HC Deb 04 January 1894 vol 20 cc828-9
SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclcsall)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been called to an account, in The Globe of 29th December, of the explosion on Gobernador Island, by which three British officers and a boatswain were killed, and seven seamen were seriously injured, on 3rd November, from which it appears that the explosion was deliberately effected under Marshal Peixoto's orders, without any warning to the British men-of-war, whose crews had been in the regular habit of landing on this Island in order to get sand, and for recreation; and whether, under these circumstances, the Government will make a demand for compensation from the Brazilian Government?


I have not seen the statement in The Globe, but accounts of this explosion have been received from Her Majesty's Minister and Senior Naval Officer at Rio de Janeiro. They are dated the 10th and 13th of November, and the cause of the explosion had not then been ascertained. The Brazilian Minister for Foreign Affairs informed Her Majesty's Minister on the 8th of November that inquiries had been instituted by the police, and it seemed that some workmen had lit a fire near the door of one of the magazines, and that the insurgents were removing ammunition, and that some sparks from the fire ignited some loose powder. The question of compensation is one which will have to be considered at the termination of the present civil conflict.


As there is not a state of war prevailing, and as the insurgents have not been recognised as belligerent, is there any reason why the demand should not be made at once, especially in view of the fact stated in the question that these promising young British officers lost their lives through the deliberate act of an official of the Brazilian Government?


We have not at present received information to the effect that the explosion was caused by an order of the Brazilian Government. You cannot found a claim upon a foreign Government only upon a statement, in a newspaper, and the statement of the Brazilian Minister rather goes to show that the explosion was the result of an accident. I have not used the term "war," but "civil conflict"; and though I do not wish in any way to minimise the sadness of this occurrence, I must point out that the middle of a civil conflict is not the most likely time at which to obtain satisfaction.