HC Deb 25 February 1886 vol 302 cc1216-7

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Treaty lately made by the French Government with China purports to confer any exclusive privilege upon French subjects, in place of following the example of the Treaty of Lord Elgin, under which equal rights were stipulated for the subjects of all nations; whether the Government have made or will make endeavours to procure the like privileges, if any, for British subjects; and, with an authenticated Copy of the Franco-Chinese Treaty will be communicated to the House?


I beg to thank my hon. Friend for having held this Question over from last week, at my request, and perhaps the House will allow me to take this opportunity of saying that it would be not merely for the advantage of the Foreign Office, but for that of the public service and hon. Members themselves, if in future, when possible, they would be kind enough to give two or three days' Notice of Questions which refer to the Foreign Office, because it is often necessary to send telegrams abroad and make extensive researches at the Foreign Office itself, which necessarily take some time, in order to answer their Questions. In answer to my hon. Friend I have to say that there will be no objection to laying at once before Parliament the text of the Franco-Chinese Treaty, which has already been published in Paris. Meanwhile I may state that permission to trade across the land frontier of Tonquin at certain fixed points and to establish Consuls is granted to French subjects; but the conditions under which the trade is to be carried on are to be defined in special regulations which are now being negotiated in China. The Article in regard to the construction of railways by French assistance stipulates that no exclusive privilege is to be constituted in favour of France. Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires in China was repeatedly instructed, at the time when the Treaty was being negotiated, to claim for this country, under the Most-Favoured Nation Clause of our Treaty, any such special privileges as might be granted to French subjects. He has made representations accordingly, and is continuing to pay every attention to the negotiations, which are still going on, with a view to secure British subjects any improved facilities which these new regulations may contain. Papers on the subject will be prepared and laid on the Table of the House as soon as possible.