§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY rose to call attention to the policy of His Majesty's Government in Egypt, and to move to resolve, That this House regrets the precipitation with which this policy was entered upon and the risk which it entails to the security of our Imperial communications. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I do not think it will be a matter of surprise to any of your Lordships if I ask you to-night to turn back once more to consider the affairs of Egypt, and the policy of His Majesty's Government in relation to it. I am going to ask you in a minute or two to say whether your Lordships regret the precipitation with which that policy was determined, and has so far been carried out. We discussed this, as your Lordships will remember, in the summer. We were at the moment confronted with the sudden retirement of the High Commissioner of Egypt under pressure from the Government, and we called attention at that time to the consequences which we were very much afraid were likely to ensue from that action. On that occasion we had not the advantage of the presence of my noble friend Lord Lloyd in your Lordships' House. To-day I am glad to say it is different, and we shall, no doubt, have the advantage of hearing from him in a short time a first-hand account of the situation as he regards it, as he left it, and as he sees it is about to become.
§ I cannot hope to compete with him in real intimate knowledge of this subject, but there are a certain number of general observations which I will venture to address to you. I do not think there is any contention in any part of the House upon the fact of our vital interest in Egypt. That is conceded, and I shall not take up time by labouring the point. Egypt is the main line of communication of our Empire. It is vital to our relations to the Far Eastern Dominions of the Crown, to New Zealand and Australia. It is vital as our main communication to India and even, to a large extent, to South Africa, and in addition to those main lines of political communication there are vast commercial interests in connection with British 1125 trade which passes down the Canal. It is conceded that the Canal is of vital British interest—that its security and its freedom from any adverse control is vital to us. That conviction on the part of the people of this country has governed our policy for nearly half a century, and it still governs our policy; but the predominant position which we occupy in Egypt, and which has followed from the existence of this vital interest, has not, be it noted, been without advantage to the Egyptian people. On the contrary, we have saved Egypt from bankruptcy. We have restored order and given good administration. We have given them all the infinite advantages of our administrative experience; and last, but not least, we have rescued the Sudan from a hopeless relapse into barbarism, and given the unfortunate people of that country the blessings of good government.
§ We have nothing whatever to be ashamed of in our policy in Egypt. It is true we have sought British interests, but that was our bounden duty. At the same time we have not neglected Egyptian interests. On the contrary, we have been able to combine both. The process of this redemption of Egypt and the Sudan was a slow process, and it is not yet by any means completed. The development of the Sudan is in its infancy. It will require many years of the best British administration to make real prosperity in that country and real happiness for the people. It is a slow process. If I turn from that side to the first side of the claim which I have made for this country—namely, the protection of British interests—it will be apparent to everyone of your Lordships that the holding of this long line of communication is a very difficult, a very complicated and a very delicate matter, and the policy of successive Governments which has been directed towards those ends has been very carefully thought out and pursued with the greatest caution and deliberation. Yet within a month, within less than a month of the coming into office of the present Government, they set themselves to make, at any rate in appearance, a radical change in the line of policy which had hitherto been adopted. They signalised it: in order that it should be advertised in every part of the East, and should have its due effect in every bazaar and every place where people gather 1126 together and talk, they dismissed the High Commissioner. I say that, having regard to the extreme delicacy and importance of the interests which are involved, such conduct by His Majesty's Government, in about three weeks after they had acceded to office, showed a levity, a want of regard to the importance of the interests, which I do not think I go too far in characterising, in the words of the Motion I am submitting, as precipitate.
§ I have said that it is agreed that the interest of this country in the Suez Canal and in its security is fundamental, and that it follows that the security of Egypt, upon which the defence of the Canal and its security depends, is also a vital British interest. I do not think that that is denied by His Majesty's Government. In the same way the maintenance of our position in the Sudan—because, if there were no other reason, it is an obligation of honour—is a vital British interest. I do not think that that is denied. But the question is whether in consequence of this precipitation in the attack on their predecessors' policy in the early weeks of their holding office, whether the Treaty which they proceeded to negotiate really effectively secures that safety of Egypt, of the Canal and of the Sudan.
§ Now I would like to call your Lordships' attention to the organic document upon which the present political situation depends. I refer to the declaration of the Prime Minister of the day—Mr. Lloyd George—in 1922. That declaration put an end to the Protectorate which had been up to that moment in existence in Egypt and restored Egypt to her independence subject to certain conditions. There were four well known principles which were laid down, and although I do not mean to say that those principles were necessarily going to be maintained for all time in exactly the same form as they existed in that document, yet I think it is evident from the terms in which they were put forward that they were looked upon as fundamental. But there was another condition which followed upon the celebrated four—namely, the declaration of the British Government that they would regard any interference by a foreign Power as unfriendly. If your Lordships read the document you will see that that was put in a special position by itself as being 1127 absolutely essential to be laid down and accepted by foreign Powers whatever might hereinafter be the form in which the relations of this country and Egypt would continue. It was absolute, that any interference by a foreign Power was to be considered to be an unfriendly act, which, as your Lordships are aware, is almost the strongest phrase which can be used in diplomacy. That was not unnecessary (I just say parenthetically), because Egypt is a very rich country with great resources and a great future before it, and it cannot be put out of sight that its riches might be the object of certain covetous desires on the part of other countries which might furnish a motive, if no other motive was required, for interference.
§ But besides its riches it is evident that the geographical position of Egypt and the Canal constitute it of such vital strategic importance that unless it was made quite clear from the outset that this country would not allow any interference Powers which might hereafter—I do not say at this moment—be inclined to be aggressive, might cast their eyes from the political as well as from the commercial point of view upon the integrity of the defence of the Canal. Therefore, it was essential, and the Government of that day, of 1922, when they altered the status of Egypt hitherto, when they restored its independence, were of course perfectly well advised to make it quite clear that they would allow no interference from a foreign Power.
§ The first question I want to put to the Government is: What is the position in their view and in their policy henceforth of the declaration of 1922? Upon that I think we shall be able to judge how far they really do appreciate the vast importance, the vital importance, of the British interests involved. Are they prepared to say in your Lordships' House to-night that this declaration of the Government of 1922, that any interference with Egypt by a foreign Power would be an unfriendly act, continues? I earnestly hope that they are prepared to say so. I am quite sure that we cannot allow not merely the actual control of Egypt to pass in any degree into the hands of other Powers, but that we cannot allow the political influence of other Powers to become of a dominating character in any sense in Egypt. That 1128 appears to be essential. I hope your Lordships will not think that if I venture to speak in these very clear terms I am using exaggerated language. We must sometimes speak in clear terms. After all, we are a self-governing country and the people who govern us are in the last analysis the electors of this country, but how can they govern the country, how can they administer the affairs of this great Empire, unless they are told the truth? Even if one is obliged sometimes to tell the truth crudely, I venture to think that that is a duty which we all owe to the electors to whom we are, whether we sit in this House or in the other House, ultimately responsible.
§ Therefore I have not hesitated to say in emphatic terms—and I believe and hope that the Government will agree so far—that the necessity of the declaration of 1922 is a continuing necessity, to be reasserted by the present Government as it was by their predecessors. This is not an excessive claim. After all, there always may be, outside the confines of one's own country and one's own Empire, certain regions in regard to which we have interests so important that we cannot allow the interference of other Powers. That is a position not only laid down by this country but, as your Lordships are well aware, laid down most emphatically by the United States of America. There are regions, of which all your Lordships know well, where the United States have signified, not once or twice but over and over again in every successive Administration, that they will not allow the intervention of any foreign Power. This is known, of course, in diplomatic language, as the Monroe Doctrine. I think we may be content, in this respect as in many other respects, to follow the example of the United States of America. They are a great country with great responsibilities, and they have not hesitated to say in emphatic language where their interests lie. As there is a Monroe Doctrine which they profess, so, if I may use that phrase, there is, or ought to be, a Monroe Doctrine which we profess. It ought to be understood in the world of diplomacy that there are certain regions where British interests are so clamant that we cannot allow the interference of any other Powers.1129
§ I know it may be said that we in Europe have the advantage—and I am not going to minimise it—of the institution of the League of Nations, and that in these international matters we may rely upon the League of Nations to maintain the stability of the international position. I have a great opinion of the League of Nations. I believe that its work is essential to European stability. But we have not yet reached the millennium. Do not let us mix the two things up. The League of Nations is not the same thing as the millennium, and we cannot expect, now or for many years to come—even if it ever comes to that extent and in that form—that the League of Nations will be sufficiently powerful and sufficiently wide awake to prevent serious damage being done to the stability of the international situation and in particular—for this is my present point—to the stability of British communications, the main line of communication between ourselves and our Empire beyond the seas.
I hope that I have carried the Government, I will not say every step of the way with me up to now, but at any rate most of the way. I hope that they, equally with ourselves, consider that the interference of a foreign Power would be an unfriendly act. That, however, cannot stand alone. If you say, as we have said, that you will not allow the interference of a foreign Power, then you are inevitably responsible to a certain extent for the conduct towards foreign Powers of the country whose immunity from foreign interference you claim. This follows, I think, absolutely; and, of course, the Government of 1922 accepted that conclusion and, in the latter part of this same declaration to which I have called your Lordships' attention, the Prime Minister of that day laid it down:—
On the other hand we, of course, accept the, protection of foreign interests and minorities in Egypt as a responsibility inseparable from the special position which we claim in that country.
That was quite logical and quite honourable. Egypt is immune from foreign interference and the Government of that day say: "We accept the necessary conclusion that we are responsible for the protection of foreign interests in that country."
I want to know whether, in the draft Treaty which the Government have laid before Parliament and of which, I suppose, they will in due time ask for ratification by Parliament, they are still acknowledging their obligation to protect foreign interests. There is considerable doubt about that. Article 6 of the Treaty, instead of recognising our responsibility for the protection of foreigners, says:—
His Britannic Majesty recognises that the responsibility for the lives and property of foreigners in Egypt devolves henceforth upon the Egyptian Government.
I really do not quite understand the language of this. It looks as if it were a new thing. Of course the duty of protecting foreigners always was upon the Egyptian Government, but the specific mention of it in Article 6 seems to imply that it rests upon the Egyptian Government and upon nobody else, whereas, by the declaration of 1922, we said that it rested upon this country. This is a clear issue. Does the responsibility for the protection of the interests of foreigners, if this Treaty be ratified, continue to rest upon the United Kingdom, or does it not? If it does not, how can we go on claiming that Egypt should be immune from foreign interference? In the teeth of the admission that was made by the Government in 1922 and which, indeed, is self-evident, how can you say, in the case of disorder in Egypt and an attack on foreign interests, that no one shall interfere, unless you are prepared to interfere yourselves? Therefore, I put that question, and I ask the Government whether they will still have a Treaty right, if this new Treaty is ratified, to interfere for the protection of foreign interests?
§ That is the first point which I desire to put to the Government, but I would like to call your Lordships' attention to another vital circumstance which is new—I mean, which has become apparent since the last debate upon Egypt in your Lordships' House—because you will observe that in the Treaty one of the Articles provides that this country is to do its best to secure the admission of Egypt to the League of Nations. Of course, what that means is that if the Treaty becomes ratified Egypt will be, in fact, accepted as a Member of the League of Nations. That will follow in due course, without doubt; but since the last debate on this subject the Government has committed 1131 itself to the signature of the Optional Clause. I am not going to discuss the merits of the Optional Clause. I have ventured to lay my views before the public already on that subject, and it would not be in its generality germane to the debate this evening; but the Optional Clause has a most emphatic bearing upon the draft Treaty which is to be ratified with Egypt.
§ Your Lordships will remember what the Optional Clause is. It is a most unfortunate name, for its essence is not optional but compulsory. It is a clause by which the Powers which adhere to it bind themselves to accept arbitration upon all justiciable issues brought before the International Court of the League of Nations. This Treaty consists of nothing but justiciable issues. All the Articles of the Egyptian Treaty will come, if the Optional Clause and the Treaty are ratified, and if Egypt demands it, to compulsory arbitration—arbitration which we have bound ourselves to accept and abide by. I do not want to say more than a sentence—that I think it will be found that the unrestricted adhesion to the Optional Clause is a very doubtful act of policy. Except that I want to use language of great moderation I would use a much stronger phrase. Let us regard it for a moment in connection with the Egyptian Treaty, and this is the point, if I may bring your Lordships back to the argument that I was venturing to submit: Supposing there is an attack upon foreign interests in Egypt, and we claim to have the right to intervene. I do not know whether the Government do claim, but let us assume that they claim that right. Unless they claim it our position is a very dangerous one indeed. Supposing they claim it. That is a matter not for us but for the Court of the League of Nations to decide, whether we have a Treaty right or not. In other words, our position in Egypt, and therefore our position in defending the security of the Canal, will depend upon the judgment of the International Court. That, I think, is a very grave matter, because we are in this position in respect of the Canal, that we cannot accept an adverse decision as regards our rights in the Canal. Do your Lordships suppose that the terms of the Treaty are so distinct and so precise that we could count upon a favourable decision by the International Court?1132
§ I am not saying one word against the integrity of the International Court. No doubt, these high Judges will do their utmost to do justice. They will have the Egyptian Treaty before them, and they will have to construe it, but there is nothing precise in the Treaty. None of the Articles are precise. I am venturing to argue this matter upon Article 6. I have no doubt that Lord Lloyd when he speaks will go into other Articles, but exactly the same argument applies to all of them. Take those in which we claim certain powers to have troops, and certain powers to control the defence of the Canal. All these are in the usual vague language in the Treaty, and all these will be the subject—I do not say necessarily, but possibly, at the option of the Egyptian Government, will be or may be the subject of litigation before the International Court.
§ I say that you must take the policy of the Government as a whole. It is not merely a question of the Egyptian Treaty. It is a question of the Egyptian Treaty combined with the policy of the Optional Clause, and I venture to say that the Government have never envisaged, as they ought to have done, the whole consequences which are involved in their policy, taken as a whole. They were in such a hurry. They had not a majority, but they had done pretty well at the General Election. They had made certain promises or certain statements about Egypt, and so they rushed into the Foreign Office and went on with their Egyptian policy, without giving themselves time to think. I deeply regret it, for I do not want to say one word against the Foreign Secretary. I have the honour of his friendship, and I value it, and I know him to be a man not only of the highest character but also of cautious temper. He did not, however, give himself time. He rushed into this. In less than a month, after all the pledges and half-pledges about freeing the Egyptian people, and the Optional Clause, and without considering in the least what the result would be when the two were combined, they put forward this draft Treaty, with all the consequences that I am afraid may be very formidable.
§ I apologise to your Lordships for taking up so much time, but I must say one word about the Sudan. We are absolutely 1133 bound, of course, to protect our position in the Sudan, not on our own behalf only or mainly, but on behalf of the unfortunate inhabitants of that country. We are absolutely bound, yet the status of the Sudan is subject to another of these vague Articles which may be a matter of litigation hereafter. It is one of the greatest glories of this country that we have been foremost in bearing the White Man's burden in these countries and the rescue of the Sudan from barbarism is almost the brightest page in our history. I say then, as I said about the Canal, that we cannot accept an adverse decision, however just upon the words it may be, founded upon a vague phrase in an Article of the Treaty which awaits the ratification of this Parliament. I earnestly hope that the Government will be able to reassure us to-night as to the dangers to which I have referred and that there may be time for them to avoid some of the graver consequences which I have indicated, but in the meantime, with your Lordships' consent, I will not hesitate here to-night to ask the House of Lords, for purposes of this kind at any rate the greatest deliberative assembly in the world, to support me in the Motion which I venture to lay before you that we regret the precipitate action of the Government with its dangers and risks to the main lines of communication of the British Empire.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House regrets the precipitation with which the policy of His Majesty's Government in Egypt was entered upon and the risk which it entails to the security of our Imperial communications.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ LORD LLOYD
My Lords, I desire, at the outset of my remarks, to say that I do not propose here to make any comments to-day on the circumstances of my resignation from the office of High Commissioner of Egypt and the Sudan last July. I confine myself to saying this, that naturally I recognise that His Majesty's Government have, at all times, the fullest right to decide what particular agent they may think most appropriate for the execution of any particular policy at any given moment, and I could not but concur with them that I was not a suitable agent for the execution of their present policy in Egypt to-day. 1134 Nor do I propose to say anything in reference to certain criticisms which were made in another place immediately after my resignation in regard to certain aspects, certain detailed points of my administration. Not because there is not much that I might say and perhaps traverse, but because I am not much concerned to defend my personal position, but rather the policy which I was sent out by His Majesty's Government to defend—namely, the policy laid down in the 1922 declaration.
I shall venture to invite your Lordships to consider whether the draft Treaty now before this House, a Treaty which only a few months ago we were told by His Majesty's Government constituted absolutely no change in policy, does not in fact involve grave and, as I fear I shall show, dangerous changes. In order that the picture may be clear may I crave your Lordships' indulgence if for a few moments I turn briefly back to past history? My noble friend who has just spoken has given a brief picture of what we have done in Egypt, how we undertook certain obligations in regard to Egypt and her foreign inhabitants some fifty years ago, and in regard also to some 30,000 British subjects. We set out to reform the finances of Egypt, to relieve the people of the country of the burden of oppression and unjust taxation, to make it a land in which all its mixed population of Moslems, Copts, Christians, Turks, Jews, French, Italians, and many other nationalities might live secure and prosperous. It is needless for me to recount what we have done in that short time—how we have raised Egypt from a position of bankruptcy to the position of one of the most flourishing cuntries in the world; how we gave her what she had not before, an efficient irrigation system—we have indisputably raised the value of her land from £3 to £300 per acre—and how we have seen that justice is done to the poorest fellah as to the greatest noble in the land. History, as the late Lord Cromer observed, records no such instance of so sudden a leap from misery and poverty to affluence and national wellbeing as that which has taken place in Egypt. Last but not least, so far from stifling, it is we who created and fostered in the Egyptians that sense of nationality which is perhaps the most striking 1135 manifestation of the changes Egypt has undergone in recent years.
Any one who knows Egypt must know equally well that it is has been impossible for the moral and intellectual advance of the people to keep pace with this immensely rapid growth of their material prosperity. The mass of the Egyptian population are still sunk in ignorance, with prejudices always susceptible of being stirred up in a dangerous manner by unscrupulous people and still incapable of adequately representing their own interests. In spite of all this, we took the further step in 1922—which to many prudent minds might possibly have seemed precipitate—the granting to Egypt of political independence. But that independence was most carefully qualified by highly important reservations calculated to safeguard not only the vital interests of the Empire and its communications, but the continued progress and wellbeing of the Egyptian peoples themselves.
Now, although less than another decade has elapsed, we are invited by His Majesty's Government to substitute for the declaration of 1922 a Treaty which, as far as I can understand it, flings aside these precautions, abandons the safeguards and hands over to an as yet immature political system those British and cosmopolitan interests which all British Governments, without distinction of Party, in this country have felt it to be their duty and responsibility to secure. It is not my desire to dwell upon the past. Such reference as I have made is only intended to emphasise that, in addition to the vital strategic interests involved, we have definite duties and responsibilities to all the peoples of the Nile Valley, responsibilities, I repeat, which until now no Party has ever repudiated. In the light of that reflection I ask your Lordships to consider how these proposals made in the draft Treaty deal with these duties and responsibilities. Roughly, as you are aware, the proposals are to establish an alliance with Egypt, to pursue a mutually dependent foreign policy, to withdraw the British troops from Cairo and Alexandria to the deserts east of Line 32, to hand over to Egyptian protection the lives and property of foreigners in Egypt in substitution for British protection, to give up ourselves and to persuade other Powers to 1136 give up their capitulatory rights in Egypt, and in the Sudan to restore the status quo before the unhappy events of 1925. Here I pause to remark that the protection of minorities, which embrace a very considerable number of people, seems to have been considered of such small importance that it was not included amonst the proposals at all, but relegated to an interchange of Notes.
As to the Treaty of Amity and Alliance, I have little to say. Our friendship with the peoples of Egypt is a real and tangible thing, founded on mutual esteem, fostered by years of close companionship, and tried out by the test of War, when Egypt stood loyally by us, helped us with men even to the point that, on one occasion, when the Turks penetrated to the Canal their rout was assisted by Egyptian guns under the command of an Egyptian sergeant—an episode of which I was a proud eye-witness myself. Although no Treaty, however edged with safeguards, could be satisfactory to us unless it tended to promote cordial relations between the two countries, I think we should be wise at the same time to remember Sarwat Pasha's glad recognition (I quote his own words) that—British interests require that the procedure adopted should be a prudent one, and that a beginning should therefore be made with measures of precaution which will be progressively relaxed until they disappear, leaving in their place a spirit of proved confidence.Where are we to look in the draft; Treaty before us for that prudent procedure or those measures of precaution which the late Egyptian Prime Minister himself realised to be essential to us?
At the very outset of the Treaty, in Articles 4 and 5, there are two points which appear to me to be of considerable importance. If I read these Articles aright—and to me, as my noble friend has pointed out, they have ambiguity in them—they must mean that in the event of a crisis arising in any part of the Empire which involved our relations with a foreign Power we bind ourselves, even if it in no way concerns Egyptian interests, to consult her and invite her co-operation. This, surely, is an engagement which we should hesitate to give if we were allying ourselves with the most powerful of foreign countries in the world. Further, whilst in virtue of the military and naval protection afforded by us to Egypt it is reasonable that Egypt 1137 should, as Sarwat Pasha was ready to do, undertake to orientate her foreign policy in a manner compatible with the alliance, for us to undertake not to conclude with a third Power any agreement of a political character which Egypt might think prejudicial to her interests is surely to admit Egypt to all the advantages of membership of the British Empire, while engaging her in no single one of its responsibilities. I suggest to your Lordships that this engagement goes too far, and, further, indeed than the standpoint adopted by the late Sarwat Pasha, who said that—Alliance does not necessarily signify conformity of interests on all questions; the essential point is that each Ally must abstain from any act which would obstruct the purpose of the alliance.Such an assurance would have been ample.
May I turn to the military aspects of the Treaty? It is provided under Article 9 that British troops are to move out of Cairo and Alexandria and are to be confined to the deserts east of Longitude 32. It is obvious that the safety of the Canal is of such vital importance that we cannot take any risks regarding it. What are the possible dangers? So long as we retain command of the seas, there can be no menace from either north or south. The Canal can only be menaced from east or west. If the danger comes from the east it can only be met from the west with a secure base in Egypt, and it seems to me clear that we have cut off all our rights to control that sure base behind us. If the danger comes from the west it can only come from Egypt itself, and it is in my opinion not from a hostile Egypt so much as possibly from an Egypt torn by internal strife and dissension, with risks of great disorder and sabotage on the Canal. For an eventuality such as this troops placed on the Canal are situated in the worst position of all. They have to be strung out in a long line, so that they are strong at no point and vulnerable at all.
I do not, of course, know how far His Majesty's Government have been guided by the advice of their military advisers in this matter. I think we should like to know. But I am perfectly confident that the military view in the past has always been that the only place from which the Canal can be economically and adequately defended from internal 1138 Egyptian disorder is from Cairo, or from striking distance of it. From there you can probably prevent trouble arising, or, in the other event, control railways, water, and munitions. I may remind your Lordships of what you are already very well aware, that the Canal area possesses neither water to drink nor reasonably suitable localities for troops. If ever there was trouble in Egypt our forces on the Canal might become entirely dependent on artificial water and the enormous cost of its production means that the amount available for the troops would be so small as to cause them continual hardship. One is really driven to ask oneself whether those responsible for this Treaty are really aware of the conditions of the locality.
How can His Majesty's Government, I ask with all respect, defend their proposal to ask British soldiers to go and live in a bleak desert where they are at every disadvantage, military, physical, mental and moral? I suppose His Majesty's Government are aware that it would take at least twenty years of planting and preparation to render the area even reasonably fit for a permanent garrison. If troops are to be sent before this is done, I think it would he a grave scandal and detrimental to the morale of the troops. If, on the other hand, they are to remain in Cairo during all these years of preparation, does not the Treaty become rather sterile for the immediate purposes of Nationalist Egypt? I hope the noble and learned Lord will inform us when and in what condition British troops are to move from their present positions. The main danger to the Canal must arise from a disturbed Egypt: what you are doing is to move into a desert away from the place where the trouble alone can arise to a place where you can least well handle it when it has arisen.
Presumably the noble and learned Lord and his advisers have carefully examined what they would do if after this exodus trouble does arise in Egypt—if lawlessness, civil war, and desert raiding took the place of the existing order. I really should like to be clear about this. Supposing grave disorder breaks out in Cairo, Tanta, Assiout and Alexandria; just such disorders as have, in only the last ten years, occurred at all these places. What do we do about it? Do our troops just sit on the Canal while 1139 foreign lives are threatened and foreign interests are in grave jeopardy? It is idle to say that disorder will not come—a rising may occur at any time. Who then is going to reduce Cairo to order? I should like to know whether it would not be under the present provision an act of war for our troops to go back to Cairo and restore order. What would Geneva have to say to that? I hope the noble and learned Lord will be so good as to give us some precise information on that point. I would venture to suggest that perhaps it might be better to keep troops at Abbassia, outside of Cairo, or within striking distance of Cairo whence not only the Canal but British and foreign lives and property can be properly safeguarded. I can see only one other way of restoring order and this is by air, and I earnestly trust that His Majesty's Government are not going to commit themselves to any policy of that kind.
The British troops in Egypt for some years have ceased to be an Army of Occupation. They have been known as the British troops in Egypt. But, nevertheless, they have been a guarantee of safety, and during all my four years in Egypt I never once had to use a single British soldier to maintain order. They were unseen but they were there, ever present and ready, and if they had not been there to give confidence to the people, to stiffen the backs of the local forces, and to still the fears of the volatile Levantine and ex-Ottoman population, the necessity for their use would most certainly have arisen on more than one occasion. If there should be any one who has any doubt of their necessity, or who is unaware of the potential gravities relating to disorder in Egypt, I would refer him to a study of the events of 1919, or he might with much advantage read the published Report of the Commission on the Alexandria riots of 1921 only, and let him remember that those riots were only prevented from becoming a general massacre by the intervention of British troops, who restored order with a minimum loss of life in a few hours after being called in.
Mr. Ramsay MacDonald has himself stated, in October, 1924, thatthe presence of British forces in Egypt provided for by such a Treaty freely entered 1140 into by both parties on an equal footing would be in no way incompatible with Egyptian independence…If that be so, what possible moral or political justification have we, after all our declarations and protestations to foreign Powers as to our sole and special responsibilities for Egypt, for so callously abandoning the million or so of foreign and semi-foreign inhabitants of the Nile Valley to the mercies of a political Party who have hitherto, I regret to say—I would like to speak with great restraint—shown a greater capacity to excite than to control the masses of the Egyptian and Arab peoples? It was Lord Cromer who said that it was only "some supreme act of folly, such as the premature removal of the British Army, which could undo all the good that had been done." I venture to hold that this proposed withdrawal is, apart from its aspects as a military blunder, as detrimental to the welfare of Egypt and the Egyptians themselves as it is dangerous to our Imperial communications.
If I am not wearying your Lordships, may I turn to one other aspect of this Treaty, of almost equal gravity and danger? I refer to the provisions in Article 6, whereby we abandon in a phrase and without a single safeguard that protection of foreigners' lives and property which has been the keystone of the arch of our policy in Egypt ever since the Morocco agreement and before. We were told, I repeat, in this House I think, that there was no change of policy. It is a matter of great surprise to me that any one who had read this Treaty could make such a statement. What was the policy from which there was no change? Presumably the declared policy of the late Government—the declaration of 1922, the declaration by which Egypt alone gained her claims to independence, and in which our right to protect foreigners was, as your Lordships will remember, most expressly reserved to Great Britain, and there were, and still are, the strongest reasons for that reservation.
May I sketch simply on what this safety depends? It depends, of course, upon the efficiency and discipline of the military and police forces, and upon the probity and impartiality of Egypt's Law Courts. One would have thought that in view of the withdrawal of British troops from Egypt special care would have been 1141 taken to strengthen rather than weaken the remaining agencies of public security. Exactly the contrary is the case. Take the case of the Egyptian Army. In the draft Treaty proposed by the late Foreign Secretary, the existing British personnel was carefully retained for ten years in the Egyptian Army, and retained with its existing effective executive functions. No such prudent provision can be found in this Treaty. All British officers in the Egyptian Army disappear, and yet past experience has shown in time of political excitement and disturbance how essential such a control is. All we have in exchange is a promise of a Military Mission of a size not named and of a status not mentioned, and whose capacity at its beet is only advisory.
One might again have supposed that in view of the simultaneous withdrawal of British troops and of British control in the Egyptian Army, the existing arrangements in the Ministry of the Interior and in the city police forces would be strengthened, or at any rate maintained. Again exactly the contrary is the case. All safeguards have gone at one fell swoop. The European Department in the Ministry of the Interior, specially set up to advise and support the Ministry in regard to the protection of foreign lives and property, and carefully retained under the Chamberlain Treaty until experience should justify its removal, is, under this Treaty, to be abolished out of hand, and the existing effective European control of the city police destroyed. I use this expression advisedly, and for this reason, that whilst it is true that Egypt appears to agree to the city police remaining under British commandants for five years, and to a certain European element remaining for the same period, it is obvious that once this Treaty is passed the European employees in the police will not wait for five years, but must, of course, safeguard their future by immediately seeking employment elsewhere. Thus the disruption of the European element in the police force and its discipline will immediately begin, there will be a general sauve qui peut, and the five years assurance is seen to be as illusory as its authors must have been aware it would be.
To those of us who have seen the loyal and courageous work of both Egyptian and British in the police under the skilled direction of the British commandants 1142 in Cairo and Alexandria, this provision is as painful as it is untimely and dangerous. It is clear that His Majesty's Government, before agreeing to this provision, must have been led to believe by their advisers that the city police forces were well able to stand alone without either British commandants or their European personnel. Let us glance for a moment at what may guide us in judging. If we look at the provinces in Egypt where the policing is purely native, we may perhaps draw a useful conclusion. The provincial police are hard working and zealous, but the standard of intelligence is not high nor are they always incorruptible. In consequence the policing of the provinces by general admission leaves very much to be desired. Feeling always runs high between the police and the Parquet, or Investigation Department, with the result that although the murder or attempted murder of Greek and other foreign bailiffs of up-country estates is a common crime, conviction of the murderer is extremely rare. It is true that in a country of quick passions and vendettas, such as Egypt, murder is not held to be the serious crime it is in England, but the figures for murder are too startling to be entirely discounted.
England with a population of some 13,000,000 records some 100 murders a year; Egypt, with a population of only 15,000,000, records some 1,200 murders in a single year; or, to put it more graphically, although the population of Egypt is about one-third of that of England as many murders occur in one month in Egypt as have taken place in one year in England. By far the greater number of these murders are committed in the country districts. In the cities of Egypt, on the other hand, where the police are British commanded and officered in part by Europeans, and where the senior native officers are selected by the British head of the European section of the Public Security Department, Europeans do not go in fear of their lives and murderers are generally caught. I have no hesitation in saying that with the disappearance of British control from the city police forces, the same state of insecurity will rapidly prevail in the cities as in the provinces.
Of the Law Courts it is more difficult to speak without risking injustice of expression. 1143 I will only, therefore, say this, that Egypt has been justly proud in the past of her Courts, where British and Egyptian Judges sat side by side, and where both had equal cause for pride in the esteem enjoyed by their tribunal. British Judges no longer sit in the Native Courts. None the less, I believe the local standards of justice and integrity in the Native Courts remain very high indeed. But in moments of political excitement it cannot be denied that definite cases have already occurred where justice has momentarily, though dangerously, been deflected by political pressure, and in weighing most carefully and impartially, as we are bound to do, what punishment would at such times be meted out to offences against foreigners, we have to take these facts into sober consideration.
Let us then be quite clear as to what this Treaty means in regards to the protection of foreign interests. British troops are to be removed from Cairo and Alexandria; British control from the Egyptian Army; British personnel from the police; and British influence from the Ministry of the Interior, leaving British and foreign lives and property to the sole defence of the Egyptian Parliament. There is every reason to fear that the Bolshevists at any rate, whose nefarious influence has hitherto by constant vigilance and firmness been kept out of Egypt, see in these impending changes the opportunity for making of Egypt what they have made of China and more recently of Palestine, a new theatre of war against law and order and a new forcing ground for the growth of racial and religious animosities.
I have already occupied so much of the time of your Lordships' House that it is impossible for me to deal as I should desire to do with the all-important proposals with regard to the Capitulations. I would only quote one passage from Lord Milner's Report, which runs as follows:—The Powers cannot be expected to give up their rights unless they are assured that their nationals can rely on obtaining justice and fair treatment in the future. In order to be able to give them that assurance Great Britain must be in a position to implement it.It is precisely because in this draft Treaty there is clear evidence that Great Britain is retiring from that position, that a large majority of commercial firms 1144 in Egypt are gravely uneasy about the future. In the Sarwat Treaty a provision was inserted whereby no legislation imposing financial burdens upon foreigners should come into force until the representative of His Majesty's Government had declared himself satisfied that it did not discriminate inequitably against foreigners. I can find absolutely no such safeguard in this Treaty which places this duty upon the General Assembly of Mixed Tribunals, a body composed of six Egyptian Judges, thirteen foreign Judges, and one English Judge. Those Judges are, I suppose, as good as the very best Judges anywhere. None the less it remains a fact that England, whose trade with Egypt so far exceeds that of any other country, will have in fiscal and commercial legislation in the future one voice in twenty where under the Sarwat-Chamberlain Treaty she was to be sole arbiter! Yet we are told there is no change in policy!
There are still further grounds for anxiety in regard to the future of our trade under this Treaty and one would have thought His Majesty's Government would have done all they could to foster trade improvements and assist the grave unemployment of this country. There have not been wanting in the last year or two unmistakable signs, not unnatural signs, but signs of the desire of the Egyptian Government to pursue a policy of differentiation against the foreigner in favour of the native. It is quite understandable, but this tendency is none the less disturbing because it is manifested, not so much in constitutional legislation as in the application of the existing laws, in the issue of ministerial decrees which have never been submitted to Parliament, and in granting or proposing to grant to Egyptian trading firms alone certain financial advantages, such as the remission of Customs dues, substantial reduction on railway freights—all of them charges which on paper are recoverable from native and foreigner alike, but which are very susceptible of being used in a highly differential manner—and, further, in a host of petty restrictions to which, with the removal of British influence, all European traders in the provinces are increasingly liable at the hands of local municipal bodies and the subordinate officials of the Central Government.
1145 This Treaty, in a word, cannot fail to be anything but very detrimental to British trade. Anyone who reads the British Note on Capitulations cannot fail to see that the whole subject, which is vitally important and is capable of perfectly reasonable solution, has been treated in the roughest and most sketchy manner which cannot fail, and indeed has not failed, to fill the hearts of foreign subjects in Egypt with every kind of justifiable apprehension. And here—as in other ways in this Treaty—I doubt if we have treated the Egyptians very fairly, because I think it will be no light task to induce eleven Foreign Powers to forego the rights of their subjects as lightly as we seem to be prepared to forego the rights of our own.
My noble friend has already spoken on the Sudan and therefore I will not traverse that subject again, but I would like from my own personal experience to support what he has said. The agreement of His Majesty's Government to allow the return of Egyptian troops to the Sudan is the most surprising item of all the statements in the Treaty. The subject is a delicate one reviving as it does memories which are better forgotten. I will confine myself to saying that as all your Lordships know the Egyptian troops left the Sudan for sufficient reasons. The return of Egyptian troops now will only unsettle the minds of all the native populations and hamper the magnificient work which has been done for the moral and economic progress of the people of the Sudan, Familiar as I am with the situation, I find it hard to believe that this grave provision had the willing assent of the Governor-General of the Sudan, and I should be glad if the noble Lord in his reply would enlighten us definitely on that matter and as to whether there is any engagement as to the actual location of Egyptian troops in the Sudan on their return there.
Of the Treaty as a whole I have asked myself repeatedly what on either side is actually to be gained? If I thought that the Treaty would bring real friendship and amity between us and the Egyptian peoples my whole attitude would be different. I want nothing more than that. But what on either side is to be gained from this Treaty? For the British Empire, strategically nothing more than we have got already. Indeed, 1146 we lose a strong position and gain a weak one: economically nothing, no Preference for our trade to compensate us for fifty years of effort, not the slightest advantage to mark, even as a gravestone, the loss of that special position which we held and to which all the world has adhered and agreed; but only, as it is rumoured, a higher tariff planned and prepared, if not yet published, against our goods. We do not even gain the friendship of the masses of the Egyptian people for we have this already in full measure.
What, then, does Egypt profit? It is true that superficially at least she appears to gain a series of hasty and ill-digested concessions, but what actually will the people of Egypt gain?—and it is for the welfare of the masses of the people and not for the ambitions of this or that political Party in Egypt that we who have lived so many years in the East are concerned. I cannot but believe that it is with this real welfare of the people that noble Lords and the Government would like to be associated. We are giving them in exchange for the steady, wise and restraining influence of British guidance during the inevitably difficult process of the growth of Parliamentary institutions amongst a dumb and illiterate people, the vicissitudes, uncertainties and possible violences which are bound to attend such a growth when this experienced guidance is prematurely removed.
May I conclude with a quotation from the greatest benefactor the Egyptian peoples ever had or are ever likely to have?The rulers and people of this country"—said Lord Cromer—must be very careful lest in their well-intentioned and praiseworthy efforts to give self-governing powers to the Egyptians the interest of the masses were sacrificed to class interests. It must be remembered that the Egyptian peasants were and for a long time must remain incapable of adequately representing their own interests. Yet at the present time they were not unrepresented. Their principal representatives were the British officials in the service of the Egyptian Government.With the passage of this Treaty will pass also all that is still left of the power of the British official to help the masses of the peoples of Egypt. His Majesty's Government in this Treaty abandon everything that makes for the welfare of 1147 Egypt which Mr. Lloyd George, in his letter to the Dominions in 1922, set forth. They turn their backs upon Lord Cromer's work for the fellaheen and Lord Cromer's ideal of an ultimate Constitution representing all the inhabitants of the Nile Valley irrespective of race or religion. Egypt by her very position on the map is the concern of the whole world, but chiefly of the British Empire. It would indeed be a world calamity if the progress of this great and historic people, tied to us by every kind of intimate connection and friendly association, should be arrested and jeopardised, perhaps worse, by the proposals that are before us this afternoon.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, we have had a very dark picture of the horrible results of the proposed Treaty painted by the last speaker. I do not for a moment underrate the position in which Lord Lloyd has stood and stands in giving his opinion to this House, but I beg to say that, if he is right, I can see no direction in which any advance can be made towards the settlement of the Egyptian question. No suggestion that he has made provides any exception whatever to this dark picture; everything adds to the misfortunes that we are heaping upon Egypt and the Egyptian people. I shall have to deal later at greater length with some of the special suggestions that he has made, but I should like to say at once that the large majority of opinion that is as capable of being expressed as that of Lord Lloyd himself is not in accord with the views which the noble Lord has stated to your Lordships' House this evening. I do not say this merely as a general statement. I shall have to trouble your Lordships with references to admitted authorities who take a view entirely contrary to that which has been expressed this evening.
Perhaps I may mention one point, in case I forget it. Lord Lloyd asked me a question regarding the opinion of the Governor-General of the Sudan. He asked whether that opinion had been expressed or not. The answer is that the return of the Egyptians has the full approval of Sir John Maffey, the Governor-General. That is the statement that I asked to be given me from the Foreign Office. I want to answer that question first because one sometimes 1148 forgets at a later stage the importance of a question of that kind. And while I am speaking of the Sudan perhaps I might add this: We know perfectly well—and the noble Lord has not over-stressed the importance of the point—that the Sudan question has throughout been one of points that have to be settled, if they can be settled, between Egypt and this country. The question has been before your Lordships on various occasions. I recollect having to state in your Lordships' House in 1924 that what was proposed by the then Labour Government was not intended to alter in any respect the relationship of this country to the Sudan as regards any duties and obligations undertaken towards that country or as regards any privileges or other rights which we might possess there. Having made that statement, I found myself in rather a peculiar position. I am afraid that on matters of this kind I have not always had the united assent of your Lordships' House. On that occasion the late Lord Curzon stated that he could answer for the whole House, that I had made our attitude towards the Sudan perfectly clear and that the House was indebted for the exceptional clarity of my statement and was in entire accord with the statement that I had made regarding our future policy.
That policy remains. I am not saying for one moment that the result of our proposals, if carried out, may not be questionable in some respects. Nothing that can be done in a Treaty relationship of this kind can fail to be discussed widely on both sides. But what I want to make perfectly clear is that from the beginning, when this matter was approached by the Labour Government, throughout all the subsequent years until now, and at the present moment, it was and is our intention and desire to make no alteration whatever in the Sudan settlement, which came from the time of Lord Milner and of other declarations to which I will return by and by. I think we have made that absolutely clear. I do not want there to be any dispute about it, because in these matters we are not dealing with what I may call grounds of political dispute. It is undoubtedly the case that there may be very wide differences of opinion regarding the treatment of the Egyptian question. That is a matter that I shall have to deal with 1149 But when we go outside questions of dispute regarding policy and when we endeavour to come together by explaining that the policy has not been changed and is not intended to be changed, it is of great importance that a statement of that kind should be accepted, not as a statement from one side or the other, but as a statement accepted by the House at large. That was done in 1924, and I am sure that the noble Marquess opposite will accept the statement that I have made to-day.
The noble Marquess has, I think, put his Motion in rather a curious form. I do not want to make a criticism merely on terms, but he talks of precipitancy. I should have thought that, if any question had been discussed and re-discussed by all political opinions and Parties in this country, it was the question between Egypt and this country. I do not doubt that we have a common desire—I am sure we shall not quarrel upon this—to express the hope that, by friendliness, co-operation and good will, increased prosperity may be given to Egypt to her advantage and ours. Apart from encouraging friendliness, co-operation and good will, the maximum advantage to be enjoyed both by Egypt and ourselves can, in our opinion, never be obtained. If I may refer again for a moment to what was said by the noble Lord, if his views are right, if the deductions and inferences of fact that he has drawn can be justified, it appears to me to be hopeless to suppose that this question can ever be settled on a friendly basis as between the two parties.
Let me follow this up by referring to two passages only from the Report of the late Lord Milner. I look upon Lord Milner, if I may say so, as the true successor of the late Lord Cromer in the Egyptian question. There is no doubt that, in our day at any rate, the great Proconsul as regards matters of this kind was Lord Cromer. I think that Lord Milner was with him in Egypt for some time—I recollect being on a Royal Commission with Lord Milner when he left to go to Egypt—and, next to Lord Cromer, most of us will agree that no man in modern times had a greater grasp of this Egyptian question than Lord Milner. There are two passages in his Report of which I would like to remind your Lordships, because I think both of them are 1150 very important. One of them has to do with the question of troops. I am not going into that matter. My noble friend Lord Thomson is more cognisant than I am of military questions, and I am sure your Lordships will not desire me to go into matters with which I am not personally familiar.
What does the Report say? Let us compare it with what is now proposed. The question there was the same as it is at the present time. I will use Lord Milner's own words:—We therefore strongly advise His Majesty's Government to enter without undue delay into negotiations with the Egyptian Government for the conclusion of a Treaty on the lines which we have ventured to recommend. It would, in our opinion, be a great misfortune if the present opportunity were lost.This was in the year 1920. It does not denote precipitancy when the question which we are now considering was considered with great care by Lord Milner and his Committee about ten years ago. He says upon this point:—Egypt will confer upon Great Britain the right to maintain a military force on Egyptian soil for the protection of her Imperial communications. The Treaty will fix the place where the force shall be quartered, and will regulate any subsidiary matters which require to be arranged. The presence of this force shall not constitute in any manner a military occupation of the country, or prejudice the rights of the Government of Egypt.At that time, as now, Cairo and Alexandria were occupied, and questions arose whether that occupation of the capital of Egypt would be necessary in the future in order to protect the various interests to which Lord Lloyd has referred. The answer is in the negative, and for a very good reason, because if you look into Lord Milner's Report you will find it is stated that if you are really going to give Egypt the independent sovereignty that we have promised, it would not be consistent with the maintenance of a British force in the capital of Egypt. Therefore, the very matter which we are discussing now—I am not saying anything about the details now—the very point which we are discussing now, in order that the undertaking as regards independence, so far as we can give it, should be guaranteed to Egypt, the removal of our troops to some other point for the protection of the Suez Canal, was under discussion and 1151 was recommended. As we know, mention was made of Tel-el-Kebir, and many other places were considered, but that is not the point. The point is very clear. I am sure that Lord Lloyd, although he disagrees with our policy, will appreciate what this means. The Report continues:—So long as we maintain our occupation by troops at Cairo, so long will it be impossible to make any advance in giving to Egypt the independence she desires.For the same reason, at the present time, if we were to make the maintenance of our troops in Cairo a cardinal and essential condition for the future, we could make no advance whatever in the proposals contained in the proposed Treaty.
When Lord Milner's Committee was dealing with that they were dealing with exactly the same question as we are dealing with now, and this is how it is stated:—There is a sensible diminution of the bitter feeling and violent propaganda recently so prevalent, and the country is anxious to settle down.I am glad to say that at the present time there is not much bitter feeling. In fact it is a time in which we may hope that so far as Egyptian feeling is concerned there is neither bitterness nor any desire to do anything contrary to our common interests in Egyptian territory. Then Lord Milner's Report continues:—The moment is favourable for placing the relations of Great Britain and Egypt on the satisfactory and enduring basis of a Treaty, which will at one and the same time establish the independence of Egypt and secure the essential interests of Great Britain.These same words run through the Report, "establish the independence of Egypt and secure the essential interests of Great Britain."
I will ask any member of this House whether he would not desire that that result should be attained? Is it not still the desire of everyone who studies this question to find a system which at the same time will establish the independence of Egypt and secure the essential interests of Great Britain? So far as the independence of Egypt is concerned at the present moment—I speak with reserve, because a General Election is going to take place in Egypt soon—as far as the Egyptians are concerned, we are at any rate advised that it is probable that they will accept these proposals as giving 1152 them what they require as regards establishing the independence of Egypt; and that would be extremely satisfactory. I do not suppose the noble Lord will deny that we all desire it. We have promised it for a long time, from the days of Lord Cromer. It was certainly the view of Lord Milner, and perhaps still more the view of a great Governor-General, Lord Allenby. When we are talking about the declaration of 1922 I would like to make this clear. In 1921 there were difficulties in Egypt, but since Lord Allenby took the reins in hand, and went a long way towards carrying out the policy indicated in the Milner Report, there has been great improvement in the friendliness of feeling between the two countries, and in the prosperity of Egypt. Then there is Lord Allenby's declaration of 1922. It says:—Whereas His Majesty's Government, in accordance with their declared intentions, desire forthwith to recognise Egypt as an independent sovereign State; and Whereas the relations between His Majesty's Government and Egypt are of vital interest to the British Empire":I notice that the noble Marquess did not refer to it, but what he did point out, and what undoubtedly is the case, was not the difference in aim or object, but the difference in policy by which that aim or object may be attained.
Then he goes on to say that "the following principles are hereby declared" and those are the principles which have been and should be observed:The British Protectorate for Egypt is terminated and Egypt is declared to be an independent sovereign State.Those of your Lordships who have read the proposals know that the first proposal is really a repetition of those words. It states that the British Protectorate is terminated and Egypt is declared to be an independent sovereign State. And it is on that basis that the proposals go on to set up in outline—of course they will have to be a good deal considered before they can be finally taken—the proposals which in the opinion of the Government would bring about both the independence of Egypt and the full security of Great Britain.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
Does the noble Lord say that the draft Treaty is really proposals and is not definite?
§ LORD PARMOOR
Of course it is only proposals. They are proposals which indicate the principles that are to be followed. At the present moment it could not be more than proposals. Let me take an illustration. We are dealing here with the treatment and rights of foreigners. The rights of foreigners under the Capitulations are dependent on the relationship between Egypt and themselves. They have nothing to do immediately with us. Of course we are desirous that certain changes should be made. Of course there is a difference in this respect between the Capitulations and the Mixed Tribunals. There is no suggestion of any change in the Mixed Tribunals. We propose that changes should be made as regards the protection of foreigners as regards the Capitulations. We have no authority whatever to ask that that should be done. We only propose that we shall give our assistance in the negotiations between the particular foreigners who have that treatment and the Egyptian Government. A proposal of that kind cannot be put in a concrete form. If Egypt agrees with some other foreign country that the Capitulations should be altered, the actual terms must depend upon the agreement between Egypt and that foreign country. I merely give that as an illustration because a good deal of discussion has already been directed to the question of foreigners.
Take another matter. Take the proposals as regards the removal of our troops to some place near the Canal east of a certain degree of longitude. That can only be a proposal. To carry it out and make it effective and to see that all proper protections which we say ought to be regarded are regarded is necessarily a matter of time. Even if we came to the conclusion to-day—which we cannot do of course—that this Treaty should be made, I am told it would probably take some four or five years before you could possibly rebuild the barracks, provide for the water, maintenance and all the other matters necessary.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Might I be allowed to ask the noble Lord a question? I understand the proposals in the White Paper are the draft of a Treaty. No doubt that cannot be carried into effect in various ways for some years. Is it proposed that those words in the 1154 White Paper should form the draft which will be submitted for ratification to this Parliament and to the Egyptian Parliament?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not think that is necessarily so, but I do not want to argue on a point which does not appear to me to be very important. I am quite prepared to stand here, as I am standing here, and to say that these proposals do state as closely and concretely as one can what we propose the future conditions should be. I do not want to run away from that proposition in any form. I am only pointing out, in answer to the noble Viscount, that although these proposals were so definite, the method of carrying them out is a question of subsequent procedure and must be so. The noble Marquess will find that in the annexes to the proposal are very lengthy indications of how various of these proposals are likely to be carried out and what will be required. They are not in the proposals themselves; they are in the annexes. The annexes show one method, a competent method, by which the proposals in their shorter form might be put into practical application. I would ask the noble Viscount who asked this question to look at the White Paper under the heading "Capitulations." He will see that the proposals for carrying this out in a practical form cover two pages and half another page. It is not that I want in any way to shirk responsibility.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
May I ask the noble Lord one more question about the Capitulations? Are they to be altered or not, and, if they are, in what way? Are they not governed by Article 6 of the Treaty in which we distinctly recognise that an over-riding responsibility for the lives and property of foreigners henceforth devolves upon Egypt and we have no responsibility in connection therewith?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not think the noble Viscount is right there. That is largely involved in the construction, to which the noble Marquess called my attention, of Article 6. He will not mind my not being led on to that just for a moment. I promised as clearly as I possibly could to give an answer to the very important question that the noble Viscount has asked me because I do not want any misapprehension if I can possibly prevent it. My only fear is that, 1155 as I try to be too specific, in some ways it may be a danger, though I do not think it is in this case. While I am dealing with the charge of precipitancy which I shall have to answer, perhaps I may answer the noble Viscount's point. How do I understand Article 6 in connection with the subsequent proposals as regards Capitulations? The subsequent proposals as regards Capitulations will be found in Article 11. Though it may not be logically sound I should like to deal with Article 11 before Article 6. Article 11 says:—His Britannic Majesty 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.We know the principles of extra-territoriality have been discussed in many-places and under many conditions, but these particular Courts mentioned in this proposal are such that the particular foreigner can go to the Consular Court of his country. The Consul of that country can be a judge of the case in which he is interested.
It goes on—and this is all we can do—to say:His Britannic Majesty accordingly undertakes to use all his influence with the Powers possessing capitulatory rights in Egypt to obtain, in conditions which will safeguard the legitimate interests of foreigners, the transfer to the Mixed Tribunals of the jurisdiction of existing Consular Courts, and the application of Egyptian legislation to foreigners.What does that mean? On the principle of extra-territoriality we do not want these particular Consular Courts to go on, and we will help the Egyptians to get rid of them. We cannot do that ourselves. The relationship is between Egypt and the particular foreign nation involved. In connection with that we say that it is not a matter of interference with the Mixed Tribunals—that is, the tribunals presided over by British and Egyptian Judges; but, on the contrary, our desire would be, in assisting to get rid of the consular jurisdiction, that matters involved might go before the Mixed Tribunals.
Let we come to Article 6, which I think has been misunderstood, as I gathered from the noble Marquess. It begins as follows:—His Britannic Majesty recognises that the responsibility for the lives and property 1156 of foreigners in Egypt devolves henceforth upon the Egyptian Government.That is a statement that in our view this responsibility devolves henceforth upon the Egyptian Government in right of the sovereignty, or the autonomous position, which it was the whole intention of Lord Milner to give to Egypt. It goes on—His Majesty the King of Egypt will ensure the fulfilment of his obligations in this respect.That is to say, he will fulfil his obligations in being responsible for the lives and property of foreigners in Egypt, and if he does not do so that would be a breach of Treaty obligation which would make it incumbent upon us to see that the regulations are most properly and duly carried out.
I should like to go back now to Lord Allenby's declaration. We have had the pleasure of hearing Lord Allenby lately in this House. Lord Allenby's time as Governor-General in Egypt made a great advance in the good feeling between Egypt and this country and in really furthering what we are desirous of carrying out at the present time, co-operation in mutual help and prosperity. I will read one extract of what was said at the termination of Lord Allenby's period in a moment. I think I referred to the four reservations regarding the security of the communications of the British Empire in Egypt. We consider that absolutely essential and vital. The suggestion that we have made is not novel; it was made at least ten years ago, and as long as our policy remains to maintain troops of occupation in the capital of Egypt I do not think any advance of any kind can possibly be made in adjusting more friendly relationships.
In regard to the defence of Egypt against foreign aggression or interference, I think that our proposal is a very strong one. Objection was taken that we are taking too large a responsibility upon ourselves. But, as a matter of fact, one of the proposals—what I call a "reciprocal proposal" in the form of a mutual defence treaty—throws what might be a very heavy obligation upon us, because we guarantee the defence of Egypt against all foreign aggression or interference. That is a very strong point, for this reason. It seemed to be thought that we were opening the way for foreign aggression or interference. Our desire 1157 and our intention are directly in a contrary direction. No one can say that in the future of the world there may not be some Power or other which would be aggressive against Egypt. It is extremely improbable, however, and it is rendered practically impossible when it is known that we have undertaken to defend Egypt against any aggressive action of that kind. With regard to the protection of minorities, that is a different thing from the protection of foreign interests. As a matter of fact the Copts and Syrians and other minorities have been, and are being, well protected. I think I made my point quite clear about the Sudan. Without any reservation whatever we intend to preserve the policy indicated in Lord Milner's Report. We made that statement in 1924, and we intend to preserve that policy as long at any rate as we are in power in this country.
There is one other point I should like to mention in order to show that there has not been precipitancy. I have mentioned the declaration made in 1922 on the advice of Lord Allenby. In 1923 the new Egyptian Constitution was promulgated. By this Egypt accepted responsibility for the protection of her racial and religious minorities. Then provisions like those of the Minority Treaties, which had been included in Lord Curzon's draft Treaty of 1921, were incorporated afterwards in the Constitution as fundamental and organic laws. In 1925 the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, succeeded Lord Allenby. The conditions of Egypt at that time were admirably summarised in an account given of Lord Allenby's administration in an article in The Times of that date. I think it is very important because I regard what we are trying to do now as very nearly in accord with Lord Allenby's views, and I read this as showing the result of Lord Allenby's administration. The writer of this article says:—Lord Allenby came to Egypt in the midst of a fierce storm. He leaves it in a calm which is striking in its contrast, and full of good augury. He bequeaths to his successor a situation far more favourable, and offering far fairer prospects of satisfactory settlement than appeared at all possible at the outset of his mission. British prestige in Egypt stands higher today than it has done since Lord Kitchener left the country in 1914.1158 In answer to a good deal of what has been said, I regard that as a result of taking a friendly and just attitude towards Egyptian interests as well as towards our own. I look on it as a strengthening of friendliness which stood out so strongly in Lord Allenby's policy.
§ LORD LLOYD
May I interrupt the noble Lord? I might point out that I have the highest regard for the noble Lord who preceded me, but the situation which was left behind was not one of democratic progress; Parliament was in suspension. That was the only way to keep peace and order at that time.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am not discussing that at the present moment. What I am saying is that what I regard as an administration not based on force in the ordinary sense, but an administration based on understanding, realising the difficulties of Egypt, doing what the administrator could do in order to aid friendly co-operation all round, did in fact eventuate in putting an end to the disturbed feeling which was shown in 1921, and did eventuate in fact in British prestige in Egypt standing higher when Lord Allenby left than it had done since Lord Kitchener left the country in 1914. After all, apart from detail—and one cannot go into the detail of all these matters—the fundamental difference between us is this, if I may put it so, that we believe in meeting fairly and as large heartedly as we can the vital points on which the Egyptians insist in order that they may have real national independence in the words of Lord Milner, and we do not believe, however long you go on merely depending on an atmosphere of force, that you will produce the same result. I do not speak at all disrespectfully—I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, will not think that—of the way Lord Lloyd did his work. We all appreciate the work he did. Everybody must do work from the point of view he thinks is best.
He has referred more than once to the negotiations between Sir Austen Chamberlain and Sarwat Pasha. In those the principle was recognised of removing the occupation troops from Cairo, but Sir Austen Chamberlain, whether right or wrong—I am not going into that—said they must at any rate be kept there for the next ten years. That was construed by the Egyptians as 1159 practically perpetuity. No one could say exactly what would happen in ten years, but a further ten years occupation would stabilise those conditions. That is what they said, and it was on that ground chiefly—I do not say on that ground only—that those negotiations broke down. I must now tell your Lordships what I am instructed. I am not a member of the Foreign Office, and it is unfortunate for your Lordships, so far as this debate is concerned, that I am not; but I am instructed in the strongest terms that unless a provision is made for the removal of the occupation of our troops from Cairo—of course at the same time making, as we think, an alternative occupation which gives adequate security for all the interests involved—no further progress at all can be made. We think the time has come—there has been no precipitancy—in which further progress ought to be made. As regards precipitancy, in 1927 there were long negotiations between Sir Austen Chamberlain and Sarwat Pasha. I do not desire to go into those negotiations to any extent. They were in accord with the proposal in Mr. Henderson's Memorandum. I admit, on the crucial points referred to, a difference does exist, which I have dealt with to the best of my ability.
The next question asked has to do with the Optional Clause. I do not wish to leave any matter unanswered with which I can deal, but I do not want to go over on each paragraph the fundamental differences between us. They are there. No doubt they are thought right by one Party and are not thought right by the other. Let me come to what the noble Marquess asked about the Optional Clause. He was not very complimentary to the League of Nations, but I let that pass.
§ LORD PARMOOR
In one sense, yes, but I think when the noble Marquess looks at his words to-morrow he will find he was not wholly complimentary. But let that go by. What he attacked principally was the Optional Clause. You have to regard the Optional Clause in a wider sense than if it applied only in a case like this, and I will state in a moment how far it would apply in this case. Those who want peace throughout the 1160 world put great weight on this, that judicial or juridical matters should be decided, in the case of international disputes, according to the Optional Clause. The noble Marquess mentioned the word "optional." He will recollect very well that originally in the draft proposal it was compulsory. Two countries only objected to that—England and France. It was then made optional. It has this advantage, that first of all you need not be subject to it unless you like, and, secondly, you can make such reservations as you wish in order to preserve your respective interests. We have not ratified the Optional Clause, but I am hoping myself it will soon be done. Moreover, it cannot be signed by Egypt unless and until Egypt becomes a Member of the League of Nations, and if and when she becomes a Member of the League of Nations the terms of reservation will have to be considered. But I do not want to go off on a side issue.
I want to say in answer to the noble Marquess that I regard this Optional Clause as one of the great charters on which we can found what is called the new organisation of a peace international policy throughout the world. I do not think there is any special matter which would arise in this particular case, but of course, if you are to enter into a relationship of that kind, if you believe in the principles which are involved in the Kellogg Pact and the Covenant of the League, you have to have not only a declaration against war but also an alternative method of settling international disputes. You must not leave international disputes simmering. You must settle them. I differ profoundly from the noble Marquess. I think no greater advantage for the peace of the world has been given than the opportunity afforded by the signature of the Optional Clause. In a particular case you can always find something to criticise, I quite agree, but the risks of peace, and particularly universal peace, are infinitely less than the minor matters which you can always raise on particular occasions. At any rate I may say this, that the Government are fully confident of the value of the Optional Clause. I think they have already indicated that by signing it at Geneva, and when they bring it forward for ratification in the House of Commons I sincerely hope they may succeed.
1161 I do not think there is any other point in my notes as regards the questions put to me by the noble Marquess, but there are one or two points in Lord Lloyd's speech about which I should like to say a word or two. I do not want to become controversial with him, if he will allow me to say so. I do not want to become controversial with any one who has such special knowledge and who has done his work as one of the Proconsuls in Egypt—I was going to say in the East—nor am I in a position to do it. I do want to say emphatically that his views are not the views which, starting from the Report made by Lord Milner's Commission, have been in substance adhered to up to the present time in order to bring about a settlement between this country and Egypt. I do not believe—I do not want to express this too strongly, but having read every document, I think, on this subject, I do not believe it would be possible, unless we are prepared to go on as we are now indefinitely, which I understand to be Lord Lloyd's view—
§ LORD LLOYD
If the noble and learned Lord will excuse the interruption, may I say that I did not say I was prepared to go on indefinitely? I did not say that the ideal policy was to go on indefinitely.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I did not say that the noble Lord used that expression, or if I did I apologise. What I said was that the only way in which the principles which he laid down could be followed would be by an indefinite prolongation of the present conditions as between Egypt and Great Britain, in which Great Britain should hold what I may Call the trump card and have sufficient power to enforce her own views whatever the views of Egypt may be. I do not want to be at all unfair, but I think that states succinctly the views which I gathered Lord Lloyd held. We do not hold them. I see the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, here, and perhaps I may be allowed to remind him of what he said in the debate on a previous occasion when some of the questions which we are now discussing arose. I have not his exact words here, but according to my recollection the purport of what he said was that he wished that the original proposals of Lord Milner's Committee had been carried out. Well, that is arguable. That was ten years ago and we do not think there is 1162 any precipitancy. We think Lord Milner was right and that it is possible to protect all British interests and at the same time give full national independence to Egypt and the Egyptian people. That is our belief and our faith. That is our policy and we shall do our best in detail to bring it to a successful issue.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
My Lords, I am not sure whether the speech which we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, is the first speech he has made in your Lordships' House. At any rate it is the first I have heard and I should like to express the welcome that the whole House feels at his intervention in our debate. On this occasion I am going to differ widely from, the policy he has advocated, but that someone should take part in our debates who has the great knowledge of certain parts of the world which the noble Lord has, who forms strong personal opinions and expresses them with vigour, makes it certain that his intervention will always be a valuable contribution to toe discussion of any subject on which he speaks. Having said so much, I must explain why I differ from the policy which has been advocated by the noble Lord. It seems to me that the policy he is now advocating is one which is entirely inconsistent with the declaration of 1922. He referred to the declaration of 1922 as if it contained nothing but reservations. The most important point of the declaration of 1922—made by a Government of which the majority were Conservatives—was that Egypt was for the first time in its history recognised as an independent sovereign State, and whatever we may say about reservations and in all our negotiations with Egypt about reservations, we must regard that statement that Egypt is henceforth an independent sovereign State and so recognised by the British Government as the governing factor in all our negotiations.
Now, I would like to go back a little into history. As to all that we have done in Egypt in past years and especially what was done under Lord Cromer, I entirely agree with the high tributes paid by the noble Marquess and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. The work done by Lord Cromer was the greatest feat of practical statesmanship in our time. He found Egypt in chaos and bankrupt. He made justice incorrupt, he made the 1163 administration efficient, he nursed the natural resources of Egypt, he developed them, and he put them on a sound financial footing. It was a tremendous feat of individual statesmanship. But there is one thing about it to which I should like to refer. When Lord Cromer first went to Egypt—I have not got the quotation here, but The Times quoted it not long ago—he made a declaration that the ultimate object of British policy in Egypt was self-government, to fit the Egyptians for self-government. That was his genuine view at the time and the view, I think, of the Government of the day. Lord Cromer was going to put the Egyptian Government on a thoroughly efficient, sound footing. He was going to establish it as a going concern and then it was to be handed over to the Egyptian Government to keep the concern going. That was the ultimate object originally. In spite of all the work Lord Cromer had done we must recognise—especially those of us who were in positions of responsibility at the time—that when he retired we were further from that objective of self-government for Egypt than we thought we were at the beginning. It had become apparent not only that the good work done in Egypt was due to British initiative, but that the maintenance of it was also due to continued British control such as Lord Cromer exercised.
Then we come to the War when we established a Protectorate in Egypt. We did that, so far as I remember our motives at the time, for two reasons. The first was to regularise our position in Egypt. It had never been regularised. It was most irregular, because all the time Lord Cromer was doing this work we had an uncomfortable feeling in our minds that when we went to Egypt we said that we were not going to stay there. We did not, it is true, make that a pledge to any Power. It was a pledge to the House of Commons, and the House of Commons never insisted upon its being kept. Lord Hartington, a member of the Government of the day, went so far as to mention six months as the time that we were likely to stay there. The position was never established, and Lord Salisbury, if I remember rightly, in 1888 made a Convention called the Drummond Wolff Convention, the object of which was to bring the British occupation of Egypt to an end.
VISCOUNT GREY OR FALLODON
I was going to explain that. It was laid before Parliament, but it fell through because Abdul Hamid was the kind of suspicious person who never could believe that anything that was proposed to him had not some sort of a trick in it, and so Turkey refused to ratify it. It fell through, but its object was to terminate the British occupation of Egypt. Since it had fallen through, we always had this uncomfortable feeling that we were in Egypt in an irregular position, contrary to the expectation that we had held out. But we felt that the moral value of Lord Cramer's work in Egypt and the work that we were doing outweighed the disadvantages of the inconsistency of staying in Egypt when we had definitely stated, when we went there, that we were not going to stay. That was the basis on which we stayed. When the War came we took advantage of the situation to declare Egypt a Protectorate, and thereby to regularise our position there, which had never been regularised.
I think the other motive was that, the Allies—France, Russia and ourselves—having promised Turkey to preserve her independence and integrity in the Peace, asking nothing from her in return except that she should remain neutral, Turkey, in spite of that, unprovoked, wantonly and wickedly entered the War against us, and therefore we considered that we were entitled to cut that connection between Turkey and Egypt which had always existed and had prevented Egypt from being an independent sovereign State on account of the suzerainty of Turkey. That was the origin of the Protectorate, and for the first time our position in Egypt was regular; and only through those few years when the Protectorate existed could you possibly have maintained that Egypt was a part of the British Empire.
Then came the declaration of 1922, which definitely put an end to the Protectorate. It recognised Egypt as an independent sovereign State. I said in the debate to which the noble Lord referred that I deplored what had been done as regards the internal administration of Egypt because I considered that we had definitely assured Egypt that we would not interfere in her 1165 internal affairs. That was the declaration of 1922. I said that I deplored it, but I went on to say very definitely that it could not be undone now. I do not think the noble Marquess was a member of the Government that made that declaration.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
So there is no inconsistency in his criticising it. But I wonder why it was done. It meant, of course, the giving up of the Cromer régime in Egypt. It meant abandoning it. I suppose it was done because, after the War, the Government of the day felt that they must curtail commitments which depended upon the use of force by this country, and they had come to the conclusion—which indeed we had all known—that the work which Lord Cromer had been doing in Egypt did rest upon force, and it became more and more evident after the War that this sort of position could be continued only by the use of force to an extent which the Government of the day were not prepared to contemplate. It is quite true, of course, that the position of the fellaheen in Egypt was enormously improved under Lord Cromer, but that did not strengthen our position in Egypt politically. The fellaheen have always been ready, in spite of all that has been clone for them by the British Government, to take sides when there is any movement against us. So that all we have done for the fellaheen in Egypt, good as it is, right as it is, valuable as it has been for the fellaheen, has not made the fellaheen any source of strength to the British Occupation.
I argued, therefore, in 1924 that we must regard the declaration of 1922 as having made a clean sweep of interference in internal administration, and that statement of mine was accepted by Lord Curzon, who said in that debate, referring to my observations:—When I came into the House my noble friend was speaking about Egypt, and he had reached that point in his speech in which he was arguing, on the one hand, that in any discussions that are likely to take place with Egypt, having gone so far as we have gone, it would be a mistake to boggle about any matters that would involve, or might involve, interference in the Egyptian administration. That, I think, is a commonplace which we all accept.1166 That is a very sweeping statement, and it is entirely incompatible with the policy advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. He was considering the reservation as implying that we had to keep a force in the capital of Egypt for the purpose not merely of defending the Suez Canal, should it be in danger, but of maintaining order in the country and of maintaining also the interests of the masses of the country—that is to say, that the Government was to go back to what it was under Lord Cromer. That was not the point of view of the House in 1924. Lord Curzon accepted entirely the position that we must not interfere with administration, and I do feel that now, after what has happened, it would be most unwise, and it is an impracticable policy to go back to anything like the Cromer régime in Egypt.
There is one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, did not say in this House, but he said it outside, as reported in The Times last week. It is entirely incompatible with the declaration of 1922. The noble Lord said that we maintained the right in Egypt to protect foreigners, minorities—that is in accordance with the declaration of 1922—and the masses. The masses are not foreigners in Egypt; they certainly are not a minority; and the whole purport of the declaration of 1922 was to give up our right to interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt. The noble Lord's policy of protecting the masses, which underlay a good deal of his argument to-day, is a diametrically opposite policy to that of the declaration of 1922. There was another thing in the noble Lord's speech that I deprecated very strongly. Just after that passage which I have quoted he went on to say: "The same is true of India." I would most earnestly deprecate any analogy between India and Egypt. It is a most dangerous thing, and coming from the noble Lord, who has been in both places, and whose words carry weight in both places, it is most dangerous. Egypt has never been part of the British Empire. It was independent—I was going to say self-governing, but governed under its own King, before we went there. The whole history of India has been entirely different, and I think it is most wrong and unwise politically to admit that there is any parallel between what we have 1167 done and may do in Egypt and our position in India. It is most dangerous to mix up the two things, and I should not admit for a moment the argument that because we have made a declaration about Egypt it has any bearing upon our policy in India.
In 1924 my first point was that having made that declaration in 1922 we had better make a clean sweep of interference in the internal affairs of Egypt; that if we continued to nag and interfere we should not get the advantage whch we had under the Cromer régime, and yet we should not be free of the trouble and responsibility which the declaration of 1922 desired to get rid of. The second point was that we should concentrate upon two points vital to British interests—namely, the protection of the Canal, and the Sudan. I would like to say a word upon those two points before I leave the point of interference in internal affairs. I said that I deplored the disappearance of the Cromer policy, but it had gone, and we could not set it up again. I am not suggesting that the self-government of Egypt will be from our point of view as good for the country as that which existed when she was bound to accept the guidance and control of Lord Cromer. There is a different sense of values between the ideas of the Egyptians and ourselves as to what good government means, but we have a great responsibility, and a great Empire, and we cannot undertake responsibility against the will of the people of a country, simply because we believe that we shall be doing their affairs better than they do them themselves. As regards parts of the country which have always been parts of the British Empire, and directly governed by the British Government, or by officials appointed by the British Government, I want to see this responsibility maintained, but if we ever attempt to get in the same position in Egypt as the Government of 1922 found itself in we shall be not strengthening but weakening our power of carrying out our responsibilities within the Empire.
As to the protection of the Canal, I think there is a great deal of force in what Lord Parmoor said, when he stated that if you wished to recognise a country as an independent sovereign State, it was impossible to keep a military force in its capital. It is still more difficult if it is advocated as a means, not of protecting 1168 the Canal but of preserving internal order in the country. That is where I think Lord Lloyd's speech makes it all the more necessary that we should remove our troops, although I have a little anxiety as to where our troops are to go. I do not know the country, but of course our troops must go to a place where it is healthy, and where they can live in due comfort. I assume that there are such places to be found in the area defined in the proposals which are now being made. If not, I think the Government would have to reconsider the question. I agree that they must go from the capital, but they must go to a place where they would live in sanitary conditions and have the things necessary to make the occupation agreeable to them.
Now let me say a word about the Sudan. The history of the Sudan is entirely different from that of Egypt. The Sudan was part of Egypt. The Sudanese rose against the Egyptian rule, which they detested, and turned the Egyptians out. They remained out for a long time. Then under Lord Cromer's régime, an expedition carefully thought out and admirably executed by Lord Kitchener reconquered the country. The rule of the Sudan under one particular tribe had been hideous misrule. The country had become impoverished, and the population had diminished from sheer misery. We reconquered it. We were careful to reconquer it in the name of Egypt, and it is absolutely true that we are entitled to say to the Egyptians that they lost the Sudan, that they showed they could not hold it, and that but for us it would never have been got back. We did recognise, however, that the Sudan had been in the possession of Egypt, and we agreed to fly both the Egyptian and the British flags together in the Sudan. We retained, however, full and undisputed control of the administration of the country. That we must continue to do.
The Sudanese would not stand Egyptian government being reimposed, and we must, just as we have been explicit in the declaration of 1922 as to giving up the control of internal affairs in Egypt, be equally explicit in any arrangement we make with the Egyptian Government, that it is not a precedent for the Sudan, and that we intend to continue our administration in the Sudan as before. 1169 Lord Curzon, speaking on behalf of the Conservatives, accepted the declaration as satisfactory about the Sudan, and I think in the proposals which the Government are now making that position is literally correct; that is to say, the Governor-General of the Sudan is to continue to exercise the Government. It is true he has to do it on behalf of the Egyptian Government as well as of ourselves, but that is no change. That always was so after the Sudan was reconquered. The one change which the Government have made is that a battalion of Egyptian troops is to be in the Sudan. I think it must be made perfectly plain that that is a mere concession to the prestige of Egypt's former connection with the Sudan, and it must be regarded in the same way as flying the Egyptian flag along with the British flag has always been regarded as a recognition of the fact that Egypt had an interest in the Sudan. It must, however, be made perfectly plain, that it is really no interference with the administration of the country. That, I understand, is the policy of the Government.
There is of course one point about the Sudan on which we must admit that Egypt is entitled to have some say, and that is the control of the Nile waters. The Nile serves both Egypt and the Sudan. Egypt must not prevent the Sudan having the share of the Nile waters which may be legitimately given to it. On the other hand, it would be quite unfair if the Government of the Sudan were to use the Nile waters for the Sudan to an extent which starved Egypt. We indicated in 1924 that that point of the distribution of the waters was a matter of arrangement between the two Governments and that some joint machinery could be established by which the waters might be jointly shared between the two countries. It is quite clear that neither Government is entitled to a monopoly of the Nile waters.
Having said so much I will say a word about the question of precipitation. There are these four points in the 1922 declaration reserved for discussion. The 1922 declaration had a very good pacifying effect on Egypt. Even though Parliament might have been suspended the country was quiet. The quotation which the noble Lord read out from 1170 The Times about Lord Allenby's régime is a very strong testimony as to what the effect was. It would be a great mistake to let the discussion of those four points be indefinitely postponed. They contemplated discussion with the Egyptian Government. They were the only points reserved as regards independent sovereign status. That declaration clearly contemplated discussion, and discussion at no very distant date. The present Government have, it is true, been only a short time in office but the discussion of these points with the Egyptian Government was ripe before they came before them. They found that in 1927 Sir Austen Chamberlain had drawn up a set of proposals. That was so apparently because the late Government thought that the time had come when these four reserved points could not remain undiscussed. I have not gone very closely into the difference between Sir Austen Chamberlain's proposals of 1927 and the proposals of the present Government, but it seems to me that the difference between them is a difference rather of detail than of substance.
To-night we have had put before us two broad policies. One is the policy of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who made a speech which is precisely the sort of speech I should have endeavoured to make if I had been defending the Cromer régime in Egypt. If that speech is to be carried out to its consequences it means reverting to that sort of work in Egypt. I believe it is impossible to do that after the 1922 declaration. I do not believe it can be done. I believe it is hardly worth discussing whether it is wise because I believe it is impracticable. I believe it is a policy which no Government is likely to propose in Parliament and no Parliament to support. The thing that has been done of recognising the sovereign independence of Egypt is a thing that we cannot go back upon. It is entirely incompatible with the re-establishment of the Cromer régime and I believe that policy to be one which it is futile to advocate. I do not believe it can be pursued and I believe it is futile to advocate it. On the other hand, there is the policy of following out the developments of the declaration of 1922. It is the policy on which the late Government were engaged. That is the policy which the present Government are carrying 1171 a step further. It may be that some of their proposals are open to criticism. So, I think, from the same point of view might have been some of the proposals of 1927. It may be that on some future occasion we might examine more closely the difference between the proposals of 1927 and the present proposals of the Government.
I gather from what Lord Parmoor said that the actual Treaty, as it would be with Egypt, cannot be regarded as yet in its final form. It depends on its acceptance in Egypt. Alterations may be proposed from there. In any case that policy, which the late Government pursued, which the present Government are now carrying out, is the only practical policy for Egypt. It is very undesirable there should be delay. We do not want to drift back into the trouble in Egypt which preceded the declaration of 1922. After the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and to some extent after the speech of the noble Marquess on the Front Opposition Bench, I regard the issue put before us to-night as being an issue between those two broad policies. I reserve my opinion on matters of detail, but on the broad issue which I consider is now before the House after this debate, I certainly decide for the policy which was pursued by the late Government and is now being pursued by His Majesty's Government.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I only wish to intervene for a few moments in this debate because I am probably the only officer present who served in the Egyptian Army in the old days of which we are speaking. It is 32 years since I went across to Egypt and my companion, another young soldier, at that time was Lord Haig. When we got there we came out serving under Lord Cromer in Lower Egypt and Lord Kitchener in Upper Egypt. We were imbued with some of the spirit which we have heard mentioned by Lord Grey just now, almost the Crusaders' spirit, the idea of wishing to do something for this country which was practically clown and out. There were no personal ambitions in the whole of that Army.
Lord Grey talks of the Sudan; he talks of the people starving there. All I can tell him is this, that the Arabs were knocking at the very doors of Egypt and, if we had not got there, there was no 1172 question of the Egyptian flag flying in the Sudan but rather of the Arab flag flying in Egypt. Starving—who was starving? There was not a single soul living for hundreds and hundreds of miles—I made a map on which we marched up to Khartoum—not a single living soul! Yes, one leper! That is the only person I saw alive for hundreds and hundreds of miles. That is what Egypt and the Sudan were at that time. What possible claim can Lower Egypt have on it now? As far as Lower Egypt was concerned and the fellaheen, I did not see much of them but we knew what the country was like and the hopeless state everything was in there. The only thing that the fellaheen had to look forward to there besides corruption and blows was the corvee, to be shot at by Arabs in some place or another. No one who was there then and has been there lately, as I have been, would know it was the same country at all.
I want to safeguard myself in this matter. I do not see how we can do anything in this case now that the cat is out of the bag and the policy is let loose. It is impossible for us to go back on the general lines now put forward. The mischief, if mischief it is, has been done. So I do not think there is any object in talking about Lord Cromer's policy, a policy which, by the way, Lord Lloyd was not backing up when I saw him last in Egypt. He was then supporting the 1922 policy and was trying to stick to some of the reservations which noble Lords opposite wish to throw away. But there it goes—forty years' work, steady trying to build up, and noble Lords opposite, after four days' discussion, go and throw the whole thing away in four minutes. I say four days' discussion because I think the noble Lord opposite [Lord Thomson] was probably there during the four days, although he was not here in the discussion about it immediately after. The suggestion is that the matter is to be settled by the Egyptian people themselves. Well, Egypt when I left it was at least governed, but I fancy that Egypt the next time I go there will not be governed, because they absolutely insist upon what I believe they call a proletarian government, which may be an excellent thing in this country, or somewhere else, but certainly is not suitable for Egypt, where 91 per cent. of the people are illiterate and have never 1173 had anything to do with government. That is one of the mistakes noble Lords opposite have made. And if this had to be done it ought to have been considered between wise heads, and not between a mob on one side and noble Lords opposite on the other.
I would like to ask what was the hurry about the whole thing. The Labour Government had only just come into power. It was a gesture to the world, I suppose. Or was it that these proposals were put forward from Egypt? I would like the noble Lord to answer that question: Were the proposals that we are talking about to-day proposals that came from Egypt, or were they offered first by this Government? It is pretty obvious, if they were put forward by Egypt first, that in that case this Government must have accepted them before they went back. If, on the other hand, this Government proposed them first, well, it would have been very simple to have discussed the matter with this House; or at all events there was no need for the appalling hurry in which they went into the matter, which now it is impossible to go back upon. For, whatever happens, if the Egyptian Government agree to these proposals—it is doubtful if they want them all, or may not want more; but if they agree we are bound to accept them willy-nilly because the good faith of this country is involved.
Yet I do not suppose the name of Egypt was mentioned during the General Election by a single candidate for Parliament. There was a great deal about Russia and other places, and about not interfering with their internal economy. We have always been told that the one thing the present Government do not wish to do is to interfere with the internal economy of another country. And yet at the very beginning of their tenure of office they alter the whole fashion of government in Egypt. Russia may be the spiritual home of noble Lords opposite, but I do not think they will find an earthly Paradise in Egypt in a year or two. And who are they going to deal with? What is the good of putting up a Government in Egypt? There have been fifteen Cabinets there in ten years. It would be far better if noble Lords would settle what their policy is going to be and 1174 announce it to Egypt and the world, and insist upon it.
I do not wish to say a word about the unfortunate circumstances accompanying the retirement of Lord Lloyd, but I would like to ask the noble Lord whether the request for his dismissal came from Egypt first, or whether it was first proposed by this country. Because it would make a good deal of difference. If it came from Egypt it was an abject surrender made at a very unfortunate moment. If it came from this side it would have been very much better not to have made it just while you were crossing the stile, unless there was some strong reason for it.
A word with regard to the reservation concerning foreigners. The Lord President of the Council told us that there was going to be absolutely no difference in the policy of the reservations, but that it might mean a little different procedure. A matter of procedure surely is not doing away with the whole of a reservation, as the present Government have done. If there is trouble in Egypt—and there might be trouble—how are foreigners to be protected? That is the point I want to ask. We can protect ourselves, but, after all, there are foreign women and children whom we have given a definite pledge to protect, and we must not give up that pledge unless we have another definite pledge which can be effectively carried out. The noble Lord is going to trust to the Egyptian Army.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD THOMSON) indicated dissent.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
Well, he is not going to trust to the Egyptian Army, but he is going to trust to the Egyptian police. In many cases in Egypt when something goes wrong, when there is what is called an émeute, the police and soldiers and the women are all on one side. Supposing there was a police strike going on, would not that be an extremely difficult moment? And how are you to get troops there in time? You might get them there as a funeral party. Perhaps the noble Lord has in his mind government by aeroplane?
§ LORD THOMSON indicated dissent.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
I am very glad he has not. Then God help the foreigners! That was the only other way I could think of. Then will 1175 the noble Lord tell us how it is going to be done? This is a peace Government. Therefore the first thing they did as a gesture was to send a battalion to the Sudan. What was the object of that, and where is that battalion going to be stationed? It certainly will be perfectly ineffective if it is put in Southern Sudan: it will be swallowed up in a minute. If it is put in Northern Sudan there does not seem to be much necessity for it. In these days of economy and peace, what is the good of keeping up a battalion which is not required? If, on the other hand, it is going to free a British battalion then I think this country will have a good deal to say about it, as well as the Sudan, because it is only on the white battalions that you can possibly depend for the safety of the Sudan and the safety of Egypt.
I do agree that possibly there are reasons for not keeping troops in Cairo, but I think they should not be nearly so far off as is suggested in these proposals. First of all, the places where it is proposed to put the troops are extremely unhealthy, there is no water, and they are hopeless from a defensive point of view. I am quite prepared to make that statement, because I commanded that area in the War, and I know something about it, and the difficulties and impossibilities of that place for troops in peace time. Instead of these two lines that have been suggested some far better arrangement must be come to, and the troops grouped somewhere midway between, where they will be of use for protection, but will not be so visible as to offend Egyptian pride. Egyptians look upon the British uniform there almost as an insult, not because they dislike it, but because they feel it means they are not governing their own country. Therefore, perhaps the more it is kept out of the way the better; but the troops ought to be kept in some place where they can be of use for the protection of civilians and of Egyptians themselves if called on, and also for the purposes of defence.
The last point I want to touch upon is a very important one. Nowhere have I seen a single word said as to safeguarding the interests of British trade. Egypt was one of the biggest places we had for our commerce. Last year there was a big international group, but under British control, that proposed to spend 1176 some £26,000,000 in Egypt and the proposals were very near being signed and were really agreed upon, but the moment this Government came in Egypt ceased to go on with this proposal, and nobody, international or otherwise, is likely to put a sum of that sort into Egypt if there is not going to be any protection of foreigners and their trade. It has done incalculable harm, for that money has been withdrawn from Egypt. The point is this. There was an agreement between the officials in this country, the people concerned and Egypt, and that provided that all the machinery and anything of that sort which was wanted should come from Britain. We may be perfectly certain it would have been something like £20,000,000 worth. All that money has been thrown away by this Government, and yet they talk about looking abroad, as the Home Secretary did yesterday, to look after our industry. The Government have done nothing to safeguard British industry. I think it is absolutely essential before you make any Treaty of any kind that you should have a straight understanding that we are not going to do the paying all the time, that we are not going to do all the dirty work and get nothing in return. I am speaking from a commercial point of view.
§ LORD THOMSON
My Lords, at this late hour I shall not detain your Lordships long, but there are a certain number of points which I think you will agree need covering. The first point I want to make quite clear is this. There was to my amazement in the mind of the noble Marquess some misconception as to what this White Paper is. There have been two White Papers, I know, but the title of this White Paper is "Exchange of Notes relating to Proposals for an Anglo-Egyptian Settlement." The noble Marquess talked about a draft Treaty every time he mentioned this document in his speech, and as for the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, he almost assumed that the Treaty had been signed. I would like to point out to your Lordships that the governing condition of that White Paper is the letter which heads it:—
§ No. 1.
§ Mr. A. Henderson to Mohammed Mahmoud Pasha.
The accompanying proposals, together with the explanatory notes to be exchanged
on matters of detail, which your Excellency is about to submit to the Egyptian Parliament, represent the extreme limit to which I could recommend His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to go in their desire to achieve a lasting and honourable settlement of outstanding questions between Great Britain and Egypt.
That paragraph of the letter and the other paragraph of it which I will not inflict upon your Lordships, represent the governing conditions of these negotiations. These negotiations are going on, and those proposals that are contained in the body of the document have first to be ratified by the new Egyptian Parliament, and subsequently have to be approved by the Parliament of Great Britain. I think it is a little unfair, though the noble Marquess is always so punctilious and courteous, to describe such a document as a draft Treaty, which he, I am afraid, frequently did in the course of his speech.
§ The noble Duke made some reference to how these negotiations commenced and why they commenced. The answer to that is fairly simple. The Prime Minister of Egypt was over here in the month of June, and he saw, quite naturally and properly, the Foreign Secretary, and the Foreign Secretary discussed, quite inevitably, Egyptian questions with him, and was so impressed by the reasonable character of the proposals of Mahmoud Pasha, the then Prime Minister, that he requested permission of the Cabinet to carry on negotiations. This conduct has been described as one of extreme precipitancy. The explanation given by the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, who of all people should be most versed in the procedure necessary in such matters, and who probably is as good a judge of that matter as any noble Lord in this House, shows, I submit, that there was very little precipitancy about our procedure. The Prime Minister of that country was over here. He submitted reasonable proposals; he conversed with the Foreign Secretary; the Cabinet was consulted and the present proposals resulted; and the most important part of this White Paper consists in the notes there drawn up. I do not like to suggest it, but it seems to me some noble Lords cannot have read the White Paper which they criticised so freely.
There is one question which I should like to get out of the way as soon as
possible, because it was put by the noble Marquess at the beginning of his speech. It was his first question and, by some oversight on the part of my noble Leader, he did not give him an answer. It was a question in regard to foreign intervention. The part of the declaration of the Prime Minister of the day to which the noble Marquess referred, I think I am right in saying, is the first sentence of the last paragraph but one which reads:—
The welfare and integrity of Egypt are necessary to the peace and safety of the British Empire which will, therefore, always maintain as an essential British interest the special relations between itself and Egypt long recognised by other Governments.
Is that the part to which the noble Marquess referred?
§ LORD THOMSON
I agree. But on that sentence even as it stands the noble Marquess need have no anxiety on that score.
§ LORD THOMSON
The whole paragraph stands. I had copied it out myself long before the noble Marquess put his question when I was preparing for this speech. The rest does not seem to me to be even so emphatic. I do not think there are any other points which will not come within the few remarks I propose to make in the body of my speech. I will, therefore, get on with what I have to say on the general question. To begin with, I do, if I may say so, profoundly agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, said, and I say this, with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, about the real implications of his speech. If Lord Lloyd's attitude means anything to one at all it means this, that he does not agree with the declaration of 1922, that he would, in fact, like to denounce it. It may be he went out to his great office in Egypt agreeing with that declaration, and may have learned by bitter experience that it was impossible to put it into effect. After all, that is what the present Government are doing—fulfilling their word with regard to the declaration of 1922. But he cannot believe in that declaration which gives sovereign independence to a country like Egypt when, in the same 1179 breath almost, he proceeds to say that the Egyptian people possess none of the qualities which are essential in a country possessing sovereign independence. He derided their Law Courts, their system of justice, their education. Every point that he made in his indictment of the Egyptian people went to prove that they were not fit for a condition of sovereign independence.
§ LORD LLOYD
I hope the noble Lord will forgive me interrupting, but I think unwittingly he has not given a very fair picture of what I said. There is no noble Lord in this House, except the noble Lord himself, who has made a mistake I think, who could possibly give such a travesty of what I said. With regard to the administration of justice I paid the highest possible tribute I could to the Law Courts, which by general consent are fair. I said that only in times of great political excitement had there been occasions when justice had been deflected. To say that I derided all Egyptian institutions is not at all a fair description of what I said.
§ LORD THOMSON
I think I shall have the agreement of the House when I say that the whole tenor of Lord Lloyd's remarks about the Egyptian people was to the effect that they were not fit for a condition of sovereign independence. He proceeded to cite various instances—I may have laid too much stress on the Law Courts—about their incapacity for maintaining law and order in country districts. Every remark he made was to that effect. Well, after all, the whole purpose of the declaration of 1922 was to declare Egypt a sovereign independent State.
§ LORD THOMSON
I quite agree and I am coming to those reservations. Let me take first the reservation which has caused most controversy this afternoon and that is the risk to the security of our Imperial communications. To hear some of the speeches we have heard one would almost imagine that the Government have proceeded without any expert advice at all in this matter. I will not say that from the beginning of the conversations the experts were consulted, but in the later stages before these proposals were drawn up the most scrupulous attention was paid to the opinion of the military experts. If there is one thing in the 1180 world on which the present Prime Minister is what I may call pernicketty it is on consultation with experts. I have done a very great deal of work with him now and I can assure your Lordships that I would not venture to put up a proposition to the Prime Minister to-day unless, to use the language of the War Office, I had looked up the file and consulted the experts. I do not say for a moment that the military expert is entirely satisfied to get away from the Canal. I am an old soldier myself and if I were a General Officer at the present moment I should much prefer to have my headquarters in Cairo, the capital of a sovereign State, than talk about the defensive depth of the Canal. I have been a Staff officer myself and I have heard the words strategy and strategical considerations frequently used. There is one old saying about strategy, and that is that strategy and policy go hand in hand. If strategy and policy do not go hand in hand then the Government of the country where that mistake is made is bound to suffer. It is possibly one of the few advantages of a dictatorship that strategy and policy in time of war do go hand in hand.
But what about the defence of the Canal? Strategy is mainly a post-war conception. If anybody had said before the last War, for example, that we should be in thousands of miles of trenches he would have been described as a lunatic. The strategy of the defence of the Canal in depth, so pleasing to the minds of generals, is based on what? It is based on the defence of the Canal against nobody but the Egyptian people. It is not based on the defence of the Canal against any foreign Power. It is based on the underlying idea that the people who are going to attack the Canal are the Egyptian people. We are about to enter into a Treaty of Alliance with Egypt and I question whether any Egyptian Government, however extravagant, however foolish, is going to take on in war the might and power of the British Empire. But for the defence of the Canal against the most probable form of attack in time of war we had to take precautions during the last War. As the noble Duke knows well, you have to guard the actual vital line of communication, the Canal itself. You have to guard against an act of sabotage such as the sinking of a ship and blowing it up with dynamite in one 1181 of the narrow passages cut through rock. That is the danger to the Canal, an act of sabotage of that kind. We have on either side of the Canal to-day—under these proposals we shall have—a wide zone. I do not say that any soldier of my acquaintance or any military man is enthusiastic about that proposal perhaps, but I have never met one man, one conscientious, competent soldier, who has not told me that from the point of view of the defence of the Canal, which is all we are aiming at, it is workable.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
May I ask if it necessary to keep troops in trenches all the time in time of peace?
§ LORD THOMSON
I think the noble Duke has got rather a vivid imagination. I am quite sure he cannot have read the note headed "Army" in the White Paper. There is no suggestion that these troops are going to live in trenches.
§ LORD THOMSON
Nor along the battle line. If the noble Duke will take the trouble to read the White Paper he will see that there is to be no piecemeal transference of troops to the Canal zone, but they will go en bloc and at the cost of the Egyptian taxpayer. Barracks are to be put up, recognised as suitable by our own representatives. It is to be done by the Egyptian taxpayer and the most moderate estimate of the time required for the transfer is three years.
Now I come to the question of conditions of health. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who perhaps knows Egypt as well as any one of us—but I flatter myself that I also know it; I have been there as soldier and I have been there as traveller, and I hope to be there again—has talked about troops living in a desert on either side of the Canal, or on the west side of the Canal I think he said. He must be aware that we have a considerable garrison living in that zone already, that at Moascar we have two battalions of infantry, a company of engineers and a large detachment of the Air Force. They are not living in a desert. They are not living under conditions of trench warfare as described by the noble Duke. May I say there are places in the Canal zone, such as Port 1182 Said, which are health resorts? Many people in summer preter Port Said to Alexandria, and Alexandria is crowded with tourists who go there for the sake of its climate in the summer. I really think there has been a great deal of exaggeration about this matter, an extraordinary amount of ignorance for such a House as this, most members of which have travelled freely. Surely they cannot accept such a statement as that there is a desert on the west side of the Suez Canal. There are amenities to be provided under the terms of this White Paper—amenities for sport and amusement as well, which will satisfy, I should imagine, the most exacting General.
There has been some talk about the water supply. The water supply also is provided for. I would ask your Lordships to consider this: What safety is there, under present conditions, for anybody living on the Canal if the state of riot and confusion such as is envisaged by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, occurs? You do not defend the sweet water canal by occupying Cairo. A couple of men with a spade and a pick could upset the water supply between Cairo and the Canal. We provided, and we mean to provide, for emergency measures. I doubt if, in their own interests, the Egyptian people are going to upset a thing like the sweet water canal. We are proposing to make that as unlikely as possible by entering into an alliance with them, but they would have to be in a state of very desperate warfare with us before they would perform that piece of sabotage. Is the underlying assumption in the minds of noble Lords who criticise these proposals that we are going to have a war with Egypt? I wonder what chance the Egyptians would stand if they fought us single-handed, and what object they could have in making war upon us.
The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, referred to what he considers an even graver state of affairs—namely, widespread disorder. I think that disorder in a country like Egypt if, caused by political grievances. You are not going to stop disorder by ignoring those grievances or by an Army of Occupation. What protection does the Army of Occupation in Cairo or Alexandria afford to the white inhabitants of Egypt? They are not all living in Cairo and Alexandria. There are hundreds of thousands of them, I suppose, 1183 or at any rate tens of thousands, living in Tanta, in Assiout, in Luxor and places up the Nile. If it is essential for the protection of life and property to have British soldiers, why have we not got them in Suez and Port Said, which are two of the most disorderly cities, in a certain sense, in the world?
§ LORD LLOYD
I can give the noble Lord the answer, which I think is available to him. I expect the noble Lord knows quite well—he has the opportunity of knowing—that there is a defence scheme providing for measures necessary to secure lives and property in all these outlying places.
§ LORD THOMSON
I am not talking of a scheme. The argument has been put forward that to ensure the safety of the lives of foreigners living in Egypt we must have an Army of Occupation in Cairo, that such an Army is necessary to defend their lives, that you must have an Army on the spot. Reference has been made to the presence of the British soldier. There is not a British soldier on duty in Port Said, there is not one at Suez, there is not one at Ismailia, there is not one at Tanta or at Assiout. Upon what do we depend for the safety of the lives of foreigners in these places? We depend on police forces, backed up in the last emergency by military forces.
I want to make a very strong point about this question of using the Army as a police force, especially an Army of Occupation in a sovereign independent State of whom we are seeking to make an Ally. I claim that it is a misuse of soldiery to use them for police work, that it is one of the most dangerous, difficult and delicate functions that an Army can carry out and that there is no soldier who cares about it. It is a misuse and an abuse of their function. Yet the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, was that we should keep that Army of Occupation in Egypt to preserve law and order and to protect the lives of foreigners, which is one of our solemn obligations in that country. I claim that, if we are going to base the safety of foreigners and property in a country like Egypt upon an Army of Occupation, there can be no limit to that commitment.
There are many instances that occur to the mind of any one who has been closely associated with Egypt for some 1184 time. What happens, and what has happened, in the case of riot in Egypt? Take 1921. On the first day, I think, about fourteen people were killed, and on the second another eleven, including an Italian, who was burnt alive. No appeal was made to the troops until the evening of the second day. When the troops arrived the riot was quelled. Now we are going to keep on the Canal such forces as His Britannic Majesty's Government consider necessary. You will find that in the White Paper. I claim that you will not want thirty-six hours for the troops to arrive in Cairo, Alexandria, or any other city in Egypt with the means of locomotion at the disposal of the commanding officer. I think you can get from the Canal Zone to Cairo in six hours in an armoured car. I should doubt if it would take-much longer to Alexandria. Are we to inflict an Army of Occupation on the capital of a sovereign independent State on the ground that in no other way can we defend the lives and properties of foreigners living there? I think it was the noble Marquess himself who said that we ought always to recognise that the Egyptians had some responsibility for the maintenance of law and order.
§ LORD THOMSON
We share it still, I can assure the noble Marquess, under these proposals. First of all, we state in writing, in the form of a solemn Treaty, that they are responsible, and if they do not maintain law and order, if the lives and property of foreigners, including British, are jeopardised by their neglect, then, quite obviously, they will have contravened the Treaty. They will have failed to fulfil their obligations.
§ LORD THOMSON
That is a very difficult and complicated question. I venture, with all respect to the noble Viscount, to doubt whether he is right in that 1185 matter. Certainly the mixing up of Geneva with this Treaty came as a surprise to me.
§ LORD THOMSON
It is certainly a point which I will study. Noble Lords opposite will have every opportunity of putting forward their contentions on this proposal. I admit that what fell from the noble Marquess on the subject of the Optional Clause has interested me very much, and I must confess that until this morning I did not even know that he was going to mention the Optional Clause. It did not strike me—though I admit it is so—that it was germane.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am very sorry that I did not give longer notice, but I told the noble and learned Lord.
§ LORD THOMSON
Before I sit down there is just one other point that I want to make—it has been referred to by two noble Lords—in connection with trade. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, practically informed the House that his idea was to stimulate and help British trade. I think the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, also said something upon a that subject, and in any case it is quite obviously important and I am justified, I think, in referring to it. I do not wish to be contentious or offensive in this matter, but I do submit that upon the figures that I shall give your Lordships certain deductions can fairly be based. The total value of Egyptian imports from 1921 to 1928, inclusive, averaged £51,000,000 per annum, and the percentage of British trade during those years stands as follows—I read these figures with a view of showing the direct connection between politics and trade in Egypt: In 1921, the first normal year after the War, the British percentage was 30.5 per cent. In 1922, the year of the declaration, our trade rose to 34.5 per cent. In 1923, the year of the promulgation of the Constitution, it fell to 32.6 per cent. In 1924, the year when the negotiations with Zaghlul failed, it fell to 27.6 per cent. In 1925, the year of Lord Lloyd's appointment, it fell further to 25 per cent. In 1926 it fell to 21.8 per cent.—Lord Lloyd was still High Commissioner—and in 1927, the year of the negotiations for the Sarwat Treaty, up went our percentage from 21.8 per cent. to 1186 25.6 per cent. In 1928, the noble Lord's last year of office, it fell again to 21.8 per cent. That is the history of our trade with Egypt, and I do not think that any noble Lord will accuse me of bias or unfairness if I say that those figures follow very curiously on the political situation.
I ought to mention the question of the battalion in the Sudan. The noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, said we were sending a battalion to the Sudan, and I presume he meant an Egyptian battalion. We are doing nothing of the kind. May I call the attention of the noble Duke to the White Paper, and the passage headed "Sudan"? There he will find a letter from Mr. Henderson to the Prime Minister of Egypt at the time, in which it is said that if, as we earnestly trust, good relations continue and are maintained between ourselves and the Egyptian people, and the Treaty proposals proceed happily, then His Majesty's Government will consider sympathetically the return of an Egyptian battalion to the Sudan.
§ LORD THOMSON
For the reasons given by the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon. We have a condominium in the Sudan with Egypt, and Egypt helped us to reconquer the Sudan. I believe the noble Duke was there as a soldier.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
I do not think Egypt helped us at all. The fellaheen were kept in the background, and it was the black troops whom we captured from the enemy who helped us mostly.
§ LORD THOMSON
At any rate I do not think the noble Duke will dispute that Egyptian finance helped us to re-conquer the Sudan. The whole tenor of the debate has been, as it seems to me, founded on the idea that at one time in some golden age we ruled in Egypt. I may state my own opinion in that matter, but I do not think we ever ruled in Egypt. We have had considerable influence in Egyptian affairs when great Britishers, like Lord Kitchener and Lord Cromer, were there, but they have always worked in collaboration with the Egyptian Government, and they could not have carried on at all if they had not I can remember a time since the War when we had 70,000 British troops 1187 in and around Cairo, and Zaghlul Pasha was under arrest. Life in Cairo was paralysed, and we had to have the streets swept by Indian soldiers under the protection of British bayonets. The paralysis continued until Lord Allenby ordered the release of Zaghlul, and resumed collaboration with the Egyptian Government. We occupied Cairo and Alexandria, and nearly every condition insisted upon by noble Lords opposite for our rule in Egypt was fulfilled. Yet life in Cairo was paralysed. We were not even able to get the streets cleaned. We were helpless, and remained there until the streets became pestilential.
I readily admit that it is very difficult to-day to collaborate with the Government of Egypt. The spread of nationalism has undoubtedly made the task far more difficult than it was in the time of Lord Cromer, for instance, but it is none the less necessary for us to attempt to collaborate, and continue that excellent system under slightly or even considerably changed conditions, always provided that the vital interests of the British Empire are safeguarded. I submit that these vital interests, represented as they were by the four reserved points, are met by the proposals now before the House. I submit that the Canal as a canal is as safe as it has ever been, and probably safer. I submit that the lives of foreigners will be just as well safeguarded as they are under the present system. I submit that a Treaty of Alliance with Egypt will safeguard that country against foreign aggression, and that our rights are entirely established as regards foreign intervention. I submit, finally, that the Sudan question has been met in the only fair and reasonable way it could be met. In fact, it has been met in such a way as to give absolute satisfaction to the man on the spot. What more can one want? Is our only offence that we have been precipitate in trying to fulfil the declaration we made seven years ago? I cannot believe that it is a just accusation. We have certainly not been slow, but we cannot be accused of being precipitate in this matter. I ask your Lordships not to complicate what
§ is already a very difficult situation by a vote which would cause despondency in Egypt. Our proposals have been thoroughly investigated. They are nothing but proposals, and your Lordships will have a further opportunity of considering them before they ever become a Treaty.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am quite certain that you would not endure another speech and I do not propose to say more than a few sentences. I hope the noble and gallant Lord will not think it any disrespect to him that I do not, as I should very much like to, follow him step by step in his speech. The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House explained that there was a fundamental difference with ourselves whereas, of course, only a few months ago there was to be no change of policy. I leave the noble Lord to explain that. I must make one remark in respect to the declaration of 1922. That, as I understand, from the noble and gallant Lord who has just sat down, is maintained in all its details. That is the answer to the noble Viscount who delivered so powerful a speech against us from the great authority and knowledge he possesses. The declaration of 1922 was not, as he represented, handing over Egypt without reservations to manage its own affairs. There were emphatic reservations which limit its power to manage its own affairs, and which were an essential part of the declaration of 1922. That is my answer to the noble Viscount. The difference between us is not the difference between the Cromer régime and any régime which succeeded it. It is simply this. Are those reservations dependent for their efficacy upon our own authority or are they to be internationally controlled? The Government have adopted—I think precipitantly—the latter policy. We hold to the former policy. I ask your Lordships to support us.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 46: Not-Contents, 13.1189
|Wellington, D.||Abingdon, E.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Ancaster, E.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]|
|Bath, M.||Dartmouth, E.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Grey, E.||Midleton, E.|
|Morton, E.||Askwith, L.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|Onslow, E.||Auckland, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Plymouth, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Bayford, L.||Lloyd, L.|
|Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Carson, L.||Lovat, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Cottesloe, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Daryngton, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||St. Levan, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Sydenham of Combe, L.|
|Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Templemore, L. [Teller.]|
|Aberdare, L.||Faringdon, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|Alvingham, L.||Forester, L.|
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Grey of Fallodon, V.||Marks, L. [Teller.]|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Arnold, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Gainford, L.||Thomson, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)|
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Motion agreed to accordingly.