HC Deb 08 June 1899 vol 72 cc636-40
MR. DRAGE (Derby)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is in a position to make any statement to the House with regard to the Conference at Bloemfontein.

The following questions on the same subject also appeared on the paper:—


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he expects to be able to lay upon the table papers in reference to recent negotiations with the Government of the Transvaal.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is in a position to make a statement as to the result of the Conference between President Kruger and Sir A. Milner.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he will make a full statement as to the causes of the failure of the Conference between President Kruger and Sir Alfred Milner; and whether he will undertake that, pending the presen- tation to Parliament of the official reports of the proceedings of the Conference, Her Majesty's Government will proceed with no action tending to the possible rupture of diplomatic relations between this country and the Government of the Transvaal.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will cause to be printed and at once circulated to Members copies of the Outlanders' petition received some weeks since from the Transvaal, and also of the counter-petition.


It is unfortunately true that the Conference has broken up without any result, and a new situation has thus been created. President Kruger has rejected the proposals for a settlement offered by Sir Alfred Milner, and the alternative suggested by him was considered by Sir Alfred Milner, and is now considered by Her Majesty's Government, as entirely inadequate. I have not yet received the Memorandum which Sir Alfred Milner informs us he has communicated to the Press on the subject of the Conference. He understood that this memorandum would be telegraphed by Reuter verbatim to this country, but owing to some unexplained cause it has not yet arrived. I am therefore unable to say whether the statement of the Government of the South African Republic which has been published in the meantime agrees in all respects with Sir Alfred Milner's account. I understand that the discussion turned mainly on the question of the franchise. Sir Alfred Milner was of opinion that the exclusion of the Uitlanders from representation was the root of the difficulties which have arisen, and that it was desirable, if possible, to come to an arrangement on this point before dealing with other questions in dispute between the two Governments. Sir Alfred Milner asked that the franchise should he given to all naturalised aliens who have resided five years in the country, with retroactive effect, and a fair amount of representation be conceded to the new population. President Kruger's proposal was substantially as follows: First, that aliens who were resident in the country before 1890 might naturalise and have the full franchise in two years' time; secondly, that the bulk of the Uitlanders might be naturalised in two years' time, and might receive the franchise five years later—that is to say, in seven years from the present time. Between the period of naturalisation and that of receiving the franchise they would have to abandon their present nationality, and would have no rights of nationality in the Transvaal. The President also attached to his offer certain conditions as to a pecuniary qualification, and the proof of possession of civil rights in the country from which the alien had come. It is not clear whether the further condition, that a majority of two-thirds of the burghers would be required to confirm the possession of the franchise, would be insisted upon. The President agreed that three members might be added to the representation of the mining districts, thus giving to them five members out of a total of thirty-one. According to these proposals no change whatever would take place for two years, and then only in the case of a small minority of the Uitlanders who had resided eleven years in the Transvaal. The whole of these proposals were made subject to an agreement by this country to refer all differences with the Transvaal to the arbitration of a foreign Power. Sir Alfred considered these proposals as altogether inadequate, and further informed the President that Her Majesty's Government would not consent to the intervention of any foreign Power in disputes between themselves and the Government of the South African Republic. The President also asked for the incorporation of Swaziland, but does not appear to have pressed this claim. He also demanded that the question of an indemnity for the Jameson raid should be settled; and was informed by Sir Alfred Milner that the British South Africa Company had agreed, in a despatch which was then on its way, that, while protesting against the amount of the claim sent in as altogether unreasonable, they would nevertheless consent to submit to arbitration the amount of damages for any material injury suffered by the Transvaal in consequence of the Jameson raid. The question of the dynamite monopoly was touched upon, but, in view of the failure to come to an agreement with regard to the franchise, it was reserved for further discussion between the two Governments. I have to add that the despatch in answer to the petition of the Uitlanders to the Queen, which was sent to the High Commissioner before the invitation to the Conference was received from the President of the Orange Free State, and which had been held back pending the result of the Conference, will 110AV be communicated to the Government of the South African Republic, and as soon as they have received it will be laid on the Table with other papers, including the petition of the Uitlanders to the Queen, and the counter-petition of other Uitlanders to the Government of the South African Republic.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will include in those Papers the instructions he gave to Sir Alfred Milner for his guidance at the Conference?


No, Sir; that will not come into the present Bluebook. A subsequent Blue-book will have to be published as soon as we get the full report of the Conference, and that will contain all the instructions I gave.


I wish to point out that the right hon. Gentleman has not fully answered my question as to when he expects to lay on the Table the Papers relating to the Transvaal. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that hé will lay immediately the despatches and reply to the Uitlanders' petition, and that further Papers will be laid at a later date. I venture to urge on the right hon. Gentleman the view that a situation has now arisen when the Government ought to lay before the House all the Papers relating to the negotiations which they propose at any time to communicate to the House.


The Government cannot lay Papers on the Table until they get them. I cannot possibly receive the full despatches containing what has taken place at the Conference for about three weeks. As soon as I get them I propose to lay them on the Table.


I presume the Colonial Office Vote will nut be taken before these Papers are received?


No, Sir; I think that would be expedient.