HC Deb 19 March 1872 vol 210 cc249-50

Sir, I gave Notice to the First Minister on Friday last that I would on an early day put a Question to him with reference to the answer of the British Government to the despatch of the Government of the United States. As the answer is to be sent on Thursday next, and this is the last opportunity I shall have of putting the Question, I beg to ask my right hon. Friend, Whether he is now prepared to give the House an assurance that in any fresh negotiations that may be carried on with the Government of the United States no proposal shall be submitted by the British Government to be finally accepted by the United States, and to be binding upon this country, until Parliament has had knowledge of the proposal and has had an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it?


Sir, my right hon. Friend did state on a former day that he would at some future period, which he did not define, put a Question to me more or less corresponding in character with that which he has now put. But that Notice of my right hon. Friend did not appear on the Notice Paper of this House, and I have had no means of obtaining any authentic record of it, nor until I knew that the Question was to be put was it possible for me to refer to my Colleagues for the purpose of deliberation as to the answer which it might be my duty to give, inasmuch as the nature of that answer might under given circumstances have reference to the particular position of affairs at the moment. I am very sorry, therefore, that I have not been made aware of my right hon. Friend's intention to put this Question to-day. Not having had the power of referring to my Colleagues on a question of so much importance, I am not able to give any answer. At the same time, I beg my right hon. Friend not to draw the inference that my declining to give an answer has any reference whatever to the contents of the despatch which will, I hope, be sent to the American Minister to-morrow, in order that it may be forwarded to the United States Government.