HC Deb 27 March 1906 vol 154 cc1085-6
MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (West Birmingham)

I believe that on Thursday it is proposed to take the Army Estimates. Since that was arranged something has occurred which we on this side of the House consider of great importance, the appointment of a Committee to visit South Africa in reference to an inquiry into the Constitution. In these circumstances, and considering that the matter is very urgent, as the Committee is immediately starting, I have to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will put down the Colonial Vote for Thursday,


I do not think we can interfere with the arrangements for this week, as they have been announced.


I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether the Committee proceeding to the Transvaal will be instructed to have in view in their inquiries and report the paramount necessity of maintaining British interests in the new colonies and preserving them as an integral part of the British Empire.


No, Sir; no such instructions will be given. The necessity which the hon. Gentleman describes affects the action of the Imperial Government, and they have no desire or intention of transferring their responsibilities in that matter to any Committee. The inquiry by the Committee sent to South Africa relates only to the facts upon which their decision will rest.


In view of the Answer of the right hon. Gentleman, and of the great anxiety which was felt by a great many Members and a great many people in this country, and also of the imminent departure of the Committee to South Africa, and of the difficulty made by the First Lord of the Treasury in setting apart a day for the discussion of this question, I have to ask leave to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of calling attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the omission from the directions to the Committee which is about to proceed to South Africa to inquire and report into matters connected with the constitution of the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies of any instruction to the Committee in any inquiry they may make and in any report they may submit to have in view the paramount necessity of maintaining British interests in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony and of preserving these new colonies as integal parts of the Empire.


I think the hon. Member can hardly bring that question within the rules of urgency. The matter is a very important one, but the Committee, I understand, is leaving this week or the week after, and it must take a month to get out to South Africa. During that time there will be opportunity of telegraphing out instructions which would meet the Committee on its arrival. During the month or six weeks there will be opportunity for the hon. Member to raise the question either in Committee of Supply or upon the Motion of Adjournment for the holidays; therefore I do not think the rule was drawn to cover a case of this kind. The rule was drawn to cover a case where no other opportunity offered for raising an important question.

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