HC Deb 05 June 1866 vol 183 cc1947-8

I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, a question of which I have not given notice, but which is of great importance, and is one to which I am sure the House will be happy to obtain an answer. That question is, Whether it is true that the proposed Congress has been given up?


I am sorry to state that it has become necessary to give an answer substantially in the affirmative to the question of the right hon. and gallant Member. The first communication made to the British Government to this effect was by a telegraphic message received last night from France, stating that, in the opinion of the French Government, the Conference was at an end, in consequence of an answer from Austria proposing to impose conditions that were regarded as impracticable. We are now in possession of the Austrian despatch on the subject, and the substance of it is this— We shall require beforehand an assurance that all the powers which are to take part in the projected Conference shall be ready to renounce the pursuit of any special or particular interest, to the detriment of the general tranquillity. It goes on further to explain that sentiment by stating that, as a condition to be complied with by the Cabinets desirous of peace, it appeared to Austria indispensable that they should be agreed beforehand to exclude from the deliberations of the Conference anything that would tend to give to any of the States invited and attending at that meeting any territorial augmentation or increase of power. To require such an engagement beforehand was regarded by the Government of France as being equivalent to a refusal of the Conference, or as making it impossible. The Government of England are agreed in that view of the case with the Government of France. All prospect, therefore, of the meeting of the Conference must, I fear, be regarded as at an end.