HC Deb 07 July 1902 vol 110 cc921-2

To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will state the terms of the private assurance given by the Colonial Office to the Chartered Company in May 1896 that the Charter would not be affected by the Jameson Raid transaction, and the conditions on which that assurance was given.

(Answer.) The only private assurance of which I have any knowledge is the one contained in the late Mr. Fairfield's letter to Mr. Hawksley, dated 6th May, 1896, and published in the Indépendence Belge. I have already said, in answer to the Member for Mid-Glamorgan on 1st February, 1900, that I do not think I ever saw this letter at the time, although I have no doubt that it was written by my instructions. The letter speaks for itself, and I have no knowledge of any conditions other than therein stated. I must point out that the assurance in regard to the charter was confined to the statement of the fact that Her late Majesty's Government did not intend to take any steps regarding it, pending an inquiry, if one was held. It is not the case that Mr. Beit's resignation was insisted on in May 1896. The Secretary of State refused to advise the company as to their decision, which he considered was one of which they must take the full responsibility. It is the fact that Mr. Fairfield, in a letter to Mr. Hawksley dated 7th May, asked that the qualified assurance referred to above should be considered as withdrawn if the acceptances of the resignations offered by Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Beit were not immediately published. The Colonial Office received, on the 16th May last minutes of the Board meetings, which are regularly transmitted to the Secretary of State, from which it appeared that the Board had resolved to invite Mr. Beit to rejoin it. No other communication on the subject has been made to the Colonial Office, officially or unofficially.—(Colonial Office.)