HC Deb 21 December 1837 vol 39 cc1417-21
On the motion of Mr. P. Thomson

the Order of the Day for the Committee on the Duchess of Kent's Annuity Bill was read.

On the question that the Speaker do leave the chair being put,

Colonel Sibthorp

complained of the conduct of the hon. Secretary for the Treasury towards him as regarded the amendment which he had given notice of on this Bill, and said, that he believed it to be the intention of her Majesty's Government to throw it altogether over. On that ground, though he had been requested by the "smooth device" of the hon. Secretary to postpone his amendment, for the convenience of the Government, he should not do so, as they would not promise him a day for its discussion. They deserved not the slightest indulgence at his hands, and they should not have it. He would do his duty. If the public were satisfied, so would he be.

The House in Committee.

On Clause 1,

Colonel Sibthorp

came forward to propose his amendment. He said, that when the House of Commons was called on to grant a sum of 30,000l. a-year to "her Royal Highness Maria Louisa Victoria, Duchess of Kent," he, as one of the guardians of the public purse, felt it to be his duty to express his opinion on the subject, and to inquire wherefore was that sum granted. It came down to that House as a recommendation from her Majesty, on the advice of her Majesty's servants in the Government; and no doubt her Majesty had been told by them that such a grant would be at once agreeable to the feelings of the people of this country and available from its pecuniary resources. And it was not in any spirit of disrespect to her Majesty's commands, or of irreverence towards her recommendation, that those observations which he should make on the subject matter of that grant were conceived, or his opposition to it offered. Who did this measure in reality come from? Ostensibly from her Majesty, but in reality from her responsible—he would rather term them dangerous—advisers—from those men who so loudly professed economy in their expenditure of the public money, and put forward reduction as their principle, but who, he was free to say, practised neither the one nor the other in the slightest degree during the period they—unfortunately, he should add—had held the reins of government. No one was more willing to admit the excellent qualities of the Duchess of Kent, and he had no doubt that she had fulfilled her maternal duties in the most exemplary manner, but he thought that she had, after all, done no more than she ought to do as a mother, and the country had a right to expect; and if she had not fulfilled those duties as she had done, the country would have had every right to censure her. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had argued that they were, by the proposed arrangement, only giving the Duchess of Kent 8,000l. per annum additional; but he denied it, and asserted that, if they looked to former grants, they would find it would be an addition of 20,000l. He contended that the grants for the education and virtual support of the Princess Victoria had virtually ceased and become lapsed by her accession to the Throne, and that the Duchess of Kent might now (as far as any reasons of State existed to the contrary) retire into private life; and he had no doubt that her Royal Highness herself entertained the wish. As to precedents, it should be remembered, that in the reign of George 3rd the members of the Royal Family, actually nearer to the Throne than the Duchess of Kent, wore allowed much smaller incomes. His six sons were only given 60,000l. amongst them, and his five daughters 13,000l. The former certainly had much greater establishments to support than the Duchess of Kent. The hon. Gentleman on the Treasury bench had expatiated on the limited allowance hitherto enjoyed by her Royal Highness; and he certainly must admit, that if it was right to allow her 30,000l. per annum now on account of her proximity to the Throne, it was mean and niggardly in them to restrict her to 22,000l. hitherto. It was rumoured that there were certain debts incurred in the education of her Majesty still undischarged, to the payment of which this additional grant was to be devoted. If this were the case he could not help saying, that it would have been more straightforward to have brought forward that matter openly, and he would have been one of the first to have aided the re-payment. It was also asserted that there was a sort of private arrangement, that some workings were going forward in foreign lands as well as at home, where he could plainly see that hon. Gentlemen were acting upon a principle well understood in one part of her Majesty's empire, viz., "scratch me and I'll scratch you." The grant was evidently concocted and supported by those who were only anxious to secure power and place, and who, he trusted in heaven, would only hold them for a short time. It was a measure obviously prepared to please those by whose will and pleasure they continued to sit on the Treasury Bench. If they were going to grant this 30,000l. he wanted to know where it would go, and to whom it would go? He should now move, "That it shall be lawful for her Majesty to give and grant, by letters patent under the Great Seal of Great Britain, to her Royal Highness Maria Louisa Victoria, Duchess of Kent, for the term of her natural life, for the adequate provision of her said Royal Highness, a certain annual payment or annuity of 22,000l. of lawful moneys of Great Britain, in lieu of the proposed grant of 30,000l.

Sir S. Whalley

felt some reluctance to the grant, and would most probably have supported the gallant Colonel's proposition but for the line of argument by which he supported it. He assured the hon. Gentleman that he was no party to the scratching system of which he spoke, and was quite surprised that a man of his gallantry should insinuate such motives where a lady was in the case.

Colonel Sibthorp

assured the hon. Member that he did not apply the axiom to the Royal Personage alluded to, but to those who scratched her Majesty's Ministers, in hopes of getting something in return.

Mr. Finch

asserted that instead of merely granting an increase of 8,000l., they were actually giving an increase of 14,000l. Looking at the entire arrangement, and the circumstances under which the additional grant was proposed, he could not reconcile it with his duty to his constituents to accede to it. He must, therefore, give his vote to the gallant Colonel.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 67. Majority 48.

Aglionby, H. A. Kemble, H.
Alsager, Capt. Lowther, Visct.
Attwood, W. Richards, It.
Attwood, M. Round, John
Barrington, Visct. Tollemache, F. J.
Broadwood, H. Wakley, T.
Darby, George Warburton, Henry
Dick, Quintin Wyse, T.
Fielden, John TELLERS.
Finch, F. Sibthorp, Col.
Grimsditch, Thos. Hume, J.
Adam, Sir C. Macnamara, Major
Baker, E. Maule, W. H.
Bentinck, Lord G. Mildmay, P. St. John
Berkeley, hon. H. Morpeth, Visct.
Borthwick, Peter Morris, D.
Briscoe, J. I. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Chalmers, P. Paget, Frederick
Courtenay, P. Parker, J.
Denison, W. J. Pechell, Capt.
Dennistoun, John Rice, T. S.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Rich, H.
Duff, James Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Dundas, Frederick Russell, Lord John
Ebrington, Viscount Smith, R. V.
Ellis, John Steuart, R.
Fergusson, hon. C. Stewart, John
Fitzalan, Lord Stuart, Lord James
Goddard, A. Style, Sir C.
Grey, Sir G. Surrey, Earl of
Hallyburton, Lord Talfourd, Sergeant
Hastie, Archibald Tancred, H. W.
Hawes, B. Thomson, C. P.
Hayter, William G. Tracy, H. H.
Hindley, C. Troubridge, Sir T.
Hobhouse, Sir J. Tufnell, H.
Hobhouse, T. B. Vere, Sir C. B.
Holland, R. Vigors, N. A.
Hope, George W. Whalley, Sir S.
Howard, P. H. White, A.
Howick, Visct. Wood, C.
Labouchere, H. Wood, Sir M.
Lennox, Lord G. Young, G. F.
Lushington, C. TELLERS.
Lynch, A. H. Stanley, E. J.
Macleod, R. Baring, F. T.

Clauses of the Bill were all read and agreed to. The House resumed.