HC Deb 25 May 1848 vol 98 cc1409-13

MR. BANKES: I have to ask the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether he is prepared now to lay on the table of the House any further papers relative to the late transactions in Spain, which have terminated in the order for our Ambassador to quit the Court of Madrid within eight-and-forty hours?

VISCOUNT PALMERSTON: I have already laid certain papers connected with the subject upon the table of the House, and it is my intention to lay upon the table certain other papers. The further selection I have made is in the hands of the printer. I shall not be able to produce them to-night; but I hope that they will be ready by to-morrow. Such of those papers as consist of despatches from Sir Henry Bulwer, received previously to the date of the instructions of the 16th of March, with two notes which passed between him and the Duke of Sotomayor relative to a per- sonal question, I have not already presented, the more especially as an explanation was in progress respecting them. But I have given directions for the printing of some other correspondence between the date I have specified, and that at which the notice was received, ordering Sir Henry Bulwer to quit Madrid. These papers will be included in the correspondence.

MR. BANKS S: I have received an intimation on the part of Sir Henry Bulwer to the effect that he is apprehensive, should my Motion be brought on to-morrow, that the discussion will be disadvantageous for him. I beg to state that my intention was in no degree to reflect, in bringing forward this question, on the conduct of our Ambassador at the Court of Madrid. My intention was only to raise the question relating to the instructions which he has received, and it was my purpose to confine my attention to the correspondence laid upon the table extending to the 20th of April. Up to that period the conduct of our Ambassador had received the full and entire approbation, not only of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, but of the whole of the Cabinet. It is, therefore, in my view of the case, in no way affecting the character of the Ambassador at the Court of Madrid that the House of Commons should pronounce an opinion as to the instructions which he obeyed. I understand, however, from the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, that certain communications are to be laid before us of a date prior to these instructions. These papers may alter the view of the case which I shall take, although I am not aware that they will. The conduct of the Ambassador was without impeachment up to the date of which I have spoken; but as I am aware that a debate when commenced is not always carried on according to the views and in the tone of the person commencing it, I cannot say but that in the course of such a debate the conduct and character of Sir H. Bulwer might be called in question. Understanding, then, that such is also the feeling of that Gentleman, I of course cannot but yield to it, as communicated to me, forming in fact, as it does, the wish of one Gentleman with respect to the course to be pursued by another. I shall, therefore, postpone my Motion until the next day of supply, leaving, however, my notice as it stands upon the Paper. If, however, the noble Lord at the head of the Government will give me a day for bringing this great and interesting question for- ward, that, I should say, is a fit mode of considering a topic of such gravity as this has become. I, a humble Member, can have no other opportunity but that of which I have availed myself; but if a day be given to me, I could more readily bring forward the question than in the other way.

LORD J. RUSSELL: It is for the hon. Gentleman to judge whether he will bring forward his Motion to-morrow or not. It is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to go into Committee of Supply tomorrow evening, and the hon. Gentleman can then bring forward his Motion, if he should so think fit. Sir Henry Bulwer has intimated to the hon. Gentleman that he thinks it only fair that his conduct should not be made matter of discussion until the further correspondence on the subject be produced. So far as Government is concerned, they are perfectly ready to meet the hon. Gentleman to-morrow, if he should think fit then to bring forward his Motion. If he should not think fit to do so, having had an opportunity, then I am not able to say that I can fix a day for him. I do not intend to give up the great question of the navigation laws. Probably a day will be found when the hon. Gentleman can bring forward his Motion; but I cannot give any promise, or make any engagement upon the subject.

MR. DISRAELI: I do not think the House can blame Her Majesty's Government for not furnishing us with the papers before next Saturday. But it is to be desired that no great time should elapse, after these documents have been laid on the table, before the discussion takes place. At the same time, it is very unsatisfactory, if we are to understand that the only chance of these documents being critically examined by the House should depend upon the necessity or caprice of the Government in fixing a Supply night. I am sure that there is no wish on this side of the House to retard the important business in charge of the Administration; but I do think that the noble Lord, when he considers the whole of the circumstances connected with the case, will feel that it is not more than is expected by the House and the country, should he hold out some early prospect of a full discussion.

LORD J. RUSSELL: I have no doubt that, after the discussion on the navigation laws, which commences on Monday, and which I am not willing to postpone, there will be a day when we shall propose to go into Committee of Supply; but, as I said before, I am not the least anxious that the hon. Gentleman should postpone his Motion, if he wishes to bring it on to-morrow.

VISCOUNT MAHON: The alternative put to us seems to be either to discuss this question without the documents, or not to discuss it at all. This, I say, is not a choice which Government ought to put before the House. Without expressing any opinion on the transaction itself, I may say it is quite plain that it is a transaction of no ordinary character; therefore I do think it would not be unbecoming the position of die noble Lord in this House, were he to hold out some prospect of a definite day for the discussion of the question, when all the documents shall have been laid before the House.

LORD J. RUSSELL: I repeat I cannot name a day.

MR. BANKES: I am aware that it is very material to have the matter arranged, so far as the noble Lord will permit it; and as it is manifestly inconvenient that further discussion should take place until the papers shall have been produced and considered, I cannot, therefore, take it upon myself to force on the debate tomorrow; but I trust that the noble Lord, on reconsidering the question, will feel that it is one of so important a nature, that he ought, for the sake of the Government, and the honour of the country, not to seek its postponement to a distant day.

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