HC Deb 18 April 1856 vol 141 cc1237-9

said, he believed this was a proper time, on going into Committee of Supply, to ask the Secretary to the Treasury a question with regard to an account which had been laid on the table, and which related to the public balances. He alluded to a sum of £213,000 for hereditary pensions redeemed during the past year. He wished to know on what authority, and from what funds, the money was paid?


replied, that the sum referred to by the right hon. Baronet was an advance of the purchase of two pensions, one held by the Duke of Grafton, chargeable upon the Excise, amounting to £7,191 12s., for which the sum of £193,777 was paid; the other, the remains of the Schomberg pension, amounting to £720 a year, which was redeemed for the sum of £19,400. In 1825 a Treasury Minute was passed, setting forth the propriety of purchasing all hereditary pensions; and in pursuance of that Minute a pension belonging to Lord Melbourne, chargeable upon the Excise, and paid out of the revenues of that department on their way to the Exchequer, was purchased in 1826. In 1853 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer explained to the House, when a Bill for removing certain charges from the Consolidated Fund to the annual Estimates was under consideration, that he did not propose so to remove the charges for hereditary pensions, because it had lately been determined that they should be redeemed, and, in point of fact, that they were in process of being purchased at that time. In the same year two pensions belonging to Lord Cowper—one chargeable upon the Excise, and the other upon the Post Office—were purchased and paid for, as in all former cases, out of the gross revenues of the departments upon which they were charged. At that time the net revenues of departments were alone returned to, and recognised by Parliament. A further purchase was made in the following year, and the two pensions to which he referred at the beginning of his statement were redeemed in the year ending March last. Those pensions were paid for, according to precedent, out of the gross revenues of the departments upon which they were charged; but it was thought, seeing that Parliament now dealt with gross revenues, that it would be better to give the gross incomes of the departments, and charge the purchase-money of the pensions as a separate item in the accounts. The only difference, therefore, was, that whereas in former cases Parliament had no cognisance of the redemption of pensions, the net revenues alone being returned, in the present instance the gross revenues of the departments were laid before the House, and the purchase-money debited in the accounts. The transaction was strictly in keeping with all the precedents, and the House would agree with him that it was extremely desirable to get rid of hereditary pensions, by redeeming them whenever opportunities occurred for doing so on favourable terms.


thought that the Treasury was not entitled, without any authority from Parliament, to redeem hereditary pensions. Such a course was most objectionable, and deficient in respect to the House.


remarked, that the course which the Treasury had pursued in the present instance was in accordance with that adopted in former times.


said, he should like to know what the reasons were which rendered it so expedient for the public good that these hereditary pensions should be purchased at the present moment. Ho had always doubted the expediency of purchasing hereditary pensions in the manner described by the Secretary to the Treasury, He could understand that it was for the advantage of those who held hereditary pensions; but as long ns such pensions existed there was a chance of the possessors relinquishing them for the benefit of the country, and there were instances upon record of persons becoming so rich that they were ashamed of con- tinuing to take hereditary pensions, and of others inspired with so much patriotism that they resigned those advantages. But it appeared to him, that to act upon the principle that it was expedient to remove all the odium attaching to such charges, and to confer upon those who enjoyed them their full value, would be a course which, whatever its advantages might be to the holders of hereditary pensions, could by no means be regarded as a benefit to the country.