HC Deb 15 February 1821 vol 4 cc715-7

The Lord Advocate moved the order of the day for going into a Committee to consider of Compensation to the Clerks of the Scotch Court of Admiralty. The House having gone into the committee, the lord advocate moved, "That it is expedient that compensation be made to the clerks and other officers of the Courts of Admiralty in Scotland, for any loss which they may sustain by the operation of any regulations that may be made in the said courts, which compensation shall be paid out of the monies chargeable by several acts of the 7th and 10th years of queen Anne, with the fees, salaries, and other charges allowed for keeping up the Courts of Session, Justiciary, and Exchequer."

Mr. Creevey

thought the least that might have been expected of the learned lord was, that he should lay some ground for his motion, and inform the House for what services they were now called upon to vote compensation. He for one was determined not to grant a single shilling till he knew what those services were. Their present business was to retrench—a notice had been given of a motion for taking off 3,000,000l. of taxes; and yet they were here called upon to give away the public money, they knew not why, to persons who might, or might not be entitled to it. There were Scotch jobs as well as English jobs, and he always felt inclined to suspect a job when he met with a proposition for granting money under this sort of title, and without any statement of particulars. It was really time for the people of England to direct their attention to these proceedings in parliament. If we were to judge by the votes of the House, we must conclude that money was never more easily to be got, that it was always to be had for asking. At present there was nothing to convince him that the proposed grant might not be for the benefit of some of the learned lord's connexions, or to reward some loyal addressers in Scotland. He was sure that the public would not much longer tolerate such a system of expenditure: nor, until he heard some satisfactory reason, would he grant any of the public money to any Admiralty clerk, or any other man in Scotland.

The Lord Advocate

said, that a committee had been appointed to examine the state of the Scottish courts. The committee had reported, that the proceedings in the Court of Admiralty were very voluminous and expensive to the suitors, and recommended the abolition of the offices in question. The people holding those offices held them for life, and therefore had vested interests in them. The question was, whether theirs was not a case to entitle them to compensation?

Mr. W. Smith

said, that had the learned lord given that explanation before, it was probable the observations of his hon. friend would not have been made; for certainly the mode of the present proceeding was out of the course of practice in that House.

Mr. Bright

thought it was impossible to be too vigilant in the examination of claims on the public money. As so much weight had been attached to the idea of a vested interest in these offices, it might be a good rule upon the creation of any new office by the legislature, to insert a clause, declaring that in case of a future abolition of the office, the holder should not be entitled to any compensation.

Mr. Creevey

said, that when a noble friend of his had moved for the production of an account, gentlemen on the other side said, "Oh! for God's sake, don't be in a hurry," and induced him to withdraw it and shape it as a notice; but when money was to be granted from the people, there never was any delay. He had never heard of these Scotch clerks. He did not even know that there was a Scotch Court of Admiralty. He would move as an amendment, that the chairman report progress. This should be done in common decency. That was his opinion; and he thought it but fair that time should be given to consider the demands of the Crown, as well as those made on the part of the people.

Mr. Robinson

said, he could see no analogy in the cases put by the hon. member. The proceeding now before the House arose out of a report of that House; and the hon. member knew, or ought to have known, of the proceeding. Therefore, whatever opinion the hon. member might entertain on the score of common decency, there was certainly no ground for attributing improper haste to others.

After some further conversation, the committee divided: For the amendment 22. Against it 59. The resolution was then agreed to.

List of the Minority.
Allen, J. H. Folkestone, vise.
Althorp, vise. Harbord, hon. E.
Benett, J. Newport, sir J.
Bennet, hon. H. G. Parnell, sir H.
Boughey, sir G. Ricardo, D.
Bright, H. Rice, T. S.
Brougham, H. Robarts, A. W.
Caulfield, hon. H. Smith, W.
Crespigny, sir W. Talbot, R. W.
Denman, T. Webbe, E.
Fane, J. TELLER.
Fergusson, sir R. Creevey, T.