House of Assembly: Vol106 - WEDNESDAY 8 FEBRUARY 1961
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at 2.20 p.m.
Bill read a first time.
First Order read: Second reading,—Workmen’s Compensation Amendment Bill.
Mr. Speaker, our continued development in the economic and industrial spheres has been accompanied over the years by a steady increase in the wages and general standard of living of the workers. This has resulted, as this Bill also shows, in our having to review the benefits payable under the Workmen’s Compensation Act from time to time so that as far as possible we could keep pace with the changed economic and industrial conditions. If this was not done, the gap between wages and the benefits which the workers receive under this Workmen’s Compensation Act would naturally become unduly large and would also cause unfair financial hardship to the workers, unfair hardship to the head of the family who may have been temporarily or permanently disabled as a result of an accident in the course of his employment. As you know, Mr. Speaker, this Act came into operation on 1 January 1943, and since the National Party Government came into power in 1948, it has been amended on two occasions with a view to increasing the benefits.
In this Bill now before the House, the benefits which are payable to injured workers and their dependents are once again being increased. The opportunity is also being taken to make certain versional amendments to adjust this legislation to the decimal system. The opportunity is also being taken to amend the Act to bring it into line with certain recent proclamations and amendments of the law. And finally the opportunity is being taken to effect one or two administrative improvements.
The object of this Bill before the House is particularly to help the seriously injured. That is the main object of this Bill—to provide greater assistance to the worker who has been seriously injured and is permanently disabled. It is necessary that we should assist this type of worker because their injuries are usually of such a nature that it is difficult for them to return to the labour market. In this regard they differ from workers who have been less seriously injured and who can more easily be absorbed by the labour market. A further object of the Bill is that workers in the higher wage categories should also be assisted. It is these workers in the higher wage categories who are suffering and who have suffered the greatest financial losses when they become disabled as a result of the great difference between their remuneration and the present maximum earnings in respect of which compensation is paid.
I now want to discuss the Bill in greater detail and I refer in the first place to Clause 4. In Clause 4 we are assisting the injured workman by firstly increasing the maximum earnings which are taken into account when calculating compensation for temporary disablement from R100 to R120 per month, and at the same time by changing the basis of calculation so that in future it will be 75 per cent of his monthly earnings, up to a maximum of R120. The present basis of calculation is that a workman receives 75 per cent of his earnings, up to R40, and thereafter his compensation is calculated at the rate of 60 per cent of his remaining earnings up to R100. This basis sounds complicated, but hon. members may perhaps understand it better and be better able to judge its value if I give a few examples of how this new basis will operate to the benefit of the worker as compared with the present basis. The effect will be as follows: If a worker who is earning R120 or more per month, is receiving periodical payments at the moment, he will receive R90 per month in future, instead of the present maximum of R66. In passing I want to ask the permission of the House to discuss all the examples I am now going to give in rand. Here and there I shall also refer to the present £ equivalent. The whole Bill has been changed over to the decimal system and it will help us all to start thinking in decimals already. The maximum benefit will now be £45 instead of £33. But let me give a second example. While a workman who earns R100 per month will now receive R75 instead of the present R66 per month, there is also, as a third example to illustrate the effect of this legislation, the workman who earns R50 per month. He will now receive R37.50 instead of the present R36. But we go further. The basis on which periodical payments for temporary disablement are calculated is the same for all races, including the Bantu, and all workmen of all races who earn more than R40 per month will therefore receive the same benefits under this measure in the future, irrespective of their race. I say R40 because in the past the compensation was based on 75 per cent up to R40 and 60 per cent thereafter, and now it will be 75 per cent throughout, irrespective of race or colour.
As regards Clause 23, I want to refer to another very important way in which we are helping the seriously injured workman. In Clause 23 we are helping the workman by changing the percentages which are laid down for permanent disablement. At the end of the Bill there is a schedule in which the new percentages for permanent disablement are given. This Bill is raising these percentages considerably. As I have already indicated, the real object of this increase in the percentages is to help the seriously injured workman, but the man who has been less seriously injured will also benefit from these new percentages. Allow me to give a few examples in this regard as well, because they will best illustrate to the House the effect of these new scales. A workman who has lost his arm between the elbow and the shoulder will in future be regarded as 65 per cent permanently disabled and will be compensated accordingly, as against the present percentage of 50 per cent. The percentage of disablement when a workman loses an arm between the wrist and the elbow will now become 55 per cent, while in the past it was 45 per cent. For the loss of a hand at the wrist, the percentage under this new schedule will now be 50 per cent instead of 42½ per cent. Thus I could continue giving other examples which show that these new percentages entail a general increase. But it is not only the percentages for permanent disablement which this measure is increasing. No, we are going further than that. The basis on which compensation is calculated in such cases is also being changed in the favour of the workman. I should also like to illustrate this by way of examples.
A workman who earns R120 or more per month and who is 25 per cent permanently disabled, will now receive a lump sum of R1,066 as against the present R880, while a workman with the same degree of disability, namely 25 per cent, who earns R100 per month, will receive a lump sum of R900 instead of the present R880. I want to give a third example. A workman who earns R120 or more per month and who is 30 per cent permanently disabled, will in future receive R1,280 as against the present R1,056.
I now want to discuss the payment of pensions to persons who are more than 25 per cent disabled. This is dealt with in Clauses 5 (a) and (b). As regards this type of pension which hitherto has been paid to a workman when he is more than 25 per cent disabled, this Bill is introducing an amendment. At present a pension is paid to a workman who is more than 25 per cent permanently disabled. The exception is where he has suffered an eye injury, and in that case a lump sum is paid up to 30 per cent permanent disablement. But experience has now taught us over the years that a degree of disablement which does not exceed 30 per cent with very few exceptions does not really seriously affect a workman’s ability to work and that such workmen often return to the same work with little or no reduction in wages. A pension is therefore hardly justifiable in such instances, particularly in view of the fact that the new disablement percentages to which I have just referred, will in many cases have the effect that a degree of disablement which hitherto has been regarded 25 per cent or less, will in future be regarded as more than 25 per cent. In this way for example, a workman who has lost one phalanx of his thumb, his index finger and one phalanx of his little finger will in future be regarded as 27 per cent permanently disabled instead of 22 per cent as at present. Under this Bill the pension which at present is payable when the degree of permanent disability is more than 25 per cent up to 30 per cent, is replaced by a lump sum. These people will therefore no longer receive a monthly pension, and this is also in complete accord with our experience of past years, namely that workmen who are approximately 25 per cent disabled, often apply to the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner that this small pension should rather be converted into a lump sum, which requests are usually granted.
The next clause which I want to discuss is Clause 5 (c) (d) and (e). These provisions affect the pensions payable when the degree of permanent disablement is from 30 per cent to 100 per cent. I can just mention that the pension for 100 per cent permanent disablement is calculated on exactly the same basis as the periodical payments for temporary disablement. This means that the pensions payable to workmen earning more than R40 per month are also being increased. Just as in the case of a workman who earns R40 per month or less, a workman who earns more than that figure will in future receive a pension equal to 75 per cent of his earnings up to R120 if his degree of permanent disablement is 100 per cent. If his earnings are R120 per month or more, his pension will therefore be R90 instead of the present maximum of R66. Such a workman will receive R75 as against the present maximum of R66 if he earns R100 per month. A workman who earns R50 per month will receive a monthly pension of R37.50 per month instead of the present R36.
In those cases where the degree of permanent disablement is less than 100 per cent but exceeds 30 per cent, the pension will be determined in proportion of the degree of disablement.
As regards Clause 6, I want to say the following: Clause 6 deals with pensions for dependants and as the House can understand, if the pensions payable in the case of ordinary injuries are increased, it automatically means that the pension payable to dependants of a fatally injured workman must also be increased, and that is being done in this clause This is an automatic increase. The present position is that if the widow of such an injured person receives a pension, it is calculated on the basis of 40 per cent of the pension to which the deceased would have been entitled if he had been alive and 100 per cent disabled. In addition an additional pension is payable in respect of the children below the age of 17 years, amounting to 20 per cent of the latter amount in respect of each child. On the present basis, the widow of a workman who was earning R100 or more per month at the time of the accident which caused his death, is entitled to a monthly pension of R26.40. In future a monthly pension of R30 will be payable to a widow when the deceased workman was earning R100 per month, and R36 if his earnings were R120 or more per month.
I now turn to Clauses 15 (c) and (d). These clauses deal with the compensation payable to Bantu. As in the case of Whites, Asiatics and Coloureds, we are now also in the case of the Bantu distinguishing between the scales of compensation payable for permanent disablement of a serious nature and those payable in the case of injuries of a less serious nature. The present arbitrary maximum compensation of R1,920 for which the principal Act provides, is now being deleted and the effect will be that, as with the other races, the maximum compensation will in future be determined by the workman’s earnings. Allow me to give one or two examples to illustrate this. A Bantu workman who earns R120 a month or more will therefore be entitled to an amount of R4,320 in the case of 100 per cent permanent disablement. At the moment it is R1,920. If he is 40 per cent disabled, he will now receive R1,728, instead of the present R768. Thus I could give further examples relating to the lower scales but I do not want to burden the House with too many examples. I shall rather do so at the Committee Stage if necessary.
An important concession is being made in respect of Bantu whose degree of disablement does not exceed 20 per cent. In future they will be treated on the same basis as a workman of any other race with the same degree of disablement. In the past this was not the position and a less favourable scale was applicable to the Bantu. Allow me to give an example to show what this will mean to the Bantu. A Bantu who earns R120 per month and is 30 per cent permanently disabled, will now receive a lump sum of R1,280 instead of the present R576. I can just give a second example relating to a lower degree of disablement: In the case of 10 per cent disablement, the compensation will now be R426 instead of R192.
As a result of this improved compensation permanent disablement … [Interjections.] Those cases are being considered. As a result of the increased compensation for permanent disablement, the amount payable to the dependants of a Bantu workman will therefore also be automatically increased, just as in the case of the Whites.
But these are not the only improvements embodied in the Bill. I also want to refer to the improvements which are embodied in Clauses 6, 8 and 16.
Clause 6 provides that the maximum lump sum of R150 which is payable to the widow of a deceased workman in addition to her pension, will now be increased to R200. As the House knows the Act also provides for the payment of the burial costs of a fatally injured workman. This amount is being increased as well. At present it is R80 and in the case of Whites it is being increased to R100. In the case of Bantu workmen it is also being increased from R30 to R40. In addition to these increases and improvements, the Bill also amends the provisions relating to the maximum advance which can be made in anticipation of the granting of compensation to or on behalf of a workman. The maximum advance is R150 at the moment and it is being increased to R200.
As regards the financing of these increased benefits, I can just mention that the actuaries have made the necessary calculations in this regard on the basis that the rates of assessment payable by the employers will not be increased. But because the maximum earnings on the basis of which compensation is calculated, are being increased from £50 to £60, the House will appreciate that the employers will actually have to pay an increased amount into the Compensation Fund, i.e. on the basis of £60 per month instead of £50 in the case of workers who earn more than £50 per month. In the case of such workmen an employer will therefore be assessed in future up to a maximum of R1,440 per annum. This is calculated by multiplying the R120 per month by 12. On the present basis, where £50 is the maximum figure, the amount payable to the Compensation Fund is only R1,200 per annum. At least, that is the basis which is used in the calculation. I now want to say a few words about the overall effect of these benefits, these improved benefits. As hon. members know, our workmen are not only covered by the Workmen’s Compensation Fund. There are many municipalities which have their own accident funds. The Railways have their own, and so do the Public Service, but they are all bound by this legislation. The actuaries calculate that in future an additional R2,000,000 per annum will be paid to injured workmen and their dependants. Despite these concessions there are still people in this country who consider that we should grant increased benefits. We have even received representation from certain quarters asking that we should pay workmen their full wages during the period that they are disabled. I want to ask hon. members who may intend making such representations here to-day just to remember that the workmen themselves do not make any financial contribution to this fund. They do not contribute. This is a responsibility which is borne by the employers exclusively, and I think hon. members will agree with me that it would be undesirable to burden the employers to such an extent and to increase their obligations to such an extent that their businesses are exposed to a very real threat. It would be a very foolish policy to kill the goose which lays the golden eggs. The employers are the people who must provide employment and we must ensure that they are not so burdened that they cannot continue their undertakings and keep their workmen employed.
When one considers that the provisions of this measure mean that a worker will receive, by way of periodical payments if he is temporarily disabled and by way of a pension if he is totally disabled, three-quarters of his wage up to R120 per month, I think hon. members will agree that the concessions embodied in this Bill are very reasonable and that we are going a long way to meet the injured workman and his dependants. The fact of the matter is that our country to-day is in the vanguard as regards the provision of accident benefits. We can bear comparison with any country and I think we can feel proud of our record and the steps we have taken to help the injured workman.
May I ask a question? Are you referring to White workmen, or Coloureds and Natives?
I am glad this question has been asked. I have discussed that aspect. This applies to Whites, Coloureds and Bantu. I have already explained how we are in fact helping the Bantu worker in this Bill because in the past certain of these provisions discriminated against him, but as a result of this Bill now before the House the White man and the Bantu will be treated on an equal footing.
Mr. Speaker I think that by this legislation which treats all races in this fair way, we are placing South Africa in a very favourable position in the world to-day, and I trust that hon. members will accept the measure in this spirit, namely that it represents a great step forward in the interests of our workers in South Africa.
Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House welcome the changes introduced by this amending Bill to the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1941. We will not oppose the second reading. When we come to the Committee Stage we will have an opportunity to discuss some of the many clauses which we think can be improved, and at that stage we will go into details of the various clauses, and discuss some of those matters which we think should be altered.
Sir, the fund at the moment is in a very healthy state. There is approximately £14,500,000 in the fund. This money could be earning considerably more if all of it was put out at a better rate of interest than is being obtained at the moment. This amount of money is only earning 3 per cent, or at least part of it is earning 3 per cent, and the Minister is paying 5 per cent overseas for loans, and we find that at times we have to borrow money at more than 5 per cent in other parts of the world. I think the time has come that we can invest our own money in this country and earn a better interest.
The provisions made for the increased amounts of compensation are very satisfactory in many cases, but what perturbs me is that I think it is time the Government paid more heed to what can be done to prevent accidents. It is all very well to pay more for accidents when they occur, but surely if we had an intensive campaign—not a sporadic one but a continuous one—to prevent accidents in commerce and industry and agriculture, we might find that it would pay us very handsomely. I do not say we should try and save money in this fund, but at the same time I would be very happy if no claims were made on it, but that is almost impossible. As long as people work with machinery and there are the ordinary risks in everyday life, so long will demands be made on this fund. I think the time has come when we should spend far more than we are doing at the moment on the prevention of accidents and on the rehabilitation of the injured. In regard to prevention, a leaf could be taken out of the book of what is being done on the mines and the Railways. There I think we can say a minimum amount of accident time is lost to these big concerns. What can be done? I would say that bigger subsidies should be given to the established organizations which deal with accidents, the Red Cross, the Noodhulpliga, St. John Ambulance. They should all be encouraged to play a much greater role in the prevention of accidents than they are doing at the moment. They are doing what they can and they give very good service throughout the country, but if the Government would go out of its way to stimulate a course of intensive prevention of accidents and instruction on those lines, it would pay off very handsomely.
With the changed times we find other conditions cropping up which need compensation, in many cases which are not mentioned in the Act I understand that the Minister has already considered conditions whereby lung fibrosis and manganese poisoning, etc., can be included in the Act. In Clause 17 of the Bill it says that mineral dust causing fibrosis shall be compensated, and the substitution of the word “silicosis” by the words “fibrosis of the lungs caused by mineral dust”. I can tell the Minister that the insertion of “mineral dust” is not sufficient and it will be much more satisfactory if the word “mineral” was excluded entirely and “irritating substances” was inserted in its place. Because there are many people who are working in industry who get fibrosis of the lungs without coming into contact with minerals at all, such as people working with fibre, sugar cane workers, and cotton workers, or any person who comes into contact with any type of dust. They may find themselves liable to this disease. And not only do I say that these conditions should be included for compensation, but that something must be done to make sure that these conditions are easily recognized and not left to develop until they have reached an advanced stage. Silicosis, as you know, is sometimes left to a late stage before diagnosis is made, and by that time we often find that permanent disability has resulted. I think investigations should be made as soon as possible and there should be regular examination of the workers who expose themselves to these obnoxious substances so that they will be protected and so that at the same time they will be able to receive compensation if there is any permanent disability. This also has to be considered, of course, in the light of what is taking place in the agricultural world. To my mind it is not sufficient to insure persons against injury due to mechanization. I wonder what is being done to combat the conditions which arise out of the various types of sprays which are used to-day? What happens if a person gets a chronic skin disease through sprays? What compensation is given and how is it estimated? What percentage disability is given to a person who has that type of accident? What happens if a person handling a spray is allergic to the spray and dies from inhaling it? Is compensation paid on the basis of 100 per cent disability, and is there any provision in the Act to cover these cases? I think we should consider at this stage whether it is not advisable to include provisions for people who through their work expose themselves to irritating substances which may cause damage internally or externally. We should also start to think how to estimate permanent disability that these people suffer. I would say that at the same time that we ask various bodies to undertake the duty of teaching people how to prevent accidents. The people who undertake that work should also be encouraged to tell the people to what dangers they expose themselves in dealing with obnoxious substances. I think these people should be trained and they in turn will be able to pass on their knowledge to the workers. I ask the Minister to consider carefully what I have said because I do it with some knowledge, and I know how much has been prevented by giving people an intensive course of training in first aid and how many accidents have been avoided by teaching people how to avoid accidents. More money must be spent on literature, on posters and on brochures and I think whenever a worker enters a trade where there are risks attached to that trade, he should be given a brochure setting out all the dangers to which he will be exposed during his day’s work. Again I want to emphasize that the established organizations must receive higher grants from the Government so that they can get more recruits to teach the workers what has to be done to prevent accidents.
We have been given a very careful explanation of the meaning of the cold figures which are mentioned in this Bill. The hon. the Deputy Minister has been good enough to tell us what 65 per cent means, what 20 per cent means and what 30 per cent means. I understand that he has received advice on these matters from the medical association through its orthopaedic members and through the members of the ophthalmologist group. I do think that some of the percentage disablements which are included in the first schedule are still far too low. I am not concerned about the upper groups of disablements, but those in the lower groups. I think that the loss of one or two fingers or the loss of part of a finger is a serious handicap and I think it deserves more than a classification of 2 per cent or 3 per cent disability. Sir, these figures are cold-blooded; they do not take into consideration anything except how much a man is handicapped in doing his work. There is nothing here to say that the man is going to be compensated for pain and suffering that occurs not only at the time of the accident but during treatment. I know full well that he receives treatment under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, but some of the accidents which are listed here cause terrific pain and discomfort and sometimes disfigurement. There is nothing pretty about seeing a man walking round the street with three or four fingers missing from his hand. These figures here are cold-blooded. We only pay compensation for the amount of work which the man is perhaps unable to do. Is he given anything at all for disfigurement? When a man loses his hearing in both ears, he gets a 50 per cent disability, and if he loses his hearing in one ear he only gets 7 per cent. Ask hon. members in this House who are hard of hearing in one ear only how much disablement they have. Is that a fair assessment? These are cold-blooded figures and they give just enough to compensate for the loss of function. As far as appearance is concerned, as far as disfigurement is concerned, no allowance is made for that. Sir, there is another matter that I think we have to consider in the assessment of those people who have 100 per cent disability or who get killed in the course of their work. From my own experience I know that it is a far greater risk to be working in a factory earning, say, £60 per month, as a machine minder, than to be earning £80 per month as a white-collar worker in an office. The accident that is going to occur to the white-collar worker in the office is going to be a pure accident. He is going to slip on the floor and break a leg or arm perhaps but he is very rarely going to lose a limb or get killed in the course of his work. He is working in a group which demands a higher rate of contribution because if he is going to receive 100 per cent disability he is going to get a higher rate of compensation under this Bill. It seems to me that the man who is risking his life or part of his body every day should be the one who should get the highest coverage, and I think some better adjustment ought to be made so that that person who is continually risking his life or exposing himself to some-sort of injury will be better rewarded, at the same rate of contribution as the man who is not likely to be injured, but who still has to pay a higher rate of contribution because he is in a higher income bracket. I feel that workers who receive 100 per cent disability should get a higher rate of compensation than is laid down here. If the amount of money is constant, then I say that there should be a levelling off of the compensation paid between the middle income group, i.e. the manual worker, and the clerical worker. They should be brought more in line with one another. At the same time I say that those people who receive injuries to their hands should get a much higher rate of compensation than is laid down here. I am sure my colleagues will claborate on what I have said.
Now I want to say a word or two about rehabilitation centres. At the moment, to the best of my knowledge, there is only one rehabilitation centre functioning and that is the one at Johannesburg. That centre is doing some excellent work, as the Deputy Minister knows and I think we must encourage the other large industrial centres to institute similar organizations. It is going to be difficult for these things to be done privately, and I would urge the Deputy Minister to do everything in his power to start immediately with centres in the Vereniging complex, in the Cape, in the Western Cape particularly, and in the Free State goldfield area where industrialization is going hand in hand with mining operations there. There is a great increase in accidents in those areas and I think that rehabilitation centres should be instituted in those areas as soon as possible so that training can take place now to get people back to work as soon as possible after accidents.
There is one clause here about which I think I should say a few words, and that is the limitation of the compensation given to the Bantu. I think that the limitation in the earnings there should be taken away. There are very few Bantu to-day who earn more than £60 per month, and those who do earn more than £60 per month, should be compensated on the same basis as White or Coloured persons. After all, most of them are living in urban areas, and in view of the fact that they are a very small group, I think they should receive the same benefits as other groups.
That is the intention.
If that is the intention of the Minister then I am quite happy. But what is stated here is this—
What happens if he earns more?
The same applies to the Whites. That is the maximum basis throughout.
Following upon that observation, I think that group earning this high income should also be entitled not only to the lump sum that is given but they should be put on to a pension basis. It is a small group of people, and I do not think it will inconvenience the organization which deals with the assessment of accidents, and I cannot for the life of me see any reason why this particular group living in urban areas and having their families there should not be given the benefit of a pension where there is permanent disability.
Lastly I want to deal with the fees paid to the members of my profession for services rendered under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. I do not want to go into details but those members who are under the impression that workmen’s compensation work is highly lucrative should look at the schedule of fees laid down for doctors. They are ridiculous, to say the very least, and I think the time has come when this whole question should be reviewed. The fees paid for attending to accidents under the Workmen’s Compensation Act should at least be brought in line with medical aid fees, to say the very least. I do not see why, in view of the fact that the fund is not short of money, doctors should be expected to treat patients at 7s. 6d. per visit, with a limitation on the number of visits, and why they should have to do operations for fees which I am sure they would never accept privately. In most cases they would rather do the necessary operation pro Deo than take the fees offered under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
I say again that we will not oppose the second reading of this Bill. Other members who will speak on our side will probably amplify what I have said, but I want to say that we welcome most heartily the increases and the provision made in this Bill for improving the lot of the worker. The points I have made here are points which can be discussed at a later stage. The Deputy Minister may find that he will be able to meet some of them, and I think that everything that has been said will prove to be for the benefit of those people who suffer injuries in our industrial and commercial life.
The hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher) is a very reasonable person. We have known one another for many years and I therefore do not want to criticize him too harshly. However, I do want to say that one should at least have one’s feet on terra firma, and that one should not be too idealistic in dealing with this matter. We all sympathize with the workers. The hon. the Deputy Minister and the hon. the Minister have shown over the years with what great sympathy they approach the affairs of the workers of South Africa.
The hon. member has in the first place asked for a more intensive campaign to prevent accidents. I am sorry that he has overlooked the National Occupational Safety Association which was in fact established on the initiative of the previous Minister of Labour at the beginning of the previous decade, which has made good progress and which to-day has various regional committees which are doing very good work in this field, so much so that for the first time we reached a turning point in 1959 in the previously ever-increasing accident rate in this country and the accident rate began to decline. I just want to give one example. According to the 1959 report of the Department of Labour, the Association has made such good progress that at the moment 1,667 factories belong to this Association and some of these factories form part of an entire group. The number has risen extraordinarily rapidly when one considers that in 1958 there were only 693 and in 1957 only 414. It therefore appears when one takes these figures into account that this Association is expanding very rapidly. I agree that we should do more if possible. I think that his plea that we should do more is a sound one but we must also take into account the attempts which have in fact been made under the Nationalist régime to bring about this expansion. I also want to associate myself with the hon. member’s plea for rehabilitation centres. I am very glad to see that here in the Western Cape according to Press reports such a rehabilitation association with its own rehabilitation centre is being established. This is a step in the right direction and we are very gratified to see it. I can only add that very good work is being done at the centre in Johannesburg which the hon. member has mentioned. In recent years, since the establishment of this rehabilitation centre, that centre has already assisted a large number of persons, and it is gratifying to see that the overwhelming majority—nearly all of them— have either been placed in their original field of employment or in other work which has enabled them to regain their independence. According to the report these persons were very seriously injured and this centre has rehabilitated them. We shall therefore be very glad if it can also be extended to the Western Province and other areas.
I cannot comment on the plea which the hon. member as a medical practitioner has made for the inclusion of additional lung diseases under the benefits of the Act. I am convinced that the hon. the Deputy Minister will give his attention to this matter because it is precisely under this Government that a great deal of attention has been given to this matter and it is under this régime that twice as many additional lung diseases have already been included in the schedule. In 1951 workers who have been affected by the so-called flint dust, such as for example workers in quarries and in workshops where moulding is done, were included, and later in 1959 workers who were exposed to asbestosis and other fibrotic lung diseases were included as well. In other words, I am quite convinced that the hon. the Deputy Minister will give his attention to this aspect of the matter. I am a layman and I cannot express an opinion but I am grateful that so much has been done already.
I want to conclude by saying that we realize that prevention is better than curing people or paying them certain sums of money. The number of accidents which occur in our country is very high and we hope that the attempts being made to reduce the accident rate will succeed and that our workers will then be more contented. Nevertheless one is grateful that it has been possible to increase the benefits for the third time in recent years. The Deputy Minister has given a very clear explanation of those benefits and I do not want to cover that ground again. What I want to emphasize is that on behalf of the workers we are grateful for the increased benefits which have been announced here to-day.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday and to-day we have been dealing with Bills to amend two pieces of legislation of very great importance, and it is for a change a pleasure to take part in a debate where both sides tend to deal with the matter in an objective spirit. We are dealing with two problems, both of which to some extent are beyond our control. Yesterday it was a question of unemployment, that is to say lack of employment where economic circumstances beyond our control placed men willing to work in a position where they could not obtain work. Today we are dealing with the case where, in the nature of things, the man becomes to some extent unemployable not by reason of his unwillingness to work but by reason of incapacity that he has endured, during work. Here I want to say one or two things that a Bill such as this cannot do. It is called the Workmen’s Compensation Act, when we all know full well that it cannot compensate, it can only palliate. I say that because it conditions the mental attitude to this problem, and I think on this problem one can show a degree of human sympathy without being accused of being a left-wing communist liberal.
Your oratory is your greatest enemy.
As I was saying, there are some things that this Bill cannot do. It cannot relate the danger of an occupation to its profitability, yet it has to work on a basis where you have to compute risks in a given occupation, i.e. the cost to those who are undertaking insurance against accidents, and if it were true that profitability were in direct ratio to the degree of danger, then the computing of the cost to the employer could be done on a highly equitable basis. We have to work on an empirical basis. In the assessment of compensation you obviously have to work on an empirical basis, and I am not criticizing the 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 50 per cent or 100 per cent disability to-day. Obviously it can only be an empirical formula. What we pay in regard to that would in any case not be what we would wish to pay but what we can pay in the circumstances of our economic situation. The hon. member for Pretoria (West) (Mr. van der Walt) said that in these matters we must keep our feet on the ground. But of course there is always a tendency when an Act such as this is amended to ask for more, not simply for the sake of opposition, but for the sake of the thing that is involved. The hon. the Minister spoke of “benefits”—that is the kind of word one uses in this connection. We also speak of “concession”. If one is thinking of an exact use of words it is not “benefits” that we pay under an Act such as this. It is an attempt to compensate, but you can hardly call it “benefits”. These are not concessions either. I do not criticize the Minister in this; it is the kind of word we all use in connection with a measure such as this. It is not a question of concessions if we do that little bit more within our ability to try and adjust a situation that arises in this way. I think we all think of a Bill such as this in those terms, rather than in terms of insurance with exactly calculated risks and the idea that when that sum is paid, our responsibility ceases. There is a responsibility on us as well as the employers in this matter, because when a man gets injured in his employment, not only does the employer bear a certain responsibility, but equally the state, since that man in an indirect way was in the service of the production of our country, and a man who gets damaged in that regard, if you consider the economic life of the country as a whole, although he is doing it to earn wages and in the service of his employer, nonetheless is doing his job as part of the production machine of the Union of South Africa.
Would you apply that to the farmers as well?
Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things about a Bill such as this is that now from talking about the labour force in general, from talking of groups and classes, we come down to the individual man and the individual family within that fabric, and of course when we come to this kind of loss we have to concern ourselves with those things.
What I would like to say in regard to the Bill in general is first of all that I want to thank the hon. the Minister for the clear and lucid way in which he introduced it. The Government has taken into consideration a number of things that were put forward in this House when the last amending Bill was before us, I think in 1956, and they have given replies to certain of the questions then raised. I remember the hon. Minister of Labour at that time asking this side, when we asked for more, what was it that we wanted, whether if a man by disability fell from £130 a month to virtually nothing, what was it that we wanted in excess of R66 or £33 6s. 8d.? The Minister said “You tell me”. The Deputy Minister to-day has given an answer to that, and I think the answer now is R90, or £45. Now I say in no spirit of criticism that that answer might have been given a little earlier, because this is one Bill where I think all members of this House, although wading through amending Acts is a difficulty, welcome amendments as they tend to be in an upward direction, and these amendments of course must always keep pace with the economic situation in which one finds oneself.
The issue of a White Paper will be useful.
Yes, that would be an advantage in regard to the pure mathematics of it. On the question of procedure, I would like to suggest to the hon. the Minister that these Bills are sometimes published somewhat late in the year. For the purpose of study by those who are most interested, trade unions and employers, as also employees, any earlier publication would be a help, enabling such bodies and men to make representations. That, however, is not a major point of criticism, and I only appeal to the Minister to consider that point.
I welcome very much a move in the direction of the removal of discrimination so far as the non-White workers are concerned. I think the position was that whereas before a totally disabled African could have the choice of 75 per cent of his wages or R13, whatever was the less, the White worker had the choice of 100 per cent, and if I read the Bill correctly, the non-European is now placed on the same basis as the White worker. That is something which we welcome.
I would also like to support the view expressed by the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher). He pointed out that the position still obtains that the White worker has the choice between the lump sum payment and a pension. I realize the difficulties in administration, but it would be of great advantage to the non-Whites also to have the choice of a pension. On the very Government argument that these people are perhaps less capable of handling a capital sum, there might be a strong case for giving them the choice, whatever the difficulties may be in the way of administration. I think that matter should be considered when further amendments to this legislation come forward. That amount of discrimination apparently is left, leaving aside the basic position of the wage levels, a subject which is not really under discussion now.
When the last discussion took place, another point was raised by I think the then member for Benoni, and I believe the Minister of Labour then undertook to go into it before the Act was again amended. The point was that where the disability was obviously due to negligence, under the Act no case can be brought in the courts, a court which might award damages on a higher scale than operates under this Act. The Minister undertook to go into this matter, and I do not know whether that has been done. It seemed ot me a point worthy of consideration.
The issue of the conversion to decimalization and the improvement in a number of these figures, are things that are perhaps better left to Committee Stage discussion. I would like, however, to refer to a point the hon. Minister made at the end of his speech. He referred to this representation in favour of 100 per cent payment, where you have got permanent total disability and only 75 per cent compensation. The last time we discussed this legislation, the hon. Minister of Labour argued the case that never under an insurance scheme could you give 100 per cent. Now I think first of all that the analogy with an insurance scheme is dangerous; this is something more than purely an insurance scheme, and I refer to the remarks I made at the beginning of my speech, that there is an obligation here that transcends the simple calculation of an insurance policy. What I should like the hon. Minister to investigate is this: If total disablement occurs at a certain age, would it not be possible to calculate the actuarial expectation beyond that age of an effective working life? Say a man gets totally disabled at 40, then one might say that his expectation of his working life at the level he now enjoys, is a further 15 years. Could a formula not be devised, or the cost at any rate gone into on that basis of paying him 100 per cent over that period and thereafter the decreased rate? You see, Mr. Speaker, the issue is not only the individual, as the law itself recognizes when the individual dies. There are family obligations on that individual. A man without family obligations descending from an income of say £100 a month, to £50 a month (for the sake of argument) may be perhaps not happy about it, but quite ready to adjust to that position. But what troubles a worker is not his earnings in relation to himself if he is a good citizen, but his earnings in relation to his obligations to his family. The education of his children for instance, and if a Bill such as this recognizes one thing, it is the value to the community of the individual in his work. Otherwise there would be no Bill at all. Equally it should recognize the value of the coming individuals who are dependent on that man, and it is in that regard, although this will involve expense, that I make my plea. I put it forward as a positive suggestion to be examined, and the cost of such an advance (I prefer that to “concession”) must be weighed against the justice of the case. Quite possibly the Minister might find, as he has found apparently in regard to the 30 per cent disability through experience, that in view of the great percentage of that group that does return to useful work at a comparable standard, ideas can be altered in regard to the degree of compensation. Of course the term “total disablement” requires very careful definition, because even people who are said to be totally disabled, sometimes find their way back to something like 25 per cent or 35 per cent of their previous earnings. But where it is total, then surely an adjustment could be made. If earning is not nil in subsequent years, there could be an adjustment.
This is typically a Committee Stage Bill, which is generally the case when we are discussing Bills in respect of which there is not a vital difference of opinion between this side of the House and that side, and the other details can be left to the Committee Stage. We are not going to oppose this Bill, but heartily commend those portions of it which are improvements on the Act as it stood. There are further amendments that can be made as we consider these matters, amendments, in the light of what the hon. Minister said, which will not throw an unbearable burden on those who recognise their responsibility in this matter, the employers.
I think the time may come that in matters of this kind the State itself, which at the moment comes under this Act as an employer, may have to make some attempt to adjust the difficulties that arise and which I first mentioned that where compensation may fall heaviest is not necessarily the most profitable industry, but often is one of the most essential. I need only cite mining as an industry, where relative to other industries the danger is very great, where the price of the product is not flexible and where wages by and large form a very significant part of costs. Relatively speaking the burden on employers in that industry under such an Act as this may be greater than in the case of employers where the industry may be equally dangerous but where the price is more flexible and profitability greater, and wages may be relatively speaking an insignificant part of the total cost. There again the empirical quality of the Bill cannot be avoided, but we may in future be able to think out methods to equalize that situation. I am thinking particularly of an industry like gold mining where you cannot pass on any increased responsibility, i.e. the cost of that, to the consumer.
So far as this Bill is concerned, in many respects it embodies improvements and we welcome those improvements, not because we wish to claim particularly to be the friend of the workers. One of the fortunate things of a debate such as this is that the only attempt at any political approach is for one party to say “We are the particular friends of the workers” and the other side to say “We claim we are, we thought of it first” because here, I think, we are all concerned not with that kind of thing but we are concerned, as the hon. member for Rosettenville said, first of all to limit the degree to which to some extent unavoidable accidents occur, and secondly, that where a man in serving his enterprise and serving his country in the particular capacity that life has called him to, suffers in the interest of all of us that we do all we can to see not only that he is not thrown on the scrap-heap, but to try and get him into work that will give him a purpose in life, and in addition to that try and adjust what he gets there to what he might have got if that accident had not befallen him.
To the great satisfaction of both sides of the House, the hon. the Deputy Minister has been able to announce comparatively great benefits which are now to be given to the workers under this legislation. I think it is fitting that we should indicate how the Minister has been able to achieve this. It may perhaps look to outsiders like a conjuring trick that the Minister is able to grant such considerably increased benefits to the workers. In the first place we must remember that we are dealing with a fund which is efficiently controlled and run. When a fund is not controlled efficiently and properly, there are various ways in which such a fund can be destroyed. For that reason we cannot over-emphasize the fact that here we have a fund which is being efficiently run. In this regard I want to point out particularly that we are here discussing a fund which deals with the daily accidents which occur in our industries, but best of all is that despite the large number of accidents, we have completely eliminated what everyone wants to eliminate, namely repeated court cases. The administrative costs of this fund are such that every insurance company in South Africa and the world can learn something from it. One of the main reasons of course is that its object is not to make a profit, but the administrative costs have been reduced to a minimum. For that reason the greatest possible benefits can be paid from the fund to the people to whom they are due. The House will allow me to say in passing that there are no court cases because a Commissioner has been appointed under this fund to ensure that every claim is paid in accordance with the provisions of the Act. There are no court cases, no legal costs, etc, I therefore repeat that we should value the fact that this fund is being so efficiently managed that the greatest possible benefits can be paid to the people to whom they are due. And may I pay a tribute to the Minister? I think, Mr. Speaker, that I shall have finished before you call me to order; I think the third-party companies, who have the whole country in upriar, can come and learn from the hon. the Minister.
Order! The hon. member may not enlarge on that aspect.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, there are no court cases. A second reason why the Minister has been able to introduce this praiseworthy measure is that he is doing what hon. members opposite advocate. They say that every attempt should be made to limit the accidents to a minimum. This is being done to-day more than ever in the past, especially in the most dangerous industries, such as for example the mines. I remember how we emphasized this very point years ago; Approximately 20 or 25 years ago my standard question every year was: How many accidents have there been in the mines and what were the causes? I want to give credit to-day to all those to whom it is due: Since the attention of this House was directed to the disturbingly high accident rate in the mines, the mining industry has applied very possible method to great effect, and when we examine the number of accidents and take into account the expansion of the mining industry, and we compare the present figures with those for previous years, we can only pay tribute to them. I think that they are doing everything possible. Does the House know that a special organization has been established with the object of limiting accidents to a minimum by the use of scientific and practical methods, in co-operation with the industries concerned. We are not reaping imaginary fruits but real fruits, and the Minister can therefore say today: Here is the crop, namely an increase in the benefits which the workers of South Africa can draw as a result of the steps which have been taken.
Legislation of this nature is of the utmost importance and I think that our legislation can serve as a model for other countries. This was not the position in the past. It is something which has developed gradually. We know that in the past this type of measure evoked an unending struggle in this House but to-day there is unanimity. The hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Lawrence) will remember how measures of this type often gave rise to several days of heated debate because at that time we did not have employers who looked at the matter as they do to-day. To-day a completely different spirit has developed amongst the employers of South Africa. I do not know whether it is Parliament which has educated them or whether they themselves have come to see the position differently, but to-day this matter is regarded in quite a different light to 25 years ago. We all feel pleased about it, the Minister feels pleased, the Opposition feel pleased, and best of all is that the workers of South Africa will be the most pleased of all. Many congratulations to the hon. the Minister!
I am not going to speak at length on this particular Bill. I only have one matter which I want to raise with the hon. the Minister, a matter of considerable importance to my mind. It is in connection with the very last clause of the Bill, Clause 24 which reads, the latter portion—
In other words, there will be no retrospective benefits for those who are already drawing benefits from this fund on the day when this Bill becomes operative. It is this proviso that is worrying me. I know that it is not usual to make benefits retrospective, but the position is simply this that there are thousands of cases, particularly where the accident has resulted in death, where the widow and her children will be drawing possibly the maximum pension at present, somewhere roundabout £33, whereas under this Bill the widow and children of a person who dies can get a total benefit of £45. No explaining in the world is going to convince the widow drawing £33 that she should not get the benefits under this Bill up to an amount of £45. I know that the cost may be high, but I am asking the hon. Minister now whether he has an actuarial valuation of what the cost would be in respect of that group where the accident has resulted in death. What would the cost be if in all those cases the benefits of this Bill were applied to the dependants? I cannot ascertain from any record what that cost is likely to be. The non. Minister has indicated that the costs of these benefits, under the Bill before us, will be in the nature of £1,000,000. We know that the fund stands at something like £14,000,000 to-day. But I am of the opinion that the question of the dependants of those who have already lost their lives will be raised and these people will make representations in no uncertain way, demanding these improved benefits. What is the position, Mr. Speaker? Briefly it is this: A widow who lost her husband in January 1961 may now be receiving, say, £33 a month. But say someone dies in June 1961 after this Bill has been promulgated, that person’s widow, under similar circumstances, will receive £45. How do we explain the position to the widow who is not getting these new benefits? And the same argument applies to injuries. The position is this, they are both living in the same country and they both have to pay the same costs; they have the same type of expenses. Yet we are going to give the benefits to the one and not to the other. I know that this is a principle that applies in many directions, but we are now dealing with a specific group of people, those who have suffered as a result of accidents. And we do have an Act to deal with that particular group. I ask the hon. the Deputy Minister, to indicate in his reply whether he has had an investigation aimed at discovering what the cost would be to make these benefits retrospective, so that we will have some idea of what the position is. If we let this Bill go through as it is, without having this full information, and if we are unable, after hearing what the true position is, to get the Deputy Minister to amend the Bill then, as sure as I am standing here, this is going to be one of the biggest bones of contention we have had in years. You will have this contention as far as those who are present obtaining benefits under the Act as against those who are going to become eligible later and will receive improved benefits. This is a special group of workers and the law lays down that they shall receive such benefits as a result of their having suffered accidents, and I think we will have to be very careful in what we do here. I can see the difficulties and possibly the Deputy Minister knows about the difficulties that can arise as a result of this clause. I hope that when the Deputy Minister replies he will deal with this question fully so that when we come to the Committee Stage we will know exactly what the position is.
Mr. Speaker, I will confine my remarks chiefly to Schedule 2 of this Bill. It is deficient in certain particulars. Schedule 2 suffers from the disadvantage that it is not spectacular, as in the case of accidents, and the hon. the Minister has difficulties in finding whom to consult as to what are industrial diseases and, further, in that in industrial diseases are constantly increasing as a result of increased knowledge and increased industrialization.
In regard to the first question, the diseases which have been left out of Schedule 2 are what I want to refer to. Last session an Act was introduced allowing the use of methyl bromides for fumigation. That, I think, fell under the Department of Health. Now this substance is used very widely in the fumigation of ships and also, to some extent, in the fumigation of houses. But unless someone draws attention to this fact there will be workers who may suffer from or will actually die from chronic methyl bromide poisoning, and who will receive no recognition in terms of this Bill whatever. There are other diseases which are fairly common, which are not recognized as industrial diseases; diseases such as writer’s cramp, and I could mention many others. I do want to draw the attention of the hon. the Deputy Minister to the fact that he should not wait for these diseases to occur but should appoint inspectors and have some means of communication, possibly with the Medical Association, quite apart from his dealings which, at present, are largely confined to the orthopaedic group of that body.
The Act has failed dismally to recognize the existence of industrial diseases. The authors of this Act have copied out a few diseases which are relatively uncommon in this country, but they have missed the great bulk. And now, in this amending Bill, the hon. the Deputy Minister has seen fit to change from pneumoconiosis to fibrosis of the lung. I believe that the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Mines are one and the same person, yet here we are dealing with a disease which occurs so commonly in mining that you might almost call it the dominating factor in mining, from a medical point of view. And the same Minister introduces, late in the Bill, a formula and a description which he knows to be inadequate, which, if he had consulted the medical advisers he has in the Department of Mines, might have been changed. They would have said to him “Why not adopt the nomenclature and the principles which were shown in the Pneumoconiosis Committee which sat about 1954?” This, I think, is a gross neglect of obvious knowledge, knowledge which should be known to the Department. Particularly is this the fact when we know that fibrosis of the lung will not cover all varieties of industrial lung diseases. And it does not do so.
There was a time when the miners were almost going on strike because they were suffering from pulmonary dysfunction which was not recognized by the Department of Mines. On one hand you had men who were classified as pneumoconiotics, receiving high compensation, and on the other hand were others with similar dysfunction but who were receiving no compensation because the X-rays were negative. I will go further and say that while the Department of Mines recognizes that dust diseases of the lungs can be followed, and very frequently is followed, by turberculosis of the lung, this Bill makes no provision for it. This Bill makes no provision that a man who develops pneumoconiosis (dust disease of the lung), due to his employment should receive compensation if he develops tuberculosis. And lately we have the added factor that it is now known that in some instances industrial dust diseases will give rise to cancer. These are known facts yet they are not recognized in this Bill.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, in the second schedule the occupation is described as excavation work. This is again gravely lacking in description because there are many other varieties of dust produced diseases apart from excavation work, even diseases which are silicotic in origin. For instance there is sand blasting, pebble and flint crushing; grinding of metals with sandstone wheels; the pottery industry, which frequently give rise to these troubles. The manufacturing of scouring powder and abrasive soaps involves the use of almost pure silica. And in all of these industries the condition would not be recognized as an industrial disease. I feel that this is a very grave deficiency. There is leukemia, that disease which is becoming so very common. It is true that in the second schedule we find reference to pathological manifestations due to radium or X-rays. But how many men who develop leukemia are aware that that may be one of the causes?
I think, Sir, that a careful re-examination of the second schedule is necessary. I feel that there are many men who suffer grave illnesses and whose illnesses are due to their employment but who never receive recognition of that fact. They do not receive recognition because they do not know that they can claim and, in many instances, their doctors are unaware of the industrial origin of the disease. It is only fair that their attention should be drawn to this matter.
The whole outlook of workmen’s compensation has been concentrated on the injured. But an injury, in most instances, is a local condition. It is a condition which limits a man’s activities, perhaps, which perhaps mutilates him, but which leaves him more or less a healthy man. But the diseases I have mentioned are much graver things. A man who has an industrial disease suffers ill health. He is not like a man who loses a leg. When a man loses a leg he does not notice it when he is sitting down, but the man who has ill-health, who suffers from leukemia or from fibrosis of the lung never feels well. If, as was suggested by my hon. friend the member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher), you take into consideration pain and suffering, you have to recognize that the suffering of these people is very high indeed. Unfortunately they do not even know that they are entitled to make a claim for compensation. I trust that the hon. the Deputy Minister will give serious consideration to the question of going once again through the second schedule of this Bill in the light of what has been said.
Mr. Speaker, the majority of hon. members who have participated in this debate this afternoon have said that they welcome this Bill. I, too, welcome the Bill. However, I do feel that in some instances the hon. the Deputy Minister could have gone further in respect of the various increases which will come into effect when this Bill is passed. I would also like to ask the hon. the Deputy Minister to ensure that these important new provisions and the alterations to the existing Act should be brought to the attention of the workers so that they are conversant with the benefits to which they are entitled. I should like to know from the hon. the Deputy Minister what steps his Department will take to ensure that adequate circulation of the advice as to the benefits and provisions of this Bill will reach the workers.
With regard to the increases that will be effected with the passage of this Bill, I should like to deal briefly with the principle involved in Clause 6, which amends Section 40 of the principal Act. That is the section providing an amount of compensation to be paid when a workman dies. The position is to-day that when a workman dies the maximum benefit that can be claimed by the widow or dependents is hopelessly inadequate. Increasing costs of living seen in the light of the purchasing power of the pound to-day means that a widow and the dependents of a deceased worker find it almost impossible to exist on the basis of the benefits granted. I would like to quote a practical example. A man lost his life whilst performing his duties in the employ of an engineering firm. The widow received a benefit in the form of a cash payment of £75 and she received a pension of £13 4s. per month plus a benefit of £6 12s. per child for the first three children. In this particular instance the widow was left with five children but she was entitled to receive benefits in respect of three only. That means that she received total benefits amounting to £33 a month on which she had to maintain herself and five children. I feel the Deputy Minister’s approach should be consistent with the attitude adopted by the Department of Social Welfare. In that event a restriction was also placed on the number of children for whom social benefits could be received, but the number of three children was not regarded as the maximum any longer and the benefits extended to all children. I feel the hon. the Deputy Minister should take some steps to see that similar provision is made in this Bill so that benefits may accrue in respect of all children of a widow.
In terms of Clause 6 of this Bill, the amount of the cash payment has been increased from £75 or R150 to R200. I feel that this immediate cash payment, although it has been increased by some R50, should have been further increased when one considers the immediate financial requirements of a widow on the death of her husband. There are debts that are often left when a person passes away, and I feel that the amount of R200 should be increased. As was mentioned by the hon. member for Durban (Musgrave) (Mr. Williams), when the breadwinner is lost to a family, we cannot adequately recompense that family by financial assistance, but I do feel a more realistic amount should be granted as an immediate payment.
In introducing this Bill and when dealing with the increases in terms of Clause 6, the hon. the Deputy Minister drew attention to the fact that under sub-clause (d) there is the substitution of the words “£40” by the words “R100”. That means that instead of £40 or R80 being provided for burial expenses of a workman who dies, the amount will now be increased to R100. Here, too, I feel that with the high cost of funeral expenses and so forth, a more generous amount could have been provided for.
The hon. member for Rosettenville, speaking from this side of the House, drew attention to the fact that prevention of accidents is as important, if not more so, than compensation after an accident. I should like to support him in that regard. The hon. member for Pretoria (West) (Mr. van der Walt) quite rightly drew the attention of the House to provisions that do exist in South Africa at the present time in regard to the prevention of accidents. Here I would like to refer to the position in England where there is a Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. That is a movement established by industrialists for the purpose of encouraging workers to consider safety measures. Expert accident prevention organizers were appointed, persons who were specially trained on the subject of safety measures, to visit the factories from time to time and to give advice to the workers. That is a very good and effective system indeed. It is pleasing to know that this Government is subsidizing the National Occupational Safety Organization. However, the question of this subsidy is a matter on which I would like some clarification from the hon. the Deputy Minister, because the report of the Controller and Auditor-General for the financial year 1959-60, which was recently tabled in this House, mentions the fact that the five-year agreement of subsidy from the Central Government to the National Occupational Safety Organization expired on 10 April 1956, and that no further agreement had been negotiated. But in the interim the Commissioner had decided to continue the subsidy at a maximum rate of £20,000 per annum. Taking that into account, together with the latest available report of the Department of Labour, which also draws specific attention to the prevention of accidents, one feels that one would like some clarity on this situation. In that report it is stated on page 17 that—
In the light of that fact I should like the hon. the Deputy Minister to give this House some information as to what way the prevention of accidents is being extended in terms of this Association, and also whether any form of finality has been reached in regard to the agreement for subsidization of this organization which, undoubtedly, is doing a good job of work.
With those few words I would like to say that all of us on this side of the House welcome these benefits for the workers and wish to see this Bill speedily passed through its second reading.
Mr. Speaker, it is to be expected that when one introduces a measure which extends as many benefits as this Bill, there will be hon. members who will ask that even greater benefits should be granted. We have had pleas from hon. members on both sides of the House who have asked for increased benefits in various forms, which I am not going to tabulate now, because my reply will convince hon. members these benefits—and this answers specifically the question by the hon. member for Umhlatuzana (Mr. Eaton) regarding actuarial calculations — were very carefully examined in advance by our actuaries. Each section has been calculated actuarially down to the smallest detail. This differs from the Unemployment Insurance Act with which I dealt yesterday, when I told hon. members that the benefits were not actuarially calculated. These benefits have been calculated actuarially down to the smallest detail and consequently we as members, who do not have that actuarial background and knowledge, cannot venture to suggest any changes in this regard. I am therefore afraid that I shall not be able to help hon. members as far as any further benefits are concerned. The benefits for which this measure provides are the maximum which we can grant at the moment in fairness to the employers. But as is the case with all such measures, this House is approached from time to time and asked to effect amendments, and pleas such as hon. members have made to-day for increased benefits will obviously be considered when the position is reviewed. I feel that we must keep in mind that at present the benefits which are paid out by this fund and also other funds total approximately £7,000,000 per annum; and as I have already told hon. members, these improved benefits which are now to be paid by the various accident funds, will entail an additional expenditure of approximately £1,000,000 per annum. I think that in all reasonableness we should realize that this is as far as we can go at this stage.
The hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher) has raised a variety of medical aspects. I always appreciate his contribution to debates on matters affecting industrial diseases. He as a medical man takes a great interest in this problem. He has discussed NOSA with reference to the problem of preventing industrial accidents. He has submitted that it is far better to devote our resources to the prevention of accidents rather than pay compensation thereafter. We have no fault to find with that submission. It was also with that object in mind that the organization which is known as NOSA was established to make propaganda amongst factory owners and factory workers with a view to preventing accidents. Hon. members who have visited factories will remember that in practically all factories one finds large posters showing the workers that they should not do this or that because they may be injured. All this propaganda is aimed at teaching the workers not to act irresponsibly and be injured in the process. Then there are of course committees of this organization in the various centres. They arrange exhibitions and they give lectures to the workers, the Bantu obviously being included. A great deal is therefore being done to prevent accidents. But as is always the case with propaganda, one can always urge that yet more should be done. The appeal by the hon, member who has been supported by other hon. members—I think the hon. member for Musgrave (Mr. Williams) has also discussed the matter—will certainly also serve to impress on this organization that it is in fact doing essential work because these people may sometimes wonder whether their work is really essential. As the position is at present, a subsidy is paid annually to NOSA from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund. This also answers the question of the hon. member for Umbilo (Mr. Oldfield) who has just spoken. The subsidy is calculated on the basis of 2 per cent of the annual income of the Workmen’s Compensation Fund, with a maximum of £100,000 per annum. Hon. members will appreciate that as a result of the additional income which the fund will now receive because of the increase in the calculation basis to which I referred in my introductory speech, it will be possible to review favourably the amount which will be paid to this organization in future.
Hon. members have submitted representations for the inclusion of additional diseases. The medical members over there, the hon. member for Rosettenville and the hon. member for Durban Central (Dr. Radford), have put the matter very strongly. I now want to indicate at once what our attitude is towards these schedules, i.e. the first schedule which is contained in this Bill and the second schedule which is contained in the existing Act. These schedules are compiled in consultation with the medical profession. We draw on their knowledge. If it is proved that additional industrial diseases should be included, we do so by means of a proclamation. We are in fact amending the Act in Clause 19 so as to provide that the insertion of such an industrial disease can be made retrospective. We therefore ask hon. members who on the basis of their medical knowledge can show that there are additional industrial diseases which they feel should be included in this schedule, to provide us with that information. If a convincing case can be made out, such a disease can be inserted by way of a proclamation and if there are people who have in fact contracted such a disease as a result of their employment in a certain industry, it can also under Clause 19 be made retrospective. I therefore ask hon. members to make use of this opportunity.
The hon. member for Rosettenville has referred to the medical fees being paid to the medical practitioners. The medical fees are drawn up in consultation with the Medical Council. The fact the hon. member is smiling shows that he is acquainted with the procedure and I suggest that he should approach that body with which he is surely a persona grata.
As regards the representations which have been made for additional benefits in whatever form, it is unnecessary for me to reply to them specifically because by my initial submission to the effect that they have been actuarially calculated, I have already indicated that it is impossible for us to accept these representations and we shall have to accept that position for the present. This of course also applies to the retrospective effect of benefits.
Then the hon. member for Durban (Central) has raised the question of silicosis being caused by employment in an industry and then developing into tuberculosis. If it should appear that a worker has contracted silicosis during the course of employment and that as a result he has contracted tuberculosis which he would not have contracted if he had not been a silicosis sufferer, that is a matter which will definitely be considered by the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the other matters which have been raised can be profitably discussed during the Committee Stage.
Motion put and agreed to.
Bill read a second time; House to go into Committee on the Bill on 9 February.
Second Order read: Second reading,—Perishable Agricultural Products Sales Bill.
Mr. Speaker, although great progress has been made during the past two decades under the Marketing Act and the Co-operative Act in regard to the orderly and collective marketing of most agricultural products, the circumstances and problems in regard to the marketing in the interior of fruit and vegetables are of such a nature that individual, unorganised and competitive marketing of these products will certainly always play an important role in our national economy. That makes it essential that there should be proper supervision over the manner in which the perishable products of absent producers are sold and reported about in the far distant consumers’ centra, in order to afford reasonable protection to such producers who have to entrust their products to others for sale.
In view of the unsatisfactory conditions and the complaints in regard to the internal marketing of vegetables and fruit, with which hon. members are well acquainted, various investigations have been instituted, and in 1956 the Government established a Union Marketing Advisory Board, to submit, in the light of all the available data, recommendations with the object of improving the position.
The sale of perishable agricultural products is at present being regulated, in so far as it takes place by public auction, by the Livestock and Produce Sales Act, 1956 (Act No, 37 of 1956), which is merely a consolidation of Act No. 22 of 1925 and the Amendment Act, No. 4 of 1930. better known as the Public Auctions Act.
The Committee of Inquiry into Market Agents of 1955-6 found that the Public Auctions Act was outmoded and unpractical in respect of the sale of fruit and vegetables, and that it did not comply with the objective the Legislature had in mind when the relevant Act was amended in 1930, inter alia, also to include agents handling fruit and vegetables. In respect of fruit and vegetables sold by agents, the Public Auctions Act never really worked satisfactorily. The Committee of Inquiry consequently recommended that this Act should be fundamentally reviewed in respect of the sale of fruit and vegetables, in the light of the recommendations made by the Committee.
Thereafter, the Overseas Mission in regard to the Marketing of Vegetables and Fruit, 1956, which went to the United States of America, became acquainted with an approach to the marketing of vegetables and fruit hitherto unknown in the Union, as it was embodied in their Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, briefly known as P.A.C.A. The Mission found that this Act was being applied with great success in the United States of America, and that a similar Act was being applied in Canada also with great success, and it recommended that an Act embodying the principles contained in the American Act should be passed in the Union.
After due consideration of all the available information and in consultation with the interested parties, the Union Marketing Advisory Board recommended that as a first step towards improving the internal marketing of fruit and vegetables in South Africa an Act like the one now before the House should be placed on the Statute Book.
The object of this Bill is as follows. The sale of highly perishable products like fruit and vegetables must, from the very nature of the matter, take place speedily. The sale of these products generally takes place between persons who are far distant from each other, as in the case of the farmer who cannot himself go to the markets with his products, and between a seller and a buyer who are far apart. Good faith and trust between the parties concerned are therefore an extremely important factor in such transactions.
In cases of dispute about the quality of the product, which can deteriorate within a few days, it is to-day almost impossible for one of the two parties to take such a dispute to court in order to determine the damages where loss has been sustained. For that reason civil cases dealing with transactions in fruit and vegetables are almost unknown.
Unfortunately there are persons who deal with the marketing of fruit and vegetables who exploit this position. Usually it is the far distant farmer who gets the thin edge of the wedge. He must trust his agent completely and leave practically everything to him. If he has any suspicion against his agent he can only go to another agent and ask him to handle his business. But in such a difficult trade as the marketing of fruit and vegetables, bona fide mistakes continually crop up even between persons of high integrity, particularly because such a large proportion of the information and the instructions given is over the telephone. In order to deal with this problem this Bill contains principles which aim at the following three great objectives:
- (1) To promote a high standard of business integrity in the wholesale selling of fruit and vegetables and to be able, wherever necessary, to eliminate from the trade undesirable elements among the commission agents:
- (2) Powers in terms of which commission agents, brokers and traders in wholesale quantities of vegetables and fruit can be compelled to keep their books and records in such a manner that the identity of every consignment will be preserved, so that if there are complaints it can be ascertained what happened to each unit in such a consignment; and
- (3) To create administrative machinery by which immediate attention can be given to any complaint in connection with fruit and vegetable transactions (on large scale or in wholesale quantities) and as far as possible to find the peaceful solution to a dispute by way of negotiation; that means that immediate investigation will be made into the facts in connection with a complaint, in the light of which an official of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Marketing will act as the arbitrator in an attempt to resolve such a dispute.
Usually, in terms of the American and Canadian experience, where complaints are lodged damages have been suffered, and therefore it is envisaged that the investigating officer will also try to determine the scope of the damage and who is responsible for it. In case the party who, according to the findings of this official, is in the wrong does not wish to compensate the other party for the damages he suffered (in case damages were suffered), the aggrieved party can then seek redress in the courts by instituting a civil action. In such a case the facts will be made available to the court in evidence.
In the case of the American P.A.C.A., provision was made for administrative arbitration and the determination of the damages sustained by the complainant. In practice I believe it works very well and also very economically, resulting in a minimum of civil actions. But after consideration it has been decided not to make provision for that in the Bill now before the House. It does not quite fit in with our conception in South Africa as to the extent to which the administration of the State should interfere in civil disputes between two citizens. That is a matter for the courts. It is felt that where the facts have been determined and the two parties to the dispute, having received the assistance of the administrative official, are unable to arrive at an agreement, it would be advisable for the matter to be decided by a civil court.
What I have said here in regard to complaints refers only to complaints of a civil nature. Where the complaint concerns an alleged contravention of any prohibition contained in the Bill, the State will of course take action itself.
Before continuing to deal with the principles contained in the Bill, I just want to point out that this measure is the first step recommended by the Union Marketing Advisory Board in order to improve the distribution of fruit and vegetables. The second step is in connection with the improvement of the municipal markets, which are by far the most important channels through which fruit and vegetables are marketed. With this object we envisaged a Municipal Markets Code, which on the advice of the Union Marketing Advisory Board I recommend to the provincial authorities for consideration and implementation by the provinces. This code has now reached the stage where it is being submitted to the provincial authorities. I am mentioning this fact just for the information of hon. members, merely to indicate that two important but separate steps towards the improvement of the local marketing of vegetables and fruit are being envisaged, viz. the Bill now under discussion and the code which deals with the market as such and which must be considered by the Provincial Councils.
In order to attain the objectives of the Bill, it provides for certain important measures. The most important of these comprise the following principles: The first is registration (Clauses 2 to 8). The Bill prohibits persons from acting as commission agents, brokers and dealers handling perishable products in wholesale quantities unless they are registered with the Secretary for Agricultural Economics and Marketing, to whom the administration of this Act is entrusted. The size of a wholesale quantity will be determined by regulation. The object is not to register all vegetable shops, irrespective of their size. It is, however, necessary to include in the provisions of the Act those who buy wholesale quantities, so that the provisions of the Act can be applicable to them and so that it will be possible for the administrative authority to investigate transactions in their records in case of dispute (Clause 2 (1)). However, producers who sell their own products are not expected to register (Clause 2 (2)).
In contrast with the Public Auctions Act (i.e. the Livestock and Produce Sales Act, 1956), this Bill covers not only persons who sell products by auction, but also those who sell products out of hand. As the result of the investigations to which I have referred, it appears that this is one of the most important defects in the Public Auctions Act. It is also required that the salesmen employed by agents should be registered. These persons often represent the agent at the actual sale of the products, and therefore occupy a key position in the agency businesses. Mostly new agents also come from the ranks of these persons (Clause 8).
The powers given to the Secretary of the Department in regard to the refusal of registration, and to the Minister in regard to the suspension and cancellation of registration, give the administrative authority the necessary hold on registered persons. The provisions in this connection are not aimed at limiting the number of persons in the trade. The grounds on which registration may be refused, suspended or cancelled are in fact set out in the Bill and it is clear from those provisions that the intention in regard to registration is simply to keep undesirable persons out of the fruit and vegetable trade (Clauses 6 and 7).
There is a school of thought which considers that persons should not be allowed to act in more than one of these capacities, commission agent, broker or trader, because acting in more than one capacity could facilitate malpractices. This principle cannot, however, be embodied in the Bill, seeing that in practice persons often have to act in more than one of the above-mentioned capacities in the interest of their clients. Although a person who acts in more than one of the above-mentioned capacities may possibly make himself guilty of malpractices more easily than one who acts in only one capacity, it should be borne in mind that, in terms of this Bill, such a person is subject to supervision and that he can lose his registration as the result of committing malpractices. It should always be possible through investigation to ascertain where an agent or broker has benefited himself at his client’s expense through the records which a registered person will have to keep in terms of this Bill (Clause 17).
Before I go further, it is necessary to explain why provision is also made for the registration of certain traders. It must be done for at least two sound reasons, namely:
- (a) In the U.S.A. they also started off with legislation which dealt solely with commission agents and brokers, but it was soon found that persons who wanted to evade the Act alleged that they were traders and not agents. Consequently, they did not have to keep the required records and did not need to provide the necessary information.
- (b) In the majority of cases agents sell to wholesale buyers, i.e. traders who buy in wholesale quantities. Unless these persons also keep records of the transactions they have with agents and other traders, it will often be impossible to trace what precisely has happened to a consignment in regard to which there is a complaint. In other words, for purposes of tracing what has happened, it will often be necessary to trace a consignment through the books of more than one registered person.
Then there are the prohibitions (Clauses 14 and 15) and the specific obligations (Clauses 11, 13 and 16 to 19). In view of the object of the Bill, viz. to raise business standards in the vegetable and fruit trade and to promote greater mutual trust in the trade, these provisions form the kernel of the Bill. In general, fraud in the weighing, counting or other determination of the quantity of produce concerned in a transaction, misrepresentations in connection with the grade or quality of products and the making of false statements with the object to mislead are prohibited (Clause 14 (1)), whilst specific obligations in connection with the keeping of records (Clause 17), reporting to principals (Clause 16), the giving of security by agents (Clause 18), the purchase and sale by agents of products entrusted to them (Clauses 14 and 15), are laid on the persons concerned.
The provisions in regard to the purchase and sale by agents of products entrusted to them for sale depart from the principle contained in the Public Auctions Act prohibiting an agent completely from buying his principal’s products for himself or on behalf of another person, or selling it to a person with whom he has direct or indirect business relations (Clauses 14 and 15). Instead of this complete dual prohibition, it has been decided after due deliberation, to recognize the principle in this Bill that an agent may himself buy the products of his principal or sell them to somebody with whom he has business relations, provided he previously obtains the written consent of his principal and divulges it to his principal when accounting to him, and with the further provision that the agent does not himself act as the auctioneer, and, if he buys on behalf of another person, that he should furnish the name of that person to the auctioneer for incorporation in the sales slip (Clause 15). Agents who sell by auction are, by means of this provision, placed on an equal footing with agents who sell out of hand and to whom the Public Auctions Act is not applicable.
It may justifiably be alleged that the provisions of the Public Auctions Act in this connection are not applied strictly enough in most municipal markets. Practices which are in conflict with the provisions of that Act are often allowed by connivance because it is very difficult to control or to eliminate such practices. On some markets the agent is allowed to bid and to buy because it is alleged to be in the interest of the market itself, the producer and the public and trade in general. On other markets, again, the agent is not allowed to bid, but as soon as the highest bid has been accepted the agent is allowed to buy some of the units in the consignment at a price equal to the highest bid. In other cases the agent does not offer the whole consignment for sale and buys in the units which he holds back at one of the prices at which units in the consignment was sold. In markets where the municipal authorities actively try to apply the relevant provisions, all kinds of methods are used to acquire the products of the principal, e.g. through third parties with whom there is connivance.
The position in practice, therefore, proves that there is an urgent need on the part of agents under certain circumstances to acquire the products of their principals. Unless this is complied with, there will always be a tendency to circumvent a prohibition in this connection, or where the prohibition is strictly applied there is the possibility that the agent is prevented from rendering the best possible service to his client. In terms of the other provisions in this Bill it will be difficult for the agent to abuse his privilege without being held responsible for it. Therefore, after due consideration, it has been decided to recognize this important new principle subject to certain conditions, as described in Clause 15.
The provisions in regard to the keeping of records and the submission of reports are very clear, and I do not believe that there can be any objection to this principle. The particular records required will be determined by regulation (Clause 26 (1) (g)).
In regard to the provision of security, the Public Auctions Act contains the same principle. In this regard, this Bill, however, goes slightly further by requiring that all persons, except local authorities and co-operatives in respect of the business they do with their members, who transact business as commission agents in perishable products, must provide security. In terms of the Public Auctions Act only agents who sell products by auction are required to provide security. In this respect this Bill does not distinguish between agents who sell out of hand and those who sell by auction. The Bill deviates further from the existing Act in this respect, that the maximum amount of the security which has to be provided, the way in which it is determined, how it is to be provided and how it has to be used, will not be provided for in the Bill itself, but will be announced by way of regulation. This change in the principle has proved to be necessary, because it has become clear that alterations from time to time become necessary in the scope of the security which is to be provided. It may also be necessary to allow the amount of the security to vary according to the extent of the turnover. In the course of time, if it is found that the provisions of this Bill are effective, it may be reduced in the light of the experience gained.
The Bill recognizes the principle of keeping trust accounts, but provides that this can be done at a later stage if it is found that the other provisions of the Bill do not give the producers sufficient protection. Under the new setup an agent will not, as before, be able to land in financial difficulties gradually and without anybody else knowing about it. If payments are not made strictly, as provided, there will soon be complaints lodged against such an agent with the administrative authority, and action can be taken against him at an early stage. I am of opinion that, as is the case in the U.S.A., it will perhaps never become necessary to put into operation the provision in regard to trust accounts. There is no such provision in the P.A.C.A., nor is any security asked for.
Because of the highly perishable nature of vegetables and fruit and the conditions under which these products are marketed, it is inevitable that complaints and differences will arise in regard to the distribution. Unless the factual position is immediately ascertained on the spot by an impartial person when such complaint or difference arises, it is impossible in the majority of cases to resolve it later in a satisfactory way. In addition, there is the fact that litigation is expensive and takes up a lot of time, with the result that many complaints and differences are not continued with, and that an atmosphere of mutual distrust and dissatisfaction is established in the trade, and between the trade and the producers. For these reasons machinery for arbitration was established in the U.S.A. by means of which complaints and differences can be settled, and where necessary compensation can be paid. It is, however, not obligatory to make use of this arbitration machinery and, if he likes to do so, the party concerned can institute an action in the courts directly. The American Act provides for the lodging of informal and formal complaints. On receipt of informal complaints, an inquiry is instituted and, if it is found that the law has been contravened, the person against whom the complaint has been made is contacted and attempts are made to settle the matter amicably. It is estimated that between 80 per cent and 85 per cent of all complaints are settled in this way, and that includes cases in which compensation is paid. It no settlement can be arrived at in this manner, the person lodging the complaint may lodge a formal complaint, and the procedure for dealing with it is fully defined.
Although this procedure contains many benefits, viz. that the damages suffered are determined administratively and the matter can be solved at low cost, it is something strange to the legal system of the Union, and consequently no provision is being made for it in this Bill. But, as I indicated in the beginning, we hope that the facts which will be determined administratively with reference to a complaint will facilitate the settlement of disputes, even when the aggrieved party then wants to go to court.
Before concluding, I wish to point out that this Bill, if it is accepted, will replace the provisions of the Public Auctions Act in so far as it concerns commission agents who handle fruit and vegetables. The provisions of the aforementioned Act, however, still remain applicable to auctioneers and to commission agents who handle livestock and livestock products. I trust that the objects of this Bill, and the provisions it contains to give effect to those objects, will enjoy the general support of this House. It is an attempt to bring order and confidence in the inland marketing and distribution of vegetables and fruit, something which is lacking to-day, i.e. in a sector of our economy which is becoming more important by the day. The value of the products concerned is in the vicinty of £20,000,000 per annum, and it is steadily increasing.
All the provisions contained in this Bill were carefully considered by the Union Marketing Advisory Board, on which all the relevant interests are represented. This advisory board supports the suggestions which are now before the House. The board also had lengthy negotiations with organized agriculture and the Federated Chamber of Commerce in regard to specific clauses of the Bill in order to obtain the maximum amount of unanimity amongst all interested parties. It may be that one of these groups would like to see a small amendment made on some or other point, but then the other group would probably not be satisfied with it, or vice versa.
Therefore, as far as I know, this Bill represents the maximum amount of unanimity which can be obtained in regard to this important measure. For this I want to express my thanks and appreciation to the members of the Union Marketing Advisory Board, representatives of the S.A. Agricultural Union and the Federated Chamber of Commerce, as also to the Institute of Market Masters. All of them co-operated in order to put this measure before the House to-day in a well-considered form. I trust that hon. members will wholeheartedly support the measure in all its details.
We on this side not only support this Bill but we welcome it; we think it is somewhat long overdue. The producers of perishable products, fresh fruit and vegetables are a section of our community who require all the assistance we can possibly give them. They produce a product which is, of course, very difficult to market, and consequently their markets are often flooded. They are subject to very low prices at times, and consequently if we can assist them in any way we should do so, and to some extent—a small extent it is true—we are assisting them in this Bill chiefly through better administration. We want to thank the Minister for being very explicit in dealing with the provisions of this Bill. We have gone through this Bill very carefully ourselves, and we can find nothing wrong with it. We have gone through all the clauses; they seem to be in order, and we assure the Minister that we will give this Bill an easy passage through the House.
We welcome this Bill which has been introduced by the hon the Minister. We realize that it will be in the interests of the producers of vegetables and fruit and also in the interests of the consumers of those products. The marketing of perishable products is one of the difficult problems of the country which in the past has received the attention of consumers, consumers’ organizations, producers and the Government, but it remains a difficult problem which still has to be solved in the future. We are glad that this important step forward is being taken. The various governments have realized the necessity for orderly marketing of these important products, and therefore various commissions and committees of inquiry have been appointed from time to time in the past to investigate this matter. Let me just mention briefly the various commissions and committees that were appointed. In 1939, for example, there was the Commission of Inquiry into Municipal Markets in the Transvaal; then there was the Committee of Inquiry into the Marketing and Distribution of Fresh Fruit in 1941; then we had an interim report from the Transportation Committee of Inquiry into Fruit and Vegetables in 1942; the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Reconstruction of Agriculture that was drawn up by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry in 1944-5; then we had the Commission of Inquiry into the Costs of Distribution in 1947; the Marketing Act Commission in 1947; the Municipal Markets Committee in 1952; the Committee of Inquiry into Market Agents in 1956; and then the Overseas Mission with regard to the marketing of vegetables and fruit in 1956. The appointment of these various committees and commissions prove that the successive governments have realized the necessity for a good marketing system as well as the difficulties involved in such a marketing system. As a result of the work done by the various committees and commission of inquiry certain improvements were made, of course, and this improvement which is now being made by means of a new Act which will be placed on the Statute Book is also a direct result of the various investigations made. While every possible step is being taken officially to bring about a better marketing system it is also essential for the producers to take the necessary action and for them to organize and to promote the marketing of perishable products. The Marketing Act and the Co-operative Societies Act give producers the opportunity to take the initiative and we will never get an entirely adequate system if the producers themselves do not act and organize. I think it is also necessary to point out that it will be in the interests of both producers and consumers in this country to establish a central control eventually over our markets in South Africa. In saying that, one does not do so because of any desire to reduce the authority of the provincial councils or to encroach upon their jurisdiction or to restrict their activities, but I do think it will be in everybody’s interests if eventually the necessary control is exercised by the Central Government. It will be desirable perhaps for the necessary consultations to take place on a voluntary basis; one does not want to force this upon anybody, it is preferable to try to establish central control by way of agreement. We find that under the present system the markets fall under the municipalities, which of course fall under the control of the provincial councils. The activities of the provincial council in regard to markets only consist of formally approving of municipal by-laws dealing with markets and marketing, and for the rest they are responsible for the auditing of accounts. These activities produce no revenue for the provincial councils. In the final analysis it only means extra work for them. They do not have the necessary staff unless they take special steps to obtain staff to exercise proper supervision over the markets. I think this is a matter which must really receive proper attention in the future. Since market agents are accepted today as an integral part of our present marketing system it is essential to introduce this legislation because the market agent is a highly important link. He is there to look after the interests of the producer. The producer cannot be present himself at the sales, and therefore he has an agent who acts on his behalf. One accepts that the large majority of market agents are honest people, people of high integrity, but one cannot rely solely on the integrity and honesty of people and it is essential to introduce this legislation therefore to ensure that producers are protected. So far as the question of registration is concerned, the principle which is being applied here to enable a certain amount of screening to take place, is a very important one. One assumes that the Department will lay down certain requirements to be complied with by people who wish to act as agents. The hon. the Minister has said that no restrictions are envisaged. Well, one does not want restrictions, but I do think it is necessary to watch the position to ensure that too many licences are not issued to agents in a particular market, because if there are too many agents in a particular market we may find that some of them are unable to make a proper living, and if a person cannot make a proper living then the temptation is always there to act in an irregular way. I feel therefore that consideration might well be given to the question of imposing certain restrictions so far as the granting of permits for certain markets is concerned. As far as I can remember, no mention is made here of the registration of auctioneers. I think this is also necessary to ensure that we have efficient auctioneers on our markets. It is found in many cases that municipalities make use of untrained people without experience, people who do this work part-time, and one does not get the best service therefore. If we appoint people who concentrate on this work and who are capable as auctioneers, they can do very useful work there. It is important to exercise proper supervision over the books kept by agents. According to the reports of the committees there is not much fault to be found, generally speaking, with the system of bookkeeping that they apply but nevertheless it is necessary to take precautions in order to protect the interests of the producers. The provision in this measure that the proceeds of all sales must be accounted for within seven days, unless different arrangements have been made with the approval of the producer, is a very important one. It has happened frequently in the past that agents have kept on postponing the settlement of accounts and in the interim have used the cash received by them to finance purchasers etc. This means that the producer runs a great risk of losing some of his money and it is very important therefore to provide that the agent must make provision within a stipulated period for accounts to be settled. The requirement that full details must also be furnished is very necessary and we hope that in future very careful supervision will be exercised not only by the auditors but also by the officials and inspectors, over agents to ensure that in furnishing particulars concerning sales to producers those particulars are complete, that the quantities and prices are properly stated, and also that the dates of dispatch and arrival are mentioned in the case of products transported by rail. It does happen sometimes that when prices are low the blame is put on the Railways. A telegram is simply sent to the producer to say that the produce arrived late and consequently fetched low prices. The producer is not always in a position to verify this. If this precautionary measure is taken, the producer can then be certain whether his products arrived late or timeously.
In regard to the question of claims which are paid out by the Railways, the practice in the Cape market is that all claims are sent in by the Market Master himself. I think this is also a matter which should be given consideration. This is a practice which should be applied in all markets, that it will not be a responsibility of the agent but rather of the Market Master to submit the claim and to ensure, whenever claims are submitted, that payment is made to the producer. Mr. Speaker, the question of trust accounts is a highly important one. The hon. the Minister has said that perhaps it will not be necessary to require trust accounts to be introduced immediately. We nevertheless want to appeal to him to ensure that that safety measure is scrupulously applied. Where agents are allowed by their principals to settle accounts every fortnight or every month, it can happen that monies received in the meantime are used instead of being placed in an account where they would be safe.
We welcome this measure and we want to express the hope that this will be a step to bring about an improvement in the marketing of perishable products and that it will be to the benefit of consumer and producer alike.
We appreciate the introduction of this Bill in that it has been drafted after years of research into the sale of perishable products on the markets of the world. I too would like to congratulate the Minister’s staff who are responsible for the drafting of this Bill, and I would also like to congratulate them on the fact that this Bill has been accepted, not only by the South African Agricultural Union, which is the representative of producers, but by all business organizations concerned, including the Associated Chambers of Commerce. I think that this is remarkable because this Bill is a regulatory measure. For instance, in Clause 14 alone there are 11 sections setting out prohibitions. Clause 14 states—
I only quote this clause to show that this is a regulatory Bill, but, as you know, Sir, the law is peculiar; it sets out all the prohibitions, but it does not tell you what you can Jo. It does not state that this particular commission agent may put up this product for auction again without the consent of anybody at all, and it does not say that a registered agent may be an agent, a general dealer and a broker at the same time, and because it does not say that any business organization can become an agent, a general dealer and a broker. The same applies to co-operative societies. This Bill does not mention co-operative societies but they can take on these duties too because there is no prohibition. I often think that legislation would sometimes be more acceptable if we could induce the draftsmen to indicate what people are allowed to do. I have no objection to this Bill; I appreciate the fact that it has been introduced, I do think that it is acceptable because it makes provision for better regulation as far as the marketing of our produce is concerned. By creating trust between agent and producer it will certainly result in material benefit not only for the producer but also for the consumer. I think that the Minister in introducing this legislation has taken a great step forward towards better marketing of perishable products. We know how the producer of perishable products has always had a headache as regards the marketing of his goods. He has often divided his products between several agents in an endeavour to find out who can do the best for him. I imagine that this Bill will remove much of the uncertainty which is at present in the minds of the producers. I would therefore like to congratulate the Minister on introducing this Bill and also on its general acceptance. I am certain that he will have the full co-operation of all parties concerned in the marketing and selling of perishable products.
I am naturally very grateful to the hon. member for Albany (Mr. Bowker) for accepting and supporting this measure so wholeheartedly, but I want to point out to him that where he says our legislation lays down what a person cannot do instead of laying down what he can do, it will require very lengthy legislation to set out all the things that he can do. That is why it is so much easier and so much shorter to lay down what a person cannot do, because everything that is not mentioned as something that you cannot do, is something that you can do, and there are certainly many more things that you can do than things that you cannot do. That is why our laws are drafted in the way in which they are, namely that they lay down the things you cannot do.
The measure which we have before us today is the result of long years of research by various bodies. We cannot get away from the fact that as our economy develops it becomes necessary to introduce more and more laws and regulations. In the days when the farmer himself took his produce from his farm to the nearest town and sold it to the consumer there was no trouble, but as our transport facilities improved, it became necessary to supply towns in the distant parts of the country with their requirements. In that way municipal markets slowly came into existance, markets where the farmer could sell his products to the consumer; and in those cases where the farmer was too far way from the market the municipal market master undertook the task of looking after his interests and of selling his products. But very soon there came into existence what is to-day known as the commission agent, the commission agent whose activities we are now going to control in terms of this legislation. The appearance of the commission agent on our markets is merely another result of our system of private initiative. Commission agents appeared on all those markets, except on the market of Durban. As recently as 1956 there were no commission agents operating on the Durban market, the market master fulfilled that function. Since 1956, however, commission agents have operated on the Durban market. In most of these cases the commission agents serve a very useful purpose, they perform an essential service and I want to take up the cudgels on their behalf this afternoon, the majority of whom perform an excellent service as far as the producers are concerned. The problems connected with the marketing of farm produce are very soon reflected in the attitude of the producer as well as that of the consumer. The producer very quickly says that he is getting too little for his product while the consumer complains that he has to pay too much for that product in which case the commission agents, the dealers and the brokers become an easy target. They are the people who are blamed when the difference between the price which the farmer receives and the price which the public pays becomes too great. I want to point out that the public can do a great deal to keep this difference as small as possible. The consumer himself can do a great deal to ensure that he gets his requirements at a low price. For example when beans are scarce the housewife should not buy peas; she should not buy guavas during the summer months when peaches and apricots and grapes are plentiful, because if she does so, it is inevitable that she will pay more for those products which are in short supply. By making a study of the periods when certain products are in season the housewife will be able to pay much less and then there will be fewer complaints about so-called exploitation on the part of middlemen—the commission agents, wholesalers, retailers and brokers.
The farmer on his part can also do a great deal to ensure that he receives the best possible price for his products if he sees to it that his supplies to the market are wisely distributed; he should not send everything to the market at the same time but and he should produce those products for which there is a market and in respect of which there is not an over-supply. The Government has tackled these problems in various ways in an endeavour to solve them. As the hon. member for Barberton (Mr. Faurie) has pointed out, there have been a whole series of commissions inquiring into this matter and in this regard I want to refer to a commission which was appointed in 1951 under the chairmanship of Mr. de Klerk, to investigate the market position and that commission recommended that a Union Advisory Market Board be established to advise the Minister in respect of the marketing of fruit and vegetables. In the meantime another commission was appointed under chairmanship of the present Secretary of Agricultural Economy and Marketing to investigate the activities of market agents—that was in 1953—and that commission came to the conclusion that it would best be able to investigate their activities if it also investigated the position overseas. As a result of that a mission proceeded overseas, also under the chairmanship of the Secretary of Agricultural Economy and Marketing, who has made it one of his life’s ambitions to establish an orderly marketing system. I want to pay tribute to him to-day for the wonderful work he has done in order to place the marketing of fruit and vegetables on a sound basis. As a result of these investigations it was recommended to the Union Advisory Market Board that legislation be introduced by the Union Government that would control the activities of agents, dealers and brokers on the lines as the P.A.C.A. in America, as has been pointed out by the hon. the Minister. The Union Advisory Market Board gave careful consideration to the proposals and then appointed an ad hoc committee to draft this legislation, and we have the result before us this afternoon in the shape of this Bill. But the Union Advisory Market Board went further and also recommended that a marketing code be drawn up which could then become law by way of ordinances passed by the various provincial councils, a marketing code would lay down certain rules to be followed by municipal markets. It is envisaged that this code will contain provisions to deal with the powers and duties of market masters, the control over sales at auctions or by private agreements; the keeping of necessary records, auction procedures, control over persons who enter or leave the market, admission of commission agents, the manner in which products offered for sale on the market are displayed, market personnel matters and other aspects, including general supervisions and control over municipal markets. In this connection I want to associate myself with my hon. friend over here (Mr. Faurie) when he said that this legislation, which is the first step towards a more systematic marketing system for fruit and vegetables, would not end here, and that the Department of Agricultural Economy and Marketing would negotiate with the provincial administrations with the object of bringing the entire field of marketing at municipal markets under the control of that Department. In terms of the Act of Union of 1909 the control over markets vests in the provincial councils, but it has become abundantly clear that provincial administrations are not really interested in the activities of municipal markets. For that reason the Union Government introduced legislation as long ago as 1925 in order to control certain aspects of marketing. That control was increased in the Act of 1930 and consolidated further in the Act of 1956. But I want to make an earnest appeal to the hon. the Minister to go even further and to take over the remaining power which the provincial administrations have at the moment. As the position at the moment is the Department of Agricultural Economy and Marketing already performs most of the functions. For instance one of the most important functions in connection with marketing is to ensure that both the producer and the consumer have a good information service. The producer should know when to send certain products to certain markets. This function is performed very satisfactorily by the Division of Economy and Markets today. Similarly the other few functions that are referred to in the marketing code can very well be undertaken by the Department of Agricultural Economy and Marketing. That is why I want to make an urgent appeal that we should not stop here, but that we must go further and place all the aspects of the marketing of fruit and vegetables under this Department. After all, the marketing of all the other products is already under the control of the Department. Take for instance non-perishable products such as mealies, wheat and tobacco and even perishable products such as meat and milk and other dairy produce. They are already under the control of this Department. I cannot see any reason therefore, why these two remaining products, namely fruit and vegetables, should not be placed under the control of the Department. The provincial administrations get no fees or income for what they do, because as is provided in Clause 3 of the Bill the Secretary will control applications on the prescribed forms for registration and collect the prescribed registration fees. The provincial administration, therefore, gets nothing from its work. For that reason I want to ask that this function should also be taken over by the Department eventually. This legislation which is before us to-day meets a long-felt need but we hope it will go further in future for the benefit of both consumer and producer.
I should like to congratulate the hon. the Minister of Agricultural Economics and Marketing on the speech with which he introduced this Bill and for the very clear exposition of the background of the Bill and the purposes for which he has introduced it. I would like to say that the Progressive Party gives its wholehearted support to the principle of this Bill in so far as it is calculated to protect the agricultural producer against unethical conduct, against undesirable habits and practices in the distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables, and in so far as it will tend to eliminate people who introduce undesirable ethical standards. We can only hope that this measure will have the effect that the Minister desires. But we have certain misgivings in regard to three particular clauses. In the first place we are a little concerned about the basic characteristic which is revealed in this Bill, namely the Government’s apparent distrust of private competitive enterprise in the normal distribution of agricultural produce. This Bill seems to disclose the same tendencies which were discussed at great length by the hon. member for Namib (Mr. J. D. du P. Basson) in the opening days of this Session, wherein he stated that this Government appeared to be intent upon regulating every possible activity of our life from the cradle to the grave. Although initially this is confined to fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, one wonders to what other sections of distribution the Government will extend similar legislation, and whether other Government Departments will also take up the same idea with the ultimate result that every form of distribution may be controlled in all its aspects by the Government. We believe that that is something which should be opposed, although we think in the case of the two products mentioned it is justifiable.
We are a little concerned whether all the objectives that the Government seeks to achieve will in point of fact be achieved by this Bill. We are concerned whether the very sweeping powers which are given to the Secretary, or to the Minister, to refuse applications for registration, or to suspend or cancel registration, may not have an extremely undesirable effect in limiting the channels of distribution to the public. I say that because the provisions of Clause 6 and Clause 7 do give the Minister very great powers indeed, particularly Clauses 6 (1) (1) and 7 (1) (f). The Minister has been given a blanket power to refuse registration or to cancel registration for any reason which in his opinion should be adequate. Mr. Speaker, it does seem to me that the granting of such complete discretion to the Minister may well deter many people from entering the trade which will fall under the operation of this Act, because a great many people will be extremely reluctant to enter such distributive activities or to put capital into them, if by a single administrative decision his whole source of livelihood may be eliminated by the stroke of a pen, and that applies also to his employees. Sir, the effect may well be to narrow excessively the channels of distribution to the public, and of course the obvious results of such narrowing of channels would be to raise the cost of living to the consumer. When it comes to the Committee Stage, I hope the hon. Minister will give us a great deal more clarity in regard to Clauses 6 and 7.
I also want to raise another clause and that is Clause 26 (2) under which the Governor-General is empowered to make regulations and sub-section (2) says “different regulations may be made in terms of sub-section (1) with reference to different classes of persons, and in such other respects as the Governor-General may determine”. We shall require the Minister to be a great deal more explicit in the Committee Stage in regard to this provision entitling him to differentiate in the treatment of different classes. I assume that the hon. Minister is referring to racial classes and groups …
The hon. Minister can make that clear at a later stage, but in this country where we are so accustomed to differentiation as between racial classes, it does create the impression that this sub-section refers to different racial classes. We in the Progressive Party who are committed in our basic principles to the elimination of discrimination of any sort between racial groups, will require the strongest reassurances that that is not envisaged by the Minister. After all if it were the case, it must be remembered that certain racial classes have secured a predominating share of this particular form of distribution, particularly the Asiatics, and we must also remember that they are very largely debarred from entering a great many other professions and activities. Therefore we want assurances that under no circumstances will the discriminatory power in that clause be used to the disadvantage of Asiatics or Coloureds, or any other racial group. With those remarks I conclude my comments on the second reading, and we propose to bring these matters up at the Committee Stage.
I am sorry that a false note has now been struck in the House, Sir, and I am afraid it was struck because the hon. member did not take the trouble to study the Bill. I am sure that when we discuss those clauses again the hon. the Minister will give him all the necessary information and that he will be satisfied.
To-day is a very important day to the producers of vegetables and fruit because the legislation which we have before us, legislation which is unanimously supported by this House, is of great importance to the fruit and vegetable farmer. The problems and difficulties which they as producers have had in the past are probably older than the Cape wagon-road. There were difficulties already in connection with the marketing of fruit and vegetables more or less before the Cape wagon-road was built. The first free burghers were the people who started to produce vegetables and fruit and very soon there was over-production and then they were confronted with the problem of disposing of that surplus. In 1665 the first market was established here in Cape Town, on Greenmarket Square as it is known to-day. Permission was granted to the farmers to sell their produce to the consumers. They very soon discovered, however, that it was impossible for them personally to sell their products and they had to make use of agents or salesmen who then sold the products on their behalf. So we find in 1830 that the first agents were appointed to sell the products of the farmers, but those agents acting on behalf of the farmers as they did made themselves guilty of so many malpractices that the position became untenable. It was not possible for the farmer who farmed far away from the market to come to the city every day, and the Council of Commissioners who controlled the City of Cape Town at that time, was ultimately obliged on 24 September 1841 to pass an ordinance which provided that as from that date all products should only be sold by way of public auction on the central market. They gave their reasons for that. I have the statement here and it reads as follows—
As long ago as 1841 the producer experienced difficulties, and we are faced with those same difficulties to-day. People are becoming more and more cunning, market agents are employing all kinds of new methods and the farmer gets the worst of it. I am surprised at the hon. member for Durban (Berea) for saying that the National Party Government was introducing this measure because it wanted to control everything. That, Sir, was the false note struck in this House.
Mr. Speaker, if you knew everything that was taking place and the malpractices that were conducted on the part of market agents, you would not believe it. As the position is at the moment the producers are faced, in the first place, with this great difficulty that to-day every Dick, Tom and Harry becomes a market agent. It is not necessary for him to register, it is not necessary for him to have any capital, it is only necessary for him to have a big mouth. I want to associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. member for Paarl (Mr. W. C. Malan) when he said that that did not apply to all market agents. Some of them perform a very essential service, without which the producers would be in a sorry plight, and we appreciate the services rendered by the honest market agents. There are many agents, however, who advertise and send out circulars encouraging the farmers to send their products to them. Then suddenly the farmer discovers that the agent is in trouble. He hears nothing further from him, he goes to his attorney in order to have the market agent traced; the attorney goes into the matter and eventually telephones the farmer and says: I am very sorry to have to tell you this but your market agent is insolvent. When you look at the Government Gazette No. 6620 of 3 February, Sir, only six days ago, you will see that another market agent has gone bankrupt. The farmer loses every penny he should have received for his products. That is one of the major problems which we are faced with today. Then you have the case where the farmer sends his produce to the market agent, the produce gets sold, but the farmer has no guarantee that what he receives is the genuine price fetched on the market. Nobody exercises any control over the market agents. In this respect I want to pay tribute to the Early Morning Market at Cape Town. It is the only municipal market in the Union of South Africa where the market master has complete control over all the market agents. When a farmer sends 1,000 pockets of potatoes to the Cape Town market the market master receives it and he hands it over to a market agent. If the consignment is short the market master files a claim on behalf of the producer. When an agent sells the potatoes on the market, the sale is conducted under the control and supervision of the market master and his inspectors. He scrutinizes every sale slip and makes sure that no fraud has taken place. I also want to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. member for Barberton when he pleaded for a special Union marketing code, so that the system would be followed at all markets. I want to pay tribute to the Director of Markets here in Cape Town for the initiative he has displayed, because it was more or less as a result of that that this new principle was introduced. I want to refer to another malpractice; and that is in the case where a farmer sends his products to an agent for sale and that agent speculates. The agent himself buys those products at a low price, and then sells it at a much higher price either to the consumer or to another wholesaler. That is a crime and there is a law against that, but unfortunately it has become impossible to apply the law strictly. There is another malpractice and that is in the case of “free-on-rail” sales. I want to prove to you, Sir, how easy it is for malpractices to take place in the selling of potatoes. Say, for instance, a market agent or a commission agent orders 1,000 pockets of potatoes from a farmer and undertakes to pay him 10s. per pocket for first-grade potatoes. The farmer, in all good faith, sends the potatoes to the agent or wholesaler and then the agent informs him that he is very sorry but the potatoes have been re-graded to Grade II or Grade III and he is no longer prepared to pay 10s. but that he will pay 5s. per pocket. It may be that the farmer farms in Middelburg, Transvaal. What is his position in such a case? He is helpless. He has no alternative but to accept the offer. But under this new measure the farmer will be able to get into touch with the official of the division of Commodity Service immediately and an inspection can be carried out at once to ascertain whether or not there has been any fraud. It can also happen that you sell a consignment of potatoes to a buyer and he or the market agent informs you at a later stage that the potatoes arrived in a rotten condition. What can the farmer do? He simply has to accept the position. In the past we were at the absolute mercy of people who indulged in malpractices.
There is another point that I should like to bring to the notice of the hon. the Minister. I personally think there are too many market agents, that the service is “overrated”. That is one reason for all these malpractices. Their turnover is too small with the result that their commission is such that they cannot make a proper living. I believe that because of this legislation, very many market agents will disappear; those people who are unable to give the necessary guarantee and those people who want to get rich quickly but have no capital and use the farmer’s money to finance their business will disappear. I want to appeal to the Minister to introduce trust accounts from the very start so that this evil will be eliminated. I also think that by introducing this legislation we are serving the interests of the honest market agent, the man who has made that his career, the man who knows his job and whose intentions towards the farmer are honest. We as farmers do not expect him to give his services free of charge. We are quite willing to pay him his lawful commission and fee. We are thankful that the Minister has, after so many years, introduced this measure and that the honour has fallen on his shoulders of placing this essential legislation on the Statute Book.
For years our present system of marketing perishable products and fresh produce has been in the limelight of public opinion. For years a great deal has been written and said on the subject, and while I agree with hon. members that this legislation will eliminate malpractices and irregularities I do not think that this is the Alpha and Omega as far as the purveyors of perishable products are concerned. Malpractices which have existed for years will be eliminated, but I cannot see how the introduction of this legislation will solve all the problems of the producers of perishable products. I also want to express my regret that this legislation was not introduced years ago. This legislation should have been introduced in this House years ago. There are very few agricultural products where the costs of marketing are higher than they are in the case of perishable products. The average commission and marketing costs which the farmer has to pay in respect of his perishable products is about 12½ per cent in the case of vegetables and fruit and slightly higher in the case of potatoes and onions. To that must be added freight, packing and grading costs, he has to pay commission on the gross proceeds, and little is left for him in the shape of entrepreneurs’ fee.
That is the position from the farmer’s point of view. The market agent, on the other hand, complains that his commission is too low—the hon. member for Bethlehem (Mr. Knobel) said a moment ago that many of them go bankrupt. There have been complaints from both sides, and those complaints have been in existence for many years. That has become abundantly clear from the speeches by the hon. member for Paarl (Mr. W. C. Malan) and the hon. member for Nelspruit (Mr. Faurie) who mentioned the number of commissions of inquiry that have inquired into this subject. When I say that this legislation should have been introduced a long time ago, I think that is justified criticism. I notice that the Chief Whip of the Nationalist Party is looking at me. I want to remind him that that hon. party has already been in power for 13 years and that some of the most important commissions were appointed during their period of office. Reference has been made to some of those commissions. I want to refer to the committee of inquiry on market agents in South Africa which brought out a very important report. I also wish to mention the very important report which came out in 1956 of the South African Overseas Marketing Mission. That was the most important commission of them all and I think the Minister copied a great portion of his speech from that report, which only goes to show how important that report is.
Mr. Speaker, as I have said this legislation should have been introduced a long time ago. I said that because it concerns such an important section of our farming industry. I just want to mention a few minor matters. In the case of apples, for instance, we have the Deciduous Fruit Board. There are 3,000,000 apple trees in the Western Province and in Langkloof of which 45 per cent must still come into bearing. While a great number of apples are exported and consequently do not fall within the ambit of this legislation, a large percentage is consumed locally. In addition, there are 1,500,000 pear trees, of which 55 per cent must still come into bearing. These trees will yield 124,000 tons of fruit annually. And when we bear in mind that there are 12,500,000 vines of which one-sixth must still come into bearing, we can gauge the magnitude of this industry. The same applies to both, namely that whereas a large percentage is exported an equally large percentage goes on to the local market. When we take all these facts into consideration, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation is based on the American law and it has been introduced as a result of the latest report which came out in 1956. Perhaps the hon. the Minister will tell me why it took five years from the date that report came out to to-day for this legislation to be introduced, because we are following the example sent to us by the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act of America of 1926 very closely. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that four members of this commission of inquiry that went overseas, were also members of the committee of inquiry in respect of market agents in South Africa. As a result of the last-mentioned commission many malpractices and irregularities were brought to light in South Africa. The previous speaker mentioned a number of them and I do not want to go into them. I merely want to say that the commission which brought out the report on which this legislation is based, investigated the various methods of marketing in America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Holland, West Germany and France and that they found that the American method was the best. Before I sit down I should like to ask the hon. the Minister to explain a few of these clauses to me. I want to refer the Minister to Clauses 14 (2) (g) (iv) in terms of which no product may be sold “at a price which is lower than the highest bid received at that auction in respect of such produce, unless he has first obtained the written permission of the person designated by the secretary for that purpose Say, for instance, it is a pocket of potatoes and the highest bid is 10s. The agent then holds it back because he thinks the bid is not high enough. Later on it is sold out of hand because a higher price could not be obtained. Say, for instance, it is sold out of hand for 9s. 6d. What proof has the farmer what the price was, how does he know what the highest price offered at the auction was? I think it is advisable that the auctioneer be obliged to note down the highest bid and that the producer be advised what it was, so that he will know. There is something in Clause 16 which I cannot understand and I want to direct the attention of the Minister to this. We can discuss it at a later stage in the Committee Stage. The first two lines of Clause 16 read: “Whenever any produce is not disposed of within three business days after receipt thereof …” The Afrikaans version reads: “Wanneer daar nie oor enige produk binne drie besigheidsdae na ontvangs daarvan beskik is nie …” It is not clear to me what is meant by “beskik is nie” in the Afrikaans version. The English version reads “disposed of”. I do not understand that.
That is merely the Afrikaans for “disposed of”.
It is very far from being merely the Afrikaans of it. Mr. Speaker, this side of the House welcomes this Bill. As I have already said, this does not mean the end of the farmer’s difficulties. I want to say quite clearly, however, that we do not endorse what the hon. member for Nelspruit, the hon. member for Paarl and the hon. member for Bethlehem said when they suggested that the Provincial Council should not have complete control, that it should be taken away from them. Here I find myself in the difficult position of agreeing with the hon. the Minister when he says that he wants to recommend the marketing code to the Provincial Councils, but that he does not propose that they should have complete control. Did I understand him correctly?
If that is the case I find myself in the difficult position of agreeing with the Minister, something I very seldom do. I welcome this Bill because, as I have said, it is based on the findings of the mission that went overseas. That commission brought out a very important report, in which they say the following inter alia—
I therefore agree that this legislation will go a long way towards eliminating malpractices, although in my opinion it does not offer a solution to all the problems of the purveyors of perishable products, such as too low prices for their products and the great gap between what they receive and what the consumer has to pay.
Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to make political capital here this afternoon or to differ from hon. members on the other side. We are dealing here with a matter of national importance and I am very happy about the unanimity that prevails here. But I want to say at once that the hon. member who has just sat down really makes me doubt whether she has had much experience of marketing on our various markets for perishable products. She says that she is in favour of the retention of the control which the Provincial Councils exercise or ought to exercise over the sale of perishable products. I do not want to do the hon. member an injustice and she can put me right if she wishes.
I said I agreed with the Minister.
The truth is that not one of the Provincial Councils benefits from the marketing of perishable products and it is self-evident therefore that they will not take an interest in this matter. If I may put forward a plea I would say at once that the State should go much further than it has already gone with reference to the marketing of these commodities. The fact is that this industry involves a sum of £42,000,000. £42,000,000 is expended on fruit and vegetables in South Africa. Nobody will quarrel with the proposition that I am about to make: I say there are parts of South Africa, cities and large portions of our population, which really do not know what good vegetables and good fruit look like. I will take you to Johhanesburg, Pretoria, Durban and those places, places to which I personally have consigned these commodities, where there is a special division of the municipality to remove the vegetables which are spoiled and to destroy them. Mr. Speaker, we must admit at once that there is a tremendous maldistribution of these most important and most valuable commodities. When the State introduces legislation to act as a curb and in an effort to eliminate malpractices and abuses I think that we in this House owe the Minister and his Department a debt of gratitude for the work that is being done. But what is required is that the Central Government should obtain firmer control over what is happening in South Africa, for I want to say here and now, and here I address my remarks to hon. members from Johannesburg, that the marketing in Johannesburg is an out-and-out scandal. In the vegetable season we have to offload outside in the street because there is no space for this purpose. To-day there is a tug-o’-war between the Central Government and the City Council of Johannesburg as to who should pay for the building of the new market. In the meantime Johannesburg has more than 1,000,000 residents and there are large sections of the population who do not know what fresh vegetables and fresh fruit look like. Does this reflect any credit on us? The grossest malpractices are allowed to take place there. I address these remarks to the Johannesburg City Council. There is one ring after another. One man comes along and buys up everything and keeps it because he distributes just as he likes. It is high time the State intervened and made an effort, an earnest effort, to see justice done not only to the producer but to the consumer who suffers most as a result of this. In stepping into the breach for the consumer I want to add that I am one of those who believe that consumer and producer must get together as much as possible. They should act in close collaboration in the interests of both. I doubt whether there is anyone on this side or on the other side of the House who would find fault with these submissions of mine. The plea which I am making here for greater, stronger, better and more effective control, goes to the crux of this whole matter and I am sorry that my hon. friend on the other side, the member for Berea (Mr. Butcher) found fault with the regulatory measures which the State is attempting to introduce. The only branches of agriculture which are at all profitable—and I place the greatest possible emphasis on this—are those which are under strict control. To my hon. friend who alleged that: “We are regulated from the cradle to the grave,” I would say, Mr. Speaker: I wish that were so, because everybody would then be able to live decently within that regulated society. Let me ask my hon. friend this: What would have happened recently if mealies had not been under control? The situation would have become so completely out of hand that the industry would have foundered on the rocks. That is self-evident. When the State introduces control measures for the promotion of the health of the State and its citizens we must be very careful not to offer criticism and to grasp at catch phrases like “controlled from the cradle to the grave”. To try to score points off each other in a debate like this gets us no further.
Mr. Speaker, as so often happens, our legislation sometimes does not go far enough precisely because the State fears that there will be adverse comment and criticism of this sort. That is a great pity, because further control, which is so absolutely necessary, over the actions of wholesalers on the larger markets can only have a beneficial effect on this section of our industry. It must be kept in check. That is an absolute prerequisite for success.
Mr. Speaker, I assure you that any objective and impartial person who attends, say, the Durban or Johannesburg market, and sees what goes on there, and in particular the monopolies exercised by the Indians or Asians —for whom my hon. friend over there is making a disguised plea—any person who observes the behaviour of the Asian and the Indian at the markets, will realize that it is of the utmost importance that the State should take action in such cases. I have stood at the market and watched how one individual buys up a whole consignment of Cape peaches, or a whole consignment of Free State or Transvaal potatoes and then controls things to suit himself. Surely this is most undesirable. The law helps such a person by encouraging him in his malpractices. He sells at a large profit and the result is this; I have investigated and my experience is as follows: When a box of peaches goes for 5s. on the market, the moment it passes into the hands of the dealer, the price immediately becomes 10s. I followed up watermelons which I had delivered myself. The very best and biggest were sold for 3d. and 6d. The moment the dealer gets hold of them they are sold for 4s. or 5s. It was reported in the Cape newspapers that I had said that 3,000 per cent profit had been made on my product. The evil which I wanted to emphasize was not referred to there, and it is that evil which we must fight here. We must, therefore, obtain greater and stricter control over our Union markets and not only in the larger centres. The Department of Agricultural Economics and Marketing can play a big role here. The truth is that many commodities of great nutritious value are in short supply at many of our markets and there should be a more even distribution of these important products, because vegetables and fruit are some of our most nutritious foodstuffs. They have the highest protein content and it is precisely these commodities which are being withheld from the schools and the backward sections of the population who need it so sorely. The fact of the matter, as any practical farmer will tell you, is that if you employ Natives who have to do heavy manual labour and you feed them well you get much more work out of them the next day. When the time comes for hoeing or picking mealies by hand you will find that most of the Transvaal and Free State farmers give their Native employees more meat because the farmer knows what a busy time this is and he knows he cannot press a Native unless he has the physical strength. It is urgently necessary for this House therefore to see that the necessary machinery is set up to ensure a greater, more even and more effective distribution of vegetables and fruit. At the moment we are largely dependent on what happens on the overseas market and in the canning factories. What we deliver to our canning factories goes largely to the overseas market. I feel sure the State would be justified in this instance if it subsidized consumers heavily to promote a greater consumption of these perishable products. I want to support this because it will bring about improved national health. In the long run the State will derive such great benefit from it that health services will cost less.
It has already been mentioned by the hon. member for Drakensberg and I just want to enlarge on this point that a high commission is collected by the commission agents at our markets. We find that the ordinary commission agent is allowed 2½ to 5 per cent in certain divisions and up to 7½ per cent in other divisions. But the vegetable farmer and the fruit farmer are penalized. It is not correct that he pays only 12 per cent. After the levy has been added it is 17½ per cent. It will be seen therefore that when there is over-production and the farmer still has to pay packing costs and the price of the product drops and it is carted away at the Johannesburg or Durban market to be dumped in the sea, the farmer, after he has paid his commission, gets nothing. I want to plead for a more equitable distribution of commission and for a more efficient method to be devised to ensure that the farmer is not so heavily penalized in this instance. The farmer has paid the levy and the railage. It is too much. We can be accommodating in this instance. Do you know that when the farmer’s product goes, for example, to the canning factory— which is a great help to the farmer—he pays the minimum railage. The moment it falls under the next department because it has been canned, he pays the maximum railage. I think that if a concession could be made in that tariff …
I think the hon. member is wandering very far from the Bill now.
Very well, Mr. Speaker, I will leave that point. The fact is it would afford relief. Let me go on to the next point. Under the rules made for the Union markets the housewife is prevented from going to the market. I challenge anyone to disprove that. She simply cannot go there. These institutions are such and they are constituted in such a way that the South African housewife can no longer go to a market. She has become dependent on the fruit dealer and the Sammy who comes to her house and delivers these commodities to her when they have already been subjected to a great deal of handling. I am sure that in very many instances the housewife would much rather go and buy the fresh product at the market. Mr. Speaker, if you visit a large market you will see immediately what happens. One is almost trampled to death in one little spot, so often by non-European dealers, with the result that the White woman refuses to go there. It is no use saying that the housewife does not want to visit the market. In those circumstances she cannot do so. She would prefer to be able to do so. I want to make a plea that this should be taken into account in the building of markets. Already many fine buildings which are very useful have been erected.
Finally I want to make this plea, and I consider this to be of the utmost importance, namely, that this Bill and its successors should go much further. I have already said that here we are dealing with a matter which is worth £43,000,000 a year. The truth is that it could be expanded to very much more than this provided intelligent attention is given to the future. I would plead with the Minister therefore not to allow matters to rest here; that we should look much further ahead. This is the beginning and we welcome the fact that the Minister has come forward with this legislation. May we appeal to him and say that we expect him to build on this legislation in the near future in the interests of this important matter.
Business suspended at 6.30 p.m. and resumed at 8.5 p.m.
Mr. Speaker, before making a few remarks about the Bill as such, I just want to reply to what the hon. member for Pretoria (District) (Mr. Schoonbee) said. He pleaded and appealed to the Minister and said he hoped that this Bill will not be the end of the story, and according to him there was only one solution for the whole problem of marketing of perishable farm products, and that is under the Marketing Board by way of a control board as in the case of maize and wheat. Now, I trust the Minister will not lend a ready ear to that appeal. I cannot conceive of anything more fatal for the marketing of perishable agricultural products in this country than strict measures of control as applied by way of control boards to maize and wheats, etc. There is a very great difference between perishable agricultural products and the marketing thereof, where the time factor is the greatest problem, and the marketing of maize and wheat in terms of the Marketing Act where you have practically all the time at your disposal, where you have a homogeneous article that does not perish, because you can store it for a long while which gives the control board a chance to find markets over a period of a year or more. No matter how good the intentions of the hon. member for Pretoria (District) may be in his appeal to the Minister and in saying that the only solution will be more and more control, strict control under the Marketing Act, as regards perishable agricultural products, I think the hon. Minister has sufficient common sense not to take any notice of that appeal. As has been said, I do not think there is anybody in this House who would condemn this Bill. If we look at the history of the marketing of perishable agricultural products in this country, particularly over the past 20 years, specially from 1942-3 when the control boards began to function under the Marketing Board and proved that it was in fact possible to achieve stability in the marketing of agricultural products, voices began to be raised in this country from both consumers and farmers that something had to be done to place the marketing of perishable products on a better footing. There has been much dissatisfaction and I think the Government has done its duty over the years. They have appointed commissions to investigate the marketing problems in our own country and also a commission to go abroad to study the marketing methods of perishable products in the United States, Holland, West Germany and France. Because it is not an easy problem and one does not wish to act with undue haste. It is a problem that assumes such proportions that one must necessarily act carefully if one wishes to apply any measure of control. I therefore think that the Government has acted intelligently in appointing these commissions, in awaiting these reports and in first seeing, what is being done overseas. The report of the 1956 commission, in my opinion, is a fine document, and I wish to associate myself with those persons in this House who congratulated that commission on its report. If one reads that report one is impressed by the thoroughness of the work done by that commission, and one is grateful for the service they rendered South Africa. But even after that report it was necessary to act with care and to obtain the opinions of the various interested groups in the country. I am therefore grateful that the Minister could say to-night that this Bill is not only the product of his Department and of his law advisers, but that it is the unanimous product of the various branches of our economic life in South Africa, of the people who have an interest in marketing, of the consumers and also of the South African Agricultural Union that represents the producers. I assume then that it is practically a unanimous Bill that will receive the support of at least the majority of the people of South Africa. As far as it goes I think all of us ought to welcome it.
The main principle contained in the Bill is naturally that of registration. What does registration mean? It means that the man who wishes to trade or who wishes to act as a commission agent or as a broker for the producer or the principal must at least be known and be approved by a responsible body such as the Department of Economics and Marketing so that we will not find irresponsible persons performing a key function in this important sector of agriculture, persons who are irresponsible and who sometimes turn the country upside down as a result of their actions which are not always above board. To that extent I think it is a healthy principle, and as far as the principle is contained in this Bill that commission agents, brokers and also traders must be registered, it is a good one. The principle of accounting for sales within a certain period to his principal, which is now being made compulsory, is a good and sound one. The requirement that security must be provided by the person acting as middle-man between the consumer and the producer to ensure that the producer will not suffer losses as a result of the agent’s actions if he acts irregularly, is one of the most important measures in the whole Bill. Nobody can find fault with that.
I think these measures will raise business standards generally and ensure that persons concerned with the sale of perishable products and who serve as the link between the producer and the consumer, will be more careful in their actions—and that is necessary. But having said that I wish to sound a note of warning. I do not think this Bill is the panacea that will solve the whole problem of marketing of perishable products. In essence this problem will remain, and I think the hon. the Minister also views it in that light. This Bill will remove certain irregularities, but the essence of the problem of marketing perishable products will still remain. The problem of the time factor will still remain—the short time available for the marketing of a product which perishes very quickly. This measure cannot solve that problem. There is the question of demand and supply that varies in the case of perishable products, according to circumstances, within a short space of time. Today there is a big demand for a certain product in a big city, and then for two or three days there is no demand, and the next week there is a demand again. That is one of the greatest problems we have in the marketing of perishable products. That problem will remain in spite of the passing of this measure.
There is a further big problem, the fairly big gap or difference between the price obtained by the producer and the price paid by the consumer. Nobody can deny it. Generally speaking the producer, as far as perishable products are concerned, always receives the wholesale price and the consumer has to pay the retail price. In the nature of things there will always be a reasonably big gap between these two prices. It remains one of the problems that sometimes upsets the producer, and I cannot see how this Bill can materially assist to solve that problem.
Nor can this Bill help to do away with the fact that the demand for perishable agricultural products is concentrated in a few big cities while the production is spread over the whole country. This is where the time factor enters the picture and the factor of transport plays such a big role. One of the big problems in South Africa in the marketing of perishable products still remains the safe transport of these products over long distances and the fact that these products deteriorate so quickly in quality over a short period. I do not think a solution will ever be found for this problem until further attention is given to better cold storage truck facilities and better storage facilities at the points of arrival That too is a problem which this measure will not solve. This Bill will reduce the difference between the price received by the producer and that paid by the consumer only in so far as it will remove malpractices, which cannot be removed without this Bill. That is the greatest function that it can perform and therefore it is necessary, but again I wish to warn that the producer and the consumer must not come back after a few years and say to the hon. the Minister that this Bill has solved nothing. We must appreciate that its effect will necessarily be restriction and it is because that is so that I want to sound this warning note, for the sake of the hon. the Minister and his Department. As regards the provisions of the Bill itself I must say that I am rather disappointed that the Bill does not carry the question of arbitration a little further. I think the Minister also should adopt the American system as regards arbitration. Disputes may occur between brokers and commission agents on the one hand and the principal or producers on the other, disputes which normally do not involve big sums, and it is for that very reason that I think the marketing of perishable products lends itself to a system of arbitration. It is true that the Minister has made provision here for a kind of semi-arbitration, where he appoints an official who tries to settle disputes, but if one of the parties refuses to accept his recommendations he can go to court. I say again that in the nature of things the disputes usually involves small sums. Sometimes they are of such a nature that the man does not wish to go to court because of the costs etc. Therefore I think the Minister should have accepted the principle of arbitration and given it a chance, and if it does not work he can do away with it at a later stage. I cannot accept the argument that the principle of arbitration is foreign to our legal system in this country. I do not know who advised the Minister—I assume it is his law advisers. I think the Minister had an opportunity here to try out arbitration. During my recent tour in America I spoke to various Americans, big producers, about their system on which this Bill is largely based. Many of them told me that they thought the success of their law was in large measure attributable to the principle of arbitration which they have incorporated in the law.
With these few words I wish also to give my blessing to this Bill.
Mr. Speaker, this Bill is certainly a step in the right direction in dealing with this very difficult problem of the distribution of perishables through the markets of our country. It has long been a very difficult and worrying problem to the producer to be able, firstly, to get his perishables to the markets and, secondly, to be able to dispose of them at a reasonable price and at the same time to ensure that the consumer enjoys the benefits of a reasonable price. Sir, the Government should have taken steps years ago to encourage the development of modern markets in our country in order to meet this difficulty, because for many years now the producer, particularly of perishables, not only fruit but also vegetables, has had to contend with very serious problems. He has year after year been faced with low prices on the markets, and for some unaccountable reason has discovered that the consumer in the cities has had to pay high prices, far out of proportion to the price the producer was receiving on the markets. It was becoming clear that something had to be done to meet this difficulty. The question of gluts, e.g., was a very worrying problem to the farmer, and I talk particularly from my own knowledge of our big granary, the North-Eastern Transvaal, where due to gluts farmers have had most heart-breaking experiences year after year in the losses they have suffered on the goods sent by them to the various markets. I think of the very interesting example shown by the Railway Administration when its sheds at the Cape Town Docks burnt down and they then rebuilt at a cost of some millions of pounds a very modern and large cooling plant. That has been a very important factor in assisting the producer, but something has to be done internally on our markets, and I believe that the time has come for the Government to set aside a considerable sum of money in order to assist the development of modern markets. This Bill is certainly a step in the right direction and it is obviously part of some thinking which has resulted from the various commissions and inquiries that have been instituted. In 1956, as was rightly pointed out by the hon. member for Florida (Mr. H. G. Swart), a mission went overseas in order to learn what was happening on the American Continent and in Canada and Britain and certain countries of Europe. A few years earlier there was a committee of inquiry into the affairs of market agents. There have been many committees of inquiry and missions and many inter-departmental discussions have taken place to meet this problem. I understand, and this is one of the purposes for my entering the debate, that the hon. member for Pretoria-District (Mr. Schoonbee), delivered a most scurrilous attack on the Johannesburg market. It is probably not inconsistent with muddled thinking that one should attack what is regarded by experts as a national market. It must be realized that the contribution of a market like that of Johannesburg, the turnover of which runs into millions of pounds per annum, has been a very vital factor in the development of markets in this country. If the hon. member wanted to make a contribution towards solving this difficult problem, he should rather have endeavoured to analyse some of the difficulties facing markets, particularly those established so many years ago, and perhaps make suggestions to the Minister as to what the Government might do to bring about improvements and assisting municipalities to make these improvements. The hon. member might perhaps have spent a little time looking at the developments in Cape Town. Now, the Cape Town Early Morning Market, very similar to the Newtown Market, is a very old market. Cape Town fortunately had the opportunity of going out to Epping where there was abundant land and it is now hoping shortly to open one of the most modern markets in the country. Sir, the Newtown Market has suffered for many years from restricted space, because it is bounded on one side by a fast-developing modern metropolis and on the other by the railway mainlines. It has for some years also tried to find other land to which to transfer the market. Not long ago it was able, supported by a commission which inquired into the undertaking, to enter into negotiations to acquire a very large tract of land adjoining the New Kazerne in Johannesburg, which is the main terminus for the receipt and despatch of goods. But in order to establish a modern market, it is necessary to spend some £4,000,000 to £5,000,000. It has approached the Government, and I am sure the Minister is aware of this, because his predecessors were approached as well, and as long as 15 years ago an approach was made to the then Minister of Finance, Mr. Havenga, to provide some financial assistance to develop the Newtown Market, because the Newtown Market has become the great national market of South Africa. Even the experts will admit that when goods have to be disposed of the Newtown Market is the Mecca for livestock and for the sale of vegetables and fruit and other produce. I think the Minister might possibly give us a little enlightenment on what efforts the Government attempts to make to assist all municipalities in the country in developing their markets. Municipal markets have for centuries been the traditional avenue of disposal for agricultural produce, and if the hon. member would take the trouble to travel not only through the modern cities of Europe, but even through the vast continent of Africa, he will find, e.g., that in cities like Addis Ababa and Nairobi and other cities and towns in Africa, many centuries old, these markets which have existed even under the most primitive conditions, as the source of distribution of agricultural products. What one would have liked to have heard from the Minister in this debate is that whilst this is one step in the right direction the time has come for the Government to give much more consideration to assisting municipalities, the traditional avenue of distribution of produce, in order to modernise and develop their markets. All this is in the interest not of the local authority but of the producer primarily and the consumer secondly. I believe that it is vital that these two aspects should always remain as the twin points of attention of the hon. the Minister if he wants to do anything of value towards solving the problem that faces the producer in the country. The Minister knows well of the tremendous losses that the producers have suffered because of these gluts which should not take place because there are so many mouths that can be fed and there is so much that can be done with the tremendous output we have from our farmers. In fact, we have tended to neglect that particular aspect of our development and we have concentrated on the tremendous industrial expansion. But the agricultural side has been neglected and I believe that it is through the development of municipal markets, through giving assistance to modernize our system to bring us into line with other countries, that we can make a vital contribution to this important section of our community. I believe, therefore, that this Bill is a step in the right direction. But this does not, as the hon. member for Florida has said, close the book as far as the consumer is concerned. I would like the Minister to realize that whilst we appreciate the fact that he has made an effort to improve conditions, such as reporting to the producer that his produce has gone bad and what prices his produce fetched, he has only taken one step. Very much more is required.
I want to conclude on this note, Mr. Speaker. In big cities in our country the consumer has always complained about the high prices he has to pay. But for some unaccountable reason the producer has been the last man in the world who has benefited by those high prices. There must be some method of dealing with this difficult and important gap that one finds between the prices received by the producer and those paid by the consumer. I think if we concentrated our efforts only on solving this one particular problem, the hon. the Minister will have made a vital contribution to the agricultural economy of the country. It is in that respect, Sir, that I would like to make an appeal to him to give us some indication in his reply this evening, if possible, as to what his Department has in mind in order to ensure that the producer is encouraged in what he is doing, namely providing food to the people of the country. That is a section of our community which suffers many hardships, they have many difficulties to contend with, and I appeal to the Minister to ensure that they receive the fairest possible deal in the task they are doing, namely, that of providing the primary requirements of the people of our country.
I understand from one of my hon. friends here that the member for Pretoria (District) (Mr. Schoonbee) said that the Johannesburg people were a lot of sharks. I do not believe he said so, but if he did, he is probably thinking he is in Durban, or the South Coast, because, as I have said before, he is somewhat muddled in his thinking. But I want to refer him to municipal markets which are very much more inland than Durban.
May I ask you a question now? If you are proved wrong, will you apologize?
That is the note on which I wish to conclude. If the hon. the Minister can, perhaps, enlighten the House on this important matter which I have brought to his attention, I shall be grateful.
Mr. Speaker, I should like to thank hon. members on both sides of the House for the support they have given this measure. There are some hon. members who have read certain things into this Bill which are not stated there. As I said at the outset, this Bill is only designed to control malpractices which are taking place to-day and to subject to registration those people who make themselves guilty of malpractices. The hon. member for Florida (Mr. H. G. Swart) has referred to the difficulties which exist in connection with the marketing of fruit and vegetables. He says that he hopes that the marketing of fruit and vegetables will never be placed under the Marketing Act. I think I stated perfectly clearly this afternoon when I introduced this Bill that, although we can market less perishable products under the Marketing Act, it has been found impossible to market vegetables and fruit under that Act in the same efficient way. It will always be necessary, therefore, to retain the present system of marketing in the case of vegetables and fruit, a system under which you have agents and other people who act on behalf of the farmers.
Hon. members have dealt with the problems which exist in the marketing of fruit and vegetables. This Bill does not deal with that of course. There are other methods which we are investigating to see whether we can improve the distribution and the method of supply to the markets. That is being done already. The Minister of Railways, for example, has on various occasions improved the refrigerator facilities to distant places. As the hon. the Minister of Railways reminds me. mechanical trucks are being used now to ensure even more rapid conveyance to remote places. These are all things which are being done, of course, to improve the supply to the markets and the distribution at those markets. As far as the distribution to the consumer is concerned, it is always held against us that there is a great difference between the price which the producer receives and the price which the consumer pays. There are certain methods which can be used in that respect. The consumers, for example, can resort to joint action with a view to obtaining those products more cheaply. But most consumers prefer to have their requirements delivered at their door. It stands to reason, Mr. Speaker, that in marketing and distributing a highly perishable product the cost will inevitably be higher if the consumer prefers to have the product delivered at his door. We are always trying to see whether improvements cannot be brought about in that connection by getting producers to organize better—for example, by marketing jointly more than they are doing to-day—and by getting consumers better organized to act jointly to a greater extent in making their purchases. But it is impossible simply to wipe out the difference between the price which the producer receives and the price which the consumer pays, a difference which exists for many reasons.
The hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Miller) has spoken of municipal markets and has referred in particular to the Johannesburg market. I should like to say a few words in that connection. Some of our municipal markets have existed for many years and it stands to reason that the conditions there are not always what one would like to see—not that I am suggesting that they are necessarily bad.
As far as the Cape Town municipal market is concerned, I want to congratulate the municipality on this new market which is now being built. I think this is really a fine piece of work, and once the market has been completed I believe it will operate very efficiently.
As far as the Johannesburg market is concerned, to which the hon. member for Bezuidenhout has referred, he has made the allegation, which is correct to a large extent, that the Johannesburg market is not only a market which meets the requirements of the inhabitants of the city itself but that it is a national market from which fruit and vegetables are distributed to other parts of the country. Some people go so far as to say that the inhabitants of Johannesburg use only about 45 per cent to 46 per cent of the fruit and vegetables which are handled at the Johannesburg market and that the balance goes to other parts of the country. Well, the provision of new market facilities, as in the case of everything else today, is a very expensive process and we realize that this is one of the things which cost municipalities a great deal of money to-day. I think it is understandable that municipalities should look to the Government for financial assistance in establishing such market facilities. But, Mr. Speaker, if the Government is expected—and I think it is not unreasonable to expect it—Jo make financial contributions to the establishment of such markets, then I feel that as far as the control of those markets is concerned, the Government should have a certain amount of say and that the control cannot be left exclusively to the municipality which receives such a contribution from the Government.
The Government has a say to-day through the Provincial Councils.
No, Mr. Speaker, at the moment every municipality has full control over the market established by it. The municipality is the body which determines the fees which have to be paid on that market for the use of its marketing facilities. In other words, it can use the market for two purposes. It can use the market as a source of income and use part of the excess of revenue over expenditure to augment the city’s revenue. I do not say that that is being done but it is possible. On the other hand it can control the market in such a way that revenue just balances expenditure, If, however, the Government is expected to make a large financial contribution, not by way of a loan to the municipality, to the establishment of a new marketing centre at a place like Johannesburg, which is regarded as a national market, not only as a market which serves the immediate neighbourhood, then I cannot see, if such a contribution is made, how it can be made without giving the right to the Government to have a share in the control of that market, either through a utility company or a body which is established jointly by the municipality and the Government. The municipality cannot be allowed to have full control, because the. contribution made by the Government consists of funds which belong to the public, and the market should, therefore, be regarded as a sort of national institution. Negotiations are already proceeding between the Government and the municipality of Johannesburg in connection with the establishment of new marketing facilities.
If, as the Minister says, Johannesburg serves the interests of the producers of the whole country, I want to ask the Minister whether in that sense the Government should not contribute its share.
Mr. Speaker, that is precisely the argument that I am advancing. If that market serves the interests of the farmer, the Government should make its contribution and regard the market as a sort of national market. If the Government made a large contribution of, say, a few million pounds, towards the establishment of such a market, it would not be able to leave the control of that market in the hands of the local municipality; it would have to accept co-responsibility for that market. I should like that to be clear.
Then I want to reply to a few other points that have been made here. The hon. member for Florida (Mr. H. G. Swart) has raised a few points. I do not propose to reply to the whole of his speech but he also referred to the difficulties which exist in connection with the marketing of vegetables and fruit. He dealt with the question of arbitration and asked whether it was not possible in this measure to assume the arbitration powers which the Americans have assumed in their Act. I tried to explain at the beginning of my speech that if we took arbitration powers under the Act, it would mean that the Minister or the Secretary of the Department would have to be given powers in terms of which he could impose fines at such an arbitration or cause compensation to be paid by people who are found to be in the wrong. The hon. member for Florida has asked that we should assume these arbitration powers under this Act but I am convinced, Mr. Speaker, that if we had taken these powers, members on the other side would have advanced the argument which they have advanced all these years, that the Government is placing the Minister or his Department in a position which should really be occupied by the Courts; in other words, that we are taking over the functions of the Courts in South Africa. We feel that with the powers which are given in the Act for voluntary arbitration, we shall be able to succeed to a reasonable degree in finding a solution for the disputes which arise from time to time, particularly since the deliverer of the vegetables or fruit will still have the right to go to a Court of Law where he will have all the information at his disposal. If, however, we find in the future that it is essential to assume arbitration powers, we shall have to come back to Parliament later on to ask for those powers, and if that should happen, I hope hon. members on the other side will support us in our request for those powers.
Then I should like to reply to something which was said by the hon. member for Bethlehem (Mr. Knobel) in connection with the keeping of trust accounts. We have no serious misgivings against the keeping of trust accounts as such but it is very doubtful whether this will be a means of protecting the farmers’ interests. One feels that it will result in unnecessarily high costs and in a great deal of inconvenience, and it will also entail heavy administrative expenses for the state. That is why we first want to test this Act in practice and determine whether that step will be necessary. The general opinion, Mr. Speaker—and I agree with that—is that if we consistently make use of the powers that we are taking under this legislation, the keeping of trust accounts will not be necessary. We shall now be able to determine within 10 or 12 or 14 days whether any agent is making improper use of that money. The period during which agents will now be able to do so will be very short; one would very soon discover it because the agents have to give an account within a certain period of all moneys received by them. If it does appear to be essential, however, to introduce trust accounts, if it appears that the measures which we now consider adequate are not effective, we have the power to do so under the Act and trust accounts will then be instituted in the light of our experience.
The hon. member for Drakensberg (Mrs. S. M. van Niekerk) says that she agrees with me. She says that usually she does not agree with me. It now seems that the hon. member for Drakensberg agrees with me but not with members on the other side. The hon. member has stated here that this measure should have been introduced much sooner, that the report of the last commission appeared as long ago as 1956 and that it has taken nearly five years for us to come to the House with this legislation. The hon. member for Florida gave her a very good reply on that point. The position is this, Mr. Speaker. This legislation was drawn up and, because this is something of which we had no previous experience, it was desirable to obtain the greatest measure of unanimity amongst the various interested groups. It took time to consult all the interested groups and to give them all the opportunity to express their opinion. This legislation was introduced last year, but it was introduced deliberately so as to give hon. members and other people in this country the opportunity if they had any objections to any of the provisions of this measure, to bring them to the notice of the Minister of his Department in the meantime with a view to amendments. I think the fact that this evening there is so much unanimity with regard to this piece of legislation proves that the time we devoted to it was well spent.
Hon. members have also referred to the control over our municipal markets. Various members have asked that the control over out municipal markets should be placed under the Union Government and that they should not remain under the various Provincial Administrations. But this marketing code which has been drawn up and which is going to be submitted to the various Provincial Administrations for approval, was drawn up in fact by the Market Advisory Board which consists of representatives of the various municipalities. This was done in order to obtain uniformity at all the municipal markets, and for that reason I feel that we should give the Provincial Administrations the opportunity, by way of proclamation, to force municipalities to accept this marketing code, and then we can see whether that will not give us better co-ordination at the municipal markets. I feel that we should not bring about any change at this moment in the control over our municipal markets. I feel, too, that if the local authorities carry out this marketing code, we shall be able to obtain much better co-ordination and co-operation than we have had in the past.
I come now to the hon. member for Berea (Mr. Butcher). The hon. member says that the Government wants to regulate everything to-day. According to him this Government’s attitude is that it wants to regulate and regiment everything. He objects to that and says that this legislation is also an attempt to regulate everything. But the position is that here we are regulating with a view to protecting people who trade in certain commodities. There must necessarily be agents between the producers on the one hand and the consumer on the other hand and that is why this legislation simply makes provision for the protection of both parties against any possible malpractices. It is not a question of regimentation; we just want to see that those people who act as agents at least follow a code of honesty and efficiency in the performance of their duties. That is why this legislation is being introduced. The hon. member wants to know whether the registration powers which the Minister has under this Act are intended to exclude certain classes of people. I take it that in asking that question he wants to know whether we can exclude Indians and Coloureds, etc. I have stated perfectly clearly, Mr. Speaker, that the object of this Act, as far as the registration powers are concerned, is not to exclude people from registration. There will be no restrictive registration in that occupation. We merely want to ensure that the right people are registered, people who are honest and who have not made themselves guilty of irregular and dishonest practices under this Act. The latter are the people who will be refused registration. Where the Act, in Clause 26 (2), refers to different classes of persons, it does not refer to different colours or races or groups; it refers to the categories mentioned there, namely the traders, the brokers and the commission agents; it has nothing to do with the colour or race of the person concerned. Surely it stands to reason, Mr. Speaker, since these markets are the channel through which the farmer distributes his products, that it is essential to allow the greatest number of competitors on that market, because the more competitors there are on that market for any particular product, the better will be the price obtained for it, and the fewer competitors there are the poorer the price is likely to be. As hon. members have said, when there is only one wholesaler, he buys everything, so the more competitors you have, obviously the better the price must be. That is why there cannot be one municipal market for Coloureds and one for Indians or any other race; everybody should buy at the same central market and the greater the number of buyers the better price must be that the farmer gets for his product. I just want to reassure the hon. member for Berea that these classes to which reference is made in Clause 26 (2) have absolutely nothing to do with the race or colour of people; it only refers to the category to which they belong.
I think I have now replied more or less to most of the points. If I have overlooked certain points perhaps, I think they should be raised again in the Committee Stage. I move.
Motion put and agreed to.
Bill read a second time; House to go into Committee on the Bill on 9 February.
Third Order read: Second reading,—Mental Disorders Amendment Bill.
Mr. Speaker, the Bill before the House now is a non-contentious Bill and I am convinced that it will be welcomed by all sides of the House. It is very brief, consisting only of six clauses, of which only two are really material.
I shall try to explain the purpose of the first amendment, viz. the amendment of Section 2. The principle which has hitherto obtained in our mental hospitals is that only persons suffering from mental disease to a serious degree could be accommodated. A person must be so seriously mentally ill that he is certified as being somebody incapable of taking care of himself, either of his own person or as far as his own personal interests are concerned, or as one constituting a danger to himself or to others, or as being a person needing constant supervision and treatment; or in the case of children, that they are completely incapable of receiving education.
Our mental institutions, Mr. Speaker, make no provision for persons who are in the initial stages of the disorder. Our institutions are therefore closed to all people except those whose condition is in an advanced state. This is a relic of the old standpoint which applied until after the last World War, that mental diseases are practically incurable and that the person who lands in a mental institution is simply being shut up so that he cannot constitute a danger or a nuisance to society. Fortunately matters have changed very much since that time; our mental institutions have changed because new treatments and new methods have been discovered, new drugs have been discovered by which a large number of those unfortunate people can be cured to-day. As a result of all this there is now a new approach to the problem. The approach is that we should assist not only those people who have to be shut away, those who are chronic, but also those who are in the initial stages of the disease, and that we should try to save them so that they will never become chronic cases.
If we can succeed in assisting people who are in the early stages of mental disorder, it also means that in fact we will be saving the State a tremendous amount of money. Unless we can do so, such a person will become progressively worse and eventually land up in a mental institution where he will perhaps have to be kept for years at the cost of the State. The advantage of being able to help him timeously is that we give him back his own life and return him to his family, so that such a person becomes a useful citizen instead of a burden on the State. The object of this amending legislation is to achieve this splendid ideal. We want to make available the psychiatrists, the experts who are the heads of those institutions, to these early cases, people who are just beginning to show the first symptoms. They are the people whom we want to assist. The object of the Bill is to make that possible through the establishment of out-patient departments, departments which are connected to our larger institutions, where the doctors can then treat the patients, who are able to receive the newest and the best medicines and drugs. This is no sudden conviction that has arisen in our minds, Sir; it is the conviction of the medical profession and of all of us that we should make these institutions available to these people timeously, but we could not do so before because of the provisions of the present Act. Then the Department, together with certain prominent individuals, very wisely established a National Mental Health Society with branches in various big cities in the country, which tried in their own way to assist, particularly in the case of people who showed slight symptoms and for whom there was no provision. I want to say immediately, Sir, that I cannot do otherwise than express the thanks of all of us to this National Mental Health Society and its affiliated associations. I think they are doing splendid work, unselfish work, without receiving any remuneration for it. They freely give their services to these people who have very few friends in life. This National Council for Mental Hygiene has out-patient clinics in all the large cities of South Africa, and in those centres the State’s medical officials give their assistance as far as the diagnosis of the disease is concerned and by giving advice to the patients and their families. But they could never go further. It was never possible for them to give any real treatment to those patients; it was not always possible for them to give them the necessary medicines, as the result of the lack of accommodation, and the lack of facilities and the shortage of personnel at these out-patient clinics. And when this Bill has been accepted, Sir, it does not mean that the splendid work they are doing will come to an end. We hope that they will continue with their valuable services, and even extend them, but that they will continue to give advice to the patients and their families and to try to rehabilitate the patient who has already been cured to such an extent that he can be discharged, and that they will continue with the welfare work which always forms part and parcel of the care of the mentally ill.
The establishment of these out-patient departments in our large mental hospitals will have three consequences. The first is that numbers of cases will now be treated in the early stages and we hope that most of them will be cured. In this way, the cost to the patient, the indirect cost to his family and the cost to the State will be very little. There will now be fewer cases which become chronic, fewer persons who will have to be segregated for years in the large mental institutions. These people will in future be able to stay with their families, will still be able to work and will still be able to care for their families and for themselves. In the second place it will mean that many of the cases at present admitted to the hospitals will now be able to be discharged sooner. Now the position is that they must be detained in the hospitals until they are practically cured. I say “practically”. One is never able to say when a man is really cured. In future they will be able to be discharged sooner, and now they will be able to come to the out-patient departments from time to time, and wherever necessary they will still be able to receive treatment, and they can get the necessary medicines. The result will be that a large proportion of the future inmates of those mental institutions will again be able to take their place in life.
But now there is a third matter. It is a well-known fact that in our mental institutions to-day we have a shortage of space, and this has been the case for years. But as the result of the fact that we will now be able to discharge people sooner, more space will become available for other unfortunate people who can then perhaps also receive assistance sooner. At the same time the extra costs of the out-patient departments will be very little, because they are not new institutions which are being established; they are simply departments established at the existing hospitals. The same doctors will be employed, the same nurses and the same equipment—all the facilities available can be used. In other words, the extra costs will be a minimum.
I now come to the second important clause, Clause 4. That provides that in future all patients domiciled in our country can be treated gratis in the hospitals. Before 1957 all the expense connected with the cure of a patient in a mental institution was recoverable from the estate of that patient, or even from relatives who were responsible for him. If, for example, it was a young man or a child who had to be maintained by his father or parents, the State recovered the costs from the parent. If it was a husband who had to maintain his wife, the cost in connection with her nursing could be recovered from him. And in certain cases, the cost could even be recovered from the patient’s brothers. When one remembers, Sir, that some of these patients sometimes stayed in the hospitals for years, and sometimes for decades, it will be realized what tremendous costs were incurred in connection with the treatment of such persons, and to recover those costs from a relative, even though it was the father or the husband, often gave rise to much difficulty. It was often such a tremendous burden that it almost broke such a family financially. Then in 1957 the principle was adopted by the State that the State itself would bear the cost of treating people domiciled in the Union. Certain exceptions were made, namely persons who were not domiciled in the Union, and also voluntary patients, i.e. persons who perhaps felt that they were developing mental disorder and who then sought refuge in such a hospital to receive treatment. That means that patients who went to hospital voluntarily in order to receive treatment timeously had to pay their own costs, or else their relatives had to do so. The result was that numbers of people who in the early stages felt that they were beginning to show signs of mental aberration, instead of going to the hospitals to receive treatment, refrained from doing so because they did not want to incur the costs entailed. The result was that those persons in most cases became worse and worse, and eventually they became serious cases and often chronic cases, and of the rest of their lives they were a burden on the State. In other words, by adopting a more humane attitude the State would in fact have saved itself money, because it would have been able to treat these people gratis timeously and it would have been spared the costs of caring for chronic patients. These are the amendments contained in this Bill. This Bill now also make it possible for persons who go to hospital voluntarily, persons who have not yet been certified, and who show only slight signs of mental instability, in future to go to the institutions knowing that it will cost them nothing and that they will receive the same treatment as other people who had perhaps become chronic cases and had to be admitted to these institutions.
This, briefly, is the object of this Bill, and I hope that it will enjoy the support of both sides of the House.
I have listened with considerable interest to the hon. the Minister in giving us an indication of the intentions of this Bill. I agree with him that, in so far as Clauses 1, 2 and 4 are concerned, the Bill is in line with the modern concepts in the approach to mental illness. The Minister went back and referred to the older concepts and I must say that we have come a long way since the original Act dealing with mental disorders, namely Act. No. 38 of 1916, because the principle then adopted was one of isolation of the patient and keeping that patient in custody, and in fact, the actual approach can be put in this way, that at that particular time and up to comparatively recently the approach was to build hospitals, staff hospitals and then over-crowding them. But that was not a panacea for all our mental ills. It did not solve the very serious and very important problem that affects modern society, and obviously the approach in line with modern concepts must be to get away from the old principle of custodianship and adopt what is now known as the “open-door” principle.
The Bill before us provides for that, because the hon. the Minister has stated that many of the patients in hospitals to-day will be released and treated as out-patients. This will tend to relieve the congestion which exists in the present over-crowding in our mental institutions. Now any one in this House who has read from time to time the annual reports of the Commissioner for Mental Hygiene will appreciate the extent of the over-crowding in our mental institutions. In fact in the last report available, that is the one covering the period 1957-8, the Commissioner has listed the various institutions, given the rated capacity of the hospitals and shown to what extent there has been over-crowding. One thing that arises out of that over-crowding, a tragic factor, is that it has meant (and this is referred to in the Commissioner for Mental Hygiene’s Report) that many mental cases have been accommodated in police cells and gaols. The new approach in this Bill is a very important advance. But I think that we can go further. What is the modern approach in so far as mental ill-health is concerned? Perhaps the best illustration I can give is that which was known some years back as the “Amsterdam Experiment”. It is no longer an experiment, it is a great success, in fact so much a success that it has limited the hospital admissions, and relieved whatever congestion existed. It has lessened the admissions by 40 per cent. That new approach, and that is the basis of this Bill, is early diagnosis and early treatment, outside of the custodianship in the hospital. In this new concept, this modern approach, we must take into consideration pre-disposing causes, and in pre-disposing causes we must consider also the question of environment, that is the family environment, domestic relationship, the question of conditions, tensions and frustrations in the factory, socio-economic factors, and obviously if we are to prevent and limit the question of an incipient condition becoming chronic and ultimately certifiable, these factors must be taken into consideration. It is on that account that Clauses 1 and 2, the provision in regard to out-patient services associated with mental hospitals is a particularly important one. Previously there was the restricting factor of the cost to the patient. The Minister has shown how under Clause 4 the voluntary patient will not have any charges levied against him. In the Act of 1957 treatment in the institution itself was free and there was no charge against the family or an estate, but I feel there is one restricting factor and it is this: Unfortunately in our recognition of mental ill-health there is always a stigma attached to the individual who is in the institution. Now the creation of out-patient services associated with mental institutions may not eleminate that stigma, and therefore I feel in our approach in this matter it is necessary for out-patient services, out-patients’ clinics to be associated with the general hospital. In that provision we will then make a considerable advance, Mr. Speaker, because through the social contacts of the individual who has some mental affliction, that person would not have the fear of going to a general hospital because he would not then be stigmatized as a man suffering from a mental ailment. I think the Minister should give consideration to this proposal. I realize, however that this is perhaps not a matter for him, but I would suggest that the Minister takes the matter up with the Central Health Services and Hospitals Co-ordinating Committee because he has a liaison with that committee through, I believe, the Secretary for Health.
Apart from the provision of these facilities in a general hospital, it is important that in general hospitals we should also set aside, particularly in those hospitals which are associated with the teaching side, the necessary beddage accommodation. If we are to attack this matter fundamentally. We have got to go right to the ground-floor. Now I want to say that in general hospitals it has been assessed that more than 30 per cent of the patients in general hospitals are there because their condition has been precipitated by emotional disturbances. This is why it is necessary that we bring these into line with mental institutions and their out-patient departments, because, as the hon. Minister rightly said, it is that early diagnosis and early treatment tends to prevent a mental condition becoming certifiable and necessitating accommodation through certification in a mental institution. Therefore if we attack this problem, we have got to attack it in a rational way. Now we know full well that our difficulties, our tensions, our frustrations, our emotional disturbances have all been increased by the increasing momentum of industrialization. There is the question of mechanization, environment, even boredom through automation in industry is a factor, and it is necessary to give consideration to all these socio-economic factors if we are to be successful in our approach to this very serious problem. It is therefore that I suggest, on the lines of the Amsterdam planning, to approach this matter on the following lines. The Amsterdam city authorities have at their disposal one specialized department which is very important on account of the wide ramifications in the predisposing causes of mental illness which necessitate an approach through teamwork, co-ordination and co-operation. Now who is in the very frontline of that attack? I think hon. members will agree with me that it is the general practitioner, that is the family doctor. He is in the position to detect the slightest deviation from any mental normality. In team work it is necessary for the general practitioner to be trained, perhaps through a post-graduate course. Provision should be made in the universities for advanced training for under-graduates and practical training through the medium of psychiatric beds in general hospitals where they will have contact with the patients. These facilities will give medical men a training to enable them when they become general practitioner and practice as such, they will be trained to observe and to appreciate the therapeutic approach in combination with the psychologists, with the psychiatrists, with the social workers, and possibly others, such as occupational training workers, and this integrated team system will constitute your first-line attack. The social worker will appreciate the environmental conditions, investigation into the factory conditions and will advise on the factors which have predisposed to upsetting the emotional balance of the patient.
This new approach, with a knowledge of the casual conditions, will ease re-adjustment in the incipient phase of mental aberration, and this will limit the cost to the state and relieve the congestion in the already overcrowded hospitals. The therapeutic approach can then be on a basis of a re-adjustment either in the family unit or in the work atmosphere. This is in accordance with the modern conception of approach to mental ill-health. The cost to the state at the moment I believe is approximately £3,000,000. That is a considerable sum. We are not here concerned with that sum. It is however essential that we depart from what I would call the old primitive thinking in this matter; let us have some advanced thinking; let us appreciate the progress made in other countries of the world. Let me say that our legislation in this connection is outstanding and the Royal Commission appointed to investigate Mental Health in Britain two years ago, I think it was, praised the legislation in this country affecting mental illness, and considered it outstanding legislation. Of course we on both sides of the House are naturally in regard to humanitarian matters, and particularly matters which affect the less privileged of our community, the less fortunate of our community, all agreed that those who are mentally affected can be placed in the category of less fortunate people, and from a humanitarian point of view, we have a moral obligation to approach this matter in the light of the new scientific approach. If we are able to do this, then we are rendering a service of considerable value to the community as a whole by re-introducing into society, through re-adjustments and by making, as the Minister has said, sound citizens of them, these unfortunate people.
I mentioned that out-patient services are necessary in the general hospitals. Reading through various reports I came across the report of a departmental committee on mental hospitals, a report dated 1936-7 (U.G. No. 36 of 1937) and on page 19 in paragraph 59, the committee had this to say—
So even as far back as 1937, a committee taking evidence from experts came to that conclusion. Therefore the suggestion I put to the Minister that there should be out-patient services associated with general hospitals is not a new one. It was a contention more than 20 years ago. My suggestion to the hon. Minister is that on the proposals I have put to him, namely out-patient services at general hospitals, the question of team-work centering round the general practitioner, the family doctor and the local medical officer of health is so important that I would urge him to take the first occasion that the Central Health Services and Hospitals Co-ordinating Committee meets to put these suggestions to that body to urge that these services be provided and endeavoured to secure co-ordination and co-operation of the various organizations in the interests of better planning in the new approach to mental health.
I suggested “co-ordination and co-operation”. Now the Minister very rightly paid tribute to the National Council for Mental Health. I would like to associate myself with him. That body has been doing good work and will continue to do good work in the future. I would also like to pay a tribute to all those voluntary workers (the Minister has also done so) who are identified with the mental health clinics. It is voluntary work and they are doing good work, but that work is, as the Minister says, more of an advisory nature. They cannot carry that work to its fullest extent because although they can assist through the medium of advise, they have not the necessary equipment for full therapeutic treatment. All these bodies should be co-ordinated, the mental institutions through the out-patient services, the general hospitals through observation wards (beds set aside) and out-patient services, the team-work of the general practitioner, with the associates I have mentioned, and also the mental health clinics, to avoid confusion and over-lapping. On that basis I am confident that in the new approach, the approach which was an experiment in Holland first of all and later in Britain and the United States, tremendous dividends will be reached, as has been the experience in these other countries. The cost has been less to the state, but the important consideration is that the rehabilitation of the individual is effective to such an extent that it prevents 40 per cent or 50 per cent of the community, perhaps even a higher percentage, from going from the incipient or embryonic stage of mental ill-health, to a certification and admission into a mental institution, where they are isolated more or less from their families. Now on the combination of all these factors, dealing with the predisposing causes, and the co-ordinated teamwork which should be associated with the limitation I would like to quote from a Government paper, viz. Fact Paper No. 65 of November, 1958. This signifies the importance of the family doctor, the general practitioner in the set-up I have suggested. This is the first paragraph in this Fact Paper under the heading “Mental Illness”—
We have an opportunity if we tackle this problem, appreciating all the implications. Approach the problem through its root causes and do it through a mobile therapeutic team, it will reap big dividends for mankind, and material dividends for the Government in respect of a decreased financial responsibility, and we shall then be able to cope with what is a very serious problem in this country.
There are surely few matters on which this House is in such complete agreement as this particular one. This Bill is meeting a very deep-felt need. As the previous speaker indicated most competently, this is a deep-felt need of many years standing. When we examine the latest report of the Commissioner for Mental Hygiene, i.e. for 1958, we find that at 31 December 1958 there were no less than 21,051 patients in the various homes, hospitals and institutions, of whom 8,340 were Whites. These figures make one realize that this is a problem of great magnitude. In addition we must bear in mind that authorities in this sphere assure us that we are only dealing with a small portion of the real problem because very many people do not develop such serious psychoses that they need to be referred to an institution—in other words, there are thousands of people in our community who require treatment. It makes us realize what the scope of the problem is. Because in many cases their illness is still only in the initial stages, many people are not sent to a hospital or institution, although that will be their eventual fate if timeous action is not taken and their problems cannot be solved. It is these people who according to the industrial psychologists are to a great extent responsible for large-scale absenteeism from work; these people who are mentally disturbed, but who are not serious enough cases to be referred to a hospital. This costs the country many thousands of pounds annually. If one wishes to treat mental diseases, it is essential that one should start at a very early stage, as the previous speaker indicated. In the case of a psychosis such as schizophrenia, for example, this disease which previously was diagnosed as incurable, we know that it can be alleviated if the sufferer can only be given the necessary treatment at an early enough stage. If such a person is young or if the psychosis has not been present for more than approximately two years, there is hope that the person can be cured and helped. We find, however, that under the Act as it stands, a person practically has to reach the final stage and become a danger to himself and the community before he can be certified as someone who should be sent to such a hospital or institution. In addition we must remember that to-day it is possible that we can treat this disease before it has reached an advanced stage because there is an increasing stream of people who come of their own accord at an early stage and for assistance. Previously that was not the position and various factors were responsible. Firstly a very unpleasant stigma attached to a hospital and institution and not only to them, but to the mental sufferer himself. People were simply afraid to admit that they suffered from a mental disorder just as people to-day are still often afraid to admit that there are malignant growths somewhere in the body. They find it a painful thought and I want to say that it is even more painful to think that one is suffering from a mental disorder because it has a far greater effect on the individual’s ego than a mere physiological complaint. It is a painful and humiliating thing to have to admit that one is mentally disordered. But as a result of the intensive education of the public, we find that the public has begun to develop a quite enlightened attitude. Our newspapers, magazines and schools have done good work in this field with the result that many people are presenting themselves timeously and can be assisted.
The symptoms of this illness have become generally known and people now understand that they need no longer be any more afraid of this illness than they are of measles or any other physical disease, that it is no disgrace and that they can be helped, but that the sooner they present themselves, the greater their chances of complete recovery and of overcoming their difficulties completely. Furthermore an increasing measure of trust has of course developed in the treatment which is provided. This same report discusses the treatment of this illness and it says—
As a result most of the public have greater confidence in the treatment which they will receive and want to undergo this treatment when they discover their serious condition.
As far as the Bill itself is concerned, the Bill is valuable precisely because it will remove the physical factors which are having a restrictive effect on the possibility of treatment. The first is the accommodation problem. This is the main problem which has always been experienced in the past in these hospitals. When we read this report we find the following—
And then a very enlightening table is provided. If we take an institution such as Weskoppies for example we are told that in the case of Whites there is accommodation for 396 White men. Not only were all these beds occupied, but the institution was overcrowded to the extent that 87 additional White male patients had to be admitted. In the previous year the figure was 100. There is accommodation for 510 females, and 165 too many had to be admitted. As regards non-Whites there is accommodation for 426, and the institution was overcrowded to the extent of 599 non-White patients. This shows us with what a tremendous problem we are faced in this regard. The same applies to the Oranje Hospital in Bloemfontein, to Valkenberg in Cape Town, and to the Komani hospital in Queenstown. In various hospitals we find this same phenomenon of overcrowding, with the result that many persons cannot receive proper attention and have to be turned away. We therefore say that the fact that we shall now have out-patients, people who come from outside to receive treatment, just as is done at any other hospital, will now give us the opportunity to treat a far greater number of patients. It will also mean that we can treat people when the illness is still in its initial stages, when there is the best opportunity of a favourable prognosis.
The same applies to the financial problem. As has already been indicated, this causes great concern to such people who are still able to appreciate their condition, and who voluntarily offer themselves for treatment. These people are often very depressed and when in addition they must think about the financial burden which may be entailed, it may definitely have the effect of retarding their cure. But they are now being relieved of this fear.
Mr. Speaker, we can say that we are only sorry that the steps which have now been announced were not taken a long time ago already. This has been a deep-felt need for many years past. It is essential that it should be made easier for people to receive treatment, because if we do not do so we shall find what we find to-day, namely that people are turning on a large scale to quacks in this sphere, who advertise in newspapers and magazines that they can heal such people by means of hypnosis and such methods. Then these people fall into the hands of unscrupulous individuals who can cause them incalculable harm. We only hope that the progress we are now making will represent a great step towards what we should eventually like to see, namely that out-patients of this type will be treated by every provincial hospital and not only by the mental institutions, and that far more clinic facilities will be made available so that these unfortunate people can be helped, cured and kept cured.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that this is the beginning of a new outlook, in South Africa at any rate, in the treatment of the mentally ill. This is the sort of thing that we have been asking for for several years, and I am very pleased that the hon. the Minister has seen fit to introduce this type of legislation now. It is not going to be as easy as has been made out to treat the mentally ill in out-patients’ departments. There is going to be more than one difficulty that we will have to meet and overcome.
I would like, at the outset, to tell the hon. the Minister that it is not sufficient to have out-patients’ departments attached only to mental institutions. If he is going to do that only, then he is going to strike very many snags. It so happens that in South Africa the mental hospitals are very often not in the large centres. That means that it is going to be difficult for people to go from one centre to another centre to obtain treatment. What good is it going to be to have an out-patients’ department attached to the Pretoria Mental Hospital at Weskoppies if it is not treating patients not only from Pretoria but from the surrounding districts and also, say, from Johannesburg. In Johannesburg we do not have a mental hospital as such. There is no such institution. How is it going to help if Sterkfontein is going to have an out-patients’ department if it is only going to cater for the people in the immediate vicinity of the West Rand. I say to the hon. the Minister that he has to make up his mind, if he is going to go forward with this type of legislation, that he must find ways and means of providing out-patients’ departments in all Provincial Hospitals so that the facilities which are present in the Provincial Hospital shall be used by the mental patients.
The question arises, how can he do that? I do not think that it would be right at this stage, at any rate, for one body to take over the work of another. But I would say that the Minister could surely delegate powers to local authorities to run out-patients’ departments in the Provincial Hospitals on behalf of the Government. If he does that it means that he is going to satisfy a lot of conditions which are otherwise going to be difficult of fulfilment. In the first place I want to tell him that he is going to have the utmost difficulty with staff, because at these out-patients’ departments they are going to be very busy. These are not going to be departments which, at any time during the day, are going to be slack. We have heard from more than one speaker to-night how many people there are, not only in this land of ours but throughout the world, who need help for mental disturbances of one kind or another. We have just heard from the last speaker, who has some knowledge of the matter, how many there are walking the streets of the towns and the villages and roaming the countryside who need help. They are going to go to these outpatients’ departments. There will not be any stigma attached to them, but I do not attach much importance to stigma. But where there are facilities for these people to receive treatment, where they are not to be hospitalized, where certification does not play any part, there you can be sure you are going to be very busy in everyone of the out-patients’ departments.
Where is the hon. the Minister going to find the medical personnel to fill these clinics for out-patients? He is not going to be able to fill these posts by using the present people working in the mental institutions. I am going to tell him that if he tries to do that the people in the mental institutions are going to be neglected and all the medical officers and nurses are going to be overworked. And they in turn will have to be treated. And when I say that I am quite serious, I am not joking. Can you, Sir imagine what it means to a doctor to attend to 30 or 40 people suffering from troubles of the mind, in one afternoon or in one day? Can you imagine the stress and strain to which the individual is put in trying to treat these unfortunate people? It is impossible to go through with it. So you have to find ways and means of increasing your staff. The only places where you can get adequate staff are in the large centres, and in the large centres you have the facilities not only for staffing but, also, the required space; the beddage, the rooms available, the clinics available. You have present all the physical amenities. You do not have to worry about looking for a basin to wash your hands or for a couch on which to examine the patient, or a screen. You do not have to start looking for extra nurses who do not want to work in a mental institution because of the stigma mentioned by the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg (City) (Col. Shearer). The nurses find it difficult to work in these institutions, and the nursing aids find it difficult. But when they work in a general hospital that difficulty is removed immediately and they work as ordinary nursing staff. And the doctors can work at a reasonable rate, seeing a reasonable number of patients a day, and they get sufficient relief from those people who are available in the large towns. In Johannesburg there would be more than enough specialists in mental disorders to take on the work on a part-time basis, so as to be able to look after almost every clinic that will be established in the Johannesburg area. I feel that there are even sufficient there to go to the Reef. And I would like to see the out-patients’ departments established from Randfontein to Springs on the Reef.
Then we have to consider the position of the unfortunate people on the platteland who need help. What good is it to have an out-patients’ department in Pretoria if people from, say, Barberton need help? They cannot come as out-patients from Barberton to Weskoppies. Surely the reasonable thing would be for the people in Barberton to have an out-patients’ department in that town. Otherwise the value of the out-patients’ department is lost. In other words, if you are going to limit the out-patients’ departments to the mental hospitals you are going to lose the benefits of this important step which you wish to take.
I should like to recapitulate. For the patient’s benefit the hon. the Minister should, firstly, try to establish the hospitals where they are most needed. In these cases they are mostly needed in the large centres where there are stresses and strains. The Minister will also have to cater, to a lesser degree, for those people on the platteland who need help. There the country hospitals can be utilized. They can have mobile teams of workers to go to these hospitals two or three times a week. This will also help to overcome the difficulties that will arise with the nursing staffs, because those staffs will be established in the hospitals. Thirdly, you will be able to utilize the services of the Social Welfare Department in the towns and in the cities for follow-up purposes.
If there is a patient in a mental institution who has received treatment which entitles him to go out of that mental institution as a healthy man, what good is it for that person to go out if he has no home to go to? For those reasons we need some sort of social welfare organization to follow-up those cases which, at the moment, have been hospitalized for some years. With the latest treatments more and more people are being sent out of the institutions, but they come back again, and they only come back again because there is not sufficient follow-up of these people who go out and subject themselves, again, to the stresses and strains of a life which is not only new to them but is almost impossible to keep pace with. Many of them have been confined over the years in these institutions, have been helped along, received treatment. They are then allowed to go out and fend for themselves. One needs these social workers to look after these people, and to bring them back to the out-patient department for follow-up treatment. Unless that service is made available it is no use going on with this type of work.
The next question is, where are you going to find these social workers? You naturally find them in the large cities. There are establishments that cater for this sort of thing. I say to the hon. the Minister that if he is going to go forward with these steps he must go into these points which I have mentioned to-night. I say that it is a waste of time and it is going to be a waste of money to establish these out-patients’ departments at the mental institutions. I say that the hon. the Minister should go further: He should utilize every establishment which is licensed to treat mental disorders. There are many private nursing homes which cater for this type of illness. But the difficulty is that the ordinary individual cannot pay the fees that he would be required to pay if he entered one of these institutions, even as an out-patient. We hear a lot about shock treatment. Shock treatment is often performed in an out-patients’ clinic. But does the hon. the Minister realize how much one treatment costs? What with the anaesthetic, the day in the clinic and the treatment by the specialist, I cannot see anyone day’s treatment costing less than £12 to £15. And these people very often require six to ten or more treatments. How could the ordinary individual pay for that sort of thing? As a result he is obliged either to go without or to go where he gets that treatment free. There must be some tie-up, then, between the services which are offered free and the Provincial Hospitals which to-day charge a fee. It is a very moderate fee in most cases, but it is up to this Minister to find ways and means whereby he can tie up the services of the Provincial Hospitals with those which the Government wishes to undertake themselves. The hon. the Minister must see whether he cannot provide a service to the people of this country which will be a model for the rest of the world. Because we can do that here. We can do it because we have everything that is necessary to provide these treatments; we have the personnel, we have doctors of the highest standing and we have the facilities. These things must now be tied up to make sure that everyone of these facilities is used in the best possible way.
There are one or two other points which I think are going to help a great deal when we institute these services in the Provincial Hospitals or special clinics. One point relates to a matter about which we were very perturbed in previous sessions. There is not a single hon. member of this House who has not expressed his desire to get away from the set of circumstances which allowed the unfortunate mentally disturbed patient to be detained in a police cell. Everyone of us has said that we do not like it. What is going to be done to obviate that if we do not have institutions, particularly on the platteland to accept these people? What happens now? If a man is mentally deranged to such an extent that he has to be detained, the Provincial Hospitals do not detain him. They are not allowed to take him so what are they to do. What are the parents of the individuals to do? And what do the children do for their parents? They go to the police and ask for help, and before the police can help these people have to be detained, almost invariably, in a police cell. I say that if you have these institutions used for mental diseases as well as ordinary diseases, it will help relieve this situation. The time has come that this barrier between diseases that happen in the mind and those that happen in the stomach or other part of the body must be broken down. They are all sicknesses and I do not see why they should be separated. I can understand that in the old days they did not know how to treat the mentally ill so they had to detain them, especially if they were dangerous. But those days have passed. If you can empty out the mental hospitals and keep them for the dangerous type of criminals, for the sex maniac or people who cannot be controlled; people who would perhaps be better off in the police cell—if you could use the mental hospital for that, it will be a great step forward. But then you must use your Provincial Hospitals to the best of your ability. Get your clinics established. Let the Government pay for them and run them. But use what you have and do not let this wonderful stride forward be obstructed by some idea that it is a wrong thing to use an established hospital for this type of work.
I shall not keep the House very long, Mr. Speaker. I just want to say that we agree with this as a first step in the right direction in assisting in the grievous problem of mental health in South Africa. But I agree with the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher) when he says that this is just the first step that South Africa is now taking.
Last year, as most of us will remember, was World Mental Health Year. The reason for that was, of course, to bring attention to the parlous state of mental health throughout the world as a whole. And in every country that took part in this, investigations were carried out into the conditions of mental health institutions and the general incidence of mental ill-health in the different countries. Investigations carried out in South Africa showed that we were very badly off indeed, both as regards the percentage of cases of mentally ill people that we have in this country, and, much more important, in respect of the severe lack of accommodation and facilities for treatment for these unfortunate people who are suffering from mental diseases. In the case of Europeans there is an acute shortage of accommodation for people who have to be detained in institutions. And, of course, as far as the non-Europeans are concerned, where there is a high incidence of mental ill-health, the shortage of accommodation is even greater. So that what we need is more than just the opening of out-patients’ facilities at existing mental institutions. What we need are more mental institutions. Although I am sure it is not necessary I can refer the hon. the Minister to articles written last year in the South African Medical Journal by Dr. Moross, who is the Medical Superintendent of Tara Hospital and who told us that there were about 120,000 mentally affected patients in South Africa and that, he said, reflected only partially the incidence and range of mental ill-health.
It is clear that we have a vast problem to combat in South Africa, and the existing institutions are obviously quite unable to cope with the problem. It is stated in this article that overcrowding is so bad that hospitals contain 1,225 Europeans and 5,364 non-Europeans more than there is proper provision for. Obviously what we need are more institutions to look after these people. And not only do we need more institutions but we need more staff. There is no point in simply opening out-patients’ facilities if there is no trained staff to look after these people. Psychiatric treatment, in particular, requires people of a high degree of post-graduate training, and requires not only doctors who have this additional training but highly specialized nurses as well. So that both in the field of trained psychologists and psychiatrists, and also as far as trained nurses are concerned, South Africa is very badly off.
An article in the South African Psychological Association Journal suggests that we are very short indeed of trained staff, and mentions that a conservative estimate of the number of serious cases of neurosis—this is other than mentally defected people—is as much as 280,000. Yet the total number of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists available in private, State and Provincial practice, is only 100. Dr. Moross mentioned that the total number of pure medical psychiatrists is only 80.
It is pointless to open facilities for treatment of people in institutions if you do not have the trained staff to cope with those people. The hon. the Minister has taken a small step forward in the direction of improved facilities for the treating of patients, but he still has a vast problem before him He has to increase the amount of money available for the setting up of institutions. He has to increase the amount of money available for providing bursaries and training faciities, both for doctors, clinical psychologists and for trained nurses. And although we commend the hon. the Minister for taking this small step forward, I want to make it quite clear that we do so with reservations, still believing that there is a vast amount to be done in the field of mental health in South Africa.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to agree with my hon. colleagues in saying that we welcome this step forward. We feel that it is, as it were, a break through the sound barrier of the past years; a barrier of officialdom and bureaucracy a barrier which has handicapped all our efforts to obtain some improvement in the treatment and care of the mentally ill. However, I cannot agree with the lovely picture painted by the hon. the Minister. He rather conveyed, I thought, that he was providing in these two words “outpatients” a sort of new heaven and new earth for these unfortunate people. I think a much nearer description is that which has just been given by the hon. member for Houghton (Mrs. Suzman). There can be no doubt that there is a grave shortage of medical personnel, and it is particularly so in the hon. the Minister’s own Department. Not only is he short of medical personnel in toto, but a fair proportion of his personnel is not trained to treat psychiatric diseases. In many instances they are retired general practitioners who fill in their time carrying out this work. I have not the slightest doubt that they give conscientious care to the patients, but I have also no doubt that they are not particularly skilled in this work. Therefore not only is the hon. the Minister short in toto, but he is short of the trained men. And I have pointed this out before.
One of the reasons why trained men are lost to the Department is that in any mental institution the administrative care which is necessary under our law, is such that it becomes a burden on the Superintendent, to such an extent that he is almost precluded from doing clinical work. This tends, in the case of men who are anxious to continue to be doctors and not bureaucrats, to drive them out of the service. The result is that the Department loses some of its best men. Not only are they short of trained medical men, but there is no evidence—and I now speak as a member of the Medical Council— there is no evidence before that Council that in the foreseeable future there is any possibility of improvement in this respect, unless the hon. the Minister takes some steps to encourage people to take up this branch of medicine. There is a shortage in private practice and there is no prospect of improvement. Training facilities are not very great and there is plenty of room, in practice, for men to take up this branch of medicine. If the hon. the Minister will subsidize young men or students so that they would take up this profession and be under some obligation to come into the mental service, only in that way will we ever get some relief for the overworked specialists of to-day.
The ex-Secretary for Health told me that there were some bursaries being given to students by the Department in order to encourage them. But so far as I know there was no real obligation on those students to take up this particular important branch. Not only is the hon. the Minister short of doctors but he is short of nurses. There seems to be little possibility of improving this either. The standard of entrance to the nursing profession for psychiatric training has been lowered. It was lowered in an effort to encourage people to enter the service. Unfortunately it has had the opposite effect. Now nurses who can pass into general nursing training feel that they are a little better than those who are taking up psychiatric training. It has been found in other countries that if you want to get nurses to take up psychiatric nursing they must first be brought into the general nursing field, and they must learn their psychiatric training while they are learning to be nurses.
At 10.25 p.m., the business under consideration was interrupted by Mr. Speaker in accordance with Standing Order No. 26 (1), and the debate was adjourned until 9 February.
The House adjourned at