House of Assembly: Vol5 - FRIDAY 12 JUNE 1925
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at
I have to announce that notice of objection to the adoption of the third report of the Select Committee on Internal Arrangements, presented to this House on the 10th instant, having been handed to me by the hon. member for Riversdale (Mr. Badenhorst), it now becomes necessary for a date to be fixed for the consideration of the report.
Report to be considered on Tuesday.
I recognize that in tabling and in bringing this motion I have taken what is a grave step and an unusual step, only to be taken under very exceptional circumstances, and I may say at once that I have taken it with very great reluctance. My whole inclination is to support the Chair in this House. I know the difficulties of presiding over a body like this are very considerable and a great deal of allowance has to be made and my own inclination would be wherever possible to support the Chair, and, if I move this motion to-day, it is simply and solely with the idea of vindicating what I consider the privileges of this House and with a view to preventing a wrong precedent being laid down for the future. At the same time let me say this, that I do not see why a matter like this should be discussed with any bitterness in this House. We are now sufficiently far removed from the unhappy atmosphere of last Wednesday, to look at this matter in a calm and objective light, and certainly so far as I am concerned I shall discuss the matter only on its merits, and apart from all personal and party considerations. Let me just recapitulate the proceedings of last Wednesday, which ultimately led up to an application for the closure. We began with a short debate on a Bill which was introduced by the Minister of Mines to place Government directors on the boards of mining companies and syndicates, and I think on that Bill only two members on this side of the House spoke and two Ministers on the other side. There was no undue prolongation of the debate. It was followed by our going into Committee of Supply, and dealing with the Vote of Child welfare. Let me say this, if there had been any intention on the part of this side of the House unduly to delay the proceedings, or to obstruct the work of the committee, we had very ample opportunity there. It was a large vote, £188,000. This side of the House has always taken great interest in child welfare; we were responsible for the legislation which started that very beneficial movement, and if there had been the least intention of delaying the proceedings of the committee there was our chance. But, as hon. members will recollect, we passed that vote with very little discussion or question, and then we came on to the next vote, the vote of Agriculture. It is generally recognized that the Vote of Agriculture is probably the most important vote that comes before us in Committee of Supply. We have recognized the importance of the Agricultural portfolio in the Government of this country. We have recognized it in many ways. The post has been held in the past by some of the most outstanding statesmen in this country. Agriculture is the main industry of this country. The great bulk of people in this country are more interested in the discussion of agricultural questions, and in the agricultural estimates, than almost any other question in this House, and it has been customary in this House in Committee of Supply to devote more time to the discussion of the agricultural estimates than any other votes. When we went to consider this vote it was taken as a whole, and let me say that, perhaps, I was to blame in that respect. My right hon. friend, the member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) suggested to me, when we began the discussion, that we should follow a course often followed before, and take the agricultural vote seriatim. There is a great deal of precedent for that, as my right hon. friend will show just now. I thought, however, that it might lead to unnecessary delay and I suggested to him that we should not move to that effect, but should take the vote as a whole. In consequence, we went into a discussion on the agricultural vote as a whole. It was not long before we were deep in discussion of sheep and scab, scab inspectors and similar items.
Unfortunately, very little else. There was nothing unusual in that. I have seen it happen every year. We know that as soon as we go into a discussion on the agricultural estimates the committee is at once on scab and sheep and cognate items. During the course of the afternoon, while this discussion was going on, several members made attempts to raise other issues, but of course they were simply snowed under. I know an attempt was made by several members to raise the question of dairying, for instance, but they had to desist, because the main discussion was on sheep and scab. That went on during the rest of the afternoon, and after dinner the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) raised the question in another form by moving the reduction of the salary of the Minister, and he did so in order to level two definite charges against the Minister. The one was this; that whereas during the debate on the Animal Diseases Amendment Act the Minister of Agriculture had denied that any great damage had been done, he had in fact before him at that time, a report by the principal veterinary surgeon for Natal, showing that very great damage had been lone to the farmers, and that an enquiry should be held; That was the first charge. The second charge was that the Minister when asked to lay on the Table these papers, had delayed to do so, for a long time, and only laid them on the Table that afternoon. The reason the Minister gave was that the papers were in Pretoria, whereas the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick), said these papers were here in Cape Town, and had been seen by members not only of this House but of another place. I am not going into the merits of that debate; it is not necessary, but a debate took place on that question, and while this debate was proceeding in the course of the evening two hon. members rose and applied for the closure, and the closure was at once granted by the Chairman of Committees. The position then was this, that a general debate was going on, a debate in which both sides of this House were taking part equally; in fact I think I am right in saying that more speeches were made on the Government benches than on this side.
If I am wrong the hon. member will no doubt correct me, but that is my information; at any rate my impression was that it was an equal and general debate proceeding all round the House. The Minister of Agriculture took a very considerable part himself in this debate. It had proceeded for less than five hours, when the closure was applied for, and a good deal of that time had been taken by the Minister himself in his reply. The result was this, that during the afternoon and evening the committee had devoted its attention almost entirely to this one item of sheep and animal diseases, and the very large number of other items of very outstanding importance included in the Agricultural vote were not dealt with at all.
Who was to blame?
I am not attempting to allocate the blame; I am trying to explain, that in our opinion the closure should not have been granted, and the question is whether the whole Agricultural vote which was under discussion, had had a fair opportunity of discussion in committee. Now I say, that up to that stage we had discussed practically only one item out of a very large number in the agricultural estimates. Let me compare this with what happened yesterday. No charge, I think, can be made out, and I think no charge would be attempted even, that yesterday we gave undue attention to agricultural education. We discussed that during the afternoon and a large part of the evening, and I think it will be admitted on all sides that that was a fair and proper discussion which took place, and that it was not unduly protracted. The fact remains that more time was taken in this discussion of agricultural education than in the discussion of the whole agricultural vote, and that fact, by itself, is sufficient to show that there was not a proper exercise of his discretion, on the part of the Chairman of Committees, when he accepted the closure. I admit that circumstances arise when the closure is necessary machinery, and should be resorted to: but I do not think it can be fairly contended that the circumstances on Wednesday night justified the application of the closure. The closure, I submit, could be fairly applied in a case where a debate is one-sided, or had run out and has degenerated into tedious repetition.
Hear, hear. That is just the point.
But here is the position. A general debate was going on, taken part in equally by both sides of the House, and in the middle of the debate—before the hon. member who had moved a reduction in the Vote, had had an opportunity to reply, although he had risen several times to reply, without catching the Chairman’s eye—the closure was applied. I say that if a case like this were to be a precedent, I tremble for the rights and privileges of hon. members in this House. My hon. friends opposite must not, in the irritation of the moment, under the influence of a momentary feeling, lay down a precedent or resort to a procedure which may have a very deleterious effect on hon. members’ rights in years to come. I think a very grave mistake was made by the Chairman when he accepted the closure on that occasion. I know that great pressure was applied to him—that was evident—to accept the closure, and I also admit that for the moment the Chairman probably forgot the circumstance that only one item was being discussed, and I think that, before the closure was applied, some member of the Government might have given a hint to the House that this procedure might be followed, and that it might be as well to come to an end of this discussion, in order that the other items might be dealt with. That would have been a fair warning; but in my opinion, no adequate time was given for the discussion of one item under the agricultural estimates, and under the circumstances, the Prime Minister will admit that it would have been a fairer procedure to the Committee if warning had been given, and members had been told that the closure was to be applied, and that their mouths were to be shut. One result was this—I know it is a fact—and it might apply to hon. members on the other side too, that on these benches a number of hon. members were being kept quiet who wanted to raise questions on the other items of the Agricultural Estimates; but we did not want a miscellaneous debate, mixing up the items, and these hon. members sat patiently, waiting for a chance, and before they could be heard, the chance was taken away. I think that was an occasion—perhaps the outburst of a feeling of irritation for the moment—which should not become a precedent in this House.
There is a precedent.
Well, no doubt the hon. member will raise the point. I do not want to censure the Chairman of Committee personally. He is an officer of the House, and we want to keep up his authority. My sole desire in raising this point, and ventilating the matter, is to see that the rights of hon. members on all sides of the House, and especially of a minority, are safeguarded.
I second the motion.
It will perhaps be well to read the motion which is before the House again. It says—
Let me say at once that I am very glad at the spirit in which the motion has been introduced by the hon. member for Standerton (Gen Smuts). I do not think that there is any other kind of motion that could come before the House about which we are more called upon to keep an eye to the dignity of the House than a motion which deals with conduct in the House. I therefore hope as far as I am concerned to discuss the matter as calmly and as much from the point of view of what is desirable for the House for the work in the interests of the country. Yes, this is unquestionably a very serious matter. I will go into details later on, but I just wish in general to point out to the House that the motion actually asks the House to say that the Chairman of Committees has acted negligently, or incompetently, or with partiality (hear, hear)—and improperly. If I am to judge by the “hear, hears” from the Opposition, then I must take it that the motion has been introduced to accuse the Chairman of Committees of partiality. We therefore see that a very serious accusation has been made against the Chairman of Committees, and what is more, if the motion is accepted, the results will be most fatal, not alone for the Chairman, but also for the Speaker of the House unless the accusation is well grounded. If it is without foundation, then the danger exists that a Speaker or Chairman in the future will never take the responsibility upon himself when the time has come, and the circumstances have arisen, that make it necessary to accept a motion for the closure of the debate. How serious the matter is I just wish to point out by reading a few lines out of one of the morning papers in connection with this motion—
Hon. members of the Opposition again say “hear, hear.” It is therefore clear that the Opposition actually want to affirm that the conduct of the Chairman of Committees was “oppressive and unjust.” But this shows how serious the matter is which we are considering to-day. I want to consider how far there is justification for this accusation. We cannot leave it there. It must be shown that the Chairman of Committees has made himself guilty of oppression and injustice, or it must be shown that he is innocent. Now, I want first of all to say that as regards the decision as to the fairness of the time to apply the closure, one must take into consideration the policy and action of the House. We must not forget that the closure exists to prevent obstruction or to prevent working against the business of the House. Thus the closure occurs mostly in cases where it cannot be shown by one or two concrete facts that certain persons are obstructing, but it occurs when the spirit prevailing in the House, and the way certain members are behaving, the way in which speeches are made, convince the Chairman that there is a certain hindrance to the progress of business. Ordinarily only the consideration of these circumstances can lead the Chairman to judge whether actually an end should be put to the discussion or not. When this is so, then I say (I say it with all respect, but also with full conviction) that as regards the conduct and action of certain members of the Opposition it had unquestionably appeared repeatedly in the House and especially in Committee of the House that the speeches were of such a nature that they could not be called bona fide, of such a nature that it was clear that the object was not to properly discuss and advance the matters before the House, but that the main object was only to talk and prevent progress, and against no one was this more the case than against the hon. Minister of Agriculture. I say that it appeared repeatedly that certain hon. members were only out to worry the hon. Minister of Agriculture and delay business. Now I just want to consider what the closure rule is. The hon. member for Paarl (Dr. De Jager) said on the occasion of the motion for the closure—
If he meant that on the occasion of the application of the closure the debate was not entirely one-sided, then he was possibly right, but if He pretends that that was the ground on which the closure rule should be applied, namely when there is one-sidedness of discussion, then he is talking utter nonsense. The Government need then do nothing else to have an opportunity of applying the rule than to shut the mouths of his followers, and in this way the most important matters in this House might be prevented from being sufficiently discussed. The hon. member for Paarl (Dr. de Jager) simply talks without his book.
If the hon. Prime Minister reads the rule he will see.
I am just intending to read the rule. The rule is 81, and reads as follows—
In other words any member of the House has the right to propose the application of the closure and the Chairman is obliged to put the question immediately and without debate unless one of two things happen, either that it is an infringement of the standing orders of the House or an infringement of the rights of the minority. Where then does the hon. member for Paarl find the wisdom that it can only be applied to debates that are one-sided? The hon. member for Paarl did not know what he was talking about and I shall later indicate the spirit in which the hon. member for the Paarl protested against the proposal for the closure when it was made. The hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) therefore was fully justified in proposing the motion that the closure rule should be employed to put an end to the debate and the chairman has no right to refuse unless he is convinced that it is an abuse of or an encroachment upon the rights of the minority. Let us just look for a moment at what the position is with regard to the motion. We are asked to pass a vote of censure. The proposal can only be justified if hon. members opposite show where the abuse exists or where and what the infringement of the rights of the minority have been. Only then is the motion justified. Now I wish to say that I am convinced of it—I say this very emphatically—that the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) acted quite right in the circumstances in introducing the motion and I go further and say that the Chairman of the Committee was not only justified but it was his duty to accept the motion. I just wish to make a few observations on the circumstances in which the motion was introduced. The debate on the agricultural vote had then already occupied five hours and twenty minutes. That debate was so futile, so fruitless, so dull and so uninteresting to hon. members of the House that as we know the bells had to be rung twice for a quorum. We got a quorum with great difficulty to carry on the debate. I go further and say that at one time during the debate there were present, of the Opposition members, how many do you think? Five. The hon. members who now feel so indignant and say that the Chairman did not do his duty found the debate so boring and futile that while the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) was talking they all fled the House and we had to come in to listen to him. But what is more, the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) has said here this afternoon that the same hon. members who found the debate so uninteresting had a great deal more they wished to say. What was then the subject of the whole debate during the five hours and twenty minutes? The hon. member for Standerton acknowledges that the chief part consisted of personal attacks on the Minister of Agriculture. The hon. member for Standerton’s very own words are: “Very little else was done.” And what were the further points of attack? The hon. member for Standerton again pointed out correctly that the discussion was about sheep inspectors, compulsory dipping, compensation for damage suffered, and the dismissal of officials. Those were the chief points on which the time of the House was wasted and all the points had already been before the House ad nauseam on three or four occasions when also much time was wasted on them. Again the hon. member for Standerton has rightly said that the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) then made two other reproaches and it is just here that a great deal of justification is found for the closure of the debate. The hon. member for Illovo went so far as to accuse the Minister of suppressing documents. He said that certain documents had to be laid on the Table of the House but let me say that that accusation of the hon. member is so reckless and frivolous, so trivial and so clearly not made with the object of attaining real practical results that all hon. members could not but feel that he was actually standing there speaking for himself alone. That is why they all ran away. No one was found to support him and the hon. members opposite left him in the lurch after all that waste of time. What then does the complaint that they had many things yet they wished to say amount to? It is simply an excuse which is used because they did not get their way regarding the application of the closure rule, to bring something up against the Chairman, against the Government and the Government party. I repeat that they had five hours and twenty minutes, but all the time that was intended for the discussion of agriculture was not used for agriculture. For that very reason the closure rule was applied. The time was wasted with trivialities. I only refer to the circumstances in which the closure rule was applied. The discussion was so boring that everybody went out of the House and they had so little to say that there was not one who raised a point upon which other members said anything. The hon. member for Standerton has now said that there were many other matters of importance but that it was of no use bringing them up, “because they were snowed under.” By whom? By hon. members opposite, by the hon. member for Cradock (Mr. G. C. van Heerden) and the hon. member for Illovo. And these are the hon. members who represent themselves as the great protagonists of the interests of the farmers! I have made good analysis of the debate and only wish to mention the other points that were referred to. Improvement of dairy cattle was mentioned by the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow). It was one of the few speeches made seriously in connection with agricultural matters, and which found a weak echo among hon. members of the Opposition. A short discussion took place thereon. Another subject was cold storage. Only, incidentally, during the discussion of sheep inspectors was that referred to. Then a few words was said about the export of meat. Casually also mealies were dragged into the discussion. The hon. member for Cape Town (Harbour) (Maj. G. B. van Zyl) said something about the Karroo reserve just to get an answer from the hon. Minister to his question. The hon. member for Oudtshoorn (Mr. le Roux) talked about ostriches and finally the hon. member for Aliwal (Mr. Sephton) mentioned jackals. It was not the intention to discuss these matters at length but just to get an answer to individual questions. An hour was not required to dispose of all these points. All the rest of the time was wasted over scab inspectors, scab and compensation in Natal, all matters that were dealt with ad nauseam. We see thus how much time was wasted and I say that in the circumstances the hon. member for Brakpan was quite justified in making the proposal for the closure and the Chairman would not have been doing his duty in the circumstances if he had not accepted the motion. The Chairman has unquestionably the duty of protecting the liberty of speech of members. That will, I hope, always sufficiently weigh with us to give sufficient time for the discussion of what is necessary but then it may not be sham discussion by which it is pretended that the business is being advanced while the actual object is to retard the business. Then I say that no other impression could be made by the debate on an impartial person than that the Opposition took that opportunity of giving vent to spite against the Minister of Agriculture and, further, of seeing how far the proceedings could be delayed. No more suitable time could thus have been chosen for accepting the closure.
The closure was applied to prevent the attack on the Minister of Agriculture.
Now I wish to point out that the protection of the liberty of speech in the House is not the only obligation of the Chairman. He has, in my opinion, another much harder duty, and that is to see that the business of the House and the interests of the people are not rendered futile by frivolous speeches. As to the other members who according to the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) still had matters they wished to discuss I say that it was their duty to bring them forward.
After the closure?
No, before the closure, before the hon. member for Cradock (Mr. G. C. van Heerden) stood up three times to talk, and before the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) became such a bore with his repetitions that hon. members walked out. If the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt had done his duty, as he generally does, then he should have got up, as the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) did over and over again when he found that the discussion going on was of little importance, to direct the attention of the House to important points. There was opportunity enough for the hon. members before the hon. member for Cradock (Mr. G. C. van Heerden) got up three times—
And that is quite enough. Hon. members sat still because they had nothing to say or did not do their duty. What then of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that other members had something further to say? It is not the duty of the Chairman of Committees to ask hon. members whether they had anything further to say. Nobody expects or can expect that. The chairman must judge according to what takes place and what is laid before him, and he has no right to judge otherwise, and his judgment and conviction must be formed by what takes place and what has taken place. The hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) felt the force of this, and therefore he comes and says that we should have given a warning. Let me say at once that I think there is much to be said for a warning. If we will co-operate with each other bona fide, but I do not remember any warning in all the years that the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) was at the head of affairs, and how often did he not apply the closure?
Very seldom? Now we see how impartial we immediately are when our own interests are touched. It happened very often, Ministers themselves got up and moved the closure of the debate, even in the middle of a speech from the Opposition. No, no warning was demanded, and I want to add that if the leaders of the Opposition and of the Government are not inclined to act bona fide and in good faith with each other than terrible misuse can be made of such warning. What might occur? There are five members of the Opposition present. In the meantime the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) and others are permitted to delay the business of the House for five hours. They go and sit outside and now the warning is given. What follows? If action is not bona fide then one or two other members can be sent in and the business of the House can again be delayed for four or five hours. I only mention the possibility of abuse in this way, and I say that hon. members opposite have not the least reason for complaint. The hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) has pointed out how fine and good the proceedings were the very day after when agricultural education was being discussed. Why? May I ask the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt)? On account of the wholesome lesson of the day before. It is just there that the closure is such a wholesome remedy. It is unfortunately a remedy about which, as an English writer says, no one has ever yet expressed the view that it is actually satisfactory, but without which no Government has been able as yet to get on.
I am sorry but the time of the hon. the Prime Minister has expired.
Thank you. With the permission of the House I will go on a little. I shall not be much longer. I say, therefore, that the arguments which have been used here are not sound. The hon. member for Standerton found it necessary to put before the House the position the House was in when the closure was accepted, but I must say that possibly he was not as often here as I was during the discussion. One thing is certain, namely, that he did not follow very much what was said in the House during all the time. I therefore say, with conviction, that the motion is without any justification and I think it is calculated to throw a reflection on the Chairman of Committees which cannot be justified. It is indeed a fact that no one considers the closure a satisfactory weapon, but we must not forget that the remedy is there and that the Chairman must apply it when circumstances make it necessary. When we were in Opposition we had the same complaints that have arisen to-day and which will arise in the application of this rule, but we felt in the past that we had to submit to it. I believe that we also in one case made such a motion and the House rejected it. I only mention it because we must be very careful when we use the remedy about taking the step that we are taking to-day because if we do that then the danger exists that the Chairman will be afraid to do his duty. This motion will have no other result than frightening the Chairman, and unless the House lets it clearly be seen that it abides by the remedy and that it must be applied in a fair way the remedy would appear not to be a valid one. In the existing circumstances, it is impossible to jettison the remedy. All we can do is to see that if the remedy is used and applied, that it is done in a fair way, and does not encroach upon the rights of members to discuss the interests of the people. I just want, further, before I end, to bring to the notice of the House what the spirit of hon. members may be when they are in Opposition. It is possible that when we were in Opposition it also sometimes happened that we acted so foolishly.
I am glad that the hon. member for Fort Beaufort says “no.” I am glad that we always acted sensibly. This report of the discussion shows so clearly where hon. members went wrong. What took place?—
Quite right according to the rules. The question must immediately be put without debate.
Then the hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige), the former Speaker, said—
Then follows the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt). I am so sorry for him. He is kindhearted, but he sometimes becomes a little vehement. What does he say? This—
“Fair-play.” With reference to what does he say that? The Chairman had without allowing any debate to immediately put the question and we, therefore, see the position. Then the hon. member for Caledon follows again—
But what is said is not a point of order—-
It is not a point of order. It is a debate. The Chairman acted quite correctly because if the question is put it must be put without amendment and debate. I admit that there had been discussion by both parties, but let me say that two-thirds of the speeches on this side were protests against the conduct of the Opposition and the attack by members opposite. The hon. members of the Opposition cannot expect us to sit still while they make their provocative attacks, but I go further with what happened. The Chairman then said—
Then the hon. member for Witwatersberg (Lt.- Col. N. J. Pretorius) called out “shame.” The Chairman asked then who had said that and the hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell) replied that he was also prepared to say so if it was necessary. That is what took place. The Chairman acted quite rightly in accordance with his duty, and I ask hon. members to collaborate in maintaining the authority of the Speaker and of the Chairman of Committees. I close by making an appeal to hon. members to cooperate in this.
I think members on all sides of the House will agree that the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) in proposing his motion—a motion which I consider is, perhaps, of the supremest importance that could be brought before the House, as it deals with the rights and privileges of members—did so in temperateness of language which all hon. members must recognize. I say with regret that, unfortunately, we cannot say the same of the leader of this House, who, in discussing a question of this sort should have set an example to other hon. members, because, you can well understand, especially if your mind goes back to 1917 when a motion much of the same character was proposed, that it is very easy to raise questions entirely outside the subject-matter of the motion.
Keep cool yourself.
The Prime Minister considers there was no justification for raising the motion, and he worked himself up to such a state of excitement that during a certain portion of his speech I wondered when he referred to the question of cold storage, because I could not help thinking that in his position as leader of the House if he would put himself for an hour or two into cold storage before coming here then he would address the House without the excitement he exhibited a short time ago. If there is any justification for the State spending money on cold storage building. I should say it should at any rate have a chamber for the right hon. gentleman in which he could cool down a little before addressing the House on a question of such importance.
Is that raising the tone of the debate?
The Minister of Labour asked me if I am raising the tone of the debate. He remembers how he used to thunder forth whenever he thought that any of the privileges of members of this House were being interfered with, but now he and his friends have entered into the house of bondage they vote under the crack of the Pact whip for a closure against which they formerly made the rafters ring. Don’t let me make the Minister of Labour as excited as his leader was, because this is a matter which we ought to discuss calmly and dispassionately. Listening to the Prime Minister’s speech I felt rather sorry for the hon. member for Fordsburg (Mr. J. S. F. Pretorius), who thought that the limelight was shining on him because his name appears on the Order Paper, but the Prime Minister gave all the credit to the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston).
I took it from your paper.
I am taking it from the Orders of the House, because I understand—and that is one of the things on which we feel so strongly—that both the hon. members for Brakpan and Fordsburg rose together. One proposed the motion in Dutch and the other in English. I maintain that the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) did not propose the motion until he had seen the Minister of Agriculture and the Chairman of Committees. The hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) and the Minister of Agriculture will have an opportunity of denying that if they think it is incorrect.
What is wrong about that?
It should ill become the member of a party that formerly stormed against the taking away of the rights of members by introducing the closure to be a party under the Pact agreement to applying the closure. But I don’t want to be led away by these interruptions. I wish us to devote all our attention not to anything that has taken place in the past, but to what took place on Wednesday.
Are you ashamed of the past then?
I am not going, unless compelled to do so, to refer to the attitude the present Prime Minister took up in 1917 when, notwithstanding the apology of the member who stated in committee that he thought it was an organized opposition, and notwithstanding the apology of the Chairman of Committees, the former moved a resolution in 1917 in most intemperate language attacking the then Chairman of Committees. The hon. member has forgotten it? Mr. Speaker gave a ruling. The hon. member who had given expression to the opinion that organized opposition had taken place withdrew the motion and apologised for it. The Chairman of Committees also expressed regret to the House, but notwithstanding that the present Prime Minister moved—
I don’t want to introduce the same feeling into this debate, but to be allowed in the calmest manner possible to point out the rights and privileges that I and other members of the House possess in bringing forward, especially on supply, the opinions and grievances of those who send us to Parliament. The Prime Minister says that very few points had been raised during the debate on the agricultural vote, and that at one period there was no quorum. Why was there no quorum? Because when the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) exercising his rights. (Dissent). Hon. members opposite are in a majority now, but one day they may be in a minority. I am discussing a very important point that touches the rights and privileges of every member, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to see that hon. members give me an opportunity of expressing my opinion. This is not a matter of ordinary importance; it applies to us to-day, but it may apply to hon. members opposite at some future time. I maintain that why there was no quorum in the House was due to the fact that when the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) brought forward a serious charge against the administration of my hon. friend, the only members on the Government side of the House were the Minister himself and the hon. member for Wakkerstroom (Mr. A. S. Naudé) and when we saw that discourtesy some of our members went out in order to make it necessary for the Government to form a quorum to carry on. That is not the first occasion on which that has happened, because Government members have trooped out more than once. However unpleasant it may be to listen, every member has a perfect right to exercise his privilege and bring forward what he thinks is in the interests of the country. The hon. the Prime Minister is the last who should object to charges being made against Ministers, if hon. members think they can substantiate them, because it was only the other day the Prime Minister himself devoted 1¼ hours of the time of this House to directing the most venomous charges against my friend the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), and it ill becomes him to talk about members making charges against the Ministers. If he reads the “Votes and Proceedings” he will find, before a debate is closed, the mover of a proposal has a right to reply. The hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) made certain charges, and these had not been answered when the closure was applied, and it was moved before the hon. member for Illovo had an opportunity of expressing his opinion. When you get an important question of that sort raised it is better for the committee to allow it to be settled before proceeding to other issues. There were many other things hon. members wished to discuss. If the hon. member will read the Hansard report, I will be prepared to give him a rough copy given to me to-day, he will find I only addressed the House twice, and in the last words I said before the closure, I said “I hope the hon. Minister for Agriculture will take an opportunity of informing the House and the country of what the position is in connection with the East Coast fever.” I have a perfect right to get these replies. The Prime Minister, who is so anxious to save every precious moment of the time of this House, did not show his desire in that direction this afternoon, because when the closure was applied to him by the rules of the House we were generous enough to let him go on and waste a little more time if he so desired. The Prime Minister laid great stress on the time occupied on that debate. I don’t in any way wish to personally attack the Chairman of Committees, but I say in discussing an important vote like the agricultural vote, five hours and twenty minutes is not sufficient time. The Prime Minister must realize that large numbers of members on this side of the House, representing farming constituencies, have got requests from their constituents to bring forward different matters, and it is a good thing that they should be brought forward, because they give the Government the opportunity of redressing grievances, or of being able to explain that supposed grievances don’t really exist.
Why did you not do it?
I did, and I got no answer. The question of cotton was raised, and the question of dairying, the question of jackals, wattle bark, and various questions, and on that vote there was entomology, horticulture, the veterinary vote, the bacteriological establishment report, and many matters of the greatest importance to the farming population of this country. Might I answer the Prime Minister when he says we devoted more than sufficient time to the discussion of this vote. I have taken the trouble to get figures worked out for me, which I think would stand investigation, and I think they will be a complete answer to the charge of the Prime Minister. In 1910-’11, 8 hours and 40 minutes were devoted to this vote of agriculture; in 1911-’12, 8 hours and 25 minutes; in 1912-’13, 11 hours and 51 minutes; in 1913-’14, 10 hours; in 1914-’15, 6½ hours; in 1915-’16, 2 hours, that was the war period and a short session; in 1917-’18, 8 hours and 40 minutes; in 1918-’19. 6 hours and 30 minutes; in 1919-’20, 6 hours and 10 minutes; in 1920-’21, 10 hours and 50 minutes. Who were in Opposition then? In 1921’22, 8 hours and 50 minutes; in 1922-’23, 2 hours. The Prime Minister will remember that at that period of time he and his party went on strike, and during the passage of the whole of the estimates they never considered it necessary to come into the House and voice the views of their constituents. In 1923-’24, there were 14 hours and 35 minutes devoted to the vote.
Because it took that amount of time for hon. members to discharge their duty to their constituents, and they were not prevented. In 1924-’25, 9 hours and 45 minutes were taken. Take the war period and the strike period, and the strike period, I would like to call your attention to the fact, was an important historical period in this House.
Why did not you spend more than 2 hours then?
The hon. member was not in the House. Over all these years the average time occupied by the agricultural vote was 8 hours and 8 minutes. Eliminate the strike and war period and the average was 9 hours and 8 minutes. The Prime Minister treated me, I think, unfairly yesterday. I moved, yesterday, that the agricultural education estimate be taken seriatim, and the Prime Minister said it was only another example of the obstruction that had taken place the day before.
I did not say it was that.
The Prime Minister said he could not accept the motion, as it was clear to him the Opposition were continuing their attempt of delaying the business of the House. Hares were started and chased about by a few members. Was it a hare that was started by the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick)? If it was a hare, it was a hare of a sufficiently large character, owing to the seriousness of the charges that were made, that the Minister of Agriculture should have got up and given a clear explanation to the House.
It was given.
The Prime Minister has only been told of these things. He does not know of these things. He only came into the House a few minutes before the closure was moved. During the whole course of the day we had not the pleasure of the Prime Minister’s company in this House, and, consequently, all the charges that have been laid have been laid on statements made to him.
That is absurd. I heard you; I heard the hon. member for Cradock Mr. G. C. van Heerden), and I heard almost everybody.
I think if my hon. friend would look up the tablets of his memory, he would find it was very late in the evening when he came.
I heard all about Geldenhuys.
I have no doubt that the Prime Minister was sent for when he was told that they were about to move the closure. Then the Prime Minister said that in moving to have the vote taken seriatim, I was proposing a thing that had never been done before. I have also had that taken out, and I find that in 1910-’11 it was taken seriatim, in 1912 seriatim, in 1913 seriatim (after a certain amount of discussion had taken place on the whole vote), in 1914 seriatim, in 1915 seriatim, in 1916 en bloc, in 1917 seriatim, in 1918 seriatim, in 1919 en bloc, in 1920 en bloc in 1921 en bloc, in 1922 en bloc. Why? Because hon. members who then sat on the Opposition benches and realized from experience that they were going to get fair play and fair treatment from this side. There was no other reason, because, though you had the precedent of this thing being taken for years seriatim, you yourselves, sitting on the Opposition benches were a willing party to taking the vote en bloc, for you felt perfectly certain that you were going to get-plenty of time to discuss an important vote of this character. The Prime Minister’s memory is very short. Last year the vote was taken seriatim when he was Prime Minister.
And with what result?
With the result that it occupied 9 hours 45 minutes. Does the Prime Minister object to the vote for agriculture taking 9 hours 45 minutes?
At a special sitting?
Does the Prime Minister object to the agricultural vote taking 9 hours 45 minutes? That is the average which the vote has taken, two years excepted, during the whole of the years of the Union Parliament.
Was that the agricultural vote?
The agricultural vote, Vote 28, that we were taking the other night. When we appealed to the House and went to a division, the hon. member went back on the whole of his traditions and responded to the crack of the party whip. Now the Prime Minister said that we are not bona fide in this. I can assure him that I am. I have tried to keep out the personal element as much as I can. I say it is an ill day for this House if hon. members, no matter on what side of the House they sit, allow their own party considerations to prevent them doing what they consider is in the general interests of the freedom of Parliament and the freedom of discussion, and the rights and privileges of members. That I maintain very strongly indeed, and I say if, on the expiration of 5 hours 20 minutes, the Chairman of this House considered that it was necessary to curtail the debate he had the right. I think you will agree with me, and he had the precedent as the officer for the time being controlling our deliberations, to call the attention of any member to what he considered was irrelevance in his discussion. If the Chairman considered that that should have been done, at least it would be right for members of this House who represent constituents throughout the length and breadth of the country to have an opportunity of bringing forward the various matters which were entrusted to them, which they were prevented from doing by what I consider was a curtailment of the privileges of members of this House, which is not in keeping with section 81 of the standing rules and orders. That section says—
I take the Prime Minister’s own argument. If the Chairman of Committees had considered that this debate had ventured too long in one direction, I say unhesitatingly it was his duty to have warned the House or the member that the closure was moved, and to say at that particular juncture that, owing to the period of time that this vote had taken and owing to the fact that many members had not yet addressed the House, he would not accept the motion for the closure. He could then, if he liked, have warned hon. members that on certain sections of the discussion there had been a great deal of debate, so as to give an opportunity to discuss other votes of importance on the estimates. I say that, without any desire to in any way whatsoever enter into personal altercations as regards what we have felt in the House in the past, I am dealing only with the present question, and I think I am fully within my rights and justified in saying that as a member of this House I have not had that liberty and that opportunity which it should be the right of hon. members on both sides of the House to have accorded to them. We are not bringing forward this motion with any desire to in any way censure the Chairman of Committees, but we are bringing it forward because we consider it is essential and it is desirable, in maintaining the privileges of members of Parliament, that when they consider that their privileges have been curtailed in any way the only right and constitutional manner of calling attention to the curtailment of those privileges is by putting a motion on the paper as my hon. friend (Gen. Smuts) has done, and moving it in most temperate language. Since I have been a member of Parliament I have always stood up for the rights and privileges of members. The one great feature of those rights and privileges is the right of free speech. I say if anything occurs that is likely to strike a blow at the right of free speech in the first Parliament of the nation, then it is the duty of members to bring it forward to the notice of this House and the country, so that by bringing it forward more discretion will be used by the responsible officers of this House in curtailing the rights and liberties of members.
I also agree with the remarks made in regard to the most temperate tone in which the right hon. member introduced this motion but when I come to regard his actual words they leave me somewhat amazed. I took his words down; he said, just as the right hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) said, that he—
Well the motion, after disapproving of the action of the Chairman of Committees, proceeds to affirm that such action was a curtailment of the rights and privileges of the members and an infringement of the rights of the minority. I conceive. Mr. Speaker, that when you your self are in the chair of this House, or the Chairman of Committees, when he is presiding over the business of the committee, that one of your principal duties is to see that you do not allow the curtailment of the rights and privileges of members, and do not allow any infringement of the rights of the minority. I have always looked upon that as one of the chief functions of the Chair you adorn, and yet the right hon. member, tabling a motion asking the House to affirm that, says in the same breath that he does not want to censure the Chairman of Committees.
Anyone can make a mistake.
Oh, it is only a mistake? It is a very serious mistake and one deserving of the severest censure of the House if that mistake is made. It is unqualifiedly true that his motion is the very stiffest censure of the Chairman of Committees that any man could possibly propose. I cannot congratulate the right hon. member for Fort Beaufort on having raised the tone of the debate. He has talked a lot of rather vulgar badinage which does not help at all. The Prime Minister has recounted the curious breach of order which took place when the Chairman was going to put the question, when some hon. member said. “Shame.” If, when I was sitting there, and when the father of the hon. member for Cradock (Mr. G. C. van Heerden) was Chairman of Committees, I had, on the ruling of the chairman, given vent to the word “Shame” well I should have been made to get up and apologize for having used such a word. I would not dream of censuring the chairman, but I do say, as a member of this House, and we are asked to affirm our opinion with regard to his conduct, if I have any criticizm, it is that he should have sternly put down that disgraceful interjection of “Shame,” on a ruling on a matter upon which he alone was entitled to rule. Most emphatically and certainly, if we in the Labour party had said anything of that sort, we should have been brought to book very quickly. This motion is ostensibly aimed at the Chairman of Committees, and it is no use the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) saying that he does not desire to censure the chairman. This is the stiffest censure the House could possibly pass upon the chairman or upon any person presiding over its deliberations. I will deal with that first, have been the arguments produced? The right hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) read out a long list of the time taken during various sessions on the agricultural vote. I notice that in 1914 it took a bare half-hour longer than this time.
There was no closure.
Only 10 hours in 1914, if you want to be correct.
The first figures you read out in 1914—
The first figures were 1910-’11 (8 hours and 40 minutes).
Before the war there was one of six and a half hours.
During the war there was one of six hours and 30 minutes, and another of two hours, but you know the reasons for that.
In any case what are the facts? What have been the points which have been debated in this House? The same points which were debated here the other afternoon were debated on the motion early in the session by member for Ermelo (Col.-Cdt. Collins). There was a long discussion on the order for simultaneous dipping. On the Government side three members spoke; on the Opposition side six, and one spoke twice. On the first and second reading of the Stock Diseases Act and in the committee stage, the subject was thrashed and thrashed out threadbare.
In the absence of the papers.
On the additional estimates we again thrashed it out threadbare; then all through this session we have had debates on the agricultural estimates in other forms. You have had on the Stock Diseases Act a debate which would have more fittingly come on the vote for the salary for the Minister of Agriculture. On Wednesday afternoon, all through, there was simply a raking up of the same old stuff.
What about the dismissal of inspectors?
It was thrashed out at the beginning of the session.
Where was it an abuse of standing orders on the part of the chairman to accept the motion under these circumstances? Where was it an infringement of the reasonable right of minorities? If hon. members had desired to discuss other matters which have not been thrashed threadbare they would have been raised earlier in the afternoon, instead of devoting your time to the same old subjects which have already been thrashed out.
The reduction of the Minister’s vote. What about that? That is the point.
If the hon. member will allow me to proceed—
The hon. member has stated there was a motion for the reduction of the Minister’s vote, and that under those circumstances there should not have been a closure. That is if it was a serious motion. But when a serious attack is made upon a prominent member of the Ministry, it is not usual to leave it to a member of the back benches to propose it.
Nor to move the closure either.
Excuse you were on this side it was frequently. When were on this side it was frequently moved by a member of the back benches. Within the rules a member may move it, and we shall take the fullest advantage of the rules. We shall use the rule as we think best, and any member on the other side is at perfect liberty to move the closure in accordance with the rules of the House. It is certainly unusual, at all events, to entrust a motion that is seriously meant by the Opposition, to a member who, owing to lack of taste no doubt on the part of members, is one whose efforts often result in a comparative emptying of the House. The Opposition did not really have any serious intention in it. What is the indictment? It is a very serious one indeed, and I cannot believe that there is so little touch between the hon. member and his leader that, if he felt it was an indictment sufficiently well based, he would leave it to him. The indictment is that the hon. the J mister undertook to put certain papers on the Table and that on a certain date he stated some of these papers were at Pretoria; and that Sherlock Holmes on the other side had ascertained that there were hon. members of this House and hon. senators who had actually seen the papers in Cape Town, and implied that my hon. friend was simply paltering with the House and really uttering a falsehood to the House.
Is not that a serious charge?
Yes; but not one, if really credited by hon. members on the other side, to be left to the hon. member for Illovo to make.
On a point of order, is the Minister in order in imputing motives to my hon. friend the member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick)?
I am afraid the hon. member has not heard aright.
What are the facts? No one knows better than the hon. member on the front bench, that when papers are asked for, you do not place them on the Table until you have the complete series. Certain of the papers were here, and certain of them were in Pretoria, and as soon as they were in the Minister’s hands, they were laid on the Table.
How do you know?
My hon. friend has told me so, and his word is good enough for me. We are discussing whether or not this motion of the closure was rightly accepted by the chairman, and no one knows better than the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), that when a speech is made in this House, impugning his veracity, he will refuse to answer. The hon. member will remember one or two occasions on which—although they were very serious—because his veracity was impugned he refused to reply at all.
When you accused him of burning telegrams.
And he refused to answer. So that apparently it is very honourable for the Leader of the Opposition to adopt that course but not for a Minister of the present Government. Then he reverted to the old charge of simony, because a brother-in-law of my hon. friend’s, who was a mere motor mechanic, had been given a job in the agriculture department. I am the proper person to answer that charge. The gentleman in question is a member of my department.
Yes, it was very obliging of the Minister, in response to a visit from myself when I asked if he could think of anybody who would suit me, to have suggested his name. I will tell the House the circumstances just to show how much there is in these miserable suspicions and sneers of the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick; I wanted particularly to get a really good active man for the position of chief welfare officer in connection with my tenant farmer scheme. I went to my hon. friend, and he mentioned one or two, and he mentioned his brother-in-law; but he said—
I think that this sort of ribald laughter is very typical of the attitude of mind of hon. members opposite. What the Minister said was—
Apparently anyone connected with you; though he may be the ablest man in the world, is not to be used at all. I saw the head of that expedition and he told me I could not do better, if I wanted a man without an idle bone in his body, than make use of that man. I say I have done so, and if there is any appointment for which I have been responsible and for which I have reason to congratulate myself in getting the right man for the job, it is the appointment of Mr. Bodenstein. But that is not the real object of this motion. Do not let hon. members be deceived and think that the terms of the motion convey what the Opposition want the House to accept; not a bit of it. The right hon. gentleman was really right; but his motion is wrong. He was right when he said he did not wish to censure the chairman. What he wants to do is, in concert with his daily press, to carry on the tactics which the Opposition conceived at the beginning of this session and hope to bring to fruition. This Government exists here by the will of the people, but not by the will of those who control the press who are their intimate allies and whom hon. members there represent. It has been a fight, for the last 30 or 40 years, for the people of South Africa to have their own Government, and certain big powerful influences, with all the resources of money at their command, can use the daily press of this country to influence the people of this country, so that they shall not carry out their own policy. This is only another phase of the same old thing. If you want to see the true motive of any move in this House, do not look at the Order Paper, and do not listen to the responsible leaders of the Opposition. Look at the “Cape Times” and the Argus” press and you will know the true inwardness of their tactics. It is the old thing. They want to keep racialism alive. The English-speaking members always take the same line Hon. members on that side to-day call themselves the South African party. A few years ago they were the Unionist party and a few years earlier the Progressive party; but always the party of the plutocracy of this country. What are their tactics? At the beginning of this session they decided to keep on with the discussion of administrative details, and to lengthen that discussion as much as possible; and then, at the end of the session hon. members on that side of the House, after about four or five months, will say we cannot stop any longer, and they will succeed by then protracting of discussion in the earlier part of the session, in getting Parliament to prorogue without the Government having got through the minimum possible amount of legislation. That is their game. It is an obvious game. We have sat in opposition ourselves, and we know something about it, but surely they don’t think we are such innocents as to fall in with their views and let them carry that out. They say “You must not use the close use”. The right hon. member says I am untrue to every principle I have ever held because I voted for the application of the closure. He forgets that he used to vote for the closure, and now he votes against it; but these are mere pretences, and it is part of the same game. Carry on discussion, let us have these votes seriatim, let us carry on the good old principle that the main business of Parliament is to scrutinize every item of the estimates, and so try to fool those poor innocents on the Government benches. Never give up talking, and go home without getting the legislation through, and then through the press say—
If the Opposition thinks we are such a lot of innocents they are very much mistaken. I think we should have applied the closure a good deal earlier in the session. If hon. members opposite care to go on strike they can do so—we have not the least objection to everyone of them going away. If they are banking on hon. members here deserting the Government and going home, they are banking on a different body of men than those who used to sit behind them. Hon. members on this side are going to see this thing through, and if the Opposition is banking on members going home it is leaning very much on a broken reed. What is the position?
They are contemplating sending you home already.
Oh, are they? I suppose that is one of the remarks which raises the dignity of debate in this House, because we all know hon. members on the cross benches—
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the hon. Minister in order when he addresses that corner of the House and not Mr. Speaker? The hon. Minister has throughout the greater part of his speech turned his back on Mr. Speaker in violation of Rule 59.
Before you give your ruling, sir, may I suggest that addressing the chair does not mean that each speaker has to keep his face always directed towards yourself.
I think the general rule is when Mr. Speaker is addressed, to face him, but I do not think it is always necessary to do so.
I am really surprised at the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie), who is such a very old member, rising to such a trivial point of order.
He did it to give you an opportunity of cooling down.
I wish to call the attention of hon. members on the cross benches to the fact that for many a long year we have been accustomed to the practices of the right hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt). The hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) will remember the tyrannical way in which the right hon. member was able to sit upon us, and the tremendous and profound respect he always had for the rights of minorities. We remember when the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) was in command of the machine, how tender he was of the rights of minorities, particularly small minorities. I think it was in “protection” of the rights of small minorities that in 1914 the House ultimately adopted the closure motion. What is the matter with hon. members opposite is that: That they cannot yet understand that hon. member on this side have the command, and they think they ought to rule the destinies of this House and the country. What has happened is a most unfortunate accident for them, and it exactly bears out my own impression. They look upon it as one of those unfortunate accidents that will happen that this Government is in power. In their view it is clearly fortuitous, and something that cannot last. After the general election they gave the Government only a week or two; then the period was extended to three months; then to six months, and now to a year. But still they think they have a heaven-sent right to direct the destinies of South Africa, and that any sort of assumption on the part of the Government to be here at all, is an unwarrantable infringement of their liberties. Let us turn to other matters. The Opposition does not like it, and they know that the whole of their tactics this session from the commencement has been to spin out business to try and prevent the Government getting its legislation through, so that at the end of the session they and their press will be able to say to the country—
But now the Opposition finds the closure is applied, it does not like it, and the galled jade winces. It is an old, old story which hon. members over there don’t like at all. They resent any allusion to their daily press, and if they had not the owners of the daily press on their side, they would be in a smaller minority than they are to-day. We are told By the Cape Times” that there has been a growing feeling of intolerance. We have also felt that when we have been in opposition. The closure has not been moved as often as the conduct of hon. members there would have made its application justifiable.
You have already moved it twice; three times is the average number of times it is moved.
But we have not had an Opposition like this before. We have had an Opposition which had some regard for the business of the country. Furthermore, you have not had a Government like this before. You have had a Government which, if it did bring in measures which might lead to the amelioration of the conditions of the people, were not particularly concerned whether those measures got through. It rather suited their book to be enabled to say at the end of the session that they could not get these Bills through. We have been tolerant and when the right hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) says—
perhaps he forgets yesterday afternoon—when that unusual procedure was taken of delivering long speeches on a first reading—I said the Government would take it as a hint to use the means in its power to accelerate business.
Does that mean the closure on every occasion?
It means the closure as long as hon. members go on discussing subjects which have been worn threadbare, and that, not in my opinion, but in the opinion of the Chairman of Committees. Is it not the doctrine of the hon. member himself held whilst in the Chair? I thought the rules of this House laid it down that the judgment and discretion was vested in the Speaker when the House was sitting and when in committee in the Chairman of Committees. Whenever we think, in our opinion, there is simply a carrying on of the talking in order to carry out this little plan of the Opposition to prevent business, I shall not dissuade any of my friends from moving the closure.
That is Bolshevistic, not democratic.
You will remember the old story of a member of the House of Lords asking what heterodoxy was, and the reply he got was—
It is all right when applied by that side, but it is not in the interests of the country if we apply it. Business is impossible if every member is going to discuss every measure to the extent of 40 minutes at a stretch.
If you put 40 Bills on the Order Paper business is impossible.
It is obvious this motion is not directed against the Chairman of Committees, but against hon. members on this side of the House for having voted for the closure, and I, on my part, hope the Chairman of Committees will use his discretion fairly and rightly, as he did the other afternoon, and I hope there will be no mealy-mouthed nonsense. We are going to fight against them. When they were in office they used both hands in the fight, but if we are in office we must fight with one hand only, and must refuse to use the rules of the House which were framed in order to let business be carried on. That appears to be their idea of what is right. It is not ours.
Listening to that speech I cannot help wondering whether the Minister of Defence was the same Mr. Cresswell who made a speech in this House in 1914 in opposition to the introduction of the closure motion made by Gen. Botha. On that occasion he talked with great eloquence and at great length, and, in fact, his speech occupies no less than seven columns of “Hansard.” I cannot help wondering when I heard that the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) was the gentleman who had moved the closure in this House on Wednesday night, whether he was the same Mr. Waterston we have always associated with movements of a democratic nature and as the champion of freedom of speech. I wish it were competent for me to read the whole of the speech of the Minister of Defence on the occasion to which I refer. I ask hon. members, however, to permit me to read one extract. The Minister said—
I am 14 years older now.
But you are not 14 years wiser.
The fact was it was exactly the same spirit which produced martial law and which conceived that iniquitous Peace Preservation Bill, that spirit of petulant intolerance to ideas which did not suit them that was expressing itself in that resolution. Not content with taking the power to gag people outside when liberty of speech was most valuable to them, but gagging them in Parliament assembled so that the nakedness of the Government policy should not be too indecently exposed to the public gaze.
Notwithstanding the absence of responsible Ministers, I must proceed. Common courtesy should have induced one of them to remain. I understand the reply of the Minister of Defence to this charge of inconsistency is—
I should have thought if the hon. gentleman had been consistent that having to impose the closure he would have been just as careful and eloquent in his exposition of the rights of the Opposition to see that the closure was properly put and that no injustice should be done. That is the whole issue. Following the introduction of the rule as to closure, we had in the Chair the hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige), and I venture to say during his period of office he won the esteem and confidence of every member of the House.
It is the first time I have heard dissent expressed in this House.
You hear it now.
His rulings and decisions were regarded with confidence and respect. The hon. Minister of Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Boydell) went so far as to say that he hoped he might occupy the position again. Under the guidance of that Speaker and under the chairmanship of Mr. Rooth there is this strange fact, that not once during the last 10 or 11 years since this rule has been in operation has any dissent been raised with the ruling of the Speaker or the chairman. It makes interesting reading to find out exactly how frequently, and on what occasions, the closure has been imposed in this House. I understood the Prime Minister to say that when we sat across the way we imposed the closure very frequently. I have gone to the trouble, and I thought it would be interesting, to find out exactly how frequently the closure has been imposed. In 1915, it was not imposed at all; in 1916 down to 1924 the closure has been imposed on 32 occasions, or an average of three times per annum.
And twice in one day.
The highest was five times in 1916, and the lowest was once in 1917. In 1923 there were four occasions. The present Government, with all the moderation which is claimed for it by hon. members opposite, have already imposed the closure twice during the present year. Now I come to what is the more pertinent thing in regard to when the closure was proposed. In Committee of Supply the closure has only been applied twice—once in 1921 and once in 1923. In 1921 the closure was applied on a motion to reduce the High Commissioner’s vote by £1. It was a specific item under discussion and the discussion had lasted two days before the closure was applied. Again in 1923, on the unemployment question, after two days discussion, the closure was applied.
Portions of two days.
One whole day till 11, and a portion of the second day. And what is the system which we applied when we were the governing power? In every instance when the closure was to be applied, it was either applied at the instance of the Minister himself or at the instance of the Whips. We never left a measure to be closured by a private member of the House, and the Whips adopted this principle, that in every instance, before applying the closure, we would approach the Chairman of Committees and ascertain from him whether he considered that the closure should then be applied. What happened on Wednesday night? We had the strange spectacle of two gentlemen rising together, neither of them members of the Ministry or Whips, and notably the member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston), to move the closure, and one has to ask one’s self this question, why of all people is the member for Brakpan so anxious to bring about the closure? We had had before, and we have had the strange speech of the Minister of Defence to-day intimating that they propose to exercise the right of closure more frequently. Quite accidentally to-day in the reading room of the House I happened to come across a copy of the current issue of “The Guardian,” which, I understand, is the leading organ of the Labour party, and it will interest members if I draw attention to the leading article in that paper. I do not propose to read it all, but merely extracts. It is under the heading “Vote” —
Another paragraph reads—
I understand the hon. member for Blomfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow) to say “Quite right.” It is because of artifices such as this, the action of the hon. member for Brakpan in moving the closure and the statements of the Minister of Defence, that we are suspicious that the right of free speech is to be denied in this House, and, whether wittingly or unwittingly, the Chairman of Committees was a party to stopping the discussion in this House, we are entitled to be apprehensive when we hear speeches of that description and when we read articles of this description.
It has nothing to do with the Chairman of Committees.
I say wittingly or unwittingly. When the Chairman of Committees lends himself by his actions to a practice of that description, it is only right and proper that people should stand up and protest. My object is to draw attention, arising out of the speech of the Prime Minister, to the number of occasions when the closure had Been applied and the circumstances under which it had been applied, and also to point to the very significant fact that the whole of this movement does not emanate from the Government, but comes from a prominent member of the Labour party.
The hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) has been quoting precedents, and he has just been telling us how many times the party now in Opposition used the closure when they were in office. I must say that if the facts and the arguments he used are as incorrect as the figures which he quoted, then there is nothing at all in the whole case which he put up. What actually happened? The hon. member for Durban (Central) tells us that the closure was applied in 1922 and 1923 about three or four times. I have got in my hand the official Votes and Proceedings of Parliament in each year and I find it officially recorded that the closure was applied in 1922 ten times, and in 1923 seven times. That is in two years a total of seventeen times.
May I be allowed to explain? What I referred to was distinct occasions when the closure was applied. In those two years the closure was applied three times in succession on the same Vote in Committee.
It’s a pity you did not explain before.
Here it is recorded in the Votes and Proceedings” that the closure was applied ten times in one year. In one day it was applied twice. It was applied seventeen times in two years. In 1924 the Government of that day really excelled itself, because in that very short session of two months, within sixteen days it applied the closure three times. On one of these occasions in 1924 the application of the closure was absolutely unjustified. At that time a very important measure was before this House, viz., the Financial Relations Bill That was a matter vitally affecting education and the whole body of teachers throughout the country. Temper in the country was very high over the measure. Hon. members will remember that public meetings were held all over the country. There was held a mass meeting of teachers here in Cape Town. Since 1922 temper had not run in this country over any measure as high as it did over that. We did not raise a debate on this when leave was asked to introduce it into Parliament. The only debate that took place on this was in the second reading. I must admit that a full discussion took place on that occasion.
It makes no difference. I admit a full discussion took place; but I want hon. members to remember that public interest in this debate was sustained from beginning to end. In 1924 when the discussion took place we did not find we had to call twice for a quorum.
We did not walk out.
After the second reading we had the committee stage. I moved an important amendment; and before 6 o’clock that evening the closure had been applied. Remember, it was a very important measure which had aroused public interest inside and outside this House as no other had done during the last few years, and yet before 6 o’clock the closure was applied, at our first going into Committee of the Whole House.
After eight weeks.
It was the worst case of clear bludgeoning we have ever had so far as my experience of Parliament goes. Let us deal with this incident that we had on Wednesday night. I want hon. members to remember that the closure was not applied to a discussion on agricultural matters. It was applied simply because the discussion from the other side was limited to the dipping question. It has been admitted this afternoon that the hon. party opposite deliberately confined the discussion to dipping. How often has this dipping question been discussed in Parliament this year? We started with a motion of the hon. member for Ermelo (Col.-Cdt. Collins). Then we had the Bill introduced by the Minister of Agriculture. When leave was asked to introduce this Bill we had a full dress debate that afternoon. Then when we came to the second reading we had a debate lasting for a couple of days. Then we had an endless discussion on that same Bill in committee.
The closure was applied in committee.
Oh yes, I remember there was. After endless discussion in committee there was again unrestricted freedom of debate at the report stage and then the matter was more than once referred to and discussed on financial measures. Therefore I am justified in saying this question was discussed in this House on no fewer than seven or eight occasions. I maintain that if that is not granting free and full discussion to hon. members opposite then I do not know what is. When we came to this agricultural vote on Wednesday night the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) got up and moved the reduction of the salary of the Minister just in order to deliver a forty-five minute speech on this very subject again. I must say that my patience was exhausted. I wished that the Chairman of Committees would as soon as possible apply the closure. I have the greatest respect for the hon. member for Illovo: I must say I admire his powers of endurance.
And his brains.
I must admit that his great gifts are wasted in this House. The right place for these gifts is the nursery room for putting children to sleep. That is my point, and that is the reason why I welcomed the application of the closure by the Chairman of Committees, because the danger arises that the hon. member for Illovo is trying to convert Parliament into a nursery. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether you are aware of it, but it is constantly brought to my notice that there is a growing volume of public opinion outside gathering against the tone of the debates such as we have had this year. The public outside feel that every debate is being dragged down to the level of mere personal abuse; and what is causing the public to think this is the sort of speeches made by the hon. member for Illovo on every possible occasion when he gets up in Parliament and imputes motives to members, and particularly to Ministers, on this side. After we had discussed the subject sir, or seven times already he again got up the other night just in order to make a venomous attack on the Minister. I know you have been trying, Mr. Speaker, this session particularly, to improve the level of the debates. I know the country and public opinion outside support you, and that is why I am glad the chairman last Wednesday followed in your footsteps and stopped a repetition of what the hon. member for Illovo has been giving us since the commencement of the session, if the hon. member when he got up on Wednesday night had given us anything new in connection with this question of dipping, if he had thrown fresh light on the matter, if he had adduced any fresh arguments, then I say the discussion would have been legitimate.
But the whole of his forty five hours’ speech was nothing but a re-hash of what we have been hearing in Parliament since the commencement of this session. The same old story, dished up in the same old way, in the same old monotone. He chased every member of his own party out.
The right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) says he trembles for the rights of the members of this House. I must say that, if speeches such as those de livered by the hon. member for Illovo, (Mr. Marwick), are allowed to continue in this House, I tremble for the dignity of Parliament. What we, as members of this House, must jealously guard are not merely the rights of hon. members, but we must prevent the rights of members from being abused. If we accept the motion of the right hon. member for Standerton, we will not be protecting a right, but entrenching an abuse. The present Government has shown remarkable restraint in the application of the closure. We have now been two sessions in power, and we have only applied the closure twice. That is showing infinitely more restraint than the party opposite, when they were in power; because I showed that in two sessions the party opposite applied the closure 17 times.
The session is not finished.
For my own part, I applaud the use of the closure last Wednesday night I am thankful to the chairman for having prevented the abuse of the rights of members of Parliament. I am very glad that the chairman of committees prevented speeches being made here which are calculated to undermine the dignity and prestige of Parliament, and therefore I wish to move an amendment, as follows—
Are you not ashamed?
Is it in order for an hon. member to ask the House to pass reflections on the conduct of hon. members of this House?
What portion does the hon. member consider a reflection?
The hon. member is asking the House to affirm that certain hon. members were guilty of interminable repetition, and not upholding the dignity of Parliament.
I shall deal with the question as soon as I can. Meantime, the hon. member for Lady-brand (Mr. Swart) may proceed.
I second the amendment and in connection therewith, I wish to say that hon. members opposite represent that all the talk on their part was not obstruction. And yet they boast outside the House that they are delaying the business of the House. The hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell) threatened last Wednesday and said: “Now we will show you.” Now I want to point how hon. members took up the time of the House’ in the past in connection with this matter, because it is said that there was not a proper discussion. I shall quote figures from the official Hansard, so that the House itself can judge. Scab and simultaneous dipping were discussed on six occasions in the House. I will show how many times members opposite spoke and how many times we spoke on this side. On the 17th February the hon. member for Ermelo (Col.-Cdt. Collins) introduced on behalf of the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) the motion with regard to compulsory dipping. Eight members of the South African party took part in the debate, three Nationalists, including the Minister, who had to reply, and one member of the Labour party. On the motion for the introduction of the amendment Bill on Cattle Diseases Act, 1912, 11 members of the South African party spoke, seven Nationalists (including the Minister) and two Labour members. On the motion for the second reading of this Bill, 17 South African party men talked, 15 Nationalists, and 1 Labour member. At the committee stage on the 1st June, 22 South African party men spoke, 14 Nationalists, and 5 Labour members. On the 4th June, on the consideration of the amendments, 19 South African party men, 4 Nationalists, and no members of the Labour party spoke. Upon the discussion on the agriculture vote on the estimates, 17 South African party men talked, 10 Nationalists, and 4 Labour members, and then comes the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) and says that the Nationalists took the chief part in the debate.
How long did they speak?
I will advise him to refer to Hansard to see the length of the speeches. On the estimates all the members did not discuss scab. Of those who talked about it there were 12 South African party men, amongst others, the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick), for 40 minutes to put everybody to sleep. Five Nationalists spoke on it. The Minister of Agriculture spoke three times, because he had to answer the question and five Labour members took part in the discussion. The totals are as follows: Ninety speeches by the South African party about scab and simultaneous dipping, fifty-one by Nationalists on it, including the replies of the Minister. There were thus no more than 40 speeches on this side of the House and 13 from the Labour members. The hon. members for Illovo and for Cradock (Mr. G. C. van Heerden) complained that the right of discussing matters has been taken away from members. The hon. member for Cradock spoke nine times about scab and about compulsory dipping. The hon. member for Umvoti (Mr. Deane) spoke seven times. The hon. member for Ermelo ten times, and then we come to the champion—Mr. Marwick—thirteen times. The country, therefore, has the facts before it as to how the time of the House was passed in this connection. I have also taken the trouble to go into the length of the speeches. The Minister of Agriculture naturally made long speeches, but the speeches of other members on this side of the House were short. On the other side of the House, however, they were very long. I think that the Chairman was very patient. On a former occasion, on the 1st June, the discussion of scab and compulsory dipping went so far that the Chairman decided to accept the motion for the closure of the debate. After that occurrence there were yet two stages of the said Bill. As he had already accepted it on the 1st June, he was fully entitled to do so again. I will, therefore, recommend members opposite not to say here so lightly that they are not obstructing and then outside to boast that they are delaying the business of the House.
Who does that?
The members of the South African party. It is known in the country that hon. members opposite say that they are thwarting the Government. I am surprised that the hon. member for Cradock talks like that. He is one of those who take up most of the time of the House.
That is a false accusation.
My accusation is that he has already spoken nine times about scab and compulsory dipping. He talks so much, but says so little, that he quite forgets how often he talks. The Chairman has been very patient in listening to all the speeches and, therefore, I am going to support the motion of the hon. member for Kroonstad that the Chairman has rendered a service to the country in showing how the time of the country is wasted.
I have carefully read the amendment and I do not consider it to be out of order.
This debate, so far as it has proceeded, presents in itself some indication of the value of the charges which have just been brought up by the hon. member who has just sat down (Mr. Swart). We are the party who claim to have a grievance over the decision come to on Wednesday, yet there have been fewer and shorter speeches on this side of the House this afternoon than from hon. members opposite. It is typical of hon. members opposite, for after holding out at great length on a particular question they turn round and say—
I am glad to hear that “Hear, hear,” from the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston), because I want to deal with his share in Wednesday’s transaction. The most extraordinary feature of the whole incident was that the closure should have been moved by the hon. member for Brakpan. Had it been moved by the hon. member who interrupted me (Mr. M. L. Malan), I could have understood it, for when he was in Opposition I don’t remember if he took up an undue part of the time of the. House, but I remember, when the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) was in Opposition, that on every occasion and every subject he was ready to spring to his feet and to treat the House to an oration made with that fatal fluency of his, words pouring from his mouth like a cascade, and giving us an undiluted exhibition of soap-box oratory. I will admit that he was every inch of him a fighter, and he was prepared to fight as an Opposition man upon any and all subjects, and we on the Government side rather respect him for it. But that the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston), above all others, should be the mover of the closure, and that on the agricultural vote—a matter in which he had no possible concern whatever—is remarkable. Has the hon. member had no share in obstruction since this Parliament started? The hon. member for Brakpan happens to dislike particularly a certain clause in the Accountants Bill, which is in charge of a private member, who therefore cannot keep on putting it down on the Order Paper. Because the hon. member for Brakpan dislikes that clause he has organized an opposition to it, and has held up and obstructed the proceedings on the Bill.
Two wrongs never made a right.
I agree. I am only dealing with the wrongs of the hon. member for Brakpan. I think it is for three whole days this session that the hon. member for Brakpan and his friends have held up business by discussing a particular clause in this comparatively unimportant Bill which he happens to dislike. If that is not obstruction I would be glad if he will tell me what obstruction is. I can understand the closure being moved by certain members of the House, but I cannot understand it coming from the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston). The second curious thing is the speech of the Minister of Defence this afternoon. I have listened to the hon. Minister, both when he has been cold and furious, but I never saw him give such an exhibition of “sound and fury” as he worked himself up to this afternoon.
I can do better than that.
Let me remind the hon. Minister it is only two years since proposals were introduced into the House for the limitation of the times of speeches. Up to that time speeches might last any length of time, whether in committee or in the full House, and the hon. member and his party, including the hon. member for Brakpan, fought their hardest against the proposal. The hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) has read what the Minister said in 1914, when the closure proposals were introduced, and the hon. Minister says he is wiser now. 1914 is a fateful year in the Minister’s life, because it was in 1914 when a letter was written to the hon. Minister of Defence asking him to join in a pact with the present Prime Minister, that he repudiated the idea with scorn.
The hon. member is wandering from the subject of debate before the House.
I will not be taken off my point, because hon. members question my date. In this fateful year when he rejected any sort of proposal to ally himself with any other political party, he said—
In 1914 apparently, he was prepared to stand up and say they, as a party, were prepared to preserve their principles and would even sacrifice office and power to promote the principles for which the Labour party stands. And he says he has grown wiser in 1924.
I want to see this letter.
I cannot leave my place now to get it, but I assure the hon. Minister he shall have it when I sit down. I was looking at it a day or two ago, and I am certain of the year. I don’t think the Minister is wiser now than then. He may feel more comfortable, but I don’t think he is wiser, and I don’t think posterity will think he had a greater stock of principles in 1924 than he had in 1914. I cannot recognize to-day the Creswell I have known for ten years in this House in that speech, and when he made a suggestion that we on this side had been deliberately wasting time, I wonder if he meant that.
Then has his party in the last ten years never been guilty of wasting the time of this House?
Of course we have. Obstruction depends upon which side of the House you sit.
In other words what is obstruction is not an absolute question, but a relative question? It all depends on the point of view. It is obstruction if you are on the Government side, but if you are on the Opposition side it is merely full discussion.
He accuses us of conduct which is what he and his party have been guilty of for ten years.
Is that not in the discretion of the Chairman?
He says we have been doing what they have been doing for ten years.
Yes, that is why we see through your plans so easily.
I remember one hon. gentleman who made a three hours’ speech in this House with a Bible in his hands going through the Old Testament and picking out every bad character in it arid comparing the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) with these characters, much to his disadvantage. That was Mr. Obermeyer the then member for Potchefstroom, and that famous speech was largely responsible for the introduction of the rule dealing with the curtailment of speeches. Now that these rules imposing a time limit on speeches have been introduced, the wings of an Opposition, which wishes unduly to protract discussion, have been so clipped that it should not be necessary, except under circumstances of great importance, to apply the closure. Formerly, any determined body of members, whether belonging to the Opposition or the cross benches who wished to talk the matter out could do so if they wished. I once did that myself, when the Booth report was before the House. On that occasion there were some of us determined the report should not be adopted, and there was no time limit and so we were able to talk it out. At the time these rules permitting the introduction of the closure were passed there was considerable necessity for them. Circumstances could arise when it would be fair to apply the closure, but these circumstances were far short of arising on Wednesday night. The hon. member for Kroonstad (Mr. Werth) referred to the wicked South African party Government when in power applying the closure to the Financial Relations Bill. Let us analyse his grievance. The hon. member says that this was a Bill which aroused a great deal of discussion in the country. I grant it. But it was only a one-clause Bill and on the second reading of that one-clause Bill a discussion took place in this House which lasted six days. Then we got into committee, and there apparently there was a four hours’ discussion on that clause which had already been discussed for six days. Then the closure was applied. I am prepared to take the test of what was done in regard to that measure as the test to be applied in this House. We are not asking for any other measure than that which we meted out when we were in power. If we are treated to-day as we treated the Opposition of that time we are satisfied. I say that there is no precedent for the way in which Mr. Chairman acted on Wednesday night last. His action that night—I want to speak with due restraint—was an action which aroused feeling, at any rate on this side, as I have never seen feeling aroused before in this House. If I used, as I did that night, an expression which was disrespectful to the Chair, I am sorry and I withdraw it. I should not have done it. We all owe a duty of respect to the high office which the Chairman of Committees fills. Therefore, I am sorry that I used the expression, but I do put this to the hon. member for Kroonstad that there must have been some feeling of injustice behind the anger which we felt on Wednesday at the way we had been treated, and we are now trying in a sober and temperate way to explain to the House and to you, Mr. Speaker, why that anger was felt. I will tell the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow) in particular why we felt it. We have never yet seen the closure applied to the circumstances in which if was applied on Wednesday night; in this way, that the discussion was a two-sided discussion and continued to be two-sided right up to the end. I remember in the days when the South African party was in power and the other side was obstructing, word would be sent round to our benches not to talk, because we were told that if we continued the discussion on our side we should prevent the closure being applied. The mistake that the Chairman of Committees made on Wednesday night—I say it with due respect to him—was this, that hon. members on both sides were continuing this discussion and, therefore, presumably, in their opinion, the discussion still was germane and still was relevant.
The hon. gentleman spoke quite late in the evening on that particular vote and it may be that his conscience is pricking him. I do say in all seriousness that so long as members on both sides are contributing to a discussion, it must be taken that, in their opinion, the discussion is well worthy of being followed up, which they indicated by taking part in it. When the discussion becomes one-sided, and only the Opposition are speaking, and one speaker follows another saying the same thing, or much to the same effect, and the discussion becomes prolonged, then it is obvious there is obstruction, and no fair-minded man can object to a closure. We will not object in future if that is done.
There is nothing about obstruction in Order 81.
My hon. friend has raised a point which does not affect this in the least. The object of the rule is to prevent obstruction and unnecessary waste of time of the House. That becomes obvious only when one side has refrained from discussion, and the other side are piling one speech on another all to the same effect. No, sir, that is what we feel was unfair and unjust in the chairman’s action—I do not say intentionally unjust, but in its effect unjust to us. I speak without any injured feeling in this matter, because I have not taken part in the agricultural vote. It is quite obvious that there were members on both sides who were automatically shut out from discussion by the ruling given. Would it not be possible, supposing it is the feeling of members opposite, or the Minister in charge of the vote, that an undue amount of time has been devoted to one aspect of a particular question, to say so? To say—
If a warning had been given, or if the Minister had told us then we should have known where we were. Another aspect of the matter is that the closure was moved not by the Minister in charge of the vote, but simultaneously by two members who, whatever their importance may be, do not aspire to ministerial rank. Whenever a closure was applied in the South African party days, it was applied deliberately, and moved from the proper quarter, namely, by the Minister or the chief whip. In this case it is moved by comparatively obscure and unimportant members. If the necessity has to arise in future it should be done by some responsible member of the ministry, who is prepared to take the full responsibility for it. Before concluding, may I repel with the utmost indignation the charge levelled against our side of deliberately attempting to hold up the decisions of this House, and to waste time by obstruction. I say to the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) that if we do set out to obstruct, to talk for the sake of talking, so as to delay Government business going through, then in the words of a famous statesman—
I have never yet risen to speak in this House for the purpose of prolonging a discussion or wasting time.
What about the Rooth report you told us about?
That was many years ago. I know of many occasions on which our leader has intervened, not to prolong a discussion but to curtail a discussion when we were in full cry on the colour bar Bill he intervened and put an end to it for the time being. Hon. members may remember that a question was raised by me en the vote of the Minister of the Interior, in regard to what we called the “Tod election”; but the Minister sat still and refused to reply. If we had wanted to waste time, we could have continued that discussion for another day. There was the justification and the opportunity, had we wished to prolong that discussion until we had forced the Minister to reply.
What happened? Next day not a word was said. So that when the Minister of Labour makes this reckless and untrue charge against us, that up to now we have been dragging out discussions—
It is quite true.
I say it is a charge that is absolutely untrue, and if the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) wishes to know what we can do in that direction we can show him, if necessary. I have heard hon. members on the Labour benches talk for weeks on a matter upon which they considered they had a grievance, and when the hon. member for Brakpan is speaking on a subject say like the 1922 strike, he can speak for quite a long time.
The Natal men talked on double dipping for days.
The hon. member for Pretoria (West) (Mr. Hay) does not know the front of a sheep from the back, and therefore, when dipping matters come up, he thinks it is a waste of time. We all have our points of view in this House, and our particular interests to represent, and what is of interest to one member is boring to another. The remedy for the hon. member for Pretoria (West) is to go out into the lobby and get a drink.
You cannot get it in the lobby.
I say there is not the slightest justification for saying that we have wasted time. We want to promote the legitimate business of the House, and we have a right to discuss and to oppose matters to which we are opposed; but where we have approved of a measure, it has gone through very quickly as in the case of the various Railway Bills introduced by the Minister of Railways some days ago.
It appears to me that, with the exception of the hon. member for Standerton’s speech, and a few speeches from this side, we have got right away from the resolution before the House. This resolution is one of no confidence in the chairman, and, as such, we shall have to deal with it, and the attack on the Government bringing in the closure, so far as I am concerned, has nothing to do with this resolution. As one who has occupied the Chair myself, one wants to discuss this from the point of view of precedent, and the right hon. gentleman has laid down that if this motion is not passed, it will be a wrong precedent for the future. As far as I can see, we base our parliamentary practice on parliamentary traditions in England. Apart from that we have our own parliamentary practice, and we have, under our own parliamentary practice, had the closure moved in committee in this House on two occasions. I think that is admitted on the other side, so that this is nothing new; it has many hours—
Not on agriculture.
I am not worrying as to what the vote is. The closure has been moved in committee before and has been accepted by the chairman. It does not matter after how many hours.
I will prove by rulings that have been given by Speakers that it does not matter. Therefore, if the chairman wanted to follow precedent he is on safe ground, as he has precedents in England and two in South Africa brought about by the South African party. The second point is that it is absolutely in the discretion of the chairman whether he will accept the closure or not. Sir Erskine May lays it down that the chairman can accept the closure as soon as ever the question is first put as he likes. He can accept it at once.
It is a question of what he should do.
Nobody has attacked him except a small section; everything else has been an attack on the Government and the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) for moving the closure, which has nothing whatever to do with what is before the House, which is whether the chairman should have accepted the closure or whether he should not. The right hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) never spoke about it, but discussed “Shakespeare and the musical glasses.” This is an attack on the chairman.
I said that after a debate lasting only five hours 20 minutes, the chairman had no right to accept the closure.
Let me say on behalf of the chairman that he was asked to accept it earlier, and he refused to do so. This is not a new rule, and it is done by every Government. You go to the chairman and you ask him if he will accept the closure. An hour afterwards he thought sufficient had been said on the question. The average time spent on the agricultural vote in committee is about six or seven hours, and the chairman gave the discussion five and a half hours. There are only two things you can say against the chairman. The first is that he is partizan—and no one has so far argued that point—and secondly, that he did not allow sufficient time. The charge of partizanship is absurd.
It is not suggested.
Exactly, so that can be taken away. The only thing you can say is that he made a mistake and did not give sufficient time. When the closure was moved and the question was being discussed before that the chairman had rung the bell twice for a quorum. During the discussion I did my best to get the debate away from the same old song and story we have had from the Natal members, and I was ably supported by the hon. member for East London (Brig.-Gen. Byron). I appealed to hon. members opposite not to make the agricultural vote a party vote, but they would not take any notice of the appeal, and they went on with the old story which has been spoken on for days and days and days, on which the closure had already been put. I say the chairman was right in accepting what he did. I want to quote the Speaker of the English House of Commons, the procedure of which we follow right through. On a compensation Bill for damages to crops the closure was put and the Speaker said—
The debate was absolutely exhausted here. If the debate was not the members were, because they were all outside the House; even the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger), who sticks closer to his bench than any other member of the House, could not stand it. Even the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) could not stand it. It is not my place to say whether the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) speaks too long or not. I am not discussing that question. When the hon. member was speaking the House was empty, but it was because the House was sick and tired of the debate. My own friends walked out and my friends on the other side followed, and what did they say when going outside?—
If you hold those doctrines in the Chair there will be little fairness in this House.
Hon. members will have fair play from me, and the Chair will not lose dignity if I go into it. If hon. members want to attack me for what I have done in the Chair they may do so, but I am now speaking as a private member. Here is a ruling of an eminent English speaker who says—
This question has been before the House for two months and leading articles have been written in the newspapers about it. I have quoted them. Farmers’ meetings which have been held in South Africa were quoted from the “Farmers’ Weekly,” and the simultaneous dipping and scab has been fully discussed, and no one can say the closure stopped members from debating the question. The Chairman has every right to accept the closure from the point of view that this House and the whole country has discussed it.
But most important information had been withheld.
There was nothing important in it. Here is another ruling of Mr. Speaker in England on the Machinery Bill—
A natural conclusion.
All right, I accept that word. Can you tell me the difference between conclusion and termination? Of course, it wants a Cape Town lawyer to do that.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 8.5 p.m.
What is the charge that the Opposition have brought against the Chairman? That the Chairman curtailed the rights and privileges of members, and infringed the rights of the minority. The right hon. the member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) admitted that the Chairman was fair. Hon. members on that side have also admitted that the Chairman was fair. The right hon. gentleman also admitted (I quote his words) that—
Well, scab had already been discussed in this House on five or six occasions, and on one occasion that discussion was closured and the Opposition did not vote against that closure. Not one of them protested. Now they protest when the closure on the same matter comes before the House again. I just want to analyse how did the minority suffer. We are told by the right hon. gentleman that the minority suffered in this way, that a statement was made by the principal veterinary officer in Natal that farmers had suffered, and that this was not discussed in full. It was discussed in full. It was discussed in full by the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) for at least twenty minutes, though it is true that he brought in other extraneous matters. So that the rights of the minority were not curtailed in any way there. It was discussed for at least twenty minutes and had been discussed ad nauseam in this House before on six occasions. So their rights did not suffer there. The second point is that the Minister had certain papers which he had only laid on the table during that afternoon and, therefore, the hon. member for Illovo had not had time to discuss them. Hon. members in the House had before discussed what was in those papers. The right hon. gentleman (Gen. Smuts) said that not only hon. members on that side, but hon. members in another place had seen those papers.
The Minister, said they were in Pretoria.
Certain of the papers were in Pretoria, but the papers regarding this particular point were seen by members of your side here and members of your side in another place.
They had no access to those papers.
What papers were asked for?
I don’t know and I am not at all interested, either. That does not make any difference. I am just quoting the speech made by the hon. member for Standerton, who admitted that his side had seen the papers and not only members of this House, but members of another place, who had spoken on them before. The right hon. gentleman went on and said—
I have already quoted here from Speakers of the House of Commons, giving four precedents, and we have had two precedents in this House. One of these precedents goes back to 1886. I suppose the right hon. gentleman has been trembling for these rights and privileges since 1885. I hope “black Africa” and “yellow Asia” are not going to “tremble” with him and that it will not lead to any of those repercussions that we hear about. The Opposition’s case has proved frivolous. They are wasting time and wasting the money of the country. Had I been in the Chair—
Nobody knows better than you do that it is not frivolous, if you would express your real opinion.
After hearing the discussion this afternoon and paying the closest attention to it and during the dinner hour reading the speeches of the hon. member for Standerton and the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt), I have come to the conclusion that the Opposition’s case is frivolous, absolutely frivolous.
It is only a short report of the speeches that appear in “The Argus.”
I say again the Opposition’s case is frivolous, and after reading the speeches, had I been in the Chair I would have accepted the closure.
Of course you would.
I have dealt with the hon. member for Standerton. I now want to come to the hon. member for Fort Beaufort. He said—
What do they amount to? After reading that statement in “The Argus,” this is what they amount to—he said the hon. member for Illovo could not get the right to reply, and that the rules gave him the right to reply. The rules do not give him anything of the sort. The hon. member was speaking in Committee and the rules of Committee do not give an hon. member the right to reply. I am quoting from the “Argus,” the Bible of the S.A.P.—
What are they?—
But they don’t. So there was nothing sacrificed there.
The rules of courtesy do, which perhaps you don’t understand.
The hon. member knows well enough that if he moves a reduction in the Vote he takes his chance of replying. So nothing has been sacrificed there. Then we come to the question of the closure. Is the closure such a bad thing? Isn’t the country beginning to recognise that there is too much talk in Parliament, that speeches are too long altogether? I would like to read to the House the opinion of a man who sat in Parliament, not as a member of Parliament, but as a member of the press gallery. I quote Sir Henry Lucy. He said—
It is a rod in pickle for obstructionists, who know they are wasting their own time by needlessly prolonging the debate, and the closure may as well be taken early as taken late. In the English House of Commons in 1887.
Do you mention it was obstruction?
The hon. member knows that that is not a fair question to ask me.
It is a fair question.
Well, in the English House of Commons, in 1887 there was a gentleman by name of Mr. Alpheus Cleophas, who always spoke on every question and every Vote two or three times a day. We have one in this House; one who always speaks. He speaks at length, in a Marwickian manner, not a Pickwickian manner. Mr. Balfour, when Mr. Alpheus Cleophas stood up at once moved the closure—as soon as ever he saw him getting up to speak. He was the leader of the House under Lord Salisbury and sat in the front bench. That was an excellent precedent and a warning to obstructionists, and I hope the leader of this House, when our Alpheus Cleophas gets up to speak, will at once move the closure. It would be a good thing for the country, an excellent thing for Natal, and a very good thing for Illovo. I just want to finish by saying that in the English House of Commons to-day—and we follow their Parliamentary practice here—the closure is put 300 times every session.
There are 730 members.
There are in this House 130 members, so that makes the closure seventy-five times. Up to now we have only had it once.
Twice, yes. May I suggest one thing to the Government, that they go further in assisting the Chairman and assisting the House by taking over from the British House of Commons the guillotine whereby a member or a Minister can get up and say—
This would mean that members are going to prepare their speeches, and members on that side are going to take great care that their Alpheus Cleophas is not going to take up all their time. If it had not been for our Alpheus Cleophas this particular’ closure would never have been put.
I must admit I am surprised at the references made by the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow) to certain conversations in the lobby. He referred to remarks by certain members of the South African party in the lobby.
I did not use the word “lobby”.
If the hon. member says he did not use the word lobby I must accept it. He admits, however, he did refer to conversations outside this House. I, personally, would deprecate any reference to any remarks made in the lobby; but let me put it to him would be under the circumstances, have accepted the closure?
He said so.
No, he was very careful to avoid saying that, and he was also very careful to avoid replying to the hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt). What I want to say is that if reference is permitted to be made to anything said in the lobby of this House then we would have this House turned into a bear garden. Judging by all these quotations this afternoon, the hon. member has carefully studied the rules, and he will excuse my referring to the fact—I know he resents these reminders—that he is the deputy-chairman; and for the deputy-chairman to get up and accuse members of wasting time, is something which we certainly must take strong exception to. He must know that there is a rule which a chairman can enforce to prevent members wasting time in this House. If the deputy-chairman does not know the rule he should pursue his studies a little further.
When he exercises the power you moved a resolution against him.
Not when he exercised it properly. The hon. member gave us a splendid example this afternoon, and this evening, of what might be called a “red-herring speech.” Does the hon. member not know that there are many matters besides scab to be considered when an agricultural vote is being discussed? I would like to point out to him also that we have not been discussing the rule of closure; we have been discussing the methods by which that rule is applied.
Then, of course, you have got no case.
That is the sort of remark we expect from the hon. member for Ceres (Mr. Roux). The hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow), strangely enough, this afternoon made several references to the English rulings. I am inclined to compliment him on his research. Strangely enough, I looked up over fifty references and of the seven I decided to make use of, I find he has made use of three but in a manner to which I shall refer later. I also intended complimenting him upon the way in which he usually exercises the functions of a chairman, but he deprives me of that privilege by asserting—though it was in the heat of debate—that he would in this case have accepted the closure. I put it to him again, without any reference to lobby talk, would be have accepted the closure?
A very improper question.
I would never take any lessons in propriety from the hon. Minister.
I was afraid you would not.
He went further and misquoted the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) by claiming that he had held that the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) had the right to reply to the hon. Minister of Agriculture. What he (Gen. Smuts) claimed was that the hon. member should have been given the opportunity to reply after having formulated a definite charge, in the same way as if he had introduced a substantive motion.
He never said that.
I heard him.
You must have four pairs of ears.
The hon. member, like his leader, the hon. the Prime Minister, referred this afternoon to the matter of no quorum, and made great play of the fact that on two occasions the bell had to be rung to summon a quorum. Knowing the circumstances he must feel that such a reference is merely childish. He also said that on one occasion there were only five members on this side. That is absolutely incorrect. There were at no time only five members on this side. But there were for quite a considerable time only one Minister and one member on the Government benches.
Where were you?
I was here.
So was I.
No you were not.
The Minister for Agriculture and the hon. member for Wakkerstroom alone occupied those benches. I would like to call his attention to Rule 89—
Well, there is a clear power given to the chairman. He could make use of that power without ruling to the detriment of the members of the House as a whole. If, in his opinion, any single member is abusing his privileges, he should exercise his power. Why does he not make use of that rule? Why does he prefer to make the whole of the Opposition suffer? So much for the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow). What I particularly want to say is that I have very carefully refrained throughout the whole of the session from taking part in any questions raised on points of order. I am beginning to think I have been very unwise. I did it, however, for three reasons. In the first place because having occupied the chair myself I recognized and appreciated the difficulties of anyone occupying the chair; and more particularly a new occupant. I know the necessity of a chairman avoiding and very carefully avoiding any accusation of appearing too eager. One is very apt to be too eager to enforce the rules and more particularly when you are newly promoted to the chair. Then there is also the difficulty of deciding on points arising suddenly, which may appear to the House very simple, but which to the poor occupant of the chair who sits there, isolated from his fellow men, may appear very complicated. I also know that it is difficult for a chairman so to conduct himself as to satisfy the whole House that he is, in his ruling, entirely free from partisanship of party. I fully appreciate the difficulties; and I feel that, more particularly when there is a new occupant in the chair, he should receive every consideration and every help. Our endeavour is to give him that consideration and that help. But I feel, Mr. Speaker, having experienced those fears and those difficulties, that although one must not appear to be too critical on general points of ruling, there is one ruling which is perfectly and absolutely simple, one on which no chairman should go wrong, and that is the ruling on the closure. If I may be permitted to say so—and I am sure this is accepted by those who very often guide and assist the chairman—the practice in the past always was that no consent to closure is ever given unless you are satisfied, firstly, that the debate is exhausted. Secondly, that the mover is a responsible member and, thirdly, and this weighed with us, perhaps, more than anything else, that unless one side of the House ceases to take part in the debate, consent to the closure should not be given against the other side. These are three points which I am sure everyone will support me in holding the Chairman should very carefully consider before consenting to the closure, and he must always be particularly careful to see that there is no suspicion of any kind that he is taking advantage in any way, of his undoubted power and thereby abuse the standing orders or violate the rights of the minority. We know that, according to our rule 81, there are two essentials: The motion must not be an abuse of Standing Orders, and it must not be an infringement of the rights of the minority. The hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow) says it is entirely in the discretion of the Chairman. We al] admit that, but what we say is that the Chairman must exercise very great care that he does not in any way abuse the standing orders, or go against the rights of the minority. That is the whole of our argument.
But the minority must behave themselves.
If they do not the Chairman has power to call them to order, and no one knows better than the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow) that the Chairman has that power. He has besides so many other rules he can call to his aid that, under every circumstance, and whenever he possibly could, he should avoid agreeing to the closure. We avoided the closure whenever we possibly could. The Minister of Labour laughs, but he does not know, or perhaps he does not like to remember, if he does know, that in many cases I personally, when in the chair, was appealed to, to apply the closure so far as he was concerned, and even when, by his conduct, he deserved to be closured, but, because there were others taking part in the discussion, and I did not think the debate otherwise was exhausted. I refused this extraordinary relief. But I am not singular in this. Every chairman doing his duty will do the same. It is true that, although we follow the English practice, it is difficult to find a case in any of the English authorities which is on all fours with this particular case, but I would like to quote a few of the decisions given there. Some were referred to by the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow), but I shall refer to them and show some omissions by the hon. member. The first was given as far back as 1896. That was a case where the motion was accepted by the Chairman, as the several amendments put were clearly out of order and even frivolous. That is a very good basis on which to apply the rule. The closure is necessary when amendments are put deliberately to waste time, and the rule was rightly applied here. In 1901—the case quoted by the hon. member this afternoon the closure was applied after a comparatively short discussion, but the Speaker there applied the rule because he was of opinion that the debate, though comparatively short, was almost exhausted. But the hon. member forgets that here was a debate on a very small subject, and although the Speaker held that it was a very short debate, the English “Hansard” contains 24 columns of debate—columns, not inches, let me remind the hon. member for Ceres (Mr. Roux). The hon. member referred to the case in 1901 of the miners’ eight hours Bill, and quoted what, the Speaker said, and also gave the Speaker’s ruling, but he omitted to say that although the closure was applied in this case, in 1901, after a debate occupying 34 columns in “Hansard,” this debate had occupied a very large portion of the session of 1900, and, furthermore, that this was a short Bill, and not a matter of important agricultural estimates. But the Speaker, even though he held that the closure under those special circumstances should be applied, said that the motion of the hon. member had placed him in a position of considerable difficulty. The next case was in 1902, when the closure was refused on the Liquor on Sundays Bill, as the Bill had only been introduced during that morning. That is a very important ruling; but there again we had a report of 38 columns in “Hansard,” of debate. In 1903 the closure was agreed to as though the debate had not been a long one; the question did not appear to be complicated. Here again the debate occupied 28 columns in “Hansard.” Surely that, in the English House of Commons, on a simple matter, is not an unusual short debate. In 1904, there was the case of the one-clause Rating of Machinery Bill. Here, after 22 columns of debate, the question was put, and the Speaker agreed that, because the question had been a long time before Parliament, and the debate had come to a natural conclusion, he would allow the closure. There is nothing of the kind in the closure here. In the last case I am going to quote the Metropolitan Water Board Bill, again a Bill of one clause. There were 21 columns of debate, and the Speaker assented to the closure as the matter had been fully discussed a week before. This was not such a wide measure, nor one of such importance as the estimates on agriculture. The reasons adduced from these decisions by the hon. member are to my mind very different from the reasons which Í have adduced. We find in every case here, even when the closure was refused, that more liberty was given to the members than was given here. We know that it is a clear rule that no member’s rights should be interfered with except for very urgent reasons. That is generally an accepted rule in all Parliaments. But what matter of urgency can be urged in the present case? If agriculture is a matter of very small import to a powerful Government, let them not forget that there are many members on that side and on this side of the House who have come here to represent agricultural constituencies, and who are asked by their constituents to press forward this, that, or the other matter, and I am reminded that, although it does not matter much who moves the closure, that neither of the two members who applied for the closure represented agriculture in any way. Of course it was patent to us that the Minister chafed under the criticism against him, but a Minister should not be carried away by his feelings against a few members, when there are many others who have much to say on the subject before the House. The vote taken on the closure is in no way a final judgment on the matter. It is going to crop up again, and perhaps, in a different manner than in the past, but we are not going to accept that closure as final, and the country will not accept it as final. I contend, rightly or wrongly, that the question on which the closure was carried the other evening was not fully debated, and I say that if the Chairman had interpreted the rules in their true spirit, he would not have accepted the closure. There is a very good rule, that neither the Speaker nor the Chairman can be criticized except by way of a motion before the House. A very healthy rule which gives the chair extraordinary power and freedom, but just on account of that power the Chairman should exercise such care, in giving his decision on so important a rule, one so far-reaching and one which is so extraordinary a safeguard against abuse, that the rule itself is in no way abused and that there can be no shadow of a suggestion that the ruling is given in any spirit of party or partizanship.
Leaving aside the some-what undignified personalities that have been indulged in at my expense in this debate, I wish to draw attention to a statement made by the Prime Minister this afternoon to this effect—
I am prepared to join issue with the Prime Minister on that accusation, and I am quite willing to submit to your judgment, Mr. Speaker, as one whom we honour in this House, whether my participation in the debate of Wednesday night was entitled to be described in the terms used by the Prime Minister. You will remember that, in the course of the debate on the Stock Diseases Amendment Bill, there was considerable discussion which ranged round two points, namely, the losses of sheep that took place in Natal, and the damage that was occasioned to the wood by the compulsory dip ping, and then as to whether the mortality was not due to natural causes. On Wednesday after-noon there were placed on the Table a series of documents which were laid there for the first time within five minutes of our going into Committee of Supply. I wish to remind you that I had asked for certain specific documents to be tabled and I desire to draw the attention of hon. members to this fact. From my printed question of 25th May last it will be seen that I had asked for—
In order to show that these reports were in the possession of the Minister two months before I asked for them I shall read a telegram sent at the instance of Senator Schofield on March 21st by the Secretary for Agriculture to the senior veterinary officer in Natal —
The reply, which was sent from Pietermaritzburg by the senior veterinary officer on the same date, was—
These reports are shown by the correspondence to have been forwarded from Pretoria by the principal veterinary officer to Cape Town on the 23rd March, and must have reached Cape Town by the 25th March, 1925. For two months these reports, which I asked for on 25th May, 1925, were in the possession of the Minister, and they dealt with the controversial aspects of the whole debate. They dealt with the causes of the losses and they completely disposed of the accusation that these losses were due to natural causes, and on April 20th the principal veterinary officer—who stands high in his profession—made the strongest recommendation to the Minister that a commission of enquiry should be appointed. That request did not emanate entirely from the principal veterinary officer, but came in the first instance from my constituents at Richmond through the senior veterinary officer at Pietermaritzburg. Mr. Power is an officer of long experience, whose devoted service to Natal has been a matter of pride to all of us, and he sent that request forward with these words—
When that minute reached the principal Veterinary officer he sent it to the Minister strongly recommending the appointment of a commission of enquiry over which the senior veterinary officer should preside, and that in addition to two farmers, there should be on the commission a representative of the company which manufactured the dip. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, as one who followed the whole of the debate, whether there was any glimmering that such an important recommendation had been made to the Minister. Did the Minister, who had read the report some weeks before it reached the House, give us any glimmering of the fact that such a report had reached him? Did he give us any indication of the strong report of the senior veterinary officer in Natal to the effect that these losses were due to dipping; that after the second dipping 95 per cent. of the sheep were lame and many died; that the wool was damaged and dropped off, leaving large bare patches from which a push like substance exuded, which led to the sheep being attacked by maggots’ The senior veterinary officer also said that blue tongue was not a serious factor in causing these deaths and that when the post-mortems were made only a few wire worms were discovered. Why did not the Minister inform the House of this? I was acting in the interests of my constituents and South Africa in bringing the matter forward and charging the Minister with deliberate suppression of the facts. The Minister actually suggested that the losses were due to natural causes, and his only reference in previous debates on the subject to the veterinary officer was when he said that losses reported by a Natal member had upon investigation by a veterinary officer been found to be due to wire worm. I submitted that resolution in moderate terms as far as the Minister was concerned; it was an entirely new point to the whole of the House and had never been debated. The highly trained veterinary officers, whose knowledge and skill and experience are paid for by the State, are not the lackeys of the Minister, they serve the State, and Parliament is entitled to have the benefit of their opinion, and the Minister must take the responsibility of suppressing it.
The hon. member must keep in mind that it is not the Minister of Agriculture whom it is proposed to censure but the Chairman of Committees.
I hope I shall not travel too wide in discussing the matter. I am merely expressing to some extent a little resentment against the Prime Minister’s accusation that the whole of this discussion was futile, fruitless, tedious and ludicrous.” I am only indicating this to you, sir, as you were not present at the debate. After pointing out the serious losses which were directly attributed to dipping, I then dealt with cases of nepotism in the Minister’s own department. I indicated the case of two inspectors one of whom was a pre-Union official of the Orange Free State appointed in the days when the late General de Wet was the Minister of Agriculture. He had the right to be put on his trial if any offence was brought against him, and in regard to reorganization he had to be dealt with by the Public Service Commission. I produced a document showing how that official had been dealt with. He had been given a month’s notice and he had been told it was on the ground of reorganization. The Minister intimated in reply to the hon. for Cradock (Mr. G. C. van Heerden) that the official was included among a number of “political agents” whom he had had to get rid of. In the evening he replied to further statement that if that were so the inspector should have been dealt with and allowed to defend himself under the Public Service Act. The Minister changed his ground, and remarked that the less I said about these things the better, arid he suggested that there had been dishonesty on the part of these inspectors. That point had never been debated, and the effect of applying the closure was to leave the Minister in possession of the field after he had made such an unfair statement. Nobody was allowed to correct any statement he had made and as regards these important features of the matter—the Minister’s concealment of facts that should have been laid before the House, and his accusation against persons who had recently been retrenched from the civil service and who had no opportunity of defending themselves—they were two very serious points upon which we were not allowed to reply or make any criticism. I shall make the Prime Minister a fair offer. Will he allow these papers to be printed and let the public judge whether the debate which took place largely on these papers was—
And will he abide by the verdict of the farmers? These papers will prove to the satisfaction of any unprejudiced mind that there was concealment of information which should have been laid before us and which would most materially have influenced opinion in this House. The Prime Minister—I think unfairly—said that I spoke so frivolously (I was far from frivolous, I think everybody will agree with that) that I emptied the House. Let me tell you, sir, what was the cause of hon. members leaving the House. When I referred to the cases of nepotism and drew attention to the fact that two relatives of the hon. member for Bethlehem (Mr. J. H. Brand Wessels) had been appointed in place of the two discharged inspectors that hon. member went from bench to bench and immediately afterwards hon. members filed out of the House. That statement emanates from the press gallery, the occupants of which were unprejudiced witnesses of what took place. In regard to the application of the closure, so far from its being a dire necessity employed where there had been an abuse of the privileges of the House it seems to be looked upon as an heroic business. I think it is the hon. member for Ladybrand (Mr. Swart) who writes the would-be amusing notes for the “South African Nation,” and he said—
This is almost making an heroic act of what rather savours of taking an unfair advantage. In the present case there can be no doubt whatsoever that the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) was the hon. member responsible for the closure of the Agricultural Vote. He was the hon. member who was seen to approach the Minister and consult with him for a few minutes, then to approach the Chairman and consult with him, and return immediately to his bench and remain there all agog to catch the Chairman’s eye. When he did speak the very first words he uttered were—
The Prime Minister has accused us of carrying on a frivolous debate. Let him publish the papers to which I have referred, and let him alongside that publish to the farmers the further statement that the Agricultural debate was closured by the hon. member for Brakpan under the circumstances I have mentioned.
I hope by this time the Government has realized what a very dangerous thing the closure is: I want to urge upon the Government to give its serious attention to devising some other means for shortening discussion. To me the idea of the closure sends cold water shivers down my back. We have no right at any moment, just as the whim seizes the Government or its supporters, to closure speeches many of them, no doubt, likely to be of the utmost service to the House and the country simply because the time has arrived to stop them. I want to impress upon the Government the advisability of going into this matter thoroughly. A closure to my mind is a most dangerous thing from another point of view.
Then why vote for it?
I have never done so yet? Hon. members should be very careful, as to facts before interjecting. As this motion shows it is one that places Mr. Speaker and the Chairman in a most invidious position as it does also members of the House. I care not who it is, whether a supporter of the Government or an opponent, as soon as he has taken part in a vote on the question of the closure, he goes out of the House dissatisfied with his action, and it must inevitably be so. Those who are in power to-day were in opposition yesterday, and those who are in opposition to-day will, in all probability, or I should say possibility because I do not want to unnecessarily encourage my friends to their ultimate disillusion, but they may possibly be in power to-morrow, and I use the word tomorrow in a comparative sense. It is remarkable that on one occasion you find men in this House bitterly opposing the closure in its operation and incidence and to-day they are absolutely defending it. I say, therefore, the thing is wrong. I am satisfied that members on this side of the House were determined,—and I am taking as impartial a view as I can,—I am satisfied all through the agricultural vote it was merely a continuation of the tactics they had embarked upon on a previous occasion on this sheep dipping question. Admitting the principle of the closure, had I been in the Chairman’s place, I should have been compelled to accept the motion under these circumstances.
Supposing you had not spoken?
The people who have to take that into consideration, are presumably the very men who are holding up this discussion.
Why closure the whole vote?
I am not defending it. I am dealing with it as judicially as I can. I suggest to the Government arising out of this that it would meet the question better if you abolish the 11 o’clock rule. Hon. members are anxious to get the business through, and if you get down to their souls, I believe hon. members on this side are anxious to get the business through, but they cannot refrain from making party advantage if the occasion occurs.
Didn’t you do the same?
Yes, and I am dealing with it in the light of my own experience over a long number of years, more than I care to remember. We want to get the business through, and we of the Government are anxious to prevent members of this side from making party capital unfairly and unduly. Let us abolish the 11 o’clock rule and say to the members “all right, stick to your post and get the job done.” The mere fact of physical and mental tiredness will have the effect of curtailing unnecessary debate. As an alternative to that, as occasion serves, let the Prime Minister do as he has done before, notify the House that if at a certain time at night it is not finished, we are going to sit on until it is, whatever stage that may be.
That would be much fairer than the closure.
I agree, I think it would be fairer. I am anxious to see the business get on. At the same time I have the greatest horror of this deliberate closing down of the vocal efforts of hon. members whom we do not happen to agree with. Whilst I have been impressed by the arguments of those hon. members, and I remember being placed many times in the position myself, I feel it is competent to ask a serious pointed question. Who is the right hon. member for Standerton that he should object to the closure? He objects to it being applied to him and his friends.
He objects to it being misapplied.
Ah, now I understand, my hon. friend says—
In 1914 when this closure was introduced into the House we, in this corner, a little band, faithful and few, noisy and effective, or you would not have introduced the closure, opposed the introduction of the closure on precisely those grounds, and we warn the hon. member for Standerton, who was Minister of Finance in the Botha administration, that it was going to have a boomerang effect. He has fallen from grace now, this anointed of the Lord.
Who called him the anointed of the Lord?
He did himself. He went to Tulbagh Road and said—
It is most illuminating. The hon. member seems to have forgotten the history of his leader. Who is this gentleman who insists that tile closure is iniquitous and trembles now for the rights of minorities and the rights of Parliament? Cannot you see the aspen tremble of the hon. member for Standerton, yet he was the first man to introduce it and the first man in the history of the Union Parliament to put it into operation. It is most interesting to examine the special circumstances when he did first put it into operation. He complains, and his supporters complain, that the closure on this occasion was applied, and in that they see grounds for complaining against the chairman. They complain it was put into operation when the debate had only gone on for a few hours. Their claim was that the debate had not been exhausted and the topics not sufficiently discussed. I asked members to cast their memories back, those who were in the House at the time, and those who were not can have the privilege of reading Hansard giving the whole details of the thing. The first time it was moved in the House it was by Gen. J. C. Smuts, as Minister of Finance, when a member of this House had not ceased sneaking, in fact had only just started, and was on his feet. I ask hon. members to consider that. It has never been known since, and I will not believe it possible, that hon. members on that side would ever think of doing so ungentlemanly a thing as to move the closure when another hon. member was on his feet, yet this is the hon. gentleman who is groaning about the rights of Parliament, the rights of minorities—the right hon. member for Standerton. What makes this question infinitely worse and infinitely more ironical on the occasion it was moved was that it was immediately after an amendment had been moved by one of his own supporters in connection with the land taxation measure that the hon. member for Standerton had brought forward. No other speaker had intervened after the moving of the amendment, but one of the members on this side bad got up to join in the debate when the hon. member for Standerton moved the closure after he had been on his feet 10 minutes.
There was no time limit then.
What does that matter? That is not the point. If it is so, all the more reason why the closure should not have been moved. It sounds amusing to me that the hon. gentlemen on this side have placed the destinies of this motion in the hands of the hon. member for Standerton, who has been closuring things all his life. If there has been an industrial dispute, he has closured the dispute by putting every leader of the men in jail.
Or deported them.
Yes, or deported them; a very effective closure. He has closured, even so late as 1922, a good many men’s lives without any debate at all. This is the gentleman who claims to take under his protection the rights of minorities and the rights of Parliament. As I say, I am not fond of the closure; I object to the closure; I do not think it is a good instrument to use in Parliament at all, but I cannot ally myself with those hon. gentlemen in what I may call, without speaking in an invidious way, their most miserable efforts to decry the Chairman of Committees when he was doing what he believed to be right. The wrong was done when the closure was introduced into this House as a form of shutting down debate, and the whole onus of its introduction and its perpetuation rests, first of all, upon the hon. member for Standerton and his supporters who helped him on that occasion.
I think that to any lover of Parliament and believer in its efficiency as the instrument of Government, the character of the speeches made from the other side of the House in connection with this motion must have been extremely painful. I do not say anything particularly about the last speaker (Mr. Madeley), because he was out to be humorous, and he practically told us, if one could gather what he really meant, that, if he had been free from party ties, he would have been with us in opposition to this application of the closure. If we take the arguments which have been put forward by the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow), he assumed that it was almost sufficient for him to tell us that if he had been in the chair he would have taken a similar course. Of course, we esteem the hon. member very highly, but evidently not so highly as he esteems himself, if he looks upon that as being an adequate reply. As for the rest, the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) made great play at twisting certain words which had fallen from the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), as showing that the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) had been deprived of no right of reply, but he went on immediately to tell us that he had been deprived of the right of the chance of replying, by which, of course, everyone knew what was meant. He professed to be quite unable to see that hon. members had been deprived of any further rights of speech, but he must have known, the Minister of Defence must have known, and the Prime Minister must have known, that the grievance and what was complained of was that the Chairman must have known, from members rising in their places, that there were other items to be discussed.
From both sides?
Yes, from both sides. The hon. member for Albert has got up and had been most eloquent on the subject of jackals, but he had been pulled up by the ten minutes’ rule, and was awaiting another opportunity of getting in 10 minutes, and so with other members. I say that to put these things forward is absolutely futile, but as one who believes in our Parliamentary Government as the form of government which is most suited to the free men of a free country; I do deplore that this action should have been taken on Wednesday night. The Italians may view their Fascisti, the Russians their Bolsheviks, and even the Americans their Ku-Klux-Klan, but we wish to be able to continue in the future as we have in the past with our free institutions of parliamentary government, and that is why we deplore anything which tends to destroy the prestige of Parliament, and make it less in our own eyes, or in the eyes of the country. In order to make this Parliament an effective instrument of good, certain rules have been made under which the ruling of the Chairman was given on Wednesday night. Those rules work in two ways. They have to guard against two things. They have to guard against freedom of speech, liberty, being allowed to degenerate into license, and for that reason certain powers have to be given to the Chairman. There is one danger which is, perhaps more insidious, and that is the danger of the encroachment of the executive upon the powers and privileges of parliament, and in regard to these things nominally the ruling of the Chairman was to prevent liberty degenerating into license on this particular vote, but in reality it was an encroachment of the executive by shutting down speech on this particular vote, for we know that the Chairman had been approached before he gave his ruling, and we know that neither of their members who got up to move that—neither the member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston), nor the member for Fordsburg, (Mr. J. S. F. Pretorius)—would have dared to get up and move that in the House except by the authority of the Government.
You are wrong. That is not true.
I say that it is really an encroachment by the executive on the powers and privileges of Parliament, and it is for that reason that we object to-day. Of course, the danger that threatens our Parliament is that it will be turned into and regarded as merely a recording-machine for votes. I make no special charge against this Government about the executive encroaching upon the powers of Parliament. It is a temptation to any Government. Even my hon. friend the member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) who is such a stickler for Parliamentary Government, showed an extreme willingness to rush things through and give as little information as possible to the House when he was a Minister, but he would never have countenanced such an action as this. I say that one of the biggest dangers to the prestige and powers of Parliament, which is our only instrument of government, is action of this sort, whereby the privileges of members are encroached upon. In this case it must have been perfectly clear to the Chairman, in fact it has been admitted in all fairness, that the reason which is given as a justification for the closure, that the discussion had been confined to one head, was the strongest possible reason why it should not have been closured, because that is an absolute proof that the vote could not have been adequately discussed. As I say, I am extremely sorry that this motion should have been defended in the way it has by such absolutely inadequate reasons. The Prime Minister gave as one of his strongest reasons that it was only the man who was in the House and who listened to the whole debate who was in a position to deal adequately with the matter and judge whether it was frivolous or not. Then he went on to speak about a whole lot of things that he had not listened to himself. He claimed to be able to speak in justification, and make points from different things that occurred when he himself had not been in the House during the greater part of the debate.
Neither was the hon. member for Standerton.
The hon. member for Standerton did not make the claims to knowledge that the Prime Minister made. Notwithstanding what had been said by Ministers and others opposite, I am unable to look upon this as anything but an infringement of the rights of free speech of the minority, and as a thing which will go far to impair the prestige of Parliament, which is our instrument of government, and as such, I deplore that such a thing should have happened, and I support the motion.
I would not attempt to take part in this debate, were it not for the fact that hon. members on that side of the House are under an entire misapprehension as to what happened. I approached the chairman and asked him whether he would accept the closure if I were to move it. I approached his as early as 8 o’clock, and he told me “no”. My reason was that members on that side had been discussing not the vote under consideration, but had been dealing over and over again in personalities, in things which should not be discussed in this House if we wished to preserve the dignity of Parliament. The whole of the discussion was distinctly nauseating to every decent man in this House. I approached the chairman as early as 8 o’clock and asked him if he would accept that resolution. I have a perfect right to do that. I am not in the same position as the hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell) who thinks because he is a private member he must not do anything himself, but must wait for a Minister to do it. Let me go a little further into the truthful history of the affair. At a quarter to nine I again approached the chairman and asked him if he would accept the motion. He said, “no.”
If the hon. members over there are out to continue their little performance of suspicion and innuendo in the eyes of the public, then of course I cannot help it. I am merely telling them the truth.
You don’t want to hear the truth, is that it? I again approached the chairman; he said he would not accept the resolution. I then approached the Minister, and the Minister told me not to move it. Now, as this debate went on it was quite evident that members over there were not going to deal with agricultural matters. As the leader of the Opposition—or at least the nominal leader, because there are two and we do not know which one to look to—as he said, the whips had gone round telling their members to leave their points alone and leave the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) to continue his little job. At 10 o’clock that evening I again got up on to my feet. I had received a message from the chairman asking me if I was going to move the closure; if so I was not to do it. That is No. 3. At 20 minutes to 11, I, on my own responsibility, moved the closure, and at the same time the hon. member for Fordsburg (Mr. J. S. F. Pretorius) moved it also. I claim my rights and privileges as a member of this House to move the closure without being instructed to do so by a Minister. Members over there talk about irresponsible members moving resolutions. Well, if I am an irresponsible member because I am a private member, then everyone on that side of the House is an irresponsible member. Let us face the position. Why did I wish the closure moved? Yes, I am going to tell you that also, and I am not going to apologize for moving it. I am prepared to move it again repeatedly in order to get the business done.
What a brave man you are.
I did it because the feeling in the country, on the Witwatersrand especially, among my constituents and among constituents of members over there—members continue to interrupt; I have a good deal of power according to some members over there, but I have not the power to stop donkeys braying! I was about to say that there is boasting of the fact that the South African party are preventing the Government from getting through their legislation. The South African party Government promised the miners of Witwatersrand a Phthisis Bill. They have not got it yet. They promised them a wages bill. They have not got.it yet. Now that a Government is in power which is prepared to carry out these things that the South African party promised but never performed, they are met with obstruction. I can assure hon. members over there that so far from the people of this country being concerned with the cutting down of the privileges of members of Parliament they feel like coming down and shooting the whole bally lot? They want you to do some good for the country.
Yes, I withdraw it all, Mr. Speaker.
The hon. member must keep within parliamentary language.
I want to tell you confidentially, Mr. Speaker, that they are enough to make one use stronger language than I have used. The country wants legislation.
They want good legislation.
Yes, I know that. The position is this. We told the late Government that had they passed a wages bill, had they passed some sensible industrial legislation, we should not have had the troubles of 1922. Although I may be considered in the category of “irresponsible members” I can assure members over there that as far as the knowledge of the working men of this country is concerned, I think I have as good a knowledge as anyone in this House. I am speaking seriously to hon. members on that side. I want them at least to treat this matter seriously. I want to point out to hon. members of that side of the House that there are two ways of ruling the people of South Africa. One is by Parliamentary institutions and the other is by force.
The closure for instance.
Yes. And the hon. members on that side of the House have in the past failed to pass the necessary legislation in the interests of the working classes of this country, and the result has been that people have become dissatisfied with parliament and constitutional authority: have become disgruntled and have kicked over the traces and then you have suppressed them at the point of the rifle.
Who advised them?
What responsibility lies on you?
I am placed in this position that as an individual I either have to cast my vote in favour of muzzling irresponsible individuals in this House who are supposed to, but do not, represent their constituencies, or see, sooner or later, a lot of disgruntled people in this country kicking over the traces because the Government are not passing legislation that they want. I am prepared to cast my vote in favour of muzzling irresponsible individuals in this House who deliberately keep back legislation for purely selfish, party purposes.
There is one redeeming feature about political life, and that is that it does bring us up against some delightful surprises; but if I had been told some years ago that I would live to see the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) not merely moving the closure in a moment of irritation, but standing up and defending the closure as a necessary part of parliamentary government, I would have thought it a mad idea. What a change the point of view makes! These irresponsible members, whom the hon. member says he is prepared always to closure, are just the people who are speaking from the same motives and under the same circumstances as the hon. member was himself when he was seated over there. But the hon. member not only tells us he is now a confirmed advocate of the closure, but that if that is not enough, we will get something worse. He puts on his military costume once more. These democrats, when they get into power, are far more drastic than those whom he calls the ordinary political tyrants. It seems to me that the debate has been rather led away from the real purpose of the motion that was moved this afternoon. I regret very much that the hon. member for Kroonstad (Mr. Werth) came forward with this amendment of his.
Rather a boomerang.
I think it is. And boomerangs sometimes come back and hit the man that threw them. I regret the amendment, because it has given an entirely wrong turn to the discussion; a turn away from the whole purpose and object of it, and prevented it doing any possible good such as was intended. By his amendment the hon. member asks his friends behind him, because they are in the majority, to express the opinion that those who sit on this side have been guilty of obstruction.
Can any of you refuse to vote for it? Of course not. And what value are people going to attach to a vote by a majority to the effect that the people of the other side are guilty of obstruction?
Have you realized that in the past?
We have never asked the House solemnly to declare it; I asked that it should be ruled out of order (but I was refused), because under the practice of this House an hon. member is not allowed to accuse hon. members of carrying on obstruction. This has been held more than once in this House, and the hon. member for Kroonstad asks the House to declare, by his majority, that the minority are guilty of obstruction, and that kind of thing has turned a motion, intended to lead to a serious discussion of the rights and privileges of this House, into a mere dog fight; because it simply invites recriminations from the other side. I hope the hon. member for Kroonstad will withdraw his amendment, which is a mere futility, because obviously the majority are going to say the minority are guilty of obstruction. What was the object of the motion of the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), which he moved in the most temperate possible tone? I only wish that tone could have been followed by hon. members who came after him. What he brought forward was a question whether the exercise, by the chairman, of his discretion, was not a mistake, if carried into a precedent, which was likely to infringe on the rights of minorities. It is no attack on the chairman. The Chairman of Committees, as we fully recognize, has a most difficult task to perform, and no possible chairman that can ever sit there will be free from occasionally making mistakes in the opinion, at any rate, of one or other of the sections of this House, and what we ask is not that the chairman shall be decided guilty of partiality; but we do say that this ruling of his, if it is going to be made a precedent, is going to infringe very seriously on the rights of the minority. That is our object, and it is no answer to say we are guilty of obstruction. What does it mean? That on the discussion of a vote in the estimates which includes an enormous field of the activities of the State, if the chairman thinks that any member is guilty of tediousness or putting his point at too great a length, he can accept the motion for the closure and leave the whole of the rest of the vote undiscussed. I want to ask hon. members opposite whether they are prepared to endorse that view. What happened on Wednesday night was not that a particular question that had been a long time under discussion was closured, but because certain hon. members opposite and the chairman thought that a particular point had been discussed at undue length they closured the whole vote. It is no answer for hon. members to level charges of obstruction. The question is whether a matter like this, arising out of the discussion of one particular point, should have been closured so as to stop the discussion. I think it was a most unfortunate moment at which to accept the motion for the closure, not only because it stopped discussion on the whole of the rest of the vote, but because charges had been made against the Minister—charges of a very serious character substantiated by statements which have every appearance of being authentic, and by reference to documents —and no adequate reply was given, or has been given, to those charges. I would like to remind the Ministers that after all they are the servants of this House. I am afraid they have been long enough in power to have forgotten what used to happen when they sat over here, but not yet long enough for them to learn that they are responsible to this House. When votes come on is the proper time for anyone who has a grievance against the Ministers to ventilate it, and when it is a charge of such magnitude as that made by the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick), it is not only an act of courtesy to the member who makes the charge, but it is due to the House that the Minister concerned should take it seriously. We are getting accustomed to Ministers, when a serious Parliamentary attack is made on them, taking up an attitude of offended dignity and saying not a word in reply. That attitude we cannot accept, and it will not lead to shorter discussions. Because the debate on a particular point had gone on for a certain time—nothing like the time of previous debates—was no adequate reason for the closure being accepted, firstly because it prevented discussion on the whole of the rest of the vote and secondly because a grave charge had been made against the Minister and had not been replied to. It is a serious position, and I think we have done right on this side of the House to call attention to it. We do not do so in any attitude of censuring the Chairman, but in the hope that we shall prevent the thing becoming a precedent, for to accept the closure under such conditions would very seriously affect the rights of the minority. Don’t let the Government adopt the high-handed attitude of the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) who, because legislation goes through more slowly than he thinks it should, is of opinion that the closure should be ruthlessly applied. Then we have been told by the Minister of Labour that legislation is to be quickened and the closure is to be ruthlessly applied. That is a very grave decision to take, and I suggest that we are right in protesting against such an attitude and claiming the right to discuss important matters in this House as fully as we think they ought to be discussed. Ministers are so impatient now that as soon as discussion extends to a period beyond what they think is sufficient, they are prepared to apply the closure. The Minister of Agriculture indicated at the end of the afternoon sitting that he thought it was time that the debate was closed, although the debate had been going on only a couple of hours, out of which he had occupied a considerable time himself. If that sort of attitude is encouraged, we shall very soon see still more serious inroads on the rights of the minority. Don’t be hasty in closing down discussion, for if things are forced through without adequate discussion then Parliament will lose all respect in the eyes of the country, and we shall be thrown back on the methods suggested by the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston). Let us keep away from that. The late Government applied the closure—of course it did. I believe, unfortunately, that the closure is a necessary instrument for the carrying on of the business of Parliament; indeed I don’t think any Government will be able to carry on without it, but it must be used with the very greatest care, and with the fullest respects for the rights of the minorities. I say that to close down the whole of the discussion on the agricultural vote because one particular point has been discussed to an extent which hon. members opposite and the Chair thought was long enough, was an abuse of the application of the closure.
For the sixth time.
Even if it had been discussed for the twentieth time it is no reason for stopping the discussion on the whole of the vote. According to the hon. member for Gordonia) (Mr. Conradie) the closure should be applied directly the point was raised. I hope he will never be in a position to put his views into force. There are other ways of checking irrelevant discussion, and we suggest without personal bitterness or desire to reflect on the Chairman or anyone else, that the exercise of the closure was an encroachment on the rights of minorities, and we ask the House to accept it in that spirit. Even if the House passes the amendment the fact will remain that what was done on Wednesday will have results from which this House and the country will suffer very considerably.
I am exceedingly sorry that the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) should make an attack on this side of the House, and then run out of the House. He says that at 8 o’clock he had already tried to move the closure. The main charge is that the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) had taken up all the time, but by 8 o’clock the hon. member for Illovo had not spoken. The hon. member for Brakpan forgets that the main subject debated was the Veterinary department, the vote for which is £297,000. This only shows that hon. members opposite who claim to represent the farming community are prepared to be dragooned into the application of the closure, because the hon. member for Brakpan is tired of hearing farmers’ grievances. Surely every section of the community has the right to have its grievances aired in Parliament. Why should the farmers’ interests always be second to the interests of the Rand? I am surprised that hon. members opposite are prepared to support that type of person who has no time for farmers, and who at 8 o’clock is tired of a debate which only started at 3.30. It seems that the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) and myself are the two culprits, and the only reply to my mind, and to many members in the House, to the excellent case put up by the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) was that accusations were flung at myself and the hon. member for Illovo that we were obstructing and talking too much. Let me say if we two had sinned, is it right that the other members representing other constituencies should be penalized and should not have the right of bringing their grievances before the House? It is said that the whole debate had been taken up by speeches on what had taken place on a previous debate on the simultaneous dipping. The point was raised by me as to the dismissal of certain scab inspectors, a large number of men had been dismissed by the Minister of Agriculture. The question of dipping in Natal was not raised until the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) rose, and it was after 8 o’clock when he rose, because the hon. member for Illovo had new facts and he was justified in bringing forward those facts of which the hon. Minister must have been aware.
Do you think you are saying anything fresh now?
I will treat the hon. member with the contempt he deserves.
Clever young man.
The question of simultaneous dipping was raised after 8 o’clock, when the hon. member for Illovo moved the reduction of the Minister’s salary by £2,000. If criticism is made against a Minister, members on that side seem to take it as a personal thing, and I cannot understand it. I assure the Minister it is not at all our intention. Ministers seem to be so touchy. If you refer to their department they feel that you are attacking them in person. After a longer experience they will perhaps grow harder skinned, and will not be so touchy. The Prime Minister said I had spoken three times. I did not, I only spoke twice. The first time I spoke I had not completed my remarks, when I was told my time had expired, and the second time I rose was to complete my remarks. After I had spoken the first time hon. members jumped up to make an attack on me, and it was to reply to some of these that I rose again. After that I did not rise again, so I cannot see how the Prime Minister can say the hon. member for Illovo and myself were the cause of the obstruction. As a matter of fact the Prime Minister, this afternoon, accused this side of the House of general obstruction. Yet a fortnight ago, on May 28, he said—
If that is so then why accuse this side of the House of obstruction? In this debate yesterday afternoon, actually the same number of members on each side, 10, took part in the debate. The Minister himself took up the major portion of the time in replying. I have no objection to that, but if the Minister takes a long time to reply members have a right to rise on points where they don’t agree with the Minister. I had intended to raise many more questions, which were of extreme importance to my constituency. I feel the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) by trying deliberately to stop discussion was preventing farmers’ grievances being put before the House. After all, this is the only opportunity farmers have, especially on the agricultural vote, of having their grievances aired. We know that sometimes farmers assemble in congress and sit for two, three or four days, and members of Parliament, who are farmers themselves, are asked to bring matters before Parliament, but do not get the opportunity to do so. The hon. member for Ladybrand (Mr. Swart), I am sorry he is not in the House, made a specific attack on me this afternoon. He said that I had boasted that I had deliberately wasted the time of the House. When I challenged it he said that I said it outside. I am sorry when hon. members hear whispers in the lobby, they come into the House and repeat them. It was absolutely untrue. Even the Deputy-Chairman of Committees said that this afternoon. I represent farmers, and I know what the grievances of farmers are, and I have a perfect right to speak on their behalf, and I will certainly not be intimidated by any person, not even by attacks from the Prime Minister, into being stopped from bringing forward any grievances, of my constituents and farmers generally. The first time I spoke on the question I made a statement which was challenged by the Minister of Lands, and it was my duty to take part in the second reading debate. Members are sorry I did take part, because I brought forward damaging things for the Minister of Agriculture, and that seems to be their chief grievance. I can understand the member for Ladybrand being tired and weary when matters of farming interests are brought up. He is not a farmer. I wonder what his constituents will say. I must say that among hon. members on that side there are very few farming members, and there is a growing discontent amongst the farmers of this country that they have far too few representatives in this House.
Order. The hon. member must coniine himself to the motion.
I certainly wish to lodge my protest that the closure has been applied and that no opportunity has been given to discuss farming matters in an adequate manner, and I am really surprised that the hon. member for Graaff-Reinet (Mr. I. P. van Heerden), who is supposed to be a great friend of the farmers, should have been willing to support the closuring of a discussion on farming questions.
As one who has not delayed the progress of this House during the session, and as one who did not speak at all during the vote or take any part in the discussion on the Indemnity Bill, I think as a representative of an agricultural constituency I should say a few words. In my constituency we produce sugar, maize, wattle, cotton, tobacco, beef and wool, various dairying products and other things. Although I have constituents who grow wool and who may—I do not know—have suffered under the simultaneous dipping, I took no part whatsoever in the discussion, because I have not had a word from my constituents one way or another. I did not, therefore, join in the attack on the Minister. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. When this debate came on the other day I had many matters to bring up in connection with the agricultural affairs of my district, and I sat here during the whole of the afternoon and during the whole of the evening waiting to say a few words. When my hon. friend the member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) brought forward his charge against the Minister of Agriculture, the atmosphere of this House became so strained or electrical that any reasonable man could see that it was no use trying to bring things down to the level of a discussion on ordinary agricultural products and the grievances of farmers while those charges remained unanswered. I remained silent, like a number of other agricultural members, waiting for calmer moments. It was to my utter astonishment that I heard the closure moved. I do not think I have ever been so angry in this House as I was that night, that after sitting here all the afternoon and evening I should be deprived of the opportunity of speaking. I said “Shame.” Many of us cried out “Shame.” If in calmer moments we may have felt sorry that we should have made any such comment, I say the resentment we felt that night was perfectly justified in the circumstances. We were deprived of all opportunity of carrying out the duty which we owed to our constituents upon matters which were of very vital importance to them. I would remind the House that that vote contains 12 sub-heads and represents a total amount of £768,010. The hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) tells us we ought to dismiss that in three hours.
You never attempted to discuss any items.
We could not do it, there were people rising by four and five at a time. They could not all speak. My hon. friend comes down here and says that because the Wage Bill has not been discussed he is prepared to move the closure at any moment. If the Wage Bill is so urgent to the country why is it not put first on the Order Paper? Is it the fault of this side of the House that, it these measures are so pressing as he says they are, that they are put down so late for discussion in the House, or is it the fault of the Government?
It is the fault of that side of the House.
We do not make up the Order Paper. The hon. member should address his remarks to the Government, not to us. I want to indicate a few other things that I had wanted to say on that question. For instance, I represent a very large section of the sugar industry, one of the second largest agricultural industries in this country. I wanted to talk about such matters as the new experimental station, of the disease in sugar cane, of the appointment of additional officers. I had no opportunity. There is also the cotton industry being established in Zululand. We have some hundreds of young settlers up there now trying to grow cotton. I wanted to bring their troubles to the notice of the Minister.
You will have another opportunity.
No, I will not, unless I bring it up in general debate on the Financial Appropriation Bill; but I then have no opportunity of sitting opposite the Minister and asking him to answer questions such as I had on the agricultural vote. There were other matters which it was impossible for anyone to discuss in the excited atmosphere of the House. In order that they should be discussed it is necessary to obtain the attention of the Minister. Further. I would say this: I do think in the interests of agriculture that we made a great mistake in taking the whole of this vote en bloc. This last vote has shown that it ought to be taken seriatim—item by item. The vote represents a wide range of activities and they should be considered separately. I say this in justification of this motion. I am only one of a number who sat here the whole of the day in the endeavour to bring forward the views of their constituents. My hon. friend the member for Albany (Mr. Struben) also sat alongside me waiting to bring forward the views of his constituents. A number of other members also had this intention; and suddenly, to their amazement, the closure is moved against them.
The Whip told you to keep quiet.
No Whip told me to keep quiet, and no Whip came round here. It is left to our common sense to see that was not the appropriate moment to rise and bring these matters forward. Whatever responsibility the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston) thinks rests upon him, it was sheer impertinence for a member who represents a Rand constituency to come here and, on the plea that he could not give effect to the legislation he desired, to move the closure on such an important matter as the agricultural vote. I say it was sheer impertinence, and I must express my amazement that the chairman accented it.
First of all I want to express my regret to the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) for indicating that he had voted for the closure, The mistake arose from my having looked at the division list and not finding his name there as having voted against it. It was a natural, although somewhat hasty, inference; but I do not see much difference in not voting against the closure and voting for it. It has become clear that the members of his party are convinced that the closure is a necessary part of our Parliamentary machinery; that represents a change from some years ago. This debate is drawing to a close now and it must be perfectly obvious to those who have followed it, that the intentions of those opposing the motion have been to confuse the issue. We have had a series of extraneous matters brought in. I know we are sitting as a High Court of Parliament but some of the rules that actuate the administration of justice do not apply here, if you, Mr. Speaker, were sitting as a judge over a man on trial for murder, or theft, or embezzlement, you would not allow the plea that because those crimes had happened before and there was a precedent and a justification for them. We are not now considering anything but one incident, and the alleged incidents that have passed are irrelevant to the point at issue. Our Parliamentary procedure permits allusion to them; but it is very apparent that we are all escaping from the main issue under discussion. There is a great deal more in this debate and the action we are discussing than perhaps meets the eye. It is well-known to all lookers on that both branches of the Pact are dissatisfied with our present form of Constitutional Government. The Labour party have demanded, time after time, that another form of government, more resembling the Soviet in Russia, should be set up.
I am not accusing the member who has interrupted; but several times dissatisfaction has been expressed by responsible labour leaders, with Parliament as being out of date and have stated that something must be substituted. We know, and it is perfectly natural, that the other branch of the Pact, the Nationalist party, favour the form of Government that pertained in republican times, a single chamber and having quite a different executive, with fuller powers. It shows what association does. We find the Minister of Labour saying, in his speech this after-noon, that it is their intention to rule the destinies of Parliament from that side of the House, and that representations from this side of the House will be treated as negligible. Another attempt to confuse the issue was the endeavour to arouse sympathy for the chairman personally, in spite of the fact that the leader of the Opposition, in his motion, disclaimed any personal reflection. The hon. member for Standerton deprecated the exercise, by the chairman, of his discretion on that particular occasion. It is well that the country should know what is involved in all this Under the vote of “agriculture, without taking forestry or agricultural education into account, there are no less than 48 votes, and nearly 300 sub headings, and surely it is not desirable that votes of that nature, and involving such a large expenditure of money, should be dismissed lightly by this House without adequate discussion. Whenever any matter of agriculture is mentioned in the House, it is greeted with “hoor, hoor”. It is stated that agriculture is the basis on which every industry and the whole country rests That is true, but we see how it is treated by the Government in power. As the last speaker has put it, there were many points on which many speakers wanted to give their opinions, and in some cases express desires and grievances by their constituents. As an instance, I was debarred, through the closure from referring to a matter on which a very large deputation went to the Minister, and which was received with his usual courtesy, in regard to experimental plots. It is felt deeply in my constituency, and adjoining constituencies, that some extension of the experimental stations and plots should be given in that particular part of the Cape Province I was debarred from doing that, and I had to bring the matter in, very imperfectly, on a subsequent vote, because it was not quite covered by the particular item we were discussing. This is the matter which it is desirable we should make clear was the one that we would be debarred from discussing by the Chairman’s action. By a desire to nullify the power of Parliament, and to restrict members rights, both sides of the Pact will be moving in the direction they require; that is the substitution in this country of something else for the constitution we now enjoy. One of the best means of effecting that object is to bring Parliament into contempt. If there are many instances like last Wednesday’s there will be a strong tendency on the part of the public to agree that this House is not fulfilling the useful functions for which it was originally intended. We want to make this matter quite clear to the country. We are not discussing the Chairman—in fact, I think he has our deepest sympathy.
Is it not the action of the Chairman you are discussing?
I say we are not discussing the Chairman personally. I say most distinctly we are discussing the exercise of his discretion on a particular occasion. An endeavour has been made from that side of the House to persuade the country that the time of Parliament has been unduly taken up by the Opposition. Exactly the contrary is the case. I say quite positively that an examination of the records will show that more time has been taken up by members on Mr. Speaker’s right than by members on his left. On this vote there should be no suggestion that the time taken up on this side of the House was an undue proportion of the whole—in fact it was less. Yet we are asked in the amendment to protect the rights of members of free and unrestricted speech. If we pass the amendment it will cause Parliament to occupy a less high opinion in the estimation of the public than we who believe in Parliamentary institutions desire. The Prime Minister was very much exercised at the attitude of the Opposition, but we would be unfaithful to our responsibilities if we did not fearlessly point out anything we see to be wrong in the administration or the methods of the Agricultural Department, Surely the best way to meet any charges which may emanate from this side is not to burke discussion, but to invite full and free discussion from both sides of the House, supplemented by such information as may be procurable. Even now it leaves the matter in a very unsatisfactory position, and that is bad for the whole of the country. We have no information, for instance, why the Minister condescended to tell us that a portion of the documents were away in Pretoria, and, in view of the serious issues involved, why the remainder could not have been laid on the table.
I would have been blamed for not laying all the papers on the table.
He might have risked that if he had made an explanation and promised to lay the rest of the papers on the table which could have been here in forty-eight hours. That course was not taken, and it caused a great deal of trouble. It has gone forward from this House that the Labour side of the Government are trying to introduce more drastic methods of governing this country. We have heard bicycle chains mentioned. We know there is another section of the Pact publicly advocating the use of stirrup irons as being more effective. It is well the country should know that both sides of the Pact are openly advocating a period of violence to take the place of Parliament. These are very serious considerations indeed, and the hon. member for Brakpan (Mr. Waterston), aided by no less a person than the Minister of Justice, was prepared not so very long ago to take the whole of the Government of the country—
The hon. member must confine himself to the motion.
I apologise for deviating. I will say, if you permit me, that we have to view the action of the Chairman from all points as to where they may lead. Am I not entitled to say the Chairman was prompted to take this action from the Government side of the House, and was prompted by the considerations I have hinted at?
The hon. member is not entitled to suggest that the procedure of the House is being used for the purposes he seems to contemplate.
Very well, sir, I cheerfully accept your decision. While your decision necessarily affects my words it cannot, affect my thoughts. It is desirable that the matter should be cleared of all these side issues with regard to the vote we are now discussing. I affirm again, on behalf of this side of the House, that there is no desire to penalize the chairman whose action we are discussing. We take this course because we feel it is undesirable such a precedent should be established, lest it happen again, and we do want the country to know it is not the fault of this side of the House if their interests and representations do not receive the attention, particularly agricultural matters to which we think they are entitled.
In regard to the motion now before the House, I wish to say that I do not intend to import any bitterness or feeling into the debate, more than can be avoided. As representing a largely agricultural constituency I did feel that under the circumstances the Chairman might have realized that other farming topics beyond the particular one under discussion had not had an opportunity of being dealt with. There were matters concerning veterinary research, animal and field husbandry, entomology, chemistry, division of extension, the new division of economics, drought distress relief, etc. It was not as if these subjects had been dealt with before. It may have been, perhaps, our fault for not jumping in, but I do know that we had no anticipation that on the agricultural vote, which covers such a multiplicity of subjects, ample time would not be given to us to express our views. In regard to the action of the chairman himself, my view is that such undue pressure was brought to bear upon him that he was not strong enough to withstand that for more than a short time. The Prime Minister said that we called it—
I certainly feel that it was unjust that we were treated as we were on Wednesday night; unjust both to us and to the agricultural community. As regards “oppression”, I do think that if we had a little less “sjambok Government” every discussion undertaken would go much more smoothly than it does, but 1, for one, object very much to being sjamboked, bludgeoned and bullied, and I am not going to stand it. Another expression of opinion that the Prime Minister gave was that it was not a bona-fide discussion, that it was purely obstructive tactics from this side. My hon. friends here have not attempted for one moment anything like purely obstructive tactics. There has been nothing but justified, fair and honest criticism from this side. In regard to what was said about there having been no quorum, I may say that we on this side of the House left deliberately, and I myself was responsible for five of us leaving this chamber, as a pro test against the fact that the whole of the Government benches were empty, except for the Minister of Agriculture. When sufficient members opposite had been forced to come back to form a quorum, we returned to listen to the debate. My leader started the debate with a most moderate, balanced speech. The atmosphere of heat was introduced by the Prime Minister who immediately followed him. Had it not been for one or two speeches made on the opposite side there would have been no heat in this debate up to its conclusion. The Prime Minister stated that the effect of the closure is this, that it would only be possible if there was proof of the abuse of the rules of debate. I maintain that there was no abuse of the rules of debate in the discussion which took place. I say again, that it was observed that the Chairman had been approached from time to time, that conclave discussions were going on in the Government benches, and it was obvious that something was brewing; I do think that if it had been stated by the chairman that on this subject of the closure the chairman’s opinion had been asked, and that if the discussion on the one item should continue he would take a motion for closure, it would no doubt have had an effect on the course of the debate. The discussion very largely was on the new facts which were disclosed by the papers which the Minister laid on the Table that afternoon only. The hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick), in making his speech, brought forward certain new and definite charges, and yet we were accused by the Prime Minister of having wantonly wasted four hours of the time of the House by wearisome repetition. The principles involved in that debate were, I consider, of great moment to the country. One was, it disclosed a certain amount of nepotism on the part of the Minister, Anything like “graft” or nepotism should be rigorously excluded from the public service if we want to maintain the high traditions of our civil service and our reputation as a fair-dealing people. I quite agree that one wants to be careful before taking such a step as has been taken by the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), but it is equally necessary to be careful in taking the step of applying the closure. It is not the closure, as such, to which we object, but the method of its application. The closure is a very necessary thing to apply on occasion, but we maintain that there was no occasion or justification for its being applied on Wednesday, as it was. I want to protest as a farmer, and as one who feels that the agricultural industry is of sufficient importance to have been allowed a great deal more latitude and time for discussion than was allowed on Wednesday. We were sitting here on Wednesday waiting for a fitting opportunity, which was denied us by the closure being ruthlessly applied, whereas yesterday speeches were made and allowed on the vote for agricultural education, which raised points really not relevant to that vote at all.
That is not under discussion now.
No, sir, I beg your pardon. The hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow) stated that when the closure was moved it was a question of time already occupied in the debate. He quoted some ruling, of the House of Commons to show that the closure was applied, irrespective of the length of time a debate had proceeded. It is not only the time which the debate had occupied when the closure was moved which is in question, but the whole of the conditions precedent under which the closure was accepted should have been considered. We do not intend to be ruled by members on the crossbenches who interrupt so constantly and rudely. The more the bludgeon is used, the more the sjambok is brought into play—
The hon. member must not refer to the closure as the bludgeon or the sjambok.
I was not referring to the closure as such, but to the method of its application, and I was referring to the interjections that are made from the other side of the House. The Minister of Defence made a most violent speech this afternoon, such as I did not expect to hear in this House. I have heard similar speeches on the Parade and elsewhere. He said that if they were not able to deliver the goods it will be because of obstruction from this side. That was merely an excuse to cover their ineptitude, and to account for having to drop many of their absurdly long list of measures,, many of which are mere “window-dressing.” We are quite prepared to meet any charge of “obstruction” and to prove that there has been nothing of the sort. I again wish to register my strong protest as to what happened on the occasion under discussion.
I do not rise for the purpose of prolonging the debate, because I think it is the desire of everybody that this evening should finish this painful subject and that it should not come up again. I am extremely sorry that, owing to a pressing engagement in another place, the hon. member for Standerton is not able, personally, to reply. I rise to say how much I regret the amendment moved by the hon. member for Kroonstad (Mr. Werth). We understand that that hon. member is shortly to occupy a very important position, and, under these circumstances, we regret more than otherwise that he should, considering the non-party position in which he will find himself placed, he feels compelled to vote against the resolution that was moved by my right hon. friend, and thinks it is in the interests of Parliamentary institutions and future Parliamentary Government in this place, to move a resolution which gives its approval to the action of the Chairman, in unduly curtailing debates in this House. I leave it not to this House, but to the country, to judge whether we were justified in the action we adopted, and whether, especially, the hon. member for Kroonstad has been justified in the amendment he has moved. The whole tenure of the discussion from this side of the House was that our privileges have been curtailed, and it is in the interest of members of Parliament, no matter to what party they belong, that these privileges should not be unjustly curtailed. I rise to register a protest against the amendment coming from such a responsible member, an amendment which not alone gives sanction for curtailment of these privileges, but gives utterances to the sentiment, which I presume the mover desires the House to support, that he thinks in curtailing the privileges of members the Chairman has performed a public service.
So he has.
An hon. member says: “So he has.” I make bold to say that if hon. members opposite were able to express their real convictions they would regret he acted so. Hon. members opposite are as anxious to preserve our Parliamentary institutions as I am, and no matter what effect party feeling may have, I make bold to say that there are many hon. members opposite who regret that our privileges should have been curtailed, and no matter how they may vote, they are as much opposed as I am to the manner in which we were treated on Wednesday night. I regret the amendment all the more strongly, because we have not been actuated by party or personal considerations. The attitude that we have adopted has been taken up in what we rightly consider to be the rights of free speech and free deliberations, and the full right to represent the constituents who have sent us here. I am not going to trespass any longer on the time of the House, but I consider, although we have devoted a day to the question, the time has not been ill spent, and no matter how the vote may go, it will be an example, and will prevent a repetition of what took place on Wednesday night.
I also represent an agricultural constituency, and I have had questions sent to me to bring up on the agricultural, vote; but, owing to the application of the closure, I have not been able to do so. I think the enforcing of the closure was most unfair to many members who thus had no opportunity of ventilating the grievances of their constituents.
Question put: That all the words after
“House”, proposed to be omitted, stand part of the motion,
Upon which the House divided:
Anderson, H. E. K.
Brown, D. M.
Byron, J. J.
Chaplin, E. D. P.
Coulter, C. W. A.
Deane, W. A.
Gilson, L. D.
Giovanetti, C. W.
Grobler, H. S.
Jagger, J. W.
Louw, G. A.
Louw, J. P.
Marwick, J. S.
Nel, O. R.
Nicholls, G. H.
Payn, A. O. B.
Pretorius, N. J.
Richards, G. R.
Rider, W. W.
Sephton, C. A. A.
Smartt, T. W.
Struben, R. H.
Van Heerden, G. C.
Van Zyl, G. B.
Tellers: Robinson, C. P.; de Jager, A. L.
Bergh, P. A.
Beyers, F. W.
Brink, G. F.
Brits, G. P.
Cilliers, A. A.
Conradie, J. H.
Conroy, E. A.
Creswell, F. H. P.
De Villiers, P. C.
De Villiers, W. B.
De Wet, S. D.
Fick, M. L.
Fordham, A. C.
Grobler, P. G. W.
Havenga, N. C.
Hay, G. A.
Hertzog, J. B. M.
Heyns, J. D.
Kemp, J. C. G.
Le Roux, S. P.
Louw, E. H.
Madeley, W. B.
Malan, C. W.
Malan, D. F.
Malan, M. L.
McMenamin, J. J.
Moll, H. H.
Mostert, J. P.
Naudé, A. S.
Pretorius, J. S. F.
Raubenheimer, I. van W.
Rood, W. H.
Roux, J. W. J. W.
Snow, W. J.
Stals, A. J.
Strachan, T. G.
Swart, C. R.
Van Heerden, I. P.
Van Niekerk, P. W. le R.
Van Rensburg, J. J.
Van Zyl, J. J. M.
Waterston, R. B.
Werth, A. J.
Wessels, J. B.
Tellers: Pienaar, B. J.; Vermooten, O. S.
Question accordingly negatived and the words omitted.
The words proposed to be substituted put and agreed to.
Motion, as amended, put and agreed to, viz.—
The House adjourned at