§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, By what means Parliament can be seized of the decisions of the Conference of the Suez Canal before ratification by Her Majesty's Government, so as to prevent the adoption of any provision which may affect the value of the shares, the dividends on which will form part of the ordinary revenues of the United Kingdom?
With regard to this subject, I partly answered this Question, I think, already, by stating that we should take very good care that Parliament shall be informed of our views on all material points bearing on the Suez Canal before the meeting of the Representatives of the Powers, which is to conclude, I hope, what has been begun. The hon. Gentleman will have observed that considerable progress has already been made in that matter, because not only has there been the despatch of Lord Granville for more than two years in the hands of Parliament, which does contain the views of the British Government on almost every material point, but likewise that despatch has been adopted by the joint and deliberate action of the Powers as the basis of the new arrangement. There will, therefore, be very little except matter of detail which will remain to be dealt with. There is, however, a point of detail which is of importance, and on which the Government will take good care that the House will be speedily informed. With regard to what is to happen at the time when the meeting of the Representatives of the Powers takes place, I can only answer my hon. Friend that we shall act upon our responsibility with all possible care, and with considerable confidence derived from the fact that a full statement of our views has been so long before Parliament, and that no exception, so far as I know, has been generally taken to our views. Sometimes it happens, after the conclusion of a Convention, that its ratification is reserved on special grounds. I am 678 not yet able to say whether this arrangement will take the form of a Convention, or whether, if it does so, it will be proper to reserve the ratification.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, with respect to his answer, whether it is not a fact that a Yellow Book has been published in France in which the French Government have laid it down that they do not accept the points laid down in Lord Granville's Circular as the basis of their action, and that they do not intend to be limited by it?
My reference, Sir, was not to anything that has been published in France, but to the documents before us—the Declaration and the Convention signed by the French Government.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I beg to give Notice that I shall put a Question on this point to the Prime Minister to-morrow, in order that we may ascertain whether the House will or will not have a full opportunity of considering and deliberating upon the arrangement arrived at?
I can give an answer to that Question quite readily now. As I have said, our views will be fully made known before we meet. Until the Representatives of the Powers come to compare their views together, you cannot absolutely say what new light may be thrown upon the question, or what concessions may be made by the one to the other. It will depend upon the question how far any addition to our own views, or any modification of them, would be material, whether it is necessary to take any special measures for assuring ourselves of the state of mind of Parliament and of the country upon the subject; and I do not think it would be possible for me to answer the Question of the right hon. Baronet until we are in a position to pass a fair judgment.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
The right hon. Gentleman does not clearly understand what I mean. With regard to this Convention which is to be made on the subject of the Suez Canal, we are referred to the Circular of Lord Granville of two years ago; but the House has never discussed that Circular. We were, in fact, deprived of an opportunity of discussing it in the course of last summer. What I want to know is whether 679 the House is to be taken as accepting the bases of the arrangement with regard to the Suez Canal without any discussion, or whether we are to have an opportunity of discussing those bases before the Convention is actually made?
I should think that manifestly hon. Members opposite will have an opportunity in the debate of to-night, if they think fit, to raise any question upon these bases. The right hon. Gentleman says he was deprived of the opportunity of discussing Lord Granville's Circular last Session. I am not aware in what manner he was deprived. It was certainly not by the action of Her Majesty's Government. [A laugh.] The right hon. Gentleman smiles; but I think he will affirm the correctness of what I say. I am not quite sure whether some representation was not made to him in this House.
I wish to ask the Prime Minister a Question of which I have given him private Notice, Whether the Convention with regard to the finances of Egypt has yet been signed by the Turkish Plenipotentiary?
I shall refer to that subject in the course of a few minutes, when I make a statement to the House on the subject of Egyptian finance.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
With regard to the observation of the right hon. Gentleman that it was not by the action of the Government that the House was deprived of the opportunity of discussing those provisions, I wish to ask him whether he is aware that on the occasion referred to the mass of the Liberal Party voted against the Government at the instance of the Government Whips?
The hon. Member asks me whether the mass of the Liberal Party, on a certain occasion, voted against the Leaders of that Party? That is an accident which I have known to happen on more than one occasion.