HC Deb 27 March 1840 vol 53 cc172-80
Mr. Hume

said that, after the motion he made in May 1838, he had hoped it would have been unnecessary for him to bring the subject of the king of Hanover's pension of 21,000l. a-year before the House again. He perceived by a Parliamentary account, that the Duke of Cumberland had received, since his accession to the throne of Hanover up to the present period, no less than 53,365l. When he brought forward this motion in 1838, the House did not concur with him, and his motion was lost by a majority of 35. Since that period, the king of Hanover had had time to reflect on the subject, and he was, no doubt, aware of the financial difficulty in which the country was now placed. He had hoped that the king of Hanover would have followed the example of the king of the Belgians, who had never received one shilling of English money, for he repaid his pension to trustees, who delivered it over to the Treasury, deducting certain allowances to the old servants of the Princess Charlotte, and a sum sufficient to maintain the Claremont estate. He had hoped that the king of Hanover would have followed that liberal example, and as he had not done so, he thought that her Majesty's Ministers ought to have attended to the subject. He thought that this money was improperly paid, and he would tell the House why he thought so. In the last debate on this subject, the right hon. Member for Ripon, who he regretted was not now present, admitted, that if an act of Parliament gave a sum for a specific purpose it was competent to Parliament to rescind the grant, if the object for which it was paid did not continue. Now, what was the present case? The money of this country was, in the first place, granted under 18th Geo. 3rd, c. 31. By this act, 60,000l. was allowed to George 3rd, for his five eldest sons, Prince Ernest being one. This gave each of his sons 12,000l. a-year, with benefit of survivorship, which increased the King of Hanover's allowance to 15,000l. And Lord Grenville added to this sum by a grant of 6,000l.; making the whole annuity what he had stated, 21,000l. The act stated, that it being just and reasonable to enable his Majesty to make provision for the honourable support and maintenance of the Princes, allowed the sum to which he had referred. Now George 3rd, being without hereditary revenues, it appeared to him, that Parliament granted him this sum for the benefit of his sons, they having no other income. He put this question to the noble Lord, if it had been known at the time that grant was made, that Prince Ernest would ascend the throne of Hanover and obtain 300,000l. a-year, or at any rate, a sufficiently large sum to maintain his dignity, would the House have consented to it? Her Majesty's Government ought, at any rate, to suspend this grant, because he thought it was quite possible, that the King of Hanover might come to reside in this country; and, if so, he must, of course, surrender what he received from Hanover, and become entitled to his former allowance. What he now contended for was, that his succession to the throne of Hanover, which secured him an ample revenue, did away with the intention and spirit of the act, granting a sum out of the Exchequer of this country for his maintenance and support, as one of the sons of George 3rd. The act of George 4th continued this pension for the same reason as that of George 3rd, and the reason of both being passed no longer existing, the country ought to have the benefit of their repeal. On a former occasion, the right hon. Member for Cambridge said, that the King of Hanover was as much entitled to this money, as any creditor to his dividend. The cases were quite dissimilar, one was a voluntary grant by Parliament, the other the result of a bargain. He was aware, that it was highly proper to preserve public faith, and he never countenanced the smallest violation of it, but it was perfectly consistent with such views to call upon Parliament to deal in an economical spirit with the public money, when the industry of the country was so heavily burdened as it was. This 21,000l. might be enough to pay the loan which the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, in all probability, have to borrow, in order to carry on the business of the country. At any rate, it would contribute to lessen such a charge. He found that a sum of 720,000l. was voted this year to the royal family. Now, when he saw the mother of the Queen obliged to rent a house, while the King of Hanover held one half of St. James's Palace, which he locked up, keeping the key, he must say, that it was such an extraordinary circumstance, that he did not see what the Government was about to allow it. It was their business to see that the public property was taken care of, and he did not understand why they did not interfere in such a case. He understood, that the Government was about to resume 400 or 500 acres of land at Kew, which the King of Hanover formerly possessed. If they had the power to do this, why not also withdraw his pension? It had been said, that he acted on the present occasion, from a difference in political views with the King of Hanover. He certainly was directly opposed to his political views, but his only object in submitting the present motion was to guard the public purse against unnecessary extravagance. He put this single proposition to the noble Lord:—Suppose the King of Hanover, as a member of the German Confederacy, declared war against England, should we enable him to carry on that warfare by our means? Again, suppose he succeeded to the throne of England, would not such a change, allowing him a larger means of support, annul his present pension? He held, on sound principle and in point of economy, that this pension should no longer be granted, it having been at first given as "an honourable means of support," and the reason of it now failing, in consequence of the King of Hanover being an independent sovereign. He should conclude, then, by moving for leave to bring in a bill to suspend the pension paid to the King of Hanover.

Lord John Russell

said, that the present was a motion for the purpose of taking away an annuity granted to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland for life. That simple sentence appeared to contain the whole case. Parliament had granted the annuity for life. For life, therefore, he considered that it became the property of the Duke of Cumberland. So his Royal Highness had a right to consider it, and he might have charged it with debts or otherwise disposed of it as a bona fide annuity granted by Parliament. With respect to the question whether, on becoming King of Hanover, the Duke of Cumberland ought to have surrendered the whole or a part of the income derived from this country, that was a subject upon which individuals had aright to give their opinion; but that was not the question before the House. The question was, whether the House could properly take away, by Act of Parliament, a sum that had been already given; and he was of opinion that, at least, it ought not. He should not go further into the question, and would only allude to what the hon. Gentleman had stated with respect to the conduct of the Administration as to the apartments granted for the use of the Duke of Cumberland. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that her Majesty's Ministers were to blame for not seeing that those apartments were not properly occupied and taken care of by the persons who enjoyed the use of them. As to the latter point, the Office of Works would certainly take all due pains that the apartments in question should he in a state becoming the royal palace. With regard to the question, whether her Majesty should resume the occupation of those apartments, he apprehended that was a point for the consideration of her Majesty. If her Majesty had seen fit to provide a private residence for her august mother the Duchess of Kent, the expense of that establishment would be defrayed by her Majesty herself, and not by the public; and he conceived that no person would be prepared to institute an inquisition into the expenditure of the privy purse. There were many demands upon the privy purse— many in which her Majesty had no personal interest, but it became her to continue what had been done. The Queen had taken upon herself the debts of his late Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, and various other expenses, for which there was no legal claim upon her Majesty. If, besides those heavy expenses, her Majesty should be disposed to contribute towards the expense of a private residence for the Duchess of Kent, the public would not be called upon to bear any part of the charge. He would make no observation on what might have been the conduct of other persons with respect to these apartments in St. James's Palace; but with regard to her Majesty, her Majesty's advisers could not give any other advice to their Sovereign, than that it would not be proper to alter the noble and generous conduct towards all the members of the Royal Family that had hitherto been pursued.

Colonel Perceval

was satisfied that every Member would join in the eulogy which the noble Lord had so justly pronounced upon the conduct of her Majesty in disposing of the privy purse; but he felt it his duty to take that opportunity of giving a public contradiction to a statement contained in one of the papers supposed to be in the confidence of the Government, setting forth that application had been made for the apartments in St. James's Palace for the accommodation of the Duchess of Kent, by authority of her Majesty, and had been refused. He was authorised to say, not only that that statement was not true; but that, on the contrary, the Duchess of Kent objected to the apartments, as, in every respect, inconvenient for her accommodation. He presumed that what he thus stated was not unknown to the members of the Government. There was nothing in what had fallen from the hon. Member for Kilkenny, in introducing this subject, which called upon him to make any remark with reference to the manner in which he had expressed himself towards the Duke of Cumberland, now King of Hanover; but he could not allow it to be supposed that the King of Hanover derived any advantage from the meadows at Kew. All the profits derived from that land were paid into the office of the Woods and Forests. This he was himself aware of; and he was authorised further to state, that all the profits derived from grazing and otherwise were paid in to the Woods and Forests. Such he knew to have been the case when the Duke of Cumberland resided at Kew; for he sent a horse or two to graze there, and he made his bargain, through a saddler, with a servant of the Woods and Forests. The only advantage that the King of Hanover derived from these meadows was, that some old horses were allowed to graze there. As every man's estate belonged to the owner, so it was competent to the Duke of Cumberland to deal with his income; but he was prepared to show— although he did not suppose the House would think it necessary that he should enter into particulars of private expenditure—he was prepared to show, if necessary, that the income which the King of Hanover derived from this country was applied, as it had always been, to paying the interest on his just debts, and paying off the principal by instalments. He had premises and stables at Kew, and maintained about three and twenty servants there, as he had done when he resided there, for he was not the man, when he became King of Hanover, to turn away any of those servants whom he had retained for so many years. Some of those he had the honour and good fortune to know, and the occasions when he had had the honour of being a guest at Kew not having been unfrequent, he found the same servants at his last visit whom he had met at his first. No man was more highly beloved than the Duke of Cumberland was by the members of his establishment, He continued to all, now that he was King of Hanover, the same allowances which they had enjoyed before. There was no part of the statement of which he (Col. P.) was not authorised to give an explanation, but he trusted that the House would be satisfied with these general remarks; and that, although the motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny was reconcilable with his usual views of economy, the House would not think it its duty to take away that which had been granted by the authority of Parliament, and over which they had no more control than he had over the property of any other individual.

Lord John Russell

understood the hon. and gallant Colonel to say, that the apartments of the King of Hanover in St. James's-palace had been declined by her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, as being inconvenient, and that that circumstance was known to her Majesty's Ministers. If that was the statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, lie must say, that it was a statement altogether new to him. He was not aware of anything of the kind.

Colonel Perceval

read a statement from a written paper, to the effect, that "it had been erroneously supposed, that the apartments had been desired by the Duchess of Kent. So far from that being the case, her Royal Highness did not wish for them, and considered them inconvenient" [Name, name]. He had no objection to name the authority—he was reading the statement of Sir Frederick Watson, the gentleman who managed the affairs of the King of Hanover in this country.

Mr. Warburton

asked if it could be denied, that when the income was given to the Duke of Cumberland, it was not in contemplation of the Parliament which granted it, that it should be granted or continued to a foreign potentate? It was given to a prince of the blood royal of the English race. The case stood upon a sense of propriety both on the part of the Duke of Cumberland and of the House. Whether it was proper that an income derived from this country should be received by a fereign potentate—an income voted to him when he was Duke of Cumberland, in support of his dignity in that character. What had induced the Marquess Camden to give up the large income to which he was entitled as teller of the Exchequer. He was aware, that the country was in difficulties, and it was his sense of duty that made him give up the emoluments of his office. If the present was merely a case of pensioning off old servants, or of paying just debts, as had been hinted at by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, he (Mr. Warburton) was sure, that no one would be more ready than his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny to mate an allowance on that account; but if the whole income of the Duke of Cumberland was devoted to those purposes, it followed as a matter of course, that his Majesty of Hanover, had he remained in this country, would have had no income at all to live upon. If reasonable and just demands upon the income of the King of Hanover could be made out, the hon. Member for Kilkenny would be the first to admit the justice of meeting them; but until such, demands were made out, it was quite right that some such proposition should be made, as that now before the House.

Mr. Aglionby

, in calling the attention of the House to the terms of the Act of Parliament, said that these grants were originally made in consideration of the large family of George 3rd, and no such change as one of the princes becoming the sovereign of a foreign state was then contemplated.

Lord Worsley

believed, it was the general wish throughout the country that the King of Hanover should relinquish this pension, but, at the same time, he was bound to say, that although certain words might have been used in the act of Parliament without reference to circumstances that might afterwards take place, he did not think it was fair to put such a construction as had been attempted to be put upon the act. He could not, however, express too strongly his wish that the King of Hanover would give up this pension; nor could he express too strongly his opinion, that he ought to have done so before this time. But, at the same time, he recollected, that during the debates upon the pension list, one of the grounds of objection was that those pensions were under the guarantee of an act of Parliament. On the same principle, he conceived, that this pension had been guaranteed to the King of Hanover by act of Parliament, and, therefore, however strongly he might feel that the income ought to be relinquished, he should not act honestly, if he did not vote against the motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny.

Mr. Handley

would vote with the hon. Member for Kilkenny, because he believed that the present state of things was not contemplated when the income was granted to the King of Hanover. He would ask if the King of Hanover were engaged at war with this country, would hon. Members think proper to continue the allowance. He apprehended that that Sovereign had already waged war against the commerce of this country, by levying and collecting a system of duties more galling than any that could be conceived. As to the payment of the profits of the meadows, that had been alluded to, he would ask, if they had been spontaneously paid, or had they not been withheld until the King had been called to account for rents, which, otherwise he was prepared to put into his own pocket.

Colonel Sibthorp

contended, that as the annuity to the King of Hanover had been granted by an act of Parliament, that House had no right to deprive him of it, at the same time, he must say, if he were in the situation of the King of Hanover, he would give it up. They had no right, however, to compel any man to surrender up aright enjoyed by act of Parliament, and, on that ground, he certainly should not vote for the motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny.

Sir R. Price

said, he could not, for his own part, understand how the King of Hanover could consent to receive this annuity under such circumstances. His opinion was, that when a member of the Royal Family became entitled to the crown of another country, he should cease to draw money which was intended for his use while resident in England, and he only wished, that in this respect, his Hanoverian Majesty had followed the example of King Leopold, not to mention that set by Lord Camden. When this debate reached Hanover, he hoped his Majesty would be advised not to accept this 21,000l. in future, but although his opinion was, that the King of Hanover should not accept this annuity, he nevertheless did not feel, that he could vote on this occasion with the hon. Member for Kilkenny. He was quite aware how easy it was to draw distinctions between cases, but, at the same time, he thought, that in matters, of this kind, the honour of this country should be consulted, and that they had no right to withdraw by force, that which was given by act of Parliament.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny seemed to suppose that, because the original act was for the maintenance and support of the Duke of Cumberland, the House was now to judge whether he required that support, and, judging that he did not so require it, were at liberty to take it away. This was merely a technical objection, but the hon. Gentleman ought to have assured himself, that the words he quoted were in the act, which they were not. When the King died, it was expressly stated, that these annuities were no longer payable out of the hereditary revenues, and Parliament proceeded to charge them upon the consolidated fund. If the House admitted the principle contended for by the hon. Member, there was not an annuity granted to a single individual, that might not be destroyed.

The House divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 76: Majority 13.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Morris, D.
Barry, G. S. O'Connell, D.
Berkeley, hon. H. O'Connell, M. J.
Berkeley, hon. C. Pattison, J.
Bewes, T. Philips, M.
Blake, W. J. Ponsonby, hon. J.
Bridgman, H. Power, J.
Brotherton, J. Protheroe, E.
Collier, J. Pryrne, G.
Dashwood, G. H. Rice, E. R.
Denison, W. J. Rundle, J.
Dennistoun, J. Salwey, Colonel
Duke, Sir J. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Duncombe, T. Staunton, Sir G.T.
Evans, Sir De L. Strickland, Sir G.
Ewart, W. Strutt, E.
Fort, J. Style, Sir C.
Greg, R. H. Tancred, H. W.
Hall, Sir B. Thornley, T.
Handley, H. Turner, E.
Hawes, B. Turner, W.
Hawkins, J. H. Vigors, N. A.
Hodges, T. L. Wakley, T.
Horsman, E. Wallace, R.
Humphrey, J, White, A.
Hutton, R. Wilbraham, G.
Jervis, S. Williams, W.
Lambton, H. Wilshere, W.
Lister, E. C. Wood, B.
Lushington, C. Yates, J. A.
M'Taggart, J. TELLERS.
Marshall, W. Hume, J.
Marsland, H. Warburton, H.
List of the NOES.
Bagge, W. Clay, W.
Baillie, Colonel Darby, G.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Drummond, H. H.
Barnard, E. G. Eastnor, Viscount
Blackburne, I. Egerton, W. T.
Boldero, H. G. Fector, J. M.
Bruges, W. H. L. Feilden, W.
Christopher, R, A. Fellowes, E.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Pakington, J. S.
Follett, Sir W. Palmerston, Viscount
Forester, hon. G. Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.
Gladstone, W. E. Peel, rt. hon. Sir H.
Goddard, A. Pemberton, T.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Perceval, hon. G. J.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C. Polhill, F.
Hamilton, Lord C. Pollock, Sir F.
Hardinge, rt. hon. Sir H. Praed, W.T.
Pringle, A.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Pusey, P.
Hodgson, R. Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.
Holmes, hon. W. A. Richards, R.
Holmes, W. Rose, rt. hn. Sir. G.
Hope, hon. C. Round, C. G.
Hurst, R. H. Round, J.
Ingham, R. Rushout, G.
Irving, J. Russell, Lord J.
Jackson, Sergeant Sandon, Viscount
Jones, J. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Kemble, H. Smyth, Sir G. H.
Lincoln, Earl of Steuart, R.
Lygon, hon. General Sutton, hn. J.H.T.M.
Mackenzie, W. F. Teignmouth, Lord
Mackenzie, T. Thornhill, G.
Mackinnon, W. A. Trench, Sir F.
Marsland, T. Verner, Colonel
Mathew, G. B. Wood, Colonel T.
Maule, hon. F. Worsley, Lord
Miller, W. H. TELLERS.
Neeld, J. Sibthorp, Colonel
Nicholl, J. Perceval, Colonel