HC Deb 10 February 1857 vol 144 cc458-72

said: Sir, I have to request the indulgent permission of the House to take a course which, although it may be somewhat irregular—


said: I beg pardon, Mr. Speaker. I am extremely sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but from what fell from him yesterday, and the intimation then given to the House that he was about to bring before us a subject of great importance, I presume that it is not his intention to enter into a mere personal explanation respecting a statement which he made on a previous evening, and the contradiction given to that statement by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. Now, so far as my humble vote goes, the right hon. Gentleman should have every indulgence; but I first wish to come to an understanding which is, that being in ignorance as to whether the right hon. Gentleman is about to state that he was imposed on at Paris or not, and as to whether the statements of the noble Lord at the head of the Government upon that point are incorrect or the contrary—the understanding, I repeat, to which I wish to come is this: that if the right hon. Gentleman should go beyond a mere personal statement any other hon. Member may be at liberty to make such remarks as he may think fit upon the observations of the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord, without being called to order on a question of form and stopped by there being no question before the House.


I rise to speak to the point of order suggested by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I think the House will feel, that although my right hon. Friend may be about to take a course not strictly within its rules, yet it is one which has always been permitted for the purposes of personal vindication. When my right hon. Friend has made his statement and the noble Lord has replied, it will be for the sense of the House to determine whether the discussion should be further prolonged.


Sir, I was under the impression that when the accuracy of a statement made by a Member of this House—especially upon a subject of some moment—was impugned, and impugned without any qualification, it was the courteous custom of the House to permit that Member to take the earliest opportunity of appealing to its indulgent consideration to make that statement which he deemed to be necessary to vindicate his accuracy—perhaps, his honour. It is in that spirit I appeal to the House to-night, and if any hon. Gentleman rises to call me to order I shall understand that the permission to which I allude is not to be accorded to me. If it should be accorded to me I trust it will be fairly and liberally extended; and I upon my part shall make no observation which I do not think necessary to clear up the point in dispute. I cannot help feeling that I am justly interpreting the general opinion of the House, when, in recalling the circumstances which have led to this appeal, I express a belief that my appearance in my place to answer the contradiction of the noble Lord at the head of the Government is neither unnecessary nor unreasonable. I shall, therefore, assume, that no hon. Member will again rise to call me to order, and that that indulgence will be extended towards me which, upon many occasions similar to the present, has been granted to hon. Members on both sides of the House. I remember some years ago—it may be eight years since—that there was a discussion in this House upon the proceedings which had taken place at Cracow. The discussion was one of considerable importance, and was adjourned for more than one day. I took some part in the debate, with a view of vindicating the Government of Austria on the particular question at issue, and I recollect that I had had occasion—the treaty of Vienna having during the debate been frequently appealed to—to refer to a guarantee contained, as I alleged, in that treaty, by which England guaranteed to Prussia her Saxon provinces. The noble Lord, at present the First Minister of the Crown, was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and had held that office for no less than seventeen years. On that occasion, when I referred to the guarantee by Great Britain to Prussia of her Saxon provinces, the noble Lord unequivocally contradicted me in the face of the House. He said there was in the treaty of Vienna no such guarantee. "Nay more," said the noble Lord, "there is in the treaty of Vienna no guarantee whatsoever." Upon that occasion I had an opportunity of reiterating my statement, and I mentioned the clause of the treaty in which the guarantee was contained. The noble Lord was still incredulous; he instructed one of his aides de camp to go up to the library,—it was in the old House—and to bring down the treaty of Vienna. The noble Lord then referred to the treaty, and there he found among its provisions a guarantee upon the part of Great Britain of her Saxon provinces to Prussia; and thus the Noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who had been Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for a period of seventeen years, and whose reputation as a statesman mainly depended on his knowledge of foreign affairs, then became acquainted for the first time, apparently, with one of the most important engagements of the British Crown. On the first night of the present Session I had occasion in the course of the debate to refer to another guarantee. I mentioned that there was in existence a guarantee by France to Austria of her Italian dominions; I mentioned also that that guarantee was expressed in a treaty, and further I mentioned that that treaty was a secret one. The Noble Lord contradicted me upon that occasion as he had done upon the previous occasion with respect to the guarantee to Prussia. But I was then in a very different position from that in which I found myself placed eight years ago. The treaty to which I referred was not printed; it was not published; it could not be sent for to the library of the House of Commons for the purpose of vindicating my assertion, or of refuting the allegation of the Noble Lord. I did not under those circumstances think it respectful to this House to rise and make a barren reiteration of the statement I had put forward; I felt that such a reiteration would not, under the circumstances, be satisfactory either to the House or to myself. I had a moral conviction when I made the statement that I was correct; that moral conviction of my correctness sustained me while listening to the almost unprecedented form of contradiction which I received from the lips of the chief Minister. I received the information which I presumed to communicate to the House that night for its guidance from a quarter which I felt convinced could not be mistaken, and which I was confident would not have deceived me. And here I may perhaps be permitted to say—although upon such a question I think it quite unnecessary that a Member should be called upon for his authority, yet in consequence of the peculiar observations of the Noble Lord, the House will perhaps allow me to say, that I received that information from no French authority or quarter; and that if I had not made that visit to Paris, to which the Noble Lord with such good taste alluded, that information would equally have been in my possession. Now, I believe I am not mistaking the feeling of the House when I say that I think they will agree with me—assuming that the information I gave was correct, or assuming, what is the same thing, so far as my conduct is concerned, that I had, in consequence of the authority from which I received it, a conviction that it was correct—I think the House will agree with me that it was impossible, under the circumstances, that I could remain silent upon the point. It would be totally out of the question that if the affairs of Italy were brought under discussion in this House, as they had been brought at the termination of last Session—it would be impossible, for instance, that if the subject should be again introduced by the noble Lord the Member for London—and it was a subject which every one supposed would be brought under our notice by the noble Lord—it would be impossible as I felt that I could listen to a Motion upon the subject of the affairs of Italy, brought forward by a statesman of the reputation of the Noble Lord the Member for London—a Motion founded on the proceedings of the Conferences at Paris, and on the direct or implied engagements of the British Government—it would be impossible that if such a Motion were brought forward by the Noble Lord, or any other Member, founded on such authority, and if that Motion should be met by such an answer as that given by the noble Lord last year to a similar Motion—an answer which was then deemed quite satisfactory—I say I am sure the House will agree with me that while I was in possession of such information, and believed it to be authentic, it would be impossible for me, as an honest man, to withhold the statement of what I regarded as a fact that must have totally altered all the reasonings and all the views, all the arguments, and all the feelings of the House upon the subject to which the Motion was addressed. I felt, then, from the first moment that I became, or believed that I became, possessed of this intelligence, that if the affairs of Italy should be again brought under the consideration of the House, it would become on my part an act of peremptory and inexorable duty to make the statement which I did. That statement was well considered. I will not attempt to excuse it by pretending that it was uttered in the heat and hurry of debate—that statement was a well-considered and a long-considered statement, and if it be an erroneous one I am prepared to take upon myself all the responsibility of so grave an error. Now, Sir, there is one point on which I must ask the indulgence of the House to allow me to make one or two observations, in order to prevent misconception. I wish to guard myself from any misunderstanding as to the views with which I look on such an alleged connection between France and Austria as a matter of policy. I wish no one to suppose that in the observations I made on the first evening of the Session it was my intention to offer any opinion upon that question. I alleged the circumstance which I stated, neither in vindication nor in reprobation of Austria, but simply in order to illustrate the conduct of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the general management of foreign affairs. I am not bold enough to suppose that there is any Member present who remembers with any accuracy what I may have expressed in this House with regard to the position which, in my opinion, Austria ought to hold in the political system of Europe. But I may be permitted to say, with a view to prevent any misconception upon the subject, that the last words that I uttered in this House before the termination of the last Session, on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for London, expressed the opinion which I have long steadfastly and strongly entertained, that it is a matter of the highest European importance to maintain the power and the authority of Austria. That was the opinion which I expressed on the eve of the prorogation of Parliament. Often and often before have I stated in this House that opinion; and even in the debate to which I felt it necessary to recall the recollection of the noble Lord at the commencement of these observations—the debate on Cracow—I was vindicating the conduct of Austria, and asserting her claim to a powerful and an independent position for the maintenance of the equilibrium of Europe. If, then, it be one of the highest objects of European policy that the power and authority of Austria should be maintained—it is no less, in my opinion, for the sake of Italy and the Italians. It is when that authority is questioned—it is when it is weakened by the plots of secret societies, or the machinations of foreign Governments, that the policy of Austria becomes, repressive and retrograde. It was not, therefore, to impugn the policy which dictated the treaty I alleged to exist that my observations were directed on the first evening of the Session. I believe the policy which dictated that treaty on the part of France was a policy founded on that wise, that temperate, and that conservative spirit which has gained for the Government of the Emperor of the French the respect and confidence of Europe. I have made these observations to the House in order to guard myself against the supposition that in the language which I used on the first night of the Session it was my intention to have impugned the policy which would maintain the authority of Austria, or to have created an impression that France was animated in that proceeding, if it took place, by any other motives than those which would have fairly entitled her to the respect of Europe. That which I did complain of the other night, that which I do complain of still, and that which is the point most germane to the question before us is, that if it be a fact that this treaty exists—that if it be a fact that the statement which I made was a correct statement—the conduct of Her Majesty's Government at the same time was conveying to this House, and to the country, and to Europe, an impression that they were pursuing a policy of an exactly opposite character, and that the course of their general policy was a course entirely adverse to that which this alleged treaty was intended to accomplish and maintain. I think it concerns our national honour that upon this matter there should be a clear understanding. If it be true that while this alleged treaty was in existence we were negotiating treaties with Sardinia, animated and occasioned by representations of a contrary character, surely that is a question which ought to be elucidated before the House. That is what I complained of. I complained of this, that Italian policy was made a stalking-horse by Her Majesty's Government. If the statement that I made was a correct statement, the Liberal party in this country, as I wanted to show them, who extenuate their lack of zeal in domestic affairs by an unlimited confidence in the foreign policy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government—not sufficiently warned by the cases of Poland and Hungary—the Liberal party ought to understand that that Italy which they believed was about to be regenerated according to their ideas by the noble Lord, was the subject of a very different policy and of a very different treatment. Now, I want to place before the House exactly and without exaggeration the charges against me involved in the contradiction which I received from the noble Lord. The contradiction which I received from the noble Lord the other night involved two allegations. The first allegation of the noble Lord was, that my statement that there was a treaty, and that a secret treaty, in existence, by which France guaranteed to Austria the security of her Italian dominions, was altogether a fiction; that there was no such treaty in existence; that there was not the slightest foundation for the statement—that it was, to use the noble Lord's words, a romance. That was the first allegation involved in the contradiction which I received from the noble Lord. The second allegation which fell from the noble Lord was contained in a derisive hypothesis. The noble Lord said, "If there be such a treaty in existence"—after having immediately before declared to the House that there was none—"if there be such a treaty in existence, if the right hon. Gentleman has seen it, all I can say is that I have not seen it; that I have not heard of it; that Her Majesty's Government never heard of it; and instead of advising such a treaty, if we had known anything about it, and been consulted upon the subject, our counsel would have been to have made no arrangement of the kind." These are the two allegations involved in the contradiction of the noble Lord. But as everything in such a case depends upon accuracy, I will read the allegations of the noble Lord as I find them recorded in an authority the accuracy of which he will not, I am sure, dispute. The noble Lord said:—"We come now to Italy, and, in reference to that question, the right hon. Gentleman has had access to archives, and has found out treaties of which we never heard. He announces that there is a secret treaty concluded between the French and Austrian Governments, with the sanction of the Government of England, guaranteeing to Austria her Italian possessions. I am bound to say that this is the first time I ever heard of it. The right hon. Gentleman may have seen such a treaty; but all I will undertake to say is, that we are totally ignorant of it; and, so far from having advised such a treaty, if we had been consulted we should certainly have given our advice in an opposite direction." I put it to the House whether or not I have accurately described the allegations contained in the contradiction I received from the noble Lord. I will now address myself to the first of those allegations. According to that allegation, the whole thing is a romance—there is no such treaty—it is a pure invention—I have either been hoaxed or I have created the treaty—and, in fact, it is a pure romance. Now, Sir, let me come to what my statement is. My statement is, that engagements were negotiated between France and Austria with the object—with the main object—of guaranteeing on the part of France the security of the Italian dominions of Austria; that these negotiations were brought to a successful conclusion; that they were expressed in writing; that the written instrument assumed the form of a treaty, and of a secret treaty; and that that treaty was executed on the 22nd of December, 1854. In answer to the first allegation of the noble Lord, that there was no treaty whatever—that the whole of my statement on that point was a mere romance, I am here to re-state that which I expressed the other night. I give the very date of the instrument, the form of the instrument and the purpose and object of the instrument. Now I come to the second allegation contained in the contradiction which I received from the noble Lord. That allegation, as the House must remember, was uttered in a spirit of derision; but I will give the noble Lord the benefit of taking it gravely. The second allegation contained in the noble Lord's demand was, that "if such treaty had been seen by the right hon. Gentleman I have not seen it, and the Government have not heard of it, and instead of advising it the Government would have recommended, had they known of it, that it should not be concluded." That is the second allegation of the noble Lord. Now, I have in my possession evidence—irresistible evidence—which proves to me that throughout the whole of the negotiations of this treaty, which I declare to have been executed the 22nd of December, 1854, by which the security of the Italian dominions of Austria is guaranteed by France—that throughout the whole of the negotiations of this treaty Her Majesty's Government were privy to them from the first; that they counselled them; that the suggestions received their approbation, their concurrence, I will even say their cordial concurrence; and that they were formally advised upon the subject before the execution of that treaty took place. The House will now, I believe, at least agree with me in this, that I have not evaded the issue under our consideration. They will, I think, admit that so far I have placed the very pith and marrow of the contradiction which I received from the noble Lord fairly before them, and that I have directly met these two allegations. But I have a further statement to make upon this subject. I state to the House now that that treaty was not only executed on the 22nd of December, 1854, with the cognisance of Her Majesty's Government, but that it was largely and extensively acted on—that in consequence of that secret treaty Austria withdrew a portion of her troops from Italy—that in consequence of Austria having withdrawn a portion of her troops from Italy, the Italian Governments throughout the Peninsula became alarmed, and that Austria obtained from the French Government permission confidentially to communicate to the Italian Governments in order to tranquillise them—I use, I believe, the very word that was employed on the occasion—that Austria, in order to "tranquillise" them, obtained permission from the French Government to communicate to them confidentially the fact of the French guarantee: I would make upon that point even a further statement, and it is this—that the fact that Austria obtained that permission and communicated the existence of the secret treaty to the Italian Governments was known to Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord has said that I had had access to archives, and that I had found out treaties of which he had never heard. But I will refer now to archives of which the noble Lord has heard—I will refer to the archives of that office over which he so long presided; and I tell the noble Lord that if he will give me, without reserve, the correspondence in the archives of Downing-street during the month of December, 1854, and the month of January, 1855, and if he will assist me in obtaining, though I think it will not be necessary, any official evidence which may be requisite to elucidate some passages in this transaction, I think I may venture to say that I could then prove every tittle of the statement that I have made. The House will, I hope, now admit, at least, that I have not evaded coming to a frank issue with the noble Lord. The noble Lord the other night, when this question was under discussion, treated—as is his custom—a very grave subject in a spirit of levity. I cannot say that I admired at the time the tone which the noble Lord assumed, because, if there was any foundation for what I stated, it required, I think, at least the serious attention of the First Minister of the Crown; and if, on the other hand, it was an inconsiderate statement, and still more, if it were a statement invented by me for the occasion, it was not in a tone of ribald ridicule that it ought to have been answered, but rather in one of warm and vehement indignation. For how stands the case with regard to myself. If I had made upon so grave a matter an inconsiderate statement, my character as a politician might have been damaged or destroyed; but if I had invented a statement of such a kind, it was not a question of my character as a politician, but it was a question of my character as a member of society itself that was involved. If that were at stake—if my conduct were susceptible of so grave an interpretation, surely the tone which the noble Lord, as the leader of the House of Commons, assumed, was not one which the occasion exactly warranted. I have now sat in this House for twenty years; I have laboured sedulously to obtain the good opinion and the respect of the House. They are to me dearer than all worldly possessions. I am conscious that I have frequently addressed the House inefficiently, and sometimes, it may be, with indiscretion; but this I also know, that I have treated this House always with candour. Whether the noble Lord the other night, in his answer to me, treated the House in the same spirit, I care not to inquire.


said: The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the observations he has just made, and in claiming, as he had a right to do, the attention of the House, said that the question at issue involved his character for judgment, and, it might be, his character for honour. But I beg leave to call to the recollection of the House that nothing that I said or insinuated upon a former occasion could in any way whatever justify the right hon. Gentleman in conceiving that any question affecting his honour or his character was here at stake. I did not accuse the right hon. Gentleman of having invented the statement which he made; I only charged him with credulity in having been induced to believe a statement which I thought was utterly devoid of any foundation in fact. I can only further say upon that point that I should very much regret if the right hon. Gentleman should harbour in his mind any notion that there was anything in what I said that at all brought in question his personal honour, which I never intended to impugn, and which I am sure no man possesses in a higher degree than himself. But the right hon. Gentleman finds fault with me for not having been angry. He complains that I treated him with too much good humour, or with what he is pleased, while talking of good taste, to call, in language upon which I will not now dwell, "ribald ridicule." Now, it is well known that those who make themselves ridiculous are always the most ready to resent the very ridicule which they have provoked, and it is their habit to charge others with the consequences which their own conduct has naturally and necessarily produced. The right hon. Gentleman has stated very correctly a part of the contradiction which I gave to his statement on the opening night of the Session, but he has omitted some very important points in the case. I beg leave to recall to the attention of the House what was the charge—for it was distinctly a charge—which the right hon. Gentleman brought against Her Majesty's Government, and what were the allegations by which he considered that he had proved that charge. He certainly could not have brought it as a charge against Her Majesty's Government that they were anxious to maintain Austria in the possession of her dominions. During the very last debate we had in the last Session of Parliament the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, among the principles of the foreign policy of the party of which he was the leader, that the leading alliances with England ought to be alliances with Russia, with Austria, and with the United States. I had then occasion to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he had accidentally omitted in his list of our most valuable alliances our alliance with that Power—namely, France—with which we were bound in the most intimate alliance, and for the most important objects. But it being the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that a close and intimate alliance with Austria was the best and soundest policy for the British Government, he could not mean that in the abstract it was a breach of duty on the part of Her Majesty's Government to be a party to a measure tending to secure the integrity of the Austrian dominions; and, indeed, in the course of the observations he has made this evening he has fairly stated that he considered the maintenance of Austria, not only to the north, but, if I understood him correctly, to the south of the Alps also, in full and undiminished power, to be a matter in which were involved the general interests of Europe. But what was the charge which the right hon. Gentleman brought against Her Majesty's Government? Why, it was this—he said that we were professing a great interest for the Italians; that we were professing to sympathise with their feeling of aversion to a foreign yoke; that we wished to encourage Italian nationalities; and yet that while we were doing all openly on the one hand, on the other we were secretly instigating the French Government to give a guarantee which, as far as the possessions of Austria are concerned, are directly at variance with the sympathy expressed for Italian independence. I stated, in reply, that which I now repeat—that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, there is no treaty between France and Austria guaranteeing the Italian possessions of the latter Power; and the right hon. Gentleman, I must observe, has given no proof of the existence of such a treaty. He has not offered any explanation of the grounds on which he made that assertion; and therefore it rests now, as it rested before, simply on hearsay evidence, or what somebody or other, whose name is not mentioned, told the right hon. Gentleman. He talked of "good taste." Of course every man is the best judge of the degree of latitude given to him in regard to the publication of communications which he may have received; but I own it appears to me that if a person is told of a secret engagement contracted between two other parties, he would not under ordinary circumstances deem himself at liberty to make that secret engagement public without the consent of some one, at least, of the parties immediately interested. This matter reminds me of a peculiarity that I remember in my late hon. Friend Mr. Hume, who used constantly to ask us to make known to the House the application of the secret service money. But secrecy and publicity seem to me to be matters not easily reconcilable with one another. The right hon. Gentleman, however, says that a sense of public duty rendered it necessary for him, even before any discussion has been raised in reference to the affairs of Italy, and merely in anticipation of such a discussion, to take the earliest possible opportunity of informing the House of this secret transaction between two foreign independent Governments. That is no doubt a matter for the exercise of his own discretion. What I stated the other evening was this—I said we do not believe in the existence of any such secret treaty—that we had never seen any such treaty, that we had never heard of it; and that unless the right hon. Gentleman had seen it, and had access to archives of which we knew nothing, and made the statement on his own knowledge, my view was, that he had been imposed upon by false information which had been given to him in some quarter or other. I also said that the only foundation which I could imagine he had for the statement which he made was, that in the early part of the war, when there was a hope that Austria might have joined the Allies in active co-operation against Russia, a communication did take place between France and Austria, the object of which, on the part of Austria, was to ascertain that, if she took part in the war in conjunction with France, France would undertake that no advantage should be taken of the opportunity to disturb her Italian provinces. That is the only foundation, as I believe, for the statement of the right hon. Gentleman; but it is perfectly true, as he has mentioned, that about December, 1854 and there are other hon. Gentlemen in the House, who are not Members of the Government, but who at that time were Members of the Government, who will correct me if I am erroneously stating the course of events as far as their recollection goes, if they choose to impart what took place when they were in office—it was hoped that Austria would join offensively and defensively with England and France, and in that case she would know that her armies would come into collision with those of the Emperor of Russia. Of course Austria naturally wished to know—supposing Russia to do that which as a belligerent Power she would be perfectly justified by the recognised law of nations in doing, namely, attempt to cause a disturbance or an insurrection in Italy for the purpose of distracting the attention of Austria—what course the French and English Governments would take. And the French Government did inform that of Austria that as an honourable ally it would not take advantage of any such disturbance or insurrection. It stated, moreover, that if that state of things arose, if the Austrian army joined the arms of France and England, and if during the war any disturbance should break out in Italy, any French force—necessarily a small one—that might be in Italy at the time, would of course act in concert with whatever force the Austrian Government might think proper to employ for the purpose of putting down any insurrection in the Austrian possessions of Italy. This arrangement was undoubtedly known to the English Government. That answer was a very fit and proper one under the circumstances, and it would have been inconsistent with honourable conduct if any other answer had been given. The arrangement was embodied in the shape of a convention; the right hon. Gentleman says that convention was signed on a certain day in December. I can only say that from information received as late as yesterday from a quarter likely to be correct, there is great reason to doubt that that convention was ever signed at all. Still if it had been, it was as different from the treaty which was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman as two things can possibly be, and that between that and a guarantee there is, as has been stated by a French publication which I have read, and doubtless the right hon. Gentleman has also read, a complete abyss, a gulf which separates the two as an impassable barrier. What I denied at the time, and what I again deny, is that there is, to my knowledge and belief, any treaty in existence, or that any treaty has ever been concluded and signed by which France guarantees the integrity of the Italian possessions of Austria. I am inclined to believe that the information which we have received is correct, and that the convention itself, which was merely a temporary convention and to have force only during the war, was never signed—and why? Because the foundation of that convention was, that Austria should join with England and France in offensive operations against Russia; but Austria never did join in those active operations. It was her policy, and of that she alone was the judge, to remain neutral, and therefore it was not necessary that the convention should be completed. No doubt the new engagements which the convention was intended to create would have been acted upon if the case had arisen, but it is a total perversion of things to represent such an arrangement as a guarantee given by France for the integrity of the Austrian possessions in Italy; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman having repeated that assertion, I can on my part only repeat the denial which I have already made. I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon for not having been angry with him the other night, and I hope he will excuse me for now treating the subject in a manner which I think is not likely to give offence to any man. I must throw myself on his indulgence for not having spoken with more indignation than I have done to-night. My object has been to vindicate the Government from the charge of bad faith towards the House and of deceitful conduct towards the Italians in having secretly instigated the treaty, for the other night the right hon. Gentleman actually charged Her Majesty's Government with having not only approved and encouraged, but even having instigated and originated the secret treaty. To-night the right hon. Gentleman only says that the transaction was made known to us at the time. Having, Sir, as I hope, succeeded in vindicating the Government on this point, I shall sit down without further troubling the House.

The subject then dropped.