HC Deb 30 June 1864 vol 176 cc567-72

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


said, he wished to inquire whether the loan was really a dotation for life to the King of Greece or merely intended to last during the period he remained upon the throne. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a former evening seemed to be under the impression that the treaty was intended to confer the dotation for life; but, if so, that view was directly opposed to the terms of the Bill before the House, and having gone all through the papers on the subject, he felt perfectly certain that they contained nothing to warrant that interpretation. Were the other parties to the treaty equally bound to continue the dotation for life? If so, he had been unable to discover the provisions to that effect. It was expressly described as a personal dotation "to be added to the civil list of Greece." Clearly, therefore, when the civil list came to an end, as it would do if the throne became vacant, the addition must drop as well. According to the treaty made in 1859, a sum of 900,000f., equivalent to £20,000 a year, was to be paid from the Greek Treasury. England's share of that sum would come to about £6,666, of which we had given up £4,000 yearly to the King of Greece, and had voted away more than the balance in salaries to officials. In addition to that, upon the treaty for the annexation of the Ionian Islands, £10,000 a year had been settled upon the King of Greece as a first charge on the revenue of those islands; and what was most extraordinary, the claims of our own countrymen, amounting to £7,000 yearly, had been deferred and made a second charge. A more blundering and dangerous treaty he never remembered. The correspondence relative to the annexation of the Ionian Islands was very amusing. It was stated that the parting of the King of Greece with the then Sovereign of Denmark was an affecting scene. The King of Denmark embraced the young King of Greece and expressed a wish that he would make Greece as happy as Denmark was at that moment. The happiness of Denmark had, however, since been rather disturbed by the proceedings of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office. The Government had made a sacrifice of a large sum, and had obtained no guarantee for the payment of the loan. He observed that a sum of about £250,000 had been remitted to the Ionian Islands for one thing and another. Why did not the Government bring in an Act of Parliament to legalize these remissions as well as the King's annuity? He also wanted to know why the Chancellor of the Exchequer had contended a few nights ago that this was a dotation for the King's life, and had brought in a Bill to confine it to his reign.


said, that his interpretation of the treaty had been supported by the Foreign Department. No doubt the treaty contemplated the dotation for life. Why, then, it might be asked, did the Bill extend only to the reign, and recognized the contingency that the reign and the life might not be co-extensive? That was a matter of policy and propriety, and the opinion of the Foreign Office was that it would be more becoming and more prudent to draw the Bill only with reference to the reign. The Bill would give effect to the treaty in the present state of things, but he would admit that it would not give effect to the treaty in the event of the termination of the reign, by a revolution for example. It was better that the Bill should be drawn as it was, although it only gave effect to the treaty for a time—namely, while the King remained upon the throne.


said, he must remind the right hon. Gentleman that he told the House the other night that the Bill ought to be in exact accord with the treaty, and that the House could not consequently consider any alteration in it. The arrangement was a kind of marriage settlement between the young King of Greece and his kingdom, and as marriage settlements were drawn with provisions that contemplated a separation and protected the interests of the lady in that event, so ought the settlement to protect the interests of the King. As the Court of Russia had no Parliament to consult, it would pay £4,000 a year to the King of Greece during his life, and so would the Emperor of the French. Because, however, the English Government had to submit the treaty to the House of Commons, the Bill was drawn in such a way that the £4,000 a year was only payable during the King's reign. Her Majesty's Government had inflicted enough pain already on the family of the young King. He would, therefore, move as an Amendment that the Bill be re-committed with the object of substituting the word "life" for "reign," so as to make it agree with the treaty.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the words "That the" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "said Order be discharged,"—(Mr. Hennessy,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had deprecated on a former night any difference between the treaty and the Bill, while he had now been the first gratuitously to introduce the ele- ment of the King's reign not being so extended as his life. The right hon. Gentleman said that the matter had been examined by the Foreign Department. But the House knew nothing of that Department. The matter was proposed upon, the responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown, and it was upon them the responsibility must rest. He should support the Motion for re-committing the Bill.


said, that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken exhibited that confusion of mind not unusual with him at that time in the morning. He had not thrown the responsibility upon the permanent officials of the Foreign Department; on the contrary, when he spoke of the Foreign Department he spoke of the Foreign Minister, and he took care not to separate himself from that Minister, because he stated that he concurred in what he had done. Neither had he "gratuitously" introduced the personal matter with respect to the King of the Hellenes. It was not a gratuitous introduction, but was a statement of the case absolutely necessary to remove a misapprehension which might still exist in the mind of the hon. Member, but had been removed from that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had introduced the subject. The case was this:—There was a claim of the British Government on behalf of certain British officials against the Government of Greece, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Dunne) said, "We will connect it with an engagement to relinquish the £4,000 on behalf of the King of Greece, so that if the claim be not satisfied the King of Greece shall suffer;" but it was his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) duty to show them that the two parties were perfectly distinct; that if the Government of Greece did not fulfil its obligation, that might be a reason for taking measures to compel them, but could be no reason for withholding from the King, in his personal capacity, the sum of money to which he was entitled independently of the question whether he was King of Greece or not. Therefore it was in necessary connection with the subject in debate that he had introduced the matter.


supported the Amendment.


said, he was afraid that the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman would not effect the object he had in view, because the Bill was founded on a Resolution of the whole House, and they could not go beyond the terms of that Resolution. That being the case, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be prepared to admit that the view which he took of the question the other evening was not quite correct. It was a personal dotation to the Prince of Denmark, whether he remained King of Greece or not, and therefore it was a separate and distinct grant out of the money belonging to the people of this country, and the precedents which the right hon. Gentleman cited had no application whatever to the subject. The right hon. Gentleman by his own statement had brought the House to the inevitable conclusion that the transaction was a most irregular one. It was a grant of money which Her Majesty had no right to make unless subject to the sanction of that House. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman had made a statement which was quite in keeping with his (Mr. Ayrton's) views, but he could not but regret that the Foreign Secretary should have advised Her Majesty to exercise her prerogative in a manner which was subversive of the privileges of the House of Commons.


observed, that it was the practice of the Crown every day to surrender debts to its own subjects.


said, he was of opinion that it would be useless to re-commit the Bill, which was in perfect harmony with the treaty. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman, it was intended to make a personal dotation of £4,000, no matter whether the King should continue on the throne of Greece or not. But the treaty dealt with him exclusively as King of Greece. How was the matter to be carried out if he should cease to be King of Greece? How was the money to be secured to him? There would be no other way of doing it but by coming to that House.


said, it would not have been becoming to anticipate the contingency of the King of Greece quitting the throne, and to legislate for such a contingency; but if it should occur, then the House, no doubt, would be ready to fulfil in good faith the honourable engagements of this country. In the meantime what was proposed was in all respects regular, and if the contingency adverted to should occur, the remission would end. The rights of this country against Greece would then revive, and it would be necessary to make pro- vision in some other way for the personal engagements undertaken towards the King of Greece.


observed, that what he had complained of was, that while magnificent dotations were given to the King of Greece, proper provision was not made for English subjects. He trusted that some Resolution would be brought forward declaring that in future all treaties of the kind should be submitted in due time to the House.


said, he would, by permission of the House, withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 3o.


said, he was not aware that he had done anything to justify the observations which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had passed on his conduct. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Foreign Department, and not the Foreign Minister, in connection with the provisions of the present Bill, and he advised the right hon. Gentleman in future not to hurry a Bill through the House and leave the discussion on it until the later stages.

Bill passed.