§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
SIR WALTER FOSTER () Derbyshire, Ilkeston
said he desired to call attention to the very grave condition of affairs existing in Johannesburg. The answer he had received to a Question disclosed a very serious condition of mortality and spread of plague in that city, and as this affected the prosperity of a great industry in Johannesburg and the health of the colonies, he thought it should receive some attention on the present occasion. In reply to his Question the Colonial Secretary had stated that thirty deaths had occurred out of thirty-eight persons affected, showing that the plague was of a most virulent type. Since then he noticed from the papers that deaths had been occurring at the same terrible rate. They were told that no less than fifty-eight cases had occurred amongst the black population, and forty-seven had died, whilst among the whites there were three cases, which had been followed by death in every instance. Once this plague got a hold in a community like Johannesburg, or in the compounds where Asiatics were kept, it became a very difficult matter to deal with. Only this year at the end of February the whole of South Africa seemed to be free from plague. In Cape Colony last year they had 135 cases of plague, of which 117 occurred in the first six months of 1903, while during the last six months there were only eighteen cases which showed that under careful administration in Cape Colony the disease had been practically eradicated. Now this outbreak had suddenly occurred in Johannesburg, and he thought this was a condition of things which deserved the very serious consideration of the Government and the most earnest attention 645 of the Colonial Secretary in order that the progress of the disease might be speedily arrested. With regard to the origin of the disease, he found that it appeared in Johannesburg suddenly, after a past history which would indicate that the disease had been got under in Cape Colony and was therefore not expected to reappear. How had the disease come there? Had this disease been brought in through the importation of Asiatic labour? At all events, the disease broke out in the Indian location, among the natives who were especially liable to the malady. Any gathering of Indians at Johannesburg offered a very suitable ground for the development of the disease. He wished to know if the disease broke out among any newly imported Indians in connection with the mining industry, and whether the locality had been recently recruited by the importation of fresh workers from India. These people had been kept in a portion of Johannesburg which was an insanitary area. That would indicate that the selection of a location for the Indians had not been made with all the care that should have been shown. They had had some experience of the death of their soldiers in South Africa through the choice of insanitary camps, and if the same thing went on they would have a heavy mortality amongst the Asiatics. He understood that the affected area was now in the hands of the town council and that these people had been removed to another district, which confirmed the view that the district was not a very salubrious one where these Asiatics were kept.
There was another point which indicated the gravity of the position. They were told that 360 Indians would be removed at once from the infected area to a site eight miles away, where they would be isolated. That indicated a wise sanitary precaution on the part of the local authorities, and if carried out with careful isolation the removal of these people might have some effect in putting a stop to the spread of the malady. There was a suspicious circumstance to which he would refer, which arose out of a Question put to the Colonial Secretary by an hon. Member about the mortality amongst the people working in the mines. They 646 were then told that the mortality was largely due to a form of pneumonia coming on after influenza. As this outbreak of plague was of the pneumonic variety, he was not at all clear that some of the heavy mortality amongst the miners might not have been due to a disguised form of this plague and might have existed in these locations some months, thus producing the heavy mortality that had occurred. It was a point that ought to be looked into by the Colonial Secretary in order to prevent, in future, any possible overlooking of this disease in its milder forms as might have happened in this instance. The outbreak had been a startling one. In a place hundreds of miles from any port, where before there had been no outbreak at all, they had an epidemic which gave them a sad record of thirty deaths in the first few days. That was a sudden and startling outbreak of a terrible malady. In the past history of South Africa this disease had not penetrated north to the Transvaal, the most northern place being Durban. If there had been any importation of coolies they must have come in through one of the ports, and they may have been responsible for the outbreak of the disease. He wanted to know if the Colonial Secretary could explain the cause of this serious outbreak, which might have occurred through persons imported within about a week of the outbreak. He would suggest that in any regulations made by the Colonial Secretary or the local advisers in future, if they had to draw a labour supply from Asiatic regions, no labourer imported into South Africa should be allowed to mix with the other labourers until he had been isolated for at least a week before joining the gangs with which he had to work, for otherwise they might introduce fresh sources of this fatal complaint.
He wanted to point out further that this disease breaking out in this way was causing a very serious panic in Johannesburg. The people were stated to be leaving in large numbers and the white population was frightened. The disease had already spread to Pretoria and would probably spread throughout the Transvaal to the Orange River Colony and to every part of South Africa. That must cause a very great 647 disturbance of economic conditions. They had been lately discussing the condition of labour in South Africa from different points of view. They had criticised it from the moral point of view and also from the political point of view, but he was now bringing the matter before the House purely from a public health point of view. He wished to point out that the Colonial Secretary was now importing labour into South Africa under conditions which were likely to be dangerous to the public health. If the right hon. Gentleman carried out his Ordinance for importing cheap labour from China, a country in which plague had its home, which was the fons et origo mali of the modern plague, it might be the ruin of South Africa. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider carefully whether more harm would not be done by the introduction of dangers of this kind than by a restricted supply of labour. He asked that in the new regulations the right hon. Gentleman should insist as far as possible that no port infected with plague should be a source of supply for labour in South Africa. If this was neglected he would add to the other difficulties in South Africa a great economic difficulty, and this question would turn out to be one not of cheap labour, but of very dear labour, because, with conditions like those prevailing in Johannesburg, which might be made permanent, or which might continue for months or years, an economic situation would arise which would be serious for the industries carried on in that part of His Majesty's dominions. It was a question which, from all points of view, would have to be considered very gravely.
Could the Colonial Secretary tell the House the source from which the plague was introduced, and whether it might have been introduced by the recently recruited Indian labour, and carried northwards by coolies from China or India, or was it introduced by rats? It might have another less suspected source. It might be carried by pigs, fowls, turkeys, ducks, or dogs, or even cats, which sometimes carried this disease. Rats were the common carriers, but the other animals he had mentioned often carried the disease in a more insidious way than rats did. For weeks they presented no symptom of the disease whatever, al- 648 though capable of infecting the locality, I but rats did present evidence of it very quickly. When one saw dead rats it was an indication that there was probably plague in the locality. From any of these causes the disease might have been introduced, and he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could give any information as to the origin of this deadly outbreak at Johannesburg. He asked whether the Colonial Secretary would take care not only to have the persons connected with the location in which the disease had broken out properly isolated at the place which had been selected eight miles distant, but also to have other Asiatics working at Johannesburg carefully looked after and isolated on the first appearance of suspicious symptoms. In carrying out the importation of labour under the Ordinance and the regulations which, he believed, had yet to be completed, would the right hon. Gentleman take care as far as possible that no labour would be imported from any district where the plague was raging? Only by drawing labour from uncontaminated ports could the right hon. Gentleman keep South Africa safe from a disease which otherwise was likely to be very costly not only to life, but also to the Treasury of the Colony. If he proceeded on these lines the cheap labour might be less harmful than if he neglected them. His own opinion was that the introduction of Chinese labour was an unwise policy, but if the right hon. Gentleman neglected the precautions indicated he would make it not only an unwise policy, but a disastrous policy for the colonies into which these Asiatics were imported. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to state whether he would take steps as far as possible to carry out the suggestions he had made in the interest of the public health of the Transvaal, and the safe working of the mines.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)
said he should like to know whether the Colonial Secretary had taken fully into consideration in connection with the supply of the shortage of labour in South Africa, the fact that there were in our Indian Empire millions of poverty-stricken people, including hundreds of thousands of unemployed. Was it perfectly true, as the right hon. 649 Gentleman said the other night, that the Indian coolies would not work in mines? He might tell the right hon. Gentleman that he had gone down coal mines, iron mines, and the Mysore gold mines in India, which were all worked successfully with coolie labour. He submitted that there would be no difficulty whatever in obtaining from India all the labour required in South Africa if the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to have it introduced as free labour. As to the question of the plague, he had, during his travels, seen both Chinese and Indians dying around him like flies, and he could only say, that much as they deplored the outbreak of the disease in South Africa, some good might come out of it, because he was sanguine enough to hope that when this got noised abroad in China it would prevent the Chinese from offering themselves for indentured labour in South Africa. In any case there was no question that the Colonial Secretary had taken a most tremendous responsibility on his shoulders in making the proposals he had made in regard to indentured labour in South Africa. They were told that various safeguards were provided by the regulations. During his travels in China he employed over a hundred natives for weeks, and he could not speak too highly of their patience, industry, and reliability. They were infinitely too good to be consigned to anything like the position of bond-slaves in South Africa. The House had been told that when they got to Hong-Kong they could be freed from their bargain, and that they could return to their homes at their own cost. That was an absolutely hypocritical protection. It was stated also that they could return from South Africa at their own cost, and by giving back to the employers the cost incurred in taking them there. The Colonial Secretary must know that was an absolutely unworkable condition to impose on men who wished to relieve themselves from a position of serfdom in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman had said that Chinamen would be able to earn twelve or fifteen times more in South Africa than in their own country, but there was no guarantee of a minimum wage. Was the Colonial Secretary prepared to introduce into the regulations a stipulation with respect to a minimum wage to be paid to the Chinamen? Was 650 he also prepared to state that in advertising the conditions of engagement in the Chinese villages he would make known the real facts as to the dangerous and deleterious nature of the employment they were asked to go to? Would he tell them that a man could only live seven years following that employment? Would he tell them that the air in mines was filled with minute particles of quartz and that, unless they, like the Kaffirs, had six months freedom from that labour out of every twelve months to recruit, they would at the end of three years return to China doomed men?
Another consideration which should be kept in view was the effect which this policy would have on the minds of the Chinese nation. They had their secret societies and great labour guilds, and information in regard to indentured labour in South Africa would spread like wildfire, creating a bad feeling towards people belonging to the western nations. The cost of living was immensely greater in South Africa than in China, and unless the mine-owners provided rations for the wives and families as well as the men, those who accepted engagements would be infinitely worse off than they would be in China. The general standard of comfort and prosperity in India was decidedly lower than in China. If there was an opportunity in South Africa of giving work to the unemployed, surely the preference, in the first instance, should be given to English-speaking people, and if enough could not be got to meet the requirements, Indians should be engaged. They were told that white men would not work in the mines in South Africa. The mines in Western Australia were worked exclusively by white labour, and why should not the higher grade mines in South Africa be worked in that way? The native blacks or coolies from India could be employed in the lower grade mines which otherwise, perhaps, could not be worked at all. He admired the Colonial Secretary as one of the best sportsmen we had in this country, but he would ask him whether he thought he was playing the game fairly in respect of these Chinese. These poor Chinese would be obtained by procurers, who would be paid at so much per head for inducing them to go to South Africa. The coolies 651 would fall into the hands of the procurers financially, and would be brought at the opportune moment to the recruiting station. There they would say that they understood everything and agreed to everything. He contended that it was absolutely impossible that this large number of Chinamen could be brought to understand all the conditions of their contract before they were taken away from their homes. That was unfair to these men. He understood that the coolies were to have the option of going back to their homes when they reached Hong-Kong. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary whether the interest of these unfortunate men should not be safeguarded to the extent that wherever there was a British Consul or Vice-Consul full explanation would be given to them of the terms and conditions of their contract, in addition to the safeguards to be taken at Hong-Kong. He held that it was our duty, as lovers of justice and humanity and of free labour, not to leave any doubt whatever in the mind of every one of these Chinese that the full facts of the case had been made known to them. He did not think, however, that that was humanly possible.
The Colonial Secretary said that the term slavery applied to them was untrue; but if the right hon. Gentleman were unfortunate enough to be compelled to enter into a binding engagement to give his labour in a foreign country which he knew nothing about, and to be compelled to live there in a compound out of which lie could not pass without a permit, which need not be granted, he would find whether that was slavery or not—it mattered not whether it was for three years or for life. It was said that whom the gods wished to destroy they first demented. That, to his mind, seemed to be the case with the Government on this Chinese labour question. Did the Government think that the democracy of this country were so dead to every sense of justice, humanity, and human freedom that they would tolerate an Ordinance of the character the right hon. Gentleman had introduced? He desired to ask the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether he could give any further information as to the Tibet Mission? The House was entitled to it when re- 652 gard was had to the fact that His Majesty's Government and the Indian Government were jointly responsible for it. This expedition had been sent out and had arrived at a point where it could not advance for months on account of the cold and wet season. That was only another example of the want of foresight on the part of the Government; and the House was entitled to have some further information as to the actual situation in Tibet. He hoped also that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India would not omit putting in a word in favour of the enormous multitudes of unemployed coolies in India, and that these would be able to obtain some labour in South Africa on terms and conditions not destructive, of human freedom and the lights of free labour.
He would like to ask the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs what steps were being taken by the Government to safeguard British trade in the treaty port of Niu-Chwang. The noble Lord said that that treaty port could not be neutralised as it was within the sphere of the war; but he saw that a strong protest had been made by the American Consul in Niu-Chwang who had asked that if the gunboat was withdrawn from there it should be replaced by a man-of-war. Had a similar protest and request been made by the British Consul; or had any representations been made by the British commercial community in Niu-Chwang, which was the only treaty port open to British commerce in Manchuria? That trade amounted to £3,000,000 sterling a year. The port of Niu-Chwang ought never to have been occupied by Russia alone, but by the allied forces. What steps were the Government taking to protect British interests and property there? The hon. Gentleman said that the railway from Shan-hai-Kwan to Niu-Chwang and Sin-min-ting was a Chinese railway. As if that was news to the House and the world. The Chinese Government were under treaty obligation to properly protect that railway so that the net receipts should be given to satisfy the claims of the British bondholders. Hail the Government taken the necessary steps to press on the 653 Chinese Government that they must not allow that railway to fall into Russian hands? There was also the question of the Russian gunboat at Shanghai He wanted to know what representations had been made in regard to that to the Russian or Chinese Governments. Was it not almost an act of war for a Russian gunboat to remain in the great commercial centre of Shanghai, which was neutral territory? He also noticed that a strong protest had come from the Russian Government to the Chinese Government because the latter had advanced troops beyond the Great Wall, although that was in Chinese territory and the Chinese Government were under no obligation to consult the Russian Government about it. He was glad to know that the United States Government had taken action to secure, if possible, the neutrality of China and that the integrity of the Chinese Empire should not be violated either by Russia or Japan. Had the British Government acted in any way in concert with the Government of the United States in regard to this matter, and with what result? Had any arrangement been arrived at, or any pledge been given by Russia and Japan not to violate neutrality of China proper? He had heard that Russian troops had been marched into what was known as China proper.
§ DR. HUTCHINSON () Sussex, Rye
said he had some claim to speak on this Chinese question, for he was the only Member of the House who had ever had charge of Chinese coolies. At one time in his wild career he had charge of a steamship—he meant medical charge—he was not quite qualified yet to take charge of the Channel Fleet. On that occasion there were on board a large number of Chinese coolies who were going back to Hong-Kong. He thoroughly endorsed what the hon. Member for Barnsley had said as to the good qualities of the Chinese. He had nothing but good to say about them, so far as that experience went. He only wished to contradict the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary as to the strength of the lungs of these coolies. The right hon. Gentleman said that the lungs of the natives of India and China were made of harder material than those of Europeans, and were not 654 acted upon by the dust from the drills in the mines.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. LYTTELTON,) Warwick and Leamington
I said no such thing.
§ DR. HUTCHINSON
said he included Kaffirs with the natives of India and China. His experience was that there was no race in the world which was more liable to disease than the Chinese. They had no resisting power. Look at their diet. It consisted of rice and water and a little opium. [An HON. MEMBER: And vegetables.] The ordinary Chinese, coolies did not get much in the way of vegetables when on board, ship. Their resistance to disease was very small, and nothing astonished him more than to see a Chinaman a very little ill in the morning and in the evening he was dead. It was very important that all that should be considered. The Colonial Secretary was like a reckless engine driver who was running full steam ahead without recognising the red lights of danger in his path. The appearance of the plague in South Africa was a red light indicating danger. What would happen if with tens of thousands of Asiatics shut up in compounds a case of plague occurred? Would that be calculated to improve the work of the whites in South Africa? The outbreak was, it seemed to him, a dispensation of providence to stop the hurry in which this proposal was being rushed through. In his opinion it was essential that every Chinaman should be medically examined before he left his own country, and also on his arrival in South Africa. They ought to be, so to speak, "vetted." He hoped the Government would be able to give information with reference to the officials who would be chosen to select the sites for the compounds. He had his faith shaken in the Ministers who were responsible for the treatment of British soldiers in South Africa; and he asked for an assurance that a competent man would be appointed to select the sites of the compounds and also to look after the sanitation of the compounds. Plague was caught through abrasions of the skin which were very likely to occur to men working in the mines; and if the 655 plague broke out on a compound it would be very difficult to prevent it from spreading to the white population.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
said that he was personally, and the Government were also indebted to the two high authorities who had addressed the House. He was sorry that owing to the recent outbreak of plague in Johannesburg he had not been able to inform himself on the Questions which the hon. Gentlemen had perfect right to ask. A telegram had been sent to Lord Milner which he had answered as fully as he could; but on the immediate Questions asked by the two hon. Gentlemen he had not received any immediate assistance from Lord Milner. Of course he would have to take the best medical advice he could before he attempted to make any proper reply to the Questions which were so rightly put to him. He could, however, give the hon. Member for the Rye Division a reassurance that a medical officer would examine each coolie in China before he was embarked, and that a superintendent would accompany each ship to discharge the duty of looking after the health of the coolies. No ship would be allowed to leave without having a superintendent on board. Then there would be vaccination and a most careful examination of the health of the coolies, and as far as human precautions could be taken they would be taken. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division asked what was the source of the plague. He had fortified himself with the opinion of the hon. Member for the London University, which was as good as that of any hon. Member, and it was to the effect that the source of the bubonic plague was still a matter of scientific obscurity. It had been ascertained that it was capable of being spread through animals. The discovery of the source of malaria had made great strides as compared with the discovery of the source of bubonic plague. It appeared to him, if he might say so as a layman, that the suggestion of the hon. Member that every precaution should be taken for knowing beforehand the site for isolation in case of an outbreak of bubonic plague was an eminently reasonable one; and he could hardly believe that the medical officers 656 in the Transvaal would not readily fall in with it. He thought the hon. Gentleman would admit that, in regard to the present outbreak, not only was every foresight and vigilance exercised but that sites for isolation purposes were actually taken in the event of an outbreak occurring. If those precautions were taken before the outbreak, à fortiori they should credit the Transvaal authorities with exercising precautions after the outbreak had occurred.
SIR WALTER FOSTER
said he wished to ask why an outbreak was anticipated. The reasons for the anticipation might throw light on the possible sources of the plague.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
said he was afraid he could not bind himself to an answer. The source was more or less conjectural. What he believed happened was as follows. It was for some time complained in Johannesburg that an insanitary area existed in the city, and one of the most deplorable features of the shortage of labour was that the Johannesburg municipality was unable to carry out the sanitary provisions they promoted and to clear the insanitary area which they knew existed. There was a shortage of no less than 1,000 labourers who were required to carry out this and other desirable work. That insanitary area was, he believed, not inhabited solely by Indian coolies but by Indian traders and other Indian inhabitants. They were not recent importations. There were a great many Indians in Johannesburg in President Kruger's time, and one of the areas which they inhabited was condemned as insanitary, but no labour existed to put into force the necessary remedy. No doubt, therefore, Lord Milner and the authorities of Johannesburg, seeing that certain areas were condemned, very likely foresaw that some epidemic might break out; and although it was very deplorable that the areas could not be cleared it was probably held that it would be even more deplorable to turn Asiatics into the streets in the present cold weather. As regarded the introduction of the Chinese, any man would be mad who would introduce them into a place where the plague existed or where it was not scrupulously isolated 657 and without taking the highest medical opinion as to its safety. Without taking upon himself the functions of the medical profession he might say that no such introduction was for a moment contemplated by the authorities of the Transvaal unless they were medically advised that such a proceeding would not be attended by risk.
§ DR. HUTCHINSON
said he wished to know who would select the sites of the compounds. He was sorry that he had not much faith in the men on the spot, as Johannesburg was one of the most insanitary towns in the Empire. He wanted the right men to be selected.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
said he had no doubt the best men would be appointed. Johannesburg was thoroughly insanitary during the time of the late Boer Government, but now great efforts were being made by Englishmen to improve it, and one of their great complaints was that they could not get the necessary labour now that they had the power and the money at their disposal. He strongly resented the imputation against the medical authorities out there, who had proved that they merited the confidence reposed in them. There were 30,000 less men in the mines now than there were before the war. One hon. Member asked whether measures would be taken to see that no Chinaman should be shipped from any ports known to be infected with the plague. He thought he might promise, without any consultation, that that would be done. With regard to the question of getting Indian coolies for the mines he quite agreed that it would be desirable, if possible, to obtain British father than Chinese subjects for this purpose, but the difficulty was that the Indian coolies were very actively employed already, and none willing to work in the mines could be found. He had been told that Indian coolies absolutely refused to have anything to do with mines or any underground work. The difference in the cost of living in China and in the Transvaal would not greatly affect the question, because the cost of the Chinamen's living would be borne by the persons employing them.
§ SIR E. DURNING-LAWRENCE () Cornwall, Truro
desired to call attention 658 to the hardship entailed on his constituents owing to the action of the Government importing the granite which they were using in their naval works from Norway and other places. This was a matter of great importance to his constituents who were granite workers. No doubt it was, owing to the cheap labour abroad, quite as cheap to get granite from Norway as from Cornwall. He protested against the action of the Government.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said he did not purpose to follow the hon. Gentleman into the question of Cornish granite; he merely wished to put a few Questions to the Colonial Secretary on the question of the Transvaal. The first Question he wished to allude to was the insanitary condition of Johannesburg, which was somewhat serious. The Colonial Secretary had said the sanitary condition of Johannesburg was very bad owing to the want of labour to improve the sanitation of the town, but from the Blue-books he found that Lord Milner had allowed 70,000 or 80,000 men to be allotted among the mines while the sanitation of Johannesburg was allowed to go.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that no one for a moment would suggest that the urban portions of Johannesburg were in a worse sanitary condition than the Kaffir compounds. All he said was that here was Lord Milner distributing these men among the mines instead of turning them on to the work of improving the sanitation of the place and preserving the lives of British subjects. That was simply because the mines came first. He would also like to know what had become of the great land settlement scheMR. During the past two or three sessions the House had heard a great deal of this land settlement scheme under which thousands of British subjects were to be settled on the land. One of the great inducements held out to the Yeomanry, to the whole of the three drafts, was a promise that large tracts of fertile land would be allotted to them; millions were to be spent on 659 irrigation. Was it not the fact that, in spite of all the money that had been spent, there were only 300 settlers on the land, and that on each of those settlers £2,000 had already been spent. He did not think we ought to allow all these miscalculations on the part of the Government to drop out of sight without some sort of comment, because it in fact formed part of the Liberal case that the Government at every step they took had miscalculated. They had laid down schemes which one by one had been proved to be false. The House was entitled to know from the Government what was the result of this great land settlement scheme. The Secretary of State for War was one of the missionaries of the scheme. The right hon. Gentleman went out on behalf of the Government to view the land, and came back and reported that it was a land flowing with milk and honey, and a land where all the surplus population of this country could settle down to peace and prosperity. The House was entitled to know whether in this case as in other respects the Government had completely miscalculated the* matter.
The second point upon which he should like some information was the finances of the Transvaal. He remembered the statement made by the late Colonial Secretary with regard to the finances of the Transvaal, and the fact that we were to get £35,000,000 back, and he recollected that the right hon. Member for West Bristol held out the prospect of our getting a considerable portion of the war expenditure back from the Transvaal. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham went out to South Africa, and his solitary achievement was to obtain from the magnates of Johannesburg a promise that they would provide £30,000,000, about one-eighth of the amount spent on the war. They promised £30,000,000 if we lent the Transvaal £35,000,000. We lent the £35,000,000, but what had we got of the £30,000,000? It was unpleasant to have to remind Members of the House of the promises that had been broken, but it was necessary in this case, and therefore he would quote a few extracts from a speech made by the late Colonial Secretary on this question. He said: "The 660 wilderness would blossom like the rose." At the present moment it was apparently only a yellow rose. With regard to the financial condition he said—Lord Milner has erred, if at all, on the side of caution. … One of our difficulties has been how to deal with the extraordinary growth which we have to chronicle, and which comes upon us as a surprise month by month. … I must warn the House that the Estimates of the Transvaal are perpetually changing.that certainly was true.I can only give the latest returns, but my own hope and expectation is that, favourable as they are, even they will be improved upon. I anticipate a surplus, after providing for the £35,000,000 and the £30,000,000, of at least £300,000 a year for future development. I say that is an astonishing result.The next passage was a characteristic one, in regard to which he thought that an apology was due to the Liberal Party.There are differences about Lord Milner, but there is not a man who would be so ungenerous as not to congratulate him on this marvellous result of his energy, his ability, and his unexampled devotion to duty. I cannot but recall—though I am not inclined to dwell upon them—the predictions which have been made by those who have been opposed to our policy with regard to the financial results.But events had shown the predictions of the Liberal Party to be quite correct, and those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to be altogether wrong. And what had happened? The right hon. Gentleman had resigned from the Cabinet because he disagreed with those who left it and agreed with those who remained. That hardly accounted for all that had happened. The right hon. Gentleman would have had to explain away all those predictions, and probably he thought it better not to attempt it. Why had there been all these miscalculations. The road to ruin, in South Africa was simply paved with miscalculations. Was the Colonial Secretary sure that the High Commissioner had made his last miscalculations? Lord Milner miscalculated the temper of the Boers at the start, the probable duration of the war, the financial outlook, and the land settlement prospects. On what ground did the right hon. Gentleman come to the House of Commons with a policy which many believed to be disastrous to British honour, based on the calculations of one who had been proved on every cardinal point to be wrong in the past? The blunders with regard to the 661 revenue were due either to miscalculation or maladministration, and he was not certain that it was all due to miscalculation. One thing was perfectly clear, viz., that the administration was infinitely more costly than that of the corrupt Kruger Government. The functions of the Colonial Secretary did not end with merely sanctioning Lord Milner's Ordinances or defending Lord Milner's blunders. As long as the Transvaal was a Crown colony the right hon. Gentleman owed something to the House of Commons in the way of supervising what was being done. It was impossible to say how far we should have to finance them, and the House ought to scrutinise the administration as carefully as that of a Government Department.
Another matter on which information was required was land settlement. Seeing that the projects for settling our own countrymen in the Transvaal had failed, it was evident that, so far as agriculture was concerned, the matter would have to be left with the Dutch settlers, and consequently it was most important that they should be well treated under the repatriation schemes. Of the £3,000,000 voted for the restoration of the devastated country, £1,500,000 had gone in so-called administration. That was either stupidity or spoliation. In any event it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to look personally into the matter. What would be the impression left upon the Dutch settlers, to whom the country had been deliberately left—for that was what the Chinese Labour Ordinance really meant? It was all very well to say that more white men would be required if Chinese were employed in the mines; but they would be clerks, engineers, and so forth, who did not intend to settle in the country. The British population was too much an urban population in South Africa. We had no surplus agricultural population to send out, and the next best thing to send was mining labour, but the right hon. Gentleman had deliberately declared that no miners need apply, they were not sufficiently cheap. After an expenditure of £250,000,000, with the probable addition of £35,000,000, British character and British prospects had been deliberately sacrificed for the purpose of converting 662 dividends of 180 per cent, declared last week on Crown Reefs into perhaps 250 per cent. Since, by the decision of the Colonial Secretary, it had been left to the Dutch to settle the agricultural districts, it was of vital importance that they should be made contented with British rule. But how could they be so contented? They were not satisfied with the terms of peace, even in their most generous interpretation, and when they saw that fully 50 per cent, of the £3,000,000 went to officials for so-called administration—to which they would give another name—what would they think of British rule? He thought the right hon. Gentleman was making a mistake. They ought to give Great Britain a chance, and if they did that there was a possibility of making a loyal Colony of it. He believed that the Boers would become loyal citizens if they were given the opportunity; but we had done all in our power to discourage them, not only by introducing Chinese labour, but also by means of despatches sent by our representatives, which were insulting to the Boer population. There was one despatch which he could not help thinking showed the paltry character of the man. The late Colonial Secretary sent Lord Milner a communication from Mr. Courtney enclosing a letter from General Botha, and, in reply, Lord Milner wrote a despatch, in which he deliberately referred to General Botha, first as "ex-General Botha," and afterwards as "Mr. Botha." That was one of those silly, stupid little blunders which hurt a small nation. He did not deny that Lord Milner was honest and sincere, and had great capacity, but he also had great capacity for making blunders and miscalculations. If Lord Milner was allowed to go on making blunder after blunder and miscalculation after miscalculation, writing violent political articles attacking his opponents' and insulting half the population he was governing, the losses they would have to incur in repairing those blunders would be greater than ever.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
asked how Messrs. Hamilton and Perry, the two agents who had been recruiting coolies in Tien-tsin since 25th February, 663 could have been licensed, having regard to the fact that the arrangements for issuing licences were not made until 8th March. He wished to know, supposing that these coolies had been engaged by private treaty, contrary to the regulations issued last Monday, whether the Government would permit these coolies to be indentured under the Ordinance. Messrs. Hamilton and Perry had been recruiting in China for the last five weeks, and if any agreements had been come to with Chinese labourers what became of all the undertakings which the right hon. Gentleman had given and which they all desired to see carried out, that the Chinese should have the whole matter explained to them? The official who was to do this under the Ordinance had not been appointed yet. In these circumstances what became of all their precautions and regulations? Had Messrs. Hamilton and Perry a licence? Supposing these coolies had been engaged by a private treaty on behalf of the Transvaal mine-owners, would that engagement permit them to be indentured under the Ordinance, or would their engagements have to begin again in accordance with the regulations? He also wished to know what would happen when the child of a coolie arrived at the age of sixteen years. He was aware that the Colonial Secretary had told him that a coolie could only be there for three years and that the children taken out to South Africa must be under ten years of age, and therefore the case he had put could not arise.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he thought the right hon. Gentleman was wrong, and in case he was wrong he wished to know would he make provision for the treatment of children when they arrived at sixteen years of age.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said that Regulation 15 provided that every male child introduced into this colony, on attaining sixteen years of age, in the event of not entering into a contract with the importer, had to be returned at the expense of the importer to his own country. He hoped that the provision made in the first form of the Ordinance for the repatriation of coolie children when they arrived at the age of 16 would be introduced into the regulations.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL () Yorkshire, Cleveland
said that the question of this recruiting which was already proceeding in China was a very important one. The right hon. Gentleman had said that no Chinaman would go to South Africa until he had had the Ordinance explained to him by a licensed recruiter and by advertisement issued by the Chinese Government setting forth the terms on which the engagement was accepted. It was an essential part of his scheme that no coolie should be taken from his home to Hong-Kong until a licensed recruiter had explained the terms of engagement to him, and until the Chinese Government had had an opportunity of advertising the terms in the Chinese villages. Messrs. Hamilton and Perry were the agents of the Transvaal Native Labour Association, and, if the Colonial Secretary or Lord Milner were to express the desire of the Government that their operations should not be continued until the Ordinance came into operation, he could not believe that the association would refuse to suspend their operations. The Colonial Secretary had said that he had just received a telegram from Lord Milner requesting that the Ordinance should be applied to Asiatics now in Johannesburg. If that request referred merely to the sanitary provisions of the Ordinance there might be no objection.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I understood it in that sense, but the terms of the telegram are somewhat ambiguous.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said it was a matter of great importance if there was an agitation to get rid of all Asiatics from the Transvaal except those who would be under confinement. The right hon. Gentleman had attributed the outbreak 665 of the plague to the insanitary condition of Johannesburg, and had stated that Johannesburg had been allowed to remain in an insanitary condition only because the town council had been unable to obtain the 1,000 labourers necessary for carrying out a scheme of improvement. Since the war 34,000 labourers had been drafted into the mines. Why had not the Government secured a certain proportion of these men to carry out these urgent operations? A thousand additional labourers had been drafted into the mines in February. Why had not the Government insisted upon having a prior claim that these labourers should, in the first instance, be placed at the service of the municipality?
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY () Shropshire, Newport
said he should not have intervened in this debate but for the remarks of the hon. Member for Carnarvon, who had used language which should not be allowed to pass in any House where there was the slightest pretence of loyalty or patriotism. The language used by the hon. Member with respect to Lord Milner was disgracefully unworthy. [Cries of "Order."] If that epithet were considered too strong, he would ask the House which was most wrong—to use such an epithet or to allow to pass unchallenged such language as had been used by the hon. Member opposite against one of our greatest Governors, who had put this country under greater obligations [Cries of "Financial"], by the loyal and thorough discharge of the duties entrusted to him by the King, than perhaps anyone who had recently been in such a position.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND () Waterford
Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask you whether we are to take it now as having been laid down as a precedent that it is in order to describe a statement made by an hon. Member in another part of the House as "disgracefully unworthy."
§ MR. SPEAKER
I called the hon. Member to order at the time, and I quite understood the hon. Member, in the words which followed, to have withdrawn that 666 statement. If it was not done it ought to be done.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
said he unreservedly withdrew the statement, if it was considered a phrase he ought not to have used. At the same time he said the language of the hon. Member opposite was language which ought not to have been used by anyone in that House who had the slightest regard for the interests of the country to which he belonged, and he did not think it right that such an attack as had been made upon Lord Milner should be allowed to pass entirely unchallenged on that side of the House. He undertook to say that the whole of the public duties discharged by the whole of the Members of that House were a comparatively small matter as compared with the duties of Lord Milner and the work he had done for them. He went out to South Africa at a time of immense difficulty, and faced the difficulties with the utmost courage, patience, wisdom, and statesmanship, and the reward he got from Gentlemen of the type of the hon. Member for Carnarvon and those who sat behind him and applauded him on this occasion, was to have his action described as petty and paltry. These epithets justified the objection he stated to the language used by the hon. Member. He could not suppose that there was one responsible man on the Front Opposition Bench who would adopt the language, used by the hon. Member for Carnarvon in regard to Lord Milner. Such language was grossly unpatriotic. The criticism of Lord Milner's Administration showed that some hon. Members were of opinion that it was opposed to the British colonisation of the Transvaal. On that side of the House some, who were not worse judges than hon. Gentlemen opposite, were of opinion that Lord Milner's Administration made directly f or the British colonisation of that country. He fully allowed that this was an object common to hon. Members on both sides. They were all agreed that the one great object of British statesmanship should be the colonisation of the Transvaal with a white population. They on that side of the House believed that that colonisation was likely to come from the measures which Lord Milner had 667 instituted and was carrying out under the direction of the home Government. White men would be required to carry on the higher work of supervision in connection with the development of the mines. The hon. Member for Carnarvon had referred to the necessity for attending to the requirements of the agricultural and rural parts of the country. That was an object which they also desired, and they hoped that Lord Milner's administration would have the effect of achieving it. Although Lord Milner was little in want of his defence, he wished to put on record his objection to the language used regarding him—language which was unworthy of the people who uttered it.
§ SIR ROBERT REID () Dumfries Burghs
said he was glad to hear from the hon. and gallant Gentleman, for the first time in the many debates there had been during the past five years about South Africa, a statement which he thought was absolutely true, namely, that the object of all Gentlemen was the same. His hon. friend the Member for Carnarvon was one of those whose objects were as much for the interest of this country throughout the whole of the painful controversy of the past five years, as those of any Gentleman on either side of the House. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman who objected to what he regarded as calumnious statements with reference to Lord Milner, would look back over the five years of this South African controversy, he would find that his hon. friend had been subjected to ample calumny from that side of the House, and that he had received very little reparation. What he wanted to get the House to look at was the true picture of the condition of the Transvaal which was painted by his hon. friend the Member for Carnarvon. They were responsible for that country, and if they did not take care it would prove a bottomless pit for the blood and treasure of this country. The Transvaal was now in a condition that deserved the gravest attention from the House of Commons, and in a short time it might be in a still more serious condition. They had put upon that country a load of debt already of £35,000,000, which represented, roughly, about £80 668 per head of the white population, as against £18 per head for the National Debt in this country. We were about, if we could, to place £30,000,000 more upon their backs. They could not bear it. He thought they should give up all hope of getting anything repaid by the Transvaal in respect of the expenses of that most disastrous and unfortunate war. Those expenses and a great deal more would have to be borne by the people of this country, and they had not nearly got to the end of the outlay. Any outlay that would be in honour incumbent upon this country would not be objected to by those who objected to the war, but the responsibility would be upon those who created the war.
Then how much money were we spending on the Transvaal apart from the war. He was quite satisfied the Colonial Secretary would, in due course, give them full information in regard to that. It was very difficult to find out. He was not suggesting that there was any design to conceal it. But some items appeared in the Army Estimates, some in the Civil Service or Colonial Estimates; all these amounts would make a formidable total. In March last year the late Colonial Secretary said that at that time they amounted to £16,000,000. Since then amounts had been repaid out of the loan for which we were responsible, and further sums expended. Apart from that, we were now paying the cost of a garrison of 21.000 troops, while before the war there were only 3.000 soldiers in South Africa.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
There were more than that for some years.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
said he accepted the correction. A few years before; but after the Raid, when war was expected, there was an increase, but the normal garrison in time of peace was something, between 3,000 and 4,000 men. It was now 21,000 men, and that involved this country in an outlay of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. The war itself was said to have cost us £217,000,000. There was now a falling off in the revenues of the Transvaal. 669 Lord Milner had estimated the proceeds from the railways at from £2,000,000; six weeks afterwards he estimated them at £2,250,000; and six weeks afterwards again he estimated them at £2.500,000, yet there was now an enormous deficit. Why had the calculations been so flagrantly and ludicrously inaccurate? No explanation had been made. All the sanguine anticipations of what would happen after the war had been falsified. The country was governed under arbitrary and despotic conditions, more fitted for St. Petersburg than a British colony. All the persons living there were at the mercy of the Government. He did not say the officials of the Government would abuse their powers, but there was no freedom, not a vestige of self-government, although the time had come when steps should be taken in that direction. No one would dispute that Lord Milner desired to do his duty; but it was not wrong, it was their duty, to say, if they thought so, that the presence and action of Lord Milner in South Africa had been a national calamity. Many of the greatest misfortunes which befel this country had been brought about by high-minded men who thought they were doing their duty. He believed the present was a case in point, and that as long as Lord Milner remained in South Africa a satisfactory condition of things could not exist. He thought the time had come when steps should be taken in the direction of self-government in that country. They had had a recent illustration of its necessity. He believed at all times it was a desirable thing for a British colony but that it was specially so at this time, when, in every department of Government in the Transvaal there hid been a complete and signal failure, for which this country had, unfortunately, to bear the consequences.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
In answer to the speeches from the other side, it is vain for me to repeat what the House knows perfectly well—that we on this side of the House, and that I myself, have not merely a devoted admiration for Lord Milner, but believe that over a period now of nearly eight years he has made sacrifices of health, and of almost all else that makes life dear, and has poured out his work for the benefit, 670 as he believes, of the country over which he presides. It would be wrong for me to take up the time of the House with meeting, or attempting to meet, vague insinuations against him, or vague invectives. It is perfectly true that the anticipations of the immediate prosperity of the Transvaal have not been fully realised; but hon. Members are quite in error if they suppose that the condition of the Transvaal, if one element only were added to the general condition of things, would be short of that which was anticipated by Lord Milner. It was only a day or two ago that we heard speaker after speaker on the opposite side of the House dealing with the enormous wealth of the Transvaal, showing what a marvellous recovery it had had in the time since the war. There is no Member on that side who has studied the question who does not know perfectly well that the output of the mines at present is at the rate of £14,000,000 a year, and that it might be £20,000,000 or £25,000,000 if the existing machinery that is upon the spot was employed. How great, then, is the responsibility which hon. Members take upon themselves! They are perfectly right from their point of view if they think the proposal which has been made morally wrong; I accept that. But if they do not think the proposal morally wrong to introduce, in the conditions which have been described, Chinese labour, they have at once a remedy for the gloomy and deplorable picture which was painted by my hon. and learned friend opposite. He has asked if even now the Transvaal by itself is perfectly able to meet its obligations. I have the assurance of Lord Milner [OPPOSITION ironical cheers]—and I think Lord Milner is a financial authority [MINISTERIAL cheers]—that no demand will bi1 made at all on the Imperial Government in respect of the £30,000,000 guaranteed loan which has been made—it is £35.000,000, but £5,000,000 have not been issued. It is perfectly true he has said he will not be responsible for the following year if a third of the available assets of the colony are placed beyond reach—that is to say, if the Transvaal is allowed by this country, as it has been allowed, to put in force the propositions which he has made, which have been approved—I 671 will not argue it again—with practical unanimity by that country. [Cries of "Oh!" and '"Hear, hear!"] I do not wish to put myself before the House as a financial expert, nor to embark in any bold prophecy, but I think a mere study of the figures themselves will suffice. If the output of the mines is increased to the rate of £20,000,000 a year, and if to that be added all the auxiliary traffic that comes to the railways, and all the incresed commerce and business I think you will find Lord Milner's statement is demonstrably true. With that output you will be in a position amply to meet the obligations of the colony. It was put to me by the hon. Member for Carnarvon, and to a certain extent, though with greater charity, by my hon. and learned friend opposite, that the Transvaal had repudiated its obligations—the war contribution of £30,000,000—although they had received from this country £35,000,000 as consideration.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I certainly never said repudiated. I simply said they had failed; they had not paid it.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I shall be in the recollection of the House in saying that the hon. Member made a very great grievance of it. It has been alleged, not once, but several times, that the mine-owners have failed to perform their part of the bargain, the underwriting of £10,000,000 of the war loan. The bargain was to underwrite this loan of £30,000,000 as regards the first instalment of £10,000,000 if the market conditions were favourable. ["Oh, oh'" and laughter.] It is useless to laugh. I can assure the House that was the bargain, and hon. Members will have an opportunity of seeing for themselves and raising the question again. But I assert that the bargain made by my predecessor in the most distinct terms was that he would not call upon the financiers to honour their underwriting unless the market conditions were favourable. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.]
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I am quite willing that my hon. friend should be 672 the judge himself either in the case of the Government or in the case of the financiers. My hon. and learned friend would see the emphatic assurance given by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to the financiers on the occasion of their entering on the bargain. He would see that my predecessor, in the most distinct terms, said that he would not call upon them to underwrite this loan or himself issue the loan unless the market conditions were reasonably favourable. If my hon. friend had been in my place, say, in January, and had called upon the financiers to execute this bargain, not only would it have been looked upon as a gross breach of faith, but the financiers would be able to say, "We did not make this bargain, and we will not fulfil it." They have never for a moment shrunk from the obligation which they deliberately undertook of underwriting this £10,000,000 so soon as the conditions of the market were reasonably favourable. There is not an hon. Member opposite acquainted with these matters who would venture to say that the conditions of the market in January, February, and March were reasonably favourable.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
The suggestion of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh is ill-founded, and I am certain that my predecessor gave no undertaking, whatever, any more than I have since I succeeded him.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I hope that my right hon. friend will be back soon, and the hon. Member may have an opportunity of hearing his views. A Question was asked me about land settlement. I have not the figures here, but substantially the hon. Member is correct. I think that the number is 312. I cannot at this moment give him the expenditure accurately on land settlement because a good many farms bought on advantageous terms by the Government have not yet been occupied, though they are an asset against the expenditure which has been 673 incurred for the settling of the existing settlers.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
We have no late news as to that, but the hon. Member must be aware that there is a good deal occurring just now to occupy the attention of the Transvaal Government.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I think they are increasing; certainly they are not getting less. I do not think also it is just to say that the expenditure on the Army in South Africa is simply in consequence of the war. The hon. Gentleman who; raised the point was not present, I think, at the Army debates, in which our obligations in future with regard to India were conclusively shown by the Prime Minister and the Secretary for War.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE () Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean the Army debates this year or last year?
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I am speaking of the 21,000 men which my hon. and learned friend mentioned as a charge referable entirely to the expenditure on the war. I made the observation that it would not be lair to charge the whole of that expenditure on the Army to the war, because the placing of a very considerable force in South Africa would be highly desirable now, if only to make the troops available for India.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN () Stirling Burghs
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was in the House when the Secretary for War, in answer to a Question, distinctly said that the maintenance of this force of 21,000 men was entirely justified on the ground of South Africa itself. The Question was put explicitly to him, and the reason, of course, was that during last session we had a totally different story as to the necessity.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
The right hon. Gentleman has quoted there an authority 674 which I cannot resist. I hid in my mind the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Secretary for War; but I still think it a fair argument to say that the Army, placed as near India as the Army is in South Africa, does at any rate perform an Imperial purpose different and separate from that which it performs when occupying a country with which we have so recently been at war.
Another point raised was as to the amount of money spent in the Transvaal over and above the actual cost of the war. I answer that by saying that the words "repatriation" and "free grant" are very often used as different terms, although they often turn out to be the same terms. No one who fairly looks at thi3 question and thinks of the immense expenditure on the war—a war began by the invasion of His Majesty's dominions—who looks through the figures and estimates the burdens this country has taken on itself, since the war closed, in restocking farms and rebuilding houses, in giving free grants and paying war damage, in spending large sums in honouring the military receipts for requisitions made during the war, will fail to agree that no country has ever treated a conquered country more generously than we have done. At any rate you cannot have it both ways. I gather that a certain number of hon. Members opposite deplore an expenditure, which I admit to be lavish, on the Boers; on the other side we have the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs saying that £2,000,000 here and £3,000,000 there are not nearly enough, that we ought to do far more for the assistance of the Boers. Yes; but does the hon. Member reflect that there have been mistakes here and there in organising, in a country of that kind, the gigantic work of reconstruction, repatriation, and reconstitution? I beg the hon. Member to show some sympathy with those who have worked themselves to the bone on behalf of the Boers in that country—in resettling the people, in educating them, in inducing thousands of men to put forward their best efforts on behalf of agriculture with exceedingly good results. All honour be given to the men who have most enthusiastically discharged their duty to the benefit of good feeling and to the attainment of that reconciliation 675 which all desire should be rekindled by such generous efforts. The hon. Member for Camberwell asked me, with regard to the Ordinance, whether Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Perry have a licence to recruit. No, certainly not; no one has authority to give them it. A licence to recruit is to be given by some authority that does not at present exist. You cannot ship Chinamen under the Ordinance before the conditions precedent under that Ordinance have been fulfilled, and one of the conditions precedent to the embarkation of Chinese is the explanation to them of the contract by an official of their own and an official appointed by the British Government. Neither of those two officials is yet appointed, and surely it is perfectly obvious that, as no Chinaman can be lawfully embarked, neither can he be lawfully received under the Ordinance. If, as the result of the machinations, as the hon. Member thinks, of the persons he has named, there is an unlawful recruitment of Chinamen, the remedy is clear. The Chinamen could not be received on board a British ship which would carry them to Africa, neither could they be landed at the port in Africa, where it would be illegal to receive them.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
Will the right hon. Gentleman issue instructions that the recruitment shall be stopped until the proper official has been appointed?
§ MR. LYTTELTON
The hon. Member may have had a more happy experience than I have, but I never give directions or orders when I have no power to see that they are obeyed. I do not intend to give directions to people in China over whom I have no jurisdiction. In regard to the second Question, I hold to the opinion that there is no apprehension whatever of any Chinese boy of sixteen being in Africa. The Question about explaining the contract in advertisements in Chinese villages was a fair one. I think that ought to be done before any recruit is taken from the villages, and it will be a double protection. There is only one more point. Will the hon. Member for Carnarvon assure me—will he stake his reputation upon it—that he will be able to get from among the mining 676 population of Wales men who will consent to work alongside black men in the mines in South Africa? I am absolutely persuaded he cannot. [An HON. MEMBER: Nobody asks it!] I say no white man—no Englishman, at all events—can be persuaded to do that. You may regret it, but it is the fact. We have a duty also to the Kaffirs. There is a certain class of opinion which says, Clear out the Kaffirs and put all white men in. [OPPOSITION cries of "No, no!"] I am glad to hear that disavowal. If there is anybody here who holds that opinion, let me say with great respect that he mistakes the functions we have in Africa, and, what is more, he absolutely mistakes the ability of this country or any country to clear out the Kaffir population in order to make room for whites. The standard of unskilled labour in the country must be the standard of Kaffirs. To that standard you will never get white men in this country, any more than you will get white men in Australia or New Zealand, to conform. Let me beg, therefore, the hon. Member for Carnarvon, when he endeavours to give us assistance in the solution of one of the most difficult problems ever encountered by an English Minister, to eliminate that which it is absolutely impossible to carry out.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND () Waterford
said there were problems connected with the present condition of the Transvaal which demanded the serious attention of the House, and he hoped they would be discussed later on. His object now was to ask for information as to matters of the greatest importance to Ireland. The Irish Land Act of last year had been five months in operation, but they knew absolutely nothing, with any certainty, of its operations. He made every allowance for the difficulties and delays which must attend the starting of so great a machine, for the delay which was necessary in selecting a proper staff and preparing offices, but he could not help remembering that, between the passage of the Land Bill into law and the date it came into operation, there had been a considerable interval, during which those preliminary matters ought to have been attended to. 677 The Land Commission published Returns of its operations every month, but they had had no Return so far of the working of the Land Act. In his opinion, it was absolutely necessary that such Returns should be published. The Act provided that periodical reports of the proceedings of the Estates Commissioners should be made and laid before Parliament as soon as possible. He did not know what regulations had been made under that section, but if regulations had been issued he had not seen them. If they had not been issued he thought it was a serious omission. It was not right that Parliament should be left for five months absolutely in the dark as to what was going on under the Act. He pressed the right hon. Gentleman to take steps to see that official information was given at the earliest possible moment. Could not the Chief Secretary forestall the official Returns and state what had taken place? In the first place, how many agreements had been filed? Two months had elapsed since the right hon. Gentleman gave them any information on that subject. He desired to know the amount of land and the number of tenants included in those agreements, and also the number of years purchase in those cases. That was a demand which had been made on several occasions, and the excuse put forward was not valid. The Chief Secretary said that this was a new Department, and they must make allowances, and that the information asked for would entail serious trouble, delay, and expense. He could not for the life of him see how all that was possible. If it were possible to make a list of the agreements surely there could not be much increased labour, time, or expense incurred by including the number of years purchase. If the Chief Secretary could not give them now he hoped they would be given at the earliest possible moment. Again, how many of the agreements under the Act came within, and how many outside, the zones? That was a most important poi nt. Could the Chief Secretary tell them if all those cases which fell outside the zones had been inspected and sanctioned by the Estates Commissioners and how many, if any, of the bargains had been objected to by the Estates Commissioners.
678 The second class of questions he desired to put were with reference to untenanted land. ["Hear, hear!"] It was not his purpose to emphasise the point with which everybody connected with Ireland was familiar, and which the right hon. Gentleman had admitted in many of his speeches last year, namely, that the success of any attempt at settlement of the land question very largely depended upon the power of acquiring untenanted lands. What had been the operation of the Estates Commissioners in this respect, and what untenanted land had they acquired? What was their mode of procedure? Were they waiting for the untenanted land to be brought to them in every case, or did they, when they found the untenanted land was not being offered to them, make any attempt to purchase land by initiating negotiations? He knew that the Chief Secretary's answer would be that when they were talking about buying land they must be careful not to raise the prices exorbitantly, and that if it were known that the Estates Commissioners intended to go all over the country looking for land the price would thereby be raised enormously. That might possibly be one effect, but after all there was no alternative. If the untenanted land would not go to the Estates Commissioners, they must go to get the land, because if the untenanted land was not acquired the whole scheme fell to the ground and would be an unmitigated failure. Information was therefore very necessary on that point.
Another question bringing in that of untenanted land was that of the evicted tenants. What steps were the Estates Commissioners taking with regard to that? He knew the difficulties of the position and did not think he took an unreasonable view of it. Where an estate was being sold it ought to be comparatively easy for the Estates Commissioners to bring about a reinstatement of the evict d tenants. How many such cases had there been, and how many estates were in the process of being transferred from the landlords to the tenants on which there were evicted tenants? The Estates Commissioners had enormous powers in this matter. They could define anything they liked as an "estate." If a 679 person went to them with an estate upon which there was a large number of evicted farmers and was not prepared to deal with them in a way which would enable the tenants to be restored, the Estates Commissioners had power to say they would not sanction the transaction unless the landlord came to some fair arrangement with respect to the evicted tenants. He desired to know how far the Commissioners were using that enormous power. His purpose in asking the question was not to obtain from the Chief Secretary a statement that the Commissioners were doing all they could; he wanted something more precise. How many such cases were there, and in how many of them was there a prospect of the tenants getting back? Were the Estates Commissioners taking steps to ensure that the tenants should get back? What were they doing in cases of evicted tenants where the landlords were not selling their estates? because some of the worst cases were on estates which were not likely to be sold in a hurry. The Estates Commissioners had power to provide farms for those evicted tenants elsewhere if they could not get them back into their own farms. Were the Commissioners taking any steps in that direction? He himself knew of only one estate on which the tenants were likely to get back, and that was the case of the Coolgreany estate in county Wexford, on which all the evicted tenants would he put in the agreement or in some way or other provided for. At any rate most of them would get back at prices agreed upon between the landlords and the local leaders, or priests, as representing the evicted tenants. He took it that the price was a satisfactory one, because he had heard nothing to the contrary. He was glad to know in that case that the houses were to be rebuilt for the evicted tenants and the lands were to be restocked, not by way of loans but by way of free grants, in addition to which the tenants were to receive certain payments by way of wages whilst their houses were being rebuilt, and which would amount to the whole amount of the instalments for several years. That was the only case in Ireland of which he had heard. If there were other cases he hoped the Chief Secretary would mention them; if 680 there were none he had to ask what was the cause of the delay. He was sure that the cause of the delay was not to be found in the Estates Commissioners themselves, at any rate so far as Mr. Bailey and Mr. Finucane were concerned. If they were not taking steps it must be because of some defect in the Act or in the Executive caused by the right hon. Gentleman. He pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman the extreme importance of proceeding rapidly in these matters. There had been the widest disappointment throughout Ireland that this process of restoring evicted tenants had been so slow. There had been no disappointment connected with the Land Act so intense as that repecting the slow operation of these clauses. It needed not only a benevolent but a wise statesman who would take immediate steps to hasten on a settlement. He believed the delay in restoring evicted tenants would act injuriously upon every other operation of the machinery of the Land Act, and he therefore urged the Chief Secretary to see that the Estates Commissioners should realise and exercise the enormous powers they had in this matter, so that in a very short time a large number of the evicted tenants might be restored to their homes.
There was another point he desired to raise, and that was what the Congested Districts Board were doing. They issued periodical reports, but this was a matter in which they ought to submit a special report to Parliament to enable them to discuss the working of the Land Act, for until they had that official information it was impossible for them to have an intelligent discussion at all. Certainly after five or six months working such a report should be made. He desired the right hon. Gentleman to impress upon the Congested Districts Board the desirability of making such a report as soon as possible, and, pending the report, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would give the information himself. The right hon. Gentleman, at the commencement of the session, told them about, the purchase of land by the Congested Districts Board. What further progress had they to report? Had they succeeded in getting into their hands a large amount of untenanted land in the 681 congested districts? He doubted it very much, but he wished it were true. He was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman was experiencing what the Nationalist Members prophesied last year, that it was necessary to invest the Congested Districts Board with compulsory powers—not some general compulsory powers, but such powers in the congested districts as the Board themselves asked for years ago and which the right hon. Gentleman refused last year because he thought they were unnecessary. Experience had shown that without such powers the acquisition of untenanted lands was impossible. He did not wish to censure or criticise the working of the Act; he simply wanted information on the points he had raised, and to press the right hon. Gentleman as strongly as he could to see that reports were immediately issued by these departments. Perhaps they could be issued periodically, say once a month or once in two months, for the future. The right hon. Gentleman should give them all the official information at his disposal, which certainly ought not to be denied to the representatives of Ireland.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said there were one or two Questions which he desired to add to those which had already been put by the hon. and learned Member opposite. He would suggest that the Return referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford might be divided into provinces. There was a Question he wished to put to the Chief Secretary which Irish Members would agree was very important. The Estates Commissioners had absolute discretion as to the definition of an estate. He should be glad to know what line the Commissioners were taking in a multitude of cases such as this:—Landlords in different parts of the country were getting part of their tenants to consent to buy at very good prices—more in fact than they ought to get for the land—and then they tried to J put pressure on the other tenants to give the same prices by telling them that, if they did not care to buy on those terms, the Estates Commissioners would divide the estate, and while one part would be sold they would be left in the position of tenants. These landlords were, in fact, 682 attempting to make a chess-board of their estates, part to be sold and part to remain tenanted; and what he wished to know was whether the Estates Commissioners would permit that sort of thing or whether they would refuse to allow land to be called an estate which was engineered in that way. He was afraid the Chief Secretary was tired of hearing about the Land Judge's Court, but he would hear more yet. When the Act was being passed a very salutary provision was inserted that the Estates Commissioners might make a proposal to the Land Judge for the purpose of purchasing estates within the Court. That was hailed by all parties in Ireland as a means of facilitating the sale of bankrupt properties. Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what had been done under that section of the Act? How many estates had Judge Ross consented to sell, how many were actually sold, and what efforts had the Estates Commissioners made to carry out that section of the Act? Since the Act of 1896 was passed, great pressure had been put upon the Land Judge's Court to expedite the sale of estates, and he was very glad to think that considerable progress had been made in that direction. But when he reached Dublin on Saturday night he was waited upon by a deputation of clerks. Would the House believe that three clerks in the Receiver's Department, who had been fifteen years in the employment of the Court, married men with families, had been given notice to clear out without a farthing of compensation and very little notice? These men were not Civil servants, and he did not deny that the Treasury was strictly within its rights; but he thought the Chief Secretary should intervene to procure the transfer of these men to the Estates Commissioners' office, where they would naturally be more useful than inexperienced men. They ought not to be turned out in the street at forty or forty-five years of age when it would be very difficult for them to find other employment. He wished to express the opinion in conclusion that monthly reports should be furnished of the work of the Estates Commissioners exactly as were supplied by the Land Commission.
§ MR. ROCHE (Galway, E.)
said he desired not only to elicit information from the Chief Secretary but also to impart information to the right hon. Gentleman, and the House, as to the manner in which the Land Act was being worked in the Division he had the honour to represent. There was no Division in Connaught which contained so much untenanted land as East Galway, and on the distribution of that land: among the tenants would depend the success of the Act. The Butson Estate in his constituency had been in the Land Judge's Court for a considerable number of years. There were about sixty tenants on the estate, all of whom were willing to purchase; and a fortnight ago they applied in the Land Judge's Court to be allowed to purchase. The Land Judge was willing on condition that £12,000 worth of rich untenanted land should be sold to the mother of the owner who was a minor. Naturally, the tenants refused to purchase. The untenanted land was situated quite two miles away from the demesne, and it was well known that Mrs. Butson was not able to purchase the land herself in consequence of the advance being limited. In May, 1902, Mrs. Butson entered into some agreement with Judge Ross to purchase this land which would have the effect, if curried out, of preventing she tenants from being able to enlarge their holdings; and only a fortnight ago the Land Judge threatened anyone who interfered with the tenants in connection with the sale with all the pains and penalties of his Court He would contrast that act of the Judge with his action recently when another lady who was a tenant of the Land Court refused to purchase her holding unless the sporting rights of the other tenants' holdings were sold to her at an almost nominal price, and this lady is the Land Judge's wife.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I understand that the hon Member is now attacking the action or a Judge in his own Court. That is not in order.
§ MR. ROCHE
said that as the Judge was responsible for his wife's action he would not refer to the matter further. The hon. Member called attention to the course taken with respect to the Commyn Kenny estate, which consisted of grazing lands divided by the landlord into farms of twenty to twenty-five acres, and then put up for competition by advertisements in the local papers and by bills which were posted in the district. He questioned the Chief Secretary as to whether there had been any correspondence between Mr. Comyn Kenny and the Estates Commissioners, and the right hon. Gentleman at first replied that there had been no correspondence, but when further interrogated he stated that Mr. Comyn Kenny had had an interview with the Estates Commissioners, though no correspondence had passed. Was that worthy of anybody representing the Government in Ireland? It was something like what might be expected from a three-card man on a race course. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Thimble rigging.] Other estates, such as the Mahon estate at Ballydonlan, had been treated in the same manner. What the tenants objected to was that the distribution of the grazing lands should be left in the hands of the landlord, the agent, or the receiver. They considered that it was the duty of the Estates Commissioners to purchase the grazing lands and send out some person beyond suspicion and corruption to divide them among the poor people who, under the policy now being pursued, were shut out altogether from the opportunity of getting them. He was convinced that the redistribution of the grazing lands would be the great national question of the immediate future. The Act of Parliament recently passed only raised the question, but another would be required to settle it.
With regard to the evicted tenants, he said that there would never be a settlement of the land question in Ireland until they were reinstated in their old homes, where possible and when, no better homes should be provided for 685 them on the rich untenanted land. If the Chief Secretary were to pass Acts day after day in regard to Irish land there would never be peace in the country until the question of the evicted tenants was settled to the satisfaction of all concerned. The grazing lands on the Clanricarde Estate, from which the tenants were evicted, were in the hands of "planters" many of whom had never paid a penny of rent, although houses had been built for them at considerable expense. There ought to be no difficulty in getting rid of those people and in bringing about a settlement of the evicted tenants question. It was only quite recently that one of those planters who is in possession of nine evicted farms called on him to know if he would purchase his interest in them, which upon investigation appeared to be of no value—hence there should be little difficulty in settling the question.
§ MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
said there was a great feeling of disappointment in Ireland at the slowness with which the Land Act was being worked. It had been in operation for five months, and up to the present there had been no tangible result. This was not the fault of the British Legislature, which had guaranteed out of the Imperial Exchequer a very large sum for the purposes of the Act. He wished to ask the Chief Secretary what was the reason of the delay. There were two possible causes for the delay. It might be that the landlords and tenants had not come together and agreed upon the purchase or sale of farms. If that was the cause it was obvious that the Act of Parliament must be amended either by importing the principle of compulsion, or by altering the present arrangement of the zones. There must be some organic change made in the present Act if the cause of the delay was the coyness of the landlord and tenant to come to an agreement. Another cause of the delay might be the insufficiency of the staff that worked the Act. He had not a word to say except of commendation regarding the Estates Commissioners. If it was necessary to reinforce the staff it would be better to do so than that the whole operation of the Act should hang 686 fire in the way it was doing at present. If, as the hon. Member for South Tyrone had suggested, there was a shortage of clerks or an insufficiency of accommodation, that should be remedied at once. Unless some means were taken for the redistribution of the large grazing lands among the occupying tenants who were prepared to purchase, the Act would produce no economical result to the advantage of Ireland. It was quite idle to suppose that the conversion of small tenants paying £3 or £4 a year of rent into fee-simple proprietors would not produce a great practical result. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that one of the foundations of the agricultural prosperity of England was a series of Acts of Parliament in the Tudor period by which it was forbidden to keep land in pasture to the exclusion of tillage. Therefore, this was no new principle which they wished to be introduced in Ireland in regard to the grass lands of that country. What he wanted to know was, how many estates in Ireland had changed hands under the Act; how much money was actually paid out of the Imperial Exchequer; how much of that money went in the shape of bonuses; and what had really taken place since the Act came into operation on 1st October? He also wished to direct attention to the great block in the Land Judge's Court. They all knew that the Land Judge was very young, active, and energetic; but the block might be due to his being unable to meet the business thrown upon him. It was, however, very easy to supplement his efforts by transferring a Supreme Court Judge to his Court. There was a large staff of Irish Judges, with very little to do, who were quite equal in ability and reputation to the present Land Judge. What a difference there was in the working of this Act from that of the Encumbered Estates Act. That Act was passed to carry out the great policy of relieving Ireland from receivers who were eating the vitals out of the country. The Committee appointed under that Act carried out the policy of the. Act; they listened to no delay and sold the estates to the highest bidder, and in four or five years Ireland was freed from the burden of the receivers. 687 The present block in the Land Court had arisen from that policy not being carried out. That was to the disadvantage of the country and for the sole benefit of the numerous herd of receivers which had again arisen.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had asked why the Land Purchase Act had not acted more speedily; but he did not go far enough in his search for the causes of the delay. The hon. Member for South Tyrone said that it was the fault of the landlords, because they were asking exorbitant prices for their land. He doubted that very much. [Ironical cheers from the IRISH Benches.] He knew that his hon. friends opposite thought that the terms asked for by the landlords were exhorbitant in the extreme. He did not believe that the landlords of Ireland were inclined to ask outrageous prices from their tenants. Some landlords, undoubtedly, absolutely refused to sell, but these were the exception. One little difficulty existed, as his hon. friend knew, and that was that limited owners could not sell because they would not get the bonus until the amending Act was passed. That difficulty had unquestionably caused some delay; but if his right hon. friend who represented hon. Members opposite wanted to know why the Act had not proceeded with more expedition, he ought to get his information from Mr. W. O'Brien. If the working of the Act had been left to the influence of the hon. Member for Waterford and to Mr. W. O'Brien he ventured to say that the number of sales and arrangements between landlords and tenants would have been ten times more numerous than they now were. He knew from reading the public Press that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford and Mr. W. O'Brien were honestly desirous to see the Act worked properly. [An HON. MEMBER on the Irish Benches: So we all are.] Then why did Mr. W. O'Brien leave the Party and resign his set? There might be other reasons, but, from reading the public statements of Mr. W. O'Brien, he believed that that gentleman left the Party because he thought that the Land Purchase Act was not getting fair play. And he thought 688 that was a very good reason. During the whole of the discussion on the land question since the time of the Land Conference, to his mind, the course pursued by Mr. W. O'Brien was that of an honest man who desired to see a settlement that would work well. But there had been other influences at work, as could be seen by anybody who took the trouble to read the Freeman's Journal. That paper had great influence and had done its best steadily and persistently to prevent the tenants coming to terms with their landlords.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Well, why have there been fewer sales in Ulster, where the Freeman's Journal has no influence, than in any other province of Ireland?
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said he did not understand the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman's Question. The Freeman's Journal circulated in all parts of Ireland. Of course it was known that one section of the Irish Party wanted the Act to work successfully and another section did not. He believed that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford had sold his own property under the Act, which was a very good example to other landlords and a proof of his desire that the Act should be successfully carried out. As an Irish landlord he himself was entirely in favour of the successful working of the Act, but it was impossible to deal with his tenants until the amending Act was passed. The original Act passed by this House was, to his mind, one of the most generous Acts ever passed by any Legislature in the world, but it had been made use of for political purposes. He was ready to deal with his tenants in the county of Kerry where he had a great number; and he had explained to them that he was willing to sell them their holdings on certain terms—the terms on which most landlords were willing to sell, viz., that after the sale was completed he should have something near his present income. He had received a notice the other day that if he wanted to sell his property to his tenants he was not to do it direct but through the Land League. What on earth had the Land League to say to his relations with his tenants? His 689 reply was that he absolutely declined to deal with his tenants except directly with themselves. And that was the position taken by the great majority of the other landlords in Ireland. He wished the Act to succeed; and he believed that all the landlords in Ireland were willing to sell on reasonable terms. He believed he was the first Irish landlord who had spoken in this House—in the year 1870, before most of the hon. Gentlemen opposite were born—in favour of an Irish Land Bill—[An HON. MEMBER on the IRISH Benches: You were a Liberal then.]—and he had always maintained, and he maintained still, that a settlement of the Irish land question could only be accomplished by the occupiers of land in Ireland becoming the owners. He did not agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was convinced that the vast majority of the Irish landlords were willing to sell on terms of honourable dealing, as between man and man.
§ MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
said that during the debates on the Land Bill the Chief Secretary stated that he looked forward to the increasing purchase of estates by the Congested Districts Board, and that the Board would pursue a more active policy. He was now anxious to ascertain when they might expect that policy to be adopted. He understood that the Congested Districts Board had taken up the attitude of not initiating any proposal for purchase. At first sight that seemed to be perfectly reasonable, because it might be said that such action could only end in running up the price of the land. But the result was that the very estates which were most in need of being purchased had their sale postponed indefinitely. He had in his mind a particular estate in his own constituency which was in that position. It was a small estate of about 120 tenants, the land was poor mountain land, the holdings were small, and the houses were very wretched. There was also a considerable portion of rough mountain land which had been taken away from the tenants years ago. Last autumn, before the Act was in operation, they asked the agent to forward to the landland the terms on which they would be prepared to purchase and he promised he would, but nothing had since 690 been heard of the matter. The landlord was an absentee, and the only address he could discover was Plymouth, and that only because it figured in the writs which were regularly showered on the tenants. The estate was managed in an extraordinary way. He himself had seen a file of receipts extending back for twenty years, but it was impossible for any particular tenant to know how precisely he stood as regarded his rent since their receipts did not state the rent received up to any specific date, but were issued year after year simply as "on account of debt." That was exactly the sort of estate on which the greatest benefits would accrue from purchase. He was informed that the landlord was now either in the Riviera or at Algiers and the sale of the estate seemed likely to be hung up indefinitely. It was quite obvious that in such a case no private person could initiate negotiations, which, if they were to have any useful issue, must be concerned not only with the existing uneconomic holdings but also with the large area of unoccupied land in the vicinity. In such a case, it was clearly within the province of the public department which was specifically charged with the duty of ameliorating the social condition of such districts to take the first steps to bring about a sale, and resettlement of the lands—since they and they alone were in the position to deal with the matter in its entirety.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
said although he would be able to give some of the information asked for it would be of a somewhat fragmentary and insufficiently digested character.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said he sent the right hon. Gentleman notice that he intended to raise the matter.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said he wrote to the right hon. Gentleman at the Irish Office on the previous day.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said that, at Questions, he formed the impression that other matters would be raised. 691 In reply to the hon. Member for West Donegal he quite agreed that these derelict properties were precisely the estates on which the Congested Districts Board could hope to bestow the greatest benefit, but it would be most imprudent on the part of the Board and of the Estates Commissioners to push themselves too much forward in seeking land which was for sale. As a matter of fact, inquiries were being made by both, but as far as possible they were being made very discreetly. In regard to the prospects of the Act, he took a more sanguine view than did the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. He still believed quite as profoundly as last year that, if all Parties to the Act endeavoured to work it in the spirit which animated the debates last year, a very great measure of success would attend its operations. There had been several references to the question of the evicted tenants. He knew of no settled plan on the part of any landlords in Ireland not to deal with the question of the evicted tenants; on the contrary, he had heard from many that they were anxious and ready to deal with it. Repatriation of the evicted tenants was, however, a difficult question which could not be settled as quickly as he would wish it. The right hon. Member for North Tyrone had referred to the Land Judge's Court. That subject was to be dealt with on the first Wednesday after the recess; so he would only now say that Mr. Justice Ross informed him that since 1896 he had sold agricultural land to the value of nearly £3,000,000, without taking into account the sale of non-agricultural hereditaments in towns. His Court was now no longer congested, and so far from requiring help, he thought that he might be in a position to give help elsewhere at no very distant time. In regard to the specific case mentioned by the hon. Member for East Galway, he could only repeat the statement of fact made by the Land Judge—that the agreement in question was entered into before the Land Act of last year came into operation. It was difficult enough to work the Act, but it clearly was not possible to import into the working of the Act matters which were decided upon before the Act was passed.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said that the hon. Member would not be surprised if he had not definite information in reference to all the details of the case, but he would make it his duty to inform himself on the matter. The hon. Member for South Tyrone asked for information on the Land Act. He had not that information at his disposal, but he could inform the hon. Gentleman that sales were proceeding in Ulster, and were likely to proceed at a better rate than had hitherto obtained. He had it in mind that a larger number of estates were likely to come into the market in the near future—estates which were situated in South Tyrone and Fermanagh. He had been asked to make a statement as to the lines followed by the Estates Commissioners in dividing estates. But the Estates Commissioners never had divided, and he attached so much importance to preserving intact the discretion of the Estates Commissioners that he was very loth to lay down any rigid rule which could be binding in every instance. Therefore if they laid down a rigid rule that a percentage of the people on the property must agree, that would defeat the object nearest to the hearts of many of the hon. Members opposite—an object which must be achieved if the Act was to be successful. Unless they could secure the tenants on the land, deal with the problem of congestion, and carry out the general concordat arrived at last year, he should not claim that the Act had succeeded. In answer to the hon. Member for South Tyrone he would say that as vacancies occurred on the staff in the Estates Commissioners office they would be tilled up, but at present there were no vacancies. As the work under the Act extended it would be necessary to see that an adequate staff was provided. But they began tentatively as it was their duty. He did not like to stand there and plead for more time, but it had been a difficult matter to staff the financial and administrative work under this Act. He did not himself waste any time, and he was almost continually in negotiation with the Treasury making regulations to govern the administrative procedure under the 693 Act. The work was not colossal, but it was complex, and not work that ought to be hastily and badly done. The ultimate success of this Act depended upon their making a good beginning.
He would submit to those who were impatient of delay that there were two causes for it which were unavoidable— first, it would have been reckless to have floated a small amount of stock either in December or in January. Indeed he would have been very glad if he could have withheld the flotation of any until a later date. By holding back until April or May better prices would have been obtained. Had he postponed it much further, it would have been necessary to ask those who took up stock to pay a large percentage. That would have been injurious, and would have made the stock unpopular. Now that the stock was floated, and he was told very successfully, they could proceed with greater energy and speed in the administration of the Act. The other probable cause of delay was the doubt which had been cast upon the fact that a bonus attached to the sale of untenanted land. That had almost a paralysing effect. Owners of untenanted land would not commence negotiations if they wore led to believe that there was not to be a bonus. It was clear that nothing could well be done until that question was decided. It had been said that information ought to be given as to the working of the Act in order that it might be discussed. He fully admitted that contention. Whether it was possible to grant monthly Returns or not he doubted, but he would consider it. If monthly Returns were given they would have to be of a very sketchy character. He would consider the possibility of giving interim Returns, into which he would put as much information as he could. He thought six months would he a convenient period to embrace in such a Return—from November to the end of April inclusive, and he would endeavour to get a Return out in May, including prices. It was, however, very difficult to show what was going on under the Act, as some of the negotiations were in every kind of stage. The applications for advances amounted to £2,000,000, and had come from 4,152 tenants on 250 estates; many bargains had been entered into, but applications had not 694 yet been received from tenants. Of these applying tenants 1,301 came from counties comprising congested districts. As to untenanted land, negotiations were pending for the purchase of 9,500 acres. The Estates Commissioners informed him that, in their opinion, when the question of bonus was settled these negotiations would in the majority of cases be successful. He was not aware of any marked reluctance on the part of the owners to sell untenanted land. He believed it would come into the market when the bonus question was settled. The land, when acquired, would be, used for two objects — the restoration of evicted tenants, and for the enlargement of holdings. Not much progress had been made yet in solving the problem of evicted tenants. Sixty-one had been restored and six more were about to be, but in a great number of cases evicted tenants had been restored by landlords prior to sale. A certain number of those restored were on the Coolgreany Estate, but there were sporadic cases where two or three evicted tenants had been dealt with by the owners. He knew of another estate on which the evicted tenants question would probably be settled in a short time.
He knew of no inclination on the part of the Irish landlords to go back upon the understanding arrived at last year. The Congested Districts Board had been more successful than the Estates Commissioners. They had purchased altogether 46,881 acres of land for £190,000, of these 21,154 acres were untenanted. That had been only possible because the Congested Districts Board enjoyed an income, and therefore they were able to conclude some bargains by stating that the annual income landlords received from all sources would amount to so and so. They took the risk of paying that amount out of their income until the question of paying a bonus was settled. Why it was possible for the Congested Districts Board to buy more untenanted land than the Estates Commissioners was because the Estates Commissioners had no income at their disposal and would not be able to advance the necessary money until the Bill which he had brought in had been passed 695 into law. He had now dealt with the amount of land and the number of tenants.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could give figures for the other provinces of Ireland similar to those which he had given for Ulster.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
replied that he had not that information by him; he could only give the total average. He was not going to repeat again to-night what he had often said, viz., that averages might be fallacious. But this was the information at his disposal: on the rents fixed or agreed to since the passing of the Act of 1896—i.e., second-term rents — the average price was 23.7 years for the whole country, and on the rents fixed before 21.8. Then the hon. Member asked him how many cases had been outside the zones. On that he could only give an illustration. It required a good deal of clerical labour. Eighteen hundred and fifty-one cases were taken at random. There were 728 cases of rents fixed since 1896. Of those, fifty-one were outside the zones, all but one of which were sold at a price below the zones. There had been one case of a farm of great value sold above the zones. On the rents fixed prior to 1896. there were 580; twenty-two were outside the zones, and all but five were at a figure below the zone price. The difference of 543 were non-judicial rents, to which the zones did not apply.
§ MB. JOHN REDMOND
said he asked another question with reference to the zones, viz., whether any of the cases outside the zones had been, on investigation, refused.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
To the best of my knowledge and belief—and I think I can speak with confidence — none. He thought the machinery adopted for dealing with cases outside the zones was of a more expeditious character than he ventured to think possible when they were discussing the Bill last year. He did not think there had been—at any rate it had not been brought to his knowledge—much difficulty experienced in these cases. He had endeavoured to give 696 a reply to the specific questions put to him by the hon. and learned Member. He said the Act had been in operation five or six months. It would have been in operation six months at the end of April, and he would endeavour to collect as much information as he could of all the operations under the Act during the six months, and present it to the House at an early date in May, so that, if the hon. and learned Member thought fit to ask the Leader of the House to allocate one day in Supply to a discussion of the Land Commission Estimate, he would take care that he had the information a week or a fortnight before such a day. It was not possible for him to enter into the particular cases which had been raised. Indeed, he deprecated any attempt on his part to do so as a general rule. The duties of the Estates Commissioners were known. He had great confidence in them. Their discretion should be preserved as far as possible, and they should act upon their responsibility and not be dictated to by him in detail. But for the general policy of the Act he was responsible. They were administrative officers open to the criticism of Parliament, and subject to the direction of the House.
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL (Kerry, W.)
referring to the statement of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh that the landlords would be prepared to sell if they could get prices which would bring in their present net income, said that if the landlords of Ireland would agree to a full investigation so that the tenants might know exactly what their net incomes were, the tenants would be only too glad to enter into negotiations with them. His object, in rising, however, was to call attention to the action of the Lord Chancellor in dismissing from his office a justice of the peace in county Kerry, because he had signed warrants—
§ MR. SPEAKER
pointed out that the Lord Chancellor's salary did not come on the Votes, and that it had been frequently ruled that his action could not be criticised in Supply; therefore the question could not be raised on the Appropriation Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said the dismissal was the action of the Lord Chancellor, not of the law officers. It was impossible for the matter to be dealt with, except as something done by the Lord Chancellor.
§ MK. THOMAS O'DONNELL
asked whether the law officers had no responsibility for or control whatever, over, not judicial, but administrative acts done in Ireland by the Lord Chancellor.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON,) Londonderry, N.
remarked that the dismissal of a justice of the peace was altogether the Act of the Lord Chancellor.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said the fact that the Attorney-General answered Questions on these matters in this House did not affect the ruling that on Supply or on the Consolidated Fund Bill no discussion could take place with regard to the action of the Lord Chancellor. It could be done only by an express Motion. Criticism of the action of Judges could be made only upon an Address.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
asked whether the Lord Chancellor was not dismissable at pleasure and consequently was not his action subject to the control of the Executive Government.
§ MR. SPEAKER
replied that, whatever might be the history of the Lord Chancellor's appointment, it was a well-known rule of the House that his action could not be dealt with on the Estimates.
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL
Might I ask whether the Attorney-General advised the Lord Chancellor that this justice of the peace acted illegally?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I understand that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has already said that it was entirely the action of the Lord Chancellor.
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL
suggested that if such advice had been given he 698 would be in order in discussing the matter on the Attorney-General's salary.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said that that would not bring the discussion in order. The Lord Chancellor and not the Attorney-General was the responsible Minister.
§ MR. KILBRIDE (Kildare, S.)
desired to ask some questions with regard to the administration of the Land Act. Power was given to the Estates Commissioners, before they sanctioned sales, to make inquiries as to the provision made on the estates for the housing of the agricultural labourers; and under the Labourers Acts they could form schemes, and make representations to the local authorities as to the necessity for carrying those schemes into execution. He desired to know whether with the sale of the Leinster Estate in South Kildare, any such steps had been taken by the Estate Commissioners.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.