§ MR. TOTTENHAM
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether there 613 was any foundation for the report which appeared in yesterday's newspapers, with respect to an alleged flight of a British picket at Alexandria, and whether there was any reason to believe that any members of the gallant regiment of Rifles referred to had done anything that was discreditable to a British soldier?
§ MR. CHILDERS
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for asking me this Question, and although the hon. Gentleman did not give me Notice of it until we met to-day, I have been able to get a copy of a despatch which the Government received from General Alison last night, and which was in these words. It appears in the newspapers of to-day—Left front picket of Ramleh lines driven in by body of Arabi's cavalry at 2 o'clock this morning. Picket maintained its position 80 yards in rear of its original post. Firing continued some time, and Arabi's men shortly withdrew. Post re-occupied. No casualty.I also telegraphed yesterday, as I think my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury stated, to know whether there was any truth in the statement made—I think in a most extraordinary and much to be regretted manner—in a supposed message sent to The Daily Telegraph. General Alison's reply, in general terms, was that he knew nothing about it, but that the facts were as stated in his despatch. Perhaps I may be allowed to take this opportunity of expressing the hope, which I have expressed before, that editors of newspapers will be cautious in publishing telegrams of this kind. This is the second time it has occurred. Some days ago there was a statement published in another newspaper—which I read in letters six inches long all over London—about a great defeat of the British troops. There was not one iota of truth in it. Considering the very bad effect that these inaccurate statements—I will not use stronger words—produce not only upon the public mind, but upon the Army itself, I hope that newspaper editors will exercise to some extent the use of the scissors, which they know how to use so well, and that they will be cautious as to the insertion of statements of that character.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
Having regard to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman, I will ask him whether, considering that the consequence of this 614 message in The Daily Telegraph has been most injurious to the feelings and honour of one of the most gallant regiments in Her Majesty's Service, he will draw the attention of the general officer commanding at Alexandria to the matter, with a view to the exclusion from the British lines of that correspondent?
§ MR. CHILDERS
I should not like to give a definite answer to that Question at this moment; but Lord North-brook and I are in communication with the authorities at Alexandria on this subject, and I think the House will be satisfied that the regulations which have been recently published, and have been made known to the editors of newspapers, as to the duties of correspondents in the field will have the desired effect of producing more care in the despatch of information by those correspondents.