HC Deb 15 August 1836 vol 35 cc1231-5

The Pensions Duties Bill was read a third time. On the question that it do pass,

Mr. Warburton

rose to move the omission of that clause in the Bill which exempted the Duke of Marlborough from the payment of the duties it imposed. Those duties were a four-shilling duty, a shilling, and a sixpenny duty. With respect to the first, there could be no doubt whatever that the pension of the Duke of Marlborough was liable to it. It had been constantly paid since the first granting of the pension, with the exception he should explain to the House. It had, indeed, been represented by a paper which had been put into the hands of Members, that by the 5th Ann, it was provided that the pension should be paid without any charges or fees. But he (Mr. Warburton) affirmed that this was not a fair quotation from the Act. The language of the Act was, that the pension should be paid without any fees or charges "to be demanded or taken for paying the same, or any part thereof." And that very Act gave his Grace a remedy in case any deductions were attempted to be made from the amount of his pension, on account of any fees or charges which could not legally be demanded; it provided, that in such case, he might bring his action in a court of law against the persons making the illegal demands. It was clear, therefore, that even admitting the law of the case to be on the side of the Duke, he was not under the necessity of appealing to Parliament: for if either the four-shilling, the one shilling, or the sixpenny duty were illegally imposed upon him, he had his remedy by an action at law. As to the one shilling, and the sixpenny duties, he (Mr. Warburton) admitted, that by the 31st and 32d Geo. 2nd c. 33, his Grace was exempted from the payment of the four-shilling duty, for that Act undoubtedly exempted from the payment of all duties belonging to the crown, any pensions granted by his Majesty's successor, by any Act of Parliament, in fee or fee tail. And as by the 48th Geo. 3rd, any pension was exempted from the payment of the duties then levied, (the sixpenny, the one shilling, and the four-shilling duties) which had been specially exempted from the payments of any or either of such duties, his Grace, in being exempted from the four shilling-duty, was undoubtedly exempted also from the one shilling, and the sixpenny duties. But by the 49th Geo. 3rd, these Acts were repealed: and therefore, as far as the law of the case went, he (Mr. Warburton) agreed in the opinion expressed by the Attorney and Solicitor General, that his Grace's pension was justly liable to the payment of those duties. But then it was contended, that though, according to the strict law of the case, his Grace might be liable to the payment of those duties, yet such was not the intention of Parliament at the time of granting his pension, he (Mr. Warburton) contended, that the Acts of that Parliament were the only just interpretation of its intentions. And by Parliamentary returns, it would be found that the duties in question had actually been charged immediately after the pension was granted, in 1705. Let it be recollected, that by the resolutions of that House, the Duke of Marlborough was charged with having fraudulently and illegally taken large sums of money, amounting, altogether, to 247,000l.; and though he was never called upon to refund that money, the recollection of the great services he had rendered the country, having probably prevented Parliament from proceeding to extremities against him, yet, no doubt, Parliament considered those matters in determining upon the amount of his pension. And when the House of Commons of that day had decided that, taking all things into consideration, 5,000l.; a year, subject to the payment of all aids and taxes, with the magnificent estate of Blenheim, were a sufficient reward for his services to the country, he (Mr. Warburton) asked, what was there in the services rendered by the present Duke to justify the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. G. Harcourt) in calling upon Parliament now to give him an exemption from taxes and charges to which the great Duke, his progenitor was liable. He (Mr. Warburton) should feel himself justified in the course he was now taking, even upon the question of form alone. He objected most strongly to the manner in which the clause in question had been introduced into the Bill. Had it been expected that the Members of the Government would have voted for it, the benches upon his (Mr. Warburton's) side of the House would have been much better filled. A vote obtained from the House, so taken by surprise, could not be considered as expressing the real sense, of the House; and upon the ground both of merit and of form, he felt it his duty to move, that this clause be omitted from the Bill.

Mr. Robinson

said, he should support the motion of the hon. Member for Bridport, and he entirely agreed in the arguments by which that motion had been supported. The House had no reason to suppose that Ministers intended to support the clause brought forward by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, nay, more, when that motion was under discussion, not one Member of the Government had expressed his approval of it: the Chancellor of the Exchequer, indeed, had said, that he considered it a question of doubt, and that he should give his vote in favour of the doubts; but no other Minister had in any way expressed himself favourable to it. He (Mr. Robinson) contended, that a vote taken when the House was under such a false impression, could not be considered indicative of its real feelings. He did not feel it necessary to argue the merits, but he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when the first Duke had submitted to the deductions in question, what services had the present Duke rendered the country that entitled him to exemption from those deductions?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

had nothing more to say upon the subject than what he stated the other evening, except this, that the hon. Member for Bridport was completely mistaken, when he supposed that the clause in question had been taken up by the Government. It was true that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had supported the clause when it was under consideration on the former occasion, and it was equally true that he should do so again; but in doing so, it must be understood, that he was expressing only his own individual opinion on the merits of the case. Looking at the Acts of Parliament, and at the various circumstances connected with the grant, as originally made to the great Duke of Marlborough, there appeared to him to be a doubt as to whether a tax could possibly be imposed upon it; and having that doubt in his mind, he determined to give the present Duke the benefit of it. As a proof that the clause had not been treated as a Government measure, he need only observe, that three members of the Administration had voted against it.

Mr. Labouchere

said, he was one of those three. If a distinct proposition were brought forward, to place the pension of the Duke of Marlborough on the same footing as that of other great military commanders, he was not prepared to say that the House ought to reject it; but understanding that the clause now proposed to be struck out, was founded exclusively upon the supposed construction of the Act by which the grant to the Duke of Marlborough was originally made, he felt bound to oppose it, because, according to his reading of that Act, the pension of the Duke was clearly liable to any tax that Parliament might impose upon it.

Mr. Hume

thought, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he had any doubt upon his mind, ought to give it in favour of the public, not of the Duke of Marlborough, whose ancestor had been sufficiently well paid for the services he performed; and who, moreover, had always been liable to such deductions as that from which now, for the first time, it was proposed to exempt his descendant. He begged to ask, whether at the end of a Session, with no more than fifty Members present, it was fit or proper for the House to overrule that which had been an invariable custom for upwards of 100 years?

Mr. Brotherton

felt that he should not be doing his duty to his constituents if he did not oppose this clause. He felt satisfied, indeed, that this country never could be happy or prosperous till war was discountenanced, and warriors held in less estimation than at present.

Mr. Trevor

said, it was unjust and un. fair to represent this clause as giving the present Duke of Marlborough any increase of pension. He should not enter into the line of argument which had been taken by the hon. Member for Salford. He deprecated war and warriors. But he (Mr. Trevor) should like to ask him, what would have become of this country at the time of the Duke of Marlborough, had it not been for the splendid victories achieved by that celebrated general. We were fighting then, pro aris et focis, and this pension had been granted to the Duke by the unanimous voice of the Parliament of that day, as a reward for those distinguished national services. True; war was no benefit to any country, but he (Mr. Trevor) contended, that it would be a violation of public faith and national honour, to allow any deductions from the amount of pen- sion which had been unanimously granted to one of its most eminent military heroes.

Mr. Cutlar

Fergusson agreed with his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that as there was doubt upon the Subject, it ought to be given in favour of the Duke.

Dr. Lushington

objected to the form and mode in which the clause had been introduced into the Bill. Such a clause should have been proposed, not on the bringing up of the report, but in a Committee of the whole House. He was decidedly of opinion, that the pension of the Duke of Marlborough Was liable to taxation, in the same manner as other pensions, and for that reason he should now vote with the hon. Member for Bridport for the omission of the clause.

Colonel Sibthorp

would support the clause. The pension of the Duke of Marl-borough, it must be recollected, had been fairly earned; an observation which would not apply to the pension of many a Chancellor of the Exchequer or Secretary of State.

Sir George Grey, after mature consideration, Was of opinion that it was undesirable to introduce the clause into the present Bill.

The House divided on the question, that the clause Stand part of the Bill:—Ayes 34; Noes 36: Majority 2.

List of the AYES.
Ashley, Lord Price, S. G.
Attwood, Thomas Pusey, Philip
Byng, G. S. Reid, Sir J. Rae
Chandos, Marquess of Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Churchill, Ld. C. S. Richards, R.
Cockerell, Sir C. bt. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Cooper, E. J. Sanford, E. A.
Dalmeny, Lord Sibthorp, Colonel
Fergusson, rt. hon. R. C. Stanley, E. J.
Gordon, Robert Steuart, R.
Howard, hon. E.G. Stormont, Lord
Jones, Theobald Tancred, H. W.
Lennox, Lord G. Trevor, hon. A.
Macleod, R. Tynte, C. K. K.
Maule, hon. F. Wall, Charles Baring
Morpeth, Viscount
Murray, John Arch. TELLERS.
Neeld, Joseph Harcourt, G.
Palmerston, Lord Young, G. F.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Bonham, R. F.
Alsager, Captain Bowring, Dr.
Baring, F. T. Brotherton, J.
Baring, Thomas Callaghan, D.
Bewes, T. Chalmers, P.
Blamire, W. Duncombe, T. S.
Gladstone, Thomas Robinson, G.
Grey, Sir G Ruthven, Edward
Hawes, B. Scrope, G. P.
Hindley, C. Smith, Benjamin
Hotham, Lord Thompson Col. T. P.
Hume, J. Thornley. T.
Humphery, John Tooke, William
Labouchere, Henry Trevor, hon. G. R.
Leader, J. T. Wakley, T.
Lushington, Dr. S. Williams, W.
Pattison, J.
Philips, Mark TELLERS.
Potter, R. Ewart, W.
Robarts, Abraham W. Warburton, H.

Clause excluded, and Bill passed.