HC Deb 28 February 1860 vol 156 cc1933-5

said, he wished to ask the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake), Whether the willingness which Her Majesty's Government had shown to lay on the table certain papers connected with the question of Savoy would not alter his view as to the propriety of bringing forward that evening the Motion of which he had given notice, and which, in the absence of those papers, could be only supported by matters of rumour.


said, he did not think there was any ground for adjourning this question, He would appeal to both sides of the House if it were right that the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater, in the course which he proposed to take, should be subjected to the pressure that had been put upon him. He should be sorry to see his hon. Friend (Mr. Milnes) defeated on two consecutive nights, but on this occasion he certainly did not represent the feelings or the wishes of the House. A week ago the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had requested the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater to adjourn the Motion, and, on a subsequent occasion, when a question was asked, he said he would defer his answer till that evening, when there would be a full opportunity of discussing the subject. With regard to the rumours alluded to by the hon. Gentleman, he was sorry to say he believed they were facts. The question of the annexation of Savoy had been discussed in the other House of Parliament in the absence of any papers on the subject; and if they were to make their non-production a ground for postponing the Motion, the public would begin to believe that the House of Commons had absolved themselves from discussing questions of public policy altogether, and had relinquished them to the other House. He conceived that the present was the proper time for entering into the discussion, and he should have thought that the Government would rejoice at the opportunity of entering into those explanations and affording those assurances which would place their conduct in a fair and intelligible light before the public. Owing, probably, to want of information the conduct of the Government had been canvassed in no very favourable manner; but by the result of the discussion the merits of the case must be disclosed, and he was convinced that if the conduct of the Government had been straightforward and manly, the House of Commons would confirm the view which they had taken, and the result would be rather to strengthen their hands than otherwise.


As the hon. Baronet has not concluded with a Motion his observations have been irregular.


I beg to conclude by moving the adjournment of the House.


In answer to the appeal made to me by the hon. Baronet who has just sat down, I have to state that I certainly shall not renew the application which I made to my hon. and learned Friend to postpone this Motion, either on account of injury to the public service or of any public inconvenience which would ensue from the discussion of such a Motion. But there certainly is this consideration, which I think has a great deal to do with the fair discussion of the subject, that the papers are not before the House; and although when my hon. and learned Friend formerly proposed to enter into this question I was not in a position to produce them, if the hon. Gentleman were now to move for the production of copies or extracts from the correspondence which has taken place between Her Majesty's Government and that of the Emperor of the French on this subject, I should have no difficulty in complying with that Motion. And if, as stated by the hon. Baronet, the question is to he whether the Government has behaved well or ill, and has sustained the character of the country, I do think the House would be in a much better position to act if the papers were before them. It will also be in the recollection of hon. Members who were present last night that the House, having been engaged for some hours in the consideration of questions arising out of the Commercial Treaty, and of articles of Customs relating to them, was of opinion that it would be desirable to proceed tonight with other propositions in relation to that subject. That does seem to me a reason for postponing the discussion on public grounds until after the papers have been produced. There was a hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Leicester Vernon) who had precedence of my hon. and learned Friend, and it must be admitted that the question raised by his Motion was one of great importance, and one which I dare say many persons are anxious to see determined; but he very fairly postponed it in order that the business to which I have alluded might be proceeded with. Of course it is for the hon. and learned Gentleman himself to decide whether he will proceed with his Motion.


said, he would at once admit that if the object of his Motion were to convey any real or implied censure on Her Majesty's Government, it would be most unbecoming in the House to proceed without those papers which were about to be produced, and which would disclose the true nature of the negotiations in which Her Majesty's Ministers had been engaged. But as their absence was the only ground advanced in support of the appeal made to him by the hon. Member for Pontefract, he must say that, according to the information which he had received, time was of vital moment in this matter. If the noble Lord had been able to make any statement which would have the effect of assuring him that on a future day the House would stand in exactly the same position as at present, he might have been induced to delay his Motion; but in the absence of such an assurance, however painful it might be to him personally, he conceived that he ought to persevere in his Motion.

Motion put and negatived.