HC Deb 16 June 1843 vol 70 cc8-11
Dr. Bowring

rose to put the question of which he had given notice. He wished to know what was the state of the negotiations respecting the Stade tolls; and whether there was any prospect of a prompt settlement. Those negotiations had occupied several successive governments, and great anxiety was felt as to the issue of them.

Mr. Gladstone

said, it was within the knowledge of the House that negotiations had been going on last year, between the British Government and that of Hanover, On the subject of the Stade duties, and were in a state of considerable advancement. The points which then remained for further discussion between the two Governments were not of very great magnitude at that time, when it was proposed by agreement between the King of Hanover and the Elbe-bordering States that the negotiations should he concluded in Germany, in order that it might be settled there by the parties who had the most immediate and substantial interest in the adjustment of the question; inasmuch as the ultimate burthen of those duties, however onerous they might be to the British trade, must fall on the consumers of the commodities on which they were levied. There was considerable hope at that time that this negotiation might lead to a speedy arrangement, involving a settlement of the question for other countries as well as this; and had it done so, it would have been more satisfactory than any other negotiation, not embracing all the parties who had an interest in the question, but confined to this country on the one hand, and Hanover on the other. This negotiation in Germany had now been in progress for, he believed, not less than five months, and the British Government were in great, doubt whether any speedy issue of it was likely to be attained. For some weeks past the British Government had been employed in investigating the facts of the case, and they were by no means satisfied at the present moment, that a result would be speedily arrived at. In a very short time the British Government would have made up its mind on the question, whether there was such a prospect of settlement with the means now in operation, as to warrant them in trusting to those means, as the shortest way of solving the question between this Government and that of Hanover; but unless they should come to that conclusion very speedily, it was intended to make an effort to resume a direct negotiation with Hanover, and bring to an issue a question which, as the hon. Member said, had been pending for a very great length of time, and caused a great deal of uneasiness and anxiety, in proportion to the magnitude of the interest at stake. It ought to be understood that the British Government had not given any pledge or held out any understanding that it would be concluded by any negotiation which might proceed between Hanover and the Elbe-bordering States. The British Government had been merely the attentive spectator of the negotiation, but they hoped it might have offered a chance of settlement, of which Government might have availed itself.

Viscount Palmerston

said, if he understood the right hon. Gentleman rightly, the closing of the question at issue between Hanover and Great Britain, respecting the exemption of British commerce from certain tolls which the Government of Hanover had hitherto imposed, had by the British Government been allowed to depend on the negotiations going on at Dresden. But unless this negotiation at Dresden was to determine in some way the question between Hanover and Great Britain, he did not understand why the negotiation between Hanover and Great Britain should have been suspended on account of the negotiation at D esden; but it appeared that the question of the right of toll between Hanover and Great Britain was suffered to be suspended until the negotiation between Hanover and the Elbe-bordering States at Dresden should have been brought to a conclusion. What he should wish to ask was, how Great Britain was represented at that assembly of plenipotentiaries of the Elbe-bordering States? He should wish to know what organ we had at this meeting, by which our right to be exempt from those tolls could be established, because it was obvious, if we had no organ there, we were to be in some way concluded by the negotiation; or, if it were not so, there was no sense in referring the subject to that meeting. He wished to ask, whether that board of the representatives of the Elbe-bordering States did or did not contain representatives of the States forming the General Union of Customs, which, so far from being interested in retrieving our commerce from the burthens pressing on it, had, from the very nature and principle of their confederacy, an interest in continuing burthens on British commerce.

Sir R. Peel

said, that some time since negotiations had been entered into, or rather concluded, between Hanover and this country, for the purpose of forming a separate treaty, and proposals had been made on the:part of this country for an amicable settlement of the differences which existed. These were not finally accepted by Hanover, and the negotiations were broken off in consequence of Hanover not acceding to the terms offered. Several other states had expressed a desire to bring this question to a satisfactory settlement, and had entered into negotiations for that purpose; their interests were corresponding to ours, but not exactly identical, and they endeavoured to make an arrangement with Hanover, which if effected on equitable terms, would be of great advantage to commerce generally, and therefore to this country; for it was quite evident that a mere partially arrangement between one state and another would not have the same good effects as a general arrangement, in benefitting the commerce of Europe. He had thought it better to wait; the result of these negotiations before renewing the negotiations between this country and Hanover. At the meeting at Dresden we had no representative, but there was a person there of the highest intelligence to report on the proceedings, but with a distinct understanding that we were not to be concluded—knowing there were parties there who had different interests from ours—by any arrangement which they might make, if we did not think that arrangement rested on an equitable basis. Therefore by no possibility could the arrangement at Dresden conclude us, either directly or impliedly, unless we were satisfied with the justice of it. The injury had now been long sustained; there did not appear to be the same prospect that formerly seemed to exist of an amicable termination of the difference; and it became now a question whether it were not desirable for us to resume negotiations on our own part only, without waiting for the close of those at Dresden.

Viscount Palmerston,

said, perhaps the House was not aware that the question, as it stood between Great Britain and Hanover was this:—We contended that by the treaties, Hanover had no right to levy more than one-sixteenth per cent. on the value of our goods. He wished to know whether the question which was to depend on the decision of this conference at Dresden was, whether Hanover should levy more than one-sixteenth? Whether, in short, the principle of the reference was, that if the congress at Dresden were of opinion that Hanover should levy more than she was entitled to by treaty, the British Government should acquiesce in the decision?

Sir R. Peel

said, the congress had undertaken to consider the whole question generally, whether Hanover had a right to impose any toll, or a toll beyond one-sixteenth; but whatever decision they might come to, we were not concluded by it.

Subject at an end.

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