§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the main object of the proposed Conference of the Great Powers is to find some means for enabling Egypt to meet her overwhelming financial embarrassments; whether, since these embarrassments have been in part produced by the high rates of interest at which the various Egyptian Loans were floated, and by the margin between the amount received by the negotiators of the Loans and by the Egyptian Treasury, the British Cabinet have any intention of proposing the reduction of the rate of interest on the debt held by the subjects of France or any of the other Great Powers; and, whether the Government will propose, in connection with any such proposal, that the margin between the moneys received of Messrs. Goschen and Frühling, and other firms consisting of British subjects, and the moneys received by the Egyptian Treasury, over and above the per-centage ordinarily charged in such cases, should be refunded?
With respect to the first paragraph of the Question, it is true that the object of the proposed Conference of the Great Powers is to find some means of enabling Egypt to meet her financial engagements. With respect to the second paragraph, it is a question distinctly involving the means by which the equilibrium of the interim charges is to be brought about in Egypt, and with respect to the future provision for the government of the country; and it will be anticipating the very purpose for which the Conference meets if I were to enter into the question of these means. With regard to the third Question, I am bound to say that, in the first place, I conceive that to enter upon a retrospect of transactions of this description, long ago concluded and accepted by all the parties, would be a matter entirely beyond the usual course of proceeding; but in saying that I must not be understood to be giving the smallest countenance to anything which the Question seems to indicate—namely, that the transactions of the eminent House referred to were transactions conducted otherwise than upon the most scrupulous principles of commercial honour.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked whether it was a fact that the nominal amount raised by those three loans of Messrs. Frühling and Goschen was £11,996,000; whether the actual amount received by the Egyptian Treasury was £7,648,000; and whether the difference between those amounts represented the scrupulous regard for commercial honour of which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken?
I have not in my mind the figures which represent the margin which the hon. Gentleman refers to. I have expressed no opinion on this subject, my object rather having been to avoid an expression of opinion, and especially an opinion bearing apparently upon reputations which I believe to be as unblemished as those of any Gentleman in this House.
§ MR. BOURKE
With respect to the negotiations just announced as now going on between England and France with respect to Egypt, will the House have an opportunity of seeing the Papers relating to those communications in a short time?
I have already said that we will produce these Papers at 675 the earliest period consistent with our public duty. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman must understand that the first thing is that our communication with France should be such as to produce perfectly mutual co-operation. That done, we shall, at the very earliest moment at which that can be done, make known our proceedings to Parliament.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me if I ask another Question. It is of great importance—whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government, in any negotiations with France or any other Power, to maintain the paramount interests of this country in Egypt?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the Question, I have to ask another on the same subject. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks fit to answer the Question—which I do not think he will—perhaps he will be good enough to say whether the self-denying Protocol signed by this country and other Powers in 1882 is still in force?
I am not quite certain whether I have in my mind at this moment the exact terms of the Protocol. With respect to the Question of the hon. and gallant Baronet, I think he must see that, subject to general laws and justice, it is our duty to maintain the paramount interests of England not only in Egypt, but all over the world.