HC Deb 30 June 1904 vol 137 cc227-34

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £35,500, be granted to His 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, 1905, for Expenditure in respect of Royal Palaces."

MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

said when this Vote was under consideration before he raised the question of excessive expenditure with regard to it. On that occasion the noble Lord succeeded in talking out his own Vote, and it was for the purpose of giving the noble Lord an opportunity of making the statement which he did not then make that he (Mr. Whitley) now proposed to move to reduce the Vote by a sum of £5,000. The expenditure on the Royal Palaces after the King came into residence and the Prince of Wales came to Marlborough House was necessary, as every one would admit, but there was no reason for making it an annual expenditure. He contended that £40,000 was far too large an amount for maintenance and repairs, and he begged to move a reduction of £5,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £30,500, be granted for the said service."—


said as we had a Sovereign and all the appurtenances of Royalty we must behave handsomely to the King and all that belonged to him. There was no more rigid economist than himself, and he had on many occasions attacked Votes and had succeeded in getting them reduced, but if there was one item in the whole category of expenditure in this country that ought to be agreed to it was the item now before the Committee. The sum was really a very small one upon which to keep up the state of magnificence befitting a country with a Royal Sovereign, and he could not understand the hesitation in voting the money. No doubt there were items in regard to which economies might be effected, but that was a matter to be discussed on the salary of the First Commissioner of Works, who was responsible for any improprieties or extravagances in the Votes, and when the proper occasion arrived he would be prepared to express his opinion of the gentleman at the head of that Department and of the noble Lord so far as the Rules of the House would allow.

MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)

asked whether the works at Holyrood had been completed and whether the Palace was now fit for a human being to live in. A certain amount of money had been spent, and it was desirable that the Committee should be assured that it had been wisely spent, so that in the event of the King again visiting Scotland there would be no obstacle in the way of his occupying Holyrood Palace.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.)

pointed out that last year the Vote for Holyrood Palace came to £6,000, and this year it was £2,600. It was obvious, he thought, from that fact that as Holyrood was a very old Palace and one which the King intended to occupy when in Scotland, that the amount of money spent upon it was absolutely inadequate for the purpose of putting the Palace into anything like a proper condition for occupation and for the entertainment and so forth connected with the Court. Speaking of the Vote generally, he thought it ought to be remembered that during the last year or two there had been a larger expenditure on the Palaces in consequence of the accession of the King. It was not, therefore, fair to contrast the figures of the present year with those of recent years. He thought, however, that some explanation should be given of the £1,000 for wine cellars at St. James's Palace.

MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire. Crewe)

asked for an explanation of the large expenditure proposed on the Royal kitchen gardens at Windsor.

LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)

said the sum proposed to be spent on the kitchen gardens at Windsor was doubtless unusually large, but it was for the carrying out of new works and improvements which ought really to have been effected during the last twenty years. With regard to the £1,000 for wine cellars at St. James's Palace, as there were at present no wine cellars at Buckingham Palace, all the wine was kept at St. James's Palace, and it was considered absolutely necessary that the wine cellars there, which were extremely ill-fitted and ill-constructe, should be improved. As to the complaint brought by the hon. Member for Halifax, the charge of extravagance was of a very general character, and therefore it was possible to give only a very general reply. It was said that the cost of maintenance and repairs was especially extravagant, but he did not think that £40,000 was an excessive expenditure. On the contrary, he believed it was very moderate, considering the scale of magnificence and the number of the Royal Palaces which had to be maintained. Moreover, it had to be remembered that a number of the Palaces had altogether ceased to be residences of the Sovereign, and had become nothing more nor less than places of pleasure and public resort. Hampton Court, for instance, cost £6,000 a year for maintenance and repairs, an insignificant sum considering the amount of profit and pleasure the public deprived from it. As showing how it was appreciated, he mentioned that the picture galleries alone were last year visited by 620,000 people, while the National Gallery, which was right in the heart of London, was only vis ted by 457,000 during the same period. Hampton Court had long ceased to be a Royal residence, and as one of the most beautiful and interesting buildings in Europe the expenditure upon it would not be grudged. The repairs and drainage at Holyrood were concluded, and an independent authority had pronounced the building to be in a sound habitable condition. It could not be justly said that Holyrood was starved, and should His Majesty have occasion to take up his residence there some improvements in furnishing would be all that would be required. Last year the sum spent at Holyrood was larger than the sum spent at Buckingham Palace. This year they were spending £2,600 there as compared with £4,000 at Buckingham Palace.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

appealed to the noble Lord not only to bear in mind the observations of the hon. Member for King's Lynn, with which he entirely agreed in regard to the Royal Palaces, but also to remember that there ought to be some differentiation between Royal Palaces in the personal occupancy of the Crown and the other Royal Palaces which frequently sheltered themselves behind His Majesty's Privy Purse and the Civil List. His Majesty ought to have an inclusive sum to spend in whatever way he pleased. He was in favour of equal rights for all white men, and the House of Commons had no right to intrude into the private affairs of anybody high or low. He thought the item of £6,000 for Hampton Court Palace gave good value to the public, but he would like to know what the £1,350 for new works was for. It might be for new bicycle sheds for the pensioned tenants at Hampton Court, or it might be for new and ornate outhouses for keeping petroleum for their motor - cars and lamps. He did not think that His Majesty ought to be debited with what was pit up for the convenience of the tenants. Until they differentiated between Royal Palaces and ex-Royal Palaces occupied by officials and pensioned tenants they could never have economy, because these people sheltered themselves behind the general designation of Royal Palace and that disarmed criticism. There was also a sum of £2,080 for new works, alterations, and additions at St. James's Palace. If that was spent upon State rooms he did not mind, but he wanted to know how much of it was spent upon official residences. He knew the average official pretty well, and he generally fastened himself on to a public building, first in two rooms, then probably in four, five, six, and ten rooms; then he managed to appropriate part of the Royal garden as a lawn and another piece for a tennis court. At Hampton Court great golf courses were being laid out and had been used for years for this purpose and they spoiled the beauty of the view.

He came now to another point the Lord Chamberlain's residence, in respect of which there was a charge of £300. Here was a point for fair criticism. The charge was for raising the height of bedrooms in the cottage of one of the officials in residence, and that struck him as being an unreasonable amount; but because it was bracketed with the £40,000 for Royal Palaces, they were prevented from giving it that criticism which it deserved. He would suggest that in future Estimates they should get a statement of the charges for Royal Palaces and gardens proper, and for ex-Royal Palaces; and further, that the expenditure proposed to be incurred in connection with officials who did not belong to the personal entourage of the King and Queen should be entirely separate. If that were done, they would be able to criticise the various accounts submitted to them. He thought Hampton Court Palace was more beautiful than Fontainebleau. The Palace and gardens were the most beautiful in Europe, but he was convinced that scores of thousands of pounds had been spent on that Palace in the last forty or fifty years in carrying out the whims, fads, and transient caprices of the tenants in residence, and the House of Commons ought to put a stop to that kind of expenditure. The noble Lord deserved credit for the way in which he had severely jumped on some of the tenants, and prevented them from vandalising that beautiful structure. These officers and tenants had had too big a dip into the Treasury purse, and the time had arrived when that should be resisted and restricted. The only way in which it could be restricted and economy secured was to differentiate the different items in the Estimates in future so that they would be able to bring criticism to bear where it was due.


asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £69,100, be granted to His 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, 1905, for the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens."


said he wanted to make a claim for the extension of the ride in Hyde Park into Kensington Gardens. The present arrangement had become a matter of very great discredit to the capital. The ride in Hyde Park was so short and inadequate that it really did not by any means fulfil the purposes of such a ride in a metropolis like this. Years ago, ho was informed, it was customary for riders to ride in Kensington Gardens along the broad avenue of trees where nobody was ever to be found—not so much as a nursery-maid or a baby, and where, consequently, riders might go without doing any injury to anybody. There was a very strong feeling among riders in the Park, who were numbered by thousands, that they had never been properly treated by the First Commissioner of Works or this House. This was not a trifling matter. The sum expended on the Row was extremely small, and he thought the House ought to be generous in regard to it. There was no difficulty except in the matter of money. He could get a petition signed by hundreds and thousands of people, but he should prefer to leave this to the intelligence of the noble Lord. The ride really required extension. Even the ride that existed was in a discreditable condition. They trusted that at last they had now found in the noble Lord a generous and appreciative spirit who would give them the boon which they had so long desired.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

said the hon. Member for Lynn Regis was too young to remember the circumstances in connection with this matter. When the Great Exhibition of 1851 was built in Hyde Park, riders, as a concession, were allowed to ride in a certain portion of Kensington Gardens. The reason why this was done away with was that the nursery-maids found it somewhat difficult to look after their charges and enjoy the flirtations of military people. They got Members of the House of Commons to plead their case, and this House was so very gallant to the nursery-maids that riders were deprived of their right to go into Kensington Gardens. He did not see why they should not be allowed to ride into Kensington Gardens. In the Bois de Boulogne there were forty miles of a ride. Riding up and down the Row must be very dull work, even if the riders were admired by the people who came to look at them. If the noble Lord could come to some arrangement with the nursery-maids everybody would think it desirable that riders should be allowed to go into Kensington Gardens.

MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)

called attention to the condition of the roads in St. James's Park and Hyde Park. The surface of the roads from Storey's Gate to St. James's Palace was very discreditable. The surface of the roads from St. James's Palace, and from Buckingham Palace up Constitution Hill to Hyde Park Corner, and even in Hyde Park itself, was in holes, and the effect must be to wear out the tyres of carriages in a most extraordinary manner.

And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again this evening.