HC Deb 27 June 1864 vol 176 cc392-400

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £94,222, to complete the sum for Establishments in China, Japan, and Siam, agreed to.

(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £27,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum neces- sary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1865, for the Extraordinary Disbursements of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad.


said, he wished to call attention to the inconvenient form in which the Votes for the diplomatic service were submitted to Parliament, and to the inadequate information as to the real cost of that service afforded to the House. All that hon. Members generally knew on the subject was that there was a sum of £180,000 a year charged on the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of paying diplomatic salaries, which sum was entirely at the disposal of the Foreign Office, and over the expenditure of which the House had no control. He held in his hand, he might add, a Return which showed that in the year ending the 31st of March, 1863, there was spent on the diplomatic service a sum of £111,000—the actual sum voted, he believed, being £157,000—in excess of the £180,000 to which he had alluded. In order, however, to find how that money had been disposed of, it was necessary to hunt over five different classes of Estimates, while the expenditure of some of it was to be found under the head of Consuls, some under that of Consular Compensations, and some under the head of Miscellaneous Expenditure, Now, the various items of the outlay for the army and navy were presented to the House in a consecutive manner, and he should like to know why the same course should not be pursued with regard to the diplomatic service. He objected, too, to having any portion of that expenditure withdrawn from the cognizance of the House of Commons by being charged on the Consolidated Fund, and should wish to see the whole of it annually submitted to the House for its approval. If not, the information with respect to it ought, at all events, he contended, to be supplied in an intelligible manner. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the reduction of the Vote by £10,000.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £17,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1865, for the Extraordinary Disbursements of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad."—(Mr. Dodson.)


said, his hon. Friend had brought the question forward during several Sessions, but he begged his hon. Friend to bear in mind that while many other Votes showed an increase, the Vote for diplomatic salaries had remained stationary, with the exception of the charges for China and Japan; and the missions to these two countries were of a mixed political and commercial character, our minister in China being ambassador and superintendent of trade, and our representative in Japan being both envoy and consul general. The confusion in the accounts which the hon. Member seemed to think existed arose from the arrangement made some years ago for charging the cost of the diplomatic service upon the Consolidated Fund. It frequently happened that diplomatic officers under the Foreign Office were employed as consuls, and whenever that occurred their salaries appeared under two different heads. The embassy houses were under the direction of the Board of Works, for what precise reason he could not tell, but he supposed that arrangement was adopted with the view of securing economy.


stated that the diplomatic expenditure, so far from having remained stationary, had been increased under every head. The present Vote, for example, had been raised since 1851 from £16,800 to £37,000. It would be far better to give our representatives abroad a fixed sum for house rent than to provide them with embassy houses. He was of opinion, moreover, that many embassies, particularly in Germany, might be suppressed with advantage; and he complained that our Minister Plenipotentiary in Prussia had been elevated to the rank of an Ambassador with a corresponding increase of salary. In these days of railways and telegraphs it was no longer necessary to maintain large diplomatic establishments in all parts of the world. At the smaller courts all we wanted was a mere charge d'affaires instead of large and expensive diplomatic establishments. The cost of the embassy at Wurtemberg was £3,000; Saxony, £3,300; Hanover, £4,000; Bavaria, £5,000. It was high time that there should be a reduction in this expenditure. He would support the Motion for the reduction of the Vote.


thought the hon. Member was mistaken in his view as to the increase of expense on account of the embassy houses. The practice of taking these establishments for a series of years was found to contribute both to convenience and economy. He hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn, the money being required for actual expenditure.


said, the Vote did not bear on the argument of the hon. Gentleman. It was a Vote for the contingent expenses of the different missions, which expenses were regulated by certain rules, and depended upon services performed. It did not touch salaries, but was for messengers, postages, and other things, expenses that must be incurred. The only effect of curtailing the Vote would be to deprive the department of what was required for carrying on the service of the country. The estimate in one year was founded upon the expense of the year preceding. The amount of the expenses was examined at the Foreign Office, so that no expense should be incurred that was not in accordance with some standing regulation, and for some service performed. The only result of the proposed reduction would be to prevent the service being carried on.


said, the only result would be that the Government would be obliged to economize and husband that sum of £180,000, and pay the expense of the diplomatic service out of it. This was the only way in which they could prevent this large increase of expenditure.


The hon. Member is entirely mistaken. We have no authority to misapply to this service money which is voted for a different purpose. That is for salaries, pensions, and allowances, and for nothing else. The Government would be acting against the law if we were to apply it for this purpose.


said, he thought that the explanations of the noble Lord and the Under Secretary were most unsatisfactory. He would divide the Committee on the question, and hoped to be supported.


said, the only effect of curtailing the Vote would be to starve these different missions, and prevent their performing work essential to the public service.

Question put,

The Committee divided:— Ayes 37; Noes 113: Majority 76.


While we are upon the subject of our embassies, I should be glad to know who conducts in this country the relations between his Holiness the Pope and the Government of Great Britain? We had a long discussion the other night on the conduct of the diplomatic relations between this country and the Papal States, and it was admitted that the responsibility of carrying on these relations at Rome was divided between Mr. Odo Russell and the Consul at Rome. We all know who protect the interests of the Pope in the House of Commons, but I wish to know who in this country conducts the relations between the Pope and the Government?


I can only answer the question which has been put to me in the negative. There is no person accredited in this country to carry on diplomatic relations between the Government and the Pope.


But there is no one accredited in Rome; and yet Mr. Odo Russell conducts the relations. Who in this country has a corresponding position?


No one that I am aware of.


said, he wished to ask for an explanation of the items for board wages and servants' wages at the embassies in France and Turkey. He also remarked that the Vote contained items for chapels and chaplains in France, Turkey, and Greece; but not in Russia and Spain. How was it that in a country where the Protestant religion was proscribed, no sum for Divine service was included in the Votes? When travelling abroad he found that in some places there was no Church of England. He hoped that the Roman Catholic Members of that House, who spoke so much about religious liberty and freedom of conscience, would express their disapprobation concerning the manner in which those principles were ignored in Spain.


said, he thought that some explanation was required as to the expenses of the embassy at Constantinople.


said, that the sums allowed for chapels depended upon the number of British residents in the different places. The charge at Constantinople was rather large for diplomatic services, but he believed that the expense for the year following would be decreased by nearly £2,000.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £20,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1865, for Special Missions, Diplomatic Outfits, and Conveyance and Entertainment of Colonial Officers and others.


said, he wanted to call attention to an item of £52 in connection with the mission of Commodore Wilmot to the King of Dahomey; and to express his opinion that no British officer should have consented to or sanctioned by his presence the horrible massacre which that gallant gentleman had witnessed, and which had been ordered by the King as a sacrifice to the spirit of his Majesty's father. The proceedings of Commodore Wilmot had outraged the feelings of a great number of persons in this country; and in asking Parliament to vote the money for the mission they really asked it to be a party to these barbarous practices. Thinking that Parliament should assert the principle that no prospect of gain from trade ought to Lave induced the representative of the Queen of England to sanction such a scene by his presence, he moved the reduction of the Vote by this sum.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Item of £52 4s. 4d., for Seamen's Clothing supplied to Commodore Wilmot from the Rattlesnake in January, 1863, for presentation to the Chiefs, &c, at the Court of the King of Dahomey, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Butt.)


said, that Commodore Wilmot was an officer of the greatest humanity, who had devoted a great part of his life to the welfare of Africa, and had undertaken a perilous journey to Dahomey for the express purpose of getting the King lo give up the slave trade, and put an end to the barbarous "customs." Unfortunately, he arrived at a time when the great annual ceremony was performed, at which human beings were sacrificed. His object was not to break with the King, but to obtain a personal influence over him; and in this Commodore Wilmot had succeeded. His (Mr. Layard's) impression was that Commodore Wilmot was not present at any of those scenes, and he would certainly have looked with horror on anything of the kind. His visit had some result, for the King released some unfortunate captives who were taken by the Commodore down to Lagos, and there had their liberty given them. Commodore Wilmot had received no remuneration in respect of this mission, and he was entitled to every praise for the courage, humanity, and devotion he bad exhibited in Africa.


said, he had understood the hon. and learned Gentleman not to reflect on Commodore Wilmot's conduct so much as to wish to protest on the part of the House against scenes which had shocked the whole kingdom.


said, he wished to refer to an item of £1,796, being the "balance of expenses of the special mission of the hon. H. G. Elliot to Greece," and another item of £1,000 for an outfit allowance to the "hon. H. G. Elliot, Her Majesty's Minister at Turin." The initials were the same, but those two items occurring in one year could hardly refer to the same person. He wished to know whether the Dromio of Athens and the Dromio of Turin were the same persons?


said, that Mr. Elliot was sent to Athens on a special mission, and was afterwards appointed to Turin. These items contained the necessary expenses, and referred to the same person.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(4.) £3,649, to complete the sum for Third Secretaries to Embassies, &c.

(5.) £123,280, to complete the sum for Superannuation and Retired Allowances.

(6.) £728, Toulonese and Corsican Emigrants, &c, and American Loyalists.

(7.) £325, Refuge for the Destitute.

(8.) £1,959, to complete the sum for Polish Refugees and Distressed Spaniards.

(9.) £50,700, to complete the sum for Merchant Seamen's Fund Pensions.

(10.) £25,400, to complete the Bum for Relief of Distressed British Seamen.

(11.) £2,607, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Charges, formerly on Civil List.

(12.) £1,272, to complete the sum for Public Infirmaries, Ireland.

(13.) £1,600, to complete the sum for Westmoreland Lock Hospital.

(14.) £700, Rotunda Lying in Hospital.

(15.) £200, Coombe Lying-in Hospital.

(16.) £5,600, to complete the sum for House of Industry Hospitals.

(17.) £1,500, to complete the sum for Cork Street Fever Hospital.

(18.) £600, Meath Hospital.

(19.) £100, St. Mark's Ophthalmic Hospital

(20.) £300, to complete the sum for Dr. Steeven's Hospital.

(21.) £245, for Board of Superintendence of Dublin Hospitals.

(22.) £5,693, to complete the sum for Concordatum Fund, and other Charities and Allowances, Ireland.

(23.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £29,670, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1865, for Non-conforming, Seceding, and Protestant Dissenting Ministers in Ireland.


remarked that the Vote had increased 60 per cent, although the number of the Presbyterian ministers who received it had diminished 20 per cent in the course of as many years. It was a curious fact that the only body of Nonconformist clergy who received aid from the State had diminished in number, while all other Dissenters in the United Kingdom who received no aid from the State had increased in number. He should move the reduction of the grant by the sum of £29,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £670, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1865, for Non-conforming, Seceding, and Protestant Dissenting Ministers in Ireland."—(Mr. Hadfield.)


said, that the Presbyterians of Ireland were not a rich body, as, except in the case of a few places, the great bulk of Presbyterians consisted of persons whose means were too limited to enable them to provide for themselves the means of religious instruction. The grant was in accordance with a compact and a practice long established, since James I. induced a number of Scotch families with their ministers to emigrate to Ireland.


said, that from his experience, he was not of opinion that the Presbyterians of the North of Ireland were too poor to support their own clergy. He, as a member of the Church of England, always voted against church rates, because he did not think it was right to tax a Dissenter for the support of his Church. Therefore, he objected to being taxed himself for the support of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.


complained that the hon. Member for Finsbury had again insulted the Presbyterians of Ireland. He wished to know from the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether he had given a favourable consideration of the application for an increase of the grant?


denied that he had insulted the Presbyterians of Ireland. He had only stated that they were a wealthy and well-to-do body.


said, an application had been made for an increase of the grant, but he had not given any encouragement to the suggestion.


remarked that more than 4,000,000 Catholics in Ireland supported their clergy without State aid.


observed, that the Motions for withdrawing this grant from the Protestant Nonconformists in Ireland originated not with Irish, but with English Members. It was said no other class of Dissenters received an endowment from the State. The Presbyterians in Ireland, however, stood on a different footing from other Nonconformists. The three denominations in Ireland received national grants; why should not the religious body in question? He should support the Vote.


said, he objected to grants of public money for the support of any man's religion. He believed the endowment, instead of doing good, was doing harm in Ireland. The Protestant Nonconformists in that country were able to support their own ministers, and he hoped the House would stand by his hon. Friend in resisting the Vote.

Question put,

The Committee divided:—Ayes 21; Noes 127: Majority 106.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported this day.

Committee to sit again on Wednesday.