HC Deb 19 June 1884 vol 289 cc820-1

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, What measures the Government are adopting for the protection of Upper Egypt?


My right hon. Friend has requested me to answer the Question. Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that the British Forces now in Egypt, with those of the Egyptian Government, are sufficient for the protection of Upper Egypt against any danger which is at present likely to menace it. I do not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman desires to receive information as to the details of military measures which may be under consideration; but I may state that some time since—in fact, immediately after the defeat of General Hicks's force—projects for the defence of Upper Egypt against external attack were drawn up and carefully considered by the military authorities in Egypt. Up to a recent time the command and disposition of the Khedive's Army has been entirely separate and distinct from that of the British Force in Egypt. We have not, therefore, full and complete information, either as to the composition of the Khedive's Army, or as to its disposition in various points in Egypt; even if it were considered desirable, which it probably would not be, to give full particulars on those subjects. Recently, however, in order to avoid any risk of confusion, and to concentrate responsibility, instructions have been given for arrangements being made with the Khedive's Government to place the supreme command over, and general disposition of, all the military forces in Egypt directly in the hands of the General commanding the British troops, who is, of course, an officer senior in the British Army to Sir Evelyn Wood, who commands the Egyptian troops. We shall, therefore, henceforward be in possession of fuller and more complete information with respect to the arrangements that may be made, or that it may be considered necessary to make, for the defence of Egypt, and for the disposition of all the military forces in the country; but it is not probable that it will be considered desirable to state in detail what those arrangements may be.


Do I understand the noble Marquess to say that the military authorities in Egypt are of opinion that the forces in Egypt are sufficient to guard against any attack, or is that the opinion only of Her Majesty's Government?


We have received no representation from any of the military authorities in Egypt that the forces there are insufficient for the protection of Egypt.


Has the noble Marquess made any inquiry on the subject?


If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to know whether the question was directly asked whether General Stephenson thinks the forces at present at his command sufficient for the defence of Egypt, I do not think it has been put to him in that form; but we were in communication with him, and he would express his opinion if necessary.


Will the British General Officer who is in command be entirely independent of the Egyptian Civil Government?


Will this new arrangement involve the right of the English Commander to take the Egyptian troops into the Soudan, contrary to the terms of their enlistment?


In reply to the last Question, I do not understand that the General Officer commanding the troops would have any authority to remove the troops to the Soudan without the authority of Her Majesty's Government. As to the Question of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), I conceive that the responsibility for the military defence of Egypt will rest henceforward upon the General Officer commanding the troops. As to whether he will be entirely independent of the Egyptian civil authorities, I have no doubt he will consider it right to act in concert and communication with them, and that in any matter of difficulty he will refer home for instructions.