HL Deb 07 June 1883 vol 279 cc1896-9

, in rising to move for— Papers from the Government of Malta to the Colonial Secretary in connexion with residence and cost of maintenance in Malta of refugees from Egypt during the autumn of last year, and for all correspondence up to the present date, said, he did not suppose that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) would have any objection to laying the Papers upon the Table of the House. They referred to a matter of considerable interest to the Maltese people. It would be recollected by their Lordships that during the recent naval and military operations in Egypt, last summer, a large number of persons from that country were sent to Malta, in consequence of the serious events which were taking place, endangering life and causing the destruction of property. The number of refugees, he understood, amounted to between 17,000 and 18,000. By the liberal response to the appeal of the Lord Mayor, a sum of about £6,500 was sent to Malta from this country in aid of these distressed people; but a large sum was further needed to supply the pressing wants of those whom the consequences of war had rendered destitute; and, to meet these cases of urgent necessity, the local Government advanced £11,000, or thereabouts, out of the local Revenues, with the expectation that it would be repaid by the Imperial Government. It should be remembered that these persons, being British subjects, were sent from Alexandria to Malta—that was to say, they did not go there of their own free will or choice, but were compelled to leave Egypt by the authorities. They might have been sent elsewhere, say to Cyprus, or any other place more convenient; but they were sent to Malta, because, perhaps, many of them were Maltese. He wished to call the attention of the Government to these facts; and to ask them whether it would not be a great hardship upon the Maltese Government and people— an injustice as it seemed to him—to call upon them to pay for the consequences of a war which was entirely an Imperial question, and for which the Imperial Government was solely responsible? He begged to move for the Correspondence in the terms of his Notice on the Paper.

Moved for— Papers from the Government of Malta to the Colonial Secretary in connexion with residence and cost of maintenance in Malta of refugees from Egypt during the autumn of last year, and for all correspondence up to the present date."—(The Marl De La Warr.)


My Lords, I have not the least objection to the production of copies or extracts from the Correspondence in question; indeed, I quite agree with the noble Earl opposite (Earl De La Warr) that, if we are to discuss these matters satisfactorily, we should do so more conveniently when we are in possession of the information moved for. But the fact is, the whole question really lies in the narrowest possible compass; and I do not know that the Papers will materially affect the view your Lordships will probably take of it. The facts are simply these. When the Egyptian disturbances began in June of last year, a very large number of British subjects—nearly the whole of them being natives of Malta, or connected by family or other ties with the Island— left Egypt, in consequence of the impossibility of their getting adequate protection in Alexandria. They were sent to Malta, and there the great ma- jority of them were maintained out of public money, partly supplied by private charity, and partly at the expense of the State. My noble Friend said some 17,000 or 18,000 persons were so sent; but those are higher figures than I have heard mentioned by anyone else. A statement which I hold, in my hand gives the number of refugees who had arrived by the beginning of July at something like 8,000, and the greater part of them must have arrived by that time. Some of these persons appear to have had independent means, or to have been supported by their friends, because only 6,600 odd received relief. Of these, 5,893, or nearly nine-tenths of the whole number, were Maltese, and only 460 who were British subjects, were other than Maltese. The importance of this point will presently be seen by your Lordships. The total expenditure connected with the removal and relief of these refugees was, in round numbers, £33,000. Of that sum, £15,000 was for transport, and it was entirely paid by the Imperial Government. The sum expended on relief was £18,000; and that was provided from various sources. There was a public subscription in London for the relief of these persons, which produced some £6,400, and there was a grant of £6,000 from the Imperial Treasury, and it is intended to leave about £5,700 as a charge upon the local Exchequer. The Vote has been before the Council; but the Council has not met, and the Vote has not yet been taken. My noble Friend objects to any part of the expenditure being thrown upon the local resources of the Island. To that my answer is three-fold. In the first place, out of the total expenditure of £33,000, we do not call upon Malta to pay more than about one-fifth or one-sixth; secondly, nearly all the refugees were connected with the Island. I quite agree that if they had had no connection with Malta, and had simply been taken there because it was the nearest place of safety, there would be no ground for charging the funds of the Island. But as that is not the case, and as nearly all are really Maltese, there is no injustice in calling upon the Island to contribute to the expenses incurred. In the third place, undoubtedly the finances of the Island and the industrial classes there gained I very much from the large expenditure of English money caused by the war. It is said that the refugees did not leave Egypt voluntarily, but were removed by order of the Government; but that is not quite accurate. It may be true as regards some of the refugees, no doubt; but the reason why they were removed was not to serve any purpose of Imperial policy, but because they could not, as I said, be protected adequately where they were at Alexandria. My noble Friend said some of these persons were not connected with Malta, and should not have been sent there; but my answer is that the great majority of them would have very good ground of complaint if they had been taken anywhere else. As I have said, these are the facts of the case. There will be no objection to give the Papers asked for; but the Motion 'should be amended, as it may be necessary to look through the Papers, and to select those which shall be laid on the Table of the House, omitting only those which concern private individuals, and are of no public interest.


said, that instead of 17,000 or 18,000 as he had said, he should have given the number of Egyptian refugees as 7,000 or 8,000.


asked whether the Government of the Island had a surplus last year?


, in reply, said, he could not remember, and he was not Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time referred to.

Motion amended, and agreed to.

Address for— Copies or extracts of Papers from the Government of Malta to the Colonial Secretary in connexion with residence and cost of maintenance in Malta of refugees from Egypt during the autumn of last year, and of correspondence up to the present date."—(The Earl De La Warr.)

House adjourned at a quarter before Five o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.