HC Deb 27 July 1910 vol 19 cc2266-77

(1) In the application of the sum paid for the Civil List the amounts mentioned in the second column of the schedule to this Act shall be appropriated to the class of expenditure mentioned opposite thereto in the first column of that schedule.

(2) If at the end of any calendar year, the sum appropriated to any class of expenditure (other than Class IV.) is not wholly required for expenditure of that class in that year, the Treasury may direct that the amount not required be applied as an addition to the sum available for any other class.

(3) If at the end of any calendar year the sum appropriated to the expenditure of Class IV. is not wholly required for the expenditure of that class in that year, the amount not required shall be set aside and accumulated for the purpose of future expenditure of that class in such manner as the Treasury direct.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


I beg to move to leave out from the word "year" in Subsection (2) ["of that class in that year"] to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert instead thereof the words "it shall be paid into the Treasury." In the Debates on the Civil List the points dealt with have been two, namely, (1) the Duchies, and (2) the appropriations of the Privy Purse. My Amendment draws attention to these two points. In previous Debates there has always been a great deal of discussion as to whether the process by which the Privy Purse appropriates the savings of the other classes of the Civil List is or is not illegal. I believe that matter is going to be discussed, but, apart altogether from the legal aspect of the question, it appears to me that in the report itself there is evidence that the system leads to results so haphazard that it ought not to be allowed to continue.

Most of these savings accumulated from savings on expenses of the household. I may give an example of a point I wish to bring before the Committee. The Committee of 1901 which investigated the subject at the beginning of the reign of King Edward fixed the Privy Purse at £110,000. That was an increase of £50,000. But it assured the House that this sum of £110,000 would be quite ample to meet all reasonable requirements for the honour and dignity of the Crown. When the Committee went on to consider class 3, for the expenses of the household it found that in class 3 during the last thirteen years of the reign of Queen Victoria there had been spent £13,000 per year more than the sum allotted, and this sum they said had been paid out of the Privy Purse. It may be put the other way by saying that it had been paid out of the increased revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster. But an arrangement had to be made by which the expenditure upon this class should be brought within the sum allotted. The Committee effected this by abolishing certain sinecure offices, by reducing certain unnecessary expenses such as the maintenance of the Royal buck hounds. In this way they saved £22,000 a year, and when this bad been done the expenditure on that class had been brought within the limits of the amount appropriated and the Committee, apparently for the sake of security, determined to overshoot the mark and they allotted to this class £21,000 a year in addition. Of course, that sum of money was not needed, and as might have been anticipated, has never been spent, and if you look at the accounts you will find that throughout the reign of his late Majesty there has always been on this class an unexpended balance amounting on an average to about £21,000, and amounting throughout the reign to not far from £250,000.

The question at issue is what ought to be done with this surplus sum, what has been done during the last reign, arid what should be done during this reign? To me there appears to be only one answer. That sum was in the nature of a reserve, and if it is found by experience that it is not needed to maintain the honour and dignity of the Crown it ought in all fairness be given back to the public purse. What is the alternative view which the Committee took? The Committee desired that this sum should be used, and all similar sums should be used to inflate the Privy Purse, which they had already assured us was ample for all reasonable requirements of the honour and dignity of the Crown. It seems to me by the basis of these calculations they were swelling the Privy Purse to a sum which was unreasonable and extravagant. That is the position as it was left in 1901. It appears to have fixed the Civil List on a system which was quite haphazard. When we pass to 1910 we might have thought that a Liberal Committee, as opposed to a Conservative Committee, would at any rate have done justice to the public in regard to the matter inquired into by the Committee of 1901, but they said they saw no reason to make any alteration. What they have done, therefore, is to stereotype the system, and to inflict what appears to me to be an unnecessary loss on the public, which at the present moment amounts to not far short of a million. I beg to move.


The hon. Member has not put the Amendment down in the right form. I think he means to leave out from the word, "year," to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert "it shall be paid to the Treasury."


Paragraph (6) in the Report which my hon. Friend cited states that because the Committee of 1901 fixed all these classes exactly according to the expenditure after a very careful investigation, therefore the Committee of 1910 did not go so carefully into it. But that view is entirely negatived by the looseness with which these accounts were always drawn as between class and class. You have only to turn to the details of the savings on the various classes shown from year to year in order to become convinced of the loose arrangement. It is a great pity that the last opportunity was not taken to clear up the matter. Undoubtedly a great deal of harm was done by concealment of the amount of the savings, and the refusal to state them from 1850 up to 1883. Finally a promise was given in 1883 and kept in 1889, and since 1889 we have had them given, right back to 1838. Sir Robert Peel, when he beat the Whig Government upon the allowance to Prince Albert, stated most emphatically that the whole treatment of the savings was irregular. He inferred that the savings under various heads were applied to the Privy Purse, and he distinctly stated that their application was illegal under the provisions of the law. The accounts were entirely lost in 1841, and there is a note made at the time stating that they had disappeared. In 1889 the subject was to some extent made public, for the first time, and, of course, the position which was held to be illegal became legal by the notice given to Parliament in 1901. But there was not that business-like arrangement in 1901, which there ought to have been, and which the paragraph in the Report to which I have referred declared to have taken place. As a matter of fact it did not. The principle laid down by Mr. Gladstone and universally accepted was that the various classes were to be considered to see if the allowances were wanted. The manner of treating savings otherwise than by putting them to reserve, as was done in 1838 and 1839, before the bad practice of 1840 and 1841 grew up, is, of course, a way to deal with any difficulty about elasticity. As long as this slipshod arrangement goes on, which you can see for yourselves by looking at the columns which give the amounts put to the Privy Purse, as long as that loose arrangement goes on there will always be this unpleasantness about this arrangement of the Civil List that there has been for years past. As one of the Committee, I repudiate all responsibility for this paragraph which states that which is not the case, that the various classes were properly allocated in 1901.

1.0 A.M.


The contention of my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment is that any savings in any particular branch of expenditure ought to pass to the Treasury, and not to relieve or lighten the burden of any other branch of expenditure. That is really what it comes to. If he does not mean that, what he ought to have done was to move a reduction of the total amount. The point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean is really more a matter of bookkeeping than of the actual amount. If my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment does not mean that the Sovereign is the only person in the whole kingdom who is not to get the benefit of any saving he may make—that really is the contention—if by his frugal management of the household in any year the expenditure does not come up to the average then he is not to get the benefit of that to provide for contingencies, which arise in every household. As a matter of fact it is a direct incentive to extravagance. I do not bring any charge against those who are running this household, or any other, but I do not care what household it is, if they know that the money they save by strict economy will pass over to somebody else outside, I do not think that is an incentive to thrift. I am not so sure that there is not a good deal to be said against the present method of public Departments. I will not say from my own observation, but from what I have heard, the mere fact that they are driven at the end of the year to part with the money which is left and hand it over to the Treasury is very often a direct incentive to spend more than they ought to spend. That is a system which I have always thought to be a thoroughly vicious one, and that very vicious principle my hon. Friend wants to introduce into the Royal household. I think the Royal household is managed much better than any public Department. If he will look at any branch of any expenditure in a given year he may find it to be very high, and I am not sure that he would not find the same branch the next year considerably below that sum. We are simply allowing some latitude for economy and careful housekeeping in the Royal household as in any other household in the kingdom. I agree there has been considerable savings on some of these items. The only point is whether the total is too much, or whether it is undesirable that the Royal household should have this margin for contingencies which anyone who examines these accounts will find constantly arise. It is purely a matter of allowing just a little margin and latitude instead of saying: "We will give you so much to spend on this and if you do not keep within it, there you are—lost!" To say, "If you save on this you will not get the benefit of it" is compulsory expenditure, and that is very bad for any household.


The explanation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is exceedingly unsatisfactory. Every year in the late reign there was a surplus averaging £33,000 a year. In no single year was there a deficit in any of these items. If we examine class by class what do we find? In class 1 there was not a single year when the total amount allowed was reached. The same thing applies to class 3. Those are two of the main classes where very large sums are allowed. I do not see where the argument comes in about "ebbing and flowing." What these figures show conclusively to me is that we are allowing too much. A further argument is that there ought to be some credit given for economical housekeeping. Yes, but why should it go to His Majesty? I find there is a list of officials who do the house- keeping for him, paid for by the State. Surely if there ever were a case where the Treasury were entitled to receive these savings it is when the officers the State have appointed make the savings. Let us be quite frank about this. What is the total amount we are voting for the Privy Purse? Not £110,000, but £200,000 odd. I would sooner these figures were stated in bold clear type under the proper head. I do dislike the statement going out that we are paying £110,000 for the Privy Purse, £64,000 going in from another source and an average of £30,000 going in from savings and other departments. I think the Amendment of my hon. Friend is one that ought to have been accepted. Where there is a saving on these items it ought to go into the Treasury and His Majesty has no claim whatever. I certainly shall support the Amendment to provide that in regard to all these items wherever there is a saving it should go into the proper place, namely, the Treasury.


I wish to emphasise what my hon. Friend who has just sat down has said, and to suggest that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has spoken of "ebbing and flowing," the Committee ought to have some information from him as to where the ebbing takes place, especially in view of the fact that during the last nine years—the whole of the last reign—there was a surplus each year. Therefore, I think, the least the right hon. Gentleman can do is to tell us exactly where these ebbings have taken place, and incidentally, also, to explain what contingencies arise in the Royal household that have to be looked forward to. I can see no possible contingency. Here they are living in wealth and luxury with everything the heart can desire, and then we are told we must provide for contingencies. The whole thing is a sham and a mockery. It is to be lamented that a Radical Chancellor of the Exchequer should speak as he has spoken, trying to mislead the people by talking about "ebbing and flowing." The whole evidence shows we are providing more than is necessary and that there is no need for fear.


I have listened very carefully to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and he used very frequently the word "thrift." He suggested that if the expenses under a particular head did not reach the amount voted it indicated a certain amount of thrift in the management of the concern, and that therefore the amount saved should go into the Privy Purse. It seems to be that that is waiving a point that ought to be considered conclusively. The very essence of the matter, so far as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Members of this House are concerned, is this: Is the amount reasonable or unreasonable in existing circumstances? I venture to say there is no method at all at present in endeavouring to find out whether the sum allowed is reasonable or unreasonable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer talks about "ebbing and flowing." If what I have heard is correct it seems to me to be always top high-water. There are very considerable savings, and it is a fair and proper suggestion that when there are savings they should go back into the funds of the State. That seems the only reasonable and sensible way of meeting the case.


There is a sixth class, which was instituted for the purpose of making up any deficiency that may arise under either of the heads. There has been ample evidence to guide the Committee as to whether or not anything of the sort is necessary. In the Report of the Committee, on page 13, it is shown that only on one occasion was this sum of £8,000 unappropriated touched. In that year the sum of £3,900 was taken from it, and in every other year, without exception, the whole of this amount of £8,000 unappropriated seems to have gone into the Privy Purse. I agree with the Mover of this Amendment that the nation ought to have got the benefit of these moneys instead of the Privy Purse.


It seems to me hardly fair for hon. Members to say there is anything in this Civil List or in the Report of the Committee that hides anything. I think it is all to the contrary. I think nothing more clear and explicit could have been given to this House or to the country than the details and particulars that have been given in regard to the Civil List. In fact, it is because these particulars have been so freely and so readily given, so readily placed before the Committee and before this House, that hon. Gentlemen have had the opportunity of roaming over a realm of instances as to public expenditure and expenditure by the Crown which otherwise they could not have had. The whole point put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is: Was the sum granted in 1901, when the Civil List of King Edward was fixed, adequate or inadequate? Now I think that if the Committee upstairs had brought a report to this House to reduce the sum that was given in the time of King Edward, this House would have resented the Report of the Committee. The whole country would have resented it, and we should not have been acting as expected in this House. The sum granted in 1901 was £110,000 to the Privy Purse, plus the savings made on the other items. That is the amount which the late Sovereign had in the exercise of his duties and for his position as Monarch. If we are going to take out the sums which have been enjoyed by King Edward, we must go beyond £110,000 for the Privy Purse. Otherwise we shall be making the amount very much less for the present reign than for the previous reign. Now, in view of the fact that we are making provision for what we all hope may be a very long reign, when we see that the duties of the Monarch are increasing as our dominions oversea come closer in touch with the Mother Country, we may look forward to far greater responsibilities falling on the Crown than have fallen hitherto. To try in any way to lessen the total amount would be the greatest possible mistake. It would be contrary to the desires and wishes of the people, and would be detrimental to the public interest generally. To hear some hon. Members speak about the money granted to the Crown, one would think that the money was used for the purposes of some personal, narrow enjoyment of the expenditure.


The hon. Member is really getting very wide of the mark.


I understood that the Amendment was that these sums which have been saved on expenditure on certain items should be put into the Treasury, and that that would be taking away from the amount available in the Privy Purse item. I was endeavouring to argue that that would mean a very considerable lessening of the Privy Purse amount, and I thought it was a fair argument to use, as to why that amount should not be lessened. But I have no desire to trespass against your ruling. I am quite satisfied that the House has made up its mind on the subject. I thought it advisable that on this side of the House some one should stand by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the Government, in bring- ing up the Report, I believe has the full consent and approval of the great bulk of the people.


If I understand the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer correctly he is of opinion that the expenditure in public Departments might with advantage be farmed out. He argued that it was a good system that any surplus, any saving, in regard to the expenditure on public policies and the rest of it, might properly and advantageously be handed over as a private perquisite to His Majesty. It goes into the Privy Purse; that is what it means. After using that argument he went on to say that he was not sure that the present system of dealing with other Departments would not be better, if it was altered and approximated to the method of dealing with the Civil List. If it means anything it means this—that in the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer it would be better for the heads of Departments if they were able to absorb themselves the surplus saving. If it does not mean that it means nothing. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that if less information had been given to us we should not have been able to make these references, and argue as we have done with all the particulars before us. Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman thinks that the House which has this decision to take ought not to have been given the information?


Not at all. I use it as an argument to show that you had the information.


What is the meaning of that? It is true that we have got the information, and we are now speaking on the information. The complaint that we make is that whilst the Privy Purse is stated to be £110,000 a year, when the particulars are properly gone into—those particulars that do not naturally go out to the public unless they are spoken of here across the floor of the House in Debate—instead of being £110,000 a year, with the saving of £33,000, and with the Duchy revenues of Lancaster added, with what comes from the unappropriated amount off £8,000 a year, the whole sum will be not £110,000, but £214,000 a year. If that is so, we ought to know. Let us understand what the Privy Purse does consist of. It consists of £110,000, plus the savings on Class II. and Class VI., and plus also the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 207; Noes, 32.

Division No. 139.] AYES. [1.20 a.m.
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex.[...] Gibbs, George Abraham Paget, Almeric Hugh
Ainsworth, John Stirling Gibson, Sir James Puckering Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Allen, Charles Peter Gilmour, Captain John Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.
Armitage, Robert Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Peto, Basil Edward
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Gordon, John Pollard, Sir George H.
Baird, John Lawrence Gretton, John Pollock, Ernest Murray
Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.) Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Guest, Major Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Pringle, William M. R.
Barclay, Sir Thomas Hamersley, Alfred St. George Radford, George Heynes
Barnston, Harry Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry) Raffan, Peter Wilson
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Raphael, Herbert H.
Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Beale, William Phipson Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford) Rea, Walter Russell
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.) Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Haworth, Arthur A. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Bird, Alfred Hayward, Evan Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Helme, Norval Watson Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Black, Arthur W. Henderson, H. G. H. (Berkshire) Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Brackenbury, Henry Langton Henry, Charles S. Ronaldshay, Earl of
Bridgeman, William Clive Higham, John Sharp Rothschild, Lionel de
Brocklehurst, William B. Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Brunner, John F. L. Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Bryce, John Annan Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Horner, Alfred Long Sanders, Robert Arthur
Buxton, C. R. (Devon, Mid.) Hunt, Rowland Sanderson, Lancelot
Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar) Hunter, Sir Chas. Rodk. (Bath) Schwann, Sir Charles E.
Byles, William Pollard Illingworth, Percy H. Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Carlile, Edward Hildred Johnson, William Seely, Col. Right Hon. J. E. B.
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Jones, Edgar R (Merthyr Tidvil) Shortt, Edward
Castlereagh, Viscount Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Soares, Ernest Joseph
Cator, John Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Cave, George Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)
Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood) King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull) Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Kyffin-Taylor, G. (Liverpool) Stewart, Gershom (Ches., Wirral)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Lambert, George Stewart, Sir M'T.(Kirkcudbrightsh.)
Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Lane-Fox, G. R. Strachey, Sir Edward
Chambers, James Leach, Charles Summers, James Woolley
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Levy, Sir Maurice Sykes, Alan John
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Lewis, John Herbert Talbot, Lord Edmund
Clough, William Lincoln, Ignatius Timothy T. Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Clyde, James Avon Llewelyn, Venables Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Lloyd, George Ambrose Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Thynne, Lord Alexander
Cooper, Richard Ashmole (Walsall) Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsay) Tryon, Capt. George Clement
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Mackinder, Halford J. Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)
Cowan, William Henry Macmaster, Donald Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding) Waring, Walter
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Mallet, Charles Edward Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Crosfield, Arthur H. Marks, George Croydon Wheler, Granville C. H.
Crossley, Sir William J. Masterman, C. F. G. White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Dairymple, Viscount Meysey-Thompson, E. C. White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Dawes, James Arthur Middlebrook, William White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Mildmay, Francis Bingham Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S. (Glasgow) Millar, James Duncan Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Montagu, Hon. E. S. Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude
Duncannon, Viscount Morpeth, Viscount Wilson, A. Stanley (York E.R.)
Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Falconer, James Munro, Robert Wilson, T. F. (Lanark, N.E.)
Ferens, Thomas Robinson Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C. Wing, Thomas
Fisher, William Hayes Muspratt, Max Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Fleming, Valentine Neilson, Francis Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)
Forster, Henry William Newton, Harry Kottingham Worthington-Evans, L.
France, Gerald Ashburner Nussey, Sir T. Willans Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Furness, Stephen Nuttall, Harry Younger, George (Ayr Burghs)
Gelder, Sir William Alfred O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid.)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Gulland.
Gibbins, F. W. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Barnes, George N. Clynes, John R. Elverston, Harold
Barton, William Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Gill, Alfred Henry
Bentham, George Jackson Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Glanville, Harold James
Bowerman, Charles W. Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)
Hancock, John George O'Grady, James Shackleton, David James
Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Parker, James (Halifax) Wilkie, Alexander
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) Pickersgill, Edward Hare Williams, John (Glamorgan)
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Pointer, Joseph Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Holt, Richard Durning Rendall, Athelstan Winfrey, Richard
King, Joseph (Somerset, N.) Roberts, George H. (Norwich)
Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Robinson, Sidney TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Lees smith and Mr. Jowett.
Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)

Question, "That the Bill be reported to the House without Amendment," put, and agreed to.