HC Deb 31 March 1881 vol 260 cc366-7

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he has been able yet to ascertain if the Boers besieging Potchefstroom knew of the armistice when the town was surrendered; if so, what steps are the Government taking on account of this conduct of the Boers, which would be contrary to the usages of war; and will they at once insist on all arms being immediately restored?


Sir, perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to answer the Question. I have to say that Sir Evelyn Wood has telegraphed that he is making inquiries on this subject, and it is possible that some days may elapse before they are completed.


said, he should like to ask the Prime Minister, whether, before they broke up for the Easter Recess, he would make any statement with regard to the terms of peace with the Boers, and with regard to those acts which were said to have been committed by the Boers which were contrary to the usages of war?


I think it is very improbable we shall be in sufficient possession of the facts on those rather nice judicial questions, as to acts contrary or not contrary to the usages of war, before we separate for the Easter Recess. With respect to the terms of peace with the Boers, in their general principle they are set out with perfect clearness, I think, in the telegrams laid before the House, and the House is in possession of the means of forming a judgment on our conduct. In the pressure of Public Business which now prevails, I do not think it will be in my power to volunteer a statement of the kind suggested. Any additional explanations that may be desired with respect to our motives are quite at the command of the House.


asked, whether it was to be understood that the Government expected to receive full written despatches from Sir Evelyn Wood in the course of a week or a fortnight; and, if so, would they be laid on the Table before the holidays?


Of course, we shall proceed with the same disposition and desire to communicate to the House everything material to the formation of its judgment which, I hope, we have already shown. But I think the noble Lord will allow Sir Evelyn Wood but a very short time if he expects that in the course of a fortnight or thereabouts we can have from him the means of passing a full judgment on the whole details of the proceedings. The time allowed for the probable conclusion of the affair, according to the best judgment that could be formed out there, is six months; and I think it probable that some time—I do not say six months—must elapse before the House is in possession of full information with regard to the whole of the interesting matters involved.


asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether the Armistice between Sir Evelyn Wood and the Boers had any other reference to the garrisons in the Transvaal than was involved in the sending of provisions to them?


asked, whether the attention of the right hon. Gentleman had been called to the reports of meetings held in the Colonies for the purpose of inciting to civil war in the Transvaal, and to the statement that one Colonist offered £1,000 for the purpose of promoting civil war in the Transvaal, with which we were at peace; whether this was legal conduct on the part of a Colonist; and, whether any notice would be taken of these transactions?


I shall be glad if hon. Members will give me Notice of these Questions.