HC Deb 30 June 1898 vol 60 cc647-8
MR. J. WALTON (York, W.R., Barnsley)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether the Government will take the Report stage of the Foreign Office Vote to-morrow; and whether, having regard to the grave developments of the situation in China since the question was last discussed in the House, and also having regard to the suggestion of Lord Salisbury, in reply to the deputation from the Associated Chambers of Commerce, that the question of the Government taking a new departure in the policy to be pursued in China was a matter to be considered by the House of Commons, and that it was a question which it was quite right to bring before the House, and to submit to such an investigation as might be necessary, the Report will be taken at such an hour as will allow of adequate debate?


Before the right honourable Gentleman answers that Question, may I ask whether he will consider the alternative plan of taking the Diplomatic and Consular Vote?


As the right honourable Baronet is aware, the next three or four Fridays are already mortgaged to other questions of Supply. That answer does not, of course, deal with the Report of Supply, which can be taken any night after 12 o'clock. The honourable Gentleman desires, as I understand, to discuss on the Report of Supply not merely the negotiations in China with regard to concessions of railways, but also the general question as to whether Parliament should itself incur pecuniary liability in regard to railways not in British territory, for it is only in regard to that question that Lord Salisbury referred to the House of Commons. I do not think that discussion would be in order either on the Consular and Diplomatic Vote, or on the Report of the Foreign Office Vote. No doubt the other question—namely, the present position of the negotiations in regard to concessions in China—would be in order on the Report of Supply; and if a demand is made on the Government on behalf of any large section of the House I shall be glad—well, no, I will say ready—to begin that Vote before 12 o'clock. But I am bound to express my strong opinion that it is most inexpedient in the interests of the negotiations themselves that anything should be said in this House on the subject.