HC Deb 27 July 1896 vol 43 cc676-8
SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether Her Majesty's Government have recently increased the number of Commercial Attachés in Europe and taken other steps to advance British trade abroad; and, in such case, if he can indicate to the House the nature of the measures which have been adopted by Lord Salisbury and the Foreign Office to increase the demand in neutral markets for the products of British and Irish labour and to enable manufacturers and merchants in the United Kingdom to have the latest and most accurate commercial information?


Since Her Majesty's Government came into power, they have given very attentive consideration to the question of British commercial interests abroad, and in the Consular and Commercial Departments of the Foreign Office we have made the following suggestions, which have received the approval of the Secretary of State:—1. Two new Commercial Attachés will be appointed—one to Germany, the Nether-land, and Scandinavia, to reside at Berlin; the other for Spain and Portugal, to reside at Madrid. The Commercial Attachéship at Paris has been re-organised, and its district will, in future, cover France, Belgium, and Switzerland. The Commercial Attaché ship in Russia and Western Asia has also been reconstituted, and the southeastern parts of Europe have been included, while Asia has been excluded from its sphere. 2. A Consul for Lombardy has been appointed to reside at Milan with a special view to the collection of commercial information. The Consular Staff in Siam will be increased by two new appointments; but the exact area of the new Consuls' jurisdictions are not yet fixed. We hope before long to appoint additional British Consuls in Yunnan to promote the interests of British trade in that quarter. Several new Consulships are in course of being created for the new ports that have been opened to foreign trade by the Treaty of Shimonosoki between China and Japan. Mr. Brennen, Her Majesty's Consul at Canton, has been dispatched on a special mission of inquiry to the treaty ports of China, Corea and Japan, to report upon the manner in which British trade has been affected by the recent war. Mr. Austin Lee, who is about to succeed Sir Joseph Crewe as Commercial Attaché at Paris, is engaged in the preparation of a special Report upon the regulations with regard to trade and shipping of the Continental ports competing with the port of London. As a result of communications which have passed between the Foreign Office and the Association of Chambers of Commerce, supplementary instructions are in course of being issued to Her Majesty's Consuls regarding assistance to trade, the collection of samples, and information of a commercial nature. More complete arrangements have recently been made for the immediate publication in the Press of invitations for tenders for work abroad. Arrangements have been made for the official participation of Great Britain in the Exhibitions to be held next year at Brussels and in 1900 at Paris, and Parliament will be asked to make grants for this purpose.


asked whether the Government would arrange for a discussion of the Diplomatic and Consular Vote.


asked how many commercial attachés there were.


There are two new attachés in Europe, and the spheres of the other commercial attachés have been reorganised. I believe that the First Lord of the Treasury is well aware of the views entertained by some hon. Members as to a Debate on the Consular Vote, and I am not at all anxious to avoid it.