HC Deb 04 July 1889 vol 337 cc1466-84

Queen's Messages [2nd July] considered.

Messages again read—


rose to move— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's gracious Messages, and to inquire into the former practice of this House with respect to provisions for members of the Royal Family, and to Report to the House upon the principles which in that respect it is expedient to adopt in future. The right hon. Gentleman said: In rising to move the Motion which stands in my name, I trust that at this stage, at all events, in the consideration of Her Majesty's most gracious Messages, the House may be unanimous in the conclusion at which it will arrive. I shall be exceedingly sorry if the House should refuse to refer to a Committee the consideration of the question raised by Her Majesty's gracious Messages, having regard to the fact that on a previous occasion in the course of present Parliament I have undertaken that such a Committee as that which I now propose should be appointed. It may be a matter of complaint among some hon. Gentlemen that a Committee was not previously appointed. Well, Sir, for whatever blame may be attached to the non appointment of the Committee I impersonally responsible. I take the blame upon myself entirely, if blame is to be attached to any one; but I do not consider the course I have taken is in any way open to censure. I have undertaken that a Committee shall be appointed to consider the question of grants to members of the Royal Family, and I entirely comply with the undertaking into which I have entered in asking the House to refer Her Majesty's Messages to a Committee of the House, instructed at the same time to consider the principles upon which provisions of this character should be made for members of the Royal Family. Whether it be so or not, I trust that the consideration of Her Majesty's Messages will not be the occasion of any dispute or difference. The Government desire that the question shall be ex- amined with the care and consideration which are demanded by the grave matters which are involved, and with the dignity which should attach to the Royal Family in this country, and to those who stand at the head of the State. The idea of family is predominant in the minds of all which have the happiness to be subjects of the Queen. Around the sentiment of family centres all that is good, pure, and useful in the Constitution of this country. Therefore, the Royal Family should stand at the head of the State as one which may offer an example to those in more humble station in the discharge of their duties. In asking that this question may be referred to a Committee, I may say, at all events, that there has been no precipitation on the part of Her Majesty or of the Prince of Wales in asking for provision for the eldest son of the Heir to the Crown. I doubt whether in the history of England there is any occasion on which a Prince standing in the position of Prince Albert Victor has not received provision adequate to the discharge of the duties of that position before he attained 26 years of age. If I refer briefly to the request which has been convoyed to Parliament for an allowance for the Princess Louise of Wales, I think I may claim that the conditions under. which that request is made appeal to the sympathies and to all the best feelings of the English people, inasmuch as we are aware that the marriage about to be contracted is not dictated by dynastic considerations, but is one of affection, and one which offers every reasonable promise of happiness to all concerned. I refrain from addressing to the House any of those considerations which have been urged on former occasions in support of the Motion. If it become necessary to do so, it will probably be when the Report of the Committee is presented to the House. All I desire to do now is to express the hope that the Resolution I have placed on the Paper will receive the unanimous support of the House.

MR. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

I rise to second the Motion. It has been my duty to be responsible in Office for proposals within the region of the present proposed Reference. I am bound to say I regard with great satisfaction the improvement that has been made upon the practice pursued by former Governments, including those to which I belonged, in making proposals directly to the House of Commons in respect of the younger branches of the Royal Family without the intervention of a Parliamentary Committee. The intervention of a Committee is recommended by the important precedents when, in 1830 and 1837, the Civil Lists both of King William IV. and her present Majesty were settled; and I think that by a just and solid analogy the same considerations which recommended the appointment of a Committee in respect to the Civil List of the Sovereign likewise essentially enter into and determine the question in favour of the appointment of a Committee in cases where we make provision for the members of her illustrious family. I join in the regret that this Motion for a Committee has not been made at an earlier period. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has been personally chivalrous in appropriating to himself individually the blame that may be due to the postponement of the inquiry; but it appears to me that we cannot accept that generous offer of the right hon. Gentleman. What responsibility there may be in the matter must be shared by his Colleagues. I am not able to admit that the state of business in this Session has been such as altogether to account for the delay that has taken place. At the same time, I do not propose to enter into the subject in any controversial spirit, because I join in the hope expressed by the right hon. Gentleman that the Motion may be accepted by the House with unanimity on account of the nature of its contents. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, is quite justified in observing that the period of life attained by his Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor is one which fully warrants an application on behalf of the Crown and the Prince of Wales to Parliament with reference to his future support; and likewise the other matter contained in the communication from the Crown which has led to this proposal reminds us that on this occasion, as on others, the Royal marriage which is about to take place is founded as much on affection and attachment as if it occurred in any other portion of the community. I agree that this is not an occasion on which we ought to enter at length upon the considerations which may recommend any particular course to be taken by the House. The Reference to the Committee which the right hon. Gentleman asks us to make is, I think, ample in breadth and imposes no undue limitation on the discretion of the Committee. I make no doubt that it will be a Committee carefully and comprehensively chosen, and one the judgment of which will carry weight with the House. The operation or method of the Committee on the occasions of 1830 and 1837 was, I think, eminently satisfactory, and, while it tends to maintain the full jurisdiction of the House and to insure the careful examination of the subject, I believe it is also more favourable to the due application of all those ideas which load us to desire that the Crown, and all that belongs to the Crown, should be maintained in due efficiency and dignity, so far as it depends on the grants of this House. With these few observations, I will only say that I very cordially join in the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, and in the hope that it may be accepted unanimously.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's Gracious Messages, and to inquire into the former practice of this House with respect to provisions for Members of the Royal Family, and to report to the House upon the principles which in that respect it is expedient to adopt in the future."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I always look with a considerable amount of suspicion on anything that emanates from the present advisers of Her Majesty, and I confess that the circumstances under which this Committee is proposed, and the delay that has taken place, only strengthen that suspicion. In 1885 a proposal was made by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) for a grant on the occasion of the marriage of the Princess Beatrice. On that occasion I opposed the grant; and one of the grounds urged by the right hon. Gentleman for making it was that the Princess Beatrice was the last child of Her Majesty, and that it was a desirable thing that a Committee should be appointed in order thoroughly to examine the whole question in regard to all possible future grants. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, speaking in May, said it was then too late in the Session for the Committee adequately to enter into so large and important a question. But now we are in the month of July, and it is somewhat surprising that if it was too late, then it should not be too late now. Unfortunately in 1886 the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was not in a position to move for a Committee, but if it was too late to appoint one in May, it does seem strange that we should now be asked to appoint one in July. What on this occasion has been the action of the First Lord of the Treasury? I am bound to say that the First Lord of the Treasury has practised a certain amount of evasion on this subject. This is not the first Session that the right hon. Gentleman has occupied his present position. On April 15th, 1887, the right hon. Gentleman said it was his intention to appoint a Committee after Whitsuntide. On July 4th, 1887, he said the Government found it impossible to appoint the Committee until early the next Session. In 1888, again, he said the pressure of business was such that he did not see his way to appoint the Committee. In June in that year, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Robertson) he said that the subject was engaging the serious attention of the Government, and that they intended to report upon it to Her Majesty. On the 6th of August the right hon. Gentleman said that the communications between the advisers of the Crown and Her Majesty as to these grants were not concluded, but he hoped to be able to make a statement on the subject to the House early in the following Session. On the 22nd of February he said, "it is our intention"—the right hon. gentleman seems to have been paved with good intentions—"to appoint a Committee." On March 18 in the present year the right hon. Gentleman said he would proceed with the Motion as soon as the state of public business permitted; and on April 16 he stated that as soon as there was a reasonable hope of being able to proceed with the Motion he would put on the Notice Paper the terms of the reference to the pro.posed Committee. He further said that it was not a matter of urgency, as there was no immediate intention to apply to the House for a grant which would come within the definition given by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. When the Royal Message came down to the House two days ago, I myself asked the First Lord of the Treasury whether the question would be referred to a Select Committee, and what would be the terms of the Reference; and the right hon. Gentleman told me he would give an answer to-day. We only knew the terms of the Reference this morning, and the House is asked to agree to them at once. What is the position of the House in the matter at the present moment? The Royal Message invites us to provide for two of the grandchildren of the Queen. The Message has been sent down by Her Majesty no doubt by the advice of her responsible Ministers. The question, therefore, whether grants ought to be made to grandchildren of the Queen is already prejudiced. I have always understood that the Committee was to consider whether there should be such grants or not. It is to be a Select Committee, and we know there will be a majority taken from the Ministerial side on the Committee, and that that majority will be increased by friends of the Ministry sitting on the Opposition Benches; so that the real opponents of the Government will be almost an infinitesimal minority on the Committee. Then I ask the House, is it at all probable, or reasonable, to suppose that, after the First Lord of the Treasury has advised Her Majesty to ask for grants for two of her grandchildren, a Committee so constituted will enter without a foregone conclusion on the consideration of the question whether the grants ought or ought not to be made? It seems to me that that tardy fulfilment of the pledges of the right hon. Gentleman is simply an attempt to shift responsibility from the Government. Let us look at the terms of the Reference. They are large. Will the Committee carry out in their entirety these terms— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's Gracious Messages, and to inquire into the former practice of this House with respect to provisions for members of the Royal Family, and to report to the House upon the principles which in that respect it is expedient to adopt in the future. I apprehend that Her Majesty herself is a member of the Royal Family. Is the Committee to look into the Civil List as well as grants to members of the Royal Family? I have always contended that the Civil List is a free grant to Her Majesty to maintain the honour and dignity of the Crown. The Civil List is divided into six classes, and if there is an excess in one class and a deficit in another the excess goes to meet the deficit, but if there is an excess in one class and no deficit it is laid down that the excess shall be paid into the Treasury. Thus, if there is any money in excess of what Her Majesty deems necessary to maintain the honour and dignity of the Crown, it should be given back to the Treasury. We have a legitimate claim to ask whether there has been any excess, and, if so, what has become of it. I do not say we ought to do so, but for the fact that there is a demand for a greater amount of money. We have a right to inquire whether Her Majesty has the means to provide for her Family, and whether Her Majesty comes to the House of Commons because she has not the means to provide for her Family, or whether she asks the House to provide for Her Family because she thinks the House and not Her Majesty ought to provide for Her Majesty's Family. I take it that will come within the terms of the Reference, but as the Government will have a majority on the Committee, I will ask what the intentions of the Government are upon that matter? The right hon. Gentleman has referred to "the idea of the family," and to "sentiment." Now my own idea of a family is that the head of it keeps his children. I think I will not be accused of an undue leaning to sentiment in that idea, which is the natural idea of a family. A case must be made out to show that all the money has been expended for the honour and dignity of the country, and that there is not enough on the part of Her Majesty and the Prince of Wales to keep their children. No doubt these views have been ignored when grants have been given to the children of Her Majesty. At the present moment the grant to be considered is not one to the children of Her Majesty, but to a new generation, and if we are not now to go, into the question of whether there is already sufficient money granted to the Royal Family, I do not know under what circumstances we ought to go into it. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the Prince of Wales, and he said they are children of the Prince of Wales for whom this money is voted. Well, if we go back to precedents Prince Frederick of Wales only had the receipts of the Duchy of Cornwall. We now pay an annuity of £50,000 to the Prince besides £10,000 to the Princess of Wales. Up to 1838 the amount received by the Prince of Wales from the Duchy of Cornwall was £11,536, while in 1887 the amount was £60,563, so that his Royal Highness receives £49,000 per annum in excess of what Parliament anticipated would be his income when they calculated what that income should be. No doubt functions are performed by the Prince of Wales which are usually performed by the Chief of the State; but I hold that the Chief of the State should pay for that. We provide £700,000 per annum for the Royal Family. For the children of Her Majesty £200,000 per annum has been provided; that is, £194,000, and the remainder for the maintenance of the palaces they reside in. Besides that, on various occasions, such as marriages, large lump sums have been provided for members of the Royal Family. The total received by the children of Her Majesty and by the late Prince Consort has been £4,961,083, and that is a very great deal. My contention is that the children ought to have been provided for out of the Civil List. In this case we are asked to provide for the children of the Prince of Wales who ought to have been provided for out of the savings of the Civil List or by the Prince of Wales himself. I and my friends think £200,000 per annum is quite sufficient for the members of the Royal Family, exclusive of Her Majesty; a great many, including myself, think it a great deal too much, and we object to granting any more. The House will see I do not attach any great or undue importance to the Committee proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. The question has been prejudiced by the action of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The Committee is a sort of sop to make the grants more palatable to the House, but I do not think it will do so. If the Committee is to command any respect, the names ought to be looked at, and if it is to go into the question in its entirety there ought not to be too many officials upon the Committee. I do not reject the Committee, but think it only reasonable that I should say that I and my friends look to it rather as a means of forming our own judgment on the data submitted to it; and if the inquiry is thoroughly gone into we are ready to accept the fact if it is proved that there is not sufficient money already to maintain the state and dignity of the Royal Family. We are not, however, prepared to accept the Report of that Committee, which will be a Conservative Committee, and we shall in all probability feel it our duty to contest the two Bills which will be brought in in all their stages. In conclusion, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will give full notice of the names of the Committee, and whether he will give an assurance that if the Committee reports, as of course it will, in favour of granting a sum of money, the Bills will not be proceeded with until all the proceedings before the Committee are in print and submitted to the House.

* MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

I am not quite in accord with my Colleague. I do not think the terms of Reference are as large as he seems to think them. I am not at all sure the Committee would be entitled, as I desire they should, to inquire into the Civil List, or to examine whether any savings have been made or not on any of the classes. I propose, therefore, to insert after the word "the," in line 2, the words "Civil List of Her Majesty and the," so that the Reference will read— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's Gracious Messages, and to inquire into the Civil List of Her Majesty, and the former practice of this House— and so on. All I desire is to make it clear how far this Select Committee is in fulfilment of the pledge originally given to the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and reiterated by the First Lord of the Treasury.

Amendment proposed, after the word "into," to insert the words "The Civil List of Her Majesty, and."—(Mr. Brad-laugh.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I think the Amendment an exceedingly proper one, and I am prepared to support it, but I do not know that, even when amended, I shall support the Resolution as a whole. Again and again the House has been promised that the whole subject will be considered by a Select Committee before any grant is asked for. It is an invidious thing to re-consider the emoluments attached to an office when a new appointment is about to be made, and it will be a very invidious and painful thing to have these two applications to the House, with all the personal interest associated with them, laid before a Committee. I object to the Reference to the Committee, We ought to have had an open Reference so that the whole question might be considered. Under the Reference of the Government, however, the whole question will be settled and removed from the cognizance of the House of Commons for a whole generation, and the words are so constructed as to imply a continuance of the present system. I could not consent to a proposal which will give one penny more to any member of the Royal Family, except the Sovereign and the Heir Apparent. The right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues, of course, have their way in the matter. They have a majority; and if they are so misguided as to insist upon their proposal they can carry it. The House, however, ought to think of the relations between the Throne and the people, and take care not to allow any element of bitterness to be introduced into those relations. I challenge contradiction when I assert that there is positively no subject whatever which excites more indignation, more repugnance, and I will say, more abhorrence, than the practice of voting doles and dowries to members of an illustrious family, who are believed to be otherwise exceedingly well, if not extravagantly, provided for. The Government may succeed in carrying their proposal, but they will live to regret it. The Republicans, who are looked upon as a small and insignificant faction, are capable of rapidly swelling their ranks, and nothing is more likely to do it than the increase of these grants. I represent at this moment some 150,000 inhabitants of the town of Leicester, and I contend that at least three-fourths, and probably five-sixths of them, are opposed to any such proposal as that made by the Government. I believe the same may be said of Northampton, and that great centre of population, Birmingham. If there is anything which will revivify again the Radicalism of Birmingham, it is a proposal such as this. I defy any one to call together in any large town a meeting of independent working men and to obtain their sanction to a proposal to give any more money to any member of the Royal Family, except the Sovereign and the Heir Apparent. I therefore urge hon. Members to beware how they vote upon this subject. Besides, the present is a very inopportune time to bring the matter forward, because we are all tired out. ["No."] Hon. Members who have not been in their places do not know the fatigues of the Session. To insist that this great question should be hastily stamped when we are tired out is not what we expected from a Ministry faithful to the best interests of their country. I shall support the Amendment, but, if any one will support me, I shall go into the Lobby against the whole Resolution.


I think it is only due to the House that I should at once rise and state that the Government are not in a position to accept the Amendment. I have said more than once in this House when questions as to the appointment of a Committee were put to me that the Government do not contemplate an inquiry into the Civil List. We regard the Civil List as a compact with the Crown on the accession of the Sovereign, and as one which it will be an absolute breach of faith for Parliament to depart from. It is capable of revision on the demise of the Sovereign, and then will come the proper time for the consideration of the question raised by the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Now, I wish to state most emphatically that the Reference we now propose does not, in our judgment, include an examination into the expenditure on the Civil List. I contest the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) as to the actual interpretation of the Civil List Act itself. That, however, may be a question for consideration by the Committee if it should arise. But I say distinctly that there never was a provision for any surplus of expenditure under the Civil List being paid to the Treasury. What is involved in the Civil List is that if there is a deficiency in the expenditure of the year, and Her Majesty is therefore unable to meet her engagements, then application is to be made to Parliament for a grant to extinguish that deficiency. But, much to the honour of Her Majesty, no such deficiency has arisen in past years and no application has been made to Parliament for assistance of that character. The hon. Gentleman thought it right to refer to the revenue of the Duchy of Cornwall, and took the year 1833 from which to proceed. Does the hon. Gentleman remember that the Prince of Wales was not born in the year 1838, and that the settlement made on the Prince of Wales must have been at least 22 years after that year; and that, therefore, any provision which it was thought expedient and right by Parliament to be made then was made with a full knowledge of the then revenue of the Duchy of Cornwall, and after a full consideration of the whole of the circumstances? The hon. Member for Leicester has thought it right to address a warning to Members on this side of the House as to the feelings of the constituencies on this matter. I think it is possible he may be deceived as to the general feeling even in his own constituency, and certainly as to those constituencies with which he is not so well acquainted. I can only say that I am confident the people of this country are no less devoted to the Sovereign, and no less ready to support proposals made in moderation, after due consideration of all the facts and circumstances of the case, and after an examination, by a competent, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian suggested, a representative and considerable Committee of this House, they will be no less will in g to support these proposals now than they have been in the past. I believe there never was a period when it was more universally felt that each and all of the members of the Royal Family had discharged the duties of their high station with a full sense of their responsibility.


The right hon. Gentleman has stated what is undoubtedly true, that this House could not disturb the settlement of the Civil List made at the commencement of the reign, nor could the House properly undertake to determine the principle of the settlement of any future Civil List. That will be a matter for the decision of the Parliament by which such a settlement has to be made. In reference to the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, I do not imagine that his object is to do either of those two things. If that were his object, I certainly could not agree with him, and if it be not his object, I think the Amendment is entirely unnecessary. I see nothing in the terms of the Reference to the Committee to exclude from the consideration of the subject the question of how the settlement of the Civil List at the commencement of the reign has operated as affecting these grants. If that is so, I think every legitimate object which my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton contemplates is amply provided for in the terms of the Motion itself. I therefore hope my hon. Friend will not press the Amendment.


The House will perhaps allow me to explain, in answer to the appeal which has been made to me, that I have no intention, by the words of the Amendment, to suggest that the Committee could or would have power to deal with the Civil List as now enacted, but I do intend that the Committee should have power to inquire what have been the savings in each branch of the Civil List, with the view of seeing whether any sum, and if so, whether a large sum, has been saved. If there has been a large saving, that might modify the opinion of the Committee as to any further provision. I am unable to acceed to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, because I have been met with the absolute refusal of the Government to allow this question to be referred to the Committee.


Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I do not consider it would come fairly within the Reference to the Committee to inquire whether during the 52 years the Civil List has been in operation there have been any savings.

MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

Holding the views I do on forms of Government, I might personally be not unwilling that such discussions as this should take place once a year or oftener, and yet I have such great regard for the public dignity of this great empire that I am perfectly willing that a Committee should be appointed, and that the result of the appointment should be to put things on such a basis that these discussions should cease. But the Committee ought to be a real Committee; it ought to be an unprejudiced and fair Committee, and its conclusions ought not to be prejudiced by the fact that it has to consider the specific demands now made by the Government. Referring to the particular point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, I agree with him entirely that in coming to a conclusion as to what sum of money ought to be granted to the grandchildren of the Queen, we have fairly a right, as guardians of the public purse, to take into account what are the means of the Queen. The means of the Queen are various. Her Majesty has a Civil List which is stated at £385,000 a year. We all know that the Queen does not get any such sum, and I have often thought it a little unfair—perhaps I have sometimes myself been a little unfair—to state anywhere, or let it be understood that her Majesty receives the £385,000. As a matter of fact, she receives only some £60,000 odd of the money. A great deal of the £385,000 goes most unnecessarily and improperly to a great number of personages who could well afford to do without it, but who are not ashamed to take it, for the fulfilment of offices which I, for one, confess I should feel it an indignity to my manhood to fulfil. But Her Majesty the Queen has other means. It is notorious that in various ways she has large private means. With these I have nothing to do, and I do not begrudge them to Her Majesty. I hope she will live long to enjoy them, and have more and more of them. But what I want to press home to the Liberals, and even to the Conservatives, who used to be the custodians of the purse of this country, is that since Her Majesty had the Civil List granted to her, there have been, as I suppose, and in many instances know, large savings, which have accumulated until they form an enormous sum of money, producing a considerable revenue. I charge it upon the present Ministers, and especially upon my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury—and I make the same complaint against former Ministers on the Liberal side of the House—that, whereas the accounts in every Department of the State are made up to the 31st of March in each year, that being the last day of the financial year, the Civil List account, in defiance of practice and against the law, is made up each year to the 31st of December. The account is never publicly audited; it is audited, but the audit never comes before the House, so as to enable hon. Members to see what balance remains at the end of the year. On the 31st of March there is no balance apparent except a floating balance which is carried forward, and which the House cannot examine or decide upon. If I am wrong, it is important that the guardians of the public purse should make the truth apparent, but I believe that large sums have been accumulated by the Queen and invested, and that in consequence of the addition thus made to her income, taking into account the proceeds of her own private means, Her Majesty is in a position to provide amply for the younger branches of the Royal Family. I do not want to say anything offensive, but I do think it is beneath the dignity of the Royal Family to come to the House of Commons for these small sums. It destroys the kindly sentiments that ought to exist between Prince and people. On the side of the Prince there ought to be nothing but the sentiment arising from services rendered, and on the side of the people the sentiment of gratitude. But we have these unfortunate calls for money made upon Parliament from time to time. From whom does the money come? If I could extract the £3,000 or £10,000 a year from hon. or right hon. Members of this House, if I knew how to obtain a direct contribution from the noble Lords in Waiting, and the Grooms of the Stole, and the other titled and untitled parsons who surround the Throne, and who pretend that it is necessary that the public should pay them, I should be perfectly willing to grant it to the Royal Family. But I am not willing, when I remember that the money comes not only from the rich and well-to-do, but that every widow in the land has to give her dole, and that the million families who, at this moment, in this country, are but one stage removed from pauperism and starvation have to contribute something, so that a Royal Prince may have £10,000 a year for doing nothing, and a Royal Princess—to whom I wish every happiness—may have £3,000 a year when she is going to marry a nobleman who, being in the possession himself of enormous resources, and loving his wife that is to be, surely ought to resent the notion of going to the working people and asking for a contribution towards his support. If the Committee would be untrammelled in its inquiries, I should have voted for it, but as it is to be so limited, even although the Motion has the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and his colleagues, I feel it is nothing better than a sham, and I cannot support it.


I accept with becoming modesty the censure of my hon. Friend who has just sat down. He has alluded to what he describes as the illegal arrangement under which the accounts of the Civil List are made up to the 31st of December, while the accounts of the State in general are made up to the 31st of March. If we were discussing that matter I should say there was no reason in the world why the two accounts should not be made up to the same date, and I certainly should think it au inexpedient and unbecoming arrangement that the accounts of the Civil List should be presented to Parliament annually as if they were a portion of the public expenditure. But, apart from what I may think is proper, there is the law, to which my hon. Friend very properly appeals, although I am afraid he he has not read it accurately. In the Act I find a provision for bringing to the knowledge of Parliament any deficiency that may occur in the revenue from the Civil List, and that provision is to the effect that the account must be made up to the 31st of December in each year. I apprehend that if under these circumstances the accounts were up to the 31st of March that would be a breach of the law. Now, Sir, I cannot help thinking that the discussion has travelled over a very wide area, but points of undoubted importance and strict relevance have been raised. I think it would be wise to bear in mind that before a shilling of the public money can be voted, in consequence of any Report that can be made by any Committee, the proposal will have to be submitted to the House in due form and pass through all its stages. What I think is strictly relevant is that the House should be satisfied as to the discretion of the Committee, and should know that the Committee will not be limited in its inquiry, or be precluded from paying attention to any matter which may be considered relevant to the charge entrusted to it. I think it is somewhat hard on the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that he should be required, at a moment's notice, to give his impressions as to what the Motion does or does not contain, and it is entirely consistent with the respect we all feel for him to say that the interpretation of the Motion will not and cannot depend on the opinion which the Leader of the House or any Member of the House may hold as to the scope of its terms. The hon. Member who has just sat down contends that the Committee ought not to be precluded from examining, if it should think fit, what may be the means at the disposal of her Majesty—the means other, of course, than the Parliamentary provision of £385,000 and the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster.


Certainly not as regards the Duchy of Lancaster.


Then I misunderstood the hon. Member. But what I wanted to observe was that when the Committee is appointed it appears to me that any individual on the Committee will be at perfect liberty to say, I will not consent to give additional sums of public money for the support of members of the Royal Family until I have had some knowledge of what are the means already at the disposal of the Royal Family, of course including, as the Head of the Royal Family, the Sovereign herself. I am very glad to find there is an entire disclaimer in all parts of the House, and on this side of the House particularly, of any disposition to disturb the Civil List, which was a solemn compact between the Crown and Parliament, although there is a reasonable anxiety that the Committee should not be precluded from asking questions on matters which are deemed relevant to the subject. It is my most firm conviction that it is impossible to preclude them from asking such questions, and, moreover, that the substantial consideration of the means already at the disposal of the Royal Family is a matter which it is impossible, either on grounds of reason or on Constitutional grounds, or on the terms of the Reference, to exclude from the view of Members of the Committee who deem it their duty to put questions on the subject. In justice to the interests involved in this case I deem it my duty to make a correction of a statement which I believe was made by my hon. Friend the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). I think he said that in the case of Prince Frederick of Wales the only public income possessed by that Prince was the revenue of the Duchy of Cornwall. Unless I am much mistaken, he has been very much misled on the subject. In 1729 the Prince, I believe, received £24,000 out of the Civil List. In 1736 that £24,000 became £50,000 a year. In 1743 the £50,000 became £100,000 a year, in addition to the revenue of the Duchy of Cornwall. At any rate this ought to be taken into view, that while the habits of society have in the course of years become more and more expensive, and, as I may say, luxurious, there has been a large decrease in the grants voted by the House for the support of the Royal Family. Unless I am very much mistaken, independent of occasional applications for assistance, of which, happily, we now hear nothing whatever, the grants in the reign of George III. to the different members of the Royal Family other than the Sovereign amounted to no less than about £500,000 a year. At the present moment I think about £170,000 is the amount actually paid. This is a liberal, but I do not think it an extravagant amount. I do not want to limit—on the contrary, I wish to assert, the title of this House to inquire into everything relevant to the subject; but I think that, among the many items of public expenditure to which hon. Members refer in giving to their constituents accounts of their conduct, there is one which can be defended—namely, that of becoming allowances to Members of the Royal Family.


, rising amid cries of "Divide," said: Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who manifest so much impatience, are, I know, going to share in the grant, as they are going to a party at Marlborough House. I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether the interpretation he has given of the Reference was given on the spur of the moment, or whether the House is to understand that the matter has been discussed with the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues, and the interpretation is to be regarded as a Government interpretation?


I do not think the hon. Gentleman has any reason to ask me that question. What I say in this House I say with a sense of my responsibility and my duty.

The House divided:—Ayes 125; Noes 313.—(Div. List, No. 174.)

Main Question again proposed.


I will not trespass on the time of the House for more than a moment. I stated earlier that I should oppose the appointment of this Committee as a sham; but I am satisfied with the Division we have had, a satisfaction that is, I think, shared by all who took part in it, and so as the weather is hot and the garden party is waiting, I shall content myself with simply saying "No" to the proposal.

Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's Gracious Messages, and to inquire into the former practice of this House with respect to provisions for Members of the Royal Family, and to report to the House upon the principles which in that respect it is expedient to adopt in the future."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)

Ordered, That the Messages be referred to the Select Committee.