House of Assembly: Vol2 - SATURDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 1924
I wish to state that the Select Committee on War Pensions called for copies of all circulars issued by the Treasury, through its Pensions Department and the medical officers, dealing with war pensions. As, however, the circulars were received by the Clerk of the House after the Committee had concluded its labours, I now lay them upon the Table.
First Order read, Second Reading, Appropriation (1924-’25) Bill.
I move—That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
There are two points I would like to raise. I find from this morning’s paper that a Trade Commissioner for Europe has been appointed in succession to Mr. Karl Spilhaus The gentleman named as Mr. Spilhaus’ successor is Mr. Charles Pienaar, Principal Government Attorney at the Union Buildings. There seems to be some doubt whether the Government has been wise in its choice. Perhaps the Minister will give us some indication as to the reason why a gentleman of the legal profession has been appointed to this position, as it is generally said that lawyers know nothing about commerce. Why has Mr. Pienaar been selected in view of the fact that there are commercial men available who would have been more fitted for the position? There is another article in this morning’s “Cape Times” I would like to refer to; it is headed “A Crimes Factory.” I am not going to say whether Cape Town or Johannesburg is a bigger manufactory of crime, but it is very surprising to read the figures supplied by the Commissioner of Police. In 1920, 2,755 juveniles under the age of 21 were sentenced to imprisonment in Cape Town, and in 1923, the number rose to 3,700. I do not think that the reasons for this increase which are assigned by the Commissioner are sufficient, and there must be some other cause for this tremendous increase. I hope the Minister will tell us whether he has gone into the matter, or whether he proposes to do so to see what can be done to stop this enormous increase.
I do not quite agree that we could have got dozens of commercial men to fill the position of Trade Commissioner in Europe, but I think a suitable commercial man could have been got. It does not seem very strange that a gentleman who knows nothing about commerce, but who is a first-class lawyer, should have been selected for a post in which a knowledge of trade and commerce will be absolutely necessary.
I think the Department of Justice is losing a very good man in Mr. Pienaar, but I do not agree that he will not be able to perform the duties of Trade Commissioner. During the war he had very great experience in the working of the Enemy Property Act and his task took him all over the Continent. I understand that in America men with legal training are often given positions in large commercial concerns. I would ask the Minister of Labour to give us some information in regard to the present position of the Building strike in this city and as to whether the masters are prepared to accept a reasonable suggestion which the men express their willingness to adopt viz.: that the matters in dispute should be settled by a Judge of the Supreme Court, and two assessors selected by the contending parties.
I would like to ask on this the last day of the session what the Government’s intention is in regard to appointing the commission that was promised last session when the then Prime Minister introduced the Wine Control Bill. On that occasion the Prime Minister of the day sketched the conditions in which the wine industry found itself, and, after emphasizing the great importance that the wine industry was, and the material factor that it constituted in the economic life of the Union, more particularly the Western Province, he dwelt on the matter of the considerable overproduction, showing how necessary it was that there should be control and regulation of the industry. He said it was a matter of urgency that immediate action should be taken and that was why he introduced that drastic Control Bill. But the matter could not be allowed to rest there. It would be necessary to appoint a strong Commission of Enquiry which would take evidence from all the interested parties, both the producers and trade, so that some direction could be given, otherwise we might in a few years, if we allowed matters to drift, find ourselves in exactly the same position again. There was no dissentient voice raised in the House with regard to the necessity of an enquiry. The Prime Minister then said that he would appoint a capable commission to go into the matter, but that it was necessary in the meantime to stabilize the trade, otherwise there would be collapse and ruin. There is very great room for an enquiry. Those in whom control of the industry has been vested took what steps they could to divert some of the products of the grape into other uses than wine. They have done that at great expense and are now bearing the sacrifice. We find that the Control Act also makes provision that after June, 1928, 25 per cent. of your spirit are going into the market must be matured spirit. This will for the next couple of years throw a very considerable burden on the wine industry, and it constituted one of the reasons why this Commission was promised. We are drifting on, you might almost say, in the dark, and what I would impress on the Government is, that since on all hands it was then considered necessary that you should have some enquiry, it is now necessary that something should be done to redeem the then Prime Minister’s promise that a strong Commission of enquiry would be appointed. I would be pleased if the Government can give me an assurance that this matter is receiving attention. You want a strong commission, not partisan on one side or the other. The wine trade is a restricted trade. There are many matters which should be enquired into, one of them being the question as to whether the producer is getting his fair share of the price paid by the consumer for the product.
I would like to ask the Minister of Defence whether there is anything in the report in the “Natal Mercury” about Gen. Brits and Gen. Beves being retired and, if it is correct, whether he will state to the House the reason for giving them notice, whether it is a matter of re-organization or replacement.
At the Congress of the Agricultural Union in Pretoria a prominent farmer, Mr. Geere, was approached by Commandant Wilkens and Colonel Williams, who offered him the post of locust officer for Krugersdorp. Mr. Geere was recommended by his local farmers’ association, two-thirds of the members of which were Nationalists. He was then appointed by Mr. de Kock and commenced immediately with his work. Five days after that, however, he received a telegram from Mr. de Kock cancelling his appointment, as the Minister of Agriculture refused to confirm it. Mr. Sarel Alberts was appointed in his place. I have nothing against Mr. Alberts, as we all know him, but it is very unfair to dismiss a man who was approved of by the whole district and who was approached by the Government. That was an unnecessary insult to Mr. Geere, and the whole district will be dissatisfied.
I want to support what has been said by the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander), with regard to the present position of the building strike in Capetown. I feel that something more should be done to bring this unfortunate dispute to an end. So far as one can see, this strike originally was absolutely unnecessary. It seems to me that enquiries should be made as to how far personal antipathies are operating to prevent the two parties from coming to a settlement. I see in the “Cape Times” this morning a letter from the Master Builders’ Association stating that the Minister has been misinformed. This letter also states that this strike should not be settled by the local Master Builders, but that it is a national matter. If this local dispute is being made a national matter by the Master Builders’ Association, then I think there is a great and urgent need for the Government to intervene in some way, so as to prevent it from becoming a national matter, as it may otherwise develop into a National Strike or National Lock-out, with disastrous results to South Africa.
I will reply to the hon. member for Ermelo (Col.-Cdt. Collins), in a few words. Yes, the information is perfectly correct. Those officers are part-time officers and, discussing the matter with my department, I have come to the conclusion that these appointments are unnecessary. In accordance with the contract a year’s notice is being given. We believe that the inspection and training can perfectly well be done with the ordinary full-time staff at our command.
I was going to ask you about the Commandants. Is there any idea of sending them about their business?
I have explained to the House exactly what I am doing in that matter in Committee of Supply. In regard to the matter mentioned by the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander) and the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow), as to the strike in Cape Town, the Master Builders’ Association have been good enough to send me a copy of the letter which is published in the Press. I can only say that that was my information, given to the House in entire good faith and from what I was informed by my Inspectors of White Labour. That clearly was the impression under which the mens’ representatives left the meeting on Wednesday afternoon. I adhere to my statement the other day that I think there was a lack of diplomacy at all events on the masters’ side in not either making it perfectly clear so that there could be no possibility of misapprehension on the point, that they were not going to meet the next day to discuss that matter or that they were meeting and discussing and seeing how far they could go. That was on the afternoon of Thursday week. Subsequently on Tuesday in this week, I think it was, a gentleman came to me with another suggestion which I thought was quite worth putting into operation, and the Inspector of White Labour addressed the following letter to the two parties:
- (1) That all factors in the dispute be submitted forthwith to the final arbitrament of a Judge of the Supreme Court, who shall be assisted (in an advisory capacity only) by two assessors, one to be appointed by the masters and the other by the men. The Judge’s award shall have effect as from the first way of the strike.
- (2) Upon acceptance of Clause 1 by both contesting parties, work shall at once be resumed on the basis of the status quo, which basis shall subsist until delivery of the Judge’s award.
- (3) The Judge’s award shall be accepted and given effect to by both parties in all its terms immediately it is pronounced.
I shall be pleased to have a reply as early as Convenient.”
To that letter the following reply was received from the secretary of the Cape Federation of Trades:
On the fourth the following letter was received from the Master Builders’ Association:
and on the following day this reply was received from the Inspector of White Labour:
May I suggest for your Association’s consideration that the men now on strike are prevented from accepting your proposal re a truce pending the establishment and decision of a National Industrial Council by the fact that considerable time must of necessity elapse before such a Council can be brought together. There are as you know, some 13 Sectional Trade Unions, and at least one Industrial Union concerned with the building industry in South Africa. In order to arrive at a fair basis of representation, each of these bodies must be consulted and steps must be taken to ensure all the claims being fully and fairly considered. Your own association is in a far happier position insomuch as you already have a National Federation prepared to act at very short notice. The difficulty outlined above is very real and any attempt to get over it by short cuts may seriously endanger the authority and usefulness of the Council were it set up in a hurried manner and this factor lost sight of. The suggestion contained in my letter of the third is not burdened with this difficulty, as the machinery in hand could easily be set in motion within two or three days. Also it has the additional advantage of leaving the National Council to be built up without prejudice in quietness and mutual understanding. I venture to place this point before your association, believing they will give it due weight in their deliberations, and in the hope that it may prove to be a way out of the present serious situation.”
That is exactly the position. I have already told the House that in the negotiations which have taken place antecedent to the strike there was one strong point that I was anxious to arrive at. To put in force the Industrial Conciliation Act. It would have been to the mutual advantage of both sides in this dispute. We nearly got them together and I do not know how far any personal factor might come in. As I say, we almost got the two parties together, but when they met they suddenly flew away. There are two points with regard to this strike which the Building Association impressed on me. One was the great desire to have a National Industrial Council, a desire in which I am in entire sympathy with them, and one pressed strongly by the other delegates who were here from the North last week. So far as the men are concerned in the various provinces, there is a keen desire to have a Provincial Council. If they could be brought together they might realize it is better to have a National than a Provincial body. In the provinces activities are confined to practically isolated centres, and you would never have what you have in a national council, that is the effect on minds and tempers from other parts which are unaffected by a particular dispute in any particular locality. The Master Builders’ Association stresses as one of their reasons for standing adamant is that if there was any sort of compromise it would be followed by similar difficulties in other centres. When I met the delegates of the Trade Unions I pointed out this and I also pointed out that it would greatly assist if they could satisfy the masters’ fears on this point; and I asked them to use their influence with the other delegates to see if it would not be possible to get this national council into force and I took it from their attitude that was their intention. It is obvious when you wish to arrange something on a national scale it is difficult if there is an acute dispute and on one point there is an atmosphere of antagonism and a state of war. You cannot bring about a state like that under such conditions. It is rather like trying to bring about a League of Nations during the currency of the Great War. The suggestion was made to “let us call a truce, let the men go back to work and the present dispute shall be the first subject to come up for arbitration under the National Council.” But the objection to that is as is pointed out by the Inspector of White Labour, that there is the vicious circle that you cannot set up an industrial council until this is settled, and you cannot settle this until you have an industrial council. The suggestion was made that the whole matter should be submitted to the final arbitration of a judge of the Supreme Court, with one assessor from each side. I must say that this is a reasonable and fair suggestion and I can only say that in my judgment it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get the industrial council established so long as this is going on. I think myself that every public-spirited man in Cape Town should endeavour to get the Master Builders to moderate their positions. After all, when you have a position of this kind, there can be nothing lost by submitting the matter to a person quite outside—to one of the prestige of a judge of the Supreme Court, and there will be no loss of dignity in the matter. When the two bodies have nearly come together it is a great pity that one side should stand out. That takes the position up to yesterday. I shall go on—the Mayor and myself have intervened—trying to get an authority or any persona grata to both sides to try to intervene, and try to bring the parties together; but I am bound to say, speaking with a due sense of responsibility, that a heavy responsibility lies on that side in the dispute which, while wanting to have other machinery set up, steadfastly refuses to have anything to do with another person’s arbitration.
I support the request of the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) asking that the Government appoint a commission of enquiry during the recess to investigate conditions in connection with the wine industry. The understanding was that the Act of last session was only a temporary measure, and that a commission would be appointed to go into the whole matter so that the industry can be placed on a sound footing.
I am sorry that the hon. member for Witwatersberg (Lt.-Col. N. J. Pretorius) said that General Sarel Alberts cannot sign his name. He was generally respected in this House, and in 1914 the late General Botha used him as a medium between the two parties to get peace between them. The leader of the Opposition had implicit trust in him, and he is respected by, and has the confidence of the whole constituency. Not only has the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) confidence in him, but also the public. If he was good enough to be a commandant under the Botha Government, surely he is good enough to be a locust officer. The hon. member says the Agricultural Union recommended Mr. Geere, but only seven farmers were present when that was done, and what about the three thousand who were not consulted? I have already stated that I will not be ruled by the officials. The appointment was only provisional, and already I have protests and objections from the district against the appointment of Mr. Geere. If it had not been for the re-arrangements of the constituency made by the Delimitation Commission, General Sarel Alberts would have been here instead of the present hon. member. I take all responsibility for the appointment.
I have a question on the Order Paper for next Tuesday, namely whether the Government intends doing away with dumping duties on imported fertilizers. As Parliament will probably adjourn for the session in a few hours’ time, I will be glad if the Minister of Finance will reply to it at once.
A question was raised about Mr. Pienaar, the Government Attorney, and as he is in my department I may state what his qualifications and abilities are. I happened to be acquainted with Mr. Pienaar long before his appointment which dates from 1906, and I know he is a man who is very adaptable indeed, and you will find he is an excellent official. The Auditor-General need not be an accountant and the Commissioner need not be a commercial traveller. I have not the faintest doubt that in a couple of years’ time the House will come to the conclusion that it is a very happy appointment indeed. We have found that in the past you want a certain amount of vision in regard to work of that description, and you are not going to get your big commercial men to undertake a job of that nature on that salary, and here you have a man who is in the civil service and whom we have proved to be a man of very great ability. He is a first-class lawyer and he successfully negotiated with the Imperial Government and the French Government, and we are not in any fear that he will not do his duty well.
Can he speak German?
No, I do not think he can, but he is acquainted with the French language—not with the German language as far as I know. He may have a slight knowledge of it, but I do not say he is acquainted with it in the way he should be with a language. The big point is this, if you have a leading man in commerce he would probably be the best man, but you would not get him at that salary, and a man who has not made a success of his own affairs, would not make a success there.
What is his salary?
£2,000 a year.
£2,000 a year non-pensionable. I may also say this: when Mr. Pienaar was approached it was a position he did not want to have, and he wanted to retain his present position, which is becoming more and more important; and only when pressure was brought to bear upon him would he consent to go to Europe.
Have you appointed him for a fixed period?
Yes, three years. I doubt whether he will remain there after three years. I think he will come back to service in this country.
What about juvenile crime?
This is still a crime of the past. As far as juvenile crime is concerned, it is a thing one has to deal with very carefully. It is not all juvenile “crime,” and the position is this—where your country is suffering from a good deal of poverty there is a good deal of crime, a good deal of which is no doubt caused by the boys not getting suitable employment. I fear that too many juveniles are too lightly put into prison. What I mean is that there are many things taking place, say in the streets of Cape Town, where a boy is at once haled before a magistrate and punished instead of being cautioned.
With regard to a commission of enquiry in connection with the wine industry, I wish to say that the matter has not been brought prominently to the attention of the Government. The Treasury takes a great interest in the development of that industry. The Government will give its attention to the question with a view to the appointment of a commission. Regarding the dumping duties on superphosphates the grain farmers have made strong representations to the Government. The Government has investigated the matter and we have come to the conclusion that the retention of freight dumping duty on superphosphates is quite unjustified, and other means should be found to protect the superphosphate factory. I am informed, however, that the freights have gone up in the meanwhile and it may be that the freight dumping will automatically disappear.
Motion put and agreed to.
Bill read a second time; House to go into Committee now.
House in Committee.
On Clause 1,
I should like to ask the Minister whether he is in a position to make a statement with regard to the Moçambique Convention. I wish to ask him what the position is to-day in regard to this Convention; what steps have been taken by this Government and the Portuguese Government with regard to the renewal or modification of the contracts; and whether in view of the fact that the High Commissioner will be in South Africa next month the Government is prepared to negotiate for a Convention?
I can only say that correspondence is at present passing between this Government and the Portuguese authorities with a view to discussing the matter at an early date.
I was also going to raise that question and in addition to ask the Minister if he can inform the Committee what has taken place with regard to the proposal mentioned in the papers to have a conference of the Dominions in London during this present year?
With regard to the operations of the dumping duty on wheat and mealies, as we know there is a great scarcity of breadstuffs throughout the world and prices have been rising and rising. According to the operation of our method of levying the dumping duty the importers are placed—and you must have your importers because the country does not grow nearly enough to feed the population—in a very difficult position. The duties operate in a very peculiar way to hinder trade. You have your importers who provide the country with breadstuffs from the other side, and they have to make forward purchases to keep up the supply here and as prices have been rising these people have had to pay a dumping duty every time. Naturally they are restricting their purchases and the consumer in South Africa has to pay for it. Because if the prices rise they have to pay a dumping duty. If the price falls they have to take that risk, and I certainly think it was never contemplated that when wheat rose up to 27s. 6d. c.i.f. here, which means with ordinary duty and landing charges considerably more, that there should still be a dumping duty on wheat. You must know the consumer has to pay for it. There is always a conflict as to what the dumping duty ought to be. Some little while ago some of these importers were refunded a considerable amount of dumping duty which had been levied on them two or three months earlier. Then this amount was levied not because of what it ought to have been. Is it not time that the dumping duty ought to be suspended when the price of breadstuffs has risen to what they are to-day?
I want to support that. I think the Minister is right in taking off the dumping duty on phosphates, but why cannot he go further and take it off here? It is not necessary now to have any dumping duty. I think in the interest of the people the Government should consider that, and I think it should be done at once.
I think Parliament has formally adopted the principle of giving protection to the wheat industry in this country and all our other industries by making the provision for dumping duty. I think this discussion has arisen in connection with the duty paid recently in Natal on one single consignment of flour, but I do not think that is a true reflex of the actual position. The flour was purchased in Australia, and while it was on the way the price had risen, and when it arrived here an abnormal amount was paid. In the ordinary course it would only have been 1s. a cwt., but that was an abnormal case. The position is gradually righting itself. I think the position that arose some weeks ago will not arise again. While that is so I cannot promise to give any relief in taking off those duties. As far as the consumer is concerned, I do not think it is fair that we should ask our wheat farmers to agree to the removing of these duties. In regard to the question asked by the hon. member for Yeoville (Mr. Duncan) as to the Conference in London, I may inform the House that it was originally suggested that such a conference should take place. Some Dominions, and South Africa was one of them, though no good purpose could be served by having such a conference and sending a representative. We thought we would not do so. Later on, however, it was discovered that the discussions would be of a purely tentative nature and now the Government intends taking part in the Conference and sending someone to take part in these preliminary discussions.
Are we to understand from the Minister’s reply just now that there was really no justification for the bakers in Durban to put up the price of bread to 8d.? I brought this matter up a little while ago and the Minister promised that the Board of Trade should go into it. I think the Board of Trade should investigate it and we should know who is responsible for this increase.
I think my hon. friend would do better to go for the Government rather than for the bakers. The Government refused to take off the duty. Although the price has gone up to 29s. the Government still continue with their dumping duty. I and my hon. friend the member for Von Brandis (Mr. Nathan) are urging that 29s. is a very good price and no dumping duty is required. I suggest to the hon. member that he should join with us in urging the Government to take off the duty.
I do not want to give the wheat farmer protection. I feel sure the wheat farmer would never come and ask for protection when wheat is up to 29s.
What about when there is a drop in price?
There was only that one single instance according to the Minister but personally I do not know of that instance while I do know of many others. The dumping duty operates in the wrong way.
You have just found that out.
You will always find things out when you put the machinery into operation. Since South Africa does not produce enough wheat for its consumption and a considerable quantity has to be got from outside, your millers here must make their contracts in advance to supply the people, and your dumping duty operates in this way that if they buy this month say for 24s. to be shipped in two months’ time and the price is then 26s., they have to pay a dumping duty. The dumping duty, if levied at all, ought to be levied on the price at the time the purchase was made.
On this point of the dumping duty, I would like to mention something which may illustrate the inconvenience which is caused thereby. The other day a shipment came from Australia and because of the incidence of that tax duty the shipment had to be sent out of the Union altogether. The importer could not afford to pay the duty and sell at a profit. Then there was another instance which shows how, in assessing this duty, considerable inconvenience is caused by the difference between the view taken by the Comptroller of Customs in Australia and by collectors at ports of shipments in Australia. The Commissioner here according to the information supplied to him was to leave the consumption price a certain figure, whereas the importer has information that the figure should be different, according to official advices by local collectors of customs. It seems undesirable that conflicts of that kind should arise. It does not seem to me that there should be a conflict between the certified price at particular ports of shipment and the price furnished to the Commissioner by the Comptroller, which in fact may be found to be based on an average of Australian prices, and not on the prices ruling on individual States.
I understand the Minister to say that correspondence was going on with regard to the Mozambique Treaty. Is the Government willing to negotiate for a convention with the Commissioner who will arrive here next month?
In reply to the hon. member for Durban (Umbilo) (Mr. Reyburn), I do not know whether the rise in the price of bread at Durban is justified, or whether it was really due to the dumping duties. I am informed that the price of bread has not risen in all centres in the Union, so I do not know what the dumping duties have to do with the increase at Durban. The hon. member for Cape Town (Gardens) (Mr. Coulter) has raised the question of the operation of the dumping duties. The administration of the law with regard to dumping duties causes the department great difficulties, and it is very difficult to know what the home consumption values are. The Commissioner of Customs has officials in various countries from whom he gathers information on this subject. In America we have a special officer, but in some cases we have to avail ourselves of information obtained direct from the Commissioners of Customs in different countries. Importers have urged us to take the price ruling at the time of purchase, but my department considers that will be obviously impossible and would open the door to extensive frauds, as it would be impossible to know the actual price at the time of the so-called purchase, and the only way is to take the price at the date of actual shipment. In regard to the general operation of these dumping duties, they are very difficult to administer, but this country has definitely accepted the principle of protecting our industries where it has been proved that there has been dumping. We must try to administer the law as best we can. Dumping is an unfair way of competing, and we should protect our industries. The department is continually striving to meet the objections of importers and to devise machinery for making the carrying out of the law as little irksome as possible. In the meantime I cannot promise the House that I will consider the question of taking off the duty on wheat, as the position is gradually righting itself. The normal duty on wheat is only 1s. per hundred pounds.
Will the Minister find out what the increase in bread at Durban is due to?
This is a matter which the Board of Trade might investigate, and I will speak to my colleague and ask him to take the matter in hand. In regard to the point raised by the hon. member for Von Brandis (Mr. Nathan) I am afraid I cannot give a definite reply. These negotiations are conducted from the Prime Minister’s Department; the matter is receiving attention and correspondence is being conducted in regard to it.
Clauses, Schedule and Title of the Bill put and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendments and read a third time.
Message received from the Senate returning the Miners’ Phthisis Act Amendment Bill with amendments.
On the motion of the Minister of Mines and Industries the amendments were considered.
On Clause 18,
I notice that the word “miner” has been inserted instead of “beneficiary.” What is a miner under the prior law.
I do not know what induced the Minister to move that amendment, but it seems to me to be rather widening the clause. Apparently the idea is to widen the law so as to include any miner or his dependent who did not receive compensation under the prior law. In the Miners’ Phthisis Act we compensate the widow of a man who did not receive benefit himself under the prior law. In the 1919 Act, benefits were provided for this class. I take it that the object of this Act is to allow these people to come in under that Act.
Is the Minister prepared to say that this amendment does not entail additional expenditure.
This is a clause which was left in the 1919 Act which should have been taken out. We transformed that Bill in the Select Committee, but we left in the clause by which a beneficiary will have to retain any monies received under clause 11 of the 1916 Act. We do not speak in this Bill of the dependents of beneficiaries, but all through we use the phraseology “dependents of miners,” If you put “dependents of miner” you are merely using the same language that is used all through the Act.
I would have thought it would have been better, if you want to make a change, to have said “who being the dependents of miners and beneficiaries under the prior Law.’
That is the explanation.
The amendments in clauses 11 (Dutch), 15 and 18 were agreed to.
Second Order read, Second Reading, Railways and Harbours Appropriation (1924-’25)
Bill read a Second Time; House to go into Committee now.
House in Committee.
On Clause 5,
I would like to ask a question arising out of the Fourth Schedule. I see the cost of the line from Franklin to Kokstad, about 25 miles, is being raised by £5,000. What is the reason for that? I also notice that the cost of the line from Nylstroom to Vaalwater is being raised by something like £7,500.
I am informed by the department that the estimates of the cost of these lines were framed on the basis of native labour, and the substitution by my hon. friend (Mr. Jagger) of European labour on these lines has caused this additional cost. That is the information I have from the department.
Yes, but that is not my information. I understand that a blunder was made in regard to the Franklin-Kokstad line, and that about 11 miles of the line were not laid in true alignment and had to be relaid.
I know of that, but the position there is that the contractor was made to refund to the department. A mistake was made, but the contractor was responsible for it.
Clauses, schedule and Title were agreed to. House Resumed.
Bill reported without amendment, and read a third time.
Third Order read: First report of Select Committee on Petitions of W. W. Theron and Others to be considered.
The Select Committee has issued a report regarding Theron and another regarding the cases of Blanckenburg and Sargeant. I think it was quite a wrong principle to refer these cases to the Select Committee. It should never have been done, and the Committee had a lot of trouble because it is a matter of an administrative nature. It is an established Parliamentary practice that this House does not interfere with questions with which the Administration has to do. In view of that the Select Committee have reported that it could not make the recommendation, but only records its finding and, firstly, that the non-payment of the increments of the petitioner W. W. Theron, assistant-magistrate at Okahandja in South-West, is not justified. At the beginning of the year Mr. Theron was charged with theft by his superior, the magistrate of Okahandja. Mr. Theron was convicted by a magistrate, but discharged by the Court of Appeal. On a Saturday he took £1 5s. out of the safe and put in a cheque for that amount. On Monday the cheque was found there and unfortunately he did not have enough money in the bank to cover it. Thereupon Mr. Theron was charged with theft. What was done by Mr. Theron is often done in the Public Service, although it is not right. The Supreme Court at Windhoek discharged him, but since April his increments were stopped, because the Department intended taking action against him. The Department, however, has changed its mind, and consequently the Select Committee came to the conclusion that the increments should be paid. They found too, that the relations between the magistrate of Okahandja and Keetmanshoop were strained. Secondly, Mr. Theron neglected or forgot to put a certain question to a man named Hugo, who was charged with contravention of the Scab Act. That is also the evidence of Major Herbst and the Committee concluded that it was desirable to transfer Mr. Theron from South-West. He has also submitted a doctor’s report stating that he must leave the West for the sake of his health. The third point is that unnecessary costs and annoyance were caused Mr. Theron by transferring him during the enquiry. (It is difficult to read a report in Netherlands during an Afrikaans speech, and I hope the reports will soon be converted into Afrikaans). Mr. Theron requested to be allowed to stay at Keetmanshoop until the investigation in regard to the Scab Act case was finished, but for some unknown reason this was refused, consequently he had to go from Okahandja to Keetmanshoop, and his expenses were never refunded. I move—
Mr. TE WATER seconded.
I support. I want to draw the attention of the acting Prime Minister to what has taken place in both these reports We had to find in both cases that we could not make any recommendation, because both these matters referred to matters solely connected with the relationship between the executive Government and public servants, and my only excuse for intervening is that it is a matter of vital importance that when petitions are referred to the Select Committee in this House, that they should not infringe on this Parliamentary rule. When we started our deliberation we all felt that the facts were as stated, and we took advice on the matter. We were told that the matter having been referred to us we had to go on and bring up a report, and although we make no recommendation, the facts were gone into. When these petitions were introduced by the Government, the Government did not appreciate what the facts were. With regard to the particular petition of Theron, there was some slight justification for sending it to the Select Committee, but a better thing would have been to have, dealt with it in the ordinary way.
The point raised by my hon. friend is an important one. I can see we are slipping into an undesirable precedent in setting up Select Committees to enquire into the troubles that arise between the Executive Governments and its departments and one or two officials. Members can come along now with cases of A and B and C and D, and have them added to this Select Committee. What would happen next session is we will have something in the nature of what happened on the motion to build railways. Every member will come along and will require investigation of the grievances of various officials, and we will have a standing committee of grievances interfering with the action of various departments carrying out the duties of the administration.
I find myself in thorough disagreement with the last speakers. The burden of the last hon. member’s speech was “look at the trouble we will have in remedying grievances.” I think the proposer and seconder are entitled to great credit for their work, but their speeches are in direct conflict to it. If they had not enquired into the matter of Theron his grievance would not have been righted. They found it was a legitimate grievance, and if it had not been enquired into he would have had a grievance for the remainder of his life. It is no good saying it causes a lot of trouble, because after all the Parliament of the country is the last tribunal to which people with grievances can come, and the speech of the hon. member (Mr. Duncan) is no answer. It is only right that they should have some Court of Appeal, and I, for my part, will always do my best to try to redress a wrong. This is eloquent of the fact that some machinery should be set up to deal with these cases. Owing to the rules of the House, the committee cannot make any recommendation here in Theron’s case, but they find that he suffered from a grave injustice, and only for the action taken in his case he would not have been relieved of that wrong. Where the executive has failed in its duty it is right and proper that Parliament should help these men in the terribly unequal contest which goes on between humble civil servants and the executive of the country—that they should get some chance to put their cases forward. It is true that it might mean a little extra work for our members, but then we are here to do our duty. I regard the report of the Select Committee on the Theron case as a vindication of the fact that there are some members of this House who will not close the doors to such cases.
I would like to mention to the House that as a member of that particular Committee, I differ from the two speakers who spoke as if they represented the Committee. It is only fair that Select Committees should be appointed in these cases, and I think it would be much better indeed if we had a continuous committee to deal with the grievances that come before the House. It will create a great deal of satisfaction. Men in the Government services have little outlook for their grievances, and I do not think we should, in any way, perpetuate the grievances.
I realize and I agree to a great extent with what has been said by the hon. member for Cape Town, Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander), but our difficulty is this, that it is contrary to the rules of the House. I agree that there should be somebody to whom these men could go with their grievances. We do not complain of the work, not at all, but we do complain that these cases have been referred to the Select Committee contrary to the rules of the House. There has never been a case in this Union Parliament, but I find in 1886 in the old Cape Parliament a petition was submitted and Mr. Speaker gave a ruling and informed the Committee that the rules of the House precluded it from dealing with the matters contained therein. It comes to this: it is really contrary to the conduct of the rules of the House. If the majority of members think that a civil servant has grievances or civil servants have grievances with regard to their retrenchment and they come to Parliament, we have to institute certain machinery, but while the rules stand as they do, we say the question was not rightly referred to the Committee.
Fourth Order read. Second Report of Select Committee on petitions of W. W. Theron and others to be considered.
In this the Committee has found certain facts, to the effect that the facts in the petition are correct, but the Committee is unable to recommend.
Mr. PEARCE seconded.
Fifth Order read; Second Report of Select Committee on Internal Arrangements to be considered.
I may add, that this, of course, is not a Government recommendation, and as far as we are concerned the matter is in the hands of the House. It is a question of a Parliamentary officer who is appointed. You will find the report of the Committee on page 212 of the English Votes and Proceedings, and page 220 of the Dutch Votes and Proceedings. I want to make it clear that this is not a recommendation of the Government, but of this Committee, and every member of the House is free to vote in this matter exactly in the way he desires to do. But I may say that as far as the contract was concerned, it was not a contract for this year alone, but for three years, and there were higher tenders and we might have accepted them and not have had the trouble now in the end, and if further tenders are to be accepted in future, I hope we are not going to lay down, as a precedent, that where he makes a loss some part of the loss is to be paid out to him and where he makes a profit the whole of the profit goes in his pocket. Practically £300 has already been paid to the tenderer in addition to the contract rights. After the termination of the contract he wants a further £200, or rather more.
What is the total loss on the contract?
He states something over £1,000.
In the neighbourhood of £1,500.
He claimed £500 and the committee granted £200. I may say that I am personally against the conclusion at which the Committee has arrived, so I am not prepared to move the adoption of the report. I moved that it be considered.
I may remind the House that last year the House decided to have a Hansard, and tenders were called for, and this gentleman, Mr. Ribbink, was the accepted tenderer. He fulfilled his duties in the House, and under the expectation and prospects of making a Hansard, reporting debates, and incidentally when he contracted for the Hansard, it was expected that other work would accrue to him, and he would get work from the Government during the recess—for the reports of commissions. That, of course, was merely the prospect that was there—a prospect that all tenderers had in tendering for this contract, but you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that it was an experiment which this House made to have a Hansard, and various difficulties arose in reporting and in making this Hansard. I may say that one of the difficulties that arose was frequent complaints which members made to the Printing and Standing Orders Committee as to the correctness and the nature of the reports, and an allowance there ought to have been made to the contractor because of the newness of the experiment. A box was placed here in the centre of the House, and in consequence of conversations taking place between members, it was extremely difficult, sometimes, to make accommodation for the changes in the House, and to report verbatim speeches that were made.
They have done better this year.
The lesson has been learned. I may state in that regard that part of the reporting is done from this box in the House and part from the gallery, and it is not done in the same way exactly as before. Undoubtedly there was a difficulty in that direction. Another point was the dispute that arose between the Controlling Committee and the reporter—the question of including petitions and notices in the Hansard. It was ruled that they should be excluded, and that meant a certain amount of loss to the contractor, because he had contracted by piece, and that is where the loss was incurred. He had contracted with the reporters and subordinates, who had been hired by the month or so. That was the difficulty which arose when Parliament, in the early days of April, was suddenly prorogued. This contractor found himself committed to pay the wages of those whom he had engaged by the month, and there came an almost total stop of the earning of his money. The matter was then taken to the Printing Committee, which gave him a solatium of £200 in view of what he was committed for at the time. I wanted to assume that when the committee considered that matter—it may be argued that they had all the facts before them—but it would be right to assume that at the end of the month some other loss would be sustained by the sudden breaking up of Parliament. We have had submitted by the gentleman concerned, a statement as to his losses in April—he had commitments in April for £400 and in May of another £200, and he had to give his salaried clerks, typists and so on notice to bring their contracts to an end. He has suffered loss to the extent of some £600 or £700 on these two months. In April it had been something like £70 and he had received £100 for some printing work, which was unfinished, and he had received some £300 or close on £400 for that period. He had been committed to over £600, and we thought that in view of all the facts we should recompense him and give him a solatium for the commitments for that unexpired period. Now the Minister has lightly pointed out that we would be laying down a precedent, if we now are going to give a solatium to someone who had tendered for the contract, and finds that the contract did not pay him. He comes to this House to ask it to make good the loss he has sustained. That is true, and one admits it frankly. But the sudden break-up of the House was unforeseen by both contracting parties. We did not foresee it, nor did the contractor.
The country was expecting it.
Do not let us introduce that matter at all. This is a purely household matter, which concerns this House entirely.
Business was suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 2.24 p.m.
When business was suspended I was trying to explain the position which had arisen in regard to this contract. I only want to stress one point. Objection had been made by the Minister that this is a matter of contract by tender and we shall be setting up a precedent if we agree to this, where a contractor finds that he is on the wrong side of the balance sheet and comes to Parliament and asks Parliament to make up that loss. But I wish to stress this that if it had not been for the sudden termination of the contract—
His loss would have been greater.
It would not have been greater. The sudden interruption of the business of the House is the whole point in this matter. I quite agree that if the contract had run its normal course and the contractor had suffered loss and had then come to Parliament to make it good, we should have been setting a precedent if we had agreed to make up the loss. But under the circumstances the sudden interruption brought about the loss and there can be no question of setting up a precedent. We recommend only as regards the commitments to which he was liable should we give the solatium; as I pointed out a sum was voted by the Printing and Debates Committee and a certain further sum was allowed and we now say that we should give this third amount. I hope the House will take that view and agree to this vote.
Col.-Cdt. COLLINS seconded the motion.
The speech of the hon. member for Paarl (Mr. de Jager) was by no means convincing. At the outset I was inclined to support the request of Mr. Ribbink, but after I had considered the matter from different points of view, I came to another conclusion. What are the reasons for giving him another extra grant? Is it because he rendered special service to Parliament by reporting Hansard? The gentleman in question sent in a tender together with others, and his tender was accepted because it was more favourable than others which were, however, perhaps better. If Mr. Ribbink suffered losses, he has himself to blame for it. If Parliament had treated him unjustly, for instance, if it had dismissed him, he may have had a grievance. But he resigned because he discovered that the undertaking would not be a payable one. It is nonsense to say, as did the hon. member for Paarl (Mr. de Jager), that Mr. Ribbink was the victim of the unexpected dissolution of the last Parliament. The unexpected dissolution had nothing to do with the case. Mr. Ribbink’s contract was not for one session only, but for a period of three years. He was not paid according to the length of the session, but according to the quantity of words he reported. It is true, the first session of 1924 was very short, but it was more than made up by the length of the second session. If the two are put together, Mr. Ribbink would have done very well if he had not miscalculated the costs. There were many more speeches in Parliament this year than last year. It could only be known definitely whether Mr. Ribbink would have suffered a loss after the whole period of his contract was over. The real cause of his giving up his contract is the slovenly way in which the work was done. Very few people wanted to read the speeches which he reported, as they were so badly done. Mr. Ribbink himself is a capable reporter, but the cheap labour which he had, caused work of such a kind that it was a disgrace to this House. It would have been better if Parliament had paid £400 for the destruction of the so-called official reports which the contractor gave us, than that a special bonus of £200 be granted him. The granting of £200, in addition to the £300 which had already been paid over to Mr. Ribbink, will be nothing but a squandering of the country’s money and would form a very bad precedent.
How then is it that the hon. member voted for the grant of £500 to Macfie?
I was in the chair while the grant was under discussion and I know that the two cases are of a different nature. I hope and trust the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) who is always so much concerned about public money, will oppose the recommendation of the Select Committee.
I understand that the hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. de Waal) makes no appeal to me because as he says, I have no conscience. He states the reason he could not speak on Mr. Macfie’s petition was because he was in the chair. It is true that he was in the chair when the House was in committee, but there were four or five other opportunities of speaking on the question when the matter was before the House when he was not in the chair. I think it is a mistake to draw attention to these things, but the hon. member has brought it on himself, and if he takes an opportunity of saying unpleasant things about me he must expect me to retaliate. The hon. member said he was very anxious to conserve public money, and so am I, but this is an extraordinary case. The contract was entered into with the gentleman named because it was thought he was more capable of carrying it out than any of the other tenderers. The Internal Arrangements Committee, of which I was a member for so many years, had discussed the question of a Hansard for a long time. Evidence was taken from the representatives of several newspapers who stated that they were not prepared to carry on the contract. Unfortunately, Mr. Ribbink was not as wise as they were, and tendered for the contract. He entered into the contract with the reasonable hope that Parliament would sit for the ordinary period of five months, and he had to engage certain expert hands for a period which was interrupted through no action on the part of Mr. Ribbink, but because of the sudden dissolution of the House of Assembly, all the same he had to pay his staff. The hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. de Waal) said he could have kept them on, in that case he would have had to pay them from April 4th until this House met on July 25th. but he had no method of employing them in the interim, so that if he had retained their services his financial loss would have been even greater. Let us be fair in this matter; there is no question of precedent. The House is not concerned in the creating or the following of precedent. If the Committee’s report is adopted there will be no waste of public money. The gentleman concerned honestly entered into a contract, and through no fault of his own that contract was terminated after it had been in existence for only a brief period, with the result that the contractor suffered a very severe loss.
On behalf of hon. members on these benches I wish to oppose this petition. In spite of what the hon. member for Von Brandis (Mr. Nathan) has said there is such a question as establishing an unhealthy precedent. It is a very important question. In future are we going to lay it down that when anyone enters into a contract with the Government and they lose over it, are we going to make up the loss? Supposing, on the other hand, the contractor makes a great deal more profit than he ever anticipated, do we ever find him coming along and saying, “I have made much more profit than I anticipated—here is part of it back.” I wonder whether this particular petition should not have been referred to the Select Committee on Pensions, Grants and Gratuities; after all it is a compassionate grant. I understand the contract was entered into for three years, and I do not wish to cast any aspersions at all on the gentleman responsible for the carrying out of the work, but owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the work, the contract was broken by mutual consent. Another point we have to consider is this. If we adopt the report would it be fair to all the other people who tendered, because if they had known that we were going to deal in a similar manner to them if they failed to make a profit, doubtless they would have tendered at a lower figure. Hon. members opposite say that certain costs have been incurred by the contractor. How do they know that? Has there been any investigation into the accounts presented to the Committee by the contractor? How do they know that all the costs have actually been incurred in connection with the work performed in this House? Some of these accounts go back as far as September, 1923, and Parliament never assembled until January, 1924. Why should all these expenses from September be included to show that the contractor came out with a loss? Before hon. members can vote honestly and conscientiously for the grant they want to satisfy themselves that there has been an absolute loss, and that every penny charged has been justifiably debited against the contract. I understand from information supplied that this House, owing to the way in which the work was being carried on, went to considerable expense by bringing down a gentleman whose name I understand is Mr. Westbrook in order to lick things into shape, and on top of that it is common knowledge that a great deal of the work which ought to have been done by the contractor was performed by the Sergeant-at-Arms and members of the clerical staff of the House. It made a tremendous amount of more work for them, and why should we not give them a little bonus as well—why not do the job thoroughly all round? The hon. member for Paarl (Dr. de Jager) said that it was considered this work would go on for three years. Every hon. member of this House and the great majority of the people throughout the length and breadth of South Africa, knew at least eighteen months or two years before the South African Party Government came to an end, that the life of that Government was so uncertain that it might end at a moment’s notice. Any tenderer taking a job of this description must have taken into consideration the political situation. It was generally expected that the country was rapidly coming to the stage when we would have to have a change, and nobody knew how long this particular South African Government was going to last. In addition to that, what guarantee could any tenderer for work of this description have as to a matter of that kind? Another point is, that I understand that this particular contractor has carried out a great deal of work for the late Government, a great deal of profitable work. Are we going to say we are not going to have any investigation into the whole of the profitable side of the work performed for the Government, but the moment you come to an unprofitable tender we are going, because you say you have lost on this particular-job, to make it up? I do contend that, as far as this House is concerned, we are not responsible for the tenderer for this particular work, having to do such a thing as to send over to England in order to bring a man out to do his work. Even if he found it necessary to send over for this particular man, another tenderer-might have found a man here who could do the work. Most of the things that have been advanced on behalf of the contractor as reasons why he lost on this particular contract, are things that a contractor with the long Parliamentary experience and knowledge of public affairs possessed by the gentleman in question, could and should have foreseen, before he tendered for the work. This question is now being rushed through at the end of the session. A thing like this carried in such a small House cannot give satisfaction to the House or the contractor. It seems to me that at least we should leave this matter over for further investigation, and let the claim be brought forward for consideration at a later date. Even if that course were adopted I would still vote against the proposal, because I feel that it will be setting up a bad precedent. The whole essence of the contract system is a gamble; it is a gamble on all occasions.
I think my hon. friend (Mr. Waterston) rather gives his case away when he says that the contractor ought to have foreseen that the session would only be a short one.
No. What I said was that most of the reasons advanced for consideration of this claim were reasons which could and should have been foreseen by a gentleman of the experience of the contractor.
I do not see how it is reasonable to expect him to have foreseen that the session would only last two months. I would like to address myself to the Minister. Who says that we are creating an unfortunate precedent. I do not think he is taking all the circumstances into consideration. I think hon. members will give me credit that I have also an eye on the Treasury, as well as most hon. members. If this gentleman had taken on the contract and the session had run its normal length of four or five months, and he had lost money, he would have had no claim at all. I can speak with some authority. We have had cases to deal with in the railway department. Where a man has lost money by having tendered at too low a figure, having taken everything into consideration under normal conditions, the man must stand his loss, and he should have no extra payment. But in this case something occurred which no man living could have foreseen. It is only on that ground and on that ground alone that I support this recommendation. The contractor expected that the session would run for four or five months. The session was terminated after about two months. Now he had important contracts with certain assistants, men who were doing work for him, contracts which could not be terminated, as we terminated Parliament on that occasion, with practically only a week’s notice. Those contracts which he had were some of them for a month, and some for two months. Therefore, I think he has reasonable cause for complaint. I broke a contract myself only last week, but I compensated the man. I think it is only fair and just. I do not think this case forms a precedent, simply because of the special circumstances that intervened.
He had an ex gratia payment for that last session.
What we have paid him already, £300, is not sufficient. I understand that this Committee have gone into these accounts and are satisfied, at any rate, that the accounts are correct. He is out of pocket at least £600 for the two months. He says that he is out of pocket to an even greater extent. It appears to me only fair and just that, as he has lost this money through no fault of his own, but simply on account of the Government coming to the decision that it did, practically at a moment’s notice, we should give him some compensation.
I think that cases of this kind should be decided on their own merits. I personally voted for a grant in the case of Mr. Macfie, because I thought it was quite just, and I have good reason, I consider, for voting for this grant also. I think it is very regrettable that the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) should have said that he spoke for his party in this matter. I do not think this is a party question. If the party spirit is going to be introduced into a matter of this kind, then it seems to me most unfortunate. Surely, the Committee on Internal Arrangements should be regarded as above the hurly-burly of party politics. I consider that it is a most undesirable precedent to upset the recommendation of a Committee appointed to go into a matter, except on the most serious grounds. The onus is upon any member who comes to this House and ask it to upset the finding of a committee to show that he has better knowledge than the committee had. Now, let us go into some of the arguments which have been advanced against this recommendation. Hon. members have been told that it is going to be a precedent. I am not afraid of precedents. If you are doing an act of justice to this man, it is a very desirable precedent. Either this is a just recommendation, or it is not. If it is a just recommendation, what does it matter whether it is a precedent or not? He was the pioneer of Hansard under this new regime. This was the first time that we had had reporters on the floor of the House, and it is quite understandable that a man should have negotiated in a matter of this kind rather in the dark. I cannot understand what the hon. member (Mr. Waterston) said about everybody knowing that the session was going to collapse. Nobody knew it. It was one of the greatest bombshells that was ever fired in South Africa. It was the biggest political surprise that has ever taken place during my sixteen years’ membership of the House of Assembly. To try and suggest now that Mr. Ribbink should have known that Wakkerstroom was going against the Government, and that the House was going to be dissolved, seems to me to be going rather too far. It has been suggested that the work was not properly done. I was very pained to hear those remarks. I have been correcting the reports of what I have said from time to time. Go to any newspaper man and ask him about the difficulty of reporting hon. members on the floor of this House, and reporting them almost verbatim, and you will find that it is one of the most difficult jobs on this earth. Of course, there were corrections to be made, but I say this from my knowledge of the previous Hansard, that to come now and say that the work was done in a slovenly way, or was not done properly, is unfair. The statement made by the hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. de Waal) and the implication of the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) was that the man had not been doing his job properly. I can only speak of the reporting of my own speeches, and considering the rate at which I speak I confess I wonder that it was so well done. It is a very unfair thing to say, and the hon. member (Mr. Waterston) who does not remember that he implied this, would probably say the same thing if he saw it in Hansard. I took down his remarks. It is surprising how often one says things that later you believe you never said. It is an unfair thing to attack a man who is a recognized expert in matters of reporting and organization. Statements like those made may damn the man. It is very unfair, and I hope the hon. members will close the session on a note of fairness and justice, and pass the recommendation. It is absurd to say that either this House or Mr. Ribbink could have contemplated dissolution after two months of Parliament. No one contemplated it. On the other hand, it is quite true that you can hold this man to his contract, but I would point out that with regard to this contract, nothing was said about the length of the session, and in strict law the House can say “whatever you lost you have to bear that loss.” But, apart from the strict law, there is such a thing as justice, and I hope the House will set an honourable example in that direction. It is said that the loss incurred by Mr. Ribbink was £400 that is not so, his actual loss is £1,400. In order to show how his losses come about, he has pointed out that on some days his expenses ran into £26 per day and his incomings £7, a loss of £19 per day, surely the House will bear this fact in mind in considering the matter. I appeal to the hon. members to consider this matter not on party lines, but purely as a matter of justice. I assure you that the gentleman in question is not a supporter of my party, in fact he once sent a report to an up-country paper which was not at all to the advantage of the party. I would also point out that when this contract was made it was reasonable to expect that the session would last four to five months and not even the Prime Minister, the leader of the House, contemplated that Parliament would be dissolved after two months, and I do not think that it is right that you should now tear up that contract and tell this gentleman to abide by his losses. I ask the House not to be led by party feeling and so do an injustice.
I agree with the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander) that we should not be actuated by party feelings in this matter. If I were convinced that Mr. Ribbink suffered an injustice, I would vote for the proposal, but none of the arguments adduced go to prove that. The contract remained valid, despite the untimely dissolution and Mr. Ribbink broke it of his own accord. We cannot pay public money to everybody who has suffered a loss, unless an injustice was done to him. If we create that precedent, what value will a tender have? In that case everybody will be able to tender at a low price in the hope of being compensated later.
I am surprised at the attitude taken up by hon. members who tried to make out that £200 is such a small amount. I voted with them on the grant of £500 to a petitioner, and are hon. members now going to vote against this grant? The hon. member for Piquetberg (Mr. de Waal) showed that no injustice was done and that the contract was entered into for 3½ years. The Opposition made much of the fact that Mr. Ribbink would have made much more if he had kept the contract, because he was paid by the number of words. I hope the hon. members will vote against the recommendation, because we should not waste the money of the taxpayers.
This debate possibly is getting somewhat protracted, and an hon. member suggests that we come to a vote. May I suggest that there is one thing that has been going on this session that in my experience has never been seen before. Matters are done in Committee and the reports are not accepted. I say I am surprised, or rather I was going to say surprised, but it is not the word you can apply, at the attitude taken up by the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston). I have always felt that he is one of the most sympathetic men in the House, and this is the first time I have known him to be fighting the underdog, and I am sure there is something about it that has made the hon. member do this—perhaps his digestion is interfered with because of the word “contractor,” and that it has something to do with the discussion. This is not a contractor in the ordinary sense of the word. A great point was made by the hon. member that everybody knew an election was coming on, but many on this side of the House did not know a word about it, in fact, even some of the Ministers did not know about it.
I beg to draw attention to the fact that there is no quorum.
Why, you count for two.
Why not make it three?
I hope the hon. member is not going to press it—he is too good-hearted for that. I would like to point out that this is not an ordinary contract, and I ask hon. members who sat in this House since the first days of the Union Parliament, have they ever Known it not to last for five months of late years? We started with three months; that developed into four; and that developed into five; and how could any person anticipate that this last session was going to be an exception to the rule? Another thing, and I think it most ungenerous of the hon. member when he comes to reflect upon this gentleman and says we have no means of knowing that this is correct—I do not think the worst opponents of this will say that they are not dealing with an honourable man. We ought to accept evidence of this kind generally as correct. Another thing mentioned was the correctness or the quality of the reports. Personally, when I think of the speeches I make, and read the reports, I thank God for the reporters. Sometimes people anticipate they made speeches they did not make, but the reporter is bound to use his notes. It is we who are not correct. I submit that this criticism of the quality of the reports is unfair and unkind. We all know of the famous case in the House of Commons. A member said he was not reported fairly, and they took him down verbatim; and in future the reporters were asked to report his speeches as they ought to be reported. This is the last thing we do this session, and I do not ask you to be generous, but I do ask you to be just. I make bold to say that no person who tendered for that contract but made up his mind that we were going to have a five months’ session. It is far better for this great country of ours to sacrifice this little sum than to have a single citizen feel that injustice has been done. I am voting for this because the Committee recommended it, and I am one of the members who always stood up in this House for Committees being supported when they have done things to the best of their ability.
Motion put, and Mr. de Waal called for a division, whereupon the House divided:
Brown, D. M.
Collins, W. R.
Conradie, J. H.
Heatlie, C. B.
Jagger, J. W.
Louw, E. H.
Louw, G. A.
Louw, J. P.
Miller, A. M.
O’Brien, W. J.
Payn, A. O. B.
Robinson, C. P.
Sephton, C. A. A.
Snow, W. J.
Strachan, T. G.
Swart, C. R.
Te Water, C. T.
Van Hees, A. S.
Wessels, J. H. B.
Tellers: Alexander, M.; De Jager, A. L.
Badenhorst, A. L.
Bergh, P. A.
Beyers, F. W.
De Waal, J. H. H.
Malan, D. F.
Malan, M. L.
Naudé, A. S.
Roos, T. J. de Y.
Roux, J. W. J. W.
Waterston, R. B.
Tellers: Sampson, H. W.; Vermooten, O. S.
Motion accordingly agreed to.
Sixth Order Read, Second Report of Select Committee on Pensions, Grants and Gratuities, to be considered.
The hon. member for Boksburg (Mr. McMenamin), the chairman of the Pensions Committee, has asked me to take this matter up. The proposal here is that a number of petitions—
Mr. SPEAKER: Will the hon. member move the consideration first.
I now move the adoption of the report. A committee was set up to consider the question of Pensions, granted under Act 32 of 1914. All these petitions which are scheduled are petitions relating to war pensions. The ordinary Pensions Committee was unable to deal with these pensions and thought it would be better if they were referred to the Government so that if the pensions were to be established on a new basis they could go before any new commission the Government may set up.
Would it not be better to move the adoption of the report?
That would be better. I move—
Seventh Order read: Report of Select Committee on War Pensions, to be considered.
Mr. PEARCE seconded.
Eighth Order read: First report of Select Committee on Pensions, Grants and Gratuities, to be considered.
I would ask the attention of hon. members just for a moment in connection with this motion, which although coming up very late for consideration is a matter of great importance. The Select Committee on Pensions during the present session and previous sessions have a very large number of petitions coming before them on behalf of people who are in receipt of inadequate pensions, people who have been serving the State, and an equally large number of petitions from persons who, although not having done any State service, are in indigent circumstances. The position of the committee in this regard has been a particularly painful one. We have had petitions from men of 100 years of age and only during this last session we granted a pension to a man of 84 years of age who had done public service. But the Committee had felt it was not part of their function to grant public monies on purely compassionate lines, and the best plan for meeting this matter would be to urge the Government to take into consideration the introduction of legislation for the establishment of pensions. Hon. members will remember that we have discussed this matter in Parliament for several sessions, and I think the culminating debate took place last session. The main point on which hon. members seem concerned was not so much the desirability of introducing old age pensions, but the cost would be prohibitive. As a result of the discussion which took place in March last the Treasury has instituted an enquiry. The findings of the commission are embodied in a White Paper which hon. members have received during the last fortnight. If I may say so, it appears to me that the last word, from the point of view of investigation, is embodied in this document. The question as to the number of persons who would probably come under this scheme of old age pensions is dealt with in this report at page 32, and it makes rather interesting reading. Taking the basis of old age pensions as 65 the Commission finds that 26,000 European males and 22,000 European females, say, a total of 48,698 persons would probably come under this scheme, or 3,205 per cent. of the population. Of the coloured people, 9,149 males—7,959 females, or a total of 17,108. Asiatics, 1,783 males, 756 females—a total of 2,439, or 1,472 per cent. of the population. As to the cost of the scheme, that is given on pages 40 and 41 of the report. The lowest approximate cost of this old age pensions scheme as applied to all sections of the community would be £1,469,000. The highest scheme would cost £3,854,000. Under the highest scheme, Europeans would receive 17s. 6d. a week; coloured would receive 12s. 6d. a week; Asiatics 12s. 6d., and natives 6d. a day. It is upon that basis the cost would be £3,854,000. Faced with these figures I suggest to the Government the desirability of carrying these investigations a little further. That is to investigate the possibilities of introducing an old age scheme as distinct from the payment of old age pensions such as is proposed. The circumstances of South Africa are peculiar. I know it is urged that old age pensions should not be granted on a contributory basis. Where you are faced with a difficulty such as we have here with a large coloured and poor white population the difficulties of a State contribution are indicated by the large amount this scheme would involve. In some countries they have the purely voluntary schemes. The compulsory scheme obtains in Germany, Sweden, the Argentine, Russia and Roumania. Old age pensions without contributions are in effect in Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and Denmark. I know this is not a convenient time to enlarge on this subject.
But I venture to transgress upon the patience of hon. members because the matter is of the most vital importance. Might I suggest to the Government the desirability of a further investigation, that is into a complete scheme of social insurance covering unemployment, health, accident and old age pensions. There is a very interesting book in the library on this subject. It is interesting to note that the probable figures for a complete scheme of social insurance in England, not including old age pensions, is estimated to cost about 4s. 1½d. a week. That would mean the State contributing 1s. and the workman contributing a little over a 1s. in order to get the full benefits. Experience has shown that the prime cost is administration. Possibly contracting out is a better form of carrying on social insurance. It was authorized under the Lloyd George scheme of unemployment, and the gas companies in Great Britain have carried on a voluntary system of unemployment insurance without any contribution from the State. Under that scheme unemployment is practically reduced to a minimum, for from 1920 to 1922 only one per cent. of the men employed by the English gas companies were unemployed. The advantage of contracting out schemes is that it is to the interests of the men to see that there is no malingering, and to ascertain ways of employing men, so that they shall not become a burden on the fund. Although these recommendations only refer to old age pensions, I hope Government will see if it can bring up a complete proposal next year. I move—
The House is under an obligation to the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) for the masterly way in which he has dealt with this matter. The hon. member for Jeppe (Mr. Sampson) was associated with myself on a commission which sat in 1920 to enquire into miners’ phthisis, and, incidentally, into old age pensions, but halfway through our enquiries the Government stopped them. I hope the Government will take the question into consideration and have a commission in the direction indicated by the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson). I second the motion.
I suggest that the hon. member move the adoption of the report.
I thought it would be less controversial if I moved it in this form.
I must congratulate the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) on the masterly way in which he has put the matter before the House. I think it is essential that the report should be adopted, and I will move—
People are starving, and are knocking at the door of the Pensions Committee asking for relief. But this Parliament will have finished and still we shall not have an old age pensions scheme. Until an old age pension scheme has taken practical form, it is necessary to provide some relief in the way I have indicated in my amendment.
Mr. PEARCE seconded the amendment.
I support the amendment. I agree that it is not merely a question of giving old age pensions, but other matters have to be considered. For instance, there is the question of age. I know people of seventy-five who can still work, but I also know others of only forty who are unable to work any more. If we do not consider the larger question of invalidity, we shall not do much good. I asked the Government not to go in for this scheme until they have made a very full enquiry into the practibility of extending old age pensions to the natives. It is practically impossible to carry old age pensions into the kraals, for in the kraals there is no registration of births and deaths, and there will be no check to people drawing old age pensions after the death of the real pensioner.
I must say at once that not only do we accept the motion, but that the question of old age pensions is very much bound up with the question of insurance, and it will be very difficult to deal with the one matter alone. It is the intention of the Government to consider the question of insurance as well as old age pensions. It will be a very wide question on account of the burdens it is going to lay on the State, but very careful consideration will be given to the whole matter during the recess. As far as I can follow the amendment of the hon. member for Three Rivers (Mr. D. M. Brown) it is merely that we should consider the point he has raised. Naturally, we accept the amendment too as a matter for consideration.
I hope you will turn it down.
That is another question. I wish to make it quite clear that I do not accept it, but Government will consider it. Government will consider very carefully whether it is necessary to do something in this direction in addition to what has been done in regard to gratuities and relief.
The matter dealt with in the amendment is to a large extent the business of the Provincial Councils, which administer poor relief. We have voted £600,000 already for unemployment, and now we are asked to consider in the last minutes of the session an important amendment calling upon the Government to relieve necessitous cases. In the Cape Province, at any rate, there is an organization which deals with necessitous cases. I shall certainly oppose the adoption of the amendment, which I think goes altogether too far.
I have accepted both motion and amendment for consideration.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Motion, as amended, put and agreed to, viz.: That the Report be referred to the Government for consideration and that until a scheme of old age pensions is adopted the Government should take into consideration the advisability of placing a sum on the Estimates for the relief of necessitous cases.
I wish to draw attention to what seems a very careless way of carrying on legislation. I do not blame the Government entirely, for unfortunately this has taken place with previous Governments. I am referring to Bills being brought forward before the people effected—especially if they live up-country—have an opportunity of studying these measures and communicating with their representatives in the House.
The hon. member must confine himself to the motion.
I thought the reasons I was bringing forward were strong reasons why the House should not adjourn until 5 o’clock.
The motion is for suspension, not for adjournment.
I thought the time might be usefully employed in discussing what I consider a very important matter, and that the question would arise on a motion for suspension just as well as it would on a motion for adjournment.
The hon. member might discuss the question on a motion for adjournment, but not on a motion for suspension of business. The hon. member may discuss the Order Paper, but I do not think he can go into the question he now wants to raise.
There are very important matters on the Order Paper standing over still. There is the Government Attorney Bill.
You will get that next session.
That is just the point I am coming to.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would call your attention to the fact that there is no quorum present.
A quorum having been constituted.
Now that a quorum has assembled, I may say that I will take another opportunity, on your advice, of raising this question before the House adjourns.
Motion put and agreed to.
Business was suspended at 4.3 p.m. and resumed at 5.8 p.m.
Business was suspended at 5.10 p.m. and resumed at 5.42 p.m.
Can I now discuss the matter to which I have already referred?
Yes, with the consent of the House.
Motion put and agreed to.
Business was suspended at 5.44 p.m., and resumed at 6.30 p.m.
A message was read from the Senate returning the Miners’ Phthisis Bill.
Mr. NATHAN rose to address the House.
The hon. member cannot debate this.
I do not propose to debate this, but I wish to refer more particularly to the publication of this Bill, and I think this an opportune moment to draw attention—
The hon. member cannot discuss this in any way. It is merely a message from the Senate, and it is quite formal.
At the moment there is no other business, and I beg to move—
Mr. B. J. PIENAAR seconded.
I desire to oppose this on the ground that the public service will be considerably disturbed by the motion of the Minister. This House has been sitting since July 25. During the course of the last six or seven weeks the Government have thought fit, on several occasions, to introduce measures without publishing them, to enable people up country to study them. Without wishing to delay the House I wish to urge on the Government that they do not adopt that course again.
The hon. member must confine himself to the motion to suspend business until 7.30 p.m.
With the leave of the House, I would like to continue the argument.
Any objection. (Cries of “Yes.”)
I move as an amendment that the House adjourn until Monday at 10.30 a.m. It is not in the interests of the country to legislate in this way, for I think the Senate should have every opportunity of discussing fully the important measures which are transmitted to them. The frequent suspensions of business here show that the Senate has not an opportunity of thoroughly discussing legislation.
The amendment was not seconded.
Motion put and agreed to.
Business was suspended at 6.30 p.m., and resumed at 7.40 p.m.
The House adjourned at