HC Deb 30 July 1896 vol 43 cc1057-75

who was received with cheers, rose to move:— That a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the administration of the British South Africa Company, and to report what alterations are desirable in the government of the territories under the control of the Company; That the Committee have leave to hear Counsel to such extent as they shall see fit, and have power to send for persons, papers, and records. The right hon. Gentleman, said: Mr. Speaker, it will be in the recollection of the House that on several occasions I have promised, on behalf of the Government, that as soon as Dr. Jameson's trial was concluded I would state the proposals of the Government with regard to the further Inquiry into the administration of the British South Africa Company; and, according to that promise, on the night the verdict was given I placed the present notice on the Paper. ["Hear, hear!"] We have had to consider, and we have considered very carefully, in what form this further Inquiry should be made. The question was, of course, mainly between a Commission and a Committee, and I confess that, as far as I was personally concerned, I was inclined to favour the form of a Commission—["Hear, hear!"] —although I admit that there is a great deal to be said on the other side. The reasons for selecting a Commission would have been twofold. In the first place, a Commission would have undoubtedly more of a judicial character, it would be more absolutely free from any political element than a Parliamentary Committee, and in this matter, I think, we should all admit that would have been of very considerable advantage. In the second place, a Commission would undoubtedly have got to work rather earlier; and then, again, I think, there will be universal agreement that this is one of those matters which it is most desirable should be cleared out of the way as soon as possible. ["Hear, hear!"] We want to close the chapter of inquiry, we want to come to the great questions underlying the problems in South Africa, which are independent altogether of recent occurrences; and we cannot come to the consideration of those great questions until this matter of the Inquiry, and the consequences of inquiry, are altogether done away with. I think, therefore, the House will unanimously agree that the earliest possible moment is the best moment for concluding such an Inquiry. ["Hear, hear!"] But I may point out that the difference in point of time between a Commission and a Committee would not be very great. A Commission could not possibly meet until after the long vacation, and therefore the difference in time would be measured only by weeks and no longer period. I, therefore, felt that, although there were strong considerations in favour of a Commission, they were not strong enough to make it absolutely necessary to seek inquiry by that method. There are other grounds, no doubt, in favour of a Parliamentary Committee. In the first place, there is no doubt that precedents, and especially the precedent connected with the Inquiry into the affairs of the old East India Company, are all in favour of a Parliamentary Inquiry; and there is something which I regard as more important than that. The reference we propose to submit to the Commission, is a very wide one, and it is a reference which I do not think could be submitted to any body in the nature of a Judicial Commission. We could not ask a I Judicial Commission to investigate all the details of the administration of the Chartered Company, or ask them to give us advice on matters of policy which are matters entirely for the Executive Government and the House at large. In addition to these, which I think are strong reasons, finding, after inquiry, that on the whole the general opinion of the House was undoubtedly in favour of a wide reference, and consequently in favour of a Parliamentary Committee, the Government decided to move for that form of Inquiry. ["Hear, hear!"] When dealing with the question before and pointing out the alternative, I did suggest that if a Parliamentary Committee were to be appointed it might take the form of a Joint Committee of the two Houses, and I based that suggestion on the latest precedent—namely, the proposal for further inquiry into East Indian questions, which was intended to have taken that form. But here, again, objection was taken in certain quarters of the House, and as I desire very much, if possible, to carry all sections of the House with me in this proceeding, I have not thought it desirable to insist on what I think myself would have been a reasonable alternative. ["Hear, hear!"]Therefore, the proposal I now make to the House is for a Parliamentary Committee, which I hope the House will consent to make a small Committee. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not think a matter of this kind can be properly inquired into by a large Committee. ["Hear, hear!"] We know what great difficulties there are, and how the size of a Committee tends to prolong Inquiry. I think myself that a Committee of 13 would be ample, unless there is any objection to that number on superstitious grounds. [Laughter.] I think that 13, or at the outside 15, is the largest Committee that ought to be appointed. ["Hear, hear!"] I have stated that the reference we propose to give to the Committee is a wide one. That is only in accordance with the promises that have been given. In the first place, a promise was given in the Queen's Speech that there should be a full inquiry into the origin and circumstances attending the raid, and, in communication with President Kruger, a promise was also given, though in different language, that there would be the fullest possible inquiry. Then, subsequently, in answer to questions, I have expressed my personal opinion that there was no objection to the enlargement of the Inquiry into questions connected with the administration of the Chartered Company, and also into the circumstances which have led to the recent rebellion in Matabeleland and Rhodesia. In answer to a question, I have said that I consider that is secured by the terms of the reference I have put on the Paper. In choosing these terms my object and intention was to choose the widest possible form of reference, and I have no doubt whatever that the terms actually chosen do include, not merely inquiry into the cause of the recent rebellion, but also into the circumstances of the recent invasion of the Transvaal; and I was under the impression that the Leader of the Opposition shared my opinion in that respect; but I judge that I am in error in that, because I have heard that the right hon. Gentleman and other Members have put down Amendments intended to make it clear that an Inquiry into the origin of the raid is contemplated. There can be no possible objection to make it clear what is the undoubted intention of the Government, and in those circumstances I say at once that I propose to accept the Amendment down in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. There is only one other matter to which I need refer, and that is the proposal that the Committee have leave to hear counsel. The terms of the Motion state that "The Committee have leave to hear counsel to such extent as they shall see fit." I may say that that is a statement taken from the terms of reference in the case of the Hyderabad-Deccan Company. I believe that is a precedent we may very well follow. It gives the power to parties interested in the Inquiry to appear by counsel. At the same time it gives the Committee power to restrain counsel from excessive activity—[laughter]—and to confine them to what is strictly relevant to the Inquiry. I do not think that there is anything further to explain.

MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

Will the right hon. Gentleman state what he intends to do with regard to the taking of evidence on oath?


Committees always have power to take evidence on oath, and I assume the Committee would do so.


In the case of the Committee moved for by Mr. Bradlaugh it was expressly stated that all the evidence should be taken on oath. Would the right hon. Gentleman object to that?


I think it is a matter that should be left to the Committee. I have expressed my opinion that the evidence will be taken on oath, as it was taken in the Hyderabad-Deccan case. In that case they stated on the first day that they would take all evidence on oath. I beg to move, Sir. [Cheers.]

SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)

I rise to express my general concurrence in all that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman. I think, Sir, that he has been perfectly right in determining that this Inquiry should be made by a Committee and a Committee of the House of Commons. The reasons he has given against a Commission are, I think, conclusive, and I should say that a judicial body could not with advantage deal with a question of this kind, which is not mainly or primarily a judicial question. It is a question of administration of an Imperial character, and is one which is entirely out of the province of Judges to deal with. Therefore, I entirely concur in the view that this Inquiry should be by a Committee of the House of Commons. ["Hear, hear!"] The House of Commons has dealt for more than a century with the Government of India by great Committees. Everybody who knows anything of the history of India knows that the form of government in India was settled by Committees which sat in the time of Pitt, Fox, and Burke, at the end of the last century. Therefore, I cannot see that any body is so fit to deal with this question as a Committee of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman has also referred to the question of time, and he has said that a Commission would have saved very little time as compared with a Committee. But also, I think, the question of time is not so material as it would have been six months ago, because the Inquiry here is to be what is to be done in the future with this district in South Africa. Well, in the midst of this great conflagration no Committee could have arrived at a satisfactory conclusion until they learned what condition the country was in after that conflagration was over. We cannot decide what the new house shall be until the fire is extinguished or until we know what are the ruins. I very much fear that the condition of South Africa is such that it will require a great reconstruction before we arrive at anything like a satisfactory conclusion. Therefore, if any thing like a Report upon the future administration of the territories now under the Government of the Queen should take place immediately, or at some early period, we should come to a conclusion of very little value. Until this rebellion is repressed and until we know what remains after the destructive effects of that rebellion, until we know what population will still remain in Rhodesia and in what condition that population is, we cannot properly consider or come to any conclusion as to what or whether any limitations are desirable in the government of that country. I am not so much impressed, therefore, as some people are by the consideration of time. It is quite plain that whatever you have—a Commission or a Committee—you cannot come to any satisfactory conclusion until you are able to know a great deal more of the condition of that country than you know now. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the terms of the original Motion, and I entirely concur in what he has said. He was kind enough to show me the terms of the Motion, and my first impression was that they covered everything. It was only after further examination and reflection, just before arriving at the House yesterday, that I put my Amendment upon the Paper, and I tried at the time to communicate with the right hon. Gentleman, and I was sorry that I was not able to see him. That is the reason that the Amendment appears upon the Paper to-day without notice of it having been given to the right hon. Gentleman. ["Hear, hear!"] I have followed in the Amendment the exact words of the Queen's Speech. I have never had the smallest doubt that the right hon. Gentleman intended to make the preparations for the incursion into the South African Republic one of the subjects of Inquiry, or that it would be one of the primary subjects of the Inquiry. ["Hear, hear!"] Indeed, his own words, speaking of the subject, were:— I have promised that the proposed Inquiry shall be full and searching, and then he said:— What is to be inquired into? The first matter is Dr. Jameson's invasion and all the circumstances attending it. Therefore I have followed entirely the statement and intention of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the nature of the proposed Inquiry. I see that there are upon the Paper various other Amendments by hon. Friends of mine who have been good enough to say that they have no objection to my Amendment having precedence over theirs. I have observed that they have raised further points than those which appear in the terms of my Amendment, but I think and hope that the hon. Gentlemen agree with me that the Amendment which I have put upon the Paper in fact covers the other points referred to in their Amendments. ["Hear, hear!"] I observe that my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy desired to include in the Inquiry the relations of the British authorities in South Africa to the preparations in view of the raid. I believe that my Amendment would include that. The Inquiry would be entirely defective if it did not include it, but I imagine that the word "circumstances" covers that completely. Of course, no circumstances can be more important with reference to the raid than the knowledge of the authorities—the Imperial authorities, whether in the colony or at home—as to the character of that incursion. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, I hope that there is no doubt in the matter, otherwise I should certainly have desired to have included express words on the subject. It is thoroughly understood that the word circumstances, "which is a general word, will include an Inquiry into the co-operation with the raid of anybody, whether colonial authorities or Imperial authorities, or anybody outside them, because we want to know the whole history of the matter. ["Hear, hear!"] That is why I prefer the general word "circumstances" to any limiting words which would appear to restrain rather than to extend the Inquiry. ["Hear, hear!"] I so read those words, and if that be so I think that the object of my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and that of the hon. Member for King's Lynn will be met by my Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"] That is, I take it, the general understanding on the subject. ["Hear, hear!"] With reference to the words of the Resolution relating to counsel, I entirely approve of giving the Committee power to determine how far it is convenient to employ counsel in the matter. That, I think, is a useful provision. With reference to the questions just now asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, as to the administration of the oath, I think that that ought to be left to the discretion of the Committee. I understand from the authorities of the House that a Committee of the House of Commons has absolute power to administer the oath in cases where it thinks fit, and I believe that was done in the case of the Honduras loan. In the case of Mr. Brad-laugh's Committee, which sat to consider a question of the malversation of the City accounts, there was an absolute instruction to administer the oath in all cases. That you can understand being done where there is a charge of malversation. If this Inquiry should include matters of a criminal character it would be necessary that the oath should be administered, and the Committee would unquestionably so administer it, but in reference to those parts of the Inquiry which relate to political considerations and to the nature of the future administration of the country, witnesses might be called to whom you would not think of administering the oath when you want their opinion, such witnesses, for instance, as great colonial governors, administrators of India, and so forth. ["Hear, hear!"] As the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to say that he will accept this Amendment, I think that it would be better that it should be moved at the beginning of his Motion rather than where I have moved it, as then the administrative parts would come together. ["Hear, hear!"] I therefore propose to move, after the word "into," in the second line, the insertion of these words:— the origin and circumstances of the incursion into the South African Republic by an armed force from the territories under the control of the Company, and into. The right hon. Gentleman will also see that it will be necessary, after the word "report," in the second line, to insert the words "to report thereon, and further to report." I beg to move my Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"]

SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

hoped that the Inquiry would be thorough and complete, and would not be limited merely to complicity on the part of British subjects, but would include the great anti-British plot which had been working in South Africa during the last ten years and more, particularly during the last three years. No doubt a great effort was being made to pull down the great Englishman who had done so much to build up our dominion in South Africa. An Inquiry ought to extend to the causes of Mr. Rhodes's action in South Africa. ["Hear, hear."] If it were a complete and all-round Committee, those who had endeavoured to uphold British influence in South Africa would have nothing to suffer from the closest inquiry.


said there were a few points he would like to have cleared up. The Colonial Secretary had said there was to be a full Inquiry into all the circumstances. He did not doubt that that was the desire of the right hon. Gentleman, but there were such things as technicalities, and he therefore desired to have a little more information about the scope of the Inquiry. First, would the genesis of the charter and the reliability of the statements made to the Government in respect to the concession on which the charter was based be included in the Inquiry? He thought the action of the Chartered Company in respect to the military operations which brought them into Matabeleland should also be included. Then, with regard to the raid into the Transvaal, the Inquiry should cover the origin of the raid, the connection of the company or of any of the officials of the company with the raid, and the expenditure of money belonging either to the company or to officials of the company with a view to provoking an outbreak in Johannesburg as an excuse, or a colourable excuse, for the raid. The next point was the connection, if not with the raid, with the preparations for the raid of any of the official authorities. He would also like to know whether the Inquiry would include the control by the London Board of the Chartered Company over their officials in South Africa, and particularly the control exercised by the gentlemen appointed by the Imperial Government when the charter was granted as a guarantee of good faith. The next point was the mode in which the capital of the company was obtained, and of the expenditure of that capital, together with the relations of the company with some other companies brought out under its auspices. There were a vast number of persons in England—foolish persons no doubt—who when they saw the words "Royal Charter" company, were under the impression that there was some species of legal guarantee from the Government that the expenses of the company would be well administered. There was no such legal guarantee, but there was a moral obligation on the part of the Government to see that nothing unfair was done; and, in view of the fact that a very large amount of money had been lost by some persons and made by some other persons, by the simple process of transferring it from the pockets of some persons to the pockets of other persons, and considering that this was a "Royal Charter" company, the public should have the right to go into the question of the capital, to see whether the reasons which induced people to subscribe the capital were fairly set forth.


said that a slight verbal alteration was needed in the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, or otherwise a branch of the proposed Inquiry would be inadvertently excluded. He suggested that the words "from the territories under the control of the company" should be omitted, as Mafeking, from which some of the armed forces started, was not under the control of the company, but was part of Her Majesty's dominions.


said he had taken the words of the Amendment from the Queen's Speech, but he saw the point of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and agreed to the proposed correction of the Amendment.

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

SIR W. HARCOURT moved, after the word "into," to insert the words— the origin and circumstances of the incursion into the South African Republic by an armed force, and into.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put and agreed to.

Another Amendment made by inserting, after the word "report," the words "thereon and further to report."

MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

said he had an Amendment on the Paper to include in the Inquiry "the relations of the British authorities in South Africa to the preparations in view of the raid," and he should move the addition of the words at a subsequent stage, unless he received an assurance that the reference as it stood covered the point.


That point is covered.


said his desire was that there should be an Inquiry into the failure on the part of our representatives in different parts of South Africa to inform Her Majesty's Government of the preparations for the raid, but as that was to be included in the Inquiry he had nothing more to say.


said be had also put down an Amendment to secure that, not only the action of the South Africa Company, but the action of our representatives in South Africa in connection with the raid, should be inquired into, and he was glad that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition covered his point. He had heard with satisfaction the full and ample statement of the Colonial Secretary. By it the right hon. Gentleman had established another claim on the confidence of the House, and he hoped that the promise of the right hon. Gentleman that the Inquiry should be full and complete would be received with satisfaction by every Member of the House.

SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)

said it was an extraordinary thing that this Inquiry was not held at a much earlier stage, and he regretted that, owing to necessity, it would be still further postponed for a period of four or five months. Remembering what were the allegations which had been made, without the slightest foundation, no doubt, against the Colonial Office and others who ought to be perfectly clear from this charge, the necessity for postponement would not be regretted by himself alone. He hoped that the existence, of this Inquiry would not be the cause of a postponement of the decision by the Attorney General as to what should be done in regard to others concerned in this raid. He was not at all in favour of political prosecutions, or of severe punishments for political offences; but he was strongly opposed to there being two classes of persons in this country—one class, of very great influence, authority, and wealth, who escaped punishment—[cheers]—and another class of limited capacity—many of them young fellows who had risked their lives, though wrongly—who were to be punished. He would not specify names. It might be that Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Beit were perfectly innocent. But it was not fair to postpone the decision, nor would it be fair that the existence of a Committee of this kind and its inquiries should be the means of absolving from criminal prosecution persons who had not risked their lives while others had. There were two courses which the Government might take, and there was much to be said for either. One was to extend a political amnesty to those who had been punished, and the other was to see that there should be no partiality in dealing with persons. He did not suggest for a moment that the Attorney General was a person at all likely to do any injustice in the matter; and he recognised that the hon. and learned Gentleman was entitled to say that he was not prepared to give any answer at the moment, though he was not quite justified in resenting the question. But it was not fair play that the men who had been sentenced should remain in prison, if others, who were guilty and who slunk away and did not face the enemy in battle, were to escape punishment. [Cheers.]

* MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Cardiff)

said that he did not wish to disturb the general harmony, but he looked with some suspicion on the agreement which had been come to between the two Front Benches since it had received the benediction of the hon. Member for Northampton. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member was very anxious that the Inquiry should go very far back. But the House was also entitled to know down to what date the Inquiry was to be brought—whether it was to include the administration of the Chartered Company's territories since the military control was taken over by the Colonial Office. That was an important question, which concerned the House quite as much as the future of the Chartered Company. ["Hear, hear!"] He wished to know whether Sir Frederick Carrington was hampered by his instructions in getting such a force at the beginning as might have been used effectively to put down the rebellion before it had spread all over the country and desolated it. ["Hear, hear!"] The Leader of the Opposition made out an excellent case for not having a Committee of Inquiry at all. The right hon. Gentleman seemed glad that the Inquiry was put off for some four or five months; and the only reason why he himself accepted the Motion of the Colonial Secretary was that he firmly believed that if the Inquiry were put off for four or five months it was exceedingly unlikely that the Committee would ever meet at all. Next year there would be very much more important questions to discuss. By that time there might not be any of the Chartered Company's territory left for them to quarrel over. We might have to decide what was to be done to hold our own in South Africa, and to retain the respect and good will of the British colonists there. [Cheers.] What was there to learn from any Inquiry the Committee might make? He did not care what became of the Chartered Company now. It was useless for any Imperial purpose. It had had all its real powers taken away and centred in the Colonial Office; and what had become of the men who were its administrators? We knew what had become of Dr. Jameson, and as for Mr. Rhodes, he had been stripped of his high position as controller of Rhodesia and Prime Minister of Cape Colony. He was reduced to the rank of a private citizen. Was that not punishment enough for a man who aspired to rule all South Africa—a man who was petted and patted on the back by the Leader of the Opposition for conducting that incursion into Mata beleland which is now blamed by the hon. Member for Northampton? [Cheers, and dissent from Sir W. HARCOURT.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head; but the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member took the greatest interest in Mr. Rhodes, made him a Privy Councillor, introduced him to the table of the Queen, and spoke of him as a man who had done great service to the Empire. ["Hear, hear!"] And yet those services were to be one of the subjects inquired into by the Parliamentary Committee. Mr. Rhodes's conduct had been inquired into by men who were much more nearly interested in his career than Members of the House of Commons—by the Parliament at the Cape; and that Parliament, while condemning Mr. Rhodes for using the money at his command in order to equip a force which might have gone to the assistance of the revolutionary party in Johannesburg, had emphatically declared that his was a high motive, and had refused to oust him from the Cape Parliament. [Cheers.] Of course Mr. Rhodes had a high motive. He only did what Lord Loch threatened to do a few years ago, and what he recently boasted of in the House of Lords. Lord Loch told President Kruger that if there were a revolution in Johannesburg, and if the Transvaal Government could not protect the lives and property of British citizens he (Lord Loch) would interfere, and he had assembled on the frontier of the Transvaal a force for the aid of British subjects. What else had Mr. Rhodes done? He was no party to the raid; and public opinion in his own country had pronounced strongly that no moral censure ought to be cast on these men for what had been done. The verdict of the Jury in the Jameson trial was that the prisoners were to be excused on account of the provocation given by the Transvaal Government. [Cheers.] That was the feeling of the bulk of the people in this country and South Africa, and the House would have to be careful how it put itself in conflict with the feeling of British colonists in South Africa, and how it excited strong feeling in this country with regard to the Transvaal by pressing for the further punishment of Mr. Rhodes. [Cheers.]

MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

thought that the promise made to him in June by the Colonial Secretary was not covered by the terms of the Motion, and suggested the addition of the words "and the origin and circumstances connected with the rising of the native races in Matabeleland."

MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

feared that the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Monmouthshire might have the same limiting effect which had been pointed out as an objection to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. There was some danger of the Committee taking a technical view, and saying that, inasmuch as the origin and circumstances attending the incursion into the Transvaal were specifically mentioned, it was not permissible to inquire into the origin and circumstances attending the incursion two or three years ago into Matabeleland, on the principle expressio unius est exclusio alterius. He hoped the Secretary for the Colonies would give an assurance to the House as to the view of the Government on the point, and to enable him to do so he moved to insert words to cover an inquiry into the origin of the British South Africa Company.


Really, I think the hon. Member can hardly expect me to declare what the Committee will do. I can only express my own opinion, and would say generally that I do not think the House would be wise to enlarge this Inquiry to such an extent as would make the Inquiry a perfect farce. It is a little late to go back on the origin of the Chartered Company. That, at all events, we need not inquire into, provided we have full power to inquire into the way in which they have used the charter, and whether they deserve to be continued in the charter. To do that, the whole question of its administration is opened up by the terms of reference, and, therefore, I think every single point made by the hon. Member for Northampton would be included except the genesis of the charter. That being before there was any administration, might be held to be outside the Inquiry. May I say, also, that I have not the slightest doubt that the origin and circumstances attending the Matabele insurrection are included under any inquiry into the administration of the Chartered Company.


pointed out the danger of specifying particular subjects of inquiry, because they had a tendency to exclude other things by inference. He thought the words of the Colonial Secretary, which were couched in general terms, were the safest means of obtaining the object, which was a thorough, broad, and complete Inquiry.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

said this subject was of tremendous interest to Irishmen. It had to do with the question of insurrection, of endeavouring to overturn established authority, and it had to do afterwards with the treatment of prisoners engaged in such insurrectionary movement. He desired to say that Her Majesty's Ministers, with the exception of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, had condemned in advance the course they were taking to-day by their action eight years ago, on the occasion of the charges and allegations made against certain Irish Members. On the question of a Committee of Inquiry into those charges and allegations, this was the language used by the First Lord of the Treasury, the fate Mr. W. H. Smith:— Apart from other considerations, we are of opinion that the passions excited by Debates in this House during the last four or five years render it hardly possible for Members to divest themselves altogether of party prejudices and feeling, and to enter into a judicial Inquiry of this character in a judicial spirit. And he added:— The issues are tremendous to the character of the House and those concerned in this great trial. What course did they propose to follow on the present occasion? The issues here, too, were tremendous. Party passion had been inflamed, and yet they proposed that Gentlemen who had been engaged in that party conflict should be both judge and jury. This point about judge and jury was the point taken by the Colonial Secretary himself. The right hon. Gentleman's position was much stronger than that of the Government of the day, for he said:— A Committee of the House of Commons would have to undertake to be judge and jury too. So they would be in the case of Dr. Jameson and his associates. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded:— I may say at once that I differ from many hon. Members of the House on one point —and there he occupied a more logical position than his Government— I am sorry the Government did not grant a Committee. I am perfectly convinced the result would have been so unsatisfactory and incomplete that it would have prepared the way to a unanimous assent to a different kind of investigation. The Solicitor General of that day, the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, gave the reasons which, he said, rendered the House of Commons an inefficient body to try the question. He quoted from the charges of The Times these words:— They have, however, revealed nearly all the Members of the first Home Rule Ministry Mr. Parnell himself, Mr. Justin McCarthy,'Mr. T. P. O'Connor, Mr. Sexton, Mr. Arthur O'Connor, Mr. Healy, Mr. Biggar, the Messrs. Redmond, Mr. William O'Brien, and Sir. Davitt—in trade and traffic were avowed dynamiters and known contrivers of murder. That being the case, the Irish Members were put to an expense of £25,000 to defend their character before a judicial court, upon the plea that this House was incompetent and incapable. Exactly the same class of consideration would arise before this Committee. Every Member who took a part in it would be more or less a partisan; his decisions must of necessity be affected by Party considerations, and the decisions would be arrived at by a majority composed altogether of Members of one Party, and the other Party would say that it was a Tory finding or a Liberal finding as the case might be. He expressed no opinion as to the question between a Committee and a Commission, but, looking at the events of 1888, he thought that the Government had taken an entirely different course now from the previous occasion. Was the Attorney General of the day disabled from sitting on the Committee; was the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, who defended Dr. Jameson, disabled from sitting on the Committee; and, if so, was it because they had been engaged on one side or the other in the trial? Were the Government endeavouring to establish that this Committee could be anything else but a body of partisans, because they would exclude two legal gentlemen who had been engaged in the trial? If the House was competent to make this Inquiry, every Member was competent to sit on it, and the suggestion that they could add anything to the deliverance which the Committee would make, by reason of the fact that they made selections from particular quarters of the House, was to strike a blow at the whole principle of the appointment of Select Committees.


maintained that this was a great national question. The question which the House was going to inquire into was not the limited question of the administration of the Chartered Company, but the greater political question as to what should be the composition of the future Government of South Africa, how it should he administered and composed, and what the governing authority should be. The Inquiry to be undertaken was akin to that which took place after the battle of Plassey in 1757, when the administration of India was in abeyance, and when the House called upon a Select Committee to decide how India should be administered in future. It was not a question which rested with the House of Commons alone; it was a national question, and it ought to be treated as such. On this account the Committee should not consist of Members of the House of Commons alone, but should, as in other great questions of Constitutional importance, be composed of Members of the other House also. There were impartial men in that House, who, by long years of experience, had acquaintance with the affairs of South Africa. Why, then, should they not include within the scope of the Mem- bership of the Committee a number of Members of the Upper House? He asked whether it was permissible for him to move an Amendment in this sense?


said it would not be in order. The House had already passed the first line, which committed the Bill to a Select Committee of that House.


Can I add as a separate clause at the end: "And that this Select Committee have power to add to its number, for the purposes of, and in the course of this Inquiry, certain selected Members of the other House of Parliament (Peers)."


That would be an Amendment contradicting what has already been agreed.


asked whether the wording of the reference would leave the Inquiry open to consider the questions connected with the raising of the capital, the distribution of the shares of the Chartered Company and their manipulation, or would it simply be confined to the administration of the affairs of Rhodesia? The Committee ought to have that power.


I have answered that question, in reply to the hon. Member for Northampton. Undoubtedly, the word "administration" is a wide word, and it would cover that.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Ordered, that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the origin and circumstances of the incursion into the South African Republic by an armed force, and into the administration of the British South Africa Company, and to report thereon, and further to report what alterations are desirable in the Government of the territories under the control of the company.

Ordered, that the Committee have leave to hear counsel to such extent as they shall see fit, and have power to send for persons, papers, and records.