HL Deb 13 August 1904 vol 140 cc506-8


Order of the day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the object of this Bill is to signify the approval of Parliament to the Convention, set out in the schedule, which was signed in London on 8th April of this year, and to make it lawful for His Majesty the King to do everything which appears to His Majesty necessary or proper for carrying into effect that Convention. It is necessary that regard should be had to the authority of Parliament in this matter, in the first place because it seems to us that an international transaction of this magnitude ought not to be withdrawn from the cognisance of Parliament and also because it has been for some time past held that whenever any international arrangement involves a cession of British territory, as this does, the matter should come under the consideration of Parliament.

I do not think it necessary on this occasion to pass in review the many matters that are dealt with in this Convention or in the Agreement of which the Convention forms a part. The question has been before the public for a long time, and your Lordships must be familiar with its details. At any rate, I think I may be permitted to say that I am personally relieved from the necessity of making a Second Reading speech upon the subject because my Second Reading speech was in fact delivered more than four months ago, and is embodied in the long despatch to our Ambassador in Paris, which was published with the Convention and laid before Parliament. There are two points only about which, perhaps, it is necessary that I should say a word. The first of those points does nut strictly arise out of the Convention printed with this Bill, but it does arise out of the Agreement of which the Convention forms a part. Your Lordships will recollect that in that part of the Agreement which has reference to Egygt, we laid before you a draft Khedivial Decree embodying a large number of most important measures of reform which it was proposed should be undertaken by the Government of Egypt with the assent of Great Britain and France. It was, however, well understood that that Decree could not be issued unless the assent of the other Powers signatories to the Treaty of London was also obtained. I am able to say that since that time the assent of the remaining Powers has been given, and, I will venture to say, has been ungrudgingly given, to the arrangement. There is now, therefore, no obstacle whatever to the issue of the Decree, which will bring with it what I do not think I am wrong in describing as the emancipation of the Egyptian Administration from a system which is a survival of an order of things which no longer exists and which is full of the greatest inconvenience to those concerned.

The other observation which I wish to make has reference to the Newfoundland Convention. Your Lordships, I daresay, have noticed that the French Government was not able to obtain for the Convention the ratification of the French Chambers before their separation a short time ago. The question which we had to consider was whether it was well for His Majesty's Government to ratify in the absence of ratification by the French Parliament. We had no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that it was not desirable that our ratification should not be withheld. We have no reason whatever for believing that when the French Chambers meet again early in the month of November their consent will not be given, and we thought it would have had a very unfortunate effect if we had, by our action in postponing legislation, shown that we entertained any suspicion of the attitude which the French Chambers were likely to adopt. We have had no reason to complain of the manner in which the whole of these proposals have been received by this country and by Parliament, and we lay this Bill before your Lordships with confidence that it will receive your approval.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)


My Lords, your Lordships will not expect that I am about to offer any opposition to this Bill. On the contrary, I think His Majesty's Government were quite right in bringing in this Bill and passing it through Parliament in the circumstances which my noble friend has described. I am particularly glad to hear that the other Powers have agreed to the Khedivial Decree. This is a most important matter; and, as they have agreed, as my noble friend says, very readily, we may hope that that complicated and mischievous system which has previously existed will be now brought to an end. I think also that His Majesty's Government are right in not withholding their ratification. I have no doubt that the French Chambers, when they meet, will ratify the Convention so far as is necessary, and I think it would have been showing au unnecessary suspicion of what might be done if the British ratification had been withheld. It is quite unnecessary that my noble friend should enter into any further discussion in regard to the French Treaty. I only desire to allude to it for the purpose of associating myself entirely with the remarks which were made by my noble friend Lord Spencer at an early period of the session, when my noble friend went out of his way, and, I think, quite rightly, to express his approval of the general provisions of this scheme. I entirely concur in those observations. I think the scheme is one which will be very advantageous to this country, and which reflects honour on my noble friend the Foreign Secretary.

On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived; and Bill to be read 3a on Monday next.