HC Deb 01 April 1873 vol 215 cc451-66

in rising to call the attention of the House to the interests of British shipowners in the navigation of the Suez Canal, and to move— That, the Commerce of this Country being so deeply interested in the uninterrupted navigation of the Suez Canal, it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should at once give its adhesion to the judicial reforms in Egypt, suggested and approved of by the Representatives of all the European Powers, by which tribunals will be created for the better administration of justice in Egypt, and the adjudication of differences which may arise between British Shipowners and the administrators of the Suez Canal Company. said, he wished to point out where he thought the Government had been very much to blame in their recent policy with respect to Egypt. There was nothing more remarkable than the progress which had been made during recent years in our communication with the East. Through the exertions of Lieutenant Waghorn the overland route had been established, and afterwards a railway was constructed. When this railway was established in 1852, the French Government saw the mistake which they had made in opposing it, and M. de Lesseps commenced that wonderful work which had been so successfully carried out, the Suez Canal. M. de Lesseps had remarked to him—"My first principle in life was always to have confidence," and he had succeeded where the Ptolemies had failed. The undertaking was started by a French Company; but in the Firman it was called a Turco-Egyptian association, and was subject to the laws and customs of the Turco-Egyptian Government. The Suez Canal cost £16,000,000, half of which was subscribed by a French Company; and, notwithstanding the Canal was on the high road to India, the scheme had never been supported by the English Government; Lord Palmerston, indeed, did everything to oppose it, and not a hundred pounds of English money was engaged in the speculation. The French Company now possessed £12,000,000 out of the £16,000,000 expended on the scheme, and none could fail to give M. de Lesseps every credit for the energy with which he had carried out the work. In consequence of M. de Lesseps having been left to overcome his difficulties as best he could, the affairs of the Company were subject to Egyptian law, and the rates and dues were to be levied subject to the Egyptian Government. The tonnage rate for goods was 10½f. per ton, and 10f. for each passenger, so that one of our troop ships on her way to India paid something like £1,400. Two years ago M. de Lesseps made a change in the method of levying these dues; he did not alter the rate, but he resolved that in future the charge should be made upon the gross instead of upon the net tonnage, the result being that the ships paid on the engines and boilers and all spare space. That had been done in the beginning of 1872, and since then ships had been charged, not on the net tonnage, but on the gross tonnage. Well, what occurred the other day? The Messageries Maritimes appealed against that proceeding to the Chamber of Commerce in France, and in two or three months a decision was given in favour of the Suez Canal Company. The case was then carried to another Court in Paris, which reversed the decision. But, in point of fact, the whole case between the Messageries Maritimes and the Suez Canal Company was a private arrangement, the object being to put the authority over the Suez Canal Company into the hands of a French Court. That naturally excited great indignation. Now, he wanted to know whether, when the matter was laid before the Government, they resisted or accepted what had been done? There was another point which was deserving of attention. By the capitulations with Egypt anything brought before a Court must be tried in the defendant's Court, and therefore, whenever our shipowners appealed against these excessive tolls, the action was brought before the Court of the French Consul General at Cairo. He need not say that the decisions were naturally given against us. This point brought him to the question of judicial reforms, and he regretted to have to say that in his opinion the Foreign Secretary had entirely failed in his duty of represent- ing our interests in the East. On the 22nd of July, 1870, when the question of judicial reforms was brought before the Turkish and Egyptian Courts, Lord Granville wrote— The two Governments of England and France agreeing to the proposed reforms, it seems to Her Majesty's Government that the basis of this accord should be made known to the other Governments who were represented on the Committee that sat at Cairo. It remains with the Viceroy to obtain the consent of the Sultan to these proposed reforms. He (Mr. Cochrane) had the honour of bringing the question before the House last year, and subsequently in the autumn the Commissioners met at Constantinople, and the judicial reforms were agreed to. But suddenly the French Government, seeing the importance of keeping the Suez Canal in the hands of France, and of thus having it in its power to stop our communications with the East, said they would not consent to those judicial reforms. Every Government in Europe, with the exception of France, was in favour of them. But what did Lord Granville do? Did he show that courage which an English Foreign Minister ought to display, or that decision of character which we had a right to expect from him, when France, for her own selfish purpose, refused her consent to the judicial reforms? Not at all. Lord Granville only said—"We will never do anything without the consent of France." Who was President of the Commission at Constantinople? Our most admirable Consul General, Sir Philip Francis. But though all were agreed as to the absolute necessity of those judicial reforms, and there was not a dissentient voice, except that of France, Lord Granville suddenly said that he would not act without France, and the whole thing fell to the ground. Lord Granville, in 1870, held the opinion which Lord Clarendon and Lord Derby held before him. Her Majesty's Government could not doubt that the system which now prevailed in Egypt, with regard to trying suits in which foreigners on the one hand, and the people of Egypt on the other were concerned, was injurious to all parties, as it was certainly without the warrant of any Treaty engagements. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, were willing to lend their aid to establish a better system; but if the other Powers agreed in the same object, why should we hold back because France suddenly refused her consent? It was not right that we should be parties to a system which might have been very well of old, but was not suitable to the present time, and was most injurious to British interests. What was the fact? Why, that out of 100 ships passing through the Canal, 79 carried the British flag. That Canal the French had got so much into their hands that there was not a single employé connected with it that was not a Frenchman. They could close the Canal whenever they liked, and need not let a vessel enter until it had paid any dues they wished to charge with 60 per cent extra tax; and then they said—"You may bring your action against us; but when you do you must carry it into a French Consular Court." The consequence of closing the Canal for one month would be most serious to us. On Friday the House would be asked to consider the Euphrates Valley as a communication with the East; but surely we ought to insist upon our existing means of communication being regulated in such a manner as to win the approval of Europe. He wanted to ask the noble Lord (Viscount Enfield) as he (Mr. Cochrane) had tried in vain to obtain Papers, what the Government had done, or what representations they had made after the decisions which had been given in the French Courts. Had they protested against the authority of those Courts? The question of tonnage dues was comparatively unimportant. What was important was whether the Suez Canal being of such vital consequence to us, there was a power of closing it against us, or of putting such tolls on our ships passing through as virtually to close it against us whenever the French chose. He had heard it said that if those tolls were collected for the future, it would be impossible even for the Peninsular and Oriental Company to send their ships through. Millions of money had been spent since the opening of the Canal in building ships fitted for the navigation of the Canal. Was that a matter which was of no concern to us? Anyone who had been in Egypt must have seen how important were our relations with that country. One third of the people employed there were English, and at the present moment there were parties of English surveying the ground for railways up to the Tipper Nile. By the policy now adopted by the Foreign Office our prestige in the East was being weakened, and our relations with India and our colonies endangered. This was a question of so much importance, that late as the hour was he had ventured briefly to call attention to it, and unless he obtained a most satisfactory explanation from the noble Lord, he would certainly divide the House on the Resolution. He begged now to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


Sir, I imagine that every one will admit that it was high time that this most important subject should be brought before the House, and for my part I regret that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, who has given so much attention to it, has not dealt with it even more fully. The manner in which it affects the commercial interests of this country is of course obvious, but it reaches beyond them, and is still more important in a political point of view. Nor do I believe that the necessity for discussing it has been in the very least degree diminished by the assurance which the Noble Lord, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, gave us the other night, that his Department is busy with the question. We are all aware that the Foreign Office has been busy with this question of the Suez Canal for some 18 years, but it will surprise sue very much if any hon. Member should rise in his place and say he finds comfort in that fact. To borrow a phrase used by the noble Lord in the Debate of the 5th July last year, "the Foreign Office has not spoiled the Egyptians," but it certainly long did its very best to spoil their Canal. I should like to ask whether any one can now look back without pain and mortification to that invidious opposition, that résistance sourde et active à la fois of English Diplomacy, as the Mémoire of the Messageries Maritimes calls it, which for 10 years from January 1856, to the 19th of March, 1866, prevented the Sultan from ratifying the concession to M. de Lesseps. One would have thought that if ever there was a great work which deserved the patronage of the English Government, it was this Canal, which has shortened the voyage to India by 5,600 miles, and made Egypt the half-way station between Southampton and Bombay. I have never been able to explain to myself what petty and mistaken jealousy prevented us from heartily cooperating in the work, and taking it up as an international enterprise. A third of the expense might have been saved by giving to the project the joint guarantee of the English and French Governments, and encouraging vessels to adopt the transit by levying moderate dues. The undertaking was too vast and speculative for a private company, but as a great international enterprise, I believe the financial ill-success would have been far less, for it is delay in such works that causes expense. I believe too, that the assurance that the Canal would be completed would have induced ship owners to alter the build of their vessels and prepare for the transit of the Canal at an earlier date, and at the end of 1871, instead of a passing tonnage of 766,000 tons register, and an income of £400,000 a year, these figures would have been doubled. Well, Sir, it is a fact that for 10 years the Foreign Office opposed this great, glorious, and beneficent undertaking, in which it has now been clearly shown that we have three times as much interest as all the world besides, for the vessels which pass the Canal under our flag are three times as numerous as those under the flags of other nations, with three times the tonnage. I shall be glad to know now, if the noble Lord will explain it, what the policy of our Foreign Office is to be. The first thing to be decided is, I suppose, whether we have any locus standi at all. The French Commission which sat on the 8th of October, 1871, declared we had not, and repudiated all interference on the part of Foreign Governments with the Company, alleging that it is bound to the Egyptian alone, and as for the rest, "ils ne peuvent être admis à l'interprétation des clauses." In short, after visiting all the English commercial centres, and stirring heaven and earth to obtain their co-operation, M. de Lesseps now says, like a greater man who preceded him in Egypt "Friends, begone; I have myself resolved upon a course. Begone, I say." He declares that within the limits of the concession the Company can do exactly as it pleases, and may quadruple its receipts by declaring that the ton is to be in future a cubic metre, and if this be accepted, there is nothing to prevent its being reduced some years hence to a cubic foot. The very fact that it is attempted to lay down such a principle should induce us to act on the principle obsta principiis, and oppose the levying of a toll on any tonnage but that on which it was first levied, namely, registered, were it not desirable to get rid of registered tonnage altogether. It has been proved, however, that the adoption of registered tonnage, as distinguished from gross tonnage, opens the door to all sorts of fraud. Up to 1867, when the Duke of Richmond exempted "crew space" from tonnage wherever it might be situated, shipowners were in the habit of berthing seamen in unhealthy wet places, to escape paying dues, and of filling up the space that ought to have been kept clear for the men with ship stores and odds and ends. Now it appears from an article on the Admeasurement of Tonnage by Mr. Gray, reprinted from The Nautical Magazine of February, 1871, that we have fallen into the opposite extreme, and that unequal allotments of exempted space are made for berthing crews, and much in excess of what the law requires. When we come to exemptions for engine rooms we plunge at once into a labyrinth of difficulties connected with an absurd system of percentages, whereby "some steamers carry an enormous excess over sailing ships of like net register tonnage, while other steamers cannot carry so much as a sailing ship of the like register." Any one who wishes to see how unfairly the present law operates, has only to consult the article from which I have just quoted. The only way of settling these conflicting claims is to put steamers and sailing vessels on the same footing, and to allow exemptions to neither. On the whole then, I trust that registered net tonnage will be given up, and that what dues are levied will be levied on the gross tonnage without any exemptions, it being insisted of course that the dues shall be moderate so as not to obstruct trade. At the same time it is impossible to acquit M. de Lesseps of dealing unfairly with this Matter, or to accept his reasons for making the change. It is clear that in his original estimate to the Viceroy Said Pasha on the 15th of November, 1854, M. de Lesseps calculated on registered tonnage, when he said that 6,000,000 of tons went round the Cape, and that if only 3,000,000 passed the Canal, it would recoup the Company. He and M. Lange visited 13 commercial centres in England in 1856, and they both repeatedly assurred the audiences they addressed that toll would be taken on registered not on gross tonnage. From the opening of the Canal on the 17th of November, 1869, to the 1st of July, 1872, the toll was actually taken on registered tonnage, and in his circular to the Chambers of Commerce, of the 23rd of August, 1871, M. de Lesseps admits that the question of taking toll on gross tonnage was a new question in 1870. The reasons also for making the change are plainly insufficient. It is pretended that there were difficulties in levying the toll impartially, because the system of ship measurement differs with different nations. But English vessels make up 75 per cent of the whole tonnage passing through the Canal, and Austria, France, Denmark, and the United States have lately adopted our system of measurement, which would bring up the tonnage, about which there could be no difficulty, to 84 per cent. For the remaining 16 per cent, we may well say with the Advocate-General, M. Hémars— Let the Company reduce different tons to the same standard by the help of ready reckoners, and if they fail there is no blame for not accomplishing the impossible. But admitting that registered tonnage and all exemptions should be given up, I cannot for one moment allow that the Canal Company are to impose increased tolls at their discretion, and make the ton an elastic measurement varying in signification, for the purpose of increasing the Company's dividends. This would be to close the Canal and divert the traffic to the railway, but such is the impecuniosity of the Company, that even the most suicidal and impolitic measures are possible. The question is, how are they to be resisted? Unless we are to put the authority of the Sultan altogether aside, it would seem that the only course is that expressed in the Resolution which has just been moved. Article 16 of the "Firman" of the 22nd of February, 1866, says that— Difficulties arising between the company and individuals of any nationality shall be submitted to an Egyptian Court of Justice, and I see that the French writers take this to mean the French Consul's Court in Egypt. If this be so, the only remedy is to abolish the Consular Courts and establish the judicial reforms which were proposed by the International Commission, and which were discussed in this House on the 5th of July last year. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, then said that the code to be adopted in the new Courts would be ready in six months, and led us to hope that we might see the new system inaugurated before this. I expressed a doubt at the time of any arrangement being made so speedily, and it turns out that I was right. I hope now to hear that there is some prospect of a decision of the question, and though it is a serious matter to give up the capitulations which were granted by Sulaiman to Francis I. in 1535, and then to James I., and which have been our protection from Turkish injustice so long, yet I would fain hope that the proposed mixed Courts would be better than the Consular, and therefore I heartily support and second the Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, the Commerce of this Country being so deeply interested in the uninterrupted navigation of the Suez Canal, it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should at once give its adhesion to the judicial reforms in Egypt, suggested and approved of by the Representatives of all the European Powers, by which tribunals will be created for the better administration of justice in Egypt, and the adjudication of differences which may arise between British Shipowners and the administrators of the Suez Canal Company."—(Mr. Baillie Cochrane.)


observed that the question under discussion was one which affected materially the interests of the mercantile community of this country. It extended not only to the subject of the dues charged, but to that of the freedom of trade—the ingress and egress to and through the Canal, and the preservation of our communication with our Indian Empire. However mistaken our former policy with reference to the Suez Canal might have been, it was now completed, and it was most important that the navigation should be kept free and open to all nations. They did not ask for the British merchant special privileges, but they did demand that the navigation should be as free to us as to France or any other nation. It was clear that all questions now arising were simply under the jurisdiction of the French Courts, and France was so interested in the Canal that her Courts could not be regarded as wholly disinterested in a question which affected the whole of Europe. England contributed three-fourths or four-fifths of the entire traffic of the Canal, and therefore the mercantile community had a right to ask the Foreign Office to take every step in its power to protect their interests, and it was somewhat disappointing that no evidence was visible of any such steps having been taken. The extra tonnage dues which had been charged by the Suez Canal Company he believed to be a totally indefensible charge. The Firman which gave the Company power to charge certain dues gave the power to charge on the ton of capacity—a term which every shipowner in England understood, and in France the ton of capacity was practically identical with what it was in England. He hoped that steps would be taken to prevent the levying of unjust imposts by the Canal Company.


said, he thought that the Motion was framed somewhat unfortunately, because it put the question too narrowly, for it did not take into consideration the interest of England in reference to India. The subject resolved itself into two branches—the question of tonnage and that of the judicial reforms of Egypt. The Suez Canal Company was a public Company under the Egyptian Government, and unless the judicial reforms were carried out we had no power of interfering at all. It was clear we could not compel the Company to lower their tariff, and the question then remained whether we should push forward these judicial reforms. They had been assented to by all the Powers, and last year the noble Lord (Viscount Enfield) said he hoped that the matter would be brought to a conclusion within six months. Nothing had, however, been done. Our trade to India and the East, which used to be carried round the Cape, was now carried through the Suez Canal. Suppose the Canal were to be suddenly closed. Where should we be then? We should not have a sufficient number of ships of the right class to convey our reliefs to India and to carry on commerce round the Cape. [Mr. T. E. SMITH dissented.] The class of ships that used to carry coals round the Cape was being done away with, and if the Canal were closed the consequences would be exceedingly inconvenient. In case of a war it was doubtful whether we should be able to pass our Indian reliefs through the Canal and along the railway to Suez. Egypt was, he believed, sincere in wishing to have these judicial reforms carried out. It was a mistake, however, to suppose that Egypt was desirous to separate herself from the Porte. The Khedive's desire was to improve the country, and there was every reason for helping Egypt in carrying out these judicial reforms. He trusted that the noble Lord would consider this question as it affected our Indian reliefs, and that he would be able to give the House a satisfactory assurance upon both the branches of this question.


said, that both the points alluded to were deserving of the attention of the Government—the question of extra dues and the progress of judicial reforms in Egypt. It would, however, have been more advantageous to the interests which the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had at heart, if he had kept these two matters a little more distinct. The hon. Member's Motion, as it appeared on the Paper for the first four weeks of the Session, referred exclusively to the question of how our commercial interests were involved in regard to these extra dues. In some respects, no doubt, the two questions hung together; but with the permission of the House he (Viscount Enfield) would endeavour to keep them separate, and inform them exactly the position in which both of them now stood, and to show that the Foreign Office, through Lord Granville, had not neglected our commercial interests herein. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had correctly stated the facts connected with the original concession. The authority under which the dues were levied was derived from the concessions granted to M. de Lesseps by the Viceroy of Egypt on November 30, 1854, and January 5, 1856, which were incorporated in a Convention between the Viceroy and the Canal Company on February 22, 1866, and confirmed by a Finnan of the Sultan of March 19, 1866. The Articles relating to the dues were Articles 14, 15, 16, and 17. The important words in this last Article were the expressions—"maximum de dix francs par tonneau de capacityé des navires et par tête de passager." The question at issue mainly turned upon these words. In pursuance of their powers, the Canal Company issued their first navigation regula- tion on August 17, 1869. The Canal was opened on the 20th of November, 1869, and from that time up to last year the dues continued to be levied on the tonnage shown in the ships' papers as the net register tonnage. The question then arose as to register tonnage and gross tonnage; what did they respectively mean? He spoke with great hesitation in the presence of hon. Members who were interested in commerce; but he must say that the question of tonnage had not been always of so simple a character as the hon. Member for Tyne-mouth (Mr. T. E. Smith) seemed to think. The original measurement of ships in England appeared to have been by displacement, and was at first limited to colliers sailing from the ports of Northumberland and Durham. In ships thus measured and marked, a ton register represented absolutely a ton weight. By the 6 Geo. I. the method of measurement by tonnage was applied to vessels laden with spirits, and by the 13 Geo. III., c. 74, a rule was laid down for the measurement of the tonnage of all vessels, except those carrying coals and herring fishing-boats. In these Acts the rough-and-ready system of ascertaining diplacement by dead weight was abandoned, and a system of mathematical measurement of the size of the vessel substituted. From this time the tonnage of a vessel meant, as it meant now, the internal capacity of the ship. In short, a ton was a unit of measurement of space, consisting, according to the existing law—the Merchant Shipping Act, 17 & 18 Vict., c. 104—of 100 cubic feet, and when the tonnage of a British vessel was spoken of it meant the number of hundreds of cubic feet contained within the ship. The first Act for the admeasurement of steam vessels was in 1819–59 Geo. III., c. 5—and provided that in estimating the tonnage a deduction should be made for engine space; hence came the distinction between net register tonnage, commonly called register tonnage, and gross tonnage; the former being the tonnage shown on the steamship's register after this deduction had been made, and the latter the total tonnage without deduction. With regard to the tonnage laws of France and other countries, French tonnage was originally framed on a system of displacement similar to that of England. The measurement of French vessels was provided by the law of November 18, 1837, to be on mathematical principles so as to arrive at the bulk of the ship, thus making the French ton like the English, an unit of space, not of weight. In the United States, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Norway, and Russia the principle of measuring the cubic bulk of the ship was much the same, but the method of working it out was different. The principal maritime countries had thus agreed in principle, but differed in practice. To obviate this difference an international arrangement had been arrived at between Austria, Turkey, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Germany, the United States, and France to adopt English measurements of gross tonnage. By a resolution of March, 1872, the Suez Canal Company determined to levy the dues on a scale which excluded the usual deduction; this change added nearly 50 per cent to the dues. On the 10th of September the Peninsular and Oriental Company forwarded to the Board of Trade a statement of the effects of the new scale of dues on their traffic. From this statement it would be seen that the conditions of these mail and passenger steamers gave the following average results for each ship:—Gross register, 3,210 tons; net register, 2,057 tons; cargo capacity, 1,659 tons; passengers, first-class, 153 tons; passengers, second-class, 48 tons; and that under the original Canal tariff the dues on these vessels would have amounted annually—exclusive of passenger-tolls, towage, and pilotage—to £80,184, while, by the present tariff, these dues were raised to £133,536, also exclusive of passenger-tolls, &c., which continued to be charged as heretofore. It would be perceived, therefore, that, after charging a toll upon every passenger and thus levying dues upon that portion of the ship's tonnage devoted to their use, the Canal Company now charged upon the gross register of 3,210 tons, while the cargo carrying capacity was only 1,659 tons, or 50 per cent less than that which was thus unfairly assessed. The Messagéries Maritimes had brought an action against the Company before the Tribunal of Commerce of the Seine, and had obtained a verdict for the repayment of the excess dues with interest. The Porte protested against the jurisdiction of the Court. The Canal Company appealed to a higher Court, and on appeal the verdict had been reversed, the result being in favour of the Canal Company. The Company maintained that, under the terms of the Act of Concession, it was only amenable to the jurisdiction of the French Consular Courts in Egypt or Turkey. The Porte maintained that the Company was Egyptian, and amenable to Turkish or Egyptian Courts. The Turkish Government had admitted that the change in the mode of levying dues was illegal, the sanction of the Porte not having been obtained previously. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Cochrane) was a little severe upon Lord Granville when he assumed that the noble Lord had done nothing on the subject during the last year, for on August 31, 1872, instructions were sent to Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople (Sir Henry Elliott), explaining the views of the British Government, and stating that they could not admit the right of the Company to place their own construction on the terms of the concession. That despatch had been communicated to the Maritime Powers interested, and he believed its terms met with their approval. In October the idea of a Conference upon those questions was mooted by the Porte, and that had given rise to various other communications and references. On January 15th in this year the Porte made a formal communication to the British Government for a Commission, to sit at Constantinople or in London, to examine into these disputes. The three points on which an opinion was sought were mentioned in a despatch to Sir Henry Elliott, dated 3rd of March, 1873. They were as follows:—(1.) Proposal of the Porte for a Commission to establish an uniform standard of tonnage; (2.) Course to be pursued as regards a change of dues; (3.) Question of dues to be levied in future. With regard to the first proposal of the Porte, the British Government agreed that a Commission should meet, suggesting that each maritime Power should be represented upon it, that it should decide what deductions should be made, how cargo carrying space should be measured, and that London or Constantinople should be the place of meeting. Preference was given by the Government to London as the place of meeting, because the best maritime and commercial information could be obtained there. He ought to inform the House that Constantinople had been suggested by Austria, and that no decision had been arrived at in the matter, but there was every probability that one of the places which he had named would be selected. With regard to the second point, it had been agreed that the Porte should call upon the Suez Canal Company to take up their original charges; while, on the third part Her Majesty's Government stated that, although they did not refuse to admit the right of the Porte to increase dues itself, they hoped it would not inflict injury on maritime interests by so doing, urging that before any increase was definitively agreed on, the British Government and other maritime Powers might be heard on the subject. Thus much for the case with regard to the Canal Company. As to judicial reforms, when he stated last year that he hoped some satisfactory solution would within six months be arrived at he would have been nearer the mark if he had said ten months. The Commission which had been sitting at Constantinople on the arrangements for carrying out judicial reforms in Egypt had now reported, and the Report would be considered by the Governments interested in order to determine how far its conclusions might be adopted; for the question was not one which could be decided by the British Government alone, but could be determined only by consent of all the Governments after the sanction of the Porte had been pronounced. The reforms, when settled, were, as far as related to civil jurisdiction, tentative for five years, but as regarded criminal jurisdiction—except so far as it might be necessary to obtain respect for the proceedings of the tribunals—any decision was reserved till it was ascertained that the working of the civil jurisdiction after five years should have proved satisfactory. It would, he apprehended, be mischievous for British interests to accept singly the new system which, if rejected by other Powers, would place British subjects at a disadvantage in regard to civil process in Egypt. The Powers represented at this Commission were Great Britain, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Russia, Belgium, the United States, Holland, Sweden and Norway, and Turkey. Their assent and co-operation must necessarily be given before those judicial reforms could be inaugurated and successfully carried out. If the House passed the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Cochrane), it would show scant courtesy to the Powers that had worked so cordially with the British Government in the labours of the Commission. Under the circumstances, he hoped his hon. Friend would not think it necessary to press his Motion to a division, and that he would be contented to accept 4, the assurance that, although some little delay might occur, the reforms which had been substantially agreed on by the various Powers were likely to be brought to a satisfactory issue.


said, the answer of the noble Lord (Viscount Enfield) was much more satisfactory than he had expected. He regretted, however, that the despatches which he had quoted, and which in a great degree justified the position which had been taken up by Lord Granville, had not been laid on the Table of the House. The noble Lord, he might add, was in error in saying that the Commission of 1855 accepted the principle of net, and not of gross tonnage. [Viscount ENFIELD said, he had not alluded to the Commission of 1855.] He (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) then wished to beg the noble Lord's pardon, and to say that after the statement which he had made he should not divide the House on his Motion.


thanked the noble Lord for the very clear explanation he had just given. It was perfectly clear from what was said by M. de Lesseps, that whatever the contention of our Government and the other maritime Powers might be, his view was that the legal domicile of the Suez Canal was in France, and that we had no power to take a legal decision on this question out of the French Courts.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.