HC Deb 16 March 1827 vol 16 cc1236-47
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

moved the order of the day for the House resolving itself into a committee on the Duke and Duchess of Clarence's Annuity bill.

Mr. J. Martin

said, he would avail himself of the present opportunity to put a question to the right non. gentleman, and which, he trusted, he would have no objection to answer. The feelings of the country were more acutely alive to the grants to the royal family, than ministers seemed to be aware of. It might be in the recollection of the House, that, in the year 1825, a bill had been introduced, granting an additional allowance of 6000l. per annum to his royal highness, the duke of Cumberland. The pretence made by ministers for proposing such a grant, was the education of his royal highness's son. The vote excited very strong feelings amongst every class of the population, and it even roused such a spirit of opposition within the walls of that House, as induced ministers to reconcile members to the grant, by inserting a clause in the bill, that it was highly expedient that the young prince should be educated in this country, and that the payment of the money should be made only during his residence in England; unless he was permitted by his majesty to reside abroad. His present object was, to ask the right hon. gentleman, whether the 6,000l. in question had been paid to his royal highness; whether the young prince had been resident in this country; and, if he had not, at what period, and upon what grounds, the privilege of his majesty's licence to absent himself had been granted? He wished also to know upon what grounds ministers had been induced to recommend such a measure to his majesty? If it appeared that his royal highness had pocketed the 6,000l. a-year, and had never set foot in this country, the House had been most grossly deluded, and the country imposed upon.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he was extremely happy, in the prospect of having the vote of the hon. member; as he had given him to understand, that, according to the answer which he received to his question, he should be influenced in voting upon the grant to be brought forward that evening. The hon. member doubtless expected, that, in point of fact, his royal highness the duke of Cumberland had been in the receipt of the 6,000l. granted to him under certain conditions; that he had pocketed the money, and that the conditions had not been fulfilled. Now, so far from this having been the case, he could assure the hon. member, that his royal highness had not received one single sixpence of the grant.

Mr. J. Martin

said, it was most singular that ministers should intrude such an objectionable measure upon the public, if the sequel proved that even the royal duke did not conceive the grant necessary, and had consequently neglected to receive it.

With respect to the fact, he could only say, that his royal highness's allowance from the public had, previously to the grant in question, been 18,000l. a-year. He had found the sum charged as the allowance to his royal highness for the half year ending the 5th of Jan. 1825, to be 12,000l.; which he had supposed included a payment on account of the latter grant.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the charge had been made in the account, as his royal highness might have demanded it, and might have complied with the prescribed conditions; but his majesty had not thought fit that the young prince should be brought into this country, and consequently the money had not been paid.

Mr. Hume

said, that if the government accounts and statements were made up properly, such misconceptions could not take place; members would not be misled into such errors; and all such questions and explanations would be avoided. With respect to the vote which ministers were about to propose, as he could not move that the subject should be taken into consideration that day six months, he would certainly oppose the Speaker's leaving the chair. He was most anxious to do this, because he had lately presented petitions from the working classes, setting forth their great distress, and praying most urgently for relief, in order to save them from starving. A statement had just been sent to him of the enormous sums taken from the people in support of the royal family. By this account it appeared, that the expenses of the royal family, exclusive of 1,057,000l. for the civil list, amounted to 250,000l. per annum, and that that sum would maintain thirty-four thousand families for a year; and further, that the 9,000l. proposed for the duke of Clarence, amounted to no less than the full yearly wages for one thousand two hundred persons. Now, when it was admitted on all hands, that the country was in so distressed a situation, could the House reconcile it to itself, with such petitions before them, to grant such a sum out of the pockets of the people? No man, with the proper feelings of an Englishman, could, he thought, consent to receive such a sum under such circumstances. It was said, that comparisons were odious, but, when we saw millions in a state of starvation; when, in answer to their demand for bread, ministers gave them stones, or what came to the same thing, when they were denied relief—was it not too much to add to that denial a grant of 9,000l. to one of the royal family, who already received not less than 33,000l. a-year? The House would, he thought, lose the confidence and respect of the people, if they consented to such an expenditure in the present state of our finances; and protesting as he did against it as a waste of the public money, he should oppose the Speaker's leaving the chair.

Mr. Maberly

said, he was anxious to offer a few words on this subject, as an erroneous opinion had gone abroad, as to the part which he had taken in a former discussion. He entirely approved of the vote; and he thought that, in a country which adoped the monarchical principle, an adequate provision should be made for the illustrious individual who stood next in presumptive succession to the throne. The late heir presumptive, had got involved in debts; and he thought that a liberal provision should be made, in order to keep the present heir from the same necessity. The sum now proposed, was, he thought, not more than was necessary to keep the royal duke in that splendour which became his rank. He gave his hon. friend credit for a desire to introduce economy and retrenchment; but he thought it was not quite fair to urge the distress of particular classes of the people, as an argument against such a grant as the present. He was as anxious to relieve the existing distresses, and had gone as far, by his votes in that House, to relieve them by economy, as any other member, but he did not think he acted inconsistently, in supporting this motion.

Mr. Tennyson

regretted extremely that, upon every occasion when an increase of income became necessary for a branch of the royal family, these discussions should be provoked. It was inexpedient that the individuals of that family should thus be exposed in detail to the reflections cast upon them in the public journals, and in parliament, as persons who were inconsiderately and continually drawing upon the impoverished resources of the country. But, it was unjust as well as inexpedient. The royal family were brought to this country under circumstances of peculiar interest to the liberties and happiness of the people, and were thrown upon its liberality for a fit provision, he thought, therefore, it was its duty, as well as its interest, to establish some fixed scale by which that provision might be regulated, so that each member of the family should be enabled duly to occupy the station he was called upon to fill, and not be left to the alternative of encountering all the calumnies which these applications generated,—or of remaining exposed to the continual taxes upon his benevolence which his station brought upon him, with insufficient means.

Besides, when these questions were thus, from time to time, brought forward, members of parliament could scarcely avoid being unduly influenced by private or political bias. They ought only to consider the relative position of the prince in question in each case:—and thus in every instance, a general regulation would settle the matter. In that before the House, his (Mr. T.'s) vote would be governed by the principle on which the chancellor of the Exchequer had brought forward this proposition; namely, a due regard to the position now occupied by the duke of Clarence. He regretted, with his hon. friend the member for Aberdeen, that this grant became necessary at a period of public distress; but it could not in any case be contended, that the trifling addition to his royal highness's income, proposed, could sensibly increase that distress; and in this instance, it could not be said, with any degree of propriety; for the addition of 9,000l. per annum would be paid out of an annual saving of 14,000l., created by the lamented death of the duke of York,—leaving a surplus of 5,000l. a year in favour of the country. To this might be added the further saving of the salary belonging to the master of the Ordnance, which, by the liberality of the duke of Wellington, had been given up on the union of the two offices, when his grace became commander in chief. Thus, there would be a total saving of 7 or 8,000l. a year.

But, what he wished to suggest was, the expediency and justice of settling those payments to the royal family by an act of parliament, which, by the nature of its provision, should, in this respect, from time to time, regulate the Civil List. Suitable incomes might thus be assigned to an heir apparent, an heir presumptive, or a junior branch, with proportionate increases if married, and in case of issue—so as to render the individuals of the family equally independent, at twenty-one years of age, of the Crown and the ministry, as of parliament. It might be the policy of the country to keep the royal family, to a certain degree, dependent on parliament for their provision; but it was ungenerous, and, to say the least of it, needless, to exercise it in such minute detail. It was right and useful to assert and act upon this policy from time to time—at the beginning of a reign—by regulating the Civil List, and by other occasional means; but it should not be allowed to inflict continual mortification and injury on individual members of the family, as it now did. They ought not to be left, as now, necessarily dependent on the will of an administration; and he should suppose that a liberal-minded administration would be gladly relieved from the painful task of constantly bringing forward these questions.

Besides, the government had not always acted properly in these cases, towards the royal family, but had been influenced by private and political motives. When the late persecuted queen Caroline came to this country, the government had refused her an income, until the people were almost ready to demand it with arms in their hands. He would, instance, also, his royal highness the duke of Sussex, who had received no allowance whatever until he was nearly thirty years of age, notoriously because his political sentiments were unpalatable to the ministry of that day. But the same government placed his royal highness in situations where, in the season of youth, he was likely to contract, and did in fact contract, considerable debt; which, when, long afterwards, an income was tardily assigned to him, was left to burthen him. But with that honourable feeling, which ever characterized his royal highness, he had set aside 9,000l. a year to discharge this debt. That fund had for several years, so operated that within three or four years from the present time, the debt would be paid. But, up to the present period, this charge, and the provision he had to make for a lady of high rank, with whom in early life, he had contracted a marriage (which the Royal Marriage act precluded from recognition), as well as for the issue of that marriage, had reduced his income to about 6,000l. a year; while the marriages of the other princes had procured them, from parliament, augmentations of annual revenue. Yet, with these restricted means, and without any professional income, which all the other princes had, his royal highness had aided and patronized those useful and benevolent institutions, which tended to advance the happiness of mankind and the domestic interests of the country, in a manner quite unexampled here or elsewhere.

There was an idea that the Royal Family derived some income from Hanover. What his majesty might receive he did not pretend to say. Perhaps nothing. But, with the exception of a small provision for the princesses upon their marriage, he could state positively, that the junior branches received no income or emolument whatever from that quarter. The grant now asked for on behalf of the duke of Clarence was a fair example of the inconvenience of the present practice. His royal highness was heir presumptive to the Throne, and much more clearly and practically so, than the duke of York was, until the last few years of his life. Yet the duke of Clarence was held up to public animadversion on account of the proposition now brought forward, although it seemed that his royal highness was not party to it, or even knew that it was to be made on his behalf,—and, although, if it be acceded to, he will not have a greater income than the duke of York was allowed thirty or forty years ago, when his position as heir presumptive was little more than nominal. His late royal highness had also a very large professional income, while the duke of Clarence had a very small one. He would now be exposed to considerable demands for the exercise of patronage and benevolence; and it was, on public grounds, desirable that he should be enabled to maintain in those respects, the character which should belong to an illustrious individual so circumstanced. The nation was interested in maintaining the royal family in a manner to enable the individuals composing it, if they were so inclined, to engage and attract, by their beneficence, the just affection of the people; especially in the case of one occupying the prominent position of the duke of Clarence. Upon these grounds, on a consideration, also,-that the value of money was materially diminished since the grant to the duke of York, and that upon the whole result there was a saving to the country, the hon. gentleman said, he felt that he could not, conscientiously or decently, vote against the grant now proposed for the duke of Clarence.

Mr. Pendarvis,

member for Cornwall, said, that, as he was not present on the last occasion when this subject was before the House, he would take the present opportunity of opposing the vote, as a most indecent, a most wasteful, and a most profligate expenditure of the public money. The House should recollect, that when the sums now paid to the several members of the royal family were voted, the state of our paper currency had rendered them much less in real, than they were in nominal, amount; but now that the currency was restored to a proper standard, those sums were much beyond, in actual value, what would have been voted if the state of the currency had been the same as it was at this day. He thought, therefore, that, if any alteration were made in the grants, it should be that of decrease rather than increase. He wished that royalty should be surrounded with proper splendor; but, at a period when our manufacturers were in a state of distress, and our agriculturists fearful of becoming so too, he thought it would been more becoming not to have proposed this grant. He would not oppose the Speaker's leaving the chair, but felt it his duty to give his opinion, which was also that of his constituents.

Mr. W. Smith

said, that an hon. member had expressed his belief, that his royal highness would secure to himself the respect and affection of the country from his mode of expending such grants. This sentiment, however, involved a most enormous mistake. He not only thought it would have been more consistent with good taste not to have brought forward this motion, but he very much lamented that any such sentiment should ever have been uttered. He lamented that any minister should endeavour to infuse into any branch of the royal family an opinion that he would not derive a much greater share of the respect and affection of the people of England, by refusing such a grant, than from any mode of expending it whatever. The virtue that secured respect to princes was a consideration for the distresses of the people. It was true that the 9,000l. per annum, divided amongst the starving population would be nothing. If that were any argument for taking such a sum out of their pockets, the broad principle would be established, that the more numerous were the miserable, the greater was the sum you could extort from them. He, however, objected to the grant upon theory, rather than upon practice. Were the sum ever so small, it was a cruel mockery to demand it of the country, when such a mass of its population were on the verge of starvation. He sincerely wished that his royal highness had somebody about him who dared to speak to him the language of common sense and of common honesty. He wished his royal highness possessed a faithful counsellor, who would prevail upon him to send a message to the House, expressive of gratitude for the generous intentions of the Commons, and of his resolution to refuse the grant. In the eyes of the whole nation, his royal highness would then stand upon more exalted ground, than if he were to receive ten times the sum in the best manner that parliament, or rather ministers, could give it. Neither the credit, the honour, nor the respect of the royal family, depended on what was vulgarly called its splendor. It would be magnanimity, it would be real and lasting glory in his royal highness to refuse what the ministers had not the virtue to withhold.

Mr. Leycester

acknowledged that the distress in the manufacturing districts was great; and if he thought the present grant would take one farthing more from the pockets of the manufacturing population, he would oppose it. But he feared no such result. From whence were the 9,000l. to be taken? From the sinking fund. And was it not better that that sum should go to his royal highness, by whom a part of it would be spent in charity, and the remainder in the purchase of articles of British manufacture, than that it should be devoted to purposes from which the people would gain no advantage? He thought the grant could be justified; first by the situation, and next by the conduct of the duke of Clarence. By his situation; because, though he was not what was, technically speaking, the heir apparent, yet he approached so near to the throne, that he could be considered in no other light. By his conduct he was intitled; and this grant was, in reality, but a proper tribute of respect from the people towards his royal highness, and an expression of their approbation of his conduct. He spoke of the conduct of his royal highness; because he was not one of those who were of opinion, that the conduct of princes was not a matter to be brought into discussions of this nature.

Mr. Monck

thought, that if his hon. friend had proved any thing, he had proved too much; since, if the grant of 9,000l. per annum would be a benefit to the people, the amount of that benefit would be proportionably increased by a grant of 90,000l. For himself, he thought the present grant stood without foundation and support. The present question was not, whether the country could pay this additional sum, but whether necessity required it to be granted; and in this opinion he but adopted the sentiments of Mr. Plunkett, who, in the year 1818, before he was Attorney-general for Ireland, opposed a grant of a similar nature, and stated at the time, that his opposition was not founded upon any question as to the power of the country, but upon his conviction that the grant was not necessary. He now called on that learned gentleman to preserve his consistency, and to oppose the present grant. He thought this grant unconstitutional, and should therefore oppose it; but he also considered it to be both unprecedented and unnecessary, since, in his opinion, the grant to the duke of York in 1792, was not a precedent for this measure, as that grant was made, not merely on a treaty of marriage between the parties, but on a treaty of alliance between the two countries; and in that instance, too, the princess of Prussia brought a large sum of money as her marriage portion.

Mr. Calcraft

thought the grant was to be defended, both on the precedents of the duke of York and the princess Charlotte. In the latter instance, the House not only granted 60,000l. per annum, which was certainly a very large sum, but they added another sum of 60,000l. as an outfit. That grant was made in consideration of her being the heiress apparent; and now that the duke of Clarence was placed substantially in the same situation, he ought to have an increase of his income, in the same manner as other princes had had before him. If the people had a monarchical government, they must expect these calls to support, in a proper degree of splendor, the branches of the monarchy. The present grant, too, was so small in its amount, that he thought that, instead of being extravagant, it was most moderate. He was of opinion, that when royal personages thus changed their situations, they might not merely require an increase of their income, but an outfit; and from some circumstances of the life of an illustrious prince, it might be seen into what difficulties and embarrassments they fell, when they had to begin their expenses entirely upon their income, without assistance of some other sort.

Sir W. Plunkett

said, he should only think it necessary to trouble the House with a single sentence, in consequence of an observation which had fallen from an hon. member opposite, respecting an opinion of his, given in the year 1818. It was his intention to support this grant; and in doing so, he did not think he was forfeiting his claims to consistency. Indeed, he should adopt the opinion which that hon. member had been pleased to attribute to him, and should claim the benefit of it in requiring that hon. member, as he avowed his concurrence with it, to manifest that concurrence in the plainest manner, by supporting the present grant. He thought now, as he had thought in 1818, that the question ought not to be considered merely with respect to the power of the country, or if it was, then it would be decided at once; but with regard to the necessity of the grant. Now, he was of opinion, that the necessity in the present case could not be disputed, and that the duke of Clarence ought to be placed on the same footing as other heirs presumptive had been. He believed, that the people would be ready to acknowledge this necessity; and that each man would as willingly contribute his mite towards this grant as towards any other matter of public exigency.

Sir T. Acland

said, that he too came under the animadversions from which the last speaker had vindicated himself. In 1818, he had voted as that right hon. gentleman had done. He thought, however, that there was a wide distinction between the present and the former circumstances of the royal duke. He was now next heir to the throne; and no economy could be more false or illiberal than that which would go to circumscribe his income.

Mr. Beaumont

did not condemn the grant, so much as the breathless haste with which it had been submitted to parliament, and the want of sympathy with the distresses of the people, which it glaringly betrayed. There was no wish on his side of the House to drive the people to despair and madness; but the best mode of doing so would be for parliament to convince them that it had no sympathy whatever with their distress.

Mr. Alderman Wood

contended, that the expense of this grant would, like the general expenses of the country, fall most heavily upon the lower classes. He was proceeding to detail his reasons for that opinion, when he was assailed by loud cries of "question." He made a short pause, and then turning round to one of the vociferators, said, "Sir, you shall have the question whenever you like, but it must not be till I please. You shall not put me down. I will not be placed in the situation in which an honourable colleague of mine has been placed by the intolerant spirit of the landed faction. I have never interrupted the House, nor given intentional pain to any man in it; and I would ask, whether it is either fair, or just, or parliamentary, that I should be thus assailed in the performance of what I consider my duty?" The hon. alderman concluded by observing, that he should certainly oppose the grant, because he was convinced that there was not a man, who either drank a glass of gin or paid for a pot of porter, who would not have to contribute his mite towards this increased allowance.

Mr. Alderman C. Smith

denied that, those who drank gin and beer in the manner described by his brother alderman, would feel the effects of this grant in any way whatsoever. He gave it his warmest support.

Sir R. Heron

observed, that the hon. member for Devonshire had exhibited considerable warmth in denouncing what he was pleased to call false economy; but that hon. baronet had never come forward with any definition of what he considered true economy. He recollected the manner in which the hon. baronet generally voted on all questions of retrenchment, and he would, therefore, be obliged if he would point out to the House the true economy for which he would allow it a vote. His hon. friend, the member for Wareham, had pointed to the grant made to the princess Charlotte and prince Leopold on their marriage, as a precedent which the House ought to follow on the present occasion. Now, it appeared to him at the time when that grant was made, that both the House and the country were in a very extravagant humour. The House had as yet exhibited no symptom of repentance; but the people, he believed, were in a different temper. Let the opinion of the people on that point be what it might, they considered the grant now proposed to be as unnecessary and as extravagant a grant as was ever submitted to parliament; and under that consideration he should certainly vote against it.

The House divided on the question, That the Speaker do now leave the chair: Ayes 90. Noes 15. Majority 84. The House then went into the committee.

List of the Minority.
Beaumont, T. Rancliffe, lord
Folkestone, lord Smith, W.
Gordon, R. Warburton, H.
Harvey, D. W. Walrond, B.
Martin, John Wood, ald.
Monck, J. B. Waithman, ald.
Pendarvis, E. W. TELLERS.
Pryce, P. Heron, sir R.
Robarts, A. W. Hume, Joseph