HC Deb 18 March 1886 vol 303 cc1308-14

Postponed Resolution [11th March] considered. 3. "That a sum, not exceeding £62,216, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens.

Resolved, That the postponed Resolution reported from the Committee of Supply on the 11th March be re-committed to the said Committee.

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.

SUPPLY again considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in addition to the sum of £62,216 already granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens, the sum of £50,403 be granted, making together the sum of £112,619.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

Mr. Courtney, are we to have any statement upon this proposal from the Secretary to the Treasury?


I am prepared to give an explanation if my hon. Friend wishes it. I understood that the statement which was made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt), who I am sorry has been compelled to leave the House, was very clear, and that it was agreeable to, and accepted by, my hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere). The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was this—that he proposed that the House should vote for this year the entire amount set down for Royal Parks and Pleasure Grounds, and that the Government should bring in a Bill for the transfer of the Parks other than the Royal Parks to the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Board of Works. That Bill is now in course of preparation, and will be brought in by my right hon. Friend (Sir William Harcourt) as soon as he can find an opportunity to do so. In pursuance of that arrangement, which seemed to meet with general consent in the House, I am now moving the completion of the Vote for this year.


That is as satisfactory an arrangement as can be come to. I merely want to point out that we were called perfect idiots for opposing this Vote, and we were told that we did not know our business. It seems that we did know our business, because, if we have not got the whole thing, we have got some of it. I do not quite agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. H. H. Fowler) as to the Royal Parks; still I know there is a difficulty about them, and I think we must be satisfied if we get any portion of the expenses of the London Parks thrown on the rates of the Metropolis. But we have now to consider this Vote. On the last occasion that the Vote was before the Committee I gave Notice of two Amendments. I was not able to put the second Amendment, because of the way the first was put to the Committee. Now that the Vote has been re-committed, I shall take the liberty of moving my second Amendment. I have to move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £2,150, which is made up of several items. The Bailiff of the Royal Parks receives annually £780. I have not the slightest idea who the Bailiff of the Royal Parks is; but the £780 is composed of two items—namely, salary £700, and £80 for travelling expenses—I presume between Richmond, Greenwich, and London. There is set down for the Ranger of Richmond Park, £109 10s., and for the Deputy Ranger, £63 10s. I observe that the Ranger and Deputy Ranger are military officers of high rank receiving pay from Army funds. Very likely they are very valuable as military officers; but the probability is that they know absolutely nothing about the Parks, and that the offices they hold are purely and simply sinecures. Well, now, I ask the Committee to allow me to say one word in regard to Richmond Park. I happen to know a little about the Park, because I am sometimes in the neighbourhood. We find, in the first place, that the Department of the Ranger of Richmond Park costs us £1,643, of which £711 is put down for salaries, and that is one of the items I object to. Then, we have in Richmond Park two keepers. Many hon. Members have keepers of their own; but they will hardly credit that the country pays two keepers £358 a-year, besides allowing them house accommodation. At Hampton Court Park there is a keeper who receives £150 a-year, and at Bushey Park a keeper to whom £200 a-year is paid. I reduce all these gentlemen to the sum of £100 per annum, although I have no doubt that my hon. Friends around me will say I am too generous even now. I find we have a keeper at Greenwich Park for £100 per annum; and although I should say that most probably these keepers are not necessary, if we can get a keeper at Greenwich Park for £100, it is very evident we are foolish to pay £358 for two keepers at Richmond Park. It is these small amounts which swell the Estimates. Now, besides the salaries of the Ranger, Deputy Ranger, head keeper, and under keeper, £2,036 is set down for the maintenance of Richmond Park, and £1,643 for the Department of the Ranger. I presume that Richmond Park must be somewhere about 1,500 acres in extent. Hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well that a park of 1,500, or even of 2,000, acres ought not to cost £4,350 and bring in nothing. I will tell the Committee why Richmond Park costs so much. It is that the Ranger, an eminent Gentleman—the Duke of Cambridge, in fact—makes the Park a shooting preserve for himself. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood are disgusted with what goes on in the Park. The place is full of rabbits and pheasants. The game is reared for the amusement of the Duke of Cambridge, and what happens? A poor man goes through the Park. I consider a poor man has a natural right when he sees a rabbit to take it. Now, who would think it reasonable to throw such temptations in the way of people, close to the Metropolis, in a populous neighbourhood like that of Richmond Park? [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed; but if there were rabbits in Hyde Park, for instance, it is well known that the people would not scruple to take them. I ask the Committee to remember that these Parks are the people's Parks; they are there for the people, and not for eminent Noblemen to turn them into game preserves for themselves. Then, again, Hampton Court Park is included in this Estimate; and I have learned something about the foals, about which I complained on a former occasion. It appears that Hampton Court Park is about 500 or 600 acres in extent, and that almost the entire Park is devoted to the maintenance of these foals. The foals, I believe, belong to the Crown; and they are sold for the benefit of the Crown. There is a house there which is inhabited by one of the Royal Equerries for a month or two of the year, and for its maintenance we are charged four hundred and odd pounds. I hope the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler), or whoever the matter concerns, will look into the case, and will, for the benefit of the people in the neighbourhood, see that Hampton Court Park is thrown open to the public. A person is told that he may, by applying and paying a sovereign every year, have a key to admit him to the Park. If you want to have your horses there have them by all means; but do not exclude human beings, who do not pay £1 a-year, from the enjoyment of the Park. I have mentioned the items on which I shall ask the Committee to divide. I do not think any human being can defend these items. Nobody can say that an eminent Military Officer ought to have a sinecure office worth £700 a-year, with £80 travelling expenses, that we ought to pay a Ranger of Richmond Park £109, and a Deputy Ranger £63, or that we ought to pay two keepers £358 a-year, in order that the Park may be converted into a mere preserve of game. I beg to move that this Vote be reduced by £2,150.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in addition to the sum of £62,216 already granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens, the reduced sum of £48,253 be granted, making together the sum of £110,469."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


The explanation that I have to give to my hon. Friend is shortly this. The salary of the Ranger of Richmond Park is, as he stated, £109 a-year; but the Ranger of Richmond Park is also the Ranger of the St. James's, Green, and Hyde Parks, and he receives no remuneration whatever in the latter capacity. The game in Richmond Park is preserved at the private expense of the Ranger, who himself pays for the rearing and feeding of the pheasants. With reference to the Bailiff of the Royal Parks, I have to say that this officer was appointed in pursuance of the recommendations of a Committee of Inquiry. His salary was originally fixed at £400 a-year; but subsequently it was increased to £700, in lieu of the officer's civil and military pay and allowances. The office is not a sinecure. Prior to 1880 there was a second Bailiff, at a salary of £160. The Treasury exercise a very strict supervision as to the number of men employed in the Department of the Ranger; and, having regard to the duties the men perform, the Treasury do not consider that the sum asked for is excessive. The only other point to which my hon. Friend referred was that concerning Hampton Court Park. I may inform him that the whole of the Park at Hampton Court was not surrendered to the country under the Civil List Act, and the enjoyment of the Park has always been regarded as a privilege of the residents in Hampton Court Palace.

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

I do not quite understand what the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler) means by the Park not being surrendered under the Civil List Act. There never has been any surrender under any of the Civil List Acts. The first Civil List was granted to William III. for life, the second was granted to Anne for life, the third was granted to George I. for life, and the fourth was granted to George II. for life. In the Civil List Act of George III. words were introduced as if implying that some surrender was made, but of no specific properties and having no real value. The grants in each case have been to the Monarch for life, and there has been no surrender whatever.


The amount of money involved in the maintenance of the Parks is a very small matter; but there is another aspect of the case, which I think ought to receive the attention of the Government, and that is the very large areas within such places as Richmond Park from which the public are excluded. The inclosures form a very large proportion of the Parks; and, as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has said, they are virtually game preserves for a very small privileged circle. It is perfectly true, as the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler) has said, that the pheasants are now fed at the expense of the Ranger, or, in other words, at the expense of the Duke of Cambridge; but I recollect that three or four years ago it required a debate of nearly two hours to induce the House to knock off, as it did on my Motion, the sum of £75 for the feeding of the pheasants in Richmond Park. As at that time the pheasants fed at the public expense covered a large portion of ground which ought to have been devoted to public recreation, I trust, now that the pheasants are fed at the expense of His Royal Highness, or somebody else, the people are not to be equally excluded. I say that this is a very much more important part of the question than the mere consideration of expense; and I think we have some right to a reply from the Government that some steps will be taken to obtain for the people free admission to the whole area of the Parks.

MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

The passing of the Vote would not preclude the raising of the question with regard to the Royal Parks on an early occasion. The Royal Parks in London are for the enjoyment of the London people, and the cost of their maintenance should be cast on the London rates; and while the Government have met the demand of the House to a certain extent, it will be necessary to relieve the country from a charge which manifestly belongs to the Metropolis alone.

MR. MOULTON (Clapham)

I strongly object to any proposal which throws upon the Metropolitan Board of Works the maintenance of the London Parks, without requiring the City to bear in all respects its share of the expense of maintaining them.


The hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly incorrect as to the position of the City with relation to the maintenance of the Parks. It pays more than its proportion would be under the Board of Works.

MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)

I wish to ask the Secretary to the Treasury under what authority the Duke of Cambridge takes a portion of a public Park, paid for by the people of the country, and reserve it to himself as proprietor for the purpose of game preserving? I want an answer to that question, which is a very simple one.


I think the hon. Member for King's County has raised a very large question. This Park has not been taken from the public; it has never belonged to the public. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members say "Oh, oh!" but it is as I state. The Park has for hundreds of years been Royal property. The House will see that that is going into the whole question of Crown lands, and that it cannot be competent to deal with that question on this Vote. What the Treasury have to do is to submit to the law as it finds it. The Treasury are carrying out the arrangement made with the Crown when the present Sovereign came to the Throne, and the provisions of the Act of 1870, under which provision was made for the maintenance of the Parks.

Question put.

The Committee divided;—Ayes 65; Noes 141: Majority 76.—(Div. List. No. 37.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again To-morrow.