HC Deb 13 February 1849 vol 102 cc667-9

rose to move— That it be an Instruction to the Committee to extend their inquiry to the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster. He (Mr. Trelawny) know that he should be met with the objection that the duchy of Cornwall was not Crown property, and that it was originally given to the eldest son of the Monarch. But to this he answered, that in case of the death of the Prince of Wales the property reverted to the Crown; and that during the whole period of 500 years, for which the duchy of Cornwall had been held, it had been longer in the possession of the Crown than of any Duke of Cornwall. Considering that Parliament would soon have to determine upon a provision for the Prince of Wales, it was of importance that an inquiry should be made into the present management of this property; and as the Committee of Woods and Forests were now sitting, he could not see what objection could be urged to the matter being referred to them. Perhaps he would be told that these revenues were private property. If they were so, then why were the accounts annually published, and submitted to the House? In 1846 the gross income of the duchy of Cornwall amounted to 50,395l., and the amount paid to the Crown and the trustees of the Crown was only 12,032l., so that the cost of collecting was 38,363l He therefore thought this subject highly demanding investigation, for no private estate would be allowed to remain in such a mismanaged condition; and for these reasons he had brought forward this Motion. He might be told that the management was recently much improved; but that did not argue that still greater improvements might not be effected.


said, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trelawny) who made this Motion, had shown in his speech that he brought it forward with the view of applying the revenues of these two duchies to the exigencies of the public service as part of the supplies. It was on this ground that he (Lord J. Russell) must oppose this Motion. This House, before which the whole question of the revenues of the Crown came, had declared that the Crown might receive the revenues of these duchies. The Parliament could, of course, if they thought fit, make a new settlement on the Crown; and it was, of course, perfectly competent—though he would not say it would be just or expedient to make such an arrangement—for them to make that new settlement contingent upon the surrender of these particular revenues. But, having made an arrangement with the Crown, and provided, by Act of Parliament, that the Crown should keep those revenues, he maintained that it would be totally unjust and unfair to seek now to depart from that contract, merely because of some wish for economy in the public service. Every one knew there were sources of revenue that belonged to former sovereigns that no longer belonged to Her present Majesty. There were, for instance, revenues of the King of Hanover that belonged to William IV., but which did not now belong to Her Majesty. But, as the hon. Gentleman stated, there had been mismanagement of the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall; and with a view of putting some check upon this mismanagement, it was enacted that accounts should be periodically presented to Parliament of the general receipts and expenditure. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the great proportion of the expenditure as compared with the receipts, and had said, very truly, that great improvement had been made in the management of these revenues. This was certainly the case; and he (Lord J. Russell) believed that at present persons were employed, with respect to both of these duchies, in carrying out such improvements as a private proprietor would introduce in managing his own estate; and the income, as compared with the expenditure, was in the way of becoming in a much more improved condition. On these grounds, then, and considering that the matter had been already settled, and that the credit of Parliament would be seriously impaired by a reference of these accounts to the Committee, and considering likewise that no further benefit could accrue from such a step than was already in the course of being secured, he must oppose this Motion.


said, he did not understand the hon. Mover (Mr. Trelawny) to propose that these lands should be sold and applied in aid of the public burdens; but merely to state that a great constitutional authority had advocated an inquiry into these revenues, which presented so strong a case of mismanagement. Without going into the pecuniary question, he would observe that there was something like public inconvenience in having these independent jurisdictions and principalities within the country, which created litigation and vexatious proceedings of various kinds. He doubted whether they were of advantage to the Crown, or any person employed under it, or to any class of Her Majesty's subjects. If anything could be done to obviate this, it would be a great public advantage. Burke had observed— Every one of these principalities has the apparatus of a kingdom for the jurisdiction over a few private estates, and the formality and charge of the Exchequer of Great Britain for collecting the rents of a country squire. It was certain that a very much larger revenue would accrue to the Crown if this system of management was altered.


said, in the present state of the House, he should not press his Motion to a division.

Motion negatived.