§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he rose to put the Question of which he had given notice to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Pensions assigned under Schedule B of the 203 Convention of the 29th March, 1864, between Her Majesty and the King of the Hellenes, have been paid in accordance with that Convention, and whether Her Majesty's Government intends to take any steps for the security of the recipients of these Pensions by placing those British subjects who served Her Majesty under the late Ionian Constitution on the same footing as Pensioners of the British Crown? The subject was one which claimed the attention of the House, not only because of the great injustice that had been done to a large class of gentlemen serving under the British Crown, but because it appeared by some recently published papers which had been placed in his hand that the conduct of the Government during the cession of the Ionian Islands had been of a somewhat extraordinary character. It was only now by means of papers which had recently arrived in this country that they had become fully acquainted with the whole of the negotiations which had been carried on at the time of the cession. The House would agree with him that it was of the utmost importance that good faith should he kept by Government with those officers who took service under them. Nothing surprised him more at the time than that so important a step as the cession of the Ionian Islands should have been taken without exciting more than one short debate. The details of that measure, all the circumstances connected with it, were not brought before the House. The papers were doled out to them, and they were never in a position to discuss the question. But that was at an end; the Ionian Islands, to their great misfortune, were ceded to Greece; and an hon. Member had informed him that when he asked a resident how soon the people there had begun to repent the change, the reply was, "One quarter of an hour after the British flag was pulled down." But what he wished to point out was that a great injustice had been done to a number of persons. The officers in the late Ionian service were divided into two classes, distinguished by Schedules A and B. Those included in Schedule A were gentlemen who had been employed for a number of years, some dating back as far as 1828, others to 1836. Many of them had been fifteen years in retirement, enjoying their pensions, not as servants of the Ionian Islands, but of the British Crown. They had been appointed by the British Crown, and were as much servants of the British Crown as the Lord High 204 Commissioner himself. These gentlemen had subscribed to the superannuation fund, which had amounted to £75,000, but which was taken possession of by the Government at a period of great distress in the islands. These gentlemen had not only a claim on the Government, but they were to be paid their pensions and guaranteed by the British Government. Schedule B comprised officers who served in the Ionian Islands at the time of the cession, and whom it was thought right to indemnify for the loss they sustained by being turned out of the position they held without any fault of their own. It did not appear that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had acted with perfect fairness towards these gentlemen. The officers who had pensions under the British Government previous to the cession of the Ionian Islands were permitted to hold any office in England under the Crown but not in Greece. When the question of cession was first mooted by the lamented Duke of Newcastle, he advised them to allow their pensions to be placed on the revenue of the Ionian Islands or Greece, because if so placed they would be enabled to hold office under the Crown. Two or three gentlemen, one a Consul at St. Petersburg, and another in Asia Minor, were then in the enjoyment of their pensions, and still employed under the Crown. There was a positive understanding between these gentlemen and the late Duke of Newcastle, and it was by the advice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this understanding was broken. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No!] The right hon. Gentleman said "no," but it appeared from the blue-book, published at Athens, containing the negotiation and correspondence respecting the cession, and which had only recently reached this country, that in an interview between Mr. Gladstone and the Greek Minister in London, the former declared—in reply to the application of the latter—that these sums should be charged on the British Exchequer—That Parliament would not vote a credit for this purpose; but he was of opinion that the amount agreed on for this object might be reduced; that the payment of the compensation might cease on any one entitled accepting a salaried office under the British Government.And in accordance with this suggestion a proviso was inserted in the Convention of the 29th of March, 1864, and ratified in direct contravention of the promise made 205 by the Duke of Newcastle and of the Ionian Statute Law, and without any previous intimation to the recipients of such promise. Therefore he was justified in saying that it was by the advice of the right hon. Gentleman that this breach of faith had been committed. The statement he had made to the House was made upon the authority of the gentlemen interested. One gentleman who was pressed by the Crown to take office in the Ionian Islands accepted office there upon the distinct promise that his pension would be secured to him. Two other gentlemen, who were known to the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and who knew how much they had sacrificed in going to the Ionian Islands, had no idea at the time they accepted office there that the island would be ceded to Greece, and that thereby they would lose their pensions; but they went there with the positive understanding that they were in the service of this country. He could prove to the Hou3e that the Greek Government implored Her Majesty's Government not to press for these pensions being charged against them, for the simple reason that they were not in a position to pay them, their financial difficulties were so great. He thought the House would agree with him that that was an extraordinary fact. The justice of the claims of these officers had been fully admitted by Lord Russell. His Lordship said, "I must not leave these men unprotected. I must see that justice is done." On February 10, 1864, M. Tricoupi wrote to say that Lord Russell stated with regard to the Greek Government—We showed but little gratitude to England for the great benefits she had conferred upon us in opposing a just indemnification to the English employés, who, without any fault on their part, lost a promising future by the cession of the Ionian Islands on the part of the British Government.It was astonishing that Lord Russell did not see the proper way of meeting the claim—namely, by putting the pensions on the English Government. The Minister of Foreign Affairs at Greece (Mr. Delyannis) wrote to this effect—We cannot accept the proposal to indemnify individuals on account of loss of salary in consequence of the cession of the Ionian Islands, because such a principle is not based upon justice.Mr. Scarlett, the English Minister, also wrote to say that he could not strongly Support these clauses of the treaty, referring to the pension of these officers, but 206 expressed his opinion that it was not the interest of Greece to dispute them so pertinaciously. Then, Mr. Delyannis proposed, instead of a pension, we should fix a sum for an indemnity once for all. Why was that not accepted? The despatches which he had been referring to clearly proved that the difficulty had been pointed out to the Government from the first. When he gave notice of this question two months ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State telegraphed to Greece and made every effort to obtain the payment of these pensions, and the pensions were then paid; but he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) believed he was right in saying that these pensions would not be continued by the Government of Greece. Owing, he believed, to the mismanagement of Her Majesty's Government, Greece was on the eve of another convulsion. He never saw such a state of anarchy as prevailed there at present. Was he not justified in asking the right hon. Gentleman opposite whether, considering the importance of keeping good faith with the servants of the Government, they would not declare that in future the pensions of these officers, who had served them so well, and had given up professions and emoluments in this country to do so, should not be guaranteed by this country in the future?
§ MR. LAYARD
said, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had complained that the question of the cession of the Ionian Islands had not been fully discussed in that House; but, considering the interest the hon. Gentleman took in the question, it was strange that he did not bring some Motion forward on the subject and have it fully discussed. He would not follow the hon. Gentleman through the arguments he had adduced as to the policy of the cession of the Ionian Islands. He did not think the hon. Gentleman had made out his case—namely, that the Greek Government had justly protested against the payment of these pensions; or, at any rate, that it was a very great hardship to Greece, that upon the cession of the Ionian Islands, a most valuable territory, she should be saddled with the payment of pensions which had accrued to persons in the service of the Ionian Government and not in the service of the British Government. The hon. Gentleman wanted to know whether these pensions had hitherto been paid to the persons entitled to them. He could inform the hon. Gentleman that the pensions had been 207 paid, and if the hon. Gentleman had waited another day he would have learnt from the papers, which he (Mr. Layard) had just laid upon the table, the reasons of the delay which had taken place in the payment. It would be seen from the correspondence that the delay partly originated in the fact that the Minister at Athens (Mr. Erskine) had been under a misapprehension as to the course to be pursued with reference to the periodical presentation of the list of pensioners to the Greek Government. Shortly after the lists were presented the pensions were paid. The hon. Gentleman had complained that the Government had not got early information on the subject, but that was in consequence of an interruption in the telegraph to Athens, which was still interrupted, and it was ten or fifteen days before they could get an answer to the inquiries which we had made. He (Mr. Layard) thought it was not consistent with the respect due to a foreign Government that we should make the charge of insolvency against Greece, and anticipate that these pensions would not be properly paid. They had hitherto been paid, and he trusted the Greek Government would show their good faith in paying them regularly. If that House were to say that the English Government were prepared to pay these pensions, it would not be an encouragement to the Greek Government to pay them. The hon. Gentleman was no doubt prompted to bring this matter forward. Two gentlemen had not received their pensions at the time the money was paid over to the British Minister, but one of these, Sir Patrick Colquhoun, was determined to be a martyr. That gentleman would not go through the regular forms for the purpose of obtaining his pension. Sir Patrick Colquhoun was an old friend of his (Mr. Layard), and with every respect for him he must say that he was not justified in taking the course he had taken. He (Sir Patrick Colquhoun) had come to the Foreign Office and claimed not only his pension, but also the interest on money, which he might have received at once by writing to Athens. He (Mr. Layard) thought it was hard both upon the Greek and English Governments that they should be accused of breaking faith to Sir Patrick Colquhoun because he would not take the trouble of going through the form which the other officers went through in order to receive their money, that of appointing an agent at Athens to receive it. 208 The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the case of persons who, having earned their pensions previously to the cession of the Islands, had since taken service under the British Government, and were declared to have thus forfeited their right to receive their pensions. No doubt this was a case of hardship, but hitherto only two persons had been exposed to that hardship. Both had been submitted to the Greek Government, and they had very properly agreed to pay these gentlemen their pensions. He had every reason to believe that these pensions would be paid in future regularly by the Greek Government.
said, the gentlemen to whom he was anxious that justice should be done were far distant from this country, and were not aware of any proceedings going on in that House with reference to them. He could not think the question raised by his hon. Friend (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had been satisfactorily answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. These officers had been invited by the Government in England to take service in the Ionian Islands, and it was a most miserable quibble to say that these officers were the servants of the Government of the Ionian Islands. They were employed by the Imperial Government, and when that Government thought right to bring to a close the period of service of these officers in the Ionian Islands, by withdrawing from the protectorate of those islands, the Government felt bound to give them a compensation, which had always been given in similar circumstances. The moral obligation was incurred not by the Government of the Ionian Islands, but by the Government of England. It was, he knew, perfectly competent for the Imperial Government to negotiate with the Ionian Islands and say when certain arrangements took place the English Government would be at a certain expense, and therefore the Government of the Ionian Islands should recoup the amount which the Imperial Government would have to pay by way of compensation to these officers. To hand the officers over to the Greek Government was to say, "We admit our moral liability, but will not give you our cheque, but that of a young friend of ours, and we hope it will be soon honoured." It turned out from the statement of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Layard) that although the 209 money had been paid this year, it had not been paid at the right time, so that the future satisfaction of those just claims in reality depended upon the precarious income of Greece. It could not, however, be fairly urged that these gentlemen ought to depend for their compensation, on account of being withdrawn from other careers, upon a precarious income. He could quite understand that when the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs answered for his Department, he felt himself bound to give that answer in a departmental sense, and he was not, therefore, astonished when his hon. Friend declined to give any guarantee to those gentlemen. He would, however, ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether he would allow a substantial claim of this kind to be defeated by handing over these gentlemen to a Government which might or which might not pay them, and whose finances, as we knew, were in a dubious state of solvency. He did hope that one way or another these gentlemen would receive an assurance that their claims would be provided for.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the speech of his hon. Friend was not founded upon any hardship which had accrued to these gentlemen since the cession of the Ionian Islands. It was in reality an objection to the arrangement under which that cession had been originally made. The question as to the pensions or compensations of those gentlemen was fully settled and considered at the time, and he did not believe that the House would be very much disposed to re-open a matter upon an argument which in reality should have been urged at the time when the original measures were deliberately taken. On that occasion this question was raised by an hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, whom he perceived in his place, and the intentions of the Government which were distinctly announced met, as he regarded it, with the approbation of the House. At all events the House so far sanctioned the policy of the Government that Her Majesty's Ministers had no occasion to come to the House for a Vote of money after the decision at which the House had arrived. The time did arrive when the course of Government should have been challenged if that course were objected to, but that challenge was not made. His hon. Friend (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had said that he wondered 210 that the cession of the Ionian Islands had not occasioned more discussion in the House; but his hon. Friend should remember that the cession of those islands was not made in secret. The intentions of Her Majesty's Ministers were announced to the House at a very early date, and attracted a good deal of attention. If that cession, however, attracted less attention than it deserved, his hon. Friend, among others, was to blame, because it was competent for him to have expressed his disapproval of the conduct of the Government, especially as the matter was debated at considerable length. His hon. Friend who spoke last said that he felt convinced the noble Lord at the head of the Government would guarantee the payment of the pensions to these gentlemen when he perceived the justice of the case. That guarantee, however, it was not in the power of his noble Friend to give. A Bill could be introduced by the Government into the House with a view of effecting the object desired by the hon. Gentleman, and that would no doubt be done if the Government could see that such a course was necessary to procure justice to these gentlemen. But that was just what they were unable to see. No stratagem was more convenient in Parliamentary oratory than the introduction of a parenthesis of this kind into a sentence, because it enabled the speaker to elude the point upon which the whole thing depended. It was just that moral obligation, alluded to by the hon. Member, which had always been denied—or at least had never been admitted—by Her Majesty's Government. The argument of his hon. Friend really amounted to this, that this country, with her multifarious colonial relations, was bound to compensate every man who was appointed to an office in the colonies—in other words, that Lord Monck in Canada, or the Governor of any other of our colonies, had a claim upon the Consolidated Fund of this country if the colony which was indebted to him refused to perform its obligations in paying the salaries and allowances of these officers. That doctrine was an entirely new one. It had never been suggested to the House as an abstract proposition, and it would, he believed, be unwise to lay it down as such. He was not there to say what would be the decision of Parliament when any case of personal hardship was made out, but to grant the principle that a British subject appointed to an office abroad, dependent upon a Treasury different from our own, was to have a guaran- 211 tee from our Government, could not, he believed, be claimed with any degree of justice by the person himself, and would certainly be incompatible with what was due to our own taxpayers. His hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had brought a serious charge against the late Duke of Newcastle and himself, no doubt unintentionally, which would have had a considerable sting in it but for the kind and mild manner in which he had always introduced his views to the House. It would be inferred from his remarks that the Secretary for the Colonies of the time entered into a private engagement that compensation should he guaranteed to those officers on certain terms, and afterwards that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) caused those terms to be overruled. For his own part he did not know that any such agreement had ever been entered into by the Duke of Newcastle, nor had his right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, by his side, ever been made acquainted with it. He must say that he possessed so much confidence in the honour of the late Duke of Newcastle that he felt convinced that no such agreement ever existed. Knowing, as he did, that no man of higher or purer honour ever took service under the Crown, he could not help saying that it was perfectly incredible that that nobleman should have receded from any engagement of this kind.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, that he did not allege that the Duke of Newcastle had receded from his engagement. The change was made while the Duke was out of office by his successor, and the engagement to which he referred was overset, he repeated, on the advice of his right hon. Friend himself.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he had not described the words that had fallen from the lips of his hon. Friend. He had simply shown him what was the nature of the charges which he had made. His hon. Friend, however, was in error, because it was not true that the Duke of Newcastle was out of office when the change was made. The matter was completed during the administration of the noble Duke. If the Duke made any engagement of this kind it was his duty to have carried it out, and the statement of his hon. Friend, therefore, amounted to a charge that the Duke had receded from his engagement. He was quite sure that the hon. Gentleman never intended to make a charge against the Duke of New- 212 castle, and he was simply pointing out how, no doubt unintentionally, the hon. Gentleman's observations had that effect.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, his hon. Friend had not laid before the House the grounds upon which he asserted that the engagement he stated had been made. What the Government had done was this:—They had insisted that the Greek Government should grant to certain gentlemen pensions or compensation for loss of office, upon a scale which was totally unknown according to the habits, usages, or institutions of any country but our own. In fact, it was only England which showed such liberality. While enforcing the necessity of performing these engagements upon the Greek Government, the English Government thought it but fair that they should have such abatement as was provided by the law of this country in case of the resumption of office by these gentlemen under the Crown. They felt it was only right that they should insist on the rule which had prevailed in this country, that officers accepting offices in other Departments should only receive so much pension as was in excess of their salaries. That arrangement he believed to be a perfectly just one. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, not only did not admit the moral obligation which his hon. Friend had urged so strongly, but they were persuaded that the course which they had pursued was founded alike upon policy and principle, and any hon. Member who disapproved their conduct could avail himself of his privileges and challenge that conduct in the House.
said, he denied that the great number of these employés in the Ionian Islands were employés of the Greek Government at all. They were, in fact, employés of the English Government, as much so as any right hon. or hon. Gentleman in that House. They were taken from employments in England and placed in office in the Ionian Islands. The British authorities there did not require the consent of the Ionian Government in any manner whatever to their appointment, and, what was more, they were put under the regulations which prevailed in this country with regard to deductions from their salaries. A deduction was made from their salaries for the express purpose of furnishing retiring pen- 213 sions. True it was that that fund had been taken possession of, not by the Greek Government, but by the Government of England. Most surprised, then, was he to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer of this country repudiate the obligation on the part of England to pay these pensions. If there ever was a moral obligation to pay a retiring pension that obligation rested in this case on the English Government. It was the British Government that took possession of the fund formed from deductions from the salaries, and used it for their own benefit; and that was his answer to the right hon. Gentleman who now repudiated this moral obligation. He only hoped the Greek Government would fulfil its obligations. He was happy to hear that the pensions had hitherto been paid, and he trusted that the payments would continue to be made. As for the islands themselves, from his heart he pitied them. The anarchy existing there had been the result of the abandonment of our protectorate. Last year, at the end of the debate on this subject, he received an assurance, as far as any Government could give it, that if the Greek Government did not pay the pensions the English Government would, to some extent, recognize the claims. He had no doubt that this would be found in Hansard, and how the Chancellor of the Exchequer could now repudiate the moral obligation to pay went beyond his comprehension.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that in the debate of last year it was made abundantly clear that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in this matter was much looser than that of the Government of a great country like this ought to be. His hon. Friend (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) never intended to charge the Duke of Newcastle with having departed from any pledge which he had entered into; but there was reason to fear that the Members of the present Government were not so liberal as the Duke of Newcastle. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary knew perfectly well that there was a document at our Foreign Office which asserted in a manner which would hardly admit of contradiction that such a pledge had been given. He believed it would not be denied that a statement, made on the 18th of April, 1864, from which the following was an extract, was in the hands of the Foreign Office. [Mr. LAYARD: By whom?] The hon. Gentleman had better hear it read. This was the extract— 214When——saw the Duke of Newcastle on the subject of the pensions and compensations to be granted to British subjects, either as pensions acquired by them under the Ionian law, or as compensations for loss of office, or both conjointly, his Grace declared on more than one occasion, not only that the British Government would undertake to see these pensions paid, but pointed out the superior advantage of a Greek over a British pension, because it would be in addition to and tenable with any future employment under the British Crown, and he added that he would place his opinion in record on this point, in such a manner as should bind his successors.The hon. Gentleman could easily ascertain who the person that made the statement was, for he (Sir James Fergusson) was not sure that he was at liberty to mention his name. The hon. Gentleman had twitted his hon. Friend with not having brought on the subject at the time of the cession of the Islands. But the reason was because the facts were not known to Parliament. It was only within a short time that the papers containing the correspondence of the British Government upon these points had been laid before the Greek Parliament, and the Greek Government maintained that to throw the burden upon them was in the first place unjust, and in the second place more than they were able to bear. Over and over again the Greek Government declared that they could not undertake to indemnify our officials. On the 31st of January, on the 1st of February, and again in March they refused to accept the obligation. And when at length they did decide on accepting the extraordinary expenditure, of the legality of which they said they were not convinced, they were unable to meet punctually the demands of the pensioners, or if they did meet them it was with great difficulty. Was it too much to say that, surrounded with difficulties as the Greek Government was, they would not for the future be able to meet the claims of those gentlemen? Were they, therefore, to be utterly thrown adrift and never to receive the payment which they had a right to expect? How could it be said that they had no claims upon us when there was in the Foreign Office a statement which distinctly showed that a pledge had been given to them?
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he had heard the Under Secretary of State for the Foreign Department with great astonishment, because the hon. Gentleman made no reference to the original appointments. Sir Patrick Colquhoun, Sir Charles 215 Serjeant, and one or two others, were most certainly officials of the protecting Power, their appointments being made under the Constitutional Charter of 1817. By Articles 4 and 5 of that Charter, the justices of the Supreme Court were to be appointed by the protecting Power, and paid, not by the Ionian Government, but out of a sum of money, amounting to £13,000 per annum, which was set apart out of the revenues of the Ionian Islands, and was paid to the protecting Power, not to the Ionian Government. These officers were appointed and dismissed by the Colonial Office of the protecting Power, and the Ionian Government had no power to interfere. These officials, were therefore not the officers of the Local Government; they were not appointed by the Local Government; their salaries were to be paid by the protecting Power, and to that Power, therefore, they ought to look for their pensions. Neither the Ionian Government nor the Greek Government, to which the powers of the Ionian Government had been transferred, were liable for the payment of the retiring allowances. He said, then, that there was not only a moral obligation on England to see these pensions paid, but a legal obligation also. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that those gentlemen would have taken office had they known that in a short time the Islands would have been ceded to Greece, and they themselves left to the tender mercies of the Government of a bankrupt kingdom? Of the right hon. Gentleman's comparison of these appointments with colonial appointments in general he would only say it was a quibble. There was no independent Member who did not admit the claims of these officers. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government would take them into consideration, and that justice would be effectually done.