HC Deb 07 July 1885 vol 298 cc1902-13

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


Sir Arthur Otway, the proposal which I have now to submit to the Committee—namely, that the sum of £30,000 he granted for the marriage portion of Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice—is not only one which is in itself in complete accordance with a considerable course of precedents, but I think it will be felt by the Committee that it is dependent on and governed by the reasons which induced the House to give its sanction, by an overwhelming majority, to the larger proposition for an annuity of £6,000 to Her Royal Highness on the auspicious occasion of her marriage. Therefore I do not propose to trouble the Committee with a repetition of the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister placed before the House in making that proposition. I will only express my belief that this proposal will be received by the Committee as the necessary and customary complement of the other, and will be welcomed generally with the same cordiality with which the proposal of an annuity was received. And I may even express a hope that those hon. I Members whose feelings of duty in- this matter induced them to oppose the grant of an annuity will, en this occasion, consider that they have sufficiently protested against the principle to which they object, and that they will not now press their opposition to a division.

(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sum of £30,000 be granted to Her Majesty, for the marriage portion of Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice Marie Victoria Feodora."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


said, the right hon. Gentleman had employed a somewhat singular argument against any opposition to this Vote. The right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped those who opposed the grant of £6,000 per annum to Her Royal Highness would be content with having opposed that Vote on principle, and would not oppose this additional grant. Now, this was not only a question of principle, but also a question of finance, and it seemed to him that there was no valid reason why they should vote £30,000 to Her Royal Highness to-day because they had voted an annuity of £6,000 to Her Royal Highness a short time ago. In his opinion it was rather the reverse. When they voted the annuity of £6,000 nothing was said about a lump sum of £30,000 in the form of a dowry; and he confessed that he and other hon. Members had been under the impression, at the time the annuity was proposed, that the sole amount they would be asked to give would be £6,000 per annum, and they were, therefore, much surprised to hear afterwards that a further demand was to be made for £30,000. He thought an indication to that effect ought to have been made on the previous occasion, and he certainly did not remember that any suggestion of another grant had been made. He had opposed several of those grants to the children of Her Majesty, and he had done so because he had been told on more than one occasion that a bargain was made with Her Majesty which implied, in some sort of way, that those grants should be given to the children of Her Majesty. He had asked over and over again where he was to find any such engagement; but he had not received an answer. In point of fact, there was no such engagement at all. On the contrary, when the Civil List was voted to Her Majesty the amount was calculated to cover everything required by Her Majesty. In addition to that the sum of £60,000 a-year was voted from the Privy Purse, and a sum of £40,000 per annum was received by Her Majesty as the revenue of the Duchy of Lancaster, and there was also an unappropriated balance of about £8,000 in addition. It was obvious, therefore, that Her Majesty received a sum amounting to more than £100,000 in excess of all that was considered requisite to maintain the state of the Sovereign, and out of that sum there must have been very considerable accumulations. It was not denied by the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister, when he proposed the Vote of £6,000 per annum to be granted to Her Royal Highness, that Her Majesty had very large accumulations. He asked what those accumulations were? and he maintained that they ought to be applied in making provision for Her Majesty's children. Her Majesty's received the revenue of the Duchy of Lancaster and an annual sum from the Privy Purse for the very object of doing what the House was asked to do now—namely, providing for Her children. He contended that they had provided for Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice. They had given her £6,000 a-year, and it was monstrous that they should be asked to give, in addition to the sum of £6,000 a-year, a lump sum of £30,000. He did not understand what those large sums were asked for. It was stated in the public journals that Her Royal Highness and Prince Henry of Batten berg were going to live with Her Majesty, and he presumed that they would inhabit one of the Palaces which was kept up at the expense of the country, but which belonged to Her Majesty. What he objected to, therefore, was that this sum of £30,000 was intended, not only to provide for Her Royal Highness, but Her Royal Highness's husband, and to give him and his heirs a perpetual pension of £900 per annum, which was the equivalent of Consols to the amount of £30,000. He strongly objected to provide a perpetual pension to the heirs of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Batten berg. He sincerely hoped that in this matter hon. Members would pluck up a little courage. At present Parliament appeared to be too ready to accept whatever the Ministry chose to propose. That had not always been the case. In former times Parliament had not been so subservient as they were now expected to be in matters of this kind. During the Reign of George III. there had been frequent Motions to reduce the amount of the grants proposed to be given to His Majesty's children. He thought he could remember three such Motions; but certainly two. In the first or second Parliament of the present Reign a proposal was made to give a large sum per annum to the Prince Consort; but the proposal was opposed by an independent Member who sat on the Conservative side of the House (Colonel Sibthorpe), and the reduction in amount which that hon. and gallant Member moved was agreed to by the House. The House of Commons in former Reigns did not consider it their duty to vote large sums of money merely because they were asked to do so by the Ministers of the day; but they looked into the matter fairly and honestly for themselves, and if they considered the sum asked for too much they refused to grant it. That was not the case now. He had opposed the grant of £6,000 per annum to Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice on the ground that the Royal Family were already amply provided for, and it was a mistake to give more. But the case against the grant now asked for was much stronger, inasmuch as they had already voted £6,000 per annum for the maintenance of Her Royal Highness; and, therefore, there was no necessity for calling upon them to vote an additional lump sum of £30,000. He had read the argument against the opposition to this grant by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright). The right hon. Gentleman said that when they were expending millions upon war they ought not to stop at the expenditure of a few thousands for the maintenance of the Royal Family. The right hon. Gentleman was of opinion that it would be far better to put a stop to the larger expenditure of money on war instead of interfering with so small a matter as these grants to the Royal Family. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that they ought to put a stop to the expenditure upon war; but because they threw away millions upon war, that was no reason why they should throw away thousands without asking why and wherefore. He was of opinion that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman would not hold water. lie had stated that the Royal Family were amply provided for, and that the House of Commons ought not to be called upon to make any further provision for any Member of the Royal Family. What he asked now was whether the money was wanted? Had Her Majesty the means at her disposal to make provision for her children? If Her Majesty had—and ho did not think it would be denied—ample means of providing for her children out of the sum now voted by Parliament annually as provision for Her Majesty, then he thought this demand ought not to be made upon the House. At any rate, after voting an annuity of £0,000 they ought not to be asked to vote a lump sum of £30,000. It might be said that it was a proposal on the part of the late Government, and that he and other Liberal Members ought, therefore, to support it. But the money which had been asked for by the late Government it had been intended to meet by taxes. The present Government had refused to vote those taxes, and they were now going to undertake to borrow the money to meet the deficit in the taxation of the year. The country, consequently, was not paying its way, and under such circumstances it was undesirable to add to the deficit of the year. They had fallen into arrears, and they had a Government in Office who refused to meet the expenditure by taxation, and that Government now came forward to borrow money, not only to meet the deficit, but to meet also this sum of £30,000 as a gift to a lady to whom they all wished a happy life, but for whom there was no necessity for granting the sum now asked for. He therefore begged to move the rejection of the Vote.


said, he was not aware whether the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) proposed to waste the precious time of the House for the benefit of himself and a fellow-Teller by going to a division; but he must say that the hon. Member rarely missed an opportunity of showing his dislike to the Throne and the Constitution. It would be in the recollection of many Members of the House that the hon. Member for Northampton took the chair on one occasion at a meeting which was addressed by Mr. Henry George, who passed a gross insult on our gracious Queen, which insult remained unrebuked by the chairman.


Allow me to contradict that statement. Mr. Henry George did nothing of the kind.


I rise to Order. Mr. Henry George, Sir Arthur Otway, is a gentleman with whom I am acquainted.


That is not a point of Order.


My point of Order is this—


I must call upon Sir Frederick Milner to proceed.


said, that undoubtedly those discussions had had a bad effect upon certain sections of the community of the country, as was shown by certain Petitions which had been sent from certain Radical clubs to Her Majesty, praying her not to ask for a grant for Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice. He thought that Petitions of that kind were a gross outrage and insult upon the Queen, and that they ought not to pass mi-rebuked. Most people in this country would, be prepared to admit that the Royal Family was one of the least expensive in the world. No doubt the hon. Member for Northampton would be gratified if the money spent on the Royal Family could be expended in finding salaries for himself and certain other Members who sat near him for the very questionable services which they rendered to the country in that House. Such a proposition would not, however, find much support during the lifetime of the present House of Commons. lie felt certain of this—that if this question were placed before the country, it would vote by an enormous majority that this money should be given to a Royal lady who had already earned the affections of the people, and who was the daughter of a Queen who had always shown her own sympathy with the people, and who had always displayed the greatest wisdom in ruling the country in critical times. He trusted that the Committee, if the hon. Member went to a division, would, by an overwhelming majority, show what its feeling was with regard to the contentious and obstructive Amendment which had been moved.


said, he did not intend to detain the Committee, especially after the specimen the hon. Member for York (Sir Frederick Milner) had given of the manner in which the time of the Committee might be wasted. He thought, however, that he would be justified in making a few remarks. The hon. Member for York evidently appeared to imagine that it was his function in life to appear as the champion of the honour and dignity of everything and everybody. Only a short time ago the hon. Member, as the Committee would recollect, undertook to maintain the honour and dignity of the House of Commons, a task which the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamber- lain) proved very conclusively the hon. Baronet was by no means in a position to perform. To-night the hon. Member had taken on himself the duty of maintaining the dignity and honour of the Royal Family. He (Mr. Redmond) congratulated the Royal Family of England in having won to their side the services of a redoubtable champion so eminently qualified to waste the time of the Committee himself, and then to accuse other people of doing it. The hon. Gentleman said that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was actuated in his opposition to this Vote by an idea that the public money might be better devoted towards paying himself and other hon. Members who agreed with him in opinion for the very questionable services they rendered to the State. Now, he (Mr. Redmond) thought it would be a very advantageous thing if it could be put forward in support of the Vote that Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice, or her husband from German)', performed any services to the country at all. As far as he was aware, they did nothing whatever to promote the interests or honour of the country; and he was certain of this fact—that the vast bulk of the people, not only of Great Britain, but of the Empire generally', were thoroughly adverse to this unnecessary squandering of the public money. The hon. Member for Northampton had spoken that night in the consistent manner which ho had always adopted in exposing the fallacies upon which public giants of this character were made. The hon. Member had pointed out that the Vote could not be supported on the ground of its necessity. In the first place, Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice had already had voted to Her by Parliament an annuity of £6,000; and, in the second place, the Princess Beatrice's Royal Mother was notoriously possessed of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000. He did not believe that Mr. Henry George, at the meeting presided over by the hon. Member for Northampton, had ever spoken in disrespectful terms of Her Majesty; but it was notorious that she was possessed of this large amount of money. It was all very well to be sentimental and superstitious about Royalty—and, undoubtedly, a great amount of sentimentality and superstition did exist about Royalty—but he did not think that the people of England, who sent Members there to represent them, and to take charge of the money that was levied in the shape of taxes, would he satisfied that this lady should not give to Her daughter enough to support her when she married. The Queen of this country was even described as a lady who, in every respect, and in every walk of life, was the model of a mother, as well as of a Queen. Now, what was the first duty of an honest man or woman who was a father or a mother? laugh. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would pull themselves together, and listen to what, he said, they would see that he had spoken in a perfectly correct manner. Her Majesty was supposed to be the model of what a woman ought to be. But what did the poorest mother in the country do when her child was leaving her home in order to get married? Even if she pinched herself, and stinted herself of the necessaries of life, she invariably gave to her daughter something to maintain her in her new sphere of life. Even a washerwoman gave something or other to her child under such circumstances as a dowry, and the wife of a costermonger did the same. Was it, then, to be said that the Queen of England, with her £8,000,000, failed in that duty towards her child, which the commonest of her subjects did not omit to perform, because she found it much more convenient to squeeze money out of the hard-worked people of this country? ["Order!"] He was not out of Order; and what he ventured to say was literally and accurately true. If hon. Members would be good enough to examine the state of the case, they would see that what he said was absolutely true. He desired to say nothing disrespectful or untrue in regard to Her Majesty. He merely stated that if she refused to provide her daughter's dowry, she failed in that duty which the commonest person in the Realm invariably performed. She had her £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 put by, and yet she refused to make provision for her daughter, nor would she do so as long as she could get Parliament to pay what the Chancellor of the Exchequer told than was a customary complement. He congratulated the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon having invented for the poor working people of England so nice a phrase as "customary complement" for that grant of £30,000; but he was very much mistaken if the time would not very soon arrive when the people of England would come to the conclusion that they could do better with their money than pay "customary complements" of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had omitted to put forward the only decent argument used by the late Prime Minister in moving the grant of an annuity of £6,000 to Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) had brought forward as his only argument—an argument by which ho (Mr. Redmond) was certainly struck at the time—that if the House consented to vote the annuity of £6,000, it would probably be the last time that such a request would ever be made in that House. That was the only decent argument that could have been put forward to justify the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman said in substance—"Pray, Gentlemen, do not discuss this proposal, for it is the last time that it will ever be made. Therefore, do not let us have a fuss about it. Let us give this to the Queen's child, and when it is all over it will never happen again." That was the only argument the late Prime Minister put forward; but it was not the argument put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He rejoiced that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had followed a consistent course. The hon. Member was unlike a good many of his Radical brethren, who went down to large centres of civilization, and talked to the Democracy about the rights of the working classes, and who, when they got elected, came to the House of Commons and seemed to care nothing whatever about the taxes which were imposed upon the people. Ho should only be glad to see mauy others of those so-called Radicals as consistent as the hon. Member for Northampton in this matter. If they were consistent, they would come forward and oppose the present Vote. The Leader of Her Majesty's Government, who had expressed an expectation that the Vote would not be opposed, would find himself very much mistaken, for a considerable number of Members, both English and Irish, would go into the Lobby against the Vote in order to place on record their opinion that grants of this nature were nothing more nor less than absurd superstition and humbug of the grossest kind to keep up the semblance of Royalty. He did not think that persons who voted for money being taken out of the country in this way were the true friends of Royalty; but there were many others who were doing their best to bring about the day when the people of England would arrive at the conclusion that the cost of Royalty was far too great. He should certainly vote with pleasure against this grant, and so long as he remained a Member of the House he should continue to do so.


regretted very much that the hon. Member for York (Sir Frederick Milner) should have set the bad example, of which they had now seen the consequences, of making this proposal of a dowry to Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice a matter personal to Her Royal Highness. He would remind the Committee that the best mode of approaching the consideration of a subject of this kind was that which was suggested many years ago by one of the most Radical Members who ever sat in that House—Mr. Grote—who stated that those were not the best friends of the Monarchy who approached the consideration of a proposal of a grant of money to the Crown without thinking, in the first place, of the effect which would be produced on the minds of the taxpayers of the country. His (Mr. Arnold's) special object in rising was to make a further appeal to the right hon. Baronet, who was now the Leader of the House, in regard to a matter of very great importance which had occurred earlier in the evening at Question time. He referred to the proposal which, after due deliberation among the Members of the late Cabinet, had been made on the responsibility of the First Minister of the Crown a short time ago, and communicated to the House when the grant of an annuity to Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice was made. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. I Gladstone) said on that occasion that the Cabinet had arrived at the conclusion that early next Session they would propose the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the question of secondary provision for Members of the Royal Family. He had hoped that upon a plain, simple, and straightforward question of that nature, it would have been one of the first duties of a responsible Minister of the Crown to have expressed a distinct and definite opinion; and he must confess that he had been greatly disappointed with the reply which had been given by the right hon. Baronet earlier in the evening. He hoped that even now, upon a matter which would certainly affect his vote, and probably that of many other hon. Members, the right hon. Gentleman would assure the Committee that, in face of the promise which had been given—for it amounted to a promise—in regard to the future provision of Members of the Royal Family, he adhered to the wise and moderate proposal of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. The right hon. Baronet had told them that evening that he was likely to be in power in the next Parliament. He (Mr. Arnold) admitted that it was possible, and in view of that possibility he hoped the right hon. Baronet would not think him importunate if he said that it was his duty to have a distinct policy on this subject. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give some assurance to the Committee that he would adopt the course which the late Prime Minister had indicated.


I do not at all underrate the importance of the question which was raised at an earlier period of the evening; but what I do venture to say now is this—that though, no doubt, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to form a definite opinion upon a question of such importance, it is impossible to form that definite opinion until we have had time to consider it fully, and at present we naturally have a multitude of matters to occupy our attention, considering the short time we have been in Office. I would remind the hon. Member who had just spoken that the late Prime Minister did not, as far as I could gather from what fell from him, give any very definite promise. [Cries of "Yes!"] If the right hon. Gentleman gave any definite promise, it only amounted to this—that if he was at the head of the Government he would propose a Select Committee to consider the subject next Session. It will be the duty of the present Government to consider the matter between this time and the next Session of Parliament. I think that the hon. Member has spoken with some want of fairness with regard to the hon. Baronet the Member for York (Sir Frederick Milner) in accusing him of making this a personal question to Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice. I would venture to say, in answer to that accusation, that those who make it a personal question to Her Royal Highness are rather those who object to a grant which is proposed merely in order to place Her Royal Highness upon an equality with the other Princesses of her Family. Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 153; Noes 32: Majority 121.—(Div. List, No. 212.)