HC Deb 27 October 1882 vol 274 cc271-3

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether, since the Treaty of 1875 with the Bey of Tunis provided that the British Consuls, Vice Consuls, and Consular Agents shall enjoy all privileges accorded to those of the most favoured nations, and further for the "exclusive" civil and criminal jurisdiction of the British Agent and Consul General over British subjects, and that the 7th Clause provided that the Bey shall not prohibit the importation into the Regency of any article of produce or manufacture of the dominions and possessions of Her Britannic Majesty, from whatever place arriving, and that the Duties to be levied upon such articles shall in no case exceed one fixed rate of eight per cent. ad valorem; further, in that Treaty, which came to an end on the 19th of July 1881, there was a special proviso, that at the expiration of the Treaty either party to it might ask for a revision, but that until such revision shall have been accomplished, by common consent, and a new Convention shall have been concluded and put into operation, the present Convention shall remain in full force and effect; if the capitulations with Foreign Powers were not explicitly ratified in the Treaty of 1881, made between the French and the Bey of Tunis, and by repeated assurances from M. Barthélemy St. Hilaire; and, whether Her Majesty's Government have since received any communication from the French Government announcing their project of abolishing these capitulations by virtue of a vote of the French Chambers establishing French tribunals in Tunis; and, if so, what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken to maintain the mercantile and other advantages secured by these capitulations?


Sir, before replying to my hon. Friend's Question, I think it well to point out that he is mistaken in supposing that the Treaty of 1875 provides for the "exclusive" jurisdiction in all cases of the British Agent, the words of the Treaty being "between British subjects exclusively." He is also mistaken in supposing that the Treaty expired on the 19th of July, 1881. The seven years, for which the Treaty was originally concluded, expired on the 19th of July, 1882; but by the terms of Article 40, as no new Convention was concluded, that of 1875 remained in full force and effect. The French Government have frequently, and lately in express terms, disclaimed any wish to interfere with the mercantile advantages secured to England in Tunis by the Treaty of 1875. As regards the establishment of French tribunals in Tunis, Her Majesty's Government would not be unwilling to consent to the abolition of Consular jurisdiction, reserving all the other rights, commercial and otherwise, guaranteed to them by Treaties. The institutions which have grown up under the Capitulations with Turkey have been found essential for the protection of foreigners under the peculiar circumstances of the Ottoman Empire, and the necessity for them disappears when tribunals organized and controlled by an European Government take the place of the Mussulman Courts.


said, he wished to ask a Question of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, arising out of an answer which he had given. He under- stood his hon. Friend to state that Her Majesty's Government were willing to abolish the Capitulations, when they had received assurances from the French Government of the continuance of the mercantile advantages secured to British subjects by Treaty. That being so, he wished to ask the hon. Gentleman, whether those advantages were secured at present only by the promise of the French Government, or whether it was proposed that there should be a Convention between Her Majesty's Government and the French Government to give the same security as existed by the present Treaty?


, in reply, said, that they had not at present received any distinct proposal as to any change, and the Treaty was in force at the present moment. With regard to the future, he did not say that Her Majesty's Government were willing to consent to the abolition of the Capitulations. What he said was that Her Majesty's Government would be not unwilling to consent to the abolition of the Consular jurisdiction, and he gave his reason for it.