HC Deb 18 March 1881 vol 259 cc1361-2

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if, in view of the early promulgation of the new French Tariff, before an opportunity has been afforded to consider its effect upon British interests, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will apply to the French Government to allow a period of at least twelve months to elapse from its promulgation, in order to give time for negotiating a new Commercial Treaty between France and this country?


asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether, having regard to the fact that the new French General Tariff will probably be promulgated in the course of next month, which will involve the termination of the existing Commercial Treaty with this Country six months afterwards, what steps, if any, have been taken by Her Majesty's Government to negotiate a new Commercial Treaty with France?


Sir, by a Declaration, signed in October, 1879, it was agreed between the British and the French Governments that the Commercial Treaties between the two countries, which were about to expire on the 31st of December, 1879, under notice given by the French Government, should remain in force until six months after the promulgation of the new General Tariff. Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly urged that that arrangement will afford a very limited time for negotiation; and when, in the course of last month, the progress in the French Legislature of the Bills embodying the new General Tariff showed that it would probably soon become law, Lord Lyons was instructed to call, in urgent terms, the attention of the French Government to the whole subject of commercial negotiations with this country. The French Government replied, on the 28th ultimo, that they expected to be soon in a position to commence these negotiations. On the 14th instant, Lord Lyons was further instructed to point out that under present circumstances an extension of the period of six months, agreed upon in 1879, will be necessary. On the following day his Excellency addressed a note to that effect to the French Government. In reply to the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, I may add that active steps have already been taken by Her Majesty's Government; but he will understand that at the present moment it would not be advisable to enter into any details.