§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. G. N. BARNES
Hon. Gentlemen on both sides will no doubt feel, after the long Debates we have had, that they have earned their repose. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate, I speak for myself. After the late sitting last night and again to-night, I feel that I have earned my rest, and I am sure that that is the feeling of many Members. I should therefore make my observations as brief as possible; but I feel that I ought to say a few words on the Bill which is now leaving our hands. I wish to refer to one or two points.
I desire to direct attention to the Bill itself and the manner in which it has been put through the House. There is first of all the point made the other day by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the total amount of money asked by Parliament in respect of this Bill. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the amount of increase would be but small, and that that increase was largely due to a large sum which fell into the expenditure under the Civil List automatically. In that connection I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right, because the sum which automatically falls into the Civil List is counterbalanced by another sum for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made provision in one of the contingent charges in, regard to the present Queen. Therefore, in that way the next Civil List will 2498 be automatically increased by £70,000, just as this one is being increased by £70,000 in regard to the Queen Mother. I think that is a good point. In regard to the younger sons of the King, I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer still sticks to the fiction that the Prince of Wales Act of 1889 is a precedent in regard to what is proposed in the present Bill. It is no precedent and differs entirely and fundamentally from the proposals now before the House. In 1889 the proposal which was carried and which has been effective since was that provision should be made in respect of those who are called children, but, as a matter of fact, the children were grown up, and moreover, the amount was fixed and put into the hands of trustees and could not be increased. The proposal in this Bill in respect of the younger children of the King is of a different character altogether. As a matter of fact the amount is not fixed, it cannot under the circumstances be fixed, and therefore there is that difference between the 1889 Act and the present Bill. I regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have thought it a precedent. Something is being done which has never been done before in any Bill or in any provision for Royalty. The third point is in respect to the Duchy of Cornwall tenancy.
The Chancellor of the Duchy last night criticised what I had said on a previous occasion in regard to the management of the Duchy, and he took credit to the management of the Duchy from the fact that there were a great many small holders on the property, and that it was very desirable that the property should be retained in exactly the same position as it is now, so that these small holdings should be retained and even, as he said, be increased. It so happens that this very morning I 2499 had a letter from one of the sub-tenants under the Duchy of Cornwall. This man tells me that he and many of his fellow tenants or sub-tenants had been looking forward to the year before the lease was renewed, but to his astonishment and regret, he found that the lease had been renewed at the end of last year for another term of thirty years, the whole island being being leased to one man, and that man in competition with many of the tenants to whom he had sub-let land. That statement is absolutely at variance with the statement of the Chancellor of the Duchy.
I hope that in the future something will be done to make good these statements made from the front Government Bench made regard to small holdings. I have done with the Bill. I want to add just a word of protest in regard to the manner in which the Bill has been put through the House. It is a good few weeks now since the Committee was set up. It seems to me that if the Government had desired a fair and square discussion, and the full light of publicity upon this Bill there ought to have been full information and full time for debate. For instance, to-day I moved for a return which I think will be given, and which I have no doubt will be full and complete when it is given, but that return is of no use now so far as this Bill is concerned. That return was moved for on the first day of the meeting of the Committee set up to consider the matter. I submit the information should have been before the Committee and before the House while this matter was under discussion. Then in regard to the time it has been discussed. We had the Report of the Committee last Friday, and we have had the discussion on subsequent stages of the Bill on every occasion in the small hours of the morning. It might be said by the Government that there was justification for that because of the small number of Members who last Friday indicated interest in the Bill. But you cannot get many Members here on Friday. Many hon. Members I am connected with cannot be here on Friday.
§ Mr. BARNES
I am speaking of last Friday, and, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, there are many Members in all parts of the House who cannot get here on Friday. That is why so small a number of Members supported the 2500 Amendments put forward. It was no indication of the real feeling of the House in regard to this measure. In fact, I go further and say that I believe there is a very uneasy feeling on the Benches behind the Front Bench in regard to it. More than that, all the stages were taken when Members were wearied and fatigued by the discussion of important matters. I submit that a Bill of this magnitude, involving the expenditure of a vast sum of money, ought to have been taken at a time and under such circumstances that it could have been fully debated. We have put up, I think, a fair and square opposition. I hope we have not said anything offensive or unfair. I hope, now the thing is all over, any feeling that has been engendered will pass away, and that those primarily concerned in the Bill will have a long and useful life.