§ 2.47 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make as to the situation in Basutoland.]
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, the General Workers' Union in Maseru called a general strike on 14th March, in sympathy with a club servant who had been dismissed. There was some intimidation. A public meeting of some 1073 1,000 persons developed into a procession. Since the situation showed signs of getting out of hand the Resident Commissioner called on the Paramount Chief to provide men to supplement the police in preserving order. The Paramount Chief accordingly supplied about 600 men. Their main duty was to secure unhindered passage for workers wishing to reach their work. The strike was called off on the night of 15th–16th March. Late on li7th March a temporary ban expiring at 8 a. m. on 20th March was imposed on public meetings in Maseru of more than three persons. In the course of investigations on 18th March arising out of this situation the police in Maseru have detained 51 persons against whom charges are now pending. The details of the charges are as follows. Thirteen men are being charged under the Entry and Residence Proclamation; thirty men are charged with theft, assault, possession of habit-forming drugs or tax default; and 8 women are charged with vagrancy or other minor charges. Reports that 600 people have been arrested are unfounded.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, while indicating that I have an interest in this Territory, being a merchant of 80 years' standing there, may I ask my noble and learned friend whether he is aware that the very small number of Europeans there (some 2,000 to 3,000) and the very large number of Africans (upwards of one million) traditionally live in amity, the one with the other; that the Europeans quite recently have established an employers' association which is itself non-racial; that the committee of this association are meeting with the committee of the trade unions and that they are hopeful of arranging conciliatory understandings for working conditions?
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I understood from the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House that this unfortunate occurrence started from an industrial dispute. I thought that perhaps it was that which was in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, at the end of his remarks. Could the noble and learned Viscount tell us whether at the present time there is any 1074 conciliation machinery for the settlement of disputes in Basutoland that is known to, and recognised, by the Governor?
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, arising out of the first Question, is the noble and learned Viscount able to make any statement with regard to this position? Many firms in this country manipulate products originating from Basutoland. Is that likely now to attract treatment, from a Customs point of view, different from that given when the. Union of South Africa was in the Commonwealth? It might be assumed that such imports would no longer receive Commonwealth preferential treatment and would attract the same duties as imports from a foreign country. Could he give any information on that point?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I think that is a somewhat different question. But if my noble friend will look at the answer I gave to my noble friend Lord Lonsdale in reply 'to a supplementary after my original statement in this House two or three days ago, I think he will find that this question may be answered, so far as I can answer it at the moment.