HC Deb 17 February 1817 vol 35 cc409-11

The House having resolved itself into a committee on this Bill the chancellor of the excheqer proposed that the following clause should be added thereto:

"And whereas his royal highness the Prince Regent has been graciously pleased to direct certain sums to be contributed and paid, from the civil list revenue, in aid of the public service of the year 1817. And whereas many persons holding offices and places in his majesty's service, and others having or holding pensions or other emoluments derived from the public, are desirous of contributing proportions of their respective official incomes, salaries, pensions, or other emoluments, for the same purpose;—be it therefore enacted, that it shall be lawful for the commissioners of his majesty's treasury of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or any three or more of them, or for the lord high treasurer of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for the time being to give such directions, for one year, commencing the fifth day of April 1817, to the officers of the exchequer, and of the several departments of the civil list of Great Britain respectively, as may be necessary for giving effect to the most gracious intention of his Royal Highness in such contribution, and for executing the intentions of such other persons as aforesaid; and no deduction shall be made, or fee, emolument or allowance taken, by any person retaining, receiving, or paying any such contributions as aforesaid."

Mr. H. Martin

asked, whether it was the intention of ministers to propose that a voluntary contribution should be paid by persons in office, or that an assessment should be imposed in proportion to their salaries.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, it had not been in the contemplation of his majesty's government to propose any compulsory measure, but to leave it to persons in office to make what contribution they might think proper. He certainly never entertained the idea of fixing any rate of proportion for the regulation of such contributions.

Mr. Brougham

certainly understood, from the speech made by the noble lord a few days ago, that it was intended to levy a kind of tax on persons in office. He not only thought that an assessment was to be imposed, but that its proportion was determined on at the pound.

Lord Castlereagh

was confident he never meant to state that any rate would be proposed, and did not think he had said any thing to justify such a conclusion. What he believed he had stated was, that ministers wished to place themselves, by their own voluntary act, under the same burthens from which they had been relieved by the repeal of the income tax. With respect to persons in office, there was no compulsory measure whatever in view.

Mr. Gordon

asked, whether it was intended to propose any reduction in the Windsor establishment? He would not have noticed this delicate subject, were it not notorious that many of the expenses of that establishment were, to say the least of them, unnecessary, and could not be considered as any mark of respect to the illustrious personage who was the object of them. Indeed, many of these expenses, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, appeared to partake more of the nature of mockery than respect.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

stated, that motives of delicacy withheld him from answering the hon. gentleman's question, or entering into any explanation on the subject to which he had alluded.

Mr. W. Smith

said, he had understood from the speech of the noble lord, that it was intended to levy a duty on the salaries of persons in office, and not a voluntary contribution, as it was now explained to be.

Mr. Brougham

was convinced that, whether the contribution was to be voluntary or not, every man would regret to see it fall heavily on persons holding inferior offices, who were in general very inadequately remunerated for their labour. If the measure had come before the House as a tax, this consideration would doubtless have been attended to; and he hoped that, in any arrangement which might be made, care would be taken to press very tenderly on offices to which small salaries are attached.

Lord Castlereagh

again stated, that the contribution of every individual would be voluntary, and that from the lower offices none would be raised.

The clause was then agreed to.