§ MR. GOURLEY
asked the Secretary of State for War, What measures he intends adopting for the purpose of ascertaining who can be held responsible for the surprise and slaughter which overtook the Transport Department of the Army of Suakin on Sunday last during the construction of the zerebas?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I think it would be very unjust to the officers in command at Suakin, and that it would certainly have a very bad effect both on the officers and the troops they are commanding, if any observations were made in this House tending to throw doubt on the skill and ability of the officers in command; at all events, on imperfect information, and before full details of what actually occurred and the reasons for the step taken have been received. Undoubtedly, the fact that General M'Neili's force appears to have been surprised to a certain extent on Sunday last is one that appears to require further explanation, and explanations have accordingly been called for.
§ MR. STOREY
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he has taken note of the fact that, among the assailants of the British Camp on Sunday, were many boys of tender years and women; and, whether, in view of so significant an indication of the widespread and universal character of the opposition to our advance, and of the fact that Lord Wolseley's forces have retired unmolested to a point five hundred miles by water from Khartoum, and six hundred miles from Suakin, the Government will revert to its original policy of non - interference with the affairs of the Soudan?
The War Department, I am told, is still in the same position in which it was when my noble Friend answered a Question of this character referring to this matter a short time ago, and has no information upon the subject to which the hon. Gentleman refers. As a matter of fact, I must add that, even if the information were true, 844 however deplorable it would decidedly be, it would not appear to me to be at once perfectly clear that it is a circumstance upon which any important conclusions could be founded.
§ MR. STOREY
Are we to understand that the Government intends to continue the slaughter of the wives and children of "a people struggling to be free?"
The Question of the hon. Member appears to refer to words I used. Permit me to say I never used that expression except with respect to the Egyptian yoke upon the Soudan, which was condemned by General Gordon, and which we never have at any period sought to restore.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
I wish to ask, Whether Her Majesty's Government, with a view to putting an end to these terrible massacres, will now consider the expediency of informing the Mahdi and Osman Digna the terms of peace Her Majesty's Government are prepared to accept? If the right hon. Gentleman cannot answer the Question now, I will put it again on Monday.
This is a question of policy, and I must be permitted to say that the intention of putting Questions in this House never was supposed to be that the Government were, at the instance of any individual Member, to be expected at any period to declare their policy on a subject of great importance on which they would not have thought it their duty, but for that Question, to make any such declaration. We have already given, Sir, explanations of the measures we have taken in order to make sure that any communications from the Mahdi on the subject of peace should reach our hands. I have nothing to add to that declaration either to-day or on Monday.