HC Deb 08 March 1877 vol 232 cc1569-72

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether Her Majesty's Government has taken any steps to ascertain from the Khedive of Egypt what was the fate of the Abyssinian Envoys who, last December, mysteriously disappeared from a hotel at Cairo where they had been lodged by the British Consul General, under the guard of the Consular Janissary, after they had fled to the British Consulate General and demanded protection; whether the Egyptian Government is still engaged in an aggressive movement against Abyssinian territory; and, whether the Foreign Office has received intelligence of the arrest by the Egyptian authorities, on the 3rd day of February last, at Massowah, of two British subjects, Messrs. Barlow and Houghton, and of their conveyance to and detention at Suez; and, if so, what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken or intend to take for their protection and release?


also wished to ask, Whether the attention of Government has been called to the alleged seizure by an armed boat's crew of the Egyptian Government, off the coast of Abyssinia, of Mr. Robert Adeane Barlow, whilst on beard a vessel under the British flag, owned or chartered by British subjects; and, whether immediate inquiries will be made into all the circumstances of the case, and due reparation required if the alleged facts be true?


With respect to the first part of the Question of the hon. Member for Poole, I have to state that only one Envoy from Abyssinia reached Egypt. The hon. Member mentions "Envoys" in his Question—as a matter of fact only one Envoy reached Egypt last December, and he was allowed to remain some time without seeing the Khedive, but after being there some time the Envoy did see the Khedive on the 7th of December. It was then decided that the Envoy should be sent back to Abyssinia with a letter to the King, and that he should be provided with a special train from Cairo to Suez, and a special steamer from Suez to Massowah. When the Envoy received that message he grew very much alarmed, and at once communicated with the British Consul at Cairo, telling him that in consequence of the message he had received, he feared his life was in danger. The Khedive was very much annoyed that what he had intended as an act of courtesy should be taken in this way by the Envoy. However, he then said that if the Envoy took that view of the case he must find the way back to Abyssinia for himself. The Envoy went again to our Consul, and, owing to a communication which was then made by the British Consul to the Khedive, the Khedive promised to send back the Envoy in the same way as first proposed—namely, by special train to Suez, and special steamer from Suez to Massowah. The Envoy started from Cairo for Massowah on the 8th of December, and we have not heard anything of him since. With regard to the second part of the Question of the hon. Member for Poole as to whether the Egyptian Government is still engaged in an aggressive movement against Abyssinian territory—we have heard nothing of any aggressive movement by the Egyptian Government against Abyssinian territory. On the other hand, we know that the Abyssinians have made a raid upon a small detachment of Egyptian troops and were repulsed. Then with regard to the second Question, which relates to Mr. Barlow and Mr. Houghton, the hon. Member for Rochdale has asked a Question, and there is another on the same subject on the Paper by the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. O'Clery). The facts with regard to this case are these:—Mr. Barlow and Mr. Houghton had been for some time in Egypt, and they had given out publicly that they were both going to Abyssinia. Mr. Barlow announced that he was going as Generalissimo of the Abyssinian Army, to supply the place of General Kirkham; and the other gentleman, Mr. Houghton, said he was to be the future Premier of Abyssinia. Our Consul states that they were distinctly warned before they left Cairo that the Egyptian authorities would not allow them to cross the frontier between Egypt and Abyssinia, or travel in the Provinces bordering on that frontier, and that if they persisted, notwithstanding, in going to Abyssinia it must be at their own risk and peril. Well, they did go. I need not state the circumstances of their being stopped at Massowah. They were stopped at that place, and sent back in a ship to Suez. We have heard from Mr. Houghton in a letter dated the 23rd of last month, in which he says ho has been released. We have only heard from Mr. Barlow up to the 19th, and he was at that time with Mr. Houghton in the same ship. Whether he has been released or not I am not able to state; but as Mr. Houghton was released on the 23rd, it is probable that Mr. Barlow has been released too. With respect to the rest of the Question, all I can say is that when we receive a full report of the circumstances connected with it Her Majesty's Government will take the whole matter into consideration.


I asked whether Her Majesty's Government knew what had become of the Envoy.


I thought I had answered that Question—that he had been given a special train and a special steamer by the intervention of Her Ma- jesty's Consul, and that we have heard nothing more of him since he left Cairo.


I understand the hon. Gentleman to state that the Consul had heard nothing of him after he had left Cairo in the special train. Are we to understand that the Government have no information as to whether he did go on beard the steamer or not? I must ask the hon. Gentleman whether we could not by telegraph obtain knowledge on that subject. We ought to know whether the train did arrive at Suez, and the steamer at Massowah.


I have not the slightest objection to get the information for the right hon. Gentleman. There is no difficulty about getting the information at all.


gave Notice that he would on Monday ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Abyssinian raid referred to in his Answer to the hon. Member for Poole had not been undertaken in consequence of an Abyssinian officer, charged with a letter from the King of Abyssinia to Her Majesty's Agent and Consul General in Egypt, having been seized and drowned by the Egyptian authorities at Massowah?