§ MR. SUMMERS (Huddersfield)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he is correctly reported as having said, in reply to the Society of Authors, thatWriters of novels (unless historical) were not entitled, under the regulations, to the benefit of the Civil List Pension Fund;and, if so, whether he will state when, and by whom, the regulations in question were made; and, further, whether he will lay a copy of these regulations upon the Table of the House?
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
The hon. Member for Huddersfield has correctly quoted part of a correspondence; but I would refer him to a further letter, in which the Society of Authors was told that the Civil List Pension Fund was administered strictly under the terms of the Act 1 Vict., c. 2, sec. 6. The section is as follows:—And whereas it was resolved by the Commons House of Parliament, on the 18th day of February, 1834, 'That it is the bounden duty of the responsible advisers of the Crown to recommend to His Majesty for grants of pensions on the Civil List such persons only as have just claims on the Royal beneficence, or who, by their personal services to the Crown, by the performance of duties to the public, or by their useful discoveries in science and attainments in literature and thearts, have merited the gracious consideration of their Sovereign and the gratitude of their country;' and whereas it is expedient that provisions should be made by law for carrying into full effect the said resolution, and for giving an assurance to Parliament that the responsible advisers of the Crown have acted in conformity therewith; be it therefore enacted that the pensions which may hereafter be charged upon the Civil List revenues shall be granted to such persons only as have just claims on the Royal beneficence, or who, by their personal services to the Crown, by the performance of duties to the public, or by their useful discoveries in science and attainments in literature and the arts, have merited the gracious consideration of their Sovereign and the gratitude of their country; and that a list of all such pensions granted in each year ending the 20th day of June shall be laid before Parliament within 30 days after the said 20th day of June in each year if Parliament shall be then sitting, but if Parliament shall not be then sitting, then within 30 days after the next meeting of Parliament.1690 The regulations alluded to should more properly be described as "notes on practice." They were compiled many years ago, and I am not prepared to produce them. The administration of the fund is left to the discretion of the First Lord, subject only to the provisions of the Act above mentioned and to Her Majesty's approval. The hon. Member will see by that Act pensions are to be given only to those who "have merited the gracious consideration of their Sovereign" or "the gratitude of country." In considering the claims of necessitous persons for pensions within the comparatively small amount at the disposal of the First Lord, regard is had to the nature of the services to the Sovereign and the country which constitute the ground on which the claim is based, and in respect to literature it has been held that those departments of study and research which add to the stock of knowledge, but which are frequently unremunerative to the writers, constitute a stronger claim on the bounty of the State than the authors of novels possess, who, while they contribute largely and most usefully to the recreation of the public, are believed, as a rule, to obtain a considerable pecuniary return for those labours if their works possess merit.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I am not prepared to lay these notes of private secretaries, which have been made in past years for the guidance of the Minister responsible, on the Table of the House. No new regulation has been made. Great responsibility in these matters rests with the First Lord of the Treasury for the time being, and I trust that it is properly exercised.