HL Deb 01 July 1889 vol 337 cc1105-6

I wish to ask the noble Marquess at the head of the Government questions of which have given him private notice. First, whether he can give your Lordships any information as to what is going on at Delagoa Bay; and next, as to the state of negotiations between this country and Portugal thereupon?


My Lords, in answer to the two branches of the noble Lord's question, I will first refer, as he puts them, to what is going on at Delagoa Bay. We cannot have any very distinct information. We rely entirely upon telegrams, and we have the misfortune that our Vice-Consul is at present very ill and absent on sick leave. We have a very excellent and able gentleman who is acting as Vice-Consul in his place, but of course he has not the same experience. I can only say that in order to provide against any accident we have sent three ships round to Delagoa Bay, not of the largest kind, but we hope quite large enough to be able to cope with any difficulty which may arise. With respect to our negotiations with Portugal, I hope I shall not be considered undiplomatic if I say that the action of Portugal has been very highhanded and, in my opinion, very unjust. But the action of Portugal has been in the first instance directed against the Portuguese Company. That Portuguese Company employed an English Company to find money to make this railway; and probably the result of the action of Portugal will be loss to the English capitalists. We have informed the Government of Portugal that we shall hold them responsible for all loss to which British subjects may be subjected, and to that responsibility we shall assuredly keep them. But further than that I hesitate to go, because legal questions of some delicacy are involved, and until we have obtained all the guidance we can obtain it would be rash to make any further statement.

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