HC Deb 11 July 1922 vol 156 cc1154-61

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question, That a sum, not exceeding £307,637, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant-in-Aid and other Expenses connected with Oversea Settlement.

Question again proposed. Debate resumed.


I am certain that in the long run we shall be proved, as usual, to have been right, and the supporters of the Government will be proved to have been wrong. On many occasions recently we on this side of the House, on putting questions with regard to this matter, have been met by a torrent of abuse. Even when we have put a supplementary question it has never reached the Minister on the other side, because of the volume of abuse that has followed even the putting of a question to the bench opposite. The particular matter at issue is this. Here is a man exiled to the Seychelles, one of the most deadly places in the Pacific, at the age of 74—a man who has rendered service under the Crown in years gone by, and who is not condemned by all the opinion in this country, because, in spite of the bitter attack that was made upon him in the Debate of the 14th March, even by the Leader of the House, no less a person than the Secretary of the Milner Commission—himself a Coalition Member —said this: I would not have it thought that I wished to shirk saying something about the question of Zaghloul Pasha. My experience in Egypt, such as it has been, has taught me that it is always wise to avoid extremes, and I rather regretted that the Leader of the House should have taken quite so decided a line about Zaghloul Pasha."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th March; cols. 2112–13, Vol. 151.] The hon. Member went on to say that in his opinion this man has a great career of usefulness yet to serve in the times that are ahead in the future government of Egypt. He has been deported. As to the manner or the merits of his deportation I will not argue, but will deal with the matter from the point of view of the effect on the people of Egypt if this man dies in exile. There are many other places to which he could be deported, where the question of his death might not, possibly, arise, but in this lonely Pacific island, where, as we have at last, after months of questioning, secured the admission, there is not a single fully-qualified man on the island to deal with any complaint. Many of these gentlemen have been in the habit, as indeed have many Members of the Government, of visiting specialists on the Continent to bolster up their health and see them through for a further period. We have the admission this afternoon that the stoppage of communications is due to the fact that he is suffering from bronchitis and cardiac failure. Cardiac failure, in a man 74 years of age, is no light matter. It may mean death, and I would suggest that, before this is passed lightly over, some consideration should be given to the matter by the Government, if only it results in the removal of this gentleman from the place in which he is detained at the moment.

The so-called rebels of to-day are proved to be the friends of to-morrow. I and other Members have been howled down when we Attempted to put questions about the mentality or courage of Mr. Michael Collins, or any of his followers, but those who did that have now shaken hands with him. He has become quite a respectable person. His picture postcards are on sale. In the days to come, when the real truth of the matter comes out, some similar reversal of public opinion will follow in this matter. It is because I believe that the best interests of the Government will be served by a policy of humanity, that I hope that, even at this last moment, the Colonial Office will say just exactly what are their plans with regard to this man and his associates. The Government are responsible, because the Seychelles Islands are under the administration of the Colonial Office, and the Colonial Office set itself out to get certain Acts legalised in the House of Commons at 24 hours' notice, in order to provide for the reception of this gentleman. Any likelihood of his death will mean such a volume of resentment in Egypt that no body of Europeans, nor the small handful of white troops there, could possibly cope with the outbreak that may ensue, and, therefore, I feel that I am doing a public duty in calling attention to the matter and expressing the hop? that there may be some reversal of the present policy.


I rise to support the plea that has been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills). I trust that the Colonial Office will not deal with this very grave matter in the spirit in which the House dealt with it this afternoon. I want to make my protest against that scene. I care not how little the House likes a particular person or a particular movement; it is not in harmony with the traditions of the House that it should treat it with the contempt with which it treated this matter this afternoon. I say frankly, however, that it is in harmony with the composition of the present House of Commons. I was present when a question was asked about the death of the Lord Mayor of Cork, and I remember the laughter with which that question was greeted. Inside the House it was thought to bo a good joke, but outside it caused the people almost to hang their heads with shame. Who is there now who would defend for a moment the laughter that greeted that question about the death of the Lord Mayor of Cork in this city? Some of us have refrained from asking questions about this matter of Zaghloul Pasha, because we did not want to embarrass the people who are trying to carry out what they believe to be a successful policy in Egypt at the present moment but at least we expected that the Colonial Office would have the good sense to see that, if they treat this matter with lightness, it will certainly not have a good effect upon the present position in Egypt. Everyone who has been in touch with Egypt recently knows that, however much we may talk about the settlement of the Egyptian question, the fact remains that people who have recently returned from that country speak of the very grave condition of opinion which is prevailing there.

This man is certainly suffering very seriously. He is almost dying. If he dies in the Seychelles in our hands it will fan into flame the feeling that is certainly prevailing in Egypt, and will make almost impossible a complete settlement of the Egyptian question. It is to the interest of the Colonial Office and of good Government in Egypt to give all the attention that can possibly be given to this lonely old man. He at least was spoken very highly of by Lord Cromer, whose autographed photograph is treasured by him. It will not be for the good government of Egypt. It will not have a good effect at all if this matter is treated lighly and this old man is left to suffer, as he undoubtedly is at present. There are people who doubt his judgment, but certainly the gentleman mentioned by my hon. Friend, who was the secretary to the Milner Commission, did not seem to think it was lack of judgment. I should say the best thing the Government could do in the present state of feeling is to bring that man from the Seychelles and either put him in a more tolerable position or release him altogether, for I think if the present scheme which we have put into operation in Egypt has a chance at all, it will have a better chance by the palliation of feeling which will take place as the result of his release. At least I hope the Colonial Office is not going to take the spirit of the House this afternoon, which was hollow, shallow, unworthy not only of the House but of the traditions of Parliament generally, as any guide.


I do not know whether it would assist the Committee if I made one remark. Neither I nor the Colonial Office are responsible for Zaghloul Pasha being in the Seychelles. That has nothing to do with the Colonial Office as an Office. What we are responsible for, I suppose, while he is in the Seychelles is that we should do everything we can to preserve him in good health.

Captain W. BENN

Who stops him from leaving there?


The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows perfectly well that, rightly or wrongly, the policy of the Government was responsible for his deportation to the Seychelles. As I conceive it, the duty of the Colonial Office is limited to keeping him in good health while he is in the Seychelles. Whatever it is possible to do we are doing. He is having the best medical attendance the islands afford. I have not the least doubt whatever is required for him is being and will be done. I think the two hon. Members who have addressed themselves to this point are in danger of exaggerating the climatic disadvantages of the Seychelles. I have never been there, but I have recently spent some weeks with the late Governor, who was a Member of this House and is now Governor of the West Indies, and he told me it was a very delightful climate and not at all a deadly island in the Pacific as the hon. Member doscribed it, though incidentally it would be more correct to say the Indian Ocean. I only suggest that in order that we may not lose our sense of proportion. I was in the House this afternoon, and I really was not aware of a scene in the sense which would justify hon. Members' indignation. If they want to know what Members laughed at, I can tell them. It was not out of any lack of sympathy with Zaghloul, but it struck many Members as humourous to hear him described as His Excellency.

Captain BENN

Certainly he is entitled to be called that.


The fact that hon. Members were inclined to smile did not imply any lack of sympathy with him.


Notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman's explanation, I do not think the House was at its best this afternoon from a humanitarian or an Imperial point of view in dealing with this question. It was only a repetition of what occurred a fortnight ago, when a similar question was put to the Foreign Under-Secretary. It was the first time I took an interest in the matter, and when I heard the Under-Secretary admit that Zaghloul Pasha was suffering from diabetes, which it is a matter of public knowledge is one of the most serious maladies which anyone can suffer from, I asked a supplementary question of the hon. Gentleman—who, I thought, had treated the matter rather lightly—which was also one of common and not of medical knowledge: "Is it not a fact that mental worry—and there is no doubt this gentleman must be suffering from mental worry in his present surroundings —is one of the most serious and aggravating ancillary causes of diabetes?" It is one of the most predisposing causes. The House did not understand the question, and simply laughed. I do not think the House has been at its best in dealing with the sufferings of this one man. I pass no opinion upon the political aspect of the matter, except in the political repercussion of the attitude which this House and the Government take to a man of the age of 74 who has been, for what he considers his duty to his own country, deported in the evening of his life far away from his own home. That should call out for the sympathy of anyone, and the Government ought to show more sympathy with his Excellency than they have been doing.

I have happened since that incident to look further into the matter and have read all the documents that bear upon the health of Zaghloul Pasha. I have seen certificates from men of European fame in Paris and elsewhere, and I have come to the conclusion that, whatever may be the climate of those islands to which he is deported, in the interests of his health it is necessary that he should be brought to Europe to get special treatment, which he has been in the habit of getting and which has helped to prolong his life to 74. I say nothing about the

climate of the Seychelles. It is necessary in the interests of his health that he should get that special treatment to which he has been accustomed in years gone by, and if political implications would admit of it, I would ask the Government, in the interest of their own political ideals in connection with Egypt and in the interest of their own policy in Egypt, not to allow it to be said that they prevented this man from getting the very best medical help he could in order to prolong his life and save him from further suffering. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to treat this aspect of the case with a little more sympathy. It is no use scolding Members who are present for Members who are absent, but if the House were here I would appeal to them also to deal with this aspect of the man's case in more British fashion than has been done hitherto. I do not think, when you have this man in your power on a lonely island, it is right for the British House of Commons to smile at his sufferings.


May I ask a question—a pertinent one, I hope I Have the Colonial Office thought for a moment what might happen in the political feelings of the Egyptians themselves if this old gentleman were to die in exile? That appears to me to be rather an important matter.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 137; Noes, 68.

Division No. 215.] AYES. [8.37 P.m.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Hills, Major John Waller
Armstrong, Henry Bruce Dawson, Sir Philip Hinds, John
Atkey, A. R, Ednam, Viscount Holbrook. Sir Arthur Richard
Baird, Sir John Lawrence Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) Holmes, J- Stanley
Barnston, Major Harry Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath) Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n.W.)
Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)
Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell Evans, Ernest Hopkins, John W. W.
Betterton, Henry B. Falcon, Captain Michael Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)
Bigland,. Alfred Farquharson, Major A. C. Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)
Birchall, J. Dearman Ford, Patrick Johnston Houfton, John Plowright
Blades, Sir George Rowland Foreman, Sir Henry Hurd, Percy A.
Blair, Sir Reginald Forrest, Walter Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.
Borwick, Major G. O. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Inskip, Thomas Walker H.
Briggs, Harold Gee, Captain Robert Jephcott, A. R.
Broad, Thomas Tucker George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Jesson, C.
Brown, Major D. C. Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Johnson, Sir Stanley
Bruton, Sir James Gilbert, James Daniel Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)
Butcher, Sir John George Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
Casey, T. W. Goff, Sir R. Park Kidd, James
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) King, Captain Henry Douglas
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood) Gritten. W. G. Howard Larmor, Sir Joseph
Clough, Sir Robert Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Lister, Sir R. Ashton
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Hallwood, Augustine Lorden, John William
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hamilton, Sir George C. Lort-Williams. J.
Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South) Haslam, Lewis Lowe, Sir Francis William
Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.) Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)
Davies Alfred Thomas (Lincoln) Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.
Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Randies, Sir John Scurrah Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Maitland, Sir Arthur D, Steel- Ratcliffe, Henry Butler Tryon, Major George Clement
Martin, A. E. Remer, J. R. Wallace, J.
Mason, Robert Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend) Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor
Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C. Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor) Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)
Middlebrook, Sir William Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur Warren, Sir Alfred H.
Mitchell, Sir William Lane Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Williams, C. (Tavistock)
Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J. Seager, Sir William Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)
Morden, Col. W. Grant Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on.T.) Winterton, Earl
Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Simm, M, T. Wise, Frederick
Neal, Arthur Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney) Wood. Hon. Edward F, L. (Ripon)
Newson, Sir Percy Wilson Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston) Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Stanton, Charles Butt Woolcock, William James U.
Nicholson, Brig-Gen. J. (Westminster) Stewart, Gershom Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Sturrock, J. Leng Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)
Parker, James Sugden, W. H.
Perring, William George Sutherland, Sir William TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray Taylor, J. Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Dudley Ward.
Pratt, John William Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Purchase, H. G. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D. Grundy, T. W. Royce, William Stapleton
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth) Sitch, Charles H.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Barnes, Major H, (Newcastle, E.) Halls, Walter Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Barton, Sir William (Oldham) Hartshorn, Vernon Sutton, John Edward
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Hayday, Arthur Swan, J. E.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hayward, Evan Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Bramsdon, Sir Thomas Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes) Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Bromfield, William Hirst, G. H. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Tillett, Benjamin
Cairns, John Irving, Dan Waterson, A. E.
Cape, Thomas Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown) Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.
Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe) Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M. White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Lunn, William Williams, Aneurin (Durham. Consett)
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian) Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough, E.)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South) MacVeagh, Jeremiah Wilson, James (Dudley)
Entwistle, Major C. F. Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness and Ross) Wintringham, Margaret
Finney, Samuel Myers, Thomas Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Foot, Isaac Naylor, Thomas Ellis Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Galbraith, Samuel Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Gillis, William Raffan, Peter Wilson TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Mr. Rhys Davies and Mr. Lawson.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Robertson, John

Question put, and agreed to.