HC Deb 05 July 1881 vol 263 cc25-6

asked leave to postpone the following Question which he had upon the Paper—namely, to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether his attention has been called to a statement in the public press, that M. Roustan directs not only the Foreign Office of Tunis but also all the Government Departments, and claims by the municipality and other bodies against Europeans are made by M. Roustan; whether he can inform the House what guarantees for the protection of British interests exist under such a system; and if he is aware that in one of the aforesaid capacities M. Roustan has adjudged a portion of ground adjoining the English Church, and secured in perpetuity to the British colony by an ancient deed of the Beys of Tunis, to a French subject who never set up any claim to the land prior to the French occupation?


Sir, I will ask the House to excuse me if I inform the noble Earl that I have already, on several occasions, stated to the House that questions arising out of the two- fold nature of the functions discharged by M. Roustan were under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and were the subject of communications with the Government of France. These communications will be laid before Parliament. We have no information up to the present time as to M. Roustan having adjudged a portion of ground adjoining the English church to a French subject. I must be allowed to point out that a Question of this nature requires a search through the Papers in the French and Turkish Departments of the Foreign Office, and may require consultation with the Secretary of State and the Permanent Under Secretary. This Question was placed upon the Paper at the close of the Sitting of last night, and reached me for the first time at half-past 11 o'clock this morning. I may add that it is not always possible to accept, without inquiry, the statements of fact in the questions relating to Tunis of the noble Earl, for one which he put to me on Thursday last has been the subject of correspondence between myself and the principal gentleman named in it, and I am assured that, as far as he is concerned, there is no foundation for the statements referred to.


With reference to the remarks just made by the hon. Baronet, I beg to give Notice that I will repeat my Question of Thursday last, to which he has referred, and, on information subsequently received, I will make a statement which I am not without hope may induce him very considerably to modify the remarks he has made.