HC Deb 17 December 1878 vol 243 cc953-4

asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether, with reference to the use which has been made by the Government of the opinion, by telegram, of Lord Napier of Magdala in favour of the alteration and rectification of the north-west frontier of India, the Government have obtained any other opinions of military men on the subject, either in favour or against the alteration; and, if so, whether the Government will lay those opinions upon the Table of the House; and, whether they will also lay upon the Table the telegram sent by the Government to Lord Napier, and to which his telegram was a reply?


, in reply, said, the hon. Gentleman would, perhaps, allow him to answer the Question, although, as he had become aware that it was to be put only within the last hour, he was afraid he had not been able to acquaint himself so fully with the matter to which it related as he otherwise would have been. The last part of the Question, he might add, showed that some misapprehension existed in the mind of the hon. Gentleman on the subject. He (Colonel Stanley) had been informed by General Dillon, who was now Assistant Military Secretary at the War Office, and who formerly served on the Staff of Lord Napier, that the latter had telegraphed to him to say that he was most anxious to be present at the discussion on the Afghan Question in the House of Lords; but, not being able at the last moment to make arrangements for the purpose so as to be in time, Lord Napier sent to General Dillon by telegraph a Memorandum, which he desired him to place before the Commander in Chief, with a request that His Royal Highness might make of it any use he might think fit. The message was communicated to His Royal Highness; but as he did not take part in the debate in the House of Lords, he handed the Memorandum to the Prime Minister. He understood that Lord Napier was anxious, as a Peer of Parliament, that his views should not be misrepresented; but he wished to add that no telegram asking him to express them had been sent to him on the part of the Government, and that his telegram was not to be considered in any way as a reply to one from them. As regarded the opinions of military men on the question of the rectification of Frontier, he had to state that the Government, as a Government, were not in possession of any such opinions at the present moment; but, of course, in the exercise of his office, he was in communication with various military authorities on all questions of military interest. He did not, however, deem it to be consistent with his duty to lay such communications, which were necessarily of a private and confidential character, on the Table of the House; but, at the same time, he should not use in debate any memorandum which was not of a public nature.