HC Deb 04 March 1881 vol 259 cc324-6

gave Notice that, on Monday, he would ask the Secretary of State for War, Whether he has read the telegram in the "Standard" of the 4th instant, from the Correspondent of that newspaper in South Africa, whose great authority on the events and feeling in that country is universally acknowledged, which telegram contains the following passage:— The arrival of General Wood has inspired the troops with great confidence. The Boers also avowedly fear his enterprise. They constantly inquire as to his whereabouts, and the reputation which he gained during the Zulu War, in which he had a corps of Boers fighting under him, evidently has a great effect on their minds; and, whether under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government still intend to supersede Sir Evelyn Wood by any officer unlikely to inspire the troops with such confidence, the colonists with such respect, or the enemy with such fear?


I can answer that Question at once, Sir. I have read the telegram in The Standard, and Her Majesty's Government do not propose to alter the arrangements which they have made respecting the command in the Transvaal.


On Monday next I will ask the right hon. Gentleman, Whether it has not been the constant custom to confer superior local rank on officers connected with commands in the Field; and, if so, whether Her Majesty's Government do not think this course might be adopted to the public advantage in the case of an officer of such proved ability as Sir Evelyn Wood?


I may at once state, Sir, that Her Majesty's Government have this day conferred upon Sir Evelyn Wood the rank referred to by the hon. Member.


said, he would also give Notice that, on Monday, he would ask the Secretary of State for War, Whether, considering his high qualifications, the authorities will take steps to leave Sir Evelyn Wood an independent command, and in that way to utilize his untrammelled services in a country where he has already proved his high qualifications as a soldier and a negotiator?


I must appeal to the House. I have answered this Question twice or thrice already, and must decline, Sir, to answer further Questions of this description. I do not believe the House of Commons really desires to interfere with those who are responsible for matters of this kind after they have clearly stated what they intend to do.



said, that, in order to prevent any misunderstanding and to provide against any inconvenient precedent being set up, he should like to ask, Whether the right hon. Gentleman, by the answer he had given, intended the House to understand that hon. Members were to be excluded from putting Questions and legitimately expecting an answer, or from raising a debate on an appointment which might be made by a Minister of the Crown?


No, Sir, I did not mean to say that such Questions should not be put. What I meant to say was, that after I had given the clearest answers I could to three or four Questions on a subject which is expressly within the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War and the Com- mander-in-Chief—I mean the selection of an officer under the Commander-in-Chief in Natal—I conceived it was not the wish of the House that these Questions should be continually repeated, although it is quite in the power of any hon. Member to challenge the conduct of the Government in the matter. From the manner in which my answers were received on previous occasions, I conceived that to be the general opinion of the House.

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