HC Deb 10 March 1881 vol 259 cc733-4

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If the views of Her Majesty's Government upon the rising in the Transvaal were not on the 6th January expressed in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech in the following words:— A rising in the Transvaal has recently imposed upon me the duty of taking military measures with a view to the prompt vindication of my authority, and has of necessity set aside for the time any plan for securing to the European settlers that full control over their local affairs without prejudice to the interests of the natives which I have been desirous to confer; And, if so, if he would explain to the House what has since occurred to induce the Government now to consider by negotiations "plans for securing to the Boers that full control over their local affairs" which a few weeks ago were "of necessity" to be postponed to the prompt vindication of Her Majesty's authority; also, in order to clear up the uncertainty in which the matter is at the present moment, whether Sir Evelyn Wood, in proposing the armistice to the Boers, acted under instructions which had been given to Sir George Colley, and to which Sir Evelyn Wood of course succeeded on the death of Sir George Colley.


Sir, the Question is one which I have already answered more than once; and I have informed the House of the only instructions given to Sir George Colley, and to which, as the noble Lord justly observed, Sir Evelyn Wood succeeded on the death of that lamented officer. As regards the first part of the Question, I have no doubt that the citation from the Queen's Speech is correct. At the time when Her Majesty was advised to sanction the delivery of that Speech we were under the impression, which I think was correct, that our first duty, on the occurrence of the rising in the Transvaal, was to place the local authority of the Queen and the military acting under Her Majesty in South Africa in a condition to deal with the emergency. We were at that time actively engaged in that duty, and until it had been fulfilled we did not consider the opportunity had arisen for our endeavouring to bring about a settlement of affairs in the Transvaal. We do consider that, in existing circumstances, such an opportunity has arisen, so far, at least, as to make it our duty and worth our while to have the circumstances carefully tested with a view to ascertain what may be the result. I cannot undertake to predict confidently the issue of the communications which are going on. We are aware of the interests on our hands, and we shall endeavour sedulously to guard them. With respect to what has been done in the interval, much, undoubtedly, has happened in the interval, including the proposal or request from the leaders of the Boers for the appointment of a Royal Commission to examine into the matter. I do not think it would be convenient or altogether just to the House if I were to endeavour, in answer to a Question, to give anything like a full or detailed account of what has happened. The best form of giving such detailed accounts—in fact, the only form satisfactory to the House—will be the presentation to the House of the actual Correspondence as it has occurred so soon as the moment arrives when the public interests will allow of its being presented. I may, however, observe that there are Supplementary Estimates on the Table, including, unhappily of necessity, both Military and Naval Estimates for the service in the Transvaal, for which it will be necessary to propose Votes within the course of the next week or 10 days. That will afford the noble Lord and other hon. Members an opportunity of offering criticisms if they think fit.