HC Deb 31 August 1893 vol 16 cc1564-5
MR. T. CURRAN (Sligo, S.)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any official information has been received of the reported intention of the French to annex the New Hebrides; whether he can specify the date on which the present joint agreement between Great Britain and France, for the government of the Hebrides, expires; whether he is aware that the permanent occupation of the New Hebrides by France would be regarded with serious concern and dissatisfaction by the people of the Australasian Colonies; and whether Her Majesty's Government has come to any conclusion with respect to the future of the New Hebrides on the expiration of the present Treaty with France?


No information as to any such intention has been received, and no date is fixed for the termination of the Convention. This Convention, together with a record of the assurances given by the French Government that they entertained no projects of annexation, will be found in Parliamentary Paper, France, No. 1 (1888). Her Majesty's Government are aware of the views of the Australasian Colonies. As the termination of the present Convention is not contemplated, there has been no occasion for coming to any conclusion such as that indicated in the last paragraph of the question.

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

Did not the French Govern- ment give similar assurances with regard to Siam before annexing part of that country?


They gave certain assurances as regards Siam; but they would contend that the operations there do not conflict with the assurances previously given.

MR. HOGAN (Tipperary, Mid)

Having regard to the alarm and anxiety which, according to the latest telegrams in The Times, prevail in Australia with respect to the intentions of France in this connection, will the Secretary of State communicate with the British Ambassador with the object of obtaining authoritative assurances that the annexation of the New Hebrides is not contemplated?


The annexation could not take place until the present Convention is terminated; and, as we have had no intimation leading us to suppose that the French Government are proposing to terminate that Convention, it would be superfluous to ask for further assurances.


Is the hon. Baronet aware that a few years ago, when it was generally believed that France was about to seize those islands, the Australian natives seriously contemplated despatching a vessel to annex the New Hebrides without waiting for the sanction or authority of the Imperial Government?


The question relates to an incident of some time ago, and it would be necessary for me to refer to the Colonial Office before answering it.