HC Deb 28 June 1831 vol 4 cc440-5
Mr. Stuart Wortley

wished to put a question to the noble Lord opposite. At the close of the last Parliament, a Report was made by the Committee appointed to inquire into Public Salaries, which recommended that the salary of the President of the Board of Control should be reduced from 5,000l. to 3,500l. The Report assigned no reason whatever for this proposed reduction, but he conceived it was recommended from supposing that the President was not called upon to do the same quantity of active duty in that House as the other members of the Government. He did not know whether or not that was the reason, but if it were, it was an error, for the President of that Board had a very laborious office. He wished to ask, therefore, whether the Government had given any directions for fixing the amount of the salary at the sum recommended by the Committee? If that were the case, he was sure that it would conduce to lower the efficiency of the Board. It would cause the appointment to be given to inferior persons, and would degrade the office so as to be looked on as a mere stepping-stone to a higher place. In justice to our Indian Empire this ought not to be done, for the government of that empire should certainly be considered as one of the very highest offices of the State. If his question was answered in the affirmative, he should at some future time bring the subject before the House.

Lord Althorp

replied, that it was impossible for him to say, as he was not a member of the Committee, on what ground it had made the recommendation in question. He could, however, say, that it was the wish of the Government to comply with that recommendation; and he believed, that in compliance with that recommendation instructions had been issued.

Mr. C. Grant

said, the hon. Member who asked the question knew that the salaries were paid by sending a quarterly account to the India House of the money required. He had a few days before given directions to send such an account; and in that a deduction was made in proportion to the recommendation of the Committee.

Sir Henry Hardinge

also wished to put to the noble Lord a question as to a decision of that Committee relative to General Officers. He wished to know if the Government, from the evidence given before that Committee, had come to a decision that General Officers who held regiments should be deprived of the emoluments of those commands during the time they held civil offices? He had given his opinion on the subject to the Committee, and had stated, that it would be most unjust to deprive such officers of their regiments; though no reference was made to his evidence in the Report of the Committee. It was understood that Naval Officers were to be allowed to hold their half-pay with their salary as Lords of the Admiralty. That was giving an advantage to one branch of the service which was denied to the other. He hoped, that the Government would come to a decision favourable to the claims of the army. He did not wish to say anything of the different branches of the service, but he must say, that the army had a stronger claim than the navy, inasmuch as the Officers of the Army purchased their commissions. Moreover, the Officers of the Navy had opportunities of making much larger sums of prize money than Officers of the Army. If there were any jealousy of a standing army in that House, he would remark, that such an army was more likely to be harmless if the officers were connected with the civil service than if they were excluded from it.

Lord Althorp

, in reply to the gallant Officer, was understood to say, that the Government had as yet come to no decision on the subject, and that he could give no pledge as to what course it would adopt.

Mr. Hume

defended the recommendation of the Committee with respect to the salary of the President of the Board of Control. He was one of the Committee and cordially concurred in that recommendation. The salary had at first been 2,000l. a year, and it had been gradually raised to 5,000l. He thought 3,000l. would be sufficient, but the Committee had at length decided in favour of 3,500l. The extensive patronage enjoyed by the holder of the office, rendered the situation particularly valuable.

Mr. Courtenay

would not then enter into the subject; but would, at some future time, state his strong objections to reducing the salary of the President of the Board of Control.

Mr. Cutlar Ferguson

believed, that the recommendation to reduce the salary of the First Commissioner of the Board of Control, was given, from supposing that the office was not one of much labour. But this was a mistake. It was an office of great labour, and its duties required a man of much experience. Before a man could exactly perform those duties, a particular training was necessary. He wished also to say, that if the Generals and Admirals were allowed to retain their half-pay and their regiments, when they accepted civil situations, it would be a very great hardship on the subalterns to make them give up their half-pay when they took a civil office. He did not think even that such a rule was economical, as it prevented these officers from accepting civil offices which they were otherwise well qualified to fill.

Mr. John Wood

, as a member of the Committee, could say, that the principle which guided its decisions was, that the best possible talents should be obtained for the service of the State, and that they should be adequately remunerated. The Committee had not decided on any case without having sufficient evidence before it. As to the office in question, that of President of the Board of Control, he must say, that it was not considered as one of much labour. It was plain that persons could not be trained to the office from the manner in which they were frequently changed. Let them look also at the Secretaries, who had nothing to do. They were even changed more frequently and more whimsically than the President. If their duties were well performed, it must be by a miracle. He believed, that one reason why the reduction of the President's salary was recommended was, because that office had a great deal of patronage. He was glad to find that the Government had redeemed its pledge on this point, and he hoped that it would go on and reduce other salaries. The Committee only inquired into those enjoyed by Members of that House, but he hoped the Ministers would reduce the greater number of salaries belonging to offices, of which the holders had not seats in Parliament.

Mr. Goulburn

, though he had been a member of the Committee, did not feel himself qualified to speak on that particular point, as he had not very frequently attended the sittings of the Committee. He only rose to protest against the principle of regarding patronage as part of the emoluments of office, to compensate for a deficient salary. He could not conceive anything more dangerous than that of giving public men insufficient salaries, and leaving them to make up the deficiency by patronage.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

also thought nothing could be more detrimental to the public interest than to consider patronage as a substitute for a salary. He considered the proper use of patronage one of the most sacred duties of a public officer. When he was in office, he had so employed his patronage. He had given places to officers' sons and to those who had a claim upon the public. He did not mention this as a merit in him, for he had only followed the example of his eminent predecessors. As for the lowering the salary, he believed that the consequence of that would be, that the office would become lowered also, and would be regarded only as a stepping-stone to the higher offices. That ought to be avoided. There were in a Government like our's quite changes enough in offices, and frequent changes must render the persons inadequate to perform their duty. Considering the very arduous nature of the duties of the President of the Board of Control, he thought no motives ought to be created, by reducing the salary of the office, for those who held it to be solicitous of obtaining a higher place. In this particular office, that was most desirable, for its duties required a particular species of knowledge, and there was in the execution of them no display necessary, which was occasionally so gratifying to the ambition of public men.

Sir Henry Hardinge

explained. Something had been said about the sweets of office influencing the judgment of those who opposed the view taken by the Committee. He could say for himself, that he was poorer than when he took office; and had only 300l. a year from the public, which was not more than the interest of the money he had paid for his commission. He believed, therefore, that the sweets of office could not have influenced his opinion. He begged to bear his testimony to the very proper manner in which the right hon. Gentleman who had last spoke, had disposed of his patronage while in office. He knew, from having a son there, that the right hon. Gentleman had given a Writership to Westminster School, and to each of the Universities, to be bestowed on the young man who should best deserve it by his industry; and knowing this, he could not do otherwise than bes- tow on him the just tribute of his applause.

Mr. Trant

said, nothing could be more injurious to the public service, than to hold up the Members of that House, and public men, as having nothing to do, and as only seeking to fill their pockets at the public expense.

Mr. Hunt

had only one word to say. It was objected to the reduction of the salary, that it would make the President of the Board of Control desire to obtain a higher place. To remedy that, he would recommend that the salaries of the other offices should be reduced to the same level of 3,500l.

The question was then put that five of the Committee be a quorum, and the subject dropped.

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