HL Deb 11 July 1833 vol 19 cc556-60

On the Order of the Day being moved for resuming the Debate on the Motion, that the Standing Orders be suspended to allow the Thellusson Estate Bill to be brought in,

The Earl of Eldon

presented a petition from ten of the trustees under the will of the late Mr. Thellusson. The petition entered into a detailed account of the receipts and disbursements under the will, and the petitioners prayed their Lordships not to pass any Bill on the subject without in the first instance having the opinion of the Judges of the land. The petitioners, his Lordship observed, felt, that they could not discharge themselves from the charge that had been imposed upon them, and they found, upon taking legal advice, that they were bound to support the will.

Lord Segrave

asked whether the noble Lord was satisfied as to the state of mind of one of the petitioners. He had been informed, that the gentleman to whom he alluded was in a state of extreme mental and bodily infirmity, and had for years been incapable of doing any business.

Lord Lyndhurst

said, from what he knew on the subject he could only consider this as the petition of one of the trustees, Sir Charles Flint. He had, however, received a letter from the other trustees, in which they expressed an anxious hope that he should bring the matter before the House of Lords. The whole of the surviving grandsons of the late Mr. Thellusson, Lord Rendlesham, Mr. Henry Thellusson, &c., were favourable to the introduction of a Bill. A letter had been received by a noble Lord, who was then present, from Mr. Frederick Thellusson, who was now at Florence, which he would read to their Lordships. It was dated the. 8th of June, 1833, and stated, that the, writer had just received a letter informing' him that Lord Lyndhurst had moved, with the approbation of the Lord Chancellor, for a number of returns relative to the Thellusson Estates, and he understood, that it was intended to bring in a Bill by which the family, and not the lawyers and the trustees, would be benefitted by the rental. He begged of his noble friend to support that Bill, and to use his interest with his friends in the House of Lords to do the same. A Bill of the nature of that which he wished to introduce had the concurrence of every adult member of the Thellusson family; and therefore he should move, that the Standing Orders for the purposes of this Bill be suspended.

The Earl of Shaftesbury

said, that the rule in all such cases as the present was, that the opinion of the Judges should be taken on the petition for the private Bill, and he, in the present instance, saw no reason why that course should not be followed.

Lord Lyndhurst

said, that he had understood from what had transpired upon a former occasion, that if he presented a petition from all the members of the family, he (Lord Lyndhurst) should have done all that he was expected to do. He knew not what the contents of the petition which had been presented against the Bill were, but he was well aware, from the returns from the Court of Chancery which had been made, and which he now held in his hand—returns made by the officers of the Court—by Mr. Roupell, the master in whose office the estate was managed—from Mr. Adam, the Accountant General, and from Mr. Raynsford, the master of the Report office, that all these returns and statements corresponded with the facts he had stated on a former occasion. The result of those returns was, that on an estate of 24,000l. a-year, 14,000l. per annum was spent for its management. Nay, the mere passing of the accounts of the trustees in the Masters' office amounted annually to 400l., though passed, as it would appear, by the Master's clerk in one day—nay, within two or three hours. The object of the present Bill was, to put the whole estate in a different position; for to use the language of Mr. Frederick Thellusson in the petition which had been presented, the receipts went to lawyers, which in fact ought to go into the pockets of the family. In such a feeling he was sure their Lordships would agree. He had omitted on a former occasion to call the attention of the House to the expenses incurred in keeping up the establishment of the Brodsworth mansion. Under the will of the testator the trustees were directed to sell off all his personal estate, furniture, pictures, and wines, except what might be necessary for the accommodation of the trustees, during their visits for the management of the estate. Under such a testamentary direction it could not but be understood, that it was the will of the testator that the bulk of the property should be disposed of; but what would their Lordships think when he stated that, notwithstanding such a testamentary provision, not one stick of furniture, nor a bottle of wine from the cellars, had been sold? The House would be still more surprised to learn that no less than 5,000l. had been obtained from the Court of Chancery for the purchase even of additional furniture. It was true that it was provided, that the mansion should be kept in repair, and, more than this, the testator had provided that proper accommodations should be in readiness for the trustees when the management of the estate made their presence necessary. But their Lord-ships must be surprised to learn that the mansion was occupied three months in the year by Sir Charles Flint, one of the trustees, and that the establishment consisted of a house-steward, a housekeeper, and three housemaids, for but one trustee. In addition to these there was a gardener, under-gardener, and two women, or boys, to work in the garden, and, though the manor might have been most advantageously let, two game-keepers were employed. In addition to this, 20l. a-week was provided under the will for household expenses for a term not exceeding twelve weeks in the year, independent of all other outlays. When he had the honour to sit upon the Woolsack, he had felt it his duty, on a Motion being brought before him, to direct a reference to the master, with a view to curtail what he considered an extravagant expenditure. Under all the circumstances of the present case, he was of opinion, that their Lordships were not only justified, but it was their duty, to interfere in such a way as would prevent the present management of the property being continued.

The Earl of Eldon

expressed his sorrow, that the suspension of the Standing Orders, which had been for so long established and acted upon, should still be insisted on; and the more so, inasmuch as the present case was one of such vast magnitude. He should feel it his duty to oppose the Motion.

The Marquess Conyngham

supported the Motion, for he could not think it would be a dangerous experiment to rescind the Standing Orders in so singular and peculiar a case.

The Earl of Harrowby

said, that the usual practice had been, even on a question on which all parties were agreed, to refer a question of this importance to the consideration of the judges; and in the present state of this question he must vote against a suspension of the Standing Orders.

The Earl of Wicklow

said, that he had heard no tangible reason assigned against the suspension of the Standing Orders. The only one was, that the Judges should be consulted, and as it happened, that they were now about to embark on their respective circuits, the Bill must be lost, if the Motion was negatived, for this Session. If the want of such a reference was to be made an objection to the Motion, he should say, refer the question to the Judges on the home circuit, and all objects would be attained.

The Duke of Buckingham

thought that even if the misconduct of the trustees under this will had been proved, it was no reason why the Standing Orders should be suspended. The proper channel of complaint was the Court of Chancery, and that was the course to be pursued in this instance.

The Earl of Suffolk

said, that too much had been stated of what had been done in the Court of Chancery to induce the House to consent to a reference of this matter to that tribunal again, notwithstanding the suggestion thrown out by the noble Duke who had spoken last. He must say, that the orders of the House had been suspended on former occasions—nay grave occasions—and he could not see why they should not be dispensed with under the present unprecedented circumstances.

The Earl of Shaftesbury

repeated, that the petition ought to be first referred to the Judges, and that then their Lordships might dispose of it as to them should seem fit.

The Marquess of Londonderry

thought that sufficient grounds had been stated to induce the House to consent to the suspension, in this instance, of the Standing Orders. That they should be dispensed with on this occasion was his most decided opinion.

The Earl of Mansfield

said, he had heard no reason assigned which would induce him to consent to the suspension of the Standing Orders. If the Standing Orders had been suspended on former occasions, it must have been when good reasons were assigned, and he must say, that none such had been suggested on the present occasion. There might be some reason, he admitted, for the suspension of the first order, but certainly none for the second order, to which allusion had been made.

The House divided on the Question that the Standing Orders should be suspended—Content 57; Not-content 13: Majority 44:

The Bill brought in and read a first time.