§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a very short and simple Measure, and I will in due course give an exact account of its provisions. But I do not feel that I should pass direct to the provisions of the Bill without saying something of the historical and emotional background of this subject, a subject which is indeed, surrounded by much poignant British history. It has been said by a great historian that with the flowering of Nelson's genius, came the heroic age of British naval warfare, and the firm establishment of British sea power. The courage of this great sailor, who faced great risks with open eyes on many occasions is legendary. His three greatest victories, the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar, following the long vigil outside Toulon waiting for the enemy to come out and fight, established the tradition of British naval invincibility which carried us right through the 19th century and beyond, and through two wars against the Germans. Nelson foiled Napoleon's plans for the invasion of this island of ours just as his naval successors, cooperating with the Air Force and the Army in the last war, foiled Hitler's plan aimed at the same objective. Looking back upon history, I think we can say that Nelson's victories were more enduring in their consequences than Napoleon's.
On 21st October, 1805—the anniversary is only just past—he died in the moment of victory in the cockpit of the "Victory"; his sailors brought him home, and he lay in state in the Painted Hall at Greenwich on his way to his last resting place in St. Paul's, where they sang:Let his body be buried in peace, but his name liveth for evermore.Nothing that is past, nothing that is to come, can ever dim his story or quench his immortality.
The discussion this afternoon relates to the Act of 1806. What would the great sailor have thought of that Act, which 213 was passed after his death, and is referred to in the Amendment, which has been placed upon the Order Paper by certain hon. Members? The Act of 1806 cannot be said to have carried out the wish of the great sailor. His wish was different. In his last words, in the last hours he spent in mortal pain, he was thinking, not of his elder brother—who was endowed under this Act—but of the woman he loved and of the daughter she had borne. At 11 o'clock in the morning on the memorable day of Trafalgar, it is recorded that Nelson went down to his cabin which had then been stripped for action. The picture of Lady Hamilton had been taken down by one of the crew and put aside, and Nelson is reported to have said, "Take care of my guardian angel." He went down to his cabin, and wrote the last codicil to his will, and it read as follows:October 21st, 1805, then in sight of the combined fleets of France and Spain, distant about 10 miles.I leave out a few sentences. He continues:I leave Emma, Lady Hamilton, a legacy to my King and country, trusting that they will give her an ample provision to maintain her rank in life. I also leave to the beneficence of my country my adopted daughter Horatia Nelson Thompson. These are the only favours I ask of my King and country, at this moment, when I am going to fight their battle.He also left on his writing table, as will be recalled, two other letters, one to Emma, Lady Hamilton, and one to his daughter Horatia. And he wrote also the famous prayer for victory, which we all know. Those were his last writings, and we also know that, as he lay dying in great pain, he repeated again that he left Lady Hamilton and Horatia to his country.
I quote another famous seaman to complete this incident, the great Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, as he afterwards became, who in 1905 when he was Admiral Sir John Fisher, First Sea Lord, wrote:Nelson died a comparative pauper, because he sought always fighting and not prize money. He was seeking the enemy's battleships while others were seeking fat merchant vessels…. He had to ask his country with his dying breath—the only thing he asked— to care for his friend, as he had no money to give her. She was allowed by a grateful country to starve and found a pauper's grave in a foreign land A passing Englishman paid for her funeral.These are the words of the great Lord Fisher. Emma, Lady Hamilton, died friendless in a garret in Calais She was 214 buried in a squalid graveyard which afterwards was used as a dump for timber. Of Horatia we know that she was married later to the Reverend Philip Ward, of Tenterden, Kent, and died in 1881, and there is no record that she left issue.
I pass from those for whom Nelson cared so much, to a rather shadowy and secondary figure endowed by the Act of 1806, the Venerable William Nelson, Doctor of Divinity. He had a short and not very glorious association with the Navy. It is recorded that for two years he was a naval chaplain attached to His Majesty's ship "Boreas," which was then captained by his illustrious younger brother. He does not seem to have taken his duties very seriously, nor to have cared much for the climate of the West Indies, where his ship was stationed. He was absent from his ship for the greater part of those two years, and secured his discharge in October, 1786—not so heroic a figure as was his younger brother. It was he who was primarily endowed by the Act of 1806, which I am asking the House to amend.
In 1806, Debates took place in Parliament; I have read them, as I think any hon. Member would read them, with great interest Parliament was not unanimously in favour of this Act of 1806; doubts were expressed at that time, first as to the desirability of paying a pension not to direct descendants, but to collateral ones, and in the second place it was felt that some provision should have been made for Lady Hamilton, and Nelson's daughter. I will not quote at length from these Debates, but it may be of interest if I recall that on 14th May, 1806, Mr. Francis said:If, happily for his country, the noble Admiral had lived to enjoy these proofs of its gratitude, or, if he had left children to represent his person, and to transmit his memory, with all its honours, to an illustrious lineage directly descended from him, I should never have thought of saying one word, but in support of this question All my doubt is whether any claim on the nation stands-exactly on the same tooting in the person of a collateral relation, as it would have done, if it had been possible to preserve the reward of his services, united with his name.Referring to Lady Hamilton, Mr. Fuller said, on 19th May, 1806:He trusted, therefore that neither the magnanimity of that illustrious man, nor the generosity of the Empire, would be forgotten by those who were to receive profits and 215 honours on account of the service which the immortal Nelson had performed. He would not then particularise anything"—These were Victorian days.
§ Hon. Members: Georgian.
§ Mr. Dalton
But the Victorian spirit was already stretching backwards. I repeat there was a certain reticence on the subject; but let Mr. Fuller speak for himself:He would not then particularise anything, though his object must occur to many Members in the House: he hoped the representative of that family would also show some degree of generosity, and comply with the wish of the illustrious founder of the family in his last moments.They did not do so. Finally, Mr. Francis said:Lord Nelson's collateral relations, personally, are unknown to the public, and can have no claim but what they derive from the accidental honour of bearing his name, and from services in which they had no share The gratitude due to his memory would, in my opinion, be better expressed with less profusion.Since that time there have been Debates from time to time upon these perpetual pensions of which this is the last outstanding case. They have, for long, been thought to be objectionable in principle. So long ago as 1887, Bradlaugh, an active reformer, succeeded in getting appointed a Select Committee of this House to consider perpetual pensions, and the Committee—and this is of great interest— recommended that no such pensions should continue beyond the life of its present owner. Their recommendation was not accepted, and, as I shall indicate, I am not proposing anything quite so drastic today. That was the recommendation of the Select Committee of this House nearly 60 years ago. With regard to this particular case, there was an offer made in 1889 for commutation at 27 years purchase, which would have involved the payment of £135,000. This offer was-made to Earl Nelson of that time, but it was refused. Since that time, the family has drawn some £285,000 gross under the head of the perpetual pension—some twice the commutation lump sum. The question of commutation was reopened in 1904 by Lord Nelson, but neither he nor the Treasury made any definite proposals. The only firm proposal was that of 1889. What is proposed is not, as the Select Committee in 1887 recommended, that the 216 pension should be terminated at the death of the present holder, nor that it should now be commuted, since that opportunity went by in 1889. What is proposed is that it should be terminated at the conclusion of two lives—that is the lives of the present Earl, and his heir, who is his brother.
The provisions in the Bill are, I hope, simple, clear and intelligent. It is now more than 140 years since Nelson died, and since this pension was first granted to his venerable elder brother, the unsuccessful naval chaplain. A sum of £700,000 have now been paid not to the great Lord Nelson's direct descendants, but to the descendants of his collateral relatives through successive generations. The link with the great sailor has now become so distant and so tenuous, that there is no longer any justification for continuing what modern opinion must regard as a strange anomaly from other days. I would add that the British taxpayer is carrying on his back today a vast debt incurred in a series of wars subsequent to Nelson's day, including the two last and greatest of all world wars.
Clause 1 proposes that the pension should be terminated when the present Earl and his immediate heir have both passed away—it is assured for the present Earl and his immediate heir, his brother. Clause 2 relaxes the conditions of the trust which now governs the Trafalgar Estates. Perhaps I may seek to put the legal position clearly and succinctly, so that the House may appreciate the change which is proposed. At present, the position is that the present tenant in tail, Earl Nelson, has not the powers of a tenant for life under the Settled Land Act That Act provided that such a tenant could himself sell, or exchange, the property, though the proceeds of such transactions must, of course, be reinvested, subject to the trust deeds. In this case Lord Nelson cannot do any of these things. He cannot sell or exchange the property, and even the trustees cannot sell or dispose of the mansion house and its park. Clause 2 (1) will enable Lord Nelson to appoint new trustees in the place of the official trustees. Clause 2 (2) gives Lord Nelson the powers of tenant for life which I have just described. Clause 2 (3) removes the special restrictions on the alienation of the mansion house and the legal obligations imposed by the original Trafalgar Estates Act to re-invest in land the proceeds of 217 sale of any land forming part of the estate. It may be re-invested in securities if desired, other than land. This is a relaxation which, we believe, will be for the benefit of the present Earl, and we hope for the reasons which I will give, it may also be for the benefit of the nation. It is a relaxation which, I think, will be welcomed by the present family.
Thought has been given to views which have been expressed from time to time, as to the possible future of Trafalgar House and the surrounding grounds. I myself, and I speak now for my colleagues in the Government, should think it most suitable if Trafalgar House and the grounds attached, passed into the hands of the Admiralty, and were used for some naval purpose, which the Admiralty might think fitting. I have expressed this opinion to my noble Friend, and he is sympathetically considering this possibility. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty in the last few days following the discussions which I have carried on with my noble Friend, has visited Trafalgar House, and he has been considering, in consultation with the other Members of the Board of Admiralty, whether something of this kind might not be arranged. For this to happen, it is necessary that agreement should be reached on what would be a fair price for the house and grounds, as well as on their future use. I should be exceedingly pleased if agreement on these points could be reached, and so far as I am concerned, I shall endeavour to cooperate in securing such agreement.
I believe that if this House, named after the great Battle of Trafalgar, and the grounds surrounding it, could be transferred permanently to the keeping of the Admiralty, it would be a far better memorial to the great Admiral, and the imperishable tradition which he created, than the present arrangement which, to a considerable degree, is characterised by a measure of dilapidation, decrepitude, and general decay in the house and its surroundings. I have had a report on its present condition. Such an arrangement, as I have suggested, would bring up, once more, to a high standard, the aesthetic and other values of the house for it is a beautiful house, built at the time when British architecture was achieving great triumphs. If this Bill is partly instrumental in bringing about 218 such a transfer, at a reasonable and fair price, it would be, I suggest, as Nelson himself would wish it That is the final sentiment I offer to the House, and I hope it will be clothed in practical achievement. Having explained the simple provisions of this Bill, I ask the House to give it a Second Reading
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
In order that the House may appreciate, approximately, the liability, would it be indelicate to ask my right hon Friend to inform us of the age of the present Earl Nelson and his brother?
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
Can my right hon. Friend say what is the extent of the Trafalgar Estate?
§ Mr. Dalton
I speak subject to correction, as I have not the details on my notes, but there are some hundreds of acres surrounding the house
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
I think the whole House has appreciated the way in which the Chancellor has moved the Second Reading of this Bill I was particularly gratified by his closing sentences for I think it would be a very great thing indeed, if we could, by a better interpretation of the will of Lord Nelson, provide something which, in the end, will justify the great expense which has been incurred. By doing that, the Chancellor has, to some extent, spiked my guns, but I must warn him that I am a specialist gunnery officer and that I am very good at getting spikes out of guns and I think I shall be able to find some ammunition to fire at him. First, why has this Bill been brought in at this time? Only a fortnight ago, we had one of our annual interesting Debates here as to what we would do with Parliamentary time this Session It was a most impassioned Debate, in which Members in ail parts, of the House took part, and spoke most sincerely in defence of their rights In that Debate, the Lord President of the Council said:As it is I can assure the House that the legislative programme is the result of very drastic pruning It has been a tight squeeze and the Government are satisfied that it could not be reduced in any way without serious prejudice to the national interests "— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November 1946; Vol 430, c 97.]219 What national interests are urgently involved in this Bill?
§ Commander Maitland
When the Chancellor is faced with a serious financial situation, when he is fighting the battle of the dollar all over the world, I cannot understand how he can spare his own time, and that of his officers, to come to the House and force a Bill through all its stages at this time. I think there must be many more important things than that for him to do.
§ Commander Maitland
Yes, it must be a matter of finance, and I would like to look into that question for a moment. In 1806, the pension of £5,000 per annum, out of a total income of £40 million, was quixotically generous—
§ Commander Maitland
Now, the sum has been reduced to £2,000 per annum after tax has been paid, or, 1/250th of what Parliament voted in 1806. If it is not a matter of finance—perhaps it is, but I should not have thought that it was so vitally important—is it, then, a matter of principle? If so, what is the exact principle that we are trying to clear up? The 1806 Act was a peculiar Act. The Chancellor has read the Debates of the past, and must have been impressed by the fact that Parliament tried hard to weld that Act into our permanent structure of legislation which, for want of a better name, we call our Constitution. It was a tremendous effort. For example, there is the question of the appointment of the trustees. The right hon. Gentleman may say that the trustees have nothing to do with the pension, but in this Bill we are considering the whole picture. The Parliament of that time appointed your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Prime Minister to be trustees for that Act. Not content with that, they put into the Act certain directions, from which I quote as follows:And it is hereby further enacted; that after signing of such Warrant the same shall be good, valid, and effectual in law, accord- 220 ing to the purport and true meaning thereof and of this Act, and shall not be determined or revokable by or upon the demise of His Majesty (whom God long preserve), or any of his heirs or successors, or by, or upon the death or removal of any of the said Commissioners of the Treasury or the Lord High Treasurer, or by or upon the determination of the power, office or offices of them, or any of them.Nothing could have been made more clear by the Parliament of that day. I am not entering into the question of whether they were doing right or wrong, but they were doing it with all their might and main. The principle we are attacking is concerned not with any question of whether this permanent pension should come to an end, but with the question whether we should keep faith with the past. There are many other things of this kind in the past. Are they all to be torn up in this way? While I am on the question of principle, I would like to say that I am not at all sure that this Bill is in accordance with Socialist principles. I have looked up various Questions which were asked under previous Labour Administrations about this matter, and I see that in 1924 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer said:There are only three such pensions, one of which will probably be commuted very shortly. Provided that terms satisfactory to the taxpayer can be arranged, the Treasury are always ready to commute these pensions." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1924; Vol. 169, c. 1039.]In 1929 he was asked a question, in particular, about the Nelson pension, and, in reply, he said:It is open to the recipient of a pension to mane application for commutation. I am sure it will be favourably received.There was a supplementary question:Apart from the recipient making application, are the Government prepared to take the initiative in the matter?He replied:I do not think the Government could compel commutation apart from legislation." —[OFFCIAL REPORT. 16th July, 1929; Vol. 230, c 213.]We have the legislation now, but it was clear that the Chancellor of that day did not think this was a good subject for legislation.
§ Mr. Kirkwood rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Unless the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander 221 Maitland) is willing to give way, I am afraid that the hon. Member cannot intervene.
§ Commander Maitland
I was in the middle of an argument with which I wish to proceed. I should like to be told whether the Nelson family were approached, before this Bill was introduced, with a view to commutation. Were they taken, so far as possible, into the confidence of the Treasury, or was Clause 1 of the Bill given them as a fait accompli, and were they only allowed to discuss Clause 2?
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us if he is talking for or against the Bill?
§ Commander Maitland
I am speaking, in the best way I know, as a sailor. The design of this Bill has two effects. It has the effect of extinguishing the pension, which the Chancellor has explained to the House, and it has also the effect, as he has also explained, that the tenant for life becomes able to appoint new trustees and to dispose in any way he likes, of Trafalgar House and the estates. I think that the House will forgive me if I speak as a sailor, because anything which has to do with Nelson, curiously enough, does affect sailors. I was very glad to hear that we have a better end to this story namely that Trafalgar House will be saved than the rather sordid one that this Bill provides. At the very best, it is a rather mean and rather sordid end to the story for I must remind the House that these two old gentlemen are aged 89 and 86 and therefore the limitation of two lives cannot be regarded as very generous. I should like to remind the House too, how this story, whose end we are discussing today, began. I would like to have my turn at history, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us a history lesson at the beginning.
In November, 1805, we in this country were going through as bad a time, I suppose, as we have ever gone through—and in this generation we have known what bad times are. What happened was that the Allies, after a brief resurgence of spirit, had been completely defeated by Napoleon at the Battle of Ulm, and, on 5th November, London went to bed in a mood as near as to despair as Londoners ever get. It was in fact the lowest ebb in the Napoleonic wars—the Dunkirk time, if you like. And just as at Dunkirk 222 something astonishing happened. At two o'clock in the morning, the news came through of Trafalgar. It was an amazing moment for the people, who had almost forgotten that there was a chance. It meant security, and the rebirth of hope, with the knowledge of victory in the end. Therefore, can we blame the people—and they were the people, make no mistake about it—who were behind Parliament in this matter? Can we blame them if they took special pains to express their gratitude and affection? I think that we should be most careful before we set aside their expressed will in this matter.
I conclude by saying again that I think that this idea which the Chancellor has given to the House is a good one. I hope that he will be able to include it in the Bill, because it seems to me that it will require legislation, and I should like to see the story which started in 1805 rounded off by legislation in this Bill. It is in the confident hope that we may be able to amend this Bill in its later stages, that I leave this matter, trusting that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give us what we need.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)
After listening to the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), I think that it must be obvious to this House, and the country, why no previous Government took the step which this Government have had the courage to take. It is obvious that previous Governments did not want to do it. I suggest that this action of the Government will be welcomed by everybody. It is a thing that should have been done many years ago. The memory of Nelson does not depend upon a pension or upon the preserving of Trafalgar House or any estate. Nelson is one of those men who was so great, that he does not need a statue, a picture, or a memorial. Therefore, we can cut out from the consideration of a memorial, all consideration of this estate. I ask myself: Is it the best use that we can make of national money to buy this particular estate for this particular purpose? It is not necessary that this should be done in order that this country will remember Nelson. I also ask myself: Is this another way of paying over a very large sum of money to the two brothers, or the heirs of the estate? It seems to me that this is a very clever way of commuting the pension.
223 This is an extremely important event in our history, and I wonder what will follow from it. This is not the only estate of a similar character in this country. Lady Hamilton did not come out of this affair very well; but certain other ladies, in the history of this country, came out of this sort of thing exceedingly well. There are many great families, and many so-called great people in this country who are benefiting from this sort of thing. I hope that the Government, when they have the time, will look into some other estates and treat them in the same way. If they do, it will be to the benefit of many millions of citizens who are paying rates to maintain the estates of people who have no connection with great men such as Nelson, but who obtained their estates by unworthy and despicable means.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)
It does not appear to me to be very necessary to deal with the observations of the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock), because they were really of a general character, but I think one must agree with his opening remark that the memory of Nelson requires no monument. On that we shall all agree. I do not, however, agree with the Bill which is now before us for Second Reading. I say that because, during the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), hon. Members opposite appeared to be in some doubt whether he was speaking for or against the Bill. Therefore, at this stage, I wish to make it plain that I am speaking against the Bill.
I have not had the advantage, which the Chancellor has enjoyed, of reading the Debates on the original Bill, although I have read the King's Speech and the Act. I would like to remind the House of the circumstances in which that Measure was introduced. I would not compete as a student of history with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle, but I am bound to point out that when Ministers addressed the House in January, 1806, it was the darkest hour of the Napoleonic wars. The Continent was in the grip of Napoleon. Prussia had collapsed, and the King's Speech could only, by way of consolation, point out that the Emperor of Russia was loyal and express 224 the hope that we might be able to maintain the struggle and obtain in due course an honourable peace. We know better. We know that the decisive battle of the Napoleonic wars had been fought. We know that the long series of decisive naval battles—Salamis, Actium, Lepanto—had received another crowning victory, and that, although at that time no one knew it, the Napoleonic Empire was already doomed. On the imperfect knowledge which our forefathers then had, they passed the Act. I am not concerned to deal with the shabby treatment of Horatia or Lady Hamilton. I am not concerned to vindicate the warlike prowess of the Reverend Dr. Nelson, although I am bound to say that it appears to me somewhat belittling to speak lightly of the lack of martial ability of a cleric, whose part it is not to be a sailor or a combatant. Those facts and those limitations were quite as well known to the people of that time as they are to us. With their eves open, Ministers came to the House, and the King's Speech read as follows:You will, therefore, cheerfully concur in enabling His Majesty to annex to the honours which he has conferred on the family of the late Lord Nelson such a mark of national munificence as may preserve to the latest posterity the memory of his name and services and the benefit of his great example.The wording of the Statute was very similar:Being desirous to bestow on the family of Lord Nelson such considerable and lasting mark of your royal favour …The pension or annuity was settled, and Trafalgar House was built. I think there is one thing on which we shall agree. It is that few objects in life are so pitiable as a poor and impecunious nobleman. Therefore, it was the object of the people of that time not merely to ennoble the family of Nelson, but to see that that family should be kept up in a proper state. A decline in the value of money and high taxation have no doubt tended to abridge the liberality of our ancestors. That no one could help When we look back, however, as we do. with fuller knowledge at what evoked our great grandfathers' generosity, when we realise that Lord Nelson fought and won one of the decisive battles of the world, which saved this country and Europe, I am not disposed to abridge the provisions which they made They do not depend upon the individual merits of the recipient from time to time.
225 The proposal of this Bill reminds one of the rather niggling belitting proposals of the Victorian age, at the time when large audiences really enjoyed hearing Sir Charles Dilke give lectures on the cost of the Crown, and when Mr. Bradlaugh was worrying himself about perpetual pensions, and actually lecturing up and down the country about them. Because the Government revere the memory of Mr. Bradlaugh and his colleagues, we are asked, in times such as these, to spend an afternoon in discussing whether we should get rid of a pension of £5,000 a year—paper pounds, less tax. I am not impressed by the suggestion that this proposal is more generous than the proposal of the Select Committee, which was to end the pension at the end of a then existing middle-aged life. Here it is proposed to terminate it at the end of two lives aged 89 and 85. If a paltry thing is going to be done, it is not made any better by glossing it over as an act of generosity. I think it is a most unfortunate thing that we should leave the very important matters which confront this country to spend an afternoon on what I consider to be a piece of paltry meanness.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
I speak as a strong supporter of this Bill, and like the Chancellor, I wish to begin my remarks by saying that, of course, those who support the Bill and those who wish to vote for it are not in any way seeking to detract from the immortal glory and fame of Lord Nelson. There is no danger that that fame will ever be forgotten. Many hon. Members, when they come to their work in the morning, pass through Trafalgar Square. I think we all feel a little safer when we see that splendid monument, and when we see the eye of Lord Nelson firmly and vigilantly fixed on the Admiralty, where, as he often suggested, the most sinister enemies of British naval greatness often presided. I speak in support of the Second Reading of this Bill also for a personal reason. The matter of perpetual pensions was raised in the House in many Questions in the years of 1923 and 1924. It was raised by a former Member for Bodmin, whom I think I may claim as a most eminent past Member of the House. Much information about this matter was elicited by the Member for Bodmin at that time, and he succeeded 226 largely in stopping two other perpetual pensions, the pension for Lord Rodney and the Schomberg pension.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
When the hon. Member says that the former Member for Bodmin stopped those pensions, does he mean without compensation, or were the pensions commuted, instead of an annual sum being paid?
§ Mr. Foot
They were commuted on principles which were agreed between the Chancellor and the recipients of the pensions at that time, and the same kind of offer was made to Lord Nelson, as has been said by the Chancellor on two or three occasions, but unhappily the suggestion was rejected. The hon. Member for Handsworth (Mr. Harold Roberts) says that this is a belittling Measure and proceeded to pour scorn on the efforts of Mr. Bradlaugh. While I have very great respect for Lord Nelson, I have also very great respect for Mr. Bradlaugh and for the many famous fights which he fought in this House of Commons. It was not merely Mr. Bradlaugh, however, who reported on that Committee, but many members of the then Liberal Party and Conservative Party, and they produced a unanimous report on the subject which was, unhappily, not carried into effect. Not merely did that Committee at that time say that all perpetual pensions should be determined and abolished; they also said that the purchase price of 27 years, which had been the practice when such pensions were commuted on previous occasions, was too high, and they hinted that a much lower price should be granted in the future. Much money would have been saved to the State if Lord Nelson had been prepared to accept that generous settlement in 1889.
We are told by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) that by passing this Measure today, we shall fail to keep faith with the past. I believe that by passing this Measure we shall, in fact, much better keep faith with the past, because I do not see how anyone, after the facts given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, can argue that the Act of 1806 carried out the wishes of the man whom this House was seeking to honour. Much evidence can be produced to support that view. The hon. Member for Handsworth suggested that the House of Commons at that time was 227 in full possession of the facts and understood all points of view and that, therefore, we should not go back on that decision. But it is doubtful whether all the facts were known at that time. For instance, here is the report published on the death of Lord Nelson in the "Annual Register" and these words represent the views held then by a large number of people in this country:Few men nave by their death, occasioned a more general impression of regret and sorrow; and as he was universally esteemed so is he universally lamented; it may be said that he has left the world without an enemy. To his country and to his friends his loss is great indeed; but, alas, how much greater to his poor afflicted widow whose only consolation will be the remembrance of his virtues?That certainly is a masterly under-statement of the facts, but it does not alter the fact that the House of Commons or many Members of the House of Commons were deceived by such evidence as that, and that brings me to the question of Lady Hamilton. It has been alleged by some historians, and wrongly alleged, that the first Lord Nelson who received the pension suppressed the evidence of the last testament of the hero of Trafalgar in order that this Measure should be passed through the House of Commons and that he should get this pension. I have already said that he is wrongfully accused of this, but there was suppression carried out by Lord Grenville, who was, in effect, the Prime Minister at the time, partly on the basis of evidence supplied by the Admiralty. The evidence that came from the Admiralty stated that Lady Hamilton had not done the signal service to the British nation which Lord Nelson claimed in his last testament. Whose opinion of Lady Hamilton are we to accept? Are we to accept Lord Nelson's evidence or that of the Admiralty? Personally, on the achievements and character of Lady Hamilton, I would accept the opinion of Lord Nelson against all the dusty insinuations which can be ransacked from the archives of the Admiralty.
It has been stated by other historians that nothing shameful was done to Lady Hamilton. It is said that she had plenty of money left her, including £2,000 a year by Lord Nelson. She has been accused of being a spendthrift who wasted his money on riotous living, and that, therefore, no blame attaches to Parliament for not carrying out the last testimony of the 228 great sailor. I think Lady Hamilton had the right to spend her money how she wished. It does not alter the fact that Lady Hamilton did die in penury, and, as the Chancellor has already said, she was buried in a grave which for a time was lost. Only a wooden tombstone stood there and on it were the words: "Emma Hamilton, friend of England." I would as soon like to see these words wiped out of the history books of this country, as I would like to lose the motto which the great Lord Nelson gave to the British people on the morning of Trafalgar. Therefore, I claim that so far from doing any belittling act, this House is doing the right thing in wiping out an act of hypocrisy, for, either through ignorance or hypocrisy, Parliament in 1806 put through an Act which did not carry out the desires and wishes of Lord Nelson's will.
There is a further reason why I support this Measure. I have the honour to represent the most important section of the most important naval city in the world From that city of Plymouth and from the counties of Devon and the neighbouring counties of Somerset and Cornwall have come many of the great naval captains who have adorned British history. If it had not been for these people coming from Devon and Cornwall, we might never have heard of Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson and other famous people. I would ask this question—what happened to the heirs of the great men of the West Country when they died? How did England and this Parliament treat them? No pension was paid to Sir Richard Grenville from Cornwall, and no annuity was given to the heirs of Sir Francis Drake. No financial award went to Sir John Hawkins from Plymouth. [An HON MEMBER: "Nor to Monty."] And I think rightly so, but I will deal with that point in a minute or two. What happened to the others? What happened to Robert Blake, whose name is second only to Nelson's in British naval history? His bones were taken out from Westminster Abbey, and thrown into a common pit by the orders of one Stuart king, while Raleigh was sent to the scaffold by another. This is how this Parliament treated the heroes of the West Country; yet their fame has not diminished, and every school child knows that but for them England would have remained an insignificant little island in the North Sea.
229 I would point out to the Chancellor not only in his capacity as trustee but also as Chancellor of the Exchequer that he made what I thought was a very slighting reference to prize money. Some of his predecessors were very glad of that prize money Indeed, the difference between the admirals who came from Devon, and the Admirals who came from other parts of the country, was this; that whereas those other Admirals cost the Chancellor of the Exchequer a great deal of money, the Admirals from Devon not only demanded nothing from him at their death, but in their lifetime they filled the national coffers. How much better would the prospects of this country be and how little would we need the American Loan if we had today a few Drakes and a few Hawkins prowling the Seven Seas.
Not merely did they dispose of these enormous sums of money to the Chancellor of the Exchequer but during their lifetime, as in the case of John Hawkins— whose last act when dying was to send his last £2,000 to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the Queen of England —they donated moneys to the Crown. I want to get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what happened to the £2,000 given by Sir John Hawkins, and I want to know what is being done for the heirs and descendants of Drake, of Raleigh, of the Grenvilles and all those other famous men from Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset. I know all about it because I receive letters from them every day—from the Drakes, the Hawkins, the Grenvilles and the others. And what do they say? They want their post-war credits; they want their war damage payments; they want better treatment for the long service naval pensioners—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I ask whether it is in Order to discuss the payment of postwar credits to the hon. Member's constituents in connection with the Measure now before the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
Actually it is not in Order, but I was waiting to see how far the hon. Member intended to use it as an illustration.
§ Mr. Foot
If the hon. Gentleman had waited a little longer, I would have tried to prove exactly how relevant this point 230 is. The descendants of these great men, who live in a section of Devon called Devonport, have many requests which they want to make to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, requests which I shall bring to the right hon. Gentleman's attention at a more suitable time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is perfectly well aware that the sons of these famous seamen in Devon do not ask for special favours. They would abhor any proposal that special favours should be granted to one section. Coming from a naval city, I am convinced that the Chancellor can rest assured that there is strong support for wiping out this pension, which should never have been granted.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
Like the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) I wish to pay tribute to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the spirit in which he has introduced this Bill, and I should like equally to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman himself, who I am sorry is not in the House at the moment, for the sincerity and conviction with which he voiced views which happen not to accord with my own.
Before I discuss one or two features of the Bill itself, I venture to join issue with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on one or two points of history. He is, of course, a man of romantic nature and in certain respects his enthusiasm, I think, has a little run away with him. Everybody who knows anything of the story, must realise that Lady Hamilton has been the subject of an idealisation which the facts of history hardly warrant. The Chancellor quoted Lord Fisher of Kilverstone as having said that Lord Nelson died in comparative poverty. It is characteristic of that great seaman of our own day that when he was discussing affairs of the sea he always had his feet firmly planted on the ground, but when discussing affairs of the land, he was all at sea. In fact, in suggesting that Lord Nelson died a pauper, he was using language which was at variance with the facts, and it would be an unfortunate thing if the impression gained ground, fostered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, that this country was lacking in recognition to Lord Nelson, even in material matters, during his lifetime. There is not a shred of foundation for that suggestion.
231 What, in fact, did Lord Nelson draw from a grateful country? After the engagement of Santa Cruz in 1797 he was granted a pension of £1,000 a year for his own life. After the Battle of the Nile in 1798 he was granted a pension of £2,000 a year for three lives, in addition to which he was given £10,000 by the East India Company and gifts of great value by the Tsar of Russia and the Sultan of Turkey, with an additional £1,000 a year from the Irish Parliament. That, together with the dukedom of Bronte, which brought him in approximately £3,000 a year, produces, at any rate, a competence for a quiet family man, and there is no suggestion that so long as Lord Nelson remained a quiet family man, he made any complaint about his material means. With regard to Lady Hamilton, here again idealisation has taken wing. Let me first talk about her material state. It is said that she died as a pauper in Calais. That is undoubtedly true, and it was no one's fault at all but her own. Lord Nelson made what would have been ample and abundant provision for any lady of less expansive tastes. She received, under his will, £2,000 in cash, an annuity of £500 charged on the revenues of Bronté, and the house and grounds of Merton valued at from £12,000 to £14,000 a year. Further, interest on £4,000 settled on Horatia was to be paid to her until the child reached the age of 18, which meant for 14 years or so. In addition to that it was mentioned that she was allowed £500 by another gentleman with whom she lived "on terms of friendly intimacy." and that was probably not the only donation she received from similar sources.
Let us be under no illusions. Lady Hamilton has been long dead, and it is possible to go back to the hard facts of history without making any apology about it. That she lived a godly, righteous and sober life it would be idle to pretend She did not With collaboration—readily available and in considerable volume—she did a good deal to avert a decline of the birth rate and that, perhaps, may be accounted to her for righteousness. Strange to say, moreover, she was on terms of cordiality with the Rev. William Nelson, Doctor of Divinity, though not conspicuously addicted to divinity herself. Yet perhaps not so strange. The conversion of Magdalenes is an attractive, if 232 slightly insidious, pursuit, and it evidently appealed to the reverend gentleman. The facts are, therefore, that during his lifetime Lord Nelson was rightly honoured and adequately endowed by his country, and that Lady Hamilton at all times, during her association with him and after his death, was equally abundantly and adequately endowed. There is no apology for posterity to make on either of those two counts.
What are, in fact, the principles involved in this Debate on this Bill? The first question that arises is obviously whether money grants are a proper reward for such great services as those rendered by Lord Nelson, and whether they should be reserved only for great soldiers, great sailors and, in our time, great airmen. If anyone attempts to measure against one another the contributions to victory made by Lord Nelson and Mr. Pitt, it will be as hard to arrive at a just decision, as to compare the contribution made in the recent war by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and any soldier, sailor, or airman. Yet Mr. Pitt left nothing but debts behind him, while Lord Nelson, as I have said, lived in comparative affluence and left Lady Hamilton in comparative affluence after him.
If we were to consider this matter again in this House, I think we should reach the conclusion that material rewards are not the proper rewards for soldiers and sailors in war. But if we are to have such grants should they be posthumous? There is obviously something to be said for giving a great soldier, when he has finished his battles, a sufficiency for him to live in comfort for the rest of his days or even as in the case of Nelson and Wellington, keep his children and his grandchildren in comfort also. But to give it to his brother, an obscure parson in an eastern county, and to allow it to descend irregularly from uncle to nephew, from father to son, and then to a brother again, in perpetuity, is surely in accordance neither with reason nor commonsense. Even supposing that the awards are to be posthumous, are they to go on through all eternity, being paid out of the taxpayers' money to people who have neither toiled nor spun for what they receive, but simply draw it because they happen to have been born in a certain line of succession?
233 Finally, in the case of Lord Nelson, to whom should any posthumous pension have been paid? In spite of the opinion that must be held of Lady Hamilton in the light of history, there is no question about the opinion in which Lord Nelson held her. He is said to have turned a blind eye on a signal at the Battle of Copenhagen; he clearly turned both blind eyes on Lady Hamilton's shortcomings, which were neither few nor inconsiderable. But he was deeply in love with her and would have made any sacrifice for her, and his dying wish was that she, and she alone, should be cared for by a country desiring to show its recognition of his great services. Manifestly, in spite of any moralistic prejudice which the unmarried Mr. Pitt may have entertained, it is clear that Lady Hamilton, and not the Rev. William Nelson, Doctor of Divinity —in spite of the fact that he was a member of my own university—should have been the beneficiary after Lord Nelson's death.
There is, however, something far more fundamental about this Bill than anything which I have touched on yet. It is embodied in this question: How can the continuance, or discontinuance of this pension have the smallest bearing upon the fame of Lord Nelson's services to this country? He stands today aloft upon his column, which is the most famous monument in our country. The square in which the monument stands is, by reason of its name, among the most famous squares in the world. I put is to hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway that they might take note of an opinion which, as coming from one of their former leaders, will perhaps carry weight with them. When the barony was awarded to Lord Nelson after the Battle of the Nile, objection was expressed on the ground that it ought to have been either a viscounty or an earldom. Mr. Pitt said then:It is unnecessary to enter into that question. Admiral Nelson's fame will be coeval with the British name. It will be remembered that be has obtained the greatest naval victory on record "—it was the Nile, not Trafalgar, because the Nile was then the greatest victory on record—when no man will think of asking whether he had been created a Baron, a Viscount or an Earl.Will anyone, in considering such services as were rendered by Lord Nelson, think they have the smallest relation to two old 234 gentlemen in Wiltshire, who will, in any case, enjoy the pension for the rest of their lives, after which it will finally cease? Such considerations cannot weigh in the balance by so much as the dust on the eyebrow of a fly.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
I am sure the House has heard with the greatest pleasure the eulogy which the Chancellor has given of the great services rendered by Lord Nelson to his country. I must say that I did not agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman said in the remainder of his speech about the successors to the title. In my opinion it had little or nothing to do with the Act in which the memory of Nelson's great services was commemorated. I very much regret that this is treated as a party matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not."] I think it is being treated very much a party matter. Are the Whips going to be put on tonight?
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
The hon. and gallant Member appears to be asking me. He must put his question to the Government.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
This is a matter not only for Parliament. It is one in which the whole country, nay, the whole Empire, takes a very great interest. In the mind of the people of this country and of the people of the British Empire, Lord Nelson stands as the greatest naval hero, and as the greatest naval commander this country has ever had. The great and signal services which he rendered to this country throughout his career, culminating in the glorious and decisive victory over the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar when he annihilated the sea power of France, made certain the ultimate defeat of Napoleon. That victory led to the certain downfall of Napoleon and his armies. Nelson is the symbol of our sea power, by which we have become the great nation that we are. The British Empire, of which we are so proud and which is such a great asset for the peace and security of the world, was brought into being and maintained by our sea power.
Parliament and the people of his time recognised Lord Nelson's signal services, and the Act of 1806 was in consequence passed. This was done in order that Lord 235 Nelson should have a house, a title and a perpetual pension and so that his successors should be in a position to keep up, in comfort and dignity, the title which the country so rightly conferred upon him. Particular pains were taken in the Act, and in a later Act in 1813, to make sure that the estate should be a perpetual one. House, land, annuity were all bound up together in a perpetual trust in which, as everybody knows, you, Mr. Speaker, together with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, I think the Treasurer of the Admiralty and the Prime Minister are all trustees. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Lord Chancellor."] Yes, the Lord Chancellor as well. There was some significance in making Mr. Speaker one of the trustees. There roust have been significance in it. It is without dispute that the annuity of £5,000 per annum was to be a perpetual one. If the Bill passes, it will do away with that annuity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer very rightly said that it will continue to be paid to the present holder of the title and to his brother, but the next heir will not get the £5,000. There will then be nothing left of the perpetual pension granted by the Act of 1806.
The Bill embodies the principle which was acted upon, by the Socialist Government after the recent war, when the great leaders of our three Services, Navy, Army and Air Force, were awarded titles—which they richly deserved. But their names, I regret to say, were not mentioned in this House and thus placed on perpetual record in HANSARD for all time as having received the gratitude of Parliament and the country for the services which they have rendered. Be that as it may, the Socialist Government were opposed to a money grant being attached to the title. They were opposed therefore to the heirs and descendants of those who served the country so conspicuously in the recent war being assured of money to enable them to uphold the dignity of the title. Hon. Members do not agree with the dignity of a title. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Tommy Atkins?"] Hon. Members of the Socialist Party do not uphold the traditions of the past, they desire to destroy the ancient monuments and memorials of our great commanders in the Navy and Army They want to destroy a link with the past. The mentality of the Socialist Party is 236 this—that the workmen who laid the stones and built St. Paul's Cathedral have just as much right to be remembered and held in great honour by the country as Sir Christopher Wren who designed it. They are unable to appreciate outstanding ability on the part of anyone in this country or to recognise the point of having a standing memorial to a great man.
I now wish to deal with the question of the perpetual pension. In 1924 and 1929, Mr. Isaac Foot, a Member of Parliament at that time, put several Questions to Mr. Snowden, the Socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Foot first asked the Chancellor:whether he proposes to take steps to terminate the perpetual pensions now being paid in respect of services rendered to the State more than a century ago.The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied:There are only three such pensions, one of which will probably be commuted very shortly. Provided that terms satisfactory to the taxpayer can be arranged, the Treasury are always ready to commute these pensions." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1924; Vol. 169, c. 1039.]The second Question was whether the Chancellorwill inform the House as to the date when Lord Nelson was last invited to state the terms on which he was willing to commute the pension which has been paid since the year 1805.The reply was:Certain communications passed in 1904"—to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred in his speech today—but they never advanced beyond preliminary inquiries.I am a little surprised that the Chancellor at that time did not state what the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated today, that in 1889 a definite offer was made. The third question was:Is it the policy of His Majesty's Government to accord with the previous policy, made many years ago, that these pensions should be commuted and on terms representing a substantial saving to the Treasury.The reply of Mr. Snowden was:That precisely represents the attitude of the present Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1924; Vol 171, c. 1966.)I apologise to the House for reading all these questions but they are very important. In 1929, Mr. Foot asked:What perpetual pensions are now being paid in respect of services rendered to the nation more than a century ago?237 The answer was:The only perpetual pension remaining is that of £5,000 per annum granted by Parliament in 1806 to Earl Nelson.Mr. Foot then asked:Do the Government desire the commutation of this pension, as others have been commuted recently?The reply was:It is open to the recipient of the pen-son to make application for commutation. I am sure it will be favourably received."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1929; Vol. 230, C. 213.]I have read these Questions and answers for two reasons, first, because the use of the term "perpetual pension" in all those Questions was never objected to by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Snowden; and, second, because Mr. Snowden was not only willing but anxious as late as 1929, to commute this pension which the Socialist Government propose to terminate by the Bill which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is bringing in today—
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Therefore in 1924 and 1929 we had a Chancellor of the Exchequer who as a trustee of the provisions of the Act of 1806, was willing and anxious to fulfil his responsibilities and his obligations as a trustee. Today we have another Socialist Chancellor—[An HON. MEMBER: "A better one."]—with, I say this without offence, a different mentality—
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
He is also a trustee and has the same responsibilities or obligations as a trustee.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
May I put the hon. and gallant Gentleman right? At no time have the trustees who have been appointed had anything to do with the pension. The trustees deal with the estate, and not with the pension.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that the pension is nothing whatever to do with the trustees?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall indicated assent.238
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
It is paid from the Consolidated Fund every three months. When this Bill is passed, it will continue to be paid until the death of the present heirs.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Why is it paid— [Laughter.] Very well. That is a mere quibble, but I do not know that hon. Members have anything to laugh about. If I had the power, and stopped the Chancellor of the Exchequer's £5,060 a year, I do not think hon. Members would laugh—
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
I am not a lawyer, and I do not know, but I wonder since when has it been right and lawful for trustees themselves to initiate such action as will materially alter the trust for which they are responsible—
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
In all seriousness I ask the Government, by what moral standards they now break the conditions of the Act of 1806 for which they are trustees. Do they consider that the great services rendered by Lord Nelson were less worthy of fair compensation and fair treatment than the services rendered by the Duke of Marlborough or Lord Rodney because in their cases and all other cases, these perpetual pensions have been commuted? Why this discrimination against the greatest sailor this country ever had? It is no argument whatever for hon. Members opposite to say that there is not a direct heir, that they do not like the last successor to the title, or that perhaps the next successor will not be a very bright fellow and will be no good to the country. We cannot argue like that. There would be no security for anything or anybody under that argument. I object very strongly, on principle, to the Government breaking this trust without compensation —the only case of any of the great soldiers or sailors of the past not having had their pensions commuted. The Chancellor has not put forward any argument which would justify that being done.
I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion about Trafalgar House and park. It is a splendid idea for it will be a lasting memorial, so far as the Navy is concerned, of their greatest hero, the man who is the symbol of our sea power. I am entirely in agreement 239 with that, but not if there is no fair compensation for the £5,000 a year annuity. If that £5,000 is taken away, it will be impossible to the heirs to the title to keep up Trafalgar House and the surrounding park. It would have to be sold and then disappear altogether, and that would be a very grievous loss and a great mistake, in my opinion. I hope, therefore, that the Government will reconsider this matter in order that this annuity may be compensated for, on a fair basis as have all the others, and that there will be no discrimination against this case. I hope the Bill will be altered so that there will be an assurance that Trafalgar House and its surrounding park shall, for all time, remain as a memorial to that great sailor whose dying words were: "Thank God I have done my duty."
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I am very pleased the Chancellor has brought in this Bill, though I consider it very belated. It is a pity he was not Chancellor a generation or even a century ago. There has been no justification of any kind for perpetual pensions. They are a form of privilege which could never be justified. Nelson lives in the history, not only of this country, but of the world. Nothing that anybody can say or do, can ever dim the lustre of Nelson's fame. But let us remember always, when we talk about Nelson, that he had the assistance of a few sailors. The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) said that we on this side believed that the men who laid the stones and built the superstructure of St. Paul's were as important as Wren. Of course they are. What use would Wren have been without his workmen? Similarly, Nelson needed these sailors who accepted his commands and carried out his orders in such an heroic manner.
When I hear all this talk of Lady Hamilton, I am not inclined to get emotional about it. They can tell us where Lady Hamilton is buried and what sort of tombstone is on her grave. What about the wives and mothers of the seamen who fought at Trafalgar? Can anyone tell us where they were buried, or what sort of tombstones they had? No, I do not worry too much about Lady Hamilton. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that Parliament passed this pension, 240 that it represented the desire of the people of this country, and that we should not interfere with the expressed wishes of the people. Never was there such nonsense. The people of that time did not have a vote; they had no say of any kind. Parliament consisted of a few picked landowners, representing and controlling rotten boroughs, people who believed in, and lived on, privilege. There was always a certain amount of sanctimonious hypocrisy about them, as there is at the present time They were not prepared to consider Nelson's wishes and desires, because Lady Hamilton was not as respectable as she might have been, and it was much better to take the representative of one of the celestial transport companies.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
All this mention of Lady Hamilton may be very amusing, but may I ask the hon. Gentleman to let her rest in peace?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I said, the people who were in control were not prepared to carry out the wishes of Nelson, because they considered that Lady Hamilton was not sufficiently respectable, and that is why they chose to give the pension in another direction. But there was no justification for its descending from family to family. There was some reference in the Debate to the Rodney pension being commuted. Of course it was commuted. When this matter was raised some time ago and the Chancellor was asked about the Nelson pension, I asked a supplementary question. I asked if he would see to it that, when this pension was ended, it was not done in the same way as the Lord Rodney pension, because in that case the recipient was left in the same position as he was in before, a large sum of money being given which was invested, so that the recipient went on drawing the pension in the form of interest. The Rodney family, since the pension was stopped, are drawing as much every year as they were drawing before. I want a complete break. That is what the Chancellor has done in this case, and that is the value of this Bill.
241 With regard to the estate, the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) asked the Chancellor how many acres there were, and the reply was that there was some hundreds of acres. Then I asked who gave them these, and the Chancellor said it was the Government. "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away," and I object very much to the Government paying compensation for taking back an estate which is theirs. Not a penny should be paid. We want, to be finished with this business. We have instituted a lot of perpetual pensioners by the compensation we have given to the coalowners. We want to finish with this sort of thing, so I say to the Chancellor, Good luck to this Bill so far as the first Clause is concerned.
We hope that in discussing the second part, the right hon. Gentleman will make a decision on the lines which have been suggested. It is a good idea to take over the estate and the house for the Admiralty, who could make good use of it in one way or another. It may be that they could make a pleasant home for disabled seamen or seamen's dependants. After that, we should finish entirely with all this privilege that is so much a part of the politics of hon. Members on the other side of the House They are not concerned about the memory of Nelson— not a bit. They think that here is a privilege which is being taken away, and if this is taken away, others might also be taken away, until all is taken away. I ask the Chancellor to finish entirely with privilege, and bring Clause 2 into line with Clause 1. Let him take over the estate without compensation, and he will then be doing a good job in which the people of this country will give him full support.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I was glad to see that during the speech to which the House has just listened there was a very natural and proper appearance of embarrassment on the faces of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am perfectly certain that few hon Members of this House regard a speech of that tone as propel in the discussion of the matter, which is before the House. Hon. Members opposite, and on this side, may differ as to the proper manner in which the memory of one of the greatest Englishmen shall be commemorated 242 That is a matter of legitimate controversy, but I am perfectly certain that no one who values the spirit and reputation of the House of Commons and this country would welcome discussion of this matter in the tone of the speech to which the House has just had the misfortune to listen.
The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), unlike other hon. Members opposite, made a contribution to the Debate which is entitled to, and deserves, an answer. He pointed out to the House with perfect truth and perfect propriety, that there has been a failure on the part of many Governments in English history to give adequate reward to those who have been great captains, by sea or land The hon. Member was entitled to make that point, and it is true I would only say to him that the fact that there has been grave neglect on many occasions and on occasions not too distant—to make proper recognition to great national leaders, is no particular reason for supporting a Bill designed to wipe out one of the few instances in which a proper memorial has been made.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon Member has failed to appreciate the persuasive power of his own eloquence. It was manifest that the hon. Member's speech, whether designed or not, amounted to an expression of grievance that adequate expression has not been made and a point of Order was raised about bringing in the question of the failure of Governments in this respect. I do not withdraw a word The hon Member must recollect that the whole tone of his speech was a very proper expression of grievance in the sense I have suggested.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I always pay the hon. Member the compliment of listening to his speeches, because they are worth listening to As other hon. Members also 243 listened, I am prepared to leave the matter to the judgment of the House.
The point of the Bill is not-whether, as the Chancellor so often suggested, the first Lord Nelson would or would not have wished it. That is, surely, immaterial. If it were material, I would share the right hon. Gentleman's view that Lord Nelsons brother would not be the first object on whom he would have desired national recognition to be lavished. The point is that the House of Commons in 1806—the right hon. Gentleman told us that he studied the Debates of that period and so have I—intended that this recognition should be permanent. It is immaterial that in 1946, any of us think that similar recognition would be inappropriate. That is a tenable view, but the House must appreciate that the particular form by which one generation puts forward recognition of a great contemporary, is largely a matter of the taste of that generation. One only has to look at some of the statues in London to have a too vivid illustration of that fact. Whether we today like it or not, the House of Commons of 1806 thought it a proper memorial to provide that Lord Nelson's heirs should live with fitting dignity in a house bearing the name of the victory. There can be no dispute that that was the attitude of that Parliament. Whether it is right for this House at this date to alter it, is the point we have to consider. There is no question that, legally, the House can do it, just as, legally, it would be open for the next House of Commons to order that Grosvenor Square should cease to be a memorial to the late President Roosevelt and should be turned into a car park. It would be equally objectionable for a subsequent House of Commons to do that.
Why has it been thought necessary to indulge, at this point, in a complete repudiation of the manifestly clear intentions of our predecessors. I am not saying that in a case of grave national necessity it would not be right to disregard the intentions of our predecessors, but can it be argued that this is the case when this pension is, as a combined result of taxation and rising prices, a lesser burden on the Exchequer than it has ever been? Can it be argued that there is national necessity for doing this, or that our finances are in such a state that a sum of £2,000 a year—which is all it amounts to nett—is so insupportable a burden that we have to repudiate the intentions of the House of Commons of 244 1806? Can the Financial Secretary not appreciate the point that if we, today, say that we do not agree with the manner in which Lord Nelson was commemorated in 1806, and we think it a wrong method, and propose to repudiate it, our successors 100 years hence may find themselves equally free, to repudiate the memorials we have set up to men of this generation whom we think worthy of commemoration. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear.] I notice that a certain number, a small number of hon. Members opposite say "Hear, hear." I do not believe that right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench, several of whom I know have a very proper feeling for the continuity of English life and history, would say "Hear, hear" to that. I think there are very few in this House, if they give themselves a chance to pause and reflect, who would regard it as creditable that one generation should see fit to repudiate the obligations taken by another generation.
Before it is possible for this House to appreciate what it is being asked to do by this Bill, it is necessary for us to cast our minds back to the state of mind of our predecessors when they erected this memorial. If any generation should have reason to appreciate the state of anxiety through which our ancestors went in the year 1805, it is this generation. Throughout that summer of 1805, on the cliffs above Boulogne, there was mustered an incomparable army, under the direct command of the greatest military genius of all time, only requiring, as he himself said, dominion of the Channel for an afternoon, to overrun this country. All through that summer that menace hung over this country, and that menace was finally destroyed on 21st October when, with 27 ships of the line against 33, Nelson came through to victory at the cost of his life. It was against the background of that tremendous, and as it seemed to them, providential delivery, that the decision of our ancestors was made. I hold in my hand a copy of "The Times" of 7th November, 1805, which prints the despatches sent from H.M.S. "Euryaylus" off Cadiz by Admiral Collingwood, reporting this matter. It is perhaps material to invite the attention of the House to the fact that the tone of the paper at that time was not one of jubilation; it was one of deep sorrow that victory had been bought at the cost of the life of the commander.
245 Once again, may I repeat that that generation thought they had put up a permanent memorial to Lord Nelson? They did their best, by the choke of trustees, by enshrining it in an Act of Parliament, to make that memorial perpetual. I repeat the question with which I began, and which I hope the Financial Secretary will answer: Why is it necessary, in December, 1946, to tear down that memorial? What overwhelming and compelling necessity is there to cause such an extraordinary, such a tradition-less, such an ignorant step to be taken? I would say to the Financial Secretary that I am sure he, at any rate, will appreciate that if this House is incapable of respecting the work of its predecessors, it cannot expect its own successors to pay its work any more respect.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House having regard to the clear intention of Parliament and the Nation (as expressed in the Act of 1806 for settling and securing a certain annuity on the Earl Nelson and the heirs of his body and such other persons to whom the title of Earl Nelson may descend) to make a binding and irrevocable settlement on the Nelson family, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to provide as in similar cases for proper compensation to be agreed or made subject to arbitration and involves a breach of an historic trust.If my comments appear to be rather pedestrian, after some of the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon, it will mean, I hope, that they are in some respects more relevant to the Measure which is before the House, because this Bill is nothing but a small and very pedestrian Measure in itself. The junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. W. Harris) made a speech which, if I may say so, with great respect, impressed the House more than any other speech in favour of this Bill. I think that his arguments would be valid if we were now in the year 1806. His speech simply amounted to this: If we were considering what form of memorial we would set up we should not choose the memorial which was chosen by that Parliament. The only conclusion from his speech, and from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be here and now to do what the Communist Party suggested, that is, abolish both the annuity and the 246 estate itself. That is the conclusion, and the only conclusion, to which one can come, if one holds those views.
I intend, if I may, to limit my remarks as far as possible to the Amendment, but perhaps I may be permitted to make a personal remark at the beginning. I happen to live within a mile or two of the Trafalgar Estates, and I would not like it to be thought that I had any personal connection in this respect. I have never been inside the house—I have seen it very often from the outside—I have never, to my knowledge, met any of the individuals directly concerned in this Measure. My reasons for opposing this Measure are based entirely on general considerations. The case for the Bill, apart from arguments of mere prejudice, may be put on either of two grounds. It can be stated that the trusts constituted by these Acts are so anomalous that they offend altogether against modern ideas of what is proper; or it can be said that there is a practical need to amend the trusts in order to meet present day needs. I am not quite clear, from the Government's case as argued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to which ground he takes up. It may be possible to take up both.
As regards the question of anomaly, is the anomaly contained in the Trafalgar Estates Acts so great as to justify the Government taking, up a whole afternoon, and perhaps more, of Parliamentary time, in order to get this Measure passed at the present day? The Acts affect 1,500 acres or so in England There are tens of thousands of acres of land which are now the subject of the greatest controversy and discussion in connection with military training areas. If we are concerned about seeing to the proper administration of the land of this country, surely the training areas question should take priority over this Bill. The only other matter over which the Trafalgar Estates Acts can take effect is the spending of £5,000 a year of public revenue. Is it suggested that this Bill is necessary in order to stop a waste of public money? Is that really the argument put forward by the Government as to why they are now bringing forward this Measure and taking up so much Parliamentary time? If they really feel it is a waste of money to spend £5,000 on what was decided previously by this House as a suitable memorial for our greatest sailor, I can tell them how they can raise that 247 much money and more. They need only let the base of the Nelson Column and they will get their £5,000 at once. Obviously it is not the financial consideration. The amount is far too small. Why should we have this Measure before us at the present time if its introduction is not dictated by prejudice?
It is important to inquire what was the original intention of Parliament in passing these Acts. I think it is agreed on all sides of the House that the intention of Parliament, and indeed, of the nation, was to constitute a memorial to its hero. I think I am right in saying that the idea of a memorial, as such, is not repugnant to anyone in any part of the House. The memorial decided upon was, of course, a very special one. It took the form of providing a house and an assured income for Lord Nelson's family, the nearest members of his family who were alive at the time of his death, and to provide this in perpetuity. The creation of a perpetual Trust, whether right or wrong, was certainly done quite deliberately. There is no question whatever that at the date upon which this original legislation was passed, perpetuity was regarded as being quite as objectionable as it is at present. I think I am right in saying that the legal rule against perpetuity today existed in exactly the same form in 1806. Parliament realised perfectly well that there were objections to perpetuities; nevertheless, in this case they deliberately created a perpetuity.
That being so, we ought not to revoke the decision of a previous Parliament without, at any rate, considering the position extremely carefully. I think hon. Members opposite are inclined to object to any idea of making provision for the dependants of any public servant. That was put in rather a narrower way by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In his argument he indicated that had the present Lord Nelson been a direct descendant, he would not have raised the same objection that he does now because he is merely a collateral descendant. I was rather astonished to hear that argument which means, by implication, that the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of making provision for direct descendants. I am not quite certain on which leg he is really standing. However, the Parliament of the day chose this particular 248 family as the nearest family to Nelson which they could find and decided they would make the settlement upon that family as the nearest descendants available for their purpose. All of us in this House are after all, descendants of Nelson's contemporaries.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
As descendants of Nelson's contemporaries we enjoy the freedom which all Englishmen enjoy. I will go further and say that we enjoy all the privileges which all Englishmen enjoy. I think it will be recognised generally in this House, even at present, that all these privileges were in fact secured by the great victory of Trafalgar. Can we claim the blessings of our inheritance of Englishmen if we are to deny our indebtedness to those who inherited, as near as may be, Nelson's blood?
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich)
When the hon. Gentleman says that we deny our indebtedness, does he mean to ignore the fact that this country has already paid over £700,000 to these descendants?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I will deal with that point later. At present we are indebted by Act of Parliament to the tune of £5,000 a year. That is the position. It is not a question of opinion, it is a matter of fact. All of us in this House are also the inheritors of the great freedom which has come to us as a result of the battle which took place and which led immediately to the passing of these Acts. If we accept the blessings, we must also recognise that obligation we have undertaken to the descendants of those who obtained these blessings.
I sincerely hope that we shall approach this question without any motives of meanness, spite or jealousy. I think there is a genuine and honest question raised by this Bill which must be solved. It arises on the second ground I have mentioned for putting forward this Bill, namely, that there may now be a practical need to amend the Acts in order to bring them into line with modern practical considerations. For my own part, were it practicable I would like to see the Nelson family continue to live at Trafalgar House indefinitely. I believe that that state of affairs constitutes a real memorial in the 249 minds of the people, but I am willing to acknowledge that it is most unlikely that it can continue for very much longer. It is obvious to anyone who is aware of modern conditions, that that house cannot remain for much longer as a private residence for any person. If the family find it necessary to leave the house, then I am willing to admit that there is a case for amending the Acts. Personally, I have not yet heard from any source, and certainly not from the Government Front Bench, that the family have decided that they wish to leave the house or to sell it. If they do not wish to sell it and it is the intention of the family to continue to reside there, then I confess that I can see no reason for all this bother.
Let us assume that the house must be sold at a fairly early date. It is for that the Amendment makes no reference to Clause 2 of the Bill. We do not take any exception to that part of the Bill which will enable the tenant for life to sell the house. In this connection, I wish to ask some questions of the Financial Secretary, who I understand is to reply. I would like to know whether Clause 2 will leave intact the beneficial trusts as constituted in the original Acts. I think that is its effect, but I would like an assurance on that point. Secondly, I would like to know whether Clause 2 of the Bill is intended to affect the Estate Duty position. I believe that the Bill does not affect that position at all, but I wish to have a definite assurance from the Government.
Our objection is entirely limited to the treatment of the annuity under Clause 1 of the Bill. I think it is correct to say that this question was first mooted in this Parliament by a Question to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave an answer which I can only describe as a schoolboy calculation. Obviously, if £5,000 a year has been paid for 140 years, the answer is that a total sum of £700,000 has been paid since the beginning of the annuity. Obviously, expressed in that form, such an answer is bound to be highly prejudicial, in certain quarters, to the interests of the family who have in fact received so large a sum of money I would point out that this bargain, which the right hon. Gentleman suggested was such a bad one for the public today, is one into which he is entering with private members of the public every day of the 250 week. Every time enough Government stock is taken up to provide £5,000 a year, the Chancellor is committing himself and his successors to provide £5,000 a year in perpetuity, in the case of undated stock.
During the course of this year, the Chancellor has probably authorised a payment to a large number of citizens in this country which will commit his successor in 140 years' time to go on paying £5,000 a year. That transaction has been acclaimed on every side and, indeed, the Chancellor is most anxious that as many people as possible should enter into it. If I can obtain enough money today to invest in stock of that kind—no matter how it is come by—indeed, if I can raise the money by black market transactions and escape the vigilance of the officials, I shall be acclaimed, at any rate, as something of an advantage to the public if only I put it into 2½ per cent. Government stock.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Is the hon. Member suggesting that what a Government did in 1806 to commit a Chancellor of the Exchequer in the year 1946 is worse, for any reason whatever, than what a Government in 1946 does to commit a Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the year 2,086? The two things are absolutely on all fours.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I am very sorry to hear that. In other words, the hon. Member is taking the view that, as soon as any Government can do so, they should repudiate Government loans. That is the only logical argument, because this Measure has that tendency.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
Surely, one is a bilateral transaction, in which money is paid out for value received, and the other is a unilateral transaction, a settlement of intention by one Parliament which any future Parliament is free to revoke as, indeed, I hope that hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway are going to alter or revoke some of the legislation passed by this Government.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It is always open to any Parliament to revoke what their predecessors have done or, indeed, to revoke what they themselves have done. But revocation of a solemnly made pledge, whether it is a pledge given for financial value or for such value as services rendered by Lord Nelson to the nation, seems, in my submission, to amount to a serious breach of public faith. Of course, it may be objected that, if I were to become entitled by purchase to an annuity of £5,000 a year for all time, I should be subjected to the normal law of the land and should have to pay Income Tax and Estate Duty. I am quite ready to concede that there are good grounds for saying that this annuity should be a matter for fair consideration as between the parties concerned. It may well be that, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had put forward proposals for commuting this annuity into a lump sum payment or for bringing it more into accordance with present day ideas, there would be no opposition from this side of the House. But what he has proposed to do is something entirely different. The proposal is to let the annuity run for two lives and, after that, simply to confiscate it.
I am not quite certain whether I am doing the Chancellor justice in this respect, but rather I gathered from his speech that he suggested that the original purpose for which the annuity was given was to enable the family of Nelson to reside in the house. As we have now to admit that it might become necessary to sell the house that, of course, was some argument for terminating the annuity. I am not quite certain whether that was the suggestion put forward in his argument, but if it was I hope that it will be possible to amend the Bill so as to provide, at any rate, that if the next heir, after the two gentlemen named in Clause 1 of the Bill are dead, continues to reside at Trafalgar House, he should be entitled to receive the benefit of the annuity which was given to the family for that express purpose.
In this connection, I think it is necessary to look at the Acts. The principal Act of 1806 contains an extremely significant Section. Section 16 provides:that the same or any Part thereof shall not at any time or Times hereafter be aliened, conveyed, disposed, charged or in-cumbered by the said Earl, or by any of the Heirs Male of the Body of the said Earl, or by any other Person so aliening….252 In other words, the Act forbade the family to sell the annuity as a whole, but expressly gave permission to any individual member of the family to sell his particular interest in the annuity. I would like to ask the Financial Secretary whether he happens to know if the individual who will succeed the two named gentleman has, in fact, either sold or charged his life interest? As I understand the matter, these two gentlemen are both over 80 years of age and, obviously, a reversion on two lives greater than 80 years would have been a very valuable commodity and would have been willingly bought by any reversionary interest society. If, indeed, he did not sell his interest, as he could have done a year ago, it seems clear to me that the only effect of this Measure would be to deprive some third party of his normal legal entitlement.
We are coming back to the matter which has been referred to on the back benches opposite. I submit that it is the duty of this House to see that interests of this kind are not arbitrarily stopped for any reason whatever. There would obviously be no difficulty about rearranging this annuity in some way which would be suitable for all the interests affected. But merely to give the annuity in full to two generations, and then to stop it dead as against a third generation, is wholly inequitable, and wholly contravenes the spirit of the law of this country. I do not want to labour this point, but I do submit that what is proposed in this Bill is entirely contrary to the whole current of the law of the country
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
I beg to second the Amendment.
In listening to the Debate this afternoon it appears to me that a great number of the speeches which have been made have dealt primary with what hon. Members would have done had they been living in 1806. I do not feel that that is, in fact, the question which lies in front of us today. This streamlined Bill— and it certainly is streamlined—has been introduced by the Chancellor. Now that, in itself, appears to me to be rather an odd affair. Here is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, acting as one of the trustees of the estate, introducing on the Floor of the House this particular Bill, which takes away the pension to provide 253 the descendants of Lord Nelson to live in that state of dignity which the Estate requires. I see no reason at all why hon. Members opposite should wish to change the wish of our forefathers in this respect. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Nelson?"] An hon. Member opposite asks "What about Nelson?" It is about Lord Nelson that I am speaking today. I feel quite certain that hon. Members opposite, as well as hon. Members on this side of the House, would be the first to say that the word "Nelson" is enshrined in the heart of every man and every woman living in the United Kingdom. It is because of that that it appears to me so natural that in these unromantic Socialist days this Bill should be introduced on the Floor of the House.
There always will be a great divergence of opinion between hon. Members on the opposite side of the House and hon. Members on this side of the House on these types of matters. It must be remembered that this Government did not choose to have any form of honour by way of monetary reward or by mention in this House given to our military commanders in this war. This is the first opportunity that I have had in the House of saying how much I regretted that.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
Further to that Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If I may say so, with great respect, the point has been made and argued over and over again in this Debate. May I respectfully suggest to you that the hon. Member is entitled to refer to it?
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
It has been, referred to over and over again by almost every speaker.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry, but at the moment I am in the Chair, and in my view that question does not arise under this Bill.
§ Mr. Marshall
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have made the reference I wanted to make on that point. Another quarrel I have with this Bill is in regard to why it has been introduced in this Session at this moment. We are told by Members of His Majesty's Government, again and again, that they have no time 254 to spare because of legislation which they have to put before the House. We have had arguments from all sides of the House with regard to Private Members' time. We have had strong arguments—and I do wish just to refer to this, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—from all sides of the House to deal with child welfare. The Lord President of the Council and the Lord Privy Seal have come down to the House to say that there is no time. Yet there is time for this little Bill to be produced at that Box, in order to take away the desire which the Houses of Parliament 140 years ago wished to perpetuate in an Act of Parliament. One thing I would have liked to see—and somehow I do not believe any hon. Member would disagree with this—is the great story of Nelson brought to a fitting conclusion without a controversial Debate. I feel it would have been much better that way.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, at that Box this afternoon, mentioned what should be done with the Trafalgar Estates. There is a point I would like to make in that connection. Lord Nelson felt as deeply for the Merchant Navy as he did for the Royal Navy, and I trust that if the Admiralty do, at some future date, come to an agreement whereby they purchase these estates, they will try to embody them for the use of not only the Royal Navy, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Naval Reserve but also, in some way, for the heirs of those men who have died on active service in the Merchant Navy. In conclusion, I wish to say this. It appears to me that during the last Session and the beginning of this, this Government is a Government of broken pledges. It seems to me incredible that, having broken what they have done already, they now have to go back into past history in order to break the pledge of the Government in 1806. It is for that reason that I second this Amendment, and if a Division is called will vote for it.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
I have listened to the whole of this Debate. It has been an interesting one, although not many arguments, I think, on either side have been adduced. There are certain ones that can be cleared straight away. When I came into the House I had not made up my mind one way or the other; I had no strong feelings about the 255 matter; but from the Debate certain considerations have emerged of which we can rid ourselves straight away. Clearly, it is not a matter of money. No one is going to suggest that the saving of £5,000 a year, when we are spending something in the order of several millions a day, is going to affect the Exchequer one way or the other. I do not suppose anyone would rely upon the argument that the extra £5,000 is necessary in order to balance the Budget. It is so long since we balanced one, anyway, that it does not seem to me to make much difference. Nor am I affected by the argument that the money is being paid to the wrong persons, or to descendants of the wrong persons. It does not seem to me of much moment in 1946 whether Lady Hamilton died penniless, having run through a lot of money when young and gay before old age; or whether, alternatively, Lord Nelson wanted the money to be left in one way, and it was left in another way. Neither of those points seems to me extremely important in this connection.
The argument of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was the real one. It is not whether the House is entitled to break, or not to break, a pledge. I did not agree with the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) about that. This House is entitled to repeal an Act if it wants to. It is legally capable of doing so. The point the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames put was whether we ought, in fact, to do that very act we are entitled to do. That is the question to which we have to address ourselves. I feel, on balance, that there is at this stage a right to take this action. After all, we cannot take the line, as, indeed the hon. Member for Bodmin did, that an Act of Parliament may not be looked at again. It may be. At various times, as we have heard during this Debate, in 1887, and again in the twenties—twice in the twenties—fresh consideration was given to this Act; so that there is nothing particularly new in reviewing the Act, nor in seeing whether we still feel that the circumstances in which it was passed still hold good.
I would now come to the point that I raised with you, Sir, as a point of Order; because I think it is extremely important in this connection. My case, in going into the Lobby to support this Bill, is that payments of this sort are 256 becoming repugnant to ordinary men and women in the country. That, I think, is the whole case; and the case I want to put, Sir, is, that that feeling was expressed as the general view of the public in the decision of the Government not to pay large sums to the leaders of the armed Forces at the conclusion of this war. If that is so—and I suggest that it is a matter of opinion—but if it is so, it seems to me the Government are entitled to rest on public opinion in that respect, in so far as it has been expressed. Clearly, the Government are not going to take a referendum on an issue of this sort; and nobody is going to. But I think they are entitled to interpret the wishes and will of the electorate, as they understand them, in connection with other circumstances which are roughly parallel. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) very properly reminds me, it is their duty to do so.
I would put another point in this connection At this stage I am not in favour, as a general principle, of large sums of money passing in any circumstances from forebear to descendant. The hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), who gave us many dissertations in the course of the Finance Bill, to which we all listened with interest, told us that the Chancellor's argument was school-boyish. I hope he will not regard it as offensive if I say his argument was infantile.
§ Mr. D. Marshall rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Let me deal with this point first. At one stage in his argument the hon Gentleman said that the equivalent of £5,000 a year paid by the Government was a sum—he did not mention it—of approximately £200,000 invested in War Loan at 2½ per cent. I do not believe he meant it for a moment. Of course, he does not. He knows the effects of Death Duty on a capital sum of £200,000. He knows that if one of these two lives were to die tomorrow, the £200,000 would be reduced immediately to something in the order of £160,000; and that, if the second life died four or five years afterwards, that £160,000 capital sum would be reduced to £130,000. In those circumstances how can it be contended that a capital sum of £200,000, subject to the vagaries of the Estate Duties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the penal 257 form in which they are exacted at the moment, is equivalent to £5,000 for a continuous life without regard to Death Duty at all?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I did in the course of my speech indicate that I agreed that the present set-up of this annuity is an anachronism, and that I saw every reason for converting it into something more in accordance with present day ideas, when it might be that Estate Duty would have the effect upon it that the hon. Member says. I am not saying that it is a good effect.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I quite agree. It seems to me to be the inherent contradiction of the hon. Member's whole speech. But I promised to give way to the hon. Member for Bodmin.
§ Mr. D. Marshall
The hon. Member mentioned large sums, once or twice. I should like to know what kind of an amount he has in mind.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I think a large sum is a sum represented by a capital which gives one £5,000 a year. If one were going to make provision for Estate Duty it would be a sum in the order of £250,000, if one were going to preserve an income of £5,000 for one's descendants. I am not in favour of any one in this country being permitted to leave £250,000 to his descendants, and I think that there are many Members on this side of the House who would agree with me. We are not in favour of such legacies, of people being able to leave such sums of money. We had an interesting argument on that subject at two o'clock in the morning when discussing the Finance Bill several months ago, and I should not be in Order if I went over that ground again. What I am saying is, that there is really no moral reason why the House should not, at this stage, review the operations of the Act, and decide to cut them off, in accordance, as I understand them, with the views of most people in this country today. Secondly, I would say that, in any case, the ability to transfer an income which represents a capital sum of £250,000 would be against my moral principles.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morrison (Salisbury)
I rise tonight, not as one representing the Navy, but because the holder of the present title 258 we are discussing is a constituent of mine, and, also, because his house, Trafalgar House, is in my constituency. I should like to say that I have never had the pleasure of meeting the present holder of the title, nor of speaking to him or to his immediate heir; but, as they are at the age of 89 and 86, I feel it is appropriate that a younger man should say a word or two on this Bill for those constituents he represents. I do deplore the fact that, at a time when Private Members' time is abolished and there are so many other important matters which we should discuss in this House of Commons, we are taking up a whole day of Parliamentary time on this issue. My hon. Friend the Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) has referred to the question of training areas, a burning question at the present time. In Wiltshire, in this same county of which a large area is in my constituency, there are many problems connected with these training areas which might be considered, just as much as this area of the 1,500 acres of the Trafalgar estates.
I am sorry the Financial Secretary is not in the House at the moment—I know he has been here all through this Debate— because I am not quite sure, from his intervention, how the Chancellor is affected as regards his trusteeship of the pension and of the estate. I understand that he is not affected with regard to the pension. There must be many in this House who are trustees of various societies, or under deeds of covenant of various sorts, and among them there must be many who, having those laborious duties, would be delighted to get rid of them. I can think of some that I should like to get rid of myself. I must say, however, that I rather deplore the fact that the persons concerned in the Nelson Trust can see their way, in another capacity, to get rid so easily of those responsibilities. I say that with all respect. I know there are other prominent men on the Government Front Bench who are also more than closely connected with this trust.
What seems to me to be the most important thing is that getting rid of the pension, as proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this small Bill, will almost inevitably mean that the property will have to be sold. I believe that matter has been referred to by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). It 259 would be a great pity if this house, with all its traditions, had to be sold and lose its family connection, with the family name being taken away from the house and its contents. It was built, in the words of the Chancellor, at a time in British architecture which was a very good one indeed, and it would be a major tragedy if that great name in naval history became dissociated from that house and property. I hope and believe —it has already been suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland)—that, if this must be done, some arrangement may be made to ensure that the naval tradition shall continue to be associated with the house and property. It would indeed be very fitting that that tradition should be continued in some form.
What I feel must be avoided at all costs, and this is a personal opinion, is that in the passing over of the trust from the existing trustees to the Public Trustee, the property should be sold and completely broken away from its traditions. It might even be possible for the house to be sold stone by stone to America. That has been done in prewar years, and in this case it would be a great tragedy. I would remind the House also that there were many thousands, if not millions, of American soldiers stationed in the vicinity of the Trafalgar Estate in the days prior to and during the invasion. We read in the Press at the present time that the Government are anxious to encourage the tourist traffic; it would be a great pity if these relics cannot remain in the house and if some arrangement cannot be made to allow the thousands of British and Americans who have had associations with the area to take an interest in the traditions of England, from which so many of their families originally came.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
I wish to raise only a few points, and to make one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite realise quite how deeply some of us on this side feel about the treatment of this subject by some hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a trustee, not, as has been pointed out, of the annuity but of the estates, and I feel sure that he will 260 agree with me that he and the other official trustees—I except, of course, Mr. Speaker, whose position for obvious reasons differs—the trustees, that is to say, who are in a position to introduce legislation have to some extent a dual duty. The right hon. Gentleman has certain responsibilities as a trustee, and he ought to consider this case under all its aspects. I suggest that there are at least three aspects, and three separate questions, involved. I do not intend to use legal language, but will try to put it quite simply; there are three separate questions which he ought to consider, and some of them have not been dealt with at all in some of the speeches which have been made.
The first consideration seems to me to be the honour and purpose of the donors, in this case the British nation. The second is the perpetuation of the memorial to Nelson, and the third—and this is almost the only question which has been dealt with—the treatment of the rights of private individuals created by the instrument, in this case an Act of Parliament, which created the trust. Those three questions are all worthy of consideration. On the general argument, I associate myself entirely with the most admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). In one respect, perhaps, I do not go quite as far as he does, and I am a little more in sympathy with the possible view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As regards the treatment of the rights of the private individuals concerned, it may be possible to conceive of cases in which it would be proper to alter present arrangements which, for various reasons, may now be repugnant, or at any rate not such as we should enact today, and which today we might think we could replace by something better. Therefore, provided that the House could be satisfied that legitimate private interests were properly and justly dealt with, it would not shock me if the annuities as such were terminated.
I cannot see, however, that that gives any ground for taking the other steps which, I think, have, quite unnecessarily, been involved. I am glad that the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) has returned, because I wanted to say a word in answer to something he said, namely, that nothing of this would affect the fame or reputation of 261 Nelson. That is profoundly and absolutely true, but it is not in the least true that nothing we do in this matter will affect the reputation of this nation or this House. If it is thought that, in dealing with the considered memorial to so great a man, this House showed meanness or did something unnecessarily cruel to a great body of public opinion, then I believe the reputation of this House and of this country may be quite seriously affected.
There were two parts of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which I think had the general sympathy of the House: first, when he paid tribute to the great man who was the occasion of the Act, and secondly, when he expressed the hope that the Trafalgar Estates, of which he is a trustee, will be put to a worthy purpose in connection with the Navy. On these two points he had the sympathy of the whole House. The suggestion I want to make is that, if he proceeded in a different way, he could really bring about all the objects I believe he desires without outraging opinion in any quarter. I gather that if the Bill goes through in this form, or something like it, the annuities will be terminated, and that in compensation for their termination the restrictions imposed by the Act on the Trafalgar Estates will come to an end, and that it will then be possible for the Chancellor to buy back the Trafalgar Estates, which the present owner will be enabled by the Bill to get rid of, and devote them to some public purpose in connection with the Navy of which we should all approve. In other words, at some time during the passage of this whole transaction, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will pay out public money.
My suggestion is this: Why not use whatever is deemed to be the right and just amount of public money to terminate the annuity, and then bring forward legislation to vary the conditions on which the Trafalgar Estates are now held? There will then be no interruption at all in the whole history of the Trafalgar Estates which will be held continuously to commemorate a great event in the Navy, and be of benefit to the Navy and used for a great national purpose. There was no need in order to terminate the annuity, with proper consideration and compensation given to those whose interests were affected, to outrage the careful provision of a grateful Parliament over a century 262 ago, when they bought these estates and called them the Trafalgar Estates. I hope that I have made the point clear to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not think it would make any difference to him or to his pocket.
The Bill in its present form will really injure the reputation both of this House and of the country. To sum up my argument, why should we not give proper compensation for the termination of the annuities, without affecting the memorial to Nelson or the continuous history of these estates? I beg the Chancellor of the Exchequer, even at this late hour, to consider whether that would not be a better approach to the problem. There are many details with which I do not wish to weary him or the Financial Secretary. I think that the general idea I have put forward deserves consideration. I think that one of the less agreeable features of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was when, as a trustee, he abused the instrument of trust on which it was his duty to act. I notice that he is shaking his head, indicating that I have misunderstood him. I am so anxious to have his good will in this matter that I will give him the benefit of the doubt on all doubtful points. Having put my suggestion before him and the House, I will not add anything more.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
Before putting forward the matters which I desire to raise, perhaps I may be allowed to make my apologies to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not having been here during his speech. I am sure that he will understand that this was due to circumstances entirely beyond my control. I think that every Member of the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) and to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Combined English Universities (Mr. Strauss) for clarifying the issue on which we are all trying to get our minds straight. It is probably convenient: to divide the question into two parts—one dealing with annuities, and the other dealing with the trust affecting the house and the estate. The Financial Secretary did say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not a trustee of the annuity, and that is perfectly correct, but he will appreciate, not only from the Preamble 263 to the original Act but from all the provisions, that the two things are so bound up that it is very difficult for a trustee for the house and estate, to disembarrass himself of matters which necessarily arise with regard to the annuity. With regard to the house and estate, I am told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Admiralty were favourably disposed to consider buying them at an agreed and reasonable price.
§ Mr. Dalton
Since the right hon. and learned Member was not here—I am much obliged for his courtesy in referring to that—may I point out that what I said was that I had drawn the matter to the attention of my noble Friend; that he was interested in and sympathetic towards the possibility, and that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty had, within the last few days, visited the house and had reported to my noble Friend. I said that so far as I was concerned, if a reasonable price could be agreed between the two parties, I would be very happy that that should be the conclusion of this part of the matter.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I should like to say that a great many Members in all quarters of the House would share the happiness of the right hon. Gentleman if some arrangement of that kind could be arrived at, because although a matter of principle arises, as has been recognised by everyone, one is glad that the existing holder of the title, who was put in the restricted position of tenant in tail under the original settlement, should not only be put in a freer position, but should have some chance of realising some advantage from the house and the estate.
We now come to the much more difficult question of the annuity. I agree with the hon. Member for South Cardiff that it is not a question of money. That, again, I think, would be a view shared again in all quarters of the House. But, equally, I cannot take the easy way out which was so gallantly walked by the hon. Gentleman the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris). His case against the annuity was that Nelson's fame does not need it. That, I think, is quite the most extraordinary and cynical reason for avoiding financial obligations that I have ever heard suggested in this House. If the hon. Gentleman's view is 264 that anyone can compound for one's debts by a few words of facile praise, then that is an easier way of escaping them than I have ever heard suggested by any debtor in the courts.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that the fame of Nelson can be measured in pounds sterling?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am suggesting, I hope with clarity, that that fact has nothing to do with avoiding the financial obligations which exist today. It is not by a few facile words of praise pumped out at this time that we are going to get rid of obligations which we ought to meet. It comes to the question which has already been posed, whether the action of the Government can be morally justified? The hon. Member for South Cardiff makes the reply, that the continuation of this pension is repugnant to ordinary people. With the greatest respect to him, that simply begs the question, because one has to decide who are the ordinary people, and how they would think.
I should like to give some considerations from the other point of view. There is no doubt that the Act of 1806 was clearly designed, from its Preamble to its last words, to make it clear and certain to succeeding generations, that this settlement should be irrevocable. I do not want to bore the House by reading the Sections of that Act, but, if anybody is interested, the words of Section 13, in what now seem archaic solemnity, make it clear that at the time when perpetuities were in disfavour, in the view of the law and Parliament this was a deliberate and calculated attempt to achieve an irrevocable perpetuity in the most solemn terms that Parliament could find. If you start from that point of view—and I do not think the Financial Secretary would seriously challenge it, because I am sure he has read the Act—you come to this position: If any ordinary statutory company were to break a contract of this kind everyone in the House, from every political quarter, would be up in arms against such an action, attacking its commercial morality. The junior Burgess for Cambridge University sought to get rid of that position by saying, "This is not a contract; there is no consideration. This is a matter of a settlement or a trust." Really, one gets some surprises in approaching a subject of this kind. As 265 I have said, the only difference between an agreement and a trust, or a settlement of this matter, is that the trust is where you do not demand anything for assuming your obligations. When Parliament, through an Act which has a Preamble associating the King and the Commons with the view of Parliament, expressly undertakes an obligation of this kind, does the hon. Gentleman think that the people of this country believe that that is less moral or less binding than a commercial contract into which anyone may enter?
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is putting words into my mouth. I did not mention the word "trust." I suggested that this was not a contract. I have not his legal knowledge, so perhaps he can tell me whether this is a contract or not.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
By his interruption the hon. Gentleman has shown that I am dealing with the point he has in mind. There is no difference, from the point of view of moral obligation, between a contract entered into for a consideration and a solemn trust which anyone, be it an individual, or be it the Government and Parliament of this country, undertakes if the circumstances are thought to justify that taking the obligation at the time. It is the last word to suggest after 140 years, that because the settlement was undertaken without consideration, that is now good ground for repudiation. I am surprised at that argument being advanced.
The argument has also been advanced —and it comes well from me to chide it, because it is quite the most legalistic argument that could possibly be framed in the circumstances—that what Parliament has done, Parliament can undo; that anyone who gets an obligation undertaken towards him by Parliament must realise that it can be broken tomorrow or the next day, or whenever it suits the people of this country. That will not do. It is, of course, legally possible, but it does not touch the moral question, which has been rightly posed in this matter by the hon. Member for South Cardiff. Surely, if we take the course which has been suggested, that of centralising, and putting more power into the hands of the State, putting more activities under the control of the State, then as we increase the power of the State, the only sheet anchor 266 which can help us is that we shall demand from the State a higher standard of morality and practice. If the State goes into commercial practice, or goes into the practice of trustees, we must demand that higher standard. We must demand it, because it is the only thing which can guide us safely round the edge of the totalitarian abyss—
§ Mr. Gallacher
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Parliament of 1806 represented the will of the people. What have the people to do with this in view of the fact that 10 years previously Thomas Muir was sent to Botany Bay for 14 years for demanding the right of the people to the franchise? The people had no say whatever.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I should be most interested to argue the historical conditions of 1806 with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I would remind him that there was at the time a Coalition Government, with a predominantly Whig interest in charge, and even at that time, if he went to a really good and up-to-date county like Lancashire— if he went to Preston—he would have found that there was practically universal suffrage returning their Member to that House.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
I know that Preston is a very good borough, and that it then had a large franchise for those days—it had about 143 electors.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
If one includes the "pot walloper" franchise, it had a large franchise. To dispose of the interruption of the hon. and learned Member, I would say that that House, at that time, represented, as far as this action is concerned, more clearly and obviously the will of the people than probably any other Measure of that short-lived Government. If the hon. Gentleman has any doubt, let him read any newspaper, any broadsheet that gives an account of the crowds who assembled on every occasion when it was possible for them to pay tribute to Lord Nelson. No newspaper, no writing of that time could suggest to him that there would have been any opposition from the widow of the humblest impressed seaman, who ever left under compulsion to join Nelson's fleet, to this proposal to do honour to his 267 name. That is a cold historical fact, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman can upset me on any point of it, I shall be most pleased to have regard to what he says. Fascinating though that interruption was to me, I apologise to the House for being taken off the line of my argument. I hope that the House will bear with me if I return to it to make two or three very short points.
I was making the point that it is no answer to say that this is under an Act of Parliament which may be repealed. I had already dealt with the point that it was no answer to say that it was a trust assumed by the community; but I ask the right hon. Gentlemen and boa. Gentlemen opposite to consider the wider implications of this matter. Here we are dealing with the last of these pensions, and, therefore, in one aspect, it may seem a small affair, but we are deliberately confiscating, by ending the right of someone to receive a sum of money which had been promised by the Government and Parliament of this country in as solemn a form as that obligation could take. That is not a small matter; that cannot be weighed in terms of £5,000 a year. That is something which those who are looking at British action. British trustworthiness and British credit will weigh with the other things which they take into account. After all, it is not as if we were asking for something which is extraordinary or unforeseen. It is not yet 20 years since Mr. Snowden said that, if an application for commutation were made, he was sure it would be favourably received.
My hon. Friends who gave me as full an account as they could of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, were unable to give me any reason that the Chancellor had advanced for the view that the time had passed for commutation. It is a point on which we should like the Financial Secretary to give us some further details If commutation was right in respect of the other pensions, and if it was right in 1929 in respect of this pension, why has that changed? That is a matter on which we want information, and we should like the Financial Secretary to give it to us. After all, the pension has not changed in any of its circumstances. As the hon. Member for South Cardiff has said, the money side of it is really a small matter, if one remembers that when this was granted the income 268 of the country from taxation was £40 million a year. It is now approximately £4,000 million, and yet this is the time chosen for the action proposed in this Bill.
I should like to say one word on the point which some of my hon. Friends have already put before the House. We were told that there was a great pressure on the time of this House. When the question of Private Members' time came up, the Lord President said that there would be a serious prejudice to the national interest if the Government's time were impinged on by Private Members business. I think the Government and the Financial Secretary must meet this point. Is the true position as to the Government's programme in the national interest, that this House has to spend the greater part of a day, in getting rid of an obligation of £5,000 a year? It may raise an important matter from the standpoint of those who oppose it but, why should this immensely valuable time of ours be occupied by this measure? I feel that the House has the right to have that explained by the Financial Secretary.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
I think the House will agree that we have had a very interesting Debate. Almost without exception, those hon. Members who have been in favour of the Bill have been on this side of the House and perhaps below the Gangway on the other side, and those who have been against the Bill have been Members of the party opposite. In one sense the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a complete answer to all the points that have been raised in the Debate. When hon. Members read the Debate tomorrow, I think they will find that he answered in advance most of the questions that have been put. Nevertheless, I will, to the best of ability, give answers to some of the main questions that were put to me both by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) and the hon. Member for South Hendon Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), who moved the Amendment.
It is true—and nothing that my right hon. Friend said denied it—that when the Act was passed by the House 140 years ago, the intention was to perpetuate the name of Nelson and to see that his family had an estate and an income with which 269 to keep it up. But that does not mean that, because that was so, a perpetual obligation should be placed upon the people of this country to go on paying a perpetual pension to the descendants of the relatives of the great Nelson. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] For reasons to which I will come in a moment or two. The hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) likened the position at that time to the situation just before Dunkirk. Undoubtedly, there is a fairly close parallel, to which some historical writers have already drawn attention. The hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle spoke of the immense relief to all sections of the population when they heard that the menace of the invasion had receded because of the victory of Nelson at Trafalgar. All that is true, and is extremely interesting from an historical point of view, but although it may throw light on the actions of the House of Commons at that time, surely it has very little application to what the House of Commons does today. What we are concerned with is not what they thought in 1805 and 1806, but what the people of this country are thinking today. The Government have come to the conclusion, we think rightly, although hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may think wrongly, that the people of this country generally believe that this the last remaining pension of its kind is an anachronism, and should cease.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Is the hon. Gentleman putting forward the proposal that we should have no respect whatever for the wishes of our forefathers, who passed the Act?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I will not repeat the points that have been made with great force from this side of the House that, although it is true Nelson earned the gratitude of the people of his day, and of the generations following, it was a House of Commons which was not, in the sense that we understand the term, fully representative which passed the Act of 1806.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The point I am trying to make is that what happened then is one thing, and the attitude of the people today quite another. What the House of Commons did at that time was to 270 follow a method which was not an uncommon one then of showing appreciation to a great naval commander. This generation pays its tribute in a different way. The House has recently passed a Measure which will pay tribute to the great Franklin D. Roosevelt by setting up a monument in Grosvenor Square and using the surplus funds, not to pay a perpetual pension to the Roosevelt family, either collateral or direct, but for the welfare of people who suffer.
There has been confusion among some hon. Members as to just what the duties of the trustees of the Trafalgar Estates are. They really have nothing whatever to do with the pension of £5,000, which is paid quarterly out of the Consolidated Fund. The duties of the trustees are concerned entirely with the Trafalgar property. Under Clause 2 of the Bill, it is proposed to relieve the property of certain limitations under which it now labours. It has been suggested by certain hon. Members opposite that we should include in the Bill a provision to permit the Admiralty to take over the Trafalgar property in order that it might be used either as a hospital or as a welfare centre, or in some other direction which would assist the men who belong to the Royal Navy, or their dependants. Such a provision is not necessary. If the House agrees to Clause 2 as it stands, no legislation will be required to follow out the suggestion which my right hon. Friend made when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. All that is needed is already being done under Clause 2. The estate will be freed from certain limitations which are now imposed on it, and the rest will follow.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
Why is the Chancellor concerning himself with easing the situation of this estate? I welcome it, of course, but why is he so concerning himself? Surely, it is because he feels some obligation as a trustee.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
He is doing it because he has a sense of justice. If, when the pension was given it was given in order partly that the estate, which was bought at about the same time, might be kept up, and if now the pension is to cease at the end of two lives, clearly it is only just and proper that the estate should be freed, as far as it can be freed, from the limitations imposed upon it when the Act was passed and the pension was granted. As a matter of fact, as I under- 271 stand it, one of the difficulties which the present owner has is to keep up the property. He finds that the pension as it stands does not enable him to keep the property in the condition in which it should be kept. In these circumstances, what do hon. Members opposite believe should be done? Should the pension be increased? Should it be doubled to enable the Nelson family to keep the property in the state in which it was hoped that it would be kept in perpetuity; or should we do what the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes and that is, get rid of the pension and free the estate so that the Nelson family will, so far as the remaining limitations allow, be free to sell?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That is really a point which transcends our differences in one sense. The Financial Secretary has put two points. The first is that the pension is not sufficient to keep up the estate and, therefore, the family should be given the right to sell. He is I am sure standing by what his right hon. Friend said a short time ago, which was so important and so helpful to us, namely, as far as some attempt to do justice to the family is concerned, they will be prepared to consider a reasonable price for the estate. Secondly, we are told that if it is acquired by the Admiralty, then the estate in itself may well be put to some worthy purpose which will commemorate Nelson. There we have two points, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will emphasise that that is clearly in the mind of the Government.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has put the point with the utmost clarity, and it is one that the Government hold in this matter. If it is agreed that the time has undoubtedly come to get rid of this pension altogether, by limiting it to two lives at the most, the question does arise what is to happen to the Trafalgar Estate and, in the opinion of my right hon. Friend and of the Government, it would be grossly unfair to continue the entail in its present form. Therefore, it is proposed to allow the present beneficial owner freedom to deal with the estate and be able to sell it either to the Admiralty, as we hope will be the case if terms agreeable to both can be reached, or to sell it elsewhere. It is my right hon. Friend's hope that a place with such historical associations should, if possible, come into the possession of 272 the Admiralty so that it may be used for all time for some beneficent purpose connected with the men of the Royal Navy and be properly kept up at public expense. That can still happen and we sincerely hope that it will. But we must, as I hope the House realises, keep Clause 2 in the Bill and pass it more or less in its present shape.
The hon. Member for South Hendon, who moved the Amendment, asked me two questions. He asked me—and I have already partially answered this point —what effect Clause 2 would have on the beneficial owner. He also asked what effect Clause 2 would have on the Estate Duty that might be payable. As I have indicated, Clause 2 enables the mansion house to be sold, a thing that cannot be done at the present time. It also removes the restrictions on the investment of capital arising from such a sale, and it also enables the tenant intail to exercise powers of sale which normally only can and are exercised by a tenant for life. I should add that when the estate is sold, certain limitations will still apply. The capital moneys will have to pass into the control of trustees, although they will not be trustees appointed as they are now on behalf of the nation. It will be for the beneficial owner himself to appoint his own trustees. Subject to that, he will be free to deal with the property just as any other similar tenant would be.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I gathered from what the hon. Gentleman said that it is not the intention of the Government to disturb the beneficial trusts as provided in the original Act. I should like an assurance from the Government on that point.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
That is so. Though any lands which are outside the compass of the original Act can now be dealt with and that right will of course continue.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
There is one question in regard to sale which I should like to raise. The owner of the estate will have the undoubted right under this Bill to sell the mansion house and estate to the highest bidder. Is it possible that the Government may not be the highest bidder and in that case Trafalgar House and its associations would pass for ever from the nation's possession.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
We cannot control an eventuality of that kind. The decision, naturally, will have to depend on the present Lord Nelson or his successor and what offers are made to them. Perhaps I might add that I understand a great deal of work is needed on the house and perhaps the family have not had funds to keep it up. The place is not, I understand, in first-rate condition and if a commercial price is given I imagine that that fact will have an effect on the price which the Admiralty, for example, might be willing to pay. However, all these things are matters for negotiation. All I need say here, so far as my right hon. Friend and the Government are concerned, is we are only too anxious that this property should pass into national keeping and be used by the State or by the Admiralty for some good purpose.
The hon. Member for South Hendon also asked what would be the effect of Clause 2 on the Estate Duty payable. As this property has limitations on it which are familiar to us all, it comes under Section 5 (5) of the Finance Act, 1894, and that being so the interest is valued for the purposes of Estate Duty in like manner as for succession Duty. That is to say the value taken for Death Duties is the value of the life interest of the succeeding owner. That will continue although Clause 2 gives to the owner the right to sell.
I want now to answer one or two points put by the right hon. and learned Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool. He asked, I think very pertinently, why the offer of commutation did not remain open to the present time. I think the short answer, as my right hon. Friend said in the course of his speech, is that an offer was made in 1889, and the then Lord Nelson decided that he would not take advantage of it. The question then arises, how long could the Government keep an offer of that kind open? Has an offer of commutation to be left open for ever, and on the same terms? In 1889 the offer was a 27 years' purchase for £135,000. I would remind the House that since then the family has drawn £285,000 gross. By not accepting the offer made in 1889 they have done therefore extremely well and have received more than twice—
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Surely all these things are gross: my salary is gross and no doubt the hon. and gallant Gentleman's income is gross. The point which I am making, and which I think is valid, is that we cannot keep offers of this kind open indefinitely. An offer was made in 1889, and refused. Since then, as I have said, the family have received more than double the commutation price which they would have obtained had they accepted that offer.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether an offer has come from the owner of the property?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Lord Nelson reopened the matter in 1904 but, perhaps unfortunately for all concerned, neither he nor the Treasury pursued it at that time and nothing happened. The real reason for this Bill dates back, I think, to 1887. In that year a Select Committee of this House was set up which quite definitely came to the conclusion that pensions of this kind should cease, and that at the most they should not continue beyond the life of a living beneficiary. In the same year, my right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was born, and it is a commentary on the slowness with which Parliament occasionally moves that a baby "mewling and puking" in its cradle at the time this Select Committee was meeting and coming to this decision, should now be the hand and brain to put its decision into effect. We are therefore today acting on a decision taken when the House could not have been described as Socialistic in any shape or sense. Their proposal seemed to us a reasonable one. This thing cannot go on for ever. We believe that the time has come to end it, and we propose in the present Bill to do so.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether, arising out of the negotiations to which he has referred, there has been any offer to the present family to negotiate a settlement?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Discussions have, of course, taken place on the matter through the solicitors to the Nelson family. The Government have, of course, informed them of the action contemplated and now embodied in this Bill.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Nelson family should be allowed to take what was refused by them in 1889? Has he so little regard for public funds and ordinary justice as to believe that they should be allowed now, at a time chosen by themselves, to come along and take what was offered to their predecessors so many years ago?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that if an offer of £135,000 had been accepted in 1889, and handed into the trust, and the income drawn from it, the total of capital and income obtained by the family since 1889, would be more than they have actually received?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I think the short answer to that is that the family should have accepted the offer at the time. The fact remains that they did not do so, and we believe that in presenting this small
§ and—we had hoped—non-controversial Measure to the House we are putting an end, at long last, to what has become an anachronism in our national life. I ask the House to give us the Second Reading.
§ Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
May I ask the Financial Secretary why he has made no attempt to answer the point raised several times on this side of the House—why, at a period when the Government claim that Parliamentary time is so scarce and precious, they are taking up that Parliamentary time with the present Measure?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 271; Noes 102.277
|Division No. 19.]||AYES||[7.26 p.m.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Crawley, A.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Hall, W. G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Daggar, G.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Daines, P.||Harris, H. Wilson|
|Austin, H. L.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Harrison, J.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Ayles, W. H.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Diamond, J.||Hicks, G.|
|Barton, C.||Dobbie, W.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Battley, J. R.||Dodds, N. N.||Holman, P.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Donovan, T.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Benson, G.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Horabin, T. L.|
|Berry, H.||Dumpleton, C. W.||House, G.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Durbin, E. F. M.||Hoy, J.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Dye, S.||Hubbard, T.|
|Binns, J.||Edelman, M.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Bowden, Fig.-Offr. H. W.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Hynd, Rt. Hon J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Ewart, R.||Irving, W. J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Fairhurst, F.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Farthing, W. J.||Janner, B.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Field, Captain W. J.||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Follick, M.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)|
|Buchanan, G.||Foot, M. M.||John, W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Forman, J. C.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Callaghan, James||Gallacher, W.||Keenan, W.|
|Carmichael, James||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Kenyon, C.|
|Champion, A. J.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Key, C. W.|
|Chafer, D.||Gilzean, A.||King, E. M.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Kinley, J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Grenfell, D. R.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Grey, C. F.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Grierson, E.||Lavers, S.|
|Collick, P.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Collins, V. J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Gruffyd, Prof. W. J.||Levy, B. W.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Gunter, R. J.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Guy, W. H.||Lewis. T (Southampton)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Symonds, A. L.|
|Logan, D. G.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Longden, F.||Pearson, A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lyne, A. W.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|McAllister, G.||Perrins, W.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|McEntee, V. La. T.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|Mack, J. D.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Tiffany, S.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Tolley, L.|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Pritt, D. N.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|McLeavy, F.||Proctor, W. T.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Randall, H. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Ranger, J.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Rankin, J.||Walkden, E.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Walker, G. H.|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Richards, R.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Mathers, G.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Medland, H. M.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Royle, C.||Watson, W. M.|
|Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Scollan, T.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Moody, A. S.||Segal, Dr. S.||Weitzman, D.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Morley, R.||Sharp, Granville||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, H.)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Mort, D. L.||Simmons, C. J.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Moyle, A.||Skinnard, F. W.||Williams, D J. (Neath)|
|Murray, J. D.||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)||Williamson, T.|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Willis, E.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Solley, L. J.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Sorensen, R. W.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Woods, G. S.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Stamford, W.||Yates, V. F.|
|Paget, R. T.||Steele, T.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Stephen, C.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Stubbs, A. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Parkin, B. T.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Mr. Collindridge and|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Nicholson, G.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Glossop, C. W. H.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Grimston, R. V.||Peto, Brig C. H. M.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Boles Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Boothby, R.||Hope, Lord J.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Howard, Hon. A.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Hurd, A.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Scott, Lord W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Carson, E.||Keeling, E. H.||Spence, H. R.|
|Challen, C.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Taylor, Vice-Adm E. A. (P'dd'f'n. S.)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||McCallum, Maj. D.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Turton, R. H.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col A. V. G. (Penrith)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Drewe, C.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (City of Lond.)||Marples, A. E||Williams Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Maude, J. C.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Mellor, Sir J.||York, C.|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D. P. M.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Gage, C.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Commander Agnew and|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Select Committee of Six Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Two by the Committee of Selection;
§ All Petitions against the Bill presented at any time not later than Five clear days after the making of this Order to be referred to the Committee;
§ Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents to be heard against the Bill, and Counsel or Agents heard in support of the Bill;
§ Power to report from day to day the Minutes of the Evidence taken before the Committee;
§ Three to be the Quorum;
That Petitions against the Bill may be deposited in the Committee and Private Bill Office, provided that such Petitions shall have been prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of this House relating to Petitions against Private Bills."—[Mr. Joseph Henderson.]