« PreviousContinue »
was now possible for them to make. He thought that the House ought to makea separation between the public and the private expenditure of his Majesty, and not appear to grant him a revenue which was, in fact, to be consumed by others. The necessity of each particular item of expenditure ought to be distinctly shown, and it ought to be kept distinct from every other. From the want of that separation in the grant of former Civil Lists, much confusion had arisen, and much of that extravagance which had drawn the country into the state in which it was now. It was utterly impossible for any individual Member of that House to know, from the plan of the right hon. Gentleman, what was the expenditure of money for the maintenance of the Government and for the public service. Until the separation he had alluded to had taken place, nothing like a fair estimate could be made; and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had the opportunity of simplifying the matter, had increased the confusion in which it was before involved, the House had little reason to feel the satisfaction which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to anticipate. He said, therefore, that a fuller inquiry was necessary, in order to lay the foundation of a general improvement of the manner in which public accounts were laid before the House. Although that might appear to some a trifling matter, he was of opinion that it was really a matter of importance; and unless something was done to simplify the statement of the public accounts, the House would perpetually be encountered by difficulties, in their attempt to effect that retrenchment which the country expected at their hands. If the public accounts were suffered to be made out in the slovenly way they were at present kept, no man could understand them; and it would be impossible for them to have an effectual control over the public expenditure. He hoped, therefore, they would proceed with caution, and require from the Government the appointment of a committee, to examine into the details of the statement just made by the right hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Hume could not let this discussion pass without expressing his great regret at the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. He confessed that the speech he had heard, much disappointed him, as, he believed it would disappoint the whole
country. When they heard the gracious declaration of his Majesty on the subject of economy, he submitted that the House must show their respect for it, by calling on the Ministers to act in accordance with that declaration. He was perfectly prepared to do all that was necessary to promote the comfort of his Majesty, and to uphold the dignity of the Crown. He was prepared to do that to the fullest extent which the present state of the country would allow, and to act towards his Majesty with the utmost possible degree of liberality. He could not think that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the course they had a right to expect, even on his own showing; for he had referred to reports of committees as the ground oa which he submitted his proposition. Reports on this subject were made in 1803, 1812, and 1815. He would not read them, but he would state the subject of them to the House. While each deplored the gradually increasing; charge of the Civil List, they all declared that that increase was unavoidable, because the price of every necessary of life, and every article of expenditure, had increased. The reports referred to the private knowledge of each Member for a confirmation of this fact, and then declared that the increased charge of the expenditure was occasioned by the increase of price of every thing in the country. From that statement of the cause of the increase, what was now to be expected from the right hon. Gentleman? Why, that he should decrease the expenditure of the Civil List, at least in the degree in which the necessary articles of life had decreased in price. Instead of that, the right hon. Gentleman took the data of 1816 for the formation of his present plan—a year, in which the expenditure of this country was most profligate and extravagant; and asked the House to continue that expenditure, with the exception of some very paltry reductions. Why did he ask this? Because his Majesty had graciously made certain concessions of his hereditary revenues; but when he alluded to that subject, he ought to have stated what were the concessions made by William 4th, above those made by George 4th? The pap61, he (Mr. Hume) held in his hand consisted of thirteen items, which William 4th proposed to give up beyond those given up by George 4th. Those items might be found at page 180 of the Parliamentary
Papers of last Session. The first item related to the Droits of the Crown and Admiralty, and amounted to 1,229/.; the second to Droits of the Admiralty, and amounted to 284/.; the third consisted of the 4J-per-cent Duties, which he put down at nil, for the whole of them had already been transferred to the support of the hierarchy of the West-Indies. It was true, that if at any future period the expense of the Bishops of the WestIndies should amount to less than 21,000/., and these duties should exceed that sum, the balance might be appropriated to the public accounts. On this point, in fact, there had been no concession, and for 150 years a large sum had been taken from a portion of the colonies, that the King might grant pensions to individuals whom he wished to favour. The next item was the Receiver General of Gibraltar, the nett receipts of last year being only 180/.: this was a gift on the part of the Crown noble and liberal, and though the sum was small the principle "was very important. He had had occasion at former times to complain of the manner in which the King had levied taxes at Gibraltar that he might put the proceeds into his pocket, and on an average of the last seven years the sum might amount to 9,000/. or 10,000/. the casual revenues of the Crown might amount annually to about 9,000/., and the sum stated against the Receiver General of Green Wax, in respect of Green Wax, was 41/. The Coroner and Attorney of the King, 104/.; the King's Proctor, 8,164/.; and the Commissioners of the Affairs of Taxes, 584/. The Auditor of the Land Revenue of England; nil; the same of Wales, 75/.; the produce of Spices, arising from the capture of the Molucca Islands, 309/.; Inspector of Fines and Penalties, 864/.; together with other items, amounting last year in the whole (as appeared by the Parliamentary Paper laid upon the Table pursuant to the Act 1 Geo. 4th), to only 24,000/. Let every Member bear in mind that 24,000/. was the whole sum relinquished under this head, exclusive of the revenues derived from Scotland. He, therefore, did not think, as far as regarded amount, that his Majesty was entitled to any great credit *for what he had conceded; in principle, however, it was of immense importance that the King should divest himself of the power of interfering with these different VOL. I.
departments, small as they were, and thathe should afford an opportunity of simplifying the public accounts, so that they might be laid before Parliament in a shape at once clear and intelligible. There he thought that the King had been well advised, and much good might be the result. No individual in this or in any former Parliament had regretted more deeply than he had done the complex manner in which the various items included in the Civil List had been stated. That Civil List had been the means of supporting a large aristocratical body—the odium of which the King was obliged to bear; he had been made to keep up establishments in no wise connected with his household, and in no degree contributing to his personal comfort or to his regal dignity, and merely for the maintenance of an aristocratical interest. He held in his hand the Act of I Geo. 4th, in which the payments out of the Civil List were separated into eight divisions, and the House would see, when properly examined, how small a portion actually belonged to his Majesty's household. He allowed all the first class, amounting to 210,000/.; but what had the second class to do with the King's household, consisting, as it did, of payments to the Speaker of tho House of Commons— to the Judges of the King's Courts—to the Barons of the Exchequer, and to the Justices of Wales, amounting to 32,000/.? These were unconnected with the comfort of the King and the dignity of the Crown, and ought to be voted by Parliament. The third class related to Ambassadors at foreign Courts, and what had they to do with his Majesty's household? Only this —that if there were by chance any overplus—any sum not required—Ministers took good care that it should be applied in some way or other. Why did he say so? Because, by 1 Geo. 4th, any sum not appropriated out of the 206,000/. there set apart, was to be returned to the Exchequer. Mr. Canning, indeed, in three years, had taken greatcredit to the Government for returning to the Exchequer two sums—one of 7,000/., and the other of 13,000/.—under this clause, but his successors had not effected a saving even to that extent. The fourth class in the Act was a most important branch, including the Lord Steward's department, and those of the Lord Chamberlain, the Master of the Robes, the Surveyor of the Works, &c. The sum granted for these officers in 1820
elusion, then, do I come to? This:— That the only items in Mr. Burke's Bill of 1786, and the only items at the present moment, that ought to be charged upon the Civil List, are the first, fourth, and fifth classes, viz. :—The Privy Purse for the King and Queen; the Establishment of the Household, and the Tradesmen's Bills for that Establishment, amounting to 291,000/.; or, including 50,000/. for the Queen, to 349,000/. Last year, the charge under these three heads was the following:—For the Privy Purse, 60,000/.; for the Lord Chamberlain, and other Officers of the Household, 215,000/.; and for Tradesmen's Bills, 137,000/.—making in the whole only 412,000/. out of the 1,120,000/. granted for the Civil List. Not one shilling more, I contend, is necessary for the comfort and dignity of the Crown. On that ground, I contend, that this House cannot be prepared to vote the 970,000/. now required, and that the Commons of England are bound to inquire, before they come to any decision upon the subject. If the sum necessary for the Royal Household were separated, as it ought to be, from other charges not at all connected with it, the King would be relieved from the odium under which he now labours—that so large a sum as nearly a million is annually required for his own personal expenses. Of this I am sure, that nothing but an investigation before a committee can enable this House to come to a vote, if it have any wish to perform its duty to the public. Let me remind it, that this is not the first, nor the sixth time, that hon. Members near me have contended for a diminution of the Civil expenditure of the Crown: when they have so contended, they have been uniformly met with this answer—that a bargain had been made at the commencement of the reign, and that the compact having been entered into, it could not be broken. The proper time for making reductions of the kind is at the commencement of a new reign—that time is now arrived—a fresh bargain is now to be made; and when the Table groans with petitions, and will hereafter groan under a ten-fold weight of petitions we are hound to obtain the fullest information before we enter into a new contract. We ought not to allow ourselves to be taken by surprise in the ebullition of the moment, and with such a complication of nts as renders them utterly unin
telligible. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord (Althorp) will move for a Committee on an early day: and if the papers are printed and delivered tomorrow, I do not see how we can take them into consideration before Wednesday or Thursday. Without previous inquiry we cannot be prepared to say what sum ought or ought not to be granted, and without that inquiry we shall not do our duty to our constituents. At all events, I protest against the arrangement proposed — it is uncalled for and complicated, and will be received with disappointment, if not with indignation, by the people.
Mr. Brougham: I cannot pretend to say, that I have yet formed a decided opinion upon the great question before the House, but I am inclined to agree with my noble friend near ine (Lord Althorp) that even after the promised papers are in our hands further information will be necessary. The subject is of the utmost importance in itself, and in connexion with others — in its constitutional relations, and, above all, on account of the interests it excites among our constituents. Until we have full knowledge, we ought not to proceed to anything like a final adjudication: I therefore am disposed to support the proposition of my noble friend for a committee, and the reason urged by my hon. friend (Mr. Hume) is precisely the ground on which I arrive at that conclusion. We are making an arrangement which is to last during the life of his Majesty, and however we may hereafter find that we have been in the wrong, we may be told— and justly told—that it is too late to reopen the contract: the bargain has been made, and until the demise of the Crown it cannot be altered. As I confidently hope, and earnestly pray, that that event may be long postponed, it becomes more and more our imperative duty not to enter, as it were, blindfold into such a permanent arrangement. The last arrangement was made, 1 believe, in the year 1815: the people are now more awake to their own interests, but I am sorry to say that they have not the same confidence either in the Executive Government or in the Parliament, which they evinced at the date I have mentioned. lean only say, that I heartily concur in the objections stated by my noble friend; the simplifying of the accounts would be a vast improvement.