§ *LORD AMPTHTLL rose to call attention to the fact that the Immigrants Regulation Bill, which has passed through the Union Parliament of South Africa, has received 1508 the assent of the Governor-General and is to become law on August 1, is not in accordance with the Provisional Settlement of 1911 or with the stipulations of His Majesty's Government; and to inquire whether His Majesty's Government will request the Government of the Union of South Africa to suspend the operation of the Act in order to give opportunity to such amendment thereof as will be more satisfactory to the Indian community in South Africa and less injurious to British prestige in India.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not measure the importance of this question by the insignificance of the individual who has so often felt it his duty to address you on the subject. I hope also that your Lordships will not be misled by the fact that the Press of this country has given but scanty attention to the question. I will not venture upon any conjecture as to why this should be. I will only remark that this is not the only question of importance which has not received full and adequate attention from the newspapers. Of one thing I am certain, and it is this, that sooner or later, probably sooner, this question will compel widespread attention in every quarter unless it is very soon and satisfactorily settled. It is not I who say so. It has been said by all the responsible statesmen of this country at one time or another; and even the present Colonial Secretary has declared that it is a matter of "Imperial importance"—he could hardly have used a stronger term than that—that the claim of the Indians, the just claim of the Indians, should be conceded. I refer your Lordships to Mr. Harcourt's telegram of May 8, which you will find on page 17 of the Blue-book. I say that this matter has received very little attention from the public in this country. If I had the arts of a Birrell or the resources of a Cocoa Press I could have made a great deal more of it than the Party opposite managed to make of the "Chinese slavery" business, for there can be no doubt that there is far more occasion for national shame and national indignation at the mismanagement which has kept Indians waiting ten long years for the justice which the British Government was bound to secure for them and which British statesmen again and again pledged themselves to secure.1509
Let us not forget that the South African War was fought ostensibly to secure redress of the grievances of our Indian fellow-subjects in the Transvaal. That was one of the main causes of the war. The late Mr. Alfred Lyttelton, whose loss we all so deeply deplore, stated very clearly in au important speech that it was part of our ease against the South African Republic. I should also like to remind your Lordships of the memorable words used by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, who, speaking at Sheffield in 1899, used the following language—
A considerable number of the Queen's Indian subjects are to be found in the Transvaal, and among the many misdeeds of the South African Republic I do not know that any fills me with more indignation than its treatment of those Indians. And the harm is not confined to the sufferers on the spot; for what do you imagine world be the effect produced in India when these poor people return to their country and report to their friends that the Government of the Empress, so mighty and irresistible in India, with its population of 300,000,000, is powerless to secure redress at the hands of a small South African State.
Those were indeed prophetic words, for we now know what the people of India say of this lamentable impotence on the part of the Imperial Government. I see that my noble friend Lord Sydenham is here. He has arrived from India more recently than myself, and he can tell your Lordships, and I hope he will do so, of the deplorable and alarming effect which has been produced in India. I hope that he will tell your Lordships from his own experience how men who are not political agitators, leading men in Bombay and indeed all over India who usually refrain from taking part in public affairs, were impelled to hold public meetings in order to protest. The South African Republic has, since the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, spoke, been under the British Flag, and surely it ought to be easier for the Imperial Government to get their way under the British Flag than when they have to deal with a foreign State, even though it is a small one.
Then I hope that the noble Marquess he Leader of the House will tell us what the Government of India have reported en this subject, and what he himself has been able to say. I could quote the sayings of many other leading men, but I will content myself with only repeating the words which my noble friend Lord Selborne used at Dumfries in the year
1899, and I quote them because he has a very special responsibility in the matter. Lord Selborne said—
Was it, or was it not, our duty to see that our dusky fellow-subjects in the Transvaal should be treated as the Queen in our name had promised they should be treated?—
He was, of course, referring to the celebrated Proclamation of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
We were trustees for our brothers all over the world…trustees also for our fellow-subjects of different races and different colours. Was the British Government going to make its name respected and to have the pledges given by it faithfully observed? Was it going to see that the British subject wherever he went all over the world, whether he Were white or black, was to have the rights which his Queen had secured for him?
My Lords, that was true Imperial doctrine, and it is to me incomprehensible that, after language of that kind had been used by the responsible statesmen of the day and by Ministers of the Crown, ten years should have elapsed without the wrong having been righted. Surely His Majesty's present Ministers are not, going to say that they are not bound by the pledges of their predecessors in a matter of this kind, a matter affecting the Governments of the Empire, affecting our rule, our honour, and our good faith in India. They cannot say so. Indeed, His Majesty's Ministers have renewed those pledges. I have only to refer your Lordships to a Despatch written by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, in October, 1910, in which he very clearly stated the position and took up an altogether unexceptionable attitude on behalf of His Majesty's Government.
§ Yes; but ten years have passed away, and those grievances which were referred to in such emphatic language have not yet been redressed, and those rights which were due to our Indian fellow-subjects have not yet been secured. On the contrary, the position of Indians has undoubtedly been worse during that period than it was under the old South African Republic. I have often given your Lordships proof of that, and I am not going to take up time by doing so again. I will only point to the fact that the Indians were obliged to resort to passive resistance and to voluntarily undergo untold suffering for the sake of these principles for which they were contending, and that a feeling has arisen in India for which there has been no parallel before. Well, my Lords, 1511 what have we to say to India? How are we to justify this long delay? And what does India say to us? The Imperial Government obtained power to settle this question eleven years ago by the arbitrament of war. They obtained the power which they had had by Convention before, but which had been muddled away. Why have they not exercised that power? Again and again they have had special opportunities of settling this question, opportunities when they were in the position of being able to make the settlement of the question a part of some bargain which our friends in South Africa were obliged to make with them. Why have those opportunities not been used? My Lords, the whole thing is a chapter in the history of the Empire over which, perhaps, it is best to draw a veil.
On this occasion we had better confine our attention to the actual present situation. The position is this. The British Government have declared that certain things must be done, and those things have not been done. The Government have accepted this Immigrants Regulation Act which does not fulfil the conditions without which they said that no solution of the problem would be acceptable. I beg your Lordships' attention to the facts, which I will state as briefly as possible. Let us once more go back to the noble Marquess's Despatch of October 7, 1910, which is to be found in Cd. 5579, and which, as I just said, clearly defined the position of His Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess, after expressing the opinion that it would be best to treat the whole of the Union as one immigration area, wrote as follows—
I ought to add that any solution that prejudices or weakens the present position of Indians in the Cape Colony and Natal would not be acceptable to His Majesty's Government.
Those are the words on which I pin my faith. Nothing could be more explicit. Those words embody the policy which the Indian community in South Africa have been contending for and which their friends in this country are advocating. It may be briefly summarised as the removal of a racial bar and the maintenance of existing rights. That is all they have been asking for. They are not asking for votes or political rights, or for any things which it is not possible in the circumstances of South Africa to give them. They are
merely asking that they should not be treated as an inferior race, and that the rights which they have hitherto enjoyed for many years past should be preserved to them and not taken away. That is the policy to which my noble friend Lord Selborne committed himself. He said very clearly that while he felt obliged to advocate the restriction of immigration into South Africa—and the Indians themselves have never wavered in their opinion that that is necessary and that they must acquiesce in it—he was determined that the Indians in South Africa should be treated as well as possible and should not be deprived of any of their rights.
§ The next point is what is called the Provisional settlement of 1911. This miserable passive resistance movement had gone on for very nearly four years. It had become a scandal which the South African Government could not ignore. It had aroused the bitterest indignation in India, and it was a disgrace to the whole Empire. A Bill to remedy the grievances and to fulfil the former pledges of the South African Government had been introduced, but it proved to be unsatisfactory and was withdrawn. It then became necessary to bring about an armistice with the Indian leaders, and a correspondence took place between Mr. Gandhi, the devoted patriot who is at the head of the Indian community in South Africa, and General Smuts, the Minister of the Interior. I should like to call your Lordships' attention incidentally to the fact that the whole of that correspondence—indeed very essential parts of it—has not been published in the former Blue-book No. 6283. Anyhow, in this correspondence a provisional settlement was arrived at, and the terms were as follows—(1) that legislation should be passed in the next session repealing Act 2 of 1907, subject to the reservation of the rights of minor children; (2) that there should be no racial bar in any future legislation for the whole of the Union; (3) that existing rights should be maintained; and (4) that there should be an amnesty for passive resisters. The two essential points are the removal of a racial bar and the maintenance of existing rights. Passive resistance was accordingly suspended, and a second Bill was introduced into the Union Parliament, but it was not passed in the next session, nor did it fulfil the essential conditions. The Bill was eventually withdrawn.1513
§ A third Bill was introduced this year under the title of the Immigrants Regulation Bill, the Bill to which this Blue-book refers. It was introduced on April 14, passed on June 13, and received the assent of the Governor-General on the following day. This Act comes into force on August 1, but under the South Africa Act, Section 65 (2), the King may disallow any law within one year after it has been assented to by the Governor-General. This Act, which will come into force the day after to-morrow, fails to carry out the agreement which was made in the Provisional Settlement, and fails to fulfil those conditions which His Majesty's Government have repeatedly and explicitly declared to be essential. What I want to know is, Why have His Majesty's Government given way? Why have they not stuck to the conditions which they declared to be essential? Why was the Governor-General allowed to assent to this Bill the very moment it passed through its final stage without any opportunity being given to the Imperial Government, who are equally concerned, to make sure that the provisions were satisfactory? Why was the Bill not reserved, as it might well have been under the South African Act, for the consent of the King? And what have His Majesty's Government got to say to India in order to explain the fact which they themselves admit, that the Act cannot be entirely satisfactory to the Indian community? Those are the questions which I hope the noble Marquess will be able to answer. But I regret very much that the answer is to come from the Leader of the House. He is, of course, not personally responsible in this matter. On the contrary, the Blue-book reveals that the noble Marquess has shown much anxious concern for a fair settlement of this question from his position as Secretary of State for India. I wish, therefore, it did not fall to his lot to apologise for the other Department.
§ My Lords, what will His Majesty's Government do if passive resistance is renewed, for that is a contingency which must certainly be taken into account? How are you going to meet the untold scandal which will be created if there should be a renewal of passive resistance? The answer which the noble Marquess will give me cannot possibly be that the conditions have been fulfilled and that the grievances have been redressed, for all the 1514 proofs are to the contrary. I certainly cannot get that answer from the noble Marquess, who, if I read the correspondence aright, has himself entertained grave doubts as to whether the settlement was satisfactory or not. But let me give your Lordships proof of what I have just asserted. I say a racial bar is still maintained in regard to the Free State, for under Section 7 of the Act Asiatics alone, not any other people but only Asiatics, will be required to make a declaration on entering the Free State which is humiliating to them, absolutely unnecessary for the purpose which the Free-Staters have in view, and, in fact, an entirely wanton imposition. It may be replied that this is a small matter, that it is a mere handful who ever wish to enter the Free State. But, my Lords, it does not matter how small the evasion of a principle may be if the principle is evaded at all. It is exactly analogous to any crime or offence. The theft of twopence is just as reprehensible as a theft, of £5, and if you once concede that it is not an absolute principle that there is to be no racial bar, you have no security that a racial bar will not be introduced in future legislation. And there is further legislation in prospect in the near future in which there will be every temptation to widen the rent which has been made by the small wedge of the Free State, and once more introduce this racial bar in respect of which our Indian fellow-subjects have contended so long and suffered so deeply.
§ I say, further, that existing rights have not been maintained, and I say so because in the first place the right of South African-born Indians to enter the Cape, a right they have always enjoyed without question, has been taken away. This will be seen if Section 5 (e) is compared with the proviso at the end of the same clause. I do not think there can be any question about it. Secondly, the right of domicile after three years' residence without indenture, which has hitherto been enjoyed by the Indians of Natal, has also been taken away. This has been effected by the definition of the term "domicile" in Section 30 of the Act. Thirdly, the right of appeal to the Supreme Court has been "prejudiced and weakened"—to use the language of the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe—so far as Cape Indians are concerned. The Indians of the Cape have hitherto enjoyed an appeal on facts as well 1515 as on law, but this right has been lowered to the standard of Natal and has been reduced to an appeal on law only. So much for the two essential conditions.
§ But the Act is unsatisfactory in other respects. For instance, it makes no provision for the recognition of marriages solemnised in South Africa according to Hindu and Mahomedan rights. Here I should like to ask why the Despatch of the Secretary of State, dated March 14, on this most important subject—I need hardly explain or dwell upon the importance of this marriage question—was not printed in the Blue-book. If your Lordships will refer to page 16 of the Blue-book you will see a footnote to the effect that it was not, printed. Again there appears to have been a letter from the India Office, sent, no doubt, by direction of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, a letter dated March 12, which seems also to have referred to this question but which is not printed. I refer your Lordships to page 24 of the Blue-book. Another unsatisfactory feature of the present position is that the £3 Poll Tax has not been abolished, in spite of a very clear understanding, indeed a definite promise, that this should be done. The promise was clearly made to Mr. Gokhale, a member of the Council of the Viceroy of India, who, as your Lordships will remember, undertook a most public-spirited and patriotic mission on his own account to South Africa in order to try and arbitrate on this question. He had no official status, but he went with the blessing of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who did everything to facilitate his journey and recommended him to Ministers in South Africa. He was received by them with kindness and hospitality and courtesy, which greatly encouraged those who are advocating the cause of our Indian fellow-subjects, and he was able to go on to India and hold out hopes that the question would be settled. The Ministers in South Africa definitely promised Mr. Gokhale that this £3 Poll Tax should be repealed, and Ministers told the Governor-General that they had given him this promise. If your Lordships want a proof, I refer to telegram No. 2 in the Blue-book, which seems, in spite of any omissions that may have been made in the editing, to refer to that point. The Bill for this purpose which was introduced into the Union Parliament and immediately dropped only applied to women, whereas the 1516 promise to repeal the tax was that it should be of general application.
§ The fact is that this Poll Tax is required as an instrument for driving Indian labourers into reindenture, and from that point of view, if there is any sincerity at all about politicians, it ought to be utterly abhorrent to those who professed to be scandalised by what they called "Chinese slavery." The Tax is worth only £10,000 to the South African Government. The number who are liable to pay it is 20,000 and of that number only 3,000 ever manage to pay it and that with the greatest difficulty. The rest are far too poor to raise the sum of £3, and I leave your Lordships to imagine how they avoid payment and escape imprisonment. It is well known to those who are acquainted with South Africa. Those who have read the Blue-book cannot fail to be struck by the fact that the Imperial Government took very little trouble about this matter in spite of all our anxieties in regard to India, in spite of all the scandals of passive resistance, in spite of all the protests which they have received not only in Parliament but also outside. If you will refer to page 17 of the Blue-book you will see that the present Secretary of State for the Colonies sent a telegram on May 8, a telegram which is very curiously worded. In regard to that telegram I should like the noble Marquess, if he is in a position to do so, to tell me how it came about that there were any doubts in South Africa in regard to the attitude of His Majesty's Government. How could it be that there were any doubts? What business had the Colonial Office to allow any doubts to exist? If there had been no doubts—and this is certain—the matter would have been settled very differently. There was a body of men in the Union Parliament who were thoroughly alive to the Imperial aspect of this question and were doing their best to maintain intact the principle of avoiding a racial bar, but men in South Africa cannot be expected to run Party risks—and we all know in this country what Party risks are—if they think that the Imperial Government are not really in earnest, and if the attitude of the Imperial Government is such as to make doubts as to their state of mind at all possible. It was the Members of the Opposition in the Union Parliament who proposed the Amendments which have made the 1517 Bill at all possible, and none of these Amendments were suggested from the Colonial Office. The Colonial Office does not seem to have watched the Bill when it was in course of progress; it does not seem to have offered any guidance or advice; and, finally, it does not seem to have even taken the trouble to examine the Bill when it had passed through its final stages.
§ Mr. Harcourt, in his telegram of May 8, declares that the matter is of Imperial importance, and admits that the present position of Indians is extremely unsatisfactory. He repeats that differentiation before the law must be abolished without further postponement. All that is good enough; but he goes on to add that "Indian opinion cannot be expected to be wholly satisfied by the present Bill." My Lords, he knew, then, that Indian opinion could not be satisfied by this Bill. It is evident that there must be omissions in the Bluebook. The protests made by the Indian community, I fancy, are not fully reported. But knowing that, why did he say that the Imperial Government were prepared to accept the Bill as a settlement? And worst of all, why did he accept it before he was even acquainted with the text of the Bill as amended in Committee? If your Lordships will look to the chronology of the Blue-book you will see that that is the case. His telegram saying that the Government accepted this Bill as a final settlement was sent before the Bill was amended in Committee and certainly before the final text reached this country, and that in spite of the fact that he had received a telegram saying that there was a clear understanding that Amendments were to be made in Committee. He had every right and opportunity to ask for delay in order to examine the text of the Bill from the point of view of our Imperial obligations. Why, then, should be allow the Governor-General to give assent on the very day after the Bill had passed? And, finally, what requires a great deal of explanation is why the Governor-General did not telegraph the protest of the British Indian community. If your Lordships will look at No. 19, dated May 7—that is the day before Mr. Harcourt's telegram was sent—page 26, you will see that there was a very strong and forcible resolution passed by the British Indian community at a meeting, which resolution was communicated to 1518 the Governor-General, who only sent it home by post. He surely ought, if he was at all alive to the duties of the Imperial Government and to his duties as a representative of the Imperial Government, to have telegraphed home an expression of opinion of such immense moment. My Lords, the whole attitude of, I will not say His Majesty's Government, but of the Colonial Secretary as revealed by the Blue-book is one of "We do not want to be bothered any longer with this question."
§ There is no sign whatever of any conception on the part of the Colonial Secretary of his duty as an Imperial Minister. A great deal can be clone at once without actual further legislation in South Africa, and I happen to know that loyal attempts at arriving at a compromise are being made at this moment. But to help those attempts, to help those on the spot who can further compromise, it is absolutely necessary to show that the Imperial Government is not satisfied, that the Imperial Government is really concerned for our good name and prestige in India, and that the Imperial Government is not regardless of the honour and credit of British rule. I hope I shall not be given the answer, the rotten answer, that this is a self-governing Colony, and that we cannot interfere in the domestic affairs of South Africa. That answer won't wash with anybody nowadays, because the people in this country have seen that the South African Government cannot even maintain law and order without the assistance of British troops. And as for saying that it is a domestic affair, I only call to witness the fact of the feeling which this question has aroused in India, the admission of the Colonial Secretary that this is a matter of Imperial importance, and the fact that the noble Marquess has anxiously concerned himself about it. My Lords, I believe to a great extent there is fear of offending the susceptibilities of statesmen in South Africa, and if that is the case I really cannot understand it. Surely it is easier to come to an agreement with friends than it is with strangers. Surely it is easier to make a bargain with our kith and kin in the Dominions across the seas than it is with foreign nations. Would we hesitate for a single moment to tell any foreign nation, whether it be great and powerful or small and feeble, what we demanded on 1519 behalf of British subjects residing within its borders? Well, then, why should we be afraid to tell South Africa what consideration we deem to be due to His Majesty's Indian subjects who live there?
§ Again I must repeat that this is not merely an opinion of my own. I am only repeating what responsible statesmen have said in regard to the rights of our Indian fellow-subjects ever since this question was first raised. Cannot we tell our partners in the Empire, for that is what the people in South Africa are, freely, frankly, but firmly, what conditions would be fully acceptable to us in the matter, which they do not deny to be one of mutual concern, or, as the Colonial Secretary rightly puts it, of Imperial importance? My Lords, I do know this, and I have felt it all these years that I have endeavoured in vain to attract attention to the cause of our Indian fellow-subjects—I know this, that ten days of Mr. Chamberlain would have settled this question, but the lamentable fact remains that ten years of Mr. Chamberlain's successors have only made the matter go from bad to worse.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I cordially agree with the noble Lord who has brought forward this subject, that it is one which ought to be discussed in your Lordships' House because it has long been an Imperial matter of high importance. No one who has not lived in India during the last few years can realise how wide and deep is the feeling which has been aroused by the treatment of Indians in South Africa. To the irreconcilable class, of course, this treatment has provided serviceable weapons for attacking our rule, weapons which they well know how to use. They could, and did, represent the grievances of their fellow-countrymen in South Africa as proof alike of the impotence and of the neglect of the British Government. But far more important is the painful impression which has been produced among the loyal majority upon whose support we are able to count, and upon whose support we may have to count still more in the difficult years that lie before us.
I am speaking from personal knowledge and with vivid recollections of the great public meetings held in Bombay when I say that this impression, which has now 1520 ranged right across India and which covers alike native States and British territory, is a very serious matter in its bearing upon our rule and our position in India. Indians of all communities actively engaged in business, who take ordinarily no part whatever in political movements, have been profoundly touched by the grievances of which they have heard, and the great masses who are quite unable to judge legal technicalities are perfectly capable of understanding when they are told that injustice is being done to their brethren in South Africa. It is not easy, as I have found, to explain to an Indian why it happens that we are not able to secure for our Indian fellow-subjects as much consideration in some parts of our Empire as in foreign countries, and yet this is a melancholy fact.
I do not propose to refer to the early history of a long controversy, which may be traced back to the London Convention of 1884. Since the establishment of the South African Union this controversy has assumed a new aspect, and the most important document bearing on the present situation is the Despatch of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, dated October 7, 1910, when the noble Marquess was Secretary of State for the Colonies. That Despatch deals categorically with the grievances under existing laws and plainly indicates the views of His Majesty's Government not three years ago. It points out that this long outstanding controversy—has led to the imprisonment of many Asiatics who are normally self-respecting and law-abiding British citizens and to the deportation of a considerable number, and it has been a source of very grave embarrassment to His Majesty's Government in their relations with the Indian Empire.The Despatch pointedly refers to a "pledge" given by Indian leaders that as regards the Transvaal they would be satisfied if three specific concessions were made to them. Dealing with the grievances in Natal, the noble Marquess trusted that Ministers—will recognise the great services of the Indian population in developing that province, not only by remedying specific grievances so far as possible, but also by exerting the whole power and influence of the Union Government to secure considerate treatment of them, especially by the municipal bodies with whom they are brought into contact.1521 While the noble Marquess commended the treatment of the whole of the Union as one immigration area, he was careful to add—Any solution which prejudiced or weakened the present position of Indians in Cape Colony and Natal would not be acceptable to His Majesty's Government.The noble Lord has drawn attention to this plain statement, which has special significance at the present juncture.
At the risk of wearying your Lordships, there is one other passage which I should like to read, because it sums up the views of His Majesty's Government in regard to the question of immigration in terms which I venture to think are unexceptionable. The Despatch says—I need hardily repeat in this connection that His Majesty's Government, while strongly urging that the proscription by Act of Parliament of the inhabitants of one part of the Empire by another is open to the gravest objection both from their point of view and that of the sufferers, fully recognise the right to a self-governing community such as the Union to choose the elements of which it shall be constituted, and it is in no way their desire to press upon your Government to admit immigrants whom the people of South Africa are resolved to exclude. They only ask that the exclusion of such immigrants shall not be provided for in a manner which subjects them to unnecessary humiliation.I think it is a great pity that the Government of India were not able to publish this Despatch soon after it was sent. Blue-books do not always reach India and are not closely studied by Indian editors, and this particular Blue-book was published a year and a-half after the Despatch had been written. I do think that an announcement of the views of His Majesty's Government as expressed in this Despatch, if made by the Government of India, would have done much to mitigate the resentment so widely felt. At least it could not then have been said, as it was said, that His Majesty's Government were not championing the cause of British Indians in South Africa. General Botha's Minute of December 10, 1910, on the Despatch from which I have quoted was eminently reassuring. He wrote—Ministers consider that Lord Crewe's suggestions in reference to the three points afford a fair and reasonable basis for action.He concluded with the following words—Ministers venture to express the hope that the solution of the difficulties which have surrounded the residence of free Indians in South 1522 Africa which has been suggested by His Majesty's Government and agreed to by Ministers will be accepted as final by all parties concerned.I fear that I have given a dull recital of past proceedings; but I want to make it clear that His Majesty's Government carefully explained what they were prepared to accept, and that there was an agreement on the main points of the controversy to which both parties might be expected to adhere. As the noble Lord has said, the Bill of 1911 failed to pass. Another attempt to legislate in 1912 also broke down, and we are now face to face with the Immigrants Regulation Bill of the present year. It is impossible not to be struck with the contrast of the treatment of this latter Bill with that accorded to its predecessor. The one was carefully examined and commented upon. It was also sent to the India Office for criticism. The draft of the other Bill was sent from Cape Town on April 9 last and passed its Third Reading in the House of Assembly on May 26. On May 8 the Secretary of State for the Colonies telegraphed that—While Indian opinion cannot be expected to be wholly satisfied by the present Bill, His Majesty's Government, having regard to all the circumstances, are prepared to accept it as a settlement of the Indian immigration question.It is true that the time was short, but it was not impossible to hold back assent to allow for necessary consideration.
The noble Lord has explained his reasons for holding that the new Bill conflicts in some important points with the views of His Majesty's Government in 1910 and with the agreement thus apparently reached. I agree with the noble Lord that the provisory note attached to Clause 5 will have the effect of prohibiting South African-born Indians from entering Cape Colony. This right they now have, and it seems unfortunate that it should be taken away by law; more especially since no trouble has arisen in Cape Colony. The second point is that, under the definition of "domicile" in Clause 30, as I understand it, an ex-indentured Indian in Natal who has paid £3 tax and acquired rights of domicile under the existing laws may find himself a prohibited immigrant. It is said that another interpretation is possible; but in such an important matter there should be no ambiguity whatever. If this clause had been examined in the Colonial Office the flaw would certainly have been discovered.
1523 The main question now is whether the stipulations made by His Majesty's Government in 1910 have been carried out. I have quoted the important passage in which it is stated that any weakening of the position of Indians in Cape Colony or Natal "would not be acceptable to His Majesty's Government." My Lords, this position is weakened by the Bill which has now been passed. I do not know the precise interpretation of the words "not acceptable." They may mean only that a measure is not liked by His Majesty's Government, or they might mean that the measure is one to which His Majesty's Government would never agree. But at least the use of these words might have been expected to be followed by some protest when "not acceptable" measures were adopted by the Union Government. My Lords, we have to consider the situation as it stands to-day and to arrive at the best way of dealing with it. The cardinal fact is that the Indians have now accepted the principle of the exclusion of future immigrants. Mr. Gokhale, after visiting South Africa, informed me that he had come to the conclusion that it was useless to press for the right of free admission, and his Majesty's Government have stated that they have left this matter in the hands of the Union Government. I think that we ought not to lecture that Government on its duties to the Empire. But surely we may say to them this, "You are putting a stop on future immigration. You cannot any longer say that you are in danger of being swamped by an influx of Asiatics. This being so, is it not absolutely incumbent upon you sympathetically to treat all the Indians who have the right to live in your territories, to administer your laws with generosity, and to end the pin-pricks which, perhaps more than your actual laws, have produced the grievances from which Indians have suffered? "I believe that a policy of this kind consistently enforced would be in the best interests of the South African Union itself.
Is it not an axiom of economics that every intelligent, industrious, and law-abiding citizen adds something to the strength of the State to which he belongs? His Majesty's Government have borne strong testimony to the vitally important part played by Indian labour in the development of Natal. And is there not a lesson to be drawn from the work done in Natal? The present grave troubles 1524 on the Rand are not unconnected with the prevalence of abnormally high prices of the necessaries of life, and high prices may be due to the lack of workers or of the means of distribution. The economic progress of the Union is not so satisfactory that it can afford to dispense with any industrious workers. I believe that the flaws in the present Bill, to which the noble Lord has referred, could be removed with positive advantage to the Union if its Ministers would take a broad view of the problems which lie before them. I imagine that this Bill cannot now be disallowed; but its operation might, perhaps, be postponed by mutual agreement. It was suggested some time ago, I think by the noble and gallant Earl who was a distinguished Commander-in-Chief in India, that if the Indian Government would send one of their high officials, who would be trusted by both parties, a settlement might be negotiated. Now that the issues have been narrowed and simplified, I venture again to put forward this proposal. It seems to me that the present Bill could be amended without great difficulty in such a way as to bring about a settlement of this long and most disturbing controversy—a settlement that would be for the common good of both parties in South Africa and would heal the running sore which has too long afflicted the body politic in India.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, the noble Lord opposite expressed regret, which I fully share, that it has fallen to my lot and not to that of my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies to make the official answer on this occasion. Obviously it would have been infinitely more pleasant for me, as Secretary of State for India, to confine myself, if I had to speak, to sympathetic generalities on behalf of the Indian community in South Africa, and to express my sympathy with the undoubtedly deep feelings which my noble friend on the Cross Benches has described, which are held throughout India with regard to the troubles which South African Indians have undergone. But it is not possible, as the noble Lord knows, for my noble friend to be here; and therefore I must do the best I can, bearing in mind, of course, as the noble Lord will, that in a matter of this kind His Majesty's Government can only have 1525 one policy, that policy being conditioned by the circumstances of the case. Consequently it does not, in effect, greatly matter by whom it is stated. I entertain to the fullest degree the sympathy of which I have spoken, and I entertain it particularly for this reason, that it is altogether impossible for most Indians in India who consider this question or who hear vaguely of it to realise in any degree the difficulties which confront either His Majesty's Government or the Ministers of the South African Union in dealing with it, and it is not indeed easy even for those Indians in South Africa who are the subject of the legislation to look at the matter from the large standpoint from which we are compelled to regard it.
The noble Lord opposite has spoken of the various discussions and the failures of legislation which have taken place on this question for the last few years. What he describes as the Provisional Settlement embodied three things—first, that there should not be any exclusion or discrimination against Indians or Asiatics as such, though exclusion or discrimination might be brought about by administrative means; secondly, that there should be a clean slate for those who had engaged in passive resistance owing to their objections to the laws or regulations of South Africa; and thirdly, that there should be every year an admission into South Africa of a certain number of professional Indians, lawyers, or doctors, or priests, as the case might be, whose services could not be supplied from the Indian community in South Africa itself. I should like to say that I am quite certain, to a great extent from personal knowledge, that it has been the keen desire of General Botha and of General Smuts, with both of whom I have had many conversations on this question of the Indians, and also, as I think is evident from the Blue-book, of Mr. Fischer, with whom I did not at any time discuss the question because when I saw him he was not immediately concerned with it—I am certain that there has been a general desire on the part of those three public men in South Africa to meet the desires of the Indian residents so far as public opinion in South Africa will let them. When we talk, as my noble friend did, of a broad view being taken by the Union Ministers and of their regarding the question of Indian immigration or residence from a liberal point of view and in its 1526 economic aspect, it must be remembered that Ministers there have to contend with a vast amount of personal and racial prejudice, a great deal of which they would no doubt themselves regard as unwise, although perhaps in arguing from the African point of view they cannot be expected to admit it. I should also like to say that I am certain that Lord Gladstone has done his very best to place the Indian claim in the fullest and fairest light before the South African Government and that no shortcomings can be complained of on his part any more than on the part of the Ministers themselves.
Both noble Lords who have spoken have alluded to the visit of Mr. Gokhale to South Africa. I cordially approved of that visit, and I fully hoped that its results would be, as indeed I hope they have been, good in more ways than one. In the first place, it was an advantage for a distinguished Indian politician like Mr. Gokhale to see for himself on the spot what the difficulties are of meeting to the full the desires of the Indian community, and it was not less a marked advantage for the South African Ministers; and I was glad to observe that the noble Lord opposite stated what I am able to confirm, that those Ministers received Mr. Gokhale with all the distinction and kindness which was due to his position and character. It was of the greatest possible advantage for them to have the benefit of hearing the views of an Indian gentleman of such eminence who was able to impress upon them what the weight of Indian public opinion generally is on this particular subject.
The noble Lord opposite, Lord Ampthill, called attention to the fact that this Immigrants Regulation Bill is not in accordance with the Provisional Settlement of 1911 or with the stipulations of His Majesty's Government, and my noble friend on the Cross Benches has also pointed out certain particulars in which, in his opinion, it fails to carry out that settlement. The noble Lord drew attention to the correspondence between Mr. Gandhi and General Smuts, in which Mr. Gandhi mentioned the removal of the racial bar throughout the Union as a necessary concomitant of legislation, and General Smuts replied that there should be legal equality for all immigrants, although I think he went on to qualify that by excepting mere administration front this 1527 necessity of equality. It is maintained by the noble Lord opposite that Section 7 of the Act contravenes that arrangement or engagement by maintaining in the Orange Free State the law which forbids any. Asiatic to carry on business there; and both noble Lords have pointed out that my Despatch of October 7, 1910, was opposed to any differentiation of the kind. That is quite true, and it is also true that we did desire at that time, and I should desire still if I was in a position to enforce it, the obliteration of all the provincial boundaries in South Africa for this purpose. It would be far more agreeable from the point of view of the Indian population there if the South African Union could be regarded for this purpose as simply one. But I am afraid at the time I wrote that Despatch the idea of the Union was new, and possibly we were somewhat carried away—I have no doubt that I myself was—by the belief that the result of the Union Act would be the practical elimination of those provincial boundaries. Such has not proved to be the case, either in reference to this particular Indian matter or in reference to a great many other matters. Natal is still Natal, and the Orange Free State is still the Orange Free State, or the Orange Colony as it was at one time. I do not believe that it will be found possible to compel the inhabitants of the South African Union, either for this purpose of the migration of Indians from one province to another or for a great many other purposes, to bring about the complete absorption of their various provinces into the Union. It appears as though the Orange Free State, sooner than admit the repeal of their old law, will do their utmost to wreck in the Union Parliament any design of this kind for the amelioration of the inhabitants generally.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
It is quite unnecessary for the Orange Free State to repeal their old law in order to adjust this matter. It can be adjusted without that.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I should be exceedingly glad if it could, and I should not at all despair of an arrangement being come to on this particular point. I think it is by no means impossible that such an arrangement might be achieved. The noble Lord opposite went further than I should venture to go, while admitting that, as a matter of reality, very few Indians have ever desired to go into the 1528 Orange Free State. He stated—I am not attempting to quote his words, but I think I am not misquoting him—that the important point was the principle of admission, and that whether Indians actually wanted to go there or not was a matter of unimportance. There I cannot quite agree, because to be debarred from going to a place which one particularly desires to visit is surely a greater hardship than being excluded from a place to which one at no time desires to go. I do not by any means, I hope, underrate the feeling of soreness which is, in my opinion, quite legitimately felt by any exclusion of a kind which can be described as purely racial, and I agree that the maintenance of this provision, although I cannot regard it as crucial in itself, is a distinct blot upon the Bill.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
I am sorry to again interrupt the noble Marquess, but I must venture to correct him. It is not a question of exclusion; it is a question of making the Indians who enter the Free State by right sign a humiliating declaration, a declaration which is quite unnecessary for the purposes of the Free State Government. It is not a question of excluding them.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The noble Lord is quite accurate in saying that it is not a question of excluding them. It is a question of forbidding them to engage in particular occupations, and that, I have no doubt, they regard as quite an equal, if not a greater, grievance. When you come to the difficulty affecting Natal and the Cape the matter is, no doubt, a more difficult one, and is less likely, I fear, to be got over by compromise and arrangement than the difficulty in relation to the Orange Free State. The number actually affected is also a small one, but it might potentially be considerable. In the year 1912, twenty-nine Indians went into Natal and seventeen went into the Cape. Those were all educated immigrants, because the old laws of the Cape and Natal, which have not been repealed, maintained the education test for admission to those Colonies and forbade the admission of those who are only in South Africa by temporary or conditional residence, so that labourers actually under indenture have never been able to pass from Natal into the Cape Colony. It is true that persons born in South Africa 1529 were admitted into the Cape Colony, but there never has been any real migration of such persons from one province into another, and it is safe to assume that if there had been under the older conditions, some regulations would have been passed by the Cape parallel to those which obtained in the Orange Colony as it then was, or possibly to those which obtained in the Transvaal. But that, again, we are obliged to regard as a blot on the Bill. Although I do not think that the practical grievance can be regarded as a grave one, yet there is a differentiation the existence of which cannot be disputed.
Then the noble Lord complained of the £3 tax in Natal, against which it is charged that it does not give the right of domicile in. South Africa. But the noble Lord will remember, I am sure, that it was understood that it never did, at any rate as regards the vast majority of those subject to that tax. There was a Natal law, I think of 1895, which involved the acquisition of an annual pass for leave to remain in the Colony for all those whose indentures had expired and who were subject to the £3 tax. That is an un-repealed law, and it was understood to affect the very large majority of those who are now subject to the £3 tax. Then the noble Lord spoke of the right of appeal. In one respect I think noble Lords will agree that there has been an improvement in the practical position of the Indians in the appointment of Immigration Boards. It was a frequent matter of complaint that Indian residents were subject to the control and the possible caprice of an immigration officer who might not act on any defined principle and from whom appeal was difficult. The Immigration Boards, presided over, wherever possible, by a magistrate—and I take it that in the vast majority of cases there would be a magistrate to preside over them—surely offer an improvement upon that personal control; and although there is no appeal from those Boards on a question of fact, yet there is upon questions of law, and questions of law include, perhaps, the most important consideration of all—namely, that of domicile. So that an appeal can, at any rate, be said to lie upon a great proportion of questions which to an Indian resident are of the greatest possible importance.
The noble Lord opposite seemed to think it possible that this Act might still 1530 be disallowed, while my noble friend on the Cross Benches considered that that was hardly a practicable course. The noble Lord opposite blames the Colonial office for having stated that His Majesty's Government were prepared to accept the Bill when it had not yet been through the Committee stage and was therefore liable to some alterations. It was, of course, clearly understood that the acceptance of the Bill was in the form in which His Majesty's Government had seen it. As a matter of fact the particular points of the enactment, both those which were unquestionably an improvement from the Indian point of view and those which might be held to be prejudicial to the Indians, were carefully considered by the Government of India and ourselves; and we concluded that the balance of improvement in the condition of Indians in South Africa was such as to make it advisable not to refuse this particular Bill. I think, therefore, that the blame which the noble Lord opposite has lavished rather freely on His Majesty's Government is not altogether deserved. He argued that there have been many occasions in the past when, in consideration, I suppose, of the desire of the South African Government, or the South African Governments before the Union, to obtain some concession from us, we might have made a bargain which should have unproved the condition of the Indian community. I can understand that being a tempting course to take, but I question whether an operation of that kind is ever a wise one. I doubt if it is ever wise to force upon a community like the white voters and administrators of South Africa a policy in regard to another race which they hate and which they only accept because they are obliged; and that in the interests of the race itself; because the Government of South Africa and their officers have to administer whatever laws are framed under the policy which is adopted, and in the administration of laws it is possible to make the lot of such a minority as that of the Indians in South Africa far less pleasant than it would be under a system of law which may seem in itself to be more severe but which is at any rate kindly and sympathetically administered by those who have charge of it.
I entirely expect the Government of India and Indian opinion generally to go 1531 on urging further relaxations in the law as it will stand after this Act has become part of the South African system. It is quite right that they should; that where it is found that any particular provision operates harshly upon the Indian community in any particular district attention should be drawn to it with a view to its being relaxed. The places where the shoe pinches most under an artificial system of this kind can, as a matter of fact, only be found out by experience. It is therefore reasonable, I think, to look forward to further amendment and relaxation of this Act and not to regard it as necessarily a final charter or settlement of the position of Indians in South Africa; to express our sense of approbation of such changes as it makes as are to the advantage of the Indian community, but not to cease to draw attention to the points as they emerge from time to time in which we believe some amendments might be made. That, I am convinced, affords the best chance in all the circumstances of obtaining a satisfactory and permanent solution of this intensely difficult question.
The noble Lord opposite resented bitterly the use of the argument that a self-governing Colony or Dominion could not. be brought to book if it in any way departed from the standard which we ourselves might desire to see adopted, although what would be the precise standard which we ourselves should adopt in this country if we were liable to large immigration either from Asia or from Africa it is not altogether easy to say beforehand. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches has been Governor himself of an important Dominion, and he knows very well what the limitations are and what the possibilities are where these racial questions arise, and he, I am sure, will agree that a policy of patience, but at the same time of plodding attempts towards the improvement of conditions, is the only practical policy which we can pursue. The noble Lord opposite speaks of the injury which is inflicted on British prestige in India, and it is no doubt a most serious matter that Indian opinion should be stirred by the complaints of their fellow-countrymen in another part of the Empire. I feel great sympathy with my noble friend on the Cross Benches in his expression of the desire that there had been a fuller circulation throughout India of some of the 1532 Despatches in which the Government here stated its views and desires, but I think the best service that anybody can render to Indian opinion in this regard is not to overstate the disadvantages of the position of the Indians in South Africa, however serious they may be, but to fix rather upon real and positive grievances than upon those which, however seriously they may be felt by some, are not widespread in their operation, and which do not inflict practical injury upon those who suffer from them.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I say it is quite possible that the case may be overstated in India—I was not accusing the noble Lord of having done so—by some of those who are not acquainted with the difficulties with which the whole matter is surrounded. The valuable criticism is that, to my mind, which fixes itself upon positive disabilities and injuries from which a considerable number of persons may suffer, rather than upon isolated cases or those disabilities which involve more injury to sentiment than in actual practice. It seems to me that by far the best chance of a friendly solution of the whole question—I do not say a final one, because the word finality is, I think, not suited to the situation—can be best arrived at by a policy of patience and moderation of the kind which I have attempted to indicate.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, although the condition of this House but imperfectly reflects the importance of the subject, I am sure your Lordships will agree that the discussion has been one of great weight and moment, and that each of the three contributions that have been made to it has contained declarations of much value and significance. The noble Lord who opened the discussion, Lord Ampthill, made a very clear and forcible statement of the case, which he has often before championed with so much sincerity and vigour during the past seven years. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches, fresh from a successful career at Bombay, made, I think, a most powerful appeal, a legitimate appeal, on the ground of the feelings excited among important classes of the native community, 1533 not only ill Bombay but throughout the whole of the India Peninsula. He addressed an appeal to His Majesty's Government to adopt a reasonable and a moderate attitude on this question which I thought was very praiseworthy in its argument and eloquence. And, lastly, we have had the speech of the noble Marquess who leads the House. That speech was characterised, as are all the utterances of the noble Marquess, by a tone of sympathy, although I confess I rather doubted at moments whether that sympathy can have extended to some of the arguments which, out of loyalty, no doubt, to his own colleagues, he felt himself obliged to employ. There was a note of extreme candour about certain admissions in his speech to which I shall call attention, because practically on many of the issues he conceded the case made by my noble friend who sits behind me. In other parts of his speech there was a tone of apology which was equally significant, and if he ended on rather a doubtful note, there was, perhaps, in the concluding portions of his speech some message which may be regarded as one of encouragement to those who feel strongly on this matter, both in India and here. Each of these parts of the noble Marquess's speech I will venture very briefly to touch upon in the order in which they were delivered.
On one point I am quite in accord with the noble Marquess, that we must, of course, make allowance for the difficulties of Ministers of the Government at the Cape. They have difficulties, not only with the different States that form the Union, but they have difficulties with each other, or at any rate with those who have lately been united with them. For that an allowance must be made. I am sure the noble Marquess spoke no more than the facts when he said that both General Botha and General Smuts are actuated by a warm and sympathetic desire to settle the matter. I name those two statesmen in particular because I happen myself to have enjoyed opportunities, both in Capetown and when they were in England, of speaking to them on the subject, and I am certain that the noble Marquess did them no more than justice when he said that they were desirous of arriving at an equitable solution. That being so, how much easier ought it to be for His Majesty's Government to address to them the appeals advocated by Lord 1534 Sydenham, and which I gather the noble Marquess himself conceives to be not impossible?
What is the case as it has emerged alter the speech of the noble Marquess? I think it is a very clear and intelligible one. As Lord Sydenham told us, the field of controversy has been very much narrowed in recent years. The Indians themselves do not claim or desire more rights of immigration than those at present enjoyed. They do not claim rights of unrestricted immigration into South Africa. They have been prepared to surrender any feelings or desires that they may have had on that aspect of the case in order to get easier and better conditions of residence in the country itself. Therefore the ground of action has been very much narrowed—I think the phrase has been more than once used in this debate. But what I understand they do attach importance to now is the removal of what they continue to regard as unjust and humiliating disabilities, and what they resent is the idea of legislation pretending to be a settlement of the matter when it seems in certain respects to deprive them of rights and privileges which they already enjoy. That, I think, is a fair statement of the present position.
The noble Marquess seemed to me to deal rather cavalierly in his reply with the grounds upon which the South African Indians base their hopes. I gathered from the speech of Lord Ampthill that they attach very great importance to certain phrases in the particular Despatch of the noble Marquess himself when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies, in October, 1910. The noble Marquess made some attempt to explain away his own Despatch, and he told us that he was rather carried away when he wrote it. I must confess, ordinarily speaking, that I have never met a noble Lord who is a more effective custodian of his own emotions and powers of utterance than the noble Marquess, and it would be very unfortunate, indeed, if this single aberration on his part took place at the expense of these unhappy persons of whom he is at the present moment the official protector. But I do not think the explanation of the noble Marquess is an adequate one, because the failure of his attempt to secure the elimination of provincial boundaries in South Africa has nothing whatever to do 1535 with the particular conditions which he laid down. These are the words, which have nothing to do with provincial boundaries, that the Indians lay stress upon—I ought to add that any solution which prejudiced or weakened the present position of Indians in the Cape Colony or Natal would not be acceptable to His Majesty's Government.That is a quite clear statement unattended by any qualification, and I do not think the noble Marquess can ride away from it in the somewhat easy manner he attempted to do just now.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I might explain that the special complaint made by the noble Lord opposite as regards the Indians in the Cape and Natal is that they have not free access to the other provinces of the Union. That is why I brought in the question of provincial boundaries.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I quite follow, and I am coming to the point of the Cape and Natal in a moment. The second point upon which the Indians rest their case is the terms of the settlement, the temporary settlement—I think somebody used the word "armistice"—concluded by Mr. Gandhi with General Smuts in 1911. The noble Marquess, in referring to that, omitted to mention that there, again, Mr. Gandhi, speaking for his clients, stipulated—and, as far as I know, the stipulation was accepted by the other party—for the maintenance of existing rights, again raising the point which I named just now as being the gravamen of the present case of the Indians in South Africa. Their case, I understand, is that the settlement in this Bill is not in thorough accord with the impressions they were allowed to derive from the emphatic language of the Secretary of State (the noble Marquess) in the Despatch I have alluded to, and is not in accord with the terms of the settlement which was provisionally concluded between Mr. Gandhi and General Smuts. I can only, of course, deal very briefly with the three or four points on which they allege that this departure has taken place, but I will deal with them as the matter is left after the remarks of the noble Marquess.
First, as to the question of the right of the South African-born Indian to enter the Cape, a right which has been taken away by this Bill, the noble Marquess said that this would only affect a very few persons, 1536 and I think he gave the numbers of those who in recent years have entered the Cape in this way. But the number of those whom it might affect of the South African-born Indians is very large indeed—the figures have been given to me as from 30,000 to 40,000. The objection of the Indians to the Bill in this respect is not one that is affected in the smallest degree by the question of numbers; it is, of course, an objection of principle. They think that the Act in this respect stamps an inferior status upon them, and that it takes away a right, as it obviously does—
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
That 30,000 or 40,000, I think, must include a number of people under indenture.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I cannot be certain of that, but it may well be so. I perhaps need not argue this particular point about the right to enter the Cape any further, because the noble Marquess himself admitted that it did create a differentiation and that it was a blot upon the Bill, and as I shall come presently to the manner in which he proposes to deal with the blots on the Bill I will say no more at the present moment than that we are grateful for that frank admission on his part.
The next point is the right of appeal to the Supreme Court, which has hitherto been a right of appeal on questions of fact as well as of law, but in future is to be a right of appeal on questions of law only. The noble Marquess defended this change in the practice by pointing out that under the new legislation there will be set up Boards, I think he called them Immigration Boards—
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Boards to which the appeal on points of fact will go, appeals on questions of law being taken, if so desired, to the Supreme Court later on; and he seemed to think that the creation of these Immigration Boards ought to satisfy all legitimate desires on the part of the Indians. But I am told that that is not the case. I believe that in South Africa, as in other parts of the Empire, they regard with peculiar respect and reverence the decision of the 1537 Supreme Court, and that it is no consolation to them when they lose the protection of the Supreme Court on questions of fact to be told that a new board, a board of inferior status and authority, called the immigration Board, is to be set up to satisfy their needs.
Then I take the third point, which is the racial bar. This is still, under the Bill, going to be maintained in the Free State, because the Asiatics will have to make a declaration on entering the Orange Free State which they are not called upon to make when they enter other parts of the South African Union. That, again, may be in actual operation a small matter. It may not affect a very large number of people; but, again, although it is a small point it is unquestionably a point of principle, and I can fully understand their objections upon the matter. They are fully entitled to say, "If this racial bar which we were told was to be removed everywhere is going to be maintained in this form in this particular part of the Union, what guarantee have we that in future legislation there may not be an attempt to extend the area of operation and to subject us to more penalties of this description?" It does not seem necessary for me to elaborate this point, because the noble Marquess again admitted that this was a blot on the Bill, and this time he carried his admission a little bit further. I was glad to notice that he said he hoped an arrangement might be achieved about it, which leads me to think that it is a matter to which, as Secretary of State, he is about to devote his earnest attention.
Then there is the fourth point as to the right of domicile in Natal, after three years' residence, of the ex-indentured Indian, a right at present enjoyed, but which is being taken away by this Bill. As I understand, the case is really stronger than Lord Sydenham put it, because not only does it apply to the Indian, the man who, after serving five years under his indenture, then settles down in the country to some occupation, paying his £3 a year, but it applies to his wife and family, and it applies to all of them in a very invidious form. What does it mean in operation? It means that if the man of whom I am speaking, in the interests of his business or for whatever reason it may be, wishes to leave the country for the purpose of seeing his friends or relatives in India, or goes 1538 to any other part of the South African Union, he thereby loses his right of domicile. That is a very serious thing. And it means, in the ease of his wife and family, supposing his wife goes home to see her relations in India, or supposing he sends his children out to Bombay to be educated, that they lose their right of re-entering the country. Again that seems to me to be a very serious disability.
What the Indians feel about the matter is this. They feel, not only that they are losing a right in Natal which they at present enjoy, but they regard it as an attempt to force them back into indentured labour, or, if they are not willing to go back into indentured labour, then to drive them out of the country. That is a quite legitimate feeling on their part, and I am not surprised that they should regard it as a somewhat insulting provision in the Bill. I wish the noble Marquess had shown a rat her greater appreciation of this part of the case, which really seems to me to be one of the strongest.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The noble Earl speaks as though this was an entirely new provision. I was endeavouring to show that it was the maintenance of a provision which may be regarded as invidious, but in practice it is not a new one.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I now pass to the attitude of His Majesty's Government on the whole case. I confess I did not think, with all respect, that the noble Marquess made a very successful defence of the attitude of himself and his colleagues with regard to the manner and the time at which the Bill came to them in this country. What does the evidence of the Blue-book show? The Bill was sent to them from South Africa, and reached this country on Saturday, April 26. Obviously nothing could be done till the next week, and presumably the officials were at work examining the Bill and then reporting upon it to the Government in the course of that week. But as early as May 8 His Majesty's Government had made up their mind, and were able to send back their approval to the Governor-General in South Africa. The noble Marquess defends himself by saying that he consulted the Colonial Office, and they were satisfied that nothing more was to be done. Why 1539 did they not consult the Governor-General in South Africa? Why did they not ask, "What is going on in South Africa? How is the Bill received? What is the attitude of the Indians themselves towards it; and what amendments, if any, are going to be made?" I think my noble friend was justified in saying that the various protests of the Indians in South Africa which took place immediately after the publication of the Bill, instead of being telegraphed to this country, were only sent by post, so that they did not get here until after the consent of His Majesty's Government had been given to the Bill without any knowledge of the feelings it had excited. I must say that that is rather cavalier treatment to have given to the Bill.
Then, again, with regard to the action in South Africa. I can well understand the desire of His Majesty's Government to bring the matter to a speedy conclusion, but it does seem to me to be rather a tall order that, while the Bill passed the Second Chamber in South Africa on June 12, the Governor-General should have given, no doubt under instructions, his assent to it, without the slightest delay, on June 14, before the Despatch giving the final text of the Bill to His Majesty's Government had reached this country. I quite agree with the noble Lord that any sense of sympathy or desire to help the community in South Africa during the passage of the Bill appears to have been wanting, and such changes as were made in the shape of amendments they owe, not to anything done by His Majesty's Ministers here, but, as Lord Ampthill said, to the efforts of certain gentlemen belonging to the Opposition in the Parliament in South Africa.
I now come to the point of what His Majesty's Government are going to do. In the first place, I am sure we shall all agree that it would be a pitiable thing if, after all these years of exhausting struggle, after the promises of settlement and compromise, after the successful stages that have been reached in those efforts at compromise, the matter were again to assume a serious form, and these unhappy Indians in South Africa were to be driven to resume that most odious of all forms of conscientious objection—namely, passive resistance. Surely we must do all we can to avoid that. What are His Majesty's Government going to do? The noble Marquess admits the blots and inequalities 1540 in the Bill. He says that an agitation is already going on and will continue to go on, and he regards it apparently as legitimate. It is a most interesting thing to find His Majesty's Government preaching to us the doctrine of the legitimacy of conscientious agitation. It is a point of which we shall take note. But, my Lords, we want not merely the Indians in South Africa to agitate, or the public at large to agitate, but we want His Majesty's Government to agitate. They are the people who have the only really effective voice in the matter. I hope I am not wrong in thinking that, when the noble Marquess talked about patient and plodding attempts to put things right, he was referring to action about to be taken by himself and his colleagues. I ask him not to be too patient or too plodding, or rather he may be as patient as he likes if he does not merely plod. I would urge a rather more rapid pace. I appeal to His Majesty's Government to realise with satisfaction in the first place that the field of controversy has been enormously restricted; and, secondly, that in the part of Africa concerned there is a legitimate feeling still existing. And I would ask the noble Marquess to address himself, if not to the suspension of the Bill, to urging the Governor-General to use his influence with Ministers in South Africa to take early steps to meet the objections and by amendment to take the few remaining stings out of the Bill.