HL Deb 14 February 1882 vol 266 cc626-9

, in asking the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the Question of which he had given Notice—namely, When it will be convenient to lay upon the Table of the House the papers and correspondence relating to Egypt; also, if any information can be given with regard to the present relations between this country and the Regency of Tunis?—said, the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had informed their Lordships of the contents or substance of certain documents relative to the affairs of Egypt, two of which had since been laid upon the Table of the House. He trusted, however, that the noble Earl would not consider that sufficient information had been given to allay the anxiety existing in the public mind with regard to important events which had taken place in Egypt, and which were still plainly pointing to changes which might materially affect the interests of this country. On referring to what the noble Earl had stated, he could not but think that, instead of quieting public anxiety, it tended, in a great measure, to increase it. The noble Earl said, in a despatch, dated in November last— It is our conviction that the tie uniting Egypt to the Porte was the best safeguard against foreign intervention. Now, it seemed to him (Earl De La Warr) that if there ever was a country which ought to complain of foreign intervention it was Egypt. Was it not foreign intervention which had caused, and was now causing, the uneasiness, if it did not amount to actual anarchy? Was not the Khedive, Ismail Pasha, deposed at the instigation of France and England; and was there ever greater foreign intervention in the internal affairs of a country than the appointment of the Anglo-French Control? It was hardly to be supposed that the country would continue in what the noble Earl described as "the path of tranquil and legitimate progress" while compelled by a foreign control to contribute the present large amount annually from the taxes to European speculators and bondholders in payment of a high rate of interest; and, further, the Control was not only of a financial character, but it exercised also a political influence, and had done so, more or less, since 1878, when Mr. Rivers Wilson was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Egyptian Ministry, and M. de Blig-niéres Minister of Finance as representing France. It was insisted upon by England and France that their Representatives should have a right of veto upon any measures which they disapproved, and the Khedive was not permitted to be present at the Councils. He merely mentioned these facts to show their Lordships that already a very large amount of intervention had been going on in Egypt, and that it was, in a great measure, owing to this intervention that there existed the very great uneasiness at present existing in the country. Though considerable modification had been made in regard to the control that had been exercised since the present Khedive came to the Throne, yet there still existed a very considerable amount; and the noble Earl opposite informed their Lordships not very long ago, in this House, that the employment of force might ultimately be necessary. Such statements—were other proofs wanting—would alone suffice to show that the condition of affairs in Egypt was a critical one, and would, he trusted, be considered as justifying the request which he had made for such information as it might be possible to give at the present time. Then, with regard to the Regency of Tunis, he wished only to ask the noble Earl to explain what the existing diplomatic relations were between this country and the Regency of Tunis. Was it with the Boy, or was it with the Government of the French Republic that diplomatic relations were carried on? Was it with the Bey, or was it with M. Roustan, the French Minister, that the British Consul and Political Agent transacted the diplomatic and Consular affairs of this country? He asked these questions because of the statement made by the Prime Minister of the late French Government as to the Bardo Treaty—namely, that England had recognized it. He much regretted the unhappy results which had been brought about by French aggression in Tunis; and he thought that this country had sacrificed very greatly her own interests, and she had also sacrificed the friendship of an old ally for the sake of conciliating France and obtaining from her a Commercial Treaty which would be of a very doubtful advantage to this country. He had only one word more to add. He was happy to learn, from what had been stated by the noble Earl and confirmed by the Prime Minister in "another place," that Her Majesty's Government desired to maintain, at least in Egypt, the Sovereign authority of the Sultan which had been guaranteed by the Great Powers of Europe.


My Lords, in answer to the comprehensive Questions of the noble Earl, I should say, in regard to Egypt, that a week ago the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) expressed a wish that no Papers should be laid on the Table the production of which might not be to the public advantage, and I intimated that at that particular moment none could properly be presented; and I was glad to recognize that there was a very general feeling on the part of the House that, there being a very considerable amount of anxiety upon the subject, it was desirable to avoid, premature discussion. As to the presentation of Papers, I quite share the desire of the noble Earl that they should be laid upon the Table at the earliest possible moment that I can do so; and I may say that I have a great wish to present them, so that the whole case of the Government may be considered. I cannot say that anything has occurred during the last week to change the opinion which the Government entertained, that it would not be desirable to present the Papers at present. As to Tunis, I am not aware that there has been any change in the relations between the Bey of Tunis and ourselves. It is only six months since I made a statement in this House, in answer to the very numerous Questions put by the noble Earl. As to the Treaty of Bardo, we have not been asked to make any formal recognition of that Treaty, and we have not done so. Nor have we thought it our duty, in all the circumstances, to show any hostility to what is the undoubted interest of France in that district. On the other hand, we have firmly asserted our right to retain any privileges that have been reserved to us under the Treaty; and I think it will not be disputed that what we had obtained has not been in the slightest degree affected.

House adjourned at half past Five o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.