HC Deb 11 August 1898 vol 64 cc908-9
SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether the recent apology by Mr. Thorburn, for discussing in public the acts of the Government which he serves, related to his account of the desertion of the Khyber as well as to his statements on the impressment of men and beasts; whether Mr. Thorburn, in apologising for having made his speech, withdrew any of the statements which it contained; whether the Secretary of State continues to believe that the withdrawal of Captain Barton from his men in the Khyber Pass was only ordered after the military authorities on the spot had decided that troops could not be pushed up the Khyber to their support; who were the military authorities on the spot referred to; and whether he has taken the opportunity, as promised in March, of laying down for the future the action to be taken at times of emergency in such cases; and, if so, in what terms?


The apology made by Mr. Thorburn is an expression of regret for his infraction of the universal rule by which public officials in permanent employ are forbidden to publicly criticise the policy of the Government whom they are serving. The accuracy or inaccuracy of remarks so made does not enter into any such apology. The military authority on the spot was the Brigadier General commanding the Peshawur district, and the opinion he arrived at, that after providing for the safety of the Peshawur Valley, he was not in command of suffi- cient strength to force the pass, was confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief in India. I am in correspondence with the Government of India as to the future arrangements for safeguarding the Khyber Pass, and an integral part of such arrangements will be a definition of the relations between local corps and any British officers who may be appointed to them.