HC Deb 10 December 1900 vol 88 cc345-6

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the face that dissatisfaction exists in Italy on account of the attempt of the Colonial Office to impose on the people of Malta the use of the English language in place of Italian in the courts of law; and in view of the irritation which this action has caused amongst the people of a friendly Power, will the Government consider the expediency of taking steps to annul the Order in Council of the 7th March, 1899.


My attention has been called to the fact that certain Italian newspapers and persons have commented adversely on the changes which it has been found necessary to make with regard to the use of the Italian language in Malta, but they appear to have been entirely misinformed as to the facts. The only change which has hitherto been made is that where British subjects are concerned they may choose English as the language in which the proceedings are to be carried on in a court in a British colony, which is also a British fortress. It has also been stated on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that at the expiration of fifteen years from 22nd March, 1899, the English language will be substituted for Italian in the courts, and it is believed that as a very small proportion of the Maltese now understand Italian, and as, having been given the option of having Italian or English taught to their children in the public elementary schools, no less than from 85 to 100 per cent, of the parents and guardians in Malta, and 79 per cent, in Gozo have decided in favour of English, it will be a great advantage and convenience to the majority of the population fourteen years hence that this change should be made.