HC Deb 09 March 1860 vol 157 cc245-6

The noble Lord the Member for Durham (Lord A. Vane-Tempest) has put to me some questions on a subject of great public interest, and I feel bound to give him such information as I am able in reply to those questions. He asks me if I have taken any steps—and if so, what the nature of those steps is—to obtain the concurrence of Austria, Prussia, and Russia in protesting against the rumoured annexation of Savoy to France. Now, the course which we have adopted in respect to this question is this—We have communicated the correspondence which has taken place between Her Majesty's Government and that of France on the subject to the Courts of Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. I may add that we contented ourselves with simply directing our Ministers to communicate that correspondence, and desiring that a copy of it should be handed to the Governments of each of those countries respectively, without asking them to take any steps or to make any suggestion in the matter, but leaving them to adopt such a course as they might deem expedient on a question which is of importance to the interests of Europe. With respect to the probable result of this proceeding I am quite unable to supply the noble Lord with any information beyond this, that the Ministers for Foreign Affairs both at Vienna and Berlin say that they agree generally with the views of Her Majesty's Government on this subject. Neither at Berlin nor Vienna, however, is it absolutely stated what steps their respective Governments propose to take in a matter which certainly requires careful consideration. From St. Petersburg I have received no information with regard to it, probably because the despatch which we sent there was not forwarded so soon as those which were sent to Vienna and Berlin. I may at the same time observe that when any information in answer to the despatch which we forwarded to St. Petersburg reaches us we shall be prepared to lay it on the table the moment it is in a state to be thus communicated to the House. We shall, I may add, have some correspondence from Berlin and Vienna to lay on the table on Monday. The noble Lord has asked me further, whether we are acquainted with the final intentions of Sardina in reference to the annexation of Savoy to France. Now, in answer to that question I may state that I had placed in my hands by a private friend of Count Cavour a document which was said to be a copy of the Sardinian reply to the proposal of France; but I have been since informed that this document is not quite correct, and therefore I cannot, until I receive further information on the subject from Her Majesty's Minister in Turin, lay on the table any papers in reference to this particular point. I may, however, observe that the substance of the reply of Count Cavour is to the effect that, if the Parliament of Sardinia should deem it expedient to have recourse to a vote of the people of Savoy with respect to the question of its annexation to France, the Sardinian Government would take care that that vote should be taken with every form of liberty, so that the people of Savoy might exercise perfect freedom of choice in deciding whether they would continue under the Sardinian Government or prefer a separation from that country. The answer of Count Cavour then proceeds to state that, should the people of Savoy be in favour of separation, the Government of Sardinia trusts the question will be duly weighed by the other Powers of Europe, and that care will be taken not only of the interests of Switzerland, but due regard will be paid to the security of the frontiers of the kingdom of Sardinia itself. So far as Switzerland is concerned, I believe the views of the Government of that country upon this subject remain quite unchanged, the papers which I shall lay on the table on Monday will show the precise opinion they entertain. All the information we are possessed of will be contained in those papers.

Motion agreed to.

House at rising to adjourn till Monday next.