HC Deb 05 July 1820 vol 2 cc223-9

The House having resolved itself into a committee of Supply,

Lord Castlereagh

stated, that when he yesterday submitted to the House a resolution founded upon the king's message, relative to a provision being made by parliament for the other branches of the royal family, he had stated the general nature of the resolutions which he should this evening have the honour to propose to their notice. This would render it unnecessary for him to do any thing more than repeat the general principles upon which it was founded. The House were already aware that upon the demise of the queen a reduction of nearly 180,000l. immediately took place in the annual expenditure of the country; but that the saving really gained to the public did not amount to more than 160,000l., owing to the House thinking it proper that a provision, amounting to 18,000l. ought to be made for the menial servants who had been in the employment of her majesty. The saving of this sum was certainly of great advantage to the country; but as a set-off against it he must now propose that 24,000l. be granted to his majesty to enable him to provide for the servants of his late father. The House might, perhaps, be aware, that there was no precedent to sanction such a grant to the servants of a deceased king, though such a provision had been made for the servants of a deceased queen, after the demise of queen Mary, queen Anne, queen Caroline, and the dowager princess of Wales. To the servants of queen Mary a grant of 24,000l. had been made; but the provisions for the servants of her late majesty had been made upon a much more narrow and confined scale, no pensions being asked for her state officers, but only for her menial servants, though in former cases it had always been usual to grant them for life to both descriptions of persons. The House would also perceive that one reason why grants of this nature had never been made on any previous occasion to the servants of a deceased king was, that his successor, having his establishment to form, had it in his power to retain in his service those who had been in the service of his predecessor, and that in consequence of that circumstance it was not requisite to call upon parliament to make any provision for them. At present, however, the case was otherwise. His present majesty had had, for many years before he acceded to the throne, a regular establishment, which rendered it impossible for him to continue in his service those who had been in the service of his father, unless indeed he discarded some of those who had served him faithfully; and therefore it became necessary for the ministers of the Crown to apply to the liberality of parliament. This they now did, not in behalf of his late majesty's state officers, but in behalf of those who had attended him in a menial capacity. Of these there were four classes. The the first of these, which consisted of servants who were actually in the king's service at the time of his death, and had been so for many years previously, he should propose that a grant of 9,519l. should be made. To the second of them, which consisted of servants on the Windsor establishment, discontinued, on the reduction of that establishment some few years ago, he should propose that a sum not exceeding 4,100l. should be granted. The individuals who composed this class had, in consequence of the reduction to which he had just alluded, been provided for out of the privy purse of his late majesty; but gentlemen would recollect, that the salaries which were received out of it would naturally be discontinued as soon as that privy purse ceased to exist. To the third of them, which consisted of persons who had received pensions from his majesty's privy purse, he should propose that 10,500l. should be granted. He could assure the House, that of this sum 8,000l. had been granted by his late majesty out of his privy-purse previously to his lamented illness; and the persons who shared it among them might therefore be supposed to have? claims upon his favour and bounty, either as old and valued servants, as men of letters, or for various other causes which it was not necessary for him then to enumerate. All such salaries, allowances, and pensions, had not been brought before the notice of parliament, as it was clear that some of them had only been granted during his majesty's life, and therefore must naturally cease with it. It was only intended to continue these allowances to those who appeared to have the best claim to them. The fourth class consisted of persons who had only been a short time in his late majesty's service, and to whom it was proposed that one year's salary should be continued upon the discontinuance of their employment For these he should demand a grant of 403l. The whole sum which he called upon parliament to grant was 24,000l. The House ought to avail themselves of every opportunity which occurred of showing their reverence for his late majesty, and he thought that they could not have a more favourable opportunity than the present for doing so. He therefore trusted that the House would evince their liberality by supporting the grant which ministers felt it their duty to propose to its consideration, in order to provide for the late servants of his majesty.

Mr. Bankes

observed, that if the House consented to grant these sums in their present shape, they would establish a precedent which would lead them an indefinite length in the way of example on every demise of the Crown. Though unwilling to object to the whole of the resolutions, he could not bring himself to vote for them as they stood at present, for many reasons:—first of all, because he found that a proper scale of compensation had not been adopted in the provision proposed, a person of 35 years of age being often placed in the same situation as a person of 65 years, who had spent half his life in his majesty's service: secondly, because many of the individuals to whom he alluded were not retiring on half pay, but were receiving their full salaries and allowances when they were performing no services, and were thus adding an additional and unexpected burden to those which already pressed upon the country: thirdly, because they were able to discharge other offices, and thus might be provided for in another manner. Indeed, he could not help observing that until the present time no one had ever beard of these charges on the privy purse. Why, then, might they not be continued on it, or why might they not be transferred to the pension-list? Besides, there were large savings out of the privy purse of his late majesty, and those savings were, he understood, in the absolute disposal of the Crown; why, then, might not the grants which parliament was called upon to supply be furnished out of those savings? If it should be deemed inexpedient to supply them in that manner, and if parliament should decide that they should come from the pockets of the public, he trusted that ministers would, as the lives on the pension lists of England, Scotland, and Ireland respectively fell in, place the individuals for whom it was now proposed to provide by those grants upon them, and would not, by rendering these grants annual create as it were a fourth pension-list. He thought these resolutions ought to be postponed, in order to their being further considered; and he would therefore advise his noble friend either to refer them to a committee, or else to reconsider them with his colleagues. He had no wish to press economy to an extreme; but extravagance, in the present state of the country, ought by no means to be tolerated, especially as one act of extravagance was now-a-days generally made a precedent for another.

Mr. Hume

said, the noble lord had Stated that there was no precedent for continuing the salaries and pensions to the servants of the king after the death of their illustrious master; and yet he had called upon the House to imitate the precedent of 1819, which he had defended by three others, and from which it appeared that it was usual to continue such salaries to the servants of a deceased queen. He also called upon the House to imitate it: for they would recollect that a committee had then sat and had recommended the scale of pensions which the House had afterwards adopted. If the noble lord would look to one of the documents then presented to the House, he would see that the committee had stated, that there were two classes of servants to be rewarded. In the first class no individual was admitted who had not been in the service of her majesty for 8 years at least. The salaries of the servants in this class amounted to 5,721l., and the pensions granted to them to 4,100l.; so that there was a difference of full 20 per cent between the salaries enjoyed and the pensions granted. The first case upon which he cast his eye was one in which the person enjoyed a salary of 183l., and had only a pension of 164l.: the next was one in which the salary was 377l., the pension only 300l. But, in the present case, the noble lord proposed pensions equal to the whole salaries, though the committee had recommended that not more than one-fourth of the nett salary, discarding all allowances, should be paid to any servant in the way of pension. If the noble lord thought the precedent of 1819 so worthy of imitation, why did he not recommend the same scale of reduction as was then adopted, and continue consistent to his own precedents? The committee of that day had recommended that only 4-5ths of their salary should be granted as pensions to those who had been in her late majesty's service for a less period than eight years; but in looking into the present estimates, he saw that one individual who had only been two years in his majesty's service, and who was only 22 years of age, and another who had been only one year in his service, and was 28 years of age, were presented with their whole wages, 16 guineas, as a pension for life. Now he would ask the House, if an individual who had been only two years in his majesty's service, and was only 22 years of age, was entitled to the whole of his wages as a pension for life, what ought an individual belonging to the first class of persons mentioned by the noble lord, as between 60 and 70 years of age, to receive as a reward for his services? The present was a question of great importance, and he could wish it to be postponed to a future day. If ministers should persevere in pressing this vote through the House, he should certainly feel it to be his duty to move, that the pensions should be reduced upon the same scale as was applied in 1819, and that the persons who enjoyed them should be placed upon one of the pension lists, as regularly as the lives of those now upon it fell in.

Mr. W. Smith

was extremely happy to hear that it was not the intention of ministers to grant any pensions to the great officers of state, as he had long thought that the great chamberlains, &c. about the court might be well content with the dignity which they enjoyed, without debasing it by receiving a-salary. Among the names of those who had received pensions out of the privy purse, he found those of Sir W. Herschel and Miss Herschel, for400l. There was not a man in the House who did not think that that pension had been most worthily earned—that it did the highest honour both to the head and heart of his late majesty, and that it ought, on every consideration, to be continued. But was it right that the claim of Sir W. Herschel, a gentleman 85 years of age, to the bounty of the nation, should be placed on a level with those of sundry musicians, only 45 years of age—respectable men in their situation in life he had little doubt—who were to be presented, according to the estimates, with 130l. a year for life? There was one circumstance which he could not refrain from bringing before the House. He had been told, that West, who was equally illustrious in his department of science as Herschel was in that over which he presided, had been presented with a pension by his majesty, and that that pension, on the demise of his majesty, had been stopped immediately, and without any notice. If the rumour was not true, he should like to hear it contradicted, because as West before his death was in want of assistance, it ought not to have been denied him. He thought that there was great weight in what had fallen from the hon. member for Corfe-Castle, about applying the savings of the privy purse to a provision for the servants of his late majesty. He could not agree to the resolution now proposed, as it was inconsistent with precedent, and economy.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that, with a limited pension-list, however much it was to be regretted, it was still evident that circumstances would arise which rendered an application to the liberality of parliament absolutely necessary. He thought the circumstances of the present case fully justified him in appealing to it, notwithstanding the objection by which he had been met, that if this precedent were established, others would be defended upon it He could not see into futurity; but as the present circumstances were so very extraordinary, he thought it would be still more extraordinary if similar circumstances should again occur. In proposing the present pensions, they had by no means continued the late salaries, because the persons who held them had along with them board wages, and many other emoluments. The pages of the back stairs were particularly entitled to the pensions which it was proposed to grant, as they had been employed about the person of his late majesty till his demise, and, to their honour be it spoken, no anecdotes derogatory to his dignity or painful to public feeling had escaped to the public. With regard to the late Mr. West, he was not a pensioner on the Crown, but a repairer of his majesty's pictures under the lord chamberlain, and received his salary from the lord chamberlain's office.

Mr. Williams

enforced Mr. Hume's view of the proposed grants, thinking that according to the precedent referred to by the noble lord, they ought to be reduced at least one-fifth.

Mr. Huskisson

stated, that according to the recommendation of a committee upon the subject, there was a compensation granted to the queen's servants in lieu of perquisites, in addition to the vote alluded to by the hon member for Aberdeen, and therefore that hon. member's comparison was erroneous. With regard to Mr. West, he was enabled to say not only that the allowance from the lord chamberlain's department was continued to that illustrious artist to the end of his life, but to add, that Mr. West received 1,000l. a year from the privy purse of his majesty, with a view to encourage the arts, and that the whole of the sum thus granted by his majesty, whose patronage of the arts was proverbial, amounted to no less than 40,000l.

The several resolutions were agreed to.

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