and one which is not without its elements of humiliation. In no general way therefore can I express myself as being satisfied with the position at which we have arrived in this question, which I honestly believe to be one of the most difficult of the problems that have for many years presented themselves to those who are responsible for our colonial government.


My Lords, I propose to confine the few observations which I desire to make entirely to the question of the Ordinance itself. Of course, there is the much larger question which was touched upon in a spirit I greatly rejoiced to hear, by I the most rev. Primate who has just sat down—the question as to whether it is right that a system of this kind should, for any reason, or with any object, be established in a British colony. I made some observations upon that point on the previous occasion, and I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with any further remarks upon it to-night. But I must be permitted to say that I think the reply which was made by the noble Duke was really very inadequate to the questions which were submitted to the House by Lord Stanmore. He evidently did not desire to enter into the discussion of these questions, and he entirely passed many of them by. My noble friend Lord Stanmore mentioned certain doubts which he entertained in respect to the power of the Government, at home or in the Transvaal, to pass regulations which would in any way interfere with the provisions of the Ordinance itself. I am not going to express any opinion of my own on that subject. I am not a lawyer. Mr. Lyttelton is a lawyer, and an eminent lawyer, and it would be presumptuous in me to attempt to contradict his opinion on those questions. But I confess I should have liked to have heard from the noble Duke whether those difficulties have been considered, and whether His Majesty's Government are satisfied that the pledges of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, which I have not the smallest doubt he intends to fulfil in their entirety, can be fulfilled without an amendment of the Ordinance. For my own part I should have been very glad to see the Ordinance amended, because it will stand as the law of the Transvaal; and I am bound to say that it reflects very little credit upon the Government of the Transvaal, or upon those who have advocated it in that country.

The Blue-book which has come into our hands this morning is full of interesting information, and I hope your Lordships will allow me to again express my strong feeling that this House is not rightly treated with regard to the circulation of important Papers. These Papers were in the newspapers yesterday. They were, I believe, delivered to Members of the House of Commons yesterday; but they only reached your Lordships this morning. I have often referred to this delay, and I cannot help mentioning it again. I have been told that it is not the fault of the Government or of the officers of this House. Somebody's fault it is, and I beg the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, to give his attention to this. The thing can be altered, and it ought to be altered. I have spent the whole morning in endeavouring, rather imperfectly, to read these Papers, and I certainly found them an interesting study. After studying the Blue-book I have come to the conclusion that those who discussed this Ordinance in the Transvaal Legislative Assembly—those who supported it, and those who opposed it alike—cared nothing at all, or very little, about the interests of the people they were going to import. The supporters of the Ordinance wished to secure cheap labour for the Transvaal mines, and those who opposed it wanted to secure that no Chinaman should get out of the compound. As for the unfortunate Chinaman,—when he got into the compoundand what was to be done with him there—little or no consideration was given to that matter at all. I am bound to say that I think that does not reflect any credit upon those who had anything to do with the matter.

I observe from these Papers that Lord Milner is getting a little impatient in respect to the suspension of the sanction to the Ordinance; but I am afraid he must be good enough to wait. This is a question which has greatly roused the feelings of the people of this country. There is no real hurry. You will not get one Chinaman more into the Transvaal by passing this Ordinance to-morrow than you will if you pass it six months hence. Therefore it is not right that it should be pressed forward unduly. I am very glad to see that Mr. Lyttelton has adopted the suggestion made in this and in the other House, and that he is not going, as I understand, to give his sanction to the Ordinance until he is satisfied that the regulations which he requires will be agreed to. That, my Lords, is satisfactory, and if he adheres to that line I dare say those amendments will, in the main, be accepted. But, even so, this Ordinance will still remain, as my noble friend described it in the former discussion, and as I ventured to describe it on the same occasion, basing my statement on an answer given by the Secretary of State in the other House of Parliament—this Ordinance will still remain unique among Ordinances of this kind, and I hope it will be the last time that any British colony will propose legislation of this description. It is, of course, quite possible that the view of Mr. Lyttelton may be correct, and that the things he requires can all be done by regulation. But I agree with my noble friend on the Cross Benches that it was an error to have left so much to regulations. Nobody knows what can or may be done under the Ordinance if the view taken of the legal question is correct, and we must therefore wait until we receive these regulations and see in what shape they are put. The Government have pledged themselves—and I have no doubt they will keep their pledges—definitely to make these changes, and they must therefore be made, and be made in a, manner which will in some way or other get rid of the contradictory provisions of the Ordinance itself.

The noble Duke said he did not think it was desirable to lay down a hard and fast rule in reference to the proportion of women to be introduced. I think he said it would not work. But it is working in other places. What can be made to work in Trinidad can surely be made to work in the Transvaal. If there is no compulsion the recruiters in China, as was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Stanley, will take care to introduce only single men, and then you will be landed in precisely the position against which so many protests were made when the matter was discussed here on a previous occasion. That, however, is, I understand, going to be dealt with. It is essential that it should be dealt with, and I earnestly hope it will be dealt with on a fair and satisfactory basis. Again, you must not permit these men to be introduced into the colony unless they have a guarantee of a fair minimum wage. There is in this proposed system the fatal evil, which was pointed out by the most rev. Primate, that you are prohibiting these men from rising in the world. You are saying to them, "You shall do nothing but the lowest labour," and that to my mind is an additional reason why you should prescribe a minimum wage.

There is one point in connection with this Ordinance upon which I should like to ask either for an explanation no v or for consideration on the part of His Majesty's Government. There are provisions in the Blue-book in regard to penalties for offences against the Ordinance. It is provided in Section 2 that— Any person who in any way aids, abets, or assists any labourer, directly or indirectly, to contravene or evade, or to attempt to contravene or evade, the provisions of this Ordinance, shall, unless otherwise provided, be liable to the penalties set out in Section 6. Section 6 provides that he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £500, and, in default of payment, imprisonment not exceeding two years. Then, in Section 10, it is provided that;— Any person who shall harbour or conceal any labourer who has deserted from the service of his importer, or who has committed any breach of the Ordinance, or who shall aid and abet any labourer to desert, shall be liable to a line not exceeding £50, and, in default of payment, imprisonment not exceeding three months. I can perfectly well understand that it should be provided, if this system is to be adopted at all, that any person who is aggrieved by the act of another person inducing his labourer to desert, should have a civil action for damages against that person; but it does seem to me to be inconsistent with sound principles of jurisprudence, and inconsistent with what is just and right, that you should make this offence a criminal offence. It recalls to one's recollection the whole controversy in the United States many years ago about the fugitive slave law. Deal with the question as a civil offence as between man and man and I press no objection, if the system is to be adopted; but if you deal with it as a criminal offence you will be setting the very worst precedent possible in regard to a matter of this kind. I do not know whether such a law exists anywhere else, but I doubt it, because it is contrary to the tendency of our jurisprudence. I mention it particularly now, because I do not think it has been touched upon in the discussions either here or in the other House. I only ask that it shall receive the consideration of His Majesty's Government before they finally arrange the shape in which this law is drawn. I hope that the earliest opportunity will be given to Parliament to consider these regulations when they are made. The Colonial Secretary in the other House seemed to be rather offended that anybody wanted to see them, as if t implied some reflection upon himself. It implies no reflection. It is the duty of Parliament, and especially of the Opposition, to see the ipsissima verba, and, as we have done a great deal to get this Ordinance amended, we should be given a full and complete opportunity of discussing the regulations when they are made and of seeing whether they carry out in a suitable manner the promises of the Secretary of State.


My Lords, before the noble Marquess replies I should like to ask for a definite answer to a Question which I will submit to him. In the telegram appearing on page 25 of the Blue-book from Mr. Lyttelton to Governor Viscount Milner, there occurs this statement made by the Colonial Secretary in the course of his speech in the House of Commons on 16th February— When he (the Chinese labourer) arrives at the mines he is no doubt to live in what is a Chinese village or location. It is considerably different from a compound, because it is a place fitted for the reception of Asiatics, and is to be carefully prepared by those who know Asiatic customs and habits. That telegram was answered on 20th February by Lord Milner, who telegraphed— I have had a complete list made of your pledges and requirements, and care will be taken to embody all of them. The question I wish to ask is this: When the Chinaman arrives at the mines, what is the Chinese village referred to in Lord Milner's telegram to be? Is it to be an open village like the Chinese villages in Australia, or is it to be a compound like the Kaffirs live in at Kimberley, with a stockade surrounding it? If it is to be an open village, there will be all the difficulties that we experienced in Australia between the Chinese and the white women. We had a Royal Commission to inquire into that subject, and the horrors of the condition of things obtaining and the pitch of degradation to which those unfortunate women had fallen were so bad that we were unable to incorporate them in the Report. I think it is important that the House should know whether there is to be an open village or a compound.


My Lords, let me, in the first place, assure the noble Marquess that I will endeavour to discover, and take to task, that mysterious individual who stands between your Lordships' House and the timely possession of these important documents. We have all of us occasionally suffered from these delays, and I will do my best to prevent their recurring. But I am bound to say that my noble friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies tells me that, as the Papers were not in your Lordships' hands, he suggested that this discussion might be postponed. That suggestion, however, was not acceptable to the noble Lord, Lord Stanmore, and so the debate came on. We have had, whit we sometimes experience in this House, a very limited Motion followed by a some what unlimited discussion. I do no complain of that, amongst other reasons for these—that it gave us the opportunity of hearing, for the first time, my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, who will no doubt often take a distinguished part in our proceedings, and also because it gave the most rev. Primate the opportunity of telling your Lordships that at one point, at all events, he was better satisfied with the Government case than he had been in the first instance. Well, my Lords, this Ordinance is now law.


Has it been approved?


As far as the Colonial Legislature is concerned it is settled; and the question we have to consider is what modifications it should undergo in order to make it in accordance with the views of His Majesty's Government. The text of the regulations to be drawn under it is not yet in the hands of the Secretary of State. He has not yet had an opportunity of fully considering them, our discussions with the Chinese Government have only just begun, and it is, therefore, so it seems to me, a little premature to proceed as if the whole of our proposals were already in your Lordships' hands. At any rate, it is not very profitable to proceed with the line of discussion which has been followed a good deal this evening with the object of determining whether the Ordinance in its present form does or does not leave room for regulations according to the pledges which have been given by His Majesty's Government. As to that I am inclined to suggest to your Lordships that we may trust the Secretary of State for the Colonies to make good his pledges, and that, knowing what we do of his legal attainments, we may feel pretty sure that he is not likely to run us into anything irregular or illegal.

A good deal of attention has been called this evening to the Trinidad Ordinance and to the difference between the terms of that Ordinance and the Ordinance we are now discussing. The Trinidad Ordinance is no doubt extremely valuable as an illustration of the present case; but I think we should keep it in mind that the Trinidad case is, in many essential particulars, fundamentally different from the South African case. In the case of Trinidad the object has been to induce Indian coolies to come to the colony and to settle and remain there with their wives and families. Now—let us be perfectly frank—that is not the case with the Asiatic labourers whom it is proposed to attract to South Africa. They are not regarded as a desirable element to be introduced permanently into the South African community, and therefore it is sought to bring them to the Transvaal only for a limited period, at the end of which they will be repatriated to their own country. It is, therefore, to my mind not in the lease surprising that this Ordinance should be described, as it has been more than once this evening, as utterly unlike other Ordinances with which we have been familiar. That again, it seems to me, is an excellent reason why the question of the importation of female emigrants should be dealt with in a different fashion. We have boon told again and again that in other cases a specified percentage of wives has been insisted upon. I am told that in the case of these Chinese emigrants, it would be virtually impossible to insist upon any such percentage. I am assured that in China the custom is for the young men to marry at an extremely youthful age, frequently at fifteen or sixteen years, and that a Chinese bachelor is comparatively a rare article in the country. If you are to attempt to compel these youthful Benedicks to bring their ladies with them to South Africa, it seems to me you are running a very good chance of making the whole of these arrangements nugatory and ridiculous.

Another point that was made with regard to the Trinidad Ordinance was this. We were told that, whereas the African Ordinance was extremely severe and harshly drawn in the matter of the compulsory residence of the immigrant within the premises of his employer, the Trinidad Ordinance, on the contrary, was most liberally drawn and allowed the immigrant a great amount of latitude as to coming and going to and from the place of his employment. Is it the case that the Trinidad Ordinance in this respect is quite such a milk-and-water document as Lord Stanmore would have us believe? Let me read to your Lordships a few lines from the Trinidad Ordinance— Each indentured immigrant shall be bound to reside on the plantation whereon he is under indenture. Where any immigrant is found on a public highway, or on any land or in any house not being the land or house of his employer, or in any ship, vessel, or boat within the waters of the island, any of the following persons—that is to say (1) the protector or any person authorised in writing by him; (2) any estate constable attached to the plantation to which the immigrant is under indenture; and (3) the employer of the immigrant or his manager or overseer—may without warrant stop such immigrant, and in case he fails to produce a certificate of industrial residence or of exemption from labour, or a ticket of leave, may, if there be reasonable cause to suspect the immigrant is under indenture, arrest him and take him to the nearest police station, there to be detained until he can be taken before a stipendiary justice of the peace. If, upon such immigrant being brought before a stipendiary justice of the peace, it appears in respect of what plantation his services are due and lie fails to prove that at the time of his being arrested he was absent from such plantation by virtue of a ticket of leave, the stipendiary justice, if he sees fit, may order such immigrant to be returned to the estate to which he is indentured, or to be imprisoned, with or without hard labour, for any term not exceeding seven days. I think the Trinidad coolie who desires to have a little change of air will find that this Ordinance operates pretty stiffly.


What is the date of the Ordinance?


1901. One word with regard to the question of wives. There again there is no analogy between the domestic arrangements of the Indian coolie and the domestic arrangements of the Chinaman; and if we were to resort to the provisions of the Trinidad Ordinance we should probably have to fall back upon the extremely rough and ready method which I understand the noble Lord to suggest—I think he said that 40 females should accompany every 100 male immigrants from China. I have been asked a question with regard to the nature and character of the compounds. I wish I could give accurate particulars as to the description of Chinese village which it is intended to establish in the Transvaal. I am afraid I cannot do so. Put it is interesting to note that in the original draft of this Ordinance it is stated in the definition clause that the word premises "shall include the place where labourers are actually engaged in work and one mile in every direction from such place." That was in the draft Ordinance, but was omitted because it v as felt that an area two miles across in every direction might have the effect of bringing a Chinese village into the most populous part, say of the city of Johannesburg. Therefore the actual area of the compounds has not been defined. I mention this merely as showing that in the minds of those who originally drew this Ordinance what was present was not a tiny stockade or enclosure as has sometimes been described but at any rate a fairly extensive place assigned for the residence of these Chinese immigrants.


Practically an open village.


I am afraid I do not know what an open village is. But I do not for a moment suggest to your Lordships that the conditions contained in this Ordinance are not conditions of an onerous character. They certainly are. It is perfectly true that the people of these colonies are torn in two directions, first by the desire to obtain labour for the mines, and next by the desire that these Asiatics should not establish themselves in and pervade the country. Therefore their introduction is not incorrectly described as a regrettable necessity; and one would have been glad to see the introduction of labour under conditions of a more generous and liberal nature. But let us remember that these conditions are conditions which the immigrants are perfectly free to refuse if they do not like them. One thing is clearly understood—that the terms of these contracts are to be fully explained to every immigrant before he leaves his own country; and I do not believe that, as a rule, the Chinese immigrant is so ignorant or unsuspecting that he will accept any conditions, no matter what they are, which may be offered to him by the importers. The assent of the Chinese Government has moreover, to be obtained to the whole of these arrangements, and at this moment discussions are in progress with the Chinese Minister to this Court on the subject. Therefore I venture to say let us try this experiment, let us insist upon every precaution which ingenuity can devise for the purpose of preventing abuses, but at any rate let us try to give it a chance of success. After all, no one disputes the right of the Colonies, or indeed, of any country, to exclude alien labour altogether; and if it is to be I admitted, surely it is fair that the conditions under which it is to be admitted should be carefully thought out and should be in a case of this kind of a compartively strict character. We have on the other hand undertaken that these regulations shall be as reasonable and as humane as we can make them; and I suggest to your Lordships that it would be time enough to take us to task when the experiment has been tried and when it is possible to show that any of the evils which have been anticipated by some of your Lordships have actually taken place.


I only rise to ask the noble Marquess a Question. We all know how very important the regulations have now become; in fact, they take the place to some extent of provisions which in other cases are included in the Ordinance. The noble Marquess has said that the Government will exercise their ingenuity and skill in making the regulations as complete as possible. They are still undergoing consideration by the Government, and I desire to know whether the noble Marquess will, on behalf of the Government, undertake that the Ordinance itself will not be legalised until Parliament has had the opportunity of fully considering the regulations.


I am afraid I cannot give that undertaking.


My Lords, it is not my intention to persevere with the Motion, because the Ordinances for which I have moved are readily accessible to all of your Lordships who desire to see them. I have to thank the noble Duke who represents the Colonial Office for 1he kindness of his expressions with regard to myself, but I have this complaint against him, that I asked him a Question and that he did not answer it. The Question which I asked him was whether it was intended, in certain cases which I pointed out, to proceed by regulations or by amendment of the Ordinance, and to that Question—that very grave Question—he returned no answer at all. No doubt we shall have other opportunities of recurring to this matter. But after what fell from the noble Marquess I feel compelled to say a few words with regard to the Trinidad Ordinance. The Ordinance which the noble Marqucsg has quoted was passed only three years ago, and, therefore, does not concern the Ordinances of which I spoke, which had been in force for half a century previous, but rather tends to confirm what I ventured to say with regard to the absence of that attention on the part of the Colonial Office which used to be given to the position and status of imported immigrants. Even as the clause stands as read by the noble Marquess, it is not inconsistent with what I stated, because the immigrant would have to be brought before a magistrate, and the magistrate would find nothing on which to convict him. His absence after the legal work of the day was done could not be turned into an illegal absence from the estate. I shall not detain the House by speaking further on that point, but the noble Marquess may rest well assured that residence in the Trinidad sense is an extremely different thing from the residence contemplated in this Ordinance, which is imprisonment within the narrow premises of the employer. I would call the attention of the House to the very serious effect which this Ordinance may have in other colonies where immigrant labour is employed. In all those colonies, as I have said, it was always necessary to keep a careful watch against abuses. There was always a party in them who wished for the enactment of more stringent regulations putting further pressure upon the immigrant, in order, as Lord Grey said, to force him to work by a system of servitude. All those persons will have their views most strongly reinforced by the existence of this Ordinance. They will say that such and such things have been done in the Transvaal repressive of the labourers' rights, and they will ask why they are precluded in the other labour-employing colonies from exercising the same repression. It is difficult enough to fight against that influence as it is, but it will be ten times more difficult when they have this precedent to back it up.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.