HC Deb 03 March 1892 vol 1 cc1773-836

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £22,600, 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, 1892, for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad.

(7.8.) DR. CLARK () Caithness

I wish to call attention to the sum for the Boundary Commission between the Portuguese and the Chartered Company. I want to know why this money was not paid by the company instead of by the Imperial Government? I understand that those companies by their Charter would have to pay their own costs. These people have many powers; amongst others, the right to tax, and they are putting them on very severely. If that is so, why should this charge be upon the Imperial Exchequer? I should also like to know if the Commission has yet sat?


The Commission has sat: they met in the autumn of last year, and arrangements were made between the representatives to carry out the necessary preliminaries. Major Levison is at present in this country, but he is about to return almost immediately to the East Coast of Africa, and the matter will be at once proceeded with. I believe the work of delimitation was carried out in consequence of the Anglo-Portuguese Convention, and at the respective cost of the two Governments.


But why should it not be paid by the Chartered Company? We have not control over it.


They are only acting as our representatives.


Another matter to which I would wish to call the attention of the House is the item of £5,600 for outfits in consequence of the deaths of Lord Lytton and Sir William White. I would like to know how much these diplomatic changes cost? I think we should also get details of the Vote. Bat why should we pay for the removal of the horses and carriages of these gentlemen and pay for the new furniture which they think well to select? When these gentlemen remove from one place to another and some new official takes the place what I ask becomes of the furniture, &c.? We pay these men large salaries, we give them houses, and we spend a great deal of money upon them; why then should we be called upon to pay such charges as these? What becomes of the furniture? Is it sold, or do the butlers take charge of it?


I am afraid the hon. Member has got on the wrong line of rails in reference to this matter. Those outfits are granted to Ambassadors, Ministers, Secretaries of Embassy and of Legation upon their going to a new post, and I believe that they only barely cover the expenses. When a Minister has to break up his establishment, these outfit grants cover his travelling and removal expenses: the expense he is put to in having to break up his establishment, the cost of having to settle down in a new position, and various costs incurred iu many other ways. The hon. Member has asked for details as to the Vote which is due to the deaths which unfortunately took place in the last year in the ranks of the Diplomatic Service. Lord Dufferin on going to Paris will get £2,000 for outfit. These outfits have been fixed for a great number of years between the Treasury and the Foreign Office. They were inquired into by a Committee that sat some years ago on the Diplomatic Service Votes, and the Committee did not report otherwise than favourably. Sir Clare Ford will get £1,250; Sir D. Wolff, £2,000; Lord Vivian, £2,500; Sir E. Monson, £650, and Mr. Egerton, £1,100. Last year the whole sum expended in outfits was £1,416, and the year before, although the sum down in the Estimates was £5,000, only £3,700 out of that was spent.

(7.15.) MR. LABOUCHERE () Northampton

The hon. Gentleman says that Lord Dufferin received £2,000 to cover his expenses on going from Rome to Paris, and that the money was expended in travelling and for his personal impedimenta. But why this discrepancy in the allowance if they are made for personal expenses? If we take distance into account they seem to follow no intelligible principle, for whilst Lord Dufferin gets £2,000 for going from Rome to Paris, Lord Vivian gets £2,500 for going from Brussels to Rome, while Mr. Egerton gets £1,100 for going from Paris to Greece. Again, Mr. Monson only gets £650, and it is obvious that if he has been properly paid these other gentlemen have been improperly paid, and that they have received too much. We poor people have travelled somewhat on the Continent however, and we know something about the expense of it, and I should be inclined, if it costs these gentlemen so much for travelling expenses, to suggest that the Government should consider the advisability of going to Messrs. Cook. From what the hon. Member has stated it would appear that removal of furniture has nothing to do with the grants, and that this is a species of general allowance made to Ambassadors and Ministers for going from one place to another. Under these circumstances I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £2,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item N, Outfits, be reduced by the sum of £2,000." —(Mr. Labouchere.)

(7.18.) MR. LEVESON-GOWER () Stoke-upon-Trent

I do not see upon what principle this money is given to Ambassadors and Ministers, and not extended to the junior members of the Diplomatic Service, who have to move about more frequently than the Ambassadors or Ministers, and who are paid a less salary.

(7.20.) MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON () Tower Hamlets, Stepney

I wish to ask the hon. Member whether Sir H. D. Wolff will receive an allowance for outfit on going from Bucharest to Madrid?

*(7.21.) MR. J. W. LOWTHER

With reference to the question asked by my hon. Friend, I have to say that I believe the usual course will be followed, and that on the transfer of Sir H. D. Wolff he would receive an outfit. I do not see anything extraordinary in it that hon. Members should laugh. I did not mean to say that the outfit was meant simply to cover the personal expenses of the Minister; it is also for the travelling expenses of his family, and the expense incurred in moving his own private furniture, and horses and carriages. The Minister's goods and chattels, the position he holds, and a great many other things are matters which the junior members of the Diplomatic Service do not have to deal with, entitle him to a larger sum. Therefore, it is perfectly obvious that the expenses to which an Ambassador or Minister is put in moving from one mission to another are relatively very much greater than those of the junior members. This scheme of outfits was settled upon after communication with the Treasury; it was investigated by a Committee of the House and approved, and the general principle upon which it is founded is about one-third of the salary attached to the post to which Her Majesty's Representatives are appointed.

(7.23.) MR. P. STANHOPE () Wednesbury

I wish to ask whether any inquiry was made on the part of the Foreign Office as to the items of expenditure before these gentlemen got to their posts? I understand how it may be desirable to pay the expenses of Ambassadors moving from one place to another; but I think advantage should not be taken of that for granting them a lump sum that is more than what is actually expended. I hope that when further sums are applied for in regard to these outfits the Under Secretary will be able to lay before the House more details, for I think he should show to the House that the money was actually expended.


The hon. Gentleman has not answered that part of my question which refers to junior members of the Service. I. should think some amount should be paid them, and I should like if the Under Secretary would give us some assurance upon the point.


I can explain how I myself was treated. I was Second Secretary of Legation once, and had to go from London to Constantinople. I put in a statement as to how much it cost me. Now, Mr. Courtney, I am an honest man, and I put in exactly what it cost me in trains; but Mr. Cunningham, who was then at the head of the Financial Department of the Foreign Office, told me that I was to supply vouchers. I told him that if he insisted on vouchers the railway companies might not give them; but it was of no avail, and I had to appeal to Lord Russell, and pledge myself that I had actually expended the money in railway travelling from one point to another. It is evident this amount has nothing to do with the money spent, as the Under Secretary says it is based upon one-third of the salary. I admit that these men have a right to be paid their expenses, but we know that this is absolutely in excess; we know, and it has been admitted, that it does not depend upon the actual amount spent, and therefore I must persist in my Motion.


We have been told that this money was for outfit, and from the reply of the hon. Gentleman opposite it would appear that they did not get any outfit. In short, it is not for outfit at all.

(7.24.) DR. TANNER () Cork Co., Mid

It seems to me extraordinary the way in which these items are placed upon the Paper, and that more attention is not paid to details. More information should be given, and I, for one, think the House should ask for it before it votes away this extraordinary large sum without thoroughly understanding it.

(7.25.) MR. OSBORNE MORGAN () Denbighshire, E.

I wish to observe that we had no explanation from the Under Secretary as to the way in which the outfit is calculated; he has simply told us that it is about one third of the salary paid. According to the hon. Member for Northampton, it would appear that there is some doubt about that point. Now, I am also an honest man, and I wish to tell the House that when I was Judge Advocate General, I was called upon to state exactly what I spent, and I endeavoured to act as fairly as I could. There is no reason why the same course should not be taken in this case, and why Ambassadors and Ministers should not do the same.

(7.27.) MR. ROBY () Lancashire, S.E. Eccles

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman, what is the date of the Committee to which he referred as having carried out this arrangement?


The Committee reported in 1870.


Are we to clearly understand that this money will not be used for the purchase of furniture? I confess I feel it would be much more satisfactory if the money were calculated upon some other scale than the amount of salary. This is a rough method of calculation, and not by any means so satisfactory as if the exact amount expended were recorded.

*(5.28.) MR. J. W. LOWTHER

I think I can explain the discrepancy which the hon. Member for Northampton has discovered. On his first appointment as Ambassador a gentleman receives a full outfit, which is roughly calculated at one-third of the salary attached to the post. If he is only transferred from one Embassy to another then he does not receive a full outfit; I think he then only receives one-half of the outfit. In the same way, if a gentleman proceeds from a Legation to an Embassy, he then receives a full outfit. If he proceeds to a Legation for the first time, he then receives a full outfit; but if from a Legation to a Legation, he only receives half. Such is the explanation of the discrepancy. In the case of Lord Vivian, for instance, he received a full outfit, but Sir Clare Ford did not receive a full outfit. Outfits include furniture, that covers not merely the cost of travelling, but also the cost of moving the family, servants, horses, carriages, and such furniture as the Ambassador wishes to move from one Mission to another. It is perfectly true that at the Chief Embassies there is a certain quantity of furniture which belongs to these Embassies, but it is of a. very meagre character, and very much of the character which Government furniture is apt to be. And therefore the cost of the removal of old and the purchase of new furniture to make the new residence inhabitable is covered by the outfits which are given.


I think the hon. Gentleman has still failed to explain this matter. He says that when a gentleman is promoted from being a Minister to be an Ambassador, he receives one-half of the allowance that he would otherwise receive. The hon. Gentleman has said that Lord Dufferin received £2,000 on removal from Rome, where he had been an Ambassador, to Paris, where he is now an Ambassador; but that Sir Clare Ford had only received £1,200 on being transferred from Madrid, where he had been an Ambassador, to Constantinople, where he is also an Ambassador. But the explanation of the hon. Gentleman, I am bound to say, does not account for these discrepancies.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 152.—(Div. List, No. 19.)

Original Question again proposed.

(7.33.) Dr. CLARK

I think we should have some explanation with respect to this item of £3,000 relating to the Government of India.

(7.34.) MR. J. W. LOWTHER

The Government of India have hitherto been paying £10,000 a year towards the Mission to Persia; but lately they have represented to Her Majesty's Government that the Indian Government were paying the cost of the Agencies at Bushire and Meshed, which amounts to £16,000 a year, and they considered that the resources of India should not be taxed to a greater extent than £7,000 instead of £10,000 a year. And seeing that India pays on Agencies, etc., as much as £23,000 a year, and the Imperial Government only paid, roughly speaking, £12,000 a year, it was thought that it was only fair that that sum of £3,000 should be placed upon the Imperial Estimates. Original Question put, and agreed to.

(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,610, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which Neill come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Expenses of the High Commissioner for South Africa.

(7.35.) DR. CLARK

I should like to have some explanation about this item of £1,000 for telegrams. I do not know of any burning question in South Africa which would cause so much expenditure upon telegrams. Last year there was one, but this year there was no burning question in South Africa, and yet we have the Estimate increased by 50 per cent. when there was no trouble in the country. I should like to get some reply in reference to this matter.


I am not quite so familiar with this Vote as my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary, but I am informed that the excess is due to the action of certain burghers in the South African Republic, who made a trek into territory in the direction of British Bechuanaland, or rather Matabeleland. This movement threatened to be inimical to British interests, and necessitated this large expenditure upon telegrams; and I say that money has been well spent. Owing to the vigorous intervention of Sir Henry Loch, and to the friendly co-operation of the South African Republic, that movement of the burghers entirely failed.

(7.39.) MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)

I wish to know where is the Under Secretary? I think this is a discourtesy that he should not be here to give us the information we want. We want to know about these telegrams. We are not satisfied with the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman, who, with great candour, says he knows nothing about them. [Sir JOHN GORST: No, no.] Yes, he got a paper from the Colonial Office, took it from his portfolio, and then read it with very great difficulty. That is not the way to do business when we are dealing with public money. I certainly will move a reduction of this Vote in order that it may be deferred until the Under Secretary for the Colonies is present. If I cannot do so, I shall move a Resolution. Am I in order in moving it?




Very well. Then beg to move that the Vote be reduced by £2,000, to show my sense first of this reprehensible manner of spending public money, and, secondly, for the purpose of making the servants of the Crown do their duty instead of doing the work of the First Lord of the Treasury by electioneering in the country. In the late Mr. W. H. Smith's time such a thing would not have occurred. I would ask the First Lord of the Treasury to be good enough to give us some explanation, if he can, why the Under Secretary for the Colonies has not been in his place today or for the last week.


I hope the hon. Member will withdraw his Motion. I am the Minister of the Crown responsible for this Estimate. I gave a reply which has satisfied the hon. Member who asked the question. I did not say I did not know anything about it. I have said all I know about it, and I think I gave what the hon. Member who asked the question considers a full and clear explanation. I hope, therefore, the hon. Member will not persevere with his Motion, as it would be indirectly a Vote of Censure on myself, who, however inadequately, in the absence of the Under Secretary of State, have replied to the question. But if the Under Secretary of State had been in his place he would not have said more than I have said on the subject.

(7.50.) DR. TANNER

The right hon. Gentleman, in a most extraordinary speech, tells us that the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies could not do the work half as well as t he right hon. Gentleman himself. [Sir John Gorst: No, no.] Accordingly I wish to point out to the House—what we have been trying to impress upon you from these Benches—that a great number of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite fill ornamental places, and that their services can be very easily dispensed with. I never saw a more amusing state of affairs in this Committee of Supply before. I hope, in view of what has taken place on the present occasion, that, in the first place, responsible Ministers will see their way when they have to come to this House to ask for public money so that they will be able to definitely tell us what are the things on which this money has been expended, without all this hugger-mugger on the Treasury Bench; and, again, I hope this Committee will see, what we have endeavoured frequently to point out, that a great many of these posts filled by Members of Her Majesty's Government and the supporters of Her Majesty's Government could be very easily dispensed with.

(7.57.) MR. OSBORNE MORGAN () Denbighshire, E.

There is a certain amount of force in what has been said about the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies being absent; but his place could not be better filled than by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will not go to a Division.

(7.58.) MR. MAC NEILL

I am not going to persevere with this Motion, and I do not wish to cast any blame upon the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury in any way. At the same time, I think it would have been more courteous if the First Lord were to answer a question asked in reference to an absent Under Minister, and state why the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies is not in his place. When this Vote comes on I wish to know are the Under Secretaries—especially the Under Secretary for the Colonies—appointed for the transaction of Public Business and to act in the public interest, or whether the Under Secretary for the Colonies is receiving a salary of £2,000 a year to stump for the Government out of doors? I wish to know which is his business—is his business to be here on the Treasury Bench to answer me, or is he to be down in the country electioneering?


If I did not answer the question before, it was because I thought an answer had been very amply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury. No doubt I am responsible in this House for seeing that the Business of the House is fully, as well as pro perly, discharged. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies would have been in his place had there been anything on the Paper to indicate that any question of importance would arise in reference to this Vote.


Oh, this is very important.


If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed. A small Debate has arisen, not a Debate on the question of policy, and I think it will be admitted that no more able substitute than my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury could have been found. It would undoubtedly be a very unfortunate state of things if an important Debate on matters of policy arose in the absence of the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, or if the military question were raised in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. But neither of these things has occurred, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press his point.


I am very well satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, though I should like to have an explanation of the appearance of the items of expenditure in February and March last year on this Vote. I should also like an explanation of the item of £160 to a gentleman who has a pension as a post-captain in the Navy as well as his salary as secretary.


In consequence of this gentleman receiving retired Naval pay, 10 per cent. is deducted from his salary. Sir Graham Bower is a gentleman of very great ability, who has held office for nearly eight years, and his salary is only £500, rising by increments of £20 to £700. We propose to grant him this personal allowance in consideration of his long service and high ability.


In the absence of the Under Secretary for the Colonies, I wish to bear testimony to what the right hon. Gentleman said as to the Secretary to the High Commissioner. His duties are great, his work is responsible, his intelligence is conspicuous, and he deserves any recognition that can be given him.


It is advisable in the public interest that when gentle men draw large sums of money it should be put down in order that we may know the extent of these extraordinary grants. If the whole of these items paid to public servants were placed before the House, the House would be in a better position to judge, and be better able to modify and check extravagance. Again and again we have called attention to the slip-shod manner in which these Estimates are presented.

MR. WALLACE () Edinburgh, E.

I am not at all satisfied with the excuses that have been given for the absence from the House of the Under Secretary for the Colonies. I think he ought to have been here to attend to any questions on these Estimates. There has been no explanation given. We are told he has left a good substitute. I do not deny that. The Secretary to the Treasury is a substitute, and something more. If it is to be intended as a tribute to the abilities of the Secretary to the Treasury, I think he might—very profitably to this House—be the sole occupant of the Treasury Bench. But that is no answer. The Under Secretary ought to have been here; and if his absence is to be explained away in the manner suggested, why should we not abolish two or three of the number of Under Secretaries who sit on these Benches? It is no use telling us that we have a very versatile and able gentleman representing him. We knew that before; we have known it all along. I see that the Secretary to the Treasury has been re-inforced by the Junior Lord of the Admiralty. He becomes extremely strong with such supplement. I hope my hon. Friends will continue their opposition to this Vote, and I shall support them simply to mark my offended sense of the absence of the Under Secretary for the Colonies. Where is he? What is he doing? I am told he is in the Chertsey Division. Why is he not here to attend to the Estimates? His absence will cause much larger questions. If he can be in the Chertsey Division without detriment to the interests of his office, the office might very profitably be abolished, and we should leave the Secretary to the Treasury to attend to the whole work. Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 61.£(Div. List, No. 20.)

Resolutions to be reported.