House of Assembly: Vol5 - FRIDAY 3 JULY 1925
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at
The MINISTER OF NATIVE AFFAIRS laid upon the Table—
- (63) Application by the South African Evangelisation and Missionary Trust for a church and school site at Ecibini in Location No. 3, Alfred County, Natal.
- (64) Application by the South African Evangelisation and Missionary Trust for a church and school site at Elim in Location No. 2, Alfred County, Natal
- (65) Grant of a trading site at Mount Prospect, District of Flagstaff.
- (66) Grant of a trading site at Nqabeni, District of Flagstaff.
- (67) Grant of a trading site at Emagusheni, District of Flagstaff.
- (68) Grant of a trading site at Bumazi, District of Flagstaff.
- (69) Grant of a trading site at Thornbush, District of Flagstaff.
- (70) Grant of a trading site at Puff Adder, District of Flagstaff.
- (71) Grant of a trading site at Hlwahlwazi, District of Flagstaff.
- (72) Grant of certain trading sites in the District of Kingwilliamstown.
- (73) Grant of a trading site at Healdtown, District of Fort Beaufort.
Papers referred to Select Committee on Native Affairs.
First Order read: House to resume in Committee of Supply.
House in Committee:
[Progress reported yesterday when Committee had reverted to Votes 14 to 19, 31, 32 and 36; Votes 14 to 18 had again been ordered to standover; Vote 19, “Defence,” £898,104, under consideration, upon which the following amendments had been moved:
By Brig.-Gen. Byron: To reduce the amount by £1. from the item “Minister,” £2,500.
By Mr. Alexander: To reduce the amount by 10s., from the item “Minister,” £2,500.”]
I want to ask the Minister why, during the tour of his Royal Highness, he chose to differentiate between different commandoes and between different military bodies. I want to ask the Minister why he expended an amount, as I am informed, of something between £1,500 and £2,000 on the Bloemfontein commando, and refused to pay a cent to the commandoes in the eastern Transvaal. I believe I am right in saying that the first plan was for his Royal Highness to inspect a commando in the eastern Transvaal, the idea being to hold a large wapenschouw, and then to give him a march past. Then a new scheme was mooted whereby the hon. member for Hoopstad (Mr. Conroy) would lead his celebrated commando past. I have no objection to the latter course at all, but I do think the Minister treated the commandoes of the eastern Transvaal very shabbily in this matter. I feel I must put the matter to him, and I think he owes it to us to put it right. These people approached the Defence headquarters when the original idea was mooted and asked if they would give any allowance for them to attend the wapenschouw and do what was necessary. They were told that could not be done. The second request they made was to be given rations for men and horses. That also the department would not do. I do not think that is treating them fairly, and I want to tell the Minister that these commandoes there are feeling very sore about the matter. I do not know whether the Minister saw the report I have here, but I will read a little of it. It is written by one of the journalists accompanying the royal party—
Two objects were served. In the first place they got these men under canvas for a week, and then they gave this march past, which I think was very much appreciated. Surely the Minister could have met these people half-way? He knows what a difficult time it was; he knows that the farmers were in the busiest season;, but they left everything. These men had to come a long way and had to bring their own rations for their horses and themselves, and the department would not give them a cent. I am surprised any men came at all. I am surprised such a large commando turned out. It was a bitterly cold week for these men to be under canvas. They did their duty; and to-day they come to the Minister and say—
I am not saying too much when I say these men are the cream of the fighting force in this country. There is no better in the Union. We get our defence fairly cheap in this country. The amount we pay is not in proportion to what we get in return. I think through the splendid spirit of voluntary service we are getting far more than we pay for. I do ask the Minister not to let these men get the idea that you are not trying to cut them down, that you are trying to treat them shabbily. I do hope the Minister will even now put the matter right. It is not going to cost the department very much. He has the rolls of the men who attended, and I hope that even now he will give instructions to give them an allowance, and if he cannot do that that he will in any case reimburse them for the money they paid for rations for themselves and their horses. I hesitate rather to touch upon this matter. I do not want to sound a false note; but I do say that these men feel it very keenly.
I want to say a few words about this matter now, because the hon. member has been speaking under an entire misconception. The Defence Department have spent not a penny on any of these commandoes or defence forces except one.
The arrangements for the reception of His Royal Highness have been done by monies voted by Parliament and administered by the Prime Minister’s department. In the case of Bloemfontein it was thought as this is the capital of the Free State in which there exist no active citizen forces that some special effort should be made—it was not a commando in the sense of a defence force unit—and out of the Vote so administered certain expenditure was incurred there. As to the rest, I have had applications from all over the country; and let me tell the hon. member that the only exception I have made, so far as the defence department is concerned—and I think the committee will understand the exception being made—was in regard to the two Natal mounted regiments, of which his Royal Highness had recently consented to be Colonel-in-Chief. As he was going to be at Maritzburg I was asked if I would give some special facilities in order that so many men of each of these two regiments could attend. I had to cut that down to the very finest; because I simply have not got the money on my votes to pay for anything outside what we provide for.
Was not the first scheme to have it at Ermelo?
I have never heard of any such scheme at all. The arrangements for his Royal Highness’s reception have been made entirely by the Prime Minister’s Department.
In consultation with your staff officer?
When we were asked by Bloemfontein to give assistance, we did so. But we simply used our department, and the money came out of the Prime Minister’s vote, and I think hon. members will agree that the arrangements for his Royal Highness’s welcome have been exceedingly satisfactory.
I wish to banish any misconception from the minds of the hon. member and those who may feel concerned. At nearly all these places—at Colesberg, for instance—commandoes have come in, and the only privilege we have extended at all, was to have those two Natal mounted regiments to whom his Royal Highness was Colonel-in-Chief. So there has been no differentiation in our department at all.
I listened to the speech of the hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron) last evening, with great interest; for we all agree that there is nothing in our national life that ought to be brought as near as possible to protection, whether on a large or small scale, than the machinery employed to protect our home and earth. Criticism should, therefore, be welcome, for we criticize, not in the spirit of antipathy, but rather under the guidance of that patriotic feeling which moves us to contribute our share towards reforms which seem essential to the efficiency of our forces. To embark on this subject merely for the purpose of party gam, would amount to a national crime. In fact, it would be a death-blow to our very existence. Therefore, it is the duty of all parties, whether inside or outside the House, to use their influence to the fullest extent, to place our forces beyond the skirts of party politics; for we have the best machinery for an army in this country that the world can produce.
Veterans who have shown their worth here in South Africa, and, let me say, in distant Flanders and in every sector of the war, are a national asset of which we should be proud, and which we should not allow to be neglected. I mention this because I feel that past events—some in the distant past; some still fresh in our memories—should be viewed not from the standpoint of the bigoted politician, but rather from the standpoint of the soldier. We may differ on political issues. We may differ as to whether peace treaties are worthy of the heroic feats of the soldier; but there is one outstanding fact which we cannot deny: that wherever the South African has battled, he has won immortal lauels—laurels which compare most favourably with the flower of the world’s regiments. It is, therefore, our bounden duty to be alive to the fact that South Africa is the proud mother of the world’s picked soldiers, and that they should be trained in a manner worthy of our military traditions: and, more than this, that we should do all that lie in our power to instil in the minds of our youth that to be master of his rifle and charger is now, just as it has been in the past, the first national pride of the South African boy. In this vast sub-continent, there is hardly a mountain or a valley that has not been the scene of battle at one time or another, and who knows what lies wrapped up in the future for us. Whatever that may be, do not lose sight of, nor be deterred by, the fact that we, in this country, are the advance guard of western civilization, and that being so, it is our duty to do what lies within our power, or rather it is our duty to use our resources to their fullest extent, to raise a national army which will compare favourably with the rest of the world; so that when that time comes—we do not know when; for we see already that the yellow races of the East have awakened to the idea that western predominance has ceased—we may take the field worthy of the valour and tenacity which distinguished the armies of our forefathers. Apart from other obvious reasons which need no amplification, we cannot, for monetary considerations, organize and maintain a mercenary, or standing army, our only alternative therefore is a national army, and if one may judge from the military history of the world, and our own peculiar position in South Africa, then the alternative—the national army —seems the only correct course to adopt; for a nation that trusts itself to the care of a mercenary army has taken the road that leads to its decline and ultimate fall.
The first requirement in a national army is its popularity, or I should rather say that the key-note of our national army should be popularity, and national health and intelligence its aim and object. To ensure popularity, it should be organized in a manner that would court the pride and enkindle the enthusiasm of our nation. It is no secret that, for some considerable time, our forces have not enjoyed that popularity so essential for their success. Perhaps we are all in a greater or lesser degree to blame for this anomaly, and that is all the more reason why we should make a fresh start in the direction of forming a better united front than has been the case in our immediate past. While the late Government did not do much in this direction, it is gratifying to be able to say that our present Minister has, at least, gone so far as to place a new patch on the old garment. [Time expired. ]
Might I ask that the hon. member be allowed to continue?
I am sorry, I have not got it in my power to allow any hon. member to continue after the allotted time. Such indulgence can only be granted when Mr. Speaker is in the Chair.
I am not here as a pacifist, and I have followed with very close interest the remarks of the hon. member for Marico (Mr. J. J. Pienaar) and the hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron), and on their remarks I would like to make only one comment; that is, probably the best method of ensuring a satisfactory defence force is to secure such a state of affairs in the country that the people will realize that they have something worth defending.
They can defend you.
The Minister should tell the Committee to what extent the recommendations put forward by the Defence Commission have been given effect to, and to what extent the grievances found to be proved have been rectified. Some of those responsible for the appointment of the commission, and who have given evidence before it, have found themselves prejudiced in consequence. Has that information come to the Minister’s notice, and if so what steps will be taken to see that these people are justly treated? Suggestions have been made as to the keeping of political influence out of the Defence Force, and every side of the House has agreed upon the necessity of getting away from the old system under which political influence was manifest in the force. I hope, however, that the Minister will not err on the side of impartiality in the sense of securing that those who are opposed to our political views should be treated better than those who share those views. When one sets out to exercise impartiality there is always the danger of showing partiality to one’s enemies, but impartiality towards one’s friends. The hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) dealt with the Minister’s supposed attitude to the Durban Light Infantry. I wish to refer also to the Transvaal Scottish. It is desirable that these regiments should have the highest possible respect and support of the members of the community generally. In order to secure that it is desirable that any dissatisfaction which exists with those regiments, or any suspicions which have been aroused as a result of the activities of members of those regiments, be dealt with. As far as the Durban Light Infantry is concerned, without casting the slightest reflection on the regiment as a whole, there is no doubt about it that in April, 1922, some members of the regiment committed acts in Fordsburg which have brought about a feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction. Similarly we have the Transvaal Scottish regiment, for which it is desirable that everyone should have the highest respect, but certain members of that regiment have committed acts such as the Hanekom Dowse and Smit murders, and it is desirable in the interests of the regiment, that steps should be taken to bring the offences home to those who committed them. I would ask the Minister seriously to consider whether in the interests of the D.L.I. and the Transvaal Scottish, it is not desirable that he should institute a departmental enquiry into the acts which took place during that time on the Rand, so as to clear the regiments from the stigma which lies on them.
The Minister has already prejudged the case by dismissing Col. Molyneaux.
You know that this is not true.
The hon. member always pre-judges a case before he speaks. A point has been raised on these benches for a number of years and that is that some provision should be made to provide that in no circumstances shall the Defence Force be used in industrial disputes. With the present Minister there is no danger of that happening, in fact, under the present Government it is not likely there will be any industrial disputes because they will do all they can to secure industrial friendship between all sections of the community. I would like the Minister to give the matter his serious consideration as to whether the time is not opportune for the introduction for a small amending Bill say, during the next session, to provide that the defence force shall not be utilized in industrial disputes. I also wish to refer to the position of the Railway and Harbours Brigade. [Time expired.]
The hon. member for Troyeville has expressed such an intense desire to eliminate politics from the defence force, yet he has made a purely political speech setting a bad example to that body. It is a speech boiling over with politics. The defence force have always done their duty irrespective of whatever Government has been in power. I am sorry I have not the eloquence of the hon. member for Marico (Mr. J. J. Pienaar), but in my own blunt way I should like to offer a few friendly criticisms on the Defence Vote. I consider that the money being spent under this vote is disproportionately expended. There is too much spent on the head and too little on the body. I understand the Minister’s difficulty. The Defence Department takes the view that a big staff should be maintained to provide for contingencies. They look on the present force as a skeleton body, and they wish to maintain a big staff to meet contingencies such as the expansion of the different units of the active citizen force. The present strength of the existing headquarters staff is too large, because when it is necessary to expand the force you will have many retired officers available quite as capable as some of those at Roberts’ Heights of taking staff appointments as the men at present engaged in the department. Therefore I see no reason for the parsimony with which the citizen force regiments are being treated by the Minister. It compels some of the officers to spend their own money to keep things going. Many of the officers of the active citizen force give their services gratuitously and give time and thought to becoming efficient. Take some of the adjutants, who, in: addition to their ordinary work, have to devote nearly all their spare time to the affairs of the battalion. They must be smart, good drills, possess tact and ability. Formerly they received payment from the Government, I think it was about £100 a year, but this has been stopped, and they now receive nothing. A good adjutant in an active citizen force regiment does more work and renders better service than many staff officers at Roberts Heights. All these latter men are paid and have prospective pensions. I don’t begrudge any man good wages or a pension after giving his time in the service of his country, but I do object to the stoppage of payment to these adjutants in order to provide pay to redundant officers of an overgrown staff. This is a matter which should be set right by resuming payments to the adjutants of the active citizen force regiment. There is another matter I should like to bring forward. From my experience I feel positive that the ammunition allowed to each individual is insufficient to allow him to become a proficient shot. The public should understand that because a regiment can produce a crack regimental shooting team, it does not follow that the regiment is a good average shooting regiment. When I commanded a regimenit, I took pains to see that every man should become proficient in the use of the rifle. It is all very well to have technical instruction, which I admit is necessary, but there is nothing like the practical experience gained on the range. At least 200 rounds of ammunition should be provided for each man per annum. That should enable him to become proficient in the use of the rifle. You cannot call a man a soldier unless he makes 63 out of a possible 105 at the 200, 500 and 600 yards. If there were any poor shots in my regiment when going on active service I told them to remain at home and rock the cradle. They were no use to us as soldiers. The soldier who cannot shoot is like the schoolmaster who cannot read or write. When I left the regiment there were very few poor shots. The officers supplemented, at their own expense, the ammunition allowed by the Government. They bought the ammunition from the Government and sold it to the men at half-price, with the result that the men in the regiment bedtime fairly decent shots. I bring this to the notice of the Minister. I have had some experience in these matters, and I bring it to his notice because I want him to pay attention to it in the interests of the force in general, in which I have always taken the greatest possible interest.
When my time expired I had mentioned that, while the late Government did not trouble much in late years about popularizing our defence force, something which is essential in a country like ours. It is gratifying to be able to state that our present Minister of Defence has, at least, placed a new patch on the old garment. And we are looking forward to the time—and I hope that time will be very soon—when he will make greater changes so that even that patched garment will be replaced by a new one. We must work along the lines of securing a higher standard of national health, and intellectual and physical development. We, as a small European race in this country, should keep that before us as our aim and object in connection with our army. If the story of twenty centuries teaches us anything it is that nations, like men, are born, flourish and die. There is a continual struggle for supremacy in government and commerce, the stronger and more intelligent, though less in numbers, wipes out the weak, and we have this struggle from the earliest ages of the shepherd kings of Egypt right through the centuries of Babylon, Carthage, Greece, Rome, Africa, India and China. It was always a question of physical and intellectual superiority. Is there any reason why human nature should suddenly change now. If we remain weak yet rich in lands and minerals, there is a double incentive to conquest, and the day will come to us the same as it came to others. As regards the financial side of our defence force, we must remember that the money we spend on defence is, after all, only a national insurance. If we are to carry out a large scheme on the principles on which we have started, I think that this Vote is an inadequate premium for our national insurance. We have here an organization with a headquarter staff, and we want to go into this to find out exactly where are the weak points of our defence organization. We have got in our permanent force some 13 units, of which only about four are combatant units, and we find that most of our money, as the hon. member for Beaconsfield (Col. Sir David Harris) pointed out, is going too much into heads, and I am afraid we are beginning to get weak-legged. In the first place we have the. S.A.M.R. We know of the existence of that regiment, but when we come to examine its strength, we find that only two squadrons have survived the pruning knife,, and these are insufficient as a striking force, for which they were intended in the first instance. I am afraid, however, that to increase the numerical strength of the S.A.M.R. would swell the Defence Vote to dimensions which would cause the Minister to hesitate to bring it before the House. Therefore, it seems to me that, in order to spend our money better than in the past, it might be possible to amalgamate the S.A.M.R. with our mounted police, because the police force, after all, is a highly organized body of men, and, let me say, a very proficient force, and I think in time of trouble the whole of the public look more to the police to do police duty than to the citizens. In the past we have been in this unfortunate position that in the least little disturbance it was not alone necessary to call out the police, the S.A.M.R., and the active citizen force, but also to call out our burgher forces, which brought father and son and brothers in arms against each other, and the sooner we can bring incidents of that kind to an end or prevent their happening again in future, the better it will be for our relations with one another and the maintenance of European civilization here in South Africa. Let us take the South African field artillery next. This is a very important arm, but we find it consists of only three 4-gun batteries. I would remind the House that our present artillery does not compare well with the artillery of the old South African Republic. They were better equipped and better armed than the present. I feel that, we are weak in this respect, and that we cannot talk of a national army, unless we are prepared to do our duty to this important arm. We have other combatant units in the permanent force like the S.A. Permanent Garrison Artillery. I am not going into that, because I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details, but judging from the estimates before us, it does not seem to be as important an arm as it should be. [Time expired.]
I want to say a few words on this vote. It is not very often I agree with the Minister, but I must say I do very cordially on this occasion. I want to congratulate him on this vote. In the Budget placed before us showing a total increase of close on £2,000,000, this vote is one of the two that show a material reduction. He has reduced this by no less than £83,000. I am well aware from experience of the difficulty of getting expenditure reduced, and I think the Minister is to be congratulated, as I do congratulate him most sincerely, on the result of his efforts in this direction. It has not been brought about, as far as I can see—I am not a soldier, but I have gone through this vote very carefully—by cutting off a branch here and there; but it has been accomplished by economising all round. Hon. members will see that Defence Rifle Association is the only item that is up; cadets are down, active citizen force is down, permanent field force is down and so it goes on. It has been a steady effort at economy all round. As a rule I have to criticize increased expenditure, but on this occasion, when we see on the part of the Minister an earnest desire to economize, it is the least we can do to congratulate him very heartily.
The air force, as has been pointed out by the hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron) could also be improved if we are really in earnest in our desire to uphold our position as the advance guard of western civilization. The remaining nine units of the permanent forces are more or less of an auxiliary nature, and they can best be dealt with by some commission of enquiry as to whether they are over-staffed or overpaid. A very serious matter in our defence organization, however, is our active citizen force. Our citizen forces consist of active citizen and coast forces and the defence rifle association, or in other words our commandoes. If anything should happen, and if we should be called out to shoulder the rifle for our country, these are the forces on which the country would have to depend. In the active citizen force only a very small number of young citizens has been accepted this year for peace training. I have before me an order issued by the Adjutant-General for this year’s establishment. What I find very striking in this order is that out of 60,000 young citizens who volunteered to undergo peace training only a very small proportion has been accepted. I find also that several districts and one whole province has been entirely left out, and our young South Africans, whose main interest is to be master of his rifle and horse, feel very sore about it. The whole of the eastern Transvaal, the whole western Transvaal, the Free State, the north-west of the Cape Province and the Graaff-Reinet military district, are entirely left out from peace training. In the Free State I find that only one officer and 15 men have been accepted for peace training, and that is for the wireless and signalling sections. The large commandoes which recently performed a duty of honour in the Free State, have shown that they are as keen as any other branch of our forces to do their share. According to the order issued by the Adjutant-General, the only districts that are considered are those with the large towns, such as Port Elizabeth, East London, Maritzburg, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Kimberley, with the units all concentrated in the towns. My contention is that we are leaving out of the training a very important section of the materials which we have at our disposal. I feel that we are unarmed and unprepared for any eventuality. In the Rifle Association we have 145,000 members of all ranks. One thing that strikes me is this, that with the untrained men in the field there is not the cohesion so essential on active service. Without cohesion any force put in the field is a useless force. Unless we can get some training and some discipline for our forces we shall always have this trouble, and we shall always be backward. I am sorry that on account of the short time at my disposal I shall not be able to go into the details I should have liked to go into. I shall therefore only touch upon the salient points. We, like Australia, Sweden and Holland, when we drafted our present Defence Act, borrowed largely from Switzerland. But there is a great difference between us and those countries. They have applied their systems; we have not. We are still making a feeble attempt to have some sort of cadet organization; a feeble attempt at having an active citizen force, and a still feebler attempt to have a commando force. In our commando force, rifles are issued to the extent of about 6 per cent., and I am told that these rifles are not only second-hand, but in many instances their trajectory and velocity are obsolete. I think if we cannot issue rifles to all we should at least be prepared to meet these commandoes half-way. At present they are armed with rifles of all sorts of patterns and calibres, and one never knows what type of ammunition would be required if anything had to be done to defend our shores and our northern boundaries. [Time expired.]
I move a further reduction of the Minister’s salary by 10s., not that I wish to take up the time of the House unduly, but it is very trying both to the speaker and to the House to have to deliver a speech in disconnected parts. My remarks will, however, be entirely free from party considerations, and any criticism I may make are entirely in the interests of the efficiency of a most important department.
I must point out that already two amendments have been moved. A third cannot be moved; or, rather, if a third amendment is moved, it will not allow the hon. member to speak for 40 minutes.
Very well, sir, I will then confine this portion of my remarks to the active citizen force. I think it will generally be admitted that the change since Union has not been to the advantage of the established mounted regiments. Rapid mobilization in heavy marching order is one of the first essentials, but you cannot be sure of that at present judging by experience. The Minister has not referred to the two squadrons of Natal Carbineers, which he was good enough to authorize to be mobilized for a four days’ camp in connection with the Prince of Wales’ visit. For these two squadrons there was a period of six weeks to prepare at headquarters, for the requirements of the men, and the requisitions were sent in, I am told, nearly six weeks ahead. But when the camp was joined there was a considerable shortage in many essentials to the discomfort of both men and horses and of efficiency generally. Requisition was made for 30 sets of saddlery and bridles; second-hand saddles were asked for; new saddles were received; but no bridles. It is bad enough for a equadron to have a show parade with new saddles, but it is infinitely worse to have to parade without any bridles. In the eyes of an efficient squadron commander a man with a brand new saddle is a blot on the landscape, a positive eyesore; in fact, he is like a cinder in your eye, and that is bad enough, but without a bridle, he is about the most useless thing on earth, only excepting a sick headache. The time of the year was winter, and bitterly cold, and these men had to sleep on the ground. Now the proper winter allowance for a soldier is three blankets and two in summer; but each man was one blanket short. To put men to sleep on the ground, with two army blankets, in winter is to subject them to the risk of pneumonia. I also understand that, although greatcoats were served out, a large number were short. What is the reason and meaning of this. Another important point is the nosebag. There were not sufficient of these to go round and so waste of grain and difficulty in feeding of horses arose.
Was that in connection with the Prince of Wales’ visit?
Yes; I have already said so and in connection with the two squadrons of carbineers. I am assured that these were some of the shortages. Now there should be no shortage in a matter of this sort, and if there is a shortage it points to one thing, and one thing only—rank, bad, staff work. You cannot take a man out of a post office, or from off a farm, put a staff uniform on him and imagine you have made an efficient staff officer. And that brings me to the question of the selection of staff officers, and in particular to the selection of candidates to attend the staff college at Camberley. The custom followed in the British army is that only an officer who has had a certain number of years’ regimental training, and who is the best of his rank in a particular regiment, and who has been always well reported on by his commanding officer temperamentally, socially and professionally, and who has passed his examination for promotion, shall be eligible for trial—for trial only—as a candidate prior to his going up for examination. Having passed these preliminary stages, he then is sent to be attached to a divisional headquarters, and is there under the eye of the general for a period of months—six months, I think. If he then shows aptitude and the right characteristics, he goes on to the recommended list, and then only is he allowed to enter for the stiffest competitive examination that exists in England. Now we have the inestimable privilege, in South Africa, of nominating two officers per year for the staff college. That is a magnificent gift specially given to this country; if it could only be realized; if it could only be realized and properly appreciated. I do not know who were the officers selected this year, but I see in the Defence Commission’s report recently published, that we selected a sergeant last time with no regimental experience and no training whatever as an officer, and the members of the commission enquired why this particular non-commissioned officer had been selected for this very distinguished experience, and the answer was that he had passed the Cape matriculation examination—an examination that any child of 17 years is expected to be able to pass. I do not think the headquarters staff realize what the staff college training really is. The candidate is trained in the science of war; in military geography, the influence of mountains and rivers on strategy; the influence of policy on the different nations of the world, and has to consider the different political conditions likely to arise and likely to bring certain nations into conflict in certain stages of their history. He has to advise his Government, under these circumstances, what forces will be required in certain circumstances and how they will be provided, fed and transported to the scene of operations, and we send home a sergeant from South Africa to be trained on these lines, it is simply preposterous, and will be properly resented by the British staff.
Where is that?
On page 7 of the commission’s report. It is headed “Camberley staff college.” If you are going to select your staff officers in that manner no wonder you will not be able to mobilize a couple of squadrons without committing a number of mistakes. Coming to the question of rapid mobilization, the system we followed in Natal prior to Union was this. Scattered as our regiments were over a wide expanse of country, each squadron of each regiment was trained and equipped as a self-contained tactical unit. At each squadron headquarters we had stores consisting of tents, cooking utensils, picks and shovels, 100 rounds of spare ammunition for each man, and three days’ iron rations per man. The men kept in their homes their rifles, 50 rounds of ammunition, a greatcoat and a blanket, and all their horse equipment. When it was decided to mobilize the word was telegraphed to the squadron commander, which he transmitted to his three troop leaders, who, by a pre-arranged chain of messengers, called in the rank and file; and if a squadron could not rally within 10 hours, in heavy marching order and self-supporting for at least three days, it was not considered efficient. [Time expired.]
When the House rose last night I was making certain comments on the Minister’s reply regarding the reduction of the strength of the Durban Light Infantry. The officer commanding that regiment received orders from the District Staff Officer, Pietermaritzburg as follows—
The fact that that order had been received became public property in Durban, and it was only natural that it should get into the press. As I stated last night the press published such a statement, but the Minister said there was no truth at all in it. The hon. member for Durban (Berea) (Mr. Henderson) put a question on the Order Paper on April 22 asking whether an order had been issued for the reduction of the strength of the D.L.I. In the interim, the Minister was still denying the existence of this order. Interviewed by the “Cape Times” he said that no such order was ever issued, or could be issued without his sanction. These words are significant in view of the disclosures contained in the papers finally placed on the Table. When the Minister made his reply to the hon. member for Durban (Berea) on April 24 he said—
That minute, when it was produced to this House by the Minister, shows it was not a recommendation for the reduction of the strength of those units. It was an absolute order signed by the chief of the general staff, so that when on April 21 the Minister said no such order had been issued he apparently overlooked the fact that the endorsement on those papers showed that on April 16 he as Minister of Defence had had before him an order by his chief Staff Officer instructing the Adjutant-General to reduce the establishment of the D. L.I. The Minister in a further position of his answer said:
Then he proceeded to blame the Adjutant-General who, to my mind, was completely free from blame. The Minister in his reply proceeded—
In the eyes of everyone who follows defence force matters the Minister’s action in blaming the Adjutant-General is not only ungenerous, but it is most unfair, and cast a reflection on that officer in stating that he, without any orders from the Minister, took it into his own hands to reduce the D.L.I. The Minister concluded his reply to the question by saying—
If that is not a suggestion that the Adjutant-General was acting in conflict with the decision of the Minister I should like to know what it is. If the Minister had stated that the Adjutant-General, on the instructions of the Chief of the General Staff, had issued these orders, he would have been expressing precisely what was contained in these papers, but at that moment he was not aware that the papers were to be laid on the Table. The hon. member for Natal Coast (Brig.-Gen. Arnott) asked for the papers, and when they were produced they disclosed these facts. But for the persistence of the hon. member for Durban (Berea.) (Mr. Henderson), I venture to say that we should not have been placed in possession of these facts at all, because the Minister, when he assured us on 1 April there was no truth at all in the statement and that we should not place reliance on that section of the press which was devoted to discrediting the Government, knew very well that a minute had been placed before him instructing the Adjutant-General to reduce the strength of the D.L.I., because the endorsement shows that the minute issued on the 4th April was submitted to the Minister on the 7th, and he came to a decision thereon on the 16th April, 1925.
I was deliberately deceiving the House, was I?
I will allow the Minister to place his own construction on my words. I state precisely what is in these papers. Why didn’t he tell us the Adjutant-General had been so instructed by the Chief of the General Staff? What he would have us believe now is that the Chief of the General Staff, who is an experienced officer, issued instructions of this sort without reference to the Minister. That would be a reflection the Chief of the General Staff does not deserve. The Minister’s attitude on this question reminds me of Mark Twain’s parody on George Washington and the favourite cherry tree. Mark Twain, when in South Africa, told us a story of Gen. Butler, whose son Arthur was fooling about with an axe and cut down his father’s favourite cherry tree. His father said—
And Arthur—with trembling upper lip and a pathetic look in his eye, such as the Minister evidenced when he gave his reply—said—
Gen. Butler, gathering his son into his arms, said—
The Durban favourite cherry tree was about to be cut down, but the hon. member for Durban (Berea) stopped the Minister in the act. [Time expired.]
Now the hon. member has had the satisfaction of accusing me of making a false statement to the House and he has made the most of his bone, I will reply. I would not deprive the hon. member of the great pleasure he has had.
The pleasure has not ended yet.
Then I will intervene on the general debate. The hon. member who sits next to Him put the thing in the right light when calling my attention that there was clearly some miscarriage of staff work in the matter.
Why not hold an enquiry so that we can see who is to blame?
The whole facts are perfectly clear. The misunderstanding would not have happened had it not been for the political and geographical fact that we have our administrative and our parliamentary headquarters in different places in the Union.
Stop it, then, by removing the capital to Pretoria.
The flimsy was put before me for consideration, and I never dreamt—I know in fact—that it was not thought that this minute had been sent from one division to the other. I received it on the 7th or 8th of the month, and as it was not a matter of urgency it was not until the 16th I annotated it. It was then sent up to Pretoria. The phraseology of that minute was in the form of an order.
An express order.
Does the hon. member suppose that an order, after being issued, would be put before me for my sanction? The flimsy of the order was brought from Pretoria and was put before me for my sanction.
Already having been issued to the Adjutant-General?
Yes, as a matter of fact, having been issued. But that fact was not before me, and was not before my advisers. The hon. member does not believe what I say, but there are other members of the committee who have more respect for my veracity. The first question appeared on the Order Paper. I had considered the matter, and in regard to the other two units suggested I acceded to the suggestions, but to that one I had not. So certain was I, because I had endorsed it. I replied that there was no truth in it. Occasionally the press is anxious to obtain news, and frequently matters being considered in a Government department manage to get into the press. I admit what I did was a bad shot. If the hon. member asks me to apologize to the press I will let them begin first, because they have more to apologize for. Let us come to the next point. The next move was that the hon. member for Durban (Berea) (Mr. Henderson) put down this question asking me another categorical question. Before I saw that question I said to the reporter of the “Cape Times” that no such order had been given as no such order could be given, without my sanction. As soon as I saw this on the Order Paper it was clear to me something had happened, and telegrams were despatched to ascertain the position, and telegrams were sent to send back the flimsy.
The question was on the Order Paper on the 22nd, and the interview with the “Cape Times” was on the 24th.
The hon. member enjoys not believing a word I say. The answer was given to the “Cape Times” before my attention was called to the matter. It was called to my attention that same evening by the hon. member for Durban (Umbilo) (Mr. Reyburn). I at once communicated with the Chief of the General Staff as it was obvious something had gone wrong. That is the truth of the matter, and the answer I gave was exactly in accordance with the fact. It was not meant to be a reflection on anyone, and when the flimsy came down and I saw the terms of the order, I want to say publicly that the Adjutant-General was not in the least to blame. The order had been passed on, and he acted in a perfectly regular way. The fault was that the order had been passed on.
Very well, if you now apologize to the press nothing more need be said about it.
Then why don’t you do it?
I warned hon. members not to take too much notice of these statements in portion of the press whose main preoccupation was to discredit the Government as much as possible. I repeat that warning.
That order was passed on a misconception, on an entirely false premise, and I think you might apologize.
If an apology is needed for that sort of thing, I don’t mind apologizing to them, but when apologies are going about I have a big balance of apologies to come to me. I want to come back to the beginning of this debate—the more serious questions. The hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron), the hon. member for Marico (Mr. J. J. Pienaar), and other members, have discussed this matter of defence in a very different strain, and let me say at once that so far as I am concerned, I agree with a great deal of what those hon. members have said, but it all boils down to that horrible limiting factor in times of peace—£ s. d. If the country is at war the limiting factor of the country’s military effort is what the emergency is. When the country is at peace the limiting factor of your defence organizations and your military organizations here, in Great Britain, in other dominions and most other countries is the limiting factor of what the people of the country will be prepared to spend on their defence organizations. I am obliged to the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) for his congratulations, but I am afraid they are somewhat undeserved in this respect, that the more I study this defence problem the more I feel that it is going to be my function as Minister of Defence to stand out against the rigid economists and to stand out for those things which I believe are necessary for the defence of the country. Defence expenditure, as my hon. friend behind me (Mr. J. J. Pienaar) has remarked, is in the nature of national insurance, and it is throwing away money if you are going to spend money on defence, unless there is at all events some adequate proportion between the defence needs of the country and what you are doing. Hon. members on both sides of the House have spoken of the fact that we have a Defence Act, which was introduced by the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts). We have got that Defence Act on the statute book. We commenced in 1913-14 to translate that Act on the statute book into the military training and establishment of a defence force. The estimates to carry out the Defence Act in 1913-14 were passed in the session of 1913. The 1914-15 estimates were passed in the session of 1914, before there was any talk of war. The 1913-14 estimates amounted to £1.345.000 that is for carrying out, the Defence Act as if existed at the time. The 1914-15 estimates amounted to £1.394 000. That was exclusive of services at present paid for by the Union, exclusive of an air force, exclusive of the Cane Peninsula Garrison (£80,000), the Cape Peninsula being formerly garrisoned by the Imperial Government, exclusive of the South African Naval Service, on which we formerly had a subsidy of £85,000.
And inclusive of a large number of police. You have to take the two votes together.
They were never quite together. There were a certain number of the 1st and 2nd S.A.M.R., I think, doing constabulary duties. I am advised that if we were to carry out the Defence Act to-day as it exists on the statute book, posting every young man for peace training, everything that we are asked to do, it would swell the Defence estimates to something pretty nearly approaching a couple of millions. I think it is quite clear that the country and Parliament would never dream of sanctioning the expenditure necessary to carry out the Defence Act in all its fullness.
We cannot afford it.
I agree with the hon. member that we cannot afford it. We cannot hope to base our whole defence arrangements as if we were a first-class power both from the point of view of population and finance. Let me say—and it has been the case for a very long time—that the Defence Act has not been carried out, and in many respects it is an Act which you cannot carry out without a very great deal of expense. I said—
but it would possibly be more. It is based on the idea that every youth on attaining his twenty-first birthday, if he has not had four years’ peace training, is to be posted over to some citizen force unit or some rifle association. That is the answer to my hon. friend (Mr. Pienaar) in regard to the point which he raised, that in some military districts there was no expenditure on citizen force units at all. How can you form a citizen force unit in a district adjacent to a place like Calvinia, where distances are very great, and where your youth would have to go miles and miles in order to drill? Take the whole of the north-western territory. Broadly speaking, it comes to this, the plan adopted has been that you have taken the citizen force unit as the type of training in the populous centres where that is a practicable proposition, and you have devoted all your money for defence rifle associations and so on to the country districts, where that is the type of organization which is more or less ingrained in the customs of the people. But I agree with my hon. friend and agree with him to the full, and I wish we had more money to spend to see if we cannot get something more than the loose organization that at present exists in the country districts. What I am going to do is to have a conference of commandants in the Transvaal, in Pretoria, and a conference of commandants in the Free State, in Bloemfontein, early in the recess, where I shall be able to discuss with them all these matters and matters such as the supply of ammunition to the defence rifle associations and so on, matters all of which are admirable. Any Minister of Defence, any member of this House occupying my position, would be only too anxious to encourage rifle shooting, to do a number of these things which have been suggested, but it is a case of how long is the pocket. I do my best to distribute the resources at my command fairly with the advice at my command; and let me here acknowledge in this matter that I have found whatever the side of the House on which hon. members sit, they are prepared to discuss and give me advice which I take in the spirit in which it is meant, and from which there is a very pleasing absence of any party feeling or spirit. To carry out our Defence Act as it is, is really beyond the means of the country, and one is bound to neglect a good deal. I do think that one ought to realize that it is not a good thing to have an Act on our statute book that we cannot carry out; and what is going to engage my attention, with the advice of the military staff, is to see what alterations in this Act can and should be made, which will apply more closely to our capacities. The Act, for instance, enjoins the registration of every citizen on his reaching a certain age. We go through all that; he is then posted to a certain unit, and the same posting has perforce to inform him he is excused peace training. What is the use of all that trouble simply to carry out the Act? It all involves certain expenditure. Whether, when 50 per cent. enrol, one should exercise the option of not calling upon the other 50 per cent. for training, is a point upon which I must ask hon. members to allow me to be silent, so that I can think it over. The next point is the air force. I think the country can certainly be justly proud of the air force we have, and of the personnel of that air force.. As regards technical skill—I am not speaking of military skill for the moment well, it is a pretty good performance for such a little force as ours to carry on that air mail service for three months with 100 per cent, efficiency. Again, from a military point of view, when we had the little trouble away up in south-west, the Prime Minister transmitted the request of the Administrator for a force to be sent up there. The telegram was despatched from here; and I do not believe in any country in the world greater rapidity could have been displayed, and the force appeared on the scene, of action despite great difficulty—the Vaal River was up, and the bridge was washed away at Upington—but they were up in record time. It is not the quality of our force that should give us any grounds to feel the least misgiving. The hon. member spoke of the type of our machines, of the necessity to be absolutely up to date. Here again you would never find any Minister of Defence who would not thoroughly agree with this if. Parliament would give him all the money he wanted; but if Parliament did give him all the money he wanted, Parliament would be extraordinarily impudent at any time. We were supplied with a gift by the Imperial Government of a number of machines. More than that, we have, up at Pretoria, a very excellent equipment, and a very excellent force of air mechanics. We are able to do practically the whole of the work of putting together our own aeroplanes that have come out as a gift, and we keep those we have in the most complete repair. But things do wear out; crashes occur where you have nothing left of the aeroplane but a few strips; and, in the course of time, these machines will be exhausted. The question has already been put to me by the department as to what we are going to do in a few years, when we shall have to get our own aeroplanes. Are we to put aside a certain amount in the estimates as a sort of sinking fund, or should we replace these machines as our own go out.? This is the conclusion I have come to in this matter. The hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron) spoke of the tremendous advance that had been made, and was continually being made, in the progress of military aviation. He spoke of the danger of a first-class power with her battleships, aircraft carriers, perhaps lying at sea three or four hundred miles away from our coast, and sending bombing squadrons to bomb our capital, our arsenals, and so on. That may be perfectly true; no doubt it is; but if such a fleet was to be able to come within that range it would mean that the Royal navy had been beaten.
I was speaking of a raid.
Yes, but I think craft of that description would be rather different from your ordinary raider, and it rather presupposes that we should have lost our command of the sea. If we had lost our command of the sea, then we have not got the money and the resources to be adequately prepared against naval invasion of this kind, it would not be a couple of millions you would have to put on the vote, but much more than this country could afford, if you went in for protection on such a scale.
The safety of this country depends upon the British navy, then?
In a broad sense, so far as our security from attack from any first-class power, east or west, is concerned, that is undoubtedly one of the strongest guarantees we have.
The only guarantee we have.
In a way yes, but it is clear with the experience of this country—I am not afraid of speaking of these things, because we can look back upon them in the light of common history as part of our inheritance—when you look back at the days of 1899 to 1902, and consider that the two races in this country are united to-day, that it would be a very stiff job to beat us although we might be beaten in the end. But, still the fact is that we do enjoy immunity from danger from without, and that is the fact that enables us to regard our defence problem largely from an internal point of view, and from that point of view I cannot suggest that we should be too ambitious even in building up our air force. For these estimates, we have provided for one squadron, a skeleton of three flights and four machines each, which, with our reserve personnel, and those continually attending for air training, we could increase in time of emergency; but with regard to the type of aircraft, I do not think I am giving away any secrets at all when I say it is quite obvious that aircraft which were the latest thing four or five years ago are not so to-day. In regard to replacement, when the time comes, I would prefer an arrangement for the purchase of new aeroplanes to be deferred to the last moment compatible with keeping up our strength, so that we could get the most recent machines which had at that time been invented. I think that is sound, but there is quite room for difference of opinion. That, however, is the decision I have provisionally come to. The hon. member for Durban (Point) (Maj. Miller) dealt with the question of civil aviation. He was away while this air mail service was being discussed. It has been an experiment and we know now what can be done; but it has not been found to pay. Whether we can encourage any independent company to take on the venture, I am afraid is rather on the knees of the gods. I should like to see civil aviation developing in the country; because, as he rightly said, it means you have an industry in the country which is of very great use in time of war; but I do not knew that I can put money for that on my vote; certainly I cannot hypothecate a portion of my attenuated air force to carry out civil aviation as, although it is an admirable help to the air force of the country, civil aviation is no substitute whatever for the training of air soldiers. I am transmitting to the House the information which I have been able to gleam from those very competent to give it, and the position put before me makes me recognize the force of the view that you are only deceiving yourself by supposing that, by continuing civil aviation, you are able to do that as a (substitute for your organization of a trained military air force. The seconding of the whole of our air force to the mail service for three months has meant the interruption of their military training which would be most necessary in actual warfare. Hon. members alluded to the cadets. I quite agree that the cadet training is invaluable. You take a youngster and teach him, during his early years, the drill and all the rudiments of formation, and so on, and it is something he never forgets; but I do not know that there is much difference between the hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron’s) suggestion of having a “B” class of cadets, who will get musketry training, and your active citizen force training; but I will look into that matter. The cadet training in this country is something which I certainly look upon as a very valuable portion of our arrangements, and any suggestion of that sort I will have thoroughly looked into. But already we have 1,199 officers and nearly 41,500 other ranks in the cadets of the country, and it is an institution which is continually increasing, I think, in popularity. We have made provision this year for 43,000, and I must say that I should be very sorry to adopt what I understood was the suggestion of the hon. member, of making it compulsory for schoolboys to enter into cadet training.
On general principles. If a thing is catching on, it is a sound thing to allow it to go on without any element of compulsion.
Not for the slackers.
Don’t you think that the boys have their own methods of bringing pressure to bear on slackers? By introducing the compulsory system, you are going to get up against a whole lot of people who object to that on principle. I am inclined to think that my opinion is the same as that of my two hon. friends; but I do not think that the compulsory principle is expedient, and when a thing is growing in popularity, I think it had better be helped along that line. I agree with the major part of what the hon. member for Hoopstad (Mr. Conroy) said. My only difficulty is the length of our pocket. Nearly every time it comes back to that. His main criticism was that we spend too much on the permanent forces and too little on the burger forces, but I understood that the hon. member for Marico (Mr. J. J. Pienaar) wanted the opposite, namely, that a good deal should be spent upon the permanent forces.
No, not on the present vote. Less money on the present vote.
I think if both my hon. friends on this side, and the hon. member for East London (North) go into the matter more closely and see what men particularly conversant with military matters think, they will see they are taking a view that has been suggested to them by a good deal of uninformed criticism. I may not have taken my hon. friend down rightly, but I understood he spoke of having 1,200 officers and no men. As a matter of fact, we have 176 officers and 1,699 men of other ranks. Of course, that would be an absurd proportion for a regiment, or any organized unit; but the permanent forces, besides being the very small striking force, is the staff which will have to do the staff work and the organizing of all your active citizen forces and burger forces when war emergency occurs. We made provision for 150,000 burger forces, and we might have to call up from 30,000 to 50,000 active citizen force unites by doubling or trebling the battalion. If you are going to adopt your national citizen army you must not overlook the fact that you have to keep a good many staff officers and men continually at work. In point of fact, if money were more plentiful there is room for a good many more permanent men. It is very easy to say—and I am bound to admit that until I gave it the attention I had to during recent months—I perhaps to some extent shared the view that there was a superabundance of officers. But if your defence force is conceived on the constitution of having a trained number of men going about their ordinary peaceful avocations only to be called up in times of emergency, and you have a small striking force, you have also to keep a large number of officers and men who will be able to do the staff work of the army when it is called into existence. I am not claiming perfection, but hon. members must not think that we could do without a very great excess of officers over other ranks which would look absurd if it were the establishment of an organized force, but is not at all absurd with the body of men we require if we are going to carry out the conception of a national citizen army as we have it on our statute book. I would ask hon. members in considering these matters not to pay attention to the uninformed criticism that you hear on the part of people who compare the number of officers in the defence force with the number of officers and men in the police force. If you compare the number of officers we have and the total of all ranks of all forces you will not find the proportion very much out, except possibly on the other side. In reply to the hon. member for Hoopstad (Mr. Conroy) I may say that last year the sum of £24.850 was provided for arms and ammunition and clothing of the Defence Rifle Association. This year it is proposed to spend £42,000. The hon. member also spoke of Bisleys. There is one Bisley Association in each province with the exception of the Cape, which has two. We make provision for the holding of three provincial Bisleys each year. This year I am making provision for one for the Free State. I shall be told this is a fearful piece of political partizanship.
Your own conscience pricks you.
No, it is so tough it does not prick me at all. Every other province has had a good deal spent on its active citizen force units, but the Free State has not a single active citizen force unit, and its claim that it should, at all events, have a Bisley every year, is not particularly extravagant, as a Bisley does not cost much. The hon. member for Bloemfontein (South) (Dr. Steyn) has been begging me to give the Free State an active citizen force unit, and if I can find the money next year I shall do so. From all over the country I have had the strongest representations to issue rifles to members of the Defence Rifle Association.
Is the hon. member prepared to foot the bill? It is not only the cost of the rifles, but if they are to be kept under conditions under which they can be of use they must be periodically inspected, and that would entail an increase of the inspection staff. I am to have a conference of commandants and I shall certainly do my best to devise some plan by which commandoes and members of the Defence Rifle Association may have more rifles.
Don’t cheer too quickly. As to the question of issuing rifles on payment, a very few districts think this could be arranged, but the consensus of opinion is that it would be almost impossible to collect the money, and would involve a great deal of inspection expenditure. We have only a small armoury staff, and I have received very gratifying testimonials as to the excellent work it has done, but if you have an over plus of orders and you have only a certain staff, there will be delay in attending to rifles. I would like hon. members on both sides of the House who are connected with country districts where defence rifle associations occupy important positions in the defence arrangements, to use their influence where there is a desire always to have the long barrelled rifle, to get these people to realize that the short rifle is the modern service rifle and the most approved rifle and the rifle we have to fight with. It would be much better if our rifle practice was done with the rifle the men are going to use on service.
I think the long rifle shoots better.
Experts, after trial, find it is largely a matter of habit.
And of weight.
Experts say, after use for a considerable time, they are just as handy. The shooting at the ranges is not a sport but primarily to teach men to use the rifle and be able to shoot. I know these old prejudices and old habits are difficult to get away from. In this case, however, I am not going to use anything more than persuasion, but I ask hon. members to help me because if we are going to use a weapon in actual warfare it is as well to practise with the same weapon. The hon. member for Natal Coast (Brig.-Gen. Arnott) said that only six per cent. of the active citizen force at present in training will be in training this year. Did I understand the hon. member rightly?
That was my information.
The total of all ranks in the active citizen force is 10,258 and the total posted last year is 3,429, and these will go on for another three years. That in itself constitutes 34 per cent. In addition to this permission is being given for 50 per cent. of the non-commissioned officers who have completed their training to go on. As the hon. member knows in a regiment the non-commissioned officers are an important part of it. I will look up and see what the exact proportion was but his information was obviously at fault when he said only six per cent. would go forward. Another thing he has been misinformed on is that there will be no camps this year. There will be a camp at the Cape this year and one or two other camps. There will be less this year owing to the shifting forward of the period. In Natal the units themselves desired to have their camp in April. Usually they have been in August and September. You cannot get two camps in one training year, and from September of last year they will not have another camp until May of next year. I frankly admit we have tried to economize in not having more camps than we can help. If it were not for the money it would be an ideal thing to have the whole of the citizen force in one camp for big spell, but we cannot do it because the transport is immensely increased. The hon. member for Marico (Mr. J. J. Pienaar) suggested that we should amalgamate the S.A.M.R. with the police. The S.A.M.R. have certainly fallen very low in figures and it must be the low water mark, and any changes now must be in the direction of improvement. They are being trained as machine gun squadrons, 16 machine guns to a squadron, so that we shall be able to use them as mounted riflemen or machine gun squadrons. I don’t agree with the idea of the police being substituted for portions of the defence. The position is this. If you amalgamate a portion of your defence force with the police, what is going to happen? It is going to become a police force, and you will have Parliament saying that for the policing of the country you have got too much. If it is a police force it will not be a quickly mobilizable force. If it is a defence force unit you have it under your control trained as soldiers and not as policemen. With regard to the staff college, the hon. member for Weenen (Maj. Richards) raised this point. I largely agreed with him in his view as to the in utility of sending untrained men to the staff college. Our regimental units are very small in this country, and we have not a large field for regimental training. We have now arranged that the officer will only have a year at the staff college and will in the other year be attached to brigade and divisional staffs and will get experience of the actual staff administration for one year.
Which year course, first or second?
The first year. The second year course will be pretty advanced. We decided it would be a sound thing for them to have a part of the staff college course and the rest of the time spent in actual experience of divisional and brigade staff work. Then I come to the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge). I have explained already, and it is in Hansard, that we are carrying out the whole of the recommendations of that commission, except in two matters, one concerned with the alteration of the rates of pay as settled by the 1922 Act. In respect of all members of the force, the recommendation would have been a sound thing to have been done at the time. But a large number of men having been given the choice and having taken the gratuity, the position is now as it would have been in 1922. In other respects too the carrying out of the recommendation will create as many anomalies as exist at present. We are doing our best to carry out the whole of the other recommendation. He spoke of the fact that men who gave evidence before that commission have found that they have been persecuted or prejudiced. I have had one or two cases of complaint made to me which I have investigated. My orders are, and they are being carried out, that care must be taken to see that nothing of that sort is going on. It is an old story which my hon. friends of the cross benches know more than anyone. It cut both ways. Complaints will be brought that such a thing is due to victimization, and on really careful and impartial examination you will find that it is simply a case of six of one and a half-dozen of the other. In one case that I examined there were various allegations made, and I really could find mighty little in it. So far as I know today, a good deal of that friction, irritation and so on has disappeared. I would ask all sides of the House to use their influence in this matter. In this House we are continually saying that all these matters are matters of common concern, and that they should be treated, as far as possible, in a non-party spirit. That is incompatible with members of Parliament on every side bringing forward complaints and encouraging men to depart from the ordinary channels laid down in the military discipline code, through which to bring up any grievances there are. As far as the permanent force is concerned, a general inspection takes place periodically, and I would appeal to hon. members, to my own hon. friends. There were considerable allegations of politics entering into the defence force. Don’t let us encourage people to think that we can cure that by introducing the same sort of thing from our side. I am trying, as far as I can, to hold the balance even, and keep things as free from politics as I can, but I can only do that if hon. members on all sides will help.
When my time expired I was referring to the period that it took to mobilize under the system in operation prior to Union. I doubt whether, under the present system, you can mobilize any regiment under ten days, and I dare suggest that in many cases it would be a good deal longer. The Minister seems to think that this sort of thing needs expenditure. Efficiency does not necessarily mean expenditure, but I would remind him that lack of efficiency always means waste. I would like to turn to another remark which the Minister made in respect of our dependence upon the British navy. He was perfectly right in saying that we are absolutely dependent for our safety on the British navy. But he was not quite so correct when he turned round and intimated to his friends behind him that if Great Britain lost command of the seas, and any other first-class power got possession of the seas, we would still be an unconquerable people.
No, I did not say that.
I am glad to be corrected for, although we should put up a very good show, our endurance must be limited. After all, having lost command of the seas, we have to remember that we in South Africa are not a self-supporting nation, we are not even as self-contained as Australia and New Zealand.
They would be in the same boat.
Not to the same extent as we are. If we lost command of the seas, all our communications with the outside world would be cut off. Our essentials could no longer be imported week by week and month by month to keep us going.
Australia and New Zealand would be in the same boat.
No, they are a long way ahead of us in the matter of factories, and are developing rapidly. We cannot even make our own clothing, let alone ammunition. Then we have to make heavy imports of medicines and so on. Now, in view of all this, what is the policy of the Government in regard to the development of naval defence? Has the Government got a policy? We are endeavouring, I know in a small way, to develop our sea sense, and the suggestion has been made to the Government to extend this policy and that the Imperial Government be asked by the Union Government to place at its disposal a 5,000-ton cruiser, the annual cost of maintenance and upkeep to be borne out of Union funds. I would like to know what the Minister’s idea is of that suggestion. It is a matter which South Africans really want to take very seriously. It is admitted frankly by all parties now that we are dependent upon the British navy, but what we don’t take into consideration is that the over-burdened British taxpayer is paying for this, and to our shame we are not doing our share. When you come to compare the contributions from the different portions of the empire, this community of so-called independent nations which go to make up the British empire, our contribution is not only negligible, but it is really shameful. The figures have often been quoted, but I think it would do no harm if they are just quoted again, even if it is only to get them on record in this House. We have Admiral Bentinck’s own words at the farewell banquet given to him in Cape Town, on the 27th January, 1925. He pointed out that in the United Kingdom the charge for the navy works out at 26s. 8d. per head of the population; in Australia, 8s. 2d.; in New Zealand, 4s. 7d.; in Canada, 1s. 4d., and in South Africa, 11d.
Is that per head of Europeans?
Yes. And in spite of this miserable effort, we are more dependent upon the British navy than any other dominion, and it is about time we realized that and did something commensurate with the advantages which we derive. I am going to ask the Minister if he will answer these questions in his reply, so that we can get some definite idea as to how South Africa stands—
- (a) What is the policy of the Union Government relative to the development of the South Africa naval service?
- (b) What does the present South Africa naval service consist of? The ships Protea, Sonnenbloom, Immortelle. The purposes to which such ships and staff are put to? The sea-going training given? The cost, and what is the ultimate aim of the Government in regard to the South Africa naval service?
- (c) What are the details of the expenditure referred to by the Minister of Defence in his answer to the hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige)? Over what period is that expenditure being spread? Which of this is capital expenditure? What is actually being done and expended now? What has the Imperial Government handed over to the Union Government in shape of (a) land and buildings; (b) equipment; (c) other matters; and also what is the value under each of such three headings?
- (d) Was it part of the undertaking given by the Union Government, when the Imperial Government property was transferred to the Defence Department, that the Union should provide adequately for the land defence of the Peninsula, and, if so, what has been done in this connection beyond what had been done before such transfer?
- (e) The annual contribution of the Cape Colony alone was £50,000 and that of Natal £35,000—the Transvaal and the Orange Free State making no contribution for naval protection. What is the actual amount of contribution to the Imperial navy by tEe Union?
- (f) Does the Union Government favour the cruiser scheme both as a practical development of the South Africa naval service into a serviceable contribution to naval defence, and as an outlet or career for South African boys? Will it take up this scheme, if not now, then does the Government favour it as a step practical in the immediate future?
Note.—The cruiser scheme put forward by the Navy League of South Africa is briefly:
- 1. That the Imperial Government be asked by the Union Government to place at its disposal a 5,000-ton cruiser, the annual cost of maintenance and upkeep to be borne out of Union funds.
- 2. That at first such cruiser be officered and manned by personnel from the Royal Navy, but that, as South African officers and men qualify by training in the Royal navy, and its schools of instruction, they be drafted to the Union cruiser, gradually replacing the original personnel, until such cruiser is both officered and manned entirely by qualified South Africans.
I venture to say that the answers to these questions will be awaited with very keen interest.
I hope the Minister will go further into this matter of extending our defence forces. One does not pose for one moment as an alarmist, and one knows that it takes a minimum of ten years to make any effective change in military organization; but we cannot blink the fact that we are in a dangerous position and are going to be in a dangerous position in South Africa for many years to come. On the question of population alone the Minister knows that the present great nervousness in France is due to the fact that her population is much less than that of a powerful and warlike neighbour. We see it in the papers even now that matters in the East are assuming an importance greater than ever before. One does not want to go too far into these affairs; but it is obvious that there must be an overspill of the yellow races into other parts of the world; and the countries which will be affected are those most easily occupied. Take the position of Japan. It has a population of 376 souls to the square mile. The population of South Africa is 3.2 to the square mile. Of course, we are considering the white population. It is a principle of ours that natives shall not be allowed to be trained in arms. China with 460 millions is in a state of unrest and is overflowing too. The Minister will follow my argument, that the time may come—we hope it will not-—when we must employ all our resources of men and materials to maintain our very existence. I recognize that while perhaps the country cannot afford to pay more for defence than it is doing, I do think that much better value could be obtained for that expenditure if our methods were revised. The Minister has admitted that we cannot put our Defence Act into full operation owing to lack of funds. We have only a small number of men trained to arms, and that somewhat imperfectly. If this system of cadet training were made more applicable to our needs I think the Minister would find it would add greatly to our efficiency. I do not think compulsion in cadet training is objectionable. We punish parents who do not send their boys to school. The Minister has adopted a most dangerous and objectionable argument when he relies upon the splendid material in the air force both in men and machines as a complete answer to all criticisms and suggestions. Surely if we are proud of our air force, as we have every reason to be, the best way in which we can express our appreciation is to see that they are properly equipped for the time when they may have to meet an enemy. Is it sufficient to rely on the valour and technical skill of our men when we put them in 80 mile an hour machines, and they may have to meet an enemy flying 200 mile an hour machines?
That is the position. If war broke out to-morrow we would have to meet an enemy with machines travelling twice as fast as ours. It is very poor recognition of the devotion of our airmen to furnish them with inferior machines. The Minister has spoken of our reliance on the British navy, but while we are dependent on the British navy the British navy to a certain extent is dependent upon us. A navy is powerless unless it has bases and stations to which it can go to refuel and so on. If we are dependent for our safety upon the British navy why have a defence force at all? Why have fortifications? What is the object of them? It is chiefly to protect our own shipping and our naval bases in time of war. I think the Minister will admit that these fortifications are absolutely useless under modern conditions. There are guns mounted as part of the defence of Cape Town that are older than some members of this House.
No, not main defences.
I guarantee that is correct. What provision is the Minister making to bring these armaments more up to date, in the way for instance of anti-aircraft guns, to meet modern conditions? The British navy no longer, unfortunately, holds the predominant power that it did in the seas of the world. Japan for instance is far more powerful in the Pacific than the British navy. That was not the case ten or twelve years ago, but it is the case at present. And surely if we are to rely on the British navy to a large extent, it is our duty, by making our coast defence arrangements of such a nature, and by having aircraft available for the defence of these bases, to enable the British navy to fulfil its functions. I do not think it is wise for us to decide on this particular expedient or that one, by which we can best render assistance to the predominant partner in the British commonwealth; for instance, whether it should take the form of a 5,000 ton cruiser, or whether we should be asked to render assistance in a different form. That we are not prepared to discuss now; but I will support any measure that will enable the navy and our sea defences to be more secure than they are at present.
I wish to refer to the question raised by the hon. member for Hanover Street last night, in regard to the granting of silver medals to the Cape Coloured Regiment, to which they are entitled. Two officers concerned in the matter have approached the Minister. I do not propose to go into details, as I think the Government may be induced, by the representations already made, to reconsider its previous decision; but I should like to know why this discrimination is made against the coloured men who have proceeded overseas on the same work as white men. I have in my possession a letter from the War Office, dated 16th February, 1925, to Lt.-Col. van der Byl, which states that the question of granting silver medals to the Cape coloured and native labour regiments is under consideration. I think that is where the Department has confused things. They have confused the Cape Coloured Labour Corps with the Native Labour Contingent. We have recently passed, in this House, a certain Bill on which there was a lot of criticism, and under which the Government has allowed coloured people to be treated the same as Europeans. In this particular case, you have a large number of coloured men who have been deprived of their only reward for serving their country during the recent war. Like the hon. member for Hanover Street, I cannot understand why these records were handed over to the Native Affairs Department. It is unfair to the coloured men. There is a letter in the correspondence from the Prime Minister to Lt.-Col. Sproule, dated 1st May, 1925, acknowledging a letter of 20th April, and stating that it would be no doubt understood that the Prime Minister’s office could not directly investigate this matter, but could only set machinery in motion, and giving an assurance that (the Defence Department and the Native Affairs Department would go into the matter so that a final decision might be arrived at as early as possible. That reads all right, but there is further correspondence. If it is on the ground of colour that these men are refused these medals I think hon. members should understand that. If you, during any war, recruit the coloured people in any capacity by waving the flag in their eyes and send them overseas to fight, and then refuse them a paltry medal, you are acting very unfairly to a body of deserving men, and I will never agree to it. The position is that the War Office is agreeable—according to the “Gazette” itself which I have here—to a medal in bronze being granted to all native subjects who were in a native corps, but the men of the Coloured Corps, to whom I refer, want the silver medal, and the War Office are agreeable to that. The medals are ready for distribution, and all that is required is that the list should be prepared by the officers and sent to the War Office. With all due respect, and notwithstanding the decision of the late Government, we think it is up to the present Government to play the game to these men. There is a letter, dated 3rd June, from the department to Lt.-Col. Sproule. This letter states that the previous Government decided against the award of these medals to native and coloured, and that the decision of the present Government is in agreement with that, and that no medals are being granted to Cape Coloured and native labour contingents. It evidently confuses the Native Labour Contingent with the Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, and I feel certain that when the Minister confers with Col. van der Byl and Col. Sproule he will be convinced that an injustice has been done to these men, and will take the necessary steps to make it possible for the War Office to issue the medals.
Hon. members hitherto have dealt with questions of policy, but I wish to go into matters of more practical detail. The report of the Defence Enquiry Commission, in section 24, deals with the question of rations, fuel and light, more particularly as regards Roberts Heights. The light and fuel issues do not represent anything like the cash value attached to them. The Commission recommended that married men should have the option of drawing the money equivalent in lieu of rations. Has this recommendation been carried out? With regard to fuel the most peculiar position has arisen, and has caused considerable dissatisfaction at Roberts Heights. If these little points of dissatisfaction could be removed it would be a great thing for the force and would also tend to its smoother working. Apparently instructions were given that the coal issued was to be increased, and I may explain that 15s. is deducted from the allowances of both officers and non-commissioned officers for the coal. An increased supply per month of two bags was made to officers of the rank of major and over, and one bag to lieutenants and captains, but the issue to warrant and non-commissioned officers remained the same, a discrimination which seems to me to be quite unjustified. Then the unclean state of Government furniture at Roberts Heights has been commented upon by the Enquiry Commission. I hesitate to tell the committee the information I have with regard to the state of the furniture at Roberts Heights. Fumigation is the least that can be done. These quarters were condemned by the imperial authorities, but the fumigation recommended by the commission has not yet been carried out. I urge the Minister to see that the commission’s recommendations are given effect to. I have a number of other small points which I do not wish to labour. Men employed in clerical capacities at the artillery barracks at Roberts Heights have to parade four times a week for half an hour’s drill starting at 6.45 a.m., although they work regularly from 8.15 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. They suggest that an hour’s parade twice a week will answer all the necessary requirements. I have brought up these small complaints in the hope that the Minister will see his way to remove them, and in that way to get rid of a great deal of the dissatisfaction of which he complains. We private members try as far as possible to placate the men, but while the causes of complaint still exist it is almost impossible for us to do anything.
While failing to appreciate the significance of the hon. member for Salt River’s statement that it was “cheek” to reconsider these men, I thoroughly support the appeal to the Minister to re-consider his decision regarding the supply of the list to enable the issue of war medals to members of the Cape Labour Corps. Personally I cannot understand why the Government has adopted this peculiar position. The War Office decided that these men should have medals, for they were recruited for imperial purposes and became part and parcel of the imperial army. All that is asked for is the list of the men, which the Government has. If the Government does not want to copy the list, the officers of the corps are prepared to have a copy made. I now wish to refer to the position of the adjutants of our volunteer corps, the Minister, I understand, refuses to give them pay, although the staff officers and adjutants of the railway regiments receive pay. I understood the party to which the Minister belongs was against the railway brigade, but I notice the Government make use of it in case of trouble with natives. Let me refer to the report of the Auditor-General, relating to a staff officer of the Railway Department drawing £500 plus £69 per annum.
It is railway pay.
The Minister must not be in a hurry. The permanent staff of the Railways and Harbours Brigade consist of one major, whose salary—£500 and £69 per annum—is paid out of the brigade fund; but two orderly room sergeants are paid by the Department of Defence, and two adjutants at £200 a year, and four instructors at £60 a year, and four at £30 are paid by the Defence Department. The peculiar position in regard to the brigade is this, that whilst these men are looked upon for certain purposes as officers of the Railway Department, for other purposes they are looked upon as officers of the Defence Department, and the Auditor-General finds it difficult to draw the line. If he applies to the Railway Department they say they are defence officers, and if he applies to the Department of Defence they say they are railway officers. Let me read what he says—
As provision is not made for the payment of emoluments from the Railways and Harbours departmental funds, he would not appear to be entitled to the railway concessions granted to him and his family, yet, as the Auditor-General says—
The Railway Department does not know whether he is their officer. Sometimes they say he is, sometimes they say he is an officer of the Defence Department. I would be glad of some information. The Minister is a party to paying a high salary to a staff officer in the railway brigade. Will he carry the principle a little further, and pay the men who do a lot of voluntary work, work which is for the benefit of the country. I think in some of the old regiments, like the Duke’s, the C.P.R. and the Highlanders, the Minister ought to consider the position of the staff officers, and give them decent emoluments.
As a supporter of the Government, I suppose I am not entitled to expect the same attention and the same elaborate replies as is vouchsafed to members of the Opposition. I ask the Minister again for a reply to the questions I put to him, which are exercising the minds of his supporters on the Witwatersrand, and of labour throughout the country. The first question is in connection with a departmental enquiry relating to the doings of some of the members of the D.L.I. and the Transvaal Scottish in 1922, and the second refers to the question of prohibiting by legislation, the defence force being utilized in industrial disputes. The Minister referred to the fact that he is considering the question of amending the present Defence Act. I hope he will take these questions into consideration.
I apologize to the hon. member for not replying.
You didn’t reply to me at all.
But the hon. member moved to reduce my salary, which removes him from the category of my friends. In reply to the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge), I don’t propose to set up any such thing as a departmental enquiry. I am not going to set up an inferior enquiry when a superior and exhaustive enquiry is found to be in the nature of things impossible. On the question of the use of the defence force in connection with industrial disputes. Of course, the theory is that it is never used in industrial disputes, but only in connection with disturbances which arise out of industrial trouble. I myself used to move a motion to that effect until it was pointed out to me by a legal friend that the defence force is used in internal matters only on a proclamation of martial law, and when martial law is proclaimed the executive is the only judge of what shall be done, so that the existence of such a clause in the Defence Act would simply be one of those illegal acts for which the executive would come to Parliament and ask for an indemnity. Let us face the fact. The real way is to avoid disputes which lead to revolt. I have no objection to putting such a thing in, but it will be useless as a protection for what the hon. gentleman wants. In reply to the question with regard to the railway adjutant, he is an active citizen force officer, and in that respect belongs to my department. He is paid £500 a year, and in that respect he does not belong to my department.
I want to make a comment on the reply of the Minister tendered to the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge). That is in regard to an enquiry into certain happenings which took place on the Rand in 1922. I am not one who desires to rake up the fires of old antagonisms, but I assure this House that there is a very large and representative proportion of the public of the Witwatersrand which desires to see justice meted out with an even hand. Each side in that episode in certain instances transgressed the law, but only to one side did the authorities mete out punishment, and that punishment was applied with the utmost rigour, even to the carrying out of the extreme penalty. Life and property were destroyed by members of the Crown forces under circumstances which have never been justified, or even properly investigated. Persons who, to the knowledge of those who were on the spot and know the facts, are equally guilty with those from whom the law exacted its price, are to-day wearing the uniform of those forces, and some of them are holding a rank of honour and responsibility. No attempt has, so far, been made to demonstrate that laws, which purport to be based on justice, know no difference between persons or interests, which ignore or break them. I was very much surprised to hear the remark of the hon. member for East London (City), because I thought he would have been one of the last members of this House who would approve of that kind of thing. We do not want anyone’s head on a charger; we are not asking for that. But we do want such steps taken as will convince those who are struggling under very great difficulties and who were exasperated into breaking the law, to see that the law is at least impartial. That has not yet been done in this case. It is within the province of the Minister to hold a regimental enquiry where allegations of abuse of authority are founded on reasonably sound evidence. The findings of such enquiries would clear the innocent and indict the guilty. I think there is a distinct obligation on the executive of this Government to take some such steps to give effect to that very fine sentiment which was expressed by the hon. member for Marico (Mr. J. J. Pienaar) when he said that the keynote of the whole defence organization should be popularity, and I state here that that is not going to obtain with the present generation of those who are forming the active members of this force if that vindication where it is required, or disapprobation where it is merited, is not officially passed, and thereby something like equilibrium is restored as between the conflicting factors, which must sooner or later coalesce if an efficient force is to be set up. I am sneaking from deep conviction, because I have intimate, personal knowledge of what took place at that time, and I know exactly what the feeling is amongst some of the best citizens, taking second place to none in tins country. I want to deal now with the matter of the Railways and Harbours Rifles. That is a matter which has previously been voiced in this House prior to my arrival here. I think the time has come when the Railways and Harbours Brigade as a departmental military unit should be abolished. I cannot see that any useful purpose is served by retaining the identity of that military unit under its distinctive description as a Railways and Harbours Brigade. I cannot see how it should appeal to the Minister of Defence himself to retain it in that connection. The report of the Select Committee on Railways and Harbours will supply several reasons in support of the point of view that I am taking up. Generally speaking, I consider that it is undesirable that those who are placed in authority over individuals whilst in pursuit of their daily avocations should again be placed over them in a military sense when they are serving in a military unit. The Minister will recollect that during the various little eruptions which we have had in this country, when it has been a ease of one interest against another, invariably the position has been that those who are composed of what we will call the rank and file of industry, and who are the potential rank and file of the military forces, are opposed, firstly, in the industrial dispute, and afterwards in the military and coercive measures invariably adopted with the backing of the State, by persons who are their “bosses” in civil life. That is a state of affairs which should not be perpetuated. I notice a question was put to Sir William Hoy by this select committee when he was asked whether men were forced to join this brigade, and he replied—
That is not the case. I have a copy of a letter addressed to a youth in the employ of the railway which states—
He wanted to join another unit altogether.
He was not given the option?
He was compelled to join this unit. This letter is signed by the captain and adjutant of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, Railways and Harbours Brigade. This is another case of putting a square peg in a round hole. He wanted to join another utility unit where he would have been much more at home and much more useful, but willy-nilly he is compelled by the officers concerned, who are his superior officials in the railway service, to join this unit. I hope this is an aspect of the case which the Minister will take steps to rectify and to see that there is no compulsion used to force anyone to join a unit which he does not want to join. The hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron) insisted on the very urgent necessity of the most thorough training to secure the highest possible efficiency of what we may call our fighting forces. Referring again to the Railways and Harbours Brigade, Sir William Hoy said before the select committee that he was the commander of the brigade. If this training is essential for the rank and file, surely it must be even more essential for those placed in charge of the lives of their men On what grounds is based the occupancy by Sir William Hoy of the post of commander of the brigade? Has he got the military experience and training, and has he the intimate knowledge of modern military methods and so forth which are necessary to approach the high standard advocated by the hon. member for East London (North)? I do not think it is possible. Life is too short for one person to reach the military attainments deemed necessary by the hon. member for East London (North) and also to acquire the high excellence as a railway administrator which we are so frequently assured Sir William Hoy has done. That is an argument in favour of doing away with the whole thing. They say also here that it is a non-combatant force—
If men between the ages of 17 and 25 are required let them join any unit they please, but separate and distinct from the railway service, But if the abolition of the brigade, as a railway brigade, is not practical politics, I claim that those people outside the ages laid down, namely 17 to 25 who are liable for service in the active forces, should be separated from those included within those ages, and the personnel of the brigade confined to those not of a combative age. If you want technical units, well and good, but they should not be mixed up as they have been, with combatants and non-combatants in one unit. It is bad organization and is bound to have bad results, and does away with the esprit de corps so necessary in a military unit. I have served a considerable number of years. [Time expired.]
The Minister, when in opposition, especially when he had a party of three, was wont to demand the utmost courtesy from Ministers and others; but apparently the courtesy he demanded he is not willing to give to other hon. members. Last night I raised an important matter of principle, which does not concern me personally. The Minister has replied three times to hon. member, but has ignored my remarks. He says he does not number me among his friends, but that does not matter to me. I am raising a matter of public importance, and I know that I will continue to do my duty in that regard whatever the Minister of Defence may think, and will not be deterred by any such remark as that. But the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) supported me, and I presume that hon. member is numbered amongst the Minister’s friends. There were others also who supported me. I may say that there are thousands of people in the country who are looking at this matter as a test of the honesty of the Government, as to whether they intend to treat the coloured men in this country as civilized men. I must restate the case, seeing that the Minister has apparently deliberately ignored my remarks; because an interjection was made that he had not answered the point, and he sat down without answering.
I will answer it now.
No. The Minister has had his opportunity, and I must restate the case, but I would ask the Minister whether he does not think that those who are not actually members of his party are also entitled to courtesy. The matter I consider is a most important one. I cannot understand the attitude of the Government on this question at all. They are simply carrying on a decision of the late Government, without, apparently, understanding what it was and what it entailed. There were three coloured regiments and the one of them was raised at the request of the Government—that is, by request of Gen. Botha to Lt.-Col. van der Byl.
Are you referring to the labour corps?
No. The first corps was the Cape Corps; the second was the Cape auxiliary horse transport, which was entirely coloured and was non-combatant, and the third was the 1st Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, not the native labour contingent with which it is confused. The two first ones I referred to, namely the Cape Corps and the horse transport, were entirely paid for by South Africa, and whatever decoration or medals are issued, I presume South Africa saw that they got. The other was paid for from beginning to end by the British Government. It has not cost South Africa a single brass farthing. Lt.-Col. van der Byl raised the 1st Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, but it did not do the work of an ordinary labour corps. The officers were Europeans. The corps was taken into the firing area, and the men were classed as Europeans. Part of their duties was the carrying of ammunition to the firing line. The Imperial Government has said the men are entitled to war medals, but the regimental records were handed over at demobilization to the Native Affairs. Department, where they should never have gone. All I asked the Minister was to allow Lt.-Col. van der Byl to walk into the Native Affairs office to copy the records, so that the names may be sent to London. Am I not entitled to the courtesy of a reply from the Minister on an important matter like this? I brought the matter up in all courtesy yesterday, and the vote has been discussed all the afternoon, but I have not been given the courtesy of a reply. I believe there are between 1,500 and 2,000 men concerned, and they feel very bitterly that after doing their bit they are not allowed to receive what the Imperial Government wishes to confer on them. It is a long time since a reasonable request of this nature has been treated in such an unreasonable way. I think I deserve far better treatment.
Let me hastened to apologize to my hon. friend, for I did not think I was speaking discourteously. My jocular remark was not intended as an discourtesy to him. The history of this matter is somewhat long. A final decision was come to by the previous Government early in 1924, and it was agreed that these labour contingents should not receive medals. To that decision we adhered. But I will again look into the matter, and bring it before the Government. The decision arrived at, however, is not likely to be departed from.
Not allow them to see the records?
I suggest they see the Native Affairs Department. I have not got the records.
I thought I explained that the Native Affairs Department has been approached and they say they cannot give up the records or allow them to be inspected unless they have the sanction of the Minister of Defence. The Minister of Defence now implies he has no objection if the Native Affairs Department agrees. The decision of 1924 has nothing to do with the case, because it is only this year the War Office decided to issue these medals. The decision of 1924 cannot refer to this regiment, because it is an Imperial regiment and not a Union regiment, and the only reason we have to come to the Government at all is because they have our records, and will not let us see them. If they had not had our records we should never have come to them. It seems to me that the Government’s answer is based on an entire misapprehension of the facts. This decision was arrived at in London in 1925, and involves only the copying of the names from the records, and surely the Minister will allow us to do that. It affects not only the officers, but the men of the regiment and there are three who received meritorious service medals for meritorious service in the field. This is what we might practically call a medal colour bar, and I ask what right the hon. Minister has to set up that. There is not a single member of this regiment who is a native. They are all Cape coloured men. All we ask is to be allowed to look at the records and not to be turned out of the office when we are looking at them, and the Minister of Defence says he will have to put it before the Cabinet. The Defence Department refers us to the Native Affairs Department, and the Native Affairs Department sends us to the Defence Department, and the Prime Minister sends us to both. There must be some misunderstanding about this business, and I ask him to go into the matter before 8 o’clock.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 8.5 p.m.
With leave of the committee, Mr. Alexander withdrew his amendment.
I only wish to say a few words in connection with the heavy expenditure under this vote. I have listened attentively to the speeches that have been made and it seems to me that the tendency exists to increase the vote. Even the Minister appears as if he would willingly see an increase in the vote. I think that I interpret the views of my electors when I protest against any increase under this heading. We have always protested against the heavy expenditure in connection with defence and I still do so. The expenditure on defence taking the small population into consideration is far too high for our country. If we are attacked by Japan or the United States of America or another great power the defence force will anyhow be of no use. It will then go with us as with two children who fight with charms and a man comes and kicks over the charms. There is only one way of creating a force which will put us in a position to offer resistance when we are attacked and that is that we should inculcate patriotism in our young children just as we used to do in the Transvaal and the Free State. The hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron) said yesterday that if we had disciplined our people better the history of South Africa would possibly have been entirely different. I agree with the hon. member that then the last war of independence would possibly have lasted longer, but when we lost one man the enemy could put ten in his place and in these circumstances where the enemy had decided to begin the war and to see it through there was no possibility for us even if the people were better disciplined to win the war. I think that in the recent election we got a mandate, and that the Minister has got a mandate from the people to economise as much as possible under this head. I congratulate him that he has already saved £183,000, but I hope it will not stop there and that next year he may be able to save a couple of hundred thousand pounds more. It is possible. Look e.g., at the vote for maintenance and transport expenses. Last year it was £61,000 and this year £63,000, an increase of more than £2,000. If we examine the estimates we find everywhere very large sums for maintenance and transport expenses. My conviction is that in that respect all the Ministers can save, and I hope that they will go into that matter to save as much as possible in that respect. If there is one thing that we ought to appreciate in the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) it is that he is constantly insisting upon economy. I am not now thinking about the past. We look to the future, and I think it is our duty to support him every time that he insists on economy so far as it is possible. We are bending under the heavy burden of our administration. If this Government does not succeed in bringing down its costs then I fear the people will be much disappointed. I want the Minister to follow the example of the Transvaal and the Free State with reference to the commando system, so that our young lads are better provided with rifles and cartridges. That is a very cheap system of defence. Then they can train. It has been said we should then require more officers to take control, but I do not agree with the hon. Minister. When I was a young man I got a gun in the Free State and there was nothing that I was so proud of as my gun. Once a year there was a wapenskouw and a commandant came to look at the rifles, and he had the right at any time to come to a farm and inspect rifles and ammunition. The rifles were kept thoroughly clean and the system worked well. I am in favour of economy. Look at the salary vote: £456,000. If we give every citizen in the country a rifle and cartridges so that he can fire at the ranges then it will not be necessary to expend such a large sum on officers. Nearly half a million pounds for salaries is too much. If we want the best guns and aeroplanes what will they mean to us? We cannot afford it. I see; a salary under this head of £1,500 and a salary of £1,300 for the secretary. The Minister should see to it that the expenditure on salaries is reduced. If we give every citizen a rifle and cartridges then he can train and we can stand together in time of danger as we did in the Free State and the Transvaal and then any enemy that attacks us will have great difficulty in conquering us. I only wish to let my protest be heard against an increase under this head and I insist on economy wherever it is at all possible.
Going further into the select committee’s report regarding the Railways and Harbours Brigade, I struck an item which was surprising to me. It is a statement by Sir William Hoy as to private donations to military establishments, being accepted from moneyed people. I did not know that the establishment of defence force units was financially dependent upon private donors. Could we imagine anything more undignified than the State allowing what we might call the Lipping system to obtain in maintaining a most important State service, that is, your defence force? I know it can be argued that this is a highly patriotic duty, and that the gentlemen who subscribe to this particular object are intensely patriotic gentlemen whose services in that connection should be duly recognised. That may hold with some people, but not with me. I think it should devolve entirely upon the State to finance entirely its own defence. No private person should be allowed to contribute. It can be quite easily understood that one or two influential donors of funds to a regiment can colour the whole outlook and mentality of a regiment; and I do not think that is desirable. It is almost bringing us back to the spirit of mediaeval times when you had your feudal system and feudal laws. It is not a far-fetched idea to consider we might get back to that state when you will have immensely influential commercial people financing your defence force and exercising a very important influence in the conduct of that force. “When the interests of industry and commerce are opposed to those of other sections of the population such as the landowners or the wageearners. That is very undesirable: and if we are, as we claim to be, a democratic country, surely it is time we remedied that state of affairs; I hope the Minister will take action in this matter, so that, if any atmosphere is to be fostered, that should be the business of the State. The psychology, if one can term it so, of our military forces, should be engendered and fostered by the State under proper control and should not allow military enthusiasm to run away with men or youths who are hardly capable of distinguishing whether the cause of war is right or wrong. The hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron) referred to this South African war of 1899-1902, and attributed the failure of one side in the war to the fact that there was not sufficient discipline in that particular army. That may or may not be so. I would not attempt to argue on points of military science with the hon. member, but I have a considerable amount of personal experience, and we have the historical instance of the last great war, when the most highly disciplined and most highly trained army that the world has ever seen was also defeated—and in my opinion by identical means—by a process of attrition. The greatest safeguard this country has is not a fixed army defending a hollow State, as this country would be if we devoted ourselves to military discipline rather than to our economic development. I maintain that a State which is well developed, which has really established a sound status for every citizen, a State which is breeding a good type of men and women, whose youth are healthy in mind and body—that is the State that will be most free from aggression and best able to defend itself in a case of crisis. Discipline and training are, of course, two different things, which are often confounded. You can have good training without discipline, but when you have discipline it is not ground into a body of men in the same way as training. It is inherent in men, and it would be more truly discipline if it were a natural discipline, which has its genesis in a spirit of loyalty to the body politic, which can only exist in a country which is not a hollow body—a country on the map only—but which is developed up to its maximum and offers the best a State can to its citizens. Finally, I want to remark on the advocacy of the hon. member for Liesbeek (Mr. Pearce), in regard to using the police, as police and military alternately, for one purpose or another. I hope the Minister will set his face steadfastly against that. The functions of a police force are different from a military force—diametrically opposite. The police have to defend the rights and look after the welfare of the citizens day by day. They are in daily contact with the civil population. The police are trained civilians. It is the duty of the police to safeguard and enforce the law. It is the duty of soldiers to enforce the law—of force. Soldiers only function when we have the negation of law, which is martial law. I cannot understand how a member who usually brings forward such hard-headed facts could make such a faux Das, and I hope the folly of his ways will be pointed out to him by the Minister with all the ignominy which that suggestion merits.
This afternoon, when the Minister was addressing the House in reply to the debate, he expressed his satisfaction that we, on this side, had left out of the discussion anything of a polemic or controversial nature, but one of his own supporters, the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge) this afternoon raised—and not for the first time—the question of the conduct of the Durban Light Infantry during the rebellion in the Transvaal. I hope the Minister will not think that I am trying to protract this discussion unduly; but, coming from Durban, and listening to that speech, I felt there was a veiled insinuation about it, and I feel it my duty to ask whether the Minister associates himself with what came from the hon. member for Troyeville. The Minister has specifically stated in this House that, so far as the Durban Light Infantry is concerned, he holds them in the highest esteem. He referred to their bravery and efficiency in the highest terms. When the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) raised the question of the retirement of Col. Molyneux, the distinguished leader of that regiment, the Minister was particular to state that Col. Molyneux was not retired for his participation in the strike suppression in the Transvaal, and now we have it coming from a distinguished member of the Labour party, a nasty insinuation that there should be an enquiry into the conduct of the Durban Light Infantry in that rebellion. I did not speak this afternoon, although I was sweating under this beastly insinuation. I thought I would take time—
The hon. member must not use that word.
I cannot use any other word to express—
I think the hon. member should be courteous enough to avoid using that word. I think the hon. member ought to withdraw it.
I bow to your ruling, but there is no other word to describe the conduct—
Is the hon. member going to withdraw?
I refuse to withdraw.
If the hon. member does not withdraw the word, I must ask him to leave the Chamber.
I prefer to leave the Chamber rather than withdraw it.
Mr. Robinson withdrew from the Chamber.
Am I in order in asking for the Speaker’s ruling on your ruling, Mr. Chairman?
The conduct of the debate is in my hands.
You have taken a very serious step, Mr. Chairman. Am I within my rights in asking that Mr. Speaker be called in and asked to give his ruling on this question?
I will allow the hon. member to move it.
Does the hon. member seriously move that?
On several occasions I have asked for the Speaker’s ruling, when in opposition, but there is no question whatever that if an hon. member is requested by the chair to withdraw an expression and declines, the Chairman has no option. I am not going to oppose it, if the hon. member wishes it, but I do submit what is the hon. member asking the ruling on?
All I want to do. Mr. Chairman, is to lodge my protest.
To lodge my protest for the purpose of having Mr. Speaker’s ruling whether the expression used by the hon. member for Durban (Central) really was of such a character in replying to the insinuations that had been made that, in using it, he was within his parliamentary privileges.
Does the hon. member wish to move that Mr. Speaker be called in?
I shall put the question. The hon. member moves that Mr. Speaker be called in to decide whether I was entitled to order the hon. member for Durban (Central) to withdraw his expression, and, on his refusal to do so, to order him to leave the chamber.
That is not the point of order. I think the point is this—whether a certain expression alleged to have been used by this hon. member for Durban (Central) was a parliamentary expression or not.
It has gone past that now. The right time to raise that was when the Chairman ruled it out of order. It is an invariable rule that when you are told by the Chairman to withdraw an expression you must do so.
It is moved by thought hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) that Mr. Speaker’s ruling be obtained on the question, as I understand it, whether the use of the expression “a beastly insinuation,” was unparliamentary, and whether, upon the refusal of the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) to withdraw that expression, I was justified to ask him to leave the chamber.
What I want to know is, whether the Chairman’s ruling that the expression was unparliamentary was correct, and, if so, was the Chairman justified in ordering the hon. member to leave the House.
So I understand it. I am quite prepared, if the committee wish if to call in Mr. Speaker to put the matter before him.
Motion put and agreed to.
Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is asked upon a certain question. The hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson), alluding to a speech made this afternoon by the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge), used the expression—
I thereupon called upon him to withdraw it. The hon. member refused and no objection was then taken. I told him that if he persisted in refusing to withdraw, I should have to ask him to leave the chamber, he replied that he preferred to leave the chamber, which he did. The right hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) thereupon raised the question whether the expression was unparliamentary, and whether I was entitled to order the hon. member for Durban (Central) to leave the chamber.
I do not know whether the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) would have the right to come to explain the position to you, Mr. Speaker, but, as I understand it, in the course of the discussion this afternoon statements were made against the Durban Light Infantry reflecting upon the honour of a distinguished regiment, statements of such a character that compelled the hon. member for Durban (Central) to say that they were—
I was desirous of having your ruling, sir, whether, under the circumstances and the tremendous provocation under which the hon. member, who represents Durban and naturally has —as many of us have—large numbers of members of that distinguished corps as his personal friends, whether he was within his rights and within his proper parliamentary privilege in saying that the statement made with regard to the Durban Light Infantry was “a beastly insinuation”. He did not refer to the hon. member for Troyeville as a beast, sir, but simply referred to the insinuations made against the D.L.I. I wish to know whether, under the circumstances, he was justified, and whether, considering the extreme feeling under which he was speaking, the Chairman did, perhaps, not go a little beyond his right in ordering the hon. member to withdraw.
With a perfect appreciation of Mr. Chairman’s desire to place the facts accurately before Mr. Speaker, I think he has failed in one particular. I do not think it was quite clear to you, sir, that the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) withdrew on his own initiative without being ordered.
What occurred was this: Mr. Chairman said that, if the words were not withdrawn, it would be his duty to ask the hon. member to withdraw. Upon that the hon. member said—
and left the chamber. These are the facts.
As the right hon. gentleman was not here when this speech was made by the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge), I do not know whether it was relevant at all to the issue. My interpretation of the words of the hon. member was certainly different from that of the right hon. gentlemen, but I do not think that matter is at all relevant to the point. It simply is this: That the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) used a certain expression as characterizing the speech of the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge). The Chairman called upon him to withdraw that expression, and the hon. member said that it was the only expression he could use which expressed his sense of what had been said. The Chairman again called upon him to withdraw the expression. He declined to do so, and thereupon he was told that he was either to withdraw the expression or leave the Chamber.
My hon. friend forgets one little addition, and that is that the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) said—
I would like to draw your attention to rule 91—
The House passed no resolution on the matter. It is merely an order of the Chairman, and I put it to you that the matter should be discussed by the House and that the Chairman, under the circumstances, had no power to order the hon. member to leave the House.
The maintenance of order when the House is in Committee is in the hands of the Chairman. If that were not the case the conduct of the business would become a moral impossibility. The authority of the Chair is plainly laid down in the Standing Rules and Orders, and it is entirely within his right to order a member who does not comply with his directions to leave the chamber. I do not think, when there is a question of Parliamentary language, which depends entirely upon the circumstances and the way the words are used, that the Speaker can interfere in any way. Points of order, especially in regard to Parliamentary language in Committee, are matters which are entirely in the hands of the Chairman, and the question raised is not one in which I am prepared to interfere with the Chairman’s discretion.
House in Committee:
I proceed to put the amendment, but before doing so, I must state to the committee that the Speaker has upheld my ruling.
On a point of order, it would be interesting to the House to know for what period the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson)—
He will not be allowed to enter this chamber on this day’s sitting.
I would like to get some information from the Minister on the question of the entertainment allowance being paid to the officer commanding the Cape Peninsula Garrison. The auditor-general refers to it on page 127 of his report, in which he says an entertainment allowance of £120 per annum is being paid, with the public service approval, to the officer commanding the Cape Peninsula Garrison, who is also being allowed the use of a motor-car in order that he and his wife may meet their social engagements. I would like to know why this is, being paid to this particular officer and no other officers have such allowance. I presume it is for entertaining military people visiting South Africa. Why is it not being paid to the officer in charge of the whole of the Defence Force? There is also the question of a motor-car being placed at his disposal for himself and his wife to attend social functions. Again I ask, why this particular officer should be receiving this assistance, and that it should be enquired into. If it is of long standing it should be rectified. The Minister intends calling a conference of commandants in the province and of hearing their views on Defence force matters. I ask him, when dealing with the issue of rifles, to allow them to be issued on easy terms of payment to members of the defence force rifle association. In some cases you have associations with 50 or 60 members, and only 5 or 6 rifles for use between them. In this way the money expended would come back, because they are paying for the rifles. I know there is the objection that they may not pay, but that is a matter which can be arranged. I suggest you do not make the officer responsible for the payment, but make him responsible for the rifles. I do not think it is necessary to have a special officer appointed to examine these rifles. There is another matter which, I take it, I can discuss on this vote, but which does not fall under the Minister, and that is the table of precedence so-far as South Africa is concerned.
It does not come under me at all.
We nave various bodies calling upon us to know what is the proper table of precedence. According to the table of precedence, the Governor-General comes first and secondly, the naval commander-in chief of the station and the general officer commanding-in-chief the troops in South Africa, and then comes the Prime Minister. If he goes through the list he will find there is provision for the officer commanding the imperial troops, who is no longer here, and no provision for the officer commanding the South African troops. Our own officer has got to have some place on the table, and I think it is time the matter should be gone into.
When the hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) was this afternoon making his strong protest against the extraordinary action of the Minister of Defence, with reference to the Cape coloured labour corps, and stated that it has been “in the firing line,” I deliberately asked him where these men were employed, and he repeated “in the firing line.” I think the matter is of sufficient importance to make it perfectly clear. The hon. member said that the coloured labour corps was “in the firing line.” We in South Africa have always maintained that in fighting Europeans only white combatant troops should be employed. Therefore, if that statement went uncontradicted and the term “firing line” had its general meaning of the fighting line, it would naturally be understood that the British army went behind the promise of this country and allowed these men in the firing line. When I proceeded to question him, he said it was of academic interest—
I said more than that. I said they were under shell fire and were taking ammunition to the line.
I shall come to that in a moment. The hon. member repeatedly spoke of the firing line, and it was made clear to me what he intended to convey. After my interjected questions he went on to say that they were carrying shells to the firing line, which is generally understood to be the front line of rife fire, the heavy guns to which these men were carrying ammunition were away right back where the reserve was. I want to make it clear that these men were not employed as combatant troops to fight Europeans although engaged in dangerous war work.
What is the difference between fighting and carrying ammunition?
What is the difference between being a conscientious objector and yet doing your duty and going and doing ambulance work?
Ambulance work is not feeding the guns.
I want to say that, in regard to coloured troops actually fighting, coloured combatant troops were employed against the Askaris of East Africa, the Senussi and the Turks, and these men won a name for courage, discipline and fighting qualities which will stand comparison with many European regiments. They received war medals in recognition of their services. There is no reason whatever why these other Labour corps men, who did their duty like men at a time when our commonwealth was in danger, should not also have their services similarly recognized. They set an example to many others who did not do their duty. These men went oversea and did their duty. In whatever capacity they were employed, I think they deserve the recognition which the Imperial Government wishes to give them. The only way they can get that is for our South African Government to supply the imperial authorities with a list of those men. Whatever the action of the past Government may have been, if it was wrong, as I think it was if the list was withheld, it should be rectified. I hope the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander) is satisfied that I have correctly represented what he said. I notice in the Minister’s estimates that the vote for the citizen force and cadets is just about where it was, only the cadets vote is slightly increased owing to additional equipment. I feel very strongly that the cadet movement in this country ought to be encouraged to the fullest possible extent. When the hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron) was speaking the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) (Mr. Barlow) interjected—
I say you cannot start them too young to learn discipline.
I interjected, because I thought he wanted to start them in the cradle.
You can teach a child discipline from very early years. If we South Africans were subjected to a little more discipline, it would be much better for us. The cadet system, instead of training these boys as some of the hon. members opposite seem to think, to be quarrelsome and umbat a has the exact opposite effect. It has the effect of teaching these boys discipline at an age when it is most needed. It teaches them team work, it inculcates ideas of loyalty and patriotism it teaches them co-operation with others, and it teaches them their proper place in the comity of people. The hon. member for Hoopstad (Mr. Conroy), in speaking of the rifle associations, said: that in the final resort, suppose we wanted to call on the forces of this country at any time of danfer or menace, it would be “the burghers” that would have to shoulder the burden.
Do you deny it?
No, not if “citizen” is meant by the term, but from the general tone of his speech did the hon. member not mean that in that event it would be the district rifle associations or the “burgers” as we know them, the forces recruited in the country districts, as against those recruited in the towns and formed into regiments? That is what I understood him to mean. I think we all know that the whole history of South Africa bristles with episodes where the regiments raised in the towns and surrounding districts have borne their full brunt, if not more than their full brunt, of any trouble that has arisen. I have no desire to belittle the “burgher forces,” but I also wish to give credit to those forces that are raised in the towns. The whole system of South African internal defence will depend upon a trained and well disciplined mobile infantry and mounted infantry and the air force. I think that, if the hon. member looks at the estimates, he will find that the defence rifle associations, which are untrained bodies, have had an increase of something like £8,870—what he calls the “burgher forces”—so that they are not being neglected. I want him and his friends to realize that this Defence Force requires training and has got to be built up from all the loyal, law-abiding and disciplined elements in the country; that times may come when we will want every man who is able and fit, and whether they are trained from the cradle, as the hon. member for Brakpan is afraid, or trained at a later stage, we will want perhaps someday every man who is trained to arms, disciplined and knows how to carry out his duties properly. I think that such a force can be trained in a short time only during a period of great crisis such as occurred during the great war, but ordinarily persistent training over a course of years is required. The hon. member for East London (North) has pointed out that the minimum period recognized is supposed to be something like eight or nine months. I have known young men turned out as fairly good soldiers within a shorter period. If they have a good foundation of training and especially discipline through the boy scout movement and the cadets, their military training is going to be very much more quickly assimilated. There are one or two speakers who have altered the whole tone of the debate, and have, created rather an unfortunate atmosphere. There was one speech by the hon. member for Troyeville which got one of my hon. friends, unfortunately, into trouble. I would like to know from the Minister of Defence whether—[Time expired.]
I did not want to speak on this, but the speeches have been so militaristic that I think it my duty to tell the Minister and inform the committee, that I wish to associate myself with the hon. member for Albert (Mr. Steytler) when he congratulated the Minister on having reduced this vote. I agree with the hon. member that it would be no use for South Africa to arm itself so as to wage war with any foreign power. I think with him, that it would be better to inculcate such a spirit of South African patriotism into our youth that in time of crisis the whole manhood would rush to its defence. I think that can be done.
Tell us about the Balkans.
On some other occasion I may tell the hon. member something about the Balkans. I was saying that I think that could be done without spending almost a million sterling a year. I think that as a matter of fact, our defence force is top heavy. I am glad to see that the Minister has put £14,900 on the estimates for ranges and Bisleys. That is an item upon which I would suggest there might be a greater expenditure, but not if the whole vote is to be increased—only if he can reduce the rest of the vote. That is the way in which your ordinary citizen can be trained to handle guns. The history of South Africa for the last hundred years and more, shows that it is not necessary to have a highly trained regular army. All our wars, little arid big, have shown that you can train South Africans in a comparatively short time. The hon. member for Albany (Mr. Struben) has pointed out that in the last European war South Africans were trained to perfection in a very short time. I think the Minister should rather go in for encouraging shooting competitions, in the country and in that way he would train a greater number of people at less expense. If I remember rightly, I think in the case of the Orange Free State Republic before the war, the Government gave a small sum of money to every village every year for the purpose of a shooting competition, something like £5. That had to be devoted to the giving of prizes, and I think the competition was usually held on the Independence Day of the Orange Free State. I would suggest the Minister should take something of that kind into consideration, by the awarding of small sums of money to country rifle associations—not necessarily those under the defence force—and in that way to prepare them to defend the country in time of need, I want to stress this. I think that the defence vote should be reduced and I want to inform the Minister that there are many people who still think we spend too much on defence.
I propose to refer to the remarks by the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge) in connection with the Durban Light Infantry. In referring to the Transvaal Scottish and the Durban Light Infantry the hon. member said this, that the regiment as a whole had fallen into disrepute in some quarters, because of the actions of some of their members in 1922. It was desirable that they should regain their self respect, and he suggested that the Minister, without publicly opening the whole question again should appoint a departmental enquiry in order to punish the offenders. This sounds to me suspiciously like a “smelling-out” process—they should not have a public enquiry, but a sort of star chamber, where they could knock them down and bite them, or administer some other form of secret and savage discipline to these unfortunate people. I have myself gone through this report of the commission that was appointed under terms of reference, one of which was to enquire into—
That was a very comprehensive instruction, and I can find no suggestion, even, that a single member of the Durban Light Infantry was concerned in any of these excesses. Perhaps the hon. member himself will be able to tell us what he had in mind. If he had in mind incidents in which there was any petty misdemeanour on the part of any member of the regiment, surely these things should have been, and doubtless were, dealt with by Col. Molyneux, who was a strict disciplinarian, and who always sought to maintain the highest standard of conduct in his regiment. After a judicial commission of enquiry, which was assisted by all the resources of the police force in Johannesburg, a commission which failed to find a single case where a member of the Durban Light Infantry was guilty of misconduct, the hon. member now suggests that the members of the regiment should be subjected to a private enjuiry with a view to their punishment, and to my mind this is nothing short of monstrous. I, for one, strongly resent such an attack, particularly coming from a member who was himself at one time a citizen of Durban. That brings me to the question of the command of the Durban Light Infantry. On a previous occasion, when the question of the command of the Durban Light Infantry was raised, the Minister of Defence said that in his opinion it was desirable that the events of 1922 should be washed out. He also assigned that as a reason for appointing certain commandants, one of whom had been convicted of treason, and to some extent flouting public opinion in Johannesburg on this question. When we hear an attack such as that made by the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge) without a shred of justification against his regiment, and when we heard at the Labour congress in November a Miss Klenerman (?) suggesting that these regiments should be disbanded. I think we are entitled to share the opinion of those who feel that the retirement of Col. Molyneux from the Durban Light Infantry, was to some extent connected with his actions in suppressing the revolution of 1922. It will be remembered that that was a most remarkable mobilization. The Durban Light Infantry were the first to arrive on the Rand fully mobilized, and they were of great assistance in quelling the revolution. When the Minister spoke on that occasion, I ventured to affirm that Col. Molyneux’s retirement was connected with these events, and the Minister rebuked me in a rather violent manner for having suggested any such thing. Col. Molyneux is no longer a member of the defence force; and he assures me that he has never doubted that but for the events of 1922 his period of command would have been extended. That, from a soldier of Col. Molyneux’s standing in South Africa, is quite sufficient for me and for anybody else acquainted with him.
Does he say what grounds he has?
No, he prefers not to embroil himself or the regiment in the matter. I refer to the matter now because of the offensive remark made this afternoon by the hon. member for Bloemfontein, when he stated that what I had said was untrue, and that I knew it was untrue. I am only sorry that that remark did not catch your ears, or I am sure you would have called upon him to withdraw, or to leave the chamber. I should like to say that the doctrine preached by the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge), this afternoon, is the antithesis of that of “no victimization,” and he is the high priest in this House of that gospel. In and out of season he has made our ears ring with the gospel of “no victimization, and it is he himself who suggests that the Minister should now adopt the policy which is the very antithesis of that gospel.
What ground have you for saying that it is victimization?
After a judicial inquiry has failed to suggest that any member of that regiment is guilty of anything, surely it is victimization to suggest that an inquiry should be held into the conduct of the Durban Light Infantry. I am sorry that the Minister tried very hard, and not very successfully, to make light of the matter which I brought to his attention this afternoon, because it is a serious matter. I think when he suggested that we should get back to more serious subjects, he was making light of a subject which he was not entitled to deal with in that manner. The Minister has withdrawn the reflection which was undoubtedly contained in his statement, that the adjutant-general issued instructions in conflict with his decision.
I have not withdrawn anything at all. That was a clear statement of fact.
I understood from the evening’s paper that the Minister had explained carefully that the adjutant-general was not to blame in any way, and that, as a matter of fact, the adjutant-general merely acted under orders. The orders of the chief of the general staff. The Minister has not apparently perceived that, in withdrawing the reflection on the adjutant-general—
There never was any reflection on him.
The Minister is evidently entirely frivolous in regard to this matter, because the newspaper says that he stated that the adjutant-general had issued instructions to the district staff officer while the matter was under the Minister’s consideration, and in conflict with the Minister’s decision. If that is not a reflection on the professional reputation of a military officer, I should like to know what is, especially as the adjutant-general acted under the orders of the chief of the general staff. The Minister nods his head and appears to be asserting the doctrine that there is no reflection. On the contrary, it is one of the most unfair censures that could have been passed upon an officer who is not able to defend himself in this House. The Minister went on to say, this afternoon, that he attributed it to the faults of staff work. I venture to differ from him on that subject. Gen. Brink would be the last man to issue orders for the reduction of the strength of a regiment without authority from the Minister. [Time expired.]
I think it is only fair to the hon. member and to myself that I should point out that I cannot find on the list in front of me that the hon. member for Bloemfontein (North) spoke this afternoon.
No, he interjected a remark.
If I had heard him make such a remark, I would have made him withdraw it.
I do not wish to prolong the debate; but the hon. member for Albany (Mr. Struben) was not here at the beginning of the session this evening when the Minister of Defence assured me that he was seeing the officers of this regiment to-morrow and on that assurance I withdrew my amendment. I think the hon. member is under a misapprehension. I never suggested that these men were in the front line trenches. I referred to the firing line, and the hon. member interrupted. I said they were under long range shell fire. The Imperial Government used them in the way they were entitled to do, and these men were under long range fire in doing this work, taking this ammunition at as much risk to their lives as any of the white troops in the area. They were doing that for nine months, and during that time were attached to the second army under Gen. Plumer and, in the London Gazette,” there are references to Lt.-Col. van der Byl, who was mentioned for distinguished services in the field, and again for gallant and distinguished services in the field. If they were not within the zone of fire, where would the distinguished and gallant service come in? I am satisfied that, now the matter has been referred to the Minister, it will get the consideration it deserves.
Whether we agree with the hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) or not, I think it cannot be disputed that these coloured munition carriers were, at all events, where the shot and shell were thickest. At the same time, I would like to say to the hon. member and others, who have so ably put forward this matter, that the whole affair seems to me to be a great deal about very little. I came down to the session at the beginning of this year with quite a pile of complaints against the Defence Department, and since I have been here I have received quite a number of others, but I approached the Minister on many of these trivial affairs, and I found him very getatable and very courteous indeed, and I also found the officers of his department prepared to help me in every way. I do not think the time of the House should be taken up by such small matters as are being brought forward by the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) upon which attacks are being made upon the Minister. Although I agree that party politics should not be introduced into defence matters, at the same time it was passing strange to find the hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.- Gen. Byron) and the hon. member for Weenen (Maj. Richards) now complaining about lack of support to the British navy. I hope, when the Minister of Defence replies he will remind the House that during the session of 1921 the grant given by the Union as a contribution to the imperial navy was quietly dropped off the estimates, and not one gentleman of the South African party raised a protesting voice. That information is not generally known in the country, and at the risk of dragging party politics into this debate, I wish to call attention to the fact.
The hon. member has put the matter in such a distorted way as to make it utterly incorrect. He must know that this subsidy of £85,000 was withdrawn by arrangement with the Imperial Government with the object of developing a local navy. He was also wrong when he suggested that I was complaining that sufficient support had not been given to the navy. My suggestion was not to lay down hard and fast any particular method of contributing, but by arrangement with the Admiralty, we could arrange a plan most suitable to them and acceptable to us. Ever since a regrettable incident which happened half-an-hour ago I have felt I could do no less than ask the Minister of Defence to dissociate himself from the qualified insinuation against the Durban Light Infantry made by one of his political associates.
What was the insinuation?
That they had fallen into disrepute and needed to regain their self-respect.
The Minister well knows the insinuation.
No, I don’t.
I want him to dissociate himself from the expression used by the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge). This incident in the House will attract a considerable amount of attention. A certain Labour organization has called upon the Government to disband this particular regiment. Col. Molyneux and myself served side by side for a very long time and I can say he is an officer of the very finest reputation. Personally, I never knew a more gallant soldier in time of war, and I have never come across a more able organizer of a military unit in peace time. And yet we find these gallant qualities do not command the recognition I think they should command. Col. Molyneux would not be obliged to me if I held a brief for him; fortunately his reputation needs no bolstering up. His heart and soul are in his regiment. A short time ago when the regiment was full he had a waiting list of no less than 2,000 young fellows anxious to join, and yet we hear in this House a most qualified insinuation against the honour of that particular regiment.
I am using that word because the other would be judged unparliamentary. The Minister knows exactly what word I would use if the rules permitted me. It is up to the Minister to make the clearest possible statement dissociating himself from any insinuation whatever with the things put forward by the hon. member for Troyeville. He can do no less. And I hope that he will do so in such a manner that he will gain and retain our respect, because there are very many rumours which have caused a good deal of uneasiness and trouble in connection with this regiment.
I will say this at once, that I will resent any imputation on the honour of any regiment under the Department of Defence. The hon. member asked me to dissociate myself from the insinuation of the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge). I understood him to say he was not attacking the honour of the regiment but he was asserting that there were insinuations floating about against individual members, as there are against another unit, and the hon. member knows what I mean.
That is not what he said.
“Some of the members of this regiment committed acts.”
It is quite right.
No, I am not going to say it is right. At the time there were statements made of individuals having committed things which, if coming to the knowledge of the commanding officer, would, in Col. Molyneux’s case, have been severely dealt with. There is a general feeling, and there has been ever since in spite of the commission, and it is a most unfortunate thing, that many of the findings of the commission have left the public gravely unsatisfied that these things were probed deeply. As far as I know there was no accusation or reflection brought against the honour of the D.L.I. any more than it would be a reflection on the honour of the town because certain people of the town had been accused of something.
You know that is wrong.
I know it is a great pity that in the eyes of a large section of the public there are certain units, and not the D.L.I.; but there were certain acts committed which, in the eyes of the public, have left that regiment in considerable bad odour.
What are the units you are referring to?
I am not going to mention names.
In fairness you ought to.
I am not going to. Hon. members know what heated debates we had on the findings of that commission.
You are placing a stigma on all of them.
I am not. If there is an imputation on the honour of the D.L.I. as a regiment, I resent it as much as anybody in the House.
You resent it by casting insinuations at other regiments.
I don’t intend to impute anything against other regiments.
But by imputation you are casting a slur upon other regiments.
I had been hoping that these heated interludes would not occur. Those events of two or three years ago have left below the surface a lot of high feeling and the less we refer to them the better. I was asked if I would have a departmental enquiry into the allegations which were brought. I refused. After this lapse of time it would do no good. I have never heard any specific allegation against any member of the regiment which has been referred to. I wish to be perfectly clear. There is no stigma, stain, or insinuation on the honour of the D.L.I. with which I would associate myself or hesitate to dissociate myself. I can say no more and I can say no less. I am only going to allude again to the statement of the hon. member for Illovo (Mr. Marwick) that the retirement of Col. Molyneux had a connection with the events of 1922. I have already stated to this committee that there was no connection whatever between the retirement of Col. Molyneux and those events of 1922, no connection whatever in my mind, or in the minds of anyone else, except apparently that of Col. Molyneux. He said he never had any doubt it was due to that.
But for the events of 1922 the command would have been extended.
It is beneath what one owes to oneself to repeat oneself again after one is disbelieved, Col. Molyneux is under a total and entire misapprehension in making that statement.
Didn’t General Brink recommend an extension of his command?
Go out and search another graveyard.
I don’t think I am justified in answering that question, because if one answers questions in regard to confidential advice from chief military advisers, it is difficult to know where one would stop. You see the difficulties we are placed in by members who have not sufficient generosity or acumen to recognize when one is being as candid as possible, subject to the limitations placed upon one, by the responsibilities of one’s position. I say again, whether Col. Molyneux had been 10,000 miles away at the time of the 1922 strike or in command, it would not have made a particle of difference and it never entered into the matter. The only way Col. Molyneux entered into the matter in a personal way was the fact that I deferred giving sanction to the enforcement of that regulation until I had seen Col. Molyneux himself because he happened to be an officer who served with me in two campaigns, and was in command of one of the most efficient regiments of the Union. I only did it to see if his retirement would injure the regiment and I cannot make fish of one and flesh of another. The rule has been enforced in every case in which it is applicable. Col. Harris of the Kimberley regiment, also retired under the same rule. He had nothing to do with the 1922 strike. Other commanding officers, in Port Elizabeth and elsewhere, were affected in the same way. If an hon. member chooses to get up three times in a day and repeat this statement, I shall not trouble myself to deny it. The two things had absolutely no connection with one another, in my mind, or in the mind of anyone in my department. The hon. member for Weenen (Maj. Richards) enquired what is the policy of the Union Government relative to the development of the South African naval service. Our policy in regard to the development of the South African naval service, I am afraid, at the present time, is one of masterly inactivity in so far as any increase is concerned. Again there we are limited by financial and monetary exigencies. The ships of our navy are the Protea, the Sonnebloem and Immortelle. The Protea is a survey ship, and the Sonnebloem and Immortelle are mine sweepers. The Protea is engaged on maritime coastal survey, doing very valuable admiralty work there. The others are engaged in mine sweeping, and in helping to train our naval reserve men. The hon. member next asks what are the details of expenditure in regard to work we are doing at Simonstown. That matter will be most properly discussed on the Loan Vote. I would have brought the papers with me this evening, if I had known. The arrangement was one entered into in 1920 or 1921, between the South African Government and the admiralty by which they were to hand over to us certain portions of the dockyard, then being used by the imperial navy, and we on our side, were to erect certain oil tanks, and to do a great deal of re-conditioning and new erection on the other portion of the dockyard. A great deal of it has been done, and the whole plan will appear on the Loan Votes this year. The hon. member asked me whether it was part of the undertaking given by the Union Government when Imperial Government property was transferred to the defence department, that the Union should provide adequately for the land defences of the Peninsula. It was an understanding that we should take over the obligation of the land defence of the Peninsula. I do not think there were any conditions laid down as to armaments and so on. I think the hon. member is a little hard upon the Peninsula defences. There is no hon. member of this House quite so young as are the guns in the Lion Battery. Perhaps the hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron) will set aside one day next week and come round with me, and I will show him guns which are not older than any hon. member of this House.
Not any member, but some members.
The matter of the £85,000 has already been alluded to. The £85,000 that we used to pay as subsidy to the Imperial Government was wiped out in 1921, in consideration of our undertaking these obligations, together with the interest on the moneys expended at Simonstown and what we are doing in the matter of our very small navy, although as a matter of fact our expenditure is a trifle less than it was in the days of the £85,000. The hon. member (Maj. Richards) asked whether I favour the scheme of a cruiser. Yes, as Minister of Defence, I very much favour the scheme of a cruiser, but as Minister of Defence also responsible to Parliament for not recommending expenditure be yond our means, I am afraid I cannot hold out any hopes of the carrying out of this cruiser scheme in any time that we need contemplate at present. I would ask hon. members to constantly bear in mind that it is all very well for us to talk about all the things we would like to do in the matter of defence, but we have got to cut our coat according to our cloth, and I hope I shall deserve also the congratulations of the hon. member opposite next year.
But he has only to listen to the demands made upon one from all quarters, whether it is for rifle associations, more ammunition at a cheaper rate and more cadets, to see how one is always asked to give more assistance, and that always means more money. I can only assure hon. members that, just as much as anyone of them, it is my desire and ambition to see our defence arrangements, small as they are, to be, at all events, of the greatest possible efficiency we can get for the money. I hope that as we have discussed this at some length the committee will allow me to get this vote through after I have answered some of the questions raised since I last spoke. The hon. member spoke of extending the cadet system. I have already given my view on that point, and I can assure him that, as far as I am concerned, I will do my utmost to help and stimulate the cadet system. The hon. member for Pretoria (Central) (Mr. te Water) is not here; but I would like to allude to the matters he raised. There is, and constantly will be, little rubs and so on, and men being discontended about this, that, or the other point. He complained that the Defence Inquiry Commission had recommended that married men should be allowed to draw the cash equivalent for rations. I explained to the House on a previous occasion that we had decided that married members of the force, living in garrison, should be allowed to draw not the regulation, but the cash equivalent. The nominal allowance to a man living out of camp is 2s. 7d. The cost of a ration to us is 1s. 5d. Two shillings represents, in our opinion, what is about the cash equivalent to garrison men, and, we are allowing them to draw that cash equivalent in the case of the married members who want it. The fuel matter he spoke of I will go into. He also spoke of the matter of Government furniture and the need for fumigation. I shall certainly have that very closely investigated and put right. I would ask hon. members on all sides of the House, as far as possible, when they get these reasonable complaints to try and discourage men from making these complaints outside the ordinary course indicated by the Union military discipline code. I am aware, in spite of that, there are cases which should be put right; and it would be as well for the whole comfort and welfare of the force if, instead of these matters being brought on the floor of the House, they would bring them to my notice, and I would give them my assurance that I would do everything possible to remove these causes of friction. The hon. member for Springs (Mr. Allen) asked me about the Railways and Harbours Regiment. I did not see the select committee evidence, but I gather it was to this effect: Every regiment, besides what is allowed by the Defence Department, usually goes touting round and gets together a regimental fund, and they get these funds together outside the ordinary routine of the regiment. The Defence Department treat the Railway and Harbour regiment exactly as they do every other citizen force regiment. There are certain uniform and other allowances, and we tell them that we consider that sufficient for the carrying on of the regiment, and that if they want any other nick-nacks and bits of swank and so on, they must find them for themselves, and they go round to their friends and get some sort of regimental fund together—a very usual and sound thing. What the hon. member said about the danger of allowing the popularity of regiments to depend too much on the generosity of a few monied men I agree with, and thoroughly appreciate; but I do not think it is a matter in regard to which we can make any change beyond making more liberal allowances, and there I am hindered by not having enough money, and anything I can save I shall certainly devote to other uses inside this vote.
You are spending too much as it is. The whole country says so.
Supposing we had a war to-morrow, would the country say we are spending too much on defence? It is all very well to make a statement of that kind, but I would ask the hon. member just for a moment to put himself in my shoes. While there is peace a defence Minister who cuts down to the bone and below the bone is a very fine fellow, but let an emergency come, and the defence force found not able to deal with it, and you will hang him. I fully appreciate and thoroughly understand and feel myself a strong sense of the need to keep down expenditure as far as possible, but there must be a limit and a limit is where the arrangements are not such that the country is not secure when defence is necessary. The hon. member for Pietersburg asked about the entertainment allowance to the officer commanding the Cape Garrison. That is an old established usage, and one does not feel inclined at the moment to interfere with that. He asked me to look into the question of allowing the burgher forces to have rifles on easy terms. I would ask the hon. member for Graaff-Reinet (Mr. I. P. van Heerden) to consider this: The hon. member for Albert (Mr. Steytler) and the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) strongly urged upon, me the need for economy, with which I am entirely in agreement. Every other member has asked me to increase the help I give to the various forces.
The general public will stand by you.
But not if I go beyond what I consider is right and necessary for the defence of the country. No hon. member is a bit keener than I am in saving money, for I feel the real defence of the country is the development of population, and every £10,000 you can save to put into the development of the manhood of the country is really increasing your defences, but there are limitations to that argument. As to the order of precedence, it is rather a curious position. We have relics of old times, and these matters will be looked into. I am afraid to sit down lest I be accused of discourtesy to someone I have not answered.
What about the medals for the Cape Labour Corps?
The hon. member was not here when I promised that I would go into the matter again and see, quite sympathetically, if it can be reconsidered. But I say only try; I am not committing myself. How difficult a question, it is clear from the fact of the difficulty which the previous Government found and their delay in coming to the decision which we have endorsed.
I would like to refer to the answer the Minister has given to the question by the hon. member for Weenen (Maj. Richards). It is quite obvious that as regards the naval forces in _this country the Minister is in considerable difficulty, because it is difficult to find money. Every person wants more money for the things he thinks important, and less money to be spent on matters that other people may think important. The fact remains that at a time when our estimates of expenditure amount to £26,000,000 we devote, including interest, only about £80,000 to what may be called naval defence. I think that constitutes a claim for some further expenditure. I think there is this argument in favour of it, that so far as we spend money on the naval service it does find occupation and training for a considerable number of the young men of the country. I was interested to hear that the Minister favours, if he can only get the money, the adoption of the cruiser scheme. I am not going to advocate that scheme in particular, or any other scheme, but I think it would be of interest if the Minister would give us his ideas of how he would naturally expand the naval services of the country and make provision for naval defence in the event of his having more money at his disposal. There are a good many people in the country who are very much interested in this question. They think the safety of the country is guaranteed by the Imperial Government, and they think it is only right this country should do something to assist. They see what the other dominions are doing, in one form or another, and they think that, out of our comparatively large expenditure, we are devoting very little to this object. They would like to know what they can look for in the future. What is the legitimate expansion from the present position? At the present time we have the ships which the hon. member refers to and upon which we spend several thousand pounds, but we have no indication of what the Government are aiming at, what they hope to do in the event of financial conditions permitting more expenditure. If the Minister could give us his ideas on that, it would satisfy many people who think we are not doing enough. Even when more money is available people are afraid that nothing will be done. It is quite true it is a laudable thing to save money. I am not prepared to say that £1,000,000 is too much to spend on the defence of the country, and I am not sure that more would not be better spent on the development of the naval side of it. We never know when an emergency may arise in this disturbed world which may compel us to come to a decision. It is not economical to have to make sudden decisions. It is better to have in front of us a plan which people can rely on and the Government can work on. If people are educated to that, the Government have a greater chance of getting money than they have if they suddenly propound a scheme in emergency, of which the people have no idea before, and have had no time to consider.
I must ask the hon. member to excuse me from answering that question, because there is a scant possibility of money being available for expansion in the near future. My outlook and activities have been devoted to things more practical in the near future. Natural expansion means, and in this respect I speak of Australia, of which I know a little, from a small corvette or craft of that kind in each State, then the development through destroyer sea-going craft, and eventually they launched out about 1910 in the development of the sea-going warships. I do not see the possibility in the near future of being able to follow that course. I am certain this country is not going to embark on big naval expenditure when we should be doing our best to devote ourselves to trying to develop our own country and our own population and in doing this we shall be doing our best share in common defence.
When I listened this afternoon to the speeches of the hon. member for Marico (Mr. J. J. Pienaar), and the hon. member for East London (North) (Brig.-Gen. Byron), I was glad to note the high tone which this debate had taken. It seemed to me that the House and the country had decided to let the past forget the past, and I was extremely sorry, later on, to hear the speech of the hon. member for Troyeville (Mr. Kentridge), in which he raked up incidents in this country that are always best forgotten. I am going to ask the Minister to consider the position of the defence force in this country from another aspect, and one which has not been touched upon to-night. At the beginning of the last war, I lived in the native territories, and a squadron of what was then the T.M.R. volunteered for service. We went to Port Elizabeth, and were there two or three weeks, when intertribal trouble occurred between the natives. We had a large number of townsmen in our regiment. It was felt that in connection with that trouble on the borders of Basutoland townsmen were not of much use in a native area, and that you wanted mounted men. I think that is the correct attitude in this country. In the building up of our defence force you must keep in mind the necessity of having a mobile force that can move quickly from point to point. A short time ago, when it was announced that the T.M.R. were to be disbanded, a large number of the Europeans resident in that part of the country, were very dissatisfied and very nervous.
It is not going to be disbanded.
It is not going to be demobilized now, but I am afraid of the future, I have no fear that there is going to be any native trouble in that part of the country, but with, the huge mass of natives that we have there with a huge mass of Basutos on the one side, we feel that trouble may occur amongst the natives themselves, and if such trouble were allowed to grow we should never know where it would end. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that we should have some force which is mobile, and which may be moved from point to point as quickly as possible. I know it is said that we have aeroplanes. I have not that faith in airplanes that I think, probably, the defence department have. In that area you have large numbers of rivers, bad roads and few bridges, and we feel that if there is any trouble there you will have to fall back upon the horse. If the Minister of Defence is going to base his hopes on rifle associations, rifle corps, and the air force, he is wrong. We should have mounted men who are able to take the field when the occasion arises and be ready to assist the police. The Minister has tried to make this point, that the defence force is entirely divorced from the police force. I will agree with him. In essence that should be the position, but can you carry it into practice in a country like this. With the very depleted police force we carry, in case of an eventuality we must fall back on the defence force, and we must realize our defence force is the force in this country. I hope the Minister and his advisers, before they decide to eliminate the mounted men, will realize that aeroplanes and motor cars and so forth in sparsely populated and difficult areas such as I represent are of little use. I hope they will realize the horse is an animal that will be vitally necessary in the defence of this country. You must recognise that you must make the very best use of mounted men in this country and consolidate them as part of the defence force. Before he decides to do away with any mounted men in this country I hope he will consider what the position is. I believe the hon. member for Marico (Mr. J. J. Pienaar) will support me and everyone who is a burger will support me when I say it is the mounted men who will be the chief defence in this country in case of internal troubles. The Minister has promised to continue the T.M.R. on a basis of peace training for another year, and I hope he will not continue to place as much faith in rifle associations as he appears to do at present.
I think the replies the Minister has given on the various points raised are very distressing; they reveal even a worse position than I anticipated at first. Therefore it seems to me, as has been made clear in his speech, that the active citizen force can no longer be regarded as a training force, though it was primarily intended for the training of our young citizens. I would therefore venture to make a few suggestions, which if followed may assist us eventually to have a well organized first line of defence, well trained in military discipline and the use of the rifle. I think it would also be a cheap method. I refer to the compulsory organization of cadets. I am sorry to have to disagree with the Minister on that point, but he will not differ from me if we distinguish military training from military education. There are two vastly different things, and I should like to see military education in our schools; because military education of body and mind, in the art of using the rifle, together with the simpler military evolutions, serve to make our boys useful citizens, and I would suggest we start them from the age of twelve. From 14-16 and from 16-18. In the first course we must get into the youth what is good for him in the future, the necessity of developing his chest on the right side instead of the wrong side of his body; and the necessity for taking part in exercises where one part of his body is not developed at the expense of another. I would like to see military education of this kind which carried with it the necessary discipline. I think from 14-16 we could introduce the boy to the cadet rifle and miniature ranges, and with the cadet rifle and the miniature ranges he could learn all that is necessary at that age. From 16-18 he is a senior cadet, and is drafted into definite units according to his preference and fitness. In that way the whole scheme is an education in itself. From 18 to 35 we could draft the young citizen into the first line of defence, which need not necessarily be trained in the same way as our active citizen force is to-day; because at the age of 18 the boy gets a certificate of efficiency. The age limit in that first line of defence I consider, should not be higher than 35. At the present time, our rifle associations are from 17 to about 60, all ages mixed up in one commando. On active service this has always been found impracticable. We want more or less the same stamp of men together in one unit; because there is better co-operation. That first line of defence would be the elite of our South African army, and I think it would be useful, judging from my own experience in the old republican days, if we had the area system, that is that a certain unit must consist of men within a particular demarcated area, and every man within that area must belong to that unit. There must be no voluntary system about it if we want a national army. The reason why I am strongly of opinion that we should introduce military education in our schools is that, under present conditions, our children are susceptible to all the diseases which school life produces. In the first place there is spinal curvature, and I do not think that the teachers sufficiently appreciate this danger because the natural result of that is near-sightedness. If school children have to sit on benches in certain positions and are not exercised properly, it must naturally follow that they grow up in all shapes and forms. Mr. N. M. Butler of the United States, correctly summed up the case for better hygiene in schools when he says—
If democratic Switzerland can teach us how to organize and maintain a national army at a very low cost, then we should not hesitate to learn. [Time expired.]
Amendment put and negatived.
Vote put and agreed to.
On vote 31, Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones £2,771,630.
I would like to move a reduction of £5 for the purpose of calling attention to several matters. First, I would like to thank the Minister for remedying a number of matters which I brought to his attention last session. Can the Minister tell us what the relation is of the South-West Protectorate postal service to the rest of the Union? Is the director responsible to the Postmaster-General of the Union? It is difficult to understand what is the position of the postal staff there with that of the Union. The next point is the slowness of promotion in the department. There are hundreds of men of long service, 20, 25 years and more, who are unable to get promotion. I am told, in some cases, officers are passed over, and the reason for that does not seem to be understood. A few months ago two officers were promoted to the first class in one case over 40 others, and in another case over 150 others, and the principle is not understood as to why that took place. The competency of the promoted men is not in question, but it is also impossible to say that all the others were incompetent. Men are also retained beyond the retiring age, making promotion more difficult. Men are being asked if they wish to stay on, and they take advantage of it and promotion becomes slower than ever. The next point is the question of the unestablished postmasters.
I must point out to the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander) he has started drawing the attention of the Minister to certain points regarding administration, and not policy. The hon. member has moved a reduction of the salary in order to challenge policy. He should not be surprised if I call him up after ten minutes. The rule is clear that a forty minutes’ speech can only be made when the policy of the Minister is challenged bona fide. The rule reads—
Then the movers may speak for 40 minutes.
I am questioning the Minister’s policy on each point.
It must be specific.
It is specific. I assure the Chairman of Committees these are bona fide questions of policy which are being raised, and they are at the request of the men of the service themselves. The practice that I am referring to has gone on for the last fourteen or fifteen years.
The hon. member started by saying he was moving a reduction for the purpose of drawing attention to certain points. I thought I ought to point this out, so that he need not be taken by surprise if after ten minutes I say he must cease.
I must plead guilty to a sympathetic manner in my opening. The question of policy comes up in the question I was raising, when you addressed your remarks to me about unestablished postmasters. I would like the Minister to indicate how these post offices become unestablished, when do they sink below establishment and become unestablished. What is the policy of degrading a post office from being an established post office to becoming an unestablished office. He might explain this, because it gives rise to criticism. Also, a man who is reappointed to an unestablished post mastership, and has been away a long time as a pensioner, gets the same salary as if there had been no break in his service. The men who remain behind and do continuous service, feel the principle is bad, and discourages men from continuous service. Then I come to the action of the Minister in regard to temporary officers. A complaint is made by men in the department that the policy seems to be to increase the temporary staff to a far greater extent than is warranted. The Minister may say that the department is short-staffed, but I would venture to indicate to him that, instead of this policy of increasing the number of your temporary staff you should increase the number of your learners, who will gradually come on to your establishment in the proper and regular way. Then there is some disappointment that the Minister does not consult with his organized staff as we expected he would do. On several occasions, I am informed, the Minister made important changes in his department without consulting the local representatives of the organization of the men. I would suggest to him that it is much better to take the men into your confidence and discuss any changes of this kind before they are made, so that you may take the proper steps at the beginning. There are three particular matters where this method of procedure, I submit, was shown to be a bad one, viz., (a) duties performed by temporaries, (b) cheap sorter class, (c) indefinite position of women.
Order. The ten minutes have expired. The hon. member is simply discussing administration. The rule should not be abused. It is one almost equivalent to a motion of censure. What the hon. member has been doing is to criticize certain administrative acts of the Government. He may have an opportunity of continuing his remarks very soon again.
This vote shows a very large increase, something like £96,000. Coming to the details, I see that in the clerical division the Minister has increased one item from £642,000 to £673,000 though, as a matter of fact, he has decreased the numbers by one.
There are the ordinary increments
Then there is telephone assistants with an increase from £11,000 to £27,000; and then we’ have unestablished and non-departmental postmasters, sub-postmasters, postal, telegraph or telephone agents, and substitutes, increased from £86,000 to £103,000 These are the outstanding increases, and perhaps the Minister will give us some information about them. Then I want to ask him what is the position in regard to the ocean mail contract. The House will recollect the Minister had some negotiations with the Union-Castle Co., which unfortunately were not successful, but possibly he can now tell us what is the position to-day. I would also like to ask a question in regard to the air mail service which, of course, has now been stopped. It must be acknowledged that it was very efficiently conducted. I think the Minister mentioned that his idea was to demonstrate the practicability of the scheme and then try and get private contractors to take on the job. I think that was an extremely good idea, but I see a statement in the paper that the Minister himself has been approached by contractors and they state they can get no definite statement from the Minister as to what he is prepared to accept. Perhaps he will take this opportunity of explaining what the real position is. I am sure the country will be interested to know.
I now want to ask the Minister whether he can tell us what steps he proposes to take as to circular 2 issued in 1921 under which four classes of men were to receive benefits. Only one of the classes has been dealt with, and the men in the other section want to know when they are going to get the benefit and when Parliamentary confirmation will be obtained in their case. The next question is in regard to the memorandum sent after a recent debate in Parliament by the Postal and Telegraph Association as to the position of learners. I would be glad if he would say what he intends to do and whether he intends to remedy the grievance. The association has pointed out very clearly in its memorandum that the fears he expressed when the matter was before the House last time are very much exaggerated, and it will not mean at all the amount the Minister thought it would. This is dated the 22nd May. I would ask the Minister what action the Government proposes to take on that memorandum. My next point is a grievance of coloured postmen in suburban offices. The Minister referred these men, who have their own organization called the Cape Province Postmen’s Association, to a body with headquarters at Johannesburg known as the South African Postmen’s Association. The Johannesburg organization has written them pointing out they are not members of their organization and the scheme put forward in Johannesburg would not include these men. They have now addressed the Minister himself through the Postmaster-General, and have set out the grievance they have. In this connection a small grievance is this, that the association was in the habit of corresponding direct with the Minister. It has now been informed that correspondence must go through the Postmaster-General, and they want to know if there is any reason for that change. I have been approached by one in particular, and also on behalf of a number of unestablished postmen who were pensioners but were retrenched. Under a ruling of the Act of 1923 they were informed that as pensioners they could no longer be continued in the service. This decision was taken by the late Government, but it put some of these men in a state of distress, and they have asked the Government to enable them to go back to the place at which they were pensioned by giving them free transport on the railways. This distress is due to the Act of 1923 interfering with the right of the Government to engage pensioners. Then I wish to ask why the recommendations of the post office departmental committee have been ignored. That is the small Whitley council of the post office. I am told that some of the decisions were made as far back as April, 1924, and were sent to the commission, and that is the last that has been heard of them. I take it that the Minister, in view of the interest he has taken in the Whitley council principle, will not in any way discourage that body and will help towards the decisions being recognized and carried out. In regard to the engineering branch of the post office, I am told that the wireless station at Port Nolloth, costing between £3,000 and £4,000 a year, is not being used, but it is being maintained although it is not being put to any use whatever. I do not want any injustice to be done to the men there, but I think this money should either be saved or spent on something else and the station closed down. Then I would like the Minister to be more sympathetic towards those who are injured in the course of their duty. There is a case of a man who was ordered to do some blasting, but he did not hold a blasting certificate; there was an accident, and he has lost the permanent use of one eye. He is now in a quandary. If he sues the Government, under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, he will have to leave the service, and if he remains in the service he may be told, after six or eight months, that his services are no longer required, and will by that time have lost his rights to compensation under the Act. The Government are not under the obligation of complying with the Factory Act and yet take advantage of the Workmen’s Compensation Act and see that the men only get the limited amount of compensation. The man is asked whether he is going to claim compensation, and if he says “Yes” he goes, if not, his services may be dispensed with after six months and he cannot claim. If a man is kept on after losing his eye, for instance, he should have some guarantee that he is not going to be dismissed after his rights under the Workmen’s Compensation Act have expired. In regard to gratuities, the provisions of section 67 of the Public Service Act only apply to natives and coloured persons. I do not know why it was done; but whereas natives and coloured workers are entitled to compensation under that clause where they do not contribute to a pension fund, the European workers are not so entitled, and that is a thing which I hope the Minister will rectify. It was evidently an omission. Gratuities under treasury circulars were authorized in certain cases, but the men I am pleading for don’t get them and have to petition: Parliament. Then there is the leave question. The Act was passed in 1923, but we are still waiting for the leave regulations. How long will those men be required to wait? Before leaving this question I want to say that these men want to know whether the Government will not put them in the lower technical division instead of the general division. With regard to long service increments why cannot they be treated like other grades? I have brought up all these points at the request of the men concerned.
I would like to ask whether the Minister has borne in mind a promise he made last year about new postal buildings at East Louden?
The telephone system in country places would be much more popular if it were possible to give the subscribers a better service. At present the hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and no service at all on Sundays. I quite recognize the difficulty of extending the hours, but the service will be much more popular and there would be many more subscribers if the service were extended to, say, 9 p.m. on weekdays, including Saturdays, and a Sunday service was given.
I wish to refer to postal employees who meet with accidents in the performance of their duty. The man referred to by the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander) would have been dismissed if he had not done the blasting although he did not hold a blasting certificate. It is rather extraordinary that men on the railways who are injured in the course of their duties should receive full pay, the men in the postal service who are injured while on duty receive only half pay. I don’t know how the postal administration expects these men to live on half pay. They have been used to drawing daily pay, and on resuming duty after being injured they are told they have lost half their pay. If there is permanent injury they may claim compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, but will probably not be reemployed. If one public service can allow full pay for injury on duty then all the others should follow suit, and I trust the Minister will see justice is done to these people and that this part of the service is brought into line with the Railways and Harbours department. Large numbers of men, are taken on for telephone construction, work and are faced with bad climatic conditions, etc., and if one of these men meets with an accident and is only entitled to half pay he is being treated very badly in my opinion. I hope the Minister will be able to do something in the matter.
As I already pointed out to the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander), his amendment is not acceptable, so I will not put it.
I wish to refer to section (L), Administration of Aviation Act, 1923, experimental air service, £3,000. I associate myself entirely with the attitude of the Minister in commencing this experimental service. For many years South Africa has tried to commence civil aviation, but has had varying setbacks. This year the Minister took the opportunity of inaugurating an experimental air service between Durban and Cape Town. When the service was suggested, there was a great deal of discussion as to whether it was likely to be a success or not, and when the machines came down and were allocated to Durban and the various points along the coast, the public was suspicious as to whether it could be made a success. When the service actually commenced, through efficient organization and devotion to duty by the officers of the air service, it was a great success from the purely flying point of view. As I understand the position, and I stand to be corrected, the service was commenced merely as an experimental service. I don’t think it was intended by the Minister to run it for a longer period than three months, yet for some reason or other a large number of people have got the impression that it was closed down because it was a failure. It was not closed down because it was a failure, but because, as I have said before, it was only intended to run for three months. Whilst I was overseas, I took the opportunity of enquiring into the various services being run in Europe, and I was surprised to find the tremendous development which has taken place since the war. I was equally surprised at the great interest taken by various companies with regard to South African aviation. Those with whom I spoke agreed that if there is any country in the world suitable for aviation, South Africa is that country. Hon. members will realize that it would be a pity if this experiment is not proceeded with. When this experimental air service commenced. I think the Minister’s idea was that it should be started with the view of creating sufficient interest among companies either overseas or here, as the case may be, with a view that they would take up the service in return for a subsidy which would be decided upon at some date or other by the Government. The various companies overseas found it difficult to decide what lines to follow. They had no indication whatever what the subsidy would be, and, consequently, they were reticent about putting forward any proposition without knowing on what lines they could base their proposition. I sincerely hope that the Minister, when he feels that he is in a position to do so will make his statement as to what extent the Government is prepared to go. I feel very sympathetic towards the Minister in the attitude that he has taken up. I realize that there are many who are desirous of criticizing his action, but I am one of those who is entirely in sympathy with the stand he has taken up. I would like to touch on the question of the composition of the civil air board. Anyone who has followed aviation in this country must have sympathy with the civil air board in the work it has to undertake. It is placing a very big responsibility upon the members when they, as a body of men, have no knowledge at all of civil aviation!, have had no experience of civil aviation, and yet are called upon to advise the Minister in all matters appertaining to that particular and highly technical branch of flying. The only member of that board, as far as I am aware, who has had any practical knowledge of flying, is the director of air services He has done some very excellent work in South Africa, he has carried out the organization of this service with great credit, but at the same time one must not forget the fact that he must necessarily be influenced from the military point of view more than from the civil point of view, and I do earnestly hope that in the interests of civil aviation—and the Minister is anxious, I know, to see civil aviation develop in this country—he will make a particular point of placing upon that board at least two or three men who have had experience of civil aviation. I do not know what reports have been made by the civil air board, but I hope the Minister will, when a suitable opportunity occurs, give the House an opportunity of studying any reports that have been prepared by the civil air board. He has this assurance, so far as those who are interested in variation are concerned, that he can rely upon our whole-hearted support, that we are here to help to develop aviation in the best interests of the country and to my mind there is no question that South Africa is not only suited to aviation, but it is an industry which we can create with distinct advantage—both from a defence point of view as well as from a commercial point of view. In Europe the difficulties chiefly centre round the fact that the rail routes and the ordinarily accepted methods of transport are so efficient that it is found to be very difficult for aviation to compete on a similar basis with these routes, but, in spite of these difficulties, aviation all over Europe is progressing on a scale which we out here can hardly appreciate or realize. The regularity with which they are conducted is extraordinary. We have the machines leaving the aerodromes at the appointed time, with absolute regularity. Irrespective of the weather conditions, of the load they are called upon to carry they leave at the scheduled time. The whole of Europe is one network of air services. We find in Australia that a great commercial aviation development has taken place; the same applies in America and Canada and other parts of the world; but South Africa, unfortunately, up to the present, has not had the opportunity of developing on the same lines that other dominions have had. The Minister has shown the way; he has taken the step, and I feel certain every member will agree with the experiment that he has entertained. I feel certain the Minister has sown seeds that will germinate in a fine, steady and progressive service in this country, which will undoubtedly benefit both the defence system, and the commercial system. I sincerely hope the Minister will take these observations to heart, and will realize they are offered as constructive criticism.
I move that you report progress Mr. Chairman.
I hope my hon. friend will now agree to report progress and ask leave to sit again. The question raised by the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Maj. Miller) is an extremely important one. The Minister, who we all recognize takes a great interest in the development of aviation in this country, will no doubt make a very interesting statement to the House, but with a depleted House like this, at this hour, it is not the time for an important statement of that kind.
May I submit to the right hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smart!) that I can deal very adequately with the questions that have been raised, and it will not take me more than half-an-hour to dispose of them. A tremendous amount of time has been wasted, and a good deal has been said that would have been better left unsaid on all sides. We want to get on with the work. Hon. members opposite are just as keen as we are to get on with the work. I do ask them to let this continue, and I will make a full and ample statement, and reply to any questions. I have been waiting here all day for this to come on. It came on half-an-hour ago, and there is ample time to deal with it.
I must point out to the Minister that his vote has only been on about half-an-hour. The post office vote is a very important vote. It is really making a farce of Parliament to ask the House, after the vote has been on only half-an-hour, and when we have been sitting since quarter-past two until 11 o’clock, to go on with an important vote of this sort. This is really not the way to treat the House, and certainly not the way to treat the vote of an important department like that over which he presides. Is he going to debar members from their right of bringing various points in connection with this vote? If he goes on I realize the result will be the vote will be passed, but the result will also be to withhold from members the right to bring forward these points as is their duty.
I would like to add my appeal. We are dealing with what I think is the largest vote on the estimates, nearly £3,000,000. Surely, at 11 o’clock, the Minister is not going to push through a vote like this? We are desirous of helping things along, but when the Prime Minister moved to suspend this 11 o’clock restriction he told us it was not intended as a gag, or as a bar to discussion, and he indicated he would give us due notice when an all-night sitting was intended. I think it is unfair to spring what might be an all-night sitting on the House, without previous notice. It is not only unfair to the members, but also to the staff and the press, and as the hon. member has pointed out, we cannot adequately discuss a £3.000,000 vote in this manner. Some members have gone home thinking we were terminating at 11 o’clock. The Prime Minister, in moving the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule, gave us to understand that he was not going to force the pace. The post office vote is not contentious; but somewhat lengthy. There is the question of country telephones; but it is not contentious, and a host of small matters which we would like to discuss not in any spirit of antagonism. No one can say that this vote can be adequately discussed after 11 o’clock, especially as we have had an all-night sitting this week already. I can assure the Minister that when the vote comes on, on Monday, or any other day, he will get our assistance. There is an important principle involved, and we are not discussing the vote in any hostile spirit. A great many of us are deeply interested in what the hon. member has told us about civil aviation. I do not think the Minister, in his heart of hearts, thinks that this is a proper way to deal with his own department. It seems to me as if the Minister is minimizing the importance of his own department, which is one of the biggest spending departments in the Union.
When this vote came on, there, were not a large* number of members in the House. The hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) raised sixteen points; the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) raised three points and another hon. member some other points, and it seemed to me that practically all the points to be raised had been raised; but if other hon. members wish to raise other matters, and promise that on Monday there will be no undue delay and unnecessary talk, I am prepared to accept. I move—
Progress reported; House to resume in Committee on Monday.
The House adjourned at