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Clause 1—(Provision For Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth)

Volume 446: debated on Tuesday 27 January 1948

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3.45 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 14, at the end, to add:

"(3) Of the foregoing combined yearly sum of forty thousand pounds, the sum of five thousand pounds shall be deemed to be private and personal expenditure, and the remaining sum of thirty-five thousand pounds, or as much of that sum as is for the purpose required, together with the sum of five thousand pounds similarly designated in subsection (4) of Section two of this Act, shall be utilised in defrayment of expenditure necessary in connection with the Royal obligations and functions of Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and so certified by the Treasurer of the Household."
I have already made quite clear the view which I strongly hold in regard to this matter. I have had evidence of a very wide measure of support among hon. Members on this side of the House and also in a very large number of letters from all parts of the country, agreeing that the line I have taken is both reasonable and sensible. I do not intend again to go into great detail on my proposal, but the effect of this Amendment is that of the £40,000 which is allocated to Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth by reason of this Bill, together with the allowance under the Civil List Act, 1937, the amount of £5,000 would be available to Her Royal Highness in respect of her private and personal expenditure, and the remainder would be available for royal expenditure, that is, expenditure in connection with her royal obligations as certified to that effect by the Treasurer of the Household.

On the Second Reading I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he was prepared to accept either the actual terms or the sense of my Amendment, and he made it quite clear that he was not. In those circumstances I am obliged to oppose the provisions of this Measure at every stage. I claim quite honestly that what I put forward is a common-sense proposal and in keeping with the spirit of today. It cannot possibly be said that the amount I propose for the private and personal expenditure of Her Royal Highness is insufficient because the amount I have proposed is the amount which was given in evidence before the Select Committee on the Civil List. That Committee proposed the amount of £5,000 for Her Royal Highness's personal and private expenditure, and as it was proposing a total bigger even than that which has been accepted by the Government, I suggest that it was not in any way underestimating the amount of necessary private expenditure; and I have accepted that amount. It cannot, therefore, be said that this is a parsimonious proposition.

It cannot be said either that it is impossible to divide the personal from the royal expenditure. Again, I point to the Report of the Select Committee which quite clearly divided the personal and the royal expenditure; and in the light of that it cannot be said that it is impossible to make such a division. With regard to the other suggestion, which was really quite absurd, that Her Royal Highness should be expected to write out an expenses list herself, I hope I exploded that the other day. That is not necessary; there are officials of the Household who will obviously do that. The third suggestion is, therefore, entirely exploded.

I can conjecture that what my right hon. Friend will say about my Amendment is that it is not the proper time to bring forward this matter or to make a change in the system. If that argument is put forward, it is shelving the issue for, if a certain line of action was right in 1937, it is right in 1948, and if it was desirable then, it follows that one should, on the basis of right and equity, bring in that measure of reform as soon as possible. In 1937 several occupants of the present Front Bench, notably the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary and others, proposed an Amendment on behalf of the Party as follows:
"… greater simplicity in the daily life of the Court is essential in the modern democratic constitution of the British Commonwealth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1937; Vol. 324, C. 455.]
If that was a right attitude in those days, and I believe it was, it is certainly a right attitude 10 years after; indeed, in view of the changing world, it has become still more right and still more urgent in this year of grace.

Will the hon. Member say which Minister actually said that?

It was an Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) against the Civil List. In proposing it, he stated that he was speaking on behalf of the party and that the party had given careful consideration to it. All that will be found in his speech. It is pure nonsense to say that one should never tackle a matter unless one reforms it altogether. That is simply not borne out by the policy of the Government in other respects. To prove that point by an example, it is legitimate to refer to another Bill which is before the House at this time, the Parliament Bill. It is different, of course, in practically every respect, but it is perfectly clear that in that case the Government have said to the House and to the country that certain reforms in connection with the House of Lords are desirable and urgent, and the fact that the whole machinery is not being overhauled does not prevent the Government from saying that an improvement in certain parts of it is necessary. I will quote the words of the Prime Minister on 11th November in connection with that Bill, words which I want to echo in connection with this Bill:

"This is only an example of up-to-date wisdom of dealing with matters. We do not wait today for a disease to break out, but try to cure it in advance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1947; Vol. 444, C. 310.].
I pass on those wise words of the Prime Minister in connection with this partial reform, this beginning of a complete overhaul, for which I am asking in the Amendment in connection with the present Bill.

Would the hon. Member deal with the emoluments of the Prime Minister, who has a gross income of over £130,000 a year, and will he apply to those emoluments the same principles as he is advocating in the case under discussion.

If I attempted, Major Milner, to deal with the salary of the Prime Minister now, you would imme- diately rule me out of Order. That might be done on another occasion, but not today. My Amendment is put forward not merely because I honestly believe it is ordinary common sense, but also because, by means of it, the Government and the nation would be able to effect some con-control of the Court expenditure. It would obviously be by Her Royal Highness in collaboration with the Treasurer of the Household acting on behalf of the Government. I know of no other means whereby we can start the reform in which we all believe. It has been expressed in the speeches of many on this side of the House, if not elsewhere, and I am providing in this Amendment the machinery to initiate the gradual bringing in of this desirable reform of the whole Court system. We want to bring it into line with modern ideas; we want to make it more democratic and, as I have said, in the words of the Prime Minister, it is only an example of up-to-date wisdom in trying to cure a disease without waiting for it to break out.

I support the Amendment because I believe that the Government have grossly misunderstood public opinion on this matter. A good many red herrings, or perhaps I should say, red, white and blue herrings, have been dragged across this controversy by spokesmen of the Government. It has been no wish on our part to raise the abstract question of republicanism. That, I agree, Major Milner, is completely out of Order and I have not attempted to raise that discussion on this issue. What is in Order is the Amendment, which declares that this expenditure is extravagant and unjustifiable at the present moment of economic crisis. Those of us who are of a minority opinion in the Labour Party and in this House contend that we have behind us substantial opinion in the country. That opinion has been expressed in the editorial column of the Sunday newspaper which is a regular supporter of the Government. In a leading article on 14th December, "Reynolds Newspaper" said:

"We know that much of this grant of an increase of £50,000 will go in expenses and the maintenance of Royal establishments that are, so to speak, part of the job, but in Britain today a style of living that calls for an income of £50,000 a year is altogether too elaborate. It denotes values and standards that are fantastically removed from the lives of the people, and if Royalty is to remain a political reality, it must cease to be a symbol of an outmoded pomp and lavishness. The Select Committee on the Civil List has recommended these amounts. In the best interests of the Throne and of the people, Parliament should revise them."
I submit that we are performing a public and a democratic duty in this House this afternoon in asking that these items of expenditure should be revised on the downward scale.

4.0 p.m.

The question of amount does not arise under this Amendment. The sole question here is the method proposed by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain), who moved the Amendment. The general question does not arise.

Will the Amendment I have on the Order Paper, to leave out the Clause, be called?

No, but the usual question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," will be proposed.

I am trying to make my argument relative to the Bill, and to the expenditure—

Yes, but the hon. Member's argument is not relevant to the Amendment now before the Committee which is the important matter.

I gather that the Amendment is for the purpose of exercising a greater scrutiny on this item of public expenditure, which I maintain should be revised, and this scrutiny will result in a reduction of this particular Estimate.

On a point of Order. I wish to support my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). My proposal has the double effect of the division into personal and royal expenditure, and at the end of my Amendment there are the powers of scrutiny, which I suggest are in keeping with what my hon. Friend is saying.

That may, or may not, be so. I do not know what the result might be if the Amendment were passed by the Committee. The point I am making is that this is not an occasion when the hon. Member for South Ayrshire can deal with the question of the allowance as a whole. We can only deal with the precise terms of the Amendment on the Paper.

The precise terms of the Amendment mean that a certain amount is to be allotted for expenses, and a certain amount for salary. I am arguing that the amount is too high, that the procedure recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood would result in an economy of national expenditure, and that this is a very suitable way of assessing the income to be given.

I would like an authoritative answer from the Government as to how this sum of £25,000 is arrived at. I see on the back of the Bill the name of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who in Scotland used to be regarded as an exponent of the Marxian theory of values. Neither in Marx, nor anywhere else, do I find any clear understanding why this additional sum of £25,000 for these particular duties should be granted under this Bill. It means that the total income to be paid under this Bill is £50,000, a sum more than the total salaries of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Leader of the Opposition, the Secretary of State for War, the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Home Secretary.

The method proposed by my hon. Friend should result in bringing this expenditure down to a reasonable sum. It should also result in clearing up a great deal of misunderstanding and misconception of what the sum is for. If we adopted the method outlined in the Amendment it would not result in any disrespect towards the recipient; indeed, it might lead to a great sympathy. There can be no doubt that in many sections of society, besides the working classes, there is questioning whether this sum is reasonable, especially when we consider that the £30,000 for Princess Elizabeth is to be free of Income Tax. No one likes paying Income Tax, and the fact that this sum is to be paid free of tax will result in a good deal of criticism of the recipient. We also read that the Duke of Edinburgh is to receive £8,000 free of tax. I know nothing more likely to result in making the Royal family unpopular in this country than if it were thought they were enjoying a privileged position as regards Income Tax.

I suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought irrelevant arguments into the discussion of this Bill. For example, when he summed up the opposition to our first Amendment, he argued that it was necessary to have Royal horses, and the expenditure of £15,000 was necessary in order to keep those horses as part of the national ceremonial. What had that to do with this grant? Nothing at all. It was merely introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an irrelevance, and he managed to escape without being called to Order. The functions and ceremonial of the Royal House are already provided for by a grant of nearly £440,000. If we adopted the Amendment it would result in a greater economy. The present ceremonial could go on, but there would not be an addition to it.

It must be remembered that when this Bill went to a free Vote of the House, 165 Members of the Labour Party voted against the Government, and the Government on that occasion were only saved from defeat by the votes of the Tory Party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I can quite understand our Conservative friends saying "Hear, hear," as it is part and parcel of their outlook in life, but it is not our outlook in life. It was never a part of "Let us face the future"—

I will deal with direction of labour presently. I am trying my best to keep closely within the rules of Order, but these interruptions are rather disconcerting. On the last occasion, when the Party Whips were on, only 17 of us went against the proposition of the Government. Cabinet Ministers and other Ministers went into the Division Lobby knowing in their hearts that they were doing something of which their constituents would not approve. They looked about as pleased as if they were going into a dental surgery or were about to undergo a major operation.

How is the money to be spent? We are unable to get satisfactory details from the Select Committee on Estimates and have had to rely largely on reports in the Press. I would like the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to tell us if there is a Comptroller of the Household with £1,500 a year, a Secretary to the Household with £2,000 a year, and other secretaries and supernumeraries of the Household staff, and if altogether there is a Household staff of between 45 and 50 people. That is not austerity. There may have been something in what the poet said:
"They also serve who only stand and wait,"
but those who stand and wait are being very well paid for it. If the Minister of Labour was really sincere in protestations that he wished to direct people to useful activity, he should take into account those 45 to 50 people and see whether they could not be transferred to useful work.

It is not only in this country that a certain amount of criticism has been levelled against this Bill. I have a letter—

The hon. Member is really making a Second Reading speech or a speech which could more properly be made on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I hope that he will confine himself to the terms of the Amendment, which proposes a certain method of dealing with the matter.

I am only trying to point out the reasonabless of the Amendment. In discussing whether it is reasonable or not, I suggest that we should be able to examine some of the arguments which have been brought forward in defence of this Bill. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) put forward a relevant point as to the opinion of the Dominions on this issue. We should also take into account the opinion of sections of public opinion in the United States of America, especially when in these days—

I am sorry but the hon. Member cannot proceed on those lines. Those arguments may arise in another connection, but they do not arise here. The hon. Member for West Norwood proposes in his Amendment that a certain method should be adopted to deal with the matter, which may or may not result in a reduction of the expenditure to which the hon. Member objects. The hon. Member should restrict himself to the Amendment and not speak on the general question, which has been fully debated and which may conceivably be debated again.

I accept your Ruling, Major Milner, and will only say that I have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.

I propose to direct my attention quite briefly to the proposal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain) in the Amendment which we are now discussing. It is quite simple and straightforward. He suggests that the £40,000 which Clause 1 of this Bill proposes to grant to Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth be divided into two portions: £5,000 for personal expenses, about which nothing further should be said, and the balance of £35,000. This balance it proposes should be available for certain expenses and the Treasurer of the Household should periodically certify that it has been well and truly spent.

All of us will have a certain amount of sympathy with the underlying object which my hon. Friend has in view. There is not a Member of Parliament who has not at times writhed under public criticism of the so-called salary which he receives as a Member of this House. He knows that out of that salary he has to provide for a large number of expenses which he cannot evade—postage, secretarial expenses, visiting his constituency and so on. Many of these expenses fall upon him solely by virtue of his membership of this House. Often it would be a good thing if a Member could turn round and, by some recognised system, be able to let the public know that a certain proportion of his salary did not rank as salary at all, but was designed to meet legitimate expenses. Therefore, my hon. Friend's underlying object is laudable, and I am sure that no one in any quarter of the House would wish to quarrel with it.

The only question which arises is whether it should be carried out in the case of Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth. We have to remember that it has not been done in respect of anyone else. We do not ask my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood to get some treasurer of his household, if he has one, to certify his expenses. He would be the first to object if such an imposition were placed upon him by the Fees Office of this House.

My proposal is in respect of a large sum of public money which is to be spent in a public manner and which is quite different from the payment of a Member of Parliament.

The whole point is—and I do not want to press it—that in both cases public money is involved. The actual amount is in one sense irrelevant.

Does not a Member of Parliament render public service for public money?

4.15 p.m.

Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth, like a Member of Parliament, renders public service. [Interruption.] I do not wish to be drawn away from the Amendment before the Committee. The point I was about to make is that this division into money for expenses and money not for expenses, is imposed upon no other member of the Royal House. Neither the Duke of Gloucester, nor Queen Mary nor the Princess Royal have such a division imposed upon them. It would be invidious if, at this stage, the Committee put into this Bill words which insisted that this money, as and when it is granted, should be subject to division in this way.

May I also point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood that what he proposes is a one-way traffic. It may well be, and if the Report of the Select Committee which sat upon this matter is any guide it undoubtedly will be, that Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth will spend more than the £40,000 allowed to her under this Bill. Evidence was given to the Committee—we have not got the evidence, but we must trust the Committee which we elected to go into this matter—to the effect that the expenses were likely to be in the neighbourhood of £60,000, rather than the £50,000 which this Bill envisages. It is more than likely that the expenses will be—

Will my right hon. Friend now compare the position of Princess Elizabeth with that of a Member of Parliament, as he did previously? A Member of Parliament cannot spend more than his income.

The present evidence is that the £40,000 which it is proposed to grant to Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth will be more than spent. If we are to ask that the expenditure of at least part of this sum shall be certified, we ought not to fix a ceiling of £40,000. We should say that the amount shall be unlimited, provided that the Treasurer of the Household can certify that the further sum has been legitimately spent.

May I point out that my original proposal had no ceiling? It was only when the Bill imposed a ceiling that I had to impose a limit upon my proposal.

My hon. Friend is quite right, and I had no intention of doing him an injustice, but I must take the words of the Amendment. As they stand, that would be the effect.

We are dealing with a question which has been raised previously. The issue has been fully ventilated. It would be unfair to the Committee if I spoke at length on it. For reasons which I have given, I ask the Committee to reject this Amendment. We think it would be unfair and not right to select Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth for this treatment. I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment to a Division; that he will accept what I say in the spirit in which I am saying it, and withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.