HC Deb 18 July 1861 vol 164 cc1073-88

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

MR. MASSEY in the Chair.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £110,098, to complete the sum for the Treasury Chest.


said, he rose to complain of the manner in which the Government dealt with the Treasury chest. As was known to hon. Members, the amount voted for the Treasury chest formed a fund to meet expenses not otherwise provided for by the Votes of the House. Out of that fund, however, payments had been made for several years past without the knowledge of Parliament, which was contrary to every sound rule of financial policy recognized by this country. Even some of the Native troops in India had been kept up at the expense of the Treasury chest, and the amount which had been laid out, and which had never been refunded, amounted to £118,000. These were matters which required explanation.


said, he wished to inquire how it was that there had been a loss to the Treasury chest by the exchanges with Hong Kong?


said, that the commissariat officers abroad drew upon this country for payment of the troops, and generally when specie was sent from this country to places abroad the transaction was attended with profit. Putting the case of China aside, it would be seen by the Estimate that there was a net gain at other stations of £11,000. But in China the dollar was the medium of payment, and the dollar was obliged to be issued to the troops at the rate of 4s. 2d., but as there was an exceptional value attached to the dollar in China, it being in the year 1859–60 equivalent to about 4s. 10d., the rate of exchange was unfavourable to this country to the amount of £101,240. In addition to that a quarter of a million had been more recently sent from this country, and as the dollar was then worth 4s. 5d., there was a loss to the Treasury of £16,860. With reference to what had been stated by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Willoughby), he knew that there were some advances out of the Treasury chest yet to be settled; but the subject had been under the investigation of a Select Committee of that House, and it therefore was unnecessary that he should go into the subject at that time. That Committee, he believed, had reported, but he had not yet seen their Report.


inquired what was the amount of the drawing in relation to which there was a loss of over £100,000?


replied, three quarters of a million.

Vote agreed to, as were also the three following Votes:—

(2.) £5,000, Zambesi Expedition.

(3.) £5,500, to complete the sum for the Niger Expedition.

(4.) £2,000, North-Western Australia Expedition.

(5.) £21,400, Captured Negroes and Liberated Africans.


called attention to what he considered the extravagant manner which was adopted to carry out what was, no doubt, a very good object. When a vessel of war captured a slaver, she was taken into Sierra Leone or St. Helena. The captured negroes had to be maintained there until a vessel was sent from this country to convey them to the West Indies sometimes for months. He thought the prizes should be sent direct to the West Indies, by which all the expenses they were not put to would be avoided. It had already been decided that when a vessel was taken, as slavers generally were, without papers or colours, she might be dealt with as belonging to no nation, and it could not be said that in any case the negroes exercised any choice in the matter. It was a simple question of economy.


said, that it was necessary to take the prize to the nearest British island where there was a court to adjudicate upon the capture. In many instances the slaves were not in a condition, when the vessel was seized, to be taken to the distance of the West Indies.


said, that might be so sometimes; but in many instances the voyage down the Trade winds to the West Indies would be shorter than beating up to Sierra Leone or St. Helena.

Vote agreed to, as was also

(6.) £4,750, Mixed Commissions, Traffic in Slaves.

(7.) Motion made and Question proposed,

That a sum, not exceeding £128,143, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of the Consular Establishments Abroad, to the 31st day of March, 1862.


said, he wished to call attention to the appointment of Consuls at inland towns in Europe. The duties of Consuls were described as of three kinds, "commercial duties," "notarial duties," and "State duties." These duties were more or less in a great measure, if not almost entirely, connected with the affairs of shipping. But when they put Consuls at the inland towns of Europe they were little else than agents for persons who were travelling or for commercial houses at home. If agents, however, were required by commercial houses, they ought to pay for them themselves, and not charge the expense to the State. If such agents were required by the Government to collect statistical or other information, they ought to be called statistical agents or some other name which should not throw dust in the eyes of the country. The Consuls at inland towns in Europe were nine in number. They were at Moscow, Leipsic. Frankfort, Cologne, Ghent, Milan, Seville, Rome, and Warsaw, and only the other day an attempt was made to have one appointed at Pesth. The Committee which had considered the subject under the Administration of the Earl of Derby were of opinion that the consulates at Leipsic, Frankfort, Cologne, Ghent, Seville, were useless, and might well be abolished. Taking the case of Leipsic, for example, he would ask, what was the importance of having a Consul there? The fair was declining, and British goods now found their way by a different route, so that a Consul was less wanted than be fore. If a Consul was wanted at Leipsic, a Legation at Dresden could not likewise be required. At many places where Consuls were stationed the duty might be transacted by clerks attached to the Embassy, as at Paris. The noble Lord had told them that the greatest economy would be practised in the appointment of Consuls; but he declined to abolish the consulate at Leipsic, and only last autumn a Consul General had been established at Milan at a salary of £800 a year. Since the establishment of the kingdom of Italy a Consul General in that town had become, in his opinion, entirely useless. After being six months in his office that Consul General wrote home that he had no information to give the Government—that he could give no statistics on commercial matters, as all goods came to Milan by way of Genoa, where they paid duty, and it was there the required information could alone be given. In fact, the Consul General referred the Government for information to an article written by the The Times' correspondent at Turin. He hoped also that some information would be given why Consuls were maintained at Moscow, Leipsic, Cologne, and the other places he had named.


complained of the appointment of Vice-Consuls at Venice, Lisbon, and Manilla, as unnecessary, as their offices must be perfect sinecures. Again, there was no necessity for a Vice-Consul at Hamburgh. No doubt they carried on an extensive trade with that place, but the duties had hitherto been discharged by a Consul at a salary of £1,500 a year. He found also that there was an addition of £500 a year for a residence for the Consul. Instead of a reduction in the expenditure for Consuls, there had been a large addition, amounting to £5,000 or £6,000 a year. In the United States, with which the country had so large a trade, there were fourteen Consuls, costing £25,000 a year, while in Turkey there were fifty-one, costing £25,000 a year.


said, the Committee which sat on the subject had made valuable recommendations, some of which he had endeavoured to carry out. One of the recommendations of the Committee was that allowances should be made to Consuls, and that the fees they received should be paid over to the Treasury. That had been carried out, and in the year 1860 there was remitted to the Treasury a payment in fees of £44,000, and in the year 1861of £9,000. In consequence allowances had in some instances been given—as at Hamburg, for example, where a Vice-Consul had also been appointed. He had to state generally that he was constantly being importuned to appoint new Consuls in various parts of the word—at Liberia for instance—but his uniform course had been to make no new appointments that were not called for by absolute necessity, and to abolish as far as possible the number now in existence. The hon. Member (Mr. Dodson) thought it was not necessary to have Consuls in the inland towns. But, not to speak of the commercial interests they might have to attend to in those towns, they had political duties, sometimes of an important character, to discharge. At the same time wherever it was thought practicable these consulships would be abolished. It was not intended, for example, to appoint any new Consul at Ghent, and at Paris the duties of the consulship would in future be done by the librarian attached to the Embassy. The hon. Member seemed to think that the Consul at Leipsic ought not to be retained, and he urged, very truly, that the importance of Leipsic as a commercial mart had very much diminished. Looking at the mere claims of Leipsic, a Consul there would perhaps not be necessary, but there were other grounds on which his retention could be advocated; and here he would make a general observation that would apply to many such cases. We had great diplomatic establishments at the various Courts of Europe, by which the relations between our Government and the authorities of those places were kept up. Our diplomatic agents had intercourse with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs connected with the Governments to which they were accredited; but there was a great deal going on in Germany, for example, partly connected with commercial and manufacturing interests and partly connected with political affairs, on which it was desirable to get information, and he found that it was from our consular agents, who were in communication with the middle and other classes of society, that much of this information could be ob- tained. Much valuable information was from time to time given to the Foreign Office from that source. There were at that moment important questions pending with regard to trade and commerce between France and the Zollverein. The German manufacturers complained that, owing to our commercial treaty with France last year, they were placed at a great disadvantage with regard to the introduction of their manufactures into France, and on that point there was a good deal of discussion going on in Germany. Now, it was important that we should know what was going on with regard to the question. It was our interest to see that our manufacturers were not placed at a disadvantage, and, therefore, any information on the subject that could be communicated to the Foreign Office was useful. With regard to Cologne, a Consul was, perhaps, not of much use there, in so far as trade was concerned; but it was an important central point for conveying messages to different parts of Germany. The attendance of a Consul at Moscow was necessary, in order that our Ambassador at St. Petersburgh might be furnished with information of the transactions that take place in Central Russia. At Warsaw the Consul was a military officer, whose services it was important to retain. The Russian Government had never made any objection to our having that officer there, owing, he believed, to the judicious appointments that had always been made. With regard to Milan, he would not say that it was necessary to continue a Consul permanently there. At the same time so great a change had taken place in the affairs of Italy that it was very important we should in the meantime have as much information as possible as to the effect produced by that change. The importance of Lombardy was such that he thought it desirable to have a Consul at Milan to give all the information that might be required, but it was not intended that the appointment should be a permanent one. He had even been pressed to appoint a Consul at Florence, which he did not agree to. The Consul at Seville was not necessary, and the office should be abolished on a vacancy occurring. There were other exceptional cases in which it was thought proper to continue for the present the consular establishments now existing, but these would from time to time be abolished. He could not, however, hold out the expectation that any great reduction of expenditure could be effected; he hoped a reduction would, in course of time, take place, but he did not suppose that it would be very large. With regard to Turkey, he would make this general observation, that all the Powers of Europe had Consuls in numerous places throughout that empire, and that those Consuls exercised political functions to a very great extent. He lamented that the system had gone so far as it had done, but it would be plainly impolitic to leave British interests in those places unprotected, and to have the complaint made that French and Russian and German subjects were protected, but that there was no official to look after the interests of British subjects. If there was to be any change of the system it must be a gradual one, but he hoped it would be made through the increased efficiency and purity of the Turkish Administration, which would render the presence of so many foreign Consuls unnecessary in Turkey.


said, that he was astonished at the confession made by the noble Lord that our diplomatic agents abroad could not get the information that was desirable from the commercial classes, and that it was necessary to have recourse to Consuls for that purpose. This was a very humiliating confession for a Minister to make, though he could not altogether share in the opinion which it implied, for he was bound to say that some of the most valuable Reports on commercial matters ever published came from aristocratic members of the diplomatic body. As an instance he would refer to the Report on wines by Lord Chelsea. Neither did the justification which had been offered for the maintenance of consulates in the inland towns of Germany appear to him satisfactory. He begged, on the part of the mercantile community, to repudiate the assertion that mercantile men derived benefit from the consular Reports from the interior of Germany—mercantile men were too much alive to their own interests to be dependent upon such information. Nothing could be more absurd than the maintenance of a consulate at Leipsic. Germany, in his opinion, would furnish a field for the diminution not only of the Consular but of the Ambassadorial Service.


said, that he did not agree with the hon. Member for Brighton that the consulates ought to be abolished in the inland towns of Germany. Information of a valuable character was continually received through their instru- mentality; and without their aid the Government would be often ignorant of important facts necessary to guide their judgment and influence their action. He did not think that, any great economy could be effected in the reduction of the Consular Service, but at the same time they should be on their guard against any large increase in those establishments.


said, he trusted nothing would induce the noble Lord to discontinue the Consular Establishments in the inland towns of the Zollverein. The commercial interests of the country were immensely affected by the negotiations which were now going on between France and the Zollverein, and it was of the highest importance that they should be carefully attended to. He trusted that the result would be the same as that to which he had lately called attention in the case of Belgium, and that our manufactures would be placed in as advanageous a position as those of France.


thought that the Committee were much indebted to his hon. Friend the Member for Sussex for having directed their attention to the Consular Service. He was glad that his hon. Friend had not proposed at present any reduction in the Consular Establishment in the Levant. Still, that was a part of the world in which our Consuls were very numerous, and in which Consular interference was regarded with peculiar jealousy. We had sixty - two Consuls in the Levant, and others in Tripoli and Egypt, He hoped, however, that the new Sultan by his reforms and by the introduction of better laws, would render Consular interposition less necessary, and that ultimately the number of Consuls might be reduced. He was sorry that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had not been able to give them more satisfactory reasons for the appointment of a Consul at Leipsic. He thought that our diplomatic staff at Dresden might manage to do all that we required in those parts. There was one point which had not been alluded to, and that was the permission given to some Consuls to trade, which ho thought objectionable. No fixed rule appeared to be adopted. At St. Petersburgh, where there was much business, the English Consul was allowed to trade, but not at Odessa, where the public business was less. So, too, at Trieste, where there was much business, the Consul was allowed to trade; but not at Venice, where there was less business.

He thought that no Consul ought to be allowed to engage in trading operations. The business of a Consul was to facilitate commercial intercourse, and to supply for the benefit of the country appointing him the earliest information on commercial matters. If, however, he were a trader, he might have a private interest in keeping back that information for his own advantage. A trading Consul, too, was more open to suspicion, and less likely than one not engaged in trade to get reliable information. He thought that the employment of foreigners as Consuls was objectionable, and that trained and educated Englishmen should be preferred. He hoped that the Government would look well to the con sular establishment, and that ultimately they might reduce the number of Consuls without impairing the efficiency of the service.


said, he thought that hon. Gentlemen had scarcely made themselves acquainted with the recommendations of the Committee upon the consular service. It was quite impossible to rearrange a whole establishment such as that which they had in the various countries abroad. If, for instance, a man had received his appointment years ago with liberty to trade, if that liberty was taken away, something must be given to compensate him for the loss. The result of that short discussion convinced him that some of those who had engaged in it had not watched the course of the Foreign Office for some years; for its policy of late, whether the Earl of Clarendon, the Earl of Malmesbury, or the noble Lord opposite had been at its head, had been marked by a desire to sweep away every unnecessary appointment in the consular service. The number of appointments abolished within the last ten or twenty years would surprise any hon. Member who would call for a return. The House, however, would entertain a wrong impresion if it supposed that the sweeping away of all unnecessary consulates necessarily implied any large reduction in the Estimates. The great increase in the cost of living that had taken place of late years in every part of the world had rendered the consular service one of the worst paid that could be named, and in some cases men of education had found it impossible to discharge the duties required of them without falling into debt. There could be no worse principle followed than that of underpaying their public servants, as it had the effect of excluding those who were not possessed of ample means and admitting only those who had. He was afraid that, notwithstanding the sanguine expectations of the noble Lord, the expense of our consular establishments would rather be increased than otherwise.


said, he agreed with the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) as to the importance of maintaining Consuls for the purpose of transmitting statistics upon commercial matters. Leipsic, being a central place, appeared to him to be a point from which the commercial transactions of Germany could most readily be watched. It should, however, be a great object with the Foreign Office to observe the changes which I were daily taking place in the relative importance of towns, owing to railway and other causes, and to make the necessary alterations in the service which those changes might require.


said, he was much afraid that the maintenance of Consuls at Leipsic and other similar places in Germany would not affect the object which the hon. Member for Bradford had in view—the maintenance of our commercial interests. He objected strongly to the appointment of a Consul at Reunion, where our trade was very insignificant. He also objected to a Consul at Frankfort, and he should, therefore, move for a reduction of the Vote by £2,300, being the sum appropriated for Consuls at Reunion, Frankfort, and other places.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a sum, not exceeding £125,813, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of the Consular Establishments Abroad, to the 31st day of March, 1862.


observed that it was very difficult for a diplomatic agent to obtain that commercial information which, i in many cases, it was very essential the country should have. Nor had they the same opportunities of gaining that intimate knowledge of the commercial feelings of a people which Consuls had. He expressed his conviction that the noble Lord in two late appointments at Leipsic and Japan had been influenced solely by a desire to benefit the public service.


said, he should vote against the Amendment. He did not think it desirable that economy in the I matter should be carried to too great an extent, and he did not think it would be prudent to put an end to the consulates to winch he referred. He did not think Consuls should he prevented from trading, unless they were paid such salaries as would support them creditably without it. At the present moment it was of the utmost importance that we should have consular agents in every part of Germany.


said, that there were two points on which he felt bound to give some explanation. One had been raised by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. A. Smith) with regard to the appointment of a Consul at Reunion. He would admit that as regards the trade between the country and Reunion, it would he quite unnecessary to appoint a Consul. He was afraid, however, that the hon. Member had not attended to what had been going on recently, especially with reference to a decree of the Emperor of the French, or he would not have called in question the propriety of appointing a Consul for Reunion. The system of contracts by which the French colonists procured labourers from Africa; it was found tended to produce great abuses in the interior and on the coast of Africa, and the result was the late decree of the Emperor of the French on the subject. There had been a great many communications between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of France on the subject, the result of which was that there should be extended to Reunion the same advantages that were enjoyed by the Mauritius—namely, that coolies who were engaged as labourers should be permitted to go to Reunion on the same terms on which they were sent to the Mauritius. But at the Mauritius there was a proper instituted authority to see that no abuses took place, and the Government of India naturally wished that at Reunion the interests of the coolies should he protected in the same way, and that their contracts should he fairly carried out, and that they should have liberty to return home when the period of their contracts expired, or in the event of the terms to which they agreed not being fulfilled. The course which appeared to Her Majesty's Government the best to secure those objects was that there should he a British Consul at Reunion to whom the coolies might make known any complaints that they might have to make. It was for the purposes of humanity that the Consul was appointed, and he thought they might congratulate themselves upon having arranged a convention of that nature with the French Government. An hon. Gen- tleman had asked what was the principle upon which they proceeded in saying that certain Consuls should be allowed to trade and others should not. The general principle was a very simple one. It was supposed that where there was a considerable amount of British trade it justified the appointment of a Consul, at a salary that would enable him to live in the place. Where, however, there was very little trade, the question was whether they should appoint a Consul who should be allowed to trade, or have no Consul at all? For instance, if he were to propose to that House that in every place where they had a Consul there should be a salary attached that would enable the person to live without trade, the increase of the consular estimates would be very great. The Government, therefore, laid it down as a rule that where there was sufficient trade to support a Consul he should not be allowed to trade, but where the amount of trade was not considerable there should be a Consul appointed at a small salary who should be allowed to trade. There was at present a Consul at Frankfort, but whenever it should be vacant it was intended that no new Consul should be appointed.


remarked that he should support the appointment of a Consul at Reunion as necessary for the security of the coolies.


said, that as the coolies were sent from India for the advancement of French interests in Reunion, he did not think the people of this country ought to be saddled with the cost of looking after them. He would not, however, divide the Committee. Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(8.) £64,646, Establishments in China, Japan, and Siam.


complained of the disparity of the allowances for the diplomatic services in China and at Japan. In China, where the work of the embassy might he regarded as very small, in consequence of the recent treaty, the allowance was £8,500, with a numerous staff, while at Japan, where the duty was one of great difficulty and. risk, the allowance was only £2,500, and the appointment only that of a Secretary of Legation. He recommended a general revision of the whole of the Diplomatic and Consular Establishments in China.


said, he could only say that, in fixing the comparative amounts proposed to be taken for China and Japan, regard had been had to the numbers, size, and importance of the two places, rather than to the merits of the individual. He was happy to say that accounts had been received on the previous day from Mr. Bruce, at Pekin, of a most satisfactory nature. He stated that the officers of our mission at that city were received and treated there without any of that strangeness and wonder which had hitherto been exhibited, and there was every prospect that the commercial relations of this country with China would be established on a better footing than they had ever been before.

In reply to Mr. WHITE,


said, he was responsible for the appointment of Mr. Oliphant. He (Lord John Russell) had formed his judgment of Mr. Oliphant, not from any private knowledge of him, but entirely from the accounts he received at different times from Lord Elgin in regard to his qualifications; and his published works showed him to be a man of no common talent and ability.

Vote agreed to, as was also

(9.) £30,000, to complete the sum for Ministers at Foreign Courts).

(10.) Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a sum, not exceeding £40,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of Special Missions, Diplomatic Outfits, and Conveyance of Colonial Officers and others, to the 31st day of March, 1862.


drew attention to the expenditure under this head, and said that he could not conceive what we wanted with seven Diplomatic Establishments in Germany.


said, he would ask for an explanation of the large charge for brokerage.


said, that it very often happened that information which was not given at Vienna or Berlin was obtained at the minor courts. They were all separate and independent States, in friendly relations with this country, and it was a great advantage to keep up the missions at these Courts. The contingent expenses in Turkey had, no doubt, been very large; but that arose from the anomalous state of that country. With regard to the item for commission, he had not the explanation immediately before him, but he had no doubt it arose from the difficulty of obtaining money.


explained that the charge was mainly occasioned by the difference in the rates of exchange.


said, that they had paid over £500,000 for the Diplomatic and Consular Service. That was a monstrous expenditure. Yet when anything really important had to be transacted a special agent had to be sent for the purpose. Whether it was a commercial treaty or something to be done at Vienna, an extraordinary minister or agent was appointed. He should move that the Vote be reduced by £20,000.


said, the Vote was important as it was the introduction of a new principle, having for its object to get rid of the Vote for civil contingencies. The Committee was asked, however, to vote a lump sum, and he wanted to know how the account of the expenditure was to be stated?


said, he expected that the Vote was for the payment of expenses already incurred. If not, he thought they should have some explanation of it.


said, that the Vote had been taken out of the Vote for Civil Service contingencies, on the recommendation of the Committee on Miscellaneous Expenditure. It was impossible to give the precise items of expense which might be incurred, but if the Committee wished, there could be no objection to a statement of the expenditure being prepared at the end of the year. Of course, the Vote for Civil Service contingencies had been reduced by the amount of the Vote.


said, he thought the explanation unsatisfactory.


said, he wished to point out that the expenses of the last three years, averaging between £66,000 and £67,000 a year, were printed in the Estimates as a foundation for the present Vote, which was only £50,000. That was curious, as well as satisfactory, unless there should be "a little bill," showing itself by and-by in another place.


pointed out that it would be impossible to give an estimate of the expenditure under this Vote. It was impossible for him to say that a Special Mission would not be necessary in September or November. What had been done in the Estimates, therefore, —namely, taking an average—seemed to him the fairest way of putting the Vote. With regard to the salaries of the diplomatic body it was true they were scarcely under the control of the House. But there had been hardly any increase in them since they were fixed thirty years ago. He noticed that when the House had taken similar things under its charge they had materially increased.

Motion made, and Question, That a sum, not exceeding £20,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of Special Missions, Diplomatic Outfits, and Conveyance of Colonial Officers and others, to the 31st day of March, 1862. £put, and negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(11.) £60,000, North American Boundary Commission.


observed that the amount was very large, and that he wished for some explanation.


said, it was incurred for the settlement of the territorial boundary of the possessions of Great Britain and the United States west of the Rocky Mountains, in accordance with the agreed extension on the forty-ninth parallel of latitude. An expedition had been sent out, consisting of Colonel Hawkins and fifty men of the Sappers and Miners. Colonel Hawkins had £1,200 a year, and the men 6s. a day. He believed that the large expenditure had principally been caused by the great cost of provisions and the difficulty of communications. The Treasury had, however, written to Colonel Hawkins to know whether the work had not been carried far enough to allow of the return of the expedition. He understood that two-thirds of the distance had been accomplished.


asked, if the right hon. Gentleman could state the entire sum that would be required?


said, that Colonel Hawkins had expressed his belief that the bulk of the expenditure had been incurred.


said, that he believed the Commissioners were agreed as to the line they were to draw, but they entertained considerable doubt how far they ought to go to in expense in the erection of permanent works in connection with impassable forests and morasses. The Government could only recommend them to observe the utmost possible economy.

Vote agreed to.

£145,140, to complete the sum for Superannuation and Retired Allowances.


said, he would submit that barrack-masters, many of whom had been distinguished officers, should be entitled to receive a higher amount of retiring allowances.


said, he thought that the claims of those officers should be dealt with by the Secretary of War, and not by the Treasury.


said, that the retiring allowances of the barrack-masters were in the Army Estimates, and not in the Civil Estimates, and he was not aware that they were under the control of the Treasury.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again this day.

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