§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he will state why 5th June, 1900, the date of the occupation of Pretoria by the British forces, has been fixed as the period beyond which inquiry into the conduct of the war by the Commission to be appointed for that purpose is to be concluded, seeing that the loss of life and treasure was greater in the period of the war after that date than in the period before that date.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
This limitation was suggested, as I think I have already frankly admitted to the House, for the purpose of limiting the enormous burden that would be thrown on the shoulders of this unfortunate Commission. Even thus limited the field of inquiry is a very large one and I fear to unduly extend it. The question, therefore, arises—Is the limitation an undue one, and will it cut out any subsequent inquiry into any matter which the House or any great body of public opinion wishes to sec investigated? Let it be remembered that the inquiry was promised in the early days of the war in consequence of the ill-success of our operations and the widespread feeling that there had been want of foresight and inadequate preparations by the War Office. All these circumstances come within the scope of the inquiry. It will be noticed, therefore, that this limitation of time deals with military operations, but not with the 506 supply of troops, horses, or transport, or any other questions, all of which and everything connected with contracts are open for inquiry up to the end of the military operations. In these circumstances, I hope the House will feel that the Government are justified in preserving the limitations.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
Before the matter is finally settled will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that inquiry was promised into the surrenders which took place after the occupation of Pretoria, such as that at Nooitdegacht. I will, if necessary, put down a Question.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
Will the inquiry exclude an investigation of the statements of members of the Government as to the war being over in August two years ago?
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in September, 1900, the Secretary for War promised that there should be a full investigation into the whole question of the war? An investigation of the kind now promised is not—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! This is opening a debate on a question which is outside the Question on the Paper.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
Will the terms of reference be given in more formal terms to the House?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will endeavour to give the precise terms of the reference before the House rises.