HC Deb 06 July 1882 vol 271 cc1617-9

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been called to the statement of M. de Lesseps, that "any attack on Egypt by England or any other Power would be the destruction of the Canal;" and, whether Her Majesty's Government will carefully inquire into the correctness of the view taken by so eminent an authority before sanctioning any military expedition to Egypt?


Sir, I am not aware from what source my hon. Friend quotes the exact words which he has assigned to M. de Lesseps. I am aware of the general opinion of M. de Lesseps, as I have had the honour of seeing him. But I am not aware of the exact form of expression which M. de Lesseps has used in giving his opinion on this subject. But as I understood him, his expression was that, in the event of an attack upon Egypt, we might expect the Canal to be closed, or that something would be done to close the Canal. I can never mention M. de Lesseps in this House without a mark of respect, and without remembering that he has been the spirited, indefatigable constructor of one of the greatest works which have ever been constructed for the benefit of mankind. The whole world is aware, as I am, of the authority due to M. de Lesseps; but I am bound to say that it is not possible for Her Majesty's Government to be guided in matters of this kind exclusively by his judgment. The character and position of M. de Lesseps must be judged as a whole, and his opinion on the subject involves many considerations which might not, perhaps, appear on the face of his evidence.


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose a Vote of Credit with respect to warlike operations in relation to Egyptian affairs? Perhaps, also, the right hon. Gentleman would state at the same time what was the condition of affairs at Alexandria at the present moment?


Her Majesty's Government have not any intention of proposing a Vote of Credit to the House with respect to warlike operations in Egypt, because there is no state of facts which calls, in their judgment, for such a measure; but, of course, if such a state of facts should arise, it would be their duty to give the earliest information to the House, and undoubtedly we should not wait to have any Question addressed to us upon the subject. With regard to the closing part of the Question, I presume it refers not to a general description of the state of affairs, but only to the most recent intelligence, and I have to say we have no information at all of any change in the state of affairs today.


Is it in contemplation to ask a Vote of Credit for the Navy?


I should have thought it would have been inferred, from what I said, that the Government are of opinion that no Vote of Credit is called for at the present time.