HC Deb 05 March 1896 vol 38 cc222-3

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, (1) whether he has yet received information from the Transvaal as to the existence of any law there anologous to our habeas corpus law, and as to the nature and terms of the deposit of £10,000 by each of the four British subjects (Messrs. Phillips, Farrer, Rhodes, and Fitzpatrick); (2) whether they are still in custody or out on bail, and what extent of liberty of attending to their own affairs they at present have; and, (3) whether it is true that a witness on their trial was threatened with imprisonment and actually fined for not stating what his ideas were on a certain subject?


In answer to the second Question, I am informed that the four accused persons referred to occupy a comfortable furnished private house with grounds in the healthy part of the suburbs, and are allowed to walk about the premises freely without escort, and that anyone may visit them without a pass. They are also allowed to drive out in carriages or on bicycles daily—[laughter]—in company with a lieutenant of police [Renewed laughter.] I have endeavoured and am still endeavouring to do all in my power to secure ameliorations in their conditions; but it must be remembered that these gentlemen, together with the other members of the Reform Committee who have been allowed entire liberty on bail, are accused of treason, and their treatment has certainly been not less favourable than would be accorded to persons under a similar charge in any other civilized State. The preliminary examination of the prisoners will be resumed on the 11th inst. It is understood that delay was due to a combination of reasons. In answer to the first Question, I do not know the terms of the deposit. I am informed that the law on the subject of habeas corpus is contained in "Justinian's Digest Book 43"—[laughter]—titles 29 and 30, and I may point out that as these gentlemen are defended by some of the ablest lawyers in South Africa it is certain that any privileges which the local law gives to them will be invoked in their behalf. As to the third paragraph of the hon. Member's Question, I have to say the witness was committed to gaol for 12 hours for refusing to answer questions, but on appeal was immediately released, The name of the gentleman, was Schumader, from which I infer that he was of German extraction.

MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I beg-to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will use his influence with the Government to secure that persons cast into prison for treason or treason felony in Ireland will get similar treatment to that which he has described. ["Hear, hear!"]

[No answer was given.]