HC Deb 16 May 1881 vol 261 cc581-2

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a Question of which I have given him private Notice, in regard to the French Commercial Treaty. It will be remembered that the Treaty expires on the 8th of November. I believe the French Chambers will be dissolved within six weeks or two months of this time; and, therefore, unless the negotiations are concluded between this time and the middle of July, there will be very little chance of any new Treaty being negotiated before the old one expires. I should like, therefore, to ask the Government, Whether, under the circumstances, they will suggest to the French Government the desirability of prolonging the existing Treaty for six months, after the 8th of November? I do not know whether Her Majesty's Government have made any communication with the French Government. If not, I think the present circumstances would justify their making it now.


Before the hon. Gentleman answers that Question, I also have one which I should like to ask him—namely, Whether, in the event of the proposed French Tariff being adverse to this country, Her Majesty's Government will afford the House an opportunity of discussing the Treaty before any engagement of a permanent character is entered into; and, whether the Government will consider the desirability of freeing itself from obligations which will hamper this country in reference to its Customs regulations with out offering an equivalent advantage?


said, he should like to know also, What was the present position of the question of the Sugar Bounties, and the Bounties on Shipping?


Sir, in March last Her Majesty's Government foresaw the difficulties adverted to by the right hon. Member, and, as I have already on more than one occasion stated in this House, asked the French Government to prolong the existing Tariff for a period sufficient for all negotiations for a fresh Treaty to be carried on and concluded; but the French Government decline to agree to this suggestion. In reply to the Question of the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane), I would refer him to the replies which were given by me on the 7th of April and by the Prime Minister on the 28th of that month. In reply to the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver), the sugar question is not under the Foreign Office, but under the control of the Board of Trade. The question as to the bounties on shipping will be brought forward again.