Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,600, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for Expenditure in respect of Royal Palaces, including a Grant-in-Aid.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Before this Supplementary Estimate is put to the vote, I hope that we shall have some explanation as to the expenditure on these Royal Palaces: what Royal Palaces are involved, and what the work has been that has been pushed forward in this way so as to need a Supplementary Estimate?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson)
I was really waiting in order to give hon. Members an opportunity of putting any questions which they wished to raise. This is a very small Supplementary Estimate for £1,600, and it has reference chiefly to the palaces which are not in Royal occupation, but which are thrown open to the public. The need for this Estimate is occasioned by the decision to put in hand a certain amount of unemployment relief work. The total stun mentioned in the Estimate as going to be spent on unemployment work is £6,515, but, as hon. Members will observe, it is not intended to ask Parliament for anything like that total sum. Owing to two kinds of savings that have been made, that sum has been reduced, in the first instance, to £4,350. The first saving is duo to the fact that certain work for fire protection was not completed this year owing to the building strike which took place earlier in the financial year, and the second saving is due to the fact that provision for other residential accommodation has been found not to be required. This £4,350 has been still 1166 further reduced by a fairly large sum by way of receipts. There has been an unexpectedly large increase in the admission fees at palaces which are open to the public. Therefore, although in the Estimate £6,515 is going to he spent for unemployment relief, it is only necessary to come to this House for the very much smeller sum of £1,600.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) wanted to know what exactly the work was and what were the palaces on which this money is going to be spent. The money is going to be spent on what may be called new work and what may be called maintenance and repairs. The new work amounts to about £1,000, and has been spent at Hampton Court Palace. Not so very long ago three rooms which were attached to a private residence were discovered to have been partly the rooms which had been in the personal occupation of Cardinal Wolsey. They had never been open to the public before. They had never been seen by the public. This was thought to be so interesting that those three rooms have been added to that part of Hampton Court Palace which is open to the public. That necessitated a certain amount of structural alteration, and £1,000 has been spent in that respect. The maintenance and repairs are in connection with four palaces: Hampton Court Palace, St. James's Palace, Kensington Palace, and Holy-rood Palace. Of those four palaces, three of them are open to the public.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
The one not open is St. James's Palace. Holyrood, Kensington, and Hampton Court. Palaces are all open to the public. St. James's Palace contains all the offices of the Lord Chamberlain, and cannot very well be thrown open to the public in the same way. I think I have now explained what these items are, and hon. Members will realise that the Vote is for the relief of unemployment.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Having heard the hon. Gentleman's explanation, I must say that I think it is perfectly satisfactory, and I welcome this expenditure—in fact, I welcomed it before I heard the hon. Gentleman's explana- 1167 tion. I want, however, to make a protest. If hon. Members will turn to page 3 of the White Paper, they will see the tremendous list of Supplementary Estimates which have been introduced by this and the previous Government. The last Government were equally sinful in this matter; I think that each of its Ministers, with the exception of the Chancellor of the Duchy, introduced some kind of Supplementary Estimate. It is an extremely bad habit, for, although this expenditure may be perfectly desirable, I cannot understand why it was not foreseen. I admit that the expenditure entailed by the very happy discovery, from the archæological point of view, at Hampton Court Palace, could not have been foreseen, but I think the other portion of the amount, namely, about £5,000, might well have been foreseen. I am not however, making any special attack on the Department concerned, as it may have been impossible, but I am making a protest, as I shall on every Supplementary Estimate, against this habit being continued. It is bad finance, it is bad procedure for the House of Commons, and I think it is the duty of Members to make it clear to Ministers that they cannot do this with impunity and rely on their automatic majority to get the thing through.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I only want to ask the hon. Gentleman one question, with regard to Holyrood Palace. I understand that a charge is made for admission to Holyrood Palace, and, although the question I want to put hardly arises on this Supplementary Estimate, T hope the hon. Gentleman will take steps to consider it. I am not very interested, myself, in visiting these palaces, but there are large numbers of other people who desire to visit them for historical reasons, particularly in connection with societies, and I want to ask the hon. Gentleman if it would be possible or him, in the case of a group or a number of persons connected, say, with a church or any other organisation, to see his way to reduce the cost of admission in that ease?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
There is one other point, on which I should like to ask a question. I understand that the sum 1168 asked for in this Supplementary Estimate includes some expenditure on Pembroke Lodge. May I ask who occupies Pembroke Lodge, and, further, whether it is in private hands or whether it is open to the public? I should also like to ask whether the hon. Gentleman thinks that this expenditure reduces unemployment or not. If it really reduces unemployment, we should like much more spent in this way, but if, as I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, it is merely taking money from some people, who are already spending it in employing people, and spending it on employing other people in rather useless directions, I cannot see the advantage of this particular form of expenditure from the point of view of unemployment
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman, in replying, would make quite plain one other matter. That this is a proper sum for the Committee to vote may well be true, and the hon. Gentleman gave us a very clear account of it, but what is not quite clear to me is why this kind of expenditure should be nut down specifically as unemployment relief work. One has heard of Governments, in their efforts to explain that they are really doing something for the unemployed. being very anxious to justify expenditure by riving that as the cause. I remember, in the last House of Commons, that there was a Government in power which sought to justify expenditure on five cruisers by saying that it was not really because the five cruisers might necessarily be required then and there, but it was for the purpose of relieving unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I thought they said something about it, but it is quite true that, when the arguments were further examined, a new reason had to be given. It is true also that the present Prime Minister, when he was Prime Minister in a previous Government, said explicitly in a famous speech, I think at Plymouth, that as a contribution towards the relief of exceptional unemployment he proposed to accelerate the building of certain cruisers. It has always been the view of those who criticize—
I think this is somewhat beyond the Supplementary Estimate for expenditure on Royal Palaces.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
On a point of Order. Was not this the actual point raised by the hon. Gentleman as justification?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was embarking on a new controversy. I would remind him of the maxim
"Exemplum ne transeat argumentunt."
§ Sir J. SIMON
I accept your correction, but should like to put the point without going into further possible illustration. I should like to understand why, if you are going to undertake new works or to maintain a Royal Palace, it is necessary to describe that as unemployment relief work. I am quite content that it should be undertaken, but it does not appear to me to be a desirable precedent for a Government to set down, as though it were unemployment relief work, expenditure which I do not doubt is justified, and which will employ a certain number of people, but which, I presume, is undertaken because it is proper and can be justified on ordinary principles. Perhaps, therefore, the hon. Gentleman would explain how it comes about that this very substantial addition to a token Vote of £200 is described as unemployment relief. Are we to understand that none of this expenditure would have been incurred if it had not been that there were unemployed persons for whom the country was very glad to find employment by any proper means?
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I should like to answer the points raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), and by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I have just as much dislike for these Supplementary Estimates as anyone else in the House, but I should like to point out that some years ago there was a Cabinet Committee which decided that during this grave crisis of unemployment, if the Departments could usefully anticipate the undertaking of expenditure, they should do so to a limited extent. In the case, for instance, of the three rooms at Hampton Court which were discovered to have been occupied by Cardinal Wolsey, it was, no doubt, a matter of great interest to the public that these rooms should be added 1170 to the public portion of the Palace, but there was no actual urgency about it. In view, however, of the state of unemployment, it was thought that it would be a good thing to anticipate expenditure in that particular. In the same way, as regards maintenance and repairs, some of the roof work, no doubt, could have be n put off for a while, but, again, in view of the state of unemployment, it was thought right to anticipate expenditure in that particular. I may mention to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley that this was undertaken on The advice of the Unemployment Relief Committee. That advice has been given to the Office of Works, and that is why we have anticipated our spending in this respect, and are asking the House for this sum of money.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
The hon. Gentleman has given us no reply to the questions put to him. These men are employed by the Office of Works, but is this work done by men from the permanent staff, or are unemployed men engaged to carry out the work?
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
A great deal of this is unskilled labour, and it is done by people who were unemployed, outside the ordinary staff of the Office of Works. A question was also asked about Pembroke Lodge. So far as I understand, Pembroke Lodge is a building which comes under what is known as the "grace and favour" part of the Office of Works, that is to say the Sovereign allows certain persons who have, clone great service to the State, either themselves or their very near relatives, to occupy certain apartments free of cost, and part of Pembroke Lodge is occupied in that way at the present moment.
§ Mr. MARCH
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he can take into consideration the charges which are made for visiting seine of the rooms at Hampton Court Palace? I know that a very large number of people who visit Hampton Court Palace do not mind paying their penny to go and see the vinery. but when they turn to come out of the vinery and see another room close by with a couple of pictures in it, and they are asked to pay 3d. to go through that room, they 1171 turn back and do not go through it. I think that if a penny were charged for passing through that room beside the vinery, a much larger number of people would visit it than is the case at the present moment. I think, also, that there are extra charges up to the amount of 6d. for going upstairs into other rooms, and I think the Department might well consider those charges and see if they cannot be reduced, with a view to getting a better attendance of visitors.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. Gentleman mentioned that some of these buildings were not inhabited, and one of them, in addition to Pembroke Lodge, is the Ranger's Lodge in Hyde Park. I do not know if the hon. Gentleman has the particulars with him—
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
With regard to the charges for admission to Hampton Court Palace, I think the Committee will agree that is in the highest degree desirable that these delightful works of art and other items of interest to the public should be available to the public at as low a charge as possible. There might have been a case some time ago, when wages and earnings were higher than they are now, for a higher scale of charges, but just now, when wages are very much lower, it seems to me that we ought to make it possible, so far as we can, for members of the general public and of the working class to avail themselves of the opportunity to see these works of art and so on, at a lower rate than is now possible. That is desirable, also, from another point of view, because seeing these places of interest does develop a more acute perception and a more acute appreciation of the place these buildings have in our history, and it seems to me that, if we could make them available to a larger section of the public, the historical lessons in our schools and elsewhere would be much more interesting to the children than they are now.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
With regard to the suggestion which has been made by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones), I will certainly consider that, and also the point made by the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) with regard to Hampton Court Palace in 1172 particular. I think, also, that the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) in regard to Holyrood Palace is a good one, and we shall take all of these suggestions into consideration and see what can be done.
§ Question put, and agreed to.