HC Deb 12 March 1895 vol 31 cc873-5
MR. H. SETON-KARR (St. Helens)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will explain how it happened that the Bessendila estate in Egypt, part of the Daria Sanieh domains in the Gharbieh Province, was put up for sale by public auction in Cairo in 1894, and, after being knocked down to the highest bidder, a well-known native company of good standing, for £274,000, this sale was subsequently cancelled, and the estate privately sold to a Greek company for a less sum than that bid by the native company, although the latter company subsequently bid a further £20,000; whether he will explain generally the facts and circumstances of the sale of the said Bessendila estate; and whether, in view of the reports current in Cairo on this subject, the Government will institute an inquiry into the said facts and circumstances?


The Egyptian Government has publicly reserved to itself the right of refusing or rejecting any otter for Daria land even after an auction, and this right it determined to exercise last spring in favour of the Behera Irrigation Pumping Company, which was anxious to acquire the estate in question. The reason for this decision on the part of the Egyptian Government was that it was thereby enabled to make arrangements for freeing itself from a contract entered into with the Company in 1880 for supplying the Government with pumps at a cost of £27,000 a year. The contract did not cease until 1900, and as the pumping system had long been superseded, the Company was receiving this payment for nothing. According to a report on the subject received from Lord Cromer in May last, the group of native capitalists who had outbid the Company at auction were to be offered by the Egyptian Government some other domain land which was shortly to be for sale. I shall he happy to show the Report in question to the hon. Member, but the subject seems not to be of sufficient general interest to publish a paper for Parliament.


asked, with regard to the last paragraph of the question, was the hon. Gentleman aware that it was reported in Cairo that some thousands of pounds had been spent in bribing Egyptian officials.


I have not heard that Report before, and I should say that the Report ought not to receive credence except on substantial evidence.