HC Deb 09 July 1889 vol 337 cc1830-56

Motion made, and Question proposed— That the Select Committee on Grants to Members of the Royal Family do consist of Twenty-three Members."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)

MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

I beg to move that the Debate upon this question be adjourned in order to bring under the notice of the Leader of the House what I cannot but regard as a serious breach of the promise made by the right hon. Gentleman to a large section of this House. Of course, I do not accuse the right hon. Gentleman of having acted wilfully; but I shall, I think, be able to demonstrate to his fair mind, and to the minds of hon. Members generally, that such a breach of faith has been committed. Yesterday, on the Motion for the appointment of this Committee, several hon. Members asked questions, and the right hon. Gentleman made a reply which was certainly not as clear as some of us desired. Upon that I put the following specific question—whether the right hon. Gentleman would give us such notice as would enable us, in accordance with the Rules of the House, to give due Notice of Amendments? I will repeat to the House the answer of the right hon. Gentleman. He said— I wish to act with perfect fairness to hon. Gentlemen who differ from the Government. I will put the names on the Table this evening. They will be in the possession of the Clerk at an early hour, and any hon. Member may see them. It will then be in the power of any hon. Member to give notice of any opposition or change he may desire. I have ascertained from the authorities of the House that, in a case like this, Amendments can only be moved after Notice. For instance, we may move without Notice to except any hon. Member's name, but we cannot move to add any other name without Notice. What are the facts of the case? The list, instead of being handed to the Clerk at an early hour, was placed before them in an authoritative form about quarter to twelve o'clock. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman, nor do I accuse him of doing this deliberately. We all of us know that he would not have done such a thing, and that the delay must have arisen from circumstances over which he had no control. I know the delay arose from causes over which the right hon. Gentleman had no control, but what I want to particularly point out is that theist, as a matter of fact, did not reach us till a quarter to twelve. Now we had but a quarter of an hour in which to conceive, to concoct, and to put down any Amendment we might think necessary. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, was that anything like a fulfilment of his promise to act with perfect fairness? I will state a fact of which he is probably not cognisant. Those of us who could hastily meet together—and at that time there were by no means so many of us to be got together as we could have desired—those of us who could, hastily met together and decided upon an Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) agreed to move that Amendment. Before we had concluded the arrangement of the Amendment, my hon. Friend, aged and reverend as he is, had absolutely to run at the top of his speed up the Lobby in order to get his Notice of Amendment put in at the Table in time. If I may be allowed to say so, without unduly complimenting him, the hon. Gentleman in his old age exhibits an energy and a determination to do his duty which I myself and many others might well emulate. Now, that being the fact, I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, with his sense of fairness, if these were the cases under which we were able to introduce one little Amendment, how was it possible for us, in the limited time at our disposal, to examine the 23 names critically, and to decide as to whether the composition of the Committee was fair, as to what hon. Members we should make objection to, and as to whom—a much more difficult matter still—we should. propose in their places; and I think it will be apparent to the Government and to their supporters that the promise of the right hon. Gentleman has not been fulfilled—owing, no doubt, to no fault of the right hon. Gentleman. The large and important section of this House—you may call us a section, but I beseech the right hon. Gentleman to believe that upon this question he will find us a militant section—the large and important section of hon. Members of this House who are opposed to the present proceedings, and who certainly will not agree to them, except in forms that will give a perfect opportunity to us to place our views before the House and the country—I say this particular section have a right to require from him that he shall give to us what it has been an unfailing practice of Parliament to grant to any opposing section of hon. Members; that is, time to examine the proposal of the Government, and to suggest to the authorities of the House, in due form, the Amendments which they may think desirable. Now, I think I am not asking too much, especially when we consider the hasty way in which these proceedings, from the first, have been sprung upon the House and upon the country, when I ask that instead of engaging in a wordy Debate this afternoon, which cannot but be long, the right hon. Gentleman should spend the day in the more congenial and loss violent duty of carrying on still further the debates on Scotch matters, and then on Thursday, when the Liberal and Radical Members of the House have had ample time to consider the names, and have had time to put their Amendments upon the Paper—then, and not till then, to present his Resolution for debate in the House. I beg, therefore, to move that the Debate be adjourned until Thursday.


I beg to second the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Storey.)


I have listened with regret to the speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland. I am aware that this is a question on which the militant section of the House referred to feel very strongly, and I have been most anxious to extend to them, on behalf of the Government, the utmost possible consideration to which their views are entitled. I made every effort in my power to place the names upon the Paper early last evening, and I think they were in the hands of the Clerk a little earlier than has been stated, but I will not contest that point. The hon. Gentleman has admitted that the aged and reverend Gentleman the Member for Swansea, a gentleman whom we all revere and respect, had ample time to put an Amendment on the Paper, and that an Amendment was received by the Clerks. I do not wish to lay much stress upon that fact, but rather to point out that it is open to the House to reject any single name that is put from the Chair, and it is also open to any hon. Member to give Notice today of any name he proposes to add to the Committee, and such Notice of Motion will be considered and disposed of by the House before the Committee can enter upon its duties. That being so, hon. Gentlemen will see that I have substantially redeemed the engagement I have entered into. The course now pursued is hardly worthy of the position hon. Members desire to maintain. Let them deal with this matter, as they are fully justified in doing, on the sound ground of principle because they object to any further grant to the Royal Family; but they will not promote the object they have in view by putting obstacles in the way of the transaction of public business. It is obviously desirable, in the interests of public business, that the Committee should be appointed, enter upon its work, and report to the House as quickly as possible, so that the House may deal with its Report; and when the House does so, then hon. Members will have an opportunity of offering opposition to further grants.

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I shall be the very last to cast any doubt whatever upon the general fairness and intention of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I have known him too well and too long in other capacities in this House to suppose for a moment he would be willingly guilty of any unfairness. But I do not think he fully estimates the importance of giving to this section of the House a fair opportunity of considering this matter. It is all very well to say that we can oppose names that are proposed and give Notice to propose others on another day; but I suppose if any hon. Member were to succeed in throwing off any name from this Committee, which is in the highest degree improbable, and then give Notice of the substitution of another name, he would be entirely at the mercy of the Government and of hon. Members opposite who might block his Notice and prevent it being brought on. If the Government are going to favour us at all, I cannot see why they should not favour us now and let us have an adjournment until Thursday. I suppose that all courtesy has been shown, as is proper, to the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench. No doubt in the case of minor matters of business the right hon. Gentleman is justified in concluding arrangements with the Leaders of the Opposition. There are scores, perhaps hundreds, of matters of business coming before the House in which such arrangements may be perfectly justifiable, but I contend that this is not one of them. This is a most important matter. It is intended to settle a very grave question of national business for another reign, and I do not think that a matter of such grave importance should be settled by any secret conclaves between the two Front Benches. In a matter of this kind all Members may claim equal privilege. The First Lord of the Treasury said he would give Notice of the names early last evening. Such Notice, he now says, was given before a quarter to twelve. He cannot say that Notice was given early in the evening. We are not all made of cast iron. We cannot all stop here all night. Many of us have done too much of that already, and are suffering the consequences. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in the interest of this important question, will not huddle up this matter and give an impression to the country that he dare not face free and open discussion. Everything will turn upon the decision of the Committee, and if we have a Committee unfairly constituted we shall have what we consider an unreasonable and unjust Report. I contend we are not only within our right, but that we are morally justified in urging most earnestly that this important and grave subject shall be put off at least until Thursday when we may have a fair opportunity of considering it.

The House divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 233.—(Div. List, No. 185.)

Original Question again proposed.

MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)

The course which the Government have adopted will, in my opinion, -neither insure a fair inquiry nor fulfil the ordinary practice of the House as regards the appointment of the Committee. In 1886, when my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton proposed a Resolution respecting grants and pensions, he was met by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), then Leader of the House, with a promise to grant an inquiry. The present First Lord of the Treasury has since confirmed the promise made by the noble Lord. The question has often cropped up, and from time to time the inquiry has been put off. It has now, I may say, been forced on the Government. Unfortunately, the Committee proposed to be appointed by no means carries out the intentions of those who desire to have a full and fair investigation. The practice of the House has always been that the Government should have in such Committees a majority of one; but the proposal of the Government will give them a majority of three, because the two right hon. Gentlemen belonging to what is usually called the dissentient Liberal Party—the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain)—may be much more securely relied upon to vote with the Government than even the Government's own supporters. Of course that addition entirely turns the scale. If it had only been 10 Members to 11 I should not have objected to the constitution of the Committee, but the present proposal gives the Government 13 to 10; and having watched the conduct of the noble Lord and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, we know that in all matters in which the Government take an interest they are Tory even beyond Tory. They may occasionally vote against the Government, but never when the question is one of great moment to the Government. I think it is important that we should insist upon the usual practice being adhered to in this as in other cases. A Committee, after all, generally savours of a foregone conclusion; but in this case, with majority of three instead of one, the foregone conclusion is clear and distinct. Under these circumstances, I beg to move that the Committee shall consist of 25 Members instead of 23, and if my Motion is carried I shall afterwards move to add the names of two hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "twenty-three," and insert the words "twenty-five."—(Mr. Dillwyn.)

Question proposed, "That the words twenty - three,' stand part of the Question."


The hon. Gentleman appears to be under the impression that, as regards this Committee, the House and the Government are departing from some course which has been generally adopted in the present Parliament. I would ask him to refer to the constitution of any Committee which has sat during the course of the present Parliament, and he will find that the proportions recommended to the House on this occasion are the proportions which have been adhered to absolutely in the constitution of all other Committees. There is nothing in which the Government have been so careful as to remove any thought of their attempting to obtain an unfair advantage. The question which is to be referred to the Committee is, I hope, not a Party question. It ought not to be dealt with on Party considerations. There are times when the House of Commons can, and, I hope, will, rise far above those considerations which divide us into several camps. The question is so associated with the Constitution of the country that it is best for the House of Commons to consider what is most advantageous for the interests of the country at large. But what I now desire to impress upon the House is that we have followed precedent strictly in the constitution of this Committee; that we have done that which has been done always in regard to the appointment of other Committees in the course of the present Parliament; and that practically this is a Committee which, I hope, will fairly and fully represent all the sections into which the House is divided—all the different views and opinions which are entertained by hon. Members in this House. And I am perfectly certain that their opinions and views will receive from other Members of the Committee who may not be disposed to agree with them the most careful and respectful consideration. I trust, therefore, that the House will not accept the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.

* MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

I intend to vote for the proposal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), although I do not much care whether there are 23 or 25 Members on the Committee, because I am opposed to the appointment of the Committee, to any inquiry, or to any grant, and, for myself, I shall not feel bound by the Report of the Committee, because the substance of that Report is a foregone conclusion. On behalf of my constituents I repudiate the appointment of a Committee which is evidently intended to make out a case and delude the people into the belief that the majority of the House and the country are in favour of such grants as that proposed. I shall therefore feel it to be my duty to oppose every stage of the Report of the Committee. There was a time when only six or seven Members of the House went into the Lobby to vote against Royal grants; but now that number, as the last Division shows, has increased to 80, and even that is not the full strength of the opposition, as I believe will be made manifest when the Report stage is reached. In the country there has been a large growth of public opinion upon the subject; and if there is one question upon which the democracy are agreed—the Tory as well as the Liberal democracy—it is upon the question of these Royal grants.


Order, order! I must remind the hon. Member that the question before the House is not that of Royal grants, but whether 23 or 25 Members shall be included in the Committee.


I at once bow to your decision, Sir, and will reserve what further observations I may have to make until the Report of the Committee is presented. I only feel it right to say that I shall not feel bound by any Report that may be presented by any Committee appointed for the purpose of deluding the people.

MR. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

With respect to the difference between a Committee of 23 and a Committee of 25 Members, that difference is evidently not very important numerically, and I should have been perfectly satisfied with either number which Her Majesty's Government might have selected as most proper. But I think it only fair to sustain the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as far as it turns on a matter of fact, and likewise as far as it turns on the exercise of the discretion of the Government in making the best distribution they could of the number 23 which they have chosen. It is undoubtedly the fact that some time ago the practice prevailed according to which it was usual, and, I believe, invariable, at least in Committees of smaller size, that a majority of one should be conceded to the majority of the day. I must say that I never admired that plan. I always thought the rule a bad rule, and I was always glad to avail myself of an opportunity of modifying it and altering it according to the practice which prevailed for a good many years before that rule, and which has prevailed during the existence of the present Parliament. That is to say, that any Committee of the House should be made—especially when there is a matter of very great public interest, importance, and delicacy—as carefully and as nearly as may be the accurate representation of the sentiments in this House. But the right hon. Gentleman said that this is not a Party question, and therefore it is not from Party necessity that there is a motive for careful and accurate selection. But it is a matter of great political and national importance, and therefore that motive applies in its fullest sense. That being so, I believe my hon. Friend will not find it possible to shake the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as to the matter of fact. As to the distribution of the numbers, the hon. Member says a majority of three is possessed by the Party opposite. I am extremely sorry that they have that majority, but I am bound to say they are fully entitled to it by the state of opinion in the House. If we can destroy that majority in the House which gives them a title to that majority of three, by all means let us do it, but there it is at the present moment. It is not according to an ideal or a future House of Commons, but according to the present and actual House of Commons, that the Committee has been chosen. The right hon. Gentleman has had a duty to discharge rather more difficult than commonly falls to Leaders of the House. In old times there were only two units in this House, and it was then more easy to divide the numbers on a Committee when there were only two sections in the House than now, when it is divided into four. We have four recognized Parties or sections in the House, and those Parties or sections happen to be exceedingly unequal in number, consequently the rules of arithmetic, combined with the impossibility of dividing the unit, represented by the Member, into any smaller fraction, involved an operation which to a humane man like the right hon. Gentleman it would be impossible to accomplish. I am bound to say that so far as I am able to form a judgment the right hon. Gentleman has performed his duty in a spirit of equity and consideration. If I take those with whom I have the honour more immediately to act, undoubtedly we have quite as many Members on the Committee as we are entitled to. Although I observe the Motion is to give us two more, I am sorry we have no ground whatever for making the claim. As to the Nationalist Party from Ireland, who must, of course, be represented on this Committee, I admit, when we come to apply minute fractions to their case, it has not been possible to give them quite as much as their numerical strength deserves. At the same time I do not see that the right hon. Gentleman was in a position to discharge his task with greater mathematical exactitude. Upon the whole, if we take these four Parties as they are divided upon the most important questions of the day, I do not think it would be possible to make a more fair and equitable distribution. I shall feel it my duty to support the right hon. Gentleman in the proposition he has made.

* MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

I am in a position of some difficulty in regard to this Amendment, because while I agree that the Committee is fairly apportioned as to numbers, and that the distribution follows the rule pursued in this House, I am going to vote for the Amendment because I am entirely opposed to Royal grants, and because I want to raise every possible difficulty in the way of those grants being made. If the original terms of the Reference had included an investigation of the savings on each class of the Civil List, I should have been satisfied with the numbers apportioned to this side of the House; but I know that as the majority will interpret the terms of the Reference, there will be no inquiry into the savings on the various branches of the Civil List. I intend to vote for an increase in the numbers proposed by the hon. Member for Swansea, and I take it that the Vote is a declaration on the part of the Liberals and Radicals, both above and below the Gangway that the Reference to the Committee is unfairly limited. I shall give my vote for the Amendment, not as alleging any breach of the ordinary arrangements which govern the nomination of these Committees, but as a protest against the exclusion of facts which are really material in determining whether these grants should be made or not.


I desire before I proceed to make a few remarks, to relieve myself from a position of some embarrassment. My name appears upon the consequential Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, and I wish to say that those two names were hastily arrived at last night. I am commissioned on behalf of my hon. Friend and myself to say that if the House is willing to substitute the names of any other two Gentlemen holding somewhat the same views—[a laugh]—I do not suppose the hon. Gentlemen opposite deem me so foolish as to desire two more names from their side of the House, when my object is to show that already they have more than they are entitled to. I contend that the precedents in such cases show that a majority of one is all the Government are entitled to, although I admit that there has been a newfangled arrangement during the present Parliament, consequent upon the fact that in this Parliament for the first time, and I hope it will be the last, consists of four distinct Parties. Radical as I am, I am constitutional enough to prefer the ancient practice to that which now exists. The Committee is not appointed to vote but to inquire, and therefore the minority should be as large as possible, so that there may be a freer power of discussion. As the Committee is at present constituted, the decision cannot be other than prejudiced and one-sided. It is to be appointed to inquire into two specific cases and into a principle, and we cannot decide the cases without deciding the principle, and vice versâ; the principle being that not only shall provision be made by Parliament for the Sovereign and the children of the Sovereign, but for the children of the Heir Apparent to the Throne. We Radicals are sticklers for constitutionalism. We object to the introduction of the Crown into this matter at all. We have to do with the Ministers only. The proposal is a Ministerial proposal, upon which the life of the Ministry depends, and, of course, their supporters will vote in favour of it. What chance is there of their giving a vote which would terminate the existence of their own Ministry? The Conservatives have not only a majority on the Committee, but the Government will be supported by the Liberal Unionists. There is the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, with whose history and ideas we are well acquainted, and there is not the slightest chance that he will do otherwise than support the Government. Then there is the Member for West Birmingham, of whom we used to have some hope, but now he has cast in his lot for ever with those "who toil not neither do they spin." The right hon. Gentleman can only vote as he is directed by the Government. A pretty pass that for an ancient Radical leader to come to. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to get up in this House and say whether, having regard to his utterances and his character for consistency, he can do anything other than support the Government.


Order, order! I do not think the hon. Member is in order in discussing at this stage the antecedents of any proposed Member of the Committee.


I admit, Mr. Speaker, that the course I am taking is inconvenient, and I will content myself with saying I think I have already demonstrated that the majority of the Committee must vote for the Ministerial proposition. In that case, the decision of the Committee is prejudged. I admit that the Irish Members have a right to have two Members on the Committee, and that the Gentlemen selected may both, from their position of authority and their inherent ability, be very properly placed there. But I do not forget that they represent Irish interests, and that their views and actions will be regulated by circumstances that will make for the freedom and self-government of their country. I want the House to realize the position which English Radicals have taken in this matter. At the head of the Committee is a name comment upon which would be dangerous even if it were desirable. No such Committee would be complete without the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party. If the right hon. Gentleman choses to give his services, far be it from me to say anything against it. Speaking for myself, I should like to say that having studied and followed the incidents of his great career——


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is now discussing the names. The question is rather the quantity of the Committee than the quality of those who compose it.


Of course, Mr. Speaker, I bow to you at once, but I was endeavouring to show that the composition of the Committee is such as to prejudge the conclusion of the Committee. I contend that the majority for the Government being even more than the number mentioned by my bon. Friend who moved the Amendment, the Radicals are entitled to add two names to the Committee. The hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) represent most fairly the Radical element in this House. Now, Sir; if we knew beforehand what the Committee will decide, is it not fair that there should be such an amount of opposition as will deprive the Government of that which they want besides the decision? The Government want not only the decision but also the moral effect which will spring from the decision of a Committee the great majority of which is in their favour. So far as I can see, the Government have practically 15 Members of the Committee who will go with them. Does anyone believe that the hon. Member for Swansea District (Sir Hussey Vivian) represents Liberal opinion in this matter? If the voice of Wales is to be heard I am amazed that such a choice should have been made.


Order, order! If the hon. Member objects to the names he should do so when they are read out.


Very well, Sir. I will object to that hon. Gentleman when the time comes; and in the meantime I will assert that the antecedents of the hon. Member for Swansea District——[Cries of "Order" and "Name."]


Order, order!


Why am I to be interrupted by hon. Members opposite calling out "Name?" I am trying to keep myself in order as well as I can. I will conclude by stating that the point of my argument is that the Government, so far from having 13 Members on the Committee who sympathize with and hold their views, have at least 15 and probably 17. I assert that the enormous majority of the Liberal electors in the country hold the views I am expressing, and they will be represented probably by four and perhaps by six. It is most unfair to send to a Committee so constituted, not the consideration of the general question merely, but the consideration of the specific questions raised by the Government, and with which is bound up the fate of the Government. Looking at the constitution of the Committee, I can come to no other conclusion that unless it be altered so as to give to the Liberals of the country, at least a sufficient number of representatives to enable thorn to make a serious protest against the unfair and one-sided conclusion which is already registered, although it may, perhaps, influence hon. Members opposite and their constituents, it will be deprived of moral weight for all the Liberals and Radicals of the country.

The House divided:—Ayes 300; Noes 105.—(Div. List, No. 186.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Committee do consist of 23 Members.

Question, "That Sir Walter Barttelot, Mr. Burt, Dr. Cameron, be Members of the said Committee," put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sir Archibald Campbell be one other Member of the Committee."—(Mr. Wiliam Henry Smith.)


I beg to move that Sir Archibald Campbell's name be omitted. Of course, it is perfectly understood, both by that hon. Member himself, whom I have not the pleasure to know, and also by all the House, that this opposition to his name is not dictated by any personal disrespect to him. I will tell the House why I take this course. The hon. Member is put on the Committee, I suppose, as in some sense a representative of the opinion of Scotland. Now, Sir, I submit that if the opinion of Scotland were asked in this matter, it would not be the hon. Member to whose name I object that they would ask to be their spokesman. Supposing this Amendment should be carried, and I hope the good sense of hon. Gentlemen opposite will allow us to carry it, I shall propose that the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Hunter), whose name has already been put before the House should be added to the Committee.

The House divided:—Ayes 304; Noes 86.—(Div. List, No. 187.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Joseph Chamberlain be another Member of the said Committee."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)


I understand that this Committee is to be a representative Committee. The right hon. Gentleman to whose name I now take objection is, in my judgment, and in the judgment of many others, representative of nobody except himself. The days have been when we in this quarter of the House, and those who think with us in the country, looked upon the right hon. Gentleman as a tower of strength, and as one who believed in Radicalism and would support Radicalism. Now, whom would the right hon. Gentleman represent on that Committee? He does not represent the Liberal Party; he does not yet represent the Conservative Party; but it may be urged that he represents the Liberal Unionists. I submit that all the Liberal Unionists who are Liberal are fittingly represented by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), and that those of the Liberal Unionists who are Conservative are fittingly and fully represented by the 11 Conservatives who have been nominated on the Committee. I object to the right hon. Gentleman now, but there have been days when I should have objected to him more. I remember the days when the right hon. Gentleman developed, or was supposed to have developed, a wild, extravagant form of Republicanism, which, as far as I understood it, was as dangerous in its purposes as it was futile in its methods. In those days, for the sake of something which we hoped to gain from him, we may have been content to use the right hon. Gentleman for a time; but now I submit that the right hon. Gentleman has delivered himself, bound hand and foot, into the hands of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and will go into that Committee so pledged and committed as to the decision which he must give that he will be in no sense a free and fair representative of opinion upon that Committee. Now, I will prove the serious allegation I have made. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes; I will prove it. The Committee will have to con- sider a proposal which has bean introduced by the Government, and upon the fate of which depends the fate of the Government. The Committee has to decide that fact. The right hon. Gentleman, if he were put upon the Committee, must give his decision; but what would be the result, supposing he and others joined with the Liberals on the Committee and defeated the proposal of the Government? If that proposal were defeated the Government would be defeated, and would come to an end. Are we to understand that this is not so serious a Ministerial proposition that the fate of the Government is not bound up in it? Well, I do not expect to see right hon. Gentlemen opposite sitting on the Treasury Bench a day after such a proposal is defeated, if it ever be defeated. The Government, being like all other Governments, will, I expect, have too much self-respect, and too much regard for ancient Constitutional practice to remain in office if this proposition of theirs is defeated. How could the right hon. Gentleman vote for the defeat of that proposition? Has not the right hon. Gentleman told us and the country, again and again, that the keynote of his policy is to do nothing that will defeat the present Government; and if he does nothing to defeat the present Government he must go with the Government upon that Committee. Therefore, I submit that I have amply proved that, so far from being free to give an opinion the right hon. Gentleman is bound hand arid foot as to the opinion he will give. He is like Sampson of old—he has been shorn of his Radical locks—shorn of his Radical principles, wherein lay his strength, here and in the country. He has been delivered into the hands of Delilah. [Laughter from the Ministerial Benches.] He has been delivered by Delilah, the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings), into the hands of the Philistines, by whom he has been bound hand and foot. Neither on this question of Radicalism, nor on any future question of Liberalism is the right hon. Gentleman free to vote, and therefore I resist his appointment on the Committee, and suggest—for I can do no more than suggest—another name instead of his. The name I would suggest and put in opposition to that of the right hon. Gentleman is the name of one who has made this question his own; whose full possession of the facts and whose fairness of judgment entitle him to confidence on this side of the House, and have, despite the past, entitled him to the confidence of many Members on the other side of the House—I mean my hon. Friend the junior Member for Northampton. If the proposition I now make, that the name of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain be excluded from that Committee be carried, I shall move, at the proper time, that the name of Mr. Bradlaugh be substituted.

The House divided:—Ayes 299; Noes 95.—(Div. List, No. 188.)

Question, "That Sir James Corry, Mr. Elton, Mr. Gladstone, Sir John Gorst, Mr. Goschen, Marquess of Hartington, Mr. Samuel Hoare, and Mr. Illingworth, be other Members of the Committee," put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Labouchere be one other Member of the Committee."


I readily admit it is expedient that we should have upon the Committee a Member of that school of politicians to which the hon. Member for Northampton belong, as representing a section of opinion in the House, and possibly, to some extent, in the country. But I would venture to suggest to the House whether it would not be better to select a politician who has taken, perhaps, a more serious interest in this question in preference to the senior Member for Northampton. We have heard from the hon. Member for Sunderland what a deep and serious interest is taken in this subject by the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), and though I disagree with the views of both hon. Members, if Northampton is to be represented on the Committee, I would suggest it should be in the favour of the junior Member for the borough, whose name I would substitute for that of Mr. Labouchere.

Question put, and agreed to.

Question, "That Mr. John Morley, Sir Stafford Northcote, Mr. Parnell, and Mr. Sexton be other Members of the Committee," put, and agreed to.

Question proposed, "That Sir Hussey Vivian be one other Member of the Committee."


I regret to have to trouble the House once more on this matter. When we were told we were to have a certain number of Liberal Members on this Committee, limited in number, we thought it the more important that they should be Gentlemen representative of the opinion held by Liberals throughout the country on this question. I do not care how it may be reported upon in this House. I challenge contradiction when I say that throughout the country, not merely mild Liberal opinion, but the sober Liberal opinion of the thoughtful, intelligent, well-to-do among the Liberal Party is entirely opposed to the multiplication of these grants. That being so, it was only fair that the Liberals to be put on the Committee should be Liberals indeed. I have no personal objection to the hon. Member whose name has been read. He is, I believe, a Liberal, and now, I think, a Home Ruler, though on this point he once felt some hesitation, as he had a perfect right to do on such a large question. But I am not troubled about the hon. Member on that point. I have to consider his views in relation to his appointment to this Committee. His opinions, so far as they can be ascertained, entitle him to be counted as one of the Conservative supporters of the Government on this matter. He certainly does not represent Liberalism or Wales on this point. I hope the hon. Gentleman is here, for I am about to draw attention to a book the hon. Gentleman has published—an unfortunate thing to do—describing a visit he made to the United States, and I will take the liberty of making a reference to that book as indicating the hon. Member's opinions:— If Americans could only get over the first wrench and elect a King of the old stock ["Hear, hear," from Sir H. Vivian] under the same limited Constitutional conditions as our own Sovereign, they could weld their separate States into one compact and mighty nation! I cannot help suspecting also that they would not be sorry to transform their Senate into a House of Lords. There are fortunes amply large enough to support hereditary rank; and the men who will not now enter political life upon any consideration would doubtless do their duty as patriotically as our Peers if not compelled to face the dirt of candidature. Well, are these Liberal opinions? Is there anything in this to lead us to suppose the hon. Gentleman will represent Liberal opinion on this subject? Unless the hon. Gentleman has changed his views, he in no sense represents Liberal feelings in the House or in Wales. I move that Sir II. Vivian's name be struck out of the list for the Committee; and if my Motion is successful, I shall afterwards move that the name of Mr. B. Rowlands be added.

The House divided:—Ayes 307; Noes 71.—(Div. List, No. 189).

Mr. Wharton, Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Whitely, and Mr. W. H. Smith nominated other Members of the said Committee.

MR LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

There are some words omitted from the Motion, probably by accident, and I propose to insert them. I shall move that the following words be added:—"That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records." There have been expressions of opinion as to the meaning of the words of reference, but those expressions will have no sort of influence on the minds of the Committee, because it is for the Committee and not for the individual Members to decide on their meaning. It must, however, be clear to the House that the Committee should have power, if it wishes, to call for papers, records, and witnesses. Those words are usually put in, and that is why I said I supposed they have been omitted by accident. I do not suppose there will be any opposition to this Motion; but if there is, it will tend to show that the whole proceeding upon which we are now engaged, and the proposal before us, is a mere farce and a sham.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


These words were omitted not by accident, but by design. The Government have followed strictly the precedents which have been set by the Committees of 1831 and 1837–38 on the Civil List, and following these precedents we think it will be the duty of the Ministers who happen to be Members of the Committee to endeavour, to the best of their ability, to furnish information to the Committee to enable them to arrive at a proper and definite conclusion. The hon. Gentleman will himself realize that the inquiry which he desires power to hold might be made in a manner highly inconsistent with the judicial purposes of the Committee. Under these circumstances it is my duty to resist the addition which the hon. Gentleman proposes.


I regret very much to hear the declaration of the First Lord of the Treasury. I also regret to hear my Colleague speak of the Committee and its proceedings as likely to be a "farce," and I regret that because his name is on the Committee, and I do not quite understand his accepting a sham position when he will have to play one of the characters in it. So far as I am concerned, I do not intend by my Vote in the Division Lobby to approve of anything which is likely to be a farce, and I contend that the Committee cannot be a reality in this case unless it has an opportunity of taking evidence. On all these matters Ministers may inform the Committee according to the best of their judgment, but it is to be borne in mind that the whole developments of the Civil List during each Act of Parliament has been in the direction of giving more to the Crown. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury speaks according to his view on this matter; but I am bound to say that I have during the last twenty years given my closest attention to the investigation of the Civil List, and the whole working of the Statutes, and the draftsman's changes in the words used show a disposition on the part of the Advisers and Representatives of the Crown—on the part of each succeeding Ministry—to enable the Crown to take larger sums from the nation time after time, while appearing to take less. The right hon. Gentleman puts it that Her present Majesty and the present Royal Family receive less from the State than other members of the Royal Family have ever received since the Great Revolution. In point of figures that is not true. It is perfectly true that the nominal amount of the Civil List is £385,000, and that the annuities to members of the Royal Family added to it make a lesser sum than the amounts previously paid; but it is also perfectly true that sums, many scores of thousands of pounds, which are paid do not appear upon any total estimate, so that while the amount is nominally less, it is really greater, and you can only tell what is the amount taken by the Royal Family at the present moment, not by taking the sum total of the charges on the Consolidated Fund under the head Civil List, not by taking the annuities to members of the Royal Family which appear, but by going carefully through the Estimates, and seeing the sums of money, one after another, all borne in the Civil Lists of George I., George II., George III., George IV., and some of which were even contained in the Civil List of William IV., and which are not in any way paid out of the £385,000 of Her Majesty's Civil List, or from any charge on Royal annuities otherwise. I think, if the Committee is unable to take evidence, it will be left entirely in the dark, unless some Member of it happens to be perfectly well-informed. I think they ought not to have to depend solely upon the statements of a Minister who may happen to be a Member. I am pledging my word distinctly that, according to my research, the First Lord of the Treasury's statement is inaccurate; and I say that when such a difference arises between a representative of the people on the one hand, and a Minister of the Crown on the other, it ought not to be determined by an expression of opinion on the part of a Minister, but it should be determined by clear evidence put before the Committee. It may be said it is the intention of this inquiry to shut out every investigation into such facts. If that be so, then I share the opinion of my Colleague in saying that the proceedings of the Committee will be a farce, and I add that he will be wrong in sitting upon it and giving the weight of his position to it. But I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian intends it to be a farce. If he does—and that is an almost impossible supposition—then the promise made by him when he was Prime Minister that there should be an investigation into this matter before any other grant was taken, must have been made with an intention that it should be broken, although the right hon. Gentleman pledged himself to this House upon it. I trust that the House will pardon me for speaking upon this subject with a considerable amount of decision, and perhaps an undue amount of feeling. It is perfectly true that there are hundreds and thousands of men and women in this country who feel a deep interest in this question. I do not agree with the declaration of the hon. Member for Leicester as to the feeling of the people in this matter. I believe there is a disposition among the bulk of the people in favour of Monarchy in this country. I also believe that they have been irritated over and over again during the last few generations by the way in which grants have been made, some of them upon the loosest statements in this House, and some upon statements which have frequently been contradicted outside this House, and have never been examined into. It must not be forgotten that during the time I have had the honour of a seat in this House I have challenged the Estimates year by year. I have always challenged the first item of expenditure connected with the Royal Family, and I have asserted that it is the only portion of our national expenditure upon which it is impossible for an unofficial person to form a judgment of the expenditure within twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty thousand pounds. I imagine I can prove that the cost of the Royal Family to the nation at the present moment is nearer £800,000 than any other sum; but the fact that I cannot turn to an account to prove this is a disgrace to the country. If I am incorrect in my assertion, it should be possible to show me, by turning over the Estimates, that I have made a rash statement without any kind of verification; but the fact is, that it is impossible to do so—it is impossible to say what is the real cost of the Royal Family; and we have had the Chancellcr of the Exchequer obliged to stand up in his place in Parliament and say that the savings on the Civil List are matters on which the Treasury will not inform this house. I have said, outside the Committee, that the savings on the Civil List have been so large that if Parliament were right in fixing the List at the beginning of the reign at the amount it did, then those savings are large enough to maintain the grandchildren of Her Majesty, and no grant ought to be asked for from Parliament at the present moment.


This is a much more serious matter than the nomination of particular Members of the Committee, and it ought not to be lightly passed over. The hon. Member for Northampton is acknowledged to be a master of this subject; no one has answered him, and therefore the discussion must proceed. The right hon. Gentleman the Loader of the House refers us to the precedents of 1831 and 1837. Sir, we are living in the year of grace 1889, and that makes an enormous difference. Since 1831 successive enlargements of the franchise have been given, which have brought the people closer into contact with the Crown, and they now insist on having full information before they sanction these Votes. The right hon. Gentleman says that if these words were added to the Resolution the probability is that the powers would be used for the purpose of interfering with the judicial proceedings of the Committee. But, Sir, who is to blame for the selection of the Committee? All the Members nominated by the Government have, as was expected, been elected, and if, among those so chosen, there are any who would make an improper use of the power of sending for documents and examining witnesses, it would be a great dishonour to the Committee. The Government do not realize the changes that have occurred since these precedents were set. My hon. Friend behind me, the Member for Northampton, says I was wrong in suggesting that among the public there was any kind of indifference towards the Monarchy. I am not aware that that was what I said. What I did say was that there was a considerable amount of soreness of feeling upon this subject, which, if it were not properly treated, might lead to such feelings. Now, Sir, I must say that if there is one course of policy more likely than another to lead to these ill-consequences, it is a policy of concealment. If facts are concealed the people feel that there must be something behind which would justify them in taking an adverse view. Make it clear to the people that there are no savings on the Civil List which would be available for the maintenance of members of the Royal Family and all objection would disappear. But unless there are documents to prov it, unless witnesses can be examined, you will not get the people to believe it. Once let them think there is anything to conceal, and discontent will spread rapidly on all sides. I therefore earnestly hope that the Government will make this concession, and will act on the advice of those whose experience and patriotism are not less than their own.


My hon. Friend, in making this Motion, founded his remarks very much on what he believed to be a fear that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had departed from precedent in the proposal he is now making. But that is not the fact; on the contrary, Her Majesty's Government are only asking the House to act in exact conformity with precedent. There have been two previous occasions upon which similar Committees to this one have been appointed, in 1831 and in 1837, and in neither of these cases was any such Instruction as this given to the Committee. In both cases the Committees were appointed to consider the question on the supposition that the House had confidence in them, and the votes which have been given to-day—the large majorities recorded—show the general confidence in the Members of the present Committee. It was the duty of those Committees to consider matters which were extraneous to the immediate terms of the Reference. I do not recollect that those terms included the gathering of information; but we know very well, from the Report of 1837, that the Committee did collect information, because on page 4 it is stated that while their powers were limited, papers were laid before them and explanations given by the official servants of Her Majesty. It is also clear that not only was the information given to the earlier Committee extended, but much fuller and more detailed explanations were given in order to assist the Committee in their deliberations. Certainly it is clear that the Committee were not hampered in the fulness of their investigation by the absence of such an Instruction as is now proposed. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has now given a perfectly clear assurance that no information will be withheld which the Committee deem material to the investigation. The right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, excuse me—and will not suppose that the observation implies any mistrust of his word—on which I rely entirely—if I point out that if the Committee are not satisfied with the manner in which Her Majesty's Government redeems that pledge, it will be within the power of the Committee to come to this House and state that they are hampered in their investigations, and ask for the power which it is now proposed to confer on them by this Amendment. Under these circumstances, I cannot refuse to support the action of Her Majesty's Government, which adheres to the rules followed in former cases, and which in former cases have been found to be satisfactory, especially having regard to the fact that if Her Majesty's Government do withhold information which ought to be given, the matter can be brought up for review in this House. I attach great importance in these matters to precedents. These things have not been lightly done or in bad times, but in times when men of high character, and ability, and statesmanship applied their minds to them; and so long as nothing more than a speculative objection to the course adopted on former occasions is adduced, I am content to follow in the footsteps of these men, until some strong and practical reason is forthcoming for departing from the precedents they have furnished.

SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

The right hon. Gentleman has made, as usual, a very ingenious and able defence of the course he thinks the Committee ought to take; but those who followed his speech carefully will see the admission that the majority of the Committee will have power to do as they choose. Now we want to give an Instruction to that majority. We want the House to say what ought to be done, and not leave it to the majority of the Committee—in which a large section of the Members of this House have no confidence—to do as they like. I am strongly impressed with the opinion that the vote we are about to give is far more important than any other vote we have given this evening. I look upon it as' a crucial vote, and I hope that the votes of hon. Members will be carefully scrutinised in the country. We have had a weighty speech from my hon. Friend the junior Member for Northampton, who we know is a master of this subject, and perhaps knows more about it than any man in this House. He has made it his study for many long years, and when he tells us that these papers and documents are necessary in order to get at the truth surely the statement ought to weigh with this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House says there is no precedent for this. But why cannot we make a precedent? Why, in the earlier part of the evening the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition himself said he was glad we had departed from precedent in adopting certain modes of appointing the Committee. It appears to me, Sir, it is of no use talking about the precedent of 1837 in the year 1889. We now have a new Heaven and a new earth—although I am sorry to say I cannot say that therein dwelleth righteousness. It is of no use quoting old stories about 1837. I honestly believe that if this Instruction is not given to the Committee the country will rightly look on the whole proceeding as a fraud. It is unworthy that a great nation like this should not go about the business in a more straightforward manner, especially when dealing with such an important matter as the administration of public funds.

The House divided:—Ayes 136; Noes 272.—(Div. List, No. 190.)

Ordered, That seven be the quorum.—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)