House of Assembly: Vol2 - FRIDAY 25 JULY 1924
Pursuant to Proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General, No. 144, dated the 1st July, 1924, the Members elected to serve in the House of Assembly met in the Assembly Chamber, Houses of Parliament, at 10.30 a.m.
The CLERK of the House read the Proclamation.
The CLERK read a letter from the Secretary to the Prime Minister, dated the 9th July, stating that His Excellency the Governor-General had signified his intention of opening Parliament at 3 o’clock this afternoon, with the usual ceremony.
The CLERK read the following communications—
- (1) Letter dated the 18th July, 1924, from the Under Secretary for the Interior, forwarding a copy of Government Notice No. 1042, dated the 23rd June, 1924, declaring the persons named in the schedules thereto duly elected as members of the House of Assembly for the Electoral Divisions in the Provinces of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Transvaal and Orange Free State, respectively.
- (2) Letter dated the 2nd July, 1924, from the Secretary to the Prime Minister reporting the election of Gen. the Rt. Hon. Jan Christiaan Smuts as a member of the House of Assembly for the Electoral Division of Standerton in the room of Lt.-Col. Gert Martinus Claassen, resigned.
- (3) Letter dated the 18th July, 1924, from the Under Secretary for the Interior, reporting the resignation of Carl Theodorus Muller Wilcocks as a member of the House of Assembly for the Electoral Division of Winburg.
The CLERK read the list of members, and those present answered to their names.
The Sergeant-at-Arms announced the Right Hon. Sir James Rose-Innes, P.C., K.C.M.G., Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Union of South Africa, who was received by the members standing.
The CLERK then read a Commission from His Excellency the Governor-General, dated the 23rd instant, authorizing the Right Hon. Sir James Rose-Innes to administer the Oath or Affirmation of Allegiance required to be taken and subscribed by members in conformity with the requirements of the fifty-first section of the South Africa Act.
The Right Hon. Sir James Rose-Innes, having taken his seat at the Table of the House, administered the Oath or Affirmation to the members present and thereupon retired.
The CLERK intimated that the House would proceed to the election of Speaker.
I move this with the knowledge that Mr. Jansen will fill this office with dignity, and that he will take his place in the ranks of those who in this and other Parliaments have occupied the position with honour. I feel convinced he will follow their good example.
Rev. Mr. MULLINEUX seconded.
I do not think that any other nomination will be forthcoming for the Speakership from this side of the House, and I rise now simply to express my regret that a new precedent, an entirely new precedent, is being laid down in this House—a precedent which, I am afraid, may be followed hereafter, and which is a complete breach of the Parliamentary traditions not only of this House and its predecessors in South Africa, but also of the Mother of Parliaments, the British House of Commons. It has been the invariable practice, both in this House and its predecessors, to consider the Speakership as dissociated from party. Parliaments have changed, parties have changed, governments have changed, but the Speakership has always been looked upon as not a party matter. The Speakership has never been looked upon in the past as one of the spoils of party, but now the position has changed, and I regret it deeply. The Prime Minister had a great opportunity, and he evidently intended to avail himself of it according to the speeches which he has made since becoming Prime Minister, the spirit of which I have heartily applauded. He has expressed the view that the Government should be dissociated as far as possible from party in this country. And it is most regrettable, it is most unfortunate, that the first formal act on the part of the Government is to depart from the traditions of the past and consider the Speakership of the House one of the spoils of party. A great opportunity has been lost. I am afraid a bad precedent has been laid down. I had hoped that the new Government, that the new Party in power, would have considered less the interests of party and more the interests of the country. Whilst I say this, I do not wish in the least to make any remark that is personal to the hon. member for Vryheid (Mr. Jansen). I am sure that the traditions of this House will be safe in his hands. We expect from him the same impartial treatment that we have been accustomed to, that the minority have always been accustomed to in this House. And on our part, when ho is elected, as he will be elected, we promise him the same support and the same courtesy as we have extended to his predecessors in that office.
I deeply regret the attitude taken up by the Leader of the Opposition. It makes me fear very much that what we will get in future as regards the relations of the Opposition towards the Government is what we got from the Leader of the Opposition in his speech at Standerton. I only hope that in the interests of the country, the people and Parliament, a different spirit will be allowed to prevail in the future. If there is one thing on which I hope we will act independent of party spirit and party feeling, then it is the election of a Speaker. It is because of that hope that it is necessary that the interests of the House should be taken into consideration, and it is because of that hope that the step has been taken to depart from what was called precedent. It is clear to me that it would have been much better had the necessity not arisen for me to say anything on the matter. I think the dignity and the interest of the House would have been far better served had nothing been said on this point. The right hon. member for Standerton mentioned the spoils system, and it is because of that that I take the opportunity of saying a few words in reply to what he has said. I do not think that a more disastrous system could possibly be introduced, but I must say that it has been the consistent practice of the right hon. member opposite for the past fourteen years. I hope we shall put an end to that. The right hon. member has asked why not now and told us of the customs of the House of Commons. The customs of the British House of Commons as regards the re-election of a Speaker of the previous Parliament are based on this, and this only, that he has kept and does keep himself outside all politics in all elections, and in all by-elections. It is because of his impartiality that he has the right to ask the House to re-elect him to Mr. Speaker’s chair. I do not want to go any further into the matter, but want to say this to the right hon. member opposite—it is largely because of the attitude which the late Speaker adopted during the elections, when he did not keep outside politics, that he has not the right to ask to be re-elected.
“Who forced him into politics?”
If the right hon. the Leader of the Opposition can show me one instance in the British House of Commons where a former Speaker took part in politics and was then re-elected, I shall be greatly surprised. He cannot find a single instance, but I can actually give an instance where the British House of Commons strongly protested because the ex-Speaker had taken part in the political arena, and then he did not take such an active part as the late Speaker had done. If we have to rely on custom, then we must be convinced that that custom is in the interest of the House. I only want to add that in the circumstances I am very sorry that this question has been raised at all, because if there is one thing I want to see, then it is that Mr. Speaker shall be a man who enjoys the fullest respect and confidence of us all, a man who in all his actions in and out of this House enjoys our respect, and who has never taken a part in anything by which he may have given offence to any member of the House, or to anyone else. I ask the right hon. member opposite to help me so that our political life may be placed on as sound a basis as possible. Do not let us, because there are people who think differently from us, go and take over customs which do not apply to us. The British House of Commons has 600 members or more. Here we are in a country with a population of 1½ millions, with a Parliament of 130 to 140 members. I do not blame our former Speaker for having taken part in the elections on behalf of his Party. One cannot expect anything else in a country where our political fighting forces are so small that we cannot get anyone with that same impartiality as is found in the British House of Commons with its large number of members. I would not blame the former Speaker for going forth to fight for his Party during the elections, but that being the position, I hold that it is not right to appeal to the observance of a custom which does not apply here. The former Speaker, having taken up the attitude he has done, cannot expect to be re-elected, because the custom under which he could be re-elected does not apply to South Africa. I am very sorry to have been compelled to say these few words.
was called to the Chair of this House by the Clerk.
Before I take the chair I wish to thank hon. members and to assure them that it will be my constant endeavour to maintain the high traditions and dignity of the chair.
was thereupon conducted to the chair by his mover and seconder.
Business was suspended at 11.35 a.m., and resumed at 2.45 p.m.
I have to report that after the House had suspended business this morning, I proceeded to Government House, accompanied by Mr. C. A. van Niekerk, the Rev. Mr. Mullineux, Ministers, and other hon. members of the House, where we were received by his Excellency the Right Hon. the Earl of Athlone, G.C.M.G., Governor-General, and Mr. Speaker had said:
Mr. SPEAKER reported that the House had this day attended the ceremony of the Opening of Parliament, and that His Excellency the Governor-General was pleased to deliver an Opening Speech to both Houses of Parliament, of which, for greater accuracy, he had received a copy, as follows:
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Senate:
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Assembly:
Following upon the General Election, my Ministers assumed office on the 30th June, 1924. The assembling of Parliament at so early a date thereafter is rendered necessary by the supply granted by the late Parliament only sufficing to carry on my Government until the first week in August. The present Session, which it is hoped will be a short one, will be primarily devoted to a consideration of the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and the granting of supply for the current year, and to the consideration of minor legislative measures which my Ministers consider urgent and not permitting of postponement.
You will be asked to approve of a proposal to build a railway line in Zululand to assist the cotton growers there and to render certain Crown Lands, suitable for cotton growing, available for settlement purposes.
Legislation regulating the placing of settlers on land under conditions of supervision and control will be laid before you.
It is the intention of my Ministers to submit to you measures for the repeal of the Medicine Tax as also for amendments to the Tobacco Tax to afford a certain necessary measure of relief to the producer, and for the renewal of the Rents Act of 1920 as amended by subsequent legislation for a further period and to make such renewal retrospective to the 30th June last when the Act expired.
A Bill will be laid before you repealing Clause Two of the Financial Relations Act of 1924, and a further Bill providing for the uniformity of native taxation in the four provinces.
The terms of an agreement in regard to the position of German Nationals in South-West Africa were laid before the last Parliament, but legislation to give effect to it was not proceeded with. It is the intention of my Ministers to act under the terms of the agreement with effect from its publication and the necessary legislation will be introduced.
The growing distress in town and country caused by unemployment, drought and locusts is causing my Ministers great anxiety and is engaging their earnest attention. Increased provision is made in the current year’s Estimates for purposes of immediate relief. My Ministers are deeply impressed by the sinister significance of the continued widespread unemployment and the lack of opportunity open to the youths of the country to enter useful occupations as they reach the working age. With a view to the co-ordination of information and of departmental functions in prosecuting measures designed to remedy this position, a Department of Labour is being inaugurated which will not only ensure that constant attention is given to this national problem but also that the interests and view-point of the salaried and wage-earning elements of the population shall receive due consideration in the counsels of the State. My Ministers hope by the encouragement of industrial development to open up new fields of labour. They intend to afford the greatest possible assistance to agricultural development, and expansion, and will foster the careful establishment of land settlements in the country on a basis in harmony with its characteristic circumstances and with the requirements of those to be settled upon the land so that the success of their permanent establishment on the soil may as far as possible be assured.
Steps are being taken to broaden the basis upon which civilized labour is employed by the Railway Administration.
My Ministers are carefully considering plans whereby the more extensive manufacture in the Union of the requirements of the Railways and Harbour Administration, will be ensured.
In order to carry out a policy of industrial development my Ministers deem it necessary to re-organize the Board of Trade and Industries and to extend its functions.
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Assembly:
Estimates of revenue and expenditure for the present financial year will be laid before you.
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Senate:
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Assembly:
In commending these matters to your consideration, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may guide and sustain you in your labours.
In His Majesty’s name I now declare this the First Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Union of South Africa to be duly opened.
Brig.-Gen. ARNOTT, introduced by Sir Thomas Watt and Mr. Robinson, made, and subscribed to, the oath, and took his seat.
The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND HARBOURS laid upon the Table—
I would like to ask whether it is the intention of the Minister to print the evidence in regard to the Durban Elevator Commission of Enquiry? Some very serious allegations have been made, and I think it is desirable that we should have the whole of the facts before the House.
I may say that in regard to the printing of this evidence there is no objection on the part of the Government to having the evidence printed, only there is the question of cost. The evidence is very voluminous, and the matter is one that the Printing Committee may perhaps deal with. If it be the general desire of the House, the Government will raise no objection to the printing of the evidence, but I may point out that it will cost a considerable amount. I may also say that the evidence has not been translated, and that this also would have to be done.
The House adjourned at