HC Deb 30 March 1898 vol 55 cc1439-40

On the Motion for the Adjournment of the House,

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

I wish to ask the First Ford of the Treasury a question of which I have given him private notice—namely, whether the Motion, of which I gave notice to the Clerk at 12 o'clock to-day, is one which, in his opinion, it would be for the public interest to have debated and divided on in the House; or whether, supposing he is not prepared to give time for the discussion of the Motion, the principle in question could be raised by an Amendment to diminish the salary of the Foreign Secretary in Committee of Supply on the Foreign Office Vote; and, if it can be brought forward in that way, whether the right hon. Gentleman will give an early day for the discussion of that Vote?


The Motion to which the right hon. Gentleman refers is, I understand, in these terms— That the conduct of foreign affairs during the last twelve months has shown that it is not in the interest of this country that the office of Prime Minister and that of Secretary for Foreign Affairs should be combined in one person. The right hon. Gentleman asks me whether I can find a day, or if it is advisable to give a day, for the discussion of that Motion. I cannot think it advisable. I would point out that any discussion which could arise would only be indirectly connected with the substance of the Motion, as every hon. Gentleman who chose would endeavour to prove his proposition by attacking the conduct of foreign affairs during the last 12 months. If they desire to attack the conduct of foreign affairs during the last 12 months—[Sir CHARLES DILKE: Hear, hear!]—it would be more convenient and more in accordance with the tradition and practice of the House if a Vote of Censure were moved, and that issue we are prepared to meet. With regard to giving an early day for the Foreign Office Vote, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, I am always ready to meet the convenience of the House, but I cannot promise him any day now. There will be on next Tuesday an informal and inconclusive discussion on Foreign Affairs—I say informal and inconclusive because it will take place in the absence of the Papers; but when the Papers are laid on the Table of the House I have no doubt that a day will be asked for by the Leader of the Opposition for the discussion of the foreign policy of the Government.


That will be on the policy of the Government with reference to the question of China. What we want is a discussion on the whole foreign policy of the Government.


Well, if an appeal were made to me, representing a large body of Members, for an early day for such a discussion, of course I should yield to it, as I yield to every appeal of a similar kind.

House adjourned at 5.55.