HC Deb 03 July 1820 vol 2 cc143-53

The House having resolved itself into a committee on the King's Message,

Lord Castlereagh

said, that in calling the attention of the committee to the message of his majesty, he was happy to state that the votes, seven in number, which he had to propose, were such as would meet with the unanimous concurrence of the House. The votes were merely for a continuation of the allowances which had been made during the late reign to the brothers and sisters of his majesty, and the duke of Gloucester and the princess Sophia of Gloucester, and to place those illustrious personages in the same situation in which they stood previously to the demise of the Crown. He had no hesitation in saying, that under other circumstances than those in which the country now found itself, he might have felt it his duty to call the attention of the House to one or two of these allowances with a view to augmentation. The second resolution, which would be for the allowance to the duke of Clarence, would call to mind, that his royal highness was, with respect to that provision, in a situation inferior to that of his royal brother. He should not now enter into the merits of the decision of the House on a former occasion respecting those allowances, as the Crown had determined to propose no new grant whatever, though his royal highness had now 3,500l. less than his royal brother the duke of Cambridge. The House and the public would not fail to admire the domestic economy and privacy in which the duke of Clarence had lived, and which alone had enabled him to keep within the parliamentary provision. The duchess of Kent and the infant princess might be also thought to have claims on the justice of parliament; but he should not then propose any vote to them, and he would inform the House that there would be no inconvenience in this postponement, as the prince Leopold, with great liberality, had taken upon himself the charge of the support and education of the infant princess [hear, hear!], hoping, however, that this would be no bar to any claim she might have on the liberality of parliament on a future occasion. Without this liberal proceeding on the part of the prince Leopold, the provision of the duchess of Kent would have been found very limited. On opening the civil list, he had previously stated to the House, that he should have to call on parliament for 24,000l. to make provision for the servants of the late king. The estimates for this grant would be submitted to the House on Wednesday, and he should at this time shortly state the heads under which provision was to be made to that amount. It was not usual on the accession of a monarch to make any charge for the servants of the former king, as those servants generally continued on the royal establishment. From the peculiar circumstances which attended the formation of the Windsor establishment,—from his late majesty having in fact ceased to reign for some time before his demise, his present majesty had created a royal establishment long before his accession. In addition to the servants, in behalf of whom some allowance was called for, were some annual payments which had been made out of his late majesty's privy purse. The whole sum, which it was proposed to vote, was about 24,000l. Of this sum the allowances to the servants actually in the king's service at his death, would amount to 9,000l. The allowances to servants who had been previously superannuated from his majesty's household, to 4,500l. There were various small pensions charged on his late majesty's privy purse, which had been formerly examined by a committee up stairs, and had been charged on that privy purse by the advice of that committee. At the demise of her majesty, some of these charges yet continued. Several of the pensions were granted by the liberality of his majesty, and could form no claims on the public. Many of them, however, were of a class which called for the consideration of parliament. Of this class the majority were allowances to old servants. These charges on the privy purse, which it was now intended to make parliamentary provision for, amounted to 10,200l. Of this sum 8,000l. had been charged on his privy purse by the late king himself; 1,800l. by the late queen, while she presided over the Windsor establishment, and a few hundreds a year by the duke of York while he was custos. The persons to whom those payments were made could not be supposed to have a claim as of right on parliament, as the principle could not be admitted, that the charges on the sovereign's privy purse were to be made permanent on the public. Yet, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, as no danger existed of forming a precedent, he hoped the House would accede to the proposal. The noble lord concluded with moving, "That his majesty be enabled to grant a yearly sum of money, not exceeding 14,000l., out of the consolidated fund of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to his royal highness Frederick duke of York, from 5th July 1820."

Lord Archibald Hamilton

was extremely surprised that the noble lord had wholly omitted to mention any provision for the queen. He had, more than once, when the noble lord proposed motions to that House relative to the royal family, expressed his astonishment that he did not offer any proposition to parliament for a due provision for the queen. On one occasion the noble lord said, that when the time came for making a provision for the other branches of the royal family, he would then introduce the subject of a provision for the queen. He hoped he had not misunderstood the noble lord; but such he took to be the nature of his answer on that occasion. He now found that the noble lord had come down this day, and moved for certain provisions for the other branches of the royal family, without taking any notice whatsoever of her majesty. This was a matter of very great surprise to him, and, he apprehended, to many other members of that House. From the course pursued by the noble lord, it appeared to him that ministers did not mean to make any proposition to the House, on this subject, during the present session. If he were wrong on this point—if the noble lord would state, that in the course of a few days he meant to submit to the House a proposition relative to a provision for her majesty—he would sit down without making any further observation. He presumed, however, from the silence of the noble lord, that this would not be the case. He was so much surprised at the course the noble lord had taken, that he could not avoid expressing the feeling which at that moment impelled him to ask an explanation from the noble lord, whose conduct, he could not reconcile with his previous declaration. He conceived that it was peremptorily necessary for the House to ascertain immediately the situation in which the queen was now placed, and that in which she was likely to continue. At present, he believed, her majesty had no legal income whatsoever. What she might receive from his majesty's ministers was, in his opinion, illegally granted, and unduly made use of. He understood that her majesty had been told that she might continue to live at the rate of 35,000l. a year; but he, as a member of parliament, demanded, by what authority that money was advanced? by whom it was paid? and on what principle his majesty's ministers took upon themselves to make any part of the royal family their pensioners? In his apprehension this matter had little or no relation to the discussions that had been lately going on—discussions, the result of which was likely to be so calamitous. But if the members of that House sat there as guardians of the public purse, they were bound to demand explanation relative to all sums that appeared to them to be illegally and unconstitutionally granted. They ought to consult the welfare and dignity of the royal family; and as a member of parliament he felt that dignity to be wholly compromised, and the duty of ministers grossly neglected, if they allowed any portion of the royal family to be placed in the situation of pensioners on the existing government. No provision had been asked for the queen, which was the more extraordinary, because not a doubt could be entertained of the readiness of the House to provide for her majesty. He knew not in what situation her majesty would be placed at the expiration of this session; and it was the more necessary that a proper sum should be voted for her service, since, if the proceedings now in progress went on, she would have occasion for a much larger command of pecuniary resources than she possessed at present. It was one singular feature of this unfortunate and calamitous case, that, at a time when her majesty was labouring under accusation, she was not placed in a situation that commanded all the facilities necessary for her defence. She was not treated in that way which her dignity, her station in the country, and the circumstances under which she was called on to defend herself, ought to have secured. It was most ungenerous and most unjust to seize on the present moment, in order to deprive her of any provision which she might have formerly enjoyed. He could not point out to the House what precise course they ought to pursue; but he was sure they would not make themselves a party to the negative insult that had been offered to her majesty by the noble lord and his colleagues, by any contribution of the public money for the use of different branches of the royal family, all mention of the queen being omitted; still less did he believe that the public would tolerate the noble lord and his colleagues in retaining her majesty as a pensioner on their bounty, merely, as he understood, because it suited his majesty's ministers not to stir this important subject. He wished to avoid touching on any point connected with the existing investigation, which had nothing to do with an adequate provision for her majesty. The proper mode of proceeding would perhaps be, to move, in some period of the evening, that the chairman should leave the chair, report progress, and ask leave to sit again, for the purpose of giving his majesty's ministers time to repair the affront they had given to- the House of Commons, and to the dignity of the royal family. If he had said any thing harsh or severe, he could assure the House he did not intend it; but he felt that a great neglect had been shown towards her majesty, in not making for her that provision to which she was entitled—a proceeding which, he must observe, placed her majesty in such a situation as no member of the royal family ever was, or ever ought to be, placed in—a situation which no member of that House ought even for a moment to suffer He expected from the noble lord a plain answer on this subject; but unless he received such an answer, he would move-that the chairman do leave the chair, for the purpose of giving ministers an opportunity of considering the impropriety of their conduct, and also to enable the House to decide how far they would abet and sanction that impropriety.

Lord Castlereagh

said, he was sure that the surprise of the House would have been much greater than that expressed by the noble lord, if ministers had comedown and proposed a settlement for her majesty, considering the situation in which she at present stood. The noble lord had made three distinct charges against ministers—1st, they were charged with not providing funds sufficient to enable her majesty to enter on her defence; next, with having committed a breach of the law, in granting sums of money not sanctioned by parliament; and, lastly, with having neglected to make a proposition to parliament relative to a provision for her majesty, it having been notified that such a proposition would be submitted to the House. Now, with respect to any practical inconvenience connected with the first point, he could assure the House that every means had been taken to obviate it. Every care had been taken to prevent any personal inconvenience which might be likely to affect her majesty. Provision had been made to meet any particular expense which the queen might incur in consequence of the pending inquiry. That was a point which he could assure the noble lord had neither escaped the king, nor been lost sight of by his ministers. It had been specifically notified to her majesty that every means would be afforded to her for the defence of her character and conduct. Me therefore hoped that the House would not catch from the noble lord the insinuation, for he had not made it a matter of direct charge, that there was any desire on the part of his majesty's ministers to expose the queen to any inconvenience, or to abridge her comforts in any way whatsoever. With respect to the mode in which the allowance was granted to her majesty, the jealous feelings of the noble lord would be quieted if he took the trouble of reading the resolution which passed that House in the month of April last, which went to continue for a limited time certain grants that had been previously made, and which were chargeable on the consolidated fund. Of these grants, the sum annually paid to the queen was one. It would be quite time enough for the noble lord's constitutional jealousy to take the alarm, if, after the 5th of July, he discovered that any advance of this nature had been made by ministers. At present, ministers had shown as little inclination to interfere with the functions of parliament as to neglect the duties of humanity. As to what the noble lord said relative to what he had observed on a former occasion, he was ready to avow that at the time alluded to he contemplated, as the most proper moment for making a settlement on her majesty, the period when the grants to the other branches of the royal family were brought under the consideration of the House. He had studiously stated this point, because there was nothing at that period to prevent their proceeding on the same principles by which their vote would be guided with respect to the other branches of the royal family. This feeling he had entertained while any hope existed that her majesty would remain on the continent, and thus save the House the painful task of investigating her conduct. What had since occurred had materially altered the situation of affairs; and for his own part, he did not think that the queen had authorized the noble lord to introduce this subject, after the papers that had been laid on the table of the House Her majesty in one of those papers had plainly declared, that she would not have any thing to do with the pecuniary arrangement until the circumstances affecting her honour and character were disposed of. Besides, the noble lord ought to know that the House could not entertain a question of that description, viz., the making a settlement on the queen, without a message from the Crown. It was not for them to become initiative on a measure of this kind; and he would tell the noble lord, that in bringing it forward he was travelling out of his function as a member of parliament. It was not, he believed, very usual for the representatives of the people to be clamouring for the disposal of the public money. Neither did he think it was proper to enter into an inquiry as to the way in which the queen was to be provided for, until they saw the end of the pending investigation. He was the more astonished at the course adopted by the noble lord, because it was entirely contrary to the feeling of the noble lord's right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney). That right hon. gentleman had stated, that he would not vote a shilling of the public money to the queen, till the charges made against her were entirely cleared up. He had farther observed, that if even a rumour continued unexplained, he would not agree to any supply that might be proposed for her use So determined was that right hon. gentleman, that he would not even suffer rumours to pass by unnoticed. But the noble lord, rather unadvisedly he thought, was anxious, in the very midst of these delicate proceedings, that her majesty should be specially provided for. Under all the difficulties of this painful state of things it would be found that the Crown had taken the best care to relieve her majesty from any embarrassment in entering on her defence; and with respect to making a permanent provision for her, it would perhaps be as well to reserve that subject until the moment when the country understood how her conduct was regarded by parliament.

Lord A. Hamilton

observed, that the noble lord had treated him with much unfairness, and the House with still more. In the first place, every gentleman would do him the justice to acknowledge his having stated in the outset, that if the noble lord meant, in the present session, to move for an allowance to her majesty, he would say nothing more on the subject. The noble lord, however, had told them that her majesty had been provided for until the 5th of July. He would now ask the noble lord how her majesty was to be provided for after that period? and in answer to the triumph of the noble lord, he would observe, that, had he postponed the statement which he had that night submitted to the House until the clay after to-morrow, the noble lord would not have had the opportunity of repelling it as he had done. The course the noble lord had taken was another proof of the extreme unfairness that pervaded the whole of his conduct on this occasion. He would demand whether any perversion of reasoning could he greater than to argue that because her majesty thought proper (most honourably as he conceived) to exclude all pecuniary considerations from the negotiation between her law-advisers and ministers, therefore the noble lord's humanity and that of his colleagues should lead them rather to continue her a pensioner on their bounty than a plain and direct applicant to that House. He could not imagine any thing more unfair in argument than that. He did not wish to follow this subject farther; but his opinion was, that the line of conduct pursued by the noble lord was neither suited to the dignity of the royal family nor creditable to the character of parliament. The noble lord ought to know that, by the law of this country, every individual against whom charges were made was, pending trial, deemed to be innocent.

Mr. Tierney

said, it was perfectly true, that he did state that he would not agree to any permanent vote for her majesty, until the charges alleged against her were cleared up. When her majesty's name was omitted in the Liturgy, he had declared that if her conduct was such as to justify that measure, he would vote against any grant that should be proposed. He was a little surprised, however, at the course the noble lord was now pursuing, because, if he understood him correctly, he had stated that he would, whenever the provision for the royal family was brought before the House, take some notice of her majesty's situation. It appeared to him that her majesty was treated in the most extraordinary way, no provision of any kind having been made for her. The noble lord had stated very truly, that no member of that House could bring such a question forward of his own motion, but that it must be done by a message from the Crown. He knew that there must be a message on the subject; but he supposed no intention existed to make the necessary provision for her majesty [Lord Castlereagh here intimated across the table that such an intention did exist]. He was very happy to find that a proper sum of money would be allowed to her majesty, as he understood, for the ensuing quarter, and he was also glad to learn from the noble lord, that a sufficient provision would be made for her majesty, to enable her to conduct her defence. This had not been the customary mode of proceeding. It was usual for parliament to defray the amount of the charges after they had been incurred. So long, however, as the queen was provided with the means of entering on her defence, he cared not whether they were granted before or after that defence was made. It ought to be recollected, however, that the queen had been allowed 35,000l. a year as Princess of Wales, she having at the time a royal palace to live in. Was it not, then, a fair matter of consideration whether the same sum would now be sufficient, her majesty having to provide herself with a House? He had little more to observe with reference to these votes, because the whole of them would be brought before the House in a more formal shape on Wednesday. It was true that the duke of Clarence was in a worse situation than any of his royal brothers. On his marriage 10,000l. had been proposed for him, but only a sum of 6,000l. was voted, which, he knew not by whose advice, he had declined accepting. From his independent conduct on that occasion, and his having thrown himself openly on the feelings of the people, he appeared to him to be worthy of the additional vote that was about to be proposed.

Lord Castlereagh

observed, that provision would not only be made for the usual support of her majesty, but that a sum would also be granted to meet any expenses that might arise during the pending investigation. Her majesty was provided for by the vote of that House up to the 5th of July, and it would be time enough for the noble lord to complain when he found ministers disbursing the public money without any legal authority.

Mr. Denman

wished to observe, that this question was brought before the committee, without her majesty's knowledge. She had given no directions whatsoever on the subject; she had no possible doubt that all necessary means for defending her rights and asserting her character would be afforded her from some quarter or other. It was, however, fit that the House should understand that the expenses would necessarily be very considerable. There was, however, another object much nearer to her heart than that of expense; it was the dread lest the interference of foreign powers should prevent her from having the benefit of those witnesses who were necessary to her exculpation. She feared that certain foreign powers, particularly Austria, which had been exceedingly active in her persecution, would deprive her of those individuals without whom her justification would be incomplete. When she was, at last, accused before a public tribunal, whatever the decision of that tribunal might be, she called for a fair opportunity to sustain her character, and with that view she demanded that all difficulties and obstacles should be removed.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that on the part of the Crown every thing would be done to facilitate her majesty's proceedings; and, with respect to the foreign powers, they would, he conceived, feel it to be a point of character to give her every assistance in their power.

The several resolutions were agreed to.