HC Deb 13 June 1821 vol 5 cc1163-6

The House having gone, into a committee of supply, to which the Miscellaneous Estimates were referred, Mr. Arbuthnot moved, "That 69,415l. be granted to make good the deficiencies of the Fee Funds in the departments of the Treasury, three Secretaries of State, and Privy Council,"

Mr. Hume

observed, that it would be much more intelligible if, instead of the balance, the whole expense of the departments in question were stated, and stated separately. The expense of those departments had considerably increased within a few years. In 1796 the whole expense of the Treasury establishment was 26,943l., at present it was 68,854l., being thrice the former amount. Now the question was, whether triple the former establishment was requisite? A great increase had taken place in the salaries of the leading clerks. Mr. Harrison, the assistant secretary, had been put on the footing of a secretary, receiving a salary of 3,500l., besides 300l. for examining certain accounts. Mr. Harrison was a most deserving individual; but was not 3,800l. an enormous salary? Each of the three principal clerks had 1,500l. and there were others at 1,400l; at 1,100l. at 600l. &c. The ex- pense of the establishment ought to be made to approximate more nearly to that of 1796. He objected also to the item, of 565l. for retired allowances and superannuations. It was most objectionable to allow such items to be among the efficient estimates. The expense; of the departments of the three secretaries of state was in 1796 only 25,488l.; at present it was 58,153l. In the Home-office there was a very large increase. In the Foreign-office, among others, there was one remarkable item, viz. a pension of 1,000l. to Mr. R. Ward and Mrs. Ward, to make up to him, as clerk, of the Ordnance, the salary to which he would have been entitled as under secretary of the Treasury. As clerk of the Ordnance, Mr. Ward received a salary of 1,443l. He received therefore together the sum of 2,443l. He did not know whether at the time Mr. Ward quitted the Treasury, the salary of the undersecretary was 1,500l. or 2,000l. if the former Mr. Ward was now overpaid, by 643l.; if the latter, by 143l. With respect to the Colonial department, considering it as he did of the highest importance to the country, he did not think that the sum which it cost was too large. Adverting to the item for the expense of messengers and couriers, namely, 27,500l. he observed, that he had heard a report which he trusted was not true, namely, that when any member of government went abroad, or wanted to come home from abroad, a dispatch was given to him, which entitled him to the expense of his journey. As to the Board of trade, he thought the money expended upon it well laid out, and eulogised the conduct of the president of that institution.

Mr. Arbuthnot

could see no objection to a separate statement of the expense of each department. The vote was in its present form, because the fee fund paid the expenses of the departments in question as far as it went, and it was only for the deficiency that application was made to parliament. He would say a few words on the salaries of the secretaries of the Treasury and the clerks. By the finance reports of 1797, it appeared, that in the last year of the American war, the emoluments of the secretaries of the Treasury were 5,000l. being 1,000l. more than at present. In 1782, the secretaries of the Treasury had a fixed salary of 3,000l. with, certain allowances. In 1800, the salary had been fixed at 4,000l. taking away all other allowances. It was not for him to say whether or not this was too large a sum, but he might be permitted to observe, that in this particular case the public saved 2,000l. a year by his appointment, as he was entitled to a pension of that amount, in consequence of his having been formerly employed in a diplomatic capacity. With respect to Mr. Harrison, he begged leave to observe that that gentleman had been originally appointed by Mr. Pitt; that he had been highly esteemed by lord Grenville; that he had also been highly esteemed and his services rewarded by Mr. Percival; and he could with confidence appeal to his friends near him, whether they did not find Mr. Harrison's services invaluable. He was sorry to add, that Mr. Harrison's health was so completely broken down, that it was not likely the public would long enjoy the benefit of his talents and experience. When that should be the case, it was certainly intended to bring the salary of the assistant secretary back to its original amount. Indeed, the whole of the salaries of the Treasury department were under revision. He must observe that the business of that department had materially increased since 1796. The only way in which that could be proved was by comparing the number of papers registered in the Treasury. In 1797, the number was about 4,500; in 1819, it exceeded 20,000; and at the present period the number was above 18,000.

Sir E. Knatchbull

adverted to the great difference in the value of money at the present period, and at the period when the salaries of the public officers in the Treasury were fixed. He wished to know whether that consideration entered into the plan of revision which the hon. gentleman had alluded to.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

replied, that though the circumstance adverted to was of great importance, yet that any intention of making a change in the salaries, in consequence of the change in the value of money, ought to be preceded by a considerable notice. The object in which the Treasury were now engaged was, in considering how the business of the public departments might be best conducted with a view to simplification and economy.

The resolution was agreed to. On the resolution, "That 21,000l. be granted for Printing Acts of Parliament, Reports, Evidence, &c."

Mr. Arbuthnot

observed, that the expense of this item had become enormous, and that it was his intention in the next session to move for the appointment of a committee to consider of the best means of reducing it.

Mr. Hume

was satisfied that he department was more open to reduction than that of parliamentary printing, as well as stationery. Early in the next session he meant to show, from incontrovertible evidence, that the charge of stationery was absolutely usurious. Both the printing and the stationery expenses might be easily reduced at least 50 per cent. The printing of the 58th volume of their Journals cost the country 3,946l. The ordinary charge for printing it would be 2,550l. including all the considerations of trade profit, charge for credit, &c. Now, by a plan which he had seen for printing the votes, journals, returns, and in short every paper, with a despatch and facility equal to what they were got up with at present, the cost would be less by one-half; and by the same system, the charges for printing this volume in question would be about 1,250l., or at the utmost 1,500l.

The resolution was agreed to.