HC Deb 08 August 1836 vol 35 cc1005-11

The Report on the Pensions' Duties Bill was brought up.

On the question that it be agreed to.

Mr. Harcourt

thought it his duty to submit to the consideration of the House the Clause of which he had formerly given notice. If the effect of the present Bill was to impose for the first time a tax of twenty-seven and a half per cent. on the Parliamentary grant to the descendants of the illustrious Duke of Marlborough, the measure would do that which would be utterly inconsistent with the intentions of the Legislature which made the grant, and with the proceedings of that House in analogous cases during the last twenty years. It might be a small matter in itself, but was a great injustice. He was of opinion, that to deduct from a grant to an individual so eminently distinguished for his services to his country as the great Duke of Marl-borough would be to deduct from the honour of the nation. The hon. Member referred to the services performed by the great Duke of Marlborough, in respect of which a pension of 5,000l. a-year and Blenheim House, and the lands attached to it, were settled on his family. If a stranger were to visit Blenheim, he would expect to find that lands commensurate with that magnificent structure were attached to it. But what was the fact? He could state, that the value of the manor of Woodstock and all the ground attached to Blenheim was not more than 3,000l. a-year. Whilst that House showed itself anxious to remove from the Pension List those names that had been unworthily placed there, they ought to draw a distinction between merited and unmerited pensions. He thought, that it would not become them to introduce a law for the first time, which affected with a duty the estate of the Duke of Marlborough, The hon. Member proceeded to compare the rewards assigned to the Duke of Marlborough for his services, and those assigned to others for similar services. If the historian were called upon to point out for public reward the men who, above all others during the last two centuries, had performed the most distinguished services, he would, undoubtedly, select the names of Marlborough, Nelson, and Wellington. He was not going to compare the rewards assigned to the Duke of Marlborough with those assigned to Nelson and Wellington; those assigned to the Duke of Wellington were much larger in amount, but not larger than the gratitude of the country was willing to grant. The pension of the Duke of Marlborough was one with which this country ought not to interfere. The hon. Member concluded by moving a clause to exempt, in conformity with the invariable practice in such cases, the Parliamentary grant of an annuity, settled in the reign of Queen Anne, on the descendants of John, Duke of Marlborough, on account of his eminent services, from all taxes and deductions whatsoever.

Sir Robert Inglis

seconded the motion, on the grounds that the original grant was clearly intended to be free of all taxes and impositions whatsoever; and, because he did not think it would be doing justice to the memory of the great Duke of Marlborough to place the annuity enjoyed by his descendants on a different footing from the grants to the Duke of Wellington, Lord Nelson, Lord Amherst, and Lord Chatham.

The clause brought up and read. On the question that it be read a second time—

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the grant having been originally made by Parliament, the Government had no right whatever to take upon themselves the construction of the Act of Parliament, or to decide either in favour of or against the claim of the present Duke of Marlborough, to be paid the whole amount of the annuity without any deduction being made for land-tax. The question was one which the Treasury felt the Government had no right to decide, and, therefore, it was, that they had declined expressing any opinion on the subject, in order that the matter might finally be determined by that House, the only authority to whom it could properly be referred. If they were now about to grant a new pension, he did not think they should allow the land-tax or any other imposition to attach to it; but when there was evidence to show that this grant was originally made subject to land-tax, he did not think they would be justified in giving to the Act of Parliament a different construction from that which the framers of it intended it should bear. If the case were a doubtful one, he was ready to admit, that they should resolve the doubt in favour of the Duke of Marl-borough. Under these circumstances, he would leave the case in the hands of the House, satisfied that he had vindicated the Government in declining to acquiesce in this clause, and because, if the boon sought for were granted, it would have additional value in the eyes of the Duke of Marlborough, because it would not be the Act of the Government, but of the House of Commons—because it would show that, by giving an enlarged and liberal meaning to the statute of Anne, the great services of his illustrious ancestor were as fresh in the memory of the people of this country at the present day as those of the Duke of Wellington must be in all times to come. Having now vindicated the course which the Treasury had taken, and stated the grounds on which he thought the House should view the question, he for one would be most happy to acquiesce in any determination to which the House might come.

Mr. Francis Baring

thought, there were strong reasons for supposing that there was no intention on the part of the framers of the Act of Anne to relieve the grant to the Duke of Marlborough from the payment of land-tax. It might be all very proper to redress injustice; but if injustice had been done in the present case, all he could say was, that the evil could not be remedied by a clause construing an Act of Parliament, but ought to be removed by a distinct Act on the subject. It had been said, that the omission of land-tax in the exemption was the result of accident; but this he did not believe, because he thought the evidence was all the other way. From the year 1780 to the present time this had been the regular payment If it was intended to carry the proposed object into effect, it would be more creditable to do so in the usual course, and not under cover of a clause such as that which had been submitted to their consideration.

Sir T. Fremantle

was not prepared to contend that an additional grant should not be made in favour of the Duke of Marlborough's family, taking into consideration the altered value of money; but no case had been made out in support of the proposition submitted by the hon. Member, and he should certainly vote against it in its present shape.

Mr. M. Attwood

thought, all pensions were or ought to be subject to the tax, and if some had hitherto escaped, it was time they were now taxed.

Mr. Hume

opposed the clause. He certainly thought that when a pension had been granted it ought not to be reduced by any deductions such as those that had been referred to; but that was not now the question. He did not think there were any circumstances to justify them in giving an increased pension to the descendants of the Duke of Marlborough. He, therefore, would oppose the clause.

The House divided. The numbers were:—Ayes 37; Noes 35: Majority 2.

List of the AYES.
Attwood, M. Palmer, G.
Barclay, D. Palmerston, Lord
Bellew, Sir P. Perceval, Colonel
Biddulph, R. Price, S. G.
Bruen, F. Pusey, P.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Campbell, Sir J. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Churchill, Lord C. Russell, Lord J.
Dalmeny, Lord Smith, R. V.
Donkin, Sir R. Stanley, E. J.
French, F. Steuart, R.
Gordon, R. Stuart, Lord D.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Tancred, H. W.
Hughes, W. H. Thompson, Alderman
Lennox, Lord G. Tynte, C. J. K.
Mackinnon, W. A. Wall, C. B.
Maule, hon. F. Woulfe, Sergeant
Morpeth, Viscount TELLERS.
Morrison, J. Harcourt, G. G.
Murray, rt. hon. J. A. Inglis, Sir R. H.
List of the NOES.
Alston, R. Bridgeman, H.
Baines, E. Brotherton, J.
Baring, T. Brownrigg, S.
Bewes, T. Butler, hon. P.
Blamire, W. Collier, J.
Bowring, Dr. Corbett, T. G.
Brabazon, Sir W. Elphinstone, H.
Ewart, W. Robinson, G. R.
Hawes, B. Smith, B.
Hodgson, J. Thompson, Colonel
Horsman, E. Thornley, T.
Hoskins, K. Tulk, C. A.
Hotham, Lord Wakley, T.
Hume, J. Warburton, H.
Labouchere, rt. hn. H. Williams, W.
Leader, J. T. Williams, W. A.
Lushington, Dr. TELLERS.
O'Loghlen, M. Baring,—
Potter, R. Fremantle, Sir. T.

Clause read a second time.

On the motion that it be added to the Bill,

Mr. Warburton moved that the Bill be recommitted.

Mr. Francis Baring

urged the hon. Member not to press his amendment. The sense of the House had already been taken on the question, and he would not be a party to any further opposition.

Mr. Hume

complained that the House had been taken by surprise with respect to the clause. He should, therefore, support the amendment.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that if the battle of Blenheim were as fresh in the memory of the House as the battle of Waterloo there would not be a word of objection to the proposed increase. He had felt bound to lean in favour of distinguished military services, and he gave the fullest credit at the same time to the Secretary of the Treasury for the having nobly and manfully vindicated the more economical view of the subject. He hoped the amendment would not be persevered in.

The House divided on the original motion:—Ayes 55; Noes 35 Majority 20.

List of the AYES.
Adam, Sir C. Goulburn, Sergeant
Archdall, M. Grey, Sir G.
Attwood, M. Hamilton, G. A.
Baines, E. Hamilton, Lord C.
Barclay, D. Harcourt, G. G.
Baring, F. T. Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.
Borthwick, P. Hodgson, J.
Brabazon, Sir W. Hughes, H.
Browne, R. D. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Bruen, F. Jackson, Sergeant
Burdon, W. W. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Lennox, Lord G.
Clements, Viscount Maule, hon. F.
Corbett, T. G. Morpeth, Viscount
Dalmeny, Lord Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Donkin, Sir R. Neeld, J.
Duncombe, T. O'Brien, C.
Fitzgibbon, hon. Col. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Palmer, G.
Gordon, hon. W. Palmerston, Viscount
Gore, O. Perceval, Colonel
Price, S. G. Stuart, Lord D.
Pusey, P. Tancred, H. W.
Rice, rt. hon. T. S. Thompson, Alderman
Rolfe, Sir R. M. Tynte, C. J. K.
Russell, Lord J. Woulfe, Sergeant
Sibthorp, Colonel TELLERS.
Steuart, R. Smith, V.
Stormont, Viscount Stanley, E. J.
List of the NOES.
Alston, R. Hutt, W.
Bewes, T. Leader, J. T.
Blamire, W. Lushington, Dr.
Bowring, Dr. Lushington, C.
Brady, D. C. O'Loghlen, M.
Bridgeman, H. Potter, R.
Brotherton, J. Robinson, G. R.
Brownrigg, J. S. Smith, B.
Butler, hon. P. Thompson, Colonel
Callaghan, D. Thornley, T.
Collier, J. Tooke, W.
Elphinstone, H. Tulk, C. A.
Ewart, W. Villiers, C. P.
Hall, B. Wakley, T.
Hawes, B. Williams, W.
Hindley, C. Williams, W. A.
Horsman, E. TELLERS.
Hoskins, K; Warburton, H.
Hotham, Lord Hume, J.

Question again put.

Mr. Warburton

As the House had been taken by surprise, he should feel himself justified in moving adjournment after adjournment, until the question should be finally disposed of. With the view of closing the discussion on it for the present, he would move that the further debate be adjourned till to-morrow.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

denied that the House had been taken by surprise inasmuch as a notice on the subject had appeared on the votes since last May. He thought the better course for the hon. Member to adopt would be to take the sense of the House on the question when the Bill came on for the third reading.

Mr. Robinson

did not see what objection could be made to duties, the payment of which had not been objected to by the person to whom the pension was originally granted.

Mr. Wakley

wished to know if this clause was agreed to whether it was the intention of Government to pay the arrears of the pension for the time past, as well as to remit the duties for the future? If they were remitted for the future it was an admission that they had hitherto been unjustly received, and the non-payment of the arrears would be direct robbery. Either this was the view which should be taken of the case, or else the proposition was to give an additional pension of 800l. a-year without any inquiry whatever. He hoped the hon. Member would persist in his motion for adjourning the debate.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

begged to remind the hon. Member for Finsbury that this clause was not brought in by Government. It would not have a retrospective effect, and consequently no arrears could accrue.

Mr. Hume

said, as no intimation of the proposition was given to the House he should say they were taken by surprise in being called on to grant a new pension of 800l. a-year to the Duke of Marlborough. This was a grant that should be considered, and they only asked for time—say even until to-morrow.

Lord J. Russell

said, it was a most unjust charge to make, that the House was taken by surprise. The case was not of that peculiar character that required particular notice to be given by the Government. To say that this was a new grant of 800l. a-year to the Duke of Marlborough was, to say the least, a strange and not creditable error. If it were so, the case would indeed have been altered. The question was whether, as pensions had been granted to many individuals for public services, naval and military, such as Nelson and Wellington, and as deductions on the ground of public expediency had been made from the pensions of these persons, the same rule would not apply to the present Duke of Marlborough? He thought that it was shown in the course of the debate that it could not. The noble Duke's ancestor had earned this pension well, and he for one would not defame his memory by curtailing the pension. As a proof that this was not really a Government question he would say that the President of the Board of Trade and the Attorney-General voted against the rest of the Government upon it. As the House would have another opportunity of discussing the subject, on the third reading, he hoped they would allow the second reading.

The House divided on the question of adjournment. Ayes 33; Noes 6l: Majority 28.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Brotherton, J.
Baring, T. Browne, R. D.
Bewes, T. Brownrigg, S.
Blake, M. J. Butler, hon. P.
Blamire, W. Callaghan, D.
Brady, D. C. Collier, J.
Bridgeman, H. Elphinstone, H.
Ewart, W. Thompson, Colonel
Hawes, B. Thornley, T.
Hindley, C. Tooke, W.
Hoskins, K. Tulk, C. A.
Hotham, Lord Wakley, T.
Leader, J. T. Wall, C. B.
O'Brien, C. Williams, W.
O'Loghlen, M. Williams, W. A.
Potter, R. TELLERS.
Robinson, G. R. Hume, J.
Smith, B. Warburton, H.
List of the NOES.
Adam, Sir C. Law, hon. C. E.
Archdall, M. Lennox, Lord G.
Baines, E. Lincoln, Earl of
Barclay, D. Maule, hon. F.
Baring, F. T. Methuen, P.
Borthwick, P. Morpeth, Viscount
Bruen, F. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Burton, H. Neeld, J.
Byng, right hon. G. S. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Clements, Viscount Palmer, G.
Cockerell, Sir C. Palmerston, Viscount
Corbett, T. G. Perceval, Colonel
Dalmeny, Lord Price, S. G.
Donkin, Sir R. Pusey, P.
Duncombe, T. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Fitzgibbon, hon. Col. Richards, R.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
French, F. Russell, Lord J.
Gordon, hon. W. Seymour, Lord
Goulburn, Sergeant Sibthorp, Colonel
Grey, Sir G. Smith, R. V.
Hamilton, G. A. Stormont, Viscount
Hamilton, Lord C. Stuart, Lord D.
Harcourt, G. G. Tancred, H. W.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Thompson, Alderman
Hodgson, J. Trevor, hon. A.
Horsman, E. Tynte, C. J. K.
Howick, Viscount Wood, C.
Hughes, W. H. Woulfe, Sergeant
Inglis, Sir R. H. TELLERS.
Jackson, Sergeant Stanley, E. J.
Jones, T. Steuart, R.

The Clause added to the Bill, and the Report received. Bill to be read a third time.