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Egypt—Alleged Sale Of Slaves At Cairo — Parliament—Order—Argument On Putting A Question
12 April 1877
Volume 233
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rose to put the following Question:—To ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If the Consul General in Egypt, in answering the Questions as to the sale of slaves, sent no information as to the slaves of Ismail Sadyk Pasha; and, if Her Majesty's Government have received information from any other sources that when that Minister was removed his property was confiscated by the Egyptian Government, and those three hundred women were sold? The hon. Gentleman said, as this was the fourth occasion on which he had thought it necesary to put the Question on the Paper, he desired, with the permission of the House, to make some explanation; and, as in the course of that explanation lie should have to pass strictures on somebody, he must ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House. ["Oh, oh!"] He did so with regret, because he thought that was a form which should be very rarely exercised. This was only the second time in his Parliamentary career that he had availed himself of it. Some time ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave the House a lecture on the putting of Questions.

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rose and said, he always understood that it was convenient to the House that any application to the Ministers in the form of a Question should be simply in the terms on the Paper, and he wished to ask the Speaker, Whether it was competent for the hon. Gentleman to go into a long statement; and whether, in order to do so, he was entitled to move the Adjournment of the House?

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It has always been the rule of the House that no argument or debate should be allowed on putting a Question. At the same time, I am bound to admit that it is open to an hon. Member, if he thinks proper, to move the Adjournment of the House on putting his Question. I would wish, however, to point out to the hon. Member and to the House that very great inconvenience would arise if a practice of that kind should prevail. The practice of putting Questions to Members of the Government and receiving their Answers to Questions is highly convenient to the public service, and if Motions for the Adjournment of the House were frequently interposed when Questions were put, that practice would have to be reconsidered by the House.

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said, he had already stated that he knew he was taking an inconvenient course, but he wished to add that the blame rested not at his door, but at that of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who, by not answering his Question fairly on Monday, compelled him to take this course. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had read a lesson on the putting of Questions; but, in his opinion, something also required to be said on the answering of Questions by those in Office. There were several instances on Monday last in which Questions were answered in a most improper way. In this ease he put a Question on the Paper on the 19th of March, and asked it in the House on the 22nd, when he was told that a telegram had been sent to Egypt and no answer received. He repeated the Question on the 26th, and again on the 9th of April, three weeks after the first Question, and only then he was told there was an answer by telegraph. Surely after three weeks there was time to have received a reply by letter to the first telegram. The telegram said there was nothing to confirm the report of Captain Kennedy with respect to the sale of 300 women at Cairo in February last, and it was impossible there could have been a public sale of slaves without its becoming generally known, and that the authorities of the Government frequently stopped and released small batches of slaves coming to Cairo. Now, the hon. Gentleman had imported here the words "February" and "public," which were not in his (Mr. Anderson's) Question. He did not think that the hon. Gentleman intended to mislead him or the House, but the answer was entirely misleading. His Question was not whether there was a sale in February, nor whether it was a public sale; but whether there was a sale at all at the instance of the Egyptian Government. Little more than a month ago they were told by the Under Secretary that Her Majesty's Government was negotiating a Treaty with the Khedive for the suppression of the Slave Trade. He wanted to show that the infamous Turco-Egyptian Government, while pretending to negotiate for the suppression of the Slave Trade, while pretending to send ships to the Red Sea for the suppression of the Slave Trade, while pretending to empower Colonel Gordon to suppress it, and while pretending, as they were now told, to stop and liberate batches of slaves, was at that time selling slaves itself and putting the proceeds of that infamous traffic into its own pocket. The facts of the case were perfectly well known at Cairo. Some time ago the Financial Minister, Ismail Sadyk Pasha, was banished up the Nile, and his property, amounting to about £5,000,000, confiscated, and among that property were 300 women—the Minister's harem—and the Egyptian Government proceeded to sell those slaves. So it seemed they liberated slaves when they could do it at other people's expense, but sold them when the loss would be their own. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary drew cobweb distinctions between selling and transferring, between domestic slavery and the Slave Trade. Why, the one was the sole cause of the other. If slaves could not be sold at Cairo they would not be brought there. Then, how could the Khedive be honestly trying to suppress the Slave Trade while encouraging a market in Cairo? This country had neglected its opportunities of dealing with this matter. It should long ago have insisted on Suppression Treaties with Turkey and Egypt, and put down the vile traffic in the Red Sea. But he must say a word about the Consul General. He could not possibly be ignorant of these things, and yet pretended to make careful inquiries and contradict them. The Government was to blame for that. They encouraged their Consuls to silence. They all saw how Sir Henry Elliot had been praised and supported for his secrecy and silence, and so now they had Mr. Vivian following the example. The hon. Member con- cluded by moving the Adjournment of the House.

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seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—( Mr. Anderson.)

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I am very sorry indeed that the Answer which I gave the other day, to the best of my ability and according to the best of my information, was not satisfactory to the hon. Member. As far as I could hear the hon. Member his complaint comes to this — that whereas he asked a Question upon one subject, I gave him an Answer upon a totally different subject. The Question he had asked was as to the sale of certain slaves reported by Captain Kennedy in a Paper which he had seen at the Foreign Office. That report was telegraphed to Mr. Vivian, and certainly in the report of Captain Kennedy the word "public" occurred, and the date, February, was mentioned. [Mr. ANDERSON: No.] It is my impression they were in the Question; but I have not got it by me, and so cannot prove my assertion. At any rate, the full report of Captain Kennedy was sent to Mr. Vivian, and we received Mr. Vivian's reply to that Question. As I stated in my reply the other day, Mr. Vivian stated it was impossible there could have been a public sale of slaves in Cairo without its being publicly known. [Mr. ANDERSON: Public sale?] Yes; I said public sale. He stated that he had made very minute inquiries, and could not find that any such sale had taken place. Everybody knows that slavery does exist in Egypt, and therefore there can be no doubt that transfers of slaves do continually occur and are a very common occurrence.

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By the Government?

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Well, that is a question I have not been asked.

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Yes, it is. ["Order!"]

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The hon. Member is in possession of the House upon a Motion made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, and he is entitled to speak to the conclusion of his address without interruption.

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If hon. Members will look at the Question now put they will see that the name of Ismail Sadyk Pasha is introduced. This is the first time that the name of Ismail Sadyk Pasha has been mentioned at all, so that my Answer the other day did not apply to that particular Question. The Question as to the sale of Ismail Sadyk Pasha's slaves is a different Question altogether. In reference to this Question I have now to state that in the despatch which was mentioned by me the other day Mr. Vivian did allude to the sale of these women; but I was not asked a Question about Ismail Sadyk Pasha, and therefore only answered the Question asked by the hon. Member. We sent the report of the alleged sale to Mr. Vivian, and asked him to report upon the sale of the Pasha's slaves, and the reply has not been received yet. When it arrives I have not the slightest hesitation to give the fullest information on the subject. I have no wish to conceal anything relating to the question of the Slave Trade in Egypt. Indeed, we are rather obliged to hon. Members for bringing forward Questions in this House relating to the Slave Trade. There is nothing to which Her Majesty's Government can look with greater satisfaction than the efforts they have made during the time they have been in Office to suppress the Slave Trade, whether in Egypt or elsewhere. But there is a radical difference between the Slave Trade and slavery in Egypt. The hon. Member's Question the other day was about the Slave Trade; the Question he asks now is about the sale of slaves in Egypt, which, there can be no doubt, is an every-day occurrence.

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, in withdrawing the Motion, explained that the word "February" and the word "public" never occurred in Captain Kennedy's report or in any of his own Questions, while the whole point of them had been, was the selling at the instance of the Egyptian Government?

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said, that as a not inattentive Member, and one desirous of protecting the Privileges of the House, he could not but feel that they were upon the point, after such an example as they had just had, of jeopardizing those Privileges. Members had had the right to ask simple Questions of the Government and of their fellow Members; but they had a correlative duty, which was that they should not mix up with those Questions matters of debate which could not be adequately considered. By doing so, he considered that they weakened and imperilled the proper Privileges and advantages. He did not intend himself to call attention to the matter at some future time; but hoped that some hon. Member of higher position and more experience would do so.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.