HC Deb 28 April 1881 vol 260 cc1316-8

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any Correspondence has taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the French Republic with regard to the French Expedition to Tunis; and, if so, whether he can give the house any information on the subject or lay the Papers upon the Table?


asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the report published in the daily journals with regard to the bombardment of the Island of Tabarka by a French vessel of war, and the landing of French troops in Tunisian territory is true; whether any information on the subject has been received by Her Majesty's Government, and will be communicated to this House; if any measures have or will be taken for the protection of British interests in that Regency, and for the maintenance of the rights and privileges secured to British subjects in Tunis by treaties and conventions entered into between Great Britain and the Porte; whether Her Majesty's Government has yet received any official assurances from the French Government that the status quo, as established and guaranteed by such treaties and conventions, or by protocol, as regards the Regency of Tunis, will be maintained; and, whether any Correspondence has passed between Her Majesty's Government and that of Italy on the subject; and, if so, whether that also will be communicated to the House? The hon. Member supplemented his Question by stating that since he had put the Notice on the Paper he had seen in the daily journals that the Bey had issued a protest against the unwarrantable invasion of Tunisian territory by the French, and whether Her Majesty's Government had received that protest and intended to take any steps to urge on the French Government the maintenance of the status quo in that Regency?


asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether Her Majesty's Government will interpose their good office to prevent, by mediation, or Interna- tional mediation, the outbreak of hostilities between France and Tunis?


Sir, no official information has been received of the bombardment of Tabarca; but Her Majesty's Government were informed on the 26th instant that the landing of French that, at the present moment, the interests troops was imminent. Her Majesty's Government have no reason to believe mentioned in the 3rd paragraph of the Question of the hon. Member for Wareham (Mr. Montague Guest) are threatened in Tunis; but a despatch boat has been sent to Goletta to keep up telegraphic communication with Europe in the event of its being interrupted, and a man-of-war is held in readiness at Malta to proceed to Tunis, if required, for the protection of British life and property. The French Government informed Lord. Lyons on the 9th instant that their military operations will be confined to the neighbourhood of the Frontier and to the punishment of the lawless Frontier Tribes. Communications have been exchanged with the Italian Ambassador on the subject of sending vessels of war for the protection of British and Italian interests; but nothing further has taken place on the general question of the present French expedition. As regards isolated mediation by this country only, Her Majesty's Government will consider it, if asked by both parties; but only in that event. As regards joint or International mediation, Her Majesty's Government have just received a communication from the Bey of Tunis, in which he appeals to the Great Powers signatories of the Treaty of Berlin to mediate between the French Government and himself. There has not been time yet for Her Majesty's Government to become acquainted with the views of the other Powers appealed to, nor, as at present informed, do they know whether the action of the French Forces is likely to extend beyond the measures necessary for carrying out the object of the expedition, which is understood to be the punishment of the Frontier Tribes.


asked if there were not 10,000 British subjects in Tunis, and what steps the Government thought it right to take for the protection of their interests?


said, that he believed there were 8,000 British subjects, and a still larger number of Italian subjects, in Tunis, and the two Governments were in communication on the subject.