The Chancellor of the Exchequer
having moved, that the House should resolve itself into a committee on the Civil List act,
§ Mr. Hume
said, he wished, before the Speaker left the chair, that the chancellor of the Exchequer would inform the House, whether it was his intention to add fresh burthens to the country; or how he meant to provide for the proposed increase of salary? If a gentleman was going to launch a new carriage, he ought, in prudence, first to ask himself how he meant to pay for it. The right hon. gentleman was increasing the expense of all the public departments at a time when economy was essentially necessary. How was the additional salary of the President of the Board of Trade to be provided for? Was any sinecure office to be abolished? Did the chancellor of the Exchequer mean to propose that the office of Treasurer of the Navy should be done away with? [Here an hon. member near Mr. Hume suggested to him, that the additional salary might be supplied from the income of the bishopric of Durham.] Well, he had no objection; there were ample funds in that quarter.
The Chancellor of the Excheqeur
said, that whatever connexion the treasurership of the Navy might have with the Board of Trade, the Board of Trade had no connexion at all with the bishopric of Dur- 110 ham. It was his intention to state in the committee how he meant to provide for the increase of salary. The more convenient mode, therefore, would be to allow the House to go into a committee.
The House having resolved itself into a committee, and the chairman having stated that the original question was, that 5,000l. a year be given as a salary to the President of the Board of Trade, and that an amendment had been put to the effect, that before such salary was granted, it was expedient to inquire whether any of the existing offices could be abolished to make up the above salary, Mr. Hume said that he wished to withdraw the amendment, until he should have heard the right hon. gentleman's explanation.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that if he could persuade himself that the office of Treasurer of the Navy was a sinecure, he would readily consent to its abolition, and provide for the increased salary of the President of the Board of Trade out of the saving thus made. But it would be unreasonable to do so, unless it could be shown that the office was unnecessary, or was overpaid. As far as the present salary might be considered over-payment for the duties of that office, disconnected from any other, he was disposed to reduce it. As to the duties of the office, he had held it, and he could assure the committee, that it was very far removed from any thing like a sinecure, and that it would be impossible to transfer its duties to the Bank, as some had preposterously supposed, without injury to the public service. The duty of the treasurer was not merely the acceptance of bills drawn upon him by the commissioners of the Navy. It was also his duty to see that the money was paid to the parties who had a right to receive it. He bad besides to attend to the payment of money payable on seamen's wills—an addition to his other duties which had devolved on him some years back, and which was in itself no inconsiderable source of active employment. He had also constant references made to him from the paymaster of the Navy, and other officers subordinate to him; and these required a great portion of his time. Until within a few years back, the law was very defective as to seamen's wills. Frauds to a great extent had been committed on individuals and on the public, by the facility with which money was obtained under fictitious wills. He would mention 111 only one instance—that of a woman who had obtained several sums of the public money which she claimed as the representative of several seamen who had died, and to whom those sums were due. Now, by the regulations which had taken place with respect to wills, the Treasurer of the Navy was personally responsible for any sums of the public money thus paid to individuals to whom they were not legally due. The difference between the offices of treasurer and paymaster of the Navy was, that the former was personally responsible for the sums paid, and the latter was not. If, then, the duties and great responsibility of the treasurer were thrown upon the paymaster, who had only 1,000l. a year, he did not think it could be expected that those duties would be efficiently performed. For these reasons, he was not prepared to say that the office of treasurer ought to be abolished, or that its duties should be added to those of the paymaster. He did not mean to assert that those duties were such as would create greater bodily labour or mental anxiety than a man could fairly bear, but still the responsibility was very great. When he accepted the office, he gave security to the extent of his property, such as it was. On his entering office, he found several gentlemen therein situations which were highly responsible, and he did not disturb them; but, within the first year of his office, he found, one fine morning, that he had become legally liable for a sum of between 30,000l. and 40,000l. One gentleman connected with the office went off to America with 25,000l. of the public money, and another soon after became a defaulter to the amount of 10,000l.; on the discovery of which that unfortunate person put a period to his existence. These were large sums; and for these, though he had nothing to do with the appointment of those parties, he had become legally liable. Would it, after this, be said that the office of Treasurer of the Navy was not one of considerable responsibility? To unite it with that of paymaster of the Navy was, he thought, wholly out of the question. Formerly, the treasurer was in the receipt of immense sums from the profits on the money which was allowed to be in his hands; but, subsequently, those profits were taken away, and a salary of 4,000l. a year allowed instead. The Committee of Finance, in 1817, recommended that the office of Treasurer of the Navy should 112 be assimilated, in point of salary, to that of the paymaster-general of the Forces. What was the situation of that office? Formerly it was divided between two persons, each of whom had a salary of 2,000l. a year. This was a mode of conducting the public service which he would hesitate to defend: but, so it was, until by the recommendation of the Committee of Finance, the second paymaster-ship was abolished, and a salary of 2,000l. a year, with a residence, and some small emoluments added, which made it worth about 2,500l. a year. The committee recommended a similar establishment for the Treasurer of the Navy; but at the same time it was understood, that, if that office were held along with another of public and active employment to which no salary was attached, it should continue to receive the full salary. When he got it, the salary was only 3,000l. a year, which was 1,000l. less than any of his predecessors in the office had received. Now he would admit, that if the two offices—that of Treasurer of the Navy and that of President of the Board of Trade—were disconnected, there was no reason why the former should not be put upon the salary recommended by the Committee of Finance; namely, 2,000l. a year; but, as the present residence attached to it might more advantageously for the despatch of public business be applied to other uses, and as that, with coals and candles allowed, might be estimated at about 700l. a year, he would add 500l. a year to the 2,000l., thus bringing it on a level with the office of paymaster-general to the Forces. The hon. member for Aberdeen was anxious to know from what funds this additional expence to the country was to be derived; and he seemed disposed to save it out of the whole or part of the salaries which appeared to him useless. Now, he would tell the hon. member, that if he could lay his hand on any useless office, he was very well disposed to abolish it, without any reference to the proposed regulation. The government had shown its disposition to abolish useless offices, in their recent regulations with respect to the boards of Customs and Excise. In the same spirit of reduction, they had not filled up a vacancy which had occurred in the Treasury board, which still remained unfilled, and for this reason,—that they were determined to appoint to no office of which they could not say to parliament, that its duties were necessary to the 113 public service; and, acting on the same principle, he had no doubt that his right hon. friend at the head of the commission of revenue inquiry, would be prepared at no distant period to propose an additional saving to the public, by the consolidation of the boards of Stamps, which were at present acting independently of each other in England and Ireland. He would not say to what extent the reduction might be made, but he thought it would be a saving of at least three out of the tan commissioners. He did not think he had any thing further to observe on this subject at present. He would therefore conclude by repeating what he said last night—that there was no necessary connexion between the regulation of the office of Treasurer of the Navy and the vote before the committee. If the House should be of opinion that that office was not necessary, or that it was overpaid, they would have ample opportunity, in the course of the session, of declaring that opinion.
§ Mr. Tierney
expressed a wish that the vote before the committee should pass unanimously, in order to mark the sense which was entertained on all sides, of the great ability with which the right hon. gentleman had discharged the important duties of his office. It was agreed on all hands that the sum of 5,000l. a year was not an over-payment for discharging the offices of President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy. He could by no means concur with those who thought that the office of Treasurer of the Navy should be abolished. It was an office of very old standing, of considerable public importance, and of great personal responsibility to the holder. He had held the office, and, speaking from the recollection of twenty-three years back, he could assure the committee that it was by no means a sinecure. On the contrary, it was one which required no inconsiderable degree of care and attention. Since that time, he was aware that its duties had been considerably increased by the attention required to the payment of money under seamen's wills. When he held the office, the business was not so great as to occupy the whole of his time, though he did attend for some time every day; but since then the business, he understood, was considerably increased. The committee might judge of the responsibility of the situation, when he informed them, that for five years after he left it, he did 114 not get his quietus from it, so as to be released from all farther liability, though all his accounts were found quite correct; and had he died in the interim, his property would have been still liable. Looking to the nature of the duties of the office, one of the last things in his mind would be to think of its abolition; but it would be also one of the last things he could think of, to place at the disposal of government two situations, one of 5,000l. and another of 3,000l. a year. Some time ago, when this and other offices were under the consideration of the Committee of Finance, it was clearly understood that there should be kept up some sinecures and offices with high salaries to which no great labour was attached, to be given to privy councillors holding high offices which were not well paid. Thus, the person filling the office of the President of the Board of Trade was to have the treasurership of the Navy, or some such office in addition. When the Board, of Control was first established, its chief officers were without fixed salaries, but they were selected from amongst those who held other situations with considerable salaries, but not requiring great personal labour. When, in 1793, the charter of the East India company was renewed, and the Board of Control reappointed, a salary of 2,000l. a year was given to the president, and that situation was held by Mr. Dundas, along with the treasurership of the Navy; and it could not be denied that he discharged the duties of both efficiently. Now, it appeared to him that the person holding the office of Treasurer of the Navy might find a considerable portion of time to devote to other public duties. When he held the office he attended the privy council meetings during the whole of the trial of general Picton; and he did so, because he thought that being liberally paid for holding one office which did not occupy all his time, he was in some degree bound to devote the time he had to spare to other public business of the country. Instead of making the two offices separate, he would suggest that 2,000l. a year should be added to the salary of Treasurer of the Navy, when that office was held by the President of the Board of Trade. He thought the duties of the two could be efficiently performed by the right hon. gentleman who at present held them. If, however, the right hon. gentleman would declare—and he would take his word for 115 that, as he would for any thing else—that he was not able efficiently to discharge the duties of both offices together, let him state that, and then let some other course be taken. As to abolishing the office, he thought it was out of the question; but he thought that the person holding both should be liberally paid by the country. He did not concur with those who thought that they should first find out where the increased salary was to come from before it was voted; because it was but justice that no efficient public servant should be without full remuneration for his services. In conclusion he would repeat his suggestion, that 2,000l. a year should be added to the salary of the Treasurer of the Navy, when that office was held by the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Huskisson
said, that in the peculiar situation in which he was placed, it could not be expected that he should offer any opinion as to the amount of compensation which should be given to the holder of the offices which he had the honour to fill. Upon that point, therefore, he would offer no remark. He rose thus early to express to the committee his grateful feeling at the very kind sense which hon. members had been pleased to express of the manner in which he had discharged his public duties, and to say that he would humbly endeavour so to discharge them as to deserve in some degree the approbation he had received. He also was relieved from the necessity of saying any thing relative to what some gentlemen called an useless office, the treasurership of the Navy. After what had been stated by his right hon. friend near him, and by the right hon. gentleman opposite, it was scarcely necessary to add, that the business of that department had very considerably increased, as well as the importance of the duties connected with it, since the transfer to it of the management of seamen's wills. It was quite erroneous to suppose that the business of that office was a mere matter of paying money. So far from that, the Treasurer of the Navy was called on to exercise his discretion in the instance of every demand made on him for money. He was obliged to sift the grounds of each claim, and to decide on the merits of the applicant. With so many branches of public duty to be performed the Bank could not be expected to execute them, or to exercise any discretion on the different cases submitted to the consideration of whoever might be placed in the super- 116 intendence of that department. Whether from his not having that capacity of mind which the discharge of such duties undoubtedly required, or from whatever other cause, he confessed he did feel considerable hardship arising out of the union of the two offices of President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy. He felt not only the difficulty attendant upon a due discharge of the duties of both, but the anxiety which proceeded from the great pecuniary responsibility which attached to one of those offices; the weight of which was, in no inconsiderable degree, augmented by the duties arising from the frequent complaint's from the Navy office, the Victualling office, and other departments of the public service connected with it. He declared that, united as those offices were in him, he could not satisfy his mind that the duties of the treasurership of the Navy were, so far as he was concerned, duly and adequately performed. He had a paymaster on whom he placed the greatest reliance; and he had often asked himself what he could do if he were deprived of the assistance of that most useful and meritorious individual. Another person might be appointed to supply his place, of whom he might know nothing, and whose assistance would be of no avail. There were occasions when it was absolutely necessary that the navy paymaster should be a man of experience and talent. In time of war the requisites for that office were of no ordinary character, and it was necessary that the utmost confidence: should be placed in the individual who I held the office at such a juncture. He would therefore put it to the House, whether it would not be hard if, by any chance, he should be deprived of the assistance of the present paymaster, a stranger who might be totally unacquainted with the nature of the appointment should be placed in the situation, while he (Mr. Huskisson) would be held responsible for the due performance of its duties? If such should, ever be the case, he could only hope that the situation was properly filled; but he certainly could not answer for the correctness of an individual of whom he had known nothing. He protested to the committee, that if any event were to deprive him of the services of the gentleman who at present was paymaster of the Nary, it would become a serious question, whether he would not rather resign his own situation than incur the pecuniary respon- 117 sibility and solicitude necessarily attendant upon a fresh appointment.—If he had succeeded in making himself thus far understood, his observations would go fully to answer the argument of the right hon. gentleman opposite. He was sure the committee must entirely agree with him, that the individual who had other weighty and important duties to perform, ought not to be loaded with the additional burthen of such an office as Treasurer of the Navy. In answer to what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman, with reference to whether or not he had time enough to discharge the duties of both employments, he certainly could not reply that he had not time enough; but he could most truly declare, that, to whatever cause it might be owing, he was not able to do the duties of both offices with that satisfaction to his own feelings, with which he thought every public duty ought to be performed. Beyond question, the country was fully entitled to his best services, and to all his services; but, so long as he remained unable to divest himself of the feelings to which he had adverted, he was convinced that it was any thing rather than a public service to continue in possession of both offices without being able adequately to discharge the duties attached to them. As to himself, the committee would, of course, deal with him as they pleased; but he trusted they would not put a responsibility upon him, to which he could not fairly attend. As to the office of Treasurer of the Navy, it was one in itself perfectly agreeable, provided he could devote due attention to its duties. The patronage belonging to it was, of course, extremely desirable. There was nothing in the character of the office that could be considered repulsive. It had been held by persons of the highest station in public life, and therefore it could not but be gratifying to his feelings to hold a similar employment, were the matter to be exclusively considered in that point of view. With regard to the presidency of the Board of Trade, he had laboured to the utmost of his power to discharge the duties of that office with advantage to the public [hear, hear!], nor was he at any time sparing of his best exertions; but, in fully discharging the duties of that office he could not but more or less neglect those of the treasurership of the Navy. The right hon. gentleman opposite had told the committee, that when he held that office he contrived to do other duties of a public nature. Doubtless, a 118 man of his powers and diligence was capable of holding such an employment with advantage to the public, and also to discharge other duties of importance; but this could not be accepted as a proof that the burthensome duties at the Board of Trade were compatible with those at the Navy office. The further consideration of this question he would now leave in the hands of the House, so far as he was personally concerned. The present proposition was an arrangement respecting himself which was not of his own seeking. Whatever it was the pleasure of the House to do in the matter, it was not for him to offer any opinion; but, before he sat down, he begged to repeat, that if the situation of paymaster in the office became vacant, he did not think that he would continue an hour longer in the situation of treasurer, and incur the responsibility of appointing a new paymaster [hear, hear].
observed, upon the imposing manner in which the chancellor of the Exchequer and his right hon. colleagues always magnified the business, and exaggerated the responsibility of any of the chief officers of government. They spoke with such feeling of the pain and anxiety belonging to public appointments, that it really seemed strange, taking their own representations, that they were ever able to persuade any men to undertake such a burthen of care and restlessness. Was it indeed a fact, that these distinguished posts were forced upon unwilling individuals; that honour was thrust upon them; and that, instead of large salaries and small duties being greedily caught at by hungry expectants, they were thrown back upon those who offered them, with a sneer? He apprehended, however, judging from experience, that neither the chancellor of the Exchequer, nor the noble earl at the head of his majesty's councils, was ever obliged to beat up for recruits, and to offer a bounty for the acceptance of a place. The right hon. gentleman had said a great deal of the excellence of his paymaster and of the misfortune he should sustain if that useful officer were to die; but did he mean to say, that there was nobody, second or third, in the department, capable of discharging the duties of the situation. He could not imagine how any difficulty of the sort anticipated could arise. It seemed much more likely that ministers were anxious to uphold and defend a place which they had promised to some officious dependent. That he sin- 119 cerely believed was the long and the short of the business. A right hon. friend had said, that five years had elapsed before his accounts were finally settled; but it was well known, that the arrears were now inconsiderable. He, and those who usually acted with him, did not wish the office to be abolished; but if the treasurer-ship of the Navy were separated, they were anxious that it should not be connected with a seat in parliament. At that time of day, and in the present temper of the people, it was not to be borne, that another placeman should find his way into the House of Commons. When the chancellor of the Exchequer held the two offices of Treasurer of the Navy, and vice president of the Board of Trade, it had never been hinted, that the duties of the one interfered with the other; and it could not be too often stated, that this was not a fit time to add to the pecuniary burthens of the public, for the sake of relieving the official burthens of the servants of the public. The sum in dispute was, indeed, small, but the principle was important. The chancellor of the Exchequer had said, with apparent self-congratulation, that he could have made out a very good case in defence of places which, in his heart, he was satisfied ought to be abolished. Let his sincerity that night be tried by this test, and hereafter he might tell the House, that he had been driven to make out a good case in defence of the separation of treasurership of the Navy; although in his heart he was satisfied that it ought to be combined with the presidency of the Board of Trade. The right hon. gentleman had taken great credit to himself for giving up one of the lords of the Treasury; but he had forgotten one little fact; namely, that the lord of the Treasury had not been thrown overboard by the rest of the crew, until after ministers had been defeated on the question for abolishing two lords of the Admiralty, and when they were expecting another discomfiture. Unless some pledge should be given, that the situation of Treasurer of the Navy was not to be at the disposal of the government, with a view to increase its patronage, he must vote against the original proposition. He felt, he owned, some little surprise at the different tone which the right hon. gentleman on the other side assumed since last night. He had reason to imagine that arguments would have been produced on the present occasion to strengthen the proposition on 120 behalf of the President of the Board of Trade. He did conceive that it was with a view to bring forward more convincing arguments that the discussion had been deferred. But he now saw that there were other reasons which influenced the chancellor of the Exchequer in wishing to postpone the measure. No doubt the right hon. gentleman did not wish to press his motion last night, because, among other reasons, the opposite side of the House was not so well attended as he could have wished. What was the real motive of the chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing forward the present motion, on the main principle of which both sides of the House concurred? Why, that under the plea of the high character and acknowledged merits of the President of the Board of Trade, he wished to have a situation to dispose of to some one of his supporters. If the single proposition of adding to the salary of the President of the Board of Trade were alone to be discussed he did not think there would be any difference of opinion; because the merits of that right hon. gentleman were equally acknowledged by both sides of the House. But when the measure came fettered as it did by another question, and one which was most obnoxious to entertain, it naturally followed that it met with opposition. The right hon. gentleman for whom the vote was proposed might thank his colleagues for having brought forward the measure in that objectionable way.
§ Mr. Curwen
said, he was favourable to the proposition so far as it went to benefit the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade; but he must object to the measure with which it was accompanied.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
admitted, that the great servants of the Crown ought to be fully remunerated, and that no parsimony could be more injudicious, than to reduce their salaries below what their talents and duties merited. A thousand a year might be too little for the Treasurer of the Navy; but, if the amount were increased, it ought to be understood that the occupant of the place should not also have a seat in parliament. He did not wish to vote against the resolution in favour of the President of the Board of Trade, but he might be reduced to that alternative, if the latter part of the question was forcedon in connection with it.
§ Sir Isaac Coffin
contended, that the treasurership of the Navy was no sinecure. It could be no sinecure, where seven 121 millions a year passed through the hands of the treasurer.
said, he was quite willing to vote 5,000l. a year to the President of the Board to Trade, but said, he could not consent to increase the power and patronage of government. The chancellor of the Exchequer had mentioned two defaulters to the extent of 35,000l. while he was Treasurer of the Navy. Now, he wished to ask whether the money had been recovered from the principals or their securities?— whether the public had lost it, or whether the right hon. gentleman had been called upon to pay any part of it? If the public had been the losers, nothing was gained by the vaunted responsibility of the Treasurer of the Navy; or rather, as he was paid merely for this responsibility, the public was out of pocket his whole salary, as well as the money with which the defaulters had made away.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
replied, that the first defaulter had made off with 25,000l. He escaped to the United States, whither he was followed, and by threats (since nothing more could be there done) frightened out of all he had left; namely, about 15,000l. The sureties were called upon for the remainder, but still the public lost something. The other case regarded a sum of about 6,000l., and all that was recovered was the amount for which the sureties were bound. A bill had since been brought in to prevent the recurrence of such evils; and if he had not been able to satisfy the lords of the Treasury, that the loss was not occasioned by any fault or carelessness on his part, he should have been responsible for the sum deficient. He had, however, convinced the lords of the Treasury that he had not been at all remiss, and accordingly he was not called upon for the deficiency. Indeed, as he was not in fault, to have compelled him to pay would have been most unjust.
asked, what became of the responsibility so much talked of, when the right hon. gentleman had not been called upon to pay the money?
expressed his regret that this proposition had been brought forward. He had the most sincere respect for the right hon. gentleman, and a high sense of his services to the public; and it was distressing, that this salary 122 should be proposed in a shape which compelled gentlemen to oppose it on public grounds. It was unfortunate, that the popularity which the President of the Board of Trade had so justly acquired in the discharge of his duties to the public, should be exposed to risk by a proposition like this. A great deal had been said about the incompatibility of the office of President of the Board of Trade with that of Treasurer of the Navy. He had no personal knowledge on the subject; but from all that he had heard about the matter it appeared to him that there was no incompatibility between them, and that both offices might be held and adequately managed by one person. The denial of this was one of those official fallacies which were often put forward and defended by ministers. The only argument on the ministerial side which had made any impression on him was the declaration of the right hon. President of the Board of Trade, that if he lost his present paymaster he could no longer retain the treasurership of the Navy. But, where could be the difficulty of finding another person in the office fully acquainted with its duties in all their details? And then as to the responsibility, the answer to the question put by the hon. member for Surrey put an end to all ground of dispute on that head. A loss had been suffered by the public in the office of the Treasurer of the Navy, and the chancellor of the Exchequer, who was treasurer at the time, was not called upon to make up the loss, because it had not happened through his fault. So that the responsibility amounted merely to this: that the treasurer must make up any deficiency that might arise from his own dishonesty or gross negligence. The responsibility was, therefore, another mere official fallacy. The treasurer had only to keep clear of any personal blame; and therefore the responsibility was nothing. But they had the advantage of experience on the subject. Lord Melville had held the office of Treasurer of the Navy along with that of Secretary of State. To be sure, lord Melville had the services of his right hon. friend as his under secretary; but then the President of the Board of Trade had the assistance of the vice-president. The office of President of the Board of Trade was a modern one; and yet the officer was allowed to sit in parliament. The object, in short, appeared to be, to make 123 a separate Treasurer of the Navy, in order to get another placeman's vote in parliament. If they were bound in fairness to grant two new salaries, he would say that they were no less bound on behalf of the public to take care that the influence of the Crown was not unduly increased. Such was their duty. He hoped, therefore, that they would not pass a bill without providing that, in case it was found necessary that the Treasurer of the Navy and the President of the Board of Trade, after the settlement of salaries upon each, should sit in the House, two offices of less importance should be struck out of the list of those, the holders of which were at present entitled to seats. He spoke from a sincere dread of a principle which had in better times appeared to him to gain upon them. There was the office of vice-treasurer of Ireland. He was not intimately acquainted with these matters, and what the practical duties of that office were he did not even now comprehend, except that the holder had to sign his name occasionally in Ireland; but so seldom that he was most commonly to be found in this country. Indeed, he had little scruple in saying, that if that officer had any effective duties to perform, they must, from all that he could observe, be deputed to a vice of the vice-treasurer. It appeared to him that there was no necessity for his presence any where, except in that House, where his vote was occasionally useful to ministers. This practice appeared to him to be a modern innovation, and to demand the serious consideration of the House. He thought that the public ought to be protected from the continual aggregation of influence among the members of this House, and that a bill ought to be brought in, which, by incorporating the office of President of the Board of Trade with that of chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or Treasurer of the Navy, should afford an adequate compensation for the services of the right hon. gentleman. This would be reasonable and just, and the only way in which the vote could be given, so as to make it creditable to the right hon. gentleman. He trusted, therefore, that the chairman would be allowed to report progress; and ask leave to sit again, in the nope that, in the interval, something might be agreed upon which would prove satisfactory to the public, and' agreeable to the President of the 124 Board of Trade. Certain he was, as that the Speaker now sat in the chair, that if the House resolved to give the salary to the President of the Board of Trade, but resolved also not to give it in a manner inconsistent with the principles of the constitution, ministers would come down with a proposition which would receive the unanimous approbation of the House.
§ Sir John Newport
recommended the adoption of one of two courses—either to unite the treasurership of the Navy with the office of President of the Board of Trade, giving an additional sum of 2,000l. per annum to the individual who held those situations, or to extinguish the place of treasurer altogether, and allow the duties to be performed by the paymaster of the Navy. He felt the unpleasant situation in which the committee were placed, and entertained no desire to say any thing which could by possibility appear to impeach their deservedly high opinion of the great zeal and singular talents of the right hon. individual in question. He would gladly be relieved from the dilemma of appearing to undervalue those talents, or compromising the interests of the public by submitting to an undue extension of the influence of the Crown.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, that whatever arrangements the House might finally adopt with respect to other offices, he saw no difficulty like that felt by the right hon. gentleman opposite, in coming to a decision upon the present question, which only respected the salary of the President of the Board of Trade. To vote for that salary would not compromise the right of any gentleman to call for an inquiry into the office of Treasurer of the Navy. He denied that this measure would increase the influence of the Crown. It might be right or wrong for the Treasurer of the Navy to sit in that House; but it was not matter of course that the two offices should be held by the same person. Lord Melville had held the office of President of the Board of Control with the treasurership of the Navy; lord Harrowby, the right hon. gentleman opposite, he himself, and the late Mr. Sheridan, had each held the treasurership of the Navy, without holding the presidency of the Board of Trade. During all that time it had never been made a question that the Treasurer of the Navy ought not to be allowed to sit in that House. He maintained that it was perfectly incorrect 125 to talk of it as a sinecure office. It was I not so in any one sense of the word. He did not dispute the assertion of the right hon. gentleman, opposite, that the duties did not take up more than an hour a-day of his time when he held it: but taking the fact as the right hon. gentleman had asserted it to be, he must still consider this as a most inaccurate way of viewing it. Surely it would not be contended, that, because a great banker only attended his establishment for an hour a-day to inspect accounts which were prepared for him by the clerks, his responsibility was to be classed with the attendance, for the same period of time, by one of the servants of the establishment. From his own experience, however, he could say, that he did not find an hour a-day sufficient for the business of that office. It was true that it fell to him in times of unusual difficulty, and in which the most anxious and undivided attention was required to the duties. Still, if the duties were ever so small, that was not the fair way of considering the subject. It was a rule in all well-ordered governments, that the time which was not required for the duties of any particular office should be at the disposal of those governments. Distribute the business and functions as they might, there would be still left a considerable portion not assignable to any particular department, but which it was but just that government should be enabled to accomplish by the assistance of those who held offices of less efficiency. He could not speak now to the exact rate of increase in the public business, but he pronounced it to be almost overwhelming in every department. With regard to his own office, he could only say, that he did not spare himself; but certain it was, that no man who held it could call one hour of his time his own. He contended, that in the best times the office of Treasurer of the Navy had not been deemed incompatible with a seat in the House, whether held with another office or not. It was now agreed that the President of the Board of Trade was entitled to a salary, and it was not assumed that the treasurership of the Navy could be abolished. He objected to the instance of the vice-treasurership of Ireland being assumed as an increase of the influence of the Crown. That office only replaced the chancellorship of the Irish Exchequer, whose functions were abolished by par- 126 liament. As to the salary to the President of the Board of Trade, it was a question which stood on its own merits. It was, in short, nothing more than restoring the salary which had been taken away by Mr. Burke's bill, and that upon circumstances so entirely opposite, as to furnish a complete justification for the measure. The salary had been taken away because the office was then apparently useless. It was now proposed to restore it, because the office had become one of the most effective in the state. There was no other principle involved in the question, and to vote for the salary would not in the slightest degree preclude any gentleman from going into the discussion of the usefulness or the emoluments of any other office.
§ Sir George Hill
said, that he felt confident the committee would be disposed to hear from him a few observations on the nature and duties of the vice-treasurer's office, which he had the honour of holding. That office hsd been so particularly alluded to by the hon. member for Calne, and the necessity of it called in question a short time ago by the hon. member for Montrose, that without interrupting the course of the present debate he begged leave to observe, that he was most anxious for an inquiry into the nature and extent of the duties of his office, and the efficiency with which they were performed; and he would venture to affirm that they were amongst the most important of those not attached to a cabinet situation. In 1816, the office 6f vice-treasurer was established, when the Exchequers of the two countries were consolidated and united, with a salary of 2,000l. annexed. The duties were then comparatively light, with those which had been since thrown upon that office. In 1822, an act was passed enabling the treasurer to make reforms in the Exchequer and military offices of Ireland. In pursuance of this act, the duties of the offices of Auditor-general and the clerk of the Pells in Ireland had been transferred to the vice-treasurer. He had likewise had additional duties thrown on him by becoming, under treasury minute, pursuant to said act of parliament, paymaster-general of the forces in Ireland, and a public accountant before the commissioners of Audit at Somerset-house; and he must beg leave to add, that all these duties were now performed by an establishment of officers and clerks, at an ex- 127 pense to the public of 7,500l. which, before these transfers and changes, cost the country 37,000l. a-year. This was not the fit occasion for further observation on the subject of his office, but he courted and challenged inquiry.
, in allusion to the responsibility said to be attached to the office of Treasurer of the Navy, remarked, that he did not perceive in what manner the public were protected from the embezzlement or mal-appropriation of the money. The person who filled that situation was under no sort of responsibility. The office might be entirely abolished by giving a small additional salary to the paymaster of the Navy, who could fulfil the duties conjointly. He contended, that ministers had made out no case to satisfy the House that the two offices could not be efficiently filled by one person for an adequate remuneration. In granting this salary of 5,000l. the committee ought to have a distinct pledge from the members of his majesty's government, that they were determined to pursue a system of rigid economy in the public expenditure.
rose to propose what his hon. and learned friend had suggested in an earlier stage of the debate, that the chairman should report progress, and ask leave to sit again. By this course, ministers would have time till Monday to reconsider the proposition they had submitted to the House.
Sir F. Ommaney
urged the propriety of the proposed salary, and defended the office of Treasurer of the Navy.
§ The committee divided on Mr. Cal-craft's amendment: For the motion 44; Against it 83; Majority 39. On our return to the gallery,
§ Mr. Hume
was speaking on the amendment which he had proposed on the preceding evening. He said he had been induced to withdraw that amendment, in order to afford to ministers a space of twenty-four hours, to reflect upon what they must see was the unanimous opinion of the House. He had hoped that his withdrawing that amendment would have induced them to adopt the alteration which it recommended; and, although he regretted to find that it had not produced that effect, he was more convinced than ever that the course he had suggested was the proper one to pursue. He was sorry to see neither the right hon. Secretary for the Foreign Department, nor the right hon. member for Knaresborough 128 (Mr. Tierney), in their places; because he thought that, from the account which each of those gentlemen had given of the duties of the office now under discussion, it became more than ever necessary that an inquiry should be made into it. His own opinion was decidedly, that the Treasurer of the Navy ought, under no circumstances, to be a cabinet councillor, being as he was, merely an officer of account. For the reasons he had given, he thought an inquiry ought now to be instituted, whether the office could not be dispensed with altogether, or so modified that another individual might be enabled to hold it, and that the proposed salary of 5,000l. a-year might be saved to the country. He never heard so lame an apology set up for any public measure as had been set up that evening for the present proposition. He was certain that, on an inquiry into the means of reducing the present expenses of the government, he could show, that in the Exchequer alone a reduction of 12,000l. could be effected. He could not consent to pass the vote for this naked grant alone. The whole subject appeared to him to stand in need of inquiry. As such was his opinion, he felt himself bound to move an amendment which appeared to him to be free from all objection. His amendment would be to this effect:—" That it is the opinion of this committee, that a salary of 5,000l. should be attached to the office of President of the Board of Trade; but that it is expedient that an inquiry should be instituted, to ascertain if any, and what, alteration can be made in the office and salary of the Treasurer of the Navy."
§ Mr. T. Wilson
said, that if it had been necessary, he should have been ready to second this amendment, which seemed to him exactly to point out what ought to be done. He much regretted this discussion, which he thought might have been avoided; and he could not help declaring that, in his opinion, the House had been placed in a cruel situation by the conduct of ministers. He fully agreed, that the duties of the President of the Board of Trade were efficiently and honourably discharged; and he believed there was not the slightest difference of opinion as to the propriety of granting the sum of 5,000l. as a salary to the right hon. gentleman who now so-ably filled that office. The only question was, whether the grant ought not to be accompanied with some condition respect- 129 ing the office of Treasurer of the Navy. Into that office, however, ministers refused all inquiry, and he should therefore, feel bound to oppose the grant; which he did with the utmost reluctance, on account of the right hon. gentleman to whom it was to be made. He thought the ministers ought to have let this matter remain over until they had enabled the House to ascertain whether it was necessary to continue the office of Treasurer of the Navy, and what ought to be the amount of salary paid to that officer.
Mr. Hudson Gurnet
said, it had been remarked that the proposed measure had found none but official defenders. Now this being an arrangement of office, gentlemen connected with the departments of government might be the only adequate judges; but, it appeared to him of vast importance, that the president ship of the Board of Trade should, in this great commercial country, be a cabinet office, and one to which a member of the cabinet should be able to devote his time; and the more so, as in the class from which cabinet ministers were, for the most part, taken, there could be very few habitually conversant with the details of commerce. It was allowed, that very great sums passed yearly through the office of the Treasurer of the Navy; and that, when joined to the presidentship of the Board of Trade, it was not possible that the treasurer should give them an adequate attention. The abolishing the office, and transferring its duties to the paymaster, did not appear to him any great economy as in such case, the salary of the first clerk must amount to nearly the same thing. He did not think, considering the liability of the treasurer as a public accountant, that the proposed reduced remuneration was an extravagant one, and the only argument against the arrangement which he had heard pressed was, that there had been two Whig treasurers of the Navy, one of whom got through his business in an hour, and the other never meddled with it all.
observed, that the subject was one of the utmost importance, as it not only involved the question, whether there should be salaries to two efficient officers, but whether the influence of the Crown should be increased in parliament by the admission of two ministers instead of one to seats in that House. Such a question ought not to be hastily decided, and he should therefore object to making 130 any grant until 6ome inquiry had been instituted.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the hon. member for Abingdon seemed to imagine that the most important part of the subject was that which related to the admission of two officers of the Crown instead of one to seats in that House. But surely, if that question was to be agitated, the proposed committee was not the place in which it should be discussed. The amendment ought not to be introduced into this discussion, as the two offices were not necessarily connected with each other. He did not think it followed, because ministers declined to mix up these two questions, which were in their nature so distinct, that therefore they intended to refuse inquiry altogether. He thought the amendment of the hon. member for Aberdeen irrelevant, and should therefore oppose it.
said, that the difficulty which the right hon. gentleman suggested arose entirely from the act of the ministers themselves. They had united the two offices, and now they proposed to attach a salary to one of the offices, while they made no promise whatever regarding the other. Nothing gave him greater pain than to vote against the resolution for granting compensation to the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade; but the shape in which that resolution was put, made it impossible for him to consent to it. There was a strong feeling in the public mind, that the talents and exertions of the right hon. gentleman were fully intitled to compensation, and ministers had availed themselves of that feeling, to carry that which he could not designate otherwise than as a job—almost as decided' and bad a job as had ever been attempted [hear, hear!]. He trusted, however, that it would not be allowed to pass unopposed, but that it would be watched with the utmost attention through every stage of its progress, that the public might see, that while the members of the Opposition were ready to give every fair compensation to talent and exertion, they were: determined to protect the purity of their grants, and to effect every possible reduction. The office of Treasurer of the Navy had been spoken of as one of responsibility; but, from a question which, in the course of this discussion had been put and: answered, it was evident that no personal I responsibility whatever was attached to the Treasurer of the Navy, in respect of 131 the immense sums which passed through his hands. He begged it to be understood, that he opposed the present resolution, not as a resolution of compensation for past meritorious services, but as a precedent for future practice. If he were mistaken in what he had stated respecting the office of Treasurer of the Navy, his mistake afforded an additional reason for granting the committee of inquiry, since his ignorance of the duties of that office might be shared by others, and could not be dispelled but by the means which a committee of inquiry could alone supply. As ministers refused to institute that inquiry, all he could do was, to meet their resolution with the most determined opposition—an opposition which was directed not against the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, but against the job which was most unjustifiably grafted upon him.
§ Mr. R. Martin
said, he should not have risen, but to answer the observation of an hon. gentleman, that none but the members of government said a word in favour of the proposed measure. Now he, for one, begged leave to say, that he concurred in opinion with every one who had spoken upon the subject of the merits of the right hon. President of the Board of Trade, and the propriety of attaching a more adequate salary to his office. He also begged leave to say, that he should vote most conscientiously for the separation of the two offices. He thought that separation ought to have taken place sooner; but he did not feel the less disposed to give it his support now that it had been proposed.
§ The committee divided: For the amendment 35; against it 71; majority 36; The original resolution was then agreed to.