HC Deb 21 July 1862 vol 168 cc625-35

Supply considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.

The following Votes were agreed to:

  1. (24.) £2,000, Board of Manufactures (Scotland).
  2. (25.) £115,877, Local Dues under Treaties.
  3. (26.) £3,500, Inspectors of Corn Returns.
  4. (27.) £1,000, Boundary Survey (Ireland).
  5. (28.) £34,550, Census of the Population.
  6. (29.) £3,030, Telegraph Companies' Subsidies.
  7. (30.) £2,647, Malta and Alexandria Telegraph.
  8. (31.) £4,645, Civil Contingencies.


asked whether the item in this Vote referred to all the Orders, including that of the Star; and whether it relieved the recipients from all charge for badges, collars, and decorations?


explained that the Vote referred to the robes and collars of the different Orders; but that the decorations themselves were always returned upon the death of the Knight, and that therefore there was no charge upon the public for them.

Vote agreed to; as were also—

  1. (32.) £6,500, Volunteer Corps (Yeomanry).
  2. 626
  3. (33.) £750,980, Disembodied Militia.
  4. (34.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,827, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1863, for the Salaries of certain of the Junior Attachés to Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad.


objected to the Vote. He thought that if new expenditure for the diplomatic service were necessary, the Secretary of State should give the House an opportunity of considering the whole question of diplomatic expenditure. He did not intend to disparage the diplomatic service, but he objected to the Vote as opening a new channel of expenditure which might next year be largely increased; and therefore he wished to know upon what grounds this new Vote was asked for. This Vote, he understood, was proposed in consequence of the recommendation of the Select Committee on the Diplomatic Service; but many other Votes would be necessary if all their recommendations were adopted. They did not give a single reason, good, bad, or indifferent, for this increase of diplomatic expenditure; and though out of the twenty-three witnesses examined twelve were in favour of this proposal, nine coupled it with the restriction that the number of attachés should be limited according to the requirements of the service, and should not be fixed according to the will of the Secretary of State. The Vote was entirely novel in its character. The diplomatic service, as far as he knew, had made no complaint; and as there were already thirty-five attachés in the receipt of pay, he did not see why Parliament should be asked to vote this sum in addition. He therefore moved that the Vote be disallowed.


said, he thought that this subject had been exhausted by the discussion which took place a short time ago, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. B. Cochrane). The facts of the case were these:—The Select Committee which sat last year recommended, amongst other things, that attachés should be paid after a certain period of gratuitous service, and the Foreign Office had thought it advisable to adopt that recommendation. The Committee which considered this subject last year made several recommendations, of which the Foreign Office only proposed to carry out one—one which had been very strongly recommended by every witness who had been examined before the Committee—and that was, to pay the attachés after four years of gratuitous public service. His own opinion was, that they should be paid at an earlier period. It was a hard thing that a man should be called upon to serve his country without remuneration; and he did not think the Liberal party were acting wisely in trying to cut down the salaries of public servants. On the one hand, it was made a complaint that none but the relatives of the aristocracy and rich persons were appointed to the diplomatic service; and on the other, by keeping down the salaries of those who were appointed, they made it impossible for any but comparatively rich persons to enter the service. Now, he thought that they ought to do either one thing or the other—either to pay the young men who undertook these posts, or else exclude all who could not afford to serve for nothing. His opinion, however, was, that the profession should be open, to all who by their abilities were able to serve their country. There were at present two classes of attachés—the paid and the unpaid, and the object of the Vote was to pay after four years' service all the attachés. The sum charged on the Consolidated Fund out of which diplomatic salaries were paid amounted to £180,000. That sum was fixed about thirty years ago; and while almost every other branch of the service had doubled, and sometimes more than doubled in cost, this alone had not increased; but, on the contrary, considerable additions had been made to those who were paid out of the fund. For instance, the Consuls General in South America had been paid out of that sum. It was true that a surplus of £10,000 had been paid back to the Foreign Office. There were two reasons why the present Vote was asked. In the first place, because it was considered necessary always to have a balance in hand in order to pay certain diplomatic pensions, and therefore it was not advisable to run the £180,000 charged on the Consolidated Fund too close; and, secondly, because a new principle was to a certain extent involved in the Vote; and it was thought fair that the matter should be brought fully before the House, and that the assent of the House should be asked. The sum asked was not a large one. There was no increase in the expense of the diplomatic service, and there was no prospect of the number of attachés being increased: on the contrary, some re- ductions had been made in the number. Almost every one in the service was underpaid, while the expense of living in foreign capitals had greatly increased; and therefore he trusted that the Committee would pass this very moderate Vote, not only on account of the smallness of the sum, but of the principle that was involved.


, as a Member of the Committee that sat on the subject, wished to say, that if there was one point upon which every Member of the Committee had been agreed, it was that it was not desirable to continue the present system, which they considered to be most inconvenient and objectionable. Instead of the system proposed having a tendency to promote jobbery, he believed that its real tendency would be to counteract it, for at present none but persons who had a good position and a considerable income could be appointed to the position of unpaid attachés. The former system was that the Foreign Minister might take almost any number of young men as attachés. They were not paid; and the result was that any number of young gentlemen who had a desire to see foreign life to advantage, and who had a private income of £400 or £500 a year, were nominated unpaid attachés. In the course of time these persons became claimants on the Government for services rendered. That system was considered by every Member of the Committee most objectionable. ["No, no!"] He repeated most positively that such was the case. Every gentleman who had been in the service for some years and had been examined before the Committee considered the system objectionable. It was but fair when men had learned their business that they should be put on pay, and then the public would have a hold on them. What would be thought of admitting ensigns into the army without pay? Plenty of persons would be found to offer themselves if such were the system; but it would be considered a very unwise one. It was considered there should not be an unlimited number of young men admitted into the service. The number would be more likely to be limited if the young men were paid, because the Foreign Minister would be more cautious in admitting them when he knew that after four years they would entail a certain charge upon the public.


said, he could not admit the accuracy of all the state- ments made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. Lord Russell and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire differed from many of the opinions which the hon. Gentleman had expressed. It was not unjust that after a certain number of years' service persons should receive some payment; but it was not at all desirable that the number of attachés should be increased, and that young men should be invited to enter the service for whom it would be afterwards impossible to provide. The service was a close service, and always must be, and it was not right that the taxpayers of the country should be burdened in order to pay a greater number of diplomatic servants than was necessary. Earl Russell stated in the Committee that he thought it desirable that a number of persons should enter the service as unpaid attachés. Some years ago it was not a profession at all, and Earl Russell and the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire both held that it ought not to be made a profession; because, if it were, a number of persons would be induced to become dependent on the public, and the expense would become intolerable. He did not object to the sum proposed, but he did object to any general system of attracting young men to the service who might afterwards become burdens upon the public.


said, that this was not a mere question of £2,800 per annum—there was a very large and important principle involved in the Vote. Since 1832 a sum of £180,000 had sufficed for the purpose to which it was now proposed to apply a sum of £2,800 in excess of that large amount. Did any hon. Gentleman think that a payment of £150 a year would induce any young gentleman of the class of which attachés were composed to enter the diplomatic service? Why £150 would only suffice to keep one of those young gentlemen in cigars. He knew several young gentlemen who waltzed and spoke French fluently, and who would be glad to enter the diplomatic service without payment. Now that there was the Zollverein, and that there were so many lines of railway, in addition to telegraphic connection, we did not want so many diplomatic agents in Germany. He should vote for the Amendment.


said, it was not denied that there was no difficulty at the present time in getting young men to act as attachés without pay. It followed, conclusively, that to pay them was a waste of public money; and though a small waste in itself, it was likely to lead to a larger waste in future years, and he should therefore support the Amendment.


said, he should certainly press his Motion to a division.


supported the Amendment; and as this was an attempt to introduce a new principle, he hoped that before the House consented to any change, as regarded the diplomatic service, it would insist that all charges for that service should be annually submitted to Parliament in the shape of Estimates, and that the system of qualification for persons intending to enter that service should undergo revision. The Committee appointed to inquire into, and to report upon the consular and diplomatic services, had recommended that candidates should pass six months at the Foreign Office. He thought that period somewhat short. He thought, also, that as members of the diplomatic service were required to send home reports upon the trade of the countries to which they were accredited, it would be desirable that they should undergo a preliminary training for a certain period at the Board of Trade and receive certificates of competency.


It seems to me that sometimes this House treats its Committees not very well. A Motion is made for inquiry into a certain part of the public service; allegations are put forward that it is overpaid, of that the staff is too large, and that the particular branch ought to be reduced either in amount or allowances. The Committee inquire into the matter, and find, when they examine the facts, that the previous impression was erroneous, that the numbers are not too great, and, perhaps, ought to be increased, or, as in the case of the diplomatic and consular services, that the allowances are too small. Then the hon. Gentlemen who moved for the Committee turn round on the Committee, and say that the conclusion at which the Committee has arrived is quite wrong. It is exactly like the old story of the sailor who was going to be married, and was told he must take his wife for better, for worse. "No," he said, "she may become as much better as she likes; but if she becomes worse, I will have nothing to do with her." So with the Committee. If the Committee recommend reductions, and say that we who moved for the Committee are right, and that the amount is too great, then we say the Committee is a wise one; but if the Committee differs from us, and on mature examination make a Report adverse to our previously conceived opinions, then we turn round on the Committee and say they are either official men, or men who have been in office—men, in fact, who know something of the matter, and are competent to judge—and therefore, because they know something about the matter, and are competent to judge, we will throw their Report over, and have nothing whatever to do with it. In the present instance I think the Committee were perfectly right. It has been a great grievance for a long time that in the diplomatic service a considerable number of young men did their duty admirably, but without any pay whatever—a circumstance which, I think, was a reflection on the public service. It is all very well to say, as my noble Friend (Lord Harry Vane) says, that there is no want of candidates, and that the service has always been full of these young men. But that is not an answer which ought to be given to the public or to this House of Commons. No doubt you might get persons to do anything without payment; but you would not have your service well performed. When you employ gentlemen to discharge a public duty you ought to have that hold upon them which consists in giving fair remuneration for services performed. It has been said that we shall have an unlimited number of persons in the profession if once we sanctioned this principle of payment. Does the hon. Gentleman (Mr. White) imagine, if this Vote passes—as I trust it will do—that the House of Commons will abrogate its functions of revising and determining the amounts which ought to be proposed? Does my hon. Friend imagine that it will rest within the mere discretion of the Government to increase this Vote annually to any extent they please? On the contrary, it will be equally open to my hon. Friend next year to criticise and to take the sense of the House upon any increase for which no adequate reason is given. It should be recollected that these attachés are now upon a different footing from that on which they formerly stood. Formerly the Secretary of State might oblige a friend, a constituent, or a relation by appointing this or that young man; but now the system is altered. A man must undergo an examination—a very strict examination—and, consequently, there is no longer that arbitary discretion of appointing young men who might be unfit for the high stations to which they are expected to rise; or who, having risen to those higher stations by the favour of the persons intrusted with their disposal, would be unfit to discharge the further duties devolving upon them. You have now a security against any such occurrence. I really think the smallness of the sum which is asked for proves that there is no disposition unnecessarily to swell the cost of the diplomatic service. My hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) has shown that the £180,000 are not entirely spent, because part is returned every year to the Exchequer. There is, consequently, a saving more than equivalent to the sum asked for. If you compare the diplomatic service as it now exists with what it has been, you will find that it used to cost a great deal more, and my own experience enables me to assert that it is much more efficient. I venture to say that no diplomatic service is better performed — I will even say as well performed—as that of the British Govern-Government. Its Members get better information, they keep their Government better informed of what is passing and what is likely to take place than those of any other country. The Government, therefore, are better able to look well to the interests of the country than any other country in the world. I hope the House will not be run away with by the apprehensions excited by my hon. Friend, but that they will adopt the only one of the recommendations of the Committee which the Government have thought fit to propose. As that recommendation emanates from men perfectly competent to exercise an impartial judgment, I hope the House will not refuse the small amount that is asked for.


thought the noble Lord hardly treated the House fairly. He accused them of want of respect for the recommendations of Committees, whereas the Government had shown still less respect. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs shook his head; but the House merely doubted the propriety of one of the recommendations of the Committee, whereas the Government, with this single exception, had thrown over all the recommendations contained in their Report—and this, he supposed, was brought forward to save some credit to the Committee. If the Government mistrusted them in the many, surely it was open to the House to mistrust them in a single instance. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark, as one reason for seeking this grant, said, "We get more than we want already, and we pay back a great deal into the Treasury." Then why come and ask the Committee for more? Another reason which the hon. Member assigned rather staggered him. He said it was necessary to put these gentlemen on the permanent list, in order that they might be entitled to pensions. If there were a number of gentlemen who were not wanted, and who could never be employed, why should they be entitled to pensions? The noble Lord stated quite truly that gentlemen were now obliged to undergo very strict examinations; but he did not state that these examinations had caused any diminution in the number of candidates. No Member who had spoken in favour of the Motion had declared that there was any difficulty in getting an abundance of able men for the diplomatic service on the present terms. He therefore did not think it right to pledge the country to this increased expense.


said, the right hon. Gentleman could not have been present the other night when this question was originally discussed, or he must have heard his explanation of the intentions of the Government, which were gradually to carry out all the recommendations arrived at by the Committee after mature deliberation. It was true that a Report going very much further than those recommendations had not been received; but those recommendations, some of which were proposed by Earl Russell and acceded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) were the very lowest that could have been framed after the evidence given before the Committee. In proof of the difficult nature of the examination, if it were not invidious to do so, he could mention names of young men who were unable to pass the examination who had the highest claims to be admitted to the diplomatic profession on account of the services of members of their family. There was no intention whatever to increase the diplomatic service; and there had likewise been some misrepresentation with regard to his statement about pensions. What he had urged was that in all other Departments of the public service a man was en- titled, after a certain number of years, to a pension; while in diplomacy, although a man might have served ten or fifteen years, he was not entitled to count them towards a pension till he attained the post of Secretary. When a man served the public, it was only reasonable that he should be paid. The "cigar and white kid glove gentlemen" had been spoken of. He ventured to tell hon. Gentlemen that this class of attaché was rapidly passing away. [Laughter.] He repeated the statement. He begged to say that he was as well acquainted with the profession as other Gentlemen, and that it was passing away. He wanted that class to pass away; and one of the recommendations of the Committee was, that there should be a stringent examination at the outset in order that they might obtain really first-class men. The hon. Member who stated that the profession was being overstocked could not have looked into the matter. If he had taken the trouble to glance over the Foreign Office List, he would have seen that the strength of a diplomatic corps was regulated entirely by the amount of work to be done. These young men were not idle. ["Oh, oh!"] There was scarcely a large embassy in Europe which did not complain of being overworked, and which did not call out for more attachés. The amount required might have been paid out of the surplus which was annually handed over to the Exchequer; but it was thought that it would be fairer and more straightforward to submit to the House the question whether or not these young men should be paid after four years' service.


hoped, that the hon. Member would press his Motion to a division. If it was intended to make a thorough change of the system, why should not these young men be paid at once without waiting for the completion of four years' service?


said, that the unfortunate class of attachés seemed to be that night in a position of which he had frequently heard—that of receiving "more kicks than half-pence;" for not only did hon. Gentlemen refuse to give them any remuneration, but they laughed at the assertion of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State that they really had duties to discharge. From his own experience he could state that there was no class of gentlemen who were paid so little and worked so much.

Question put.

The Committee divided: — Ayes 73; Noes 60: Majority 13.

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

(35.) £28,934 4s. 7d., Revenue Departments (Post Office Services).

(36.) £25,587, Post Office (Packet Service).

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow, at Twelve of the clock.