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Volume 218: debated on Tuesday 31 March 1874

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asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Government is in possession of any information respecting the number and position of British subjects in Bilbao; whether Her Majesty's Consul is shut in; and, whether any steps have been taken to communicate with him, and to insure duo respect to the British Flag from the Commanders of both the combatants?

The only information which is to be found at the Foreign Office with regard to the British population at Bilbao is contained in Consular Reports, which I have had an opportunity of looking at since the previous night. From them I learn that the British population at Bilbao in ordinary times is supposed to be between two and three hundred. We know, however, that since the war broke out, a great number of British subjects have left that place; consequently, the number there at present is not known. Her Majesty's Consul at Bilbao has lately informed Mr. Bayard, our Minister at Madrid, that on the 10th February he had taken all the precautions he possibly could to provide for the protection of British subjects at Bilbao; that he informed both the General commanding the Carlists and the General commanding the Republicans that he had provided a house near his own, with a largo enclosure, where British subjects might take refuge, in case the city was besieged; and that both those Generals assured him that those places being under the British flag would be respected. The last accounts which the Government have received from Bilbao arrived two or three days ago. They are to the effect that the Consul is still at Bilbao, and that Her Majesty's ship Ariel has arrived off the coast, and has endeavoured to communicate with the Consul, but without effect. The conduct of the Consul has been approved by Her Majesty's Government; but they have learnt from Madrid, that the expression of that approval has not reached him, nor does it appear likely to do so under present circumstances.