HC Deb 06 March 1857 vol 144 cc1945-8

said, he hoped that the House would permit him to make a few remarks with reference to Persia, as the answer of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control to his question was not satisfactory. The Persian war was instituted when Parliament was sitting, and had been concluded also during its sitting, but without its knowledge. No information whatever had as yet been given to the House relative to the expenditure occasioned by that war, nor as to how it originated, nor as to the negotiations which had brought it to a conclusion. Under such circumstances he thought that the House ought to require the Government to produce the whole of the papers on the subject. Before they were sent back to their constituents the country should have the means of judging of the policy of that war, which he firmly believed was unjust in its origin, impolitic as to the mode in which it had been concluded, and likely to lead to disastrous results in Central Asia. He did not desire to throw any difficulty in the way of Her Majesty's Government, but at the same time he considered that the House and the country were placed in a very awkward and unfair position with regard to the Persian war. When they were called upon to pronounce a judgment on the policy of Her Majesty's Government it was essential for them to know what the history of the Persian war really was. He hoped that some one who had greater authority in that House than himself would insist on the production of the papers on that subject, or at least a selection of them, in order that the House might have some fair means of judging how the war commenced, how it ended, and what was the character of the treaty into which the country was about to enter with Persia.


said, he could only repeat his former answer, that he hoped there would be no discussion upon the subject until the treaty had been ratified. It was perfectly obvious that any discussion in that House must lead to the expression of opinions which might be unpalatable to the Persian Government, and might lead to dissensions at that Court which would possibly prevent the ratification of the treaty. His hon. Friend had stated that both war and peace had been made while Parliament was sitting. War was not made while Parliament was sitting, because, as he had stated before, it was not until the 26th of September, which they all knew was during the recess. That peace had been made was, he supposed, a cause of congratulation both to Parliament and to the country. No Vote of money would be asked for until after the meeting of the new Parliament. By that time he hoped that the treaty would be ratified, and that the papers might be laid upon the table. In the meantime he hoped that his hon. Friend would exercise the same discretion which had hitherto guided his proceedings, and that other hon. Gentlemen would follow the same line, and not force upon the Government a discussion which might be prejudicial to the interests of the country.


said, he did not wish to enter into the question of the Persian war, but he thought that it was a very bad system to refer a matter of so much importance to the Indian authorities, instead of it being declared and conducted like other wars by the Home Government.


said, he was not aware that the question was to be raised on that evening, but he thought that having been raised it ought not to be disposed of without a moment's consideration. He did not intend to express any decided opinion without further consideration, but he must frankly confess that he was not at all satisfied with what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control. Let the House observe what the upshot would be. War was made without the consent of Parliament. When Parliament met negotiations were commenced, and they were pleaded as a reason why no inquiry should be made into the cause of the war. When they asked for an estimate of the expense they were told that it could not be presented, because it would interfere with the negotiations. The war had now been terminated, but still if he understood rightly, it was not intended to present that estimate to the present Parliament, so that, in point of fact, the representatives of the people would have no opportunity of passing judgment either upon the war or upon the conduct of Government in regard to it until the new Parliament met, when the war would have been closed for three or four months. Then, and then only, would they be called upon to pay the Bill. If that were to be the state of things it was ridiculous to talk of free and representative government in England, at least so far as concerned the question of the Persian war. He did not wish to go beyond that point at the present moment, but he thought that it deserved more consideration than it could receive in the course of a conversation arising in so desultory a manner.


said, he wished to remind the House of the answer which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control gave him on a former occasion when he ventured to think that the policy which was pursued by the Government with reference to Kars might lead to certain events, which had since taken place. The right hon. Gentleman then said that he had taken counsel of the wisest men, not Members of Her Majesty's Government, and they had assured him that there was not the slightest chance of any disturbance in Persia; least of all was there a prospect of any movement upon Herat. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to deny it; but he would find it duly recorded in Hansard. Now it would be interesting (o ascertain what was the cause of the war, because, if it were that which it had been understood to be, it was very desirable that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon it before the noble Lord at the head of the Government made his appeal to the country.