House of Assembly: Vol5 - FRIDAY 24 JULY 1925
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at
Mr. SPEAKER submitted the following message to the Senate—
The House of Assembly returns to the Honourable the Senate the Pensions (Supplementary) Bill, in which the Honourable the Senate has made an amendment, viz., the omission of item No. 82 of the Schedule.
The House of Assembly respectfully submits to the Honourable the Senate that in view of past practice the item in question, as governed by Clause 1 of the Bill, must be regarded as “appropriating revenue” within the meaning of sub-section (2) of section 60 of the South Africa Act, and that the omission of the item would in consequence be in conflict with that section.
The House of Assembly therefore regrets that it is unable to agree to this amendment, and trusts the Honourable the Senate will not insist upon it.
I just want to ask whether the statement made in that message that the Pensions Bill appropriates revenue is correct in fact. If that is so, then the whole question drops, because under the South Africa Act the Senate is not competent to amend a Bill which appropriates revenue. They may throw it out, but they may not amend it. The question is whether the Pensions Bill does purport to appropriate revenue, and it seems to me that it is a mistake to say it does, because the appropriation takes place in a separate Act. All the Pensions Bill does is to fix a pension for a particular person. It does not say he will get that pension, and it does not say he is entitled to it as of right. If Parliament does not vote the money, that person cannot sue the Government on that Act for the payment of the pension. The appropriation takes place in a different Act. The South Africa Act, I believe in section 60, specifically lays down that the Senate may not amend a Bill which imposes taxation or which appropriates revenue. Here there is no question of taxation, but there is a question whether revenue is being appropriated here. I submit with all deference that it cannot be said that any revenue is being appropriated in the Pensions Bill. The Pensions Bill is simply to define what amount a person will be entitled to by way of pension, if an appropriation is made by Parliament in another Act. We, as a matter of fact, always appropriate revenue in another Act. I therefore question the correctness of the statement which is embodied in the message which you have submitted to the House. I am under the impression there have been previous rulings on this matter. I am not clear as to the purport of them; but to my mind, simply looking at the case as an open question, it seems to me it is a mistake to imagine that the Pensions Bill appropriates revenue. I think there is some misunderstanding; and we should not unnecessarily get into conflict with another place. I want to raise another point apart from this statement of fact, which I submit is not correct. We have placed the Senate in a very invidious position through the procedure we have adopted in lumping together all individual pensions in one Bill. We pass one Bill with a schedule, and in that schedule is contained separate pensions for a large number of separate individuals. They are all disconnected. As a matter of fact if a Bill is to deal with one subject matter at a time, instead of passing one Pensions Bill we should pass, say, a hundred. Simply for the sake of our own convenience, of Parliamentary convenience, we have lumped together all these items into one Bill, and we fling that collection at the head of the Senate in one Bill. That is placing them in a very invidious position. Members in another place may wish to pass 99 cases out of 100, but they may have an objection to one. The result now is that the Senate, in rejecting one pension, appears to be amending the Bill. It is not really amending the Bill so much as rejecting one pension. The point here is the Senate may not amend a Bill which appropriates revenue. Assuming, for the moment, that this is a Bill which appropriates revenue—I do not think it does—then the question arises whether we are not dealing with the Senate unfairly in lumping together all these pensions and making their rejection of a particular pension appear to be an amendment to the Bill.
The same thing applies to the Annual Appropriation Bill.
No. The ordinary administrative expenditure of the Government is one large matter to be dealt with in one Bill. You cannot pass separate Bills, say, for one department and another department, and so on. Here you have a number of individual items. Our procedure, I believe, is a novel procedure. This has not been the procedure always followed. Individual Senators or the Senate as a whole object to a pension. In this case no party question arises, because, as a matter of fact, this particular amendment was moved by a member on the Government benches in the other place. We are placed in this difficulty, and I would very much prefer, rather than see a conflict between the Houses on a matter like this, that some understanding is come to. I hope that if your message is to go through, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister will give us an undertaking that when Parliament meets next year we shall confer with the Senate and explore a way out of this difficulty, because I do not think we are dealing fair with the Senate in a matter like this—we are not giving them that option which by law we should do. If we agree to your message to-day, the Prime Minister should at the same time give an undertaking to this House and to both places that next year he is going to call a joint conference or a joint committee of the two Houses where we can consider the matter and devise a procedure which, while preserving the rights of this House, will not be unfair to the other place in the exercise of their rights.
I am glad that the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) has mentioned the matter. It is clear that this is not merely a case of intentionally coming into conflict with each other. We have here to do with a difference of interpretation as to what is or is not the law, and I must say that I think that it is right, that if there is any just difference of opinion—and I believe there is—that we shall have to try to put the matter right at a later opportunity in a friendly way, and I think that I can undertake readily when we meet again the next time to go into the matter properly. In the first place it is a matter for an opinion from legal advisers. I must say that without holding myself out as one who has thoroughly studied the question, I differ from my hon. friend.
On the first point?
On the first point. I feel convinced that we have to do with a question of appropriation. In my opinion appropriation means nothing else than that this body, the House of Assembly, appropriates moneys which have already been paid into the Treasury and where it is said that the House of Assembly alone has the right to appropriate moneys, it means that the House of Assembly alone has the right to take a resolution by which moneys are taken out of the treasury to appropriate them to one purpose or another. But as has already been said, I do not wish to hold myself out as one who has gone into the matter specially. The matter was, however, brought to my notice, and I came to that conclusion. The hon. member for Standerton says that the trouble is that a number of persons (in this case 120) appear here in the list by which it is laid down what shall be separately granted to each, and that if there were separate statutory sections for each separate person that the Senate would have the right to reject each separate item. I must say that at the first blush this had a good deal of weight with me, but the hon. member for Standerton will see that precisely the same can be said with reference to the ordinary estimates. We have here appropriation in the mass, and the same occurs under the head of native affairs and the estimates are there practically a schedule by which it is laid down for what service moneys shall be spent in each separate case. I think that it can be there said with the same right that in the case of ordinary appropriation the rights of the Senate are taken away to reject the grant of £1,300 to the chief clerk of the native affairs office standing by itself, because this is appropriated in a specified globular amount on the estimates it cannot be done. I say that the same argument could be used there. It seems to me—I am not quite sure—that already in the past previous Speakers have given a ruling on the point and that the point has already been before the House, but what I want to say in conclusion is that it appears to me that it is undoubtedly a point where the House if it is of opinion that the Senate does not possess the right that we should of course stand upon that, but I want to go further, and then I come to what the hon. member for Standerton closed with, viz., that we must then make it known in some way that we at the same time do not say that in the circumstances this must be taken as final, but that at the first opportunity at the next session we will proceed to enquire whether we cannot come to agreement in a proper way.
I think this is a message of very great constitutional importance, and that the House feels grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for endeavouring at every possible point to protect the rights and privileges of the House of Assembly. At the same time the whole question to my mind seems to be this, is this Bill, a pension Bill, constitutionally an appropriation Bill? If that is so, then, of course, your message is in absolute accord with the constitutional practice. If we look at section 120 of the South Africa Act, we find that it is there stated—
Now this Pensions Bill incorporates pensions and gratuities for railway servants and for people drawing money from the general revenue —both. My point is this, can it be argued that it is a sufficient appropriation covering section 120 of the constitution to show that this is an appropriation from both the general and the railway revenue? I am afraid that if you look strictly at the wording of this Bill I do not think it can in fairness be argued that this is an appropriation Bill intended to operate on both funds. There is another point: in what way do we ourselves as a House of Assembly interpret this Bill on the question of whether it is an appropriation Bill or not? Section 62 of the South Africa Act lays this down—
The hall mark of an appropriation measure is consent from the Crown. I think I am correct in saying that neither in connection with this Bill nor in connection with any previous Pension Bill in any previous session of Parliament has the consent of the Governor-General been obtained.
But that is because of section 74.
I am speaking now of section 62.
It is because of section 74 of Act 29 of 1912, which specifically says that that consent is not necessary.
In the case of a Pension Bill?
I hope the Minister will make that, plain. I am only putting the point now that we as a Parliament and the Prime Minister have not viewed this as an appropriation Bill, for the reason that the Governor-General’s sanction has not been obtained in regard to this particular Bill. Therefore, it cannot be argued that this is an appropriation. The point is of so much importance that I am quite certain, Mr. Speaker, that you will not take it amiss if we raise this point. We do not wish to arrogate to ourselves as an Assembly more rights than we possess constitutionally, because by doing so we would naturally curtail the rights of the other House. And I think, in future, if it could be arranged, this difficulty would be obviated if this House were to pass the report of the Select Committee on Pensions report every year, before it is incorporated it is incorporated in this Pensions Bill. That is not done. We do it in the case of Crown lands; but not in connection with the pensions report. We require no amendment of our rules; but if, in future, we transmit the pensions report every year before it is incorporated in the Bill, to the Senate for their consideration and approval, with the report of the select committee on it, that would meet all the difficulties that may arise on this question between the two Houses.
I think the hon. member for Standerton has raised a very important point, and I do not think it is the intention or desire of this House in any way to curtail any of the privileges which the Senate, as a portion of the legislative body, possesses under the constitution. My hon. friend will remember that this was a point that was very fully discussed at the National Convention, and it was then laid down that Bins appropriating revenues or money could not be amended by the Senate. The only course open to the Senate if they disagreed with them was to reject them; but if hon. members will look at the clause in which this is dealt with, they will find that there was a proviso excepting Bills for the imposition of fines or other pecuniary penalties. But Clause 61 seems a very important clause in connection with this matter. It says any Bill which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government, shall deal only with such appropriation. My hon. friend will remember that was put in at the National Convention and embodied in the Act of Union after considerable discussion, as the point was raised that if we did not do that we would take away from the Senate legislative powers which it was the intention of the Convention to confer upon them. That question has also been raised by the House of Lords in connection with Bills referred to that House. Other matters not germane to appropriation have been introduced into these Bills, and on that account it was thought that it would take away from the House of Lords powers that they otherwise possessed. That is why I think Clause 61 is of such great importance, because this matter which is now engaging our attention is not a question of appropriating revenue, it is a question of whether A., B., C. or D. is entitled to a pension, and if you are going to put this narrow interpretation on it, I maintain that you are taking away from the Senate powers which by statute they possess. This may be a small matter, this particular pension, but to my mind it raises a very important point, and unless some agreement can be arrived at we will have to go back to the practice which I think the hon. member for Caledon will remember in the old Cape House of Assembly, when each pension was accompanied by a special Bill; but whether that was the case or not, if this position is to continue, I should say that the Senate, in their own interests, and exercising their legitimate rights, will be obliged to insist that in future every Bill dealing with pensions must have a separate Bill in connection with each individual pension, because, as the hon. member for Standerton pointed out, in 99 cases out of 100 the other place may be quite willing to accept, but in the one case they might not be willing, for good and sufficient reasons, which, if brought to the attention of this House, would receive concurrence. But by bulking them into one Bill, you take away from the Senate powers which they legitimately possess, and I consider that is a very serious constitutional procedure. Whether anything can be done in this individual case I do not know; but I think the position is so serious that something will have to be done to clear up this matter.
Perhaps it would be as well if I mention some of the matters that operated in my mind in giving the ruling which I did last night. I think everyone is agreed that any conflict with the hon. Senate should be avoided if possible, and I quite agree that if the message which I have read, either in the wording I have placed before the House, or in an amended form, is sent to the hon. the Senate, it will be highly desirable, as early as possible next session, for the Standing Rules and Orders Committee of both Houses to meet together, or for a joint select committee to be appointed, in order to go into the question and definitely define, as far as it is capable of definition, what the relations really are in connection with pensions Bills between the two Houses of Parliament. If we look at section 60 of the South Africa Act, I frankly admit that there is a great deal to be said for what has been stated by the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts); but in view of the practice that has been followed in the past, I do not see how this House can do otherwise than hold that the amendment which has been brought about in this Bill by the hon. the Senate is outside its powers. There is a difference between the services referred to in section 60 and those referred to in section 61. Section 61 refers to ordinary annual services, which means, to my mind, the ordinary annual, additional and supplementary estimates which are passed every year. Sub-section (2) of section 60 refers to “services” of the Government, not “annual services,” and must therefore mean something more than the annual services referred to in section 61. Therefore, the services referred to in sub-section (2) of section 60 must refer also to matters outside the ordinary annual services of the Government.. That is to say, to my mind, any moneys the Government is authorized to pay out, besides the ordinary annual estimates of the year. It has been the practice in the past for the Auditor-General to recognize the passing of a Bill such as this Pensions Bill as sufficient authority for money to be withdrawn from the Treasury without any special appropriation, and in doing that, I understand that he has taken “appropriation” in section 120, which has been referred to by the hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige), as meaning “authorization,” and if that is the case, it stands to reason that any Bill by which the Government is authorized to pay out money must be regarded as an appropriation; so that if one construes section 60 of the South Africa Act in view of the past practice, which has been followed since Union. I think it must be taken that the appropriation referred to in sub-section (2) is covered by terms of this Bill. In view of that, it might perhaps meet to some extent the difficulty that has been raised if we alter the wording in this message in the following way. Instead of saying that the House of Assembly respectfully submits to the Senate that the item in question, as governed by Clause 1 of the Bill, appropriates revenue within the meaning of sub-section (2) of section 60. we insert instead of “appropriates revenue” the words—
That might meet the difficulty of the right hon. member for Standerton to some extent. With regard to the second point raised by the right hon. member for Standerton, as to the former practice by which pensions were legalized merely by resolution of both Houses of Parliament, I am not certain what year it was, but a law was passed, I think, in 1912—
Act 29 of 1912.
—which laid down that pensions must be included in a Bill and that law was acceded to by the Senate in the usual way. On page 583 of “May,” there is a case which I consider very analogous to this, and which led me to the conclusion that the hon. the Senate could not, as far as that point is concerned, make an amendment such as they have made in this Bill. In 1860 the Commons passed a Bill repealing the paper duties and the House of Lords rejected that Bill. The next year the Commons again resolved that the paper duties should be repealed, but instead of seeking the concurrence of the Lords in a separate Bill for that purpose, they included, in one Bill, the repeal of these duties, the property tax, tea duties and other services, for the year, and this Bill the Lords were constrained to accept. I think, on that analogy, the Senate is precluded from altering any of the items in this Bill in which, if it comes under sub-section (2) of section 60, each item appropriates money for the services of the Government, and that is the reason which operated in my mind in holding, as far as this point is concerned, that the Senate is not entitled to make this amendment. With regard to the point raised by the hon. member for Caledon, as far as the recommendation of the Governor-General is concerned, that point was raised in 1912, when the Speaker expressed the opinion that the practice in the Cape House of Assembly and in the Union House of Assembly of proceeding with pensions without recommendation from the Governor-General was in conflict both with the Constitution and the standing orders, but he stated that the practice had been deliberately confirmed by the House. He further made the following statement—
The House has never ordered otherwise, so that it is really by the assent of this House that the recommendation of the Governor-General has not been insisted upon. Having gone into this matter, I think it is of sufficient importance that that matter also should be taken up as early as possible next session, in order to regularize the matter, because I do not think that a practice which is in conflict with the Constitution should be allowed to continue if it is found that it is a wrong practice, and that also might be gone into by any committee that deals with this matter early next session.
If I might be allowed to say so, sir, I am in entire agreement with the amendment which you propose.
Of course, it is always within the rights of this House, even if it considers that its rights and privileges have been invaded—if it may be so called—to waive them in a particular instance without prejudice to its position. Of course, if the House wishes to follow that course’, it is quite open for it to do so.
I would suggest to the Prime Minister that we waive our right to object. As was pointed out in the Senate by Senator van Niekerk, who has been chairman of our pension committee for years, we had repeatedly rejected this application for a pension which has now been granted. It is a question whether under these circumstances we should not waive our rights, and when the matter comes up in the Senate some member of the Government should make a statement and suggest that committees from the two Houses should confer next session in regard to these pension arrangements. I do not wish to have the whole question gone into now with regard to our undoubted rights in regard to finances, for this is a matter of very high privilege to this House, and I do not think we wish to discuss our whole power of initiation of expenditure with the Senate. This we claim as our high prerogative, but on the matter of pensions we might meet the Senate. It is open to us to insist on our strict rights, and regard this as an amendment of a money Bill, but there should be some explanation in the Senate of what we propose doing, and that we are waiving our strict rights; an objection without prejudice to our undoubted rights. The position should also be explained to them by the Government. I would prefer to fall in with the amendment made in the Senate by a senator who was very closely cognizant of the facts of this particular case.
This is a very important matter. I think there is one very substantial point which has not been sufficiently stressed. It is common cause that we do not want any conflict with the other House, and it is also common cause, and is one of the foundations of our Constitution, that this House alone has power over the public purse. The very fact that this Bill originated in petitions to this House emphasizes that. Petitions for relief are not presented to the other House, for the very obvious reason that it is this House—the representatives of the people—which alone has authority over the public purse. In any further discussion which may arise next session, I hope that will not be lost sight of for a moment. It seems to me, sir, if I may say so without impertinence, that your original ruling is indubitably right in spirit and substance, but it is clear that the whole spirit and intention of the Constitution is that we alone have the right to alter appropriations between the various services, and this may be looked upon as a service—the remedying of a financial injustice or hardship to the citizens of this country whose only remedy is an appeal to this House. It has become one of the duties of Parliament, and one of the services defrayed by the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Under these circumstances it is a fundamental principle that the other House may take upon itself the responsibility of rejecting any appropriation, but may not amend it, whether it is in the form of a Bill which consists of several items which is sent to the Senate for discussion in detail, but is of the same substance as any other money Bill, or a money Bill pure and simple. It seems to me quite clear that if once we allow the other House to have the power of amendment on any particular point, then the only logical conclusion is that, instead of having a committee of this House to investigate petitions for pensions or gratuities it should be a joint committee of the two Houses. I feel sure this House would not consent to that and would hold that the right to deal with petitions presented to this House belongs to this House alone and should not, for a moment, be given up or shared with the other place.
Perhaps I might say a few more words about this matter. I think that the position which we are taking up here is that we are doing nothing to prejudice the matter further. I gave the assurance that we would do our best at the next session to clear up the whole matter.
Message read from the Senate returning the Electoral Act, 1918 (Amendment) Bill with amendments.
On the motion of the Minister of the Interior the Senate’s amendments were considered.
On the amendments in Clause 4,
I should like to move that the amendment made in the Bill by the Senate be not accepted by this House and that a message be returned to the Senate with the request to reconsider the amendment omitting section 4, and if it is possible, to meet the wishes of this House. In support of this I only want to say that I consider this section one of the most important and essential of the Bill, and if it disappears from the Bill the Bill will lose a great deal of its value. I also want to point out that the importance and fairness of this section is not felt by one side of this House only, but, I think, by a large part of the other side of the House also, because when it was being discussed in select committee, and thereafter in this House, voices were heard in support of this from all sides of the House, and I think that for this reason I can say that the large majority of this House is in favour of this section remaining as it is now. I want to point out that this Bill, as introduced, was intended to remove a lack of uniformity in the four provinces of the Union which practically amounts to absurdity and want of uniformity, and may practically be considered a blot on our Electoral Act. In the Cape Province the existing law conforms to the Bill on this point. A person must occupy a property in a constituency three months before the commencement of the general registration in order to have a right of registration. In the Transvaal and Free State, on the other hand, there are no registration qualifications at all as far as this is concerned. If anybody has lived in a constituency just one hour or one day before the general registration he can be registered. In Natal, if anyone is registered on the occupation qualification, then he must have lived in the province for six months. There, therefore, it goes to extremes. On the other hand, if anyone is qualified by virtue of property or hiring of property, then he need not have resided in Natal for any stated period, not even in another province, not even in South Africa. He can live in any part of the world,, and I say that it is high time that in the circumstances the law for the four provinces on this point should be brought into mutual agreement and the absurdity be removed. The Bill was further introduced by me to avoid a great danger, namely, the manipulation of the registration for party political purposes. It is possible under the existing Act that a surplus of voters belonging to one political party, especially in urban areas, should be distributed over surrounding areas so that the distribution is such that the result in a certain area always goes in favour of that party. It is still easier in the Transvaal and the Free State, where there is practically no residential qualification required at all. A third matter is that under the new law, if the amendment is adopted, it becomes almost impossible to get a pure registration list. If a person can be registered in two constituencies because he is qualified in both, then he alone has the choice, but the result is that double registration necessarily occurs. In the Cape Peninsula we had it on the voters’ roll on a large scale. It was for years a scandal and it needed much revision of our machinery and great expense to put the voters’ roll of the Cape Peninsula on a proper footing. A further consequence thereof was that in the urban areas the number of voters on the list was exceptionally and abnormally large through the double and bad registration in consequence of the existing law, and undoubtedly in the past on delimitation the countryside was robbed of seats which were given to urban areas who were not entitled to them. I just want to point out further, that if the section is passed unaltered no franchise is taken away from anyone whatsoever who has it to-day except in one case, and that is in Natal in the case of people who do not live in South Africa, but are registered in Natal under a property qualification. I think that no one in this House will state that it is not right that the vote should be taken away from a person who does not live in South Africa. For the rest, the same people that are now entitled to registration will also be entitled to it in the future. Only the option is taken away of being registered in one or other division. Rights of this kind indeed have been taken away before. In 1918, e.g., the plural vote was abolished by the Electoral Act in Natal. For that reason there is no inducement to take a step of the kind that we are now proposing, namely, to take away the choice which does not touch the franchise itself. If anyone is forced to choose whether he will exercise his vote in one or other constituency, then I say that there is no doubt he should be forced to vote where he lives and not where he earns his salary or wages. His home is where he lives, and where his home is there the whole group of interests is which is associated with his home. Where he lives he pays his rent, there, to a great extent, he pays his taxes. Where he lives he enjoys the advantages of education for his children, and where he lives he has a vital interest in the costs of living. At his place of residence he probably lives together with other people who belong to the same class as himself, and it is the representatives of a collected class of interests in the country who must be grouped together as much as possible. That is one of the basic principles laid down in the South Africa Act. In connection with the delimitation of communities of interests I just take the example of Cape Town (Central). Under the existing Act we find people grouped together there in a constituency whose interests differ as the poles. On the one hand, there are employers and large capitalists, on the other hand, a large number of workmen, and the interests of the one are quite different to the interests of the other, yet we find as far as the Cape Peninsula is concerned that the people live together who have similar interests. In the other hon. House I said that if we look at the peninsula we find that the class of capitalists, just to call them so, mostly live in Newlands and Rondebosch. The working men live mostly in Salt River and Woodstock, and the commercial classes we find mostly in Cape Town (Gardens). The natives again, who as far as the franchise is concerned are practically distributed over the whole peninsula, live mostly in the division of Liesbeek, in which the Ndabeni location falls. That is not right. According to the South Africa Act the people should be registered where they live as far as possible and not where they draw their pay. In this way far better expression can be given to the will of the people and a community of interests can have a representative in the House who represents their interests. In these circumstances as the section in the Bill is so important I propose that the House should not approve of the amendment, but send it back to the Senate with a request for its reconsideration.
I do not agree with my hon. friend. I hope the House will agree to the amendments of the Senate. I know well that the member for Cape Town (Central) is supposed to be most interested in this, but that is all nonsense. I honestly believe I would come back the same as before. All this talk of my hon. friend is all just special pleading. He talks about community of interests, but, I take it that the people working in the city have one interest, an interest in the prosperity of the city and in the prosperity of its trade. They have, but one interest whether they are of the capitalistic class or workers. After all is said and done the people in Cape Town prefer to be registered where they work. It is much more convenient to go from work to the polls; I know cases where men work in Cape Town and live at Stellenbosch or Somerset West. Men like that prefer to come to work and then go to the polls and register their votes. There is no doubt in my mind that, if you consult the convenience of the voters in this place, they would prefer the system to remain as it is to-day. What astonishes me is that the Minister should interfere with the rights of the Cape Province, the right which we have of being registered either under our earnings or our property. Now you are taking away the right to be registered under earnings, and we have always had that right. In the Cape Province we have always had two rights, rights that you have not in any other place. In the Transvaal you have manhood suffrage, where no rights are required. But in the Cape Province you may register where you earn your wage or salary, or where you live. Now you propose to alter that, and to take away one of our rights. Why should not a man be able to register under his earnings? You want undoubtedly to get the biggest poll, and to get that, you must leave things to remain as they are. You will not get as big a poll under this system, that is absolutely certain. It is not always convenient for the voters to be registered where they reside instead of where they work. This is, to my mind, an intention to interfere with the rights of the voters in the Cape Province. It is not fair. I would have thought that hon. members, like the Labour party, would oppose anything which would, in the slightest degree, interfere with the rights of the voters. The hon. Minister talks about uniformity throughout the Union. But you have no manhood suffrage down here, and our voting has been based on that fact. It has been said outside that this is going to mean extra seats for the Labour party, and it seems to me that it is for that reason the Minister interferes with the rights of the people. As for the scandal about double registration, to what extent does it exist? I admit that there have been cases where men have been registered in two constituencies, but that is insignificant when you consider the total number registered, and I am speaking with some thirty years’ experience of elections. This talk about double registration is very much exaggerated. This clause interferes with the rights of the voters, and I hope the House will agree to the amendment of the Senate. I move—
I should like to put the case from a different point of view. I have not taken much interest in this matter when it was before this House, nor did we look upon this as a party question in any way, in fact some members on this side supported Clause 4 and will again do so now. I followed the proceedings in the Senate, and I must say the discussion which took place convinced me that the position is quite simple and clear, and that by passing Clause 4 as we have it in the Bill, we are doing a very grave injustice to the voters in the Cape Province and in the Natal Province. The Minister asked for uniformity and he said that if Clause 4 dropped out of this Bill the amendment would constitute a blot on the Bill. He says we have had this residential registration in the Transvaal and the Free State and why should we not have it in other provinces too; why should we not have uniformity? It is quite clear that there is a complete answer to that question. It is this: in the Transvaal and the Free State there is only one qualification, that is the residential qualification; there is nothing else. In the Cape and Natal Provinces on the contrary there are several franchises.
My argument is they have got the residential qualification up there.
You must be a resident there to be registered. That is the position in those provinces. They have no other franchise rights, and all that is required is that you should be a resident somewhere in the province, and there you are registered at your place of residence. It is really not logical to register the person anywhere else than where he resides in the province where the residential qualification is the only one. In the Cape and Natal the position is different. A voter here may have a residential or lodger’s qualification or an income qualification or a property qualification. It seems to me that unless the registration is left open and to the choice of the voter, and if you simply compel him to register at his place of residence, you are in fact debarring him of his other franchise rights. Supposing I reside at Stellenbosch and earn my income in Cape Town where I come in daily. By the law of this province, which it is not proposed to alter, I have two alternative rights, two qualifications or franchises. I have a residential qualification at Stellenbosch or I have an income or property qualification in Adderley Street. If now, without altering the franchise law, we are to say that a person is to be registered at Stellenbosch, that debars him from the franchise qualification which he has in respect of Adderley Street. It is perfectly simple. It seems to me that what this law does by subterfuge is to take away the alternative qualification which exists in two coast provinces. It seems to me the action taken in another place is perfectly logical. If you had one franchise only, a residential franchise, by all means be registered where you reside; but where you have several franchises you should have the right to be registered where your property is or where your income is derived. Logically it follows that these rights which are given by the law of the land in another Act which it is not proposed to disturb should be left alone, and the option of a voter to register at his choice should be left as it is.
I must say I am not in agreement with the two previous speakers. I speak from experience in regard to double registration. I can give you two cases in my experience over which I was attacked in the newspaper. If you want purity of registration, correct registration, you must have one centre; that is the actual experience. Johann Petersen had a house; John Peterson did the work. In his house he was registered as Johann Petersen; in his work he was registered as John Peterson; and there is another case which is not Dutch. When you register double what is the result? I have been a party to it. We weighed up the balance and we weighed up which place needed the vote most. But what is the position? It cannot be a fair thing to provide opportunity of doing that kind of thing. We have men whose names are common, who are not well known, and they are registered in two places. There is another thing we have to ask ourselves. If this House by Act of Parliament says how it shall be elected, I make bold to say that 20 to 30 per cent. of the voters on this side of the House will be in sympathy with that. This House has declared how it shall be elected. The other place is not responsible for our system of election. It is elected not by popular vote at all, but by the votes of those who have been elected by vote, and yet it says how we shall conduct our elections. I submit that is not reasonable. We are the party, for weal or woe, who should decide the method of our election. How any House could pass the obnoxious press clause and take up this attitude on this clause I cannot understand. I put it this way to the House. Here we have a great principle in connection with another clause. They pass that, and then, when this little thing comes along—
The hon. member must refrain from criticising the decisions of the honourable the Senate.
I am very sorry if I have done wrong. We have both done wrong, so we are both alike. I hope the Minister will not accept this and allow it to pass. The majority of the electors are in favour of it. I submit in what they have done, they have given the opportunity of double voting. I respectfully submit there should be no interference with the rights of persons. There is no interference in this clause; it only says the right shall be exercised in one way.
I do not think that the House will consider it necessary for me to deal with what the hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts) has said. I think it was very clever, but I think he will have to acknowledge that it was only just to cover up the actual position a little more than anything else. I agree with what the speaker before me said, and I think that all hon. members will agree with me that it is unreasonable to expect that what existed in the Cape Province shall continue as in the past. But I do not actually want to go further into it. I think that that point is very clear. I want to say a few words about what the last speaker said, namely, in how far it is a matter which we cannot pass over, because it concerns in the first place a question which practically exclusively concerns this House. This Assembly is the only House which represents the feeling of the people as a people. Here the people are represented, here the men sit through whom alone can be ascertained at any time what the feeling and the wishes of the people outside are, and when, therefore, it concerns a point about the people and the election by the people, then I say the Senate should as regards such matters be very much on its guard. The Senate should only enter upon problems of general interest, and they ought to hesitate to lay before us again for reconsideration a matter of this nature. But now in this case we have to do with the question of how the constituency of members of this House shall be distributed, and what rights electors shall have as regards members of this House. Now I am clearly of the opinion that the Senate is going a little too far to prescribe to this Assembly what ought to be done in such a case. The Senate is a body which cannot call the people to account.
I fear the hon. the Prime Minister is out of order.
I am giving the reason why we should ask the Senate to reconsider its decision.
The hon. the Prime Minister cannot discuss the position of the Senate.
I am not attacking that position, but I say that we must let the other place understand that in this instance we can do nothing else, but send the message back to it for reconsideration. But in any case I can discuss what the position of this House is. This House is the only body which can and which ought to decide as to who shall be electors for this House and how the election shall take place. If this is so, then I say that we cannot act otherwise than ask the Senate to again reconsider its decision, and I think that the other place will have to see this, and if they persist in their decision, then I think this House will be obliged to regard it as a throwing down of the gauntlet to this House, and particularly to the Government. If that is the case, and our honour is affected, then we shall of course be obliged to pick up the glove. I have always been a friend of the Senate, and I say that we should try in every possible way to avoid any conflict, but we are not going to do this, at least I feel that I cannot do this, by sacrificing this House. I want to consider what position we ought to take up. If we look at the past then we find that our friends who are now in the Opposition never had to deal with such questions as we are having to deal with this session. Why not? I shall tell them: On account of the misuse hon. members opposite made of their power when they sat here. There are ten hon. senators in the Senate who were appointed by the Government. By what Government?
Very well, eight.
The hon. the Prime Minister must not speak about the Senate.
The “other place.”
The hon. the Prime Minister cannot criticise the other place.
No, I am not criticising the other place, I only want to talk about the constitution.
You mustn’t threaten the Senate.
I do not want to speak about the other place, but I am entitled to talk about the constitution. There are eight senators that are nominated by the Government. What Government nominated the eight senators who are now in the Senate?
On a point of order. Is the hon. the Prime Minister in order to discuss the constitution of the Senate in connection with this section?
The Prime Minister should rather refrain from doing so.
I do not want to go further into the matter, but if I discuss the constitution of the House in connection with this amendment by referring to it for purposes of illustration, I cannot see how I can be prevented. The friends opposite are anxious, they are anxious about the misdeeds they have committed and with which we are saddled to-day, and run a risk to have still more on our hands in the future. Now I just say this, that as far as I am concerned, and the Government are concerned, if it comes to it that we are going to have anything more on our hands on account of their party misdeeds in the past, and on account of party feeling and party motives to-day, then I will see to it and we will endeavour to attain as soon as possible to the bringing about of a change in the constitution. I do not mention the Senate, but the constitution, and we will see to it that the constitution is made as it was intended to be made when it was drawn up, and we shall then see to it that a body which has to deal with legislation will exist to see that the legislation of the country is as sound as possible for all parties in the country.
You have no right to impute party motives to the Senate.
The hon. member for Fort Beaufort (Sir Thomas Smartt) says that I may not say that?
Mr. Speaker says the same thing.
I am not at all using the word “Senate,” I am only pointing out generally the position in which we are today placed and that it is quite different to what it was when hon. members opposite sat on the Government benches. I shall be very sorry if such a step is necessary, but if it is necessary then we shall have to remedy the position by means of this House.
I am sorry that the hon. the Prime Minister was once quite out of order, but we naturally want to give him much latitude in as much as we are waiting here on messages from the hon. Senate. He has wandered from the subject under discussion and I now wish to return to it. I have fought this section from the beginning and I should like to give my reasons for doing so. I thought that the hon. Minister of the Interior, who represents the Cape Province (we have only two in the Cabinet), would act in the actual interests of the Cape Province. He is making a direct attack upon the rights of the inhabitants of the Cape Province. We have here two qualifications enabling a person to be put on the voters’ roll. He may have a residential right or that of a salary or wages qualification. In the past the voter has had the right of choice between these two. It is a weak argument to say that the person will have himself registered twice, because the law is very strict against that. But what happens now? The Minister takes away that choice from the voters in the Cape Province. Formerly a person was registered where he lives only if he had the residential qualifications there. A person earns his wages possibly in Cape Town which entitled him to registration. He lives at Stellenbosch, but he has no occupational qualification there, but the Minister lays down that he must be registered there. It therefore amounts to this, that we make a man vote in the constituency where he has no right to vote. I know of instances of young people who earn their wages here in Cape Town. They live in Brackenfel, and there they have no occupational qualifications. The Minister now gives them the right to vote there although according to the Cape Act they do not possess that right. The Minister has spoken here of community of interests. People who earn their wages here in Cape Town and then have to go and vote in Bellville because they live there have no community of interests with the farmers of the Paarl, Malmesbury or Stellenbosch, and it is perhaps the case that the person has no occupational qualification there. In the first place this section makes an encroachment on the rights of voters, and in the second place it is an extension of the franchise which the voters did not possess. That is my position, and I think that we should be consistent and oppose this innovation of the Minister. I could understand it if the Minister had incorporated such a section in a general electoral law, but why now, by a roundabout way, attack the rights of the electors in the country. We must not reduce the rights of the electors in a back-door way.
What about the Transvaal?
In the Transvaal the franchise is very democratic. Here we still have a little respect for property, and we find ourselves at a slightly higher level. I hope that the hon. Minister will aim higher than the Transvaal and that he will see to it that the citizens who vote for Parliament have a real status in the country.
I am also a representative for the Cape Province and I represent a large tract of country. There all the voters are registered where they reside and not where they work and why does the Opposition now want such a person to have a choice? A man’s rights of citizenship centre round the place where he lives and not round the place where he works. He must protect his hearth and home and in the Cape Province not a single voter on the countryside is registered at any other place. It is just in such places as Cape Town (Harbour) where members want, that the man shall vote where he earns his wages, of course, in order that the master can dictate to him how he should vote. The towns already have so many advantages at the expense of the country and I am glad that the Minister says that people must vote where they live if they have residential qualifications there and earn a sufficient wage.
The hon. member for Caledon (Mr. Krige) has carried us back to the middle ages. We can imagine that as an old baron he honours the doctrine that a person’s possessions and property must be the decisive factor whether he shall have the franchise or not. It is strange to me that members opposite are now finding out that an unfair encroachment is being made on the rights of the electors. It is said that this is a scandal and such like arguments are used against the section. At the debate on the motion for the second reading not one member of the Opposition attacked it. Thereafter we had the Select Committee and why did they not protest against it? I want to be fair to the hon. member for Caledon and acknowledge that he at the third reading objected to this section, but in the Select Committee he did not vote against this section. It is said that he came in late. The other members of his party could, however, have enlightened him as to what took place there. He did not vote against this section nor did he raise his voice against it.
We did not divide.
Why did he not ask for a division?
He was a new member.
Very well, I accept that he was a new member and knew nothing about the matter. Nevertheless he had plenty of opportunity to find out before the matter was dealt with in committee. He did not vote against it, but only at the third reading did he make himself heard. It seems to me that the protests of hon. members opposite are only made to justify the action of the S.A.P. in the other place.
Why did not the hon. member object to if? He waited until it was brought to his notice. I do not wish to go into the merits of the case, but I want to point out that if hon. members sat still during the different stages and approved of this section, it is very strange that they now discover the so-called injustice to the electors, and appeal to us to be consistent. It is unfair towards this House.
It appears to me that you may be disfranchising a good many. You have got your qualification, either residential, or you must have earned a salary of at least £50 for the preceding twelve months. The person could be registered where he earned his salary. Now he can no longer be registered there. He has got to be registered where he resides, and he must have resided there for at least three months The Minister mentioned Cape Town (Central). He seemed to have Cape Town (Central) on his brain almost, so I will take Cape Town (Central). You have men earning their salaries in St. George’s Street. Many of them have earned their salaries in St. George’s Street for twelve years. Perhaps they reside at boarding-houses, at Muizenberg, Sea Point or Somerset West, and if they do not reside at anyone place for three months before registration, they will be disqualified. Many Cape Town people live in the Gardens for the winter and go to Sea Point or Muizenberg for the summer. A person should exercise his vote where his real interests are, and that is the place where he earns his living.
That may be in ten places in ten months.
Then he cannot be registered. A salary qualification is much more onerous than any other qualification. How can a man who earns his salary in Cape Town (Central) and lives at Muizenberg, qualify to be registered in the South Peninsula?
You can earn your salary in any part of the Union and South-West and be registered on it.
Many people will be disqualified, because they may not have lived in a division three months before the date of registration, although they may have earned their salaries in Cape Town for more than a dozen years. A man’s main interests are in the constituency where he earns his living.
His interests are not centered in the boarding-house in which he lives. My hon. friend’s interests have always been where he makes his living.
I live there.
A good many people will be disfranchised under this law.
The arguments of the hon. member would have been valuable, but for the fact that the Cape is the only province in the Union which has a dual registration, which is an obsolete idea. It does not follow that because a man is employed in a draper’s shop in Cape Town his interests are bound up in that shop. Many people more frequently change their place of occupation than their place of residence. We should have union in the real sense of the word, and there certainly should be a uniform system of registering voters. Although, personally, the change will affect me more than any other member of the House, I hope the Minister will not give way.
On a point of order, I draw your attention to the fact that there is not a quorum.
House counted and Mr. Speaker declared that a quorum was present.
I do not wish to detain the House. I only wish to point out that the argument of the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) is not sound, because there are many wage earners who work for three months at one place and then for three months at another. The largest portion of the population have houses and it is only a very small percentage that are lodgers. If we allow people to register then it happens that some people allow registrations in a constituency from outside where the two parties are equally strong. Make no difference where a man earns his wages, and we must register him where he lives.
Question put: That paragraphs (b) and (c), proposed to be omitted, stand part of the clause, and Dr. de Jager called for a division.
Upon which the House divided:
Bergh, P. A.
Brink, G. F.
Brown, D. M.
Conroy, E. A.
Creswell, F. H. P.
De Villiers, W. B.
De Waal, J H. H.
De Wet, S. D.
Fordham, A. C.
Fourie, A. P. J.
Hay, G. A.
Louw, E. H.
Madeley, W. B.
Malan, C. W.
Malan, D. F.
Malan, M. L.
McMenamin, J. J.
Moll, H. H.
Mostert, J. P.
Naudé, A. S.
Pretorius, J. S. F.
Raubenheimer, I. van W.
Roos, T. J. de V.
Roux, J. W. J. W.
Snow, W. J.
Stals, A. J.
Steytler, L. J.
Strachan, T. G.
Swart, C. R.
Te Water, C. T.
Van der Merwe, N. J..
Van Heerden, I. P.
Van Hees, A. S.
Van Rensburg, J. J.
Van Zyl, J. J. M.
Waterston, R. B.
Wessels, J. B.
Wessels, J. H. B.
Tellers: Pienaar, B. J.; Vermooten, O. S.
Byron, J. J.
Chaplin, F. D. P.
Coulter, C. W. A.
Deane, W. A.
Giovanetti, C. W.
Heatlie, C. B.
Jagger, J. W.
Krige, C. J.
Lennox, F. J.
Louw, J. P.
Miller, A. M.
O’Brien, W. J.
Rider, W. W.
Sephton, C. A. A.
Smartt, T. W.
Smuts, J. C.
Struben, R. H.
Van Heerden, G. C.
Tellers: Collins, W. R.; de Jager, A. L.
Question accordingly affirmed, and amendments proposed by Senate negatived.
Amendments in Clauses 26 and 44 put and agreed to.
Mr. SPEAKER read the following message:
Message from the House of Assembly to the Senate—
The House of Assembly has concurred in the amendments in Clauses 26 and 44 and has made endorsement thereof in the copy herewith sent.
But the House of Assembly regrets that it is unable to agree to the amendment in Clause 4, as it considers that paragraphs (b) and (c) of that clause contain provisions which are essential to give full effect to the principle of the Electoral Act, 1918.
The House of Assembly therefore trusts that the Houorable the Senate will not insist upon this amendment.
First Order read: New Cape Central Railway Acquisition Bill, as amended by the Senate, to be considered.
On the motion of the Minister of Railways and Harbours, the amendments were considered.
On amendments in schedule,
Why make these small amendments at the bottom here on sub-section (4) of the schedule, such as “Act” for “Acts”?
That is to bring it in accordance with the original.
I do not think the House would allow the alteration of a signed agreement, but I understand the hon. Minister to state that these amendments are made in order to make it in accordance with the agreement which has been signed. I think there has been a mistake in the Dutch amendment in the spelling of Mr. Smit’s name.
That is so.
Amendments put and agreed to.
Second Order read: Fifth Report of Select Committee on Public Accounts (Meyer and Charlton Gold Mining Agreement) [S.C. 2b—’25] to be considered.
I know nothing about this matter except what I have read in the report of the committee, but it seems to me, reading this report, that the company is being rather hardly treated. This business has been going on for fifteen months, on the understanding that the Government would secure the adoption of the proposed alteration of the agreement. On the strength of that a good deal of work has been done, but now the whole matter is left in the air on the ground that the prospects of the mine, and the amount which will accrue to the Government, are better than contemplated when the provisional agreement was made. Perhaps we can have some statement from the Minister.
Motion put and agreed to.
I move, as an unopposed motion—
We have got to get this through in order to be able to authorize certain payments to the municipality on the strength of it.
Motion put and agreed to.
Twenty-second Order read: Report of Select Committee on Petitions of Simonstown Municipality and others [S.C. 4—’25], to be considered.
I merely want to say one thing in connection with certain matters appearing in the evidence, with regard to the sales to the municipality by a servant of a defence force institution. I have enquired into that and there was no irregularity in regard to it.
Motion put and agreed to.
The House adjourned