§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £3,468,550, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charge for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1885, Viz.:—
|CLASS I. — PUBLIC WORKS AND BUILDINGS.|
|Houses of Parliament||4,000|
|Public Offices Site||5,000|
|Furniture of Public Offices||3,500|
|Revenue Department Buildings||40,000|
|County Court Buildings||7,000|
|Metropolitan Police Courts||1,500|
|Sheriff Court Houses, Scotland||1,000|
|New Courts of Justice, &c.||3,500|
|Surveys of the United Kingdom||30,000|
|Science and Art Department Buildings||1,000|
|British Museum Buildings||2,000|
|Natural History Museum|
|Harbours, &c. under Board of Trade||1,500|
|Rates on Government Property (Great Britain and Ireland)||10,000|
|Metropolitan Fire Brigade||2,500|
|Disturnpiked and Main Roads (England and Wales)|
|Disturnpiked Roads (Scotland)||1,000|
|Royal University Buildings||500|
|Science and Art Buildings, Dublin|
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, he rose to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £1,500,000. The reason why he wished to reduce the Vote by that sum had connection with the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Egypt and the proposed Conference. As the Vote contained an item for Diplomatic Services, he thought it clearly and legitimately afforded, or should afford, an opportunity for the Committee to express its opinion, not only with regard to the Egyptian complications generally, but especially to the proposed Conference.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The Motion I have submitted to the Committee has no connection with the affairs of Egypt.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
May I call your attention to the fact that there are items both for Diplomatic Services and for the Foreign Office?
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
That is not the item I refer to. In Class V. there is an item for Diplomatic Services, and in Class II. there is another for the Foreign Office.
§ MR. GRAY
said, he rose to a point of Order. He had no desire in any way to interfere with the course which the hon. Member for Greenwich proposed to take upon the Question before the Committee; but he wished to ask the Chairman whether, in putting the proposition of the hon. Member to the vote, it might not have the effect of shutting out a discussion upon other subjects which might arise in connection with the Vote upon Notices standing earlier on the Paper? He wished to ask the Chairman whether he was correct in the information he had received that the Motion of the hon. Member would have that effect, because if so there were other Notices of Motion; and, as a rule, he understood that those who had given Notice of Motion had priority over those who had not given Notice.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
, upon the point of Order, asked whether it was not necessary that Motions for the reduction of special items in the Vote must be taken before Motions to reduce the Vote as a whole?
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he would suggest, upon the point of Order, that if the Motion of his hon. Friend were carried any other reduction of the Vote might be made the subject of a separate debate.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
There is no positive order as to the precedence of Members on such an occasion as this. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) rose in his place to speak to the Motion. As I saw him rise, and no one else rose at the same time, I called upon the hon. Member; and he is quite in Order in the course he is taking.
§ MR. GRAY
said, he had only risen in the interests of other hon. Members who might wish to bring forward other questions. He was afraid, if the proposition of the hon. Member was carried by the Committee, that those who had given Notices of Motion upon other subjects 1018 might be shut out from discussing the questions in which they took an interest. In the event of that anticipation being correct, he would put it to the hon. Member for Greenwich that he might adjourn the discussion of the question he desired to raise until other hon. Members had brought forward their Motions relating to specific items in the Vote.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) will not be prejudiced in any way in bringing his Motion before the Committee. The hon. Member, however, did not rise at the same time as the hon. Member for Greenwich.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
asked whether, if the Question was put from the Chair that the total Vote be reduced, it would not preclude other hon. Members from moving the reduction of any particular item in the Vote
wished to inquire, upon the point of Order, whether it was the fact that the putting of a Motion for the reduction of the gross Vote would preclude hon. Members from moving the reduction of any particular item afterwards?
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
would point out that this was quite an unusual case. As a matter of fact, he was not aware that any similar circumstance had occurred before. No doubt the course referred to by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) was that which was adopted in the case of a discussion of the regular Estimates when the reduction of the entire Vote was moved. But the peculiarity in the present case was that they were dealing with a Vote on Account asked for by the Government, and not with the whole Vote in any single instance.
§ MR. RYLANDS
understood the point of Order to be this. The right hon. Gentleman in the Chair had put the full amount of the Vote on Account which was asked for by Her Majesty's Government, and upon that Motion the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) proposed to reduce the 1019 amount by the sum of £1,500,000. What hon. Members contended was that if the Question was put upon the whole amount, and the Motion of the hon. Member were rejected, the full amount could not then be discussed again; and in that case it would be clearly most inconvenient for any hon. Member to take exception to any particular item.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The Rule of debate is this—that after the Question has been proposed from the Chair for the reduction of the whole Vote, no Motion can be made for the reduction of any particular item. But in this case the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) would not be prejudiced or prevented from raising the question which he has put upon the Paper after the Motion of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) has been disposed of. If the original Vote in this instance should be reduced, the Question would afterwards be put upon either the original Vote or the reduced Vote, as the case might be, and the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) would then be in Order in making a new Motion.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, there was one point which arose out of the ruling of the right hon. Gentleman which he did not understand—namely, whether it would be competent for any hon. Member to move the reduction of the Vote by a particular item after there had been a Division upon the whole Vote?
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
would submit this consideration to the Chair upon the point of Order. If a Motion were made to reduce the Vote by more than £1,000,000, would it not be competent for any hon. Member to speak to that Motion, and bring forward any arguments relating to any portion of the Public Service? Surely, if that were so, it would introduce absolute confusion into the discussion; whereas, if reductions were moved in connection with specific items contained in the Vote, the discussion would be confined to the particular Service in question.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
, on the same point of Order, wished to say that he had given Notice of his intention to move the reduction of the Vote for the Charity Commission by the sum of £2,000. Would he be in Order in moving that Motion after a Division had been taken upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms)?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
There can be no doubt that the hon. Member's proposition can be submitted to the Committee; but it would be more regular to take the discussion upon the particular items. The circumstances are these—the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms)rose as soon as the Question was put from the Chair. I did not see any other hon. Member rise, therefore the hon. Member for Greenwich is now in possession of the Committee; and if he chooses to continue his statement I call upon him to do so.
As I understand the matter, when the hon. Member for Greenwich has made his statement upon a particular subject affecting one or more items, every other hon. Member will be able to rise in succession and introduce any other question without any possibility of bringing it to an issue.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he had a proposition to make for the purpose of curtailing the time over which the Vote on Account would run. By limiting the amount voted, would he be shut out from raising that question, if they embarked in a discussion of the special items included in the Vote?
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he would make a suggestion to the Committee, which he thought would facilitate matters. Would it not be better for the Committee to ignore the hon. Member for Greenwich altogether, and proceed with the Votes as they stood upon the Paper? That course would enable them to get over all the difficulty, if they would proceed with the Votes seriatim.
§ MR. GRAY
said, he had no desire to stand in the way of the hon. Member for Greenwich; but there certainly was a question which he desired to raise, and if it were understood that he would have an opportunity hereafter of bringing that question forward, he was quite willing that the hon. Member should go first. The only desire on his part was to raise the question, and for that purpose he had given a specific Notice, which was on the Paper. He was in his place when the Motion was read by the Chairman; but he had not risen at the very first instance, because he thought it would not have been courteous to the Chairman to have done so. He had naturally assumed that as his Notice 1021 stood first on the Paper, the right hon. Gentleman would at once have called upon him. He had no desire, however, to contest the question of precedence, and if he were afforded an opportunity at any time before the Votes were decided for bringing forward his Motion, he would be perfectly contented.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
The matter is one of considerable importance. The real fact is that the Rules, as understood, apply primarily not to Votes on Account, but rather to the ordinary form of Votes; and all the precedents we have in books, such as Sir Erskine May's, are precedents having regard to the general Votes in the Estimates. Now, the Rule in that matter is perfectly plain, and I think we should follow the spirit of the Rule in dealing with Votes on Account. Following the spirit of the Rule, if the Motion of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) is put first for the reduction of the general Vote, it will render it impossible for hon. Members to discuss particular items in the Vote. I think we should do what is customary in the case of the ordinary Estimates. I remember well, when I had more to do with these Votes than I have had lately, that when two Members wished to move Amendments, the one to reduce the whole Vote and the other to reduce a particular item, by the courtesy of the House the hon. Member who wished to reduce the Vote as a whole withdrew his Motion until those who wished to reduce individual items had had their opportunity. Of course, that could only be done by taking the Votes in regular order. What I would, suggest to the hon. Member for Greenwich is, that he should carry out that which is the spirit in which we have always acted, and withdraw his present Motion until after the Motions of other hon. Members who wish to move the reduction of particular items have been dealt with. When they have been dealt with, the opportunity for the hon. Member for Greenwich will arise.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
hoped the hon. Member for Greenwich would not be deterred, by the obvious desire of the Government to shirk the discussion of this subject, from making his statement first.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
quite agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1022 that the new question which had sprung up was one of considerable importance: but he thought that in this case, seeing that it was simply a Vote on Account, the Committee might be disposed to deal with the Vote as a whole. It did not appear to him that such a course would interfere in any way with the course proposed to be pursued by other hon. Members afterwards in moving the reduction of particular items in the Vote. Suppose, for example, that his hon. Friend, instead of proposing to reduce the Vote by £1,500,000, proposed to reduce it by the whole amount, and the Committee had agreed to that Motion, it would thereupon become the Main Question; and, when put as the Main Question, hon. Members would have a perfect right to bring forward their Motions. Whether that was so or not, he was quite certain that there must be some opportunity upon a Vote on Account for attacking the Vote as a whole, and it did not appear reasonable that his hon. Friend, after having obtained precedence, should give way.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
I do not propose to repeat what I said about our general practice; but I may point out to the right hon. Gentleman that if the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) carried his Motion, the lesser sum would have been absolutely voted, and no other Amendment could be put according to the Forms of the House. Therefore, I would point out again that the Rule should be, in discussing a Vote on Account, to deal with each specific item, and afterwards with the Vote as a whole.
§ MR. SEXTON
said he should like to know, after the statement which had just been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what was the ruling of the Chair?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I adhere to what I have already stated. The hon. Member for Greenwich has moved the reduction of the whole Vote; and. in my view that does not preclude the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray), or any other hon. Member, from moving a reduction afterwards.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
then continued. He was sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would do him the justice to say that, as long as he had had the honour of a seat in it he 1023 had never obstructed or attempted to obstruct Public Business; but he thought the question which he wished to bring before the Committee was one of such urgency that he was obliged to avail himself of this, the only opportunity he might have, for submitting it to the decision of the Committee. He did not propose to open up all the vexed questions connected with the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. Were he to attempt to do so, he thought the fears of hon. Members who thought they would not have a chance of discussing other questions would be well grounded, because he might, perhaps, be compelled on such a subject to make a speech that would compete favourably in length with the recent speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. Fortunately, he had no desire to do anything of the sort, and the reason why he would move the reduction of the Vote was that at that moment they were passing through a crisis of such danger and such magnitude that it was only due to the House of Commons that they should receive from Her Majesty's Government and the Prime Minister more detailed and accurate information than had hitherto been vouchsafed to them. The answer to a Question he had ventured to put to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as to the despatch alleged to have been sent to Lord Dufferin, suggesting that Turkish troops should be sent to the Soudan, was so eminently unsatisfactory that the impression it conveyed to both sides of the House was that the statement contained in the Question was not itself absolutely inaccurate. That constituted, in his opinion, a source of grave danger. The introduction of the Turkish element into the Egyptian Question must be a great danger; but there was also another matter agitating the country, the importance of which could not be overrated—he meant the question of the Conference. Some short time ago he ventured to ask the Prime Minister whether he could give, without detriment to the public interest, some assurance as to the limitation of the Conference. The answer he received was that the Conference would be confined to the financial question. Since that time various intimations had leaked out in the Press as to the statements of Ministers, which led the public to believe that the Conference 1024 would not be strictly limited to financial matters. He thought that people outside the House, and hon. Members within it, were justly entitled to demand from Her Majesty's Government that, taking into consideration the extremely unfortunate manner in which they had, up to the present time, conducted the affairs of Egypt, some sort of guarantee should be given before they found themselves engaged around the Conference Table with the other Powers of Europe, and that some explanation should be afforded by Her Majesty's Government, which should allay the alarm of the public, and re-assure the country as to the projects they intended to introduce at the Conference. The Prime Minister, in answer to a Question on a former occasion in that House, made a very vague statement in regard to the views expressed by France in reference to the Conference. They ought not to forget that the views and interests of France, and those of this country, in Egypt, could not be considered as equal and co-ordinate. Our interests in Egypt were different from those of any other State; and when we went to the Conference, if we submitted to the Conference those matters which were already within our power, we should be submitting to the arbitration of others matters which ought to be kept within our own administration. It was a fact, which it was impossible to deny, that our interests in Egypt were absolutely different from those of any other Power. The only Power which had any interest at all like our own was France. We must recollect that in all recent debates it had invariably been cast in our teeth that the Dual Control was the cause of all the misfortunes of Egypt. He did not wish to resuscitate that question; but he would simply state, in reference to the Conference, that they must not forget that Her Majesty's Government had ample time and means at their disposal, if they thought fit, for doing away with the Dual Control. As a matter of fact, it was not done away with by England; but it ceased at the precise moment when the French men-of-war steamed out of the harbour of Alexandria just before the bombardment of that city. The Dual Control was determined by the French, and not by the English. No doubt, there was now some anxiety on the part of the French Government to re-enact 1025 the Dual Control. Of course, it was impossible to measure the extraordinary ways of Her Majesty's Government. After having condemned the Dual Control to the utmost of their power, and after having cast on the late Government the whole responsibility for the state of Egypt under the Dual Control, nothing would surprise him less than to find Her Majesty's Government reconstituting a new Dual Control. He thought they might fairly ask this of the Government—to follow the precedents established by the Berlin Conference, and to give to the House not only the letters of invitation to the Conference, but also the answers of the Powers to those letters, so that the country might be in a position to know, to some extent, the basis on which the Conference was to assemble. The interests of England in the matter were so vast and so important that he could not conceive how the Government could have any right to withhold from Parliament an indication of what the reasons were which induced them to call the Conference. No doubt, the Government were under the potent spell of the Prime Minister, who was the Dictator of the Liberal Government; but he thought the time had not yet come when the Prime Minister, however potent or eloquent he might be, could possibly assume the character of Dictator of England. It was because he and others, who represented the people of the country, feared that Her Majesty's Government might adopt a tortuous and disastrous policy that he thought the moment had now arrived when the Prime Minister should clearly and distinctly state what his views were in regard to the Conference, so as to enable the House to judge how far the interests of England would be imperilled should the Conference meet. They already knew that the views of the Prime Minister as to the necessity of holding Egypt were not at all in accordance with the views of hon. Members on that side of the House. They would remember that when there was a talk about the Suez Canal, the Prime Minister suggested that the question was one of minor importance, and that it mattered very little, in a time of war, whether ships could go through the Canal or not.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
The right hon. Gentleman said he had never said that. He thought the words of the right hon. Gentleman were that the Cape route to India was quite as good as that by the Suez Canal.
Never. I never said that the Cape route was quite as good, or anything of the kind. I stated the difference between them; but I never said anything like what the hon. Member has just attributed to me.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, that, of course, if the right hon. Gentleman said he had never made that statement, he would at once withdraw it; but he certainly thought that the right hon. Gentleman had made use, in one of his articles in The Nineteenth Century, of words to this effect—that in a time of war it was a matter of little importance whether ships went by the Suez Canal route or by the Cape. He (Baron Henry De Worms) was not one of those who thought the matter was not of importance. He was of opinion that it was of very great importance that they should preserve their communications through Egypt intact. He would ask the Committee to consider this. They knew perfectly well that at the close of the last Turkish War, after the Treaty of Berlin, the position of Russia with regard to Turkey was vastly changed. They knew, after some years of Office by the Prime Minister, that his sympathies were all with Russia, and that Russia had been induced since to make still further encroachments. That evening they had heard, as a geographical fact, that Russia had advanced her frontier 600 miles further since the advent to power of the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore it behoved everyone, seeing that the House was about to adjourn for 10 days, to obtain from Her Majesty's Government some specific declaration that if the Conference was to meet, English interests would not be compromised or sacrificed to that principle of non-responsibility which had been the origin of all their misfortunes in Egypt, and which he feared might end in the death or captivity of General Gordon. Her Majesty 's Government originally employed General Gordon as their Agent, with a view of shifting their responsibility from themselves to his shoulders, and they had abandoned him now because he had failed. He ventured to think that unless 1027 the House exercised a vigilant criticism, the Government, with a view of shirking responsibility and in order to please their peace at-any-price supporters, would endeavour to place upon the shoulders of the Great Powers, who were only too anxious to accept the responsibility, the interests which this country ought to safeguard in Egypt. Therefore, in order that the Government might have an opportunity of explaining to the Committee the basis of the Conference, he moved the reduction of the Vote. Not only the House itself, but millions of people outside the House, had a right to demand from Her Majesty's Government some explicit statement before the Government entered into obligations which the House would be unable to reverse.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £1,968,550, tie granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charge for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1885." — (Baron Henry De Worms.)
It is with some diffidence and hesitation that I ask the attention of the Committee for a few moments, because I am aware that every hon. Gentleman who takes an interest in any one of the items on which we are now asked to take a Vote on Account is as entitled as I am myself to discuss the Motion of the hon. Gentleman; and I know, further, that hon. Members will also be able to go off upon any other subject whatever connected with any one of these Votes. That is the condition to which at present it appears the order of Business in this House is reduced. I am very sorry for it, but it is absolutely necessary that I should say one or two words in answer to the speech of the hon. Member before other subjects, just as relevant as the Egyptian policy, are introduced for discussion. I put aside in a lump the dishonouring imputations which the hon. Member thinks himself entitled to cast on Her Majesty's Government. He says that we have made a tool of General Gordon—that we have employed him to throw our responsibilities upon him, and that we abandoned him because he is no longer of use to us. The hon. Gentleman makes these dishonouring and foul imputations without the slightest attempt to prove them, and an attempt 1028 to make them without proof shows the unscrupulous character of those who make them.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I wish to know if it is a Parliamentary expression for the right hon. Gentleman to say that unscrupulous imputations have been made by an hon. Member, or that any hon. Member is unscrupulous?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I believe that the word has frequently been used before in debate. I do not know that it is unparliamentary.
I observe, Sir, on this occasion, that those who are most ready to cast dishonouring and even base imputations upon their opponents, are themselves the most extraordinarily sensitive to any charge made against themselves. But, Sir, I wish to pass by the whole of these statements of the hon. Gentleman as perfectly and absolutely worthless. I will only deal with those portions of his speech which appear to be directed towards some points of an intelligible character. The hon. Gentleman is greatly alarmed at the introduction of the Turkish element. What does he mean by the introduction of the Turkish element? Is it this—that a Question having been put to my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs without Notice, my noble Friend asked for Notice—
The Notice was received at half-past 2, and that I do not call a Parliamentary Notice at all. My noble Friend would probably have to refer to documents, and to consult other persons, and these things cannot be done always at the very moment when it may suit the convenience of hon. Gentlemen who avoid the regular and understood methods of proceeding, and adopt others of a much less convenient and efficient character. Upon that 1029 fact of my noble Friend requiring Notice, the hon. Member said it amounted evidently to a proof that the whole imputations conveyed in his Question were true. I am astonished at the degree in which prejudice can divert an honest mind from the path of reason, and at the slightness of the foundation on which a most enormous structure can be raised by an overstrained and portentous ingenuity. The hon. Gentleman says he wants some statement as to the Conference, and he puts certain Questions, two of which I will venture to answer. He wishes to know whether anything of a very formidable character is to happen within what he calls the 10 days of the Whitsuntide Recess? I wish there were 10 days, but I am afraid they do not quite amount to that number. In that Recess I do not think it is likely that anything of a very portentous character will happen. I hope that statement will convey some comfort to the mind of the hon. Gentleman. [Baron HENRY DE WORMS dissented.] If my assurance to that effect conveys to him no comfort at all, what was the use of asking for it? I believe a man in a Court of Justice ought never to discredit his own witness. The hon. Gentleman asked me to make an assurance about what is to happen in the course of 10 days, and when I make it he seems to signify that it is of no account. He then asks whether the interests of England will be prejudiced in the Conference? According to our view, conviction, and expectation, there is not the slightest apprehension that the interests of England will be prejudiced in the Conference? The object of the Conference is to consult the interests of Egypt in a manner conformable to reason, and to the interest of all the Powers. I know the hon. Gentleman has given the opinion that there is some essential variance and discrepancy between the interests of England in Egypt and those of other Powers. I need not discuss that opinion on the present occasion; but I would put it to him as regards the narrower question of the settlement of Egyptian finances, that even probably he would not think it necessary to assert that there must be necessarily a great divergence or any conflict between the interests of England and of the other Great Powers. Europe has an interest in the settlement of Egyptian finance as well as England; and I do 1030 not think there can be anything like discrepancy in the interests of the several Powers in the settlement of the matter. Of course, the plans that England may propose and that the Conference may adopt will be subject to the control of this House. If they touch money matters, the hon. Gentleman is well aware they cannot possibly take effect without the assent of this House; and I should have thought there was no subject with regard to which his susceptibilities have so little need to be excited, as they appear to be at this moment, as the discussions of the Conference, which is going to deal with the financial question in Egypt, because, if we make propositions prejudicial to England, or propositions which, although not prejudicial to England, may affect the Prerogatives of this House, in regard to public money, the hon. Gentleman is perfectly aware that the matter must come under the cognizance of this House, and that no Executive Government is able to pledge this House with respect to such a subject. For instance, if I go back to the transactions of the Suez Canal, the sum of money voted as a commission on that occasion this House was free to reject if it had thought fit. It passed the Vote; but its jurisdiction was unquestionable, and in every money transaction that fact is perfectly well understood and known over the whole world. But I really want to get at the object of the hon. Gentleman, and, so far as I can, to meet him. I have said that, as respects finance, it appears to me he ought to feel perfectly secure, not from his confidence in the Government, but from the limitations under which every Government must necessarily act. But I suppose his object really must be to ascertain whether I hold to what I previously stated in regard to the limitation of the Conference. Am I right in that? If I am right in that, I will do what I can to meet him. In passing by, somewhat summarily, what I thought were dishonouring imputations, I did not mean to include the imputation the hon. Member made on me as to the airs of a Dictator. That is quite within the limits of good-humoured criticism, and I understood entirely its object. I hope it is not necessary for me to disclaim that imputation, and I am not aware of any facts or evidence, even colourable, by which it 1031 can be supported. It was my duty to state the limitations of the Conference to the House, but that did not imply that the limitations of the Conference had any special reference to any view of mine. It was the product of the united deliberation, and it represented the united decision, of the Cabinet. That limitation is established, and cannot possibly be presented to the House in a better form than in the letter of invitation which the hon. Gentleman has seen. He says—"Will you not lay before the House the letters you have received in reply? "It would not be in accordance with precedent that we should do so. The case of the Treaty of Berlin stands upon a totally different footing, because in relation to that Treaty the Government had made it an important financial measure, and asked the House for a very large Vote of money, making the House in that way a partner with the Government in the proceeding hand in hand, and the whole matter required that the Government should lay before the House all the information in their power. We have asked nothing of the kind. What we shall propose to the Conference we shall propose without obtaining any special Vote of Confidence, without obtaining the support of £6,000,000 from Parliament. But we do not at all disguise from the House what the purpose of the Conference is, and I repeat what I have already stated in an answer which I gave to a Question the other day, that we adhere to the basis of the Conference as it was originally laid down. So far as my information goes, I am not aware that any of the Great Powers will endeavour to draw us aside from that basis. The letters, even if they were laid on the Table, I believe would add nothing to the information of the House. But it is the invitation to which we are pledged. That is our act, and for that, and for every act in the Conference, we shall always be ready to answer to the House at the proper time. I do not remember that there was anything else in the speech of the hon. Member which I ought to refer to. Yes, there was one other matter which I ought to refer to. He said it would not at all surprise him if we were to reconstitute the Dual Control. Well, Sir, I do not think that sentiment of his will ever be brought to an issue. I never heard that the hon. Member ob- 1032 jected to the Control; but, whether he does or does not, I think he has very little reason to apprehend that the day will ever come when we shall propose the revival of an arrangement with respect to which, although I have always been glad to admit that it was adopted honestly and with good intentions, yet we consider that it has been productive of disastrous results. I have now endeavoured to answer the Questions asked with reference to the limitation of the Conference, and what may take place in the Recess in regard to the interests of England and the Dual Control, and I hope the Committee may now be allowed to proceed with its Business.
MR. J. LOWTHER
I was glad to notice, in the concluding portion of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, that he slightly modified the somewhat heated tone which I think he very unreasonably assumed in the earlier part of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to intimate that my hon. Friend had made a charge of a very unusual character, and one almost unprecedented in the annals of Parliament.
MR. J. LOWTHER
Well, I hope that "dishonouring" is an unusual charge to make within the walls of this House. If I were to take the liberty, for a moment, of criticizing my hon. Friend, I should say that he merely gave very effective utterance to sentiments which have been frequently expressed in this House, and which I may say have been largely repeated by the Press of the country, with the general approbation of his countrymen. That really appears to me to be the sum total of the offending of my hon. Friend; and I must entirely disclaim on his part the slightest claim to originality of sentiment in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman appears to think that the answers that have been given in reply to Questions addressed to the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues have been perfectly adequate. The question is a very clear and plain one, and I must own I thought that the rhetorical powers of the right hon. Gentleman exceeded themselves in his attempt to evade a distinct issue. What does the right hon. Gentleman say? He says, in effect, that he considers the affairs of Egypt of no more importance to Eng- 1033 land than the affairs of remote portions of the globe in which we have no more concern than other Powers. He said that he would defend the paramount interests of England in Egypt, as he would defend them in all other parts of the world. That means that the paramount interests of England in, say, Morocco or Tunis are precisely, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, on all fours with the interests of England in Egypt. What other construction could be placed on the words of the right hon. Gentleman, when he went out of his way to compare our interests in Egypt with our interests with any other portion of the globe in which England cannot be said to possess those paramount, not to say exclusive, interests which, undoubtedly, we possess in Egypt? I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has still failed to answer the very plain question addressed to him. I will venture to repeat it; it is whether, in the event of any attempt being successfully made to enlarge the scope of the Conference beyond the mere question of finance, the British Representative will be instructed to withdraw? That is a plain question, which we are justified in addressing to the right hon. Gentleman, and in regard to which we are entitled to a reply before the Government are placed in a position of independence of the House of Commons for two months to come—for that will be the effect of this Vote, coupled with the assistance of "Counts-out" and the monoply of public time which the Government have already acquired. As matters now stand, nothing can be done by the House unless the adjournment is moved. The Government decline to give us information as to what steps they are taking. The right hon. Gentleman has talked on several occasions about covenants entered into by their Predecessors in Office in regard to Egypt. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that any steps taken by the Government which may involve the expenditure of blood and treasure will be, a they put it, on account of covenants, and not because Egypt constitutes the highway to our Indian Empire? This is a point the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in mystifying; but I hope the Government will no longer decline to answer the very plain question whether, in the event of any attempt being successfully made to enlarge the scope of 1034 the Conference beyond the pure and simple question of finance, the British Representative thereat will be instructed to withdraw?
I need not detain the Committee a moment in saying that, as we enter into the Conference without information from the other Powers of their intention to attempt to enlarge the basis of it, it would be conveying an imputation on the honour of those other Powers if we were to give a pledge with regard to a contingency of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman will see that I should be guilty of a want of courtesy if I were to give a pledge on the subject. May I offer an apology to the hon. Member for Green-which (Baron Henry De Worms) as to a phrase from, which a misunderstanding might arise? As the matter stands, it might be reported, and truly reported, that I appeared to speak of the hon. Gentleman as an unscrupulous character; but I had not the slightest intention of saying anything of the kind. My idea was that his argument was somewhat unscrupulous; and if the phrase is reported in a naked form, so as to suggest a personal application, the hon. Gentleman will understand that that was not intended.
§ MR. BOURKE
I should like to say one or two words on this subject. I had not intended to say anything, and I should not have done so but for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. There were, however, one or two remarks which fell from the right hon. Gentleman which I think I ought to notice. I am sure that, on the whole, the remarks of the Prime Minister will have given the Committee more confidence that the deliberations of the Conference will be limited to finance. There can be no doubt that that is the great question agitating the public mind at this moment; and with respect to the precedent mentioned relating to the Congress of Berlin, when the invitation and the replies were laid on the Table, I wish to make one remark. The right hon. Gentleman said that was quite a different case, because there were military and other steps taken that came under the purview of the House of Commons. But that was not the reason why the invitation and the replies were presented to Parliament at the time. The real reason was that the great and 1035 burning question at the moment was whether the Treaty of San Stefano was to be laid in its entirety before the Congress or not, or whether the deliberations of the Congress were to be confined to certain points. Therefore, it was necessary for the Government to show to the country, who were anxious for information on the point, that by the invitation and the replies the whole Treaty of San Stefano was to be laid before the Congress. This is precisely the case at present. What the country is really auxious to know is whether the question of finance is to be the only question to be submitted to the Conference. I do think, after the declarations of the Prime Minister, the country will be more satisfied than it was before, that the questions to be brought before the Conference will be limited to finance; and I cannot but think, as I have thought all along, that the discussions in the House of Commons will give the the Government a great deal more strength in going into the Conference than they would have had if these discussions had not taken place. There can be no doubt that although the House of Commons may entertain Votes of Censure and criticize the Egyptian policy of the Government, at the same time I am quite certain that the House and the country are prepared to sustain Her Majesty's Government in asserting our position in Egypt and in maintaining the position that the Government have declared over and over again we are entitled to occupy by necessity, by Treaty rights, and by the circumstances of the last two years. I am very glad to receive the assurance that the scope of the Conference is limited. I have only one more remark to make with regard to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. He has referred to the invitation sent to the Powers. If we took the invitation simply as the basis of the Conference, I am afraid it might be open to some of the Powers to allege that the reference therein to the causes of the present condition of finance might be capable of a wider interpretation, and that the whole question of the Government of Egypt might be raised. I am afraid that, unless the Government are determined that nothing but finance shall be discussed, the invitation might be appealed to as offering an excuse for the introduction of other subjects. We 1036 must take the invitation now, not only as it stands, but also accompanied by the declaration of the Prime Minister, that the Conference shall be limited to finance.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee were made upon an assumption, drawn from the speech of the Prime Minister, which, in his (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett's) opinion, was not quite correct. He did not understand the Prime Minister to say in any statement he had made to the House that the Conference was to be limited to the subject of finance. If it dealt with the subject of Egyptian finance at large, it was perfectly evident that would include the whole question of the present condition of Egypt, because the financial question was the Egyptian Question. If the Powers were allowed to go into the question of the practical bankruptcy of Egypt, it was quite evident that such an examination would raise the whole question of our relations with Egypt, our conduct towards Egypt, our tenure of power, and the length of time we proposed to remain in the country. He thought the Prime Minister had done better than speak of limitation to finance. He had said to the House that the invitation to the Conference was limited to a discussion of the Law of Liquidation. He hoped he was right in assuming that.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he was not basing this assumption upon the letter of invitation only, but on answers which had been given to Questions in that House. He had understood the Prime Minister distinctly to state that the invitation to the Conference was limited to the consideration of the Law of Liquidation. Beyond that they had not yet been able to draw the Prime Minister. When they asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government would refuse to enter upon the discussion of other subjects, supposing the majority of the other Powers assembled at the Conference were disposed to widen the scope of the discussion, the Prime Minister refused to bind himself to such a limitation on the ground that it was discourteous to the other Powers. He could quite understand, in the pre- 1037 sent awkward condition of our foreign relations, and the fear the Government had lest the Powers would not go into the Conference, that the Prime Minister might be unwilling to make any formal statement in that House that might give offence to the French or the Russian Governments, who were naturally averse to entering into the Conference in the limited sense of the right hon. Gentleman. He could quite understand that, while the right hon. Gentleman preferred not to make any formal statement as to the consideration of other subjects, he had fully determined in his own mind that no other subjects should be considered. If that were the case, and the Government were determined that the Conference should not extend its consideration beyond the Law of Liquidation, then he took it that the House and the country would be perfectly satisfied. But if the mind of the right hon. Gentleman was still in an irresolute condition; if he was still waiting for something to turn up; if he had not yet decided that the discussion of the Conference should be limited to the Law of Liquidation, then he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) said that they were entering on a course which was most dangerous, and which might probably be more disastrous to the interests of the country than any step the Government had yet taken. It was perfectly impossible that the Government could allow any co-partnership with any other Power in her dealings with Egypt. It was quite obvious that our interests in Egypt were paramount to those of any other country, and that they must remain free and untrammelled by the interests of other countries. That was the point upon which the whole country had decided. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Oh!] The hon. Member said "Oh!" but he believed, if the country were polled to-morrow, that not one-tenth of the votes would be found in favour of allowing any other Power to mix up their authority with ours in the affairs of Egypt, whatever the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) might think. Just imagine the condition of Egypt with six foreign masters jealous of each other and intriguing against each other. He wished to say one word as to the statement of the Prime Minister that our interests were identical with those of the other Powers. The Prime Minister, and every Member 1038 of the Government, knew perfectly well that one of our main difficulties in Egypt for the past two years had been the intriguing of Foreign Powers against British influence. So notorious was that fact, that it was not necessary to demonstrate it further. While the Government professed, and perhaps rightly, a certain amount of confidence in the good intentions of other Powers, they were bound to take those statements for what they were worth. Sir Evelyn Baring, if he were asked by the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, could doubtless explain to the world that there was one Power which was always thwarting and embarrassing our purposes in regard to the administration of Egypt. This was the worst possible moment that could have been selected for submitting our policy to a Conference. Never had this country stood in a worse position with regard to European affairs and European feeling than at this moment. Every organ of the Press in Europe was criticizing our policy in the most severe terms, on account of its weakness and of the disastrous effects which that weakness was producing. He would not trouble the Committee with many quotations; but he should like to read a few words from a leading paper in France— The République Française—which showed the feeling entertained in that country. Commenting on the Prime Minister's speech upon the Vote of Censure, on May 15th, the article said—To wait five months before sending aid to Gordon, when the fall of Khartoum is now only a question of weeks ! What a decision! To glorify as an insurrection not dissimilar to the heroic rebellions of Greece or Italy the migration of a band of barbarians, led by a fanatic and a set of slave dealers, what a strange conception !The Neue Freie Presse of Vienna, the leading journal of Austria, wrote on the same day—The English Government, says Mr. Gladstone, will not enter into a conflict with a people struggling for liberty. How very fine that sounds. It has a genuine Gladstonian ring, and puts us in mind of his enthusiasm for the Bulgarians. But, then, why combat Arabi Pasha? why bombard Alexandria? why fight the battle of Tel-el-Kebir? and, above all, why attack Osman Digna? What becomes of logic and reason in presence of such inconsistencies? In what fashion has England fulfilled her obligations to Europe? After nearly two years of English administration things have reached such an extremity that Europeans in Egypt 1039 tremble for their lives and property. That is as great a disgrace for England as the sacrifice of Gordon.That was the temper of the whole of Europe at this moment; and bearing that fact in mind, it was of paramount importance, if we went into the Conference at all, that we should go into it with a complete understanding that if the Powers of Europe endeavoured to extend the scope of the Conference the British Government would at once withdraw from it. That was the only security we had for our position. The Prime Minister told them that the Dual Control had been disastrous, and that it could not be revived. Now, he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had never been enamoured of the Dual Control; but he had heard statements from the Bench opposite that up to the year 1880 it had been productive of great advantage. Not only the Prime Minister, but the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington), had told them that the Dual Control had tended to mitigate the condition of the Egyptian people, and had proved of much advantage to that country generally. As a matter of fact, the evils which were supposed to have resulted from the Dual Control did not result so long as statesmen guided the affairs of the country. So long as the late Government were in power the administration of the affairs of Egypt was satisfactory; but the moment the late Government fell, and the feeble, vacillating, and inconsistent grasp of the present Ministry was applied to Egyptian affairs, then, indeed, the Dual Control became an engine of mischief, and a source of despair to that country. He failed to follow the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in regard to the Treaty of Berlin. The right hon. Gentleman told them that this was a case altogether different from that which preceded the Treaty of Berlin, because, forsooth, some months previous to the meeting of the Congress the Government had asked for a Vote of £6,000,000 in order to place the Naval and Military Forces of the country upon a stronger footing. But what were Her Majesty's Government going to do now? They were said to be about to ask for a Vote of £8,000,000 on behalf of Egypt—perhaps not in the name of this country; but everybody knew that when such an 1040 advance was made, it would be made more or less upon a guarantee of this country in reference to Egyptian finance. It was not certain whether the Government were going to make this proposition or not; but, if they did, he hoped there would be a perfectly clear understanding in regard to it. Under these circumstances, he thought the argument of the analogy between the Treaty of Berlin and the present position of affairs was complete, and that there was not such difference as the Prime Minister suggested. His hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) had raised a perfectly fair discussion, and, unhappily, the opportunities for discussing such Motions were indeed rare in that House. "Oh !"] Hon. Members opposite objected; but he would repeat that the opportunities for considering important questions of foreign policy in that House were very rare. All the Morning Sittings, which belonged by right to private Members, had been taken from them. He would appeal to the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) whether he did not agree with what he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) said? What opportunity had the hon. Member or his Friends obtained for bringing forward the important question of the Congo Treaty? That was a most important question; but the hon. Member had failed to find a single day for calling attention to it. Under these circumstances, he thought the thanks of the House were due to the hon. Member for Greenwich for bringing forward the question. If he understood the Prime Minister rightly, the right hon. Gentleman was determined in his own mind that the Conference should not be allowed to deal with any subject beyond the Law of Liquidation. If that were so, he believed the majority of hon. Members sitting on that side of the House would be perfectly satisfied with that declaration; but if it should not prove to be the case, he should then undoubtedly attribute any evils which might befall the country to the nervelessness and vacillation of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he could not conceive what the object of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) was in bringing forward the Amendment. It appeared to be based upon the assumption that what was to be submitted to the Conference was not 1041 the liquidation of the Debt, but the present position of Egypt. That position was perfectly clear. Europe knew perfectly well that so long as the present Prime Minister remained in power there would be no attempt to carry out the bandit policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that their object was simply to set Egypt on its legs again, giving them a fair start, and then absolutely to retire from the country. If there was anything necessary to prove that, it was to be seen in the Protocol— the self-denying Protocol signed by the Representative of Her Majesty's Government (Lord Dufferin) at Constantinople. In that Protocol they pledged themselves in common with the European Powers to derive no sort of advantage for themselves from their occupation of Egypt. With that pledge staring them in the face they should, as he thought the Prime Minister had stated in that House, disgrace themselves if they attempted to carry out the policy suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite, which simply meant that they had gone there, that they had killed a certain number of Egyptian people, and spent a great deal of money in bombarding their towns, by means of which they had acquired certain rights, and among them the right of insisting that Egypt should belong to them. That was not the policy of Her Majesty's Government, nor would they long retain the confidence of hon. Members on that side of the House if it became so. There was only one point that he would urge at that moment, and it was this. He gathered from the Press that the Egyptian Government themselves were not to be represented at the Conference. Now the Conference was to be convened for the purpose of looking into the Law of Liquidation—that was to say, to see how far Egypt could be taxed for the benefit of the bondholders. He certainly hoped, if Egypt was not to be represented at the Conference, that whoever was there to represent Her Majesty's Government would consider themselves not only the representatives of the bondholders, but also the representatives of the taxpayers of Egypt. He thought it would be their duty to provide for the legitimate expense of the administration of Egypt, and after adequate provision was made in that respect then let them pay the bondholders; but 1042 do not let them, by any attempt to tax the Egyptians unfairly or to force them to contribute an illegitimate portion of their earnings, place the interests of the bondholders before the interests of the country. He hoped and believed that something in that direction might be done; and he trusted that whoever represented Her Majesty's Government would carefully inquire into the question, and would not allow the unfortunate fellaheen to be unfairly taxed.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he only wished to say one or two words upon this very important Motion. He regarded the declaration of the Prime Minister as being satisfactory as far as it went with regard to the position of the Conference; but be could not avoid noticing that the Prime Minister carefully abstained from saying a single word about the preliminary conversations, or whatever the Government might please to call them, now going on with France. Now, that was a question that was considered to be of very great importance by the whole of the country; so important that the country was still anxious to have some further declaration. He was sorry to see that the Prime Minister was at that moment absent; but he trusted to hear from the noble Lord who represented the Foreign Office in that House that, whatever understanding might be come to with France—although the Prime Minister said the Dual Control was not to be revived—that no Multiple Control, or, in fact, any Power, should be allowed to interfere in the management of Egypt. That was what the country wished to know. After their victories, and after the large amount of money expended in Egypt, they ought to receive a satisfactory assurance that no other nation should be allowed to interfere with the management we had obtained, and rightly obtained, in Egypt. That was the question they wished to have answered— namely, that no interference with their power in Egypt should be allowed to take place until they had finished the work which the Government admitted they had undertaken to perform — namely, the restoration of tranquillity and the establishment of good government in Egypt. The anxiety of the public had been excited by the uncertain answers which had been given by the Prime Minister to Questions which had been 1043 put to him. If the right hon. Gentleman had answered the queries put to him in the same spirit as the remarks he had made in regard to the Law of Liquidation—if he had only stated that the Government would not go one jot beyond that question—he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was sure the country would have been satisfied, which it certainly was not at the present moment. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in the absence of the Prime Minister, might be in a position to supplement what the Prime Minister had stated, and might say that no interference on the part of any Power would be permitted until the work we had undertaken in regard to Egypt should have been accomplished. Then, and not till then, would the country be satisfied that the Government did not intend to go beyond that which they had stated to be their intention.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
only wished to say half-a-dozen words upon this subject. He had already shown in a previous discussion which had taken place upon Egyptian finance that he had no particular sympathy for the bondholders. He had pointed out that a country which could not pay its working expenses and the interest of its Foreign Debt was a bankrupt country. Egypt was at present in that position, and the first duty of the Government of Egypt was to set aside the money necessary for carrying on the effective government of the country, and then to hand over what was left, if any, to the bondholders. His own opinion was that the best means of protecting the bondholders was to take that course—namely, to set aside all that was necessary for proper administration and good government in Egypt, and then to allow anything that remained to go to the bondholders. There was a time when the Israelites borrowed silver and gold from the Egyptians, and went off into the desert with it. The Egyptians had reversed that operation now, and had borrowed silver and gold from the Israelites, telling them to go into the wilderness without it. He thought the Statute of Limitations might be pleaded; but it was, perhaps, too late for that kind of revenge. He was firmly convinced, however, that this was the real and essential point for this country to consider—namely, that what was necessary for the good government of Egypt 1044 should be first taken, and then that what was left should be handed over to the bondholders.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
wished to raise a point which he had endeavoured to bring forward in the form of a Question, but upon which he had certainly received no very great amount of satisfaction. He entirely sympathized with the views expressed in regard to the Conference by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). He thought the public opinion of this country—at least its honest and genuine opinion—was that the Representatives of England at the Conference should have regard to the interests of the people of Egypt as well as the bondholders. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad to find that that observation met with a considerable amount of assent from the other side of the House; but he would have been more pleased if hon. Members opposite had taken care of the interests of the Egyptian people a little earlier, and had opposed one of the most infamous, most unjust, and most wicked wars of modern times. In fact, he did not know whether in speaking of that war he ought to call it a Jingo war, or a war made; from the motive that by waging it the bloodshed that would ensue might prove a good cry in justification of the annexation of the country. He cordially joined the hon. Member for Northampton in demanding that the Representatives of England should take care of the interests of the people of Egypt. He understood from the Prime Minister's statement that the Law of Liquidation would be the subject brought before the Conference, and he assumed that the meaning of that in plain language was that the creditors of Egypt were to be asked to take a smaller amount of interest than they were at present receiving from the overburdened people of Egypt. That, no doubt, was a very commendable object, but he should like to make one or two observations in regard to it. It was said to be a bondholders' war; but the bondholders incurred a good deal of the blame which ought to attach to other people. It was true that they obtained a rather large percentage, but they got it at considerable risk, which could not be said of other people—the loan-mongers who had obtained millions of money without incurring any risk whatever. As a matter of fact, they had it in 1045 their packets at that day, and their only regret seemed to be that they had not been able to obtain a larger share of the plunder. Now, he wished to tell the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that this was a point of view which would be very much pressed upon the Government. His hon. Friend the Member for Northampton said it served them right; but, as a matter of fact, he believed that a large portion of the Egyptian Debt was now held by French and German bondholders, who had nothing whatever to do with the mating of the war, and who were as innocent as the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) in reference to it. Were these hard-working men to be asked to submit to the sacrifice of their money or their interest, which, in some cases, was their whole source of income and means of livlihood? Were they to be asked to submit to a large reduction in the value of their property, while the English loanmongers were allowed to keep every penny of their ill-gotten plunder? That was a point that would be pressed upon the attention of the Government with energy and frequency. He did not see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) in his place, and he did not mean to make any observations as to the right hon. Gentleman's share in these transactions until he was in his place; but he would give Notice that on the first opportunity he could obtain he would call the attention of the House and of the country to the part which the house of Goschen and Fr¨hling had taken in the financial transactions of Egypt. Every penny had been obtained by these loanmongers at an usurious interest which would not have done discredit to a Hebrew house in the days of King John; and every penny obtained from the unfortunate fellaheen by means of the bastinado had been freely used in order to build up the fortunes of public statesmen. He was satisfied that this was a question which both Germany and France would force upon the attention of the Government. What would the representative of an important class of French citizens, who invested their money in the funds and in foreign loans, say to the noble Lord, or to anybody else representing England, when it was proposed that the French rentier should give up a portion of his interest in order 1046 to make the rule of England in Egypt a little easier? What would Prince Bismark say when it was proposed that some hard-working German peasant or shopkeeper should give up a portion of his income for a similar purpose? The Representatives of both of those Powers would be able to say that it was the duty of England to look first at home, and to insist upon a large sum of money being returned to Egypt, the extortion of which was one of the main causes of the difficulty. He certainly intended to press this upon the attention of the Government, and it was only the absence of the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) which prevented him from doing so at once. He intended again and again raising the question, until the people of France and Germany, if his voice were able to reach them, should learn who it was who were really responsible for the bankruptcy and miserable condition of the Egyptian people.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, they were now asked to pass a Vote on Account. They had already passed one, and this was the second in the course of the present Session. He thought they ought to have some assurance from Her Majesty's Government that it would be the last Vote on Account that would be asked for, and that, having passed it, the Estimates would be voted in regular and proper course with a full discussion upon the balance of the money yet to be obtained. He hoped the House would not be prejudiced, in raising any question which might be properly asked upon the balances, by anything which might have previously occurred. He thought an assurance of that kind on the part of Her Majesty's Government would facilitate the discussion on the present occasion.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
quite agreed with what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory). He had intended to move the reduction of the Vote so as to give the Committee an early opportunity of proceeding with the Estimates; but after the discussion which had taken place on another matter, he would not take up the time of the Committee. He trusted, however, that they would have some such assurance as his hon. Friend had asked for at the hands of the Government. He was sure that such 1047 an assurance would give great satisfaction.
said, it was all very well to talk of having no more Votes on Account; but, according to the way in which the Business of the House was now transacted, there must be Votes on Account at certain periods of the Session, because the discussion of the Civil Service Estimates was now spread over the whole of the Session, and by the time they reached the month of August they had seldom got through one-half of the Votes. So long as the Business of the House was conducted in that fashion, it only stood to reason that the Government must have Votes on Account every few months. He wished to make a suggestion to the Government on another point. He had no doubt they were as anxious as he was to secure that every part of the Civil Service Estimates in its turn should be properly and fully discussed. According to the present system they discussed in minute detail Class I. of the Civil Service Estimates, and sometimes Class II.; but all the remaining Classes were never discussed at all, simply because it was impossible to bring them on until the month of August, and by that time the patience of the House was exhausted. Hon. Members were looking forward to the Prorogation, and it was practically impossible to secure anything in the nature of a real discussion. He wanted to know if it were not possible to introduce some change? For instance, could not Her Majesty's Government bring forward the Civil Service Estimates in a different order in succeeding Sessions? Why not bring forward next Session Classes IV. and V. in the first instance, so that those particular Classes should receive adequate discussion? As it was, they had the earlier Classes of the Estimates discussed ad nauseam after long speeches made about the Royal Palaces and Public Buildings, and the arrangements of the Office of Works. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would admit that there were very important Votes which appeared later in the Estimates — such, for instance, as Votes in aid of the Colonies, which raised important questions of Imperial policy— that were practically never discussed at all. His suggestion, assuming that these Votes on Account could not be prevented, was that the Civil Service 1048 Estimates should be presented in a different order in different Sessions.
Of course, it is impossible to give any pledge upon this subject, which is a very difficult one; but I will do all in my power to avoid the inconveniences that have been referred to. The Committee will, however, bear in mind the great change that has taken place in our circumstances of late years. The Supplementary Estimates have now assumed such a character that they take nearly as much time in debate as I have often known the proper Civil Service Estimates for the year to take, so that, in fact, the whole of the available time before Easter for Supply is occupied in discussing them, leaving no room for the discussion of the Civil Service Estimates themselves until after Easter. Then there is is the new invention, which I shall never cease humbly and respectfully to protest against, of spending three weeks in discussing the Address, instead of disposing of it in one night. However, with regard to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), we will do the best we can to give effect to it.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER (LORD MAYOR)
said, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the House itself was placed in a somewhat awkward position in regard to the Estimates. Formerly, any private Member who had a question to bring forward could always find an opportunity for doing so on going into Committee of Supply. The result of that was, that if any hon. Member had a grievance to complain of, if he only stopped in the House long enough, he was sure to have an opportunity of getting the matter disposed of before the end of the Session, when Government wanted Supply; and it was to the interest of the Government in those days to enable him to do so, because they knew that if it was not disposed of before, it would be brought forward in August, when it would be most inconvenient to them to deal with it. It was, therefore, of importance to the Government that it should be disposed of at a proper time. Nowadays, the Government took Mondays and Thursdays for Supply without discussing any question on the Motion for going into Committee, and private Members were consequently prevented on those days from bringing Motions forward. This course was taken 1049 because it was thought that it gave more time for debating the Estimates themselves; but there were some questions— such as that in. regard to Zululand, of which his hon. Friend the Member for Midhurst (Sir Henry Holland) had given Notice—which might be satisfactorily dealt with on going into Committee of Supply, instead of being put off until the end of the Session.
§ MR. MONK
said, there was one suggestion he should like to make, which he thought was worthy of consideration. Under the present system, it was perfectly clear that Votes on Account must be taken; and even if the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) were adopted, that other Classes of the Estimates should betaken before Class I., still they would never be able to get through a single Class of the Estimates before the time arrived for taking Votes on Account. The suggestion he would make to the Prime Minister was this. The Prime Minister was of opinion that the Standing Committees on Law and Trade were an excellent institution; he (Mr. Monk) believed so himself; and what he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman was that when he revised again the Rules of Procedure he should provide that there should be a Standing Committee to examine the Estimates, that being, he thought, the only way in which the Estimates could be properly considered by the House. Under the present arrangement, when the Estimates were under consideration, there were rarely 40 Members present; and if they were considered by a Standing Committee of 60 or 65 Members upstairs, it would be far better for the interest of the country, and the Estimates would be more carefully considered than they were now by the Committee of the Whole House.
§ MR. WARTON
said, with regard to the suggestion which had just been made by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), it was perfectly true, as the hon. Member stated, that very of ten, on considering the Estimates, there were only 30 or 40 Members present; but the hon. Member seemed to have forgotten the fact that in a Grand Committee there might be fewer than 30 or 40 Members present, and that by taking these subjects out of the control of the House, and only affording to a few Members the right of discussing the Estimates, 1050 they would prevent Army men from dealing with the Army Votes and Naval men from dealing with the Navy Votes. That was a consideration which ought not to be entirely forgotten. A Grand Committee of 60 or 80 Members could not have upon it all the military Members of the House as well as those who represented all the different interests that were represented in a Committee of the Whole House. He, therefore, thought it would be a mistake to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Gloucester. The Prime Minister, in the remarks he addressed to the Committee a short time ago, spoke of the Supplementary Estimates. He begged to remind the right hon. Gentleman that he himself was responsible for the Supplementary Estimates, about which complaints were so justly made, taking up so much of the time of the House in an early period of the Session. He desired to enter his protest against these Votes on Account, because they enabled the Government to omit doing that which was right, and to do that which they ought not to do. He thought the House ought to have ample time for the consideration of the Estimates. He was afraid that all Governments fell into a great mistake, and committed a cardinal sin, with regard to the functions of Parliament. The primary duty of Parliament was not to pass so many hundred Bills in the course of a Session, but to consider the Estimates with due regard to economy and efficiency. It was perfectly disgraceful that they should have to wait until the last week of August, as was the case last year, before they could discuss 19 out of the 25 Army Votes, and that the subject of Indian finance should be postponed until the last week of the Session. It was perfectly absurd to flood the Order Book with a large number of Bills, and he was afraid that therein lay the real evil. He was not easting special blame upon Her Majesty's Government; on the contrary, he blamed all Governments more or less, because they all set out a false principle. At the beginning of the Session, they found in Her Most Gracious Majesty's Speech an ambitious programme—a programme so ambitious that the most sanguine Minister could not expect to carry it out. What was the use of putting a dozen measures into the Queen's Speech, and only one little line about the Estimates? With regard 1051 to the conflicting duties of legislation and the consideration of the Estimates, what had the Government themselves done only as recently as Friday last? They did not apply for one penny of money, although early in the evening, before 12 o'clock, the Motions were all disposed of. Instead of going on with the Votes, they contented themselves with bringing in two trumpery wretched Bills which might very well not have been introduced at all. That showed the sincerity of the Government. He should always contend that the primary duty of the House was to look after the Estimates, with the object of securing due economy and the efficiency of the Services, both of which objects were too much neglected. His own opinion was that the Services of the country might be rendered much more efficient than they were, and that less money might be spent upon them. As to the particular matter now before the Committee, he was glad to find the Prime Minister was able to go as far as he had done. He fully admitted that the Prime Minister himself observed courtesy towards Foreign Powers. The conduct of the Government must, however, be judged by the past, and if they were going to turn over a new leaf, he hoped the time would soon arrive when the power and word of England would again be esteemed and respected. He trusted that the deliberations of the Conference would be strictly limited to the Law of Liquidation; but he was afraid that if they were extended to the general subject of finance, an ingenious foreign Representative would find himself able to introduce any subject whatever. For instance, it might be asked—"What are you going to do with the British Army, and are the Egyptians to pay for it?" He therefore earnestly hoped that Tier Majesty's Government would persevere with their intention that there should be nothing but the Law of Liquidation referred to in the Conference. His own opinion was, that if the Government had adopted a better policy in Egypt, and had boldly assumed a Protectorate, the guarantee of England's wealth and interest would have prevented the country from, getting into its present difficulty.
§ MR. SALT
said, he rose to add his voice to that of other hon. Members in the request that the Government would 1052 not find it necessary to have another Vote on Account this year. The inconvenience of Votes on Account was so very obvious that he would not trouble the Committee by recapitulating them at that moment. He wished also to say a word with regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) as to referring the Estimates to a Grand Committee. He thought the House itself was the only Body that could exercise a proper control over the Estimates. He would not pursue that argument further, and he trusted that his hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) would be satisfied with the discussion he had raised, and would now withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I wish to call the attention of the Committee to a ruling which I gave a short time ago. I said that the Motion of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) would not preclude other hon. Members who had Notices on the Paper with regard to certain items in the Estimates, or, indeed, those who had not placed Notices on the Paper, from raising discussions upon those points, and taking a vote of the Committee—that is, taking a vote in reduction of the general sum asked for, but they would not be able to take any vote upon a particular item. If, on the other hand, I had called upon the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray), whose Notice appeared first on the Paper, and who proposes to reduce the Vote by a particular item, that particular item being one of the last Votes in the Estimate, I should have precluded all other hon. Members who desired to raise a discussion, and to move a reduction in other Votes.