HC Deb 17 September 1886 vol 309 cc916-9

(30.) £13,331, to complete the sum for Temporary Commissions.

(31.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £2,802, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for certain Miscellaneous Expenses.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

This is another instance of a Vote being taken on Account. I intended to move a reduction of this Vote by the sum of £6,000; but I cannot do so, for the reason that a Vote on Account has been had; and, again, I am compelled to divide the Committee on the entire Vote. Now, there is here a charge of £3,980 for cost of robes and insignia for the Knights Companions and officers of the several Orders of the Garter, the Bath, the Thistle, and St. Michael and St. George, and for the officers of the Heralds' College. Well, Sir, I have not the slightest objection to Gentlemen getting these Orders of Garters, Baths, and Thistles, or anything they like; what I object to is paying for them. I should like to know who are these Gentlemen. I am not one of them myself; but I gather that although, in some cases, they pay for these robes themselves, in others they do not. I should also like to know when a Knight of the Garter wears his robes? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: On State occasions.] Exactly. I am a taxpayer; and my hon. Friends here are taxpayers; we are not asked to attend on these State occasions, why, then, should we pay for them? I think it a perfect absurdity that persons in their senses should want to dress themselves up in these mediæval dresses—however, if they do, let them pay for it. Then there is the Marshal of the Ceremonies, who is allowed £80. What does this Marshal do? He does absolutely nothing. He is one of those who attend on State occasions, and I presume he is accompanied by these nine trumpeters and one kettledrummer. Again, I say, let him go, by all means; but do not ask us to pay for it. Then we have £1,500 for fees to heralds and others in respect of patents of creation issued from the Crown Office in Chancery. I see it is stated that these fees are now taken in stamps, and are, therefore, paid into the Exchequer; but I understand that they go into the pockets of the heralds. But what are these fees? I presume they are for Peerages. Well, then, let the Peers pay the fees. Why should we, the taxpayers, pay £1,500, because Gentlemen want to be created Peers by Her Majesty's Government, and because we happen to have a herald who claims a fee whenever a creation takes place? As I have said, I shall divide the Committee on this Vote.


I do not intend to trouble the Committee with any lengthened observations in reply to the characteristic remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite in reference to the pageantry hitherto inseparable from his country. The fees in question are now paid directly into the Exchequer, and the heralds and officials of the Heralds' College are now paid by statute. With regard to the item for insignia and robes, I think the charge is for maintenance and repairs. [An hon. MEMBER: Darning.] These insignia do not become the property of the Knights, but are only used, by them during their installation, and are then returned. As to the propriety of maintaining that which has always been maintained in almost every civilized country—namely, a certain expenditure in regard to conferring upon individuals who have rendered distinguished services to their country marks not only of the Royal favour, but of national gratitude, I think it will be scarcely necessary for me to say anything. I think that so long as public servants are content to receive these rewards in lieu of advances, and so long as such occasions occur as Royal Marriages, and the opening of Parliament by the Sovereign in person, when Foreign Ministers are in attendance, and when elaborate arrangements have to be made for the care and custody of these important personages, these payments should be made. It would be impossible to allow these personages to wander about the place by themselves. It would not be in accordance with the courtesy and respect which we always show to Ambassadors and Representatives of Foreign Powers. I think it would be false economy on the part of the hon. Gentleman to do away with this Vote, and the forms and ceremonies which it implies.

MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

Are there any extraordinary Knights who do not pay fees?


I think that when the Garter is conferred upon the Sovereign he does not pay the fees. Members of the Royal Family do not pay the fees.

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I think we are entitled to know the names of those persons to whom the country owes so much, and who are treated with such marked gratitude by the nation. Is there any rule against making the names known?


Are we to understand that the pomp and pageantry inseparable from the Government of this country is carried on in second-hand clothes which it costs several hundred pounds a-year to mend?


Whatever the country does in the way of pomp and pageantry, it does it well. This item for repairs is not for repairing the robes, but the insignia, which, as the hon. Member knows, is jewellery, and may require re-setting, and so on. With regard to the fees, I believe that most Knights do not pay anything when the Order is conferred upon them; though when a person is made a Knight of the Garter I believe the payment required is £1,000.


Do all the Knights pay that?


All the ordinary Knights pay it; but I believe foreign Sovereigns do not. The Orders of the Bath, St. Michael and St. George, St. Patrick, and the Thistle are conferred on Civil servants and so forth, gentlemen whose position does not enable them to pay heavy fees; and the arrangements as to fees are so made that the granting of these marks of distinction does not impose a burden upon those who receive them. That, I think, is the proper explanation of the item.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 140; Noes 48: Majority 92.—(Div. List, No. 42.)