HC Deb 31 March 1890 vol 343 cc349-77

1. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £31,725, 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 Expenditure in respect of Royal Palaces and Marlborough House.

(8.7.) MR. A. O'CONNOR

This being the first Vote of the Civil Service Estimates, I desire to ask a question, which has reference not only to this particular Vote, but to a number of other Votes in different Classes. The Vote which has just been put from the Chair includes the Royal Palaces, which previously were dealt with in a separate Vote, and also Marlborough House, which was also treated separately. The Go- vernment propose in this case, as in a great many others, to take a lump sum for a number of different Services. It seems to me that a Department which obtains this complex Vote will be in the position of having a very much larger balance probably than it had before. It may have a balance on a single Vote equal to what would have been the balances on the two combined Votes in previous years. That will give them a very much freer hand than they ever had before, and will diminish pro tantothe Parliamentary check over the Estimates. I wish to know whether the Government propose to treat this lump sum as a single Vote belonging to the entire Service, or whether they will be compelled to surrender any unexpended balance on the several items? If, for instance, they have an unexpended balance on the Royal Palaces Account, will they be compelled to pay that into the Exchequer, or will they be at liberty to expend it on Marlborough House?

*(8.11.) MR. JACKSON

My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury said, on a previous occasion, that it was the intention of the Government to take the opinion of the Public Accounts Committee as to what steps should be taken as regards the balances—whether the items under each sub-head should be treated as separate Votes and the unexpended balance be repaid in to the Exchequer, or whether the balances should be available to be transferred from one sub-head to another. There are obvious advantages in there being the power of transfer, but the Government have no desire to act in any way contrary to the opinion of the House and of the Public Accounts Committee. The continued control of Parliament may be secured in one of two ways. One plan is that the Comptroller and Auditor General should report, in his Annual Report, any case in which one of the sub-heads has been exceeded. The rolling of the Votes into one was not suggested with any desire or view to obtain a larger power of transfer than at present is possessed, but there are advantages in putting two or three Votes of a like character together. As the Committee knows, the margin -necessary to avoid Supplementary Estimates is increased in degree and in extent according as the Votes are numerous, and no doubt a reasonable consolidation of Votes with the power of making a transfer of balance arising on one sub-head to defray a deficit arising in another sub-bead does tend, and will tend, to diminish the total amount of money which any Government would have to ask for. The Departments are very much opposed to having to come to Parliament for Supplementary Estimates, and I think that to put Votes together will tend in the direction of both economy and control. But the matter will shortly be considered by the Public Accounts Committee, and we shall be guided very much by the opinion they express as to the course to be taken. If it is deemed sufficient that the Comptroller and Auditor General should report every case of excess of expenditure on any subhead it will be possible, either by an alteration of the law or by some regulation or instruction, to guard against the balance under one sub-head being appropriated under another sub-head.

(8.15.) MR. A. O'CONNOR

The Committee will appreciate the care with which the hon. Gentleman addressed himself to the point which I have raised, but I confess that his answer does not appear to me to be at all satisfactory, and that for more than one reason. We are asked to vote a lump sum, and are not told specifically how that sum is to be appropriated. We are told also that the matter has been referred to the Public Accounts Committee. Is the Public Accounts Committee in such a condition that it can direct how the sums of money voted in Committee of this House are to be appropriated? That is a function never contemplated for the Public Accounts Committee, and how it is to derive power to give such directions I do not know. As a matter of fact, the Public Accounts Committee has, in a special Report to the House, refused to arrogate to itself any authority to direct, or even to advise, with regard to the mode in which the Votes are to be submitted to the House of Commons. It is concerned only in the appropriation of public money after the money has been spent. We are in this difficulty, that if the Public Accounts Committee adheres to the Report which it made about a fortnight or three weeks ago, the House will have referred a matter to an Authority which declines to answer, and we shall be in the position that we shall have voted away sums of money for aggregate Services without any assurance whatever that the balance saved on one Service will not be devoted to some branch of the Service that was possibly never mentioned in the Estimates at all-I had hoped we should have some specific assurance from the Secretary to the Treasury that Votes were consolidated, for convenience of procedure in Committee, but that for appropriation purposes each sub- total would be confined to the Services for which it was specifically obtained.


I am sorry I did not make it clear to the hon. Gentleman and the Committee, but it was my intention to give that assurance. I am prepared, if it is desired, to come under a pledge that the surplus under one of these subheads shall not be devoted to the purposes of another sub-head.

(8.22.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I do not, quite understand whether the hon. Gentleman does come under that pledge.


If the Public Accounts Committee adhere to their position.


If they adhere to the view that it is ultra vires, then the pledge that the hon. Gentleman has just given holds good? [Mr. JACKSON: If it is desired.] I do not precisely know how far the wish of hon. Members now present in the House will be considered to be the desire of the House. [Mr. JACKSON was understood to dissent.] Then we must go further. I was going to commence my holiday to-day, but the First Lord of the Treasury was good enough on Friday to give a sort of personal invitation to me to come hero to -day and aid him in the transaction of business. Considering the great courtesy of the First Lord of the Treasury, and how anxious I am to oblige him so far as I possibly can, I have come here to aid him in carrying on business, though, perhaps, not in the way he desires—I have come; here to look at the Votes in a deliberate, calm, impartial, and economical fashion. This Vote has always provoked a good deal of discussion. It divides itself into three different heads—into Palaces in the personal occupation of Her Majesty, Palaces partly in the occupation of Her Majesty, and Palaces not in the occupation of Her Majesty. In the case of Buckingham Palace, I find a large expenditure on the Royal Mews. That has always been objected to, because we never understand why this vast expenditure is to take place in these Royal Mews considering that Her Majesty is seldom in London. Then I do not understand why we should pay so much in respect of St. James's and other Palaces not in the occupation of Her Majesty. A large number of persons have apartments there; but the very least that can be expected of them is that they should keep up their apartments, and provide their own fuel and light. Again, when structural alterations are made in any of the Palaces I do not see why they should be made at our expense. I find that £2,754 against £1,984 last year is asked for Kensington Palace. I should think the best thing to do is to clear that Palace away. It is in a miserable condition at present, and it must cost a great deal to keep it in repair. There are two good ways of dealing with the palace: one would be to clear it away, and the other to let it for a large restaurant for instance—of course, I should advocate that it should be a temperance restaurant. By the adoption of the latter plan we should get a rent for the Palace, and it would be used with advantage to the public. It has been suggested that it should be converted into a picture gallery, but it is too much out of the way for such a purpose. If it were swept away, the grounds might, with advantage, be thrown into Kensington Gardens. Hampton Court Palace is a, People's Palace, and therefore I do not complain of the expenditure there, but we have got the Hampton Court Stud House. I should like some explanation about that. I have asked for many years what becomes of the foals. We expend money on stallions. I presume these animals have progeny, and that the foals are sold. We do not, however, get a farthing for any of the foals. Then we get the Kew Palace and buildings upon Kew Green. Now, I have never yet discovered what Kew Palace is. I have been often to Kew, and there I have seen a dead wall, over the top of which you may see part of a wretched looking house, which we understand to-be Kew Palace. Who on earth lives in Kew Palace?




Well, then, we have it on official authority that nobody lives there, and here we have this year £1,420 and last year £720 expended upon a place where nobody lives — a wretched, ramshackle place where, I believe, George III. lived while he was insane. At all events, it is a house of no use to any human being, and it is really ridiculous that it should continue to occupy land and prevent other persons from availing themselves of building leases there. Then we have a long list of houses and expenditure upon them for maintenance and repairs, and I believe every one of these houses has been lent to some lady or gentleman who occupies it. But if Her Majesty allows these houses to be occupied rent free, at least, I think, the occupants might be required to keep the houses in repair. The amount is not large, but the principle is one upon which I think we ought to register a protest. Here are buildings the use of which Her Majesty does not require, the maintenance of which costs £7,617. Now, in view of the fact that as I have said this is unnecessary expenditure against which we ought to register a protest, I beg to move a reduction of the Vote by £5,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £26,725 be granted for the said Service.—(Mr. Labouchere.)

*(9.8.) MR. MORTON

In connection with—

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and -40 Members being found present,


I have been sent here to secure economy in the public expenditure. I do not intend to say a word against Her Majesty or against the Royal Family. But my attention has been particularly drawn to the item in this Vote for Light, Fuel, and Water. Surely these things ought to be paid for out of the allowances we make to the Royal Family? Now, I understand that the allowance to Her Majesty includes the maintenance and repair of Buckingham Palace and the other Palaces used by Her Majesty; but I take it it also includes new works unless they are required for the benefit of the nation. I find in connection with Buckingham Palace there is an item of £270 for fuel, light, water, and household articles. Why should we pay that? Why is it not paid out of the Royal allowance. Again, there has been an expenditure of £500 on some sanitary works at Pimlico Mews. Is there any occasion for keeping up those mews, seeing that they are never used by Her Majesty? Certainly by-and-bye we may have a Monarch who may make use of them; but until then they might be let, and I would suggest that if they were let to Mr. Barnum on the occasion of his next visit to this country a considerable sum might be realised for the benefit of the Public Exchequer. Now I come to Windsor Castle. Under the item for wages, I find that a labourer is paid a guinea a week, and that a turncock, in addition to receiving £1 8s. a week, gets an annual allowance of £8 for acting as rat-catcher. Why is not this paid out of the general allowance? I had supposed that the new drainage system in London had got rid of all the rats. There is a further payment of £10 a year to a rat-catcher employed at the Albert Memorial Chapel. I am not complaining of these amounts, but I do think they should be paid by Her Majesty out of the allowance made her by the nation. Now, I want to know who occupies the White Lodge, Regent's Park? On the general question, I must say I do not think that all these Palaces are required. Surely it is not necessary to keep up both Buckingham Palace and St. James's Palace. Buckingham Palace might be handed over to the people, who could hold their meetings there instead of at Trafalgar Square. It is of no use to Her Majesty, and therefore in the interests of economy, we might very well get rid of it. Kensington Palace might also be got rid of, because it is of no use to Her Majesty. I do not object to Her Majesty having several Palaces if only they are used by her. The London County-Council are looking out for a building in which to meet, and, seeing the central position of this building, I think it might be a very desirable building in which they should meet for the transaction of their business. I want some information as to Hampton Court Strudhouse, Kew Palace, the Military Knights' House at Windsor Castle, Holyrood Palace, and Marlborough House. At Kew last year we spent £700 on an empty house, and this year we are asked to spend another £1,400. I hope that in the interests of economy that Vote will be withdrawn, and that old Palace got rid of altogether. Then, why are the Military Knights' houses at Windsor kept up out of the public money? This expenditure does not appear to me to be for the good of the nation. For Holyrood Palace there is a Vote of £1,366, of which £700 is for maintenance and repairs. Now I do not object to this Vote, but what is going to be done with the money? When I was last at Holyrood I found it in a wretched condition; it did not look as if anything at all had been spent on it. Indeed, it is generally complained in Scotland that the public buildings are sadly neglected by the British Parliament. I do not know why that is so; perhaps it is because Scotland is so far away. No doubt when the Scottish people get Home Rule. they will take better care of these old Palaces. I hold that Holyrood should be kept up; and I hope to hear how this money will be spent. In regard to Marlborough House, I am told there is a bargain with the Prince of Wales similar to the one made with the Queen. I, therefore, do not think the nation ought to pay for new works there, such as alterations to the steward's room. The Prince of Wales should pay for these things out of his allowance. Again, the people who occupy these Palaces should pay for their own coals and light and water. So long as the present system is allowed to exist you will never get real economy. If the Royal Family have not a sufficient grant allowed them at present to do so, then on another occasion sufficient money should be granted to them in order to meet all these items of expense, instead of the Government coming to Parliament and asking the taxpayers to pay the bills. It is in the interests of economy that an arrangement such as this should be put in force. Finally, let me point out that when these Votes are laid before the Committee, we are allowed to criticise them, but we are never allowed to reduce them. They are forced through the House of Commons without regard to our criticism. Unfortunately, the Government make the passing them a question of confidence, and consequently the supporters of the Government are obliged to vote them, whether they like it or not. I think the Liberals are as bad in this respect as the Conservatives when they are in power. The Committee ought to be able to reduce these Estimates regardless of Party allegiance, and an adverse vote ought not to affect the Government. Until you can discuss the Votes under these conditions, you will never get economy practised in any Department. I see there is an item for Insurance, Tithe Rent-Charges, &c. Now, we have been told that tithe is a religious payment; then surely the Royal Family might set the people a good example by paying their own tithes. I do not think the Palaces ought to be occupied by Royal favourites; but if they are, then these tenants should be made to keep the premises in repair at their own expense in the same way that other tenants for life are bound to hand over houses to their successors in good repair. Clergymen who occupy vicarages are bound to do this; then why should not friends of the Royal Family, who are allowed to occupy these Palaces, be compelled to do a similar thing? It is our duty to endeavour to induce this Parliament to secure greater economy in these Votes; and I warn the Government that if they do not, we may presently get a new Parliament which will make greater changes than they may dream of. Personally, I should prefer these changes to be made gradually, and, therefore, I ask this Committee to make a beginning. It is easy to spend other people's money; but when a man has to spend his own, he generally endeavours to do it in the most economical manner. It seems to me that the expenditure of this country is increasing from year to year, and we ought, wherever we can, to practise economy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us that in future the works coming under these Estimates will be put out to tender, as it is a well-known fact that where the present system is carried out, the tradesmen arrange among themselves who shall get the contract—that, in point of fact, there is what is known as a "knock out" amongst them, the only possible check upon which would be the issue of ad- vertisements inviting tenders from every one desirous of doing the work. This is the method pursued by nearly all other authorities, and has been found to work well in practice. I must apologise for having kept the House so long. I have done so solely in the interests of economy, having been specially pledged on that subject to my constituents.

(9.33.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I am altogether opposed to any increased expenditure on this Vote, as I think the incomes possessed by those who occupy the Royal Palaces ought to suffice for the outlay required upon them. The increase does not arise on Palaces in the occupation of Her Majesty, but on the other two classes, namely, Palaces partially in Her Majesty's occupation and Palaces not in the occupation of Her Majesty. On some of the Palaces in Her Majesty's occupation there are large reductions. For instance, the amount required for Windsor Castle is reduced from £6,800 to £6,325; but when we come to other Palaces, we find the result to be the other way. Surely we ought to have some explanation of the increased expenditure now asked for, especially in regard to such charges as are made for the supply of fuel and water to those who occupy these Palaces.

(9.36.) MR. H. COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)

Many of the items that appear under the head of this Vote are so in. significant and trivial that they may almost be characterised as petty. I think that the only ground on which we can be asked to defray these charges is where they contribute to the benefit of the general public; but it can hardly be for the advantage of the public to maintain a number of Palaces which they are unable to use. I call on the Government to see that something is done that will enable a proper use to be made of these Palaces. Whether the Motion of my hon. Friend is the right one I am hardly prepared to say. I do not think some of these items are calculated to deepen respect for existing institutions, for I observe that they include money for ratcatchers, bellringers, fuel, and so forth. I think it is the plain duty of the Government to get rid of this expenditure and to economise.

(9.40.) DR. TANNER

I will not follow my hon. Friend into details, although most of his remarks are sensible ones. In view of the progress of the age, I think a good many of these medieval remnants might be done away with, and common-sense opinions made to prevail. Really, as one who has had the disadvantage of listening to these recurring debates year after year, I think something might be done to adopt proper phraseology in describing the duties of certain people. But I rise for the purpose of eliciting information with respect to a series of items which have cropped up again this year in connection with the Royal Palaces. I observe an item relating to sanitary work. Tear after year I have been trying to get other medical men in this House to give proper attention to this subject with the view of effecting some useful economy. Each year we have this item of sanitary works. The Royal Mews, Pimlico, sanitary works, £500; White Lodge, Richmond Park, £250; St. James's Palace, not in the occupation of Her Majesty, £500; Kensington Palace, £755; Kew Palace and buildings on Kew Green, £475. For "works and alterations of a minor character"—it does not say whether these are sanitary or not—there is a sum £500. I should not SO much object to this expenditure if it were brought on one year, but we have it coming up year after year, and I think it is throwing away money not by the hundreds, but by the thousands, and we have this wasteful extravagance when, week after week and month after month, there are poor starving wretches coming into this City. The hon. Member for Peterborough was right in insisting that there should he satisfactory tenders for this work; and we know that if, under a system of tenders for the work, you had this constantly recurring expenditure, you would have someone whom you could hold responsible. I really press the right hon. Gentleman whether this is not a matter to which some remedy could be applied? I admit that these old Palaces require to have adapted to them from time to time recent sanitary improvements, but I certainly think that should not involve the necessity of a large annual charge. A good deal of money has been spent on Pimlico Mews, a place for the housing not of men, but of horses. Farther, some of these Palaces are not occupied by Her Majesty, but by a number of pensioners. And this I would say, that when you are incurring this expenditure, you certainly ought to enter into some good and satisfactory contract. I certainly should not think I was doing my duty if I did not rise to obtain some explanation of this expenditure. Why have these alterations been made? Because of disease or infection, or merely in consequence of speculative opinions offered by advisers? I should like to know what reasons the right hon. Gentleman has to advance in connection with these matters.

(9.55.) MR. DILLWYN (Swansea)

There is one point I should like some special information upon. What is the use of Kew Palace? Is it used by pensioners, servants, or caretakers? I think we ought to have a specific answer upon that point before we are called upon to spend more money on an old, useless, and rotten Palace.

*(9.56.) MR. PLUNKET

I hope the hon. Member for Fermanagh will not think me unreasonable if I now interpose between him and the House in order to reply to the questions which have been addressed to me. An hour has already been spent in discussing this particular item, and the Committee do not appear to be getting much "forrarder." Underlying the whole of the questions which have been put to me is the assumption that the Palaces we maintain ought to be only personally in the occupation of Her Majesty. Now, when this question came up last year I explained the whole case. The fact of the matter is that all these Royal Palaces and houses for which we ask a vote to be taken in this House were formerly provided for out of the Civil List. What happened? The view taken at the commencement of the reign of William IV. was this: that it would be better, in future, that these Palaces should not be provided for out of the Civil List, but should be borne by the Votes of Parliament. And the way that came about was because a very strong and influential Committee which sat to consider this very question of the Civil List at the beginning of the reign of William IV. recommended that a great number of other expenses which had fallen under the Civil List should be transferred to, and undertaken by, the Votes of Parliament. That recommendation was made in 1831. And, accordingly, these Royal Palaces were placed under the Surveyor-General in 1831 in consideration of the reduction of the Civil List from £1,200,000 to £500,000, or more than one-half. That method of dealing with these charges was re-considered at the commencement of the present reign; and the Committee on the Civil Lists then, as always appointed on the accession of a new Monarch, reported strongly in favour of continuing the arrangement of 1831. They said that the change had worked extremely well and economically. The Report of the Committee of 1831 contains a schedule setting out the charges which had been formerly borne by the Civil List, and which were to be transferred to Parliament under the arrangement I have described; and amongst the charges there set out are the expenses of the Office of Works in regard to all these Palaces. Parliament, in fact, undertook to provide for the maintenance and repair of all these palaces.


Does that apply to fires, fuel, and lighting?


Yes, Sir, all that. Everything for the up-keep of the Palaces. I hope, under the circumstances, hon. Members will not expect me to go through all the cast's to which allusion has been made. There are two cast's, however, which I must deal with, as a certain amount of misapprehension seems to prevail with regard to them. One was mentioned by the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and with regard to that I am specially anxious that this misapprehension should not prevail. The hon. Member referred to the Palace at Kew. It is the duty of the Office of Works under the arrangement I have mentioned to keep up not only that Palace, but also Cambridge Cottage, which is in the occupation of the Duke of Cambridge, and Church House.


"Church" House?


Yes; that is merely the name of the place. It is not attached to a Church. The item for sanitary improvements, to which attention has been called, is connected with these buildings, and not the empty Palace. The Local Authorities of Kew have initiated a new system of drainage there, and, as a result, it has been found necessary to undertake these works. As to the alterations at St. James's Palace, they have become necessary owing to the decease of the Duchess of Cambridge, who was the last occupant of the Palace, and the necessity for putting the building into a condition to receive a new occupant. That new occupant will be Prince Albert Victor. I wish it to be understood, however, that the expense which has been incurred in preparing the Palace for Prince Albert Victor is no more than would have been necessary if the new occupant had been anyone else. There must be considerable additional outlay on alterations owing to the circumstances that the son of the Prince of Wales is about to occupy the Palace: but all this additional outlay will be borne by the Prince of Wales. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) has complained of a matter to which one or two other Members have adverted, namely, the item for fuel. They say, "Why do you not make these personages pay for their own fuel?" and one hon. Member even went so far as to say that Her Majesty should be required to pay for fuel out of the Privy Purse. Well, as a matter of fact, Her Majesty and the other personages in question do pay for the fuel they use out of their private means. The items charged in the estimate for fuel are simply in relation to coal used for heating apparatus, and similar purposes, in the public parts of the Palaces. Then the hon. Member for Mid Cork asked me about sanitary repairs in connection with the Royal Mews.


I did not refer to the Royal Mews at Pimlicoalone. I referred to a long list of places where sanitary repairs had been made.


I understood that. I would point out that the Royal Mews is on the schedule I have referred to. There is permanent accommodation there for 230 persons, besides a large number of horses; and the works carried on there have been such as have been rendered necessary by sanitary considerations. The outlay was not one which it was possible to reduce. Every one of the sanitary works—which are now going on, and which I hope will soon be completed—have been undertaken with great reluctance by myself, and still more reluctantly acceded to by my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury. We only undertook them because they were absolutely necessary. I hope the Committee will think that I have given sufficient answer to the questions addressed to me.


I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that when we entered into the arrangement at the commencement of the reign of Her Majesty no sort of arrangement was made to maintain these Palaces. What we did was to relieve Her Majesty altogether of the obligation of maintaining them: and, if that had not been the case, why should it be necessary to submit the Vote to Parliament and to ask hon. Members from year to year to sanction these items? It is absurd to suppose that we are under an obligation to the Sovereign to maintain houses which are absolutely unnecessary. As to the £1,700 charged for Church House and Cambridge Cottage, the right hon. Gentleman says the outlay was necessary, as new drainage works were being carried out by the Local Authorities; but I have had quite recent experience of connecting houses with drainage systems and am in a position to say that the expense in the case of a single house should not exceed £10 or £20. But we have heard of these drainage charges before from the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors. I know my old friend the drains. The Government are always getting houses connected with them at enormous expense. As to the charge of £152 for heating this deserted Palace at Kew, this amount represents 140 tons of coal, which would never have been used in one house. As a matter of fact, this money is absorbed by a number of sponging drones. They get something, in all probability, out of these sanitary works also; and I protest altogether against such payments and against keeping up these unnecessary establishments.

(10.20.) Mr. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)

The right hon. Gentleman asks the Committee to believe that the Crown would not recommend this expenditure if it were not absolutely necessary, and he also spoke of the reluctance of the Treasury to authorise such expenditure. I am sure there is no Member here who would for a moment insinuate that the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works or the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury have authorised the expenditure of this large sum, knowing that it was unnecessary. What we complain of is that Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench are themselves duped and hoodwinked by others. I do not suppose they have gone over all these Palaces to see what was necessary to be done. We all know that there are no people more likely to bring about a job than builders and contractors; and when we find that year after year large sums of money are asked for putting various buildings into a sanitary condition, and that notwithstanding such expenditure they never seem to be in a sanitary condition, I think we have legitimate cause for complaint. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) gave us an interesting account of how the maintenance of these Palaces came to be thrown on the country. No doubt all he said was true, but it did not at all go to prove that it is either necessary or advantageous that thousands of pounds should be spent every year in maintaining Palaces in which nobody lives. I believe the Queen does sometimes go to Buckingham Palace; but she never goes to Hampton Court, or Kew, or St. James's Palace, and there are a variety of other buildings of the kind to which the members of the Royal Family never go. I say it is in the interest of the Royal Family that expenditure of this kind should not be allowed. There is, undoubtedly, a strong feeling throughout the country that it is monstrous for Parliament to be called on year after year to spend £36,000 in maintaining buildings which absolutely serve no purpose at all. Only the other day an appeal was made to the generosity of the country to provide money for the equipment of the Volunteers. I am not very much in favour of warlike preparations of any kind myself, but I say that if you are to have Volunteers they ought to be effectively equipped. Why cannot the large sums of money which are wasted on the maintenance of uninhabited Palaces be spent on the equipment of the Volunteer Force, and in helping to provide batter houses for the unfortunate poor people of this City? When one walks through the streets of this town, even under the very shadow of the walls of this House, and finds them filled with unfortunate wretches who are half starved and at the last stage of misery, it does seem a monstrous thing that money should be squandered in this way. Nobody on these Benches objects to spending what is necessary and proper in maintaining Palaces for the Queen, but we do object to spending money on houses which are never used at all. We believe that the Government Officials are humbugged by contractors. Are there no means by which a satisfactory conclusion could be arrived at as to whether this expenditure is necessary or not? I am certain that if an investigation could be made, it would be found that a great part of the expenditure is unnecessary.


I am sorry to detain the Committee; but I do not thoroughly understand this Vote, and the right hon. Gentleman has left several of my questions unanswered. One of them related to the Estimate of £1,165 for furniture. another to repairs at Holyrood Palace, and another to public tendering. I am glad to hear that these buildings belong to the nation, because, when we get a more democratic Parliament, we shall know what to do with them, and that with very little trouble. The right hon. Gentleman has said that one of the houses at Kew is occupied by the Duke of Cambridge. I object to public money being provided to keep up a cottage for the Duke of Cambridge. His Royal Highness reccives a large allowance from this House, and a large salary, and he is the last person in the United Kingdom who ought to call on the House of Commons for money, for a house. furniture. fuel, or anything of the sort.

(10.32.) MR. PICTON

I really must press for an answer to some questions I asked the right hon. Gentleman. Surely it is of some consequence to the Com- mittee to know why the expenditure on the Palaces in the present occupation of Her Majesty has not increased, whilst that upon Palaces not in the occupation of Her Majesty has increased. Again, I want to know why it is that the cost of keeping up Kew Palace is precisely double—£1,420 instead of £710? I admit it is very humiliating to have to discuss these matters in a Committee of the whole House, but the right hon. Gentleman ought to remember that the annoyance arises from an increasing discord between the feeling of the ago and the customs manifested in these Estimates. The feeling is more for spending money in public needs and not on old-fashioned institutions which do no good to anyone. Public feeling has not shown any tendency to object to reasonable expenditure for the comfort, and state, and splendour of the Court. What public feeling does object to is spending money on old buildings that are of no good to anyone in the world. I really think if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite knew the true interests of the institution which they always boast of defending, they would offer some proper explanation of this expenditure.

*(10.37.) MR. PLUNKET

I really think we ought to have some regard to the proportion of things and for the time of the House. Hon. Members opposite have occupied an hour and a half of public time in discussing such questions as whether it is necessary to have ratcatchers and turncocks at the Royal Palaces. I am anxious to afford every information of an important character that is asked for, but it is too much to occupy the time of the Committee for so long upon subjects of trifling importance. The expenditure on Palaces has nothing whatever to do with whether or not the Palaces are in the occupation of Her Majesty. The hon. Member for Peterborough asks for information as to the expenditure on furniture. £700 has been expended for furniture for St. James's Palace, which is used for public purposes, and £300 in improving the entrance to the Picture Gallery at Hampton Court, in. order to make it more commodious, and, therefore. more adapted for the enjoyment of the people who visited the gallery. Thus £1,000 is at once accounted for.

*(10.40.) MR. CREMER

I hope the hon. Member for Northampton will press his Motion to a Division, not because we wish to waste the time of the House in discussing questions of ratcatchers or the other trifling matters to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, but because we are anxious to register our votes, in the name of the people who have to pay, against the expenditure of £36,000 for the maintenance of seven residences for the very few people who inhabit them. It wa3 my painful duty early one summer's morning not many years ago to walk through St. James's Park, and I counted on and around seats within 300 yards of Buckingham Palace 27 poor creatures huddled together trying to keep themselves warm in the morning air. Each of them looked as if they were on the verge of starvation. A policeman came along and roused them from their miserable slumbers. A more wretched spectacle I never saw! As I stood and looked at these poor creatures and then at that enormous building—Buckingham Palace—in which no one save the hangers on had resided for five months at the time I witnessed that spectacle, I asked myself, and the people who have to pay this money ask themselves, whether this is a specimen of the civilisation of which we boast in the 19th century. It is not necessary, however dignified and exalted the occupant of the Throne may be, that he or she should have seven residences. It is to protest against this waste of public money and against the glaring anomaly to which I have just made allusion that I shall follow the hon. Member for Northampton into the Lobby. There is just one question I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, and which he has, I am sure, not purposely evaded. It was the question I addressed to him earlier in the sitting. It is why the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides with so much dignity, and I believe in the main usefulness, does not think it worth his while to issue public tenders for furniture? It is well to say that any respectable firm can, by making application, get its name put on the list; but I have not yet been able to learn that firms, who may get put on the list, ever know when furniture is required in any Government office. If they do not know that, how is it possible they can tender? If there was a disposition to do so, it is very easy for the Department to issue through the public Press tenders indicating that a certain quantity of furniture is required by a given date, and that the Government are open to receive tenders. Then there is an item of £4,325 for repairs. Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say whether those repairs and alterations are done by contract—whether tenders are invited for the work, or whether the work is confined to a few firms who arc thus able to arrange matters amongst themselves? It is quite an understood thing that privileged firms do occasionally enter into arrangements, and that, in consequence, the public-suffer. A system of open tender would put an end to this sort of thing.

(10.45.) DR. TANNER

I merely rise to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention to the one point which I raised earlier in the evening, and that is as to the sanitary works at the Royal Mews, Kensington Palace. Were the works undertaken under medical advice? Then in the matter of insurance. Some of the Palaces are insured and others are not. What is the reason of this?

(10.47.) MR. NORRIS (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)

I cannot but think that this subject has been entirely exhausted. I have endeavoured to do right by sitting out the discussion, and I think that every phase of the Vote has been fully discussed. I hope the hon. Member for Northampton, with whom many of us agree in many points, will not put the Committee to the trouble of a Division.

*(10.49.) MR. PLUNKET

The sanitary works were, in many instances, rendered necessary by medical reports. The drains were in the worst possible condition, and money was absolutely required to be spent. As to insurance, my impression is that the persons occupying the houses pay the insurance, but I will make further inquiries on the point.


I have put two questions of considerable importance to the right hon. Gentleman.


I have answered them twice already. As regards furni- ture, I have said we are willing to put any respectable firm on the list who choose to apply; and as to tenders we do invite tenders where the work to be done is sufficiently great as to make it wise to do so. Many of the works are extremely small, and they are executed by contractors we specially employ.

(10.55.) The House divided:—Ayes 61; Noes 159.—(Div. List, No. 40.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

2. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £78,775, 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 the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens.

*(11.5.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I rise to move the reduction of this Vote by £701 in respect to the maintenance of Hampton Court Park. This Motion is a hardy annual, but I hope that this is the last year in which it will be necessary to bring it forward. The argument in favour of the proposition which I am about to submit to the Committee is so strong that if it were not for one's experience upon other matters, it would be surprising that it should have been necessary to reiterate it so frequently to the Committee. Hampton Court Park comprises an area equal to that of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park combined; it is in the midst of rural scenery; it is public property, and yet from this public property the public are absolutely excluded, the enjoyment of it being reserved for deer and horses, and some 90 favoured families in the neighbourhood who pay a guinea a year for the privilege of possessing a key. This matter was very strongly pressed upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman last year in Committee, and he then said that he had not had that amount of public pressure brought to bear upon him to enable him to overrule the natural reluctance of the Treasury to add to the expenses of the Park. Now, if he would only specify the precise character and degree of the pressure to which he would succumb, I should be glad to take my share in the application of the necessary stimulant. But seriously I do think that since he spoke in March last, he has had brought before him, in a manner it is impossible to dispute, strong evidence of the existence of a large body of public opinion in favour of throwing open the Park to the public. I have had sent to me a copy of a local newspaper suggesting that this matter should be brought forward and strongly urged again this year, and from the tone of the leaders I gather that this newspaper is of a distinctly Conservative complexion. In this paper I find an account of a deputation which in August last waited upon the right hon. Gentleman and urged him to consent to the opening of the Park to the public, and this deputation certainly carried with it a considerable amount of public weight. It included the Mayor of Kingston and representatives of other Local Bodies in the neighbourhood, and they suggested that the public should merely have permission to cross the Park along the footpaths which already exist; and that, in fact, the privilege which is now monopolised by a few favoured residents should be shared by the public at large. The right hon. Gentlemen has always strongly insisted upon the expense that would be involved; but I see that the responsible members of this deputation assured him. that, so far as one item of expense was concerned, he need be under no anxiety, as they would guarantee on the part of the locality the expense of four self acting gates giving access to the Park. The right hon. Gentleman has had, then, some of the pressure he last year said was wanting, so one ground of objection is removed. The other day he was asked a question as to some changes made in the administration? of the Park, and I understand he told us that the deer hitherto maintained there were about to be replaced by horses or foals—and, as an hon. Member suggests, cattle—and we were also told that grazing would be let to the Master of the Horse at a net gain to the Exchequer of £600 a year. Now, whether it is £100 or £600, I think the suggestion of a net gain to the Exchequer as the result of the operation is rather calculated to raise a smile, because surely the nominal transfer of the amount from one public official to another—from the Master of the Horse to the First Commissioner of Works—can hardly be regarded as a real source of public revenue. This consideration, I think, may be omitted. As I understand, the demand put forward by the people resident in the locality, all they desire is to be permitted to cross the Park, and therefore if their right, as I shall put it, can ho conceded, and at the same time the grazing can be let to the Master of the Horse, well and good but if it becomes a question whether the enjoyment of the Park by the public, or by the horses and cattle, is to be first considered, I, for one, maintain that the interest of the public ought to have the first place. This is a public Park; it is public property; and it is surely little short of scandalous that it should practically be only available to some 90 favoured families. It is a. matter which year after year has been pressed upon the First Commissioners and it is clearly a concession, if you choose to call it a concession, which must eventually come. I cannot but think the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to make the concession at once with a good grace. For these reasons, which are not new, which I regret to say it has been necessary to urge year after year, I beg to emphasise my protest by moving the reduction of the Vote by £701.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a reduced sum of £78,074 be granted."

*(11.15.) MR. PLUNKET

The grounds upon which the hon. Member brings forward his Motion this year are somewhat different from those on which it was formerly brought forward. Hitherto it has been considered as a grievance which ought to be redressed that, whereas the public paid for the maintenance of Hampton Court Homo Park, they were not admitted to the enjoyment of it. Well, I need not traverse that argument, because, as I will explain, that state of affairs no longer exists. But I think there is, generally, some misapprehension as to the real state of the case. It is generally supposed that this has been, at some time or other, a Park open to the general public; but, that the public have been excluded from a right they formerly enjoyed. That is a misapprehension altogether. The Park has never at any time been thrown open to the public; it has always been reserved for the stud of half-bred horses belonging to Her Majesty; and there is a stud lions there which we are obliged to maintain, which we cannot legally dispose of or destroy. The question presents itself, whether the character of the Park is or is not to be changed: whether, apart from any grievance, it is a Park that should be thrown open to the public. It must, I think, be admitted that in this particular place the exclusion of the public from the Park is not, at the worst, such a serious deprivation, as it might be in another place, for the public have at hand the grounds and gardens of Hampton Court Palace and Bushey Park on the other side of the road. The hon. Member has said that a few favoured individuals are admitted to the enjoyment of the Park; but I believe the only persons are those resident in Hampton Court Palace, and a few others, who pay a guinea a year for a key of admission. Then the hon. Gentleman has referred to my observation on a former occasion, when I said that no great pressure had been put upon the Government to induce them to make the change, and he has mentioned a deputation which did me the honour of waiting upon me last autumn. Well, the deputation was one from the immediate neighbourhood of Hampton Court Palace, from Kingston and adjoining places, and they certainly stated, with great propriety from their point of view, a strong desire that the Park should be thrown open. But then it must be remembered that, if thrown open at all, it must be in obedience to the demand of the public generally: because if it is no longer used for the purposes to which it is at present devoted, it must be maintained entirely at the public expense. It is quite true that up to the present time the public have been saddled with such maintenance: but by the arrangement I have mentioned, by the abolition of the herd of deer which were the source of some expense to the nation, this item will disappear from the Estimates, an item of £150 a year, and ether small sums, making, I think, about £200. Not only that, but in consideration of the fact that there will no longer be deer there, there will be an increased rental for grazing of horses of about £500 or £600, so that we shall now actually have a small profit on the Park. It must further be said that the expenses the deputation said they were willing to undertake if the Park were thrown open is bat a small part of the expenses that would be incurred. It would be necessary if the public were permitted full enjoyment of the Park that additional expense should be undertaken for footpaths and perhaps roads and for management and police. Under all the circumstances, the Government have come to the conclusion that it would be better to keep the Park in its present condition, but that the public should no longer be called upon to provide for the maintenance, and that the item should disappear from the Estimates.

(11.22.) DR. TANNER

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that a question was put to him in reference to the grazing. I should like to ask what amount will be realised from the lettings, and will they include grazing, for cattle as well as horses? I should also like to know how the income will be expended; whether it will go to the relief of those who have hitherto borne the cost of maintenance?

*(11.24.) MR. PLUNKET

The grazing will be mainly for the purpose of the stud establishment. I am not aware how far the Master of the Horse may think it desirable to include the grazing of cattle. As to the money derived from the letting that goes into the Exchequer as a set-off against expenses in a general way.

(11.25.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 142.—(Div. List, No. 41.)

Original Question again proposed.

(11.35.) MR. PICTON

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman about certain enclosures in Regent's Park which have been made during the past year. I do not say that they are not justifiable, because, probably, they have been made in order to allow the grass which has been destroyed by excessive traffic to grow again; but I want to know if, when the land is again covered with grass, the enclosures will be thrown open for the perambulation of the public? Otherwise, the enjoyable area of the Park will be considerably reduced.

(11.36.) MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)

What are the present arrangements with regard to games being played in the Royal Parks—games such as lawn tennis, and cricket, and football? Cannot more facilities be given for the people to indulge in these games in the Parks? Surely a portion of Hyde Park might be set aside for that purpose. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give the Committee some information on the subject.

*(11.38.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

A portion of the land at Kew Gardens has been railed off, and the public thereby excluded from it. I should like to know why, and I should also like to know what is the cost to the British taxpayer of keeping in repair the building which stands within the enclosure, and which is said to have formerly been a Royal residence?


How many houses are there at the disposal of the Crown in Kew Gardens? Does the present Director live in one?




The other day I asked a question as to the widening of Knightsbridge Road, for which purpose a portion of the Park is to be used. No doubt it will be a considerable advantage to the public. But some years ago, when Mr. Ayrton brought in a Bill with a similar object, it was thrown out by the House. Now, while I do not object to the improvement being carried out, I do think it is doubtful whether the land should be taken without first passing a Bill through the House for the purpose; because if you can give a small portion of the Park away without the assent of Parliament you can equally well give away a large part of it. Would it not be better for the right hon. Gentleman to bring in a Bill order to carry out this useful scheme?

*(11.42.) MR. PLUNKET

I hope hon. Members will excuse me if I only make a brief reply. With regard to what has been called an enclosure in Regent's Park, it consists merely of palings which anyone can step across; the fact of the matter being that the grass has been completely worn away. If hereafter it can be done I shall be glad to have the palings removed; but I can- not give an undertaking until I see how the grass turns out. With regard to the question of games in St. James's Park and the Green Park, it is obviously impossible to entertain the idea. In Regent's Park a considerable amount of ground is devoted to this purpose, and I am afraid that the Government cannot go beyond what has been done there. The question with regard to Hyde Park has been considered again and again; but, with the best wishes to provide the public with ground for games, the conclusion I have come to is that, considering the immense amount of traffic, the public meetings, and the reviews of troops, we cannot provide space for cricket or football. I regret that I cannot give an answer with regard to the enclosed space in Kew Gardens; but if the hon. Member will put down a question I will endeavour to get the necessary information. With regard to the question referred to by the hon. Member for Northampton, it is true that Mr. Ayrton brought in a Bill when he made what was in some respects a somewhat similar proposal, but in other respects the cases were entirely different. In the former case the proposal was to take a considerable amount of ground, and a very considerable advantage would have resulted to privats individuals; in the latter case only a very small amount of the Park was required for what would, I think, be a public improvement. Under these circumstances, I was prepared to entertain the proposals of the Vestry—they seem, however, to have dropped the matter, I believe, because the London County Council refused to join them in the expense of making the desired changes.

*(11.47.) MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)

I am quite a novice in Supply, and therefore I will venture to ask a few questions with regard to the Vote under consideration, but I will not detain the House long. Now, I notice there is a item of £1,140 for the department of the Ranger at Richmond Park, and of this there are no less than £669 charged for the salaries of the Ranger himself, a Deputy Ranger, of a superintendent under the Ranger, and of an assistant superintendent under the Ranger, as well as for a bailiff of the Royal Parks. I move to reduce the Vote by £669, and I want to know what are the duties of these officials What does the Ranger do? I have never seen any ranging going on, although I lived near one of the Parks at one time.

*(11.53.) MR. PLUNKET

The bailiff has the management of all the Royal Parks. The Ranger and his assistants have also considerable responsibilities. Amongst others, they have the charge of the herds of deer, and of the gate lodges and lodge-keepers.

*(11.54.) MR. MORTON

Who is the Head Ranger? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us that?


The Duke of Cambridge.

*(11.55.) MR. MORTON

I want a little more information as to the expenditure on these Parks, and I hope that the Government will not object to give it. There is a sum of £142 for incidental expenses. What is that for? I find, further, that the expenses for St. James's, Green Park, and Hyde Park are lumped together, and that the items are not set out separately and in sufficient detail to enable hon. Members to check or compare them. Further than that, I find there is an allowance to the Superintendent under the Ranger of £96 in lieu of fees. I object to the fee system altogether. I think we are entitled to further details-of this item. Another official gets £20 in lieu of fees. What is the meaning of that? I should like to point out that the Head Ranger, the Deputy Ranger, and the Superintendent under the Rangerare military officers.

(11.58.) DR. TANNER

My hon. Friends around me have good cause to complain that the new arrangement of the Estimates by the Government has increased the difficulty of dealing with these questions, and I think we have just cause of complaint on this head. I know hon. Gentlemen opposite do not complain because they are not allowed to speak on the Estimates. Now, I want to know something about the chairs which are stacked in a great heap near Kensington Park. What is done with the money realised by letting out these chairs? Is it applied to keeping them in repair? As to games being played in the parks, I noticed when I was at Darlington the other day that, in the small park there, boys were playing at football. Surely, then, a portion of such a huge park as Hyde Park should be devoted to such a purpose.

Question put, and agreed to.

It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolutions to be reported to-morrow, at Two of the clock.

Committee to sit again to-morrow, at Two of the clock.