HC Deb 08 June 1809 vol 14 cc929-34
Mr. Creevey

rose to bring forward his promised resolution respecting the appropriation of a sum of 9,000l. for the purchase of an official residence for the President of the Board of Controul, in the vicinity of the house of commons; a grant at which he felt much astonishment, as he did not conceive such residence at all necessary to be provided at the public expense for the person filling that department, more especially as an ample salary for the president, two commissioners, and a secretary, was settled by act of parliament in the year 1793. He found that this grant was made in consequence of a letter written in 1807, by the right hon. gent., who now filled that situation, to the duke of Portland, as first lord of the Treasury, stating that it would be expedient to provide such a residence for him in Downing-street. In reading the answer written by by Mr. Huskisson to this letter, he was not surprized at the shyness at first manifested by the lords of the Treasury to comply with the application. He could see no necessity whatever for putting the public to such a heavy expense for au officer who had so little to do in his official capacity with the house of commons, and so little business to transact at the west-end of the town. There was, indeed, a real necessity that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had so much to do with the house of commons and the Treasury, should have a contiguous and official residence; but the Secretaries of State had no such residence provided, and much less could it be necessary or allowable in this case, particularly at the west end of the town, while in fact, the whole of the official business of the president of the controul lay at the India-house, and if such a residence was deemed necessary, it should have been in Leadenhall-street, where the purchase would have been much cheaper. While the father (lord Melville) of the right hon. gent. filled the situation, there was an India budget once a year; but since the accession of the right hon. gent. to the office, not a single budget had been, brought forward; and therefore he could not see even the shadow of an argument for such an appropriation, unless it was in the argument offered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the salary of 2,000l. a year was not adequate to the duties of the situation. He was ready to admit this fact; the act of parliament for appropriating the 5,000l. as before mentioned, empowered his majesty to make a greater allowance from that fund, which might be fairly done, inasmuch as nearly the whole duty devolved upon the president, and the two commissioners and the secretary had little or nothing to do, and 1,500l. each was too much for them. If, however, the allowance was to be increased, it should be done directly and fairly, by act of parliament, and not indirectly and illegally, by the purchase of an official residence. Besides, it was well known that the appointment was not considered in itself as a place of adequate emolument, but rather as a step to one of greater profit, and so it appeared in the case of the right hon. gentleman. This system originated in the family of the right hon. gent., and no such demand was ever made before the accession of lord Melville. The Company had indeed agreed, after some discussion, to comply with the desire of the noble lord, and purchase for him this very house in Downing-street, in 1800; but before the place could be fitted for his occupation, by Mr. Holland, the noble lord was removed from the office, but obtained a pension of 2,000l. a year for life, from the Company. This, with other accommodations was, given to the noble lord's family from the public, amounting to 10,500l. in sinecure places, might, one would think, have satisfied all their reasonable expectations. Neither lord Dartmouth nor lord Castlereagh, nor any successor of the noble lord, had ever claimed an official residence, until the right hon. gent. was appointed to the office, when he, notwithstanding the grant of a pension of 2,000l. a year to his father, revived the claim.—Mr. Creevey contended, that the grant made in consequence by the lords of the Treasury was contrary to the act of the 33d of the king, and illegal; and he concluded by moving two Resolutions, the one recapitulating the facts of the letter and consequent grant, and the other declaring that the lords of the Treasury had acted improvidently, no official residence being necessary for the President of the Board of Controul.

Mr. R. Dundas

defended his claim and the consequent grant, upon the ground that an official residence was as fairly the claim of the President of the Board of Controul, as of sir Charles Morgan, when judge-advocate-general. The Treasurer of the Navy, the Paymaster of the Forces, the secretary to the Admiralty, the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland, and many other public officers, enjoyed the same advantage. Besides, the hon. gent. had argued erroneously, in saying, that such a grant was illegal, for the same act of parliament, which limited the appropriation of 5,000l. per annum to the salaries of the president, commissioners, and secretary of the Board of Controul, appropriated also 11,000l. per annum for other contingent expenses, of which the purchase of the house might form a part. He concluded by moving the previous question.

Sir J. Newport

entered into en explana- of the circumstances that gave rise to an official residence being given to the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Whitbread

observed, that it was not so necessary for the President of the Board of Controul to have an official residence, as it was for the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland. He contended, that it was an abuse to have suffered sir Charles Morgan, after he had ceased to be judge-advocate, to continue in the house during the remainder of his life. Had the judge- advocate gone since without the accommodation of a house? If he had not, it appeared to him highly improper, that the public should be burthened with the charge of providing another house for him. The right hon. gent. had stated no reason why the President of the Board of Controul should have an official residence. If an increase was to be made to his salary, it should be granted eo nomine; and the house would, he trusted, by its vote on this occasion, decide that the appropriation of a house to such a purpose was highly improper.

Lord H. Petty

felt it necessary, as the death of sir C. Morgan had happened whilst he had a seat at the Treasury beard, to state to the house the reason why the house had not then been given to the judge-advocate. It had been found convenient and necessary to occupy the apartments over the Treasury, which had been appropriated to the home department, for the accommodation of the growing establishment of the Treasury. It was then deemed expedient to remove the office of the secretary for the home department to the house in question. A compensation of 500l. a year, was in consequence, he believed, given to the judge-advocate.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that, if the house should be of opinion that nothing improper had been done by the Treasury, the usual and ordinary course of proceeding would be to pass to the other orders of the day, or to resort to the previous question. The first question for the house to consider was, whether the act of the Treasury was legal; the next if it was blameable. The hon. gent. who had brought forward the Resolutions had not gone so far as to say that the act was illegal: he was therefore justified in assuming that it was legal. As to the propriety of the act, he had to observe, that when the present administration came into office, the house had been separated from the office of judge-advocate, and a compensation of 500l. per annum given in lieu to that officer. The notice served upon the present sir Charles Morgan to quit the house had expired since the present administration came into office; and as the house was not large enough for the office of the home department, it was thought right to give it for the present to the President of the Board of Controul, but not to annex it to his office. No minute had been made of the transaction; not because the board of Treasury wished to shrink from the responsibility, but because no board was sitting at the time. If any sufficient salary was annexed to the office of President of the Board of Controul, then certainly the board of Treasury would have been to blame; but as it was admitted on all hands that the salary was inadequate, he trusted the house would not think that there was any thing improper in the transaction.

Mr. Tierney

appealed to the hon. gent., (Mr. Bankes) who was then chairman of the committee of finance, whether immediately on his retiring from office, he had not suggested to him the propriety of recommending the increase of the salaries of some offices, and particularly of that of the President of the Board of Controul. But though the salary was too small, he did not think the house should sanction the addition to it in the shape of a grant of a house. For his own part, he thought the transaction illegal, because the act gave only 5,000l. per annum to be applied to the payment of the commissioners; and when it was afterwards, in 1702, thought right to grant them all salaries, it was provided that the East India company should not pay more than 16,000l. But when it was provided that the East India company should not pay more, it was not intended that the public should be made to pay any part of the salaries of the commissioners. He thought, therefore, that the board of Treasury was blameable in letting the President of the Board of Controul have the house in the manner they had, and, as he felt they had acted improvidently, he should vote for the motion.

Mr. Bankes

admitted that the right hon. gent. had made the communication he alluded to, at the time he stated, but as the Committee had been appointed for the purpose of inquiring what retrenchments could be made in offices and sinecures, he did not think that it came within the purpose for which it had been appointed, to recommend an increase of the salary of any office. He thought the mode of augmenting salaries by granting houses was the worst, the most absurd, and most prodigal manner, in which that could be done. It generally cost the public double or treble the amount of the increase in contemplation. He was of opinion that it was contrary to the intention and the meaning of the act of parliament, that such an appropriation as that under consideration should have been made.

After a few words in explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the previous question was carried upon the first resolution, and the second was negatived without a division.