HC Deb 01 May 1838 vol 42 cc740-9
Mr. Hume

, on rising to bring forward the motion of which he had given notice, said that he was aware that questions of the nature of that to which he was about to draw the attention of the House ought to originate generally with her Majesty's Ministers, and he was one of those who held them to have been negligent and wanting in zeal as regarded the expenditure of the money of the country. Had not this apathy existed on their part, they would not have allowed the annuity to the King of Hanover to have been paid so long. No man could be more anxious than he was that every branch of the royal family should have an adequate provision made for them according to the station which they occupied; at the same time he had been decidedly averse to extravagant practices such as those which had led to the late arrangement of the civil list. He thought the allowance which had been made for the civil list was most extravagant. It had been his lot to oppose votes or grants to the late Duke of York, the Duke of Clarence, &c., and it now remained for him to show whether he could in this instance make a case to induce the House to go along with him. It was only necessary to say, that in the present year the civil list was 60,000l. more than it had been in the late reign; and it, therefore, became the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see what reductions might be made in respect to grants made to members of the royal family. Every one must be aware that these grants were made for the purpose of supporting them in comfort and dignity. The message of George the 3rd., to the Commons, in 1772, was to request them "to make a competent provision for the younger branches of the royal family."—and in consequence of that, a sum of 60,000l. was voted to be divided amongst the six sons then living. Mr. Fox, in the month of May, 1777, observed, that it had always been the policy of the country to make such provision for the different branches of the royal family, in order to render them independent of the Ministers, whilst it bound them by interest and sentiment to protect that constitution under which they enjoyed their incomes. Now he (Mr. Hume) quite concurred in the principle which had been laid down by Mr. Fox. He thought the different branches of the royal family should have an adequate income, in order to render them independent of the Minister, and to ensure their attachment to the constitution. It was because he believed, that the Duke of Cumberland, now King of Hanover, was no longer in a position to perform the latter part of the understanding that he was anxious to submit his motion to the House. By the financial accounts of last year, it appeared, that 21,000l. were paid to the King of Hanover, besides a sum of 2,000l. or 3,000l. to his son, on which latter amount he did not desire to state anything. In bringing forward this motion he did not wish to make a single observation, however much he might differ in political opinion from the King of Hanover, which should be offensive. He wished his remarks to be directed purely to the King of Hanover, as one of the royal family of this country. It appeared that by the 18th George the 3rd., a sum of 60,000l. was given to the six sons per annum, each to receive 10,000l. That Act provided, however, that on the death of one or more of the sons, then this allowance should be equally divided amongst the survivors; and that, if two sons should die, the portion of the second should also be divided amongst the survivors; and so on until each should receive 15,000l. The deaths of the Dukes of York and Kent subsequently occurred, leaving the survivors in the possession of 15,000l. instead of 10,000l. each. In 1806, when Mr. Grey, seceded from the administration, which was usually termed "The Talents," an Act was passed (46 Geo. 3rd), by which 6,000l. annuity was added to the amount, which had been granted by 18 Geo. 3rd. This raised the allowance, which at the time was only 12,000l. to 18,000l. But by the deaths of the Dukes of York and Kent the income, which had been originally 10,000l., became 15,000l. which with the 6,000l. granted by Act 46 Geo. 3rd., c. 145, made 21,000l. at which sum the income remained. The Act 46 Geo. 3rd, granted 6,000l. a-year to each of the princes, in addition to former allowances which had been granted during the pleasure of his late Majesty George the 3rd, but it appeared, that that was not the object which it had been wished to carry out, and by the 47th George the 3rd, these sums were granted to the several princes for their lives, after the demise of the Sovereign; 21,000l. a-year was secured to the Duke of Cumberland, if he had remained in England, and whilst he remained here there could not be any thing to interfere with the right of the Duke of Cumberland to these two sums, which were intended for the maintenance and comfort of the princes, as branches of the royal family, living in England under the British constitution. Now he objected to the King of Hanover receiving this annuity of 6,000l., first, because that Sovereign was not in a situation to observe the conditions upon which it was granted. He was in such a position that he might be placed in hostility against the very Government which allowed this annuity. The King of Hanover was a member of the German diet, he had already joined in those commercial restrictions which had been promulgated by the German States. If any circumstances should hereafter arise which should oblige the diet to declare war against England, the King of of Hanover would be bound immediately to act and join in the war, and to furnish his contingent of men and munition. Now he (Mr. Hume) maintained, that as these acts had altered the sums, so an Act of Parliament under the altered circumstances of the case, ought now to do that which it should have been the duty of her Majesty's Ministers to have done—namely, to suspend the payment of these annuities, amounting to 21,000l. to the King of Hanover, whilst King of Hanover. There were no circumstances which could occur which would not admit of Parliament dealing with this annuity in the way he proposed. If the King of Hanover should become King of England, even then this country would not continue this allowance, because a new arrangement altogether must be made. The King of Hanover had become an independent potentate, and could no longer hold fealty to the Queen of England. His situation was changed, and with that change the payment of the money ought to be suspended. Having dwelt on the character of the annuities which had been granted, the hon. Gentleman observed, that he thought these grants were of a different nature from that which was made to Prince Leopold, afterwards King of Belgium. The latter grant was placed on a much stronger footing. That grant was made, not with reference to any change of situation, but it was secured to the prince during the term of his natural life, if he should survive the Princess. But his Majesty the King of Belgium had rendered it unnecessary that any measures should be taken with regard to him. Now he put the present motion on the simple ground, that the annuity granted to the Duke of Cumberland, as one of the royal family, was intended to maintain him in England, he having no other income. But he had since changed his situation or position—he was no longer a subject of the Queen of England—he was an independent Sovereign, having a separate and adequate income. The people of England ought not to be called upon, therefore, to pay any portion of this income. These were the simple grounds on which he rested his case. It might be argued that the King of Hanover considered it to be an annuity for life, and that he had, under that conviction, made arrangements to pay off his debts out of this annuity. He had no right to incur debts—he had an independent income, and if he incurred debts he was not art independent man He would not detain the House longer—he kept out of view any opinion he might entertain in reference to the Duke of Cumberland, or any other of the royal family; he put the question upon the ground that, by the changed situation of the King of Hanover, the implied contract was broken. He did not propose to take the annuity away, but to suspend it whilst the Duke of Cumberland should continue King of Hanover. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to suspend the payment of the annuity of 6,000l. granted by 46 Geo. 3rd, c. 145, and 47 Geo. 3rd, c. 39; and of the annuity of 15,000l. granted by 1 Geo. 4th, c. 108, to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, now King of Hanover, so long as his Royal Highness shall continue to be King of Hanover.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny had abstained from all political allusions, and had brought forward his motion with good taste and discretion, in reply to which he would briefly state to the House the reason of his opposition to the motion. The hon. Member had said, that the Government should have brought the subject under the consideration of the House, but it would be his endeavour to show the injustice of the motion, and consequently the impossibility of its being introduced by Ministers. The hon. Member, in the early part of his speech, had said, that the present civil list was more expensive than any preceding one. This was a common error, and he would take that opportunity of contradicting the assertion, as the country would enjoy a great saving by the present civil list. The question before the House was, whether or not the annuity could be sus- pended by a fair construction of the Act of Parliament. It was true, that the Legislature had supreme power, but still it was a contracting party, and should not put a new construction on an Act of Parliament, and deprive the King of Hanover of an annuity to which he was entitled. Arguments had been brought forward by high authorities in that House in order to prove, that annuities should cease when the object for which they were granted no longer existed. He had, however, with great humility, and to the utmost of his ability, attempted to controvert such a principle, and had contended, that when Parliament made an unconditional grant, it would be unjust to withdraw it; and he would ask the House, whether any condition was attached to the annuity during life voted to the Duke of Cumberland, now the King of Hanover? There was no power given by the Act to withdraw this annuity. It was granted during the natural life of the Duke of Cumberland, and it was impossible to find anything in the Act that would lead to an opposite construction; unless they were to adept the doctrine of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, that the intention of the grant was, that it was for supporting the Duke in his attendance to his political duties, and that with the cessation of those duties, the annuity should also cease; but this, he thought, was most repugnant to the express terms of the Act of Parliament. How did the fact stand? Had they wished to impose any conditions when the annuity was given, they had the means of doing so; but this had not been done. Now, look to the annuity of Prince George of Hanover, the son of the Duke of Cumberland. In that case, the Act wished to impose certain conditions on the grant—first, as to the education, and next, as to the residence, of the Prince; and then the terms were express and determinate. On that account, therefore, when the hon. Member said they ought not to mix up this question with the grant to the son, they should remember, that the conditions in this case had been accomplished, and therefore the annuity had ceased; but there had been no conditions of this sort imposed in the present case. The hon. Member for Kilkenny, however, said there was a condition implied, although not inserted, and that was—the attendance of the Duke to his political duties, which he could not perform if he resided abroad. Now, if the conditions had really been the performance of political duties, new as this construction was, he thought that the hon. Gentleman might have complained earlier of the absence of the Duke, and of the non-performance of the duties alluded to, for the condition would have been broken as much by the Duke's permanent absence as was now the case by his accession to the throne of Hanover. He could not, however, find in the Act any rule or construction from which even the inference of that condition could be drawn. But then they came to the other alternative. Was the case properly made out for violating the engagement and breaking the contract which was recorded by the Act of Parliament, by which they engaged to pay to the Duke of Cumberland, during his natural life, the sum of 21,000l. per annum? Were they, he would ask, prepared to break that engagement? If so, where should they stop in violating contracts of a similar kind? What principle would they adopt in breaking others, as soon as the necessity or the claims of economy might, in the opinion of the House, render it desirable? There was, however, no possible doubt as to the import of the Act, and there was no possible ground urged for the violation of this engagement which might not be applied to all others. Indeed, the case was stronger than he had stated it. When annuities were granted to members of the royal family, Parliament might have considered the possibility of those members at some day succeeding to the kingdom of Hanover, and if they had wished to make the payment of this annuity to the Duke only while he remained Duke of Cumberland, it was open to the Legislature at that day to have so restricted it. Now, Parliament had granted another annuity with as much formality and fixity as this—he alluded to Prince Leopold, now King of the Belgians, and upon that illustrious person a Crown had fallen, as in the present case; and the hon. Member said, that on that occasion he had called the attention of the House to the subject as soon as the event took place. But Ministers then said, that the annuity had been given by Act of Parliament during the natural life of the Prince, and that they never would become parties to take away what had been secured by law, and yet there were the same grounds for doing it then as now. It was true, that the King of the Belgians, with a princely generosity, and with a highly honourable and independent feeling, for which he merited the greatest praise, had considered it his duty to give up the whole of his annuity, with the exception of certain fixed charges, to which he had rendered himself subject by his residence in England; that he had, as befitting his character of a king, abandoned the whole, except so much as was necessary for the performance of certain duties in this country, which he owed to the Princess Charlotte, and the kindness he had met with in England. Had he not reserved this portion, the feelings of the country would have been outraged: old servants of the Princess would have been unrewarded, and there would have been but one feeling, not of indignation, but of deep regret, that those duties should have been unperformed—or were they to have been furnished from Belgian, and not British, resources? Would this, he would ask, have been right? Unquestionably not; and he thought the distinction was right, that on account of providing for certain duties connected with this country, the Prince should have reserved a certain portion of his British resources, and abandoned the rest. But if the King of the Belgians had not taken this step, it would not have been generous on the part of this country to attempt to remove from him the annuity they had given for his natural life. In all countries, and especially in this, the stability of engagements was the essence of prosperity, and they could not be violated without the greatest danger to the Legislature. It was of the greatest importance to the country to maintain the character of its recorded engagements, since it was the greatest commercial country in existence, evidenced, he thought, by the enormous mass of debt which it had contracted. He had no objection to saving when it could be honestly and honourably effected, but he was prepared to encounter anything, even the opposition of his own Friends in the House, rather than purchase economy by a departure from the principles of justice. On these grounds he must oppose the motion of his hon. Friend. It might or might not have been prudent to anticipate the contingency, but they had no right now to interpret the Act contrary to the interests of the party contracting for the purpose of economy. The hon. Member had stated, that be understood this money was received to satisfy the existing engagements of the King of Hanover in this country. If that were urged, it might perhaps be properly urged, but her Majesty's Government had not taken their present course from having had any communication with his Majesty. It would have been unbecoming to do so, because he trusted that, under all circumstances with which his Majesty was connected, they would discharge their duties with justice. He knew nothing, however, of those debts or incumbrances; but this he was convinced of, that no individual, in any station of life, whether royal or private, could quit this country without some engagement and some duties which he might have to attend to afterwards. But if even the matter were just, on other grounds he should oppose this motion, as the engagements which his Majesty had contracted in this country ought not to be paid from the resources of Hanover. On the ground, then, that the bargain was made for the term of natural life, which no construction of the Act could set aside, he must oppose the motion.

Mr. Warburton

thought, that a comparison could be hardly made between the cases of Prince Leopold and that of the Duke of Cumberland, as the grant to the former was a kind of stipulation in the marriage settlement, whilst that of the Duke of Cumberland was a voluntary grant, to maintain him in his dignity as a prince of the blood and a peer of the realm. So long, therefore, as he remained in this country, the public had a kind of quid pro quo, first in his character of prince of the blood, and, secondly, in his character as a legislative peer. When those powers ceased, the annuity ought to cease; and it was known that his Majesty could never give even a proxy as a peer, except at the commencement of a session. After the commendation which had been passed on the King of the Belgians by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had certainly expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have made a similar proposal as to the Duke of Cumberland, and that the Duke only wished to retain his annuity until his debts were paid. Then the parallel would have been exact; but when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that he would not break a bargain which had been entered into, he must say that he could not construe the act of Parliament in that manner.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that he could not reconcile himself to voting for the motion of the hon. Member, because it was not consistent with the principles on which they ought to deal with the rights of any persons. The hon. Member for Bridport had said, that the annuity was granted to the King of Hanover in his character as a peer of this country; but if he meant by this to induce the House to depart from the Act of Parliament, in consideration of any conditions which they might perhaps have contemplated, he thought his views were not justified. When the grant was made, the Duke of Cumberland was not a peer; the money was granted to the King and the younger members of the royal family, who might afterwards become peers; and, therefore, if they were to violate the specific conditions of any Act of Parliament, let it at least be done with something like a shadow of justice. He thought, however, that if the House acceded to propositions of this kind, the time was not far distant when such a course would give rise to the greatest evils connected with public engagements.

Mr. Hume

said, that he was as anxious as any one to maintain the credit and good faith of the country in respect to its engagements; but this annuity had been granted on the condition of the Duke of Cumberland's being in England, but that was not the case now. He had, indeed, become, as far as England was concerned, civilly defunct, and he therefore objected to his receiving this money.

The House divided—Ayes 62; Noes 97; Majority 35.

List of the AYES.
Abercromby, hn. G. R. Hawes, B.
Archbold, R. Hawkins, J. H.
Beamish, F. B. Hodges, T. L.
Bewes, T. Hollond, R.
Blake, W. J. Horsman, E.
Blewitt, R. J. Humphery, J.
Brotherton, J. Hutton, R.
Bryan, G. Leader, J. T.
Busfield, W. Lushington, C.
Chalmers, P. Macleod, R.
Clay, W. Mactaggart, J.
Collier, J. Morris, D.
Collins, W. Muskett, G. A.
Craig, W. G. Pattison, J.
Denison, W. J. Protheroe, E.
Dennistoun, J. Pryme, G.
Duckworth, S. Rice, E. R.
Duke, Sir J. Roche, E. B.
Dundas, hon. J. C. Rundle, J.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Salwey, Colonel
Fielden, J. Scholefield, J.
Finch, F. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Gillon, W. D. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Grattan, H. Stewart, J.
Hall, B. Strutt, E.
Handley, H. Style, Sir C.
Harvey, D. W. Tancred, H. W.
Thornley, T. Wood, Sir M.
Turner, E. Yates, J. A.
Vigors, N. A.
Wakley, T. TELLERS.
Ward, H. C. Hume, J.
Williams, W. Warburton, H.
List of the NOES.
Acland, T. D. Lincoln, Earl of
Adam, Admiral Lockhart, A. M.
Baillie, Colonel Maule, hon. F.
Baines, E. Maunsell, T. P.
Barnard, E. G. Miller, W. H.
Bernal, R. Milnes, R. M.
Blackstone, W. S. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Bradshaw, J. Nicholl, J.
Broadwood, H. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Burroughes, H. N. Parker, J.
Campbell, Sir J. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
Campbell, W. F. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Carnac, Sir J. R. Perceval, Colonel
Chute, W. L. W. Perceval, hon. G. J.
Clive, hon. R. H. Planta, rt. hon. J.
Compton, H. C. Pringle, A.
Corry, hon. H. Reid, Sir J. R.
Cresswell, C. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Darby, G. Rickford, W.
Darlington, Earl of Rolfe, Sir R. M.
D'Israeli, B. Rolleston, L.
Dunbar, G. Round, J.
Duncombe, hon. W. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Eastnor, Viscount Russell, Lord J.
Ellis, J. Sandon, Viscount
Fector, J. M. Scarlett, hon. R.
Filmer, Sir E. Seymour, Lord
Fleming, J. Sibthorp, Colonel
Fox, G. L. Somerset, Lord G.
Fremantle, Sir T. Stanley, Lord
Freshfield, J. W. Stewart, J.
Gibson, T. Stuart, H.
Gladstone, W. E. Stuart, Lord J.
Gordon, R. Stuart, V.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Sugden, rt. hn. Sir E.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Surrey, Earl of
Granby, Marquis of Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Holmes, W. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Hope, G. W. Vere, Sir C. B.
Hughes, W. B. Verner, Colonel
Ingham, R. Vivian, J. E.
Irving, J. Wodehouse, E.
Jenkins, R. Wood, C.
Kelly, F. Wood, T.
Kirk, P. Wyndham, W.
Knight, H. G. TELLERS.
Knightley, Sir C. Dalmeny, Lord
Labouchere, rt. hn. H. Steuart, R.
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