§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £459,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, to meet additional Expenditure for Army Services.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the Committee, and may tend to simplify the discussion, if I were to offer a few observations in explanation of this Vote. The Committee will observe that a very small proportion of this Army Estimate is caused by any deficiency in the Army Votes taken last year, properly so called. The Supplementary Estimate is caused mainly by the increased demand for the Naval Service, amounting to £200,000; by a sum of £35,000 for the expenditure of the British Army in Egypt; and by £150,000 for the deficiency in the appropriation in aid, which it is necessary to explain. And here let me say, to avoid confusion, that this Estimate has no connection with the £232,000 paid for the Egyptian Army, to which reference was made the other day. That related solely to the expense of the Nile Expedition, and was based on the principle that the English Government ought to pay the expenses which the Egyptian Government would not have been liable for if there had been no Nile Expedition. But this item of £150,000 rests upon different grounds. The claim of the Egyptian Government is to be recouped for the excess of Expenditure incurred by them in respect of the Native Army. The Committee will recollect that the sum fixed as the cost of the Egyptian Native Army, as it appeared in the Convention Budget, was £130,000, which the Egyptian Government expressed their readiness to defray out of the Egyptian Exchequer, and the Egyptian Government have disclaimed all sums in excess of that amount as sums for which the English Government are liable. The details of the Expenditure are made up 1756 in this way—£44,590 for subsidies for the relief of Kassala; £527,910 for an excess of expenditure in Egypt over and above the sum mentioned in the Egyptian Budget up to the 31st of December, 1886; and a further sum of £50,000 for an excess in the expenditure upon the Egyptian Native Army up to March, 1887—making the total sum claimed, £622,500. All through the year those claims were growing, and, as far as I can ascertain, up to the month of August in that year, no attempt was made, on the part of the English Government, to verify, check, or pay any part of the demand; but, in August, 1886, my right hon. Friend, now First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), directed an investigation by Major Ardagh. Those claims, therefore, have been investigated in the interests of the English Exchequer; and we have thought that the time has come when the English Government should consider the position in which it is placed in regard to the claims of the Egyptian Government. The principle on which the English Government have been proceeding will be best understood by reading short extracts from a despatch of Earl Granville in 1884, in which he said that Her Majesty's Government would, on their part, be prepared to assist in maintaining order in Egypt Proper, and in defending it, as well as in defending the ports of the Red Sea.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
The 4th of January, 1884. It is perfectly obvious that that would impose some liability on the English Government, and the English Government have recognized that responsibility. But the liability of the English Government is not only to be measured by the words of Lord Granville, but it is also, to some extent, to be measured by the acts of that Government. There can be no doubt whatever that the English Government ordered that certain acts should be done in Egypt which fixed direct responsibility upon them. For instance, in December, 1885, two Black battalions were ordered to be raised at Suakin; and, in June, 1886, two more battalions were ordered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), who was then Secre- 1757 tary for War, to be raised for operations on the Nile, for the relief of the English Forces which were suffering from the effects of the climate. The cost arising out of those two orders amounted to £137,000, and in addition there were certain other items of expenditure which were ordered by Sir Frederick Stephenson, the officer commanding the British Forces in Egypt. They related to some small sums, among them being a reserve of rifles, expenses in connection with the railway, and with the depôt. Those items amounted to £37,000, the two together amounting to £174,000, or, in English money, to about £180,000. In addition to that there can, I think, be no doubt of the fact that the increase of the English Army to the extent that was effected was carried further than the Egyptian Government would have carried it if they had been left without the control of the English Government. The Committee will be pleased to hear that between January 1st and September 30th, 1886, the English Army was decreased from 18,296 to 8,718 men; but the Egyptian Army in the same time was increased from 8,023 to 13,075 men, though to a less amount than was originally proposed by Moukhtar Pasha, to which the English Government had objected. Therefore it can hardly be denied that some liability, and a considerable liability, attaches to the English Government in respect of this matter. A very considerable expenditure was imposed upon the Egyptian Government by our direct action, or, to speak in the words of the Vote itself, "under the authority of the British Commander-in-Chief." Accordingly it became the duty of Her Majesty's Government to consider the question of that liability from all points of view. The House will recollect that, as I have stated, the total amount of the claims of the Egyptian Government in respect of the Egyptian Army Expenditure amounts to £622,500. Now what Her Majesty's Government, after carefully considering the matter, have agreed to do is this. They have already asked Parliament to Vote in the Army Estimates the sum of £58,000 in respect of Suakin, and they have now agreed to forego £200,000, which is the contribution due by the Egyptian Government for the year 1886–7 in respect of the Army of Occupation. The whole of the expenditure which remains 1758 to be paid in respect of the Native Army will be paid by the Egyptian Government, and the whole of the future expenditure of Egypt in respect of the Native Army will be paid out of the Egyptian Exchequer. The Committee will see that this arrangement has not been placed upon any precise or very exact definition of the respective responsibilities of the two Governments, simply because it is absolutely impossible to draw an exact line between the responsibility of England and the responsibility of Egypt. It would be very easy to attack it from either point of view; it would be easy to make out a case to show that the Egyptian Government have not, perhaps, received all that it might expect to receive; and, on the other hand, it would not be difficult to establish that the Egyptian Government has received more than the country ought to contribute. But it seems to the Government to be essential to bring this matter to an issue as soon as possible in the interests of our position in Egypt, and also because it is right to bring at once to the knowledge of the House of Commons the position in which this country stands with regard to the claims of the Egyptian Government. In any case, it is important that any arrangement come to as between the English and the Egyptian Exchequers should be accepted as a final settlement of all the out-standing claims of the Egyptian Government. There remains one thing more to explain to the Committee; I have referred to the sum of £200,000, which was the contribution to be paid by Egypt. The sum the Government now ask the Committee to Vote in this Supplementary Estimate is limited to £150,000, and that arises from the fact that there has been a saving upon other Army Votes passed for the year 1886–7. There is a small additional Estimate in the Navy Supplementary Estimate; but I hope it will be found convenient to the Committee to discuss and decide the whole question now, once for all, without the necessity of raising it again upon the Supplementary Estimate for the Navy.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I have to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) for having vouchsafed an explanation of this Vote. If we are to assume that the British taxpayer is 1759 bound to pay the whole of the expenses for defending Egypt, then the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman are perfectly good; but I am bound to say that I do not accept the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, because I entirely and absolutely deny the very foundation of the whole of his statement—namely, that the British taxpayer has any right to pay for the defence of Egypt. I have certainly not been convinced by the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman; and I propose to move to reduce the amount of the Vote by£150,000, that being the contribution we are asked to pay on behalf of Egypt. This is a very serious matter, and more especially serious when we know that up to this time this country has been left in entire ignorance of the extent to which the British taxpayers have been paying for assisting the Egyptian Government to defend their own territory. I will not go over again the arguments which were used the other night; but, at the same time, I think the Vote raises very serious questions indeed, not only as to expenditure, but questions of policy, and a very important question as to the Treasury management and control over our expenditure, and the extent to which the House of Commons is permitted to have control over it. The first complaint I have to make is a somewhat general complaint as to the way in which these Supplementary Estimates are rushed through the House. I find that the Ordinary Estimates are weeded from every questionable kind of expenditure, and then at the end of 12 months we are told that there are Supplementary Estimates, which the law has provided must be passed by a certain day. We are told that the money has been spent, and that we have no option in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to give us an explanation with regard to this Vote, but it is not an explanation which hon. Members have had an opportunity of considering; and I can only say that up to this time, the Committee, who are now required to vote the money, have not been in possession of the slightest amount of information in the matter. In my opinion, the sum we are now asked to vote, and other sums in addition, are really in the nature of subsidies to the Egyptian Government without the knowledge or consent of Parliament. The right hon. 1760 Gentleman has told us that this Vote is not in connection with an item of expenditure amounting to £232,900, to which allusion was made the other night; but if it is not directly connected with that Vote, at all events it presents a close relation to it, and the two together may be regarded as twin brothers. We employed an English Commander-in-Chief upon the Expedition that was sent out to relieve General Gordon, and a part of this expenditure was incurred in those operations. A further portion of the Estimate is for the extra expense incurred by the Egyptian Army owing to our operations for the defence of the frontier. We were told the other night that in settling accounts with the Egyptian Government a sum of £233,000 had already been paid without the consent of Parliament; and now it is proposed to add the sums included in this Estimate to the amount already paid. It seems to me that we really have been giving a large subsidy to the Egyptian Government; in fact, we seem to have already paid a sum amounting to close upon £400,000 without the knowledge of Parliament. As to the Suakin Vote, there may be something to be said for it. Lord Granville undoubtedly did use words which may be said to have given sanction to the impression that we were to hold that port on our own account. But there are many other items which, in my opinion, would be more properly defrayed by the Egyptian Government, and I do not see why we should, with this Vote, be practically asked to sanction the expenditure of £500,000 of money in order to subsidize Egypt. We are told that it is for past expenditure, and not for future expenditure; and I should be very glad to find that we are not called upon to make any further expenditure. But I do not feel confident in that assurance, when I know that at the last moment Supplementary Estimates may be brought forward, and when I am not sure that the expenditure we are asked to pass is in the nature of a final Vote, but of a subsidy which we are asked to give to Egypt in order to square the Egyptian account and to avoid that inquiry into the finances of Egypt which we are bound by Treaty in certain contingencies to submit to, and which must inevitably come some day. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken as if the late Government were responsible for the present arrangement. I am one 1761 of those who are disposed to think that both Governments have made away unfairly with the money of the taxpayers of this country, and, therefore, I am prepared to cast blame on both. But when I look at the Papers what do I find? I do not find that there is any justification whatever for the charge of the right hon. Gentleman; but that Her Majesty's Government are making payments upon a policy directly the reverse of that of the previous Government. What did the right hon. Gentleman quote in support of his contention? Nothing but a despatch of Lord Granville as long ago as 1884, which contains an allusion which may to a certain extent be said to justify some expenditure in connection with Suakin. But that is all. It is perfectly clear that this does not justify the action of the present Government. As bearing upon the general question of financial management, I would advise all hon. Members who take an interest in economy and in the interests of the British taxpayer, to read the Report of the Auditor and Comptroller General upon the Appropriation Accounts in connection with the Egyptian Army for the year 1885–6. It seems to me that that Report is very unpleasant reading. The Comptroller and Auditor General is an important officer of the State. He stands in relation to Her Majesty's Treasury in the same position as the Supreme Court of the United States stands towards the United States Government, in so far as he is bound to control and correct abuses on the part of the Government. But I am sorry to say that we have had Reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General which do not appear to have had the slightest attention paid to them. If hon. Members will take the trouble of looking up these Reports, they will find that they contain allusions to some very serious matters. I find that the Comptroller and Auditor General takes the strongest exception against the improper mode in which the accounts are presented in order that expenditure may be thrown on the Vote of Credit. He says—No less an amount than £872,300 was added to the Vote of Credit expenditure over and above the sum recorded against it in the Accounting Department of the War Office, and the accounts of Vote of Credit expenditure compiled in this manner show that the additional charges thrown on the Vote of Credit closely correspoud with the deficiencies shown on the ordinary 1762 Votes, the Vote of Credit being practically used to adjust the differences between the ordinary Vote and the actual expenditure.Now, it appears to me that that is a very serious statement indeed. We were always in the habit of supposing that Votes which were not expended in the year for which they were voted, were paid into the Exchequer at the end of the year. In the last Report we have from the Comptroller and Auditor General on this subject, a sum of £232,000 has been appropriated which was not properly chargeable to the Vote.
The matter to which the hon. Member is calling attention is, no doubt, one of great importance; but I fail to see how he connects it with this Supplementary Vote.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I will not pursue that line of argument further. I will only say that these Votes are closely connected together. It would appear that Her Majesty's Government have, without the knowledge of Parliament, paid large sums of money, and we are now called upon to pay the balance. I will, Sir, after your intimation, avoid all further allusion to the subject. I must, however, be permitted to say that all who are interested in the control over our finances must be alarmed by the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in regard to the Egyptian Expenditure now brought before the Committee. It appears to me that in this matter we have not only a lax system, but also a further illustration of the evil complained of the other night, that excesses upon the Votes are not paid into the Exchequer, but kept in hand in order that they may be applied to other expenditure which may arise, and which, as a necessary consequence, the House is not called upon to sanction. I trust, whether it be in regard to this Vote or not, other hon. Members will closely apply themselves to the consideration of this subject, because I believe that we do not know the worst of the matter. The Treasury has hitherto been supposed to be the guardian of the public purse, but it would appear that the principal blame now attaches to it. I cannot imagine that this sort of thing could have taken place under the régime of the present First Lord of the Treasury, or under the present Chancellor of the Exchequer; and it certainly does raise very serious questions indeed. And now, Sir, to 1763 revert to the Egyptian Question. It seems to me that there has been going on for some time a sort of conspiracy among the financiers and Jingoes in Egypt—a sort of conspiracy among those who are anxious for the British Government to remain in the country—to force the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and to throw on the British taxpayers any deficiencies in the accounts of Egypt. This has been foreshadowed for some time, and now the whole truth is sprung upon us in this Supplementary Estimate. This is not a proper way of treating the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the pretext for this expenditure is that services have been rendered by the Egyptian Army to the British Army. Now, I entirely and absolutely repudiate that argument, because I deny that the British taxpayer is in any way responsible for the defence of Egypt. We know as to one part of the expenditure that it was for the relief of the late lamented General Gordon. But General Gordon went out as an Egyptian Commissioner, and he acted in that capacity in order to rescue from the Soudan Egyptian troops and Egyptian subjects; that was the object of his expedition. The other operations undertaken by the British Forces were for the protection of the Egyptian Frontier, and in carrying out that object extensive operations were rendered necessary. Combined operations were carried on by the Egyptian Army and the British Army under a British Commander-in-Chief. But I fail to see why, because we went there to rescue Egyptian subjects, and to provide for the defence of the Egyptian frontier under the British Commander-in-Chief, the British taxpayer is to bear the expense. It is most ludicrous, as well as most unjust and unreasonable, that we should be called upon to pay the Egyptians for fighting the battles that are necessary for the defence of their own country. It was not the case of employing an Egyptian Army to assist us. On the contrary, the fact was just the other way. I find that in 1886 Lord Rosebery, on behalf of the then Government, distinctly refused the appeal which was made to him to pay this sum of £200,000. Lord Rosebery, on the 14th of April, 1886, said that the sum— 1764Will be met from the sum allotted out of the guaranteed loan for special expenses connected with the Soudan.And he goes on to say—It would be unreasonable to expect Her Majesty's Government to renounce altogether the payment of the £200,000. The British Government pay Custom duties, octroi duties, and other charges. The total yearly cost to this country for the occupation and defence of Egypt exceeds £1,000,000.That sum was altogether beyond the ordinary expenditure for the troops employed in Egypt. It would, therefore, seem clear from this Paper that Lord Rosebery, in defining the position of the late Government in 1886, pointed out good reasons why the payment should not be made. It was even the case that the Egyptian Government did not make the claim. At the time the loan of £9,000,000 was raised, a considerable amount was reserved to meet the expenditure of carrying on the Egyptian Government. It was proposed that the £200,000 should be provided out of that loan and not by the ordinary finances of the country. Then came the proposition of Moukhtar Pasha, in February, 1886; and later on—in October 1886—the present Government being then in power, they accepted the liability. Now it appears to me that they wrongfully accepted it, and that they accepted it wholly under pressure, having regard to the depressed condition of the Egyptian finances. I believe that the only real ground on which this payment can be claimed is that of the necessities of the Egyptian Government, and it comes to this—that the Egyptian Government cannot pay, and, therefore, we must pay. That is the only real ground on which we are asked to pay this money; but it seems to me that the gentlemen who have been at the head of Egyptian finance have been occupying a sort of dual capacity in the matter. One day they give us a roseate view of the Egyptian finances, and tell us they are in a flourishing condition. Nothing could be more rose-coloured than the account which they gave some time ago when they wanted to pay the bondholders. When, however, it comes to be a question of the settlement of accounts with the British Government an entirely different view is taken of the finances of the country. 1765 They say that Egypt is poor; that her finances are embarrassed; that the Egyptian Exchequer is unable to pay; and the consequence is that this country is compelled to pay a large amount of money, not only on account of past expenditure, but as regards the present position of affairs. The right hon. Gentleman has indicated, and we knew it already from the statements of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, that at one time it was proposed we should pay a great deal more. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer said that, in addition to the responsibility incurred, it was proposed to take another £500,000 as a subsidy for Egypt. Here are his words—When I was leaving the Government, I had consented there should be presented to Parliament Supplementary Estimates amounting to the sum of £300,000 for the Navy, close upon £500,000 for the Army, and another £500,000 for expenses connected with the Army in Egypt."—(3 Hansard,  59.)Can there be anything plainer than this? I myself heard the noble Lord the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) use those words in the plainest language. What I believe is this—that Her Majesty's Government have become afraid of the outcry which may be raised in this country, and they have cut down the Estimate to £150,000. They say, under these circumstances, instead, of finding fault with them, you ought to give them a great deal of credit. Now, whether the amount is smaller than it might have been or not, it is certainly a great deal too large for the British taxpayer to pay; and I am not satisfied that if he agrees to pay it now, he will not have further demands of the same kind to pay in the future. The investigation which the Egyptian Government and Her Majesty's Government wish to avoid is postponed for the present, and if there is a deficiency next year we shall have to meet it also by a Supplementary Estimate. Her Majesty's Government may say, "hit high, or hit low, there is no pleasing him." Now, I should be much better pleased if they would now ask something more for next year, for this reason—that if we are to defend Egypt out of British taxes, it will be much better to pay Egyptians for doing the work than to keep our own troops Why should our British Grena- 1766 diers be required to leave their bones in Egypt? I never struggled much against the payment for Suakin. That port is a long way from Egypt, and if Her Majesty's Government desire to indulge in the crotchet of occupying Suakin, they may fairly bear the expense; but when it comes to a question of paying for the defence of Egypt, I very strongly object to it. At the same time, if I were able to believe that the expenditure was incurred in order to enable Egypt to obtain an efficient Army and secure the withdrawal of our troops altogether from that country, I would not grudge the money. But the reason why I do most strongly object to the Vote is that I believe it to be a Vote which is only to stave off the financial difficulties of Egypt, and to put off financial inquiry. I understand that the Egyptian Army, instead of being strengthened, is being reduced, and that it will be still further reduced. The answer to those who may urge the evacuation will be that we cannot leave Egypt because the Army is too weak. It seems to me that the first condition under which it may be possible for us to withdraw our troops from Egypt is that Egypt should have a sufficient standing Army, by means of which she shall be able to defend herself against the wild tribes by which she is surrounded. I have great respect for Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. I believe that he has done good service on former occasions, and he has led all of us to hope that he was going to do good service again. If Sir Henry Drummond Wolff could secure what it has been alleged he has been attempting—namely, the neutralization of Egypt, no salary would be too large for him, Certainly, if by the neutralization of Egypt is meant "hands off all round," that would be one of the best things that could happen, and I should have been delighted if Sir Henry Drummond Wolff could have made an arrangement of that kind. But whatever may have been the desire in that direction on the part of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, I am afraid that Her Majesty's Government have yielded to the Jingo cry. They gave an explanation the other day which shows that Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission has been entirely nugatory. What did they tell us? They told us that the proposals of Her Majesty's Government did not involve the withdrawal of our troops so long as there is any apprehen- 1767 sion that the Government will not be able to maintain themselves; and that means until the arrival of the Millennium, No doubt the Egyptian bondholders will be highly satisfied with that announcement; and, at all events, it is now understood that we are not to go away until the Egyptian Army is rendered efficient. We are not now going to give the money by which it can be made efficient. Her Majesty's Government say that they have never made any proposal by which they intend to renounce their right to protect the security of Egypt from external and internal disturbance, I ask where Her Majesty's Government got that right? I deny the right altogether. Her Majesty's ships went to Alexandria, and our troops have ever since been engaged in defending Egypt; but I deny altogether that they are acting under any Treaty right to which the European Powers or the Porte has consented, and which gives them any such power, Egypt has submitted to the protection of Her Majesty's Government; but the Khedive has given them no Treaty right, because he dare not do so. Then they say that they appreciate the fact that Belgium is not like Egypt. Undoubtedly, in many respects Egypt is not like Belgium; but in one essential point it is like Belgium—namely, that it is a rich country which so many people covet, and the neutralization of Belgium means "hands off all round." Nobody must be allowed to take possession of the country; but the people of the country must be allowed to manage their own affairs, I think there would be very little hope if we passed this Vote that things would go in the right direction, or that there would be any immediate prospect of our withdrawing from Egypt and wiping our hands of the Government of that country. I think it is a very bad arrangement which enables the Egyptian financiers to extort the utmost farthing from the people of England for the benefit of the bondholders without benefiting the people of Egypt in the least degree. It is stated that the Army Service in Egypt is popular; but I find that a revenue of £250,000 a-year is being raised for the purchase of discharge. Surely, that is grossly inconsistent with the statement that service in the Egyptian Army is popular; that nothing like conscription is required, and that the service is entirely voluntary. It has been said both 1768 in the English and French newspapers that the French Government have consented to devote the money obtained from the purchase of discharges to the Egyptian Army, the effect of which would be to relieve the taxpayers of this country. The Government of Egypt, however, declined to do anything of the sort because they wanted to keep this item of revenue for other purposes. Nobody has taken a stronger view than I do as to the necessity of abolishing the corvée, and the land revenues ought to be available for that purpose; but I fail to see that the corvée in Egypt has any connection whatever with the service of the Army. It would be just as reasonable if the hon. Members for Caithness (Dr. Clark) and Ross and Cromarty (Dr. Macdonald) were to get up and object to the Army Estimates, because they are of opinion that the sum voted to the purchase of discharge ought to be applied in order to meet the grievances of the Scotch crofters. The two things have no reference to each other. According to the last plea put forward, as stated on the authority of our own Agent in Egypt, the arrangement is this. At the time of the Financial Convention the land revenue of Egypt was to be reduced to the extent of £250,000, and it was now proposed that it should be maintained, but that provision should be made out of that for the abolition of the corvée. In that event, provision for the Army could be made; but, otherwise, there would be no funds out of which the Egyptian Army could be maintained. If that is so, we should be fairly told that after a certain time the British taxpayer should no longer be required to contribute towards the support of the Egyptian Army. There may be people in this country who are willing to pay for the privilege of occupying Egypt; but I do not think that if the matter were fairly and frankly placed before the English people, they would be willing to make this payment. My own view is that if the Egyptian Government cannot be supported under the present system without coming to the British taxpayer to make up the deficiency, we ought frankly to confess that Egypt is insolvent, and then endeavour to come to terms with the other Powers in regard to its future position. I think we are making an unfair payment, upon an unfair pretext, when we pay the Egyptians for fighting their own battles, and 1769 that this item in the Supplementary Estimates is solely asked for with a view of squaring; the Egyptian Budget. Before I sit down, I should like to express a hope that, before the debate ends, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, or some other Member of the Government, will explain how it is proposed to carry on the expenditure for the Egyptian Army, if this House is not called upon to pay it. I understand that in the coming Estimates there is not only no Estimate for any payment to be made in aid of the Egyptian Army, but that even the payment for the garrison at Suakin is to be withdrawn. Then I want to know how the Egyptian Army is to be carried on if that is the case? I find that the Egyptian Army has always been starved. The £130,000, which was reserved for it in Egypt, does not amount to one and a-half per cent of the Egyptian revenues. Is it possible that any country could expect to maintain a standing Army at so ridiculously small a cost? And even £30,000 of that sum is expended in administration, and instead of £130,000 being kept for the maintenance of the Army, not more than £100,000 is spent for that purpose. How, then, is the money to be found to enable this country to abandon the position which it now occupies in Egypt? Are you going to reduce the Egyptian Army to the minimum on which it can be maintained for £130,000? I expect to be told what proposals Her Majesty's Government intend to make in regard to the Egyptian Army in the future, and how it is to be maintained if the cost is not to be thrown upon the British taxpayer. Nothing could be more dangerous than the false economy of starving the Egyptian Army, and reducing its efficiency. I am sorry that I have detained the House so long, and I beg to move the rejection of the Vote.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
There is a point of Order I wish to raise in regard to the Motion the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has moved for the rejection of this Vote. I take it that if a reduction of the Vote is merely moved there is nothing to prevent any other hon. Member from raising a question hereafter upon other items in the Vote, even although the Motion for the reduction of a particular item is put from the Chair and carried to a Division. Therefore, I would suggest that the hon. 1770 Member, instead of moving the rejection of the Vote, should move the omission of the particular item which relates to Egypt. The debate would then be confined to that specific item. There would be no cross conversation, but a specific issue would be raised.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I shall be perfectly willing to change the form of my Motion, and to move the omission of this item of £150,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item of £150,000, for deficiency in Appropriations in Aid, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
The audacity of putting down a Vote like this in the Supplementary Estimates is only equalled by the audacity of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) in endeavouring to throw the responsibility upon his Predecessors. Now, Sir, what is this Vote? It is a deliberate attempt on the part of certain classes, who always hang together, to force the British taxpayer to pay a sum of £200,000 which cannot be paid by Egypt for the coupons on the British Loan that are due in March—this month. In order to prove that assertion, it will be necessary for me to explain, as briefly as possible, what are our present relations with Egyptian finance. After 1882—after what was called the rebellion had been suppressed—we came to an agreement that the Egyptian Government should pay a sum of £4 for every one of our soldiers employed in Egypt; that being supposed to be the excess of cost over what would have been incurred if the troops had remained in England. The number of our troops was limited, at the same time, to 7,500. In 1884 a Convention sat in London and discussed this matter at some length, but separated without coming to an absolute agreement; but in March, 1885, they did come to an agreement, and their agreement was embodied in a decree of the Khedive. In that decree it was laid down that the Khedive should take 5 per cent off the coupons for the years 1885, 1886, and up to March, 1887. At the same time, it was agreed that we should reduce our interest in the Suez 1771 Canal shares by ½ per cent. Whether that was a quid pro quo I do not know; but it was stated at the time that the great Powers of Europe were acting with us, and assented that the maximum sum to be paid for the occupation of Egypt was to be £200,000. We are told that this Vote has been rendered necessary in consequence of what the late Government did in the matter. Let us see what it was that the late Government did. In the Blue Book, "Egypt, No. 4," at page 78, there is a Treasury Minute, dated September, 1884. That Treasury Minute cites a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. My right hon. Friend stated then—All the Powers agree as to the normal administrative expenditure in Egypt, fixing the figure, subject to certain adjustments, at £5,237,000, but that figure contains one item of expenditure which will be of special interest to us—namely, £200,000 for the maximum cost of the Army of Occupation.The Treasury Minute goes on to say that, in pursuance of that arrangement, made by Her Majesty's late Advisers, the liability of this country in respect of the Army of Occupation was, for that year, £200,000. Therefore, the sum due from Egypt on that occasion for the first five months of 1885–6 was £83,333. Now, I have pointed out what was the view of the matter taken by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Edinburgh. In 1885–6 this amount was charged on the Estimates, and it appears as a reduction of the Estimates. We were to receive £200,000 from Egypt, and I believe that we did receive it. At the same time, the Egyptians received £233,000 as a contribution from us for services paid for by them in connection with our Suakin expedition, which was intended for the relief of General Gordon. It was held that that was specially our expedition, and it was considered that we ought to pay any Egyptians we employed in it. I now come to 1886–7. In 1886–7, I find there is put down in the Estimates a sum of £200,000 as a contribution from Egypt. It was on that occasion that Lord Rosebery wrote the despatch which was quoted just now by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), in which, in reply to the demand from Egypt, and the plea 1772 which the Egyptian Government had made for some remission, Lord Rosebery substantially told them that no remission whatever would be made. [Cries of "No!"] Hon. Members say "no." Then I shall have to read the despatch again. It is dated April 14th, 1886, and it is a despatch from Lord Rosebery to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, and it says—I should wish you to point out to His Excellency that it would be unreasonable to expect that Her Majesty's Government could consent to renounce altogether the payment of the £200,000.[An hon. Member: Altogether!] The hon. Gentleman opposite relies on the word "altogether." Surely we are renouncing this £200,000 altogether. The despatch says—It would be unreasonable to expect that Her Majesty's Government could consent to renounce altogether the payment of the £200,000 to be paid by the Egyptian Government on account of the expenses of the British forces in Egypt. A payment of this kind was originally intended to represent the extra cost of the residence in Egypt of British troops in India over and above their actual pay. Her Majesty's Government, while considering the straitened position of the Egyptian Exchequer, cannot recognize that this sum covers even the extra expenditure the British Government are called upon to pay. They pay customs duties, octroi duties, and other charges. The total yearly cost to this country for the occupation and defence of Egypt exceeds £1,000,000 sterling. It is the desire of Her Majesty's Government to reduce this charge as far as possible; but whilst it continues they are not prepared, without just reason, to remit the small contribution towards it they receive from Egypt.After that despatch, can it be possible to assert, for a moment, that Her Majesty's late Advisers were in favour of relieving Egypt of the payment of this sum? As I have pointed out, these coupons, at the present moment, are due by the Convention of 1885, at which it was agreed that, in March, 1887—the present month—Egypt was to pay the interest upon the coupons in full, or the whole condition of the finances of Egypt would be inquired into by the European Powers. I can understand the Government coming forward to say—"We object to a Convention of that kind on the part of Europe; and we think it is more desirable that we should give up this sum of £200,000." That course would be frank and honest; but what did the Government do? After taking credit to themselves for this £200,000 in 1773 the Estimates, they come forward with a Supplementary Estimate, precisely at the moment when the money due upon these coupons is required, and when it is a matter of notoriety, according to Sir Evelyn Baring, that Egypt cannot pay them. Her Majesty's Government told us that they wanted this sum of money in order to pay off some old claims in regard to Suakin; but in reality it is to pay the coupons. Are we to be told that we have done nothing at all for Egypt? We sent an army there, and charged only £4 per man, while the cost to us was £100 per man. Therefore, we saved the Egyptian Government a large amount of ready money. Yet, now, we are told that we are not only to send our own troops to Egypt, but that we are to pay the Egyptians for defending their own country. Whoever heard of such a preposterous demand? It has frequently occurred that one Government has sent to another an Auxiliary Force under a Treaty of defensive and offensive alliance. A Government sending an Auxiliary Force in that way is expected to pay for it; but it has never yet been held that a Government who sends an Auxiliary Force is not only to pay its own expenses, but also the expenses of the Native troops who may act with them. Yet that is what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War is obliged to lay before the House, because he will not frankly and honestly admit that this is a payment for the coupons. Let me point out that if we pay these coupons, in all probability we shall have to pay more money still. We shall virtually admit that whenever the coupons cannot be paid by Egypt we must come forward and pay them ourselves. It practically makes it an Egyptian security in English Consols. No doubt, that is a pleasant thing for the holders of the coupons; but it is most unpleasant for the British taxpayer, who will again and again have to put his hands into his pockets in order to pay these coupons. The reason of of this is, that we have taken upon ourselves the payment of the loans to Egypt, at an excessive rate, and we have not left enough for the normal expenses of Egypt. Owing to the old Soudan troubles on the Frontier of Egypt, the Egyptian Government were compelled to raise a loan which was greater than they could repay. We authorized and 1774 allowed that loan, and guaranteed the payment of interest upon a sum of £9,000,000. At the present moment Egypt is in this position. Avowedly she cannot borrow on her own finances, and, therefore, she comes springing upon us for the money necessary for the payment of her debts. I maintain that the course we are pursuing is corrupt in the highest degree. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) will give the House an explanation in regard to these loans. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible for them. I do not complain of him; but I will only state an admitted fact, that the house with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was connected brought out the first loans; and now he puts his name to this Estimate, which is to convert these bonds into English Consols and to give a perfect assurance that if they are not paid by Egypt—which certainly cannot be done, and they cannot in any way benefit the Egyptian fellahs, but simply benefit the men who have bought the loans, and now hold the coupons at a high price—then the money shall be paid by the British Government. Let me call attention to a statement made by Sir Evelyn Baring—who will be accepted, I presume, by the Government as a good authority—as to what the position of Egypt has been up to 1887. Sir Evelyn Baring tells us that when the financial arrangements were made in 1885, the Government ought to have known very well that Egypt would be unable to pay the full interest on the coupons. Sir Evelyn Baring wrote, on the 18th of April, 1886, to Lord Rosebery, and stated that there was a probability of the Egyptian Government being able to resume full payment in 1887; but at that moment, adds Sir Evelyn Baring, it would be undue optimism to speak of the contingency as more than a bare probability. He adds—That the sum required to enable the Egyptian Government to meet its full legal obligations was only about £200,000;and he sums up the position as follows:—The full payment of the rate of interest is quite impossible unless two things happen—first, a material reduction of the army expenditure; and secondly, a reduction of the non-effective charges.He concludes in these words— 1775Unless these two objects are obtained, I see no probability of the Egyptian Treasury issuing from a state of bankruptcy.
It is contained in the Blue Book, "Egypt, No. 4." Sir Evelyn Baring clearly shows that it was impossible for the Government to meet these charges. As a matter of fact, the Egyptian Government has not met them, and cannot meet them; and, therefore, I say that this scheme is vamped up, and we are called upon to pay expenses, stated to have been incurred in 1885–6, in order that the coupons may be paid in full. Would it not have been more fair and candid for Her Majesty's Government to have said so? No doubt I should have personally opposed any proposal of that kind; but still, the matter would have been put fairly before the House. I maintain that it is the duty of the House to put an end to this ridiculous expenditure in connection with Egypt. We were told when we were voting money for the Army of Occupation that £200,000 would be paid over by Egypt; but, after voting money upon that pledge, we are now called upon, in a Supplementary Vote, to forego the £200,000 and put our hands in our own pockets in order to pay it. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has further told us that some of the other items in connection with the war expenditure have been in excess of the sums actually required. He has, therefore, coolly taken £50,000 which was in excess upon sums voted for specific purposes and he has handed them over as a subsidy to the Egyptian Government.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
What I stated was that the balance of the deficiency in the Appropriation was £150,000.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the original appropriation exceeded the Estimates by £150,000, but that there was an excess of £50,000 which he had appropriated. That is the necessary consequence of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I believe I am speaking within the mark when I gather the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman's words to be that there was a considerable excess upon other items, and that that excess has been deliberately taken 1776 by Her Majesty's Government. I am not surprised that a Government who would do that should come forward now and ask for a further sum of £150,000; but, I would ask, what earthly use it is for hon. Members to come down here to discuss the various items of expenditure when such things as that are allowed? It is a system that in the time of the late Emperor Napoleon was protested against over and over again, and it was one of the things that in the end led to the Emperor's downfall. I protest entirely against the whole of this Vote. I protest against the £150,000 which we are asked to Vote; and I protest as strongly as possible against the system adopted at the War Office by which a sum of £50,000 voted for specific purposes is proposed to be put into the pockets of the Egyptian Government, because the present Government choose to say that the late Administration were in favour of such a course. I deny that they were in favour of it. I deny that the quotation from Lord Granville substantiates it for a moment. The right hon. Gentleman, in 1887, tells that this debt was incurred in 1885–6; and he says that it was incurred in accordance with the wishes and intentions of the late Government, because, in 1884, Lord Granville had asserted that it was our mission to maintain order in Egypt, and to perform certain duties in connection with the ports of the Red Sea. Now, we are spending £1,000,000 sterling in the defence of the Egyptian Frontier, and we have spent a great deal of the money in maintaining the ports of the Red Sea; and Lord Granville's statement has absolutely nothing to do with an expenditure which occurred in 1885–6, and which we are now asked to pay in 1887. I protest altogether against this Vote, and I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy will go to a Division against it. I hope that hon. Members on this side of the House, at least, will join by their votes in giving an effect to a strong protest against the whole system of the Government in bringing forward Votes of this character in Supplementary Estimates. Above all things, we ought to protest against the system which has been pursued of taking £50,000 from purposes for which they may have been legitimately and properly voted, in order to apply them to other and entirely different purposes.
MR. BEADLAUGH (Northampton)
As I understand the Vote, it is an application to the Committee to grant, without knowing any of the particulars, a sum of £150,000 to the Egyptian Government for the expenses which are being, and have been, incurred by them—how incurred is altogether unexplained—under the authority of one of the British Commanders-in-Chief. We do not know when the expenditure was incurred. [Mr. E. STANHOPE dissented.] I am sorry to find myself already in disagreement with the Treasury Bench; but I am afraid I shall find myself more in disagreement as I go on. I have some little evidence beside me which I am ready to use after I get an answer from the Government to the questions I am about to put. At present, all I am going to ask is that some Member of the Government, possessing a little knowledge of the facts, will be good enough to state what was the nature of the extraordinary services rendered to us by the Egyptian Government, and who authorized the British Commander-in-Chief to require the Egyptian Government to perform these services? I wish to know whether the question was submitted to the Home Government, and, if the reply is "Yes," where is the despatch relating to it? If the question was not so submitted, I want to know whether the Government mean to give us to understand that the British Commander-in-Chief, for the time being, has authority to pledge the Government of this country to the payment of any amount of money to the Egyptian Government for any expenditure they may choose to incur? Then I want a specific answer to the question—what is the total extraordinary expenditure of which this sum of £150,000 forms part? I want to know, further, what the items are which make it up; also, whether those items have been submitted to the Home Government in any despatch, and, if "Yes," why that despatch has been omitted from the papers presented to Parliament? I want to know whether the Vote includes anything for services at Suakin in reference to which a disagreement even now subsists, and it becomes more important to-night because it is alleged in regard to the matter that the British Government did, by a despatch to the Commander-in-chief, authorize certain expenditure upon the 1778 Egyptian Army at Suakin? I want to know, what that expenditure was for, what amount we are responsible for, what there may be beyond, and also the total claims made by the Egyptian Government? I think we ought not to be asked to vote money which is to go entirely into the Egyptian Exchequer without understanding something about it; therefore, I wish to learn whether the sums claimed by the Egyptian Government were really larger originally; why the Government insist on reducing them, and why, in the Papers presented to Parliament, those items are not included? When Parliament is asked to vote a sum of £150,000 out of the pockets of the English taxpayer for the payment of people in Egypt, I think it is necessary to have some explanation of the purpose for which it has been employed, who will profit by it, and what is the nature of the services the Egyptian Government performed for which they are now seeking payment. Then I should like to know whether the English Government was made liable for this payment by Sir Henry Drummond Wolff or by Sir Evelyn Baring, and I should like further to know where the despatch is from either of those gentlemen to the Home Government giving information on the subject. It is somewhat curious that an attentive reading of the Blue Books shows some remarkable gaps so far as authority is concerned. It might almost appear that some despatches have been unfairly left out, but I know that that is impossible in the straightforward way in which we manage things in this country. At any rate, the Government appear to have displayed careful carelessness in leaving out anything that would enlighten an unofficial Member. I trust that I shall get the answer which I hope to get, and in the event of not getting it, I shall certainly continue, as long as the Committee will permit me, to press these questions upon its attention. It may be necessary for me to say something more. I cannot believe that any Member on either side of the House would be a party to throwing away the money of the nation without having some indication of the way in which it is spent. Having become bound to pay something for extra services—an unknown amount—I want to know if there have been any other extra services, and whether the British Commander-in- 1779 Chief has any authority to pledge this country further; if so, to what extent; whether for garrisoning duties, or what are the peculiar services for which authority has been given by the Secretary of State for War? If no authority has been given by the Secretary of State for War, then by whom has the authority been given, and where are the despatches which relate to the matter? I do not propose at the present moment to occupy the time of the Committee with criticism, but I will reserve all I have to say until I receive an answer to these questions.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BRODRICK) (Surrey, Guildford)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has adopted rather an indignant tone as to the nature of the information laid before the House, and also as to the nature of the services rendered for the money paid to the Egyptian Government. Now I would venture to remind the hon. Gentleman and the Committee that Her Majesty's Government, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) has pointed out, although they are responsible for settling these claims, are not responsible for having initiated them. Her Majesty's Government were forced to take up matters as they stood.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
Will the hon. Gentleman permit me to say that I have read a despatch showing that the responsibility originated with the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House in relation to this item.
§ MR. BRODRICK
No doubt that is correct in relation to one battalion, but the hon. Gentleman does not appear to have thoroughly investigated the despatches to which he has referred, and which show that Her Majesty's late Advisers incurred direct responsibility for the defence of Suakin and the Frontier of Egypt. I would refer the hon. Gentleman to a despatch bearing date April 12th, 1886. He will there find it stated by the British Commander-in-Chief that the sum which has been placed on the Estimate for 1886–7 had teen already exceeded to the extent of £16,000. Before the present Government came into Office the total was considerably swelled for services at Suakin.
§ MR. BRODRICK
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to explain; the Papers have been carried up to the latest moment—up to the time of printing.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I understood the hon. Gentleman to quote a despatch dated April 12th, 1886. Now, there is a despatch of that date, but I do not find in it the passage quoted by the hon. Gentleman, although there is another of that date which contains a very different signification. I want to know whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to that despatch?
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am referring to the despatch which states that the last demand upon the British Government was for £16,640, and which states that that sum had been incurred in liabilities on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. BRODRICK
; Yes. I am reading from the Blue Book "Egypt No. 5, 1886," page 23. The hon. Member asks whether the Commander-in-Chief in Egypt is justified in incurring expenditure without Government control. Certainly. Constant references have been made by the Commander-in-Chief in Egypt to Her Majesty's Government; and I may remind the hon. Gentleman that Sir Frederick Stephenson is responsible for the authority having been given for the amount of the Egyptian claims to which my right hon. Friend alluded. As to what those claims are I am perfectly ready to give the hon. Gentleman information in detail. One battalion was authorized to be raised for Suakin in 1885; two battalions were authorized for the Nile by the order of the late Secretary of State for War in June, 1886; and the Suakin expenditure, as I pointed out just now, rose from an Estimate of £58,000 to a total of £156,000. The total for Suakin and these additional battalions at the close of the year amounted to £137,252. Besides that sum, General Stephenson had authorized the increase of a depôt battalion 1781 which cost £4,500. Then there were certain payments for forage, &c, which amounted to £23,000, and claims for railway staff in the Soudan and other expenses, which amounted to a sum of £9,000; making in all £173,750 authorized by the General Commanding. Beyond that sum, Her Majesty's Government undertook to pay a claim of £45,000 preferred by the Egyptian Government; and in granting that sum they were guided by the undertaking Her Majesty's Government had entered into, by which this country had given a pledge to Egypt. That undertaking was not, as the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) has suggested, due to the poverty of Egypt, nor is it made simply to make up a certain payment which the Egyptian Government are bound to discharge in reference to the coupons; but it is made in consequence of a despatch sent by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), which is dated the 20th April, 1885,and which has already been placed before Parliament, in which the noble Marquess states that the Government would maintain a garrison in Suakin and would defend the Egyptian frontier. The policy of the late Administration was to remove as many troops as possible from Egypt, and to replace them by the services of Egyptian troops. The result of that policy was that between the months of January, 1886,and the 30th of September, the Egyptian Army was increased by 5,000, and, at the same time, the British troops were decreased by 10,000; consequently, the services of a garrison at Suakin and of troops to defend the Egyptian Frontier, to which the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale had pledged Her Majesty's Government, had to be undertaken by Egyptian soldiers, and those services were undertaken under the direct orders of Sir Frederick Stephenson. The order which Sir Frederick Stephenson gave, and the liabilities which Her Majesty's Government undertook, they are bound to make good; and it is in pursuance of that policy that this Supplementary Estimate has been rendered necessary. The hon. Gentleman asks why the Government reduced the claims preferred by the Egyptian Government? They reduced those claims 1782 because they had not made themselves liable for a portion of them which went beyond the points which the British Government undertook to carry out. As regards the future, something has been said by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). The hon. Member asked—What was the protection which the country possessed against similar demands hereafter? In reply to that, I may say that the hon. Member is probably aware that since the close of last year there has been a considerable reduction in the number of the English troops serving in Egypt, and also in the Egyptian Army; in consequence of which the expenditure has been brought down to a lower figure. In addition to that, there has been an attempt at securing economy with respect to the pay and equipment of the Egyptian Army. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) immediately on coming into Office appointed an officer to supervise the expenditure for which we became responsible on account of the Egyptian Army; and also to see, with regard to the money spent on the British troops in Egypt, that a sovereign's value was obtained for every sovereign spent. Her Majesty's Government anticipate very considerable economy from the investigation which it has been possible to make. As the Committee will understand, matters have somewhat settled down, and it will be now more possible to carry out a system of economy than it was last year. Under these circumstances I think we may hope for good results, and we are of opinion that the Committee will not complain that Her Majesty's Government have looked their liabilities in the face and that they have endeavoured to liquidate them. If it is said that we have paid £500,000, as the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) has intimated, I reply that we have done nothing of the kind. I am not prepared at this moment to go into the question of the £240,000, which, it has been ruled, would not be in Order; but, having regard to the circumstances under which the Nile Expedition was undertaken, I shall be prepared when the time comes to show that for the money expended a fair result has been obtained. As regards the remaining portion of the £500,000, I have endeavoured to explain to the Committee 1783 the circumstances under which it was incurred. I do not think I have omitted to reply upon any point which has been raised, except that of general expenditure, into which I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman on the present occasion. The sum recouped by the Egyptian Government is one which, in discharge of their just liability, Her Majesty's Government believe that they are bound to make good. There has been a considerable reduction made; and if it is possible to reduce our Army in Egypt to a greater extent, and effect economy with respect to the Egyptian Army, the sum paid will be still further reduced. We have accepted the principle of paying what we have undertaken to pay, and we trust that the economical measures which will now be taken, and the close investigation which is now being made, will clear off the remaining liabilities which have been thrown upon this country in connection with Egypt.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I shall now have to appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury, because there is an absolute contradiction between the statements of the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Brodrick) and the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson). I read on Monday last to the Committee the despatch dated the 12th of April, 1886, which is one of the pieces of evidence on which I made the statement that the English Government had made itself liable for the payment of £73,000 on account of Suakin. Several answers were given to me by the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. One was that there was no bargain that the English Government had made itself responsible; that it had never communicated such intention to the Egyptian Government, and that it never intended to carry out the arrangement; and that there was only the sum of £35,000 to pay this year. I pressed my Question to a degree which, I believe, was by the right hon. Baronet thought to be not quite civil and polite. I make excuse that I cannot understand English otherwise than as it is printed, and that I had in my hand an absolute official contradiction of what the right hon. Baronet said. It was for that reason that I put my Questions to-night; and I now want to explain that I was quite 1784 accurate in the statement I made. The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Brodrick) says there is a claim made by the Egyptian Government, which is made up partly by £73,000, for which the Government became liable under the despatch of the 12th of April, 1886. Who is right? The right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) said on Monday last—You must not attack Sir Henry Drummond Wolff for making this arrangement, for he never made it; there never was such an arrangement; there was no such liability.I am not acquainted with the method in which diplomatic answers are understood, and accordingly I misunderstood the answer of the right hon. Baronet. I admit that I am learning a good deal about diplomatic matters in this House; but I never expected that, the Leader of the House being present, who is responsible for much more than his Secretaries allege. [Cries of "No, no!"] I only know what I am told in the Papers laid before Parliament, and I will read what they say. Let me say that, to me, it is a matter of perfect indifference whether the present Government or the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was liable for what has been done. I attack it in any case. I attacked it from my place, as one of the supporters of the Member for Mid Lothian when he was in Office, and I should attack it were he the Leader of the House at the present moment if he had been responsible for it. So that, in fixing the present Leader of the House with this £70,000—less perhaps the difference between £11,000 and £16,000—I do not do so to acquit the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian nor to burden the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I do it for the purpose of showing that the present Government do not understand the facts on which this claim is based; and I say that until they have made up their mind on the subject they ought not to ask the Committee to vote this money. I will now call attention to the answer of the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Department (Mr. Brodrick) to my Question. I have had some experience in examination, and I put a Question to the Financial Secretary which would enable me to apply criticism to the answers I had 1785 received. His answer was frank in the extreme. The Financial Secretary to the War Office said, in answer to my Question whether the amount originally claimed was larger and whether the Government had reduced it, that the Government had reduced the claim from £174,000 to £150,000—or whatever it was reduced to—because they were only liable for that for which they had given definite orders. But that is exactly opposite to what the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said on Monday. Possibly the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would say that he had not during the short time he has been in Office been able to read through the despatches, and that he had unintentionally misled the Committee. If not, there is an absolute clashing of statement. General Stephenson is admitted to be a person entitled to speak on the subject. I will quote from the enclosure No 60, page 63, Egypt 5, 1886. General Stephenson says—With reference to Major Lennox's letters of the 24th December, I inform you that the Secretary of State for War"—the present Leader of the House—"desires that the Egyptian Government should raise two additional battalions as part of the Egyptian Army, the charge for which will be borne by the British Government.I do not attach any importance to its being either one or two battalions, except to the extent that I would suggest that Officials asking for this money should know whether it is one or two; or, otherwise, not ask for the money at all.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I did not intend to use the word Officials. I referred to the Financial Secretary to the War Department, who, in answer to my Question, said that the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for one battalion.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I stated that the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for two battalions. I said at first that he was responsible for one battalion; but the right hon Gentleman corrected 1786 me, and I then said that he was responsible for two.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
But it is a little more than one or two battalions; it is the whole garrison at Suakin. What the Government authorized has cost much more than one or two battalions would cost, and that cost was originated on the 24th December, 1885; it was part of the initial arrangement made when the present Leader of the House was Secretary of State for War.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Perhaps I can save the hon. Gentleman some trouble by stating the circumstances under which these battalions were authorized. It is within the knowledge of the House that the English Government had a large Force at Suakin. It was a very costly Force both in men and money, and when I was responsible for the War Department I became aware that we were using an extravagant instrument in undertaking the duty which we were discharging at Suakin, and which we had inherited from our Predecessors. I stated to my Colleagues, and obtained their full concurrence, that in my opinion we ought to discharge this duty by men suited to the climate rather than expose English and Indian troops to great risk; and I pointed out that a greater cost was involved to the Imperial Exchequer by keeping an English or Indian Force at Suakin than would be incurred if Black troops were substituted for it. We authorized, therefore—and the expression used was "for the present"—the formation of these two battalions; first the one, and then the second. My right hon. Friends are perfectly accurate in their statements. I admit the responsibility, and I am perfectly prepared to justify it; and if the right hon. Gentleman who followed me in the Office addresses the Committee, I am sure that he will not only justify, but approve, it.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
If we had received that frank statement of facts on Monday, it would have saved the whole of this discussion now. But the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs persisted that no such expenditure had been authorized by the Government at all.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
I beg pardon; I denied that it was intended to be permanent. I admitted that the words "an annual expenditure" occurred in the despatch; but that it was one which had been authorized under the existing circumstances. I stated that the expenditure had ceased; that it was no longer necessary to incur it, and I will add that it is so stated in the Estimates of the present year.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
It appears that I misunderstood the right hon. Baronet, and that in doing so I laboured under the same misunderstanding as the reporters of the public Press. One of the statements of the right hon. Baronet was that the authorization was not made known to the Egyptian Government.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I said that we had come under no obligation to the Egyptian Government for the permanent grant of this money.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
Again I regret that my view does not corroborate what the right hon. Baronet intended to say. I am bound to accept his assurance that it was his intention to say this. I read to him the despatch, which absolutely contradicted what he was saying; and I remember using this argument—If the matter had not been communicated to the Egyptian Government, how could they know it? I could not find any despatch which communicated it; but I read, through a despatch from the Representative of the Egyptian Government, showing that they did know it. I pressed this point, as I always do, with the endeavour to make it clear; and I do not think any hon. Member not on the Government Benches would say that I did not make it clear. We have been made liable, certainly for one year, for the cost at Suakin, in spite of the explanatory statement of the right hon. Baronet; we were made liable for the claim of £170,000, which was reduced to £150,000 because it was in excess of the orders. What other matters are there included in this expenditure except those relating to the garrison at Suakin? If we are liable for money, what is the amount; where is the authority; and why is the House asked to vote money without knowing something about it? I say that this Vote ought either to be explained or withdrawn until fuller Papers are laid upon the Table of the House. I trust that 1788 the Leader of the House and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs will not think that I have exceeded my duty in pressing them upon this point. What I wish to know is that which I think the Committee ought to know—As it is clear now that the English Government made themselves responsible for £150,000 to the Egyptian Government, we ought to have before us how the claim for £173,000 arose on the one side, and whether there were any definite orders on the other. At the most, we have only the definite orders in the despatch of the 12th April; and it is not fair that we should be called upon to vote, nor will I be a party to voting away, the money of the English taxpayer for purposes the object and extent of which we know nothing about.
MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN&c.) (Stirling,
I regret that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) and the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Department (Mr. Brodrick) have thought to make their case better by attributing the expenditure now in question to their Predecessors in Office. I am not going to deny any share that I had in sanctioning this expenditure, the greater part of which was incurred before I became responsible for the War Department. With regard to the question of the garrison at Suakin, it is a matter very much apart from the rest; it is a separate and distinct undertaking which was entered into by the British Government. The facts are precisely as the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has stated. We had at Suakin at the beginning of last year a considerable garrison, partly composed of British and partly of Indian troops. The climate there is deadly, both to the British and Indian soldier, and it became absolutely necessary, on the ground of humanity, as well as on the ground of expenditure, to endeavour to substitute for the soldiers then at Suakin another garrison. My right hon. Predecessor, therefore, after favourably considering some proposals to place there what is called a Native garrison, consisting of Arabs, finally, I believe, sanctioned the formation by the Egyptian Government of two Black battalions for the defence of Suakin. My right hon. Friend believed, in the innocence of his heart, that the Estimate of the cost sent home 1789 would be sufficient, and in the respective innocence of my heart also, when I came into Office, I entertained a similar belief. But the expenditure, which at first was placed at £40,000, was discovered to be £52,000 in January; later on it jumped to £70,000; and when I last heard of it, in the month of July, it was put, owing to some alleged mistake in the calculations, at £106,000. Partly owing to this circumstance, and to other experience at the War Office, I soon began to be very suspicious of financial arrangements in military matters in Egypt; and I must honestly say that, in my opinion, nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the relations in this respect between the British and Egyptian Governments. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) represented the late Government as having been somewhat indifferent, or, at at all events, inert in this matter, and he stated that the very first step that was taken in order to solve the difficulty which existed was the appointment by my right hon. Friend and Successor of Colonel Ardagh to control the military expenditure in Egypt. But I must say that through the early months of last year my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself had been greatly exercised in mind on this subject of Egyptian military expenditure; and that, ultimately, seeing no light in this country upon the matter, and obtaining no satisfaction from Egypt, I asked an officer well known for his capacity, intelligence, and knowledge of the subject (Colonel Grove), to go out to Egypt in order to investigate matters on the spot, and among them this very question of financial control. I found there was a considerable difference of opinion prevailing as to the liabilities of the English Government in this matter. I believe that the Convention fixed the total Expenditure of Egypt at £5,537,000, and that was expected and intended to cover the whole expenditure of that country, including, of course, the annual allowance or subvention of this country of £200,000. But under the Convention of 1885 the Military Budget, as it was called, of Egypt was limited to £130,000, and there was in many quarters—and apparently it existed in high quarters in Egypt—an impression that the Egyptian military expenditure was to be confined to £130,000, and that 1790 for any expenditure incurred over that amount the British Government was to be responsible; that is to say, if anything was done—of course, under the authority of the Commander-in-Chief in Egypt—which caused additional expenditure, we were to be responsible for it, whatever might be the amount. That seemed to me to be eminently unsatisfactory; and there was also this cause of dissatisfaction, that we had no means of knowing whether the Egyptian Army expenditure, even within the limit of the £130,000, was legitimate or not; so that the whole of the arrangements seemed to me to be in a state of chaos. I therefore took the first step, which I am very glad to know that my right hon. Friend immediately followed, of sending out a qualified officer, in order that there might, at all events, be some control over this source of expenditure. That was the condition of things which has apparently resulted in this Supplementary Estimate. I am not able to follow the statement of the particulars which make up this sum, as given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and I do not know that we have been given any absolute detail of the items which compose it; but what I am anxious about is not so much the past as the future. I am not disposed to follow my two hon. Friends in their general remarks upon Egyptian finance, in which they stated views which, to their credit be it said, they have put forward in season and out of season. With many of their remarks I confess that, personally, I have considerable sympathy; but I think the question of importance to the House is, whether this represents a final settlement of the state of confusion to which I have referred? Does it wipe out the obligation of this country beyond the maintenance of our own Army in Egypt? How is it with regard to Suakin itself? Suakin was in a difficult position, and we undertook with regard to it a special and distinct liability. We inserted a definite amount in the Estimates of the year, which, at the time, appeared sufficient for the purpose in view, but which subsequently proved to be insufficient. There is no such item in the present Estimates, and I ask, what is to be done with Suakin this year? And then as to the other question, the general state of affairs in Egypt with regard to the military ex- 1791 penditure. Is this a final settlement, and are we not likely in future to have any claims upon us that can be properly justified by the Egyptian Government; and shall we continue to receive the subsidy of £200,000, or such proportion of it as may be due to the decreased Force which we maintain? I think that if these questions are answered in the way I hope they will be, and if we are informed more fully as to the future relations between the two countries in these matters, there will be no disposition to refuse—at least, I should be slow to take any part in refusing—assent to a proposal, formidable indeed in its appearance, but still possibly providing a fair solution of a difficulty which had arisen, and which, I confess, appeared to me to be of a very dangerous and not altogether creditable character.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) has put forward some very fair questions to the Government, which I am prepared to answer categorically. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) has spoken of the state of confusion which exists—the state of confusion as regards the financial provision for the Egyptian Army, and the relative liabilities between this Government and the Egyptian Government. As the Committee will have gathered, the transactions which we are now considering date back some time, extending, in fact, from 1885–6 into the present financial year. It seemed to the Government to be absolutely necessary to bring this matter to a point; it appeared to them to be absolutely indispensable to come to a final settlement with the Egyptian Government about the outstanding claims, and then to explain as clearly as possible what our attitude will be in the future. With regard to the past, I am able to state, in reply to my right hon. Friend, that with the exception, I think, of one item of £25,000, which is still in dispute between the War Office and the Egyptian Government, an understanding has been arrived at on every point. The Committee can easily understand, looking to the enormous expenditure which has been incurred, that it is perfectly possible there may be a disputed item of this kind—[Mr. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN: Not an annual item.]—Oh, no. Ac- 1792 counts to the amount of upwards of £500,000 have been sent in, and among these accounts there has been one item of £25,000, with regard to which a controversy is still going on. It is not an annual item at all. The Government have, as has been stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope), had very large claims sent in by Egypt, and these claims have been reduced more than £300,000 during the last two months, and this reduction represents the whole excess of which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) has spoken. But I wish the Committee to know this—they are entitled to know it—that the Egyptian Government, up to the very last, were in the hope that the English Government would pay the whole of this amount; and it was a great disappointment to them when they learned that their demands had been cut down to the sum now asked for from this Committee. A question has very properly been raised as to the despatches which may have passed between us and the Egyptian Government, or our officers in Egypt, with regard to this subject. The point is this—we have to defend ourselves against two possible attacks. While the Egyptian Government and its Representatives are attacking us, and saying that we ought to pay for more than we have paid, it is only natural that we are attacked by a certain portion of this Committee for having paid too much. Now, in the despatches—confidential despatches, which passed—there are many arguments used in favour of an increased liability on the part of this country, which, I confess, I should be sorry to see published, because they would furnish grounds for those with whom we are in controversy to urge in favour of larger claims than we are prepared to admit. It was an extremely difficult matter to determine equitably what ought to be admitted, and what ought not. We have given our best consideration to the question in order to come to a fair settlement, and we believe that the amount which has ultimately been admitted is a fair claim upon us. With regard to the future, the Government are not prepared to continue to subsidize the Egyptian Army; and the Egyptian Government and its financial Advisers are now engaged in seeing how they may recast their whole expenditure, in 1793 order to meet that somewhat increased expenditure on the Egyptian Army which may be necessary. I think that all have come to the conclusion that the sum of £130,000 will not cover the whole of the expenses of the Egyptian Army, but that they also have come to the conclusion that it is not necessary to keep up the large Egyptian Force which had been originally fixed; and that Force admits of reduction. The Egyptian Government are also examining another important point—namely, the question of pensions, which, in the Egyptian Budget, forms a very heavy item. They have not yet been able to settle their final account for the Budget of 1887; but they are framing that Budget upon the understanding that the English Government will not put upon the Estimates any amount as a subvention to Egyptian expenditure, and that this country will charge as much to them for the Army of Occupation as represents the fair excess over the ordinary expenditure upon the troops. That is the intimation that has been conveyed to the Egyptian Government, and upon which they must construct their Budget. I may also notice the charge which has been brought against Her Majesty's Government of producing this sum in a Supplementary Estimate. Hon. Members who make this charge will see it could not have been placed in the original Estimate, as that was prepared by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) in February of last year. A large portion of this charge has been incurred since the Estimates were produced; and I think we are only acting fairly by the Committee in dealing with it at once in a Supplementary Estimate, rather than hanging up the question, which ought to be immediately settled, until the next Army Estimates are discussed. I think I have now answered all the questions which have been put to the Government.—[Mr CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN: With regard to Suakin?] With regard to Suakin, and the controversy which has been raging in respect of our undertaking it, we do not consider that we are pledged to the Egyptian Government for an annual payment for Suakin. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) has commented upon the presence of the word "annual" in the despatch of General Stophenson. The term was 1794 used by General Stephenson; but we are not at all bound by it. The expression could not bind us to an annual payment; and I go so far as to say that an annual payment was never intended. However that may be, we do not recognize the liability, and our Estimates are framed on the basis that the charge for Suakin will fall within the Egyptian Budget, and within its Army expenditure.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, N.)
I am afraid the real channel of this discussion may be lost in the attempt, on the part of the Front Benches, to throw blame upon each other; but if there is any good to be got out of these acts of mismanagement or unjustifiable interference in Egypt, I think now is the time that the moral should be drawn. What are the facts? I believe it would be very difficult indeed to make out that Egypt has benefited by our interference in that country. It is doubtless true that a very large expenditure has been cast upon this country, and that additional and grievous burdens have been cast upon Egypt itself as well. Reference has been made to the question of the bondholders, and we are assured by the Government that this expenditure which now appears in the Supplementary Estimate is not connected with, and does not arise out of, the determination of the British Government—and far more so of the British Government than of the Egyptian Government—to maintain the payment of interest to the Egyptian bondholders. I think history will declare that this Egyptian embroglio originated in nothing else than in the unwarrantable interference of the British Government in the interests of the Egyptian bond holders. Reference has been made to the condition of the fellaheen, and the breach of faith with those people. The Government seem to have forgotten altogether—
I understand, though I am speaking without figures, that a portion of the land tax has been remitted, as contemplated.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
The right hon. Gentleman has a very keen, analytical mind, and he must admit that the case of the fellaheen was infinitely stronger than that of the bondholders in Egypt. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Hear, hear!] The concern of the Government seems 1795 to have been that the bondholders should have their pound of flesh, and that the fellaheen should come in afterwards.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
When the English Government acted in 1885, it was acting in concert with the other Powers of Europe.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
That is true. But if it had not been for the interference of the right hon. Gentleman himself, and those who were supremely concerned for the bondholders, what would have happened would have been this—the Egyptian Government would have declared its inability to meet the charges of the bondholders, and there would have been that very common way of getting rid of debt—namely, through insolvency.
The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Illingworth) is hardly dealing with the Supplementary Estimate in what he is now saying.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
I submit, with all deference, Sir, that there is some connection between my remarks and this Estimate. I maintain that it would have been easy for the Egyptian Government to have met these extra charges if it had not been for the care shown for the bondholders. The Egyptians would have been willing to have met the charges incurred in this military expenditure, if there had not been a strong determination to force upon them the obligation of continuing the bondholders' interest. But, Sir, I leave that subject altogether; I only wish that Parliament and the country would be induced to look at this question now as a matter of history. It is well known that when a former Government embarked in this Egyptian business, a small minority of us protested against the impolicy of our intervention in Egyptian affairs. I believe that there is now on this side of the House, and, judging from the apologetic tone adopted by hon. Members opposite there, on that side of the House also, a conviction that the sooner we get out of Egypt the better. I must really take exception to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) also, that we are charging Egypt £4 per head extra, which is supposed to be the additional cost of our troops in that country. 1796 But, surely, if we keep 5,000, or 10,000, or 15,000 troops to do work in Egypt, a great burden is cast on the British taxpayer. It is not the £4 alone which is to be taken into account, but the £50 or £60 or £80 per man, which our soldiers cost us. I think the Committee ought to understand that if even 5,000 troops are kept in Egypt, if we are to undertake obligations of a similar character in all parts of the world, the British Army must be increased proportionately. If we keep ourselves free from such interference, it is clear the British Army may be permanently decreased in the same proportion. Let us look the facts in the face. I will only just say, in conclusion, I do not care to enter into a wrangle as to whether this charge is proper or not; but I say, heavily burdened as the British nation is, I think that morality dictates that this charge should be borne by the British Government rather than it should be placed on the Egyptians. I consider it very slight justification for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell us that, of course, we were acting in concert with the other Powers. Well, we were acting in concert with the other Powers of Europe, and all the more to our discredit, because what occasion had we to make ourselves chargeable for the interest of the bondholders; what occasion had we to act with the other European Powers even to that extent? I only wish we had come more creditably out of this Egyptian business, and had shown the fellaheen more consideration. We have been parties to the most disgraceful transactions possible in postponing and in ignoring the claims of the poor slaves in Egypt in order that the usurious terms of the bondholders might be complied with. I think our connection with the whole business is discreditable in the highest degree, and that the sooner we escape from the false position we occupy the better. The less we undertake interference with quarrels of this character the better it will be for our pockets and our reputation.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
The objection I have to this Vote is not only founded upon remarks such as have already been addressed to the Chair by hon. Members, but also upon a totally different ground, which I think the preceding Government would 1797 certainly have recognized. It is all very well for the Ministers on the present Treasury Bench to attempt to bring in the late Government for a certain share of responsibility in connection with this service, for which £150,000 is now to be paid by the taxpayers of this Empire. I doubt very much if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) would have thought it consistent with his duty as Prime Minister and Loader of the House to present the matter to the House in the manner in which it has, in fact, been laid before the House by Her Majesty's present Advisers. I maintain that this system of presenting a charge of this kind in the shape of a demand to make up a deficiency in the appropriation in aid of a certain Army Vote is calculated altogether to mislead the Committee, and to deprive them of that information which they ought to possess. We learn from the War Minister (Mr. E. Stanhope) that the appropriations, except this particular one from the Egyptian Government, were in excess of what had been estimated. He gave us to understand that there were surpluses that went in diminution of what would otherwise be a deficiency, and, therefore, £150,000 does not really represent the whole charge that is involved in this particular Vote. Although the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) invited a detailed statement as to how this appropriation was to be made up, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) did not furnish such a statement to him in the reply he made. What I contend is this—that if the Government want to put themselves straight with the Egyptian Government, if they want to make matters straight and clear as between the Egyptian Government and Her Majesty's Government, they ought to take a separate Vote, and give the full and complete information which is necessary to enable the House to arrive at a proper judgment. It is perfectly impossible to arrive at such a judgment on the materials now submitted. We really do not know how we stand. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself admitted that there was over and above this matter an item of £25,000 which was not adjusted between the two Governments. But, as a matter of fact, 1798 there is a great deal more unadjusted. This Government is doing things which no Government ought to do, and which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian never would have consented to do. In the months of September and October last—that is, in the course of the financial year in which we now are—in the course of the year fo which these Supplementary Estimates are asked—the Government authorized a certain amount of expenditure on account of Egypt which is not mentioned in this Supplementary Vote at all, and which is a very considerable item. Instead of putting it down to the accounts of the year in which it was authorized, they instructed the War Office officials to make a charge in a previous year which was entirely closed, which had entirely expired, and under a heading where no provision whatsoever had been made for it. Accordingly, in the Appropriation Accounts just laid before Parliament, we have the astonishing item—Payment to the Egyptian Government on account of expenses in connection with the operations of the Gordon Relief Expedition up the Nile, £234,000,which has never figured in any Estimate, which has never been brought before the House at all, and which would never have been brought to the attention of Parliament, unless for the necessity for these accounts being submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General. What does the Comptroller and Auditor General say about the matter? He says he cannot admit that there is a legitimate charge against the Vote.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
My object, Mr. Courtney, is to draw attention to a payment in respect of Egypt which cannot possibly be covered by the Supplementary Estimate which is now submitted, and that in assenting to this Estimate, if we do, we are practically doing so in the dark with regard to the financial relations of Her Majesty's Government to the Egyptian Government as to military expenditure. That is the reason why I object to this Vote being included, as it is now, in a general Army Supplementary Estimate, figuring in the Supplementary Estimate not as a direct Vote for direct services set out in detail, but merely to make up an alleged deficiency in the contribution which Egypt 1799 ought to have made. Now, this payment of £150,000 on account of Army Services from Egypt was made last year and the year before; but it was purely illusory, because, on the other hand, we admitted charges which more than wiped it out. We are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) that there is only an item of £25,000 outstanding between the two Governments. I maintain that that is clearly an insufficient, if not an incorrect, statement, because we have not had from the Government this evening any clear statement of the real position of the two Governments, either with respect to military expenditure, or the arrangements relating to military expenditure, or with regard to anything else. We have had a fragmentary statement only from the War Minister. We have had another statement equally fragmentary, though in a different direction, from the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Brodrick); and we have had what was meant as an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson). I am bound to say that, listening, with as fair and open a mind as I could, to the declarations of these three Gentlemen, I am utterly unable to understand now the present position of the Government with regard to the military expenditure in Egypt, or the liabilities of Egypt to this country, or the liabilities of this country towards Egypt; and I make bold to say that, if I do not understand, there are many other Members of the House equally unable to understand. Instead of having this Vote included, as it is, in this Supplementary Estimate, we ought to have had, and I believe we should have had from any other Government, a direct Vote submitted to the Committee.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) carefully avoided what appears to me a really strong point made against this Vote. Clothe it as you may as necessary payment for services in Egypt, made under the authority of the British Commander-in-Chief, there cannot be the slightest doubt in the mind of any intelligent man who has watched the course of affairs in Egypt, that the object and purpose of this Vote is really to enable the Egyptian Government to meet in full the coupons which fall due 1800 in this month, or next month, for the first time for the last three years. Now, according to the statement of Sir Evelyn Baring, the Egyptian Government is perfectly able to meet its obligations, and to pay this sum which it undertook to pay, but under a certain condition. What is that condition? It is that the interest on the Egyptian loans shall remain this year at the same figure as it has been paid at for the last two years—that is to say, that the Egyptian bondholders shall not get their full interest. If you face the situation honestly, and, taking advantage of Article 12 of the Khedivial Decree, made in 1885, allow an international investigation into the finances of Egypt, it will be found that the Egyptian Government have money actually in their hands with which to pay this account, and that there is not the slightest necessity for the British Government to pay it. If there is any doubt as to the real object and purpose of this Vote, I ask hon. Gentlemen to consider the exact figures. What are the figures? We have the statement of Sir Evelyn Baring as to the benefit that accrues to the Egyptian Government by the cutting of the coupon by 5 per cent. That benefit amounts to £200,000 a-year, and it is a curious coincidence that the sum we are asked to provide is exactly £200,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the object the Government had in view was to discharge honestly the obligations they had contracted with the Egyptians in the past; and that the Egyptian Government had been informed that, for the future, the Government of this country was not prepared to subsidize the Government of Egypt, and that the Egyptians would be charged a certain sum, which he mentioned, for the Army of Occupation. But that was what the Egyptians were informed two years ago. Was not a solemn Convention entered into, to the very effect that they would be charged this sum for the Army of Occupation, and that this Government would not subsidize the Army. Do you suppose that the Egyptian Government will believe you now when you did not keep your word last time, when you told them, two years ago, what you are telling them now? In asking the Committee now to nullify your words and the terms of the Convention, you are practically 1801 telling the Egyptian Government that, for the future, they need not pay any regard to the warnings they receive from Her Majesty's Government. If it were to relieve the Egyptians of these payments, which, I contend, have been most unjustly imposed upon them, I should be the last man in the world to oppose the Vote, and I should vote for it. If I believed that a shilling of the money went to relieve the Egyptian taxpayer, or to get rid of the difficulties of the Egyptian Government, I should raise no objection; but I know very well that nothing of that sort is going to happen. This money will simply go to pay the full interest on the bonds, to stave off an international inquiry. There cannot be a doubt that the refusal of this Vote tonight would be, not to increase the taxation on the fellaheen, but to cut down the coupon on the bonds. What would be the effect of refusing to vote this sum? Why, as we have it in the words of Sir Evelyn Baring himself, "There will be no way out of the difficulty except to refuse to pay the interest on the Debt." And is not that the right way out of the difficulty? It is a very ingenious thing to put this sum under the appearance of an obligation contracted towards the people of Egypt; but I ask—and I ask the question with confidence—What right had the English Commander-in-Chief to contract this obligation towards the people of Egypt? Does it not stand to reason that, in common fairness, the first charges on the Revenue of any country are the charges for defence against outside enemies? It is not pretended by anyone that the Egyptian Revenue is insufficient to pay an Army three, four, or five times as large as that the country at present maintains. I ask what would have happened to the bondholders if the Soudanese had succeeded in over-running Egypt—if it had not been for the military operations which were taken to suppress them? Would they ever have got any coupons at all? I ask, therefore, if the expenses of defending the country are increased, who have more right to pay them than the coupon-holders? Is it not monstrous to say that the taxpayers of England, who have burdens sufficient on their shoulders at the present moment, shall pay for defending the frontiers of Egypt, when the bondholders who absorb half—nay, 1802 more than half—of the entire Revenue of the country in the shape of interest on the Debt are not to called on to make any sacrifice at all. I must say that the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to me most extraordinary, and the statement that he made at the outset of his speech really convinces me clearly that the position taken up by the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) is unanswerable. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer say? He started by saying that the demands of the Egyptian Government on this Government amounted to a sum of £500,000. I would ask the Committee to notice this fact particularly—that the grounds on which we are asked to vote this money are that we have honourable obligations towards the Egyptian Government. Now, if we have honourable obligations towards the Egyptian Government, according to the opinion of the Egyptian Government, these obligations extend to £500,000; but is it not a strange thing that the result of negotiations was to cut it down to £200,000? Now, why was the sum fixed at £200,000?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The sum is not £200,000, but £200,000 plus the £58,000; and I can assure the hon. Gentleman, whether he choses to believe me or not, that this sum of £200,000 has nothing whatever to do with the bondholders.
§ MR. DILLON
That is an interesting statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not, for a moment, doubt his word; but I cannot understand how he can maintain that position in the face of the despatches of Sir Evelyn Baring. I will read Sir Evelyn Baring's words. He says—"Under these circumstances—"
§ MR. DILLON
It is in Egypt, No. 4, of 1886, which I should think would be the last date of the despatches. I have not got the despatch itself, as the page I am referring to only gives the reference. I think it is on page 190, of No. 4, 1886. Sir Evelyn Baring says—Under these circumstances there is no possibility that the Egyptian Government will be able to resume full payment in 1887, but for the present it would seem unduly optimist to speak of this contingency as more than a bare possibility,1803 —that is to say, the contingency of resuming full payment. He adds that the sum required to enable Egypt to meet its full obligations is only about £200,000, and one point is quite clear, that the resumption of full payment of the rate of interest can only take place, assuming that the Army expenditure is reduced and non-effective charges are reduced. Well, neither of these things has yet been brought about. Now, that despatch was sent last year by Sir Evelyn. Baring, and he says the sum that would enable the Egyptian Government to meet its full obligations is £200,000; and he says one thing is ceitain—there is no possibility of the resumption of full payment of the rate of interest unless two things be accomplished—first, the reduction in the Army expenditure. Now, there are two ways of reducing an Army expenditure. One way would be to reduce the Army, and the other way would be to get someone else to pay its expenses; and it seems to me that the way which has recommended itself to the Government, under all the circumstances of difficulty which exist, is the latter. The Government appear to have decided that the English people should pay the expenses of the Egyptian Army. I know perfectly well that this money we are called upon to vote is not going to pay the coupons in actual coin; but we have it here, on Sir Evelyn Baring's statement, that one point is essential to the resumption of payment in full of the rate of interest, and that is the reduction of Army expenses; and if you do not call it reducing the Army expenditure in Egypt, when the expenses of the Army, to the extent of £250,000, are to be paid by the English Government, I do not know what transactions of this kind mean. That is one way of reducing Army expenditure. Look at the bearing of it with regard to the future. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that this was a question affecting the past, and that, for the future, he had warned the Egyptian Government that they must reduce their Army in order that they might be able to discharge their obligations to England in the future, which they are not being asked to do now, and also to pay the full amount of interest on the Debt. That is what I object to. If anyone will 1804 take the trouble to study the Egyptian Budgets for the last few years, and the despatches of English officials in Egypt, he will become convinced that the payment of the present interest on the Debt of Egypt is absolutely inconsistent with the due administration of the affairs of the country, and the sooner this fact is recognized the better. What is the good of putting off an insolvency and a bankruptcy which is inevitable, and which ought to come at once, by a waste of British money enabling the Egyptian Government to resume full payment of the interest on the bonds—a payment which she cannot continue if she is to stand on her own legs and administer her own affairs honestly, and defend her own frontier? What are the facts related by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Why, he says that, in the future, the Egyptian Government will reduce their Army; but has he taken the trouble to ascertain whether the expenditure on the Army is more than the necessities of the case require? He told us the other night that the object of the Government was to get the British troops out of Egypt as soon as possible, and as soon as the Egyptian people were able to defend themselves. Well, is this the way to do it—to put them under a threat that they must now reduce their Army? The result will be that they must reduce their Army, if these payments that we make are withheld; and we shall be told, next time we discuss this matter, that the Egyptian Government are unable to defend the country, and that, therefore, the English taxpayer will have to pay for that defence. It appears to me that it is now time that we faced this question honestly to see if it is possible, or likely to be possible, to pay the bonds without calling on Egypt to relax her efforts for the defence of the country. It is essential to Egypt to so reduce the taxation as to reduce the Revenue by something like £250,000 a-year if the fellaheen are to be permitted to live, and that is shown by the fall in the price of produce, according to the statements of Lord Northbrook, when in Egypt; and I should think things have got much worse since Lord Northbrook was there. I have no knowledge that Lord Northbrook's recommendations have been carried out, and that any substantial reduction of taxation has been accorded to the fellaheen. 1805 I have been on the look-out for any statement to that effect; but, up to the present, I have been unable to see anything of the kind. You are building on the hopes of this excessive taxation in Egypt, and, even with that excessive taxation, you are telling the people of Egypt to cut down their Army, which is too small already, judged by the fact that you find it necessary to keep a portion of your own Army there. Therefore, you are setting up a system which is utterly inconsistent with the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), that the object of the Government is to put Egypt on its own legs, and yourselves to retire from the country as soon as it is possible to stand alone. As I say, you will find that bankruptcy must be faced sooner or later, and far and away better would it be, I maintain, both for the Egyptian people and the people of this country that we should face it now, when it can be proved that something should be done, to first of all, give relief to the fellaheen; and, secondly, to permit the defence of the country to be carried on, before the bondholders are paid at all. There is another consideration we should not lose sight of in this matter. In one despatch, from Lord Rosebery, which has been quoted two or three times during this debate, it was said that we are compelled to pay Customs duties and heavy railroad charges, and also octroi duties on articles which were sent out for the British Army during the British occupation. That is notorious. It is well known by everyone that the revenues of Egypt have been swelled by Customs duties on enormous quantities of material and goods sent into the country for the British Army; and the officials in Egypt, in drawing up the Budget, always have regard to these sources of revenue, and we know, therefore, that the moment you withdraw your troops the revenues of Egypt will fall by £100,000 or £200,000 a-year. That element is not sufficiently considered, and yet it would be very strongly felt the moment the British troops are withdrawn. All this goes to show that this Vote is not a Vote in performance of a specific obligation, but is the result of a bargain. There is no reason why it should not be £200 instead of £200,000. It is a Vote which by all the attendant circumstances sur- 1806 rounding it, and by the amount that is demanded, is shown to be required to balance the Egyptian Budget, let alone for whatever ostensible object it may be given in this House. It is to put off the inevitable time when it will be found that the finances of Egypt are hopelessly insolvent. It is to avoid the necessity of an international inquiry, and for that reason it opens up the whole question of the policy of the present proceedings of the Government in Egypt; and I am thoroughly opposed to it. I wish to say a word or two on some of the observations made to-night by the hon. Gentleman opposite the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Brodrick). He said that though we are responsible for settling these claims, we are not responsible for originating them. Now, I should like to know very much on what principle do you go in contracting obligations of this sort? Are we to understand that every British Generalissimo, or every British General serving abroad, can contract obligations on behalf of the British taxpayer to any extent he chooses, because that is what it amounts to? The House of Commons and the country knew nothing about these obligations. We were led to suppose that no such obligations would be entered into; and are we, I ask, to understand that obligations of this character can be contracted by a British General ad libitum, without reference to those who have to vote the money? We know that from the past history of Egyptian affairs the most extraordinary and sudden wars and outbreaks occur in that country; and are we to understand that if to-morrow the Egyptian frontier, wherever it now is, is attacked by wandering tribes of Arabs, and another war breaks out there, that it should be in the power of the General commanding in Egypt to pledge the British taxpayer to any extent without affording the British House of Commons the opportunity of voting on the matter? You must remember that these obligations we are now discussing were contracted a considerable time ago—quite time enough to have enabled the Government to have put them on the Estimates for last year. The only reason they were not put on the Estimates last year was that they were the subject of protracted negotiation. And now I come to the last point in the Statement of the Financial Secre- 1807 tary to the War Department. What did he say when he was pressed hard upon this question? He said that the amount of these claims was the subject of negotiation up to the very moment before the Supplementary Estimate was prepared, and that the Papers giving information as to the details of this Vote would be placed on the Table of this House after we had passed the Vote. No doubt we shall be very much interested by this information when it comes, and we shall be very much obliged for it when we receive it; but it certainly seems to me that this is a very curious method of proceeding, to ask us to pass the Vote first, and to wait for the documents giving the details of the negotiations by which the sum of £258,000 was arrived at. If these are the circumstances of the case, why did not the Government put the Vote into next year's Estimates? If it hung over so long it might have been put in next year's Estimates very well. There is no use in cloaking the matter over. What is the reason of putting these charges before us now? Why, it is simply this—that the Egyptian Budget will have to be made known shortly, and if, on a certain day the bonds are not paid, the right of the Powers of Europe under the decree will come in—the right of the Powers to form an International body to inquire into the administration of Egyptian finance. Is not my surmise correct—may I have an answer on this point?
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
Before this Vote is put to the Committee I should like to say a few words with regard to it. I must say that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. Dillon) has put his case very forcibly; and in reply to him, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) has denied that this Vote has anything to do with the bondholders. But will he deny this—that if £500,000 sterling is not paid to the Egyptian Government, it will not be able to meet its liabilities, and that then there will have to be a new European investigation. In that way, it is perfectly clear that the question is connected with the bondholders. As regards the particular Vote before the House, I think that what has happened will have convinced all of us that it is a most unsatisfactory 1808 mode of proceeding, that we should have it thrown at our heads in a Supplementary Estimate without any previous explanation or statement as to why this money is to be voted. As regards the only particulars we are able to ascertain, I cordially agree with what has fallen from the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Banner-man). You must take the question of Suakin as altogether apart from the other questions involved. We have taken upon ourselves the defence of that place, and have voted the specific sum of £58,000 in regard to it. The only part of the case against this Vote which has been answered is that with regard to Suakin. We are told we have undertaken the defence of that place, and that it has cost more than it was calculated to cost—we are told that the sum has come to nearly double the amount of the calculation—that it has reached £106,000. This House was led to believe, and this country was led to believe, that a contract was made with the Egyptians that they should undertake the defence of Suakin for this £58,000, plus a large quantity of stores. I admit, therefore, that there may be a shadow of a shade of a semblance of a case for Suakin. If the detailed accounts show that Suakin has cost more than £58,000, there may be a case for the extra cost. At any rate, I, for one, shall be prepared to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt. If the House would allow me to substitute for the Motion to reduce this Vote by £150,000, a Motion for a less reduction, I should like to allow £20,000 for Suakin, and to alter the Motion into one to reduce the Vote by £130,000. I do not object to the item for Suakin so much. I doubt if we are bound to vote any more under that head; but, at any rate, as I have said, I am prepared to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt as regards the excess now demanded. I deny, however, that, as regards the rest, any case at all has been made out. The vaguest words fell from Her Majesty's late Government that they were going to defend Egypt, but this did not mean paying for the defence; and I do not think that the House or the country had the least idea that we were to pay the Egyptians for fighting their own battles. I am, therefore, quite prepared to take issue on the major part of the Vote. I share very 1809 much with the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War the feeling that, great as this loss of £500,000 maybe that we are paying in the present year, there is still room for very grave anxiety in the future. I was gratified when the Chancellor of the Exchequer got up and said that he would answer the Questions put to him categorically. When he came to his categorical answers, however, I was much disappointed, because he did not tell us what was to become of Suakin; he did not tell us what was to be done in the matter of the Egyptian frontier, and he neglected to say what course was to be taken in regard to Egyptian finance in the future. What are we to be told as to these matters? Are the Egyptians to be told that they may abandon this miserable, God-forgotten place, Suakin? They ought to be free to make it over to any Power, or anybody else who will take it, or abandon it altogether. What is more important than Suakin is this—I want to understand whether the Egyptians are to be responsible for the defence of their own frontier? Is there any clear understanding that the expense of defending the frontier shall be thrown on the Egyptians? We have a British force in Assouan. I want to know whether, in the event of military operations being necessary on that frontier, and the Egyptian troops being obliged to co-operate with the British troops in defence of their frontier, we shall be called upon to pay for these Egyptian troops? Is it distinctly understood that the expenses will be thrown upon the Egyptian Exchequer? As to the Egyptian Army, it is a most unsatisfactory declaration that has been elicited from Her Majesty's Government. It does not seem to me that we have the least prospect of getting rid of our obligations in Egypt, and getting rid of the country, if the Egyptian Army is to be reduced. You must have an efficient Army in Egypt, and if you have that, you must have money to pay for it. And I should like to know what is to be done to enable the Egyptians to keep up an efficient Army? If you are not to maintain an efficient Army in that country, then good-bye to all abandonment of Egypt. I should like to have it made clear—I should like not merely a negative declaration—that we are not bound to pay any more, but that Her Majesty's Government have declared that, in future years, 1810 they will not pay for the defence of Egypt.
§ MR GOSCHEN
I wish to say two or three words to the Committee in reply to what has been urged by recent speakers. I have already stated that the Egyptian Government is now reconsidering its financial position, and that general expenditure which it will have to meet, after the announcement which has been made to it as to the portion which will be borne by the British Government. The Egyptian Government had expected that we would pay more; and our refusal to pay more than what we considered the fair and equitable claims of that Government has put upon it the necessity of reconsidering its Budget. The Egyptian Government will now have to re-cast its Budget, and to see whether it can, without improperly reducing its Army below safe limits, make both ends meet. If it cannot make both ends meet, then it cannot pay the coupons in full, and international intervention will arise. For it is not the intention of the British Government to endeavour to restore the financial equilibrium of Egypt by imposing further burdens on the British taxpayer. But with regard to an International Commission, let hon. Members not suppose that that would mean the bankruptcy of Egypt and the withdrawal of a portion of the interest from the bondholders. It is to make that point clear that I rise. If an International Commission sat, the result would be that the general management of Egypt would again pass from English hands, and that the reforms which have been inaugurated—those reforms with regard to irrigation, the abolition of the corvée, and many other matters in regard to which we have made great progress—would again be interrupted, but it does not follow that bankruptcy would occur. Hon. Members have never been able thoroughly to realize this fact, but it is an important one, that before the International Tribunals the foreign creditors have a locus standi against the Egyptian Government, which they have not elsewhere, and that even if we were to retire altogether, and refuse to stir in the slightest degree, the French creditors, or, in fact, any creditors whatever, could sue the Egyptian Government in the International Tribunals, a course which would lead to anarchy and ruin, but which would probably end again in 1811 other Powers protecting the bondholders. I wanted to make it clear—that if an International Commission should sit, it would not necessarily be a disaster to the bondholders, because it is probable that the other Powers would secure them in the terms they have now; but it might have a disastrous effect on the general progress of good government in Egypt, and the restoration of that autonomy which we wish to secure in order to facilitate and expedite the withdrawal of our troops. I hope that this explanation will be gratifying to some hon. Gentlemen who think that this country could by its action alone bring about a state of bankruptcy in Egypt and a reduction of the interest paid to the bondholders.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
It is palpable to anyone, who has taken into consideration what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that the Egyptian Government is considering its financial position; and then we are led to understand that the English troops are going to be withdrawn from Egypt, and, accordingly, when these troops are withdrawn from the country they at present occupy, their places will be filled by Egyptian troops. If that is the case, will not these troops have to be paid for? And will not that, in itself, throw an increased financial responsibility upon the Egyptian Government, which Her Majesty's Government at present are apparently trying to bolster up? If this state of affairs is to continue, and is to go on in the usual cycles which Egyptian affairs at the present time appear to be rolling in, what becomes of all those assurances that we have received this evening, that the Egyptian Government will have to stand or fall by itself? What becomes of the assurances of the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Department (Mr. Brodrick), when he told us they had made an arrangement for a reduction in the Egyptian Army, as well as of the English Army in Egypt? Why, if you withdraw troops from a country situated as Egypt is at the present time, those troops must be replaced by others. I would ask, can such a reduction take place? What becomes of the statement of the hon. Gentleman this evening? He also told us that measures were taken to promote economy in the Egyptian Army, and amongst the Eng- 1812 lish troops in Egypt. Well, but that appears to me to be strictly at variance with the answer that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just given to my hon. Friend (Sir George Campbell). There appears to me, strangely enough, to be a considerable amount of confusion existing with regard to the item of expenditure which we are asked to pass to-night. Nothing could be more plain and palpable than the statement of the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), when he stood up in his place and brought the Treasury Bench to its senses. Everybody saw the immense confusion which existed on the Treasury Bench—everybody saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer pulling a paper from the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson), and the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) jumping up and down in his seat. It was palpable that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who had charge of this matter were completely at their wits' end, and that neither of them were certain how far he would go and how far he would not go. Taking into account the remarks made from the front Opposition Bench by the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), who asked whether this Vote wipes out all liabilities, and whether it will practically give us in Egypt a clean sheet in our dealings with Egyptian finance, that has not been answered, as many other questions have not been answered. All these questions have been shelved by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote. He has told us about Suakin. The right hon. Gentleman ought certainly to be conversant with this Vote, and I believe is, to a certain extent, responsible for a portion of it. He asked us what is to become of Suakin. Is it to become a second Massowah? We see the miserable state of things which exists there in consequence of the Italian occupation; but I will not enter into that subject, because it does not come under our consideration; but anyone knowing the terrific bungle that exists with regard to the English occupation and Egyptian finance, and who takes into account this extraordinary demand we are asked to pay to-night, will see clearly—particularly if he has been listening to the debate, or if he reads it to-morrow—will see in the first place 1813 that this Vote is an extraordinary one and an unjust one; and, in the second place, that the British taxpayer should certainly not be called upon to vote what evidently creates so much dissension—or confusion if not dissension—on the Treasury Bench, and which, to my mind, would lead anyone into a state of embarrassment as to how actually the Vote was incurred. We are not given the essential details in regard to it. The right hon. Gentleman stated that too. I went outside and tried in the Library to find some statistics dealing with those matters, and it was impossible to find them. I went from one official to another in the Library and tried to elucidate the matter, but I could find out hardly a single thing in connection with it. It seems to me a strange thing that we are asked to come down here and spend the money of the taxpayer without getting any reliable information as to the details. It is, therefore, with the greatest reluctance that I rise to express my opinion, though it is with the greatest possible pleasure that I shall go into the Lobby, and vote against this extraordinary expenditure.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I do not take part in this discussion with any reluctance, because I think it is the duty of Members of this House to get up as often as they can in Committee of Supply to discuss the Votes. I do not think that hon. Members rise sufficiently often to discuss the Estimates. In the first place no one could be more persuasive than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer when speaking to us, and nothing could be more lucid than his explanation. At the same time he reminds me of the lady Byron refers to; because, when he said he would never give a subvention to the Egyptian Government he was supporting that Government and giving it a subvention. That was the weak point of the speech—it was necessarily the weak point of it—because he says the subvention ought not to be given, and yet is giving it. I object to the form in which this is put, and I think that it involves a question of vital principle. It should never have been put in the Estimates at all. This Vote is not an Army Vote, and should not have appeared in the Army Estimates. To my mind this Vote is nothing more nor less than a subsidy, and in this country 1814 we have not been accustomed to subsidies, I think, since the early part of the present century—if I am not mistaken, this country has not paid subsidies since 1815. We paid enormous subsidies for many years before that date. But the fresh subsidy has a great many disadvantages, which the old subsidies in the Napoleonic time had not. The old subsidies brought us material consideration in return—so many men, or so much support. But we have nothing of that kind now, and this, I maintain, is a hocus-pocus way of drawing the thing up. It is an entanglement that we can make nothing of. What is really happening is this—we are giving them £150,000 in Egypt to meet their general expenses, and we have to find out an excuse for it. The way we do that is to credit the Egyptian Government with £200,000, which the Egyptian Government itself had to pay as a contribution towards the expenses of the Egyptian Army. We say that if the £200,000 cannot be paid by the Egyptian Government, we will write off some extraordinary expenses with regard to services the Egyptian Army have rendered us in Egypt. That is, in reality, nothing more nor less than a figure of speech and a method of coaxing money out of the pockets of the British taxpayer. I am not in a position to protest on behalf of the British taxpayer; but I protest on behalf of the Irish taxpayers, who have to bear a portion of this Vote—probably some £18,000. I must say I think the British taxpayer is very foolish if he pays the rest of the sum demanded without serious complaint. We are paying this money for the pleasure of occupying Egypt. I do not see what advantage we get in return for it. If we could get hold of Egypt altogether and take all her revenues, I have no doubt that it would be a very good thing for Great Britain, if not for that part of the United Kingdom in which I am more especially interested. I think it might be a magnificent thing to take all the revenues of Egypt, and all those geographical advantages which the possession of England would confer upon this country; but I do not think it a magnificent thing to hold Egypt in the way we do now. I do not think it a good thing to keep up an army of mingled blacks and whites, as we do, for the purposes which the right hon. Gentleman opposite de- 1815 scribed. Is it worth while keeping Egypt and spending all this money on the country? I do not think it is. I think that if we could get hold of all the revenues of Egypt and keep them to ourselves, it would be, though very dishonest, expedient. But at the present time we are dishonest, without securing that which is expedient—we are dishonest without doing good to anyone. I do not like this principle of introducing politics into Army Votes if it could be helped, and I think that the Government have thoroughly and entirely introduced politics into Army measures by putting this item in the Army Vote. This item £150,000 has nothing to do with the Army Vote. It should have been put down as special expenses—it should have been described by the Treasury as a payment of £150,000 to get the Egyptian Government out of its difficulties. That would have been at least an honest thing, though it is true that it might not have been very good for electioneering purposes, and I think that the Government, though they may make the country believe that this is an Army expense, will not, in the long run, reap much benefit from the course they are taking. I think that in the end they will find that they have done themselves considerable harm by it. They have thoroughly mixed up all Army Votes with politics for the future, which I think is a great pity, and will cause great injury to the country. I will not say any more with regard to this item at the present time; but when we come to the other items, I hope to be able to say a few more words upon these matters.
§ MR. O'KELLY (Roscommon, N.)
I think there are two parties to be considered in connection with this question of economy—namely, the people of Egypt, as well as the taxpayers of this country. I have not been able to understand from the statement we have heard this evening from the Treasury Bench, whether we are to believe that the Government has permanently abandoned their claim to this allowance of £200,000 on the part of the Egyptian Government for the maintenance of British troops in Egypt. I have not been able to understand whether the Egyptian Government is a consenting party to this arrangement—that is to say, the arrangement wiping out the Egyptian claim for £600,000, in consideration of this grant 1816 of £150,000; but it appears to me that a far more important question than that of mere money is the question of the policy underlying the action of the Government. If this country had made up its mind finally to annex Egypt, then I should say that this delay is defensible; but the footing on which we stand at present in Egypt is not satisfactory to the Egyptian people, or to us, and I think the Committee has a right to demand some statement of policy from the Government with regard to their future action in Egypt. Now, we are told that in future the whole cost of the Egyptian Army is to be borne by Egypt. Well, in connection with that, if Egypt is to pay the whole cost of the Army, is the control of the Egyptian Army to be left in the hands of the Egyptian Government, or is the Egyptian Government to continue to be, as it is at present, merely the Agents of the Army of Occupation? because, after all, it is a misuse of terms to talk of an Egyptian Government. Now, if we honestly intend to leave Egypt, I hold that the policy we are pursuing in Egypt is altogether wrong—especially the policy with regard to the Army. What are you doing with regard to the Egyptian Army? You are destroying its future efficiency—that is to say, its efficiency the moment you leave the country. You are taking out of the hands of the Mahommedan officers the control of that Army, and teaching the men to look to foreign officers—
This discussion has become very discursive. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Kelly) is now clearly outside the range of the Motion before the Committee. He must confine his observations to the remission of this contribution from Egypt.
§ MR. O'KELLY
I thought we were dealing with the grant to the Egyptian Army, and that the Egyptian Army naturally came under our notice; but I will not press that point further than to say this—that if we are to continue to receive from Egypt this sum of £200,000, we can only properly continue to receive it by granting to the Egyptians the right and power of controlling their own Army. Only on that ground could we properly draw from the people of Egypt the expenses of maintaining an Army which at present is existing rather for our benefit than for theirs.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
It seems to me that the last observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though it was considerably delayed, was very important. He told us that in future this country would not afford anything in the way of subvention to the Egyptian Government. He told us that, in future, no charges were to be thrown upon the British taxpayer in order to enable the Egyptian Government to balance their Budget. That is all very well with regard to the future; but I would point out that without the present Vote of £150,000 the Egyptian Government would not at the present moment be in a position to balance their accounts. That is proof sufficient that this Vote is in reality a subvention, in order to enable the Egyptian Government to meet their present liabilities. One of their liabilities which requires to be met is the payment due on the coupons, and it is well that people should understand that this is really a subvention at the expense of the taxpayer of this country, in order to enable the Egyptian bondholders to receive money on their bonds. That is clear from the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I must say that the hon. Member the Financial Secretary to the War Department (Mr. Brodrick) has not been able to afford information equally explicit. He has been asked twice over to furnish us with details with regard to this appropriation for Egypt; but he is either unwilling or unable to do so. I suppose he has material somewhere in the papers which would enable him to give details. If he will take trouble to look it up I am sure he will be able to find it. I am sure the officials in the Department have placed in his hands materials to enable him to give an answer. We want him to give us what details he can in order to show us how the sum is arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in the last Government (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) asked the question pointedly, and I think the Financial Secretary to the War Department should, at any rate, have attempted to answer the question. He has not done so, I presume, however, that we shall obtain information of some kind or other. If we do not, I shall move that you, Sir, do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I confess, if it be permissible to make the observation, that the appearance of the attendance on this Committee is by no means creditable to the House of Commons. If we were discussing some petty personal question, or if we had a prospect of a scene of excitement, or an All-night Sitting, and if you, Sir, were in any way to be called upon to use your disciplinary powers, we should have all the Benches crowded with excited Gentlemen, whereas, although discussing charges which impose a heavy burden on the people of the country, we have scarcely a score of Members present to listen to the discussion. I have listened to nearly the whole discussion, and I must say that it has left upon my mind, and, I think, upon the minds of a great many others who have listened to it, a most painful and profound impression. I may be wrong; but, while I was in the House, the Secretary of State for War never gave an answer to what I considered the most grave of all the many charges brought against him in connection with this Vote. I heard his answer to the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), that £50,000 was voted by this House for the Army Estimates of this country, and that what remained beyond the necessities of the Army of this country was charged by him to the support of the Army of Egypt. Now, I want to know, is not the voting and discussion of Estimates in this House a grotesque and almost tragic comedy, when the money you vote for one purpose may be devoted to another? We have these Estimates brought before us in all kinds of detail—we have the salaries of every person set forth in these Estimates. We have all the salaries set forth, from that of the gentleman at the head of the Department down to the poor and humble charwoman who gets her 8s. or 10s. a-week. In that way these Estimates show to the public an honest and business-like appearance; but now we are to understand, from the Vote before us to-night, that when we vote money for India, it may be devoted to Egypt, and when we vote money for English, troops, it may be devoted to the maintenance of foreign troops. You give money to the Treasury for one purpose, and they have a right to devote it to another. I join with the senior Member 1819 for Northampton in saying that the State which permits what I will call "organized embezzlement," and in that I am merely quoting the words of the Marquess of Salisbury, is a State on the road to rapid financial ruin. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has drawn attention to the spending of public money upon one purpose which was voted for another. My hon. Friend has related a case which occurred under the Third Empire of an official who was charged with organized embezzlement of money. When the French Chancellor of the Exchequer was brought forward as a witness for the defence, and declared that he quite agreed with the conduct of the official, so indignant was the feeling throughout France at this declaration that he had to give in his resignation. And yet we are defending similar action in the House of Commons, where every penny of public money is supposed to be submitted to the strictest scrutiny. I do not care what attitude the Front Bench has taken on the question; we know that Irish Members have a perfectly clear conscience on this matter of Egypt. I believe the strongest appeal I ever made in this House was upon the question of Egypt. It seems to me to be extraordinary conduct on the part of a Conservative Government to take up their present position. If you read the Conservative newspapers and speeches, you will find, whenever the word Egypt is mentioned, high-sounding phrases about the sacrifices we have made in that country; and the question asked whether we are going to give over the control of the country the monopoly of which we have purchased with the lives of British soldiers and the money that has been spent? With regard to these magnificent phrases, it is under the Conservative Party that we are to make a present to the Egyptian people of £200,000, and that because the Egyptian Government has deputed a certain number of Egyptian troops for the defence of Egyptian territory. Why, there was never a more unjustifiable proposal made to the House. I ask this question: Supposing I were to demand £200,000 from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland; supposing I were to ask for £200,000 for the crofters in Scotland, or a similar sum for the relief of that vast army of 1820 poverty-stricken and despairing wretches who fill our streets? If I made such a demand as that, we all know the haughty reply with which the application would be met. But when it comes to the bondholders of Egypt, they have not only faithful but generous friends in the Government. Do you suppose that this charge is hidden away from the people of this country in the Estimates for the Army, and that the people of this country cannot penetrate those Estimates, and see that, in a time of fearful depression of trade, the taxpayers are asked to subscribe money in order that the bloated bondholders may receive interest under agreement with this country? Sir Evelyn Baring said, in one of his despatches, that the sum required in order to enable the Egyptian Government to meet its legal obligations was about £200,000. Well, I remark that it is an extraordinary coincidence that the sum given by the taxpayers of this country to the Egyptian Government for the Army amounts to exactly the same as that which Sir Evelyn Baring said was required to carry on the Government of Egypt. Does it not seem that this money is not given for Black troops, that it is not given for the garrisoning of Suakin, or for any military purpose, but that it is given to the Government of Egypt to make up the balance due to the bondholders? I hope to see the day when the bondholders will not get any more money, either from Egypt or any other country in the world. Money has been got for the most pernicious purposes from this country; and now, when the people are reduced to a position of the greatest misery, we are asked to take the first step towards increasing the burden on the poor and miserable in this country, who are to put their hands into their pockets to save the bondholders from losing a fraction of interest.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BRODRICK) (Surrey, Guildford)
The hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) has asked me to explain the deficiency for which this Supplementary Vote is brought forward. The explanation is very simple, and it is that, in framing an estimate for so large a Vote, it is almost impossible to arrive at an absolutely correct forecast of the expenditure which will be incurred. The opi- 1821 nion is that the ultimate expenditure on the Vote will result in a saving of £20,000, and the sum which we put before the Committee is an exact representation of the saving which is expected. It is, therefore, because we have asked for £150,000, and not for £170,000, that we are accused of organized embezzlement. ["No, no!"] There is no concealment, and there is no fraud, and those hon. Members who object to the Estimate will have the power of moving a reduction by the sum of £170,000. I venture to say, looking to the state of the Benches opposite during the greater part of the discussion which has taken place, on which the Opposition has been represented for the last three hours by the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), that if there was any attempt on the part of the Government to palm off such a plan of concealment as has been suggested in the somewhat grotesque speech of the hon. Member opposite, there would have been a very different attendance of the Liberal Party. We have been attacked this evening for bringing this sum forward in a Supplementary Estimate; but, had we put it off to a subsequent period, I think the House would have been entitled to censure us for so doing. I submit that we have made a perfectly clear statement of the whole case. We have put every information in our power before the Committee; we have explained the liabilities which we are endeavouring to meet; and we have no apology whatever to make for the manner in which we have placed our Estimates on the Table of the House.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
We have been told almost plaintively of the difficulty, in dealing with so large a Vote of £5,000,000, of making a correct forecast of the amount to be expended. That would have been very fair if we were dealing with the Vote which is to come on later; but the excuse made with reference to this Vote I. is, that there has been an arrangement, as it is lightly called, to transfer to one purpose money that was voted by this House for another. [Mr. BRODRICK: No.] It may not be true, but that is what is said on the Paper—This arrangement has caused the deficiency of Appropriations in aid of the Vote.["No, no!"] I venture to think that 1822 this interruption is out of place. In order that there may be no mistake about the matter I will read the rest of the Paper, which says—The Contribution due by the Egyptian Government in respect of the British Army of Occupation has been applied in settlement of Claims for certain extraordinary services of the Egyptian Army undertaken in 1885 and 1886 under the authority of the Commander-in-Chief in Egypt.That, Sir, is an arrangement of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which has left Peter without money in his pocket, and we have, therefore, to provide him with some more money. I cannot help thinking that it would have been a great deal more to the purpose if, instead of making indignant speeches, the Committee had been given a little more information on this subject, and I venture to think that we should have received that more calmly than the bellicose reply of the Financial Secretary to the War Office.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 149: Majority 53.—(Div. List, No. 54.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I think that this discussion should continue, because it is very hard that these Supplementary Estimates should be passed without adequate information being given as to the various items contained therein. I think, in connection with these Estimates, that it would be a matter of satisfaction, not merely to hon. Members on these Benches, but to the country at large, to know, with some degree of precision, on what the money asked for is intended to be spent. We were told just now, in connection with sub-head I., that it is impossible, in dealing with a Vote for a very large amount of expenditure, to make anything like a correct forecast of the whole amount that will have to be paid; but it seems to me extraordinary that, year after year, with regard to everything that is done by us in Egypt, there is a Supplementary Estimate presented. I do not intend to make a long statement; but I desire to have some definite information with regard to the item for Ordnance Stores Subordinate Establishment, and Wages; and, in order to afford the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Department an 1823 opportunity of supplying this to the Committee, I shall move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £35,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item of £35,000, for Pay of Ordnance Store Subordinate Establishment, and Wages, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Dr. Tanner.)
§ THE SURVEYOR GENERAL OF ORDNANCE (Mr. NORTHCOTE)
I think it will be respectful to the Committee to offer a few words of explanation on the subject of this item. My hon. Friend opposite will correct me if I am wrong; but my understanding of this matter is that the original Estimate, as submitted by the Ordnance Department, was reduced by about the sum of £35,000 by the late Government, and this Supplementary Vote is intended to bring it up to the amount originally asked for. It was contemplated by the late Government to make a large redaction in the Ordnance Store Department, and they framed their Estimates in consonance with that idea. Subsequently it became obvious that it would be impossible, or, at all events, undesirable, to make that reduction, and instructions were given accordingly. I may say that, as a matter of fact, when we came into Office, no such substantial reductions had taken place. I think the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Tanner), and the Committee generally, will see that when the Estimates have been framed upon the theory that a very large reduction in the number of men will be made; and when that reduction has not been made, it becomes obvious that one of two things must result—either the original Estimate must be exceeded, or such sweeping reductions must be made as will entirely disorganize the Department. The present First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), then the Secretary of State for War, was not prepared to make such a wholesale reduction in the Ordnance Store Department as would throw it entirely out of gear; hence a Supplementary Estimate became necessary. I may also say that this particular Vote—Vote9—in respect of which this Supplementary Estimate is asked, is rather handicapped, because it has been swelled a good deal in recent years by what are known as repayment services, the credit for which goes to Vote 12. For instance, as much as one-fourth of the stores provided out of the Vote of Credit 1824 required to be handled. Under the circumstances which I have endeavoured briefly to explain to the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Tanner), this Supplementary Estimate becomes necessary.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Northcote) has given us some explanation; but he has certainly not gone into any details as to this £35,000. It is all important to take into consideration that the words "in Egypt" occur in connection with this Vote; and therefore we should be furnished with the clearest information before we vote the money. The last Vote was for £150,000, and related solely to Egypt, and we are told that this Vote for Ordnance Stores is partly requisite in consequence of Egyptian affairs. I do not want to talk any more about Egypt; but I hope the hon. Member (Mr. Northcote) will inform us as to the stores sent to Egypt. How many stores have been returned from Egypt? I have been informed this very evening that many of the stores sent to Egypt have been returned because they were not wanted.
§ DR. TANNER
I was calling attention to the fact that many of the stores sent to Egypt have been returned, because they were of no use there.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
I should like the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Northcote) to give us an explanation of the expression he made use of a few minutes ago. This year's Report of the Auditor General on the Appropriation Account, both of the Army and Navy, is a most important one. In the Report as to the Army, the Auditor General points out that a very considerable amount of the Vote of Credit was expended on something that occurred long after all danger of war with Russia had passed away.
The hon. Gentleman (Dr. Cameron) has not attended the Committee, or else he would know that I have impressed upon the Committee that this discussion is not relevant to the Vote.
§ DR. CAMERON
I am now going to ask a question that is particularly rele- 1825 vant to the Vote. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Northcote) told us that the Vote under discussion was swelled in consequence of one-fourth of the stores provided for out of the Vote of Credit still requiring to be handled. This item relates to the year ending March 31, 1887. All danger of a rupture with Russia was at an end in 1885; and what I wish to ask is, how it happens that this particular Vote is increased in consequence of that Vote.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I should like to bring before the Committee a matter which is also strictly pertinent to the Vote. Five or six years ago I referred to the question of the pay of the officers of the Ordnance Store Department. These officers were not getting as much pay as the Commissariat officers. The Ordnance officers considered themselves entitled to as much pay as their brothers of the Commissariat. I should like to know whether this Vote has anything whatever to do with the pay of the Ordnance officers? If you really wish to do justice to these officers, who are a very valuable body of men, you ought to level them up in pay and promotion to the Commissariat officers.
§ MR. H. S. NORTHCOTE
I am not aware that this item includes any increase of the pay of the officers of the Ordnance Department; but I know it does include the pay of a certain number of civilians, who were temporarily employed in Ordnance Service in consequence of the fact that, owing to the pressure caused by the Vote of Credit, the ordinary staff was not sufficient to get through the work. As to the question put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) with regard to the handling of the stores, I may say there was an unusually large amount of work thrown upon the Department in connection with the shipment of stores for Egypt. I may add that, after all, this Estimate only brings up the Vote to the original amount.
§ DR. CAMERON
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has caught my point. I do not wish to discuss the Vote of Credit, or to dwell upon the way in which it was spent; but an important point in connection with it arises on this particular Vote. The Vote of Credit was given by this House partly in view of 1826 matters in Egypt, and partly in view of matters in India. The circumstances which led to that Vote passed away in 1885; and now we come to deal with a Vote which is applicable to services incurred between the 31st of March last and the 31st of March of the present year. What I want to know is, how the handling of stores purchased out of the Vote of Credit necessitates any increase in the particular Vote before the Committee for the year 1886–7? It seems to me that the general explanation of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. S. Northcote) is a little inconsistent with this particular item, for h6 has told us that when the Estimate was originally framed by his Department, and submitted to the then Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith), it embraced this very sum of £35,000, which was cut out, and which it is now proposed to reinstate.
§ MR. H. S. NORTHCOTE
I must take entire exception to the proposition or suggestion the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Cameron) makes that the effect of the Vote of Credit has passed away. There has been a great deal of expenditure in connection with the Vote of Credit, the effect of which we are, I am sorry to say, still feeling. This particular item for the Ordnance Store Department is one of the obvious effects of the Vote of Credit.
COLONEL NOLAN (Galway)
I do not think it is quite satisfactory for the Committee to know that the Ordnance Store Department is now in such an inefficient condition that, in times of pressure, it is not able to discharge its work without enlisting the services of civilians. The Store Department has chiefly to deal with guns and gunpowder, and, therefore, it is difficult to train civilians all at once to the duties of the Department. If, in time of pressure, you are obliged to engage civilians, I cannot think the Department is in the condition the country has a right to expect it shall be kept in.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I should like to ask the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. H. S. Northcote) if there is any likelihood of the War Office arriving during the present financial year—if they have not yet arrived—at a decision with regard to the ultimate re-organization of that portion of military administration which concerns these Store officers. I understand 1827 the proposal is to transfer all the officers whose pay is included in this Vote to the Department of a high military officer. At present these officers are under the Surveyor General; it is, I believe, in contemplation to give every General in the field a Staff officer—a kind of Chief of the Staff—who shall be responsible for the supply of all stores to the Army. It is intended that clothing, transport, and stores shall be under the responsible control of one officer, who shall be, as it were, the right-hand man of the General commanding. I should like to ask the Surveyor General if he can inform the Committee as to the point which has now been reached in the settlement of this question, and whether this increase of the Vote really does represent any advance in the line I have indicated, or whether this is purely an increase which might have been foreseen?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
The question to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. O'Connor) has referred will not be settled during the present financial year.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Mr. Chairman, I fell into a mistake just now. I referred to the Ordnance Department instead of to the pay of the Ordnance officers. The hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance, in answering the question which I put to him at the outset, told us just now that in the last financial year they made a wholesale reduction in the Ordnance Department. Well, Sir, it seems to me very strange—
§ MR. H. S. NORTHCOTE
I said that if the original Estimate had been adhered to, we should have had to make reductions which would have completely disorganized the Department. We decided not to do that; hence the necessity for this Supplementary Estimate.
§ DR. TANNER
I am glad I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, because I found great difficulty in reconciling the statement with that he made subsequently—namely, that one-fourth of the stores required still further handling in order that they might be used. If that is the case it would be perfectly impossible to reduce the staff, and therefore reduce the pay. But having regard to the whole of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I cannot help thinking that though this is a very small item, it 1828 shows how matters stand and affords many of us a slight indication of the reasons why the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) resigned his Office.
§ MR. NOLAN (Louth, N.)
Will any hon. Gentleman sitting on the Treasury Bench inform the Committee how much of this £35,000 has been paid to the official whose business it is to test the weapons that are placed in the hands of the men of the Army and Navy?
§ MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
Perhaps it is not very surprising that a number of very extraneous considerations have been imported into the discussion of this Vote. The Vote is a very simple one. It arises, as the explanatory note states, in consequence of the difficulty felt at the commencement of the financial year in estimating its requirements. That difficulty was stated by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). He informed the House that his Estimates had been framed on the supposition that it would be possible at some early day to reduce the Forces then in Egypt to 8,000 men. My right hon. Friend also stated with equal frankness, that in the event of not being able to effect that reduction, it would be necessary to trouble the House with a Supplementary Estimate like that now before us.
§ Question put and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I should like to ask exactly what this money taken in respect of Vote 12 is for?
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
I do not think we ought to be asked to pass this Vote without some further explanation. We have no explanation why the Navy want this £200,000. There is another item—£8,400—for the extension of the Nile Railway, I want to know why the British Government pay for the extension of the Nile Railway, and not the Egyptian Government? Neither can I understand why the British Government should pay for the defence works on the Nile. Then, again, why should we be called upon to pay £300 for railways and piers at Suakin? There is a charge of £24,300 for hut accommodation in the Soudan, I should like to know whether 1829 that accommodation is for European or Native troops? There is a charge of £30,000 as an instalment of £110,000 for the Brennan torpedo, which certainly requires explanation.
§ MR. H. S. NORTHCOTE
I can assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) that there is not the slightest disinclination on our part to ask the House to vote any money without our giving all the information it is in our power to give. With regard to the first item, I may say that out of the £200,000 which, as the footnote states, is required for the Admiralty, £100,000 is to pay for an extra supply of quick-firing ammunition for the Navy, the demand for which was made upon us in December last. A further sum of £50,000 is for Nordenfelt ammunition for the Navy, and £35,000 has been spent on account of chase-hooping for certain guns—a service undertaken by the War Department on behalf of the Navy in consequence of the Report of the Collingwood Committee. As regards the remaining £15,000, £10,000 appears under the head of Accoutrements. These are Militia accoutrements, the supply of which is very much in arrear. I am afraid I cannot give much information as to the £5,000; but I believe the greater portion of it, has been spent upon the Ordnance vessel, the Marquess of Hartington. With regard to the other items of the Vote, they have been generally incurred in consequence of the pressure at Enfield for the new rifles, expenses of chasehooping, and providing Nordenfelt ammunition. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) has asked me for an explanation of the item for £8,400 for the extension of the Nile Railway, with regard to which I may state that this sum has been incurred on account of local charges—staff, working expenses, and maintenance. The Government have not been able to complete their arrangements for handing over the line to the Egyptian Government as soon as was expected. With regard to the item for hut accommodation, I point out that this was rendered necessary by the continued stay of our Forces in Egypt, and the work was undertaken purely on sanitary grounds and for the preservation of the health of those Forces.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I should like the hon. Gentleman to state whe- 1830 the Assouan and Wady Halfa Railway has been handed over to the Egyptian Government?
§ SIR WILLIAM CROSSMAN (Portsmouth)
I see that we are asked to pay the sum of £30,000 as an instalment of the sum of £110,000 for the Brennan torpedo, to the payment of which this House will be committed if the sum asked for is Voted. I object to this Vote, because I consider it is one which ought not to have been brought forward in a Supplementary Estimate at all, but in the regular Estimates of the year, when the House would have the opportunity of being consulted on the matter. I do not think it is good policy to pay away large sums of money in this way, however good the invention may be, and I have no doubt that the Brennan torpedo is one of the best that has been brought forward. But, after what has happened at Chatham recently, what security have we that the invention will be kept secret? I think it would have been better if the Government had paid a royalty to Mr. Brennan for making the torpedo, than that they should have agreed to pay this lump sum. Everyone will know what is the principle of this torpedo, and when once it is known I am satisfied that engineers in other countries will be quite as well able to work out the details as we can. I think it right to ask the Committee to object to the payment of the large sum we are asked for on account of this torpedo.
Motion made and Question proposed,
That the Item of £30,000, Instalment of £110,000, Payment for the Brennan Torpedo, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Sir William Crossman.)
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I ask, Mr. Courtney, whether it would be competent to go back to a Vote previous to that on which the hon. Member moves a reduction?
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I ask whether I shall be able to go back to Vote 12 after this Amendment to Vote 15 is disposed of?
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I ask, Mr. Courtney, whether it would not be competent to the hon. Member for 1831 Sunderland (Mr. Storey) to go back to an earlier Vote if the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, withdraws his Motion?
§ SIR WILLIAM CROSSMAN
I am willing to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment on the understanding that it is competent to me to revert to the matter.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Storey.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE)
I presume, Sir, that the Motion of the hon. Member is made for the purpose of turning the whole proceedings of the Committee into ridicule. It is surely not too much to ask the Committee to dispose of these Votes to-night. The Government do not desire in any way to restrict discussion on the Votes, although I am bound to say that there seems to be an indication on the part of some hon. Members that they do not share the desire of the Government to get forward with the Business of the country. The Committee will, I think, understand that although the Government have no desire to prevent bonâ fide discussion, it is impossible to allow discussion to take place on Votes that have been passed.
§ MR. STOREY
I came into the House having a strong objection to several items of the Vote. The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir William Grossman) moved the omission of the item for the Brennan torpedo. I asked whether it would be competent for me to move the omission of a previous Vote? Upon your informing me, Sir, that I could not, I moved that you leave the Chair. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, upon that, thought it necessary to instruct the Committee that I, who am a Member of this Parliament, desired to make these proceedings ridiculous. I beg to inform the right hon. Gentleman that he cannot with any decency impute to me that I have ever shown the least approach to casting ridicule upon the proceedings of this House. If I have an objection to a previous Vote, surely I may ask the hon. Mem- 1832 ber who has moved an Amendment to give place so that I may have an opportunity of moving an Amendment to that Vote. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks he can defend these Votes, why does he object to my having an opportunity of protesting against them? After the manner in which my proposal has been met, I adhere to my Motion, Mr. Courtney, that you do now leave the Chair.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I was going to discuss Vote 13 in regular order, and for that purpose I rose at the same time as the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth. It was stated that the hon. and learned Member for Chatham was going to speak on the Vote for the Brennan torpedo; but if we had understood that he was about to move its omission we should have intervened. I put it to the Government, who have great influence with their supporters, to consider that a very natural mistake has been made, and to allow the Motion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth to be withdrawn. We wish to divide on the Question before the Committee as a protest; and if the Government do not allow the Motion on the Torpedo Vote to be withdrawn, I think that my hon. Friend ought to adhere to his Motion that the Chairman leave the Chair.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I recognize the fact that the hon. Member who moved that the Chairman leave the Chair has not been offering any obstruction; and if the Committee are willing, I am quite ready to agree to the withdrawal of the Motion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I hope the Committee will consider for one moment the peculiar circumstances in which we stand with reference to this Vote. This is not an ordinary Supplementary Vote. It is usual to have each Supplementary Vote submitted separately to the Committee. You have each Question separately put from the Chair; but, to-night, you have one Vote covering a multiplicity of Services which are all bulked together. Now, when the hon. Member for Portsmouth moved the reduction of the last item, it was no longer competent for another hon. Member to go back and move the reduction of an earlier item. That difficulty being seen, the hon. Member for Portsmouth courteously consented to withdraw his Mo- 1833 tion, and on the question of the assent of the House for the withdrawal of that Motion we saw—what no one has ever witnessed before here—the courtesy which hon. Gentlemen principally concerned was willing to concede to him was refused by Her Majesty's Government. The simple result of that was that it was no longer competent for anyone to go back to any one of the earlier Votes and move the reduction of that Vote. The only course open to a Member in such circumstances is to move the reduction of the entire Vote, and if he does that there is nothing to prevent a cross discussion of a number of varied subjects, so that it would be hopeless for an hon. Member to secure the discussion of a particular item he desired to challenge. During all the years I have sat in this House I have never seen on the part of a Government anything so nearly approaching an appearance at any act of discourtesy as the action of Her Majesty's Government in regard to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, apparently taking credit for his recovered urbanity when he consented just now to withdraw opposition to the proposal, was good enough to say that if the request had been made by some other Member than the particular Member who made it, he should not have been inclined to withdraw his opposition. All I can say is that, though we may not be particularly glad to see the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) the Leader of the House, and though we may not be particularly delighted to see the First Lord of the Treasury Leader of the House, still we have learned that either of these right hon. Gentlemen could be replaced with considerable disadvantage.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I think we have got to the stage when it is necessary to convince right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the opposite side that there is a real and serious disposition on this side of the House to protest against these Supplementary Estimates. I am sorry that I was not in my place 1834 at an earlier hour in the evening, when the Vote I am about to speak upon was proposed. But so far as Vote 12 is concerned—I understand we have passed Vote 9—I intend to earn to-night the undying thanks of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War by moving one by one the omission of each item—each item except one. There is one item as to which I intend to make no opposition—namely, No. 5—which is a proposal of £5,000 for the War Department officials. I understood the hon. Gentleman who explained the Vote to say that this was probably a proposal for the improvement of the Marquess of Hartington; and I am so sensible of the necessity of that operation that I do not propose to object to the item. With respect, however, to the rest, I intend, if I can get another hon. Gentleman to tell with me, to trouble the House with a Division upon these items one by one. I intend to divide in order to indicate our sense that these Supplementary Estimates should not run to such enormous sums. Without making any further speech, I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £60,000, "D. for wages."
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
Before you put that, Sir, I rise to a point of Order. I wish to know, if the hon. Member moves to reduce this Vote by £60,000, he will be able to move the reduction of £70,000 later on. I am afraid he is moving rather wrongly. Will he be able to move the rejection of the £70,000 if his present Motion is put to the House?
Motion made, and Question put,
That the item of £60,000, Wages, under Vote 12, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Storey.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 194: Majority 93.—(Div. List, No. 55.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
The very substantial minority which supported the Amendment I made shows that there is, not only on the part of the Irish Members, but on the part of the Radical Members representing constituencies in England, Scotland, and Wales, a serious objection to these continued efforts of the Government to increase ordinary Estimates 1835 by large additional Estimates. Now, I, for one, am disposed to meet in the amplest spirit the compliment which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War paid me a little while ago. He was good enough to say that if some other hon. Member on this side of the House had asked him to waive his opposition he would not have done so. It was very kind of him, I am sure, to say that; but I can assure him that other hon. Members on this side of the House are very much the same kind of men that I am. They are not much better and they are not much worse. They are all animated just as much as he is with the desire to advance the Business of this House. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Yes; and to give to the Ministry of the day, be it Liberal or Conservative, sufficient means. But we certainly object to the grossly extravagant tendencies of Governments, be they Liberal or be they Tory. I made a threat, and I beg pardon for having done so. I said I should divide on this Vote, item by item, except that for the Marquess of Hartington. Well, I am so sensible of the real necessity there is for the Government to get on with Business, that I intend to sacrifice my character for consistency to my character for business, and therefore I am content to let the items G, H, R, V, W, and Y go by the board. Nobody wishes to go on with Vote 12. Vote 13 consists of totals which relate entirely to expenditure for Egypt, and I want the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite to realize that in my protest against this expenditure for Egypt I am absolutely consistent. I voted against the Liberal Government going to Egypt, and I voted against the Tory Government spending money in Egypt, and I therefore take the liberty of objecting to this Vote. Now there are six items, and it would be possible, for me, I believe, to take a vote upon each one of them. I have not, however, the smallest intention of doing that. I wish to make my protest in the shortest manner possible; but I want hon. Gentlemen opposite to know that there is a protest to be made from these Benches by men who sincerely believe that to take money from the taxpayers of this country and spend it on all sorts of objects in Egypt, when we need money so much at home, is an inappropriate manner of spending money. I wish, 1836 therefore, to move that the whole sum of £44,000 be omitted.
§ MR. STOREY
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway, whose liberality we all appreciate so much, says, I ought only to move the reduction of the Vote by £40,000 and give the Government £4,000. If I thought I was likely to carry my Motion I would accede to this suggestion and give the Government £4,000, but as I know I cannot carry it and all we can do is to make a protest, I wish to move that the whole sum be rejected. In doing this I would only take the liberty to call the attention of the younger Members of the Conservative Party from whom I have most hope—I have absolutely no hope from the present Leaders of the Conservative Party, who are past praying for—but I say I will take the liberty of saying to the younger Members of the Party below the Gangway that if they dream that the sum of £50,000 that has been so willingly voted for Egypt is the total sum that we have expended as taxpayers this year in Egypt, they are very much mistaken. Apart from the grant in aid for the expedition to the Soudan we have spent already through the ordinary Estimates—and if this has been brought out before, I beg pardon, but I think it will bear reiterating—a sum of £232,000, and that apart from the money we are now asked to Vote to the Egyptian Government—namely, £258,000. In addition to this £232,300 and £258,000 the Government propose that for one little peddling thing or another, we should expend a further sum of £44,000. Sir, I think it absolutely necessary that the Liberals in this House should object to this continuous expenditure, and therefore, without further observation, I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £44,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the item of £44,000, Charges in Egypt, under Vote 13, be omitted from the Vote."—(Mr. Storey.)
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I am anxious to support the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) to the extent of £39,900. I consider that £4,100 which is put down for barracks in Egypt is necessary, because if you have troops in Egypt you must have barracks. I also think that 1837 the sum spent for telegraphs, £500, is very moderate, and that the sum of £300 for railways and piers at Suakin is also very moderate, and that it is a very necessary expense so long as we remain there. I consider these items very reasonable, but when we come to the big items I must say that they appear to me to be very objectionable, and all in the same spirit. There is the item for the expenses of the Nile Railway. If we are going to spend money on the Nile Railway, it looks very much like a bad argument for our leaving that country. I consider that such expenditure as this keeps us in Egypt. Then there is an item for advancing works on the Nile. If these were field works thrown up at a small cost in men and labour by the troops for the purpose of a single campaign, I should not object; but as they are extensive works, they appear very much like permanent fortifications, and people do not build permanent fortifications if they are going to leave a country. Ministers pay very small attention to what foreign diplomatists say, but diplomatists in each country pay very great attention to what they see each other do in the matter of constructing fortifications and works in their own country. Such things are looked upon as serious preparations. I have here £24,000 for "hut" accommodation for the hot season. Well, it is decidedly a hot place. I have been in a similar latitude on the shores of the Red Sea, and no doubt it is very necessary to take measures to protect the troops against the severity of the climate; but the word "but" is a very doubtful term, under which you may be building a splendid barracks. I have spoken to two or three experts on this subject, and I have come to the conclusion that tents would do very well—tents such as are used in India. You can always move them, and when you have done with them in a certain place, they will be valuable for the same purpose elsewhere. But this is not the case with huts, for when you are done with them you will, in all probability, have to sell them; and you are not likely to get more than £1,000 for that which has cost you £24,000. I am of opinion that the Government ought to provide our troops with suitable accommodation and with proper protection in hot weather from the sun; but I think this might be done by moans of tents. I 1838 should like some explanation on the subject.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House if they were aware when they originally supported English intervention in Egypt that they would be called upon to pay for telegraphs in Egypt; that they would be called upon to pay for railways, to pay for defence works, to pay for railways and piers at Suakin, and to pay for the erection and maintenance of barracks in Egypt? I should like to ask them whether they do not think it is time that something should be done to prevent this wicked policy being carried on any longer in Egypt? It is high time, in my opinion, that the inexpedient policy which we are pursuing in Egypt should be stopped; it is as wicked as it is absurd. There have been two great crimes perpetrated against liberty.The first one was the attempt of the French Government to crush the Italian Government; and the second was the attempt of the right hon. Gentleman on this side of the House to crush the aspirations of the Egyptians for self-government, and to bring about the policy we are now asked to provide money for continuing. I agree with every point mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Holborn Division of Finsbury (Colonel Duncan) except one, and that is his estimate of Arabi Pasha.
§ DR. CLARK
Having got over the historical portion, I now come to the point. The only method of preventing this and other sums of money being taken from the poor British taxpayer, is to undo the work as far as we can, to recall Arabi, and to allow the Egyptians to govern themselves and to pay for their own Government. We are now paying for railways and other things in Egypt that we ought not to pay for. Of course we must pay for them as long as we keep, by our bayonets, power over Egypt. The sooner we allow the Egyptian patriots now in exile to return and to establish a stable government founded upon the wishes of the Egyptian people the better.
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I venture to ask the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) 1839 whether it is not inexpedient to take a Division in regard to sums 75 per cent of which has already been paid away? I do not see what good we can do by going to a Division which would simply be a waste of time, and I trust he will not put hon. Gentlemen to such unnecessary inconvenience.
§ MR. COLERIDGE (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I should like to ask a few questions with regard to two items. First of all, I should like some explanation as to the extension of the Nile Railway. I should like to know, for instance, whether the charge of £8,400 is a preliminary to a further charge? Does it mean that we are going to run large railways up the Nile, or does it mean that these railway works are already completed? If they are already completed, I should like to know how it is that the sum expended upon them has not been estimated before; if they are not completed, I should like to know how far this charge is to commit the country to further expenditure? Then, again, as to the hut accommodation in the Soudan, I thought we were out of the Soudan; and I should like to know from some authority whether we are still building huts in the Soudan, or whether huts have been built and abandoned? It is right in regard to these two items that something more should be given than a mere general explanation.
§ THE SURVEYOR GENERAL OF ORDNANCE (Mr. H. S. NORTHCOTE) (Exeter)
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield can hardly have been in his place when I spoke upon the items of this Vote half-an-hour ago, and then explained that the £8,400 for what is called the extension of the Nile Railway was for local charges for the staff, working expenses, and maintenance; that the railway had been in our military occupation, but that arrangements had been made for its transfer to the Egyptian authorities. With regard to the £7,200 for defence works on the Nile, I may say again that expenditure was incurred in the erection of defence works undertaken on the responsibility of the General Officer commanding, and with the view of securing the Egyptian Force against attack. £24,300 is the charge for hut accommodation. That, I may say, in answer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan), as 1840 well as to the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division of Sheffield (Mr. Coleridge) is an expense originally sanctioned in 1885. The huts were recommended by the medical officer.—[Colonel NOLAN: What kind of huts?] I am afraid, without referring to documents, I cannot say what kind of huts they were, but I know they were recommended by the medical officer. I am not as conversant with the subject as the hon. and gallant Member. In answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, I may say that the huts were mainly erected at Assouan, Korosko, and Wady Halfa.
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
I do not want to prolong this debate, but I wish to say that I am very much opposed to keeping our troops in Egypt; but I am of opinion that while they are there they ought to be properly protected. I differ from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) in the suggestion that the troops should be kept under canvas. I can conceive no greater barbarity than putting men under canvas in hot climates. We are assured that this £24,300 has been spent upon the protection of our troops, and therefore I do not begrudge it, but I press for an answer as to whether the Wady Halfa Railway has now been transferred to the Egyptian Government.
§ COLONEL DUNCAN (Finsbury, Holborn)
These huts were of the very simplest description; but the fact of their being built at the top of hills, and that the carriage of sun-dried bricks from below and the labour connected with their erection being very great, accounts, in great measure, for the extent of this charge. As to putting men under canvas, I may say that the first week I was on the heights of Assouan with two battalions, our tents were blown down twice in the night in dust storms.
§ MR. STOREY
No one can realize better than I can the circumstances to which my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Duncan) has alluded, because when he went up to Assouan I had the honour of going with him; but I went up after the death of the late lamented General Gordon, and a great calm fell on that part of the country immediately after we got so far. I quite admit that if our troops are to be there they ought 1841 to be cared for. I know the good service my lion, and gallant Friend did in that part of the world, and I do not at all object if you will send your men there to make them comfortable. I think it my duty, however, to make a protest against the whole policy of spending our money in that region. I do not think I need say anything more. The hon. Member for the Stepney Division of the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Isaacson) asked me why I should take the trouble to protest the money having been spent? This is an objection every spendthrift makes.
§ MR. STOREY
But why, in the name of goodness, should the House of Commons be asked to find it? We are supposed to be the custodians of the public purse. An unattached Member like the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Isaacson) might rise, but a Minister would not rise and defend a Vote on the ground that the money had been spent. Parliament has the right to say what money shall be spent, and it is because I feel that this money ought not to have been spent that I, without any more prolixity, make my protest.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I am not able altogether to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland upon his appeal to hon. Members sitting below the Gangway opposite. His appeal, like many similar appeals which have been made in times past, appears to me to have fallen on barren, desert ground, and I sincerely hope that we shall find no other appeals made to these hon. Members. Now, I certainly thought that upon these items in this Vote we ought to receive more explanation. We are here to see that money is not thrown away; and I think that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan), who has direct and technical experience in connection with the conduct of military affairs, showed very clearly that what can be done in India can be done in Egypt. We all know that the Indian climate is hotter than that of Egypt, and that what can be done in the one country with good effect and economy can be done in the other. I maintain that instead of throwing money away in building permanent residences for troops who are shortly to 1842 be withdrawn, instead of building these suburban villas, mere temporary residences would have been quite as effective in guarding the troops against the dangers peculiar to the Egyptian climate. [Cries of "Divide, divide!"] Mr. Courtney, of course I cannot help the interruptions of hon. Gentlemen. It is very difficult to get through one's remarks, but I shall endeavour to do so. Now, as to the Engineer Department, we have heard of a great many of its faults and of its failures. The sum that is asked for in respect of this Department is only £1,700, but it is part of the money which has been thrown away. I will draw attention to one particular item in connection with the Vote before us, upon which, for my own part, I should have preferred to have taken a distinct Division, and that is the item for the extension of the Nile Railway. Now the Suakin and Wady Halfa Railway has had a very chequered career, and I cannot see that it will prove of any advantage to this country or to Egypt. For this railway we are asked to provide £8,400, and that is the second largest item in this Vote No. 13. I consider that if we palm off this ill-conceived concern upon the Egyptian Government we shall be doing them a great wrong. [Interruption.] [An hon. MEMBER: Sit down!]
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
Mr. Courtney, I rise to Order. I want to ask you whether the expression just used by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kennington (Mr. Gent-Davis) of "sit down" is a Parliamentary expression?
§ DR. TANNER
Well, Sir, I do not in the least pay attention to the expressions of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I do pay attention to expressions of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. It is not my intention at all to weary the Committee, and I will pass from this Wady Halfa Railway, on which there is a great deal that might be said—we have got at least two Blue Books full of technical information concerning it, and which might be highly instructive to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that if they wish enlightenment upon the question, I shall be very happy to give it them; but, Sir, it is not my intention. I merely wish to enter my protest, as a Member of this 1843 House, against what I consider to be an ill-considered undertaking. I now pass to the question of the defence works on the Nile. Now, what are these defence works like? We all know that in Eastern lands, when civilized forces are endeavouring to protect themselves against the attacks of a savage and uncivilized foe, they, as a rule, will take advantage of the material which nature places at their hand. I must say that although many Members may consider the Soudanese savages, I do not regard them as such—I look upon them as free men fighting for their own rights and their own native land. Still, when the Soudanese attacked convoys passing up the Nile, it became a matter of absolute necessity to throw up defence works, and I think that those defence works ought to have been cheap enough. Everybody who knows anything about Egypt knows that sand is a very cheap commodity. What are earthworks in other parts of the world are, practically speaking, only sandworks in Egypt; accordingly, when we take into consideration the facilities which were at the command of the Military Authorities in constructing these defence works, we can very easily see that the expenditure ought not to have been great. I very respectfully ask the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. H. S. Northcote), who is piloting this Vote through Committee, to give us a little further information upon the details of this Vote; because I cannot understand why, in a country like Egypt, where labour is easily had, and where, as I have said, materials are plentiful, there should have been such a large expenditure upon defence works. [Cries of "Divide!"] Mr. Courtney, I do not yield to the expressions of hon. Gentlemen; if they wish for further information I will give it them. But I will content myself by merely expressing a hope that the Government will give us the information we desire, and that information which I am sure the country will look for to-morrow morning.
§ MR. O'KELLY (Roscommon, N.)
I think the Committee has a right to some further explanation with regard to the Nile Railway. For my own part, I cannot understand why the taxpayers of this country are called upon to pay any money towards erecting or maintaining that line. The Wady Halfa Railway 1844 was constructed for the benefit and in the interest of Egypt. If I understand aright, the railway becomes the property of the Egyptian Government. Under these circumstances, it would be only fair that the Egyptian Government should defray the expenses entailed by the railway.
§ MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
This Vote, ostensibly for military purposes, is, according to the opinion of those who sit on these Benches—who are a great deal better qualified than myself to speak upon it—a Vote in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a direct personal interest. Inasmuch as—
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I wish the hon. Member to state distinctly and specifically what he means by what he says.
The hon. Member is travelling wide of the mark. His remarks have no relevancy whatever to the present Vote.
§ DR. TANNER
I should like to ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. Gent-Davis) is in—
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I trust the Committee will permit and compel the hon. Member for South Armagh, who has made this statement, to state distinctly what he means. It is not enough for the hon. Member to say that it is the impression amongst hon. Members on those Benches. When he retails calumny and slander, I want to know what he means in specific terms.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I wish to submit to you, Sir, in regard to what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just said, that my hon. Friend stated that an opinion prevailed on these Benches on a certain question; and he stated the grounds for that impression. [Cries of "No, no!"] 1845 He stated what, in his opinion, the grounds were. [Cries of "No, no!"] Yes; he gave his opinion. I beg to say and submit to you, Mr. Courtney, that whatever this Committee may permit my hon. Friend to add, this Committee has no power to compel him.
§ MR. BLANE
I would just say this for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that it is an impression upon those Benches—and not only that, but I have seen it stated in the Press—that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was one of the firm that floated certain loans; and that this money, which was being voted ostensibly for military purposes, will be turned over to pay the bondholders. [Laughter, and cries of "Withdraw!"] Well, if I am wrong, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will explain. I have heard the charge made repeatedly that this very railway that we are asked to vote money for in Committee was partly built by money furnished by a certain firm to which he was connected.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I have repeated, over and over again, that the loans from the old firm with which I was connected were made 22 years ago. The hon. Member speaks now as if I had a personal interest in the matter. Not only have I no interest now in these loans, but the firm has no interest in them. Neither directly nor indirectly have I, for years, had the slightest personal interest in Egyptian finance. I have repeated that, as I have said, many times; and I trust, now that I have repeated it once more, that hon. Members below the Gangway will not continue to re-assert charges which I have met over and over again.
§ MR. BLANE
So far as this Vote is concerned, I accept the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A great many people who are better informed than I am—I am not able to speak for them, but I know that they have that impression—certainly think that what I have stated is the fact. There is one item connected with this Vote that I would call attention to—that for the Royal Engineers. The charge in respect of the Royal Engineers is for the defence of the people of Egypt. What is the use of making a charge for these men in the Votes relating to England if the men are to be paid over again to the ex- 1846 tent of over £7,100? Why should they receive this extra amount, seeing that their services are already paid for? As has been already pointed out, these charges show that we are not going to leave Egypt at all. The fact that we have been building huts in Egypt show that we are going to stay there, and that we are preparing to prevent the invasion of the territory. I am very much afraid that before very long we shall have a repetition of those terrible scenes in the Soudan which have already very seriously shocked the civilized world. I protest against this Vote, inasmuch as it is to be used against a people rightly struggling to be free, and is for Egyptian officials, to whose interest it is to exact money from England for their own people. I say that the taxpayers in this country have quite sufficient to do in looking after their own affairs, without taking over the affairs of the Soudan and Egypt. If we have to leave Egypt in the end, we shall have to leave all these buildings and improvements behind, and probably some other Power will reap advantage from them. It is very problematical whether the English people will ever reap advantage. I maintain that we have quite enough to do with our own people here, without taking upon our shoulders the affairs of the people of Egypt and the Soudan.
§ MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
The Committee will naturally be indulgent to those Members of the House who have uniformly and consistently protested against our intrusion in the affairs of Egypt; but surely it is hardly businesslike in us, when we are called on to support a policy which has been carried out and approved of by majorities in this House, to shut our eyes to responsibilities incurred by successive Governments in giving effect to that policy. The Nile Railway, an item in this Vote, which has been pretty generally criticized, was a railway made and maintained for military purposes. Twelve months ago the requisitions and demands that were made for locomotives and plant of every kind required for upholding that railway and putting it into a state of effectiveness were enormous. I felt it to be my duty when in Office, in connection with the Secretary of State, to procrastinate in regard to these demands; and it was a matter of great satisfaction to us that we were 1847 able to avoid large expenditure and some outlay which, if it had been incurred, would have necessitated a much larger Supplementary Estimate than that now before us. Much has been said with regard to the hut accommodation provided in the Soudan—and I gather from the observations of the hon. Gentleman who has last spoken that he means Assouan. Well, the House will recall the fact that a great amount of interest was excited in the country last year with regard to the condition of our troops on that station; indeed, for a time, this House was continually occupied with Questions which indicated the very grave concern that was being felt with regard to the manner in which these troops—many of them very young and extremely unfitted for the severity of the climate—were being treated. It is perfectly natural—it is more than that, it is obligatory—on the part of the Government to provide suitable accommodation for these men. All that I can say as to these figures is that I think the Committee may feel some sense of relief that the demand which is now made is not a larger one. It is a charge which could not have been anticipated by those of us in charge of the administration of this Department twelve months ago; due notice, however, was given last year that some supplementary demand would be necessary, and I cannot believe that the Committee will now refuse to meet it.
§ MR. STOREY
As the Mover of the Amendment, I trust the Committee will allow me to say a word or two. I want to say, for one, as the Mover of the Amendment, that I entirely and with the fullest heart accept the entirely unnecessary statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I know, as everyone who has studied the history of these Egyptian matters knows, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's firm had something to do with the original loan; and inasmuch as that original loan has yet to have interest paid upon it, and inasmuch as we are now voting money to pay that interest, it is, perhaps, not unnatural that some hon. Members here—[Cries of "No, no!"]—I will call them uninformed Members, if you like—should think that we are doing something for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Why, Sir, anyone who has known the Chancellor of the 1848 Exchequer as I have known him—I mean as a public man; I do not know him privately—knows that whatever may have been his chequered career, his honourable personal character entirely removes him above any imputation of this kind. It is certainly not on any ground of imputation against him that I have moved the Amendment. I have taken this course, because I believe that we have no right to spend the public money of this country in the way that is proposed. We on the Radical Benches are trying to save money. [An hon. MEMBER: £100,000,000!] That was not a Radical Government. You have never had a Radical Government yet. This House will have a Radical Government some day, and when it gets it, it will find that it will not spend money in this fashion. A Radical Government will not have officials who, when we are engaged in a contest with the Tory Party in our endeavour to save money, will get up and endeavour to throw a shield over them. The late Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Mr. Woodall), of course, gets up to defend the present Tory Party, and, no doubt, hon. Gentlemen whom he defends will, in course of time, repeat the compliment. What we have just witnessed is a thing which makes hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House almost sick of attempting to apply the principles of economical expenditure in the public affairs of this country. We, good Radicals here—and I have no doubt there are some here—sometimes get up above the Gangway, and immediately the boa-constrictor of officialism swallows them, inch by inch, and they go supple and limp as they go down. I hope it is permitted to me to say just so much and no more in answer to the interposition of the late Surveyor General of the Ordnance. Why did he interfere? We were making a very good fight against hon. Gentlemen opposite, and hoped to get a good Division, when up jumps a Gentleman from the Front Opposition Bench, and endeavours to make things smooth for the Ministry. I hold that to be an entirely unnecessary abuse of his powers of speech. We on this side of the House make no personal objection to any Member sitting on the Front Bench opposite, our objection being confined to the spending of money in Egypt in this way. Every man who believes 1849 in economy, and thinks that we should not spend public money abroad when it is so much needed at home, will, I trust, support me in this Division.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 113; Noes 213: Majority 100.—(Div. List, No. 56.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Before you, Sir, put the Main Question to the Committee, I have to move the reduction of the total amount by the sum of £30,000. That sum is the amount of the instalment proposed to be paid for the purchase of the Brennan torpedo, for which the Government have agreed to pay the enormous amount of £110,000. I believe Mr. Brennan, the inventor of this torpedo, is an American citizen, and about seven years ago he came over to this country with his torpedo. Since then he has entered into an arrangement with Her Majesty's Government under which he has been paid a considerable sum of money for perfecting or improving his invention. Everybody knows that there are a vast number of torpedoes which have been patented by different inventors; in fact, there are all sorts of inventions in connection with torpedoes; and when a Company having one of these inventions comes out, the first thing the Company does is to give a large sum in cash for a patent. Generally speaking this patent is worthless, and in the course of a year or two the shareholders lose their money. We are very much in the hands of the shareholders of the Brennan Company in this matter, as we now see we are called upon to pay £110,000 for this invention, which may be superseded by some other before very long. Who, I ask, will guarantee that someone will not next year invent a torpedo infinitely better than the Brennan torpedo? Who would venture to guarantee that this Brennan torpedo will be better than any other torpedo? Well, Sir, I ask Her Majesty's Government to pause and consider what they are about to do. This gentleman, as I have said, is an American citizen—[An hon. MEMBER: No; an Australian.] Very well, he is an Australian citizen; he is a practical Australian. He comes over here to sell the torpedo he has invented, to us. Do we pay him for the exclusive use of 1850 the torpedo? I say no, by no means. Any Government that wishes to do so can get hold of one of these torpedoes, and thus make use of an invention for which we are asked to pay £110,000. Consequently, we are asked to pay that sum for a torpedo which, owing to no fault of the Australian inventor, may become available to other Governments. I have, therefore, to move that the amount of this Vote be reduced by the sum of £30,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item of £30,000, instalment of £110,000, Payment for the Brennan Torpedo, he omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ SIR WILLIAM CROSSMAN (Portsmouth)
I think, Sir, that this matter ought to have been brought before the House in the usual course in the ordinary Army Estimates for the ensuing year, and that it should not have been sprung upon us, as it has been, in Committee on a Supplementary Estimate, as an instalment of £110,000, which is to be paid for an invention that may be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has stated, capped or improved upon by some other inventor to-morrow. We have already had to pay I do not know how much money for the Whitehead torpedo. Now we have another, which is said to beat the Whitehead invention, and no one can say that we may not have a third put before us to-morrow. I think, therefore, we should be altogether in the wrong in paying so large a sum for such a purpose. Her Majesty's Government are very chary, indeed, in asking for sums of money for our soldiers; but they do not hesitate to throw away £110,000 for an invention which I do not say is useless, but which certainly is an extravagance such as ought not to be encouraged, by this House. I should like to know from the hon. Member who is in charge of the Ordnance Department (Mr. H. S. Northcote), how much this invention will cost the country altogether, and how far we are committed as the matter at present stands? I quite agree with what the hon. Member for Northampton has stated upon the subject.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
The fact that this Estimate has been presented by the Government towards the middle of the last month of 1851 the financial year, when, to look at it, one might imagine it could easily have been postponed until the regular Estimates for the year ensuing are brought forward, would seem to suggest the idea that in all probability the expenditure under the Estimate has been already incurred, and that the War Department in making it is under some existing liability. I should like to know how far we are already pledged to Mr. Brennan in connection with this torpedo; and, perhaps, in answering this question, the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. H. S. Northcote), who, I see, is about to rise, will inform the Committee as to the past relations of this gentleman with the Admiralty or the War Office.
§ THE SURVEYOR GENERAL OF ORDNANCE (Mr. H. S. NORTHCOTE) (Exeter)
The Committee, I think, are aware that, generally speaking, this is a torpedo for which very great advantages were claimed by the inventor, and these advantages have been admitted by the professional Committees which have examined specially into his method. One of the principal advantages of this torpedo is that it is controllable from the moment of its being launched until it strikes the object at which it is aimed. Its speed can be accelerated or reduced in one direction or the other at the will of the person controlling its action. The torpedo was first brought over to this country by Mr. Brennan in the year 1881, and the then Secretary of State for War submitted the invention to a Committee of the Royal Engineers. They reported very favourably of the principle of the invention. In the year 1882, Mr. Brennan was asked what was the price of his invention, and he replied £100,000. The Secretary of State for War did not at that time express any opinion, either one way or the other, as to the advisability of guaranteeing that sum; but, the torpedo being then in an imperfect state, he decided that £5,000 should be paid to Mr. Brennan for services rendered; that further trials should be made of the torpedo; and that Mr. Brennan should be engaged for three years, at a salary of £1,000 per year, with expenses paid by Her Majesty's Government, for perfecting the torpedo. That was the arrangement then entered into by the right hon. Gentleman the then Secretary of State for War. In the 1852 year 1883, a formal agreement was drawn up between the War Office and Mr. Brennan, under which Mr. Brennan was at liberty to give two months' notice to the War Office at any time when he might consider the torpedo was in such a perfect state as to warrant a definite decision as to its purchase by Her Majesty's Government—the Government reserving the right of preemption; but in that agreement they did not name any specific sum for the purchase of the invention. In October, 1886, Mr. Brennan, according to his agreement, gave the authorities two months' notice that he considered his torpedo had been perfected, and he asked Her Majesty's Government to decide without delay whether they would purchase the invention or not. This, then, is my answer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir William Crossman), the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Donegal (Mr. A. O'Connor), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) as to why this item appears in the Supplementary Estimates instead of in the Estimates for the ensuing year. Mr. Brennan having given the notice agreed upon under our arrangement with him, we were compelled to come to a decision. In answer to the observations of the hon. Member for East Donegal, I may say that the torpedo is one which in its present condition is not, I believe, considered by the Admiralty as suitable for use from or on board our ships; and the reason which induced the Secretary of State for War to recommend its purchase is, that it was considered that the torpedo would prove of most valuable and efficient service for coast defence and the defence of our different ports. When the question whether the torpedo should or should not be purchased came before the Committee, over which I myself had the honour to preside, we had to bear in mind that if the Secretary of State for War should decide not to make the purchase, he would throw over the unanimous advice of a Committee of professional advisers; that a sum of about £20,000 had already been expended from the public funds in assisting Mr. Brennan to perfect his invention, and that this amount would be entirely thrown away; and, further, that we should lose the services of Mr. Brennan, who is described 1853 to me, and whom I believe to be, a mechanical engineer of exceptional ability, whose services would be of great use to the country. I had also to consider that if we did not purchase this invention there was the risk of its falling into the hands of some other Government, and of its possible hostile use against ourselves. I would also remind the Committee that by the purchase of this torpedo a real economy will probably be effected, because I hope the invention will to a large extent take the place of guns in the defence of certain portions of our coasts, while it would also diminish our expenditure on submarine mining. I may state, in answer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, that the installation of a Brennan torpedo apparatus, with 12 torpedoes, would cost about £6,000—while the erection of a 10-inch gun costs the country about £15,000. There is the further advantage in connection with the installation of this torpedo, that while it would thus take the place of a gun, at about one-third of the cost of the latter, it would also present a smaller mark for an enemy's fire. I may add that it is not an electrical torpedo. Of course, the Government was placed in a rather difficult position by the fact that the agreement entered into in 1883, although it reserved the right of pre-emption, did not fix any sum for which the torpedo might be purchased when it had been completed. Mr. Brennan had pointed out that if the imperfect torpedo in 1881 was worth £100,000, the torpedo when more complete and in its perfected form was worth a much larger sum. Besides, Mr. Brennan stated, and in my opinion not without foundation, that if he went into the open market he could get much more for his invention. I must say that if Mr. Brennan did not feel that he had been treated with great fairness and with great courtesy by Her Majesty's Government, he certainty would not have accepted anything like the sum proposed. I am confident that Mr. Brennan might have obtained a much larger sum, and I am bound to say that had he considered the dividends of some Companies he, perhaps, would have refused to sell his invention to the Government of this country except at a price which they could not have afforded to give. The original sum Mr. Brennan asked was £100,000, and now he is only 1854 asking £110,000, the extra £10,000 being in consequence of certain obligations and liabilities he has since incurred. Under these circumstances, negotiations took place between the Government and the inventor, who had withdrawn his suggestion of a larger salary being paid to himself on the representation being made to him that the Government considered they had treated him in an unusual manner of liberality. Mr. Brennan agreed to take a smaller sum than the original claim, and the Government agreed that an annual sum of £16,000 should be paid for five years to the inventor, provided the secret was not divulged through any fault of his. The Government, however, are quite aware that in doing what they had done some risk is incurred, but incurred with the best interests of the country in view. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) is prepared to maintain as a general principle, as I understand the hon. Gentleman to maintain, that objection should be taken to the acquisition of any property, be it torpedo or other, on the ground that there might be a more desirable property forthcoming in a short time. If that principle were adopted we never should acquire any invention, and it would be never safe to acquire anything at all, because we could never be certain that something better may not be offered to us on the morrow. On the whole, I think the House will agree that the Government have made a sensible and reasonable bargain.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I think that there is only one important point which has been omitted in the consideration of this matter. It appears to me that we ought to have mentioned to us the names of the leading professional advisers who responsibly guide the Government when such a large sum as this is at stake. On the whole, I am inclined to believe that the arguments of the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. H. S. North-cote) are very fair, and that they ought to be well weighed before any adverse judgment is made on them. I am not prepared to say, because it is impossible to say, whether the torpedo is worth the money to be paid for it or not. I have not seen it, and I know little beyond what is contained in the description 1855 given by the hon. Gentleman. I believe that it cannot be doubted that the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance having had proper and responsible professional advice, was bound not to allow a valuable invention to be lost to the country. The only point where it appears to me the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General has not touched as he should, is this. He ought to tell the House the names of some of the professional advisers of the Government, because it seems to me that these gentlemen, and not wholly the Government, would be practically responsible for the success of the invention, if it is a success, and for the failure of the invention should it so turn out. I must repeat that I really think the Government has done the best they could under the circumstances, and amidst the difficulties which have been suggested by the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere)—very sensible difficulties I admit. I would appeal to the Government again to give us the names of the professional advisers upon whose recommendation the purchase is being made.
§ SIR WILLIAM CROSSMAN
I quite think, Sir, that royalties should be paid for this invention instead of so large a sum down. If the Government would reconsider the matter they might easily come to some arrangement by which this might be done. I must say that after what has occurred at Chatham I have little confidence that the plans and inventions in the possession of this Government can be secured against the other powers. To me it appears that £110,000 is a most extravagant sum for the advantage, and I think that the Government should arrange some means by which a royalty would be paid instead.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I do not apprehend, Sir, that there will be much objection to this Vote on this side of the House, because I understand that Mr. Brennan, though he comes from Australia, is an Irishman. I do not know very much about torpedoes myself, and I believe very few Gentlemen in this House do know anything about them. I always thought, however, torpedoes were used in water, but I gather from the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. H. S. Northcote) that this torpedo which we are asked to purchase is to be used 1856 on land. This torpedo is evidently a sort of mechanical horse-marine which may be very useful in its way. But I should like the Government seriously to consider what they are spending over this invention. This is how the matter appears to me. A gentleman invents a torpedo which, of course, he thinks is perfect. He then comes on an unsophisticated Surveyor of Ordnance and induces the Surveyor to give him £5,000 to improve his invention, and to pay him £1,000 a-year whilst he is working to improve the invention. This being done, and the Surveyor not knowing and not satisfied that there may be a better invention the very next day, further gives the inventing gentleman £110,000. After this very generous arrangement, I think we ought to know something more about the matter. I ask the hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. S. Northcote) how this torpedo works. I do not want him to reveal any important secrets, but we know that what I ask is already an open secret. Now, I venture to assure the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance that we have got an engineer in Sunderland—a very capable man, who has devoted a great deal of attention to these matters—who has invented a torpedo on the precise principle as the one for which the Government has paid £110,000, which has been in use in Sunderland for a long time. Now, I just remark that when Mr. Brennan and the Government try to prove that they have got an invention secret and important, they will awake to find that there is another invention of a similar machine equally perfect and on precisely the same principle already in existence. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) in his criticisms of this affair. Just let the Government think of the nature of their undertaking. When an invention for the destruction of life is offered to the Government for purchase, they give over £110,000 for it; I should like to know what sum the Government would be prepared to give for any life-saving apparatus? And, remember, it is in the House of Commons which begins every day with prayers, that this enormous sum of money is devoted to destructive purposes. It would seem that where destruction is, there are we generous. I certainly do agree with some hon. Gentlemen who 1857 have spoken, in thinking that a process of paying by royalty is very much the better plan indeed. He who can kill or provide the means to kill the greatest number of his fellow-men may be a heaven-born genius. To me it seems that there can be different opinions about the desirabilities of such skilful inventions, however. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton divides the House on this question, I, for one, will support him; for I think we can surely do better than buy such an invention as this.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
The author of this invention, Mr. Brennan, was born in Australia, and has devoted many years to invention in Australia. The result of his inventions he communicates to the Government in England, and so impresses the Admiralty that they give him every facility for improving the invention. He succeeds in making a torpedo with five times the range of any other torpedo in existence, and three times the power. Foreign Governments were quite willing to give the inventor double the price which this Government offered—and so Mr. Brennan does not care whether you accept his offer or not—but still, simply through his loyalty to this country, which was too strong to allow him to give to any other country than England the invention, he was induced to make the first offer to this Government. In spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) has said about the invention being anticipated—his statements are what we call in Australia "blowing"—I maintain, and I have authority to say, that the invention is unknown to anyone outside the authorities of the Admiralty. The apparatus was such that it could be guided from the shore to a belligerent vessel several miles distant, and no vessel could withstand the shock. Foreign Governments would give this young Australian double the price we were giving. [Cheers and a Voice: "Why does he not sell it to them, then?"] Well, the reason was simple. It was greatly to his credit, that in spite of all temptations to belong to other nations, he still remains an Englishman. [A Voice: "He is an Irishman."] Well, he might have been a Russian, a Prussian, or a Scotchman, but he still remains an English-Australian. His father, he believed, was a 1858 clergyman. At any rate, he in the most loyal manner gave his invention to England. As to its value, it was well known that the Whitehead Torpedo Company were making £80,000 a-year, and as this was a greater and more destructive weapon the Government had made a good bargain. Mr. Brennan does not care, as I have said, whether you accept the terms or not; and, at any rate, the price of the whole thing is only about one-third of the price paid for a man-of-war. From my knowledge of the facts of the matter, I am quite confident that we shall be doing wisely in purchasing this torpedo. Besides, apart from all other considerations, a contract has already been made and signed with Mr. Brennan for the purchase of the torpedo, and I certainly think that this settlement is conscientiously binding on the country.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
Sir, so far as I am aware from what has been said by the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. H. S. North-cote), this money is to be paid for the exclusive right of the invention. It certainly does seem to me that we are being asked to sanction an expenditure of a very novel character. We have never before paid for the exclusive right of an invention of this kind, and if we consent to this payment, all I have to say is that we shall have inventors coming from all quarters and submitting their torpedoes on the same terms. I think that the House should not allow this proposal to pass without very serious consideration. We have already heard that the invention cannot be used by ships of war, but can only be used from the shore. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir William Crossman) has explained to you the value of the invention, and suggested that a royalty should be substituted for the price to be paid, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) tells you that the invention is already in use in Sunderland, I would ask the Government whether, under the circumstances, it would not be well to have a Select Committee on the subject. I make this suggestion, and I would point out that, if even a public building is proposed to be erected, you have a Select Committee to consider the matter. Considering the extreme novelty of the proposal—you never have bought an 1859 exclusive right of this character before—and the unusual circumstances of the case, I would hope that the Government would adopt my recommendation. I would venture to suggest to them to consider whether, in the meantime, it would not be well for the Government to withdraw this Vote.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
I must say that if the proposal is a novel one, so is the weapon. This torpedo is quite unknown in warfare, and it is believed that if it were used it would have the best practical results. I can say this, that any Government which should receive the advice which the present Government received some months ago from a Committee of Professional Advisers who were appointed to consider this matter, would not be doing their duty by the country, or consulting its best interests, if they did not acquire, at what they conceived to be under all the circumstances of the case a reasonable price, the exclusive use of a weapon of this kind. The hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) had asked for the names of the Committee of professional gentlemen who advised the Government in this matter. That Committee consisted of the Inspector General of Fortifications, General Alderson, R.A., Professor Abel, Chemist to the War Department, and Captain Fisher, Director of Naval Ordnance, assisted by representatives from the Treasury. These were the professional men appointed for the purpose of estimating the value of the torpedo, and on their recommendation the Government came to the conclusion that the best interests of the country demanded that we should have the exclusive purchase of this torpedo. Then, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had asked if the Government were prepared to send this subject to be dealt with by a Select Committee. The Government is not prepared to do so. This is one of those things which must be proposed to the House on the responsibility of the Government, and the Government were quite prepared to accept the responsibility for their action. For these reasons the Government submitted the proposal, in the full belief that the House would support them in 1860 securing the most efficient means possible of defending the country.
§ SIR EDWARD REED (Cardiff)
I think, Mr. Courtney, that we should recognize that, not only is a new principle involved in this proposal, but it is also of the greatest importance to understand why this anxiety exists to get money voted to make payment for a thing the nature of which is not well understood, and the result of which in use is not at all known for certain, is so great. This new expenditure which is proposed would, in my opinion, be the first of a type, and would introduce a totally novel addition to the Estimates of the Public Service of a very extensive and certainly most extraordinary character. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) has given the House the names of the gentlemen upon whose authority this expenditure has been undertaken. Well. Sir, as I look at the matter, it is a remarkable fact that every name, with the single exception of a most distinguished chemist, is—if I heard the names correctly, and I think I did—that of a military or naval officer. Well, I should like to know where are the names of distinguished mechanical men? Why was not one of these appointed?
§ SIR EDWARD REED
I do not know why a mechanical man should tell the secret any more than a military or naval man. A great deal of the money voted by this House is voted by professional advice, which is invaluable; but care is taken that the Committee of advice shall be very complete and competent. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), who will be moving in a few days the Navy Estimates, has published a statement which embodies an elaborate and clear explanation of the misappropriation of large sums of the public money. [Interruption.] Sir, it is the privilege of a Member of this Committee to make a remark by way of illustration, and I hope nothing will ever happen to deprive Members of that privilege. This proposed purchase is a matter which will admit of delay, and this House will, in my humble opinion, be very much wanting in its duty to the public if it should vote 1861 such an immense sum for an invention about which it knows nothing, and which is likely to be succeeded by fifty others in a very short time, setting up like claims upon the public purse.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
It is not denied by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Stanhope) that this is a novel proposal, and I beg to add, having some acquaintance with mechanics and inventions, that the Government will soon find that they may expect to have their hands kept full by the claims of harebrained inventing individuals. I wish to know whether there is no way in which the Government can escape, and whether the Government is able to see the impropriety of what it has done. It is impossible for the Government to make any arrangement with this gentleman (Mr. Brennan) except subject to the approval of the House, and I would urge that this now is the time when we should fairly and fully consider the merits of the matter. Of all property in the world, property in inventions and patents is the most precarious and the most perishable property. Very frequently it occurs that the man who has largely spent his money in purchasing a patent, has found out soon that that patent has been completely superseded. I would like to ask whether the Government have so far committed themselves that it is not open to the Members of the House of Commons to consider the propriety of adopting this proposal? What security had they that this invention was not superseded? What security had the country that the invention was going to be kept a secret? I do not believe that the Government could give this Committee a guarantee that the secret would be kept for three months. There are many men in the service of the State who, for money, are willing to divulge the secrets of their Departments of the Government, and this invention is just one of those secrets where the men can be tempted to divulge the knowledge that they possess. I do not think that it is possible to manufacture these torpedoes and keep the matter secret amongst the workmen. There is a very novel principle being introduced in connection with this affair, and if the invention is worth £110,000, I do not hesitate to say that we may have a million charged before long to 1862 the taxpayers. The Military and Naval expenditure of this country is ever on the increase, and my opinion in regard to this portion of it is that this torpedo, which we propose to purchase at an enormous cost, will soon be superseded by another invention. I do not at all wish to condemn the invention, but I do wish to enforce the fact that the House is not clearly in a position to know its value, for the recommending authorities, not being mechanical experts, have not sufficient knowledge to declare the value of the invention. The proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) that a Select Committee should examine the matter, does not design to throw overboard all acceptance of the torpedo, and I hope this Committee may be divided on pressing this suggestion on the Government in order that we may not rush blindfold on the proposal, and open the door to all manner of extravagance and folly in regard to such inventions in the future. I believe that the Government should be specially careful in entering upon a large matter of this kind, and, for that reason, I would impress on them the need of the whole thing coming before a Select Committee upstairs. I venture to think that we should be held to blame and responsibility if we committed the House and the country to this expenditure upon such a very short and inadequate discussion. I may say that, personally, I am in favour of a royalty being paid; but just at present it is my intention, should my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford press to a Division on this point on the principle of safeguarding the public money, to vote with him in order to protest against the rash conduct of the Government in laying this enormous charge on the House.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I hope the House will accept this Vote, and I can assure the House that it was only after very grave consideration, and with a full sense of their responsibility, that the Government placed this Vote in the Estimates. This torpedo is not a new affair at all. It has been under trial for many years. The value of it has been testified to by every engineer officer who had been present at the experiments, and there is no doubt whatever in the minds of all 1863 who at that testing had any acquaintance with the torpedo, that if the Government had not acquired it, the secret would have been made a very profitable one for general nse. Well, Sir, we were satisfied and convinced that it would be against the best interests of this country that that secret should come into general use, and even if we preserved it to ourselves for the five years during which the money would have to be paid, we shall secure a very great advantage to this country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir William Crossman) suggests that we should pay a royalty to the inventor instead of the arrangement proposed. I am altogether opposed to the royalty principle, and I believe it would be of no advantage to us, for if we made such an agreement it would be impossible for us to prevent the weapon being offered to other countries, and the Government regarding the interests of this country, was not prepared to incur that responsibility. Besides, no person of experience in this matter has any doubt whatever about the necessity for our action, and the Government would be very reluctant indeed to withdraw their proposal. I am satisfied that it will be a good thing for this country, because I think we shall get a perfect defence for our coast at a comparatively small cost. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of Bradford suggests a Select Committee, but I am afraid that the House must either accept this Vote or reject it. If they reject the Vote it passes out of our hands. That is the conclusion at which we have arrived; and if it does pass out of our hands I believe that the country will sustain a very great loss, and also be exposed to a very great risk.
§ MR. DODDS (Stockton)
Mr. Speaker, I will not detain the House for more than a moment or two, but there are circumstances connected with this matter to which I should like to refer. I agree with many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House that it would be preferable to pay by royalty rather than in a lump sum, providing a scheme of that kind could have been arranged. But we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) as well as from hon. Gentlemen opposite that such a scheme was suggested, but it was found that 1864 it could not possibly be carried into effect, and that being so, I for one am prepared, with a perfectly light heart, to vote the sum which is demanded. I should like, however, to say why I do so. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford has referred to the feeling in the country in regard to matters of this kind. "Well, I am going to express the feeling which prevails in my part of the country in regard to our coast defences, and to the value of torpedoes in our estuary. I represent a town 10 or 12 miles from the sea, and it is not too much to say that our case is analogous with that of many other towns. For instance, at Middlesbrough, and also at Stockton, there has been a great expenditure of money on ironworks and works of every description, but at this moment they, as well as the towns themselves, are at the mercy of any enemy's ship, which, if it should run up the Tees, could destroy property to the value of millions. The War Office have already made preparation for a torpedo station near the South Pier within the estuary of the Tees, and I am of opinion that it will be of enormous service to the towns on that river. The towns there are entirely unprotected, and what is largely required is a torpedo such as this is described to be, and such as I hope it may prove to be. It will be of enormous value for our unprotected coasts, and I believe that no quantity of guns are so likely to prove effective in the work of coast protection as a torpedo of this kind. I trust that that circumstance will be taken into consideration by this House, and I am sure that it will be by those who are interested in the towns on the River Tees, on the banks of the Humber, and on other unprotected rivers and estuaries. If the torpedo in any way approaches the expectations indulged in in regard to it, it will be well worth the money asked for it. I heartily support the Vote.
§ MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
Mr. Speaker, I should like to put one Question to my hon. Friend the Surveyor General of Ordnance, and that is, whether Mr. Young Terry, of whose dismissal from Chatham Dockyard we have heard this evening, has had any of the drawings of this torpedo in his hand?
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
Mr. Speaker, I am bound to say that, is 1865 my opinion, the Government have done perfectly right in purchasing this torpedo; for even if the torpedo is nothing more than it is represented to be, the price seems to be a very small one. On several occasions in this House I have taken an opportunity in the discussions on the Estimates to complain of the Government for having refused to purchase valuable information and inventions offered them, and allowed them to be sold to other countries. I should, therefore, if I opposed this Vote, be acting in opposition to the principle I have always advocated. Some years ago, an invention, was offered to our Government which might be utilized for fast cruisers, and although a favourable report was made on it, after experiments had been made, the English Government of the day refused to spend any money in furtherance of it. The invention was shortly afterwards adopted by the German Government. I admit that at the time it was offered to our Government it was not in a very practical or complete form; but still there was sufficient to show the value of the invention. The German Government, as I said before, took it up, found the little money the inventor required, and enabled him to complete it, and have now adopted it throughout their entire Service. I cannot approve the proposal to submit this matter to a Committee. How is a Committee to judge in a matter like this? If I were on such a Committee I could form no opinion unless I had the whole thing explained to me. If it were so explained, there would be this danger—that, in the course of casual conversation, an hon. Member, in perfect unconsciousness, might allow the secret to escape. But my strong point is that no Committee could form an opinion on the value of the invention and the desirability of acquiring it without having the whole matter before them, and that, it seems to me, would defeat the whole object of purchasing the invention. I, therefore, for these reasons, heartily support the Vote, being fully prepared to accept the opinion of the scientific advisers of the Government who have had the matter in hand. The responsibility is on their shoulders. Hon. Gentlemen like myself would not, I should think, deem themselves capable to judge in this matter. In questions of this 1866 kind the whole responsibility must rest upon the shoulders of those who are the responsible advisers of the Government. They have declared that this invention will prove of considerable value to this country; and, that being so, I think the Government would act very wrongly indeed if they refused to acquire it on reasonable terms.
MR. BEADLAUGH (Northampton)
Mr. Speaker, I have only one observation to make, and that is on a point which seems to have escaped the attention of the Committee. I understood an hon. Gentleman opposite to say that this invention was no secret, as there are two Governments who, knowing of it, are ready to buy it at a much higher price.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
NO, Sir; nothing of the kind. I said that while the invention was a secret, the knowledge of the power it possesses and the work it can do is no secret.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I understood the hon. Member to say that two Governments were prepared to pay double the price for it which our Government is now about to give. If I were mistaken, I have nothing to add; but if the statement be true—and if it were not, I presume the hon. Member would not have committed himself to it, nor would he have made it, unless he had had some communication with the person who is offering to sell the invention—then I am bound to assume that no Government would be so foolish as to bid £220,000 for something of which they knew nothing at all. If the statement be true—and I assume that it is—then the Government have within this House, and on their own side, evidence that this secret has already been disclosed.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I rise, not for the purpose of going against this Vote, or, indeed, with the object of advocating the purchase of this torpedo. But I have an altogether different intention in rising to take part in this debate. In the first place, I certainly wish to congratulate the Surveyor General of Ordnance, who, in a thoroughly nice and courteous way, gave this Committee all the information in his power. I should recommend him as an example to right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench; and I can assure them that such courtesy, and such a readiness to give explanations, will always meet with a certain amount of reciprocity on these 1867 Benches; and, while congratulating the Surveyor General of Ordnance, I should also like to do, if possible, a good turn for the unfortunate patentee, who, we are told, could get so much more for his invention if he took it elsewhere. If he can do that, I really do not see why we should interfere with him. If I were a friend of the patentee—and I am told he is an Irishman—I do not, of course, endorse a thing simply because it is done by an Irishman; and, for instance, I could not endorse all the actions of my hon. Friend the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh—
§ DR. TANNER
I merely mention that, Sir, as an explanation. Now, Sir, a highly dangerous remark escaped from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who said he sincerely hoped it would soon be in general use, like, as the advertisements say, Mrs. Winslow's Syrup, which should be used in every family. I think that such a statement was ill-advised; and I sincerely hope that if the Government is going to purchase this torpedo, it will not become an article of ordinary and general use. I hope, too, the knowledge will not be imparted to other nations. I have fulfilled the objects I had in rising—first, to compliment the Surveyor General of Ordnance; next, to do a good turn for the patentee; and, finally, to warn the First Lord of the Treasury against the use of indiscriminate language.
§ MR. CAINE (Barrow-in-Furness)
The Committee have to consider whether or not this torpedo is worth the money which is proposed to pay for it. It has been suggested that the question should be referred to a Committee of this House. But the right Committee to report upon such an apparatus as this is a Committee of Experts. They have reported on it; and, in spite of what has been said by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed), who knows perfectly well that no better Committee could have been found in this country to report on such a torpedo as this, I must say that the Admiralty seem to me to have obtained the very best advice they could before entering into the agreement. I shall have no hesitation in accepting the advice given by this Committee of Experts.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided.—Ayes 77; Noes 192: Majority 115.—(Div. List, No. 57.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.