§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is true that negotiations are in progress for the assembly of a Conference on Egyptian Affairs; and, if so, what are the matters which it is proposed to submit to the Conference?
I will endeavour to answer the Question as exactly as I can. Her Majesty's Government have proposed a Conference to the Powers upon certain Egyptian affairs. That proposal of Her Majesty's Government has been accepted by the Powers. In fully accepting that Conference in principle, the French Government has expressed a desire—I do not understand it to be a condition of the assent—but the French Government has expressed a desire that there should be some preliminary communications, some communications before the Conference actually meets, between the French and English Governments. M. Waddington having just returned from. Paris, these communications will immediately take place, or, perhaps, even now for all I know may be taking place. Turkey, which has a distinct position, has been invited to join the Conference, but no answer has as yet been received from Turkey, and the distance of Constantinople would require a little more time than in the case of most other capitals. With regard to the purpose of the Conference, it is on the financial situation of Egypt, which, as I think, has been intimated in general terms on some recent occasions by myself, has required attention, and from that attention the Law of Liquidation cannot be excluded. I think I cannot do better than to read to the House the passage—the actual terms—in which that subject has been submitted to the Powers—It appears to Her Majesty's Government that to meet the charges necessary for the peace and good government of the country, and to fulfil the engagements already incurred by the Egyptian Exchequer, some change in the Law of Liquidation is required. Her Majesty's Government would therefore propose that a Conference should meet in London or at Constantinople to determine whether such a change is necessary; and -what should be its exact nature."—[Egypt, No. 17 (1884), p. 1.]I think I need only add that, with regard to the place of the Conference which 1056 is thus proposed to be either in London or at Constantinople, no decision has as yet been arrived at.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I beg to ask the Prime Minister, if he can state without inconvenience whether the Conference will be called upon to consider any question but that of Egyptian finance, or whether it will embrace the wider scope of the whole Egyptian Question?
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
I wish to ask, have any communications been exchanged between the Governments of France and England as to the possibility of the participation of the French Government in the occupation or administration of Egypt?
Nothing has come to our knowledge of any communication from the French Government which refers to that subject.
§ MR. BOURKE
I wish to ask the right lion. Gentleman, whether any Papers on this subject will be laid before Parliament in the next few days, because it is possible, when the House becomes acquainted with these Papers, it may wish to express an opinion upon the subject?
No, Sir. The right hon. Gentleman has had considerable experience in the Foreign Office, and I am bound to say I think from that he must know it would be an entire deviation from precedent, that when Her Majesty's Government are inviting the Powers of Europe to meet and to consider a particular subject, they should, before the Powers have considered it, produce Papers relating to that meeting.
§ MR. BOURKE
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether, in the case of the very important Congress held at Berlin, it is not a fact that when the announcement of the Congress was made to this House, despatches were immediately laid on the Table, stating the basis upon which the Conference would meet, thus enabling the House to form, an opinion as to the engagements the Government were about to undertake?
I am not aware that any Papers were laid upon the Table which, in the slightest degree, affected to indicate what were to be the deliberations or proceedings of that Congress.
Oh, with regard to the basis of the Congress of Berlin. Well, with regard to the basis of this Conference, I think I have stated the basis upon which it has been proposed by us. At the same time, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have that put in another form, probably, he will put a Question on a future day. In the Congress of Berlin there were most important preliminary objects of controversy, and very important military measures to be adopted by the Executive Government of the country, which made it necessary that these should be the subject of communication to Parliament. But that was very different indeed from the present case.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
The right hon. Gentleman stated that the Conference would be limited to the subject of finance. Are we to understand that the subject of finance will be limited by the terms of the paragraph which the Prime Minister has read to the House?
I have read the invitation, and I presume that the Powers, having accepted the invitation, the subject of the Conference will be limited accordingly. It is quite evident that if any question of an extension should arise, that must be an entirely new question, totally detached from anything that has hitherto taken place.