HC Deb 13 June 1910 vol 17 cc1103-63

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the second time."


I desire to draw the attention of the House to a matter of very grave importance, not only to this country, but to the Empire, and that is to the events which have taken place recently in Egypt. Just before the House rose the Report of His Majesty's Consul-General at Cairo was put in the hands of Members, and, I am bound to say, I think disclosed a very grave state of affairs. In any remarks that I shall venture to make now I should like it to be clearly understood that I do not for a moment attack His Majesty's Consul-General in Cairo. In the first place, it is exceedingly unfair to attack a man who is not able to defend himself by being here; and, in the second place, no one can tell to what extent the present condition of affairs in Egypt is due to the orders that His Majesty's Consul-General has received from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Therefore, in any criticisms which I want to offer to the policy pursued in Egypt, I should like it to be clearly understood that I am not in any way attacking Sir Eldon Gorst. Sir Eldon Gorst begins his Report in the stereotyped fashion by describing what he calls "the progress" that has taken place in Egypt during the past year, and, although probably he has no political bias, I should think that the use of the word "progress" implies a degree of inexacti- tude in terminology that might render even the most skilled electioneerer on the opposite side jealous. There is no indication whatever of progress in the Report, but just the reverse. After that Sir Eldon proceeds to describe the murder of the Prime Minister of the country. That murder was alluded to pertinently, and I am afraid with truth, very recently by a distinguished Egyptian, who said it had taken us twenty-eight years to teach the Egyptians to murder their Prime Minister. There is not much indication of progress in that. Although the Report contains the normal development of financial and education and irrigation systems which have been introduced under our rule, there is no denying that the general condition of the country is exceedingly unsatisfactory. With regard to the murder of Boutros Pasha, the first question that arises is, Who is responsible? That is settled by Sir Eldon Gorst, who has no doubt in assigning the blame for the murder to the Nationalist party in Egypt. With regard to this Nationalist party, it is rather instructive to see what Sir Eldon said in 1907, I think it was, as to the members of that party.

In his annual Report for 1907 Sir Eldon alludes to the Nationalist party as follows:— At the present time the pupils in the schools constitute the chief prop of the Kationalsts—a somewhat frail reed upon which to lean. The students, nevertheless, do their best to make up for their youth and inexperience by a display of political activity. During the last few months they have assiduously Seized every opportunity in season and out of season to clamour for a constitution. If their methods and procedure have not had any effect in advancing the cause they have at heart, they have, at any rate, added to the labours of the Cairo police in keeping order in the streets. These are the people who are responsible for the disorders which have led up to the murder of the Prime Minister. Why was not the murderer of the Prime Minister dealt with promptly? Why was time given for him to be made into a political martyr? Not a single word of regret or condemnation of the crime has appeared in the Nationalist Press. On the contrary, it has been rather held up as something praiseworthy, and the perpetrator, who was caught red-handed, has not yet been disposed of. In addition to that, you have given the Mussulmans an opportunity for laying down views and ideas with regard to the righteousness of Christians being killed by Mussulmans which are certain to have a very disturbing effect in any country where there is a mixed population of Christians and Mussulmans, and where we, as a Christian nation, are obliged to enforce order amongst men of a different race and religion. All that would not have happened—or, at any rate, would not have been likely to happen—if the murderer had been dealt with promptly, and time had not been given for the country to be covered with these writings in the Nationalist Press. There need be no difficulty in dealing with the Nationalist Press. Under the Press Law you have power to suppress papers which incite people to acts of lawlessness or insubordination to the authorities; but, for some reason or other, that Press Law has been very sparingly used.

What are you going to do to put things right? You have a precedent for action in matters of this sort in the year 1893, when Egypt was in almost as bad a condition as now. At that time a Radical Government was in power, and the Liberal Foreign Secretary took a very decided line. All of us who have had anything to do with the government of Egypt hope that the present Foreign Secretary will follow the example of Lord Rosebery on that occasion. Lord Rosebery's despatch was so much to the point that I may be pardoned for quoting it. On 16th February, 1893, his lordship said:— Should further difficulty arise, it might be urged that the conditions of British occupation will have changed, and it may be asked whether the altered circumstances will not require corresponding modifications of policy, and whether that occupation should be maintained in opposition, as it might seem, to the sentiments of an important section of the inhabitants, and whether it would not be better that it should cease. That is precisely parallel to the case today.

[The hon. Member quoted Lord Rosebery's arguments against such a change of policy, and continued.]

If the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is prepared to re-affirm that perfectly clear statement of our policy, I, for one, have nothing more to say, because that despatch describes in the first place why we are in Egypt, and the task which falls to our lot to discharge in that country in the interests not only of the Egyptians and of ourselves, but of civilisation. It will be interesting to see whether the Foreign Secretary will adopt that line Everybody is aware that the state of affairs in Egypt has exposed us to what I may justly call the humiliation of being told recently by a great foreign friend how to manage our own affairs. Nobody can say that is a satisfactory state of affairs, nor can it be said that the remarks of Mr. Roosevelt were not perfectly justified. As a matter of fact, both in Egypt and in this country those remarks have been received with the utmost relief, because it is felt that only a man in the position of Mr. Roosevelt would carry enough weight with the Gentlemen opposite to induce them to reconsider and to some extent modify their policy.

There is, however, this difficulty. Hon. Members opposite rely to a large extent—at any rate, it is so believed—on the support of Members below the Gangway, whose one cure for all the misfortunes in Egypt is an extension of the principles of self-government and the granting of a Constitution. Newspapers which support and are supported by Gentlemen opposite are full of suggestions for the granting of a Constitution to Egypt. What do they mean by it? It is quite impossible to grant a Constitution which would be binding on Europeans inhabiting that country. They are extra-territorial, and consequently they would not come under any constitution that we could confer on Egypt. Secondly, what line would Turkey, the Suzerain Power, take? Is it to be supposed that Europe would allow the great fabric which we have erected in that country to crumble away, as it would, if it were handed over to the Egyptians in their present unprepared state for self-government? All these considerations would seem to rule out the possibility of granting a constitution to Egypt. But I think there are other grounds than these for opposing the proposal. You have only to refer to the statements made by both Lord Cromer and Sir Eldon Gorst as to the capacity shown by the Egyptians for self-government. In his Report for 190V Sir Eldon Gorst alluded as follows to the Legislative Council and the General Assembly in Egypt:— On several occasions I have given expression to my opinion that an indispensable preliminary to the consideration of the question of enlarging the sphere of these institutions is that they should exercise wisely the functions they already possess, and thereby prove to the world at large that they are fit to be entrusted with more extended powers. In my last Report I mentioned that the experience of recent years indicated that these bodies were moving in the right direction. .… It is therefore with considerable disappointment I have to report that the general attitude of the Legislative Council, and its record as a consultative body, has not been of an encouraging nature. …. Recent proceedings appear to warrant the conclusion that it is losing ground, and that the part which it plays in the administration is less efficiently performed than heretofore. That was two years ago. Last year you had the experience with regard to the agreement arrived at between the Egyptian Government and the Suez Canal Company. That agreement was referred, quite unnecessarily, to the General Assembly. Sir Eldon Gorst says in his Report that there was no necessity to refer it to the Assembly, but he thought it proper to do so. That was an agreement especially favourable to Egypt. Egypt was to get some four millions of money to start with, and, after that, to share in the profits of the Canal Company, who in return were to get certain concessions. That agreement has been unfavourably reported on by the Assembly, not on its merits, but on other grounds. That does not seem to show that the existing body representative of the Egyptian people has displayed any great aptitude for self-government. Then there is the question of the Legislative Council. If there is one thing more than another for the benefit of Egypt, it is the conquest of the Soudan, which gave back to the country the control of the head waters of the Nile; and yet you have this representative body putting obstacles in the way of the contribution of the Egyptian Government for that object. There is nothing to show that Egypt is in any way ready for representative institutions. That is the view of anybody who has lived in the country, but everybody who has had anything to do with the government of the country is quite ready to agree that we are working with a view to enabling the Egyptians to qualify for self-government. It is all a question of time. We have been there only twenty-five years, and when you consider the state of servitude in which the Egyptians had lived up to that time there is nothing very surprising in the fact that they have not yet reached a state of development which would qualify them to take over the control of their own affairs. The whole question turns practically on the internal administration of the country. In matters of finance the success of Lord Cromer's policy, which has been carried on by Sir Eldon Gorst, has been phenomenal. In matters of education we have built up a system which has brought un- told prosperity to the country. Education is progressing, everything is going on well, except the maintenance of law and order. And the main thing that interferes with the maintenance of law and order, according to Sir Eldon Gorst's own showing in his present Report, is apparently the difficulty raised to a large extent by the Nationalists. Here is what Sir Eldon says with regard to that, and it is a very important thing—he has come to this conclusion in his Report of this year:— The greatest obstacle at the present time is perhaps the general want of confidence in the intentions of the governing power which prevails amongst the unofficial upper middle classes of this country, and causes every proposal put forward by the Government to be viewed in a hostile spirit. The chief reasons for this unsatisfactory state of affairs, in my opinion, are as follows: In the first place a great part of the Press, native and English, too frequently publish articles and letters—generally anonymous—which have no other effect but of stirring up bad blood between the English and the Egyptians. The second one is want of knowledge … that the British Government are actuated by interested motives in the exercise of their control. Lastly, the unmeasured criticism of a few individuals, based on the assumption … that the good old-fashioned virtue of respect for authority is out of date, which is not only bad, but sets an exceedingly bad example. It has apparently become so old-fashioned as to have gone out of fashion. There was never a country where the respect for authority was more marked than in Egypt when we first went there. We have done our best to destroy that respect. I should like to ask whether there is any truth in the statement that an order has been issued that the natives no longer need dismount when they meet a British officer in the Soudan? It seems to me to be incredible. After all, that is the normal and the only way that the native can show respect to his superiors. It would be just as reasonable to issue an order of that sort as to say that the policemen on duty at the doors are not to salute the Prime Minister when he leaves this House. It is perfectly ridiculous. If it is true—it is a small thing, and may appear so to Gentlemen who have had no experience of the Oriental—it is an exceedingly bad thing when you consider that in these countries we live on prestige. Undoubtedly we depend upon respect. If you teach the natives not to respect you, how on earth can you expect them not to follow your teaching? The effect is to endanger the lives and property, not only of officers who are leading heroic lives in maintaining the honour of the flag, and discharging the duties which they do—and very onerous duties they are—but you are jeopardising the safety of the persons and properties which depend on order being maintained in these countries. I hope that it is a Bazaar rumour, and that it is not true that any order so ridiculous has been issued in the Soudan.

What are the Government going to do in the matter? It is obviously impossible for the present state of affairs to continue. You cannot have a foreigner come into this country and point out what a mess we have made of it. We have gone to Egypt, not exactly with the mandate of Europe, but Europe has been content to allow us to remain in Egypt so long as we show ourselves capable of running the country. Mr. Roosevelt said, "Either govern a country or get out." He said what was absolutely true. It was exceedingly unpleasant reading for us. The question is whether hon. Gentlemen opposite are to continue that policy, and so end in having to get out, or whether they will stiffen their backs and admit that they have been trying to go too fast; that whereas in the old days on the Upper Nile—to use one phrase which might be used with regard to our policy—"we went too late," we are now adopting a policy in which "we are going too early." You are trying to introduce a system of Government for which the Egyptian is totally unfitted. Everybody remembers the story of the institution of the first Legislative Council in Cairo. When the first meeting was called all arrived there to be elected by some means or other. They were told that the supporters of the Government always sat on the right, and the opponents of the Government on the left. They sat on the right, and when the Session was opened it was discovered that nobody at all was sitting on the left. That is pretty well the present state of affairs; the only difference is that you are now driving the people into opposition because they think you are not strong enough to enforce order. How easy it is—nothing is too easy in Egypt, perhaps—how easy it is to restore law and order by proper measures, is seen by the success of the order introduced to put people under police supervision. One of the flaws in the administration of the country has been the alarming and constant increase of important crimes ever since our occupation. The old-fashioned rough-and-ready methods of enforcing law and order were abolished. We cannot possibly revert to them. I do not suggest that we should. But, on the other hand, if the methods we are adopting are not leading to successful results, surely it is the business of the Government, and especially of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who is responsible for the Government of Egypt, to see if he cannot adopt some other methods. With regard to police supervision, a law was passed last year to enable notoriously dangerous characters to be placed under police supervision, and, if necessary, to be exiled. Two hundred and eighty-one persons were put under police supervision, and for the first time in many years there was a diminution in crime. That is one result of the action which everybody recognises Egypt needs, and of what can be done if hon. Gentlemen stiffen their backs and carry out a policy of law and order in that country. You have got more than that to think of. You have the British flag flying in the Soudan. You cannot expect in that large community in the Soudan, governed by a very small body of British officers, that if there are disturbances in Egypt that they will not re-echo in the Soudan. If they do so there is no saying how far they will spread. Then there is the very serious consideration, and one which I hope will weigh with the right hon. Gentleman in the consideration of this matter.

After all, the re-conquest of the Soudan resulted in the destruction of slavery. It resulted in the destruction of the most dreadful form of tyranny which, I suppose, has ever been seen since the world began. Certainly there has been no worse. Those who have seen the place during a time of campaign, and seen the ruined wastes, the starving women and children, and all that sort of thing—the relics of Dervish rule in that country—must admit that in reconquering the Soudan we carried out a magnificent work of civilisation. You cannot have the Soudan controlled in a civilised way by a small body of British officers without respect for British authority being maintained. It can be done if the right hon. Gentleman will make up his mind to do it. But it is no use shilly-shallying. It will be no use for a number of years to try superseding British officers by Egyptian officials, and trusting more and more authority to the natives, and then, they having shown themselves not yet ready to exercise that authority, trying to bring back the Soudan again to a system of civilisation. That is no reason at all, however, why eventually they should not be able to discharge those duties. But you have tried to put new wine into old bottles, and the thing will not work. The consequence is that you have got a state of affairs there where you have the Prime Minister assassinated and the representative of the British Empire insulted at the station by a lot of schoolboys.


That is not true.


I am very glad to hear it. You have the Prime Minister assassinated. That unfortunately is true. You do not punish his assassination, and you convert supporters to the parties who are anxious to get us out of Egypt, and afford every opportunity of stirring up the most unreasonable hatred to the nation which has conferred benefits such as Egypt never enjoyed before; and all that because I venture to think you pay undue attention to the views expressed by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, whose one solution for difficulties in Egypt and elsewhere is to confer self-government on the people of the country. It will not work in Egypt, yet it may work in time. I hope the Government will see their way to make drastic changes and adopt a line of policy which will secure the support and confidence, not only of the people of Egypt, but of the people of this country as well.


The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seemed to affect the notorious and extraordinary doctrine lately promulgated by Mr. Roosevelt in this country and to applaud Mr. Roosevelt for the almost more extraordinary attitude that he took up towards the British Government. The hon. Gentleman belongs to the school who are ready to applaud an insult to their own country—


No, no.


Let me finish. "If it happens to be directed against a school to which they are opposed."


I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to put my views in that way. I think that no one will resent an insult more than those on this side of the House. We have shown that often enough.


The hon. Gentleman has said nothing to meet my criticism. I will make it clearer. The statement of Mr. Roosevelt amounted to this: "If a Prime Minister is assassinated in Egypt it is because you have done too much, and if you do not mend your ways you will be turned out." The hon. Gentleman applauds that proposition and said that Mr. Roosevelt was quite right. The expression I have used is that it was an insult to this country. That may seem a little strong, as I suppose Mr. Roosevelt would not intend his proposition as an insult. But it would be so regarded by many impartial men, and has been so regarded by many in England. My proposition is that a proposition which has the effect of an insult to this country is applauded by hon. Gentlemen of the opposite school because they think it is directed against the political school that they detest at home. [Hon. Members: "No, no."] It is no use calling out that; that is the effect of the proposition. Where would the doctrine laid down by Mr. Roosevelt lead to? Mr. Roosevelt belongs to a country where three Presidents have been assassinated over half a century. What, I wonder, will Mr. Roosevelt say, and what will his friends here say, if it be suggested on his own line of argument that these assassinations, or that any one of them, proves that the Government then in power in America had been misgoverning, or not maintaining order, or that Mr. Roosevelt's friends were doing too much? Take the case of the assassination of President Mackinlay, Mr. Roosevelt's own chief. What is precisely the lesson to be learnt from it on the basis of the argument from the Egyptian case? I think it is very desirable to point out how baseless the doctrine is, because, according to it, any crime of the kind, the assassination of the head of a constitutional or autocratically governed state may be attributable to the way it has been misgoverned! If the sane or the insane strike down any President or Russian Czar, in any case on the line of argument taken up, the Government in question is proved to have been very lax in some way in keeping order, and are apparently incapable of keeping order. That is a doctrine, I must say, which is a most amazing one to be put forward by a responsible politician in modern times, and I say, with perfect confidence, that there must be a multitude of men in the United States who repudiate as Americans the whole position taken up by President Roosevelt in regard to the conclusion he draws from one crime in Egypt. What is the political doctrine here involved? That that crime indicates or would justify the assertion that in Egypt we have been doing too much. The hon. Member for Rugby has endorsed that position also. He made it the subject of a large part of his incoherent speech. [HON. Members: "Order, order."] What have I said that is out of order? The speech was incoherent to the last degree as regards the centre of it. I am perfectly in order.


I must ask the hon. Member not to use more offensive language than he can help.


If you rule, Mr. Speaker, that the word "incoherent" is offensive I at once withdraw it.


I think it was meant offensively.


I meant it as a criticism, and I must say I do not think it is more offensive than a number of expressions used by the hon. Member with regard to hon. Members on this side of the House below the Gangway, but, Sir, I bow at once to your ruling. My reason for using the expression in regard to the hon. Member's argument was, that on the one hand he agreed with Mr. Roosevelt that we have done too much; on the other hand he has not even tried to show that we have done anything, and he devoted his argument to showing the impropriety of the suggestion that certain things should be done.

What has been done in Egypt? The hon. Member and a number of men of his party talk as if we had given a constitution to Egypt; as if a great number of experiments in constitutional government had been made there; as if we had conferred all manner of franchise and powers and privileges upon the Egyptian people. Nothing of the sort has been done. The Egyptian people have no more power of self-government to-day than they had when the present constitution was established, giving something in the nature of provincial self-government, which I think means but very little and which hon. Members opposite suggest is a kind of conferring of power upon the Egyptian people that they are not fit to exercise. Is it possible that the hon. Member contends that the submission of the question as to the Suez Canal agreement to the General Assembly has led to crime? Is it seriously contended that the submission of that question to the General Assembly has been the provocation of the recent murder in question? That is the only thing that can be suggested in the way of doing too much for the Egyptian people, and I do not think that the hon. Member would suggest that that in any way led to the atrocious crime upon which this discussion has so unfortunately been forced to turn. The situation as regards Egypt is this—that the Foreign Secretary has been in no way responsible for any extension of self-government in Egypt; that in suggestions made from these benches in that direction, I think no one would have taken more cautiously conservative action upon the subject that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and I must say when the hon. Member accuses indiscriminately hon. Members upon this side of the House of having made suggestions in regard to Egypt of presenting a wholesale new constitutional government to that country, he entirely misrepresents the whole line of argument which has been advanced from this side of the House. The Foreign Secretary will bear me out when I say the kind of suggestions made to him have been that the existing institutions should get a little extension of their powers with a view to the gradual, cautious, and wise development of the powers of self-government in Egypt. I, at least, never did and I do not remember hearing anyone else on this side make a proposal that you should, out of hand, confer a constitution upon Egypt, either in the sense of the Constitution existing in this country or of the Constitutions existing in the self-governing portions of the Empire. If that suggestion were made I should agree in pronouncing that suggestion entirely impracticable, but the suggestion that you should in Egypt fulfil your promises of fitting the people gradually to govern themselves is a suggestion in accordance with the whole decencies of British policy.

We went into Egypt on the understanding that we should prepare the people for self-government, and if any criticism lies against the Foreign Secretary it is not that he has shown any disposition too rapidly to confer new powers upon the Egyptian people, but perhaps that he has not shown a sufficient sense of the need for doing something at all. We have been accused of doing too much—we have done nothing in the way of conferring powers of self-government. The hon. Member had his own suggestions to make. We must be careful, according to him, to-preserve our prestige to see that the natives continue to dismount to salute whenever they meet us. He has many suggestions that belong to what are called the Imperialistic politicians. It never occurred to him to suggest another way in which the history of the world proved that something might be done, and that is to educate the people. The main charge that lies against the British Government is that they have done far too little for the education of the people. A few years ago there was being spent upon the primary education of a people numbering about 12,000,000 a sum of about £200,000. That sum was extended, and perhaps it is now doubled or more than doubled, but, whether doubled or trebled, what does that expenditure represent as regards the performance of our duties and the responsibilities of the people of this country towards the Egyption people? We may well speak of the amount of crime in Egypt. The amount of crime, and serious crime, is large. Perhaps there is not really an increase, as the hon. Member infers. I think something is to be said of the fact that crime is more regularly registered now—that is to say, the cases of crime are nearly all taken note of, whereas in the old days the number of crimes were unenumerated. What is the actual fact? The measure of last year was no doubt a good one, and if that good measure has been working what becomes of the pretence that the Government in Egypt is daily reproducing disorder, and not taking proper pains to maintain order? In one breath the hon. Member says you are not maintaining order, and in the next he gives credit to the Egyptian Government for carrying out a measure which he assumes is successful in the promotion of order. I am far from being in the position of defending the Egyptian Government. It may be possible that in some matters the Egyptian Government is really lax as regards its primary duty of enforcing law and order; but when the hon. Member suggested the way to do it properly is to go and hang one of them without the slightest delay—in fact, he would hang them or lynch them—hang them first and try them afterwards—


I do not think I should be accused of suggesting in the House of Commons that a man should be lynched.


The hon. Member said that the only way to maintain law and order is to hang a man as soon as possible—"without delay," were his words.


Without unnecessary delay.


I believe no unnecessary delay is taking place. As soon as the Mufti which takes place under the law meets, which is a customary matter in regard to all these cases, there will be no delay. It is not a case of the Grand Mufti having refused to endorse the sentence of death; it may have done so frequently, but it is not true that the Grand Mufti always refuses to endorse a sentence. I may add that formula is a standing formula, yet if the Grand Mufti does not endorse a sentence the sentence will be fulfilled all the same. I should say in regard to great political crimes of this kind it is surely expedient you should observe an air of deliberation and gravity, and that no harm has been done by lack of that extreme promptitude which the hon. Member opposite suggests.

Let me refer to the remarkable incident of Denshawi. There you had promptitude, you had scaffolding erected before the prisoners were convicted, a special tribunal was set up and the utmost rigour and severity and methods of punishment were adopted. Four people were put to death, and a number were punished for what was really a matter of accident, a fortuitous fatal result rather than anything in the nature of a crime. All these measures were taken on the principle now laid down that you must terrorise the Egyptians and maintain your prestige, and show that you are fit to govern them. These particular measures have created very bad feeling in Egypt. They answer generally in advancing the foolish propaganda of the Nationalist Members, and this atrocious crime is partly connected with that very incident. The people of Egypt have commemorated Denshawi ever since. [An Hon. Member: "No."] Yes; if the hon. Member will look into the matter he will find the whole episode is commemorated amongst the extreme Nationalists, and is an argument against the line of policy now suggested. What you want in the case of a country like Egypt is firm and unvarying enforcement of the law. Did the Denshawi incident result in firm and unvarying enforcement of the law? The sentences and punishment in that incident were out of all proportion to the crime charged, and were executed solely in the interests of maintaining what is called the prestige of the people of this country. The tradition of this country will, I think, suffice to keep the House right upon this matter. I do not intend to raise all the issues. I think something might be said of the violent Nationalists in Egypt who have shown undoubtedly deplorably little wisdom in the conduct of their propaganda, but even in regard to them and in removing from a country like Egypt violent or seditious propaganda, one of the methods you should adopt is the method of education. Hon. Members must be aware that a great part of the feeling against the Government in Egypt is due to the fact that Sir Eldon Gorst has been held up to contempt for a long time past by persons there who sympathise with the hon. Member and his view of the problem, and that the English Government in Egypt is being largely held up to contempt by English malcontents for the very reason the hon. Member has given.

8.0 P.M.

They are indignant because Sir Eldon Gorst, in fulfilment of pledges and promises to the British Government, has been giving appointments to natives. The only definite charge the hon. Member has made in support of his attack and his endorsement of Mr. Roosevelt's argument is that you have been doing too much in the way of giving posts to natives. I defy the hon. Member to justify the association of that charge with anything connected with disorder in Cairo or Egypt. No one will contend that in every case where a native is appointed he is a thoroughly competent person. I would like to know if anybody is prepared to say that all those appointed in other countries are competent. The policy of Sir Eldon Gorst has only been an honest fulfilment of pledges repeatedly given. What has been the attitude of the persons who share the opinion of the hon. Member opposite? We hear a good deal about the Nationalist Press in Egypt, but what about your Imperial Press here, which has been holding up Egyptian rule to contempt? When in this country you hold up the Government to hatred and contempt, and exhibit the British Government to the world as utterly unfit to rule, when you are bringing charges of such virulence here, you are only teaching the natives to criticise us in the same way, and giving them a lesson in the art of vituperation. You make these charges freely at home, but when these natives begin to criticise your Government you declare that they are shrieking sedition. In my opinion the language used daily by the Tory Press is very much more violent than the language which has been called seditious used by the natives with regard to the British Government elsewhere. It is the party which uses this language of virulent contempt which holds up the hand of horror whenever, any native begins to criticise our Administration. We have heard something about hypocrisy; but what is to be said of the organised hypocrisy which assumes, when you are in opposition, that the Government in power is deserving of every kind of epithet and charge, aspersion, and disparagement, and all the while maintains that the same principles in Egypt are above all criticism whatever. The more political education spreads in countries like India and Egypt the more clearly will the natives see the essential absurdity and the bottomless hypocrisy of the system that exhibits itself in that fashion. The hon. Member, virtually, in the course of his criticism, said that Mr. Roosevelt was justified in saying that we had brought the country to this pitch, and that it was our failure to maintain order that brought about this assassination. To use language of that sort is absurd. The hon. Member has chosen to take the rejection of the proposed new agreement on the Suez Canal as a proof of the unfitness of the Egyptian people for self-government. May I point out that that is a very dangerous line of argument for Sir Eldon Gorst to take up? He claims to be in the position of having voluntarily and without necessity consulted the General Assembly on a matter of importance for Egypt.


He did consult the General Assembly.


I understand that Sir Eldon Gorst claims that he gave as a matter of grace an opportunity to the General Assembly to pass an opinion upon this matter, and the fact that they did not take his advice seems to have been taken as proof that they are unfit for self-government. Hon. Members opposite are dissatisfied with the financial methods of the Government. They say we passed a Budget last year calculated to ruin this country, and, according to the argument which has been used, that would seem to indicate that this country is unfit for self-government. Hon. Members opposite seem to have one set of principles for British politics and a totally different set of principles for those races which happen to be subject to us. I do not think it is possible to settle the question of the proper policy with regard to this question in the summary fashion which the hon. Member has adopted. It is a broad and I difficult question, and to take this opposi- tion of the General Assembly in Egypt as a proof of political incapacity is a perfectly monstrous proposition. There are thousands of people who believe that the General Assembly on this matter refused to make a bad bargain, but hon. Members opposite seem to think it was a good bargain. This is an example of the way in which the hon. Member and his school of thought think fit to deal with anyone they can classify as Oriental. No doubt Orientals are backward in many respects as the result of their past history, but they have potentialities and developments like ourselves. The hon. Member quoted Sir Eldon Gorst and extracts from the Nationalist press as tending to make bad blood. He ignored entirely how the British press acts in the same direction by habitually adopting a tone of superiority towards Orientals. The hon. Member tells the Orientals in a tone of patronage and almost insult that they are never to manage their own affairs, but you are not tending to minimise bad blood between the different peoples in that way. Unfortunately there is plenty of bad feeling in Egypt in regard to this lamentable crime, and personally I regret the attitude taken up by the Nationalists on this point. In India we have been true to the principle of steady progress, and I hope we shall be equally true to that tradition in Egypt. I hope we shall continue to rule with firmness without going back upon our pledges to that country, the first and most essential of which is that we shall gradually and with caution, wherever possible, extend among the natives facilities for acquiring the power to govern themselves. Hon. Members have been arguing as if a Constitution was on the verge of being given to Egypt, but the Foreign Secretary has never agreed to do that, and I never found him at all hasty to adopt far more moderate suggestions for reform than that we have been speaking of. I trust the crime of which we have been speaking tonight and the language used in connection with it will not have the effect of inducing him to limit the very slow rate of progress that has taken place in Egypt, and, above all, will not induce him in any way to use the influence of the Government in Egypt in any limitation of that policy of the education of the people of Egypt in regard to which we have been lamentably remiss in the past and in which we are making no too rapid progress at the present time.


I would remind the hon. Member that the criticism which one political party passes upon another ought to be subjected to the most enormous discount, because it is looked upon more as a domestic affair. Does the hon. Member suggest that the kind of criticism to which he has referred is comparable with the racial criticism, the bitter hostility and sedition which characterises the Press criticisms of the British Government in Egypt? I do not think the hon. Member can have been serious in his observation. How can such criticism be comparable with what exists in seditious newspapers in other countries? I did not intend to make any remarks upon this subject, but the speech made by the hon. Member appeared to make it imperative for me to repudiate the position which he has taken up. When he stated that the seditious party in Egypt ought to be educated out of that way of thinking, I think he fell headlong into a very common error. Like many other hon. Members of this House, he compares the condition of education in Egypt with education in this country, and that is a common and cardinal mistake. Surely if he is going to deal with an Oriental country as regards its education he must compare it with another Oriental country. The hon. Member expressed astonishment that only £250,000 was spent upon elementary education in Egypt. May I remind him that every Government has to govern in accordance with the feeling of the country it governs. The people who have to pay the taxes are entitled to say that they shall be governed according to their own views. They are not accustomed to pay taxes for the education of the other classes of the community, and they might very properly complain that the Government in Egypt was not conducted upon a system in accordance with native feelings and traditions. Egypt is an ancient country. It has been a civilised country for a longer time than any other country in the world. Therefore, it has some traditions. Is it, because the British Government happens to be there for the time being, to alter all this and make allotments so much per cent, for elementary education, so much for secondary education, and so much for higher education at once just as if we were to introduce that cut and dried British constitution which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baird) very naturally deprecated?

With regard to the Suez Canal, I have read Sir Eldon Gorst's Report, and he very distinctly says that the General Assembly, in dealing with this matter, displayed an animus against the proposals of the British Government, and that these proposals were rejected, not because they were bad proposals or because they were unfair to Egypt, but owing to an Anti-British animus which unfortunately pervades that Assembly. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to say anything that might embarrass the Foreign Office or the Egyptian Government in the negotiation of this very important matter, but we have a very great stake in Egypt, and we have a very large sum of money invested in the Suez Canal, and I should like to ask whether, since the rejection of this scheme, good both for Egypt and for England, which is admitted by our representative in Egypt to have been due to an animus in the General Assembly, and not to a fair and impartial consideration, it is proposed to fake action with or without the approval of the General Assembly, which will properly safeguard British interests and British investments in the Suez Canal. I repeat I do not ask for any information which is likely to embarrass the Foreign Office, but I do think this is a matter on which all those interested in Egypt and all those interested in British finance would be glad to have some information.

I believe I am at liberty to refer to another matter. I cannot say it has any immediate reference to what has been said with regard to the deplorable assassination of the. Egyptian Prime Minister, but I should like to ask, whichever Department of the Government it concerns, whether it be the Solicitor-General or the Home Office, whether the Government in this country can in any way deal with what seems to me personally a most outrageous matter, and that is the publication in a magazine, sold in immense numbers all over this country, in the "Strand Magazine" for this month, of an article entitled "How we assassinated Plehve: By one of the assassins." I really do not know whether the law touches a matter like this, but it seems to me a deplorable thing that the assassination of a Chief Minister of a friendly Power should be published without any comments and without any regrets that the incident happened, but just like a pleasant tale told for the amusement of the hundreds of thousands who, we are told, read this publication. If there are any means by which such publications could be checked I would beg the Government to use them. Whether there are such means or not I myself do not know. I see it on every railway station: "How we assassinated Plehve: By one of the assassins." Surely it is not becoming that in the capital of one friendly Power it should be possible for an article of this sort to be published broadcast and advertised, not as if it was a dreadful account of a deplorable occurrence upon which we should sympathise with a friendly Power, but as if it were a commonplace matter like any of those defective stories published and read all over the country. It really seems to me that the unrestrained publication of such matters amounts almost to a palliation of political assassination. I am sure it was not meant in that way, but I do hope, if there is any method of restraining such activity on the part of purveyors of such literature to the public, that such measures will be adopted. I feel this more particularly because only to-day an hon. Member opposite asked whether steps would be taken to urge the Russian Government not to interfere with the internal autonomy of Finland. No Member could have greater sympathy with Finland than one who, like myself, has spent some rime in that hospitable country, and who has the warmest feelings of affection for its inhabitants, but interference of that sort rouses feelings of resentment, and probably leads to exactly the opposite effect those who make the representation desire. It is a most regrettable circumstance that this interference should take place. The Imperial Russian Government has never interfered with our relations between the Houses of Parliament or with Irish Home Rule or in any other delicate domestic question. We should bitterly resent any such interference, and so do they. Their feelings are just as acute as ours. The publication of such an article cannot but exercise a most unfortunate effect. We may say this is merely a magazine read for pleasure, to be tossed away when done with, but in Russia it bears rather a different complexion. It is said: "Here is an ordinary English publication, containing a cruel account of the death of one of our Ministers, sold as a holiday treatise to amuse Englishmen on their journeys backwards and forwards to London and the suburbs and about the country." I have lived in Russia, and know something about the feelings of the Russian people, and I repeat that it is a deplorable thing that such an article should be published, and I hope that the Department concerned will endeavour to take such action, if any, as can be taken to prevent such publications in future.


It is somewhat of a satire upon the proceedings of this House that for several hours we should have had crowded benches to listen to a comparatively small scandal regarding a particular election, and that now, when we are engaged in a discussion concerning matters of interest to the whole civilised world, there should only be one or two Members present and it should be difficult to carry on the discussion. I cannot help thinking, if Members were to reflect upon the absurdity of the position, that they would feel somewhat ashamed of the apathy shown by the House with regard to this question. The hon. Member for the Tyneside Division made what, in many respects, was a violent attack upon our administration in Egypt, and upon the feeling of the English nation towards native claims to self-government. He has not seen fit to remain to listen to the arguments that may be passed upon his speech. The hon. Member had certain fads which he thought it his duty to air, and he advanced certain sentimentalities which belonged to the party he represents and which they desire to put forward. But the calm consideration of the question, the calm weighing of the vastly important issues that rest on the action of this House with regard to Egypt, he was content to set aside for some party purpose. But there were certain points in the hon. Member's speech which were rather interesting and amusing. He told us that we must not attack—that we must not do anything so wicked as to attack a Liberal Government, because, if we did do so, it would at once give fatal lessons to those who might attack British rule in any part of the world. Until we learnt to speak in language of hushed and absolute respect of the Front Bench opposite, we were setting a dangerous example to Oriental nations all over the world. Does the hon. Member really seriously advance this as a contribution to the discussion of the affairs of this Empire? Does he really think that our party struggles in this House are to be regulated because our Soudanese dependents or Egyptian fellaheen may possibly read an account of these Debates and may think that they are entitled to resist the Government which is the subject of attacks made in this House?

The hon. Member made one serious admission, of which I take note. It is one which we may perhaps be able to recall, not when it suits him, but when the particular circumstances of the moment seem to make that admission less convenient than it is now. He told us he had never seriously put forward a proposal that there should be popular or free government in Egypt, or in any other similar dependency on the model of our Colonies elsewhere. That is a very important admission. I think I have heard the hon. Member and those who act with him in this House speak in a different sense on several occasions. I think, too, I have heard them appealing to the sentiments of those concerned in popular government here, and advancing precisely similar claims for the Oriental inhabitants of those countries. But he has now admitted that he does not put it forward on his own part, and he thinks it is not possible for any sensible person to put it forward now. He speaks in dread of the danger which has become visible to himself and those who act with him—the imminent danger now present all over the civilised world; and he speaks in somewhat bated tones. He is not ready to put forward now a scheme for popular government; he only tells us to educate them as far as possible. He says: "Concede as much as you can, and try and prepare the way for some system of popular government which, perhaps, will come sooner or later." Yes, but what is the hindrance to the advances which we are making? What is the difficulty we are finding in loosening the reins of our administration in Egypt? It is precisely the attack made by the hon. Member and those who act with him; it is their constant stirrings up of discontent, and the encouragement given to agitators in Egypt—agitators who do not represent anything like a tithe of the population of Egypt, and who are repudiated by the more serious and sound Nationalists themselves. The title "Nationalist" is too proud a one to be absorbed entirely by these wretched agitators who are doing their best to bring mischief and trouble to their country. I say that those who know Egypt know that the wisest, the most sane, the most prudent among Egyptians, who have really patriotic feelings for their country, are those who speak in terms of condemnation of that little band of agitators for whom the hon. Member for the Tyneside Division is concerned. What is the remedy he gave us? It is elementary education. I have given a good deal of my life to the work of elementary education, and I am not, therefore, likely to depreciate the value of it, but really after all we ought to use these blessed words with a certain sense of proportion. Elementary education is in everybodys mouth, morning, noon and night. We talk far too much about it. We theorize about it. We say that the salvation of every nation is to come from it. But does the hon. Member seriously say that to Oriental nations there is any magic in this blessed system of elementary education, and that it is the be-all and end-all of everything?


I never suggested that it was the be-all or end-all


The hon. Member certainly said it would help them if they were given elementary education.


I said that was the minimum of what was necessary.


I think we had better leave elementary education out of the question. The fellaheen of Egypt do not want it. Let us have some other means of raising Egypt than by bringing in this constant talk of elementary education. We are sick of it. They are not fit for it. You may try to introduce it by artificial means in Egypt, but you will not get very far with it, and it will not help you if you do. We must remember that we are dealing with a race differently constituted from our own, a race that has its own beliefs and traditions, a race of which religion is the very centre of its life. The hon. Member gives us this one indication of a possible means by which we may bring about regeneration. It is a means as to which anyone who knows Egypt as I presume the hon. Member knows it and as I know it from having associated closely with those who are connected with educational work there, will not be sanguine. The Government of Egypt are doing an immense deal of work for education. I am not quite sure that they are not doing more than is called for in all the circumstances. I am not sure that they are not trying to introduce Western and European methods rather too quickly, but I am glad to see that they are energetic, and I recognise that they are making strides forward. I am not quite sure, with all respect for their activity and industry, that they are not carrying it much too far and introducing much too drastic Western methods. The hon. Gentleman says this is to be a great means of regeneration, but in saying that is he not guilty of that very sentimentalism as to which our wholesome mentor gave us some advice the other day?

The hon. Member objected to the speech of the late President of the United States. That may have been diplomatically wise or not; that is not my business to judge; but I think that, in common with a great mass of our countrymen, we valued that advice as coming from a man of sound judgment, wide experience, and of bold habits of thought. We were none the worse for it, and among other things he said—and there was nothing I admired more or which came with greater force—was that of all the reeds you can trust to for a righteous government sentimentality was the worst, and all this talk of regenerating native people by methods which have sprung up amongst us and by our tricks and aims of elementary education has vice of sentimentality into which the hon. Member will forgive me for saying he has fallen. The hon. Member speaks of encouraging the national principle in Egypt and of educating the people to take part in their own government. Has he ever asked himself what the national principle in Egypt is? Has he ever tried to analyse what the Egyptian race really consists of? Really to him, as to an immense number of those who have studied Egypt, it is one of the most difficult problems to say what the nationality of the Egyptian is or whether he has any nationality at all. It is a mixed race of the most perplexing and difficult kind. You may advance one section of it, but you will only the more discourage and dismay another section, and one of the great difficulties, one of the most perplexing problems anybody ever called to the administration of Egypt has to deal with is simply this, that you have to control not one nation, but strange congeries of races mixed together with extraordinary blend and very often divided from one another by the most bitter hatred, dislike, and suspicion. If you give one section of the Egyptians supremacy how will you end? Will you not rather separate and disgust a large part of the nation which looks upon that section with distrust? The hon. Member speaks of the administration of the Soudan as if that was precisely of a piece with the administration of Egypt, as if it could be regulated by the same considerations, as if in fact it rested upon the same constitutional basis at all.


Is the hon. Member referring to me?




I made no remarks about the Soudan at all.


Yes, I think in one reference in regard to the usages of the Soudan the hon. Member did speak about recognising Egyptian equality. I think the hon. Member used those words. But the real fact is that the Soudan and the Soudanese are a race absolutely separate and divided from the Egyptian.


Hear, hear!


There is but the slenderest bond of connection; there is no race that the Soudanese dislike more to have set over them than the Egyptian. Certainly, though I speak in general terms, I do so with good authority when I say that it has been found impossible to place any Egyptian officer in command of Soudanese regiments, and that the Soudanese will not act under the command of the Egyptian commander, and if the latter does in certain cases happen to be placed in that position he has to be supplemented by a European officer to maintain his authority and conciliate the obedience of the Soudanese troops. In the Soudan we are associated not merely as advisers, but are in co-dominion with Egypt and we have equal authority. If we left that authority entirely to Egypt, if we fostered this nationalism in Egypt and then handed over the administration of the Soudan to this Nationalist Government, even if you could have it established, the result would be an immediate rebellion among the Soudanese, the appearance of another Mullah, and the breaking off of the Soudan altogether. These are questions which have to be considered and carefully weighed before you commit yourself on the question of assigning complete independence to any Nationalist Government. The Nationalist Government would probably stir up ten times more bitter and enduring enmity than any you could bring about by withdrawing to-morrow from Egypt yourself. The hon. Member further spoke, as I understood him—he will correct me if I am wrong—with some contempt of cer- tain usages which were intended to maintain European prestige. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Baird) deprecated the abandonment of a certain usage in the Soudan, which everyone is familiar with, of a native dismounting to salute a British official. No one who has lived in the Soudan will for a moment deny that that is a necessity for preserving our prestige. If it has been given up I join with the hon. Member for Rugby in deprecating any such senseless folly as that would involve. If I know anything of those responsible for the administration of the Soudan itself, I am convinced that it has been carried out against a great deal of advice given on the snot. Does the hon. Member know the conditions under which life is spent in the Soudan? I have had occasion to know it. The work is carried out there under harder conditions than in any part of the world. You send a single British official not to be in contact with a single white face for perhaps ten or twelve months, separated from the nearest white face by a distance of 300 or 350 miles. They often have to build their own houses, to make any sanitary arrangements they can, to cater for themselves the best way they can, and they have to face malaria and disease of the worst, sort. They have to visit fever camps, to stop slave raiding, and to rectify boundaries, and young men under thirty years of age have to administer regions as large as the whole of Wales absolutely single-handed, with the help of a few native troops. What would their life be worth, and how long would the beneficent work of sanitation or visiting fever camps, of carrying out some sort of regularity in administration, of trying to stop the evils of slave raiding, be carried on if it was not for the prestige which attaches to a single European officer in the midst of a vast horde of natives? Are you lightly going to cast away any usage which increases the prestige, the dignity, and the safety of these officials? We cannot suppose that they are affected in the same way as we are affected. To us such a ceremony as returning a salute means absolutely nothing. We treat it as a trifle. But do not think that it is a trifle to the Oriental mind. Abandon it, and the Oriental thinks that you are afraid of him, and that you wish him to show no respect. There is a very small boundary in Oriental minds between lack of respect and the advancement of dangerous resistance to your power.

I may adduce one instance of the dangers that this lack of outward respect may bring which has come to my knowledge in London itself. I was told the other day by a leading Indian official that he is constantly met, after leaving the India Office, by two or three native students, who salute him in a method which is not recognised here, but which is known to anyone familiar with India as a sign of insolence. I asked this official whether he did not think it was his duty to give notice to Scotland Yard, but he said it would raise difficulties which he did not wish to raise. Let the Government know, and it ought to be known, that even as near as the very threshold of our own pubic offices there are men who are guilty of discourtesy which means much more than a discourtesy, which means an absolute defiance and insulting of your authority. Such defiance is a contagion which quickly spreads throughout Egypt. We may disregard it and smile at it here, but it is no smiling matter to those of our brothers and sons who have to carry out the administration of Egypt under great hardships, and who know by experience that it is not by sentiment, it is not by encouraging agitation, and angry criticism and an ambition which would place the Egypt nation on a level with modern Western European States that you can maintain your authority in Egypt, and with it the duty that you owe to yourselves, to your own name, to Egypt, and to the civilised world. I trust that the Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be able to give us some assurance that he is prepared to deal firmly, drastically, and severely with agitation wherever it comes from, and that he is not prepared to allow sentimentality, that most independable reed, to be the guide to British administration in Egypt.


I do not propose to add very much in the way of condemnation of the very unhappy experiment which this Government has made in Egypt, whereby they have, to a very large extent, undermined the patient work of the Egyptian Civil Service for the last twenty years or more. I think it is sufficiently deplorable and sufficiently humiliating to this country that our failures there should have been so conspicuous as to attract the attention and compel the candid, if just, utterance of the Statesman who has lately been visiting us. However glad we may be to have his criticisms, yet I think everyone must have felt that those criticisms were to a large extent unpleasant to hear from outside. However it may be, it still remains that he saw in three or four weeks' stay in Egypt what it has taken three or four years for the present Government to understand. Everyone knows how it was that we came into Egypt; everyone knows why we stayed there, everyone understands why it was that we cheerfully took up the task of reorganising the finances and the administration which had been dictated under Oriental rules for us, and this for nearly a quarter of a century we, in conjunction with other Powers, have successfully performed. The only justification, it was said the other day by Mr. Roosevelt, for our presence is that we should do better than this Power which we took it over from. We took it over from an Oriental Power which completely failed in its Government of the people, which reduced the finances to chaos and weakened the people and the country to breaking point. It has been reserved for this Government, the first European Government of Egypt, to fail completely in the task of maintaining order, and the moment that a Government does fail in maintaining order and in carrying on the administration which has been successfully inaugurated and maintained for so long we have no better case for remaining in Egypt than the Oriental Government from whom we inherited it. Doubtless we shall hear some brave words from the Foreign Secretary in regard to the experiment which has been made in Egypt. We shall hear, perhaps, that he and his Government have just found out that the hopes which they had entertained for the self-government of Egypt have been brought to nought by the attitude of the Nationalist party. I hope we may hear—I and am confident that we shall hear, too—I that a change in the attitude of the Government must take place in consequence. But the point is that nothing this Government can do now, however much we should I desire that they should change their attitude in Egypt, can completely obliterate the attitude of the last few years. The Government can never return to the old I steady policy of governing for the best good of the people, though not necessarily according to the people's will as before their failure and before their vacillating policy started. How can they expect the Legislative Council in Egypt to really understand in future that they have changed their policy? They have listened to the Legislative Council, and encouraged them, and it is too much to expect people who are without political sense—the Council is too young for that—to understand immediately such a complete change of policy as that which we hope may take place in Egypt. We cannot in Eastern policy blow hot and cold. To be weak is to fail as much in Egypt as in India, as much in one part of the world as another, but more particularly is weakness among Orientals completely misunderstood. That is the lesson which we hope, with all respect, the Government will take to heart. We had before they came into office a statesman who made very clear his policy and carried it out unflinchingly for a great number of years. There was no reason, so far as anyone could possibly see, to suppose that the Government would change to another attitude. The mere argument that if they were to carry on the status quo was to drift into something like annexation, never seemed to me to have any sense in it. We could have carried on the same government, increasing the self-government of the country in exactly such measure as the people seemed fit for it with the old policy better than with the new. The unfortunate thing is that the present Government, who are called Liberals, and would wish, no doubt, to grant self-government and introduce Liberal institutions into Egypt, have themselves by their own action put off self-government in Egypt almost indefinitely. There is only one satisfactory point with regard to this failure, and that is, that perhaps the Nationalist in Egypt may at last learn that by mere agitation it is impossible to get rid of British rule in that country, and that by the mere striking down of partisans or others, against whom they have a grudge, they cannot shake the intentions of the Government to go on with the work they have carried out for a quarter of a century in Egypt. If this is the lesson they have learned from the Government's failure and its inexplicable weakness during the last three or four years, I shall be glad that they have failed, and that the lesson has been learned once and for all by the Nationalist party.

9.0 P.M.


I do not propose to deal with what was said in regard to our Egyptian policy by the ex-President of the United States. Mr. Roosevelt spoke in the Guildhall and made an important speech, which has attracted universal attention throughout the world, and I venture to suggest to the Foreign Secretary that Mr. Roosevelt should be acquitted of the accusations which have been made against him during the course of this Debate. I cannot believe that Mr. Roosevelt made his speech without first communicating its substance to the Foreign Office, and giving the Government an opportunity of objecting to anything which they might find embarrassing. If he did so communicate with the Government, I venture respectfully to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, after the speeches made to-night, he owes it to Mr. Roosevelt, to the Government, and to the country to inform the House of the fact. Everyone who has either officially or unofficially an intimate connection with Egypt will absolutely agree, whatever their opinions may be, that the state of that country has most seriously deteriorated in recent years. In fact everybody agrees that the cause of that deterioration is to be found in the way the Government have conducted their administration. There has been a relaxation of authority, and a feeling seems to have arisen that our Government are no longer determined to support their own people who are doing the work of the Government, and they are willing to listen to the requests of certain agitators against those gentlemen. Nothing can be more fatal in bringing the law into disrepute. Those who live quietly at home, engaged in business, or in the politics of this country, cannot possibly realise what it is to try to deal with people who are uncivilised according to the methods of Western civilisation. It is impossible to apply to people in that state those theories of government and those shibboleths which carry weight in this country because we have been accustomed to those ideas. That is undoubtedly the cause of all the difficulties which the Government have created for themselves in Egypt. They have taken to Egypt their ideas of Liberal Government, as understood in this country, and they have not resisted the clamour of the agitators and the Press. To start with the assumption that their clamour represents the mind of the Egyptian people must inevitably lead to disaster. Everyone who knows Egypt agrees that we are confronted with a serious situation. It is not too late yet to act, but if action should be too long delayed it must inevitably lead to such a disturbance of the public mind, and probably such an amount of religious excitement, as will result in an explosion which can only be subdued in one way, by bloodshed. Anyone who knows the Soudan knows that the people there are a wild people. They have been for centuries accustomed to bloodshed, war, raids, and vendettas, and all these are things which it is the business of a civilised Government to suppress.

I need not refer to any particular incident more than to say that everyone acquainted with the Soudan knows that not very long ago an outbreak which happened and which was dealt with with very little trouble showed when it came to be investigated that its ramifications extended in all directions and even to Government offices in Khartoum. You have exactly the same thing in Egypt. Directly you have any weakness on the part of the Government you have ramifications of a revolutionary movement extending in every direction even in the highest quarters. Perhaps not many Members in the House at the present moment realise that Egypt is one of the great centres of the Moslem faith. There are great religious schools in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt to which students come from very distant parts of Africa and other places in order to be instructed in the principles and tenets of the Mahomedan faith. Egypt is peculiarly adapted to become the centre of a religious fanaticism. We have got to face the religious question in Egypt. Of 12,000,000 of inhabitants some 10,000,000 are Mahomedans. The question requires to be dealt with most cautiously and carefully. The faith of Mahomed may easily be involved in the political question and become the chief factor. We do not want to interfere with that faith, but what is necessary to be known in Egypt is that the British representative is to have the last word in everything that is vitally affecting Egypt itself, and that his word in the last resort is law and carries with it the whole force and authority of the British Government and the British people. Once that idea is established in Egypt the difficulties become comparatively trifling and are well within the management of the many able administrators whom we have in the country. The Government, in order to deal with this question, must be willing to support a strong man as adviser to the Egyptian Government, and must trust the man on the spot. I do not attach the enormous importance which some of the speakers have done to the late lamentable murder of the Egyptian Prime Minister. Its significance consists in the fact that it is a symptom of what is going on, it is not the only incident, but it is the culmination of a long series of events. The Government are now going to deal with the murderer on their own account. The crisis cannot be long delayed. The Government will have to face the situation. It is their own weakness and the idea, which they have allowed to spread throughout Egypt, that they are lax in their purpose and determination which have contributed to the present state of chaos. If the Government do not take their courage in their hands and defy the idealism of a section of their own supporters they will have a great responsibility to their own country, to Egypt, and to the people of this country; and they will have a great responsibility to answer for when the history of these times comes to be written.


I am quite sure that I shall be voicing the sentiments of all who have spoken or will speak from these benches if I hope that no word of ours will further complicate the extremely difficult position of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on this question of Egypt. Anybody who knows Egypt must recognise that the position at this moment is as serious as it can be. I should like, with the indulgence of the House, to ask attention to one or two of the considerations which I think must govern our dealings in Egypt to-day, as they always govern the question of the white nation when brought into contact with a nation of any other colour. I only do so because I think from what we have heard this evening that these considerations are in some danger in certain quarters of being lost sight of. Earlier in the course of this Debate we have heard that the same arguments that were used for the purpose of advocating severe measures, if they be so called, in Egypt, on the score of the Prime Minister being murdered there, would be equally applicable to the United States on an occasion like the murder of President McKinley, or to Russia on the occasion of the murder of the Russian Czar. I venture to think that between those two cases there is no connection whatever, and for this reason, that the whole civilised world would regard the murder of the President of the United States or the murder of the Czar of Russia as an isolated act, while the gravity of the murder of the Prime Minister of Egypt is that the murder is merely one sympton of a general unrest in that country. Therein lies its gravity. One often hears that when a white nation is dealing with a black nation it is practically governing by force. I think that even in those conditions government remains what it always is—government by consent. Anybody who has lived or who has passed his time among those conditions among black people must recognise that government in that case also is government by consent, because unless you can keep the consent—by which I mean that the black people are prepared to be governed for their own good by the white people—your government is not worth a day's purchase.

If that is true, as I think it is, surely the argument that under all conditions and at all times all men are equal is one of the most flimsy and one of the most academic that could possibly be brought forward. It is no more true to say that all men are equal at all times than to say that all men have red hair or false teeth. And while we on our side most emphatically disclaim any attempt permanently to hold down black races, we do at the same time insist that if our position in those countries is to be maintained it can only be, as it is at the present moment, by maintaining the position and fulfilling the functions of a superior race. I think that one of the hon. Members who spoke earlier in this Debate said or inferred that all foreign nations, or, rather, the subordinate nations, would learn their vituperation and would learn what way to treat their Government by considering what way we treat our Government in this country, and I think he went so far as to say that all the arts of vituperation could be learned from either the Tory Press or the Tory Opposition. I think that after this evening's Debate those pupils will gradually realise that they can learn the lesson of vituperation from some hon. Members opposite even better than they can from the Tory Press or those who sit with me upon these benches. If I may, without any disrespect to those who, perhaps, on this point differ from me, I would ask them to consider why it is that white men who leave this country to settle in lands where the black population is predominant at once become imbued with the fact that they must at all costs uphold the prestige of the white governing race? It is because their fates, the fortunes of their wives and children, are at the mercy of the black population, which can only be maintained in its proper place by strong insistence on order. It is the duty of all Governments, so long as they are in the right, as a first step to maintain order. I have observed the great suspicion with which some hon. Members regard the use of the word "prestige." I am, I confess, set to wondering whether they and I mean the same thing when we use the word "prestige." I think in the minds of some hon. Members there is the idea, when that word is used, that it means right or wrong—the white man will; be upheld and supported and that the black man will be downtrodden, and will have extremely scanty opportunities of justice. That is not my meaning when I use the word "prestige." My meaning is that the subordinate race should by all I means be fairly treated, and that there: should be no sense of injustice. But given that condition, surely you are in a position to insist that the black races must and can only be treated as subordinate to the race charged with the government of their country for the time being. The time may come, and I hope it will come, when those races with whose government we are now charged may be in a position to assume the control of their own fortunes, and may be able to work out their own destiny. When that time is reached, I am sure that all parties in this country will be prepared to assist them when they make the attempt. To encourage them to make that attempt, however, when they are in the condition of political children is not only to court disaster to those engaged in the government of the country, but it is to court disaster in one of the most valued possessions of this country, and bring into most serious jeopardy the white, races wherever they are in contact with the black races. It is for these reasons that we on this side feel compelled to invite the attention of the foreign Secretary to these matters. We have no wish to complicate the position, or say one word to add to the difficulties, but we do hope that before the end of the evening the Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be able to give us some assurance on this question, in regard to which we feel the greatest anxiety.


Nobody on these benches has risen to protest against the speeches made by hon. Members opposite; and they should not pass unchallenged. Hon. Members opposite hint vaguely at something, which they do not define, that His Majesty's Government have done during the past two or three years, and which has created a certain situation in Egypt which, also, hon. Members do not define. Then they go on to say that the Government, finding themselves in this position, have only themselves to thank. They have not submitted a single fact or one reason to show what action of the Government has created this situation and the difficulty to which they refer. They go on to advise the Government to adopt certain repressive proceedings to remedy this situation, and to uphold the prestige of the white man. I submit that if the white man cannot rule races which we call inferior races save by resort to arms, then his prestige is already gone. I speak, I confess, as an Oriental myself. I have Oriental blood in my veins, and I cannot but laugh at the doctrine of hon. Members opposite that Orientals must receive treatment in some way different from that given to other peoples. May I be permitted to point out that one of the greatest men who ever lived, Jesus Christ, was an Oriental, and did He differentiate His treatment when dealing with Orientals? No. He had one method of dealing with everybody, with the whole human race— the method of human sympathy, love, and appreciation of difficulties. That is the only sure way of dealing with individuals and dealing with nations, whether we are in Egypt, whether we are in South America, or whether we are in China. What are the difficulties to which hon. Members opposite have referred in very vague terms indeed? Those difficulties have not been created by this or any other Government. They are the natural outcome of our work in Egypt. The people in that country have become educated under British rule, they have more opportunity of developing their faculties, they have more freedom to make the best of their opportunities, and by reason of these very circumstances the Government are placed in difficulty. The situation in Egypt is not the creation of the Government; it is the natural outcome of British occupation.

Why do hon. Members blame the Government? Surely if hon. Members are, as they always profess to be, such exceptionally good patriots, they would not add to the difficulties of the Foreign Secretary, and they would not add to the complications of an intricate situation, which is frought with the greatest danger. This Egyptian question, whatever it is, is not an isolated one, and it must be treated from the point of view of international politics. One hon. Member advised drastic steps to preserve order. We have already one Eastern question, and hon. Members opposite would like us to add another, even more complicated and dangerous than the present one which claims the attention of the Powers. The situation in Egypt, of course, is somewhat different. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Great Britain had considerable difficulty in Canada. Those difficulties were solved by the application of that human sympathy to which I have just referred. It was not by repression, but by appreciation of the difficulties of the case, by extending to the French Canadians the sympathies of British statesmen, and it was by the application of those very same principles that we solved the great problem in South Africa. I admit that in Egypt the situation is somewhat different, for the Egyptian people are not satisfied, and would not be satisfied with responsible government if it were granted to them to-morrow. They want Great Britain, as they say, to clear out of Egypt. They did not want responsible government; they do not want to have any foreign occupation. I speak only for myself, but I hope that for the present the Foreign Secretary will make it clear, that although we are willing to grant them step by step more of representative government as we educate and fit them for it, that they must not expect that we shall leave Egypt. If we were to leave and withdraw our troops Egypt would fall an easy prey to another foreign Power. We have to consider the Egyptian question from the wider aspect of the Imperial question. If the agitators, or let us call them leaders, are not satisfied there is the vast bulk of the people to be taken into consideration. I am fully convinced that we can never, either in Egypt or anywhere else, satisfy the agitator, who will never be content and can never be satisfied. If we go on the path of reform, granting to the people step by step more freedom, bringing them more largely into the government of the country, then, whether the agitators are satisfied or not, I am fully convinced from the history of the world that we shall again have the sympathies of the people and that we shall be able, if not to solve, at any rate to approach to the solution of the Egyptian question.

I hope that His Majesty's Government will do nothing to what is called on the opposite side uphold the prestige of Great Britain and the white man. The prestige of nobody can be upheld by resort to force of arms. If that is once adopted then our prestige is gone. Our prestige can only be upheld by the application of the elementary methods as to the dealings of I human beings and nations with one another. I admit that the situation is very complicated, and as a humble Member of the Liberal party I desire to compliment the Foreign Secretary and to express my admiration for the great skill with which he has handled this question during the past two or three years. He knows many things about the Egyptian question which we can only guess from what appears in the newspapers, as to international complications, and so forth. We have to remember that it is impossible to deal with this question simply from the geographical point of view of Egypt. The question is only one of the many questions that are facing the Foreign Secretary, and I trust that he will be able to tell us that the Government will be in a position to deal with the serious situation, not on the lines hinted at by hon. Members opposite, but according to the great and noble traditions of Liberal principles.


I do not want to stand in the way of the Foreign Secretary, because I usually prefer following to preceding those whom I possibly may have to differ from, though I trust that on this particular occasion there may be no difference of opinion between the right, hon. Gentleman and myself. I am sure, by getting up now I shall give him the opportunity of hearing anything I may say, if there be anything, to which he might wish to take exception as a Minister of this House, responsible for one of the most important, one of the most critical, and one of the most difficult tasks which could by any possibility fall to the lot of a British Minister. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyneside Division (Mr. J. M. Robertson) talked as if the recent speech of Mr. Roosevelt was an insult to the policy of this country, and in particular to the policy of the party of which the hon. Gentleman is himself a Member. I was an auditor of that speech, and I hope I am not less sensitive than others, but I hope, though a party politician, I can put myself in the position of those who differ from me and look at myself with their eyes. Certainly I never heard a speech which dealt undoubtedly, I admit, with a British problem, and in that sense no doubt compelled the speaker dealing with it to skate over thin ice—I never heard a speech which less deserved the charge of being an insult to the country whose hospitality he was for the moment enjoying. Sir, we do not always have justice done to us by foreign critics or by critics belonging to other nations. I do not like to use the word "foreign" in this connection. We do not always have justice from critics belonging to other nations, we do not always have our actions looked upon with a sympathetic eye and with a true knowledge of the problems that have to be faced by the officials of a country like our own when they are dealing with races very differently situated from our own. That knowledge and that sympathy so often wanting in the spirit of critics that come from abroad, was conspicuous by its presence in the speech of Mr. Roosevelt, and no man acquainted with the difficulties with which we have got to deal, whether it be in Egypt, or other parts of Africa, or whether it be in India, no man acquainted with those difficulties could ask from anybody, not himself a member of our own nation, a kindlier, more appreciative and more sympathetic treatment of the problem with which we have had long to deal and of which America in her turn is now feeling the pinch.

Mr. Roosevelt said nothing, in my judgment, at all eevnts, to which the most sensitive Briton could take the smallest objection. He realised what I do not think the Member for the Tyneside Division or the Member for Darlington realised: that you cannot treat the problems with which we have to deal in Egypt or elsewhere as if they were problems affecting the Isle of Wight, or the West Riding of Yorkshire. They belong to a wholly different category. And when the hon. Member says, speaking to us, "What right have you to take up these airs of superiority with regard to people whom you choose to call Oriental," I take up no attitude of superiority. But I ask those two hon. Members, and everybody else who has even the most superficial knowledge of history, if they will really try to look in the face the facts with which a British statesman has to deal when he is put in a position of supremacy over great races like the inhabitants of Egypt and countries in the East. We know the civilisation of Egypt better than we know the civilisation of any other country. We know it further back; we know it more intimately; we know more about it. It goes far beyond the petty span of the history of our own race, which is lost in the prehistoric period at a time when the Egyptian civilisation had already passed its prime. Look at all the Oriental countries. Do not talk about superiority or inferiority.

Look at the facts of the case. Western nations as soon as they emerge into history show the beginnings of those capacities for self-government, not always associated, I grant, with all the virtues or all the merits, but still having merits of their own. Nations of the West have shown those virtues from their beginning, from the very tribal origin of which we have first knowledge. You may look through the whole history of the Orientals in what is called, broadly speaking, the East, and you never find traces of self-government. All their great centuries—and they have been very great—have been passed under despotisms, under absolute government. All their great contributions to civilisation — and they have been great— have been made under that form of government. Conqueror has succeeded conqueror; one domination has followed another; but never in all the revolutions of fate and fortune have you seen one of those nations of its own motion establish what we, from a Western point of view, call self-government. That is the fact. It is not a question of superiority or inferiority. I suppose a true Eastern sage would say that the working government which we have taken upon ourselves in Egypt and elsewhere is not a work worthy of a philosopher—that it is the dirty work, the inferior work, of carrying on the necessary labour. Do let us put this question of superiority and inferiority out of our minds. It is wholly out of place.


Who raised it?


The hon. Gentleman himself raised it.


It was in speeches from that side of the House.


The hon. Gentleman— I think I am not misrepresenting him—in answering the very able speech made by an hon. Friend behind me, accused him of asserting that Orientals were inferior. He almost objected to the use of the word "Oriental," and he objected to my hon. Friend describing them as inferior, because in the opinion of my hon. Friend and of myself it is perfectly absurd to suppose that you can inoculate these races with the particular spirit of self-government which is familiar to Western nations, and, of all Western nations, most familiar to ourselves. You cannot do it. My hon. Friend pointed that out, and what did the hon. Member for the Tyneside Division say? He said, "This is your air of insolent and lawless superiority." I am not quoting his words; but that is the substance. "That is the way you talk of Orientals, and that is the feeling which produces all the bitterness and all the heart burnings which are giving trouble now in the Near East, and now in the Far East."


I surely did not say that that is the source of all the trouble in the Near East and in the Far East.


I withdraw the word "all." The hon. Gentleman may choose his own fraction. I will say three-fourths of the trouble. If the hon. Member thinks I that that variation of my argument is of any value to himself, he is at liberty to make the most of it. The point I am trying to press on the House is this. We have got, as I think, to deal with nations who, as far as our knowledge goes, have always been governed in the manner we call absolute, and have never had what we are accustomed to call free institutions or self-government. They have never had it; they have never, apparently, desired it. There is no evidence that until we indoctrinated them with the political philosophy, not always very profound, which has been in fashion in this country, they ever had the desire or the ambition which the hon. Member opposite very naturally and properly wishes that they should have. The time may come when they will adopt, not merely our superficial philosophy, but our genuine practice. But after 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000 years of known history, and unlimited centuries of unknown history have been passed by these nations under a different system, it is not thirty years of British rule which is going to alter the character bred into them by this immemorial tradition.

If that be true, is it or is it not a good thing for these great nations—I admit their greatness—that this absolute Government should be exercised by us? I think it is a good thing. I think experience shows that they have got under it a far better government than in the whole history of the world they ever had before, and which not only is a benefit to them, but is undoubtedly a benefit to the whole of the civilised West. That has been pointed out by my hon. Friend and has not been denied by the Foreign Secretary. We are in Egypt not merely for the sake of the Egyptians, though we are there for their sake; we are there also for the sake of Europe at large. If this be the task which, as it has been thrown upon us we ought to take up, as it is a task which, at all events to the best of our knowledge and belief, is of infinite benefit to the races with whom we deal, what are the special difficulties attaching to it? The difficulties are very great and inevitable. There, are those who talk as if the test of the excellence of our government were the gratitude which it elicited. A great reform in these countries, probably a great reform in any country, does elicit usually, not always, gratitude at the moment of its inception. Certainly if you had consulted the fellaheen immediately following the period when we relieved them from the abominable treatment to which they were subjected before we went into Egypt, I have no doubt they would have expressed great and genuine gratitude. Generations pass. New men arise. Old memories vanish. Under a policy which casts pain and inconvenience on some members of the community ancient wrongs are forgotten, ancient benefits are forgotten likewise. All that remains are those complaints, sometimes just, most commonly, I believe, unjust, on which the agitator can work when he wishes to raise difficulties in his own interest or in the interests of some, as I think, impossible ideal. But if I am right, and if it is our business to govern, with or without gratitude, with or without the real and genuine memory of all the loss of which we have relieved the population, and no vivid imagination of all the benefits which we have given to them; if that is our duty, how is it to be performed, and how only can it be performed? We send out our very best to these countries. They work and strive, not for very great remuneration, not under very easy or very luxurious circumstances, to carry out what they conceive to be their duty both to the country to which they belong and the populations which they serve. They carry out that work under difficulties which we sitting here quietly in Parliament can have no conception of. You place a single British official amidst tens of thousands of persons belonging to a different creed, a different race, a different discipline, different conditions of life. These officials can do that work, I believe, better than anybody, if they merely have the sense that they are being supported. If they lose that sense for a moment, rightly or wrongly—sometimes it is wrongly—their whole position is undermined. The base of their supplies, as it were, is cut off. They face a task which might well make anyone's courage fail under the happiest circumstances. They face it under circumstances which are most unhappy. Directly the native populations have that instinctive feeling that those with whom they have got to deal have not behind them the might, the authority, the sympathy, the full and ungrudging support of the country which sent them there, those populations lose all that sense of order which the very basis of their civilisation, just as our officers lose all that sense of power and authority, which is the very basis of everything they can do for the benefit of those among whom they have been sent.

I agree that we must not look at this thing—that we cannot look at this question—entirely from the point of view of the British officials on the spot. They may make mistakes. They may even make serious mistakes. It is perfectly impossible for this House to lay down the proposition, or to accept the principle, that, however gross the mistakes may be, that they, in these circumstances, may be condoned because mistakes made by ruling officials must never be admitted by those on whose support the ruling officials depend. What we ought to do is to sympathetically remember the difficulties under which these people work. The right hon. Gentleman who will follow me will explain exactly the attitude which his Government has taken up in Egypt, and he will, no doubt, deal in detail with the special criticisms passed. I do not mean to touch these special criticisms. I have not the knowledge. I have not the authority. But one thing is certain. Every person, with an intimate knowledge of Egypt, to whom I have spoken, whether he be a recent traveller, a man with a long official experience, or whether he be a man whose business has taken him to Egypt year by year for decade after decade—all these people have agreed with one voice I that the position in Egypt is now eminently unsatisfactory. They also agree that it is eminently unsatisfactory because the authority of what they frankly say is the dominant race—and as I think ought to remain the dominant race—has been undermined. Whether that is the fault of the Egyptian administration, whether it is the fault of His Majesty's Government, or whether it is due to a somewhat unfortunate concatenation of circumstances over which neither the Government at home nor the Government in Egypt have had adequate control, I do not know, and I do not say. What I do know, what I will say, I is that the situation, if I read it rightly, I calls for prompt and decisive action! Two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the other side have derided the idea that prestige is of any value. Certainly, it is possible that prestige may be presented under the vulgarest guise as representing the crudest insolence of power, and in that shape it neither deserves, nor will it receive, respect from any party or any Member of this House. There is a meaning of the word "prestige" which I beg hon. Gentlemen to consider and to carefully weigh, for without that prestige it is vain for a handful of British officials—endow them how you like, give them all the qualities of character and genius that you can imagine—it is impossible for them to carry out the great task which in Egypt, not we only, but the civilised world have imposed upon them. That is the difficulty which has to be met. I am sure I am not misled by party feeling in this matter. I am quite confident at this moment a feeling has got abroad in Egypt amongst those who are, and who must remain her rulers, that the full magnitude and full character of their task is not thoroughly appreciated by those for whom they work, and that they cannot count with absolute assurance upon that support without which their task would become absolutely impossible. It is in the power, I am sure, and I feel confident, of the Government to put that right. That it is their desire to do so I cannot for a moment doubt. I know well the general view of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I do earnestly beg of them, so far as I can and so far as I may, to use without any tincture of party spirit or desire to secure party advantage, to address themselves to the greatest task that can fall to their lot—the task of seeing that our civilising work in Egypt, carried on as it is by a mere handful of our countrymen, shall not suffer even in the smallest degree by a feeling, well or ill-deserved, that they are not to have from home that support without which they are helpless indeed.


Before the right hon. Gentleman opposite rose I had it in mind to make some complaint or some criticism of what seemed to me the partisan and rather petty way in which this Debate had been handled, I will not say by everybody but by some Members upon the other side of the House. I do not think it has reached a high tone on the whole, and I think it consisted of epithets and abstract charges levelled against His Majesty's Government with very little in the speeches to support those charges. But the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I frankly admit, has been in tone all that we could wish, and in substance a most valuable contribution to every thoughtful mind in regard to the problems with which we have to deal. Of his speech I have no word of complaint to make, and with regard to its tone I shall endeavour, as far as I possibly can, while I have to answer some controversial points, to make the tone of my speech respond to that of his. One thing I am glad about with regard to every speech in this Debate is that any attack upon Sir Eldon Gorst has been absent from them. I have seen in one or two organs of public opinion attacks upon Sir Eldon Gorst which were most unfounded, most unjust, and most untrue. If a policy is attacked it is the Government should be attacked; if a policy is approved, and if it appears that the application of that policy has not been successful, then it should be the Government that is attacked in Parliament, and not officials who attempt to carry out that policy.

Parliament will never know at what point the official has stated that some particular step is necessary effectively for the carrying out of the policy and the conception of the Government; and with regard to the position in Egypt at the present moment I would say that if fault is to be found it is with the policy of His Majesty's Government, who had given instructions to Sir Eldon Gorst, and not in regard to the carrying out of the policy. No one could have carried out this or any policy in Egypt with more knowledge and ability and skill than Sir Eldon Gorst.

10.0 p.m.

Before I pass to the question of the government of Egypt, I must deal with one or two points of criticism that have been made upon the speech of Mr. Roosevelt. The hon. Member for Rutland (Mr. Gretton) placed an aspect upon the criticism of Mr. Roosevelt's speech which, until he spoke, had not occurred to me. He said he could not have believed that that speech would have been made unless there had been some previous communication of Mr. Roosevelt's views to His Majesty's Government, and that if there had been any such communication it would be unfair to the public to withhold the knowledge of it, from which I infer that the impression produced on him was this: that in his mind and in the mind of others, if Mr. Roosevelt had made that speech without some previous communication of his views to His Majesty's Government, he would have been guilty of an act of grave discourtesy to a country offering him hospitality. If that is the view, based upon the criticism of Mr. Roosevelt's speech, I say frankly he communicated to me his views and his experience during his travels through British territory in Africa. He communicated to me his views with regard to what he had seen in East Africa, Uganda, the Soudan, and in Egypt. I seldom listened to anything with greater pleasure. If I had said that a public statement of his experience, which I knew he wished to make, was in any degree likely to be embarrassing to me, I am quite certain he would have withheld them, but I did not think them in the least likely to be embarrassing to me. I made no suggestion to him whatever that he should not make them public. I heard them repeated at the Guildhall substantially as they were repeated to me, and I listened to that speech with the greatest enjoyment.

First of all I should have thought that to everybody the friendly intention of that speech would be obvious. In the next place, I should have thought that everybody would have felt that it was, taken as a whole, the greatest compliment to the work of one country in the world ever paid by a citizen of another. Of East Africa, Uganda, and the Soudan there has been no mention to-night, though there was mention of them in the speech. Why that part should have been omitted I cannot understand. I knew when I heard the speech there would be some attempts to make use of parts of it for party purposes, I did not think that that mattered, provided that the substance of the speech was true. And in regard to Egypt itself, what was the substance of this speech I First of all, a statement that we have done the best work which has been done in Egypt in historical memory. In the next place, the opinion expressed that excessive complacency or weakness towards those opposing British occupation in Egypt had endangered that work. In the third place, the statement that we were in Egypt as trustees both for the Egyptian people and for foreign countries who had an interest in Egypt, and that, as trustees, the duty lay upon us of preserving order, and it would be futile for us to remain if we did not do so. In the fourth place, the statement that Egypt would fall into a welter of chaos if not governed from outside, and that we were the people Mr. Roosevelt hoped and believed would undertake that duty. With the exception I should say, not that excessive complacency had endangered, but that it would endanger our work, there is not a single one of those statements which I am not prepared to endorse. As a matter of fact the situation in Egypt has been giving rise to serious consideration. It is not nearly so grave as it has been painted in some of the speeches by hon. Members opposite, and at the present moment there is nothing which need occasion disquiet. Undoubtedly there have been some symptoms which have given rise to anxiety and which have occupied the attention of His Majesty's Government and of the officials who carry out their policy in Egypt. The assassination of the Prime Minister in one sense was an isolated act, but it was a very serious murder. As to where the responsibility should be placed for that act I have nothing to add to Sir Eldon Gorst's annual Report. I think it is quite natural there should be some criticism with regard to the length of time which has elansed in reference to the punishment following a crime of that kind in which the murderer was taken red-handed. There is no reflection to be made whatever upon the judges who had the case in hand. They were bound to investigate the question whether there were others who were responsible for that particular crime, as well as the individual who actually committed it. The ordinary procedure of Egyptian law, which is modelled upon the French code, prescribes certain periods of delay for the appeal and so forth, and this has been followed as part of the ordinary procedure. It would be quite a mistake to suppose that there has been any delay which has been out of the common or not contemplated as the ordinary procedure of Egyptian law. I do feel that in a case of that kind, when the murderer is caught red-handed and when it is known, as it would be known in the case of a future crime, that the murder has been committed upon an Egyptian official because he was supposed to be carrying out the policy and intentions of the British Government with regard to Egypt, I do think there lies upon us a responsibility to show that, in occupation of Egypt as we are, we shall use our power to show that Egyptian officials who administer Egypt in consultation with us and bound to accept our advice, are to be protected from acts of that kind. I have been in consultation with Sir Eldon Gorst during the last two weeks as to what measures can be taken to secure that in crimes of so grave a nature punishment shall either follow more swiftly by the ordinary course of law, or else we should take it into our own hands as responsible for the protection of those who are ruling Egypt to deal with such offences by the army of occupation. With regard to the responsibility for the crime itself. I have no more to say except that the course of justice has been slow; but the judges have given their sentence, and in the due course of the ordinary law that sentence will be carried out. With regard to the general state of things in Egypt, I think there has been much too little recognition—while the actual state of things as they are now has been painted in much too dark colours —of the progress which has been made since Sir Eldon Gorst went there. The phrase "law and order" has been used on the other side—I think an hon. Member said we have failed completely in the government of Egypt, but that really is a travesty of what has taken place. One of the greatest difficulties in Egypt when Sir Eldon Gorst went there was the condition of things in the Ministry of the Interior and the state of undetected crime that existed in Egypt, especially in the, rural districts. By special methods most carefully devised and most carefully watched in their working, and which have only been in operation a few months, the amount of crime has been reduced, as Sir Eldon Gorst says in his annual report, by 27 per cent. That was one of the first tasks to which he had to address himself, and that is one of the things in which there has been a marked improvement. The Soudan has been mentioned, but there has been no recognition whatever in the Debate of the exceedingly satisfactory state of things which has obtained there. An hon. Member opposite asked me if some change had been made in the order as to whether natives were to dismount or not. I do not know what the practice has been, and I do not know whether any change has been made in the practice, but I would say this —if any body of officials deserve credit and confidence for the difficulties they have had to deal with, and the way they have overcome them, and the way they have carried on their work, with the most slender means and the public spirit put into their work, it is Sir R. Wingate and those acting with him. As to the point which has been raised by the Mover of the Debate with regard to regulations affecting natives, I am perfectly content to take the judgment of the officials of the Soudan. I would say to the hon. Member who introduced this Debate to-night that I think it is most unfair to bring up a point of that kind which is trivial, but which he says is undermining all authority in the Soudan; it is obviously a matter in which the opinion of the officials in the Soudan is of the greatest importance, and to bring it up without one word of appreciation of what the condition of things is-in the Soudan at the present time and the good work which the officials have done-there is very unfair.

Now I turn to Egypt and our general' policy. We are told that our general policy has undermined all authority in Egypt. I admit that would be a most serious thing if it had happened. I do not think it has happened, but even the impression in any mind that it has happened' is something which needs to be corrected, and is in itself a misfortune. I do not think our policy in Egypt has been rightly responsible for anything of that kind, but I will sketch to the House what it has been. Undoubtedly during the last three years we have been endeavouring in Egypt to make Egyptian Ministers and Egyptian officials more of a factor in the Government of their own country. Ever since we have been there we have been training them in the arts of government, and it is only natural that we should, as time goes on, endeavour to make greater use of them. Lord Cromer himself had taken one step in that direction in the appointment of Zagloul Pasha. I think it is possible that in his opinion, since he left, we have gone too fast in that direction, but the direction itself is not a novel one, and I do not think in that respect we can be fairly charged as being responsible for undermining authority in Egypt. In the next place, we have endeavoured to build up local government from the bottom by establishing Provincial Councils. Provincial Councils have not been working long, and it is too soon to pronounce whether their success is assured, but I think that was a thoroughly right step to take, and it was one taken with knowledge and skill by Sir Eldon Gorst. I think it right you should, first of all, if you are to train the people in Egypt to a sense of responsibility, begin by dealing with their local and provincial affairs, and I am sure the establishment of the Provincial Councils is not responsible for any disturbance in Egypt. In the third place we have tried to make larger use of the Legislative Council. The Legislative Council and the General Assembly out there are integral parts of the present Constitution, and I think it was right to attempt to make a larger use of them. Questions are sometimes asked in this House on matters of detail. The Foreign Office and the Consul-General in Egypt are responsible for the general policy. They have to see the finances of Egypt are sound, and that the general policy is satisfactory. They have to attend to big things. It is quite impossible for us here to go into small matters of sanitation and the little details of administration, and when questions are asked in this House on those subjects I think it must be obvious that, if the attention of the Foreign Office is to be diverted to those petty details of Egyptian administration, it can only be done at the expense of general policy and large questions such as sound finance. It is perfectly natural to retort to that that it would be only fair that the Legislative Council in Egypt should have the opportunity of asking questions of the Departmental Ministers in Egypt on matters of Departmental administration, and greater use has been made of the Legislative Council in that respect. It is described in Sir Eldon Gorst's Annual Report, and I need not go into it further. I cannot believe that matter is to be laid to our charge as having been responsible for disturbances in Egypt.

But, undoubtedly, the warning I have to give with regard to Egypt is a serious one. We are responsible for the government of Egypt. We carry it on through Egyptian Ministers and through British advisers, and in the long run and in important matters we must be held responsible for the general policy, and the Ministers are therefore bound to take our advice, though there may be varying degrees of responsibility from time to time and in particular questions. That is an anomalous form of government. It is one in which we were placed by force of circumstances, owing to the abnormal nature of the occupation. It is one which involves great difficulty and requires great tact and great practical sense to make it work well. It is impossible that that system should continue to work well if, when there is deference, real or supposed, on the part of Egyptian Ministers towards our advice, it is to be denounced in the Nationalist Press and in some native quarters in Egypt as an offence, entailing upon Ministers violent attacks. Well, if that is to go on, it would make this system of government impossible. In the next place, you cannot make use of the Legislative Council or the General Assembly to improve the government of Egypt if it is to become—as it has lately shown a tendency—the mere instrument of what is called the Nationalist agitation against the British occupation. I say "what is called the Nationalist," because it is a limited class, and not the most responsible class, in Egypt who call themselves Nationalist, not those who know most about the fellaheen, or are most in touch with the natives outside the towns. It is a limited class, and the object, in great part, of that Nationalist agitation is undoubtedly to bring the British occupation of Egypt to an end by making our task there impossible. They do it by abuse of the Anglo-Egyptian officials and by insulting all Egyptians who do not oppose British control, and they do it also by inciting to disorder whenever there is an opportunity. Now the conclusion I draw from that is this. You can make no progress in the development of the government of Egypt through Egyptians as long as that agitation against British occupation continues. I have spoken — not sympathetically enough to please the hon. Member for Tyneside, perhaps—but I have spoken sympathetically about the development of self-government in Egypt on previous occasions. We have done what I have described in that direction—through Egyptian officials with regard to the Government, through provincial councils, through actual use of the Legislative Council—and if all that we do does not work in the direction of stimulating greater interest on the part of the people in their own Government, and of leading them to criticise the action of the Government on its merits, but is simply going to increase the agitation against the British occupation, we can go no further in that direction. We are trustees in Egypt, in the first place for the natives of Egypt themselves, and nobody can say that that trust has not been discharged on our part with the highest sense of duty and with great success. We are also trustees—because we have no other title to remain in Egypt—of good order and public security there. We are trustees for the interests of Europe as well as for the natives. It is quite true that the task of improving and developing satisfactory government in Egypt is hampered to a considerable extent by the restrictions under which the Egyptian Government, and therefore we ourselves, are placed by the capitulations, which are not suitable to modern government, and are constantly liable to impede improvements and reforms. It is urgently necessary that in the near future these treaty rights with regard to Egypt should by some means or other be brought more into harmony with modern conditions. If we were not in Egypt to-day, and if there was a purely Egyptian Government, that would be its first need, as it would be the need of anybody who took the task of the British Government in hand. Does anybody suppose there will be the faintest chance of improvement in this respect if there is any doubt as to the continuance of the British occupation? The British occupation must continue in Egypt more so now than ever. It is not a question of British interests in Egypt. It is simply this, that we have gone on in Egypt doing more and more good work, year after year, that that good work depends on our stay there, and that we cannot abandon Egypt without disgrace to ourselves.

We could not go and see all the work undone and the agitation against the British occupation of Egypt can have but one result, whichever party is in power, and that is to lead to more assertion of our authority, and our intention to see our work maintained. I cannot talk any more about self-governing institutions in Egypt so long as that agitation against British occupation continues, and I trust whenever the question of Egypt is discussed the House as a whole will make it clear that the maintenance of good Government and order in Egypt is the first object of the British Government and British Parliament. I have spoken strongly on this point because I think it is essential that there should be no misunderstanding about it. If ever there is misunderstanding it will encourage agitation and undermine the confidence which is essential for the prosperity of the country. But although we have seen signs which have given cause for anxiety I would ask the House to believe that at the present moment there is not that condition of affairs in Egypt which would justify a sudden departure or resort to unusual methods. I quite recognise what uncomfortable symptoms there have been in the last year. I think it is quite possible that those symptoms may lead to further development, but at the present moment even the agitation against the British Government—even the undesirable agitation of which I have spoken in such strong terms—is less evident and less apparent during the last few weeks than the previous few weeks, this is not the moment to decide or announce a new departure or to take drastic steps to show that we mean to assert our authority, but I do think it necessary and desirable to give this warning that the symptoms which we have seen and the agitation against the British occupation, if it is rekindled and continued, will make it necessary for any British Government to make it clear that their first object is to assert their authority and to protect Egyptian Ministers who follow their advice, and that there will be no further progress in Egypt until they put an end to the agitation against British occupation and until the Egyptians—of whom there are plenty, although they have been terrorised by the attacks in the Press and the extreme Nationalist agitators—who would desire to see their country progress under British advice and British care have their views accepted and not denounced by the great majority of their fellow countrymen.


It is with diffidence that I ask leave to offer some few observations in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, not having had the advantage of hearing the whole of this Debate. I should like to preface what I have to say by at once assuring the right hon. Gentleman that there are some things that have been said by him which I think the House on all sides, as well as the people in the country generally, will hear with great satisfaction. There are some others which I find it not so perfectly easy to reconcile with the present situation which prevails in Egypt, and which the policy of His Majesty's Government has undoubtedly led to, or under which policy that situation has grown up. In the first category I would mention that I was delighted to hear the outspoken announcement that the Government recognise to the full that it is their first duty to give adequate and proper protection to the officials, native and otherwise, in Egypt, and I was still more pleased to hear the emphatic announcement that the Government were determined to do so. I believe that will give unbounded satisfaction to great numbers of people in Egypt, and will remove what has undoubtedly been a false apprehension on their part that the Government were not giving, and were not disposed to give, that full protection to their officials which was so eminently needed. Then, again, I think it was highly satisfactory to have it most clearly stated by the right hon. Gentleman that the maintenance of order and good government must be always the first object of British Governments in Egypt, but I did not agree with his opinion that the Nationalist party who incite to disorder were a very limited class in that country. I am afraid the more this question is examined and the more information is received upon it, the more it will be found that the Nationalist party and their organisation has of late been growing with great rapidity, is permeating various classes in the country, and has even reached at present to a certain extent the fellaheen who at one time were supposed to be so mindful of, the benefits that that class in particular had received under British rule in comparison with the great hardships with which they were formerly treated in other days. I am afraid it will be found that even to that class hostility and prejudice against the English occupation has spread, and probably in a greater degree, than the right hon. Gentleman anticipates.

But, notwithstanding that, I was rejoiced to hear him say, in the plainest possible language, that, if the insulting agitation which has been carried on for the last two or three years, and is still being carried on with great energy, or was when I left Egypt only a very few weeks ago, is to be continued, all progress in Egypt must be dismissed as an impossibility, and the attitude of the English Government will have to be very different in the future from what it has been in the past. Good order he has told them—and I can assure him that the information was not altogether unnecessary for the satisfaction or numerous classes in Egypt at the present time—is the first object and the first duty and the first determination of the English Government. But, undoubtedly, disorder has been growing, not only with great rapidity, but with alarming rapidity, during the last few months. Then this agitation has been conducted with one object alone, to paralyse all government altogether in Egypt under the present rulers with a view of putting an end to the English occupation. There are a number of signs to be seen of this hostility day after day. To anyone who visits Egypt, and who keeps his eyes and ears open, it is not an agreeable thing to have British troops, when they march through the streets of Cairo, hooted and hissed and denounced on every opportunity, and that has been occurring day after day within a very short period of time. I heard rumours just as I was leaving, or very shortly after I left Cairo, that the British Resident himself had been hooted.


I have heard these stories of personal disrespect to Sir Eldon Gorst, of insults to the British flag, and of insults to British troops when marching through Cairo, and I have ascertained that they were absolutely without foundation.


That is all very well, but I have seen many people who have seen it, and who know it for themselves. I can say that the right hon. Gentleman's information on this point is not altogether accurate. I, of course, accept his denial in regard to the rumours as to the Resident being hooted.


The alleged insults to Sir Eldon Gorst, the alleged insults to the British flag, and the alleged insults to the troops marching through Cairo were three particular cases which I inquired into, and I have found them to be without foundation. If the right hon. Gentleman has other special cases of which he can give me the dates and places, of course I shall be ready to make inquiry into them.


I am speaking from memory, and I do not know that I can give dates, but the fact that British troops have been hooted and hissed within recent months when marching through Cairo is a fact which no one acquainted with all the circumstances of Cairo will dispute or deny. I pass on to other statements of the right hon. Gentleman which are not so easy to reconcile with the situation which has grown up under the administration of the present Government. I was delighted to hear him say that the policy of the Government has been carried out with admirable skill by Sir Eldon Gorst. He also told us what was most interesting—and I am sure that the House heard the statement with great satisfaction—that Mr. Roosevelt, before he spoke, had communicated his views on the present situation most fully to him, that he heard them with the greatest pleasure, and that he heard them repeated with similar pleasure at the Guildhall. But what was the first of these statements? It was that the duty of the English Government was to establish and maintain order and to put down all disorder in Egypt. He went further than that and said, "If you are not able or willing to put down the disorder which prevails at present, why, then, go out of Egypt altogether." That was one of the statements Mr. Roosevelt made, and if, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, there is nothing in the situation of Egypt at the present time to occasion any disquiet whatever—these are the words he used— what, in Heaven's name, was the reason for or the object of the remarkable speech delivered by Mr. Roosevelt, and which the right hon. Gentleman heard with such pleasure at the Guildhall? I do not think, if he will forgive me for saying so, that the right hon. Gentleman has at all successfully reconciled the statements he made on this point.


I said that in the actual state of things at the present moment there was no occasion for any new departure.


I took down the words, and he also said that there was nothing in the present situation to occasion disquiet. I am not quite sure whether he thinks there is occasion for disquiet or not. I have no doubt on the subject. I am perfectly certain that there are the gravest reasons for disquiet. I am equally certain from what Mr. Roosevelt stated in his speeches, both in Cairo, where he made a remarkable speech, and in the Guildhall, and from what he said to me privately, that he also believes there is ample ground for disquiet. I am delighted he made the Guildhall speech, for I can conceive nothing which would bring home more clearly to the British people than does his speech the present position in Egypt. If he did not see reason for disquiet, what was the meaning and what was the object of making the speech at all?

Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the murder of the Prime Minister was in a sense an isolated act. I do not quite know what the words "in a sense" meant. I do not understand that it was an isolated act. There were constant acts of great disorder and other attempts to murder, and, as showing how rapidly those disorders increased, I may refer to the attempted murder of one of the best of the English officials in Cairo, Harvey Pasha, an extremely well known man, and head of the police in Cairo. It was only by the mercy of God that within a few days of the murder of the Prime Minister he escaped assassination himself. What was the cause of his attempted assassination I am not in a position to say, but can anybody say that the murder of the Prime Minister was an isolated act when the Chief Inspector of the English police within a few days afterwards only just escaped a similar murder by the greatest piece of luck in the world? What happened? Harvey Pasha met one of these half crazy fanatics, I suppose, led on by the Egyptian Press or by the Nationalist party who, as your Minister has stated in his Report in the most unqualified terms, must be regarded as absolutely responsible for the murder of Boutros Pasha; and this fanatic who was walking along the corridor, I understand, of one of the departments in Cairo, having got close to Harvey Pasha, fired a pistol at him point blank. By the mercy of Heaven, some man close by just had time to strike the pistol up into the air, and it just missed him. Yet the right hon. Gentleman would have us believe that this murder of the Prime Minister on which Mr. Roosevelt laid so much stress, and as to which Sir Eldon Gorst has used the strongest possible language, was an isolated act. In my humble judgment it cannot be rightly described as anything of the kind. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to speak of the policy which the Government had been pursuing in Egypt. He said that the policy was one of gradually educating and training up natives to per- form the duties of officials in Egyptian administration. That policy began, it is quite true, during the period of Lord Cromer, and I understand that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with Lord Cromer that that policy has been carried on rather too fast. I should venture to say myself, whatever my opinion is worth—and I only voice the opinions of men of much greater experience, position and standing in Egyptian affairs—that that policy has been carried a great deal too far.

Many native officials, feeling that they have not got the protection which they ought to have from the English Government, and the weakness of that Government becoming more and more apparent, they are ready to throw them over, and to take up with the party which appears to have so powerful and so unfortunate an influence at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the Legislative Council and about the Press Laws. No doubt if the Press Laws be administered as they ought to be administered at the present time, they probably would have a very real and a very serious effect in checking these disorders. They are the most useful, perhaps the best weapon that could be employed at the present time. Supposing the Press Laws were administered as they ought to be, supposing there is a genuine attempt by the Government to enforce them, will the officials responsible for their administration think it their duty to carry them out, and, if they do, will they be supported in the long run even by the courts? I am by no means so certain as people would naturally imagine and for this reason: I believe there can be no doubt whatever that at the present time there is a widely-organised conspiracy of the Nationalist party in Egypt, spreading now widely in various parts of the country, for the purpose of paralysing all government in Egypt under its present rulers.

They hope to do this by establishing something in the nature of a reign of terror. Why, at this moment—I think that our Resident will endorse every word I am saying—I believe all the official classes, from Members of the Cabinet downwards to the judges of the land and all the smaller officials, are flooded with threatening letters addressed to them day after day. I have heard it said by people who ought to have a very good knowledge of what goes on in Egypt, that if there be not a Committee of Terror in existence already, there is at all events someone who addresses and writes letters on their behalf to great numbers of individuals and officials of all kinds in all parts of the country who are supposed to be hostile to the views of the Nationalist party. I do not know that there is anything more I can say usefully or with any effect upon this occasion. I should not have ventured to speak at all but for the fact that in recent years, and again lately, I have had some means and opportunity of acquiring a good deal of information about the general situation. Only within the last year and a half I have been to Egypt on three different occasions. I had been there three or four times before, and this time for something like two months. I therefore hope that I have not exceeded my duty in any way. I think I should have fallen short of it having been a member of Administrations in this country and a Member of this House for a great number of years if I had remained altogether silent. I have heard with profound satisfaction many parts of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary to-night, but I am still apprehensive that he does not take a sufficiently serious view of the situation as a whole. I do hope and trust that he will make known by practice, as well as by precept, and without any further delay, the determination of the English Government at all costs, at all hazards, so long as they remain in Egypt, which it is impossible all parties are agreed for them to abandon, their absolute determination at all costs to put down disorder and to restrain and stop crime, and to maintain the position in Egypt as it was maintained up to a very few years ago.


After the Debate which has taken place it seems almost an anti-climax to come back to the financial part of the Bill now before the House. I trust I am not intervening at a moment when any other hon. Member desires to carry on the Debate on Egypt. I come back to the purely financial part of the Consolidated Fund Bill, and I have a suggestion and I have a complaint to make. Up till 1870 every Consolidated Fund Bill and every Appropriation Bill contained a clause prohibiting the issue and application of money by officials to any other purpose than those which had been voted by the House of Commons. In the year 1870, for some reason which I have been unable to ascertain, for there was no Debate in the House of Commons, nothing but a remark of Mr. Stansfield that it was done for simplification, those governing clauses, as to the issue and application of money voted by the House, were omitted. I could give many instances of the improper application of moneys which have come to my knowledge in the Public Accounts Committee, but I only desire to open my case to-night. I propose to reintroduce some of the clauses which were formerly put into the Consolidated Bill and the Appropriation Bill, and I merely desire to make my ground on the Second Reading. The fact is that officials have constantly applied moneys, I will not use a stronger word at this moment than irregularly. I know many cases, but I am content with one of the latest. On 28th February, 1909, the expenditure on old age pensions amounted to a million pounds odd, being £69,500 in excess of the sum at that time voted by Parliament. That £69,000 could only be issued either for the sum already voted or for the Civil Contingencies Fund. That fund did not contain enough, and the final result was that £4,000 odd was taken out of the money of the Post Office, which had been voted for no other purpose than for the salaries and expenses of the Post Office, and was applied to the payment of old age pensions. I think that is a very serious and a very shocking abuse. I believe the real criminal is the right hon. Gentleman who sits below me. I am sure he did it with the best intentions. He felt that the old age pension payments could not be stopped, but so did Robin Hood. His practice was to rob the rich in order to endow the poor with pensions, not necessarily dependent on old age; but I have never heard any lawyer or Minister justify such a practice on that ground. In the Consolidated Fund Act, 1866, there was this clause:—

"It shall be lawful for the said Commissioners to issue and pay from time to time all such sums of money as should be raised by Exchequer Bills.…to such services as should then have been voted by the Commons of the United Kingdom."

A similar guarding clause, slightly different, appeared in the Appropriation Act of the same year. I shall propose in Committee to restore a similar clause. From all time such a clause had existed both in the Consolidation Act and in the Appro- priation Act. The last form of it was in 1866, and that form was most properly adopted in consequence of certain alterations in the Schedule. In 1870 for the first time it was discontinued, but no reason was assigned. One result has been considerable irregularities and improprieties in the issue and application of public money. I shall propose to restore that clause and to add a penalty, because an official is only to be kept in order by having a bit put into his mouth and a curb chain under his chin. That curb chain I propose to represent by what I consider to be an appropriate penalty. In the issue of this sum for old age pensions by the Post Office two offences were committed— one was against the Exchequer and Audit Act,1866, which enacted that the Post Office should pay in its gross revenue to the Exchequer Account in the Bank of England, and the other was the issue of moneys without proper authority. As a last word, let me remind the House that what I propose to introduce into this Bill is nothing new. None of the words are new. The principle, the form, is not new. The only thing that is new is that I propose to introduce a penalty for violation of the clauses which have been of old time, and were only abandoned in 1870.


I will recall to the recollection of my hon. Friend the circumstances under which the Treasury committed what was unquestionably and admittedly an illegality. The Vote for the old age pensions was a new vote, and the amount of money required could not be calculated to a nicety. Two days after this House met, it was discovered, on 19th February, 1909, that the money was likely to run short, and would not be sufficient to meet the payments of the following week. There were only two alternatives which could be adopted. One was to stop the payment of the pensions, and defeat the purpose of Parliament. This would have caused the greatest possible inconvenience and hardship to a large number of well-deserving persons. The other course was to exceed the payment which Parliament had explicitly authorised by the payment of some £4,000 It was, I think, clearly desirable from every point of view to commit this illegality.

The Committee admitted it when the matter came under the review of the Public Accounts Committee. They endeavoured at the first possible moment to obtain an indemnity. The Controller and Auditor-General drew attention to the matter in his report, and the Public Accounts Committee drew attention to it in the Paper they presented to Parliament. All they said was:—

"The Committee regret that the situation should have arisen, while recognising that it was difficult to estimate the amount of money that would be required for old age pensions for the first few months."

With regard to the proposed remedy, I may inform the hon. Member that the insertion of the words that have been omitted from both the Appropriation Act and the Consolidated Fund Act since 1870—that the restoration of those words would by no means accomplish the purpose which he has in view. It would be perfectly possible, even if these words were restored, to commit the same illegality. I entirely sympathise with the hon. Gentleman in his desire to check expenditure which has not been authorised by Parliament, but admittedly occasions will arise from time to time in which, both for the convenience of the House and in the general interests of the taxpayers, a Committee may, by a necessary payment, commit an illegal action for a day or two rather than dislocate the whole financial machinery of the country.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to. Bill to be considered in Committee to-morrow (Tuesday).