HL Deb 10 August 1876 vol 231 cc964-5

said, their Lordships were aware that the ancient Consular Courts established by Treaty between the Porte and various Christian Powers had been abolished last year; that new Courts had been substituted by agreement between the Khedive and the Christian Powers, and that the jurisdiction of these new Courts had been settled by formal arrangement. The point to which he wished to invite attention was the jurisdiction conceded by the Khedive in the case of claims of foreigners against His Highness's private estate. No mode of attaching the Khedive's private estate existed before; but by the agreement which had been made, the Khedive conceded that his private estate should be subject to the jurisdiction of these Courts. Lately, however, an action was brought by a foreigner on account of a debt for which the private estate of the Khedive was liable, and a decision was given against His Highness; but he refused to allow its execution. The grounds of that refusal were, that in the month of May, after the Courts had been established, he issued a decree by which all liabilities of the nature of the plaintiff's claim were decreed to form a portion of the Public Debt of Egypt. But His Highness stated at the time he refused to allow the execution of the decree of the Court, that he had referred his decision in the matter to the Government of this country and to the other foreign Powers with whose consent the new Courts had been formed. He now wished to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any communication from His Highness the Khedive of Egypt, inviting an expression of opinion as to his right to refuse to permit certain judgments of the new Tribunals established in Egypt has been received by Her Majesty's Government, and, if so, whether he has any objection to state what reply he had given to such communication? If the noble Earl was not at present prepared to answer the Question, perhaps, as the matter was of considerable interest, he would be good enough to lay the Papers on the Table and make known the decision of Her Majesty's Government at the earliest opportunity.


My Lords, there is no doubt of the importance to many persons, and of the importance upon general grounds, of the question to which the noble Lord has referred, and in answer I have to say I did receive a communication from the Khedive inviting an expression of opinion, and that request for an opinion is now under the consideration of the Government. The fact is that, although the question involved is not exclusively a legal one, still it turns to a considerable extent upon the construction to be placed on certain documents which have much of a legal character about them, and I was unwilling to decide without first obtaining the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown. At this time of the year, as the noble Lord well knows, the Law Officers have a great deal of business on their hands and some unavoidable delay has arisen. I am not therefore prepared to state what reply I have given to the communication, because I have given none, and until I am advised as to the legal points involved I shall not be prepared to give one. But, undoubtedly, it is desirable that this question should be disposed of without unnecessary delay, and I hope that my answer will not be long in coming. As I am not able to answer the Question now, I think it would be proper to adopt the alternative suggested by the noble Lord and lay the Papers on the Table.

House adjourned at half past Ten o'clock, till To-morrow, Three o'clock.