HC Deb 06 July 1904 vol 137 cc913-6

moved, "That the House do now adjourn."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

said he wished to ask a question with reference to the present position in Tibet. He understood that some information had been received in the course of the day with reference to certain operations which had taken place. He should like to know what the result of those operations had been, and also whether, in view of what had taken place, the time had not now arrived for the Government to give the House some indication of the effect of those operations with regard to their future policy. They wanted to know whether the right hon. Gentleman could now repeat the statement he made some months ago that the operations were at an end. What was the attitude of the Government with regard to this matter, and had any instructions been given to the officer in command of our forces there? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give the House some information which would lead them to believe that they were coming to an end of this sorry business.


asked the right hon. Gentleman to explain why information received by the Government had been published in the newspapers before being communicated to this House.

MR. FLYNN (Cork County, N.)

said he wished to call attention to the fact that the suzerain Power had not been consulted in this matter. It had been deliberately ignored, and the present operations were a distinct violation of the promises made by the Prime Minister on the floor of the House a short time ago. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the negotiations were to be of a peaceful character, and he said most distinctly that there was no intention of warlike operations, or of annexing or occupying territory. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give a distinct assurance that warlike operations would not be conducted against a peaceful people.


said there was news going through the city in the afternoon that some operations had taken place. Why was the Minister in charge of the India Office not present to explain to the House what had happened? Was his office a mere sinecure t He thought it was a very great scandal that the right hon. Gentleman was not present. He was very well paid for being present.

MR. STUART SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)

asked the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough to state whether there were any gold mines in Tibet.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

said he wished to know what our position was with regard to China. Were we at war with China, or were we trying to put down some troubles in a country of which China was suzerain?


said he might be allowed to reply in the first place to the remarks of the hon. Member who spoke last but two. That hon. Gentleman's complaint was that he was not present to give information at Question time. As there were no Questions on the Paper addressed to him, and as no Member had given him private notice of his intention to ask for information, he was not actually in the House when the Question was put, but he had been in the precincts since the House met. If there had been any important communication to be made to the House he would not have failed to be present there. The Government had received no confirmation as yet of the information in Renter's telegrams that afternoon as to the force at Gyangtse having occupied the Jong, but as soon as any information was received he would communicate it through the Press. [Loud cries of "To the House of Commons."] An hon. Gentleman had asked a Question as to the policy of His Majesty's Government. He thought it was too late an hour — [Loud OPPOSITION cries of "No, No!"]—to enter on a disquisition as to the work of His Majesty's forces in Tibet. All he could say was that the policy of His Majesty's Government had changed in no single particular from what was laid down in the telegram to the Viceroy of 6th November last year, and which had been repeatedly affirmed by the House. The operations of the last few days had led the Government to hope that, at last, Tibetan representatives would approach Colonel Younghusband; and a delay had been made in the advance to Lhasa, which had been fixed for the 25th of last month; but it appeared that the Tibetan representatives were not possessed of sufficient credentials, or of any credentials at all. They were there apparently simply to delay the advance of our troops, which it was desirable should not be delayed within the comparatively short time which should pass before the commencement of the Tibetan winter. At any moment negotiations might take place if the Tibetan authorities would send negotiators with sufficient powers to negotiate. It was not the desire of His Majesty's Government to ask for anything at variance with their previous declaration, or to make any more onerous conditions of re paration for what had taken place, and what the House had affirmed to be necessary.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said he thought that the explanation was very unsatisfactory. The point he wished to draw attention to was, that if the Government had received no special news from India, how was it that the Prime Minister had possessed himself of a telegram which he read to the House that afternoon? Had the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India read that telegram?


Telegrams are constantly passing between the India Office and the Viceroy.


said he thought the right hon. Gentleman was treating the matter with some levity. The telegram which the Prime Minister had read to the House stated that the bombardment of the Jong had commenced at a certain hour; but it was said that the result was not in the possession of the Government. He asked the Secretary for India whether any supplementary telegram had bean received by the Government. When serious warlike operations of this kind were being undertaken, the Government ought to afford the House some information. He understood that a British officer had been killed and that other serious casualties had taken place, and he thought that some information should be given to the House. On the larger question raised about negotiations with the Tibetans, the right hon. Gentleman repeated that the Government desired to negotiate with them. But if these Tibetans did not desire to negotiate and wanted to simply live peacefully in their own land, was this policy of butchery and extermination to be carried out to the bitter end? Perhaps the Prime Minister would give the House some information. He was responsible for the Government. He was sure that it would be received with satisfaction by the country that there was some prospect that these cruel operations against a people practically unarmed would be put a stop to.

Adjourned at twenty-live minutes before One o'clock,