§ VISCOUNT SANDON
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he will arrange that, during the forthcoming final negotiations respecting the French Treaty, which are to take place at Paris, representatives of the Associations and Societies connected with the principal trades which will be affected by the Treaty shall be present in Paris during the negotiations of the High Commission, so as to assist the Commission with their practical knowledge of the matters under negotiation; and, whether he will direct that there should be laid upon the 1540 Table, before the close of the Session, a copy of all the official correspondence between the Board of Trade, the Foreign Office, and the Royal Commission for the Commercial Treaty, and any persons, firms, and commercial associations with whom the Government has been in correspondence, together with any circular or notification which has been issued by the Royal Commission?
I am afraid I must answer the Question of the noble Lord with some reserve, because it assumes that negotiations respecting the French Treaty are to take place at Paris. That is a matter on which no decision has yet been come to, and which really depends upon the correspondence now going on, and, in fact, upon declarations which may, perhaps, be obtained from the Government of France. Then, with regard to securing that Representatives of Associations and Societies shall be present in Paris, the fullest notice and knowledge will be given to them, as has been the case at the previous stages of the negotiations, in order that they may exercise their discretion on the matter. They will have all the opportunities which they have enjoyed while the negotiations were going on in England. As to the latter part of the Question, in regard to the production of all the official Correspondence, and also of the correspondence with firms and commercial Associations, I have to say that it is the intention and the desire of the Government to present the official Correspondence; but there are parts of it with respect to which we are under the limitation of having to apply abroad for permission to do so. I cannot, therefore, give a pledge that it will be done; but, as far as it depends upon us, it will be produced. As to the correspondence of private parties, I cannot give such an absolute pledge—first, because it is very bulky; and, in the second place, because private parties who communicated information of very material importance made it a condition that it should not be made public.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
Will the official Papers be presented before the end of the Session, or before the negotiations are resumed?
It would hardly be wise to give a positive pledge as to that. The best pledge I can give is that the official Correspondence, and whatever 1541 we can lay on the Table, shall be produced at the very earliest moment that we are able to do so.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he intended to bring forward the Motion of which he had given Notice on this subject to-morrow, and he appealed to the hon. Members for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) and Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver) to give way in favour of a question of such pressing importance. He understood that the hon. Member for Eye was willing to give way.
§ MR. MACIVER
said, that, so far as he was concerned, he would not like to stand in the way of a discussion in regard to the present position of our commercial relations with France, and, therefore, very willingly gave place; but that he would like to make an appeal to his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) to add to his Resolution words such as would have the effect of declaring that no Commercial Treaty should be entered into which allowed France to continue, whether by a surtaxe d'entrepôt or other means, to place the importation of foreign produce viâ ports in Great Britain or Ireland at special disadvantage as compared with importations direct.