HC Deb 23 March 1891 vol 351 cc1673-5
MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, with respect to the request of the two Houses of the Legislature of Newfoundland conveyed by telegram on the 20th instant, if Her Majesty's Government are now able to make known to the House their reply to that request?

MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)

At the same time, I will ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, his attention having been drawn to certain Resolutions passed by the Legis- lature of Newfoundland, he is prepared to acquiesce in the request contained in those Resolutions?


In answer to the questions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and of my hon. and learned Friend behind me, I have to state that the Secretary of State for the Colonies telegraphed on Saturday to the Governor of Newfoundland, requesting him to inform the President of the Legislative Council and the Speaker of the House of Assembly that the Bill to give effect to the modus vivendi would not be proceeded with in the House of Lords until the 16th of April, allowing ample time for such further communications from the Parliament of Newfoundland as they might think it right to make, but it would be necessary, if the colony failed to make legislative provision for the observance of existing Treaties and the temporary arrangements with France, for Her Majesty's Government to proceed with the Bill.


May I ask whether the Government has made any attempt to dispose of the whole of the Treaty rights, or supposed Treaty rights, of France in Newfoundland by suggesting an exchange of territory or other equivalent?


The proposals made by the delegates here from Newfoundland were submitted to the French Government, but were declined. The French Government have declared themselves unable to negotiate for the surrender of any of their rights until the extent of those rights has been authoritatively settled.


I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Government intend to try and compel the Newfoundlanders, by a new enactment, to obey an old and repealed Act of Parliament (the Act of George the Fourth) against the wishes of the Parliament and people of that colony, who are anxious to settle the whole question by buying out the Treaty rights of France?


This country is bound to secure observance of Treaties and international arrangements with a foreign country as long as they are in force. This obligation is not put an end to by the grant of a representative Legislature to the colony, and if the Colonial Legislature decline, as they have done, to pass the necessary measures to secure observance of Treaties, the responsibility of this country must be met by the Legislature here. This is not a measure interfering in any way with the internal government of the colony, or with local questions, but is simply a measure of international obligation. If at any time the Colonial Legislature pass the measures necessary for this purpose, it is provided that the original Act shall be suspended.


Will the Government, before endeavouring to enforce upon Newfoundland the present modus vivendi, give the Newfoundlanders an opportunity of pressing upon them the re-consideration by the French Government of some of its clauses?


I have already said that the Bill will not be proceeded with in the House of Lords until the 16th of April. We have information that the delegation from Newfoundland will start immediately, and there will be ample time for any representation which the Legislature of Newfoundland may wish to make to Her Majesty's Government.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, with regard to the buying out of the French Treaty rights, the real difficulty is not our occupation of Egypt?


That is a question which can only be put after due notice has been given.