§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies "if he will lay upon the Table of the House a copy of the legal opinions upon which His Majesty's Ministers determined to stop the recruiting of Chinese coolies for labour in the Transvaal."
The noble Duke said: My Lords, I do not desire to detain your Lordships more than a few minutes in asking the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary the Questions which stand in my name. I need hardly remind the noble Earl that he undertook the administration of the Colonial Office early in the month of December, and the Parliamentary Papers which he has presented to this House show that on December 30th, only a fortnight after he had undertaken the administration of Colonial affairs, he decided to reverse entirely the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to the importation of Chinese coolies. I wish to ask the noble Earl whether he can give the House the legal opinions upon which that very important decision, entirely reversing our policy, was based. Although I believe it is somewhat unusual to ask for the publication of legal opinions in such cases, yet it would be a source of great satisfaction if the noble Earl could give them to us in this case. It would be all the more interesting in view of the fact that the attitude of the Government was considerably modified from the first decision which they arrived at.
We now understand, from expressions of opinion by members of the Government in the other House of Parliament, that the existing contracts are not to be disallowed, but are to continue in existence and to hold good until 17th May, 1907. The noble Earl will, in reply, probably state that it is not usual to give the legal opinions upon which His Majesty's Government arrive at decisions. At the same time, it is wel within our memory that only last year in the House of Commons the Solicitor-General in the late Administration defended his action in giving advice with regard to the case of Adolf Beck, and I think that is sufficient precedent to show that on occasions His Majesty's Government have given the legal opinions upon 9 which they have arrived at a definite decision of policy.
But there is one other question which I should like to put to the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary, arising out of this one. I have not included it in my Question on the Paper, and consequently I cannot press him for an answer, but if he could reply it would be a matter of great satisfaction to us. As the noble Earl informed us, there were some 16,000 licences granted between July and November, 1905. These licences will not expire, so far as we are aware, until the year 1908. According to the terms of the contract, the coolie's engagement does not commence until the date of his arrival on the Rand, and I gather that between now and even as late as May there will be several batches of coolies arriving. Consequently the last batch of coolies who arrive in May, 1906, will be indentured up to May, 1909. I should like to ask the noble Earl if he can inform the House whether their contracts will hold good up to the year 1909, or whether they will be broken by any action of His Majesty's Government. I do not desire to press this latter point too strongly upon the noble Earl, because, as I have already said, the Question is not included in the notice which I have placed on the Paper, but if he can give us an answer I shall be much obliged to him.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of ELGIN)
My Lords, I cannot help thinking that the noble Duke has put this question under a little misapprehension. It is evidently based on a telegram of January 5th to Lord Selborne, in which the phrase that he has quoted occurs—"the substance of which is concurred in by the legal advisers of the Crown." That, no doubt, is the origin of the noble Duke's Question, but that telegram, as will be seen on reference to it, referred, not to the act of the Government in suspending further licences, but to a difficulty—a legal difficulty—which had arisen as to whether we could revoke licences which had already been signed; and it was on that point, and that point only, that we said we had an opinion of the Attorney-General of the Transvaal, "the substance of which is concurred in by the legal 10 advisers of the Crown." In another telegram in the same Paper the noble Duke will find what the opinion of the Attorney-General of the Transvaal was on that point, and the action of His Majesty's Government was to accept the opinion given by the Attorney-General. All that we meant by this expression was that after conference with our legal advisers in this country we were satisfied that that opinion was correct. It did not refer in the least to the act of His Majesty's Government in suspending further licences. That was an act of policy, and not an act on which any legal opinion had arisen.
The noble Duke is quite correct in saying that it is entirely contrary to practice that when a case is submitted to the Law Officers of the Crown their opinion should be published, and I do not think the fact that the Solicitor-General defended any particular decision in the House of Commons in any way deviates from that rule. But in this case, at any rate, we had no opinion from the Law Officers of the Crown which we can lay, and that is my answer on this point to the noble Duke. The noble Duke also asked a question, of which he did not give me notice, as to whether the latest batch of 16,000 licences will hold good until 1909. My answer off-hand, and without getting any information or advice on the subject, is that it is our hope and expectation that the reforms in the government of the Transvaal will be carried out in time to enable their decision to be taken on this question before 1909.
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies to grant a Return showing what petitions were received at the Colonial Office against the employment of Chinese labour in South Africa.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the Question which I desire to put to the noble Earl is somewhat of a similar character—namely, a desire for further information—to that which has just been submitted by the noble Duke, and perhaps I may be permitted to state, in a few words, the character of the information which I desire, and why I desire it. This House has been told 11 before, in more than one debate, that certain indications of the opinion of responsible bodies in South Africa were in favour of Chinese labour or of some system of Chinese indentured labour. I need not repeat what has been said in previous debates, but I have made a careful study of the Blue-book recently issued, and I cannot find that there is any mention of responsible opinion expressed against the system which His Majesty's Government have now undertaken to condemn. On page 6 there is a report of a meeting at Petersstroem which was addressed by Mr. Creswell, whose opinions are well known; on page 17 appears a resolution passed by the Executive Committee of the Transvaal Political Labour League—the Executive Committee, not the representative body; and, thirdly, I find, on page 119, a resolution from the Cape Town branch of the Africander Bond, which in the main is not a resolution against the continuance of Chinese labour so much as a resolution in favour of the loyalty of the Africander Bond. Are those the only indications which have reached His Majesty's Government as regards the state of opinion in South Africa? If not, what opinions can they give us, and will they publish them? I think it is important that we should have some information of the reasons which have led the Government to come to their present decision on this matter.
I would desire to give the Government every credit which a party man can give. I would not desire unduly to attack them in a matter of Imperial administration, or to embarrass them more than is necessary; but I could not help being attracted by the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he quoted the famous despatch of Lord Durham and referred with justifiable pride to his family connection with the author. There is a passage in that despatch which I have no doubt the noble Earl has read. Lord Durham wrote—
Hitherto the course of policy adopted by the English Government in this Colony has had reference to the state of parties in England instead of the wants and the circumstances of the province.
I would desire further information upon this point, because I do not wish to be obliged to charge the Government with
committing the error referred to in this despatch.
§ I do not think that, as regards the administration of our Empire, either Party can be said to be entirely free from blame. It has been perhaps a fault incidental to our party system that there have been cases when the needs and aspirations of the Colonies come into conflict with Party needs and aspirations at home. I venture to think that, so far as the information which we now have enables us to judge of the question, there is serious danger that these warnings of Lord Durham are at this moment being neglected. What, as we understand it, is the attitude to be adopted in regard to this important question so far as the wishes of the colonists themselves are concerned? They are to have responsible government, which is to decide the question, but they are not to be allowed to decide it as they would wish; and, meanwhile, we are kept in absolute ignorance of any new information, any fresh light, any new views thrown on the subject by those most concerned in South Africa. If it is wrong for a Conservative Government to interfere with the affairs of a colony, I venture to think it is trebly wrong for noble Lords opposite, who call themselves members of the Liberal Party, the Party which makes it a matter of pride to give self-government to the Colonies—I venture to say it is trebly wrong of them to interfere in the affairs of a colony as I understand they propose to do in this case.
§ I confess I am somewhat in a dilemma in this matter. It is difficult to gather what is the real intention of His Majesty's Government. So far as I can judge, there are two opposite schools of thought in the Party, and I do not know which school I am to follow, and consequently which arguments to adopt. Am I to adopt the line of thought so eloquently pleaded for by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack the other day, who remains of the opinion that this Ordinance is—or, shall I say, partakes—of the nature of slavery? Am I to adopt his school of thought, and then to ask when this iniquitous system is to end? I look for an answer, and I find it in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place. This iniquitous system 13 which, in the opinion of many of your Lordships and a great many more outside the House who belong to the Liberal Party, is so near to slavery, to put it at the least, that it ought to be ended, is to be ended at the moment that a Transvaal Government asks to be allowed to continue it. Or am I to adopt the opposite view, the view of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who disclaimed the other day all responsibility for the use of the term "slavery" in connection with the employment of Chinese coolies in South Africa?
§ According to many members of the Liberal Party, this system is not slavery. Well, what is the line of argument in that case? This system is not slavery, and you are going to hand it over to the Transvaal Government to be dealt with. Yet if the Transvaal Government ask to be allowed to pass this Ordinance, which you yourselves have said is not slavery, you are going to disallow it. Why? That is where I want more information, because, failing other things, I confess that this passage in Lord Durham's report frequently occurs to my mind. I do not like to charge noble Lords opposite, who, I know, have a high regard for the integrity of the Constitution, with thinking rather of their Party needs than of the good of the Colonies. After all, what do noble Lords opposite think has put them on those benches? What is the policy on which they have been returned?
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
The noble Lord thinks that they have been returned to support the policy of absolute negation which, on the authority of the Duke of Devonshire, is a system we have not got, and other noble Lords think they were returned in order to pass Home Rule. I know that is the opinion of a great many Members in the other House. Was that the constructive policy put before the country? No, my Lords, the constructive policy which was put before the country at the last election, and which placed noble Lords on those benches opposite, was that of ending a system of what was termed Chinese slavery in South Africa; and now that the 14 Government have got into power I am very glad they do not propose to go the length advocated by some of their followers in the country. I cannot help feeling that there are a great many noble Lords sitting on the Front Bench opposite who for that very reason—and I say it with the utmost respect, and without the slightest reflection upon their abilities—have no right to sit there. They are proposing legislation for which the people of the country did not return them. Their followers and their friends have been throughout the length and breadth of the land educating the country—their Minister of Education has, at any rate, succeeded in that—down to certain ideas about Chinese slavery, and telling the electors all sorts of things which we are now told constituted a "terminological inexactitude" or were "descriptive terms."
We all desire to see the British Empire conducted without any taint of slavery. Yet the friends of noble Lords opposite have been going from constituency to constituency telling men who do not have much opportunity of judging, that we on this side of the House are slave-drivers and that our brother colonists in the Transvaal are men guilty of the most horrible crimes and the most evil treatment of those committed to their charge. I think the state of affairs is one which does demand more information than His Majesty's Government have given us before we can refrain from the temptation of making charges which I would not desire to make. After all, you condemn the system. What are you going to do to alter it? You are going to ask the British taxpayer to return these Chinese coolies home to their native country. I sincerely trust that the noble Earl is right when he expresses the belief that this offer will not be largely availed of; but if it is not largely availed of, what becomes of all the charges which have been made, and are still being made in some constituencies, as regards the treatment of these Chinese coolies? On the other hand, if that opportunity is largely availed of by the coolies, what becomes of all the economies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? What becomes of his hope, as expressed to a deputation, that when he had made considerable remissions he would be 15 able to consider old-age pensions? The fact is that not only is this doubtful course being pursued by His Majesty's Government, but it is being pursued in the absence of all information, and all endeavour, so far as we can gather, to collect information.
You have made these charges all over the country. I maintain that you are now in a position either to substantiate them and deserve those seats which you now occupy, or, if you cannot substantiate them, to be convicted of having obtained those seats—I will not say by false pretences, but on issues which are no longer to be the issues of your policy. I wish to say a few words on certain facts of the situation which seem to me to add to the need for information. I do not speak here for any particular section or any particular part of the community. I do not speak for the Rand magnates. I think they can very well take care of themselves. I do not speak for the Boers. I think noble Lords opposite can properly take care of them. But I do feel deeply concerned for the great masses of the community to whom my noble friend the Earl of Harrowby referred the other day—the small shareholders, not only in this country, but in France, Germany, and on the Continent generally, who are very deeply concerned in this question.
Noble Lords opposite, or certainly their friends in the country, seem to think that by pursuing this policy they are having a hit at what they term Rand-lords. They think they are going to damage Park Lane. I think they are mistaken. I think the small shareholders are the men who will be hit, and I will give one or two reasons why that seems to me to be so. Suppose the policy of repatriating the Chinaman and returning him to his native country is carried out to the full; suppose they do succeed—which I do not think they can—in obtaining white labour at even 10s. a day to take the place of Chinese labour, the cost would work out at something like 45s. a ton. How many mines in South Africa can make a profit when it costs them 45s. a ton to get out the ore? Seven only, and those seven mines—I could give the names if desired—are the very mines which are in the hands of the Park 16 Lane magnates, if I may use the term. The other mines, whose production is not so rich as to enable them to work at the enhanced price, would have to dismiss their workmen, white and Kaffir, presumably, as well as Chinese, and those are the mines in the hands of the small shareholders. It is, therefore, I contend, the small shareholder who would suffer by such a policy.
There is just one other consideration I would refer to. I find in the report of the Transvaal Chamber of Mines that the demand for machinery which would be caused by the gradual increase in labour which South Africa asks for would amount to £12,000,000 worth in a very short space of time. That may or may not be an exaggeration, but there can be no doubt that there would be a great demand for machinery and stores if the Transvaal industry were allowed to progress at a reasonable rate. In supplying that machinery this country might reasonably be expected to take some share. I suppose that to noble Lords opposite, who refer with such satisfaction to the import and export returns of this country and who regard trade as in such a happy and prosperous condition that they are compelled to bring in a Bill to relieve the unemployed, it is not a matter of such great concern that we should be in a position to take advantage of these opportunities we have in South Africa; but I venture to think it is a matter of importance to this country that trade should be developed there and that we should have a large portion of the imports which would necessarily follow. These are some of the reasons why I ask for full information as to the precise facts upon which the noble Earl and his colleagues have founded their decision as expressed in the various utterances we have heard, and I trust we may be allowed to have the fullest information on the points I have asked in my question.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
My Lords, the House has listened to a speech which, I think, marks most clearly the distinction which is characteristic between the two sides of this House as to what real Imperialism means. Both parties in this House call themselves Imperialists, 17 but, if I can judge from the speeches upon this question delivered to us by noble Lords opposite, their Imperialism is limited to the production of gold in a particular country by labour which is under servile conditions.
The noble Viscount wants information. Has the noble Viscount forgotten—he cannot have forgotten—that the policy which the late Government pursued was in flat contradiction of the expressed opinion of our great self-governing Colonies? Canada alone expressed no opinion, not because she had no opinion, but because she thought it was a matter in which she was not concerned. Australia, New Zealand, and, above all, Cape Colony—those three great Colonies to which we looked during the War, and from which we obtained most substantial and material aid—have again and again in reiterated language, as strong as any language that could be used, expressed their detestation of the introduction of Chinese labour under these conditions. There is no indication that they have in any way changed their opinion. Therefore, if the noble Viscount is, as I hope he is, and I am sure he believes he is, a true Imperialist, he cannot disregard altogether, and set aside as of no account, the opinions of these great self-governing communities. Then the noble Viscount seems, in his desire to look at the monetary side of the question, to disregard all other elements in the case. He says that, if so many mines are thrown out of working by the cessation of Chinese labour under these conditions, that is an overwhelming and conclusive argument for the continuance of this labour. That is not the view of those who sit on this side of the House, and it is not the view of the country. The noble Viscount seems to think that we have made charges in the country from which we are now receding. I should like to know what charge it is that we do not still entertain and press.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
Slavery! I see the noble Viscount, Lord Milner, in his place. The noble Viscount called every Outlander a helot. Dictionaries have been referred to, and if the noble Viscount will look at Webster's Dictionary he will 18 find that helot means slave. I do not suppose that when the noble Viscount called the Outlanders helots he himself believed, or thought anyone else believed, that the Outlanders were helots in the sense that they could be bought and sold in the slave market. So, when the word slavery is used in connection with Chinese labour, the country knows perfectly well that the men are not bought and sold in the slave market. But they also know this: that they are denied access to the common law, which is one of the most prized possessions of every British subject, except through the leave and licence of an official, and that they were illegally flogged in the compounds, and illegally flogged by the sanction of the High Commissioner. That is quite enough to justify any one in describing their condition as that, not of freemen, but of semi-slavery.
The noble Viscount wants information. It is very difficult, let me tell him, to get really true information from the Transvaal. The noble Viscount must be well aware that Johannesburg is in the hands of a huge trust, a trust which is every day grasping within its purview more and more of the industries of that country; and that it has inevitably happened that every really free independent white man in Johannesburg has had to quit the country if he did not fall in with the views of the great mining magnates. It seems to me this question should be decided on higher considerations than on the mere question of whether or not so much money can be obtained for the shareholders. I see the noble Lord who spoke so eloquently the other night on behalf of the shareholders (Lord Harris) in his place. I would point out that the shareholders in the noble Lord's mines, as well as other mines, are already in the position of highly-favoured subjects. The noble Lord's mines promised to contribute £1,000,000 towards the £30,000,000 that were to come from the Transvaal. The noble Lord is not asked, and, as I understand, it is doubtful whether he ever will be asked, to contribute a penny of that £1,000,000, and therefore the shareholders for whom noble Lords so eloquently plead are not persons who are being maltreated by the Executive 19 Government of the day, but persons in receipt of very great favours.
After all, this question ought, as I say, to be considered on higher grounds than these. It is very easy for one Government to make contracts which are condemned by the Opposition, and then to twit the Opposition when they come into power because they are unable legally to break those contracts. It is an argument easy to use, but it is one which will deceive no one; and I venture to think that, so far from the country having receded from its position, it is only impatient at what it considers to be the hesitation of the Government. It is true that the evil men do lives after them, and this Government have to maintain the contracts entered into by their predecessors, and are only able to arrive by the process of a side wind at the object they desire. If, as the noble Viscount is so persuaded, the Chinaman is one of the happiest men in the world, he will not wish to break his contract and return to his native country, and the shareholders for whom the noble Viscount pleaded would have no shortage of Chinese labour. The very fact that he seems so alarmed at the prospect of a diminution in this labour seems to me to indicate a suspicion in his mind that when the coolies are asked whether they wish to return they will express that desire in very large numbers. I hope that the noble Earl the Secretary of State, when he answers the Questions put to him by the noble Viscount, will not content himself with speaking of the opinions of the dwellers in the Transvaal at this moment, but will look to the larger interests of the country and the Empire, not overlooking the opinion of our great self-governing colonies.
My Lords, I had intended, under any circumstances, to ask your Lordships to favour me with a few moments, even if the noble and learned lords opposite had not challenged me on one or two particular points. The mention of the name of Mr. Creswell by my noble friend Viscount Ridley gives me an opportunity of correcting a statement which I made the other night, and which has been challenged in a letter by Mr. Monypenny in The Times. From the statement I made it might have been 20 inferred that Mr. Creswell resigned from the management of the mine known as the Village Main Reef Mine during an experiment which he was conducting with a very large proportion of white unskilled labour, and that his resignation was due to the Board of that company having deemed the experiment a failure. I was incorrect in the time when Mr. Creswell resigned. He resigned during the course of the experiment, and not in consequence of any dissatisfaction on that point of his Board, and I take this opportunity of expressing my regret to Mr. Creswell that I made that misstatement. But it does not affect the argument I was elaborating, which was that the experiment was initiated by Mr. Creswell and proved to be a failure; that it was condemned by the Board after reports from engineers of a superior grade to Mr. Creswell, and that Mr. Creswell ever since then has had a grievance which he argued at considerable length in the Johannesburg Press. I take this opportunity, however, of expressing my regret that my statement on that particular point was not quite accurate. The noble and learned Lord opposite stated that the particular company with which I am associated promised to pay £1,000,000.
Yes, it is a very different thing. What exactly happened was this: Mr. Chamberlain when in South Africa arranged with his colleagues at home that a loan of £35,000,000 should be made to the Transvaal, and while the discussion on that point was going on it was suggested that another loan of £30,000,000 should be contracted by the Transvaal for the purpose of contributing towards the war debt in England, and the mining groups were asked what they would do in the way of assisting this loan. What they did was this: They said that if the loan was brought out at a time when markets were favourable they would guarantee the first £10,000,000. That was not a contribution to a debt; it was merely an investment by the companies who undertook to guarantee it. They would have had marketable securities guaranteed by the Government and easily saleable, and the groups would have bought the bonds and sold them in the 21 same way as they would any other gilt-edged securities. There was never any guarantee that any one of these groups would make a donation towards a debt, and I should be glad if the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, if not now, at some future time, would state what was the exact undertaking which the groups entered into, because there has been an entire misconception about this. I remember the noble Earl Lord Spencer last year dropping into a similar mistake and talking about a debt of £10,000,000. There was never any £10,000,000 debt mentioned in the discussions with Mr. Chamberlain out there, or in the communications between the houses and the Colonial Office here.
I understood the noble and learned Lord to say that he thought the noble Viscount and those who agreed with him laid too much stress upon the extraction of gold from the Rand mines, and thought that that was the only thing that was of importance. If he wishes to put that idea into the mouths of those who are responsible in a great measure for the prosperity of the Transvaal I can assure him he is entirely mistaken. What we say is that gold mining is at the bottom of the whole economic system in South Africa; that the imports into those Colonies at present would to an enormous extent be absolutely impossible but for the extraction of the gold; in fact, that the gold and diamond mines in South Africa cause the greater part of the trade there, and that any activity in that country, agricultural or industrial, is in the greatest measure due to the gold-mining industry. Obviously, if the circulation of capital which the gold-mining creates is to cease there will be less activity and less employment in South Africa, and to that extent the country will suffer. That is the argument of those who are concerned in this great industry. You would inevitably see a diminution in business in South Africa if this industry is seriously checked.
I would ask the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies to as soon as he can relieve the anxiety of those who are concerned in this business. I hope he will tell us what the terms are to be under which the coolies are to be repatriated, because a great deal depends upon that. It is generally assumed that a large 22 number of coolies would not take advantage of this offer, but we are in a state of great anxiety as to what is going to happen on that point. It materially affects the operation of very many companies. If I may go into technicalities for a moment, may I explain what I mean? There are mines now for which the money was subscribed as long ago as 1898. Owing to the war and subsequently to the shortage of labour it was impossible to do work upon those mines. The money subscribed had been lying at interest, and to that extent the company had benefited; on the other hand, the unfortunate shareholders had had no interest on their money; but in consequence of the arrival of the Chinese those mines have been able to set to work, to get the water pumped out with which the shafts were filled during the war, to replace everything that had to be replaced owing to corrosion, rotting timbers, and so on, and then to proceed with what is technically termed development—the preparation of the workings for the ore to be extracted for the mill.
There are many mines which are now in a position to order the mills, and they are suddenly checked. They are put into grave doubt as to whether labour will be forthcoming. It is not unnatural that in those circumstances they should hesitate to order the necessary machinery. The noble Viscount stated just now that £12,000,000 was the amount that might be spent on mines that were ready for machinery. I think the figures are given in the report presented to Lord Selborne by the Chamber of Mines as something between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000. That expenditure is checked. It takes two years to erect a mill of, say, 200 stamps, and get it ready for working, and during those two years development is carried on so that the mill may start with two years development ahead. It is obvious that if the ordering of this plant is to be deferred for some length of time there is no occasion for the companies to go on with the development, and if they do not proceed it means the discharge of a considerable number of employees. I am perfectly Certain of this, that sooner than do that the companies will continue to employ their full staffs for the longest 23 time possible. They will put in all the work they can underground; but this matter is based on finance, and sooner or later, unless their hesitation is removed, they may have to come to the unfortunate decision to reduce their staffs. That means, as I suggested just now, lack of employment, lack of business, a diminution in the circulation of money in South Africa, and the inevitable suffering of the Colonies. I have placed some Questions on the Paper as regards the comparison between the Transvaal Ordinance and the British Guiana Ordinance. I do not think there will be any necessity for me to trouble the House by putting those Questions. The points are highly technical ones. I would ask the noble Earl to look very carefully into the Ordinance, and suggest in what points the Transvaal Ordinance can be made more like the British Guiana Ordinance, for I am perfectly certain that it would be possible for us to agree to the changes which the Colonial Office might think desirable.
My Lords, as the whole question of servile labour has been raised, and as I intended to put a Question with regard to the reading of the Ordinance, I should like to say a few words now. I think that if I am permitted to make a short statement at this stage my Question to the Secretary of State which stands on the Paper need not be put. I find myself very much in the same position as my noble and learned friend Lord Coleridge. I have gone up and down the country talking about Free Trade, Chinese labour, and other matters. From the moment when my chairmanship of the London County Council came to an end in March, 1904—I make this statement, as it is the fashion to make confessions with regard to one's utterances on the platform—I have addressed some forty meetings from Dudley to Weymouth, and I have made very free use of the question of Chinese labour.
There is one matter that I have always put before the country in connection with the servile condition of this labour as applied to the Chinese. Very much to my surprise, about a year ago the noble Lord opposite (Lord Harris) told the House that the Chinese Labour Ordinance 24 was so strictly construed that a Chinaman was not allowed to do his own gardening; he was not allowed to work in his garden and grow his own vegetables; he was not even allowed to grow a flower for his delectation. This is, in my opinion, a very degrading condition of labour. Indeed, I can hardly imagine any condition of labour more degrading. I can quite understand that His Majesty's Government may have the greatest possible difficulty in dealing with the question of the restriction of Chinese labour to mining work. Yet if a man is not allowed in his spare hours to do a little gardening, it only shows the abominably servile condition of this labour. I do not know whether you would call that slavery. For my part, I say it is worse than slavery, because a slave, after he has done his master's work, is allowed to work on his own patch. I do hope that, whatever difficulties the Secretary of State for the Colonies may have in settling the terms of this Ordinance, he will, at all events, never permit it to be said that under his guidance and direction a Chinaman, or anybody else under the British flag, was prohibited in his spare hours from doing a little gardening on his own account.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
My Lords, if I may occupy the time of the House for a few moments I think I can contribute something to the point. One is unwilling to be always referring to one's own personal experience, but in the compound which I visited in South Africa I saw with my own eyes the gardens in which the Chinamen worked after their hours of labour. I do not know whether that was the case in all compounds; I can only speak of the one which I saw. I think the noble and learned Lord opposite has somewhat misrepresented the opinions of those who, like myself, support the action of the late Government in regard to this Chinese Ordinance. Speaking for myself, my Lords, though I desire to see full justice done to the mining industry, I support this Ordinance, not so much on account of the interests of the mining industry, as because the development of, the mines is the key, not merely of the economic prosperity of South Africa, but of the political 25 prosperity of that country and its security at the present time.
May I add one word as to the attitude which the noble and learned Lord opposite attributed to Cape Colony? It appears to me that the noble and learned Lord's statement amounted to no more than this: that the people of Cape Colony, like many others, were unwilling, in the first instance, that Chinese labour should be employed. Their attitude was not different from that of Mr. Chamberlain, but I should be surprised to learn that the objection is still entertained now that they have learned how necessary Chinese labour is, not merely for the welfare of the Transvaal, but of Cape Colony itself. I cannot give the exact reference, but not very long ago there was published a return of those in Cape Colony who were employing convict labour on their own farms. It is an interesting fact that among those who were employing convict labour in this way in Cape Colony were some—at all events one—who had spoken in most emphatic terms of the servile conditions under which the Chinese were employed in the Transvaal. If you come to servile conditions, I would ask which constitutes the greater servile condition—to employ in a compound, which in many cases is greater in area than some of the largest English parks, Chinamen within those limits of freedom, or to employ on your farm a batch of convicts, not chained, but who are not allowed out of the sight of a policeman, who watches over them with a loaded carbine? I cannot believe that those who employ such labour can be very sincere when they find fault with the conditions that obtain in the case of the Chinese. I am afraid it is a case of political arguments for political purposes.
My Lords, on a point of personal explanation, might I be allowed to quote my authority for the statement I made? Lord Harris stated in your Lordship's House on February 27th, 1905—I am quoting from Hansard—that—Quite recently I asked a colleague of mine who has returned from the Transvaal whether the Chinamen were allowed to do any gardening in the neighbourhood of the compounds, and my friend replied, 'Oh dear, no; there is such an amount of suspicion as to Chinamen 26 doing work which is not allowed under the Ordinance that they are not permitted to do any gardening for themselves.'
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
The difference is quite clear. I was talking of gardening work within the compound, and Lord Harris, in the extract which has just been quoted, was referring to work outside the compound.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord opposite that there is nothing further from my wish than to deny him any information which he would desire to have. We have been told that we are too much in search of information, and I am glad to find that noble Lords opposite also desire to receive information. But the question which the noble Lord has put to me leaves me a little in doubt as to the nature of the information which he desires to receive. He asks for a return showing what petitions were received at the Colonial Office against the employment of Chinese labour in South Africa. In the first place, I should like to know what is included in the word "petitions." Does that mean petitions in the ordinary sense of the word, or would the noble Lord include resolutions of public meetings, memorials, and other documents of the kind?
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
In the next place, I would like to know whether the noble Lord means information coming from South Africa or elsewhere. It will naturally occur to the noble Lord that I would only have documents forwarded to me officially from South Africa, and not resolutions which arise in this country. In the next place I would like to know within what dates the noble Lord requires this information. How far does he go back? Does he want the petitions which were sent to the last Government, or is it only during our 27 tenure of office? I am informed, so far as official information from South Africa is concerned, that everything that has been sent to us in the nature of resolutions and otherwise has practically been included in the Blue-books which have been i sued. I cannot quite see how I am to collect the information of the other kind of which I have spoken. Since we came into office I do not think that any information of this kind has reached us from South Africa; but I am informed that a year or two ago, at the time when this Ordinance was under preparation or was just being issued, there was a very remarkable influx of petitions of all kinds into the Colonial Office, but these, unfortunately, do not appear to have been preserved. I presume that they were addressed to the Secretary of State at the time, and that they have either been taken away with him as his private papers, or he did not consider them worth preservation. At any rate, I am afraid I am unable to supply anything from that source. At the same time, if the noble Lord will inform me afterwards of any way in which I can meet his wishes, I shall be only too glad to give him any return which it is in my power to give. I doubt, however, the value of anything we can give him beyond what has already been published.
In regard to what has been said in amplification of this Question, I would like, in the first place, to say that I do not admit that I separate myself from the view that there are conditions attached to the Ordinance which limit that right of free men which any man under the British flag ought to possess. Indeed, I thought I argued at some length that that was my view of the matter. With regard to the Ordinance itself, I should wish to add that I did quote certain provisions which, in my opinion, were contrary to common law. Two of those provisions I find have a place in the law of the Transvaal in application to other than Chinese coolies, but there is this difference—that, so far as they apply to whites, a white if he comes under them can, at any rate, take himself out of the country. A native also has this remedy, that he can desert, and desert effectually. I know he is liable to a penalty if he is 28 caught for desertion, but something like 5 per cent. of the natives who desert make their desertion effectual and escape altogether. There is nothing of the sort in the case of the Chinaman. He cannot get across the seas. When I last spoke on this matter I coupled with my criticism of those two sections the section referring to compulsory repatriation, which, I think, lies at the very essence of the matter.
The noble Lord also spoke of the difficulties which he thought would arise in consequence of our announcement that we should reserve the right of veto with regard to the provisions of any Ordinance which the Transvaal Government should introduce, and to which we thought we could take exception. There seems to me a little misunderstanding on this matter. It is in some quarters supposed that the proposals which we have made, and which were described by my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the other House, would leave a hiatus during the time between the cancellation of the existing Ordinance and the passing of the new Ordinance by the Transvaal Government. That was not the intention. What my right hon. friend's proposal came to was this, that there should be a date fixed at which the existing Ordinance would necessarily and naturally come to an end; but that date would be fixed at such a reasonable period of time as to allow the new Government to consider and to submit for the acceptance of His Majesty's' Government the Ordinance under which they proposed to continue Chinese labour, provided always they did so resolve. I think the noble Lord will see that if that arrangement was fairly and squarely carried out there would be no difficulty of that kind.
I regret that the noble Lord should insist on attributing to us political motives in this matter. In speaking of our position with regard to the Constitution, I endeavoured to explain that, though we had thought it necessary to recall the Letters Patent now existing, we did not in doing so in any way prejudice the full and fair consideration of all the parts of the basis on which that Constitution was framed. I hold to what I then said. His Majesty's Government think it is 29 necessary to consider various details with regard to those Letters Patent and other matters which might affect the Constitutions necessary for responsible government, and we wish time to gather the information which we think bears on these points. I entirely agree with my noble friend opposite that it is of great imporance that the time should be limited as much as possible, in the interests not only of the mining industry but of all the economic considerations bearing on the welfare of the Colony; and I can assure him that no effort on our part will be spared to carry out this arrangement as quickly as possible. But, my Lords, I venture also to say that we go into this examination in no sense whatever seeking alterations in the interests of any Party, and I do not think the noble Lord opposite was justified in imputing to us any desire to do so.
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but I was asking for information on this point because I was expressly anxious not to impute Party motives to the Government for the action they have taken.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
The phrase which I think the noble Viscount used, was—We know very well that noble Lords opposite will look after the Boers.I maintain that we are endeavouring to legislate, we intend to legislate, for an integral part of the British Empire. All we want is to secure fair conditions for every portion of the population with whom we have to deal; and I do not admit that this object is in any way inconsistent with the proper maintenance of British rule or the integrity of the British Empire. I do not think I can undertake offhand to answer my noble friend opposite with regard to the undertakings that were entered into by certain gentlemen in the Transvaal as to the raising of a loan. All I would say is this, that what I think was generally understood was that the loan was to be so raised and so secured as to form some material relief to the burdens of the mother country.
I have also been asked questions with regard to the details of the repatriation 30 scheme. That scheme is in course of being adjusted. You will easily understand that communications with South Africa are necessary before we can give our final decision, but I will undertake to lose no time in carrying out those communications. There is only one other matter to which the noble Earl referred, and on which perhaps I might say a word. I am obliged to him for not compelling me on another day to elaborate to the House the differences which we think we find in the Ordinance at present existing in the Transvaal and that which has existed for many years in British Guiana; but I would just say this on the matter. The idea of the Ordinance in British Guiana is essentially one rather of colonisation than of compulsory labour for a time only. A large number, as he well knows, of the Indian immigrants never go back to India; they remain in the Colony; and the conditions under which they there live were carefully looked into by an officer deputed by the Indian Government, who reported—The immigration system of British Guiana stands as an example to all the world of British fairness, honesty, and organisation in the beneficial control of a humble and dependent race. I had opportunities of seeing the many means by which they are raised from the position of raw, ignorant coolies into that of comfortable, independent settlers.If the noble Lord will give me any assistance in the consideration of provisions of an Ordinance which would result in the same being said of the coolies imported into the Transvaal, I am sure I should be exceedingly glad to meet him.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like, on behalf of my noble friend the noble Viscount behind me, to explain to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies that we join in the regret that the Question on the Paper was not more specifically worded. What we want to ascertain is this, whether the noble Earl has behind him the support of a majority of the people of the Transvaal in the policy which His Majesty's Government are pursuing, of reversing entirely the policy adopted by their predecessors. What was the accusation invariably brought by noble Lords opposite against the late 31 Government when this Ordinance came into force? It was stated time after time that the late Government had not got the people of the Transvaal behind them, that they had not got their support, and were forcing on them an Ordinance which the majority of the people did not wish to have. To-day, when we ask His Majesty's Government whether they can give us any information as to resolutions or petitions received by them against the Ordinance we are told by the noble and learned Lord opposite that South Africa is a difficult country to get any real truth from.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
Well, we are dealing with the Transvaal at the present moment. I venture to think that when the noble and learned Lord sat on this side of the House and continually questioned me on the support that we received from the Transvaal, he would not have accepted as a reply the statement that we found great difficulty in getting accurate information from the Transvaal. When we passed this Ordinance we were twitted with not having a referendum. We reminded noble Lords opposite that Lord Milner had stated that a majority of the people of the Transvaal were in favour of this Ordinance. We pointed out that many thousands had signed a petition in its favour, that the Bishop of Pretoria favoured the proposal, that all the Free Churches had supported it, that the majority of the Johannesburg Town Council and the whole of the Legislative Council of the Transvaal were in favour of it, as well as the whole of the Chambers of Mines, and, I believe, every Chamber of Commerce in the Transvaal, while many other public bodies sent us petitions in its favour. We had, therefore, some ground for claiming that in introducing this Ordinance we had the majority of the people at our back. You now announce that you are going to reverse our policy. We ask from you, Have you got the same amount of support for the reversal of the policy as we had for its introduction? In this Parliamentary Paper there are only two references to 32 this matter. There are ten or twelve pages from Mr. Creswell, whose views we know, and at the end of the Paper there is a reference to those who are not altogether in favour of the Chinese Ordinance. But these are the only testimonies which the noble Lord has at present granted to your Lordships against the Ordinance.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
The noble Earl, inadvertently, almost cast a reflection on the late Colonial Secretary and myself. I can assure him that we were no parties to burning petitions against Chinese labour. Indeed, I have no recollection of our receiving any. But we on this side of the House thought that since the noble Earl and his colleagues had come into office they had in all probability received as many petitions against Chinese labour as we had received in its favour. We are pleased to hear that none has been received. We only ask that he will lay on the Table when he receives them any formal petitions sent to the Colonial Office against the policy which the late Government laid down with regard to Chinese labour.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURAL AND FISHERIES (Earl CARRINGTON)
My Lords, I have to express my thanks to noble Lords opposite for initiating this debate, as it gives me an opportunity of answering the questions which were put to me by the noble Marquess opposite, Lord Londonderry, during the last discussion. The noble Marquess asked me whether I regretted what I said in 1904, and why I did not denounce the native compounds at Kimberley in 1891. In answer to the first question, I have to say that I do not regret, withdraw or apologise for any single word I have said on the Chinese question in this House or out of it. As to the second question, Kimberley is in Cape Colony. Cape Colony is a self-governing colony, and I was not a member of the legislative assembly of that Colony. It was impossible, therefore, for me to make a protest there, but as soon as I had an opportunity I did call the attention of the House to the terrible state in which I 33 found the Kimberley compounds. I am glad to hear that the compounds and the treatment of the natives, and also of the Chinese, have very much improved, and I think we may take credit for a fair share of that improvement.
The noble Marquess the other evening asked the speaker who was to follow me whether he approved of the language used by the Prime Minister with regard to this question. He got his answer in the noble speech that was delivered by the Lord Chancellor, and, if I may be permitted to do so, I should like to supplement that answer. I happen to be the President of the National Liberal Club, which contains among its members the heads of every Liberal Association throughout the country, and a great many of the leading journalists of the kingdom. I have taken pains to ascertain the feeling of the Liberal Party generally, and one and all, without a single exception, assure me that the rank and file of the Party stand at the back of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and agree entirely with every word on the subject that has fallen from the lips of the Prime Minister. I might, perhaps, be permitted to ask in return, a question of the noble Marquess himself. I would put to him a question which was asked last year by the noble Marquess who then led this House with so much dignity and credit—Can he stand up in this House and say that the Chinese policy was in the best interests of the nation and consistent with the high ideals of British prestige and British statesmanship?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
The noble Earl has alluded so pointedly to myself that I rise now to reply to his question. I agree entirely with the statement made by Mr. Chamberlain. This labour was necessary to develop the resources of South Africa. Had other labour been forthcoming I should have gladly welcomed it, but no such labour was forthcoming, and I say that it was thoroughly worthy of the British Government, in order to develop the country, to get the best labour possible under the circumstances. I should like to ask how the large body who the noble Earl says regard the conditions 34 of labour in South Africa as slavery reconcile that view with the remarks of the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary who said in your Lordship's House that he deeply regretted the use of the term slavery.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I think my noble friend behind me has answered that question already. I now understand, from the noble Marquess's reply, that he at any rate considers that this Chinese policy, to which we have such great objection, is in the interests of the nation and consistent with the high ideals of British prestige and statesmanship. After all, this is not a question of language; it is not a question of substance; it is a question of principle. It is a question of right and wrong, and it seems to me that now we see how it was that the late Government went head over heels into what Lord Lansdowne so felicitously called "the Chamberlain abyss." We see how it was that the magnificent Conservative majority melted like snow before the sun. The late Government utterly failed to grasp the depth, the solidity, and the sincerity of the national feeling on this question.
It seems to be supposed that this agitation was a manufactured article, all froth and fizz and bubble, like some foreign wine, which in a short time became flat and without a vestige of sparkle or life. Well, that is indeed a most grevious mistake. Noble Lords are not particular in the words that they use as regards ourselves. We are called "blubberers" and "sloppy sentimentalists." In almost every speech that is made either in this or the other House or in the country, we are accused of misrepresentation. The term has been several times used that we have "traded on the best instincts of working people." That is what we are accused of. I quite agree that the best instincts of the working people are what we believe in, and it was the best instincts of the working classes which gave us our triumphant majority at the last general election. The instincts of the working classes all over the country told them that this Chinese labour was wrong, and the working classes both at home and in the Colonies called forth the 35 protest of an Empire against a British disgrace and an Imperial wrong
THE EARL OF STRADBROKE
My Lords, it is a remarkable fact that in debating this subject those of your Lordships who have had practical experience in the management of affairs in South Africa speak in one strain, while those who have not had that experience adopt the opposite view. This question, I venture to think, is one of very great importance. It is of importance not merely to the mining interest in South Africa—to the mine-owners and the shareholders—but to the welfare of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony generally. The welfare of the mines means the welfare of those two provinces. Your Lordships know very well that the farmers in those Colonies have had very hard times to go through. The seasons have been against them, and they have never had an opportunity yet to recover from the great ravages of the rinderpest that swept their flocks and herds in 1896. It is a great relief to them to be free from heavy taxes and all rates, which is their condition now; but, if the mines ceased to be profitable, the great sources of income to those provinces would be dried up. They have now the full advantage of free education, and the whole of the civil administration is paid for by taxes raised from the mines, which is the only direct taxation, I believe, there.
I quite agree, and your Lordships will agree, that it would be preferable, if sufficient black labour were forthcoming, to work the mines by that labour, but I think it has been shown that such is not the case. The Kaffirs do not really care for work in the mines, and I believe they only do so as a last resort. They much prefer work on the land, and so long as they can earn sufficient money to exist in that way they will not be tempted to enter the mines.
It is occasionally alleged that the Chinamen have been induced to go to the Transvaal under a misapprehension. I have in my hand a report from the American Consul-General at Lein-Tsin. It is of course an independent report, and it shows that before the Chinese leave 36 their native shores the most searching questions are put to them. The day before shipment the coolies are taken in lots of tens to the office of the Chinese Protector, and the conditions of the contract into which they are entering is fully explained to them. They are asked—"Do you go of your own free will?" and they are told that if anyone regrets having accepted the engagement and does not wish to go to South Africa he is at perfect liberty then to go home without any punishment being inflicted or his being required to pay any penalty at all. This evidence shows perfectly clearly that all the Chinamen who go to South Africa know exactly the conditions of the contract into which they have entered.
I hope His Majesty's Government will further consider this matter before they decide definitely to put a stop to the importation of Chinese coolies in South Africa. I hope they will take further expert evidence on the matter, and that they will remember that this question is one of the very greatest importance, not merely to the mining interest, but to the interests of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony as a whole, as on the welfare of the mines depends so greatly the speedy development of those Colonies.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
My Lords, the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies has displayed so much courtesy in replying to the numerous questions which have been presented to him this evening that it is with some hesitation that I put a few more. I will simply ask the noble Earl the Questions standing in my name on the Paper, and perhaps he will reply to them as categorically as possible. I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will grant a return showing (1) the number of Chinese labourers who have in each month since 1st January, 1905, been removed from one mine to another; (2) the number sent back to China; (3) the number who have returned to the Transvaal after repatriation; and (4) the total cost of these movements and upon whom the charge has fallen.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
My Lords, I can give the noble Duke some of the information for which he asks. With 37 regard to his request for the number of Chinese labourers who have in each month since January 1st, 1905, been removed from one mine to another, I am afraid we have not that information at present, but if the noble Duke would particularly like to have it we will get it from South Africa. With regard to the second and third questions, as to the number sent back to China and the number who have returned to the Transvaal after repatriation, I would refer the noble Duke to a telegram we received from Lord Selborne on January 23rd, which is on page 80 of the last Blue-book, in which he gives that information.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
If the noble Earl has not the information, I will not press for it. I was anxious to know how many were repatriated in 1905.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
With regard to the fourth Question put to me by the noble Duke, as to the total cost of these movements and upon whom the charge has fallen, the Answer is obvious. The total cost of any movements must have fallen on the importers under their contract, except in cases where coolies may have returned at their own expense. I have no information as to those numbers, but I do not suppose they are of any consequence. If the noble Duke wishes it, I can get that information also.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
The noble Earl states that he has no figures of the coolies who have been moved from one mine to another. Under one of the Articles of the Convention it is stipulated that no immigrant should be moved from one mine to another without the approval of his Consul, so that there must be some record.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
If the noble Earl grants this Return I hope he will distinguish the movements of Chinese labourers from one mine to another where both mines belong to the same group; for, while a labourer may not be moved from one employer to another, I understand he may be moved from one mine to another mine in the same group and under the same company. The Return without this distinction would be illusory.