HC Deb 29 March 1878 vol 239 cc204-6

I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether he can give us any information as to the Papers relating to the Congress which he stated would be laid on the Table and would be in the hands of Members this morning? Those Papers, I believe, are not yet in the hands of hon. Members, and I understand they have not yet been delivered to the House. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to state when we may expect to have them in our possession? I shall also be glad if he can give us any information as to the probable Business of the House for next week, especially with reference to the Message we understood yesterday we have reason to expect from the Crown—when it is probable that Message will be received by the House, and when it is probable the House will have an opportunity of considering any communication which is to be made to it?


Sir, with reference to the first Question of the noble Lord, as to the Papers, I am afraid I misinformed the House if I said last night they had been laid on the Table. I was under the impression they had been, or immediately would be—my hon. Friend (Mr. Bourke) tells me they were laid on the Table—and what has caused the delay in their being distributed is this—It is the usual and proper practice, before publishing any Correspondence with foreign Powers, to obtain the assent of the Powers with whom the Correspondence has passed, to its publication. This has not yet, I think, in all cases, been obtained; but I understand it will be, and it may be expected very shortly. I hear the Papers will be delivered this evening, and will be in the hands of hon. Members to-morrow. I may say that the whole pith and kernel of the Correspondence—the important part—consists of those extracts which I read to the House yesterday. Then the noble Lord asks as to the course of Business? Well, it is within the knowledge of the House, that my noble Friend at the head of the Government stated it last night, in order that there might be no undue misapprehension or exaggeration as to what might be the intentions of the Government, that it was proposed shortly to take measures for calling out the Army Reserve and the Militia Reserve, and it was necessary, in order to take that step, that a communication should first be made to both Houses of Parliament. I apprehend it will be the most proper course that that communication should be made formally, and probably we shall be in a position to advise Her Majesty that that communication should be made to the House formally on Monday next. I presume the House would not do more upon the reception of the Message than appoint a day for considering the subject which may be brought before them. I should propose, when that communication has been made, to name a day when we will call the attention of the House to the subject of that communication; probably it will be convenient that it should be on the Monday following—Thursday next being fixed for the Budget—and there being no reason why it should be an earlier date than that. I think that would be the most convenient course. As this is the first time the step has been taken of making such a communication, it will be desirable we should ascertain what would be the most correct and convenient mode of proceeding.