HC Deb 25 June 1861 vol 163 c1562

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he has received any information that M. de Lesseps has obtained or is likely to obtain authority from the Pasha of Egypt to compel the Natives by forced labour to work on the Suez Canal; whether it be in accordance with the engagements of the Pasha towards the Porte, for the observance of the Hatti Scheriff, of Gulhané, and other humane Edicts of the Empire, that he should compel the Natives of Egypt to work by forced labour; and whether Her Majesty's Government have made, or proposed to make, any Communication to the Governments of Turkey, Egypt, or France, in the interest of humanity, on this subject?


Sir, Her Majesty's Government received information some time ago from Her Majesty's Consul General in Egypt that M. de Lesseps had obtained an order from the Pasha that 10,000 of the natives should be employed by forced labour on the works of the canal. The Consul General stated that a number of natives had been sent down by the railroad in order to labour at the works, but he expected that in a few days they would be allowed to depart again, as, in his opinion, the measure was intended only to show that the works of the canal were being proceeded with. After that Her Majesty's Government represented to the Porte that the system of forced labour was contrary to the agreement with the Sultan. By the latest accounts which have been received we learn that Kurschid Pasha had stated that no forced labour was going on there, and that he did not give any credence to the reports on the subject. Whether he had been deceived, or whether the forced labour had ceased, it is impossible for me to say. I proposed that there should be further investigation into the subject on the spot. As to the last question of the hon. Gentleman, I have to state that inquiries have been made on the subject referred to. In conclusion, I may also mention to the House that I have to day received intelligence that the Sultan died this morning.