§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Captain ORMSBY-GORE
I understand that the subject of the Coal Commission is not to be debated to-night, and that the discussion is to continue on the Consolidated Fund Bill on other matters. So far, this afternoon, agricultural topics have been under consideration, but by an arrangement with the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs I desire to raise the question of Egypt. At this present moment the condition of Egypt is causing considerable disquiet amongst those who care both for Egypt itself and for the part which the British nation has played in bringing that country to a pitch of prosperity and progress which it has never known in all the days of its age-long history. Readers of papers have been much disturbed during the last few days by accounts of riots and the cutting of communications between Alexandria and Cairo, and of the general political unrest in that country, and I rise this evening to ask the representative of the Foreign Office in this House if he will give us somethingmore than was given by the Lord President of the Council in another place with regard to the origin of the troubles now prevalent in Egypt, and with regard to the policy which His Majesty's Government intend to pursue in future in that country. In particular I 2349 want to ask the hon. Gentleman if he will give us fuller information regarding the events which led up to the unfortunate resignation of the Prime Minister in Egypt. I have considerable personal regard for the Prime Minister of Egypt, who, before the War and throughout the War, has loyally stood by England, and has done his best throughout his long official life to work with the British as the British have done to work with him, for the prosperity and good government of this country. I approach this question as one who is, above all, anxious to see British influence and British control maintained in Egypt. It is not merely essential from the point of view of British interests throughout the world—in the interest of the communications of theBritish. Empire—but, having some considerable acquaintance with Egypt, I am absolutely convinced that British influence and British control must be maintained if Egypt is to continue to prosper and to advance. We are in Egypt, not for our own purposes so much as to help Egypt, and the record of England's work in Egypt, from the time when Lord Cromer first became Consul General, is one of which every Britisher is proud. It is most unfortunate that the end of the War, in which our troops operating from Egypt have defended that country from German and Turkish aggression, should be marked by unpleasant scenes, and by the bad news that we have had during the last week.
I would like to tell the House why, in my opinion, it is absolutely necessary in the interests of Egypt herself, that British influence and British control should be maintained. Take the irrigation service alone. The life-blood of Egypt is the water of the Nile, and it is absolutely essential that the greatest amount of engineering skill which is available should be applied to the conservation and the distribution of its water. It is only people who have been in Upper Egypt—south of Cairo—during the heat of the summer, in June and July, when water is short and when every cultivator in Egypt regards every drop of water as something to be eagerly sought, who knows the real value of the skilled British irrigation service. If you remove that service, I am perfectly confident that there are thousands of peasants in lower reaches and the Delta of the Nile who will not get a drop of 2350 water. I have been up on the irrigation launches with the British and Scottish and Irish engineers, whose duty it is to gauge the coming flood and its exact height and to see that in each particular district the local population build up the banks of the Nile not for the immediate use and protection of the people of that district but for the use and the protection of the crops of people hundreds of miles below. I am convinced, if British influence and the British irrigation service were withdrawn from Egypt, that thousands of acres would go out of perennial cultivation, that the prosperity of that country would go down, that unrest and injustice in regard to water distribution would increase, and that, instead of getting as you do get under British guidance and with British help literally millions of acres brought under perennial cultivation for the first time in history, and instead of perpetually increasing the food and cotton crops, you would have the same terrible state of affairs that you had in Egypt during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when things were left more or less to themselves.
I have the firm conviction that British influence and British control must be maintained in Egypt not merely in our own Imperial interests—they are obvious, the Suez Canal being truly the neck of the British Empire and the foreign policy of Egypt being one that it is absolutely essential that we should control—but in the interests of Egypt herself. The present situation which has led to the resignation of the Egyptian Cabinet, the trial and deportation of the leaders of the Nationalist party, followed by riots of a somewhat serious kind, has come from a situation which I certainly think that a great many people have foreseen, or should have foreseen. What is the fact? I In the early days of the War the political status of Egypt was changed. A British Protectorate was declared, the Ottoman suzerainty was done away with, and in place of a British Consul-General a British High Commissioner was appointed to advise the Sultan in the selection of his Ministers and in the government of the country. We established a Sultanate in the place of a Khediviate and made quite superficial changes in the constitution of Egypt. It was understood by everybody in Egypt that our declaration of a Protectorate in war-time would, as soon as peace was declared, have to be denned in greater detail, and that some definite statement 2351 with regard to the constitutional position in Egypt would have to be made. Since that time there has been all over the world a growth not merely of the idea of self-determination, but also of the idea of government with the consent of the governed, and that has been proclaimed in the East as well as in Europe. In the days before the Armistice a joint declaration was made by the French and British Governments in Syria and Mesopotamia, countries of Arabic speech adjoining Egypt, and with regard to the first of which the Armies of Occupation had come from Egypt. England and France made the following declaration:The aim which France and Great Britain have in view in waging in the East the War let loose upon the world by German ambition, is to ensure the complete and final emancipation of all thosepeoples so long oppressed by the Turks, and to establish national governments and administrations which shall derive their authority from the initiative and free will of the people themselves. To realise this, France and Great Britain are in agreement toencourage and assist the establishment of native governments in Syria and Mesopotamia, now liberated by the Allies, as also in those territories for whose liberation they are striving and to recognise those governments immediately they are effectively established.Far from wishing to impose on the peoples of these regions this or that institution, they have no other care than to assure, by their support and practical aid, the normal workings of such governments and administrations as the peoples shall themselves have adopted; to guarantee impartial and even justice for all, to facilitate the economic development of the country by arousing and encouraging local initiative, to foster the spread of education, to put an end to those factions too long exploited by Turkish policy—such is the part which the two Allied Governments have set themselves to play in the liberated territories.Those liberated territories are at the door of Egypt, and any proclamation which is made in Syria is bound to have its reflex in Egypt. I understand, from what the Lord President of the Council said the day before yesterday in another place, that something of the same kind has already been communicated to the late Prime Minister of Egypt. Lord Curzon stated that His Majesty's Government,while sympathising with the idea that the Egyptians should be allowed an increasing share in the government of Egypt said that they could not abandon the responsibility for order and good conduct in Egypt and of safeguarding the rights and interests of the native and foreign populations, etc.That is the same thing shortly. The British Government policy is I understand, and I hope to hear so in the speech 2352 by the hon. Gentleman who represents the Foreign Office to-night, "while sympathising with the idea that the Egyptians should be allowed an increasing share in the government of Egypt."That is their declared policy. I believe that the trouble in Egypt has arisen largely because the Foreign Office have not sought an earlier opportunity for discussing with the Egyptian Ministers the meaning of those declarations. There is no use in making vague declarations to an eastern people unless you consult with them as to what you mean in practice by those declarations. The resignation of the PrimeMinister of Egypt and all that has followed since has arisen, I understand, from the refusal by the Foreign Office to permit the Prime Minister of Egypt and other representatives of Egyptian opinion to come here to London to discuss the meaning of the phrase which His Majesty's Government say is going to be their policy in Egypt. I think nothing could be more unfortunate than delay in this matter. When a responsible Minister such as the late Prime Minister of Egypt definitely asks that before you present him and the Egyptians with a fait accompli they should be heard with regard to the definition of the policy declared by His Majesty's Government, I think that it is both reasonable and right that he should be heard. I personally much regret that an invitation was not sent by the Foreign Office to the Egyptian Government, both British and Egyptian, inviting that Government to attend the Peace Conference at Paris, just as it asked representatives of India. I think it would have been useful and helpful in discussing their Eastern affairs, but that invitation was never made. I understand that the Prime Minister of Egypt and the Ministry of Egypt never made such a request. They merely asked to be allowed to come to London to state their case. I think it was most important that they should have been allowed to come to London, and I believe that much of the trouble that has arisen is due to the fact that they were not allowed to come to London. There was before the Government an alternative. It was the alternative that they should send out a Commission, not a Departmental Commission of the Foreign Office, but a representative Commission, including, I hope, Members of this House; and I am not at all sure that that is not the policy which should now be pursued. If they do not hear Egyptians in London, I think it is 2353 advisable that they should send out a representative Commission to hear Egyptians there, and before they make up their minds, whether it is in finance or in industries or in irrigation or in what department of the Government, that the Egyptians should be allowed an increased share, it is most important that local opinion should be heard.
With regard to what has followed the resignation of the Egyptian Ministry, the fact is that, by refusing to accede to the request of the Prime Minister of Egypt to come here, and in default of the alternative of sending a Commission out, an opportunity has been presented to the extremist section in Egypt. The opportunity was given to the Nationalists to go about Egypt and to say, "Oh, the British Government are not sympathetic, they will not hear you or let the Prime Minister go to England. Look to us as your friends."To my mind it is most unfortunate that you waited until the Prime Minister had resigned before taking action against the extreme section of the Nationalists, if you were determined to take action. To deport the Nationalists after the political crisis was rather unfortunate. It is over a year ago since, when I was myself in Egypt, I heard that Saad Zaglone was leading an anti-British party in Egypt. It has been known for a long time that he and his extreme section had been working against all British influence and British government. But practically no action appears to have been taken and no action was taken, asit should have been made, to strengthen the party which exists in Egypt, the party of moderate men who are anxious to work with the British Protectorate, with the Sultan, and with the late Ministry, and to progress along constitutional lines. If you do not give support to that party you do not give it a chance to exist, and you, as it were, give the game to the Nationalist extremist and enable him to exploit the elements in the population which are only too ready to be exploited. Remember that in dealing with Egypt we are dealing with a country where the vast mass of the population are still illiterate, and we are dealing with a race which are substantially the same as the race which built the Pyramids, and which has been under successive tyrannies. It is only recently that they tasted anything of liberty or constitutional government whatever, only in the last thirty years. Further, you are dealing with a country which, situated in the 2354 East, has all the great qualities and yet all the defects of the East, and where rumours run and where rumours are exaggerated, and therefore it becomes essential that every step you take is taken with sympathy.
I want to ask the hon. Member who represents the Foreign Office whether the Foreign Office have in this matter consistently followed and accepted the advice of Sir Reginald Wingate? That is a very important fact to find out. Did Sir Reginald Wingate recommend, or did he not recommend, that Egyptian opinion be heard before the future constitutional settlement of the Protectorate was finally decided? After the Armistice, when General Allenby's splendid victory assured, the future peace of Egypt, the feeling in Egypt was that the time had come for a clearer definition of the British Government's policy, which had been enshrined in these declarations and these promises of good intentions. It was felt that something was needed—some definite step. I, personally, have always held the view that the present administration of Egypt through the Foreign Office has a greatdeal, to be said against it. The Foreign Office is very busily engaged upon diplomatic questions, and does not pay, to my mind, sufficient attention to the many administrative questions which arise out of Egypt. The Foreign Office is not, and ought not tobe, an administrative Department dealing with administration, and Egypt is largely a question of administration. Further than that, you want essentially the sympathy of trained administrators coupled with political guidance. That is what I feel you have not got in the bureaucracy of the Foreign Office.
Frankly, we in this House have felt for a long time that, not only in questions of foreign policy, but in all questions where the Foreign Office is concerned, there is a considerable gulf between democratic opinion as expressed in this House and the sort of tradition under which the Foreign Office works. We heard that the Foreign Office after the War was going to be reformed. I hope the hon. Member who has recently come to this office will have a beneficial effect in it. I hope he will bring to it the sympathy of modern democratic and progressive ideals, because I feel that in the Egyptian Department particularly, something of that kind is needed. What is needed, above all, is a new spirit. I do not believe you want great changes in the Constitution. I 2355 believe that, in the matter of the interior, there is room for considerable improvement in the relations between the British and the Egyptian officials. I believe that, in the case of the Department of Justice, the native has proved himself worthy of the responsibilities that have been placed on him. It is one of the questions which requires sympathy and guidance at every turn, and I have felt that there is a great deal to be said for moving the Egyptian Department from the Foreign Office altogether. Of course, it depends very much on who is the head of these various Departments. If it were moved to the Colonial Office, where you have got at present Lord Milner, who has unrivalled experience of Egypt and sympathy with Egypt, you would get, I think, probably greater attention and feeling for the needs and the importance of the Egyptian question than you will get, if I may say so, under the present regime of the Foreign Office. But my ideal is—I do not know whether it is too early to ask the Government whether they have made up their mind in the matter—that the Arabic-speaking world and our responsibility to the Arabic-speaking world, should be a Department, just as India is.
It looks as if we shall have great responsibilities in regard to Mesopotamia. We have already great responsibilities in Aden and all round and in the great Arabian peninsular, and our influence has been extended to Palestine. I am convinced that neither the Foreign Office nor the India Office is so constituted as to enable it to deal adequately with the needs and aspirations and over-seeing of the great Civil Service that will be wanted by the British to help and assist the peoples of the Arabic-speaking world in their development and in their future. I do urge upon the Government the consideration of the desirability of forming a Department, either under a separate Secretary of State, or at least an Under-Secretary, which will bring greater contact between those countries and the administration in Whitehall, and will look at those countries not quite with the eye of the India Office, and certainly not with the eye of the Foreign Office. I do think we should realise that a certain constitutional development in Egypt is absolutely necessary and brooks no delay, and that is a development which will bring in some element of those many gifted foreign populations who live in Egypt— 2356 who hitherto have been in Egypt, but not of it. Before the War, owing to Capitulations, which, I hope, will be got rid of by the Peace Treaty, there lived many thousands of Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Italians, Frenchmen, and others in Egypt, but taking practically no part or share in the government of that country. If the Capitulations are abolished you will have at your disposal in guiding the destinies of Egypt all those new elements which will be most helpful, which stand for a great deal, not merely in the commercial, but in the intellectual and the moral life of the country, and I hope some constitutional means will be found whereby you will adapt that source of human power and energy for the future progress and development of Egypt.
I will give one instance which occurs to my mind. The present editor and owner of the most widely distributed Arabic daily newspaper in the world, the "Mokattam," happens to be a Syrian—at least he comes from that debated country, which is not quite in the Lebanon, and not quite under the aegis of Damascus, but just in the Jordan Valley, and, therefore, may be said to be in Palestine. Whatever his nationality may be, all his life has been given to Egypt and in Egypt, and yet, because he is a Syrian, he is practically debarred from taking his place in the governing and guiding of Egypt. I hope that will come to an end, and that these very valuable men will become part and parcel of what must always be a heterogeneous community. The Egyptian, who is of the same race as those who built the Pyramids, and who worked under Alexander and under the Cæsars, is in a majority. They have acquired the Arabic speech, and the Arabian religion of the Koran. They are in a majority. But there are large and important minorities. The Copts are of the same race and religion. These elements require representation and their interests require regard. In order to achieve this you must have a satisfactory constitution. I believe you will have to have two Chambers—a new Constitution of Egypt. You will require to have a Senate as well as a Legislative Assembly, elected as you have at present. Still more, you will have to have reorganisation of the whole of the Ministry of the Interior. I do not wish to go into great detail now, but I wish to close by saying that I am convinced that England has yet a great work to perform and a great duty 2357 towards Egypt and its population. The work Britain has done already on the material side has been one of the noblest monuments which she has ever erected—the bringing under cultivation of thousands of acres and the increase in the prosperity of the country, which is quite remarkable in history. We went to Egypt and found her groaning under tyranny and death. Now Egypt is one of the most financially flourishing countries, one of the richest and one of the most economically satisfactory ones. But we have not finished the work, even on the side of material progress. Much remains to be done. We are only at the beginning of the work of moral and intellectual regeneration.
The last reports from Egypt in regard to our educational work have not been satisfactory. We have to see that more money is spent upon education. Better education is required more suited to the needs of the country. We have to see about the health of the country. In the matter of the public health our work has hardly begun, certainly with respect to hospital treatment and matters of that kind. Above all, we have to see to the matter of political education. Frequently there comes to light a scandal. Take the case of one of the men deported, and probably most rightly deported. He was appointed to a responsible position by the British Government and was subsequently discovered to be mixed up in police scandals which were disgraceful. He had been taking bribes, and was guilty of corruption. If wrong in this narrative, I can be corrected. We have yet to create in Egypt that feeling of responsibility among the Egyptians which only years of example and tuition, of assistance and sympathy, of good guidance and help, will give them. Remember that there is 400 years of tradition of theworst-governed province of the Ottoman Empire behind those people. Remember that during the whole of the eighteenth century we hardly knew the name of a single Pasha of Egypt, of a single Governor. They went there. They taught corruption, and spread it. They lived on Egypt. They were either killed or else they cleared out. That has eaten into the very soul of things. You see it in even things like water, where a man tries to get a little more water than he is entitled to at the expense of his neighbour. That is one of the great reasons why we have British irrigation.
2358 But I see the dawn of hope. The nation of Egypt is a nation of possibilties under British example and guidance. If we give them of our best and our best ideals we can in time—and it will take time—that sense of responsibility which alone will enable the people to take an effective share in the government of the country. It is that sense of responsibility which ought to be brought home. There should be no more attempts on thepart of native Ministers to try and shelter behind the British Adviser, or under the Moodir, the provincial Governor. The native rulers, if found responsible, should have that responsibility brought home to them. It is only by bringing them up and assisting them to achieve that sense of responsibility that the crown of British work in Egypt will be achieved. It is only by developing that sense of responsibility of the people of Egypt and of the Government that England's work will be properly fulfilled. I hope the Foreign Office, who are responsible for Egypt, who have an Egyptian Department, and who are responsible to the people of this country and to this House for seeing that progress, good government, fairness, and justice are maintained in Egypt, will dowhat they can to get out of the ugly situation at present in Egypt, and will lead us back into the paths Lord Kitchener showed could be pursued; paths which meant the health of the poorest in Egypt; which made his name a blessing and blest by every fellah in Egypt. I hope that such a policy of working with the Egyptians will bring about a better moral, political, and material state of things.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
My hon. Friend has made a speech full of weight, bold outlook, and first-hand knowledge, above allof wide and alert sympathy, and one which is worthy of a larger audience than he has had. I hope it will find an audience beyond the walls of this House. There can be no question but that our administration in Egypt at this time is at a very critical point. My excuse for intervening now is because, while I agree with the matters raised by my hon. Friend, and particularly feeling the same difficulty that he feels with regard to administration by the Foreign Office, I wish particularly to draw attention to one point, and one sphere, in which that administration by the Foreign Office is very seriously defective. I agree with my hon. Friend that the Foreign Office is, perhaps, too old an office, and the very last that should be 2359 entrusted with the supervision of the administration in Egypt. It lacks sympathy. It lacks ready touch with those who really are in touch with and know Egypt. On the other hand, it is far too much occupied with diplomatic considerations, and it is not concerned with direct administrative questions. We know from experience in Egypt that too often projects are started, looked upon sympathetically by those in Egypt, pushed forward with the ardour of those working for the good of the people, and then are checked by some bureaucratic influence within the Foreign Office. Particularly I wish to draw attention to the very serious responsibility we have for the public health in Egypt.
The other day I put a question to the Foreign Office in regard to this, and asked whether the Report of the Commission which had lately sat, and which had unanimously reported in favour of the appointment of a Minister of Health, was going to have any realisation. I was answered by the usual bureaucratic "put-up" answer, "that certain measures would be taken, but no decision had been arrived at,"or some words of that sort. This is a typical example of the method in which things are treated in regard to Egypt in the Foreign Office. When that question was put down, was Sir Reginald Wingate consulted? Was there any communication with him? I Were any of those who know the position in Egypt consulted before that "put-up,"evasive, and unsatisfactory answer was given? I can hardly believe it Let us see what is the history of this question. It was started in Egypt with the sympathy of the authorities there, with the goodwill of the High Commissioner, Sir Reginald Wingate. It was first mooted in 1917. Delays took place, but the Commission was ultimately appointed in June of 1918. Lieutenant-Colonel A. Balfour, whose investigations into, and whose benefits to humanity in the matter of zymotic diseases is well known, was made chairman.
That generally consisted of four well-qualified experts all interested and all with high experience. Their report was delivered with promptitude. The Commission was appointed on the 1st June, 1918, and so urgent did they feel their work that they reported under two months. They examined an enormous number of witnesses; they were full of knowledge of the subject, and they unanimously recommended the appointment of a 2360 Minister. They admitted that certain steps had been taken which were beneficial, but they pointed out that the one necessity was the appointment of a responsible Minister of Health, and that it would not do to leave this question of such vital interest to the people of Egypt to a Department of the Home Office, whose head was an Under-Secretary, absolutely unversed in all these matters, and it was through him alone that the responsible experts could have access to the Council of Ministers or the High Commissioner. That was at once condemned.
It is a matter of vital importance to the well-being of Egypt and the Egyptians that there should be a Minister of Health. The importance of the problem of health as one of the necessities for the people of Egypt was seen by Lord Kitchener. This Report says that Lord Kitchener in his Report had foreshadowed certain measures which must form an integral part of any future health campaign, such as the need of education and the element of hygiene. Itrequired a moving spirit and a man determined to drive through all this bureaucracy. This was an essential need of the Egyptian people, and when this strong hand was gone, bureaucracy had the higher power and stopped all these efforts.
Is it any wonder that the men who sat upon that Commission, who spent their lives in the work, made sacrifices and incurred dangers perhaps as great as those who fought in the War, that they should express their feelings strongly? What can their feelings now be when the Report is stopped, not for any lack of sympathy or realisation in Egypt itself or by the responsible Government, but by this bureaucracy. It has been stopped by the evasiveness of a bureaucratic representative. The necessity for this Ministry is sufficiently proved, and I should prove false to the aspirations and wishes of many of those who have given their lives and sacrificed their health in this work, many of whom I am proud to number amongst my own Constituents in the University of Scotland, if I did not tryto give an echo to their feelings in this House. We want organisation, and that can only come from a responsible Minister and not from a mere director of medical services who has to report to some under-staffer at the Home Office in Egypt to have his views represented to the higher authorities, and finally to be decided upon and perhaps shelved indefinitely by some bureaucratic influence in the Foreign Office. There has 2361 been placed in my hands a memorandum by Dr. Goodman, who, amongst his colleagues, is distinguished for the work he has done in Egypt. Dr. Goodman says:The peculiar necessity for a Ministry of Health in Egypt lies in this—that as there is no public opinion in the country demanding health reform the whole of the driving force infavour of health measures must come from within the Government itself, or rather that part of the administration charged with public health duties. The progress attained is directly proportional to the influence which can be brought to bear upon the Government. As at present constituted, the Department of Public Health has no direct influence upon the policy of the Government: it is represented neither upon the Council of Minister nor upon the unofficial council of British advisers which, with the High Commissioner, go to make up the somewhat informal system of government in Egypt. The High Commissioner, except in so far as he is controlled by the Foreign Office, is possessed of supreme authority in so far as he cares to exercise it, but the representative of the Public Health Department has no right of access to him to press forward public health measures or to oppose measures detrimental to the health of the country. The Public Health is a subordinate Department classed with and often below the Customs, the Coastguards, the Public Lands, and the Survey Departments, which, however important in themselves, have very little concern with the public policy of the country. The result of this system, or lack of system, is, as might be expected, a reign of disorganisation and misunderstanding. No opportunity is ever offered for the consideration of the health problem as a whole; lack of co-ordination between the various Departments has led to conditions injurious to the health which might have been easily remedied at the outset; individual public health measures are presented and pressed forward second, and very often third or fourth hand, or not presented at all—killed or mutilated for some unknown reason by some unknown official of the superior hierarchy; measures with a strong public health bearing are discussed and agreed to without consultation with the Department, which is left with the choice between silence and a belated and irritating protest.We have accomplished a great work in Egypt. We have improved her resources, we have developed her commerce, we have adjusted her political relations, and I hope, with my hon. and gallant Friend, that we shall be able to develop some political instincts of free government amongst her people. We may be proud of allthese things, but they bring with them their responsibilities. Our administration in Egypt will be arraigned by history, not so much for the great commercial and material results that we have obtained, or by the diplomatic successes we may have achieved;it will be judged by what we have done for the people of Egypt who are under our charge, and for whom we are custodians. The first 2362 necessity in order to lift them out of their misery is to provide for their health, not to allow them to rot away in insanitary villages, without water supplies, without any proper and decent conveniences of life, devoured by all sorts of plagues and vermin. We have to do that work for them, and to carry on that good work, which is by far the highest because it is the mostbenevolent we have to do in Egypt; we must have a Ministry properly organised, independent, with full access to a sympathetic administration in Egypt, and not hampered at every turn and clogged in all its projects by the paralysing effect of bureaucratic administration.
§ Major Earl WINTERTON
If my right hon. Friend who has just spoken had a more intimate knowledge of the Middle East than he possesses, he would know that, important as are the reforms he has been suggesting, nothing would be more likely at the present time to increase the already exacerbated feelings of the Egyptians than to attempt to make them clean by Act of Parliament. There is no part of the world in which the people have a less idea of the value of personal or public cleanliness than inthe Near East. If he would allow me to say so, with all respect and without impertinence, the discussion of the creation of a Public Health Department in Egypt at a time when the whole future government of the country is in jeopardy, is in a large degreeputting the cart before the horse. I should like to add my tribute to the very admirable way in which my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Ormsby-Gore) initiated this part of the Debate, and dealt with the problems with which the Empire is faced in Egypt at the present time. Possibly the House is aware that certainly no private Members of the House—and this applies to some members of the 'Government—have such an intimate knowledge of Egypt, its government, and its problems as my hon. and gallant Friend. Without conceit I may claim that after him I have a more intimate knowledge of that government and its work than most other Members of the House. I have visited Egypt on many occasions. I was in the Sudan before the War. Over eleven years ago I penetrated through the Lower Sudan into Abyssinia, and I have been present for more than three years on various parts of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force Front. I have been over the whole of the Sinai Peninsula. I have 2363 ridden by horse and camel to theother side of Jaffa, and proceeded from Akabar to within fifty miles of Damascus. For various reasons connected with the military position in Egypt I have been brought into close and intimate relationship with the British officials who are at the presenttime faced with the very grave responsibility of administering that country under the extremely anomalous system of government we have in operation there.
My hon. and gallant Friend mentioned that Egypt and the Suez Canal were in reality the main artery ofthe British Empire. I would like to emphasise that point, because although it may be re-regarded as a mere platitude, it is a platitude not sufficiently realised by present day public opinion in this country. Thirty-five years ago the name of Egypt was on every lip in this country. Mr. Gladstone's Government and the Prime Minister himself were the subject of attack from every quarter owing to their vacillating policy in Egypt. No political crisis in this country during the last fifty years has excited, andmore properly excited, public attention than did the Egyptian crisis in the 'eighties. Those days have long passed, but I can assure the House that the importance of Egypt and the Suez Canal to this country is no whit less to-day—not even the invention of flying has altered it—than it was then. It is deplorable to think of the small section of opinion in the Press or among the public that takes any real interest in Egypt and its future government. The other day I happened to attend a dinner given to a very distinguished Governor of a Province in India, formerly a member of this House, who will be known to many hon. Members, my right hon. Friend Lord Willingdon. He told us at that dinner that he had been enormously struck by the fact that Indians of all shades of opinion and of all classes in Indian society who came to see him, said that the fact which most disheartened and depressed them was the small interest taken by this country, and especially by this House and another place in Indian affairs, when they came to be discussed. Lord Willingdon said that he had sorrowfully to admit that so far as this House and another place were concerned that was true. If it is true of India, it is doubly true, unfortunately, of Egypt. The num- 2364 ber of hon. Members in this new House who have any knowledge of Egypt or of Middle Eastern affairs is very small.
I should like to say here, if it is not out of order, how much I personally, and many hon. Members who knew them, deeply regret the loss, first, of SirClement Hill; secondly, through the elevation to a Governorship, of Sir George Lloyd, the present Governor of Bombay; and thirdly, the late Sir Mark Sykes. In all those three the House possessed members with great knowledge and experience of Eastern, Egyptian, and African affairs. I venture to say, with all respect, that I do hope that in this new House more attention will be paid to Indian, to Middle-Eastern, and to African matters than was the case in former Parliaments.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
That is going into another matter, though the hon. and gallant Gentleman may rest assured that I am not out of sympathy with his remarks, but that, on the contrary, I entirely sympathise. My experience of the House during all the years I have been in it is that all Governments seem to discourage interest being taken in Indian, Egyptian, or African administration, and my right hon. Friend (Sir H. Craik), who has also been with me in many Debates on Indian and African affairs, willagree with me. All I say is that I am perfectly convinced that this has a deplorably bad effect on the prestige and position of this country. It is reported in the Indian or Egyptian papers that the question of India or Egypt was taken in the House of Commons at the dinner hour, and that only a few Members were present; and immediately it is followed up by an outburst of articles in the vernacular Press, saying, "This is how the Imperial Parliament, with its pretended interest in the welfare of the native races, treats these subjects when they are brought to its notice and attention."I read an article in an Egyptian paper just before I came away on that very subject. The writer, who evidently had some knowledge of affairs in this country, said that the House of Commons could always be filled by a personal incident, but when it came to a question of discussion of Indian or Egyptian affairs, there were never more than 100 Members at the most who took any interest or wished to take part in the Debate.
2365 I say that the importance of Egypt and of the Suez Canal cannot be sufficiently impressed on the House, and I pass naturally to what seems to me to be the most important question, namely, that of the Capitulations. I agree with all that has been said about the improvement of the existing machinery of the Government and with the references to the public Health Department and the Ministry of the Interior. But all these matters depend on the question of the future government of Egypt, and how far the Governmentare going—or rather the Allies now in Paris are going—in the direction of abolishing the Capitulations, and what they are going to put in their place. I do not wish to go too much into details, but I should like to make one or two remarks about the Capitulations.
In the first place, may I call the attention of the House to the fact that every British Consul-General in Egypt, and I think I am right in saying, every Report they have sent home—Lord Cromer, Sir Eldon Gorst, and Lord Kitchener—have all drawn attention to this fact, that so long as the Capitulations existed a proper system of government in Egypt was impossible. The reasons for that are really comparatively simple. Take, in the first place, the question of taxation. So long as the Capitulations exist it is the fact that foreigners are practically immune from and untouched by taxation. Great bitterness has been caused to native Egyptians, and I entirely sympathise with them, owing to the fact that during the War foreignersin Egypt have been practically untouched by taxation of any kind. I can go further, and add that many who have served in Egypt during the War in the British Army, and in the Dominion Armies as well—because the House is aware that there were a largenumber of Australians and New Zealanders in Egypt—dislike intensely the way in which neutrals and foreigners in Egypt, who come under the Capitulations, have been enabled to make huge fortunes—there is no other word for it—out of thepresence of the British Army in Egypt, and the Egyptian Government has been quite unable to touch them by taxation of any kind owing to the Capitulations. There has been the grossest profiteering by neutrals and foreigners in Egypt at a time when many of the ordinary Egyptian natives have been suffering considerable hardships through the appalling prices to which food was run up by these profiteers.
2366 Like my hon. and gallant Friend I have some knowledge of the inner working of the Egyptian Government, all the facts in connection with which it would not be right to mention in this House. But, without saying anything improper, I may point out that during the War the obvious difference between the position of the ordinary Egyptian native and of neutrals and foreigners under the Capitulations, at a time when the price of food was so high, and when the profit was going to many of these neutrals and foreigners, has given practically all the responsible members of the Egyptian Government very grave cause for anxiety. That was entirely due to the system of Capitulations. When I turn from the question of taxation to the even more important question of the judiciary system of Egypt, the disadvantage and hardship caused by the Capitulations becomes even more clear.It is farcical to suppose we can ever have in Egypt a judicial system, or a judiciary in which anyone can have any confidence so long as little countries like Hayti and Liberia can try and can protect their nationals. Any subject of a foreign Power, not anative of Egypt, is entitled, under the Capitulations, to be tried by his own Consular Court and protected by his own Consular system.
There were some most flagrant scandals some years ago in connection with certain States—small American Republics whose names it is not desirable to mention—where people of the worst possible character, in some instances convicted of crime, were appointed to be Consuls and enjoyed the advantage of the Consular system. In addition, they afforded its protection totheir own nationals—in some cases criminals, amongst their own nationals—and brought the whole system into even greater disrepute than it was in by the obvious injustice of its basis. The result of all this is that Egypt at the present timesuffers probably from a greater moral stain than any country in the world. Before the War all the criminals in Europe used naturally to go to Egypt, where the native police, as a result of the Capitulations, had practically no power over them, and they were able to pursue their nefarious objects unchecked. If all the facts were to be told to the House—for example, the way in which the white slave trader is protected by the laws of his own nation which, in the case of certain South American Republicsare laws which would not be supported by any European nation, and it 2367 is not too much to say that Egypt has become in recent years the entrepot of the white slave traffic in the Middle East. I think there should be strong pressure placed on the Government to see that the Capitulations were abolished at the first moment, and a decent judicial system imposed.
Apart from that, there are other grave scandals arising under the system of Capitulations, and I am perfectly sure that also helps to make the relationship between the different powers in Egypt much more difficult than it would be without them. There have been in recent years a good many incidents, the majority of which have not come to light, of a somewhat unpleasant nature, even sometimes between the Great Powers and between the Allies in the present War, almost purely as the result of the Capitulations system—questions of the interpretation of a particular decision by the Mixed Court, questions of a Consular Court decision, and matters of that kind. So long as they remain as they are, so long will Egypt be a badly governed country. It is for these reasons that the people of this country have so much reason to be proud of what has been done by British officials and British administration in Egypt. They have done the work they have done in spite of this system of Capitulations, which hampers and harasses their good work at every turn, and I think too great tribute cannot be paid to these men—Lord Cromer, Sir Eldon Gorst, Lord Kitchener, Sir Reginald Wingate, the late Lord Edward Cecil, and hundreds of smaller and greater officials who through thirty-three most strenuous, harassing, and anxious years have given their lives to Egypt, with the result that she has prosperity, peace, an incomparable railway system, and an irrigation system better than she has had since the days of the ancient Pharoahs, and, in addition, had they been allowed, which they have not been owing to the Capitulations, a free hand would probably have made Egypt the best governed of any native administration in the whole world.
I hope at the earliest opportunity we shall have an announcement as to what form the future government of Egypt is to take. I assume the Capitulations will be abolished. In fact, we were told in the early stages of the War they were going to be abolished, but there appears to be somewhere a rather mysterious hitch. Originally it was said it had been decided 2368 that almost immediately after the War the Capitulations would ipso facto come to an end, but now it is rumoured—I should be glad to know the rumours are false—that it is intended to continue them, under whatever form of government there is, for two or three years longer. I consider that would be a disaster to Egypt of the firstorder, and that the future government of Egypt depends upon the abolition of the Capitulations immediately after Peace is signed. I believe a British Protectorate would be the best form of government, although that does not mean that I think there shouldnot be the fullest possible education of Egyptian natives in civic duties for the eventual goal of their own self-determination. I quite realise that, owing to the decision of the Peace Conference, that may be difficult, and that Egypt may come under the mandatory system, in which case I hope there will be no question of who the mandatory Power will be, and that it will be this country. That would seem to be forcing an open door, and it is almost unthinkable that our representatives in Paris could agree toanything else. But such is the network of intrigue in which Near Eastern and Middle Eastern affairs are being considered, at present that it is really difficult to know what decision may be arrived at by any given time and how soon it may be upset by a totally different decision in a few days', weeks', or months'time. It is absolutely essential, not only for the future of Egypt but for the British Empire as well, that this country should be the mandatory power, and that with it should go the fullest possible opportunities for the development of the country in a moral, educational, and commercial sense. There, again, it is the hampering and harassing effect of the Capitulations which have held back the moral, educational, and commercial interests of the country.
Even if no other reason was forthcoming, the riots of the last three weeks would be sufficient to prove the urgency of this question of the future government of Egypt. I am perectly certain that had the people of Egypt known clearly what form that future government was going to take we should not have had the riots and disturbances we have had. For a long time past public opinion in Egypt has been subject to all sorts of very wild rumours as to the future form that the government of Egypt was going totake, and so long as the administrators there were kept in virtual ignorance, as they were, of what the future 2369 government of the country was going to be it was impossible for them to allay public alarm, some of it purely Bolshevik, but a great deal of it perfectly genuine, as to the future form of the government of the country. The British and Allied representatives at the Peace Conference are terribly overworked and overstrained with anxiety, but it is one of the primary duties of the British representatives to urge upon the Peace Conference that a solution of the problem should be sought by the mandatory system, and that we should be the mandatory Power and we ought to have no false modesty in this respect. We have made modern Egypt prosperous and peaceful, and have given to those in power an amount of personal security and comfort which is unknown in any other Middle Eastern country. It is our duty to press at the Peace Conference that we should be given a free hand subject to this only, that we should foster in every possible way the idea that eventually the people of Egypt should be given the fullest possible measure of self-government that is compatible with the situation. That, of course, is essential.
I want to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is in a position to make any announcement as regards the loan for the development of the Sudan irrigation system which was promised before the War? The House approved the principle of a loan of £4,000,000. The money was held up during the War, and the time is now approaching when it should be paid over in order that this most important work, which will mean an increased cotton area throughout the whole of Egypt and the Sudan by something like 15 or 20 per cent., should be put in hand. The organisationof the Egyptian Labour Corps, which has been of immense benefit to the British Army during the War, should be used, and the services should be utilised of the military engineers now in Egypt, many of whom would like to be employed on the work. I should like to say one word on a subject which cannot be considered apart from the recent unrest in Egypt. I have recently talked to many experts on Middle Eastern, and also on Indian affairs, and one and all have told me that at the present time there is a great deal of unrest in the Mahomedan world. I myself had two months with the Arabs, and I know from my own personal experience that the future of the Holy places, the 2370 question of the Khalifate, the question of the future of Constantinople, and other questions of an interdependent nature, are exercising and naturally exercising the minds of Moslems, even more than they have done in the past. As the House is aware, religious controversies in the East never die, indeed, as each fifty or hundred years pass these controversies seem to flourish and to become more intense, and although they may seem far off, old-world questions to us in this House, the question of the future of the Holy places, the question of the future of the Khalifate, the question of the futureof Constantinople, and above all the question of the future of a Moslem mosque at Constantinople, are questions which exercise most strongly the minds of Moslems, and to-day there is fierce controversy in every bazaar in the East, throughout the whole ofEgypt, Mesopotamia, Syria, India, and all Mahomedan countries.
I would emphasise this, but it ought not to be necessary to emphasise it, that there are in the British Empire a considerably larger number of Mahomedan subjects of His Majesty the King than there are Christian subjects. That being so, and the fact that as it happens in this House, which is indirectly responsible for the Governments of these Mahomedans, there is no representative, and, so far as I can see, there is never likely to be a representative, of the Moslem religion here; it does behove this House and the Government to be most scrupulously careful to avoid doing anything in their policy, and it behoves private Members of this House, in making speeches, to be most careful, to do and say nothing which casts any aspersion upon the Moslem religion, or which can arouse in the minds of Moslems any suspicion as to the good faith of the British Government and of this House, in the treatment of Moslems, and particularly of the Moslem subjects of the King. That fact it ought not to be necessary to emphasise, but it is necessary to emphasise it at the present time, when there is controversy proceeding as to the future of Constantinople, and especially as to the future of a certain mosque in Constantinople. I make no comment on that controversy, because it does not concern the subject which is being debated to-night, but I say this, that these disturbances which are taking place and this unrest which exists throughout the 2371 Mahomedan world at the present time cannot be considered apart from these controversies.
I do urge most strongly upon the hon. Gentleman who represents the Foreign Office that no action should be taken by his Department—and I hope he will impress it upon his colleagues in other Departments of the State—that no action will be taken by any Government Department, in order to please any section of opinion in this country, however powerful, which seems to cast a doubt upon the policy and upon the maxims which I think are as fine as any that have ever been known in any form of government in any country. I mean the policy laid down by Disraeli at the time that Queen Victoria became Empress of India, that we would in our treatment of the native subjects of our Sovereign in allparts of the Indian Empire—and the same applies to Egypt, Africa, and everywhere else—give them the fullest possible measure of religious toleration, and that we would never do anything which could be interpreted as an act of hostility towards their religion or as appearing to show that we either disliked or despised their religion. [An Hon. Member: "Have we ever done otherwise?"] I understood the hon. Member to ask me if we had ever done otherwise? We have certainly not done otherwise, but we must be extremely careful at this time, when these questions as to the future of Constantinople and of Moslems are being discussed, to do nothing to alter our own magnificent record in carrying out the policy enunciated by Disraeli. The Government has certainly never done otherwise, but as the question is put to me by the hon. Gentleman, I would say that I read the other day and was surprised to see in all the leading newspapers of this country, a manifesto issued by a missionary society in this country which, in appealing for funds for missionary organisations, referred to the Moslem religion in the Near East in a way which was not only extremely dubious, but extremely doubtful in taste. If this manifesto finds its way into native newspapers in Egypt, India, and elsewhere, it will do very great harm to our interests there, and will cause the suspicion to which I have referred.
§ Major HURST
I should like to pay a tribute to those great Englishmen who have governed Egypt so well, and I would 2372 also emphasise the fact that the question of justice really is one of the underlying causes of the present trouble and unrest there. The system of law at the present time practised in Egypt is extraordinarily bad, and there is a very real danger that that system will be perpetuated. This is not a mere question of law or jurisprudence, but it is really a practical question, and I would like to draw attention to the views that are held on this question of law by a great commercial community which is interested in tradebetween Egypt and England, and to the very well-reasoned opinion of the trading community in Manchester and the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, to whom this subject has been a very important subject for a year or two past. The great test of a legal systemis the confidence which the business men have in the administration, of justice. Only a few days ago we were told by leaders of Egyptian trade in Manchester that if they were owed £10,000 by traders in Egypt they would rather write that sum off asa bad debt than sue those traders before the Mixed Tribunals in Egypt. Since 1876 these Mixed Tribunals have dealt with the questions which have arisen between foreigners of different nationalities and between foreigners and Egyptians.
These tribunals are undoubtedly very mixed because no less than twelve nations have a right to be represented by judges on those tribunals. But the system of justice practiced by the tribunals is extraordinarily bad and behind the times. Having regard to the fact that Egypt is a British possession, it seems extraordinary that English is never spoken in the Courts, that on only one occasion since 1905, when English was allowed to be used as one of the judicial languages, has any judgment been delivered in English, and I am informed on the best authority that not a single court official in Cairo or Alexandria knows the English language. The mixed tribunal also has the unenviable reputation of being the most dilatory tribunal in the world. One leading firm of lawyers at the present time has thirty-two cases pending which have been going on for over four years, and sixteen cases are still awaiting trial which have been pending for over eight years. That is an extraordinary record, such as puts the annals of the old Chancery Courts of England into the shade.
The whole system is bad. There is no proper Bankruptcy Law in Egypt, no oral 2373 examination of witnesses in ordinary civil cases, no opportunity for cross-examination. There has been no law relating to the infringement of trademarks or the adulteration of liquor. Early in 1916—I happened at the time to belong to the Army of Occupation—I was put on a military Court in Alexandria, dealing with cases of infringement of military law in that city. These cases referredmainly to the adulteration of liquor which, causes very great harm indeed to British soldiers and sailors in that place, and it was found that there was an enormous number of liquors, of which every wineshop was full, which had the best and most famous labels in the world. The labels were excellent but the contents were poisonous. That was attributed by people who know the country well to the fact that under the present system of law there are no remedies against adulteration and no remedies against fraudulent trade marks and designs. This country has a great opportunity of altering all that for the better. In 1904, by the Convention with France, that country was given a free hand in Morocco and this country was given a free hand in Egypt. Since November, 1914, Egypt has been a British Protectorate. One of the first things aimed at by the people interested in good government in Egypt was a reform of legal methods, and a Commission with that aim in view came into existence in 1916. It is a remarkable fact that of the four members of that Commission only one was an Englishman, and he was a man out of touch with the legal profession in Egypt.
That Commission has sat ever since 1916. It is still sitting, and probably will sit for many years. All that we know aboutit is that it has expressed a very firm opinion that the system of mixed tribunals should continue in Egypt, and the only outward and visible signs of effecting any change in the administration of Egypt are a decision of May, 1918, that every document produced in evidence in an Egyptian Court shall be accompanied by a translation into French, and a resolution that no appeal should be allowed from Egypt to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. In other words, the bad system which hon. Members have already alluded to is to be maintained in spite of the tremendous change in the constitutional position of Egypt and the great wants of the trading population. Representations have 2374 been made again and again to the Foreign Office and again and again replies have come back from the Foreign Office that they are in general sympathy with the protests that have been made against these abuses and the extraordinary thing is that the more urgent the grievance has become the more general the Governmentsympathy has proved to be. It is an amazing thing that in Egypt, where the French population does not exceed 7,000 out of a total population of 13,000,000, the French language should be obligatory in all cases in the Courts and that a small minority should inflict an old archaic relic of the Napoleonic code upon a community which requires a system of laws and procedure in keeping with the necessities of modern commerce. We have to remember that nobody ever suggested having an English code or English procedure in Morocco and the great trading community whose interests are bound up in a wise and adequate enforcement of good laws and procedure in Egypt are entitled to have a word as to what the laws of that country should be.
What we ask at the present time isthat in place of these bad laws and bad tribunals you should have a good criminal code after the model of the Indian criminal code, that you should have in civil cases that partial codification which is represented in English law by such Acts as the Bankruptcy Act, the Partnership Act and Acts of that type, which are followed practically with excellent results in the Soudan, and we want to see the English language encouraged in the Courts of Law. Those are real wants in relation to reform in Egypt. They are wants which have been brought to the attention of the Foreign Office repeatedly by the great mercantile community, not only in Lancashire, but also in Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo. I would ask the hon. Gentleman who represents the Foreign Office whether he will not remedy these matters with which he is well acquainted. We must recognise that the true test of the legal system of any country is the trust and confidence which the mercantile community repose in them, and I submit with great confidence that the system of reform which I have indicated is the best way of levelling up the faulty administration of Egypt to the high level of government which in other parts of the world has made the British Empire a model to all the nations.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think that the House may congratulate itself on the able contributions to the Debate this evening. Personally I have great sympathy with the reforms suggested by the hon. Member who has just sat down in his admirable maiden speech, but I may point outto him that Lord Cromer, one of the best Governors who have ever been in that country, said that the secret of the success of his rule was that he governed Egypt for the Egyptians and not for anybody else, and that legislation proposed must be administeredprimarily in the interests of the Egyptians. And I would submit that such legislation should be passed by the Egyptians and not by other people acting over their heads. I thought that the Debate on Egypt to-day must necessarily be a fiasco in the absenceof Sir Mark Sykes, but I am ready to admit that his two lieutenants who initiated the Debate have stepped very well into his shoes. The hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Major Ormsby-Gore), and the Noble Lord who sits for Horsham (Earl Winterton) haveboth personal knowledge of the country of which they were talking, and in addition during the War acted an admirable part as the eyes of the Government in those countries. I can claim no such advantage. My only acquaintance with Egypt was what I saw from the flat of my back through a porthole, but in spite of that I venture to intervene on this Debate because I think the old-fashioned Liberal view ought to be put in this House, even though there is no personal knowledge either of Egypt or the Egyptians.
The present situation in Egypt is this: They have a Legislative Assembly in that country which has the vices of the most reactionary and elementary form of representative government. It is elected indirectly, so that popular control is only indirect, and whenit is elected it has practically no powers at all. It can initiate legislation, but the Governor can veto it, and the High Commissioner can pass what legislation he likes against the unanimous wishes of that Assembly. The Ministers are not responsible tothat Assembly; they are nominated by the Khedive under the guidance, of the High Commissioners. There you have the most elementary form of autocratic government. These people can be consulted, but the consultation makes no difference whatever in the government of the country. They are 2376 overruled, and any legislation can be passed in the teeth of their opposition. That is not a system of government which we can tolerate being perpetuated in any parts of the Empire at the present time. The Nationalist movement has sprung up there recently. I would not suggest that the capacity for self-government of that country is anything as great as the capacity of India for self-government, but what we ought to see is that we have laid down in Egypt, just as in Indiawe have laid down, a definite scheme of constitutional reform which shall lead up to responsible self-government for India within the four corners of the British Empire. That should apply equally to the case of Egypt. It is true that that country is not yet sufficiently politically educated—or sufficiently educated in the mass to have any large degree of responsible government. But I do submit that a Government which is considered sufficient for the Imperial Government of India might be applied alsoto Egypt and, at any rate, that the Foreign Office or any other office which has charge of the government of Egypt, should seriously consider what reforms are practicable and how we can bring the democratic Government of the country up to the standard required in connection with the end of this great War and the establishment of the League of Nations, i.e., place it on Nationalist lines. That would seem to me to have been the obvious course for the Foreign Office to pursue. They have seen this agitation arising in Egypt, but apparently they have not considered in the slightest degree what can be done to satisfy the moderate element or to lay any foundation for constitutional reforms in that country. They have disregarded apparently even the wishes of the High Commissioner. It was suggested from Egypt that the Prime Minister—Rushdi Pasha, and his able lieutenant, the Minister of Education—should be given an opportunity to consult with the Government as to what should be done. But that suggestionwas turned down. They were told it was not a suitable time for such action. Then the fat was in the fire. The Nationalist agitators also were anxious to come to England—not to go to Paris or to any place where they could create trouble in the finalsettlement of the Egyptian question from the British point of view, but merely to come to London and put their case before the responsible governors of Egypt. They were refused permission; 2377 they were told there could be no consultation whatever, and that the only one who might be permitted to come at some later date was the Prime Minister. Rushdi Pasha, however, refused to come without the Nationalist deputation. The members of that deputation were arrested and deported to Malta. Then the Government ofEgypt resigned, and, as far as I can make out from the answers to questions I put the other day, it has been found impracticable to set up a fresh Government in that country. The position at the present time is wholly irregular in Egypt. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham, who gave such an excellent designation on the existing situation, said, and I believe with some accuracy, that the Suel Canal is the main artery of the British Empire. I would only point out this, that, in reality, the main artery ofthe British Empire is not any territory in the world. It is not any piece on the map that is painted red. The main artery in reality is the confidence that underlies a great deal of frothy agitation—confidence in the fair play and justice of this country.
§ Earl WINTERTON
When I used that term I used it in a moral as well as in a physical sense. I based it not only on our strategical position in Egypt, but on the support we receive in Egypt in consequence of the way in which we have treated native populations.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think that what we are most proud of in the British Empire is the tradition of fair play towards all races we govern, and the consciousness that they have, even when they are blackguarding us, that they get more fair play fromus than they would get under any other white race. Let me recall to the House the Denshawi affair. Would it have occurred in any other European country or in America that there would have been anybody to get up in the National Assembly to defend the people shot at Denshawi? Would there have been anyone to stand up against the Executive Government which was responsible for that affair? Can one imagine anyone in the American Congress getting up to protest against a similar affair where their own nationals were concerned? But here there is always someone to stand up for justice to these people, and that is one of the most useful assets we have. Herein is my principal complaint against the action of the Foreign Office in this simple 2378 case. There is nothingmore contrary to the principle of fair play and justice, as understood by countless generations of English people, than that men should be arrested and incarcerated without trial and not be given an opportunity of defending themselves. That is what I deplore here. It is not merely the stupidity which has caused this trouble, simply through a lack of comprehension of the desirability of consultation over this matter. What I do object to far more is that just at this time, when our representatives in Paris are really acting in an altruistic spirit and trying to do their best for the permanent settlement of the world, we should have flung in our face an action obviously unjust and which we cannot possibly justify, either to our own conscience or to the conscience of Europe or of the world. Arrest and imprisonment without trial, and deportation without trial is unjust and against all the traditions of this country. The serious thing is that the Foreign Office allowed it to take place while they themselves differed as to policy from our representatives in Egypt, who knew the question, and who desired to consult the Egyptian Government on a scheme for developing the interests of that country. I think that is perhaps the most serious part of this difficulty in Egypt, which, as the Noble Lord has shown, is only one of a series of pinpricks which are seriously agitating the Islam world.
We here are the only people to whom the countless millions of Moslems under the British sceptre can look for protection. This War has been a war which has broken Turkey to pieces. It has broken Turkey, and the Turks being Mahomedans it has naturally made all Mahomemedans extremely nervous as to what is to happen to themselves, and extremely anxious not to do anything which would still further depress their religion in the world. It has been a serious blow to Mahomedanism. It has made them seriously anxious for the future, and we, as the guardians of the Mahomedans, because we are out of all comparison the greatest Moslem Power in the world, should be particularly careful that nothing is done to outrage their feelings or to give them any ground for agitating against the perfect fairness and justice of British rule. We have at the present time 66,000,000 of Mahomedans in India who have loyally co-operated with us in this War, perhaps more loyally than any other part of the British Empire, under great trial very 2379 often, because in many cases they were fighting against their co-religionists. We have something like 13,000,000 of Mahomedans in Egypt, 3,500,000 in the Soudan, and some 17,000,000 in Nigeria. There are several millions in Afghanistan and Mesopotamia who are more or less under our protection. All these people look to us to protect their interests, and it is most important that we should not, either in connection with these riots in Egypt or by our action in connection with Constantinople, give the slightest symptom that we do not intend to stand up definitely for the rights of our fellow subjects throughout the Empire.
I ventured to-day to put a question about the church of St. Sophia, and I am sorry to say that I got from the hon. Gentleman opposite an answer which was intended to be impertinent. The question was put yesterday, and the answer then was even more impertinent. I hadit circulated in the way that answers sometimes are circulated. I do not object myself—after all, I am accustomed to that sort of thing in this House—but what I do object to is that these answers should give the Moslems throughout the world the impression that the Foreign Office is not properly looking after their interests. I think the hon. Gentleman opposite would be well advised to follow the example of most Under-Secretaries and to draft his own answers or to redraft them when they are couched in those terms by the permanent officials. Those are two examples—the arrest and deportation of these men in Egypt and the questionable latitude taken up by the Foreign Office, I believe without any regard to the aim of the Executive of this country, because I am quite convinced that the Prime Minister and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord K. Cecil) are as keen as I am to look after the interests of Moslems. It is merely that there are permanent officials who still think themselves back in the time of the Crusade and who regard the struggle between the Cresent and the Cross as one of the permanent features in history. We ought to dissociate ourselves in this House from any idea that we are bolstering up the Cross against the Crescent. What we are looking out for is that every religion in this Empire should be tolerated and should have fair play, and that none of them should be outraged unnecessarily either by the stupidity or wrong policy of any Government Department.
2380 What we want and are trying to do tonight is to show the Moslem populations of the world that the British House of Parliament stands by them. We are doing it partly because we have an inborn sense of justice and largely because we want propaganda amongst the Moslem populations of the world and to show that they can rely on the British House of Commons and that we realise the great services which they rendered to us during the War. Propaganda is never very satisfactory unless it is followed by policy directed towards thesame end. We have got to consider the effect of our attitude in Egypt and on every other subordinate race of this Empire and the effect upon another nation, and this is even more vital to the future of our country, and that is upon public opinion in America. The whole future of our world lies in the permanent cementing of the friendship between the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon race. Do not let us have an opening for the saying that we are an effete Government, who do not follow the principles of President Wilson, and who do not wish to see peoples free and freely governing themselves. That is one thing that we can do in order to show America that we are in the van of democracy and civilisation. I know that many hon. Members think that at present it wouldbe well to spend a great deal of money on propaganda work in America. I should be the last to undervalue the admirable work done during the War, though a great deal of it was very bad, but I do not think you will improve the relations with America by people going there and saying, "I am here on propaganda work, and to show what fine fellows the English are."It can be done in other ways. It can be done by sharing their views and their feelings, and, far more important than propaganda, is that our policy towards America should be a policy which the Americans themselves see to be just and fair. I would draw attention to three points where I think it is of vital importance that we should get all square with America, and so improve our relations with her. The first thing is to show Americans that our trade policy is not a trade policy directed against America. Anybody who has been in touch with American feeling recently knows that our system of permits for imports has caused endless heartburning in America justas the French policy, dealing with imports from this country, has caused many manufacturers in this country to 2381 say they will never deal with Frenchmen again. In the same way people are saying in America that the way we have dealt with contracts made with people in America will prevent them ever dealing with Englishmen again. [An Hon. Member: "No, no!"] Yes, it is so; the same policy has been followed. We have ordered goods in America, and they are lying there to be transported to this country, and they cannot be imported here, and therefore they are not paid for. That sort of thing has caused endless ill-feeling between the two countries. Surely our Foreign Office might give some injunction to our Board of Trade to see that this cause of unrest and friction between ourselves and America is put an end to at the earliest possible moment, and that contracts that have been made should be carried out and permission for those imports should be given. That is one thing that would really make incalculably better our relations with the United States at the present time. They fancy that we are trying to prevent American imports coming into this country, when really it is merely the action of a Government Department, which is strenuously trying, to the best of its ability, to keep down imports and keep up exports. There is another thing I would suggest that might really improve our relations with America. Last Session there was a Resolution on the Papers of the House that American citizens should be giventhe full rights of British citizens in all British Colonies and in Great Britain. I do not think we should be sacrificing anything at all. I believe America would reciprocate in time, and give Britishers the rights of American citizens in America. I cannotimagine anything which would give greater pleasure to our Colonies overseas. Take a place like British East Africa, where there are many Americans, and where their English fellowmen would be delighted that they should have the same rights as themselves. It would do more to show the real good feeling between this country and America to give Americans the rights of British subjects in British territory than many pieces of after-dinner orations or special articles in the "New York Times."Really at bottom our relations with America, which are so vital to our whole future, depend upon whether we, too, will consent to give self-determination to Ireland. Hon. Members laugh.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think my hon. and gallant Friend does not appreciate that this is a Debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I am not going into the Irish policy. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] I know a great many hon. Members here, whose conscience rather pricks them, but a policy which is good enough for Bohemia seems to be good enough for Ireland. I do not want in this Empire to hold down against their will any nation, and I say a policy of self-determination in Ireland would lead, in the long run, to the obliteration of all this bitterness and distrust between the two sister nations, and would lead to incalculably better relations with the great Republic across the Atlantic. We never need be really afraid of giving people freedom. It is true that they will make many mistakes. They will always be stupid, always tumbling down, just as children do until they learn to find their feet. In the long run, freedom is always the winning card to play. Our greatest success in this War has been due to the fact that we gave freedom to South Africa. It has been an enormous source of strength to us actually in the War itself, but a far greater moral strength to us in dealing with all the rest of the nations in the world. It is often said that French Imperialist people are aiming at territorial advantage, and that the Italians are actuated by a desire for territorial gain. We have better traditions, and I want to see those traditions lived up to, and to see us, absolutely with a clean shield, come before the League of Nations. I do not think we can have thatclean shield unless you give to Ireland the right you give to every white race to determine how they shall be governed in future.
§ Mr. F. C. THOMSON
In rising to address the House for the first time in a very few words, I feel somewhat diffident in speaking on the subject of Egypt after the speech of the hon. Gentleman who opened the discussion and the hon. Lord the Member for Horsham. I can claim to no special experience, save that I speak as one of that very large number of our fellow countrymen who haveserved in Egypt of recent years. The hon. Lord dwelt, I think very rightly, on the bad effects of apathy in this Assembly in regard to Egyptian affairs. I think we must remember that now, for the first time, 2383 there are many thousands of our fellow countrymen who have an intimate, firsthand knowledge of Egypt and the Near East. That, it seems to me, will alter matters a great deal. We will have a public instructed in a way that never was before. These men, many thousands of whom have served in Egypt, have seen what has happened. They have seen the wonderful work done by our Government and of the British subjects in Egypt—the wonderful work of irrigation, justice, and good government that we have introduced into that land. It has struck those British soldiers as a remarkable fact. Most of these same men who have served in Egypt have then passed over to other theatres of war, and other countries, which have until quite recently been under a system of government not so enlightened and by no means so free. They have seen themselves the effects of misery and oppression, and the good results in the adjacent country of British rule. I am sure one and all must have learned the lesson.
I should like in one word to back up what has been said by the right hon.Gentleman (Sir H. Craik) when he dwelt on the necessity for an improvement of administration of public health in Egypt. Here again I claim no right to speak as a specialist, but only as one who lived for a good many months there. It struck one in the face, the miserable hovels in which the people lived in the villages. They were appalling. "Appalling"is the only word to describe the condition of these villages. One was terribly struck by the ophthalmia which seemed so prevalent everywhere. I understand a great improvement has been made in that. That is to the good, but there is ample room for further improvement. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that glorious as were our material achievements in Egypt—and glorious they are!—we could not rest on these alone. We must do all we can for the health of the people. I am sure in these matters the conditions under which the village population still lives, the horrible villages, and the state of them, there is much work to be done. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, improvement in administration will do a great deal to effect it, and it is "up" to us, and to the honour of the British and their record in Egypt, really to do good work in this domain of public health in that country.
2384 I do think it was really calamitous in our country before the War that there was no interest at all in Egypt and the Near East. The sort of notion the Briton had was that you could wipe out, so far as we were concerned, the Near East. That was a calamitous blunder. We might have fared very ill indeed. It has been otherwise. Let us hope and pray, and sets to it—and it is the duty of this House to see to it—that we do not fall again into that ignorance and apathy with regard to Egypt and the Near East.Hundreds of thousands of men are now in this country with first-hand knowledge, and the public will have been instructed, and we have got to live up to that knowledge. It is the duty of Parliament, of the Government and of educationists, to see that interest and knowledge is spread in regard to our Empire, and especially with regard to those countries with which I am dealing. No duty could be more important; no task more patriotic. Again I do not speak as a specialist, but I agree very much with what has been said in regard to the question of Mahomedanism. It seems to me that in the study of the War we owe a tremendous lot to the intervention to the King of the Hedjez. I remember at the time how Lord Cromer described it. It was not much noticed at the timeexcept by those who were Eastern specialists, but its great influence on the future of the War was pointed out, and I think that certainly has been borne out. We owe a great debt of gratitude to these people, and there were a large number of them on the other side—who rallied to our side, with the glorious results we now see. The Convention of France in 1904 and the subsequent protectorate gave a great chance of improvement in the Government of Egypt, for the abolition of Capitulations, and for reforms which were urgently needed. These drew attention to the legal scandals which were not creditable to any administration. It is in that way by large reforms which will lead on from one to another associating the Egyptian people more and more in the Government of their country that success lies. Any person who has lived amongst the Egyptians must have been impressed with the fact that they have very little capacity for self-government. That we hope will be improved and our goal should be by successive stages to associate the Egyptians more and more with the government of their country, a 2385 glorious goal well in harmony with British traditions. We have done a wonderful work in Egypt, and we have restored to her a prosperity which she has not enjoyed sinceher earliest times. We have yet a greater work to do and the genius of our race, I am fully convinced, will be equal to the task.
I shall not claim the attention of the House for very long, because the ground has been well covered by the two hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have already spoken, and I, like many other hon. Members, am only just recovering from influenza. Hon. Members opposite have made various complimentary remarks about the speeches which have been made to-night.I should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Wedgwood) upon the very fine contribution which he made to the Debate this evening. I should like to put a few questions to the representatve of the Foreign Office. My hon. andgallant Friend opposite began by telling us what power the Egyptian people had not got. I should like to ask for a statement as to the amount of autonomy that the Egyptians have got, because if we were given that statement I believe the people of this country would be very much surprised by the amount of freedom that exists in Egypt. I am prepared to admit that freedom in Egypt, as elsewhere, has been curtailed during the War, but how much autonomy have we ourselves had here? My hon. and gallant Friend opposite said that the future of this country, and I think he said of the world, depended upon our good relations with America. I will ask him to believe that there is nobody who believes in and hopes for that more fervently than myself. Here is a case in point. Where I believe you get agreement and support from Americans is because you have Americans in Egypt, and you have Americans of many kinds. You have merchants, missionaries, and scientists and diplomatists, and you should ask the opinon of those people as to whether they want us to clear out of Egypt or not? There is another question I wish to put to the representative of the Foreign Office. We all know very well what are the opinions of extremists in most lands, and certainly we know what the opinions of the extremists are in Egypt.
Do we know what the opinions of the Ministers are? Have they put them 2386 on paper. Have these Ministers in Egypt as yet stated their opinions? While I am speaking on this point, may I say that I have known the ex-Prime Minister, Rushdi Pasha, and have had the honour of knowing a man who, in my humble opinion, is a man who merits all respect—that is, Sir Adly Pasha-Teghen. Nobody could speak to him without knowing that he was a very patriotic and a very honest man too. I should be very glad if these gentlemen were invited to come to England, not to Paris.
Ireland is a very different question. When Mr. Taft was approached upon the question of Ireland in connection with America, he said, "Let us take one thing at a time."He was right. Very many things are wrong in every Empire in the world. We all know that, and we want to see them put right, but the present moment is not the time for bringing up the Philippines question at Paris, or the question of Morocco, or the question of Algiers, or the question of Egypt. We have this particular great big question of the War to settle. Let us settle that, and then, with the help of the League of Nations, let us all put our own houses in order. May I give the House one personal experience during the War? I was in Egypt on various occasions and for a certain time before the Dardanelles and again afterwards. I saw how our services in Egypt were stripped for war purposes. When you took away our British officials there were many collapsesin government. For instance, one great Department, the Ministry of the Interor, was stripped. After that, there followed—I am speaking from memory but I do not think I am going beyond my book—disorganisation, and even worse, corruption. A friend of mine in the past, who had been at my own college, who has been very highly respected—he was a native of very great eminence—was accused of things I hardly like to mention in the House. He is one of the people who at the present momenthave been deported. This is the only example I quote to show that without help the Egyptians cannot govern themselves.
My Noble and gallant Friend (Earl Winterton) in his concluding sentences said that the modern Egyptians were of the same race as those who built the Pyramids. He was right. They have the same virtues, and perhaps the same faults 2387 in their character. They have sobriety, honesty and industry, but they have too great a docility, and they have not yet had any opportunity for the education that is necessary for government. That should be our main task. How are we carrying out that task? I hold that during this War England has done very fine work not only in her fighting but actually in her preaching, and not only in her fighting and preaching but in her practice. I hold that the Bill which has been brought in by the Secretary of State for India is one of the finest and most liberal Bills ever placed before this country. But you cannot undertake work like that without creating ferment throughout our Dominions, and especially in Egypt. Is it wonderful then when you have a measure of Home Rule for India, when you have the speeches that you have heard in Washington and Paris, that they result in a certain ferment in Egypt? What I think we have todo is to make our position more clear than, we have been able to do in the past. Our position, is a difficult position, because the ideals that we have advocated are very great and difficult ideals to put into practice. And what people like the Egyptians,and some people in this country see, is this. They see this great canvas upon which we are painting our ideals of the future, and they see that we are painting the dove of peace and the Sermon on the Mount. But in the corner they see a little sketch, perhaps, of Conscription; and in another corner they see a little sketch, perhaps, of Armageddon, and they are still not absolutely clear about our honesty. I am absolutely convinced that there is no doubt whatsoever about our honesty, that the only difficultyhas been that we have been too much pressed by time and by the mountainous work that has been put on our shoulders; and I look forward to the reply which my hon. Friend is going to make for the Foreign Office, quite sure that if he is not able completely to satisfy us to-night he very shortly will be able to do so.
I want to say only a word, partly because it is so very rare that I have the honour of agreeing with anything that the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) states in this House. I cannot help endorsing a good deal of the 2388 criticism which has been made this evening of the action of the Egyptian Government. I think everyone in the House will hope that such action will not be extended more widely in view of the fact that among the deportees is the Speaker of their House of Commons. I think it would be an extremely ungrateful action of the Egyptian agitators to raise this question at the present moment in view of the fact that if it had not been for British arms they would have had no liberties at all. Unquestionably they enjoy far more freedom than they did before Great Britain administered the country, and I hope when the hon. Gentleman replies this evening that he will give some detailsof the British administration in Egypt which, I think, will vindicate the action of the Government in deciding that at the present time no such agitation can, with any justice, be admitted. But my object really in getting up for a moment was to say a wordon a question which came up this afternoon. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs gave us to understand, and I think it war a shock to many Members of this House, that it was seriously contemplated to take away the Mosque of St. Sophia from the Moslemsand to give it to one or other of the Christian communities in Constantinople. It is very difficult to understand how such a proposal can seriously be brought forward, in view of the fact that, according to the only book I could find in the Library on thesubject, there are nearly 400,000 Moslems in Constantinople, while the strongest Christian community there the Armenians, only numbers 220,000.
I gather it is not proposed that the Armenians should have St. Sophia. On historical grounds it is argued that it should go back to the orthodox Church. That means that it will go back to the Greeks, and the Greeks have a religious community of a little over 150,000 as against nearly 400,000 Moslems. I do not think this is the moment with Egypt seething with discontent, with Moslem fanaticism on the point of breaking out in other parts of the world, to stir up hornet's nest. We have no quarrel with the individual Turk. We may reel with justice that every German is responsible for the outbreak of the European war, butno one who has studied Turkey can pretend that the Turkish population had anything to do with being brought into hostilities.
I was talking of the Turkish population. The Young Turks are largely Jews from Salonika. I quite agree you cannot exaggerate the criminality of these Young Turks, who dragged a reluctant population into the War, but I do not think it is reasonable or just to single out a particular religion for vindictive action which we are not applying in any other part of the world. There are many other instances of the same kind that occur to our minds. If we are not going to admit the prescriptive right which is set up by 500 years Moslem worship inSt. Sophia I do not know how long any Christian sect in the conquered territories can hope to enjoy the facilities which they now enjoy. Surely, this War was not fought for religious bigotry, and if there is one thing that we want to avoid it is intolerance or any unnecessary stirring up of bitterness. We have to remember that nearly half the Moslem population of the world have lived and prospered and been content under the British flag. There are 220,000,000 Moslems in the world of whom 100,000,000 are fellow subjects of ours. They outnumber the Christian subjects of the British Empire, and in view of our action in setting up the new Empire of the Hedjez it would have been a most extraordinary instance of lack of logic if we took this vindictive action which is proposed in Constantinople. If we do not stand up for the Moslems in Paris it is quite likely that this injustice will take place, and I hope the Under-Secretary will give us some assurance that it is not forgotten how much we owe to the loyal support of the Moslems in India and other parts of the British Empire, and that we shall avoid taking any action of this kind to stir up controversy and cause lasting bitterness in that community.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Cecil Harmsworth)
The House will agree that, whatever may be our shortcomings in the past, we have this evening displayed a very great interest in Eastern affairs. This Debate has been one of the most interesting I have heard on Eastern questions. I might almost say it is really worth the while of those who, like myself, have gone without their dinners to make that sacrifice in order that they might listen to it. It has shown that we possess among hon. Members many who have a large knowledge of Egypt and the Near 2390 East. I had almost said we have discovered Members who are worthy successors of the late Sir Mark Sykes, who will be remembered by all who knew him with affectionate regard.
We have also had a few maiden speeches of exceptional interest and value. We have also had this feature, that there have been many complaints of Foreign Office influence in the government of Egypt accompanied, as I observed with gratification, with glowing testimonies to the ever-increasing prosperity of Egypt under that influence. It would ill become me to engage in any discussion tending to suggest any other ultimate influence in the government of Egypt than the Department to which I have the honour to belong. From my own brief experience of it, I have not observed among eminent public servants who work in that Department that hardhearted and unfeeling bureaucracy of which we have heard so much this evening.
I do not think hon. Members will expect me to reply to each and every one of the many difficult points that have been raised. Itake it that they desired in general to give expression to views about the government of Egypt, but I am confident they do not desire at this difficult moment to cause any embarrassment to those who are responsible for that policy. There is one very awkward question that I personally should be very much obliged if hon. Members would not discuss in the House, and that is the question of the Church of St. Sophia. I think it must be recognised by hon. Members that that is a matter about which the representative of the Foreign Office in this House is not in a position at this moment to say anything. This matter of St. Sophia has almost led to an incident between myself and my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood). I am not aware that I have ever drafted an impertinent answer to my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I do not accuse you of drafting it. It was written while you were in Paris, but you read the answer.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
If I have caused my hon. and gallant Friend the slightest annoyance, Ican only express my regret; but I would ask him and other hon. Members to look at this point from the opposite point of view, and to avoid, as far as they can, such an exceedingly awkward question. My hon. and gallant Friend who opened this discussion in a 2391 speech of singular charm, asked me for further information about the recent events in the East. We have had the advantage—if I may refer to what has taken place in the other House—of a full statement by my Noble Friend, the acting Secretary of State. I know that we in this House are not supposed to derive our information from speeches in the other House, but it is quite possible that many hon. Members have read the observations of my Noble Friend. Yesterday a very long answer was given to a question put by my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood) which says all that ought properly to be said at this stage about the present situation in Egypt.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Has not the situation become much worse within the last twenty-four hours? Is it not a fact, as announced to-night, that the telegraph wires have been cut between Cairo and Alexandria, and that communication is solely by wireless? Is that correct as reported in the Press?
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I cannot off-hand answer that question, because I have not seen any official confirmation of it, but it is quite obvious that the situation in Egypt is such as to give rise to very considerable anxiety. The House will remember that in November last a deputation of Egyptian Nationalists, under the leadership of Saad Pasha Zaguli, called at the Residency and made the following proposition to the High Commissioner. They advocated a programme of complete autonomy of Egypt which would leave to Great Britain only a right of supervisor in regard to the public debt and facilities for shipping in the Suez Canal. Having regard to our responsibilities in Egypt, to our home policy, our foreign poilcy, and the enormous importance of this portion of what I might call the network of our Empire, that proposition was one to which the High Commissioner could not be expected to lend a sympathetic ear. After that they asked, furthermore, that they should be allowed to proceed to London at once in order to put forward their demands. About the same time the Nationalists elected a committee of fourteen leaders and began collecting signatures to petitions and also subscriptions in support of their programme, and they embarked on a general programme of agitation. Shortly afterwards the Prime Minister, Rushdi 2392 Pasha, suggested that he and Adly Pasha, Minister of Education, should visit London in the immediate future in order to discuss Egyptian affairs. He further urged that the Nationalist leaders should also be allowed to appear in London, and that is very largely the origin of all the difficulty and trouble that has since occurred. The Government, as I am informed, were most willing to discuss Egyptian affairs with the highly respected Prime Minister and the Minister for Education. They could not see their way to do it, and having regard to the demands of the Nationalist party in Egypt—as explained by their leaders they could not be expected to welcome with enthusiasm a deputation to this country of those leaders. At that moment, too, it was inconvenient to receive the Egyptian Ministers having regard to the fact that the Secretary of State was going to Paris to be immersed in the affairs of the Peace Conference. Their visit to London at that time would have been inconvenient, and it was so explained to them, but it was also stated that the Government felt it to be quite impossible that they should receive the Nationalist leaders whose claims were such that they would not even admit of discussion.
That is as much of this story as I think Members of the House would care to listen to to-day. The House is aware that it is and always has been the desire of successive British Governments, that the native Egyptian people should have a larger share in the control of their own country. I cannot do better in this connection than quote the words of my Noble Friend in another place—words already conveyed to the Nationalist party in Egypt:His Majesty's Government, while sympathising with the idea of giving the Egyptians an ever-increasing share in the government of the country, cannot abandon their responsibility for order and good government in Egypt over which a British Protectorate had been formally declared in 1915, for safeguarding the rights and interests of the native and foreign population.That I say is as much of the history of the matter as the House is willing to listen to on this occasion. A point has been raised by two or three of my hon. Friends as to the Capitulations. I am informed that the discussions on this question between His Majesty's representatives and representatives of the French Government in Paris are now entering upon their concluding stage, and it is hoped that during the current year the abolition of the 2393 Capitulations may become an accomplished fact, although it is apprehended that some little further time may be required before the judicial machinery can be adjusted to the new condition of affairs. I am not sure that there is any other particular in regard to which this House desires information. My right hon. Friend the Member for theScottish Universities raised the question of a Ministry of Health for Egypt. I am informed that recently considerable additional powers have been vested in the existing Department of Health in Egypt, which it is trusted will meet the desires expressed bymy hon. Friend. But in any case the question of a Ministry of Health for Egypt is still open to the sympathetic consideration of the Government; it is not a closed question. At this late hour I will not seek further to engage the attention of the House—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is any Government in Egypt at the present time?
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I think there is no Prime Minister. My hon. and gallant Friend is probably aware that one of the reasons for which the Nationalists were deported was the exercise of their efforts to prevent the formation of a new Government and their intimidation of His Highness the Sultan.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
Powers are vested in the High Commissioner and in the military authorities. I may say that the present situation requires that law and order must be restored in Egypt before we embark with any hope of success on the projects which have so largely engaged bur attention this evening. It is a situation which requires firmness and decision, and that we cannot doubt. His Majesty's Government here and His Majesty's representatives in Egypt will force with all the power at their command.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.