House of Assembly: Vol2 - FRIDAY 22 AUGUST 1924
Mr. McMENAMIN, as Chairman, brought up the First Report of the Select Committee on Pensions, as follows:
Your Committee, having considered the several petitions referred to it (a) from T. Kroon and others who have in former years rendered service to the State in various capacities, and (b) from W. J. Botha and others who have not rendered such service, representing that they are left totally unprovided for in their old age and praying for relief, begs to report that, while deeply sympathizing with these persons in the distressful circumstances in which they find themselves, it is not able to recommend these petitions for favourable consideration. Your Committee would, however, strongly recommend that the Government be requested to take into consideration the advisability of establishing an old age pension fund and, with this object in view, of appointing a commission during the ensuing recess to enquire into and report upon the manner in, and the conditions under, which old age pensions should be granted.
J. J. McMenamin, Chairman.
Report to be considered on 25th August.
I wish to draw attention to the Board of Trade and Industries Bill now before this House. Clause 3, which provides for the addition to the free list in the customs tariff, appears not to be covered by the title and transcends the scope of the Bill. The clause in question should more properly form part of the Customs and Excise Duties Amendment Bill, the Second Reading of which is set down as the First Order for to-day, and might be incorporated in the latter Bill by way of amendment without disturbing the Title.
The clause in question must therefore be excised from the Board of Trade and Industries Bill.
First Order read: Second reading Customs and Excise Duties Amendment Bill.
This Bill is introduced as a result of the adoption by the House of the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, and it is a Bill introduced by order of the House after the adoption of that report. It provides for the fixing of the tariffs and customs dues on carbonate of soda and tea in terms of the resolution already referred to. As will be seen in section 2, I make provision for the free admission of raw and semi-manufactured materials used in the manufacture of articles made in the Union. Under section 9 of the Bill provision is made for other items to be admitted under a rebate of duty and which are also to be used in the manufacture of items made in the Union, otherwise it would mean a loss of revenue if they were placed on the free list. Section 3 deals with the reduction of the Excise Duties on tobacco. Further provision is made in section 4 for the repeal of Excise Duties on patent or proprietary medicines, and for a refund of the duty on the articles in stock or unsold when the Act comes into force. In connection with the tobacco excise I propose to make provision for the exemption of the small farmer from paying the duty before he proceeds to sell his tobacco in the country, and on his return home he will pay the duty on the quantity of tobacco that he has sold. The previous Government agreed that this is a concession which had to be made. In another section in the case of roll tobacco all reference to the weight of the roll is to be deleted. This was originally inserted for the protection of the farmer, but the farmer does not want it, and the Department sees no objection to its removal. There is another section dealing with the difficulty that has arisen in connection with the administration of the dumping law. The Commissioner of Customs finds there is a difficulty in fixing the home consumption value of articles exported here, and in connection with the freight dumping duty it was found that very often shippers published a certain tariff, and subsequently when the invoices were received it appears that these people paid the minimum rate charged by other shipping companies. But these people have a way of getting round the dumping laws by granting a rebate on other articles imported into the Union. So provision is made here for the appointment by the Commissioner of Customs of an officer who will report as to the home consumption value as to these articles, and his declaration shall be regarded as final. This is merely following out the procedure laid down last year by the House in connection with the administration of the dumping law. Another section provides that the provisions of the Act shall be applicable to South-West Africa. In existing legislation it is laid down that no Act in the Union shall be applicable to South-West Africa unless that is specifically stated, and as the customs duties are applicable to that territory it must be stipulated that these alterations shall apply to South-West Africa. These are the principal provisions of the Bill, and in terms of Mr. Speaker’s ruling it will be necessary to include, later on, in the other Bill of which my hon. friend has given notice. I now move the second reading of the Bill.
I wish to thank the Minister for reducing the excise on roll tobacco, as the farmers always felt that the tax was a heavy one. I hope that, as a consequence of this reduction the market will improve, and the Minister will state that the tax will be done away with altogether next year. We should take into consideration that the purchasing power of a certain section of the public is small, and the people who buy roll tobacco belong to that section, therefore it is wrong to increase the price of that used by them. I am also glad that the stipulation regarding weight has been abolished, as that will convenience manufacturers and encourage the sale. I would like to ask the Minister to reconsider his decision to make the reduction operative as from 1st January. The manufacturers of roll tobacco state that the market is vacillating, owing to the uncertainty as to when the reduction will come in force. It is true that it is known now, but we do not know what will happen after that, consequently the manufacturers reduce their orders sometimes by as much as 50 or 60 per cent. in order to await the reduction of the tax, and that causes market conditions to be unsettled. The Minister may hold that it is not the aim to meet the trader but the farmer, but if we do not assist the trader to get rid of his stock he will not buy next season. I am, however, grateful for what the Minister has done. It was promised during the elections, and it shows that the Government is sincere and is carrying out its election promises.
I am surprised at the gratitude of the hon. member who has just spoken for the small relief given to the tobacco farmer, as the Nationalist party during the elections promised that the tax would be done away with altogether, and very little is done now. The poor people in the Western Province are still being taxed 28½d. per lb., and that is a very heavy burden on the farmer. The tax on cheap tobacco has been reduced, but on good cut tobacco of the Western Province and tobacco used for cigarettes it is still the same. I know I cannot move an amendment at this stage, and I hope the Government will appoint a commission to investigate this aspect of the matter.
The hon. member for Stellenbosch (Mr. J. P. Louw) should be the last man to complain to the Government about the tobacco tax, as it has been levied by the Government whom he supported throughout. Did the hon. member for Stellenbosch during the elections rail at Mr. Burton for levying these taxes? Last session I seconded the motion of the hon. member for Oudtshoorn (Mr. le Roux) to abolish the tobacco tax. On which side did the members of the S.A.P. vote then? Although three of them supported the motion, they voted as one man against it. Now that the Minister of Finance has reduced the tax on roll tobacco to 2d., and stated that next session he will go a little further, the hon. member pretends to be indignant because the Government does not announce that it is going to abolish the tax on roll tobacco entirely. I am disappointed too that the Government does not state at once that it is soon going to do away with the tax on roll tobacco, still I hope that that will be done at an early date. I would also like to say a few words about the dumping duty on superphosphates. Why does the Minister of Finance not state at once that he is going to abolish that extra tax on the grain farmers? The Minister stated that he was against a freight dumping duty on superphosphates, but would consider what he would do. There is no reason whatsoever for continuing that pernicious tax. The fanners are now thinking of placing their orders for next year, and they wish to know where they stand. The local factory, Capex, has of late produced very little, and what they produced was of inferior quality. For the sake of Capex, the farmers were taxed last year a sum of £16,000. Just think of it, taxing the wheat of the producers in such a way solely in the interests of an insignificant little factory which imports all the materials for the fertilizers from abroad. And did that protection help? Does Capex now produce more? Just the contrary is the case. In 1922 we imported fertilizers to the value of £81,206; in 1923 for £132,630, and during the first three months of 1924 for £76,111. It will be seen therefore, that for the first quarter of this year we imported nearly as much as during the whole of 1922. Instead of the Capex factory producing more than before, it has now Become one of the greatest importers. It has found out that if the Government fixes the minimum price at which superphosphates should be sold to the farmers, it pays them handsomely to import. Superphosphates can be imported at about £3 10s. or £3 12s. 6d. per ton, and it is then sold to the farmer at the behest of the Government at £4 2s. 6d. at the lowest. We should end this unsound position. Is it fair that a farmer who has put 60 tons of superphosphates in the ground which has been made non-productive by lack of rain, should pay a tax of £15 extra for the sake of such a bogey industry? It is stated that factories in other countries may acquire a monopoly if Capex is not specially protected. But that is not so, because superphosphates come from several countries which compete with each other. There has never been a dumping duty on superphosphates in South Africa before and even in Holland, where so much fertilizer is manufactured, there is no monopoly, as the competition from abroad is so keen that last year 117,000 tons of fertilizers was imported into that country as against 187,000 tons manufactured locally. For the sake of the consumer as well as for the producer, the Minister ought to take immediate steps to abolish the freight dumping duties.
A discussion on superphosphates at this stage is quite out of order. The dumping duty, or its removal can take place without legislation, as it is only an administrative matter. I only want to say these few words in order to prevent a long discussion.
The discussion on superphosphates so far has raised suspicions in the country and I do not think we can leave the matter without discussing it fully.
The Minister has just told us that no legislation is necessary to terminate the dumping duty. It is an administrative matter, which can be discussed during the debate on the Estimates.
We would like an opportunity of answering some of those things which have been said.
The Minister of Finance points out that this is a matter not dealt with by legislation. It is dealt with by the Government and should be discussed on the Estimates, and the present discussion is out of order.
Are we not now dealing with the matter of taxation?
It deals with taxation which does not require any legislation.
The matter has been seriously compromised. The hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. de Waal) has addressed the House on this subject and hon. members on this side feel very strongly that they should be allowed to reply.
A point of order has been raised now and I have given my ruling.
The Bill we are discussing affects certain duties. Is it not competent for hon. members to suggest some of the duties they might wish to see raised or decreased?
Yes, in so far as legislation is required and brought about by this Bill. The matter discussed by the hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. de Waal) is not a question of legislation, but a question for the Government, and does not require legislation.
I welcome the reduction of the tax, but I cannot see why that on roll tobacco is reduced by 1½d. whilst on the other there is a reduction of only ½d. The tobacco which is chewed is given preference to that which is smoked. The tobacco tax levied by the previous Government was an unfortunate one, and I was convinced that it would seriously affect the progress of the tobacco growers throughout the whole of the Union. I am sorry the tax is not abolished. In my constituency prominence was given to the matter, and I have had to promise at every meeting to vote for its abolition. The Ministers of Lands and of Agriculture made the same promises in my constituency, and seeing that they made promises so definite, it is not reasonable to make only a small reduction now. I would also suggest that we find other markets for our tobacco, as we have a surplus in this country. Our best market is in Britain, and I hope the Minister will not allow himself to be prejudiced against that country. A tax of 3½d. is being paid, and I would suggest to the Minister to use the ½d. to foster the industry. If the Minister will use it to train our boys at the co-operative societies’ stores to plant and sort tobacco, the farmers will not object to paying it.
May I be permitted to call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a point of order, because you may have been misled by the statement of the hon. Minister. You would naturally expect that the Minister—having introduced the Bill and having made a statement—would have made himself thoroughly acquainted with the Act. This Bill proposes to amend the Tariff and Customs Act, No. 23 of 1923, and consequently I would ask your ruling Mr. Speaker, that if this Bill proposes to amend an existing statute it is open to any member of this hon. House to propose a further amendment of the existing statute; and when we come into Committee it will be possible for the hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. de Waal) or anybody else to propose an amendment in conformity with the Bill it is proposed to amend. Chapter 3, sub-section 3 of the Customs and Excise Duties Amendment Act of 1923 states: “When any goods of which the value as defined by section 7 of this Act or any amendment thereof added to the marine insurance and freight charges does not exceed £10 per ton and which are of a class or kind produced or manufactured in the Union, have been or are being carried to the Union at a rate of freight which in the opinion of the Minister of Finance is detrimental to the production or manufacture of those goods in the Union, the Governor-General made by proclamation in the Gazette (which may at any time by proclamation be amended or withdrawn) determine a minimum rate of freight for the carriage of the goods specified from any country named in such proclamation, and there shall be charged, levied, collected and paid on those goods on importation into the Union from any country so named a special customs duty or dumping freight duty) equal to the difference between the nett freight rate determined as aforesaid.” What I would like to have your view upon Mr. Speaker, is that, surely the title of the Bill allows hon. members to discuss the advisability, or otherwise, of amending another section of the Act. I have asked about this because it is a very important thing with regard to the privileges of hon. members, and the rights they possess.
Before you give your ruling, Mr. Speaker, may I say that the hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. De Waal) was discussing the dumping duties on superphosphates. The hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) has quoted that section; but it says that in certain circumstances the Governor-General “may”; and if the Government has imposed certain dumping duties the Government may take them off, which is purely a question which it is in the authority of the Government to decide. It does not say “shall,” but it says “may”. I think it my duty to draw the attention of the House to this, to show that the discussion of the hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. De Waal) is out of order.
But what about the section of the amending Act of 1923?
The particular section which is being discussed does not require legislation.
But if the clause is repealed.
The repeal was not discussed at all.
The Act of 1923, is now sought to be amended by the present Bill, and what the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) is trying to argue is that the Act of 1923 is proposed to be amended by this Bill. That fact being now clear, we have the right to discuss any further amendment of that Act, including the total repeal of the dumping duties. I think that there is a great deal in the point brought forward. I think that the Act as sought to be amended allows the House to discuss an amendment including repeal. I think the hon. Minister is correct that these dumping duties can be repealed and brought into force by regulation, providing the Act of 1923 remains intact. But if the hon. House were to repeal the section which allows the Government to proclaim dumping duties, the proclamation and the right also cease.
I do not think that there can be any discussion in that direction, unless there is a proposition to move later on in the committee stage an amendment to repeal this section in to, because that would take away the right of the Government entirely. The hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. De Waal) confined himself merely to dealing with this particular instance, and there was no question of the repeal of the section. I want to point out to hon. members that they will have a full opportunity of discussing this matter when the second reading of the Appropriation Bill comes before the House.
This Bill will have been passed then.
On the authority of this House we appoint a Board of Trade for the purpose of discussing all matters relating to Customs and Customs dues and so forth, and they had to make recommendations. There are certain important recommendations made in this Bill, and has the hon. Minister got the report of the Board on this Bill? Take the schedule; I do not object to the reductions I always welcome reductions but I would like to ask who has selected these. It is expressly laid down in the Act that this is one of the things that they must report on. Clause 9 is a rather important alteration, and I have never known anything of that kind before in any Tariff Bill. This gives power to the Governor-General, or in other words the Government, to give a rebate on certain articles at their own discretion, which is a power that, to my mind, the Government should not have. Why not put specifically in the Bill that a rebate will be given? Take turpentine, natural and synthetic, for the use of making paints, varnishes and polishes; why is that not in the schedule? Why not put it on the free list, and say no Customs duty will he levied? There are castor oil and raw linseed oil for the soap-making industry—that is specific enough. If they are imported for certain purposes, it says that the Governor-General “may.” I want it to be made “shall.” I do not care to leave the power in the hands of the Government when it can he specifically put down in the schedule. It is far better to have it laid down in the law and be finished with it, instead of the Minister being importuned for this or that rebate.
The hon. member for Piquet-berg (Mr. De Waal) put the responsibility for the excise on tobacco on the shoulders of the Opposition. However, I and other members of the Opposition, together with hon. members opposite, urged the S.A.P Government not to levy it. The previous Government realized that the tax on roll tobacco was not a proper one, and it should be done away with. On the representations of the hon. member for Piquet-berg (Mr. De Waal) and others, the previous Minister of Finance promised to abolish it. The farmers of the Transvaal then stated that if the tax on roll tobacco was abolished, it would create a muddle, because it was impossible to tax only certain kinds of tobacco. The farmers then made representations to the Minister, to which he agreed, and yet the tax on roll tobacco was put off for a year. What is more, the tax was reduced from 1s. to 3½d., but even then it caused a lot of difficulty. And what happened? The hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. De Waal), the Minister of Mines and Industries and all those who were interested in the matter promised during the elections that the tobacco tax would be abolished if the Nationalists came into power. The Minister of Mines and Industries said that in my district, but electors did not quite believe him, as is shown by the fact that he was not elected. It would now appear that their suspicion was fully justified. The whole episode shows how far people will go to get into power, and it also shows what a change can be brought about by the responsibilities of office. I sympathise with the Minister of Finance, as it is probable he did not make those promises, and now realises that a system of taxation cannot be easily changed and that chickens are apt to come home to roost. The Nationalist party got many votes on the promises that the tobacco tax would be abolished, but to-day the tobacco farmers have to be satisfied with the reduction of 1½d. per lb.
Half a loaf is better than no bread.
I admit that, and hope that the hon. member has not made the promise yet. We are fully justified in asking the Government on behalf of our constituents to carry out its promise, and if that is not done, it is one of the election promises which are being neglected. The country will know what value to attach to promises of the Nationalist party.
What promises did you make?
I promised that if I were returned I would urge the Government to abolish the tax on roll tobacco, and as the hon. member can see, I am carrying out that promise. The Nationalist party promised the total abolition of the tax on roll tobacco, and the Government should carry out that promise.
The hon. member for Witwatersberg (Lt.-Col. N. J. Pretorius) has appealed to me to carry out my promise immediately to abolish the tax. If the hon. member had been at my meetings, he would not now have alleged that I promised to do that. What happened was that there were several questions, amongst others the medicine tax, the importation of Rhodesian cattle and the influx of cattle from that country by means of low railway rates. At Blauwbank, in Magaliesberg, I said the Nationalist party fought against the tobacco tax from the first day, and that a Nationalist party Government would abolish it as soon as circumstances permitted. I have had enough experience of State matters to know that it is not possible for a Government who got in power to-day to abolish taxes the next day. It is the most unreasonable attitude of any Opposition to expect such a thing. Give the Government a reasonable chance, and do not expect it to do in two weeks what our predecessors could not achieve in fourteen years. It its impossible for the Minister of Finance to reduce the Estimates of revenue in a fortnight’s tune by £500,000 or £600,000, and to get new sources of revenue at once. I want to emphasize that I never promised immediate abolition of the tax, and I am breaking no promises.
The attitude of the Opposition is surprising. They are concerned over the tobacco tax, and they say they are hard hit by it, and one would think that the Nationalists were responsible for it. One would also conclude from the speeches of the hon. members for Caledon (Mr. Krige) and for Witwatersberg (Lt.-Col. N. J. Pretorius), that the whole issue of the election was the tobacco tax, and that they personally were great enemies of this tax. The hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige), said he promised his constituents that he would use his influence with the Government to get the tax repealed, and one would almost say that he used his influence with the previous Government. Perhaps he did, but if so, it was of no avail. Also the hon. member for Bethal (Lt.-Col. H. S. Grobler), is ready to speak, and everybody wants to make a fuss about the tobacco tax, which is such a burden on the farmers. It is evidently a chicken that has run back to the nest of the S.A.P., and the Opposition is trying to mislead the people into the belief that it belongs to the Nationalist party. But the cloud of dust which they are kicking up will be of little use to them, as the country realises that the tax was levied by the previous Government, that the present Minister of Finance has taken over the Estimates from his predecessor, and that it is impossible for him to abolish such a big tax immediately. The country will be patient and the Opposition need not be in such a hurry. A dog that is too eager is apt to burn his mouth, and hon. members of the Opposition are in too great a hurry. That being so, I would like to ask them why their party did nothing? If they had waited until March next, there would have been something to talk about, but now they should wait.
This is the first time that the hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige) has ascribed anything to me which is not true, and I hope the hon. member will not do it again. I told my good friends in his constituency that the medicine tax would be abolished and the tobacco tax amended. That is all I promised.
The public has been misled with promises regarding the tobacco tax. All the members of the Nationalist party kicked up dust during the elections. At Bethal its abolition was promised, but now we hear we must wait and see and give the Government a chance, and in the meanwhile the poor farmers have to suffer. That is what I am afraid of. The poor people have been misled, and now the Nationalist party is in power they do not keep their promises. The people should take good note of this.
Members opposite and indeed all of us suffering very much—fortunately not as a result of the deeds of the present Government, but of their own Government. However good the present Government might be—and I think it is a very good Government indeed—it is impossible for it to repeal within a few weeks all the actions of the previous Government during the past fourteen years’. The previous Government lived extravagantly, and was compelled therefore to levy such unreasonable taxes as the Opposition is now sighing at, and against which the Nationalist party always fought. In his speech at Smithfield the Prime Minister advocated abolition of the medicine tax and reduction of that on tobacco, and those promises are now being carried out. It is true the late Prime Minister also promised similar things, but that was only what the old legal authority Van der Linden called the “repentance of the gallows.”
The attitude of the Opposition is astonishing. I did not make any definite promise that the tax would be done away with; what I promised was that the unreasonable taxes levied by the previous Government, after its promises of great prosperity for the country in 1921, would be amended. A few weeks before the dissolution of Parliament the present Minister of Lands introduced a motion asking that the tobacco tax be abolished, but the present Opposition voted as one man against that being done. I am sure the present Minister of Finance will abolish it altogether next session, and in that way carry out the promises of the Government.
We are all getting very mixed. I am rather sorry for the Minister of Lands who, being now in a position of responsibility, will have a difficulty in persuading his Rustenburg friends as to the reason for his extraordinary change of front. He had given them such great expectations that they will now have something to say to him. The manner in which the Minister has altered the tax will be very seriously detrimental to the tobacco grower. The view expressed by hon. members on this side last year was that the tobacco tax should be reduced in the direction of allowing the small grower of low class tobacco to go free, and there should have been a provision by which he would be permitted to sell direct to the consumer without paying a tax at all, but the high class tobaccos could well bear an excise. Owing to the manner in which small producers had to pay the excise their business was considerably hampered. Now the Minister proposes to reduce the excise on roll tobacco from 4d. to 2d. per pound. Does he know that that will practically kill the people to whom I have referred—the producers of low class cut tobacco?
As I tried to explain yesterday, 90 lbs. of leaf tobacco make 135 lbs. of roll tobacco, consequently the latter sold at 9½d. a 1b.; even at the same excise is a very much more profitable business than the selling of the same tobacco turned into scrap or inferior cut leaf, because when you manufacture that into scrap or smoking tobacco you get only 60 lbs. from your original 90 lbs. The result is that the former has only 60 lbs. to sell whereas the manufacturer of roll tobacco has 135 lbs. to sell. The one you charge 7½d. a pound and the other 2d. a 1b. Consequently while at 9½d. a 1b. the manufacturer of roll tobacco was getting over 11d. a 1b. approximately or 7d. per 1b. for 90 1bs.; the manufacturer of the cut tobacco is getting from his 90 lbs. only 60 lbs., for which he receives 6d. a 1b. I am perfectly certain that the Minister will be hearing before very long from a large number of people who have been in the habit of cutting up these dark tobaccos and getting a very favourable demand for them in the native territories, for practically his proposal will kill that trade.
What would be your proposals?
To have allowed free distribution of these low class tobaccos between producer and consumer. If you are going to have a scientific system you will have to introduce a method which will apply only to the article as it is sold retail—that will catch the higher class tobacco, but allow the lower to go free. Does my hon. friend propose to carry out the policy of the late Government by encouraging co-operation amongst the tobacco firms? The revenue from tobacco excise is not £600,000 as some hon. gentlemen opposite seem to think, but only £9,000 or £10,000. We adopted a policy of setting aside a certain amount of the excise that had been received for tobacco for the purpose of encouraging cooperative societies to put up warehouses. Unless you encourage co-operation and get the people to put up warehouses it will be impossible for them ever to get an export trade, and we are now producing more tobacco in this country than the country requires. The hon. member for Oudtshoorn (Mr. S. P. Le roux) knows that we made an offer to the farmers in his district in connection with this matter; and similar offers were made, I believe, to farmers at Piet Retief and Kat River. I hope the hon. Minister will encourage that policy. Unless he does it will be impossible for them to make a success of it. I hope the Minister will still consider the class of small man to prevent his being hindered in his business by selling direct to the consumer without paying the duty.
It is amusing to see what an authority the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) has become on the tobacco tax. Why did he not carry out all the fine things he is now advocating? I have not had very much time to go into the matter, but I have consulted interested parties, and they all agreed that there should not be much difference between the tax on roll tobacco and that on other tobacco. I want to point out that I have reduced the tax on roll tobacco much more than was done by the previous Government. The farmers of Rustenburg and others are against the total repeal of the tax on roll tobacco. It is a complicated question, and the final policy of the Government is not reflected in present legislation. I have stated clearly that it is impossible to make a greater reduction than that already made. If I had to do away with it altogether I should have to find other sources of revenue, and in the short time of a fortnight that is impossible. It was unfair and unreasonable to expect that I should have done more. In reply to the remarks of the hon. member for Oudtshoorn (Mr. If. Roux) I may state that it is alleged that the traders would suffer losses by the fact that the Bill is operative as from the 1st January. The complaint always was that the tax adversely affects the farmers, and the amendment would be to the advantage of the producers. If the amendment is promulgated immediately, it simply means that we make a present to the traders to the extent of the difference of the tax. The hon. member also maintained that traders would not be able to get rid of their stocks, and that the farmers would be protected in that way. There is not much in that argument, however, because the consumers will not put off smoking simply because a reduction of the tax is expected. Now I would like to make a few remarks in regard to the important point raised by the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Tagger). The hon. member has complained against the phrasing of section 9 of this Bill. He tells us this is a departure from the usual practice, and has never been done before.
Never done in South Africa before.
If the hon. member will read section 15 of the Customs and Excise Amendment Act of 1923, and will compare it with the phrasing of this Bill, he will see that there is nothing unusual in the section he complains of. In the 1923 Act, following that section 15, a list of articles is given granting a rebate where those goods are imported for special purposes. That is exactly what I am doing here. This is something which we have got on our Statute Book now. It is not a new thing at all. I informed the House that these particular articles are imported for various other purposes, and we only propose to give the rebate in those cases where the articles are imported for the benefit of our manufacturing industries. It would mean a considerable loss of revenue and it would be wholly unnecessary for our purpose to give that rebate in other cases. My hon. friend asked: Why do you not admit them free altogether? I considered that question, but if we did that we should take away the preference on goods from the United Kingdom. In some cases they would come in on the free list, but in other cases we would put goods from the United Kingdom on the free list, and let the others pay duty. I think this special preference in these particular instances should be continued. We want to carry out this policy of remitting the duty in the case where the articles are imported for special purposes for our own manufacturing industries.
Motion put and agreed to.
Bill read a second time; House to go into Committee on 25th August.
Second Order read: Second reading, Income Tax Bill.
*The MINISTER OF FINANCE moved—
I do so formally, as I explained the whole matter when the motion was introduced.
Motion put and agreed to.
Bill read a second time; House to go into committee now.
House in Committee:
Clauses and Title put and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; third reading on Monday, 25th August.
Third Order read: House to resume in Committee of Supply.
House in Committee:
Progress reported on 21st August on Vote 24, “Native Affairs,” £330,931.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Vote 25, “Mines and Industries,” £322,124,
I would like to move—To reduce the amount by £1, from the item “Minister”, £2,500.
I do so, not because I wish to saddle the hon. Minister with any blame, but to gain a little more time than the ten minutes’ rule allows. I want to ask him in the first place to agree to appoint a departmental commission of enquiry or instruct the Government mining engineer to ascertain the facts in connection with the reported rich strike made on the Driefontein section of the E.R.P.M. After all, the E.R.P.M. has not the best of reputations, and there were some very unpleasant disclosures made some time ago. I know that the control of these properties has since changed, but still I would like an enquiry made into this matter. A little while since we were asked to assist this particular property to continue pumping operations on the ground that they were saving several mines between Boksburg and Germiston. It is continually being used as a bogey to frighten the Government and people. I noticed in the newspapers pome time ago a report, dated June 17th, 1924, which gave the information to the public, and, I suppose, similar information to the shareholders, that there had been very gratifying results from recent work and visible gold of high values had been struck on the 33rd level. The shareholders, no doubt, felt gratified that they were now on the eve of receiving something in return for the money they had invested, but on the 20th June a second report was issued to the shareholders to the effect that the values had become unpayable. This made the shareholders’ hearts sink into their boots. Then on July 11th, a further report was issued stating that a further 20 feet had been driven, but it was still unpayable. At this stage the shareholders were definitely nonplussed, and naturally they would be after receiving such conflicting reports. There was a suspicion, too, that the old policy of concealment was once more in vogue. So we find they enlisted the sympathy of one of the largest shareholders of the group, Mr. Fitchet, who got Mr. Raleigh, the chairman of the group, to agree to allow representatives of the shareholders to investigate. A letter was written on the 25th July by Mr. Fitchet to the Inspector of Mines at Germiston, which explains what happened afterwards. Mr. Fitchet then secured the services of an underground manager and sampler to examine the 33rd level and secure samples. When making the inspection the skip was topped at the 31st level and the sampler was asked to go to the surface. On his asking the reason he was told that the officials of the mine were acting on instructions and that only the underground manager would be allowed to inspect the 33rd level. At the 33rd level the underground manager picked up a small piece of rock and placed it in his pocket, but was asked to hand it over, which he did. He was told that no sample of any description was to be taken from the 33rd level. The Inspector of Mines at Germiston, when the above facts were reported to him, and a request made that the Mines Department should have the level sampled, replied that the Government could not agree to the request. I might draw the attention of the Government to the way in which their name was used in connection with this. There are a large number of people who are kept in a state of nightmare that these mines will be closed down at any moment, and the Government are made to appear as if they support this policy of concealment of the real position. On August 2nd another report was issued, and shareholders were informed that payable values had again been encountered on the eastern drive. I wonder whether this was done to keep the before mentioned shareholders, who were by this time busily engaged in organizing to protect their interests, quiet. I want to make a few general observations on this matter. On examination of the published figures it would appear that there is no reason why the E.R.P.M. group of mines should be regarded as an inferior proposition from a dividend-paying point of view than the Crown Mines or Randfontein Mines. The Randfontein group have a reserve of four million tons of ore with an average value of 6.3 dwts. The E.R.P.M. have some two million tons of reserve ore with an average value of 6.5, and the Crown Mines have nine million tons with an average value of 6.4. So on paper at all events it cannot be looked upon as an inferior proposition. We have all heard many sinister remarks with regard to this group of mines, and allegations have been made that those who control them are more or less responsible for the stoppage of industrial development for market-rigging purposes. There is a strong feeling among the shareholders that if a progressive policy had been adopted long ago this mine would have rendered them some greater return for their capital. For the public it is a nerve-breaking experience to live or own property on the reef near a group of mines in constant dread of their closing down and a large number of workers being thrown on to the street. The only way we can satisfy the public mind is to see that the shareholders and others interested in the mine are able to get information by which they may be guided as to its prosperity or otherwise. It is surely not too much to ask that this matter should be enquired into, proper inspection of the property made, samples analyzed, and the results published, and so remove from the public mind their existing fears. Besides, as a State we are directly interested in the revenues derived from mining. I am sure the Minister will see the reasonableness of this request. While on questions of mining, there is another which many hold to be analogous to the one I have been discussing. It is even suggested on the Rand that the two questions are directly connected. I refer to the closing down of the Cinderella Deep. The public want to know whether it is to be regarded as an abandoned mine or what steps have been taken to see that it is adequately worked in terms of the Gold Law. I was at a meeting at Boksburg last year where members of all parties of this House attended, and the Mayor and other leading citizens expressed disgust at the manner in which this matter had been neglected by the late Government. The impression given at that meeting by men who had a keen knowledge of the surrounding properties was that there was some policy in vogue of deliberately keeping the mine from being worked. A deputation went to see the then Minister of Mines and stated their case, and he agreed to appoint a commission to enquire into the matter. It is a long time since that commission was appointed. We are still no wiser, and I do not know even if any report has been issued by the commission. The issue was a simple one. It was whether the owners of the mine were justified in closing down the property and keeping it closed down, and if they were, whether the mine could not be more conveniently and better worked from the E.R.P.M. side. I wonder if the Minister has received any report, and if so, whether he intends to publish it. In reply to a question I asked the other day in regard to miners’ phthisis legislation, the Minister said he would give every consideration to this matter during the recess. I do not like to think that this Government is going to turn its back until next year on many hundreds of people in this country who have waited for many years for some assistance to be given them. No greater number of cases of heart-rending distress exists in this country than amongst these people. I do not intend to enumerate them now, they were all gone into thoroughly by the Commission on Miners’ Phthisis in 1921. They suggested certain amendments, which were fully supported by evidence, and I do not think it would even be contended by the Chamber of Mines that their recommendations were unreasonable. In 1923 we had a Bill before the House which, amongst many other contentious matters, proposed to make provision for these particular cases. I am glad to hear that we may expect a more comprehensive measure next session, but I wish to warn the Government that there is a test case pending against them in connection with the action of the bureau in refusing periodical certificates to men who have not been employed underground for two years which, if the applicant is successful, will eventually mulct the Government in half a million pounds. No Judge would award a small sum in a case of this kind, and a considerable number of persons are concerned, and I ask him to give this matter closer attention. I would sincerely ask the Government to bring forward a short Bill this session for the relief of the necessitous cases I have spoken of. The whole thing can be done at small cost. Besides, we have no justification, with the knowledge we have of the distress which exists amongst these people, for withholding that relief which is so badly needed. Might I ask information on another point. The late Government adopted one of three courses laid down under the Gold Law with regard to the disposal of proclaimed land. Proclaimed land can be disposed of by the Government in one of three ways. It can be thrown open to pegging, it can be leased, or can be worked as a State mine. In 1918 the late Government clearly laid down their policy, and refused to entertain the idea of State mining. They adopted the alternative of leasing these mines, and a Mining Leases Board was set up. Several areas were leased, but things had not progressed very far before we found some sort of strike taking place on the part of the capitalists, who refused to tender. We have now on the East Rand several areas left, I think five, as good as any we have already leased, but there are no tenders or very few coming in for them. If there is no competition or inadequate tendering, I want to put it to the Government and not before it disposes of these areas that it should give consideration to the feasibility of working these areas as State mines. I do not see any reason why we should share the profits with other people which we can make in this area by State mining, and I ask the Government to consider it also from the standpoint of the health and interests of possible employees. The Government should go into the matter and also remember the 20,000 cases of miners’ phthisis which have occurred in the past as well as the terrible distress which has been caused to a large number of widows and orphans, and see whether this cannot be obviated by State mining in future. The report of the Commissioner of Inland Revenue shows that very large sums have been derived as our proportion of the profits derived from mining on leased Government areas, so that one can imagine that much larger sums have been distributed amongst the shareholders of the companies working those areas. The late Government refused to go in for State mining on the advice of a number of people who did not know very much about the matter. The Government should not part with any further areas until it has made up its mind whether it will initiate a policy of State mining. For the purpose of discussion, I move that the salary of the Minister be reduced by £1.
I asked the Minister recently why certain diamond mines in the Free State were closed, and he replied that ten of them were shut down owing to lack of capital and because they were not payable. I also asked what the revenue of the State would be, but unfortunately the word “tax” in some way or other slipped in after the word “income,” with the result that the question missed its object. It is probably true that the taxes would have been small, but I wanted to know what the portion of the State would be. In the Free State the share of the State is 40 per cent. I have in view three mines in West Kroonstad, and I know that they pay well. I recollect that the coal was formerly transported for 24 miles. Then the mines became payable, and the company said that if a railway was built it would pay still better. I did my best to get a line via Voorspoed to Vierfontein so that coal could be conveyed by rail much cheaper. The Minister now says that the mines could not be worked owing to doubtful capital and because they would not pay, but that is remarkable, seeing that the mines were payable when coal had to be conveyed by ox wagon.
Labour costs more.
The hon. member knows nothing about labour conditions in the Free State. There are many people who want to work, and labour is just as cheap, but I think the real cause of the trouble is that Kimberley only pays 10 per cent. to the State whereas in the Free State they have to pay 40 per cent. The company therefore prefers to work in the Cape Province. The previous Minister was lacking in his duty, and I hope the present Minister will show that he is made of better stuff and that he will keep a controlling hand on these gentlemen who had in the past too much to say in the affairs of the State. We want to know what the mines are going to do in future. In my constituency there are Bloubos, Bosrand and Robert Victor, and these were always payable mines. There was capital to exploit them, plant and machinery were erected, water was laid on, and now it is said that the mines did not pay. At present those five mines are not being worked, not because they are not productive enough but because of antipathy to the State. Those gentlemen do not want to pay 40 per cent. to the State, and that is the sole reason. I would also like to know the reason for the continual accidents in the diamond mines. Many such take place with the native workers, and very little is heard of it because the natives cannot make themselves heard. I also want to draw attention to the making of salt.
I want to come down to earth from these lofty heights, but it is interesting to hear the hon. member for Jeppe (Mr. Sampson), who has been referring to areas in the far East Rand where, however, nothing has been proved. You have a very good example in the Daggafontein mine where after £1,500,000 had been spent there is to-day only a hole in the ground. I want to direct the Minister’s attention to the grave dissatisfaction that exists over the assizing of weights and measures. People in outlying districts have to take their beams and scales for examination to the towns in which the assizing officers reside. The officer who is responsible for assizing Maritzburg lives at Durban. Then there is a tremendous amount of scrapping of beams and scales which involves considerable expense and trouble to small traders. I understand that some of the officials say that only certain scales have to be used, and these are obtainable practically only through one firm. I have previously called attention to the fact that one small industry which was recently started is greatly hampered owing to insufficient funds. It was not a case in which the ordinary banks would help, and I appealed to the Minister to see if something could be done, but it appears that the Minister has not been able to do anything owing to no funds being available for this purpose. Would it not be advisable to introduce legislation on the lines of the Trades Facilities Act of Great Britain or Safeguarding of Industries Act to enable the Minister to afford financial assistance to small industries, especially those in which Europeans are employed? There are various industries, but that is the particular one I brought to his notice, and I hope during the recess he will go into the matter and see what assistance can be given.
I think the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg (South) (Mr. O’Brien) was rather unfortunate in his comparison with State mining. As far as the East Rand gold bearing areas being absolutely sure things, one need only refer to the statement made by Sir Robert Kotze before a Select Committee which dealt with this matter. He estimated the gold contents of the East Rand at an enormous figure and he based his estimate on accurate surveys and investigations.
Does he know where to put his hand on it?
Oh, yes; just as the people who float these gold mining companies know where to put their hands on it. Unfortunately they put their hands on the people’s money, as has been demonstrated so splendidly by the hon. member for Jeppe (Mr. Sampson). One can scarcely add anything to the masterly exposition made by my hon. friend with regard to E.R.P.M. matter. One wonders why it is that generally speaking the controllers of the E.R.P.M. are depreciating that mine. Is it not an extraordinary thing that the shareholders are unable to get information about the richness or otherwise of their property? It is more extraordinary because the man who is writing to my hon. friend is perhaps one of the largest shareholders. He goes so far as to have representatives go down the mine, one of whom is told that he cannot examine the mine, and the other that if he takes a sample out of the ground he will be prosecuted. That is a most extraordinary thing and calls for intervention by the Government. I support my hon. friend in his claim for a close investigation into the affairs of the E.R.P.M. It is constantly being depreciated, and yet one hears rumours of intensely rich strikes indeed being made which are deliberately not being worked, in order that they can maintain this atmosphere of depreciation, with some ulterior object in view. As I say, those are rumours, and it is impossible for anyone to get any true and complete information about such a mine. I think that can be extended to all mines. I doubt whether any of the shareholders in the Witwatersrand mines can get any complete information about those mines. Certainly a case has been made for investigation by the Government, If a commission is appointed with the right personnel thereon, and with proper definite instructions to find out what is required, there is some hope for the shareholders in particular and for the public of South Africa getting some definite information in regard to the hanky panky which is constantly going on. Then with regard to the Cinderella. I was one of the deputation my hon. friend referred to who went to interview the ex-Minister of Mines. I found the then Minister of Mines apparently obsessed with the idea that the Cinderella should be run by the E.R.P.M. I ventured to suggest the danger of handing the Cinderella over to the E.R.P.M. and for very good reasons. First, there was this hanky panky business which we have been discussing to-day. The value of our gold producing mines does not lie in the gold extracted and sent overseas, but in the amount of employment it gives to the civilized workers of South Africa and as a consequence, the distribution and the circulation of the wages they earn. It has been demonstrated by the people who know and my own commonsense tells me it is correct, that in all probability if the Cinderella was handed over to the E.R.P.M. it would employ another 10 men. The argument used in favour of its being handed over to the E.R.P.M. was that it would result in the employment of a large number of men. I would urge upon the hon. Minister that he has, on the one hand, to go very closely into the E.R.P.M. and into the Cinderella on the other hand. The result of the closing down of the latter has been the depreciation of a whole community. They do not know where they are, and the men are living in a state of complete unrest.
The State receives a fairly large sum from the diggers, but those unfortunate people get little sympathy from the Department. The conditions on the diggings leave much to be desired, although several Departments have to deal with them. One of them is the Department of Public Health, and this department is quite prepared to co-operate with others to better the health conditions, an improvement of which is urgently necessary, as the conditions are disgraceful. With a proper co-ordination of the activities of the different departments a great deal can be achieved. I would also like to say a few words about the salt industry. The Minister already has the figures in his possession, but I will give a few more to this House. During last year 20,000 tons of salt were imported. Our own yearly production is 80,000 tons. We use only 67,000 tons per annum in this country. There is a surplus, and despite this fact, salt is being imported. Much capital has been invested in that industry, and it gives work to many white employees. The industry is, therefore, of great importance to the country, and the Minister ought to see whether it is not advisable to give it greater protection. There ought to be at first a protection such as is given on the railways to the coastal towns, that is to say, an average tariff of 25/- per ton. There should, too, be dumping duties, stores ought to be erected at the ports, and exports encouraged. I would urge the Minister to appoint a Commission on which the salt industry will be represented to enquire thoroughly into the matter.
I should like to ask the hon. Minister what he proposes to do in connection with the matter of the Fishery and Biological Marine Survey. I see that in the introduction to the Estimates the hon. Minister states on page 8, that there is an addition of £6,000 for the fisheries survey and scientific research. I see that the Fishery Estimates have increased by £3,500 above what they were in the first estimates this year, and they now stand at £7,500. I am particularly glad to see the increase of this particular vote, because I have always been a convinced believer indeed in the great future before this country in the fishery industry. There are four great industries that can be developed in any country—mining, agriculture, manufactures and fishery. The mining industry has long been able to develop and look after itself. The fishery industry has always been the Cinderella of all the industries of the country. My own belief is that in the resources we have around the coast we have a tremendous asset the bare fringe of which we have, so far, just only touched. Thirty years ago the old Cape Government got a vessel out for the purpose of making special investigation and in a short time the Agulhas Bank was found and has proved a great asset since. From that period we have had a fishing industry on comparatively modest lines with the result that to-day it is more than many people realize. There is an export of fish of between £250,000 and £300,000 per annum. We stand in a very favourable position with regard to the exportation of fish to Australia. I am one of those people who believe that just as the agriculturist who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before deserves well of his country so, the fisherman who catches two snoek where he got one before, is also deserving well of his country. In the fishing industry we have a great power of development of the food supply of South Africa. Since the investigation by the Cape Government similar researches have been prosecuted round the coast a couple of years ago with the result that a big bank of fish was found 40 or 50 miles northwest of Cape Town. But, besides discovering where fish are there are other factors you have got to go into. You have got to watch the breeding seasons, and the movements of fish, because their migrations are remarkable and peculiar. If you are going to tempt commercial men to invest their money in a fishing industry you must have a sufficiency of facts to place before them, facts that win prove that such an industry will be a success, before they will risk their money. You have a great possibility in the way of development of food resources, but much of the information required for this purpose is information which calls for a good deal of research. As I did yesterday, so again today, I press the point that it is necessary for us to do all we can to ascertain all our resources by scientific research. It must also be remembered that with the development of such an industry you are going to create a great source of employment which, in itself, should make us do all we can to foster the fishing industry. In Canada I am told there were 76,000 Europeans employed in the fisheries in 1923.
Was that river fishing?
No. It is salmon and cod fishing in which they are mostly employed, i.e., largely sea fishing. The industry here, according to figures, would appear to be a growing one and as I have already said, I believe that there is a big future before it, and that we should lose no opportunity of developing such resources. That requires careful research by experienced men. I know Dr. Gilchrist has done very good work in this respect. The officials of the department have also taken a very keen interest in it, but I think the Government will have to do more than make provision for a marine survey. I personally think that the control of the whole industry should be in one hand, that it should be a matter for the State. It is so important that it should require a special department. At the moment I believe the Provincial Councils look after the work of fisheries but I do not think they will quarrel with the Government if the matter is taken over from them; or rather the Cape and Natal provinces alone do. It is a matter for national concern, and its development is a matter of national interest. My earnest recommendation to the Government is that they should realize what a profitable investment fishery research is going to be, and what a great future there is for the fishing industry in this country.
The hon. member for Klerksdorp (Mr. Smit) showed clearly by means of figures what the production of diamonds and the tax thereon amount to. At the recent election several leaders of the S.A.P. stated that if the Nationalist came into power the Premier mine would be closed. It is obvious, therefore, that it was the aim of the S.A.P. and of De Beers to cut up the Pact with uncut diamonds. The share which De Beers have to contribute to the State in the Transvaal is much greater than in the Cape Province, and as De Beers control the market, they do not require these diamonds. It will be seen, therefore, that it is in the interests of De Beers to keep down the production of the Premier mine to its lowest limits, and the result is that people are without work who could have earned a good living in the Premier Mine. I do not complain about the management of the mine itself. The manager is capable and sympathetic to the workers and to the interests of the public. The great cause is the control by De Beers of the diamonds of South Africa. The hon. member for Beaconsfield (Col. Sir David Harris) said that South Africa, together with South-West Africa, produces only 50 per cent, of the world’s output of diamonds, and as far as diamonds are concerned South-West Africa is a part of the Union. We produce 75 per cent. of the world’s diamonds, and we are under the control of the diamond god in London, the Syndicate of Diamondsellers, as Angola, the Congo and British Guiana produce the other quarter of the world’s output. Unless the Minister is a strong man and acts firmly, De Beers will always try to close down the Premier Mine in order to evade the 60 per cent. share which this mine has to contribute to the State, and this, although to the advantage of De Beers, is not in the interests of the State. The Minister will render us a great service if he promises to control De Beers with a firm hand. In my constituency we have a famous old saltpan, the largest and the best in South Africa, which has been worked since the time of the Voortrekkers. The alkali is well suited for export, but in June the position was so bad and the export arrangements were such that no work could be done at the saltpan, and probably that is still the case. Local production was made impossible by the imported article. I would also like to draw attention to the sufferers from miners’ phthisis. Some of them who are very poor are trying to find a living on the diggings, and I hope even this session that something will be done to help them. Cannot something be done for the 25 men who, although suffering from miners’ phthisis, are being driven into the mine to work until they die?
I wish to draw the Minister’s attention to the administration of the Weights and Measures Act. I know that it was very desirable to bring this Act into operation, but in some respects unnecessary inconvenience has been caused. In the first place I would like to ask the Minister what are the instruments that are really meant to come under the Act as measuring and weighing instruments, ordinarily employed in trade? The meaning being given to “employed in trade” has been extended to very much more than was ever intended under the Act. Further, I wish to draw the Minister’s attention to the mode of procedure in carrying out the Act, more particularly in the rural areas, where everyone is served with a notice to bring in at a certain date their scales and measuring instruments. The result is a great many more instruments are brought in than were ever contemplated under the Act originally. Among these instruments are heavy platform scales, not ordinarily used in trade. I took the matter up with the department and their interpretation was that even where you have scales that you use only occasionally in sending things to the railway, you must bring them in. You bring in your heavy platform scale and you find a huge concourse of people all wanting their instruments attended to and waiting. The officials cannot get through the work while you wait, and you have to leave your scales there, probably twenty or thirty miles away from your own place. In the course of a few days you receive a summary notice stating that you cannot use your instrument as it has to go for repairs. I wrote to the official asking what was wrong with the scale. He could give me no information. The thing is simply sent for repairs and there it remains for a couple of months, possibly at the very time you are wanting it each day for your farming operations. Such a thing may, perhaps, occur in the middle of the fruit season. There is only one firm engaged in repairing these things. That is, the South African Scale Company, and they make a nice job of it. I would ask the Minister to see if this thing could not be administered in such a way as not to cause all this inconvenience. The whole matter should be gone into, and the instruments to be sent in should be defined. Also, proper records should be kept as to what is wrong with the instruments, so that the owner can be informed and instruct for repairs accordingly.
One of the chief issues of the elections was the question whether the gold mines should be further taxed. The Nationalist party promised an enquiry into this matter. At this enquiry it will have to be shown to what extent the costs of the mines are real and necessary costs. We need not investigate the item for wages, because that would always be kept as low as possible. But the Department of Mines computes the general cost at £15,000,000 per annum. As those are the figures of the mines themselves, we do not know whether they are reliable. It is an open secret on the Rand that costs are artificially increased by 30 per cent. There are two or three rings for the supply of requirements such as explosives, meat and machinery to the mines, and it is alleged that prominent magnates have interests in those rings. Some of the leading men in the cold storages also have interests in the mining companies, and in that way they get contracts at two or three times their real value. There is much evidence in favour of those allegations, and if they are true, a much greater sum could be got in taxes and dividends, and work could be given to more people. I hope the Minister will give his serious attention to this matter.
I know the Minister only recently took over the department, and I think I should point out to him that the statement made by the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) that the mines are not being worked as cheaply as possible is not correct. Besides, the shareholders are quite able to keep an eye on what is going on and see that no money is squandered. The hon. member time after time used the phrase: “if it is true.” That was done to create suspicion in the country, to insinuate that the mines were the great culprits and that they ought to be taxed more heavily.
Should not that be done?
The hon. member is one of those who continually advocate more taxation for the mines. It may be that there are rings supplying the requirements of the mines, but the fact remains that the latter are a great asset to the country, and Johannesburg is the country’s greatest market. Many people find employment there, and yet it is always being asserted that the mines are a curse to the country. It is rather peculiar that the hon. member for Jeppes (Mr. Sampson) should move the reduction of the Minister’s salary, and I am pleased that it did not come from the Opposition. That is a sign of how things are going with the Pact. That hon. member has done a great deal for the mines. He has served on Select Committees, and I know what he has done to alleviate the lot of the mine worker. The hon. member for Pretoria (North) (Mr. Oost) said that the Government should help the miners’ phthisis sufferers, but I would point out that it is not the fault of the late Government that they have not yet been helped. Last year a Select Committee was appointed on the motion of the hon. member for Jeppes (Mr. Sampson), when the Nationalist party obstructed, so that Mr. Speaker had to give a ruling. In that way time was wasted, and the Bill did not get through. The hon. member for Boshof (Mr. C. A. van Niekerk) always pretends to know a great deal and he gets excited over nothing. I have also taken part in gold mining, and experience has taught me that it is not the work of the State, and if the Government undertakes it is bound to prove a failure. Work undertaken by the State does not pay. The Johannesburg municipality found out that to its cost.
In my constituency there is a mining right on the surface; in other words, there is a wool factory. This is the best kind of industry to have, because when all the mines are worked out, the factory will still continue to exist. The Minister is desirous of fostering industries, and he wants to give the Board of Trade and Industries greater powers. That is good, because the management of the wool factory applied to the previous board, and got the reply that it could not help them. That is unsound, and there ought to be a change in such a way that factories can be assisted financially. When the factory was in financial difficulties last year it was discovered that the Government had no money to help it, and could do nothing. There are commercial banks to aid trade and commerce; there is a Land Bank for the farmer, but there is no industrial bank. The factory borrowed £50,000, but it does not require all of it. It has to pay 7 per cent. interest, whilst the management only get 4 per cent. for the money that it does not require. The Government ought to be in a position to help such factories, and the railway rates on South African goods should be as low as possible. The Minister should also give his attention to the wool factory at Harrismith because the sheep farmers put their money into the factory, which is one of the biggest in the country, and I would like to see it a success.
I would like to say a few words about the complaints with regard to the Weights and Measures Act, and there are a good many complaints with regard to administration. One comes from Natal, and the one I am making is a local complaint. In my opinion the whole sub-department wants thoroughly examining by the Minister, and there should be a thorough overhaul of the department which administers the Act. There are two complaints, the first that the scale of charges is excessive and the second is that officials in going round to carry out the provisions of the Act should consult the convenience of the public a little more. The latter would certainly be a very wise move. There is also some suspicion abroad that the scales of certain manufacturers are favoured to the detriment of others. I have a letter which was put into my hands by some shippers in London which says: “We feel it our duty to advise you that manufacturers on this side are asserting that an unfair attitude is taken up by your inspectors, particularly in regard to the scales of certain manufacturers.” The impression is also outside that repairs are ordered by inspectors when they are not necessary, and one firm is specially favoured in regard to these repairs, and it should be remembered that for the adjustment of scales the charges are fairly heavy. There are many complaints on these matters, and I hope the Minister will give his personal attention to it, more particularly with regard to the charge of favouritism to certain manufacturers’ scales.
There has been considerable increase in the accident rate, and I wish to know if the Minister’s attention has been drawn to it. I want to suggest to him that where anything of that nature occurs he should make provision in his department for his attention being attracted to it at once. The increase in the accident rate has caused a considerable amount of uneasiness in the minds of the men employed in the mines.
Business was suspended at 6 p.m., and resumed at 8.9 p.m.
I am surprised at the oration of the hon. member for Johannesburg (North) (Mr. Geldenhuys). He represents a district where many mine workers live, but he does not look after their interests; on the contrary, he advocates the interests of the wealthy. The hon. member does not say much about miners’ phthisis, but does he not know that this scourge takes away many of our best men and that 4,000 of our young people suffer from the disease? Does the hon. member know that, as a result of the murders of two years ago, there are many unemployed, whereas the capitalists still amass huge profits? Does the hon. member know, too, that when these mining companies are floated the financiers make a lot of money? Does the hon. member know that in his own constituency there is a hospital for sufferers of miners’ phthisis? He should plead for the interests of these people, but prefers to work against their interests and to further those of the capitalists. What did Kimberley teach us? All the wealthy people of Kimberley are living abroad, and very soon the same thing will apply to the Rand. The wealthy men will go to England and we shall have only the graves of the miners’ phthisis victims. The hon. member ought to forget about the rich mines and the capitalists and think more of the poor people. There is a sum of £60,000 on the Estimates for miners’ phthisis. That is a liability which the State and the taxpayers have to bear. The Miners’ Phthisis Act requires amending, and I blame the previous Government for indirect negligence in this connection. Since 1921 compensation has been paid to the widows of the victims of miners’ phthisis. Every year that was sanctioned. If we have a new law now it should stipulate clearly that widows ought to be compensated. There are people who in 1912 and 1916 received £90 to £400 because they were suffering from the disease, but now the funds are exhausted, and these people with their families are starved. They ought to be assisted. The Miners’ Phthisis Bureau does not do its work properly and the people concerned are treated unfairly, because they are being kept too long in the mines. Many of them are taken out only two months before their death, so that the mines should pay less in compensation. Unfortunately the doctors make many mistakes. The people who work at the batteries with mercury get no compensation. They ought to be under the law also, as they acquire a disease which is just as bad as miners’ phthisis.
Last year a law was passed prohibiting the use of adulterated leather for the manufacture of South African footwear, but a large quantity of boots and shoes in which adulterated leather had been used is imported. Several South African factories cannot stand the competition. In the interests of the farmers a great expansion of our industries is urgently required. During the elections it was said that the co-operation of the Nationalist party with Labour would mean higher wages and the eight-hour working day. The farmers realize that the expansion of our industries and good wages increase the sale of their product, so that such scarecrow stories do not frighten them very much.
I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. member for Jeppes (Mr. Sampson) with regard to the necessity for an enquiry into the working of the E.R.P.M. mines. For some time there have been rumours in connection with these mines, and it is in the interests of the shareholders that an investigation should be held to ascertain what truth there is in those rumours. I am frequently in touch with the men working on these mines, and although I am not in a position to say whether the statements made by the hon. member are well founded or not, I know that the reports of the men working on the property are very different from the published reports of the directors. We are often told that, for the development of our resources in this country, money must come from overseas, but unless we create a better atmosphere and more confidence, local people are not going to put money into South African companies. If we are going to develop State mining, as I hope we are, we shall need to place these matters on such a basis as will inspire confidence in investors. There is another point to which I want to draw attention. The greatest efforts should be made to create employment. We all know that the Minister of Labour is doing his best, but a great many of the things he is doing are merely temporary. I am very sorry the Government has not placed sufficient money on the Estimates to develop mining and encourage prospecting throughout the country. If prospecting was developed we should find many rich mines in various parts of the country. We are told by the newspapers that the mines are very prosperous at the present time, and record outputs are the rule. It is, however, a strange thing that while the mines are so very prosperous, there was never a time in the history of the fields when the workmen were worse off than they are to-day, and many competent men cannot even find employment. There are many ways in which the Government could assist in fostering employment. For instance, the system of mining inspection is altogether too lax. At the present time mining inspection exists practically only in name. The mine inspectors are on very good social relations with the mine managements, the inspectors’ visits are known beforehand—they merely go when they are sent for on particular errands. I am informed that the men employed underground are so rushed to eke out an existence that it is absolutely impossible for them to comply with the mining regulations as they are. Many people object to Government interference with the mines, but surely no one can object to the Government interfering to enforce its own mining regulations. If the Government will enforce those regulations there will be vacancies for a large number of men on the existing mines. Then also, as affecting unemployment, I would like to know the Government’s policy in regard to the indefinite closing down of mines. The Cinderella Mine has been mentioned. It may not be generally known that the Cinderella Mine owns the biggest gold-mining area on the reef. It should be employing 500 to 1,000 white men, and it could employ the latter number and have at least thirty years of life. The mine was working for ten years and then closed down owing to shortage of working capital through such a big concern being undercapitalized. The reason of the shortage of capital was that the parent company took 500,000 of the shares for merely introducing the shares to the public. As a result of the under-capitalization only one shaft was opened and one-shaft mining was found to be very expensive. Now the mine has been closed for fourteen years, and it can easily be understood that when a mine is closed so long the machinery and equipment depreciate. The position is daily becoming worse, and the question is, how long is the Government going to allow this state of affairs to continue?
Apart from the great mining industry on the Rand there are also smaller mines which on the Estimates are called district mines. They are found in the districts of Barberton and Lydenburg and they are protected by the Small Mines and Claimholders’ Associations at Barberton, Sabie and Pilgrims Rest. Most of these mines are in the Sabie area, and application has been made for transferring the offices to Sabie. I would like to ask the Minister to investigate the grievance of the mine workers of Sabie, as it is said they have to get their claim licences from Pilgrims Rest. I would like to thank the Minister for what has been done for these district mines by the construction and repair of roads and drifts. For roads to mines a grant is given on the pound for pound system. That is useful work and last year for that item an amount of £1,000 was placed on the Estimates, now increased to £4,000, and I want to tell the Minister that I am grateful for it. The small mines have progressed a good deal, but further exploitation is desirable, and I would urge the Minister to increase the amount for that item.
I support the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) in his complaint against the Assize Department. There is precisely the same complaint in my own district. If a man asks why his scale is not approved, he gets no information, and all the inspectors refer him to the same company.
I would like to know what the Minister intends to do with the Bill relating to precious and base metals which did not go through last session. The hon. member for Fordsburg (Mr. J. S. F. Pretorius) gave me a paternal lecture on my duties to my constituents. I have many mine workers in my constituency, too, but they are people who like to get work to do in order to earn a living. They are satisfied and grateful, and many of them have capital invested in the mines. The hon. member, however, has that type of worker in his district which he incites against the employers, the sort of thing which has caused a lot of misery on the goldfields. Many workers on the Rand earn higher wages than the farmers, and all the disturbances arise only when they are instigated by others, and that has caused a lot of misery in the past. It would be better if people in responsible positions would try to create more content. The hon. member for Fordsburg (Mr. J. S. F. Pretorius) worked himself into a fine frenzy, but shouting will not frighten me or my constituents.
About a year ago the last Government appointed a commission to en deavour to negotiate a working arrangement between E.R.P.M. and the Cinderella. But up to the present time, I understand, no report is forthcoming, which shows great callousness to the interests of the people of the district. A suggestion has been made that the Cinderella should be controlled by the E.R.P.M., but that is not to the interest of the people of Boksburg or the country. The E.R.P.M. has already got sufficient responsibility to look after its own ground, and if any working arrangement is arrived at, I hope it will not be that the Cinderella is merged with E.R.P.M. The Government has a definite duty to the people of Boksburg in connection with the Cinderella mine. Because this mine was working under Government licence the town of Boksburg grew up and people were induced to come in and spend their capital on the erection of business premises and residences. But owing to the Government allowing the mine to remain lying idle so long, many of the properties have become practically valueless. Recently a meeting was held of all the public bodies of Boksburg, who discussed what they were going to do with their empty shops and empty houses. By common consent the only solution was the re-opening of the Cinderella mine. During the elections members of the present Government visited Boksburg and promised that if the present Government came into power means would be found to make the company work the Cinderella mine or get out. All the reports of experts went to prove that the Cinderella is an exceptionally rich mine. Five years after the mine closed down an eminent expert was employed by Sir George Albu to sample the mine. He took five months, and not only proved that portions of the mine which had already been developed were highly payable, but that the ore was of a much better quality than that of some of the rich mines of the Far East Rand. More than that he quoted results of his investigations to prove that though a considerable quantity of highly payable ore had been developed and exposed the real main reef had been untouched. I contend that if the Government is going to undertake State mines it will find it much better and cheaper to take over a mine of this proved description than to develop the areas on the Far East Rand. It would probably be contended that if the Government took over the Cinderella mine that the poor shareholders would suffer. I contend that this would not be the case. The debenture holders have a lien on the property made up of £500,000 advanced and a similar amount for interest, so that whatever financial interest the shareholders had in the concern ceased long ago. With interest charges increasing every day, and a debt of over a million sterling it was obvious that the shareholders had no concern as to what became of the property. So we come back to—who is going to lose if the Government steps in and works this mine. The debenture holders were the only ones interested, and, as a matter of fact, they would have acted in their own interests if they had stepped in years ago and prevented the interest from growing. As they took no action they cannot now object if the Government says: “We are going to take over this mine.” The debenture holders were the same as any other bond holders who waited till their assets dwindled. The debenture holders were in reality the controlling house or the people behind the mine. In the first instance they received half a million shares free merely for introducing the shares to the public. For some years the shares were ranging from £2 to £3, and anybody with a knowledge of the Stock Exchange can understand that the company must have made quite a lot of profit out of these shares. Now, if the debenture holders lose their money, they would only lose what they made out of profits. I do not want to be unjust to anyone. I say give the company an opportunity of working het mine, and if they do not comply in a, reasonable time, I say that in the interest of the public and of the men who are walking the Reef searching for work the Government should step in. If there is nothing in existing laws which compels companies to work mines they have taken over, it is high time there was some such clause. This is a matter of the utmost importance and I trust the Minister will give it every consideration.
All the discussion and all the speeches we have heard on this vote led to one thing, and that is the little protection the public have in regard to their investments in mining shares. We who have a knowledge of stock and share transactions know that the people who manipulate mines do not make their money out of the mines but out of the Stock Exchange, using the mines as counters, and it is sometimes useful for them to say these mines are unpayable, and at other times to say they are payable. The hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) has proved his case, and we come down to this, that there is no protection for the public nor for shareholders. The only use these mines are to the Union is the use they can be put to as regards the extraction of gold for the wages they pay. That is the only use they are to us, and it is to our interest to see these mines are kept going. What is the remedy? If the Government would take its courage in both hands—and I hope we have now a Government that has courage enough—the solution lies in appointing public directors much as there are public trustees. If the Government were to appoint a number of dependable men, and legislate so that they have power to put a director on any company, instructing such director to report to the Minister of Mines at whose discretion that report would be published—if that were done, you would have no more of this calculated misleading of the public; and some day I hope we shall have a Government that will rise to the adoption of such a solution. Too much importance is attached to the mining industry; far too much. It is overhanging everything in this Country. This vote alone gives over a quarter of a million to the mining industry, and when companies complain of taxation let them be reminded that the mining department alone costs a quarter of a million. Mining also brings about a vast expense in regard to the industry itself; police, goals, and that sort of expenditure, and it will therefore be seen that this vote does not cover the whole cost of the mines, so much so that I have come to wonder if gold and diamond mines are a profit to this country or not.
Why don’t you close them up?
We have been warned of Australia. There they have ceased to depend on their gold industry. If they do not maintain a high standard of living for workers they are closed down.
Is that what you want here?
Last year Australia only mined £3,000,000 worth of gold, and that is not a half per cent. of the total value of her industries. What does Australia depend on? Last year it mined twenty millions worth of minerals, of which the biggest percentage was coal, and they used most of this for their industries.
Is that the fault of taxation?
My argument is that you are allowing too much attention to be paid to the mining industry of this country. We have it on the authority of leading men that you can only look for another ten years of extensive gold mining in this country, and I ask you what is going to be the position then? In ten years’ time it will be attenuated to such a degree that there will practically be no more gold mining, and if you do not swing over to other industries those who come after us will live to curse us. It is during these ten years that you relentlessly and remorselessly have to take from the golden heritage of this country sufficient for your salvation at the end of ten years, when there will be nothing to go upon except the bare resources of this country. The mineral wealth which is the heritage of the people should be used to solidify other industries. It should be seen to that the mining industry is not ceded to overseas interests and whenever a mine is to be shut down the Government should say to the companies that if they do shut down their licence must be cancelled.
What about the capital?
If a mine does not pay it is worthless, and its equipment is only worth the price of second-hand material. There is one thing we have against the mining magnates; we have reason to expect that when a mine ceases, the surface area should be handed over to the local authority for the benefit of the people. However, they are not satisfied with the extraction of minerals, but having got control of the surface also refuse to cede that surface for the use of the people unless extravagant amounts are paid for it. I ask the Minister of Mines to pay special attention to expropriation of these surface areas.
I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister of Mines, and in doing so I associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) and the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger), the Weights and Measures Act. I am speaking from practical experience of what has occurred in my town with regard to scales. If money is spent well, it is spent well in connection with the Assize branch of the Mines and Industries Department. There is a tendency to rob in the matter of scales, for you are practically overruled by one particular house. The farmers have good scales, and they are also inconvenienced as their scales have been recklessly condemned and the farmers have to buy new ones.
I wish to associate myself with the remarks which have fallen from the last speaker and the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger). In my constituency natives buy a tickey or sixpence worth of sugar and do not ask to be served by weight. Recently all the scales in one district were condemned, and I am advised that it will cost the traders approximately £2,000 to replace the scales. The Minister has power to postpone the coming into operation of the Act, and he might give the farmers and traders two or three years’ notice before the Act is enforced. The late Minister of Mines and Industries travelled through the territories, and he gave an undertaking to the traders that he would not put the Act into operation immediately. I have been informed by the department that it is giving my constituency six months in which to replace its scales, but at the end of six months the situation will be very serious because of the drought. An opportunity should be given to replace the scales gradually and people should not be forced to buy from one or two firms.
I hope the Government will not extend the period of the coming into operation of the Act, as the measure is a very good one and you do get at unscrupulous people.
Until we realize how little the mining industry is to us, and until we change our policy, we shall never be really successful. We have to beware of mining people, who extract all they can from the country, and also to beware of the trading class who wish merely to extract the products of one country and exchange them for the products of another country. I shall be told that we must be wary of frightening capital, but you cannot frighten capital. The country which pays the largest return on capital is the country that will get it. I deny, however, that one penny of capital has ever come from outside for the development of our mining industry. When diamonds were discovered in 1870 no capital was required. Afterwards in London, however, they sold shares. The money that was used came from Natal and the Cape, and Barberton was developed but proved a failure. Then the Rand was opened up. Again the capital came from the Cape and elsewhere in this country to develop the Rand, and the outcrop mines were developed by the money of this country. The outcrop companies found the money for the deep levels. Capital can only come in as goods or in specie; we have no transfer of hidden wealth such as securities, bonds, etc., and the balance of trade is always in our favour but does not come back to us. This country is a creditor country to the world, and to-day capital made here is being invested by the Gold Fields of South Africa—with which Rhodes was associated—and other companies in enterprises elsewhere.
Will the hon. member tell me what item he is discussing?
I am discussing the mining vote. I am showing that it is time this vote is considered from all its aspects so that we shall not depend on mining in the future, I trust the Government will take into serious consideration the question of appointing public directors on the boards of mining companies, particularly those in which the State-has a partnership interest; especially on the Premier Mine, where you are being done down. We have a partnership interest in the Premier of 60 per cent., but the diamond ring prefer to work Wesselton Mine in preference to the Premier, because the latter has to pay only 10 per cent. to Government. I think the hon. member for Cape Town (Harbour) (Maj. van Zyl) and the hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close) have done a public service in bringing up the question of fisheries, which could be developed to an enormous extent. The Minister might consider a scheme for bringing out fishermen from the north of Scotland, and provide them with efficient seagoing boats on the building society principle. An investment of £100,000 or £200,000 in this way would pay far better than all the money we are wasting in the mines.
I am rather at a loss to know what vote we are discussing, seeing that the last speaker has referred to such a wide range of subjects. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that in my constituency there are several hamlets where the people are at the mercy of the provincial council, which has no money. There are hundreds and hundreds of poor men who possess boats, which sometimes are destroyed when a strong wind springs up. A very small sum invested in the building of a breakwater would assist these men to make an honest living.
I suppose by this time the Minister of Mines is beginning to think his job is not quite an easy one.
I never thought so.
But we feel it is necessary to drive home points we wish him to know. There was the point brought up by the hon. member for Boksburg (Mr. McMenamin). I should like to elaborate it a little. That is this statement that owing to the methods now being employed by the mining companies on the Reef it is sheerly impossible for the men to carry out the regulations. It is not a question that if they like they can keep the mining regulations; it is a matter of their not being able to keep them under any circumstances, as things are today. My friend was perfectly correct when he drew the attention of the Minister to the necessity of seeing that his own regulations are not broken. There is so much work, since the strike, fastened on the men especially those down below, that they cannot do otherwise than break the regulations. Before the strike tramming was one white man’s job, pipe fitting was another, track laying was another, timbering another, and mining yet another. Taking advantage of the fact that they had beaten the men to their knees the managers have now compelled a miner to superintend all those jobs. I ask hon. members how is it possible for men to keep the mining regulations when they have so much work that they have not got the time? In addition to that, men have to work in many different places at the same time, if you can understand that being possible.
Of course it is impossible, but the people who support my hon. friend and his party over there endeavour to make the men do that. The employers now insist upon a system of things under which it is impossible for the men to keep the regulations. When the manager thinks it is time to make an example of a man, possibly because he does not care about him, he is hauled before the Inspector of Mines and fined. This is a point the men’s organizations feel very strongly about. I understand they have already urged this matter privately upon the Minister himself and it is in order that he shall deal with the position that I am raising it now. The breach of these mining regulations often leads not only to disaster to the mine itself, but to the death of men, and it is certainly inviting the men’s death from miners’ phthisis. On that ground I urge upon the Minister the necessity for considering this question with a view to amelioration. It has been suggested, and I support the suggestion, that the Minister should so arrange prosecutions that wherever there is a breach of the regulations both the manager and the man should be prosecuted, and if they are found guilty, both be convicted. There should be this additional penalty that after three or more convictions for similar causes, either the man or the manager, or both, should have their tickets cancelled. The directors also should be made responsible. If that is done I venture to say it will not be long before you find these breaches of the regulations no longer exist. In connection with this question of the breach of regulations the Mines Regulation Act lays it down that inspectors may visit working places at any time provided they do not “impede the working of the mine.” When that Bill was before Parliament my hon. friends on this side and myself pointed out that those words left a wide open door for rendering the effect of the clause nugatory, and that has proved to be the case. If an inspector wants to go down at some time when the manager does not want to see him, the manager says: You must not go down now, you are impeding the work of the mine. The inspector finds himself helpless. I know that needs legislation, but I draw the attention of the Minister to the matter. I want to urge upon the Minister that he should consider altering the law so that he shall have complete power and that he shall appoint as many inspectors as are required adequately to do the work. You have not enough inspectors at the present time. The Minister might consider the advisability of appointing some of the men themselves as inspectors. They would be on the job all the time, and consequently any breach of the regulations would immediately come within their notice and be stopped. If the Minister insists upon the mining regulations being kept it will also have an effect on the employment question. The result of tightening up those regulations would find work for another 1,000 white men. That is something to be desired. Those, I think, are some of the matters the Minister should concern himself with at the outset of his period of office.
I am sure the Minister of Mines is getting tired of all the advice tendered to him. It is only a short time since he took over, but I would like to remove the wrong impression that many members in this House do not realize the importance of the mines to the country. The Nationalist party looks upon them as a great asset to the State, and of such importance that the Government should see that when legislation is introduced relating to the mines that its own control is increased.
During the committee stage the hon. member cannot discuss legislation.
I do not wish to discuss legislation, but only to point out to the Minister that he should take away a little of the power of the mines, as in the past they have had too much their own way. The Government ought to see that more white people are employed on the mines. At present the proportion of whites to natives is alleged to be 9 to 1, but the fact is that underground it is 25 to 1. The result is that one man has to do the work of three, and that leads to consequences which have already been stated. The Minister ought also to prevent the mines from taking such a large part of the trade of the Rand by means of the “stop-order system” as that dislocates the whole commercial position of the Rand. How it should be prevented and what the Government is going to do, are questions which the Minister will have to decide. Something, however, should be done. The miners’ phthisis law should be amended as soon as possible. A great injustice was done to about 50 people who some years ago were dismissed with only £96 compensation each, and the Minister should think of those people when introducing the new law. I hope he will come forward next session with a Bill embodying the suggestions which I have raised.
I want to say something about a matter which affects the very existence and the future of 300 poor families, namely, the diggers at Byenestpoort and Kameelfontein. They live on the border of rich alluvial grounds which belong to De Beers, and for that reason are not being worked. The ground is even covered by the mine dumps, so that it would be impossible to work it in future. I hope legislation will be introduced to compel the company to open up the ground. It affects the diggers not only, but to a certain extent the poor white question, as otherwise these people have to be given ground or work immediately. They lived in great misery. I see that the hon. member for Johannesburg (North) (Mr. Geldenhuys) is smiling, because I am pleading for the poor people. The hon. member ought to be ashamed of himself, although I can understand such an attitude from one who this evening called himself the representative of the shareholders.
The hon. member can only speak on a specific item concerning the general administration of the Minister.
I submit to your ruling, but the Minister can make those people happy who to-day live in misery. It is in the interests of this House—
It is not a question of the interests of this House. The hon. member must act in accordance with the rules of the House, and conclude his speech.
The first point I wish to deal with is the observation of the hon. member for Jeppes (Mr. Sampson) with regard to the E.R.P.M. report, and his request for an investigation. Of course the hon. member will agree with me that where a company is formed with shareholders it is in the first place for the shareholders to exercise their rights as such.
But it is a State asset.
If the hon. member will allow me, I will explain what I mean. It is the privilege of shareholders with which no courts of law will interfere and, in the ordinary course it is not for the department to interfere. But if the hon. member will take steps to bring to my notice, or if the shareholders will organize and bring to my notice, sufficient grounds for an enquiry, such an enquiry will be held, and the Government will not shirk its duty where a good case is made out to probe the matter to the bottom, where there is prima facie evidence. That explains at the same time the letter of the inspector to which the hon. member referred, in the ordinary course shareholders cannot request the inspector to sample the mine; but I welcome any information of a reasonable nature establishing a prima facie case. It is no good approaching a subordinate or an inspector in this matter. I promise that the information will not be ignored. The next observation of the hon. member was with regard to the Cinderella Deep. I find that my predecessor appointed a commission consisting of Mr. Webber, Mr. Hudson and the Government mining engineer to report, but the report has not yet been forthcoming. I am pressing for it, and I will see that it is brought out very soon. I understand that the negotiations have been of a delicate nature and no record has been kept of the pourparlers, because of the delicate nature of the negotiations—so it was represented to me. I understand that the parties fight shy of having anything put down black on white. I am not making any comment myself, but merely giving the hon. member information. Let me say this at the same time: that I understand that there is not much charity between the parties, who want to bargain as hard as they can, one against the other. However, I hope to have the report soon, and it will, of course, be published. With regard to miners’ phthisis the hon. member has seen me several times and knows I am doing my best, even during this session it possible, to put through a Bill with the special points that have been brought to my notice, although I cannot absolutely undertake to do so. These points, I understand, and I am informed, are common cause and were agreed to practically in the Bill which my predecessor had ready last session and therefore there ought to be no contention about it, but even these points work out into a fairly lengthy Bill, and it is a matter of practicability. I can assure the hon. member that this is a subject to which I will devote special attention and time during the recess because I am being flooded with most heartrending appeals from people who are in an appalling condition and who are no doubt the victims of the industrial conditions on the Rand, and these cases certainly deserve very serious attention. The Government, of course, will consider the desirability of the introduction of a comprehensive Act next session, meeting as far as possible the justice of these cases. The hon. member for Jeppes (Mr. Sampson) also dealt with the question of proclaimed land, and evidently had in mind section 30 of the Gold Law which gives the State the option of dealing in three different ways with proclaimed land. I suppose he had in mind the tender for the Geduld East. A tender has been received from the Union Corporation, and the Government is considering that tender at present; and in considering it the Government will decide what must be done with that property.
*The hon. member for Boshof (Mr. C. A. van Niekerk) has made certain remarks about some diamond mines in the Free State which were closed on account of lack of capital and because there was some doubt as to their productiveness. I shall, during the recess, go into the whole matter of the closing down of mines. Clause 127 of the Gold Law has never been applied yet. If it appears to be necessary, the Government will certainly apply that clause to mines which are not being worked by their owners. That, however, is only one aspect which the Government will have to consider in the big question of exploitation of mines by the State. When the Bill on precious and base metals is reintroduced, I shall go into the whole matter of mining legislation. The same remarks apply to accidents on the mines. I shall have the matter enquired into properly. With regard to the salt industry, I may say that the Government will make a careful enquiry in the case of all industries asking for assistance. It is for that purpose that the Bill for the reorganization of the Board of Trade and Industries is introduced so as to give that body power to investigate all cases thoroughly.
†Then mention was made by the hon. member for Maritzburg (South) (Mr. O’Brien) regarding the East Rand areas and assizing. I have already dealt with the question of State mines, but with regard to assizing I find there are general complaints. There are two classes of complaints, generally speaking, especially in the outside districts where business has been restricted during the past year owing to locusts, drought, etc., and traders have made representations that the Act should be introduced as slowly as possible in order to prevent the imposition of unnecessary cost on the trading community. The department has given ample time. The second class of complaint is that charges are too high, and in addition to that other complaints have been made by the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) which I will deal with presently. The great thing required is this, that there should be a guarantee of correctness of scales, and where such a guarantee is not forthcoming, or is refused to be given, or does not exist, the scales as a rule are said to be of much inferior quality. The hon. member will remember that some years ago the public clamoured for such an Act as we have now in the Weights and Measures Act. But some members go so far as to suggest that the Act be suspended for two or three years in certain districts. Now that is one side of the story we have heard to-night, but I have an open mind on the administration of the Act, and I am determined to stop if proof is forthcoming of any tactless method of its administration. The member for Maritzburg (South) (Mr. O’Brien) has further referred to the absence of facilities for supporting or encouraging small industries. Here I refer him to the Bill before the House, and his point will be met when that Bill is being discussed.
*Diamond companies allege that they never made any difference between the provinces on account of one province having to make larger contributions to the State. The Government will not, however, accept that statement without enquiry.
†Then we have the observations of the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley), who said that the controllers of the E.R.P.M. are depreciating the mine and preventing shareholders getting information they wanted. As I have said, shareholders have the power to compel the directors of the company to give them such information as they are entitled to by law. But as regards anything required by way of investigation on the part of the Government, it is a question of presenting to the Government a strong prima facie case, and investigation will be made if that is presented.
*In reply to the hon. member for Hopetown (Dr. Stals), I want to say that as far as my experience goes the alluvial diggings are not very good materially or morally for the people. Only 12 per cent. of those going to the diggings are successful, and the diggings are a great lure to those not drawing a big salary and who are inspired by a spirit of speculation and a desire to get rich quickly. Children loaf about without schooling, and according to my information the educational conditions are appalling. The proposed Board of Trade and Industries will investigate the salt industry in that constituency. I do not see the necessity of appointing a special commission in connection with that industry.
†The question of fisheries was discussed by the hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close). Now the position in regard to that is this: The results obtained by the fishery survey as carried out by the s.s. “Pickle” indicate the possibility of a large trawling area on the west coast of the continent as far north as Walfish Bay. During the past year fishery survey was carried on by the “Protea,” but the results were not satisfactory on account of the short time given for the work. However there is now on the Estimates a sum of £7,500 which will enable the Fishery Survey Committee and Dr. Gilchrist to recommission the “Pickle” and prosecute active operations on the West Coast where developments of a large fishery are so promising. But in the meantime we have to thank the admiral of the South Africa station, Vice-Admiral Sir Rudolph Bentinck, for recommending to the Admiralty that the “Pickle” should be lent permanently to the South African Government for the work of prosecuting survey, and I am glad that this has been arranged and arrangements are now being made for the reconditioning of the ship so as to have her ready for the sea for the summer season when the weather will be suitable for such work. I am convinced this industry is capable of enormous development and it is one which should be fostered and encouraged as much as possible. I must, however, point out that all the Department has to do with it is merely the question of survey, all the rest pertains to the provincial councils.
*The hon. member for Pretoria (North) (Mr. Oost) raised several points regarding the Premier mine and the Alkali mine, and miners’ phthisis which have already been dealt with.
†The hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) brought up the question of the assizing of weights and measures. I will go into this question carefully for there seems to be a prima facie case, at any rate for enquiry, and I will certainly do what I can to prevent any serious inconvenience to the public. On the other hand, as the hon. member for Swellendam (Mr. Buirski) very rightly remarked, the Act was long overdue, and should have been introduced years ago, and we must see that we do not lose the substantial benefit of the Act by unduly taking heed of small complaints. Discontent there will always be. I understand that the general public for whose benefit the Act was introduced have not lodged complaints, but the complaints are lodged by traders and shopkeepers, but that is no reason why the complaints should not be considered. The hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) referred to the question of investigating the increase of taxation on the mines. The Government is alive to its duty in this respect. The hon. member also referred to the question of trading on mining ground, and to the alleged formation of rings. That is a matter which is receiving my attention in regard to the general question of trading on the Rand.
*The hon. member for Harrismith (Mr. Cilliers) advocated an industrial bank in connection with the financial difficulties of the wool factory in that district. The hon. member pointed out the difficulty of the factory in having to borrow a larger sum than was needed. Such cases can be dealt with by the new Board of Trade and Industries which will shortly be created. I quite realize the advantages of lower rates in connection with the extension of our industries. Many complaints have been received that the railway rates are much higher in one direction than in the other, but that is a matter for my colleague, the Minister of Railways and Harbours.
†If it is so that any firms favoured in connection with the purchases of scales, I will make a point of stamping out that sort of thing at once, but I am not prepared to accept the assertion immediately. That sort of thing should certainly not be allowed if it does exist, and the same if unnecessary adjustments of scales is being required. Then the hon. member for Germiston (Mr. G. Brown) has drawn my attention to a very important matter, and I am obliged to him. There is no doubt whatsoever that accidents in mines should immediately be reported to the Minister, and that will have my attention.
*The hon. member for Fordsburg (Mr. J. F. S. Pretorius) complained that the Miners’ Phthisis Bureau allowed the people to remain in the mines too long, and I have received many complaints regarding the matter. People are allowed to go back to the mines who are in the ante-primary stage, and they die soon after that. This would seem to point to the fact that there is something wrong with the medical bureau who examine the cases. When the new Bill on miners’ phthisis is introduced, I shall enquire whether the people who work at the batteries with mercury should also be included. The hon. member for George (Mr. Brink) complained that footwear made of adulterated leather is being imported. Only to-day I received a complaint of that kind in my office. Last session my colleague, the Minister of Railways and Harbours, introduced an amendment to prevent that.
It was negatived by the other House.
I am informed that it is more a question of the interpretation of the law, but I will enquire into the question. Then some observations were made by the hon. member for Boksburg (Mr. McMenamin) also referring to the E.R.P.M. I need not enlarge upon that because I have already answered those points. The question of the inspection by mining inspectors being lax stands in connection with complaints that the mining regulations are being systematically broken. I had a deputy-only a few days ago, and strong representations were made to me that there are no such things as surprise visits, and that when the inspector does go down the management knows the day well in advance and things are arranged accordingly, and therefore there is not a fair opportunity of judging what daily goes on below.
†It has been represented by the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) that miners are compelled to attend to so many things that they really cannot comply with the mining regulations. It is certainly a very important thing that these regulations should be observed in the letter and spirit, and if they are being systematically broken or ignored a stop should be put to that. The matter will have my attention, especially during the recess, when I propose to go through some of the mines myself. If necessary legislation will be introduced to tighten these regulations up. I think I have already answered generally the question put to me by the hon. member for Boksburg (Mr. McMenamin) in regard to the Cinderella Mine, and compelling them to restart it.
*In reply to the hon. member for Lydenburg (Mr. Nieuwenhuize), I would like to say that I agree that we ought to give more attention to the small mines, and I can state that they will get more money in future. Three places have applied for the appointment of a mining commissioner. That reminds me of the story of the seven places which competed for the honour of being the birthplace of Homer. I cannot say just yet in what way the gold laws are going to be amended. The matter will have to be investigated and possibly after that the Government will introduce legislation.
†The hon. member for Pretoria (West) (Mr. Hay) observed that little protection is given to the public who invest their money in shares and that the magnates on the Rand are more concerned with stock exchange profits, using the mines more as counters. My experience on the Rand was always this: That the average shareholder does not watch his interests. He is not at all vigilant about his own interests. He never worries about studying the reports of the company, or of the managers or engineers, and he is regularly supplied before every meeting with printed matter and proxy forms. He fills in the proxies and sends them to the secretary of the company. It is also a well-known fact (hat most of the houses controlling these mines are not the largest shareholders, but through this custom which has existed for years and years, they get these proxies regularly, and the control and management of that mine are simply in the hands of those who take the trouble to receive the proxies. Well, we have a motto that if you go in for a thing with your eyes open and suffer loss you must not blame anybody else. That, to a large extent, applies to these shareholders. The hon. member urges the appointment of public directors, and he says you must appoint dependable men. I do not say this suggestion is not worthy of consideration. It is certainly a very novel one, and I am glad to see that the hon. member thinks that so many dependable men can still be got. It is a matter one might bear in mind and consider. The Government is fully aware that with regard to all these companies on the Rand they are merely licensees, and we are fully aware of the big difference between the companies associated with gold and diamond mining and coal, and the ordinary individual carrying on private business, There is an essential difference. The gold, diamonds and coal industries are a national asset, and the State has a direct interest in the way in which these companies are conducted, and we are fully aware of that and naturally we will act upon it. I cannot for a moment entertain the suggestion of the hon. member for Tembuland (Mr. Payn) that we should suspend the operation of the Weights and Measures Act for two or three years. I think that is altogether too dangerously long a period. It would stultify the whole Act. Parliament has laid down the scales must be fair and accurate, and the Excise Assizers have taken steps in that direction, and it is impossible for them, if they find scales unfair and inaccurate, not to reject them. I have indicated already what I am prepared to do in regard to this Act. The hon. member for Stellenbosch (Mr. J. P. Louw) drew my attention to some fishing hamlets. I must point out that what he wants me to do is a matter falling under the functions of the Provincial Council. With regard to further remarks of the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley), I am going into the question of the mining regulations in so far as they are alleged to be broken owing to the provision of the Act that there should be no impeding of the work of mines by the visits of inspectors and other officials. If necessary the law will be altered in this respect, because it seems to me that the inspection must be a reality and not a farce. I am also considering the complaints that there are not a sufficient number of mining inspectors.
*The hon. member for Krugersdorp (Rev. Mr. Hattingh) drew attention to mine trading and “stop-orders.” Ever since the old Republican days it was the aim of the gold laws to prevent the mines from trading. If the mines do not carry out the law the Government will have to enforce it or, if necessary, make the law still more stringent. The hon. member for Pretoria (North) (Mr. Oost) wants legislation in connection with the alluvial grounds at Byenestpoort. I may say that I am negotiating with the Premier Mine to open those grounds, but if it is not done, the department has no power to compel the company to do it.
The excellent reply given by the Minister to all the points raised encourages me to raise a question that has not been raised yet, that is, trade relations with Kenya. I think that the time has really arrived when we should seriously consider the extension of our trading enquiries beyond our Union. The potential manufacturer, before he begins operations, always asks: “Where is the market?” The market for the goods we are destined to manufacture is largely beyond our borders. Africa is developing at a rapid rate and channels of trade for the developing territories are being created by others. Trade will run in the channels created and unless we take time by the forelock we shall never have these markets. The imports into the Congo in 1917 were £3,000,000 and in 1921 £23,000,000. The Trade Commissioner’s report speaks of the significant development that is taking place there, and that there are opportunities for British enterprise and British manufacturers to take notice of. Also in Angola, Nyassaland and Central Africa general development is going on at a rapid pace; and it seems to do so without our knowing anything about it. The hon. member for Beaconsfield (Sir David Harris) the other day drew our attention to the fact that diamonds were being produced in the Congo which reduced the production of this country, and there is also the production of gold there which will increase. I think the hon. Minister might put a little more money by in investigating trade conditions in those territories and see if we cannot establish trade relations with other territories in Central Africa.
We have in South Africa, outside of the Cape Province, a large number of rivers which would give a home to trout and produce a fresh article of food which is badly needed. Unfortunately the only Government trout hatchery is in the Cape at Jonkershoek. It is an excellent institution under an expert of outstanding qualifications, as the hon. Prime Minister knows, for he takes a great interest in it. But the position is that they are now producing more trout there than the Cape rivers require, whereas other parts of the Union—in Natal and elsewhere—we have a large number of rivers which are not stocked at all, and we cannot get the trout from the Cape Province, because it is a provincial council matter. If the hon. Minister would consider the advisability of making this a State business it would nob only be self-supporting but shortly very profitable, and of the greatest benefit to the Union as a whole. We in Natal to day have to send to England for our ova, which results in a considerable portion of these dying and a good deal of waste and extra expense.
With regard to what the hon. member for Zululand (Mr. Nicholls) has said, I want to point out that Col. Turner, the Trade Commissioner of Nairobi, is Trade Commissioner for the whole of East Africa. I had an interview with him the other day, and he gives a very encouraging report of our potentialities there as regards exports. I have no doubt whatsoever that the question of trade commissioners is one deserving of immediate attention, and it is only a question of our taking the necessary steps to extend our exportation—avenues for our exports—not only East Africa, but other parts of the world require raw material, and I am certain, even in the East, a trade commissioner would do excellent work for us, and also in America. With regard to the remarks of the hon. member for Weenen (Maj. Richards) concerning the trout industry, I will bear his remarks in mind and see what can be done.
The amendment was negatived.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Vote 26, “Higher Education,” £353,680.
I want to ask a question about the position of the Cape Technical College. During the course of the election, campaign I received many complaints that the college was not adapted for, nor was it open to, coloured people. It appears that some provision was to be made for coloured people, and I would be glad if the Minister will say what facilities exist.
On this vote there is room for considerable economy. You will see that we have no less than ten universities in the Union while the United Kingdom only has 17. But it must be remembered they provide educational facilities for between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 and they are the means of disseminating knowledge all over the globe. That means that there is one university in Great Britain for every 2½ millions of the population, whilst here in the Union we have one for every 160,000. It seems to me this is a relic of provincialism. You have to maintain large and expensive faculties at each university, and I feel sure if the Minister would take his courage in both hands and do away with some of these universities and concentrate on two or three we might get a university which would attract students from overseas, and the whole system of university education could be more economically run and at the same time be more efficacious.
I would like to know on what considerations bursaries for the universities are granted, and to see more of them given to children of destitute parents. There are poor children who have great talents, but too poor to be educated. Those youngsters should get the bursaries, as the children of rich people do not require them. The Cape Provincial Council gave bursaries to poor children, and it was a great success.
I do not read in this schedule that we have 10 universities in South Africa, and I do not think the schedule errs m reflecting the facts of the case. We have four universities and the rest are constituent colleges and when the hon. member for Griqualand (Mr. Gilson) remembers the vast geographical size of the Union, I do not think he will say that we have too many universities, and I do hope the Minister will not reduce their number.
I am afraid my hon. friend for Griqualand (Mr. Gilson) will not get any reduction in the number of universities, but I do agree that there is room for economy. The vote shows that there is an increase this year of £41,000, and I would like to draw the Minister’s attention to the unequal distribution of this increase. I understand there is a regulation to the effect that for the application of this principle, the £ for £ principle, if there shall be an increased grant for general purposes, it shall not be more than one-tenth of the grant of the preceding year, without the special con sent of the Minister and the Treasury. As a matter of fact without the consent of the Treasury this increase for general purposes should not go above 10 per cent. However, take the case of the Cape Town University Their increase is £6,100 or 11½ per cent.; Stellenbosch, the increase is 10¾ per cent.; Witwatersrand, 26 per cent. and when you take the Transvaal University College it works out at 33 per cent. It does seem to me that these increases are very high especially in the last two cases. Then I also notice that the Minister has separated the grants for the agricultural faculties from the Higher Education vote, and there is a large increase in these too. I agree that there is room for considerable economy in this vote. I believe they started a law chair at Stellenbosch and there is also one in Cape Town. It is a case of Colleges being allowed to compete with one another in the establishment of new chairs.
Although the vote seems to involve an enormous amount of money, I cannot support the hon. member for Griqualand (Mr. Gilson), that any of the universities should be shut down. However, while spending all this money on higher education, I should like the Minister to consider what are we doing in lower education, that education necessary to prepare our children for the higher education. I have here the latest report of the Transvaal Education Department, and it may interest the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge) to whose area it more particularly refers. This report strikes me as being very relevant to the question before the House, for on the whole, it is most melancholy reading. I commend it to the special attention of all members.
That really belongs to the Provincial Councils.
That is why I am dealing with it.
I must ask the hon. member to stop dealing with it.
What is the reason for the reduction of the vote for the Natal Technical College?
The time has arrived when the agricultural schools which the Government controls should, as far as possible, be linked with local universities so that higher education can be given to the students of these agricultural colleges, in order that they may obtain agricultural science and kindred degrees without having to gó abroad for that purpose. A Faculty of Agriculture already exists at Stellenbosch University and at Pretoria, but I would like to see Grootfontein linked up with the Rhodes’ University College, and so on with the other agricultural schools—each linked with the local university college for the purpose stated, and so that the facilities and equipment of each should be at the disposal of the other for those purposes.
I hope we shall pass the vote before we adjourn, so I will reply very briefly. The point has been raised by the hon. member for South Peninsula (Sir Drummond Chaplin) about facilities granted to coloured people in technical education in technical institutes in the Cape Peninsula. I can inform the hon. member that a beginning has been made in regard to that, though it is a small beginning. Of course, we all recognize that the coloured man, having adopted the civilization of the white man and forming, to a large extent, the labouring classes in the Cape Province, has a right to technical education. A beginning has been made, and we will try to see what can be done further. The hon. member for Griqualand (Mr. Gilson) has drawn attention to the great number of universities and university colleges in South Africa. In the first place, I would observe we have to deal here with history. These universities and university colleges are a legacy we have received from the pre-Union States, and it is a very difficult matter, as the hon. member knows, to fight with history. It is much easier to establish any institution of that kind than to kill that institution when it once exists. I would further point out to the hon. gentleman that circumstances in South Africa with regard to facilities for higher education can hardly be compared to the university system and university education in European countries. For this reason: our universities for a very large part do work which really belongs to lower education. The universities of Europe begin their courses of study at a much higher level than we do. Another thing we must not forget is this: that our universities must cater, to express it like that, not only for the European population, but also for the coloured and native population in the Union. The hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) has complained of what he calls an uneven distribution of the increase in the grants made to the universities. I would point out to him that there is another regulation which has perhaps escaped his attention. That is in cases where there is a very large development, especially in the case of young institutions. A special grant can be made especially during the first few years. If he will look at the figures he will see there is a very remarkable development in the growth of the Witwatersrand University, and the T.U.C. in Pretoria, and that is why they have received larger grants than the other universities. The hon. member for Albany (Mr. Struben) has expressed the desire that agricultural colleges, like Grootfontein and others, should be linked up with higher educational institutions. If I understood him right, he thought it would be a good thing if Grootfontein could be linked up with Rhodes College. I would point out that those institutions are very far apart, and it would be very difficult indeed to link them up. The development has been rather the other way during the last few years. The Agricultural Faculties at the University of Stellenbosch and connected with the T.U.C. at Pretoria, have been disassociated, during the last few years, from those institutions and brought under the control of the Department of Agriculture.
*When bursaries are granted to students, their financial position is taken into consideration. On the motion of the hon. member for George (Mr. Brink) it was decided a few years ago to give loans to necessitous students, but the resolution has never yet been carried out owing to lack of funds. As soon as conditions improve the resolution will be given effect to.
The hon. Minister made a broad statement that our universities ought to cater not only for Europeans but for the coloured and the native population. I would like to ask him for some definite information on that point. There is a complaint from the coloured people of this country, which has been voiced in the provincial council, that the coloured children have no provision made for them at all for higher education, and that they have to be sent to Fort Hare, a native college.
The hon. member has misunderstood me. What I mean to say is this. Our universities and colleges are training doctors, lawyers and other professional men, not only for Europeans, but under the existing conditions also for the non-European population. That was all I meant.
I should like to have some information concerning the Natal Technical College.
I will supply the information later on.
The hon. Minister did not quite understand me. I know he wants to get has vote through to-night and I won’t pursue it, but the matter I raised wants more consideration than has been given to it.
Vote put and agreed to.
Business interrupted by the Chairman at 10.55 p.m.
Progress reported; House to resume in committee on Monday.
The House adjourned at