HC Deb 15 May 1863 vol 170 c1770

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the Despatch from the Turkish Government, prohibiting the compulsory employment of forced labour on the works of the Suez Canal, which has obtained publicity, be authentic; and, if so, whether Her Majesty's Government will support the Sultan in carrying that object into effect?


It is well known, Sir, that Egypt is part of the Turkish Empire, and is under the suzerainty of the Sultan. The law of Turkey is, and has been for a long time, that there is no power to compel labour. But in Egypt the system of compulsory labour has, until a very recent period, prevailed. The Pasha and the Sultan have now determined to put an end to all forced labour in Egypt. Of course, that applies to the Canal and to any other work which is going on. Her Majesty's Government entirely approve that determination, and have assured the Sultan that he will receive, and the Pasha will receive, the most energetic and active support of England in enforcing that which is obviously a proper law for the whole empire. I do not understand whence any opposition can arise, because, in the first place, the Sultan has a perfect right to legislate for his own subjects, and, in the second place, England and France, as two of the five great Powers, have entered into an engagement by treaty to respect the independence of the Sultan and the integrity of the Turkish Empire. Therefore, I apprehend that both England and France would feel themselves bound in honour to support the Sultan in so wise and humane a resolution, and I do not understand from what other quarter any opposition could arise.