HL Deb 12 December 1912 vol 13 cc204-5

My Lords, on the Motion for the adjournment of the House I should like to ask the noble Marquess a Question upon an occurrence which I see reported in the newspapers to-day. On Tuesday last I asked the Government some Questions about a British Indian force at Shiraz, and pointed out that this force was unable to leave the town. I also pointed out that the Consul of that town had been severely wounded in an attack, and that no redress whatever had been obtained with regard to that proceeding. Now I observe in the Press that a portion of this force either engaged upon a sporting expedition or in process of escorting a caravan has been attacked, and that a field officer has unfortunately been murdered. I should like to ask the noble Marquess whether he has any information with regard to this occurrence. It is hardly necessary to point out that it shows that an extremely serious state of affairs obtains in that part of Persia. Whether or not the noble Marquess has any information to give the House, I hope that at any rate we shall have some assurance that the interests, and I might add the prestige, of this country in that part of the world will be duly safeguarded without further delay.


My Lords, I have received no information up to the time I left my office beyond what is in the possession of noble Lords and everybody else who has read the newspapers. The occurrence is not merely one of a most unfortunate character. We should all deeply regret, I am sure, the loss of life which has taken place. But it is, as the noble Lord has pointed out, a serious one from the point of view of the maintenance of order in that district. Of the circumstances in which the event occurred I have no information whatever. I think the noble Lord was not speaking entirely by the card when he said that it was impossible for this force to leave Shiraz, because I do not think any admission of that kind was made by my noble friend the Lord President when he replied the other day to the Question put by the noble Lord. It is quite evident that some small portion of the Consular guard did leave Shiraz—whether on a shooting expedition, as I saw stated in one newspaper, or in order to escort this officer for some other purpose we are not yet aware; but it is apparently clear that the lamented officer went on this expedition accompanied by what was, I assume, locally considered to be a sufficient escort, and was attacked by a considerable force of tribesmen of one of the wild and less known tribes in that country, with the unhappy result which we have seen in the Press. I can assure the noble Lord and the House that we are fully sensible of the gravity of such an occurrence as that which he has mentioned. He will not, I am sure, expect me now to make any statement of policy with regard to it, but the matter is one which we shall carefully consider in the light of the previous disturbances and outrages which have taken place in that quarter, and we can, I can also assure him, by no means neglect the consideration of British credit and, if he likes the word, prestige involved in such an attack on one of His Majesty's officers.

House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, Eleven o'clock.