HL Deb 07 June 1842 vol 63 cc1313-5
Lord Kinnaird

rose to ask the question of the noble Duke which he had asked yester- day. He was surprised that the noble Duke objected to answering that question Without notice, because it was continually the practice whilst his noble Friend (Viscount Melbourne) was in office to ask these questions without notice, and very often to make remarks in so doing. He would, however, conform strictly to the rule of the House, especially as he was aware that the Government were not always able to answer a question summarily, and he would take care to give them time in future to become aware of their own acts and deeds. His question was to whom would be entrusted the distribution of the funds expected to be collected by the Queen's letter?

The Duke of Wellington

had only done what was quite usual, in calling the noble Lord to order, when he was entering into a discussion on a subject upon which he was about to put a question, and in stating afterwards to the noble Lord the ad- vantage of giving notice of his question. The noble Lord was pleased to state that it was not the practice heretofore to give notice, but at any rate it was not the practice to make speeches when noble Lords put a question upon an hypothesis, and he had frequently supported the objection of the noble Viscount (Viscount Melbourne), to making speeches on questions, and to putting questions without notice. He had always done everything in his power to prevent questions being put in an irregular manner. Last night, as none of her Majesty's Ministers were in the House, he could not have answered the noble Lord's question. The noble Lord the Secretary of State and the Lord President of the Council were not present, and not being in office, he was not able to give an answer. The noble Lord had not that night asked the same question as he did last night. The former question had reference to Burnley; but in answer to the present question, he had to state that the money to be raised by the Queen's letter would be handed over to be distributed by a committee which had been in existence since 1825, called the Manufacturers Distress Relief Committee. All monies subscribed by her Majesty and her subjects throughout the country would be given to them, and they had had and would have the distribution; and in answer to the question of the noble Lord yesterday, it was this committee which had sent down the sums of money to the town of Burnley.

The Earl of Radnor

had originated the discussion as to advances made for relief and had mentioned the donations to the Spitalfields weavers, thinking that the application of the public stores was an irregular mode of proceeding, and so it had been stated to be by all who spoke. In the course of the debate the other night a noble Lord had stated that this was a common and usual practice, and his noble Friend near him (Lord Monteagle) had said that when he was in office he had, over and over again, done the same thing. Now, there was a difference between giving money to relieve distress that was local and applying it to the general relief of distress in manufacturing districts, arising from a want of trade. The latter appeared to him to be very irregular, and he would, therefore, move for a return of all aid afforded by the Government, without the vote of Parliament, from 1826 to the present time, stating whether Parliament was sitting or not.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that the noble Lord had not given notice, and al- though he had no objection to the return, he thought it would be better if the rule of the House were adhered to. He had not stated that it was the practice to make these advances of the public money; on the contrary, he was not aware that any public money had been given; any money that had been advanced was from the civil list contingencies voted to the Crown, and he had spoken of the general principle of granting public money as not being desirable.

Lord Monteagle

had not intended to say that it was the general principle to make these advances; but as it was frequently the case, it would have been improper in him to remain silent as to what had been done when he was responsible. If money which had been voted by Parliament for one purpose had been devoted to another, he did not say that such an act ought to be censured, but it ought to be accounted for by the Minister. But every year a sum of money which was voted under the head of civil contingencies, and not appropriated, was placed at the disposal of the Government, and there was a sufficient Parliamentary check, because what was in the estimate one year must be accounted for in the next, and an account of the expenditure must be laid before the House of Commons. These advances were made out of the funds voted for civil contingencies, and there was no concealment and no misappropriation. Unless the case were one of extreme urgency, for the minister to come forward with a public declaration in order to take a vote of Parliament for the relief of distress was generally in- expedient, inasmuch as it excited needless alarm and false hopes, as well as paralysed local exertions. Therefore in the cases to which he had referred, although no resolution of the House of Commons had been first required, there had been no misappropriation of the public money, and no con- element of its application. On one or more occasions, Captain Hill, (an officer well known to the noble Duke having been employed by and received a certificate from him) had superintended the distribution of the money so granted, and he had made certain reports to the Treasury which, perhaps, it might be as well to annex to the motion of the noble Earl (the Earl of Radnor), as they contained much that would explain and elucidate the subject.

The Earl of Ripon

could confirm what had been said as to the practice of the Treasury in relation to civil contingencies. Parliament always granted a sum, leaving the application of it to Ministers, under the responsibility of having to account for it in the next year. The fund called the Royal Bounty was disposed of without the same control, but the amount was comparatively small. He was not aware of the precise nature of the reports of Captain Hill, and therefore could not undertake to produce them without previous inquiry.

Motion agreed to.


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