HC Deb 27 May 1811 vol 20 cc324-9

The Report of this Bill was-brought up.

Mr. Creevey

said, he rose to object to this Bill, in its present state, to that part of it at least that related the increase of salary to the President of the Board of Controul. By the act of 1793, that act under which the East India Company now hold their charter, 16,000l. per annum was set apart out of the East India Company's funds as a provision for the Board of Controul; of this sum, 5,000l. was to be distributed at the pleasure of the crown between the President of the Board and two commissioners, and the remaining 11,000l. was to be applied in payment of Secretaries and clerks. The present Bill, said the hon. gent. is amongst other things to increase this sum of 10,000l. to 22,000l. for the purpose, as is said, of increasing the salary as well of the President as of the inferior clerks. The distribution of the 5,000l. under the act of 1793, has hitherto always been 2,000l. per annum to the President, and 1,500l. per annum to each of the Commissioners. The present President of the Board of Controul says this sum of 2,000l. is too little for him, and he wants more. My answer to him always has been, and now is—I admit you are ill paid, compared with the two commissioners, because the whole business is done by you, and they do nothing; their places are perfect sinecures—there never has been such a thing as a Board held since the first institution in 1784, and therefore let the crown, in the just exercise of its discretion, give you a greater proportion of the 5,000l. than it hitherto has done, and the commissioners less; the fund is perfectly adequate, considering always that the commissioners do nothing. The history of this Board of Controul is really curious enough. When Mr. Pitt-first introduced it to public notice in 1784, he bestowed upon it this flattering description.: he said—" It was intended that the Board should consist of none but privy counsellors; but the Board should create no increase of officers, nor impose any new burdens, since he trusted there could be found persons enough who held offices of large emolument but no great employment, whose leisure would amply allow of their undertaking the duty in question." This romantic system of the gratuitous government of India by the sinecure men, lasted till 1793, when lord Melville not only made a provision for himself as president of the Board of Controul, but to make up for lost time and past errors, he created those two new parliamentary sinecures, called the Junior Commissioners for managing the affairs of India. The present Bill is a still further improvement of the present president of the Board of Controul upon the act of his noble relation. He wants his own salary raised, but he will not let us touch his sinecure commissioners. One should have supposed he would have been the last man in the country to quarrel with the existing act, considering it was made by his father, and particularly as he himself had given notice of the termination of it, and of an early discussion of the whole subject. As however the right hon. gent. is evidently above such trifling considerations as those, he puts us upon investigating his own claims to further remuneration; he is the first public claimant for an increase of salary in this office, and if I compare him with a noble lord (Castlereagh) who held this office before him, and who made no such claim, there can be no comparison of what might have been the justice of the claims of lord Castlereagh compared with the right hon. gent. The noble lord held this office longer than the right hon. gent. has done. He had filled a great situation in the state for some time before; the right hon. gent. has made his first appearance as an officer of the state in his present situation. The noble lord, as the Indian minister, used to lay his views annually before this House in what is called an Indian Budget, an operation of at least great labour if not of great public benefit, whereas the right hon. gent. has very happily relieved himself from this part of his official duty, by never saying a single word upon the subject; and then to conclude the comparison, the noble lord held no other office that I know of, whereas the right hon. gent. has the consolation of enjoying a sinecure place in Scotland of 2,000l per annum and upwards. Considering therefore, all the circumstances of the case, I think the right hon. gent. fails in making out any urgent claim upon our justice. How, then, does he stand as to any appeal to our compassion? Why, really, considering that he now has his pay as president 2,000l. per annum, and his sinecure in Scotland of 2,000l. more, considering that lord Melville has one pension from the East India Company of 2,000l. per annum, another from the crown of 1,500l. per annum, that he has in addition to these pensions a sinecure of 3,500l. per annum, making between the father and son 11,000l. per annum; considering all this, and above all considering that the family first embarked in public life in the gratuitous line, they may at least be said not to have done much, and that no case of real distress is at all made out by the right hon. president.—The hon. gent. said, perhaps he entertained more jealousy of the right hon. president on these subjects than others did, and it was owing to his having had occasion before now to look after him; some time since he found that the right hon. president had got very comfortably settled in an excellent house, for which 9 or 10,000l. of the public money had been given, that he was living in it, rent-free, and that he was pleased very humourously to call it, the official residence of the president of the Board of Controul; upon further inquiry he found that this house had long been a great favourite in the right hon. gentleman's family, that lord Melville had himself selected it as a hand-some piece of attention to be paid him by the India Company in the shape of a conveyance of fee in return for his gratuitous government of India; and this plan was only defeated by some mischievous persons in the court of proprietors. The right hon. gent. when he succeeded to the office, held formerly by his noble relation, succeeded likewise to the passion entertained by him for this house; and, as he said before had actually shewn address enough to get possession of it at one time. Now the only use he meant to make of this fact was this, namely, to impress upon the House, that when they have any thing to do with the right hon. gent. as a claimant for remuuneration of his own services, though he has had barely the experience of four years' official labours, yet in the appreciation of an adequate reward for them, he would be found to be a very considerable artist. Under all the circumstances of the case, he hoped the right hon. gent. would excuse him for now attempting to separate him from the society of the clerks in this Bill, by moving to expunge all that related to his own increase of pay, and next year he might appear again with at least as much dignity, and with more propriety on the part of the House, when the institution of the Board of Controul itself and all relating to it were to come under public consideration.

Lord Castlereagh,

as he had been alluded to by the hon. gent. thought it proper to state, that before leaving office he had recommended that the salaries of the president and other officers of the Board of Controul should be put on a more respectable footing, and that he considered the public service materially interested in this augmentation of salary.

Mr. R. Dundas

said, he did not conceive himself at present called on to enter into any of the personal allusions of the hon. gent. He, for himself, should never have thought of bringing forward the present Bill, had his own interest alone been concerned, bat he was called upon to do so for the sake of others, whose interests were also concerned in it, at the suggestions of those who were interested in the permanent respectability of that department of the public service.

Mr. Calcraft

did not very well understand what the right hon. gent. meant by being compelled by others to bring forward a Bill for his own benefit, He, for one, was persuaded that all the great offices under government should be provided with ample salaries, and he was sensible that many of the salaries were by no means adequate; and had this very office of President of the Board of Controul been in the hands of any other person than the right hon. gent., he should have willingly consented to have the salary increased; but when he considered that this increase was called for at a period of peculiar national distress, and that the right hon. gent. enjoyed already a sinecure office to a considerable amount, and when he considered what, in his mind, was conclusive with respect to the present period, that claims of the greatest importance had been postponed, the claims of the officers of the army and navy, of those men who were employed in the most efficient service of the state, who had the most undeniable right of preference, he could not consent to the present augmentation. He thought it was by no means judicious to agree to the augmentation, without previously going into a more extensive inquiry; for be was not only satisfied that the salaries of the Board of Controul were great, but were equal to those of the other government offices. The Treasury, for instance, which was the most laborious office under government, except the Admiralty, had not salaries equal to the Board of Controul.

Mr. W. Adam

observed, the question whether the East India company's charter ought to be renewed, and whether the salaries of the officers of the Board of Controul were to be adequate, was perfectly distinct; and he could see no reason if these salaries were at present inadequate, why they should not be augmented. The office of the President of the Board of Controul should be made substantive, and equal in point of salary to the other great offices under government. With respect to the sinecure office which it had been said the right hon. gent. enjoyed under government, it was not properly a public sinecure, but was paid from the fees of suitors in a court of law; and it consisted with his knowledge, that it had been pledged by the right hon. gent., for the sake of defraying his father's expences at Westminster Hall.

Lord Folkestone

observed that the right hon. gent. (Mr. Dundas) seemed to rise up in great wrath that he had been personally alluded to. The truth, was, that the present was intrinsically a personal question, and if the right hon. gent. chose to bring forward claims for remuneration of its services, it was necessary to enter into the consideration of the merits on which those claims were founded. He thought the learned gent, who spoke last had shewn a great indiscretion in alluding to the pledging of the sinecure office.

Mr. P. Moore

objected to the principle of the Bill altogether.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

conceivedthat no real ground of objection had been stated to the increase. As the recommendation came from successive presidents of the Board, and consequently did not originate with his right hon. friend, nothing had been said to prove that it would be improper to grant the increase now.

General Tarleton

expressed his determination to vote against any increase of salary, as the claims of the officers of the army and navy were infinitely greater than the claims of civil officers. He was aware of the embarrassed situation of the country; but when ministers talked of the flourishing state of the finances, it was his duty to mention the claims of the profession to which he belonged. A right hon. bart. (sir J. Anstruther) had stated that they had greater incitements than the hope of pecuniary rewards.—" They, to be sure," said the honourable general, "seek the bubble reputation in the cannon's mouth;" but would it procure them wine and bread?" The right hon. bart. might talk of incitements—some incitements were laudable; lawyers would sometimes leave Westminster Hall to seek the clime of India; to toil in their avocations, under a silk palanquin, or scale the back of an elephant. They met with reward, and returned to this country enriched with the spoils of the East; but did the hon. gent. ever hear of any member of the military profession returning from the continent after the spoils of war, and the repose enjoyed on the ground under a wet blanket, enriched in purse, or with any other reward, than what he acquired by his valour? The hon. general stated his determined resolution to opposeall increase of salaries to public officers, until the claims of the army and navy professions so immediately necessary to the salvation of the country, were attended to.

The House then divided.

For agreeing to the report 65
For the amendment 19
Majority 46