§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Sir, in pursuance of the Notice that has been given, and of the Orders of the House, I rise to move a Resolution which is the precise counterpart of one which was unanimously adopted some years past in the case of the Duke of Edinburgh; and the purport of that Resolution will be—That the annual sum of £15,000 be granted to Her Majesty, out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said Annuity to be settled on His Royal Highness Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, for his life, in such manner as Her Majesty shall think proper, and to commence from the date of the coming of age of His Royal Highness.571 Having had an opportunity not many months ago of dealing with the general considerations that bear upon this question, I should not have thought it necessary to say more than a very few sentences to the Committee, had I not been given to understand that it was the intention of some hon. Members of this House to question the grant which is about to be made. I therefore wish to remind the House briefly of the nature of the arrangement that subsists between Parliament and the Crown for making provision for certain Members of the Royal Family—an arrangement by which we waive all attempts to make a general provision at the commencement of each reign for the possible issue of the Sovereign, and we leave it to Parliament to deal with each particular case, as it arises, and according to what it may consider that the circumstances of the case demand. That arrangement has two obvious disadvantages. One of these is, that it requires some attention to the history of this class of cases, and to the deeper considerations of policy involved in them, to appreciate its character. And, consequently, by those who take what I may call a more rapid view of the subject—all that we can expect from a large number of persons out-of-doors—it is liable to be misunderstood. Another disadvantage is, that the arrangement being misunderstood, it is apt to cause unjust remarks to be made upon the Royal Family and the Sovereign. For those reasons, many have desired that a different arrangement should be adopted—nor will I now say whether the necessity for such a change may or may not arise; but I beg the Committee to consider whether there are not recommendations of a high order attaching to the plan as it at present subsists. What is that plan? In the first place, I will venture to say that of all the methods by which you can proceed to secure a provision for Members of the Royal Family, it is the one by far the most agreeable to the spirit of a free Constitution; for its effect is to establish a considerable degree of moral control which Parliament would probably lose if any other method were adopted. If we are to say that the Sovereign is to be responsible for realizing out of his, or as the case may be, her annual income funds sufficient to endow a family, however numerous, in a manner becoming their station, the first effect of that would 572 be that it would become necessary to enlarge the allowance bestowed upon the Sovereign at the commencement of the reign; and, in the second place, you would also lose all the elasticity of your arrangement, because whether the Sovereign had issue or not, the sum at the disposal of the Sovereign would remain the same. But there is a third defect still more important, and still more disadvantageous, and it is this—Under the present system this method of provision, while it indicates and presupposes an entire confidence on the part of the Sovereign in the Parliament, and an entirely loyal readiness on the part of the Parliament to acknowledge and reciprocate that confidence, and while it indicates harmony subsisting between the great powers of the State, also tends greatly to confirm that harmony. It places the conduct of the Sovereign and the con-duet of the Royal Family, especially of the junior Members for whom a provision may be asked, in view of the public and of both Houses of the Legislature, and while it preserves a salutary general control in the hands of Parliament, it likewise preserves in the hands of the Sovereign an important control over the younger branches of the Royal Family. I adverted just now to the difficulties that would attend an attempt to provide for the Royal issue by making at the commencement of a reign additions to the annuity granted by the Civil List; but suppose that you adopted another, and in some respects a more practical method of proceeding—namely, that you granted for the Sovereign that which would be necessary for annual expenditure, but inscribed upon the Statute Book the provision that every Prince the issue of the Sovereign on arriving at full age, and every Princess the issue of the Sovereign on arriving at full age or at the period of marriage, should receive a fixed annuity—who does not see that to adopt that method, which would probably be the simplest and most easily worked method of dealing with such cases, would involve the relaxation or the destruction of a very salutary moral and general control over those Princes and Princesses? Having said thus much with regard to the general character of this arrangement, which presupposes, as I have said, a disposition on the part of Parliament to reciprocate the confidence of the Sovereign, and to appreciate that sort of 573 feeling on the part of the Sovereign which is indicated by a willingness to submit to the representatives of the people, on every occasion as it arises, the nature of the provision to be made for the Members of the Royal Family, I must add that it is an arrangement which I think is excellent as long as it is worked in a spirit of liberality, of prudence, and of attachment to the Sovereign. It is an arrangement which undoubtedly would be grievously marred, and might become hardly practicable or hardly secure were it, unfortunately, to be dealt with in a different spirit. But upon all occasions when these proposals have been made to it this House has entered with the fullest development of loyal affection into the intentions and spirit of the plan, and as long as this House continues to act in that manner, I am confident that no better plan can be devised, and under no circumstances can any plan be devised so favourable to the privileges and influence of this House and to the liberties of the people. I would now, in a very few words, remind the House of what I meant when I spoke of the arrangement between the Crown and Parliament. I may be asked—if this matter is, unhappily, to become a subject of controversy even with a limited portion of those who hear me—"What is the nature of this arrangement? If there is a covenant, where is it written?" ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad I have anticipated that point, and I will at once admit that there is no written covenant, nor am I aware in what form of words it would be possible to frame such an engagement without very greatly fettering the liberty of the people and that constitutional control to which I have referred. But there are, however, other descriptions of engagement besides written forms of words, and it is on the evidence of facts which I find recorded beyond the possibility of doubt that I place the moral liability of Parliament to deal with these cases when they arise. In the first place, I refer to the terms of the Civil List Act. Let hon. Members read the Report of the Committee of 1837. Let them look at the mode in which the annual income is bestowed upon the Sovereign. It is not bestowed upon the Sovereign in the gross, but is bestowed after a careful investigation of details, and an exact appreciation of what, in the judgment of Parliament, each of the 574 burdens to which the attention of Parliament is directed will require in order to maintain the dignity of the Sovereign, with which the dignity of the nation is intimately associated. As one instance, I need only give one, I ask, what are we to say of an income in respect of which more than one-third of the whole amount—namely, the sum of £131,000 out of £385,000—is by Act of Parliament allotted for the purposes of salaries and superannuations? There is no analogy between an income of that kind and an ordinary private and personal income. It is not possible, except to the most limited extent — and to a very limited extent it may be possible—to make an impression upon those hard and massive figures. Were the Sovereign to attempt to make a great reduction on those salaries and superannuations universal outcry would be the result. There is not that freedom of judgment in dealing with those incomes with which every private possessor of an income is endowed, and that is a circumstance which it is absolutely necessary for Parliament to bear in mind when it proceeds to appreciate its duties on an occasion of this kind. But I have been diverted somewhat from my purpose, which was to show what I conceive to be—to use a phrase which I hope will not be misunderstood—the moral liability of Parliament to recognize its duty of providing, to an adequate extent, for the junior branches of the Royal Family as they come to mature age. My first argument is the negative evidence that neither in the Report of the Committee on this subject nor in any debates of Parliament will there be found expressed the slightest claim or the faintest expectation that out of that income savings could be made adequate to a due provision for the junior branches of the Royal Family. But that negative evidence is supported by direct and positive evidence of the most substantial kind, and that positive evidence is to this effect—that upon every occasion, within the limits of those relationships which history recognizes as defining the bounds of fair claim upon the public, Parliament has without question almost invariably by a unanimous vote, and never except by an overwhelming vote, admitted the virtual bond of honourable obligation and made this provision, laying the gift freely and voluntarily at the feet of the Sovereign. 575 The uncle and aunt of George II. had large Parliamentary incomes. The brother of George III. had a large Parliamentary income. The sons and daughters of George III. were all provided with Parliamentary statutory incomes. The nephews and nieces of George III. were provided with statutory incomes, and the grandson of George III., in the person of the Duke of Cambridge, has been provided with a statutory income. [Mr. WHITE: That was very wrong.] That is an assumption of my hon. Friend. He is entitled to entertain that opinion; but I am sure that he, as a man of candour and intelligence, will not question the assertion which I make, and to which I am anxious to call his attention—that a long and an unbroken series of practical acknowledgments by Parliament not only through years, but through generations, and embracing every possible case to which the principle could apply, does constitute a state of just expectation on the part of the Sovereign from which it is impossible for us to recede, and which I do not hesitate to say it would be utterly unworthy of the British Parliament to disregard. With respect to this supposed liability of Her Majesty to provide for cases of this kind, I have already pointed out that the nature and structure of Her Majesty's income, which does not, excepting only within very narrow limits, remain to be disposed of by herself, but of which Parliament has substantially disposed of beforehand by the very terms of a statute, subject only to a certain margin of difference between prudence and imprudence, do not admit of the same discretion as to economies and savings which is in the possession of every private person. But I think it is only just to Her Majesty to point out one or two circumstances in her condition as compared with that of former Sovereigns. In the case of former Sovereigns you have had claims made, which I grant were totally illegitimate, for the payment of the debts of the Civil List. You have not heard of such claims as these in the present reign. Has that been because the Queen has had means placed at her command which were not at the command of former Sovereigns? Quite the reverse. I believe that for several centuries every Sovereign, except Her Majesty, when there has been a Prince of Wales, has had the entire revenues 576 of the Duchy of Cornwall until the Prince of Wales came of age. Her Majesty never touched these revenues from the day of the birth of the Prince of Wales until his coming of age, when they became his of right, except to the very limited amount which was required for the positive expenditure connected with his nurture and education. And do not let it be supposed that Her Majesty has not been at charges on account of the Royal Family. It is not for me to make minute investigations into these matters; but I can see what were the sums paid to George III. from the Civil List for the education of his children while they were under age, and they amount to some hundreds of thousands of pounds. Do not let it be supposed, for instance, that, in the cases of the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Arthur, Her Majesty's real substantial charge for them only began on the day when they came of age. The manhood of Royal Princes for all purposes of expense begins much earlier than the manhood of persons in a less exalted station. I cannot pretend to speak from information; but I have not a doubt that several hundreds of thousands of pounds have been expended by Her Majesty out of her own annual income for the purpose of rearing her children in a manner which was liberal and becoming. Such being the case, I do not think there is any other question to which I need refer except that of the amount of this proposed annuity. We propose that in the case of Prince Arthur the same amount should be given as was given in the case of his elder brother (the Duke of Edinburgh), who was also one of the junior branches of the Royal Family—namely, £15,000 a-year. That is undoubtedly a large amount to grant; but is it a large amount relatively to the force of former precedents, relatively to the justice of the case, and relatively to the standard of income in this country? There are in this country numbers of persons possessed not only of that but also of a much larger income, among whom Royal Princes are to move, but above whom they ought somewhat to tower. Let it be recollected here again that just as the Queen's income is much less her own than a corresponding or any given amount in the hands of a private person, so the incomes of Royal Princes are much less their own. Not inconsiderable portions 577 of their incomes are absolutely pre-appropriated and anticipated, not I admit in every case by the letter of a statute, but by the usages of their station. The attendants they require, the offices which must be established about them—offices which do not perhaps contribute in every case greatly to their comfort and enjoyment, but which the country expects and requires, and an attempt to drop which causes dissatisfaction in every class of society—make no inconsiderable invasion on the amounts that you may be asked to grant. I have said that £15,000 a-year sounds a large sum. But it is not to be considered as extravagant, or as more than a very fairly liberal sum. What are the incomes of this country? If you accede to this Motion—as I have confidence you will—I believe you are going to give to Prince Arthur an income less than the average income of the House of Lords. Is it only ill the House of Lords that incomes of £15,000 a-year are to be found? I look at Schedule D, which does not at all overstate the incomes of those whose case it represents; on the contrary, we well know that it does not represent their whole income, but only that portion which is the result of the capital which they hold engaged in business. Even in Schedule D, partial as is the representation made by it, I find that 800 persons are receiving from £10,000 to £15,000 a-year from the profits of trade, and a very considerable number are receiving over £50,000. Under these circumstances, I say that to ask for a child of the Sovereign an income of £15,000 is not unreasonable. It is an amount that could not bear reduction, and as to its diminution it would be totally impossible for the Government to listen for a moment to any such proposal. Am I to suppose that the House will begin by granting freely and ungrudgingly to one of the junior Royal Princes an income of £15,000 a-year, and then when another comes on under exactly the same circumstances, a youth of not less promise and intelligence, who is not less beloved by all those among whom he has moved, is this House going to refuse to him either the whole provision or even any portion of the provision that was freely and cheerfully made for his brother? With regard to precedent, I will quote two that I think more than justify the proposal that we make. They might even 578 perhaps be urged if a larger grant had been proposed; but this House gave to the Duke of Gloucester £14,000 a-year, or within £1,000 of the sum that is now asked, he being not a son, but a grandson of a Sovereign. It is true that the Duke of Gloucester married, and when he married the Princess Mary he received another £14,000 a-year. The Duke of Cambridge is unmarried, and he being also the grandson of a Sovereign, receives from this House and by the liberality of the Legislature the sum of £12,000 a-year. In 1850, a year when undoubtedly far stricter notions of public economy governed the general proceedings of Parliament than those which now prevail, it was thought that £12,000 a-year was a proper and becoming provision to make for the grandson of a Sovereign, and we now for the son of a Sovereign ask for a Vote of £15,000. As I cannot believe that a different course will be taken now, than was taken then, I will not trouble the Committee further on the subject. I am persuaded that even if, unhappily, there should be a few who think otherwise, the mass of Parliament and the mass of the nation will recognize the fairness of the proposal which we make, and that the sum which we ask will not only be voted, but will be cheerfully voted by an overwhelming majority.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the annual sum of £15,000 be granted to Her Majesty, out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said Annuity to be settled on His Royal Highness Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, for his life, in such manner as Her Majesty shall think proper, and to commence from the date of the coming of age of His Royal Highness.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
Sir, I rise to oppose the Motion which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. Her Majesty's Government have not, I think, been very fortunate this Session in regard to the number and the excellence of the measures which they have proposed for the adoption of Parliament; and in my opinion, and in the estimation of the country, they have been still more unfortunate in having called upon the House of Commons, twice in the same Session, to make additional grants to Royalty which in the opinion of a large portion of the people of this country, are already excessive and extravagant. 579 I am sure that the people of this country are anything but satisfied at the course of legislation, for that legislation represents nothing but confusion, and Her Majesty's Government seem determined to render the Executive unpopular by the continued cry of—"Give, give." There are masses of persons, and I think they are right, who feel that the expenses of Royalty are altogether too great, and that these expenses, as was said of the power of Royalty in the last century, "have increased, are increasing, and ought to be diminished." They think that £750,000 or £1,000,000 is an excessive sum to pay annually in making provision for Members of the Royal Family; and I do not hesitate to say that this feeling is spreading, and that any Liberal Government, so-called, however popular, hazard their popularity by defying that feeling on the part of the people. There are two special grounds on which I oppose this grant. The first is, that the people ought not to be taxed for services not rendered, nor to be rendered; and the second ground is, that if it be essential such provision should be made, the people have already made sufficient provision. It is hardly necessary that I should call witnesses or use arguments in support of a principle so self-evident as that on which I base my first objection. I think it may even be questioned whether we do not exceed the moral functions of the House of Commons when we raise a tax upon the community for that which is non-essential—for that which is rather a matter of sentiment than of necessity for the conduct of the business of the country. If, however, I am obliged to call witnesses in support of my argument, I will call upon the Prime Minister himself, who, when speaking of the aided emigration of the poor last year, said—Now, we are about one of the gravest, of all subjects, and that is a proposal to support individuals at the expense of the community—individuals who are to be supported at the expense of the community, but not for duties done to the community."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1066.]The right hon. Gentleman applied that language to the humble and the poor, and did the right hon. Gentleman forget it when he was dealing with an individual who was at the opposite end of the social scale? I hope that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will 580 not forget the noble sentiments contained in those words, and will apply it to the subject now under consideration. If this provision is really necessary for Prince Arthur, the people have already voted money sufficient for the purpose; and the whole question is, whether for the performance of duties of Royalty the people are not already sufficiently taxed without imposing upon them additional burdens? I do not esteem myself fortunate in fulfilling what I consider the duty of opposing these grants; but, according to rumour—and in this case, as I believe, a well-founded rumour—it is an alleviating element in a painful position, that the individual on whose behalf this grant is proposed, is one whose past conduct has been creditable and honourable. It is a compliment of the most sinister description to make a proposal of this kind to the House of Commons in favour of such an individual as this young Prince; and it would be a terrible condemnation of the principle of monarchical government, for that man is no friend to Royalty who would affirm that a son of the Sovereign could find no useful place for his energy and capacity. That would be too palpable a condemnation of the principle of monarchical government, and therefore it is a most sinister compliment to say to a young Prince with every arena of useful and honourable exertion open to him—"Nothing is expected from you; and we make you a burden upon the State, and a pensioner upon the people." We are told, that the Civil List is a matter settled at the commencement of the reign, and a thing which we have no business to deal with at all; that there is a moral obligation to find grants and pensions for the children of the Crown; and that the nation has made a good bargain by the exchange of the Civil List for the Crown lands. With regard to the last of these arguments, I believe it to be an unconstitutional view, and one which could never be acted upon. Crown land is only another name for national property, and it matters not whether the revenues of the Crown are sufficient or insufficient to pay the Civil List; because, if insufficient, it is the duty of the nation to provide a Civil List which shall be in harmony with its position and with the dignity of the Sovereign, while if there is a surplus, it should be applied towards 581 reducing the people's burdens. Sir George Lewis said, in 1857, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, that—It has been deemed a matter of policy in this country wholly to strip and denude the Sovereign of all hereditary property, and to render him during his life entirely dependent on the bounty of Parliament."—[3 Hansard, cxlv. 724.]It is questionable whether when the Civil List was settled it was wise that it should be fixed absolutely. It only gave additional force to the words of Lord Brougham when, in 1837, he argued that the Civil List ought not to be fixed for so long a time. It has been urged in the newspapers, and has been mentioned in the lobbies, that Royalty has not of late years fulfilled all those duties which form part of the understanding upon which the Civil List was founded; but I attach no importance to the argument, being one of those who did not value highly the social and ceremonial, as compared with the political, influence of the Sovereign. We are told that these allowances to Princes are part of a moral understanding; but there had never been one of these grants proposed which had not been discussed, both as to the ground of the proposal and the amount of the grant. Sir Robert Peel, in 1843, spoke of it as a recognized thing that the daughters of Royalty, until they married, should be maintained at the expense of the parent; and Lord Brougham acknowledged, in 1850, that the grants made to them on marriage were strict justice so long as the infamous, immoral, impolitic, and un-Christian Act — the Royal Marriage Act — restrained the freedom of choice. I most strenuously affirm that ever hon. Member who supports this grant on this occasion will by that act declare that he maintains, approves, and endorses that most iniquitous and cruel statute. If the Civil List is sufficient, it is unnecessary for, and improper to, ask the House for more. On the occasion of its establishment, Mr. Hume proposed to diminish the amount by £50,000, besides objecting to the Crown retaining the revenues of the two Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster. Mr. Grote appealed, but in vain, to a Reformed Parliament with the same view, and it will, no doubt, be in vain to appeal now to a Reformed Parliament, for we find the present House more prone to extravagance than ever. If asked how that is, I have no answer to give; but 582 the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) the other day said, with that quaint and pleasant cynicism which so often amuses the House, the main object of Gentlemen coming to the House was to obtain an introduction to Court and the entrée to society. Upwards of 40 men, including Charles Buller and Sir William Molesworth—and not one of them revolutionary Radicals—voted for a reduction of the Civil List, and it would appear that in those unreformed days there were Radicals who had courage to declare their opinions, and Conservatives who were not ashamed to be economists. The right hon. Gentleman said it was impossible for the Crown to save out of the money voted by the people; but I remarked that he did not assert that it had not been done—nor is it the opinion of the community generally, and the best advice the Prime Minister could give to his Royal Mistress will be that the £50,000 which, according to the opinion of the best men of the House of Commons, ought never to have been voted, should go to provide the establishment for Prince Arthur, or any similar claim that might arise. One word as to the characteristic extravagance of the amount that was asked for. £15,000 a-year for the establishment of a young man who is just about entering on his majority! When it was proposed to give the Duke of Cambridge £12,000 a-year, and a Motion was made to reduce the amount to £5,000, Mr. Bright opposed the larger grant especially, on the ground that the time would come when the direct descendants of Her Majesty would have to be provided for by the State, and ventured to express an opinion that no Minister would venture to propose such a sum as £12,000 a-year in that case. Had the right hon. Gentleman said that no Tory Minister would venture to make such a proposition, he would have been nearer the mark; but he did not know the daring extravagance of a Liberal Minister. A Liberal Government which took its stand upon economy, if upon anything, dared to propose a grant of £15,000, and to take credit for moderation! Upon these grounds I call upon the House to reject this grant, which, I flatter myself I have shown to the satisfaction of every unprejudiced mind, is uncalled for and unnecessary; and in such case I do not 583 think I put the case too strongly when I term the proposition one of wanton, wasteful, and wicked extravagance.
§ MR. DIXON
Sir, I rise to move an Amendment to the Motion before the House; and in doing so, I must express my regret that there is not a working man present among us to state the views of his class upon the subject. That being so, I will endeavour, as briefly as I can, to allude to some of those feelings which I know to actuate, if not the whole of the working classes, at any rate a portion of those whom I have the honour to represent. The Amendment which I have the honour to lay before you is to the effect—That a sum, not exceeding £10,000, be granted to Her Majesty, out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said Annuity to be settled on His Royal Highness Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, for his life, in such manner as Her Majesty shall think proper, and to commence from the date of the coming of age of His Royal Highness.Now in treating of the grant as proposed by Her Majesty's Government, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government said the present system tended to confirm harmony between the Crown and Parliament. But, in my opinion, the expression of that sentiment evinces a want of knowledge on the part of the right hon. Gentleman of the feelings of the people. I think the present system is one which tends to disturb that harmony which I wish to see existing between the Crown and the people, because it brings periodically before the House and before the nation those questions of increased grants which the people on every occasion will wish to see reduced by their Representatives; and I would venture to say that this feeling on their part, which at this moment finds an expression in this House, will grow till it is utterly and entirely irresistible. The right hon. Gentleman said there was one advantage in the system, and that was that it would not fetter the control of Parliament, and therefore when any proposition was made for a grant to a Member of the Royal Family, it follows that it must be open to any Member of Parliament to move an Amendment reducing the amount of the grant. Therefore, I feel that I am only doing that which the present system admits; and that I am doing it, in some sort, with the sanction of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman also 584 defended the grant on the ground that the amount did not exceed the income of the House of Peers, and that there were hundreds and thousands of others who enjoyed incomes similar in amount. That may be true; but if there is one danger in this country greater than another, it is the existence, side by side, of these enormous incomes and that poverty which we are all so much in the habit of deploring, and seeking to remove. It has been supposed that if the pomp, the pageantry, and the hospitality of the Crown, which have been materially diminished since the death of the Prince Consort, could be removed, the expression of dissatisfaction, which has not been confined to the working classes, but which, in reference to the whole question, has been expressed by hon. Members of this House, by the leading organs of the Press, and by the middle classes, would be materially diminished, if it did not entirely cease. I do not believe that such would be the case as regards the working classes. I believe that the impression on them is that, politically speaking, no disadvantage has resulted, to the country from the retirement of the Queen—but that the cessation of the discharge of what may be called Her Majesty's duties, while resulting in no disadvantage to the country politically, ought to have led to a corresponding saving which might have been effected for the maintenance of other Members of the Royal Family. I will not deny that there is among the working people a large amount of Republicanism; I know that such a feeling does exist, and that it is increasing. But I think that that Republican feeling is of the vaguest possible kind. I do not believe that, with the exception of a small number, it would be capable of definition on the part of those of the working classes who call themselves Republicans. But there is one feature which is uppermost in their mind; and it is that, rightly or wrongly, they consider that Republican institutions would be less costly than Monarchy. And I have reason also to believe that if we could convince the people that Monarchy was less costly; if we could remove from our own Monarchy all unnecessary expenditure—all those excrescences which are apt to rise up and flourish round a Throne — we should do more than anything else we can devise to check, and it may be entirely 585 remove, that tendency to Republicanism which exists amongst our people. It has been said—and I must admit that I greatly share the feeling—that it is after all but a paltry saving; and I have heard it said that to adopt the reduction is essentially mean. Now I give the answer to that remark which the working classes have made to me. They say—"Do not think that it is with us a question of £15,000 a-year, more or less; it is this—we have arrived at the conclusion that there is in high places, and on the part of the Government of this country, great, unnecessary, and wasteful expenditure; and we wish, now that we have the suffrage, now that we can dictate to our Members of Parliament, to impress upon them the necessity that exists that all this wasteful extravagance shall be discontinued." And not only so, but they have also this conviction—that there is a great deal of extravagance in the way of unnecessary salaries to people who give no return for them which they see, and they desire that Government should attack every one of these unnecessary offices. Could any hon. Member deny the justice of those feelings, when they brought home to themselves how hard it was to reduce any particular Estimate. It was that feeling that made the people more determined in their attack, when they knew they had a good case. Under these circumstances, I have no alternative but to attempt to bring before this House the views of no inconsiderable portion of my constituents. To show the feeling of the working classes, I will give some extracts from resolutions passed, and speeches made at meetings in Birmingham. One of the resolutions passed contained the following words—"While yielding to no class or order of the community in loyalty to the head of the State." This fully expresses the feeling of the people towards Her Majesty. One speaker objected to giving a large sum of money to people who did no work; another justified their opposition to any particular grant by saying that they could not break the bundle of sticks all at once, but might do so if they attacked them singly; a third, that the workmen were overweighted in their work by the competition of Germany and Belgium, consequent upon the heavy burden of their taxation; a fourth reminded his hearers of the dignity of 586 labour, which was far greater than that of sloth and luxury—that the working classes were not children in the art of government, and would not long continue to support pomp and luxury at one end of society, while at the other there were millions of hard-working men engaged in a desperate hand-to-hand struggle with pauperism. From those we can judge the impolicy of letting such opinions rest unanswered. It remains but for me to say that I should have been prepared both from conviction of the propriety of the measure, and also on behalf of a large portion of my constituents in this matter, who have gone in with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) in opposing entirely this grant, to have supported his Amendment, but that I am prevented from that course by the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has given with reference to what he called, in answer to my Question, an "honourable understanding." But if the principle is to be accepted that we are to be prepared to grant annuities not only to the immediate children of the Queen, but also to all her grandchildren, then I say it is time that the Representatives of the working classes should make their voices heard in this House, and should represent to Her Majesty's Government that they are sanctioning a career of expenditure which will not be sanctioned by the working classes of this country. And let me remind the Committee that although the voice of the working classes is not now heard here, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) has given them a power which they are beginning to be conscious of, and that it will no longer be within the power of their Representatives in Parliament to assent to these grants to Members of the Royal Family, especially when they are so far removed from Her Majesty. But I feel it is the duty of all in Parliament, above all things, to tell their constituents that if there is one thing more sacred than another it is to hold to their engagements; and it is because I am convinced from what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that there is an honourable understanding on this question, that I am not prepared to support the Amendment of 587 my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. Yet we are bound to take into consideration whether this grant be of the proper amount. It will, therefore, be wise in the Government to accept the Amendment which I shall propose; for I believe that if the people perceive a disposition on their part to practise economy in high places as well as in low places, we shall be more likely to see a return of that loyalty among the working classes of this country which every hon. Member desires should exist. I beg to move that, instead of £15,000, there shall be substituted £10,000. Before I sit down I wish to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will in the ensuing Session institute an inquiry into the propriety of abolishing or diminishing charges on the Civil List. There is a strong feeling that many of the offices are entirely unnecessary, and I am quite certain that Her Majesty would willingly accede to any request which this House might make on that subject, her personal comfort and dignity in no wise depending upon them. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £10,000, be granted to Her Majesty, out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said Annuity to be settled on His Royal Highness Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, for his life, in such manner as Her Majesty shall think proper, and to commence from the date of the coming of age of His Royal Highness,"—(Mr. Dixon.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, there are two questions now before the Committee in Amendment to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) proposes altogether to reject the Motion, and the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) proposes, on the contrary, to reduce the amount. I confess myself that if I were not about to support the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), which it is my intention to do, I would prefer the suggestion of the hon. Member for Leicester. It is an intelligible and definite proposition. But I cannot sympathize with the hon. Member for Birmingham, who admits the claim and then offers a composition. I cannot, however, agree with the hon. Member for Leicester in the view which he took 588 of the Crown estate, nor do I think that the House generally agrees with that view. I cannot suppose that any but a very small number will agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, that we are to shut out from consideration the fact that Her Majesty on acceding to the Throne of her ancestors had relinquished the possession of a large estate, and that the Civil List was a settlement—a settlement, I think, not made to Her Majesty's personal advantage. I do not wish to enter into that discussion now; but I think it is of the utmost importance in all questions of this kind that the Committee should accurately reflect on the main circumstance under which the settlement was made, and that Her Majesty positively relinquished the large real estate which Her Majesty possessed by the laws of this land with as clear a title and as complete possession, as any of the Peers hold their estates to whom reference has been made. I wish to call the attention of the Committee to one financial consideration connected with this arrangement of the Civil List, by which Her Majesty surrendered all her hereditary estate. The net revenue of the Crown estate on the accession of Her Majesty was not more than £150,000 per annum. Now, if Her Majesty, when that settlement of the Civil List was made, had reserved to herself the right which, the late Lord Bessborough, who was then at the head of the Department, informed me he suggested himself—namely, that Her Majesty should have the power of charging her real estate, under the same conditions and liabilities which apply to almost all possessors of real estates, in favour of her younger children, and if Her Majesty had exercised that power at the rate which has been proposed on a former and in the present instance for all her younger children, the total charge upon the Crown estates could never have exceeded £69,000 per annum, and that upon an estate which, since that settlement was made, has increased £150,000, the income of the Crown estate per annum being now just double in amount. And, therefore, I think that is a consideration which should not be absent from those hon. Gentlemen who are going to vote upon the principle of public economy. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham talks of the working classes, 589 and talks of them as if they were paupers. Now, I must say on the part of the working classes, on whom he says I have had the honour of conferring the franchise, that I protest against that description. The working classes are not paupers; on the contrary, they are a very wealthy class—they are the wealthiest in the country. Their aggregate income is certainly greater than any other class; their accumulations are to be counted by millions; and I am not speaking merely of the deposits in savings banks, but of funds of which I am aware they are in possession, and which are accumulated to meet their trade necessities and to defend their labour and rights, which can also be counted by millions; and therefore I protest against that language, which would hold out to foreign countries who would listen to the eloquence that evening of the hon. Member, that the great body of the working classes in this country are in a state of pauperism. The hon. Gentleman tells us that a Republican feeling is beginning to arise among them, and that they are calculating the comparative cost of Republican and Monarchical institutions. Well, Sir, I hope they will be well informed on that subject before they come to an ultimate decision. So far as I can form an opinion upon it, the cost of Republican government is much more considerable than that of our Monarchical government. Though you generally pay the principal personage in the Republic only a few thousands a-year, yet if you pay all the members of Congress, all the counsellors who add the weight of their advice, like the hon. Member for Birmingham, not exactly at the same rate, but at a relative rate, I think you will find the aggregate much more considerable than the cost of Monarchy to this country, even if you forget that we have taken from Her Majesty the possession and enjoyment of her real estate. This question has been often argued before this evening, but I have never found that the general feeling of the House has changed. Mr. Grote, after the Reform Bill, complained to Lord Grey that the Members returned by the now constituencies took the same wise and generous view of the circumstances which they had before that Reform Bill was passed. Well, the present House of Commons has been elected by larger constituencies than the constituency 590 which returned Mr. Grote, and so far as I can form an opinion, hon. Members, still fresh from their constituents, will not hesitate to take a course which I think policy and wisdom and justice alike authorize and require. I think the country will remember the circumstances under which the necessity of an appeal like this takes place—that if Her Majesty had possessed that right of charging her life estate which is possessed by all her subjects, and if she had thereby provided for all her children, the amount would not have been half the amount of the increased revenue which is now derived from the estate she relinquished. I feel that everyone must come to the conclusion that in acceding to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman we are not only generous, but just.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: — Ayes 51; Noes 289: Majority 238.
§ Original Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 276; Noes 11: Majority 265.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock.