HL Deb 15 June 1891 vol 354 cc381-4

, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they had any confirmation of the reported death, and the circumstances attending it, of one of the Egyptian exiles, Abdul-al-Helmi Pasha, in Ceylon, and, if so, whether such information could be laid upon the Table of the House, said: Your Lordships may remember not very long ago I called your attention to the reported bad state of health of the Egyptian exiles now in Ceylon, and I asked that any papers upon the subject might be placed in your Lordships' hands. This has been done in the shape of a correspondence which took place on that subject. It appears from that correspondence (and the fact had come to my knowledge previously) that the health of the Egyptian exiles in Ceylon was materially suffering in consequence of the climate. I brought under your Lordships' notice on that occasion certificates which had been given by their medical attendants mentioned in the Report which is now in your Lordships' hands, a Report showing the opinions of the medical men who have been officially employed by the Government to report upon the health of the Egyptian exiles. Those opinions differed very materially from the statements and reports which have been made by the private medical attendants of Arabi Pacha, and the others who are exiled with him in Ceylon. I called the attention of the noble Marquess at the head of Her Majesty's Government to those facts, and the noble Marquess then stated that he depended entirely upon the official report which had been made to the effect that the exiles were not at all injured in health by the effects of the climate. That statement so widely differed from the reports which had reached me, that I then asked for the papers which are now in your Lordships' hands relating to the subject. Indeed, they were so widely different that they contradicted each other, one certificate stating that the health of the exiles had not in any way suffered from the climate, and the other stating that they had so far suffered that one of them was not likely to live another year if he remained in the island. Now, I have great respect for official statements, but I cannot carry that respect to the extent that the noble Marquess did in saying that it is the only sort of statement that he could rely upon. I wish, for one moment only, to ask your Lordships' attention to the Report of the private; physician attending upon the unfortunate exile who, we are now informed, is no more. The certificate is to this effect. It is given by the private medical attendant upon Abdul-al-Helmi Pacha, who had been for two years in attendance upon him— I certify that Abdul-al-Helmi Pacha has been under my treatment off and on for the last two years. He is suffering from rheumatism and bronchitic asthma. I am of opinion that the climate of Ceylon does not agree with him, and that the humidity of the atmosphere which is a marked feature in the climate of Ceylon is to blame for these attacks of illness. He goes on to say— I fear that in a year or so more Abdul-al-Helmi Pacha will be a confirmed asthmatic, and his life in danger, if he continues to reside in Ceylon. That certificate is signed by a physician of Edinburgh, and is dated March 3rd, 1890. Some six weeks, or two months ago, that is about a year from the time of the signature of this certificate, I have heard on good authority that this unfortunate gentleman died in Ceylon. If it be true that this unhappy, though predicted event, has taken place, I would appeal to Her Majesty's Government, and I trust they will consider whether they will allow a similar fate to overtake the surviving exiles who, according to independent and unofficial testimony, are likely to fall victims to the climate if they are kept in Ceylon. I beg to move for any Papers which can be presented relating to the death of Abdul-al-Helmi Pasha.


My Lords, I have received a Medical Report (from the surgeon) respecting the death of this unfortunate gentleman, and it is rather difficult to say whether the noble Lord is right or not in attributing the ultimate cause of death to asthma, seeing that the cause of death was not fever, but hæmorrhage of the brain. Of course, it is a difficult thing for anybody, and especially for a layman, to argue about a case as to which there are two sets of medical opinions differing directly from each other, and I am not surprised that the noble Lord should prefer those to which he attaches special confidence. I do not wish to criticise at all the names of the gentlemen who have furnished those opinions; but I may say I do not think there is anything on the surface attaching to those names to justify us in preferring their opinions to the opinion of the gentlemen officially appointed, of whose competence the authorities appointing them we must conclude were satisfied, and who, undoubtedly, have had considerable experience of the climate with which they are dealing. The difference between the climate of Ceylon and that of Egypt in point of temperature is very small, but it is considerable in point of humidity, and the question may arise whether the humidity would really be dangerous to the lives of the exiles. I have understood—but I admit it is not certain—that they have expressed a disinclination to go to any other place of a drier character, unless they are sent back to Egypt; but the political objections to their being sent back to Egypt, in the judgment of the present rulers of that country, appear for the time to be conclusive. I will, however, cause further inquiries to be made as to whether it is not possible to find in Her Majesty's Dominions, within the Tropics, some drier place for the exiles to be confined in than Ceylon. That may perhaps remove the noble Lord's apprehensions, but I can make no promise, naturally, until I receive the opinions of those who are better acquainted with the circumstances. I may say that I will cause the medical opinion we have received to be sent to the noble Lord, and if he thinks it is worthy of being made a Parliamentary Paper, I have no objection to its being produced. My own impression is that it is not quite worthy of that dignity.


I will not press the question if it will cause any inconvenience.


It is not any inconvenience.