§ COLONEL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether he has received any confirmation of the sentences reported to have been passed on the Reform leaders by the Transvaal Government; whether, in the event of no such confirmation having been received the Government will address a protest to the Transvaal Government, with a view of inducing them to put an end to the present suspense and uncertainty regarding the fate of these British subjects; and, whether the Government has addressed, or intends to address, any remonstrance to President Kruger regarding the severity and hardships which now attend imprisonment, even of unconvicted prisoners, in Transvaal gaols, severity which it is alleged has caused the insanity and suicide of one British subject, so that, if possible, similar tragedies may in future be avoided?
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether he is in a position to state the nature of the sentences passed on the five "Reform Committee" prisoners in commutation of the death sentences?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I have to refer the hon. and gallant Member to the official telegrams which are published in this morning's papers, to which I have nothing to add by way of information. As regards the last paragraph of his Question, I have not seen any suggestion that the unhappy insanity and suicide of one of the prisoners were due to the severity and hardships of imprisonment. ["Hear,hear!"] I have received a telegram since I came to the House from the British Agent in the South African Republic to the following effect:—President of the South African Republic has just promised me that special gaol rules and regulations applicable to the prisoners will be 79 immediately framed, also that the housing accommodation will be vastly improved and sanitary arrangements also attended to, and, if it is not wholly impossible, prisoners will not be separated and removed to other gaols where we cannot have proper supervision over them. This is the result of representations which the High Commissioner directed the British Agent to make. Mr. Howard, having signed the petition, has been released.
§ MR. DILLON
I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will extend to Irish political prisoners in English goals—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ COLONEL RUSSELL
On behalf of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield (Sir ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT), I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the fact that the Reform Committee of Johannesburg and their followers laid down their arms on 9th January under pressure from Her Majesty's Representatives, and on promise of protection, Her Majesty's Government will use their utmost efforts to secure fair treatment for the Reform leaders now under sentence at Pretoria?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
No "promise of protection" was made by Her Majesty's Government or by their representatives to the leaders of the agitation at Johannesburg. According to my information the prisoners at Pretoria are not unfairly treated.