rose to ask His Majesty's Government "if it is a fact that they have conveyed to the Government of the Transvaal information that they will veto any legislation providing for the retention of any Chinese after March, 1908"; and to call attention to the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 17th December, 1906.
The noble Lord said that he would not have troubled the House again on this question if it had not been that it appeared to himself and some of his friends absolutely necessary that they should give the Secretary of State an opportunity of giving a distinct contradiction, if he could, to the suspicion that had arisen as to the intention of the Government with regard to the contracts entered into between the employers and Chinese employed in South Africa being respected. The rumours upon which that suspicion was based was to the effect that the Government had advised General Botha's Government that they would veto any legislation providing for the retention in South Africa after March, 1908, of any Chinese employees. That was so diametrically opposed to what they understood the noble Earl to mean when he spoke in December last year in explaining the Letters Patent that he was sure he would be glad, if he could, to give a contradiction to the rumour. He did not think, however, he would be surprised. if he found it had aroused considerable suspicion and apprehension. In March, 1908, or at any rate one year after the first meeting of the Transvaal Parliament, the Chinese Ordinance would lapse, and with it all those regulations governing the life of the Chinese in South Africa. Their Lordships would imagine under such circumstances that everything would disappear, but the Government were far too astute for that. They took care to safeguard themselves and left two liabilities, one upon the Transvaal Government of making some arrangements, and the other upon the employers that they should go to the cost of repatriating the Chinese. Therefore, in March, 1908, every liability that ever rested upon the employers under the terms of the Ordinance would remain upon their shoulders, whilst every advantage that they could have got under the 57 Ordinance would have been swept away. The opportunity of renewal was an immense advantage to them, and there was no doubt that some of the employers and some of the employed would have been glad to renew. In all probability if that great advantage had not been allowed by the late Government—and they naturally thought they had the protection of the law—they would not have entered into the engagement of Chinese at all. It was the advantage of getting experienced and skilled workmen in the second three years that, to a very great extent, induced them to take up the question of the importation of the Chinese. That advantage had been swept away. He knew the noble Earl would reply that the question had been left to the Transvaal Government, and that they could have brought forward an Ordinance providing for renewals; and that he said in December that His Majesty's Government objected to renewals. They naturally, however, had a hope that the Transvaal Government would be able to influence His Majesty's Government and show that they were anxious for renewals. He did not think there had been anything said by General Both until he left this country that went to show that he objected to renewals. He had several quotations from his speeches. On the 6th December, 1906, he was reported to have said—Het Volk must stand to this point. When the Chinese Ordinance has expired, they must be repatriated.He went on in subsequent speeches to speak far more encouragingly from the employers' point of view—My Party is firmly resolved to repatriate the Chinese, but that they may be so repatriated that they will not dislocate the mining industry. Further, my Party undertakes to bring enough native labour to supply the mines when they are at the head of affairs. You can be sure that we will not allow one mine to close.Then the Daily News of 13th February headed a communication from General Botha, "Botha's message to the British"—This talk of wholesale Chinese repatriation, regardless of consequences, is nonsense. I say that nothing shall be done to embarrass the mines so far as unskilled labour is concerned. We want to restore confidence in the country. Could we do that by crippling or hampering the mines?"58 He could give their Lordships several other quotations, but time was so short, and he must get on. General Botha arrived in this country, and he made several speeches here, as their Lordships knew.
On 28th April General Botha was entertained at a dinner given him by the London representatives of the Transvaal Banking Commercial and Mining Interests. It was a thoroughly representative gathering, including many who could follow General Botha in his own language, and had not to depend on an interpreter. He said—I do not hesitate to say here to-night that my Government will use their best endeavours to make the mining industry a success, and a great success at that, because we know that the prosperity, and the progress, and the welfare, not only of the Transvaal, but of the whole of South Africa are materially dependent upon the development of that industry.Subsequently he said—In the gold industry there we have large mineral areas which have still to be opened up, and I hope that the people of the Transvaal will put their shoulders together and develop the country.The mining industry has undoubtedly supplied the farmer there with a great market, and I only want to give you the assurance that the farming population of the Transvaal are not going to quarrel with their best market.Subsequently, he received a deputation of managers of mining companies. His reply was not taken down in shorthand, but a summary of it was submitted to him which he approved before publication, and he (the noble Lord) guaranteed that only what he approved was published—He could assure the deputation that he and his Government were entirely in sympathy with the mining industry, and that they would endeavour to increase the supply of natives, and he emphasised the fact that during the elections he had stated that the policy was repatriation and replacement.He thought it was perfectly clear from those speeches that up to the time of his leaving this country General Botha had given them the greatest encouragement to believe that there would be no serious interruption to the industry. Then in General Botha's last week in England a significant announcement appeared in the Press, viz., that the Government were going to guarantee a loan of £5,000,000 to the Transvaal, and General 59 Botha's attitude in the recent debates in the Transvaal Parliament, so far as they could judge from the cabled reports, had not been so sympathetic as it was during his visit to this country or as indicated in the speeches previous to his return to power, and, as he (the noble Lord) had said, they had considerable doubts with regard to the question of renewals. They felt that they had been most unjustly treated, and that the loss which would result to the shareholders from the repatriation policy was a most unjust loss to put upon them. It had resulted in a most serious want of confidence. He did not know whether the noble Earl studied the reports of financial matters in the Press, but there was a pretty significant announcement in The Times a day or so ago. He observed that the President of the Local Government Board said a few days ago that he was not aware that the Government had in contemplation any legislation which need deter any investor from investing his money in any legitimate enterprise. It was very necessary that some statement of that kind should be made, for in consequence of the statement that the Government meant to guarantee a loan of £5,000,000 to the Transvaal Government very serious doubts had apparently risen in the minds of many investors. The following was the statement which appeared in The Times money article a few day's ago—Quotations opened very firm in all departments, owing to Mr. Asquith's statement in the House of Commons yesterday that there would be no issue of a Transvaal guaranteed loan this financial year. This welcome announcement was not generally known yesterday afternoon, but many people had regarded it as likely to be made sooner or later, partly because it was a matter of common knowledge that no such loan could be issued except on terms which would have been regarded as discreditable to the British Government.That was a wry statement to be made in a financial article in a paper like The Times. What did it mean? "Terms discreditable to the British Government!" The construction put upon it in many circles was that the Government found they could not get those terms, as regarded interest, which they ordinarily could get, and that for some reason or other the financial world was not prepared to meet them in this particular loan. He did not know whether the noble Earl studied 60 the papers, but in the Morning Post that morning was the following statement—The 387 representative securities quoted monthly by the Bankers' Magazine depreciated between May 1st and June 20th by no less than £68,000,000.That depreciation in the other passage which he had read was attributed to the action the Government had taken as regarded the Transvaal Loan. It was no wonder that investors in South African mines should have the greatest apprehension. Knowing from what the noble Earl said last December that the Government disapproved of renewals, it was not much to be surprised at that they had suspicion that this rumour that the Government were disposed to veto any legislation providing for the three years contracts being respected was possibly true. He was sure the noble Earl would acknowledge that when he spoke last December he said in the most distinct terms that the three years contracts would be respected. If they were not, he confessed he (Lord Harris) had the gravest doubts where the labour was to come from which General Botha and his colleagues promised. The fact was—though he did not wish to be too critical—that the standard of education in economical problems and in the practical management of mines of General Botha and his colleagues with the Boer Government was very elementary even on the subject of the supply of labour. He supposed the noble Earl had noticed a speech made by Mr. Rissik on the subject of the supply of labour from certain parts of South Africa. He was advised by the most competent authority, an official who had reported annually on the subject of labour supply in South Africa, and whose report of last year the noble Earl could get if he wished, that the figures given in Mr. Rissik's speech were absolutely fallacious, the number of Basutos given never existed, and, even if they did, that was not the factor. The factor was what proportion of all the natives who would come up to the Transvaal would be willing to go underground. General Botha, when he was here, said he hoped to make arrangements for the importation of Zulus. If they were willing to work, why in Heaven's name didn't they go and work in Natal on the 61 sugar plantations, where there was employment likely to appeal to their sentiments more than work underground? But they would not go there. The Zulus had never gone underground, and the Basutos had never gone underground. There was only one race which had gone underground, and they wore the Poruguese natives. They were therefore under the gravest apprehension that the Boer leaders did not know what they could do in the way of replacement. General Botha first talked about replacement as well as repatriation, but he had receded from that and now said that whilst his Government would do what they could it was the business of the miners to replace. The miners had done their best during the last five years to find natives, and they had found as many as they could, but the question was governed by the fact that they would not go underground. Therefore, their apprehensions were very serious, and they were enforced by the rumour that there was an intention on the part of the Government to interfere with any Transvaal legislation which was necessary for the government of the Chinese after the ordinance had lapsed. He hoped the noble Earl would be able to contradict the rumour.
§ *THE EARL OF ELGIN
In answer to the direct question of the noble Lord, I have to say that we have made no such communication as he has indicated to the Transvaal Government. We have, of course, the same information as he has, and as the public has, as to the statements which have been made by General Botha in the Transvaal Parliament, but, as regards any communication from ourselves to the effect mentioned in the question, I can assure him that we have made none. I do not think that it would be useful, or indeed that it would be altogether decorous, for me to follow the noble Lord through his criticisms of the speeches of the Prime Minister of the Transvaal in this country, or in his own Parliament. I observe that he said that those speeches during his stay in this country were regarded as up to a point favourable to the Party of the noble Lord, but he gave quotations which he said came from a Report which was approved by General 62 Botha to the effect that what he looked for was an increase of the supply of natives, by which I imagine he meant not Chinese, and that his policy was repatriation and replacement.
§ *LORD ELGIN
If that is a policy which approves itself to the noble Lord, then I do not know that. I need quarrel with him on the subject. It seems to me exactly what General Botha has announced himself.
He gave no date for repatriation. Of course, we know that they have got to be repatriated some time.
§ *THE EARL OF ELGIN
I understood the speech of the noble Lord to go on the footing that the three years contract was the only one of which he spoke and that renewals could be set aside. That is what has been announced by General Botha. As far as I am concerned—the noble Lord has referred to my statement here in December last—I adhere to what I then said. It is now the second alternative which I put in the speech which faces us. In the first alternative, I presupposed that the Transvaal Government might introduce an ordinance early in this year in order to meet the question of shipments which are to take place now. That was not done, and the shipments, as we have been told, are immediately to begin. I was glad to hear it. I went on to say—If, on the contrary, it decides against the continuance of the system, the absence of renewals will greatly facilitate their operation, and also the withdrawal of the coolies.
May I call the noble Earl's attention to another remark which he has not yet read—If it does act, and acts with reasonable promptitude, I do not think any serious questions will arise about renewals.I did not hear the speech, but I construed it to mean that possibly—you hoped not— but possibly renewals might take place.
§ *THE EARL OF ELGIN
That is exactly what I was trying to explain. If the 63 Transvaal Government had chosen to bring forward an ordinance, subject to a condition I am going to mention in a minute, and renewals were to be made, it must have been brought up early in this year in order that the contracts which expired this month should be renewed. That is exactly what I mean. But I say that has passed. It does not exist now; the time has gone. What we have now before us is what I am reading. I went on to say—A gradual process is beyond doubt the one which would be to the advantage of those concerned with the mines with their endeavour to supply a different form of labour.I wish, in order to make it quite clear, to prevent any misconception, to add that later in the debate I was challenged by Lord Courtney, who said that I seemed to throw it on the unrestricted discretion of the new legislature to frame that new Labour Ordinance. That I denied at once, and, when I replied, I explained the position. I said—I also desire to say, with [regard to the new and old ordinance, that I ought perhaps to have brought out that we, of course, entirely adhere to the provisions of the Letters Patent by which any fresh ordinance that was to be drafted by the new Government of the Transvaal would have to come home as a reserved Bill.That is the position in which we now stand. It is quite true, as the noble Lord has said, that a year from the meeting of the first Transvaal Parliament the whole of the present Ordinance comes to an end. If, therefore, the Transvaal Government desire that the contracts should be carried on under any ordinance and restrictions, they must present it to their own Parliament in the form of a Bill, and that Bill must be reserved and come home to us for our decision. I think the House will agree with me that it would have been, and is now, most improper for me, or for the Government, to express, in advance, the action which we might have to take with regard to a Bill which would be solemnly reserved for us under the provisions of the Letters Patent. We have not done so, and that is the state of matters so far as we are concerned.
§ House adjourned at half-past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past. Ten o'clock.