§ SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government have offered their good offices with a view to the pacific settlement of the points in dispute between France and Siam; and whether he can give the House any further information as to the reported acts of hostility?
§ SIR E. GREY
We are not at present in a position to give further information respecting the reported acts of hostility between the French and Siamese force in the neighbourhood of the Mekongs Her Majesty's Government have not had an opportunity of offering their good offices for the settlement of the points in dispute. Before such an offer can be made with advantage there must be evidence of willingness on both sides to accept it.
§ MR. CURZON (Southport)
I beg to ask a question of which I have given notice. It is, whether it is true that a portion of the French Fleet is expected or has arrived off the bar of the Menam River in Siam; whether Her Majesty's Government are prepared to tolerate either a blockade of the Menam or a bombardment of Bangkok by the French; whether they do not now feel it their duty to address some inquiries or remonstrances to the French Government; what British naval forces are stationed in the neighbourhood; and what steps Her Majesty's Government have taker, or propose to take, for the protection of the large amount of property owned by British subjects and the extensive British shipping at Bangkok?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
May I ask, further, if the Government have any information in corroboration of the report published to-day that at this moment a French gunboat is anchored opposite Bangkok, with her decks cleared for action and her guns trained on to the place?
§ SIR E. GREY
I believe it is quite true a French gunboat is anchored there, but we have no information of anything that has happened on its decks recently. It is not true, so far as we are aware, that a portion of the French Fleet has arrived off the bar of the Menam River. The French Representative has warned the Siamese Government that the French Fleet has been ordered to Saigon, and that it may be sent to Bangkok should the situation demand it. The French Government have given us an assurance that we shall receive notice before such a step is taken, and we are awaiting a reply to inquiries we have made with reference to statements in Papers. It would not be desirable or proper to make any declaration at present as to the course which Her Majesty's Government may find it necessary to take if matters should become more critical. That course must depend on circumstances which cannot as yet be foreseen. As regards the protection of British life and property, we have one vessel of war at present at Bangkok; arrangements have been made to send a second, and to have a third ready to proceed at once if required.