HC Deb 26 May 1848 vol 98 cc1420-2

MR. HUME was anxious, before going into Committee of Supply, and voting more money, to ask the Government whether they could state to the House how they intended to make up the deficiency in last year's revenue—a deficiency of no less than three millions. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but if they had to supply that deficiency they would laugh on the wrong side of their mouths. He rose, however, to offer to the Government a suggestion, and that was, that they should, without delay—seeing the state in which the income and expenditure of the country was — themselves undertake the reduction of that portion of the outlay which it was known could be dispensed with—at any rate, this House ought not to vote money unless Government were to tell them how they meant to provide the means. Hon. Gentlemen would see by a Bill this morning put into their hands, that the sum of 60,000l., to be paid by a railway company, was to be expended upon certain alterations and improvements in the vicinity of Windsor—upon bridges to be built—upon old roads to be stopped up, and new roads formed on the royal property there—alterations which would, he believed, cost 100,000l., instead of 60,000l., before they were completed. Now, considering the present state of the public finances, he did submit to the House that it was rather forgetting their duty thus to set the candle burning at both ends at once. Buckingham Palace had cost 850,000l.; and on Windsor Castle, in his own time, 1,500,000l. had been laid out. The Woods and Forests ought not to forget, that although they had the management of the Crown revenues, these funds no more belonged to the Crown than they did to him. They were public property, just as much as the public property raised by taxes. He did not, therefore, see why Bills should be introduced as was that in question. They were going quite wild in allowing expenses to accumulate in this manner. With respect to this last measure, he intended to move for a report to be laid on the table specifying the exact nature of the works to he performed, and their estimated expense. Setting that subject aside, however, he had an objection to vote a single shilling until they had had the reports of the Committees appointed to investigate into our several branches of expenditure. They must not let matters go on so—they must look to pounds, shillings, and pence. It was absolutely necessary to stave off a national bankruptcy.

The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER said, that his hon. Friend had expended a great deal of virtuous indignation against a Bill not before the House, and which was not intended to entail upon the country the expenditure of a single shilling of public money. The fact was, that a certain portion of Crown property had been given up to a railroad company in consideration of the payment of a sum of 60,000l., which was to be laid out in the improvement of other property belonging to the Crown. All that he proposed to do in Committee, of Supply to-night was, to take certain votes absolutely necessary for carrying on the public service. What reductions could be made in the amount now expended, might, when they had the reports of the various Committees before them, be fairly discussed; but at present he only asked for such votes on account as were absolutely necessary for the carrying on of the public service.

MR. BRIGHT was of opinion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not made himself perfectly understood in his reply to the observations of the hon. Member for Montrose. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated the sum of money proposed to be expended at Windsor did not involve the expenditure of any public money; but it appeared the 60,000l. in question was to be contributed by certain railway companies as compensation for passing over some Crown lands which in reality belonged to the public. If these lands were public property, the money paid for leave to pass over them must belong to the public. If not, he did not see why this Bill was necessary. Whatever money was expended, should be expended after proper consideration, and on proper estimates. There was a feeling abroad that the House encouraged a spirit of increasing extravagance, not only in this, but in every Government, to which they were desirous to see some check.

VISCOUNT MORPETH explained that the money was given by these railways for certain concessions, which otherwise the Crown could not be called upon to give. The Crown was about to throw open grounds which were under its exclusive control, and which could no more be thrown open without its consent than the hon. Member's garden. For that consent the railway companies proposed to advance certain sums, which, under the provisions of the Windsor Improvement Bill, would be laid out in a manner to conduce to the comfort of the Queen, and to the convenience and accommodation of the inhabitants of Windsor.