§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been called to the following statements, made by the Cor- 1175 respondent of The Standard at Suakin on the 23rd:—The avowed determination of Government to abandon the Soudan after taking Khartoum must have the effect of driving every tribesman inclined to help us into the arms of the Mahdi, it will in no way disarm the fanatical hostility of the enemy; the news known here to-day will he carried to-morrow across the Desert. In ten days it will be known at Berber and Khartoum, and throughout the whole of the valley of the Upper Nile, and will be a direct incitement on the part of the English Government to every tribe in the Soudan to rise on the flanks and rear of our little army there, for it is a notice that all who take our part or show us friendship will be finally abandoned to the vengeance of the Mahdi. The most intense bitterness is felt and expressed by officers and men here. They feel that Government has thus once more, at a critical moment, increased the difficulties and dangers of their arduous undertaking, and has added one more to the series of blunders which will have to be retrieved by their life blood; the declaration last year that the Soudan was to be abandoned doomed General Gordon's mission to failure, and cost him his life. The consequences of the reiteration of that pledge today are likely to prove scarcely less disastrous;and, whether he will now make a declaration that will avert these disastrous results?
The hon. Gentleman has been misled by the statements of a correspondent. I am not surprised that the correspondent should have been misled; but I am a little surprised that the hon. Gentleman should have been, as he heard the statement which I made in this House the other day. He calls my attention, and asks me to read a recantation in consequence of a statement of the Correspondent of The Standard that there has been an avowed determination on the part of the Government to abandon the Soudan after taking Khartoum. Who has expressed that determination? I have never said a word about it. ["Oh!"] I am speaking now of what has taken place since Parliament met after the Adjournment. What I spoke of, Sir, in the explanation which I addressed to Parliament in the House of Commons on Thursday last was, not the abandonment of the Soudan after the taking of Khartoum—it was the evacuation of the Soudan by Egypt. I have never said a word on the subject of the withdrawal or of the evacuation of the Soudan by Her Majesty's Forces. [Opposition laughter.] Sir, I explained myself, I think, with tolerable fulness on this subject last night; but I am endeavouring to correct 1176 what is evidently a gross misapprehension which seems to have consisted in this—that I have stated that Her Majesty's Forces were to evacuate the Soudan immediately after they had succeeded in taking Khartoum. I have never entered into the subject in the form of any particular statement. What I have said is, that the evacuation of the Soudan by Egypt and its restoration to freedom constituted the original policy of Her Majesty's Government, and that that policy had not been altered, but that events had occurred which prevented its immediate execution. And then, in dealing with the question of the taking of Khartoum, I pointed out that the effect of a negative decision on that question would have been the abandonment at one stroke of a variety of purposes—some of which I enumerated, and which consisted of matters with respect to which I believe I said more than once that, in our view, any reasonable effort ought to be made to deal with them. Consequently, there is no truth in the statement that Her Majesty's Forces were simply to execute a military operation and then retire. I now wish to say that I adhere to my full statement of last night as the explanation more at large of my sentiments; but the reason why I dwell more on the phrase "evacuation of the Soudan by Egypt" is this—that on Thursday I was speaking, not as I usually do, but from a note made, after careful consideration, with my Colleagues, and I find the phrase I used—"the evacuation of the Soudan by Egypt"—is carefully reported in the newspapers.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
asked whether, in view of the very important statement of the Prime Minister, and the importance of the precise meaning of the Government being properly understood in the East, they were to understand from the reply just given that Her Majesty's Government would not give up their control, political or military, over the Soudan which they were endeavouring to obtain till a fixed and orderly Government had been established there?
I refer the hon. Member to the speech I made last night, and to the explanations I gave on Thursday. I abide by those explanations, and I refer the hon. Gentleman to them so far as I am concerned.