HC Deb 22 February 1860 vol 156 cc1543-4

said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether it is understood by the Government that the proposed reduction and abolition of Import Duties, pursuant to Articles V. and VI. of the Treaty with France are to take effect as regards the produce of other countries than France and her dependencies in virtue of the obligations of the said Treaty? Not seeing the noble Lord in his place, he would postpone his inquiry, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be willing to give him the information he sought for. Article V. referred to the abolition of Duties upon a variety of articles. Article VI. proposed a reduction of Duties on French Wines and Spirits. He especially wished for an explanation of Article V.


Sir, I have been in communication with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the subject of the hon. Member's question; and I am quite prepared to answer it if I collect the meaning of it rightly. So far as I am aware, the Treaty with France has no effect whatever except with regard to French productions, for which the Articles ensure, in certain cases mentioned in the Treaty, certain arrangements which are also mentioned there, there being likewise certain general provisions ensuring the same terms to France as to the most favoured nations. But as respects the course which Parliament may think fit to take with regard to the productions of other countries beyond those terms which are specifically mentioned in the Treaty, I am not aware that the Treaty has any effect. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman means to raise such a question as whether, should Parliament wish to maintain the duties on German silk goods, for example, it would be precluded from doing so by the Treaty. Most certainly it would not. I will not, however, express any opinion as to the wisdom of any particular course, but I think Parliament would be at liberty either to admit German silk goods at the present duty, or to prohibit them, or to increase the duty, so far as the French Treaty is concerned.