HC Deb 13 August 1890 vol 348 cc901-14

38. £15,374, to complete the sum for Temporary Commissions.


I do not propose to discuss this Vote, but I wish to ask a simple question with regard to the Mining Royalties Commission. A day or two ago I stated that one of my constituents in Camborne had informed me that the Royal Commissioners were empowered to report on such matters as came under their consideration. I want to know whether the Commissioners have not power to offer recommendations as well as to report their opinions?

*(8.1.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I cannot pretend to give a proper interpretation of the Reference to the Royal Commission, seeing that I have not had notice of the question, and, therefore, have been unable to obtain information. But the matter is one upon which I do not think I could offer an opinion under any circumstances. The Reference was issued to the Commission, and it is for the Commissioners themselves to say what meaning or construction is to be put upon it. It is for them to submit their Report as they may think fit, and it would be impertinent on my part to interpret for them what the Reference means.

(8.3.) DR. CLARK

As to the Highlands Commission I should like to ask whether they have reported, or whether they intend to go back again to Sutherlandshire, to Cape Wrath and Caithness, where owing to the late unfortunate storm many people lost their lives. The Commission has reported, and having done so is it possible for it to go back to those places?


The Report of the Commission will remain on the Table.


Yes; but can the Commissioners go back?




I am informed that the Secretary for Scotland promised that the Commission should go back.


I have heard nothing about it.

Vote agreed to.

39. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £6,738, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891, for certain Miscellaneous Expenses.


This is the last Vote of the normal Estimates, and I beg to say before we dispose of it that I have sat still to-day, listening to this preposterous farce that has been going on, and watching the way in which the Public Accounts are being treated. They say the last straw breaks the camel's back, and I must confess that this last straw breaks my back. I see here an item for the cost of robes and insignia for persons upon whom various orders are conferred, and also a periodical allowance of £270 for trumpeters, and such like persons. I have always divided the House against any expenditure I have come across on Knights of the Garter, or of the Thistle, or of St. Patrick, because these orders are confined to Royal personages and noblemen—Dukes and such like. I cannot for the life of me understand how anybody can give a straw for these wretched honours. If they were conferred for merit, I could understand it. I can understand charges being made in respect of the Orders of the Bath, or of St. Michael and St. George. Some of this insignia has been given in respect of these orders; but a sum of over £1,000 goes to the Knights of the Garter and the Thistle, and I therefore beg to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £1,270.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £5,468, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


I do not know whether the hon. Member will insist upon going to a Division when I tell him the result of a careful inquiry as to this account. There are two classes of these honours—hereditary and personal. The hereditary honours entail charges upon those who receive them, and the result does not appear in the Vote, although the money goes into the Exchequer. In respect of the other class of honours, items appear on the Votes, and the country is put to some expense; but when the one class is set off againt the other, the result is that during five years, from 1882 to 1887, £25,700 was paid out of the Exchequer and £29,300 into it. There has, therefore, been a gain to the Exchequer.


I do not call it a gain to the taxpayer, but I call the amount which these people have to pay a tax. I consider that if people wish to be made Dukes and Marquesses they should pay something for the article—if the article is worth anything in the market I think we ought to get the highest price. But the hon. Gentleman's argument, that because we receive money in respect of some of these honours therefore we should pay for insignia in other cases, is worth nothing. The hon. Member tells us that one class of these personages costs us nothing. Why, Sir, they cost us millions, owing to their obstructive tactics in the other House.

(8.10.) MR. ATKINSON (Boston)

I do not agree at all with the remark of the hon. Member for Northampton with regard to the House of Lords, as I am one of those who are inclined to thank God that we have a House of Lords, but with his other remarks I perfectly agree. Seeing that when in the provinces we, as Mayors, have to pay for our own robes, it is only right that the recipients of honours such as he has referred to should pay for their insignia. I shall, therefore, divide with the hon. Member, and I think that the more we get the common sense element introduced into our Legislature the more we shall find these items disappear from the Estimates.

(8.12.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 26; Noes 49.— (Div. List, No. 247.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

40. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £5,305, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891, for the Re-payment to the Civil Contingencies Fund of certain Miscellaneous Advances.


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £3,588 8s. (being £439 3s. 4d. Fees paid on the Installation of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Prussia as a Knight of the Garter; £2,769 4s. 8d. Equipage Money on appointment of the Earl of Zetland Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; £200, Special Steamers for Conveyance of Lords. Lieutenant of Ireland; and £180, Expenses in connection with the Funeral of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge.) I do not propose to inflict a long speech upon the Committee, as I think it would be unjustifiable at this period of the Session; but I object to this Vote, not on account of the amount, but on account of the principle involved. I will refer to the payments categorically. With regard to the first payment, namely, £439 3s. 4d., Fees paid on the Installation of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Prussia as a Knight of the Garter, I wish to point out that that dignity is, as a general rule, granted for some signal service rendered to the country; but what service has Prince Henry of Prussia ever rendered to this country? He has not yet rendered any service to his own country, to say nothing of service to Great Britain. When this honour is conferred upon people here they have to pay their own installation fees; but that is not so in the case of a foreign Prince. Although it may be argued that diplomatic considerations should weigh in these cases, I hold that that argument should only be valid in cases where these honours are bestowed upon persons of distinction. But when they are conferred upon people who have never done anything to deserve attention, these interchanges of courtesies become empty expressions of diplomacy without any real meaning in them. With regard to the second item, £2,769 4s. 8d. Equipage Money on appointment of the Earl of Zetland Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, I think it is generally admitted that this office is a sinecure. ["No, no."] Well, there is nothing which the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is supposed to do which is not better done already by his subordinates. We have been frequently reminded by the Chief Secretary that he is the real Governor of Ireland. The Lord Lieutenant is simply a man in buttons, who wears silk stockings and has a coat of arms on his carriage. [Cries of "Order!"]


Order, order! The salary of the Lord Lieutenant is placed upon the Consolidated Fund, in order that he may not be criticised in this style. The only question into which the hon. Gentleman can enter is that of the adequacy of this expenditure.


I only wish to point out to the House that this sum of £3,000 is thrown away upon a sinecure. I find that a sum of about £3,000 appears in the Estimates under the head of Dublin Metropolitan Police, a Force which is as necessary to the present system of Government in Ireland as the Lord Lieutenant is unnecessary. Well, then comes a sum of £180 in respect to the funeral of the Duchess of Cambridge. Such items are not calculated to promote sentiments of loyalty; on the contrary, they cause irritation and provoke an amount of criticism and inquiry which otherwise would be absent. The result of the inquiry promoted by this item is to show that the family of the Duke of Cambridge has from first to last received something like £3,000,000 out of the Exchequer. I think it positively monstrous that we should be paying these sums for what is absolutely worthless to this country, when there is so much suffering, so much absolute penury and want among our working classes. Shortly before this Supplementary Estimate was issued, the Report of the Sweating Committee appeared, and what a ghastly comment are the main features of that Report upon this expenditure. The Report shows that thousands of hard-working, thrifty men are living a life of hopeless, ceaseless toil, and yet we are asked to spend hundreds in decorating a foreign Prince, and thousands in adorning a mere supernumerary. These items represent principles of expenditure which do a vast amount of harm in this country. Others are induced by this extravagance to spend a vast amount of money on what is perfectly superfluous, and the result is this monstrous sweating system that is a blot on our civilisation. I do not believe that all this gorgeousness, and this ostentation of wealth, is necessary in order to maintain the Constitution. On the contrary, I think it does far more to repress than to promote sentiments of loyalty.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,717, be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

(8.27.) MR. ATKINSON

I wish to dissociate myself from the remarks made by the Mover of this Amendment, as far as the greater part of the reduction is concerned. But if I can vote only against the £180 for funeral expenses I shall do so. I believe no man is a greater enemy of royalty, and of the prospects of royalty in this country, than the man who allowed this £180 to come on the Estimates. Personally, I have done my best to prevent this coming before the House, even to the extent of offering a cheque for the amount. To justify myself allow me to say that last year, when it was a question between £40,000 and £36,000 a year for the family of the Prince of Wales, I opposed the reduction of the amount to the latter sum, although the Government had been so weak-kneed as to give way to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) on the subject. That justifies my opposition as a royalist and a loyalist. I shall vote against this £180 with the greatest pleasure, and I hope we shall never again see such a shabby item brought up on the Estimates.

*(8.29.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

I would suggest a compromise. Let my hon. Friend withdraw his Amendment, and let the Leader of the House accept the cheque of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I see from the gestures of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Atkinson) that it would be a relief to his conscience, as well as to the burdens of the country, if the Government were to accept his generous, patriotic, and sporting offer.


The hon. Gentleman's offer to hand over a cheque reminds me of a story told of a noble Lord now dead, who, when he was asked for a contribution towards the burial of a lawyer, offered a cheque for a guinea, saying, "Here, go and bury 21 of them."

(8.30.) MR. CONYBEAR

Owing to having paired with an hon. Gentleman on this side of the House I am prevented from voting upon this question, but I feel bound to explain the absence of my name from the Division which is about to be taken. But, while I am obliged to make that explanation, I want to ask the Government for an explanation of two or three items of this Vote. In the first place, I want to know how it is that the seal of the Governor of British New Guinea costs so much as £98 1s. 6d.? I am sure there are Members of this House who could provide an amply sufficient article for a less sum. I want to know, in the second place, what has been the result of the inquiries as to Mrs. Giles, of Barbadoes, alleged to have been abducted? We should like to know who she is, and who abducted her, and for what purpose she was abducted, whether she has been returned, and if her friends know of her whereabouts? All these questions ought to be answered, and I think we ought to divide against the payment of £21 16s. 10d. for the inquiries as to this Mrs. Giles, unless we get a satisfactory answer from the Government. I have got a suggestion to make which I think will meet with the approval of the Committee with regard to the item of £180. Great as is my loyalty and respect for the Royal Family generally, which I think all hon. Members know burns with great fervour in my breast as a staunch Republican, I cannot but feel the most profound regret that a paltry sum of this kind should be placed upon the Estimates, not that it is paltry in the size of it. I should have thought £10 would have been enough to bury anybody. [Mr. BROOKFIELD: Disgraceful. The only persons in this country outside royalty who come upon the country for the expenses of their burial expenses are paupers. I think it is, as an hon. Member explained, a slur upon Royalty that a sum of this kind should be placed on the Estimates, and what I suggest is that this sum be remitted for payment to the Poor Law Guardians of the parish in which the deceased lady died.


Order, order !


I think we ought to be told whether Her Majesty's Government intend to accept the liberal offer of the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Atkinson) or not. I observed that the Secretary to the Treasury retired behind the Chair to consult about the matter.


I think we have a claim to some answer from the Government. Here is an item of £430 for fees paid on the installation of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Prussia. [Mr. ASHMEAD BARTLETT: "Oh!"] The hon. Member says "Oh"; but he himself gets a salary. If he likes to pay this £430 himself I shall have no objection. This question of fees paid upon the installation of Knights of the Garter is a very old one. Prince Henry of Prussia may be a very estimable person, but it is not to be supposed that this Garter was given to him for any service he has rendered to this country. It is one of the honorary distinctions that are exchanged between the Royal Family of this country and the Royal Families abroad. I have not the slightest objection to this gentleman, or to hundreds of princes or tinkers getting Garters; all I object to is to our having to pay £430 as fees. Who gets these fees? Is it a fact that this interchange of orders is not to be made between Members of the Royal Family here and the Royal Families abroad without some harpies in this country getting hold of the money? We have a right to complain that we have received no explanation of this item. We have allowed the Estimates to go through in the most reckless fashion, not because we approve of the mode, but because we declined to take part in this ignoble farce which has taken place to-day. As there are only one or two Votes remaining to be taken, Ministers seem to think they can cease to be civil. [Cries of "No !"] Yes; it would have been very different if there had been 20 or 30 Votes, because in that case we would have taken it out of you. I am a very old stager at this business; and I know that as the Estimates get on the friendly feeling of Ministers decreases. I ask again that we shall receive some explanation, first of all, as to the ground upon which this Garter was given to Prince Henry of Prussia, and, secondly, as to the ground on which this expenditure has been incurred by the public, and, thirdly, as to who receives the fees.

*(8.41.) SIR H. MAXWELL

The latter part of the hon. Member's interrogation has been already answered. As I have already explained, this is, practically, a mere matter of book-keeping, and in the end nothing is paid by the public. On the contrary, the result is a small income to the Exchequer. As to the policy which guides the distribution of these honours I hardly think this is the place to discuss it.

(8.42.) MR. T. M. HEALY

It seems to me the hon. Baronet has defended these honours on the most unhappy basis, namely, that the country makes a profit out of them. If that is to be the basis of the distribution of honours, I would suggest that we put down a Dukedom, say at £500,000, a Lordship at £100,000, and a Baronetcy at something like £1,000. The suggestion that the nobility of this country has to pay for these honours is somewhat unusual: we tax the home manufactured article in order to enable the foreigner to escape scot free, and, in my opinion, this is contrary to the principles of the Merchandise Marks Act. As to the funeral expenses of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Atkinson) has given a practical turn to the discussion. Why is his offer not accepted? He has offered to write out a cheque for £180, and his offer was made with that bonâ fide security which distinguishes his Protestantism. We may assume he is able to afford it, and we may also assume that the Treasury will be glad to get it. I think that when an offer of this kind has been made it would be unbecoming of us as representatives of the ratepayers to reject it. I suggest that the hon. Member should withdraw temporarily, and then appear at the Bar waving his cheque. We should be witnesses of the Secretary to the Treasury accepting cash down, and we should all go away with the knowledge that we have done a good night's work.

(8.45.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 27; Noes 49.—(Div. List, No. 248.)

Original Question again proposed,


Sir John Gorst, on a question of privilege, I desire to draw your attention to the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Mr. Brookfield) used the word "disgraceful" as applied to some observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr.Conybeare). I consider it altogether wrong for a Member of the House to make use of such an expression, especially when it is uttered in such a tone as not to reach the ear of the Chair while it reaches the ear of the Member for whom it is intended.


I understand that the words complained of by the hon. Member occurred before the Division. If so, it is too late to take notice of them now.


They were uttered during the Division, or when the Division was called. I said to the hon. Member, "Get up and say that if you think it"; and then I used the word "cowardly." And I do say now it is a cowardly thing to make an observation of that sort unless the gentleman gets up and says it openly in the House. The hon. Member for Rye came up to me after the Division had been called and said, "I hope you will see fit to withdraw what you said to me." I said, "I shall not do anything of the sort, because I do not think any hon. Member ought to withdraw, out of the House or privately, what he has said in the House." Upon this, the hon. Member for Rye said, "You are a man of the world, and you will understand the consequences of refusing." I am not aware what are the terrible consequences that the hon. Member threatens, but I think it is quite contrary to order and quite contrary to all rules and regulations in this House—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will agree with me—that any Member should induce another Member of this House to withdraw an observation he has made by threats made to him privately.


Order, order! It seems to me that the conduct of both the hon. Members is out of order. In the first place, neither hon. Member had at the time any right to address anyone unless he was covered; and, in the second place, he had no right to address anyone except the Chair. The word "disgraceful" is undoubtedly out of order under any circumstances, and it seems to me that the word "cowardly" is equally disorderly, and therefore I would suggest that either this matter should drop altogether, or that each of the hon. Members should withdraw and apologise.

*(8.54.) MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)

I am sure, Sir, no one wishes to prolong this incident, whatever it may be worth, but I may as well justify my own conduct in the matter. The hon. Member for Camborne did us the honour to come and sit on this side of the House from which he expressed certain views regarding the Royal Family, upon which I feel very strongly. He made use of the expression that £10 was enough to bury anyone, upon which I used the word disgraceful," and I am bound to say I consider the expression of such an opinion was disgraceful. Upon this, the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Labouchere) called out the word "coward." I thought I could not overlook the matter altogether, and I suggested to him that he should withdraw it. He has given, as he is so well able to do, a humorous turn to the affair by saying that I threatened him with vague consequences. I hope the hon. Member does not think I should make myself so ridiculous as to threaten to fight a duel with him in the present day. If I were driven to any course of that kind I should take much more summary measures. I express my great regret if I have done anything wrong, but that I will leave to the Committee to judge.


I understand the hon. Gentleman to admit that he did say that something unpleasant would happen. He now explains what that unpleasantness would be, namely, that he would make a personal assault upon me. But I entirely accept your view, Sir John Gorst. I, of course, should not have used the expression "cowardly" unless the hon. Member had said what I considered was improper to my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne. If the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the word "disgraceful," I shall be most happy to withdraw the expression I used also.


I have been most unfortunately dragged into this controversy. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the opinion I expressed, that a certain sum of money would be sufficient to bury any person, was in any sense a disgraceful or disorderly expression?


I have ruled that words used before the Division ought to have been taken notice of at the time. The controversy has been going on some time, and the incident is now closed.


May I make a personal explanation? I cannot but express a hope that the hon. Member opposite will not in future attack me as he has done.


Order, order! The hon. Member is not making a personal explanation. The hon. Member is in order in making any remarks necessary to explain his own conduct. He is not in order in commenting on the conduct of any other Member.


Well, Sir, I will not put it in that way. The hon. Member took umbrage at my sitting in a vacant place on the other side of the House on a former occasion, and, referring to me, he said to another hon. Member, "There is that damned fool."

(8.59.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I beg to move that the words lately spoken by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite be taken down.


It is too late to take that step. The words should have been taken down at the time.


The hon. Member for Rye has said that he would take a much more summary method, which I understand to mean personal chastisement of the hon. Member for Northampton, and I think these words should be taken down.


The words can only be taken down if exception is taken to them at the moment they are uttered.


The hon. Members for Northampton and Camborne were both entitled to speak, and I rose at the earliest moment I could to call attention to the matter. I submit that when a threat of personal chastisement is made the words ought to be taken down.


It has always been the rule that the words should be taken down at the time, if at all.

Question put, and agreed to.

41. Motion made, and Question put, That a sum, not exceeding £922, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891, as a Grant in Aid to make good certain amounts required to be written off from the assets of the Local Loans Fund.

(8.59.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 27.—(Div. List, No. 249.)

42. £160,000, for Pleuro-Pneumonia.

43. £1,000, for Jamaica Exhibition, 1891.

44. £1,153, for West Donegal Railway Deposit.

45. £200, for Grant to Munster School of the Society of Friends.

46. £40,000, for Labourers' Cottages, Ireland.