HC Deb 19 March 1819 vol 39 cc1072-7

On the motion of lord Castlereagh, the order for the further consideration of the report upon the Royal Household Bill was read. The amendments were agreed to, and on the motion that the bill be engrossed,

Lord Folkestone

rose, he said, not to animadvert upon any of the amendments which had just been adopted, but to take that opportunity of stating his opinion upon the clause in the bill, which related to the grant of 10,000l. a year to the duke of York. It was impossible, according to his impression, consistently to accede to this clause in the terms in which it stood at present; for this clause assumed that the same sum was allowed to her late majesty as a remuneration for the expenses to which she was liable, on her appointment to the care of the king's person, and that therefore the duke of York was entitled to the same allowance upon undertaking the same appointment. This assumption the noble lord maintained to be quite a fallacy, as must be evident to any one who would take the trouble of reading the last act upon this subject, or who recollected the debates on its progress through parliament. For the grant of 10,000l. a year to her majesty, was not made in consequence of any expense which she incurred through her care of the king's person, but to defray the expense of travelling, to which she became liable, and for occasionally keeping a court at Buckingham-house, such expense having been liquidated from the funds of his majesty previous to his indisposition. That was the ground upon which the grant was made, as he distinctly recollected, and what he had lately read of the observations of Mr. Perceval on the discussion of the act to which he had referred, was confirmatory of his recollection upon the subject. Hence he concluded that the annuity of 10,000l. was not made to the queen for the care of the king's person, as had been lately assumed; consequently to state that this sum should be granted to the duke of York, upon the same ground that it was allowed to her majesty, implied a direct falsehood. He was therefore decidedly of opinion that such a clause ought not to be acceded to in the terms in which it stood at present. It would indeed be unbecoming the character of the House to adopt such a clause, because it was inconsistent with the truth. Upon what ground, then, could this grant be justified? It could not be pretended that the duke of York, through his appointment of custos regis, would have to incur more expense than that of paying for four horses to travel once a week to Windsor; and would it be maintained that the sum of 10,000l. a year was necessary for such a purpose? [Hear! hear!] With respect, to the argument, that a son should receive 10,000l. a year for taking care of a father, in the melancholy situation of the king, he could not help thinking it quite disgraceful to those who condescended to use it.—He had now to state that in which probably but few would agree with him. He was not of opinion that the duke of York was a proper person, much less, as had been alleged, the most proper person that could be chosen, for the care of the king's person; for, under the unfortunate circumstances in which his majesty was placed, the person appointed to such an office ought to be constantly resident at Windsor. But he remembered that this was an argument used by ministers, on the discussion of the last act for committing the care of his majesty's person to the queen, and that circumstance was universally deemed an additional reason for her majesty's appointment. On this ground then, he contended, that the care of his majesty's person should rather be confuted to some one who might reside at Windsor, which the duke of York could not possibly do, from the nature of his official engagements in town. But there were two of the princesses continually resident in the immediate vicinity of Windsor, and for that reason he should prefer the appointment of their royal highnesses for the care of his majesty's person. With that arrangement, it might be proper to appoint the duke of York as head of the council; but whether his royal highness were appointed head of the council or custos regis, it could never be patiently argued that he was entitled to an allowance of 10,000l. a year to liquidate any expenses which he might be really called upon to incur. At all events, he felt that the House should not adopt a clause which contained a palpable falsehood, and upon that ground he should move that this clause be expunged.

The Speaker

stated, that the question to be put was, "That the said clause stand part of the bill."

The hon. Mr. Lyttelton

observed, that the reception which the remarks of his noble friend had met with, and the little attention which ministers seemed disposed to show them, held out but a slender encouragement to him to address the House upon this occasion. But still he felt it his duty to say, that if the grant alluded to was made, it would be quite scandalous to vote that grant upon false pretences. To the grant itself he had strong objections, but he urged those objections with great pain, for although the case was stated to relate merely to the grant of a certain allowance to a public officer, it was still, in many respects a personal question, and upon such a question, every man must feel it painful to state an objection, especially where a member of the royal family was adverted to. But it was among the serious faults of the present administration, to make the members of the royal family the subject of discussion in that House, as well as out of doors, with respect to pecuniary questions. The conduct of those ministers during the last session, could not soon be forgotten, when they pressed such propositions as served to render that House popular, by opposing pecuniary grants to several members of the royal family, and such conduct could not easily be forgiven by the real friends of that illustrious family. But the duke of York, who was spared on that occasion, and whose character stood high in the country, notwithstanding a certain event, to which he did not mean particularly to advert, was in the present instance dragged forward by those ministers in a most exceptionable manner; for what could be more exceptionable than to propose a pecuniary grant to his royal highness upon false pretences. But nothing was more remarkable than the sophistries adduced in support of this grant. It was argued that it was essential to the maintenance of the dignity of the duke of York to annex 10,000l. a year to the office which he had undertaken; but, in the view of every unbiassed man in the country, it would be much more consistent with the maintenance of the dignity of his royal highness to accept that office without any salary whatever. But it was alleged that the grant under' consideration was necessary to defray the expense incident to the performance of an important public duty. Where, however, he would ask, was the proof of that necessity? The fact was, that the duke of York would have comparatively no expense to incur through the office alluded to. His royal highness was therefore, by this clause, to receive 10,000l. a year for nothing Yet it was seriously maintained by some gentlemen, that his royal highness was justly entitled to this grant in the way of remuneration. This, however, was not the real ground for pressing that grant. It was understood that the duke of York was greatly embarrassed in his circumstances. He believed that such was really the fact; and with all the respect and regard which he entertained for his royal highness, he, in the performance of his public duty, felt himself bound to declare, that this grant was really proposed with a view to relieve those embarrassments. Notwithstanding the manner in which the ostensible motive was urged, such, he was persuaded, was the true reason for this proposition. The embarrassments to which he referred were not, however, he believed, at all likely to be removed by the amount of this grant, while the expenditure which occasioned those embarrassments was still going on. He would ask the minister, indeed, whether he himself did not calculate upon the probability of being called upon to apply to that House for an advance of the public money to discharge the private debts of the duke of York; and, if so, with what grace could such an application be made, should this grant be voted? But this grant was, it appeared, to be made unconditionally; whereas, if an application were at once made to the House for an advance to pay the duke of York's private debts, such a proposition was not likely to be acceded to without some conditional arrangement, calculated to produce a reduction of the expense which called for the application, and thus to guard against the necessity of its repetition at any future period. Here, however, there was no idea of any such arrangement, and that formed another objection to the proposed grant. How lamentable, then, was the counsel under which this pecuniary measure was brought forward, referring, as it did, to the heir presumptive to the Crown, whose personal honour and public character should be peculiarly guarded. He did not mean to dwell upon the various resources of the duke of York, but those resources were notorious to the country, and especially his royal high- ness's enjoyment of the emoluments of an office which heretofore had very rarely existed in time of peace. There was another point to which he felt it necessary to advert particularly as the question before the House was connected with a pecuniary grant to the heir presumptive to the Crown. According to the doctrine recently maintained in that House, the privy purse of his majesty was a sacred fund, which ought not to be touched by parliament—which ought not to be available for any public service—which should, of course, be allowed to accumulate. Upon whom then, he would ask, was the surplus of that fund to devolve, but upon the duke of York or the Prince Regent? Was not this a consideration which should restrain ministers from pressing such a charge upon the public purse as that under discussion? But, to revert to the sophistries brought forward in support of this grant. Among others, the propriety of consulting the feelings of the king had been much dwelt upon, although it was obvious that his majesty's feelings had no concern whatever with the transaction. Yet upon this point a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel) had thought proper to quote the preamble of an old act of parliament, on which the right hon. gentleman descanted with great emphasis and elaborate eloquence. But, however, acceptable such eloquence might be at court or elsewhere, it could scarcely be supposed that it would have any weight in that House, or among impartial and dispassionate men any where. Still, a young hopeful statesman, who thought proper to discard the just claims of four or five millions of Catholics, perhaps because they were "mere Irish," conciliating thereby the favour of some English noblemen and gentlemen of high extraction, might deem it expedient to use such eloquence. But, with that House he trusted that no such eloquence would ever have weight. It was impossible, indeed, that eloquence of that character should ever have any such effect, if that House duly consulted the sentiments and feelings of the country. He hoped the House would reconsider what had been done, and regulate this grant to the duke of York; for if it was to be granted at all, it certainly ought not be granted in the manner proposed.

Mr. Protheroe

said, he had always felt great respect for the personal character of the duke of York; but he had felt as he had before expressed, that in a discus- sion of this kind the influence of his name and family had not been used with the utmost delicacy; it was a fair inference that ministers had impressed the mind of his royal highness with sentiments not congenial to it. He regretted that so painful a subject had been brought under discussion, and was convinced that it would have done much greater honour to ministers, if they had come down to the House with a statement, that, under existing circumstances, his royal highness, however just his claim, could not think of adding a new weight to the burdens of the people.

The question being put, "That the said Clause stand part of the Bill," the House divided: Ayes, 156; Noes 97.

List of the Minority.
Althorp, lord Lamb, hon. G.
Anson, hon. Geo. Lamb, hon. W.
Baring, Alex. Lloyd, J. M.
Barnett, James Maule, hon. W.
Benyon, Benj. Martin, J.
Bernal, Ralph Maxwell, John
Birch, Joseph Milbank, Mark
Brand, hon. T. Merest, J. W. D.
Brougham, H. Monck, sir C.
Burdett, sir F. Milton, lord
Bankes, H. Newport, sir J.
Calcraft, John North, Dudley
Clifford, capt. Newman, W. R.
Clifton, lord Onslow, A.
Coffin, sir I. Ord, Wm.
Colborne, N. R. Parnell, W.
Colclough, C. Philips, G. R.
Coke, T. Phillipps, C. M.
Curwen, J. C. Powlett, hon. Wm.
Crompton, Saml. Price, R.
Crawley, Saml. Pryse, P.
Carhampton, earl of Protheroe, Ed.
Davies, T. H. Ricardo, D.
Dickinson, Wm. Ramsden, J. C.
Dundas, hon. L. Rancliffe, lord
Dundas, Thos. Rickford, W.
Duncannon, lord Ridley, sir M. W.
Ellice, Edward Robarts, A.
Fane, John Robarts, W. T.
Fazakerley, Nic. Rowley, sir W.
Finlay, Kirkman Russell, lord, John.
Fleming, John Smyth, J. H.
Graham, J. R. G. Smith, hon. R.
Grenfell, Pascoe Smith, George
Griffith, J. W. Stanley, lord
Guise, sir W. Sefton, earl of
Hamilton, lord A. Tavistock, marq.
Harvey, D. W. Taylor, M. A.
Honywood, W. P. Taylor, C. V.
Hornby, Ed. Tremayne, J. H.
Hughes, W. L. Thorp, alderman
Hume, Jos. Tierney, right hon. G.
Hutchinson, hon. C. Waithman, alderman
Houldsworth, T. Whitbread, Wm.
Heygate, alderman Webb, Ed.
Wilkins, W. Wilberforce, Wm.
Wood, alderman White, Luke
Wilson, Thos. TELLERS.
Wilson, sir Robert Folkestone, viscount
Wynn, C. W. Lyttelton, hon. W.
Mr. Wynn

suggested, that there was a verbal inaccuracy in the preamble which ought to be corrected. The 10,000l. per annum was not granted for the care of the king's person, and it ought not to be so expressed.

Lord Castlereagh

thought the words employed unexceptionable: the same terms could not be applied to the queen and the duke of York; and if they were more general in the present instance, they were on that very account less liable to objection.

The bill was ordered to be read a third time on Monday.