HC Deb 09 April 1832 vol 12 cc96-104

On the Motion that this Bill be read a second time,

Mr. Lefroy

moved, as an amendment, that this Bill should be recommitted. The ground on which he made the motion was, that the Bill would work injustice to an individual. It had been proposed to grant a salary of 1,500l. a-year to the Registrar, but, by an amendment, the salary had been reduced to 1,200l. As this was a question in which vested rights were concerned, he trusted he should receive the attention of the House to the circumstances he was about to detail. By the Act of 9 George 4th, the Lords of the Treasury were empowered, on the decease of the then Registrar, to appoint another, and fix his salary. The late Registrar died in May, 1830, and Mr. Moore, who had acted for thirty-one years as his deputy, in the course of the month of July following received a letter from the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goulburn), offering him the situation at a salary of 1,500l. a-year. This Mr. Moore immediately accepted. From this simple statement of facts he was prepared to contend, that Mr. Moore had a fair claim to the salary offered him. He would, however, go further, and show that, on the 27th of July in the same year, a Treasury minute was made, fixing his salary at 1,500l. a year. This minute was immediately acted upon, it was communicated to Mr. Moore, and, at the same time, he received a letter from Mr. Stewart—a gentleman who held a situation in the Treasury—desiring him forthwith to furnish an account of the receipts and disbursements of the office, up to the day of the date of the minute, upon which day he was to be considered as entering into the new engagement. Mr. Moore, of course, complied with this order, he also received, at the same time, a letter from another department of the Treasury, requiring him to remit 118l. 6s. 6d. to that office, as the amount of, and to pay for, the stamp on his appointment, the expense of which would have been less, had the salary been but one pound less than 1,500l. a-year. The officer who called on Mr. Moore for this remittance stated to him that his appointment was made out, and would be completed on the receipt of the money. Mr. Moore accordingly remitted the sum required. His appointment was executed by the noble Duke at the head of the Government, and two other Lords of the Treasury, and was forwarded to him by return of post. He appealed to the House, whether it was possible to state a case of a more plain, vested, legal title under the Act than that which he had referred to, and which the documents he possessed fully sustained? Under that Act, the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury had authority to regulate the office, to appoint the officer, and fix the salary. On the 27th of July, 1830, they did appoint Mr. Moore, and fixed the salary. The Chancellor of the Exchequer communicated the appointment to Mr. Moore, and that gentleman accepted the office, and provided the necessary stamp. He had, as Deputy Registrar, rendered all his accounts up to the moment of his new appointment, and that appointment took place with all due and legal solemnity. Besides, the House must bear in mind this additional fact: Mr. Moore was entitled, under the Act, to have retired from office, and to have called upon the Lords of the Treasury to give him compensation, if they did not think him fit to be retained; but, of course, when they proposed to appoint him as Principal Registrar, he abandoned all claim to compensation. Mr. Moore had been thirty-one years discharging the duties of the office as Deputy Registrar, to the entire satisfaction of the public. It could not be considered as a matter of favour, or bear the character of a job, to continue Mr. Moore as Principal Registrar. He, therefore, trusted that, under these circumstances, the House would not entertain a doubt as to the justice of his claim to the continuance of the salary of 1,500l. a-year. Indeed, such was the view taken of it by the hon. Gentleman who framed this Bill, and the salary was accordingly fixed in that Bill at 1,500l. a-year. That hon. Gentleman raised no question as to Mr. Moore's right; on the contrary, he stated to the House that, if it were a new question as to the salary Mr. Moore was to receive, he thought the duties of the office would entitle him to 1,500l. a-year. The Secretary of the Treasury also founded the claim to the 1,500l. salary upon the ground of the additional duties and increased responsibility which would be attached to the office by the Bill. The Solicitor General for Ireland concurred fully in recommending to the House the amount of salary as specified in it. In truth, Mr. Moore's friends had no reason to anticipate any resistance on the subject: consequently, they came entirely unprepared with the documents which he was now able to lay before the House, to support Mr. Moore's claim to the higher salary; and by whom was the salary, as specified by the Bill, opposed? Not by Government, but by the hon. and learned member for Louth (Mr. Sheil), who was an entire stranger to the whole transaction. As there was no hon. Member prepared with the documents to establish Mr. Moore's title to the 1,500l. a year, the question was discussed upon the ground of the adequacy of the salary to the duties of the office; and it appearing to some Gentlemen that 1,500l. was more than sufficient, the House, by a majority of two carried the amendment that fixed it at 1,200l. It was for the purpose of giving the House an opportunity to reconsider the question that he now proposed to move that the Bill be recommitted, when he would lay the documents before them that would completely establish Mr. Moore's right to the salary he now claimed; and that, therefore, the amount should be restored in the Bill to what it stood at originally. He begged to move that this Bill be recommitted.

Mr. Hume

wished to ask the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether, in arranging this salary, he was acting on the principle laid down by the Committee which reported on the salaries to be paid to public officers. The noble Lord had, on that occasion, stated, that it would be necessary for Government to consider the duties to be performed, and the responsibility the office imposed, and that salaries should be regulated accordingly. It was on that principle the Committee prepared the plan recommended by them, and upon which he understood Government had pledged themselves to act. He had heard that this was an office which admitted of the absence of the persons holding it for weeks together, and that the actual duties to be performed were of very little importance, compared to those of an officer in his Majesty's Treasury, whose salary had been reduced, in pursuance of the recommendation of the Committee. He wished to hear from the noble Lord, whether he was satisfied on that point, before this Bill went into Committee? If any question was likely to arise, the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee upstairs, in order that the duties of the office might be ascertained. He understood that the situation did not interfere with this officer acting in the way of his profession in the Courts of Law. If, then, the House was really anxious to reduce the public expenditure, let a Special Committee ascertain the duties of this office, and by a fair appreciation, either reduce or increase the salary as the nature of the case required.

Lord Althorp

said, his honourable friend had asked him a question, to which, undoubtedly, he should be compelled to answer, that if this matter were to be looked at in an abstract manner, he should not give his vote in the way he felt it his duty to give it on the present occasion. If he was asked whether 1,200l. a-year was not a sufficient salary for the duties proposed to be discharged by the Registrar in Ireland, he should certainly say it was. But the question which the House had now to consider was a very different one; because Mr. Moore was appointed to this office during his good behaviour, and which office imposed on him the discharge of some very trifling duties; and he was permitted to hold a seat in Parliament; whereas, the duties imposed by the present Bill would compel him to constantly attend his duties in Dublin, and deprive him of the power to sit in Parliament. These were the circumstances which made him come to the decision, that the addition of 300l. to the present salary, was a fair remuneration for the additional duties thrown upon an officer holding a place during good behaviour, especially when those additional duties would be advantageous to the public service. Another part of the case which had been stated by the honourable and learned Gentleman (Mr. Lefroy) was of a different nature. He had argued, that, even if additional duties had not been thrown upon Mr. Moore, still he had a right to the additional 300l. He was not quite so certain of that point. It was true, it was stated to Mr. Moore, at the time he was appointed, that the salary would be 1,500l. a-year; and, on the 27th of July, 1830, a Treasury Minute was made, giving him that amount of salary. But when the present Government came into office, they found another Treasury Minute, dated the same day, stating that the salary should be 1,200l. and not 1,500l. Upon inquiry, however, he found that this other minute was not actually written on the 27th of July, but some months afterwards, although bearing that date. The House was to consider that Mr. Moore accepted of his situation, believing at the time, that he was to receive 1,500l. a-year. Additional duties were to be thrown upon the office, and the proposition was, to raise the salary to the amount which Mr. Moore expected when he was appointed. Under all these circumstances, without being able, which he certainly was not, to state that 1,200l. was not a sufficient salary, he certainly should give his vote for the recommittal of the Bill, that the House might reconsider the decision they came to on a former occasion. He spoke individually, a question having been especially addressed to him on the subject.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, the documents referred to by his hon. and learned friend, the member for the University of Dublin, virtually acknowledged the appointment of Mr. Moore at the higher salary; and, as he considered that this House was exercising its functions judicially, he knew no other course that could be taken, than to go into Committee, and correct, if necessary, an erroneous act of the Government.

Mr. Sheil

said, on looking at this Bill, he was convinced that it imposed no substantial responsibility, nor any augmentation of duties; but, on the contrary, there were some exceedingly important accommodations afforded to the Registrar, which he did not enjoy before. He found there were two Assistant-Registrars allowed, instead of one, as fixed by the minutes which had hitherto regulated the office; and also such a number of clerks as the Registrar should, from time to time, appoint. Under these circumstances, he wished to ascertain what were the additional duties as well as what increased responsibility there was imposed? He contended, that nothing had been stated by the mover of the Amendment to warrant the House in acceding to the Motion. The duties of the Registrar did not occupy his mind; they merely demanded manual labour; and Mr. Moore was not upon any grounds entitled to the increase of salary the friends of that gentleman demanded. He was of opinion, upon other grounds, that the increase should be denied. Mr. Moore was not prevented by the office of Registrar, from attending to his professional duties. Mr. Moore was a barrister of extensive practice, and, in the Ecclesiastical Court alone he made 1,200l. a-year. He must, therefore, call on the House to abide by its former decision, and not to be unravelling what it had already done. He insisted that no new arguments had been brought forward, and that a clear and palpable case should be made out before the House should give its assent to the Amendment.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that, with reference to the two Treasury Minutes connected with the appointment, he must explain that the first one, mentioning the larger sum, had been forwarded to Mr. Moore by mistake. It had never, however, passed the Board, although it was laid before them, but some of the subordinate departments, whose duty it was to act upon it, had taken it for granted that, as it was proposed, it would pass, and they had written to apprize Mr. Moore of the matter. Though he did not stand there to justify such mistakes, yet he trusted that they would readily admit that it could easily occur in the hurry of business. Allowing that the unauthenticated minute had been so far acted upon, it would be a most dangerous doctrine to conclude, that the public were to be bound by a mistake. Moreover, he did not consider Mr. Moore had any right to complain, for he had been receiving the salary of 1,200l., and, if he had thought himself entitled to more, he was bound to make his demand, and to complain of the injury done to him. In answer to what some hon. Members had said on the question of labour, he must beg leave to state, that formerly Mr. Moore could obtain thirty days' leave of absence from time to time, but that, under the present Bill, his attendance to the duties of his office would be constantly required, without any kind of intermission; and, as to responsibility, he (Mr. Moore) would be also responsible for all the business of his office, and for the acts of all the persons employed in it.

Mr. Shaw

was somewhat surprised that any gentleman in independent circumstances, would accept such a serious responsibility as was cast upon Mr. Moore for the salary he received, even allowing that to be 1,500l. a-year. But, as he had done so on the faith of receiving that remuneration for his services, he had a strict legal right to be paid that amount. The case was simply this—in July, 1830, Mr. Moore became entitled, under the Act 9, George 4th, to a compensation for thirty-one years service; in lieu of this he accepted a situation which was tendered to him with a salary, authorised by a Trea- sury Minute, which was inclosed to him. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last said, that Mr. Moore had acquiesced in receiving the reduced amount of salary, but he had no remedy. He received his appointment in July, and without any suspicion that a reduction was contemplated. In November a change in the Ministry took place, and immediately afterwards the Bill before them had been brought in by the hon. member for Mallow, who, without any concert with Mr. Moore, fixed his salary at the same amount as the Treasury Minute. Mr. Moore and his friends, therefore, thought it was unnecessary to bring the subject before Parliament. As to receiving 1,200l. a-year, he had certainly done so, but he had always taken the money under a protest.

Mr. Lamb

, having voted on a former occasion against this increase of salary, had only to say his opinion remained unchanged. The office had been a sinecure over paid; and now it was made an efficient situation, with a proper salary. In the midst of retrenchment which had taken place, he could not see why they were to go out of the way to give this 300l. a-year to an office which certainly any person ought to discharge for half the compensation given in the Bill. He did, however, think they had some right to expect an explanation from the late Ministry respecting the two minutes. But be that as it might they ought to pair off together, for the House ought to deal with the question entirely upon its own merits.

Lord Granv. Somerset

said, as allusions had been made to him by the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, and by the hon. member for Louth, he would state that it was the intention of his Majesty's Government when the Treasury Minute was made, that the officer should be compensated in a way to insure the regular performance of the duties. The amount of salary had accordingly been fixed after a full consideration of the duties thrown on the Registrar. Since that period other duties had been added, and, therefore, the salary might not now be adequate. He should vote on the occasion with the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Secretary of the Treasury. In doing so he proved that he had more confidence in the Government than the under Secretary for the Home Department.

Mr. Crampton

said, the simple question was, on which Minute was Mr. Moore appointed. He believed that the first one, fixing the largest amount of salary, was the one said never to have been regularly passed, but undoubtedly it had been acted on, and if so, the Treasury had no power to repeal it, and reappoint with a smaller salary. No such power was given them by the Act under which the first appointment was granted, he should, therefore, vote for the re-committal of the Bill.

Mr. Jephson

said, he had already delivered an opinion that Mr. Moore's duties and responsibilities having been increased by the present measure, he was entitled to the addition proposed; and though the present discussion had not originated with him, he felt himself called upon to support the Amendment of the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin. There were two points mentioned in the discussion, which he wished to explain. The first was, that two deputy Registrars were appointed by the Bill; he had done this at the recommendation of the profession in Dublin. The next was, what was the remedy against the Registrar in case of misconduct; why, the aggrieved party could summon him before a Judge, who was enabled to proceed summarily against him, and fine him to the extent of 100l. if the case demanded it.

The House divided on the Amendment: Ayes 69; Noes 62—majority 7.

List of the NOES.
ENGLAND. Marjoribanks, S.
Baring, F. T. Palmer, C. F.
Benett, J. Poyntz, W. S.
Bentinck, Lord G. Rickford, W.
Bernal, R. Robinson, Sir G.
Blamire, W. Rooper, J. B.
Bouverie, Hon. P. P. Scott, Sir E. D.
Bulwer, E. L. Sebright, Sir J.
Burke Sir John. Spencer, Hon. Capt.
Calvert, C. Stanley, J.
Carter, J. B. Strickland, G.
Chaytor, W. R. C. Strutt, E.
Chichester, J. P. B. Stuart, Lord D.
Curteis, H. B. Thicknesse, R.
Denman, Sir T. Thomson, Rt. Hn. C.P.
Dundas, Hon. T. Throckmorton, R. G.
Ellice, E. Tomes, J.
Evans, W. Tracey, C. H.
Fox, Lieut.-Colonel Venables, Alderman
Gisborne, T. Vernon, Hon. G. J.
Hudson, T. Villiers, T. H.
Ingilby, Sir W. A. Warburton, H.
King, E. B. Webb, Colonel E.
Knight, R. Wilks, J.
Macdonald, Sir J. Williams, W. A.
SCOTLAND. Lambert, J. S.
Dixon, J. Macnamara, W.
Johnstone, J. O'Connell, M.
IRELAND. Ruthven, E. S.
Callaghan, D. White, Colonel H.
Doyle, Sir J. M. Wyse, T.
Duncannon, Viscount TELLERS
French, A. Hume, J.
Grattan, J. Shell, R. L.
Lamb, Hon. G.
Mr. Hume

said, that from what had already transpired on the subject at present before the House, he did not hesitate to think that inquiry into the nature and duties of the office held by Mr. Moore was called for, and it ought to be investigated whether or not those duties were not of such a character as that 500l. per annum would be ample remuneration. He should, therefore, move, that that bill be re-committed for such inquiry to a Select Committee.

Mr. Jephson

was anxious that the fullest inquiry should be had on the subject, and fully acquiesced in the proposition of the hon. member for Middlesex.

Mr. John Campbell

thought the remuneration of Mr. Moore was quite inadequate to the responsibilities of the office, which, unlike that in Yorkshire, with a salary of 2,000l. per annum, was not a sinecure.

The House again divided on the question "that the Bill be re-committed to a Select Committee." Ayes 91; Noes 25:—Majority 66.

Appointment of Committee, on the Motion of Mr. Hume, adjourned till a future day.