HC Deb 23 March 1843 vol 67 cc1333-43
Mr. W. Williams

said, that for several years he had called the attention of the House, when the miscellaneous estimates came before them, to the large expenditure on the royal palaces, and he never could get any satisfactory explanation in answer to his observations. For the last eight years, from 1835, there had been expended on seven royal palaces and Marlborough-house, and the Lower-lodge, Bushy-park, not less than 438,000l., of which large amount no details had been furnished. During the same period there had been expended on the royal parks, under the direction of the Woods and Forests, not less than 433,000l.; a deduction, however, must be made on the credit account from this of 89,000l., which would leave an expenditure of 344,000l. In addition to this, 70,000l. had been expended upon new stables at Windsor Castle. From papers laid on the Table, he also found, that sixty-three houses had been purchased at a cost of 68,900l., for the purpose of continuing the improvements in the neighbourhood of Buckingham-palace and St. James's-park. All these items taken together would make an expenditure of 920,000l. for the royal palaces and parks during the short space of eight years. He had taken these details from the yearly estimates and from the accounts of the Woods and Forests, and there might be other items of expenditure with which he was not acquainted. He said this because, on looking into the annual financial accounts, he could not find any account of the expenditure on the stables at Windsor, under the control of the Woods and Forests, while he knew that that House had voted 70,000l. for that purpose, and he had been informed, that that sum had been actually expended. He did not believe, that any account of the expenditure of that sum had been furnished to the House. For the last eight years no detailed explanations had been given of the expenditure under this head. In the year 1835, a statement of the expenditure on each of the royal palaces was given; he now wished for a similar return up to the present time, for since the period he had just named, all details of the expenditure had been withheld. At present all the information that they possessed was given to the House in the annual account of the Woods and Forests, of the expenditure on the royal parks. Now, the charge for the royal parks, not merely included Windsor park or St. James's-park, but Hamptoncourt-park, the Regent's park, Bushy-park, and even the Curragh of Kildare, and these had cost last year 76,200l. In the estimate for the royal palaces for this year, he found enumerated under one general head— Windsor Castle, with the Poor Knights'-houses, the Tomb-house, the Lower-lodge, the stables, Frogmore-house and other detached buildings, the engine upon the Ring's river for supplying the castle with water, exclusive of the internal repairs, alterations and addi- tions at the state apartments, and those apartments occupied by her Majesty and the royal household. Hampton-court Palace, gardens, buildings, forcing-houses, &c, stables, and outbuildings. Hampton-court stud-house, Longford river and Combe conduct, which supply the palace with water. Kew Palace stables and buildings, belonging to her Majesty, on Kew Green. Kew: the observatory, pagoda and buildings in the pleasure, botanic, and kitchen gardens, including the forcing-house, &c. Kensington Palace, with the buildings in the gardens, &c. Buckingham Palace, for the repairs of the exterior of the building. St. James's Palace. Royal mews and riding-house, Pimlico. Carlton-house stables, external repairs. The royal Pavilion, Brighton, palace, stables and outbuildings, and the estimated charge was 35,191l. In addition to this, there was a charge of 8,400l. for alterations and repairs at Windsor Castle. This made up a sum for the present year of 43,591l. for the royal palaces. All that he required was, that, the annual expenditure should be given in detail, and that each building should have the specific cost stated against it. It appeared to him most extraordinary that there should be any objection to state the expenditure with each item, instead of giving the amount in one sum. The noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests would no doubt state the reasons for refusing to furnish this information; but he hoped that the House would not be satisfied, but would insist upon having the return. If the House had not been neglectful of its duties, as regarded inquiry into the expenditure of the public money, it would not be satisfied with even such a detail as he called for, but would insist upon being furnished with a return having much more extensive explanations. It appeared a most extraordinary proceeding to expend the large sum of 900,000l. on the royal palaces and parks in the course of eight years. Again, a charge for new stables at Claremont-park was, he believed, taken out of the 50,000l. which was nominally allowed to the King of Belgium. If the money came from the purse of the King of Belgium, he could have no ground of complaint; but he strongly suspected, indeed he had every reason to declare, that it came out of the 50,000l. It was true, that the King of Belgium did not now receive any portion of this amount himself, but still there was a very large deduction annually made from this amount for Claremont, and for other purposes. He had no wish to interfere with the palaces, which were kept up for the accommodation of her Majesty; but there were several buildings kept up at the public expense as royal palaces, in which the Queen not only never dwelt, but into which she never entered. Looking to the distressed state of the country, and the great masses of the population which were to be met with without food, and the confused state of the finances of the country, no outlay should be made on those palaces which it was not necessary to keep up for the comfort and convenience of her Majesty. He should like to know for what purpose Kew Palace was kept up at the public expense, which he understood was held by the King of Hanover. Again, Hampton Court was granted out in apartments to persons who had sufficient influence at court to obtain them. All that he required of the noble Lord was to take the estimate of the present year, and to give a detailed explanation of the mode in which the 45,000l. was to be expended, instead of putting the two items in one general sum. The hon. Member concluded by moving an address for an Account of the public money expended on each of the royal palaces, gardens, and parks, and appurtenances thereof; stating the amount of expenditure from Parliamentary grants, Crown revenues surrendered to the public by Civil-list acts, and other sources; and also the amount of the salaries or other emoluments received by the rangers and deputy rangers in each year, from 1811 to 1842, inclusive.

The Earl of Lincoln

thought the hon. Gentleman had almost forgotten the terms of his notice of motion in making his last request. That was not the motion of which the hon. Gentleman had given notice, and if it were he should not have been able to comply with it. It was impossible to estimate the precise sum which would be expended on each item, although a round sum might be stated for the expenses which would be required; but there was not the slightest objection to state how the money had been expended. The motion was, in fact, not a return for one year, but for thirty years, and the only objection he had to make to this return, was the extreme attention and labour it would require, as well as a great consumption of the time of the clerks, and an unnecessary expense for obtaining information which could not be at all valuable. If the hon. Gentleman's object were to seach into the principle of the management of the Woods and Forests, he would attain that end by a return for a much more limited period. He could only assure that hon. Gentleman, that so little desire had the Woods and Forests to conceal anything, whether with regard to the expenditure of the money voted by Parliament, or to the details of the management of the office, that if—instead of making motions in that House which cost a great deal of time and money—he would call at that office, he would receive every information to enable him to substantiate any fact. That would be a very much more convenient course; it was one which he had ventured to suggest to the hon. Member for Hull, when he had given notice of a motion for a return which would have required a considerable number of the clerks to be employed for twelve months to make it out. He had no doubt, with the assistance of the clerks in the office, the hon. Member would be enabled to substantiate any fact he wished in a few hours. If the hon. Member merely wished for a detail of the manner in which the money voted by Parliament was expended, in order to ascertain that it was not was wastefully applied, if the hon. Member would confine his motion to a more limited period, he would not object to it. He did not know why the hon. Member had taken 1811 as the time for the commencement of the returns he moved for, but at that time some of the returns he had moved for were under the control of the Board of Works, and the whole system of management since then had been materially changed, more especially since 1832, when a totally different system of keeping the accounts had been adopted. If the hon. Member would confine his motion from the 1st of January, 1838, to the 1st of January, 1843, the hon. Member might obtain everything he desired. He thought the hon. Member had inaccurately stated the amount of money expended annually on the royal palaces and parks, in stating it at 120,000l. a-year. He thought the hon. Member must have included the cost of public buildings, which amounted to sixty-two in number, in order to swell that amount; for he believed the average expense for royal palaces had been somewhere about 40,000l. a-year, and the average expense of the royal parks had been about 20,000l. a-year, being only half the sum the hon. Member stated. Whether the hon. Member took into his account the amount expended in the purchase of property for a very different purpose—namely, for improvements in the metropolis, he did not know, but the amount voted by Parliament for the expense of royal palaces and parks certainly did not amount to more than half what the hon. Member had stated. As to the royal palaces not occupied by her Majesty, those which cost the largest sum to keep them in repair, were kept up principally for the amusement and enjoyment of the public. No palace cost more to keep up than that of Hampton-court, which had been made the source of very great enjoyment to the public; and as to the apartments of that palace being appropriated to individuals who had influence enough to obtain them, the hon. Gentleman must admit, that no privileges could be more appropriately and properly distributed than those favours had been. One of the last grants of apartments in that palace had been to the Marchioness of Wellesley, and the last of all to the sister of the late Mr. Drummond. The hon. Member had stated, that he could not find any account of the sum spent on the stables at Windsor; the hon. Gentleman needed not to have given himself so much trouble, for if he had looked on the Table of the House he would have found the authority for the expenditure in an act of Parliament. The King of Hanover possessed a small House on Kew Green, but the palace was not occupied by him. The hon. Gentleman had attempted to prove, that the sum expended by the King of the Belgians on Claremont Palace was from the public money. This sum of money was the private property of the King of the Belgians, and he might have received the whole of it; but he paid the whole into the Exchequer with the exception of those sums which were paid in the repair of the palace.

Mr. Hume

thought the return asked for might be granted, and he did not think it would require much trouble on the part of the clerks to make it out, or that it would incur much expense; he therefore thought the vote ought to be conceded. So far from the King of Belgium receiving anything, he knew that the King of Belgium subscribed to many charities in this country out of his own pocket money derived from Belgium. He regretted that he could not say so much for the King of Hanover; we were still called on to pay 21,000l. a-year to the King of Hanover as a Prince of the Blood Royal.

Sir R. Peel

thought, that there must be a general opinion on the part of the House, that the proposition of his noble Friend was a perfectly reasonable one; and that he had completely proved, that her Majesty's Government had no wish to conceal any particular items of the expenditure on royal palaces whatsoever. The hon. Member had seemed to express a desire only for an account of the proportion for the last year of the sums appropriated to this department; but his noble Friend went further, and said he would give a return for the last five years, containing a detail of the whole of the sums applicable to royal residences. Why, if concealment were the object sought, it was quite clear that it must be defeated, by giving an account for five years, as certainly as if a return were made of the expenditure for fifteen or thirty years. But hon. Gentlemen should observe, that the establishments for conducting the public business were upon a very limited scale. Those provided were not more than sufficient for the discharge of the ordinary business; therefore, if numerous and needless returns were moved for, no complaint should be made against the Government for increasing those establishments, and increasing the public expenditure, in order to furnish those returns in compliance with the orders of the House. But what possible object could a return for thirty years answer? A return for five years would be sufficient for the purpose of the hon. Member. But it was not one, but many returns, that the hon. Member asked for, and to agree to the hon. Member must only increase public business and public expense, without his being in any better position than he would be with a return respecting a shorter period. That must be the conclusion which he thought the House would come to, and he hoped that hon. Gentlemen, when they called for these returns, would bear in mind what must be the effect upon the public expenditure. Why, if an account of the expenses of any department during the last thirty years were called for, they would certainly appear to be enormous. That for Windsor Castle, for instance, would appear so; but it would answer no useful or proper purpose to call for such a return. Let not hon. Gentlemen, then, call for returns calculated to create new prejudices and to excite unjustifiable feelings against royalty on account of erro- neous impressions arising from such accounts. What could be more unjust than to dwell on the expenditure upon the royal parks? Who benefitted by it? Her Majesty abandoned all her right to those parks for the purpose of increasing the public delight and satisfaction. The royal parks were not kept for the use of the occupants of the royal palaces. True, they were the Queen's parks, and no doubt sums of money were expended upon them, and, as he thought, wisely expended, because they were devoted to the enjoyment and recreation of the public. Let not then the money laid out upon them be considered as expended upon royalty, and thus be converted into a means of raising prejudice against the monarchy. When, therefore, the hon. Gentleman spoke of 120,000l. being spent upon the parks—an estimate far too high, and which would be nearer the truth if stated at 60,000l. let him deduct what was expended for the enjoyment and comfort of the public from the charges he placed to the account of the Sovereign. Then, as to the palaces, what satisfaction did her Majesty derive from Hampton-court? Were not the public admitted freely into that palace, and permitted fully to enjoy the exhibition of the paintings in the extensive picture-gallery of that palace? And were they not kept there to improve the taste, and to increase the enjoyment and pleasure of the people? Let the expenditure in that quarter then not be considered as an expenditure upon royalty. But then something was said about the rooms and apartments there, and the patronage of Government in connexion with them. The Government derived no patronage from that quarter, and the apartments were granted on condition that they be kept in repair. It was infinitely better that the apartments of the palace of Hampton-court should be inhabited and kept in repair by those inhabitants, than that they should be allowed to go into decay, to be ultimately repaired at the public expense, or perhaps sold by auction. Who would like, however, to hear that the palace was to be sold by Mr. Robins? Would it not be revolting to every lover of his country to have a palace erected by Wolsey and restored by King William, sold by auction? Who would like to hear that? He believed the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hume) would not. He saw that the hon. Member went along with him in his ob- servations. [Mr. Hume nodded assent.] The appointments to the unoccupied apartments in that palace had been made with especial care; and there could not be a better mode of disposing of them than amongst the widows, orphans, and relations of those who had claims upon the public service. [At this part of his speech the right hon. Baronet paused, overcome by the recollection of a late tragical occurrence, connected with the name of Miss Drummond and the allusion to her apartments in Hampton Court. During this pause the right hon. Baronet was warmly cheered from both sides of the House]. He ventured to say, that if they remembered how those appointments were bestowed, they would not consider the expenditure upon Hampton Court as chargeable upon the Sovereign. If it were necessary to say more he might remind them that her Majesty had divested herself of the whole of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, and insisted upon their being placed in trust for the Prince of Wales; that her Majesty had paid the expenses incurred by the visit of the King of Prussia to this country in order to stand godfather to the Prince of Wales; that her Majesty had not asked for the expenses of the christening; that her Majesty had visited Scotland in order to give satisfaction to her subjects there, without appealing to the country for the charges of the journey; that the whole of the extra expenses of the Royal household were paid out of her Majesty's privy purse, and that the Queen had expressed her firm determination that no debt should be incurred for any of the expenses under the civil list; and last, that her Majesty had voluntarily undertaken to bear the burthen of the income-tax to which her subjects were liable. Whatever complaints then might be made in consequence of the stagnation of trade and the distress of the working classes, he ventured to say, that the more that was known of the expenditure connected with the expenses of the monarchy of this country, the more the public would be satisfied, and the less desire would there be to complain of the expenditure in that department.

Mr. Curteis

complained of the conduct of the hon. Member for Montrose for not opposing the bill for expending so much money upon the Royal stables at Windsor, which he would have done had he then had a seat in the House. He thought half the sum of 70.000l. would have been enough for the purpose, and that the public officers must have made a very bad bargain; half the money was enough to build all the stabling that could be required by any monarch of any civilized country whatever.

The motion as amended on the suggestion of Lord Lincoln, and limited to the period between the years 1838 and 1843 inclusive, agreed to.