HC Deb 24 November 1936 vol 318 cc251-339

3.53 p.m.


I beg to move, That this House approves the ratification of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, signed in London on the 26th August, 1936. This Treaty is the outcome of many years of history and of many months of arduous negotiation. The many difficulties which were confronted in the course of the negotiations were only overcome by the active desire of both sides to reach an agreement. There was a determination to agree, and, as a result, happily, we believe, both for Egypt and for this country, an agreement has been reached and is embodied in this Treaty. It is not the first time by any means that attempts have been made to negotiate a treaty between this country and Egypt. The best known of the negotiations in recent years have been those between my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and Sarwat Pasha, and those between the late Mr. Arthur Henderson and Nahas Pasha. In certain respects, however, the negotiation of this Treaty differed from that of any others which preceded it.

Profiting by the experience of the past, we decided to begin with those clauses in the treaty negotiations which have created the most difficulty heretofore, that is to say, the military clauses and the clauses relating to the Sudan. I am quite sure that that was a wise decision. Then, on this occasion, His Majesty's Government were able to negotiate with Egyptian negotiators who represented a united front in Egypt, a united front formed for the purpose of inviting negotiation and of carrying it through. In view of the fate of some past negotiations, the House will appreciate the importance of having a united Egyptian delegation, representative of almost all parties, with which to deal, an advantage which we think may be of considerable importance when the time comes to bring the Treaty into force. Then, finally, there was this further change—a geographical change—that these negotiations, unlike most of their predecessors, took place in Cairo. This again had the advantage that the Egyptian negotiators were able to keep in close touch with their own advisers and with all sections of Egyptian opinion, without, as would have been the case if they had come to this country, dislocating the administration of the country meanwhile. Inevitably that arrangement did place an additional strain upon our High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Miles Lampson, and we do owe a very special debt of gratitude to his untiring labours. We could have had no more patient, no more persistent, no more trusted negotiator. We owe very warm thanks also to the naval, military, and air advisers who assisted Sir Miles Lampson, who collaborated in the negotiations, and to whom, I know, Sir Miles Lampson feels the greatest gratitude for their loyal assistance, and also the greatest admiration for the wisdom of their counsel.

The treaty which we are now asking the House to endorse is a practical arrangement, we claim, an agreement in which each of the parties, by protecting its own interests and respecting the interests of the other, has jointly striven to promote the common good. There is, in the circumstances, no cause for either party to attempt to represent this result as a triumph for itself, and for our part we have not the least intention of striving to do anything of that kind. Here I would like to call the attention of the House to some remarks made by the Prime Minister of Egypt, to whose determination and good will a large part of the success of this negotiation is due—remarks His Excellency made in introducing the treaty to the Chamber of Deputies in Cairo: From its inception the Wafd have had as their programme an agreement with Great Britain realising the complete independence of the country and safeguarding the British interests which are not incompatible with that independence. Again the ideas with which the Egyptian Prime Minister has approached these negotiations are illustrated in another passage of his speech, in which he says that this country (the United Kingdom) has a particular interest in guaranteeing the freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal, inasmuch as it constitutes an artery of British communications., Further, Nahas Pasha said, referring to the necessity of safeguarding the independence of the territory of Egypt, that it was a piece of good fortune for Egypt to conclude an alliance with this country (United Kingdom), a Power strong on land, on sea, and in the air, which exerted a powerful influence in international affairs … and whose; assistance in the sending of armed forces under the treaty would be unlimited. I quote those statements as evidence of the clear understanding of both the individual and the mutual interests of the two countries which the Egyptian Prime Minister's statements show. On our side when, by the declaration of February, 1922, we terminated the Protectorate and recognised Egypt as an independent sovereign State, we reserved four points to our absolute discretion, but we indicated then our intention to reach agreement in respect of those four points by free discussion and friendly accommodation on both sides. Those four points, the House will recollect, which we reserved at the time, were: first, the security of the communications of the British Empire in Egypt; second, the defence of Egypt against all foreign aggression, or interference either direct or indirect; third, the protection of foreign interests and the rights of minorities; and, fourth, the Sudan. In entering on these negotiations it has been our intention, by reaching agreement on these four points, to complete Egyptian independence and sovereignty and thus to satisfy Egyptian aspirations, while at the same time protecting our own and advantaging, as we believe we have, the joint interests of the two countries.

As I proceed to go into the terms of the Treaty itself I think the House will agree that the Treaty does safeguard what is of vital importance to both countries and does ensure valuable advantages to both. I am not going to weary the House by going into the past history of our relations with Egypt. Though a matter of much interest, it is also one with which most Members of the House are extremely familiar. But I would recall, if I might, just one fact out of the past, which is important if the possibility of misunderstanding is to be avoided. For the first 32 years of the British military occupation of Egypt, Egypt continued to be what it had been before our occupation, a State under the suzerainty of Turkey but enjoying an extensive autonomy under the rule of the Khedivial family.

The British troops entered Egypt not to oppose the Government but to suppress a military revolt of a nationalist character which had broken out against the Khedive under Arabi Pasha. They went there to restore order, which had been disturbed with serious results to foreign lives and property. They remained to maintain order, while under the advice and supervision of Sir Evelyn Baring the conditions of order, that is to say sound finance and efficient and disinterested administration, were established with the help of foreign advisers, mostly British. I mention that in order that the House may be reminded of the circumstances. British troops conquered the rebel troops in Egypt, but the country of Egypt as such we did not set out to conquer. After the War, when Turkish suzerainty was in process of final liquidation, the Egyptian aspirations for independence, as elsewhere in the world at that time, were growing under the stimulus of events both international and local. They culminated in the years immediately following the War in an outburst of violent nationalism. On our side we then sent out the Milner Mission to Egypt in 1921. That mission failed to reach agreement with the Egyptian Government, but on their return His Majesty's Government, in issuing their declaration in February, 1922, terminated the Protectorate and, as I have said, reserved the four points to which I have referred.

That brings us up to the present day. I think it will be useless to deny that the regime which has resulted from this recognition of independence and the reservation of those four points has been an uneasy one. It has been uneasy because Egypt has been expectant but unsatisfied. It was bound also to be anomalous when, though His Majesty's Government remained the actual Power in occupation, with all that that entailed, Egypt was entirely self-governing and the number of British officials was being rapidly reduced. You have there the anomaly. We had power in the military sense, while others had the responsibility of government and administration. Many attempts were made to reach the agreement which had been envisaged by this Declaration of 1922, and to-day we are in a position to ask the House to approve the agreement which has now been come to. It was in December of last year that the United Front was formed in Egypt, and its formation created the condition which His Majesty's Government had postulated for successful negotiation. This condition and the request of the United Front that negotiations should be begun, were the reasons for the opening of these discussions. It would have been foolish of us to have neglected the opportunity that was thus offered, even if we could, in view of our past professions, have done so with much credit to ourselves.

Now I will say a few words about the articles of the Treaty themselves. It may, perhaps, be for the convenience of the House if instead of going through the Treaty article by article I deal with it by subjects, because I think that in that way it will be easier for the House to follow the scope and contents of the Treaty. The first subject with which I would like to deal is the alliance and the military provisions connected therewith. If hon. Members will turn to the White Paper they will find that the provisions which deal with the alliance are in Article 4, which actually states the alliance. It establishes the alliance between the two countries. Other articles that deal with it are Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8, together with a long annexe to Article 8, the first 13 paragraphs of the agreed Minute on page 15 of the White Paper, and the third Egyptian Note signed in London, which is on page 19 of the White Paper.

The Treaty in its present form continues, according to the provisions of Article 16, for a period of 20 years, after which, if either party so request, the two will negotiate with a view to revising its terms by agreement in a manner appropriate to the then existing circumstances. If neither party desires revision, then the Treaty will go on as it is. Any revision, however, must provide for the continuation of the alliance in accordance with the principles contained in Articles 4, 5, 6 and 7, and these articles stipulate four things to which I will draw attention. The four things are, first, that an alliance is established: second, that neither party will adopt an attitude in regard to foreign Powers or conclude a Treaty inconsistent with the alliance: third, that they will consult each other with a view to the peaceful settlement of any dispute with a third State threatening the risk of rupture with that State: fourth, in the event of either party being engaged in a war the other, subject to its obligations under the Covenant, will come to its aid as an ally.

This means, of course, that His Majesty's Government must protect Egyptian territory from invasion. To this I am sure the House will take no exception. The safety of Egypt is the great common interest which unites that country and the United Kingdom. Because of the Suez Canal the integrity of Egypt is a vital interest of the British Empire as well as of Egypt herself. Egypt then has the advantage of this promise of protection by the United Kingdom. She, however, is not obliged by the Treaty to send troops outside Egypt to protect British territory. That is an undertaking beyond her present military capacity. But it is stipulated that the aid which Egypt shall bring to the United Kingdom in time of war—and not only in time of war but also in that of imminent menace of war or an apprehended international emergency—the help that Egypt then brings is to consist in furnishing on Egyptian territory all the facilities and assistance in its power. To make this Egyptian aid effective all the necessary administrative and legislative measures, including the establishment of martial law and an effective censorship, will be taken by Egypt. These facilities and this assistance which Egypt will give include the use of Egyptian ports, aerodromes, and means of communication, and, what is more important, these facilities, as explained in the first agreed Minute which is on page 15, include Egyptian permission and facilities for the sending of British forces or reinforcements to Egypt in these emergencies. If His Majesty's Government are to fulfil their obligation to protect Egyptian territory, which of course includes the Suez Canal, these facilities are obviously necessary; they are necessary for Egypt as much as for the United Kingdom.

But this is the point to which I wish to draw attention. These four principles which I have outlined must figure in any revision of the present Treaty that may be agreed upon after the 20 years for which this Treaty lasts. The House will appreciate the importance of that. Its importance is due to the fact that it lays down the basis on which the Council of the League or any other body that may be agreed upon by the two parties, must work if at the end of 20 years they are called upon to decide a difference regarding the terms of revision. We hope and expect, of course, that no outside body will have to be called upon. We hope and expect that after 20 years, no less than to-day, we shall be able to settle these matters between ourselves as friends and allies. But if that expectation fails, that is the basis on which the Council of the League, or whoever it may be, will have to take its decision. The only other remark in this connection that I wish to make is that hon. Members will see from the Treaty that negotiations for revision may be entered upon at any time after 10 years, but only if both parties wish to do so.

From that I want to come to, for us, an extremely important part of the Treaty, the clauses that deal with the Suez Canal. I think the House would wish to know that His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions, while they are, of course, not signatories to the Treaty, were kept informed at every stage of the course of the negotiations. I had the advantage during the summer several times of having conversations on this subject with the Dominion High Commissioners and also with members of certain Dominion Governments who happened to be in London at the time. After the conclusion of the Treaty, a statement was made by the Minister for External Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia in the Commonwealth Senate which I should like to quote to the House: In view of Australia's vital interest in the security of British Empire communications by way of Egypt, the Commonwealth Government was in the closest touch with the United Kingdom Government both before the initiation of negotiations and throughout the proceedings and each detail of their development was carefully followed. In London there were frequent discussions between the Secretary of State (Mr. Eden), the Minister of Commerce (Dr. Page), the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) and the High Commissioner (Mr. Bruce). I shall not attempt to summarise the provisions of the Treaty. It has received wide approval both in Great Britain and Egypt, and the general opinion is that it will have the effect of converting a most uncertain and difficult relationship into a friendly alliance. If Honourable Senators have studied the clauses in some detail they will, I am sure, be satisfied that everything has been done to ensure the continued security of those Empire communication as through Egypt which mean so much to us in Australia. Another Dominion which also, for geographical reasons, has a special interest on the matter is New Zealand. I am glad to be able to tell the House that the Honourable Walter Nash, the New Zealand Minister for Finance, who happens to be in London at the present time, has joined in expressing satisfaction that an agreed settlement has been secured. In his view it was a courageous settlement and reflects credit on those who conducted the difficult negotiations, both in the immediate past and in the earlier stages. Mr. Nash, of course, expressed no opinion on the detailed provisions relating to military dispositions, but I thought the House would wish to have those two expressions of opinion from the two Dominions which are, perhaps, most closely interested.

Now I come to Article 8, which deals with the Canal. Article 8 provides that, whilst the Suez Canal is an integral part of Egypt, it is recognised by the parties not only as a universal means of communication but also as an essential means of communication between the different parts of the British Empire. With a view to ensuring in collaboration with the Egyptian forces the defence of the Canal, the United Kingdom is authorised by Egypt in time of peace and tranquillity, until such time as the Egyptian Army is capable of ensuring the liberty and entire security of navigation of the Canal by its own resources, to maintain forces in a zone on the Suez Canal. These forces, according to paragraph (1) of the Annexe to Article 8, shall not exceed in time of peace, when no emergency exists, for the land forces 10,000 men and for the Royal Air Force 400 pilots plus the necessary ancillary personnel for administrative and technical duties. His Majesty's Government are authorised to maintain these British forces there in time of peace and tranquillity, but in time of war, menace of war or apprehended international emergency, His Majesty's Government are at liberty to increase these numbers if it appears necessary to do so for the purpose of fulfilling their obligations as an ally to defend Egypt, including the Suez Canal. At the end of 20 years the question whether the presence of British forces in time of peace is no longer necessary owing to the fact that the Egyptian Army has become able to defend the Canal by its own re- sources may, if the High Contracting Parties do not agree among themselves, be submitted to the Council of the League for decision in accordance with the provisions of the Covenant as it now stands, or submitted to some other person or body agreed upon by the High Contracting Parties in accordance with any procedure they may agree to. Even though the Treaty be revised—this is the point that I must again emphasise, for it is of great importance—such revision must provide for the continuation of the alliance in accordance with the principles amongst others of Article 7, to which I have just referred. Article 7, with the agreed minutes which relate to it, provides for the despatch by His Majesty's Government to Egypt of forces or reinforcements in the event of war, menace of war or apprehended international emergency. The House will observe that Article 8 expressly recognises that the Suez Canal, whilst an integral part of Egypt, is an essential means of communication between different parts of the British Empire, and that the United Kingdom is entitled under the Treaty to be assured that the Canal will be adequately protected by the alliance for all time. In these circumstances I think the House will agree that that Article can be regarded as a satisfactory one from the point of view of both countries.


What is the strength of the Egyptian Forces in comparison with ours? What will they have to supply?


That I cannot give offhand. I do not think it has been agreed. I will try to get an answer at the end of the day.

I come to another point in connection with the Canal which is also of great importance and interest to the House, and that is the question of the accommodation and the location of the troops. The Egyptian Government will, at their own expense, make available the requisite land and build the necessary barracks for the British troops in the Canal zone with full amenities over and above the accommodation that exists in the zone already. There is already accommodation for 2,000 land forces and 750 members of the air force. The area selected for the British troops is at Geneifa in a cultivated area along the shores of the Great Bitter Lake some 80 miles from Cairo and 150 from Alexandria. His Majesty's Government will make a financial contribution towards the expense. This will consist of the cost of the barrack accommodation for 2,000 of the land forces and a repayment of the sum spent by Egypt before the War on some new barracks in Cairo which we used without vacating the old barracks which they had been designed to replace. There are detailed provisions showing that the barracks are to be constructed in accordance with all reasonable requirements of His Majesty's Government.

The Egyptian Government will also construct roads, the most important of which —for the purpose of illustrating this the House will be aware that there is a map available—will be that across the Delta from the Canal zone to Alexandria and that from the Canal zone to Cairo. The Egyptian Government will also improve railway facilities in the Canal zone. When this work, the construction of these barracks and the building of these roads and railways, has been carried out to the satisfaction of both parties—an arbitral board will be set up to decide any differences—the British forces in Egypt, other than those already stationed on the Canal, will be withdrawn from the Canal zone. This applies to the forces in Cairo and its immediate vicinity, in Heliopolis and in Helouan. The forces in Alexandria are in a special category. They will remain in their present position for a period not exceeding eight years, which is the time considered necessary for the final completion of the new barrack accommodation on the Canal for the forces in Alexandria and the improvement of certain roads and railways.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make one point clear? I understand that the forces at Alexandria are to move within eight years. Is there any period set for the movement of the forces in Cairo?


The expectation is that all the buildings necessary, both for Alexandria and for Cairo, will have been completed at the end of eight years. That is the longest period that we think necessary for the total construction, therefore, that is the longest period for the movement of all the troops in Cairo and Alexandria.


This lays down eight years, with special reference to Alexandria in paragraph 18. Paragraph 8, which relates to Cairo, contains no time limit of any kind.


The only time limit is the time that the construction will take.


It may be less than eight years?


Certainly. The maximum in respect of Alexandria is eight years.

Then, as regards the roads, there will be improvements made to the road from Cairo to Suez and from Cairo to Alexandria, and a new development, the importance of which the House will realise, from Alexandria to Mersa Matruh in the Western Desert. Improvements of railway facilities are to be made between Ismailia and Alexandria and Alexandria and Mersa Matruh. The Egyptian Government undertakes to complete all these works—this again is a maximum time—before the expiry of eight years.

I should like to explain some of the reasons which have made it possible for the Government to agree to the withdrawal of British forces from the cities themselves. This is due to a combination of two factors. First, our forces are now mechanised, with the result that when the Treaty provisions for the construction of roads and rail communications have been carried out it will be possible to move the troops quickly to any threatened point for the protection of Egypt against external aggression, for which purpose under the conditions prevailing hitherto it was necessary to keep troops at the centres in order that they might be readily available. Moreover, the Royal Air Force are given permission by the Treaty to fly wherever they consider it necessary for training purposes, but only to fly over populated area when necessity demands it. The Egyptian Air Force is given reciprocal permission in respect of British territory. The facilities to which I have just referred, and other facilities for the Royal Air Force in the Treaty or the annexes, assure our Air Force of all the facilities required for training purposes. Thirdly, the areas earmarked for training our forces—which are also shown on the map—throughout the year are considered adequate, and provision is made for their considerable extension in February and March, which are the months when manoeuvres normally take place. Finally, to sum up the question of the moving of the troops, I would say that, so far as health and comfort are concerned, the troops will, if anything, be the better for the move to the canal. That I say not on my own ignorant authority, but on that of those better qualified to speak of such matters than I.

I will say one word about the Military Mission. While the British personnel at present with the Egyptian Army will be withdrawn, the Egyptian Government, in the interests of the alliance, will avail themselves, for such time as they think necessary, of the services of a British Mission, which will assist in an advisory capacity in the training of the Egyptian Army and the Egyptian Air Force. Moreover, we undertake to receive and provide proper training in this country for such personnel in the Egyptian forces which the Egyptian Government may wish to send to this country for the purpose of being trained. No Egyptian personnel will be sent to any other country for training, except in the very unlikely event of our not having sufficient training facilities or vacancies at our disposal. The armament and the equipment of the Egyptian Army will not differ in type from those of our own forces.

I come to one other question of particular interest to those concerned with the Services. That is the immunities and privileges which our forces in Egypt will enjoy. They will enjoy privileges in jurisdictional and fiscal matters, and these are defined in a special Convention agreed to between the two Governments. Among other things, the areas which are allotted to our forces, our temporary camps and our training and manoeuvre areas, when being used for such, are inviolable and subject to the exclusive control and authority of the appropriate British authorities. British forces will enjoy freedom of movement between British camps and to and from the ordinary points of access to Egyptian territory. They will enjoy unrestricted communication by radio, telephone, telegraph, etc., and they will have the use of Egyptian railways on the present terms and conditions. Their official correspondence will enjoy the same immunity as that of diplomatic representatives of foreign States. The British forces will be immune from taxation, except in respect of privately owned property. The agreements between the two Governments dealing with imports and exports by the British naval, military and air authorities, and by that most important organisation the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute, will remain in force subject to revision in certain circumstances. During the transition period between the coming into force of the Treaty and the withdrawal of the British Forces to the Canal zone, those forces will continue to enjoy the same facilities as they enjoy at present.

Now I come to the Sudan, which is dealt with in Article 11 of the Treaty. While the parties reserve liberty, as the Article says, to conclude new conventions regarding the Sudan in the future, it is agreed that the administration of the Sudan continues to be that resulting from the Condominium Agreements of 1899. The result is that the Governor-General of the Sudan continues to exercise the powers conferred upon him by those Agreements. It is agreed that the primary aim of the administration must be the welfare of the Sudanese. The question of sovereignty over the Sudan is reserved in the Treaty itself. Therefore, both the British and the Egyptian flags will continue to fly at Khartoum, and the status of the Sudan as a territory under the Condominium is illustrated in the Annexe to Article 11, which provides that the participation of the Sudan in international conventions is effected by the joint action of His Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government. The appointments and promotions of officials in the Sudan remain, as heretofore, vested in the Governor-General. Where no qualified Sudanese are available, the Governor-General will select suitable candidates of British and Egyptian nationality when making new appointments. According to paragraph XV of the agreed Minute, the appointment of Egyptian nationals must be governed by the number of suitable vacancies at the time and by the qualifications of the candidates. Promotion will be irrespective of nationality up to any rank by selection in accordance with individual merit, the selection, as I said before, to be entirely in the hands of the Governor-General himself.

In addition to Sudanese troops, British and Egyptian troops shall be placed at the disposal of the Governor-General for the defence of the Sudan, and in accordance with paragraph XVI of the agreed Minute the Governor-General will give immediate consideration, in consultation with an Egyptian military officer of high rank who will be sent to the Sudan, to the question of the number of Egyptian troops required and the places where they will be stationed. That again, is a matter for the decision of the Governor-General. Egyptian immigration to the Sudan shall continue unrestricted except for reasons of public order and health.


Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of troops in the Sudan, is there any limit to be imposed upon Egyptian troops coming into the Sudan in this Article?


The limit depends on the Governor-General's choice and decision.


No numerical limit?


The Governor-General decides how many and where.

In matters of commerce and immigration and the-possession of property there shall be no discrimination in the Sudan between British subjects and Egyptian nationals. Financial questions in regard to the Sudan, which have been troublesome in the past, have been agreed as a result of negotiation which has taken place since this Treaty was signed, and the White Paper which describes them was, I think, laid only yesterday. I will not weary the House with the details now beyond saying that the Agreement is generally a satisfactory one, we consider, and if any hon. Member wishes for particulars we shall be glad to give them. But I ought to state, and the House will probably remember, that in recent years the Egyptian Government have paid an annual subvention of three-quarters of a million Egyptian pounds to the Sudan. They have agreed not to withdraw this subvention in future, except after giving fair notice.

Having said that on the Sudan, I come to almost the last chapter in these negotiations, namely, the question of the security of foreigners and the police. The House will see that these subjects are dealt with in Article 12, and in the second Note, which is on page 18 of the White Paper, signed by Nahas Pasha, in London, in August. The House will notice that His Majesty's Government recognise under Article 12 that the responsibility for the lives and property of foreigners in. Egypt falls exclusively upon the Egyptian Government. The Egyptian Government on their part undertake that they will ensure the fulfilment of their obligation in this respect, which is a Treaty undertaking on their part. This Article settles one of the four reserved points to which I have referred earlier this afternoon. The settlement of this reserved point is one of the main objects of the Treaty. It is settled, I think the House will agree, in the only possible way because responsibility for internal law and order is the most elementary part of independence, and the safety of foreigners is bound up with it. It is agreed by the Note on page 18 from Nahas Pasha that, in pursuance of this article, the European Bureau of the Public Security Department, which has special charge of the security of foreigners, will disappear after the ratification of the Treaty. But for a further five years after that the European element will be retained in the Egyptian City Police, which will for that period remain under the command of British officers. The services of one-fifth of the European officials in the police will be dispensed with annually. The method of the practical application of this article in the manner best chosen to safeguard the interests of all concerned is at present under active discussion, but I would like to assure the House that, as far as the European police officers and the constables are concerned, to both of whom not only this country, but Egypt is under a considerable debt of gratitude, we are going to do everything in our power to ensure to them reasonably good opportunities for them in the future. We have already been in communication with other Government Departments concerned, and I am hopeful that we shall be able to the satisfaction of everybody to meet the problem of the future of these men.

I must say one word upon the subject of foreign experts. The Treaty lays down, and the Egyptian Government agree, that if they engage the services of foreign experts, they will generally prefer British subjects who have the necessary qualifications.

I want to say a word on the subject of the Capitulations. Article 13 of the Treaty and its Annexe deal with the Capitulations. Perhaps before saying anything about the details, I might make one reference to the subject of the Capitulations. Egypt became subject to the Capitulations as a part of the Ottoman Empire. That is the origin of the Capitulations in Egypt. Though there have been developments to a greater extent in that country than in most States which have had the régime of Capitulations, now there is practically no country left in the world except Egypt herself which has a regime of this kind, and it has formed part of all previous draft Treaties that this system should come to an end. I do not think that the House will wish for a detailed account of these provisions, but there is one matter to which I must refer, and that is the Mixed Courts. The Mixed Courts in Egypt have been a most successful institution. They were originally established in 1875 because of the virtual chaos of the judicial system in Egypt which prevailed at that time. They were meant to last for a short period, but in effect they worked very well and they have become a very important part of the judicial system of Egypt. They were accorded certain further powers of a legislative character, namely, to render Egyptian legislation of which they approved applicable to foreigners. I do not want to go into details as regards these Mixed Courts, except to say that one of the matters which will have to be discussed is the period for which the Mixed Courts, with the increased judicial jurisdiction it is proposed to give them, must be retained. That is one of the matters which will have to be discussed at the conference between the Capitulatory Powers which will take place in the near future.

We are now engaged in discussing some of these points with the Egyptian Government, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Egyptian Government, and I think this announcement will be greeted with general satisfaction, are seeking the revision of this system, which has disappeared practically everywhere else in the world, by international agreement and by negotiation, which we believe is the correct method for handling these matters. We feel very strongly that in this matter the adoption of the Tight method deserves success and that the Capitulatory Powers should receive the approaches of Egypt in a reasonable and conciliatory manner. At any rate, we shall do our utmost to secure an agreed and rapid solution of the problem, and if the same spirit prevails elsewhere we feel that there should be no great difficulty in the matter.

Now before I come to the end of what has been a long survey, I will deal briefly with one or two other matters which are mentioned in the Treaty. Article 3 states that Egypt will apply for membership of the League of Nations and her application will be supported by His Majesty's Government under conditions described by Article 1 of the Covenant. Article 2, and this is an article of importance, provides that the two parties will each be represented in the Capital of the other by an Ambassador, and since His Majesty the King will be the first Sovereign represented in Egypt by an Ambassador, the British Ambassador will be considered senior to the other foreign diplomatic representatives in that country. Such is the document which was signed by the British and Egyptian representatives on 26th August in London.

I should like, in conclusion, to remind not only this House but Egypt also that the representatives of His Majesty's Government signed this Treaty fully conscious not only of the importance of its letter but, perhaps even more, the importance of its spirit, and are sincerely determined to conform their actions to that spirit. We shall act in future not only as we have done in the past as the friend of Egypt but also as a freely accepted ally. What is going to be the result of this Treaty? For the complexities and the anomalies of a relationship which was not freely accepted by both parties we hope to substitute the confidence and goodwill of allies working together in a partnership voluntarily entered into. The interests of Egypt and of this country must always be not separate but joint, not at odds but interdependent. We therefore look forward to seeing the two countries working together in unity and amity and so contributing, as the text of the Treaty says, to the maintenance of peace. In these times of stress and strain in the modern world it is well I think to have eradicated a cause of irritation and, to that extent, of weakness, to have established in its place the prospect of good feeling and, to that extent, of strength, and to have replaced the possibility of strife by the prospect of concord.

To think of modern Egypt is to think of Lord Cromer. The benefits which his long and unwearying work of reform conferred on Egypt are apparent to-day. When Lord Cromer went to Egypt the administration at that time, under Ismail Pasha, had produced chaos, poverty and wretchedness. Lord Cromer and a band of foreign advisers, mostly British, with the help of some far-sighted Egyptians, brought order out of chaos and restored justice and hope to the Egyptian people. I should like to remind the House of this, that whatever may be popularly said or thought, Lord Cromer's work was directed towards the ultimate achievement of Egyptian autonomy. If, and I think it is true, the influence produced by the, war hastened the process and gave a development of a different character from that which he foresaw, his general aim was none the less in a large measure attained in 1922 and is I believe very largely attained by this present Treaty.

No doubt the new regime will meet with difficulties in its earlier stages. We must expect that, but if those difficulties are met in a spirit of friendly accommodation, of tolerance and of realism—which I gratefully acknowledge was displayed throughout these negotiation by Nahas Pasha and his Egyptian colleagues and I am persuaded by our own representatives—I am confident that they will not prove insuperable, and that both our countries will benefit from the operation of the provisions of this Treaty which I am privileged to recommend to the House to-day.

4.52 p.m.


His Majesty's Opposition support the Motion for the ratification of this Treaty. We hope that this Treaty will close for ever an old chapter in Anglo-Egyptian relations which was marked by misunderstandings on both sides from time to time and by certain apparent conflicts of purpose. We hope that that chapter is closed and that this Treaty is going to open a new chapter based upon mutual respect, sincere cooperation and abiding friendship, not merely between governments but be- tween the British and the Egyptian peoples themselves. My old chief, Arthur Henderson, would have rejoiced to have seen this day and to have taken part in this Debate. I venture to say that he, more than any of his predecessors at the Foreign Office, succeeded in winning the confidence of the leaders of the Egyptian people and, indeed, in winning their affectionate regard, even at the moment when his negotiations failed.

He laid the foundations seven years ago of to-day's achievement. He came within an ace of negotiating a treaty, and I shall speak later of its similarity and its dissimilarity to the Treaty which has been proposed to-day. He succeeded on all points except on the one point of the Sudan, on which those negotiations broke down. I have a very vivid personal recollection of those negotiations, because I was privileged during part of them to be closeted alone with Mr. Henderson, Nahas Pasha and Makram Ebeid Pasha at hours of the morning when nearly everybody else had gone to bed, and sometimes beyond the hour of sunrise, seeking agreements and appropriate forms of words in which to clothe them. I shall never forget those mornings. As I have said, we reached agreement on all points except the Sudan, and the Treaty which the right hon. Gentleman recommends to the House this afternoon is substantially Arthur Henderson's Treaty.

I have carefully compared Mr. Henderson's draft with this Treaty. The Preamble is word for word the same. The great majority of the Articles are word for word the same. The order of the Article has been changed a little. Article 2 is the right hon. Gentleman's Article 10. That is obviously a trivial matter of arrangement. There is a little more detail in some of the annexes. There are two Articles which are different, Article 11 dealing with the Sudan is new. We could not get a Sudan Article. Article 13, dealing with Capitulations, is rather different from ours, and it is different in an interesting way. It is different in the sense that it goes much further to meet the Egyptian demands than the corresponding Article in our Treaty which the Egyptians then accepted. The right hon. Gentleman now has put forward in this Article the statement that: His Majesty The King and Emperor recognises that the capitulatory régime now existing in Egypt is no longer in accordance with the spirit of the times and with the present state of Egypt. His Majesty the King of Egypt desires the abolition of this régime without delay. Those words are new, but the right hon. Gentleman has left out a conditional clause which was in our Article. under such conditions as would safeguard the legitimate interests of foreigners. That was in our draft, but it is not in the right hon. Gentleman's draft. I am not complaining. I am just noting the difference. There is in the annexe very much firmer language of support for Egypt than anything in our draft. His Majesty's Government now, I am glad to say, will collaborate actively with the Egyptian Government in giving effect to the abolition of this system by using all their influence with the Powers exercising capitulatory rights in Egypt. That is stronger, and I welcome it. Apart from the two Articles that I have noticed, Article 13 and Article 11, there are no other changes of importance in this Treaty as compared with our draft. Of course, there are elaborations, but there are no other changes of importance. But there is a very great change in the attitude of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, on which I congratulate them, and on which I desire for a moment to dwell. They violently opposed our Egyptian policy in 1929–30. It was one of the stock topics of partisan debate. They violently opposed a necessary preliminary, the appointment of a new British High Commissioner in Cairo. The appointment of a new British High Commissioner was necessary to any real improvement in Anglo-Egyptian relations at that time. That was the subject of acrimonious debate in the summer of 1929.

The party opposite violently criticised on 23rd December, 1929, our proposals in regard to the draft treaty. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) led off for what was then the Opposition, and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) weighed in with vigour. The present Foreign Secretary was much more moderate than either of his two right hon. Friends, but none the less he had many critical things to say, of some of which I shall remind him in a moment. When in the following May it was announced that the negotiations had finally broken down, the announcement was loudly cheered from the Opposition Benches of that day. Mr. Henderson stated on 8th May of that year: I regret to inform the House that, in spite of the most sincere and friendly efforts on both sides, the negotiations have failed, His Majesty's Government not having seen their way to meet the demands of the Egyptian Delegation in regard to the Sudan."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1930; col. 1120, Vol. 238.] At the point where he stated that the negotiations had broken down the OFFICIAL REPORT inserts the words "Hear, hear!" a very unusual insertion in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and therefore all the more emphatic. Our attitude to-day is quite the reverse. We are rejoicing as much in the success of the right hon. Gentleman's efforts as his party rejoiced in the failure of ours.

Let me deal with some of the things which were said in the Debate on 23rd December, 1929. It would be extremely interesting to know why such a change has come about in the minds of hon. Members opposite on certain salient points in these negotiations. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham made a very critical reference to the proposal that Egyptian troops should return, even to the extent of one battalion, to the Sudan. I asked the Foreign Secretary this afternoon whether there was any numerical limit set as to the number of Egyptian troops who might return to the Sudan under the new regime, and he said, no, it rested with the Governor-General. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham in the Debate in 1929 said: There is a contingent promise to allow an Egyptian battalion in certain circumstances to return into that country. I regard that as a dangerous and a retrograde step."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd December, 1929; col. 1957, Vol. 233.] But in Article 11, paragraph 3, no numerical limit is set to the return of these Egyptian troops. The right hon. Gentleman was also very contemptuous of what is now Article 5, which says: Each of the High Contracting Parties undertakes not to adopt in relation to foreign countries an attitude which is inconsistent with the Alliance, nor to conclude political treaties inconsistent with the provisions of the present Treaty. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham said in 1929: There is something fantastic in making a clause of that kind mutual between His Majesty's Government, and in effect the British Empire, and the Government of Egypt …. It is really ridiculous to say that the foreign policy of the British Government and the British Empire is to be governed by the interests and the circumstances of the Kingdom of Egypt. In an elegant metaphor the right hon. Gentleman said: The elephant undertakes to protect the mouse, and thereafter the elephant's march is to be conditioned by the mouse's trot."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd December, 1929; col. 1960, Vol. 233.] To-day the Foreign Secretary has got beyond that kind of figure of speech, and I hope beyond that figure of thought, to the conception of a relationship of mutual respect and moral equality between Egypt and this country such as is embodied in Article 5, which is not very different in its phraseology from the Article which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham so contemptuously, if happily, described. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham was indeed critical of a large number of the Articles in our draft Treaty of 1929, particularly those relating to foreigners and the movement of troops, in regard to which there is no substantial modification in the Treaty now before us. On the movement of troops the right hon. Gentleman said: Our troops are to leave Cairo and Alexandria. They are to be placed away in an isolated zone on the Canal …. I view with profound anxiety the consent of His Majestys Government to the removal of our troops …. The right hon. Gentleman has told me to destroy one of the few safeguards that I retained. I do not know with what authority or on what advice he has taken that step."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd December, 1929; col. 1962, Vol. 233.] The development of mechanisation is, of course, a new factor, but further explanations are required why His Majesty's Government have moved so far from the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham at that time.


With regard to mechanisation, were there any provisions for the construction of these roads and railways?


There was not the degree of detail in the annexe which is given in the present Treaty, but a very definite reference to mechanisation was made in another place by the Secretary of State for Air at that time—the late Lord Thomson.


I did not talk of mechanisation.


No, I was not answering the right hon. Gentleman, but having regard to the passage in which he deplored the movement of troops to the Canal Zone, I am suggesting that the increased mechanisation which has taken place since then might have removed most of his objections; indeed, I was wondering whether the whole of his objections may not have been wiped away by the development of mechanisation.


I asked whether the Arthur Henderson Treaty made any provision such as is embodied in the present Treaty for the construction of military roads and railways which are provided for now. The answer was "No."


I should have to reexamine the details of the Henderson Treaty before attempting to give a specific answer to the right hon. Gentleman, but what I am saying is that the question of mechanisation and the movement of troops from the Canal Zone back to Cairo and Alexandria did figure prominently in the debates at that time, and the late Lord Thomson in another place referred to it in detail. Therefore, these matters were prominently before the minds of those who were negotiating the other Treaty.


The hon. Member challenged me rather conspicuously. I thought that he was commenting on a speech of mine, but he has introduced a speech of the late Lord Thomson in another place. I can only deal with my own speech on the Treaty.


I can only say that my recollection is that whatever may have been put in the annexe in the Treaty negotiated by Arthur Henderson, the question of mechanisation as a factor in the movement of troops was not absent from the minds of those who had charge of the negotiations. That is the only answer I can give without having before me the exact words which would enable me to give a specific reply to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not want to pursue the point, and I hope that I have been courteous to the right hon. Gentleman. Then there is the right hon. Member for Epping—I do not want to get these ex-Ministers on their feet one after another. He also made a vigorous challenge on the movement of troops from Cairo and Alexandria. He likened it to the departure of the Roman legions centuries ago and to the beginning of the decline of Empires and the passage of power. I pass from the right hon. Member for Epping to the right hon. Gentleman the present Foreign Secretary, who made a few observations in that same Debate. I asked him to-day whether in the text of the present Treaty, there was any maximum period for the movement of troops from Cairo and Alexandria, and I understood him to say that they would move from Cairo within eight years, and that they might move even sooner. In the Debate in 1929 the right hon. Gentleman expressed the view that it would take at least 20 years. He said: For my part, I believe, if he is to secure that result, it will take him not the three to five years mentioned by the Foreign Secretary but at least 20. That is the very minimum in which you can make a position on the Canal really habitable as a proper habitation for a large number of British troops."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd December, 1929; col. 2048, Vol. 233.] I do not know what has accounted for a shrinkage of 20 years to something less than eight years. The Foreign Secretary, in fact, has expressed a view this afternoon similar to that which I expressed in the Debate in 1929 when winding up the discussion, namely, that the Canal zone, when properly equipped with barracks and amenities, is a much healthier place for the troops than Cairo. I have recently heard that it is the opinion of military officers on the spot, who are entitled to speak, that many of them would be glad if the troops were placed in the Canal zone rather than in the capital. But in 1929 the right hon. Gentleman was arguing that both from a military and health point of view the Canal zone was very unsatisfactory. In 1929 the right hon. Gentleman was greatly troubled about the protection of foreigners and demanded to know whether if anything went wrong we should have the right to reintervene. This afternoon he has made no reference to any such right; and I am glad that he has not. He said that the question of the protection of foreigners had been settled in the Treaty in the only possible way. I agree with him that the only possible way in which that question can be settled is to put the obligation for the protection of foreigners on the Egyptian Government, just as is done in the case of any other sovereign government throughout the world. That is the only possible way, and the fears which the right hon. Gentleman expressed some years ago on this subject are now felt by the Government to be groundless. On the subject of the Sudan the right hon. Gentleman, like the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, viewed the return of the Egyptian battalions to the Sudan with great apprehension. He said: I do deplore the Government's decision in regard to the return of an Egyptian battalion to the Sudan…. I believe that the return of this Egyptian battalion to the Sudan will be viewed by the Sudanese as an indication that we have weakened in our intentions towards the Sudan."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd December, 1929; col. 2054, Vol. 233.] In the present Treaty the right hon. Gentleman has gone much further by way of general concessions, and also by way of detailed concession to the Egyptian claims than we were asked to go six years ago. I am making no complaint. I am hoping that the basis of Article 11 will endure. I trust that I have not taken up too much time in referring to some of the arguments to which we listened six years ago. Many of those objections, if not all, now seem to have disappeared. The critics of Arthur Henderson's policy at that time have with the passing of the years been largely converted to the wisdom of the views for which he then contended. How has that come about? Let us not peer too deeply beneath the surface of affairs. But perhaps Signor Mussolini has not been entirely without influence; perhaps Signor Mussolini has helped to persuade both the British and the Egyptian negotiators of to-day to accept conditions which six years ago they were unwilling to accept. Events in Abyssinia and events in neighbouring parts of the world have also thrown their shadow over the scene. We congratulate the Government, whatever may be the reasons, upon the fact of their conversion; and I share the view of the right hon. Gentleman that Egypt and this country are, for geographical and for other reasons, necessary to one another in these latter days, and that they are natural allies.

We trust that this Treaty will cement in a permanent fashion that natural and necessary relationship, and make it fruitful of friendship. There have been through many centuries—some would say through thousands of years—connections and influences between this country and Egypt. There are some authorities, I believe, who hold that even in the prehistoric age there were Egyptian influences playing on this country, and there are some who hold that Stonehenge, the British equivalent of the Pyramids, was constructed by persons who had learned something of craftsmanship and engineering skill, and even of the cult of sun-worship, from Ancient Egypt. Whether that be true or not—and it is an attractive hypothesis—certainly in these latter days Egypt and this country have been brought close together again. It is indeed indispensable that some step should be taken at this time in order to remove one, at least, of the sources of friction and danger to international relations and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean and the North-East of Africa. We, who six years ago laboured for a Treaty very similar to this and came very near to getting it, salute to-day the Egyptian people and their chosen leaders who have negotiated this Treaty with the right hon. Gentleman. We salute them in a spirit of friendship, and we trust that this Treaty, which they have already ratified and which the House of Commons, representing the British people, will ratify to-day, will be a means of cementing the bonds between this country of ours, with its own long history, and Egypt, whose present citizens are the heirs of one of the oldest and greatest civilisations in the history of mankind, and that armed with this Treaty our two peoples may go forward together into the future without fear.

5.19 p.m.


Far be it from me to follow the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) into an analysis of the speeches that were delivered by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite some six years ago. I was a supporter of the hon. Gentleman in the stand which he and Mr. Arthur Henderson took in those days, and it seems to me that he is amply entitled to the enjoyment which all of us politicians have in convicting our opponents of inconsistency; but it is not my purpose to take up the time of the House this afternoon by discussing the attitude which people took towards the Treaty which Mr. Arthur Henderson sought to conclude in. 1930; I would rather take up the discussion of the Treaty which the present Government have concluded in 1936. We may regret the delay—I do regret it, and I applaud the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and Mr. Henderson for the part they played in trying to get a settlement in 1930, when they were defeated not only by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen whose speeches the hon. Member has just criticised, but also by events and by personalities in the country with the Government of which they were negotiating—we regret the delay, but we may at least say that the Treaty which has now been concluded has been negotiated under favourable auspices. The first point to which I would direct attention is that it is not a Treaty which has been negotiated when the British Empire was in circumstances of weakness. We have, I suppose, never since the War had such a concentration of force in and near Egypt as we had at the time when this Treaty was negotiated. The Treaty reflects not any feeling of weakness on the part of this country, but good will towards, confidence in and respect for the Egyptian people and the statesmen who now form the Government of that country.

The outstanding feature of this Treaty, of course, is Article 1, in which it is clearly affirmed that the military occupation of Egypt is terminated and now a free alliance takes its place. Then come the provisions for safeguarding Egyptian independence and British Imperial interests in that country. I believe these provisions are ample and well designed for the purpose. It seems to me that, with the provisions which are made in the Treaty for roads, railways, barracks and aerodromes, the strategic position of the British troops in the Canal Zone is adequate to preserve the independence of Egypt and the British Imperial interests in the Canal. Moreover, it puts us in a far stronger position if we are able to make a Treaty which establishes our relations with the people of Egypt on a basis of friendship and alliance than if at some time of stress and trouble in the future the Egyptian people should not be our friends and allies, but a hostile and discontented population. Lastly, on this point of the disposition of the troops, I agree with the remarks of the two previous speakers concerning the comfort of the troops. I have discussed this matter with officers now serving, and they told me that the Kasr el Nil Barracks in particular are deplorably bad and most uncomfortable for the troops, and that when they are moved to the Canal Zone they will be in far better and more modern and comfortable barracks.

Let me now refer to the Sudan. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said that the present Treaty goes further in general concession and further in detail than the Treaty in the negotiations for which he was concerned. I have not carefully compared the two Treaties, because I was not aware that the point would be made, but from my memory of the Treaty which he was negotiating in 1930, I find it a little difficult to recall in what respects concessions so much greater have been made in this Treaty than were contemplated in the one with which he was associated. I think the provisions made in this Treaty in regard to the Sudan are defensible and justifiable. It is clear that the Egyptians have a right to share with us in the government and in the defence of that country, and I welcome the provisions, which pass a sponge over many unfortunate memories that we have of comparatively recent events and contemplate the return of Egyptian troops to that country. The Egyptians have an immense interest in the Sudan.

It is, of course, not true that the Nile can ever be diverted by the hand of man; the Nile will always flow through Egypt. Nor is it true that it will ever be economical to divert a large part of the waters of the Nile to irrigation in the Sudan in the spring and the summer when water is most needed in Egypt. For reasons connected with the levels and the nature of the soil, it is not possible to divert water in large quantities at the critical time; but the deliberate control of the waters in order to bring pressure to bear on Egypt is a different matter, especially since the construction of the Geb el Auli dam. That dam, for the construction of which the Egyptian Government were responsible, would make it possible for the waters, if they fell into hands hostile to Egypt, to be so controlled, either in flood time or in the summer, as to cause serious injury to the interests of the people of Egypt. Therefore, I welcome the recognition which the Article relating to the Sudan affords of the vital interest of Egypt in the Sudan.

On the question of the responsibility for the safety of foreigners, the Treaty is a great step forward, and it shows our confidence in the rulers of Egypt that we have recognised their sole responsibility for the safety of foreigners and that we are able to contemplate with equanimity and confidence, as we do, the disappearance of the European Bureau. I hope indeed that it will be found possible at an early date to get rid of the Capitulations, and I followed with great interest the remarks of the Foreign Secretary on that point. Undoubtedly the existence of Capitulations is one of the reasons why, in some respects, the social services and social development of Egypt are backward. It is a mistake to say that there has been no development in recent years, for there has been a considerable development of hospital services, travelling ophthalmic hospitals, education and other social services; but still Egypt is a long way behind other countries which are certainly not superior in other aspects of civilisation. One reason for that undoubtedly is that no Egyptian Government can impose upon Egyptian subjects heavy taxation from which foreigners are exempt. It is therefore, necessary to clear away this exemption of foreigners before the. Egyptian Government can embark on large schemes of social reform. I was speaking once to a distinguished student of Eastern affairs about the contrast which the visitor to Egypt sees between the poverty of the villages and the wealth of the great cities and he said: "What Egypt wants is a Lloyd George Budget." There is a great deal of truth in that observation, but they will not get a Lloyd George Budget until the Capitulations are done away with, and foreigners are made subject to the same taxation as Egyptians. I was glad to hear what the Secretary of State said about the adoption of the method of negotiation. Egypt has decided to take that course and our Government has assured the Egyptian Government of our support in those negotiations, which I hope will be pressed forward to an early and successful conclusion.

In the recent negotiations the representatives of both countries have avoided the counter-dangers of haggling and niggling over very small points of difference on the one hand, and patching over real difficulties with insincere formulae on the other. I venture to offer my congratulations to those, both on the Egyptian side and on the British side, who brought those negotiations to a successful conclusion. In particular, a meed of congratulation is due to the Secretary of State—whom I often have to criticise in other respects—for the way in which he has discharged his supreme responsibility in this matter.

Egypt's claim to independence is not only natural and indefeasible. It has been explicitly and repeatedly recognised by British statesmen ever since the occupation in 1882. The problem has been to reconcile the principle of Egyptian independence with that of safeguarding the vital interests of the British Empire in the line of communications through the Suez Canal. It is because we think that this problem has found a happy and a practicable solution in the Treaty which we are discussing, and because we believe that the Treaty offers a firm basis of enduring friendship between the peoples of Egypt and Britain, that we support the Motion before the Huse.

5.34 p.m.


I am very glad to be able to agree once in a way with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. I am sure that it is not a good thing that we should go back to the Debates of 1929 and certainly no reference can be made to my part in any Debate of that time because I was not then a Member of this House. But I welcome the opportunity of making a few comments on the great State document which we have before us. I too, believe sincerely that it is a rational step forward towards the stabilisation of the position in the Eastern Mediterranean and thus towards world peace. There is an Arabic proverb to the effect that "a wise man looks at the pros and cons" and, being one myself, I have done so in this case. One has to look at the Treaty as a whole, but before examining it I want to claim for myself that I am speaking from an experience of some 21 years in the Sudan, an experience not only of the Sudan and the Sudanese, but also of Egyptian people, Egyptian officials and Egyptian officers. The House, I notice, always pays a certain amount of respect to views which are based on experience if they are sincerely held, however simply they may be uttered.

When we undertake to examine this Treaty we ought to examine it as a whole. We ought to take the whole picture and not try to pick out special points and exploit them as advantageous to one side or the other. That is an easy thing to do, but it is not the part of statesmanship nor, indeed, is it a sure way to approach successful negotiation. Attractive as it would be to me to delve into the past history of this great question, I realise that there is not sufficient time to do so, and as I wish to devote most of my remarks to the Sudan, I shall compress this part of my speech as much as I can. But I feel that the Foreign Secretary was right to remind us of several very important aspects of past history, because they are of essential value in obtaining a proper perspective of the Treaty which we are now discussing. The reasons why we went to Egypt are familiar to hon. Members. They will recall the declaration made at that time, that it was our duty to give advice; the realisation which shortly came upon us that it was futile to give advice unless we had the force and resolution to see it carried out, and the fact which followed that we had to undertake far more than we originally intended. In fact, the event outran the intention, or as Lord Cromer himself said: Facts asserted themselves in defiance of diplomacy and Parliamentary convenience. The result is well known to all of us. Under the administration of Lord Cromer there was created, as the Egyptian people realise, an atmosphere of security in which it became possible for them to lay the foundations of that independence which we are glad to see recognised to-day. That administration was a, wonderful work, and, as I say, gave the Egyptians the opportunity of attaining that which they have now achieved. Apart from recalling those points, I do not intend to go into past history, but I must refer to a few events of more recent times. The Foreign Secretary mentioned that the declaration of the British Government in 1922 was unilateral. It terminated the Protectorate and declared Egypt to be an independent sovereign Power with a monarchy; it also set out the famous four reserved points. I am one of those who realised at the time that it was necessary to reserve those points. It was an inevitable precaution. At the same time, having lived during the intervening period, as I did, in the Sudan, I can say without doubt that those four reserved points caused a constant running sore in the relations between the two countries. Obviously, it had to be so, but equally obviously it was the duty of every statesman to try to get some solution of those four points. We have heard how negotiations were started time and again, and how they broke down time and again, and generally the breaking point was the question of the Sudan and its status. On the other three points compromise might have been reached by discussion and indeed agreement was practically reached.

It was only within the last 18 months or so, in my view, that events gave an opportunity to our country and to Egypt to utilise the forces of common sense in both, in order to achieve a settlement. The whole position was tremendously changed, as we must all realise, by events in Abyssinia and in the Mediterranean and also by the changes in military technique which have already been mentioned. But more than any of those things, what made an approach to this Treaty possible was the change in Egyptian national opinion. The Egyptian people came to realise that British interests in the Suez Canal and in the general defence of Empire communications, were real interests, which would always require satisfaction, if possible by Treaty. Once that frame of mind was shown by the Egyptian people, the way was open to the alliance which we are now discussing. It was, however, necessary that we on this side should be able to deal with a delegation which was democratically representative of the Egyptian people. On other occasions the negotiations which, as I say, always broke down on the Sudan question, never appeared to me likely to be fruitful, because they were being conducted by one or another, on the side of Egypt, who had not the knowledge that the people of the country were behind them. But all the conditions to successful negotiation having been happily fulfilled, we now have the Treaty before us for our ratification.

I do not intend to deal with the first three of the reserved points. I am satisfied that the military experts have seen to it that our communications have been safeguarded. I am satisfied that Egypt has been given full recognition of sovereignty and that there are great mutual and military advantages for both parties in the Treaty. I believe all that is greatly to the good, but the special point with which I desire to deal in this part of my remarks is that of the Sudan. I always felt that there was one fundamental issue in any discussion of the Sudan question and it was that the status of the Sudan, the Condominium as it was called, should be left unchanged. To me that seems a vital question. I believe that it is essential for the welfare of the Sudanese and I was happy when I saw the first paragraphs of the Clause in the Treaty referring to the Sudan, to find that it maintains the status quo.

That Condominium, which, as the House will probably recollect, was a very ingenious invention of the minds of that time, merged into what is called the Condominium any rights that were supposed to belong to Great Britain or Egypt, and, as has been said, ever since that time the two flags have flown in the Sudan and it has been known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Full power has vested in an official known as the Governor-General, who was appointed by Khedivial Decree on the recommendation of our Government, and he was only dismissible with the assent of our Government. Full civil and military authority was vested in the Governor-General, and that remains so. That point, to my mind, was very satisfactorily settled in the first paragraph of the Clause. There always has been, in this country, very deep interest in the Sudan. British interest in the Sudan, as has been said, "can never be measured by commercial balance-sheets." It has always been a tremendous focus of interest. Whether it was due to the fascination of the unknown, to the history of our own explorations, or to the names and actions of Gordon, Kitchener, and many others, it has always had an undoubted fascination for the British people. Turning to the second paragraph, which states that the welfare of the Sudanese should be the primary aim of the Administration, I believe—having left the Service many years ago, I can claim this with all modesty—that Wingate's administration of the Sudan and his conduct of the affairs of that country stand as one of the proudest phases of our history. He had with him a splendid band of loyal colleagues—Asser Pasha, Currie, Bonham Carter, Bernard—all names that will live in Sudan history, and I feel that it was a very great thing for the Sudan that such good administration was given to it. Since that time, when English administration was beginning in the Sudan, I have often seen a striking and deserved tribute paid to the British officers who, after the conquest of Omdurman by Kitchener, were seconded to the administration of the Sudan. I realise that they showed extraordinary ability to adjust themselves to circumstance and extraordinary sympathy with the people whom they were sent to govern, and there is no body of men for whom I have a greater admiration.

That tribute has been far better paid than I can do it in many works of history, by Cromer, Wingate, and others, but there is one tribute that I should like to pay to another set of people who helped us in the very early days of the Sudan, and that is the Egyptian officers who were seconded from the Egyptian Army. I think I can best bring before the House what I want to say by a very short personal illustration. When I went out as one of that band of "active, healthy young men of fair ability," as Lord Cromer called us, I was posted to a district in the distant province of Sennar, and after a year I had under me, out of seven officers, five Egyptians. I had that district for three years, and those men to whom I am referring were of far greater experience in the field than myself. They were officers of the Egyptian Army and had many more years of administrative experience, but throughout my time in that district, and indeed in other districts to which I was posted, never did I meet with anything but very loyal support and friendly and good advice, freely given. They were staunch friends and helpful colleagues, and although later on, when opinion in Egypt had become inflamed, some unfortunate events happened, I am very glad to have the opportunity to-day of paying this tribute to those Egyptian officers, and I have had it very fully endorsed by tech- nical heads of departments in the Sudan, who were similarly assisted by senior Egyptian officers. Of course, they knew the language. Their intimate knowledge of the language was of infinite use to us when new to the country.

I consider that, once that vital matter of the Condominium was settled, the qualifying paragraphs further on are reasonable and just. I believe that it is only fair and reasonable, in view of the very close geographical and lingual connection between Egypt and the Sudan, to have inserted that Clause about the appointments, which are to be British or Egyptian if no Sudanese are qualified. I would like to say here also that in the last report on the Sudan which I examined a short time ago I was very interested to see that 68 per cent. of the staff of the Sudan are now Sudanese. I think that is a very fine tribute to all concerned. Possibly owing to my deep interest in the subject, I may have made rather a. longer speech than I usually do in this House, but I can only say, in conclusion, that I have the subject deeply at heart. I believe that this Treaty is a great step forward, and I am very glad it has been overwhelmingly approved by the Egyptian Parliament. I was very glad to note that they too did not try to stress any particular advantage or disadvantage here or there, but were agreed that it was a Treaty based on mutual good will, with great advantages to both parties. I believe that it is a good work well done, and I congratulate the two Governments and support the Treaty.

5.53 p.m.


Like the last speaker, I am in very full agreement, with the terms of the Treaty. It is not that I would have, if I myself were asked to suggest a settlement, agreed to or proposed all the details that have been put into the Treaty, but on the general, broad principles I am, like all previous speakers, in very full agreement. For instance, I would not have laid so much emphasis as apparently has been laid on the defence of the Canal by land forces. It is perfectly true that a certain number of land forces would be required to protect the Canal, but the Canal is for the passage of vessels through it, and, as far as Egypt and ourselves are concerned, the important thing is that sea forces should be available to make certain that that passage did take place, and sea forces, after all, will act, not at the Canal itself, but at long distances from it, as, for instance, at Malta or even Gibraltar and at Aden on the other side. The Canal is only a link in a long chain which leads out into the Atlantic on the one side and into the Pacific on the other, and if any one of the links is interrupted, then it is quite possible that the Canal itself will be rendered useless for its main purpose of allowing shipping freely to pass through it. Therefore, I would have been glad to have seen greater emphasis laid on the necessity for sea forces defending the Canal.

The other main matter in which I am personally interested is that to which the hon. Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Munro) also referred, and that is the Sudan. When I think of the Sudan, I am compelled to think of Egypt in its relation to it. Egypt is a very remarkable country, not only from the fact that throughout the ages it has had a great and interesting history, but it is almost unique in, that its very existence depends on the water flowing through it, which comes from distances measured by thousands of miles away from the country itself. If, as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) has suggested, the waters were diverted, then Egypt would not even be able to maintain a nomad population. It would revert to the condition of pure desert that exists for 200 miles on one side and 2,000 miles on the other. Its existence then as a country depends on this water passing through.

I think that what the right hon. Baronet said requires a little further explanation than he gave us. He only referred to the matter, of course, in a very few words, and it is difficult in a few words to convey the exact impression of what happens, but really Egypt is a country of two crops. There is a food crop, and there is what I normally call a financial crop, namely, cotton. The right hon. Baronet was right in saying that nothing that man can ever do can ever affect the food crop of Egypt. For ever must the waters that fall mainly in Abyssinia pour down through the Sudan and into Egypt; and it is inconceivable that man could do anything to divert those waters. As a consequence, Egypt is assured for ever of her food crops.

That is not at all the position with regard to the financial crops, because they are fertilised by water which comes from the White Nile, which passes up through Khartoum into the Sudd region and through it again into the equatorial lakes of Africa. It is quite conceivable that things might be done there, in the Sudd region and beyond it, which would, if not actually prevent all the water coming down at the right season, very greatly diminish the supply which is at present available for the financial crops, which are irrigated from, say, March to June or July. As a consequence Egypt has a very vital interest in the Sudan, far more vital than she has, for instance, in what happens in Abyssinia, because the waters coming off the Abyssinian plateau must for ever pass down. Man cannot divert them. It is important to Egypt that she should have command in the Sudan and such authority there that she should be absolutely assured that the vital supply of water for her financial crops are always available to her, and that nothing should be done in that region without her consent. Treaty after treaty has been made to help to regulate the waters of the Sudan and, indeed, of the countries beyond it which, fortunately for Egypt, are British Colonial possessions, such as Uganda, Kenya and even Tanganyika. The waters of Lake Victoria Nyanza come pouring down the Nile and through the Sudan to Egypt, and these are the waters which really fertilise the financial crops.

A new situation has arisen in Abyssinia, and it should be noted that a certain amount of these southern financial crop waters rise in Abyssinia. They do not come down the Blue Nile but come into the Sudan and join the White Nile at Malakal. As a consequence of these waters rising in Abyssinia, they could conveniently be used in Abyssinia for irrigation purposes and thus diminish the supply. I understand from Italians that the really valuable part of Abyssinia is its south-west part which borders on the Sobat and the upper regions of the Sudan, where there are vast plains which could be developed, but fortunately they require, I understand, very little irrigation water. As a consequence, there will be no fear of an abstraction of waters from the upper Sobat waters from the financial waters which pass down into Egypt. That leaves the financial crops, as far as Egypt is concerned, and as far as anything that may arise in Abyssinia is concerned, in a safe position. The little abstraction that may be made will be negligible and no dispute could conceivably arise about it. On the Blue Nile there is a possibility of that happening in regard to Lake Tsana, which is the source of the Blue Nile and supplies the food crop waters. If a dam were built across Lake Tsana the water could be conserved and stored in the dam and let out for the benefit of the financial crops in either Egypt or the Sudan.

In my view, Egypt need not care whether she ever builds a dam across Lake Tsana or not; she can get all the water she requires in the Sudd region, which is more under her command now than it was before. The Sudan is not in quite the same position. As far as the financial crops in the Gazirah are concerned, she depends on the Blue Nile, that is, on the Abyssinian River for her financial crops. The Sudan has to-day at Sennar a great darn which stores water for her and which gives her ample water to fertilise a huge area of some 600,000 acres. She may want to increase that, and naturally will if and when she can. Her eyes, therefore, must turn further up the same river. Naturally, she would like to have Lake Tsana, but even the Sudan does not require to go to Lake Tsana. She could build inside her own territory another dam of about equal capacity to that of the dam at Sennar, and thus give her a vast addition of land. The necessity for getting Lake Tsana as a storage reservoir, therefore, is non-existent so far as Egypt is concerned; and, as far as the Sudan is concerned, it could be avoided by making a reservoir which would satisfy her requirements for many years to come.

As a consequence, I would, if I were asked by either Egypt or the Sudan, advise that they should not dream of building a dam across Lake Tsana. I know that the Italians would like a dam to be built because they have in mind the development of hydro-electric power. If a dam were built, however, the power available would be so great that I cannot conceive where it could be sold. I can imagine that near the mouth of Lake Tsana, where there is a considerable fall, a small hydro-electric installation might well be put up, but that those now in possession of the Lake should build a dam for hydro-electric power, and at the same time for the purpose of giving water to Egypt or the Sudan, seems to me outside the bounds of possibility or probability. If it were asked, as I have heard it asked in the House, what was likely to happen in regard to the dam, I should say that nothing will happen, and that it is advisable that nothing should happen. If water which is essential to the life of one country is stored in another country, the latter country could, in the event of dispute, war or difficulty, so arrange it that the water would be sent down at the wrong time of the year and do harm and possibly great damage. It would, therefore, be very advisable not to encourage either Egypt or the Sudan to build this dam at Lake Tsana unless in some way they can get political control of it. How that could be done is another matter, but it is possible that in the years to come some such change will take place, and it will be possible for either Egypt or the Sudan to have that Lake by some quid pro quo with Italy for the benefit of their irrigation. I have dealt with this matter at some length to correct what I felt was not quite the right presentation of the case by the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness when he said that nothing could he done in the Sudan that would be detrimental to either Egypt or the Sudan.

As regards the Treaty as a whole, the Secretary of State is to be congratulated or having succeeded in getting settled a matter that was causing great anxiety to many people. The Egyptians are also to be congratulated for their share. Nahas Pasha has, in particular, exhibited undoubted statesmanship in his handling of the matter and of the amicable and not too protracted proceedings which eventuated in the Treaty. We have too many examples of treaties which are signed and are torn up or neglected soon afterwards. The important matter is that the spirit of the people concerned, and not only that of the people at the top who have signed the Treaty, should be con amore with the terms of the Treaty itself. I heard the Secretary of State say that as far as he and the Government were concerned they wished to see this Treaty carried out in the letter and in the spirit. From the little knowledge I have of Egyptians I think I can say that Nahas Pasha not only represents in the normal manner the leadership of a great party but the leadership of a party which is practically synonymous with everybody in the country to-day. I know that all the people who are behind him in this Treaty, that is, the people of Egypt, are themselves happy and glad that this arrangement should have been come to.

I have regretted many times to hear that the particular party which Nahas Pasha represent, and of which a famous and great statesman, Zagloul Pasha, was head, namely, the Wafd party, was somehow or other inimical to Great Britain. They desired internal freedom, and full external freedom, too, but none of them were inimicable at any stage to Great Britain. In fact, they looked upon Great Britain with very friendly eyes. It is true that in all parties, just as in ours in this country, there are a few extremists who are not in accord with the body of their own party, and I have no doubt that there have been a few extremists in the Wafd party in the same position. I think that I can with justification say that I believe the Egyptian public are wholly and heartily behind this Treaty and are glad to be associated with Great Britain in the terms which the Treaty so succinctly lays down.

6.15 p.m.


I do not in these days always find myself in full agreement with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I am therefore glad to pay a tribute to him to-day for the way in which he has handled this matter. We have seen his great gifts at their very best on this occasion. As soon as he realised that an opportunity had occurred, he brushed aside all minor considerations, concentrating on the point that good will was worth a good many apparent minor sacrifices. He has known when to take occasion by the hand, and I think he has done a very good day's work for his country in bringing this Treaty to success. We are also, as has already been said, grateful to Signor Mussolini, but, apart from that, one must also pay a tribute to Nahas Pasha for the statesmanship which the Egyptians too, have so clearly shown on their side. It is a happy augury for the working together of the statesmen on both sides in the carrying out of this Treaty in the future.

In supporting this Motion I have a few comments to make on various points. With regard to Article 2, dealing with the appointment of ambassadors, I do hope the Secretary of State will keep carefully in mind the type of man who should be appointed to a position of this kind in future. I do not criticise in any way the many admirable public servants who have been High Commissioners in Egypt in the past, but I think it would be a mistake to look upon this position as a mere career appointment from the Foreign Office, to take people from one part of the world to another. It requires very special political gifts, gifts which can only be obtained by political experience, very often in this House, and it is most difficult for a man, however able, who is taken from the other side of the world to be able in a moment to size up all the immense difficulties there, such as do not confront those in many of the ordinary Foreign Office appointments. The type of man I have in mind—he is past that service now—is Lord Willingdon, and I hope the Foreign Office, when a vacancy occurs, will bear in mind the appointment of somebody of the stamp of those who are now sent to take high office in India as Governors of the different Provinces there.

I should also like to make a comment on Article 13, dealing with the Capitulations. I am sure the Government appreciate that they will encounter a great deal of opposition when the question of abolishing the Capitulations comes up, opposition from the rich men of all countries, from rich British citizens and rich Egyptians and others. It will be a perfectly natural and understandable opposition. They have valuable vested interests at present, and they will not encourage too readily changes which will involve, and rightly so, very much heavier taxation upon themselves. I understand that at present the taxation on a rich man in Egypt has not been much more than some 10d. in the pound and that owing to this circumstance the Egyptian Government has been prevented from putting on taxes such as ought to be imposed on its own subjects and has not had money available for carrying out social reforms and other matters which it would gladly have wished to undertake. I feel sure the Government can be trusted to use all their influence when the conference on the abolition of the Capitulation takes place to see that the Egyptian Government is assisted to get rid of them at the earliest possible moment; but it must be borne in mind that there will be opposition, and that it will came from vested interests and individuals, though it ought not to be allowed to stand in the way.

Article 8, which deals with the Suez Canal, refers to it as an essential means of communication. It may be essential, but I begin to wonder whether, under some other examples of the foreign policy of the Government, it will be an available means of communication. That, however, is not a point which one can go into to-day. One has to bear in mind that the Canal is an essential means of communication not for the British Empire only. It is all very well for us, and it appears to us, but it is not quite the same with many foreign nations. It is just as important to, let us say, France, Holland, Portugal and Italy, all of whose vessels must pass through the Canal to get to their overseas dependencies, and for that reason it might have been a good thing, and I hope that some day it will be the case, that we should receive a mandate from the League of Nations to act as the protectors of the Canal. It may be said that that would not, in practice, make very much difference, and that is perfectly true, but theoretically, and from the broad, world point of view, there is a great deal to be said for putting it on a proper basis. It ought not to be on a purely national basis, in the interests of the British Empire alone. It is a world matter in which we have, no doubt, the major interest, but I cannot help thinking we could have carried out our duties just as effectively if we had been acting as trustees in the manner indicated.

I was interested, while the Secretary of State was dealing with the history of our occupation of Egypt, by his reference to the events after the revolt of Arabi Pasha when the occupation first took place. We went in during a civil war. I could not help thinking, in passing, how much things have altered from those times. There was no question then of a Non-Intervention Committee, no question of not taking sides or keeping out at all costs. We went right in and have been there ever since. I am not drawing any deductions from that, but merely saying that it is an interesting historical parallel to compare the two things. I heartily welcome this agreement. I think it is a great act of statesmanship on both sides, and I hope that our two countries can go forward to ever greater success, in the shadow of the Pyramids, in the great country of Isis and Osiris.

6.23 p.m.


A great deal of what I had intended to say has already been said, and I shall detain the House for only a few minutes, but having spent some 18 years in Egypt in Government service I should like to say a little about this great Treaty, and more particularly about the background against which it is made. I think everyone who knows anything about Egypt must be glad that at last the relations between the two countries are being put upon a regular footing, and knowing a good deal about the difficulties which must have confronted them, I should like to offer my congratulations to the negotiators on what we hope will be a satisfactory and lasting settlement of a very thorny question. I should also like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State upon the very clear and lucid explanation of the Treaty which he gave us to-day. Ever since the military occupation in 1882 attained its immediate objectives the position of the civil occupation in Egypt has been undefined and anomalous. I do not propose to recall what Mr. Gladstone and other statesmen said in 1882 about the duration and the character of the occupation. A great deal was said, and a great deal of it was conflicting, but one thing which all were agreed about, I think, was that it was only to be temporary. The word "temporary," however, like similar words relating to time which are sometimes used even now by His Majesty's Ministers in this House, was not defined, and in its application to Egypt that word eventually led to the famous utterance by an Egyptian Prime Minister: In Egypt it is only the temporary which endures. In point of fact, temporary has in this case meant 54 years. But although the position of the occupation was undefined there is not the slightest doubt that it has been completely justified. This Treaty is testimony to that, and I know that there are a great many Egyptians who hated the occupation who could be found to-day to admit that it has been of incalculable benefit to their country.

The Foreign Secretary referred to the chaos and misery which existed in the country when we went there in 1882. Thanks to wise British administration and wise guidance, begun under Lord Cromer in that year, Egypt has been regenerated and modern Egypt has been made. I am not going to take up time by going through all that has been done, but a very great deal has been done, so that in the course of the years up to 1914 Egypt was given a state of prosperity which she had not known for centuries. But while that work of regeneration was going on the fact that we showed no signs of relaxing our hold upon Egypt, that all the more important Government posts were held by British officials, and that Egypt had very little to say in her own affairs, naturally excited a certain amount of discontent among the more progressive of the rising generation. They knew nothing of the abuses and the miserable conditions of the past, and many of them thought they were perfectly capable of governing themselves. That was the situation in 1914, when the War broke out. It was a very difficult situation, because of this discontent, and also because of the Turkish connection, to which the Foreign Secretary referred. That was got over by the declaration of a Protectorate, but there, again, it was a unilateral declaration, Egypt having practically no voice in the matter at all, and it was acquiesced in to a great extent because, first of all, the Egyptians were somewhat afraid of an invasion of their territory from the East. The Turks were known to be advancing towards the Canal. It was due also to the fact that there was a big influx of troops into Egypt, and to the tremendous demand for cotton and the other things which the soil produces, which enabled the Egyptians to sell all they had got to sell at very advantageous prices. It was then hoped that the Protectorate might possibly prove a basis for a permanent settlement, but that hope was not to be realised because, although during the War the country was quiet and many Egyptians performed valuable services to the Allied cause, nationalist sentiment was steadily growing all the time.

As soon as the Armistice had been signed, there was a widespread and insistent demand for the abolition of the Protectorate and for complete independence. The strength of that demand was clearly seen by Sir Reginald Wingate, who was High Commissioner, and to whom a very proper tribute had been paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Munro) who knew him very well as Governor-General of the Sudan. I have always felt that his services in Egypt, to which country he came from the Sudan, have never been properly recognised. There is no doubt that he did very valuable work there at a very difficult time. He saw the strength of that demand for independence, and those who were in touch with the situation feel no doubt at all that if his advice at that time to the British Government had been taken, and if the leaders of Egyptian opinion had been allowed to come to London and state their case, it would have been possible, by making concessions, small in comparison to those which were eventually wrung from us, to have settled the Egyptian question for a generation.

The British Government, admittedly busy over the preparations for the Treaty of Versailles and concerned with other very urgent and important business, did not see fit to take the advice of the man on the spot. Those representatives of Egyptian opinion were asked to delay, but, in the state of temper of the country, delay was impossible. As the Foreign Secretary has stated, the most serious disorders broke out everywhere. I shall not take up time by tracing the sequence of events from 1919 to 1922, but I would like to emphasise that the failure of all the efforts which were made during that time, to secure settlement, was due, I think, in large measure to the fact that our Government at home were always too late with their proposals. By the time the proposals had got out to Egypt and had been submitted to the people, Egyptian opinion had gone ahead of them and the proposals were entirely unacceptable.

That resulted, of course, in a deadlock. Finally, there was the unilateral Declaration of 1922, of which we have heard a very great deal. While that Declaration lulled public opinion in Egypt for a time, it really increased the anomalies of the situation, because Egypt was declared by it to be an independent sovereign State. Those adjectives obviously carried very little conviction to the minds of the Egyptians, who saw in their own country and against their will, an army of occupation. On the other hand, we all recognise the immense importance of having the Canal protected, and that it was essential that British troops should be in Egypt as long as the Egyptians were not in a position to protect the Canal themselves. There you had a conflict of views which made an almost insoluble problem. Attempts were made over and over again to settle that problem, but they broke down for one reason or another.

Owing to a change of outlook—the reasons for it have already been suggested—on the part of the Egyptian people, a freely negotiated agreement has now been reached, and the relations of the two countries have, for the first time and by mutual consent, been defined. Under the Treaty, the Egyptians will undertake very greatly increased responsibilities, and I believe that the view that they have the ability as well as the will to do so cannot reasonably be challenged. When, in accordance with the arrangements then made, the great majority of British officials left the Egyptian Service soon after the Declaration of 1922, and many of the Departments of State were left in the control of Egyptians, some of us felt that there might be a lessening of efficiency and a lowering of the standard which we tried to reach. Those fears have proved, to a very great extent—indeed, almost completely—groundless.

It has to be remembered that, during the time that the Egyptians have been in sole charge of their own affairs in those matters, they have had very difficult conditions to deal with, owing to the abnormal economic conditions. That they have succeeded seems a great tribute to their capacity to look after their own affairs, and to be a very good augury for the future. It is a tribute also to the efficiency of those steps which, from the very first, it was our avowed purpose should be taken in order to fit the Egyptians to govern themselves. It is a tribute also to the soundness of the administrative machine which, under British guidance, was built up during those 54 years. I feel confident that the Egyptians, freed from a position which was becoming increasingly galling, and being intensely anxious to justify the new status of their country in the eyes of the world, will rise to the height of their new responsibility. I feel confident, too, that, having freely acknowledged that we, as well as they, have vital interests in their country, they will cooperate with us in the manner provided in the Treaty, and with a wholehearted loyalty which we have not been able hitherto to expect from them. I, therefore, have very much pleasure in supporting the Motion that the Treaty be ratified.

6.38 p.m.


I am unable to claim the length of service which the hon. Member has been able to claim in regard to Egypt, but I lived in that country for four years and moved among the people, having to earn my living in the town of Cairo. We are now closing a chapter in the book of history concerning the relationship between Egypt and this country. In doing so, we can look back over the period of this chapter with a certain amount of pride, because the work which Britishers have done in Egypt during the last 50 years is there for anyone to see. At the same time, we cannot hide the fact that we have made blunders as well. One of the greatest blunders, and indeed now that we know more, one of the greatest injustices, that we did concerning Egypt, was that connected with the Khedive Abbas Hilmi, in 1914.

Now we have signed this Treaty, because we have always said that our stay in Egypt was temporary. The Egyptians, too, see the writing on the wall in the fate of Abyssinia, and they are wise in looking round for some strong ally who can defend their country from any other country which desires to invade it. I hope most sincerely that we are soon coming to a fixed agreement. with Italy, but, in the meantime, we cannot shut our eyes to everything that is said in the Italian Press concerning Italian hopes and aspirations, not only in the Mediterranean but as regards Egypt herself. It has been well said, and I respectfully agree with it, that when we discussed the Treaty in this House in 1929, both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the present Foreign Secretary attacked it. In passing, we should remember the great work done by Mr. Arthur Henderson as regards that Treaty. It is certainly because of the foundations which he laid then that we are able to discuss to-night with so much unanimity the Treaty which we have before us.

The centre of the whole Treaty is contained in Article 1: The military occupation of Egypt by the Forces of His Majesty The King and Emperor is terminated. Under that Article, Egypt is free, independent and sovereign. In 1922, independence, with the four reserve points, was granted. Whatever we may think of the fact that Egypt is an independent State, we may be very certain that the Egyptians will take every advantage and full advantage, as they have every right to do in the future, to ensure that Egypt is in every way an independent State. Next in importance is Article 8, which deals with the Suez Canal. We are going to remain there for 20 years at least. Parts of the Annexe to Article 8 deal with the removal of troops from Cairo and Egypt to the Canal. The Foreign Secretary must have had many qualms of conscience when he signed this Treaty, particularly with reference to the Canal, because he said in 1929: There is nothing I should like less than to be stationed near the Canal for any long period of time. Yet the right hon. Gentleman is putting 10,000 troops there and 400 airmen.


I hope the hon. Member appreciates that the location proposed for the troops at that time was quite different from that which is now proposed.


I do not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman when he says that. He also said further on: I dislike the Canal not only for military reasons but for health reasons also."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd December, 1929; cols. 2048–9, Vol. 233.] Under the Henderson Treaty, there was first of all a time-limit for the troops to be removed from Cairo to the Canal. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is making the point that under the Henderson Treaty it was thought that the troops would go to Ismailia and to Moascar. Under this Treaty they are going to Geneifa. If that is his point, there is absolutely nothing in it. The two towns of Ismailia, and Moascar are on the side of the Canal and Ismailia is a very fair-sized town. Ismailia is a healthy town while Geneifa is just a little village, and is, if I remember rightly, on the edge of the Bitter Lake. There is no point at all in the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman that there is no difference between those two places. If the one is unhealthy, so is the other. I cannot understand what change of heart has come over the right hon. Gentleman that in 1929 he should say that this was the last place in the world to which he would like to go, and yet now he is condemning 10,000 soldiers and 400 airmen to live in the place which in 1929 he condemned. The further point has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) as to how long it is going to take the Egyptians to build barracks, to provide playing fields and to put in a water supply. The Foreign Secretary in 1929 said this: It will not take three to five years, but at least 20. That is the very minimum in which you can make a position on the Canal really habitable. Perhaps it is a little unfair of me to bring these birds home to roost to the right hon. Gentleman, who was then speaking, of course, as a very humble back bencher. The fact is that there is no hardship at all in taking the Army on to the Canal. The Milner Commission said this: So long as we maintain our occupation by troops in Cairo, so long will it be impossible to make any advance in giving Egypt the independence she desires. I think that to leave troops on any consideration at all in Cairo or Alexandria would be to defeat the whole purpose of this Treaty. At the same time, do not let us blind ourselves to the fact that in doing this we are taking a certain amount of risk.

I should like to mention to the Foreign Secretary one small point in regard to Article 8. Why has he allowed himself to be tied down to a width of 20-feet for the roads that are to be built? That seems to me, if I may say so, to be very short-sighted. A 20-foot modern road is a road which will be of very little service indeed from the military point of view. I should have thought that the roads which are set out from east to west and from north to south—most important roads for the Egyptians themselves—could have been quite as easily made 30 feet wide as 20 feet wide, and they would have been much more useful to the Egyptians and to ourselves. Article 12 is the Article dealing with the safety of foreigners, and there, be it noted, the Egyptian Government becomes solely responsible. I take it that British troops will not be allowed to go to Cairo or to Alexandria in any circumstances whatsoever in order to look after the rights and safety of foreigners. I should like to know whether that assumption which I make is correct. The right hon. Gentleman himself put this question when he was sitting on a back bench. He asked whether British troops would be allowed to go to Cairo or Alexandria or Zagazig or Tanta in any circumstances whatsoever, and I would remind him that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) said in 1929: The right hon. Gentleman"— meaning Mr. Arthur Henderson— and his colleagues must remember that all the protection we shall have in future must be embodied in this document. Let us face the position. We are taking a certain amount of risk. A very important safeguard for the safety of foreigners—I know it because I was in Cairo when the riots were on in 1920, and many of us then had experiences which we shall not forget—are being taken away. For my own part, I believe we are justified in taking this risk, but at the same time let us face quite clearly the fact that we are taking a risk. Closely connected with Article 12 is Article 13 on the Capitulations. In my respectful submission, the result is quite unsatisfactory, but at the same time I must be equally frank with the House and say that I cannot see any better way out. I think it would be wrong for it to go out from this House that there is any great hope for the Egyptians to have complete satisfaction with regard to this matter. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe for one moment that the Italians, for example, or, still more, the Greeks, will give up one single bit of their rights in Egypt to-day? They will not, and I think we are holding out a sham hope to the Egyptians if we say to them that they can have any hope that the position under the Capitulations will be improved. It seems to me to be the most elementary justice that the Egyptians should not bear the burden alone. We are practically putting upon the Egyptians this enormous expense of making new roads, of improving the railways, of adding to their Army, and yet they themselves will not have the right or the power to put a part of that expense upon the non-Egyptian population.

There are two important points which are not contained in the Treaty itself, but, which only form part of letters. One is in regard to the Egyptian Army, and the other in regard to the police. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the attitude which was taken up in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping when he thought that a separate and independent Egyptian army was pregnant with danger. He feared such an army; he thought that a situation of marked tension would arise and speedily develop. The exact words he used were these: We were manufacturing explosive in a retort. May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered these matters, and, further, what has he to say to the point which was made then about conscription for the Egyptian army? Is it a right thing, or ought it to be limited so as to meet the views which the right hon. Gentleman then put forward? I am not going to deal with the Article relating to the Sudan Government, because that has been dealt with extensively by the hon. Member for Llandaff (Mr. Munro); but I would point out one thing which has surprised me very much, seeing that the Foreign Secretary is now the person who is in charge of this Treaty. His views only a few years ago were these: Frankly and emphatically, I do deplore the Government's decision in regard to the return of an Egyptian battalion to the Sudan … The Sudanese detest Egyptian government, and they have every reason for doing so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd December, 1929; col. 2054, Vol. 233.] May I ask the Foreign Secretary one question with regard to the Egyptian currency? Will he tell the House what is the future of the Egyptian currency? Is it to go on as it is now, linked to the English pound, or will it be allowed to find its own value level in time? This is a very important matter for a large number of merchants, particularly mer- chants who do business between Lancashire and Alexandria.

Before we close this chapter, I think we ought to remember two men who worked a great deal for Egypt, and who suffered greatly for so working. I refer to Zaghlul Pasha and the Khedive Abbas Hilmi. Abbas Hilmi himself was for 18 years Sovereign of Egypt, and during that time he preserved the Egyptian independence, and so rendered signal service to his country. He encouraged his people to prepare for self-government. His fault was that he lived 30 years before his time. And he retained the Egyptian independence in the face of two of the greatest Englishmen who have ever been sent to Egypt. In these days, when so many are being deprived of their liberty and freedom, this nation should be proud that it is restoring full liberty to an ancient and historic people. It is an ideal which we have set up for ourselves, and it seems to me that we are true to our best ideals when we afford liberty to other nations. This is a great experiment, but let us know that it is an experiment—an experiment which, I am convinced, will be a successful one. We made a great plunge and a great experiment in South Africa, and it has been a success. It seems to me that this Treaty provides a very great opportunity for both nations to work together for their mutual advantage.

6.58 p.m.


I came here to-day, Mr. Speaker, specially with the view of catching your eye in order that I might be able to join in the congratulations which I knew would be given to my right hon. Friend on the conclusion of this Treaty, and to express my appreciation of the work that he has done in connection with it. But I confess that I am a little afraid to join in those congratulations when I find that all round the House the chorus goes on from one to the next and there is not a doubtful or scornful voice. I begin to wonder whether we are having a debate with the Whips off, and shall find only on the back benches of those supporting the Government that criticism of the proposals which would usually come from the Opposition; or perhaps we shall have a repetition of what we have just heard from the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) when he said that it would not be desirable that we should allow Egypt to think that she would get her own way entirely in regard to Capitulations. I wish very heartily to congratulate my right hon. Friend, and also Sir Miles Lampson, on the Treaty which has been achieved. I know what a great amount of work has been put into the negotiations, and I think it was in every way desirable that we should try to arrive at a solution of the very difficult situation which for some 14 years has existed in Egypt.

There was one remark which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made in his speech which, I thought, was worthy of very particular attention. He said that these conditions could not continue. That really has been the point that many people have been worried over for a good many years past. How were we to resolve the difficulties raised by the reservation of four essential points? The decision on these reserved points in 1922, although necessary at the time, created an almost impossible position for this country and for Egypt as the basis of any permanent settlement. I am glad that a Treaty has been achieved, and I do not criticise the decision of the Government, in view of the military advice which they have had, to remove the troops from Cairo. There is, however, a little misunderstanding in this connection. It has sometimes been said that it has been we alone who have objected to the troops being removed from Cairo. That is not true. It is not the British alone who have been involved in keeping the troops in Cairo; there were other interests as well. The authorities are now satisfied, I understand, that the troops can be safely removed to the Canal zone. The conditions for the removal of the troops to-day are essentially different from those of six years ago at the time of the Henderson negotiations, not only because the troops are going to a different part of the country where cultivation is much better and surroundings for the troops themselves are very different, but because the situation has altered in the last six years. For example, the developments in the air alone must have changed the whole outlook of the military situation.

There is one matter which I feel, however, has not been sufficiently dealt with. This Treaty is vague, and necessarily so at present, on what is to happen in con- nection with the safeguarding of European interests in Egypt, other than purely military interests. The Treaty deals most fully and satisfactorily with the future military and naval situation and with the future of the Suez Canal. If I have any criticism in that connection it might be that we are not looking far enough ahead. Perhaps people 20 or 30 years hence may say, how curious it is that we took such a great interest in the Canal, could we not see how much more the development of the air was going to matter? But, be this as it may, there is nothing directly stated as to the security of British and foreign interests other than those I have mentioned. Particularly I have in view the large foreign trading interests. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) said that any removal of the Capitulations would be opposed by the vested interests of the rich people, so perhaps I had better start by saying that I have no business interests in Egypt and never have had any. We all want to see the Capitulations removed, but what a great many people in Egypt will want to know is what is to take their place—what security is there to be after the Capitulations go. It is on that point that foreigners, and some Egyptians also, will be vitally interested. This matter is to be the subject of subsequent negotiations.

I do not often find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), but it is true that there is one sentence in the Henderson treaty negotiations, a vital sentence, which does not exist in this Treaty, and that is where it was said that the proposal to consider the removal of the Capitulations would be under conditions which would safeguard the legitimate interests of foreigners. I do not suggest that these interests will not be considered; they must be, but it is of the greatest importance when we get to the negotiations which must follow this Treaty that we should remember it is not only the rich people who are concerned, but also a great many small people in Egypt; artisans, small traders, even cooks, and servants of all races who will possibly be more vitally concerned in this matter than the rich merchants of whom the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton spoke. In any question that may arise regarding the future of foreign interests the rich can probably look after themselves, they can probably bring sufficient influence on future Governments to enable them to make their voices heard; it is the little people who will be most affected.

Do not let us forget what has happened in Turkey since the Capitulations were removed there. There has been all sorts of legislation gradually removing Europeans and European trade from that country. There has been legislation against the employment of foreigners, legislation which requires that everybody employed in a foreign concern shall be of Turkish nationality. This may well be copied. Even in the speech from the Throne in Egypt introducing this Treaty it is already proposed that at least 50 per cent. of the employés of every foreign firm shall be Egyptians. It sounds reasonable but in practice I fear it is not so. It is in view of that fact, and that you may have legislation such as there has been in Turkey operating against a professional man following his profession, or making it impossible for an Armenian shoemaker to secure work there, that I suggest it will be necessary for the Government to take the greatest possible care in the further negotiations regarding the removal of the Capitulations.

Another example of that difficulty arises in the scheme for doing away with the Consular courts. I am not opposed to these things, they may have to come, but it is necessary to put before the Government how anxious people are on these points. The jurisdiction of these courts is to be put on to the Mixed courts. It seems all right up to a point, but we must face the fact that, if this is carried out, it will be necessary greatly to strengthen the Mixed courts if it is to succeed. In matters of personal status it really seems to me difficult to make a case for doing away with the Consular courts. The main difficulty, however, will be the possibility of either fiscal or discriminatory legislation against foreigners. There is a complete misconception about the position of taxation in Egypt. It has been said, even in this House to-day, that the Egyptian Government would like the opportunity of putting taxation on foreigners. But taxation in Egypt is mostly indirect, and foreigners pay their full share of that taxation. Direct taxation is mainly on the buildings and land, and these the foreigner pays in the same way as the Egyptian, although much land may not be owned by foreign nationals. My main object in emphasising these points is this: I do not want to oppose this Treaty in any way, but I want the Government to realise the strong feeling that exists not only among the British community and among so-called rich people, but among rich and poor alike in all communities, as to the next step in the negotiations, that regarding the Capitulations. I do not know whether it would be possible to prevent discriminatory legislation by giving the Mixed courts power to declare that a, law was unconstitutional. It is not the text of a law but its application that matters.

A great deal depends on the wording of the Agreement when you come to it. In this Treaty, for example, there are a good many words which will require to be explained. Take those on page 12, in the Annexe to Article 13, which institutes a transitional regime "for a reasonable and not unduly prolonged period." That may mean almost anything. There is also paragraph 7: Consideration will be given to the desirability of excepting from the transfer of jurisdiction, at any rate in the first place, matters relating to 'statut personnel' affecting nationals of those Capitulatory Powers who wish that the Consular authorities should continue to exercise such jurisdiction. Those words as to the extent of consideration are very indefinite. I draw attention to them only with the object of asking my right hon. Friend to remember the feelings and anxieties of a large number of people in Egypt who want to be assured that in the new arrangements there will be no fear of their livelihood being taken from them, no fear of their not getting honest and unpurchased justice, and who, if these fears are removed, will be as whole-heartedly in favour of this Treaty as any Member of this House. I congratulate the Government on making this great advance. I believe there is a spirit of good will in Egypt which will grow under a Treaty of this kind. I want to see it grow, but I also think it is essential that we should secure the position of those, British and foreign, who have done so much to build up the prosperity of Egypt in the past.

7.15 p.m.


I will not follow the last speaker in the very interesting details that he has given us, but I want to refer to one thing that was said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) when he mentioned the condition of the Kasr-el-Nil barracks in Cairo. I have stayed some time in those barracks and I can assure him that they have been condemned every year since the time of Lord Kitchener as being unfit to live in. Nor are the amenities of the barracks improved by the ease with which, on occasion, one can extract snakes from the walls. Supporters of the Government have been taunted with having been opposed to the 1930 Treaty, but, as was pointed out by the Foreign Secretary and others, there are many conditions which have completely changed the circumstances from that time. There is the question of mechanisation, which my right hon. Friend pointed out and which the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) attempted to dodge, though I do not think he succeeded; and there is the question of the improved roads and railways, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) pointed out, and also there is the fact that in 1930 Egypt was not united behind the delegation, as it is in 1936. If we can divide the record of the Government into three broad spheres, home, foreign and Imperial, I think there can be no dispute in any corner of the House that, at any rate, in two of those spheres their record has been most admirable, and perhaps most admirable of all in the sphere of Imperial relations.

This Treaty bring to an end a period of 50 years which began when Lord Cromer rescued Egypt from economic and administrative bankruptcy, and which went on to the great War and then to a dawning prosperity and to a dawning national consciousness. The criticism has been offered that in this Treaty we are running away from our responsibilities of Empire. That sort of criticism is behind the times. The shock and recoil of the great War, so disastrous in Europe, in the Middle East began the reawakening of a gifted race which had lain dormant under the heel of the Ottomans for many centuries. During the last 20 years the Arab race has been reawakening to new life. It has been fortunate in its leaders King Fuad, King Feisal and King Ibn Saud. The British people have done something to help these Arab peoples. No doubt their motives have been mixed in what they have done, but we have now proved that our aim was not merely to substitute our own yoke for the Turkish yoke. I think rather we hoped that these Arab nations would play a part in a society of mutual good will, a society perhaps more effective than that which Europe herself has been able to build up within her own frontiers. That in a policy such as we have followed there are risks, no one will deny. That in the case of, at any rate, one Arab country there have been deplorable lapses, no one will deny. But in any policy of farsightedness and of vision such risks are unavoidable. If it is held in some quarters that we have by this Treaty lost a vassal, perhaps we have gained a friend and, maybe, a partner.

This policy that we have pursued is an experiment which has been followed by no other great Empire in the history of the world, a policy of voluntarily substituting co-operation for repression, good will for subjugation, a free partnership instead of the old centralised domination by force. It has been a great experiment. It may succeed, or it may fail. If it succeeds, I think we, and the partners in this experiment., will have given something of lasting value to the world.

In the actual bringing about of the Treaty the Foreign Secretary is to be congratulated for insisting that the Sudan and the military clauses, the most difficult ones, should be dealt with first. It has been said that these clauses may not, in fact, be sufficient, but I think the explanation that the Foreign Secretary gave us shows that they are in fact adequate. Indeed the delegations of the two countries have almost succeeded in obtaining the unobtainable. The Treaty ensures that the independence of Egypt, first declared in 1922, is now real and apparent, and yet it makes our own position as regards our lines of communication even more secure than it was before. Instead of being nearly 100 miles away from the Canal, we are now on the Canal; we have, in addition, a first-class network of communications over the Delta; we have, in addition, the good will of Egypt in a way that we have never had it before. It is true that the new barracks will be regrettably far from the lights of Cairo, but I am not sure that that in itself is not, perhaps, a good thing. Ever since the days of Cleopatra the capital of Egypt has exercised a fascination on the military mind, and heart, not always to its advantage. If Egypt still has its Cleopatras, I daresay the British Army has its Antonys. I am speaking of the Army—not of the Cabinet.

There are two or three points about which I hope the Government will say a little more before the Debate closes. The first is the question of water. In the Treaty the only thing that is said about it is that "adequate provision" will be made. I think we should be told whether or not there is to be any addition to the present fresh water canal; whether there are to be any emergency reservoirs; what precautions, if any, are to be taken to safeguard whatever arrangements will actually be made. The second point that I hope they will say something about is this: We know that the roads and railways West of the canal are going to be improved, but what about the railways and roads to the East? At the moment there is only one single-track railway going east and a couple of very indifferent roads. I should like to ask whether any immediate improvement is going to be made to the east of the Canal in respect of those communications. These are only two details in a Treaty which I think all parties in both countries can join in regarding as a new starting-point in our relations. Our own ideas and methods of civilisation to-day are spread over a quarter of the earth's surface. But we must not forget that the civilisation of Egypt has extended over a longer period of unbroken continuity than that of any other country in the world. We sometimes feel sympathy for the British schoolboy who has to learn dates back to a mere William the Conqueror, 1066. We forget the wretched Egyptian schoolboy who has to learn dates back to Cheops over a period of not one but five thousand years. It is very fitting that, in this Treaty between a National Government of Great Britain and a United Front of Egypt, the oldest and newest civilisations should join hands.

7.26 p.m.


We have had a series of speeches from people who have had long and intimate experience in Egypt and the Sudan. I want to make only a few observations as one who has always taken great interest in the question and who followed the negotiations in 1930 with considerable interest. Ever since the day, nearly 30 years ago, when President Roosevelt exploded a bombshell when he came here, having visited Egypt, and declared that we must either govern or get out, our position in Egypt has been anomalous. After the 1922 Declaration it seems to me that our position has been not only anomalous but extremely illogical, and to foreigners absolutely inexplicable. Of course, after a long period of difficulty, suspicion and confusion it is not easy to put everything right at once. It seems to me, however, that the circumstances of the last few years have given a wonderful opportunity to the Governments in both countries to settle a great many of the outstanding problems between them. It is often said that opportunity comes to everyone at some time or other, and that the difference between success and failure is simply whether you seize the opportunity or not. It seems to me that both Governments can be congratulated on the fact that they have seized the opportunity of the events of the last few years, and the result is this Treaty. We have to reject it or to accept it. That is the only attitude to take in regard to it.

It is impossible to go into all the various details outlined in the White Paper. No doubt they were the result of long discussion and compromise on one side or the other. After all, far more important than any actual words in the Treaty itself must be the spirit in which it is carried out. Those who object to the Treaty—they are not vocal in the House, but they may be outside—must not blame the Government of to-day. They must blame the Government of 1922. That was the moment when this country, if it so desired, could have decided whether Egypt was to be a colony, protectorate, Dominion or whatever it may be. The Government of that day decided to give Egypt independence, and ever since we have been proclaiming the independence of Egypt without really fulfilling our promise, certainly in the eyes of the Egyptians. I am very glad that this Debate has taken place, and I hope some attention outside the House will be given to it, because I believe it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the future of Egypt both to this country and to the Empire. Her friendship is vital to us in the Mediterranean. It is vital to us for all questions in regard to the Near East, and indeed to India and beyond. That friendship, if it is to be real, must be freely given and gladly reciprocated. It must be something more than a mere tie of mutual interest. There must be give-and-take on both sides.

The French have a proverb which, being interpreted, means that, if you are going to make a satisfactory bargain, it must be one in which each side makes some concession. If one party thinks either that it has given too much, or that it has got too much, it is not going to be a good or lasting arrangement. It is true that in this Treaty we have not got all we want, but we have got what is essential, and as a result of it, I believe that our influence in Egypt, although it may take on a different form, may, in many directions be even greater in the future than it has been ih the past. When we have tried to solve difficulties, some of which the Foreign Secretary outlined this afternoon, in the past suspicion was not only possible, but almost certain from the Egyptian side. To-day, in the solution of those same difficulties, I believe that friendship will be certain. When the Treaty has been finally ratified, it will do away with what has seemed to be always the great stumbling block in coming to any arrangement—the complex that they possessed in regard to British domination. That will go. From the day that Egypt becomes a member of the League of Nations the outlook of her politicians will be enlarged. Up to date it has so often been confined merely to this country or been the concern of the British Empire. It is not an exaggeration to say that the popularity and influence of any Egyptian statesman, whether he wished it or not, was relative to his anti-British views. I believe that the Treaty will eradicate that complex from the Egyptian politicians.

It is possible to quibble and to criticise various details of the Treaty, but; as my hon. Friend has said, all things that are worth doing must have an element of risk in them. We have extended the hand of friendship and confidence to Egypt, and I believe that we shall not be disappointed in the result. If, after all, our military advisers are satisfied about the military clauses, there is not very much more that the amateur can say. It is true that in future the flag will not fly over the Citadel, but really, if the flag were to be a symbol to the majority of the Egyptian people that foreign domination was to be the cause always of suspicion, the mere continuation of that practice is too high a price to pay for the continuation of those sentiments against us. As to the question raised about the use of roads, as I read the paragraph, I imagine that it means that roads should not be less than 20 feet, but that is a drafting point to which, no doubt, the Under-Secretary of State will reply.

I have always regarded the Sudan as the best governed country in the world. There is never any nonsense about examinations and there are not a large number of Parliamentary Questions in regard to the Sudan. Whether that is a consequence of good government or not, I do not think that anyone who has visited the Sudan can have any two opinions about the efficiency of the government of that country. To-day, owing to what has happened in Abyssinia, the future of the Sudan is even more important than it has been in the past. I am glad that a certain vagueness still continues in regard to the exact meaning of the word "Condominium." I should prefer that the Sudan should not be under any financial obligation to the Egyptian Government. If and when it is possible, and the economic and financial conditions of the Sudan allow it, I hope that the annual payment of 750,000 Egyption pounds will cease, and that the Egyptian Government and the Sudanese Government will settle their differences as quickly as possible for what, in round figures, amounts to from £300,000 to £400,000. The Treaty brings to an end that impossible situation which placed upon this country the final responsibility for preserving and maintaining order, when we had practically no interest and no power whatever in determining, shaping or influencing those conditions which produced riots or lack of law and order. We always paid the price.We got the blame if Egypt was discontented. think that the Egyptian Government will probably be far better able to deal effectively with the Egyptian students than we ever could in times gone by. In a year, when perhaps successes in foreign politics have been none too numerous, this is a, cause for congratulation, in which I would like to raise my humble voice, both to the Minister and to all the officials, both here and in Egypt. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be the last to minimise the work that they have done to bring about this Treaty, and I firmly believe that it will open a long and a happy chapter in the relations between England and Egypt.

7.37 p.m.


The speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) reminds me of the hymn which speaks of The roseate hues of early dawn, The brightness of the day, and later of How fast they fade away. We have heard much the same hopes uttered about the Treaty with Iraq and the abolition of the Capitulations in Persia. We have heard it about our arrangements in Ireland, but the actual effects have not been so rosy. While I believe that this Treaty is a logical and necessary step in the development of our foreign relations, I do not believe that it will have any serious effect in the long run upon improving the relations between Egypt and the rest of the world. It would be much too much to hope for having regard to what we have seen in Iraq and in other countries in the last few years.

But I will take up the thread of the Debate where it was dropped by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin). He inquired whether the British troops could in an emergency be used in Egypt. From a perusal of the Treaty, I take the answer to be that there is nothing whatever to stop it, and that as allies we can be called upon to use our forces in support of our mutual interests, without au let or hindrance from the text of the Treaty. On the other hand, the Foreign Secretary, in delivering his address, was quite specific in saying that the roads were to be used and the troops were there for the protection of Egypt from foreign aggression, but that does not exclude them from being used at any time for the protection of major Egyptian interests at the invitation of the Egyptian Government. Who can doubt among such interests might be to give assistance to the civil or militray power in Egypt in protecting the lives of those who are living under the protection of the Government, which would include foreigners?

Secondly, he suggested that there was no reason whatever to think that Italy and Greece would agree to modifying the Capitulations in any circumstances. I do not think he had good grounds for that belief. I feel confident that the Italian and the Greek Governments will, in duty bound, take steps to ensure that, when the Capitulations are modified or abolished, they will be modified or abolished in circumstances and under conditions which will give legitimate protection to their nationals. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), in a fit of morbid self-flagellation, was ascribing to the rich merchants of Alexandria and Cairo the whole responsibility for raising objections to the abolition of Capitulations. It ill befits a prosperous merchant of Wolverhampton to make these accusations against the decent merchants of Cairo and Alexandria. The fact is that those who object to Capitulations are not the rich, who can very well pay the taxation, or the well-to-do, who have always managed in Egypt to do themselves fairly well, but the poorest and the humblest folks, the men on a weekly wage, married men, very often living a hard struggle in Cairo or Alexandria, who have no friends and no influential supporters, and who may have to suffer great indignities and injustices unless reasonable protection is given to them. That has always been recognised as being the main difficulty of abolishing Capitulations, and I strongly resent these remarks coming from what was once the great Liberal party ascribing to one of the most liberal of institutions, namely, the Capitulations, a purely selfish origin.

On the Treaty itself there is only one Clause on which I venture to offer a word of criticism, namely, Article 14, which provides that any treaties or agreements inconsistent with the Treaty shall be regarded as abrogated. It adds: Should either High Contracting Party so request, a list of the agreements and instruments thus abrogated shall be drawn up in agreement between them within six months of the coming into tome of the present Treaty. With all respect, I submit that it is unduly vague to abrogate a miscellaneous body of documents without putting them into an annexe. It is difficult enough in any circumstances to know whether any particular commercial or diplomatic instrument is involved, but when there is no list and no statement it may very well be a matter of great difficulty in the Egyptian courts in future, and even at the Permanent Court of International Justice, if we do not take steps to draw up such a list and make it absolutely specific, so that we may know where we stand. It is very necessary now that we at least should request the Egyptian Government to draw up such a list in agreement with ourselves, and that that document should be published and laid before Parliament. It is really a very dangerous precedent, and my brief studies in the Library have not brought to light any similar clause in any Treaty.

I congratulate the Foreign Secretary upon having secured the removal of the troops to Cairo into barracks which are to be built, as to four-fifths, at the expense of the Egyptian Government. That is a much better and more just arrangement than that which we made in Mesopotamia, where we are paying anything up to £4,000,000 for barracks, no part of which is being refunded by the Government of Iraq, in a country in which we ourselves have to pay £100,000 for guards to protect our own countrymen against the inhabitants of the country we are protecting.

While I realise the strategical importance to Egypt of the Suez Canal, I hope that in years to come it will not be unduly stressed. Lord Salisbury used to say that there were some people who if they possessed the whole world would require the moon as a strategical outpost. We managed to conquer and keep India right through the Mutiny without any assistance from the Suez Canal. We took and kept Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand long before the Suez Canal was invented or thought of. The Canal has a certain importance to us but far less than is generally realised. It is quicker to go to New Zealand via the Panama Canal or via South Africa than through the Suez Canal. It is often cheaper for freight to come from Mombassa via the Cape to this country than by the Suez Canal. I do not question the value of the Canal as one of the links in our communications, but we have a better line of communication via the Cape than we shall ever have through the narrow waters of the Mediterranean. I feel that by the time we have spent £3,000,000 to £4,000,000 in Mesopotamia in guarding our air communications to India, and £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 on the Suez Canal in guarding our sea route to India, and by the time we have added our expenses in Cyprus, Palestine, Gibraltar and Malta, we shall possibly have put more money into that particular line of communication than it deserves. We ought to think more of the open sea route, remembering that even now, thanks to the high costs of Suez Canal dues, a great deal of shipping goes via the Cape and finds it cheaper to do so than through the Canal.

I welcome the expressions of good will towards Egypt which have fallen from the lips of many hon. Members. I welcome the atmosphere of friendliness in which the Treaty has been concluded, but statesmen come and statesmen go, and all that remains in 10 or 20 years' time is the written word, the document now before us. In 10 or 20 years' time much may depend on how this document is to be construed. I should like to put one question. The Canal is free to the shipping of all nations in peace and in war, by virtue of the Treaty which was signed on the 29th October, 1888. That Treaty was signed by Great Britain and the great Powers of Europe, and also by Turkey on behalf of Egypt. Turkey's signature still binds Turkey. Are we quite sure that Turkey's signature on the 29th October, 1888, is still considered by the Egyptian now to bind Egypt? If not, I suggest that she should be invited formally to adhere to that Treaty, in order that there may be no possible doubt in the minds of any foreign Powers that, when Egypt has entered the League of Nations, and is therefore bound by the Covenant of the League, she will still regard her obligation to maintain the Canal open in peace or in war as not less binding than before.

We might have, for example, a war between Japan and Russia, in which either Power or both Powers would seek to use the Canal for the passage of their fleets. One of them may have been regarded as the aggressor by the League of Nations and have been so declared. In that case Egypt, unless she feels bound by the Treaty of 29th October, 1883, might well reply: "We are bound under Article 16 to close our territory—and the Canal is our territory—against the movements of any foreign ships of war." I hope there is no dubiety and that the Egyptian Government do regard themselves as bound by that Treaty, but I cannot find that they have ever said so. There is nothing to that effect in this Treaty nor in any correspondence which has been exchanged, nor, as far as I know, in any public utterances of the Egyptian Government.

Finally, I wish to add my own humble voice in tribute to the work that has been done in bringing this Treaty to a successful conclusion. I remember some of the difficulties surrounding negotiations in regard to Egypt at Versailles in 1919 and again in 1921–22. A great deal of flood water has flowed under the bridges of the Nile since then. It is a great achievement on the part of the Foreign Secretary to have reached a definite agreement, and I feel sure that he will find that it will make progress in other directions easier. As I listened to his concluding words I was reminded of a speech of Disraeli in this House in February, 1876, on this same topic of Egypt, in which he said The Government of the world is not a mere alteration between abstract right and overwhelming force. The world is governed by conciliation, compromise, influence, varied interests, the recognition of the rights of others, coupled with the assertion of one's own; and, in addition, a general conviction, resulting from explanation and good understanding, that it is for the interest of all parties that matters should be conducted in a satisfactory and peaceful manner. In the conduct of these negotiations and in his speech to-day the Foreign Secretary has shown himself to be a worthy follower of these maxims.

7.52 p.m.


This is the first Debate on Egypt in my lifetime which has been unanimous, or almost unanimous, because I suppose I should exclude the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) from agreement with the rest of the House. His views are always interesting, and, although we sometimes get the accent of Mussolini among them, I think that in this case the Capitulations may go without very much trouble in the future. I would point out in connection with Capitulations that we are committed by this Treaty to secure their abolition. If we are unable to persuade Italy and Greece to assent to their abolition, at the risk once more of being charged with the crime of perfidiousness, which is so often hurled unjustly at British diplomacy, it will not make it easy to abolish the Capitulations. I think that even the hon. Member for Hitchin must agree with me that they should be abolished. In a world where injustice not merely to foreigners but to the indigenous population is growing day by day at a desperate pace, we cannot regard Egypt and the new Egyptian Government as being likely to make things worse than far more civilised and older-established Government shave already done.

I hope that this is the last Debate that we shall have on Egypt. My memory goes back to the countless Debates that we have had on this sore subject. I remember the deportation of Zaghlul and the fury that that aroused in Parliament. I remember the Denshawi Debates. I remember long ago the only speech that I ever heard from Mr. Gladstone, in 1891, on the Newcastle Programme, when he laid it down even then that our occupation of Egypt was temporary and should be brought to an end. All this long history which in England has been mostly forgotten is very clearly present in the mind of every Egyptian. I think that, on the whole, our policy in Egypt has been a success and has been justified, but let no one mistake the. fact that our policy in Egypt has been quite unlike our policy, which has been even more successful, in other parts of the world. The fact of the matter is that ever since we first went to Egypt we have been carrying on a dual policy. We have been protecting the Suez Canal and at the same type interfering with the Government of Egypt.

It was a principle in the policy of Lord Cromer that his young men who went out to Egypt to help should remember that they were there paid by, and acting in the interests of, the Egyptians, and that their responsibility was to the Egyptians and not to England. That policy, which I do not recommend, is not carried out in the rest of our Colonial Empire. It has certain drawbacks. Our young men went to Egypt to carry out the policy of the Egyptian Ministers. Our men went to India to carry out a British policy, to import into that country civilisation, western ideas, to spread English culture, so that to-day the educated Indian is an Englishman in thought and bases his political ideas on Burke and Macaulay. In Egypt, on the other hand, after 54 years, our officials still talk bad Levantine French.

There has been no propaganda for English culture in Egypt. We have not tried to force ouselves upon that country in any way. That policy is not all to the good. The condition of the fellaheen, the poor Egyptian, is far worse than it is in adjoining countries, such as Palestine. The political ideals of that country, the development of freedom and justice, falls behind what obtains in our Colonies. From 1882 and throughout we have not sought to seize Egypt and to amalgamate it, with the result that even after all the stormy times it is possible to part company with Egypt once for all and to base upon that separation a friendship and understanding for the future. Mahatma Gandhi used to say to me: "What we want in India is not more honest English officials, not more intelligent English officials, not more devoted English officials, but a change of heart in Englishmen."

I think we have in this Treaty a definite change of heart in our attitude towards Egypt, which may well bring about an alliance of value not merely to Egypt but to England as well. This is not a case, and the German Government should fully understand it, where the British Empire has failed. It is a case where the British Empire will, I hope, show its real strength, not by spreading domination but by extending its circle of friends and allies. It is obvious that the change of feeling which has come about in the last year or so in Egypt is due in no small part to the fear of Mussolini, the fear of the Roman Empire being re-established throughout the North of Africa. That has blotted out the memories of their grievances against us. We start afresh, as common friends without domination. The Egyptians are an extraordinarily proud people, proud of their antiquity. They are extremely touchy. They know that their arms are not sufficient to protect their own country. That makes them all the more difficult to deal with, and all the more anxious for one thing which is not in the Treaty—that we should treat them as equals.

I wish those clauses were not in the Treaty which prevent the Egyptian Army coming out to help us so that they could reciprocate the assistance we promise to them. Throughout the War there was a tendency in the War Office to refuse the use of colonial troops, whether from Malta, Africa or other places. The caste feeling is our worst enemy. The reluctance to put ourselves on all-fours with other people, to drink with them, to intermarry with them and to talk to them as though they were equals, has been our chief handicap throughout the world. If this Treaty means that we are still to pose as the great protectors of Egypt, and that the Egyptians are still to feel themselves as being a kept nation, we shall not get the right relations between this country and Egypt. If, on the other hand, we can come to the belief that the Egyptians are every bit as good as Englishmen and that the Egyptian Army might be made as efficient as the British Army, that their Air Force might give assistance to our altogether insufficient forces, that they are of use to us and that we consider them to be of use, we should find in Egypt firm allies who would understand us and who would help us. That, I think, should be the aim of statesmen in both countries; not merely to forget the past, but to realise the meaning of political equality.

I have to say this because the right hon. Gentleman in bringing this Treaty before us seemed to be advocating its adoption in a complete vacuum, as though it. had nothing whatever to do with the international situation and had no relation to the Treaties, not so happy and unfortunate in their results. It is only seven years ago since we passed a Treaty in this House with Iraq. The Foreign Office were responsible for that Treaty, as they are responsible for this Treaty. In spite of warnings in this House no steps were taken to protect our friends and our interests. Money was poured out like water, railways were given to Iraq. Protection costing £1,400,000 a year was given to Iraq. Within three years they were massacring the Assyrians because they had fought for us in the War, and more recently they have been interfering in Palestine and have been massacring Jews in Baghdad. That Treaty was acclaimed in this House, not unanimously, but it has now become a standard of how not to do it in the future. I should like to know from the Foreign Secretary on the appropriate occasion, why it is that we maintain our Treaty with Iraq, and what confidence he can give that relations with Egypt will not be as they are with Iraq.

The provision which I consider to be the best point in the Treaty is that the officers of the army which they are building up in Egypt will be trained in England. I hope there will be no doubt that all the officers who can be sent here for training will find accommodation and will be given education at Sandhurst and Woolwich and in our aerodromes and flying schools, on exactly the same terms as Englishmen. I can conceive of no bond which would draw Egypt closer to this country than common training and common responsibility as the result of that training. There, again, we can prove that we have now a new conception of what "subject races" can become when they secure freedom.

But let us consider for what we are continuing our Army in Egypt. The cost of that Army I do not know. In the old days under the Protectorate, and for 40 years before, Egypt paid the whole cost of the British Army in Egypt, in the same way as India pays for the cost of British troops in India. That came to an end when Egypt obtained nominal independence some 12 years ago. Here we are keeping a considerable Army in Egypt at our own cost and a more considerable Air Force, both of which may be wanted badly in this country. They are kept in Egypt to protect the Suez Canal. Our military ideas as to how the Suez Canal can be protected have undergone no change as the result of the Great War. As a matter of fact, no one in the last European War would venture to use the Mediterranean, let alone the Suez Canal. Aeroplane bases and submarine bases make the Mediterranean a closed sea in war, and all our communications go round the Cape. Submarines and aeroplanes would make it quite impossible to use the Suez Canal in the next war. There would be no object in using the Suez Canal, and no army that we could maintain would stop a ship being blown up in the Canal and thus blocking it completely. We must realise that we cannot protect the Suez Canal by an Army or an Air Force in Egypt; we can only protect it by winning the war, and we shall want our forces where they are strategically most useful.

Now let me turn to the Sudan. Egypt is to continue to pay £750,000 a year to assist the Government of the Sudan—an assistance to the Sudanese budget. I am not quite clear whether this £750,000 will now be reduced by the cost of keeping the Egyptian Army in the Sudan as well as our own. For the sake of a proper pride I gather that the Egyptians insist on sending an army to the Sudan. If a larger army is to be a new burden on the Sudan budget, we shall certainly find the happy position in the Sudan to-day materially worsened. We have not much benefited the people of Egypt by our 54 years occupation, but there can be no doubt that we have materially benefited the people of the Sudan. I am always doubtful whether the Sudan or Nigeria is the best governed province in the world, but the Sudan is undoubtedly a feather in our cap. I wish that centralisation had not recently spread to that country because under Sir John Maffey I think it was an example to the whole of the British Empire. There you have a poor country, and an additional charge of, say, £500,000 on their budget will mean that the people in the Sudan will suffer in much the same way as the people in Nyasaland are suffering in order to pay the interest on the cost of the Zambesi Bridge.

The Treaty that is brought forward to-day has the united blessing of the people and Parliament in Egypt and the people and Parliament in this country. It might have been brought forward earlier, but it has come at last. Our occupation, our domination of that country, has come to an end. Let us hope that we may never again find ourselves at cross purposes with the Egyptian people and the Egyptian Government. Let us hope that if the trial comes, if once more we have our backs to the wall, we shall not again be using Egypt, controlling Egypt, forcing the felaheen into compulsory labour, but that we shall have fighting with us in the air, on the sea and on the land a free people worthy of their ancient name.

8.16 p.m.


I have listened, as I am sure all hon. Members have listened, with great interest to the eloquent and in places stirring speech made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I am afraid that at the end I was still in some doubt as to whether the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of or is opposed to the new Treaty. He supported it in parts of his speech, and in other parts he made many most uncalled-for and unhelpful remarks. His speech constitutes the only discordant note in the whole of the Debate. I think it was unnecessary for him to suggest that the Egyptians, with whom we have at such difficulty just concluded this important Treaty, would be likely or liable to abuse their new independence and under cover of our protection perpetrate crimes. Those were the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's own words. But I will say no more about that.

I wish to join in the general praise and gratification at the signing of the Treaty. I wish to congratulate the Government, and in particular my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. At the same time, I think we should also congratulate the Foreign Office, and the members of the Residency in Cairo. I was a junior member of the Foreign Office at the time the Henderson negotiations were being carried on and I have a little idea of the immense amount of work which has undoubtedly had to be done in order to achieve this important result. What is more, I think we may be gratified by the fact that this present Treaty is in every respect a great improvement upon all previous drafts. The Treaty which is before us to-day combines a real understanding of the just national ambitions of the Egyptian people with proper safeguards for the security of the vital communications of the British Empire.

Many hon. Members, particularly on this side of the House, had some apprehensions at first about the security of our Imperial communications, and their attention was attracted, in the first place, to the Articles dealing with the possibility of the revision of the military Articles after a period of 20 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) belittled the importance of Egypt stragetically, as did the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme to some extent. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, in particular, said that because air travel is so rapidly developing, Egypt and the Canal will become of little importance; but surely Egypt is every bit as much an essential link in our air communications with the British Empire. Whatever may happen to seaborne traffic through the Canal, the link of Egypt in the chain of our air communications with the British Empire will remain of the utmost importance. As I have said, many hon. Members had apprehensions because of the Articles which lay down that should there be differences of opinion as to the ability of the Egyptian Army after 20 years to maintain the security of Egyptian territory, the question shall be referred to an international tribunal. Many hon. Members feel that if Egypt is a vital link in British Empire communications and if her independence is vital to Empire security, then we must be the last judges as to whether or not the Egyptian Army is capable of safeguarding that important territory.

I think our minds reflect upon the unhappy experience which undoubtedly there has been in the working of these international tribunals. Perhaps the most striking case was the international tribunal at The Hague which dealt with the important question of the AustroGerman Customs Union. I think it is accepted by every unbiased international jurist that some of the judges were not altogether uninfluenced by political considerations, and that it was not a mere coincidence that the British and Scandinavian representatives voted in favour of the legality of the Customs Union, whereas those Powers who were more directly interested voted the other way. Therefore, many of us had some misgivings about that particular Article; but I think our minds have been entirely set at rest by my right hon. Friend's assurances this afternoon. He has assured the House that not only the principles underlying Articles 6 and 7, but the essential features of those Articles must, under his interpretation of the Treaty, be maintained in the event of any revision. I hope I shall be corrected if I am misinterpreting what the right hon. Gentleman said.

My chief purpose in rising to-night is to ask three questions as to the legal interpretation of certain Articles of which I have given the Foreign Office previous notice. My first question deals with Article 6 and with Paragraph 2 of the agreed Minute. Reference is there made to the risk of rupture with a third State and also to "an apprehended international emergency." This may occur anywhere in regard to countries in which Egypt is not directly interested. An international emergency may occur in any part of the globe, in our relations with any other country. I submit that events may move so quickly in the development of an international emergency that the effective consultation provided for in Article 6 may be impossible. International emergencies may blow up suddenly and we may find that our need for sending troops or reinforcements to the Canal is urgent. Although it is too late to alter the Treaty, I wish that in Article 6 it had been stipulated that this consultation should take place "whenever possible." I do not think that in every case consultation will prove possible. Accordingly, my first question is: "Could, in such circumstances, insufficiency of consultation be deemed to invalidate Article 7?"

My second question relates to Article 7 itself. I think it will be found that there is an apparent disagreement between the first and second sentences of this Article. The first sentence refers to the aid to be given should either of the High Contracting Parties become engaged in war. The second sentence goes on to describe and define the nature of that aid but it refers to other eventualities. It mentions not only the event of war, but the imminent menace of war or apprehended international emergency. It seems to me that those two sentences an3 not entirely compatible one with the other. I wish to ask therefore: "Can there be any legal doubt that permission to send troops or reinforcements applies as soon as an emergency is apprehended and is not confined to the actual outbreak of war?" My third question refers to the same Article. In the first place, it may be asked, who is to be the judge of the existence of a state of apprehended emergency? It is a very vague, wide phrase. Those who have studied history know full well that to define even a state of emergency has proved extremely difficult in the past, and to define a state of apprehended emergency would be even more difficult. I submit that disagreement between ourselves and Egypt, with the best will in the world, is very easily possible and therefore my third question is this: "Is it sufficient for His Majesty's Government to inform the Egyptian Government that they apprehend an emergency, in order to enjoy the military facilities afforded under Article 7?" I hope my Noble Friend will be able to give the House the answers to those three questions. I feel that they may be vital in the interpretation of the Treaty in the future.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred to consultation with the Dominions and it is right that mention should be made of the position of the Dominions. We all welcome the fact that they have been so fully consulted during these negotiations. Nevertheless I think there is a question of principle involved. I am rather sorry that this Treaty should have been signed on our side by His Majesty only, in respect of the United Kingdom. After all, this is not just a trade Treaty. It is a Treaty which may involve us in war. I do not know the exact constitutional position but of one thing I am certain, that there is only one Crown in the British Empire. There are not six Crowns and consequently if the King is at war, the whole Empire is at war. Therefore it seems to me that a Treaty of this kind, involving the possibility of war, ought not to be ratified only by one of the nations of the British Empire. Now that the Statute of Westminster has been passed, a Treaty which involves the possibility of war and also military commitments, should, I think, before final acceptance be ratified by all the Governments of His Majesty and not by that of the United Kingdom only.

I do not know what my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) meant when he said that he hoped the type of person who would occupy the important position of Ambassador in Egypt would be the type of the Indian Provincial Governor. I think that he was a little unfortunate in his way of putting it and I do not believe that he can have meant exactly what his words seemed to convey. I can only suggest, looking back on the long list of illustrious representatives whom we have had in Cairo, that he was trying to say, without mentioning names, that he hoped that in future we should have the benefit of the services of distinguished men of the type of Lord Lloyd.


My hon. Friend has misunderstood me. I said I did not desire to make the slightest reflection on the many distinguished gentlemen who have filled the position of High Commissioner, but that in future the position of an Ambassador would be so difficult, that I wanted somebody to fill it who had had political experience in this House, somebody of the type of Lord Willingdon, whose name I mentioned as the best example I could think of.


I accept the explanation. The hon. Member did refer to Indian Provincial Governors who had been in this House, and the only person I can think of at the moment who has been a Provincial Governor and has also been High Commissioner in Egypt, is the Noble Lord whose name I mentioned.


Lord Willingdon was a Provincial Governor.


But he was not High Commissioner in Cairo. I do not think that we can hope for better than that our representatives in Cairo in the future as Ambassadors, will serve the country as well as Lord Lloyd and our other distinguished High Commissioners have done in the past, and will do as much to maintain good relations between the two countries. It is a man of the Ambassador type that we want to send out to represent us in Egypt in the future. Finally, I join in the hopes expressed in all parts of the House as to the future. The past connection between Egypt and Great Britain has been profitable to both countries. The interests of the two peoples are inseparable and I think my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was right in emphasising, that it is the spirit of this Treaty which will make for its success or failure. Let us not quibble too much about words. It is the spirit, the spirit of friendship between our two countries, which in the long run will decide the future. Egyptian national aspirations having thus been satisfied and British strategic needs having been safeguarded, I hope that in the years to come the efforts of our two countries will be directed not so much to asserting their rights as to seeking new and wider fields for useful, free, and honourable co-operation.

8.35 p.m.


We have had in this House during recent years a good many Debates on questions of international affairs. Not all those Debates, I am afraid we should all agree, have been of a very cheerful character. In some of them we have had to recognise that the factors which we, in all parts of the House, regard as important for the maintenance of peace are not at present obtainable; in some others we have had to recognise that there are still serious weaknesses in the structure of international law and order which it has been the aim of everybody in this country since the War to set up. I do not mean to-night to make any comment on these events. They are not pertinent to to-day's discussion. I will only remark that these events and these Debates have, I think, tended to produce, in the minds of some people at any rate, a sense of disillusionment. There are people in this country who were beginning to feel that it was idle to hope that conciliation can ever take the place of force or that there can ever be found an agreed solution to all the problems of this troubled world. For such as those, if there be any in this House to-night, it is to be hoped that the Treaty which has been concluded between Great Britain and Egypt, and to which this House is asked to-night to give its approval, will give strong encouragement and that it will reaffirm their faith in the good sense that should govern human relationships.

Here we have, I will not say a controversy, because I do not think it has been in the strict sense a controversy, but a negotiation which has continued over 14 long years. In 1922 His Majesty's Government made their declaration with regard to Egypt, that she should be henceforth an independent sovereign State. Since then there have been on many occasions attempts to negotiate a treaty, and to-day, after 14 years, we meet to give our approval to the final and successful conclusion of all those long efforts. Sometimes one would think, if I may say so, to listen to hon. Members opposite, that the only serious attempt that has been made was the attempt made by the Labour Government in 1930. That, of course, is not the case. Everybody has wished to get this agreement, and there has been a sincere desire in all parties that a final treaty should be made with Egypt. In 1922 this country did give her word, and she has always meant to keep it. That, I think, has in reality been recognised to-day in all parts of the House. There has been no opposition of principle to a treaty, and there has been no serious opposition to this Treaty. Indeed, I do not remember ever hearing such unanimity in a debate on a question of importance.

Both the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), speaking for the official Opposition, and the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), speaking for the Liberal Opposition party, gave their approval to tae Treaty, and I should like to thank them for the whole-hearted way in which they did it. I believe the complete unanimity in this country with regard to the Treaty between this country and Egypt will be a very good augury for the future and that it will be essentially valuable in giving it a good start. Having said that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, I must confess, hardly in the whole of his speech mentioned the Treaty again. I am told that there are eminent people who go to Egypt on visits of archaeology and who excavate and find things of great interest. I think that the hon. Gentleman must have been doing as the Romans do. He seems to have gone to the Library on a mission of archaeology, and excavated, and he found some very interesting things, things so interesting that he devoted the whole of the rest of his speech to them.

He found, for instance, that there were certain provisions in this Treaty which were almost, if not quite, identical with those in the Treaty negotiated by the Labour Government in 1930. He found, too, that some of these provisions had been hotly opposed by hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House in 1930, and he dilated with considerable and quite natural enjoyment on the remarks made on that occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I certainly do not intend to maintain, and I am sure he would not, that many of these individual provisions were or are in themselves unreasonable. One would not expect that from provisions negotiated by the late Mr. Arthur Henderson. Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Mr. Henderson would know also that he was the very acme of common sense. At the same time, if the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, or any other Member on those benches, goes on to argue that because certain individual provisions are justifiable in a certain Treaty in 1936, they were therefore automatically justifiable in a different Treaty in 1930, I must confess that I think they are going too far.

I am reminded of a very old story, of a man who was being initiated into the mysteries of the game of bridge. After a few days he came to a friend and complained that he could not understand the game. "Yesterday," he said, "I played the ace of spades, and everybody applauded, but to-day I played it, and I was nearly turned out of my club." The explanation, of course, is this, that the question as to whether the ace of spades was or was not the right card to play depended not only on the ace of spades itself; it depended also on a number of other considerations. It depended on the cards in the other players' hands. It depended on the distribution of those cards, it depended on the run of the play, and so on. I suggest that it is exactly the same with the individual provisions of a Treaty. Whether or not they are justifiable depends, not only on themselves, but on the other provisions of the Treaty, on the circumstances of the negotiations, and on many other considerations. If we are to get on this subject a balanced consideration; a balanced judgment, we must look not only at the individual provisions, but at the Treaty as a whole. We must note in the two Treaties that are being compared not only what is the same, but what is different. In these two Treaties, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman said, there are considerable, and even vital, differences. There is, for instance, the provision in Article 16, to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has referred, for continuing the Alliance. That was not in the 1930 Treaty, and yet it is of immense importance. This Treaty is to last for 20 years, and at the end of that period, if it is desired by either party to revise it, and if there is unfortunately no agreement between them, the differences will be, referred to the Council of the League of Nations or whatever other body may be agreed between them. That body, however, can only recommend the solution of the differences within certain limitations.

I do not wish to go into the provisions again at length because my right hon. Friend has referred to them. They include the limitation that the revised Treaty must embody the principles contained in what may be called the Alliance articles. They include the principle that there must be consultation between the two parties in the event of a dispute threatening a rupture. They include the provision that His Majesty's Government are bound to come to the assistance of Egypt in the case of war, and that there must be facilities to enable His Majesty's Government to take such measures as they may think necessary to come to the aid of Egypt in the event of an apprehended emergency. These provisions, and all that is involved in them, are an immense safeguard to both parties, and greatly strengthen the Treaty. Yet they were not in the 1930 Treaty. That is not the only difference. There is provision for new and improved road and railway communications in accordance with strategic considerations. That was not in the 1930 Treaty. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland said that he did not really see much difference between the Treaties in this respect. I think that he must have been reading the Articles and not looking at the annexes, which are printed in rather smaller type, it is true, but are quite as important, and I hope that he will take an early opportunity of looking at them. There are other military provisions.

Finally, this Treaty is not negotiated with any single political party in Egypt, but with representatives of almost all sections of opinion. That must be regarded as a valuable safeguard for the future. It will, therefore, be clear to the House, I think, that such vital additional safeguards might well justify, individual provisions which might otherwise have aroused anxiety. Hon. Members opposite ought, above all other Members of the House, to be delighted. They have got the provisions they wanted in 1930 and they have additional safeguards as well. They are in the rare and happy position of having the best of both worlds. I would now like to come to hon. Members on this side of the House. Here, too, there has been no opposition to the Treaty; there has not even been obstructive or destructive criticism. Indeed, there has been constructive support from important quarters, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Munro), my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald), my hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor), and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne). They are Members with long personal experience of Egypt, and they support the Treaty. That applies also to other hon. Members who have not had the opportunity for such personal knowledge and they have also, on the whole, taken an attitude of careful, natural, anxious examination of the provisions with the desire to clear up points which appeared to them to be obscure.

I have been asked a number of questions which I would like to answer. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) made a remark in which I understood him to complain that the Suez Canal was only mentioned as an essential means of communication between the various parts of the British Empire, and was not adequately recognised as an international waterway. I think that the hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension, which I am afraid is due to the fact that he has not read the document as carefully as he usually reads such documents.


I know what the Noble Lord is going to quote.


I am going to quote it nevertheless. The Article says: In view of the fact that the Suez whilst being an integral part of is a universal means of communication an essential means of communication between the different parts of the Empire…. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is the object of the Treaty to keep the Canal open to the shipping of all nations, and not merely to make it available to ships of the British Empire. I hope that in these circumstances the hon. Gentleman's misapprehensions will be allayed.


That was not really my point. I appreciate that it is an international waterway, and I said that it would be a fitting recognition of that fact for the League of Nations to give us a mandate to keep it open.


That is not the only point that the hon. Gentleman made. He also complained that it was not sufficiently laid down in the Treaty that it was of an international character. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) asked why in the Treaty it was stipulated that roads should be 20 feet wide, and he said that it was not sufficient. The reason is simple. Our military experts think that 20 feet is sufficient. I am not a military expert, but the opinion of the experts is that that width is enough.


Is it not the fact that the military roads on the Continent, particularly those of Italy, are at least 40 to 50 feet wide? Why should they be only 20 feet in Egypt? If the roads were wider, say, 30 feet, would they not be of more use to the Egyptians?


It is possible that the roads on the Continent are too wide. It does not necessarily follow that the Egyptian roads are too narrow. If you make unnecessarily wide roads it puts an unnecessary burden on the Egyptian Government. I should have thought that the narrower the roads the better, so long as they are adequate for strategic considerations. That is really the governing factor. The hon. Member asked a question, which was also referred to by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). They both referred to the fact that, in their opinion, the Capitulatory Powers would be very reluctant to give up their capitulatory rights. That, of course, is a matter of opinion. Hon. Members are perfectly entitled to their opinion, but it is not the opinion of His Majesty's Government. I can only tell the House that the Government have every reason to think that these Governments are not taking up the unreasonable attitude attributed to them by hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have every reason to think that we shall reach agreement on this point.

Then there was a point regarding the Capitulations raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, who speaks, as the House knows, with a long and profound knowledge of the question of Egypt. He felt anxiety lest, with the abolition of Capitulations, the interests of foreigners in Egypt might be impaired, and he referred, as did also, I think, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, to a phrase in the 1930 Treaty which had been cut out of the present Treaty. It is perfectly true that that phrase has been cut out, but it has been replaced by an annexe, and in this annexe it is laid down as a Treaty obligation that there shall be no discrimination in legislation against foreigners. The position is, therefore, really better than it was in the 1930 Treaty, because it is now laid down as a definite Treaty obligation, and if there is a breach of this obligation it can be first taken up diplomatically and, if there is a dispute which is not arranged, it is covered by the disputes Article of the Treaty. So much for legislation. If hon. Members refer to the question of jurisdiction, because there are two types of Capitulations, I would remind them of the existence under the present Treaty of a transitional regime, during which the interests of foreigners will be left in the hands of the Mixed Courts. So it is not true to say that under the present Treaty the position of foreigners is worse than it was under the 1930 Treaty. On the contrary, it is better. I hope that explanation will allay apprehensions.

With regard to the Capitulations, also, one or two hon. Members have urged His Majesty's Government to do their utmost to secure an agreement with the other Powers. I can assure the House that that is His Majesty's Government's most earnest wish, and they intend to do their very utmost to that end. It is a principle of British foreign policy, support of which is not confined to any one party, that we always aim at a settlement by agreement, and this is no exception to the rule. We have a good example of it in the settlement reached not long ago at the Montreux Conference, and I hope that example may be followed in this case with general advantage to the world.

There were one or two further questions. The right hon. and gallant Members for Newcastle-under-Lyme spoke of the subvention to the Sudan which has been paid by Egypt in the past and asked whether it was to be increased to pay for the Egyptian troops now going into the Sudan. I think the right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. If he looks at the White Paper he will see the true position. The White Paper says: As regards the subvention of £E.750,000 per annum: The Egyptian Government, having paid that sum as representing its share in the defence of the Sudan since the departure of the Egyptian Army from the Sudan, reserves its entire freedom to withhold the subvention on the return of the Egyptian Army to the Sudan. The position was that it was in lieu of troops that they paid this subvention towards the defence of the Sudan. Now that the troops are going back, and that they will be paid for by the Egyptian Government, it might be argued, in the opinion of the Egyptian Government, that a subvention was no longer necessary. But they do not propose to withhold it at present. If they do decide to do so they will give fair notice to the Sudan Government.


Then it is quite clear that the Sudan continues to get both the £E.750,000 and a regiment of troops?


That is the position, but they reserve the right to withhold it after giving fair notice to the Sudan Government. Finally, there are the three questions which were asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) relating to the apprehended emergency. I should like to answer the second one first, and then the first and third ones together. The second one referred, I think, to Article 7, and my hon. Friend suggested that the first and second sentences of Article 7 appeared to conflict. That is not, in fact, the case. I think the position is quite clear. The first sentence says: Should, notwithstanding the provisions of Article 6 above, either of the High Contracting Parties become engaged in war, the other High Contracting Party will, subject always to the provisions of Article 10 below, immediately come to his aid in the capacity of an ally. The second sentence says: The aid of His Majesty the King of Egypt in the event of war, imminent menace of war or apprehended international emergency will consist in furnishing to His Majesty The King and Emperor on Egyptian territory …. all facilities, and so on. The second sentence is an interpretation of the first one. It is obvious that if you are going to come immediately to the aid of another nation you must be assured of all necessary facilities before war actually breaks out, and, therefore, in the case of any apprehended international emergency you must be assured of facilities which will enable you to come to the aid of the other party.


I am glad that my Noble Friend interprets it in that way. I do think it is a little confusing that one eventuality should be mentioned in the first sentence and a large number of other ones in the second sentence. I hope it is quite clear that the eventualities mentioned in the second sentence equally apply as though they actually appeared in the first sentence.


That is the true interpretation. Now we come to his first and third questions. His first is whether an insufficient time for consultation under Article 6 would invalidate Article 7, and the third one is, Who apprehends the emergency? I should like to answer those questions together. If Article 6 and Article 7 are read in conjunction with points 1 and 2 of the Agreed Minute of the White Paper, the position is clear. There must be consultation between the two parties with a view to finding a peaceful solution of the dispute—that is under Article 6—and there will be similar consultation in the event of an apprehended emergency. At the same time it is clearly stated in Article 7 that in the event of war Great Britain will immediately go to the aid of Egypt as an ally. Great Britain must, then, be in a position to go to her aid. Obviously, therefore, as soon as in the opinion of His Majesty's Government an emergency has arisen they must be able to take such steps as will make their aid effective. To do this they would obviously consult with the Egyptian Government regarding the necessary facilities, for which the Treaty makes provision.

With all deference to my hon. Friend I think his point does not arise. He must remember that there will be consultation under Article 6, in the event of a situation which is likely to lead to a rupture. It is true that that consultation is primarily only for the purpose of finding a peaceful solution of the dispute, but it is incredible that when discussions on the subject are taking place, at the time when a crisis is acute, that the representatives of the two parties should not discuss the other alternative, the failure of the peaceful solution. If they once begin to discuss that other alternative, they automatically apprehend an emergency, and the situation is resolved.


I do not think it is quite so simple as my noble Friend says. It is possible that there could be a difference of opinion between the Egyptian Government and ourselves as to whether an apprehended emergency existed. If it were a question which immediately affected the security of Egypt, I would grant that there would probably be no difference of opinion, but if it were an emergency in some remote part of the world in our relations with some foreign country, which did not immediately affect Egypt, but in which we had as a precaution to secure in advance our lines of Empire communication, Egypt might not wish immediately to pass this legislation, introduce a censorship and impose martial law, and afford all the other facilities provided under the Treaty. In such a case it would be essential for our legal position to be clear.


If our communications through the Suez Canal were threatened, that, would be a threat to Egypt. I think it is not more than an academic point, and I am certain that my hon. Friend would find that the situation would resolve itself.


Is it possible for the noble Lord to give a reply to my question as to the future of the currency of Egypt?


That is not a question which arises under the Treaty, and I am afraid I can answer only on matters in connection with the Treaty.

I think that I have replied to the main points that have been raised in the Debate. I should like, before I conclude, to return for a few moments to the Treaty as a whole. It is not the purpose of His Majesty's Government to-night to maintain that all the advantages of this Treaty are on one side. Even if that were true, which it is not, it would be a very undesirable position. Treaties in which all the advantages are on one side do not usually last very long. Nor do I think it would be right to emphasise only the obligations by which this country and Egypt are henceforward bound. I do not under-estimate the obligations of a treaty. They are obviously obligations of honour on which the parties could not easily default. But a cynic might say—if there are any cynics in this House—that the obligations of Treaties have not, in the affairs of nations, always prevailed over considerations of national need. The Government maintain that this Treaty rests on a firmer basis; it rests on the firm and enduring basis of mutual advantage.

This country has much to gain by an alliance with Egypt. We want the friendship of Egypt. We do not want, in perpetuity, a restive, uneasy connection, which could only lead to irritation and bitterness, and do harm to the peace and harmony of the Near East. We want a recognition by Egypt that the Suez Canal is not only an integral part of that country but a universal means of communication and also an essential means of communication between different parts of the British Empire. Finally, I think we all want to show the world how international problems can and could be settled. On her side, Egypt has much to gain. She desires to be free and independent, and to have the powerful friendship and assistance of Great Britain. [Interruption.] This country is much more powerful than the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) thinks, and it is not a good thing to sneer at this country in this House.


I was not sneering at this country in this House. I said that Egypt cannot lose the friendship of this country. It has taken her years to shake off the friendship of this country and Egypt will never be free until that friendship is shaken off.


Egypt does not want to shake it off. We are both free and independent countries. Egypt wants the Suez Canal to be secure, and not to be the prey of any hostile Power; and we want the same thing. Such a community of interests is the basis of a strong and enduring alliance. To achieve this result, our two countries, one of the most modern of ancient States and one of the most ancient of modern States, have stretched out their hands to each other. The aims of both of us are peace and mutual security, and it is with the belief that It will further those aims that His Majesty's Government submit the Treaty with confidence to the approval of this House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House approves the ratification of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, signed in London on the 26th August, 1936.