HC Deb 03 August 1900 vol 87 cc630-1
MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether documents have been discovered during the search of the Government Offices at Pretoria, affecting certain Members of the House of Commons and other politicians who have taken a prominent part in the agitation in this country in favour of the Boers; whether there is any information which, he can give to the House on the subject without detriment to the public interest;: if such documents have been, found, whether they will be laid before Parliament; and whether Her Majesty's Government are in possession of any correspondence between British Members of Parliament and Transvaal authorities; and, if so, whether it can be laid upon the Table.

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


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any letters have been found at Pretoria from Members of this House of a compromising character; and if so, whether he has any information, to give to the House upon this subject.

MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the correspondence discovered at Pretoria, among other papers of the Transvaal Government, which is alleged to be treasonable, and to involve Members of this House and other British subjects, will be laid upon the Table forthwith.


Perhaps I may be allowed at the same time to answer all the questions on this subject. When the Boer Governments fled from Bloemfontein and Pretoria, they left behind them in the archives a mass of private correspondence. This correspondence has been under examination by the British authorities on the spot, and by the last two mails I have received instalments of it, but I am informed that there is more to come. The portion that I have seen is all previous to the outbreak of the war, and consists chiefly of letters passing between British subjects at the Cape and persons in the two Republics, but it includes copies of two letters purporting to have been written by an English M.P. Her Majesty's Government have also in their possession copies of letters and an extract of a letter purporting to have been written by two other M. P.'s. Two of them were dated just before the outbreak of war; the other is a request, couched in a form which is certainly open to criticism, for information respecting the administration of martial law. The most interesting feature of the South African correspondence is the general admission of substantial grievances, and of the necessity for reform. There are, however, some suggestions that President Kruger might make temporary concessions and wait for a re-action in this country. I observe that the hon. Member for Mcrthyr Tydvil speaks of the correspondence as treasonable. I am, of course, quite unable to give a legal opinion; but so far as my personal opinion is concerned, the letters ascribed to British subjects in this country are not treasonable, but they are not proper letters to be written by British subjects when Her Majesty's Government were engaged in difficult and important negotiations. I propose to send them in the first instance to the alleged writers, and to ask if they desire to offer any explanation. Her Majesty's Government will wait their reply before deciding on the question of publication.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, among these archives, copies of the Rhodes-Chamberlain (Hawksloy) correspondence were found?


No, Sir; there is no such correspondence.


Oh, oh !


There is no such correspondence—there never has been.


Why don't you produce it?


There is nothing to produce.