HC Deb 23 June 1879 vol 247 cc429-32

I have no wish to repeat generally the Questions which I put to the Government on Friday last as to the state of affairs in Egypt. I desire to avoid anything that can cause embarrassment to Her Majesty's Government in matters concerning which negotiations may be being carried on. I will, therefore, content my self with asking the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs If he is prepared to make any statement or to give any information as to the present state of matters in Egypt, especially of matters relating to the reported abdication of the Khedive, and the concurrence of various Powers of Europe in that step? I will also ask, When the Papers relating to Egyptian matters will be laid on the Table?


Sir, I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for asking the Question in the form in which he has asked it. The English and French Governments have recommended the Khedive to abdicate, and that recommendation has been supported by the Governments of Germany, Austria, and Italy. We have not yet received the answer of the Khedive. With regard to the Papers asked for by my hon. Friend, he will see, of course, from the state in which I have described the negotiations to be at present, that I cannot at this moment name any particular day when the Papers will be presented. They will be presented at the earliest time that is consistent with the interests of the Public Service.


Will the hon. Gentleman say why the Government asked the Khedive to resign?


I must point out to the hon. Baronet that he is now asking for the opinion of the Government, which goes beyond the limits of a Question.


I wish to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Leader of the House and Chief Minister here of the Party he represents, Whether he will take an early opportunity of telling the House distinctly what is the purpose and policy of the Government with regard to Egypt? ["Order!"] I will not break the Orders of the House, but I wish for information with regard to two points. Some say the bondholder is the object of Ministerial affection, and some say the condition of the population of Egypt excites the Government to interfere in Egyptian matters. I think it will be of great advantage to the House and the country that we should know what is the exact object of the intermeddling which has taken place, and which many of us fear may lead to great difficulty and, perhaps, disaster. If the right hon. Gentleman will give that information now I should be glad. If not, perhaps he will give it on some convenient day?


The right hon. Gentleman and the House must perceive that it would be quite impossible for me to answer the Question of the right hon. Gentleman without giving occasion for a debate and a discussion; and I do not think it would be for the convenience of the House that such a discussion should he initiated without some Notice. At the present time, I must say, it would he very inconvenient, and, indeed, impossible, for the Government to enter into such a discussion in the actual state of affairs, although we shall be anxious, as soon as we can do so without getting into complications with other Powers, to make such a statement as is desired by the right hon. Gentleman.


said, the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs had just told the House that the Governments of England and France had joined in recommending the Khedive to abdicate. "Would the hon. Gentleman further inform the House whether the recommendation was that the Khedive should abdicate in favour of his son, or whether he should simply place his resignation in the hands of the Porte?


It is impossible to answer that Question at present.


I beg to give Notice that I will, on Thursday, ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether he can state with whom negotiations, to which reference baa been made by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his reply on the subject of Egypt, are at present going on? I will also repeat, in another form, the Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester, which I think was not quite understood, On what ground the application to the Khedive to resign has been made? I have not the slightest intention to say anything to provoke discussion at present. In justice to the Government, I think it right to state that, if they are not able to afford more detailed information upon this question to the House on Thursday next, it is extremely probable—in fact, it will be almost necessary—that an immediate, although, perhaps, an irregular, discussion should take place. We cannot, of course, call upon the Government to say anything which, in their opinion, would be prejudicial to the interests of the Public Service; but the Government will have to bear in mind that the House are in possession of information respecting not only negotia- tions, but also actions, which, although extremely imperfect, are of such a character that many hon. Members feel they would be wanting in their public duty if they were not to take the earliest opportunity of expressing their opinion with regard to what has taken place.