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France—The New Commercial Treaty—Question

Volume 217: debated on Tuesday 29 July 1873

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asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Treaty between France and this Country, which is reported to have been under consideration by the Parliament of France, is intended to continue, or to establish for some years, obligations binding upon this Country with respect to certain portions of the Revenue analogous to the engagements under the Treaty of 1860; and, if so, whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to consult this House with respect to such engagement?

Sir, it will be seen by the Treaty of which a Copy was laid on the Table of the House yesterday, that it is not intended to continue, as binding on this country, the provisions with regard to tariffs in the Treaty of 1860 beyond 1877, when the Treaties between Great Britain, Austria, and Germany are terminable. The new Treaty provides that it shall be terminable on the 10th of June, 1877, when that with Germany is also terminable. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will address the latter portion of his Question to my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government.

asked the Prime Minister, whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to consult the House upon the provisions of the Treaty?

said, the state of the case was this—the Government had no such intention, because we were not really contracting any new binding engagement which bore on the tariffs or on the commercial law of this country with regard to exports and imports. When the French Treaty was made in 1860, the House of Commons was consulted upon it in full, and if the Government had been extending its terms it might have been matter for serious consideration whether they should not again consult the House of Commons upon it. In consequence of the French Treaty of 1860 other Treaties were made with Austria and Germany, which gave to them the full benefit of the French Treaty down to 1877, the Treaty with Germany expiring on the 10th of June, 1877. What the Government had done was to prolong the French Treaty until the latter date, and as the French Treaty gave to France the benefit of the Most Favoured Nation Clause, the prolongation of the French Treaty constituted no new engagement.

asked, Whether, if it should be found that the terms of the present Treaty varied from those of the Treaty of 1860—that variation extending to the Most Favoured Nation Clause—the Ministry would reserve to the House of Commons the opportunity of considering any variation from the Treaty of 1860?

in reply, said, the hon. Member would have a more satisfactory means of judging of the matter when he read the Treaty than he could afford by any verbal information. But he might say there was no such variation as the hon. Member appeared to suppose. There was no alteration whatever in the tariff terms of the Treaty. Its ratification would depend on the assent of the French Assembly, which he trusted would be given.