Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £92,594, 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, 1925, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, including the News Department."—[Note: £85,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I rise to deal with a question which once was the subject of the fiercest controversy and recrimination in this House, and endangered the life of a British Government. Moreover, on at least one occasion it brought us to the verge of war with our great Ally across the Channel. Although, happly, those days are long removed, and we can discuss this question this afternoon in an atmosphere, I hope almost of unanimity, still it is the fact that the question of the Sudan is likely to become one which will require more attention from this Committee and from the House than has been the case in the immediate past. I am raising the question this afternoon merely to make clear the attitude of those who sit on this side of the House and to support what I believe to be the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to the Sudan.
In order to make my case, it is necessary to trouble the Committee, though I hope for only a brief time, with a short historical survey of the conditions in the Sudan prior to the occupation, because upon those conditions and upon that period must depend and must turn so much of the controversy of to-day. Modern Sudanese history, or Sudanese history with which I am at any rate concerned this afternoon, starts with the action of the great Mohammed Ali, ruler of Egypt at the beginning of the last 2504 century. Mohammed Ali, who is still regarded by living Egyptians as the embodiment of nationalistic aspirations, was one of those men occasionally to be met with in the East who combine all the subtlety of the East with the strength of will and quickness of decision of the West. He was undoubtedly the greatest leader that Egypt has at any rate seen within historical times, and has probably ever seen. About the year 1818 Mohammed Ali turned his eyes, as the eyes of his predecessors had been turned for 100 and indeed 1,000 years, southwards for slaves and ivory. The historical Egyptian policy was to look to the lands of the South for slaves and ivory with which to trade. As the result, Mohammed Ali, whose forces in that part of the world were invincible, conquered the Sudan in 1819, and there followed on his conquest a period of 60 years of terrible oppression, peculation, and tyranny.
During those 60 years, the slave trade was at times openly supported by the Turko-Egyptian Government of the Sudan with open and cynical brutality, and at other times it was camouflaged, but the trade was always there, and the effects of those years of rule on the Sudan were probably as deplorable as any period of similar rule in any part of the world, certainly within the last 200 years. It may be worth quoting the opinion of a great Englishman who travelled in that country, and whose name will ever be honourably associated with Sudanese problems of the middle and end of last century. Sir Samuel Baker, in 1870, wrote:I observed that there seemed a frightful change in the features of the country between Berber and the Capital since my former visit. The rich soil on the banks of the river, which had a few years since been highly cultivated, was abandoned. There was not a dog to howl for a lost master. Industry had vanished; oppression had driven the inhabitants from the soil.Speaking a little later of the South of the Sudan, he said:The entire country was leased out to piratical slave hunters under the name of traders by the Khartoum Government.It is a matter of history and certainly no longer of controversy that the efforts of General Gordon, once attacked by some of the political ancestors of the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, to suppress the slave trade and to get the 2505 Turko-Egyptian Government in the Sudan and the Egyptian authorities at Cairo to take a more humane view of the rights of government, though unsuccessful, were strenuous and sincere from the first. I ought to add this in in justice to General Gordon's memory; and, when one reads some of the statements that were made by members of the then Liberal party about Gordon, I think it is necessary even at this long period of time to make some reference to it. I do not want to introduce a note of controversy, but they made every effort to show that his word could not be depended upon.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that I am inaccurate, but he had really better read "Hansard" of that time.
§ Earl WINTERTON
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will read the Debates of that time, he will see that I am justified.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Neither the Noble Lord nor myself were present at those Debates, but I think he will admit that nobody attacked Gordon in his character. He was recognised as a man of great liberalism of mind, with the highest idealism, and was held in the greatest honour. The Liberal party attacked the policy.
§ Earl WINTERTON
That is not the point of Order which I thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman wished to raise, and I should not have given way to him for such a very inadequate reason. I am not talking of what was done, although I, for one, should have every justification for attacking what was done by Mr. Gladstone and his Government in relation to General Gordon. I am attacking the references to him that were made in speeches at the time—those references can be found by a search through Hansard—in which he was represented, at any rate in some quarters among the then Members of this House, as a man whose word could not be depended upon. I am rather surprised that the hon. and gallant Gentlemen should stress this matter of the attitude of the Liberal party towards General Gordon. It was the prime cause of 2506 bringing one of their Governments crashing to the ground, and in my opinion was one of the principal causes why for such a long time afterwards the Liberal party wore not entrusted by the people with an adequate majority for the government of this country.
Let me, however, leave that part of the question, and go on. It was undoubtedly the fact that the Englishmen who worked under the Turko-Egyptian Government in the Sudan at that time did all that they could to improve conditions, but unfortunately they met with very little success. Finally came the appalling catastrophe of the Mahdist revolt. I do not think there is any question as to what were the main reasons for that revolt. It was not merely a fanatical outburst of Islamic extremism, because governors and governed were Mohammedan people. It was unquestionably—here there will be no difference of opinion—a Sudan national rising against the gross misgovernment of the Sudan by Egypt, and the latter's exploitation of the slave trade. I am glad to have the assent of hon. Gentlemen opposite in that matter. I am most anxious that it should go out from this House that we are unanimous on this question, and I believe, so far as those above the Gangway opposite and on this side of the House are concerned, there is unanimity of opinion. As supporting what I have said, it is necessary to make one very short quotation from a White Paper of that time, which puts very clearly and very shortly what the situation then was. Lord Dufferin, in a dispatch of 14th December, 1883, to Lord Granville said:The recent disturbances were mainly due to the misgovernment and cruel exactions of the local Egyptian authorities at Khartum, and that, whatever might be the pretensions of the Mahdi to a divine mission, his chief strength was derived from the despair and misery of the native population.That statement was made at the time, and, as far as I have been able to ascertain, was never challenged in this House. Lord Cromer, of the same time, said:The power gained by semi-civilised skill "—and he is referring to the Turko-Egyptian Government——over the wild tribes had been grossly misused; slave-hunting Pashas and corrupt and extortionate tax-collectors had rendered the name of Egypt hateful to the people.2507 So much for the past. I now come to the most important question which I think we have to discuss to-day in connection with the Sudan, and that is the cry which has gone forth from some quarters in Egypt of "Sudan for the Egyptians" I am going to say as little as possible unfriendly to the Egyptian people or the Egyptian Government, but I must start by observing that. I think that Egyptian politicians hope that these inconvenient facts which I have just cited may be concealed in the swish and swirl of present-day events. So far as this country is concerned, and I think I speak for both sides, we have not forgotten those events prior to the Mahdist rising and the occupation. Personally, and again I think I speak for the great majority of the Committee, I have no quarrel with the Egyptian people. I think there are to be found in the Egyptian masses one of the most patient, honest and industrious nations in the world, with whom one would wish to see this country on good terms. They are people who have brought the art of peasant cultivation to a very high standard and whose record is one of patient industry and development. I am compelled to distinguish in this respect between the masses and what I may without offence describe as the Pasha class in Egypt—a half alien and in some cases wholly unscrupulous class. As to the majority of the Pasha class their immediate ancestors came from other parts of Asia or Europe, and in addition I am afraid I must say that their aspirations, if carried to a logical conclusion, would hardly suit either the convenience or the prosperity of the Fellaheen, who constitute the great majority of the masses.
I am concerned with the people of Egypt as a whole, and I assert with confidence that the cry "the Sudan for Egypt" is not a cry of the common people or of the great mass of the people in Egypt. There are amongst them far too many memories of conscripted fathers and grandfathers who, in the 60's and 70's of last century, died in agony amid its cruel rocks and sand. I was nine or ten years old when I was in Egypt in 1892, and I remember when going up the Nile hearing the frightful lamentations and wailings of women and children in the villages on the banks of 2508 the river as their husbands, fathers and brothers were taken away to be conscripted for the army. I remember also being told that those lamentations went back to the awful days of the Turco-Egyptian regime in the Sudan, when thousands and even millions of Egyptians were taken away from their villages. It impressed my youthful mind very much indeed. The truth is it has always been difficult and it certainly will not be less difficult under a purely Egyptian administration of the Sudan to induce Egyptians to serve in the Sudan. I say it has always been difficult and it is difficult to-day, but it certainly would not be easier if the British went away. While there might possibly be more backsheesh to be obtained under these conditions there would also be more beatings. One of the principal reasons why that is so is this. The Sudan and Egypt are two countries which are inhabited by races which are mutually antipathetic to each other. If one takes a tour right down the long stretches of the White Nile to the borders of Abyssinia the contrast between the cultivated lands of Egypt and those wild countries which stretch into the equatorial provinces is very great indeed. I remember being struck in 1903, 10 years after the re-occupation by the British of Egypt, by the fact that in the villages which the negroid tribes inhabit you saw very few middle-aged men, although there are plenty of young and old men. The middle-aged men apparently had all been carried off as slaves in the days of Mahdist oppression, or in the days of the Turco-Egyptian rule before the Madhist revolt. That was a very striking and significant fact. I could not help, in passing through the country, feeling proud that this country has done what it has done in the Sudan for an essentially kindly people who are capable, under instruction and under proper government, of perhaps making a great achievement in the world. It was very satisfactory to see the peace they enjoyed contrasted with the terrible conditions they had gone through.
Now I come to the working agreement which at present exists between this country and Egypt for the government of the Sudan. In regard to that I would like to make my last quotation. It is a quotation from the Milner Report, and I would call the Committee's attention to the fact that that Report was 2509 unanimously signed by hon. Members of this House and of the other House, representative of all parties, and it has frequently been quoted by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite in justification of this or that part of the policy they were putting forward. I hope they will accept the quotation I am going to give as having an important bearing on the controversy which has arisen in the present summer arising out of statements by Zaghloul Pasha and of the Noble Lord in the other place. The date is 1919, and the Milner Report said of the situation in the Sudan:Since the conquest of the country by British and Egyptian forces under British leadership in 1896 and 1898, the government of the Sudan which after the Convention of 1899 took the form of an Anglo-Egyptian Protectorate has been virtually in British hands. The Governor-General, though appointed by the Sultan of Egypt, is nominated by the British Government and all the Governors of Provinces and the principal officials are British. Under this system of government progress of the Sudan in all respects, material and moral, has been remarkable. When full allowance is made for the simplicity of the problem by the introduction of the first principles of orderly and civilised government among a very primitive people, the great success actually achieved during the long Governor-Generalship of Sir R. Wingate is one of the brightest pages in the history of British rule over backward races. The present administration is popular in the Sudan and with few exceptions peaceful and progressive conditions prevail throughout the country.That is a Report signed by representatives of all parties in Parliament, and I should imagine it was largely based on notes prepared by an hon. Member of this House who was a member of the party opposite—General Thomas—who paid a visit to the Sudan in order to see what was going on. That working agreement under which the Government of the Sudan existed in 1898 had been most successful until recently, but I am afraid it is beginning to fail. I would invite the attention of the Prime Minister to a fact which I think he will not doubt, but upon which he may not care to express either agreement or disagreement. I say it has begun to fail because we have, for reasons which I do not propose to go into this afternoon, no longer a willing partner in the Egyptian Government, in the administration. We are working with a very unwilling partner. An hon. Member behind me says we always have done so, but I do not think 2510 that that statement does quite full justice to the case. There may or may not have been objections taken by individual Egyptians to the position in the past, but the situation to-day is different. There is an active and open opposition in some official quarters in Cairo to the joint administration of the Sudan. That is a new situation altogether. A cynic might observe this, that for the first time the Egyptians have got control of the particular Departments with which it is difficult for the administration of the Sudan to work. I merely state the fact, however. I want to suggest to the Government that they should take up this attitude with the Government of Egypt. Either you must consent to work with us in the Sudan as hitherto in the common task of developing its economic resources and preparing its people for the constitutional development which must eventually by theirs, or you must leave us to do the work alone after proper adjustment c our respective financial commitments, and with adequate safeguard for that Nile water which is the very life blood of Egypt. I trust there will be no dissentient voice when I say that Egypt can never be allowed to annex the Sudan in the sense that that term is used by some otherwise responsible Egyptian politicians and statesmen to-day. It would be completely contrary to every modern principle of self-determination and the development of backward races if that were done. It would be giving to one country having no ethnological relation, it would be giving to an alien country powers of rule against the wishes of 99 per cent of the people of the country.
I should like on this point to say it is a complete mistake to suppose, as some seem to think, that nothing has been done to encourage the Sudanese to govern themselves and to develop their own institutions. As shown in the Governor-General's Report for the last three or four years the object of the Sudan Government has been increasingly to leave the administration as far as possible in the hands of native authorities wherever they exist under the supervision of the Governor and to allow the village system of government—the tribal system—to develop along modern lines. There has been in the last four or five years a great improvement in the technical training of the young Sudanese. The Gordon College and other schools have produced skilled 2511 artisans of all kinds, engineers and agriculturalists, and they have recently been training medical officers. For four or five years there has been put into operation a system by which submamiers, officials of a certain type, will be recruited from the Sudanese. There has been an immense acceleration since the War of the process that has been going on all the time towards practical development among the Sudanese. I do not propose to weary the Committee with facts and figures to prove this. It is well known to all students of history. When we consider the question of the relationship of Egypt and this country respectively to the Sudanese, we have, of course, to consider one question which is of great importance, but the importance of which has perhaps been overstressed in some quarters, and that is the financial commitments of this country and Egypt respectively in the Sudan in the last 30 or 40 years. I am not going to attempt to deal with that this afternoon. It is rather the duty of the Government to go into these details, but I can assure the Committee that it would be the greatest mistake to suppose that the claims made in some quarters in Egypt on this question of financial commitments were accurate. They talk about the millions sunk by Egypt in the Government of the Sudan, but they fail to talk of the millions sunk by this country—I am not speaking of commercial investments—in order to re-conquer the Sudan and help it along the path of development which it is now so happily pursuing.
I cull from the old musty documents of the time—to Which I will not refer further because of the effect which they seem to produce on the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy)—certain interesting figures. I find from a White Paper published about 1886 that the financial commitments incurred by the British Treasury in the Sudan for the years 1882 to 1885 amounted to £13,000,000 sterling, and of course an immense amount was incurred afterwards. It is quite true there are large sums on the other side. It is quite true that the Egyptian Government provided the Budget deficits in the Sudan from the year 1898 when the occupation took place until the year 1913 when there was a surplus, but that deficit which was 2512 large in the first place became gradually smaller and is not as formidable a sum as is represented. There was also the expenditure by the Egyptian Government out of Egyptian finances on railways and public works and the rest in the past but there has been no such expenditure for at least 12 years. There is also of course the yearly cost to the Egyptian Treasury of the defence of the country Which may be roughly calculated at £E1,200,000. As I have endeavoured to show there are considerable set-offs and I think when you come to balance the two accounts you will not find that the actual financial debit of Egypt is as much as might be supposed.
Before I leave this subject I should like to make one reference to the cost incurred by Egypt in connection with defence. I have just given the figure of the yearly cost to the Egyptian taxpayer of the maintenance of Egyptian troops, or rather troops of the Egyptian Army, partly Egyptian and partly Sudanese, in the Sudan, but we have to remember in this connection how great a menace the Sudan would have been to Egypt had it not been re-conquered by the joint forces of British and Egyptians—and I am afraid the term "joint forces" is rather a euphemism. It has been abundantly proved by the despatches of the time that the real onus was borne by this country and the troops of this country. You have in the Southern Sudan in its relation to Egypt the problem of the North-West Frontier of India over again. Just as in India the tribes on the lean windswept uplands look hungrily to the, fat plains of the South, the Punjab and elsewhere, so in the Sudan, virile lighting races, Arab and Negro, long for the day when they can pour like locusts into the rich Nile deltas, inhabited, as they well know, by a peaceful and unwarlike people. In each case it is the same person, never conspicuous, always in the background, who keeps them back, and that is the British private soldier. It is undoubtedly true that if it ever should happen—I myself think it will never happen—that we were entirely out of the Sudan and Egypt, the Egyptian Government would have to pay just as much, and probably more, for the defence of its frontier against the Sudanese, as it now pays for its army of occupation in the Sudan.
All these financial matters can in my opinion be adjusted. There remains 2513 only the question of the Nile water. Frankly I believe that in any fresh arrangement with the Egyptian Government—and I think there will have to be a fresh arrangement—it will be necessary to give a British guarantee for the integrity of the water supply of the Egyptian people. I hope any such arrangement as that to which I refer will clear up once and for all and definitely the status of the Sudan. That is the sort of arrangement which I should like to see, but as I say it will also be necessary for the Government to guarantee the integrity of Egypt's water supply, and I am informed that part of the agitation going on in Egypt to-day is due to the fear, which the Egyptians believe to be well grounded but which we in this House believe to be ill grounded, that sooner or later the British are going to get out of the Sudan, leaving it to the Sudanese. That being so the Egyptians are afraid that a Sudanese Government, which I think in their heart of hearts they realise from a military point of view would be stronger than themselves, might, if I may use a slang term, monkey with the water. Therefore it is the duty of the British Government to make their position clear in this respect. They cannot absolve themselves of their responsibilities and I cannot but believe if the integrity of Egypt's water supply were guaranteed it would do away with a great deal of the apprehension which at present exists, and I have yet to learn that the word of the British Empire is of no value in a matter of this kind. In view of the unanimity of opinion which exists upon this matter I believe, given in that way, it would be sufficient——
§ Earl WINTERTON
It is quite true that a similar arrangement will have to be made with regard to Abyssinia, but I prefer not to mention that on account of the fact that the Regent of that country is at present in England, and perhaps as a result of his visit it may be possible to settle many questions which have been outstanding for many years. I agree that it is almost a general African question, and I think the Secretary of State for the Colonies will probably agree also that it is a general African question; still it is a question susceptible of settlement, and so 2514 far as a guarantee is concerned I think you cannot go on without one.
In conclusion, I submit that on moral and ethnological grounds the Egyptian Government cannot claim the annexation of the Sudan. I go further and say that the question cannot for long be left where it is, since for various reasons, the status quo is not being adequately maintained. At this point I should like to refer to a gentleman whose name is bound to come up in the course of this afternoon's Debate. The present Prime Minister of Egypt is a man of great ability and indeed genius, of whom the late Lord Cromer is reported to have said that he was the ablest and most progressive of all the young Egyptian politicians, but I think it is very necessary that he and his Government should realise the limitations and duties as well as the rights of nationality. Egypt has not yet by any means set its own house in order. It has not had time since it has enjoyed independence to set its house in order, and there is still a great deal to be done in the way of educating its own people to carry on the government of Egypt as well as it was carried on under the previous régime.
Nothing would be more fatal, from that point of view, than for Egypt to attempt to govern by itself another great country like the Sudan, and I think Zaghloul Pasha and his Government ought to be reminded of that fact, which is the central fact of all. After all, it is absurd to talk of the annexation of the Sudan by Egypt when Egypt has only had its own independence for some four years, and has yet to show how she is going to carry out her duties in the government of her own country. That is a matter for herself, but she has also—which is a matter for all of us—to show that she is going to carry out her obligations to Europe and the Powers under the very modified control which now exists. I hope I have said nothing hostile to the Government and its policy. I am most anxious to avoid doing so. I trust the Prime Minister, who has, I understand, the advantage of a personal acquaintance with Zaghloul Pasha, and who, like myself and others, has the advantage denied to an earlier generation of politicians of having been in the country, will address himself with tact, firmness and expedition to the task of 2515 getting this question settled, and of having the status of the Sudan accurately and clearly defined. A few months ago I should not have made that suggestion. I should have thought it sufficient to leave the matter as it was, but in view of what I have learned since, in view of events in Egypt, in view of the speech made the other day in another place, I think the question cannot be left exactly as it was. We have to define clearly and simply the status of the Sudan, and I believe we can do so. I believe we can come to terms with the Egyptian Government on the matter, and I hope, in everything and anything we do, we shall be guided solely by this consideration, namely, the rights, present and future, of the people of the country for whom we have done so much in the last 25 years.
§ Sir MURDOCH MACDONALD
There were many things in the speech of the Noble Lord who has just sat down with which I feel myself in agreement, but there are also one or two points in it which I should like to mention before proceeding to the specific questions with which I propose, myself, to deal. I think I can say with certainty that the Noble Lord has correctly interpreted the general feeling of the House with regard to what the Prime Minister said a short time ago in relation to Egypt and the Sudan and that this House, for the time being, has no intention of handing over the Sudan to Egypt further than the extent to which Egypt has already got command of that country. I am not sure that the Noble Lord is right in saying that the pasha class in Egypt is largely a foreign and alien class. The modern pasha class in Egypt is, I think, really and truly an Egyptian class and those who have been supporting Zaghloul Pasha are undoubtedly Egyptian in the true sense of the word. I will not follow the Noble Lord into the historical aspect of the question as to whether the Egyptians of to-day desire the Sudan for the same reasons as those which the Noble Lord imputed to the Egyptians of past days. I quite believe that in the past, Egyptians desired the Sudan for simple reasons of conquest. All people have done that sort of thing and the Egyptians have been no exceptions. But I take a different view as to the reasons why the Egyptians of 2516 to-day desire the Sudan. What are the prevalent reasons in the minds of the vast majority of Egyptians? I doubt very much if they wish for the Sudan, as their forefathers may have done, simply for reasons of conquest. I think they probably have entirely different reasons. I do not think it is mere cupidity and the desire to possess a valuable part of territory which they have not hitherto possessed.
I think that in recent years, in my time in Egypt—and I was there for some years—the reason was entirely a natural and a nervous fear for the safety of her water supply. It may well have been that they had that nervous feeling in preceding generations, and that the conquest of the Sudan was impelled by the desire to conquer the Nile waters, as nobody knew where they came from or whether they could be interfered with, and that condition lasted down to somewhere about 100 years ago. If that was the reason in their minds, they might not have troubled to go to the Sudan at all, because I believe that no art of man could interfere the supply of water which they required From the dawn of history until about 100 years ago the Nile flood provided that supply, despite all that mankind could do. Why should they have a nervous fear now? It is because about 100 years ago the supply of water which they required became rather different. They were content up to that time to have flood water, but after that period Mohammed Ali introduced summer irrigation, and a summer water supply became an absolute necessity, and the whole modern prosperity of Egypt is built on the summer water supply. It is quite true that there are no works yet in the Sudan which could interfere with the summer water supply, nor could it be entirely interfered with even if there were works there, because they have inside their own territory, at Assuan, a large body of water which gives somewhere on the average about a quarter to a third of the normal summer supply, so that it is impossible to imagine that Egypt could ever be without some summer water as long as she has command of her own reservoir at Assuan, but still, the subtraction of two-thirds or 75 per cent. of the normal summer flow would be a dreadful blow to summer irrigation, and to the same percentage it would affect the quantity of cotton grown in Egypt.
2517 It is, therefore, quite reasonable to see that Egyptians, if they thought the water supply in the Sudan could be interfered with, would have a right to be nervous and to want to know what was going to happen to the Sudan. They have a still further right in this, that the whole of their territory is not yet fully developed. In the lower part of the Delta there are some 2,000,000 acres at least which could be brought into something like the same state of fertility, probably, as the rest of Egypt, and certainly could absorb summer water, so that Egypt has for that alone to find a further source in the far Sudan from which she can get more summer water. I believe it is impossible for her to increase the water supply inside her own borders, and, therefore, she is bound to go further into this territory where at present there is a condominium, and my reason for intervening at all in this Debate is because I believe I might be able to tell the Committee that there are methods of looking at this problem which probably might relieve Egypt's mind to some extent, if it were really true that the position envisaged by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), and by what I believe the Prime Minister has stated on a previous occasion should not come to pass, that is, that Egypt should have no greater power in the Sudan in the future than she has to-day.
Before I venture on showing why that should be, I might for a moment or two ask permission to look at the relative areas of the countries involved. Egypt itself, as far as the map is concerned, is a very huge country indeed. It covers some 360,000 odd square miles, and as a comparison I might tell the Members of this Committee that their own country, including Ireland, is about 120,000 square miles, so that, as Egypt appears on the map, she has about three times as much as Great Britain and Ireland, but the real Egypt is not that vast area at all. The real Egypt is a very small country indeed, because it is possible to live upon practically only 12,000 square miles out of the 360,000, and the whole of the rest is absolutely barren desert, on which neither man nor beast can thrive, and her 13,000,000 of people are congested on to those 12,000 square miles. It is quite true that the great bulk of them are in the triangular belt of the Delta, which has sides of about 130 miles, with its apex 2518 at Cairo, but from Cairo for 700 miles to Wady Halfa, near where the boundary between Egypt and the Sudan lies, it is only a thin, narrow, green ribbon along the river banks, with an average width of something like five miles.
When we come to the Sudan there is an entirely different situation, although it is perfectly true that in the first long strip of the Sudan the conditions are much the same as in Upper Egypt, that is to say, there is a long, narrow, green strip from Wady Halfa to Khartum, but when you leave Khartum and go up the Blue Nile, into which so much British Government money has been recently poured, the situation is entirely different. The whole country is inside, or very largely inside, the rainy belt, and crops can be grown from rain as well as from irrigation, with the result that very great areas indeed can be covered by population and not merely such a small 12,000 square miles area as comprises the whole of the real Egypt. I think in the Gezira alone there are something like 17,000 square miles. Going up the White Nile the same thing happens, although there the rain is not so heavy, until one gets very much further south than on the Blue Nile, crops can be grown to feed a very large population. There are very great possibilities on the White Nile. I feel certain, too, that the time will come, when the swamp region, through the necessity of Egypt having her present areas developed, and through the necessity of having further areas in the Blue Nile and the White Nile developed, will he so drained that very largely the swamp area will be reduced. The swamp area, by the way, is two or three hundred miles long, by indefinite hundreds of miles in width, and on the borders of that area live a population who drive their cattle in as the swamps contract after the flood season; it may be possible to produce irrigation works even there. It is possible to populate in the distant future great areas further south in Mongalla, and between that and Uganda.
I have in a few words tried to describe how different the situation is in the Sudan from that in Egypt. This vast country which I have described, of 1,000,000 square miles or more, with its large potentialities, may one day carry a very great population. What is the political future to be? Egypt can perfectly well 2519 ask that. The Sudan is as great as Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany and all the coast countries of Belgium and Holland up to Norway, I believe, included; in fact, it is as big as the whole of what we to-day call Western Europe, and it had at one time, I believe, a population of from 10 to 20 million people The Noble Lord who spoke before me pointed out that by bad government that population had been greatly decreased. I understand that it was so greatly decreased that when the reoccupation took place there were only 1,500,000 people in the whole country. Since then, owing to the good government given by the devoted band of officials who have been so beneficently ruling the Sudan in recent years, that population has again increased and has trebled itself, and I understand that it is somewhere now between four and five millions. There is no reason at all why that beneficent handling should not go on and the Sudan, in fact, have in future a very great population indeed. In that case Egypt can perfectly well say, "What are our future relations to be to this vast new country?"
Here I would like to say that, with the views at present held, and I cannot but say rightly held, the present kind of Government ought to go on in the Sudan. No Egyptian ought, really, to fear, nor do I believe are they really afraid, that England or Englishmen would in any way interfere with Egypt's water supply. I think they know quite well that there is no danger of that. Even if one looks at the mercenary side of the interest of an Englishman, it is to ensure a supply of cotton for their own fellow-countrymen here at home, and Englishmen in the Sudan know perfectly well that if they took away one drop of water from Egypt to which Egypt was entitled, by so much would the cotton crop of Egypt herself be reduced and the volume of cotton coming into this country be affected, so that Englishmen are not at all likely, in my view, to interfere, nor do I think the Egyptians really believe that Englishmen would wish to interfere detrimentally in the future with their water supply, but Egypt can very rightly say that the day may come when, owing, say, to troubles like the recent war, Britain's hand might be released from the Sudan, and what then would Egypt be faced with? She would be faced with a great, 2520 central, oligarchical Government in Khartum ruling over a vast population, with whom, possibly, she might find it extremely difficult to deal. I do not think myself that that would be the policy that the British Government would lightly follow. I think it much more likely that what will happen is this, that we have found in the Sudan a continent, and that we have no intention of amalgamating it into a kingdom. I do not think we have any desire to repeat what I believe to have been the error in India, where we also found a continent with diverse races, peoples and religions, and tried to amalgamate them into a kingdom. I think it would be far better if, in the case of the Sudan, each race had its own nationality preserved to it. I see no reason why the races in the Northern Sudan should rule over blacks in the Southern Sudan. At the present day the rule is that everyone ought to have the right to govern themselves, within reasonable limits. To erect, then, a single kingdom such as happened in the Mandi's time in the Sudan, I think, would be a mistake, and that the Sudanese themselves would prefer it if the Sudan were divided, as naturally it is divided, into a, series of separate, great nationalities. When that happens, Egypt would know perfectly well that if Great Britain did leave the Sudan, she would not have, over her water supply one oligarchical body in Khartum, with whom she would find it impossible to deal, and who would have two-thirds of her commercial prosperity in her hands. Instead, she would find a series of different nationalities spread along the Sudan area, with any one of whom she could quite reasonably come to terms with regard to the water supply. The view, then, I have, been trying to give the Committee is that the desirable thing would be to lay how, under British rule, the foundations of nationalities among the various peoples of the Sudan, these various nationalities would take different times to reach to that maturity of self-government which the Noble Lord said ought to be the object of British statesmanship in dealing with subject races of that kind, and, as long as England remained in the Sudan, Egypt would know she was safe, and the Sudan—if in the far distant future that really did happen—would know she would have to deal with separate nationalities 2521 rather than one kingdom—and an oligarchical kingdom at that—because it would be a kingdom ruling over diverse peoples and religions. I think in the future all these races in the Sudan would be very glad indeed to remain attached to the British Empire, and I see no reason at all why Egypt herself, although in the first flush, at the present moment demanding independence for herself, has permitted inside her borders many regrettable incidents, she should not also be glad in the future, just as these Sudanese nations I have been envisaging I am sure would be glad, to remain attached to the British Empire as so many of our great Dominions are.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
I listened with very considerable interest, and a very large measure of agreement, to the statement that was made by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). The one part of his speech which struck me as hesitating was where he came to discuss what, in his opinion, ought to be the remedy for the present dispute between this country and Egypt. I quite agree that everything I have read about the subject shows me that the Noble Lord's history is generally correct, that the record of the old Egyptian Government in the Sudan was a record of slave trading, of oppression and theft very difficult to match in modern history. Everything that Baker says in his "Ismalia," that General Gordon said, that French travellers have said, agree upon that point. There is no use whatever in blinking the fact, however, that the present Egyptian Government have grounds for fear in the present position. Their water supply, without which they cannot live, in the hands of another Power is a very serious matter to them, and, naturally, the Egyptians are seeking for some change which will give them national security. They come along and say, "We must have the Sudan handed over to us." The historical record does not give us any justification for agreeing to do that. If that Italian soldier of fortune, Gessi, who was hired by the late Khedive, is correct in saying that in a comparatively short period of time no fewer than 400,000 slaves were taken out of the Sudan by Egyptians, and shipped to Turkey and Asia. Minor, and if it be correct that, after the Dervish movement was put down, it was found that the 2522 population had been decimated from somewhere about 10,000,000 people to 1,500,000, these historical facts would certainly not justify anybody on this side of the House in wishing to return the Sudanese, people to the sole dominance of the Government of Egypt. Nevertheless, we have got to face the fact that Egypt has a well-grounded fear, in so far as her water supply is largely in the control of another Power, even although, that Power is disguised as a condominium.
What I suggest is that the British Government should face the facts frankly, and offer the Egyptian Government a joint reference of this dispute to the League of Nations. If the League of Nations hold an inquiry, and decide that the British Government ought to be entrusted with the mandate for the Sudan, that finishes it. If the League of Nations, on the other hand, decide otherwise, then I think you ought, in the interest of the Sudanese people, to agree; but, at any rate, I think that the British Government cannot simply ask the Egyptian Government to maintain the status quo. And we have still to face the fact that something has got to be done to disabuse the Egyptian people of the fears that their water supplies are in other hands. I trust the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be able, on behalf of the Government, to reassure the Egyptian people, and agree to a joint reference of the matters in dispute between this country and Egypt, in so far, at any rate, as the water supplies are concerned, to the League of Nations, and that we should abide by the decision. If we are not going to use the League of Nations for a matter of this kind, then I can see no reason whatever in having the League of Nations at all. When the Noble Lord was speaking, I ventured to interrupt him, by suggesting that the question of water supplies to Egypt was not finished when you had agreed about the Sudan. The Abyssinians may give the Sudanese and the Egyptians very much more trouble, and I suggest that that question, too, should be dealt with by the League of Nations. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that European Powers with whom we have disagreed might use the situation in that part of Africa to give us all a very great deal of trouble, and it might be that they would stir up in that 2523 corner of Africa trouble which we would all be very much better without.
Finally, in the interests of the Sudanese people themselves, we ought to be able to show clean hands. I quite agree that our Government in the Sudan, so far as I have been able to read anything about it, has been a very, very much higher standard, a very, very much cleaner standard, and a very, very much better standard for the natives than anything that has gone before. But there is entering into the Sudan now a great factor of large scale exploitation, and if we are to have anything to do with the Sudan, we have got to see that the nations are adequately protected in every possible way. I am not at all sure that the recent investigation in the Sudan as to the treatment of the natives has put the complete position. I have asked in this House for particulars about the Sugar Tax, for example. I think that is an iniquitous tax, and a very grievous tax upon the Sudanese. I understand that about 10 per cent. of the total revenue of the Sudan Government is raised by the Sugar Tax on the Sudanese people. This Sugar Tax means that sugar in the Sudan is very much dearer than it is in Egypt, and I suggest that that is a matter, which, in the interests of the Sudanese people, and in the interests of the good name of Great Britain, should be attended to. If large scale companies are to be given great concessions in the Sudan, and are to have under their control the lives and fortunes of millions of people who are practically voiceless, it is up to the House of Commons to see that every possible precaution is taken to secure that the Sudanese people are properly, generously and humanely treated.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if it is the case that the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, for example, pays no taxation in the Sudan at all, if it pays no contribution towards the finances of the Sudan Government, if the only tax that is paid is a small tax on the export of cotton, and that it pays no Income Tax or anything of that sort? At the same time, the Sudanese are subjected to an extraordinary, and almost penal, taxation on sugar, amounting to about 3d. a lb. That is not much here, where the average wages, perhaps, are £3 per week, but it 2524 is a different matter to natives, the standard of whose wages is very much lower. I do not know what it is, but Jet us suppose it is equivalent to 5s. a week, or something like that, then 3d. a lb. on sugar is an extraordinary impost. I suggest to the Under-Secretary that, in the interest of this country, and in the interest of the Sudanese people, we ought to be able to go before Europe, and before the League of Nations, with clean hands, and be able to say, truthfully and honestly, that, in so far as we are assisting in the administration of that country, we are, at any rate, doing it as whole-heartedly as we can for the benefit of the people, and not for the financial profit of a great exploiting syndicate.
I would press upon the Under-Secretary, when he comes to reply, to give us an answer, because he knows the Back Benches here are wholly averse to hanging over the Sudanese people any government which would exploit them, or might enslave them. Still, we want to be assured that, in so far as we are concerned, there is no exploitation of these people. I should like the hon. Gentleman to be able to say that the British Government is willing to refer the matters in dispute between this country and the Egyptian Government jointly with Zaghloul Pasha, to the League of Nations, and that the water supply of Egypt and the Sudan shall be, if you like, under an international body, so that the fears of the Egyptian people in this case shall be removed, and that we will not have unnecessary squabbles which may be much more serious and a sort of irritation that these things in that part of Africa may be removed. They can be removed now, and quite easily if we do not wait till it is too late to do it. I suggest that the discussion this afternoon will give our Foreign Office the opportunity to make a public statement on the subject which will relieve the situation.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I should at the outset like to say how much I appreciate the speech of the hon. Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. Johnston) who has just sat down, and the important contribution which he has made to the discussion of this question. It is, I think, quite clear that there is common agreement in this House that we have got to come to a fresh understanding with Egypt in regard to the future government 2525 of the Sudan. There is also, I think, common agreement on all sides of the House that we are equally determined in the matter of not being prepared to hand over the administration of the Sudanese people to the Government at Cairo. I entirely agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that we want in this matter a square deal with the Sudanese, and a square deal with Egypt. We want a square deal with Egypt. We can give an assurance on that point, and if our assurance is not enough, then let us give any other form of guarantee that can possibly be devised internationally, or Imperially, in regard to the water supply of Egypt. After all, now, even in the months of May, June and the early part of July, not one drop of water from the Nile reaches the Mediterranean. Every drop that can be provided is used up in Egypt, and clams have to be erected across the mouths of the river Nile in summer to prevent the sea going up. If Egypt is to be guaranteed as to her water supply, and if that supply of water is to be increased in the future, then Egypt must be assured that that water shall not be diverted from Egypt for the purposes of the Sudan until her requirements are adequately satisfied.
Further than that, we must point out to Egypt that the whole future development of Egypt, and the further supply of water in the critical months before the Nile rises, depends not merely upon what is done in the Sudan, but ultimately what is done, on the one hand, in Abyssinia, and on the other hand in Uganda—that the ultimate control the Nile is in the one case in Abyssinia and in the other ease in Uganda. It is only right that Egypt should have the most complete assurances on this subject of water. Similarly, she should have the most complete assurances in regard to the protection of her southern frontier, because in the Mahdi regime, even so far north as Assouan, the threat to peace and to life in Egypt or the possibility of risings in the Northern Sudan was an ever-present fear.
Let me turn to the other side. It is perfectly clear that we cannot maintain the status quo because the status quo which exists to-day is bound up with the condominium. That only asked, and only could ask, for British power in the Sudan 2526 to administer that country on all fours, pari passu with an effective British control in Egypt itself, which has now gone. It is not for us this afternoon to go into it, but it depended upon the fact that the Governor-General of the Sudan was himself the head of the Egyptian Army. That cannot be in the future. It is quite clear that we cannot have a commander-in-chief of the Army of independent Egypt at the same time British Governor-General of the Sudan. Similarly, in the past a deficit in the Sudanese Budget had to be made up by Egypt. It is quite obvious that an independent Egypt is not going to pay any deficit in the local Sudanese Budget in the future. That is quite clear.
So I believe that the utmost frankness is the best way with which we can face the present difficulty. We must rid Egypt of her burdens in connection with the Sudan and at the same time give her the necessary guarantee of security, and of water. Quite frankly it is for us to say that in the future we are going to continue the policy of the last 25 years of Lord Cromer and Sir Reginald Wingate and the General Staff—the development of the Sudanese on their own lines with ourselves as trustees for the Sudanese. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite that there is nothing in the principle of the mandates which a British administration can raise any single objection to. But the principles enshrined in the famous Article 22 of the Covenant in regard to the outstanding, visible, and practical applications of the principle of trusteeship is one which should and could obtain, and I believe it has obtained under any British administration. There is no part of Africa where there is a higher standard of administration than in the. Sudan. There are other parts of Africa which have to level up to the Sudan at the present moment in matters like education. The work of Gordon at Khartum is destined to be regarded in Africa as work of the finest kind that has been done by any European Power in contact with native races. That work ought to go on. I am quite sure, I think, it is common agreement in this House that work ought not to come to an end.
In regard to the future, I do hope that nothing will be said—I think nothing has been said—in this Debate to render the task of the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary or the Foreign Secre- 2527 tary more difficult in negotiations. If we get a friendly settlement by direct negotiation without reference to any outside authority so much the better. Do not let us fall back on references to any international authority until we have had a good chance first of coming to an amicable and sensible understanding. That is the view I personally take, and take very strongly. I am quite sure that we can stand before the world in the late history of the matter with a perfectly clear conscience; while the work we have done for the last 25 years and are doing in the Sudan is that of which we can quite rightly be proud.
Our object in the Sudan, it seems to me, must be to develop its purely local aspirations. It would be, I believe, impossible as well as morally wrong to attempt to Egyptianise the Sudan, particularly the Southern Sudan, where the vast mass of the population is of the African negroid type, and utterly dissimilar to anything which the Egyptians have to deal with in their own country. The work which is being done already in the Sudan towards the steady development of the community, some of them, I think, very backward indeed, but steadily improving, is encouraging. That is a task which I believe we are peculiarly fitted to carry out, because we have turned out, and are turning out, a tradition in the matter of African administration both in East and West which has produced, not only great individuals, but is producing a type of British administrator and British official whose most sincere pleasure in life is to study the interests of these people themselves. There has never been a finer tradition, of anything near it, than the interest of those in the British Sudan Service. The life of these men has been spent in building up all these peoples after the appalling history of the Sudan right away back in history, and particularly those terrible years after the death of General Gordon, and before Kitchener came back to Khartum. If we can be told of these negotiations, would it be possible for the Under-Secretary to say when these negotiations are likely to commence, and whether he has prepared the way for those negotiations by any definite statement of the main point of view of the British Government? 2528 I believe there is nothing to be gained by pretending to Zaghloul Pasha or to any Egyptian Governor that we can give way on certain vital matters. I am sure that we want to get away from what to my mind is a most unfortunate tradition of the various Conferences that have taken place with Egypt ever since the calamitous events of the early days of 1919. The discussions in Egypt and here in London that took place between one Egyptian and another, and the letters that were written and the statements that were made both openly and in public and still more important those not made in public but which were repeated to the Egyptians with all too great rapidity, have undoubtedly cost us a good deal both in prestige and in power. I believe the right hon. Gentleman will be well advised, in going into these negotiations affecting not only the Sudan but also the Egyptian question, to lay all Britain's cards quite clearly on the table. That is our best chance of arriving at an honourable settlement which recognises in the spirit and the letter the new position of Egypt, safeguards her legitimate interests, and leaves us absolutely untrammelled in the future to continue our work in the Sudan.
One of the first questions which is bound to come up is that of the Army, and I say frankly that I hope the Prime Minister will make it clear that it is not the desire of Great Britain to use Egyptian troops any longer to garrison the Sudan. I believe that the Sudan can provide its own troops and its own de fence, and just as it is the British object in all other African colonies and throughout the world, as far as possible, to reduce the British Staff and the number of British officers to the minimum which is absolutely necessary, and provide, as far as possible, purely local troops for purely local defence, I believe that will have a very beneficent effect both on the Sudan and on Egypt. One thing in Egypt is the dread that the Egyptian fellah has of being conscripted into the Sudan Army. I do not think this is of any great military value in the Sudan, and while the efficiency of the Sudanese battalions themselves is steadily increasing, and I include the Sudanese officers, it should be our aim and object, while coming to a perfectly honourable treaty to give Egypt all her legitimate guarantees, not only about water but about anything else, and to put an end to a con- 2529 dominium which under the present system is bound to break down under the new conditions, and give them quite definitely a free hand in the future development of the Sudan.
What the hon. Gentleman who just sat down said with regard to the future applies not only to the Sudan, but throughout South Africa. One of the great problems of the future is the reconciling of the idea of trusteeship and fair administration for those native people with their economic development. They can never progress mentally, morally or intellectually unless they progress economically. Directly you get Western economic industrialism against these conditions you have that problem to face, and you cannot escape from it. The reconciliation of the principle of trusteeship with economic and commercial development is the great task of the coming century in Africa. You want capital, European supervision and European methods and enterprise, and they can only be introduced gradually and sympathetically, and with watchfulness on the part of the administration. This can be done, but you do not want to send the clock back in Africa. You want things to go forward at a steady pace in order that the future of these dark races may be better than it has been in the past.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald)
Perhaps the Committee will allow me to intervene now, because I do not think that, however late I stay before intervening, I can add much to the Debate. I should like to take the chance of following the hon. Member who has just sat down because, in content and certainly in spirit, he has expressed the views which most of the Members of this Committee share. I only knew this Debate was coming on an hour or two ago, and I came here to-day in order to discuss a totally different matter, but as I hope the negotiations with Zaghloul Pasha may still come off, it would be advisable for me to keep my hands pretty free, so that he may have no excuse for saying that the negotiations are merely nominal. My position is this: An agreement ought to be come to between the Government of Egypt and Great Britain directly in contact with each other, and no attempt should be made to bring in any outside authority, the League of 2530 Nations or some other body. It is much more in the nature of a domestic problem.
We have been in partnership up to now, and it is not a matter like a dispute, say, between Turkey and ourselves. If you maintain good will following an agreement, and if that agreement is one which is not imposed upon both of us by an outside party, but one which we take upon ourselves of our own free will, it is much better. I have just been informed that Zaghloul Pasha intends to leave Egypt on the 25th of this month, and some time afterwards he hopes that we may get into contact, and be able to find out whether there is any prospect of a settlement. Before saying anything further on the subject, I should like to pay a tribute to the extraordinary capacity of Sir Lee Stack and his devoted band of assistants, because they are not only excellent servants who do their task well, but they are men whose hearts are in their work, and who approach the problems they have to face with all the enthusiasm of a single-minded scientific student. That is the right spirit of British administrators in foreign countries.
Various questions have been raised. First of all, we had the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston), which I was disappointed to find was so short, because I was deriving much pleasure from listening to it. The hon. Member asked why the Sugar Tax is so high. The explanation is that in the Sudan sugar is regarded as a luxury and as the monopoly of the Government, and the taxation upon it is not supposed, at any rate, according to our report, to be really an oppressive tax upon the great mass of the people. The same hon. Member asks whether the cotton syndicate pays proper taxation. Of course it pays the usual British Income Tax of 4s. 6d. in the £, but the question still arises whether it is paying its fair share towards the Sudan revenue, At the present moment the question is under consideration as to whether it ought to pay extraneous taxes, and that has not yet been settled.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, I hope this question will be settled very shortly. With reference to the position of the 2531 natives, I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not require me to refer him to the report just issued upon this subject, and in that report he will find the very latest information we have at our disposal. I think he will agree with me that the report is a most admirable one, and if we can develop the amenities, the fair play, and the justice to the natives as indicated in that report, we shall be doing a really excellent piece of work for the people who inhabit that area of the Sudan.
The hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald) illustrates that delightful quality of Scotsmen wandering all over the face of the earth taking an exceedingly intelligent account of what they see and what they experience, and he contributed a very interesting speech. I should like to reassure the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), and the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who opened this Debate, on this question of water. I give my word and the Government guarantee, and I am glad that I can also give the House of Commons guarantee after the speeches I have listened to, that we are prepared to come to an agreement with Egypt on this subject which Egypt itself will accept as satisfactory. That agreement will be carried out by a proper organisation as to control and so on, and under it all the needs of Egypt will be adequately satisfied. The Egyptian cultivator may rest perfectly content that, as the result of the agreement which we are prepared to make, the independence of the Sudan will not mean that he is going to enjoy a single pint of water less than if he had it and was himself working.
The position of the Sudan in relation to Egypt and ourselves has fundamentally changed on account of the recognition of the independence of Egypt. That is one of the points which, or at least the consequences of that, belong to the category of matters that ought to be negotiated. The position I have always taken up is, let us negotiate as quickly as possible. I know the great difficulties that Zaghloul Pasha has to meet. He has a new Parliament. It is a raw Parliament; it has not found its feet yet; it is a "heady" Parliament—in other words, it is a Parliament wherein human nature is represented. The more objective we are in these matters, the more good-humoured 2532 we shall be ourselves, and the more successful when we come to handle the questions that we have to find agreement. But I have felt that this cannot he allowed to drift, and drift, and drift. There must be plenty of time, but not too much of it. We must not be too slack about it. We must be reasonable, but not unreasonable.
Therefore, I have quietly pushed to get this thing settled, to get the negotiations begun. But I have said this: While the negotiations are pending, neither Egypt nor ourselves ought to destroy the status quo. That must be honourably understood. No one responsible for the British Government could possibly allow, say, Egypt to hang up the negotiations for 12 months or two years, and, while the negotiations were being postponed, act inside the Sudan so as to disturb our administration or upset the civil order and peace of the country. We cannot allow that. Therefore, as I am afraid some action of that character—I hope much smaller than was represented in the Press—has shown itself, the negotiations ought to be open without delay, and some settlement come to as speedily as possible.
I do not think the Committee will ask me to say anything more in regard to the line of proposed settlement than this. It must be clearly understood that Great Britain cannot throw off its responsibilities, contracted to the Sudan and the Sudanese, by withdrawing and handing the country over to any other Government. I say that in no aggressive spirit at all, and I say it in no spirit of acquisition. Our burdens are very heavy. Only right hon. Members who sit on the opposite bench and on this one know what the burdens of British Heads of Governments and Heads of Departments are; but I say what I have said because we must stand by the people of the Sudan. We have a moral obligation to them. The story of the past recited by the Noble Lord who opened the Debate was perfectly true, but I associate myself with what was said by the hon. Member for Inverness, namely, that we must not assume that any attempt or desire to repeat that story is now in the minds of the Egyptians. No. I cut that right away. I do not believe it, and I do not accept it in any way whatever. I associate myself with the hon. Member for Inverness——
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am sorry if I gave that impression. I entirely associate myself with what the Prime Minister has said. I merely gave it because I thought it necessary that we should realise what it meant.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am very glad that that has been made clear. I was sure it was in the Noble Lord's mind, and the clarification will help things very much. But that is not our objection; that is not why we are going to fulfil our obligations. We have to fulfil our obligations because we believe that, as the result of the administration in the Sudan, the Sudan is beginning, first of all, to develop its economic resources, to take part in the great economic system of the world; it is beginning to understand and feel the impetus that education like that which is given in the Gordon College, Khartum, gives to mental development; and it is beginning also to understand something of the pride and sentiment of people who feel that somewhere ahead, even though it be far ahead, there is a hope and a pledge that one day they will govern themselves. That is the nature and spirit of the obligation, which we should be worse than cowards if we simply cast aside. I think that that is enough to inform the Committee of what the position of the Government is, what line they will take when negotiations start, and what line they prescribe for a settlement. I sincerely hope that Zaghloul Pasha will come determined to settle, as a reasonable man, objectively minded; that the things that were said just immediately after Egypt became independent will be fulfilled; and that Egypt and ourselves will remain friends, for each other's good and for the good of all the peoples of the countries round about us.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
I can only say this afternoon that I profoundly welcome this Debate, because, for the first time for a good many years, I believe the House has been dealing with this subject, not as a political party issue, but as one of national importance. From all quarters of the Committee we have heard statements to-day in regard to this problem, and I trust that nothing I say will do anything whatever to hamper the hands or the action of the right hon. Gentleman who has just made his statement. I do not think it would be possible for any 2534 statesman to give more conclusively than he has done the true exposition of our policy as a nation towards the coloured races of the world, and I am quite convinced, speaking for myself, and, I believe, for most of my colleagues on this side, that we welcome every word that the right hon. Gentleman has said. In the Far East and in the Near East, for many years past, we have suffered very much indeed from a lack of what one might call a firm and continuous policy expressed by the leaders of political parties. At last, thank Heaven, we have got a firm and honourable and honest statement of policy, for which I, as a man, thank the Prime Minister.
I should like to endeavour to reassure the hon. Member for Clackmannan and Western Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston)—who, if he will not mind my saying so, regards the operation of a certain company in the Sudan—which does not interest me—rather in the same light in which Mr. Dick regarded King Charles's head—by saying that in the past in the Sudan, in the Civil Secretary's Office, one of the first principles laid down for all the officials was to safeguard the natives against exploitation by Europeans or foreigners of an adventurous and exploiting character. Every pains was taken to prevent it, not only in the Civil Secretary's Office—where I myself interviewed a hundred and one fossickers who were looking out for concessions and did not get them—but in the Financial Secretary's Office and in other offices. Everything that could humanly be done towards seeing that the economic development of the Sudan was put into the right and not into the wrong hands was done.
I think, after what we have heard with regard to water, there is nothing that I need add. Every speaker has alluded to the natural apprehension that the Egyptians may have felt in regard to the vital water question, but one small point might, perhaps, be mentioned which will help to enlighten Members to some extent. During the summer months, as was said just now, the supply of water is absolutely essential for the Egyptian cultivator. The Nile does not reach its highest point at the island of Rhoda, at Cairo, till about the middle of September, but long before that the question of the cotton crop becomes important. In the Sudan the position is reversed. The 2535 importance of the water supply is in the winter—in September and October; and the erection of these barrages, I understand, is calculated to catch up water which, under the present conditions, is allowed to flow through every barrage from Assouan northwards, and finally discharge itself into the Mediterranean. I do not think it is necessary to enlarge upon that; all that I wanted to point out was that the Sudan wants water in the winter and Egypt wants it in the summer.
Lastly, when the Prime Minister does come, as I trust he will, to negotiate with Zaghloul Pasha, Zaghloul and his advisers will, no doubt, insist upon the debt which the English owe to the Egyptians, in men and in treasure; but, on the contra aide of the account, there is, surely, a gigantic debt which Egypt owes to England. Even with a narrow vision, looking just at the Sudan question, it is considerable enough, but, when you look at the main Egyptian question, is it not a gigantic total of indebtedness? If you look back to 1884, and look at the measure of Egyptian bankruptcy, and how, by straightforward dealing and skilful administration in the teeth oil the most hideous difficulties, by tact and by sound methods of finance, Lord Cromer and those associated with him restored Egypt from the most hopeless, horrible bankruptcy to a position of prosperous solvency, I think it is sufficient to prove the enormous unpaid debt that Egypt owes to England, beside which any debt incurred by Egypt on behalf of the Sudan is a mere triviality. I do not think, in view of the general consensus of 'opinion on this question expressed on all sides of the Committee, it is necessary to say more than that I hope, when the Prime Minister does meet Zaghloul Pasha, he will maintain his firm attitude and be successful in his negotiations.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not think the Prime Minister has anything to complain of in the general tone of the Debate, and I certainly do not think the Committee has any reason to complain of the Prime Minister leaving so early. In fact, I think it is rather a strain on him to have to reply to this Debate at all. But I was surprised a little by the first part of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Win- 2536 terton). With the incurable levity, which even office does not seem in any way to have diminished, he helped the forthcoming negotiations by going out of his way to level insults at the so-called Pasha class in Egypt, supported by inaccuracies which were met in a very able speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald). He raked up history in the spirit rather of the American who was arrested for assaulting a Jew in the streets of New York, and gave as his excuse the horror he felt at the episode of the Crucifixion, and when told that happened nearly 2,000 years ago, said he had only just heard of it. That was the attitude of the Noble Lord. Because in 1820 an Egyptian conquest of the Sudan took place for the purpose of raiding for gold, slaves and ivory, this has to be brought up to-day.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has no right to say that. As I have explained in reply to a reference the Prime Minister made to it, I made no such statement. The Prime Minister did not make the mistake the hon. and gallant Gentleman made in thinking I did. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will listen more carefully in future before he brings accusations against everyone with whom he is in disagreement, which is 99 per cent. of the Members of the House.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I know quite well what the Noble Lord's motive was. It was to make an attack on the leaders of the Liberal party, to whom he referred as my political ancestors. One does not mind his attacks on the Liberal party. They are a compliment coming from such a source. But these remarks of his—I hope he will realise it when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, if he does read his own speeches, though I doubt whether lie does—do immense harm in the vernacular Press in Egypt. The Noble Lord, who held high office in a Government that fell only recently, began his speech, just before these negotiations—we have had the welcome news that Zaghloul Pasha is leaving shortly to conduct the negotiations—by a gratuitous attack on the ruling class in Egypt. It is extremely unfortunate, and I am going purposely out of my way, which is not at all to my taste, to repudiate such an attack. Thank heaven the two hon. and 2537 gallant Gentlemen who followed him chose their words a little more carefully. The Prime Minister has told us—and quite realise that he does not want to say too much at this moment—that under no circumstances will any outside body have any say in these negotiations. I do not think it is altogether realised how difficult the position at the moment is. The status of Egpyt is well known to the House. Incidentally, the attempt to bring about the settlement of Egypt was arrested, of course, by hon. Members opposite. Egypt, at any rate, is practically, to all intents and purposes, independent of us. There is an immensely strong nationalist feeling in Egypt. The present Prime Minister was returned by an overwhelming majority. The Parliament at Cairo is a new one, and the reason is that we took very good care not to allow the Constituent Assembly to be called together for many years when it should have been. But the very effect of the speech of Lord Parmoor in another place was serious. We had the Prime Minister of Egypt offering his resignation. He has withdrawn it. We had demonstrations up and down Egypt. We had the most violent attacks on this Government and this country in the Egyptian Parliament, which I regret very much, and I think there is no doubt that in this statement of the Egyptian people's desires Zaghloul Pasha has the vast majority behind him.
At the same time, the Sudan is largely garrisoned by Egyptian troops and we cannot use these troops and at the same time refuse to Egypt any satisfaction of her demands. Also Egypt has in the last few years spent considerable sums of money in Sudan, and if a new method of governing the Sudan is arrived at as the result of these negotiations, we must settle the financial question as well, and we may be faced with a quite reasonable and justifiable bill, which will be a very heavy one. It is true that we have spent money also but the Egyptian Government will say: "You are going to stay there You are going to get the benefit in increased cotton supplies. Your capital expenditure will get a return, but we Egyptians will see no return." They will say that their most vital interest, their water supply, may be interfered with, and in any case will be at the mercy of what they call quite rightly an alien Power. Look at 2538 the figures of what Egypt has spent. Between 1901 and 1909 £E4,378,000 was advanced by Egypt as capital expenditure, and during the same years £E2,750,000 was advanced to meet the annual deficit. There is, fortunately, no deficit in the Budget to-day in the Sudan but the cost of maintaining these Egyptian troops figures in the Egyptian Budget as expenditure. I am pointing out these difficulties because it must be realised that the situation will not be an easy one and if the negotiations are broken off there may be serious trouble in Egypt. There may be blood-shed. The Sudan is a vast country and there are opportunities for the Egyptians to stir up trouble. We have had demonstrations in Khartoum. How important they are we do not know. The Egyptians say their magnitude has been falsified. We may find ourselves with the Egyptian situation reproduced and without power to cope with it. There is no doubt that at present our point of view and that of the Egyptian Government are very far apart. Under those circumstances I think the suggestion of the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. T. Johnston) was most valuable. I prefer that we should come to an agreement direct with Egypt, but it is unfortunate to rule out the League of Nations altogether as a tribunal.
With regard to the question of the water supply, responsible Egyptians, men of position who are friendly to us, have assured me that at the present moment they are actually suffering from too much water being taken from them. It may not be true, but that is what they think. They say the irrigation works in connection with cotton growing are dangerous to the agricultural prosperity of Egypt. It is necessary that we should agree to a water control board being established, with a completely neutral chairman, a Swiss or a Dutchman, or someone of that sort, who could not possibly be suspected of bias in either direction. There will be a clamant need for water from the Sudan in winter and from Egypt in summer. But, nevertheless, there is this feeling in Egypt that the demands of the two countries may clash and that Egypt will suffer. That is the feeling we have to remove. I think that chairman should be appointed by the League of Nations, and I was delighted at what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) said about this country's 2539 Colonial administration being quite up to the standard. Everyone who knows the least about the matter knows what a splendid body of men we have working in the Sudan, and how tremendously successful they have been. The Prime Minister did not go as far as the hon. Member for Stafford. The hon. Member for Stafford apparently was prepared to see the mandatory system applied to the Sudan. At any rate, I thought that was a reasonable attitude to take, and I should like to see the Prime Minister take the same attitude.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I did not go quite so far as that I said there was nothing in any mandate which had been granted to set a standard or lay obligations upon us that we were not already carrying out in the Sudan.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I was so pleased with what I thought the hon. Member said that I read too much into it. At any rate, he was not hostile to the mandatory system being accepted by us In any case, the Prime Minister said nothing of the sort. I make every allowance for his difficult position, but it should be made clear to the Egyptian people, as we can make it clear by statements from the Government, that we are prepared really to refer this dispute—every speaker has testified to the justice of our case, and I do not want to dissociate myself at all from that point of view—to a body which has been set up for this very purpose. If we make a serious mistake now the consequences may be very terrible.
This, I suppose, will be the final opportunity of discussing this tremendously important question for many months. This House has few foreign affairs Debates, and they will be taken up with the great questions pending with ourselves, France, Germany and the Western European countries. The House will rise in August, and it may or may not meet again. At any rate, I should think this is the last opportunity of a discussion unless some catastrophe happens. Might I ask the Under-Secretary to see whether in the forthcoming negotiations we cannot have a real experiment in open diplomacy. Is there any reason why the main discussion should not take place in public? [Laughter.] I should 2540 expect some amusement at that. But that was President Wilson's original intention when he came to settle a much greater affair than this. At any rate, the present Government has declared itself again and again in favour of open diplomacy. I hope that there will be as much open diplomacy as possible in these forthcoming negotiations with Egypt. The hon. Member says that we should put all our cards on the table. I hope that we shall invite the other side to put all their cards on the table, and that we shall be kept informed as much as possible of what goes on. That is very necessary, otherwise we may find ourselves faced with dangerous and perilous circumstances in which our nationals may suffer. It is due to the British people, who have to pay for the mistakes of their governors, to know exactly what is going on, and to be warned in time of the events that may occur.
§ Colonel Sir CHARLES YATE
We have listened with pleasure to the statement made by the Prime Minister. We are glad that Zaghloul Pasha is coming over, and I trust that the negotiations that will take place between him and the Prime Minister will result in a satisfactory termination. I see no reason why they should not. I have every hope, as the Prime Minister said, that Egypt and ourselves will remain friends for each other's good. We all know that the Sudanese and the Egyptians are of an entirely different nationality and that the Sudanese have a great loathing for the Egyptians, having experienced their rule during the last century. We have heard that the Sudanese have different nationalities amongst themselves. There are those we have known as the "Fuzzy Wuzzies" on the Red Sea Coast. Then there are the Arab tribes and the negro tribes further south. All these are now perfectly happy under our rule, and I hope that they may long remain so. The dislike of the Sudanese for the Egyptians, as far as I can make out., was first brought to notice in March, 1922, at the time when statements were appearing in the Egyptian Press to the effect that Egypt claimed that the Sudan should be included within the territories of the Egyptian Government. At that time, the Sudanese notabilities petitioned Lord Allenby that they should not be 2541 brought again under Egyptian rule. Lord Allenby quieted them by reading the statement made in this House on the 28th February, 1922, by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was at that time our Prime Minister. I need not go into that statement now, because the statement of the present Prime Minister has superseded it. We all agree that the statement of the Prime Minister is most satisfactory and welcome.
The question must arise as to a settlement with Egypt. If Egypt refuses partnership with us, then it must be decided in regard to the Sudan that Egypt must go, because we are not going to go. It is vital for Egypt that she should remain in partnership with us. At the present time Egypt is bearing the cost of Egyptian troops that are garrisoning the Sudan. Those troops number about 13,000, of whom 2,000 are pure Egyptian troops, under Egyptian officers, and the rest are Sudanese troops under British officers, with some Egyptian and Sudanese officers. If Egypt refuses partnership with us and goes, there will be really serious questions to be decided, and the first will be that all these Egyptian troops will have to be demobilised. The Egyptian troops and the Egyptian officers will have to go. If the British troops were to leave the country, as the Egyptians are asking us to do, the Sudanese would kill the Egyptians straight away. There can be no doubt about that, and the Egyptians in putting forward these claims must know that perfectly well. The Egyptians cannot remain in the Sudan if we go. If we leave the Sudan, I doubt whether the Egyptians could protect their own southern frontier from being overrun by the Sudanese. Therefore, it is of interest to Egypt to come to some satisfactory agreement with us. Without such an agreement, how on earth can Egypt expect to remain in the Sudan?
The Egyptians are sending men into the Sudan to try to stir up trouble and dissatisfaction against this country. That is one of the worst things that the Egyptians can do, not only for the British, but for themselves. That propaganda must react on the Egyptians. The whole feeling of the Sudanese is against the Egyptians in every possible way. With respect to our position in the Sudan, we have invested enormous sums of money 2542 there, not only in the Gezireh Dam, but in. other great water schemes, and we are not going to leave. Therefore, I hope that when Zaghloul Pasha comes he will realise that this talk that is going on in the Egyptian Parliament is nonsense. God knows why we always want to inflict Parliaments on countries which are entirely unfitted for Parliaments. Here you have these men in the Egyptian Parliament talking wild rubbish about the Sudan. They know that if we leave the Sudan to-morrow it will be a bad thing for them. When Zaghloul Pasha comes, I trust that he will arrive at an agreement with the Prime Minister. I do not agree that we should put this case before the League of Nations. I think the Egyptians and ourselves should come to an agreement together. If we do not make an agreement amongst ourselves it will be bad for both, and much worse for the Egyptians than it will be for us. I welcome the statement of the Prime Minister, and I sincerely hope that his words will be fulfilled.
§ Sir JOHN MARRIOTT
I cannot help expressing my regret that this Debate was not allowed to rest at the point where it was left by the Prime Minister. I say that, without any disrespect to my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy). The Prime Minister's statement was so pre-eminently satisfactory to all parties in this House—and will prove to-morrow to be satisfactory to every party in the country—that I regret the Debate has been continued. As the Debate has continued, I should like to say a few words in regard to what was said in the very moderately-worded speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, for which speech I desire to express to him my obligations. His remarks were mainly directed to two points. First of all, he directed his remarks to the question of Egyptian financial interest in the Sudan, and secondly, to the question of the very important economic interest in regard to water irrigation which undoubtedly the Egyptian people possess. I do not believe that in any quarter of the House there is any substantial disagreement on these two points. We all recognise that Egypt has incurred very considerable expense in the Sudan. The Sudanese army is at present, to a very large extent, borne 2543 upon the Egyptian Vote, and Egypt does possess important financial interests there. These matters are Ĉanable of adjustment. If, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Melton (Sir C. Fate) says, it should turn out that the Egyptian Government declines to continue what is known 'as the condominion arrangement, the partnership in which, for a good many years, we have been associated with them, then will come the necessity of adjusting the financial burdens, and no doubt Egypt will be treated not only fairly, but generously, when they decide to go.
In regard to the other matter, I am in very substantial agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull. It is a matter of extreme importance to Egypt that their water supply should be absolutely guaranteed. On that point I associate myself with what was said by a former Liberal Foreign Secretary in another place a week or two ago. Viscount Grey of Fallodon said:I quite agree that as regards Nile waters there is a case for a joint commission to ensure that Egypt does not starve the Sudan of water and that the Sudan does not starve Egypt of water.There is a strong case for a joint, commission. These are two points which are perfectly capable of adjustment, namely, the financial point and the irrigation question. Zaghloul Pasha and the Egyptian Pashas may rest assured that when their claims in these two respects are considered they will be not merely adequately, but generously recognised by the Government and the people of this country.
Having made these two point, as I hope, quite clearly, I desire also to say that it is of the utmost importance that it should be quite definitely understood in Egypt that on the question of the retention of the Sudan by this country there is no difference of opinion among the people of this country. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull, in his interesting speech, referred to certain demonstrations which have recently taken place in Khartum. He frankly acknowledged that Le was not in a position to say whether those demonstrations were or were not of any considerable importance. I believe that so far as any demonstrations have taken place they have been due to an impression which it 2544 is the duty of this House to remove promptly and finally.
If I may be allowed to use a colloquial expression, those demonstrations in the Near East, in the Middle East, and perhaps in the Far East have been due to the impression that this country is on the run. I believe that any such demonstrations that have taken place at Omdurman or Khartum are largely due to the suggestion that our occupation of the Sudan may not be permanent and may not even be lasting. It is in the highest interests of the Sudan people themselves, and I believe it is not less in the interest of the Egyptian people and in the interest of the peace of the world, that any such idea should be discredited now, once for all. We are not on the run in the Sudan. I could very well understand from events that have happened elsewhere that that might be imagined. But I should like it to go forth as far as possible as the unanimous opinion of this House that our administration in the Sudan is going to continue indefinitely, not so much in the interests of this country, though I admit it is in the interest of this country, but primarily in the interest of the Sudanese people themselves.
There are three points of view from which this problem may be, and I think ought to be, regarded. There is first the point of view of the Sudan and Sudanese people. There is next the point of view of Egypt, and of the Egyptian people, but I submit that no less important are the interests of the British Empire. With regard to the interests of the Sudan I do not believe that there is any Member of this House, or anyone who has even a remote knowledge of the facts, who can for one moment suggest that the British occupation of the Sudan has not brought incalculable blessings on the Sudanese people, and, if you were able to take—which you will not he able to do—an expression of opinion from the Sudanese people themselves, there would be an overwhelming opinion in favour of the retention of the Government of the Sudan in the hands of those who have redeemed the Sudan from misery, slavery and oppression. It is common knowledge that we have redeemed the Sudanese people from financial oppression and from personal slavery to a very large extent, and that we have substituted happiness where there was misery, and that lately we have made the desert, to a large extent, blossom 2545 like a rose. Having conferred blessings such as these upon the people of the Sudan, I make an earnest appeal to all Members of this House to put on record that we intend to see this beneficent work through, and that, having put our hands to the plough, we do not mean to withdraw them until that work is fully and finally accomplished.
Coming to the question of Egypt and the Sudan, apart from the question of irrigation, to which I have already alluded, the primary interest of the people of Egypt is in the question of defence. Our occupation of the Sudan is the best possible guarantee which the Egyptian people can have that they will have peace on their Southern borders. We have given to the Egyptian people that peace, and we guarantee as long as we are dominant in the Sudan that that peace will not be broken, but I speak with some little knowledge when I say that if the British flag were hauled down in Khartum an almost immediate result would be a renewal of the troubles on the Egyptian border. The result would be that the Egyptian people would not be able to resist the military pressure which would come from a very splendid military people. We and the Egyptians together have given to the soldiers of these people European discipline. We have made them an effective military power. They were always in one sense a very effective military power inspired by the enthusiasm of Mahdism, but, in addition to that enthusiasm, we have now given to them a European discipline, and for my part I believe that if we retired from the Sudan—an impossible pre-supposition, I suppose—but if we were compelled to retire from the Sudan the security of the Egyptian borders would not be worth 24 hours' purchase.
On this matter I am glad to think that all parties speak with a unanimous voice. I noticed that in another place the other day the Lord President of the Council quoted with full approval words which were addressed to this House 'by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he was at the head of the Government a little more than two years ago. Speaking in this House the then Prime Minister said:—I now come to the Sudan which is very important to the British Empire. His 2546 Majesty's Government will never allow the progress which has been already made and the greater promise of future years to be jeopardised,and the Lord President of the Council speaking in another place said—I emphasise this point and say that the same view is upheld by the present Government.Then the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs went on to say—and I think these words ought to be put on record in this House and in this Debate—Nor can His Majesty's Government agree to any change in the statue of that country which would in the slightest degree diminish the security for the many millions of British capital which are already invested in its development to the great advantage of the Sudan.I do not want my last words to have reference to the security of British capital, important as that is. It is important that we should safeguard our very heavy commitments and investments in that country, but what I desire to say in a concluding sentence is this, we are in the Sudan, first of all, for the security of the world; we are in the Sudan, in the second place, for the security of the Egyptian people, and we are in the Sudan, in the third place, in order to promote the good government, the social contentment and the economic prosperity of the Sudanese people themselves.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
The opening speech of the Noble Lord (Earl Winter-ton) took our minds back to events which occurred in this country in its military history, as also its political records, and excited very regrettable memories. Ever since that time we have had undoubtedly in evidence the claim, which was emphasised by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat dawn, that we have made the Sudan, which was a wilderness, to blossom like a rose; but still one is led to feel considerable anxiety as to the possibility of repetition of such unfortunate events as those which happened in the past. I was therefore very anxious when I listened to the hon. Member for Hull, when he used those words, "There may again he bloodshed. "The hallowed memory of General Gordon will always be with us, and the efforts which he made, it seems to me, will still linger among those who closely scrutinise the records of that time.
There is the idea that, though we had at the head of affairs at that time a great statesman, things were not done with 2547 sufficient promptness, from a military standpoint, but there are many who take their stand on a plane which, we thank God, is recognised in this country as elsewhere as being the only plane on which we are at all likely to succeed. That is the plane on which we stand when we congratulate the Prime Minister in heartfelt sympathy and encouragement for his work, which he is handling with remarkable skill and very great care, and a keen desire to see that everything is done with credit to all concerned.
I, personally, am anxious about the question on which he himself, as well as the Under-Secretary, has laid emphasis in the past in the matter of open diplomacy. We are at that stage in those negotiations where I am sure all the people of this country, and especially all those who are supporters of the party in office at the present time, more particularly after the discussion which has taken place this evening, will be particularly anxious to see how far we are taking this note which, unfortunately, has entered into the statement of the Prime Minister, and which has given so much a feeling of aggravation to our friends on the other side, that we are not going in any way to concede any claim on the part of the Sudanese for special consideration, and that we are going to say that any negotiations which do take place are to be exclusive of any third party considerations.
That brings us to the all-important stage not only on this question, but on similarly important questions pertaining to the Foreign Office, namely, the necessity for standing by that to which this country has given evidence of a general support, and more even than a general support—the League of Nations. The hon. Member for Hull has struck, in my view, the note which is of the greatest importance. It will be a great mistake if the Government is going to lay down that Britain is not prepared to submit with confidence to such a body as the League of Nations, and that, because we are convinced that we have no right to show any laxity regarding our claims, we are going to bind ourselves with self-pride and absolute satisfaction by the claim that we have trodden the narrow path, and that we have never done anything else either for 2548 the Sudanese or the Egyptians save on the lines of making the desert blossom like the rose, and that we are so highly self-satisfied with ourselves that, though we strenuously commend the League of Nations to all other nations, and urge them strenuously to adopt its plan, yet for ourselves the door is shut.
Of course, to me that is fatal. It is a fatal blow from the Front Bench of a Labour Government, and it will be taken as such in every Chancellery that you can have in view. It will from this moment be said, "Here you have failure on the part of the very country that has been specially identified with the advocacy of the League of Nations." It is of the utmost moment that we should take note of the deep satisfaction that the Prime Minister's statement has given to the other side. Zaghloul Pasha, in my view, achieved a triumph against our policy. He led affairs on lines which secured for him a magnificent proof of growing and steadfast loyalty on the part of those who were with him, and all our subtleties, schemes and plans to obviate that rising movement were made utterly futile. Personally, I was one of those who were favoured with the opportunity of meeting his private secretary downstairs when he was welcomed to this country not many months ago. To every guest on that occasion it was a great satisfaction to find the encouragement that was forthcoming from representatives of the Labour party, the Liberal party and, if I am not mistaken, from one or two of those on the opposite side of the House. We have now come to the stage when negotiations are to be continued. We are all delighted to think that the Prime Minister is entering into the matter with earnestness and devotion. That is gratifying to the country generally. But with all our tributes to his earnestness, we think that be has become unduly captivated by the sort of deliverance which has been quoted by the last speaker—that we are not in any way to move one inch, that we remain adamant.
I am surprised to find that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has got on to that sort of political rock-bound foundation, which we have been taught on this side was rather a sandy foundation, though it is one in which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) believed. I am for 2549 no bloodshed on this job. That is the special reason why I am speaking now. You can prove what you may about capitalistic investment, or anything else, and all that you may have done—I am not going to dispute it—but we are out to secure that things are done on a basis of earnest, fair and generous consideration of our claims and the claims of the Egyptians and Sudanese. We are satisfied that we have a splendid case. As far as I am personally concerned, if the negotiations cannot be completed with satisfaction to ourselves, I say, "Place the matter unreservedly in the hands of the League of Nations, to adjudicate on the respective claims." I am told that if the Sudanese or the Egyptians are left to themselves the Sudan people will wipe out the Egyptians. If the Egyptians are foredoomed, I expect that they, who are the representatives of the most ancient and enterprising nation in the history of the world, understand that very well. Whether or not that be the case, we ought to maintain faith in the League of Nations. I do not think that the symptoms are what might reasonably have been expected. I will have no bloodshed; I will back no such thing as war on any consideration whatever. The Sudanese belong to their particular country as I belong to Scotland, and the Egyptians have their own part of the world to look after. Let other people have a chance of saying, "We really do know something about our own interests, and we want a chance of some little freedom to make a move." It is a scandalous procedure to try to throttle a nation. If these negotiations are not completed satisfactorily, I certainly pledge my word that I will oppose anything like bloodshed concerning those things which pertain to the nations of the world.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. Commander Kenworthy) said he doubted whether the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) read his own speeches. That shows that the Noble Lord has a clear conscience in regard to his speeches. The Noble Lord came to speak for me on the day before the poll at the General Election, and I was returned by an increased majority of well over two thousand. That shows that the Noble 2550 Lord's speeches are particularly efficacious speeches. If the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull publishes his own speeches in five volumes, under the title of the "March of Intellect," I venture to say that he will be the only reader. The last speaker, like the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, wanted the League of Nations brought into this question. It is not the sort of question that has ever been referred to the League. You might as well expect the Americans to refer the question of the Phillipines to the League. It is a perfectly simple question. The Sudan has been administered jointly by Great Britain and Egypt, with Great Britain as the predominant partner. If Egypt drops out, Great Britain takes over the job. At present, as the Prime Minister has said, we are quite willing to go on administering under the status quo, but that means that Egypt shall co-operate in the way in which she co-operated in the past. In the past the Sirdar was the Administrator of the Sudan, and the arrangement was perfectly simple. Now that Egypt has her independence she can, if she likes, put obstructive methods in the way, but in that case it would be necessary to say to her that this cannot go on. Either she must come to an agreement or we must act separately. The last speaker spoke of Egypt as the most educated and most enterprising nation in the world, or something of that sort. I suppose he thinks the Sudanese people the most backward.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
If they are an illiterate people they are a people who have by word of mouth a strong tradition. They have long memories, and the memories of all the Sudanese tribes go back to the old days of Egyptian oppression from 1820 to 1882, and they will not tolerate a reversion to that state of affairs. The presence of the British is the best guarantee of the Egyptians, because, if the British went, the Sudanese would go to war at once. And they would stand a very good chance of winning. It is sometimes suggested that we should have dual control. We have had some experience of dual control in this world, in Egypt itself, in Samoa and in Tangier, and it has never succeeded. It must now, as ever, be the predominant partner 2551 whose word is final in decisions. Of course, I recognise what the Prime Minister brought out so well in his admirable speech, which commended itself to all sections of the House, that we must satisfy Egypt in regard to her water supply. That, of course, is a sine qua non. I do not wish to stress the material side of the argument, but I must say that Egypt in relation to the Sudan is in much the same position as Great Britain in relation to Ireland over 100 years ago. We wanted in that case to prevent Ireland trading with certain commodities. We prevented it.
Egypt does not want the Sudan to produce cotton, because the Egyptians think that it will rival Egyptian cotton. The demands are for two quite different articles. We do want to develop the Sudan, and the only way is by making absolutely certain of security and law and order. In guaranteeing that security we also guarantee Egypt against civil war. Another point of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull was that we owed Egypt money, because of Egypt's services in the Sudan, Egyptian troops having been employed there. We have rendered far greater services to Egypt and services of far more financial value. The Egyptians surely cannot have forgotten Fashoda, where we saved the Sudan from being dominated by a European Power which sooner or later would certainly have invaded Egypt as well. The fact is that Egypt has been invaded over and over again, and the successful resistance to invasion has always come from the support of this country. We saved them from invasion by the Turks the other day, just as we saved them from the French. I welcome the Prime Minister's speech because of his educational possibilities on his own party. I cannot forget that that party sent out to Egypt five Socialist Members of Parliament. Of the three survivors two are Members of the Government—the Parliamentary Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department and the Financial Secretary to the War Office, and the third Member is the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills). None of those Members has honoured this Debate. They were welcomed in Egypt, as they said, with delirious enthusiasm. How did they get that delir- 2552 ious enthusiasm? I know that, like Caesar's wife, they are above suspicion, but to my mind they rather resemble the definition of Caesar's wife which was given by an American senator who said that someone was "Like Caesar's wife, all things to all men."
They went out to Egypt and they said exactly what the nationalist said. They never referred on any single occasion to the Suez Canal; they never referred on a single occasion to the Sudan. They were the two questions which were ruled out. There was nothing but "delirious enthusiasm." In fact snow ploughs would have been required to clear the tracks of the crowds which welcomed them to Egypt. They gave as a reason for that great welcome that they were British democrats who had come to help the Egyptians to realise their ideal of self-determination. Here is self-determination in operation: The Sudanese are 99 per cent. in favour of British control. There is self-determination! The other point made by Egyptians was that the word of an Englishman is his bond. Well, the word of an Englishman is his bond as regards the Sudanese, as witness their belief in Lord Cromer, Lord Kitchener and Lord Allenby. That point is to be remembered when these negotiations are entered upon with Zaghloul Pasha. It is not merely that, but when the deputation of chiefs came over here to England and put their case, the Cabinet pledged themselves, and what is much more important in the eyes of Eastern races, the King himself made a speech in which he guaranteed their independence. That is my answer to the Member for Dart-ford who asked, on 30th June, the Prime Minister what the pledges were and by which Government they were given to the Sudan. Those pledges have been reiterated again and again. We in Britain understand logic. Eastern nations, on the contrary, as Disraeli said, are governed by their imagination. It is all important that we should maintain in dealing with the East those old traditions which have served so well in the past.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Ponsonby)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.