HC Deb 24 February 1882 vol 266 cc1681-5

(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £20,860, 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 1882, for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad.


said, it was rather late to bring on the Vote; but as the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had been waiting in the House for some time, he should proceed with his Motion to reduce this Vote by the sum of £2,700 for the Missions to Madrid and Dresden. He observed in the same Vote a charge of £1,000 for the French Treaty negotiations; and if he remembered rightly, his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs attended that Mission, if it might be so described. He presumed he was accompanied by about a dozen clerks, and that he spent six or seven weeks in the French capital. Now, the Mission to Dresden could have occupied about a week at the utmost, and he could not understand why the charge in this case was £1,200, while the Mission to Paris only cost £l,000. He objected to these Votes not only because the amounts were excessive, but also on the ground that the Missions themselves were perfectly useless. He believed it would have been easy for a Chargé d'Affaires to have settled the business at Dresden at a cost of £50 or £60. With regard to the journey of the Marquess of Northampton, it seemed to him preposterous that this nobleman should have been given £1,500 for the useless Mission to Madrid. He trusted this practice would be put an end to. Surely the Prime Minister could not be in favour of these continuous Missions. It was to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman was not in the House, and he trusted the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would call the attention of the First Lord to the items in question, and that some understanding would be arrived at that such Missions should not in future take place except upon some special occasions. He was aware that occasions might arise on which they might be useful; but be thought that when next the Order of the Garter was presented to a Foreign Monarch, it should be done in a more cheap and reasonable manner than had been the case in the present instance. He should divide the Committee against the Vote, and he hoped his Motion would receive the sup- port of a good many hon. Gentlemen, in order to show the First Lord of the Treasury and the Foreign Office that the country objected to this great expenditure upon useless Foreign Missions.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £18,160, 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 1882, for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


said, he had waited to see if any hon. Member rose; but, as no one had done so, he concluded that the hon. Member for Northampton had stated his case very fully. He did not know whether his noble Friend the Secretary to the Treasury would take any notice of the appeal which had just been made to him on the subject of these Missions; but he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) must regard the matter from the point of view of the Foreign Office. His hon. Friend, although he considered Missions of this kind to be useless, admitted, at the same time, that there were occasions when they might be useful, and certainly the recent Missions were regarded as useful at the Foreign Office. Spain was a country which was at the present time making great progress in a commercial sense, and was desirous of extending her intercourse with England; and he might say, without any hesitation, that the Mission sent to Spain had had a useful effect. It was received with great favour by the Spanish people; and, judging from the accounts in the Spanish newspapers, a good feeling had undoubtedly been created towards this country by sending that Mission. The Order of the Garter was not one of the class of tinsel Orders; but it was one that had always stood high in the estimation of Foreign Monarchs. Under the circumstances, he thought the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton was one that might fairly be resisted on the grounds of public utility.


said, he was a little surprised to hear the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs express the opinion that the Spanish people appreciated the Mission to Madrid. He believed there was a time when his hon. Friend did not attach such high import- ance to these costly Missions from one Sovereign to another. For his own part, he could not but regard them as a rather expensive and very unmeaning way of indulging our good feelings towards foreign countries. The whole of the expense was not, of course, included in this Vote; and in looking through the Estimates he found that there was a charge of between £8,000 and £10,000 for this great international ceremony of investing Foreign Monarchs with the Order of the Garter. It was, however, pleasant to see that they had something for their money, and that some Orders of St. Michael and St. George were kept in stock. He should be glad to hear what was the exact value of these Orders in stock, and how many of them were in readiness to be conferred on the next deserving or undeserving Sovereign.


regarded the speech of the hon. Baronet as an application of the words tempora mutantur et nos mutumur in illis. He could well remember often sitting up to any hour of the morning with his hon. Friend watching and condemning useless expenditure of much the same character upon the Diplomatic Estimates, though not, perhaps, actually of the same class as that before the Committee. The hon. Baronet did not inform the Committee, as one might have expected him to do in the course of his speech, that there was, at the present time, no Minister representing this country in Spain who could have performed the office intrusted to the Marquess of Northampton. He was not aware that it was the habit of foreign nations, when paying similar compliments to our Royal Family, to go to the expense of costly special Missions; and it seemed to him that they might introduce a certain amount of reciprocity in these matters, and treat other countries as they treated us.


disapproved of such Missions; but hon. Gentlemen would see that those now under consideration contrasted favourably in point of expense with previous Missions. He was sure the two noble Lords carried them out with a true sense of economy. While he could not support the Amendment, he believed the discussion would lead to good results.


considered these Missions a waste of money, and suggested to the noble Lord that if there were any more Garters to be sent to the Continent they should be sent by parcel post.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 34; Noes 77: Majority 43.—(Div. List, No. 27.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(6.) £12,794, Consular Services.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next;

Committee to sit again upon Monday next.

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