HC Deb 08 August 1901 vol 99 cc42-4
MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the fact that the officer commanding the 11th Hussars, with six other officers and one private of the 11th Hussars and other regiments of the British garrison at Cairo, while foxhunting at five o'clock on Sunday morning, the 21st July, in a walled-in garden, in the absence of the owner and without his leave, were assaulted and beaten with sticks by the owner's servants and the native guards in charge of the place; whether the officers were authorised by the general in command of the Cairo garrison to prosecute these servants for obeying their orders and defending the property; whether he is aware that, while the officers have apologised to the owner, the servants and guards have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for obeying their orders, and whether the Government propose to use their influence with the Egyptian Government to obtain remission of these sentences; and whether he will lay upon the Table of the House the correspondence connected with this case.

The following question on the same subject also appeared on the Paper:—

MR. TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)

To ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the case in which certain servants in the employ of Mr. W. S. Blunt, upon his enclosed stud farm near Cairo, have recently been condemned to terms of imprisonment of six, four, and three months each for defending their employer's property from invasion and damage by certain officers in His Majesty's service; whether, in order to prevent the prejudice of native opinion against the administration of justice in Egypt, His Majesty's Government will take steps to secure these men's release.


As this is a Foreign Office matter, perhaps I may be allowed to answer the question. The information which we have received is to the following effect:—The officer commanding the 11th Hussars and others were out fox-hunting on the 21st July. A fox was found on the outskirts of Mr. Blunt's property, and was followed by the pack into an enclosure. The Master and whips galloped to a hole in the wall in order to get to the hounds and prevent any damage being done, when Mr. Blunt's stud manager shouted to them to stop, and struck at them with his stick. The other officers remained outside, but, hearing shouting inside, went back and entered the enclosure. Two of the officers who had first entered were surrounded by a number of the men of the place, mobbed, struck, their hats knocked off, and their horses beaten. The officer in command did his best to restore order, and called on the officers to fall back, and ordered them not to strike their assailants. The assailants were prosecuted for assault in the ordinary courts of law before the native courts, and the stud manager was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and two other defendants to four and three months respectively. It is understood that the defendants will appeal. The officers have expressed their regret to Mr. Blunt for the trespass, but it appears that practically no damage has been done to his property. There seems no reason to doubt that a serious assault has been committed, which no orders from the owner can justify; but the general officer commanding the British troops in Egypt will be requested to prevent the occurrence of incidents of this nature. The decision of any question as to the remission of sentences is for the Court of Appeal and the Egyptian authorities. Correspondence will be laid as soon as complete reports have been received.


May I further ask the noble Lord whether the officers were in mufti; whether the servants who drove them out were unable to speak a word of English; whether the men had been employed by the owner of the property for the special purpose of keeping out marauders; whether, under these circumstances, the Government will use their influence with the Egyptian authorities to have the sentence revised; whether in Major Rycroft's official report to headquarters in Cairo he does not say— We drew along the edge of the desert, and about 5 a.m., right outside the wall enclosing Mr. Blunt's property, the hounds jumped over the wall and immediately gob on the line of a fox"; and whether that is not inconsistent with the account which the noble Lord has given.

*SIR CHARLES CAYZER (Barrow-in-Furness)

Is the noble Lord not aware that Major Rycroft possesses a perfect knowledge of the Arabic language, and owing to this and the great forbearance of himself and his officers prevented a serious occurrence?


As the hon. Member for Waterford is aware, it is not my decision that supplementary questions should not be answered, but the decision of the House. However, in deference to the position which the hon. Member occupies in the House, I do not object to say one word in answer to him. The officers were in mufti, and it is true that Major Rycroft has a thorough knowledge of Arabic, so it was not necessary that the natives should know English. But I do not think the hon. Member quoted my answer quite correctly. I said the fox was found in the outskirts of Mr. Blunt's property. With regard to the line the British Government should take, we shall, of course, await a full report of the circumstances before we go into the matter.


May I ask whether, pending an appeal, the men, if in prison, will be released?


I must have notice of that question.


Do the military regulations allow officers of the British Army to go fox-hunting and poaching on Sunday?


Order, order! Such a question is obviously out of order, and it has nothing to do with the question on the Paper.