HC Deb 17 May 1934 vol 289 cc1945-6
71 and 72. Mr. RHYS DAVIES

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) if he is aware of the dissatisfaction in Egypt as to the constitution of the mixed courts; and whether he will support the Egyptian claims for the use of Arabic, the native language of the country, on an equality with recognised European languages, and for the right of Egyptian Judges to preside over mixed courts by virtue of their seniority and without prejudice to their nationality;

(2) what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the threat of the Egyptian Government to suspend the mixed courts after 12 months' notice to the Powers affected; and whether such notice has already been tendered?


His Majesty's Government have not up to the present received any proposals from the Egyptian Government for the modification either of the constitution or of the usage of the Mixed Courts. Still less are they aware of any threat to denounce the conventions under which these courts are constituted. I am, nevertheless, aware that several points connected with the organisation of these tribunals have recently attracted attention in Egypt; and while the hon. Member will not expect me to formulate the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards claims which have not as yet been put forward, I may say that in any further conversations which His Majesty's High Commissioner may have with the Egyptian Government—some have already taken place—as well as in the consideration of any official proposals which the Egyptian Government may put forward, the following three points will be borne in mind :

(1) the technical and professional claim of the Egyptian Judges to equality with their foreign colleagues has already been recognised by the Mixed Courts themselves;

(2) while the use of Arabic in pleadings and the giving of evidence is, as I understand, already freely conceded, the suitability of that language for the rendering and recording of judgments which must not only be based upon French law but must be intelligible to all the Judges composing the Chamber seems at least open to doubt;

(3) the Mixed Courts are not the only set of courts existing in Egypt. There are other national courts which are purely Egyptian. The peculiar importance of the Mixed Courts is due to the fact that they were created at once to relieve Egypt of the much greater burden imposed upon her by the full consular jurisdiction which had previously existed and to safeguard the interests of the foreign communities. Both these objects will have to be kept in view in dealing with any proposals for modifications in their constitution and procedure.


May we take it that the negotiations on the points that have caused a great deal of dissatisfaction in Egypt are still going on, and that they are not yet cleared up?


As I have said; there have been conversations with the High Commissioner already, and I believe that they are still continuing.