§ MR. NORWOOD
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it be true, as stated by the Paris Correspondent of the "Standard," on Tuesday last, that the Government have received a communication from the administration of the Suez Canal Company, soliciting the assistance of the Government in obtaining a concession from the Khedive to enable them to construct a second and parallel Canal, on the basis of a general reduction in the tolls and a considerable representation of British interests in the management of the Canal; and, if so, whether the Government will lay upon the Table of the House copies of the proposals and of the correspondence that has passed on the subject, so that an opportunity may be afforded for an expression of opinion thereon by the shipping and mercantile interests of the country, before the general meeting of the Suez Canal Company to be held in Paris on the 4th June?
Sir, there are communications passing on the subject between the Suez Canal Company and Her Majesty's Government. I entirely agree in the spirit of the inquiry of my hon. Friend, feeling that it is most desirable, and, indeed, essential, that the commercial classes of this country in particular should have the fullest opportunity of becoming acquainted with 898 any proposals that may be made on the subject, and with any intentions that Her Majesty's Government may form with regard to it. But, of course, the hon. Gentleman will understand that we are not entirely masters with respect to the production of such communications, inasmuch as that depends partly on the will of other persons. But we will communicate on the subject with M. de Lesseps, and inquire whether he has any objection to their production.
§ MR. NORWOOD
Am I to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he gives a general assurance that no important engagement will be made by Her Majesty's Government with the Suez Canal Company without our having an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the subject—no important and definite engagement?
I should be most desirous not only to give that opportunity, but to have the assistance of the public opinion of the country, and the information which may be supplied to us by the most competent persons before we even think of the formation of any engagement.