HC Deb 09 June 1823 vol 9 cc828-31

On the question being put, "That the Speaker do now leave the chair,"

Mr. Hume

said, he took the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of the House to a transaction of an extraordinary nature, and which demanded inquiry. He alluded to the Expenses of the Coronation. An estimate of those expenses had been laid before the House, and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, that the amount would not exceed 100,000l. but the account now brought in was upwards of 238,000l. was the estimate, then, a fair or an honest one? Some of the items were disgraceful in the highest degree, and the House ought not to vote a shilling until an inquiry had been, instituted. The House had taken the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1820 as a correct one, but, it had been so extravagantly exceeded as to make the estimate appear a gross, delusion, and certainly as long as estimates were managed on that principle, they would be a mere farce. Another Strong ground of complaint was, that, the additional 138,000l. was supplied out of the French Indemnity Claims of 1815; and he should like to know what right government had to apply a single shilling of that money, which had not been appropriated to that purpose by a distinct vote of the House. Some of the item of the estimate were enormous. There was 111, 000l. for the furnishing and decoration of Westminster Abbey and Westminster Haft; Why, any minister, however weak, must know that was a most extravagant charge. Then there was 24,700l. to the master of the robes, for a robe for his Majesty. If his Majesty had been clothed in gold; it was scarcely possible that such a' sum could be expended. How could ministers reduce clerks with small establishments, and establish checks to minute details of expenditure, while they consented to so profuse an expenditure intone item alone? Then there was a charge for a diamond crown. He understood that that bauble had been got up by a jeweller in the year 1819, and that it had been kept on hire at an expense of 8,000l.or 9,000l. a year. Was it possible to conceive a greater waste of the public money? Then came 50,000l. to the surveyor-general of the works for fitting up Westminster Abbey and Hall. When the gaudy and tinsel-like manner in which they had been fitted up was remembered, it was evidently impossible that so much money could have been expended on them. A variety of items followed. One of them, although small in amount, might well have been spared. It was the sum of 3,000l. to sir George' Naylor, towards making public the ceremonial. Now really the account of the ceremony might have been left to be handed down by the historian. To apply a sum of the public money to such a purpose as wasteful as it was ostentatious. In the whole affair, his Majesty's government had acted 'with bad faith. They must perfectly well know, that, if they had originally proposed a grant of 238,000l. such a vote would never have been agreed to. Then came the consideration of the manner in which the 138,000l. that had not been voted, had been paid. In taking money for that purpose which had not been voted, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had violated a resolution of that House; for any appropriation of the public money by his Majesty's government without a previous Appropriation-bill, was, if not a misdemeanor, a high disrespect towards the House; He would therefore move as an amendment. That, as the amount of 238,000l. for the expense of his Majesty's Coronation, as stated in an account late laid before Parliament, so greatly exceeds the estimate of 100,000l., submitted to this House in 1820, it is expedient, before granting any further Supply to his Majesty, to appoint a Select Committee, to inquire into the circumstances which have occasioned that excess of charge, and into the several items constituting that, charge, and also to inquire by what authority the sum, of 138,238l. has been applied to discharge the Coronation expenses without the previous sanction of this House."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the hon. gentleman ought not to be surprised that the actual expense of the coronation had exceeded the estimate of 1820, when it was recollected, that that estimate was founded on the supposition that the ceremony was to take place in that year; and that a considerable prior expense had been incurred in consequence. When, however, his majesty was advised to postpone the ceremony until the next year, that expense was of course lost. It was clear, therefore, that 100,Q00l. would not cover the whole expenditure. With respect to the particular items of charge, as the hon. gentleman had given, him no notice, he was not prepared to explain them. But, as to the fund put of which the expenses had been defrayed, the hon. gentleman was under a mistake. The hon. gentleman supposed that they had been defrayed out of the surplus of. Contingency which had been paid by the French. Now, that surplus had never; been appropriated by any vote of the House. It was, therefore, evidently competent to the Crown to apply the money to the purposes of the coronation.

Mr. Bennet

characterised the whole charge of the coronation as a most wicked expenditure of the public money.

Mr. Curwen

said, he should vote against the amendment, as it did not appear that any public money had been mis-appropriated by the Crown.

Mr. Brougham

hoped his hon. friend would persevere in his amendment. Under any circumstances, an inquiry by a committee into the authority by which, the appropriation was made could, not be injurious. With respect to the items Of the charges, some of them were scandalously enormous. The country ought not to be insulted by such an expenditure as 24,000l. merely for a robe for his majesty.

Mr. Bright

protested against the appropriation by the Crown of any portion of the public money without the previous sanction of that House.

Mr. Hobhouse

supported the amend- ment. Adverting to the enormous fees which, on the demise of the Crown, resulted from the formal ire-appointment of individuals to places they already held, he trusted that a bill would speedily be brought in, to prevent such a practice in future.

The House divided: for the Amendment 65; against it 119.