HC Deb 01 March 1888 vol 322 cc1851-75

(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £6,500, 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 1888, for the Expenses of Special Missions Abroad.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I need not say that I do not propose to enter into the merits of the Treaty which has been signed by Mr. Chamberlain in the United States. I assume for the sake of argument that the very best man was sent out. I will assume that the Treaty is the very best Treaty that could possibly have been signed, and I will also assume that the time chosen for sending the right hon. Gentleman out for the signing of the Treaty was the very best time, although it used to be a rule of diplomacy in regard to the United States that it was a radical mistake to treat with that country just before a Presidential Election, when the Ministry would probably not have a majority in the Senate to ratify the Treaty. I assume all this. My objections are entirely of a financial character. Diplomacy, I find, costs this country £241,000 per annum, besides what we pay for the Consular Service, and these diplomatists are engaged in political matters, and political matters alone. In the United States we have an eminent gentleman as our Minister, who has a large staff, and a salary in excess of that of the Prime Minister. I should like to know, then, why Her Majesty's Government should have considered it necessary to send out the right hon. Gentleman on a special Mission, instead of entrusting the negotiations of the Treaty to a gentleman of such high authority and character, which is obviously the fact seeing that our Representative receives so high a salary? I maintain that if it is necessary to send out special Missions, we ought do away with our permanent Legation, which, in the United States costs us £8,000 a year, or make use of it when it is found necessary to enter special Treaties. We have had many special Missions—that special Mission of Sir H. Drummond Wolff was a matter which came on for repeated discussion during the last two years. The objec- tion taken against that Mission was not that Sir H. Drummond Wolff was not an eminent diplomatist, but that he was sent to Constantinople and Egypt, and that at both places we had a permanent Representative of the highest class who could have done the business. I am opposing this grant not only because I object to these Missions as being altogether unnecessary, but also on the ground of their excessive cost. The House, no doubt, was surprised to find that so large a sum as £3,900 was put down as the cost of the special Mission to Washington; but the House will be more surprised to learn that this is not the whole of the expenditure. It will be found that the sum taken generally for special Missions last year also included part of the expenditure upon the Washington Mission.


That was a mistake. The Vote of £3,900 covers the whole expenditure.


I can easily understand the right hon. Gentleman jumping up to correct that statement, because in itself it is so monstrous that it would have been too outrageous to ask for more. It appears that this sum of £3,900 is the cost of Mr. Chamberlain's Mission.


Order, order ! The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to allude to a Member of this House by his name, but must confine himself to the place which that Member represents.


I thought I was in Order, because I was only quoting. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) went out to the United States to undertake this Mission. The journey to America would cost, there and back, £180. [An hon. MEMBER: Second-class.] My hon. Friend says that that would be second-class; but it is not so; it would be first-class. Supposing that the sum amounted to £190, it would be necessary to account for the rest of the money we are asked to vote. The right hon. Gentleman started on his Mission on the 29th of October, and returned on the 1st of March. That would be 123 days. Reducing it further by the 14 days during which the right hon. Gentleman was at sea, about 109 will be left. I think, if hon. Members will make an estimate of what the cost of this Mission has been during those 109 days, it will be found that it amounts to something like £33 or £34 a-day. The right hon. Gentleman has spent at Washington more than £30 per diem. Now, in Washington, as everybody knows, there are fixed charges. I appeal to any hon. Member who has been there, whether at Washington the charge is not about 5 dollars per diem—or £1—for lodging, and the same for bed? Then, allowing the right hon. Gentleman £1 a-day for wine, and £2 a-day for incidental expenses, the total would come to about £5 a-day. Well, here we have an excessive charge of more than £30 a-day, exclusive of clerks. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman would be able to spend even more than that if it is to come out of the pockets of the public. It may be said that the right hon. Gentleman was hospitable; but we have a Minister there—Sir L. Sackville West—who receives a salary which is intended to be expended in hospitality, and there was no reason why a Special Commissioner should also indulge in hospitality. Sir Charles Tupper was sent by the Canadian Government; but I should be very much surprised to learn that his expenses amounted to £30 a-day.


He had 10 or 12 followers.


I am speaking of Sir Charles Tupper himself, and not of his followers; and I want to know whether that gentleman put in his pocket £30 per diem? I certainly think that the charge is far too much, and that when we send out a gentleman on a special Mission it is not necessary that he should live like a Prince, and practise princely hospitality at our expense. I may be asked why I do not move the rejection of the Vote. I do not take that course, although I object entirely to special Missions. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Jesse Collings), who also comes from Birmingham, voted against the cost of Sir H. Drummond Wolff's Mission last year; and I have no doubt he will vote with me on this occasion. When a gentleman goes out on a special Mission, we are always told that he is making noble sacrifices for his country. That, I am bound to say, is all claptrap. Gentlemen are glad to go out on special Missions, and obtain some sort of political position by negotiating Treaties, spending the country's money, and enjoying themselves. I trust that the Committee will refuse to sanction this expenditure, not only because the expenditure is excessive, but because this House ought, once and for all, to set down its foot upon special Missions for the discharge of duties which ought to be performed by our permanent Ministers. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £3,900, the cost of the special Mission to the United States.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,000, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


The hon. Gentleman has directed his remarks chiefly to the question of special Missions. I think that course is greatly to be approved, inasmuch as he has not introduced any material topics beyond those of broad policy; and it is very right that the House should be informed of the reasons why these special Missions are employed. When the hon. Member spoke to me the other day in the Lobby about this Mission, as far as I can remember, I said that this Supplementary Estimate must be considered as in excess of the sum already provided by Parliament, but that there might be some balance from the general Vote which had not been absorbed. But, looking at the particulars, I find that that is not the case, and, as far as can be ascertained, the total expenses of the Mission of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) will be covered by the Vote now presented to the Committee. The hon. Member has said that the expense of this Mission is monstrous. Those who are acquainted with the usual expenses on these occasions will consider it a moderate amount; and I do not think that the expenses of any Mission was ever covered by so low a sum. It was the special wish of the right hon. Gentleman that the numbers of the Mission should be kept within the narrowest limits compatible with its efficiency. He was accompanied by the able head of the Treaty Department in the Foreign Office, and a very efficient clerk also from that Department. That was all. But I should like to show how small this Vote really is. Since 1880, it is very much the smallest Vote under this head, by a comparison between the Supplementary Estimates for special Missions during the past 10 years. The yearly average has been £27,000, whereas this year it is only £6,500; and if it had not been for the Mission of the right hon. Gentleman, and those of Mr. Portal to Abyssinia and Sir Frederick Weld to Borneo, no Vote at all would have been necessary. No doubt, it is very inconvenient to have Supplementary Estimates at all. The hon. Gentleman says that when we have a Representative at any foreign Court it cannot be necessary to send out a special diplomatist, and that we have already a very able diplomatist at Washington. But that has not been found in former years to obviate the necessity of special Missions. The special Mission of the Marquess of Ripon bridged over a very serious international difficulty. Special Missions are resorted to only after long negotiations of the ordinary character, when, for various reasons, such as national sentiment, matters have not been brought to a conclusion. It is then only right, and highly desirable, that fresh minds should be brought to bear upon the subject, and that a special conference, partaking somewhat of the nature of arbitration, should be brought together, by which a compromise and a settlement should be arrived at. In some cases serious difficulties have been avoided between nations by such means. In the present case, for a great many years differences, now happily brought to a conclusion, were the source of a great amount of friction between this country and America; and they had only recently threatened severe complications by Acts passed by Congress giving discretionary powers to the President to stop Canadian imports. It appeared to Her Majesty's Government that the occasion was one for a special effort to be made in order to bring these unfortunate difficulties to a conclusion. The time chosen for the Mission was simply that at which the negotiations were ripe. The negotiations had been going on for years; but, happily, last autumn they arrived at that stage when they were ripe for a conference; it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to bring the matter to an end at the earliest possible time; and it would not have been right to have put off the conference because a Presidential Election would take place before it was completed. It was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to take up the matter at the earliest possible moment. The hon. Member said he was not going to discuss the nature of the arrangement which had been arrived at, and I certainly do not propose to enter into any details with regard to it, and the Papers which have been laid upon the Table this evening will be in the hands of hon. Members immediately. I believe, however, it will be found to be a just and honourable settlement, and its negotiation to have been marked by the most gratifying features. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham conducted the negotiations on the part of this country with very great ability and patience; and he was met by the Representatives of the United States in a most conciliatory spirit. The Canadian Representatives and Government have seconded Her Majesty's Government by giving up some things long considered as their inalienable rights, and all parties have exhibited a sincere desire to bring about a satisfactory settlement. The Treaty requires ratification in America, and, I hope, will be ratified; but in the meantime a modus vivendi has been established by which the provisions of the Treaty will come into operation at once and remain in force for two years, until it is ratified. It would be most unfortunate that a nation, than whom there is none we more desire to live on friendly terms with, should suffer itself in any way to be guided by Party spirit in reference to the ratification of the Treaty. It is a matter of international rejoicing and of congratulation for all who have the good of this country at heart that we have arrived at a settlement of this matter, and that the cordial relations which should always subsist between this country and the United States will continue unimpaired.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I was in America and in Washington while the Conference was sitting, and I certainly do not agree with the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). I therefore feel bound to say a word or two on the subject. I have nothing to say in depreciation of the diplomatic talent of Sir Sackville West. I think that Her Majesty's Government were well advised in sending to America as their special Commissioner the best man they could lay their hands upon. Again, I say, apart from the wider and more difficult political considerations to which the Mover has alluded, in my opinion the Government did send about the best man that could be found. They could not have selected a man more grateful to the Americans than the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. The Americans have recognized his tact, talent, and ability, and I believe he has achieved a success in the matter which few men in the country could have accomplished. No doubt there are some political considerations which still stand in the way; but it is an agreeeble surprise to me that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has succeeded as well as he has. He had to conciliate in these matters not only the United States, but also the Dominion of Canada. I think that Her Majesty's Government and the country are very much to be congratulated on the measure of success which has been obtained. It is a matter of great congratulation that a modus vivendi has been arrived at, and that so much has been done under the circumstances. I would not feel inclined to criticize too narrowly the expenditure which has been incurred. Nor am I in a position to criticize that expenditure. Those who are acquainted with America know that Washington is an extremely expensive city. The Americans themselves do these things handsome, and it is only right and proper that our Representative should do the handsome also. I presume that this Vote does not include any part of the expenditure incurred by Canada, and with regard to the expense of the Mission the personnel of the right hon. Gentleman, which numbered two or three persons only, was nothing compared to the splendid Mission which came from Canada, and which consisted of 10 or 12 Canadian officials. The following of the right hon. Gentleman was humility itself compared with the Mission from Canada. I think that what has been achieved is very well worth £3,900 and a great deal more. If it has unfortunately happened that the treaty has not been immediately ratified, that has been due to wider considerations not immediately connected with this fishery dispute. I can testify to this fact, that 999 out of every 1000 of the population of the United States do not care two straws for the Fisheries Question, but the interest in that question is confined to a single County in New England. No doubt it is the duty of the Government of the United States to consider the interests of that Country; but if ultimate success does not succeed the labours of the Conference, it will be due to other causes. I would suggest that there should be some standing system of arbitration upon questions of this nature, and I wish that the Mission of the right hon. Gentleman to the United States had been in the character of Arbitrator. I trust that the Committee will pass the Vote and that steps will be taken to make it impossible that difficulties of this kind should hereafter arise between ourselves and the United States.

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

There can be no doubt, Sir, of two things. In the first place, I think that when Her Majesty's Government selected the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) as their negotiator with the United States on the Fisheries Question, they chose a man of very eminent abilities and of very great competence, indeed, for the particular case with which they desired him to negotiate. Secondly, there can be no doubt also that when my right hon. Friend accepted that Mission, he did an act which the whole country recognizes as an act of public duty and public spirit. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has brought forward two points on which he desires the rejection of this Vote. He has argued in part that the cost of the Mission is excessive. Upon that subject I was very glad to hear what has been said by the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs without reference to the general question. I do not find myself in a position to say whether the precise sum in the Vote is singularly moderate and economical, or whether it is in excess of what was absolutely necessary. We are relieved very much from the difficulty which there would be in undertaking to pronounce precisely upon it by the fact that my hon. Friend did not found his main argument upon it, as he felt we were really not competent to discuss it, as we could not tell what the causes of the expenditure were. For my own part, I find myself entirely unable to enter into that question; but my hon. Friend has founded himself mainly upon the objection to special Missions taken broadly and taken altogether. In opposition to these Missions the hon. Gentleman has propounded the doctrine that as we had able Representatives—able diplomatists—abroad, they ought to be competent to deal with every question that may arise in the diplomatic arrangements with the Courts of the countries to which they are accredited. I own I am not able to adopt that proposition. It involves a strong interference with the traditions of this country. The Committee is aware that these special Missions have been by no means unusual. Questions have arisen which were entirely outside the ordinary business of the diplomatist, and it was desired that this country should be represented not only with particular capacity, but with particular authority. What I would further desire to point out is this—that the practice of sending these special Missions, so far as I recollect, has been particularly favoured by Parliament and the country in the case of the United States of America. Allusion has been made to the most recent case, that of Lord Ripon and his coadjutors, among whom was the late lamented Lord Iddesleigh. Going further back, I may remind my hon. Friend that there was a case of great interest, that of Lord Ashburton, which took effect in the Ashburton Treaty. That Treaty was made the subject of a debate and a Vote in this House, and it was criticized upon its merits. I am not now discussing the merits of this arrangement, though I am alive to the beneficial character of it. I am undoubtedly disposed to believe that, whatever happens in America, some progress has been made towards the final adjustment and settlement of this question by the proceedings which have taken place. When Lord Ashburton's Treaty was made the subject of discussion in this House it was objected to. The most decided Representative of economy in this House at that time, Mr. Joseph Hume, whose mantle has since fallen upon my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), so far from objecting to the proceedings with regard to it, made a Motion, which was carried by the House in distinct approbation of that Treaty. I think that that is an important precedent as far as regards the general discussion by Parliament of these questions. Undoubtedly, I bear testimony to the general reasonableness of the conduct of the Government in sending a special Mission on this occasion, because I believe unquestionably, and without the smallest disparagement of the abilities and experience of Sir Sackville West, that it was in the power of a special Envoy to represent this country with greater efficacy and greater authority on an occasion of this kind than could have been done by the unaided exertions of our ordinary Representative. Therefore, I am afraid that I am not able to adopt the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, although I am glad to think that on this and on every other occasion he has proved himself to be a very vigilant guardian of the public purse.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I only propose to say a few words. I also must congratulate the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) on his vigilant guardianship of the public purse. That is a duty which hon. Members opposite below the Gangway very efficiently discharge. I wish to express my opinion of the services rendered, not to the Government alone, but to the country, by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. There can be no doubt that the undertaking of a task of this character in the middle of the winter was not the most agreeable to a Gentleman who had spent the greater part of the Session in attending Parliament. I desire, therefore, on behalf of the Government and on behalf of the country, to express our deep acknowledgment to him for the services which he has rendered to the State in bringing, as we hope, to a termination a dispute which threatened at one time serious consequences to the amicable relations of this country with a great and neighbouring people, with whom we desire to be upon the most intimate and cordial terms. It is unfortunate that differences of this character should have arisen to render a Mission of this kind necessary; but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has observed, with very great force, that a Mission undertaken by a statesman of known ability and high position in this country with the object of arriving at a settlement of a question of this character was far more likely to attain success than if it had been undertaken by an ordinary Representative at Washington. I wish to join with the right hon. Gentleman in testifying to the great ability of Sir Sackville West; but negotiations had been in progress for a long period, and had been spread over many years, which Sir Sackville West was unable to bring to a successful conclusion. We believe that the presence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has brought about a settlement which probably could not have been attained in any other way. If that settlement is not made a permanent one at once, the right hon. Gentleman has secured an arrangement by which the causes of difficulty will, at all events, be removed for at least two years. That is a result upon which we may congratulate the people of this country and the people of the United States, our neighbours and friends, and also the people of Canada. I trust, therefore, that the Committee will at once agree to the Vote; and I hope that the hon. Member for Northampton will not press his Amendment to a Division.


I am encouraged by what has fallen from the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition to take a Division upon this Vote, because they have congratulated me on my vigilant guardianship of the public purse. Under those circumstances, I think I can do no less than take a Division, in order that I may carry my argument to some practical conclusion. My feelings are in favour of special Missions, and I can well understand that they may be made a good system; but I think that if we go to the expense of sending out special Missions, we ought not to continue the expense of £241,000 per annum, which is the present cost of our Diplomatic Service. My contention is that if you are to pay these large amounts for spe- cial diplomatic duties performed abroad, you ought to reduce the permanent expenditure of the Diplomatic Service. Why should you have special Missions at all if you are satisfied with the men you have as your permanent officials, and to whom you give these large salaries? Under all the circumstances, I am afraid that I shall have to put the Committee to the trouble of dividing.

MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

I congratulate the Government on the success of the Treaty which has been obtained by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. I should like to ascertain the departure in the new Treaty from that of 1818, and also of the difference between the new Convention and those since 1818. There have already been four treaties in reference to the Fisheries Question, the last of which was in 1871. What I wish to know is how far the arrangements which have just been made at Washington are in harmony with either one or the other of these treaties, and whether the whole treaties are to continue in operation or to remain in abeyance. I should also like to have some information from the Government upon another point — namely, why the right hon. Gentleman was not authorized to settle the Alaska dispute which has arisen between this country and the United States? I am of opinion that the Government ought to have given the right hon. Gentleman full power to enter into that dispute, and I wish to know whether, as that was not the case, all questions with regard to the Alaska fisheries are to remain in abeyance, or whether they are to be referred to the mixed Commission said to form one of the provisions of the new Treaty. I want to know precisely what the arrangement is which has been arrived at between America and this country with regard to all the questions that were in dispute when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was sent out to America, and also what is intended to be done in regard to the Alaska question.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

There are two questions mixed up in the subject now before the Committee. One is the success or failure of the Mission which has been unnecessarily mixed up with another question—namely, the cost of the Mission. Hon. Members may have been pleased to hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). It was only one of the many instances of the magnanimity the right hon. Gentleman has displayed in his attitude towards the worst and most venomous of his political opponents. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman's magnanimity had any chance of being reciprocated; but, judging from past experience, I do not think there is much prospect of that. It appears to me that the First Lord of the Treasury and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs have been, to use an Americanism, "a little too previous" in the speeches they have used this evening. They have spoken as if the Treaty was already ratified. Does the Under Secretary make it his business to read the telegrams which come over here from the United States? If not, I would advise him to spend 10 minutes every morning in studying the cablegrams which appear in The Daily News or some other trustworthy paper. Lately I have been reading The Daily News with very great attention, and I find that according to the cablegrams of the correspondent of that newspaper there that this Treaty, which the correspondent most strongly advocates, stands in great, if not of supreme, danger of being rejected by the Senate. I will not venture to prophesy, but if I were a betting man I should be disposed to enter into a wager with the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as to the Treaty being ratified. I think if the right hon. Baronet will exercise his own intelligence in the matter he will arrive at exactly the same opinion as I have. Why do I allude to that matter? It is for this reason—that it is most evident the Treaty will not be ratified. The First Lord of the Treasury has eulogized the right hon. Member for West Birmingham for his services; but the First Lord of the Treasury will be mainly responsible for the failure of the Treaty, if failure there be. Why? Because the right hon. Gentleman could not have made a more grotesque selection of a Representative than when he selected the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. It is one of the elementary principles of diplomacy that you should not send as your representative a person who is obnoxious to a large portion of the people of the country to which it is proposed to send him. In France there is a large Party who do not conceal their intention of waging war on the first opportunity, in order to restore to France Alsace and Lorraine. At the head of that Party is M. Paul Delarain. What would be thought if, in settling a dispute with Germany, the French Republic were to select M. Delarain, the President of the Anti-German League, to negotiate the matter? Yet that selection would not be more absurd than the selection of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to conduct the Mission to the United States of America. Anyone who knows the right hon. Gentleman well knows his infirmity of temper. There is no man who has a greater power of making enemies and making himself personally obnoxious. Just before the right hon. Gentleman went to America he added to his original sin by making two or three speeches which were most insulting and offensive to a large number of persons of great influence—namely, those persons who are Irish, either by birth or extraction. Possibly the First Lord of the Treasury thinks Her Majesty's Government can flout the Irish people of America, but he will find himself mistaken. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) has spoken of his experiences in America. Let me ask him if he did not find that in that country one of the most potent forces was the Irish-American element. As I have said, it is one of the most grotesque infringements of all the rules of diplomacy to select a man for a special Mission who is personally obnoxious to the people of the country to which he is sent. But it is not merely to the Irish-American people that the right hon. Gentleman has made himself obnoxious. He is disliked in America by a large section of Native Americans, because of his action towards the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of his own Party, towards his Colleagues, and towards the Party to which he formerly belonged. Nothing has disgusted large masses of native American opinion more than the return which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has made for such magnanimity on the part of the Leader of the Opposition as we have seen displayed tonight. Then, if the Treaty should be rejected by the Senate, the responsibility will rest, in the first place, on the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and, secondly, on the Government who were foolish enough, to appoint him. I believe that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were thinking more of their own political interests and of damaging the right hon. Member for West Birmingham when they selected him, than of settling this great question between the two countries. The First Lord of the Treasury has spoken of the great fitness of the right hon. Member for the task of negotiator. If I had to choose between the two, I think the First Lord of the Treasury would himself have been 10 times preferable to the right hon. Member. I will prophesy that the treaty will not be ratified, and I will lay the whole blame on the obnoxious character of the negotiator and the offensive speeches he has made. And now as to the expenditure. I do not know whether the First Lord of the Treasury ever reads the American papers. I read them nearly every night, and I have been dazzled and astounded by the almost Belshazzarlike splendour of the feasts which have been given by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. All the fashion, all the statemanship, all the wealth, and, though last not least, all the beauty and luxury of America seem to have been invited to the bounteous and hospitable board of the right hon. Gentleman. If I could have known that this discussion would have been prolonged, I would have armed myself with a few extracts from the fashionable newspapers of America which depicted that Belshazzarlike splendour of the right hon. Gentleman's banquets. His hospitable turn of mind and his admiration for the wealth, fashion and beauty of America does credit to his taste. But at whose expense was all this done? The right hon. Gentleman took care to advertize that in addition to his other claims to public distinction, he is a very wealthy man. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) laughs. We all know how much importance to attach to anything which proceeds from the hon. Member who is the fides Achates of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. I would as soon go to Sancho Panza for the character of Don Quixote. Whether the wealth of the right hon. Gentleman was advertised by himself or not, we all know that he is a man of very large means. Why, then, did he not give these banquets out of his own pocket? What are we to think of the niggardliness of a man of such splendid wealth who, at the expense of the taxpayers of this country, spreads a bounteous banquet for every American who chooses to attend it? My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton frequently makes proposals for diminishing the expenditure of the country, and he is generally supported by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division and the Radical Party. At any rate, he has always had my vote, and. I want to ask the Radicals with what face they can vote against grants to Members of the Royal Family, who are not men with large business arrangements, who have no great means or fortunes of their own, and who are unable to support those emblems of vast wealth which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham always displayed? Thon how can they vote for giving the right hon. Gentleman this extravagant sum of £3,900 because he had been making a big man of himself at Washington at the expense of the ratepayers of this country? I was in America, and went all over that country for seven months; I addressed meetings in more than 100 towns, and I did it all for £350, and I enjoyed myself very well.

MR. CAINE (Barrow in-Furness)

Before we proceed to a Division I would like to ask the hon. Member who brought forward the subject why it is that, though he objects in toto to every kind of special Mission in every shape and form, when there is a Vote which contains throe special Missions, he selects one, and one only, for dividing the Committee against. Why did not the hon. Member object to all three?


Perhaps I ought to have explained that my objection is to special Missions where we have Envoys Extraordinary. In the other two Missions we had no Envoys Extraordinary.


I regret that the hon. Member has not challenged a Division on the whole of these Missions, but has selected one particular item in the Vote. The hon. Member certainly made no attack on the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, but his speech was followed up by one of the most vitriolic and disgraceful attacks upon that right hon. Member which I ever heard made in this House.


Perhaps I may be allowed to say, for the information of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), that the Papers to which I referred will be laid on the Table to-day and will be found in the Library to-morrow afternoon.


I also asked a Question in regard to the Alaska disputes.


There have been negotiations on that subject, and we have good reason to hope that they will come to a satisfactory result.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 314: Majority 246.—(Div. List, No. 24.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £13,800, 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 1888, in aid of Colonial Local Revenue, and for the Salaries and Allowances of Governors, &c., and for other Charges connected with the Colonies, including Expenses incurred under 'The Pacific Islanders Protection Act, 1875.'

MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I rise to ask for some explanation from the Secretary to the Treasury in reference to the grant in aid to New Guinea, which amounts to £18,500; and, also, why this item appears in the Supplementary Estimates, instead of forming part of the ordinary Estimates for the Colonies in the coming financial year? Let me call attention to the phraseology of a note which decribes the arrangements come to by Her Majesty's Government. It says— In the course of the proceedings of the Colonial Conference Her Majesty's Government undertook to provide, as a grant in aid on the first establishment of British Sovereignty, a suitable steam vessel for the service of the territory as soon as satisfactory arrangements were made for the administration of New Guinea by Queensland. I see the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies in the House, and he will, perhaps, correct me if I am wrong. My impression is that the arrangements made at the Colonial Conference was that the Colonies were to pay £15,000 a-year towards the administration expenses of New Guinea, and I apprehend that the ordinary course of procedure would have been to wait until the necessary Statutes granting this payment had been passed by the Colonial Parliament. One would have thought that it was certainly better to wait until the guarantee came. The note appended to the Vote goes on to say— It is proposed to pay over this amount to the Crown Agents for the Colonies, to the credit of the Administration of New Guinea, and to arrange for the purchase of the vessel as soon as the arrangements are completed. That is to say, that we are going to pay over £18,500 to the Crown Agent who is not going to spend it on the vessel. I want to know what evidence the Government would have to show that all these arrangements will be completed, and that the vessel will be bought and paid for before the 31st of March? I am speaking in the presence of four right hon. Members of this House who have filled the Office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I would ask whether the bringing forward of a Vote in this way is not in direct contradiction to the principle on which our financial arrangements have hitherto been conducted? I contend that this sum of £18,500 ought not to have been asked for in the shape of a Supplementary Estimate, but that it should have been included in the ordinary Colonial Vote next year.


In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I submit that he has himself supplied the real answer to the question he put, because I observe that the words in the Estimate are "as soon as satisfactory arrangements were made for the administration of New Guinea by Queensland." That is precisely the reason why the Government ask for this Supplementary Estimate, because they believe that satisfactory arrangements have now been made for the administration of New Guinea. The sum stated in this Estimate is required now, and therefore could not be made the subject of the Estimates for next year. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the arrangement agreed upon at the Colonial Conference. All I have to say is that the agreement then entered into is being satisfactorily car- ried out. The Queensland Government have fulfilled the conditions set forth in the Act of last year; and, that being so, the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is expedient that Her Majesty's Government should perform their part of the contract and provide the necessary sum for this steamer. It is essential to vote this sum of £18,500, which is required in the current year. I hope this explanation will be satisfactory.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I desire to know if it is not the case that the undertaking of Queensland does not depend on the assent of the other Australian Governments, some of which have declined to accept the arrangement?


Her Majesty's Government have no reason to believe that the agreement has not been carried out. The Act sets forth that the Colonies of New South Wales and Victoria should join with Queensland in a guarantee for the expenses of the administration of New Guinea, and the Government believe that satisfactory arrangements have been made.


I have no great desire to intervene in this discussion, because we are all of us anxious to pass on to another matter; but I must say that the explanation of the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies is very unsatisfactory. In the first place, Parliament has not been consulted, and when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer I absolutely refused to give one sixpence towards these Colonization schemes. I am of the same opinion now. If the Colony of Queensland likes to embark upon such schemes, and is desirous of Colonizing New Guinea, by all means let her do so; but I object to the British taxpayer being made to pay for it. There has been no discussion in Parliament as to the desirability of making this expenditure. This is an Estimate which professes to be a Supplementary Estimate, but which is not a Supplementary Estimate in the true; sense of the term. It is an Estimate which the Government seek to obtain before the Estimates of the year are submitted to Parliament. The Under Secretary of State for the Colonies is perfectly unable to say, as a matter of official knowledge, whether the Colonies of Queensland, Victoria, or New South Wales have ratified the agreement entered into or not. He says "he believes;" but how can he ask the House of Commons to vote money on his belief? We want absolute official knowledge and Papers before money can be voted by Parliament in this way. Who wants this vessel; is it the Government or the Crown Agents, or the Colonies? What check can you have upon the expenditure by the Crown Agents? Have you any guarantee that the Crown Agents will render any account of the expenditure? How do you know the money will be expended? Really money should not be voted in this hugger-mugger way by Parliament, without any inquiry. I protest against the whole principle of the Vote. Supplementary Estimates are bad enough in any circumstances; but here Her Majesty's Government are introducing a totally new expenditure into the Supplementary Estimates in order to induce the House of Commons unknowingly, so to speak, to vote the money. I protest, as being contrary to every principle on which the House of Commons has previously acted, against the Vote being brought before the Committee as a Supplementary Estimate.

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, MidLothian)

There is some force made in the observations of the noble Lord. I think it is most unfortunate that this Vote, although it does not involve any considerable sum, is of so anomalous a character and raises a very nice and delicate matter of principle. It is inconvenient that such a question should come before the Committee at all in the shape of a Supplementary Estimate, even if the facts were sufficently ripe to require our immediately dealing with them. I certainly am of opinion that Supplementary Estimates, except in the case of grave matters, ought not to be made the occasion for discussing questions of principle. I will not, at the present moment, give any opinion on the subject of the noble Lord's decision. The noble Lord may have been right or wrong in withholding his assent from the proposal made, but at any rate it was a very important subject, which ought to have come before Parliament without prejudice and without difficulty, and without the Committee having now to dispose of it at the fag end of the Estimates, which everybody desires to get rid of in order to proceed with another subject. That is not the way in which questions of importance ought to be disposed of. The Under Secretary of State for the Colonies did not observe in the observation he made that he was speaking in flat contradiction of a material part of the official explanation laid before the House in which it is said:— It is proposed to pay over this Grant to the Crown Agents for the Colonies to the credit of the present Administration of New Guinea, and to arrange for the purchase of the vessel as soon as the arrangements have been completed for the administration of the Territory by the Government of Queensland. Was it proposed to do that immediately?—[Baron HENRY DE WORMS: Yes.]—Very well. The official statement says "and to arrange for the purchase of a vessel"—that is not immediately—"as soon as the arrangements have been completed for the Administration of the Territory by the Government of Queensland." It appears to me first of all that the occasion for paying this money has not yet arrived. According to the statement of the Government, it has not arrived because the Government have not stated—that is directly stated—that the arrangements are yet made; and I did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he is prepared to strike out the latter part of the official note. If that is so, surely it is important. Nothing can be more at variance than that unless arrangements have been actually made, we should, before our liability arrives, and before the time for paying the money has come, pay over this money to Gentlemen over whom, as the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) has undoubtedly said, we have no control.


It is to be paid to the Crown Agents for the Colonies, who are responsible to the Colonial Office, and therefore responsible to the Government.


Then if he is directly responsible to Her Majesty's Government, how in the world cm he be responsible to Her Majesty's Government in reference to the expenditure of money which is to be paid over to the credit of the Administration of New Guinea. Is the time come for paying this money or not? that is really the Question. If it has come and the Government tell the Committee so, then the principle of the policy can be debated; but if it has not come, then the proceeding is altogether premature.


Allow me to call attention to the wording of the Act which was passed in 1887. One of the clauses states—[Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: What Act?]—The Queensland Act. One of the clauses states that there shall be issued and paid to Her Majesty out of the consolidated revenues of Queensland, for 10 years after the passing of the Act, a sum not exceeding £15,000 in respect of the necessary expenses of the Administration of New Guinea. According to the proposal of Her Majesty's Government, the British Government should provide a steam ship which would cost about £18,000 for the use of the Administrator of New Guinea.


Was that a guarantee on the part of Queensland alone?


It was an arrangement between Victoria and New South Wales and Queensland, but that arrangement as between themselves does not affect the position of Her Majesty's Government. The report of the proceedings of the Colonial Conference was in the hands of Members in July, and a debate upon the matter took place in this House in the month of September, when the whole question was thoroughly ventilated. I believe that in the event of New South Wales or Victoria not paying, Queensland would certainly have to pay. In the meantime Queensland, having fulfilled her part of the contract, it is incumbent upon Her Majesty's Government to fulfil theirs. And the time for the payment of this £18,500 has arrived.


The explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman may be perfectly clear and satisfactory to him, but it is not at all clear to me. The words, which had been already twice quoted, appeared to suggest that it should be a condition precedent to the payment of this money that a certain vessel should be purchased. But they were now given to understand that there was to be an agreement between three different parties, and Her Majesty's Government did not appear at present to be sufficiently informed that there was such an agreement. The money was to be paid at once, and the purchase of the vessel afterwards to be arranged for. After what had been stated it was evident there would have to be a Correspondence between this country and New South Wales and Queensland, to ascertain whether the Colonies had agreed in any common purpose. He asked whether it was possible within the financial year that this sum should be voted, and if it were so voted how were they to know that the money was spent in accordance with the statement laid before the House of Commons. What would be the position of the Comptroller and Auditor General with reference to the money if it were voted? He could not see how the money could be voted with justice to Sir William Dunbar unless there was before him more information than he had at present.


said, the history of the case was this—the Government promised that they would this year make provision for the sum of £18,500, and the Treasury were called upon to present an Estimate for that sum. The very question which the hon. Gentleman and some preceding speakers had raised had naturally occurred to his mind—he had asked what security would he get that on parting with this £18,500, the other portion of the contract would be carried out. And it was with that object that these words were inserted; they were inserted at his request to insure that when the money was paid they should not lose their control over it. The whole of the arrangements were expected to be completed within the financial year, and it was with that distinct purpose that the Estimate had been included.

MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)

said, he was afraid that by the last sentence of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury about retaining the control of the money he had destroyed his own case. The question was whether a certain ship would be paid for before the 31st of March that year. If it were not, then by no possibility under our financial rules could the charge be included in the Supplementary Estimates. Our system of voting money provided separately for the services of each year, and in accordance with that system they could only vote money coming in course of payment during the financial year. But this amount could not come within the financial year. Upon this principle the Government might just as well put into the Supplementary Estimates the pay for the coming year of officers in the Army and Navy, paying the amount to the Accountant General, and treating his receipt as a final voucher. It was true that the Government might in excuse say that they retained control over the money. But the very fact of retaining their control excluded the idea of a final payment and adequate voucher. The receipt of the Crown Agents for the Colonies would be no receipt at all, for they were servants of the Imperial Government. This question had become rather more serious than it at first seemed, because it was clear now that if they voted the money asked for they went against all precedents. If the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would say that the ship would be paid for before the end of the financial year, the matter would stand upon quite a different footing, but if the money was to be paid to the Crown Agents it was no payment at all under the Supplementary Estimates, and it ought to be withdrawn from them and put into the Estimates of next year.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

said, when this Estimate was put on the Paper the Government had every reason to believe that the ship would be paid for in the course of the financial year, but looking to the fact that they were under an obligation to give the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) an opportunity of making the Motion in his name, and having regard to the question which had been raised by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), he thought it would be better to withdraw the Vote and bring it forward at another opportunity.


said, he must express his acknowledgments to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury for the very handsome manner in which he had met his objection.

Motion made, and Question, "That a reduced sum, not exceeding £300, be granted for the said Service,"—(Mr. W. H. Smith,)—put, and agreed to.