§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the following statement in the letter of the 20th instant from M. de Lesseps to him—That constant accord had just manifested itself by a written agreement which gave that double interest satisfaction, consistent on the one hand with the obligations of the Company enjoying an exclusive monopoly of ninety-nine years for the digging of maritime canals in the Egyptian Isthmus,asserting that the Suez Canal Company has an exclusive monopoly for ninety-nine years of the right of cutting any canal through the Isthmus of Suez, has 553 been or will be allowed to pass undisputed by Her Majesty's Government?
Sir, I certainly have seen no occasion to dispute, or enter into any discussion upon, the passage to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I think, if lie will examine that passage carefully, he will see that it does not admit of dispute. What it asserts is, that the Agreement is consistent with a certain view of the rights of the Suez Canal Company. In my opinion, the Agreement is consistent with any view whatever of the rights of the Suez Canal Company. Therefore, I cannot possibly dispute its being consistent with any particular view.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
My Question was, whether Her Majesty's Government would allow the statement that the Company enjoyed an exclusive monopoly for 99 years for the digging of maritime canals in the Egyptian Isthmus to pass undisputed?
What M. de Lesseps has said is, that the Agreement is consistent with the view that he has an exclusive monopoly. As to that view I have said nothing. It is not our duty to enter into a controversy with M. de Lesseps; and if the hon. Member recommends such a course, I am not prepared to accept the recommendation.
MR. GORST (for Sir H. DRUMMOND WOLFF)
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether on the 6th of April 1863, the Porte, seeing in the concession of the Fresh Water Canal and of vast tracts of land a menace to its independence, declared, by a Diplomatic Note, addressed to its representatives in Paris and in London, its opposition to the continuance of the works of the Suez Canal; whether, in consequence, an award was made by the Emperor of the French as arbitrator, in execution of which agreements were passed between the Canal Company and the Egyptian Government, whereby such lands were surrendered to the Egyptian Government on payment of compensation to the amount of 30,000,000 of francs; whether to the agreement of 22nd February 1866 plans and tables were annexed, showing the extent of lands 554 then fixed as belonging to the Company, and whether a right was reserved to individuals to settle along the banks of the Canal; whether the said agreement of 22nd February 1866 was embodied in the firman, subsequently given by the Sultan on the 19th March 1866, authorizing the execution of the Canal on the conditions prescribed in that agreement; and, whether any alteration can be made in the conditions under which the Canal has been constructed, without a further concession from the Egyptian Government confirmed by a firman from the Sultan?
Sir, I hope the hon. and learned Member will kindly dispense with my going over the historical part of the Question, which relates to matters which are in possession of the public, and upon which I have no peculiar information. The material part of the Question I think is contained in the fifth paragraph, where the hon. and learned Member desires to know whether any alteration can be made in the condition under which the Canal has been constructed, without a further concession from the Egyptian Government, confirmed by a Firman from the Sultan? In answer to that, I would say the presumption, undoubtedly, is that the conditions cannot be altered except by a fresh concession by a competent authority. But no definite answer can be given to a particular Question of this kind without a full knowledge of each particular case as it arises.
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether an agreement was passed, on the 23rd of April 1869, between the Egyptian Government and the Suez Canal Company, whereby the money to be received for the sale of lands appurtenant to the Canal was to be equally divided between the Company and the Egyptian Government; and, whether the Canal Company will compensate the Egyptian Government for the employment of such lands in the construction of the new Canal?
Again I would say that I do not contest the accuracy of the details of what is stated in the first paragraph of this Question. But with regard to the second paragraph—the inquiry as to what the Canal Company will do, whether it will compensate the Egyptian Government for the employ- 555 ment of certain lands in the construction of a new Canal—I, Sir, have no information of the intentions of the Company in that respect.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been called to the following Article in the Convention between the Viceroy of Egypt and the Suez Canal Company, dated 22nd February 1866:—Art. 4. Considérant qu'il est nécessaire de determiner, pour le Canal Maritime, l'étendue des terrains qu'exigent son établissement et son exploitation, dans des conditions propres à assurer la prospérité de l'enterprise, que cette étendue ne doit pas être restreinte à l'espace qui sera matériellement occupé par le Canal mêmo, par ses franes-bords, et par les Chemins de halage, considérant que pour donner aux besoins de l'exploitation une entière et complète satisfaction, it faut que la Compagnie nuisse établir, a proximité du Canal Maritime, des depôts, des magasins, des ateliers, des ports dans les lieux où leur utilité sera reconnue, et enfin des habitations convenables pour les gardiens, surveillants, les ouvriers chargés des travaux d'entretien et pour tous les préferés de l'administration; qu'il est en outre convenable d'accorder, comme accessoires des habitations, des terrains qui puissent être cultivés en jardins et fournir quelques approvisionnements dans des lieux privés de toute ressource de ce genre, qu'enfin il est indispensable que la Compagnie puisse disposer de terrains suffisants pour y faire les plantations et les travaux destinés à protégter le Canal Maritime contre l'invasion des sables et assurer sa conversation, mais qu'il ne doit rien être alloué au delà do ce qui est nécessaire pour pouvoir amplement aux divers services qui viennent d'être indiqués, que la Compagnie ne peut avoir la prétention d'obtenir, dans les vues de speculation, une étendue quelconque de terrains soit les livrer à la culture, soit pour y élever des constructions, soit pour les céder lorsq ue la population sera augmenté:Les deux parties intéressées se renfermant dans ces limites pour déterminer, stir tout les parcours du Canal Maritime, la périmètre des terrains dont la jouissance, pendant la durée de la concession, est nécessaire à l'établissement, à l'éxploitation, et à la conservation de ce Canal:Soit d'un commun accord, convenues que la quantité de terrains nécessaires à l'établissement, l'exploitation, et la conservation du dit Canal, est fixée, conformement aux plans et tableaux dressés, arrêtés, signés, et annexes à cot effet aux presentes:And to the following Article in the Act of Concession, signed by the Viceroy on 5th January 1856:—Art. 3. Le Canal approprié à la grande navigation maritime sera creusé à la profondeur eta à la largeur fixés par la programme de la Commission Scientifique Internationale;and, whether, considering the limitations in these two Articles, either M. de Lesseps or the Suez Canal Company can either widen the existing Canal, or make a 556 second Canal within the lands belonging to the Company, without the authorisation of the Egyptian Government?
Sir, the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton raises, in its last paragraph, a very important question of law in relation to the rights of the Suez Canal Company. Now, Sir, that it is a matter in the main, I apprehend, judicial, upon which it would not be within my competency to pronounce an opinion; indeed, I think it quite beyond my province. MR. CHAPLIN asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is the fact that he has publicly stated, as the opinion of the Government, that M. de Lesseps is in possession of an exclusive right to make a Canal, as far as the Isthmus of Suez is concerned, and that without entering upon the question of what the Isthmus of Suez includes? The geographical limits of that Isthmus are pretty well defined; and, whether he adheres to that statement; and, if so, whether He will state what are the geographical limits, which are pretty well defined, of the Isthmus of Suez, in the view of Her Majesty's Government?
Sir, with regard to the reference to a statement of mine in respect to the rights of the Suez Canal Company, I am not sure of its verbal accuracy, but of its substantial accuracy I have no doubt. I have stated already that Her Majesty's Government have not receded from any opinion which they have expressed to the House on the subject. With regard to the question of the geographical limits of the Isthmus of Suez, which I ventured to describe "as pretty well defined," the state of the case, I believe, is this:—There is ample geographical authority for saying that the Isthmus of Suez is defined by the Valley of the Nile, from which it is shut off on the West, and by a portion of the Arabian Desert on the East. Of course, those are not absolutely frontier divisions, drawn by an absolute line; but they justify the description I gave—namely, that the Isthmus is "pretty well defined." What I had in view was this. If we take the case of the Isthmus of Panama, with broad open seas on either side of it, it might be difficult to define; but where there is an isthmus like the Isthmus of Suez, meeting to a narrow sea on side, of course it helps in a great way towards a definition.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, it would, perhaps, be useful to the House if the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon would, on the same geographical point, be good enough to state what were the geographical limits intended to be included in his Resolution?
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, the geographical limits intended, and, I think, expressed in my Resolution are, any part of Egypt lying between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, whether the Isthmus of Suez or any other part.