HL Deb 28 July 1859 vol 155 cc519-21

said, that the object of the Bill, of which he rose to move the second reading, was to enable persons holding diplomatic pensions to sit in the other House of Parliament. Hitherto persons holding diplomatic pensions had been disqualified by the Act of 6th Anne from sitting in Parliament, and be hoped that it would be their Lordships' opinion that the Act, as regarded its application to retired diplomatists, was neither just nor useful, and that it ought to be repealed. It was not just that men who had passed a long period of their time in foreign countries in the service of the public should be debarred from rendering still further service to the country by sitting in the Legislature, and it was equally hard that if a constituency thought highly of a man's talent, or felt grateful to him for his diplomatic exertions, that they should not have the opportunity of electing such a man to represent them in Parliament if they thought fit. It was neither useful nor expedient that Parliament should be deprived of the knowledge or experience that such persons generally brought with them from foreign countries, and especially the information that they could furnish respecting them. Constitutionally there was no more reason why retired diplomatists should he debarred from sitting in Parliament than Admirals or Generals after they had retired from active service. There had been no opposition to the Bill in the Commons, and he hoped that no argument was necessary to induce their Lordships to give it their sanction. But if anything were wanted to show the necessity for such a Bill it was the operation of the present law in the case of the noble Viscount (Stratford de Redcliffe) whose pension was suspended while he sat in the House of Commons. His noble Friend now had a seat in their Lordships' House, but if he had not, and if he were not in a position to sacrifice the amount of his pension, the country could not have the benefit of his services and knowledge in the other House. He moved that the Bill be read a second time.


said, the reference which had been made to himself by his noble Friend who had moved the second reading of the Bill might perhaps excuse him for offering a few words upon the subject, and he would engage that they should be really few. It was quite true, as stated by the noble Lord, that he was obliged to make the sacrifice of his diplomatic pension many years ago, when he bad the honour of a seat in the other House of Parliament—in short, it had been his lot to be a victim of the Act which it was now proposed to revise. It was natural that he should look into the question at that time, and, indeed, he had taken an opinion as to the real meaning of the Act. The consequence was that no doubt remained in his mind as to the sacrifice which it was necessary for him to make, and he did not hesitate to make it for public considerations which operated powerfully upon him at the time. He must in candour avow that he considered the Act as founded on a just consideration of the public interests when it was introduced in the early part, if he remembered right, of the last century. In those days there was greater laxity in the granting of pensions than could possibly take place under the present action of Parliament and the prevailing sentiments of Government. The terms of service were now so lengthened and regulated that there was no longer any hazard of the liberality of the public in rewarding services abroad being taken unfair advantage of. It seemed to him on the broad principle of justice that no individual should have the enjoyment of his civil privileges curtailed, except when the interest or convenience of the State imperiously required it. The moment, therefore, that a guard was no longer required for the protection of the public, whose representatives had already provided the requisite security, it became advisable that the diplomatic pensions with respect to the power of sitting in Parliament should be put on the same footing as allowances granted on retirement to other public servants. On these grounds, and with reference to the case so justly pointed out by the noble Earl of constituencies wishing to be represented by persons distinguished by their services abroad, and the experience thereby acquired, he hoped that their Lordships would receive and carry through in the same just and liberal spirit as had been shown in the other House of Parliament the Bill which was so properly assigned to the management of his noble Friend, whose official experience so well enabled him to deal with such a subject.


said, the Bill had the entire approval of his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and express- ed his belief that it was a measure every way worthy of their Lordships' support.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House To-morrow.

House adjourned at a quarter-past Seven o'clock till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock,