House of Assembly: Vol2 - FRIDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 1924
Mr. SWART, as Chairman brought up the First and Second Reports of the Select Committee on Petitions of W. W. Theron and others.
Reports and evidence to be printed and considered to-morrow.
The MINISTER OF LABOUR announced that His Excellency the Governor-General, having been informed of the amended provision to be made in the Estimates of Expenditure to be defrayed during the year ending 31st March, 1925, viz.: In Vote No. 36, “Labour £336,143, in the heading No. B.1, “Unemployment Expenditure”, £300,000, after “Expenditure” to add “and Advances”, recommends the amended appropriation contemplated therein to the consideration of the House.
Amendment referred to Committee of Supply.
The MINISTER OF LABOUR moved, as an unopposed motion—
Mr. A. I. E. DE VILLIERS seconded.
Message from the Senate read, transmitting the Land Bank Acts Further Amendment Bill in which the Senate had made certain amendments.
Amendments considered and agreed to.
The MINISTER OF JUSTICE moved, as an unopposed motion—
I see by the newspapers that he is deceased, and I wish to express the very deepest sympathy of the House with his relatives.
I beg to second the motion. I am sure I am expressing the opinion of all members in every quarter of the House when I say we deeply deplore the loss of one of the oldest members of the late Parliament. Although Mr. King was not a very talkative member he contributed his share to the proceedings of the House.
I wish to associate members of the Labour Party with the motion before the House. Every member of our party held the late Mr. King in very great respect.
Motion put and agreed to unanimously, all members standing.
The MINISTER OF JUSTICE (for the Prime Minister) moved,—
Mr. VERMOOTEN seconded.
First Order read, House to resume in Committee on Land Settlement Acts Further Amendment Bill.
House in Committee.
Progress reported on 3rd instant when Clause 1 was under consideration, upon which certain amendments had been agreed to up to line 22; and upon which the following amendments had been moved, viz.:
By Mr. Madeley: In line 22, to add at the end of sub-section (2): “Provided that any such holding shall not be allotted in freehold”.
By Maj. van Zyl: In line 58, after “sub-section” to insert:
“A statement showing:
- (i) the situation, description and extent of all areas in respect of which moneys have been expended by the Minister under the provisions of this sub-section;
- (ii) the amount of moneys expended by the Minister under each paragraph of this sub-section in respect of each such area;
- (iii) the amount of moneys expended by the Minister in respect of each probationary lessee together with the name and address of each probationary lessee, specifying in detail the purposes for which such moneys were expended and the amount expended for each purpose; and
- (iv) the names and addresses of all persons employed under paragraph (f) of this sub-section, the period for which each such person is employed, and his rate of pay
shall, within one month after the commencement of each ordinary session of Parliament, be laid upon the Tables of both Houses”; and that the following be a new sub-section to follow sub-section (3):
- (4) A statement showing the name and addresses of
- (a) all persons who have unsuccessfully applied to become probationary lessees under sub-section (1); and
- (b) all probationary lessees who were refused an allotment of a holding under sub-section (2)
shall, within one month after the commencement of each ordinary session of Parliament, be laid upon the Tables of both Houses.
By the Minister of Lands: In line 58, after “sub-section” to insert:
A statement of the areas to which the provisions of this Act have been applied together with
- (a) a statement of the expenditure on the respective areas under each of the paragraphs of this sub-section; and
- (b) a list of the staff employed under paragraph (f) of this sub-section with rates of pay
shall, within one month after the commencement of each ordinary session of Parliament, be laid upon the Tables of both Houses.
By Mr. Nel: In line 58 after “sub-section” to insert: “Provided that the moneys advanced to and spent in respect of each probationary lessee under paragraphs (b) to (e) inclusive shall not exceed in all the sum of £500”.
Is there any amendment to sub-section 2?
The first amendment is that of the hon. member for Newcastle (Mr. Nel).
But is there not an amendment tabled by the Minister to sub-section 2?
All the amendments up to sub-section 2 have been passed.
I do not think so. The Minister undertook to move an amendment which I have seen in the minutes confining these allotments to probationers—
*The MINISTER OF LANDS: I moved an amendment to the amendment.
I must point out that the amendment has already been agreed to.
The Minister has agreed to that amendment which very largely meets our objections, and he has also undertaken to move in sub-section 4 a clause with regard to gazetting of these applications so that two main objections to the Bill have been met in a reasonable spirit by the Minister. That being so our further objection to the Bill very largely drops away. I have only this to say that I do object to certain members in the House trying to work up a little capital against us over this Bill. The statement has been made that we were opposing the Government in its efforts to help the poor man. That is not so. In all honesty we took a certain stand, but we have not objected to one single rule, regulation, clause or sentence in this Bill which tends to help the poor man, and I hope that no member in this House will make any further charges against us of trying to hinder the poor man on the land. We are largely satisfied now that he has agreed to these amendments, and that being so we shall no longer oppose this Bill. There are certain minor improvements which might be made in this Bill. The hon. member for Cape Town (Harbour) (Maj. G. B. van Zyl) has tabled an amendment which the Minister has accepted, and I would like to know if it has been moved.
No, I have drawn up another amendment.
This is an amendment which is a modification of the amendment moved by the hon. member for Cape Town (Harbour) (Maj. G. B. van Zyl) and which we are prepared to accept.
Before passing this section, I would like to see in sub-section 3 what is being done for probationers, I would like to know what is to happen to probationers when they get to the allotment. Is the ground they are going to occupy to be paid for or is it a free gift? If it is to be paid for, who is going to make the valuation, is it the Land Board, the Committee appointed, or the Minister? I also want to know the period of time over which the land will have to be paid for. Our land settlements in the past have not been a success and a considerable amount of money has been written off from time to time.
I can tell the hon. member (Maj. Ballantine) that the land will have to be paid for. It is laid down in the principal Act that the allottee has to pay for the land in the ordinary way. Everything will have to be paid for, money advanced, improvements, etc. In order to put this question beyond doubt I have a small amendment which I intend to move later on to the effect that the holdings will be valued by the Land Board. The hon. member will see in Clause 3, sub-section 2, that certain functions are excluded from the Committee of Control, that is one.
Amendments proposed by Mr. Madeley and Mr. Nel were put and negatived.
On amendment by Maj. G. B. van Zyl to insert new sub-section,
I would like to hear the hon. Minister on this. I see from the amendment what is being asked for is a list of all persons who have applied for allotments unsuccessfully. If the hon. Minister will look at the principal law he will see that this principle is embodied. The principal law lays down that the Minister must table a list of unsuccessful applicants, the idea being that the list of unsuccessful applicants is really a greater check on what has been going on than a list of successful ones. The names of the unsuccessful people convey a great deal of information. I would like to know, if the Minister does object, why he objects to giving a list of unsuccessful applicants. It seems to me in this case, where the House and the people of the Union have to surrender a great many rights that this list is very necessary. Is the Minister in favour of this list, and if not, why not?
I cannot accept the amendment. We have not to do here with allocation, but with probationers. The principle is an established one in the allocation of land, because that has to be decided by the Land Board. A probationer settler, however, is a learner, he is being trained, and the list will give no information.
The amendment was put and negatived.
The amendment proposed by the Minister of Lands was put and agreed to.
I must say that the hon. Minister’s reasons do not appeal very strongly to me. Take the case of a thousand applications being made. Five hundred may come from Durban, two hundred from Cape Town, and the rest from Pretoria. It is conceivable that the people in Durban or Cape Town may find that only Pretoria people have been taken, and they may want to know why. If you have this list of unsuccessful applicants it may provide the answer. I am not going to press the matter, but it seems to me that if this can be provided for in the normal transactions under the principal Land Act, here where we are dealing with abnormal transactions it is much more necessary. Those are my views on the subject, and I think the Minister might very well have agreed to it.
I do not want to press it, but I think the Minister should agree to this return. It will give the country an idea also, from the statistical point of view, as to where the men are who want to come back to the land. It will give us some very useful information. I do not see that it is creating any extra expense or trouble, and I think the Minister might well agree to it.
I move in line 4 on page 4, after “selected” to insert “after applications have been invited by notice in the Gazette, and in the principal newspapers.”
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 2:
I am not going to keep the committee about this clause, or raise a debate about it, but I do want to register my protest against the abolition of this board. I think the Minister is making a mistake, and I think he will find afterwards, it is a very serious mistake. I can imagine he might think there are men on this land board who are not fit to deal with the matter, but he has under the law the right to appoint another land board. It is a very big scheme he is tackling. I understand the present board has Mr. Liebenburg as chairman. If anyone has or should have knowledge of land settlements, he has. It would seem to me an eminently good board to carry on this settlement at Hartebeestpoort. It seems to me a waste of public money after you have had these people working for a year almost, now to switch off to a board of control which, from the Act, does not seem to us as likely to give the same satisfaction. I would appeal to the Minister even now not to abolish this board. If he thinks fit, let him change some of the members of the board, but I think it is too big a job for a board of control. As I say, I am not going to press the thing, and I deprecate any debate at this stage, but I appeal to the Minister to delete clause 2.
It is not correct to say that the board does not give satisfaction. The law provides for a land board at Hartebeestpoort, but does not give me the right to establish them elsewhere
But you have the Advisory Board.
In that case there will be lack of uniformity. Besides, the Advisory Board will be under the Transvaal Land Board. I think that is better and will ensure more uniformity than the system advocated by the hon. member for Ermelo (Col.-Cdt. Collins).
In the absence of the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick), I move the amendment standing in his name on page 248 of the Votes and Proceedings. I do not wish to take any time up really, but these interjections from the other side do not help to expedite the debate in the least. While agreeing it is probably necessary to abolish this land board, I submit that the whole question of State closer settlement will probably be dealt with under this Act in time, and the establishment of a Special Land Board to deal with the question is advisable. Put shortly, the object of the amendment is this: we suggest that the Minister appoint a Land Board whose sole duty it will be to keep a supervision over closer settlement on Crown Land anywhere in the country, and not only at Hartebeestpoort. There is no reason why such a Board should not function as indicated, with the local Committee of Control working on individual settlements under the Board. The question of the settlement of farm lands in general should be kept apart from closer settlements on irrigation schemes. It has been suggested that an Irrigation Commission should be appointed to deal with these schemes, and I submit that the Board now proposed might well discharge the functions of such a Commission, leaving the other four Land Boards to deal with their work as hitherto. I repeat, these irrigation closer settlements require vastly different handling from the ordinary disposal of farm land to settlers. I move—
- (2) If the Governor-General exercises the powers conferred on him by sub-section (1) he shall appoint a land board for the whole of the Union whose functions shall be—
- (a) to recommend to the Minister areas which in its opinion are suitable for closer settlement;
- (b) to advise the Minister in regard to any of the matters referred to in sub-section (3) of section 1;
- (c) to make recommendations to the Minister under sub-section (2) of section 1; and
- (d) generally to advise the Minister on all matters relating to closer settlement.
- (3) The land board appointed under subsection (2) shall take the place of any other land board as regards all matters relating to closer settlement, and such other land board shall have no jurisdiction as regards such matters.
I am sorry I cannot accept that amendment. If I have to appoint a Board like that it will be a very expensive body, as it will practically be a body for the whole Union. Say, there are different settlements in the Cape Province, Transvaal, and the Orange Free State—look at the travelling expenses of such a body. The Land Board in control in each particular Province has a better idea of it. I cannot accept the amendment.
Clause 2 put and agreed to.
On Clause 3,
I have a small amendment here. I move—
This is a matter intended to make clear that the Land Boards of a Province have to put a valuation on these holdings.
That is a sound amendment, but I would like to suggest a small amendment in sub-section (3). Land Board members are paid £2 2s. a day I believe plus one pound subsistence, or practically three pounds per day. As a matter of fact Land Boards have never abused it, but there is a chance that they may sit all the year round. Our Land Boards have always been composed of men of high standing, and have never done so, but it seems to me that certain gentlemen on these small committees might say, “We are on velvet.” I move in line 54 to omit “as may” and to substitute “not exceeding those”; and to omit “be.”
I will accept that.
I move in line 53 that the word “such” be deleted.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
Remaining clauses and the title having been agreed to,
Bill reported with amendments, which were considered and agreed to, and the Bill, as amended, adopted and read a third time.
Second Order read, Second Reading, Pensions (Supplementary) Bill.
What is going to happen to the other reports?
If there is time we hope to deal with them, but we do not think we will reach the other reports.
Motion put and agreed to.
Bill read a second time; House to go into Committee now.
House in Committee.
I am sorry to have to rise again in regard to the item No. 83 in the schedule—the payment of £500 to Mr. Macfie. I do this not in antagonism to the recipient, but I must say that I think this House ought to record—as many members in the Committee of the whole House recorded—its protest against this waste of public money. The facts of the case were gone fully into in the Committee stage, and I do not propose to touch upon them, except to remind the House that the petition was presented on August 23 and the Pensions Committee dealt with the matter on August 28. Although the allegation in the petition was that only £400 had been expended in connection with the watching of certain legal proceedings yet the Select Committee thought fit to award Mr. Macfie £500. That money I contend should never have been voted, and I go further and say that had this been the concern of a private individual the members would not have been so ready to vote the money if it had to come out of their own pockets. Under the circumstances I wish to record my final protest against the payment of this sum.
Clauses, title and schedule put and agreed to. House Resumed.
Bill reported without amendment and read a third time.
Third Order read, House to resume in Committee of supply.
House in Committee.
Progress reported on 4th instant when the Estimates of Expenditure from Consolidated Revenue Fund [U.G. 31—’24] had been agreed to without amendment.
Committee had leave to revert to Vote No. 35, “Labour”, in the Estimates of Expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and to consider an amendment to sub-head B.1.
Committee reverted to Vote No. 36, “Labour”, £336,143.
I explained to the Committee last night the purpose of this amendment.
I would like to ask the Minister whether during the recess he will go into the question of the Wages Board Bill, which is somewhat overdue.
Amendment agreed to.
Vote as amended put and agreed to.
Estimates of Expenditure [U.G. 31—’24] to be reported with an amendment.
Railways and Harbours Estimates [U.G.33—’24],
The Committee then proceeded to consider the Railway and Harbour Estimates.
On head 1, “General Charges”, £341,574.
There are a few matters which I have been asked to bring to the notice of the Minister. The first has reference to the construction of a mole across Durban Bay. I understand that as far back as last February the Durban Municipality communicated with the Minister in connection with this matter, and that they have written to him again quite recently. The importance of this question is two-fold, not only for the convenience that will arise from the construction of the mole, but also in the hope that the very dangerous level crossing at the east end of the town may be done away with. I should be glad if the Minister could give some assurance that there is a possibility of this work being proceeded with at an early date. I am also asked by the Railway Passengers’ Union at Durban to again raise the question of the accommodation at Durban Station. There has been a very considerable expansion in the suburban traffic, and there is practically no platform accommodation to meet that traffic. In addition, there is the matter of the waiting-room accommodation. Although it is such a large and important station, there is no accommodation for gentlemen, and the ladies’ waiting-room adjoins a public convenience. There is a third point which has reference to the official guide to the Union Customs Tariff. I do not know whether this comes within the purview of the Minister. This guide, I understand, has not been reprinted since 1914, and there have been considerable amendments to the tariff, and those who have to use it have found the greatest possible trouble in ascertaining what is the Customs Tariff appertaining to different cases.
I would like to know whether it is not possible to revert to the system of concessions for scholars and students which was in vogue prior to 1921. At present they can only get these concessions between the school and the nearest station to their homes. Travelling has an educational value and should thus be encouraged. Only a few students can travel about, as funds are lacking with most of them. I would also like to point out that local railway men get a bonus on economies which they effect, with the result that they sometimes save oil and other material to the detriment of the engines and the drivers who are responsible for them. The annual reports of the lower officials can only be compiled in English, as the higher officials are all unilingual. That is unfair to the lower officials, of whom some are not capable of writing their reports in English.
Representations have been made to me by the coloured people at Aliwal North and the natives of Herschel in regard to the lack of accommodation along the railway line in that part of the country, and more especially at Burghersdorp. A considerable number of natives and coloured people make use or that line on their way to the north to the mines, etc., and they have to change there and wait several hours during the night and I believe there is no adequate shelter or accommodation for these people. The climate is severe, and it is a distinct hardship upon them that they should have to wait in this way until the up train from East London arrives to carry them to the north. I hope during the recess the Minister will make enquiries into the matter and see that reasonable provision is made for these people.
I would ask the Minister whether he will not take into serious consideration the advisability of appointing another Grievances Commission similar to that which was appointed in 1913. Prior to the appointment of that Commission it was stated quite frequently and with absolute truth that the service was seething with discontent so far as large numbers of the staff were concerned. At that time, although you had machinery under your Railway Service Act to settle disputes, it was felt that it was necessary to have a general clean-up. That Commission did wonderful work. I was employed at Salt River at the time. The moral effect of the appointment of that commission was such that grievances at Salt River were dealt with long before the Commission made its appearance. Over a certain number of years, whatever Government was in power and whatever Minister has occupied that position, grievances are bound to accumulate and there are large numbers of men who feel that they have not received justice. One of the best ways to rectify this state of affairs is to appoint from time to time a Grievances Commission. So far as the railway staff and many of the officials are concerned, they would welcome the appointment of a commission which would go into these matters.
There are many coloured people without work, and I would like to ask the Minister whether employment could not be found for them at the harbours. The system of reserving railway compartments for coloured people is a hopeless failure. The coloured people do not want to be on an equal social footing with Europeans, and all they desire is to have first, second and third class carriages for themselves and also accommodation on the railway stations.
There are a few points I would like to bring under the notice of the Minister. One question I want to raise is whether he is prepared to restore the concessions which used to be given to apprentices. During the period of depression on the railway a considerable number of concessions were taken away. The hon. member for Ladismith (Mr. J. J. M. van Zyl) has raised a point in connection with concession to scholars. I think there is a good deal of force in his point, but I also think that there is a good deal of force in the point that apprentices are also deserving of consideration in this connection. Another point I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister is whether it is possible over short sections of the line, say to places like Woodstock, Salt River, etc., to issue a special kind of workmen’s ticket, whether you could not have a card to be punched for each journey, instead of the usual season ticket. It would be appreciated if these men were given an opportunity of taking cards on which each journey could be punched. I would next draw the Minister’s attention to the level crossing at Belmont Road, Rondebosch. Some statistics were taken out two years ago, but I think the circumstances now are even worse. Those statistics relate to one day between 7.10 a.m. at 6.25 p.m. For about 55 per cent. of that period the gates were open and for about 44 per cent. the gates were closed. During the day, excluding bicycles, 822 vehicles passed over the crossing. The total number of vehicles kept waiting was 307, besides 141 bicycles. I am glad to see that the Minister has put a sum down on the estimates for the construction of a sub-way at Rondebosch Station. It will deal with a very important class of traffic, as the school boys and girls are going to Rondebosch in very large and increasing numbers. That subway will relieve to a large extent the danger, which has been truly awful, I think, along that part of the line. But the crossing at Belmont, like other crossings on the suburban line, is a source of very great inconvenience to the public, owing to the length of time per day during which the gates are kept closed. The position will be accentuated by the proposed electrification of the railways, when I take it, things will be speeded up, and a larger number of vehicles will be passing backwards and forwards. It is I know an important point because what will have to be done here may have to be done elsewhere. But I ask him to pay urgent attention to the level crossing at Belmont. I would also draw his attention to the level crossing at Observatory Road, where there is a large population growing up on the eastern side of the line. On Saturday afternoons there is a large number of people passing backwards and forwards from the football ground, and the public are greatly inconvenienced by this level crossing. The gates are kept closed, almost as much, if not more, than at Belmont. I would also draw the Minister’s attention to the wholly inadequate accommodation at Rondebosch station. Improvements there are absolutely necessary, because of the large population. It is now rapidly growing as a scholastic centre. The University will be established there in a few years time and it is necessary to make provision specially and in good time for that. I want to raise also one or two other points. In certain cases I understand that porters are employed to do signal work at signal cabins. They are graded as porters, and not on the higher grade of the work which they actually do. I ask the Minister to enquire into it to see if what I have said is correct. The final point I want to put to the Minister is about the apprentices serving their time in railway workshops. We know that a large number of hard cases have occurred of apprentices who, after serving their time, were not able to obtain work on the railway. In some instances the nature of their work has precluded them from obtaining employment outside. I know there are several classes of work, such as coach-building, which are purely railway work for which there is no demand outside. I wonder if the Minister, in the short time at his disposal, has been able to find a solution to that. A suggestion has been made that it would be a good thing for these apprentices to travel round to the various shops, such as from Cape Town to Johannesburg, so as to give them a variety of experience.
I would urge on the Minister to extend the system of concession tickets to scholars. At present they are only granted from the school to their homes. If the child’s home is too far and he wants to spend his holiday with a friend, it is not granted. I hope the Minister will keep an eye on the movements of the Railway Board, as I think the members of that body travel too quickly through the country and are thus not in a position to make a thorough investigation. The Board should take the towns into consideration, because if the railway passes a town, it practically kills the place. The railway from Bloemfontein to Wepener is 67 miles, and the train takes 7 hours for the journey. That means that the journey to Bloemfontein for the transaction of business takes three days, with the result that business men prefer to hire a motor car, because then they can return the same day, and that means that it is cheaper than the journey by train. This case is not an exception, as there are other branch lines in a similar position.
Great dissatisfaction prevails regarding the local allowances for railway employees at Witbank, Waterval Boven, Yolksrust and other towns. Railway men are convinced that the cost of living in Johannesburg is lower, and yet the allowances are higher. Formerly the local allowance at Witbank was 4s., and on the stations outside the town 50 per cent. less. I hope the Minister will give his attention to these grievances.
During the course of the session the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) has on several occasions thought fit to make insinuations and ungenerous references to the late Minister of Railways (Mr. Jagger), who does not desire me to say anything about this. However, the services he has rendered to the country, unselfish and brilliant services, if not appreciated to-day, will be appreciated in the near future, and by nobody more than by his successor in office.
They have already been appreciated.
I am very glad. I want to ask the Minister a question in connection with the promises made with regard to the new railway station at Johannesburg. Will he carry out the promises of the late Administration and see that the money for that purpose is placed on next year’s estimates? I also want to ask him if he will inaugurate excursion fares inland from the port towns? It is unfair that they should not be made available all the year round. They would bring in a vast amount of revenue. Another point is with regard to the reservation office in Johannesburg. We had a central office there which was easily accessible to the inhabitants of the town, but the Administration thought fit to remove it to the lower end of Eloff Street, making it very difficult for business people to get there. I hope he will remove this disability, as it does not meet with the requirements of the people.
I support the request of the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) to appoint a grievance commission. The workers have no way of getting past their superiors, and if their grievances are discussed by hon. members of Parliament, it may prejudice them. There are grievances in the service at the different stations, and those who suffer feel that there is no redress. I will cite a few cases to show that a grievances commission is essential. Drivers and stokers get a second-class railway ticket and 12 days’ leave per annum, but the clerks get a first-class ticket and 30 days’ leave. The driver and stoker may get more wages than the clerk, who is often the son of the driver. South African boys who are excellent drivers have to send in their reports in English, and if they do it in Dutch it is sent back to them and they are reproached for not being bilingual. That is unfair towards those persons, and a stumbling block to their promotion. The superior officers are unilingual. That is the case in Bethlehem, but if I mention the name of the unfortunate complainant he will know all about it, and it will prejudice his promotion. The officials are also expected to do 26 days’ service per month. The foreman selects only his friends for extra work, they do 20 days extra and the others make nothing. Those are grievances which occur day after day at every centre, but they are not done away with because they never reach the general manager. There are about 20 ticket inspectors in the service and every one of them is unilingual. There are a large number of conductors who get no promotion. The same thing happens with local foremen and stationmasters. I believe only one Afrikander has been appointed as stationmaster. There are “no vacancies” notice boards at the stations, but there is always a back door open for people who come from abroad. People like Murphy and Brown are taken on in the service 24 hours after they land in Durban, while people of the name of Swanepoel and Swart walk about without work for six months. It is not possible for me to give more detailed information, because the men would suffer. I only mention these facts because we have a Minister who will give preference to sons of South Africa.
Well, I only just stand up to give a flat denial to the statement just made by the hon. member opposite. When I was in office, I say emphatically, there was no differentiation as regards the appointments, and I say it is absolutely untrue to say that preference was given to men from abroad over colonial-born men. The staff officer in charge of these appointments rather gave the preference to colonial-born men. He has said to me himself: “Why, my own children were born in South Africa!” To say that any preference was given is absolutely untrue. No doubt the Minister will find this is the case when he goes into it. Then I want to give the Minister just one word of advice if I may. There is an important interest always to be kept in mind, that is the interest of the people who use the railways and bring the traffic to the railways. Their interests should be carefully studied. I hope the Minister will always keep their interests in view. Railway rates to-day are something like 36 per cent. over what they were before the war. That is a heavy burden on the people of this country—something like £5,000,000 annually—and I hope the Minister will do his best, when he gets an opportunity, to reduce those rates. Then there is another point. I see the Minister had a conference yesterday with the Nurahs. I notice there was brought up this question of an 8-hours’ day. What is the Minister’s policy to be on this matter? Is he going to restore the 8-hours’ day in full?
I would like to draw the Minister’s attention to one or two points. I quite agree about this grievances commission. In every country some time or other you will have to add a new portfolio to every Cabinet, namely that of Minister of Injustice, who will attend to the various matters of injustice that the other Ministers cannot attend to. There are a number of small matters, perhaps not important to the general public, but important to people in the service which, if not attended to, simmer and cause trouble. Those grievances commissions did do valuable work in clearing up such matters. The right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) drew attention in one of his speeches to the position of the pre-Union railway men as regards pensions. It seems to me the Government should take this matter into serious consideration. The amount of pensions granted, even after long service, is inadequate in very many cases. As an example there is a man retired at 60 after 23 years’ service on a pension of £2 odd per month. It is totally inadequate. Then here is a man who writes to me from the Free State. He served in the railway for 20 years and 3 months, up to the 1st of September, 1921, and out of his small pension of about £42 per annum, a stoppage was made for the doctor of 7s. a month. His nett pension is £3 3s. 11d. It is a thing which offends the public conscience. Surely when a man has served the country for that length of time and has a wife and daughter to keep, that is not enough. Then he draws attention to this: the hopeless injustice is made more bitter to these men when other men joining after Union get a better salary and consequently are able to make better provision, and they also get a better pension. This man draws my attention to the case of an official who after 35 years’ service retired with a pension of £1,200. This sort of thing is gall and wormwood to these people. I hope the Government will also go into the question of putting men on the permanent staff. It is an old grievance that many people who have been kept long in the service are kept on the temporary staff. There is another point I would like the Minister to go into. That is the question of the vast organization of railway police. I have raised this question in another form before, viz.: that a trapping system existed, but I was told allegations was based on inaccurate statements. I do not want to go fully into this matter now but these facts are persistently being brought up and the statements are repeated that there is a sort of reign of terror, an autocratic police system, on the railways. I do not want to elaborate that, but is it necessary to have a separate police service on the railways? Would it not be equally effective to have them as members of the ordinary police service. After all, crime on the railways is no different from crime anywhere else. What is the necessity for having a special branch of police on the railways? You might just as well have special police for the post office and for the Lands department. Why should not the work be done under the Minister of Justice? It would save the public a great deal of money and give more satisfaction. I would like to ask the Minister about the station foremen engaged on night duty—if something cannot be done to arrange for changes for these men. They have been grumbling for years at being kept so long on night duty without being given an opportunity for a change. It is a great strain on their health to be on night duty without a change for a number of years.
I would like to know who gives names to stations and sidings. I notice on the new line between Heilbron and Petrus Steyn names like Murphy and Shell have been given. Instead of the name of Sonueskyn another place is called Studley, and that in an exclusively Dutch-speaking centre. Why should such names be given, and why is the public not consulted? The public feels that it has a grievance, and I hope South African names will be given. The high rates, too, are a stumbling-block to the progress of industries up-country. A good many vehicles are built at Heilbron. If the material is ordered from the coast it costs £15, but the transport of the finished wagon costs only £5 from the coast. On this basis it is not possible for the interior to compete. That is obviously unfair, as the interior by means of certain indirect taxes has to pay more than the coastal areas. The Minister ought to see that the interior gets a chance of competing with the coast. On Sundays one often sees drunken people on the trains. As the drinking places in the towns are closed on Sundays I do not see why the catering department of the railway should supply liquor on the trains on Sundays.
I support the request that concessions be given to pupils for short holidays, as these are granted for week-ends and for long holidays. It should also be extended so that they can get them when they visit their friends. I would like to point out to the Minister that there is no daily train between De Aar and Beaufort West which stops at all the stations. They put down passengers everywhere, but that is not enough, as they do not take up passengers. The public does not object to the fast train, but they would like to have that convenience.
I am sorry that the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander) has gone. With regard to what he said about the railway police, I do not know who is at the head of the police department of the railways, but the officers at the head were experienced before they came to this country, and I do think we should get regular police on the railway, and you would get a change of men. We had one case where a private individual had been into a house, and he was not a policeman, and he made a report against his host. I know nothing of the lower ranks, but judging from their appearance they look just as capable as the other police. As to the pension of £3 mentioned by the hon. member, it is true it is a shameful one, after 20 years’ service; but you must take the facts of the case into consideration, and must know when the man commenced to contribute. Many of these men refuse to contribute. If the case is sent to the Pensions Committee it will receive sympathetic consideration, I know from my experience there, and they may add something to it. With regard to the eight hours’ day, I am also a protagonist for it, but as it was given last time the men themselves said it was not right as applied to outside stations, but it should be applied to stations where the hours are long and there is much work. I brought up a case of a man at Zwartkops, and a case like that should be dealt with. Now that the hon. Minister has got the railways balanced, thanks to the efforts of the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger), he might go back to the eight hours’ day under the conditions I have mentioned, because it was only sacrificed because there was no balance. We should bring it back to those centres where the labour is very heavy—not at the side stations. Another question to which I would like to draw attention is labour. I have heard it stated—and I do not think the Minister is going to be a party to it—that men will be turned out to provide labour for others. As far as the railways can do it, they should give employment to the youths of the country and they should be bilingual, but the railways should not turn men off after having been in the service for many years because they are not bilingual. I do not know that to shift a rail or to shunt an engine requires a knowledge of both languages and whether it makes a difference whether you do it in English or in Dutch; but work like that of a ticket examiner and work of that kind requires that a man should be bilingual. The avenues of labour should be defined, and you should not say that in this great railway system there is no room for the native or the coloured man, who are part and parcel of this country. You do not want to give them general managerships, but you do not want to shift them simply to open up avenues for other men. It is easy to define the avenues, and the coloured man and the native is as much a citizen of the country, although his skin is of a different colour, as a white man. We do not need to pamper them, but they do need to be fed, and for that they do need to earn money. If by opening up avenues of employment you close another avenue and create unemployment, you are doing a dangerous thing. As to salaries in the railway service, you cannot say that they are, as far as high posts are concerned, anything like salaries paid for the same work outside.
Mr. JAGGER demurred.
The hon. member may know more about the railways than I do, but he also knows more about low wages than I do. For these high posts I am in favour of bigger salaries, but smaller pensions. You must also remember that the cost of living has gone up, and an artisan getting 15s. a day is not being paid too much considering the cost of living. I would advise the Minister to introduce the eight hours day as far as possible; to lay down a policy of justice to the coloured man and the native; and to think over whether it will not be advisable to transfer the railway police to the general police, and you will get a change of men. You would get more efficient police tor detecting crime than under the present system.
Business suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.
In support of the plea of the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) for the appointment of a grievances commission, I would emphasize the absolute necessity of constituting such a body. I was very sorry to hear the attack made on the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) by the hon. member for Von Brandis (Mr. Nathan) in consequence of his (Mr. Snow’s) continuous criticism of the policy of the late Minister of Railways. I agree with the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) and I may say quite frankly that I do not believe any Minister has done more to cause grievances in the service of the country than the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger). In this matter we do not attack the personality of the hon. member. I look upon him as one of the “old guard,” also as one who, personally, is a strictly honest and upright gentleman. As a Minister of the Crown, I hold that he was deficient in that which he ought to have had—a sense of humanity and a little bit of soul in his transactions with the workers of this country. I would strongly urge upon the present Minister that he should give a clear and explicit statement on the eight-hour day question. I would also like him to clearly state—and, incidentally, to follow in the footsteps of the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs in this connection—that all services rendered by his department shall be credited to the department. We find that the railway service in this country has not only been wrong as regards its management, but also as regards its policy. I think the Minister should state what he is going to do in regard to debiting to the Consolidated Revenue Fund charges which should be legitimately borne by the State, but which in the past have been borne by the Railway Department. What I would ask, has the construction and building of a wharf to develop agriculture in South-West Africa to do with the railways? That expenditure should be borne by the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I would ask the Minister also when he is going to charge to the Consolidated Revenue Fund any deficiency in his tariffs upon the conveyance of goods or animals at a lower rate in the interests of agriculture or the development of the country in general. There are one or two instances that I might mention. I asked the Minister previously, but received no reply, why if a district is proclaimed a drought area the removal of the cattle from that area should be at the rate of £3 19s. per thousand miles in an 11-ton truck, whereas a charge of £123 is made for the same truck over the same distance when groceries are carried. The Minister, I would urge, should ascertain the economic rate and charge the Consolidated Revenue Fund with the difference between the rate charged and the rate which should ordinarily be charged. I would like to know whether it is right that the railways should bear the whole cost of the elevators. I consider that the cost of these elevators should not be wholly borne by the railway department. The object of erecting these elevators, we are told, was to assist agriculture. I would like to see the railways conducted on a true business basis and where services are rendered to other departments of State by the railways, the railways should be credited. I believe that such a course would tend towards the general development of the country. We have heard a great deal about the prevalence of unemployment. This is due in a large measure, in my opinion, to the lack of development in this country. I would ask the Minister if he cannot go in for the construction of new railways and develop the railway system of this country. I would like to ask why the railways should pay for a deficit to the High Commissioner’s office. I find on page 3 of these estimates an item of £20,000 to be paid over to the High Commissioner’s office. Why should the department pay anything above the one per cent. which was agreed upon on purchases made in Great Britain? It is quite apparent to me that in the past the whole policy has been to prove that the railways do not pay and as far as possible to give grants and also take up responsibilities and works which do not come under the railway department. If the £20,000 is needed for the High Commissioner’s office why does it not come out of the Consolidated Revenue funds of the Union of South Africa? I am absolutely opposed to the railways paying away these sums. I want to see the railways pay not only because then then can play the game to the workers, but because they can add a great deal to the development of the country. Until the railway management is put on a true business basis whereby its use as a pure business concern is to render definite service to the people of the country in return for a certain legitimate sum we shall not have contentment amongst the public or the workers. In some instances we are paying rates far in excess of what we should. I recognize that the Government has not had a fair opportunity of doing anything but I do want to see the new Government tackle this on proper lines, stop trying to prove that the railways do not pay because of the allotting of sums of money and the taking over of responsibilities which do not affect the railways at all.
I should like to ask the Minister of Railways what he proposes to do with regard to the Cape Town station. Before he leaves the legislative capital I should like him to go and inspect a portion of the staff offices, chiefly the paymaster’s office. We on this side of the House are all equally pleased to see the hon. member return (Dr. Steyn), he is just in the nick of time. As I was saying, this is one of the most important offices in the country, an office through which a great deal of money is passed and in which a great deal of coin and notes are stored. If the Minister goes down to inspect this office he will find a corrugated iron building which would be suitable for scrub cattle, but I do not think any man would house decent cattle in it. The whole place is a regular rat-run, and the adjoining offices are equally bad. If the Minister were to be there at the beginning of the month when the third-class passengers take out their tickets he would find a queue right out into the street trying to get to the counters. It is the worst railway building in the country.
What about Johannesburg?
I quite agree it is nearly as bad in Johannesburg, but if you want to see a building which is entirely unsuitable for the purpose for which it is used, I would commend the paymaster’s and the other corrugated iron buildings which form part of the railway staff offices in the legislative capital of the Union. I hope for the sake of the hon. Minister’s health that he never has to spend any time in the room which I think they call the conference room. It is very hot and a very unhealthy room for any body of men to be asked to sit in conference in. I would also like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to grant scholars’ concessions to scholars attending commercial schools. Up to the present these scholars have not been allowed these concessions and in nearly every instance they are the children of parents of moderate means. It would be a great help to these parents if these children had the scholars’ concessions granted to them in exactly the same way as other scholars have this right. My hon. friend the member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close) has mentioned the question of level crossings on the Cape Town—Simonstown line. It is not only at Rondebosch that this difficulty exists. It occurs all along the line, and each day it is going to be worse. In the future when the line is electrified and when there are frequent trains it will be almost impossible to get across that line except by the few bridges that there are now. Of course in the past we did not know of this, or the whole line should have been built at a lower level. I would suggest to the Minister even now whether it is not possible to drop the permanent way between Mowbray bridge and Claremont bridge a distance of some miles, in order to let these roads run over the line instead of what will be eventually necessary—a long series of bridges going over at every level crossing which exists to-day. However, the important point which I wish to bring to his attention is the matter of Cape Town station and the matter of staff offices which are a disgrace for the citizens to have in their midst.
Notwithstanding the fact that the session is nearly at an end I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister the question of the running of trains in the country. I have received many letters on the subject. Nearly all the trains through the Karroo are fast trains, and although the inhabitants do not grudge the people of Johannesburg many conveniences, they are put to too much inconvenience at present. If one wishes to go from Beaufort West to Tulbagh he must alight at Worcester, because the train does not stop at Tulbagh. I know of instances where a journey of 132 miles from Beaufort West to De Aar had to be done in a mixed train. The journey lasts nine hours and the travellers have no conveniences. If a person wants to go as far as Drooge River, six miles on this side of Beaufort West, he cannot do the journey. It is not possible for the farmer to go to Beaufort West for the week-end. I know of another case where a teacher at Kruitfontein could formerly go to Beaufort West for the week-end, but now can do that only occasionally. It is strange that the same train stops at Bellville, also at Huguenot and Paarl, where there are many trains during the day. I have seen a letter from the general manager, but the improvements which he proposes will not do away with all these grievances. The Minister ought to attend to this matter. Another grievance is that the people do not get their mail regularly, and it often arrives a day late at the small sidings. In order to ensure certain conveniences and advantages to the public of Johannesburg and Cape Town, the country people are inconvenienced. The people in the Karroo do not expect the administration to abolish the fast trains, but they would like to have at least one train a day through the Karoo north and south which stops at all stations. Farmers also complain that they have to pay the same for their lambs as for big sheep. Lambs are mostly conveyed in times of drought, consequently this is a matter of considerable importance. There is a good deal of dissatisfaction amongst the coloured people concerning the provision made for them on the railways. They say frankly they do not want social equality with the white people, all they want is that provision be made for separate trains in all classes, as there is always unpleasantness if they travel with Europeans. It often happens on the Sea Point line that there are one or two coloured people in every compartment, and this certainly is a matter that should be seen to. I welcome the idea of a grievances commission, as grievances in the service never go further than a certain point. The commission should personally meet the people concerned. In reply to a question I was told recently that the authorities did not think that the examination for apprentices was too hard, but I have the papers before me, and I think many hon. members of this House will have some difficulty in answering the questions.
Except the hon. member for Stellenbosch.
The tests set for apprentices seem to be unnecessarily hard. For instance, for those in the boiler shops. I would like to point out that natives are taken on as cleaners. That position ought to be the first step to the position of an engine driver, and if natives are constantly being appointed, European boys get no opportunity to be trained as drivers.
Before the Minister replies I should like to ask him if he would give the Committee a clear statement as to what policy is being pursued as regards the replacing on the railways of natives and coloured people by whites. This is a subject which undoubtedly is exciting a great deal of interest and, in this part of the world at any rate, a great deal of apprehension. I think it would be material to know what steps exactly the Minister proposes to take. Is it proposed to get rid of natives who are in actual employment without waiting for their contracts to expire; is it proposed to apply the same policy to coloured people as to natives; is it proposed to put white people into positions which now have for their object the doing of unskilled work; or to replace natives and coloured people whose work is to some extent skilled? It seems to me that whichever way the Minister proceeds in that respect, he is bound to encounter a certain amount of difficulty. If a native who is doing purely unskilled work, filling a barrow with earth, for instance, is to be replaced by a white man, that is only depriving one man of work to give work to another who, in all probability, cannot do it any better. If, on the other hand, the Minister proceeds on the assumption that it is desirable to put white people in places now filled by natives or coloured, who have to exercise a certain amount of skill, we are up against this difficulty at once, that we are acting to the detriment of those natives who are making the best efforts to rise in the standard of civilization; we are making it more difficult for these people to find employment, and realize their legitimate ambition to rise in the social scale and we are creating among them a feeling of disappointment, discontent and despair. I do not say that the Minister has it in his mind to act with injustice to these people, but it is impossible to shut one’s ears and eyes to what goes on. We have heard a good many speeches by hon. members, which would seem to indicate that these hon. members are in favour of the policy which would merely throw natives and coloured people out of employment without regard to the future of those people. On the other hand, so far as the white people to be employed are concerned, some hon. members undoubtedly seem to think that all it is necessary to do is to employ white people and without the slightest regard as to whether the particular industry or undertaking—in this case the railway undertaking—can legitimately support the extra cost involved. I do not want to go into the whole question of the employment of coloured and white labour now, but I do say it is a matter in which there is a great deal of uneasiness among the coloured and native people in this part of the world, and I think it is only right that we should know exactly what steps the Minister proposes to take. I hope the Minister will tell us as clearly as possible what instructions have been given on, the subject, and what his policy is likely to be.
I think the hon. member for South Peninsula (Sir Drummond Chaplin) is not unconnected with the mining industry in this country. Previously to the elections, and practically every month in the year, we find the mining industry continually setting up a scream that there is a shortage of native labour in South Africa, and that, therefore, it is necessary to import thousands of natives from Portuguese East Africa and that the more natives we bring into South Africa the more employment there will be for white men. Now we find the hon. member standing up and saying that if you displace native labour from the railways, you will cause unemployment. You cannot have it both ways. Either the hon. member is sincere now, or those statements made by the mining industry are not sincere. With regard to the eight-hours’ day, I would ask the Minister if he is prepared to go into the methods adopted in connection with its application. I understand the method adopted by the administrative officials is to take the number of trains that run through a station and say there are so many trains running through this station, the men are entitled to the eight-hours’ day; or there are so many trains running through the station, and the men are not entitled to the eight-hours’ day. I would like to mention, as an example, a comparison of Benoni and Brakpan. Benoni, because they have more trains running through the station, say they must have an eight-hour day. But in Benoni they have the extra staff to cope with the extra trains. At Brakpan you find one man doing the work of the issuing clerk and of the signalman and the man is kept busy right through the whole of his shift, and these men are working ten hours. It is far too long. There is something radically wrong when in fixing the eight-hours’ day, we take into consideration only how many trains are running through a particular station. There is another question. That is the question of the hours of work worked by the men on the railway booms. These men are working twelve hours a day. It is a responsible position, and as far as I am concerned, I would far rather work eight hours a day with a pick and shovel than sit cooped up in that cabin, doing that monotonous work for ten hours a day. Twelve hours is much too long; it should be reduced to ten. If we are going to carry on the same administration without any drastic interference by the Minister, the railway men: are not going to be any better off than they have been hitherto. It is not a bit of use expecting the officials to alter their ways, until some strong attitude is taken up by the Minister. While the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) talks about considering the interests of the users of the railways, he should add to that and say we should consider the interests of the users side by side with justice and a square deal for men employed on those railways. We want to see both the public considered and we also want to see considered the men who are employed running the wheels of industry, and we do not want to see them ground down in order that the people that use the railways shall have certain privileges. The Minister represents the general public, I agree; but he also has to see that the people running the services in the interests of the public get a square deal. There is another matter to which I want to draw attention, and that is, that at practically every station on the far East Rand once you get beyond Germiston, the over-head bridges are from the central platform to one side only; people live on both sides of the railway line, and there is no opportunity for them to get across unless they go to the next level crossing, or unless they trespass on the line. This concerns Boksburg East, Brakpan, and Springs, and we want the Government to construct bridges from the central platforms to both sides of the railway. People from Boksburg North cannot get in to Boksburg East station without having to cross the track, and if there is an accident the railway may repudiate liability because they will say that the person was trespassing on the railway line. Then I would like to ask for a motor service between Dunswart and Alliance. The carriages used for that particular service are a disgrace to the country; the cushions are torn and so forth. The people have to sit for hours waiting for a connection, and in addition to that they have to travel under conditions which are none too good. Another thing I would like to ask the Minister is whether anything has been done in connection with the construction of a railway crossing at Skapensrust. In the negotiations with the railway department we find the old policy being carried out, and under this the municipality is asked to bear part of the cost. There is a vital principle at stake, because the municipality does not participate in the profits of the railway. I would also like to ask the Minister whether he can go into the question of the construction of a railway from Heidelberg to connect the far East Rand with the main line from Natal.
I am glad the hon. member for Beaufort West (Mr. E H. Louw) pointed out that local travellers suffer inconvenience, because they cannot use the fast trains. In my constituency, too, great inconvenience is caused to the public in connection with that arrangement, and the people have to use the goods train, which is unsatisfactory. There seems to be a tendency to take into consideration only the interests of the larger towns, and I admit the distance between them is shortened by a few hours, but the public along the main line has to suffer. According to Clause 40 of the Fencing Act, the owner of a farm, over which the railway line runs, has to erect and maintain double fences along the line and the level crossings, except in parts which are exempted by order of the Governor-General. An official who can speak with authority told me that when a line is built it is proclaimed so that the department need not fence it in. But in Colesberg and Richmond the railway has been in existence for 40 years now and there are parts which are still un-proclaimed. The railway department claims 50 per cent. of the costs from the owner and that is unfair, because the law provides that the railway department should do it at its own cost, but the department always hides behind the proclamation. In any case, it would be better to revert to the old system by which the owner pays one-eighth or a quarter of the costs. This matter has been raised before, but a new broom sweeps clean, as the saying goes, and we now have a new Minister.
There are many dirty places to be swept.
There are also many dirty remarks from the hon. member. In the second class compartments it very often happens that there are six persons in one compartment, consequently there is no room for the luggage and it causes much inconvenience. An arrangement should be made so that there should not be more than five persons in one second class compartment. There is also another complaint with regard to second class passengers. They are only allowed 75 lbs. free luggage whilst first class passengers are allowed 100 lbs. Poor people who often have more than 75 lbs. luggage have to pay high over-weight charges which are calculated at parcel rates, which are very high. The Minister should see that this grievance is removed. The increased rent on small houses has already been discussed. The rents have been increased in a manner which is unjust to the occupants of small, low-grade houses. A commission of enquiry was promised, and I hope it has reported and recommended the reduction of rent, so that the Minister can act on it. I want to emphasize that the rent for small houses is much too high.
About five weeks ago the Minister of Railways informed the House that there were inspectors busy in connection with the New Cape Central Railways. I am informed that these inspectors have returned and that there have been some negotiations between the Government and the N.C.C.R. I would like to ask the Minister whether he has received a report from the inspectors. Another point is whether something cannot be done to expedite the service over the N.C.C.R. The short run between Worcester and Swellendam, a matter of about 80 miles, takes nearly 5½ hours. That portion of the line is utilized for passenger traffic very heavily by people from Port Elizabeth and elsewhere. On only three alternate nights have we got an assumed fast train. I would like the Minister to use his influence with a view of securing a better service at night.
Railwaymen in my constituency are deprived of certain privileges which are enjoyed by their colleagues in the big towns, especially with regard to local allowances. I am informed that the department does that on the information they receive from other departments. The Minister, therefore, acts on their advice. The hon. member for Witbank (Mr. A. I. E. de Villiers) has already pointed to the grievance of local allowances in the outlying towns. Often the cost of living in these places is higher than in the larger towns, as many Í of their requirements have to be ordered from the towns at additional expense. I hope, therefore, the Minister will meet these people.
I would like the Minister to give us some information about the grain elevators, not the controversial side, but the informative side. The Minister will remember that we were told that the first series, outside the main elevators, would reach completion and begin to function at the end of this year. The Minister of Railways told us that the Government were not prepared to tackle the second line of elevators until this first line has been completed. It was pointed out at the time that the chain of elevators, as originally put forward by the Government, would be entirely broken unless we completed a second row of small elevators in the smaller districts. I would like to know from the Minister how far we have advanced in our elevator system, whether we have completed the first row of elevators outside the main elevators and how far the Government is prepared to continue the scheme. I think it is regrettable that we should have been subjected to some criticism from some of our friends who visit us, without having sufficient information of what our elevator system is, and what it is really based upon. The country is committed to a considerable amount of expenditure and if there is any doubt about the whole of our elevator scheme the Government is going to be severely criticised if we are not all going to come into the system, and, owing to the attitude the Press has taken up through the criticism levelled upon us, it is quite possible that some of our patrons in regard to the elevator scheme are likely to be considerably biassed as to whether the elevator scheme is going to be an advantage to us or whether we should return to the bag system. If we want the scheme to be run economically, it will be necessary for all of us to be in it. With that object in view, it would be an advantage if we completed the whole scheme instead of having a chain with a number of broken links. I deprecate any criticism by any of our friends at the present time who have had an unfortunate experience in regard to elevator schemes until they have been in closer touch with us, the members who have had experience, and the principles upon which we base our elevator scheme. I think we could give them a great deal of information on the good points upon which the elevator scheme in South Africa has been laid down.
As an initial remark, I would say that I heartily endorse the suggestion that a commission of inquiry should be set up to hear general grievances amongst the railway servants. I would appeal to the Minister, now that we are turning over a new sheet, to try and establish more sympathetic relations between the administration and the municipalities which it serves, and which also serve it reciprocally, than have existed in the past. The municipalities, more especially the smaller municipalities, have felt that they were being “steam rollered” unmercifully by the great railway Juggernaut. In Springs there is a very valuable reserve adjoining the railway yard, and that reserve is worth approximately, as a business stand area, anything from £30,000 to £40,000. The municipality has been debarred for years past, practically since its inception, from setting out or fixing upon any definite plan as to what shall be done with that land, just because the railway people have refused to define in any way what their intentions are in regard to the development of the railway yard. We have had information from some channels that a new railway station is contemplated there, that plans have been prepared and estimates drawn up, but when we have approached the department we have been assured that there is nothing whatsoever in the air. The present wayside-station which exists there cannot be the station which the department intend for a permanent building, because when originally surveyed and allocated to the railways the area of land appropriated is the largest on the Reef with the possible exception of Kazerne, thus indicating that large developments there were contemplated. The reserve belongs to the municipality, and therefore the interests of the town in that case should be identical with the interests of the railways, which are also public property. Then there is the matter of the protection of level crossings. One, of course, has to be somewhat parochial in dealing with these matters. In Springs again, just outside the end of the railway yard, we have a main road, the main artery, passing over a level crossing, and the shunting which goes on in the yard is continually going on over this level crossing. There are no warning bells, no protection of any sort, and the administration has persistently refused to acknowledge any responsibility in the matter, although there have been numerous accidents, some of them fatal. A couple of years ago we approached the then Minister of Railways and asked him to give the matter sympathetic consideration, but we were very summarily dealt with. At last we did manage to extract from the Minister that it was a matter of Government policy, and, provided the Government admitted the policy, he himself would not be averse to undertaking the protection of level crossings in congested areas. I assure the Minister that this shunting goes on-day and night over a main road in the municipality, a very busy road, and there is no protection whatsoever, not even a flagman, and it is a matter of pure luck, especially at night time, if you don’t run into a train or are not run into by a train. The roads do not make the railways dangerous in these places; it is the railways which make the roads dangerous. Then there is the matter of the connection between Heidelberg and the East Rand referred to by the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston). That is a most important thing, in which we have worked for years. In that area you must, •of necessity, if you are going to extend your mining areas, have a railway, and that railway will be needed when these mines are undertaking construction, when heavy plant has got to be transported. That railway should be built before this extension takes place and before this development is put under way. Not only that, but by this railway you will tap one of the richest agricultural areas in the Transvaal. The present cul-de-sac formed there by the railway service is a most expensive one both to the administration and those who use the railways. The Government of this country were, I believe, honourably committed to the construction of a line from the East Rand connecting up through Swaziland with the Portuguese railway which is at present in existence there and which is also a cul-de-sac. I think it is time the eyes of the administration were directed to the carrying out of that honourable agreement and the construction of that line, and also making this connection with the Natal line and thus shortening the journey to Natal for people from Pretoria, the Eastern Transvaal and the East Rand. This is a matter which, from a national point of view, demands earnest consideration, and this, I hope, it will receive.
I would like to discuss many points, but feel sorry for the overworked Minister who has treated all members so courteously. I represent a number of very patient constituents, and I now get more letters than ever with regard to the running of the trains through the Koup. The people there for 40 years had at least one fast passenger train a day in each direction, but since the 7th June, 1924, they cannot use them any more, as the only available ones that pass do not stop there. Obviously the trains are only run for the purpose of bringing Johannesburg and Cape Town closer together to the inconvenience of the people along the main line, who have to wait until mixed or goods trains, which are inconvenient to them, stop there—trains which are sometimes without light or proper sanitary conveniences. In one of the letters I received the writer states that he had to make a journey from Matjesfontein to Ketting in a goods train and had to pay the ordinary fare. It took him a day to make the journey, and he had to sit on the floor of the goods van. If the train from Johannesburg, No. 3 down, or No. 4 up, took a few hours longer for the journey the grievances will be removed. There is great delay in the despatch and delivery of mails as a result of the rearrangement of the service of the passenger trains. If the convenience of the people who travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg is studied less, so that these trains take a few hours longer for the journey, and more attention is given to the interests of a large number of people in the Karroo, these grievances will be obviated. I hope the Minister will give his attention to the matter.
I wish to associate myself with the request made by the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) for the establishment of a grievances commission. There are scores of grievances to-day that could be rectified by such a commission. We know that during the past regime that these grievances have been going on and the men have been afraid to express them to heads of the various departments because they feared victimization. With a grievances commission in operation an opportunity will be given them of placing their grievances before the right authority and it will mean instead of going direct to the heads and, possibly, creating friction for themselves, they will be able to go to the machinery set up for them by this hon. House. I also wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the state of affairs brought about by the vicious past administration. I refer to the victims of the last industrial upheaval—men are to-day walking the streets, men chased out of the service simply because they were loyal members of a trade union organization. A good many of these men, not only have they been chased out of their employment, but they are blacklisted from one end of the country to the other. Their discharges say that they went on strike and will not be engaged, and the natural inference to any employer of labour is—
Does the hon. member refer to railway men?
Yes, sir, I refer to the railway men who to-day are carrying round discharges which may possibly mean to the employing classes when they read them that these men are immediately branded as Bolshevists or something in the nature of agitators and accordingly they are not wanted. Their crime is not a serious one and it does not present a reason why they should not be reinstated. I ask the Minister to let bygones be bygones and to see that they are reinstated. I think it was the late Prime Minister who said “we can fight like devils and forget like angels.” Let the Minister put that policy into effect. I want him to see that a fair opportunity is given for the reinstatement of these men by laying down hard and fast that they shall have preference over newcomers. Another point I wish to touch upon is that of the insertion of a fair wage clause in all railway contracts. We have the insertion of that clause in some departments but not under the Railway Administration. The insertion of the clause simply means that employer and employee have a fair opportunity on the fair basis of competition as regulated by recognized standard rates of pay and conditions of labour. Another point, Mr. Chairman, but I do not know how far a Minister can go in this respect, I am told that some old servants upon reaching the age limit are dismissed from the service irrespective of their physical capabilities. I can quite understand—if they were standing in the way of the advancement of younger men—but when we find men who are to-day receiving a wage no more than is received by the relief worker it does not seem fair to me to discharge them from the railway service to seek relief work. They are men who have been in the service for years and whose wage is £12 per month, a wage which does not allow them to provide for old age, and to turn them into the streets is a crime. I also wish to draw the Minister’s attention to the most disgraceful station we have; I refer to Johannesburg; the station itself is not only a disgrace to the administration, but it is a disgrace to the city, and I hope you will take the first opportunity of doing something in this respect.
I hope the Minister of Railways will explain in unmistakable language for the benefit of the ex-Unionist members on this side of the House (they are all that is left of the South African Party) what his intentions actually are with regard to the employment of what he is pleased to term civilized labour on the railways. The Minister endeavoured to make the position clear when replying on the Budget debate, but I would now like to know whether it is the intention of the Minister to discharge natives at present employed on the railways and employ whites in their place. Why always mix up the natives with coloured men, as the hon. member for South Peninsula (Sir Drummond Chaplin) did. The hon. member’s attitude on that question is about as funny as that of his famous namesake. I wonder why hon. members representing constituencies in the Cape, persist in bracketing together coloured and natives? I think, when the Minister is talking about civilized labour, he is referring to men who live on a civilized standard. The coloured men on the railways are endeavouring to live up to that standard, as far at least as the last Government would permit them to do. We have a fine type of coloured man in Natal—the St. Helenas—who, I think, given an opportunity in regard to proper remuneration for their labour, would reach an equally high standard with the European. It is only because of the colour of his skin that he does not get the wages which would allow him to live on that standard. I would like the Minister to explain whether he intends to discharge the natives, and replace them with white men, or only replace the wastage of natives by white men? I approve of the latter policy. It will leave the natives free for the mines, and take off our streets a large number of the white men who are going about looking for jobs. I learn with pleasure, that the stationmaster at Pietermaritzburg has initiated a plan for taking on European youths as carriage cleaners in place of natives. I wish to read an extract from an interview the local Press had with the stationmaster on the subject. In that interview the stationmaster says that, up to the present, nine European youths have been taken on as carriage cleaners in place of coloured—that is to say natives. The boys made a start on Tuesday—last Tuesday—when seven of them were initiated into the mysteries of cleaning carriage windows, brass work and so forth. It is all open-air work, and the boys work from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is sufficient work to keep them fully occupied. Seen at their work, the boys, the account says, seem full of energy and enthusiasm. This work was previously done by coloured labour. The foreman in charge declares that he is perfectly satisfied with the way the European boys are doing the work, and he emphasizes that they are a great improvement on natives. I have no doubt the stationmaster at Pietermaritzburg is carrying out this policy on the instructions of the Minister of Railways, or at least I hope it will have the Minister’s approval. The railways are largely used by Europeans; why should not the work be done by Europeans? I hope the Minister will explain exactly what he means when he says that the policy of his Government is to promote and encourage the employment of civilized labour.
I also would like to get a clear statement from the Minister on that question of the men who are debarred from getting; employment on the railway simply because, as far back as 1914, they went on strike. There is one other matter. I am going to suggest the time has arrived when there should be a revision of the rates for the conveyance of raw materials throughout one country. In my district we have-been endeavouring to develop our industries. We find, however, that the carriage on pig iron is so great as to equal what it can be purchased for in some country overseas and landed in Durban. The rate from Durban to the Witwatersrand is nearly equal to the price of the goods plus the carriage from overseas. During recent years several small manufacturing industries have sprung up. They are battling against high railway rates, and not only that, but some very large importers in this country are trying to blot them out.
Shall I read the hon. member a letter I received to-day in which the name of a large firm of importers is given? No, I won’t read it. But the railway rates on raw material are so high that imported goods, can be sold on the Witwatersrand at sixpence a garment cheaper than the articles can be made for here. The point is these manufacturers are being crippled by high railway rates. Some of these factories will, perhaps, have to close down, which would be regrettable as they employ a large number of young persons whose wages during the present depression is a God-send in many homes. There are a number of other small matters I will not mention now, as I hope the Minister will agree to the request of the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) to have that grievances commission. I would like to say that the workmen on the railways are beginning to feel that they have a human Minister now. I am not talking disparagingly about the late Minister, because one of his own colleagues said he was so taken up with business that he had no time for the human side. I suggest to the Minister that he should tackle some of these small grievances. For instance there is the case of the signalmen. These men work seven days a week all the year round, until their holiday leave comes, they then get twelve consecutive days’ leave a year, the same as other grades who only work six days per week. The men feel they have a grievance. They think the administration might give them at least three weeks’ holiday. A fortnight is too little to let them get away from the district altogether. When they have worked seven days a week all the year round they need a complete change and a decent holiday. I hope the Minister will agree to have that grievance rectified and also that he will agree to the appointment of a grievances commission.
I would like first of all, to call attention to what has been said about the Cape Central Railway. A question has been put about taking it over, and I think the Minister should give the matter his attention. Those persons along that line have to pay more for the carriage of produce than people on the other systems. The Cape Central Railway is the main artery to Oudtshoorn, Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth, George and all that district. I was somewhat surprised to find that a fair wage clause is not inserted in railway contracts, and I think a fair wage clause should be inserted, by which I mean a mini mum wage clause. I hope that will be done, because if you have not a fair wage clause you must have unfair competition. Surely it is not too much to ask that human quality should be considered as you consider the quality of building material. Another thing I would like to mention is that I learned with regret that men who went on strike had their certificates marked that they were discharged because of having participated in the strike. Just look at what it means. It means that the unfortunate man is going about with the brand of Cain on his forehead, and who will give a man employment with such a mark on his certificate? No large employer will give him employment. We all go on strike sometimes, in some form or other. The country went on strike lately and threw out the late Government. It will go on strike again and throw out the present Government; and so these things go on. Now I do hope that no certificate will be issued with such a mark upon it. Surely the general manager will find it in his heart to admit that 12 months’ punishment for a man who went on strike is plenty. I believe in men going on strike for a just cause, but who is to judge whether it is a just cause, and so long as you do not have arbitration boards you will have strikes. Another matter is that I want the Minister to think of this rise in rents which took place. It was a uniform rise of the rents of railway cottages without considering the tenant at all. Some of the houses are recently built, modern and really good; but some are such that their hygienic standard will not meet that of the 20th century, and they won’t meet that of any century—let alone the 20th. Let the Minister have the rents fixed according to the value given to the tenant. The Minister knows the north end of Port Elizabeth very well, and it is one of his chief recruiting stations for political parties.
That is so.
Some of the people who come to your meetings live on the other side of the railway line; there is no foot-bridge, and thousands go across the line from weekend to week-end. The railway says that the municipality should pay half and they will pay the other half. Now is that reasonable? The railway was put there for the convenience of the public, and surely they are going to take measures for the public safety. The late member for Port Elizabeth Central went to see the Minister who was then in office and asked him to do something, and I hope that the present Minister will give the matter his attention. I see from the news papers lately there was being tried in court an unfortunate man for defalcation on the railway and the jury put in a rider that the system of check on the railway is bad. The case occurred only last Monday or Saturday. I cannot understand that rider because I have had a good deal of experience on railway accounts and I hope that matter will be investigated. I see that the judge said that was no excuse for the man. It is no excuse; but it is a great temptation to a man if there is not a proper check. I hope the Minister will see that every system on the railway is properly checked. We are all weak at times, and men should not be placed in temptation. I know that no system has been invented that will circumvent everything, but every time you find out that there is something you can circumvent that. I would like to add to what my hon. friend here said with regard to the grievances board, and I hope that matter will be taken into consideration. The hon. member for Liesbeek (Mr. Pearce) speaks of running the railways on an economic basis, but if we started to do so on a true economic basis the first thing that would be done would be to withdraw free railway passes, and the less said about that the better. The hon. member had better leave the economic basis alone. This grievances board will save trouble and irritation, and make the men feel comfortable. They do not want to quarrel, and no employer who wants things to run well wants to quarrel, but if things are to run well, there should be few grievances.
Caledonia stern and wild, in the persons of three of her distinguished and eloquent sons, has just spoken. May a member of the junior branch of John Bull and Company plead with the Minister to give a definition of what he means by that phrase “civilized labour”, because I believe a great deal of trouble is caused amongst coloured and native men with regard to it, and it ought to be clearly defined.
The fruit growers of Concordia are 30 miles from the nearest station. The road is a bad one and much damage is done to the fruit in transit. I would like to know if it will not be possible for the Minister to introduce motor lorry services. The same thing applies to the road between Montagu and Ashton. The Minister should also take into consideration whether the rate on mealies cannot be reduced on the construction line from Touws River and Calitzdorp, where much grain is used by the workers.
I would not have spoken again, but the Minister has been given some bad advice by some hon. members and I thought I could not leave it there, because if I remained silent, I might be taken to agree with what has been said. Some hon. members have spoken in favour of the displacement of some men simply on the ground that they are not Europeans. I do not think the Minister will accept the advice, but if such advice is to be followed my voice would not remain silent. It would be nothing less than a great injustice. The Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, I think, gave the correct definition of “civilized labour,” from the point of view of a just attitude towards the question, and I hope that the Minister of Railways and Harbours will take up the matter in the same spirit. The Minister of Posts and Telegraphs told us definitely that “civilized labour” included white, coloured and native who live up to the civilized standard of life, and that the Government did not intend to displace men who had rendered meritorious services to the State, although possibly when the situation of such an individual became vacant they might put a European in—but they were not going to displace a man. That is the only just policy to pursue, and I hope the hon. Minister is not going to be stampeded into doing anything which is a wholesale injustice to born South Africans. Whatever policy is adumbrated, he should not ruthlessly discharge men on the ground, as was argued by an hon. member, that Europeans mainly used the railway. All sections of the community use the railway; and I cannot understand the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg (North) (Mr. Strachan) saying that Europeans mainly use the railways. I would not have spoken at all but for the fact that if we remained silent we might be taken to agree with the very erratic views which have been expressed.
We have absolute confidence in the good sense and discretion of the Minister of Railways, consequently hon. members on this side said very little on the question of civilized labour, but there might easily be a misunderstanding and nothing can be lost or gained by its discussion, and therefore I would like to say a few words on the subject. The statement made by the Minister was quite clear to me. We do not want anybody to be dismissed on account of his colour. We want to encourage civilization, and it is not our intention to hold back the non-Europeans. The Minister enjoys our confidence, and I am sure he will be actuated by a sense of justice in what he does. The railways render the State a double service as we expect a great deal from them for the development of the country and we expect that the products of South Africa, especially from the western districts, will be advertised by the railways. The public does not know the value of our dried fruit and how wholesome it is. The Minister can do much in this direction by seeing that it is used wherever possible. The same applies to our wines. In the past not enough preference was given to our own products, which are as good as any in the world, but the railways did not always admit that. There should be a change in this connection. The rates on the transport of dried fruit to the interior are too high, and on raisins sent from Worcester to the Transvaal it absorbs practically a quarter of the sale price of the product. If we want to foster the country trade in fruit the rates should be revised.
I wish to support the plea of the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) regarding the appointment of a grievances commission. The last grievances commission did very good work indeed, and whilst I think there are not many real grievances on the railway at present, I do know there are many pinpricks and imaginary grievances which will be all the better for ventilation. In this connection I must say I was very much astonished at the attack made by one of the hon. members in regard to the official dealing with staff matters and I was very pleased indeed to hear the former Minister of Railways contradict that at once. I do think that if there is one department in the railways which is absolutely the essence of fair play, it is the staff department. I have had as much to do with staff matters on the railways as, I believe, any hon. member of this House, and I have always found that the officials concerned treated everybody in an absolutely fair and just manner. I would support the views of the hon. member for Aliwal (Mr. Sephton) in regard to the very inadequate waiting accommodation for third-class and native passengers on the eastern system, in fact that applies not only to the eastern system but practically to all the systems on the eastern and midland divisions. At Uitenhage the waiting accommodation for third-class passengers is an absolute disgrace and I do hope that the Minister will give this matter his immediate attention. I would also like to call the Minister’s attention to the necessity of installing the electric light in the railway quarters at Sydenham, near Port Elizabeth. That is not a matter which will involve expenditure, because I believe at the present time the administration has a contract with the Port Elizabeth municipality in regard to the supply of electric current, and the administration has to take a certain number of units and pay for that number, whether consumed or not. I am given to understand that during the last three years the administration has paid about £900 for current that it has not consumed, and I do hope that, where you have a number of employees who wish to have the benefit of electric light and are willing to pay for it and the transaction is going to be of a pecuniary benefit to the department, the Minister will see that these employees are given the opportunity of enjoying the advantages of civilization.
I am sorry to have to get up again, but, as representing a large railway constituency, it is quite impossible for me to mention all the matters within the space of ten minutes. A matter of considerable importance is that of the manufacture of our rolling stock. We have had some sort of indication from the Minister as to what the policy of the Government is going to be in that regard in the statement which he made to the House that certain first-class saloons are going to be built in South Africa, but I think the House and the country at large on this important question would like to have a statement as to what the general policy of the Government is going to be. Another matter affecting railway men is that of pensions. I can assure the Minister that a large number of representations have been made to me in regard to this. The position to-day is that a man is retired who, perhaps, has a large family, on what is a very small pension indeed. These men are quite willing to contribute more liberally to the pension fund. Another matter is what is known as the pass-firemen. These are in many cases young men who have passed through the firemen stage and who are now eligible to be appointed as drivers. It is complained that these men do not get the opportunity, especially in large railway centres like Beaufort West, of taking on driver work, and that men are brought from other parts to do that work when these younger men could be employed in the precincts of their own centres. Then there is the question of apprentices. I am not speaking of the examinations, which I have already mentioned, but the matter of apprentices being taken on by the railway department. I can quite understand that that is a question of general policy and that it may not be wise to lay down a general rule, but I would point out that the railway department is the one department of State in which these young men can find work. Take a boiler maker. What chance has he got of obtaining work anywhere apart from the railway department, except on the mines? I do hope that some provision will be made whereby these men, after they have completed their apprenticeship, will be able to find employment on our railways. Another matter is that of the large number of private saloons which are used by the numerous heads of departments. I have seen or it has been brought under my notice that sometimes four, five or even six of these private saloons are to be found at one of the depots like Beaufort West or De Aar. Cases have been brought to my notice where a private saloon of one of these heads of departments has been attached to a train and some of the trucks have had to be detached. Another question is the transfer of men. It is perhaps not such a burning question, but it is one of the smaller matters which would tend towards contentment in the service. You find a man stationed at some small out-of-the-way place like Fraserburg Road. Perhaps he has been there six or seven years. If a man has served a period of years in a small out-of-the-way place like that he should be given a chance to go to some more congenial spot. As regards the employment of coloured labour, and the remarks made by the hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander), I do contend that the position of cleaners is an exception and that natives should not be appointed to this class of work, which is the first stepping stone to employment as drivers.
I wish to emphasize the point made by the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg (North) (Mr. Strachan), who called upon the Minister of Railways to define his position as regards the using of civilized labour and the policy he intends to pursue in regard to that. That is precisely the point I wish to support him on and I would like the Minister to make a definite statement. The speeches made by the hon. member (Mr. Strachan) have given the greatest-concern as to what he and others intend to force the Minister to do. He said he did not wish that any injustice should be done to the native or that any of them should be discharged, but surely he does know that that is the policy which he has suggested. If that policy is carried out it means inevitably that the natives will be compulsorily driven out and for their labour will be substituted white labour. I wonder what the hon. member for Liesbeek (Mr. Pearce) thinks of this. The deliberate policy is that natives of this country should be got rid of, that is the naked aspect of it, for the purpose of putting white labour in to carry on their jobs. The next step will be to drive the civilized coloured man out. A policy of injustice to either of these sections of the community is one that no Government of the country can countenance.
I agree with the remarks of the hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close). I would also like to make it quite clear that I do not think it is the intention of the Government to displace natives by white labour. On the other hand I believe in their policy to find work as far as possible and to extend the field of civilized labour in this country. In extending that field they will not only find work for the Europeans, but they will find work for the non-European as well.
I wish to ask the Minister if he is going to make any improvement in the travelling facilities for natives, travelling from their own territories to the Rand. At present they are bundled into trucks and while travelling over the Karroo many of them contract colds with the result that when they reach Johannesburg many of them are found to be suffering from pulmonary diseases and then they have either to go back to their own territory, come down to Cape Town or the other big centres in search of work. I have known recruiters who have said that 30 per cent. of their boys have Had to be returned owing to this. I think the condition under which they travel is one which is not a credit to any civilized country—you see 60 or 70 of them bundled into cattle trucks and without accommodation. I hope the Minister will look into the matter and let me know if there is any attempt on the part of the administration to improve these conditions.
Other hon. members have pleaded for a big station and electric lights, but I would like to point out that at Stickland Halt there is no platform. The people—and I may say that 60 monthly tickets are issued—have to clamber down from the train anyhow.
The new line from Hekpoort to Magaliesberg runs across many canals. Many of these are open, and the water supply is stopped, and the people complain about it. The line is closed in and the gates are only 10 feet wide, so that big loads cannot go through, with the result that the gates are smashed. The gates should be at least 14 or 15 feet wide.
I would like to ask the Minister what action has been taken in regard to the request of the people of Bethal concerning the improvement of the halt where mealies are being loaded.
I would also wish to emphasize the point that has been brought to the notice of the Minister by the hon. member for Swellendam (Mr. Buirski) with regard to taking over of the New Gape Central railway line. During the last session a resolution was adopted by the House to that effect.
A motion has already been accepted on that point.
Yes, but the line has not been taken over yet and the Minister is proceeding with the negotiations.
The hon. member is allowed to ask a question but he is not allowed to discuss the matter.
I would like the Minister to give us some information as to how far negotiations have proceeded. The late Minister said he had already started negotiations. There are other matters of importance upon which the Minister has been seen with regard to the carriage of certain products and I recommend them to his earnest attention. In addition there are one or two other things which I have brought to his notice privately, and I wish to remind him of them before he flits away to Pretoria. Several hon. members have asked him what he intends to do regarding the employment of coloured and natives, and insistent demands have been made that they, should he kicked out, at least, what has been said is equivalent to that. I think we should have a, reassuring statement from the Minister on this matter.
This debate has covered a very wide field and I do not want to keep the members unduly, but at the same time I shall endeavour to reply to all the questions raised. The hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) raised the question of the mole at Durban. I want to tell him that this is rather a big proposition and is going to cost a lot of money, and I am not going to commit the administration in this regard. We will, however, look into the matter. The same remark applies to Durban station. Hon. members, I must say at once, must remember that all these things cost money.
I am glad to have the support of my hon. friend. If you look at the loan estimates you will see that we are spending £5,750,000, and I went out of my way to increase the original amount by another three-quarters of a million about which I expect to hear from my hon. friend (Mr. Jagger). I quite realize that many of the things that have been placed before me this afternoon are of importance, but hon. members must realize that the department cannot do anything without considering the cost. The hon. member also raised the question of the reprint of the Union Customs tariff book. I am having that looked into.
*Regarding railway concessions, I must say that a change was made because people abused them. However, I shall look into the matter again, as also the question of bonuses to certain officials. Every official has the fullest right to give his report in either Dutch or English. If that is not allowed it should be reported to the Minister, who will take action.
†The hon. member for Aliwal North (Mr. Sephton) has brought up the question of the accommodation for third class passengers. The hon. member for Uitenhage (Mr. Bates) has also referred to it. That is a matter towards which we are very sympathetic. On a big system like ours, if you are to provide the necessary accommodation for all classes of passengers, all over the country, it costs money. We will deal with this matter as sympathetically as we can but I cannot commit the administration to all things necessary, as our loan estimates would then be too high. The hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) has raised the question of a grievances commission. I fully realize that there is strong feeling in regard to this matter in the minds of many hon. members, and if I thought the case would be met by the appointment of a grievances commission, I would not hesitate to accede to their request. But I want to ask hon. members to ask themselves whether this, after all, is the right way of dealing with the matter. If you appoint a grievances commission now, I do not know that in the next five years you might not have to appoint another. Ours is big service. A service with over 80,000 employees cannot be without grievances. There are always men who think they are being badly treated by their superior officers. I do not say that I am not prepared to appoint this commission, but I do say I shall want rather more information before I can take this step. There is this danger that if you appoint a grievances commission, discipline and authority might be undermined.
You did it in 1913.
Let hon. members bring to the notice of their constituents who are railway men; that the regulations allow the men to appeal right up to the Railway Board. If the men are not satisfied with the decisions of their superior officers, they can have their grievances referred to the higher officers and if they wish, they can go the whole length to the Minister. It seems to me that we must be careful about establishing a body outside the service like a grievances commission. It has been my unfortunate experience, since I took office, to be flooded with hundreds of letters of grievances from all parts, but the staff must clearly understand that they must deal with these grievances through the ordinary established channels. It has been said that some of the superior officers have refused to forward these grievances, and I would like to say, quite definitely, that if that is so the superior officers in question will be dealt with very stringently by the administration. We have had very few complaints coming up through the general manager. Is that because the superior officers have refused to send the complaints through? We must not hastily embark upon the policy of appointing an outside commission in our service which would have very far-reaching effects. We are extending the work of the conciliation board. I attach the greatest weight to the work of that board. It has done excellent work in the past, and I am sure it will serve us well in the future. I admit that personal grievances are not dealt with by that board, but the big issues are dealt with. I am in favour of referring any question which is germane to the consideration of the conciliation board. I do not mean to say that all decisions of the board will be carried out by the administration, or the department, but certainly we shall very carefully consider them. I do not at this stage definitely turn down the suggestion of a grievances commission, but more thought will have to be given to the subject.
*There are to-day 1,800 workers in the docks, of whom 1,200 are coloured and 600 natives. 850 coloured persons and 350 natives are in regular service, the latter working for the most part with coal. But preference is given to the coloured person. It is not fair to make the coloured man travel in the same class of coach as the native, as there are many such who do not feel at home in such an environment. The ideal is to have three separate classes for whites, three classes for coloured and three classes for natives, but if they were introduced it would make the trains too long. And then the cost. The cost would be enormous, and the department could not bear such a burden.
†The hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close) has raised the question of concessions to apprentices, and he wants those restored. I am afraid I cannot go much further than give him my sympathy. My predecessor was forced to make very drastic cuts. The question of reintroducing some of those concessions is being investigated. The same thing applies to workmens’ tickets. The question of level crossings has been brought up by several hon. members. Let me say, at once, that it is admitted by the administration that the position at Newlands, Observatory, Claremont, Johannesburg and many other places in the country, is unsatisfactory. But again it is a question of cost. It is no cheap matter to have subways or overhead bridges. But we are going into the matter very carefully, and with the electrification of the Cape—Simonstown we hope to do something to meet what is a legitimate grievance on that section. The same remarks apply to the accommodation at Rondebosch station. The hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) asked me about the system of lowering the line. It is a very desirable system, but it costs a lot of money. We are looking into it, and seeing what will be the best thing under the circumstances, to meet the wishes of the people concerned. Hon. members have raised the question of porters employed as signalmen and the same question has been dealt with in several phases this afternoon: porters employed as signalmen or cleaners employed as firemen, and firemen employed as drivers. This question is being dealt with by the administration. It is being realized that the war conditions were more or less responsible for this condition, (but it should now come to an end as far as practicable, and the staff office is now dealing with the whole question to see whether it is not possible to bring passed cleaners and passed firemen into the correct grade where they ought to be. It is a big question; but I can assure hon. members that we are paying attention to it in order to see whether we can redress what is a legitimate grievance. As regards apprentices changing over from one shop to another, I shall discuss the matter with the Chief Mechanical. Engineer, as I agree that it may be very advisable.
*The Railway Board has to travel through the whole country, and that explains why they often travel so quickly. I hope, however, that the board is doing its work thoroughly. The railway administration knows that trains on branch lines run slowly, and for that reason the previous Minister experimented with motor trains. That system can now be extended, and there is already a service between Cape Town and Malmesbury. These light carriages will only carry passengers and they will mean a big saving, as they will do away with the difficulty often experienced in the past of long trains having to run on branch lines with only two or three passengers. Regarding local allowances, hon. members should put their grievances before the Minister of the Interior, as the railway department has to get its figures from the census department in connection with the costs of living. The railway department has treated Witbank very liberally, because that place has been placed on a higher grade than it was entitled to.
†The hon. member for Von Brandis (Mr. Nathan) has raised the matter of the Johannesburg station. We have as a preliminary acquired the School of Mines for £100,000—
That is an old story; that is years ago.
Yes, but the money is only now being provided. Unless the streets are closed it is not possible to make a move with the new construction. In reply to a question from, I think, the hon. member for Hospital (Mr. Papenfus), I said that the financial position will have to be borne in mind, too.
Has that not been considered already?
No, the financial position will have to be considered when we draw up our Loan Estimates for next year. As to the matter of the position of the reservation office, this is a matter which will be looked into. As to the question of inland excursions, we must consider the interests of the railways as a whole. We cannot allow business men to do their business in inland centres and use excursion tickets for that.
*The hon. member for Bethlehem (Mr. J. H. B. Wessels) said that local railway foremen are mostly unilingual and unsympathetic.
†As to the language difficulty which we have in the railway service, let me say at once that this is a legacy which we have, and we must make the best of it. The present Government will deal justly with the men who are unilingual. What is the position of those who were in the service before 1912? Their rights are fully protected by the Act of Union, and we are of course not going to interfere with those rights. The service Act of 1912 is applicable to the case of all employees who were admitted to the service after 1912, and they will be dealt with in terms of the law. Let me say to the credit of my hon. friend (Mr. Jagger) that since 1921 the language qualification bar laid down in the Act of Union has been carried into effect in the railways service, while his predecessors in the S.A.P. Government of which he became a member grossly disregarded the law. Before 1921 a number of railway servants were promoted without satisfying the examiners in regard to the language qualification. I do not intend to put these men back again, because, after all, it is not their fault that they were promoted. The administration should at that time have seen that these men complied with the law. But the legal bar which was placed over all unilingual men in 1912 will operate on all these men whether they had promotion or not. As regards new appointments, I know that all members will agree with the present policy of giving preference, all other things being equal, to bilingual men. The. hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) has raised the question of the position of the administration towards the eight-hour day. The report, which appears in this morning’s “Cape Times” of the interview with Nurahs is an unauthorized one, for which the administration is not responsible.
The usual thing.
No, I do not think it is usual. All I can say is that the administration is not responsible for what is contained in that report. As regards the question of the eight-hour day, the position is that owing to our present financial condition, we are not prepared to go back to the eight hour day system without taking into consideration other factors. The whole question must be dealt with on its merits, but the administration is satisfied that a case exists for revision, and I propose referring this matter to the Conciliation Board. The Conciliation Board will be asked to deal with this matter and make a recommendation to the administration. A special committee will then be appointed to deal with the question of the application of the eight-hour day. I intend not only appointing superior officers on this special committee, but the employees should also have representation on that committee. The whole question of the eight-hour day should be revised and where possible we desire to meet the men, but we cannot introduce eight-hour day to the whole of the service. The hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) has raised the question of pensions which are insufficient. It is the question of the superannuation fund. When we have the report of the actuaries, which should be completed before January next at the latest, the whole question will be dealt with. The railway men are, I understand, satisfied to make greater contributions towards that fund and, as far as the administration is concerned, we fully realize that the time is not far distant when the administration will have to face further burdens in this regard. We are quite prepared to do so. At the present time the pensions of men retiring from the service are too low, and both the administration and the men will have to face the position in order that our railway servants when they leave the railway service can have better pensions. Pitiable cases have come before me and, no doubt, before my predecessor, where men who have served the administration for many years have had to retire with a mere pittance of a pension on which, they cannot exist. One feels that this question should have been dealt with years ago. Certainly it will be dealt with very sympathetically by the administration at the earliest possible moment. I would have dealt with it now, but I feel that until such time as we have received the report of the actuaries concerning the superannuation fund we cannot deal with it satisfactorily. The hon. member (Mr. Alexander) has referred to the question of casual and temporary men and why they have not been placed on the permanent staff. That, too, is the result of war conditions and I may say that I have every sympathy with what the hon. member has said. The staff officers are going into the whole question, and placing men on the permanent staff where a good case can be made out in regard to their efficiency and other considerations. Under the new Service Bill, which I hone to introduce next session, this question will be placed on a satisfactory basis. In the meantime, I think we can do much to ease the position of these men. The hon. member (Mr. Alexander) has also raised rather a big question, namely the question of the abolition of the police branch of the railway service. I am not prepared to commit myself at present on that question. I shall want very much more time to go into the whole matter before I am prepared to give any definite opinion upon it. The hon. member (Mr. Alexander) also raised the question of station foremen and night duty performed by these foremen. That matter will be looked into by the staff officers.
*Regarding the names of stations 1 must say I am sorry that such absurd names were given to stations in Heilbron. The administration cannot take action if the local people do not make representations, because they should be consulted on the matter. Drink is sold on the trains on Sundays, I know, but hotels also do that, and I do not know if we can put a stop to it. However much I would like to help the people who want to travel quickly between Cape Town and Johannesburg, my sympathies incline to the country people. I am giving this my attention, as it is bad business for the railways if we do not look after the convenience of the country people.
†The hon. member for Three Rivers (Mr. D M. Brown) has raised the question about the police system, and I hope he has heard my reply to the hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander). He has also raised the question of an eight-hours day with which I have dealt. The hon. member for Liesbeek (Mr. Pearce) has dealt with the question of the transit of cattle and sheep in times of drought. He seems to think the system is not sound economically, but I am quite convinced that it is one of the best things we can do.
I agree that it should be done at the expense of the State.
If the railway administration had not stepped in the stock would have died off.
We don’t want that.
Surely the railway administration has a duty to assist these farmers. We ultimately will get increased business from that stock if we save it. The hon. member has raised the question of the excess of 1 per cent which appears in the estimates with regard to the High Commissioner’s office. There is an agreement with the Treasury that we pay half as a fair portion of the expenditure. He has also raised the question of services rendered free to other departments of the State. It has been agreed to appoint a joint committee to investigate the whole matter.
*Lambs are not often conveyed by the railways, and when it is the case we allow a greater maximum than the usual number of 56 for one truck.
†The hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) has raised the question of the condition of Cape Town station, and I may say the question is under consideration. We realize that the position is unsatisfactory. He has also dealt with concessions to commercial students and although we would like to meet him we are rather in a difficulty because there are so many places which claim to be commercial schools, and also because there are so many students who are only part-time students attending these colleges. It would be a very difficult matter to discriminate between them, but in the case of bona fide students in commercial colleges, there is a very great deal to be said for them.
Might I ask the Minister to frame a condition, such as that they shall be full-time students?
Yes, the question will be further looked into. Perhaps I may be allowed to continue in English because this question is one in which many members are interested and deals with a departure from the policy of the previous Government. My predecessor introduced the system of competitive examinations in regard to the admission of apprentices. In future 50 per cent. of the apprentices will be admitted without any competitive examination. We are doing away with the competitive examination to this extent for the reason that the lads who have been in the railway service for a long time have been in charge of men who have had an opportunity of studying them during their work. Of course the educational qualification will not be totally disregarded, but a competitive examination for lads whom our foremen and engineers have been able to watch at work is unnecessary. At the same time boys from outside must have an opportunity, especially boys trained at commercial colleges, and in order to regulate their entrance, 50 per cent. of the entrants will be admitted on competitive examination. I agree with the hon. member who said that the paper set at the competitive examination last year was unsuitable. The next paper will provide a better test as to the suitability of the applicants to enter as apprentices. The hon. member for South Peninsula (Sir Drummond Chaplin) has dealt with the question of civilized labour. May I express my regret that the hon. member should have—I do not say deliberately, after all the declarations, made in this House in which we have clearly indicated that the coloured man is included under the term of civilized labour—raised the question as to whether the coloured man is included or not. The hon. member knows, as every member knows, that in the definition of civilized labour we do include the coloured man. Now what is our policy with regard to the natives? I think it is a perfectly legitimate question. You have a large number of natives in the railway service. We do not intend to discharge them. Our policy is this. All native wastage—I want to lay stress on this—will be replaced by Europeans, or by civilized labour. I include, therefore, the coloured man satisfying the civilized standard. You may say an injustice is done to the native, because you are not filling up the vacancies caused by native wastage with natives. I admit an injustice is done to this extent, but this Government is committed to a policy of civilized labour, and we must face that, but we do not do that in the spirit of throwing out the natives, and saying you have no right to work in this country. We shall go further, and hope, next session, to carry out our policy in a very concrete form. We want the native to have every opportunity to develop in his own area, but in these European areas we say we must have a civilized standard.
How about natives who have reached a civilized standard?
The native who has reached a civilized standard at present is not being dismissed.
Will he be appointed?
No. The hon. member knows that those natives who can be described as civilized labour will be a very small percentage. I want, however, to say to hon. members that if any case comes to their notice where a native has been discharged from the railway service, I shall be glad if they would bring that to my notice. It is not the policy of the department to dismiss natives. Some hon. members say that they have seen certain instructions. I am prepared to lay those instructions on the Table of the House. There is, however, the question of employment of Europeans in place of natives on our branch lines. That is not the fault of this Government, but of the late Government. They substituted European labour by natives, and that policy is being reversed. We are replacing Europeans, and displacing natives.
What about natives on branch lines in purely native areas?
I think that a very good case exists for retaining those natives in native territories. I hope that the natives will be able to find other work, and be absorbed in other channels of employment. The hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) has raised the question of station crossings. We realize that there is a danger to the public, and if we can meet him we shall be glad to do so. He also brought up the question of a motor service. If he will bring the facts to my notice, I will see if the service is justified, He has brought up a question in regard to a level crossing. It seems to me that in regard to all these level crossings a clear duty rests upon the municipalities, and we are justified in asking municipalities to contribute one half towards the cost. The improvement is also in their interest.
Where a small municipality has four or five crossings in its area it is expensive.
At the same time it cannot be expected that the railway department will do this at their sole expense.
†The hon. member for Swellendam (Mr. Buirski) has dealt with the N.C.C.R. I am afraid I cannot say more than that the matter is engaging attention. He has asked me to expedite the service on this line. I think the hon. member is in a much better position to do this than I am. If he gives me the particulars of the trains he wants expedited I will bring the matter to the notice of the general manager of the company. The hon. member for Vredefort (Mr. Munnik) has raised the question of the elevators, and asked when we are going to complete the second set of elevators. The administration do not intend proceeding with the second set until we have had an opportunity of seeing how the first set operates. Of course, the elevators have come in at rather a bad time. We have not had the record maize crop we had last year. The farmers have, however, taken very kindly to the elevator system, I am glad to say. The position is that the country elevators and the Cape Town terminal elevator have been completed, and the Durban elevator foundations are now proceeding satisfactorily. While I am dealing with this question I desire to make a statement with regard to the unfortunate difficulties which have arisen in connection with this question. With regard to the Durban elevator and the extremely unfortunate loss of public money which has been occasioned thereby I do not propose to say much as it is largely a case of “spilt milk.” The matter was very exhaustively enquired into by the commission appointed by the late Government. Their report was laid upon the Table of this House on the 25th ultimo, and the evidence taken by the commission has also been made available to members. The loss of an amount of £212,000 at a time when the country was passing through a period of depression is to be greatly deplored. The Government have given careful thought to the whole subject and have come to the conclusion that the recommendation of the general manager which was subsequently approved by the members of the board and the then Minister is an error of judgment which, however unfortunate, cannot, I think, be said to be of such a nature as to justify any further steps. As regards the consulting engineer, Mr. Littlejohn Philip, it will interest the House to learn that he has tendered his resignation from the position of consulting engineer, and that his resignation has been accepted. We do not intend appointing a new consulting engineer. The work on the Durban elevator will be carried out under the supervision of the departmental engineers. The hon. member for Springs (Mr. Allen) has raised the question of what he calls the steamrollering of municipalities. My information is that municipalities have been able to look after themselves very well. We are out only to get a fair deal for the railway, and the municipalities will get a fair deal from us. As to the question of the extension of the railway from the East Rand to Swaziland, and what the hon. member has called an “honourable agreement,” I know nothing about it, and I ask the hon. member to bring it to the notice of the railway board. When the new construction programme is being considered, the claims of the East Rand-Swaziland railway will be taken into consideration. The hon. member for Turffontein (Mr. Fordham) has dealt with the question of the industrial upheaval and what the policy of the administration is with regard to those men who took part in the strike of 1922. Let me inform him what the endorsement on the discharge certificates of these men is. It is “went on strike, eligible for re-employment.” The hon. member and some other hon. members have asked me to remove that, and they probably want me to substitute something else, but what?
“Left of their own accord.”
If hon. members want to make further recommendations regarding the endorsement on these certificates I will be prepared to receive them. The policy of the administration is to wipe out the past and to let bygones be bygones. Instructions have been issued to the departmental heads that the fact of a man having gone on strike in 1922 is not to be a bar any way to his re-employment. Now hon. members have said, “Yes, but that is not enough; the officials responsible may still consider this man to be on the black-list and not re-employable.” I wish to go further and say that if a suitable vacancy occurs, these men will be treated on their merits. If hon. members know of any special cases of hardship I would ask them to bring these to my notice—if they think there has been any victimization. Instructions have been issued not to victimize these men. Some hon. member asked me with regard to the fair wage clause. That matter is at the present time under consideration, and I am hoping that we will be able to meet the hon. member. Even if we cannot meet him with regard to the smaller towns, we may meet him with regard to the bigger towns. I am, I may say, in full agreement with the principle of the fair wage clause, and we are seeing whether it is practicable to introduce it. The hon. member also dealt with the discharge of men at the age of 60. It is the rule in the service at the present time, and I want to point out to the hon. member that if we were not to do so we would have the greatest difficulty with our other employees. They ask, and quite rightly, for promotion. You cannot only deal with one class of employee and say that the labouring class only can remain longer than 60 years; but the clerical staff are to go at 60. You must deal with the service as a whole, and I am afraid I cannot meet the hon. member, although I know there are cases of hardship. The hon. member for Germiston (Mr. G. Brown) dealt with the question of the rate on pig-iron, and pressed for a reduction. But let me point out that if we were to lower the rate on imported pig-iron we would destroy any chance the local industry had in regard to the manufacture of pig-iron. We want to see our local factories manufacture pig-iron at the earliest possible opportunity. Then he dealt with the whole question of the assistance to local industries by way of lower railway rates. While I am very sympathetic towards that, that question, when dealt with, is found to be one of the very greatest difficulty. There are so many elements and interests that are affected, that when you deal with it you run the danger of injuring either inland factories or factories at the coast. We are doing something in that direction under our system of differential rates, and are to some extent meeting our local industries. I do not say that that policy cannot be extended, and it will be considered when rates reduction as a whole is being considered. As to the work of signalmen, the hon. member stated that they worked seven days a week; but they do not; as there are special men to relieve these signalmen—so I am rather surprised that the hon. member made the statement he did. The hon. member for Three Rivers (Mr. D. M. Brown) dealt with an employee at Port Elizabeth who was convicted of defalcation. That case has not come under my notice, but the hon. member may be sure that the Accounting Department will carefully note and consider the remarks of the judge and jury in that case.
*If the hon. member for Ladismith (Mr. J. J. M. van Zyl) gives me the facts regarding a road motor service, I will consider what can be done. The same applies to the transport of mealies from Touws River. The member for Beaufort West (Mr. E. H. Louw) has raised the question of the manufacture of rolling stock in South Africa. While the Government have laid down their policy in regard to the manufacture of rolling stock in this country, we have all along realized how difficult a question it is. I am sure the announcement I want to make now will meet with the cordial approval of the hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close). I have decided to appoint a commission thoroughly to investigate this whole question. The commission will consist of the following gentlemen: The Hon. H. C. Hull (Chairman), Mr. J. G. v.d. Horst, Col. Collins, our Chief Mechanical Engineer, Mr. Wheatley, who is on pension, and who was our mechanical engineer at Salt River and Mr. Marshall, the financial assistant to the general manager. I have not the least doubt that the appointment of this commission who will advise the Government in regard to the execution of that policy will mean a step forward for South Africa. Several members have raised the question of the employment of apprentices in the railway service on the completion of their articles. While I have every sympathy with hon. members who have raised this point, they must realize that there are certain limitations to the whole question. We cannot employ these men, however sympathetic we may be to them, if we have not got the work. We have placed a further order in South Africa for more coaches to be built here and that is going to have the natural result of enlarging the scope for civilized labour in our workshops, and I hope we shall be able to absorb all the apprentices for whom we have been unable to find employment.
What about new workshops being built?
The question of new workshops will be dealt with by the commission I mentioned just now. The hon. member for Tembuland (Mr. Payn) raised the question of natives being conveyed from their own territories to the Rand. We realize that the position is unsatisfactory and I am glad to say that the 50 third-class main line saloons will be finished very soon and that that grievance will be very largely removed.
*The improvement of Stickland Halt will be inquired into. When the administration closes the water furrows, we must make the necessary provision. The gates referred to by the hon. member tor Witwatersberg (Lt.-Col. N. J. Pretorius) will have to be widened.
The Vote was agreed to.
Head 2, “Maintenance of Rolling Stock”, put and agreed to.
On Head 3, “Maintenance of Rolling Stock”, £3,577,093,
I see that rail motors come under this Head. I am very glad that the Minister has got out the motor which he has put on the Malmesbury line. I would like to know what the position is. This policy is one I strongly supported and tried to deal with when I was in office. What is the position in regard to rail motors, have you ordered any more?
I think the statement made by the Minister just now in regard to the manufacture of rolling stock and to the appointment of a commission is not very satisfactory. One does not want to prejudge the personnel of that commission. I for one would like the Minister, before the commission sits, to get the railway staff themselves together—the practical men; those who have to do the work. I want to appeal to the Minister not to allow himself to be bluffed over this matter. If the Minister is not careful, he will be misled by people, under the guise of being commissioners, to enquire into the carrying out of work in this country, into believing that the work is costing more than it really does. I would like the Minister, when this commission is appointed, to go into the question of overhead charges as far as the stores are concerned. Every practical man on the railways knows that you can never compete with overseas work until the stores system on the railways is overhauled. Quite recently we have had representations from young men who have been trained in the railway workshops and who when they have completed their apprenticeship have been told that their services were not required and who are walking the streets to-day. I want to tell the Minister what, in my opinion, is wrong. My complaint against the late Minister of Railways is that he is responsible for the deliberate policy of what he calls economy, which meant the curtailment of work that, in my opinion, was absolutely necessary.
Business was suspended at 6 p.m., and resumed at 8.5 p.m.
After the Minister’s statement it is necessary to utter a note of warning as to the danger of allowing a commission to go into the question of manufacturing rolling stock in the Union without taking certain factors into consideration. I understand that the commission will not lay down the line of policy, but will report as to the best way in which the work can be done. It has been proved that the Stores Department is being conducted on exceedingly expensive lines, and it so adds to the cost that it seriously handicaps the manufacture of articles in this country. For instance, an article, say, can be manufactured at Salt River or Pretoria for £1, but when it is reissued by the stores department that department charges it up at £2 or £2 10s., thus making it impossible for our railway workshops; to compete successfully with the oversea article. This high cost might be used as an argument to prejudice the Minister against manufacturing here. Tenders were recently asked from overseas for the manufacture of certain railway coaches. It was stated that these coaches could be landed here at what the material alone would cost in South Africa, but subsequently it was discovered that the tender was not a bona fide one, as the tenderers cut the price in order to prevent the coaches being manufactured by the Administration in this country. During the late election the late Prime Minister went to the country with a programme including the establishment of huge railway workshops at the cost of about £5,000,000. But such gigantic workshops are not necessary, because we have not been using our own workshops during the past few years to more than 75 per cent. of their capacity. Say we wanted 100 coaches—
The hon. member is not allowed to discuss policy at this stage.
I do not propose to discuss policy so much, but I was dealing with the policy of the late Government. I wanted to ask the Minister to consider, supposing he wants 50 coaches, instead of distributing their construction among the railway workshops in the Union, he should confine the work to one place, when the cost would be enormously reduced as the same patterns could be used and other economies effected. Then, say all the third-class coaches might be constructed at Salt River, and all the first-class coaches at Pretoria. Seeing that there has been a change of Government there is a long list of accumulated railway grievances, and I would suggest that it is in the interest of the Minister and the staff that it would be better to make a clean start.
Order. I must draw the hon. member’s attention to the fact that we are now discussing rolling stock.
This has a great bearing on rolling stock, as there is an enormous amount of dissatisfaction on the part of the men who make rolling stock on account of piece-work, and this matter should be brought to the attention of the grievances commission.
It is very important that we should get value for our money. It has been urged that railway replacements should be made in this country, and I do not think we can hammer often enough at the necessity of that being done.
The hon. member should discuss that on the salary of the Minister. The hon. member must confine himself to the items on the estimates.
The replacement of all that stock is involved in the question of the maintenance of our rolling stock. If we are going to replace this wornout stock the new rolling stock should be made in this country, but it has been urged that it is more costly to make the rolling stock here than to import it from overseas.
I am sorry to have to interrupt, but the hon. member is not allowed at this stage to advocate any measures the Government should adopt.
Perhaps the Minister can give us some information about the new rail motors.
Four rail car services are now in operation. One in the Cape, one in Natal, one in the Transvaal and the other in South-West Africa. In addition a rail car service will commence on Monday next between Malmesbury and Cape Town. A further rail car and steam coach will arrive in Durban next month and will be placed in service between Kelstone Junction and Fort Shepstone. There are a number of lines where rail cars can be used with advantage, and if there is justification for it they will be extended. With regard to the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow), I wish to give him the assurance that this commission which has been appointed will not deal with the policy or advisability of erecting our own rolling stock in this country. All they are asked to do is to consider the whole question, and to advise the Government as to the best means of carrying out that policy. The question of the stores department will, of course, in so far as the enquiry is affected, be dealt with by the commission, because the cost of constructing coaches in the past and in the future will naturally be considered by the commission, as they will deal with the question as a whole.
Head put and agreed to.
Head 4, “Running Expenses”, £3,735,305, put and agreed to.
On Head 5, “Traffic Expenses,” £3,738,702,
I notice under station expenses an item for goods labour and porters. I presume these are the men in the goods-sheds who are engaged discharging freight or loading, and who have been taken on under the white labour policy of the administration. In common with many others engaged in the same way they have many hardships. Hitherto they have been inarticulate and I desire to say a word on their behalf. They are engaged as unskilled labourers, and I understand on the same scale of pay as the men engaged as permanent way labourers. The maximum pay is 8s. 6d. per day amounting to £11 per month, but they have many stoppages reducing their pay to about £5 10s. per month, they have no medical allowances, and no privileges, and when there is a bank holiday in the town where they happen to be working they are compelled to lay off work—they are compelled to take a holiday, although the administration does not recognize such holiday. On the following day they have to do two days work in one, while they suffer the loss of a day’s pay. This is a matter which I think can be adjusted without drastic action on the part of the Minister. There is another point which I would like to bring to his notice, and that is that most of these men live in railway cottages which were built thirty-three years ago, and which have long since redeemed their original outlay. In fact there has been a handsome dividend on their first cost. They are now in a practically uninhabitable condition. Many of them are verminous, not through the fault of the occupier, while nothing has been done in the way of maintenance. Up to two years ago they were paying £2 odd a month for these houses, and then the rent was raised by something like another pound a month. If this “dignity of labour”, about which we hear so much, has any real meaning, it is time that those who contribute to the wealth of the country and State departments, by their labour, got some consideration, and that they will be deemed to be on the same status as human beings. If these conditions are to remain it is time we got the uncivilized class of labour to carry on under these uncivilized conditions.
On what point is the hon. member addressing the House?
On Head No. 5. These native labourers receive £4 10s. a month in addition to quarters and rations, and you must admit that they are receiving pay on a scale equal to that of the white labourers. But I understand that when there is a readjustment of personnel at any of these places they do not replace one native by one European; they replace two natives by one European. I hope that when this conference takes place, to which the Minister has referred, that some cognisance will be taken of this lower strata of white labour, and that they will have every access to the board to state their grievances. There is another grievance in connection with this class of people, they find it difficult to get transfers from one area to another. Practically 99 per cent. of these people are of the farmer class, men who have lost their land. Many of them are placed in municipal areas where they are not allowed to keep stock. They are precluded from keeping animals which reduce the cost of living, whereas they could be drafted to other areas where conditions are less onerous, and where they would have a chance of making their small earnings pan out better, I think the sons of these labourers have a prior claim with regard to selection from amongst those—
The hon. member is again discussing the policy of the Government. This is not the time for him to discuss it. He could have done so on the motion to reduce the Minister’s salary. The time for that has passed, and now the hon. member must confine himself to these items.
I have little more to say if the discussion is to be so hedged in. I am sorry I missed the opportunity to discuss this matter. There has evidently been a masterly stroke of tactics on the part of the Government because they feared a little trouble and consequent delay, from the labour benches, if opportunity occurred to ventilate these pressing needs of various railway wage earners.
I was asked on this vote to bring forward one or two minor grievances. I want to deal with the class of man who is classed as “goods labourer.” I notice that in Cape Town station there are Europeans over the age of 21 employed at the rate of 5s. 6d. a day, and no privileges. To-day I was accused by the hon. member for Von Brandis (Mr. Nathan) of making a personal attack on the ex-Minister of Railways (Mr. Jagger). I did not do anything of the sort, I said that his policy was responsible for the low rates of pay obtaining—
You are not allowed to discuss the question of policy.
I want to point out that you have white labour employees at 5s. 6d. a day, and I want to ask you to give them a living wage. If that is against the rules I am sorry.
You had an opportunity when the Minister’s salary was moved to be reduced, to discuss this matter. You are not allowed to advocate any measure which the Government should adopt, but of course you have the right to put any question to the Minister.
There is another question with regard to checkers. They complain that under the old Cape Government Railway conditions they were given privileges in the way of uniforms, which they do not get to-day. These men have got to go out in all kinds of weather and they suffer from the climatic conditions in various places, and I cannot see why they should not get overcoats, waterproofs and little things of that sort. Cannot the Minister get back to the old scale? Another matter I would like to refer to is that of foremen checkers who are keen on being placed, after a certain number of years, on the salaried staff, so that they could be entitled to the extra privileges connected therewith. Another small matter is with regard to the bonus system given to checkers in the various depots. You have two checkers, one workers at Cape Town station where there is the bonus system, which is really piece work, and this man is drawing a higher rate of pay compared with another checker who works where this system has not been introduced. You are creating two classes, where they do the same work, and they want to have the same rate of pay. It may be a small matter to hon. members, but it is a big matter to a man getting a small rate of pay.
The hon. member for Springs (Mr. Alien) has dealt, with the question of the deductions from the pay sheets—the deductions are: Super fund 6/-, sick fund 2/-, and house rent 1/6 of the salary of the employee, If there are other deductions they must be connected with insurance and other non-departmental matters. He has also dealt with the replacement of natives by Europeans, and states that two or three natives are being replaced by one European. Well, I do not know whether that is so, but if it is so, I would welcome it very much, and I am sure the hon. member would welcome it, because it would be a proof that the European is able to do more work than a native, and I would be pleased if that proves to be the case. It would solve the difficulty the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) and others have—that the employment of European labour is much more expensive.
Not so servile.
If these Europeans are not overworked and are able to do more work than the native it is a good thing. The hon. member’s plea on behalf of the lower paid men I thoroughly agree with, and, their interests should be specially guarded. Very often they are unorganized, and if the administration does not take particular care, there is a danger that their interests may be neglected. I agree that this question must be continually watched. The hon. member has also raised the question of the desirability of transfer of these men, and I agree with him. It is wrong to bring too many of these, men into the cities, as they work for a wage which cannot be called civilized. I am hoping that we will be able to draft these men back to branch lines and so give them an opportunity there. The hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) has raised the question of the wages of European labourers. While in sympathy with him, we must not make the employment of European labourers on the railways too attractive, because if you do so, men who ought to remain in the country will be drifting into the towns. It is a difficult matter, because once you have taken them into your employ you must pay them a living wage, and 5/6 a day is a very low wage for a European with a family. We must pay them as high a wage as we can, afford. Let me tell the hon. member what the policy of the department is. It is, that these men should be encouraged to improve their positions in the railway service, and to improve the position of their children. If there is promotion, these men should have the preference, and the European labourer who shows that he is willing to get on—by attending night classes and, putting his back into his work—such a man should get promotion. If married men are to remain European labourers all their lives, I quite agree with the hon. member opposite that that, makes the whole position impossible. The number of applicants has really been alarming, and we have not been able to place 5 per cent. of the men who have applied to the staff office and the administration during the past few months. That is a most serious position, and until such time as the conditions of the country improve, we have to go very carefully, and not bring too many of these people into the towns. I am glad to say that the experiment of employing European boys in our workshops and on the railway in general has proved a great success. The reports from the mechanical engineers, Stationmasters and the like are very encouraging, and they say that these boys are showing an intelligent interest in their work. There is one thing about this experiment that pleases me very much, namely, that the men concerned are taking a keen, sympathetic interest in these boys. Unless the older men take an interest in these boys, our experiment is not going to meet with success. We intend continuing the programme which we have laid down, and we are hoping that these lads when they have been in the shops some time will improve their positions by attending night classes, so that the administration will be justified in promoting them, and I hope that the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow), the hon. member for Springs (Mr. Allen) and other hon. members who come into Contact with these lads Will impress that upon them.
I would like to ask the Minister a question. I hope I misunderstood him when he said that the policy of European labour could be only a temporary one.
Perhaps I had better clear that point up.
I hope the Minister realizes that in South Africa there is such a thing as natural inequality amongst our citizens, and unless you provide some avenue of employment for so-called skilled and semi-skilled labour on a civilized standard—
The hon. member may ask a question.
Yes, I am asking him whether he understands that it is necessary in order to absorb the working class in every sphere of our national life that there will be avenues of employment for these people—
No. I am afraid the hon. member cannot.
I won’t pursue it.
When I referred to temporary employment I referred to particular men. The department will continue to engage European labourers. My point was that these men should not be satisfied to remain labourers, but should be continually advancing in the service.
Head put and agreed to.
Head 6, “Superannuation”, £348,000, put and agreed to.
Head 7, “Cartage Service”, £359,527, put and agreed to.
Head 8, “Depreciation of Permanent Way and Works and Rolling Stock”, £1,500,000, put and agreed to.
Head 9, “Catering Service”, £594,034, put and agreed to.
On Head 10, “Bookstalls and Advertising”, £153,578,
I would like to ask the Minister, I see under the head Advertising the sum of £4,500—commission. Is it customary to allow stationmasters a commission on advertising?
I would like to ask the Minister, is he aware of the fact that the Publicity department is making a big profit? As far as I know, the young ladies employed at the bookstalls are being paid at a low rate of pay—£6 per month, on which they have to live and dress decently—and I think it is impossible to live on that pay.
In reply to the hon. member for Liesbeek (Mr. Pearce), I may say that we allow 15 per cent. to advertising canvassers on new business and 10 per cent. on renewals. As regards railway Officials, they get 10 per cent. on new business and 71/2 per cent. on renewals. We do allow officials commission.
Officials who bring advertising business to the department get commission.
It is, I would urge, a wrong principle to allow a stationmaster to get part of his income from commissions on advertising. I think when we employ a man in such a responsible position we should pay him enough salary, without his increasing it by a side line.
I would like to know from the Minister whether the posters put up on the railway during the election time were paid for?
Yes. These posters were paid for, and I am sure it was good business for the department. As regards the young ladies employed at the bookstalls, I will have that question looked into.
I would like to ask the Minister about the item under “Automatic machines” of Salaries and wages, £750?
That is for supervision from the head office. Someone must go round and collect the money from these machines.
Head put and agreed to.
Head 11, “Bedding Equipment of Trains,” £41,695, put and agreed to.
On Head 12, “Grain Elevators”, £244,755,
I would like to raise a question under the item of salaries and wages. We paid a visit to the elevator here at the docks and I must say it was a very instructive and edifying experience. While I was there I heard mention of the wages which were being offered to skilled mechanics who had worked on the construction of that elevator to carry on the maintenance and operation, and they were certainly below the standard rates obtaining outside the railway service. Whether it is the minimum scale that is offered within the service I cannot say.
What is the meaning of the item “Compensation,” £2,000?
In reply to the hon. member for Springs (Mr. Allen), all the mechanics there are paid standard rates, that is 18s., the coastal rate. As regards the question raised by the hon. member for Maritzburg (South) (Mr. O’Brien), this vote is to provide for workmen’s compensation for injuries and so forth.
Head put and agreed to.
Head 13, “Road Motor Services”, £16,429, put and agreed to.
Head 14, “Interest on Capital”, £4,216,700, put and agreed to.
Head 15, “Interest on Superannuation and other Funds”, £358,805, put and agreed to.
Head 16, “Charges in respect of Lines Leased”, £13,500, put and agreed to.
On Head 17, “Miscellaneous Expenditure”, £73,746,
I understand that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction in Durban in the railway department in connection with the question of local allowance. I would urge the Minister before coming to any decision with regard to the allowance in the outside and the suburban areas to take an opportunity of seeing the men and discussing the matter with them. If he does that, I am certain that some amicable arrangement can be fixed up.
I wish to refer to the £20,000 which is to be voted above the one per cent, on the value of material shipped through the High Commissioner’s office. I would like to know whether in the event of this country manufacturing more of its own requirements and the purchases through the High Commissioner’s office in London being deceased, a further sum will have to be granted by the railway department to the High Commissioner’s office? I take it that will be the logical sequel. You are paying one per cent. on the value of goods shipped and when that does not amount to 50 per cent. of the total expenses you make it up by giving an extra £20,000. I believe that no other department pays that. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs, which also uses the High Commissioner’s office for purchases, pays nothing. My point is, if the Minister manufactures his rolling stock in this country, what will he contribute to the upkeep of the High Commissioner’s office?
In reply to the hon. member for Durban (Umbilo) (Mr. Reyburn), I would state that we will enquire into this matter and we will probably include some of the suburbs of Durban. The matter is being dealt with now. In answer to the hon. member for Liesbeek (Mr. Pearce), I may say that we pay one-half of the costs of the High Commissioner’s office. We charge one per cent. on material to meet this. The hon. member is interested to know what our policy will be when once we manufacture our own stock in this country? Well, I think the hon. member may “wait and see.” Certainly I quite agree with him that, when we come to that stage, the whole policy will have to be reconsidered. I hope by that time, as far as we are concerned, we shall be able to abandon the High Commissioner’s office to the Minister of Finance. I am considering the question to make our tenders returnable in South Africa in future.
I would like to know how it is that the other departments do not pay their pro rata share to the upkeep of the High Commissioner’s office. The railways pay 50 per cent. Is it fair that the other departments do not pay likewise?
The other departments do pay. They pay 50 per cent. and we pay 50 per cent. Undoubtedly the railway department to-day benefits very largely by the work of the High Commissioner’s office.
Head put and agreed to.
Head 18, “Contribution to Betterment Fund”, £250,000, put and agreed to.
Head 19, “Contribution to reduce deficiency in Pension Fund”, £83,700, put and agreed to.
Head 19/1, “Contribution to reduce value of stores stock”, £100,000, put and agreed to.
Head 20, “Maintenance and Upkeep”, £458,967, put and agreed to.
On Head 21, “Traffic Working”, £61,606,
I would like to ask whether it is correct that the stevedores at the docks pay their coloured employees 8s. 6d. a day while the Government pay the same class of men for the same class of work 4s. 6d. a day?
That is the position. We pay 4s 6d, but I may tell the hon. member that all the companies do not pay 8s. 6d. I understand there are a few who do so.
Head put and agreed to.
Head 22, “General Charges”, £20,734, put and agreed to.
Head 23, “Superannuation”, £12,870, put and agreed to.
Head 24, “Depreciation”, £53,553, put and agreed to.
Head 25, “Subsidiary Services—Lighthouses, Beacons and Signal Stations”, £44,423, put and agreed to.
Head 26, “Interest on Capital”, £403,549, put and agreed to.
Head 27, “Miscellaneous Expenditure”, £8,754, put and agreed to.
Head 28, “Steamships”, £209,375, put and agreed to.
Head 29, “Interest on Capital”, £12,135, put and agreed to.
Head 30, “Miscellaneous Expenditure”, £200, put and agreed to.
Estimates of Expenditure from the Railways and Harbours Fund to be reported without amendment.
Loan Estimates [U.G. 29—’24].
Loan Vote A, “Railways and Harbours”, £5,750,000, put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote B, “Public Works”, £540,000,
The condition of affairs at the Wynberg magistrate’s court is very deplorable. There is only one court room, and when a second court is necessary it has to be held in a very small room. The witnesses have to wait in the rain and justice is administered under very great difficulties. There is a yard there which might be roofed over and thus supply an additional court room. I move that the item of £1,500 for mechanicians’ workshops and garage accommodation for the Cape Town post office be deleted as I understand the money is not to be spent this year.
For what purpose is the vote of £2,975, adaption of military buildings, King William’s Town, to be spent. We have a very extensive and valuable building at King William’s Town, and I understand that the alterations have been completed and we are most anxious that the building should be utilized for child welfare work.
With regard to the question of the hon. member for King William’s Town (Maj. Ballantine) I may state that this money is for the completion of alterations and not for equipment, which will have to be provided by the child welfare society which will have to fit the place out. I hope the hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) will on press his amendment for the deletion of the item of £1,500. It is generally admitted that the magistrate’s court at Wynberg is very unsatisfactory, and it is in order to make it a little more satisfactory that the money is to be spent. I hope hon. members will ask the respective Ministers why money is being spent, and if those Ministers cannot answer then fall back on me.
With reference to the item “extensions to sorting office at Germiston station, £5,000.” I hope the work will be finished before the rush of Christmas traffic takes place.
This is a new work, the total cost of which is estimated at £12,300, and as only £5,000 is to be spent this year I am afraid there is no hope of the new sorting office being ready by the Christmas holidays.
I see there is an item of £1,500 under the Forestry Vote for quarters at Kentani. I hope the Minister will scrutinize this expenditure. To spend £1,500 on this purpose is a waste of public money and a couple of huts costing £50 or £100 would suit the Forestry officer just as well. He is getting only about £12 or £13 a month and will have to pay a high rent to reimburse the department.
I do not see any provision on the estimates for the building of a new Art Gallery in Cape Town.
You can only mention the things that are here. There has been no accommodation at Kentani for afforestation, and now we are making provision, the hon. member for Tembuland (Mr. Payn) is complaining.
To spend £1,500 on a small cottage is absurd.
If the hon. member can prove that this is not necessary I hope he will see me and we will go into the matter. In the meantime the Forest Department say it is essential.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote C, “Telegraphs and Telephones,” £650,000,
A telegraph line is being built from Touws River to Ladismith, and I hope the poles will be large enough to have a telephone line attached to them later on, because Ladismith and Calitzdorp have no telephonic connection with Cape Town. I would also like to see a telephone line to a certain group of farms and also to the group of Agryskraal, Muurkraal, Annaskraal and Okertskraal. The inhabitants of Montagu complain that they are charged at trunk line rates if they call up Ashton—five miles away.
I cannot promise to guarantee telephones or telegraphs for every kraal, but in reply to the hon. member might I make a general statement on this Vote. With regard to the request made by him, he knows that I am making representations to the railway department to see that the poles will be heavy enough. This sum of £650,000 which the House is called upon to vote, is part of the general programme extending over three years. Last year £500,000 was voted for telegraph and telephone construction in South Africa. This year it is a sum of £650,000, and next year it will be between £500,000 and £600,000. As I said, this is a three years’ programme of telegraph and telephone construction all over the Union. It is impossible for me to say whether we shall put one in this kraal or that. We have considered all the representations made from every part of the country, and we have sent out our inspectors to examine each case on its merits, and are proceeding to spend money in respect of these particular places, where the claim has been pressing and urgent, and where it will be good business for the department to carry it out. We have canvassers going round explaining the advantages of the farm telephone system to the farmers, and they are taking it up all over the country. The farmers provide the labour and the transport, while we provide the material, engineers and skilled workmen. They are then charged 10 per cent. per mile of the capital cost. They all club together on the 10 per cent. which is put into a pool and divided up accordingly. There are 237 telegraph extensions in this vote. Many of these places I have never heard of before, and I am sure there are members here who have never heard of them either. If there is any member of the House,—I do not think there is one,—who has not been to me and has asked me for telegraph or telephone facilities, I assure him he will get the same consideration as those who have been to me. We take all details down, then we send out inspectors and they report on each proposition.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote D, “Lands and Settlements”, £520,000,
I move: To omit paragraphs (a) and (b) of item 2, “Hartebeestpoort Irrigation Settlement” and to substitute “Survey, General Development and Expenditure connected with Probationary Lessees, £70,000.”
I would like some information about item 4, £20,000 for native Settlement. The Prime Minister said, the other day, that he was purchasing farms for the settlement of natives, and I would like to know if the Minister can give us any information on that.
This comes to my department from Native Affairs Department, only because I can buy land. Generally speaking, the natives sometimes buy farms and when they are not able to pay the whole of the purchase price, it has happened that the seller gets back the farm. The Native Affairs Department pays the money for the native, and the native pays it back over a period of four or five years. I am only doing it for the Native Affairs Department.
Vote, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote E, “Irrigation,” £769,000,
I would like to point out to the Minister that the farmers in the Hay district are badly in want of boring machines, as water is very necessary, especially with a view to combating the locust pest. I see an enormous sum is placed on the Estimates, and I hope the Government will have something left for Hay.
We receive applications for boring machines from all parts of the country. The Government pays 40 per cent. of the costs of the boreholes, and all claims will be taken into consideration.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote F, “Local Works and Loans”, £2,402,600,
I would like some information with regard to the sum of £550,000, advances to the Electricity Supply Commission, and what are the schemes at present?
The Scheme at present is for Witbank, Cape Town and Sabie, and the money is being advanced to the electricity commission and will be recovered in due Course. The estimated cost is £2,750,000.
They are borrowing the money from the Government?
That is the better thing to do. I suppose the commission will supply a report each year.: It is a big lot of money they are getting to spend, and the House is entitled to some report for the next financial year. There is another point. There is £100,000 for unemployment advances. Perhaps the Minister of Labour will give me some information on this.
The £100,000 is provided out of this amount. We are making loans to the provinces for certain capital works, and for this they got some money out of the Unemployment Vote for white labour. The balance is made up out of the labour vote.
I was under the impression that the industrial schools were under the supervision and control of the Provincial Council, and I would like to know why under this vote provision is being made for Ugie industrial schools. It seems to me that there is a change of policy here.
This loan is issued to the Schools in terms of an old Cape Act, section 7 of Act No. 10 of 1909, for the purpose of redeeming a debt due by the school. Under the provisions of the Cape Act they are entitled to come here and ask for a loan. It is recommended by the provincial administration. It is a school with about 300 children, and the loan is repayable over a period of 40 years. The property and buildings are valued at £40,000.
Does it mean that the Union Government is going to take over the industrial policy under the Provincial Council?
No, they came to us under the old Cape Act. We were committed to this by the late Government. My predecessor promised this loan.
I would be glad if the Minister can give me some information about B. The Wynberg municipality is anxious to have some money for the purpose of building houses for coloured people, and these houses are very badly wanted in that neighbourhood as there is a great deal of overcrowding, and the difficulty the municipality is in is that although granted £10,000 that amount was not taken up and they were riot then prepared to carry out the scheme, and the result is that the administrator has had at his disposal sufficient money unallocated to give them the money they require. I would like to know whether a fixed amount is allocated to the provinces, or whether, as the year goes on, further applications can be made?
The administration of the Housing Act Loans falls under the Minister of the Interior. I can only tell the hon. member generally that the amount issued up to the end of March last was £868,000—the issued 1923-1924 Was £404,000—and the requirements 1924-1925, £610,000, and the balance to be provided next year to complete the whole scheme is £499,000.
The sum on the Estimates here is provided for the whole of the Union and allocations take place through the Central Housing Board which is constituted, as the hon. member will know, in accordance with the Housing Act of 1920. The Central Housing Board receives applications all the year round—under section 5 of the Housing Act from local authorities, and under section 6, applications may be made by companies, societies or by individuals—but the allocations take place by the board, to which applications must be sent.
Do they require the intervention of the Provincial Administration? Cannot Wynberg apply?
Yes, I think so. That may be done.
May I say for the information of the Minister I have a letter from the Provincial Administration stating that the greater portion of the £10,000 is now being allocated elsewhere, and as far as that administration is concerned no fresh application had been received from Wynberg, and it is necessary for the council to make a further formal application. Is it possible now for the municipality to make application with the hope of getting it this year?
No, I may inform the hon. member that if it was allocated and not taken up, it may be availed of this year.
Vote put and agreed to.
Loan Vote G, “Land and Agricultural Bank”, £700,000, put and agreed to.
Loan Vote H, “Forestry”, £203,000, put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote J, “Native Affairs”, £2,000,
I would like some explanation as to what this amount is to be expended upon. It is a huge contribution to native affairs of the country.
It is expended in terms of the Native Locations Act of 1912. The treasury provides this fund to the Minister of Native Affairs for his department to give advances to the natives under the Act, which has been passed.
They have to repay this amount though.
Yes, it is loan money.
In the loan estimates we are spending £12,831,000 on development, and a noble sum of £2,000 for native affairs, and I hope the Minister will recognize and see that as we have six million natives in the country something more should be done for them in future, and not spend a paltry sum like £2,000.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote K, “Defence”, £114,000, put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote L, “Agriculture”, £27,000,
Does it not seem rather singular that we should have £10,000 for a sugar experimental Station in Natal—a wealthy industry like sugar in Natal? I can understand it in the case of tobacco, but a wealthy industry like sugar!
I may just explain to the hon. member that the position in Natal with the sugar plantations is this: There is a certain disease in the sugarcane and grower and manufacturer came to the Government and asked for an experimental station. The Government has decided that through putting a levy on sugar it would advance £10,000 to erect such an experimental station, and the loan would be, according to the terms, free of interest for 5 years, and after 5 years the Government will have to decide in what period of time the loan will have to be paid back. They agreed that we should bring in a Bill next year for a levy on sugar.
I think my hon. friend should also say that he should get the interest as well. That it should be free of interest beats me entirely. Well, it does seem to me strange in a wealthy industry like this that it should come and take £10,000 from the Government, and then get it free of interest. I must say that I am astonished that my hon. friend has not more regard for the interests of the state.
I might just explain that the terms were made by the previous Government, and if anyone is guilty of an offence it is my predecessor in office! But we did not think it would be right to say “no” at the present moment.
Is there any safeguard so that this levy will not be passed on to the consumer?
I cannot assure the hon. member that will not be the case. I will have to go into the matter, but I do not think so, because the consumer and the producer both agree to this levy.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote M, “Special Advances to Provincial Administrations”, £1,044,000,
I would like to refer to number 2 on this Vote: Cape of Good Hope, advance for capital of Requisite Store £60,000. Now I am very sorry that the Government had allowed their better judgment to give way over this matter.
I did not grant it.
If the Minister of Finance does not approve of it, will he accept an amendment?
I said I did not grant it. It was paid out by the previous Government—long ago.
Already been paid out? It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. What are we asked to come here for—. to approve of a sum of money and it is gone already! It is perfectly clear that the money on the requisite store is money wasted and lost. Here in the Cape Province we have no money with which to put up school buildings, and I was hoping that the Minister of Finance would agree to vote this money towards the building of schools both for European and coloured people. This requisite store can only be justified on the basis that it is saving the money of the taxpayer. So far from being a saving of the taxpayers’ money, it is a waste of the taxpayers’ money. The criticism of the Commission on the claim of the provincial authorities that they were saving the taxpayers’ money was that the claims was “fantastic.” It is fantastic. In their last accounts which were recently published the Provincial Administration produced what they called a profit and loss account. I would ask the treasury if they are going to give any more money of this kind away to demand that a properly qualified accountant should examine the figures of the requisite store. For instance, in this marvellous profit and loss account they have an item of rent, interest and redemption £481. Now they have got stock valued at £95,000 and it must make the mouth of the Minister of Finance water to think that they can hold £95,000 worth of capital and have only this one little item of interest £481. Then they have purchased a building for which they paid £17,000. The interest on rent is not made a charge in this account at all. They give an item on the other side called “overhead charges £7,000”. This estimated profit seemingly is a charge they would have made to people who purchased requisites if they were paid for, but they were not. They were free issues so that this is purely a book entry on the profit and loss account of £7,000. If this profit and loss account had been prepared by the veriest tyro in accountancy, instead of showing what is called a gross profit of this amount it would have shown a very substantial loss and the taxpayer of this country is paying for it. In addition they have £21,000 worth of book debts, which it is very doubtful whether they are worth anything like the money put down. This valuation of the stock has not been taken on anything like a business basis for over two years. In addition to that, when most of these goods are purchased no tenders are called for in South Africa; an open order is sent over to the High Commissioner who purchases the goods. Surely we ought to give the people in this country a chance of doing any business that is to be done, and it is ridiculous to suggest that the provincial administration are so certain they are buying in the right market that they need not ask any man on this side to tender. It seems to me an impossible position that the whole of this requisite store business has been taken out of all form of control and simply rash statements are made professing that the thing is run on a payable basis when any business man knows it is run at a loss. As regards the question of the value of the goods, this store was started in 1919. In 1919 and 1920 prices were at their peak. As the markets came down naturally the store purchased goods at a lower price than they were paying to merchants on this side in 1919 and 1920. That is the way they make out the enormous saving that they have made to the country. They would have made the same and even greater savings if they had used their ordinary sources of supply subsequently to 1919 and 1920. The thing is a farce. As regards the question of the despatch of goods, the administration used to have free transit of goods both on the railways and through the post office, but when the Minister of Railways in the last Government found that out, being a business man he said he wanted to be paid for this job and he insisted that they should pay the usual freight charges on the goods they sent by the railways, less a discount of about 20 or 25 per cent. What did the Provincial Administration do then? They said: “We will send all our goods by parcel post, because we have got some kind friends in the post office who won’t charge us anything for it at all”. Suppose they want to send goods to the weight of 200 lbs., they now take those goods and divide them into 20 parcels of 10 lbs. each and send them down to the post office. The post office do the whole of the work for nothing. They put the goods on board the railway train and pay the railways for carrying these goods for nothing. Of all methods of saving money, this seems to me absolutely Gilbertian, and I do hope that this Government will see that some sense is brought into this matter. As regards their stock, they say that they make no bad stock.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. His time has expired.
It is very amusing to hear the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) criticizing this vote. Was it not a representative of the same party which the hon. member belonged to who brought this scheme into operation? but needless to say, at the present time it is proving a boon, especially to the mission schools in the Cape Province. Not only that, but the remarks which the hon. member (Mr. Stuttaford) has made that it did not support Colonial industry are, I think, wide of the mark. I believe that all the desks, blackboards, easels, and all the requirements as far as possible are made in Cape Town by South African labour. If there is any boon at all it has been created by that department having its requirements, as far as possible, manufactured here, Before this department was created we found that everything that was needed for the schools were imported. As regards the profit or otherwise, I think my hon. friend (Mr. Stuttaford) will agree with me that figures can prove anything; it is the difference of point of view. We have persons in authority who will be able to prove that this store has been a financial success. We find that not only in the Cape Province but also in the Transvaal this system has been a success, and I for one approve of this vote and I appreciate the good work which the requisite store has been able to carry out in this province.
One can realize the difficulty that the Minister may feel in discussing a question of policy which primarily concerns a provincial administration. I hardly think it is possible to expect him to give any reply which will meet the very strong criticisms which have been made in another place in regard to the continuance of this requisite store. I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister a point which does arise from his reply. He has told us that this sum of £60,000 has already been paid out. That apparently indicates that at some previous stage a debt of £60,000 had been incurred by the Cape Provincial Administration, probably in the form of an overdraft from its bankers, in order to provide working capital for this requisite store. It is very probable that the existence of that debt has not been disclosed in the published accounts of the provincial administration. In other words, we have here again, it seems to me, an illustration of the system that was pursued by the Cape Provincial Administration with such unsatisfactory results in the case of the school board deficits. The Minister will see that in 1923-’24 it was necessary to vote a sum of £600,000 to cover a debt which had been incurred by the Cape Provincial Administration without, as it appeared afterwards, any knowledge on the part of the great majority of the members that debt existed at all, and what is of more importance, without the existence of that debt being shown in the published accounts of the administration. It seems to me that the Minister would be able to take one step to ensure that year by year the liabilities of each provincial administration, if they do exist, should be shown in the form of a balance sheet or detailed statement. He has the power by regulation to lay down in what form the report of the provincial auditor shall be presented to each administration. I put it to the Minister that it was an extraordinary system of accountancy under which it was possible for four years in the Cape to show surpluses when in point of fact those surpluses did not exist if account were taken of the debts to the various institutions, banking and otherwise, which had lent money to the school boards. There was a statutory duty on the administration to discharge year by year the deficits that might arise on school board account which it failed to discharge and which omission was not disclosed to the council at the time it should have been. One of the reasons why there is this continued criticism of the requisite store is that members of the Provincial Council and, I believe, large sections of the public, have no confidence in the figures which are published for their edification, at any rate so far as this requisite store is concerned. I would ask the Minister to consider whether, if that is correct, he would not make, it clear (seeing that the provincial auditor is appointed by Parliament and is subject to its jurisdiction) by regulation that he (the provincial auditor) shall be required to state what sums may be due by the administration or any hospital boards in the form of loans from its bankers and what sums the administration has been borrowing, stating the amount of that indebtedness in such detailed form that it can be subjected to revision and criticism at the hands of the Provincial Council. So far as the requisite store is concerned a large number of persons are entirely dissatisfied with the figures that were published. The question whether or not the policy of maintaining a requisite store is correct cannot be dealt with until correct figures, intelligible to the commercial and accounting mind, are made available. The correctness of the accounting methods of the administrations is a matter intimately concerning the Minister. He will be called on, after the 31st March next, to make provision by way of a loan or otherwise, for a deficit of £400,000. He will, I feel sure, desire to be satisfied that in that deficit there has been no avoidable waste or extravagance and that the conspectus of the finances of the provincial administrations that may be presented to him is complete and reflects the whole of the financial position.
I cannot express an opinion on the running of the Cape Provincial requisite stores. The stores are being run by the provincial administration under the rights the provinces possess under the institution. The £60,000 is not a sum which I approved of, but it was authorized under the Financial Relations Act.
It is not a deficit on capital account.
I presume that it was gone into by my predecessor, when it was agreed that the Cape should get this £60,000. I will look into the question of accounts when the whole question of the financial policy is considered. If large liabilities have not been disclosed by the Cape administration that is a serious state of affairs, and I will look into it and also into the way in which the requisite store has been conducted and whether there has been a waste or not and whether the whole thing is justified, and I shall discuss it with the provincial administration. The hon. member has raised the question of purchases made by the Cape administration outside this country. The whole question of Government purchases I intend discussing next month with the Chamber of Commerce at Johannesburg, and if Government decides to follow a particular line I suppose the provincial administrations will fall into line, although we cannot dictate to them. We will, however, see that proper financial methods are adopted by the provincial people in regard to the running of requisite stores.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Loan Vote N, “Relief of Distress”, £100,000,
Fortunately the amount which has to be used for drought relief has been increased to £300,000. Much damage has been caused by locusts, and I would like to know whether the Drought Relief Act could not be made applicable in cases of devastation by locusts. If that cannot be done, I hope the Government will introduce a Bill next year to make provision for it.
The Land Bank controls the amount. The agricultural department has to declare what is a drought district, which is in accordance with the law passed some months ago. Only then can the Land Bank help.
How much stands to the credit of the account?
I cannot at the moment give the information, but will supply it later on to the hon. member.
Vote, as increased, amounting to £300,000, put and agreed to.
“Defence Endowment Account”, £63,250, put and agreed to.
Estimates of Expenditure from Loan Funds (including the Defence Endowment Account) [U.G. 29—’24] to be reported with amendments.
The CHAIRMAN brought up the report of the Committee of Supply, reporting the Estimates of Expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund [U.G. 31—’24], with an amendment; the Estimates of Expenditure from railway and harbour funds [U.G. 33—’24], without amendment; and the Estimates of Expenditure from Loan Funds (including the Defence Endowment Account [U.G. 29—24], with amendments.
Report considered and amendments adopted, and two Bills were brought up.
Appropriation (1924-’25) Bill read a first time; second reading to-morrow.
Railways and Harbours Appropriation 1924-’25) Bill read a first time; second reading to-morrow.
The House adjourned at