HC Deb 23 March 1852 vol 120 cc28-30

rose to move an Address for copies of the Correspondence between Her Majesty's Government and foreign States, respecting the protection afforded to Refugees. He wished to confine himself strictly within the words of his Motion; and in so doing he wished to state, that at the commencement of the Session he applied to the noble Lord then at the head of the Government for information as to whether he intended to lay upon the table of the House the correspondence between the British Government and foreign States with respect to foreign refugees. The noble Lord informed him, that it was his intention to lay those papers before the House, and they accordingly were so laid upon the table of the House. Those papers concluded with a despatch of Earl Granville, in reference to communications received from foreign Powers upon that subject, with the addition of certain answers from foreign Ministers after the issue of that despatch. The Earl of Westmoreland stated that Prince Schwartzenberg at the time of receiving that despatch was so occupied that he was unable to give an immediate reply. A short time after the date of that letter we were informed by the public press that a despatch was sent by Prince Schwartzen-berg to the Austrian Minister in this country, and also to the Foreign Office in this country. That despatch was received during the Administration of Earl Granville at the Foreign Office. He (Mr. M. Milnes) thought it was very important to this country that that despatch should be formally laid upon the table of the House. The tone of it, as far as he could judge from what appeared in the public prints, was of a very peculiar and painful character. He would content himself with describing it in such language for the present. He thought it was most important that the correct text of that despatch should be laid upon the table of the House. He thought it also important, for the character of the late Government, that the House should be informed whether Earl Granville answered that despatch—whether he answered it directly and implicitly, or whether it remained for the present Government to answer it. He asked his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, soon after his accession to office, whether he would have any objection to lay those papers on the table of the House. He understood from him, at the time, that he was unwilling to do so, because the correspondence was not then complete. Would his right hon. Friend permit him to say that such answer merely meant that he did not think it convenient to lay the papers on the table of the House, because despatches of that kind might be procrastinated from time to time, and it would be impossible for a long time to obtain a complete copy of the correspondence. He wished his right hon. Friend to understand that he (Mr. M. Milnes) confined his request upon this subject to the despatch of the Austrian Government in answer to that of Earl Granville, and to any answers which might have been given by the late Government. Of course if it was convenient for him to do so, or if he thought it would furnish more light upon the subject, he might add such correspondence as had taken place since the accession of the present Government to power. The House would, no doubt, be grateful to him for such additional information. He could assure his right hon. Friend that he had no desire whatever to embarrass his or any other Government, because he felt most deeply that our foreign policy was too important a matter to be trifled with by party manœuvres. He would content himself with now moving for the papers mentioned in his Motion. In asking for the production of those papers he did not believe that he was making an unjust demand.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copies of the Correspondence between Her Majesty's Government and Foreign States, respecting the protection afforded to Refugees (in continuation of the Correspondence already presented to Parliament).


Sir, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract appears to entertain the notion that the essense of diplomacy is mystery. He thinks it quite impossible, whenever our diplomatic interests are concerned, for any Member or Members of Her Majesty's Government to give a straightforward answer. My hon. Friend wishes to bring a subject of great interest under the consideration of the House; but before he makes his Motion, he wishes to be put in possession of certain despatches which the Government of this country have received from foreign Powers. My hon. Friend has been furnished with some partial information respecting that correspondence. He inquired of me the other day whether I would lay on the table of the House some further correspondence connected with this subject, namely, that relating to foreign Refugees. I then told my hon. Friend that the correspondence was not complete, but when complete, I would lay it before the House. And now, I can tell my hon. Friend that that correspondence is complete. Within a day or two I believe it will be printed, and when it is printed, I shall, by command, lay it on the table of this House. My hon. Friend assures me that he has no desire to embarrass Her Majesty's Government by bringing forward this question. I can assure him that the question is not embarrassing, nor am I conscious of having attempted to evade it. I cannot suppose that my hon. Friend is going to press this Motion to a division, particularly after the statement which I have made. I have entirely fulfilled my promise to the House. I told the House that, when the correspondence was complete, it would be placed before them. I now inform the House, that the correspondence is complete, and that in due course it will be laid upon the table, so as to be in time for my hon. Friend's speech.


still thought the remarks of his right hon. Friend were characterised by diplomatic mystery.


hoped, after the statement of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, that his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract would withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.