HC Deb 15 December 1900 vol 88 cc875-7

I beg to ask the Secretary for the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, a question of which I have given him private notice; whether he will lay upon the Table of the House the original of the telegram sent by the Colonial Secretary in which the phrase "given to the Boers" was changed by the transmitter into "sold to the Boers."

THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Austen Chamberlain,) Worcestershire, E.

The hon. Member says he gave me private notice. I have not had any notice, but without notice I should say the Post Office has no authority to lay this telegram on the Table.


I posted the notice myself on Friday night to the Postmaster General.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

With the consent of the sender could not the telegram be laid on the Table?

MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

I should like to ask whether, with the assent of the sender, the Postmaster General would be allowed to show the original to any Member of the House, and whether the sender will so consent.

* THE CHANCELLOR of the EX-CHEQUEE (Sir M. Hicks Beach,) Bristol, W.

The law prohibits the publication of telegrams. I cannot say off-hand whether it is possible for this telegram to be produced or not, but I am quite sure of this, that my right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary would desire its publication if possible.


Will the Colonial Secretary give his consent?

THE SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. J. Chamberlain,) Birmingham, W.

I have already stated the facts of this case, and I should have thought that the statement would have been completely satisfactory to the House. I stated that I gave instructions to send a telegram, in answer to a request for one which was addressed to me by some candidate, to the effect that the Mayor of Mafeking's message was that a seat lost to the Government was a seat gained by the Boers. I saw in the papers next day or the day after that this telegram had arrived at its destination in the form that a seat lost by the Government was a seat "sold to" the Boers, which is perfect nonsense at once sent my private secretary down to the Post Office to make inquiries. It was admitted, at once, that the telegram had been incorrectly sent. I believe the original telegram was shown to my private secretary, or offered to be shown to him, and it has since been offered to be shown to me. It was perfectly correct as intended it. The postmaster admitted that, owing to a mistake by the transmitter of the telegram, the words had been altered. I have not the slightest objection to the production of the telegram.


Will the right hon. Gentleman communicate that to the Postmaster General? It is all very well to say in the House that he has no objection to the production, but will he communicate that to the Postmaster General? Merely stating that he has might, or might not, be sufficient.


Order, order! That is not a proper observation.