HC Deb 28 March 1831 vol 3 cc1102-13

On the motion of Lord Althorp, the Report of the Committee on the Civil List was brought up and read as follows:—That, for the support of his Majesty's Household, and the honour and dignity of the Crown, there be granted to his Majesty, during his life, a nett yearly revenue of 510,000l.; and that the same shall commence from the day of the demise of his late Majesty, and shall be charged upon and made payable out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. That all the hereditary rates, duties, payments, and revenues in England and Ireland respectively (other than and except the hereditary duties of excise on beer, ale, and cider payable in England), which, at the time of the demise of his late Majesty, King George 4th, made part of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; and also, the hereditary duties and revenues (other than and except the hereditary duties of excise on beer, ale, and cider which were payable to his said late Majesty King George 4th, in that part of Great Britain called. Scotland); and also, the yearly sums of 348,000l. and 6,500l. payable to his present Majesty, out of the revenues and excise arising in England and Scotland respectively, under and by virtue of an Act of the last Session of Parliament; and also, the small branches of the hereditary revenue and the hereditary casual revenues, arising from any droits of the Admiralty or droits of the Crown, or from the four-and-half per cent duties, and from all surplus revenues of Gibraltar, or any other possessions of his Majesty out of the United Kingdom, and from all other casual revenues arising either in the foreign possessions of his Majesty, or in the United Kingdom, shall, during the life of his present Majesty (whom God long preserve), be carried to, and shall be made part of, the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. That the several annuities payable to their Royal Highnesses the Duke of Cumberland, the Duke of Sussex, and the Duke of Cambridge, out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, during the life of his late Majesty, shall, during their said Royal Highnesses lives, be charged upon and be payable out of the said Consolidated Fund."

Lord Althorp

said, that in moving that the Resolution be read a second time, he begged to trouble the House with a few words, in order to prevent any misunderstanding as to what he had stated in the Committee before the Resolution was agreed to. The House would recollect that he had on that occasion distinctly stated, that in adopting that Resolution, he did not consider himself pledged on the subject of the education of the sum; although after considerable deliberation he was bound to say that he continued of opinion that the whole of the sum comprehended in the Resolution should be applied to the Civil List. The proper time for discussing this, however, would be in the Committee upon the Bill. When the different classes of the List were then considered, the different apportionments to them would be fixed. Now, however, there was no pledge with respect to any particular proposition.

Colonel Davies

allowed the justice of the noble Lord's statements; but declared that he would miss no opportunity, as far as his vote went, to vote for the sum recommended by the Committee above-stairs, the consequence of which would be to reduce the salaries of the chief officers of the Household. For his Majesty, he was willing and desirous to make the most liberal and even prodigal grant. If the sum which it was proposed to vote were to be applied to his Majesty's personal comfort, it would be another matter. But he repeated, that no consideration should induce him to stultify the proceedings of the Committee above-stairs, by voting those sums to the great officers of State which that Committee had declared were too large. One word on the Pension List. He could not help thinking that the proposition of the hon. member for Gloucester on that subject should be adopted: he meant the principle of the proposition—for he did not think the proposed equivalent was sufficient—that the present Pension List should be transferred to the Consolidated Fund, and that his Majesty should receive a specific sum to be disposed of according to his discretion. About double the sum proposed by the hon. member for Gloucester would, in his opinion, be a fair equivalent. At present the grant to the King was apparent and not real, for although 15,000l. a year was nominally given, yet almost the whole of that was filled up, and his Majesty would not, perhaps, enjoy one-tenth of it during his life. The noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had declared that he did not think the King should have the power of granting a pension without the consent of his responsible advisers, and thus Ministers had the patronage. This was not justice to the Crown, and it would be better if there were in reality a fund to a smaller amount placed under the exclusive power of the Crown.

Sir George Warrender

said, he was always of opinion, that the proposed vote for the Civil List was rather too small than too large, and he believed it would turn out that the sum would be found inadequate for the wants of royalty. The people he knew were anxious that the Sovereign should be liberally provided for; and they had so many reasons to be grateful for his conduct, that to say thus much was not presuming too far on their good feeling. The people should understand that it was beneficial that the Sovereign should be paid liberally, and that the revenue given up by the Crown was much greater than the proposed vote, to which he gave his cordial consent.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, after reading the Report of the Committee, and after having given due consideration to the subject, he had made up his mind to give his support to the grant proposed by his Majesty's Government.

The Earl of Darlington

was anxious to give his support to any measure which might be requisite to uphold the splendour and dignity of the House of Brunswick. If 600,000l. a year had been proposed, he would willingly have given his vote for such a sum; but it was a different thing when the sum of 10,000l. was proposed for contingencies, and 119,000l. for the salaries of the officers of the household. He thought these sums might bear a reduction. It was only in the salaries of officers of that description that economy could be practised. In offices of trust it was not so easy to take off part of the salaries, as in useless offices, and in places of mere patronage. He thought a reduction of twenty per cent not too much, and should an amendment to that effect be proposed at any future period, he would support it.

Mr. Briscoe

was of opinion that no pensions should be granted but for public services. The 10,000l. did not at all relate to the comforts of the Sovereign; nor was it at a per centage to be taken off the 510,000l. but off that branch only in which was included the salaries of officers of State. The present Government had set out with professions of the strictest economy; they had referred the Civil List to a Committee, and he thought the Government and the House ought to adhere to the Report of the Committee.

An hon. Member said, that he had opposed the last Government on this question; and as the present Government had referred the matter to a Select Committee, to see what reductions could be made, he would support the recommendations of that Committee. He did not care whether the reduction were 12,000l. or 1,200 farthings, he went upon principle. It was utterly useless appointing Committees if their recommendations were not to be attended to.

Mr. Curteis

said, no man was more ready to support his Sovereign than he was; but while he supported the Sovereign, he could not forget that he had a duty to perform towards the people. He was glad no division was to take place, for if a division had been persevered in, he must have voted with the member for Middlesex.

Mr. Wilks

concurred in the vote, because he looked upon the additional 10,000l. as a provision for contingencies.

Mr. Hume

entered his protest against the argument of the hon. member for Worcester, and declared, that he never would be prodigal of the public money on any occasion, not even to contribute to the pleasure of royalty. He was of opinion that considerable reductions ought to be made in the expenses of the Household, though at the same time he thought that the numerous family of his Majesty ought to be taken into consideration. He said he could not agree, nor would he ever agree, to the vote before the House, but he would not take the sense of the House on the present occasion, but when the Bill was brought in, and came to the Committee, the House would then be able to see what particular sums were allotted to the different departments in the King's Household. At that stage of the proceedings he would renew his opposition, if necessary, but he confidently hoped that the noble Lord (Al thorp) would be induced to abide by the recommendation of the Committee. The item he objected to most was that of the Pensions, and which, in the eyes of the people, detracted more from the honour and dignity of the Crown than any thing else. His objection was, however, lessened, upon seeing that the amount voted under that head was half of the sum usually voted. He considered it unfair towards the king to make the pensions an item in the Civil List, because his Majesty could not have the free control of the money so voted. He should have no objection to provide a fund out of which his Majesty might be enabled to reward those only who had rendered him personal services; but the fact was, that the Pension Fund was taken out of the hands of the Sovereign, and controlled by his Ministers. The sum proposed to be voted for pensions, under the Civil List, was 75,000l., which was only half of the whole amount. There still remained pensions to the amount of 82,000l. to be provided for in some way or other, and when that question came before the House, he would take care to watch narrowly the mode in which it should be proposed to provide for them. His own opinion was, that there were many pensions which ought to be altogether dis- charged from the List; that Ministers should be called upon to make a selection of those who received pensions for services performed by themselves or their relations; and that all unworthy persons should be discharged from the List. No individual, he thought, ought to be allowed to receive a pension, if his income from other sources exceeded the amount of his pension. Whether he should make that proposition, or move for an entire revision of the Pension List, he was not yet determined. He was willing to allow the report to be brought up, though he did not waive his opposition to the vote.

Mr. Calcraft

was very glad that the hon. member for Middlesex did not intend to take the sense of the House on the question; and he must declare, that, in his opinion, the course which had been pursued with respect to the Civil List was not creditable to either side of the House. Hon. Members were constantly talking of gratitude and affection to his Majesty, and yet there was no instance since the Revolution, of the vote in the Civil List being nearly so long delayed. It was now nine months since his Majesty's accession to the Throne, and up to the present moment no decision had been come to on the subject of the Civil List. With respect to the amount of the vote, he was disposed to agree neither to a larger nor a smaller sum—and for this reason—because the experience of the last ten years had shown that the precise sum proposed had answered its purpose; and he would not consent, for the sake of a small saving or a large saving, to place the Crown in such a situation that it would be obliged to come to that House for the payment of its debts. To what purpose the sum of 10,000l., which was the subject of dispute, was to be. applied, he did not care. If the great officers of the Household chose to relinquish so much from their salaries, he did not think the sum too great for a contingent fund. It should be recollected, too, that her Majesty, contrary to the usage of former reigns, got no outfit. He did not understand that the usual put fit had ever been offered, but only a part. If that were the case, he could very well conceive that his Majesty would refuse a sum, the very offer of which he might consider an insult, it having been the practice of all his ancestors to receive double the amount. They all knew how frugal her Majesty was in all her arrangements; but still the expenditure of a person in her situation must unavoidably be great, and he was afraid, that in preparing her outfit, her Majesty might be thrown into pecuniary difficulties. This was well worthy the consideration of the House, and he should like to know why her Majesty was not placed on the same footing, with respect to her outfit, as all other Queens? With respect to the pensions, they had been reduced from 145,000l. a year, to 75,00ol.. That was an arrangement in favour of the public, but the House was in fact placing a powerless scepter in the hands of his Majesty. It nominally gave his Majesty the control of 75,000l. for pensions: but if his Majesty wished to give him a pension of l,000l. a year to-morrow, he could not do so, because all the pensions were anticipated. This fine grant, then, was a mere shadow; and unless somebody was obliging enough to move off the List, his Majesty could not move any one on,

Sir R. Inglis

said, the Crown did not sue in forma pauperis for its revenues, but the Civil List was given to it as a compensation for what it resigned. The whole was a bargain, and he would take care that the House was made aware of what the Crown gave up for the Civil List voted by the House.

An hon. Member said, that the country-ought not to continue burthened with so large a Pension List. Many of the pensions were disgraceful to those who gave, and those who received them, and the whole ought to undergo revision.

Sir T. Freemantle

said, that it would be disgraceful to the country to allow the subject of the outfit to her Majesty to rest as it stood at present. For the part he had taken in this matter he was accused by some hon. Members of being set on by others. He declared that he had been set on by no human being whatever, but had only followed the dictates of his own judgment. He deprecated the course which was followed by some hon. Members of objecting to every vote of money that was proposed, and could not believe that those who acted in that way were very favourable to a monarchical form of government. His present Majesty deserved more of his country than any other King, and yet he had been worse treated by his subjects. If his Majesty was so treated by an unreformed House of Commons, how would he be treated when that House was reformed?

Mr. George Robinson

could not agree with the hon. Member who had just sat down, in thinking that it was disgraceful for the House of Commons to accede to the King's wishes. Among the many acts which had endeared his Majesty to the country, nothing had tended to that effect more than the anxious desire which had been manifested by his Majesty to relieve the suffering people from every burthen possible; and he could not hear an hon. Member endeavouring to induce the House to vote away 50,000l. without rising to express his dissent from that proposition. The same hon. Member had taunted those who were disposed not to agree to such a vote with being unfriendly to monarchical institutions. He had never heard any Member in that House venture to say that he was opposed to the monarchical form of government, and he did not think it fair to measure a man's loyalty by his vote on such a question. He must say, that he should be averse from voting 60,000l. for the Queen's outfit if her Majesty would accept of it, not because he was insensible to her Majesty's many virtues, but because he was bound to be the jealous guardian of the people's purse. He was far from wishing to see the Crown deprived of any thing necessary to uphold its dignity; but he approved of the proposition to reduce the vote to the amount recommended by the Committee. He did not conceive that such a reduction would trench in any manner on the comfort or dignity of the Crown. The noble Lord opposite had admitted that all the pensions terminated, according to law, at the decease of his late Majesty; and had further stated, that there were many on the list which ought never to have been there at all. He lamented that the state of the Civil List of the last reign had placed that House in the unenviable situation of not being able to grant to the present King a fund, out of which his Majesty might be enabled to give what pensions he pleased. He hoped that there would be a revision of the Pension List, and that pensions would be taken away from all those persons who possessed large private fortunes.

Mr. Courtenay

recommended honorable Members who were continually finding fault with the Pension List to bring that subject regularly before the House. He supported the vote for the Civil List as proposed by the noble Lord, but considered that the arrangement made of removing various charges from the Civil List, and fixing them on the Consolidated Fund, far from economical.

Mr. Bankes

wished to know from the noble Lord whether, if the Committee up stairs had recommended a vote of 510,000l. he had intended to call upon the House to grant a larger sum? and whether at any time he had communicated to the Committee up-stairs an intention of asking the House for a surplus?

Lord Althorp

replied, that if the Committee had recommended a vote of 510,000l. it was by no means his intention to ask for a larger sum. With respect to the other question which had been asked by the hon. Member, he stated that he had never communicated to the Committee up stairs any wish that there should be a surplus sum of 10,000l. allowed.

Sir J. Yorke

thought that the House was placed in rather an awkward situation for the proposition made was, to take a certain sum from the salaries of the King's servants, and place it in the King's pockets. Lord Althorp had not pledged himself as to the particular manner in which the 10,000l. should be applied. That the House would decide upon, when the Bill came into Committee.

Mr. O'Connell

said, it was not fair to reproach those who were advocates of economy with being the enemies of monarchy. The real friends of monarchy were those who made it popular, and not those who would increase the burthens of the people. The Irish Pension List was a part of the grant which required revision. There was a Mr. Leonard Macnally, a barrister, who had been always engaged against the Crown, in defending persons charged with high treason and publishing libels, who had for a period of eighteen years received a pension of 300l. a-year from the Crown and which was not discovered until he died, when his widow applied to have the pension continued to her. There were other pensions or annual payments still paid to the persons who were connected with certain papers, such as the Patriot and Correspondent. Besides this, a sum of 200l. had been paid yearly, since 1,706, to two persons, of the name of Hooper and Martin, until the sum of 2,000l. was paid in full, which he believed had latterly been done. In looking over the Irish Pension List, he found the name of no person in it who had performed public services, except that of Lord Rod- ney. It was the practice, too, when Catholics became eminent at the Bar, to give them pensions, for fear, he supposed, of their turning agitators; till at last they became too numerous to be pensioned off in that way. But one gentleman had three pensions accumulated upon him; and he had his pension increased, because at a public meeting he voted in favour of placing the nomination of Catholic Bishops in the hands of the Crown. He concluded by stating that he should support the report of the Committee.

Mr. Grove Price

said, that after all the expectations of retrenchment which had been formed in the appointment of the Committee, the result was a proposition to retrench only to the amount of 10,000l."—Parturiunt montes, nascitur ridiculus mus." But even that limited proposition was negatived by the noble Lord opposite the great patron of economy. The declarations of Ministers when in opposition, formed a striking contrast to their conduct when in office; and hoped that the country which had been abused by a gross delusion would distinguish between those who were the real friends of economy and those who were merely professors.

Mr. Lennard

said, that what had been stated by the learned member for Water-ford in regard to Mr. Leonard Macnally confirmed the view he had always taken of the propriety of the Pension List being open. He thought that publicity would prevent all the abuses which had occurred in it: it would prevent improper applications being made, and it would prevent Ministers yielding, to them if they were made. He did not object to the amount of the Pension List proposed by the Government. He was not an advocate for placing the pensions on the Consolidated Fund, which would be taking from the Crown that which had always been considered part of its prerogative. But he hoped that the Government would agree that the Pension List should be annually brought before Parliament, which would prevent abuses in it. The hon. member for Sandwich complained that no good had been done by the Committee. He thought great good had been done by it, for by separating the personal expenses of the Crown from those which did not properly belong to it, a sum of between 400,000l. and 500,000l. had been placed under the control of Parliament, out of which he thought great savings would ultimately be made. He should vote for the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he hoped the noble Lord would adopt the recommendation of the Select Committee, that the salaries of the great Officers should be reduced.

Mr. Long Wellesley

wished only to explain the origin of the pension given to the venerable Lady Mornington. After the battle of Salamanca, Mr. Whitbread suggested that a larger pension should be given to Lord Wellington than he was inclined to receive; and then the pension was granted to Lady Mornington, without either reference to or application from any part of her family.

Mr. Goulburn

wished to know on what fund the salaries were in future to be charged which it was proposed to separate from the Civil List?

Lord Althorp

replied, that he intended to charge a portion of them upon the Consolidated Fund, and to provide for the remainder out of the Supplies for the year.

The Resolutions read a second time. Upon the last Resolution being proposed,

Mr. Hume

said, that at that moment he suffered the subject of pensions to the members of the Royal Family to pass without notice; but he begged to state, that, on a future occasion, he should call the attention of the House to them. He should then require to know the authority by which such pensions had been granted, and the persons to whom the grant had been made. He should, therefore, move, on a future occasion, for a return of the pensions held by all the members of the Royal Family, exclusive of the King; and he gave this notice now, that he might not be considered as acceding absolutely to the present Resolution. He should submit, when the Bill got into Committee, the propriety of a reduction of the incomes of the junior branches of the Royal Family, on the ground that as their allowance, like that of others, had been increased on account of the high prices of provisions, they should now suffer the same decrease as the allowance of other public persons had suffered, in consequence of the present comparatively low price of provisions.

Mr. Goulburn

hoped, that before the hon. Member brought forward such a motion, he would well consider the particular facts on which the measure of allowance had been granted.

Resolutions agreed to, and the Bill ordered to be brought in.