HC Deb 12 April 1888 vol 324 cc1044-5
MR. HANBURY (Preston)

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether any special reasons existed for placing Major Templer under arrest for two months before bringing him to trial on a charge in which an alibi was at once established; whether it is usual to hold a Court of Inquiry previous to a formal Court Martial, and why the custom was departed from in this instance; what was the amount paid to the Aclands in connection with this case; whether it is true that State secrets which Major Templer was charged with disclosing were actually disclosed to the Representative of a Foreign Power by the special orders of the War Office Authorities themselves; and, what steps the Government proposes to take, with a view to amend the Regulations, and strengthen the discipline of Government Offices and Works as to the secrets of warlike and other inventions in its possession?

THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

In accordance with the practice usual in such cases, Major Templer was placed in arrest as soon as a primâ facie case against him was disclosed; which was the result of inquiries made at Birmingham by the Criminal Investigation Department, and of his identification by witnesses. That step having been taken, it became the duty of the Trea- sure Solicitor to pursue the further inquiries necessary, and to put the evidence into shape before instructing counsel for the prosecution. During this period Major Templer was in open arrest. It was not obligatory, and it seems to have been impracticable, to hold a Court of Inquiry, as the principal witnesses were civilians; and such a Court has no power to compel the attendance of witnesses, or to examine them on oath. A Court Martial, with full judicial powers, was necessary, in the interest both of Major Templer and the State, to dispose of the grave suspicions which had been cast on that officer. In answer to the third Question, the Aclands were paid £1 a-week for nine weeks, and 25s. a-week for three weeks. This was to keep them at hand, as they were necessary witnesses for the prosecution, and had been turned out of their coffee house at Birmingham. They were not paid anything until after they had identified Major Templer. I am informed that no disclosure of State secrets concerning balloons was made by order of the War Office. But the whole of the circumstances attending this Court Martial, and the construction of balloons at Chatham, are now undergoing careful investigation; and I should prefer to make no statement on the subject at the present moment.


I beg to give Notice that on the Vote for the War Office I will call attention to this case, and also to the apparent absence of proper precautions against the betrayal of secrets in the Government Offices and Works.