HC Deb 20 July 1882 vol 272 cc1072-4

I rise, Sir, to give a Notice of importance. On Mon- day next, it is my intention to propose a Vote of Credit for the purpose of enabling Her Majesty to strengthen her Forces in the Mediterranean. Supposing that Vote to be granted we shall ask the House immediately thereafter to proceed with the Tax Bill for the year, in which we shall propose a modification intended to make a provision for meeting the charge which the Vote of Credit will entail. Of course, it will be open to hon. Gentlemen to make any observations on this modification they may please. Having given this Notice, I wish to make a strong appeal to the House with respect to the multitude of Questions relating to Egyptian affairs now put down on the list to be addressed to the Government, in the hope that with the prospect before them they will not put these Questions. I hope it will be understood that I do this not upon any ground of inconvenience to the Government, because that is a limited and insignificant matter, but because I am quite convinced with my Colleagues that putting Questions of that kind, in great multitudes and from many quarters, not merely when it is done in restrained terms by Gentlemen who have been responsible for the conduct of public affairs, but when it is done in the extensive manner—on which I do not pronounce any blame—which has of late, perhaps naturally, grown up, leads to inferences being drawn and impressions created which tend to weaken the action of, I might almost say, public law and authority with regard to this important question, and is undoubtedly very injurious to the public interests. I am desirous to make this appeal, rather than fall back upon what becomes an exceedingly odious task if it is to be many times repeated—namely, the right of the Minister to say that a reply to this and that Question would be injurious to the public interests. In making this appeal—which I hope is not an invidious one—I beg to except from it any Questions which may be put with regard to any account which may have appeared in the newspapers, or reached this country in regard to any new fact of great public interest or importance which may be said to have occurred. I ought, perhaps, to mention to the House that a despatch reached the Government to-day, from which it appears that the Sultan has agreed to join the Conference. He has accepted, and, therefore I presume, may be at present considered actually a participant in the Conference; but the terms of the despatch do not contain any direct reference as to the sending of troops to Egypt. I mention this as a matter of fact. Of course, it would not be right to withhold intelligence of that kind; but I trust that as regards argumentative Questions and Questions of inference, the appeal which I have made may not be without effect. I may say that on Saturday I shall give Notice of the precise amount of the Vote of Credit.


As I have the first Question on the Paper with respect to Egypt, I beg to say that after the observations of the right hon. Gentleman I will willingly accede to his request, provided, of course, it is not wished by the Government that I should ask the Question; but as I believe it is one which would be rather a help to the Government than the reverse, I leave it on the Paper now, and will put it to the hon. Baronet, on the understanding, of course, that I do not press for an answer if he does not desire it?


If the right hon. Member will ask the Question when it is reached, it is the wish of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that it should be answered.


I beg to ask the Prime Minister a Question with respect to the Vote of Credit of which he has given Notice. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that, on Saturday, he will inform the House of the amount of that Vote. I wish to ask whether in doing so he will convey information to the House as to how the Vote will be applied—whether it is intended for the Suez Canal or for the general occupation of Egypt?


I think the amount of the Vote is the only point upon which it is usual to give Notice. Explanations as to the purpose for which the Vote is to be taken will arise upon the statement that the Government may make when they introduce the Vote.

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