HC Deb 10 August 1916 vol 85 cc1351-4

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I should not like this occasion to pass without some reference to the circumstances which have led to the delay in carrying the Third Reading of this Treaty. When the Treaty came up some months ago, I think it was some time in May, I raised objections to it on three grounds. In the first place, I thought it was undesirable, in view of the approaching Conference of the Allies in Paris, that we should adopt a Most-Favoured-Nation Treaty of the old pattern which we were likely to abandon. I objected to the ten years' period required for a denunciation of the Treaty itself, and the difference in the treatment of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions. In deference to the objections which I then raised, negotiations took place between our Foreign Office and the Portuguese Government, and I am very glad to know that a satisfactory arrangement has been come to. The Treaty was actually ratified, and it simply requires us to pass this particular Clause defining port wine, and that was the one thing that stood in the way of the Treaty coming into operation.

But for the fact that we had to define port wine, the House of Commons would have had no locus standi in regard to this Treaty at all. These negotiations took place, and I am very glad to know that an exchange of Notes has been agreed upon between the British and the Portuguese Governments to the effect, as I am informed, that if in pursuance of the Paris Resolutions—that is, the Resolutions of the Allied countries represented at the Paris Conference—either Great Britain or Portugal should propose a new international arrangement, nothing in this Treaty is to stand in the way, and that meets my views entirely. It does not require, therefore, that there should be any kind of period mentioned. We can pass this Treaty without having any anxiety as to its possible effect upon the relations of the world as determined by the application of the Paris Resolutions. It is an interesting incident in the development of our history, because I believe it is the first practical application of the Paris Resolutions. In conclusion I should like to say that my criticism of the Treaty and my objection to passing it had not the slightest reference to our gallant Ally the Portuguese. I am of opinion myself that we could make a better Treaty with them under a new policy than this particular Treaty, and my objection has had no reference to the country concerned, but it was simply an objection to a principle in the Treaty. I should like to say how very much we are indebted to the tact and the kindness of our Portuguese friends for this happy solution of what might have been a difficulty, and we can now consider the incident closed with perfectly easy minds.


I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without thanking my hon. Friend (Mr. Hewins) for the attitude he has adopted, and without recognising that his intervention has been very valuable. Without his intervention this Treaty, if this Bill had passed its Third Reading, would have become part of the international law between Great Britain and Portugal, with the result that we might have been seriously hampered in carrying out the policy of the Paris Resolutions. It was my hon. Friend's intervention which called our attention to that position, and negotiations have, as he has described, taken place, with the happy result which he has mentioned to the House, and which I now desire to confirm. Therefore, I think we are much indebted to him. I endorse everything he has said, and I hope this Bill will now become law, and that it will have an immediate effect on Portuguese trade. We desire to get this measure working as soon as we can, and we now know that we shall do that without jeopardising our action in regard to the operation of the Paris Resolutions.


I have read this Bill, and I have listened to the two speeches which have been made upon it, and I confess I am rather puzzled. As far as I can gather the Bill has nothing to do with anything but port wine, and there has been no mention of port wine in the speeches which have been delivered.


I mentioned it.


Then I am very glad to hear it. As far as I understand the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Hewins), he referred to this Bill in its connection with the Paris Conference. I understand the Treaty in regard to port wine and our commercial relations with Portugal were of an earlier date than the Paris Conference, and therefore I do not see what the Paris Conference has got to do with this Bill, for there is nothing about it in the measure before us. The Treaty was certainly in conception, if not in actual form, before the Paris Conference was held, and how you can drag the Paris Conference in I do not know. I will only say that I am afraid the hon. Member for Hereford has got the Paris Conference and Tariff Reform on the brain—


My hon. Friend has not listened to the Debate, or he would have known that it is not necessary to describe the whole of the matters relevant to this Bill. It goes back to a period before the War, and it is a very much larger thing than the hon. Member has stated.


That is exactly what I am saying. What I said was that the whole of this policy of our commercial relations and Treaty with Portugal went back a great deal earlier than the War, and the idea of the Paris Conference has only developed quite late in the War. Therefore, it seems to me that the hon. Member's speech is quite off the line. I do not want to hinder the progress of this very useful Bill, because it is going to give us genuine port wine when we want port wine. That is a very good argument, with which I entirely sympathise, and I am sure all of us who have the sense to appreciate the value of a glass of port wine will do nothing but welcome this Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.