§ MR. LABOUCHERE
, Member for the Borough of Northampton, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, our relations with the Turkish and Egyptian 85 Governments, and the Egyptian people, in regard to Egypt; and our relations with the French and Russian Governments with reference to the recently contemplated Egyptian Treaty with the Porte.
The pleasure of the House not having been signified,
§ MR. SPEAKER
called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than Forty Members having risen accordingly—
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that very few Members could think he did wrong in moving the adjournment, considering that on this question the House had maintained, in the words of the noble Lord the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury), an "Egyptian silence" during the present Session, although much had occurred with which hon. Members did not agree. So far as we were concerned, there had been lately negotiated with the Porte a Treaty with regard to Egypt which would have involved us permanently in very heavy obligations, and in the Papers presented to the House there were statements made by Lord Salisbury to which it was necessary to call attention. If the subject were discussed on the Diplomatic Vote, the discussion would be reduced to a sham fight, and hon. Members would not be able to express their views fully. The Treaty, as the House was aware, had vanished, owing to the action of the Porte, who refused to ratify it. There were two important Despatches, Nos. 96 and 97, which were sent by Sir H. Drummond Wolff, and if we acted upon them, although Sir H. Drummond Wolff would have cost a great deal, he would have been almost worth the money. It was wrong to endeavour to negotiate a Treaty with the Sultan without first obtaining the views of those Powers with whom we had been concerned previously in, all matters affecting Egypt. A good deal had been heard about the European Concert, and it was never more necessary to maintain it than it was now. We knew how angry Europe was at the time that a Treaty respecting Cyprus was negotiated by Lord Salisbury. The House would also remember how indignant the people of England had been frequently when they thought that Russia was endeavouring to carry on diplomatic action in secret. 86 This Convention was not secret, it was true; but if Turkey had not informed France and Russia of what was going on those countries would have known nothing about the matter. It was a fault to negotiate when we were aware that nothing could be valid without the assent of Europe, and to negotiate in such a way that the arrangements could not be assented to by Europe. Her Majesty's Government had frequently said that our occupation of Egypt was essentially one of a temporary character. Frequently, however, when the Government had been asked to state the term for our withdrawal they had always shrunk from doing so. It was true that in the Treaty Her Majesty's Government agreed to a term; but they insisted upon inserting a clause to the effect that England might go back without the assent of Turkey or Europe, and practically such stipulations had been made by the Government with regard to Egypt that we necessarily should have to return. The country was not left in doubt as to the opinion of Europe. In a despatch from Sir H. Drummond Wolff to Lord Salisbury they saw what were the views both of Russia and of France when those countries heard what England was going to do. Sir H. Drummond Wolff stated that in return for repeated visits he called upon the Russian and French Ambassadors. He went on to say—M. Nelidoff informed me that from the point of view of his Government the Sultan, by giving us the right of re-entry, had practically sacrificed to us a portion of his sovereignty. M. Nelidoff also objected to the want of definition as to the causes that would justify the re-entry. England might look on a movement of troops in Afghanistan as an external danger, and make this a pretext for occupying Egypt. His Excellency said that, speaking personally, he thought Russia might consent that England should be the one Power to whom should be confided the task of restoring order in Egypt; hut this must be done under restriction, and Commissioners of other Powers should accompany the English troops. Or he thought that the restoration of order might be effected by more than one Power. Such were his views, which having been to a great extent adopted by his Government, he opposed the ratification. M. de Montebello, with whom I had two interviews, took much the same line The right of re-entry was destructive to the Mediterranean equilibrium. France was determined never to accept it. As Article now stood, her non-acceptance of the right of re-entry would make our occupation of the country permanent.There was an enclosure in the Despatch 87 containing copy of a letter from the Count of Montebello to the Sultan, the language of which was exceedingly strong—In case the Convention should be ratified, the French Government will devote their attention to the protection of their personal interests, which will be injured by the destruction of the balance of power in the Mediterranean, and they will take with this object such measures as may in their opinion be necessary. As the disinterested policy of France can alone protect the Ottoman Empire against the encroachments and ambitious aims of England, the maintenance of this friendship will be considered by your Imperial Majesty as much more advantageous. If your Majesty does not ratify the Convention, the French Government will protect and guarantee you against the consequences, whatsoever they may he, that may result from the non-ratification.He (Mr. Labouchere) presumed that that Despatch to the Sultan was circulated in Constantinople because it was telegraphed to a journal in London. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergussou) was asked whether he knew anything about it, and he gathered that the right hon. Gentleman said that he knew absolutely nothing about it. [Cries of "No, no!"] He said that he had received no information.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
I will mention at once what I did say, because it is perfectly absurd to attempt to deceive the House in a matter of this sort, and I trust that I am not capable of doing so. I was asked as to the truth of a statement in the Daily News as to a certain Note addressed to the Sultan, and I said that—The Government are not in possession of the contents of the alleged Note. No such Note has been communicated to the Government, nor has any communication upon the subject been made to the French Government.When I gave that answer on June 28 the Government were not in possession of the contents of the Note. They simply had a reference to it and to its purport in telegrams from Constantinople, which clearly were not of a reliable character. The text of the Note, as far as is known now, was not in our possession until the 2nd of July, and I may say that up to this moment we have not an authentic copy of the Note.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the Note was sent home in a Despatch by Sir H. Drummond Wolff. He certainly did not intend to imply that the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had any intention to lead the House into error, but he thought that the reply given was that no such note had been seen. But this was a matter of mere detail. What was far more important was that when Sir H. Drummond Wolff had been put in possession of this most menacing Despatch, by which Turkey was warned against the encroachments and ambitious aims of England, and told that if the Convention was not ratified the French Government would protect and guarantee the Sultan against the consequences, whatsoever they might be, that might result from the non-ratification, neither he nor Lord Salisbury could have supposed for an instant that the Convention, if ratified, would not injure this Country and put us into a false position with regard to Europe. It was therefore not only a criminal course, but a most stupid course to try and force the hand of the Sultan and induce him to sign this Convention, knowing that by so doing we should alienate France, and that the Convention would become the law of Europe without the consent of France and Russia, both of whom had protested against it in a strong manner. He was exceedingly glad that there was no Treaty. It had, however, left a painful impression on Europe, which always existed when Lord Salisbury was in power. He wished further to call attention to one or two statements made by Lord Salisbury in the despatches as to future policy. Writing to Sir H. Drummond Wolff, Lord Salisbury had said:—Her Majesty's Government have no intention of leaving Egypt without ample security that the social order which they have reestablished there shall not be endangered cither by external attack or internal trouble. Whether the Convention be ratified or not, they will adhere to that intention.This practically meant that if Turkey did not sign the Convention we intended to remain in Egypt for ever. England had not organized the Egytian Army? How, then, could the Government say that they would only leave Egypt when that country was preserved by the Egyptian Army from internal danger? 89 On Juno 4 Lord Salisbury made a further statement which was of importance. He said—Should the Porte refuse to ratify on the appointed day, Her Majesty's Government will be freed from their engagements to the Forte in regard to Egypt, and will remain free to take their own course.What did this mean? He did not understand how the mere fact of the Sultan objecting to this Treaty freed England from previous engagements. If this were so, nothing could be more easy than to free ourselves from any Treaty in any country, and especially a country weaker than ourselves, Lord Salisbury was good enough to supplement these two statements of his by another at the Mansion House yesterday. Lord Salisbury said that the fact of our going to Egypt imposed obligations upon us, and that we should have ample security from internal and external attack. He had already dealt with the subject of internal attack and the statement that we should not leave the country until there was an army capable of putting down rebellion. But Lord Salisbury went on to say that we should not leave the county until it could pursue its course of prosperity itself. There had not been much prosperity in Egypt since England had been there. Lord Salisbury, continuing, said—It is pleasant to think that our sojourn in Egypt is accompanied by the greatest benefits to those among whom we dwell. …The foundations of future national prosperity are being laid broad and strong. …We may feel that we are pursuing an object which confers no immediate benefit on ourselves, but is subservient to the highest interests of philanthropy and humanity.He had never heard a Minister talk about doing anything in the "interests of humanity and philanthropy" without having a very strong opinion that he was talking nonsense. It was only when a Minister was going to do something improper and unjust that he talked about "humanity and philanthropy." Sir H. Drummond Wolff was sent out to Egypt by the present Government, and this Country had spent a large amount of money upon him. Was the Government going to take his advice? Sir H. Drummond Wolff, writing to Lord Salisbury, said—I have the honour to call your attention to the abnormal condition of the financial system of Egypt, and the very great hardship it inflicts 90 on the people of the country. It would be a blot on any permanent arrangement if some attempt were not made to alleviate the heavy burden entailed on the fellaheen of the debt which crushes their industry and of ten deprives them of their property and means of livelihood. In the schemes which have been put forward for the readjustment of the finances, this important point has always been overlooked. Attempts have been made to establish an equilibrium of Egyptian finance, in which the amount payable for the debt was an almost inevitable basis, and even when the sinking funds have been suspended, this course has been taken rather to sustain the external credit of the country than to better the lot of the people. If the debt had been run up by wars or extravagance sanctioned by the people, it might be right to continue saddling them with this intolerable load. But they had no voice in the matter. This evil has been recognized more than once; but no attempt has been made to diminish it, except on one occasion when Lord Northbrook recommended the diminution of the land tax by £450,000 annually. This measure has only been partially carried out. It is impossible to measure the political effect of this state of things on a population thus mortgaged to the creditors of former bad masters. It must always be the cause of a discontent, not less deep from not being manifest, and it would always render the fellaheen anxious to join any popular leader who would promise them relief. Such a condition does not exist and would not be tolerated elsewhere, and in a settlement which it is hoped may promote tranquillity throughout the country the present fiscal system is a danger that cannot be overlooked.That was the testimony of Sir H. Drummond Wolff, and with such a state of things was it to be expected that we should have tranquillity in Egypt? Would the Government act on that Despatch of Sir H. Drummond Wolff? He (Mr. Labouchere) feared they would not, and that Lord Salisbury had no idea of acting on Sir H. Drummond Wolff's advice, especially since Her Majesty's Government had taken over to themselves that very eminent Gentleman, who was the fons et origo of the Egyptian Debt—he meant the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had forged the chains which now bound the Egyptian people, would, no doubt, do his best to act with an unbiased mind; but his connection with the matter was of such a kind that it would probably be impossible for him to do so. The right hon. Gentleman went out as the Representative of the foreign bondholders and rivetted the chains on the Egyptians. It was clear that we had gone to Egypt and remained there 91 for one object only, and that was for the I benefit of the bondholders. In 1864 the total Revenue of Egypt was £4,937,000, and Egypt then owed £3,392,000. That was a loan negotiated by the right hon. Gentleman, or by Frühling and Goschen. In the previous 10 years, from 1854 to 1864, Egypt made enormous progress and must have been fairly prosperous. In 1864 there was a second Goschen loan of £5,804,000. According to Mr. Cave, Egyptreceived£4,864,000, or£1,000,000 less. The loan was issued at 93, and the charge for issuing it was £554,000, or 11 percent. [Mr. GOSCHEN dissented.] Well, he did not know where the money went, but he knew that Messrs. Frühling and Goschen were responsible for that amount. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a member of the firm at that time, and therefore was as responsible as Mr. Frühling. They could not throw it all on Frühling. The profit was immense and led others who were as anxious to make profit to look upon Egypt as the land of Goschen, and they made a rush for it. Loan after loan succeeded for the next 10 years up to 1874, when the Funded Debt of Egypt was £68,000,000; but the entire sum paid to Egypt was £45,000,000, and the only available asset was £9,000,000 paid for the Canal. The rest disappeared in the enormous interest, which was something between 25 and 12½ per cent, according to Mr. Cave. Egypt could not pay, and hero came our first interference—we purchased the Canal shares. There had been a good deal of Conservative boasting because we had purchased those shares at £4,000,000. That was our first step in interfering in Egypt for the benefit of the Egyptians. Sir H. Drummond Wolff, writing to Lord Salisbury on the Suez Canal shares, says: —Your Lordship is aware that the price of £4,000,000 paid for the shares of the ex-Khedive by Her Majesty's Government was originally expended by him out of the money collected from the people In lieu of any profit on this head, they are now paying interest to Her Majesty's Government. Under the original concession 15 per cent was to go to the Egyptian Government. But this revenue of the net profits of the Canal was subsequently sold, thus depriving the Egyptian people of their last chance of obtaining any return for the sums expended out of their toil.Our next step was sending out Mr. Cave, who found that the total Debt, including 92 the Floating Debt, was £90,000,000. Mr. Cave made no reduction in the interest of the Debt, but he altered the incidence of the Floating Debt. The Egyptians paid a heavy land tax. It was agreed under the Moukabala arrangement that if the Egyptians paid for 12 years about 45 percent above the existing land tax, at the end of that time they should have to pay only half the original land tax. Mr. Cave, in reporting on the finances of Egypt, said that the arrangement was a ruinous one to the State. And so it was. In 1876 the Khedive abrogated the Moukabala and agreed to repay all the payments which had boon made under that arrangement. Unfortunately the proceeds of this Moukabala loan had been devoted to pay off the Goschen loan. On May 12, 1879, Messrs. Frühling and Goschon wrote to Lord Derby in these words—In accordance with the suggestion made by you in your conversation with the Right Hon. G. J. Goschen yesterday, we beg to enclose his short memoranda stating the case of the bondholders of the Egyptian Government loans of 1862 and 1864, which we issued to the public. We shall be greatly obliged if you will urge on General Stanton to support our protest. We accordingly venture to urge on your Lordship to grant us such assistance as you may see fit to render in excluding, as suggested by the Right Hon. S. Cave in his Report, the loan of 1864 from the operation of the decree just issued by the Khedive, and in securing some recognition of the prior claims of the holders of the loan of 1862.Following upon this, Lord Derby, on May 19, wrote to General Stanton as follows: —I transmit to you copies of a correspondence with Mesers. Frübling and Goschen, who have requested the assistance of Her Majesty's Government to obtain the exclusion from the late decree of the Khedive of the loan of 1864 and to obtain some recognition of prior claims to the holders of the 1862 loan, and in accordance with the reply returned to them I have to request you to give such unofficial assistance as you possibly can to the agents of the parties interested."Coming events cast their shadows before," for it seemed that on that occasion the Conservative Government were exceedingly friendly to the right hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. Gentleman had retorted by being exceedingly friendly to them. In the same year the right hon. Gentleman went out himself to Egypt along with Messrs. Joubert, who represented the French bondholders. Now, it was frequently supposed that the right hon. Gentleman 93 went out in an independent position, as an eminent financier come to bless and to aid Egypt. As a matter of fact, he went out, after a meeting called by the Foreign Bondholders' Association, as the agent of the foreign bond holders, and as the agent necessarily of Messrs. Frühling and Goschen, and he was not an independent person at all. He would not have acted fairly to his constituents if he had not made it his first business to look after the interests of the bondholders who sent him. What did the right hon. Gentleman do? he took the loan and divided it into Preferred and Deferred Debt, and he re-established the Moukabala and insisted on it, thus renewing what Mr. Cave had called an unjust thing.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, that, on the contrary, the Moukabala had been re-established against his wish, and that he objected to it as a bad tax, and as being entirely against his principles. It was re-established at the wish of the Khedive himself as a primary condition, and in deference to pressure put upon his Highness, and the decision was arrived at before he himself had reached Egypt. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would accept this statement, which was simply and absolutely correct.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, of course, he would readily accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement. The right hon. Gentleman said it was entirely against his principles to re-establish the Moukabala; but he could only say that the right hon. Gentleman had sacrificed his principles then, as many on his (the Opposition) side of the House thought he had since. There was then in Egypt a Minister of Finance—a man of some eminence—Ismail Sadik — the right hand of the Khedive; this man was opposed to the establishmant of the Moukabala, and to the projects of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said he would not treat with him. Ismail was at once arrested, taken to the Nile, and no one ever heard more of him. It was fully understood he was drowned. The right hon. Gentleman did more than establish the Moukabala; in his anxiety for Egypt he established a system of European control. We were not only to be behind the scenes to see that the Egyptians paid the bondholders, but we 94 sent taskmasters there in the flesh to make them do it. The whole country was pervaded by a vast swarm of locusts. If the right hon. Gentleman was forced to consent to the re-establishment of the Moukabala by the Khedive, the locusts were his own idea. At any rate—although Egypt was admittedly overtaxed —these locusts received £378,000 per annum, and this was put as an extra task upon the Egyptians. From 1876 to 1879 there was one great and persistent attempt made in Egypt to enforce the payment of the taxes, so as to enable the country to pay the extortionate interest on the loans. The Khedive was stripped of his property and the people ruined. Well, despite all this, in 1877 there was difficulty in paying the July coupon; its payment did take place, but our own Consul General declared that this result had only been achieved by the ruin of the peasantry, the crops being hypothecated, and the taxes collected in advance. These interests were thus wrung from a peasantry already crushed by taxation. The British Government knew how the payment of the coupons was arrived at, and yet in 1879 our Consul General was found reminding his Highness the Khedive that — "Any change in the engagements which he had lately made would be mo3fc ruinous." At length the position became impossible. The European employés were paid, but the Egyptians were not. The Revenue was nearly £10,000,000; but after payment of the interest on the Tribute and the Canal shares only about £1,500,000 were left for the administration of the country, the rest was swallowed up by the bondholders. Even the loan agent felt it was a mistake to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs, and therefore an International Commission was established, with Sir Rivers Wilson, who was sent out as President. The Commission came to the conclusion that a little more should be spent upon Europeans, and decided that there should be both a French and an English Minister to see that the Khedive fulfilled his obligations. The Ministers, however, did not reduce the Debt or the salaries of the Europeans; there were 2,500 officers, and they put them on half-pay and refused to pay off their arrears, which was certainly a novel way to keep the country quiet. They increased the land tax. At that time there were a 95 number of the fellahs who were not subjected to the corvée, but it was determined that they must pay for exemption. Naturally there was disturbance, and: the Assembly of Notables was called together, and insisted on their country not being pillaged and ruined in this manner. The Khedive dismissed these Ministers, and tried to make two ends meet. We were indignant, and obtained a decree from the Sultan dismissing the Khedive from his position as Ruler of Egypt. Then we set up Tewfik, an innocent, quiet, harmless sort of person, and entirely our instrument; but even so we had found we could not get blood out of a stone, and that it was necessary we should do something to alter the incidence of taxation and reduce its burden. A Commission of Liquidation was then appointed, and the interest of the loans was reduced, but it still amounted to 10 or 12 per cent. The Moukabala was then again abrogated; but did we—who were represented on the Commission—act fairly towards the Egyptian peasantry? These poor men had paid over £17,000,000 sterling for it. They could not do so themselves how ever. They borrowed money at high and ruinous interest, and it might have been supposed that by any Commission of Liquidation in which we were re presented these men would have been paid back, and treated quite as well as the bondholders who had not paid the money. We looked after the bond holders; but we told the peasants that for 50 years it would pay 1 per cent, and at the end of the time the whole £17,000,000 would be swept away. But that was only the half. In 1882 the rebellion of Arabi took place——
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets. Stepney)
asked the hon. Member to state the amount of interest that had been paid upon the loans, and in what way the International Commission had reduced the rate?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think that it is my duty to interfere. The hon. Gentleman rose to move the adjournment of the House for the discussion of a definite matter of urgent public importance. Although, the House has given its sanction, the remarks of the hon. Gentleman cannot be said to refer to a definite matter of urgent public importance, because he is going over the whole relations of this country with France, and proposes to 96 do so with regard to Russia as well as Egypt; and I think it is an abuse of the Standing Order to take so wide a range.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that was his object. He complained that we were still remaining in Egypt, and that Lord Salisbury had stated in despatches and in his speech at the Mansion House that we had gone there to do good to the Egyptians. His object in moving the adjournment was to raise the point whether we ought to remain there instead of coming away, and to show that so long as we had been in the country we had been a persistent curse to Egypt. But he would not refer further to the finances. He thought, however, that he had said enough to prove his point. In January, 1882, General Gordon wrote of the Egyptians themselves—It is reiterated over and over again that Egypt is prosperous and contented. I do not think that it is altered at all, except in improving the finances for the bondholders. The prisons are as full of unfortunates as they ever were.At the same time Consul Rowsell in his Report stated—The taxes are never collected without the aid of the kourbash, which, as a rule, is administered very freely, and without which the tax collection makes very little progress. Failing to pay, it also is a common occurrence for a man to be thrown into prison, when the kourbash is again brought into play, until the amount demanded is forthcoming. Beyond the kourbash and imprisonments, no other cruelty or torture attends the collection of taxes.Owing to continuous protests, Lord Northbrook was sent out, and he recommended that the land tax should be reduced by £420,000. It had not been reduced by this amount, however. we had put an end to the corvée, which was worth £250,000, and the Egyptians were obliged to pay this amount because the corvée did not exist. Then there were further negotiations. In 1885 a discussion had taken place between the European Powers as to Egypt, and we guaranteed a loan of £9,000,000, which was absorbed by the payment of the Alexandria indemnities and of the interest on previous loans. It was also agreed that the coupons should be taxed for two years, but not longer without European investigation. But in March, 1887, this period of two years came to an end, and, at the time, the question. 97 was raised in the House. Again, Egypt found it impossible to pay these coupons. What did we do? We agreed to pay them. There were certain mythical claims on the part of the Egyptians upon the British Exchequer "vamped up," and we paid them in order to enable the Egyptians to pay the coupons, and to save them from this European investigation. He thought he had shown that we were in Egypt for the bondholders, and that, far from doing good in Egypt, we were creating a situation which must—as Sir H. Drummond Wolff said — tend to create discontent and disorder. Beyond establishing gin palaces and brothels and taxing the people, he did not see what good we had done there. Far from introducing representative government into Egypt, we had done away with what there was of it, and had not sought to build it up again. A few months ago Questions were asked in the House as to two of our officers in the Army of Occupation. He cited the case in order to show the evils inherent in the system of having an Army of Occupation in a country like Egypt. These officers went out to shoot near the Pyramids. They tramped over the crops of the peasants of one of the villages in the neighbourhood. The peasants came out and, naturally, tried to stop them. The officers shot one of the peasants and wounded one or two others; thereupon, as was only natural, the peasants took the officers into the village and somewhat maltreated them. Then we got our instrument Tewfik to send down two gentlemen whom he called Judges, and we added an English Judge. These officials decided that the peasants were in the wrong; and we marched a British regiment into the neighbourhood, and the villagers were flogged by hundreds. Nothing more monstrous than this had ever been heard of, not even in the Franco-German War. On what grounds and under what law, Egyptian or English, were these men condemned to be flogged, and on what ground was a British regiment turned into an Egyptian village to act as executioners on the unfortunate inhabitants? We had spent millions of money in Egypt; we still had there an Army costing £134 per man per annum; and yet the country had not benefited either financially or politically. We had put ourselves in 98 the wrong with Egypt, and had established a permanent sore with France. We had created an ill feeling with. Turkey, and no one believed for a moment what we said when we asserted that we were anxious to leave the country, and were only remaining there for the good of the Egyptians. The other Powers knew as well as we did that we were remaining there only for the good of the bondholders. But the House was told that it was necessary to remain in Egypt on account of our position in India. Nothing of the sort. It had been decided that in the event of war the Suez Canal should be neutralized and the Cape route utilized. We had the means of stopping all ships of war belonging to a country with which we were in conflict; and therefore it seemed to him that the idea of the necessity of the occupation of Egypt or of the occupation of the Suez Canal in order to secure our passage being free to India in case of war was entirely exploded. Lord Salisbury did not insist on the point at the Mansion House; he put our occupation solely on the ground of the good of Egypt. According to the Treaty negotiated by Sir H. Drummond Wolff we were bound to re-occupy the country if order was disturbed. But he would point out that there was no proposal in the Treaty to reduce the debt or the interest. Therefore, the House might assume that, as far as the Treaty was concerned, there was no intention to reduce it. He should like to show by figures that we made that Treaty with the deliberate intention and belief not only that we might go back, but that we should go back to the country. The Army at present cost £130,000. The Egyptians paid us £200,000, or a total of £330,000. But Moukhtar Pasha said that 13,000 men at least would be requisite in order to enable the Egyptian Government without us to maintain order and defend the country against external dangers. The cost of these 13,000 men would be £420,000. How was Egypt to provide the £90,000? It could not do so. The theory of Sir H. Drummond Wolff was that the Egyptians were paying too many taxes already. Unless we reduced that taxation, therefore, it would be absolutely impossible, according to the opinion of the best experts, for Egypt to maintain such an Army as would enable the people to preserve order and 99 render it unnecessary for us to go back. It was said that if we left Egypt France would so there; bat, for his part, he did not believe it. There was a time when France threatened to do so; but then a great deal of the Egyptian debt was in the hands of the great houses of Paris. This was no longer the case. At present we might fairly make a bargain. France was most anxious that we should withdraw from Egypt. The other Powers did not care much about the matter. We might make this arrangement—that if we withdrew, and did not return without the consent of Europe, Egypt itself should be neutralized, and no Power should claim to go there because the Egyptian debt was not paid. The Egyptian debt should simply be treated like the debt of Peru, or of any other country. They might have some agreement about the neutrality of the Suez Canal and as to the Capitulations, which required modification. The financial question was the pressing question at this moment. As Sir H. Drummond Wolff told them, there could be no prosperity for Egypt if more than half its income was taken up for the debt and spent out of the country. He (Mr. Labouchere) had moved the adjournment of the House because he considered that the House had some right to call upon the Government to give them some sort of a pledge that they would not continue to spoil and harry the Egyptians on account of the bondholders, but would make the reductions which Sir H. Drummond Wolff said were necessary for the well-being of Egypt.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
, in seconding the Motion, said he regarded the question as urgent on account of the condition of affairs existing between this country and France. He asked whether it was a decent, a fair, or a wise thing to cover with every form of insult and outrage a country like France, because we fancied that she was weak, and that we, as Lord Salisbury and Sir H. Drummond Wolff were never tired of saying, had the German Ambassador at our back. Lord Salisbury had said that when in future we were asked to answer the annoying and perpetual demands of France and Turkey for the evacuation of Egypt we should point to the non-signature of the ratification of the Convention as releasing us from all our previous declarations in re- 100 gard to Egypt. Now, he would ask the Government to put their finger on any fact which had set them free from the pledges which had been made over and over again in that House and in official documents in reference to the evacuation of Egypt. The Convention was the result of negotiations conducted between our Representative and the Porte behind the back of Europe; and one of the conditions in it was that it was not to come into operation until all the Great Powers had signed it. The conduct of the French Government towards ours had been courteous, honest, and frank, and the moment they knew what was the nature of the Convention they said in firm and courteous language that they could not assent to it.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
asked what the hon. Member was quoting from?
§ MR. DILLON
said, the report of the interview between the French Ambassador and Lord Salisbury. He could not quote in detail.
THB FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
asked the hon. Member to quote one single interview between the French Ambassador and Lord Salisbury.
§ MR. DILLON
said, there were a number of them in those despatches. He could not find them then, but he was confident that anybody who looked into the matter would see that there were plenty. The language of France and Russia to Turkey was exceedingly plain; and where, he asked, was there an instance of a single word of insult or menace used against England, except, perhaps, towards the conclusion of the negotiations, where France was spoken of as being the only protector of the Sultan against the ambitious designs of England in Egypt; and that was after a considerable period, during which England intimated plainly that she was determined to go on with the Convention in spite of the objections of France, and put pressure on Turkey to make her agree to it? Any declaration on the part of this country of an intention permanently to occupy or annex Egypt would amount to a declaration of war against France. There was a tone of hostility in all the papers towards France which could not but create ill- 101 feeling in that country. In fact, France was covered with insult. They were dealing here with one of the most delicate points, and it was not only France but Russia which was being outraged. He had no animosity to the German nation, but he thought it was an ill-advised thing to be always dragging the German Ambassador into this question of backing up England. Of course, he backed up England, because the object was to sow discord between England and France. The longer the occupation of Egypt was prolonged, the longer it was sure to last. The majority of the English people wished to see the last British soldier out of Egypt; but there were underground, back stair, and malign influences at work for financial purposes. That influence sought to defeat the British nation in this matter. There were a certain number of men interested in financial business who hoodwinked the people, and who would not leave Egypt alone until the last pound had been paid. This operation of constituting the British Army the tax-collectors and the police of the bondholders was expensive and disastrous to the British name. The indignation of the Egyptian people was increasing against England. There was not one in 10,000 who would not hail the day when the last English soldier departed. The occupation was a curse to Egypt, and he held that it ought to cease at once. What did the Correspondent of The Times say? He said that the withdrawal of the troops meant anarchy, and that this would be more true five years hence than now. The worst of it was that this Egyptian business might involve this country in a frightful war with France. The taxpayers of Egypt had been robbed of £200,000 a-year for two years in order that the coupons might be paid. It was clear that it was never intended that the coupons should be paid if it could not be done without continuing the special tax; and it was an infamous robbery that the fellaheen should be sacrificed in spite of the pledge which had been given to them. A bogus surplus had been created partly at the expense of the Egyptian tax-payers, who had been robbed in the manner stated, partly at the expense of the taxpayers of Great Britain by Votes passed in that House, and partly by drafts on the loan of £5,000,000 gua- 102 ranteed in 1885; and this bogus surplus had been used to pay the coupons. A deficit bad really existed each year, and it had been made into a surplus in a dishonest way and for a dishonest purpose. In the month, of March last a Question was put in the House as to whether the taxes upon the coupons would be repaid or not, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Government of Egypt were considering their financial position with a view to determining the point, while on the very same night the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs said the amount of the surplus was known, and as it was more than sufficient for this purpose the Egyptian Government had given the necessary directions to carry out the arrangement that had been made. It was a nice condition when two Ministers made inconsistent statements on the same night. If we were to continue in occupation of Egypt the House ought to insist upon having every year a discussion on the finances of Egypt, in order that the people of the country might be protected from such a fraud as had been practised upon them. There was a small ring of men who had control of this question and who were responsible to nobody; and the figures were given in the despatches in such an involved way that it required study to get at the bottom of them. Amounts were stated sometimes in Egyptian and sometimes in English pounds. A regular discussion was necessary in order to turn the light of day on the subject, and to prevent the fraud, robbery, and oppression which were being practised on the people of Egypt.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— (Sir. Labouchere.)
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that when the policy and proceedings of Her Majesty's Government were arraigned in that House it was desirable that a charge should be formulated, and that they should have to deal with something tangible. On this occasion the Government could not know beforehand what form the attack was to take, and many things had been brought up and put into a general bill of indictment. Most of them were not matters of to-day, and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had chiefly directed their attention to what might be described as 103 ancient history, his main object apparently being to make a personal attack upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That was the head and front of his speech. The House would desire to consider our present and future relations rather than matters which had been discussed over and over again and amply and fully disposed of. The late Convention was referred to by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) as a secret Treaty negotiated behind the backs of the other Powers of Europe. Surely there was no secrecy about a Convention which was negotiated between a special British Commissioner and a Minister of the Sultan, and which was contemplated by the Convention of October, 1885. When a Turkish Commissioner and a British Commissioner went to Egypt to inquire and report on the condition of the country with a view to a future arrangement it was manifest that an arrangement would be made, although it would be necessary afterwards to consult the other Powers. As to indignation about this so-called secret Treaty, he did not know in what quarter this indignation was to be found, and the Government had not heard of it. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: In France.] Undoubtedly there were great difficulties to be faced; it was impossible to be unmindful of the susceptibilities of the other Powers; and it had been the anxious desire of the Government to consider those susceptibilities from the first. He repudiated the statement made by the hon. Member for East Mayo, that France had been covered with insults in this business; a more unfounded statement was never made. There was not the slightest foundation for saying that Her Majesty's Government had treated France with the utmost discourtesy. There had been, undoubtedly, features in the negotiations at Constantinople which had been unfortunate and unusual. It was unusual that an Ambassador of a friendly Power should present to the Sultan a note such as that which had been referred to in the debate. But that note was a very private note, and it had not the formality of many official Papers which were made known to the world. It would probably never be known how the note came to be published; but there were many subterranean ways between the Press and officials at Constantinople. As to the Government being 104 charged with any want of courtesy and consideration towards France or any other European Power, it was impossible to bring any proof of such a statement. He rose at the beginning of the hon. Members speech to disclaim having concealed anything from the House that he could have stated, as having misled the House in the matter of the Memorandum. The Government had received by telegram a very brief account of a note, as it had been derived by hearsay by Sir H. Drummond Wolff. Its accuracy could not be relied upon. It had been received in a very indirect manner, and he would have incurred a very great responsibility had he admitted to the House that such a note had been submitted by the French Ambassador to the Sultan. It would be absolutely impossible to conduct the foreign affairs of this country with any safety if admissions were made without positive knowledge on the part of the Government. He stated with regard to this note that the Government were not in possession of the facts, and that the Memorandum had not been made known to them. It had not been made known to them officially up to the present day.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that he had already informed the House that it was made known indirectly to Sir H. Drummond Wolff that such a note had been presented. Sir H. Drummond Wolff mentioned in one of his despatches that what was known of the note was not in its original language, and could not be verbally relied upon. Then the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had stated that Lord Salisbury had declared that England was now free from her engagement with respect to the Porte. It was only in respect of the evacuation of Egypt that Her Majesty's Government were left free, in consequence of the non-ratification of the Convention. It was manifest that every engagement which England had made with Turkey must be absolutely adhered to, and he should like to know what engagement England could be charged with not fulfilling. Under the Convention of 1885, by which a certain portion of the loan was to be applied to the expenses of occupation, our position in Egypt was recognized as 105 it had not been recognized before. But Turkey and other Powers were anxious that our occupation should not be unlimited; and therefore a strong desire was expressed that some limit should be fixed. He thought it would be seen that there were considerable inducements to name a time, with the view of securing the co-operation and consent of other Powers. With some reluctance, therefore, Her Majesty's Government consented to a time being mentioned at which, if circumstances permitted, the British troops and officers should be withdrawn. That engagement was entered into with some reluctance, because Her Majesty's Government had had experience in times past of the danger of fixing limits to our stay in Egypt. More than once Parliament had been told of the time at which the evacuation would take place; but the hopes under which the promises were given had been frustrated. The condition was therefore laid down that England would retain the right of re-entry if Egypt should be menaced externally or internally, and that evacuation should not take place at the time fixed if the state of the country did not warrant it. He ventured to say that the country would have been extremely dissatisfied if Her Majesty's Government had agreed to retire at three years or five years, or any other number of years, unless they had retained the contingent rights of finishing the work which they had undertaken and of safeguarding the interests over which they had made such great sacrifices. The engagement which they were free from—namely, that of leaving Egypt in five years—was dependent upon and coupled with other engagements in the Convention, which, not being ratified, fell to the ground. Sir H. Drmmond Wolff had done good work in calling attention to the wants of Egypt, and to the manner in which it could be relieved from embarrassment; and he protested against the argument that Her Majesty's Government and the British Agency in Egypt had not done their duty. The statement had been made that taxation in Egypt had not been reduced; and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been attacked with reference to the financial question. Taxation could not be reduced if Egypt fulfilled her engagements. It was extremely unfortunate that the 106 taxation was heavy and that it could not be reduced. But was it desirable that the country, which they hoped to put upon its legs, and leave in a firm and prosperous condition, should commence by repudiating its engagements, as, perhaps, the hon. Member for East Mayo might be ready to suggest?
§ MR. DILLON
remarked, that the right hon. Gentleman had no right to attribute anything of the kind to him. What he said by no means bore that interpretation.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that, at any rate, such a thing was not at all desirable, and would not be allowed by other Powers. Had this Government done anything to reduce the charges upon Egypt? Had anything resulted from the mission of Messrs. Goschen and Joubert to Egypt? Undoubtedly those gentlemen went to Egypt to endeavour to put the finances of that country on a better footing; and a regular system, in. the interests of economy, was established, which had not existed before. Following on that came various measures which reduced the capital and the interest. The rate of interest was reduced from 7 to 4 per cent, which was a lower rate than that of any other country in the world.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that was so as regarded the Unified Debt; but the average of the debt was only 4 per cent. The charge for the debt of Egypt, which was £103,000,000, amounted to a little over £4,000,000. Therefore, great financial benefit had resulted to Egypt from the British occupation and the improvements which had been effected; and though the taxation might still be high, the people were able to bear it far more easily than before. The great proportion of the taxation of Egypt was derived from a Land Tax, and the incidence of that tax had been always pointed to as one of the heaviest burdens of the country. But would the House believe that last year only 36 persons bad been expropriated or evicted for the non-payment of the Land Tax, and in the year before 122? Whereas formerly this Land Tax was extracted from the people with many cruelties, that was no longer the case; and the hon. Gentleman had to go back five years for an instance of torture or corporal punishment used in the recovery 107 of the tax. Such cruelties had been abolished, justice had been purified, the prisons had been turned from disgraceful and miserable dens into places of detention which might compare favourably with the prisons of more civilized countries, the officials did their duty well, and bribery, which was once so common among them, was now very rare. The Army, too, which had been so large and expensive, was gradually being reduced in numbers and cost, and service in the Army was no longer dreaded as it was before. The Egyptian, instead of being dragged from his home and forced to serve, often without pay, was now well paid, well fed, and well cared for by his officers. The hon. Member for East Mayo denied that there was a surplus. The fact was that there was a surplus which had been earned just as it was earned in any country by the Revenue exceeding the Expenditure. The fact was that the receipts for the last two years sufficed to repay the Five per Cent coupons, and, on the whole, there was a surplus for the two years of something like £40,000.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that it was stated in the Blue Book that the abolition of the corvée would cost £250,000, and then followed the words—"This sum is still paid by the people."
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that the Government had promised the House Papers which would be in the hands of hon. Members shortly—he believed in about eight or 10 days—and which he trusted would satisfy them on that point. But the £250,000 became a charge on the year in lieu of the forced labour formerly exacted. For instance, the irrigation of the canals was performed by hired labour instead of taking people away long distances from their fields and compelling them to do the work, to their great injury and the injury of their country. Land actually went out of cultivation because people were taken away such distances from their fields. The best way that the burdens of the people of Egypt could be lightened was that relief should be given from this burdensome tax. He did not mean to say that the corvée for clearing the canals had been altogether abolished; it had been abolished to the extent of about 66 per cent. It had been abolished in its more severe and oppressive form where the people were taken away long dis- 108 tances from their homes. The corvée on the canals was retained only where it was lightest, where the men did the work near their own land. But even that was in the course of being reduced, and he hoped in a few years we should see the end of it. As to the coupons, he gave the House in February the figures showing that there was a surplus left of nearly £300,000 more than the estimate. He stated last year, and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) also stated, that there was no choice in the matter, and that we were bound to pay the Five per Cent coupons if the revenue sufficed for the purpose. It did suffice for the purpose, and we paid them. Hon. Members ought not to confound two things — the revenues of Egypt and the revenues assigned to the payment of debt. If the revenues assigned for the service of the debt were sufficient we were bound to pay. He told the House last February that the revenues were sufficient for the purpose, and if the estimates continued to be realized for the remaining part of 1886–7 the country would have a surplus on the two years. As to a Budget for Egypt, it would be a capital thing if there were no fear of disappointment; but the estimates might lead to disappointment. For instance, a rise of 1s. per cwt. on sugar made a difference to the Government of Egypt of £50,000 a year; and a rise of 1d. per lb. on cotton made a difference of £40,000 a-year on the produce of the State land, while it would put £1,000,000 sterling into the pocket of the producer. These things could not be foreseen, and there were complications also arising from the different times at which the accounts were made up, which rendered it more difficult than in this country to give an accurate forecast of the financial results of the year. Now, he must express his surprise that the hon. Member for Northampton should have thought it worth his while to pervert that unfortunate incident which occurred in March last of the accidental shooting of some Natives by English officers in order to found upon it a general charge against the attitude of the English to the Natives. The hon. Member did not state the facts with even approximate correctness. The officers were out shooting quails, and some men were travelling along on camels, when a 109 careless discharge of a gun struck some of them slightly as they passed. There was great indignation on the part of the Natives, who made an attack upon the officers, and during the struggle a gun went off as it was being wrenched from the hands of one of the party, the shot I tilling one of the Natives. That was a very unfortunate accident, but it was hardly a matter on which to frame a general charge as to the attitude of the English to the Egyptians. Again, it was asked, "What good did we do in Egypt?" We had done much good. We had regularized the Administration, and lightened substantially the burdens of the people. The cultivated area had been largely extended, and year by year the country was being relieved by the scientific appliances which had bean introduced from the deterioration which previously it had undergone. "What good was Egypt to us?" If the hon. Member in putting that question thought that the gate to the East was of no value to a great commercial country with more than three-fourths of the whole traffic passing down the Canal belonging to it, then he could only say the hon. Member thought differently from every other nation in Europe. He did not think the people of this country would be so blind and foolish as to suppose that the highway for commerce to which all other nations attached such great importance was of none to us, whose commercial affairs were so immeasurably larger. The position of the Canal was one which ought to be secure to all nations. The Government desired no selfish aims in connection with it. They only desired Egypt to be protected from external danger, to keep open the Eastern highway, and to benefit the people of Egypt. Having undertaken a great responsibility in regard to that country, our partner, France, having declined to undertake such responsibility, were we to shrink from our duties and to be taunted with having insulted France because we had fulfilled those duties? Whose fault was it that France was not by our side? We invited France to join us in maintaining the Khedive on the Throne, on which we had assisted to place him and undertaken to protect him. The French Government were willing to go with us, but they failed to secure a majority in Parliament, and surely it was no insult to France that England went forward to do its duty alone. It did not lie in the mouths of a small 110 minority in the House to say that the Government had acted contrary to the wishes of the people of this country when successive Governments had been maintained by the majority of the House and the voice of the people out-of-doors in fulfilling their engagements. We were still occupying Egypt, though the Government did not desire that the occupation should be prolonged; but he was sure the people of this country approved of the Government fulfilling the obligations they had entered into, and continuing to do their duty by the interests of this country, which we should never forget, and which were largely concerned in our mission to Egypt.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said, the hon. Mover and Seconder of the Motion had made interesting speeches and raised a great variety of interesting and important questions, although he could not help regretting that among those questions they should have thought it necessary to renew an old charge against the Chancellor of the Exchequer which they would have been better advised to have lot alone. But they had also had a long speech from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir James Fergusson), which he must be allowed to characterize as very inadequate compared to the charges brought against the Government. It did not dispose of some of the most serious charges made, and gave no indication of the policy of the Government. As, however, the Government had now promised that they would give the first night after the Mines Regulation Bill for the discussion of the Diplomatic and Consular Vote, and as that Vote would bring up the whole question of our present policy in Egypt, together with the negotiations of Sir H. Drummond Wolff, he thought it bettor —and others on the same side, thought with him—to reserve criticism upon the conduct of the Government, as well as upon the very inadequate reply of the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) would, perhaps, discover that it would have been better for him to have seized the present opportunity. He did not see that we had done anything to make the I Egyptians bear their burdens more easily. We had rather increased those burdens, no next referred to the despatches of Sir H. Drummond Wolff 111 dated June 14 and 18, in which it was stated that the condition of Egypt was so bad as to cause discontent and to render the fellaheen anxious to join any popular leader who would promise them relief. In these despatches more damning accusations were made against the Government than any that had been made by the Opposition. But the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had tried to make them believe that, after all the money that had been spent by Sir H. Drummond Wolff in getting this information, he had misled them regarding the facts of the case. The House was told that our object in remaining in Egypt was to secure the Suez Canal for all nations. The Government might as well tell them that their object in remaining in Egypt was to secure that the sun should rise to-morrow morning. Everything that could be done to secure the Canal for all nations had already been done, and the only Power that had done anything to weaken the effect of the declarations and firmans that had been obtained was Great Britain. During the Franco-German War and the Russo-Turkish War each of those Powers respected the neutrality of the Canal; but during the Egyptian Expedition Great Britain broke the International Law.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
asked, whether the speech of the hon. Member had any reference to the particular Question before the House? What had the Franco-German War to do with Egypt?
§ DR. CLARK
said, he was pointing out that neutrality of the Suez Canal had been secured long ago. He wanted to ask the Government for what reason we were going to remain in Egypt now? It seemed to him, judging from the words of Lord Salisbury in his Mansion House speech, and from other declarations, that the Government were trying to repudiate the self-denying ordinance on which we had occupied Egypt, and was preparing the way to make the occupation permanent. If the Government did not leave Egypt now, when it was free alike from external and internal troubles, and the Soudan was quiet, they would never leave it at all, and they would remain there under false pretences.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he was free to confess that if we were at liberty to establish a protectorate over 112 Egypt, and it was expedient to do so, he would not have a word to say against the Convention. He thought it was a very good Convention, and was probably the best and cheapest way of establishing a protectorate. But it was impossible, owing to our obligations, to establish a protectorate in Egypt. He was lost in amazement, however, that the Government should expect the French Government to accept a Convention which was opposed to all their interests and our declarations. The result of the Convention had been that we had been snubbed by France in the most humiliating way. He found that the only result of this snub was that the Prime Minister mot it by emphasizing the declaration that we remained in Egypt until we could retire after having established the security of the country. He believed the Government were remaining in Egypt until conditions were fulfilled which he believed to be impossible of fulfilment. That appeared to him a most dangerous position, and one likely to load to serious complications with France. Moreover, he really did not see that the Government were trying honestly to bring about the conclusion of the present state of things. We were reducing the Egyptian Army to a point at which it could not defend the country, and in order to satisfy the bondholders. Apart from the question of the Army, there were two ways of dealing with the question—either to establish a strong man in the country or to establish something in the nature of Constitutional government. The direction in which we could get out of that Egyptian imbroglio lay in restoring that true understanding and entente cordiale with France, which had been so rudely and unfortunately interrupted by our policy in Egypt. He regretted, but was hardly surprised, that the French should try to play on a small scale in the New Hebrides the same game as we were playing in Egypt, saying that they went there to establish order and a Millennium, and would stay there until their work was accomplished. The French people, however, were unwilling to support their Government in foreign adventures which might lead to war; and he thought that if France was now approached in a friendly spirit, both sides agreeing to let bygones be bygones, an arrangement might be come 113 to with her by which, a real autonomous Government would be established in Egypt, with great advantage both to that country itself and to Europe.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, he thought he would be expected to say a word or two in reply to the observations of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), although he had so often answered similar charges—he believed to the satisfaction of the House—that it was scarcely necessary for him to answer the personal attack which formed, if not the staple, at least the point of the hon. Gentleman's speech. The hon. Member had begun by making some suggestion as if upon one of the loans issued by the firm in which he (Mr. Goschen) was interested 24 years ago, that firm had made 11 per cent profit. Well, the most fabulous figures had often been put forward in many quarters as to the profits made on those Egyptian loans, and he confessed that he had not thought it necessary to refute such exaggerated and absurd statements. But in order, once for all, to induce even the hon. Member to refrain from repeating them—for he presumed that the hon. Member would accept his word—he might state that the aggregate earnings on the loan upon which the hon. Member said 11 per cent had gone into the pockets of the firm were not more than 1½ per cent. He confessed that it went against his inclination to say that much, but he had seen that at elections and on various platforms the most fabulous figures had been imported into the allegations put forward on that subject, and therefore he had now rather reluctantly made this statement.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I presume that the right hon. Gentleman would wish this matter to be fully elucidated. Perhaps he will be good enough to state whether he denies the amount of the loan as given by Mr. Cave and the amount received by the Egyptian Government; and whether he denies my statement as to the amount that ought to have been received on the issue price; and whether he will state to whom the difference of something like £400,000 or £500,000 went. His firm is responsible for that.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the sums his firm received were paid over to the contractors of the loan, and it was not until 15 years afterwards that he heard the allegation that the sum mentioned by the hon. Member had been entered in the books of the Egyptian Treasury. He might, perhaps, be able to throw some light upon the matter. In 1876, when the accounts of the Egyptian Treasury were examined, it was found that the Egyptian Finance Minister—the Minister to whom the hon. Gentleman afterwards alluded as if he was one of the saviours of Egypt—had been deliberately cooking the Egyptian accounts, and that he had deducted some 10 per cent or more from the amounts paid over to the Egyptian Government. It had never been said before that the agents were responsible; but it was now alleged, and the hon. Member seemed to allege, that the money went into the pockets of the firm with which he (Mr. Goschen) was connected.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. Was the loan underwritten or not?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
What does the hon. Member mean by that interruption, which I consider is almost an insolent interruption?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Mr. Speaker, I rise to Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether one Member has a right to say of another that his interruption is insolent?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw the word insolent, which is not a Parliamentary expression.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he would withdraw the word; but he confessed it was used under considerable provocation. Did the hon. Member expect that he (Mr. Goschen) should lay before him that of which he was absolutely ignorant himself? He had told the hon. Member that the money was paid over by the firm with which he was connected, and he was absolutely unable to give him further information, nor did he believe that anybody not acquainted with 115 the Egyptian Government at the time— in 1865—would be able to give it. He called the attention of the House to the spirit in which, after he had condescended to give the hon. Member what information, he could, the hon. Member attempted to cross-examine him. The hon. Member for Northampton had stated that he had gone to Egypt in order to rivet the fetters of the bondholders. The hon. Member, like many others, had utterly ignored what passed a few mouths before that Mission to Egypt. The French had made an arrangement with the Khedive by which they put him and the whole of his finances under the most stringent French control. Having done so they re-arranged all the loans with every possible injustice to the separate classes of bondholders, and it was in consequence of that proceeding that the English bondholders thought themselves injured. As to the pretest which had been referred to, it was the recognized duty of firms who brought out loans to protest against any injustice inflicted on the holders of such loans; but the special point in this case was that securities which had been promised to one set of bondholders had been diverted to others, who were mainly the French, and it was to rectify this injustice as between different bodies of bondholders that the protest of his firm was made. It was urged that one of the chief results of his mission was that foreign control was introduced into the finances of Egypt; but this international control was established several months before he went to Egypt; and it was established in the form of the Caisse de la Dette, upon which there was a Frenchman and two others, but no Englishman. This Board had the power given to it to summon the Minister of Finance or any of the Government officials before the international tribunals. He wished to direct attention to the fact that this form of control existed before English intervention, and that it had been forced by another Power on the Egyptian Government, and it was not to any British influence that the beginning of that system was to be traced. Again, the hon. Member made a great deal out of the Moukabala, and he intimated that it was continued in order to pay some loans in which his own (Mr. Goschen's) firm was concerned. He did not know whether that was insinuated.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that what he intended to state, and not to insinuate, was that the decree against which a protest had been made had been rendered necessary by the Khedive in his decree abrogating the Moukabala.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, of course that was not so. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Moukalaba. That was a specimen of the argument of the hon. Gentleman. He agreed that the Moukabala was a thoroughly bad tax; but when the Khedive abolished it, its abolition was considered by all the parties concerned a breach of faith, inasmuch as it deprived those who had redeemed half the tax of the ultimate benefit to be derived from their payments. The landholders protested against its abolition, and he thought that they were right in their protest. The tax was bad and ruinous; but the way in which it had been suspended was unjust. He had been frequently charged both with reinstating the Moukabala and with abolishing it. He had explained how it came to be reinstated in 1876, and he had absolutely nothing whatever to do with its abolition in 1880. He had nothing to do with the decision which the Commission of Liquidation arrived at. It became an international matter, and he had no concern with it. Then the hon. Member had gone on and alluded to the case of the Mufettish, who protested against his (Mr. Goschen's) mission. Well, it had been shown that the Mufettish was robbing the Egyptian Treasury. That became perfectly clear, and on his death it was shown that he had enriched himsel. enormously at the expense of Egypt. It had been stated that the revenue which he pressed out of the Egyptians was as much as £12,000,000 or £14,000,000 a-year. He was the man who had ruined Egyptian finance, and though the circumstances of his disappearance were most discreditable, he had done his country the greatest possible harm. It was not because he protested against the Moukabala, but because he was discovered in his robberies, that he was disgraced, His right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had said that there had been an improvement in Egypt. It was absolutely certain that through the control which had been exercised from without the burdens of Egypt had been absolutely and greatly decreased. 117 It was one of the points established when he was in Egypt that there should be State protection against the irregular mode of taxation which had been in progress for many years. With regard to the allegation that the bondholders always took their pound of flesh, his right hon. Friend had already shown that the burdens had been reduced. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Not enough.] He war glad of that interruption for it reminded him of a point he ought to make. In whose power was it to make these reductions? Was it in the power of the English Government? The reduction made at the time of his (Mr. Goschen's') mission to Egypt was the result of voluntary arrangement between the creditors and the Government of Egypt. Twenty per cent was struck off the capital of a great portion of the debt, and the amount of interest was reduced from 7 per cent to 6 per cent, and in some cases to 5 per cent, in addition to the reduction of capital. That was no slight modification to make with voluntary powers. Then the hon. Gentleman said the Egyptian Government might repudiate the loans on the Daïra and Domain lands. That was a sample of the loose way in which hon. Members studied the complicated question of Egyptian finance. The reason given was that these loans were based on private property. The Daïra was private property since it belonged to the Khedive, but the Domains were lands handed over by the Khedive to assist the liquidation of the Egyptian debt. The Khedive gave the Domains to the creditors for the relief of the general financial situation, and on these estates a loan of £9,000,000 was raised to relieve Egyptian finance. Every shilling of that loan went to the satisfaction of the general debts of Egypt. If the hon. Gentleman's statement had gone uncontradicted, it would have appeared that the Egyptian people were being swindled, because they had to pay the deficit or difference between the produce of the Domains and the interest of the Domains loan. But as a matter of fact that was not so, because every penny of the Domains loan had been devoted to public purposes. There was a large floating debt of some £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 and growing deficits, and, in order to meet these, the Khedive was asked to give up his estates for the relief of the general situation. He thought 118 he had now dealt with the personal charges of the hon. Member for Northampton. He would leave other points to the larger discussion with regard to the Convention which would take place on another occasion. But he would endeavour to elucidate the point to which the hon. Member for East Mayo referred with regard to the £450,000 which he said ought to have been devoted to the relief of the land tax as promised by Lord Northbrook. In carrying out the arrangement proposed by Lord Northbrook there was a Council held, at which it was discussed whether the gift of £450,000 was to be bestowed in the form of relief from forced labour or in the form of remitted taxation. That Council came to the conclusion that the fellaheen would be more benefited by relief from forced labour and by being left in their homes during the large number of days they would otherwise spend in that way. The Egyptian Ministers had as much to do with this arrangement as any of their British advisers. Some hon. Members spoke and argued as if all these matters lay in the hands of the British Government, and as if that Government had only to say—" We will reduce the interest on the debt," and it would be done. In the Conference on that subject two years ago, the Representatives of the British Government did their best to advocate a permanent instead of a temporary reduction of 5 per cent in the interest on the debt; but they were in a minority; they had to deal with the Representatives of a number of European Powers. That was the situation now, and it had been so from the beginning. Foreign Powers had a locus standi in Egypt such, as they had in no other country. They had mixed tribunals on which were Judges representing foreign countries; and these mixed tribunals had what they had nowhere else—the power of summoning Ministers before them, and of preventing the issue of decrees which would appear to involve a breach of faith with foreign creditors. When he was in Egypt a Minister of Finance had actually been summoned before a mixed tribunal, because he had failed to meet an engagement of that kind. Every successive British Government had always been more anxious to deal with the debt in the way of reduction and liquidation than were the Representatives of any 119 of the other Powers. As to the allegation that the recent surplus had been a bogus surplus, that could hardly be. It was not only the financial adviser of the Khedive who examined the figures, but there was also the Caisse de la Dette, in which several Powers were represented, and that Board went into the minutest details in. order to ascertain whether there was a surplus. If there was a bias on the part of that Board it would rather be to think that there was no surplus. The accounts were examined from every point of view; they were passed item by item; and it was only by such a scrutiny that the existence of an equitable and a substantial surplus was ascertained. He appreciated the desire to have Egyptian finance discussed every year. The Government had a responsibility which was most unsatisfactory; everyone agreed that it was eminently unsatisfactory; and the difficulty was how to escape from those cords with which all the European Powers were tied together. He affirmed that the interest had been fairly met, and that the surplus had been a sufficient and a real one. An International Commission would not, as supposed, reduce the interest; on the contrary, its tendency would be precisely the opposite. The only Government anxious to reduce the interest on the Egyptian debt was the English Government; in a Commission every other Power would attempt to prove that Egypt was not over-taxed, and that the administration had more money than it was entitled to; and the other Powers would sooner suspend public works and put off reforms than allow one tittle to be struck off the debt. If it should ever come to an International Commission, he said it in the face of foreign countries as well as the face of the House of Commons, such a Commission would not adopt the same clement attitude in regard to the collection of taxes that would be taken by the Government of this country to whatever Party it belonged. With Sir H. Drummond Wolff, he believed it would be to the advantage of Egypt that there should be a reduction in the rate of interest upon the debt. It was to be desired on many grounds. But we had to act with Foreign Powers; we could not by our own action lighten the charge that was placed on Egypt. They knew the interest taken by many Foreign Govern- 120 ments in the bondholders, and the lengths they were prepared to go on their behalf. The fall of Ismail Pasha was not primarily due to England, but to the nonpayment of German creditors; his deposition emanated from Germany, and not from this country. The Government were perfectly alive to the unsatisfactory condition of the finances of Egypt, in so far as taxation was concerned; they were alive to many of the difficulties which had been pointed out; they would do their best to seek a solution; and if the time came they would use their influence to bring about an equitable settlement. But it was impossible for this country simply by a stroke of the pen or a Resolution of the House of Commons to take any step in that direction without having first secured the assent of the other Powers of Europe.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he knew the Government were anxious to get into Committee of Supply, and he would ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.