HC Deb 07 August 1879 vol 249 cc444-52

had no wish to prevent Supply being taken, but was obliged to refer to the Notice standing in his name, which related to the interference of Her Ma- jesty's Government in the internal affairs of Egypt. He would take the opportunity of saying that in respect of that Motion the Government had behaved exceedingly ill. He had a list of 11 other Members who wished to make observations upon the question, and that fact was a perfectly good test as to the fooling of the House. They had been very anxious that a discussion should take place since the 26th June, when the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington) asked the Government whether they would afford an opportunity for the consideration of this matter. They had been put off from time to time with excuses which had prevented that consideration of the extraordinary action of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. He was reminded by an hon. Member from Ireland that had he followed his example there would have been no difficulty in obtaining an opportunity for discussion. He believed there was much truth in the opinion that the Government generally gave convenient days to hon. Members who made themselves disagreeable, in order to get rid of their opposition. Never having made himself disagreeable to the Government, no day had been given him, and notwithstanding the professions of the Government, he believed there was no intention or desire that this question of their conduct with reference to Egypt should be discussed at all. His reason for holding this opinion was that the Government know their conduct in Egypt had been perfectly indefensible; and if he ever had an opportunity of pointing out the circumstances of their interference there, he would be able to show that they had placed this country in a very awkward position by acting in a way which had promoted stock-jobbing, and reduced the influence of England in the East. Consequently, he was not surprised that the Government had put difficulties in the way of performing their promise. On one occasion, about a week ago, when he had asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer what opportunity would be given for the discussion of this subject, the right hon. Gentleman said he could find one for himself if he liked. It was known full well that the Government now took every night to themselves, and that it was impossible to get an opportunity to venti- late a subject unless the Government chose to provide it. He ventured to point out that the hon. Member for Hackney desired to discuss the question of water supply in London; but without depreciating for a moment the importance of that question, he could see no practical result that could come from it this Session. But with regard to the discussion which he (Sir Julian Goldsmid) desired to raise, if it were put off until next Session a number of things might occur, and the Government would say—and say it with some sense—that it related to things which had occurred long ago, that the interest with regard to it had passed away, and that it was useless to ask them to discuss the matter. Now, that took place with regard to those events in which the Government had been mixed up; and, consequently, he thought they had considerable ground of complaint that the Government had shown a desire to shirk discussion in the present instance He believed that they had done so because they felt they would have great difficulty in explaining their conduct in reference to Egyptian affairs, and in dealing with the loss of influence to this country which their conduct had brought about. Had he acted like some of his hon. Friends from Ireland, an opportunity would have been given him long ago to bring forward his Motion. The course pursued in this matter was certainly no encouragement to those who had assisted the Chancellor of the Exchequer in getting on with the Business of the House. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had really pledged the reputation of the Government in this affair, he thought he should appoint Tuesday morning, or part of Monday, for the discussion. If it wore put off to a later day, it would, in his opinion, be a proof that the Government did not want the question to be discussed. He emphatically protested against that course.


rose to support the appeal of the hon. Member for Rochester for a discussion upon this subject. There had been an understanding with the Government that the hon. Member should have an opportunity for discussion; but it did not amount to a definite arrangement. However, looking at the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the great importance of the subject, he thought it was one that ought to have been considered at a much earlier time. He regretted to say that in this matter of Egypt the House appeared to him to have been, unintentionally, no doubt, deceived by the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, the Government, although they had presented certain Papers to the House bearing upon this question, had kept back others. On the 13th March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that Mr. Rivers Wilson went out to Egypt and entered the service of the Khedive. He had been shortly afterwards dismissed by the Khedive; and, on the 24th April, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Khedive had done what he had a full right to do by the dismissal of that officer from his employ. That statement had been accepted by the House and by the country. All that time, however, there had been in existence a despatch, dated 3rd of March, which had not been presented to the House, and which contained the following clause:— The Members of the Council are to have the right conjointly to put an absolute veto on all measures which they disapprove. That despatch was sent out and handed to the Government of Egypt, and five days later the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that Mr. Rivers Wilson went out to the Khedive as an officer in his employ with power of dismissal. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) asked whether the country were not completely deceived with regard to the policy pursued by the Government in Egypt, and whether, as it seemed to him there should be, an opportunity ought not to be given for discussing this matter?


had at one time taken an active interest in this question, which he had more than once brought before the House; and upon the last occasion the tone of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was such as to give him the greatest confidence in the action of Her Majesty's Government. He believed that they were endeavouring to do the right thing; although, perhaps, they had gone a little further than their own judgment and good sense might have suggested. He thought, upon that occasion, that they were in a difficult position, with regard to France, and should not be troubled unnecessarily. But as the question now raised was of serious importance, with regard to the past and future, he was compelled to join in this appeal to Her Majesty's Government to give hon. Members an opportunity of discussing it before the Session came to an end.


said, of course, he need not say that he did not altogether agree with his hon. Friend who had raised this question, with regard to his judgment of the policy of Her Majesty's Government; but there could be no doubt that, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea had stated, the effect of the statements which had been made in that House was that they had formed a wrong impression of what Her Majesty's Government had done with reference to affairs in Egypt. It must be felt by the House and the country that it was not unreasonable to expect that Her Majesty's Government, which had been allowed to work its wicked or righteous will in Egypt without interference on the part of the House, should now make some explanation of their policy. The country had been put in a curious position with regard to Europe, and if anyone read the public journals of Europe it would be seen that there was the gravest anxiety abroad with regard to the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Pochester (Sir Julian Goldsmid) had very properly pointed out that the effect of this silence on the part of the Government had been seriously to act upon the stock markets in Europe, in which the stocks of Egypt had gone up and down spasmodically, because no one had known to what their policy might lead. He asked that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should afford an opportunity of discussing this subject, and hoped that the Secretary to the Foreign Office would be able to place more Papers relating thereto in the hands of hon. Members in the course of a few hours.


said, there were circumstances in connection with the treatment accorded to Mr. Rivers Wilson—he believed, owing to his still being in the employ of the Government—which were eminently worthy of discussion. Mr. Rivers Wilson had not received the support of the British Consul in Egypt. It was a matter of notoriety that not only did the Consul not support him, but that he used his influence to a great extent in opposition to that gentleman. Then, again, at the most critical moment, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced to the world that the Khedive had a perfect right to dismiss him. He (Mr. Shaw Lofevre) had not spoken with Mr. Rivers Wilson upon the subject; but he was informed that the announcement was telegraphed within a few hours to many persons throughout Egypt, and had contributed, no doubt, greatly to the fall of that gentleman. He thought the question was seriously deserving of the attention of the House, and that time ought to be given for the discussion of the subject.


Sir, I can only repeat what I have stated before—namely, that there is no disposition on the part of the Government to evade discussion on Egyptian affairs. I am perfectly ready, and I am quite willing, to enter into a discussion of that question. So far as I am concerned, I have not the least objection to do what is in my power to assist hon. Gentlemen by allowing' time for the discussion of this subject. But I must really point out that the explanation of our not having appointed a time for this purpose is that we have a great deal of Business to do, and that it is very difficult for us to find time for everything we are asked to discuss. We are continually interrupted in our endeavours to get through our Business by questions raised by hon. Gentlemen, who have, of course, a perfect right to raise them. But as we get on in the Session we have a great deal of Business before us, and when we are pressed to find time for this question and for that, we are really obliged to say we cannot undertake to fix beforehand on what day a particular Motion can be brought forward. When I was asked by the hon. Baronet that an opportunity should be afforded for discussing the affairs of Egypt, I suggested to him that an opportunity might be found on a stage of the Appropriation Bill. I am told that the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington) wanted to use that occasion for bringing forward a question with regard to Afghanistan. If that is so, why could not the hon. Baronet settle with the noble Lord who should have precedence? It seems to me perfectly possible for the arrangement to be made by which some opportunity might be availed of for bringing forward this matter. I can only say that, so far as the Government are concerned, we should be very glad to have an opportunity of considering this subject. It was just now remarked that it is very awkward to discuss these circumstances while negotiations are going on. The hon. Member for Reading has just now made some observations which, I think, elucidate the sort of difficulty we are in. A question was raised in this House as to the position of Mr. Rivers Wilson in Egypt. I answered that question, as I was bound to do, by speaking the truth, saying that Mr. Rivers Wilson was allowed to take service under the Khedive, that he was not in the employ of the English Government, and that it was at the option of the Khedive to dismiss him. That was the statement which I volunteered, and it was a statement which I felt myself obliged to make in consequence of being challenged as to the position taken by England with reference to the affairs of Egypt. What was the consequence? It was immediately telegraphed out to Egypt, and produced such and such consequences, while we, having been obliged to make the statements, are now told that we are causing mischief. I can fully believe, as has been stated by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), that he has not been in communication with Mr. Rivers Wilson, who, I am quite sure, would have given him a different account of this matter. Nobody can have a higher opinion of the conduct of that gentleman than we have had. We felt that, in all he did in Egypt, he was acting with the best possible motive, and with the desire to do his duty in the difficult position in which he had placed himself. I do not think that Mr. Rivers Wilson can feel that there is any unwillingness on the part of the Government to acknowledge the excellence of the work performed. With regard to the question of the affairs of Egypt, I can only hope we shall be able, in the course of next week, to find an opportunity for the discussion which the hon. Baronet proposes; but I do not feel myself, at the present moment, able to fix a day, in consequence of the great diffi- culty we have with regard to our own Business


wished to call the attention of the House to a statement which he understood was made on Saturday last, by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, with regard to a matter intimately connected with Supply. He had learnt that the right hon. Gentleman had intimated that it was the intention of the Government to increase the salaries of the National School teachers in Ireland from the 1st of January next. That change was one of the very greatest importance, and could not, in his opinion, be made without previously being submitted to the judgment of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman intimated that this increase would be in the form of salary and the payment by results; and as he (the O'Conor Don) believed nothing during the last 20 years had been debated in Ireland more than payment by results, he did not think it fitting that the statement should go forth that the House was pledged to this proposal, because they might be told next year that, as it had not been objected to, it would not be fair to object to it then. If there was any intention on the part of the Government to make this important change, it ought to have been submitted in the first place to Parliament, and that it should not be made next year by proposing what were called Supplementary Estimates to be sanctioned by the House.


pointed out to the hon. Member for Roscommon that he was not discussing an Order of the Day.


was alluding to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which was connected with Supply. The right hon. Gentleman had said it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose an Estimate this year, but that the increased salaries would appear in the Supplementary Estimate of next Session. If the matter was allowed to remain in that way, they would be told next year that the House was pledged to this change. He must, however, express his intention to oppose it.


did not think that his hon Friend who had just spoken could be regarded as the exponent of the views of Irish Members upon that subject. For his own part, he was delighted to hear that there was an intention to raise the salaries of those wretchedly-paid individuals—the school teachers. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had no objection to their salaries being supplemented by results.


had been exceedingly annoyed that such an important announcement should be made without the House having an opportunity of discussing it. In England, a great deal of the teachers' remuneration came from private sources; but in Ireland it came from the Treasury. If there was any increase in the salaries of school teachers, he hoped it would be done in the manner best calculated to promote the interests of education; and he thought that those interests were in this matter, at all events, represented by the hon. Member for Roscommon. It was a serious thing that they should be pledged to a broad line that might be detrimental to the interests of education in Ireland.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.