House of Assembly: Vol5 - SATURDAY 25 JULY 1925
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at
Message received from the Senate returning the Financial Adjustments Bill, with an amendment.
On the motion of the Prime Minister, the amendment was considered.
Amendment in Clause 16 put and agreed to.
Message received from the Senate returning the Miners’ Phthisis Acts Consolidation Bill, with an amendment.
On the motion of the Minister of Mines and Industries, amendment was considered.
Amendment in Clause 44 put and agreed to.
First Order read: Fourth Report of Select Committee on Railways and Harbours (Controller and Auditor-General’s Report, etc.) [S.C. 1b—’25], to be considered.
Report referred to Government for consideration.
Business suspended at 11.12 p.m., until 12.20 p.m.
Business suspended at 12.24 p.m., until 2.42 p.m.
Message received from the Senate:
The Senate has had under consideration the message received from the honourable the House of Assembly, dated the 24th instant, on the subject of the House of Assembly’s disagreement with an amendment made by the Senate in the Schedule to the Pensions (Supplementary) Bill.
The Senate desires to inform the honourable the House of Assembly that it has the most earnest desire to avoid everything which may lead to disagreement with the other House of Parliament and seeks to claim no powers not given to it by the South Africa Act, 1909, which alone governs the relations between the Two Houses.
Under that Act the Senate has complete co-ordinate power with the other House in regard to all legislation except so far as the same is especially restricted in and by that Act.
The Senate is of opinion that the Bill is not a Bill appropriating revenues or moneys within the meaning of sub-section (2) of section 60 of the South Africa Act.
Under section 120 of the South Africa Act “no money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Railway and Harbour Fund, except under appropriation made by law.
The persons mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill, if eventually paid the benefits awarded to them, are paid either out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Railways and Harbours Fund as the case may be. As the Bill appropriates nothing from either of these funds further legislative authority is required to create a charge on either of those funds. This legislative authority is provided by the ordinary Appropriation Bills which appropriate the moneys required for the purpose of paying the benefits referred to in the Schedule. Consequently it cannot be said that the Bill in question is an Appropriation Bill.
The Senate therefore submits that its amendment is in order as not falling within the restrictions mentioned in section 60 of the South Africa Act, but in view of the lateness of the session and in order not to jeopardize the Bill it does not insist upon its amendment.
The Senate suggests, however, that the Two Houses agree early next session to the appointment of a Joint Select Committee to consider and report upon the whole question.
Message received from the Senate returning the Merchant Shipping (Certificates of Competency) Bill, with amendments.
On the motion of the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, the amendments were considered.
On amendment in Clause 4,
Will the Minister please explain the effect of that.
I accepted this amendment in another place. No serious change has been affected. This gives the Governor-General much wider powers than he had.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Remaining amendments put and agreed to.
Message received from the Senate—
On the motion of the Minister of the Interior, the message was considered.
I think that at least the majority of the House will agree with me when I say that this House extremely regrets that the Senate has not seen its way clear to meet the wishes of the House of Assembly. I can give this information to the House, that when the last message about this matter sent by this House to the other plate was discussed there, I informed hon. members of the other House that it was impossible for me—
I do not think the Minister can deal with what took place in the other House. He must confine himself to the message.
Yes. Anyway, it was made perfectly clear and it was perfectly clear to this House that the rejection of the request which went from this House to the other place would be tantamount to the rejection of the whole Electoral Bill. What, therefore, was done in the other place, was done with eyes open, well knowing what the result of that decision would be. In a certain sense I am very sorry for what has happened. This House has spent a great deal of time in discussing the Electoral Bill in its various bearings, and in going through all the different stages, and much time in the same way has been spent in the other House on this Bill. Now that the Bill drops, all this time will have been wasted, and if the Bill is brought up again at a later time we shall have to begin the Bill de novo. It will have to go through all the stages again, and I dare say we shall have to spend much time again, if not the same amount of time, in the discussion of all the clauses of the Bill. For that reason I am very sorry, because, as everybody knows, the legislative programme of the present Government is very full and the time which the House can give to legislation is very congested. The legislation of the country, the business of the country, is in this way being held up, and as I consider, unnecessarily held up. For this reason I am very sorry for the action which has been taken in the other place. I am not sorry for the Bill itself, because, the Lord permitting, within nine months this Bill will be on the statute book. And in another sense, I am not sorry for what has happened, because it has demonstrated, I think, very clearly to this House, and, I think, very clearly to the country, the impossibility of conducting the business of the country under such conditions—that the Government of the country shall receive from the people a mandate to carry out a certain policy and that the Government then has to contend in another place against a majority belonging to the Opposition. In other words, it has demonstrated, I think, very clearly, the impossibility of a system of making the House of Assembly responsible to the people, receiving its mandate from the people, and giving in effect a veto right to the caucus of its Opposition. I can say, at this stage, nothing more than this, that the Bill will now drop. I can do nothing more than suggest that this House should send back a message to the Senate that it insists on Clause 4 of the Bill remaining unaltered. I will move that. I hope that the time will soon come when the machinery of conducting the business of the country will be so altered that we will make sure that the will of the people in the Government of the country will prevail. I move—
I do not propose to prolong this debate.
You must defend the action of your puppets.
The hon. member must withdraw that.
I am prepared to withdraw it.
The hon. member must express his regret.
I will withdraw, Mr. Speaker.
I do not wish to prolong this debate, but I do wish to express my regret at the very childish speech to which we have just listened. The hon. Minister has not ventured to say that the Senate in its action has not been acting entirely within its constitutional rights. We have a Constitution in this country, solemnly created by the will of the people of this country, approved by its former legislatures of the various colonies and finally ratified by a British Act of Parliament. The hon. Minister does not for a moment say that the action of the Senate is a breach of its constitutional position, because it is not that. The Senate, in the exercise of its constitutional rights and in fulfilment of its duties to the people of this country, has taken a certain action. In answer to that, I would have expected the Government of this country to stand by the Constitution of this country, but we have had to listen to this statement by the Minister. I am not surprised. We have embarked upon an era of revolution in this country—there is no doubt about it—and now there is foreshadowed a constitutional revolution, too. The Senate is going to be abolished or its position is going to be altered in this way as fixed under the South Africa Act. We want the people of this country to know what is happening; we want the people of this country to know and to realize what is happening in South Africa. Nothing will more fully and adequately make them realize what we are coming to, what we are drifting to, than the threat which has been made by the Minister to-day. I do not wish to add anything to what has been said, because I think the matter of what the Minister has said is sufficiently serious, not only to alarm this House, but to alarm the whole of the people of this country.
I am only going to say a few words and I hope that hon. members will not forget that what the hon. member for Standerton has just said there is in a great measure true. The Senate has acted within its constitutional rights. They have the fullest right to reject this section. But I just want to say this that the hon. member for Standerton clearly misunderstood the Minister of the Interior in giving such an interpretation to his words. I did not understand the Minister of the Interior to say that the Senate had not exercised its constitutional rights. But he cannot deny that, as the constitution unfortunately is to-day—and it has appeared very clearly here to-day—it may lead to a condition of things which is mortifying to this House. We can here have the fullest mandate as representatives of the people, we can base legislation here on the instructions which the people have given us, but we then get the position in the other House that another party is the strongest there, and simply makes that legislation impossible. The hon. member for Standerton feels, just as I do, how that difficulty can arise which is the result of action by him in the past, that was never within the intention of the national convention. He has simply appointed persons to the Senate from one party so that the majority in the other place simply represented the interests of one party. Now what.1 understood the hon. Minister of the Interior to have said here that we could not go on in such a way and that we as the national convention felt at that time must take measures to put it on a better footing. The national convention left it to this House to take measures with reference to the constitution of the Senate, because the resolution of the convention was of a temporary nature. The hon. member for Standerton also felt this because he himself and also under the Government of his predecessor, tried to take steps to put the relation between the two Houses on such a basis as to prevent a conflict arising. I do not think that any feeling against the other House will arise if we feel that the other House was simply acting in the interests of the country and had as its object to deal with matters from that point of view. Then we should have no right to object if they did their duty in this way. But now it is always said that the other place acts on party lines. There is no doubt that the way in which this relation, the relation in connection with this matter between the Senate and the House of Assembly appears to the people will not raise the dignity of Parliament. I believe that when this Bill is brought in again, it will be our duty to see that it is dealt with in such a way that all prejudice is removed. I cannot sufficiently point out that incidents of this nature will not raise the dignity of Parliament. For this reason I say that it is our duty to reconsider the whole matter and to see what can be done.
Motion put and agreed to.
Mr. SPEAKER read the following message from the House of Assembly to the Senate:
The House of Assembly regrets that the honourable the Senate insists upon this amendment, and, after taking the reasons of the honourable the Senate into consideration, the House of Assembly is constrained to insist upon the decision previously communicated by it to the honourable the Senate.
The House of Assembly, therefore, in returning the Bill, trusts that the honourable the Senate will further consider its decision and not insist upon the amendment.
Business suspended at 3.15 p.m., until 3.33 p.m.
I think that hon. members will be glad that I can take advantage of the opportunity of proposing the adjournment. The proclamation about the date will be issued in the ordinary way.
The House adjourned at