HL Deb 06 May 1881 vol 260 cc1926-7

said, that with the permission of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, he would put a Question to him relative to what was now passing in Tunis. He wished to know, Whether the noble Earl could give any information relative to affairs in the Regency of Tunis, more especially as regarded the occupation of Kef, Tabarca, and Bizerta by French troops, and the contemplated advance to Porto Farina, Beja, and other places in the interior of the country, in opposition to the protest of the Bey, and without any intimation of change in the previously existing friendly relations between France and Tunis? He feared, judging from imformation on which he could rely, that there would be further occupation unless there were some understanding or intervention in the case.


My Lords, the information which reaches us from Tunis and Paris is frequently not in accord. There appears to be no doubt that the French have crossed the Frontier and occupied Kef and Tabarca, and I believe 3,000 men have been landed at Bizerta, in order, as is stated, to maintain a cordon of troops. I may mention incidentally that H.M.S. Monarch and a gunboat have been stationed opposite Tunis, in the interest of British subjects, in case there should be any popular disorder, of which I hope there is no chance. It does not appear unreasonable that the French should resent outrages within the Algerian Frontier, and should take measures to prevent the recurrence of such outrages. The French Government have constantly given us assurances that they have no intention to annex territory; and yesterday they formally and distinctly authorized Lord Lyons to assure Her Majesty's Government that there was no idea of conquest or annexation with regard to Tunis. My Lords, we are not jealous of the legitimate influence which a great country like France may exercise over a weak and much less civilized neighbour, as long as that influence is not exercised to the injury of our Treaty rights or the position of British subjects trading or residing in Tunis. I need not say that it will be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to carefully watch that any arrangements which may arise out of the operations now going on do not clash with those rights.