HL Deb 15 July 1831 vol 4 cc1311-4
The Marquis of Londonderry,

seeing the noble Earl (Grey) in his place, was anxious to put some questions to him on a subject in which the people of this country felt deeply interested. It so happened, in the existing peculiar position of his Majesty's Government, that there was no Foreign Secretary in the other House of Parliament; and possibly, under such circumstances, he (the Marquis of Londonderry) might address questions to the noble Earl, which he might find it inconvenient to answer. He could assure the noble Earl, that it was the anxiety which he felt, in common with the public at large, on the subject to which he was about to refer, that could alone induce him to put such questions to him. He should be sorry to impede the progress of any negotiations which might be on foot, or to interfere with the public service; but, understanding that an illustrious Prince was about to depart from this country to-morrow, in order to take upon himself the government of another country, it was impossible they that could see him depart, without being anxious to know, whether the negotiations which had led to his departure, had been brought to a close. He wished to know, whether all those negotiations had been brought to a close? and whether, supposing that to be the case, the noble Earl intended to lay on the Table of the House copies of the papers which had passed respecting those negotiations, and which had been circulated from time to time, partially, in the public journals? He (the Marquis of Londonderry) would say, that he for one felt strongly with respect to the whole of the negotiations—with regard to the manner in which they had been conducted, and the illustrious individual who had been selected for the throne, of which he was proceeding to take possession: and when the time arrived for these papers to be laid before their Lordships, he should be prepared to express his sentiments upon the whole of the subject to which they related. The noble Earl, and the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had saved the illustrious individual to whom he alluded from being shipwrecked in Greece, in order to launch him on an ocean that was infinitely more tempestuous and dangerous. If even the negotiations had been fully closed, it would be something; but where so much had been left to the future, and where so little had been actually brought to a point, that illustrious individual had innumerable difficulties before him. He should like to know, whether the King of Holland had signified his assent to the arrangements which had been concluded by the five Powers, previous to the departure of his Royal Highness. If the noble Earl should give him a satisfactory answer, he should not press for the production of the papers at present; if, on the other hand, his answer should not be a satisfactory one, conceiving, as he did, that the matter was one of the greatest importance, he would give notice of a motion on the subject for some future day. There was another point on which he wished to have an answer from the noble Earl. He wished to know, whether, in these times of economy and retrenchment, it was the intention of the King's Government to allow the illustrious Prince in question to carry with him to another country, to be spent there, the pension of 50,000l. a year, which he received from this country, together with the emoluments which he derived from his regiment? There were circumstances connected with this point, which would render its importance at once obvious to their Lordships. It would not be safe or right, that that illustrious individual, occupying the peculiar position which he would fill, should continue to be, in future, so closely connected with this country. Combining that circumstance with the peculiar jealousy with which France would always regard this country, the result might be, in a short time, to involve us in an unnecessary war. His Majesty's Ministers might suppose, that we were now upon a good understanding with France, but they would find, that the tranquillity which prevailed would be only temporary in its duration. He was persuaded, from all the consideration, which he had been able to give to the whole political system of Europe, that the good understanding, and the peaceful relations, which existed between France and England, would not last long; and that, when once interrupted, there would be no answering for the tranquillity of Europe, or of the world at large. He wished to ask the noble Earl, if the report was true, that the negotiations with regard to Belgium had been brought to a close? and if so, when it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to afford to that House the information which it had a right to call for on the subject. Their Lordships had a right to call for all the papers relating to the negotiations, including the particularly lengthy and hastily written letter of Lord Ponsonby. That letter had evidently been written in a hurry; and though it had been panegyrised by the noble Earl, it was certain, that if the sentiments of the Foreign Ministers in London had been canvassed on the subject, they would be found not to concur in that point with the noble Earl.

Earl Grey

said, that he was sure their Lordships would excuse him from taking any notice of the particular questions or opinions which the noble Marquis had thought proper to bring under their Lordships' notice, either as regarded the conduct or the result of the negotiations to which he had referred. When the discussion respecting those negotiations, for which the noble Marquis seemed so anxious, and which he had in some degree anticipated that evening, should come on, he should then be prepared to give a satisfactory answer to any questions which might be put by the noble Marquis, regarding those negotiations. The noble Marquis had asked, whether it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to communicate any information, as to what they had done concerning these negotiations, and the present state of them, to the House. He had no difficulty in stating, in reply to that question, that it was very probable that his Majesty would be advised, whenever the confidential servants of the Crown could give such advice, without danger to the public interests, to communicate that information to Parliament and the public which they had a right to expect. The discretion, however, as to the time for communicating information of that kind, he believed, was usually left with the King's Ministers, and was not interfered with, unless under very special circum- stances. He begged to repeat, that whenever his Majesty's Ministers thought it would be convenient and safe, with a view to the public interests, to communicate such information to Parliament, he had reason to believe that such a communication would be made.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that after what had fallen from the noble Earl, he should content himself with expressing a hope, that the communication in question would not be long deferred. He would not give any notice of a motion now, reserving to himself the right to do so, at an early period, if the information which he required should not be communicated to the House by that time.

Earl Grey

begged to say, in reference to the question of the noble Marquis, in regard to the income settled upon an illustrious individual, that a discussion on that point could not, with propriety, be raised. That income was settled upon the illustrious individual alluded to by Act of Parliament, and over that settlement they had no power or control, and possessed no right to interfere with it.