HC Deb 23 February 1891 vol 350 cc1379-80
MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs a question of which I have given him private notice. It is with reference to the military operations in the Soudan. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will be good enough to tell us if the military object of those operations is the permanent occupation of Tokar and Handoub? Have Her Majesty's Government raised any objections to this first step towards the re-acquisition of the Soudan, and is this not a departure from the policy which Her Majesty's Government have hitherto recommended to the Government of the Khedive? I should like to know, also, what new circumstances have arisen to justify that departure?


No positive resolution has been arrived at respecting the permanent occupation of Tokar and Handoub, but it is probable that the reasons which have necessitated the occupation will require their retention. The reasons are that the Dervish bands continually harassed and oppressed the inhabitantsaround Suakin, who are peacefully disposed, raiding even up to the fortifications, trade was constantly interrupted, and the supplies which found their way into the interior were acquired or seized by the Dervishes as the means of hostile proceedings. The Slave Trade was carried on even from Handoub. These places, too, are the only points from which Suakin can be annoyed. It is stated that none of the Dervish troops killed at Tokar belonged to that part of the country. The movement is not at all a departure from the policy heretofore pursued by Her Majesty's Government. They only offered no objection to it on condition that no advance is to be made into the interior, and it is for the reasons I have stated consistent with the principle of maintaining the position of 1886.


May I ask whether the Egyptian troops employed were Egyptian troops in the strict sense of the word, or black troops?


I believe that two of the battalions engaged were black battalions, but they were regular battalions of the Egyptian Army and part of the permanent garrison of Suakin.


Are we to understand that no addition will have to be made to the duties of the British troops in Egypt, although there is a permanent occupation of Tokar and Handoub? Are the British troops to advance to Kassala in any circumstances?


I stated on a former occasion that no addition will be required to the small British force now in Egypt. I also stated that it is not expected that the garrison of Suakin will require to be reinforced. It is clearly understood that no further advance will be made.

SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

Is it not a fact that Tokar is some 50 or 60 miles distant from Suakin, and that the occupation of Tokar involves the occupation of a considerable district?


The House will not expect me to go into details; but Tokar is in an oasis peculiarly advantageous as a basis of operations against Suakin. Its occupation is considered necessary for the reasons I have stated.