§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I have to ask the First Lord of the Treasury when the Papers relating to China will be in the hands of Members. We understood that these Papers would be delivered early in the Vacation, and it would be convenient if the right hon. Gentleman can now say when we can have them.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
As the right hon. Gentleman is well aware, but as, perhaps, some hon. Members are not aware, it is impossible to publish Papers dealing with negotiations of this character without making reference to the foreign Governments concerned. That, unfortunately, has taken much longer than was anticipated. So far as we are concerned, we could have had the Papers out early in the holidays; but the delay which has arisen from the cause I have mentioned will, I am afraid, render it impossible to have them in the hands of Members before Thursday evening or Friday morning. I confidently hope they will be ready by then. That obviously makes it very inconvenient to discuss foreign affairs 309 on Friday next, if that evening is to be taken up, even in part, by discussion of the Chinese question. There is another reason which renders me anxious that the House should abandon the original proposal to take the Foreign Office Estimates on Friday, and that is that my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs will, I am afraid, hardly be in a condition to remain in his place for a debate on foreign affairs. I hope he will be here, and able to answer Questions on Thursday, but I doubt very much whether he would be able to bear the fatigue and the strain of a heavy parliamentary night. I would therefore suggest that it might be for the convenience of the House not to proceed with the Foreign Office Vote on Friday next, but on the Friday following.