§ On the Motion "that Mr. SPEAKER do now leave the Chair,"
*MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough) rose to call attention to the payment of His Royal Highness the Duke of Coburg of an Annuity, and to move:
That the Act of 36 and 37 Vict., c. 80, granting an annuity of £10,000 to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh having provided that, in the event of his said Royal Highness succeeding to any sovereignty or principality abroad, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, or her successors, with the, consent of Parliament, to revoke or reduce the said annuity by warrant under the Sign Manual, and His Royal Highness having succeeded to the sovereignty of a foreign country, in the opinion of this House it is desirable that the said annuity cense.
He said that he regretted that it was necessary to bring this matter forward a second time, but he was satisfied that the Radical Party would insist on its being placed before the House year after year until the annuity was terminated. He made no attack on the Sovereign or the Royal Family, or on Royal grants generally; his objection now was to a grant
to a foreign Prince; and he believed that the very worst, enemies of the Royal Family were those who persisted in making such extraordinary demands as this upon the taxpayers of this country. In 1866 an Act was passed which gave an annuity of £15,000 per annum to the Duke of Edinburgh on his coming of age, and in 1873 another Act was passed which gave His Royal Highness an additional £10,000 on his marriage. In each Act there was a clause stating that in the event of his succeeding to a sovereignty or principality abroad, the Queen, by Royal warrant under the Sign Manual, and with the consent of Parliament, had power to alter or do away with these grants. Therefore, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian stated, and as the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition admitted last year. Parliament was left perfectly free in the matter. It was asserted by some that there was an agreement to pay these amounts, but, as far as he knew, the only agreement was that embodied in a clause of the Act of 1873, which provided that in the event of the Duke's death an annuity of £6,000 would be paid to the Duchess. He respected that agreement, and did not seek to alter it. But he hoped no one would say that there was any other agreement that interfered with the freedom of Parliament in this matter. An agreement might have been made outside Parliament, but up to the present moment Parliament had not been consulted. He was surprised that the Germans, especially in the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg, had allowed this annuity to continue. We would not like any foreign Power to grant an annuity to our Sovereign. We would resent it very strongly, because, we had never objected to support the Royal Family in this country in a decent, respectable manner. There was a precedent for doing away with payments made to the Royal Family. Some years ago, the late Lord Randolph Churchill did away with the payment of a special boat for the Royal Family each time any of its members crossed the Channel. He thought, it would be wise and proper if a similar course were, taken in reference to the charge now in question. It is said a Bill will be necessary, but no Bill was necessary when the annuity of £15,000
which the Duke formerly received was withdrawn. What were the reasons why the annuity should be discontinued? In the first place, they had no moral right to give away the moneys of the, people of this country for this purpose. What had the Duke of Coburg. done for this country? He had been paid very well, and many complaints were made with regard to his services. The Leader of the Opposition had told the House that the Duke ranked among the first naval officers that the country ever possessed. But he had not been able to verify that statement, and he was not aware that it was the view of the Government. The country could not afford to spend its money in this way. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had solemnly warned the House that there was a necessity for economy in dealing with the finances of the country; and so long as there were demands in this country for the relief of the distressed agriculturist and the unemployed workman, and so long as money could not be obtained for the construction of light railways and piers and harbours in this country, he held that there was ample reason for asserting that we could not afford to pay any of the nation's money to foreign princes. There were demands for all sorts of improvements in this country for the benefit of the people, but they were always met by the Treasury with the same answer—that they had no money. He had no doubt that the hon. Member for Northampton would be able to give the details of the position of the Duke of Coburg at the present moment, and so he would not enter upon them. These grants were objectionable to the people of this country; and, if a free and independent vote could be taken, every Member on both sides would vote against the continuance of this annuity. He was entitled to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to leave Members to vote as they liked on this occasion; and he warned the House that in voting for the annuity they would be voting against the wishes of the country. Last night the House was discussing economy in the abstract, and now they had it in the concrete. In resisting this vote they would be consulting the best interests, not only of the people, but of the Royal Family itself.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that when a similar Resolution was moved two years ago the Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench met it by implying that those who supported the Resolution were guilty of some sort of meanness or shabbiness towards the Duke of Coburg, and were asking the House to disregard what was practically an international obligation. He need not say that those who supported the present Resolution would not do so if they thought it involved any meanness; and if they thought that there was any international obligation they would be the very last—though they objected to the obligation having been contracted—to wish to evade it. All these attacks were merely fireworks to prevent the case from being discussed on its merits. What were the facts? On the Duke of Edinburgh coming of age he was granted by Act of Parliament an annuity of £15,000 a year. This had been recognised as the usual allowance to a son of the present Sovereign while, unmarried. But in this Act there was a proviso that, in the event of His Royal Highness succeeding to a Principality abroad, it should be lawful for Her Majesty, with the consent of Parliament, to reduce the annuity, The Duke of Edinburgh was then the heir-presumptive to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but his succession was only a contingency. As a matter of fact, on becoming the Duke of Coburg His Royal Highness gave up the £15,000 a year. On the announcement by Royal Message in 1872 of the marriage of the Duke, of Edinburgh a Bill was introduced giving the Duke a further grant of £10,000 a year, and in this second Act there was the same proviso as in the first. When the Bill was before the House on the Second Reading the right hon. Member for Midlothian, who was then Prime Minister, said:—Of course, it need not be said, with regard to the power of Her Majesty and Parliament that such power, considered in the abstract, requires no reservation; but it is customary, in many classes Of Bills, to insert a notice of this kind, which disposes of any question of good faith which might be involved in the matter, and makes the reservation of the discretion as well as of the power of Parliament perfectly effectual for its purpose, in case the, occasion should arise for the exercise of that discretion445 The Second Reading of the Bill was carried, and on going into Committee Mr. Anderson, the Member for Glasgow, moved an A Amendment on the proviso clause to the effect that, instead of the contingency being left to future Parliaments to deal with, the Parliament of that day should only give an annuity of £10,000 a year, to lapse if the Duke became a foreign Sovereign. On that occasion the right hon. Member for Midlothian said:—what did the proviso do? In case the Duke of Edinburgh, in the course of nature should succeed to a principality aboard, which would have its own resources and general condition of existence, his position would be so materially altered from His simple position of a junior member of the British Royal Family that it would not be wise to prescribe beforehand what might or might not be done. It would be more wise to reserve power to do what circumstances might seem to call for. They have felt it their duly to Parliament and the people of this country to keep the matter open.The proviso, together with the explanations of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, clearly disposed of any accusation against the supporters of this Resolution in regard to meanness to the Duke or violation of any international obligation, The Parliament of that day were not prepared to take action, because there was only a contingency to face, and they left to future Parliaments the freest hand. As the right hon. Member for Midlothian said, the proviso was deliberately inserted in order that the Parliament which might be in existence whenever the Duke became a foreign Sovereign should have the right to decide whether or not His Royal Highness should still enjoy his £10,000 a year. In this second Act a treaty was negotiated between this country and Russia in regard to the marriage. This was no exceptional course, when a marriage took place between a Member of the English Royal Family and a member of a foreign Royal Family a treaty was negotiated and signed, and practically represented the marriage settlements. Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, whom the Duke of Edinburgh married, was the only daughter of the Emperor of Russia, and in the Treaty it would be found that her money was really settled upon herself. This country agreed to give Her Imperial Highness £6,000 a year in the event of her surviving her husband. An Amendment 446 was moved at the time providing that this £6,000 should only be given in the event of the Duke's being an English Prince at the time of his death; but that Amendment, he believed, was not pressed to a Division. It was obvious, however, that the only obligation we had in regard to this Treaty with Russia was to pay the £6,000 a year whenever the Duke died. This was an international obligation which no one would deny. Hut now the contingency had arrived, and the Duke of Edinburgh had inherited the Principality of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. It was not, indeed, of the size of one of the Great Powers, but it was, for Germany, a considerable Principality. It had large revenues, and the civil list was adequate for the wants and requirements of the Duke. It was laid down on a somewhat liberal scale, and was derived from Crown lands, and therefore did not affect the taxpayers of the country. Apart from the fact of His Royal Highness having married an heiress, the family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was personally a rich family. When the £15,000 a year, and the subsequent £10,000 a year, were voted to the Duke of Edinburgh by the House, they were voted to him as an English Prince, in order that he might maintain the position of an English Prince. If he had not been an English Prince, it was obvious that they would not have been given to him. He had ceased to be a Prince, and he had ceased to be an Englishman. Certainly there could be no two nationalities in which, in regard to one nationality, the individual was a Sovereign and, with regard to the other, the individual was a subject. It had been stated in the House that His Royal Highness had not ceased to bean English Prince; but that caused a great outcry in Germany, and they would not acknowledge that any Sovereign of the German Federation, was anything but a Gorman. When, in the reign of Louis XIV., his grandson became King of Spain, he proposed to continue his appanages in France, but Louis protested against his doing so. In Italy they had a great number of Grand Dukes; an Austrian Grand Duke had, he believed, £ 2,000 a year. But not one of them when they became Sovereigns in Italy dreamt of claiming the £2,000 a year. The King of Greece was a Danish Prince; but when he became King of Greece he 447 derived his income from the Greek civil list and from a treaty which we made—why, he could not understand. Prince Amadeo, of Italy, another King of Spain, threw himself entirely upon the Spaniards. Coming nearer home, we had had the Duke of Cumberland, who derived something from the British taxpayer. When he became King of Hanover he ceased to take money from the British people. The late King of the Belgians, when he married the late Princess Charlotte, received something from this country, but when he became King of the Belgians he gave it up entirely. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER signified dissent.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer said "No." He did not wish to press him unfairly. The King retained Claremont, and, out of his £40,000 a year, a certain amount which went as pensions to his English servants; but all the rest he paid into the English Treasury. All these were precedents, and precedents which the House should follow. Was there any special reason why they should not be followed? Whatever special reasons existed made somewhat the other way. The Duke of Saxe-Coburg was a member of the German Federation, and he had entered into a perpetual treaty which deprived him as a Sovereign of the right to make peace or war. He was bound to pay out of the funds of the Duchy a certain contribution towards the German Army. If Germany wished to wage an offensive war, if a majority of the Reichsrath decided for war, war would be declared, and we might find ourselves at war with the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha while at the same time we were providing him with a part of the sinews of war by giving him this £10,000 per annum. It might be suggested that this matter had been decided. He denied that entirely. It was true that an Amendment similar to that before the House was moved two years ago, but on that occasion that Amendment was defeated, and the House did go into Committee of Supply. Right hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench, and right hon. Gentlemen who usually adorned the Front Bench opposite, had always sneered at the efforts of private Members on Friday evenings. The best way to avoid the recurrence of these Motions was to 448 accept the Resolutions passed on Friday evenings, and to bring in Bills at once to give effect to them. If his right hon. Friend relied on the result of his Resolution two years ago, he ought to give them money for their services in the House, because the House passed a Resolution in favour of payment of Members; and he must bring in a Bill granting Home Rule for all the component parts of the Kingdom. But if the Resolution of two years ago were to be deemed a Resolution which the Government had accepted if it had been carried, he would point out that it had not been carried, and he contended that they had a right to contest it in every Parliament and in every Session. If the Government wished the matter to be taken out of the hands of private Members, let them bring in a Bill providing for the, payment of this annuity of £10,000 a year, and then, if it, were passed, it would constitute an obligation upon the country to pay it. So long, however, as they had a right to dispute it, he trusted that they would do so every year, for a more outrageous misapplication of public money never was known. He hoped that all Members of the House would vote that night on the sheer merits of the question. If they were really in favour of our paying this money to a foreign Sovereign let them, of course, vote for it; but, if not, do not let them be prejudiced by a treaty which had nothing to do with the, matter. He believed that his hon. Friend (Mr. A. C. Morton) had said that the Radical voters were opposed to this grant. In his opinion, if the Conservative electors were polled they would be, found to be opposed to it too. He doubted whether the Conservative electors were in favour of giving a sum of money yearly to a foreign Sovereign. Last evening the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House that they had nearly reached the limits of tolerable taxation, and warned them that demands were being made every day for further expenditure, and his right hon. Friend pointed out to them that a Resolution on a Friday evening for further expenditure usually commanded a majority. He was a follower of his right hon. Friend. He was faithful to him amongst, the faithless. Ho looked upon him as one of those benighted Radicals who still stood to the old shibboleth of 449 the Radical Party—peace, economy, and reform. It was probable that they would have calls on their purse apart from the question of foreign policy. It was, therefore, their bounden duty to look after every penny and to protest against every penny that was not spent for the good of the community. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not complain that they were asking him that evening to spend more money. On the contrary, they were proposing to give the right hon. Gentleman £10,000 per annum. It seemed to him that there was a certain appositeness in the fact that this Resolution was moved that evening, because he hoped that the words spoken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night would sink into the public mind—and, not only so, but that they would be acted upon. Only 24 hours after those noble, wise, and patriotic words were uttered the House had an opportunity of acting on the advice given to them. He had, therefore, no doubt that they would have the support of the Government in carrying it out.
§ *MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, he thought it very undesirable that the question should have been brought forward, because the circumstances did not justify it. If the Government were defeated on the Resolution, it would not be the fault of the Conservative Party, who would support the grant as an honourable and just one. Speaking as the representative of a populous London constituency, though he knew his remarks would not be fully reported, he intended to oppose the withdrawal of the grant. The grants made to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha were made to a Prince of the English Royal Family to carry out certain special duties, and he ventured to say those duties had been carried out thoroughly. The Duke had been connected with one of the most honourable public services of the country, and he had done his duty as a British sailor in every part of the Empire. In all parts of the world he was spoken of highly; he had done his duty as an honourable man and an able officer, and during his career he had rendered many valuable services to the country. It had been stated that the Duke was a rich man—that he had inherited a great Principality, or it might be a small one, but at all events a 450 lucrative one, and that he received a large income from Crown lands. But, as a matter of fact, the Duke was not a rich man, though he might have been if the previous Duke of Saxe-Coburg had not spent so much money. They had to look at this matter from a broad and comprehensive view. The House might pass the Resolution, but by doing so, they would undoubtedly offend certain Royal Families in Europe. Our relations with the great Empire of Russia—partly, perhaps, through the marriage of the Prince—were more friendly now than they had been for 20 years; they did not know how far that might be due to the action of His Royal Highness, but it was a satisfactory fact. Why should they do anything to jeopardise that state of things? They had seen how our brave soldiers had been fighting and doing their duty on the mountains of Chitral, and how we might annex part of the territory, or temporarily hold it. Russia had shown us no ill-feeling. Moreover, Germany was friendly, and would work with us as long as our interests were one. If this Resolution were carried by the House of Commons our action would be considered on the Bourses at Berlin and St. Petersburg—in fact, throughout the world. His Royal Highness spent on Clarence House in 1874, for rebuilding and embellishing, between £75,000 and£80,000; one builder received £50,000. For this the Prince got no compensation, and presented to the Crown a handsome residence. Hon. Members would understand that this was a question of unexhausted improvements in the case of His Royal Highness. All this money was spent for the advantage of the State, for Clarence House would revert to it. [Cries of "No!"] Hon. Members might say, "No, no!" but he challenged them to deny the statement.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL
asked whether the hon. Member suggested that His Royal Highness himself spent one penny of the sum he had named?
§ MR. WEBSTER
said, His Royal Highness had spent the £75,000 on Clarence House out of his privy purse. ["No, no."] His Royal Highness received in annuities from the State from 1874 to 1893 inclusive (20 years) the sum of £485,971; and he had spent in London on Clarence House and elsewhere, 451 £856,650. ["No, no."] He was speaking not on his own authority, but on the authority of Clarence House itself; but hon. Members must understand that he was not speaking as a courtier. His Royal Highness had also paid the parochial rates on Clarence House, amounting to £241 5s. annually, and had undertaken in future the repair of the House internally during his occupation, and the cost of that was estimated at £300 a year. If they asked His Royal Highness to give up this £10,000 a year they would be practically asking him to give up his connection with the country. ["No, no!"] Not only that, but in such a case the House would have to make provision for the 30 or 40 persons in service at Clarence House, who would be discharged. Some of them had served more than 30 years, and they would be entitled to pensions if Clarence House were given up. Even during the absence of the Prince the salaries and maintenance of those servants cost between £3,000 and £4,000 a year, and the provision that would have to be made for them, in case the house were given up, would amount to a large proportion of £10,000 a year. Looking at the matter in that light again, it would be unwise to stop the grant. The Royal House of England had done its duty by the country. Let hon. Members look back to the Schleswig-Holstein affair in 1864. The influence of the Queen prevented our interference, and thus saved the country millions of money and thousands of lives, and perhaps saved us from the degradation France had to suffer in 1870. After all, this was a small sum for a great nation to squabble about. His Royal Highness in wages alone at Clarence House, paid annually, including the sums he had previously mentioned, £5,100 a year. No doubt these people were not Northampton shoemakers; they were only Londoners [ironical cheers], and therefore they could be turned about their business at five minutes' notice. He said these few words in the Debate, believing that the service of the people was not incompatible with a sense of justice to the highest or the lowest in the land, and in the language of Her Majesty's writ, by which hon. Members sat in this House, it appeared to him absolutely essential, 452 and he intended to try and do his duty, to look at facts fairly, and not to be merely a vote-catching machine—to look at all questions in that spirit, whether they affected the disentegration of the Empire, or anything else. He should oppose the Motion, both as an Englishman and as a Member of Parliament.
§ *MR. W. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said, he should give his vote on higher grounds than any yet advanced. He should not vote with any regard to the eminent services which the Prince of Coburg had rendered, nor mainly on any question the good faith, though he would just point out that one of the arguments used by the hon. Member for Northampton was absolutely destructive of his main argument. His reason for voting against the motion was the immeasurable services of the Queen, by which she had saved millions of money to the country, and still more, saved the country from degradation by her example. From 1847 to 1874 there poured into this country an amount of wealth unparalleled in the history of the world. He had watched this thing very carefully and with great anxiety, and it appeared to him that one of the reasons why this country had not followed the fate of Rome and of Spain was the admirable example of a frugal and virtuously-managed household by Her Majesty. He admitted that every rank had suffered from the enormous influx of wealth. We became more luxurious, more self-indulgent, less industrious, and less careful in our industries. Just consider what would have happened if George IV. had been on the throne during that period, continually asking for grants for himself to pay his debts! There was nothing of that sort under the Queen. On the contrary, she had been blamed, and Prince Albert had been blamed, for being too near, when they were really doing what was right in taking care of the wealth of the country. When, after such a reign as this, notable for its great constitutional conduct, and still more for its regard to the welfare and even the material interests of the nation, certain sums were settled upon the children when they married, and the law said that if "it shall be lawful for Her Majesty to revoke the said annuity," and the Queen does not come forward to say she would do so, he 453 would never vote for the revocation of such a grant to one of the Queen's children so long as he was filled with gratitude and affection for what she had done—for what he believed she had saved this country, not merely by her reign, but by her conduct and example as a woman, as a mother, as the manager of a family, and in every respect likely to maintain the character and morality of the nation.
§ Mr. DALZIEL
said, that he had not intended to take any part in this Debate, as he had fully expressed his views on the subject on a previous occasion, but after the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down, he felt that some explanation ought to be given on behalf of those who were about to vote in support of this Amendment. He certainly could not congratulate the Government upon the two supporters whom they had picked out of the 600 Members of that House to oppose the Amendment, doubtless after a careful canvass by the Whips. [Loud cries of "No!" and "Withdraw!"]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The hon. Member has no right to make such a statement. It is absolutely without foundation.
§ *MR. RATHBONE
I may say that the suggestion is untrue as regards myself. In saying what I did I merely gave expression to my own feelings on the subject. ["Hear, hear!" and loud, cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
If the hon. Member's statement refers to me in any way, all I can say is that it is absolutely false. ["Hear, hear!" and renewed cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, that he did not require the appeal of hon. Members opposite to induce him to withdraw his statement. Perhaps in what he had said he went further than he was justified in doing, and he therefore fully and most absolutely withdrew any suggestion he had made as to the hon. Members having been selected by the Whips to oppose the Amendment. Certainly no hon. Member on that side of the House was held in greater respect than the hon. Member who had just sat down, and he should be the last to make any observation that could be in the remotest degree disrespectful to him. But, in regard to the hon. Member's speech he might say that among the 454 general supporters of the Government he was one who was not going to seek for re-election at the end of the present Parliament. It was to that fact that he had risen to draw special attention. He thought that this subject might well be discussed without the introduction of any personalities whatever. He wished to discuss it upon its merits. It was upon the merits of the question that those who supported the Amendment had voted before and were about to vote again that night, and they were prepared to invite the fullest and most ample discussion upon it. What was the gist of the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down? He had merely read a clause of the agreement that had been entered into which empowered Her Majesty, whenever she chose to do so, to revoke the annuity, but he had omitted the words, "with the consent of Parliament."
§ *MR. RATHBONE
said, that he had not thought it necessary to refer to the point, because every Act of Parliament required the consent of Parliament.
§ *MR. RATHBONE
said, that what he meant to say was that if the annuity had been revoked on the initiation of Her Majesty it would have been a very different thing; but until Her Majesty initiated the revocation he should not feel justified in voting for the disallowance of the annuity.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, that the fact remained the same. The subject had been fully discussed in 1873 on an Amendment which had been moved by Mr. Anderson, the then Member for Glasgow, stipulating that the annuity should cease in the event of the Duke of Coburg succeeding to any sovereignty abroad, and declaring that Parliament should have the right in such an event to determine it. His complaint was that up to the present time Parliament had not had an opportunity of considering the question whether or not this allowance ought to be continued. The reduction of the allowance was settled behind the back of Parliament. It would have been much better if the Government had come to Parliament and had asked its consent to the reduction of the allowance, when the whole subject could have been considered. The hon. Member opposite 455 had suggested that a large portion of the allowance was being expended by the Duke of Coburg in keeping up Clarence House, but it was the fact that the expenses of keeping up that house were defrayed by the vote of the House of Commons. He knew that there were some decorations to Clarence House, the expense of which had been borne by his Royal Highness during the last year or two.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said, that from 1874 his Royal Highness had spent between £75,000 and £8,000 on Clarence House, for which he had received no compensation whatever.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, that unless the hon. Member could give him the authority from which he had obtained his figures he could not accept them, and the only authority that he could recognise was the Record of that House. It was absurd to say that his Royal Highness expended the greater part of his allowance in maintaining some 30 or 40 domestic servants at Clarence House, and that they would be thrown out of employment if the allowance were withdrawn, because in that case Clarence House would be inhabited by some other member of the Royal Family who would employ the servants. He did not deny that his Royal Highness had rendered valuable services to the State, but he contended that he had been adequately paid for those services. His contention was that the moment his Royal Highness succeeded to his present position his allowance ought to have ceased absolutely. He denied that Parliament was bound by the agreement to continue this allowance. Those who were prepared to support this Amendment had both argument and common sense on their side. As long as they allowed men who fought in the Crimea to die in the workhouse there was no case for the £10,000 a year asked for to-night. It was as a protest against an allowance they thought superfluous against an allowance they thought had not been supported by reason and argument that he and his hon. Friends would go to a Division.
§ MR. J.M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
said, he should not give his vote to-night on the ground the hon. Member who had just sat down put forward. He looked at the matter from a more practical point of view. He and others thought it was impossible for the Government to agree to that Motion, and having regard to what the Government had done, and were prepared to do, and if only to show their admiration for the manner in which they had been led by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, he thought Members on the Liberal Benches ought to strain a point in that matter. To be quite frank, he could not oppose the Motion on its merits. He believed his constituents were strongly in favour of the Motion, but he was also sure his constituents would not like a most damaging blow to be struck at Her Majesty's Government, the existence of whom they valued at more than £10,000 a year. As a matter of practical politics he thought every Liberal ought to refrain from doing anything which might in any way have a damaging effect upon the present Government.
§ MR. MACDONA (Southwark, Rotherhithe)
congratulated the Government upon the support they had received from the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire, who had said he was unable to support this Motion. When they remembered the influential character of the hon. Member's position, that admission of his was one of great significance. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy had referred to the, fact that the hon. Member for Canarvonshire did not contemplate contesting a seat at the next election. When a distinguished Member of the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, left Oxford, and went down to South-west Lancashire, he said he was unmuzzled. Did the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy mean to say that all Members on that side of the House were more or less muzzled? If so, they knew what his reference to the retirement of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire meant. He took up strong ground on this matter. He spoke on behalf of something like 10,000 working men of London, than whom there were no more loyal men in the whole country. He represented a constituency to which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth used to go for 457 change of air, and he was sure the feelings of loyalty which existed in Rotherhithe centuries ago existed now. The £10,000 in question had been promised, and in his opinion the money was well spent. No country was so economically governed as this, and when we considered that our Sovereign had been reigning for half a century, and was admired in every country, we ought to hesitate before we refused to grant a small pittance like this.
§ MR. WALTER HAZELL (Leicester)
thought the arguments of some hon. Members who had spoken against the Motion were rather weak. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Paulton) for instance, opposed the Motion, though he admitted his constituents approved of it. He thought men. were sent to the House of Commons to carry out the wishes of their constituents. The hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Macdona) had spoken of the great economy practised in the Government of the country. That was not the question at issue. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) had introduced the name of the Sovereign. It was most unfortunate that such a name should be brought in on an occasion of this kind. In this matter the mischief was begun on the 21st of December 1893, when the announcement was made in the House of Commons that His Royal Highness the Duke of Coburg would give up three-fifths of his annuity. The House had no opportunity afforded them then of discussing the subject. The question had been left as an open sore, and there was great likelihood that this would resolve itself into an annual Motion. The House had been told of the sums of money spent by the Duke on Clarence House. He noticed it was 21 years ago since most of that money had been spent; and since then the Duke had drawn £40,000 from the taxpayers of the country. They were there as the guardians of the public purse, and the only question at issue was whether or not they were to give this £10,000 a year to a foreign prince.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said that, unlike the hon. Member for Carnarvon, he had been invited to stand again to represent his constituency, and without fear of his constituents he meant to oppose this 458 Motion. In giving his vote on any Motion he was solely moved by what he believed to be right, and he believed that the grant of £10,000 to the Duke of Coburg was right and just. The whole of the amount was spent by the Duke during his visits to this country, and in large subscriptions to the charities of the country. He had been informed that since 1874 His Royal Highness had given £11,000 to charitable institutions. This £10,000 a year was not given to His Royal Highness because he was the Duke of Coburg, but because he was the son of the Queen; and he was quite certain that the majority of his constituents agreed with him in thinking—and he did not care for the votes of those who did not—that it would be mean fur the nation to withdraw the grant. One hon. Member tried to cast a slur on His Royal Highness as an officer of the Navy; but he had it from several distinguished naval officers that there was no officer in the ranks of officers who knew his work better than the Duke. During the Irish distress there was not a single man who had worked so hard in relieving that distress by bringing food to the people who needed it. He would, therefore, heartily give his vote to the Government in support of the grant, and he was sure his action would be endorsed by those who had sent him to the House. He regretted he had been prevented by illness from recording his vote against the Motion on the last occasion it was before the House. On that occasion 237 Members voted against the Motion and only 69 for it, and what cause could be served by bringing it forward again he failed to see.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
congratulated the House that there was at least one hon. Member who intended to give his vote without any fear of his constituents. Several hon. Members who intended to vote against the Motion had acknowledged that the arguments were all on the other side, and that if they were to vote on the merits of the question they would go into the Lobby with the supporters of the Motion. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Home Secretary had told them he was going to vote against the Motion in order to show his gratitude to the Government. If he (Mr. Allen) wanted to show his gratitude to the Government 459 he would vote for giving the Chancellor of the Exchequer an income of £10,000 a year, rather than for giving it to the sovereign of some German Principality.
§ MR. PAULTON
I did not say I would vote to show my gratitude to the Government. I said I desired to save them from embarrassment.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLEN
did not know whether the Secretary to the Home Secretary spoke officially, but he should really like to know whether the Government intended to make this a question of confidence. Was the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to tell them that the Government would regard as a question of confidence this vote of a salary of £10,000 a year to a man who had given up his English citizenship, and his part in our great Empire for the sovereignity of a German Principality? He really could not believe that the Government would make it a vote of confidence. He should certainly give his vote for the Motion, because bearing in mind the enormous burdens the taxpayers had to bear, he considered they should not be called upon to support a foreign prince.
§ *MR. BENJAMIN COHEN (Islington, E.)
believed that if this Motion was pressed to a Division the result would demonstrate, as no other test could demonstrate, that, at least in the House of Commons, they knew what were the issues from which party spirit and party dissensions should be banished, and into which party considerations were not suffered to enter. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said he was tempted to oppose this Motion because of his allegiance to the Government now in Office. He need not say that that was not a consideration which appealed very powerfully to him. He should support the Government in their opposition to this Motion, not merely because he knew he was acting in obedience to the wishes of his constituents, but because he believed that by so doing he should be acting in harmony with and in obedience to the overwhelming opinion of the population of this great Empire. He refused altogether to consider this Motion on the sordid grounds which had been imported into it by some of the speakers on both sides of the question. This, he considered, was not a matter to be determined by the amount of money 460 which the Duke of Coburg had spent on his house, or by the services His Royal Highness had rendered, eminent though those services had been. He believed the Motion would be decided by the gratitude and admiration, almost if not entirely without exception, which permeated every man, woman and child in this Empire to every member of the Royal Family and to the Sovereign at the head of the Royal Family. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India, in concluding his eloquent speech to the House on the Import Duties some time ago, told them there were some questions on which they had not to consider whether they represented this or that constituency, but to regard themselves as representatives collectively of the British Empire and the British Nation. That was the issue which he conceived to be raised this evening, that was the issue to which he thought every Member of the House was loyally and equally attached, and it was in so far as they discharged the duties involved in those paramount considerations that they would support the Government in opposing this Motion and cause it to be rejected once and for all, so that it might never again be brought forward in the British House of Commons.
§ *MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
could not congratulate some hon. Members who had spoken upon the good taste of their remarks. He did not believe it was at all necessary in the consideration of the question to discuss the services of the Duke of Coburg when he held a distinguished position in Her Majesty's Navy, nor was it good taste to refer to the remuneration he received in return for those services, and much less was it good taste to bring the revered name of the Sovereign into the discussion. The question was one which could be put into a small compass. It was admitted that his Royal Highness was entitled to £25,000 a year, there being upon that grant a condition that if he succeeded to a foreign sovereignty Her Majesty might, with the consent of Parliament, reduce, alter or revoke that allowance. The initiative in the matter was to be taken by Her Majesty, but they had received no communication from her. If it had been thought necessary, in compliance with the provisions of that Act, and in pursuance of the special conditions in the 461 Act, to alter the arrangement there would have been a message from the Sovereign to that House, and they would have considered the subject in a regular and formal way. But he understood the Duke of Coburg had voluntarily come forward and expressed his willingness to make an arrangement by which the grant of £25,000 should be reduced to £10,000. Accordingly an arrangement was entered into which was acquiesced in by the Government by which his Royal Highness was to receive £10,000 a year to provide for certain expenses connected with Clarence House. To upset that bargain or to alter it required a strong case, which had not been made here, It would look like a breach of faith to go behind this arrangement, whilst, on the score of economy alone, there would be little or no saving, as provision would have to be made for the servants whose employment would be taken from them. To make the change proposed by the hon. Member for Peterborough would be an ungracious, and under the circumstances, an unfair act; and, having regard to the affectionate relationship which existed between every member of the Royal Family and this country, he hoped the House would pause before it passed this ill-considered Resolution.
§ SIR JOSEPH SAVORY (Westmoreland, Appleby)
in opposing the Motion said, he was sure that every other Member of the House must have listened with pain to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of it. The Mover of the Resolution thought fit to hold up a member of the Royal Family to the ridicule of the House, and told them he had searched in vain for any evidence that His Royal Highness had served with distinction in the Royal Navy. The Seconder of the Motion told them that His Royal Highness was now a foreign prince, and proceeded to taunt the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his desire for economy. He felt certain that, however ardent the feelings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be for economy, he would never give his sanction, as a Minister of the Crown, to an act which would cast dishonour upon any Member of the Government. They felt proud that a member of our own Royal Family should have been called to the throne of a German Principality. As Englishmen, they could 462 never repay the debt of gratitude which every member of this vast Empire owed to that illustrious lady who ruled over us, and every member of her family was entitled to proper support. He hoped the House would defeat the Resolution.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT,) Derby
Sir, I think it is much to he regretted, and the House has much reason to complain, that a question of this character, touching the Royal Family, should be so frequently brought under the notice of this House without cause. After the decisive majority by which this Resolution was defeated on a former occasion, it ought not, I think, to have been again brought forward; but as it has been brought forward, it is my duty, as representing the Government, to re state the case very briefly upon which the Government have tendered their advice to the Crown in this matter. Now, Sir, the facts of this case are very short and very plain. There was, originally, made to the Duke of Edinburgh, as one of the younger sons of the Queen, a grant of £l5,000 a year, as was made to the other members of the family in the same position as himself. That grant has come to an end by the voluntary act of His Royal Highness himself, and upon that grant there is now no question before the House. But there was a second grant—a grant of £10,000 a year—which was not made to the Duke of Edinburgh personally alone, but which was made to him, as the Act recites, to enable Her Majesty to provide for the establishment of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, and to settle an annuity upon Her Imperial Highness. That, therefore, was a grant not to the Duke of Edinburgh alone, but the Duke of Edinburgh and the Russian Princess, whom he was about to marry. It was for the maintenance of their joint establishment during their joint lives, and upon the death of the Duke of Edinburgh there was settled, in the place of that £10,000 a year, an annuity upon Her Imperial Highness, of £6,000. In my opinion, those two grants stand upon the same footing—the grant of £10,000 a year for an establishment during their joint lives, and the £6,000 a year for the 463 annuity to Her Imperial Highness. Is the House prepared to revoke this grant? I do not believe it is competent to do so with regard to the £6,000; and, with regard to the £10,000 a year which was settled upon that marriage, in my opinion, it would be an act most unfit for the House of Commons to perform. Sir, when these grants were originally made, they were met by dis-discussions which have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton in this House. There was a proposal made by the Member for Glasgow at that time, that upon the Duke of Edinburgh succeeding to a foreign sovereignty, the grant should cease and determine. The House of Commons rejected that Motion; it was withdrawn, or, at all events, the Motion was not approved by the House of Commons. The clause as it now stands in the Act was then inserted, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, who was then the First Minister of the Crown, said upon that clause:—He would observe that, though in the course of time, the Duke of Edinburgh might become a foreign Sovereign, he would not, therefore, cease to be an English prince.Sir, we have heard to-night attacks made upon the Duke of Edinburgh as a German Sovereign, attacks which I heard with a deep regret, because language of that kind is not likely to cultivate those feelings of friendship and respect, which we desire should be entertained by all foreign nations towards the House of Commons and the English nation. Therefore, to use as a disparaging expression towards a son of the Queen and an English Prince that he was a German Sovereign, as if that was some discredit, is an expression which, for my part, I deeply regret. We are asked, in addition to this disparagement of German Sovereigns, to revoke a grant which was made upon the marriage of a Russian Princess. Sir, in my opinion, that would not be a wise or a politic course for the English House of Commons to adopt. I will continue the quotation from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian:—He would still continue to have family relations and household connections to maintain: the grant might, in that, case, be modified, but it could not be extinguished.464 Now, that was the declaration of the responsible Minister of the Crown, that was the reading of this clause at the time that the Act received the assent of Parliament. The Prime Minister was asked whether the, grant would be reduced but would not terminate on the accession of the Duke to the foreign Principality, and he said that, while it might be reasonable to reserve the power given in the proviso, it would not be reasonable to provide for the extinction of the annuity. That language was, I will not say a binding pledge, I will not say a legal enactment, but an interpretation of the meaning of Parliament at that time—namely, that the grant might be modified, but that it should not be extinguished. The question is asked now whether or not the House of Commons should revoke that annuity. The House of Commons has not the power to revoke it, except upon the initiative of the Crown. The consent of Parliament is to be given to a revocation issuing from the Crown. That provision was inserted, I imagine, for this reason—When Parliament makes grants of that kind it makes a provision against capricious revocation by the Crown. The initiative in a matter of this kind must come from the Crown, and that initiative can only be taken on the advice of the responsible Ministers of the Crown, and that advice in this case has not been tendered to the Sovereign. I deeply regretted to hear the attack that was made upon my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon. I venture to say that the language which he employed will find an echo in many thousand hearts in this country. He and others have been taunted on the ground that they are not going to stand again for Parliament. Nobody who knows my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon, as I have known him for many years, will doubt that the language which he has employed upon this or upon any other occasion was language which he would have used when facing his constituents. I thought that a most unworthy taunt. I have been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme whether this is a question of confidence in the Government. I will tell him, at all events, what is my personal position with regard to this question. When the matter had to be decided in December, 1893, there were 465 two persons who from their official position were particularly and directly responsible for the advice which they gave. The one was the First Lord of the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Midlothian, and the other Minister specially responsible was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In careful consultation we had to regard what was due to the Crown, what was due to the nation, and what was due to Parliament. We gave to the question the most careful consideration we were capable of giving, and we understood and we felt how delicate and difficult a question it was. Well, we tendered to the Crown the advice which has been acted upon. We considered when the Duke of Edinburgh resigned the grant under the first Act of £15,000 a year that it would be proper that we should advise the Queen that the revocation of the other Act should not take place. By that advice we adhere. It was our duty to tender the advice upon the circumstances of the case as it stood. We may have been wrong: my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian may have been wrong, but I confess I am ready to stand with him upon a question of this kind, he being a man whose great and long experience made him fitter, perhaps, to judge than anyone, else. At all events, I am prepared to take my share, of personal responsibility for the advice that I offered. I believe that the advice we then gave was advice which we ought to have given in the position we occupied; we believe that in maintaining that position we are recommending the House of Commons to take a course which is worthy of this great Assembly, and we trust that the advice that we have given and by which we are prepared to stand will be supported by the vote of this House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
said: The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down speaks as the colleague of the Minister who made the original arrangement with the Duke of 466 Edinburgh, and as a Member of the Government which gave advice to the Sovereign in regard to any alterations of that arrangement which the change of circumstances might render desirable, and he has spoken to us in tones which I think must have found an echo in every part of the House. Certainly we on this side of the House cordially agree with him. We feel that he spoke with dignity and authority, and we shall follow him into the lobby in the interest, as we believe, not merely of the best policy as regards the country, but in the interest of the only policy consistent with the honour and dignity of this House. It may be in the recollection of hon. Members that only a few days ago we were engaged on a discussion as to the amount of public time that ought to be given to private Members for the discussion of questions raised by them. I ventured then to point out that I thought that no Parliamentary time had ever been worse used in my experience than the three hours on Friday evenings which we have had the privilege of employing during the present Session. I had not at that moment in my mind that this Friday would be put to a worse use still; but I must say, when I remember we are called down here to-night to redebate and rediscuss a question which ought never to have been debated or discussed, and when I remember that we are asked to reverse a decision deliberately come to by the same House of Commons, under the advice of the same Government not 12 months ago, it appears to me that we are making a sacrifice of the time that is being demanded from us such as no public or private Member has a right to ask for. The hon. Members who have claimed for us that we should reverse the decision deliberately come to on a previous occasion have based their contention, as I understand them, on the ground that this is a great waste of public money. Anybody who will really face the facts of the case as he sees them 467 knows perfectly well that it is not this expense of £10,000 a year that exercises the minds of hon. Members. They have willingly tolerated the discussion of the whole of our Civil Service Estimates being put off to a time when they cannot be discussed at all. No protest against the £96,000,000 a year which we expend on the public service comes from those benches.
§ MR. W. BALFOUR
I said no protest against the £96,000,000 a year comes from those benches, and, therefore, when I find this extreme anxiety, not about £10,000,000, not about £1,000,000, but about £10,000——
§ MR. BALFOUR
Yes, to do the hon. Gentleman full justice—and I am anxious to do him full justice—I believe he is prepared to take a vote for the reduction of any Vote. [Mr. A. C. MORTON: "They should be all reduced."] I am not aware that there is any form of public expenditure ever suggested in this House, except the payment of Members, which would not meet with the cordial dissent of the great economist opposite. But, however that may be, I think even the hon. Gentleman will recognise that if we were brought down here in large numbers to-night to debate for the whole evening a question of £10,000, it is not the amount of relief which the refusal to grant this £10,000 will give to the taxpayer, it is some underlying principle, avowed or unavowed, which animates hon. Gentlemen in the course they have thought fit to take. I do not care to speculate too closely, or to formulate too accurately, what that principle may be, but I would ask the House to remember the general conditions under which we stand with regard to the provision for the younger members of the Royal Family. The Civil List was fixed for the Crown on the distinct understanding 468 that the younger children should be provided for. The Civil List was fixed on the broad principle that Parliament in its generosity, or in what was its generosity, was to undertake to provide for the younger children of the Sovereign, and it was on these conditions that the £25,000 a year was originally provided for the Duke of Edinburgh, in two sums of £10,000 and £15,000, the origin of which has been clearly and accurately described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The only question we have to consider is whether any circumstances have since arisen which would make it improper to give now any fraction of that which was originally granted by Parliament. That is the one question before us, and I am glad to see that that is accepted by the hon. Gentleman opposite, who is the protagonist in this movement. If the hon. Gentleman had referred to the original Debate on this question, he must have known what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has reminded us of to-night—namely, that when the original grant was made the House was perfectly seized of the fact that the Duke of Edinburgh might become the Duke of Coburg, and the House was distinctly warned by the Government of the day, and distinctly agreed with the Government of the day in holding, that when that event should take place, though there might be a reduction of the annuity, the annuity should not be entirely taken away.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell me where he gets that from. There is the statement distinctly made at the time by the late Prime Minister that he left it absolutely to the House of Commons that should be sitting when the contingency that was anticipated should arise.
§ MR. BALFOUR
I do not deny that the right hon. Gentleman at that time left to the House of Commons what, after all, he could not take away from it—namely, the power to decide upon the conditions upon which they would grant 469 public money. That no Prime Minister of the day, or of any day, could say he would desire to remove from the House of Commons. I read the Debate carefully last year, and I have not refreshed my mind now, but I am quite certain it would be found—indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted the passage—that the Prime Minister laid down the principle which, in his judgment, should regulate the future action of Parliament with regard to that annuity—that the Duke of Edinburgh, after he became the Duke of Coburg, would remain an English subject and an English citizen, and as an English subject and an English citizen, son of the Sovereign of England, he would be entitled to some portion, at all events, of the annuity which Parliament then granted him. I see that on the Benches below the Gangway there are many debates going on as to the accuracy of that statement: but I do not believe that any study of Hansard will militate against what I say.
§ MR. DALZIEL
This is what the late Prime Minister said:—If the Duke of Edinburgh, in the course of nature, should succeed to a principality abroad, which would have its own revenue and expenses, his position would be so materially altered from that of being simply a junior member of the Royal Family that it would not be wise to prescribe beforehand what might or might not be done by Parliament.
§ MR. BALFOUR
I entirely agree; no attempt could be made to prescribe the exact sum; that must properly and inevitably be left to the decision of Parliament; but it was laid down by the Prime Minister of that day that the precise sum to be left to the Duke of Coburg could not be determined in anticipation of the event, but that some sum should be left him. [An hon. MEMBER: "A personal opinion."] What else could it be? A personal opinion in the sense that it was not a Vote of the House of Commons, nor an Act of Parliament; but it was not a personal opinion in this sense—that he spoke the sense of the Government of which he was a Member, and he received the assent of the House of Commons to which he spoke; in that sense it was not a personal opinion. It would be absurd to say that this House is legally bound by anything the right hon. Gentleman said or did not say; but who will deny, if there is to be any 470 continuity in our institutions, or in our decisions, that we are bound to consider the conditions on which the annuities were originally granted, as laid down by the man responsible for the advice on which they were granted? I do not think that any hon. Member will challenge that contention. The hon. Member for Northampton has apparently expressed the opinion that because the Duke of Edinburgh is the Sovereign of a foreign State he is no longer to be regarded as an Englishman. On what principle are we to say so? He is still a member of our own Royal Family; he still regards himself as an Englishman; he has not forgotten that he is a son of the Queen; he has not forgotten that in the best years of his life he served with distinction in the British Navy; and it appears to me that what he has not forgotten it is not our business to forget. The House of Commons has now got an opportunity of showing in what spirit it regards tins class of persons. They are not questions in which the taxpayer, as a taxpayer, is interested. They are not burdens thrown on the poor instead of the rich, or subjects in which the taxpayer has practically any interest at all. They are questions which touch vitally the relations between the House of Commons and the Sovereign of this country, and it appears to me that if we are going to approach this class of question in the spirit of hucksters we are absolutely unworthy of the trust reposed in us by our constituents. I hear hon. Members talk of opinions held by their constituents, and of the difficulty they have in voting this or that way because of their constituents. But no one shall persuade, me that, any class of the population of this country, really cognisant of the rights of this question, would hesitate as to the course we should pursue. I can well believe that some of their constituents do not understand the question, and it may well be that, under a misapprehension of what we have to decide, they may have expressed, or led their Members to believe they hold, opinions opposed to that of the Government which we are supporting. But I represent as purely a working-class constituency as any man in this House, and I say, without the slightest hesitation, that I do not believe the working men of this country are prepared to treat their 471 Royal Family in a manner in which the town councils which they elect to represent them in their local affairs would hesitate to treat a police constable. What is it we are asked to do? We voted an annuity to the Duke of Edinburgh in certain contingencies. The contingencies originally contemplated arose, and the course which the Minister of the day thought the House should pursue was pursued—namely, that the amount of the annuity given to the Duke should be largely diminished from that originally voted. The diminution was not, indeed, the act of this House, but the voluntary act of the Duke of Coburg himself. But that makes no difference. We are carrying out our original policy, and not only that, but the policy we ourselves endorsed by our action last year. Are we to leave the Duke of Edinburgh uncertain from year to year as to what the intentions of Parliament are? Has he not a right, shared by the commonest of Her Majesty's subjects, to believe that when the House of Commons has decided that he should receive a certain annuity, he is as certain of receiving it as if he held Consols or any other security to which the national credit is pledged? It appears to me that the vote of the House should settle this once and for ever. That vote has been given. This question was amply debated last year. The whole of the circumstances were reviewed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us—what he has repeated more briefly tonight—the facts that led the Governments of 1865 and 1873, and his own Government last year, to give the advice to the Sovereign that they have given. We ratified on that occasion the decision arrived at. If we reverse it now we do something which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, touches not the interest of the British taxpayer but the honour of the House of Commons. Let me tell hon. Members below the Gangway that it is not worth while destroying or staining the honour of the House of Commons in order to save £10,000 per annum. I do not believe even the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment do in their hearts think that our credit with the constituencies and public opinion would be raised if we were to take the advice they have so unfortunately and gatuitously tendered. Of this, at all events, 472 I am absolutely confident, that, whatever a small section of Members below the Gangway may do against their Party and against the Government, there are those, on this side of the House who, by conviction and position, are confident that we may rightly in this case leave our honour in charge of the Government. We follow them in the full belief that the advice they had tendered to their Sovereign is consistent with the general welfare of the country, and I should be very much surprised if the general sense of the House of Commons to-night, as well as the general sense of public opinion to-morrow, does not endorse the course which the Government have asked us to pursue, and which we mean, to the best of our power, to support.
§ MR. C. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)
said, that as one who intended to vote with the Government he would give a silent vote but for the issues that had been put before the House by the Leader of the Opposition. This was not a question of Royalty at all, but purely a question of the position of the Government. Reference had been made to the ungraciousness of bringing the matter forward. He could not help thinking there were many hon. Members who believed it would have been a gracious thing if the Duke of Coburg had consented to forego entirely the grant made, It was not with himself a question of economy. There were those who would vote against this amendment on the ground of economy. If it were purely a question of economy he would claim to be as much an economist as any one. It was purely a question of the position of the Government and the statement made by the Leader of the House, and, speaking for himself, as an Irish Member, he intended to vote with the Government.
§ *MR. W. P. BYLES (York, W. R., Shipley)
said, as one of the small section of Radicals who had been spoken, of contemptuously by the Leader of the Opposition, and who were no doubt regarded contemptuously by many of his followers, he thought it right to stand up and say a word on this subject. He thought far more of the severe and heavy rebuke which they received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer than of the words which fell from the Leader of the Opposition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that questions 473 about the Royal Family should be introduced but seldom into this House. He (Mr. Byles) was not responsible for the introduction of this question; but here it was, and he had to decide what he must do about it. The hon. Member for Westmoreland uttered some sentiments of loyalty which well became him. He (Mr. Byles) wished to say that those who were going to vote for this Motion repudiated the idea that the supporters of this Grant had a monopoly of those sentiments of loyalty. It was no disloyalty that would lead the opponents of the Grant to vote for this Motion. There might have been unmannerly remarks made about the Royal Family and the Duke of Coburg. He dissociated himself from these; but he would certainly give his vote for the Motion, and with the full sense of the responsibility which he owed to his constituents. He wished to say that the attitude of the Radical Party towards the Royal Family and towards the Court was not perhaps quite the same attitude which had been observed by the wealthy and lordly and aristocratic Members who had dominated this House for generations past. There were vast numbers of working people in this country who believed that they were voting money far too freely for pensions to members of the Royal Family. He did not believe that they were mean or desired to be ungenerous in their treatment of the gracious Lady who reigned over them, or of any Monarch who might succeed her. He did not believe that they meant to be ungenerous or parsimonious in their treatment of those Princes who were in the direct line of succession. But the feeling that prevailed in his constituency, and in other constituencies in the West Riding, was that there were a number of collateral branches—cousins and aunts—who were subsidised by a too-ready vote of Parliament out of the pockets of the poorest of this country. He could not understand the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that this was not a matter which touched the taxpayer at all. They felt that they were paying money which they had no right to pay, to people who ought to be amply provided for by their parents, and they would not submit to have those large sums voted by their representatives. He was certain that he was representing 474 a very widespread feeling in the country, especially since the Duke of Coburg had become a foreign prince and had alienated himself as it were from England and the English people—when he said that the people of this country would agree in saying that this grant ought to be withdrawn. Just one word more. If his hon. Colleagues on the other side of the House desired the sentiment of loyalty to the Crown to be respected, as he firmly believed they did, and as he did himself, they would do well to vote for the Motion and to recognise the feeling which he had described. They ought to seek to circumscribe these vast sums which were freely squandered by the generosity of a too-ready loyal Parliament, and to recognise the feeling that the taxes of the country ought to be conserved for other purposes than the endowment of Royal Princes.
§ DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)
wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, if he voted with him to night to give this grant of £10,000 a year to the Duke of Coburg, who was no longer a British subject, the right hon. Gentleman would vote with him next week when he would perhaps have to ask for £10,000 to place back evicted crofters on their holdings. If on these conditions the right hon. Gentleman was ready to enter with him into a contract, he would vote with him.
§ The House divided:—Noes, 72; Ayes, 193—(Division List No. 53.)