HC Deb 14 February 1884 vol 284 cc887-8

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the attention of Government has been called to the recent action of the Italian Government with regard to the property of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, and to the steps now being taken to convert that property into government stock; whether he is aware that the conversion has amounted in similar instances, by the imposition of different taxes and progressive duties, to a confiscation amounting to forty per cent; and, whether, considering that the Congregation of Propaganda is the sole means of communication between the Holy See and some eleven millions of Her Majesty's subjects throughout the globe, discharging all ecclesiastical business for them free of all charge whatsoever, and that this institution is of an international character, being the great focus of missionary enterprise throughout the world, and its property acquired by contributions from men of all nations, Her Majesty's Government will use their good offices, in conjunction with any Foreign Government which has or may be about to intervene with the Italian Government, and endeavour to induce them to reconsider their action in this matter?


Sir, Her Majesty's Government have not had from Her Majesty's Embassy in Rome any information as to the precise state of this Question at the present moment, but they are aware of its general character, which is this—that it is not a matter of legislative or of administrative consideration; but it is one of a judicial character—one for the application of the existing law to be determined, and which has been determined by the existing tribunal. It has been through those tribunals, I am given to understand, and has been decided in the highest Court of Appeal. It does not well appear what ground there may be for diplomatic interposition under those circumstances; but, at the same time, Her Majesty's Government, if they should see an opportunity, will be glad to make use of it, while, however, they have every reason to believe that the Italian Government, so far as it has discretion, will endeavour to apply the law in a fair and equitable spirit.