HL Deb 01 May 1879 vol 245 cc1481-3

My Lords, seeing the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Ins place, I wish to ask him a Question of which I have given him private Notice. Public attention has been much directed of late to what has been doing in Egypt, and Parliament has waited with expectation for the communication of the Papers relating to events there. Two or three days ago, a Blue Book of 300 or 400 pages was put in our hands. It contained, no doubt, a great deal of important matter; but while it went back as far as May, 1876, it only came down to December last—the last important fact communicated by it being the arrival of Mr. Rivers Wilson in Egypt. Now, my Lords, I think Parliament is as much interested in the circumstances in which Mr. Rivers Wilson left that country, as in the circumstances in which he arrived there. I therefore hope that the noble Marquess will be able before long to supply your Lordships with further Papers on the subject. I understand it has been stated "elsewhere" that on the part of Her Majesty's Government there is some objection to the production of further Papers as long as negotiations are in progress with the Government of Egypt. I am well aware, of course, that it would be inconvenient to ask for Papers relating to the subject-matter of negotiations which are actually in progress. That, however, is not my intention. All I ask for is information relating to matters of fact, which are of public notoriety, but of which no authoritative account has yet reached Parliament?


My Lords, I can assure the noble Marquess that it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government to lay Papers on the Table as early and as rapidly as they can, and as is compatible with the interests of the Public Service; but the noble Marquess knows that it is not usual to produce Correspondence referring to negotiations which are still going on. The Government are prevented by that consideration from laying on the Table at this moment further Papers on the Egyptian Question. I hope, however, that difficulty will not be in our way very long, and that we shall very shortly be able to produce other Papers for the information of your Lordships.


My Lords, I do not think the noble Marquess has answered my noble Friend who put the Question. My noble Friend did not ask for Papers relating to negotiations which were still going on. There is no reason to suppose that Her Majesty's Government may not have acted very wisely; but the country is aware that the policy of the Government in respect of Egypt has collapsed, and that the gentleman whom they sent to assist the Khedive has been required to leave it in circumstances which have not yet been communicated to Parliament. All that we wish is to know what were the facts up to the time of the withdrawal of Mr. Rivers Wilson; and I do not think the production of the Papers containing those facts could embarrass any negotiations which may now be in progress.


My Lords, I do not see how we are to carry on public affairs, if we are to adopt such a procedure as that which is now suggested. We have already placed on tire Table Papers relating to the circumstances in which the Khedive applied to Her Majesty's Government to recommend an officer to be appointed to his service. What has occurred recently in the case of Mr. Rivers Wilson is evident enough, and must, in a certain degree, enter into the later communications between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Egypt; and, therefore, we cannot produce these Papers. It is only a few days since our Consul-General in Egypt left this country with the intention of repairing to Cairo. The noble Earl will see that it is most desirable that we should wait the consequences of his visit. The Government are always anxious to supply your Lordships with all information possible touching public affairs, and when the Papers referred to are in such a state as that they can be produced without injury to the Public Service, we shall lay them upon the Table.


My Lords, I desire to re-iterate what has been said by the noble Earl (Earl Granville)—that we do not wish or suppose that the Government will produce Papers relating to negotiations actually going on. No doubt, negotiations are going on as to the recent occurrences in Egypt; but I share my noble Friend's astonishment that Her Majesty's Government do not put Parliament in possession of the facts relating to the dimissal of Mr. Rivers Wilson, so as to enable it to form a judgment as to what has already happened.