THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, in the absence of my noble Friend who leads the Opposition in your Lordships' House (Earl Granville), I rise to put a Question to the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government. I have waited till close on the hour of a quarter past 5 o'clock to see whether any communication would be volunteered by Her Majesty's Government on a subject respecting which we are all anxious in this country at the present moment. My Lords, a report has reached us in this House that a statement of great gravity and importance has been made by Her 366 Majesty's Government in "another place." Perhaps the noble Earl at the head of the Government will allow me to ask him, Whether he means to submit any communication to this House upon that subject?
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
My Lords, it appears to me to be only in accordance with the custom of Parliament that, when a Notice of the kind referred to by the noble Duke is given in the other House, Parliament should wait till a statement has been made by that Minister whose peculiar province it is to bring financial matters under the notice of the other House.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, will the noble Earl allow me to ask, as it is matter of notoriety that a statement of great gravity has boon made to the other House—of such gravity that it looks in the direction of involving this country in war—perhaps the noble Earl will be kind enough to say whether he will lay on the Table of this House soon any further Papers explanatory of the resolution to which Her Majesty's Government have come? I ask this Question because, from the proceedings which occurred in Parliament last week, it was understood by those who sit on the opposite side to the Government in both Houses, that no change was likely to take place in the attitude of Her Majesty's Government on this very grave matter until the forms which Russia might propose to Turkey should be known to Her Majesty's Government, and until they should have come to the determination that those terms involved serious danger to those neutral interests which it is the business of the Government to defend. That, I say, was the understanding of those who sit on the opposite side to Her Majesty's Government in both Houses, and it has been the understanding of all since, which may, perhaps, account for the absence of my noble Friend (Earl Granville) this evening. I do not wish Her Majesty's Government to do or say anything which might seriously embarras the public service. All I would respectfully ask is, that before any discussion on the subject comes on in this House, Her Majesty's Government will take an opportunity of laying on the Table such Papers as may explain the change of attitude which must have occurred since last week with regard to this matter.
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government will, of course, take care that all Papers shall be placed on the Table of this House that they can produce consistently with their sense of public duty. It is always agreeable to them to take Parliament into their confidence; but your Lordships must feel that this is a subject in respect of which much discrimination ought to be exercised. Now, with regard to the understanding to which the noble Duke has alluded, that no Resolution should be submitted to Parliament of the character of that of which Notice has been given in the other House tonight, except when the conditions of peace proposed by Russia were made known, I can only say that was an understanding not, as far as I recollect, of a formal character. An observation was casually made by one of the Ministers in the other House that no Motion such as that of which Notice has been given should be made until the conditions of the Russian Government were known. But at that time we had reason to believe, and had received information which induced us to accept it as true, that those conditions would be made known immediately. Now, a considerable period has elapsed since then; and the noble Duke must feel that the course which Her Majesty's Government might think it their duty to recommend Parliament to take cannot depend on the will of any foreign Government in keeping back any information as to the conditions. Therefore, I must protest against the interpretation which the noble Duke has put upon words which may have been spoken in debate in the other House. We should have been very glad to have been made acquainted with those conditions of peace at the time we thought we ought to be made acquainted with them; but we have not yet been made acquainted with them, and I have no authority for saying when we shall be put in possession of them. Under these circumstances, it is for Her Majesty's Government to pursue that course which they feel it their duty to their Sovereign and their country to pursue.
§ House adjourned at half past Five o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Four o'clock.