HC Deb 13 July 1842 vol 65 cc80-4
Sir R. Peel

moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a committee on the Protection of her Majesty's Person Bill.

Mr. Hume

wished to remind the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government, that though the attention of the House had been directed for several months to the distress which prevailed throughout the country, yet no notice had been taken of that portion of her Majesty's Speech at the opening of the Session which called on them to consider the financial difficulties of the nation with a view to the removal of that distress. Contrary to what all experience counselled them to do, they had neglected the first object to which their attention should have been directed—that of seeing how they could best, and to the greatest extent, reduce their expenditure. The estimate which had been laid before them on account, in a great measure, of those wars which were commenced by a former Government, but which must be prosecuted by the present Government, amounted to 19,000,000l.—and would, he feared, in the course of this year, be augmented to 20,000,000l., if not more. Nothing, then, could avail them but a great reduction of their expenditure, both at home and abroad, when such deep distress prevailed throughout the land—not temporary distress, he was sorry to say, but distress which had all the appearance of continuing and increasing. Before, therefore, they proceeded further to vote money, he wished to ask whether it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to afford relief to the country by a large reduction of the civil expenditure of the State? The right hon. Baronet said the other night that no tax was ever received by the country with so much approbation as the Income-tax. He wished the right hon. (Baronet had been present at the Bank of England when the deduction of 5l. or of 101. from the incomes of individuals took place. He would then have heard every man and woman whom this reduction sensibly affected express their bitter feelings at this reduction of their means of support. Such a step ought never to have been taken till the whole civil list was reduced. Men in private life whose circumstances were embarrassed would consider how they could retrench so as to make their income and their expenditure agree; and the same principle ought to be acted on by a Chancellor of the Exchequer or a First Lord of the Treasury in administering the affairs of the nation. Those who had long been receiving largely from the public purse ought, at the present moment of distress, to make an extensive sacrifice in favour of the people. He did not speak of persons who were receiving trifling salaries of 150l. or 200l. or 300l. a-year. No, he spoke of the immensely large amount which was expended in maintaining the Lord Chamberlain's department, the Lord Steward's department, the department of the Master of the Horse. The sum charged for the civil expenditure was 385,000l., from which, if they deducted 60,000l. for the Queens privy purse, there remained 325,000l., which was expended on useless parade, expended on individuals connected with the Court, but who only attended there from time to time. If anything could be more dissatisfactory to the great mass of the people than another, it was to see outside of the palace squalid poverty, misery, and wretchedness, in all their painful variety, and to behold with inside the palace nothing but extravagance, gorgeous grandeur, and expensive finery. It was his suggestion to the right hon. Baronet, that he should now, without further loss of time, advise her Majesty to do away with half of this monstrous expenditure—for monstrous it was, when 325,000l.a-year was squandered in this manner, while distress and poverty covered the country. He saw no reason why there should be so many lords and ladies in waiting. If it were thought proper not to reduce their number, why could they not reduce their allowances, and give them only half of what they now received? He was convinced, that between 2,000,000l. and 3,000,000l. could be saved from the public expenditure, by reducing the salaries of public officers and pensions, and curtailing useless expenses. He would suggest, that it would be a proper step to appoint a select committee to inquire into the expenditure, and that the estimates should be referred to it.

Sir R. Peel

was sure the hon. Gentleman must have delivered the speech he had just made under the impression that the motion before the House was for a committee of supply, but, in point of fact, the motion was, that the Speaker do leave the Chair, in order that the House might resolve itself into committee on the bill for the better protection and security of her Majesty's person. He was quite sure the hon. Gentleman would not have addressed those observations to the House if be had been aware that that was the regular question. With respect to the relief to be effected by great savings, he could not lend himself to that delusion which he should be practising on the country, if he were to inform them that by any saving on the miscellaneous estimates he could hope to mitigate the distress of the country. What were the great sources of expenditure? There was the national debt, and he was sure every hon. Member must see the necessity of maintaining public credit, and providing for the payment of the fundholders. Then there were 17,000,000l. for the expenses of the public establishments, 15,000,000l. being for the army, navy, and ordnance. The estimates for those branches of expenditure had been voted by the House without any hesitation, because they had felt that it would not be consistent with true economy to make any reduction in those departments of the public service, looking to the exigencies of that service and to the force kept up by other powers. When there was any impression on the part of the House and the country that extravagant estimates were proposed, there was every disposition to contest them. With respect to the miscellaneous estimates, if hon. Members would compare the estimates for the last and present years, they would find that some considerable reductions had been made, not in the total amount, indeed, but with reference to the nature and amount of the service done. Last year he had himself expressed great unwillingness to renew the vote for the Caledonian Canal without inquiry, but the subject had subsequently been referred to a select committee, who had reported in favour of the grant, and an addition of 250,000l. to the estimates was made on that account. There were also considerable sums required on account of prisons and parks, and a large amount for the war in China. That war must be brought to a conclusion, and nothing could be more impolitic than to stint the means of terminating it speedily. There was a vote of 400,000l. on that account, and one of 60,000l. under the head of Syria, for neither of which was the present Government responsible. The saving on the whole estimates, calculated, as he had stated, would be 84 000l. He was sorry, that any proposal should be made to interfere with the fund placed at the disposal of the government for rewarding literary and scientific merit, for which purpose 1,200l. a-year was but a moderate sum. The hon. Gentleman had recommended a finance committee, but he had Had some experience of such committees, and knew that they had utterly failed. He doubted whether the Treasury was not always more economical than the House of Commons in a committee of Supply, He hoped the House would at once proceed to the committee on the bill which had been read a first and second time on the previous evening, under circumstances which he could assure the House had excited in a certain quarter, the most grateful feelings and sincere acknowledgments.

. Sir R. Inglis

said, the right hon. Gentleman had given credit to the hon. Member for Montrose, for having made a mistake as to the motion before the House; but the indignant virtue of that hon. Member scorned such a mistake, and he stated, that he knew distinctly what the bill was. He only rose to state, that the hon. Member was, when speaking, un-cheered by a single Member of the Opposition, except the hon. Member for Coventry. He would make no comment on the hop. Member's having taken this opportunity of uttering a tirade as he had done, on the establishment of her Majesty's household, and virtually reflecting on her Majesty.

Mr. Hume

had fallen into a mistake. There was no individual in that House who had more regard for the Sovereign than himself, or would be more happy to see her Majesty protected. He had known as much of her Majesty as the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, and he was sure she would not consider any recommendation of a measure calculated to afford any relief to her subjects an improper or unjust interference.

Mr. Williams

asked, why the hon. Gentleman opposite should have made an allusion to him? He had seen enough of the conduct of that hon. Gentleman to know that he attempted to take to himself exclusive loyalty and attachment to the Sovereign and institutions of the country. It was quite clear, that the hon. Member for Montrose had committed an error. There could be but one feeling in the House respecting the late cowardly and scandalous attempt on her Majesty's life. He indignantly repudiated the reflections which the hon. Baronet opposite thought proper to cast upon himself and other Members seated on that (the Opposition) side of the House. He could assure that hon. Baronet that if her Majesty's person should ever be in danger he would be always found ready to defend her.

Sir R, Peel

deprecated any angry feelings op the subject. It was impossible to obliterate from their recollection the unanimity which prevailed in the House when he asked leave to bring in the bill last evening; not one dissentient voice was raised against the proposition. He did hope, that the feeling of unanimity which then existed would not be deviated from, and that all would unite in carrying the measure speedily through the House.

House went into committee on the bill.

The clauses were agreed to, and the bill passed through committee.

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