HC Deb 16 May 1881 vol 261 cc545-7

asked the Secretary of State for India, Whether, in the year 1877, Captain Butler, of the 9th Regiment, was secretly ordered by Lord Lytton, then Viceroy of India, to proceed to the Perso-Turkoman Frontier, with a view of surveying the Turkoman land from the Caspian Sea to Merv; whether he was directed by Lord Lytton and by Mr. Thornton (the then Indian Foreign Secretary) to arrange to be in a position to raise the Turkoman Tribes in case of a War with Russia; whether he was specially directed to conceal the object of his mission from all the home authorities, from Her Majesty's Minister at Teheran, and from the English officials at Meshed; whether a Report of Captain Butler, as to his proceedings in the Turkoman laud, was sent by him to the Indian Foreign Office on his return from his mission; and, if so, whether there is any objection to lay the same upon the Table of the House; and, also, whether, considering that Captain Butler's health greatly suffered, owing to the hardships incurred during his mission, and that in consequence of this he was granted sick leave for eighteen months, and that his medical advisers inform him that, although still suffering from the effects of his arduous mission, his health will in all probability be completely restored should he be granted leave for a further six months, such additional leave will be granted to him, instead of his being placed on half-pay, owing to his present and temporary inability to perform active service in India?


Sir, according to Papers which I find on record at the India Office, it appears that in May, 1877, an offer from Captain Butler to proceed to Merv was accepted by the late Viceroy of India, not to "survey country from the Caspian Sea to Merv," but to Gain information as to the state of affairs among the Merv Turkomans, and the geography and resources of the valley of the Murghab, without compromising Government, and some pecuniary assistance was given him for this object. These Papers do not contain any evidence that Captain Butler was directed to "arrange to be in a position to raise the Turkomans in case of a war with Russia;" but, on the contrary, directly refute any such idea. It appears that Captain Butler's mission was to be undertaken at his own risk and responsibility, and that he was to make his journey as an ordinary unofficial traveller. He was ordered not to go to Teheran, chiefly on account of representations from himself that if his presence in Persia, and the object of his mission were known, difficulties might be thrown in his way by the Persian authorities. Captain Butler submitted to the Indian authorities, through the Quartermaster General, a Report of his travels on the Northern Frontier of Persia. Official information received from other sources by the Government of India has thrown considerable doubt on the accuracy of Captain Butler's Report of his proceedings. The Report itself does not contain any information of a valuable character; and, if published, would have to be accompanied by a large mass of Correspondence which would serve no useful purpose; and I do not, therefore, think it necessary to lay it on the Table. As to the latter part of the hon. Member's Question, I can only say that the matter of additional leave to Captain Butler is one entirely for the consideration of the Field Marshal Commanding in Chief, in regard to which I see no ground for interiorence on the part of the Secretary of State for India.