HC Deb 04 March 1881 vol 259 cc330-1

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, as the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies recently stated that Her Majesty's Government disapproved of the terms offered by the Governor and his Ministers at the Cape to the Basutos, which terms were then under negotiation, he will inform the House as to the definitive conditions which Her Majesty's Government propose that the Cape Government should offer to the rebels; and, whether any telegraphic Despatch upon this subject has been received from the Governor of the Cape since the 25th ult.; and, if so, whether he will communicate to the house the substance of such Despatch, and of any reply that may have been sent to it?


, in reply, said, that the full details necessary to give an intelligent, or, at least, a clear answer had only that moment reached him; but he hoped that, substantially, he could give the required answer. Her Majesty's Government had no intention of informing the House, or of suggesting to the Government at the Cape the definitive conditions which they would propose should be offered to the Basuto rebels. The ground taken in reference to the Basutos and the Cape Government by Her Majesty's Government had been stated generally in the Queen's Speech; it was well known to both parties, and they had no intention of deviating therefrom. Then, his noble Friend very naturally inquired why it was Her Majesty's Government expressed no opinion on the terms offered. For that there was the greatest possible reason, which he would explain as well as he could. Her Majesty's Government had been made parties in the step immediately preceding—namely, the arrangement of the armistice. On the 2nd of February, Sir Hercules Robinson telegraphed the reply which, with the concurrence of the Ministers, he proposed to send to the Basuto deputation, praying him to intercede for them. On the 3rd, Lord Kimberley telegraphed his approval of that reply, with certain modifications, to bring it into accord with the position Her Majesty's Government had taken up. The modifications were accepted by the Cape Government, and an armistice was agreed to, commencing on the 18th and ending on the 24th February. Therefore, to that proceeding Her Majesty's Government were complete parties. On the 23rd of February the Cape Government signified to Sir Hercules Robinson that they intended to offer, and Sir Hercules Robinson telegraphed that they had offered, to the rebels certain conditions of peace that were to be accepted or declined within 24 hours, and that unless accepted hostilities would immediately be resumed. Under these circumstances, Lord Kimberley felt that, having been a party to the step immediately preceding, it was absolutely incumbent on him to make known that he was not a party to the step taken by the Cape Ministry on their own responsibility, and without reference to the Home Government. It was quite obvious that, reserving the right to appeal to the Government at home for advice, it must be well understood how far Her Majesty's Government had been parties, and in what they had not. That was the reason that caused his noble Friend (Lord Kimberley) to have the answer given by the Under Secretary of State on Monday last. The eight conditions of peace had been sent to the Basutos on the 23rd of February, and they were made known to Sir Hercules Robinson and the Colonial Secretary; but not until the 28th were they declared to the House. With regard to the effect of the declaration then made, he understood a remonstrance had been sent by the Cape Government; but, until that arrived, it was not in his power to give further information. All he at present knew was that there was reason to believe that the armistice was prolonged; and if that was so, he could not but regard it as a happy circumstance, and possibly it was in consequence of the declaration of the Government.