§ Order for Second Reading read.
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that in the first instance he wished to remove some misapprehension which had gone abroad with respect to the scope of the measure. The Bill did not aim at altering the law, but at removing difficulties which had arisen with regard to its present effect. He would refer to the Notice of his hon. Friend the: Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), which he hoped the hon. Gentleman would either not make, or press on the present occasion. His hon. Friend proposed to move, that it was inexpedient to extend the scope of the Act 25 & 26 Vict., c. 37, until the secrecy at present attaching exclusively to Crown testaments was abolished. What he would represent to his hon. Friend was either that that secrecy, which he imagined grew out of some particular right of the Crown with respect to the law of probate, was right or that it was wrong. If it were right, manifestly it ought not to be used as an obstacle to the Bill; neither ought it to be so used if it were wrong. The Bill was reasonable and just on its own grounds, and the question of secrecy growing out of some particular right of the Crown ought to be tried on its own grounds also. The introduction of the latter question would only tend to confuse any discussion on the second reading of the Bill, and moreover his hon. Friend might, if he so wished it, raise the question at a subsequent stage. There was another impression abroad about the Bill, which he was also desirous to remove; for to his surprise he had seen it stated that the object of the measure was to determine the right of the Crown to have certain moneys paid into the Privy Purse from other branches of the Civil List. The Bill had no connection whatever with any such question, and was merely intended to clear up a doubt as 694 to the existing laws, as to which the Government had no doubt whatever, and to enable the Sovereign freely to bequeath any landed property which she might possess in her personal capacity to her next Heir. If the opinion of Lord Westbury, when he was Lord Chancellor, were correct on the effect of the Act of George III. and the Act of Victoria, the Sovereign might bequeath to the Heir of the Crown landed as well as other property. But there was a contrary opinion abroad; and it was not for him to say which of the two was right, although he thought the question ought to be set at rest. What was the present state of the Crown with regard to the power of gift and the power of bequest. Before the time of Queen Anne the Crown was free by law to alienate the estates of the Crown, and from those alienations very great abuses had arisen. The Act of Anne prevented those alienations, and subsequent Acts went to the same effect; but in the reign of George III.—about 1800—a distinction was introduced. That distinction was one between the estates held by the Crown as the Crown, and estates held by the Sovereign in his or her personal capacity; and it was enacted that two descriptions of estates should not fall within any of the restrictions of the Act of Anne. One of those descriptions related to estates which might be purchased by His Majesty or his successors out of any moneys issued or applied for the use of his Privy Purse, or with any other moneys not appropriated to any public service. All that class of estates so purchased or acquired were set completely free from the whole of those restrictions, and Lord Westbury's opinion was that when estates had been so set free they could not come back into the category of restraint, but remained absolutely free. The other class of estates set free from restraints of the Act of Anne were estates which might come to the Sovereign by gift from his or her ancestors, not being Kings or Queens. He wished to show that the restraint which the Bill proposed to remedy, if it were in existence, was a miserable shred of a system which either ought to exist in its full force or not at all. If it were necessary to restrain the power of the Queen to convey private property into the hands of the Heir Apparent it ought to be effectual; but 695 he could show that, so far from its being effectual, it was limited, inconsistent, irregular; it could be circumvented; and, if observed, it would be mischievous to the public service. It was admitted that the Sovereign could give anything he or she pleased to anybody, provided it was not Crown property, but private property; therefore, if they thought it dangerous that the Sovereign should be able to convey real estate to the Heir Apparent, they would have to defend a state of the law in which there was nothing to prevent him or her converting real estate into money, and then handing it over to the Heir Apparent. Lastly, the Sovereign could bequeath any realty without any doubt at all to any person except to the next heir. Was that a reasonable restraint to maintain? He would take the case of a Sovereign who happened to have only one child, who was the next heir to the Crown, and who had no other near relation whatever, this present wondrous wise law would step in and say to that Sovereign—"You may bequeath your property as you like to any distant person, whom you do not care a rush about; but to your child you cannot and shall not bequeath it." What he affirmed was this—that they ought to have no interference with the play of natural and human affections between members of the Royal Family, except for some great, general, clear, and undeniable public object. It was a great blessing when they had a Royal Family guided, in its internal relations by human affection. It was a blessing which they had realized in this country to a great ex-1 tent, and for his own part he should be loth to do anything to interfere with it. With regard to the intention of the Act, a high legal authority had held that it could not have been meant to compel the Sovereign, if she would prevent the union of her private estates to the general body of the Crown estates, either in the first place to tie them up, or in the second place to give them away from the Heir to the Crown, with a view of their coming back circuitously to some other person; or, thirdly, to give them to the Heir Apparent in his own lifetime, in either of which ways they might consequently become the private estates of the succeeding Sovereign. He thought the House would see that a policy like that would place the Sovereign in a 696 very peculiar position—that of being compelled to leave property away from his or her own child, or to allow it to lapse into the mass of the Crown estate. He knew that this was an attractive thing to some minds; but he did not think that there was any good reason why it should be; at all events, it was not an alternative attractive to the Government. With regard to Balmoral, there could be no doubt that the Queen was free to leave it to whom she chose; but take the case of Osborne. If Osborne were to fall into the mass of Crown estates, it would have to be taken under the charge of the Commissioner of Works, and that House would be asked for a large sum of money for its maintenance as a Royal residence. It appeared to him that these outlying properties were of secondary importance, of no territorial importance whatever, and that it was for the interest of the public, considered in a pounds, shillings, and pence view of the question, that they should not become part of the Crown estates. There was another question about which there was no doubt whatever, and that was, that the Sovereign could bequeath her estates to the son of the Prince of Wales, or to the Heir presumptive; and what, in the name of common sense, could be the meaning of a law such as that which at present existed? However, there were gentlemen—he did not know whether there were any in that House—who urged a so-called constitutional doctrine, which was always entitled to respectful treatment. They said it was not constitutional or safe that great masses of property should be permitted to accumulate in the hands of the Sovereign; that the Sovereign ought to depend on Parliament; and that, if a Sovereign were to become a very great proprietor, that circumstance would have a tendency to disturb the Constitution with respect to the relation of the Sovereign to Parliament. What he should say in answer to that was this—In the first place, there was not the smallest likelihood of that House ever undergoing any serious trouble in consequence of a great accumulation of private wealth in the hands of the Sovereign. A great deal of trouble had been experienced from exactly the opposite process, and it was only during the present reign that they had learnt to look with any feeling of 697 kindness on the economy and good husbandry of the Civil List. Even during the reign of George III., who was a Sovereign of considerable merit, Ministers were continually coming down to the House to ask 'for large sums of money to pay off the debts of the Civil List. It was for the interest of the country in every sense that there should be thrift and good husbandry in the Civil List, and, so far as economy was to be made out of it, to enable the Sovereign to purchase private property here and there. The Sovereign should be most welcome to the fruits of such economies, and it would be the worst economy in the world on the part of Parliament to have it otherwise. He should entertain no fear as to the accumulation of a large amount of property in the hands of the Sovereign, even if the t, arrangement between the Crown and Parliament were permanent; in fact, he considered it a spectral delusion on the part of the persons holding the idea. Centuries must elapse without the possibility of any great masses of property-coming into the hands of the Sovereign to create either danger or inconvenience. The arrangement, however, between the Crown and Parliament was not permanent. Parliament had the power of considering the position of the Sovereign at the end of every reign, and the average duration of reigns did not extend to more than 20 or 30 years. The present reign was longer than the average, thank God, and long might it yet last; but by the ordinary law of human life, Parliament might three or four times in the course of a century have the opportunity of considering the position of the Sovereign with respect to private estates. When a demand was made on that House for the Civil List, that House had a right to take the whole subject into consideration, and would not scruple to avail itself of that right. If it were shown that the Sovereign was in possession of private wealth to the extent owned by some Dukes, Marquesses, Earls—ay, or even Commoners—if it were thought that the Sovereign had accumulated too much wealth for the safety of the Constitution, there would be no difficulty in making a settlement in the adjustment of the amount of the Civil List. That was the view of the Government—that there was no likelihood whatever of either danger or inconvenience arising in connection 698 with the accumulation of private property in the hands of the Sovereign—a view which was strongly supported by the history of the present reign. The present reign had endured since 1837. It had completed its 36th year, and during those 36 years of the reign of Her Majesty, good management in the detail of expenditure had prevailed to a degree that was unexampled. As to the accumulation of property, everybody knew that the Royal estates were very moderate possessions indeed—of an extent which would not be of the slightest territorial consequence to almost any second-rate gentleman; while as regarded money, Her Majesty's fortune was moderate as compared with the sums possessed by hundreds and even thousands of our manufacturers, mine-owners, and merchants. If such was the result of a long-continued reign of unbroken providence and thrift, let us dismiss from our minds that bugbear as to either the danger or the inconvenience of the accumulation of large masses of property in the hands of the Sovereign. The House, he trusted, would see the desirability of giving effect to the measure, and remove that anomaly in the existing law which tended to check the natural action of family affection, and interfere with those conveniences which dictated arrangements between parent and family. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second tithe."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. ANDERSON,
in rising to move—That it is inexpedient to extend the scope of the Act 25 and 26 Vic. c. 37, until the secrecy at present attaching exclusively to Crown testaments is abolished,said, that the right hon. Gentleman had told the House that that was a very simple Bill to remove a small injustice remaining from past legislation. He did not tell them that it was the result of the Act of 1862, with regard to which he (Mr. Anderson) did not think it was of so justifiable a character that they ought to extend its provisions. In fact, if legislation was desirable on the subject, he thought it ought to be directed to a repeal or an amendment of that Act. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the Amendment he (Mr. Anderson) had 699 put on the Paper was not an Amendment which ought to be considered as an obstacle to the Bill. Perhaps not. He admitted that it was not a very large affair; but he had only put it down to prevent the Bill passing without opposition at some inordinately late hour in the morning, and he hoped that by doing so he should induce some hon. Member learned in the law to raise the great constitutional question as to the right of the Sovereign to dispose by will of land acquired out of the saving of the Civil List, and notwithstanding that no hon. Member had done so, he was not without hopes that a debate would be raised upon constitutional grounds. He did not pretend to be able to argue those points with the learning and skill of a lawyer, but those who were laymen and not lawyers always understood that the policy of our Constitution was that the Monarch ought not to have private estates at all, and that the House of Commons at the commencement of every reign took over the private estates of the Crown, and provided for the Sovereign in the Civil List. That argument had been used over and over again by the right hon. Gentleman himself when he came down to the House to ask it to vote various sums of money to Princes and Princesses, and generally to make provision for the younger sons of the Sovereign. They were always told on such occasions that they were bound to make such provisions, because, according to the Constitution, the Royal Family was never allowed to accumulate private property. He would leave others to argue that point; but as to the matter of secrecy, he had had occasion to speak to a great many hon. Members, and when he first stated that such secrecy existed, it was generally supposed that he was under a wrong impression, until they found out that it really did exist under the Act of 1862. That was verified by the fact that a gentleman presented himself a few days ago at the proper Department, and after tendering the usual fee, asked to be allowed to look at all the Royal wills since the reign of Henry The official was dumb-founded, and as soon as he could recover his breath, which was taken away by the idea that a "fellow" could have the audacity to make such a request, finding that the "fellow" persisted, referred him to a higher authority, who 700 told him that he believed the Royal wills were always kept in Lambeth Palace, under the care of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He then referred the matter to the Archbishop, and he was told that they were not there; and that in fact the Archbishop did not know anything about them—so that of the fact of the secrecy there could be no question whatever. Now that that was a very improper secrecy, he thought no one could deny, and when the right hon. Gentleman said that the Amendment ought not to be brought forward as a bar to the second reading, but as an Amendment in Committee, he would at once say that if he would accept it in Committee there was no occasion to move it that evening, and he requested the immediate attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the proposition. There was no reason whatever why the will of any hon. Gentleman should be exhibited at Doctors' Commons to anybody who paid 1s., and that of the Monarch should not be subject to the like scrutiny. Not only was it wrong, but it had a very prejudicial effect in exciting suspicion in the minds of the public. People naturally said — "Why this secrecy?" It was a very suspicious thing to have those Royal wills bottled up, so that no one could see them. There was probably nothing wrong in them, and no earthly reason why they should be concealed. To put them, then, on the same footing as those of other people would remove all suspicion. Some of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments were such as he could attach no weight whatever to; such as that about Osborne House. "Oh," said he, "if Osborne House were thrown upon the nation, there would be so much a-year asked of the House of Commons for the purpose of keeping it up as a royal residence." He (Mr. Anderson) did not see why any difficulty could not at once he put an end to, by selling it. Then the right hon. Gentleman had made a great deal about how economically the Privy Purse had been managed by the Queen. Her present most gracious Majesty was greatly to be honoured and commended for the way in which she had managed the Civil List allowances; but still it was to be remembered that the amount which was given was a very liberal one, and quite sufficient to keep up the dignity of the Crown. Then the question arose—had 701 the dignity of the Crown been kept up properly? He would not himself say anything on the point, but certainly it had been said abroad and frequently out-of-doors at home that it had not been. The House of Commons did not give the Queen an ample Civil List, merely that she might economize the amount for the purpose of buying landed estates as the right hon. Gentleman suggested; and under that lay the whole theory of the Bill. It was impossible to forget that a year and a-half ago, when a Motion was made for the appropriation of the Civil List, Parliament, it was pointed out, had by the Act granting the Civil List put it under five heads, and they would not have done that, had it not intended to exercise some supervision over them. It was exceedingly doubtful whether Parliament would permit the surplus of one branch to be expended in aid of another. If so, the word in the Act would be that it should be applied to "increase" another. Whatever was the intention of Parliament as to how the surplus was appropriated, the House would remember that on that occasion, the information which was required was refused, and he could not help saying that, instead of that having something to do with the opposition to the Bill, it had something to do with the bringing in of the Bill. He thought he ought to take the opinion of the House on the subject, unless the right hon. Gentleman would give him the assurance that an Amendment would be introduced in Committee to the effect he had stated. Failing that, he should move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to extend the scope of the Act 25 and 26 Vic. c. 37, until the secrecy at present attaching exclusively to Crown testaments is abolished,"—(Mr. Anderson,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. GOLDNEY
thought the House was bound in common honesty to pass the Bill, the object of which was merely to clear up a doubt which had arisen 702 upon the Act of 1862. All it contemplated was, that property which went by the disposition of the Queen to her Heir should be held by him as private property, and should not be treated as Crown property, in the event of such Heir succeeding to the Throne. He thought that there was no ground to justify the proposal of the Amendment which had been placed upon the Paper, to render it compulsory that the will of the Sovereign should be published as those of ordinary persons were when they were proved. While allowing that the practice was necessary in order to enable people to ascertain and test any rights they might conceive themselves possessed of under a will, he saw no reason why the intentions of the testator should in any case be communicated to the idle and the curious on payment of 1s.; but such a practice would be especially inconvenient in the case of the Sovereign. The Bill only gave power to the Sovereign to deal with her private property in the same way as an individual, subject, of course, to that property being liable to all the ordinary burdens.
§ MR. CLAY
agreed with the Prime Minister in all he had said except upon one point. He thought there was a very general feeling in the country against secrecy being maintained with regard to Royal wills. He said with the utmost sincerity that he had not the slightest suspicion anything was wrong; but wherever there was concealment, there was always suspicion of something being behind. He could not himself conceive any reasonable ground why these wills should not be made public like other wills. He did not think the question of gratifying an idle curiosity at all entered into the matter.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, the object of the Amendment was to have the wills of the Sovereigns treated in the same way as those of ordinary subjects. The reasons why those wills were not public did not arise, he believed, from any desire of secrecy, but from the technical fact that they were not on the register of the Court. No will was placed on the register until it passed the seal of the Court to authenticate it, but the King's will was not sealed, nor could it be attested by his own seal. That would be merely authenticating his own act in his own Court. When George II. ascended 703 the Throne, the then Archbishop of Canterbury came down to the first meeting of the Privy Council with the will of George I. in his pocket. When the Archbishop exhibited it, George II. asked to see it, and the moment George received it, he put it into his pocket, and it had never been heard of since. There was a document, however, which it was desirable the Government should produce. He meant the opinion of the late Lord Westbury.
said, the opinion was a verbal one. As such, he was not in possession of the words, but had given what he considered was the substance of that opinion.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that if the opinion were correct, there was no need whatsoever for the Bill. What the Bill proposed to do, was to alter the principle of the succession of the private estates of the Sovereign, in order to prevent them from falling into the general property of the Crown when the person to whom they were bequeathed succeeded to the Sovereignty. The 2nd section of the Bill extended the operation of the Act of 1833 respecting the law of inheritances to the Crown. Of course, everybody knew that unless an Act of Parliament specially applied to the Crown, the Crown was not affected by it, and as the Act of 1833 did not specially apply to the inheritances of the Crown, they were excluded from its operation. Before the passing of that statute, if any person devised lands to his heir by will, on the death of the testator, the heir took the lands as heir and not as devisee. But by the statute of William IV. the heir would take as devisee and not by inheritance. The consequence was, that lands left to the Heir of the Crown by the Sovereign were taken still under the old Common Law by the successor not as devisee under the will, but as Heir to the Crown, and the lands thus fell into the hereditary estate of the Crown, and could not be alienated under the statute of Anne. The policy of Parliament for a considerable time had been that the management of the hereditary estates of the Crown should be undertaken by Parliament, who in return gave a certain fixed sum to the Sovereign with which to pay the expenses of the Household and certain other charges. Hon. Members were probably aware that during the reigns of Anne, George 704 I., and George II., the present arrangement, as regarded the Civil List, did not exist, but a certain revenue was provided for the Crown by appropriating to the Sovereign for life certain hereditary estates and Customs and other dues. But when George III. succeeded, he handed over all the hereditary estates of the Crown to Parliament, and received in return a large fixed revenue, amounting in the whole, including certain revenues derived from the West Indies, Scotland, Ireland, and other sources, to upwards of £1,000,000 per annum, out of which he had to provide for the discharge of certain public duties. But, notwithstanding that, the Crown was in perpetual difficulties, and constantly coming to Parliament for grants in aid of the Civil List. The allegation was constantly made that the revenues of the Crown were largely employed for corrupt purposes, and that they found their way into the pockets of Members of either House of Parliament, and were used in carrying on the Parliamentary system of that day, which was more or less carried on by corruption. Accordingly, when William IV. came to the Throne he not only transferred the hereditary revenues of the Crown to Parliament, but all the other revenues to which he had referred with the exception of the Duchy of Lancaster, which still formed part of the Privy Purse of Her Majesty. When Her Majesty succeeded to the Throne, a Committee composed of the most eminent Members of that House considered the subject, and went into a minute investigation of the cost of maintaining the dignity of the Crown. They allocated certain sums in respect of certain classes of expenditure, as for the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward, the Pension List, and so forth, and proposed to the House of Commons that the Civil List should be fixed at £385,000 a-year, the Crown no longer to pay the expenses of the Civil Service for Judges, &c., which were not immediately connected with the Civil List. The policy of Parliament had been, therefore, since the Revolution, that the Crown at each accession should have a definite fixed sum allocated for the purpose of maintaining the dignity and honour of the Crown, and that all the rest should be under the management and authority of Parliament. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that with regard to money 705 it was impossible to make any provisions; but the lands were visible, and he maintained that they ought to continue the policy hitherto pursued—namely, fix at the accession the proper sum to maintain the honour and dignity of the Crown munificently and generously, and take over the management of the Crown property. But the result of that Bill so far as it had any operation at all, would be that whatever private estate of the Crown might now under the former Acts be at the disposal of Her Majesty during her lifetime, if left to the successor to the Crown, would no longer form part of the hereditary revenues, as they would do under Common Law, but would be the private estate of the Crown of which it had to render no account. That he held to be a retrogressive policy. He did not mean to say that in the lifetime of the present generation the Crown was likely to accumulate great private estates like those to which he had alluded. But the principle contended for by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government was ill-judged, and if adopted might be the cause of much future trouble. It was all very well for his right hon. Friend to pooh-pooh that line of argument; but what had been done once might be clone again, and it might at some future time be found very convenient by those who wielded the Prerogative of the Crown in that Rouse to have at their command large independent means, of which no account had to be rendered to Parliament. The principle which he was advocating had been contended for a century ago by such men as Burke and Chatham, and he was strongly of opinion that the House of Commons would be taking the right course in restricting the Crown as far as possible to the revenues voted by Parliament at every accession. Any other course, such as that proposed by the present measure, must tend to initiate a new and a wrong policy. One of its most prominent results would be to prevent any such periodical revision of the arrangements to be made between Parliament and the Crown, and he was therefore opposed to it. The question was one, he might acid, which was of as great importance to the Crown itself as to Parliament. It had hitherto been the practice that the Civil List was settled on the accession of the Sovereign, 706 irrespective of the allowance to the children when they grew up, or were about to be married. When the occasion for such a provision arose, those who objected to it in that House had been always met—and successfully met by the answer that the arrangement with the Crown had been entered into without regard to any such expense. But how would the case stand if they were to proceed on the supposition that there were to be large private estates attached to the Crown which might go on accumulating indefinitely? Would not the House of Commons be then fully justified in saying—"We do not know the amount of these revenues. The Crown has very large estates throughout the country, and we do not, therefore, feel called upon to provide for the children of the Sovereign?" That appeared to him to be a position in which it would be disadvantageous to the Crown itself to be placed, and he must, therefore, despite the ingenuity of his right hon. Friend, characterize the policy for which he contended as one of retrogression. In what he had said, he had considered it right to point out what he believed to be fallacious in the ingenious speech of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. MUNTZ
entirely concurred in the view expressed by the last speaker. The object of the Bill was to do away with the course of policy which had been deemed by our ancestors necessary to the welfare of the State. No doubt, the House would be very loth to interfere in any way with the private effects of the Sovereign; but that was a question dealing with landed property. Tinder the present arrangements the Crown could not leave landed property by will to the Heir to the Throne as private property; because such bequest might interfere with the settlement of the Civil List when the Heir succeeded to the Throne, and it would be very unwise to interfere with such an arrangement. The Civil List was granted to the Crown in return for the Crown property, and there was an understanding that that Rouse would be prepared to make proper settlements upon the children of the Sovereign when they came of age or were married; but if the Crown was permitted to hold private property, and could in a long series of successions accumulate a large amount of landed property, on what ground could that House 707 be called upon to provide allowances for the children of the Sovereign?
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, the subject before the House was one of considerable difficulty, and he would endeavour to explain it as well as he could; but he was not at all sure it would be easy to follow his statement. The doubt which the Bill was intended to solve arose from the peculiar wording of the Act of George III. That Act enabled the Sovereign to dispose of two classes of estates. The first, class consisted of estates which the Sovereign purchased out of his own money, acquired by means of the savings of his Privy Purse, or which arose from personal estate given or left to him. The second class consisted of real estates which were left to him by will, or which had descended, or should descend to him from any person not being a King or Queen of these realms. The reason of the latter exception was quite obvious. The words were used in the past as well as in the future tense, and if Kings and Queens were not excepted, pretty well the whole of the Crown property would have fallen under the description of private property. The House would see that the reason of the exception had really nothing to do with the Sovereign to whom that property was given, devising to a future Sovereign; but had to do with the nature of the property which had come to him, and which was intended to be alienable as private property. The effect of the statute was this—Some lawyers were of opinion that under the first words of the statute, the property acquired by means of savings of the Privy Purse was for ever taken out of the statute of Anne. Some lawyers opined that that property remained alienable for ever; and if that view was correct, the Bill was not wanted. The other view was, that the second alternative of the section, showed the intention of the Legislature was that the first words should be read distributively and should only apply-to the King for the time being; and that was the meaning of the doubt which was referred to in the Preamble of the Bill. There was a great deal to be said on both sides; it was undoubtedly an extremely difficult point, and the object of the Bill was to get rid of the doubt. The old Act was supposed by some of the Members who had spoken to have presented a difficulty as to Her Majesty disposing of 708 her private estate in favour of the Prince of Wales; but what difficulty was there in the way of Her Majesty giving estates to the Prince of Wales? None; the difficulty was, whether the Prince of Wales, if he should become King, could alienate the estates. There was no doubt entertained by any lawyer as to the power of Her Majesty to give these estates to the Prince of Wales; the doubt was, when he had got them, could he alienate them? Any conveyancer would tell the House that that difficulty could be got over with the greatest ease—for instance, by Her Majesty making a will in a peculiar form not to give the property to the Prince of Wales absolutely, but to direct it to be sold, with his consent; the income and proceeds to be given to him for his life, and after his decease to go to his eldest son absolutely. It was quite clear under that disposition, that they would not become Crown estates at all. The object of the Bill was to give the Prince the power of alienation; not to enrich the Crown, but to impoverish the Crown by getting rid of the estates. He wished to say a few words about the supposed secrecy or concealment of Crown wills. There could not be a greater mistake. The word concealment was entirely un-appropriate; concealment and non-disclosure were totally distinct things. [Laughter.] Yes, there was a difference. The charge of concealment implied an obligation to disclose, but there was no obligation on the Sovereign to disclose the contents of the will disposing of his or her real estate. He or she was, in fact, in the same position as regarded this point as any private individual. Wills of real estate—and this Bill only applied to real estate—did not require probate. Every owner of land could, if he thought fit, make a separate will of his real estate, and no one need know what his testamentary dispositions were. He (the Solicitor General) had seen very many such wills, which in former days were much more common than now. It was a mistake to suppose that the Crown was in a different position as regarded the testamentary disposition of landed property from any other individual. The real complaint of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) was that Her Majesty's ancestors had simply done that which hundreds of private gentlemen had done—namely, 709 by putting their wills of real estate upon separate pieces of paper, they had not allowed the world to know what their dispositions of real estate were. The Bill had nothing whatever to do with dispositions of personal estate; and as regarded those dispositions it was by mere accident that the public could ascertain the contents of the wills of private individuals which were in the Court of Probate. There was nothing to hinder the Court of Probate from stopping the practice to-morrow. The present practice of exposing the affairs of a private individual to satisfy the public curiosity almost as soon as the breath was out of his body had been very much abused, and. had caused great annoyance and even pecuniary loss. A word now about the Civil List. Hon. Members said that if on a future occasion the House should be about to settle the Civil List, and the Crown should be in possession of large landed estates, it might affect the settlement. Certainly it might; but before the House of Commons settled the Civil List it would ask for a statement of what this property consisted of. Had the House never heard of such inquiry being made into the revenues derived from the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster? The result would probably be that the next Sovereign would take care that all his accumulations assumed the shape of personalty, as to which no such suggestion could fairly be made; although the House could call for a return even of personalty, before granting the sum which they thought necessary to support the dignity and power of the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman reminded him that in the case of the Prince of Wales such an inquiry was made and answered before an allowance was given to him. The Bill was really intended to get rid of a difficult legal question; by no means to increase the property of the Crown, but so far rather to diminish it by enabling the Sovereign for the time being to dispose of private property with any conditions he or she might think proper; in point of fact, to dispose of it as they pleased.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Mr. Speaker—To some people it seems a hardship that we should deal with the Royal Family in a way different from that in which we deal with any other family in the country. There is a certain plausibility at 710 first sight in the view that the King should be allowed to receive legacies or other gifts of money, or to make savings upon his income, and to invest them in any manner that he may please. I will not go into the right or wrong, or the policy or impolicy of the matter. All that I will contend is that we have broken through the old practice of the Constitution in this respect, and are following neither the one principle nor the other. In old times the King was not allowed to hold private property. Land he could not have at all, and such personalty as he might accumulate went of necessity, and in right of his Crown, to the succeeding Monarch. On the other hand, when the Kings informed Parliament that their children had grown up and were needing separate maintenance, and that by the law of the land no funds existed for that maintenance, they did so in the following terms:—"Whereas His Majesty is restrained by the Laws now in being from making provision for his younger children."—and Parliament used then to make a moderate provision—but not "to take effect till after His Majesty's demise." If the Royal Family are to be subject to no disabilities, are to be treated in every way like private individuals, then clearly it should follow that it is the duty of the Royal Family to provide for the maintenance of its younger branches. I repeat, that at the present time we are following neither the one course nor the other. We do impose disabilities on the Royal Family, especially those of the Royal Marriage Act, and we are allowing them by this and previous Bills to create a perpetual secret entail of private lands, as to which we have no information. We are allowing a wholly exceptional privacy to the Royal wills, and at the same time we are continuing to provide those dowries and annuities for the younger members of the family, in favour of which the ancient Constitutional argument that I have quoted cannot be used. That, Sir, is my ease against this Bill, which continues the policy of the Act of 1862, and which facilitates the creation of the secret entail of which I speak. The Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow covers only one portion of the ground. It strikes at the secrecy which attends the formation of a private estate for the Crown, and it strikes only at that secrecy on one side. It is aimed 711 at the secrecy of the will. As to the fact of that secrecy there can, I apprehend, be no doubt. At the Wills Office inquirers are informed that the Royal wills are not there, but that they may possibly be found in the Archi-Episcopal Registry at Lambeth. At Lambeth, it turns out on application that nothing is known about them, and I repeat that there can be no doubt about the fact. On the other hand, I could almost wish that my hon. Friend, in his desire for a wholesome publicity, had asked that as a condition precedent to the passing of this Bill we should be promised a publication of accounts, and I would suggest to him that in Committee he should move a clause similar to that which in an Act of the present reign commands the publication of the receipts and disbursements of the Duchy of Lancaster. By the publication of accounts we should see whether the provisions of the Acts of Parliament relating to these estates are observed, and our successors at the beginning of the next reign would be in possession of information which would show them how far the Crown might have become independent of the Votes of Parliament. Let me return, Sir, for one moment to the main question—namely, the Constitutional practice on this point of the tenure of private lands by the occupant of the Throne. It is interesting to look at the care exercised in former times to prevent that accumulation of private property by the Crown which by this Bill, and by the Act of 1862, we positively facilitate. The preamble of the Act of 1862 recites an Act of Anne and an Act of George III., which wholly restrain the Sovereign for the time being from dealing permanently with land, and which take the King's revenue from lands for public purposes. It recites other Acts which show that when in later times the Crown began to be allowed to hold small estates privately, an exception was made of laud coming to a King from ancestors who were "Kings or Queens of this realm." The principle which I have called the ancient Constitutional principle, and in support of which I can produce an overwhelming weight of authority, was acted upon to a most striking extent in the case of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was the private property of an individual who happened to come to the Crown of Eng- 712 land. Yet it is, and long has been, administered through a public Minister changing with the changes of the Government. Its accounts are presented to Parliament; its amount is considered in settling the income of a Sovereign at the beginning of a reign. I said that I could produce an overwhelming weight of authority in favour of the view that it is unwise to allow the Crown to hold private property in land. The hon. Member for Finsbury has pointed out in his book on India, that the reason why Pitt objected to undertake the conquest of Bengal in the name of the Crown, was lest the King should thus obtain a source of income independent of Parliament. Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox I quoted last year in support of the same view, as I did the remarkable words of Field Marshal Conway, who, in his speech in support of Mr. Burke's Bill, said—Even the propriety of interfering, not only in the selling of the private property of the Crown, but in the appropriation of the money arising from the sales of that property, is a principle admitted in this House and approved by Lord North.That great authority of the Whigs, Mr. Allen, in his book on The Royal Prerogative, says that—It has become a maxim of English law that all lands and tenements possessed by the King belong to him in right of the Crown, and descend with it to his successors, though he had been seized of them in his private capacity before he was King or had inherited them from ancestors, who were never invested with the attributes of Royalty.At the beginning of the present reign, in a great speech upon this subject, Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey said—The Crown could have no possession either in money or in land, which was not properly under the control of Parliament, and though the House might now be induced to act a crouching and subservient part, both old and modern times could assert and authorize this doctrine. It was the doctrine of Burke; it was the doctrine of lox: and in more modern times it was the doctrine of the President of the Council, who, in the other House in 1816, repudiated the notion that the Crown could possess any property of its own.The hon. Member for Liskeard was one of those who supported Mr. Harvey on that occasion. This was the opinion of Sir George Lewis, who on the 22nd of May, 1857, said—It has been deemed a matter of policy in this country wholly to strip and denude the 713 Sovereign of all hereditary property, and to render him during his life entirely dependent upon the bounty of Parliament."—[3 Hansard, clxv. 724.]These opinions laid down in Coke upon Littleton, by Pitt, by Burke, by Fox, by John Allen, and by Sir George Lewis, were acted upon by Parliament in the case of the Brighton Pavilion, and, I think I may add, have never as yet been denied by any Minister of the Crown. We shall probably be told that there is no danger of the Crown becoming independent of Parliament, and that the private landed estates are still small. They may be small in this country, and large in the colonies; but in any case this is a reason for our wishing to know the amount, and hence for the publication of the accounts. Even supposing that the estates are small now, they may become enormous at any moment without our knowing it, owing to the non-publication of the will and the non-publication of accounts. Persons desirous of notoriety may in the future, as they have in the past, leave enormous legacies to the King. Moreover, are these estates so small? The Privy Purse receives £32,000 a-year more from the Duchy of Lancaster than it did at the beginning of the reign. At the beginning of the reign the payment to the King from the Duchy of Lancaster was £8,000 a-year, and is now £40,000. The savings on the Civil List applied to the Privy Purse—in consequence of the refusal of my Motion of last year, and the suppression of the Returns since Lord Brougham's Motion in the Lords in 1851—are not known, but cannot for a great many years have been less than £20,000 a-year, and may have been double or treble that sum. I think, therefore, that it may be said that the King of England—looking to the fact that the Privy Purse is clear of almost all the charges which fall upon the Privy Purse in other countries—is by far the richest of monarchs. Last year the Prime Minister contended that the savings were not large, because £20,000 a-year in new pensions, chargeable on the Privy Purse, had been created during the present reign, but when Parliament has laid down, in Act after Act, the principles which guide the bestowal of pensions, it is highly unconstitutional that these pensions should be granted at all without our knowledge, and one of 714 the greatest dangers arising from that accumulation of private property by the Crown which is now going on lies in the fact that such pensions may without any restriction as to amount and character be secretly created. I have no doubt that the Conservative from bench will support this Bill, because since our last debate upon these subjects we have had the pleasure of reading the memoirs of Baron Stockmar, the Royal Physician, in which he states that "all questions affecting the Crown are now treated confidentially with the heads of the opposition"—a proceeding the constitutional spirit of which I take leave to doubt.
§ DR. BALL
must tell his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea that he was entirely mistaken. He objected altogether to lawyers giving their opinions on legal questions, or debating them, simply as agents of political parties. The course which he took on this Bill was his own, and he looked at the Bill as he would look at any other. What was the Resolution now before the House?—That it is inexpedient to extend the scope of the Act 25 and 26 Vic. c. 37, until the secrecy at present attaching exclusively to Crown testaments is abolished.He entirely agreed with the hon. and learned Solicitor General; indeed, it was seldom that lawyers disagreed about the law—that if the instrument disposed of nothing but realty, there was no obligation on any person to disclose the contents of the instrument. The tenure of landed property did not he in the probate, but in the original instrument. He did not, therefore, agree that there was as to realty an exclusive power of secrecy in the Crown. As regarded personalty, there was. But that was an extremely secondary matter. The real question appeared to him to be that raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie). The great learning and sound judgment his right hon. Friend brought to bear on every constitutional question made him most reluctant to differ from him; but he was utterly unable to see the wisdom of making a prohibition on the Sovereign's power of disposing of private property so as to give the Heir to the Crown an ownership in it. Sovereigns were not in that respect different from other people, and if the Sovereign was fettered in the gift—if they jealously interfered with the terms and conditions of the gift— 715 the Sovereign would give in the direction where there was unlimited and absolute power. That was human nature. So far as policy, he thought it was in favour of encouraging to give to the Heir who would be Sovereign. The wealth of the Sovereign was part of the wealth of the country. The Sovereign was not a private individual, but, in a representative character, stood at the head of the nation. He was unable to follow the argument of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the change introduced in the law of England in 1833–4. Prior to that, the Heir took by descent, not by purchase. The law was altered—why? Because the ablest Commission that ever sat on the law recommended the alteration; and the Heir now took by purchase, not by descent. And why should the Crown by any technicality he excluded from the benefit of that change of the law? The opinion of Lord Westbury had been referred to, and it was in favour of the Crown. He was prepared on that opinion to say that as regarded the Sovereign, it would not be just to withhold their support from the Bill. With respect to the opinion, he could not examine it critically, for such was the eminent legal learning and ability of that great lawyer who had now gone from among us, he would be inclined to exclaim "Mallem cum Platone errare gum cum aliis recta sentire."
§ MR. JAMES
must say, with great deference to his hon. Friends around him, that the objections they had raised to this Bill appeared to him to rest on insufficient grounds, and that they were to a great extent founded on a misapprehension of the probable effects of the measure. It was somewhat amusing to observe the alliance between the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) and what was called the old Constitutional doctrine asserted by his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), to which he had attached himself with something like hereditary feelings. That doctrine —that the Crown could not deal with private property, however, was annihilated when once the Crown obtained the power, and that had created an entirely new state of things. In fact the speech of the right hon. Member against the Bill ought to have been made 74 years ago. When the popular party associated with the hon. Baronet the Member for 716 Chelsea came to use the same language, that would give rise to a misapprehension out-of-doors that the Bill was an innovation, and that an attempt was being made to increase the power of the Crown. It was almost absurd, particularly when they had in public opinion a greater corrective than in any statute, and more especially while they had such a doughty exponent of public opinion in that House as the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, to fear that the power of the Crown was going to be increased, because the Crown might leave landed property to one descendant as well as to another, a privilege to which he could see no Objection. The public had greater interest in property following the Crown and the State than in its being devised to strangers. Suppose the occupant of the Throne left property to a stranger, how would the public benefit? If it went to the successor to the Crown there would not need to be such a large Civil List as would otherwise be required. This Bill did not impose the secrecy objected to by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), who, if he would remove it, should move to repeal the original Act; but the secrecy was most shadowy, for large properties could not be left and enjoyed without the knowledge of the public. He could not see the least objection to the Bill.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, as it appeared that hon. Members desired to take a division on the Main Question rather than on that raised by his Amendment, he would withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 167; Noes 35: Majority 132.718
|Adderley, rt. hon. Sir C.||Brassey, T.|
|Amphlett, R. P.||Brewer, Dr.|
|Ayrton, rt. hon. A. S.||Bright, R.|
|Baines, E.||Brinckman, Captain|
|Ball, rt. hon. J. T.||Bristowe, S. B.|
|Barclay, A. C.||Brockleburst, W. C.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Brown, A. H.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.|
|Bassett, F.||Buller, Sir E. M.|
|Bates, E.||Burrell, Sir P.|
|Baxter, rt. hon. W. E.||Campbell-Bannerman,|
|Blennerhassett, Sir R.||H.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Cardwell, rt. hon. E.|
|Bowling, E. A.||Cartwright, W. C.|
|Brawn H. A.||Cavendish, Lord F. C.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Lacon, Sir E. H. K.|
|Coleridge, Sir J. D.||Lambert, N. G.|
|Collins, T.||Lancaster, J.|
|Corrigan, Sir D.||Lawrence, W.|
|Cowper-Temple, right||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|hon. W.||Leith, J. F.|
|Craufurd. E. H. J.||Lennox, Lord G. G.|
|Dalrymple, D.||Lindsay, hon. Col. C.|
|Davies, R.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Denison, C. B.||Lusk, A.|
|Dent, J. D.||Lyttelton, hon. C. G.|
|Dickinson, S. S.||Mackintosh, E. W.|
|Dimsdale, R.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Dixon, G.||Matheson, A.|
|Dowdeswell, W. E.||Miller, W.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Dyott, Colonel R.||Monsell, rt. hon. W.|
|Edwards, H.||Morgan, G. O.|
|Enfield, Viscount||Nicholson, W.|
|Ewing, A. Orr||O'Reilly-Dease, M.|
|Fielden, J.||Pakington, rt. Hn. Sir J.|
|Figgins, J.||Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.|
|Finch, G. H.||Peel, A. W.|
|FitzGerald, right hon.||Pemberton, E. L.|
|Lord O. A.||Pim, J.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. C.||Potter, E.|
|W. W.||Power, J. T.|
|Fitzwilliam, hn. H. W.||Raikes, H. C.|
|Fletcher, I.||Rathbone, W.|
|Forster, rt. hon. W. E.||Reed, C.|
|Foster, W. H.||Round, J.|
|Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.||Sackville, S. G. S.|
|Fowler, R. N.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Fowler, W.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Gamier, J. C.||Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Smith, S. G.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|Gladstone, W. H.||Stapleton, J.|
|Goldney, G.||Stone, W. H.|
|Goldsmid, Sir F.||Storks, rt. hn. Sir H. K.|
|Goldsmid, J.||Straight, D.|
|Gordon, E. S.||Stuart, hon. H. W. V.|
|Gore, J. R. O.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Tipping, W.|
|Graham, W.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Gray, Colonel||Tollemache, Maj. W. F.|
|Greville, hon. Captain||Torr, J.|
|Grieve, J. J.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Grosvenor, hon. N.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Hanbury-|
|Hardy, rt. hon. G.||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Hartington, Marg. Of||Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Turner, C.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Turnor, E.|
|Heygate, Sir F. W.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Heygate, W. U.||Vivian, A. P.|
|Hitbert, J. T.||Wait, W. K.|
|Holford, J. P. G.||Wallace, Sir R.|
|Holland, S.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Holt, J. M.||Watney, J.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Wedderburn, Sir D.|
|Hoskyns, C. Wren-||Welby, W. E.|
|Hurst, R. H.||West, H. W.|
|James, H.||Wheelhouse, W. S. J.|
|Jardine, R.||Whitwell, J.|
|Jessel, Sir G.||Williams, W.|
|Johnston, A.||Wingfield, Sir C.|
|Kavanagh, A. MacM.||Winterbotham, H. S. P.|
|Kensington, Lord||Woods, H.|
|Kingscote, Colonel||Young, rt. hon. G.|
|right hon. E.||Adam, W. P.|
|Knight, F. W.||Glyn, hon. G. G.|
|Bright, J. (Manchester)||Miller, J.|
|Buckley, N.||Monk, C. J.|
|Butt, I.||Morley, S.|
|Candlish, J.||Mundella, A. J.|
|Carter, R. M.||Muntz, P. H.|
|Chadwick, D.||Norwood, C. M.|
|Clay, J.||Philips, R. N.|
|Dilke, Sir C. W.||Price, W. E.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Rylands, P.|
|Downing, M'C.||Samuelson, H. B.|
|Finale, W.||Shaw, R.|
|Gray, Sir J.||Sherriff, A. C.|
|Illingworth, A.||Stuart., Colonel|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Locke, J.||White, J.|
|Lubbock, Sir J.||Willyams, E. W. B.|
|Melly, G.||Anderson, G.|
|Mall, E.||Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.|
Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.