HC Deb 11 February 1839 vol 45 cc247-51
Viscount Palmerston,

in presenting some papers to the House by command of her Majesty relating to the treaty of commerce recently entered into between this country and Austria, would take the opportunity to remark on some observations which had been made in another place, and by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, who seemed to have misunderstood the nature of the treaty. It had been stated, that the treaty was substantially the same as the treaty of 1829. The treaty of 1829 was, like this treaty, a treaty of reciprocity with regard to the navigation of the ships of the two countries. But the treaty of 1829 specifically excepted the Austrian commerce from the benefit of the treaty. This treaty extended to that commerce the benefit of the treaty. This treaty also permitted Austrian ships to bring to British ports the produce of those portions of Asia and Africa which lay in the Mediterranean after the produce should have been brought to an Austrian port. By the treaty of 1829 an Austrian vessel would not have been entitled to the benefit of the treaty coming to an English port from an Austrian port, if it had not brought the produce of Austria, but the produce of Asia. This was the enlargement of the treaty. Another point was, that the benefits of the treaty were, by mutual consent, applied to the ships of either party coming not direct from the ports of the other country, but from any ports above Galacz—that was, the Turkish ports above the Danube. By this treaty there had been effected a great and important change in the commercial system of the empire of Austria; because for a very great length of time the old principle of the Austrian tariff was a principle that, except in favour of certain articles, was a system of prohibition. The Austrian Government had determined to change that system, and to substitute for the system of general prohibition, a system of universal admission on the payment of reasonable import duties. So that not only did this treaty contain very important provisions for enlarging the sphere of commerce of the two countries, but the Austrian Government, taking an enlarged view of commerce, had effected that very important change. He considered that these two treaties, the treaty of Austria and the treaty of Turkey, would open a very great and increased field for the commercial industry of this country, and that these treaties were likely to be attended with very great advantages to the commerce of this country. It was also a satisfaction to think that they would be even more beneficial to the commerce of the two countries with which they were effected, for he was persuaded that the commerce of Austria and Turkey would derive even more benefit from them than this country. This country was indebted greatly to our two Ambassadors for the zeal with which they had conducted the very long and difficult arrangements which had conduced to this result. It was not merely sufficient that the Government should be willing to co-operate with us in carrying this object into effect, but it was obvious that a great number of local difficulties and prejudices had to be surmounted. And he was bound to say that, not only was great credit due to Sir Frederick Lamb and to Lord Ponsonby for the important share they had taken in this affair, but that Mr. M'Gregor, who had been employed under Sir F. Lamb in the negotiation at Vienna, and Mr. Henry Bulwer, who had been employed in the affair under Lord Ponsonby at Constantinople, had also rendered very important services to this country.

Sir R. Peel

said, the noble Lord had quite misunderstood him if the noble Lord supposed that he had said one word in disparagement of these treaties, especially as to that with Austria. With regard to the treaty with Turkey, the design and principle of which he held to be good, he was only afraid that, in the present social state of that country, very great difficulties, perhaps a complication of the political relations of this country, would arise. This, however, would not be the fault of the treaty, but of the condition of Turkey at present. As to Austria, he was quite aware that the present treaty went beyond that of the year 1829, and he had not attempted or intended to represent it as a mere renewal of that treaty. What he (Sir R. Peel) had said was, that he thought that the hon. Gentleman, in omitting to state that the treaty made in 1829 was the same in principle, had concealed an important fact. This treaty was in principle the same as that signed in 1829 by his noble Friend the Earl of Aberdeen. The traffic with Malta and other places in the Mediterranean provided for in the present treaty was not alluded to in the treaty of 1829, and he had expressly stated on a former occasion that the increase and improvement in steam navigation would naturally account for this extension of the principle contained in the treaty of 1829. But he wished to ask the noble Lord whether English commerce could fully avail itself of the opening which the treaty held out without some concurrent arrangement with Turkey—in other words, whether there were not ports in the Mediterranean over which Turkey might have a control, and therefore whether it was not in the contemplation of her Majesty's Government to invite Turkey to enter into an engagement by which the full advantage of the Austrian treaty would be secured.

Viscount Palmerston

replied, that no such concurrence as that hinted by the right hon. Baronet would be necessary, and he (Lord Palmerston) would simply explain why it would not be so. The object of the treaty was to give the same privilege to the ships of each country in direct trade with the two countries—that was to say, that Austrian ships from Austrian ports should be received in British ports as British vessels, and that British ships from British ports should be received in Austrian ports like Austrian vessels. But the treaty contained a restriction to this effect, that either Austrian or British vessels coming from Turkish ports in the Danube should be admitted into the ports of either country as if they came from ports of their own countries. Therefore, the right hon. Baronet would see that no engagement was necessary between Austria and England as to the footing on which ships coming from ports in the Danube should proceed.

Sir Robert Peel

inquired, whether it would not be in the power of Turkey, if so inclined, to impose restrictions on the navigation of the Danube, so as to interfere with the advantages held out by this treaty, unless Turkey was concurrent in the treaty?

Viscount Palmerston

I apprehend it will not.

Mr. Herries

observed, that there was another point which had not been touched upon, to which he begged to call attention. He wished to ask whether Austrian ships could bring goods, the produce of Asia or Africa, to English ports? This, under the old navigation laws could not be done, and it had been suggested to him, that a clause had been introduced into a bill of last Session, brought forward at a period when Members paid but little attention to the business of the House, by which clause, the ancient and former provisions of the navigation laws were re- pealed. Now, that was a most important Act, and it would have been much better if it had been introduced at an earlier period of the Session, for undoubtedly the clause made an alteration, very proper, perhaps, but certainly of a most important character. He wished to inquire whether, by the repeal of that part of the navigation laws, by the clause of last year, all nations in reciprocity with England were not specially enabled to bring goods, the produce of Asia and Africa, from the Austrian ports.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

said, that he was glad the right hon. gentleman had put the question, because it enabled him to refer to a most important part of the treaty. A distinction had always existed between goods, the produce of Asia and Africa, from ports within the Mediterranean, and similar goods from ports outside the Mediterranean. With a view to provide for such cases, he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) introduced a clause into the bill which had been alluded to, and which had not passed without entire attention, by which the Crown was permitted, as in other cases, by orders in Council on commercial matters, to afford the advantages given to British commerce to the ships of other European countries, and to allow them to bring the produce of Asia and Africa as well as the goods of their own nations. But a condition attached to this, that some equivalent or countervailing advantage should be given to British commerce, and that had been effected under the Austrian treaty, which had secured the privilege to English ships of bringing into the ports of Austria the goods of any port in the world on the same terms as Austrian ships. In return for that privilege, it had been accorded to Austria to do that which English ships could—namely, to bring the produce of Asia and Africa from Austrian ports in the Mediterranean. All that had been done by the clause referred to, had been to enable the Crown, as in other cases where an advantage of this kind was obtained, to secure that advantage by a very small and moderate concession.

Papers to be printed.