HL Deb 19 May 1879 vol 246 cc654-5

I rise to ask the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) a Question, of which I have given him private Notice, Whether the telegram which appeared in The Daily News on Saturday last, purporting to give the terms of M. Waddington's Circular with regard to the negotiations on the subject of the Greek Frontier, is correct? If the text as thus printed in extenso is correct, I hope the noble Marquess will have no objection to lay it on the Table of the House. The noble Marquess may object, that during the progress of negotiations on a question of this importance, it is undesirable to lay any Papers on the Table. I admit the force of that objection, but, at the same time, it seems to me that if the Circular can be given to the public, the House, too, is entitled to have it before it in an official and authentic form. No doubt, this question of the Greek Frontier is exciting considerable and increasing interest in this country and in Europe. There is some apprehension, that while Her Majesty's Government have been recommending the exercise of patience and forbearance to the Greeks, they are themselves somewhat lukewarm in regard to negotiations based on the 24th Article of the Treaty of Berlin; and I venture to say, without going any further, it would be of importance if the position of England in regard to the matter were clearly understood. If the noble Marquess could lay this and other Papers on the Table, giving information as to the course these negotiations are taking, he would, I think, satisfy a not unnatural desire for information, and allay no inconsiderable anxiety.


If I were to go so far as to criticize the course taken by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Morley), what I should object to would be asking whether a document, not produced, was or was not accurately represented in some newspaper. As there is no secret in the present case, I may venture to indicate generally that the Circular, as published, is correct. But if the document was a document that could not be produced, and was inaccurately represented in a newspaper, a Minister could not say that it was accurately represented. If he said it was inaccurately represented, and it turned out that the inaccuracy, in the view of the questioner, was not a matter of great importance, the Minister would be accused of practising concealment. Therefore, I should venture to say that, if a Paper cannot be produced in its entirety, it is better not to answer any Question about it. In the present case that point does not arise, although, undoubtedly, the rule with regard to pending negotiations would justify us in withholding it. I propose to lay shortly on the Table Papers which will give the required information.