§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that in proposing that the House should resolve itself into a Committee on the Civil List Bill, he had a few observations to make to the House in reference to a subject which was in some degree connected with that motion. He saw on the order-book a notice of motion for the production of an account of the net proceeds of the revenue of the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster for a certain number of years. It certainly had been intimated on a former occasion that there would be no objection on the part of Government to the production of these accounts. But it had since been ascertained that such information had never been laid before Parliament, and it was felt, that unless such information was granted as a voluntary act of grace on the part of the Crown, it would be an insult to the Sovereign to call for its production. He had already stated that it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to introduce new regulations with respect to the revenues of the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster. It was intended to do away with the present system of secrecy as regarded the accounts, to remedy any abuses that might appear to prevail, and to cause the accounts to be regularly laid before Parliament for consideration and inspection. Upon those grounds he would venture to submit to his noble and learned Friend whether it was necessary that he should press his motion.
could assure their Lordships that there was no man in the universe less disposed than he was, after the appeal which had been made to him by his noble Friend, to persevere in the motion of which he had given notice. It appeared from what his noble Friend had stated, that to move an address on this subject, would be at once unfitting and disrespectful to the Crown. If their Lordships thought that this motion ought not to be brought forward, he felt that to persevere in it would be useless. It would only be leading to a debate, or rather to the renewal of the debate of last night. Looking to the support which he was likely to obtain in that House, he saw that he had no chance whatsoever in obtaining the account which he was anxious to procure; and he felt that he had still less chance—indeed he might say—that he had not the most remote possibility of achieving his object, without the assistance 1377 of his noble Friend, who, for the reasons which he had stated, would most unquestionably join in the opposition against his motion. He must, however, say a word or two in vindication of the course which he had adopted, as it was asserted that such a course would not be fitting, as it was declared that such a course ought not to be taken, because it would be wanting in due respect to the Crown. He must say, if this were so, that he was not the only person who laboured under a mistake in supposing that it was neither unfitting, nor unprecedented, nor in opposition to that respect which was due to the Crown, to adopt the course which he had pursued. He gave his noble Friend notice of the motion which he intended to make, and he entered on the motion-paper the very words of that motion. He produced his intended motion to his noble Friend, in order that he might communicate it to his noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to his noble Friend, the Lord President of the Council, and to his noble Friend, who presided over the department of the Woods and Forests. He did this that it might be considered—yes, that it might be maturely considered—whether it would be right or not to comply with the terms of that motion. That paper was given to his noble Friends—they had it in their possession for twenty-four hours—and then a communication was made to him, that there was no possible objection to the production of the papers—that they had communicated with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the proper officer, no doubt, and that no opposition would be given to the motion. Now, he would ask, whether, under these circumstances, he could be charged with the onus of taking a course which was manifestly unfit—which was wholly unprecedented—and which showed a want of due respect to the Sovereign on this question? He certainly thought not. Neither were his noble Friends accomplices with him on this occasion—they were not parties in any conspiracy. He held that he had committed no offence under any one of these three separate heads of charge; and there being no principal offender, there could of course be no accomplices. He hoped that his noble Friends would excuse him when he thus defended them from the imputation which had been cast also upon them when it was directed against him. But he 1378 would appeal to their Lordships whether, at all events, he did not stand abundantly acquitted from such an imputation? How stood the case? They were called on to vote hundreds of thousands a-year on account of the civil list, for perhaps half a century, and the question was, or ought to be, "What is the amount of the revenues of the Crown derived from other sources?" And in order to ascertain that point before it was too late, in order to arrive at that information which ought to influence their vote, he called for certain documents. Now, however, it turned out that that was not the proper course of proceeding; the proper mode, it appeared was to vote the money first, and to make calculations on the information which they might receive with reference to the necessity that existed for the vote afterwards. He had heard on all sides expressions of surprise at the adoption of such a preposterous course, the doing that first which ought to be done last. Oh! but they had for adopting this preposterous course the authority of the Commons House of Parliament—the guardians of the public purse—the jealous watchmen over the funds of the country—those who were sent to represent the people in the people's House of Parliament—whose voice was the voice of the free people of this country. He hoped, however, that they should never see the voice of the people put down in that House by any juggle, by any collusion between the chair and the Treasury benches, by any stifling of that voice on petitions, or debates on petitions, by which debates on petitions, he would say, all the great victories ever gained in that House—their own House—by the people against a borough-mongering Government were achieved. He hoped that they should never see that House less jealous hereafter in the exercise of its functions than it had heretofore proved. But, for the present, a cloud appeared to have passed over the Representatives of the people. Something seemed to have lulled their senses—to have charmed away their activity—to have removed their watchfulness over the purse of the people whom they represented. It did happen, indeed, that their Lordships were charged with taking too much care of the purse of the people. It was asked "Why are you more careful, why are you more "watchful than the people themselves, or than those who are supposed to speak the sentiments of the people?" He could 1379 not answer that question, but he believed that before long the people might awake, and then they might ring a peal in the ears of the Parliamentary guardians of the public purse, the echo of which would be remembered, not only to the last hour of the official existence of the present Government, but to a much later period—to the last hour of the life of the youngest public functionary in the country.
was aware that within the last four or five years numerous instances had occurred in which that House had asked for information respecting public expenditure, which the House of Commons had either not asked for, or which, if it had been asked for, was refused. In his opinion it was essential that they should obtain all the information possible to be acquired, in order that they might be enabled to legislate safely. On these grounds he did not think that the noble and learned Lord was justified in withdrawing his motion. There was, however, an objection to the noble and learned Lord's motion.
did not mean to argue the question, which had been argued last night at very great length by the noble and learned Lord, when there were very few peers present. He should now observe, in reference to the statement made by the noble Viscount opposite, "that a Bill was about to be introduced for the regulation of the revenues of the duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster," that it was absolutely necessary that such an Act should be passed, because the Crown could not grant a single lease of that property until an Act was passed enabling it so to do. On the accession of William 4th such an Act was passed, and therefore the subject must now come under the notice of Parliament. An opportunity would thus be afforded for making, as he thought there ought to be made, an entire change in the whole system of the duchy of Cornwall. He saw no reason why a full inquiry should not be made into the enjoyment and application of the revenue of that duchy. In his opinion, an end ought to be put altogether to the renewal of leases on fines. All that ought to be required for the buying in of a new life was a fixed annual rent. In one point of view, the system of fines might not be objec- 1380 tionable, because the fine might be fairly equivalent to a certain rent; but in another point it was bad, it was morally ruinous that a Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, on coming into possession of this property, should, at the age, probably of nineteen, have to receive 90.000l. or 100,000l. There was no likelihood of a Prince of Wales coming into possession of it for at least twenty years; and advantage ought to be taken of that circumstance to place the property upon an entirely new footing. He did not object to information on the subject; on the contrary, he wished to have it; and his objection to the noble and learned Lord's motion was, that it would afford no sufficient information.
repeated, that for his purpose the information which he asked for would be abundantly sufficient. He was induced to withdraw his motion chiefly from the hopelessness of carrying it.
§ The Duke of Wellington
wished to make a few observations on this subject. He had heard a part of the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the preceding evening, and he was sorry that circumstances had prevented him from hearing the whole of it. The noble Viscount opposite had stated yesterday that he (the Duke of Wellington) had made some objection to a similar measure on a former occasion. It was true that he had done so, and he had the same objection to the measure then before their Lordships. His objection at the former period was that provision was not made for the First Lord of the Treasury, and other great officers of state, to make them independent of an annual vote in the Committee of Supply in the other House of Parliament, and he felt an objection to the present measure on the same ground. He objected, also, to what was proposed with respect to pensions. In his opinion a sufficient provision was not made for the exercise of the royal bounty. The noble and learned Lord had gone into considerable detail with respect to the inconvenience likely to result from the long period of time during which provision was about to be made for granting' pensions. Noble Lords looked at the time, but they did not look at the service which was rewarded. Those pensions were not granted to persons who 1381 had performed no services, who had no claims on the country. Many military and naval officers had their names placed on the List in consequence of services which they had rendered the country during the late war. Legislating, as he hoped they were, for the next fifty years, were they, he would ask, making a sufficient provision whereby the Crown could reward naval and military services, when they only granted 1,200l. a-year for that purpose? He had also another objection to the Bill—he alluded to that Clause by which the Crown was obliged to state the ground on which those pensions were granted. He had been long enough at the head of the Government of this country to be aware that there were many claims, many well-founded claims, on the bounty of the Crown, nay, on its justice, which a Minister could not successfully defend either in that or in the other House of Parliament. He could state some claims arising out of certain public events, which he was sure that every one of their Lordships would admit to be well-founded. It was desirable, in considering a question of this nature, that both Parliament and the public should be distinctly informed what the amount of the property was which the Sovereign gave up when this bargain of the Civil List was made, and also that Parliament and the public should consider whether there were not claims on the justice and generosity of every individual having large property, and whether it was fitting that the illustrious personage filling the Throne, should be the only individual in the country who could not perform an act of justice and generosity, but must come down to Parliament to have the propriety of it discussed in a public assembly. He could have wished that before this subject came under the consideration of their Lordships they had had a distinct statement made to them of the amount of the revenues which the Crown had given up; for then they would have been able to decide whether it was fitting that the generosity of the Crown should be limited as it was in the first instance, and then that every act of that description should be laid before Parliament, and that a Minister should be then called upon to get up in his place in Parliament to defend it. He could not let an Act in which he saw so much to disapprove pass without protesting against it. He would not, however, take up the time of the House 1382 further in discussing the objectionable parts of the Bill, nor would he delay the passing of it by stating any further arguments in opposition to it.
§ Viscount Melbourne
observed, that he had stated at so much length on a former occasion the grounds on which he thought that the arrangement made for the civil list in 1831 was the best that could be adopted, that he would not enter further into them on the present occasion. He differed widely from the view which the noble Duke had taken of this subject. He thought that the present arrangement, which settled the revenue to be appropriated to the personal convenience, comfort, and dignity of the Sovereign, and which left the other points to be settled by an annual grant of Parliament, was the best and most convenient arrangement that could be adopted. No inconvenience had been found to result from the arrangement of the civil list which had been made at the commencement of the last reign, and he certainly could not see that there was any reason to apprehend inconvenience, if their Lordships acted upon that arrangement during the present reign. The noble Duke had also complained of the arrangement made in this Bill with respect to pensions. The noble Duke had contended that the fund at the disposal of the Crown was insufficient for the purposes of generosity and charity, which the Crown might think it fitting and proper to exercise, That was a question on which great difference of opinion prevailed, and that difference of opinion arose from a difference of principle. The noble Duke had adverted with much feeling to the number of widows and children of officers whose names were upon the pension list; and it was manifest, from the observations of the noble Duke, that he had made up his mind to a much larger system of pensions and superannuations than that which existed at present. Now, his principles were opposite to that. In his opinion nothing was so dangerous and so prodigal for the country as a general system of pensions and superannuations. If it were carried out far, the finance of no country could survive it, any more than the revenues of a private individual could survive it. We had already carried it out to a large extent—we had already given large allowances, as the noble Duke knew much better than himself to individuals both in the army and in the navy; and, in addition 1383 to the pensions on the civil list, there were settled pensions for the widows and families of those officers who had fallen or suffered in the service of the country. He must say for himself, that he knew that this allowance of 1,200l. a-year for pensions was a smaller sum than that which was before placed at the disposal of the Crown. If the pension list had been voted to her present Majesty in the same way in which it had been voted to his late Majesty, there would have been pensions to a larger amount at the disposal of the Crown than there were at present. The former system, however, was uncertain, for many pensions might fall in during the course of a-year, or none might, while the present system was fixed, regular, and certain. As far as be had seen of the Government of the country, and of the fair demands of individuals upon the bounty of the Crown, he thought, considering that there were other funds for the relief of those who had become destitute or had suffered in the service of the country that the sum now granted, if it were properly administered and wisely distributed,—and its proper administration and its wise distribution could only be secured by the publicity established by this Bill—would be amply sufficient for all the purposes for which it was intended. The noble Duke had adverted to what would have been the amount of the hereditary revenues of the Crown, and to what was given up by the Sovereign in assenting to this bargain. Whatever might be the fate of this act, whatever might be given up by the Crown, this question ought not to be considered on the grounds of its being a claim of compensation, but on the grounds of public policy—not as a claim of bow much the Crown was entitled to receive, but as a question of how much the Parliament in justice and liberality was entitled to grant. For his own part, he thought that what was given to the Crown was sufficient. It should also be recollected, that the restricted amount of funds led to a more prudent and enlightened administration of them, while a profuse amount of them too often led to a profuse expenditure in their management. He was happy to hear the noble Duke in the conclusion of his speech remark that, although he had expressed his disapprobation of several parts of this Bill, he did not intend to give any further opposition to its progress.
1384 Their Lordships went into a Committee and went through the Bill. House rsumed—Bill reported.