House of Assembly: Vol5 - WEDNESDAY 17 JUNE 1925
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at
I beg to give notice to move that on the motion to go into Committee on Ways and Means on taxation proposals on customs duties, the following items which are printed on the “Votes and Proceedings” be amended as follows. (Then I give a number of items which will appear in the Votes and Proceedings.”) It will be seen that these consist of certain amendments on the customs proposals.
When are you going to move to go into Committee of Ways and Means?
The session is getting on, you know.
Leave was granted to the Prime Minister to introduce the South-West Africa Constitution Bill.
Bill brought up and read a first time; second reading on Monday.
I lay on the Table a memorandum on this Bill.
First Order read: House to resume in Committee on Wage Bill.
House in Committee:
[Progress reported on 15th June on Clause 2. ]
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the amendment proposed by the Select Committee in lines 54 and 55.
I wish to move an amendment—
When the Chairman reported progress I was replying to some criticisms by the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) in regard to this particular clause. I see in the press that my remarks were supposed to have been spiteful. I wish to assure the right hon. gentleman that my remarks were purely argumentative. I was calling his attention to the fact that he had followed this conciliation idea from the Canadian Act of 1908 up to the present time. I was pointing out that we must profit by the fruits of experience, and that the conciliation principle alone had been most unfortunately unsuccessful in the two-fold object of all such legislation as this, which is to secure the least possible interruption of industry by disagreements ending in strikes and to promote something like a co-operative feeling in these industrial matters. It has been unfortunately unsuccessful and I think we must all admit that. By itself it is an excellent thing, but it clearly has its limitations. I think the right hon. gentleman will agree there, because in such a system, which pre-supposes continual smooth-working—and I am not holding out a counsel of perfection, but it does pre-suppose on both sides a more or less continuous desire to come to a settlement of differences by agreement. I think we must agree that in this country, perhaps more than others, where to a large extent—if I may use the expression—we are sucking at one milch cow, there do occur occasions where the one side, the employers’ side, says “no, we are the best judges in our own interests.” One development of this kind of legislation has been the compulsory arbitration clause. The other current tried in other countries has been the conciliation principle. I can only say this—and I know I speak with some authority—that whereas in the earlier stages of our industrial legislation the working classes eschewed the idea of compulsory arbitration, more and more as the result of their experience of the in utility of this conciliation legislation, opinion is more and more swinging round to a desire for compulsory arbitration. I am talking about this country. I wish to be quite candid with the Committee. Possibly some of my friends of my own party to some extent may disagree with me. Personally my belief is that in the sticking to one process to the entire exclusion of another in either case you do not achieve the best results. If you will turn to the proviso at the end of Clause 3 you will see that I there provide that in any industry in which both sides are organized the board shall not act purely on the application of one side. Keep it in our own hands to see whether the conciliation principle has been really tried out before giving effect to this other machinery. This is the line on which this Bill is trying to meet the legitimate objections raised. We shall know more about the working as time goes on but that seems to me the right arrangement to keep the two principles from interfering. As far as possible try and maintain your two general principles but have the corrective still in this wage board. I am now coming to the amendment of the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) so strongly supported by the right hon. member for Standerton. You are not going to have that in unorganized industries. We will take the sweated industries. You will not get your representatives of the sweatees but you will get the representatives of the sweaters. Your machinery will fail, there is where it has failed in the administration of the 1918 Act. They will not come forward. When a certain point is reached they have not got the courage to come forward and form your board. Then take this machinery as suggested by the hon. member for Newlands. It maintains the principle—that hon. members over there are so wedded to—of having a board representative of employers and employees in each particular industry. That will just as much interfere with your conciliation principle combined with the other clauses of this Act as what I propose. I met you—I am not meeting your point; I am meeting our own beliefs in this matter—by making provision as we do. We have made it a bit more definite now by adding to that board two assessors representing both sides, who will take part with the board in hearing the evidence and elucidating the matters. I think that is as far as we can reasonably be asked to go, and that maintains the vital principle—I think it is a vital principle—that in this attempt to get on to right lines in dealing with these matters we should not have conflicts in judgment and confusion of the criteria applied to this or cognate matters by a number of wages boards sitting all over the country, having no connection with one another, and having practically nothing in common upon which these matters are determined. In Clause 2, what is agreed to is your main board. I have to obtain the services of a chairman who will be of a judicial character, and in forming that board you will try to get men with experience. Added to that you have, in any particular investigation, two extra members whom you are able to appoint for that particular investigation. You have what the hon. member wants, that the board shall have the advantage of having members with it who have experience, and who enjoy the confidence of the organizations on both sides—that is organized industries. If it is a sweated industry, it will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to get any person on the employees’ side to come forward, as such an employee would be running the risk of losing his livelihood and prospects. But here I have a board to appoint someone in whom the employees in such sweated industry have confidence. Under the circumstances, I hope the hon. member will not press his amendment; because I do not think it is in tune with the rest of the Bill, and if it is accepted, the whole Bill will have to be recast. We have moved the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule as we do not want to have to adjourn when in an hour or so more we should finish the Bill.
The Minister twitted me, the night before last, with not being exactly an authority on a matter of this kind. But I have had a great deal of experience. My attempts may not always have been successful in this country these things do miscarry—but I wish to point out to the committee that the first Bill of this kind that was introduced into the Transvaal, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1908 —it looks like a century ago—was taken practically verbatim—with the alteration of the necessary phraseology—from the Canadian statute book. That Act had worked with very salutary effects in Canada. As far as I remember, we made enquiries at the time, and we had various models to go on. We had the Australian model, what had been the practice in England for a long time; and it was pointed out that the Canadian Act had worked very well, and that was the model for us to follow. That is the Act which has been declared ultra vires, after many years, by the Privy Council, quite recently, and I need not go into that matter, because it has created the greatest confusion in Canada, and we see that a strike of very serious dimensions is going on in Canada, in the absence of any Conciliation Act, that Act having been upset by the Privy Council.
It had become unpopular long before that.
It worked very well in Canada, and the Canadian people looked on this Act as a bulwark of industrial pease, until it was upset last year. In this country, for one reason or another, it did not work. It may be the temper of our people is different from that of the Canadian people. It may be that, when we get to a dispute, our blood is up, and whenever there is a scrap it develops into a fight. I do not know whether there is this essential difference in temperament; but it is a fact that the identical Act which worked quite well in Canada, under normal conditions, did not work here, and, in consequence, we had the very serious troubles which culminated in the outburst of two or three years ago. Then we had the Solomon commission, and that devised a system of conciliation which is embodied in the Act of last year. The Minister shakes his head, but there is no doubt that what we put into the Act of last year was simply and solely, in essence, the recommendations, the scheme, of the Solomon commission. That is on the statute book, and it is an advance on the practice which is obtaining in England and other highly industrialized countries. It does not follow the compulsory type in Australia. The Minister, following his own line of thought, has evolved an entirely new system, which is unlike anything we have anywhere. It is not the Australian system, because there is this judicial compulsory arbitration, permanent arbitrators. There is a court of law that deals with this, and if the parties cannot settle their own wages disputes, there is a court to settle it in the long run. In England, a highly industrialized country, and a country that I believe is the model for industrial countries of the world, they follow the system that is in our Act of last year, with this difference, that Mr. Brace, who is a great authority on these matters, having spent his life in the labour movement, and in settling disputes, stated that what was recommended for us was in advance of what is in force in England. The evidence which was given before the commission is against the Minister. The employees’ associations, represented by Mr. Andrews, who has also spent a lifetime in connection with these troubles in South Africa, was perfectly clearly in favour of the amendment moved by my hon. friend behind me, namely, that the board that is to settle minimum wages should be composed, not of Government officials or functionaries, but of the men engaged on both sides of an industry. We have, therefore, in favour of the amendment, the practice in Great Britain and other countries, the evidence of the workers themselves, and the evidence of the employers, who gave similar evidence, and in spite of this, the Minister goes forward with what I call his bureaucratic system—a network of official courts and boards consisting of Government officials, which have to settle wages. Not only have we this extremely undesirable element of Government interference in all these matters, but we have this further undesirable element. The Government has to intervene and proclaim the wages; so in the end it is Government wages which will regulate industries in this country. The Minister will, in effect, be compelled to put in force the findings and recommendations of these boards, for if he does not there will be a strike. If, say, the board recommends 10s. as the minimum wage and the Government thinks this too high and will kill the industry, the Government cannot desist from proclaiming that, and there will be a strike, and the Government will be the cause of the strike. From whatever point of view we look at it—whether from the point of view of strikes in other countries, which have much more experience in these matters than we have, or from the point of view of the evidence before the select committee, or from the point of view that it is very bad policy for a Government to be mixed up in all these matters—from all these points of view the system in this Bill is most undesirable. It will not work, and it will lead to the maximum of friction. I said the night before last, and I repeat it, that if I had to choose between the Minister’s system and the out-and-out compulsory system of Australia, I would prefer the latter, because then the Government would not be involved, and some machinery through the courts would settle wages. But here the Government is mixed up from the very beginning with the appointment of the board to the very end in the enforcing of the awards. It is a great mistake. I still urge that a young country like ours requires a flexible system. Circumstances vary all through South Africa—what suits Cape Town does not suit Durban or Johannesburg. In one part you can work industries with white labour, in another part with coloured labour, and in a third part there is a tendency towards the use of black labour. Here we have all sorts of conditions growing up. If you want an industrial system which will assimilate the conditions of all these various circumstances of the Union, you must leave as much latitude as possible. [Time expired.]
I would again remind the right hon. gentleman that in the case of the existing Act, on those lines of policy on which he was confident it would act, he was mistaken. His Industrial Conciliation Act was transformed almost out of recognition in the select committee.
It was the schedule that was embodied.
It was a very different Bill indeed as it came from the select committee. This bi-lateral principle in the 1921 Act was incorporated in the 1924 Act, and appears there in the form of industrial councils and conciliation boards. When the right hon. gentleman speaks about the Government intervening, the same principle obtains in the existing Act, for when the Industrial Council fixes wages it still rests with the Minister by gazetting to make those wages operative, so if he indicts this Bill on those grounds a similar indictment might be raised on his Bill.
In that case the industry concerned settles the wages.
Suppose you have an industrial investigation and the highest judicial authority in the land is the mediator, and suppose that he says equity demands so and so, and one side says “No, I will stay out.” The right hon. gentleman said that if the Government did not give effect to the recommendations of the Board there would be a strike. The same thing will occur under his Industrial Conciliation Act if one side thinks it is continuously being hampered. You have deprived one side of one traditional weapon; you say you shall not break off work without making use of this machinery. In return you give them conciliation machinery, but you have just the same danger of striking.
There still remains the Government as a possible means of settlement.
Under compulsory arbitration the Government is not there as a medium. Hon. members over there want to maintain the voluntary principle which has been found wanting by the experience of this country, and must be reinforced. I cannot but see, in looking back over the whole history of this legislation, the constant failure of the conciliation principle; it failed entirely in 1913 over the Kleinfontein dispute. Then this 1924 Conciliation Act, of which we hoped such great things, has sunk very much in prestige in the eyes of the workers, owing to their finding that while being quite prepared to be reasonable they go through all these processes, and at the end they get little out of it. We want something to reinforce that and to be able to step in when other things fail. At all events I submit the hon. gentlemen opposite who are opposed to this that they should look back over the history of the last 15 years, and they must admit that their legislation has been unsatistory and has not worked in the direction we desired. Admitting all that, let them reason with themselves that there may be something in the opposite point of view. Why should the Bill strangle industries—why should we assume that the board would be a perfectly unreasonable body? They are assuming that the board is going to take no notice whatever of the views of the two additional members who will be representative of the two sides to the dispute. You are assuming the board is going to take no notice of the directions contained in the Bill or to take into consideration the various things under Clause 3 of the Bill, and you are assuming you are right, in spite of past experience, that the present conciliation principle requires no reinforcement, and we must continue, without looking to the right or to the left, along the path which in the past has proved so singularly inept by itself. Surely they are not justified in opposing as they do this Bill. I submit the right hon. gentleman may not be too perfectly certain that their view is right and our view is wrong.
Nor yours either.
Is there any man in introducing legislation on such matters as these who is going to venture to be absolutely certain that everything will go as he hopes? One provides here a ballast and control so that at all events you may watch developments. It is not a law of the Medes and Persians which never altereth. We may find it necessary with experience to amend it, but as something demanded by the working people the right hon. member is wrong in quoting Mr. Andrews and saying he would rather not have the Bill.
That is the mistake he makes. He assumes this is a Bill demanded by the workers. They have given evidence before a select committee and have supported a scheme embodied in the amendment by the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford). That is my point. We may all be wrong. I have been wrong sometimes in these matters, but that does not make my hon. friend infallible, especially in a case like this where the Bill does not follow the evidence produced on behalf of the workers. But I rise to make another point. The Minister says why do I argue as if this Bill will necessarily have the effect of strangling the young industries of the country. I will tell him why in the interests of the young industries I object to this particular scheme. Under a scheme of a board such as you have here, a Government board for the whole Union, with its divisions, you must necessarily have uniformity. I cannot conceive one board dealing with a particular trade or industry in the Union and settling one rate of wages in one part of the country and another rate in another part of the country. They must follow the rule of uniformity, and I see the gravest danger in that. We have a situation to-day in the Witwatersrand which points to the danger of uniformity. Take the situation in the gold mines. We have some mines which are very wealthy and can afford to pay higher wages, and other mines which are just on the margin of payability and which sometimes sink below that level. The cast iron rule of uniformity prevails there and it is almost impossible for the low grade mines to continue. This principle is not followed in other countries. In the mining industry of Great Britain, different wages are paid in different mining districts. You come to one mining district where the coal is of a more payable character and high wages are paid, and you come to another district of lower quality and lower wages are paid. If the system of uniformity were applied to these mines many of them must close down. On the Witwatersrand it is this rule of uniformity which is creating a good deal of difficulty which the mining industry has to contend with to-day. Now the Minister is going to apply a system like this all over South Africa.
Where does it say so in the Bill?
It must apply, it stands to reason that these things are going to happen. One board reviewing all industries for the Union and settling wages for them cannot draw a distinction in the same industry or the same trade for one part as against the other. How can it? Supposing a dispute arises in Durban in the tanning industry and the minimum wages are settled by the board, and subsequently a similar dispute in the same industry arises at Port Elizabeth. Will the Minister tell me that the Government board will settle different wages at the one place from what they have settled at the other.
It would be like a court delivering one sentence for one set of parties and for other parties delivering another sentence on the same facts. The workers will not stand for that long. If the board is going to award wages on one scale at Cape Town and on another scale at Port Elizabeth you will soon find an outcry that will sweep the board out of existence. That is just the difference. If the hon. Minister will be patient with me for a moment—
That is very difficult.
I know it is difficult for the Minister to be patient but he must learn to be patient and to suffer even fools gladly. If you have a board or boards consisting of the representatives of the industry they would know the local details and the local situation and may settle the minimum wages in their part of the country on a just, fair and reasonable basis without taking into consideration the cost of living in Johannesburg or in any other part of the country. Take it from me I feel persuaded the effect of the Bill is going to be that the wages in every little industry in South Africa are going to be levelled up to the highest scale. The wages that prevail in Johannesburg or Durban or wherever they are, will become the standard for which all other industries in South Africa will approximate and that will have a strangling effect on the industries. You might have a little industry quite legitimate and paying a reasonable wage in the villages of the Cape Province, but if you apply the standards of the great centres that industry must go. You will have uniformity on the maximum basis and many industries which are to-day sprouting and taking root will find themselves in difficulties and will have to go.
I want to correct the right hon. gentleman on one or two points. I appreciate the spirit in which the discussion is being carried on. First he says you are bound to have uniformity and that a national board like this cannot fix wages, one kind at Port Elizabeth and another kind in Durban and Johannesburg in the same trade. You have the national council which you set up under the Conciliation Act as a national body. There is no difficulty there in the agreement just gazetted of the building national council. You have one set of wages for Cape Town and one rate for the Rand and there is no difficulty there. This board is expressly under Clause 3, amongst other points, to take into consideration the cost of living in such area or areas. There is no reason for the right hon. gentleman conceiving that idea that this board is bound to say—
He spoke of the mining industry. I am not going to be led into seductive by-paths, but what I want to point out to him is that what he complains of is not the result of any board or anything of that kind, but is simply the result of the system that has grown up. His fear that this board is necessarily going to fix, without any elasticity at all, one standard minimum wage of national scope throughout the country is without any foundation. Another point that he made was the lack of elasticity in the present arrangement. This board is not going to interfere with that, except for the better. I think we have threshed this matter out now.
I thought my hon. friend (Gen. Smuts) was bodying your views possibly as well as those of any other hon. member on that side. I am quite willing to take my stand with the right hon. gentleman as to whose views will be most in accord with the wishes and aspirations of the working people of this country.
I do not think I can be accused of taking up the time of the House or the Committee, but I wish to say that I believe in collective bargaining without the intervention of the Government. In reply to some of the academic arguments that have been brought forward during this debate, I may say that the practical result of this clause will be the stifling of colonial industries, and not only that, but it will have a very serious and definite effect upon those who intend or intended to start industries in this country. I had a conversation with a very enterprising gentleman a few days ago and he told me that he intended to start a new industry here with a capital of £50,000, that he had worked out the cost of the raw material and the rate of wages that he would have to pay, and that he found that after three or four years, when his industry was organized and giving him some returns, the board might step in and say to him—
Well, having the interests of the country at heart, I said to him—
I think the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) was present at this discussion. The gentleman of whom I am speaking further said—
I think you can rely upon the Minister. He then said—
These ideas, I think, are influencing a large number of other people, and, as I said the other day, this clause especially is going to be a Westinghouse vacuum-brake upon the development of colonial industries.
After hearing the discussion and the reply of the Minister to my right hon. friend (Gen. Smuts), I have come to the conclusion that if we were to look at this matter from a purely party point of view the best thing we could do would be to leave it alone and let the Minister do what he likes, because I am certain the results will recoil upon him and his friends. I conceive that it is our duty to point out what we believe to be the valid objections to the procedure which the Minister wishes to follow. I don’t want to go over all the ground again, but I do desire to point out this, that if this Bill is passed in its present form the Minister, and through him the Government of the country, are taking upon themselves a very serious responsibility, because the Minister has so worded the clauses of the Bill that he has got the whole discretion in the last resort in his own hands. First of all, he has told us that in all probability the Bill will not be applied very often to industries in which the employers and employed are organized to any considerable extent. Then he has told us that his main object is to come to the relief of the people engaged in what may be called “sweated trades.” If that is so, why not take this amendment of my hon. friend, because if he will look at sub-clause (b) of the amendment he will see that where there is no organization, association, or trade union which, in the opinion of the Minister, is sufficiently representative, the Minister may then step in and appoint such number of representatives and so forth as he likes. That would surely safeguard the position. But the Minister will not have that. He wants to get the right to interfere even in the organized trades. For example, as hon. members will see, if they look at page xiv of the Select Committee’s report, I proposed an amendment there to the effect that the Bill should not apply to any trade or industry in any area in which there exists an employer’s organization or employers’ organizations and a trade union or trade unions considered by the Minister to be sufficiently representative of the employers and employees in that area of that trade or industry.” The Minister and his friends would not have that, and the only thing we have got in that direction, the only thing which supports the Minister’s point that he is really legislating for the benefit of the unorganized people, is the amendment put in at a later stage—
You say that is something which you got?
I do not say so. I say that is the only thing which justifies in any degree the statement that he is really legislating for the benefit of the unorganized trades. If you look at all these points you come back to this,—in every case the Minister is the final authority. He appoints the board in the first place, and the board would, of course, carry out the policy of the Minister and the Government. The Minister can decide to what trades this may apply. If he thinks it right, he can apply the procedure of this Bill to any trade, however organized it may be on either side. When a report is made to him, he may, or may not, as he thinks fit, act upon that report. The whole of it comes back to the responsibility of the Minister, the responsibility of the Government. Nothing is more certain, in my opinion, that as time goes on, unless this Bill is going to be a dead letter, the Minister will find out he has made a great mistake in taking the whole responsibility to himself. He would have been well advised, in my judgment, to have accepted the amendment of my hon. friend, for the reasons he has given and for the reasons the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) has given, to limit his responsibility to what he has told us over and over again is his main object, the protection of the unorganized industries.
It seems to me that the more we discuss the proposal for the creation of a wages board the more we come to the conclusion that we are engaged on the kernel and the chief point in the whole Bill. What is proposed? The hon. Minister proposes that all disputes with reference to wages, etc., in industries shall be referred to a Government board with the Minister at the head. What will the result of that be? This, that we shall immediately break up our existing conciliation machinery which we now have under existing legislation. If the proposal for a wages board is accepted the existing machinery will become valueless. It is natural that if the workers in industries know that they have a Minister who, to admit it for the moment for argument’s sake, is favourably disposed towards the workers, and if a board is appointed by the Minister to fix wages and settle disputes and to give advice, do we imagine that the people will go to their conciliation machinery? The first thing they will do is to go to the Minister and the board, and when the board with the best intentions in the world has reported to the Minister and he has given his decision, and it is not satisfactory, do we think that the workers will be satisfied? The Minister will then be the cause of the strikes and the poor State will every moment be dragged into all the troubles and disputes of the future. The hon. Minister has spoken of the necessity for something to settle difficulties if people do not come to agreement under the conciliation machinery, and he has asked what then becomes of the poor workers. Has the hon. Minister ever thought of such a thing as public opinion? Does he know that in all industrial troubles public opinion plays a very great part, and that if the employers take up an unfair attitude and not in conformity with what the conciliation machinery has laid down that then such a thing in other countries, and especially in England, is settled by public opinion? The Minister now says that in the future we shall no longer require public opinion. He acts as dictator, and says what is necessary in the future. I say that the existing machinery is much better than drawing the State into all these differences. The hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) has brought up a very important point here, and that is that if in a certain industry, at Port Elizabeth, e.g., certain wages are fixed by the board, then workers in the same industry in Cape Town, e.g., will also receive those wages. The hon. Minister says that that will not happen because he says it does not occur under the present system. He is now going to radically alter the system and put a political system in the place of the system of conciliation, and does the hon. Minister think that the workers, of whom he is the leader, will not use all possible political influences to fix the same scale at Cape Town as at Port Elizabeth? I do not wish to talk longer about the Bill because the hon. the Prime Minister has unfortunately limited our time. I am only thinking of the interests of South Africa, and I publicly say here that the acceptance of the new principle will be the death blow of the future development of industries of South Africa.
I just want to say a few words about what the hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige) has said here. He is not quite logical. He says that public opinion in the past has settled matters.
If the workers are in the right.
Yes, but that is just the difficulty, knowing when they are right. In 1914 this side of the House thought that the workers on the Rand were right. Hon. members opposite thought that the mining capitalists were right, and they obtained the victory. We cannot rely on public opinion. Where the workers ask for an increase of wages, and the wages board says no, and they appeal to the Minister and the Minister also says no, that the demand is unfounded, there public opinion will be very strong against the workers, and they will not go on strike. With reference to the difference in wages in different parts I also wish to say something. If the circumstances are the same then it is quite right that the wages should be the same, but if the difference in wages has to be there then it is not unfair that the wages board should recommend it. We have that at present in the public service, and it works quite well. No, the excuse of the hon. member is a very weak one. If we proceed from the point of view that there must be no minimum wages, then he is right, but if we accept that principle, then I do not see how this principle will not work well.
On the motion of Mr. Jagger, the Chairman put the new sub-section (2) proposed by the select committee.
One reason why I support the amendment of my hon. friend is that it provides for areas. You cannot examine the situation, in reference to the position of the workers, unless you deal with areas. In the Bill nothing is provided in that way at all.
Is a trade in Port Elizabeth a section of a trade?
You can take that if you like; but you should make this clear that it means areas, as wages do differ in different parts of the country. On page 15 of the blue book “Statistics of Production,” you will see the wages paid in the principal industrial centres. In the Cape Peninsula, the average wage paid to Europeans is £239, in Port Elizabeth £194, in Durban £291, and on the Witwatersrand £322, showing that wages differ, and they must differ, in the different areas. That is recognized also in Government employment, by the granting of local allowances. What I want the Minister to recognize is that he must examine this question of wages paid in the various industries, according to areas.
Will the hon. member read Clause 3, sub-section (2) (d), page 4?—
In the areas; that may do. The Minister may pooh-pooh what was stated by the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), that you might kill some of these trades if you are going to apply the same wage everywhere. The tendency will be for a board to raise the wages to the highest level. I know an industry myself which is in a country place, of a rather extensive character, a boot and shoe industry. I have no doubt that, if the wages paid there were not less than those paid in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, that industry could not live. Naturally, in the country the cost of living is less. In cases of that kind, if the board recommends that the wages should be uniform, as I am afraid they will do, then in these small country districts the industries will not be able to live, but will be crushed out by the competition from the larger centres. What the Minister should do is to recognize that in his investigations he should go by areas. I move—
It gives the Minister more power. I do not see why he should be afraid of accepting it. Then I see that there is no termination to the appointment of these men on this board. There is nothing laid down as to when their services should terminate or when they should retire.
It is stated there in line 37; it states “for such period”.
Why should not that be left to Parliament to decide? Why should it all be left to the Minister? I move—
There is a verbal error in line 29. Instead of “a division of a board” it should read “the division of the board”. I move—
I should rather like to get back to my amendment, and to answer one or two objections put by the Minister. One of his strong objections—and an objection in which there is a great deal of force—is that in sweated industries it is impossible to get the employees to take part on the board because they are afraid of being victimized. Under my amendment, however, the employees need not necessarily elect one of themselves as their representative on the board but some outside person. I take it they could elect the secretary of one of the trade unions, like Mr. Andrews, who is thoroughly competent to carry on negotiations, and thus the employees would be well looked after and quite as well as they will be on the board suggested by the Minister. Their representative would not be under any intimidation from the employers’ representative on the board. There is another curious implication from the Minister. The Minister mentioned that the confidence of the working classes in the voluntary principle is waning. If that is the Case why does their representative express exactly the opposite view in the select committee? The contention of Mr. Andrews was perfectly clear that the board should consist, half of representatives of the employees and half of representatives of employers, with an impartial chairman. It is quite clear that Mr. Andrews did not at all like the board suggested by the Minister. The employees do not like it any more than the employers—in fact, they like it rather less. Mr. Andrews in his evidence said—
All they have to do is to come under the Conciliation Act.
Mr. Andrews is very cynical about these boards and he sees all the difficulties we do in this matter, but the Minister is the only person who does not see these difficulties. The next point the Minister made was the question of uniformity. I had understood up to this afternoon that the Minister’s strong point for having three men who were going to obtain a comprehensive view of the whole of the trade conditions in South Africa was that there should be uniformity, but now the Minister tells us there is no intention of having uniformity in the decisions. If there is not to be uniformity the Minister will get into difficulties with both sides. For instance, supposing the wages in the boot factories at Port Elizabeth were fixed at £5 a week while the wages in the Cape Town factories were fixed at £4. Does the Minister think that that would cause satisfaction? He would be besieged by representatives of both employers and employees. I will put another point of view. Under the Bill the determination is for a period not exceeding two years. When you consider that the livelihood of both the employees and the employers depends on the determination being right, is it not very much more valuable that these two classes should be responsible for their own acts, and if they make a wrong determination they will have no one to blame but themselves? I can foresee the position arising when a determination is made for two years—and it cannot be altered—and when it has been in operation for a little while it is found unworkable. Then the Minister will be attacked by both employers and employees, and the latter will demand that the determination be revised, but under the Bill there is no provision for revision. I ask the Minister to accept my proposal to delete the clause so that we can insert my proposed amendment. We are all trying to find a means by which the Bill will be able to work smoothly. The Minister rather arrogates to himself the position that he is the only person who knows how to frame a wage Bill. But there are other people in this House who have a good deal to do with wages and employees, and who know quite as well as the Minister does what the feeling of the employees is. I can assure the Minister that he is quite wrong in his fundamental idea that the employees stand on one side and the employers on another, and that someone has to be put between them to prevent them flying at one another’s throats. That state of affairs does not exist in 99 per cent. of our industries, in which both employees and employers get on perfectly well together, and if they obtain the opportunity of sitting around a table they will compose 99 per cent. of their differences. We are striving to introduce a form of machinery which will work smoothly. As far as I am concerned the fairer the wages are the better, but do let us have machinery that will run and not rust up and crack to pieces.
It is significant that we don’t hear a word from the Opposition. Some members on the other side have stated that this does not affect the farmers and it has been echoed from one end of these benches to the other. Either it does affect the farmers or it does not. If it does, then the farmers opposite are going to oppose it. If it does not, then what right have the farmers to try and fix on the shoulders of another section of the community something they would not tolerate themselves. There is still another point I would like to emphasize. The Minister stated a little while ago that the previous Bill had been ineffective and challenged the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) to say why it was ineffective. One important reason for the failure has been the attitude of some of the political leaders on the other side. We know the advice given to people who were discontented and who were seeking for some things against the Government, we know that they were advised by responsible leaders on the other side to resist the old Bill. It has already been said that the appointment of these various boards will rest in the hands of the Minister. Many of us feel that the Minister is something of a fanatic in regard to this labour question, and I think the whole of his vision is governed by the conditions he sees on the Rand, and he sees very little beyond it. I would like to know if the farmers think they have in the Minister a man whose heart and soul is in the business, and if he is the man who ought to control these boards in so far as they affect farmers. I don’t think they realize that. I hope an amendment will be put in this Bill to safeguard farmers when we arrive at that stage. It has been suggested that there is no serious objection to applying this to farmers, and that it is only a matter of time before if is going to operate in that way.
On a point of order, is the hon. gentleman in order in referring to the farmers coming in when we have decided they shall not?
There is still a section to come referring to this very point.
The hon. gentleman must pay attention to the business of the House.
I have expressed what I intended to do, and for the present I shall leave it at that.
I am sorry I cannot accept the amendment of the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger). I am advised his amendment about each particular trade and area is unnecessary, and with regard to the fixing of the period of the members of the board, I am unable to accept it.
I don’t agree with the hon. member who described the Minister as a fanatic at all, but I do think to some extent his views on the question of wages are tinged very largely by occurrences on the Rand. I rise just to say a few words to the effect that I don’t think this system he is seeking to introduce is going to work throughout the rest of the country. I admit he is an authority on mining and that he knows a good deal about the labour conditions of the Rand, but with regard to the rest of the country, as far as I can judge, the position is that the voluntary system of arriving at wages and conditions of labour seems to have worked fairly well. As far as Natal is concerned, there have been differences of opinion between the employees and the employers, and they have sat round the table and composed their differences, and there has been no occasion for the Government to step in either by boards or division of boards. It may be beating the air, because the Minister has made up his mind to carry the Bill as it stands, but I am of opinion that the voluntary system in the amendment of the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) is one we should adopt instead of the Minister’s system. The Minister told us his reason for having a board for the whole country was to bring about uniformity as far as possible.
No, I said to have some uniform principle applying to the determination of these wages, not uniformity of wages.
Other things being equal, there will be a certain measure of uniformity brought about under this Bill. In the amendment of the hon. member for Newlands, the parties themselves, in each trade or area, will come together and endeavour to come to a settlement. Why should the Government come into the matter at all? As the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) says, if the Government in the earlier stages keep out of a dispute, and the parties come to terms, the Government can come in as mediator with greater effect then than at the beginning. I think the amendment of the hon. member for Newlands is one we ought to adopt.
Throughout the argument the Minister of Labour has assumed that the conciliation machinery and the new machinery will run side by side. I appreciate that if it could happen, and that this Wage Bill should be applied only to unorganized industries and sweated trades, that would be all right and no one would find fault with that aspect of affairs. Our opinion, and it was expressed strongly in select committee, is that the conciliation machinery will break down, and that the tendency of the organized trades will be more and more to work for a determination under the Wage Bill, when their agreements expire, under the machinery of the Conciliation Act, especially if they think it is going to be more satisfactory to them than the conciliation machinery. In that aspect there is a distinct danger. The proposal I made the other night that the Minister should schedule the particular industries to which he wants this Bill to apply would have eased matters considerably. It has been done in England. In that case the wage board would be a good board, because in the unorganized industries we have no employees’ representatives who can be elected to sit on the board and therefore such a board as this is necessary. Believing that it would be applied, though it is not so enacted largely to unorganized trades, I, in select committee, felt very strongly in favour of the board proposed by the Minister, although I voted for the amendment of my hon. friend, for if the machinery of the Bill were applied solely to sweated industries, then obviously the decision as to the composition of the board would have to remain with the Government. But since we are spreading this net over the whole of the industrial field of the Union, it seems to me that there ought to be some safeguard against breaking down the conciliation machinery, for that is what I fear will happen. As it is, the Wage Board will now have the right to investigate the conditions of all industries in the Union upon the application of a sufficient number of representatives of those trades.
Not if they have entered into an agreement under the Act.
That is so. The point is this, that the Minister has emphasized that our conciliation machinery has never acted in the past, and that it requires something else. We may have our own opinion as to why it has not acted in the past. The Conciliation Act of ours has not been in operation long enough yet to give it a fair trial. It has been in operation only twelve months. The effect of rushing another piece of legislation into the statute book which, applying to all industry must be to break down the conciliation machinery as it exists. I would have preferred to have seen this Bill, which, I think, would be a good Bill if it were applied to sweated industries, confined to sweated industries. To apply it over the whole of the Union may, I feel, act to the prejudice of the workers themselves, and I, therefore, support the amendment of my hon. friend.
I do not wish to add anything to the discussion on this amendment, but I have got an amendment that I wish to move—
I desire to ensure that the conditions of a particular trade which may be investigated by this division of a board, which is to be set up, shall be investigated by people who have full knowledge of the matter. I do not wish to enter into the matter at any great length, because the main argument for this amendment is precisely the same as the main argument which has been used in support of my hon. friend’s amendment that we have just been discussing, but I would say that the argument in favour of this particular amendment is even stronger, because the object of appointing a division of a board is to investigate and report in reference to any particular trade or section thereof. It does seem to me that if an investigation of that kind takes place, the argument for having on the board representatives of the employers and employees in that particular trade or section of trade, is extremely strong.
Again I am afraid I cannot accept that amendment. The representation of one and the other is already provided for in the additional members of the board.
I think the Minister is under a misapprehension. There is no provision in the division of a board, as far as I can see, for a nominated representative of the employers and employees.
The Governor-General may appoint a member to serve on the board representative of the two sides. There is no provision for the nomination by the employers of a representative and employees of a representative.
That will be found in line 50.
It seems to me that the principle of appointing a board which is to disregard the voluntary settlement of disputes is running counter to all experience, even of the recent application of wage boards in England. The Royal Commission in 1922 deals with this matter. The commission was presided over by Lord Cave and consisted of a very influential body, which included Mr. James Bell, M.P., Sir Arthur F. Pease, Mr. A. McCallum Scott, M.P., and others. In section 54 the commission state—
What bearing has that upon this particular clause?
I am getting at the point that the board, in its present form, should not be a board that is divorced from the idea of collective bargaining, and that the principle of collective bargaining is destroyed if the Government appoints a board independent of the employers or employees.
I submit that the hon. member’s argument is simply pertinent to the second reading, and not to this clause.
So it appears to me.
Surely any argument which is pertinent to the second reading is pertinent to the Bill, and can be raised in committee.
Yes, if that clause contains the general principle.
I am taking the point that if the matter is germane to be raised on the second reading, it is germane to the Bill and can be raised in committee.
It all depends whether it is germane to the particular clause under discussion. If the hon. member (Mr. Marwick) is now arguing upon what should take the place of Clause 2, he is quite in order, provided the proposed new clause is sufficiently relevant.
I was arguing that the appointment of a hide-bound wage board, such as proposed by the Minister, is destructive of the element of collective bargaining recommended by this commission out of the experience of wage board legislation in England. This report, which deals with the national minimum wage, says that it is better to leave this to collective bargaining in its essence, than to a hard and fast wage board, which deals with these things without reference to that element—
It seems to me the appointment of this board in its present form will tend to the fixation of wages generally, and not to the principle we aim at, that is, the fixation of a minimum wage in various trades, because the very powers of this board are so comprehensive, as is shown by the succeeding section, that the effect will be to introduce an entire revolution in the industrial system of this country, and in the economic situation in South Africa. I hope the Minister will give some consideration to the amendments that have been put on the paper, and that he will not, as he seems to be doing, simply ignore every argument that is brought forward.
The amendments proposed by the Minister of Labour put and agreed to.
The amendments proposed by Mr. Jagger, by Sir Drummond Chaplin and by the select committee, in lines 54 and 55, put and negatived.
New sub-section (2), as amended, put and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put, and the committee divided:
Badenhorst, A. L.
Barlow, A. G.
Bergh, P. A.
Beyers, F. W.
Boshoff, L. J.
Brink, G. F.
Brits, G. P.
Cilliers, A. A.
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.
Fourie, A. P. J.
Grobler, P. G. W.
Hattingh, B. R.
Havenga, N. C.
Hay, G. A.
Hertzog, J. B. M.
Heyns, J. D.
Keyter, J. G.
Louw, E. H.
Madeley, W. B.
Malan, C. W.
Malan, M. L.
McMenamin, J. J.
Mostert, J. P.
Muller, C. H.
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 Hees, A. S.
Van Niekerk, P. W. le R.
Van Rensburg, J. J.
Van Zyl, J. J. M.
Visser, T. C.
Waterston, R. B.
Werth, A. J.
Wessels, J. B.
Tellers: Pienaar, B. J.; Mullineux, J.
Anderson, H. E. K.
Brown, D. M.
Byron, J. J.
Chaplin, F. D. P.
Coulter, C. W. A.
Deane, W. A.
Grobler, H. S.
Heatlie, C. B.
Jagger, J. W.
Krige, C. J.
Lennox, F. J.
Louw, G. A.
Louw, J. P.
Marwick, J. S.
Nicholls, G. H.
O’Brien, W. J.
Payn, A. O. B.
Pretorius, N. J.
Rider, W. W.
Sephton, C. A. A.
Smartt, T. W.
Smuts, J. C.
Struben, R. H.
Van Heerden, G. C.
Van Zyl, G. B.
Tellers: de Jager, A. L.; Robinson, C. P.
Clause, as amended, accordingly agreed to.
On Clause 3,
I have one or two amendments to move in Clause 3, which are largely typographical. I move—
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the amendment in lines 35 to 46 proposed by the select committee.
I move, as an amendment to this amendment—
This amendment is permissive, and merely extends the scope of the enquiries of the board, but unless it is made perfectly clear that the board may investigate such conditions it may be urged that it is incompetent for the board to rule that consideration of matters of this kind would be relevant. It will be perfectly fair to widen the powers of the board in this way. Under the amendment not only will the board have power to investigate these matters, but also to declare invalid any condition which might be imposed from outside by a third party. We know there have been many such restrictions imposed from time to time, and looking at the matter entirely from the point of view of the consumer these restrictions —which increase the cost to the consumer—are distinctly objectionable. It is very necessary that the board should investigate these matters. Even if you approach it from the point of view of the employer only it seems to me that power to declare invalid some particular restriction which very seriously affects the rate of output is a necessary one. Let me put a concrete case as an example. Suppose it is competent for a union to declare that a bricklayer shall lay only 200 bricks a day, when the normal rate is 800. There also may be restrictions which an employer might wish to impose which would have a detrimental effect on the public, or they might affect the capacity of the employer to pay the wages which had been determined upon. The Minister is apparently with me in principle, but why does he object to the board having express power to make these investigations?
The hon. member, whom I have hitherto taken as being serious, is, I can hardly believe, serious in this. The present clause gives the board power in its functions to report on the hours, conditions of work, and any other matter connected with labour and conditions in that trade or section of a trade.
I want to deal with something outside it.
You want to deal with the effect of some union in Great Britain or somewhere else. In sub-section (a) labour conditions have nothing to do with trade union rules as existing at the time of the investigation, except so far as information is available and may be relevant to the investigation at any previous time. Certainly I cannot accept this amendment.
Does the Minister raise any objection to this being brought within the wages board?
It is there as it is if it is relevant.
The question is whether the section is wide enough to cover the amendment, and we argue it is not a matter that can be dealt with by the section. We have the Minister saying that it does, and my hon. friends on the left say it is a matter which cannot, under any circumstances, be brought within the words of the section. It is a point of some importance. Supposing a trade union lays it down that the output of a certain class of work shall be so much. In considering the dispute in a particular area, will the board be competent to deal with it?
As far as it is relevant it is there.
Assuming the Minister agrees it is a necessary matter for consideration, then why have objection to including it in the Bill, when there is the possibility of arguing that the section does not cover it?
I want to urge the Minister to have nothing to do with an amendment of this kind. I don’t know whether the hon. member realizes it, but if these words were inserted in the Bill it would be tantamount to perpetuating an insult to the workers of the Union. It is all very well to talk about restriction of output, and bring in that old-standing example of the bricklayer, which we have long since disproved. Our hon. friend here can think of nothing but the poor bricklayer. He says supposing they come to a decision that they will restrict their output to 200 bricks a day. Might I remind the House of a controversy which took place on that very subject when several members asserted definitely that 300 bricks was the restricted output of bricklayers in this country, and referred to two bricklayers in Brakpan on a special job, as men who ought to have been laying 800 to 900 bricks a day, and yet were only laying 300 on account of some order from a nebulous body telling them to restrict the output. A private investigation was made, and these men were tested by their own trade union officials, unknown to them, and they were found to be laying over 1,100 bricks a day, and at the same time in this House the foolish statement was being made that the very same trade union, of which these officials were a part, had decided to restrict output to 300 a day. Is it not time that silly remark was dropped in the House? We know that employers are sufficiently well organized, and powerful to sack every man who they think is not turning out enough.
Because they are already sufficiently under heel, and because you always have a reservoir of unemployed sitting outside ready to take a man’s job. There is one thing my hon. friend has lost sight of. Let us assume a restricted output could be arranged by the trade union. The whole underlying principle of the Bill has no relation to the making out of various steps of wages, but lays down what is considered, in the eyes of those investigating the question, what is the standard below which men shall not fall—a living wage. How can restricted output of a bricklayer come into consideration? The trade unions are not people who are concerned in this Bill. They are not going to be governed by this Bill, and their wages are not going to be fixed by the Act. The wages that are going to be fixed are those of the poor unfortunates living below the water-line. As a trade unionist, it does not matter whether the Bill goes through or not, because I am satisfied that trade unions have proved they can maintain their own standard, because of their unity. The men we are considering are the bottom dogs, the poor unfortunates who are unable to organize, and are at the mercy of the employer. The question of restricted output does not come in at all.
I think this question of the restriction of output is one of very great importance, but it is perfectly apparent to me that the Minister does not want the board to take into consideration this matter of output. I think it will be perfectly reasonable to put it down in the Bill, so that it may be mentioned and considered. Surely the Minister does not want any employer to pay any more than a man earns.
I was glad to hear the remarks of the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley), because he said to this Committee precisely what I said on Monday when I was dealing with clause 1, viz., that the Bill will not affect and has very little to do with the organized trade unions. They are not particularly concerned in this Bill, because they can look after themselves, and this Bill is really a Bill to try and ameliorate the position of the “bottom dog.” It is a pity, if the hon. member thought that, that he did not assist the hon. member for Three Rivers (Mr. D. M. Brown) and myself to get this Bill to extend to the “bottom dog” wherever he may be, and in whatever class of work he may be engaged in in this country. The hon. member’s logic is faulty in his opposition of this proposal of the hon. member for Cape Town (Gardens) (Mr. Coulter). He says not only does the ca’ canny policy not exist, but it is so impossible that it can exist in this country that there is no necessity for this clause. If the danger of that policy is so remote in his opinion, why squeal before you are hurt? As the hon. member for Gardens says, his proposal is purely permissive. Cases may exist in this country and they have existed in other countries, where instructions are given by the employees’ organization which have the effect of limiting the output per man in a particular trade. If that is so, why should the board not have power to investigate, first of all, whether such instructions have been given, and secondly, whether such instructions have reasonably been given? I say this argument about “insult” to the employees is absurd. If it was an “insult” to the employees, I would not be supporting it. Let us look at the functions which are assigned to this board under the clause. It is to investigate the conditions of labour from inside an industry, just as the Board of Trade and Industries will deal with the commercial and fiscal aspect of these industries. If that is so, does the Minister not realize that if instructions are given which will have the effect of limiting the output of a man to a measure very much inferior to what he is really capable of doing, that that would have a very serious effect on the industrial life of South Africa? If he says that it is already covered by the clause as it stands, then he should not be captious and stand in the way of in its being stated in a more full and more direct way. If he says it is not covered by the clause as it stands, then let him give us some more cogent reason for objecting to bring it within the purview of the board. There is no question of “insulting” either an employer or an employee.
The mere enunciation is an insult.
It goes to this length that it admits the possibility.
Exactly, why do that? Why not put all possibilities in then?
It does admit the possibility that some such instructions may be given and, if the hon. member considers that an “insult” he is welcome to his opinion. Similarly the Bill admits the possibility of an employer not paying proper wages. Is that an insult to the whole employing class? I would like the Minister to explain the provision which exists in the second proviso to section 3 (1). I have read it several times and it seems to me to be rather dangerous in its implication. It says—
I submit to the Minister chat he is making an error in putting in those words—
The hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) seems to take exception to this amendment, because it contemplates the possibility of output being restricted, and he deduces from this that we are casting a slur on the employees. If he had followed the records of this House, he would have found that a certain Mr. Shuttleworth, who described himself as general secretary and organizer of the amalgamated building trade unions of South Africa, in his evidence before a select committee, said—
The hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) is quite in error in objecting for the reasons stated by him, to any amendment which may consider the possibility of restricting output. The suggestion has also been made that it is an insult to the employees. I cannot appreciate that, because if we follow Mr. Shuttleworth further in his evidence, which was given in 1920, we find he says—
He says further—
Surely they are restricting output, and surely that is a position we should be able to deal with. The position is that if we are going to bind the employers, what is there against our binding the employees also? We are going to have wages fixed as against the employers, but the moment the wages are fixed, and the minimum wage is set down, the employees can decide to do so much less work per day. Another reason given by this gentleman is—
We thoroughly appreciate that, but it must not be purely at the expense of the employer. Give a fair wage for a fair day’s work and protect the employee against his restricting his output when his wage has been fixed. I cannot understand the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) looking upon this as an insult to the employees. There is no intention of any insult. The idea of the amendment is purely to protect both parties and to enable the board to have the power to go into these matters.
I do not quite see the objection of the Minister to the amendment of the hon. member for Gardens (Mr. Coulter). As I read the Bill, the board will make a determination for a period not exceeding two years. Now they are going to make that determination on certain facts which they find on investigation. One is under Clause (c), the ability of the employer to carry on the business successfully at the wage determined. Now one of the principal items in the calculation is, no doubt, the wage which is going to be paid for the work done. Suppose, in the case mentioned of a bricklayer, they found that a brickleyer lays 600 bricks a day, and on that assumption they argued that a certain wage is fair and reasonable, and they make a determination for two years on those facts. Surely there must be some undertaking that this condition that 600 bricks a day should be laid must be carried out during that period; otherwise the whole of their investigation under Clause (c) is absolutely futile. I think the employers will recognize that if you are going to give a man a fair wage, he, on his side, must give fair service. It seems to me impossible for any wage to be permanent unless a fair wage includes necessarily fair service, because if you do not get fair service it is going to act as a boomerang, and is going to harm the employee just as much as the employer. One of the facts that has to be ascertained is what amount of work an employee is going to do for a certain given wage; and if the Minister allows a wage to be instituted, and then the whole of the basis is knocked out by the employee restricting his output, well, it is simply going to lead to chaos. I also feel that it would make the employers recognize that this Bill is a fair Bill if there were some responsibility laid on the employee to do his fair share in making a fair wage possible. I believe every member on this side of the House is just as keen on the workmen in this country being paid a fair wage as hon. members opposite; but we must insist on one fundamental in this question, and that is that a fair wage must be followed by fair service and, therefore, for that reason, I support most strongly the amendment by the hon. member for Gardens.
I should like to remind the committee of certain figures quoted before, and which bear repetition, by the commission appointed by Mr. Hoover to enquire into the causes of inadequate production in industry in America, a commission which cannot be accused of being on the side of labour as against employers. Dealing with the causes of insufficient production they showed that the management was responsible for 65 per cent. of the inadequacy. In America, which is probably more industrialized than South Africa, and where management is undoubtedly more efficient, only 21 per cent. was due to the workers, including lockouts. Let me remind hon. members on this side when they talk about this question of restriction of output that the great apostle of restriction in South Africa has been Mr. Solly Joel. I am sorry the hon. member for De Beers is not in his place.
Order. There is no hon. member for De Beers in this House.
I mean the hon. member for Kimberley. I think it was a few years ago that Mr. Solly Joel told those interested in the diamond industry, who were afraid of a slump, that he had discovered a method by which the diamond industry could continue to be prosperous. He said let us restrict our output and we will get a proper price for our diamonds; so that it was their side that advocated that policy. As a matter of fact, the workers have not been in a position to carry out that policy, even if they wanted to do so. There are always thousands of men unemployed who are only too anxious to take any job that may be going. Then with regard to the point raised by the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger). He said that employers might have so much work that even if employees restricted output the employers might be obliged to keep them on. Surely this is in accord with the policy which he always preaches, namely, that of supply and demand. The only security the workers have is that there will not be a sufficient supply of labour; so that they may get adequate pay and conditions. The point overlooked by the hon. member for Gardens and others is that the object of the Bill is to secure a minimum rate of pay and a minimum state of conditions, below which workers shall not be obliged to go, and therefore there is no point in suggesting that the Board, when appointed, should consider the question raised by the hon. member for Cape Town (Gardens) (Mr. Coulter). I could understand it if the object of the Bill were to lay down a maximum and to say that the workers shall not get better pay or better conditions than this. But the position in South Africa is that people are working below a minimum wage, and it is necessary that Parliament should legislate, and the suggestion of the hon. member for Cape Town (Gardens) seems not only unreasonable, but contrary to the object of the Bill. In regard to the point raised about Mr. Shuttleworth: this is a specific instance where certain conditions were being imposed by the employers and the only remedy at the disposal of the employee was—individually—not on instructions of trade unions—to try and secure some protection against the unfair conditions which were being imposed by the employers; but I venture to say that, in this country, as in every other country, given a proper state of affairs—a living wage—you will always get a fair day’s work from the employees. From the discussion to-day, what appears to be wanted by the Opposition is a fair day’s work with as little pay as possible, or what they would prefer a fair day’s work without any pay at all.
The last speaker has given us the very best reasons for supporting the amendment of the hon. member of Cape Town (Gardens) (Mr. Coulter). He was on the select committee, and talks about this being a minimum wage. He knows very well that, far from being a minimum wage, the Bill provides for what is really a fair wage, and if he had looked at the following sub-section, he would have seen that it knocked the bottom out of his contention in regard to a minimum wage.
The hon. member must address the Chair.
I will endeavour to do so. I was not forgetting that I should address the Chair, but I was doing what was allowed to others.
What does the hon. member mean? What is the suggestion?
I said that if I had transgressed I was only doing what had been allowed to others—I do not say by you. Mr. Speaker laid down the other day that one need not always be facing the Chair.
The hon. member should not quibble. He may now proceed.
As the hon. member for Troyeville very well knows, we have departed from the minimum wage, and what it is contemplated to fix here, is a fair wage for different trades and industries and different classes of skilled workers. When you come to those who earn the lowest wages the Minister says—No, there we will not determine a minimum. I think there is no reason why the Minister should not accept the amendment of the hon. member for Cape Town (Gardens), but he always takes up the attitude that this is his Bill and that he won’t accept any amendments that come from the other side.
I hope the Minister is not going to be influenced by what has been stated by the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge). More foolish arguments I have never heard expressed. The 65 per cent. management expenses which he quoted as given by the Hoover Commission may be correct for America, but it does not apply to South Africa. The production in America is out of all proportion to our production. The first thing we in this country ought to learn, and which labour all over the world is learning, is that the more you increase your production the more wealth and wages there will be to go round. I commend the Minister to read Mr. Ford’s book. That knocks the bottom out of the arguments we have just heard. Mr. Ford shows that by the men putting their utmost efforts into their work they can produce in such a way that there are wages for everyone on which they can live in comfort, and with shorter hours. He has taught that the elimination of all wasted effort, and concentration upon the efficient working of the machine, means actually less time and more wages. What we should teach the workers is that greater production gives more wealth for distribution. Production on the American level would give us more than enough wages to go round. These discussions are always vitiated by hon. members from the Rand by their constant references to Solly Joel and so forth. What do we know about Solly Joel? We are not dealing with the mines on the Rand, but the manufacturing industries in this country, and what have they to do with Solly Joel? Hundreds of industries are rising all over the country, which are created by the capital and work of local inhabitants, and we get Solly Joel and others dragged in, as though then manipulation of mining shares had anything to do with our manufactures. The whole thing is absurd. We, as a Parliament, ought to take broader and sounder views than those echoed from the Labour benches. If that is the utmost they can do to help the white worker to maintain a civilized standard, I say “God help South Africa,” and I re-echo what the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) said the other day—
I would ask my hon. friend to resist temptation, for I quite follow the purport of the last speech.
It is a very remarkable argument for the Minister to use that hon. members over there should “resist temptation,” presumably the temptation to reply to speeches made by the Opposition. He should advise them to answer our arguments. The speech of the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge) suggests that the amendment should not be considered, because the Bill deals entirely with the minimum wage. It would be useful to remember that when he appears before a wage board, (as he inevitably will do) for then, no doubt, he would argue that a minimum wage is necessarily a living wage, and that a living wage must be the maximum wage a particular industry can afford to pay. He spoke of the restriction of the output of diamonds. If a wage board found there was an unwarranted restriction of output on the part of the employer, that would be a legitimate field for enquiry. My amendment is designed to make it perfectly clear that where an employer unwarrantably restricts production, or an employee restricts output, these are factors which should be considered. The Minister thinks that a wage board would merely say that in such and such an occupation the employees are to receive so much a week. But in practice, the board’s determinations will cover a very large field indeed, for the boards may investigate many aspects of conditions under which men work. The agreement in the building industry goes into a very large number of matters which, at first sight, might seem to be outside the scope of enquiry. For instance, it dealt with walking time, whether the men should be allowed to repair tools in working time, holiday contributions, and whether, to take a very trifling paint, employers should provide a boy to make tea. It may be argued that the board has no right to investigate trade union conditions, as regards restriction of output, and without the amendment the board would have its hands tied. The main argument from the Labour members is that there is in fact no restriction of output. Quotations from America do not help us, for in America there is no “ca’ canny” principle applied in practice, but in Great Britain and elsewhere such a policy has found marked favour. When we are told that the amendment is unnecessary because there is no restriction of output, we are invited to disbelieve the evidence of our own senses. It is certainly a settled policy in many trades not to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. We merely ask if restriction of output is to be considered a subject worthy of investigation by the board, the Bill should make it entirely clear that it can do so.
May I raise the same question from a different point of view? I hope the Minister will not grudge us the little time spent on this clause.
Clauses 2 and 3 are the very essence and kernel of the Bill.
I thought Clause 1 was.
The Minister will find if we hurry too much over this Bill now, we may spend sessions later on rectifying it. The point raised by the hon. member for Cape Town (Gardens) (Mr. Coulter) refers to the policy of slowing down on the part of the workers. I wish to raise a different hint. Suppose an industry gets into a very depressed state owing to general depression and market conditions, and the industry finds it cannot be kept going at full pace. Under the Bill, as it stands, minimum wages would have been settled for a definite period. Then a great depression sets in, and it is admittedly necessary either to restrict the output or to work short time. The industry might be able to keep its works going if it could operate on a reduced basis, but under the Bill as it stands no provision is made to meet a situation like that, for to pay the minimum wage or closing down completely. There is no middle course. An industry keeps working under normal conditions for some time, but from time to time it is the universal experience that depressions set in, and then either over-production or limitation of output has to take place. My hon. friend will see that he has made it impossible under this Bill, or let me not say he has made it impossible, but that the Bill as it stands makes it impossible for that industry to continue on a reduced basis.
A reduced wage basis?
I don’t know what the particular basis of reduction is to be, but I want the Minister to think over the matter. The hon. member for Cape Town (Gardens)) (Mr. Coulter) has argued the point of where production is limited by the action of the employees. It may be restricted to other conditions and wages may be affected or it may have to be shut down. I think some other additional clause ought to come in the Bill which will be a safety valve to prevent an industry closing down altogether as it would have to do under the Bill. The Minister will agree that it is a situation that has to be faced and some special provision will have to be made to deal with the situation as it arises, where curtailment is brought about, either artificially or becomes necessary under the marketing conditions that prevail. In such cases exceptional treatment will have to be applied, and I hope a clause will be brought into the Bill to provide for such cases.
I understood Clause 1 was the most important, and yesterday, from the right hon. member, I gathered that Clause 2 was the crux of the thing.
They are all so important.
They are not so important that the right hon. gentleman should have put himself to the trouble to read the clause and to see that the position was well put. If he turns to Clause 9 (c) he will see the provisions are not so unelastic as he leads us to suppose—
It has not covered the case I mentioned.
Those are special circumstances.
They are quite different.
You cannot have a law which is all exceptions. You may make broad powers of exception. We have limited the period of determination to two years. There were suggestions that we should make a minimum period during which these things should work, otherwise the suggestion was the evil Minister, not being satisfied, might ask the board to make another determination.
Nobody suggested that.
It was clearly suggested. In the case the hon. member cites we enjoin the board to take into consideration any other matters whatever connected with labour and the conditions thereof. We have also enjoined them to take into consideration labour conditions. If the customary rules of trade unions are not part of the labour conditions, I don’t know what are. We will take the case of the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), the case about falling values in products. The right hon. gentleman and others, if they had their way, would see free leave given to reduce wages, because that is the best way to economize. The object of this Bill is to see that whatever is done, the rates of wages shall not be interfered with without consent. They can work short time, so long as they get the rate.
The determination may fix the minimum wage for a number of hours, say 44.
They might do all sorts of extraordinary things. I base my discussion of the Bill on the presumption that the board are a board of sane, able men, taking into consideration, and acting in accordance with, the usual customs of industry. I ask the right hon. gentleman to consider that these points he has raised are imaginary points. Clause 9 gives us the power to make the necessary exceptions in cases of emergency.
I hope the Minister will not get impatient, because I am trying to think out the circumstances under which this Act, when it comes into force, will work, and surely it is easy to conceive a situation such as I have mentioned where the market conditions don’t allow of the sale of the products in the quantities sold before. Take another circumstance not covered by Clause 9 (c). The board has gone into the circumstances of an industry in times of prosperity, in times when values are up and prices are good and wages have been settled for the period on that basis. Then a period of depression sets in, but it is not necessary to stop working or to slow down, but it is impossible to keep the industry going under the depressed conditions, on these wages. The price of the article produced has fallen, say, 20, 30 or 50 per cent. or more, and the wages have been fixed. The industry is perfectly prepared to continue, but cannot continue under those wages. If wages are reduced corresponding to the price they are getting, they will be prepared to go on. The Minister will see the cases I have mentioned are not covered by Clause 9 (c), and I think a special clause will be needed. Anybody with a modicum of common sense will see that the Bill will lead to the shutting up of industries in time of depression, when prices have fallen, and manufacturers find it impossible to sell articles at the old prices. When prices fall very perceptibly as they do in the price movements of this country, there ought to be an adjustment of wages. There is no machinery in the Bill to do it, and there ought to be.
I am not going to bring forward an imaginary case. I have a concrete case. In the coal industry in Natal it is not the falling of prices that affects the industry so much as the deficiency in the supply of trucks by the Government. It is my experience, over 30 years, that from time to time, and very frequently, the coal mines are prevented from producing coal because there are no available trucks. Everybody knows that the truck supply to the Natal coal industry is spasmodic. What it is going to be when you are carrying this million tons of mealies over the line I don’t know. Through the act of the Government in not supplying trucks, the mines are hung up, and I would like to know from the Minister how you are going to deal with the men employed in those mines who are prevented from doing a fair day’s work, I do not say through the neglect, but through the action of the Government in not being able to supply them with trucks for carrying their coal. I should think a good many coal owners or coal companies in Natal would like some information regarding this. There are some Natal members in this House, and I am surprised that they have not taken this matter up.
There is an important question upon which I would like the Minister to give us some information. This section, I think for the first time, gives the native labourers in the country the right to demand the determination of wages by Government or a Minister, and extends to them the privilege of having a board sent to investigate any such complaint, but it seems to me that the definition here of a body that will be representative of the labourers concerned is not satisfactory. Will the Minister explain to us how this provision is to operate? Can the Minister tell us to what extent the natives are registered in trade unions at the present moment, or how many natives or what particular body of natives would be recognized as sufficiently representative of the native employees in any trade or section thereof? Will he go by numbers or will he go by any appointed representative? What particular guide is the board to have in determining that a particular body of natives would be sufficiently representative of the employees in that trade? There are some industries that are almost entirely dependent upon native labour at the present moment, and unless we are to risk the dislocation or destruction of such industries, it seems to me that the Minister should let us know how this particular provision is to work. It has been argued that this Bill can have no influence upon agricultural labour, but if any natives, or any number of natives, can at their whim demand a determination of wages, the mischievous effect upon the natives employed on farms can easily be imagined.
I do not think the Minister has given the committee any explanation yet in regard to the second proviso. I must confess that I do not understand it at all and I would like to hear it explained by him. What I got up more particularly to ask the Minister about is this. This is the clause where the recommendation of the board comes in. Of course, the recommendation will practically be the determination of the Minister in most instances. I would like to ask what are they going to base their recommendations on? Are we to clearly understand that the recommendations are going to based on the civilized standard of living? Is that the position?
What are you going to do in the case of trades where it is Impossible to use white labour, or you can use only a small proportion? I may mention a case. I own, amongst other things, a tannery in which 97 men are employed. Of those men eight are Europeans, used mainly for supervising, etc., about 10 are coloured and the balance are all natives. This is work—I say it quite sincerely —in which you cannot use white people. What is going to be the position with regard to that? Upon what basis are you going to make a recommendation as regards this particular work—and so it goes on. In my other factories there is also a mixture of white and coloured, but in tanning work, more especially, you cannot use anything but natives for the dirty work. What is to be the course of action?
It is rather difficult when you have a select committee on which there are members representing the party over there, because you usually take it when they give their unanimous consent to a clause that it is not a matter of contention. There is a provision that where the board cannot make a recommendation they shall merely report to the Minister. The first point the hon. gentleman asked me was why the first proviso was there. That first proviso merely provides that where there is any industry in which the organization is sufficiently representative that the board will not act merely upon the application of one or the other side unless it obtains the Minister’s consent. The second point was about his tannery. Well, in such a case, presuming his facts are correct, I presume the board would report upon the circumstances of the industry and say they would not be able to make a recommendation of a wage on which men could live in accordance with civilized habits of life, and there the matter would stand.
One hesitates to add to the most apparent misery of the Minister in charge of the Bill by protracting the discussion, and one can understand a certain amount of irritability on his part, and I wonder that someone else does not help him a little bit. I understood the Minister to say he appreciated the difficulties pointed out by the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), but he said that this case was met by Clause 9, subsection (3) of the Bill. I see that some attempt has undoubtedly been made, as the Minister indicated, to meet the point which has been raised; but may I point out to him that in subsection (3) it is only the case of the employees which is dealt with. What I rose to ask the Minister was whether he preferred to deal with this objection when he comes to Clause 9. It seems to me that if the word “employers” as well as “employees” was introduced into the clause it would go a long way to meet the objection raised. The words at present are—
But there is no provision in the sub-section to meet the case of the employers. It seems perfectly useless to address the Minister, who simply closes his eyes and looks weary. I am asking him a serious question. Perhaps it may be suggested that the Minister thinks better with his eyes shut. I want to point out to the Minister that the provision in that sub section has regard only to the employees. But that, if that sub-section were altered, or enlarged so as to include the case of the employer, probably the difficulty pointed out might be met. I would be glad to know if the Minister would entertain that proposal when we come to Clause 9.
I think the Minister is rather misleading us in regard to Clause 9; because it is obvious that it refers to single persons. It says that the inspector, or officer, shall investigate and report to the Minister and the Minister, acting on his report, can grant an exemption. That surely does not refer to a set of circumstances covering a whole industry, as argued, by the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) which needs the full investigation of the wages board. The clause is obviously meant for those who are lame or otherwise disabled, or refers to some special local circumstances which bring about an exemption and which it is competent for an inspector to report upon; but not a whole industry which the board has enquired into.
The hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) has asked a question which, I think, is of very large interest, not only to the natives but to the public of this country. I think this is the first time natives have been told that they may organize and come forward to the Government and ask for a determination of wages, end I think the hon. member for Illovo should be replied to by the Minister, and the House should be told what the rights of the natives are in regard to this Bill. I know there are native organizations, and although they may not be registered, the natives contribute towards their funds and recognize them; and I would like to know what attitude the Government intend to adopt when they demand recognition as they are bound to do before long.
It is a shame.
Question put; and Dr. de Jager and Gen. Smuts called for a division; upon which the committee divided:
Badenhorst, A. L.
Barlow, A. G.
Bergh, P. A.
Beyers, F. W.
Boshoff, L. J.
Brink, G. F.
Brits, G. P.
Cilliers, A. A.
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.
Fourie, A. P. J.
Grobler, P. G. W.
Hattingh, B. R.
Hay, G. A.
Hertzog, J. B. M.
Heyns, J. D.
Louw, E. H.
Malan, C. W.
Malan, D. F.
Malan, M. L.
McMenamin, J. J.
Mostert, J. P.
Muller, C. H.
Naudé, A. S.
Pretorius, J. S. F.
Raubenheimer, I. van W.
Rood, W. H.
Roux, J. W. J. W.
Stals, A. J.
Strachan, T. G.
Swart, C. R.
Van Heerden, I. P.
Van Hees, A. S.
Van Niekerk, P. W. le R.
Van Rensburg, J. J.
Van Zyl, J. J. M.
Visser, T. C.
Waterston, R. B.
Wessels, J. B.
Tellers: Pienaar, B. J.; Werth, A. J.
Anderson, H. E. K.
Brown, D. M.
Byron, J. J.
Chaplin, F. D. P.
Coulter, C. W. A.
Deane, W. A.
Gilson, L. D.
Grobler, H. S.
Heatlie, C. B.
Jagger, J. W.
Krige, C. J.
Lennox, F. J.
Louw, G. A.
Louw, J. P.
Marwick, J. S.
Nicholls, G. H.
O’Brien, W. J.
Payn, A. O. B.
Richards, G. R.
Rider, W. W.
Sephton, C. A. A.
Smartt, T. W.
Smuts, J. C.
Struben, R. H.
Van Heerden, G. C.
Tellers: De Jager, A. L.; Robinson, C. P.
Motion accordingly agreed to.
The amendments proposed by the Minister of Labour put and agreed to.
The amendments proposed by Mr. Coulter put and negatived.
The amendment proposed by the select committee in lines 35 to 45, as amended, put and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 8.5 p.m.
On Clause 4,
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the amendment proposed by the select committee in lines 38 and 39.
I move, as an amendment to this amendment—
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 5,
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 6,
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the amendment proposed by the select committee in lines 60 and 61.
Again I have to move certain consequential amendments. In the select committee we altered the age from 18 to 21 in a number of places and then we decided that we would be consistent there and define the word “juvenile” for the purposes of this Act as under 21. I now move—
The amendment proposed by the select committee was negatived.
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the new paragraph (d) proposed by the select committee.
I move, as an amendment to this amendment—
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
I should like to propose a new sub-clause to follow sub-clause (d)—
The position that developed in Australia as the result of the wages board legislation was this, that in the determinations that were made it was found that a condition was inserted in those determinations that a preference should be given to union men, and in that way a very practical lever was utilized, which resulted in the exercise of an undue weight by employees or employers. We may find here that the wages boards may be induced to insert this condition. It is quite a feature of labour policy in Australia.
What about your union?
In the union to which I belong there is no compulsion to join. It seems to me an important principle. The point I have been urging is really a practical one, and if you take the wages awards made by wages boards in New Zealand and other places, you will find that such questions frequently occur. I have here specimens of determinations which were made in New South Wales. These were determinations exactly the same as the Minister proposes under this Act.
By the arbitration court?
This one was by the court of arbitration, but there seems to be no distinction between the industrial courts and wages boards. It is very significant if we look at the report to be found here to see the result of the application of these Acts. It was pointed out that the effect of this legislation was to cause associations to come into existence and to create two large camps, who regarded themselves as bound on every possible occasion to fight each other bitterly. That having been the experience in Australia, it seems to me we have an opportunity of guarding against the growth of a similar condition of affairs here. I suggest to the Minister that there can be no substantial objection to the inclusion of a clause such as I propose. I, therefore, move the amendment.
I notice the hon. gentleman has emerged from the conspiracy of silence. Does he not realize that the representatives of his party on the select committee did everything they could to remove organized labour from the purview of this Bill? Personally, to be perfectly frank, I have a sneaking regard for the point of view expressed by the hon. gentleman, namely, that you should not force persons to join a union of employees or an association of employers. I am not very keen on forcing men to join trades unions; because I do not look upon them as desirable members. They are unwilling associates and, at the best, a bruised reed to lean upon in industrial strife. That has been our unfortunate experience. We rather endeavour to point out the advantages of trades unions to them, and get them to join of their own free will, with a genuine desire to be associated with their fellows. But is this the place to enunciate an opinion like that? This is not the place, I take it, to lay down that you shall not, in taking cognisance of the position, try to arrange things so that people will be forced to join trades unions. We have, on the statute book to-day, the Conciliation Act, which practically offers very wide inducements for people to become organized, either on the trade union or employer’s side. I do submit that this is not the place for it. I think if the hon. member were to insist upon it, I would be inclined to support him.
I am sorry not to be able to meet the hon. member. I really do not see what it has got to do with this clause. Under this clause, the Minister has to determine in accordance with the award, and the board are directed to report and make recommendations as to wages. These wages will be applicable just as much to the man who is a member of a trade union, as to a member who is not, and similarly to an employer, who is a member of an employers’ organization, as much as to a man who is not. The amendment is simply asking us to put in this Bill what is foreign to it, to begin with, and is also a sort of back-handed hit at the organization of employees and employers which, in our legislation, in the Industrial Conciliation Act, we set out to encourage. We say, if you will register, you will have certain privileges, but if not, you will have no locus standing in these things.
Amendment put and negatived.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 8,
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the new paragraph (a) proposed by the select committee.
There are one or two verbal alterations to be made. I move—
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the amendments proposed by the select committee in paragraph (c).
The first part of this amendment, viz.: to omit “and within fourteen days thereof”; and the last part of the amendment, viz.: to insert “paragraph (a)” put and negatived.
Amendments, as amended, put and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 10,
May I point out to the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) that it is not proper to stand about in the passages.
Will the Minister reconsider the position in regard to the appointment of inspectors and officials? The select committee recommends the insertion of the words—
in place of the word “appoint.” Will the Minister consider the advisability of returning to the old draft, for he should make use of the best material available?
As far as I can see this is merely another way of saying the same thing, for as soon as a man is appointed he is a member of the public service.
More jobs for pals.
Is not the hon. member tired of that phrase? For 14 or 15 years the hon. members party has been doing the same thing.
The hon. Minister must address the Chair.
I have not given very great consideration to the matter raised by the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) since the select committee sat, for I do not think it makes a particle of difference, but I will look into it. I am not going to agree because this is a Wage Bill and ours is not the South African party Government, that a different form of phraseology is necessary on our part to what was necessary when hon. members opposite were in power.
You will have to give way; you need not worry yourself.
Give way to whom?
To your supporters.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On clause 12,
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the amendments proposed by the select committee in paragraph (e), which were negatived.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 13,
On the motion of the Minister of Labour, the Chairman put the amendment proposed by the select committee to omit sub-section (4) and to substitute a new sub-section (3).
In the select committee we had a considerable discussion with regard to the old sub-section (4), the question as to whether the reinstatement of an employee was from the point of view of the employee a practical thing. In the earlier stages of the discussion we represented with some force that it was better rather than to send a man back to be employed with a man who did not want him and who would get rid of him because his hair was not the right colour, to raise this power to award damages from £50 to £100. The evidence of the employees’ organization was strongly against that, and I have reconsidered the matter. My friends represented to me that the moral effect of reinstatement was very great. If the employee prefers it that way it is his business, and further, we may alter it to £100, but any court dealing with the matter would be ignorant of the reason why we made the alteration. I move that we challenge the select committee’s amendment on reinserting the old clause 4.
Amendment proposed by select committee negatived.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On clause 18,
There is a clause in sub-section (2)—
- (a) work of a domestic character.
I am advised that if that stands it will conflict with our previous exclusion of domestic servants in private households. I move—
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
Schedule and title put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; to be considered on Friday.
Second Order read: House to resume in Committee of Supply.
House in Committee:
[Progress reported on 16th June on Vote No. 33, Main Estimates, “Lands,” £197,545; upon which an amendment had been moved by Maj. Richards: To reduce the amount by £500 from the item “Minister”, £2,500; Votes 14 to 19 and 31 and 32 standing over.]
I was accidentally just out of the House for a little when the discussion took place about the circular of the hon. Minister of Lands. I think that it is in connection with that that the motion has been made to reduce the salary of the Minister. I am a little surprised at the memories of hon. members in connection with what happened during the past few years with reference to this matter. I think that the difference here is about the last portion of the circular in which it speaks of special consideration which must be given to the applications of oud-stryders and their claims. I just want to point out briefly what the position was when this Government came into power. Two years ago the question arose as to what should be done for the oud-stryders. We then brought forward the position of the oud-stryders of the two republics and the rebels of the Cape Province who had taken part in the second war of independence, and the result of the debate was that the Government of the day stated that it was engaged in making provision for the fighters in the world war. I remember quite well that the Minister of Defence (Col. Mentz) at that time stated that he was not only busy in making provision to put soldiers in the world war in agricultural schools and on the settlements, but as Minister of Agriculture he also said that the Government would do its best to get settlers to put them on the land in our country. I then rose and said that our oud-stryders should have preference before the settlers that he was going to get. It is clear that that must happen. For this reason a select committee was subsequently appointed and a report was made as to how help could be given to the oud-stryders. As regards the soldiers in the world war, we could accept that the Government _would give them preference before the other settlers, and we had then only to do with the oud-stryders of the republics, and not the rebels of the Cape Province. I still maintain that as regards these old soldiers it makes no difference whether they took part in the world war or in the second war of independence. They ought to get the preference over the other settlers in the country. When this Government came into power it was found that nothing had been done for the old burghers. The hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) knows that there was great trouble even over the interpretation of the report of the select committee. I do not even wish to refer to the injustice which the recent commission has brought to light, but we appreciated that it was our duty to see that something should be done for these people. I do not know whether there are people who fought on the British side for whom no provision. Has been made, but if there are such people, then there is no intention to place those people in a worse position. I cannot see what objection there can be to the circular that the land boards should be requested to give special attention to the claims of the oud-stryders. Provided we understand thereby that those people shall not get a preference over the others that have the same claim in consequence of war service. I hope that the hon. member for Standerton does not take up the position that we must take away the rights from these people in order to take account of the former. It may be said that we are only here referring to the oud-stryders. We must, however, not forget what the circumstances are that we are dealing with. They are the only ones whose legitimate claim have not been considered. I hope that hon. members will accept it that we do not intend to make any difference between people that fought on the side of the republic and people who fought on the side of Great Britain.
No, Sir, there was not a heated discussion over this matter. The hon. member for Weenen (Maj. Richards) moved the reduction of the Minister’s salary, in order to raise the point of the circular. Whilst this discussion was going on I came in and I listened to the reading of the circular, which I then heard for the first time. I was very much surprised by the terms of the circular, especially that last sentence in which it is laid down that it is the land settlement policy of the Government, and that the Government hopes the board will carry out that policy, namely that special consideration will be given to the old republican fighters. It seemed to me at once that that paragraph in the circular was open to the gravest misconstruction and misunderstanding, and might lead to the reopening of very serious questions in this country. Well, I do not speak in any controversial sense at all because I entirely assume that what the Prime Minister has been saying now is the correct position, and that no Government of this country, his or any other, would for a moment dare to draw any racial distinction in this country and give preference to the old republican fighters over the other numerous fighters in this country. I accept entirely the statement of the Prime Minister that there was no such intention in the issuing of the circular, but that the object was merely to carry out the resolution of the House and not to draw a distinction between these two classes of fighters. My hon. friend will see, however, that there is the circular, and to put the matter right I think the Minister of Lands ought to make it clear that the circular does not mean that preference for special consideration is to be given to the old republican fighters in the sense that they are to be treated better than fighters on the other side. I want the position to be made quite clear, and I hope the Minister will do that—that where there is an application for Crown lands under the Land Settlement Act the same treatment shall be meted out to the old warriors on both sides. If the Minister will make that clear then I am perfectly satisfied; I only did not want charges to be made in this country of bad faith or unequal treatment between the two sections of our population, charges which should never be raised in this country. So far as the Prime Minister’s statement is concerned, if the Minister’s statement is concerned, if the Minister will make that clear to the land boards, then I shall be satisfied. I do not want to raise any controversial matter, but I must say a few words in reply to what the Prime Minister has said about preference to settlers. As far as my recollection serves me, Col. Mentz at the time disputed the interpretation which had been placed on his words. I am not quite clear about all the circumstances, because so much has been done and said since then that it is difficult to quote chapter and verse, but—I do not know whether the Prime Minister would bear me out—my personal recollection is that years ago there was a charge made against Col. Mentz. He disputed that charge and the matter was really not carried much further than that. So much for that point. To-day we can look upon these matters on a different footing. We need not draw any distinction between returned soldiers and other soldiers and need not raise any heated debate about them, but I thought it just to Col. Mentz that my recollection of what he said should be repeated here. The Prime Minister says he does not think anything was done for the “oud-stryders” in consequence of the resolution passed by the House. I think he is right. I know the question was, subsequent to the resolution, more than once gone into; but we were then in such a political state in this country that it was very difficult to give effect to the resolution, and as the Prime Minister knows, the general election followed not long after. So these matters are all capable of explanation and should not be used in the country to make people believe, that one or the other party was not faithful to those old fighters of the Boer war. I do not think that on either side there was the least want of sympathy or want of desire to mete out fair and just treatment to these men. I say this simply in order that no bad taste should be left behind as the result of this debate. I am glad to hear what the Prime Minister has said, and I am sure that after that, and with an assurance by the Minister of Lands, my hon. friend will not press his motion for the reduction of the Minister’s vote.
Is the Minister not going to reply to the courteous invitation extended to him by the right hon. member for Standerton to say what the position is going to be?
I do not think it necessary, because the Prime Minister made a clear statement that we did not intend to exclude fighters on the British side in the Anglo-Boer war, and if there is anything that is not quite clear in the circular, I shall make it clear that the intention is that it shall include both sections.
In view of the Minister’s clear statement that the circular is going to be altered, I withdraw my amendment.
I would like to know from the Minister whether anything is being done by the department, or by anybody representing his department, in connection with the exhibition at Wembley, to see people who may be interested in South Africa, and who, possibly, may be intending to come to South Africa as settlers—whether there is anybody there who will be able to advise them. I know Mr. Oost has gone, but I can hardly imagine that he would be a useful agent in that respect. I would like to know if anybody else is going to be there to advise these people. We hear, and it is true, that numbers of people are being induced, by advertisements in the press in England, to put their money into settlement schemes in this country by representations which are an exaggeration of the real facts, and when these people come out and see what they have got, they are liable to suffer from severe disappointment. I would like to know whether anything is being done to explain what the resources of South Africa are, what the chances of a settler are, and how a man, who wants to get land, ought to set about it.
I wish to ask the Minister what is happening with respect to the settlement of Zululand. Hon. members will remember that last year the matter came up in the House. They will remember that, as a result of about three years’ carefully thought-out preparation, the Government had surveyed Northern Zululand into something like 200,000 acres, and was giving out land to settlers. One hundred thousand acres were given out last May or June. Then the new Government took over and, I think rather arbitrarily, put a stop to the development of Zululand and the Prime Minister made a statement at Vryheid, and also in the House, that he proposed carrying out the settlement of Zululand with what is called poor whites. I dislike the term, but use it for the want of a better one. A large number of the men who have been settled there are doing well, and a large increase in the cotton crop will result, but, owing to the action of the Minister and the Government in stopping the giving out of land in Zululand, and their intention to settle it with the “rural unemployed” type of settler, as the Minister of Labour calls it, we have lost a whole year’s very valuable developmental work, and I am afraid we are going to lose another year. Last year I got into rather bad odour with the gentlemen across the way, by taking up a strong stand in this matter. Knowing Zululand as I did, I considered it would be a vital mistake to put the poor white type of settler there; but the Minister and the Government considered they knew better, and decided to go on with it. Is the Minister of Lands prepared to admit that the attitude he adopted last year was wrong, or is he still going on with the idea he had? I notice that “Die Burger” has given prominence to a series of articles by a special correspondent on this subject of Zululand.
Who is the special correspondent?
I wish I knew. I was rather surprised on reading this, it looked almost as if I had written it myself. It says—
I am rather diffident about quoting the last paragraph, as I am a very modest man and, up to now, I have never been praised in “Die Burger.” The concluding paragraph reads—
I must say that I blushed to find what I had done by stealth had brought me praise in “Die Burger.” I do not think any man has been more amply justified in the attitude he adopted than I have, especially by such a high authority. I hope the Minister will tell us whether he has been converted since last year, when I was violently assaulted by hon. members opposite, and was lampooned and cartooned as the arch-enemy of the poor white. The Minister laughs, but the Minister of Railways made a scathing attack upon me because of my attitude in regard to Zululand. He said that every Dutch-speaking South African was ashamed of me because I was opposing the interests of the poor whites. Since then the Minister of Lands has intervened, with the result that northern Zululand has been stationary for a year, and I am afraid is going to be stagnant for another year. Will the Minister give us a statement in regard to his attitude on this matter? The railway is being built into Zululand, but it is the height of folly to push a railway line into vacancy.
There is a vote appearing on these estimates for the first time—it is called the Sundays River Settlement and it would be very opportune if the Minister could give us some information about it. There has been and there is still going on a good deal of controversy and criticism in regard to this settlement, and there is no doubt that the criticism of this particular part of South Africa and this settlement is very widespread, and is not confined to this country. You cannot go to London without hearing about it; India is full of statements about it and news of the failure or distress of its settlers has reached as far as the Straits Settlements. It is very important that the Minister should make a very definite statement, because not only Sundays River and the former directors are involved, but even the credit of the Government has been impugned.
On what do you want information?
First of all it is very important that the Minister should, as far as the Government is concerned, clear up the name of settlement in South Africa which has been somewhat tarnished in connection with the settlement at Sundays River. It is very desirable that the Minister should state the Government’s future policy in regard to these settlers at Addo, more particularly with regard to the arrears of interest, water rates and instalments payable on their land. What policy will the Minister pursue that will enable the settlers to win through to success? Many of them have been there for five years or upwards, and it is stated that not one of them has been able to make a living or pay interest and water rates. If a statement of policy were made of such a satisfactory nature as to put new heart into the settlers who have undergone very great trials and privations in endeavouring to make a success of their holdings, it would be to their advantage and most helpful to them.
On the afforestation vote 1 made some reference to the necessity of having a national policy. I would now appeal to the Minister to assist the Forest Department as much as possible in regard to Crown lands which will be suitable for forest development later on. We all realize the great importance of forestry and appreciate that we have to try to alleviate the climatic conditions of this country, so that we may, perhaps, in the distant future—if we have sufficient forest land—improve the rainfall. At any rate, if we cannot improve the rainfall, we may be able to prevent the water rushing to the sea. I would beg the Minister to formulate a policy which will prevent any possibility of our Crown lands passing into private ownership, and to put a vote on the estimates for the purchase of any land that may come into the market which may be suitable for forest work, particularly in the mountains in which our streams rise. At times very valuable land belonging to the Crown has passed info private ownership for a really nominal sum, land which if it had been kept by the Government would have proved very valuable from a tree-planting point of view. I know in my district of two very fine farms, ideal for forest work, which are to-day in the hands of private individuals. Even if the land could be utilized for forest work within the next few years it would, in the meantime, be a valuable asset and be an example to the farmers as to the necessity of improving their land by tree planting. We all realize the value of irrigation work to this country. The money spent on preserving paddocks or portions of their farms will do much to preserve the veld for grazing purposes. I hope the Minister will see the advantage of preserving our Crown lands for this purpose and later handing them over to the Forest Department for forest work.
Under the head A5, maintenance of Government irrigation settlements, I find the item of £2,600 for the Douglas Bucklands settlement. I should like to know from the hon. Minister whether that amount is not more particularly intended for the maintenance of a dam to prevent the shortage of water there at certain times of the year, and whether the amount does not come up every year for that purpose. If I am right, then I should like to ask the Minister of Lands if he will not use his influence with the irrigation board to see that some other provision is made for the same purpose, namely, the conservation of water at less cost. Then I notice further, that for the establishment of closer settlement areas under A6 £20,000 appeared, and a further £32,000 for probationary lessees. Naturally there is general gratitude, of course, for the undertaking of this work, but I think that the people will appreciate the spending of this money more if the hon. Minister can say what is more or less the work that is being done, how many families have been put on the land under that head during the past year, etc. I do not ask the question for the purpose of criticism, but because there is a desire to know what is being done with regard to the solution of this problem.
I am glad that the Minister has put down an amount on the estimates for the probationary lessees. If there is one matter that will have a good result then it is this, where we first train settlers and farmers before we establish them on the countryside. I suggested last year that a portion of the ground below the Hartebeestpoort dam should be used for a forced labour colony. The Minister will agree with me that there are people in the bush veld and elsewhere wandering about with their children in a donkey wagon and they never do any work. It is necessary that the Minister should reserve a piece of ground where we can teach these people to work. We do not find them on the mines or on farms where they can get work. They wander about and there are hundreds of them. We must compel them to work for their living and to do something, seeing that they will not do their duty by the country.
I should like to know, when the Minister answers, when he held up the allotment of Crown lands in Zululand. Last year there were a number of the right type of young fellows with the necessary capital who had passed the land boards and were qualified to have land allotted to them, and many of them came from overseas. What became of these men? Were they able to get land in South Africa or have they left our shores? I would like to know from the Minister whether he is clearing that land of trees, thorn trees, in Zululand, for the purpose of making it suitable for cotton growing for settlers? What quantities he is clearing and any particulars as to where it is and the cost of clearing that land?
There is another point I would like to draw the Minister’s attention to. On vote (a) 4 there is the sum of £4,200 for fencing, and there is a footnote that a portion of this amount is recoverable from owners of adjoining farms. This is an interesting point to farmers because they have experienced difficulty in recovering anything from the Government when they have done the fencing themselves on farms adjoining Crown lands. There has been constant friction in recovering the half share, and it would be an interesting point to hear if the department is prepared to pay a half share for any jackal-proof fencing put up on the farm. Apparently the Government, if they put up a fence, can get a half share back from the farmers. Why is there this difficulty in farmers obtaining half share when they put up the fence?
I would like to ask the Minister when he proposes to place on the table of the House the Government Settlements Re-valuation Commission’s report, especially the report from Natal. On a previous occasion I pointed out to the Minister there were a number of Natal settlers who were most anxious to know the result of the re-valuation during this winter, before the ploughing season came round, because they have definitely decided to surrender their holdings if the re-valuation is not satisfactory from their point of view, and they are pressing me to urge on the Minister to lay this report on the table. I hope the Minister will give an indication when we may expect the report.
I would like to say a word in support of the appeal made by the hon. member for Queenstown (Mr. Moffat) in reference to plantations. I would like to see an extension of private forests and to see those who are endeavouring to establish private forests furnished with advice and information in regard to the proper type of trees to be planted. In parts of the Eastern Province many farmers have been going in recently for plantations from a commercial point of view, and they have planted thousands upon thousands of trees, only to find at last that they have been going in for the wrong type of trees, I think if that advice had been obtainable before they started, these mistakes would not have occurred, and it seems to me to be very essential that we should have some intelligence department, or some department from which information can be got in regard to the type of tree that should be planted for the purpose of afforestation.
I wish to point out to the hon. member that he is now discussing afforestation. I may be mistaken, but so I understood him.
The question was raised by the hon. member for Queenstown.
In regard to Government lands.
There is another point which I wish to deal with in reference to the fencing of Crown lands. I was dealing with this question under Vote 28, Agriculture, and I was stopped by reason of the ten minutes’ rule before I had quite concluded my speech and, unfortunately, the closure was put down and we received no reply. I was trying to point out how necessary it was that the Minister of Lands should assume responsibility in respect of the fencing of Crown lands where they adjoin proclaimed areas under the Fencing Act. I think it is very necessary, because many of these Crown lands are breeding places for the jackal, and it seemed to me very unfair that, while the farmer was entitled to claim from his neighbours all round him half the cost of such fencing, when that area adjoined Crown land the Government would not accept responsibility. This matter was brought up about two years ago at the Cape agricultural congress in East London. A number of resolutions, as far as I have been informed, were submitted to that congress with a view of obtaining from the Government some amendment of the Fencing Act, so as to enable the Minister of Lands to pay in respect of such vermin proof fencing, but I think that, owing to some explanation or reply given by the ex-Minister of Agriculture, the subject was dropped. The ex-Minister of Agriculture stated that he thought that provision already existed under the Fencing Act to meet the case of these people. It was found not to be so, and the position to-day is, as I have stated, that while farmers can claim in respect of their neighbours, where the adjoining ground belongs to the Crown, they have to bear the whole cost of such fencing themselves. I would like a reply from the Minister on this point, as this particular feature falls under him.
The Minister will remember that last session I asked him a question about the land for settlers promised, or supposed to be promised, to those who took part in the Zulu war, volunteers and irregulars. Now that the House has adopted the idea of giving special consideration to fighters on both sides in the Boer war, I would ask that the same consideration be extended to the survivors of those who took part in the Zulu war. There cannot be very many of them, but consideration may be extended to the sons of those men, should any of them be applicants for this land in Zululand. The people who got Zululand into the empire have surely some claim, even at this late date, upon the consideration of the country. I would like the Minister to take this point into consideration if he can.
I want to draw the attention of the Minister and of the House to a case brought under my notice from the northern Transvaal. There is a settler there, who bears the name of Rider. The Minister smiles when he hears, of the case, but I want to tell the House exactly what the facts are. This gentleman came from England entirely a stranger to this country to become a settler in South Africa. Under the Land Settlement Act there are two ways in which settlers are placed on the land. Under section 10, land is bought in large blocks by the Government, and conveyed direct by the Government to the settler. Under section 11, the prospective settler himself chooses, his piece of land and, having done so, approaches the Government with the request for assistance in the purchase of the land. Mr. Rider came under the second of these two categories, and, having ascertained that land was going in the northern Transvaal, he approached the Government with a view to their assisting him in purchasing that land. The Government then asked, as I understand it, the Land Board of that day to make a valuation of that land. It made a valuation, a valuation which, I think, is now admitted by the Department of Lands, was an inflated and absolutely misleading valuation. On the strength solely of that valuation Mr. Rider bought that land and bought it mainly with Government money. We know from the report of the auditor-general, that in the case of allotments by the Government to settlers in northern Transvaal, there has been admittedly a gross over-valuation of the land. The report shows that land has been written down in the northern Transvaal by a very large figure indeed; in some cases the price has been cut in half. This man, however, finds himself in this position, that because he did not buy it direct from the Government, but from a private seller, he can get no relief. He approached the former Minister of Lands shortly before the change of Government, and that Minister—who is in the House now, and can say whether I am right or wrong—told him he had a great deal of sympathy with his case, that he had been very unfortunate in his dealings with regard to this land, and agreed that the valuation of the land board at that time was very much inflated, made probably during the boom time of many years ago, and could not bear the light of present-day investigation. I understand the figures on which the valuation was made were £5 10s. per morgen, and that, after two officials of the Land Department had been sent to revalue the land, they found the real value was only £3 per morgen. We hear hon. members get up in this House and express dissatisfaction at the failure of South Africa to attract a better and more competent class of settler. Well, this is the experience of one settler: He knew nothing about the local conditions, and the Department of Lands sent their own land board who, presumably, would be the best authority to make a valuation. The land was bought some three or four years ago. It was bought mainly with Government money, on a report of the land board, and now, when this man comes for relief, the Minister says: “I am sorry, but if you had taken your holding direct from the Government, I should have given relief, as I have done in a large number of cases; but, because you paid through a third party, with the help and assistance and advice of the Government, I can give you no relief.” I submit that a strong case has been made out here for the consideration of the Minister. This may not be an isolated case.
That makes the matter all the worse; because, if he was one of a large number of persons, coming here and buying land on the advice of a special board set up by the Government for this purpose, and he has found that the board grossly overvalued the land, then how are we going to attract settlers? That man will write home to England, giving his experiences, and others, who might have come to South Africa, may be discouraged. I do not want to minimize the difficulties of the Minister, but I think relief should be afforded in cases of this sort. Let me emphasize that we found, in going into the matter in the Select Committee on Public Accounts, that, even with the large ranches owned by wealthy corporations and certainly in the case of settlers, who took their land from the Government, they got a substantial reduction, amounting to 100 per cent. in some cases, but this man can get no relief. I feel that this is a case of extreme hardship, and I am sorry to hear from the Minister that there are other cases. Cannot something be done to give relief?
We know of similar cases to those mentioned by the hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell). But what will be the result if we in that instance go and help the man? Then there will be demands for help from all sides. We cannot blame the land board, because at the time the man bought the ground the price of land was very high. Private people who have nothing to do with the land board made the mistake at that time of buying ground at those high prices. That Mr. Rider of whom the hon. member for Bezuidenhout speaks, also bought the ground on his own account, and after he had got the option he went to the land board to ask for money.
He first of all asked the land board what the value of the land was.
I have much sympathy with these people, but there are thousands or those cases. Persons who independently of the land board bought ground also bought it at £15 or £16 per morgen, which is now only worth about £10 per morgen, because the prices were then abnormal. But I wish to say this, that if that man holds on a bit then the ground will again regain the purchase price, because I am glad to say that the price of ground is mounting up a good deal.
This matter came before me departmentally when I was in office, and 1 admit that it is a very hard case, but it is also a very difficult matter for the Minister to deal with. Under section 10 of the Act the Government goes into the market, buys a large slice of land, cuts it up into small holdings and puts the settlers on to them, so that the responsibility is on the land board and the Government. Under section 11 a man sees a piece of ground that suits him, obtains an option on it, and asks the land board to buy it for him, he putting down one-fifth of the purchase price and the Government supplying the remainder. Where the hardship comes in in this particular case is that Rider was a newcomer and he allowed himself to be guided by the land board. They were boom times, and we need not go into the question of how the land became to be valued so highly. It was worth the price at the time, but it is not worth it now. But if we have to reopen Rider’s case are we not going to open the flood-gate? I think our attitude is somewhat illogical on the whole thing, as the Government has taken power to write down section 10, land. But under section 11, assuming that Rider goes under—he has borne the heat and burden of the day in improving the farm—then only can the Minister step in and sell the land cheaper to someone else. It seems hard that section 11 men cannot obtain immediate relief like the other men, but have to go insolvent and new men get the benefit of their pioneering work. What I have suggested to the Minister is this. There are not so many cases of this sort as the Minister seemed to indicate; I don’t suppose there are more than a dozen cases like Rider’s, as the greater number of section 11 cases made their purchases on the strength of information obtained by themselves. I agree with the Minister that it is impossible to open the flood-gates and tell every section 11 purchaser that he can have his land revalued. I think discretion should be vested in the Minister in conjunction with the land board where you have a case like Rider’s and other hard cases which could be singled out and be brought before the Select Committee for Crown Lands. I personally told Rider that he had a hard case, and I think the Minister will agree, but we must protect the taxpayers. We cannot tell every section 11 man to chance his arm and make an application for revaluation. It seems to me where the Minister has gone into the matter carefully, in conjunction with the land board, and they are convinced in that particular case—and I am sure there would not be more than a dozen at most—I think the Minister should have the power to bring these few selected cases before the Select Committee on Crown Lands, otherwise we are adopting an illogical position in saying to section 10 men. “You are paying too much, we will give relief,” and to section 11 men we fold our arms and say, “We cannot help you and you must go under first.” Let me be fair. I admit the Minister’s quandary. He cannot give carte blanche to every section 11 man to come along, but I do think it will be possible to find an avenue of escape for men like Rider and others in a like pass.
I am alarmed at the hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell) condemning his own Government whilst in power.
I am not condemning anybody.
The gentlemen over there were the men who egged everyone on to go to the war and made promises to help them when they came back. They helped to ruin the men and really did them a disservice instead of a service. They voted money galore and their special instructions to the land boards were to provide land and put the men on. It is funny they got all the worst morsels and left the good pieces out. They seemed to have bought from their favourites.
They did not buy anything from you.
He hasn’t got any to sell.
No, they didn’t buy anything from me. Ninety per cent. of the men are practically ruined because the prices were too high. All the farms I know are useless Ones, and this Government will have to bear the brunt of writing them down. I am in favour of writing them down, but the hon. gentlemen of the Opposition must realize that they are the men who led these men into it and made things impossible for them, and the men who have gone under are the men they helped under. They are responsible for it, and when we write down this huge sum of nearly 1½ million pounds the taxpayer of to-day will have to pay it.
I am glad to hear the hon. member who has just sat down (Mr. Mostert) say that he is prepared to agree to the revaluation of the land. His criticism is not strictly fair, and he knows it. In accusing this side of paying exorbitant prices for land for settlement, he must have remembered that at the time everything was booming. Property of every description was then two or three times the value that it is to-day. It was not the Government only who were paying high and boom prices for land, but farmers were doing it all over the country. Wool was 5s. per lb. Take wattle bark, it reached a very high price, and wattle land was three times its present value. Everything has come down to-day to a stable and a normal value, and I am surprised that the hon. member (Mr. Mostert) has not got a greater sense of fairness so as to recognize this, and I deplore very much indeed the criticism which he has unfairly levelled at us.
I just want to bring a few little things to the notice of the Minister. I made a request to the Government for a revaluation of the ground in Bechuanaland, but we could not have it because the land board would not agree to it. I see now that a fifth is coming; I hope that the members will be acquainted with the ground there, and will grant it. With reference to boring for water, I am glad it is now taking place for a block of farms, and that the cost thereof will be divided proportionately over all the farms to be added to the purchase price. I hope, however, that the cost of dry bore-holes will not be included. There are persons who have to look for water themselves and they are ruined because they could not find water. There are cases where farmers have to leave the land because they cannot pay the cost of the boreholes sunk by the land board. I shall be glad if the Minister could see his way to buy wind pumps for the bore-holes, and to add the cost to the purchase price as well. I also wish to ask him to grant relief to the pioneers who are engaged in opening up the land behind the Landberge. I do not think that I am wrong in saying that there is a beautiful country there and the stock farmers of the Free State will still have to extend in that direction. I hope that the Minister will go there to see the country. The former Minister of Lands promised to come there, but his apple cart was upset before the visit.
I just want to say a few words in support of what the hon. member for Barkly (Mr. W. B. de Villiers) has said. I recently had the privilege to go through a large part of Barkly to see what difficulties and deprivations the pioneers have there. I saw some cases where people had bored six holes and, ultimately, got water in one, and then they had to pay for the dry holes as well. The people are poor to start with, and if they have further to pay for all the dry holes, then they will be entirely ruined, and the day that they find the water the purchase price is so high that their funds are exhausted. It is a stretched-out country, and I can assure hon. members that the land is splendid for stock farming, as good as in any part of South Africa. It is a portion of the Kalahari, but it is a splendid part for sheep farming, those Langberge. If those portions are opened for development, and the matter is tackled with the necessary intelligence and consultation, then there is a great possibility of many settlers making a good living. But it is necessary for the Government to understand that it cannot be expected of the people to pay for the dry holes as well, and in the interests of the development of these portions, it is necessary to write off at least a part of the cost.
I hope the Minister will give some consideration to the early allotment of farms in Zululand which have been surveyed, and which were held over from last year. I entirely agree with what has been said by the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) on this subject. I should also like the Minister to let us know what the cost has been of surveying certain farms in the eastern portion of the Piet Retief district for the purpose of poor white settlements. I understand the surveyors were kept there for six months surveying the farms into allotments, and it was then found they were unsuitable for the purpose, and the idea of putting poor white settlers there has been abandoned. One of the farms is known as Wildebeestedraai. Then there is the question of the sum to be voted for probationary lessees. I see the sum of £32,000 is on the vote for this. Would it be possible for the Minister to take over the scheme that is being carried out with very indifferent success by the Ministry of Labour for tenant farmers? We should feel much more confidence if it were in the hands of the Minister of Lands, because there is a very well-founded feeling that the efforts of the Minister of Labour to place tenant farmers on the land are highly experimental, and are in the hands of inexperienced people. The Minister of Labour himself has had very little experience in this direction, and we should much appreciate the transfer of these activities to the Minister of Lands, who is, himself, an experienced farmer. A considerable sum is voted for probationary lessees, and I should be glad if the Minister could give us some idea as to how that money is being expended, whether it is for the preparation of farms for these lessees, and to what extent improvements are being provided on these farms, and whether any measure of success has already been achieved in connection with the settlement of probationary lessees. I know of several good men who have been waiting for some months for the allotment of farms in Zululand, and I hope the Minister will do what is possible to expedite this matter. I should like to mention the case of Mr. A. F. H. Newton, who is one of my constituents.
He is the runner.
Yes, he is the champion Marathon runner who ran the distance between Brighton and London in record time, and whose record over the 50 miles distance in South Africa and England has never been equalled. Mr. Newton, besides being an athlete, is a very desirable settler, and has had the misfortune to lose his land through the encroachment of natives from the Cape Colony, who were permitted to enter the Harding division in Natal. There was a time when the late Minister of Lands was favourably disposed to the idea of granting Mr. Newton a farm in Zululand, in exchange for the freehold allotment which he had acquired in the Harding district. I know a certain amount of depreciation of this land occurred through the encroachment of the natives, and Mr. Newton became discouraged. I have a petition here, and should be glad if the Minister would allow it to be tabled, in order that it might go before the Crown Lands Committee, for consideration. I should appreciate this action by the Minister very much. The petition has arrived too late to be dealt with in the ordinary way.
I do hope this question will not be taken up by the House or the country. I give the hon. member the assurance that I was most sympathetic when I first heard of Mr. Newton’s case. He came to see me about it, and really, if I were to put all the facts before this House, I think everybody would laugh heartily. I have it from Mr. Newton himself. He had bought a farm in the midst of land held by natives.
Yes, Crown lands situated amongst natives. He then erected a dip to which the natives took very greatly, but instead of charging them so much per head, he got the natives to work for him—on his own admission—and had, at once time, 400 natives, on a single day, working for him on his land in order to pay for the dipping. This came to the ears of the Native Affairs Department, namely, that dipping facilities were required for natives, and the Native Affairs Department, at the instance of the magistrate, erected a dip. The natives found—there were thousands of them—that it was far more economical to dip at this dip which had been erected for them, and the consequence was that Mr. Newton found he could not have a large number of natives any more to work his farm. Naturally—and this was his main grievance and ground for demand—he was going to institute an action against the Government for £4,000, and more, because he said the Government had interfered with his lucrative dip by having a dip built. Let me say that Mr. Newton really put his whole case before me so simply and without any attempt at hiding anything that I openly told him that I had got him to come in the hope that I might do something for him, but I gave him the assurance that if I were to comply with his request and pay him any of the moneys he asked for I would be simply laughed out of Parliament if I had to account for it later on. Then he said to me—
I can assure my hon. friend that Mr. Newton is really absolutely one of those simple men who do not wish to deceive anyone, but he has a grievance over the Government building a dipping tank for the natives. I think he wants £3,000 in compensation for that, for that is the extent to which he thinks he has suffered by Government interference.
I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Lands to the following advertisement in the London “Times” of a company offering plots of land for sale for growing apples! “The orchards have been inspected and approved of by the Government Agricultural Holdings Board, and a certificate of approval has been granted by the Minister of Lands for the Union of South Africa.” I am not for one moment reflecting on the Minister, but I wish to draw his attention to the fact that under the Government Agricultural Holdings Board of the Transvaal only the layout of the estates is subject to the approval of the Minister of Lands. I had exactly the same trouble during my period of office—but I wish to call attention to the way in which the law is abused. These companies obtain the approval of the Minister of Lands for the laying out of their estates only, but they don’t tell the London public that. The Minister knows nothing about the price asked for the land or the conditions of sale, or anything of that sort. The result is that the Minister, whose function is confined to approving of the site of the erven and streets, signs the certificate, and the company takes the certificate to London and says: “Here you are, the Minister approves of the whole scheme,” and on the strength of the certificate they advertise that purchasers can grow oranges or any other fruit on an impossible scale. This question cropped up when I was Minister of Lands, and I suggest that the Minister should instruct the board that in future before any certificate is signed it shall be a condition that no advertising use is made of it, but if it is advertised it must be made absolutely clear that the Minister’s certificate covers only the plan of the lay-out. Very often I have been asked—
My answer was that the moment we even remotely approve of a company it placards London with the fact. The first three men that came out under that scheme sued the company for laesio enormis and then came and sat on my doorstep and said they had bought land in London because the department had said it was alright and asked me what I was going to do about it. That is the trouble the Land Department have had to meet and all previous Ministers have had to deal with this difficulty. People in England ask us why we don’t tell them whether the land is good or not. They say: “What is the good of having a High Commissioner in London if you cannot give us information?” The moment we do, our approval is exaggerated and distorted, and the Government unwittingly might help a man to his ruin. This advertisement is one case in point. I don’t say anything about the company, it may be a good company, but it has deliberately distorted the Minister’s certificate of the lay-out of the land and made the public in England think that the Minister had approved of everything. It may entice people out here to their own ruin. I have a similar advertisement from the London “Times” which bears on the subject and merely shows that the practice is more widespread than people think. It appeared on April 17th, and said—
and it goes on to say that the estimated yield for eight-year-old orchards is £350 increasing to £600—
That shows how careful we must be in making any pronouncement on these matters. It is broadcasted in one of the most important newspapers in England and the public are lead to believe that it has the imprimatur of the Government. I hope the Government will see that this Small Holdings Act is not further abused. The Minister is not to blame any more than I was before him. I mentioned the matter to the board and told them to be more careful about the certificates. In view of these advertisements the Minister might discuss the matter with the board and devise some method of preventing a recurrence of this question.
There are a few things which I should like to bring to the notice of the hon. the Minister of Lands with reference to settlements on which there are people who, it seems to me, do not intend to work or to make good, and I am glad that the hon. member for Witwatersberg (Lt.-Col. N. J. Pretorius) referred to it. The people who have been for years on settlements, and have not made good must be replaced by people who are willing to work, but have no opportunity of getting on a settlement. An instance was brought to my notice where people have been for 30 years on a settlement while the settlement has been hanging like a mill-stone about the neck of the Government and private people in the neighbourhood. I then asked what they thought of the settlement and they said: If the settlements were left to us the Government would lose nothing on it, but we are even prepared to pay £1,500 or £2,000 to the Government.
Is that the Kendrick settlement?
I am not now referring to the Kendrick settlement.
In the meantime, that settlement is a failure and does not pay. The people remain a burden on the country, and that, while there are thousands and thousands of keen people who, if they are placed on settlements, will not be a failure. In the past, therefore, I have already earnestly insisted on it that that sort of man, who will not work, should be sent to labour colonies. They are accustomed to be nursed, and something must be done. A peculiar case came under my notice. There was a settlement where water did not run in the river, and the Government decided to establish relief works for the people. They had to go four or five miles to the works. But they refused, and demanded that they should pull “boete” bushes (xanthium spinosum) out of their wheat, and that the Government should pay them for that. That is an unhealthy condition of affairs, and I hope that the Government will do something with regard to the people who will not work. They must become bywoners again, or be sent to compulsory labour colonies. Another point which has already been mentioned to-day is the plundering of settlers from oversea. I have already brought this many times to the notice of the former Government and pointed out how these people are brought under a wrong impression about the possibilities of this country, how they are induced to buy ground, and how they are actually deceived. In my constituency, e.g., the settlers are plundered. The land companies represent by advertisements, and in other ways, that the conditions here are magnificent. I will not mention names. I do not wish to prevent people from getting rid of their ground, but I, nevertheless, wish to ask if the Government cannot take steps to prevent false representations being made. These people are told that the ground is suited for thousands of orange trees, and what splendid oranges they can grow. The people put their money into it, and are defrauded. One instance came to my notice through the Land Board, where a man bought five morgen of ground for £1,250 while next door, Government ground was sold for £25 per morgen. Here I have, in an English newspaper, a case in the Supreme Court. I will just read a part of the petition to the court by the unfortunate fellow—
And he does not stand alone. There are many such cases. It is not only people who make money out of the ground who cause such disappointments. The publication issued by the railways, e.g., also often give wrong impressions. When I called the attention of the former Government to the matter, the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) said that he had sent Mr. Boshof to London to warn people. I do not know whether he did that. As far as I have seen, his articles were calculated to induce people to come here. I entirely agree with the desire of the hon. Minister to improve the Land Settlement Act of 1912, but I am afraid that we are in too great a hurry to help settlements and allow established farmers to suffer in consequence. Under the old Act of 1912, e.g., a man gets advances from the Government. He only pays one fifth, but according to section 44, settlers can also obtain a loan from the Government to buy stock. In the excellent report of the secretary for agriculture I read, inter alia—
Settlers can then come to the Government and get loans of £500 to buy stock, while the unfortunate established farmer can only get an advance of 60 per cent. on the valuation of his farm. The settler gets 80 per cent. and, under the new Act, 90 per cent., and can still go to the Government for a loan to buy stock. I think this is unfair to established farmers who are independent of the Government. They do not get the chance of a loan to buy stock. I want them also to have it. According to the data, the land bank lent to the unfortunate farmers £8,000,000, and “has not yet lost a penny with an accumulated reserve fund of £660,000. I want steps to be taken to assist the Unfortunate people more. Under the Drought Emergency Loans Act 8,421 applications were granted for £1.190,547, of which only 5,685 for £411,345 were granted. 2,525 applications were refused, but the settlers who got these special facilities can go on year after year, even at every sitting of the Land Board, making applications and getting advances. I hope the hon. Minister will give his earnest attention to the position of the established farmer.
I should like to follow up the last speaker by making some references to this practice of selling land overseas under circumstances of gross misrepresentation. Some cases have been brought to my notice quite recently, some from Norway and others from England, where the promoters of a concern not very far from Cape Town had sold land at prices grossly excessive on representations quite untrue. The particular facts need not be stressed. It is not sufficient to say that people can be thrown back upon their legal rights in a case of that kind. In the first place, very often, in order to prove the misrepresentation, it might be necessary to secure evidence from overseas, and in this particular case I have quoted it was found that, even if the misrepresentation could be established, the seller of the land was not in a position to restore the money he had received. He was not even the registered owner of the land, and since this occurrence the company selling the land has been placed in liquidation. The practical difficulty is that it is impossible for the Government to set its imprimatur on any scheme or to allow its name to be used in any way in the sale of land; but if the case is once made that these overseas purchasers have bought their land under gross misrepresentation they can fairly claim that they are entitled to protection. Could there not be an arrangement whereby a land board or similar board—if it were discovered that misrepresentation had been made, or that the purchase price had been effected unfairly, or the price charged unduly excessive—could give the right to purchasers from overseas who within a certain time after arrival or after effecting the purchase, to insist on restitution and cancellation without recourse to a court of law? The suggestion might be thought to be rather crude, and I realize the practical difficulties and the fact that it interferes with the freedom of contract; but to do nothing, and to allow these complaints and this dissatisfaction to continue, will eventually react seriously on the credit of South Africa, not only in connection with legitimate sales of land, but in other respects. I ask the Minister whether he will not collect some information on the subject and see if he cannot devise some means of protection for these people.
The Prime Minister gave an entirely jocular, and not by any means accurate description of the case of Mr. Newton. I am disappointed, because it seemed to me that the Minister of Lands was prepared to allow the petition to go before the Select Committee on Crown Lands. I should like to give four outstanding facts from this petition to show that the account given by the Prime Minister is far from correct. The farm was bought by Mr. Newton in 1911 at a time when it was surrounded by unalienated Crown lands, most of which was leased to Europeans for grazing purposes. In 1919, the Government settled on these Crown lands natives from East Griqualand, to the disadvantage of Mr. Newton, who thereby became discouraged and was unable to work his allotment successfully from that time. In 1921, the petitioner, having paid 10 instalments, obtained a temporary loan from a friend and got the freehold of his property. By the beginning of 1922 it became clear that the Government, without actually proclaiming it as such, was determined to make the surrounding area of Crown lands a native area. Mr. Newton had expended money in improvements on the farm, and a considerable sum in road-making to get access to the main road, 10 miles off. Does that look as if he were the sort of simple idiot which the Prime Minister suggested —a simple man, who was almost foolish in the manner in which he was stating his case. Here is a man who has done his best to make good, and paid these sums to obtain the freehold of his land, only to have it turned into a native area, compelling him to relinquish his holding. I hope the Minister will still agree to receive the petition and lay it before the select committee. There is a point in connection with the tenant farmers’ scheme, under which a considerable number of officials are employed in supervising the tenant farmers. We vote a further sum of money for the salaries of the overseers for probationary lessees. Overlapping might be avoided if both schemes were taken under the control of the Minister of Lands.
I should like some information regarding the position of the Olifants River irrigation scheme. A vote of £4,000 is asked for the maintenance of this Government irrigation scheme, and in the irrigation vote there is a sum of £15,750 for the betterment and maintenance of the same scheme. We have spent something like £500,000 on the Olifants River scheme, and now we seem to have to pay £20.000 a year for maintenance and betterment. The scheme has been completed for some little time—is not the ground irrigated to be sold? The House is also entitled to a very complete statement in regard to the position of probationary lessees. I see a small vote for a committee of control of the Hartebeestpoort settlement. Why should we have to have this committee?
Read the Act we passed last year.
I would ask the Minister whether he could not lay before the Government the necessity of re-joining the Irrigation Department with the Department of Lands. At present the two are completely divorced, but in my time the two were run together, and quite rightly so. The Minister of Justice is nominally in charge of the Irrigation Department, but there can be very little in common between the Departments of Justice and Irrigation. It must be extremely difficult for the Minister of Justice to do justice to irrigation, a matter very alien to his ordinary work. Every major irrigation scheme-largely deals with Crown lands and affects land settlement. I wish to cast no reflection on the Minister of Justice, but since he has taken over the Department of Irrigation I have seen very little sign of activity in irrigation matters. I am not casting reflections on the Minister of Justice, because it must be difficult to run two departments so different to each other. But during the last year I have seen very little signs of activity.
You know the disastrous results of the irrigation schemes-through the country.
That is why I raise it. Many of the schemes are badly in need of overhauling, and that can only be done in conjunction with the Land Department. I made a statement to the House and the Minister of Lands has made a statement that the Government intends going in for a very important innovation with regard to irrigation. The Government intends appointing a commission on the lines I laid down myself. It does not seem to me that can adequately be done, unless the two departments are combined. I hope the Minister of Lands will lay the matter before his Government again, and try and get the two departments together. It means a little extra work, but the Minister of Lands is a hard worker and will not shirk his extra duty. It is difficult for the Minister of Lands to carry on with the Department of Irrigation run by another Minister. They interlock and overlap at so many points that it is very difficult for the Minister of Lands not to have the Secretary for Irrigation under his immediate command. I do not know how he carries on in that way. At the least, irrigation should be under agriculture, but certainly not under justice.
Not the present Minister of Agriculture, but under the Department of Agriculture. It really belongs to the Department of Lands, and the time has come to link them up. Irrigation at the present moment is a cinderella, a stepchild, and it is of as great importance as land settlement itself. It will be a pity if we adopt the two stream policy with regard to lands and irrigation.
The two stream policy is a sore point with you.
No. I think it is an opposite parallel in regard to irrigation. The hon. member for Graaff-Reinet (Mr. I. P. van Heerden)—I would like to hear his views—is one of the few men who have taken an interest in irrigation, and he is one of the few men who have an intimate knowledge of the subject. He ought to have been on the board. I would like to obtain his views, because it is an important matter. At several conferences I have expressed my views on the subject.
Business interrupted by the Chairman at 10.55 p.m.
Progress reported; House to resume in committee to-morrow.
The House adjourned at