HC Deb 01 April 1844 vol 73 cc1731-9

House in Committee of Supply.

Sir George Clerk

brought forward the Estimates for Civil Contingencies, and briefly stated, that, in consequence of the removal of the extra expences of British Ministers at Foreign Courts, he was enabled to ask for a considerably smaller Vote this year than last. The sum usually granted had been 130,000l. Last year the sum voted was 120,000l. out of which 10,000l. remained in hand, so the Resolution this year would only be for the sum of 100,000l. He concluded by moving that 100,000l. be granted for Civil Contingencies.

Mr. W. Williams

complained of the heavy expences of our embassy at Constantinople, which amounted to 15,800l. Besides the Consular Establishments, the Embassies were an expense to this country, which were of no use whatever. The sum paid for an Embassy to the King of Hanover ought to be paid out of the 21,000l. a-year allowed to him. He objected to the expense incurred in the conveyance of foreign Princes totally unconnected with us in our ships of war. There was also a very singular charge which ought not to appear in these estimates; it was the amount of the bill of costs of Messrs. Vizard and Leman, solicitors for defending two actions against Lord Brougham when Lord High Chancellor, brought against him by Mr. Dicas, 77l. He thought if the Lord Chancellor rendered himself liable to such an action the public ought not to pay for it. He also wished to call attention to the very heavy charges for sending out Governors to some of our petty Colonies. There was the monstrous sum of 800l. expended in sending out a Governor to our petty Colony of New Zealand, independent of his salary. The whole population was not above 5,000. Then there was the amount of 1,202l. expended for robes and collars, badges, &c., for knights of the several orders, and 1,152l. for new badges of the order of the Bath, and for repairing old ones. He thought those who received these orders, and were fond of them, ought to pay for them. He thought the charge of 2,200l. for the funeral expenses of the Duke of Sussex ought not to be made. He objected to the expense incurred in the conveyance of Colonial Bishops; for instance, there was the expense of 210l. incurred in the conveyance of the Bishop of Gibraltar and suite during a passage from Gibraltar to Athens and Constantinople, and back, on board Her Majesty's steam vessel Devastation. He objected to the item of 1,322l., paid to the Bishop of Chester for preachers in Lancashire for eleven and a half years, from the fifth of April, 1832, to the tenth of October, 1843. It appeared that this was an ancient donation of the Crown, commencing with the period of Queen Elizabeth, and it had been paid out of the funds of the Duchy of Lancaster. ["No."] He would give an authority for it. In 1833, this vote had been disputed, and it was contended that if paid, it ought to be paid out of the funds of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the question had been referred to a Committee of the House, and in consequence of the Report of that Committee the House had refused to pay that sum. The amount ought to be borne by the Ecclesiastical Corporations fund, if it were wished to be withdrawn from the Duchy of Lancaster, and ought not to be paid by the public. In page 14 there was another singular charge, "the amount paid for watering Park-gate-street, Dublin, during the Summers of 1841 and 1842, 68l. 17s. 2d." He thought it an extraordinary charge on the public taxes of the country for watering a street in Dublin. He had seen many strange charges, but never saw one like this. There was a sum of 400l. paid to the College of St. David, in Wales; he did not complain of this item, he was only sorry it was not larger. The funds of the College were inadequate and insufficient for the proper education of the clergy of South Wales. The House was aware of the state of the Church in that part of the country—that, in point of fact, it was despoiled of great part of its property. Pretty near the whole of the property of the Church was now in the hands of lay impropriators, the Church deriving no advantage from it. Vast wealth had been taken from the Church in South Wales, and was held by persons who were strangers to the country, and who rendered no service whatever in promoting the welfare of the Church. He had seen a statement made in those most admirably written letters of The Times' correspondent in Wales, in which that Gentleman had pointed out facts which he (Mr. Williams) had verified, from which it appeared that in fifteen parishes in he neighbourhood of this College the whole of the tithes were in the hands of one lay impropriator. This gentleman drew 6,000l. a year from the tithes of these fifteen parishes. These fifteen parishes were served by twenty-one clergymen, who had but about 70l. a year each, whilst this lay impropriator took 400l. a-year from each of them. He mentioned this fact in order to show that the Church having been despoiled of its property, there was not sufficient inducement to send young men to the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge to be educated for the Church, and therefore, those who were to be educated for the Church resorted to this college; and if a larger sum were granted for its use it would confer on a large part of that country most important benefits. The two richly endowed Universities of Oxford and Cambridge received annually 2,000l. from the public funds. The six Colleges and Universities in Scotland received 7,080l. a-year. The Colleges and Academies in Ireland 12,000l. The London University received last year, 4,548l. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would take this question into consideration; the Government would confer the greatest possible benefit on the Church of that part of the country by increasing this grant.

Dr. Bowring

objected to the payment made to dragomans in Turkey for translations. Our own resident consuls ought to be efficient persons to do that duty.

Sir G. Clerk

said, that Englishmen were being instructed in the Turkish language in Turkey, in order to take the place of these foreigners, and he had no doubt but that very great ad vantages would arise from having persons appointed to this office who had an interest in this country. He thought that the accommodation of passages in our ships of war ought to be afforded to foreign princes as an act of courtesy. He trusted that the Committee would not, in order to save so paltry a sum as was usually comprehended in this item, consent to discontinue its courtesy to foreigners of distinction. With regard to the passage of Colonial Governors to their respective seats of Government, it was necessary, as their salaries were usually small, either to give them a passage out, or such a sum of money as would enable them to obtain a passage for themselves and their suite. With regard to the expenses of the Imaum of Muscat, it was probably known that that personage on his visit to this country, was intrusted with some valuable presents for Her Majesty, and he was also detained here a long time. Sir C. Forbes undertook to manage the Imaum's expenses, and the item was, in his opinion, by no means extravagant. With regard to Messrs. Vizard and Leman's bill of costs, he should state that Mr. Dicas brought several actions against Lord Brougham for orders which he had made in his official capacity; in every case Mr. Dicas was defeated, and ultimately died insolvent. Lord Brougham then made application to the Treasury to have expenses allowed him for defending himself in his official capacity against improper attacks, and it was thought that the application was a reasonable one. With respect to the charge of 1,322l. to the Bishop of Chester for the payment of preachers in Lancashire for eleven and a-half years—the right hon. Gentleman explained, that in the reign of Elizabeth a grant of 200l. per annum was made to the Bishop of Chester for the payment of four preachers in the county of Lancaster; that grant had been perpetuated, and the payment was not chargeable upon the Duchy of Lancaster.

Sir C. Napier

alluded to the item of 10,500l. for Sir H. Pottinger's mission to China, and he did so because it had been currently rumoured that some misunderstanding had taken place between Sir W. Parker, the naval commander, and Sir H. Pottinger, the military commander, in consequence of neither being willing to acknowledge the other as supeirior in command. Perhaps the, noble Lord opposite, the Secretary for the Colonies, would be good enough to state whether there was any foundation for the rumour. He was quite satisfied with the explanation which had been given in reference to the entertainment of foreigners of distinction on board a man-of-war; it would be highly unbecoming that the commander of a man-of-war should have to present his Bill like a tavern-keener to such per- sons, after entertaining them. He did not, however, at all approve of sending men-to-war to convey colonial governors to their destinations, when they could proceed much more speedily, and with less expence, by mail-steamers or other conveyances. There was, for example, the case of Sir R. Wilson, who was sent out to Gibraltar. There was a packet elegantly fitted up started for Gibraltar once a fortnight. Why that Gentleman could not have gone to Gibraltar with his suite by one of those packets instead of the Government employing a 50-gun frigate to convey him, he could not conceive.

Lord Stanley

said, that no class of persons suffered such great losses from the expence of going out to take possession of their commands as Governors sent out to Her Majesty's Colonies. When foreign Ministers were sent out it was customary to grant them an outfit. Governors received no outfit, and they burthened themselves with a debt in providing their outfit which required several years' salary to liquidate. There was a certain fixed rate allowed for the purpose of transporting themselves and their families to their various seats of government, and they had a right to demand that sum to cover the expence of their passage. Sir R. Wilson was entitled to the sum of 200l. for conveying himself and his family to Gibraltar, and Sir A. Woodford was entitled to the same sum for his passage home. The vessel that took Sir R. Wilson to Gibraltar was lying at Plymouth, and might just as well have been engaged in its passage to Gibraltar as lying useless at Plymouth. The Warspite took out one Governor and brought home another, and the expence for conveying Sir R. Wilson was only 91l. 10s. In fact, both the voyages were performed for less than either of those gentlemen was entitled to. He, however, would ask the Committee, even if the expence were somewhat increased, whether a certain amount of consideration was not derived from the fact of a Governor going out to take the command of an important fortress in a vessel of war, and arriving at his destination under the British flag.

Mr. Hume

directed the attention of the Committee to two items; one of 439l. 3s. 4d., for fees paid to the officers of the Order of the Garter upon the installation of His Majesty the King of Prussia as Knight Companion; and the other of 821l. 13s. 4d., for fees paid to the officers of the Order of the Bath, upon the nomination of Vice-Admiral Sir W. Parker, Major-General Sir H. Pottinger, Major-General Sir G. Pollock, Major-General Sir W. Nott, and Major-General Sir C. Napier, to be Knights Grand Crosses of the Bath. He remembered that when Admiral Codrington was applied to for fees for the honour conferred upon him, he told the applicants to go to those who gave it to him, for he had never asked for it. If the Queen chose to confer an honour on the King of Prussia she ought to do so at her own expence. He protested against the tax levied upon the country by means of these fees, for rewarding meritorious officers for great public services. The honours ought to be conferred upon them free of charge. If fools wanted honours, they should be made to pay for them. These fees ought to be abolished. Let him have a Committee composed of Members from both sides of the House, and he would convince them that these fees or these officers ought to be abolished. He did not care if he had a majority of Tory Members, for though in the lump he would not say much for them, individually he thought them as good as other Members. He saw a sum of 42l. 10s. charged for medicines applied to the sick poor in the Scilly Islands; who was the proprietors of the Scilly Islands? He saw another improper charge of 368l. 12s. 2d. for bringing silver coin from Ireland to the Bank of England. Great inconvenience had arisen in consequence of the Measures taken with regard to the gold coinage, and the Bank of England was quite unable to remedy that inconvenience. Bankers were compelled to buy silver from toll keepers and others in the neighbourhood of the metropolis. He was at a banking-house upon one occasion when the scarcity of silver was productive of great inconvenience, and he asked, "Why do you not apply to the Government." The reply was, "We have; but the Government has done nothing to help us." The Mint might have coined four times as much as they did to meet the demand, but they went on upon their old jog-trot system. He thought the Master of the Mint, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ought to pay this item. Before he sat down, he must say, that the present was the best estimate he had seen since he had been in the House for many years.

Sir C. Napier

wished to know, with reference to the charge of 10,505l. on account of Sir H. Pottinger's special mission to China, whether the report was true, that a misunderstanding had arisen between Sir H. Pottinger and the naval and military authorities on the China station?

Lord Stanley

said, that Sir H. Pottinger and the naval and military officers on the Chinese station, acted under orders from the Foreign, not the Colonial Office; but be had no hesitation in stating, that the general instructions sent out were, that the naval and military officers should, in the anomalous position of affairs in China, render Sir H. Pottinger, as Civil Governor of Hong Kong and Minister Plenipotentiary, every assistance to carry the operations with which he was charged into effect, And, notwithstanding some difference of opinion between those hon. and gallant Officers, as to the strict letter of right under which the one was entitled to call for, and the others to render the service required, yet during the whole of the negotiations, no difference whatever existed between them which, for a moment, interfered with their cordial co-operation in discharging their respective duties.

Colonel Sibthorp

wanted to know what were the duties, and what was the pay, of our ambassador at Madrid? Why was Mr. H. L. Bulwer, of all men in the world, appointed to such a post? Did the right hon. Baronet think there was no one on that side of the House fit to discharge the duties he had committed to a political opponent? He wanted to know why this preference was given. He did want to know why a Conservative was overlooked for a Radical?

Sir R. Peel

with all respect for his hon. Friend, must decline to answer the question. No one was more disposed to admit than he was the claims of party, but they ought not to interfere with professional qualifications and aptitude for the public service, nor ought the reward of tried services be forfeited in consequence of any particular political opinions.

Vote agreed to.

On the question that a sum of 112,190l. be granted for the expenses of Works and repairs of Public Buildings,

Mr. W. Williams

objected to so large a sum being expended on royal palaces and parks, at the discretion of the Woods and Forests. Last year he stated that the expenditure for royal palaces and parks during the five years preceding had been, on an average, 120,000l. a year. The noble Lord the First Commissioner of the Woods and Forests, questioned the accuracy of that statement, and said he believed it was not more than 60,000l. a year. In consequence of that he moved for a return, and from that he found that in 1838, the sum expended on royal palaces and parks was 89,000l.; in 1839, 98,000l.; in 1840, 135,000l.; in 1841; 143,000l.; in 1842, 151,000l.; but in addition to that there had been an omission. A sum of 38,900l., for the purchase of houses near Buckingham Palace, had been omitted. Adding that to the former stuns, it made the expenditure, during the live years, 686,000l., or an average, not of 120,000l., but of 137,000l. a year. He perceived that there was a charge for Marlborough House in this Return, and he certainly thought that as Queen Adelaide was receiving 100,000l. a year of public money, she might defray this expense herself.

The Earl of Lincoln

was not prepared to answer all the observations of the hon. Gentleman in detail, but he believed they were almost precisely similar to the statements he made last year. The hon. Gentleman had commented on the expense of the parks to the public, and had said that if they were exclusively for the use and enjoyment of Her Majesty, he should not so much grudge the expense. He was surprised to hear from the hon. Gentleman an observation to the effect that he disapproved of an expenditure for the benefit of the public, for such was the case as regarded the parks. He was also surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman express an opinion to the effect, that there were too many of the parks. He was sure that the hon. Member for Montrose did not concur in that opinion: for the hon. Member for Montrose, so far from thinking that there were too many parks, was of opinion that fresh ones ought to be provided in various parts of the town. [Mr. Williams had referred to the palaces.] With the exception of Windsor and Buckingham Palaces, the royal palaces were also appropriated to the public. Though a few parties were allowed to reside at Hampton Palace, yet that palace was open for the benefit of the public, and he appealed to the house, whether the apartments there allotted to individuals, were not granted by Her Majesty with the kindest feelings, for the purpose of giving accommodation to widows and others left destitute and unprovided for? All the parties having apartments kept them at their own expense, and the money otherwise expended was spent in maintaining the general building. With regard to Marlborough House, the only sum the public was called on to pay for this year, was 100l. He saw an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ewart,) who, he believed, would be glad to receive some information about Richmond Park. If the hon. Gentleman rode down there, he would not only obtain ready admittance, but would find boards affixed to the gates, or, if not affixed at the present moment, they would be shortly, announcing that that park would be open to the public under the same regulations, and for the same hours as the other parks in the metropolis. In justice, to Lord Sidmouth, he must say, he took upon himself the whole responsibility of not making these regulations earlier. Considering the age of Lord Sidmouth, he did not feel justitied in interfering with those regulations which that noble Lord had exercised with the kindest spirit, and with the view of giving accommodation where he thought he could properly do so. On the death of that noble Lord, he submitted to Her Majesty the expediency of opening that park to the public, like the other parks. Her Majesty at once signified her assent, and the suggestion was also readily acquiesced in by the Duke of Cambridge.

Mr. Ewart

thanked the noble Lord, in the name of the public, for his having thrown open Richmond Park, and should be ever ready to acknowledge similar concessions.

The Vote was agreed to, as were some other Votes.