House of Assembly: Vol5 - FRIDAY 26 JUNE 1925
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at
First Order read: House to go into Committee on Railways and Harbours Superannuation Fund Bill.
House in Committee:
On Clause 5,
I would like to ask my hon. friend a question on this clause. I see old subsection 3 has been deleted and a new sub-section inserted in place of it. I would like my hon. friend to explain what is the difference between the two.
We want to make the position of those men who were employed under contract and are admitted to permanent employment quite clear.
I want to ask the Minister another question. In sub-section 4 it says—
Is not that against sub-section (c) of sub-section 1 of this clause which says—
I want to make a last appeal to the Minister to see if he cannot make some provision for these old servants of ours who have retired recently or are about to retire. There will be quite a number, who, if they had remained in the service would be entitled to the benefits conferred under this Bill. I want the Minister if possible to see if their case can be met in some way. I know it will be a difficult thing to provide for, but I want to appeal to the Minister. This fund has been declared by a newspaper in this city to be the railwaymens’ charter, but if it is to be really that it should be made to apply to these old servants. Before the 1st of October there will be many who will retire under the old conditions, and whose pensions will be inadequate in many cases.
In reply to the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger), I want to point out that sub-section (c) has been inserted so that it need not be compulsory for these men to contribute. Sub-clause 4 gives them the option. The position mentioned by the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) is a most unfortunate one. In the case of those men who have gone out on pension under the old scale we must admit that in many cases their pensions are not sufficient, but I think the hon. member will realize with me that it is quite impossible to deal with them under this Bill, because it deals with the servants in our employ and those who come into our employ. It will be quite impossible to deal with their position here. It is a most unfortunate position, and I know of many cases where there is undoubtedly great hardship, not only of pensioners but of men who did not elect to contribute, and who left the service without any pension at all. I think the House will agree that it is quite impossible for the Government to include anything in this Bill to deal with this position. These men will have to apply to the House in the ordinary way, and let the House deal with each case on its merits. That has been done in the past, and much as we regret it, I am afraid it will have to be continued in the future in the case of all those who have either not contributed or who went out with small and inadequate pensions.
The Minister has referred to those men who have already left the service, but I want to draw attention particularly to the old servants still in the service to-day, but who will retire before the date fixed for the Bill coming into operation. There are a large number who will retire under the age limit. I want something done for these men.
The position with regard to these men is practically the same as in the case of those who have already retired. Are you going to say, “since the introduction of the Bill”? I thought at one time that would be possible, but I am afraid it cannot be done, because those who left one day or one month before the Bill was introduced would have a just grievance. I am afraid we should be getting ourselves into difficulties if we opened the door, so however much one regrets it, I am afraid we cannot meet the case of these men.
Clause put and agreed to.
On Clause 6,
I want to move the amendment on the Order Paper—
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 8,
I understood when this Bill was brought in first was that it was going to be on a sound basis, and was going to pay its way. I have been looking at the evidence of the select committee, and I find that Mr. Fraser, the actuary, said (page 68)—
Perhaps my hon. friend will explain what the position is.
Perhaps if this word “additional” deficiency had not appeared, the evidence, as given, would have been clearer. What the actuary intended to convey was that, in the existing fund, there is a deficiency of close on £2,000,000. It is expected that the large majority of our servants will transfer to the new fund, which means that that deficiency in the old fund will be transferred to the new fund. What the actuary refers to is that there are two contributions to be made by the administration: One is the £ for £ contribution, and the contributions every year to cover the deficit. We are meeting the deficiency by the contribution of £100,000 appearing in the estimates, and which will have to continue for the next 50 years. This will be additional to the £ for £ contribution.
Five million pounds?
Of course this deficit of £2,000,000 is carrying interest. If we could find the £2,000,000 in one lump sum it would be preferable.
That means that by paying this £100,000 for 50 years you have got to pay £5,000,000 for a deficit of £2,000,000. I understand the first part of the Minister’s explanation quite well; but I do not understand the £5,000,000 extra.
I am afraid I cannot throw any additional light on the matter. This accumulated deficit bears interest. The hon. member does not suggest that we could find the money in one year. It may be bad business in one way, but at the same time it is better for the State to pay it off at the rate of £100,000 a year.
There is another point. I see in the select committee there was a question put by the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) (page 84)—
and the reply of Mr. Fraser is—
Surely, apart from the £ the State pays in, they do pay for their pensions. What is the meaning of this statement that all the members are getting pensions for which they have not paid?
I think what the actuary meant is that it is not a fund established by the employees apart from the administration. The State is not only contributing £ for £ but also facing the deficit. I think that is what the actuary had in mind.
Clause put and agreed to.
On Clause 11,
I wish to move—
I see that the Minister has given a very considerable concession here. Under the old fund, in a case of this kind, we reckoned pensionable emoluments on a 26-day month for the daily paid men. Under the first draft of this Bill it was made 29 days, to meet in some degree, overtime in some cases, but I think my hon. friend has allowed himself to be squeezed further, into 30 days. That means, according to the actuary’s statement, on page 85 of the select committee’s report—
What looks a small concession is going to cost us £13.000 a year, and eventually £15,000. I think the Minister, in his draft, went as far as he could in fairness to the users of the railway, who deserve some consideration as well as the men.
The hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) should understand why the addition is made. The opinion of the select committee was that the new scheme did not give the daily paid staff—especially those who work many extra days in the month in the shape of overtime—the pension they were entitled to. It is quite true the concession involves a small additional charge, but the men also have to contribute and it will have the effect of increasing the pension, which the men will deserve. The hon. member should not object to the small additional cost.
The point raised by the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) is undoubtedly one of very great importance, and I have fully recognized that we must be careful not to go too far, while, of course, we must give our employees a Square deal. I would ask the hon. member if he really thinks we have gone too far. Under the scheme, as introduced, as the result of adding three days to the month, we gave an additional pension of something like 11½ per cent. Under the thirty days a month proposal the pension will be increased by 15 per cent. In some of the old pension funds drivers and firemen were allowed to contribute on their overtime, so there is a precedent for this. That arrangement has been turned down, and the daily paid men have been told that they will not be entitled to contribute on bonus or overtime earnings. At the same time we felt that 26 days a month did not provide a pension to enable the daily paid man to live decently. The Government believes that we should face this additional expenditure. It is correct that the additional day will cost £15,000 or £16,000 a year extra, but it is worth it, if Parliament can satisfy the staff.
I have every hope it will.
The hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) wants 33 days to the month.
The hon. member for Salt River has not pressed that to-day. I hope the House will accept the compromise, and now satisfy our servants. Our daily paid men will have a living pension, and if we can get a contented service, the country will get it back in the long run.
Although we have this talk about a contented service, the evidence given before the select committee shows they are not satisfied. I am afraid the Minister is chasing a will-o’-the-wisp. You have to deal with the men fairly and justly, but we must have consideration for the users of the railways. As far as I can see the men never are contented; you give one concession and then they apply for another. I am not going to oppose the proposal, but the House should clearly know what the concession is going to cost the country.
I cannot quite follow this additional deficiency on the pension fund of above £117,000, which it is said will require an additional payment of about £6,000 a year. Do I understand, in connection with this, that in addition to paying on the £ for £ principle provided for in the Bill, the Government is going to pay a definite amount towards the deficiency taken over from the old funds by members who transfer. Is this the 50 years’ business?
Yes. That is a question on which we were exclusively guided by the actuary, who says that if we grant an additional day the deficiency will be increased?
The position is this, then, that men who transferred from the old to the new funds, are getting certain benefits for which they have not paid, and the Government is now paying.
No. As regards the 1917 superannuation fund, those who remained in it have now contributed an additional 3¾ per cent., but they did not pay anything towards the deficiency to date. Now they will pay 3¾ per cent. Then under the new fund the contributions being paid now are sufficient to cover the further pension. But in the transfer they are bringing over the deficit from the old to the new fund and that must be met from revenue.
Is that the same actuary that worked out the previous one?
The man who comes over to the new fund will pay the same contributions as the man who joins the fund straight away.
And in respect of their past accrued deficit the Government contributes this amount.
That is so.
Amendments put and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 15,
I think my hon. friend has given certain concessions here in regard to those men who went on service in the 1914-48 war, who, when they came back were allowed to contribute for the time they were away. Is that a case where we pay all the contributions or they pay their share?
They only pay half. It is costing us a considerable sum of money. We allow them to contribute on the years during which they were absent from duty on active service, both on the republican and the other side. Take the case of a man who was earning £200 and was absent for two years. He would have to contribute, if we took the contributions on an average basis of 4 per cent., a sum of £16. The administration must pay the same amount and the accumulated interest, as we do not ask them to contribute interest. It is difficult to say what the total amount will be.
Do you know how many there are?
No. The Department cannot find out the exact number, and I cannot give even the approximate number. The benefit has been strongly pressed for as an act of justice to those who took part in the war.
Clause put and agreed to.
On Clause 20,
I would like to ask a question on sub-section (2). The old sub-sections (1) and (2) are deleted and a new sub-section is put in. As I understand it a man who is re-employed and brought back into the service and contributes to the new fund he does so on the basis of his salary plus the pension he is drawing already,
The whole idea has been not to penalize the man who has been taken back into the service. Later on we shall deal with the question of abatement, so as to bring the position into line with the public service. The administration thinks that a man who is taken back into the service should not be penalized. This is going further because it does allow him to contribute on his annuity or pension.
But when you take a man back into the service you cannot give him lower pay than he had before. Supposing a man had £200 a year and a pension of £100, when he comes back he will not draw less than £300.
You are taking the case of a man who has retired at 60?
No. He may have been retired for retrenchment purposes. This is rather stiff on the department to have to contribute to his pension fund on the salary he is drawing plus the pension as well. That is going very far indeed. I understand the position is that when he continues to contribute on his salary he can pay on his pension besides which may be £100 or £150 a year, and that is a bit rough on the department.
As the hon. member has pointed out it may seem we are going too far but we don’t want to penalize him.
You don’t penalize him. He draws his pension just the same. The case of a man who draws £300 a year means that he will still draw a pension of say £100 a year which means he is getting £400 a year, although he is only doing £300 worth of work.
It is not fair to the other man either.
Does the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) insist on the old principle of crushing the railway men. The policy in connection with the employees of the State has changed since the new Government has come into office and the bad old days have gone for ever.
And the people who pay are the people who use the railways at increased rates.
Why shouldn’t they pay?
No one wants to oppress any of these men. What one must have some regard to is the people who use the railways, bring traffic to the railways and find money for the railways. Those are the men you have also to consider and to keep down your rates to a reasonable figure. As far as I can see, this is goodbye to any further large reduction of rates. There is no question of pressing the railwaymen down or anything of that kind.
The hon. member has evidently overlooked the words “reduced annuities,” so that the power to abate, which is dealt with separately, is here presupposed, including for that purpose any annuity or reduced annuity.
Yes, but there are annuities also.
Yes, but it may be so abated that there would be nothing left to them of it.
And it may not.
Of course, that is so. You must, after all, trust the Minister.
Clause put and agreed to.
Clause 30 put and negatived.
New Clause 30,
I think I have now fully met the point of view of those hon. members who have insisted that the disciplinary action should be eliminated from the Superannuation Bill. No power is here taken to take disciplinary action. All that is here stipulated is that when a body of servants have gone out on strike and are not re-employed within three months, the contributions will then be refunded to them. I trust that that will satisfy hon. members and that they will accept this new clause.
I have no doubt that it will, but whether it will satisfy the country is another story. I hope hon. members will see the significance of this. Whenever in the past men have gone out on strike, they have, as stated here, left the service and forfeited any benefits which may have accrued to them to that date. They have known that throughout the service and whenever benefits have been given back to them it has always been the practice for that to be done by this House. It has not been in the hands of the Minister, but it has always rested with this House to say whether they shall get these benefits back again. Under this amendment the control of Parliament is taken away and they are given the right to get back what they have paid to the pension fund. I have known heaps of men who don’t want this. Railwaymen, as a rule, don’t go on strike of themselves—I have not known of cases when I was Minister—but they are often tempted by other men who are on strike to go on strike also. They are an important part of the community and perform a very important function in connection with transportation for the community. Take the strike of 1922, the utmost possible pressure was brought to bear upon the railwaymen to go on strike on that occasion and it required all the influence that could be exercised to keep them straight, but one powerful weapon that helps to keep them straight is that they can say—
Now, you have taken that away from them, you are assisting men to go to the railway department and say to the servants—
It is not unjust. These men perform important functions for the State and in some countries they are more severely punished than they are here when they go out on strike. You are row taking away a very important check on the machinations of those people who try and get them to go out on strike. I warn the House not to accept the amendment of my hon. friend, but to simply leave the matter as it was, and let them come to the House as they did before.
What about 1914?
As far as I know, these cases have all been condoned. Parliament should have the power of condoning in a case of this kind.
Let me clear up the position for the hon. member, because it appears that he does not realize what I really intend doing by this amendment.
Well, you have not told us.
I thought I had made it clear. The position of the man re-employed after striking remains unaltered, and Parliament must condone the break in his service. In the case of a man not re-employed within three months he gets a refund. When a man is reemployed Parliament must deal with the position and must condone the break in his service. But take the case of the servant who is not re-employed. Under 28 a servant receives a refund from the pension fund of his contributions where he has been dismissed for fraud, dishonesty or misconduct, or when he retires to avoid dismissal. Take the first two, fraud and dishonesty. Does the hon. member suggest we should put a striker in a worse category?
It is not the same category.
No, it is not, but surely it is not a worse one? The hon. member has stated that this clause would remove all deterrent. A man not re-employed loses two valuable things. First, he may have been in the service for a lifetime, and loses his employment. He receives a refund of his own money and no more, and loses all pension rights. I trust the hon. member will agree that it is only justice that he should get the refund. I am not going to discuss whether a strike is justified or not, but it seems to me it would be wrong to place the striker in a worse position than a man who has been guilty of fraud.’
I would like to point out to the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) that the change made here is really no change at all, because the man who is re-employed, as the Minister says, has to come to Parliament and get his offence condoned. The man not re-employed gets back the amount he has paid in. We find that in insurance and other cases. I think the proper position is, as stated by the Minister, that when a man leaves the service through misconduct we should not also deprive him of the amount he has actually paid in. Having that strong weapon that only Parliament can condone the offence, I think we have sufficient safeguard.
I go all the way with the Minister when he moves for the deletion of old paragraph 30, but I cannot follow him when he moves to insert the new paragraph 30. I have always held the view, and still hold it that a strike clause should have no place in a pension scheme which is mutual in its incidence. The remarks of the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) are most unfair. It seems to me unjust that you should collect a man’s contribution for a number of years and then, if he goes on strike, to retain that money which he has contributed from his hard-earned wages. I object to any paragraph which says, that if a man goes on strike he shall be deemed to have retired from the service. The railway administration is the only employer in the world, so far as I know, which takes up such an attitude. A man may have served the administration for twenty-five or thirty years and, because he has been treated unjustly by an official, without being able to get redress, goes on strike, and his mates may go on strike with him, they are immediately deemed to have retired from the service. It is usual in outside employment when men have been out on strike for several days for their employer to issue a notice to the effect that if they don’t return by such and such a date they will be deemed to have retired from his service”; but here, the moment they lay down their tools they will be deemed to have retired and will have to come to Parliament for condonation. To be deemed to have retired, because an employee is man enough to resist an injustice, is unjust and should not be.
I agree very largely with the hon. member for Germiston (Mr. G. Brown) on this point, although my reading of the new clause is not quite the same as his. I do not exactly see the reference that a man who has gone on strike is deemed to have left the service, although that inference may be drawn from it. I entirely agree with the Minister in leaving out the present clause and I agree with him in putting in the new clause. The hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) is willing that the man who has been dishonest, or who has committed misconduct, should get his money back again, but he is not prepared to allow it in the case of a man who has gone on strike. I cannot understand the psychology of that attitude.
I do not see anything in this at all which states that a man leaves the service when he goes on strike. There is a reference to “law”, but where is the law which says they shall have retired from the service?
I just want to point out to the hon. members for Umbilo (Mr. Heyburn) and Germiston (Mr. G. Brown) that they must be careful not to vote against this proviso, because if they do they will prevent a refund to these men who are not re-employed. The amendment does not purport to give us power to dismiss a man as the result of his striking. It deals only with the case of a man not re-employed within three months; with regard to the position of the man who has actually gone on strike, disciplinary action is dealt with under the Act of 1912.
Yes. We have full power under that Act.
It is very remarkable with what alacrity hon. members on the crossbenches rise up and put a misconstruction on what is stated in this House, especially the hon. member for Durban (Umbilo) (Mr. Reyburn), and what he raises here will be carried forth to the world through the medium of the newspaper he controls. Any hon. member sitting in this House will agree that the point raised by the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger), was that he objected to the powers of Parliament being removed, so far as the cases of men who went out on strike were concerned, and not to the refund of these moneys. The hon. member for Cape Town (Central) misconstrued the reading of this clause, as read out by the Minister. He understood his proposed new clause was removing the control that Parliament had over the retirement of men who went on strike, and with extraordinary alacrity the hon. member for Durban (Umbilo) puts an entire misconstruction on the words he used. Whilst I am on my feet, may I say how much I appreciate the action of the Minister in introducing the new clause. I have a sort of feeling—I have not made up my mind on the point—that the point of view of the Labour party, in regard to the renewal of all restrictions on men who go on strike, should be granted, but undoubtedly it has struck us, who for some years have been working on the pensions committee, that the confiscation of these payments to their pensions was wrong, and ought to be put right, and I am very glad that the Minister, by the new clause, has remedied this matter.
If I misunderstood the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger), I am willing to apologise, but did he not pass, with approval, Clause 28, which says that if a man is charged with fraud, dishonesty or misconduct, he shall get his contributions back without any question.
I did not say anything about this clause.
When I spoke I said the hon. member objected to the contributions being refunded. He said the contributions were a thing that kept the men in. Was I not perfectly correct, and the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) wrong? May I ask the Minister a point? Does not Clause 28 cover the case of a man who is dismissed for desertion? Does such a man not get a refund of his contributions? If he does in Clause 28, a man who goes on strike will get it, and there is no objection to this clause.
My great objection is that it takes away the power to go to Parliament to condone the break in service.
And get the contributions back?
Certainly. I did not notice that the clause differentiates between the men who are taken back and the men who leave. My principal argument in this matter was that it was compelling the department to go to Parliament for condonation.
There should be no mention of what is to be done in the case of a strike, when we are dealing with a superannuation fund. If a strike clause is necessary—I somewhat share the views of the hon. member for Germiston (Mr. G. Brown) that it is not necessary—then the proper place for it is in the Service Bill. But if we are to have a strike clause here, I prefer the new clause to the old one. I wish to say to the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) that there is little reason for him to worry. The conditions have improved so much since he ceased to be Minister of Railways, that anything in the nature of a strike is not likely to take place for a long time.
What about a sympathetic strike?
The Minister will have to make certain that the administration do not contribute to a strike position. Men like the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) can only see one viewpoint in connection with a strike. That is the employers’ view point, and fail to recognize that it takes two to make a quarrel. Usually the administration is as much to blame as the men. We could give you instances to prove that.
I am not speaking about that, I am speaking about a sympathetic strike.
The contention of the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) is that men have no right to better their conditions or to ask for wage increases. Members who retard the progress of this Bill through the House are doing something that may, in the end, bring about a strike. Let us support the Minister in making the conditions such that interruptions in the service will be unnecessary.
I would like to know who the hon. member for Maritzburg (North) (Mr. Strachan) is alluding to when he talks about people trying to retard the passage of the Bill. I have never heard a more baseless charge than to describe the few comments which have been made as deliberate obstruction. Are we not allowed to say a word on this Bill —must we sit absolutely silent? I think it is a most baseless charge, and we are not gagged by any talk of this kind. I agree with the other parts of the hon. member’s remarks that a superannuation bill is not the proper Bill in which to insert a penal clause with regard to a strike, but the clause as proposed by the Minister does not appear to be one of that nature. It is required in order to preserve to a man who has deserted or left the service without notice on account of a strike, the right which he would not otherwise have of receiving from the fund the contributions he has paid in. I think it is a perfectly sound and reasonable clause and an improvement on the original one, which contained a proviso that if the desertion or refusal to serve arose from an industrial dispute, a man was entitled to get back his contributions, but otherwise the matter had to come before Parliament. That would have given rise to debate whether it was an industrial dispute or not. Although I cannot recognize a strike as being anything but an industrial dispute. The men are perfectly entitled to strike if they think the conditions call for that. If they go on strike they are entitled to receive from the fund the amounts they paid in. In any case the man is a sufferer for he will be paid no interest on his contributions and possibly will lose the chance of coming back into the service. I hope the clause will be adopted, and I do not think it can be regarded in any way as penalizing the men for striking.
Under the present clause if a large number of men leave the service it means that before they can be dismissed certain forms will have to be gone through in the case of every man If that had to be done in a case in which 5,000 or 6,000 men might be concerned, it would occupy several years, and while that was being done the men would not know whether they were going to be re-employed. I would suggest to hon. members who say they are going to vote against the amendment that if they do so they will do an injury to the men, for in that case they would not receive their contributions back if they went out.
I hope the new clause will be adopted. It has always gone against my grain to find Government confiscating contributions.
Why did you do it then in the past?
Whenever any applicant appeared before the pensions committee, no matter what the offence might have been, if he could show that Government had confiscated his contributions we always gave them back. The principle should be extended throughout the service. It seems to be petty vindictiveness for Government to confiscate a man’s money no matter what his offence may have been. Even if a man is sent to gaol on a criminal charge, Government does not confiscate his money.
Amendment put and agreed to.
On clause 34,
Section 4 of Clause 33 stipulates that when an employee dies without leaving any dependents the amount paid to his executor is the amount which he has contributed to the fund. When afterwards it is found that a servant has left dependants of whom nothing was known when the estate was liquidated, it is now provided that his dependants shall be paid the amount which he would have been entitled to receive under the previous clauses, less the amount his executor had already received.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
New Clause 45,
On the motion of the Minister of Railways and Harbours, the chairman put the new Clause 45 proposed by the select committee.
I move in line 62, before “If” to insert “Subject to the provisions of section 44”.
Our friends of the Labour benches are so anxious to get this Bill quickly through the House that they don’t think anybody ought to speak at all on it. But I think a representative of the users of the railway might speak occasionally. Clause 45 accentuates how far he has gone in Clause 20. It has been the practice in the railway service that when a pensioner is brought back to the service he gets the same amount of salary as when he left. Any pension he may have is lessened to that extent and he only gets the same as when he was put on pension. Now a man must get the salary of the office to which he is appointed and his pension. The object of this clause is that no pensioner shall be appointed in future and he will not be appointed. I know the case of a man who received a pension of £700 or £800 a year who was appointed to an office at a bigger amount. He dropped the pension. Under this clause he will draw the pension and the big salary besides, and if he is a pensioner he will be pensioned afterwards not only on the salary he draws but on his pension besides. Of course, if people want to spend money it is all right. I only get up from time to time to point out the result of these clauses.
I don’t think there is any need for the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) to apologise for taking part in the debate. It is his duty to say where he thinks the Bill is going too far. This amendment, however, was adopted for the public service in 1923, and I must point out that provision is made for reducing gratuities. It is desirable, in dealing with questions of pensions and privileges in the service, that there should be as far as possible the same treatment to public and railway servants. The hon. member has not indicated whether he is agreeable to the reemployment of pensioners. It has been the practice of the railway service not to re-employ pensioners unless essential, because we have a large number of young men coming on in the service.
You have closed the door now, though.
But it is still in the discretion of the Minister to reduce gratuities.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Proposed new clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On clause 46,
I would ask the Minister whether he will not bring pressure to bear on the Public debt Commissioners with a view of obtaining a higher rate of interest upon funds invested with them. I find that the rate of interest allowed on money invested under this fund is lower than the rate paid for loans raised by the Union, especially outside South Africa. I realize, of course, that due allowance must be made for the terms of the loan, but it seems to me that the rate of interest paid by the Public Debt Commissioners is too low altogether.
I may mention that the rate of interest was increased in 1921 or 1922 by my predecessor from 4 to 4½ per cent. which, of course, has very materially assisted the fund. I may point out to the hon. member (Mr. Pearce) that, as far as the rate of interest is concerned, the Administration naturally will endeavour to get the highest possible rate from the Public Debt Commissioners, because we are responsible for the solvency of the fund.
Clause put and agreed to.
On Clause 61,
I see that the Minister is giving the members of the service further benefits here.
Yes, by the deletion of sections 9 and 10 of the Act of 1912.
They are to have the benefits provided for under the Act of 1925?
That is so.
Have you any idea what it is going to cost? I see the same thing applies to the next clause, 63, and also to 64.
I understand that it simply brings the retrenchment benefits in which are stipulated for. These are applied here now, but it is difficult to say what they will cost. When retrenchment takes place they will come under this Bill.
Clause put and agreed to.
New clause 63,
On the motion of the Minister of Railways and Harbours, the Chairman put the new clause 63 proposed by the select committee.
I have an amendment to move on this clause. It is really a question of the Parliamentary draftsman having framed it in rather a different way. I move—
Amendment put and agreed to.
Proposed new clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
New clause 64,
On the motion of the Minister of Railways and Harbours, the Chairman put the new clause 64, proposed by the select committee.
I want to move here art amendment which is also by the Parliamentary draftsman—
- (i) ‘or under the provisions of section 10’; and
- (ii) ‘Chapter I’ and the substitution therefor of the words ‘section 11 of the Railways and Harbours Service Act, 1925, or any amendment thereof’.”
Amendment, put and agreed to.
Proposed new clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
New clause 68,
On the motion of the Minister of Railways and Harbours, the Chairman put the new clause 68, proposed by the select committee.
This is also purely consequential.
Amendment, put and agreed to.
Proposed new clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 75,
I understand that the railway and harbour servants are anxious that the provisions of this Bill should be brought into operation as soon as possible. Men who have never contributed to a superannuation fund at all, are now anxious to join. Many of the men who belong to the old fund wish to come into the new one; and the men mentioned by the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) who fear that they will be out of the service before the Bill becomes operative, are also desirous of obtaining benefits under the new Act. In order to give some of the latter an opportunity of coming under the provisions of the new superannuation fund, I move—
I do not think the Minister can object to that.
I regret I cannot accept that amendment, because there will be a tremendous lot of detailed work to be covered before the Bill can be brought into operation. Take the question of regulations. At the same time I fully appreciate his point of view, and more especially the position of those servants who will be retired shortly. They are very anxious that the Bill should come into operation. The administration and the management fully realise that. I do not want to bind myself to a date, because we may be able to bring it into operation at an earlier date; but in any case I hope to do so on the 1st October. Every effort will be made to make it operative as soon as possible. I cannot accept the 1st August for the simple reason that we shall not be ready to deal with the matter by that time.
Now that the Minister has given the assurance that there will be no undue delay in bringing the Bill into operation, I withdraw my amendment.
There are a good number of men who will be taking their pensions before October, and I would like an assurance from the Minister in regard to these men. It would be a great hardship on these men if they are not brought in under this Bill.
I am afraid there will be some very hard cases; but it must be realized that once we make its application retrospective the difficulty is where to begin and where to stop, and I cannot go further than to say that every effort will be made by the department to get the regulations in order and operative at the very earliest date, so that we may be able to rope in as large a number as possible. Men are going off every day, and their cases are just as hard as those of the men who will be retired during July and August, or September.
Would it not be possible to fix a date prior to the date the regulations will be promulgated? If you fixed September 1, even if all your machinery was not ready by that date, those servants who were retired subsequently, although they had left the service, could have the benefit of the conditions. We are not in July yet; so that it is over three months to the 1st of October.
We all wish the Act to be put into force as soon as possible. I would suggest that as soon as the Bill is passed it should come into force. It will be a great concession to the railway men.
My difficulty in regard to the suggestion of the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow), is that I do not want to hold out any hope that it will be possible to bring the Bill into operation at an early date. I can only say that we will push forward as much as possible.
*I think the hon. member for Witbank (Mr. A. I. E. de Villiers) will understand that if the Act is applied on any date before it comes into effect it will cause dissatisfaction, because persons who went on pension before the date would want to know why they were excluded. The department will do all it can to bring the Act into operation as speedily as possible.
Could the Minister give an assurance that this Bill will come into operation before the end of the year.
Could the Minister not waive the ordinary retirements from to-day, and say that no servant shall be retired for two or three months.
What about those who have gone out in June?
Seeing that we are passing this Bill to-day, and it will not become law till the 1st October, the Minister could extend the benefits to those old servants who would in the ordinary course have been retired between now and the 1st October.
I fully appreciate the spirit in which the hon. member makes that suggestion, but on reflection, he must realize that if 1 were to do that it would, in effect, give these men the benefit of the new fund, and my difficulty would be exactly the same in regard to men who have already been retired, and the only logical rule to follow is to let the matter take its course and to bring the Bill into operation as soon as possible.
Clause put and agreed to.
Title put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; to be considered now.
Amendments put and agreed to, and the Bill as amended, adopted; third reading on Monday.
Mr. SPEAKER announced that the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders had discharged Mr. de Wet from service on the Select Committee on the Miners’ Phthisis Acts Consolidation Bill and had appointed the Rev. Mr. Hattingh in his stead.
Second Order read: House to resume in Committee of Supply.
House in Committee:
[Progress reported on 23rd June on Vote 38, Main Estimates, “Labour”, £362,656; Votes 14 to 19, 31, 32, and 36 standing over.]
When we reported progress the other day the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) asked me to make a general statement as to the position. The hon. member was quite right in saying that we pledged ourselves during the election to try and definitely deal with the position. I seem to catch a challenging look in the hon. member’s eye implying that we were not fulfilling that pledge.
Not to the extent you said you would.
Our view was that the existence of two races separated by such a wide gulf complicated the position, and that previous governments had drifted along ignoring the reaction under our competitive wage system which was leading to unemployment among many classes of the European population. We cited very freely the writing on the wall, the great and acute unemployment, the difficulty of our youths in getting employment, and the excessive emigration over immigration, and we expressed our opinion that there was ample room for expansion of our own people without injustice to the native population, and we said we pledged ourselves, to bend our backs to tackle this problem and no longer content ourselves with a policy of drift. We pledged ourselves to certain definite things. We were going to set up a department of labour, to keep these aspects of national life before the Government. We pledged ourselves to do our utmost to deal with the immediate difficulties of the unemployment question which was pressing, and to direct our policy towards increasing the opportunities for the civilized elements of this Community in every way possible. I may differ from the hon. member in thinking that we have very clearly done a great deal already, and as indicated by our policy, we are by no means unmindful of our pledges, and we are determined to carry them out. On the subject of unemployment since we came into office there are over 7,500 more Europeans employed on the railways than were employed on the 30th June last year.
Is that not out of charity rather than necessity?
They are employed and they are doing useful work. In the posts and telegraphs department I am informed there are 900, and altogether 9.000 more persons are employed directly in the government service. Since we came into office there are rather more than a thousand employed in the mining industry more than there were a year ago, and probably another thousand or two thousand are employed in other employments largely due to the insistent representations we have made al] over the country, and the way we have impressed on the people the duty of giving a chance to their own people. There are between twelve and thirteen thousand Europeans getting employment to-day more than there were a year ago. As far as the relieving of unemployment is concerned, that is good showing for the first 12 months, and from the information one gets from persons who are out in the rough and tumble there is certainly less unemployment through the country than there was a year ago.
Then why are you asking for £300,000 on this vote?
I think it will shorten the discussion if I attempt to give the explanation as I am doing. The next point I would like to deal with is the question of relief works. Whatever we do there will always be a certain number,—and I am not introducing any theoretical notions, but people who study the question know that it is an inevitable concomitant of the system under which we live,—that there will always be a certain number of people who will be misfits or unemployed. On the question of relief works the system which I inherited I agree with in certain respects and in other respects I think it could be improved on, and has been improved on. It is obviously necessary in these matters, and I don’t see my way clear to depart from it, to act through local authorities. I am strongly opposed to putting men on to do useless work purely for the purpose of giving them a living. To do this it must be in the area of responsibility of some local authority, and I cannot see how it is equitable for the general taxpayer to make a street, say in Cape Town, and hand it over to the municipal authority as a present from the general taxpayer merely for the relief of unemployment. Then we have another fact which enters into it. We had generally to agree that it is not good to divest the people of any locality of all responsibility of relieving distress among their own citizens. On general grounds I adhere to the principle, as far as possible, of using the local authorities as the ones to take the first step and the first responsibility, and when they do that we are willing to go on extending the subsidy to make it easier for them. On the question of the subsidy, as I have said earlier, it must be clear that the method of giving this subsidy is open to considerable objection. If any municipality is employing men at a time of unemployment, and they come before you and say—
that is an unhealthy plan. That basis is usually a theoretical basis. It is estimated before you start and not after you have finished. I engaged the services of the engineer as a temporary arrangement to assist me in devising methods for piece-work and sliding-scales which will combine the advantages of extending relief and at the same time assure efficient administration. For the persons relieved it is no benefit to them, to be put cheek by jowl, fit and unfit together, because it results often in a man being usually worse at the end than at the beginning. There are one or two plans which must be gone into in detail. In municipalities, where they have put men on piece-work these men have often earned very good wages, and it appeared to me I should have a sliding-scale and that the subsidy should diminish according to the diminution of the cost per cubic yard to the municipality. I wanted to get on a basis where the municipality could not say that the work was a burden to them. This scheme is experimental. As hon. members will see. We have been dealing with a number of difficult problems, and I cannot pretend to have solved all of them. We have to take one at a time and gradually unravel them. I have mentioned the evils of the present subsidy system. Another way that we have been trying to induce municipalities to go upon, if they get any considerable piece of work, which I think is a sound one, is if one has, we will say, 25 miles of road to make, let it on contract, ask for (a) tenders on any basis you like (b) employing white men at a minimum of so much per day. The first, (a), take as your base line, accept the second tender, and divide the difference between the local authority and my unemployment vote. As you get near the end of the work, ask for other tenders, you will have competition amongst the contractors, and I think experience in Pretoria some years ago shows, that your tenders gradually come down because the efficiency of your organization and the administration of your labour increases, and the difference between (a) and (b) gradually becomes a good deal less. One can only suggest these things to local authorities, but my policy is in any and every way to try and encourage any local authority which will take on work in that way, to adopt lines which will lead to increased efficiency. The difficulty there and the difference there is this, that obviously under that scheme the unfit man will be thrown out, efficiency will rule, and there you have got to deal with that as a separate problem, but at all events you will achieve this, that if there is unemployment prevailing, if you hand over an area of work in which a large number of men are actually employed, you have, at any rate, relieved it to that extent. I mention in that respect that there we come to one of the most difficult phases of the question. As the House is aware, the constitution places upon the provincial authorities the duty of poor relief, and what is unemployment in the ordinary sense of the word is the lack of employment of a man who, under other circumstances, would be in employment. When you come to that fringe between the man out of work, not because there is no employment in that sense, but because he is unfit for employment, it is poor relief, and I have got my advisory council investigating what is done in the different provinces with a view to advising me later as to measures to propose to deal with it, but hon. members will see that you cannot treat the old man, the decrepit, the unfit, as you can the able-bodied man, who is fit for but out of employment.
How about the man who can work, but won’t?
Perhaps the hon. member will have patience a bit. I think I am endeavouring to give the House an outline as to how we are trying to unravel some portions of these problems. Again you have two broad distinctions—town unemployment and country unemployment. Dealing with town unemployment, the pure town-bred man, there you have a variety of classes of persons. You have your man in commercial employ who is out of employment. It is no relief to him to put him on road works. You have your mechanic out of employment. Again it, is no relief to him to put him on road works, except in the last resort. Candidly, there we have to rely upon expansion of activities, and I am glad to say, as far as my information goes, that unemployment is certainly very much less than it was a year ago. One plan that has been suggested—it was suggested, I believe, by the Royal Commission, on which Mr. Sydney Webb sat in 1903 or 1904—is a sort of general measure that when any Government works are in contemplation in any populous centre, you should hold them in reserve and turn on the tap when unemployment is great, and turn it off when employment is more or less plentiful. I am afraid, however, that once a thing is sanctioned the locality itself is so insistent that it shall be done at once, that you cannot hold it in reserve. The business of the department is, where Government works have been sanctioned, to try and push them on. The next element, and where it is distinctly accentuated in South Africa, is the drift in from the country by people who cannot find a livelihood in the country. It is closely connected with a great deal of the town distress, is closely connected with what used to be called “poor whites,” but I think a much better term for them is the rural unemployed. I think the sooner we get out of the term “poor white”—because it carries a certain stigma with it—the better. The big bulk of them are poor in nothing else but the fact that they are poor in hope.
What would you call them in Afrikaans?
Of course, there are some members who are so prone to flippant interruptions, even when one is speaking of rather serious problems, that I do not propose to take any notice of them. This has been a subject that has occupied the major part of the thoughts and time of my department and the advisory council. Two or three points we are quite clear about. If we are going to deal effectively with this problem we have got to recognize that there must be some classification. You cannot treat the able-bodied man, the man who only wants a chance, in the same category as the broken man, the man who has lost all hope, and is too old to get it back, and the man who has pursued the course so long that he thinks it the right thing to do to avoid work at all costs. But as far as we are able to judge, taking the results of experience, the advice of men who have made it a very close study, entirely coincides with our own experience that the essential point in dealing with the whole matter is to devise some plan which will hold out hope, and, so far from being unresponsive to that stimulus, the rural population are very responsive indeed to the stimulus of hope. Our plan is that we have got to get an outlet at the other end, so to speak, so as to be able to show them that there are opportunities for men to be able to establish themselves. We have also got to have training and sorting stations, such as Hartebeestpoort has acted in the past, such as indeed the Railway Works Act also. They have enabled us to find men, who, whatever else their demerits, have shown very clearly that they are not afraid of hard work. There is also the Forestry Department. Then we have got to make provision, as I say, for the old and decrepit who are on our hands, and we have also got to make provision for those—it is a small minority—who, whatever opportunity is offered to them, simply say: “We won’t work.” How far have we got? We have been trying to build up an organization by a steady plan, the immediate benefit of which is, I think, not inconsiderable, and the full benefit of which will be only felt by the steadfast pursuit of that policy for a good many years. Through the tenant farmers’ scheme, which I mentioned earlier in the session, we have got about 390 to 400 men already placed. It has rather hung fire in the last two months because this time of the year is not so good as later on, but it is going on as well as it can the whole time. Another reason is that we made rather a spurt at the beginning, and there is a good deal to be closely followed up to see that we are not making mistakes. There the terms are that we make them an advance of the necessary cattle and ploughs, either to them or to the owner, to enable them to get on, and they farm on shares. There is one addition to that that I should like make, which, of course, depends upon the willingness of the farmers, and that is to get added to the contract an option of purchase over a few years, so that the successful man on this scheme can exercise that option on the terms of the Land Settlements Act.
If you cannot get him the option, cannot you get him tenant’s rights?
I am not claiming that all our arrangements are beyond criticism; I hope to criticize it myself as we go on, but it is a steady approach to what I think is a thoroughly workable scheme. The owner engages himself to keep a tenant farmer during the next six years. In these cases one cannot make one’s terms as severe as one would perhaps like, because after all we are dependent upon the co-operation of the various farmers in the country to help us. There is one direction in which I hope we might be able to extend it. In lands which, for instance, come into our possession through any adjustments in the irrigation arrangements, I feel that a certain portion of them should be hypothecated for this purpose, so that we could act as the landlord and the man could have the option of purchase. So far as training and sorting is concerned, we have made a beginning in the Transvaal. These farms under the control of this department are on the left bank of the Crocodile River at Hartebeestpoort. The hon. member said he did not see any working there, and I do not know how it was he did not see any of our people, because on the private-owned land at Hartebeestpoort we have something like 340 men settled as tenant farmers. It is from that sort of territory where men can be settled fairly close together, and where a small allotment will afford a livelihood for a family, that I hope for most success.
Are these part of the 390?
They do not belong to the Government scheme then.
The probationary lessees belong to the department of the Minister of Lands. The land ranges from 8 to 10 morgen. On the dry land it is higher. Let me say that a great deal depends upon the care which my rural welfare officers exercise in seeing that the ground is good ground and that the fellow has a chance, before allotting; and we are doing our utmost to see that great care is taken. On this training farm our conception is this, that the Hartebeestpoort works are coming to an end and we have spent enormous sums of money in subsidies to the Irrigation Department. On this farm, when it is going, we hope to have room for about 400 families, but it is not a settlement; I want to make that quite clear. The men there simply work on wages, and as opportunities occur they will be settled on the tenant farmer basis or something of that sort. The danger in all these things is getting silted up with your unfit man and the man who does not want to work. Once they are under Government hands there is a strong tendency for men of this type to say: “Oh, the Government is responsible for us, and it does not matter much what we do.” There, as I say, the men will be working on a day’s wage. I am not pretending it will be a paying proposition, but we shall have the produce of their labour to diminish that and to help on and expand our operations. With the men who show any sort of real aptitude—and the bulk of them will—we hope to settle them gradually on the tenant farmer or probationary lessee basis, or any places we get the chance of. With a beginning of 395 men I feel confident, as the farmers throughout the country appreciate the national value of this work, that we shall get an increasing measure of co-operation from them. Up to now, in working that scheme, we have almost entirely confined ourselves to the Transvaal and our little friends of the Free State. If you come clown here to the Western Province, or even the Eastern Province, but the Western Province particularly, the arrangements which you find suitable up there are not the arrangements which will do down here. It is our business to devise new schemes in consultation with the farmers and to co-ordinate our efforts with their desire to help us. That we are doing. It is one thing where you have a yearly crop, but when you come down to fruit farming districts, where you do not get a crop for five or six years, it is a very different proposition. Our same organization would extend over the country. We have settled 500 this year, and I do not see why 500 to 1,000 should not be settled yearly for many years to come—that is tenant farmers. A great many suggestions have been put to me, and I am afraid some hon. members will think that I am not so rapid in assimilating them as I might be, but I think if they would reflect, they will agree with me that my principal business is to beware of trying to run before we can walk, and thereby introducing a sort of black mark on the whole scheme which, if conducted with more discretion, might go on and do well.
What do you pay these men?
33s. at Losperfontein, and a little house. The farm manager there, who is in charge of the operations, is a Mr. Thomkin, who was strongly recommended by the agricultural department; but I have also engaged a chief welfare superintendent, in charge of the discipline. He is a gentleman who is well known to hon. members, as he used to sit in this House—the Rev. Mr. van der Horst—and from whose service I expect great assistance and help and from whom, indeed, I have already had such.
What is his work?
He is in charge of the social and disciplinary side of the whole business. He has had great experience, has a thoroughly sympathetic knowledge of the people he is dealing with, and at the same time has the courage to be strong and hard where hardness is required. It does not appear on the votes, but I may indicate what generally our ideas and plans are. We must be in a position to deal with these broken people. I cannot see any hope there, except along the lines of some sort of rural village, some settlement in which light work is provided and in which the women, by keeping fowls, can help towards their own support, and where you have the great advantage of having the children together so that their education presents little difficulty. Then, as to the small residue, who simply will not be amenable to discipline, and who won’t work. I am advised on all hands and I agree that there is nothing for it but to deal with these people through the establishment of compulsory work colonies. Before the session. I had a Bill drafted for that purpose, but I feel and am certain I am correct, that we must press the remedial measures first before adopting the other course. I would bring in that Bill, and pass it this session, but I understand hon. members opposite feel that we have already had a surfeit of Bills. The hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) asked me how the £300.000 voted last year had been spent. I have not the audited figures, but these are roughly the figures. Cape Province (including some £7.500 for the Administrator’s relief fund for the North Western districts) £28,500; Free State. £23,500: Transvaal. £33,200; making a total of £85,200 to Provincial relief; relief works (municipal) £50,500: subsidies to government departments on the same basis and £10,900 to the railway administration, this has ceased. It was part of the national responsibility accepted as a government policy.) Forestry department, £5,600: irrigation. £90.600; tenant farmers scheme, £16,000; Losperfontein training farm, £20.000. That includes a considerable amount of capital expenditure in the provision of asbestos huts for the new arrangements. We are at present held up, rather, by not having found satisfactory water yet, and we are not able to determine the particular part for our villages.
What do you pay these tenant farmers?
We give them a subsidy. I will get the figures for my hon. friend. It is about £5 17s. 6d. for the first nine months and then half for the following six months. I may say that a great deal depends upon the follow up. Mistakes will occur and unless my inspectors keep a record and pay periodical visits there are apt to be things not found out when they should be, and put right at once. I had one complaint the other day which I am investigating.
Explain the tenant farmers scheme to us.
I have explained it already. We have only placed 394 on the farm. And they have only had one season.
Give us details of the scheme itself.
We subsidise the tenant farmer just to keep him going for fifteen months. We make an arrangement with the owner that the owner shall take him for the next six years. Where the tenant farmer takes the obligation of the loan, we also advance him or rather advance him the value of, £150, in stock and implements. As a matter of fact, it does not average that amount, as many have a bit of their own already, and if the farmer takes the responsibility of the loan, the usual terms are that the tenant works on a share of half the produce. If the tenant takes the responsibility he works on two-thirds of the produce. I have obtained a report from a gentleman of independent authority whom I have asked to make an inspection, and I think the House can feel thoroughly satisfied with the results. I have been gratified at getting his report, as he started out with rather a feeling that it was a washout, and that we were only making a number of poor whites, but in concluding his reports, he reversed his opinion, and stated it was one of the best things that had been done in South Africa for a good many years. I have the utmost sympathy with these people, and a great admiration for the way in which they have been tackling the work, and I think I might ask the House to spring a little for them. The men have been building their own houses and we are creating a steadier and better class of men than if we spoon-fed them.
Is there any sifting of them?
That is a matter in which personal judgment must be exercised. I take the utmost care that those in charge, like Mr. van der Horst, are men upon whom one can rely to exercise their selection in real good faith. The man who goes to work on forestry should not feel that he is there for good—it is frightfully hard work—but that by sticking to it he can eventually become self-dependent. It is more a question of the amplitude of the outlet. If I had sufficient space in which to put them there are a number of men who have been working hard for one or two years on railway construction who would be most valuable men to establish. I wish hon. members, who during the recess should happen to be near a place where construction work is going on, would go and see the type of men employed; they would find that they are exceedingly valuable, square set-up men, and I would rather have an argument with them with words than with any other instrument. The Transvaal has given us our greatest scope, and other districts have not come up to the Transvaal in their efforts, but that is because the scheme is only beginning to be known, so to speak. Rome cannot be built in a day. I am not taking on an army of inspectors to travel round, but I am increasing the numbers as the work seems to justify. But I am perfectly confident that by this time next year the farmers in the other provinces will be helping us a great deal. As far as the other side of Hartebeestpoort is concerned, 60 probationary lessees are settled there, and another 60 have been nominated and are on their way there. The House may be interested in other aspects of the matter, such as the care we have to take against silting up and also against any demoralization of the workers. Mr. van der Horst reports to me that among the youths of 17 or 18 years of age there is a tendency to absorb the idea that the government has to look after them. We are trying to put these youths to do useful work with the probationary lessees, the main idea being to train them to work all the time. Another thing we have been brought face to face with, I do not wish to expound on now, because it cannot be dealt with except in conjunction with the development of our native policy, but if any hon. member had to deal with this matter he would be immediately struck by this. If you take a family of boys, some of them will have the ordinary attraction for a country life, but some of them, just like the rest of us, have a desire for the industrial and wage-earning life. But the big, broad avenue of employment, which would be open to them in other countries is blocked in this country by the employment of masses of indentured native labour. The big bulk of industry is in the proclaimed area. If a youth here has the ambition to get into some industry he has not the opening that he would have in any other country in the world, where he could start at the bottom and reach the higher grade —here, however, he has to begin half-way up. We are constantly alive, also, to our responsibilities to the natives, and I am frequently having various schemes arrested by the intimation that we must not create native unemployment by trying to create white employment. Let me point out the extraordinary anomaly of our having native unemployment while we are steadily importing nearly 100,000 foreign natives. So much for what we are actually doing. I am satisfied with the account of our actions in carrying out our stewardship, but the hon. members opposite may not be. The two Bills they have so steadily opposed will both help to increase the area of employment in which men can earn civilized wages. In our opinion these two measures, as well as the tariff, are designed to stimulate development internally. The whole policy of the government is designed to show not only that we have not been unmindful of our election pledges, but have focussed our policy in order to fulfil them to the utmost. There are only two remarks more that I want to make, and in considering these matters I ask hon. members to bear in mind two things. We all agree, in the Labour party, that if we are going to hold our own in this country we must put in as efficient work as we can, but I sometimes wonder if it is equally appreciated that in the success of any organized work we should have efficiency of organization. I wonder if the amount of brains put into organization is laid sufficient stress upon. If we were to take Mr. Henry Ford for a cruise through South Africa—and I mention him because he is probably the greatest industrial organizer alive to-day—he will probably tell us that whereas the skilled mechanic in this country is a skilful man, the amount of pain and care taken to see that no labour is thrown away is not as great as that taken in countries where they have a high wage unit and where they have a greater stimulus to see that no skilled labour is wasted or thrown away. I would like to take this opportunity of making an appeal to all farmers, industrialists, commercial men, and everyone to realize the importance of this national problem, and that we have, each one of us, in our own way, to do our utmost to help forward the opportunities of employment for our own people in this country. In one university class of one of our principal universities this year, the whole class had to go outside South Africa to earn their living after qualifying, and that is only a repetition of what has been happening for the last two or three years. In getting into the habit of having our work done with the cheapest unit of labour, there is the least possible stimulus for the use of brains and organization, and so far from looking upon high wages as a national evil, they would find, if we compared the high wage countries with the low wage countries, that the high wage countries are those countries where the most brains have accumulated.
The output is always greater.
Yes. The customs of this country are derived from a good many generations ago, but when we see clearly they are not leading to the prosperity the country ought to expect, as intelligent men we should not be guided entirely by the past, but by what the experience of the world has taught us. For efficiently organized workers, we can afford to pay high wages for a civilized standard of living in this country.
They cannot do it under the Wage Bill.
It is a question of action and reaction. In the days when I occasionally played cards for a stake I did not play poker as carefully when I played for a penny ante as I did when I played for a shilling ante. When you are dealing with a cheap thing, something that costs you very little, you don’t exercise the care in the use of it that you do when dealing with something for which you have to pay a bigger price. May I express my appreciation of the way many people have helped me in the country on this matter, and outside these ranks I hope to have a greater and greater evidence of the desire of all portions of the population to co-operate with me and help in this matter. I would like to refer here to some remarks made by the hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige). I said at the opening of my remarks that the municipalities must take the first step, and that the primary responsibility rests on them. At Johannesburg they have informed me they are going to stop at the end of this month. I am trying to minimize that as much as is possible. A member of the town council objected to me saying that the responsibility rested on them, but I repeat that. In Cape Town the municipality are carrying on, but they tell me some of their works are coming to an end. Durban is carrying on, and so they ought, because they are a fairly wealthy community, and they are doing very well. With these things happening. I must have some outlet. Forestry cannot take any more, and I am assured by the Forestry Department that the ground is no worse, nor is the climate any worse, than at Roberts Vlei, where there has been a settlement for some time. I am not putting a single man there until well into September, when there is no chance of snow. It is a case of almost any port in a storm. In the expenditure of this money I hope to combine it with a good deal of relief of unemployment locally, and some of it within a comparative short distance from Cape Town.
This will be of great interest. I have been very interested in it, and my information bears out in some degree that the unemployment among white people is diminishing, but employment amongst the coloured people locally is not increasing.
Since last October we have, in conjunction with the Minister of Railways, been endeavouring to restore to the coloured people a considerable area of work at the docks which was done by them. We have succeeded to the extent of 500 who have found employment there, and to-day there must be 700 or 800 coloured people who were not employed a year ago who are employed to-day. In spite of that the pressure increases, and my information is that the drift of natives south and west means that as fast as I cure it at one end the coloured man is turned out of private establishments by the incoming native at the other end. What we can do to arrest that we shall. It is like the Irishman cutting off one end of his blanket and sewing if on at the other end. We are doing what we can to help the position.
The soundest part of the scheme is hot the giving of employment to 7.500 on the railways and 900 in the post office. That may be all right. Perhaps more of these have been taken than is necessary. The best part of the scheme is where they are being got on the land as tenant farmers. Why not do something for the coloured people? The Government would have no difficulty at all in getting farmers to take into their employment coloured men. If the Minister could get some of these men out of the towns into the employment of farmers in the districts, I think he would do a very good work. So long as you just depend upon town work, it is not sufficient to go round, and the Government work also is not sufficient by any manner of means. Then as regards the natives, I think some steps should be taken to see if a stop cannot be put to the drift towards the towns. We cannot go on as we are doing now. The natives find that when they come down to this part, at any rate, they get better pay than they do nearer to Kaffirland. As far as my information goes, the further away they are from Kaffirland the higher the wages they receive. I think some steps should be taken to divert the natives from the towns to the farms. I would like to know from the Minister whether he has considered these points.
I can assure my hon. friend (Mr. Jagger) that this coloured problem and the effect of this native migration have been engaging the attention of my department very much indeed. The hon. member spoke of town unemployment and the desirability of getting these men out into the country. I agree. But, after all, something must rest with the country employer also to offer attractions which will provide at least as reasonable a livelihood as the man gets in town. Let me say this, that more than one case has come under my notice where a farmer has been prepared to give so much a day and all the other additions which a man gets, milk, a cottage, etc., which amount to much more really than the few shillings more a day obtained in town will procure for him, but the fellow prefers to stop here on relief works. In a case of that sort, where it is shown to me that these terms are satisfactory, my instructions are that that fellow has to be discharged from relief works and told to go and take it, or, at all events, I am going to take no responsibility. I feel that our duty is to take responsibility for a man’s needs, but not for his preferences, but that has got to be done very sparingly, with great judgment, because I am not going to take upon myself responsibility for the way in which a private employer treats his employees. If he does not treat them properly he must suffer the penalty of not being able to get people to work for him.
I rise, not to make any remarks in a polemical sense on what the Minister has said, but because I think it is necessary to sound a warning note about certain aspects of the work which we see developing now. I agree with the Minister that there should be much more efficiency of management than there is. We hear that from all quarters. People who come to this country, captains of industry who visit this country from all parts of the world, say that the first thing that strikes them in South Africa is that management is inefficient in this country, that the master is to be blamed, that work can be much better organized and that much more can be got out of work than we are getting in South Africa to-day. I remember that when this last parliamentary association visited us during the course of the year I several times spoke to members of the various delegations from other dominions and they one and all made that remark to me that they were astonished at what they called the inefficiency of our work in South Africa, that owing to cheap labour we did not get sufficient out of labour. Cheap labour produces more cheapness and nastiness until we are suffering all round. In that respect I agree with the Minister that we might have better management, and if we had it we would be able to afford to pay better wages and improve the character of our whole industrial system in all respects. The point that I want to refer to is somewhat different. On that matter I agree with the Minister, and I think all sensible persons who watch our industrial system agree there is room for improvement; but there is another aspect of his activities upon which I should like to make a few remarks. The Minister talks about rural employment. We see a phenomenon all over South Africa of a universal drift to the towns; whites, coloured, blacks, they all drift to the great centres. What I want the Minister to watch very carefully is not to mix up this phenomenon with unemployment, because if you do you see what the result is going to be. He is going to make desperate efforts at the expense of the taxpayer to provide for all these who drift from the land to the towns. They are wanted on the land. I do not know whether the Minister heard yesterday the speeches which were delivered by hon. members behind him when the native tax was under discussion. They all complained, not of unemployment on the land, but of there not being sufficient labour; and you may take it from me that what we want in South Africa is more labour on the land; but owing to the different rates of wages ruling on the land and in the towns there is a steady drift to the towns. If the Minister looks upon this as rural unemployment, this drift: and if he is going to deal with this accumulation of labour in the towns on the basis of unemployment, he will be doing the country the gravest disservice.
I am doing just the opposite.
I am only warning the Minister. You will find the natives who are badly wanted for labour in rural areas flocking to these great centres. There is unemployment of natives in Cape Town and many other places, but you need not go far away from Cape Town to find that they are badly wanted, and the same with coloured people. The Minister says that in Cape Town there is a certain measure of coloured unemployment, but the farmers not far away are clamouring for labour. My object is that we should not confuse the two problems. If we do we shall be at great public expense maintaining a sort of Government unemployed army of people who are very badly wanted by private employers on the land. The Minister will see that unless he watches this very closely the result will be that whilst on the land people are crying out for labour he is maintaining on the Government works and on various Government unemployment schemes hundreds and thousands of people who should be working in private employment. I do not think we watch the two parts of the system closely enough. I know there are too many unemployed in the towns, but they should not be unemployed from the point of view of South Africa as a whole.
Are you referring to the natives or the whites?
Generally. But take the whites. I am sure that, owing to the attraction held out to them—the wonderful pictures that are put before them in the countryside as to what life is in Johannesburg; the wages and prospects held out for them—large numbers of the poorer classes are flocking from the Karoo, the Free State, and all parts, to Johannesburg. You will find farmers complaining, all over South Africa, that the effect of our Government activities—I am not blaming the Minister in particular—but I found it when I was Prime Minister in this country, that we had the farmers stating that there were people working on their farms, or as bijwoners, and making a reasonable existence, but who have all been attracted by this vision of delight in the great centres, to forsake the country and go to the towns, and there they become unemployed and become a burden to the Minister and to the country. Unless we watch very closely, we shall have a great army of Government unemployed labour. I do not think we shall be doing them any good, and in the meantime the labour in the country will suffer. This applies to whites, natives and coloured; in regard to natives, perhaps, more than anybody else. I agree that something should be done to prevent the flocking of these natives to the great centres, but I think we have the machinery, although the machinery will have to be put into motion. I put the question to the Prime Minister some time ago, and he said they were getting their locations in order, but we have, in the Urban Areas Act, the machinery by which we can prevent this flocking of the natives to the urban centres.
To a certain extent.
I wish the Minister to go into the question, because I threshed out that question very carefully. The native will be given a document for so many days, to look for work in the town, and if he does not find it, out he goes. What my hon. friend on my left states can be done as regards the native. As regards the’ coloured and the white, you have no legal machinery; but you can, by not coddling them into the towns, by not looking upon them as objects of charity for whom the Government must make special efforts, you can leave the situation to develop along natural lines and let them find their proper levels in the whole economic structure of the country. The Minister has a laudable desire to solve the problem which appears to be a big problem, but it is really magnified by this unnatural tendency towards the towns. If he watches it from this point of view, he may find the problem of unemployment is not so great, and that a great deal of the problem is the drift to the towns, which we should discourage in other ways, and not encourage by employing them at higher Government wages than they can get in the country.
The hon. member must not overlook that it is not only the problem of unemployment we have to deal with. The fact of this drift to the towns is evidence of an unhealthy state of things. If our conditions were healthy the vacuum, so to speak, would be filled in some other way. We are a very small population, but if things were really healthy, we should not only be confronted with our own poor population, but we should hope that the vacuum would be filled by many able-bodied people migrating into the country.
Our machinery is very much out of gear.
I do not want to be argumentative, but I agree to this extent, and we are exceedingly careful not to encourage the drift to the towns. In fact one has to be a little bit hard. I am arranging now, in Johannesburg, in connection with the closing down of the relief works, to provide for these people at Hartebeestpoort, and we are saying to them, if you do not care to take that, I cannot do anything more for you, but the problem goes deeper than that, and we are doing what we can. We believe the effect of our policy will be to produce a considerable stimulus in the prosperity of the white population and the population of the country. I agree with the hon. member for Standerton, in regard to the Urban Areas Bill, which will help to some extent, but I must express the conviction that the healthy growth of the white population is ultimately incompatible with having masses of natives working under conditions and indentures which the white men will not submit to. The basis of our development. This is not right, and we must get out of it.
The House and all of us are certainly much indebted to the government for what it has done in solving the great problem of unemployment. While we appreciate this, there are yet some points that we wish to bring to the notice of the government. I especially agree with the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts). It seems to me that the efforts of the hon. Minister to solve unemployment in the large centres are to a certain extent an encouragement to the poor people on the country side to go to the towns and villages. I know this by experience. When I went to report to my electors after the session and made the lease system clear to them the poor people who live from hand to mouth on the country side asked what had been done for them. They pointed out that people were taken on at the relief works under that system but that nothing was done for them. When I told them that it was only the people from the relief works who were helped under that system they replied: then I will just go and sell my cows and belongings and I will also go to the town, because that is the only way in which I can get assistance. If the Minister will make enquiry he will find out that while he is engaged in assisting people in towns and villages other people are selling their belongings to go to the towns and the relief works. I think the Minister should extend his system to the country side so that he can keep the people there. If he does not do so I am convinced that all the people I have mentioned will go from the country side to the towns to go and work on the relief works. I understand that the Minister wants the farmer to employ more people on the farms. Although the farmers are willing to employ these people, experience has taught them that it is dangerous to employ people whom they do not know. If the Minister gives a span of oxen to the man who is already there and who knows the farmer, then he will be prepared to employ the man and such persons will then have the opportunity of becoming independent. What the hon. member for Standerton has said here in connection with the scarcity of labour on the farms is quite correct. I have sent people to Basutoland to go and engage natives at high wages but they returned without the natives and I did not get the assistance to reap my mealies. The Minister must be careful not to give the people who go to the towns and villages work there because we require them very badly on the country side. We are prepared to give them high wages.
The House has listened with great interest and we are very grateful to the Minister of Labour for the statement he has made. He spoke with the reserve and moderation of a man who realizes the stupendous task he has to tackle. There was a certain amount of Utopian vagueness in what he told us, and there was, I thought, an atmosphere of depression in the House because hon. members realize the extreme difficulty of the problem. He told us what he was doing with regard to forestry, tenant farmers and the railways. These are schemes we initiated when the S.A.P. were in power. We recognized they were palliatives and not a solution and that they did not go to the root of the matter. I hope the Minister will realize, however valuable his efforts in that direction may be, they will remain palliatives. I feel the Minister has not succeeded in putting before the country a broad national solution of this problem. I don’t blame him because it is an exceedingly difficult problem. I would like to point out the nett result of his present system which allows a man to leave the land first and then merely sends him through a cycle to be re-incarnated back to the land later on. His efforts should be to prevent that vicious circle, and keep them on the land from the beginning. None of these efforts, except that of the tenant farmers, will succeed in achieving this. The Hartebeestpoort scheme is the only one that is not merely a palliative, but I am afraid Hartebeestpoort is going to be a failure, but I don’t blame him because I started it myself. The real way to keep the people on the land is not through this scheme or the tenant farmers scheme, but through section 11 of the Land Settlement Act. The Minister does not like the word “poor-whites” but prefers “rural unemployed.” But the fact of his paraphrasing this to rural unemployed shows that he does not understand the question, because in the rural districts the average poor while is not an unemployed at all, he generally has employment on a farm. In very rare cases is a poor white a rural unemployed; but he lives in an unsatisfactory environment.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 8.7 p.m.
Before the House adjourned I stated that I thought the country would be disappointed when they found that the government had no formula for the solution of the unemployed and poor white problem, for what, after all, do the proposals of the Minister amount to?
They are better than your proposals.
No. However, I do not want to draw invidious comparisons, because in all earnestness we want to help the Minister in this matter. In the first place, he started off by telling us that he has put 7,000 people on the railways. Very good. Of course, we know that is going to cost the country an extra million and a half. I am not objecting to it, but I wish to point out that, if the taxpayers have enough money and are prepared to pay the money, you can put 70,000 people on the railways. Until you can get those men to work on an economic basis, they are simply being subsidised by the taxpayer. I am not objecting to this, as I say, but I want to point out that putting men on gangers’ work at an uneconomic wage is not a solution of the poor white problem. It leaves these men very largely in the unsatisfactory conditions in which they were before. I am not objecting; I think it is a very useful thing. These men must be tided over, but it is no solution. In the second place, the Minister told us he was putting men on forestry work. We of the South African party—started this white afforestation ourselves, but on totally different principles. Our idea was to give the men a small piece of ground and a cottage and to pay them good wages, to train them to earn their wages in the hope that the large percentage would remain forest workers, on the same principle as in Germany and in France, where you have a large community of forest workers. With regard to the residue, those who did not feel they could carry our idea was to put them on an irrigation scheme under the new principle we were going to introduce of taking over surplus irrigation land in the Union. The Minister now seems to be not quite clear as to what the ultimate fate of these men is going to be. He is going to put them on forestry; from there they are to be drafted to Hartebeestpoort, and from there apparently they jump off into the void as far as I can see, for he has not told us what he is going to do with them after they pass through Hartebeestpoort. In the third place, he has told us about the tenant farmers. That again is a system initiated by us, and it is a very useful one, but again it is only a temporary stopgap, a palliative; it does not go to the crux of the matter. The “poor white”—to use a term which I dislike—is not a rural unemployed, but a man who lived as a tenant under conditions which tended to make him sink lower on the scale. Putting a man back into that position I am afraid is not going to take him out of the category of “poor white”. I am not saying it should not be done; I think it will again prove a very useful stop-gap to tide a man over temporary depression; but again it is no solution. The fourth point the Minister made was his Hartebeestpoort scheme. There again he is rather indefinite as to what he intended to do with these people. I gathered that he was going to put 400 families there, drawing pay and rations from the government; and he hoped that after three or four years they would qualify as farmers. It would be very useful if he could do it; but passing these families through Hartebeestpoort is not going to solve the problem, and it is going to cost a great deal of money. I hope the Minister will give us more details, and I hope he will not think we are disparaging his own efforts. He has got an inkling of the magnitude of this problem. We would be the last to blame him for not having found the sovereign remedy, but we are entitled in view of its having been made an election plank, to express disappointment that he has not been able to do any more than we ourselves did. I think hon. members will agree that the Minister has worked hard. I think he is now a very disillusioned man. He has tackled the second biggest job and he has done his best, but what he has done is merely a series of stop-gaps. Not one of his methods goes to the root of the twin problem. [Time expired.]
I should just like to tell the hon. Minister of Labour that it is a very good thing that he has made a beginning with the solution of the poor white problem. From the benches, opposite he is now reproached with not having as yet found any actual solution, but everything must have a commencement in the world, and we can be very thankful that the hon. Minister has actually made a beginning. I am surprised that the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) expects the hon. Minister in the year that he has been in office to have found a complete solution of the poor white problem while the South African party in the 14 years it was in office practically did nothing in this direction. I twice introduced a motion in the House in the past to put-poor whites on farms and to get back to the position of before 1910. but what became of my motions? They were opposed from beginning to end by the party opposite, and the former government practically did nothing in the matter. The present hon. Minister has hardly been a year in office and he immediately went and tackled the lease scheme and I hope that he will make a great success of it. He has not had money enough to immediately find a solution for the whole problem, but yet I think that he has tackled the matter from the wrong side. My scheme was, and we always discussed it in that spirit, to first stop the streaming into the towns from the country side, that we should first build a dam and then repair the furrows but not as the hon. Minister is now busy doing—to begin with the towns and villages and to first tackle the lease scheme while the exodus from the country side still continues unabated. I have to-day received letters from a number of people who say that that if they are not now helped they will migrate to the towns. It does not help matters a bit to put 300 or 400 lessees on the country side if 3,000 or 4,000 stream in the meantime from the country side to the towns. The man on the country side can easily be assisted. He is in a house on a farm and in many cases he can be saved by giving him three, four or ten oxen and then he will no longer be a burden. But the hon. Minister has unfortunately thought otherwise. I can speak from experience. I have myself farmed with poor whites, and I can assure the House that I had great success. There are still to-day here in the House people who think that poor whites are better off in the towns and villages than on the country side, because in the villages—so they reason—the children can be better educated than if they live on the farm. I wish to tell the hon. Minister that those people make a great mistake. The hon. Minister’s original scheme which he unfortunately subsequently altered was also first to help the poor people in the country and to stop the stream from the country and then to begin to bring the people systematically back to the country. What is the feeling to-day? The people feel that the only salvation is to go to the village because—as they say we are only assisted when we get to the relief works. What is the result? For every man he brings to the land the Minister gets half a dozen from the country hanging about his neck again. I want to know the Minister’s intention. If he assists the people on the country side then he will not have any great expense. He will require no inspectors and need not appoint them at all. I can give the hon. Minister the assurance that a large number of bywoners I know about, and who at first were nonentities and possessed nothing are to-day owners of farms. I succeeded in helping them on. What becomes of the poor whites on the farms who are possibly short of five or six trek oxen to go on with? It is clear that they can be assisted much more economically than to bring lessees on to the land to-day. I have been struggling for the past three or four years to get something done for the people and I am not like one fighting in the dark. I know how to assist poor people on the farms. Now people are being put on the country side, they are given food for nine months by the government and a span of oxen and a plough, but the poor man who remains on the farm and urgently needs that assistance is not given it. That man who remained on the farm showed more powers of endurance than those who ran away to the villages and they feel that it is unfair that as a punishment therefor they should not be assisted. No, the Minister has begun at the wrong end. If we look at the figures for last year we see that 20. 30, 40 per cent. in some districts streamed to the villages. The farmer’s place is not in the village. We must stop the stream. Even if the women only farmed in poultry then a farmer can sometimes make a living. I to-day heard two farmers speaking, and their view was that it was best to go to the village, because there their children would get on best. I think they learn everything that is bad in the villages and nothing good. I hope that the hon. Minister will assist the people on the country side.
I am afraid I shall have to move to reduce the Minister’s salary by, say, £5. I do not wish, in any spirit, to censure the Minister.
I would point out to the hon. member that there is no salary here to reduce.
May I move then, Mr. Chairman, that the Minister owes us this £5. It is unfortunate that a portfolio of such vast importance as Labour should have to give preference to Defence. I should much rather see my hon. friend’s salary charged against Labour than Defence. However, I bow to your ruling, and I hope there will be further opportunities of discussing a matter of such national importance. One might have looked for more assistance from the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz), who, in the late administration, held no unimportant post. He had charge of the portfolio which had for its object the supervision of that part of the country which was bound up with this problem of unemployment. In his rather carping criticism he took credit for the inception of some of the actions which the Minister of Labour is performing.
He generally does take credit for things done on this side.
Yes, he takes credit and, at the same time, gives blame. And here may I say that what is irking my hon. friend, the member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) is not that, perhaps, the Minister has taken over schemes which he initiated, and has extended them; not so much that they are not successful as he would lead us to believe; but because there is every prospect of the continuance of the policy the Minister is adopting being extremely successful and ultimately playing no small part in removing unemployment altogether in this country. That is, perhaps, behind the pained feeling of the member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz). This is undoubtedly the most serious problem and question which this House can consider, and it is the most dangerous thing that is confronting the country now, and has been for many years. And here, may I say to the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz), who spoke so glibly in opposition to the Minister, that this is a problem for which his party are largely responsible, and that there is small blame to be attributed to the Minister of Labour for the fact that we still have a large number of unemployed. It is a very difficult thing indeed to stop the rushing tide and start it going the other way in one moment; and the most the Minister can be expected to do—although he has gone further—is to stop the rush of the tide of unemployment set loose by these hon. gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House. One of the most important factors in the political revolution of the last election was the hope engendered among a large number of unemployed that with the advent of the Pact Government they would have an opportunity of obtaining work.
We have not got it yet.
What a marvellous result that in 12 short months—despite the opposition of the big employing class and their efforts to make the policy a failure—the Minister is able to announce that the Government has been able to reduce the number of unemployed by 13,000, or 14,000.
All spoon-fed by the Government.
If the only alternative to starvation is spoon-feeding, for Heaven’s sake let us have spoon-feeding. The hon. member’s on the Opposition side of the House, when they were in power, were responsible for the position the Minister now finds himself in, and it is absolutely necessary in the inception of such a scheme that you must have some method of spoon-feeding. It is very evident that the very fact that the Minister of Labour has been able to demonstrate that there has been an increase of employment is not the whole of the tale, for we have to add to that the progressively large increase in unemployment which must inevitably have occurred if the late Government had continued in power.
I am not satisfied yet that everything that could be done has been done. The Minister has to face the deliberate intent of some people to prevent employment. It was stated in thia House some years ago by Sir Lionel Phillips that industry cannot be prosperous unless it maintained a large reservoir of unemployed.
Give us something new.
I am trying to tell you the old, old tale—a tale which you invented. One of the first things the Minister ought to take in hand is to stop the importation of natives from outside our borders, for they compete not only with our whites, but with our natives. That has got to be stopped, but I admit quite frankly that it cannot be done at once. We Socialists are not so foolish as to stop it at once. [Time expired.]
I am sorry the hon. member has tried to drag this matter into the political arena, for we are desirous of keeping it out of party politics. The hon. member said that all this unemployment was caused by the South African party, but I would remind the House that the Minister of the Interior, some years ago, wrote a very valuable pamphlet on the subject, in which he said—
The Minister of the Interior has given us an historical survey of the problem, and I hope no member will say that one party or the other is to blame for this position. I would point out to the hon. member for Middelburg (Mr. Heyns)—who put his finger on the crux of the question when he said we must stop the flow from the country to the towns—that the Wage Bill intends to provide high wages in industrial areas, and I would ask him if he thinks that will prevent the exodus from the country to the towns. That Bill will do more to bring the people from the country to the towns than anything which has been done in the last generation. The Labour legislation passed this session is going to have this effect. I fully agree with the hon. member for Middelburg that the Minister of Labour has tackled the problem at the wrong end. Hon. members on this side may be asked what are they going to do? My answer is that we did not like the Nationalist party make the solution of unemployment a cardinal plank in the election, but I do not want to stress that, for we all believe in the Minister’s sincerity, although, perhaps, he is somewhat too altruistic. My view is this that this new system of putting the people on the land under the Land Settlement Amendment will do more towards keeping people on the land, and solve the problem of the influx from the country to the towns, than any of those socialistic experiments which with the Minister is now engaged. I say this without any desire to indulge in that carping criticism with which the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) has accused me of. I believe that the system of putting the poor man on to the land under the new Land Settlement Bill is going to do infinitely more good and be infinity less expensive than Hartebeestpoort and the other proposals of the Minister. No one has ever found a sovereign remedy for unemployment. We are not hostile to the Minister’s efforts and want to help him as far as possible, but I honestly think his experiments are going to cost the country an infinite amount of money, and are going to produce a minimum amount of tangible results.
To listen to the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) one would say that he had not been a member of a government which for 14 years had had the opportunity of solving this question. He and his government had no sympathy to assist the people and he is quite right that it never was on their party programme. They did not intend to deal honestly with the people. Just imagine the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) having sympathy with them! He was Minister of Lands and bought bad ground for settlements for settlers from elsewhere. Thousands were lost on those farms. If he had no feeling to properly assist those people how will he then be able to have sympathy with the Afrikander to help him? I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister that he must first help the people that are already on the farms, but it is not proper for the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) to say that his government wanted to do it, and that this government is on the wrong road. If he had a solution of the matter the present Minister would not have had the difficulty. We know that it is a great problem which will take years to put right, but when once we have made a proper beginning then we may surely expect that much progress will be made. We have an example of the Dutch church buying ground at Kakamas and making a canal there. Experience has taught us that seven out of every eight people have made good there, and those who are not entirely prosperous are only in arrear with the rent. The hon. member opposite has said that the government is busy spoon-feeding the people. I wonder if the hon. member would let a poor man go away from the farm just because the man for nine months could not earn food for himself. No, there are elements in our country that make the people poor. There are people who hold a bag open when our people harvest and everything must be thrown in so that the poor man does not work for himself. If we do not see to it that those elements are cut off, then it will not assist us to try and help the people. We are then only helping the other people to get richer. The government must keep its eyes open and see to it that that does not happen. The former government made mistakes, but we are prepared to let that remain in the past, but then they must not always come and say that they want to do so and so. They forget that they had 14 years in which to do it. The hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) is the last man who should offer criticism here.
What about the £150,000 which the church is in arrear?
There is a bond on the ground. But the assets are worth ten or twelve times as much as the amount of the bond and the people that are there are making a good living. We find that there are prominent people who have bonds and we also find that there are districts where the landed property is mortgaged up to 40 per cent. The hon. member for Stellenbosch (Mr. J. P. Louw) must not talk about this matter. He has so little sympathy with his own electors that they have to come to us to try to find work for them at the docks and elsewhere. It is that very sympathy which was lacking in the former government. The present Minister could do but little in the year, but he is doing his best to assist the people back to the land. There will, of course, be weaklings who will fall by the way, and for whom we must make another plan. But there will also be good ones and if hon. members would rather assist the Minister they will do more good than by their criticism.
I would like to ask the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) what he means by an uneconomic wage. Does he mean the difference paid to the white man over and above the wage paid to the native? Is that what he means? I should like to know exactly what he does mean. The hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) and other members have used this term and have always defined it as the difference they have to pay to employ a white man on work previously done by a native. It has always been used in that sense previously, and if it is the argument that you have to pay 10s. a day for work we could get performed by a native for 2s. 6d. or 3s., I can only say that if we could import Chinamen to do the same work for 1s. a day, then the native would be receiving 2s. a day that was an uneconomic wage. It is absolutely ridiculous to say that because a certain class of work has been performed by a native, that anything paid above it is an uneconomic rate to pay. I would like to hear the hon. member’s definition from his own point of view. Now I want to say a few words to the Minister of Labour. He has taken up the same attitude as the House adopted in connection with the responsibility of municipalities in so far as the question of unemployment is concerned. As far as Parliament is concerned, their powers of raising taxes and revenue are unlimited, but the municipalities have certain limits of taxation and they cannot go outside that. The proper function of municipalities is to administer and undertake the control of everything affecting the local community. The provincial authority has to undertake everything affecting the provinces and Parliament should take on every problem of a national character. Unemployment is a national problem. It is not a local problem. The tendency of this House—I made this statement when the South African party were in power and I am still of the same opinion—is to continually place larger and larger burdens on the shoulders of the local authorities without giving them any additional powers to raise the necessary revenue the Natives (Urban Areas) Act placed a large responsibility for the housing of the natives on the shoulders of the local authorities. While there is a tendency on the part of the national Government to place greater burdens on the shoulders of the local authority and to ask for their co-operation in various matters, there has been no co-operation on the part of the national Government in connection with the local authorities in so far as any assistance may be required to help them to raise money or in any other direction that would tend to ease the burden which they have to bear to-day. Take the question of finance, it would be a great assistance to the municipalities if the State were to raise all the money that is necessary, say by one huge loan, where they would probably be able to get money on cheaper rates and better terms, and let the municipalities in turn borrow from the national executive. Another way in which they could help local authorities is in the direction that has previously been put forward by the representatives of the municipalities on the Witwatersrand from Randfontein to Springs, and that is that the State should, through its tender board, get the requirements of the municipality and call for tenders on a big scale for all those requirements. Owing to the fact that they get the supplies in small quantities the cost is much higher to the municipalities than it would be if we had a national tender board calling for supplies and the municipalities requisitioning through the national tender board. Again we find an entire lack of co-operation between the national Government of this country and the municipalities in connection with mechanical transport. If we could get some co-operation between the national authority right through the provincial authorities and the local authorities in connection with the supply of machinery and mechanical traction for doing a lot of the work which is to-day done by unskilled labour, I believe that we could provide more work for the white community. There is a great deal of work done to-day by the rough methods of unskilled labour that could be done economically by machinery, and that machinery should be handled by the white community. We should then be developing on right lines in providing work for the white community of South Africa on a sound economical basis. I have mentioned these matters because we have made strenuous efforts in the past as municipalities to try and get the Local Authorities Loan Bill passed by the Government; we have made efforts to try and get a closer system of cooperation between the national executive and the local authorities. I have had a long experience of town council work and I can assure the Minister that if he could get the representatives of the municipalities together and see if he could secure better co-operation between the local authorities and the national Government, there would be less need for your unemployment doles and the municipalities would be able to go ahead with the work that is necessary for the citizens, and we should find a tremendous difference in connection with the unemployment question in this country if that work is carried out and we have true co-operation between the national executive and the local authorities.
I just want to say a few words about what the hon. member for Middelburg has haid here. He spoke about a motion introduced by him which the South African party opposed. If I mistake not the motion was on the same basis as the old Transvaal law and it was quite impracticable. It is therefore wrong of him to say that we have no sympathy with the matter. He forgets what has already been done with afforestation. What great work has not been done there. For how many people has ground not been bought on the system of one-fifth of the purchase price. It is quite out of order for the hon. member to say such things here. I would like to help the poor people. Where I agree with him is that we should rather help the people that are still on the farms. I would particularly like to mention the people on the farms, and who become too strong to remain there longer. They cannot get any resting place and subsequently they retrogress. We must look after them and give them ground so that they can become independent. The nation that we call Afrikanders one does not make independent before you give them ground. If we make them bywoners they will always remain the poor class. There are many bywoners who are wanting ground.
Why then have my bywoners got ground?
Yes, but there are many other persons who are not in the position to give ground to the people.
They bought it themselves.
Yes, but that is just what I am speaking about. I approve of the system of one-fifth having been altered into one-tenth. But we must do more than this and also help those who cannot pay the tenth of the purchase price. It is not fitting now to speak as the hon. member for Middelburg has done here. It is true that the former Government made mistakes but this Government will make still more mistakes and I want to say that on this side of the House we have just as much sympathy with the poor people as members opposite. A commencement has been made with the system of leases and we should first see whether it proves a success. I do not think that it will make the people independent. They remain ordinary labourers and must wear uniforms. The only solution is to give the people a piece of ground then they will become independent and we shall have no difficulty with them.
I should also like to say a few words about the labour problem. I think it is very unfair to accuse the hon. Minister of having tackled the matter from the wrong end. The Minister has tackled the scheme of leasing and I think that he meant well. The lessee class consists of people who have worked on the relief works and his duty as Minister of Labour was of course to provide for that class of people but we have not alone to do with them but with other classes of people as, e.g., those who are still sitting on the farms and who intend to remain there but cannot progress without assistance. Then we have the class that are on relief works and are therefore really a burden on the Government and it is the duty of the Minister to look after them. Therefore I appreciate what he has done but the other class on the land also requires help. I do not ask for charity for them but they must be assisted with loans. If we give them loans to buy a pair of oxen then they can get along. We must help those people in the first place. The others must also be assisted but those who are still on the country side are the most important. If we want to solve the poor white question permanently then we must bring the poor people back to the land. There is still room for thousands and thousands of poor people and they will be saved if the Government will only help a little. The danger to-day is perhaps far greater than we think and is becoming greater every year. We know, for instance, that of the lads that leave school every year there are eight to ten thousand who have no prospects of getting work. Are they all now to become poor whites as well? I think that it is our duty apart from party politics to help the Government to see to it that work is found for the young people. This can be done in various ways. One scheme would be to give a joint Government farm to a group of lads to allow them to buy or hire it and allow them to farm in a co-operative manner under Government supervision, then it will immediately appear which are farmers and which are not. Those who show that they will become good farmers should then be assisted more and put on the land. In this way we shall do very much to solve the poor white-question. We must now solve this great problem once and for all. The responsibility of the Minister of Labour is great. I hope that with the assistance of the other Ministers and also of hon. members opposite he will find an opportunity of solving the problem. There are certainly still among the poor people on the platteland who are too poor to get on; many men of good character who only require a little assistance. I hope that the Minister will assist them in the interests of the country.
I have already made one suggestion. That was that the Minister might stop the importation of natives from outside the Union border. I am not proposing to go any further into that, but to go on to my next proposal, for which I make no apology, although it may strike some reactionary members as being rather too advanced. We all admit, by this time, the seriousness of the problem, that it must be grappled with, and we must allow no ancient shibboleths to prevent us from taking a forward step however much it may jar upon some individualistic minds. We are one of the great wool-producing countries of the world, and yet we are manufacturing practically nothing out of it. We clip the wool with the cheapest possible labour, we pay carriage and freight overseas, and finally we put it on our backs at about ten times the original cost. All the value that has been added to it goes to the profit of someone else. Here we have an exceedingly good opportunity. We have the wool, and we have the people who desire to wear it. We have a large postal service who require uniforms; we have the police who require uniforms, and we have some 30,000 men on the railways who also require uniforms. Then we have another large department which my hon. friend is responsible for, the Defence Force. They also require uniforms. Now why, in Heaven’s name, do we import the material for the manufacture of these uniforms, when we produce the raw material for that manufacture? Here, I say, the Minister has an exceedingly good opportunity of putting this country on a substantial industrial plane, and of providing work for a very large number of unemployed, if he will consult with his colleagues on the Cabinet, and institute State wool mills. Private enterprise has not met the position. I know this will wring the soul of the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford), because there will be no opportunity for people, who think like he does, of making a profit in the process. I know it will hurt the susceptibilities of those who desire to make money, but that has gone by; we are threatened with a great national danger, and it is necessary to provide work to eliminate that danger. That being so, it is time we were up and doing, and were prepared to do something that may be foreign to the natures of the vast majority of people in this country; but once instituted, I feel perfectly confident they will applaud the act, even though they may object to it in the beginning. It is proved elsewhere. If a precedent is required, I would draw attention to Australia. They do what I am asking the Minister to do, today, and with remarkably fine results. I could quite understand the objection to my proposal if I were asking the State to embark on private enterprise, in manufacturing goods to open a shop, say, in Adderley Street, or close to people who are well-known in the drapery trade, and so forth. But I am simply asking the Government to manufacture the requirements for their own servants. I agree with the hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell) that the Minister might turn his attention to the question of trunk roads, and not leave it altogether to municipal enterprise.
He promised to go into the matter.
More and more the whole world is turning its attention to mechanical transport on roads, not only as an adjunct to the railways, but independently, and we have got to have good roads, not like the main reef road in Johannesburg, already alluded to. The Minister of Railways desires municipalities to consume their own smoke so to speak in regard to this matter of unemployment, and I agree. I think we all find it is a very costly arrangement indeed, and there are some municipalities who are actually making a profit out of the subsidy which the Government is handing over to them. One cannot reprobate that too strongly. A member of the Cape Town Council has stated that in one year the Council made no less than £14,000 out of subsidized State labour, on necessary work within municipal boundaries, instead of paying the men a fair rate of pay and doing without the subsidy. Here I would suggest to the Minister that he should take his courage in his hands and introduce legislation, giving him power to do work that requires doing in the municipalities, and debit the municipalities with the cost. Then there is the question of railways. I wish the Minister would consult with the Minister of Railways, and suggest that he should get ahead with his railway programme. I hope that programme will be placed before the House soon. It has been proved that the manhood of this country can carry on railway operations with profit and with great advantage to the State.
I hope the Minister will take expert textile advice before he follows on the lines laid down by the budding Under-Secretary for Labour. I think everybody in the House, particularly on this side, was extremely interested in the Minister’s statement this afternoon on the progress of his work during the past year, and I would just offer one or two comments on the statement and his methods. I am thoroughly of opinion that all forms of relief work must be devoted to capital expenditure. If you devote any relief moneys to production for immediate consumption, it seems to me you are simply displacing other workers and not getting to the root of the trouble. By capital expenditure I mean on roads, bridges, railways, public buildings, drainage, harbour works and anything of that nature, and then that does not affect the current labour market. I was very interested in the Minister’s remarks about the tenant farmers, and I hope he will not come up against some very grave disappointments. I agree that if a man could earn his living on the land it is a simple way of dealing with the unemployed; but I very much doubt whether a man brought up to any form of town life could possibly earn his living on the land.
These are mostly country-bred men.
I am afraid it will rot work out in practice. I think the real difficulty the Minister is up against is that in all these relief works, you take a man who has, perhaps, been trained in a boot or furniture factory, and put him out to plant trees on an afforestation scheme or something if that nature. You are really wasting his accumulated knowledge, and it is a very uneconomic proposition. He makes a bad worker on the work you give him; whereas he might be a good worker on the work which he understands. The Minister did not say whether he is considering the question of unemployment insurance. I do not mean a system of doles. I believe the decent working man does not want his wages insured, but the work insured. He wants an insurance which will give him work for which he will earn wages. I think the Minister did indirectly suggest that such schemes had been put in front of him. If there were some form of unemployment insurance the funds that will be accumulated for that purpose could then be used for production, not for immediate consumption. The hon. member who last spoke suggested that you have a large body of employees in Government service who have to have boots and clothing provided for them. It might be possible, with an insurance fund, when you found that there was a slackness in a certain trade, say the boot trade, for the Government to place service orders with the boot industry to keep it in a normal state. That does not necessarily mean that you have to put that industry in a position of booming so, that they take on more hands than before; but it would prevent displacing men who are in employment. In the same way you could deal with clothing for the defence force and the police, and so on. You could also deal with trades like cabinet-making by placing orders for school equipment, thereby keeping these industries up to their normal level of employment. This could be done out of the insurance fund. By that means, instead of giving an unemployed man a dole, you would furnish him with employment by which he would earn a wage. In order to do this, the Government would require statistics from the various trades. The department concerned would have to be furnished periodically with returns showing the number of unemployed in the particular trade under its purview, and then the Government would be able to give orders to the trade which was suffering from slackness of orders. If this were adopted, and if in a given town there are certain trades on which the towns live—such as the boot trade at Port Elizabeth and, perhaps, the furniture trade in Cape Town —what was given to those trades to keep them going would also help those people who live on these trades. For instance, if 500 people were discharged from the Port Elizabeth boot factories, the general trade would suffer, and so, a certain number of shop assistants and clerks would be discharged, and very soon the snowball of unemployment would grow in size. But if you can cut unemployment in its early stages, you would prevent it spreading, and gradually the trade affected would recover to its normal condition. I would be glad to know if the Minister has any views regarding unemployment insurance.
I do not get up to defend the Government. I think that the thoughtful, earnest way in which the question has been tackled by the Government proves sufficiently that they are in earnest in desiring a solution. It seems almost amusing to me that I can to-day partly agree with the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz). But it is still only in part, and that in connection with the Land Settlement Act of the Minister of Lands. That will be able to assist in the solution of the, labour problem. There is a large number of people who will be able to contribute one-tenth of the purchase price of the ground. I am not worrying myself about those people, all I ask is whether the Government will be able to put a sufficiently large sum on the estimates for that purpose because I fear that the demand will be very great. But then there is the other class who cannot pay the one-tenth. What about them? They are chiefly the bywoner class.
I draw attention to the fact that there is not a quorum.
Committee counted and the Chairman declared that a quorum was present.
I am coming in a minute to the people who are like the hon. member for Stellenbosch (Mr. J. P. Louw). They also ask other people to help them instead of minding their own business. The people that I am worried about are those who perhaps have sufficient movables to make up one-tenth of the purchase price of the ground by selling their cattle, etc., but what can they do with ground without cattle? I should like them to be met. In my opinion it is very easy, by also granting to them the same facilities and privileges which are now given to people under the system of leases. I would suggest that the owner of the ground should bear a certain measure of responsibility for the bywoner to whom the money was advanced. If the man is trusted by the owner of the ground then the danger to the Government is reduced to a minimum. The small co-operative societies have also contributed much to the solution of this problem in some districts, but I should like the desirability of extending the system to other districts as well to be considered. It can contribute a good deal in helping certain people. The man who can pay one-tenth of the purchase price is assisted. The man of the bywoner class can also be assisted if the hon. Minister will grant the aforesaid facilities; but then I come to the class that will not work. It is not the man for whom I feel the most concern, but I think that the Government should nevertheless take steps with regard to them. There is only one way and that is to force them to work and as soon as steps are taken in this direction the better. I hope that legislation to that effect will soon be introduced and that it will have support from all sides of the House. We cannot get away from the fact that some of these people who have had many opportunities in their lives will never want to work. It is the duty of the Government to compel them to work. I hope in the meantime that the hon. member for Bethal (Lt.-Col. H. S. Grobler) will not preach the same doctrine in his constituency that he has preached here. He has complained that the lessee is only a labourer and will always remain a labourer. That is just the mistake I think in South Africa that work is regarded as a shame. Let us encourage the desire for work. Let us get workers and not vagabonds. I repeat that I think the system of leases will help many people and will contribute a great deal to solve this great problem.
I was sorry the Minister so lightly brushed aside the question I mentioned of the settlement on the mountain. I told him I was entirely sympathetic with the scheme but the only difficulty was that the locality was not suitable. I would like to know more details about it from the Minister. What is the object of the settlement? A local rumour has it that three hundred cottages are to be erected there for 300 families and if it is only for forestry then my knowledge of the locality is that you could plant forest trees up there but only with the pickaxe and not with the plough. The men would have no ground for gardening and I doubt if you could keep poultry up there. The position is unbearable. The rainfall is 55 inches and 3 weeks ago the whole plateau was under snow. At that time it would have been impossible for any human being to have lived up there. You are 8 miles away from the valley below where the school is and if the Minister wants to put families up there I presume the children must be educated, but how are they going to reach the schools. We should like to see these people come to our district but we should like to be sure that the Minister will really help them. The Minister says they may not go up there until October. Does that mean they are only to remain six months and when winter comes to leave again. The Minister ought to make some enquiry about the ground in the valley below. The Minister of Agriculture said he had sufficient land in the valley for forestry. I know there is still vacant land adjoining the forest and he need not buy further ground. I don’t think there is much further scope for extension. I advise him to consult the Minister of Agriculture before embarking upon this precarious and dangerous scheme. I advise him, even if he has to pay a considerable amount per morgen, to buy it alongside the forest. The land we have there now cost practically nothing. It was bought 25 years ago for a mere song. It is agricultural land and these people in co-operation with the Minister of Agriculture could be taught agriculture and their ambitions would be stimulatel. The Minister has good intentions and I would like to see it a success but I appeal to him to make an enquiry and see if he cannot find another way out. Is it economically sound to plant forest trees on top of the plateau eight miles from the railway? Recently two farms have been sold in the area and if private people can buy land there why cannot the State buy it. A morgen of ground covered with trees is in 20 years worth £400 to the State. That is the economic lesson you learn from forestry. There is every encouragement for the Minister to consider it even if he has to buy the land where people can be taught agriculture at the same time. The Minister, this afternoon, talked about the wives of these men keeping poultry. I have grave doubts whether poultry would survive there in winter, and as for bigger animals, horses and cattle, I am afraid that whatever is left from the winter will be consumed by the horse flies and the bush ticks in summer. I am very sorry that I have to explain to the Minister the exact nature of the spot where he contemplates commencing this settlement, but I have now done my duty, and of course, the power remains with the Minister to carry it out, but I am afraid that these people up there will eventually become not only a charge upon the State, in the first instance, but that they will ultimately become a charge on the local community.
I want to draw the Minister’s attention to a few details in regard to the position here in the Peninsula in connection with the grave problem of unemployment. We have had it for many years now, and I think that it is safe to say that the present Government has made a serious attempt to tackle the problem, but you cannot solve the problem of unemployment while you have a competitive system of society, the success of which depends upon having a reserve of unemployed to draw upon. I want to compliment the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) upon having grasped what is the real position in regard to the bad economy of placing a man who has been trained to make boots or some other commodity on forestry work. The policy of the late Government was to curtail and close down development, a policy which not only caused unemployment among those immediately concerned, but also affected large numbers of other people, and brought about the depression which the present Government is trying to remedy. The position in regard to the Peninsula is, I think, of some importance. There are four bodies which are attempting to deal with unemployment and the relief of distress. We have the Union authorities, the provincial authorities, the divisional council, and the city council, and between them they have made a glorious mess of the question. Unemployment has, I consider, been worse handled here than in any other part of the country. There is a lack of co-operation between the various authorities in regard to dealing with this problem, and also in regard to the relief of distress and Board of Aid work. We have a constant influx into the Peninsula of people from outside. I want to draw the Minister’s attention to the evidence which was given to the Select Committee on Public Accounts in regard to the natives. I want to know what steps are taken to prevent any person coming into this peninsula, we will say, or any other centre, who is unemployed, when there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of unemployed in the centre already. At page 174 of the select committee’s report, it will be found that the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) asked how many unemployed natives there were in the Peninsula, and Maj. Herbst replied: “It is estimated that there are about 5,000.” Here, in this peninsula, we have 5,000 natives unemployed, on the authority of the Secretary of the Native Affairs Department. Apart from the fact that we have 1,000 men or so engaged on relief works in the Peninsula, and large numbers of coloured men and Europeans unemployed, we have the constant spectacle every week and month of large numbers of persons, mainly natives, coming into the Peninsula in search of work. There should be, surely, some machinery devised to stop such a scandal as that. It is grossly unfair to the persons who are working here, it is a constant menace to those who are employed, and it is a constant menace to the community at large that we should have natives coming down here in search of employment when such a state of things exists. There is something wrong altogether, evidently, in regard to the machinery provided to stop this sort of scandal. Take your system of unemployment bureaux. We have two offices which are supposed to ascertain the number of those who are unemployed, and, if possible, provide work for them. In actual practice we know that these officers cannot make work, but when work is available it is their duty to see that it is given out. A man who is unemployed goes to the Labour Bureau and registers. He calls week after week without success and he then gets disgusted and does not go there again. No doubt there are many hundreds of men unemployed in this peninsula who never go near the offices. Take the Government departments. There is not even cooperation between them. Say that a certain number of men are required for harbour work. Instead of the department using its own machinery, instead of consulting its own labour bureau, men are simply taken on at the docks, so that the man who uses the Government machine gets no work, and the man who goes to the docks on the off chance gets the job. That is wrong. The Government should see that the departments which require labour should use the Government machinery to supply their own requirements. I know the officials in charge of the labour bureaux feel it very keenly, and feel that they are not being treated fairly by the Government itself, letting alone the outside employers who do not make sufficient use of them. I think the Minister will probably go into that and see that the Government departments use their own machinery. Sometime ago the Cape Town elevator was being built at the docks. While we had thousands of persons unemployed, a certain firm of contractors were allowed to bring 300 natives from Durban to work on the elevator. Such a thing should not be tolerated; we must have machinery to prevent that sort of thing. In the first place, we must turn off the tap which supplies thousands of men from outside while you have in our own province 5,000 natives unemployed: and while you have these it is a scandal and a crime to bring these men in. That is the main point, but there are all sorts of side issues. You should not bring in from outside the Union any kind of labour until you are satisfied you have no unemployed in your midst.
After the speech of the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow), I am certain that he does not understand the position in the country. He says that the influx of natives from elsewhere must be stopped until such time as our natives first have work. He knows Cape Town, but he does not know what is going on the country-side. I can assure him that the farmers who have to produce—I am not talking here selfishly, but the interests of the farmer are the interests of the country, and if the farmer can produce then the country gains, and if he cannot produce then it retrogresses—cannot get the necessary labour. I live close to the native border, and our farmers there cannot, even after taking the greatest trouble, get natives to come and work for them. We are prepared to employ white labour, but that is scarce.
What do you pay?
My foreman made about £300 this year. The natives get from 10s. to £1 10s. and free house and food. I am astonished that the hon. member does not know this, because if a man sits here he ought to know what is going on in the country, and not come and put such questions. I am sorry that the House takes so little interest in this matter. The native problem and the poor white problem are the greatest in the country, and are a danger and a menace to the country. If we do not tackle it with manly courage, I see no future before the country. Members, such as the hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell), who says that he is a townsman, will now say that we have neglected our duty in the past. I do not wish to go into all the causes of the problem. I am glad to see the attitude which hon. members opposite are taking up. I think that as long as we make the poor white question a party question we will never solve it. So long as the parties try to curry favour for the vote of the native or of the poor white, we shall not solve the problem. I agree with what other members have said: That the hon. Minister of Labour has a great and responsible task on his shoulders. If he can help us to solve the matter, the country will be so thankful that we will one day erect a memorial to him. But it will be impossible for him unless he has the co-operation of the whole people. Just like other members, I now wish to urge the Minister to do everything in his power to keep the people on the land who are still there. Thereafter, he can send the people out of the towns. I appreciate what he has done, namely, that work has already been given to 12,000. I am glad to see the spirit in which this discussion has taken place, but I still wish to make one observation that a Minister of the former. Government said on a public platform in my constituency: We talk of poor whites. I do not know him, I only know one definition for him, he is the man who goes out in the morning to look for work, but prays that he will not find it. I am very glad to see that that spirit no longer prevails here. We are very thankful for the attempts which have been made to solve this problem, but it is not the work of one year, it will take years, and we shall always have the poor with us. There are people who will not work, and I think that we should make a law to force them to work in their interests and in the interests of the country. One of the things that I feel the most is that the poor whites must compete with the natives for work and, therefore, I am very glad of the labour legislation which the present Government has introduced to stop that sort of thing. I should like to get some information from the Minister. I understand that provision has been made for the construction of certain roads under supervision of the Minister of Labour in consultation with the provincial authorities. I do not wish that money to be spent on pleasure roads or on large roads which run parallel to the railway, but it must be used for productive purposes to give the farmers the opportunity to transport their produce and to feed the railways. It is said that there must be a national road. However necessary a good road along the railway may be, I think that our first duty is to so construct the roads as to develop the country by feeding the railways, and by giving the farmers opportunities of transporting their produce. It is an important matter, and the farmers and the taxpayers will be very dissatisfied if that money is not spent to assist the farmers to transport their produce.
I think the hon. member for Albert (Mr. Steytler) must have entirely misunderstood the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow). All that the latter was pointing out was that there was something defective in our machinery. Cannot the hon. member for Albert (Mr. Steytler) see that there is something wrong when there are men here looking for work and, at the same time, the farmers are wanting labour? This shows lack of co-ordination. Men in search of work should be given facilities by the Government to go to places where work is plentiful. The hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) said nothing against the farmers. I would ask the Minister to very carefully consider the question of relief works, but it is no use my proceeding in the absence of the Minister.
The hon. member had better proceed and address the chair.
It is always a pleasant task to address the chair, but this is a serious matter.
Two Labour members in the House.
The hon. member must address the chair.
Motion put and negatived.
I only wish to say a few words. I want to congratulate the Minister on the success he has made of his work so far. But at the same time I want to point out that the danger which I pointed out last year in connection with the system of leases has actually arisen. The bywoners on the country side are dissatisfied and they want work from the Government. I receive letters here from people who want work on afforestation and on the relief works because they say that only people on the relief works are helped by the Minister of Labour. I hope therefore that the Minister will this year extend his system of leases to the poor bywoners on the country side. They have done everything in their power not to become a burden on the Government and I therefore think that they have deserved help from the Government. I hope therefore the Minister will take notice of what I say here and will extend the system to those poor people. That will help much in the direction of solving the poor white question. The Government has done much by reducing the amount a purchaser has to possess from one-fifth to one-tenth because those people will subsequently be able to employ bywoners. The hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell) asked what the farmers pay their natives. We pay practically the same as in the towns but I want to make it clear to him why we cannot get the natives to come and work for us. We do not go to look at football matches, there are no bioscopes and we work on the farm, so that the natives cannot go to amusements. That is the reason why there are 5,000 of them unemployed in Cape Town. They like to collect together and gossip. There on the farms the cigarettes are far away, but here in the town they pick up the stubbs. I do not wish to criticise the townsman but I want him to understand that it is the happy-go-lucky life which the native can live in the towns which attracts him there, so that the farmer can get no labour. In that way he is very free and that is not the case on the farm. We have possibly two months in which to plough and then it is a question of from dawn to sunset. Thereafter, of course, he rests again. But the native prefers to go on in the happy-go-lucky way in the towns. It is not only in Cape Town where there are 5,000. In Johannesburg I understand there are 10,000 and it is so in all the towns. The young natives all go there and even the girls. The position in the Transvaal is that the farmers go from one part to the other to find people to harvest their mealies, natives or white people. We shall have to do something to import natives from somewhere. I wish in conclusion to again appeal to the Minister of Labour not to forget the bywoner in the country so that he need not the whole day be writing to Parliament to try and get a job on the relief works.
The hon. member for Albert (Mr. Steytler) expressed surprise at my question to him as to what the farmers pay their native servants. He expressed surprise that I was ignorant of the facts. May I express my surprise at the hon. member’s surprise? I do not know whether he has an intimate knowledge of conditions on the Rand, what the mine natives get there or how the people on the Rand live. If he has, he has more knowledge than I give him credit for, and I certainly do not pretend to have intimate knowledge of conditions on farms in the hon. member’s constituency. I asked the question because I have continually noticed in the reports of the Department of Justice from some magistrates, statements to this effect, that the prevalence of stock thefts is due largely to the underpayment and underfeeding of the natives in those districts, and I have noticed that the judges at circuit courts in dealing with cases of stock thefts—
Order. What item is the hon. member now on?
I was replying to the hon. member.
Stock thefts do not come under this vote.
It is rather wide of the question, I know, but anyhow I will not pursue it further, but the hon. member for Albert must not be so susceptible if questions of this sort are asked. I asked it in perfect innocence, because I did not know. I can understand what the hon. member for Witbank (Mr. A. I. E. de Villiers) says that the attractions of the town do draw the natives there. They see life under an entirely different aspect, not always the best aspect, and it does draw them there. Whether you are going to succeed in keeping them back by any form of compulsion that can be suggested, I don’t know. I really rose because I want to say that I listened with the greatest interest this afternoon to the speech of the Minister on this question of unemployment, because this is a sort of stocktaking of the Government and of the Minister in particular on this question. It was one of the most burning questions raised at the time of the elections and one of the questions on which the Labour party went to the polls, and on which they invited the suffrages of the public. This Government in general and the Minister in particular are realizing what the Labour Government in England realized, viz., that there is no sovereign remedy for this national evil of unemployment. There is no real cure, and the Minister this afternoon in that most interesting speech of his, a modest speech, to which I listened with great interest, frankly had to admit that even though here and there he may have been able to find an improvement in detail, he was really continuing the policy of the late Government.
Nothing; of the sort.
It is a pity only four members of his party remained to listen to his speech, but those members, if they are still here, I am sure got the same impression, namely, that there was no radical departure in the treatment of this question under the present Minister to what took place under the other Government. In any case, probably the Minister must have told his caucus more than he told this committee this afternoon because it was obvious that only four members of his party were interested in what he had to say, while these benches were full. I want to ask him a couple of questions. The first is will he tell us how he solved this knotty problem of the choice of a South African representative at Geneva. I remember when the Government were in opposition that each year we were treated to a debate on this question. There were always conflicting interests demanding their representative should be sent. I am open to admit that at any rate for the last two or three years I had grave doubts of Mr. Crawford’s claim to be sent to Geneva as the representative of labour. Now I see when Mr. Sampson went there he was met with a challenge to his credentials. I have no doubt he is fully entitled to speak on labour in South Africa; but I would like to know from the Minister by what criterion he arrived at the choice of Mr. Sampson, and what will be the principle that will guide that choice in future years. The second question is this: I see he has made an appointment in his department of a gentleman named Veldsman. I have heard he was a prominent politician with very pronounced party interests. I am not going to make any definite accusation, because I am not sufficiently acquainted with the facts, but I would like the Minister to tell us on what grounds that appointment was made.
I never asked him what his political views were.
Well, of course, if the Minister tells us he appointed him in complete ignorance of what his political convictions were, we must take his word for it and let it go at that. It may be that the Minister was in complete ignorance of this gentleman’s prior political activities—I really cannot proceed with this chorus going on in my left ear from the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley). He had a long innings and I did not interrupt him.
Hon. members must not interrupt the hon. member and must allow the hon. member to proceed.
The next point I want to raise is on the question of the finance of this department of labour. I see the administrative personnel of this department has risen in one year from 92 to 127, and the cost of the personnel has risen in one year from £47,000 to £62,000, an increase of £15,000. That is quite apart from officers whose salaries are met out of the unemployment vote of £300,000. We see, in this particular vote, what happens when a new government department is created. It tends always to increase, in a sort of geometrical progression, and we see it in this department of labour. Will the Minister tell us why there are so many accretions to the personnel of that department; because one doubts if there is justification for it? We have reason to criticize the alarming way that this vote has grown, although we have a new portfolio created.
I am sorry the hon. member for Bezuidenhout has made such pettifogging little statements, which are trifling arguments on a serious problem. I realize that there is no real cure for unemployment under the present system, I also realize that we are going through a period of transition. I believe this Government, with its work and development, will temporarily absorb the unemployed. While the hon. member for Albert (Mr. Steytler) may be right from his point of view, we, in the town constituencies, are correct from our point of view, nevertheless the fact remains that someone has to suffer under the present system. We hold, in the towns, that we should find work for the unemployed in our own district, I believe if that were announced throughout the country, it would stop, to a great extent, the migration of a large number of workers from the farming districts to the big towns. In the past, the argument has been used that, in the towns, conditions are such as to attract natives and coloured men, owing to the bad conditions on the farms. I have visited a few farms, and although the workers do not get a lot of money, they are living under more healthy and beneficial conditions than they would be herded together in the towns. My suggestion to the Minister is that legislation should be passed to compel the municipalities to find employment for the citizens of their town. I do not believe we can expect them to find work for the unemployed who flock from the country districts. What is happening at the present time? The men working on the widening of the Victoria Road, Sea Point, have received notice to-day that that work will be stopped next Tuesday; so that we will have more unemployed, I do think we should put our heads together and try to create some scheme whereby this Government could give a lead and absorb the unemployed to a greater extent than has been the case in the past.
I am sorry I did not know the Minister’s reasons for going out, or I would not have moved to report progress, but I wish to bring something to his personal notice. I would like to endorse what the last speaker said in connection with the relief works. It has been said that there is no cure for unemployment, but there is—employment. I understand the Cape Town relief works may be going to be closed down in a few days. I agree with the Minister that relief works are a mistake as compared with ordinary regular labour, but unless these men can be absorbed it will be a cruel thing to close the works down. Has the Minister any assurance that these men are going to be absorbed, for I am assured by the men’s representatives that some of them will not be absorbed? A certain number will be provided for by the Board of Aid, so that their families will give 7s. 6d. worth of groceries a week. How can they possibly keep body and soul together on that? Then I understand that if a man is an ex-convict or ex-prisoner he will not be given relief, but I thought when a man has expatiated his office he would not be deprived of the right to have food for his family. On April 1st it was decided to dismiss 127 of these men without notice, but on representations being made the relief works were continued until the end of April. In May the same trouble threatened, and Government decided to continue its subsidy until the end of June. I am informed that some of the men will be absorbed at the docks or on the railways, but although the men may be drafted to the docks they have to wait their turn to obtain employment and only a small proportion of them do really get work there. A few men may also be absorbed on railway construction. The problem is so-serious that it will not be possible for the Minister to close the works down in a few days’ time. Those men unfit for ordinary work should be drafted to relief colonies. I hope the Minister will make a stand against the employment of convict labour by local authorities. For the Government to allow work to be done by convict labour in competition with free labour is something that ought not to be permitted. Some work on bridges by the divisional council was done by 250 convicts until these men were released by the Minister of Justice. There should be a rule laid down, except in very exceptional circumstances, where they cannot possibly get other labour, that the employment of convicts should be absolutely forbidden. The Minister will say, of course, that if we didn’t employ the convicts we should not do the work at all. We have to remember in this respect and in regard to the employment on relief works by municipalities, and in this I agree with the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley), that there should be no exploitation of these men. There is a tendency to regard the money paid as relief money and not money for work done. But work such as road building and the improving of towns when done by these men should be paid at the same rate as is paid to other men in other parts of the municipality. It is exploitation of these men by local authorities in the name of relief works. My greatest anxiety about relief work, and I tremble to think about it is what would happen when all these relief works are closed down and no proper provision made for these men. At the beginning of May it is no exaggeration to say there were 1.000 unemployed in these parts, and these did not include the natives.
Here in the Cape Peninsula. The problem is becoming very serious because if these relief works are closed down, these men who will come out of work, will be in addition to those already walking the streets. I ask the Government to continue the relief works.
The hon. member who has just spoken, speaks of the Government continuing the subsidy. There is no question of that. They will continue the subsidy. The hon. member represents Cape Town and if he will use his influence to get the Cape Town authorities to carry on the relief works I will continue the subsidy. But I think he is misinformed in saying that all the relief work is going to end at the end of this month. I have had a note with respect to the widening of the Victoria Road, Sea Point, but I have no information on the point of the repe works closing down. It is obvious that if the municipality does not carry on these works, I cannot tell them that they have to go on.
They are not paying for it.
Oh yes they are. And the portion the provincial council are paying for I understood 24 hours ago, was going to be carried out. Then another point he raised was about convict labour. I am afraid convicts are not under my control. If he would address his remarks to my colleague, the Minister of Justice, he will have my support in trying to diminish it as much as we can. The hon. member for Bezuidenhout (Mr. Blackwell) asked me three questions, first of all in regard to Mr. Sampson and Geneva. Mr. Sampson was nominated by a very considerable body of labour organizations in the country. The only one that did not join in the nomination was the South African Industrial Federation, and that body, certainly as far as all the information at our command goes, had nothing like, in fact had a mere trifle, in comparison with the membership of all these other bodies that nominated him.
It is not a question of membership, but a question of the most representative organization.
As the hon. member knows, there is nothing in this country corresponding to the Trade Union Congress.
It is an unfortunate wording.
It is an unfortunate wording in that Act, but the reason of it, one can see, is to have somebody keeping watch to see that these agreements arrived at in Geneva are carried out. We took what was the obvious consensus of opinion amongst all the most representative bodies. The hon. member asked me about Mr. Veldsman. I only know that he was nominated by a group of persons who were continually making representations to us on coloured matters, and that he had been of considerable use to the department in keeping in touch with these matters. Are his politics against those of the hon. member opposite?
I don’t know anything about his politics. That is all I want to know.
It was not for political reasons that he was nominated. The other question was in regard to the increase of the personnel. The increase of the personnel is due to the fact that the Labour Department are doing a great deal more than they were doing last year. In regard to the hon. member’s remarks that, after all, we are not doing more than the South African party Government were doing, I have no doubt that your press will have that in broad headlines to-morrow. I am quite content. The difference is in the effect. Your party were doing it with a certain effect, but what we have done has had the effect of employing 12,000 or 14,000 more men. There are more men employed on railways and in Government departments, and also in other employ, and that is very largely due to the efforts of the Government.
Don’t you know that the railways have been expanding, that new lines have been built, and that trade has been better?
Let us not argue that. I am perfectly willing to abide by the judgment of the people outside. We have succeeded in very greatly alleviating the position that hon. members left us. As for a “sovereign remedy,” I do not remember that I ever advocated or claimed to have a “sovereign remedy,” but I do say that the real sovereign remedy is a big pull together, and keeping on, keeping on, plugging at the subject until you get the thing done. It was very clearly stated. I say do not look for it in anyone Bill, by anyone measure, but by a constant steady pull which we Would pledge ourselves to give, but which hon. members opposite did not undertake.
They pulled the other way.
Another matter to which the hon. member alluded, and to which the hon. member for Albert (Mr. Steytler) also referred, is the question of roads. The Minister of Finance said the matter of the £500,000 more or less from the road point of view, was a windfall. It has been handed over to me for administration, and mainly because of the desire of the Government that, as far as possible, it should also help in relieving this position we have been dealing with.
Are you handling the whole half million?
I am handling the whole half million. Have you any objections? In the administration of this half million it is decided that £150,000 should be spent on each of the two larger provinces, and £100,000 on each of the two smaller provinces. Obviously they have to do it in conjunction! With the provincial authorities. I do not say that you must put down a road here and there. I have not the engineering staff to do that, but I have arranged with the provincial authorities for the best spending of the money. I am sorry I cannot agree with my hon. friend here. I have no doubt in his constituency there will be special roads. In every divisional council in the country there will be some particular road which is very necessary there, and so the £150,000 would be frittered away on mere doles by each provincial council. I do not think that was the intention. Broadly speaking, the objects we have in view are, firstly, to make something good and permanent, and secondly, that they shall be based on work which shall be something of an advance in the matter of road construction to show us how really good roads based on a reasonable capital expenditure are the most economical roads in the end, and more so than just making up a road constantly needing repair. There was a Road Commission appointed which furnished a report making broader distinctions between main arterial roads and subsidiary roads.
We cannot hear if you speak with your back turned to us.
I am sorry, but I have not a tongue at both sides of my head.
That shows you are not two-faced, anyhow…
Personally, I believe the soundest plan of spending this money—and the provincial authorities here agree with me—is, as far as possible, to allocate it to a definite stretch of arterial roads, with limitations, and those include places where road communication is very badly wanted, and in those cases where it is very necessary it should be made. That is the line I am adopting. I am not going to be the person to stave off the claims of every divisional council in the country. One does not take a line like that. What will happen will be that you will be able to get no criterion, no principle laid down. It will not result in your £150,000 being divided pretty equally over 80 or 90 divisional councils, and there will be little to show for it in the end. In the other provinces they have not got the divisional council system, and in these provinces I again lay down my own view that, as far as possible, the money should be spent on main national roads of the country. It won’t go very far. If you are going to institute a big system, it is going to cost more than half-a-million. The hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) asked whether I have given any attention to the question of unemployment assurance. I have not, but I hope, at some time or other, to do so. You cannot, however, pay attention to all branches of a subject at the same time. Then I would like to deal with that point about the forestry place near Grabou mentioned by the hon. member for Caledon. This is not a permanent forestry place. There is no intention of using it as a permanent settlement. It is a half-way house, and the men from there will be appointed to vacancies in the regular forestry. But I must make some provision if municipalities are giving up their relief works; some sort of place to which you can send men from the country. It is the only place, according to my information, the only forest ground in that area. I do not know where this other 500 morgen is.
Further down in the valley. It belongs to the railway department.
The place I have already referred to is recommended by the forest officers as a forest proposition, and there is five years’ work on the site. I hope there will be 200 families there before long. The hon. member spoke of 55 inches rainfall a year. That is precisely the same as at Robert’s Vlei, where they have forestry, on the Villiersdorp side of La Motte. I think they have something like 60 inches there.
I understand the people are away from the forestry.
No, but their gardens are a mighty poor proposition; and this is not a question of settling them down there permanently. It is an emergency measure that is going to help us.
They cannot live there in the winter.
Why not? I accept the hon. member as an authority, but I have also consulted other people, and I have also my own experience, that a place in which snow tends to fall two or three days in the year is not absolutely prohibitive of human life. I do not think that is altogether conclusive, but I shall watch this matter very closely, and as far as education is concerned, naturally educational arrangements will be made there. There is only one other question which has been raised—the expenditure of money in helping those who are still on the land to prevent them going off the land, but I am the Minister of Labour, and when a man is unemployed he comes to me. I am then told that by helping the man I am preventing him going on to the land, but the same argument might be used in the case of unemployed shop assistants in regard to shop-keeping. If we are to do on a large scale what has been suggested it amounts to recapitalizing all the smaller agricultural population, and that is a very big proposition. The Government is considering putting a sum on the loan vote which I can administer in conjunction with what I am doing in another direction, but no decision has been arrived at. When the co-operation of the local people is sought in a number of cases they say: “Why should we help you to settle people on the land from outside when at our doors we have people themselves desiring help?” The work we are doing is purely one of a labour department, and in what we are doing we at any rate have the guarantee that the persons upon whom money has been spent have been under supervision and their working capacity has been proved. I hope after this discussion hon. members will allow us to take the vote.
There is rather an urgent question in relation to the unemployment position in Durban. I understood the Minister to say that the arrangements hitherto subsisting at Durban were to continue, but the Durban Town Council has passed a resolution definitely to close down the relief works at the end of September. That seems to indicate that we shall be placed in a very serious position. A lot of local effort is put in at Durban to assist the unemployed and to level up the payment of the relief workers to a fair subsistence level. This arrangement, however, has apparently collapsed and the town council has found it impossible to continue the relief works on the conditions laid down by the Government. In speaking on this question, one of the councillors touched on the difficulty of the married man maintaining his family on four, five or six shillings a day and remarked that unemployment was worse in Durban than it has ever been. At the end of September Durban will be obliged to stop its relief works and then the Government will be compelled to find these people work. Perhaps the Minister would let us know what has been done in that matter. I was sorry the Minister was vague in telling us the actual results of the tenant farmers scheme. He told us the outline of the scheme, but he will remember I put a question to him in April as to the extent of the land under cultivation and the value of the crops. From the figures supplied then, it seems that £35,000 had been advanced towards this tenant farmers scheme as at the 3rd April. The harvest time has arrived and there has been time to reap the crops and time to decide what proportion of the amount advanced will be recoverable. In subsidies payable to those engaged on these tenant farms, £4,245 was advanced to tide them over the period during which their crops were growing. Now the crops have been reaped, can the Minister tell us how much of the amount is likely to be recovered? Then we have a sum of £22,878 advanced for the purpose of getting stock or implements, and that amount is repayable by the owner of the land, unless the tenant himself is a man of sufficient substance to stand it. Another sum of £8,263 was advanced to tenant farmers, making a total in all of £35,386. Some criticism has reached me in regard to choice of land on which these tenant farmers have been placed. From the Middelburg District in the Transvaal I received a letter which said—
To advance at the rate of £100 per tenant farmer to men simply working an erf is to court failure, because it is impossible for the men to earn a living on a small erf attached to a village, and evidently that is what has happened here. The letter continues:—
The position in regard to the choice of these tenant farmers is an unfortunate one. The choice is confined to those people who have been through the relief works or the afforestation works, and that limits the choice of people not suited for the life of a farmer. One of the hon. members opposite brought to me a young man who had been waiting for a considerable time to be placed as a tenant-farmer, or as a provisional lessee. He said there was a considerable delay and in the meantime he appealed to me to try and find him some employment. He is remarkably well suited to the occupation of a farmer, and had a two years’ returned soldiers’ course with a farmer in the Nelspruit district on his return from France. He is skilled in cotton and citrus work and until something else could be found for him, I sent him to a farm in which I am interested in Natal. The irony of the position is that the mere fact that he has not been through a relief works or an afforestation works debars him from being considered as a tenant farmer. I mentioned another case to the Minister before, but I shall not go into that now. This young man is remarkably well suited to the work in which he is employed and would certainly do justice to any opportunity afforded him of starting as a farmer. Then I think the position which has been laid down in the rules for tenant farmers is a wrong one so far, as discipline is concerned. “It would be fatal, we are told, to the project of uplifting these men if they felt that they were the servants of the owner and treated as such.” I do not think they should feel that they are placed in any servile position, but it certainly seems to me that, for purposes of discipline and sustained effort, it would be much better to place them under the farmer and make no bones about it. That certainly is a defect of the Ministers’ system. [Time expired.]
I should not be doing my duty if I did not make a further appeal to the Minister. He misunderstood me if he thinks that I want the £150,000 to be divided among all the divisional councils of the Cape Province. After the rain the roads are in such a state that the produce cannot be transported. I am not only speaking of my own constituency although I think that that district can claim special consideration. But the districts which are far from the railways must be assisted with good roads to carry the produce. The Minister of Railways intends to institute services of motor buses. If that happens the people will not insist so much on railways, but motors cannot run unless there are good roads.
I would urge strongly upon the Minister the strength of the claim put forward by the hon. member for Albert (Mr. Steytler). I think the intention is that the money should be spent on truck roads running for the most part parallel with the railway lines. The people in touch with the railway are not really so much in need of facilities of this kind. It is the people in the outlaying districts who have the strongest claim to consideration. I would like to add my voice to what has been said by the hon. member for Albert.
I am sorry to detain the House, but I have not yet had a chance of speaking on this important matter. Hon. members are now talking of roads. I have nothing to do with roads, and I want to say something about the poor white question which, unfortunately, has to be discussed here to empty benches. At half-past six to-day there were 17 Nationalists, 6 Labourites and 30 Saps present to discuss the matter. I want to reply to the hon. member for Namaqualand (Mr. Mostert), who said that I had sent people to him who were poor and who required money. That is an insult to Stellenbosch, which is not such a rich district, but which in proportion to its revenue does as much for the church and the poor as many other districts put together. It is an insult to say that we send our poor people to the hon. member for Namaqualand, a place for which we recently had to collect money because the people were suffering from famine. I have the matter of the poor whites at heart, and I wish to say a few words about the people who have been appointed to report on those matters. As far as I understand the commission consists of Mr. Conradie, the Rev. Mr. Fick and Mrs. Walsh. The last-mentioned is a very clever woman, but she is a towns woman. There is no farmer on the commission. We have heard that the poor whites should be developed on agricultural lines, and therefore we should have a farmer or farmers on that commission who have made a success of farming, and preferably one who made a success of it after commencing practically without capital. I hope that the report to be issued by them will be a very good one, but I fear it will be a hopeless failure.
Vote put and agreed to.
On the motion of the Minister of Finance, it was agreed to report progress and ask leave to sit again.
Progress reported: House to resume in committee on Monday.
The House adjourned at