HC Deb 19 March 1885 vol 295 cc1704-6

I have given the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister private Notice that I would ask him to-day what the arrangement for the holidays will be, and also that I would appeal to the Government to put off the discussion on the important question on the Financial Agreement for Egypt until after the holidays, because we have not yet got, and shall not have got until the beginning of next week, the numerous, voluminous, and important Papers upon which that Agreement is founded. I think the right hon. Gentleman will see that it would be reasonable that that discussion should be put off until after the holidays.


I will give the right hon. Gentleman the best answer in my power; and I think, perhaps, it would be well that I should not make a final answer to-day, but reserve my final answer until to-morrow, when I shall have had the opportunity of consulting my Colleagues, and when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have had an opportunity of looking into certain matters of procedure connected with the subject. First, Sir, with regard to the holidays. Considering that we did not meet until the 19th of February, and that Easter is not at a very late date, I have arrived at the conclusion that the most convenient arrangement, and the most acceptable to the House, would be to rather narrow our measure of Recess at Easter, and to take more liberal holidays at Whitsuntide. My intention was, presuming that there would be no Egyptian Question to consider, to ask the House to adjourn on the Tuesday in Passion Week, and to meet again on Thursday, April 9. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman asks whether we will agree to postpone the discussion on the Egyptian Question until after the Easter holidays, and he urges that there will be but limited time between Monday and the day alluded to yesterday by my right hon. Friend near me—namely, Thursday in next week—for the discussion of Egyptian affairs. I admit that I was disposed to hope, from the small stress the right hon. Gentleman laid upon the production of Papers at the commencement of the Session, when, I think, they were only produced on the day on which a Vote of Censure on the Government was moved—I was disposed to hope that this difficulty might not have arisen. However, I quite admit it is a serious question, and that the House is entitled to time to consider it. That is one side of the case; but there is another side of the case, which is this—that many postponements have taken place in the operations and proceedings in Egypt with reference to this subject; and any considerable further postponement at a time when practical relief could be granted to Egyptian finances would, I am afraid, be attended with very serious public inconvenience. I would point out this, Sir—that under the arrangement which is proposed by the Government for an international guarantee, as might be expected, the principal part, the leading part—although I do not mean that there is a difference in liability—the leading part, the operative part, falls to Her Majesty's Government, and consequently the proceedings of the House of Commons will be looked to, as I anticipate, by the Legislatures of other States; and I am afraid that a serious postponement by the House of Commons of the decision on this question would cause considerable further delay in consequence of the likelihood that other States will in some degree wait upon our proceedings. Of course there is another alternative, and that is that the discussion might be postponed until Monday in Passion Week. That, at the worst, would give a week for the consideration of Papers, and so far I am able to meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman if he thinks it desirable to press those views upon us; but, if he asks anything more than that, out of respect for him and those for whom he acts, I will take until to-morrow to consider the question; but with the view, as at present advised, I entertain of the interests involved, I am bound to say I cannot give anything like a pledge to agree to the postponement of the definitive Vote until after Easter.


The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to substitute Monday for Thursday will not meet the case. It seems to me that this is a matter which really requires fair and full consideration. And, looking to all that has passed during two or three years now and the short interval suggested, I think what I hare asked for ought to be granted.