§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Whether he would have any objection to lay upon the Table of the House a Return of the Items of Receipts and Expenditure of the Duchy for the Year 1870? The noble Earl said that very recently a right hon. Baronet had, in "another place," made a charge of extravagance and corruption against the management of the Duchy. The imputation met with very little consideration on the part of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy, and that, as he had been happy to observe, the charge of corruption had been distinctly withdrawn. Such charges, however, left a sting behind them unless they were directly met by persons conversant with the matter, and as the management of a Public Department was in question, he would ask the noble Lord to place on the Table a Return of the Receipts and Expenditure of the Duchy for 1870. There was a high officer at the head of the Duchy, who was frequently a Member of the Cabinet, and there was a Vice Chancellor, who exercised important functions in one of the most populous parts of the country. The expense incurred in its administration must not, therefore, be measured by the same standard as other landed estates.
It is impossible for me at once to comply with the noble Earl's request, inasmuch as the accounts of the Duchy for the past year have not yet been closed and audited. As soon, however, as this is completed they will in due course be presented to both Houses of Parliament. The noble Earl's 928 purpose will, perhaps, be equally well served if I take the opportunity of communicating to the House the chief items of receipt and expenditure on behalf of the Duchy during the year 1869, which do not greatly differ from the corresponding items of the past year. I do so with the greater pleasure, because I am certain that a very few words and figures will completely rectify the misapprehensions to which the observations of a right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) in "another place" may have given rise, not only among your Lordships but the public at large. Those observations were brought under my notice by a noble and gallant Earl (the Earl of Hardwicke). I felt at once either that my right hon. Friend must be labouring under some great delusion, or that his words had been misunderstood and misquoted by the reporter; for knowing, as I did, his kind and generous nature, I was sure he would be the last person in the world deliberately to prefer so grave a charge as corruption against a number of public servants who, as I can testify from my own experience and knowledge, are not excelled in their zeal for the public service and in personal trustworthiness by those employed in any public Department with which I have had the honour of being connected. I am happy to think that my appreciation of my right hon. Friend's character has been amply justified by the generous, frank, and handsome manner in which on the very first opportunity that presented itself he came forward—unsolicited by me—and at once withdrew that very obnoxious phrase, which, as he himself has admitted and as I can readily understand, has as it were slipped into his speech during the agony of rhetorical parturition. But although the characters of those immediately concerned have been completely exonerated, there may prevail in some minds a suspicion that the affairs of the Duchy have not been conducted with due regard to economy, and it is desirable, therefore, that I should proceed to explain the exact circumstances of the case. The statement made by the right hon. Gentleman was to the effect that whereas the gross income of the Duchy amounted to £50,000 a-year, only £25,000 a-year ever found its way into the Privy Purse. Now, the net revenue of the Duchy paid over to the 929 Privy Purse in 1869 was £31,000; and another sum appears in the accounts, which must have escaped the attention of the right hon. Baronet — namely, £7,000 placed to the credit of the Duchy as a cash balance; so that the actual amount of net revenue may be placed at £38,000. There still remains, however, between the sums of £50,000 and £38,000 a margin of £12,000, sufficient to challenge investigation and to require explanation. Of this £12,000 there is an item of £1,800 which at once disappears down the capacious throat of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the chape of income and other taxes. That, of course, is an item which is very unpleasant, and it is one which everybody concerned, from the Queen down to the humblest clerk in the Office, would be very glad to see diminished; but it is an item on which we cannot expect to make any considerable impression. Then comes an item of £2,000 expended on the part of the Duchy in donations to local charities, subscriptions to schools and churches, and to those objects which Her Majesty, in common with every landed proprietor, feels it incumbent on her, as the owner of a large landed property, to promote. Then there comes an item of £1,000 a-year expended in annuities and superannuation grants. Upon this item, of course, no impression can be made as long as the recipients live. There is, further, a small sum of about £200 paid to the Judges, in consideration of a portion of their services given to the County Palatine. These sums, together with the salary of the Chancellor, who, being a public officer, can scarcely be regarded as receiving it absolutely in consideration of his management of the property of the Duchy, amount to £7,000 a-year. The remaining £5,000 is left for the payment of expenses, whether in the shape of land agency, office expenses, establishment expenses, connected with very important functions discharged by the Chancellor in London, the audit of the accounts, travelling expenses, estate improvements, and the expenses incidental to the exercise of manorial rights. All these complicated functions, necessitating the employment of a considerable staff of officers, are discharged for £5,000 a-year—that is about 11 or 12 per cent of the total income of the Duchy. Your Lordships' experience, 930 connected extensively as you are with landed property, will be able to say whether, taking into account the fact that there is property of the Duchy in almost every county in England, and that its estates are dispersed over the kingdom, £5,000 is a large sum. Having thus, as I trust, satisfied your Lordships that the revenues of the Duchy are managed with due economy, I would recall your attention to the gratifying circumstance that, while on the one hand, its revenues are continually increasing, the expenses of management during the last few years have been continually decreasing, and I am in a position to state that arrangements have been made whereby, in the course of a few years, as the persons entitled to receive certain sums disappear, there will be a diminution in that item also. I would, further ask the House to remember that the post which I have the honour to fill is an office which has been held by a great number of distinguished persons, in many of whom the country has placed such confidence as to entrust them with the discharge of the highest functions of the State, with the management of the Army, the Navy, Finance, and Foreign Affairs, and that all these arrangements, so severely criticized, have passed under the consideration of each one of them, and have from time to time received such improvement at their hands as they needed. I would observe, further, that my immediate predecessor was a gentleman peculiarly experienced in the management of landed property, and possessing exceptional advantages as regards the Duchy estates, from the fact that he had conterminous estates of his own in the Duchy in the County Palatine. It is also a great pleasure to me to pay a well-deserved tribute to the permanent officer (Mr. Gooch), the Clerk of the Council, who, as the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) well knows, is a gentleman of very large experience and very great ability. As everyone who has had the good fortune of coming into official relations with him must have remarked, he brings to the consideration and management of the Duchy affairs an amount of precision and conscientious labour such as, I am certain, is nowhere surpassed. Having said this much on the financial management of the Duchy, I may perhaps be permitted to say a word on behalf of the 931 Chancellor himself. He is popularly regarded as a fortunate personage, who, though shut out from that august Olympus where the Dii majores of the Ministry sit and deliberate, nevertheless enjoys in a peaceful and secluded region a kind of semi-divinity, unembarrassed and unimpeded by those weighty cares and responsibilities which engross the time and industry of his more dignified Colleagues. My own experience has not realized this picture. So far from resembling an Epicurean divinity the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster seems to me to be a kind of charwoman or maid-of-all-work to the Government; at the behest of one or other of the Secretaries of the State he is perpetually being saddled with all manner of work, foreign to his office. Within my own short experience he has been employed during the whole of one year in reorganizing the military education of the Army; during another year in reconstructing the schools of the children of soldiers and in improving the education of the schoolmasters of the Army. He has very narrowly escaped being called upon to preside over the Contagious Diseases Commission, and at this moment his thoughts are, day and night, occupied with the heavy responsibilities connected with the construction of war ships. Perhaps I may better illustrate what is really the position of this supposed sinecurist if I give an account of a single day's work I had to accomplish. In the morning at an early hour I had to present myself on the seat of justice, appropriately robed, and narrowly escaping a full-bottomed wig, and there I had to sit while the Lord Chief Justice delivered to an astonished Bar what he was pleased to call my judgment on the case. As soon as these weighty matters were concluded I had to hurry off to Chelsea Hospital, and in the capacity of Paymaster General of the Forces expend considerable time in admitting pensioners to that asylum, and in considering the claims of applicants for military pensions; thence I had to go to the War Office and employ the rest of the afternoon in examining general officers and colonels in matters requiring much consideration; and after that to attend in your Lordships' House to explain the intricacies of some important piece of Irish legislation. On one occasion I had to conclude 16 hours important public service 932 by being pilloried for a couple of hours on the Woolsack as the locum tenens of the Lord Chancellor of England, while a dilatory House of Commons was putting its last touches to a Bill which noble Lords opposite assured me would greatly depreciate the value of my property in Ireland. I trust that, after this explanation, we shall not hear again that the management of the finances of the Duchy of Lancaster forms a gross instance of extravagance and financial mismanagement, or that the Chancellor of the Duchy, whatever criticisms may be addressed to the individual, is a useless or unnecessary functionary.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
expressed his obligation to the noble Lord for the satisfactory explanations he had made, and hoped, with him, that the charge of extravagance and mismanagement would not be repeated, or that his noble Friend would be again considered an Epicurean and sinecurist. He wished to know, however, the occasion for the cash balance of £7,000, and what policy the noble Lord was pursuing with regard to outlying estates?
stated that the cash balance was placed to the credit of the Duchy to meet those charges which it was known would accrue before the revenue of the Duchy became payable. As regarded the question of outlying estates, he had continued the policy pursued by his predecessors, and had never hesitated to sell such estates whenever occasion offered for doing so to advantage, while he had been extremely cautious about purchasing property except where it so lay into Duchy property as to make its acquisition clearly desirable.