HL Deb 15 August 1882 vol 273 cc1800-2

in rising to call the attention of Her Majesty's Govern- ment to the position of British, subjects in Tripoli, and to ask whether any provision had been made to protect them in case of emergency, said, that while matters of the gravest importance in Egypt were engaging the attention of Her Majesty's Government, he should be very unwilling to bring under public notice any question which would embarrass them in the course which they had thought it right to adopt. At the same time, it was impossible to pass over in silence events which were of frequent occurrence, and which arose, it could not be doubted, from an increasing irritation among the Mussulman population of North Africa and elsewhere. There was evidence—abundant evidence—that the unhappy state of affairs in Egypt was not confined to that country only; it had shown itself in Syria, and in other Asiatic Mussulman States; it had shown itself in Tripoli; and wherever there was a Christian and Mussulman population together, if there had not been an open outbreak, there was a dormant feeling of irritation which might at any moment result in acts of violence. As regarded Tripoli, to which he desired to ask the attention of Her Majesty's Government, he had been assured upon reliable authority that the state of feeling there at the present moment was one which caused great anxiety and alarm. British subjects who had been able to do so had quitted the country, and many of the poorer class of the Maltese were being maintained in the Island of Serba, near the coast of Tripoli, at the expense, he believed, of the Maltese Government. Now, he did not think they need go far to discover the cause of that unhappy state of affairs. He was aware it was sometimes unwelcome to refer to the past; but the present in political matters was most often the result of the past, and he thought that anyone who had of late watched the progress of events in North Africa could not fail to see that what began in Tunis was the fons et origo malorum. It could only be described as an act of unprovoked aggression and violence against a peaceful country, which, unhappily, instead of being disallowed, was tacitly sanctioned, if not encouraged, by Her Majesty's Government, till a flame was kindled among the Mussulman population of North Africa, which had ended in a conflagration in Egypt. As regarded the future, Parliament was shortly to be adjourned, and the country would be left for some time with the dark and ominous intimation recently given by the Prime Minister in "another place"—that the object of this war was not to restore the status quo ante in Egypt. He therefore wished to ask Her Majesty's Government whether any provision had been made to afford protection to British subjects in Tripoli? He begged also to move for Papers on the subject.

Moved, "That Papers relating to the protection of British subjects in Tripoli be presented to the House."—(The Marl De La Warr.)


In answer to the Question of the noble Lord, I have to say that the report arrived in this country during the last month, stating that there had been a considerable panic at Tripoli and at Benghadi, and that the European residents were fleeing to Malta. Her Majesty's Government sent a vessel of war to Benghadi, where the panic was said to exist. At the same time, they also sent instructions to Lord Dufferin to communicate with the Porte and with his Colleagues on the subject. They likewise communicated with the Governments of France, Austria, and Italy, and it appeared to those Powers that the reports which they had received did not lead to any alarm for the safety of the Europeans in Tripoli. At the same time, France and Austria agreed with us in pressing the Porte to take all necessary precautions; and the Porte promised to do so. At Tripoli the Vali issued a Circular to the Consuls, taking upon himself the responsibility for the security of the peace of the district. This has had a good effect in calming the apprehensions of the European residents; and there is no reason to believe that British subjects in Tripoli are in any danger at the present moment. The Papers on the subject contain nothing beyond what I have just stated to your Lordships.


Does the noble Lord withdraw the Motion?


Does the noble Earl object to produce the Papers?



Motion agreed to.