HC Deb 16 June 1882 vol 270 cc1409-13

, in whose name the following Questions stood on the Paper —namely, To ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether it is true that the officers and men of Her Majesty's ship "Superb," who were killed in the recent emeute at Alexandria, were buried at sea; and why it was that they were not buried at Alexandria; whether Her Majesty's Government has warned English subjects at Cairo that their safety is dependent on Arabi Bey; and, what arrangements have been made by Her Majesty's Government for receiving on board any ships the large number of European refugees now endeavouring to leave Egypt; "said, that before he put his Questions he rose to a point of Order. He gave Notice yesterday of three Questions, the manuscript of which he now held in his hand. The second Question, as he gave Notice of it, was in these words:—Whether Her Majesty's Government has warned English subjects in Cairo that, considering that their safety is dependent upon Arabi Pasha, the safest course for them would be to leave Egypt? The point of Order he wished to raise was whether, having given Notice of that Question, and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs not having challenged its form, and the Speaker not having told him that it was not in Order, it was competent for the Clerk at the Table, without the cognizance of the Member giving such Notice, to alter the language of the Question. He made this inquiry, because he found that his Question, as it now appeared on the Paper, had been materially altered.


It is quite impossible for the Speaker to say at once when Notice is given of a Question that every phrase of that Notice is in Order. The Questions of the hon. Member were brought to the Table, and were sub- jected to revision in accordance with the Rules of the House; and no doubt an expression was struck out of the Question on the ground that it was an expression involving matter of controversy. I have no hesitation in saying that, if an opportunity had been afforded to the Clerk at the Table to communicate with the hon. Member, he would have done so. It is the practice of the Clerk at the Table, whenever an alteration is made in a Question by my authority, to communicate the grounds of the alteration to the hon. Member who had given the Notice.


asked whether, when the Clerk at the Table found that a Question was not, as he thought, within the Rules of Order, it would not be more consistent with the practice and the dignity of the House that the Question should be altogether omitted from the Paper?


I scarcely think that this Question is one of Order; but it strikes me that if that course were taken it would produce much more dissatisfaction than the present practice.


Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, when there is so much divergence of opinion among hon. Members on this subject, you will inform them where the Rules of the House as to the putting of Questions are to be found?

[No answer was given to the Question.]


said, that, of course, he bowed to the Speaker's ruling; but he might observe that he had not put the Question down as a matter of controversy at all. He now put the Question as it stood on the Paper.


With reference to the burials at sea, the Foreign Office have heard of the fact from the Admiralty, to which Department I must refer the hon. Member for a reply to that portion of his Question. Sufficient vessels are chartered, and at the disposal of Sir Beauchamp Seymour, to provide for the removal of all British subjects who wish to leave.


Are the boats of the Fleet employed, or to be employed, in carrying away European refugees?


I cannot say. That is a matter which is left to the discretion of Sir Beauchamp Seymour. Transports have been engaged for the purpose of conveying from Alexandria any British subjects who may desire to leave. The last vessel engaged will arrive there to-day, and the transports will afford accommodation for 4,500 persons. We have received a telegram from Sir Beauchamp Seymour, saying that the accommodation thus provided is, in his opinion, sufficient for what is required.


Where are the refugees to be conveyed to? To Malta, or Cyprus, or where?


That I do not know, and cannot say. It depends on the nationality, or rather the origin, of the refugees, and that matter also is in the hands of Sir Beauchamp Seymour. [Sir DRUMMOND WOLFF: Hear, hear!] Well, I do not how it would he possible for the Admiralty to know where the British subjects in Alexandria wished to be taken. It is our duty to provide transports where they are required, and that has been done to an extent, I believe, somewhat in excess of the actual requirements of the case. As to the Question of the burial of those who, unfortunately, were killed, that is a matter of which we have merely learned the fact. We have received no Report from Sir Beauchamp Seymour; and, in fact, there has not boon time to receive any despatch stating the reasons for that course being taken. It would be very easy to give hypothetical reasons; but, because they are hypothetical, I do not think it would be desirable to state them.


I wish to ask a Question arising out of the answer given just now by the Under Secretary in connection with the Notice I gave him yesterday. I wish to ask him what arrangements have been made, or whether any arrangements have been made, for the security of British subjects in Cairo, and, I would add, in other parts of Egypt; and, whether there is anyone connected with the Government at Cairo with whom they could communicate in case of necessity?


The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has given Notice of a Question similar to the last Question put by the right hon. Baronet; and, as a matter of courtesy to him, perhaps I should defer answering it until his Question comes on. As regards the first Question of the right hon. Baronet, he must be aware that as Cairo is not a seaport, and we are not in military occupation of the country, we cannot give immediate protection at Cairo; but this would not diminish the responsibility of the de facto authority in Egypt if outrages on British subjects were committed.


Are the refugees put on board ship to pay for their board and lodging?

[The Question not having been answered,]


I beg to give Notice that on Monday I will repeat the Question.


asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If he can state the date when the earthworks were first commenced at Alexandria, and how long a period elapsed, after the commencement of those works, before the guns wore mounted; what communications the Government received from the Admiral in command of the Fleet with respect to those works during that interval; and, whether he will lay those communications upon the Table?


The construction of earthworks appears to have begun at daylight on the 29th ultimo. On the 4th of June, the Admiral reported by telegraph that two guns had been mounted that morning. Very brief telegraphic communications on the subject of the earthworks were received between these two dates. I should see no personal objection to the despatches from the Admiral upon this subject being included in the Papers; but the question is one for the Admiralty to decide.


asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether there is a Diplomatic or Consular Agent of Her Majesty now at Cairo to protect British subjects there; and, whether, if so, he is instructed to hold official communications with Arabi Pasha?


Yes, Sir. There is a Consular Agent at Cairo. He has not received any instructions from the Foreign Office with regard to his official communications, and the instructions which Sir Edward Malet may have given him are not yet in our hands.


asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the list of killed which he read to the House includes the names of all Her Majesty's subjects killed during the riot at Alexandria?


The list telegraphed and read by me was one of British-born subjects killed. To prevent any possibility of omission, we have telegraphed to know whether, under that title, all subjects of Her Majesty were included?


asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether, in sending the troops now said to have been telegraphed for by the Khedive and Dervish Pasha, the Sultan will do so as Sovereign of Egypt or as mandatory of the European Powers; and, whether any, and what guarantee has been taken by the Powers that the intervention thus made by the Porte shall be strictly limited to, and cease with, the suppression of the present revolutionary movement?


I already informed my hon. Friend yesterday that I should be unable to answer this Question. I may say, however, that it has been a matter of discussion among the Powers.