HC Deb 21 February 1879 vol 243 cc1619-38

in rising to call attention to the paragraphs in the Letter of the Marquess of Salisbury to Lord Lyons of August 7th, 1878 (Turkish Papers, No. 48), stating that Her Majesty's Government required the Government of Egypt to pay in full the May Coupon of the Unified Debt; and also to the conditions under which the Egyptian State Domain Loan of November, 1878, was contracted; and to move— That no sufficient justification has been shown for the enforcement by Her Majesty's Government of the payment of the May Coupon of 1878 of the Unified Debt of Egypt, nor for their interference in regard to the State Domain Loan of 1878; said, his object in calling attention to these two questions was to learn what was the justification of the Government for interfering with the financial concerns of Egypt. In reference to the May Coupon of 1878, the Government had, in conjunction with the French Government, brought strong pressure to bear on the Egyptian Government to secure the payment of that Coupon in full. In doing so they were running a considerable risk, and the lamentable event which had recently occurred might be to some extent traced to the interference of Her Majesty's Government. The next transaction to which he referred was revealed by the publication of the prospectus of the loan issued by the Messrs. Rothschild in October last. The security for this loan was the transfer of certain lands from the family of the Khedive to the State, and the hypothecation of these lands for the interest of the bonds; and Her Majesty's Government had undertaken to nominate a manager of those lands, who should not be divested of his functions without their previous consent. The object of this was, no doubt, to give a certain security to the subscribers to the loan; but up to the present moment they did not know what was the nature of the agreement between this country and Egypt. In pressing for the payment of the May Coupon, the Government were guilty of great injustice at once to the people and to the creditors of Egypt. Moreover, Her Majesty's Government either were aware, or ought to have been aware, that at the time they insisted on the payment of this interest, the Revenues of Egypt were insufficient to meet the public charges. As early as the end of March last year, there were in the possession of Her Majesty's Government Estimates of the Revenues of Egypt, and, of course, also Estimates of the Expenditure; and at the time they required the payment of this Coupon, they had no reason to believe that the income for 1878 would be larger than the income for 1877 had proved to be. In point of fact, it now turned out that the Revenue for 1878 was only £8,372,000 in the gross, out of which the Government of Egypt had to pay items of interest, including £4,028,000, interest on the sinking fund of the Unified Debt, and making, in the whole, no less than £6,886,000. Deducting this from the year's income—and next year's income would probably fall below that of 1878—there remained a balance of £1,536,000, and that was all there was to pay the interest on an unknown floating Debt, provide all the expenses of the I administration of Egypt, provide for the Army and the Navy, the public works— excepting railways—education, the Civil List, and every other charge incidental to the government of the country. Now, the sum which was necessary to provide for the expenses of the administration of Egypt was estimated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreham (Mr. S. Cave) at £3,000,000, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) at £3,500,000. Taking it at the lower sum, it would be seen that, if the full interest was to be paid on the Egyptian Debt, the other Services, including the Army and Navy, must suffer to the extent of 50 per cent. Though it was true that Her Majesty's Government, in the letter to Messrs. Rothschild, guarded themselves against any liability to pay interest on the new loan, yet by the course they had adopted, they took upon themselves, to a certain extent, the custody of the property which had been pledged for its security. Scarcely had they heard of this property being pledged for the payment of this particular loan, than news came that certain creditors had got a Decree from the International Court which enabled them to put an execution on this property. But suppose the Khedive or the Government of Egypt should fail to perform the convention into which they had entered as regarded the custody of these lands, or suppose the whole thing came to a deadlock through a disagreement between the three gentlemen who represented the various interests, were they to go to war on behalf of the private creditors of the Khedive? They had given a quasi- security to the creditors, which they might be called upon in a very inconvenient manner to fulfil. The question was, whether both of these transactions were not contrary to the precedent which they had hitherto followed? He did not speak of loans which had been guaranteed in cases of emergency, but the undertaking of a liability, however slight, in regard to loans by private parties with a foreign Government. It was not to the interest of the English people—clergymen, widows, and others —to enter into these foreign loans, and he contended the promoters of the loans should receive no encouragement. It would be much better to invest the money in Three per Cents or good railway debentures. He supposed he should be told that it was desirable England should co-operate with the Government of France. It was at least desirable that the two Governments should be on friendly terms; but whether England should enter into any entangling engagement with regard to Egyptian affairs was quite another thing. That raised a very wide question, but he should not enter into it on the present occasion. However, he would say this —If, instead of remaining on good terms with our neighbours across the Channel, the Government wished to get into trouble, and to create differences, jealousies, and disputes, they could pursue no course more likely to produce that effect than that of tinkering loans on joint account.


intimated that, as an Amendment had already been moved, it was not competent for the hon. Member to move his Resolution.


reminded the House of the declarations made on behalf of the Government when the Suez Canal shares were purchased. That step was taken on the undivided responsibility of the Ministry, and there was no previous consultation with other countries. It was laid down that the purchase was made on behalf of what were thought British interests. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in referring to the question of the purchase of the shares, laid stress on the political consequences of the step. The House was told by the right hon. Gentleman that the action of the Government was taken not because it desired the Canal for purposes of war, but the Government was desirous of seeing that the Canal should not be used as a political engine against England. The Premier said he had recommended the purchase of the shares as a political transaction, and thereby obtain a great hold on that part of Africa. There had been a great change in the attitude of this country; and he believed it could be shown that within the last few months undertakings had been entered into which altogether altered the liberty of action of this country. England was no longer free to form her own engagements. The proof of this was to be found in a Parliamentary Paper containing a Correspondence in which Lord Salisbury, M. Waddington, and the French Ambassador at Berlin were concerned. From this Paper it was clear that M. Waddington insisted that, in the event of any joint action between his Government and that of Her Majesty in reference to this question, such action should be based upon a perfect equality both of attributes and powers. This was not the casein 1876, when the Suez Canal shares were purchased, nor in 1877, when Lord Derby stated the conclusions which he had arrived at on his own independent judgment. In forming that judgment Lord Derby was not hampered by any engagements such as were subsequently entered into between Lord Salisbury and M. Waddington; and the noble Lord consistently refused to enter upon any course like that which now unfortunately existed, and which had an inevitable tendency to limit the freedom of action of this country with regard to Egypt, by establishing a partnership fixed upon an artificial basis. The practical consequence of this understanding as interpreted by M. Waddington became apparent when Nubar Pasha, in his capacity as President of the Council, selected Mr. Rivers Wilson as his Finance Minister. The moment this was done M. Waddington refused his assent, unless Mr. Wilson had appointed to act with him a French Colleague, possessing equal attributes and armed with equal powers. This point was at length conceded, and the net result of the whole business was that they had drifted into a position replete with complications and opportunities for entanglement, and had, moreover, introduced into Egypt an element of international jealousy and rivalry. They all knew the astuteness with which the Oriental mind could make use of international jealousies to serve their own ends. He did not wish to hurt the feelings of the French politicians; but no one could be sanguine that two years hence France would be administered by the same Government—the wise and temperate administration of M. Waddington—which she now enjoyed. By their recent action in Egypt they had introduced the materials with which a cunning hand might play with dexterity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had yesterday admitted that the intelligence of the fall of Nubar Pasha was authentic; but up to the present they had no news of the intentions of Mr. Rivers Wilson. No one who had any notion of what was going on hi Egypt could have been surprised by the news of the last few days. He was sure Her Majesty's Government must have been prepared for it. He himself, with his limited sources of information, had heard three weeks ago of intrigues which were attributable to a hand in the Palace, and this day there was a telegram from a well-informed source that these intrigues were also traceable to foreign influence. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be able to tell the House whether Mr. Rivers Wilson had tendered his resignation, and whether, also, M. de Blignières was not waiting for instructions from his Government as to what he should do; whether, in fact, he was acting only as the political delegate of France, or whether he was acting in concert with Mr. Wilson? He knew that these were delicate questions, but he should like to have as much information as was consistent with the circumstances. He feared that their change of policy had given them the maximum of disadvantage with the minimum of advantage, and had put upon them a great amount of responsibility without giving them in return anything like a material benefit.


I think, Sir, I ought to rise at once, in order to give the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken the information they have requested of me. I must, in the first place, say that at the present moment it is not possible for me to speak with entire freedom, because events are passing which are of a character which imposes a certain amount of reticence upon me. But I am anxious to speak generally as to the position we hold financially as regards Egypt, and also to express my entire dissent from the theory which has been advanced by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. W. Cartwright), that we have, in consequence of the arrangements made within the last 12 months, altered our position towards France with regard to Egyptian affairs. That is altogether an error. We have, from first to last, been desirous of acting in a cordial spirit and with full friendliness with our neighbours. We know that throughout the relations which the two countries have had with Egypt there have been many occasions of difficulty—occasions on which persons who had any interest to serve in stirring up international jealousies have been able to avail themselves of opportunities for so doing, and we have felt it necessary to be on our guard that we might disappoint and defeat intrigues for that purpose from whatever quarter they might come. That has been equally our policy from the time we took Office, as indeed it was the policy of our Predecessors, and it is our policy up to the present day. With respect to the interest which England has in the matter, and with respect to the finances of Egypt, I took notice of an observation made by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Samuelson), when he referred to what he had heard some time ago about persons who had come over to England desiring to induce the Government of England to interfere on account of the creditors of the Peruvian Government. The hon. Member seemed to think that there was some analogy between the desired intervention on the part of England to save the English creditors of Peru and any action which England would think proper to take with respect to Egyptian affairs. That is not so. That illustration marks the entire difference between our policy in Egypt and our policy with regard to other countries. We do not think it would be right; it would be contrary to the spirit of British policy that, for the sake of merely protecting the interests of British subjects who might have lent money to other States, we should interfere to enforce the claims of bondholders throughout the world. But in the case of Egypt very peculiar considerations arise. Hon. Members have adverted to what has passed in this House on former occasions and to observations made by Members of the Government, myself among the number, as to the reason why we have felt it necessary to watch with particular care the position of Egypt. It is not only that Egypt is on the high road between England and India, but it is also because of the relations which Egypt bears to the Ottoman Empire and to France and other countries which have interests there. They are such as to render it a matter of extreme political importance that we should, if possible, avert anything like a catastrophe which would overthrow the Egyptian dynasty and the Egyptian system of government. We have special interests, too, even of a financial character, because, as the House is aware, certain Revenues of Egypt form one of the securities pledged to this country with respect to a debt which we have guaranteed, and Egypt is also herself a debtor to us with respect to the purchase of the Suez Canal shares. There are thus a number of financial considerations that have to be taken into account, and over and above that there are an infinity of complicated political interests which we have to bear in mind. That being the case, the short history of what has occurred has been this:—Since the day when my right hon. Friend the Pay master General—to whom, I think, we hardly pay sufficient acknowledgments for the very excellent services he rendered in pioneering the way— ascertained the truth with regard to the maze of Egyptian finance, since the return of my right hon. Friend we have had our eyes necessarily and not from choice fixed upon what is going on in Egypt. After that inquiry had been made, the Khedive expressed a wish to appoint an Englishman of ability and position to re-arrange his finances, and Mr. Rivers Wilson was allowed to go out and ascertain for himself by actual inquiry whether that was a position which he could undertake. Mr. Rivers Wilson accordingly made inquiries, which ended in his declining to undertake that office. But in the meantime he became still further acquainted with Egyptian finances, and acquired a position which gave him a considerable reputation in Egypt. Subsequently to that, another step was taken, with which Her Majesty's Government had no official connection. After Mr. Rivers Wilson had returned, the Government had neither directly nor indirectly anything to say to the financial affairs of Egypt. But the bondholders — English and French — who had, of course, a very large interest in the country, deputed two gentlemen of very high position— one being the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen)—to represent their interests and to endeavour to make some arrangement with regard to the property hold by them. Those gentlemen received from the English Government, and I have no doubt the French Government also, a certain amount of support, such as is accorded to any Englishman who may be going abroad, in the way of civility; but they conducted their business entirely on their own account. They ultimately came to an arrangement which appeared to be, as they thought, promising and satisfactory to the bondholders, and which was accepted by Egypt. That arrangement was confirmed by a Decree of the Khedive's; but in a short time difficulties arose, which attracted the notice of the Government. They were these. For a considerable time it had been the practice of the subjects of different nations having claims against the Government of Egypt to go to their respective Consuls and induce them to press their claims against the Government. Subsequently, in consequence of the inconvenience that had resulted from the want of proper administration in Egypt, a system of tribunals was established by agreement between the European Powers in concert with the Government of Egypt, and no doubt the European Governments were to a great extent pledged in honour and otherwise to see that these tribunals were upheld. Certain persons then obtained judgment for debts against the Khedive before these tribunals, and when those judgment debts came to be presented, it was, of course, necessary that the Khedive should pay them, or set aside the authority of the tribunals. Well, it appeared that when these judgment debts came to be presented, after the settlement had been made between the Khedive and the bondholders, the funds at the Khedive's disposal either were, or were alleged by him to be, insufficient to meet them. The consequence was that there was great danger of the judgments which had been obtained before the tribunals being set aside, and that the nations of Europe who were more or less responsible for the tribunals would find themselves in a difficulty on seeing the authority of these tribunals thus set at nought. On the other hand, it was alleged that if the Decree which had been made was worth anything, the bondholders were entitled to certain rights under it. Under these circumstances, the representatives of the bondholders, I believe, thought that there ought to be another and more complete inquiry into the financial condition of the country. "Let us be quite sure," said they, "that the difficulty is a real one, and not a mere pretext to evade payment based on the concealment of real sources of wealth." A new inquiry accordingly was set on foot, and the services of Mr. Rivers "Wilson were requested, on the part of the bondholders, to assist in it. Meanwhile, it was thought only fair that the scheme which had been devised by the bondholders should be allowed fair play, and that a whole year should be allowed to run in order that they might see what, as regarded Revenue and Expenditure, was the real financial condition of Egypt. There were better means of learning that than had ever existed before, because, under the scheme, independent persons—Englishmen and Frenchmen and others—had been nominated to positions of high authority in the administration of the finances of Egypt, so that it was felt from what they experienced in the working of the system, results could be arrived at which could be depended upon. Of course, however, the claims for postponement and for putting off payments arose from before the full working out of that experiment. Well, it was during that year that the question arose about the payment of the Coupons to which the hon. Gentleman refers—the Coupons of May, 1878—and it appeared that when the time was approaching for the payment of these Coupons the bondholders apprehended default. Accordingly, representations were made to the French Government and other Governments on the subject. In the first instance, a communication was made by the French to the English Government on the subject, and a desire was expressed that the Representatives of the two nations should urge upon the Khedive that he should make an arrangement for paying the Coupons of the Debt, in consequence of which the English Government worked with the French Government on that occasion. But the hon. Gentleman says the Coupons could only have been paid either by setting aside the claims of other creditors, or by exercising an unfair pressure on the people of the country. These representations, no doubt, were urged by various persons, and it is due to those representations that Lord Salisbury made the references in his despatch which have been referred to. But at the same time that Lord Salisbury instructed our Consul to make these representations, he also directed him to impress upon the Khedive that this pressure was put upon him in consequence of the firm belief that he had resources at his command which he would be able so to apply if he chose, instead of expending them in palace building and other matters to his own private advantage; that it was a question of drawing upon his own private funds, and that there was nothing to justify him in putting undue pressure upon his people. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire, commenting on the despatch, said he gathered that from this period a new position was taken up; but the fact that Lord Salisbury refers in that despatch to events which had taken place at an earlier date shows that that is a mistake.


I said that a new political departure had taken place.


I do not quite understand in what the new political departure consists. There has always been a desire to act cordially with France, and I am not prepared to admit that there was any new political departure in the matter. The desire of the English Government has always been in every possible way to avoid creating any jealousy between the two countries in relation to the affairs of Egypt. We claim, on our own part, that we have a large interest in the maintenance and stability of the country; that we have large interests in her prosperity and good government, and in the avoidance of those complications which may so easily lead a country first into bankruptcy and then into political embarrassment. It is hardly necessary to point out that the financial embarrassments of Turkey aided in bringing about political events of a very serious character; and it is really on political grounds well worth our while to prevent a country like Egypt—a country naturally wealthy, with great resources, and with ample means to bear all the necessary expenditure and to pay the debts she owes without any oppression upon the people—provided only that the system of tax collecting is a good one, and that all which is collected finds its way into the Treasury, and provided that the expenditure of the country is on a reasonable and moderate basis—from falling into the same embarrassments. Well, that brings the history of the case up to the time of the Commission of Inquiry to which I have referred. Now, that Commission of Inquiry undoubtedly was appointed with the goodwill both of the English and of the French Governments. We were anxious, and we directed our Representatives to inform the Khedive that we were anxious, that fair play and a full opportunity for conducting their inquiry should be afforded to the Commissioners, and we represented to the Khedive how essential it was in his own interest that the inquiry should be full and complete; that the position depended greatly on his taking advantage of the services of those who were employed to prosecute the inquiry, and that we felt no doubt that he would act honestly and wisely in the matter. Well, that Commission completed its labours, and the results were of the character which has been alluded to. I cannot state the figures precisely; but, at all events, it carried its inquiry so far as to arrive at certain resolutions of an important character, to the effect that the Revenues of Egypt, properly administered, would be sufficient for its expenses, but that a new system of administration was required. The result was that the Khedive determined, on his own motion and the advice of those on whom he relied, to make the sacrifices which the Commission had pointed out. One of these sacrifices was a very important one to him. His revenues consisted, of course, of all the ordinary taxes of the country. They consisted, also, of the produce of certain lands which were known by the name of Daira, and those had been dealt with under the arrangements made by previous settlements. But over and above what was known as the public Daira, there was an amount of land which was the private property of the Khedive himself and the members of his family; and it was strongly urged on him that his only way to get out of his difficulties was to give up these lands and all his possessions, to alter his whole position, and take a certain revenue that would be allotted to him in the form of a Civil List. The Khedive decided on adopting that course, and he agreed to this arrangement. He also agreed to what was more important—that he should become a Constitutional Sovereign, with a responsible Ministry; and he placed Nubar Pasha, who had filled a very high position before, at the head of the Ministry. From that moment Nubar Pasha was in the position of what may be called the Prime Minister of a Constitutional country. I do not say that the parallel in practice was complete; but the theory was that there should be a responsible Government with a chief Minister at the head of it. Nubar Pasha was appointed to that position, and he formed an Administration by introducing into it certain persons who were to fill different offices. Among these Mr. Rivers Wilson was appointed Minister of Finance. On being offered that office, Mr. Rivers Wilson accepted it with the reservation that he should obtain from Her Majesty's Government leave of absence for a certain time, which would enable him to undertake the duty with greater freedom than he could otherwise command. The Government gave him the two years' leave of absence he desired, and he undertook the position of Finance Minister in the Khedive's Cabinet. Undoubtedly it is true that the French Government, finding out what was going on, were anxious that a French Minister also should be attached to this Administration. That was a matter with the decision of which we had nothing whatever to do; but it was the occasion of some correspondence between the two Governments. Ultimately a French Minister was appointed. That Administration has been holding the position for some months of the responsible Government of the Khedive until the events of the last few days, which have led to Nubar Pasha ceasing to hold his office. I may say, in the meantime, that Mr. Rivers Wilson has not resigned, neither has M. de Blignières, the French Minister, thought it necessary to resign. The hon. Member asks what is the meaning of the arrangement which has been made with regard to a loan charged on the Daira lands? That step, it is said, has led to the nomination of one of the trustees for the Daira lands. The history of it is this—When Mr. Rivers Wilson accepted the office of Minister of Finance, he naturally considered what arrangement he could make with regard to the finances of Egypt. Among other arrangements, he desired to raise a loan of £8,500,000. He considered what security he had to offer; he had the security of the Daira lands on which, as part of the resources of Egypt, he was entitled to raise a loan. He applied to Messrs. Rothschild to advance the sum required, and they agreed to advance the money on the security of those lands; but they made this stipulation—that they should have some security that the revenue of those lands would be applied properly to the purpose of defraying the charge. They stipulated that there should be, at least, one Englishman and one Frenchman, designated by their respective Governments, who should be responsible for the proper application of the revenues of the Daira. Accordingly, that request was agreed to by the English and French Governments. A French gentleman was designated by the French Government, and Mr. Rowsell was designated on the part of England, the understanding being—and that understanding was subsequently put into a note from Nubar Pasha—that the persons so designated should not be removed without the consent of their respective Governments. That, I think, is the whole history of our transactions in this matter. I feel that it is one the details of which may well excite the attention of hon. Gentlemen and of this House; but there is nothing in it that we are in the least disposed to conceal, or, as we think, that in the least requires apology, but rather the contrary. We quite admit that transactions of this character are so exceptional that they require full explanation, and our desire has been, and is, to give that explanation. I hope what I have said will meet the wishes and objects of hon. Gentlemen who have addressed the House. I can only say the principles on which we have acted thus far are principles by which we intend still to be guided, and it has been one main object of our proceedings to maintain good and thoroughly confidential relations with the Government of France in this matter. I am persuaded that nothing could be more advantageous for the interests of Egypt herself, and of Europe generally, than that there should be a good and thorough understanding between England and France on this question. It is quite certain that our Representatives must have considerable influence in Egypt. It is all very well to say that they should have nothing to do with the affairs of the country, such as have been the subject of debate; but we know very well that intrigues are always going on, and attempts are made to play off the Representative of one Power against another. I am glad, however, to say that at the present moment and the present crisis we are in close and confidential communication with the French Government, and our understanding is of an entirely satisfactory character.


entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to the desirability of maintaining the most cordial relations with France in this matter; but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had fully met the objections that had been urged. The common belief was that the Government had been forced to join France in this financial enterprize, against their own judgment, in order to smooth over and humour the French susceptibilities which they had excited by their Eastern policy, He thought Her Majesty's Government would have done better to have kept their hands from interfering in such a nasty kettle of fish as the foreign debts of the Khedive. The right hon. Gentleman had shown no good reason why they should have forced the Khedive to pay the coupons of his debt in full, and leave the servants of the State unpaid. The decent administration of a country entirely depended upon the zealous and honest work of its officials, and this could not be procured by leaving them unpaid. If their salaries were not paid, they would be left to prey on the country. In fact, the recent crisis in Egypt had been caused by the outbreak of those officials, who had this reasonable pretext for their conduct, though, no doubt, they would hear a different account of the causes of the outbreak in the versions that came through sources connected with foreign creditors. He did not think facilities should have been given for raising a new loan, which would be an additional burden upon the overtaxed people of Egypt. It seemed to him that up to the present time everything had been done for the bond holders, and nothing for the people of Egypt. Things in that country were going from bad to worse. New loans might be used to pay interest and raise the value of the bonds in the market; but they pressed heavily on the taxpayer. It was said that wherever the carcase was, there the vultures would be gathered together, and Egypt was a prey to all the vultures of Europe. Considering that the Native officials had been deprived of their proper salaries, while the bondholders had received their dividends, it was not altogether surprising that the recent crisis had occurred. He hoped Mr. Rivers Wilson would see that the officials were paid as well as the bondholders, and that the result would be a better state of things for the future. The right hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. S. Cave)made a very good report, but went out on his Mission to Egypt as the Representative of a creditor of that country—namely, the British Government, which had purchased several millions' worth of the Suez Canal shares—not to set matters right in the interest of the people. Next came the Mission of the right hon. Member for London (Mr. Goschen), who went out avowedly as the agent of the bondholders, although his high character and position were a guarantee that in pressing the claims of the bondholders, nothing that was unfair would be done by him. At the same time, events had shown that the right hon. Gentleman had taken too sanguine a view of the finances of Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman had always said that the system he initiated was only an experiment, and that if it should turn out that the Revenues of Egypt could not suffice to pay the creditors in full, and also carry on the government of the country, a new arrangement must be made. Now, it seemed to him that that was exactly what had happened, and that a now arrangement was necessary. Next came a third Mission—that of Mr. Rivers Wilson. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the Khedive made up his mind to introduce Constitutional government and a responsible Ministry in Egypt; but it was difficult to understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant by those phrases. What was the Constitution of Egypt? He (Sir George Campbell) was not aware that it was founded on anything except the will of the Khedive, nor did he know that the Ministry was responsible to anybody but the Khedive—as, indeed, the events of the last few days had shown. He saw no essential difference between all that and any other Oriental despotism. A great deal had been said about the reforms that were to be effected by the new Ministry. Now, they had often heard of such Schemes in connection with Turkey and Egypt; but there was invariably this little addendum to all of them—namely, that the Oriental Potentate who was to effect all these great reforms was going to have a new loan. Mr. Rivers Wilson might be a very able man; but as far as he (Sir George Campbell) could see, he had only shown his ability by obtaining a new loan for the Khedive of Egypt, which had been devoted to paying the interest of the bondholders, which he did not think was right. On that account he very much regretted that Her Majesty's Government should have touched the matter, as it were, with the tip of their little finger, and would have much preferred that they should have left it alone altogether. They should have refused to have anything to do with the loan, at least until the administration of Egypt was put upon a proper footing, and the arrears to which he had referred were paid. They might go on paying the interest of one debt by creating another; but it was a proceeding very much of the character of the doings of the Directors of the City of Glasgow Bank, who paid 11 and 12 per cent dividend to their shareholders when they owed a great deal more money than they were ever able to pay. It seemed to him also that, in all the proposals that had been made in respect to Egypt, too much importance was attached to the sending out there of swarms of European officials. He admitted that men were sent out there who were not vultures, but many others had come from all parts of Europe in search of places. Not only were there three or four times as many officials in Egypt as were really required, but every time a new Mission went out to that country a fresh layer of officials was, so to speak, super-imposed upon the old set of officials. Mr. Romaine, a man of great experience, was appointed to occupy a very important position in the Egyptian Administration. He had only one fault—he was a great deal too honest for Egypt. He exposed the true state of the finances in a way that was not agreeable to the foreign bondholders, who wished to raise the value of their stock. He was engaged for a term of years, at a high salary, together with other foreign officials; but he and they were all suddenly told that the Administration had been changed. Officials were multiplied in the most reckless manner, and a new set were appointed. Our Government were responsible for some of these matters. For instance, as to the Daira estates, they were in the charge of a most competent officer, Mr. Money, an ex-official of the Indian Government, who had had the management of the Revenues of Bengal. Now, Bengal was 10 times larger and more populous than Egypt, and Mr. Money consequently went from a charge 10 times greater than that of the whole Revenues of Egypt. But, nevertheless, he had only charge of the Khedive's estate, which represented about one-tenth of Egypt. Under the circumstances alluded to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, some further Daira estates were surrendered to the creditors; and it might have been supposed that Mr. Money, who had had so great a charge in India, would have had that additional charge imposed on him. But it was thought necessary—he knew not why—to send out another English official. Mr. Rowsell, he understood, was a very able man, and one who would be much missed at the Admiralty here; but he was not aware that that gentleman was particularly qualified to deal with agricultural affairs in Egypt. It was unfair to the unhappy and heavily taxed people of Egypt that Mr. Money and Mr. Rowsell should both be paid for doing work which one of them could do 10 times over. He had been in Egypt last year after the bad Nile, and he did not think the bad Nile sufficiently accounted for the financial shortcomings. They scarcely realized how heavily the taxation pressed on the people. Head for head it was as heavy as the taxation of the people of England, and that for so poor a country as Egypt was enormous. It should be reduced instead of being increased. Any reform of the administration in Egypt meant a reduction of the Revenue, because the present Revenue was only obtained by harsh measures which it would be impossible for a good European administration to enforce. It would, therefore, be the most prudent thing not to force the people of Egypt to pay this great debt in full, but to make a reasonable compromise.


said, he did not know whether, in consequence of Her Majesty's Government having intervened to a certain extent in Egyptian finance, it would in future be necessary that an Egyptian Budget should always be discussed in that House. He did not think that the House of Commons was the proper arena for the discussion of questions of Egyptian finance. His hon. Friend who had just sat down (Sir George Campbell) had addressed himself partly to the action of the Government; but the main portion of his address had been directed to the bondholders' question, and the course which they ought to pursue. He (Mr. Goschen) would not follow his hon. Friend's example. Deeply interested as he had been in the matter, he should not take the opportunity of either defending the original arrangements which were made, or of entering into any future arrangement which ought to be made, as he did not consider questions of that character ought to be discussed there, as the discussion would naturally be interminable. He could not complain of the manner in which his hon. Friend had spoken of his (Mr. Goschen's) Mission to Egypt. His only reason for rising was that it might not be asserted that silence as to any of the observations of his hon. Friend was to be construed into acquiescence in the statements which he had made. He wished to remind his hon. Friend that he had distinctly stipulated, when he undertook his Mission to Egypt, that he should never be expected, in the interests of the bondholders, to propose or to accede to anything which, on political grounds, could not be fully justified. And, further, he had made this stipulation in writing, that he would not urge any steps on the English Government which, although useful to the bondholders, he might deem to be politically inexpedient. He was aware of the fearful suffering that would be produced by the bankruptcy of Egypt, and he was certain that it would not be for the benefit of this country that Egypt should become bankrupt. As he believed at the time that she was on the high road to bankruptcy, he had consented to act on behalf of the bondholders; but thinking, at the same time, that it would be of political service to this country that a country of such large resources as Egypt should be saved from bankruptcy. When his hon. Friend spoke of the Egyptian creditors as if they were paid in full, while others had been sacrificed, he (Mr. Goschen) would like to tell him that he forgot that what they were now receiving was really a compromise, and was less than what they were entitled to under their original agreement. He had been anxious, while protecting the bondholders from beginning to end, that he should not in any way appear to be bolstering up Egyptian credit. He had always said it was impossible to forecast what the Revenue would be until it had been for some time under European administration; and he was not concerned to answer at any greater length the remarks of his hon. Friend.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.