HC Deb 29 July 1842 vol 65 cc843-50

The House resolved itself into committee.

Sir George Clerk

moved that 70,000l. be granted for the civil contingencies for the year ending in 1843.

Mr. Williams

said, he felt it to be his duty on behalf of the distressed people of this country, to protest against many items in this grant. He thought many of the items were discreditable to those by whom they were claimed, and an insult to the distress of those who were called to pay them. The first to which he would call attention was an item of 961. for the entertainment of the Bishop of Exeter and his suite, during a passage from Plymouth to the Scilly Islands in 1838, a passage which was only of a few hours' duration. He thought it would be well if the Bishop of Exeter would read the Scriptures, and see how his divine Master and the Apostles travelled. He pretended to be the servant of the one and the follower of the others; and yet, though he received about 6,000l. a year from his bishopric, and the charge for the suite of the Bishop of Jerusalem all the way to Jaffa was only 201. 5s., he (the Bishop of Exeter) charged 48l. a day for visiting places in his diocese. Another was an item of 65l. 6s. 7d., " for the entertainment of the Duchess of Kent and suite, during a passage to Ostend and back." Her Royal Highness was allowed 30,000l. a-year, and such charges should not be made. Another was an item of 235l. 10s for the entertainment of Lord Sydenham, Governor-general of Canada and suite, during certain passages on the lakes in Canada. He believed Lord Sydenham's salary was 7,000l. a year, and consequently, there was no necessity for such charges. Other items were those of 394l 10s. 6d. for incidental expenses of the embasy at Wirtemberg, and 800l. 8s. 9d. for those of the embassy at Tuscany. As their only functions being to entertain the nobility of this country, he maintained that these embassies were of no political or commercial service whatever, and their abolition would, therefore, effect a saving of useless expenditure to the amount of 6,5001. a-year. Another was an item of 871. 10s. " for the entertainment of the Crown Prince of Bavaria and suite, diuring a passage from Athens to Ancona," places not even in her Majesty's dominions. Another was an item of 73l. 10s., " for the entertainment of certain foreigners of distinction on board her Majesty's steam-vessel Vesuvius. What for? Why should they not pay their own expenses? Surely it was enough to find them ships, without taxing the country to pay for their entertainments. Another was an item of 3341. 15s., for the passage of Robert Steuart, Esq., her Majesty's charge d'affaires at New Granada, from Liverpool to Boston." He had come from Boston to Liverpool, and had been as well entertained as any gentleman could wish to be, and it did not cost him more than 351., while Robert Steuart, Esq., charged 3341., though his income of 1,6001. a-year was going on all the time. Other items were " 800l. for passage-money due to Mr. S. M'Kenzie on returning from the government of Ceylon;" " 242l. 4s. 3d. for the passage of the Bishop of Barbadoes and Chaplain to Antigua, and for the hire of a schooner during his visitations through the archdeaconry of Antigua," and " 530l.8s. to Sir G. Arthur, late Governor of Upper Canada, for his passage home." These charges were all exorbitant and unnecessary. It was impossible the money could be spent in the manner alleged. Another item was one of 422l. 14s. 9d., "for robes, collars, badges, &c., for knights of the several orders." Surely the country ought not to be called upon to pay for these. He thought, also, that the item of 350l. " for investigating certain points relative to the charter of incorporation of Sheffield," ought to be de- frayed by that city, and not by the people generally, who had no interest in the matter. The items of 2,2701. for the salaries and expenses of the officer for carrying into effect the regulations of the penny postage, and of 550l. " to the civil engineer, for services on works connected with the Caledonian Canal," ought to be carried to the respective accounts of those undertakings. There was also an item of 5001. to Captain J. W. Pringle, " for services in Canada." He should like to know what those services were. To mention one more only among many others, there was also one of 923l. 1s. 6d. to Lord Campbell, "being the usual allowance on his appointment as Lord Chancellor." He should like to know why the people were to pay that? He believed Lord Campbell had been very anxious to get the office, and was well paid for his services. The hon. Gentleman concluded by requesting some information from the Government respecting these items, and protesting against their being defrayed by the public.

Colonel Sibthorp

said, these things were the acts of the late Government, and the hon. Gentleman had supported them in and out of office. Look at the expenses they had caused. He had often complained of their innumerable commissions. He had a great objection to the whole of those commissions, and he could wish to see them burnt, as some of them had been. He never saw such a profligate Government, and he hoped he never should see another. He was surprised that the hon. Member for Coventry should still sit behind that Government when they were disgraced. The hon. Gentleman had missed one item of their work, and that was the imperial penny postage job. Then there was the item to Mr. Rowland Hill of 1,500l., and the item to Mr. Cole. But the greatest of all was the Monteagle job, added to the Campbell job—a pretty pair. With regard to the outfit for Lord Campbell, he thought that the articles purchased with that money ought to be returned and sold. They would produce but little, but in the present exhausted state of the Treasury the smallest donation would be thankfully received — or they might be kept as an exhibition, to show the job which had been perpetrated. If the hon. Gentleman would divide the House against that vote, he would divide with him. Doubtless, he should be told, as he had been when he had objected to the vote of 16,000l. to the Member for Bolton for his expenses in his travels, that the money had been paid. The grant was a gross and unpardonable grant, and he looked for something better from her Majesty's present Government. If they did not do better, they should not have his support. He was not for a low, niggardly economy, but he was for a proper economy. This expense had been incurred after that House had come to a vote of want of confidence in the late Government, and it was disgraceful.

Sir C. Napier

With reference to the sum of 96l. for the entertainment of the Bishop of Exeter on board of one of her Majesty's ships, observed, that the sum appeared to be considerable. He should say that about 30s. or 40s. a-day ought to be sufficient for such a purpose. There was no one who had any experience of naval matters could deny that it would be most inconvenient and disagreeable, if captains of the navy were to be under the necessity of demanding payment from those persons of distinction whom they might be ordered to take on board their vessels; but, though it was quite right that the State should defray those charges, he did think the sum now demanded was beyond reasonable limits. He also thought that there was another objectionable charge, namely, 235l. for the passages of Lord Sydenham on the lakes.

Sir G. Clerk

said, that captains of ships of war were frequently directed to take persons of distinction on board, with the full understanding, of course, that the expenses of their entertainment should be defrayed by the Government. Those expenses had been fixed according to certain specified rates, which rested, it was supposed, upon just principles. Those rates or scales were, of course, regulated by the rank of the parties and the number of persons in their respective suites. The charge for entertaining the Bishop of Exeter and those by whom he was accompanied, on his visitation of the Scilly Islands, was a charge actually incurred so far back as the year 1838, though not paid till 1841. The occurrence took place four years ago—he was not prepared to say what length of time was occupied in the visitation, but he did not hesitate to affirm that it took a much longer time than the hon. Member for Coventry appeared to suppose. With respect to Captain Pringle, the officer who accompanied Lord Sydenham, he was a gentleman who had rendered considerable service, and it was the opinion of all to whom the question had been submitted that he was fairly entitled to the sum granted him, the more especially as he was not in the receipt of any salary. As to the sum payable to Mr. Rowland Hill, he was quite ready to admit that it would be convenient in all cases to have sums estimated for beforehand, and not left to be introduced into the civil contingencies, but he thought that this case might fairly be considered an exception to the general rule. Mr. Hill was originally engaged for a period of two years; since then the arrangement with him had been extended to a third year, ending in the month of September next. Intimation had been given to Mr. Hill that after the termination of the third year the Post-office and the Treasury would be able to carry on the business of the department without his assistance.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that there was no accommodation for the Bishop of Exeter in the Scilly Islands, and that the captain who took him out there was under the necessity of accommodating the right rev. Prelate and all who accompanied him on that, his first, visitation, which occupied a much longer time than had been stated by the hon. Member for Coventry.

Mr. Hume

believed, that no individual who was ever employed in the public service had been worse paid than his hon. Friend, the Member for Bolton. He was only paid at the same rate as other commissioners, but, contrary to the usual practice, he never was paid a shilling, except when on actual duty; and he knew that there was a balance now due to the hon. Gentleman, who never had been paid, very much, as he thought, to the discredit of the late Government. He objected to many of the items included in this grant, but he requested an explanation of certain of them, more particularly the sum of 20,000l. for postages, and the extra expenses of the Foreign Ministers.

Viscount Palmerston

said, if hon. Members were aware of the practical utility of civil missions, they surely would not object to any expenses that might be incurred in carrying them out. With regard to foreign missions, it had been his lot to increase our relations with foreign states. He had accredited some of the smaller German states, with whom, before, we had no direct communication, to some of our foreign missions, available for that purpose; and the most valuable information, as to European affairs, frequently came collaterally from those smaller states. As to the " passages " which formed part of this vote, some of the sums seemed large; but he believed they were justified by the occasions which had given rise to them. One of them was a charge for the passage of the Crown Prince of Bavaria to his own kingdom, on the throne of which he had been placed by England, in conjunction with other European powers. With regard to what had been said, relative to the claim of his hon. Friend for Bolton, it was quite true that there was a sum due to him, which had not been paid by the late Government. He was not aware of any reason for not satisfying the hon. Gentleman's claim, and he, for one, should support any vote for his payment. The House was, probably, aware that the amounts fixed on the civil list were only the salaries of the Ministers, and did not include any incidental expenses, such as messengers, carriers, postages, &c. He had, when in office, reduced the salaries of those employed on the diplomatic service considerably, and, he believed, their salaries were now quite as low as those of the Ministers of France, Austria, and other parts. He was firmly convinced, with regard to our diplomatic services, that no Government in Europe—no Government in the world, was so well served as the Government of this country had been, during the time he had a knowledge of the manner in which they had performed their services. The expenses of postage were also fixed according to a certain regulation.

Dr. Bowing

wished to call the attention of the House to the importance of having direct communication with the Turkish Government. He believed, at that moment, they had no means of holding any intercourse with the Sovereign, except by the agency of strangers, and he thought that was a state of things which ought to be remedied. The state of things, at present, was very unsatisfactory. Many of the families from which the dragomans were taken had reached a state of opulence, and the interests of the country, and one or two others, were entirely in their hands.

Sir R. Peel

said, that there was a vote for the education of youth in the eastern languages; and there was, moreover, a remedy against the dragomans. An instance had, not long ago, occurred of a mistake made by a dragoman, upon which he had founded an answer in that House; in consequence of which the dragoman had been suspended.

Dr. Boring

was convinced, if English feelings were represented by English manners, in oriental countries, the best results would be effected.

Viscount Palmerston

said, that he agreed with the views of the hon. Member for Bolton; but he must say, that he found the dragomans very faithful in the discharge of their duty. Before he left office, he proposed that attaches should be added to the Turkish embassies, for the purpose of learning the Turkish language; and he accordingly wrote to the Vice Chancellors of the two Universities to nominate a Gentleman from each University for those appointments. The Universities had accepted that proposal, and one Gentleman from each University had been, accordingly, appointed; and there were now four persons attached to the embassies, who understood the Turkish language.

Sir C. Napier

said, he observed that a sum of 1,600l. was set down as an allowance for the Commissioners for the settlement of Portuguese claims. It appeared to him, that it would be better to allow those gentlemen a certain sum, in case the claims were finally adjusted, than to grant them a yearly allowance.

Sir R. Peel

had heard many complaints of delay and dilatoriness. He had requested his noble Friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to make inquiries on the subject, and he believed that no unnecessary delay had been interposed. In fact, he was satisfied that the at most diligence had been used by the commissioners. The claims were, some of them, of a very peculiar nature. Some most extravagant demands had been made. It was but just, both to the claimants themselves, and to the Portuguese Government, that these claims should be strictly examined and scrutinized, before they were admitted. He was not inclined to interfere with the Commissioners.

Colonel Sibthorp

expressed his surprise, that the Hon. Member for Montrose had not objected to the additional sum of money which it was proposed to pay to the hon. Member for Bolton. He (Colonel Sibthorp) did not wish to derogate from the merits of the hon. Gentleman; but he had objected to the former grants, and as the late Government had not brought the grant forward last year, he hoped the present Government would object to it, and leave the Members of the late Government to pay it themselves. He should certainly oppose the grant.

Vote agreed to.