§ MR. E. JENKINS
I wish, Sir, to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, in view of the unprecedented circumstance that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made to two deputations which waited upon him at the Foreign Office on Friday, the 14th instant, important statements of the views of the Government on its foreign policy which had not been announced in Parliament, he would state as a matter of form that they may be accepted as official declarations of the opinion and policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the matters therein referred to; and, if so, whether he will consent to lay authentic reports of those statements before Parliament along with the Papers on the Eastern question; or, if that course is inconvenient, whether in order to assist the House in the approaching discussion on Eastern affairs, he will himself make to the House some declaration, similar to that of the noble Lord, of the intentions and policy of the Government, particularly in relation to the continued presence of a British Fleet in Besika Bay and the naval preparations in Her Majesty's dockyards?
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the hon. Gentleman has somewhat changed the form of his inquiry since it first appeared upon the Notice Paper. Still I may be permitted to say that the inquiry, as I think, argues a want of acquaintance with Parliamentary and political life which is somewhat remarkable in a Gentleman who is a Member of the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman wishes, in the first place, to ascertain whether the statements of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to two deputations which waited 1814 upon him at the Foreign Office on the 14thinstant "may be accepted as official declarations of the opinion and policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the matters therein referred to." Sir, when a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, at the Foreign Office, in answer to a numerous deputation not unattended by skilled reporters, makes a declaration of the policy of the Government of which he is a Member, it is unquestionably an official declaration, and as such has always been and should be regarded. Then the hon. Gentleman wishes, if that be the case, to know whether I will consent that the authentic report of these statements shall be laid before Parliament. Sir, it is impossible to lay before Parliament authentic reports of such statements. We have no authentic reports of official statements made by Ministers in Parliament. It is not the custom of the country, and I should be sorry to see the custom ever adopted, because it would inevitably lead to our writing our speeches, which I think would much deteriorate the character of our public life and diminish the liveliness and vigour of Parliamentary debate. The hon. Gentleman further suggests that I should make to the House some declaration, "similar to that of the noble Lord, of the intention and policy of the Government, particularly in relation to the continued presence of a British Fleet in Besika Bay, and the naval preparations in Her Majesty's dockyards." My answer to that is that Her Majesty's Government have already furnished the House with ample information as to all the transactions which have taken place in Turkish waters. If the hon. Gentleman wishes further information, or if he requires of the Government anything which may illustrate any passages in these Papers, I shall in my place in debate, on legitimate and proper occasion, be ready to give him that information; but I trust that the House will always maintain that it is in discussion, and in both Houses of Parliament, that such information is to be given, and not by what the hon. Gentleman calls "authentic reports."
§ MR. E. JENKINS
gave Notice that when the debate took place on Eastern Affairs, he should call attention to the inconvenience of the manner in which the statements of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1815 had been laid before the country; and also to the fact that authentic reports had been laid before Parliament of deputations which waited upon the Government on the Barbadoes question; and that he should then answer the reflections of the right hon. Gentleman.