HC Deb 09 June 1817 vol 36 cc916-21

The House having resolved itself into a Committee to take into consideration the Prince Regent's Answer to their Address,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer,

after a warm eulogium on the merits of the late Speaker, entered into a consideration of the provision which it was desirable to make with respect to him. He adverted to the allowance made to Mr. Speaker Onslow on his retiring from the Chair in the early part of his majesty's reign, which was 3,000l. a year, and observed that considering the depreciation in the value of money, and the incalculable increase in the duties which the Speaker had to perform, he was persuaded the House would not consider a grant of 4,000l. a year to lord Colchester during his life, and on his demise of 3,000l. a year to the immediate successor to the title, too liberal a vote. The right hon. gentleman concluded by moving a resolution to that effect.

Mr. Holme Sumner

contended, that the sum proposed was very insufficient. Necessary as economy was in the present state of affairs, the country was not yet so poor as to be unable justly to reward those who had so long devoted themselves to its service as the noble lord in question. He thought not only that the sum to be granted in the first instance to lord Colchester should be larger, but that the reversionary grant should extend to two lives. In pursuance of this opinion, he moved, as an amendment, that the sum of 5,000l. be substituted for 4,000l.

Sir M. W. Ridley

contended, that no one could estimate the services and merits of the late Speaker more highly than himself, but insisted that, in fixing the amount of the grant, there were other considera- tions to be attended to, more imperious than even gratitude itself. The state of the public means was such that we could not now part with one shilling unnecessarily. Lord Colchester had a place of 1,300l. a year in Ireland, which made his income, from the public 5,300l. a year.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that this discussion confirmed him in the idea that his proposal was, under all circumstances, the best; and he recommended the House to adhere to it; at the same time he must add, that the place in Ireland was given as a compensation for one that had been relinquished.

Mr. H. Sumner

expressed his wish to withdraw the amendment, but intimated his intention of persevering in the proposition of extending the reversionary grant to two lives.

Mr. Ponsonby

was glad that the hon. gentleman had agreed to withdraw his amendment, as with all the respect which he entertained for the late Speaker, and with all the conviction which he felt of the justice of liberally rewarding his valuable services, other public duties of an imperative description would have compelled him to vote against it. In fact, he conceived that the sum proposed by the right hon. gentleman was, if any thing, too high, when the circumstances of the country were considered, and when it was also taken into the account that lord Colchester derived an income of 1,500l. from a place in Ireland.

Mr. Tierney

declared, that no man could feel more grateful than himself for the services of the late Speaker, but it would be inconsistent with his ideas of economy to grant more than had been proposed, in the present state of the country; and he felt some indignation at the manner in which the grant had been at first proposed to the House. Under the present circumstances of the country, and according to all the precedents, he could not for himself agree to pay the late Speaker 4,000l. a year. On what grounds was that sum proposed? The noble lord had no longer to support that hospitality which was expected of him when Speaker; and was the salary to be continued when the hospitality it was meant to support was no longer requisite? Besides, what had been the scale to others? There was a bill before the House in which the utmost reward that could be bestowed on civil services was limited to 3,000l. a year for one life, and though the Speaker's exertions were great, what were they when compared with such a man as Mr. Pitt, who had the interests of Europe to attend to? And yet his wardenship of the Cinque Ports was not worth more than 3,000l. a year. What minister had ever been rewarded on the scale now proposed? Lord Wellington had no more than 2,000l. a year attached to his rank of Viscount. Why had the Speaker greater claims on the public purse for services which, after all, were services affecting the health alone—for as to the anxiety that had been talked of, he felt less than any man in the House, or perhaps was the only man entirely without anxiety; he existed in a sort of middle atmosphere, between the two contending parties, and his absence from all care seemed to him (Mr. T.) quite enviable. He had only to remain erect in his chair, to bend his head to one side or the other, and enjoy the fray of contending parties. He was unwilling to say more, but if the hon. gentleman persevered, he must oppose the extension of the grant to the third life.

Mr. Curwen

expressed the highest regard for the late Speaker, but coincided in the sentiments expressed by his right hon. friend.

Mr. Lambton

coincided heartily in the sentiments of his right hon. friend, and should move, that the words 3,000l. a year be substituted for 4,000l.

The Committee divided:

For the Amendment 42
Against it 126
Majority 84

The original motion was then agreed to. After which, Mr. Sumner pressed the adoption of his Amendment for extending the reversionary grant to two lives.

The Hon. J. W. Ward

opposed this amendment, and deprecated the principle, that the Speaker of the House of Commons was to consider a peerage as the invariable reward of his services. Such an expectation was calculated to be very injurious to the privileges of that House in any contest which it might have with the other House, or with the Crown.

The amendment was negatived. After which,

Mr. Ponsonby,

adverting to the motion which had been made on Tuesday, and afterwards withdrawn, for taking into consideration the Message from the Prince Regent, recommending to the House to make a prevision for their late Speaker, expressed his surprise to find no notice of that occurrence in the Journals, and his supposition that the omission was attributable to some mistake, as another motion made on the same evening by an hon. friend of his (Mr. Curwen), which was withdrawn also, was entered.

The Speaker

observed, that it was probably his duty to explain this matter as far as he was able to do so. It was perfectly true that the motion made by the chancellor of the exchequer on Tuesday not appearing in the votes of the House had not been entered in the Journals. The motion made by the hon. member for Carlisle, and subsequently withdrawn, did appear in the votes of the House, and would therefore appear in the Journals. The difference between the two cases was this: He (the Speaker) understood it to have been the general sense of the House that the motion which had been made by the chancellor of the exchequer was (on the suggestion of an hon. gentleman, in which suggestion there appeared to him to be a general acquiescence) to be considered as not having been made at all. It might, perhaps, have been his duty to inquire more explicitly on that occasion the wish of the House. If so, it was only a proof of that which, on taking the chair, he knew would be his fate—the necessity of his frequently throwing himself on the indulgence of the House [Hear, hear!]. It was not very easy at present to suggest the course by which the omission might be cured; the motion of the chancellor of the exchequer not having been regularly withdrawn, on question, as the motion of the hon. member for Carlisle had been.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that he certainly understood it to be the general feeling of the House, on the occasion alluded to, that no notice should be taken of the motion which he had made.

Mr. Ponsonby,

after assuring the Speaker that he did not attribute to him the slightest neglect, contended, that the feeling of the House had been misconceived; and that all that he and those who thought with him had agreed to was, not to negative the motion which the chancellor of the exchequer had made, but to allow it to be withdrawn. It was by no means intended that the proposition should not appear on the Journals.

Lord Castlereagh

maintained, that the proceeding which took place on Tuesday was the consequence of a wish to preserve unanimity on the subject. It now ap- peared, and correctly appeared on the Journals, simply, that no proceeding had taken place. He should have objected to any proposition which would have given a different character to the transaction.

Mr. Wynn

said, that the chancellor of the exchequer had distinctly expressed his wish to withdraw the motion in question, in order to give time for the reconsideration of it before the next sitting of the House. All the House agreed that it was desirable, that whatever they did for their late Speaker should originate from them; and this opinion, it was also most desirable, should show itself in the Journals,

Mr. Canning

observed, that no one could ever mistake the fact, that a message had been sent down to the House, on which no proceeding had taken place; but that next day the House originated a proceeding to which the message related. On this subject, the expressive silence of the Journals would be as good a guard of the privileges of the House as the most laborious entry could have been. He would have had no objection to an entry on the Journals at the time, stating the circumstance as it had occurred; but it did not seem to him to be necessary to go back for the purpose of effecting this object.

Mr. Ponsonby

remarked, that if it was right to make such an entry at any time, it was right then.

Mr. Wynn

recommended, either that the Message should be expunged from the Journals, or that notice should be taken in them of the motion of the chancellor of the exchequer, and of the proceeding thereon.

Mr. Bankes

said, it did not seem to him, however, that it was any inconvenience that it should appear on the Journals, that a message had been sent down to the House from the Crown, and that no proceeding had taken place upon it. In fact, I no proceeding had taken place; for his right hon. friend did not regularly withdraw his motion.

Sir C. Monck

was of opinion, that to insert in the Journals that such a motion had been made and withdrawn, would render the whole matter clear.

Lord Palmerston

distinctly recollected what had passed on the occasion. It was suggested to his right hon. friend, when he was about to withdraw his motion, that it would be better that it should not appear on the Journals that such a motion had been made and withdrawn. This sug- gestion his right hon. friend adopted; and his impression of the feeling of the hon. gentlemen opposite, was, that they acquiesced in the propriety of the proceeding.

Mr. Ponsonby

protested, that it had never entered into his mind, or the minds of his friends that the motion should not appear on the Journals as having been withdrawn, although they were willing not to negative it. Those were two things perfectly distinct. All that he and they wished was, that it should appear on the Journals that the motion was withdrawn. For that purpose he would now move, "That the following entry be made in the Journal of this House of Tuesday the 3rd day of June, after the entry of the Prince Regent's Message concerning Charles Lord Colchester, late Speaker of this House: motion made, and question proposed, that his Royal Highness's said most gracious Message be referred to a committee of the whole House, for Thursday next; and the said motion was, with leave of the House, withdrawn."

Lord Castlereagh

observed, that this was to call on the Mouse to affirm a proposition which was untrue. The general understanding was, that the motion was to be considered as not having been made.

The motion was negatived.

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