HC Deb 12 June 1863 vol 171 c804

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether a statement published by M. Lesseps had reached the Government, asserting that the Turkish Despatch prohibiting forced labour on the Suez Canal, &c. was anterior to Conventions of the 18th and 20th of March last, by which all the questions relating to the cutting of the Canal were settled in conformity with the engagements of the Egyptian Government; and whether those latter expressions were to be considered to mean the continuance of forced labour; and, if so, whether the British Government would oppose any such transaction?


said, in reply, that Her Majesty's Government had no knowledge of the communication from. M. Lesseps to which the hon. Gentleman alluded. The Sultan, in virtue of his sovereign rights over the whole of his dominions, of which Egypt formed a part, had extended to Egypt the laws against forced labour for any purpose, which had long prevailed in other portions of his Empire. Her Majesty's Government conceived that he had a perfect right to do that in his own dominions; and no foreigner, whether he was a person engaged in commercial speculations, or a representative of a foreign Government, had any right to obstruct the Sultan in carrying into execution that law, which was founded on a just consideration of the interests of his subjects, and which already prevailed in every other portion of his dominions. Of course, Her Majesty's Government would give the Sultan every support in his endeavours to carry that law into effect.